The RubeTube

Life's a cube.  Solve it.

September 30, 2006
Alright, we've got our electricity back! I woke up at 6 AM (that in itself is amazing) and saw the street lamp outside my window working. I tried some switches; nothing. Then I found out that my dad turned off the power to the whole house. I pulled down the switch and was rewarded with the sound of a humming refrigerator. I was ready to face the prospect of having no electricity until Monday (that's what Meralco told us) so I'm tremendously pleased at this turn of events.

On the other hand, I just found out that our Smart BRO antenna was toppled over during the storm and it's broken. Customer support isn't answering; maybe their overloaded with service requests? I've resorted to dial-up in the meantime and I really don't want to get used to this speed. But aside from that, our house has escaped virtually unscathed.

Meanwhile, the rest of Metro Manila isn't faring as well. A lot of those fallen billboards and signposts are still down and out. There's a lot of fallen leaves and debris to be swept up. I don't think power has been brought back to all parts of Metro Manila; I believe that as of last night only approximately half of the power grid was restored.

It's going to take a few more days until everything completely go back to normal, but Filipinos are very resilient. We won't let some nasty storm interrupt our daily life. Everyone's back to work and the malls are jampacked as usual.

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September 29, 2006
I retract yesterday's statement that it was really scary outside. It wasn't just scary; it was f***ing scary. That's the only adjective that truly captures the reality outside the walls of our house. Can't recall a recent typhoon that really scared the shit out of me (not literally). You think you get used to typhoons when you live in the Philippines, but you haven't experienced the real thing until one hits you dead on.

The typhoon started to calm down at around four in the afternoon. Our family went out in the evening for a movie because there were no signs of electricity coming back any time soon. Unfortunately, all the malls were closed by the time we decided to leave the house. We tried looking for a place to eat and pass the time and we managed to find an open Yellow Cab Pizza (Better Living branch) on the way home. Until now, there's still no power at home.

The weather was much, much improved this morning so I decided to go to the office (besides, I really needed to charge my cellphone). In the daylight, you could see the destruction brought about by the typhoon. The only word to describe it is "awesome". I don't mean to say that I enjoyed seeing uprooted trees, fallen signposts, and gigantic billboards crushing buses. The typhoon's destructive effects were an awesome sight to see. My brother took some pictures of the carnage; I'll try to upload some of them later.

It took me two and a half hours to get to the office. The MRT wasn't in operation and there was some serious traffic along EDSA for some unknown reason. The bus I took had to take a long detour to avoid the traffic. All seems well though, for now.

(Thanks to Pau for finding the above photo. I actually saw that bus on my way to work!)

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September 28, 2006
If you haven't heard already, typhoon "Milenyo" (international codename "Xangsane") is currently hammering Metro Manila. It's really scary outside right now. Classes have been suspended in all levels and government offices are officially closed. I eagerly checked my HP email this morning for any announcements and...

Walang pasok!!! Gosh, I never thought there'd come a time that I'd say that as part of the workforce.

I sure am glad I don't have any pressuring deadlines. At least I don't even have to work from home. Now I can comfortably watch Game 2 of the UAAP Men's Basketball Finals on TV. Hope it's no less exciting than Game 1.

Addendum: D'oh! Power blackout started half an hour ago (running on laptop batteries now). Just when I thought I could stay at home, watch TV, and play some PC games. At least the basketball game was pushed to Saturday; thanks to Ma'am Didith for the info.

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September 27, 2006
Got wind of this cool website from an entry on Alfred's blog. The Speech Accent Archive hosts over 500 audio samples of people from different locations and backgrounds speaking the same English paragraph. The idea is to compare and analyze the different English accents from around the world.

If you're from the Philippines, you might want to listen to samples from Tagalog and Cebuano speakers. I'm obviously being biased here, but our accents are probably one of the most understandable among the English speakers of the world.

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September 26, 2006
If you are a fan of basketball, then I am sure you will enjoy watching this video. This is the last 23 seconds of Game 1 of the UAAP Season 69 Men's Basketball Finals (Ateneo versus UST).

I tuned into the game on TV just in time to catch the fourth quarter of this match. Those dying seconds had the most amazing exchange of plays I've ever seen. I still get goosebumps every time I watch that brilliant last-second play arranged by Norman Black. The Blue Eagles executed the play just as their coach had drawn out. Had Doug Kramer missed that winning shot, he would be universally lambasted in the press and on the Internet. And the controversial backcourt violation call on JC Intal would become even more crucial. Instead, Kramer's a hero and the refs won't have to face the jury.

As much as I enjoy watching that game-winning play, my favorite scene from this clip was in the last timeout, when Norman Black goes "Uhh...", turns and points to Ford Arao, and says "You're out of the game." The look on Arao's face was like "What the... aww man!" That was hilarious!

Go Ateneo! One big fight!

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September 24, 2006
Today was my final day of driving at A-1 driving school (here's for my "first day" entry). I finished up the last three of the fifteen hours that I signed up for. I was glad to pair up with Alfonso for one last time; he's been my instructor for all but two of my fifteen hours. He's a really great instructor and by the end of driving school we were casually chatting about non-driving topics, including mahjong, his pastime.

I'm very confident now with my driving. There are still a few mistakes here and there but mostly due to inexperience. I can handle everything now: humps, overtaking, rainy weather, highway driving, uphill/downhill, backing, maneuvering, and all sorts of parking procedures. I even changed a tire today just for practice (not because of an actual flat). And I finally graduated from the "10:10" steering wheel position to a more comfortable "9:15". Alfonso was really tough on me in the beginning but in my last five hours he already said I was ready to drive in "the real world".

I've always been a quick learner and I managed to get the hang of driving relatively easily. Part of the reason why is that driving feels like solving puzzles to me, and you know how much I enjoy puzzles. It's like "How do I make the car do this?" and "How do I get from point A to point B?" Driving's a challenge for me and that's what makes every driving session fun as well.

Next step: finish the requisite A-1 classroom lecture on road rules and driving etiquette. Then it's time to get a non-professional driver's license. And finally... get something to drive? Uh oh.

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September 23, 2006
(The following is not a paid advertisement.)

I passed by SM Makati on my way home yesterday when I decided to stop by the snacks section in the middle of the 2nd floor. I was craving for a potato crisps snack. My first choice was Pringles (I had P&G-related training earlier, and Pringles is a P&G product) but I found the 80-peso price tag to be a bit too much. Similar offerings (Lay's Stax and Jack 'n Jill Spuds) proved to have similarly steep prices.

But I really wanted some crispy potato goodness so I looked around and found boxes on a shelf no one seemed to be touching: Fukuda Potato Crisps. I was initially intrigued by the flavor of the first box I saw: "Wasabi Lobster". I'm a fan of wasabi-flavored products in general, but what convinced me to buy was the incredibly low price of 39.75 pesos. I also thought it was interesting for potato crisps to come in a box instead of a tube.

I don't even know where to begin with my praises for Fukuda Potato Crisps. The wasabi flavor was delightfully tangy (i.e., not too strong) and the saltyness of the lobster flavor complemented the spiciness perfectly. The crisps themselves are of the right thickness and are indeed crispy. Unlike its more expensive counterparts, Fukuda Potato Crisps don't get stuck between your teeth (hindi nakakatinga!). The crisps are packed tightly together which means that there are very few broken-off pieces. And the best part is that with such great value, you don't have to pay as much as the other more "premium" brands!

For its great taste, sizeable volume, and affordable price, Fukuda Potato Crisps is the latest product to earn the Punzki "Sulet!" Seal of Approval. Grab a box today!

Epilogue. Today, I went out with Andreé and bought two new flavors of Fukuda to try out: Seaweed and Sour Cream and Onion. They're both as great as the Wasabi Lobster flavor! Bought Andreé an extra box of seaweed-flavored to take home. Two more flavors to try: Barbecue and Original.

P.S. Can't find any links or pictures about Fukuda online so I'll just upload some photos later. Also, if you see Fukuda for sale at any store, let me know where you found it. I haven't seen Fukuda outside of the SM Makati snacks section.

P.P.S. I know too much junk food is bad for my health, but if I'm going to buy food that'll kill me, it might as well come cheap.

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September 21, 2006
Our beloved Dr. Pablo Manalastas has started his own blog, wittily titled "AmboSpeak". (We students know him is "Doc Mana" but "Ambo" is his personal nickname.)

Doc Mana is one of the most colorful characters I have met in my life, and I mean that in an entirely positive way. I don't know a lot of people who're as passionate about his/her personal interests as Doc Mana is (especially at his age!), of which there are many: Linux, open source, mind-twisting higher-order math, extreme vegetarianism, his family, problem solving, the ACM-ICPC (he was our coach who led as to two straight World Finals appearances), and the personal lives of his students. He may seem a bit nosy to some and perverted with his jokes, but we all know he means well and he genuinely cares about his students. He has interesting opinions about many things and personally, I'm glad he started his own blog so that he can share to the whole world about his opinions.

I'm sure that a lot of people will be deeply saddened when he retires in 2007. The DISCS faculty will lose the services of the one-of-a-kind PMana. Like Miguel commented on Dr. Rodrigo's blog entry, it indeed will be the end of an era. But by staying tuned to Doc Mana's blog, we can let him know that we still can't get enough of him.

Welcome to the blogosphere, Doc!

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September 20, 2006
I'm admittedly not a humble person. But I don't think I'm being overly boastful by sharing with you my page on the Ateneo de Manila University Awards Database. Never knew such a site existed before; I only stumbled upon it yesterday. It lists the awards received by Ateneans at competitions in recent history.

Fifteen awards are listed under my name. There are no advanced search features so I can't verify that that's the most for an individual in the database, but you'd probably agree that fifteen is a lot (and I'm sure my list there isn't complete).

Why do I join all these contests? I've been at it since my grade school days. I have to admit, it's partly because of the recognition and the opportunity to market myself. It's also partly because of my fiercely competitive nature. But the biggest reason is that I'm always tremendously proud of the institutions I represent. I want recognition not just as an individual, but also as a product of the Ateneo and the Filipino nation.

I think I've accomplished my goal of helping let the world know that Filipinos (and Ateneans) truly kick ass. Up next: helping HP soar to new heights.

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September 19, 2006
It was raining in torrents on my way home today. Amazingly, my feet stayed dry after traversing the semi-flooded streets. While I was walking home I was thinking of blogging about my wonderful black leather shoes.

I bought my pair of Rockport Carsons at Duty Free Philippines when I came back home from my India trip last June. It cost 80 US dollars but it was worth every precious buck. It's solidly waterproof, light as a feather, and comfortable even after hours on my feet. The leather is soft and flexible yet resistant to scratches and wrinkling. It's perfect for walking and everyday use yet its aesthetically pleasing lines and curves make it a great companion even for formal affairs. And best of all, it fits me! (You don't know how hard it is to look for wide size 12 shoes.)

Investing in good shoes is never a bad idea.

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"Manong" is our friendly neighborhood food vendor that sells deliciously cheap styrofoam-packed lunches at our office building. He camps out everyday at the 7.5th and 14.5th floor (that's halfway up the stairwell from the HP floors) right around noon. These famously affordable lunches sell for 45 pesos each and come with a viand (3-4 choices daily!), vegetables on the side, a fruit or chocolate for dessert, and loads of rice.

At lunch time, people rush to buy food from Manong before his stock runs out. You simply cannot beat that value! I computed that if I stick to Manong's lunches every weekday and stick to the cheapest transportation, I'll only be spending 112 pesos a day, 560 pesos a week, and 2240 pesos a month. Wow! (Of course, you must remember I don't chip in for the household expenses yet.)

Maraming salamat, Manong. (I really must remember to ask what his real name is.)

(Pictures to be posted in the future.)

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September 18, 2006
It's been more than two weeks since we've had any problems with our Smart BRO connection. It's become a bit slower, but I'd rather have that than resets every other minute. Looks like they finally solved their network problems.

Goodbye, frustrating technical support calls! The Smart BRO curse has been lifted!

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This blog entry was written on my wicked office-issued laptop, the HP Compaq nc6320.

This Vista-ready machine has an Intel Core 2 Duo, 1 GB of RAM, a DVD-writer, a not-so-cool Intel 945GM Express integrated graphics card, 15-inch non-widescreen LCD display, and integrated fingerprint scanner (which I can't configure to work with Novell NetWare). This baby is amazingly fast. I've been busy souping it up for my needs the past few hours but now I'm finally ready to rock the HP world.

(Now that I don't have to bring my personal laptop to work everyday, does this mean the end of my back pains?)

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Now I personally understand why Dilbert is so popular among white-collar workers. This comic strip represents a typical scenario at our office.

Chairs. You can't have enough of them.

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September 17, 2006
If you've accidentally discovered that labels will still be listed for a post with the old templating system (like I have), then you must be a bit annoyed that you can't change the way they look. A closer inspection of the Blogger-generated HTML reveals that the labels (e.g., "Labels: Blogger Beta, hacks") are enclosed in a paragraph (p tag) with a CSS class of "blogger-labels".

If you know how to edit your blog's template (I've written a short how-to here), it's a simple matter of handling the blogger-labels class by editing your stylesheet. This is how I made the labels look just a bit smaller than the entry text:

.blogger-labels { font-size: 0.86em; }

Next hack: How to change the way the labels are listed. I want to change the header from "Labels: " to "Filed under: " and get rid of the comma delimiter. Haven't found a way so far.

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I screwed up big time in my Blogger beta testing. I thought I had layouts all figured out, but at one point it was so bad that my blog started generating "404 Not Found" errors. Conclusion: Blogger Beta's layouts system sucks. It'd be awesome if someone was kind enough to write an easy-to-understand tutorial, but as it stands, trying to customize it is just not worth it.

Heck, I wouldn't even have bothered with layouts if I knew that the labels worked with the old templating system. I was surprised when I reverted back to my old template and I saw that the labels that I tried out were still there! Notice that I went back through all my blog entries and retroactively labeled all 50+ of them. Whew.

What I could've used from the new layouts is the widget that lists all the labels I've used. I haven't figured out a hack yet but for now, you can head over to the RubeTube on Technorati to explore my tags/labels; it's there on the upper-left. (It's not updated in real-time though)

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September 16, 2006
Currently experimenting with the new layouts feature in Blogger Beta, so please do not be surprised if The RubeTube's appearance keeps changing every other minute.

Thank you for your patience.

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I'm out. It's over for me. Here's the list of advancers to Round 2.

I just can't seem to get past Round 1 of Google Code Jam. Nevertheless, this year's result was better from last year's Code Jam. In Round 1, there are three problems worth 250, 500, and 1000 points each (as opposed to the qualifiers with just two problems: 250 and 1000). In 2005, I was only able to submit a solution for the 250-pointer, and it didn't make it past the Challenge Phase. (See the rules for more info; it's a 15-minute round where you can challenge the solutions of other people and make them fail.)

This year, I was only able to submit for the 250-pointer as well, but it was a solution solid enough not to get challenged. I did make a mistake though in unsuccessfully attempting to challenge, which got me a 25 point reduction. Still, I was able to submit my solution fast enough (208.61 points) so I netted 183.61 points in all. It would've been enough to advance (the "passing" score was 174.60) but my solution failed the System Testing Phase.

Tip for Code Jam 2007 participants: All you need to pass the Qualifying Round and Round 1 is a quick and correct submission for the 250-pointer.

The 250-point problem was like this: given a fraction in the form of n/d (where d and n are integers and d is positive) and a positive integer maxDenom, find a fraction n2/d2 such that d2 is less than or equal to maxDenom, d2 is positive, and the absolute difference between n/d and n2/d2 is as small as possible. If there are candidate ties, take the one with smaller d2; if the numerators are equal, take the one with smaller n2. My solution seemed correct, but my waterloo was floating-point number precision. Given that I was using C#, I should've used the decimal data type insted of double.

I just needed to do a find and replace from "double" to "decimal"! Argh!!! (pounds head in frustration)

Well, that's that. What really sucks is that I have to wait another year for the next Code Jam. But hey, at least I've got a shirt from last year!

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September 15, 2006
Started getting muscle pains in my lower-left back yesterday. Never noticed that it was hurting until I decided it was time to leave the office. It made sleeping last night really difficult and it worsened in the morning due to an awkward sleeping position. Felt better after eating breakfast and taking a bath, but the pain is still there, to a lesser degree now.

I suspect that having to bring my laptop to work everyday is the culprit. I take public transportation and I carry my machine in a trashy-looking backpack (don't want to grab any attention). Sometimes I only use the right-hand strap to carry my backpack, which causes me to shift my balance to the left side. Doing that everyday while standing for extended periods of time (on the bus and on the train) probably cause my back pains.

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September 14, 2006
In case you didn't know yet, I made Round 1 of Google Code Jam 2006. I just registered for it officially via the Competition Arena. The coding phase begins at 10 PM local time, which gives me less than three hours to eat dinner and get rid of the nervous feeling in my gut. I'm going up against 999 of the world's best coders and it won't be any easier than last year, when I failed to advance past Round 1.

I'm the only representative from the Philippines to make it to Round 1 this year. I want to at least make it to Round 2 this time around. Maybe I can get national press coverage if that happens.


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There's a whole set of pages at the internal HP website whose sole purpose is to help HP employees decipher acronyms (no sample usage though). I can't understand half the acronyms my colleagues are using around me. But I've been assured that I'm sure to pick up the "HP lingo" over time.

"COB" is the latest acronym I've learned. It wasn't on the online glossary so I had to ask Jessie about it. "COB" isn't an HP-specific term and it stands for "Close Of Business", or the time when business usually shuts down for the day, which roughly translates to "5 PM".

Is "5 PM" really that hard to say?

P.S. "COB" stands for a lot of other things too.

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September 13, 2006
I had a mild case of vertigo last night. I started getting a little dizzy as I was writing last night's blog entry and pretty soon I wanted to just throw up. It took a lot of effort just to get downstairs and call my parents up for help (they were away playing mahjong). They got me a few tablets of cinnarizine (reimbursable to HP!) to help fight the nausea. I'm fortunate that I was able to will myself to sleep after an hour of lying down.

I felt better this morning, though I still imagine my world spinning at times. I did a bit of research on vertigo and I think I experienced some benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV). I found these exercises to help combat the effects of BPPV in case it occurs again.

If you've never experienced vertigo in your life, be thankful. There's nothing pleasant with the experience.

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September 12, 2006
(Relax, I'm still working for HP.)

At Shé's recommendation, I've been in contact with Bianca Deloso (New Business team at HP) about the possibility of conducting some C# training for a team that's going to be supporting a .NET application. I told Bianca I was interested and she was happy to have me help out. The training's going to be very basic and the team already has Java experience. And it certainly doesn't hurt that I have teaching experience and those C#/.NET slides that I made for my summer class. The details are still being finalized but I'm already "porting" my material to the HP presentation template before the training days begin next week. Thanks for the heads-up, Shé!

This is a tremendous opportunity for me to increase my value for the company. Simon (my manager) lauded me for my initiative and he has no objections as long as I fulfill my other duties. Personally, I feel great that I'm being proactive in building my career; it's so much better than just being a spectator.

Work at HP is turning out to be really exciting. And I'm only on my second week!

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September 11, 2006 came and went and America was left unscathed. My sister Vanny's in New York right now for company-sponsored (Philam Life) marketing training. And she's on Wall Street, of all places. She was understandably apprehensive about being at a high-profile potential terrorist target on the 5th anniversary of 9/11, but now our family can breathe a sigh of relief.

I'm glad she's safe.


September 11, 2006
I love our pantry's coffee machine, powered by Nescafé. Not a day at the office goes by without consuming 3-4 cups. Here are the drinks available, in order of personal preference:
  • Choco Latté (a.k.a. Milo) - The ultimate choco-loaded drink
  • Café Mocha - Choco Latté with a caffeine boost for sleepy mornings
  • Coffee (with) Cream - Smooth and creamy goodness
  • Caramel Mocha - For a different flavor
  • Coffee - Plain and simple, for extra effect
Milo break!

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September 09, 2006
HP is an incredibly generous company. To think I only started last September 1, but I was still able to receive my first paycheck yesterday (they normally give it out once a month on the 10th, but September 10 is a Sunday). Mind you, I didn't get a prorated amount; I got a full month's salary for the mere six working days I've worked! I got mine in the form of a manager's check since my payroll account wasn't opened in time but still, I'm impressed at their promptness in making sure their employees are happily compensated.

Ahh, paydays... it's been a while since my last one. I sure missed them.

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September 08, 2006
I advanced to Round 1 of Google Code Jam 2006! Woohoo!

I am officially one of the top 1000 coders in the world (if we use Code Jam as a benchmark). Also, I'm the only contestant from the Philippines who was able to advance so I've been given the opportunity to solely represent my motherland (I'm equally proud and dismayed). The complete list of qualifiers can be found here; look for "punzki".

The elimination round for Code Jam was held last Wednesday, starting 12 AM (local time) and ending 24 hours later (Thursday midnight). I came home terribly exhausted from work on Tuesday night, and was ready to sleep (at 11:59 PM) when Akie messaged me on YM to remind me that the elimination round was starting a minute later. I really wanted to go to bed but I might not have even less energy if I take it Wednesday night so I went ahead and took it.

The elimination round had five sets of problems; I was assigned to Set 1. Each set had two problems: one worth 250, and a harder one worth 750. The faster you submit a solution to a problem, the more points you get, but if it fails the system test, you get no points for it (detailed rules here). I was able to do the 250-point problem very quickly and got 236.12 points, but the second problem (a variant of Little Bishops, except that there are some unusable squares) proved much more difficult. I had a correct solution, but it was too slow and exceeded the two-second time limit no matter how many times I tried to optimize it. I'll have to take a look at the solutions of those who got it correct to see where I went wrong.

Here are some quick statistics that may help those who are aspiring to get past the elimination round for Code Jam 2007:
  • The lowest score that was able to qualify for Round 1 was a paltry 104.64. This was from Set 4, which had many qualifying scores in the low 100's.
  • For Set 1 (my set), the lowest qualifying score (rank 200) was 201.86. I got 236.12, which was enough to rank me 76th in Set 1.
  • For Set 1, only 27 were able to solve both problems. Four (ranked 28-31) got only the 750-point problem. All the rest (rank 32-200) were only able to solve the 250-pointer.
What do these numbers imply? To qualify for Round 1, you only need to solve the easy problem, but you must solve it relatively fast. This means that you should open the easy problem first (points don't get deducted until you open a problem) to make sure you have time to finish it. If you open the harder problem first and waste too much time on it, you might not have enough time for the easier one. Don't pressure yourself into getting both problems correct unless you were slow in solving the first problem. A score of 220 is generally safe; anything less than 200 is risky and will only qualify if the set is difficult. Some experienced contestants already know about this tip I'm giving you; they don't even bother to open the hard problem after they get the job done with the 250-point problem.

That's the only advice I can provide; I wasn't able to get past Round 1 last year, though I did get a free Code Jam 2005 shirt. Unfortunately, this year, they'll only be sending shirts to the top 250 from Round 2. Well, I guess that means that I'll just have to make the top 250 this year, right? Wish me luck!

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September 07, 2006
(This entry will explain why I wasn't able to blog yesterday.)

Today was my first ever "coffee talk" meeting as a member of HP's Applications Development and Solution Integration Team, or ADSI. The ADSI coffee talk is a monthly meeting (there is a quaterly coffee talk for all of HP Global Delivery Philippine Center, or GDPC) where announcements are made and issues are raised. Also, it's the time for new-hires to be formally introduced to the whole team.

Yesterday afternoon, the organizers informed us that all new-hires are required to show off their talents. Meaning, the coffee talk will be the venue of our first-ever presentation, with less than a day to prepare. They split us up into three groups. Paul, Andrew, and I (new-hires under Jason) were grouped together while the rest were divided into two groups of five each. We decided to make up for our shortage of manpower by exerting maximum effort. And we did. In fact, we probably overdid it.

One group decided to do a simple pun-ny guitar and song number ("HP-cially for You"), while the other did a comedic photo slideshow in Powerpoint with voice bubbles and background music. On the other hand, my group (the "Tres Amigos") would not settle for anything less than a full-fledged video complete with video transitions, full voice acting, sound effects, and music to match the mood. Since we didn't have time to shoot lots of footage, we just took still-photos and put them all together using Windows Movie Maker. (It was a good thing I chose to bring the IXUS i Zoom yesterday.)

Our 4-minute video was about a HP new-hire's first day of work. He falls asleep less than an hour into his new job while reading boring online learning material. He wakes up hours later finding himself all alone in an abandoned unfinished office (shot in the 7th floor yesterday, just before it opened today), with no Internet and phone connections. He explores around a bit and finds himself trapped... in the 13th floor (cue psycho-killer music from "Psycho"). After finding this out, he gets woken up, for real this time, and discovers that it was all a dream. He has learned his lesson: Never fall asleep on the job. Paul and Andrew were quick to "volunteer" me for the lead role, saying that they couldn't imagine anyone but me playing the part. Of course, I was quick to accept because I couldn't miss the chance to make myself known, even if I did have to do plenty of embarrassing scenes.

To make an already long story shorter, our presentation was a hit with the ADSI people. Only after all that embarrassment did I realize that we did an amazing job, especially with our limited time and resources. I was proud of the fact that we put in a tremendous amount of effort not because of a potential reward (there was none), but because we just wanted to do our best.

I'm really sorry but I can't share the film online; HP Confidential, you know. However, I can show you this shot (this is after I realize that the phone line is dead:

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September 05, 2006
For my own reference, SMPC only. It sucks to forget names. I've already lost a few of them. Pardon the spelling errors.

Also under Simon: Jessie (my "buddy"), Cip, Sym, GM, Marvin, Elbert, Eugene (Teves, former DISCS lecturer), Rhea, Lei, Cha, Mads (ECE '06), Francis, Cheng, Choy, Eva, Sheila, Iris, Ryann (MIS '05), Jac, Carmela

New-hires/batchmates: Pierre, Rinah, Reymon, Jay (ME '05), Lailani, Oliver, Sheila, Donna, Paul (ComTech '06), Andrew

Managers: Simon (manager de jure), Jason (Simon's boss), Vince, Jill (ADSI big boss)

People I already know: Shé (taking MS CS at Ateneo), Ian, Debby (Student Ambassador like Ian), Jino (from ACM, CS'05), Bev (MIS '06), Nicole, Cheson (MIS '06), Paul (CS '05)

Others: OJ, Alvin, Karla, Gen, Cherry (14th floor AA), Rochelle (14th floor lobby), Marc, Jena, Sally (7th floor AA), Rich

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September 04, 2006
Last Friday was just an orientation at HP's RSC (Robinson's Summit Center) office. Today, I reported for my first day of "real" work at SMPC (San Miguel Properties Center).

HP has this recently-launched "on-boarding" program designed to orient new-hires on the culture and the way things work at HP. There were 11 of us new-hires at the orientation today. I expected that there would be a "getting to know you" session at the start so I came prepared for it; I brought my Rubik's cube:

My plan worked to perfection because they each asked us to introduce ourselves, give a "tagline", and name a special talent. You probably know what my special talent is. To make a long story short, everyone (new-hires, co-workers, managers) was impressed with my l33t cube-solving skills. My jaw-dropping performance went well with my tagline "The Freshmaker" (from Mentos). I'd like to think that I made a good first impression with the people present by being unique. Also, I will be infamously remembered for being the new-hire that violated the dress code on his first day by coming in in jeans.

Not everything was positive on my first day though. No thanks to HP's recent aggressive hiring spree, the SMPC office was packed with people and you literally had to forage for your own chair and desk. Also, we won't get our laptops (we were informed that we'll be issued one of these) until the third week of September so in the meantime, I will have to bring my own laptop (shown in the above photo with the cube). Good thing mine's also an HP.

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September 03, 2006
Today was my first day of driving at A-1 driving school. I've been meaning to learn how to drive as soon as I had loads of free time, and I totally blew it because now I'm already employed. It's still not too late because I can still hope to finish before the work piles up.

I signed up for 15 total hours of driving (for 8,200 pesos) the previous Saturday and I attended the two-hour orientation this past Thursday. I spend my first two hours earlier this afternoon. I got started on a Toyota Altis (2005 model, I think) with manual transmission, under the guidance of my driving instructor Alfonso. My legs were a bit long for the driver's seat even if I pulled it back as far as it can go. Oh well, nothing I can do about that.

I did my driving along Doña Soledad Avenue (near SM Bicutan), in a nearby subdivision whose name I forgot, and the busy Bicutan instruction. Here are the lessons which I "passed":
  • Pre-driving check-up routine, a.k.a. BLOWFATCH (tm)
  • Identifying the car controls, pedals, and dashboard instruments
  • Steering wheel handling (10:10) position and turning
  • Observing safe following and stopping distances
  • Proper way of shifting gears (only up to 2nd gear so far)
  • Maintaining lanes
And here are the topics which Alfonso said I need practice on:
  • Starting and stopping procedures (i.e., without killing the engine)
  • Left and right turning
Also, we did a little of the following:
  • Uphill/downhill driving
  • U-turn
  • Parking (not parallel)
All in all, considering that I have zero driving experience, I think I did well in my first two hours. It was a little nerve-wracking, but I had loads of fun even if the engine died a couple of times. But nothing a little practice can't fix. I don't have my own vehicle but I can still take my Dad's car out for a spin from time to time. As the song goes, "Gusto kong matutong mag-drive kahit na wala akong kotse."

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September 02, 2006
This afternoon, I served as a judge for the second CompSAt Inter-University Programming Competition (IUPC). The IUPC as an ACM-ICPC-style contest organized by CompSAt that serves as a "warmup" contest for the ACM-ICPC Manila Regional Contest in October, hosted by Ateneo de Manila University. This year, the IUPC was participated by 14 teams from five schools.

Organizer Neill Li asked me to be a judge a few months back and I was glad to oblige. As a battle-hardened veteran of the ICPC (four regionals, two world finals), I figured it was going to be a cinch to come up with two or three problems. But I put off the task until a few days before the contest and to make things worse, solving problems takes only half the effort that it takes to make them. It's tough enough to formulate a challenging problem and then have to solve it to make sure it's solvable. Nevertheless, I was able to get the job done and I was able to come up with three interesting problems:
  • Bored Dots - Inspired by the Flash game Bored Dots, which I got so frustrated with, I made a program to give me the solutions. Not-so-difficult search problem. Just do a brute-force search for the solution. No one in the IUPC was able to solve this but one team did at least try.
  • Roman Nvmerals - Determine if a string is a valid Roman numeral or not. It's simple enough to do, and there are many ways to solve it. The most straightforward solution is to write a program to generate the Roman numerals from I to MMMCMXCIX (1 to 3999); that'll give you all the valid Roman numerals and it's easy enough to do a search. Two teams were able to solve the problem.
  • l33t H4xX0r5 - Inspired by the l33t esoteric programming language. It looks very hard but really, it's not. The problem statement is just troublesome to read (i.e., discouraging, intimidating) but everything you need to solve the problem is in there. Unsurprisingly, not a single team gave it a try.
You can download my problem set here, complete with the solutions (in Java) and the judges' test input and output. You can also download the problem set of co-judge Eric Vidal. Unfortunately, I don't have a copy of Dr. Felix Muga's (the third judge) problem set; sorry about that.

BTW, the top three finishers in the contest were:
  1. De La Salle University (4 problems solved and they were only two in their team!)
  2. FEU-East Asia College (also 4 problems solved, but slower)
  3. Ateneo de Manila University (fastest to solve 3 problems)
Our winners were well-deserved. Congratulations!

P.S. Can anyone recommend an free online file storage service that'll let me publicly share files? It's sad that I have to resort to using my GeoCities account.

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Yesterday (September 1) was my first day at HP. September 1 is an easy day to remember should I decide to celebrate my anniversaries on the job.

All new-hires were asked to report to our Makati office (Robinson's Summit building in Ayala Avenue) for the orientation. I was really surprised to see that there were almost forty of us reporting for duty yesterday. And the HR people were even more shocked; according to them, ours was the largest batch in recent history. They were terribly unprepared for us and couldn't find a room to fit us all in. We had to transfer rooms thrice because they didn't have a conference room that could hold such a big crowd. But in the end it was all good because we managed to fit in the pantry. Hello, unlimited supply of free coffee (not that I'm a caffeine freak)!

The orientation itself was a bit... dull. Maybe I was expecting something more exciting. I did manage to make a lot of acquaintances in the group; I was feeling extra friendly and upbeat. It's a bit sad though that we probably won't see each other any time soon 'coz we're mostly in different teams. I was also pleasantly surprised to see Ian Simpao with us yesterday as one of the speakers at the orientation. Ian referred me to HP and was one of my fellow Microsoft Student Ambassadors two years back. He's one of genuinely nicest people I've met.

Well, I'll be reporting to work at our Ortigas office (14th floor, San Miguel Properties Center) at 10 AM on Monday. My manager is Simon Villalon; I think he's a really cool manager and I say that even though I've only met with him thrice! I'm really excited to start getting busy and meet the people I'll be working with at HP.

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About me

Mark Punzalan
a.k.a. "Punzki"
Location: Redmond, WA
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