Sunday, May 19, 2024

Floors, Windows, and an interview with bmerry - 06.29.07 2:00 PM EDT

By jmzero
TopCoder Member

In Las Vegas, things tend to be done on something of a different scale - and the hotels in particular are finished to a level of gleam much higher than an equivalent hotel in another city. The conference area where the competitions take place is great, and features some subtle beauties in addition to its overstated, overgilt casino floors and neon displays. The floor on the way to the competition area has a cool projected display that senses movement (which it responds to by rippling like water):

This morning, it became apparent that the floor runs Windows (oddly, the hotel windows run Linux). Apparently the janitors aren't sweeping up unused icons promptly enough.

The competition area itself has been changed somewhat in preparation for the fancy live broadcast (adios, fishbowl). The coverage last year was top notch - and I'm guessing this year it'll be even better as the coverage team works out the kinks and becomes more comfortable with the competition's flow.

I caught up with Bruce Merry (bmerry) a bit this morning. He's now the second highest rated coder (behind Petr) and thus certainly a favorite in the final round. Bruce is not very Vegas - he's understated, unimposing, witty, and - unsurprisingly - deeply intelligent. I've availed myself of his analysis services continually through the algorithm competitions and have always been impressed by his insight.

jmzero: "I think you have to be one of the favorites here, but it seems you've flown under the radar a bit - and people might not be as familiar with you."

bmerry: "I haven't really been near the top for long - not so long as many of the competitors."

jmzero: "Hopefully that changes. What are some of your hobbies, interests?"

bmerry: "...programming?" (This is said with a bit of a wink; he's giving me an opportunity to ask a better question).

jmzero: "Any interests that might not be shared by quite so many of the competitors?"

bmerry: "Monty Python." (Though if anything, this answer is less surprising than the last one - check out his quote).

jmzero: "What are you doing right now in 'regular' life?"

bmerry: "I'm finishing a PhD in Computer Science."

jmzero: "Any particular specialty?"

bmerry: "Character animation. Computer graphics."

jmzero: "So I take it that you have an affinity for geometry questions. Is that correct, and is there any area where you feel you are perhaps weaker in terms of algorithm problems?"

bmerry: "Yes - I'm comfortable with geometry. I guess I'm weaker with problems you need to approach heuristically.... With that, I'm surprised I managed as well as I did with the marathon problems. They often call for that kind of thing." (Bruce came very close to qualifying for the onsite marathon rounds - but it looks like his focus on algorithms is paying off pretty well.)

jmzero: "I won't keep you longer - but any predictions for the final round?"

bmerry: "Someone will win..."

Perhaps next time I'll spend my last question a little more wisely - but thanks and best of luck to bmerry in the final round.