Transformation

I think this is the right video for this year.

I love the music and the animation. The music video spells out the central conceit somewhat explicitly, but I think the lyrics by themselves have a hint of ambiguity — is it a harmful addiction that you just can’t escape from, or an essential part of your identity that you just can’t deny?

What parts of me can I just not deny, huh? Unfortunately 2017 is also the year I decide my online presence should probably be a little more professional, so you might have to read between the lines a bit.


Here’s what happened this year:

  • Academics: I finish introductory biology, the last of my General Institute Requirements. I get into MIT’s Summer Program in Undergraduate Research (SPUR). I do homework and test out of 18.03 (differential equations) and 6.0001 (intro to EECS). I do a SPUR project and presentation, and it takes a wild turn into a half-machine-learning-related research project. With teams, I build a compiler and an Interactive Music System. I submit my double major form and am now the extremely normal 18 and 6-3.

  • Extracurriculars: On 2/13 I’m elected SIPB treasurer. On 5/5 I’m white-balloted into floorpi hall chair. I have to do reimbursements for three groups, which is quite the experience. My biggest treasurership ended in ESP’s December elections, but now I am also going to codirect Spark 2018, which is apparently something I said in no uncertain terms that I would not do when I realized I would become hall chair, but then immediately forgot about. I think I can handle this though, and it’ll be fun and educational. Fingers crossed.

  • The Internet: As I led with, I ask some hard questions about my online presence, create a new website and a new blog (hello), and all but leave Facebook and Twitter for Mastodon for its user-centric privacy-conscious design (among other things, but this is the only one with a browseable link). Some of these things cancel each other out along some dimensions.

  • Technology and code:

    • 4/9: In a bizarre post-CPW rush of inspiration from discussions with a prefrosh, I start writing my own golfing programming language, Paradoc. On 8/24 I sort of unveil it to the world (i.e. codegolf.stackexchange.com) and submit a few solutions in it. A few days later I copy-paste some Jelly codepoints to write my first program. All of this is done in a few short, meteoric rushes, because I guess I’m more interested in designing a golfing programming language than than actually golfing. But wait for [redacted].

    • 7/1: I join galhacktic trendsetters for a CTF, Anderson teaches me how to use radare2, and for what I’m pretty sure is the first time ever, I solve an actual reversing CTF challenge (snake), by patching the binary to always give me points and never trigger the losing condition. I can reverse. TechSec even teaches me how to achieve a textbook ROP, although that’s about as far as my pwning skills reach. Still, I get to go to an actual physical CTF (CSAW) with Don’t Hack Alone, which happens 11/9–11, and it’s a great experience.

    • 12/10: I set up Puzzletron for [redacted]. This involves writing PHP, unfortunately, but I discover that NearlyFreeSpeeh is a really cool web host.

    • I buy some wireless gear, I guess? On 2/16 I get a Bluetooth Mouse (the $20 Wirecutter-recommended Microsoft 3600), but due to some apparent weird Apple hardware oversight, it doesn’t work when wi-fi is on a 2.4 GHz network, and I decide once and for all that wireless mice hate me. On 6/27 I get a G502 Proteus Spectrum. Good enough. I also now own some cheap budget Bluetooth headphones.

  • Puzzles — this was a good year:

    • SUMS, the MIT Mystery Hunt, and the inaugural Cambridge Puzzle Hunt all happen in January. [pi] places second by points in SUMS and is the first to solve the meta puzzle, earning us a cameo in the epilogue:

      We call ourselves [pi], the pioneers of tomorrow.

    • 3/14−3/23: A subset of ✈✈✈ Galactic Trendsetters ✈✈✈, including me, runs the inaugural Galactic Puzzle Hunt. (I wrote two puzzles and helped a little with web development.) It consumes my life, but I emerge surprisingly unscathed and get some good games of Hanabi with the puzzle gang out of it. We also fill out March Madness brackets in some tangential side chat for lulz and I accidentally choose the winning team.
    • Later in the year: Palantir Puzzlehunt happens on 9/23. Floorpi does pretty well, although it isn’t my team’s best performance. Then on 10/8 I do BAPHL 16 with ۞۞۞ Galactic Imperium ۞۞۞, an extremely generalized Galactic team, and we place second. (I hear the organizers are disappointed we don’t pronounce ۞۞۞. Sorry, folks.) That night I resolve to get better at puzzles and finally subscribe to the New York Times crossword.

  • Gaming continues to get its own section, wow. I got a 3DS (5/3) and started playing through my backlog of Ace Attorney games, i.e. all of them. I play through the first three episodes in the first five days. Three days later I order Pokémon Moon; two days after that it arrives. Three days after that I order Fire Emblem Fates: Birthright; two days after that it arrives. 171 days after that I get Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective. I’ve probably milked the format enough and am too lazy to get more of the exact dates and put them into Wolfram|Alpha, but anyway, I continue randomly adding things to my Steam backlog; get Angels with Scaly Wings for my birthday and 9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors and Aviary Attorney for Christmas; and to round off the year, I am exposed to Crypt of the NecroDancer, buy it during the Steam Winter sale, and get somewhat uncharacteristically addicted. I hope I will finish my blog post about all this before absurdly late.

  • Life: Well, I think the big thing is that I realize that I’m legitimately interested in UI/UX design and tinkering with front-end stuff, and that I have been for a long time. This is at least one reason for the new blog. Implications are left to the reader as an exercise.

  • Memes:

    • 1/21: Bad Ideas, during which I run the Python Bee and throw some wrenches into the formula. I am pretty happy with my final challenge, although it doesn’t get solved:

      Define a function that takes no arguments and returns the integer 2017.

      RESTRICTION: Your function may not contain any digits.

    • 2/25: Apparently, while sick, I make a small to-do list so I can still be minimally productive, then procrastinate everything on the list by filing my taxes instead.
    • 3/5: I learn that with the new Foldable-constrained things in Prelude, minimum (1, 2) == 2.
    • 3/15: Around midnight or something, my phone (presumably) falls out of my overfull pockets in front of Lobby 7. I don’t really get concerned about its absence until a day later when I realize it’s not in the usual places I might have left it. At this point I search my inbox and find that a nice fellow MIT student has found it and emailed me. Score one for putting my email on everything.
    • 4/1ish: reddit holds /r/place. After noticing that Caltech and Harvard both have parts of the board I email some lists and manage to sort-of organize a group of people to draw the MIT logo on the board, which succeeds and survives pretty much intact. I don’t think either of the other universities’ logos survives.
    • 4/6: I fax my passport to a credit card company, am careful to double-check that I didn’t leave the photocopy of the passport anywhere, then forget the passport itself in the fax machine. Fortunately I realize this the following weekend when I want it for a key-signing party that doesn’t happen, and get it back the next week, but, wow.
    • 4/18: Ring delivery is really loud. My ring horribly butchers the capitalization of my kerberos (“BPChen”) and is possibly slightly small, so I send it back two days later. On 5/24, I get the ring in the mail, and the rest is history:

    • 5/6: I think this is when I discover the Go Generics via Canadian Aboriginal Syllabics meme.
    • 7/23: A TVTropes binge sends me to start playing DragonFable, an 11-year-old Flash RPG. Two days later Adobe announces the end-of-life for Flash in 2020.
    • 8/2x: It took me this long, but I slightly help out with EC construction, drilling two holes and cutting a bunch of planks. It’s fun and scary and I acquire a little wood.
    • 9/18: I think this is my first actual all-nighter. I get one hour of sleep this night. It is bad.
    • 10/22: After far too long, floorpi acquires Castle of the Devil and I get to play it again.
    • 11/15: BoA sends me a fraud notification over a $0.13 transaction. I follow instructions and it cancels my card and sends me a new one. Hmmm…
    • 12/4: Three months after rush, I get a friend to teach me how to drill the pieces of wood from rush together to create a smol bench.
    • 12/30: I actually have a new project in store, and I love getting to end lists with vague future promises that nobody will remember or ask me about.

It’s actually already 2018 here because I have to specify the time for each post and it just doesn’t feel like cheating to do it this way for some reason, but here’s to another great year.