Contrasting Experiences (Part 2)

IMO Camp 1 was over! While waiting for one more month for the second camp, there was another camp awaiting me: MCO camp. Related, but different in nature (handwritten vs typed, math vs programming, etc).

But this is not the only contrast.

Part 2: MCO camp (

Venue: Wisma

Date: 21-22 December (Sat-Sun)

Qualification: MCC individual gold/silver (hmm……perhaps the only gold I got since 2011 besides AMC 2012??), and only 36 applicants accepted.

I quickly applied 1 day after the announcement with alacrity (many thanks to Mr. Yeoh Yean Cheong, Zi Song’s father for informing me) and was selected to the camp. Felt great, isn’t it? My classmate (Xin En), and IMO teammate (Yi Kye), who were gold medalist in MCC 2013 were selected, too. I was lucky to have my IMO peers to be facilitators – they were expert and performed decently in MCO 2013.

Similar to IMO camp, I had to arrange everything, but it was a little different from IMO camp:

1. Accommodation. Unlike IMO camp where participants stayed at “Permata”, for this camp accommodation was not arranged and we needed to arrange ourselves. Since we started at 9am and ended the session at 5pm, we decided to book for the date one day earlier and check out one day later.

How about hotels? Prescott (just beside Job Street) was full, so the only candidate was Tune Hotel.

2. Transport. Since there was only 2 of us, Xin En bought bus ticket few days before the camp, with Puduraya as our destination. Still 2km away from Tune! Rather than exhausting ourselves by walking, we studied the route of KL Integrated Public Transport System (or simply Rapid KL) beforehand: the only thing you need to know is the route from Rapid KL station and your destination.

Friday: “Hello!” to KL again.

Exhausted from car lesson (where I “accidentally” overtook an MPSP truck), I “recharged” myself before heading to bus station. Upon my arrival, I found Xin En (with his parents), and soon informed my him that we were boarding into Plusliner bus, 2:45 p.m. “Tick tock tick tock!” I looked at my watch, the double-decked bus arrive at 3pm and departed at 3:15 pm, 30 minutes late. What’s more annoying was, our tickets showed seats FB, FC, and after being directed to the upper deck we had difficulties in finding the seats-the row number jumped from 4, 5 , M,…, luckily most passengers have boarded the bus, so we spotted the only row with 2 empty seats in the front row (F for “front”?) Plus the front row was not air-conditioned! We should have claimed compensation from the bus company.

(Two passengers who were irate at the poor service of bus company)

We ended up arriving Puduraya late at 8:45 pm (partially because of traffic jam), with our stomachs complaining for hunger. My father is right: Consortium is better (it would have arrived at 7:30 pm despite heavy jam in KL). We quickly settled our dinner and proceeded to the nearest Rapid KL station: Plaza Rakyat, where few people approached me:

“Sir, could u pls …… ” I had no patience in listening their begs, but I saw a piece of paper recording names, and a column recording figures (perhaps, donation?)

“I am short of time,”  with stony expression, I replied, then tried to move forward to approach Xin En.

“Sir! Sir!” Their voice gradually faded from my ears.

Oops! I should have kept quiet and shown a “No” sign to them. I might have hurt them (if they were sincerely asking for donation), but I was not culpable for this: nowadays scammers are everywhere so we really have to be careful to prevent ourselves from being cheated.

Finally, after a smooth journey from Plaza Rakyat to Medan Tuanku (before 5 minutes walk to Tune Hotel), we settled down and prepared ourselves for tomorrow. Luckily, the ventilation was satisfactory and we did not need air-conditioner.

Saturday-Sunday: MCO Camp

Our classroom

First order of business was always introduction, no exception for this. Good thing: that was anticipated by the “Hour of Code”, which captivated all novices: Dealing with angry bird and zombie wasn’t all: this was the baby step to learn “moveForward”, “turnRight” and “turnLeft” commands. We were soon introduced the basics of C++ programming by Mr. Shawn Tan — components of commands in C++, like declaration of integer vs floating, arithmetic and logic operations, etc. Rocket flying! In 2 hours he already covered a lot of topics, and I was still scratching my head, unable to digest the essence.

Practice: all of us signed up at Coderbytes and utilized Ideone to code. Note that coding in Coderbytes was not identical as in Ideone: you need to maintain “gets(stdin)”, so it took me a long time to edit code from Ideone. I really need to practice and study first before taking these challenges. No point of getting 5/10 or below, isn’t it?

Magically done by some command that transforms every input x to x+23, mod 26

Apart from this, two facilitators, Steven and Sher Minn taught us something out of the box, fake logo and HTML+CSS language respectively. To be honest I didn’t really understand how to link Fake Logo with your contacts such as Facebook  and Twitter, and even Wikipedia! However, I really enjoyed the guide of HTML (homepage making) and CSS (decoration). Feel proud to have a homepage 🙂

16 hours (8 hours *2) passed, and the camp ended, leaving me question marks on challenging C++. Umm, MCO 2014 as a motivation. IOI2013 Malaysia team leader, Dr. Ong Shien Jin who also conducted the MCO workshop, state that a prerequisite to take part in MCO is to solve 1 full problem in USACO and COCI.

(facilitators who helped us a lot, though sometimes it was a little hard to understand)

What’s after 5pm?

Shawn warned us during the Hour of Code session that introduction and C++ would be boring. Simply because, C++ was new to us and we could not absorb 100% from the lesson. Evening time was supposed to be used as revision, right? But we did the other way: Xin En and I “lofted” in KLCC for both evenings. Actually, I was finding a C++ book, where I wished to order from MPH but there was no stock, unfortunately. Luckily I found it at Kinokuniya bookstore in KLCC the first day.

Another contrast with IMO Camp Experience, right? For IMO camp we had to be in Permata Campus all time, but for MCO camp we had freedom. Furthermore, no point staying in hotel for the entire evening and night.

Again, the best  (only) way to reach there was through Rapid KL system. Have a look at the map: Having known that the route of Medan Tuanku->Bukit Nanas-> Dang Wangi -> KLCC required only 3 stops, we were surprised at RM 4.40 for one-way! Moreover, since Bukit Nanas and Dang Wangi were connecting stations, we were surprised when we had to exit the station and repurchase tokens to KLCC using the direct route. After inquiring the officers, here goes our plan: Bukit Nanas->Titiwangsa (+ 3 minutes walk) -> Masjid Jamek (+5 minutes walk) -> KLCC, and it was 7pm upon our arrival (Saturday evening). Gosh! 😦 Rapid KL would win the efficiency contest hands down.

Once bitten, twice shy. We decided  to split our tokens into 2: Medan Tuanku -> Bukit Nanas and Dang Wangi -> KLCC for subsequent trips, and it’s just 6-7 minutes from Bukit Nanas station to Dang Wangi station.

Scrumptious sub-of-the-day for dinner on Saturday (at Avenue K). Guess what? It (as well as stuff at KLCC food court) was cheaper than food at Lotus Nasi Kandar near Job Street where we had our lunch for both days. Taking one type of vegetables could cost you RM 2, let alone my adventurous feel of trying out “Briyani” rice. Sigh! Gonna have a frugal meal after back home.

We spent our Saturday night in Kinokuniya book store, where I tried to find a C++ book and asked a Counter Service Assistant about its availability, here’s what he showed me:

Yeah! I got it! The rest of the time (including second day in KLCC) was to loiter in Kunokuniya, story books searching, and of course, walking from A to Z in KLCC. After this practical research, we came out with this report: 95% of shops in KLCC (mostly boutiques) were irrelevant for students like us. However, road sign on “The Banana Republic” captured our attention, and we had a look on what it is before knowing that it was a boutique brand.

Monday: Farewell to KL.

In contrast with the bus to KL, this coach was punctual (departure time at 10 am). Xin En and I were then amazed by its speed where we arrived here at 3 pm (plus there was 30 minutes lunch time for us at Sungai Perak rest area. Main reason, I suppose, was better traffic condition.

What’s next? Since Mr. Suhaimi issued homework as practice for problem solving, that was the time for me to solve the problems. What’s the most important: learn C++ and be active in Coderbytes and Codeforces!  Time to get myself equipped with the basics.

Have a good rest, and welcome the year 2014 soon!

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