Quidditch

With only fifteen days and counting until I graduate from Michigan State, I’m going to take the time to reflect on those things and events that shaped my undergraduate career for the better, that made my cup of life overflow (yep, Aerin, mine is too!). Plus, this gives me a chance to really think about how much I gained from these last four years, and what I’ll be missing come the end of May when I move to South Bend. Most of these will probably be a little on the long side, but hey, I’m covering four years of my life! Of course, the chronology of some things might be a little off, but it will be close enough for what’s happening.

QUIDDITCH
In October, when the realization that I actually was graduating and leaving East Lansing started to dawn on me, I figured that I should just do anything I wanted, whenever I wanted. Hey, I was a senior, and after three years of studying and preparing for exams and doing homework, I could spend some time just having fun, acting like a kid again. I may have been 21 at the time, but that didn’t stop me from playing Pokémon again and taking my kite out on windy days. During a late-night conversation with my two roommates, I thought back to something I thought I knew but wasn’t so sure about: does State have a Quidditch team?

After a quick search through MSU’s website, I found that, yes, we indeed have one! I e-mailed the contact person listed, who told me to contact the actual coach Will, who then directed me to contact one of the club team coaches to get on their team, among a few other pieces of information. I sent the e-mail out to the Friday afternoon team’s captains, Jack and Ian, since I figured those would be the practices that I would most likely make. I showed up that next Friday (October 8th) for practice, broom in hand. That first practice was nothing spectacular, with only a few people showing up, but I got a more-or-less complete run down of how muggle Quidditch was played and I decided to return next week.

Over the next four weeks, practices were almost non-existant. A few people would show up, we rarely had the bag of balls so that we could actually practice, but over time I met what was essentially the entirety of my club team, the Notorious R.O.N. Every Friday, I walked across campus, broom sticking out of my backpack, to practice, talked with the people that showed up, and walked back. A few times we actually went over plays, and even invented some scrimmaging activities so that the practices wouldn’t go to waste. I payed my $10 to stay at some point during this time, and I decided to never miss a practice for the rest of the semester.

Eventually, a full club meeting was called, and I got to actually meet the other people that played Quidditch at MSU. It was there that I finally met the coach and signed up to go to the midnight premiere of Harry Potter with people I had just met. But, I couldn’t have been happier. I kept going to practice, even in the rain and cold weather, and I had my first actual games of Quidditch, my first experience actually playing the sport that I had signed up for. Those three games were some of the most fun I had, even with not really knowing all of the rules and sort of just running around. I went 2-1 on the day, with the last match being a marathon 240-190 win after 22 minutes or so.

Some time later, the team got together at Case to head off to the midnight premeire of Harry Potter. We arrived at the theater early to pick up the tickets (or we already had the tickets…?), and went to dinner. Most of the people there were on the official travel team, who had just gone to New York for the World Cup, and I was the new guy. I didn’t know how to play ninja, or samurai, or ugly fruit, and I spent much of the evening trying to remember everyone’s names (past the few from R.O.N. that were there). That was my first real Quidditch experience, and because of that I, along with Jack and Mark, decided that we would be trying out for the travel team come next semester when the second round of tryouts started (I had obviously missed the fall ones, but at the time I might not have even tried out for the travel team anyway, based almost purely on my experiences with the Ultimate team). I just had to get through the winter.

The club team continued practicing, but with the weather taking a sharp dive to unpleasant, much of our practice was inside Case and usually just consisted of us talking. We didn’t really have a real practice, and then the week before finals we decided that a practice just wouldn’t be a good idea. My first “semester” of Quidditch had ended… Or it would have if I didn’t meet up with a bunch of Quidditch people the Sunday before finals for a snowball fight and dinner. I left my study spot after around 26 straight hours, walked across campus in a snow storm, and hung out for a few hours with people I didn’t even know two months before. I had become a part of the team.

Even over winter break, I bonded with other players of the lunar eclipse, TRON Legacy, and who knows what else. I had one semester left as an undergrad, and I needed to make it count. I sent in the last of my grad school applications, and I was all set to leave State, but I still had one semester to go.

Notorious R.O.N. started practices up, but like the end of last semester, it was simply meet in Case to talk and grab some dinner. Those practices brought the six of us that consistently showed up–Dan, Ian, Jack, Mark, Steve, and myself–that much closer. Eventually, we just stopped pretending that we were going to hold practice, and we just got together every Friday to hang out (we barely brought brooms or athletic clothes). It even got to the point where people from other teams (mostly those that lived in Case) stopped by our practice for ninja games and to grab dinner; our team had become more than a team.

There were club games, and practices, and then tryouts. I showed up on a snowy day to prove that I could be a member of the club team. I ran, tackled, passed, caught, and quidditched in the snow for a few hours, then patiently waited to find out if I was on the team. I showed up at the official team/Team Lansing practice the following Sunday to see if I made it. We practiced, then I waited patiently to hear if the coach called my name…

And I made it! I was one of the new members of the Spartan Spitfires, and the number of practices I had per week rose from one to two. Practices continued, and soon I had my first taste of intercollegiate play, against the University of Michigan on our home turf. I was all set, ready to go, and the first game started… And ended; UMich caught the Snitch after what seemed like five minutes, and the first game had ended before I even stepped on the field. The second game went just as quickly, if not more so, with only a single quaffle score from MSU before UMich caught the snitch again (although I think I played a little in this one). After a quick discussion about the timelines for the next games, the refs gave the snitch more time to escape the field, and we won both of those games, the second by a wide margin. So, we left the day 2-2, but that wasn’t the end of it. We combined the two teams and moved around players and played Team Ireland vs. Team Bulgaria à la the Quidditch World Cup in The Goblet of Fire, with me on the losing Team Ireland.

This maybe even more than previous events really made me glad that I had decided to play. I got to face off against another college, against another group of people that wanted to play the same sport that I did, and I had a blast! The games also helped bring our own team together, especially with what would happen over the next few months, since we had essentially the entire team (plus players who didn’t make the official team) show up for the games. That was mid-February, two months ago, on one of the only nice weekends this entire semester. From the post-game Taco Bell lunch to the first of the Quidditch parties, that entire day was awesome.

The next day, of course, had a snowstorm and around a foot of snow. Only in Michigan…

The week after, R.O.N. had a club game in the still-thick remnants of the previous weekend’s blizzard. We had almost the entire team, so we had to borrow beaters from the other players that showed up. Since we didn’t have that many people, we didn’t have a snitch, so Will set up a time limit for the game based on his unknown system of multiplication, addition, and random numbers. We forced overtime against what was a majority of the club team (although R.O.N. has quite a few club players on it anyway…), then won by a single goal margin! Once that game finished, Steve showed up a little late, and he played a one-on-one game against Lawrence, who had refed the first game (but Steve lost…). It was a good showing, especially with the only practice our team had had either being our hang-out meetings or the members on the club team playing.

But the team didn’t only have club games. After Spring Break, a few of us traveled down to Penn State to play in a tournament; I saw a few since many people couldn’t go, and there were only two cars. Since I was more-or-less our only keeper, I ended up playing every minute of our three games that day, shutting out NYU and Youngstown State to bookend our loss to Penn State. It was great, especially for my first tourney, and I had a great time! We even ended the day with a massive ninja game, went out to dinner as a team after, and drove through a massive thunderstorm around midnight as we re-entered Michigan. All in all, it was about 22 hours of Quidditch and driving, and it was a great experience for me.

The very next weekend, we had a much shorter trip down to Eastern for another three-game tournament, which we swept! I again played keeper, although Bailey had returned from Japan and joined us for the tourney, so she jumped in the games as well, giving me a little rest. I again had a great time, except for one small event. When a chaser came down toward the hoops and evaded our defensive screen, I went and did what a keeper was supposed to do: prevent him from scoring at all costs. I run at him to intercept his route, then go to tackle him. My free right arm grabs him around the chest, but because of the mutual slipperiness of our uniforms, my arm slipped up to his neck.

The IQA Rules state that “tackling in the head, neck or groin area is strictly prohibited” (Section 12 – Physical Contact). Knowing this, I immediately let go of the chaser so that I could re-position my arm to tackle him under the rules. I knew that my arm shouldn’t have been there, and the slip was completely accidental, so I acted to counter that. The chaser, however, didn’t realize that or thought I was trying to take him down by the next on purpose, so he threw the quaffle at me (or punched me… I can’t really remember) and ran his mouth at me as he ran back down the field.

Before this, almost every Quidditch player I had encountered was generally nice. After all, we’re all just trying to have fun playing a sport from a series of books that we grew up with, and not many people want to act like assholes while just having fun, right? Sure, there were a few exceptions down at the PSU tourney, but a few out of sixty-some is pretty good. Anyway, that little spat put a little damper on the day for me, but the rest of the day was great!

The following week, we didn’t have a tourney, R.O.N. continued to practice every week (with a handful of people showing up consistently as well!), but we did have a travel team practice. As with most of our practices, we also had a scrimmage after, since all of us just want to play Quidditch anyway. It was a great tune-up for the following weekend, when we went down to Ball State for a pretty large tourney for the midwest. They and Purdue co-hosted it as a dress rehearsal for the IQA Midwest Regional this fall. Speaking of that, I don’t know what will happen for that tournament, but we’ll get to my post-State Quidditch career a little later.

The Ball State/Purdue tourney was quite the event. We got through two or three games before the rainstorm that had just been a constant drizzle completely erupted into a full thunderstorm, delaying games by two hours. We grabbed lunch, played ninja, had a massive singing party at the nearby pavilion, and just had a good time. Once games resumed, we quickly went through the last set of games, made some friends, and even found a potential team for next year! While goal reffing the St. Mary’s-Ball State game, I talked with a few of the players, then realized that St. Mary’s was right next to Notre Dame! I talked with one of the “e-board” members, asking if I would be able to be on the team next year, and I can. I will still be playing Quidditch after I graduate for a team, meaning that this sport I got into way too late will still continue.

We went 3-3 on the day, essentially losing tose three matches by the snitch catch (we would’ve tied the first game and won the other two). We also could’ve easily have won those second two, but we just didn’t… Especially the last game, against Loyola, we had just let our guard down and didn’t play like we had or we could. We did, however, pull off a successful Picard Maneuver (one of Will’s secret plays), which everyone was pretty happy about.

You can look at and purchase some professional photos from the day HERE. Simply click on “For Clients” and input “BSQL” when prompted.

The team made up for it the following weekend at Ohio State. Again, like the previous two tourneys, we only had twelve players because of a lack of cars, but we were now used to it. We did borrow a player from Ohio State, just to give us a few more feet to throw into the game. Our first game, against OSU, went really well! We scored ten times (three from myself at keeper!) and won by thirty after missing the snitch catch. I just simply had fun playing that game, which flowed directly into our next game against Denison, which we also won by a considerable margin, but still didn’t catch the snitch. I scored in that game as well: a dunk on the high center hoop that I just simply felt cool about afterward. So, we swept this tourney as well, and had a fun time doing it.

That tourney ended with a mixed teams game, similar to what happened after UMich, which I played some beater in. I just had a good time playing without worrying much about tactics and such, so I just ran around beating everyone I could. Will and I, since we were on separate teams, also had a few dueling beater standoffs near midfield, most of which had us simultaneously beat each other, forcing us to run back to our hoops then back out to centerfield to face off again. That last game was just pure fun. Once we finished, we packed up our things, grabbed dinner at a pretty fancy Chinese restaurant, then drove back home, getting back to State around 0300 Monday morning.

But with that tournament, my undergraduate Quidditch career was essentially over. There would be no more tournaments, and no club games due to Easter weekend, so the only things left were R.O.N. practices (which continued every week, further showing how close our club team had become) and the “closing ceremonies” on the season, which will be held this Friday at my apartment.

It’s strange to think about how I went from showing up at a practice mid-October not really knowing what to expect, not guessing that I’d actually become friends with these underclassmen that just happened to play the same sport, not even dreaming of gaining twenty-some new friends during the twilight of my time at State, but I did. I wouldn’t dream of changing it, and looking back I am so glad that I decided to continue showing up to those R.O.N. practices in October when they mostly just consisted of me walking across campus, standing around for twenty minutes, then walking back. I am so glad I went to the meetings, decided that I just wouldn’t care about things and just try to have fun (which led to going to the HP midnight showing), decided to try out, and decided to simply let lose.

When I graduate in two weeks, I won’t just be leaving behind the last four years of my life, these last four years spent living and studying in East Lansing. I’ll be leaving behind my first Quidditch team, a group of people from all walks of life and all over campus that become some of my closest friends. I’ll be leaving behind the team dinners at Brody, the runs to Meijer with teammates, the cooking of bacon in the middle of the night (well, not really…), and the feeling of being part of such a stellar group of people. While yes, my MSU Quidditch career may not be completely be over, I am moving on. It’s a tough move, but it has to happen.

Now I just have to stay alive until the team reunions…

Grad School Visits

This past week for Spring Break, I spent time with my family and visited the two grad schools I have currently been accepted to: the University of Notre Dame and the University of Connecticut, Storrs. While I’m still waiting to hear back from one school and a job opportunity, both of them were relative long shots, so it looks like my summer and fall (and the next five or so years…) has boiled down to a binary choice: ND or UConn?


This was the first school I visited, and man did things go well! Ms. Shari Herman, the “Second Mom” to everyone pursuing a physics Ph.D. at ND, took out all of the stops in setting up a stellar visit for me. I drove down Monday afternoon, right after picking my little brother up from school and visiting with my high school physics teacher, and it went fine. No traffic, I had money for the tolls, and I found my way to the hotel (the Morris Inn, right on ND’s campus) relatively fine. Once I checked in, I hung out in my hotel room, watching TV and lamenting the fact that I could not yet play Pokémon Black.

I woke up the next morning, showered, ate breakfast, and read through the packet of material that Ms. Herman had given me, then checked out and waited for the actual visit to start. I met one of the roughly 90 grad students, and we took a quick tour around campus before my meeting with the first professor on my schedule. Since this was my first time ever visiting ND, it was great to walk around and see the campus, especially with the student body still there since they weren’t on spring break. We eventually made our way over to Nieuwland Science Hall, home of the department and where I would be spending the next nine hours or so.

For the rest of the day, I went from visiting one professor to the next, sitting down and talking for half an hour about the research they were doing, different things going on around campus, how they got involved with ND and physics, and a bunch of other things. I also got a tour of the nuclear physics accelerator lab, got to sit in on a cosmology seminar (with a free lunch!), and got a glimpse of what I’d be doing my first year of school in the form of the grad TA first year lounge (alongside the end of my career with a few fourth- and fifth-years). All in all, a very full day that got added to twice while I was still there!

To end it, I went out to dinner with two other grad students to Legends, a local bar/restaurant establishment just off campus, all on the physics department’s tab. The food was great, and I didn’t really have to stop on the way back for any more food (huge surprise, but I did have a detour right at the beginning of my return journey…), and I had a good time just hanging out away from the more structured environment I had been in for much of the day. All in all, I had a great time, met some amazing people, and really enjoyed myself while I was there. I got back home around midnight, played some Pokémon Black, then went to sleep.


The next and final trip (so far…) was out to Connecticut to visit the department at UConn. I flew out from Detroit early Friday morning after delays on the runway from some of the freshly fallen snow from the night before. Once we took off, though, the flight was fine, the landing smooth, and the pick-up of the rental car (a relatively new Jeep Compass!) went perfectly. But I was still a little late due to that delay, so I showed up to the offices slightly out of breath from sprinting up the flights of stairs to the top of the building. Thankfully, Prof. Dunne (the person who had set up this visitation) didn’t seem to mind, and we talked before meeting a few grad students and heading out to lunch. Since UConn was on spring break, we didn’t really run into any students at all, but the campus was flooded with middle- and high-school students for some convention, so we still had to contend with a mass of hormone-infused saplings as we ate our meal.

Once the last of my meatball sub was firmly in my stomach, we took a quick tour around campus, which was beautiful! It reminded me a lot of State, since it was a little more open, a little disjointed, roads crossed through and around the buildings, and a couple places were under construction, so I felt right at home! While the campus was much quieter during this tour than ND had been, that was good since I could just focus on the buildings and the scenery and not look at the the students walking past.

We returned to the physics building, and I sat with a half-dozen professors to talk about their research to see how it would fit with my interests, just like at ND. Once that was over, I met again with Prof. Dunne to finalize a few things, then I was off to return the rental car to the airport and spend time with my relatives. I won’t go into that since this is about my grad school visits, but just know that I had a blast, and that it more than made up for missing last summer’s reunion.

From today, I have thirty days to wait for the last few pieces of information and make a decision, although I’m sure that I will be making a decision earlier than that. Unfortunately, ND lost to Louisville during the Big East tourney, so I couldn’t use the outcome of the ND-UConn championship game to make the decision for me!

Game Redux

Remember when I said that I was creating a video game in my spare time? Well, if eight months of inactivity has told you anything, that hasn’t exactly gone to plan for a number of reasons, some of which are programming related (see my last post).

I am happy to say that I’ve gotten back into writing a video game, although as usual the story is completely different, as is my approach to writing the game. Instead of working on visual mechanics like smooth scrolling of the screen and animation of the character sprite, I’m worrying about inventory interaction and item alterations, all of which are done through a network of interconnected modules and classes. It’s a much cleaner approach, plus it’s much easier to test sets of class methods when that’s all I’m working with.

I’m taking a very micro-to-macro approach too, starting with single items, moving onto inventory, moving onto a character shell (which will eventually be greatly inflated, but no need to worry about that now!). Yes, a few important things are missing from the small set of code I have written (items having a special effect on the character or other items, for example), but much of that will flow once I figure out how I want the game to progress. Check out the two (partial) modules I have now:

# Superclass for all in-Game Items
class Item(object):
  def __init__(self, name, amount=1):
    self.name = name
    self.amount = amount

  def adjust_amount(self, amount):
    self.amount += amount

# Subclass to handle key items
class KeyItem(Item):
  def adjust_amount(self, amount):
    pass

# Class to store Items for Player within Game
class Inventory(object):
  def __init__(self):
    self.inventory = []

  def add_item(self, item):
    self.inventory.append(item)

  def remove_item(self, item):
    self.inventory.remove(item)

  def adjust_item(self, item, amount):
    changing_item = self.inventory[self.inventory.index(item)]
    changing_item.adjust_amount(amount)
    if changing_item.amount == 0:
      self.remove_item(item)

  def order_inventory(self, item, new_position):
    temp = self.inventory[self.inventory.index(item)]
    self.remove_item(item)
    self.inventory.insert(new_position, temp)
# Creates Player class to be controlled by user
class Player(object):
  def __init__(self, name, inventory):
    self.name = name
    self.money = 500
    self.inventory = inventory

  def adjust_money(self, amount):
    self.money += amount

  # Controls inventory object changes
  def adjust_inventory(self, item, amount=1):
    if item in self.inventory.inventory:
      pass
    else:
      self.inventory.add_item(item)
    self.inventory.adjust_item(item, amount)

  def change_inventory(self, item, new_position):
    self.inventory.order_inventory(item, new_position)

Pretty simple, and only 40 lines when you ignore whitespace and comments, but the fact that everything works the way I want it to right now is a big deal. I could throw in a few other necessary variables and function calls right now, but I do have my first exam of the semester in… six hours… so I’ll just leave this here for now.

In bashnews, I fixed a problem with grep where no matter what I did, grep just didn’t work. It ended up being some extraneous commands in my .bash_profile that I must have put in while adding aliases and setting the color scheme for ls -G, since the commands came right after those lines. Now it works, and I’m back to being a happy camper!