Larry Hosken: New

While the tourist rubes gawk at Lombard Street's twisty stretch across the street, serious scholars Bob Wilhelm and Jerry Hosken look over the Osbourne-Stevenson house (a.k.a. Robert Louis Stevenson's widow's house), debating whether a glassed-in statue refers to The Bottle Imp.

& Comments


Stayin' up late hearing about stayin' up late at Cafe Feenjon back in the 60s, listening to music.

& Comments


It wasn't the BUILD Dictionary

Correction. I said that Bazel's BUILD Encyclopedia used to be the BUILD Dictionary. A Googler gently corrected me:
But in fact, it was the encyclopedia back then as well. : )
I apologize for the misinformation.

I guess I should change my career ambition from "Work on every document titled 'BUILD Dictionary'" to "Work on all the BUILD reference documents." [Searches for "BUILD atlas", backs away confused]

& Comments


Book Report: Livesaving Lessons

This book by swordfisherwoman Linda Greenlaw is different—it's about adopting a teenager. This feels like higher stakes than life-or-death actions out on the water: Greenlaw and her daughter have a chance to mess up the daughter's long-term happiness. And since the daughter was getting away from an abusive situation, happiness was not something to take for granted. Interesting bits about small-town-everybody-knows-everybody life on a small island (and how it turns out everybody doesn't know everybody that well); responding to messages from a boarding school, making decisions about a far-away situation; seining herring.

& Comments


LJ People: Do Not Be Alarmed

On LiveJournal, I have a new account, lahoskensf. And I'm going to friend you and you and you and you…

Why a new account, you ask? My account was OpenID-based, backed by Google using an oooold method, uh-oh. Google's going to stop supporting that in a few weeks. I tried setting up the new method, but either I messed it up or one of Google/LJ don't support delegating using the new method or or or or well something's not working.)

I'm hoping that the new account will work better than the old one. At some point, the old one stopped being able to post comments on friends-locked LJ posts. And since reading friends-locked LJ posts is pretty much the only reason I have an LJ account, that rankled.

(Meanwhile, the syndication of my blog is still chugging along. But that's not my user account. That's just some automated syndication thingie. I can't use that to read friends-locked posts and/or comment on them. If only.)

& Comments


Link: Why Chromium has code owners

One fun issue with working in a biiiiig codebase is that nobody knows it all. Something that can help: have "local experts" own parts of the codebase. Give them a chance to say how to make some code maintainable before, y'know, tossing that code onto the pile.

& Comments


Bazel is an anagram of "Blaze"

Well dog my cats:, an open-sourcing of the Blaze build tool. (But I guess it doesn't build your code on Google's internal cloud machines.) The BUILD Dictionary (which I worked on) is now a BUILD Encyclopedia (and looks pretty different). [Update: A Googler tells me it was always the BUILD Encyclopedia. Boo for hazy memories.]

& Comments


Book Report: 400 Things Cops Know

The number in the title makes this sound like an absurdly long listicle but this a really good listicle. Get a glimpse into the thinking of someone who's often lied to, deals with folks which other folks would rather avoid, and yet is called upon to be especially morally upright. (You might think I just like this book because I'm a San Franciscan and he's an SFPD cop. But the number of Things Cops Know involving Real Weather suggest that he learned these Things back when he worked in Milwaukee.) Always good to remember that cops have a pretty-much-impossible job.

& Comments



When I reported on the book How to Puzzle Cache, I mentioned
The book uses "indexing" to mean something other than what my local puzzling tradition calls "indexing".

…you might have wondered: OK, what does a Geocache Puzzler mean when they say "indexing"? (Seeing as how a geocacher asked me the converse question about puzzle hunters, it seems like a question you might have.) Roughly: Given a thingy which is the Nth item in some list, use the number N. (In geocache puzzling, you're often trying really hard to get numbers instead of a passphrase; you're probably trying to get some lat/long coordinates.) So if you're solving a puzzle geocache in San Francisco and staring at the phrase

Rubidium, Rhodium, Fluorine, Erbium
Hydrogen, Titanium, Cobalt, Carbon, Zirconium

…and someone told you "Use indexing!", then instead of trying to pull letters from words, you'd try looking at those elements' places in the list of elements, their atomic numbers: 37 45 9 68 / 1 22 27 6 40. And, as an experienced geocacher, you'd look at that and say "Of course those are lat/long coordinates for a place around here, just missing some punctuation."

You could combine these meanings of "indexing". If a geocacher and a BANGer saw

Helium, Boron, Lithium, Nitrogen, Carbon, Lithium, Helium
...then the geocacher might use their meaning of "indexing" to get
Helium 2, Boron 5, Lithium 3, Nitrogen 7, Carbon 6, Lithium 3, Helium 2
and point out discouragedly that these weren't making coordinates. Then the BANGer could use the other meaning of "indexing" to say
Helium 2=E, Boron 5=N, Lithium 3=T, Nitrogen 7=E, Carbon 6=N, Lithium 3=T, Helium 2=E
…and together these people from two puzzling traditions could achieve ENTENTE.

& Comments


2Tone, OpenID

The 2-Tone Game web site has players "log in" so it can keep track of them. E.g., This player has solved these puzzles, has those puzzles open, and hasn't even seen those other puzzles over there. Instead of having players create Yet Another Account, it uses the OpenID system so that they can re-use an existing account at some other web site: the player says "use my Google account", 2tone asks Google "is this person legit?", Google tells 2tone "yeah, let them play."

In theory "Google" in that example could be "Yahoo" or some other web site. But in practice, 2tone players mooooostly choose Google for this.

2Tone uses an ooooold version of OpenID. In about a month, Google will stop supporting. I think. I'm kind of scratching my head as I read the explanations. But I think 2Tone's going to stop working with Google accounts.

Oh man. I use my Google account for this. I use my domain,, but that just delegates to my Google account.

I guess I could re-work 2tone's login programming to use the latest, greatest flavor of OpenID. That seems like a lot of trouble when lately there's been about one batch of players per month. So... instead I wangled a version of 2Tone that doesn't try to keep track of players. The bad news: it'll let you look at the "meta" puzzle before you have any hope of understanding it, instead of making you wait until you've seen "regular" puzzles; The good news: a system that's gone can no longer break, no matter what Google doesn't feel like maintaining anymore.

I guess in a few weeks, I'll try logging into the game via my Google account. And if that indeed breaks, I'll redirect to the no-login version.

Meanwhile: putting together the no-login version was a fun chance for some programming. I'd forgotten how to compute Levenshtein "edit distance" (darned useful for telling players "RESPONNSE looks reeeeally close to a right answer so you should check for typos instead of screaming and starting over"), and it was good to de-rust that part of my brain.

& Comments



1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015