Larry Hosken: New

Book Report: Carsick

In which cult film director John Waters hitchhikes across America. He spends a lot of time waiting. When he does get picked up, it's often because he's recognized. A non-celeb like you or me wouldn't get very far hitchhiking. But some of the folks who pick him up don't recognize him. Thus, we get a glimpse into the lives of some generous people.

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2014-12-19T15:11:27

Link: puzzle blog turtlegraphics.wordpress.com

Remember the math professor in St Louis who inspired both teams who played in the year I site-monitored DASH there? He made an escape-the-room game and started a blog to write about it… and, I suppose, further nerdery beyond that. So toss that link into your feed reader or follow him in your tweet tweeter or something.

His team finished DASH soon enough such that they were gone before the not-quite-tornado-strength storm hit that year. Which goes to show that puzzling is a survival skill or something. Anyhow, I predict his blog will be interesting.

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2014-12-16T05:04:51

Book Report: Cool Gray City of Love

It's a book about San Francisco. Something of a cross between a history and a gazetteer; it's a collection of 49 essays, each using a San Francisco neighborhood as a leaping-off point for talking about a segment of history. It's well written, so if you think you'd like to read a collection of essays about San Francisco, you'll probably like this one.

An excerpt about Telegraph Hill which might appeal fans of historical code systems:

In 1850 a semaphore, called the Marine Telegraph, was placed on the hill's summit to inform the city when ships came through the Golden Gate—hence the name Telegraph Hill. The various positions of the semaphore's arms denoted different types of vessels and were widely known by San Franciscans—a fact that resulted in one of the best one-liners ever delivered in the city. During a Gold Rush-era performance of a play called The Hunchback, an actor entered with outstretched arms, loudly declaiming "What does this mean, my lord?" Before the other actor could respond, some wag in the audience shouted out, "Side-wheeler steamer!," bringing down the house.

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2014-12-15T14:43:23

Myles' account of Shinteki's Disneyland puzzlehunt is spoileriffic and fun. Of course it turns out Tammy is a big Disneyland fan. Of course.

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2014-12-14T02:39:35

Book Report: Newjack

How better to research prison life than to become a Corrections Officer for a year? Well, there are probably more pleasant ways, but this book's author worked a year in Sing Sing prison. This is a high-security prison for more-dangerous-than-average convicts. Since most folks don't want to work there and since prison-guarding duties are chosen based on seniority, this extra-scary prison is also where lots of new guards learn the trade. And it's a strange trade; a non-trivial fraction of the folks you work with from day-to-day have killed people. People skills are very important. And it's extra-tough if you're new, or newly-rotated in to an area: you might not have much time to figure out who's who. This book talks about guard training, day-to-day existence on the job, the stigma, talking with prisoners, the history of Sing Sing, … It all goes together to make a pretty interesting book. Check it out.

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2014-12-11T15:03:17

Puzzle Hunts are Everywhere, even ExitGames.co.uk

It's not just about escape-the-room games:
This site has launched a major new section that has always been intended to be one of its primary focuses. This site talks about puzzle hunts frequently, but has so far always made the assumption that you had at least passing familiarity with them already. This may well not be the case, especially if you’ve only ever played exit games and want to know what other sorts of puzzle adventures there may be out there.
Yay, now the Exit Games UK blog will also talk about not-in-a-room puzzlehunts.

I'm pretty sure more folks play escape-the-room games than know about walking-around (or driving-around) puzzlehunts. When I checked their site just now, the Real Escape San Francisco folks say that over 12,000 have played their Escape the Mysterious Room game. That's at least 10x the number of folks who've played in any particular local puzzle hunt. (And if you ask me to think of a puzzlehunt that had 1000 players, I'm going to say Real Escape's 1000 Treasure Hunters game… which suggests that the Real Escape folks are doing something right. Anyhow, what were we talking about? Oh, right…)

You can read more about puzzle hunts at the Exit Games blog.

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2014-12-10T14:13:47

Book Report: Flashfire

There's this character named Parker; mostly in books, but recently in a movie named "Parker." I liked some of the books, so I saw the movie. Then I was curious to know which book it was based on. It's Flashfire… although plenty changed in the movie. The book starts with a bank heist; the movie starts with an Ohio State Fair heist. OK, that probably made for more interesting scenery than a bank would have. The book also doesn't try to make Parker such a sympathetic character: he declares blood feud on some folks for not-following the plan. This is in character, but the movie sidestepped the whole Parker's-pretty-messed-up thing.

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2014-12-08T03:38:27

For a few hours, the questions came in waves. For a few hours, I wasn't the consulting detective pondering one tricky case at a time. Instead, a short-order cook, stirring many pots. Asking a clarifying question here. Asking someone to try something there. Mostly keeping it all in my head, mostly. Not a flow state, a different way of thinking, something slippery.

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2014-12-04T03:51:58

That "Moon" movie was "a Liberty Films production in association with Xingu".

Trying to remember if I ever worked on a phone OS software project with code names Liberty and Xingu. Or if that was two different phone OS software projects.

Naming things is hard. All the good names are taken. Maybe even the good name combinations have all been used.

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2014-12-01T03:47:21

Book Report: In the Belly of the Beast

A long-time prisoner sent famous writer Norman Mailer some letters about prison life. This books collects excerpts from those letters. They talk vaguely about injustice. There are anecdotes that make you think "Well, that sounds bad, but it also sounds like you're leaving some important stuff out." I got a few dozen pages through this book, then gave up on it. Writing this book report, I looked the book up on the internets, and found a sad story about it on Wikipedia:
…Mailer supported [author] Abbott's successful bid for parole in 1981, the year that In the Belly of the Beast was published.

The book was very successful and on July 19, 1981, the New York Times published a rave review of it. However, the day before, Abbott had killed a waiter during a row at a restaurant called Binibon on 2nd Avenue in the East Village. Abbott was eventually arrested, convicted of manslaughter, and returned to prison for the rest of his life until his suicide in 2002.

Now I wish Mailer had stopped reading, too.

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2014-11-26T14:14:51

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