Larry Hosken: New

Book Report: Coyotes

Donald Trump is scared of undocumented Mexican workers. Then again, he's a coward who's scared of plenty of things. How much should you worry? In Ted Conover's book Coyotes, he (Conover, not Trump) talks about living with them. He worked in the fields; he snuck across the border a couple of times; he snuck around the USA with them. He stayed in a Mexican village (pretty interesting—no young men there, they were all working across the border; it was as if the nation was at war). You will be shocked (shocked) to learn that picking fruit is hard work; that there are some bad folks amongst these Mexicans, but darned few; that walking through a cactus-filled desert in the dark of night is no fun. After reading this book, I am less scared of Mexican folks but more scared of cactus spines (with some justification, as they've done me harm in the past).

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2016-07-26T23:28:10

Excerpt from the Ghost Patrol pre-game prep-mail from GC:
Relatedly, we are fairly demanding on battery life, so please make sure your phones are charged ahead of time

I think he means hunt ghosts first, then hunt Pokemon.

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2016-07-24T13:28:42

Puzzle Hunts are Everywhere, even San Francisco's McLaren Park

I found out about this one too late:
REGISTRATIONS ARE CLOSED

Sorry, we are out of treasure hunt materials! We are checking to see if we can accommodate more folks. Please check back soon.

Even if I can't play, I hope it goes well. The world's a better place if the Rec and Parks Department think fondly of Shinteki.

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2016-07-23T01:35:51

Book Report: City Beasts

Oh, it's a Mark Kurlansky book I haven't read yet. He wrote books about Cod and Salt; those were good.

reads two pages

Oh, wait, this here book is fiction? Dang. Uhm, nevermind.

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2016-07-20T19:58:33

My mom just sent me a "go link" not from some high-tech startup, but rather from the National Park Service. Maybe all those computer nerds migrating to DC are having some effect!

In case you're wondering and/or you're a San Francisco bay area history buff: http://go.nps.gov/gogacollections brings you to a page about the GGNRA's Park Archives and Records Center, which has archaelogical and natural stuff found/dug up around the parks.

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2016-07-19T13:57:45

Puzzle Hunts are Everywhere, even San Mateo

Behold, it is photos of BANG 35, that puzzlehunt that took place in San Mateo. Well, there are photos from the second weekend, when I was GC-site-volunteering. The first weekend, I was playing…and having such a good time that I didn't remember to pause and take photos, whoopsie.

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2016-07-18T16:35:55

Book Report: Thunderstruck

It's two intertwined biographies. One is a biography of Marconi, inventor of the wireless telegraph. One is a true-crime biography of a fugitive who was caught due to the wireless telegraph.

The Marconi parts were interesting, especially the parts with Nevil Maskelyne. They had electronics, the black magic of antenna design, and Morse code.

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2016-07-15T18:03:38

Iron Puzzler 2016 announced

Iron Puzzler is once again coming to the SF Bay Area. This is that weekend-long combo puzzle-design and puzzle-solving contest in which teams spend Saturday creating puzzles using "secret ingredients"; then spend Sunday solving each others' puzzles. The period(s) in which the Iron Puzzler event went dormant are the darkest years of my life.*

There's even a division for first-time puzzle designers in which you get a mentor to give you great advice like "You should use this totally sweet word list, it's roughly sorted by puzzle-suitability" or "Maybe choose a less flammable material for that." I signed up to be a mentor. You should, too. But wait, you're thinking, What if I don't have time to share all of my puzzle-designy wisdom with these nice folks? Also, I think I can't stand people? Don't worry about any of that. I signed up as a mentor last year; my mentee-team never asked me anything. It took zero time! I could have mentored ∞ teams, no problem! If you're not playing in Iron Puzzler, signing up to be an Iron Puzzler mentor is a great way to smugly say "I'm helping the local puzzlehunt community to grow; what have you done?" without actually having to stop collecting Pokemons. Why are you still reading this? Why haven't you clicked through to the Iron Puzzler site?

*This is not true.

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2016-07-15T01:51:11

Book Report: The Glass Cage

I finished reading this pointless book. It was always in the "neighborhood" of saying something interesting. It's about things that technology gets wrong, a topic I'm interested in. I kept hoping! But alas… It dances around the topic of automation's drawbacks, but never gets there.

There are interesting things to say about this. Every so often, someone automates something that, in hindsight, shouldn't have been automated; things go wrong; folks go back to doing things "by hand". Those are interesting stories. Those are not this book's stories. Instead, this book rails against cases where something is automated and nobody wants to go back to doing things by hand. E.g., airplanes used to have another crew member: a navigator. With so many of their duties automated, it stopped making sense. So modern airline passengers endure automatically-generated routes instead of hand-crafted artisanal… Stellar navigation skills have dwindled with the lack of demand. (I learned how to use an astrolabe back in school. Have I since forgotten? Yes, yes I have.) There hasn't been hue and cry about this because air passengers just want to, y'know, get to San Francisco safely; they don't much care whether someone is feeling fulfilled navigating the route. I think that's fine. Air passengers think that's fine. This book's author wants to complain about these things, though.

This book thoroughly attacks the straw man: Everything should be automated with the technology we have right now. Yep, by the time you're done reading, you won't think that's true.

It suggests that I'd probably be interested in reading about the history of Electronic Medical Records, which sounds like something that I'd be interested in (automated but, in hindsight, probably shouldn't have been*).

(My apologies for making you read this on the internets instead of commissioning a scribe to hand-copy it for each of you. No apology necessary, you say? OK nevermind then.)

*Then again, considering how much the book complains about things that automation improved, maybe I shouldn't assume EMRs fall into the "made-worse" category just on this book's say-so.

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2016-07-13T17:01:20

Book Report: Medusa's Web

It's one of those Tim Powers novels in which a carefully-researched history conceals magical conspiracy. What if the set designers and costumers involved with the silent movie Salome were transcending our reality by summoning an intelligence that exists in a different set of dimensions than we do?

Sure, it might happen something like what's described in this novel. I guess? Fun story, anyhow.

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2016-07-03T23:32:44

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