Larry Hosken: New

Puzzle Hunts are Everywhere, even BRC

"Aug 30-Sep 7 Puzzle Hunt at Burning Man Black Rock City, NV
If you go, you'll know it when you see it."
Puzzle Hunt Calendar

No, I'm not going to Burning Man. But if you are, now you can rest assured that there will be something to do when you get there.

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2015-08-02T23:20:54

Book Report: Countdown to Zero Day

The story of Stuxnet, the little virus that crept into Iranian control systems and convinced them to destroy some centrifuges. I already knew the basics, but I learned from this book. Over time, there were a few versions of Stuxnet flying around; this might be because the creators didn't think it was spreading fast enough; and, later, that it had spread too far. This book reminds us that reverse engineering is hard; computer security geeks slogged through Stuxnet a long time to figure out what it did. Part of the trickiness: lots of people know general computer security, but not so many people know about centrifuge control systems and/or the systems one uses to program centrifuge control systems.

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2015-07-31T21:34:57

My butt used my phone's Foursquare app to review the Vacaville Premium Outlets mall. Its review: ".aqx .aq X"

19 people have read that review. On the internet, nobody knows you're somebody's butt.

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2015-07-30T02:32:50

Link: From Haight Theater To Goodwill, The History Of 1700 Haight Street

An article with some San Francisco history showing that local politics makes some pretty $&#*ing strange bedfellows.

…three architects inspecting the site were attacked by members of the White Panther Party and People's Ballroom Coalition…

Arson, skipping town to dodge debts, public nudity: this article had everything.

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2015-07-19T23:31:59

Jotting Notes on Gruen Day 2015

In this gathering of the Bay Area Infrastructure Observatory, we learned about Victor Gruen, early shopping mall developer and San Leandro's Bayfair Center in particular. I didn't take notes during the talks; here are the no-doubt mis-remembered parts that stuck in my brain.

Pam White talked about malls: theory vs reality. Victor Gruen wanted to make dense urban spaces amidst the suburban sprawl. He was thinking multi-use; how did we end up with shopping centers? At about the same time Gruen was dreaming up these spaces, USA tax laws changed so that merchants could get a tax write-off on property depreciation twice as fast as before. Ms. White told us some numbers about how much retail space got cranked out in the years right after… I forget exactly what those numbers were, but they were plenty high. Pam was kind of a tease, telling us about the cool mall photos she'd dug up in the basement and then not showing those photos. Maybe she's saving them for Gruen Day 2016.

Mathias Crawford talked about malls as privately-owned public space. He mostly studies the USA's recreation and parks efforts. After WWII, (Los Angeles then California then) the USA correctly predicted a huge population shift west and wanted to encourage these folks to still think of themselves as Americans. So the feds built and staffed recreation centers. They were public, but relied on government funding, which dried up during the Korean War. Shopping malls were privately owned, but were profitable at a time when the rec centers were going dark. So for a while, these shopping malls were our private space. California even has weird laws about how folks can practice political speech on these privately-owned public spaces. (I'm a Californian and assumed that malls could toss you out for whatever reason. (So if your puzzlehunt puzzle is disguised as a government petition, maybe the mall cops won't throw you out. (But that would be lying and wrong.)))

And we had a tour of Bayfair Center, focusing on how it had changed over time. Things just haven't been the same since Chevy's and Fresh Choice moved out; much of the enclosed area used to be open-air and thus somehow not air-conditioned in San Leandro but people didn't faint all the time for reasons? Plus we got to learn the term Pad site and its relation to Chili's.

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2015-07-19T00:51:36

Link: Chanrio

How did I struggle along before I knew about Chanrio, the Sanrio-style avatar maker?

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2015-07-15T13:08:00

Book Report: Infrastructure

If your memory is very good, you remember that a few years ago I reported on Infrastructure, a gorgeous book about the systems of industry, agriculture, transport, information, and waste that surround us.

I just finished reading the 2014 update. Updates abound; all too many around disasters befallen meanwhile. But it's not all bad news. The Panama Canal's getting bigger, and "panamax" thus doesn't mean what it used to. Anyhow. This book is still a pleasure to read. A new edition is a good excuse to read it again.

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2015-07-13T02:30:22

I drew five letters in chalk, one letter in each of five sidewalk squares. I drew slowly, deliberately, neatly. Maybe ten seconds per letter? So figure it was about a minute before the security guard came over to hassle me.

I didn't have a puzzle in mind for these letters, just an interesting patch of sidewalk. Before I got too attached to any puzzle idea that relied on this interesting patch of sidewalk, I wanted to know: Would the security guards of the nearby overly-security-guarded private property hassle me?

Thus, I drew five letters in chalk to figure out I shouldn't bother to make a puzzle on that spot. My brain wired the way it is, I spaghetti'd a puzzle out of those letters, Boggled them together to form L-A-N-D-S, decided it was thematic based on the current situation for being hassled over legal use of public property. Or something like that.

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2015-07-12T21:15:07

Link: Confronting New Madrid

St Louis and environs for earthquake/disaster nerds

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2015-07-11T02:10:27

+1 415 868 4629 is still my phone number

I'm switching my mobile service over to Project Fi. Along the way, I'm fiddling with approximately a bazillion phone settings. But in theeeory, I'm set up and the Larry Hosken Contact Information page should still be correct.

One side effect of this change: My mobile phone will no longer have a physical keyboard. I won't be able to gloat anymore about my lightning fast text entry. Must find something new to gloat about. Sure, there's that weekly farmer's market with the great strawberries just a block from my apartment. But what about when strawberry season's over? What then? You have to plan ahead for these things.

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2015-07-12T20:54:40

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