Larry Hosken: New: Tag: pedestrian

Book Report: A Sense of Direction

In which the author goes on a few walking pilgrimages, though he is not himself religious. He discusses what folks got out of pilgrimages back in the day. Similarly, he discusses what they get out of it now. He talks about the sense of release in giving up decisions about what to do from minute to minute; That rings true. Along the way, there is some family drama as the author drags other folks along.

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Assumption school exists.
The jokes practically write themselves.

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Over-engineered Walks a year later: Munzee

I still play Munzee, in which folks post the GPS coordinates of barcode stickers, and I go find and scan those bar codes. Since you only get credit for scanning any particular Munzee once, it gives me an excuse to visit new places. On Sundays when another system suggests that I walk someplace with slow Sunday bus service, I'm likely to head out in search of some Munzees instead.

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Over-Engineered Walks a Year Later: randomized deck from index cards

I still let some written-on index cards figure out my walking route to work each morning. If my route doesn't bring me to the correct block, then I take the last card, cross out its number, and write in a new one. By now, most of the cards have their numbers changed.

Partly as a side effect of these new numbers, the deck's suggested route tends to meander more now. I find myself "cheating." I peek ahead at the next few cards: if the deck tells me to walk around three sides of a block, I might shortcut the meander. If the deck tells me to walk all the way around a block, I probably just stay put.

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Over-Engineered Walks a Year Later: Geocache Vicinity

When I want to get out from behind the computer and go for a walk and don't want to choose the route myself, I still do this: Choose a geocache that I haven't visited yet that's a little further away than the geocaches I have visited. From there, go to the nearest unvisited geocache, and then go to the nearest unvisited geocache to that and so on. Don't actually try to find the geocaches; that would just distract from the walking.

I do it less often, though. A year ago, I pointed out that I sometimes put off these walks because the algorithm might say: this time, my walk starts on Angel Island; so I'd better plan my day around getting there. Nowadays, the system picks out starting spots about 24km from my apartment. San Pablo, San Leandro, Foster City. If the system wants to send me to Marin County or south of Pacifica, it's more than 1.5 hours away by public transit. That's too much time on the bus; I skip those. Instead I allow only spots more accessible by public transit; but many of those take too long to get to on Sunday bus schedules; so I only take these walks on Saturdays now. Thus: less often.

I'm guessing I'll only keep using this system for another few months: eventually, it will only pick far-far-away places: maybe there will be a last couple of in-transit-range walks that start in Orinda or nearabouts, and then it will be time to abandon this system. (Or perhaps restart it, perhaps altered.)

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Larry Lane


…as encountered on a walk through the Oakland Hills

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Nautical Flags, Richmond

Posting this just in case it shows up later as a Shinteki puzzle site, you know?

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Puzzle Hunts are Everywhere, even Stanford Campus and/or the Moon

This long weekend was all about location-based games, mostly out in the world. Now I need a long weekend to recover. Fortunately, other people will play these games in the future. So to avoid spoiling them I can be lazy and not write up the experience. (It was all fun, though!)

I do want to remember who I played with: Shinteki with Curtis and DeeAnn; Real Escape with Yuan, Mike, Corby, Curtis, and DeeAnn.

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Happy National Poetry Month

I saw a poem this morning: Parent demonstrates-by-example how to look both ways…

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Updated a photo of McGrouther-Conradi tacks with an informative message I got about their history.

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How to be sure a site is GPS-friendly?

How do I know if a place is "glitchy" for GPS? I thought it was enough to just glance at my phone-map for a few seconds, but now I don't know what to think.

The other day, I met friends downtown. I was first to arrive, and so I hauled out my phone in search of amusement. I started up Ingress, that game in which your place on the "game board" is based on your phone's GPS position. And wow was my phone ever confused about where I was—as I shimmied around a small area, my phone thought I was where I was, around the corner, two blocks north, a few blocks south, and many places I didn't even get a chance to recognize before my GPS position "moved" again.

My phone had the position right a fair fraction of the time, but it was often far off.

So…suppose you're setting up a puzzle in ClueKeeper. You have a choice: you can require that a team's phone thinks its close to the puzzle site or not-require that. If a team can be standing right next to the puzzle site, they'll get frustrated if their phone's GPS thinks they're swimming in a bay 3km away and that prevents them from seeing the puzzle. Setting up the puzzle, I want to visit the site, haul out a phone and check the site, try to figure out if GPS signal is "glitchy" there. If it is, then I shouldn't require GPS checking for that puzzle.

How do I know? My phone thought I was where-I-really-was a plurality of the time at that one site. That suggests that I can haul out my phone someplace, see where it thinks I am, and think that a site is GPS-friendly when really it's not. So how should I check? Shuffle in a 100m orbit around the site while checking my phone? Hold the phone at funny angles? Bring multiple phones and check 'em all? Make sure I check on a rainy day because maybe water droplets change everything?

This seems like a question whose answer is probably out there on teh internets if only I knew what to search for and how to distinguish ignorant bullroar from informed heuristics.

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OK, I've tried Ingress now

It's another location-based game; Egnor finally nudged me over into trying it. By checking in at one spot and then checking in at a nearby spot, I drew a line segment on a map between those two spots. Because other folks had drawn two other line segments, my new line segment completed a triangle. Line-drawing and triangle-completing is a satisfying mechanic. It's neat (and unusual) that the game has you think about the relationships between the locations—these spots on the map become more or less important based on their position relative to the other spots. OTOH, It's hard to get super-excited about drawing a little triangle in one neighborhood of San Francisco when I see the other team has drawn a triangle that covers most of northern Turkey. I suspect the experience is different in Turkey; the game's special spots are pretty thick on the ground in my San Francisco neighborhood; there don't seem to be so many in Istanbul. Perhaps the game puts the spots in areas where many people have smartphones? Anyhow, seems like it can be fun, especially if you ignore the high-level organization stuff.

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To try a game prototype where the "map" depends on where you physically play, go to Amnesia Fortnight, pony up a few bucks, vote for "Buried Metropolis," and hope for good luck.

That's the skinny. Here's the long meandering story.

I've been attending Adventure Design Group lectures. Mostly, they've about pervasive-game/ARG/art stuff, but some of the upcoming talks sound like they'll wander a bit further afield. E.g., the next lecture (coming up on π day) is going to about a software platform to ease running ARGs. Since I'm not planning to run an ARG any time soon, but an upcoming-talk announcement last time caught my ear: Brandon Dillon and JP LeBreton of local computer game house Double Fine will give a talk in a few months. (I might have seen JP LeBreton in the audience during the talk in which those upcoming talks were announced. Maybe. Hey, it was dark, and I might not recognize a game designer by silhouette.) It seemed like an odd fit. Why those guys? It seemed like an odd fit. If you want some Double Fine nerd to give an Adventure Design Group talk, why not Paul Du Bois? He's at least played in a Park Challenge. I wasn't so sure about the beyond-the-screen qualifications of the folks actually signed up to give the talk.

I guessed that they might talk about Hack 'n' Slash, a computer game that fuzzed the "boundaries" of the game by encouraging cheating. I'd played a proof-of-concept prototype; you could play it as a straight-up game, but the game had come with human-readable source code for parts of the program, and it was easier to figure out what to do if you looked around and tinkered in that source code. So it could be a game that busts out of the "magic circle" of gaming… for that subset of the population that's comfortable looking at computer code. That's kinda in the Adventure Design Group mindspace, though I worry that only ~a third of the usual folks would see it that way.

But BUT

When Double Fine figures out what games to make next, they go through a multi-week ritual they call Amnesia Fortnight. Employees craft pitches. A few pitches are chosen. There's a fortnight-long hackathon in which those few pitches turn into prototypes. If some of those prototypes feel fun, maybe they turn into games.

Double Fine has turned to crowdsourcing to figure out which game-ideas are worth turning into games. They didn't useta. But then a couple of years ago, they were thinking of making a game in the theoretically-moribund point-and-click adventure genre. It's the sort of game that nostalgic folks would say they missed. But it was hard to figure out if those folks-talking-at-that-party-you-went-to added up to a sizable audience of folks who'd actually want this game. They tried a Kickstarter campaign to simultaneously gauge interest and fund the project—and raised a few million dollars, wow. So now they seem to like using the crowd to figure out, y'know, what fraction of the global crowd might be interested in a game. (If that early experiment had had a negative result, would the Double Fine folks like the technique so much? Hmm. Anyhow.)

Starting with last year's Amnesia Fortnight, Double Fine has crowd-sourced the choosing of which game-pitches should move forward to become game-prototypes. This seems like a deft way to figure out which ideas capture public interest (which might hint at number of future customers). I bet it also side-steps the office politics that probably muddy such deciding. Last year, anyone could kick in a few bucks to participate in Amnesia Fortnight: you could vote on game pitches and get copies of the prototypes to play afterwards. That's how I came to play a prototype of that Hack 'n' Slash game: from last year's Amnesia Fortnight. I voted for some game ideas, including Hack 'n' Slash. After the hackathon, I had a prototype to play with, yay. (Well, I had a few to play with, but most of the winning ideas didn't interest me so much, so I didn't play them.)

Double Fine is crowd-sourcing Amnesia Fortnight again this year. There are game pitches up. You can kick in a few bucks, vote on ideas, and get some rough-but-fun prototypes to play with later. I'm doing it again this year. There are some neat ideas in there that seem like they could turn into fun games. Though you might not agree with me about which ones are the fun ones. (I like the idea of a game around virtual dim sum. But maybe that's just because most real dim sum's been no good for me since I've been a vegetarian. Who really thinks that turnip cakes need pork bits? No, really, wouldn't those bits be better off in some kind of, y'know, pork bun? Oh man I miss turnip cakes. Sorry, what were we talking about?) But BUT. If you read this blog because you're into the pervasive games-out-in-the-world thing, you might be particularly interested in one of this Fortnight's game ideas.

Buried Metropolis is a game—well so far it's a game pitch—in which the game "map" depends on nearby wifi hotspot addresses. If I tell the game about my neighborhood's local wifi hotspot "password is neoprene" and you're in the neighborhood, tell the game about that same hotspot, we should both end up playing on the same map. Someone in Chicago looking at some other wifi hotspot will see a different map.

Video:

Write-up

There are many games out there where your character wanders around a landscape-ish map, occasionally bumbling into entrances to "dungeons," areas in which to go adventuring. Buried Metropolis seems like it could change this: maybe now the players will explore the landscape of the real world, looking for wifi hotspots whose addresses turn out to generate especially-handy maps.

It seems like there could be some ways to have the real world and the game world interact, depending on what a device "knows" about the local wifi hotspots. E.g., if my phone "sees" a wifi hotspot in the neighborhood, maybe that means I can explore the map associated with that hotspot. But what if I actually use that hotspot to connect to the internet? That implies I have some kind of control over the hotspot, right? I know its access password, probably. Maybe that implies my character should have boosted abilities while in that map. So in my neighborhood, maybe I could explore the map associated with the hotspot "password is neoprene" with a big boost; and similarly with the unlocked "ShyPanda-guest" but maybe not "ShyPanda", for which I don't have the password.

Yes, yes, wifi security is notoriously bad; you can use programs to crack it in no time. OK, maybe encouraging players to hack wifi security is a bad idea. Still. There's a nugget of an idea there.

What if the game challenged you to change the human-readable name of a hotspot to demonstrate your control? Like, you could play through the game; you encounter a character who tells you this map's magic word is "ossifrage". If, in the real world, you can change the human-readable name of that hotspot from "password is neoprene" to "password is neoprene not ossifrage" then the game gives your character a boost. Since "password is neoprene" is my box, I can change its name. But I can't change the name of "ShyPanda-guest"—it's unlocked so I can use it, but I don't have permission to change its name.

Anyhow.

Does this idea pique your interest? It piqued mine enough to ramble like this. If you're interested, go to Amnesia Fortnight, buy some votes, vote for some games. If Buried Metropolis is a winner, maybe it'll turn into a prototype. If it turns into a prototype, maybe those Double Fine nerds can talk about it at the Adventure Design Group in a few months.

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Book Report: The Ludic City

Mostly, an academic jots down observations of people goofing around in cities' public spaces. Pedestrians waggle their arms. Buskers and street crazies accost passers-by. Bicyclists ride in perhaps-surprising places. It's a strange thing to write down; this book seems to be a reaction to city planners who think in terms of function. When laying out a plaza, serious-minded planners are unlikely to consider the opinions of grind-happy skateboarders (except, perhaps, in hopes of thwarting them). But perhaps if they want those public spaces to be used by the public, they should consider how folks might goof around in those spaces. (Is this a real controversy? I don't know; I don't read much about city planning.)

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The plan was to stick some Munzee barcodes to things. Things did not go according to plan. I tried sticking a barcode under a utility box and the barcode fell right off—the box was covered with...

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Puzzle Hunts are Everywhere, even 10.4 N 75.5 W This morning, I had the spirit to look up. Above the usual eye-level was a crudely taped-up laminated message, triva-lly cluing a certain location. (Not my location; I was in San Francisco, USA, of c...

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Over-Engineered Walks: Munzee Addendum Last week, the Munzee folks must have spidey-sensed that a puzzle-hunt enthusiast was writing about their geocaching-in-the-age-of-smartphones game. We know this because soon afterwards, they launche...

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Over-engineered Walks: Munzee Munzee is a game that encourages you to go places, something like Geocaching in the age of smartphones. In Geocaching, you are given a set of lat/long coordinates; you go there, you find a little con...

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Over-engineered Walks: randomized deck from index cards A few weeks back, Brian Enigma posted in response to one of these "Over-engineered walks" posts: @lahosken Or get a set of DiceCards and remove/ignore the ones with a north or diagonal compass. Or ma...

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Over-engineered Walks: Geocache Vicinity When I'm traveling and I want to to do some semi-random wandering, I look for geocaches, little boxes hidden around the world whose lat/longitudes are posted on a website. Except I don't really look ...

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Tonight's talk wasn't recorded, which is too bad because it touched on The-Game-ish themes. Participants move through space, facing challenges which they overcome as a group. Still, that lack of reco...

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Over-engineered Walks: Dice Around the start of 2012, I started work at Google's San Francisco office. I walked to work, but quickly got tired of walking the direct route day after day. I started walking a different route each ...

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Over-engineered Walks: Keep Walking South I walk for exercise. I don't like deciding where to go, though. I set up systems to make that decision for me, so I can enjoy the breeze and the sweet, sweet endorphins. Complicating these systems: I...

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Vertical garden, Hickory Alley ...

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A resident addressed me: "It would be interesting to set up a time-lapse camera here." I was walking at Waldo Point Harbor in Sausalito, a big houseboat area. Specifically, I was stepping off a tempo...

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The people of Brisbane, California, decorate the town's fire plugs. When a fire plug wears out, they don't want to discard their art, so they have a plug preserve. ...

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New-to-me Golden Gate Bridge overlook by Battery Godfrey ...

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The @Shinteki logo, before it was a triangle, was a seated discus thrower. (Specifically, it was a mash-up of Rodin's Thinker and Discus Thrower statues.) That was pretty funny because ha ha who thin...

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Photo: Niantic Ave If you walk from San Francisco to the Daly City BART station, you could pass this. ...

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Saw a Hash House Harriers pack run past, my first time seeing a live pack instead of just leftover chalk marks on the ground. At first I was kind of disappointed. I thought "If I were the hare, I wo...

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Windows Phone event setting up at San Francisco @BillGrahamCivic, preparing for major crowd control. ...

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Link: SpliceVine interview with Sara Thacher @thacher is a big name in the @jejuneinstitute game and other TransMedia experience/game/thingies. This site about video editing(?!) interviewed her, and she mentions an early influence: Janet Cardif...

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My high school chums and I used to go to the No-Name Sushi restaurant every so often. We stopped going after it caught fire. (How does a restaurant specializing in raw fish catch fire? Anyhow.) I wal...

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@HollowSF now has @DandelionChoco. nextdoorsweets.com is open and serving boba and gelato. I'm gonna get fat. ...

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I used to stop in at the Roastery for the decor. They used Papyrus font despite being across the street from an art school. I always wondered what woke the art students up more: the coffee or the gra...

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People are surprised that Barefoot Contessa's at @sfcarts Stanyan/Waller. But "no shoes, no service" law sez she's gotta eat outdoors. ...

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Each morning, a food truck pulls up behind the San Francisco opera house. Its car horn plays the bugle tune First Call. A night at the opera meets a day at the races. ...

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I walked home a different way yesterday and bumped into #OccupySF . It's a real thing. You know how sometimes you read a news report of a protest, but eventually figure out it was just a half-dozen p...

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I walked south and took some photos http://goo.gl/nQMb5 ...

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Puzzle Hunts were everywhere, even the Magic Mountain area at Coyote Point park I went for a walk partway down the peninsula this morning. At one point, I realized I was walking past the Coyote Point playground, the one with the big castle-themed play structure. This site was th...

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I went on a walk this morning. I took a few photos. ...

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Wooly Pig Cafe There's a Wooly Pig Cafe 3rd Ave and Hugo in San Francisco. I feel like I scored some kind of "scoop" by discovering this cafe by walking around instead of by reading Heath Putnam's Wooly Pig blog. ...

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In the Haight, trading words with a tattooed dope fiend is old news; but shopping in a supermarket is novel. ...

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Art Hunts are Everywhere, even the Presidio I was just reminded of a walk I recently took in San Francisco's Presidio. There was an art event going on around the Fort Winfield Scott area; exhibits scattered around outside. You could approach...

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Puzzle Hunts are Everywhere, but the Edges are Fuzzy On my way to Saturday's excellent Shinteki Decathlon game, I swung by a few places to take care of a few things. E.g., I stopped to take an unhurried look at that worn-down Jejune sticker I'd spotte...

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Puzzle Hunts are Everywhere, Even the Marin Headlands and maybe the Seat in Front of me on the Bus There was that awesome Shinteki Decathlon game a couple of weeks ago. One of the clue sites was Hawk Hill, a high hill in the Marin Headlands. It seemed like a neat site, so... yesterday I went bac...

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Link: Ken Jennings roolz San Francisco City Hall runs this town. And who runs city hall? Not Gavin Newsom--he's bumbling around, grooming himself for a gubernatorial run. Fortunately Jeopardy star Ken Jennings stepped in to keep city ha...

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Puzzle Hunts are Everywhere, even San Jose I like The Game. I like the puzzles, but in between puzzles, I like hopping into a van and zipping around, visiting interesting places. Even though... all too often we don't really linger at the in...

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Follow-up: SFZero Suggestion Box You may recall that last month, I stumbled onto a suggestion box on Waller and Steiner streets. This suggestion box, as it turned out, was part of a game. This game, SF0, is a sort of mutual-dare c...

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Not-Puzzle Hunts are Everywhere, but especiially at Waller and Steiner On my way back home from the library, I encountered a nicely-made suggestion box at the Northeast corner of Waller and Steiner. Signage encouraged passers-by to write suggestions on index cards and ...

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Book Report: The Roads to Sata In this travelog, our hero walks the length of Japan, from the tippy-top of Hokkaido, the length of Honshu, down south past Sakurajima. This was in the 1980s, and gaijin were mysterious; he encounte...

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Can I Mooch a Ride from San Francisco to Mars Saturday Morning? Dear Lazyweb-- I'm volunteering at the Googol Conglomerate tomorrow, i.e., Saturday. I could spend three hours getting there from San Francisco on CalTrain. But I'd much rather mooch a ride with y...

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Book Report: New Yorker Feb 14 & 21 2005 I read the New Yorker in stack order; magazines are not pushed on the stack at publish-time, but are queued elsewhere for a nontrivial time; that is, I don't read them in chronological order. So you ...

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Puzzle Hunts are Everywhere I stepped off the streetcar two stops early tonight. I wanted to walk a ways. I had recovered from my wild and crazy weekend. I was no longer hobbling around--I could walk. So I wanted to walk, g...

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Puzzle Hunts are Everywhere Peter Tang just rented a new apartment. Today Steven, 'Lene and I went over to paint some of the walls. Watching paint dry is not interesting. So between coats we headed out for lunch. As we walk...

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Park Challenge Today Team Unwavering Resolve (a.k.a. Steven Pitsenbarger, Paul du Bois, and I) played in Park Challenge, a puzzle hunt game organized by the Desert Taxi folks. It was a fun stroll in Golden Gate Pa...

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Book Report: A Walk In the Woods Bill Bryson confirms that hiking is difficult. This book was OK. Tags: book | Appalachian Trail |Labels: book, ok, pedestrian...

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