Larry Hosken: New

Oof, San Francisco's summer 2021 COVID case rate is higher than summer 2020. Time to re-start postponing nonessential travel, I guess. Yesterday I rode the bus to+from an exercise walk. If I'd seen these numbers, I wouldn't have done that.

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2021-07-27T12:14:12.990940

I should clarify: I didn't solve 510 puzzles. I solved five puzzles about Oakland, which is in the 510 telephone area code.

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2021-07-21T12:31:02.392499

I may not be the Bay Area's best puzzler, but sometimes I'm the one with the most free time. This can result in fabulous prizes, e.g.
[picture: Selfie posing with nifty key etched with '★ 510 Puzzles ★ Grand Prize - First to Solve!']

Maybe y'all can't be first to solve the relevant puzzles, but if you can get to Oakland, you can still have fun solving them. https://social.coop/@anaulin/106540900185277426 is the "rabbit hole." Go go go.

[Update]: A clarification… The picture says "510 Puzzles". I solved five puzzles about Oakland, which is in the 510 telephone area code.

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2021-07-21T12:43:14.616499

Octothorpean is Back

Octothorpean is back up and running, hooray! The next time you're talking with someone about your puzzlehunting activities and they sputter "How would you even get started learning how to do that?" tell them to go visit www dot octothorpean dot org. Or maybe send them a message with the name because not as many people know how to spell "octothorpean" as you might hope.

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2021-07-19T14:28:46.045770

Consider this a "soft re-opening" announcement for Octothorpean.

Also, I'm asking for bright ideas on a UI/usability thing.

Update: a couple of smarties suggested using "Import/Export" instead of "Save/Restore" and that sounds good to me.

Unlike the previous version of Octothorpean, this new version doesn't have you log in to an account to track your progress. Instead, it saves your progress in local storage. You're thinking, But what if I want to stop working on this machine and start working on that machine? Local storage sits on a machine; it doesn't magically zap itself to other machines. Do I have to start over?

Instead of making you start over, I set up a way you can copy a special blob of text on this machine, get it to that machine (perhaps by emailing it to yourself or whatever), and paste it… and then hey nonny now that machine is caught up on your progress.

What words should I use for this process? Right now, the link to the page is a 💾 and I use the words "Save" and "Restore" to talk about getting the info off of one machine and using it on another machine. But I dunno how well "Save" and "Restore" convey the idea of what's going on; and I doubt the youth of today know what to expect when they click on a 💾.

Anyhow, "Save" and "Restore" aren't terrible, but I wouldn't be shocked or dismayed if one of the geniuses who reads this pipes up with "There's another game _____ that does this same thing and they use the words ____ and _____ and they don't expect their users to know what a floppy disk is for."

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2021-07-18T21:50:09.403934

I walked around San Francisco Bay July 1-7, 2021. You might think Big deal, Larry walked around the bay before. But before, I only walked most of the way around the bay, stymied by the lack of a pedestrian-friendly trail on the north side. Thanks to a new bike/pedestrian path on the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge, I finally got to close the loop. And I wrote about it some, because that's how I remember things. And I want to remember that week; it was a good week!

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2021-07-17T17:32:17.400234

Book Report: Permanent Record

It's whistleblower Ed Snowden's autobiography. I'd already read+watched plenty about him and knew that he had discovered and leaked details of the NSA's unethical, illegal, and pointless spying on American citizens. But this book gave me some details: How had he learned about this program, which was kept secret from most people within the NSA itself?

One of Snowden's projects was organizing the NSA's internal documentation and making it internally accessible and useful. People within the NSA wrote reports that they wanted widely known within the NSA. Snowden set up a service that looked for new documents and added likely-interesting documents to feeds for other NSA folks to read. Thus it didn't seem strange when NSA computers under his control scanned other NSA computers for documents; and on occasion he stumbled onto mis-classified documents that he wasn't meant to have access to. Since I'd worked on organization-internal documents myself, this was an interesting "Things are tough all over" answer.

In amongst the serious stuff, a fun detail about life under government surveillance from Snowden's girlfriend's diary:

…But still a tail following. I left the house, happy to get back in the air at this local aerial silks studio. Made it to the studio and couldn't find street parking, but my tail did. He had to leave his spot when I drove out of range, so I doubled back and stole his spot.

This is an interesting read, even if you followed the news back at the time; plenty of the problematic crap that was going on then is still going on.

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2021-07-16T17:49:38.828476

If you're a San Francisco-area* man who has sex with other men and have grumbled at my blood-donation humblebrags: There's a study going to confirm that the you-can't-give-blood policy is stupid; Go sign up.

In related news: After I helped save lives by donating platelets and plasma this morning, I sure was embarrassed when I tried too hard opening up a trail mix snack-pack and sent snacky bits flying all over the cantina. I know you're supposed to take 15 minutes resting, but it took me that long to find all the frickin' raisins. Those things have something like kitchen-appliance camouflage, I swear.

*Or LA, NOLA, Memphis, WashDC, ATL, Orlando, Miami.

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2021-07-10T23:37:45.948453

Zine Report: Cometbus #59

During 2020 when the USA's pandemic was in full swing, a new issue of Cometbus came out and I didn't notice because pandemics are distracting. But I'm catching up! This issue of interviews looks at why some punk-era organizations stuck around and others fell apart. Reading these stories over, it seems like these organizations hit milestone-crises. E.g. a publisher's been expanding but has started to plateau; should they spend lots of money to promote new artists, or make sure they pay royalties on time? What happens when the founders are ready to move on to other projects; did they ever think about what might happen to the organization afterwards? Here, you might think I'm going to make some point about how a punk squat and a tech startup encounter and a whatever face similar crises… but no really, the relevant people define "success" quite differently; there might not be a universal path to resilience. Nevertheless, these interviews are pretty interesting; I found out about some still-around institutions I hadn't heard of, something for everyone.

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2021-06-30T18:21:10.627277

Wow, it's the site's 38 millionth hit. As usual, these "hits" aren't a measure of humans visiting pages; that count would be much lower. It's just requests to the website: every time a robot visits some page, the count goes up. If a human views a page that contains a dozen graphics, those graphics cause another dozen hits. So "a million hits" isn't as impressive as it sounds. But hits are easy to measure so that's what I measure. We can take a look at the log:
207.46.13.46 - - [28/Jun/2021:08:20:22 +0000] "GET /new/atom.xml HTTP/1.1" 200 18292 "-" "Mozilla/5.0 (compatible; bingbot/2.0; +http://www.bing.com/bingbot.htm)"

This appears to be a bot from Microsoft Bing checking my blog for updates. Of the 4000 "hits" on my website yesterday, over ⅓ of them were the Bing bot checking my blog for updates. How many times did I actually update my blog yesterday? Zero, that's how many. All the other blog-checking-bots on the internet combined: Brandwatch, Hypefactors, Feedly, NewsBlur (yay!), Feeder, Omgili, Feedbin, Bloglovin, et frickin' cetera checked 34 times total. And that was plenty. That's why I say "a million hits" isn't so impressive; it's not necessarily a signal of an impressive website, maybe just some over-eager bots.

Anyhow, thank you excellent bingbot programmers for helping me to juke the stats. And to the rest of you, humans and bots alike: Thank you for reading.

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2021-06-29T23:41:11.295208

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