Larry Hosken: New

I got a flu shot al fresco today.

& Comments


If you're in the SF Bay Area and your COVID pod contains enough puzzle nerds to take on an escape room, check out Trivium Games, a.k.a. the folks behind the Ghost Patrol puzzle hunts. They made a Ghost Patrol escape room!

Ghost Patrol puzzle events have featured some cool physical objects to play with; I'm eager to see what they've done with a room.

& Comments


In wildfire season, I'm not so fond of this legally-mandated un-disable-able smoke alarm, yep. Anyhow, I'm awake now.

& Comments


Book Report: The Vapors

Once upon a time in the USA, gambling was illegal across the land. A few cities and towns went ahead and had illegal gambling. Those cities stopped one by one until just one was left: Hot Springs, Arkansas. Casinos ran ads in nearby cities' newspapers, encouraging tourists to visit Arkansas. Though the casinos advertised openly, they were still illegal. The city, county, and state governments were all in on the deal, turning blind eyes. This book The Vapors talks about Hot Springs' time as America's last illegal gambling city. We see Hot Springs from the perspective of bosses and citizens.

For the bosses, Hot Springs' situation was tricky but lucrative. E.g. when a new governor got elected, there was the delicate matter of establishing new bribery channels. Or the time when two local judges vied to become the city's boss gambler—so if you got hauled before the court, you weren't worried about whether your judge was corrupt, but rather which faction's corrupt judge would shake you down. There was grumbling from the traditional mobsters when Dane Harris became an important gambler by palling around with a boss on the golf course instead of working his way up via the traditional activities of extortion and murder. It's grim but often funny.

The bosses told themselves they were making life better for Hot Springs' citizens (cosmopolitan entertainment surrounded by Arkansas' natural wonders!), but the book tells the story of a casino shill named Hazel; Hazel's story does not brim with joy. Lots of money flowed through Hot Spring to the bosses, but not so much to the citizens. Those citizens were close to some sophisticated entertainment, but maybe couldn't afford to actually view that entertainment. Hazel, seeking excitement, becomes addicted to pills.

This book isn't all tragedy. There are fun details. Hot Springs started out as a spa town where people would bathe in the, uhm, healing waters of the eponymous hot springs. Among the services offered: post-bath mercury rubbings. For health! Copious election fraud kept gambling-friendly politicians in power. At one point, the fraud is revealed when polling place records indicated that the day's voters had coincidentally shown up in alphabetical order. Also, as you'd expect in a gambling city, there was betting on elections. Not so funny but plenty interesting: racist FBI agents raided black-owned businesses that had slot machines, but mysteriously let illegal casinos operate freely.

Puzzlehunt enthusiasts should be aware that this book's history stops before the epic Midnight Madness games of Hot Springs—but there's plenty here to hold the attention. It's a fun read; check it out.

& Comments


Free puzzle hunt team name: Gorgeous Ladies of Penciling

& Comments


I got an email from a game show that's casting. If you're a trivia nerd in California, they'd love to hear from you:

I'm Joanna, one of the Casting Producers for the hit quiz game TV show, "The Chase!"

I came across your blog and the many extreme, puzzle hunting competitions you've participated in. In my research, I've found several people who loved puzzle hunts seem to also love trivia!

We're reaching out to find people from all walks of life; folks with academic and real-world smarts, who want to put their knowledge to the test and have fun!

We would be thrilled to invite YOU and encourage anyone else you may know in the puzzle-solving, trivia-loving world to apply to our TV show and be considered to showcase their trivia knowledge!

Would it be possible to share our casting registration and information with any puzzle fans in your network who may be in California and/or easy driving distance to California?

**We are casting throughout California and our entire casting process is done remotely/online. We'd love to encourage anyone living in California and interested to apply.**

One of the easiest ways that helps us get word out about our casting call is to share our our information within this email with the website registration link pasted below via social media, but we would appreciate any forms of sharing you might feel more comfortable with such as on your website or privately in an email to the people who you think may be interested. If this might be possible, please let us know!

We're casting for a short time, so apply with us at ASAP to start the process!

***After registering, applicants may receive an emailed invite to schedule a Zoom call - please select a time on Tuesdays or Fridays at 11am or 5pm if possible to meet with our team!***

Past seasons of "The Chase" can be found on Netflix and YouTube if you've never seen it. Here's our casting information:


A Major Broadcast Network is bringing back the smash hit quiz show “The Chase!”

BIGGER dollar amounts, BIGGER offers and one BIG surprise, 3 Superstar new Chasers!

We’re looking for trivia buffs to take on a new generation of Chasers. You can audition entirely from home! To submit yourself for consideration, fill out the short form below.”

*Applicants must meet certain eligibility requirements to be considered.

Thank you so much for your time! Please reach out if you have any questions,
Joanna Whitmarsh
Casting Producer
The Chase

Now you know as much about it as I do.

& Comments


Returned some books to the SFPL main library today, AMA.

& Comments


Book Report: Agency

The characters in Agency do as they are bid, going to and fro with little understanding of their place in history. I'm not sure if that means that the title is a pun or an anti-pun or some ironic combo. Anyhow, there is spycraft and drones; it's a fun ride.

& Comments


My walks took me past civic efforts. I traversed part of the leftover marks from the recent attempt at breaking the world's longest hopscotch course record in the NoPa neighborhood. And I saw the new Fell St. bike lane.
picture: bike lane picture: faint traces of hopscotch

& Comments



I had a system to randomly choose exercise-walking routes. I put that system aside when the pandemic reared up. The system chose routes that often involved a bus ride to the walk's starting point and/or destination. In these plaguey times, bus rides are only for essential activities. In San Francisco, I could probably ride the bus legally; outdoor recreation is an essential activity; but morally, it was time to come up with a new system. I've been choosing a route by using my brain instead of a system. I'd prefer to think about other things, but not if it means endangering my neighbors' health and safety.

So when some tech news aggregator sites linked to this Atlantic article about the app Randonautica, I paid attention. Reader, I installed the app. Soon it was working as advertised it picked a destination nearby for me to walk to. My brain was free to think about other things! (The app also did some vaguely flâneurish dérivey stuff, but I mostly ignored that.) And so I walked around and saw things like a fish ornament hanging on a tree (4th Avenue near Cabrillo) and some fresh public health art signed by "anna" at Willard below Parnassus.

picture: fish ornament picture: anna thanks nurses

Then I found out that the Randonautica app can "forget" your destination if you switch away to another app to, say, snap a picture using your phone's camera. That wasn't so great. So I deleted the app. But if something similar comes along that doesn't forget destinations, I'd like to hear about it. Because now I'm back to using my brain to choose my walking destinations and I'd rather keep an eye out for stray fish.

& Comments



1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020