Larry Hosken: New

This crossword puzzle auto-fill program coincidentally got ¾ of the way to a mini-theme by randomly picking phrases out of a hat…
  M   S
  I   O
  T   R
  U   N
  N   O
  N   E
  G   S
If only that INSIDE USA were instead MUSIC CUES or somesuch, it would be time to buy a lottery ticket or watch out for asteroids or something.

Wow, MISTUNING and SOUR NOTES is pretty sweet.

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Book Report: Puzzlecraft (Humble Bundle edition)

I flipped through this book recently. Maybe "flipped through" isn't the right phrase. I was viewing the .pdf on a tablet. I'd already read an older edition of the book, now I wanted to flip through it. I was constructing a puzzle bonanza, coming up with N puzzles fitting a theme… but I only had N-1 so far. Thus, I wanted ideas. Good news: this new edition of the book has some editiona additional puzzle types. Bad news: none of the new puzzle types fit this particular theme super-great. The first edition did a great job covering "the usual suspects". This newer edition's newly-mentioned types are less mainstream; and maybe that less-mainstream-ness correlates with, uhm, they're not-so-simple to adapt? Maybe? Anyhow, I'm nevertheless glad to have the additions. I hope to get the new edition on paper at some point, since flipping through a .pdf on a tablet is awkward.

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A few months back, I mentioned that I'd boosted phraser's word lists by using data from Project Gutenberg's huge stash of old books… and mentioned that I wished I'd thought to omit the non-English books. Thanks to the gutenberg-dammit project, it was pretty easy to do, if only you realize it's worth doing. I finally got around to it. That project "tags" books' language in a consistent way for easy computation. The word list and phrase list at the phraser page now are more English-y and less other-y. This makes a difference; before, "pour" was about the 1500th most popular phrase; now it's about the 7500th most popular; "pour" is valid English but it's darned common in French. Project Gutenberg doesn't have a ton of French books, but is has many… enough to warp phraser's idea of what's a super-common word and what's a perfectly serviceable word.

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Book Report addendum: Cards as Weapons

Rest in peace, Ricky Jay.

He wasn't just a magician and magic-historian. He was also a skilled technical writer: he wrote a book that taught a bunch of kids stuff. Specifically, in the 1990s, a bunch of nerds over at Geoworks learned how to throw playing cards from my hard-found copy of Ricky Jay's book Cards as Weapons.

I already wrote a book report blog post about Cards as Weapons, which was really about going to see Ricky Jay give a talk. That book report skirted the truth, though. It says "It turns out that he doesn't want to autograph that book anymore--too many pirated copies floating around." That much was true. But when Ricky Jay told me his policy and then saw how downcast I looked… he signed my copy anyway. And he made me promise not to tell anyone that he would sign the book, lest more folks pester him.

Now I break that promise; nobody will pester him anymore.

He knew the world was full of sharps and crooks, he'd studied them; he had every reason to be cynical… But he was still a sweetie to me, a stranger.

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The smoke is clearing from San Francisco's air. I went out to get coffee, but mostly just fill my lungs with fresh air.

Breathing is the best thing and I want to do it for the rest of my life.

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Comic Report: Form of a Question

It's an autobiographical graphic novel structured around the author's run on Jeopardy!. In the world of trivia, there are clear answers, but not so much in the real world. I'm guessing not so many folks want to read a Jeopardy! comic, but in some Bayesian probability sense, it's worth mentioning on this here blog because there's probably a few folks who are totally the target audience reading… Anyhow, it was fun.

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Clerk Life

I volunteered as a poll worker in the recent election; you can read my notes about it. Spoilers: I got a lapel pin, much snazzier than a mere "I Voted!" sticker; a bird flew into our polling place but didn't attempt to vote (whew, we don't really have a process for that).

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Book Report: Troublemakers

It's a swath of Silicon Valley history in the 70s and thenabouts; short biographies of some folks I'd heard of and others I hadn't. There's a good variety. I didn't learn much about the organizations I'd already read about (Apple, PARC); but I was surprised at some stories I'd overlooked (Genentech, ROLM, ASK…) It was interesting reading about the Genentech founders figuring out that insulin would be a good thing to manufacture because of the huge market as California was voting on whether to regulate dialysis pricing.

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I survived my day as a precinct poll clerk volunteer. Did civilization survive? I don't know, I mostly kept my phone off.

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If you're in the USA, #BeAVoter . Vote tomorrow if you haven't already.

Even if you and I don't agree on things, I want you to vote. Seriously. I'd rather that you vote than that you give up on the democratic process, go all sovereign citizen, and shoot up the neighborhood instead of using your words. I want that partly because armed insurrection is a hassle, but mostly because I don't want to give Putin the satisfaction. So go vote.

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