Larry Hosken: New

I didn't go to school at MIT, but I've played in the MIT Mystery Hunt. So I've sent in some thank-you money, and thus landed on their alumni fundraising mailing list. They just sent me a postcard about their upcoming 24-Hour Challenge fundraiser; the postcard got my attention because it had a crossword, albeit a sparse "vocabulary" crossword emphasizing MIT trivia.

screen shot: part of a crossword grid and some clues

I didn't go to school at MIT, but I've played in the MIT Mystery Hunt. So I've studied and absorbed a fair amount of MIT trivia. Sure, I know a five-letter MIT unit of measurement; six-letter nature's engineer. I might bristle a bit with San Franciscan pride when asked what "MIT" holiday is on March 14th (That's a nerd thing, not just an MIT thing. It started at the Exploratorium!), but I know what to write in the grid.

I didn't go to school at MIT, but I've played in the MIT Mystery Hunt. So thanks to that, sure, I know what the MIT undergraduate class ring is called. It occurs to me that I don't know what the class ring was called at the school that I actually attended. (Did my school's ring have a name? Is it normal for school rings to have names? MIT's is the only one I know.)

Anyhow, if you want to flex your MIT knowledge (whether your studied there or not), go to the fundraiser page and scroll down until you see the download the crossword button.



When I tell you I've been researching California election proposition #1 for over fifteen minutes, you probably think I'm pretty well prepared until I show you how I spent my time:



When I visit the excellent page, I see a
gadget that wants to display tweets by @CASOSVote. Alas, thanks to
Twitter's recent API changes, this gadget doesn't display recent tweets,
but instead tweets that got a lot of ♥️s. It's kinda cool to see that ~600
people liked it when polls opened in June 2016, but probably not the
timely info you were hoping for.

Also, there's a yellow bar at the top that says
"Please take 2 mins to tell us how you are doing during COVID-19. Take Survey"
Clicking "Take Survey" just reloads the page; that makes sense because the
link's href is empty: <a href="">Take Survey</a>

-Larry Hosken

Welcome to democracy. Some documentation may be out of date.



Martin Renfried is going to send out a cocktail-themed cryptic crossword every couple of months; if you subscribe to his Patreon, he'll send those crosswords to you. He wrote a couple of cryptics for MIT Mystery Hunt 2020 and has written other cryptics for other puzzle-y contexts. ☜ Click the link on that there sentence if you'd like to see some examples of his work. For more info about his upcoming cocktail-themed cryptics, go to




San Francisco's Nightingale House, as seen from the plaza across the street



Sometime in the recent batch of storms, my phone's message app started marking emergency alerts as spam, presumably because there were so many alerts in just a few days. That maybe implies something alarming about the recent batch of storms. Or maybe it implies something alarming about AI spam-detection systems. Anyhow, maybe you want to check your spam folder; and say "actually, please show me these messages that are trying to save my life."



I continue to check my little dashboard of San Francisco COVID numbers each morning to estimate risk of inessential-but-nice indoor activities, e.g., whether I want to go grocery shopping in person so I can pick out the best poblano pepper available instead of leaving such decisions to fate. For the past couple of months, I eschewed such activities, but lately the San Francisco COVID numbers have come down, and I have resumed pepper selection and such.

line graph charting three San Francisco COVID-19 statistics over the past couple of months: new reported cases, % of tests that came back positive, and COVID-in-wastewater. All three lines rose from December-early January, then fell more recently.

This concludes the useful part of this blog post; what follows is vague whining about COVID-in-wastewater data:

The green COVID-in-wastewater line looks pretty spiky. You may remember that I had two sources of COVID-in-wastewater data: some statistics that the lovely California Department of Public Health compute; and some raw data posted to the California Open Data Portal. I was using the Open Data Portal numbers because they let me smooth things out better. But some months back, something weird happened with the Open Data Portal data; numbers that were > a week old got, uhm, weird. That's a vague description; I made a half-hearted attempt to figure out what was happening, but gave up when I couldn't figure out the problem quickly. You might recall that further back, when something weird happened with that data, I made a vigorous+rigorous attempt to figure out what was happening and thus found out that this public "COVID 19" data suddenly also included Monkeypox, Norovirus, etc data. This was stupid. Rather than put hours into tracking down this later change, perhaps just to get back another discouragingly stupid answer, I gave up and used the California Department of Public Health computed numbers instead. Wow, that green line is spiky, it could use better smoothing… but I can live with it.



The paint job on this fence on Anza St. near 9th is neat; it's kinda trompe-l'œil, kinda not.

a fence painted to look like a yard with a driveway and some cacti with a house set back; behind the fence is the depicted house that same fence+house, but closer



Big existential crisis this morning as I found out I'm not a real person.

captcha-like dialog box that says "Please solve this puzzle so we know you are a real person" but does not, in fact, display a puzzle

I thought I was pretty good at puzzles, but this github captcha is a real toughie.

[Update: The solution was in front of me the whole time: Wait a few hours (presumably for some overloaded captcha server to recover) and try again.]



Figuring out where to attach a carbon monoxide alarm to my wall:

Initial, naive thought: I should make it very visible so when it goes off I can quickly see whether there's a real problem or just a puff of dust or whatever.

Carefully considered thought, with knowledge of self: I don't have a level. So I'm going to install this thing somewhat off-level. I should install it someplace where I won't see it most of the time, because that's going to bug me.


Good call on installing that alarm around the corner from where I can see it all the time; makes it much easier to ignore that hole I drilled in the wrong spot.



There was a break in the rain, so I nipped over to Golden Gate Park for a quick walk.

Along the way, I looked at some public art: signs made from the pages of the alphabet book: Golden Gate Park, an A to Z Adventure.

two signs with some pretty art letting you know that N is for Nesting herons and O is for Orchids the lack of a P sign and a sign with some pretty art letting you know that Q is for Queen Wilhelmina Gardens

Alas, someone took a P, so what we have now is some art about Golden Gate _ark.

Golden Gate _ark sounds silly now, but if the rain continues for another forty days and nights, you know I'll be first in line to board.




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