Tonight I played in a puzzle event. The puzzles were pretty cool! They were designed by Mike Selinker, Thomas Snyder, Tyler Hinman... and maybe others? Eric Harshbarger designed the prizes; he's a puzzle nerd; did he design a puzzle for this game? I dunno. Anyhow. The theme of the puzzle was kind of sad, though. It was a release party for this book, Kingpin. It's a book about Max "Vision" Butler, a computer hacker who got busted for possessing many, many credit card numbers.
The first part of the puzzle hunt was just straight-up fun puzzles. But the finale... we were all given free copies of the new book. We were told to turn to page such-and-such and... scan it for a word that contained the name of a kind of musical instrument. And so I read
"On May 13, 1991, Tim Spencer and some of the other Meridian High geeks sat in the courtroom and watched as Judge Deborah Bail sentenced their friend to five years in prison."
And of course, that's sad. And I know it's sad because I hung out on a boat with Tim Spencer for a few days. Tim Spencer's a sweetie-pie. I dunno what people should have to watch their friend get sentenced to prison, but Tim Spencer ain't one. And I met Max "Vision" Butler, too... though we didn't make much of an impression on each other.
He's going to be in prison for a long time.
I'm standing there, thinking about how glad I am to be free and laughing and playing with puzzle freaks, and wondering what it's like to be locked away, and I'm sure it's pretty bad. A bunch of those grown-up, moved-out Idaho hacker kids came to California, formed the core of this group of programmers. I don't know if they still hang out. But I know that one member of that group rides my bus. (Tyler, you used to ride his bus, too.) I don't know much about him, just enough to nod to him if we meet on the street. But I see him plenty, and I think about this group of programmers. No getting away from thinking about them.
Fortunately, after the hunt Debbie Goldstein talked about DASH, and it was easy to forget about the theme of the game we'd just played in. Easy to slide back into a world of abstractions, puzzles, and cities. Stick to the puzzle hunts, kids, stay out of jail. Remember DeeAnn's rules: Nobody dies, nobody bleeds, nobody goes to jail.