Book Report: Cork Boat

As an occasionally obnoxious person who tries to talk his friends into strange activities, I was glad to read the autobiography of an occasionally obnoxious person (John Pollack) who talks his friends into doing something strange, and thus brings joy to the nation of Portugal. They built a boat out of wine corks, netting, a little wood, and a sail--then they rowed that boat down a river (the sail was kind of a bad idea).

This book also taught me about peripatetic pancakes, perhaps the best idea ever.

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Puzzle Hunts are Everywhere, even Seattle

Because I am a lame-o, I didn't play in the recent Mooncurser's game. But Matthew "Defective Yeti" Baldwin did, and he's a better writer than I am. Go read his write-up.

As of today, there's just one part. But he implies there will be more in a week or two.

Update: Mystic Fish's own Wesley Chan wrote up a couple of blog articles about the Mooncurser's game: Thirty Hours of Nonstop Fun & Trade You a Tribonium for Two Unethical Items. Enjoy!

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Publishing News: XXtra Online magazine

My new plan: finish up my existing writing projects by June 2006 so that I can apply at XXtra Online magazine.

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Book Report: Giant Robot #37

This issue of "Giant Robot" features interviews with a few Chinese-Jamaicans who were part of the music scene back in the early days of reggae. You want to send a message back in time to these guys: "No, don't let them slow down the ska!" But it's too late.

Oh, and there was a good photo by Takashi Homma, apparently part of some series called Tokyo Suburbia: an empty road past a stark-white painted solid fence/wall, so bright it has to be computer-generated, but of course it isn't. It's just a bit of reality from a particularly bleak place.

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Site Update: Comments

If you want to post a comment on this blog, now you can--even if you don't have a account. To prove you aren't an evil spambot, you will need to identify a captcha. That is, you will look at a picture of some distorted text and you will tell the computer what that text says. You can pretend it's a fun word puzzle.

Of course, mailed-in comments are always welcome. But I'm slow to get around to posting those. If you go there now, you can see mail from famous puzzle designer Bob Abbott plus more detail about the history of the Telcan company.

No, I'm not playing in the Mooncurser's game today. But I'm sure it's great.

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Publishing News

Tom Manshreck is in town. Tom was living in NYC, working in publishing. There's a lot of publishing around there. Tom was working on engineering textbooks, but he still cares about the literary stuff.

Evidence: Tom came home from work one day and outside his apartmeent found an abandoned dog. He took in that dog. He named that dog Faulkner. I met Faulkner last night.

If this was a joke, then Tom would have told me, "This dog can speak English." And to prove it, he would have asked

"What's sandpaper like?"
"Ruff, ruff"

"Where is the chimney?"
"Roof roof"

"Name a fictional county"

...but this wasn't a joke. It was a good evening with old friends.

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Book Report: the Murder of Abraham Lincoln

This is another comic in Rick Geary's series "A Treasury of Victorian Murder". There are probably other places you can learn about John Wilkes Booth's various attempts upon the life and liberty of Abraham Lincoln. But how many of those are wonderfully-drawn comic books in Rick Geary's stipplish style? None, I bet. Thus, if you are into that style, you must love this book.

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Book Report: History of Pi

This was a fun book about the history of Mathematics as viewed through the lens of pi. I don't much enjoy reading history-of-mathematics books. I halfway remember my history of mathematics. That means that I can't answer any questions about it--but when I read about it, I think Oh yeah, I already knew that. Why am I reading this? Fortunately, Beckman (the author) goes off on some lively rants about tyranny and superstition.

While reading this book, I memorized five more digits of pi. I just couldn't help myself.

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Home Games

I sit here wheezing and sick at home in front of my computer, cheering myself up with memories of happy days. E.g., the previous six days.

Wednesday my department at work had an offsite outing. This was the best departmental offsite ever, by which I mean there were geeky games. I played Carcassonne for the first time, and it's at least 90% as awesome as people say. I played a game called Take 6. I saw a games collection even bigger than the Petaluma Game Night collection. When CalTrain dropped me off, I wandered over to the local bookstore to pick up a Games Magazine, lest my nascent puzzling skills fall away.

Bryan, Elissa, and Benjamin Clair were in town. Thursday evening, Bryan, Bryan's dad, Dave Otsuka, and I watched a Pro City basketball playoff game. It started out pretty exciting--a very close game. It turned into a double-overtime game--so by the end, it was still very close, but not so exciting.

Friday afternoon, I played hooky from work to hang out with Bryan, Elissa, and Dave. We headed over to the Sausalito hills to visit Alex and Ajna. We played board games, of course. You might think it would be fun to play Puerto Rico with Bryan, who was co-authoring a paper on out-smarting sports betting pools; and with Alex, a professional stock trader. You'd be right. I got my butt kicked, but I learned a lot. Dave learned the game and won the game, so I was watching out for the wrong people. After a great dinner, we played Rail Baron. Back when dinosaurs ruled the earth and Bryan, Dave, and I were still in school, we played a lot of Rail Baron. Dave and I hadn't played much in the intervening years. But Bryan knew a lot about the map--he pointed out a misprint in Alex's map. Alex had memorized large parts of the destination probabilities. It was an intense time, full of shouting and off-screen violence.

Saturday, Bryan's sister Michelle was free. Thus, I was able to have lunch with the Clairs next to Stow Lake. Then Dave Otsuka showed up, and Bryan's parents took Benjamin home. The rest of us headed over to Marx Meadow for a game of combo Sloshball/Kickball. Michelle's friend Rachel was at this birthday party full of lawyers playing this game. Elissa and I sat and chatted on the sidelines while watching people try to play kickball--with the restriction that each player must hold a beer cup at all times. Catching fly balls looked pretty challenging. Then we headed over to Dave Otsuka's, where we made and consumed sushi. Benjamin and I played a bit of the balance-plastic-animals-on-our-heads game. We dropped off Benjamin at the Clair house. Then Bryan, Elissa, Michelle, and I headed over to Monkey Fresh Studios to visit pARTicipate, an art show where Ajna was showing a video piece. I stared at Ajna's video for a while, and had a good idea for a puzzle hunt game activity. Then I wandered over to another area where show visitors were making art and had another puzzle hunt idea. I felt kind of bad about stealing all of these ideas, but then Elissa pointed out that real artists steal ideas all the time, and that made it seem OK.

Sunday, Bryan, Elissa, Benjamin, Dave Otsuka, and I headed over to the California Academy of Sciences--and so did Rob and Sonali Pfile, who I hadn't seen in ages. Benjamin had been sick for the last few days, and was worn out looking at penguins. So Rob, Sonali, and I hung out at the Academy a while longer. Rob read Sonali a book about Tyrranosaurus Rex while I explored the rest of the library. After that book, Sonali wanted to hear another one. I pointed out that the library had a section of eco-terrorism books, or at least it had The Monkey Wrench Gang. Did Sonali want to hear one of those? Rob figured it was time for us to head over to the Clairs' instead. So we visited a bit, and then then they took off and then Michelle came back from the last day of her choir singing gig. She'd been singing with a choir for seven years. The choir had raised a bunch of money to be self-supporting. The church had started dipping into the choir funds--and with the story getting out, the church had booted out the choir, accusing them of being a drain on church funds. This was pretty clever--grabbing money and setting up a scapegoat for future financial shortfalls all in one maneuver; pretty slimy, though. After lunch, Dave came over and we played Puerto Rico. And we were getting ready for another game of Puerto Rico when we noticed that Benjamin was still sick--and was wheezing. A few months back, Benjamin had been so sick that he'd had trouble breathing. Elissa didn't want to hit the same situation when they were on a plane back to St Louis on Tuesday. And so there were some phone calls to doctors who tried to listen to Benjamin's breathing through a mobile phone, and then Michelle was driving Bryan, Elissa, and Benjamin to the UCSF emergency room. And a couple of hours later, when it was clear that they'd be there a while, she drove me over so that we could visit in the emergency room. But it turns out that UCSF's emergency room doesn't want huge crowds of random strangers hanging out with every patient, so I soon ducked out and across the street and home to bed. The emergency room gave Benjamin some anti-inflammatory medicine, but he and his folks didn't get home until 2:30 that morning.

Monday after work, I caught the bus back to San Francisco and totally nosed into a conversation with Daisy and Matt, who'd played in BANG 11 as part of Team Presumed Dead and John, who hadn't. Daisy said that she'd changed the way she lived her life: she would concentrate only on those things that she cared about; she would not waste any time on things she didn't care about. Which sounded pretty dull until you realized that she'd decided that puzzle hunts were something worth doing. I went to see another Pro-City game with Bryan, his dad, and Dave. But the star UCB players were no-shows, so we headed back to the Clair house and played another game of Puerto Rico.

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Baby vs Bathwater: Fight!

Yesterday, I talked with Griff, who I'd seen at a couple of recent puzzle-hunt activites. Griff used to work at Microsoft. He may have interned there, since he mentioned, On the first day of summer, every intern there gets a puzzle. And it leads to a page which leads to a page which tells you about the intern puzzle hunt.

Today, I talked with another ex-Microsoftie, who said, "There's nothing fun at Microsoft." He seemed bitter. I thought about puzzle hunts. "Well, there's some fun--" I started. "Nothing fun at Microsoft," he repeated.

I hope that bitter ex-Microsofties don't end up rejecting all of their old culture. There's plenty I don't like about Microsoft. But producing elegant puzzles is good.

(Disclaimer: My opinions are mine. An example of an entity that does not necessarily share my opinions: my employer.)

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