Puzzle Hunts are Everywhere, even the Bay Area

Save the dates!

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Out on the Bay Today, Yay! (1)

On the ferry to Angel Island. I'm holding the camera tilty, sorry. That line of low yellow buildings behind me--that's Fort Mason.

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Puzzle Hunts are Everywhere, But Not Everything is Puzzle Hunts

I was walking with some Gamers around my neighborhood. Specifically, we were right across the street from my apartment. One of my colleagues stopped and looked at a parked vehicle. Specifically, looked at its license plate.

The license plate said "XX R8TED" Oh, no wonder it was observation-worthy.

"Larry, you haven't started dating Rachel Weinstein, have you?"

"Not to the best of my knowledge."

I wasn't dating the captain of puzzle hunt team XX-Rated. I was, however, suddenly vary paranoid. Was someone burgling my apartment? Was Team XX-Rated burgling my apartment?

Maybe they were looking for puzzle hunt materials? That seemed unlikely. People play puzzle hunts for fun. Solving puzzle hunts is fun. Solving puzzle hunts after you've peeked at the answers is probably less fun. My apartment is very boring. OK, that probably wasn't it.

Could it be a prank? I thought about the time I'd stumblingly broken into a team XX-rated computer account after someone else had inadvertently revealed the password. Could a prankish burglary be retaliation for that? I hadn't used that computer account to do anything, but did team XX-Rated know that? Anyone else who knew how to break in to that account could abuse it and blame me. Could that have happened? It seemed wildly improbable. And yet here was this vehicle.

I didn't want to be pranked. I disliked surprises, at least those for which I was the surprisee. 15 years ago, I fell victim to a surprise birthday party. Ever since then, I'd maintained a steady misinformation campaign to keep my friends unsure of when my real birthday occurred. How much would I need to change my lifestyle to keep clear of clever burglars? Maybe I could set up a stronghold in the Gobi desert. That seemed like more trouble than it was worth. Were there any good comic book stores in the Gobi desert?

It was time to think. If I was another gamist, and I was mad at Larry for something, and I wanted revenge, what would I do? Plots for mayhem flitted through my head. During a game, take a puzzle meant for Team Mystic Fish and throw it in a river. Mail a frozen trout to Larry's address. Impersonate Larry while revealing secrets of the Scientologists.

There were many easy ways to seek revenge on me--much simpler than burgling my apartment. Under other circumstances, I might have found this idea disturbing; today it reassured me. No doubt Ms. Weinstein was in the neighborhood for some reason that had nothing to do with me, probably nothing to do with gaming.


We had wandered away and finished our talk. The group went their separate ways. I went back to my street. The vehicle was gone. I went up to my apartment. No obvious burglary had occurred. I braced myself and opened up my mailbox. No frozen trout was within.

There was a line between game and life, and no-one was crossing it today. That was fine with me.

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Book Report: New Yorker Feb 14 & 21 2005

I read the New Yorker in stack order; magazines are not pushed on the stack at publish-time, but are queued elsewhere for a nontrivial time; that is, I don't read them in chronological order. So you should not be surprised that I just now got around to reading this old issue.

So here are some notes to myself: Bilger Burkhard had a good article about Petr Hlavacek and the history of shoes. Thus, someday, Bilger Burkhard may publish a book that I want to read. Thus do I add him to the list of authors I occasionally search for in library catalogs. Yea verily.

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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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Comic Book Shop News

After spending all of yesterday tinkering with the New Zealand travelog, I needed to get out of my apartment today. So I walked to Isotope Comics' new location. I got my fortnightly fix and looked around. The new space has no air hockey table, and does have comfy benches for reading. I could imagine loitering there in comfort.

As I checked out, the ever-debonair proprietor, James Sime, apprised me of upcoming store events.

A band would soon play at the shop. No, really. A band from Japan. No, really. He said that the band, PINE*am, sounded like Kraftwerk as re-interpreted in Japan. On 8/31 they would play at the Rickshaw; on 9/1 they would play at Isotope. I was still re-drawing the boundaries between the pop-culture areas in my brain when he snapped back to comic books.

Isotope's own Kirsten Baldock wrote a comic book, a comic book that will soon hit the stands: Smoke & Guns, about warring gangs of cigarette girls. No, really. When the book is released, the party plan is to go to Jackson Arms and shoot guns. Exact date, when known, to be announced the store web site.

So I'm having one of those I-love-this-town moments, sort of like when I was walking on Haight and saw the sign announcing Banghra Espanol. But you have to watch yourself. I imagined myself smoking clove cigarettes and announcing to no one in particular: "I attend only two shows each year. One must be Sleater-Kinney. And the other must be from Japan." When you surf a wave of culture, you must make sure you don't wipe out and become trapped in a whirlpool of degeneracy. Or something like that.

Still, I made a note to listen to some PINE*am sound clips and maybe show up for the show. And I gratefully accepted a preview showing a few pages of Smoke & Guns. It looks pretty funny, in a violent kind of way. Something to look forward to.

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Book Report: Oxford Pocket American Dictionary

This evening I picked up a copy of the OxFord Pocket American Dictionary.

Such false advertising--it's much bigger than any of my pockets.

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