Puzzle Hunts are Everywhere, Even the Marin Headlands and maybe the Seat in Front of me on the Bus

There was that awesome Shinteki Decathlon game a couple of weeks ago. One of the clue sites was Hawk Hill, a high hill in the Marin Headlands. It seemed like a neat site, so... yesterday I went back there. I tried to snap a photo once every 5-10 minutes and mostly stuck to that. Well, every 5-10 minutes of travel. I think I waited half an hour for the Sausalito ferry, but I didn't snap so many photos of that.

So you ask, why am I calling this a "Puzzle Hunts are Everywhere" blog post. Well, most of my time in the Marin Headlands has been, uhm, for puzzlehunts. So I kept hitting these spots and thinking Hey, why do I know Battery Spencer--was I here before? Maybe in the dark? (Yes.)

Furthermore, when I was looking over these photos to caption them, I noticed something. I think I was sitting behind puzzle champ Tyler Hinman on the bus. (And you're going to make fun of me for not noticing this at the time. But I'm telling you, that was a distracting bus ride--a Haight Street bus on its way to the annual Haight Street Fair. Imagine the Haight. Now imagine a bus ride. Now squish them together. Now: street fair. Some folks had got a head start on their inebriation. Yeah, it was like that.)

Oh yeah, I guess the link would help: a page of photos showing how I got to Hawk Hill and back.

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Link: Ken Jennings roolz San Francisco

City Hall runs this town. And who runs city hall? Not Gavin Newsom--he's bumbling around, grooming himself for a gubernatorial run. Fortunately Jeopardy star Ken Jennings stepped in to keep city hall on course and/or using the stairs.

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Puzzle Hunts are Everywhere, even San Jose

I like The Game. I like the puzzles, but in between puzzles, I like hopping into a van and zipping around, visiting interesting places. Even though... all too often we don't really linger at the interesting places. Hop out of the van, grab the puzzle, hunker down, solve the puzzle, hop back in the van. Today, I visited a friend in San Jose. He was kinda close to a train station, but not super-close. So I had a bit of a stroll--and went through three game sites.

I hopped out of the train at the San Jose train station. Though I just-five-seconds-ago in the previous paragraph mused that teams don't always linger at Game-ish spots, this is not true of that train station. I remember spending a lot of time searching that station for a clue during the Midnight Madness: Back to Basics Game. We searched high and low; I watched an electronic announcement display for way too long. Today, after I disembarked from the train, I walked out of the station quickly. I looked up at the electronic display--and looked away quickly, still feeling somewhat embarrassed.

Next stop was the gardens at the Rosicrucean Temple. I'd been here before Jesse Morris for BATH3. We were on GC, and we visited NeilFred (and, uhm, maybe someone else who I'm blanking on?) who was guarding a puzzle there. It would have been a good opportunity to see the Rosicrucean Temple--but I was too focused on the game to think of playing tourist. Today, I played tourist--and found out that I'd already seen most of the temple gardens after all. Uhm, it had taken us a while to find NeilFred. Apparently, we traversed a non-trivial fraction of the gardens in the process. I did find one new thing today--a sundial. The Rosicrucean temple has a sundial. There's a tall tree next to it. The shadow of the tree obscures the shadow of the sundial. Wow, for a secret society that claims to have origins dating back hundreds of years, the Rosicruceans don't always plan things well.

Next, I went to the San Jose Municipal Rose Garden, just a couple of blocks away. We'd picked up a puzzle there for The No More Secrets Game. We didn't really appreciate the Rose Garden then. We just hopped out of the van, grabbed a puzzle, brought it back to the van, solved the puzzle, and drove away. Even if we'd been in the mood to linger... the park was locked up. The park was locked up because it was well after dark--not exactly a prime rose-appreciating situation. Today, the park was open! And it was daytime! And I was in the rose garden! But it turns out that winter isn't rose season, so the rose bushes were just these stemmy things. But there was also a public restroom, so don't think that I totally failed to appreciate this park.

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Follow-up: SFZero Suggestion Box

You may recall that last month, I stumbled onto a suggestion box on Waller and Steiner streets. This suggestion box, as it turned out, was part of a game. This game, SF0, is a sort of mutual-dare contest. A player concocts a challenge. Several players attempt to meet that challenge, documenting their efforts. Players then vote on which of these efforts is most impressive.

So the challenge was to make a suggestions box and collect suggestions. I'd found one attempt at doing this. I was impressed. And other folks were, too: of the various suggestions boxes made in response to this challenge, the Waller/Steiner suggestion box won first place. You can follow that link to see photos of their installation and photos of some of the suggestion cards they received.

You won't see the text of those cards, though. They didn't type them in. So I did, just now. (Note: these are other people's suggestions, not mine. (Well, one of these is mine; I submitted one card to the box. Can you guess which one?) I agree with some, disagree with some, don't know how I feel about some, couldn't read the poor penmanship of some.)

  • Please more BOXES
  • let's have dedicated bike lanes
  • I suggest more suggestion boxes in SF -Colfax Cor?thers
  • More magic carpet parking
  • Get the rich folks OUT NOW!
  • More Unicorns
  • European misty mornings, California ?sunny? afternoons!! &Tiger Feast
  • I THINK TO MANY ?farlk? walk WITH out looking both way so if I HIT ONE NOT MY Fault
  • Who is Frank? I don't know who frank is I will not yield to someone I do not know. I suggestion is subliminal (figure it out)
  • Steven 202-4378
  • No pollution in the environment
  • Fox in socks with lox in box
  • bike riders need to reduce the stink eye
  • Recall what you enjoyed doing when you were a child and keep doing it: ie hulla hoops, sing, play, laugh, be silly, make a for, color
  • handicraft and barter-based local economy
  • diagonal crosswalks!!! and a diagonal bridge crosswalk at church and market!
  • Do not forsake the for-next loop. There is power in its rhythm. You must control it. Don't let it control you.
  • More diagonal crosswalks!! (tigers takeover)
  • Try to figure out what the ants are doing over by that tree
  • Feed the population to the TIGERS!
  • You suck!
  • This is a great idea! Want to install one near my apt (oak & ?central?) Keep up the good work!
  • I want higher taxes paid on all vehicles larger than a mid-sized truck. All SUVs need to be off the road
  • Remove the cross-walk signal buttons that make noise. We can't even understand what they say. JP
  • I suggest that we create a suggestion WALL where everyone can write their suggestions up for everyone else to see and comment on. And I'd like a really big marker so that my suggestions are recognized as most important. A red marker. Big.
  • Stay cool!
  • Can we get sharpies to write with?
  • I think we should eat cupcakes for breakfast more regularly! Preferably pink sprinkly ones.
  • The lack of Lamppost for the ARTS!
  • Less Usage of Ball-Throwing Ice-Cream Scoop Dog Toys in Duboce Park
  • I suggest a BBQ!!! Let's have a BBQ! You bring the chips, I'll bring my guitar.
  • We need more of these boxes
  • Make More Boxes
  • 1. Impeach Bush 2. See #1 3. Destroy Capitalism 4. NO FAT chicks
  • Do NOT let people put their garbage on the street. It's NOT nice!
  • How is it that you ?? commithe murder and then act as if it never Happened! Memory of Vi?? Har?ey 2-911 (?)
  • We shall ?? back later But overall, I am suspicious of you
  • I think there should be more public art... possibly by local artists who live in the neighborhood.
  • Spend more tax money to transition SF homeless population
  • . Stop having babies. . eat more broccoli + spinach . Buy ice cream + have it delivered to my office . allow Jason, + only jason to park in front of fire hydrants if granted this one wish he promises to tone down his arson habit. . Remember that you are average--just like everyone alive. Average not special. Screw what your mom said.
  • . If you are a little on the chunky side, don't wear tight low rise jeans. . stop having babies . no adjusttable rate mortgages . get up early + do stuff all day. . watch meerkat manor . prepare for earthquakes... are you ready for earthquakes? . if you must have babies, do not shake them
  • - and I am not refering to "recyclable items" -
  • More ??olic girls schools!
  • Fuck the COPS
  • I am concerned with disposable paper cups. I would like to see a system for sharing re? cups when we drink cofee.
  • Ballpoint pens write poorly when held horizontally--a different sort is suggested (or a writing surface)
  • Get the crack out of the Lower Haight. It will help the neighborhood and its people.
  • See other card.
  • What if everyone sat outside on the sidewalk and talked to each other like in the barrio? That would be so nice. Also more fresh fruits and vegetables. Thank you, Lisa
  • Public Restrooms for the bathroomLess & Help for the crackheads
  • My car will move itself when it is time for street cleaning / Word: Fuck DPT Evil = DPT
  • ? Simply the Best
  • More Kissing
  • You have a lovely box: I like the lock on it. The wind is particularly chilly. I would appreciate more warmth. Thank you!
  • This neighborhood could absolutely benefit from a bumpin' techno soundtrack. Thank you, Sam
  • In a transit f? city its rediculous that we have no $5 change machines at Civic Center, Montgomery, powell-people with only a $5 bill are told to go "buy a soda" weird-Nonsense-Silly MTA-Thanks!
  • chocha for one is chocha for all Increase societal nudity and free the yoni energy! Richard Bradley.
  • San Francisco needs more nice hotels outside of onion square +downtown.
  • Heal the world through insemination Babies are peace! I want to be free from all disgusting male energy!
  • More good stuff!
  • stop the examiner from covering our city with unwanted newspapers in unwanted plastic bags!!!
  • Less Hills Please !!! thnx Boston
  • Taxi drivers should have to pass a special "bike awareness" test. Maybe they'd even get a cool sticker for their cabs. (P.S. Your suggestion box is really pretty)
  • 3-5-08 Fewer Cars More Flowers Keep being awesome, suggestion people
  • wouldn't it be awesome if people perceived suggestions as gentle reminders coming rom a genuine place of caring instead of as aggressive ego threats? It's all in the delivery I guess. Could you help me with my delivery?
  • I suggest you ?? ?? in several languages Gracias Merci Danke Gratis
  • Doggie potties so R city don't stink
  • Thank you for continuing a wonderful tradition in the community!
  • Put a wind turbine on all of the roofs in the city to charge the power grid
  • Bring back Naked eye news & video We don't need that much vapor!!
  • Clean this F*!#$ing Street!
  • Less violence in the drug trade.
  • Extend you 2 Hour Parking on ?? of ?? Ernest M??? ???Steiner + 1
  • I suggest that we have more community gardens throughout the city!! Thanks for the suggestion box!
  • No more dog poo?
  • send all the homelsss people to treasure island for a Battle Royale! to the death!
  • Kick the "Environment" dudes out of our neighborhood -Luca
  • Why suggest when I can act?
  • I think there should be more cheese around for general consumption. Thanks.
  • improve my satisfaction, i dare you.
  • You USE BLOCK LETTERS. ITS YOUR ART (You hope book or blog) PROJECT
  • make my job better
  • we all need to smile at each other more often. Especially when passing each other on the sidewalk.
  • More beach days!

Yes, yes, there are other things I should be doing.

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Not-Puzzle Hunts are Everywhere, but especiially at Waller and Steiner

On my way back home from the library, I encountered a nicely-made suggestion box at the Northeast corner of Waller and Steiner. Signage encouraged passers-by to write suggestions on index cards and place them within the box. There were no index cards left, but then there was nothing preventing you from writing suggestions on other things. There were two slots for suggestions: one labeled "Public", one "Private". Each slot was on a drawer; the private one was locked, the public one wasn't. I read the public suggestions. Many of them suggested road and traffic improvements. Did their authors think that this was a municipal suggestion box?

A label on the side of the box read "sfzero.org" and thus I found out that this box is part of a game and that one can read suggestions from boxes around the world. I have not joined this game; my shoulders already strain beneath the weight of a few half-done projects. And yet... and yet, after some reading in their web site, I believe that this game has merit. And if you're in San Francisco swinging past the Lower Haight any time soon, I suggest you take a few minutes to visit that suggestion box. (I think I got that intersection right. I'm sure it was on Waller, close to Fillmore.)

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Book Report: The Roads to Sata

In this travelog, our hero walks the length of Japan, from the tippy-top of Hokkaido, the length of Honshu, down south past Sakurajima. This was in the 1980s, and gaijin were mysterious; he encounters much racism. He speaks Japanese fluently, talking with folks in small towns. He wrestles with sumo. He farts loudly. He endures rain, sun, and incorrect navigation instruction. It's a good read.

Did you loan this book to me? I don't remember buying it. I probably borrowed it from someone. But now I can't remember who. I asked a couple of the usual suspects, but no dice.

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Can I Mooch a Ride from San Francisco to Mars Saturday Morning?

Dear Lazyweb--

I'm volunteering at the Googol Conglomerate tomorrow, i.e., Saturday. I could spend three hours getting there from San Francisco on CalTrain. But I'd much rather mooch a ride with you, chatting about Game stuff. I can share exciting true stories behind PiratesBATH mini-puzzles. It will be a blast. web+comment@lahosken.san-francisco.ca.us

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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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Park Challenge

Today Team Unwavering Resolve (a.k.a. Steven Pitsenbarger, Paul du Bois, and I) played in Park Challenge, a puzzle hunt game organized by the Desert Taxi folks. It was a fun stroll in Golden Gate Park. The puzzles were elegant. What more could you ask for?

Anyhow, I'm now going to brain dump about the game here. No detailed game report this time. No attempt at organization here. I guess it's true, I'm turning into a blogger. Anyhow...

Also there was Team (Something) Monki, friends of Paul's: Bret Mogilefsky, Kelly, Matt, and Julia. They were fun to hang out with. Alexandra was there with Dwight and Rachel Freund. Anna Hentzel with some folks.

The first activity was a bingo game for which teams were allowed to fill in the numbers on their cards. The smart teams filled in cards that looked like

 1 16 31 46 61
 1 16 31 46 61
 1 16  * 46 61
 1 16 31 46 61
 1 16 31 47 61

...that way, if any of those numbers was called, you had an immediate bingo. Our team did not have that insight. When the numbers were called, I was pretty confused when someone called out "bingo!" on the first number.

But eventually we had our bingo, which meant we received our first packet of puzzles. The solution to each puzzle would be a word. Each word keyed to a location on the map.

There was a deck of cards and a Scrabble Board. Which did Paul and Steven like? They both liked Scrabble. I went for the deck of cards, which was accompanied by the diary of someone learning to be a Blackjack dealer. The diary gave a strong clue about what to do with the cards--strong if you've played a lot of these games, I guess. Chatting with Greg de Beer, Team Desert Taxi's puzzle-design guru, afterwards, I heard that plenty of recreational teams used a hint on this one.

Meanwhile, Paul and Steven were finishing off the Scrabble puzzle. This had the transcript of a Scrabble game with words and scores. The challenge was to reconstruct the game board by placing the words in the right places. They had placed all the words but one. I looked at the board and saw the word "REMOVE", and declared it the solution.

So we thought we walked to the solution of the Blackjack puzzle (actually, we walked to the solution of the Scrabble puzzle) and then walked across the park to the fly-casting pools, thinking that was the destination of the Scrabble puzzle. There was a guy with a big stack of chessboards at the fly-casting pool. He wanted to check our answers--teams had been showing up early--we weren't supposed to see him until we had solved four puzzles.

I had been quick to spot the word "REMOVE" and declare victory. But really the secret message in the Scrabble board was "REMOVE AS SAEVAEAN": "seven". When we thought we'd gone to our first goal, we'd really gone to our second. And we'd skipped our first, at the "seven" location. So we walked back across the park to the location "seven" marked on the map. There, a little past a group of people doing wu xia with shiny swords, was a locked box. We'd been given a locker combo at the start. Now we knew what to do with it. We grabbed the puzzles. There were a few teams that walked past the box without spotting it, and seemed distressed. Some of them thought they were looking for a person passing out puzzles. This allowed me to put on my veteran smirk and point out the locked box, taking some of the string out of having misled my team to the fly-casting pools.

So we had puzzles three and four. Puzzle four was photos of the six pockets of a pool table, each with some balls sunk. Thanks to some cues that had been left on the table, you could figure out which pocket was which. There was also a shot of the balls laid out, grouped into clusters. We figured out that the six pockets mapped to the six Braille dots, and and that the cluster of balls meant to consider those four balls as a Braille letter, noting which pocket they were sunk in. Nice.

Puzzle three kicked our ass. Halfway. It kicked one of our ass-cheeks. This was a sheet of paper dotted with colored triangles, numbers, and colored dotted lines. We figured out that we could fold this sheet of paper to make triangles line up--this was the right approach. But it didn't seem more right than any of the several wrong approaches we tried. Eventually, with one copy of the puzzle snipped apart, we gave in and took a hint--we should have done more folding and less cutting. So OK, we did that and soon we were on our way to the fly casting pool, this time after a legit solve.

There we got three more puzzles.

Puzzle six was a chess board and some chess pieces. Paul grabbed this one. The chess board squares were labeled with piece names or with letters. Putting the pieces on the appropriately labeled squares gave you a white king facing a board scattered with black pieces: a maze for the king to move through the maze, avoiding getting in check. As he moved, note the letters that he goes over.

Puzzle five was Taboo Word Search. Steven grabbed this one. In this word search, the word list didn't give you the list of words to find. Instead it would give hinty words, as in the game of Taboo. So the words "February", "Winter", and "Punxsutawney" would give you "GROUNDHOG" which was in the puzzle. But the hints weren't clumped together--all the hints for all of the words in the puzzle were in one big list. So you had to scan the list for related terms, figure out what related them, and then find it in the puzzle. After Steven and Paul had done the hard work, they didn't know what to do. My big contribution: I'd solved enough word searches to know that the "leftover" letters often spell out a message. So soon we had that one. Though I hardly saw this puzzle, I strongly suspect it would have been my favorite.

Puzzle seven was a set of five partial dart boards, each showing four wedges of a dartboard. Some wedges had darts in them, sometimes in the double- or triple-score ring. Below each partial dart board was a score. The wedges in each partial dartboard weren't numbered. But by looking at the score and trying different rotations, you could figure out the numbers in the wedges. So then what to do? I fixated on the empty wedges: I could map their number (1-20) to letters in the alphabet. D K Q M... this did not look promising. But I couldn't stop fixating on those empty wedges--why include them if they weren't used? Someone pointed out that there were different colors of darts. Maybe we should ignore the empty wedges, use the 1-20 values as letters, and figure that the red-dart letters spelled one word, yellow-dart letters another word, etc? This gave didn't lead to anything promising. Eventually we took a hint for this one, too--ignoring the empty wedges was smart. We were on the right rack with the red-dart, yellow-dart approach--but instead of using just the (1-20) values, we should have noticed darts that were in double- or triple- score ring and doubled their value. Whoops.

Soon we were back at the start/finish. We had just missed the (Something) Monki team--but a quick phone call and we found out that they were eating lunch in the Haight. Paul asked: What was your favorite puzzle?

Julia liked Scrabble and Taboo--she likes word puzzles. Most folks thought that the folding puzzle was very creative and elegant--but it had kicked all of our butts. Someone (Matt?) liked the blackjack puzzle best.

Someone talked about his student experimentation with LARPing. Wait don't laugh--it turns out that LARPing is not as dumb as you (okay I) have been led to believe. It's not just SCA stuff with a plot. There are puzzley aspects. You don't whack people with sticks. You only virtually whack them. But you really have to run a lot if a King of the Undead is after you. (Maybe the hierarchy needs a re-write. Or maybe not--I talked with a furry once and he wasn't a complete dork. Actually he was funny--intentionally so. Whatever.)

We talked about what happens if you get whacked in the head by a paddle if you're pregnant. You want to know: do you have a concussion? But it's tricky--many symptoms of concussion are normal life for a pregnant woman.

Along with puzzley things, I learned that the Golden Gate Park fly-casting pools have a relatively clean restroom.

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Puzzle Hunts are Everywhere

I stepped off the streetcar two stops early tonight. I wanted to walk a ways. I had recovered from my wild and crazy weekend. I was no longer hobbling around--I could walk. So I wanted to walk, get a bit of excercise. So I walked up a hill fast. I was breathing hard, puffing out my cheeks, looking down.

So I was looking down at the ground as I crossed a street. Down on the ground, I saw a chalk arrow drawn with a double head. Was it the spoor of the Hash House Harriers, or was it something completely different?

I looked up, looked around. I had just crossed Alpine Terrace. I looked down the street towards the lack of 118 Alpine Terrace, and saw the Mystery Machine again.

I stood there a few seconds, getting my breath back. There was a lot more going on at this intersection than met the eye of the casual observer. Then I kept walking home, watching the fog roll in.

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Book Report: A Walk In the Woods

Bill Bryson confirms that hiking is difficult. This book was OK.

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Puzzle Hunts are Everywhere

Peter Tang just rented a new apartment. Today Steven, 'Lene and I went over to paint some of the walls.

Watching paint dry is not interesting. So between coats we headed out for lunch. As we walked towards Chestnut Street, we ran into Alexandra. She was carrying a printout of puzzles. These were not just any puzzles, these were puzzles I'd found this morning.

I had been surprised to find them--they were on a blog about programming, knitting, and the Swedish language. Who knew that Raymond Chen liked puzzles? But he'd thrown a puzzle hunt for a departing friend of his.

Anyhow, I'd spent most of the morning on those puzzles; they'd almost made me late for the painting party. Now Alexandra was reading them. It was good to see her; and it was good to see her dog Liberty Belle, who was friendly as always.

* ~ * ~ *

Not exactly a puzzle hunt, but it came up the same day:

After the painting party, I caught the 43 bus. It went up through the Presidio. At the Presidio Street exit, next to the House of Pixels, I noticed an arrow drawn on the sidewalk. Was it a chalk arrow? Was it the spoor of the Hash House Harriers? Or was it some spray-painted thing indicating the presence of water pipes? As the bus went along, it went past more arrows. Who had left them? Then an arrow pointed off to the side, Beside it in big letters: "ON IN". I recognized that phrase. That was some sodden socializing at the end of a Hash.

Ah, mystery solved; hypothesis confirmed. I settled back in the seat and let the bus carry me home.

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