Puzzle Things are Everywhere, with Local Witnesses

A while back, I blogged about Stuart Landsborough's Puzzling World, a tourist spot in New Zealand with a big maze and other weirdness. Why do I bring this up? Local gamist Chiu-Ki Chan went there, and took some awesome photos. So I guess it's real after all.

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Yosemite Photos

I went to Yosemite earlier this month. While I was there, I took some Yosemite photos, which I now make available to you, the internet. Thank goodness, right? I mean, the internet totally suffered a dearth of Yosemite photos until I came along. Next, I might try taking some cute photos of cats.

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Puzzle Hunts are Everywhere simultaneously

I posted some notes on DASH #1. There's a photo. This would be a good time for me to mention: "playdash".

(My DASH photo is not as cool as the photo of Jack o Lanterns including one with a hidden message which might be more topical now that we're in October. But what can you do?)

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Puzzle Hunts are Everywhere, even Stanford

Tiny Update: finally posted zombie chess puzzle layout photo

Finally posted a photo of the Zombie Chess board layout to the directory of Zombie BANG photos. Why yes, that did take a while.

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Puzzle Hunts are Everywhere, even appearing simultaneously in Redmond and Palo Alto

Behold, it is notes from Microsoft Puzzle Hunt 1[23]. I volunteered at the bay area simulcast. I took a couple of crappy cameraphone photos of the playtest. I dressed up as the angel of death and other folks took videos! Anyhow, scattered notes.

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Ghost Patrol Links, including Photos

Yeah, yeah, you were waiting for the Ghost Patrol results, but me, I was waiting for Wesley's photos. And he posted them: Wes Chan's Ghost Patrol photos.

Mostly photos of puzzles and of our team (Mystic Ghosti). But there's other fun photos, too. coed astronomy, Longshots, Knights of Corinth, Burninators, and more. Check it out.

(Edited to fix a photo link: Loquacious != coed astronomy)

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Jack O' Lantern Hidden Message

Pumpkins? This year, I can't deal with pumpkins. This year, I'm leting Hallowe'en slide. My free time goes into BANG 19. Puzzles and logistics, logistics and puzzles. That's plenty to think about. But last year... last year at around this time I went to a pumpkin-carving party. The people were fun. We carved pumpkins. It was fun. Here's a photo: [Photo of pumpkins by Steven Pitsenbarger]

I hid a message in one of my pumpkin carvings. Can you find it? (Don't guess "Who me?" The "Who me?" pumpkin wasn't me. (Appropriately, I can't remember who carved the "Who me" pumpkin. (Hey, give me a break; it was a year ago.)))

In the name of art, scholarship, attribution, and citationship, I should point out that I didn't take this photo. Steven Pitsenbarger did. Yeah, that same Steven Pitsenbarger who takes photos of plants and then develops the photos using plant juices. If that guy were really hardcore, then this photo would have been developed via pumpkin juice. But it turned out pretty well anyhow.

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Site: Yet More Library Book Cart Graffiti Photos

I went to Doe Library again yesterday and I had my camera with me--with some juice in the batteries this time. I snapped photos of the re-shelving carts, the ones which have been decorated. I guess that bored library science students decorate them, but I don't know the whole story. So now the August 2008 part of my collection of library book truck graffiti photos has grown. Yes, someone painted a pirate ship onto the front of a cart. Someone drew an "S" such as you might see in an old illuminated manuscript. Someone pointed out that they were pushing books for The Man.

But I've now seen "CONS" (short for "conservation", I suppose) used as the start of "CONStantly" twice now, so I'm no longer impressed by that joke. C'mon, librarians, keep it fresh.

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Site: New Photos for the Lyon St Page

Last week, a few folks headed over to Pete's place to watch the movie "Appleseed Ex Machina", which was pretty good. Pete lives in the Marina district. Thus, this was a chance for me to once again walk the length of Lyon St, from Haight to the Marina, with my camera. I'd done it before, back in 2003, but Lyon St. has changed meanwhile.

Thus, my old "Lyon St Oct 2003" page is now Lyon Street Oct 2003 (and Jul 2008). It includes a graffito depicting a human, a graffito so realistic that it triggered Google Streetview's face-blurring:

View Larger

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Site Update: Los Angeles Photos

I took some photos in Los Angeles, though they aren't exactly photos of Los Angeles. Instead... uhm, museum-goers. They're photos of museum-goers. I must have been in a weird mood that week.

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Just Three Shinteki Photos

I didn't take any Shinteki photos. That's not quite true. I took a photo of an easel while GC was still setting up. Then Brent put a cover over the easel, like folks weren't supposed to see it so early. So then I erased that photo. Later on, when we were allowed to see the easel, I snapped some photos. But they didn't help. Later on, I didn't think to take photos.

Fortunately, Tobias Lester took some photos. Yay, Tobias! Tobias was on the team. So was Laura! And Emily! They were great! There's a team, photo, yay. Except Tobias isn't in the team photo because he was, you know, holding the camera. the iPhone. the whatever. Anyhow. He took the photo.

And then there's a photo of the lady who towed away our broken-down van. She's pushing that van across the parking lot because (a) the van wouldn't start and (b) she's a tough lady who can push vans across parking lots even if those vans don't start. She was pretty amazing.

Then there's a photo of that view from that lookout point. Chronologically, that came before the van break-down. But these photos are ordered alphabetically and "view.jpg" comes after "singlehanded_van_push.jpg". Hey, if I renamed "view.jpg" to "lookout_point_view.jpg", then it would be in the correct chronological order. Or I could go to bed right now. Yay, bed!

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Puzzle Hunts are Everywhere: Midnight Madness Photos

I went to the Midnight Madness: Back to Basics Game and all I got was a t-shirt, a pencil, a card announcing an upcoming Game, eight photos, and the most challenging adventure of my life.

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Site: Gratuitous Photos of 17th Street

(Am I the only one who checked the coedastronomy site in case they meant March 3 Greenwich time?)

I can post an admission that I'm half-done with a handful of projects, but I don't have to like it. I finish projects! Or I give them up! (Right now, I am making a "chop" hand gesture to emphasize my willingness to give up on stalled projects.) So after posting that blog item, I forced myself to get my act together. (Right now I am gritting and baring my teeth to illustrate my renewed strength of purpose.)

Thus: a page of photos of San Francisco's 17th Street. A couple of weeks back, when it stopped raining, I walked the length of 17th Street. I snapped a bunch of photos. And then for two weeks, I didn't get around to captioning/uploading them. Instead, I just groused about not enjoying being in the middle of projects. Today, I finally finished slapping some captions on. Allez-oupload! I will now stop worrying about those photos.

Last night, I wasn't doing photos. Last night, I finished off my Erlang experiment. I was trying to learn about Erlang concurrency. And sure enough, concurrency is indeed easy with Erlang. Here's my program's, uhm, central dispatch control loop thingy:

queue(Migrant) ->
 TradedList ->
     RanList = cull_unhealthy(TradedList),
     {NewMigrant, NewList} = judge(Migrant, RanList),
     spawn(critter, run_n_trades, [self(), 
       clear_state(NewList), 500]),

That "spawn" spawns a new thread, a thread that executes a function called run_n_trades. That "receive" receives a message.

run_n_trades(Queue_PID, List, 0) ->
    Queue_PID ! List;
run_n_trades(Queue_PID, List, N) ->
    run_n_trades(Queue_PID, run_trades(List), N-1).

It's not obvious from this code, but run_n_trades does a lot of data crunching and then sends the results back to the, uhm, central dispatch control loop thingy. (It's that mysterious Queue_PID ! List blob.) That's sending back the data structure that the queue will receive. How does this message-passing benefit me? Well, I actually had two threads doing big data crunching at the same time. Each one would crunch, crunch, crunch, then send results back to the queue. The queue could combine their answers. (In this case, the "combine" was allowing one of the genetic-algorithm "critters" to migrate from one batch of critters to... whichever batch was next passed back to the queue. (But this parenthetical remark probably doesn't make much sense unless you're looking at the whole program, which isn't really interesting enough to be worth it.))

What did I learn from all this?

  • Erlang is not so bad. I am not fond of languages designed by people in love with recursion. Among those, Erlang is not so frustrating as many.
  • Erlang concurrency is indeed easy. If I were writing a program whose main challenge was coordinating many threads, watching a little data on each thread, I'd be glad to have Erlang in my bag of tricks. Because those problems can be really hard, and Erlang has nice language structures for these.
  • Erlang was not a great choice for my sample program's purpose: yet another genetic-algorithm prisoner's dilemma fun-fest. Part of Erlang's safety comes from discouraging you from changing the value of variables. Instead, you're supposed to create new variables whose values don't change. (Is "variables" even the right word?) So if you're moving around little structs, there's some extra copies but you don't sweat it much. But if you make many tiny changes to a big array of structs... Erlang isn't a great choice.
  • But it does suggest some ways to make thread-safe programming safer in, you know, real programming languages like C++. Maybe you make a rule saying that cross-thread messages pass in copies, not originals. That's one extra copy, but one extra copy maybe isn't so bad. And at least everyone knows which thread is responsible for which data structure.

Am I rambling? Sorry, I'm rambling. I'm just so happy that I have an excuse to stop thinking about Erlang now that I did what I set out to do. And I'm glad I finally uploaded those photos. So... I'm rambling. You shouldn't have to listen to me ramble. Here, go look at photos instead.

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Site Update: Islais Creek Area Photos

I'm still working on that write-up of the Hogwarts Game. Today was a milestone: I finished listening to all of the audio I recorded. I had an audio recorder on me for most of the time I was in the game or volunteering for GC. This was an easy way to gather information. However, retrieving that information afterwards is takes at least as much time as the original recording.

To reward myself, I decided to spend a few hours not-in-front-of-the-computer. I took some photos, including a bunch of a set of cement silos. It was kind of a sketchy way to spend one's free time, scrambling around in "parks" full of broken glass, nodding howdy at the homeless folks, realizing that one has been trespassing for the last five minutes or so. Still, I guess it's good to take photos of things that you like. On the way to the area with these photos, I went through China Basin. There's yet more new construction going on in China Basin. One of the casualties is an old warehouse-looking building that had been covered with graffiti. I took a photo of it a few years ago. Now, that photo's all that I have left. Anyhow, photos.

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Hogwarts Photos

A few weekends back, I helped to playtest the Hogwarts Game. Then I went to a few puzzle-construction parties. Last weekend, I volunteered for Game Control for the duration of the Game.

I'm working on a write-up. But that will take a while to finish. I'm still digesting a few pages of notes and a few hours of audio recording. Meanwhile, all I have to offer is Hogwarts Game photos.

Fortunately, plenty of other folks have written interesting things, including Darcy, Tracy, JessicaLa, and Lessachu. Also, other people took photos, often better photos than mine. David Lindes has photos. Darcy has Photos

And there are probably plenty of others that I missed.

[Update: more links. JessicaLa's photos, Static Zombie write-up, Miss Jerry's dry run photos]

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Out on the Bay Today, Yay! (4)

How awesome is sailing with friends? Sailing with friends is so awesome that maybe before you set out, you're demonstrating how to work the pump-toilet and the pump-toilet isn't working quite right. In fact, something goes so horribly wrong that a dollop of used toilet water that's been in a tank with other used toilet water can squrit up and, against all odds, hit you in the face and mostly get up your nose. That's not the measure of awesomeness. The measure of awesomeness awesome is that you might get toilet water up your nose, and at the end of the day, you still say, "Wow, what a great day."

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Out on the Bay Today, Yay! (3)

Can I claim to be "out on the bay" if I wasn't on a boat? If I was just on a dock? I was at Fort Mason for a game play-test. Beforehand, I went out on a dock, and I was certainly above the bay. I think that counts as "out on the bay" for the purpose of this photo essay. Not that I took this photo on the dock. How could I pass up a chance to show off this photo of Christopher "Design Patterns" Alexander's table by the Fort Mason firehouse? Alexander always wants his spaces to be used by the people. Here we can see that someone is using the table to dry off some pants.

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Out on the Bay Today, Yay! (2)

On the Hornblower California sunset cruise. That's the sun in the background, washing out a lot of this photo's color, sorry. You can see Fort Mason behind me if you squint into the virtual light.

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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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Shinteki Write-up Addendum: More Photos

Pete came through with some photos, which I sprinkled into the Decathlon II report. Now the truth is revealed: I was carrying a clipboard, rocking a headlamp, and wearing travel pants with zip-off legs zipped off! Yes, I hit the "triple crown" of dorky-looking gamer fashion.

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Site: Uploaded St Louis Photos

Last weekend, I went to St Louis. I didn't emerge with any exciting stories, but it's an exciting time for St Louis--there's a lot of rebuilding going on. I took some photos of some old St Louis buildings, new St Louis buildings, and more. Special bonus photo: cub scouts digging a gratuitous hole.

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Site Update: Photo, Comments, Geo

Happy Pi Day! I made some little site updates, no biggie.

Tom Lester took a nifty photo of me, so I added a thumbnail link at the Portrayals page.

New messages on the comment page.

GeoURL snapped out of its coma. The Mapper.ofDoom is pretty cool. These inspired me to sprinkle latitude/longitude information into the Lyon Street photos and Justice Unlimited write-up. I guess that doesn't really count as updating this site. Rather, I was providing more data to the GeoURL and Mapper.ofdoom sites. Whatever.

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I recommend this photo.


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