tablesaw: Two yellow roses against a bright blue sky. (Family Roses)
I said I was going to post on Monday, but I didn't. I did, however, do productive things. Resumes have been tightened up and e-mailed. I also managed to finally drop my Mothers' Day gift at my parents' house. Today, I managed to wake up on time again and continue, doing laundry as well. There've been a few surprise social things that have come up, which is why DW keeps dropping down on the list, and why today's post is less than stellar. But I didn't want to slack off two days in a row.
tablesaw: One machete is raised, a host more rise to meet it. (From the "Machete" trailer in "Grindhouse".) (Brown Power)
Here's a timeline of this morning with Google. Please note that although the times look precise, they are estimates; it's just that some events are packed close together, so I had to guesstimate some things with odd specificity.
  • 9:30 a.m. I have trouble posting to a friend's post on Google Plus. I send feedback for the issue, thinking it to be a bug.
  • 9:40 a.m. After reloading the page, and trying to add a comment in my stream and on the psot page, I only vaguely recall, from following this issue very closely, that this is the first symptom of profile suspension. I check my profile page, and my account has been suspended.
  • 10:02 a.m. I take a screencap and upload it to my Picasa.
  • 10:04 a.m. I post a screencap of my suspension to my Dreamwidth.
  • 10:05 a.m. I submit my profile for appeal.
  • 10:10 a.m. [personal profile] yomikoma posts my suspension on Google Plus. I receive a Google Plus notification of having it shared with me. I'm not sure how exactly this happened, since it shouldn't be strictly possible to "mention" a suspended user in a post. Regardless, feel free to share his post if you have it, or repost this on your own. ETA: Actually, if you want to share something on Google, share my earlier post, since it has my statement about my name, as well as my "Banned from Google" filk, which is now even more apropos.
So, some notes.

Earlier speculation suggested that Picasa would go down with a suspended Google Profile, now that the two were linked. If this was the case earlier in the field test, it does not appear to be true now, as my Picasa seems to be entirely intact and accessible. (There's some weirdness with photos that were shared on Google Plus first, but that's to be expected, and I'm going to look at that a bit more.)

(I know that Google Reader has been reported to go down, but I don't use it, so I can't verify. Same with Google Buzz.)

ETA: Also, basic functions like Gmail and Google Talk and all that are intact. I knew that they would be, based on previous reports of suspended accounts, but I realize that not everyone will have been keeping up with that.

On the other hand, in the wake of bad publicity on this issue, Google has said that they will be making changes to the way they suspend profiles:
We’ve noticed that many violations of the Google+ common name policy were in fact well-intentioned and inadvertent and for these users our process can be frustrating and disappointing. So we’re currently making a number of improvements to this process - specifically regarding how we notify these users that they’re not in compliance with Google+ policies and how we communicate the remedies available to them.

These include:

- Giving these users a warning and a chance to correct their name in advance of any suspension. (Of course whenever we review a profile, if we determine that the account is violating other policies like spam or abuse we’ll suspend the account immediately.)
- At time of this notice, a clear indication of how the user can edit their name to conform to our community standards (http://www.google.com/support/+/bin/answer.py?hl=​en&answer=1228271)
- Better expectation setting as to next steps and timeframes for users that are engaged in this process.
Please note that this post was made last week; given Google's timescale of betas and other testing, "currently making" could simply be Google weasel words for "it might happen someday probably." One week after this statement, my profile was suspended without warning, or even notification.

Moreover, I am not in violation of the policy as set out by Google in that:
  • I use a first and last name in a single language (though, seriously, there are some really, really fucked up, and frankly racist assumptions behind that "single language" clause).
  • My name contains no unusual characters (it never occurred to me to use a period to represent the generally mononymic "Tablesaw" as "Tablesaw .", which got users like Sai and Skud in trouble).
  • My profile and name represent one person (especially so, since "Tablesaw Tablesawsen" is unique while the name that my coworkers call me is not).
  • And I do not use the name of another individual (though, as above, if I used the namey name my coworkers call me, I would be doing so; I don't even need to run any type of search to verify this because I WAS NAMED AFTER MY FATHER)
So I'll keep y'all updated on what happens, but if you want a preview, you can check out these posts by [personal profile] skud (suspended twelve days and counting).
tablesaw: Two yellow roses against a bright blue sky. (Family Roses)
A late Easter and and early Mothers' Day has thrown everything off. I saw my mom (and dad and aunt) on Thursday, and we were both surprised that this weekend was the day. I'm going to find somethign this week, though, and do something on for the weekend I assumed would be Mothers' Day.



In the quest for more art on the walls, I recently purchased a print of Portal 2 concept art:
A black and white image depicting Aperture Laboratories in the hopeful 1940s. Scientists walk along catwalks on multiple levels of a vast working space, seen through glass instruments and beakers.
Looking to get it framed now.



On Monday, I was taken by surprise by sickness. On my way home from work, I was feeling tired, but was having a hard time falling asleep on the subway. When I got home, I found I was running a fever that would keep me home for two days. It wasn't a particularly bad cold, but enough to want to keep everyone at work from getting it too.

At the end of it, I'm feeling better, rested, and happy.

Still a little sleepy though. I really need to get better about going to sleep earlier.
tablesaw: Two women put the star on a Christmas tree. (Apocalyptic Christmas)
I'm finally getting some traction on the holiday season, and that includes putting up a holiday gift list for friends and family.

Things I would like for the holidays (and then also my birthday).

Art. The walls are pretty bare right now, so I'm looking for things to hang to replace some of the things that are gone. I know it's a tricky thing, because I also want it to reflect my own tastes, which is hard to do since I don't know what to put up on the walls in the first place, but that's something I'm looking for.

Massage. Some talented amateurs have let me know that I really need to work on the tension in my everywhere. So gift certificates, recommendations, and even personal volunteering to give me a massage would be wonderful.

Graphic Novels/Comic-Book Trade Paperbacks. The price of these and the speed at which I read them often make me feel guilty buying them, or severely restrict the rate at which I do. But since I reread them often, it usually works out. I think I'll do a separate post of what I have and things I look for when I go shopping. The last thing that really made me drool was Astro City: The Dark Age 1 & 2.

Pants. (This is mostly for my mom's reference.) This year was really hard on my work khakis, with a number of pairs becoming unusable for various reasons. I'm currently 38 waist, 34 inseam.

Tie clips. Every so often, I put on a tie and wish I had a tie clip for it. I don't know why. It's good men's jewelry. I used to have them as a kid, before all my ties had their own holders in the back, but I don't have any anymore.

Music. I just don't usually buy stuff on my own, so gifts of music are definitely appreciated.

Classy Booze. I've been having fun exposing myself to new types of alcohol. A friend pointed out these gift baskets, which made me drool, but anything new to try would be fine. The only thing that I don't particularly care for is vodka. The thing I've started trying most recently is scotch.

Last year, my uncle picked something off my wish list, and I realized it was terribly out of date. I spent some time today clearing out a bunch of stuff and adding a few other things that I actually do want now. Some of the graphic novels are on there, some music is still there from before, a few DVDs, etc. Also on there is the re-release of Betrayal at House on the Hill, which I was drooling over in the store the other day.

Things to avoid:

Videogames. I have a bunch of them right now, and I need to get through some of them. Unless you are absolutely sure that it's something I want and will love, you probably shouldn't get one for me. Consider just lending it to me instead.

Books. Same deal here. I've got lots of to-read items that another book may just make me sad. (Exception is the graphic novels I talked about above, because I go through them much quicker.)

Some DVDs. I now have Netflix instant (but not a regular disc-shipping account), which is a much more convenient way for me to watch most of the things that would be given on DVD. Most things, but not all. There are still TV shows that aren't available, so those would be things to get me, though I'd probably prefer to borrow them as well.

However, I do some fandom iconning, and one of my projects for the coming year is to try vidding, so shows and movies I like enough to watch for those purposes are safe bets.

And with those last three in particular, I always prefer to receive pre-owned items if possible.
tablesaw: Two women put the star on a Christmas tree. (Apocalyptic Christmas)
[personal profile] elusis just filled out the Christmas Wits and Wagers game from January, which reminded me that I never posted results. So here goes. The answers are under a cut, so that you can go back and retest yourself if you want.

WE DEMAND ANSWERS! )

And the grand totals:
[personal profile] lorelei: 24
[personal profile] cnoocy: 20
[personal profile] elusis: 20
[personal profile] cofax7: 18
[livejournal.com profile] rikchik: 17
[personal profile] ertchin: 15
[personal profile] brigid: 6
[personal profile] iseryn: 0

Congratulations to [personal profile] lorelei, who won the game on the journal, though nobody beat my family's score of 28 points.
tablesaw: Supervillain Frita Kahlo says, 'Dolor!' (Que Dolor!)
It's been a pretty strange few weeks, and I have not posted anything.

  • Planet of the Apes looks amazingly beautiful on the big screen.
  • Escape from the Planet of the Apes looks . . . pretty much the same on the big screen.
  • The Back to the Future trilogy . . . also looks pretty much the same on the big screen, but it certainly benefits from a marthon viewing.
  • The Hill Valley 2015 cosplayers looked fantastic.
  • Risk 2210 AD is definitely an improvement over original Risk.
  • Smallville the RPG is apparently out of playtesting, which means that now our group is just playing it because it's awesome.
  • Nightmare on Elm was more horrible than even the horribleness expected. I expected the horribleness of bad and pointless storytelling and filmmaking, but the movie really did decide to take extra effort to be offensive.
  • And I still miss Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles
  • Hey, people, why isn't anyone talking about Mercy? I think it's the best show on TV right now. And there's Bechdel-test passage up the yin-yin.
  • Kaiser Permanente seems like it's a really difficult HMO to work around, but if you have a Thursday off and are willing to wake up early to make a phone call, it turns out you can get almost any appointment you want.
  • Why would I need to get an appointment? GI: it's not just for Joe and Bill anymore.
  • Dear Octavio Paz: stop being wrong about everything. I am trying to finish reading your book.
  • Dreamwidth is a year old. Many people are celebrating by making DW-exclusive posts.
  • I'm going to a Mother's Day BBQ now.
Hopefully more soon.
tablesaw: Paul, who is a ghost, declares this to be "Booooring!" (Booooring)
Woo! It's been a busy new year. [personal profile] ojouchan and I did a bunch of stuff, and we slept a bunch, and then there was work, and Arkham Asylum and Rock Band 2 and yeah.

But anyway, I'm getting back to normal, and getting ready for my birthday this weekend. Still no idea what I'm going to be doing, but I've got the weekend off.

A little bit of time left for the Christmas Wits & Wagers, which, incidentally, has been declared "awesome" by the designer of the original game. That's a recommendation there.

And I should be getting to bed now.
tablesaw: Two women put the star on a Christmas tree. (Apocalyptic Christmas)
Woo. It's been a busy few days, and it still is. Shopping and parties and work work work—I won't really get a chance to relax until Tuesday, when my New Year's break starts (five-day weekend!).

The executive summary of gifts received is: lots of nice clothes, two fantastick backpacks, and an Xbox 360 for [personal profile] ojouchan and I from my nuclear family.

As I mentioned earlier, I ran a trivia game based on Wits and Wagers. If you've never played it, I describe it as a combination of Balderdash, The Price Is Right, and Vegas betting. Everyone gets asked a trivia question with a number for an answer. Your goal is to be the closest without going over. Everybody turns in their answers, and they're lined up in order on the betting board. Odds are assigned according to the order of guesses, and you get to bet on which one was the closest without going over.

So, in the poll below, I've reproduced the questions, my family's guesses, and the odds that were assigned to them. Your job is to see if you can be better bettors than they were.

For each question you can pick either one or two guesses. If you check two boxes, you'll split your bet, placing one "chip" on each, and receiving the basic return if that bet is right (if the odds say 3:1, you'll get 3 points). If you check only one box, you double your bet on one option, and the rewards are doubled as well if you're right (if the odds say 3:1, you'll get 6 points).

Poll #1987 Christmas Wits and Wagers
This poll is closed.
Open to: All, detailed results viewable to: All, participants: 8


In the song "Feliz Navidad," how many times does Jose Feliciano say "Feliz Navidad"?

View Answers

30 times [4:1]
2 (28.6%)

28 times [3:1]
1 (14.3%)

24 times [2:1]
0 (0.0%)

15 times [3:1]
2 (28.6%)

12 times [4:1]
1 (14.3%)

All Too High [5:1]
1 (14.3%)

According to the free edition available online from Project Gutenberg, how many words are in the main text of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, from "Marley was dead: to begin with" to "God bless us, every one"?

View Answers

250,000 words [4:1]
0 (0.0%)

100,000 words [3:1]
2 (25.0%)

10,015 words [3:1]
6 (75.0%)

10,000 words [4:1]
2 (25.0%)

All Too High [5:1]
0 (0.0%)

Across both their entire twelve-game seasons, how many points did the USC and UCLA football teams score combined?

View Answers

1344 points [4:1]
0 (0.0%)

675 points [3:1]
1 (12.5%)

540 points [2:1]
1 (12.5%)

456 points [3:1]
4 (50.0%)

360 points [4:1]
3 (37.5%)

All Too High [5:1]
0 (0.0%)

According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, in what year was the first Nativity creche made?

View Answers

1500 A.D. [4:1]
2 (25.0%)

1300 A.D. [3:1]
4 (50.0%)

1256 A.D. [3:1]
0 (0.0%)

1060 A.D. [4:1]
1 (12.5%)

All Too High [5:1]
2 (25.0%)

According to the Shulchan Aruch, a codification of Jewish law, what is the maximum height for the lights of a menorah, in cubits?

View Answers

8 cubits [4:1]
1 (12.5%)

pi cubits [3:1]
1 (12.5%)

3 cubits [2:1]
3 (37.5%)

2 cubits [3:1]
4 (50.0%)

1 cubit [4:1]
0 (0.0%)

All Too High [5:1]
0 (0.0%)

In a Gallup poll conducted between December 11 and 13, what was the average amount that American adults predicted they would spend on Christmas gifts in 2009?

View Answers

$1,500 [4:1]
0 (0.0%)

$1,000 [3:1]
4 (50.0%)

$800 [2:1]
3 (37.5%)

$250 [3:1]
1 (12.5%)

$200 [4:1]
0 (0.0%)

All Too High [5:1]
0 (0.0%)

What was the total precipitation in downtown Los Angeles, from January 1 through December 25 2009, measured in inches?

View Answers

10 inches [4:1]
2 (25.0%)

7 inches [3:1]
2 (25.0%)

6 inches [3:1]
3 (37.5%)

4 inches [4:1]
2 (25.0%)

All Too High [5:1]
0 (0.0%)

According to the U.S. Naval Observatory, how did daytime last in Anchorage, Alaska on December 21, from sunrise to sunset?

View Answers

6 hours [4:1]
0 (0.0%)

3 hours [3:1]
2 (25.0%)

2 hours, 45 minutes [3:1]
2 (25.0%)

2 hours [4:1]
4 (50.0%)

All Too High [5:1]
2 (25.0%)

According to a poll conducted in Canada, what was Santa Claus's approval rating in December 2008?

View Answers

75% [4:1]
4 (50.0%)

70% [3:1]
3 (37.5%)

60% [2:1]
2 (25.0%)

48% [3:1]
0 (0.0%)

36% [4:1]
0 (0.0%)

All Too High [5:1]
0 (0.0%)

According to Walt Disney Studios, how many "fully animated Disney features" have been made from Snow White and the Seven Dwarves to The Princess and the Frog?

View Answers

175 fully animated Disney features [4:1]
0 (0.0%)

75 fully animated Disney features [3:1]
3 (37.5%)

40 fully animated Disney features [3:1]
3 (37.5%)

36 fully animated Disney features [4:1]
1 (12.5%)

All Too High [5:1]
1 (12.5%)



Obviously, no internet research is allowed. Also, the poll is set to display everyone's guesses once you've entered yours, but try not to let it effect your responses.

When my family played, the best team got 28 points from betting. Can you do better?
tablesaw: A black woman and a white man hold each other on a park bench. Text reads "2004-2010." (Ojouchan)
Ever since I first mentioned the gentrified food trucks around my work, there's been at least one outside the office every weekday I happen to venture out. Bool and Fuxion, which I mentioned before, are regular enough that I suspect they must be doing some catering for offices nearby. And there's often one or two others. Today, there were three (in addition to Bool).

It says something about the market, I think, that the Kogi BBQ looked empty, a far cry from the crazed crowds of hipster foodies that were reported to follow its twitter posts like a siren song. Also unlined was Marked5, which notes that "When we first opened [in May], we were 1 of 6 catering trucks (BarbiesQ, kogi, green truck, Coolhaus, Don Chow’s and Marked5) running around LA." (Note that "catering trucks" does not include the many lunch trucks and taco trucks that were already in LA, an oversight that permeates the post.)

But the truck that had the line was a newcomer, Mattie's Southern Kitchen, and I ended up there too. I considered doing Kogi simply to say that I had, but then I reminded myself that was a stupid reason. Marked5's burgers with rice buns looked really appetizing for a decent price, and I may return tomorrow, if they're in the same spot. But I had a bit of a craving.

Spending Thanksgiving with [livejournal.com profile] ojouchan's family in North Carolina was wonderful, and the food was great. But we didn't get to take any of it home with us. No turkey sandwiches, no yams, and no collard greens; and the past few days, I've been missing all of those. The turkey sandwich I had last night using store-packaged sliced turkey didn't cut it, but here I had a chance to buy collard greens right outside the office.

The food was . . . okay, but it certainly hit a craving. The hot item seemed to be the vegeterian gumbo, and it was so hot that the truck sold out just as I got there. If they're around again, and I'm in the mood, I might go back and give it a try.
tablesaw: Two yellow roses against a bright blue sky. (Family Roses)
I am thankful for my family, the one I was born into and the one I'm marrying into.

Things to remember:

Deconstructing the Myth of the First Thanksgiving, and a number of good links at The Angry Black Woman Blog

The Mumbai Attacks, One Year Later (via [personal profile] deepad)

Safe in NC

Nov. 23rd, 2009 11:41 pm
tablesaw: Run Away (to the ocean, to the country, to the mountains . . .) (Runaway)
That pretty much says it all right there.

Stealing wifi. I'll say more later.
tablesaw: Two yellow roses against a bright blue sky. (Family Roses)
I fixed the Twilight Zone icon from yesterday, so here it is for LJ watchers:

The Maple Street streetlight blinks on and off and on.

But the icon for this post is different:

Two yellow roses against a bright blue sky.

This icon comes from a picture taken by my dad of the rose bush in front of our house. Before being in front of our house, it was in the yard of my aunt Debbie who died six years ago.

There've always been rosebushes in my mother's family. I remember helping (or rather "helping" as young children are often employed) my grandmother to do something with the roses in the yard of her Sherman Oaks home. It might be that this rosebush was originally one of my grandmother's; I've lost track of the lineage of roses.

I don't think my mother's been as diligent in her upkeep, but we live in Los Angeles, and we can get pretty lucky with plants, and so the flowers come out when they feel like it, and survive until the next time.
tablesaw: -- (Real1)
This weekend, [livejournal.com profile] ojouchan and I drove up the I-5 to attend my cousin's wedding at the High Hand Nursery in Loomis, California. During the ceremony, the officiant read statements by the bride and groom, answering questions like "How did you meet for the first time?" and "What was your first kiss like?" While cute, I knew this wasn't for Ojou and my wedding when they got to the question "Where do you see the two of you in 50 years?" and in my head I answered:
Stepping out of my flying car with my new cyborg body, I extend my fifth waldo to my robomate . . .

Good Day.

Jul. 12th, 2009 01:14 am
tablesaw: -- (Real1)
Sister got married. [livejournal.com profile] ojouchan and I got our netbooks from Virgin America. We're having fun playing around with them. They are tiny.

No Con Do

Jul. 8th, 2009 05:14 pm
tablesaw: -- (Real1)
The NPL Convention is this weekend in Baltimore, and I'm not going. Instead, [livejournal.com profile] ojouchan and I will be taking part in my sister's wedding on Saturday, which is a midge more important.

Between now and then I have to get myself a haircut, and Ojou's got all manner of things she plans to do. We've also got to get started on planning our own wedding, which we will do by taking notes the entire weekend.

But it's always weird not going to Con. I was reminded the other day that the NPL Con is a defining fact of my life for many people, since it features so prominently in the story of how I met Ojou. Some friends had heard Will Shortz talk about it on NPR last week and were wondering when I was leaving. And there are still plenty of folks at the Con who probably expect me to show up.

Luckily, the internet has come a long way, and a number of the puzzles that are going to be in circulation will become available on the internet. I've already solved my first handout, a quick cryptic by [personal profile] canadianpuzzler.

And speaking of quick cryptics, National Puzzler's League Cryptic Crosswords is a brilliant collection of 45 crosswords from the NPL's magazine The Enigma. As the book has gone out of print, a PDF of the book has been made available for free download.
tablesaw: A tablesaw in action. The blade disappears when it comes in contact with a hot dog. (Virtually Unscathed!)
(No, I didn't forget. I just didn't feel like finishing. Now I do, again.)

The green eggs held clues reading compass points, rag, every 24 hours, latest information, Personals,
Top Secret, commercial, and PICTURESQUE announcement. These clues led to the classified section of the April 11 Daily News. There, after a bit of searching, one could find the following ad under "Announcements":
PICTURESQUE landing site found! Cmdr. Grad flipped his space helmet!
The words "picturesque", "grad", and "space helmet" clued my graduation portrait from the University of California, Santa Barbara, which I attended wearing a toy space helmet under my mortarboard. By flipping the photograph around, the agents found a memo from the aforementioned Cmdr. Grad, accompanied by four photographs taken from the landing site. The memo mentioned that an alternate landing site was needed, as well as a means of directing aliens to it.

At the landing site, there was no egg, but taped to a pole was another photograph. This photograph was also from a nearby location, directed to the landing site. When the agents tracked down the source of this new photo, there was another photo taped to another pole. Repeating the process twice more led to a final photograph, apparently taken from among some trees. By taking the position of that last picture, the agents were situated to find the gold egg, which had previously been concealed from view.

Background and Construction
This was one of the first puzzles I came up with, and it went through a few changes. I'd been thinking about using a classified ad for a while. They have been used to great effect for things such as magic tricks, and I thought it would be fun to find something in plain site. Then, as I was walking around the neighborhood one day, I saw a sign for a lost dog. I thought it might be fun to use signs saying "Lost Egg" to lead solvers on a path through the streets by my house.

I decided to use photographs to direct solvers to the first "Lost Egg" sign. But as I got a clearer idea of the theme of the hunt, I decided that it would be better to do something with a landing site. Seeing my graduation photo made me think that the alien name "Grad" and the clue "space helmet" would be a good combination that would fit well in a short ad.

At this point, I was planning on using basic "Detour" signs to lead the runaround. It wasn't until I went out with my borrowed digital camera that I thought of using more pictures to direct the solvers. It clicked as a good idea, and it helped me finalize the route they'd need to follow.

Agents in Action
This was the first clue tackled by the agents, and so there was some prompting involved. When it was clear that they were thinking about a newspaper, I said, "You know I picked up the Sunday newspaper, if you think that would help." I had culled the classified section to get rid of unnecessary employment and used-car ads, but there was still a whole lot of space to look through. There were several agonizing minutes where the page was open to the right area, and I was staring right at the ad, but nobody else could see it. I probably should have dedicated more clue space to focusing on "Announcements", but eventually it was found.

I'm sure that many of you, reading above, thought that it would be a stretch for solvers to think of my graduation picture from that ad. It certainly wasn't for my parents, who immediately began quizzing me on where I had put that helmet. After convincing them that they didn't need the actual helmet, they began looking for he picture.

My cousin, who lives next door, definitely took the lead on this step, since she new the area the best. She very quickly identified the landing site from the given photos, and she, my other younger cousin, and K. ventured off to find it. More than any other puzzle, I was worried that the components of this one might have been taken or blown away, so I made sure to give them my cell phone in case they encountered problems.

After a little while, they called, confused as to what to do next. I talked them through the idea of using the picture as a detour method, which they generally had figured out, but they were still unable to find the next step. After taking care of some business, I ran off to meet them.

As I approached the second location, I got very worried. The girls weren't by it, and I couldn't see the photo. Thankfully, it was because, on my way there, they had found the photo, taken it down, and were already looking for the next location. I waved them on, and went back to headquarters. The agents did need some more cell-phone prodding to finally find the golden egg. I was told by K. that it had more than a bit to do with the three girls, still in pretty, pastel Easter dresses, not wanting to go too close to the bushes where the egg was hidden.

(This puzzle can't be solved by you at all anymore, so I didn't try. I am trying to find a good scan of my graduation picture, and if I find one, I'll add it to the entry.)
tablesaw: "The Accurate Tablesaw" (Accurate)
Step 2: Red CluesThe red eggs held clues reading assassinate, murder, physician, surgeon, sport on a plank, fortunate, beneficial, and inexpensive butt. Which suggested my copy of the game Kill Doctor Lucky [link changed 6/22/11; original link to "http://www.cheapass.com/Merchant2/merchant.mvc?Screen=PROD&Store_Code=CAG&Product_Code=CAG001"]. Inside, instead of the low-overhead, high-concept game we've all come to know and love, there were several pieces of paper.

First, there was an alien communication regarding Step 2: Drawing Crop Circles. Corporal Flerg has returned his notes to Ensign Dronn, making special mention of the section of the design that crosses itself like an X and explaining the concept earth crops to the young ensign. It's clear to see why this was needed, because also included in the box was a diagram of the prospective site of the circle. Finally, there were twenty-five pieces. (The agents' tetragrams were already cut, but that's difficult to do over the Internet. If you'd like to solve on your own, you can download an image in which the pieces have been randomly arranged and rotated.)

After correctly reconstructing the original crop-circle design, the agents used the clues in the alien communication to dig in an area in my backyard that corresponded to the place on the diagram where the X ended up. After going down a short way, they found the next gold egg.

Background and Construction
This puzzle was changed in probably every possible way before it was finished. Originally, I wanted the location of the golden egg to be located around the church down the street from me. But as Easter grew closer, I became worried about two things. One: The church would attract a lot of families. A lot of families means a lot of nosy kids. A lot of nosy kids means a higher likelihood that the egg might be located and messed with before the agents reached it. Two: I wasn't sure what parts of the church and its grounds would be accessible at what times. The spot I wanted to use (adjacent to a rosary of stepping stones around a garden of roses dedicated to Mary) might or might not be locked by the time the party got started.

At about this time, I decided to try to use the movie Signs as an inspiration for the aliens. It didn't completely pan out, especially since I couldn't locate a Signs-inspired font for the messages, but it did leave me with the idea of a crop-circle puzzle. While eating dinner at the local Chinese restaurant, I mused about the piles of mostly loose dirt in my backyard not being conducive to crops. From there, I thought that the idea of digging up my yard might be pretty fun, or at least surprising.

More on Puzzle Design )

I drew a 10x10 grid on graph paper, selected a good area for a 2x2 square to hold an X, then divided the rest of the grid into non-square tetragrams. Then I drew a loop. Then I cut out the pieces. Then I tried to figure out how to give information to make the placement of the pieces easy.

The grid I'd drawn just didn't want to be easy. I tried so many things, but nothing gave enough information without providing a shortcut to placing the square piece. I also had trouble fighting against the urge to turn the loop into a logic puzzle. There are lots of pencil-and-paper logic puzzles based on figuring out how a loop fills out a grid. I had to keep reminding myself what it would look like. In my mind, I saw Bartok quickly filling it out while Mel and Maria looked dazes/bemused/bored. I quickly shook it off.

Finally, I accepted that the answer would be to give the outlines of all of the pieces. To do this, though, I had to scrap the hours I'd already put into the grid and draw a new one so that, instead of only one square piece, there would be several. Karmically, once I had recut the tetragrams and drawn a new loop, the puzzle was satisfyingly difficult. Clarifying which pieces were "end pieces" by adding the dark borders made it easy enough for me to consider it complete.

I went into my backyard and took pictures of four patches of dirt, after digging them up a little bit and smoothing them with a rake. Then, I arranged them into a square, and lined up my prospective burying spot with the area that would hold the X piece. I overlaid the outlines of the pieces, and the puzzle was finally complete.

Agents in Action
This was the last communication found by the agents. In retrospect, I wasn't incredibly happy with the cluing, but things worked out satisfactorily in the end. My biggest regret was that "sport on a plank" was way, way too ambiguous for "board game", especially since one of my cousins is on a diving team. Regardless, they figured out that "killing" and "doctors" were important, so when my mother stumbled upon the box of Kill Doctor Lucky (conveniently laid on the top of a stack of boardgames), she immediately knew it was right.

I left the house to help the agents working on Step 3, and soon, I saw some agents wandering around my backyard with the diagram. When I found out they hadn't solved the puzzle, but were hoping to shortcut by finding loose earth, I sent them back inside.

Later, I found them digging. In the wrong place. They had solved the puzzle, but couldn't locate it in my backyard. I realized I'd made a foolish mistake. Although the diagram I have online is nice and colorful, clearly showing four different locations, the printed version, in black and white, isn't so clear. In my enthusiasm, in printing, I didn't realize how hard it would be to distinguish the sections. So the agents were using the main resource they had (two flower pots in one shot) and using them to orient the X. I clarified their locations, and soon they were digging in the right place. I had to do the ultimate excavation, though, since they were still a bit hesitant about digging in my yard.

So, though it had troubles, I liked this puzzle a lot, probably because I went through so much grief putting it together. But all of the wrinkles ironed rather well, and the hunt went on.
tablesaw: A tablesaw in action. The blade disappears when it comes in contact with a hot dog. (Default)
Step 1: Yellow CluesThe yellow eggs held clues reading: etching, hanging, holy men, up, down, staircase, illusion, and frame. These clues suggested the print of M.C. Escher's "Ascending Descending" hanging in my living room. When the framed picture was removed from the wall, a sheet of paper was found taped to the side. It was a communication from the aliens researching Earth: "Step 1: Gather Information". (Remember, for best results install Catharsis Cargo.) The instructions from Lieutenant Skit-Tee ask Cadet Grumk to find the information listed below, compress the findings using a set of formulae, then call back for further instructions.

To make sure that people didn't try to solve this by jumping onto my computer, I expressly told solvers not to use the "In-tor-net" in their research. The trick here, was that all of the information was findable within my living room, most of it on my coffee table. In fact, solving at home may be impossible because at least one item is definitely not on the Web, and another answer was taken from a cute, but outdated resource.

The formulae have been removed from the online version of the puzzle because they manipulated the numbers to create a phone number. Specifically, the phone number of a very appreciated journal reader, [livejournal.com profile] skitty. At my request, she had modified the outgoing message on her voice mail, giving the solvers a final equation. That equation led solvers to my next-door neighbor's house and to the golden egg underneath the decorative numbers of her address.

Background and Construction
The idea of coffee-table trivia came pretty early, and festered for a while. While looking at one of the books which would become a reference, I thought that a Calculatrivia-style quiz would be good, because it would help me narrow down the answers I was looking for around my house, and it would allow me to easily manipulate the answers into an answer-ish form. I collected answers as I cleaned my house. Anytime I found something that was interesting, likely to contain numbers, or that seemed appropriate for my coffee table, I would flip through it looking for some good digits. I collected a small list, and they managed work into the parts of the phone number very well.

Agents in Action
This was the third puzzle found, and it was found pretty easily. My mother and a young cousin picked up on what it meant pretty easily, and they directed my father to take down the picture. I was helping some people get Step Three started, and when I turned around, my father was swinging the print around, showing everyone (except himself, of course) the hidden sheet. Bartok looked at it and said, "Oh great, we're going to have to use the Internet for this one." Alarmed, I pointed out that actually, they probably didn't.

I lost track of this puzzle for a while, and so I can't tell exactly what happened. Most people were focusing on the other puzzles, but after a while, agents returned to it. A few tentative answers had been put in, but most were mysteries. As more people started working on the puzzle, people started to realize that they'd seen related objects before. You see, when DeB and Bartok got arrived earlier than everyone else, they amused themselves by looking at the strange and interesting items on my coffee table. So many of the questions seemed very familiar.

This was the last puzzle completed, and it ended with my mother reading off questions and having everyone else scour my coffee table for books likely to have the answer. When it came time to do the formulas, however, there were some problems. First, I had forgotten to bring a calculator. I thought I had one, but it turned out to be a remote control to a stereo system I never used. So there multiplication bits took a little while. Second, there were two typos in the formulas, causing two of the numbers to be slightly off.

A Digression on Puzzlers and Nonpuzzlers )

So, finally armed with the correct phone number, the agents called Commander Skit-Tee. It took them two calls to get the message correctly, but the directions and the number led them clearly down the street. It didn't take long for them to swarm onto my neighbor's yard and grab the egg.

(The puzzle can be solved without being in my living room, but I would say it's decidedly less fun. Anyway, the answers are available, regardless.)

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February 2014

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