tablesaw: -- (Default)
I drank more beer while I was in Boston than I ever had in my life. Now, this isn't saying much. I'm not a big fan of beer, so I don't drink it. I much prefer the taste of a well-mixed cocktail. A Rum and Coke is usually pleasant, and there's nothing that can beat a Margarita mixed with good tequila and a whole lot of machismo. I know there's good beer out there, but since I don't drink often, there's really no point in going out and finding the few kinds that I like amid the amber waves of unappealing brew.

It's kind of like Country Music, in that way.

Anyway, the advantage of going to Boston was that there were lots of people who drank beer a lot and knew what was good. Chief among them was Beer Goddess Hathor who, in addition to giving tips on what to drink where, also brewed some fine beer herself. (She has a website [link removed 8/13/11; originally "http://www.fix.org/jennyg/"], though I have no idea where in there I'm supposed to look for a homepage.) And when all of the bars are closed, having personalized beer in a hotel room . . . but I'm getting ahead of myself.

The story behind the Pub Puzzle Crawl )

So, Monday evening. It was the first chance I got to see people NPLers, mostly locals. Since there were too many people to easily manage, some of them split off into a Ice Cream Puzzle Crawl through Boston. The puzzles, in this case, were provided on the fly by [livejournal.com profile] tahnan and [livejournal.com profile] thedan. Sadly, the Ice Cream Crawl had far fewer stops, since the participants got brainfreeze or something. The cool kids ([livejournal.com profile] wesleyjenn, QED, Sprout, Sue++, Sir+, [livejournal.com profile] joecab, [livejournal.com profile] cazique, [livejournal.com profile] heaneyland, Otherwise, D. Ness, ln sin t, Niff, Ucaoimhu, Artistry, [livejournal.com profile] foggyb, Hathor, and I) went off and drank for seven hours.

I wish I could tell you more about the bars and the beers, but I can't, really. I know they were good, but since I don't have much experience with beer (for reasons detailed above), I couldn't really tell you why. I can't even recommend things because I was mostly echoing what other, more knowledgeable people were ordering. I can give you the itinerary [link removed; originally "http://www.gregbrume.net/puzzles/redbones/index.html"] of the crawl, since [livejournal.com profile] foggyb has been kind enough to upload it. The itinerary also has most of the puzzles.

The puzzles were really well designed considering what they needed to do. They were simple and fun and rarely required too much thought. The KISS mentality showed up many places in this Con, to the benefit of all. Certainly, the NPL is not a group that will shy away from the obscure, the complex, the byzantine, or the difficult. But there's a lot more going on at a convention. There are things to see, people to talk to, games to play. You have to make sure that nothing gets to frustrating, or else solvers will start to wonder why you're wasting their time when they could be doing something else with someone else. (Also, of course, everything has to be solved without references.) In this case, the puzzles couldn't overstay their welcome, because people wanted to be able to drink and chat. Also, puzzles had to be specially coordinated so that they could be easily solved after drinking beer for several hours.

One of my favorite puzzles was one of the more complex ones: Boston Beer Works [link removed 8/13/11; originally "http://www.gregbrume.net/puzzles/redbones/pc02.pdf"]. It was an early puzzle, and one of the only ones where everyone dug in and did some pencil solving. What I enjoyed the most was that, although solvers were warned that the beer list incorporated into the puzzle was out of date, it still represented the menu very well. Pretty much everyone ordered their drinks off of the puzzle without really looking at the menus. I also sat near Cazique, QED, and the right shoulder of Sprout, triviaites all, who offered and solved variuos sports trivia questions.

At Bukowski's [link changed 8/13/11; originally "http://www.beeradvocate.com/beerfly/user_reviews/963/"], we settled in for the inevitable Pub Trivia [link removed 8/13/11; originally "http://www.gregbrume.net/puzzles/redbones/pc04a.pdf"] game. The theme was "Dead Authors," since Bukowski's is the home of the Dead Authors' Club. (Although it wasn't explained then, I now know that some patrons of this bar undertake to sample every beer on the menu, though mercifully not on the same night. Those who succeed get mugs engraved with their names placed on the wall. And by "their names," I mean "the names of dead authors they choose.") I did predictably poorly, especially compared to some of the general knowledge hotshots. But still, I don't think the questions [link removed 8/13/11; originally "http://www.gregbrume.net/puzzles/redbones/pc04b.pdf"] were balanced all that well. (I'll try to explain more about the balancing trivia, but it's a tough subject and I'll need a separate entry.) Anyway, the balance of the knowledge is definitely a nitpick in this situation. Everyone had fun, even when losing, which is much more important, and difficult to accomplish.

Also, while I was at Bukowski's, I recorded an Audblog. I'd say more about that, but I can't listen to it while I'm work.

The last puzzle I'll talk about is the one from Redbones. This is a fantastic puzzle, though you can't see it or solve it online. Go visit the redbones site, and you'll see lots of wonderful artwork. That original artwork is all over the downstairs barroom. It was the artwork that we were looking at back in January when we thought about a Pub Puzzle Crawl. And it was the artwork that made our last stop an Eyeball Benders-style extravaganza.

We got a huge pile of letters. Each letter seemed to have been cut out of the pictures along the walls. We had to locate, then put them in order according to their position around the room. It was great fun. This might seem a complex puzzle to deal with after seven hours of drinking, but I think that the lowering of the inhibitions helped us to take over the more-or-less empty room staring at pictures. Also, they had great dessert. And great meat. And good margaritas. (Wow, I didn't realize how out of it until I tried to remember it just now. At this point, I wouldn't be surprised if someone there told me that I said, "I love you man! You're like my brother! My puzzle brother! Mi hermano de crucigramas!")

At some point at Redbones, I got a picture of QED, Sprout, Toonhead! and somebody's hair. You can see the wacky Redbones artwork, along with the cute and very helpful bartender who decided to be a semi-waitress even though she didn't have to be. Also, at some point earlier, I got a picture of [livejournal.com profile] wesleyjenn and [livejournal.com profile] heaneyland, probably in a T station somewhere.

After all of this, those of us who remained were directed by Foggy Blotto to the best beer in Boston. By this time, many of our crew had ducked out to return to their homes or the hotel. Thus, when I snapped a picture, en route to our final destination, only [livejournal.com profile] foggyb, QED, Ucaoimhu, Hathor, Artistry, and [livejournal.com profile] joecab. Sprout was also there, though he cannot be seen in this picture. As we staggered toward the terminus, Hathor tried to scare us by saying that once we were there, we were going to have to solve a cryptic crossword by Ucaoimhu, known for his labyrinthine crosswords that involving learning Sanskrit [link changed 8/13/11; http://www.alkhemy.com/sanskrit/atul/"] or decoding Cuneiform [link changed 8/13/11; originally "http://www.wsu.edu:8080/~dee/GLOSSARY/CUNEI.HTM"].

Well, the best beer in Boston turned out to be at Hathor's house. But the crossword turned out to be no empty threat. We were provided with two beers that were brewed specifically for this convention. (There was a third prepared beer, but it had been part of an auction, and thus, we were not allowed to drink it.) The labels were designed by [livejournal.com profile] joecab, and as you can see, Hathor's threat turned out not to be empty.

And, with no more puzzles, we just kept drinking without puzzles.

And really, who needs the puzzles? )

I recorded an Audblog after one of these beer sessions. As I mentioned above, I can't relisten to it right now. But I'm pretty sure I talked about Toonhead!, aka [livejournal.com profile] joecab. I may even have mentioned a picture.

See, I was "cosolving" [livejournal.com profile] thedan's cryptic with [livejournal.com profile] joecab very late one evening / very early one morning. I don't know why I thought attempting this was a good idea at all. [livejournal.com profile] foggyb was there, and I he may have had a hand in convincing me, since it would have been very amusing for him. We actually managed to do rather well, though all together, we found a completely and utterly wrong answer to the end game of the cryptic.

At a certain point, after the grid had been filled and [livejournal.com profile] foggyb and I had started puzzling through the final steps, [livejournal.com profile] joecab crawled around us on the bed, then fell down. He didn't get up again. After a while, we noticed.

We took this as a sign of two things: (1) we should probably get out of his room, (2) we should probably take a picture and post it on the Internet.

And here it is:
Man, this Toonhead! guy should learn to hold his liquor better )

Why

Mar. 25th, 2004 01:59 am
tablesaw: "Tablesaw Basics" (Manual)
I've been in a very noncreative mood recently. Not a mood for novels or journals; a mood for television and videogames. Barely in a mood for music; more in a mood for news. (In what may or may not be unrelated news, music by Tori Amos and Bjork scared me today.) I need some real stimulation. I need someone to massage my mind. Or my body, actually. Both, preferably.

There's a puzzle party this weekend, which hopefully will perk me up. And speaking of puzzles and perking up, I must now begin my plans to return to Boston/Cambridge for the 2004 NPL Convention. The convention proper is July 8-11, but the convention improper is apparently going to begin as early as July 3. (This unofficial program will undoubtedly be aided by the high number of NPL members already in the area. I'd give figures, but my directory is at home.) I'm interested to see what gets whipped up before the con, since I'm going to be helping to do that sort of unofficial program next year, when the convention is held in Los Angeles. On the other hand, I'm not sure if I want to dedicate so much resources (money, vacation time). On the other other hand, I've been noticing that, even outside of the NPL, I have started knowing more and more people in Boston, and it might be fun to get a chance to hang out with them before my time is monopolized by the NPL.

Does anyone living in or near Boston have any input on that week before?

ThuNYTX: 11. Lots of fun. ThuLATX: 8.

WTF!?

Mar. 1st, 2004 10:53 pm
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I don't know if you've been watching Average Joe 2. I know I haven't. But I tuned in tonight because I had nothing better to do and because they said there was an extra twist!

The extra twist was the lamest one I'd ever seen.

Even lamer was the fact that it actually made a difference.

Just in case you even care. )

TueNYTX: 4:30. I had an advantage.
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So, some people are have been softening their words, but I'm going to come right out and bluntly say that I hated this year's MIT Mystery Hunt. Yes, I enjoyed spending time with my team and the people in New York and Boston during my vacation surrounding, but if I could have the fifty hours or so I spent staring at those puzzles I'd grab them in a second.

I've been trying to write up my thoughts and opinions on this Hunt, and it's been difficult, because sometimes I just get too angry writing, and I lose my focus.

If you examined the Hunt minutely, you might come to the impression that the things that were wrong were minor. But each of those minor things had a major impact, and the things that were bad, unsatisfying and unfair overshadowed what was fun and well-designed, even if it did not outweigh them.

The entry I started writing today is titled "Skinned Knees on the Marathon Trail." I like comparing the Mystery Hunt to a marathon. They're both very strenuous, but very rewarding tests of endurance. But the marathon works because it is pure running over a long period of time. The route is clearly marked, the path is clear, and supplies are freely available along the way. Any non-running distraction. The amount of screw-ups, gaffes, miscommunications and awkward logic made this Hunt feel less like a marthon and more like a very, very, very long, haphazard obstacle course. I felt like I was dealing more with route directions and potholes in the road than with actual running.

I've saved a draft of what I've been writing, and I'll come back to it soon, but for now, I think that a lot of my attitude is summed up in this excerpt:

Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them )

More eventually, including the stuff I liked.

FriNYTX: 19. ThuNYTX: 8:45. Written by [livejournal.com profile] canadianpuzzler. What very good taste. You! Go solve it now!
tablesaw: Sketch of an antique tablesaw (Antigua)
So, um . . .

I guess it's my birthday now.

Idly.

Nov. 18th, 2003 09:44 pm
tablesaw: -- (Default)
I'm glad I didn't even attempt National Novel-Writing Month. I probably couldn't hack National Haiku-Writing Month.
tablesaw: -- (Default)
So, yes, I saw Kill Bill on Sunday night. I had gone over to buy a ticket earlier, so when Alias ended, I briskly sauntered over to the movie theatre. I was surprised that there were so many people there. I thought that people had stopped going to 10 p.m. Sunday shows when summer ended. Of course, I'd forgotten that the next day was the it's-kind-of-a-holiday Columbus Day, so I guess that a lot of people were there for that. Also, I'd heard that the movie had been selling out earlier, so maybe there was some spillover. The movie was enjoyable, for the most part, and the part that wasn't enjoyable isn't Mr. Tarantino's fault.

During the second half of the movie (that is, the first half of the first half of the movie; so I suppose the second fourth of the movie). I started seeing brown dots on the screen. The first time I thought it was my imagination. It happened during an unusual transition fade, and I said to myself "What was that?" There'd been plenty of odd, deliberate choices throughout the movie, so I puzzled over it. Later, however, when the screen was mostly bright, they came back. Sick brown dots, arranged like a Braille letter, dead center on the screen for probably less than a second.

I'd heard about these dots, but never expected that I'd see them, certainly not on this film. They are part of what is being referred to as "The Crap Code." In a letter to Roger Ebert, a respected Chicago projectionist tells about this new movie affliction:
Have you been seeing spots when you go to the movies? It may not be your eyes! More than 20 years ago Kodak devised a system called "Cap Code" designed to uniquely mark film prints so that pirated copies could be traced to the source. Cap Code uses very tiny dots that flash occasionally but are so small that the average viewer almost never notices them.

Well, something new and horrible has been introduced on some studios' prints. Sort of a giant picture-marring version of Cap Code dots: Very large reddish brown spots that flash in the middle of the picture, usually placed in a light area. They flash in various patterns throughout a given reel while other reels of the same film may have none at all.

. . . .

On one movie technical forum they are referring to this new system as "Crap Code" or "Cap Code on Steroids."
Movie Answer Man: October 5, 2003.

I can't find any information on the web that doesn't link back to this original article, but I'd love to know more. It was impossible to concentrate on the frenetic action of some of the fight scenes in this movie while dots where flashing at me. It was like a demented vision/reflex test. If anyone has tips on how to avoid these things, I'd appreciate hearing them.
tablesaw: A young Shawn Spencer learns proper saw technique from his dad. (Cartoon)
A fascinating idea from a new group called Newsgaming. Play September 12, their first editorial video game. (Shockwave is required.)
tablesaw: -- (Default)
I just took an annoying telephone poll, and you can too!
[Poll #177087]
"Are you for or against abortion?" "Well, I'm for abortion. All the time. I don't think there should be any more procreation. Ever. Or prophylactics. Just abortions, abortions, abortions."

I guess all of the good pollsters are too busy trying to figure out who's voting for whom for governor.

SatNYTX: 34:30.

Site Unseen

Aug. 6th, 2003 05:02 am
tablesaw: Tablesaw (Thin Manual)
Can somebody explain Friendster to me? Lots of people are on it and rave about it but nobody accurately explains why. The most useful description I've seen so far is [livejournal.com profile] luxnightmare's, "Internet personals for people who think they're too cool for Internet personals."

So, Friendsterphiles, what's the deal?

WedNYTX: 4:15. WedLATX: 5:45
tablesaw: -- (Default)
I forgot to put this in my last entry. The next episode of Tablesaw Doing Lots of Intranational Traveling will be Labor Day weekend, Aug. 29 through Sept. 2, in New York City, the city so nice they named it twice but neglected to add a polis to the end. Right now, I have two days that look pretty clear on that weekend, so I'm asking for ideas for things to see, hear, feel, smell, taste and otherwise experience. (Also, I'm brazenly soliciting invitations to crash on beds, sofas, floors, closets, etc. during my stay.)

All right, back to the high seas.
tablesaw: -- (Default)
I've been seeing people talk about mix tapes (Sorry CDs), and it's got me longing for another project. With television showing either reruns or crappy reality shows that make me wish for reruns, I've been playing a lot more music around the house in general. Also, I have yet to "burn" anything on my new computer. So I'm taking a poll for ideas:

[Poll #145586]
tablesaw: A young Shawn Spencer learns proper saw technique from his dad. (Cartoon)
The puzzle has been formatted to the New York Times' specifications and is sealed into an envelope ready to be flown across the country. Wish it luck on its way.

What I've learned thus far:
  • There's an informal limit on the number of black squares allowed into a grid.
  • Many people don't know what emo is.
  • This is fun.
TueNYTX: 6:30. WedNYTX: 7:30. TueLATX: 5:15. WedLATX: 5:30. Oooh . . . pangram.
tablesaw: -- (Safety)
From the t.A.T.u American website (don't ask (no, really, don't ask)):
Morissey, former singer of The Smiths, who originally wrote and performed the song "How Soon Is Now?" in 1984 had this to say about t.A.T.u. in the U.K.'s Word Magazine:

Word: Did you hear t.A.T.u.'s version of "How Soon Is Now?"

Morissey: Yes, it was magnificent. Absolutely. Again, I don't know much about them.

Word: They are teenage Russian lesbians.

Morissey: Well, aren't we all?

tablesaw: -- (Default)
Yesterday was my cousin's graduation party, the ceremony having occurred on Friday night. It was a bit of a family rift, since there were two graduation parties going on at the same time, one here at my house, the other over in Redondo beach. As a result, families were mixing and matching themselves so as to be represented at both (and to avoid the subtle wrath of the graduates' mothers.) I went to the party of the cousin from whose parents I rent my house. I thought this was a good and logical idea.

I cleaned up my house and did some rearranging. I took out a leaf in my dining room table to open up some more space. I also moved a small table that I'd been meaning to relocate since I got the couch in. Now that table is behind the couch, instead not alongside it; This makes it much easier to walk around the couch.

As a service to my aunt and uncle, I allowed the front room (not the bedroom) to be invaded by the overflow of no-longer-8th-graders, all of whom, thankfully, were careful and used coasters.

At the party, talking with family members, some of whom I haven't seen for a while, my recent goals came in very handy. See, I wasn't the cousin who was working nights and living in the guest house in the back (although most partygoers agreed that it was a fine, fine pad), I was the cousin who was trying to get a play produced. To my shock and surprise, though, people were far more impressed that I was going to be submitting a crossword puzzle to the New York Times.

Watching people's eyes light up. )

It made me feel good. At this point, even if I fail horribly at getting a puzzle accepted, I've made back my investment on the whole thing.

Later on, [livejournal.com profile] wjukknibs was going to come over, but didn't. So he has to come tonight, BIOTCH! I need to show off my fancy clean room before it ceases to be either.

MonNYTX: 4:45; MonLATX: 3:30.
tablesaw: Tablesaw (Thin Manual)

Today, I was stopped by a policeman on foot, a few yards from the building where I work, who demanded to see my ID badge before letting me into my building. I learned later that there was (or they suspected there was) a man with a gun in a nearby building, which circumstance necessitated a police lockdown.

Yesterday, from the other side of the wide, dusty, white van in front of me, someone's fender exploded (or so it seemed from my obscured position), spreading itself and various other bits of hood and wheel across the five lanes. I drove around, without the time to look.

A week ago, a friend rear-ended another car, after he let his insurance lapse. About this time, his mother left town to attend the funeral of a relative.

And I'm mildly concerned, because I have to dispose of a traffic citation.

* * * * *

In "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas" [broken link fixed, 9/29/10], Ursula K. LeGuin poses a society that is a Utopia beyond Utopia, at the cost of the inhumanity beyond inhumanity perpetrated upon a single scapegoat. In the past week, I've been casting it in terms of a single person's psyche.

Accomplished people stereotypically have "demons," personal traumas that are, somehow, at the root of their creation. I can understand this, personally. In the past, I had my own "demon," a sort of psychogenic tapeworm, that demanded accomplishment for its own sake. "Exorcising demons" is a wonderful conceit, but I find the tapeworm metaphor to be more accurate. One feeds it and feeds it and feeds it, and the parasite expands, while the food provides less sustenance to feeder.

I used to have an ambition to become famous, accomplished, respected by all. To make it to The Top. I don't quite know what I would have done there, but I definitely needed to get there. In many spheres (class, creation, love life), I constantly needed to do more and prove more, usually at the expense of more of my time, energy, health, etc. But I got quite a lot of things done.

* * * * *

And so, Omelas, considered not societally, but personally. Do people accede to locking away a part of themselves into the dark, denying it care and love, to try to create a fuel for their remainder? I think that many do, even those who never come close to accomplishment.

I'm at a moment of conflict. I am aware that I have "done" very little in the three years since I graduated college. But I feel happier than I ever have for that nothing. Creation is hard and without an ever unsatiable parasite driving me, it's hard to find the energy. If I will be happy whether I write or whether I read, why not read? There is still so much to be read, and I'm still happy.

Perhaps I feel that the purpose of life can't be "to be happy." That's too simple. At a quarter of a century old, I am happy, and that happiness is not a struggle.

And somehow, I long for that tapeworm or another or anything or anyone to answer the question: "What next?"

* * * * *

They go on. They leave Omelas, they walk ahead into the darkness, and they do not come back. The place they go towards is a place even less imaginable to most of us than the city of happiness. I cannot describe it at all. It is possible that it does not exist. But they seem to know where they are going, the ones who walk away from Omelas.
— Ursula K. LeGuin, "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas"

tablesaw: -- (Default)
A while back, a friend of mine abandoned her LJ blog for a MovableType blog on her own site. As she relocated, she said that she was "not particularly enamored of the social dynamic potentially (!) created by LiveJournal." I only abstractly agreed with her, then. I fully agree with her now.

There are 470335 active users on LiveJournal. I don't read 470260 of them. It's nice to have perspective.
tablesaw: -- (Default)
This is my my open journal in which I post thoughts and recount events in my life.

If you're here right now, it's probably because you've seen the note in the most recent Enigma about my gradual detailed recounting of the MIT Mystery Hunt. Parts One and Two (comprising slightly less than one day of Hunting time) can be found in the following two entries:
Part One
Part Two

More will be coming eventually, once I get some more time to write them down. While we're at it, I'll mention that I've similarly written up some of the Los Angeles NPL minicons:
March 30, 2002
September 21, 2002: Parts One & Two
November 16, 2002

In general, these and other puzzle-related posts can be found in on my Puzzle Memories page, and previous entries that relate to my life and journal in various ways can be found on the Memories page.

Moreover, Krewe with journals on this site have started another commuity blog at [livejournal.com profile] npl.

I hope this helps, and I hope you enjoy my journal.

[A note to regular readers, I'm going to leave this at the top of my journal for a while, but new entries should still appear beneath this one for the next week or so.]
tablesaw: -- (Default)
I'm off now for opening night.

Hope all goes well.

See you soon.

Profile

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