tablesaw: Two yellow roses against a bright blue sky. (Family Roses)
I went out on two abbreviated hikes (more like walks), one with [personal profile] trinker and family in north Valley, and one alone in west Valley. I'm finally nearing my 200th geocache find, eight years after starting.

I went to my dentist about what I assumed was a small cavity. We were both shocked to discover that it was, instead, a massive cavity that had grown faster than normal humans can manage, and that I now need a root canal. And also, after the root canal, I'll probably need another wisdom tooth pulled. And also my dental coverage had disappeared (though that got cleared up the next day).

I got into more of a routine with stretching and using the exercise bike. Current games for playing on the exercise bike: Castle Crashers, because it is simple and repetitive, and Super Meat Boy, because it causes you to feed the frustration back into your legs.

I made it to Laz's boardgaming night for the first time in 2011, and played Power Grid, which was balanced and fun.

I went to [ profile] cramerica house-reheating party, and spent some time catching up with folks like Artistry and Bartok whom I haven't seen in a while.

I had a two-day workweek.

Oh, and also, I bought a new car a new car, and returned the Jeep to my parents.
tablesaw: Jennifer Connolly and David Bowie from <cite>Labyrinth</cite> (Labyrinth)
Main Program:
  • Fair or Foul: Completed with Snackcakes (of DASH)
  • Three on a Match: 23/30
  • Vowelled Sets: 16/18
  • Flat-Solving Competition: 1st place in pairs solving (with [ profile] cramerica)
  • Lots of Luck: 72/78, 2d in Pop Culture, possibly 2d overall (with Reign, Btnirn, [ profile] jangler_npl, and Trick).
  • Cryptic Crossword Competition (Final Score): 100 pts in 62 minutes. 2d in California division (behind [ profile] rpipuzzleguy) and 6th or 7th overall.

  • Experience Music Project & Science Fiction Museum with Wraavr and Ucaoimhu

  • Scandal by [ profile] thedan: Took me far too long to understand what was going on.
  • Northwest Airlines by [ profile] jangler_npl: Very nice finale.
  • 56-Across by Dandr: Solved on light rail.
  • Wonderland & Pacific Northwest by Ucaoimhu: Solved on plane.
  • Transsubstitutions by [ profile] tahnan: Completed except for subtitution cipher (because the cipher is long)

  • Something from Two Beers, I think.
  • Mac & Jack (imperial size!)

Stolen from Bar:
  • One beer glass

Sneaked Back into Bar:
  • One beer glass, plus tip

Con Photo:
The attendees of the National Puzzlers' League Convention in Seattle. The first two rows are very large and clear while the other hundred or so attendees look like tiny floating heads.
  • Five minutes late, way the hell in the back. Not really happy with the uneven composition of the picture.

Confiscated by TSA
  • 3 containers of yogurt

Listened to on iPod
  • 3 episodes of Wait! Wait! Don't Tell Me!
  • The Archandroid by Janelle Monáe on continuous loop about 15 times
tablesaw: A young Shawn Spencer learns proper saw technique from his dad. (Cartoon)
One of the most popular after-hours games at con this year was "Exquisite Fruit," a game received by [ profile] tmcay in a dream, as befits any pastime of the surrealist vein. One person writes down an answer to be guessed, then seven people collaborate to form a clue for that answer in the style of Exquisite Corpse. The first person writes three words, then folds the paper so that the next person can see only the last word and the answer. The second player writes down two words and folds, and so on until the last person adds a single word and asks the question to the person next to them.

There'd been a massive game of Pyramid on Saturday night, and I hadn't thought to collect the categories for posterity. So I decided to grab the clues from a Sunday-night game of Exquisite Fruit when the opportunity arose. Players included Artistry, [ profile] rubrick, [ profile] toonhead_npl, [ profile] jeffurrynpl, Eddy, /Jabberwock, Wraavr, [ profile] hahathor, [ profile] cramerica, [ profile] tmcay and probably someone I'm forgetting. Some higlights:
  • What Kubrick film starring Malcolm McDowell singing in the Nadsat slang like "horrorshow" movie?
  • What Depression housing Green Acres pig Dahling presidential administration caused homeless in Annie Warbucks?
  • What tacky tartan man skirt has many male skirt Scottish Batman was from Scotland?
  • What porcine cocktail do goys drink tref and shaken not stirred not fried shaken?
  • What jagged building stepped pyramid in middle of Q-Bert’s block pyrmaid but low-resolution Jews?
  • What horror face-off between extraterrestrial against queen creature ultimate face-off between two creatures?
  • What underwater weapon energy based illogical Captain Skywalker used in Klingon killing weapon explodes?
  • What borough in Welcome Back in New York borough Welcome Back from Manhattan neighbor?
  • What snackalicious treat like tollhouse recipe is sweet black sweet drops with brown morsels?
  • Jerry Lewis’s partner nutty Jerry Lewis often sings "That's Amore" alcoholic not "G-schploing!" smarmy?
More clues with answers here

Always carry an exquisitefruit.

This Week

Jan. 30th, 2010 04:26 pm
tablesaw: A trial sign ("This trail is OPEN") against a blue sky in Los Angeles's Griffith Park. (Hiking (Open Trails))
Some stuff from the past week.
  • Hitched a ride out to Mission Viejo (inorite?) to go to Farrell's for [ profile] wjukknibs's birthday party. W's on a quest to have birthday parties at locations when Angelenos our age would have had birthdays as children. We've done Chuck E Cheese's, and he's contemplating a McDonald's party.
  • My role-playing group has been having a lot fun playtesting a new game. Of the games we've played, this is probably the one most up my alley, and I've been smiling because of it for the past two weeks.
  • Went out to eat at Little Dom's. I enjoyed it, but Ojou was a bit taken back by the too-much-porkness of the menu. My entree, linguine with New Orleans–style BBQ shrimp, sounded unlikely, but was very tasty.
  • Short hiking through Griffith Park. I wanted to take the Ferndell-Observatory trail, but I was stopped midway by a lonely coyote. My policy is to just leave coyotes alone when I'm hiking by myself. I repositioned, and walked up from the Greek Theatre to the Observatory and back down again. It's always fun hiking after winter rains. I'm walking along the side of the mountain, and instead of gold, everything's black and green. It was like I was in not!SoCal.
  • I've been playing Sam & Max: Season One. Adventure games in 3-D still feel a little clunky to me, but the dialogue is spot-on and a lot of fun. Unfortunately, the used copy I bought is skipping a little bit. I'm goign to see if I still have time to find the recent and try for a different disc.
  • [ profile] jedusor was in town for grad school interviews, and on Friday, I met up with her and [ profile] cramerica and Artistry and Mr. Pizza on Fairfax. I got a really (really) big calzone, and two bottles of Dr. Brown's Black Cherry. 'Twas yummy.
tablesaw: Two women put the star on a Christmas tree. (Apocalyptic Christmas)
We're already in a countdown to Christmas. Various things like [ profile] ojouchan's new job and some annoyingness with banks have meant we got a really late start. And it was only yesterday that I fully realized that I wasn't going to have any more free days before Christmas Eve. (Thursday and Friday are my days off, so my last pre-Christmas weekend just finished.)

But yesterday, Ojou and I cleared up some of the bank stuff, then we went with [ profile] twilightsyren to Downtown Burbank. I got a lot of stuff done; I've pared down my budget this year, and I'm doing pretty good with it. I think I can get everything else done pretty quickly; my biggest regret is that I'm not likely to get to my regular used bookstore unless they've got expanded hours, or I make a rush to get there on the 23rd.

Still, since I've been thinking more about it, I thought I'd expand the Holiday/Birthday lists:
  • Puzzle Books.I mentioned Mutant Sudoku last time, but there's a lot of other good stuff out there.
    • Nikoli Books. A few years ago, [ profile] cramerica got me Penpa Mixes 1-3, which were loads of fun. They were especially useful once I dropped my membership. I still really love the puzzles, but having them in book form means I can forget about them easily. I'd love to see Penpa, Fillomino, Slitherlink, Masyu, Nurikabe, and Heyawake. (Obviously, they won't get here in time for Christmas, but whatever.
    • Nikoli by Sterling. Sterling Publishing puts out some real quality stuff, and recently they've been publishing Nikoli puzzles in books mixed with Sudoku. I've already got Slitherlink (which I've finished), Masyu, and Nurikabe, but I'd still like to get my hands on the other varieties listed above.

    • Crosswords. Also from Sterling, Frank Longo's Vowelless Crosswords looks good, as do Patrick Berry's Crossword masterpieces.
  • Tea. Specifically looseleaf tea, not bagged/packaged. Our tea reserves are dreadfully low, and we haven't had time to restock. I like most kinds, black, green, white, oolong, herbal infusions, etc. I'd avoid Teavana and Lupicia because they're overpriced. We usually shop at or online, and when we want something in person, we go to Wing Hop Fung in Chinatown, which stocks (It looks like they have a store in Pasadena too.)
  • One-Time Maid Service. Ojou and I are way behind on cleaning, and a burst of professional help would go a long way, especially now that we rarely have a full day off together.
  • New Year's Eve Plans. I'm working most of the Christmas weekend, and as a result, I've got a nice five-day weekend from December 29 to January 2. Ojou's got a sexy, sexy Foxy Brown outfit to wear . . . and a lot of our friends are going to be out of town. We need something to do, something big. Scrabble with Ellen isn't going to cut it this year.
And that's the end of my proactive gift list.
tablesaw: A trial sign ("This trail is OPEN") against a blue sky in Los Angeles's Griffith Park. (Hiking (Open Trails))
I'm running a game for [ profile] ojouchan, [ profile] cramerica, [personal profile] amythyst, and maybe [ profile] thefreak (who's will probably be working) and [ profile] pbchris (who hasn't let us know whether he's coming glare). Ojou asked for Call of Cthulhu, which I've run before, but I decided to switch to Trail of Cthulhu, which looked awesome and is nicely streamlined. I'm finishing up writing my notes now, which is good, because I still keep moving things around as I do it. But two things have been bouncing through my mind.

(There are no spoilers for the game in this post.)

One, it's awesome that the places that I walk to when I want to clear my head are exactly the setting of the game I'm writing. I live just a few blocks away from the old Krotona Colony. Krotona was a colony for Theosophy, an esoteric religion that still exists today. (So does the colony; it moved to Ojai in 1926.)

A regular feature in my walks is this stairway, which served as the southern entrance to the colony. I knew that several of the buildings up there were from the colony, but I didn't realize how many. A review of the architecture of the area (available as a PDF) has this to say:
Nearly all of Krotona's major and many of its minor buildings still stand occupied, though all have been to some extent remodeled and most changed dramatically in function. Together they comprise what may well be the largest coherent group of architecturally significant, Theosophical structures in the western hemisphere.
And sure enough, looking through the pictures, I kept recognizing the less flamboyant buildings as ones I walked past.

Tomorrow's adventure begins at this house, though not with its then owners, the parents of Mary Astor.

Second, I've always wondered the extent to which Cthulhu roleplaying games are fundamentally racist. Not in the sense of mechanically dealing with 1920s American race relations in roleplay. More in the sense of whether Lovecraft's stories structurally racist, whether they contain or foster or support ideas of the primacy of whiteness. There's no doubt that Lovecraft was a serious racist, even for the 1920s. (If you doubt it, read this; you can get the gist by looking at the title in the URL.) But the last time I ran the game, Ojou drew up a character that was essentially her grandmother, and it threatened to break the game. Not because of min-maxing or anything, just in having a view of the world that was not the WASP academic worldview that Lovecraft relies upon. That worldview is necessary for the horror to work, and as a result it supports it in the reader. Add a character that doesn't fit into that worldview (like a rich black woman withconnections to other African-American practitioners of Vodoun), and the story completely changes.

The role-playing games are very good at breaking down the stories of Lovecraft (and other Mythos writers), and examining them can give a sense of what's there structurally. There's definitely a sense of extended Terra Nullius. The Mythos contains a whole host of gods, creatures, and alien races that populated earth long before "humanity." And yet, non-White humans (like the native Tongva of Southern California, or ancient or even contemporary Africans) seem to have regular contact with this mentally toxic existence.

Trail of Cthulhu takes Call of Cthulhu's legendary "Sanity" stat and breaks it into Sanity and Stability. Stability is what many people consider to be "sanity"; it's the ability to hold yourself together when terrible things happen, whether they're natural or supernatural. Sanity is specifically tied to knowledge of the "Cthulhu Mythos." From the ToC manual:
Sanity is the ability to believe in, fear for, or care about any aspect of the world or humanity as we know it: religion, science, family, natural beauty, human dignity, even "normal" immorality. The horrible truth of the Mythos is that Sanity measures your ability to believe a comforting lie . . . . It is perhaps best understood as a long-term measure of how close you are to fully realizing the bleak and awful reality of the cosmos.
Given all this (and some other things), I start to see Lovecraft's take on horror as one in which Whiteness and its privileges is equivalent with "humanity." Horror comes from the threat to Whiteness, the comfortable (and comforting) lie that is threatened by incursion from or exposure to the Other, who are alien and unhuman. It's an attitude and analogy that does permeate the structure of Lovecraftian horror, and I'm trying to find ways to neutralize it.
tablesaw: My apperance on Merv Griffin's Crosswords (Let's Do Crosswords!)
I'm writing now on WiFi on a Virgin America flight from San Francisco to Los Angeles.

"But [personal profile] tablesaw," you protest, "however did you get to San Francisco in the first place?"


Last week I got a cryptic e-mail asking what I was going to be doing today. The answer was "working," but I asked if I should change this answer.

The e-mail had come from a friend who works at Google and who was looking to pack a flight from Los Angeles to San Francisco with puzzler/gamers to help promote A Day in the Cloud. The game was meant to be played anywhere on the internet (you can still play right now, if you've got a free hour), but to promote Virgin America's connectedness, they were also having special contests where different Virgin flights would compete against each other for a prize in addition to a chance at the grand prize. Also, this particular flight would have some press coverage.

After some back-and-forth, [ profile] ojouchan and I got the day off of work and were confirmed for the free flight.

So we got up early and drove to LAX, where there was a nice little breakfast spread before boarding. The plane looked fantastic, and everything went really well.

Right up until everyone started competing.

Apparently, there's a big difference in demand between WiFi that you pay for ($9.95 for one flight, apparently) and WiFi that you don't pay for, especially when there are prizes on the line. The moment everyone opened up their laptops, the sign-on screen that stood between us and the Internet became slower than frozen molasses.

Ojou and I had special problems in addition. Ojou's computer had some weird application (possibly from its previous life as an employer-provided laptop at my firm) that prevented her from signing on. I was making progress (slowly) when my laptop (actually [ profile] cramerica's laptop; it's complicated) died when the battery ran out. Of course, the battery was not supposed to run out, as I'd plugged the laptop directly into one of Virgin America's much-vaunted regular power outlets. Mine was dead, though. An attendant ran the cord back to a different row that had a free outlet, and I restarted the computer, but at the end of the queue again.

Eventually, Ojou and I got on at about the same time, some of the last people on the flight. It was painful listening to people shout out requests for answers and hints when we couldn't even see the game. (Later, we solved those puzzles pretty quickly, so we could've been some help.)

After we'd been playing for about ten minutes, the Google employees started coming through the cabin letting us know that we were going to have to turn off our WiFi early. Why? Because one of the reporters was going to be doing a live broadcast, and they needed the bandwidth. We ultimately got to see less than half of the contest.

We were sad. Not only did we not get to solve the puzzles (which ranged from cheesy "let's learn about Google" questions to impressive little gems), but we didn't get to contribute very much. We're not sure exactly how the scoring worked, but we were pretty sure our meager 13,000 feet combined wouldn't make much of a difference.

But for all the problems, we did have an ace in the hole, or rather, an ace in first class. The real ringer for the northbound flight was [ profile] onigame, and while most of us were asked to disconnect for the news broadcast, he was allowed to keep going.

The Google person sitting next to us had access to the two planes' scores and let us know that it was close, possible a thousand feet difference. And all our hopes rested on Onigame. The press crowded around the front of the plane, and we started chanting his name from the back.

Finally, we had the results. LAX to SFO beat the opposite flight. Everyone who participated would be receiving the prize of an HP Netbook. As the two people on the flight with probably the oldest laptops (and mine wasn't even mine!), we were very pleased.

(Not so pleased was the woman who had booked a flight not realizing that she wasn't on an airplane so much as a press event. When she found out that we'd been circling so that we could finish the press broadcast and that she might miss the connecting flight to take her to the hospital bedside of a family member, she was a bit upset.)

We got off the plane and grabbed a bite to eat in the airport, then hopped on the flight back south (the one that we're on now). I suppose we could've paid for a later flight and spent some time in San Francisco, but hey, we're cheap. Besides, we already had a plan.

It may be a cliche, but after winning, we're going to Disneyland.
tablesaw: -- (Default)
[ profile] cramerica celebrates his birthday today.

Sometimes, birthday gifts are free:
Screenshot of Adventure 2600 Reboot

Adventure 2600 Reboot is a remake of the classic videogame Adventure—one of Cramerica's favorites—with updated graphics (viz. dragons not ducks).
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 ""], 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 [ profile] tahnan and [ profile] thedan. Sadly, the Ice Cream Crawl had far fewer stops, since the participants got brainfreeze or something. The cool kids ([ profile] wesleyjenn, QED, Sprout, Sue++, Sir+, [ profile] joecab, [ profile] cazique, [ profile] heaneyland, Otherwise, D. Ness, ln sin t, Niff, Ucaoimhu, Artistry, [ 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 ""] of the crawl, since [ 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 ""]. 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 ""], we settled in for the inevitable Pub Trivia [link removed 8/13/11; originally ""] 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 ""] 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 [ profile] wesleyjenn and [ 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 [ profile] foggyb, QED, Ucaoimhu, Hathor, Artistry, and [ 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;"] or decoding Cuneiform [link changed 8/13/11; originally ""].

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 [ 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 [ profile] joecab. I may even have mentioned a picture.

See, I was "cosolving" [ profile] thedan's cryptic with [ 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. [ 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 [ profile] foggyb and I had started puzzling through the final steps, [ 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 )
tablesaw: -- (Default)
Having just listened to "When Doves Cry" from the upcoming release A Symphonic Tribute to Purple Rain, I feel confident in declaring that Vitamin Records is insane.

No, surprisingly, I don't want to know what The String Quartet Tribute to Clay Aiken sounds like.

The LA Times has an article entitled "Pencil Necked Chic" about the rise of geek chic. What I found most amusing was the little sidebar about the old Geek Code.

I appear to have stumbled into a regular, though unpaying, crossword writing gig for the web magazine Today's Cacher. Last month, they published a vocabulary criss-cross trying to masquerade as a crossword. I countered by dashing off a more formal one of my own. The editors responded by asking if I'd like to create more as a monthly feature. So there I am.

I'm feeling like I'm neglecting friends right now. I treat a lot of my life like spinning plates. Once I get a plate spinning, I just assume it's going to keep spinning, checking in only occasionally to make sure it doesn't fall, crack, and embarrass me in front of Ed Sullivan. It means that I'm usually hopping around instead of trying to build friendships. I probably need some way to work on that.

My flight to Boston is spproaching quickly, and I'm already trying to frantically remember what I have yet to forget. But it looks like I've got most everything squared away, once I do my run to Target for travel nicities and necessities. Sadly, I don't think I'm going to have time to pick up a memory card for my digital camera, so I'll just have to set the quality to low and deal with the space I have. And I'll bring my USB hookup, in case I get a chance to dump them on a BosKrewe computer.

Contrary to previous indication, there will be no trip to Fenway Park for me. Apparently, to get six seats together will require paying a scalper a 200%. Now, I wouldn't mind the markup quite as much if the seats were great, but I won't put up with it for bleacher seats in the outfield.

It's been a while since I encountered Tivo Missionaries, but I met two while at [ profile] cramerica's house last week. During the conversation, I made the observation, "It seems like you guys love your Tivo more than you love TV." And they consented that it was probably true. I am extremely mistrustful of this type of attitude, where the technology is prized over the technology's product. I shy away from people who care more about their stereos than their music, or more about their DVD systems than their movies. Most egregiously, people who care more about their car than where they will be going. (This doesn't apply to mechanically minded, for whom engineering is more important than either the car or the mobility.)

I think this reasoning can be applied to a lot more than just technology. It may be part of the reasoning behind hating the "fair-weather fans" of winning sports teams. It's not that the team has more fans, it's that most of those fans are more interested in winning or in the image of the team than in the game itself.

Speaking of games, I borrowed Ape Escape and Ape Escape 2 from [ profile] cramerica last week. I was turned off by the first game's often messy controls, but the sequel tightened them up, letting the charm show through.

SatNYTX: 13. With two lucky guesses.
tablesaw: -- (Default)
I went geocaching again today, and I was three for five. I'll write more later, hopefully when I do my big "What I'm Learning from Geocaching" post. Anyway, the big story today is that, although I planned on relatively easy outings, I ended up making an unexpected 2.5-mile walk. But the rewards were great. See, I locked my keys in my car, so I had to walk home and then back to my car to unlock it.

Party at [ profile] cramerica's tonight. Must sleep.
tablesaw: -- (Default)
This has been a busy weekend. And I need to write about it quickly so that [ profile] ladytabitha doesn't drop me.

Saturday was the puzzle party, and it was decidedly lackluster. I solemnly swear not to care about bringing things that are new and innovative. If necessary, I'll bring in something that's been done before and that takes me ten minutes to prepare. We could have used some of that.

One nice thing was that, since there were fewer puzzles, there seemed to be a bit more plain old socialization. Not everyone may have seen this as a plus, but I did. A lot of the discussion was with Eric Chaikin [link changed 6/22/11; original link to ""], an irregular puzzle party attendee, whose movie Word Wars [link changed 6/22/11; original link to ""] is hitting theaters now. It's a documentary following the lives of the nation's top tournament Scrabble players, and looks to be a combination of Crumb and Spellbound. Wrap your mind around that. It's playing in Silver Spring, MD, and it will be opening in New York shortly. Apparently, the success of the movie in New York on its opening weekend will dictate, how much it gets seen across the country, including in LA. And since I want to see it, I'm making you see it. Specifics on the NY opening when I get them.

But yesterday was much more eventful. Artistry and I planned to spend a day exploring a few local sites in preparation for the NPL Convention of 2005, which will be held right here in Los Angeles. Artistry has really wanted to do a big hunt on Hollywood Boulevard, and I was going to go along to listen to his ideas and offer new ones. [ profile] cramerica was also interested, so we thought we'd meet up with him at another site we'd heard about, The Museum of Jurassic Technology.

This is a place I will recommend to everyone reading this journal, certainly. If you're in LA now, you should visit. If you're not, you should make it a point to hit when you're in town. Inspired less by the Smithsonian and more by the museums of earlier centuries, such as P.T. Barnum's American Museum. Most of the exhibits are of dubious import, consequence, or existence, and it takes quite a while to get used to things.

The first gallery is a grab back of information, including detailed information on Noah's Ark [link removed 6/22/11; original link to ""] (which was, of course, "the most complete Museum of Natural History the world has ever seen"). One of the more famous items of the collection is the Human Horn, mounted on the wall.

Some collections are more straightforward, though still not precisely effable. "No One May Ever Have the Same Knowledge Again" is a collection of unsolicited letters received by the Mt. Wilson Observatory in the period between the two world wars, explaining, in definitive terms, such mysterious as the composition of the moon, the location of God, and why that woman won't leave me alone. The Napoleon Library houses an collection of Napoleona so eccentric it might actually be Napoleona-ana. The art exhibits currently installed require the use of microscopes and magnifying glasses to make visible the works of art displayed on glass slides and within the eyes of needles. The back rooms of the museum are dedicated to an even more diverse subject matter. There are several celluloid dice from the collection of Ricky Jay, dioramas depicting antique stagecraft, and a gallery of three-dimensional X-ray images of flowers. The second floor features a Tea Room and a small theater showing short films.

And then there are several exhibits dedicated to curious persons or ideas, presented, in large part, without a clear concept of why these particular persons were chosen. The Delani and Sonnabend Halls are dedicated to the lives of Madelena Delani and Geoffrey Sonnabend, two very interesting individuals who have little in common except their proximity within the museum. The lights in the Delani room periodically darken, although none present could determine why. Another section is devoted to embodiments of the scholarly and theological writings of the 17th century Jesuit Athanasius Kircher. And one of the most stunning exhibits, "Tell the Bees: Belief, Knowledge and Hypersymbolic Cognition" provides examples and demonstrations of various vulgar medicines.

It was a fascinating place, and I do hope to prepare a puzzle handout to entice Krewe to visit it, although it will, undoubtedly, be much easier to solve than the museum itself.

[ profile] cramerica, feeling ill, decided to not to continue on with us to Hollywood. I can only hope that he made it home safely and got much rest because today is his birthday, according to LJ. Hooray for him! On our way back to Hollywood, Artistry convinced me to stop at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to visit an exhibit they're currently showing: "The Secret Life of Sets: Set Decorators at Work" [link removed 6/22/11; original link to ""]. The first floor features photographs of movie sets, sometimes accompanied by the decorators' notes, but the real show is on the fourth floor. Several, often major, pieces of actual set dressing, along with more detailed notse from the decorators, have been installed. It's a chance to get up close and personal with bits of the classrooms of Madame Trelawney and Remus Lupin, to see what Van Helsing's vision Dr. Victor Frankenstein's writing desk looked like, or lounge in the stylish apartments of Catcher Block and Barbara Novak from Down with Love. It's definitely worth a visit if you're in the area, but do yourself a favor and skip the first floor.

Then, Rwth called and invited us to see Coffee and Cigarettes. We tried to visit Hollywood before the showtime, but problems finding parking caused us to head for the theater first and try to grab some dinner. We met up at the Gaucho Grill and had a whole lot of meat, which we split. Then we walked across the street to catch the film. It's a bit uneven, as would be expected from what is actually a series of several short films, but there are an inordinate number of brilliant moments, and it's definitely worth catching, especially if you're a fan of any of its actors.

And after that, finally, we made it to Hollywood. I'd already seen it, of course, but this time I was looking at it with puzzle-design eyes. I wan't say much about it here, but this trip may have made it possible to turn a few puzzles meant for a touristy morning into a full-fledged event with a wow finish.

And now, the real adventure begins. The adventure of sleep organization!
tablesaw: A tablesaw in action. The blade disappears when it comes in contact with a hot dog. (Virtually Unscathed!)
As you may know if you listened to the AudBlog, I was still frantically cleaning as the beginning of the party came around. Bartok was the first to arrive, punctual as ever at 2:30. He was pleasant and accommodating as I continued to run around the house, cleaning things. We chatted, etc. Things were pretty much in order by three, when DeB showed up, and I started set out the chips and dips and jelly beans.

(I'd like to mention that Ken's Peppercorn Ranch) is a very fine dressing for crudites. However, I was disappointed that the baby broccoli that I procured from Trader Joe's didn't get eaten as much as the celery or carrots.)

Eventually, everyone arrived, [ profile] cramerica, [ profile] wjukknibs, K., Mel, two of my cousins, and my parents, in addition to DeB and Bartok. Artistry called and said he'd be late, so I held the opening till about 3:45, when I started to explain the investigation/game to the assembled agents.

I don't think I'll have time to go through all of it, so I'm just going to link to copies of the files, for now. You, like my guests, can read over them and ponder their meaning while I drive home from work to continue writing. I will tell you that your experience of these documents will be greatly enhanced by installing the X-Files and Catharsis Cargo fonts.

The first document was a brief introduction from Special Agent Fox-in-the-Henhouse Mulder. Attached were two procedural documents. One explained the course of the investigation to come, and was titled HOW TO STOP THEM. The other document was the beginning of the final puzzle, the Alien Genome Dance. The other steps of this complicated mating ritual would be revealed later.

Because it wasn't clear whether everyone there was going to be working very actively, I devised a system of Field Agents and Supervising Agents, which, I hoped, would allow people to feel free to participate only as much as they wanted. There was an extra document for each. The Field Agents received general instructions on how to attack the puzzles. Supervising Agents got tips on how to stay involved without feeling obliged to run around too much.

I handed these out early because I'm the type of person who likes to read through the program before the show starts. So were most of my guests, so there was much reading of the documents before things even got started. Then, the briefing began . . .
tablesaw: "Tablesaw Basics" (Manual)
I'm just a bit off on my sleep, a result of the fabulous time had with [ profile] cramerica, Artistry, Bartok and [ profile] wild_magnolia on Sunday's Super Bowl party. Need to get some real sleep soon, since I'm twitching to stay awake. Played a little Text Twist, but decided to stop when the score rounded off.

More soon, dammit.

WedNYTX: 7:30.
tablesaw: Futurama's Robot Devil, El Diablo Robotico (El Diablo Robotico)
This is definitely the best I've felt after a thirty-hour day. No, I'm not being ironic. I actually feel fantastic. No caffeine either. Just a great week powering me into and through a fun day.

How great? I was singing showtunes while driving home from [ profile] cramerica's house, inspired by a game of Music Man's guess-that-lyric game. My team didn't get the points, but I got a joyful earworm, which I share with you.

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tablesaw: Sketch of an antique tablesaw (Antigua)
The following article appears in the current issue of The Enigma, the publication of the National Puzzlers' League. It's an account of my experience at this summer's NPL Convention in Indianapolis. I've added some links to the article to help nonmembers follow along and to give members something more to look at.

In With the IN Crowd )

WedNYTX: 5:15. I think the AcrossLite font made one clue incorrect.

Back up.

Sep. 29th, 2003 11:38 am
tablesaw: Sketch of an antique tablesaw (Antigua)
Two weeks ago, there was an [ profile] npl puzzle party at the house of Music Man, over in Woodland Hills. To cut down on driving, Artistry crashed in my bed, which was less trouble than one might think, since I was at work at the time. When he got up, we went out for our now traditional meal at Jerry's Deli. (I'm not sure how we'll manage that at the next party, since the location is between the two of us. Perhaps we'll all meet at Cramerica's place beforehand and go to the one in Marina Del Rey. Or Nichol's.)

They day was pretty standard. Bartok made magic. ) Music Man asked the musical question: Where? ) I got a job. ) Elfman played hide and 11-Seek ) Bluff made us cross-eyed. ) Panache banked on it. ) And Artistry made all of his answers porn stars. )

After all that, Art and Cram came over to my place, where we played Trivial Pursuit. Then [ profile] wjukknibs stopped by (he's been spending a disturbing amount of time at my landlords' house), and we played mini-Cluesome and Chain Reaction (the latter doesn't have rules online, and I don't feel like typing them up). Eventually, I managed to kick everyone out because I was really tired. So tired, indeed, that it took me until now to tell thee of it.

The End.


Sep. 17th, 2003 05:45 am
tablesaw: -- (Default)
The winner of this weekend's contest is [ profile] moominmolly who, with her venture of thirty-two hours guessed closest to the actual being-awake time of thirty-one hours. ([ profile] wjukknibs was disqualified because he was there when I kicked people out of my house and therefore knew that I had gotten up around 8 p.m. the day before. I had thought to disqualify him and [ profile] cramerica explicitly, but my fingers decided they didn't want to move anymore.) She will receive . . . um . . . something. At some time. Yeah.

I'll probably think about that while I think about my father's birthday gift, which will have to be presented to him this Sunday. Also, my grandmother's birthday is sometime around here, but I've forgotten when; I'd better check with my mom about that. I won't be shopping for it this morning, though, because I'm still sleep-slammed from this weekend. It'll be straight to the sack for me, I think.

I have some emails to write, too. I'm not sure if I'll do that before or after the refreshing sleep which I anticipate.

WedNYTX: 6.
tablesaw: -- (Default)
I'm finally home from Indiana. There's a lot to write about. A lot of it will be put into an article for [ profile] saxikath and The Enigma, but I'll find some stuff to put on here, as well. Short version: On Wednesday, I flew into Indianapolis. There was a party. On the way home, there was a lightning-and-thunderstorm. That night, played [ profile] thedan's Jeopardy, Telephone Pictionary, and freeform Catch Phrase [dead link changed, 10/26/10]. Next day, slept in, played Puerto Rico [dead link changed, 10/26/10], went to the first night of program, applauded the Sagamore of the Wabash, almost got knocked out by chlorine, played living Scrabble, finished Puerto Rico, did some more games. Friday, had a fantastic tour of The Brickyard, had cocktails in a rotating skybar, ate, listened to an excited Merriam-Webster publisher, guessed (badly) at new dictionary definitions, helped find the hidden contest, listened to some Will Shortz puzzles, answered some (definitely not all) trivia, solved (most of) a vaganza, solved a brilliant Bartok cryptic crossword with [ profile] cramerica, played more games of various sorts, went to bed around 7:30 a.m. On Saturday, had lunch, solved a fun Slik cryptic crossword with [ profile] bookishfellow, did some paper puzzles, put solutions to various flats missing a particular symbol with Cram, took a group photo, bought chocolate, ate, solved a hurried Harth cryptic crossword with T McAy, worked through an extra-extravagant extravaganza with [ profile] tahnan, En, DandR, and Artistry, played lots more games, didn't sleep. Next day, still didn't sleep, ate breakfast, snagged a British dictionary as a prize, said goodbyes to those leaving, slept, woke up for dinner at a famous steakhouse, did some group cryptic crossword solving, slept. Today, woke up, checked out, ate, went to airport, realized I'd lost my driver's license and photo ID, was subsequently subjected to an extremely thorough security check, flew anyway, met reality game show contestants, arrived home, called parents, connected to ISP, logged on to NPL chat.

Tomorrow, mundanity begins anew. Woo.
tablesaw: -- (Default)
LiveJournal seems to be doing better today. Hooray.

Unfortunately, work has returned with a vengeance. There is no hope of finishing everything before the third shift ends, so I hope that the day shift is ready for a workout.

I met with Rwth on my way to work and we talked about schedules and preparing for The Dining Room. Neither of us really has any idea what's going on. I only today learned where the theater was when I talked with my mother, who had a copy of the flyer. I don't have a flyer. (P.S. It's The Complex.)

I'm feeling tired, so I'm going to hit the sack once I get home. My plan is that this early bedtime will either (a) wake me up in time to catch some partying at Cramerica's or (b) catch me up on needed sleep. I will be pleased with either outcome.

FriNYTX: 14.


tablesaw: -- (Default)
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