tablesaw: Ration Hornblower, from the cast of Smile Time, peeks his horn nose out at you. (Ratio Hornblower)
So this week didn't work out so well.

After an initial flurry of activity filing for unemployment insurance and sending a few e-mails to staffing agencies, I fell into a funk of avoidance, leading to a mini freak out on Thursday. I talked with friends and family who reminded me that it's ok to be freaked out about being unemployed for the first time in over a decade, and that a few days of not doing anything productive is fine.

I'm going to try to set myself onto a daily working schedule come Monday. While it's nice to sleep in until 11 or noon, I'm not actually productive when I stay up late. Once it nears sunset, I start feeling like my work day is over, and I stop doing other things. I think that forcing myself to at least be awake by nine every morning will add a few hours to my "working" day, at the very least. More measures will probably be forthcoming.

I did manage to do a lot of nonproductive things, though. I entered a local crossword puzzle tournament and participated in a sudoku contest at Logic Masters India. boardgaming night (played Roll Through the Ages), role-playing-game night (beta-testing a game by Josh Robern), a party to read and mock Fifty Shades of Grey as a group, and an NPL party. And in addition to that, I saw a bunch of friends at different times. I joined the site Quora despite its "real names" policy, by hacking together a form of pseudonymity out of its nascent system. And I sauteed chicked without freaking out.

Starting Monday, I'm going to add DW to my list of daily things to do. For reals.
tablesaw: A man comes home frome work, his hat reads "Crossword Makers Inc" (Crossword Makers Inc)
I just finished this month's puzzle test at Logic Masters India. This month's Puzzle Marathon was a different format. Instead of setting aside a few hours and trying to solve as many puzzles in the time limit, there were ten large puzzles that could be solved at any time over the course of nine days. Solving any puzzle under an hour net some bonus points, but any puzzle correctly completed is worth a base amount of points, no matter when it's finished.

I did okay. My best puzzle was the Loop the Loops, which is a combination of two of my best puzzle types. But I had some catastrophic failures on the Star Battle and the "Small Neighbors." Still, because of the way the way the puzzle was structured, I followed through and eventually got them entered correctly. In fact, because of thes coring system, I was able to take breaks to recompose myself. After trying to solve the Small Neighbors puzzle after work, I ended up getting on the Metro and finishing it on the ride home.

I knew that the worst for me would be the last two puzzles, a hard Samurai Sudoku and a hard Kakuro. The sudoku gave me a lot of trouble, but eventually I worked through it after a few hours (with a sleep break in between). At that point, I'd earned all the points I could from the test—the scoring discarded the worst score, and since I knew that I wouldn't be able to solve a large, hard sudoku in an hour that it was just going to be the base points, like several others. Still, there was a special notice appearing on the site for people who solved all ten, so I figured I'd push through, for completeness' sake.

That was one of the most grueling puzzling experiences in my life.

Kakuro is my least favorite puzzle type. I hate the number of combinations that have to be constantly checked and rechecked, especially at harder levels. And this puzzle inevitably magnified everything about Kakuro that I hate. And that's in addition to the portions I had to do over a few times because of fatigue errors. Total time for one Kakuro: 22 hours and 50 minutes of nothing but pain.

Okay, admittedly, a significant portion was food, sleep, talking on the phone, playing Batman: Arkham City and working. But still—PAIN.

I guess that's a point in favor of the normal contest type: I can ignore the Kakuro and know I'm not losing any points.
tablesaw: One machete is raised, a host more rise to meet it. (From the "Machete" trailer in "Grindhouse".) (Brown Power)
For me, a lot of this weekend was logic puzzles.

The United States Puzzle Championship was last weekend, and a lot of my friends participated. I usually don't, for a lot of reasons. The biggest, of course, is that I am generally working during the time of the test. The other reason is that some of my friends (like [livejournal.com profile] motris and [livejournal.com profile] thedan) are the top solvers, so I am very aware of how far away from that level of competition I am.

But [livejournal.com profile] motris makes these competitions seem so enticing. I headed over to Logic Masters India, which regularly runs logic-puzzle competitions, to print out some of their past sets. Then I decided to take part in this month's Sprint Test.

I came in at 114th out of 211 submitted solutions. Which is about par for me. I've also been playing more or less daily at Croco-Puzzle, a German site that offers two timed puzzles per day, tied into a robust rating system (described by [livejournal.com profile] motris in this post). Your rating system runs from 0 to 3000, with 1500 representing the median solving time. After building up my ranking slowly over the course of the year, I'm starting to level off. I struggled for about a month to get a ranking above 250th, and I worked all summer to get from a rating of 1300 to 1400. My goal is to inch myself over that median.

This is, thus far, the post I planned to write. The title of this post was going to be "That's Why They Call Me the Middle of the Pack," because that's pretty solidly where I am on these puzzle competitions. It's still a pretty good showing, considering that the folks who take the time to participate in these competitions self-select to the pretty hardcore anyway.

But then, this happened:

A screenshot of the Croco-Puzzle.com high scores list. Tablesaw is #1 for Arukone.

Yup, that's me at number 1! With [livejournal.com profile] motris down at 17th place as "mars," and USPC and Sprint Test winner MellowMelon at 12! And that's a thirteen-second lead on #2!

It's just for today. And there's still thirteen hours for people things to change. But still, for now, I'm the leader of the pack.
tablesaw: Futurama's Robot Devil, El Diablo Robotico (El Diablo Robotico)
When I got my new computer and started learning of the glories that is Steam, they were in the middle of some massive year-end sales. I bought a bunch of games, then, many on impulse. The impulsiest of impulses was Everyday Genius: SquareLogic

I know, I know. If you're one of the puzzle connoisseurs, you're shaking your head. It's calculodoku (presented in the New York Times as Kenken), which isn't the most thrilling puzzle form (unless it's being done with extreme care, as people like [livejournal.com profile] motris give it). I wouldn't have given it a second look, except that the sale had reduced it's price from $9.99 to $1.50. And since I was already having fun with Croco-Puzzle, all I had to ask myself was "Do I think I can get a buck fifty's worth of puzzle out of this churned-out schlock.

My answer was, actually, yes. Particularly when I saw, from the screenshots that some of the levels featured twin grids, where the numbers in one grid were the same as the numbers in the other. That's a form of the puzzle that can provide some interesting twists, but that can be hard to do on paper because of the extra bookkeeping involved. So it went onto the list with other, actually good games, like the LucasArts Adventure Pack.

And I played through it, whiling away the time with the mindless puzzles. There were certainly things to like, there's a little box that appears and shows possible combinations that you can choose from, which keeps you from having to redo the math. (On the other hand, it's not always precisely accurate, though it rarely precludes answers that could be valid, except during hidden cages.) Although there were an absurd number of computer generated puzzles, you could skip most of them, by only solving a representative puzzle of each type. And the error checking is a bit harsh (a stray click can kill your streak of error-free puzzles) but makes solving difficult puzzles more relaxing, since the game can automatically dial you back to the place you made your first mistake, if you want.

After unlocking everything, I thought I might try to get the achievement for solving all the puzzles in one "location" (meaning they're generally of the same type). I went to the easiest level (the first "region" is all 1-4 puzzles), and looked for the location with the fewest puzzles. That turned out to be the "hidden cages" location with 200 (yeah, computer generated all right). None were really thrilling, but a nice way to kill time mindlessly while IMing with folks, or watching Hulu or Netflix.

Until this.

Now, I didn't have a great puzzle-solving day today. My Croco-puzzle times were crap because I missed a lot of obvious things. So I could just be missing something terrible obvious here. But it looks, to me like I was able to find a valid solution to this puzzle that is being treated as an error by the game. I'd love to write an angry e-mail to the creators about shoddy product, but . . . I keep thinking I'm missing something. So below the cuts, I've provided screenshots of the puzzle, and my proposed solution.

Shallows 118, original state )

Shallows 118, my solution )

Please, puzzlers, either vindicate me or knock some sense into me. I can't stand the not knowing.
tablesaw: Futurama's Robot Devil, El Diablo Robotico (El Diablo Robotico)
What have I been doing on computers instead of updating my DW?
  • Croco-Puzzle.de. A website that provides two logic puzzles every day, with a complex and rewarding rating system. It is entirely in German, but [personal profile] chris has written up an English walkthrough. [livejournal.com profile] motris has also written about his experiences with the site. I'm currently ranked 349 out of 666, and you can see a graph of my recent progress.
  • Tumblr. I have a Tumblr account now, because it was getting to a point where creating RSS feeds for the ones I liked was getting cumbersome. I'm at ItsTheSawoftheTable.tumblr.com. It's got some stuff on it, I guess. Nothing too consistent. I might try to fill it up with some stuff.
  • Tagging Old Entries. Hey, remember that time I was assaulted by an actor of a show I was stage-managing? Yeah, that's why I have a violence tag now.
  • Picasa Faces. I've loaded all my old photos onto my new computer. This means that there shouldn't be anything at all important left on the old dying box. It also means that Picasa is taunting me by finding faces in my photos and asking me to identify them.
  • Geocaching. [personal profile] trinker got me out and about, and I've been making progress again. Going to try to not let a week go by without some form of outdoorsing:

    Profile for Tablesaw
tablesaw: Two women put the star on a Christmas tree. (Apocalyptic Christmas)
We're already in a countdown to Christmas. Various things like [livejournal.com 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 [livejournal.com 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, [livejournal.com profile] cramerica got me Penpa Mixes 1-3, which were loads of fun. They were especially useful once I dropped my nikoli.com 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 specialteas.com or dragonwater.com online, and when we want something in person, we go to Wing Hop Fung in Chinatown, which stocks birdpick.com. (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: Gaff, from <cite>Blade Runner</cite> (Gaff)
When I left work yesterday, the Internet seemed rather calm. I was away for a few hours because [livejournal.com profile] ojouchan and I went to hear Mozart at the Hollywood Bowl using my firm's box seats. And when I came back, there was crazy.

A whole bunch of racefail from various SF fandom cons popped up, as linkishly summarized by [personal profile] coffeeandink. I haven't even had a chance to look at the WriterCon issues, because I've been reconstruct my blown mind after the mindblowingly idiotic statements made by [livejournal.com profile] arhyalon. I expect that [community profile] linkspam will be kicking into gear over it too.

Penny Arcade also took a dive into the "seduction community." Tycho offers some choice quotes like:
I'm fairly certain the purpose of this course is to make you a better predator of women. Check out their offers of "in-field training," as though you were going to hunt antelopes from a jeep in the Goddamned Savannah.
Gabe, on the other hand, apparently "decided to play devil's advocate" without doing a whole lot of research intot he topic, which was a bad idea. He finishes up saying
I'm a little worried that guys reading the site might take our discussion here as some sort of endorsement and I want to make sure that isn't the case. While some of their advice is probably fine I think the majority of it is really sleazy. Again, I can't blame guys for seeking out help. All joking aside though, I just want to make it clear that I don't think the seduction community is the place to go.
Emphasis mine, because although Tycho doesn't mention what started him down the rabbit hole, it may have been the recent massacre by George Sodini a deeply misogynistic man who regularly participated in "pick-up artist" seminars before taking two guns to a gym and then opening fire, killing three women and injuring nine before using the last bullet for himself.

Alas, a Blog has a collection of responses from "men's-rights activists, anti-feminists and other misogynists." (The original post includes a trigger warning for the quotes, and they are not for the faint of heart.) And these apologies for Soldini represent an extreme of Gabe's empathy. It's part of the reason, I try to divorce considering "intent" when it comes to things like this, because a person can ascribe a good intention or a seemingly reasonable justification to even the most heinous acts.

It's got me thinking about the nature of what "intention" is at all. Last year, [livejournal.com profile] adamcadre wrote about a psychological study investigating how we determine waht is intentional. I wrote a comment thinking about how intention intersects interactive fiction. In response, Adam wrote The Nemean Lion (Z-machine file, requires an IF interpreter to play), and I've been thinking about the last scene in this respect.



Meanwhile, there's also conflict in the world of logic-puzzles, where puzzle plagiarism has reared its ugly head, with Conceptis Puzzles, purveyor of soulless, computer-generated, mass-produced logic puzzles, appropriated the concept and presentation of Strimko for their "new" feature Chain Sudoku. [livejournal.com profile] motris and [livejournal.com profile] onigame (constructors of the eagerly anticipated and soon-to-be-released Mutant Sudoku, a book of hand-crafted, soulful logic puzzles) have weighed in.

Yes, even Sudokuland is full of the fail. I'm going to bed.

Enigmas

Jul. 21st, 2008 05:36 am
tablesaw: "Tablesaw Techniques" (Techniques)
When I was looking at my budget last month, I made one seemingly insignificant cut that's had a huge effect. I ended my subscription to Nikoli.

It's not going to save a lot of money, 550 yen per month is not a whole lot. But it's given me backa lot of time. The kind of logic puzzle that Nikoli serves up so consistently and elegantly is like an anesthetic for my brain. And I have a tendency to fire up the nurikabe and let everything else fall away.

Without Nikoli, I've gone back to the NPL wordplay magazine, The Enigma. At the end of last month, I spent a few hours trying to solve May's issue, and turned out a respectable sixty-five out of seventy-five flats. For June's issue, I'm (mostly) one puzzle away from completing the entire issue.

If anyone wants to trade hints for June 29, I'm open to it. I'd also like to have some confirmations regarding #65 and F6. For the latter, I have an answer which is probably not intended, but which is perfectly defensible (the double edge of bad cluing), and for F6, I have no real way of confirming if my consonants for 5 Across are correct.

MonNYTX: 4:30.

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