tablesaw: Two yellow roses against a bright blue sky. (Family Roses)
This past weekend was a lazy one, like the New Year weekend before. (The Xmas weekend was stressful, with most of my Christmas Day trivia written on Christmas Eve.) [personal profile] temptingcuriosity and I went to LACMA on Saturday, avoiding the bigger events (Kubrick and Caravaggio) and indulging our own personal preferences (Surrealist Drawings and Maya artifacts). On Sunday we stayed in, made bacon pancakes, and lounged around because it was cold outside.

I asked her what she was looking for from the new year, but I already knew what her year looked like, when I thought about it. Really, I wanted her to ask me the question. I know I want to get hired permanently at this new job, but past that I wasn't sure. Talking about it, I realized that I wanted to create more in 2013. Not a particular thing, or a big thing, just lots of things.

Recently, I say a lot that I'm too much in my head. I talk to folks a bit more on Twitter, and I'm talking to people in person, but I'm not getting things out in non-conversational settings anymore. As a true geek, I worry about the narrow bandwidth of talking to people one-on-one; I just don't have enough time to tell things to everyone I would like to. Blog posts allow you, my friends and readers, to time-shift the Tablesaw experience to fit your schedule (something I know I appreciate).

But while blog posts are always things I need to do more often, to get into the habit of writing long things (or just short things that aren't twitter), what I want to do is just create more things that I can share. And saying it the other day made me excited and happy. A good sign, I think.

This year I don't just want to do things I love, I want to make new things to send out into the world with them, so that my experiences can travel beyond the horizon of my personal bubble. I want to write about at least one thing a week, TV, movie, game, what have you. I want to make some more puzzles, definitely at least one thing I can bring to the NPL convention in Austin. I want to finally hide a geocache in LA. I want to make some games, eventually, somewhere. There's a pre-Companions DW/AW game knocking around in my head that mostly needs a lot of research (that TemptingCuriosity is eager to help with).

My birthday is on Thursday, and I turn 35, a number that is a multiple of the amount of fingers on one hand, which means that I'll probably freak out sometime this year, though I'm successfully blocking it out for now. It's a good time to have a plan, and it's a good time to have a plan that focuses so much on simple joys. Last year was not a good one, this one will be better.
tablesaw: A man comes home frome work, his hat reads "Crossword Makers Inc" (Crossword Makers Inc)
When I started this temp gig, I threw myself at it with abandon. I'd been feeling sad and anxious and worried about not having work and maybe never having work again and being unwanted by everyone, and then there was some work. Yay! Everything fixed.

What actually happened is that instead of resolving the stress and anxiety of not being employed, it was transmuted into a laser-like focus on this new job (again, only a temp job) so that I wasn't paying attention to friends or anything else. It had a new commute long, which was new, but I still felt like at the end of the night I was tired and didn't have time to do or see much.

My friends have been waking me up out of that, and I'm talking with people again, but it’s a small circle of people on my chat, text, and social meetups. Going from talking to almost nobody to talking to a few people again is making me miss the nice broad sweep of broadcast information that a journal gives me. And though I keep reading DW and LJ and Tumblr, I don't interact even in comments, much.

But my schedule is really SNAFU, so I'm not going to make any promises about that. Last week, I only worked 2.8 days because of the U.S. holiday and an extra day I took to spend time with my family on the beach. This week, I'm getting prepared to go to Portland, Oregon for a week and a half for the National Puzzlers' League Convention, followed by a family wedding.

I mean, really; the Con is two days away. The pre-pre-con party is happening right now, I think. I am probably the least prepared for this con than I ever have been for any con ever. I am going to show up on Thursday and I probably still won't understand why all of these people I know happen to be at the hotel. The whole things just feels so weird.

More pressingly, I have no idea what I'm going to do for the three or four extra days that I'm in Portland. I may, in fact, spend them mostly in a hotel room reading actual books. Which will be okay too. But it's more vacation than I'm really used to ever taking in another city on my own.

Poll #11098 PORTLAND
Open to: Registered Users, detailed results viewable to: All, participants: 5

What should I do with my free time in Portland, Oregon?

Rambly post is rambly. I defy editing.
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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 )
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On Friday, after everyone returned from the special screening of Word Wars [link changed 8/13/11; originally ""], many of us assembled in the lobby of the hotel for a game of dubious existence, supposedly named Troggle. It turns out that Troggle didn't exist. Instead, we got Schroggle. We couldn't tell the difference.

A pretty good summary is presented by Nancy White, who happened to walk through the courtyard at the time. She has a much better camera than I do.

But before I knew that there'd be a travelblogger with a fantastic camera coincidentally recording all of this, I took some pictures of my own.

I was on Team 4, which was on the 14th floor. I took a photo of the team, but it didn't turn out too well. (I also forgot to rotate it, but I'll fix that when I get home.) After waiting for a while for everything to get set up, the people below arranged themselves into a 4x4 grid of letters. We looked down onto the grid from the window to see the grid of letters and tried to find the longest word. Somehow points were scored, though I don't know anyone who is entirely clear on how the scores worked. After each round, the players who had been in the longest word found were sent back to their teams, and new players were sent to the courtyard to be letters. So after a bit, I went down and found out how things worked from there.

People chose random pieces of posterboard from a pile and stand in a square of the 4x4 grid. On cue, they'd run frantically to some other square. Then, on a different cue, they'd spin around and display their letters to the sky. People had very different methods of doing this. Sidhe and Nori held their letters directly above. Ged and Hathor had a bit of an angle. Others, as recorded again by Ms. White, decided to lay back and enjoy it. I did this once, so that I could take a picture of what the whole thing must look like from the persepective of a letter.

The game was invented and run by a crew of four people. Murdoch was in charge of coordinating the grid. You can kind of see him standing to the far left under the tree, getting the last letter into position. Xemu was in charge of scoring, and he used a cell phone to get the compiled reports from the teams. (The person behind him is Dart, I believe.). Finally, Trazom and G Natural were in the Skybox. From the second floor of the hotel, they had a decent view of the grid. They used their cell phones to call the four teams elsewhere in the hotel and get the answers, then they called Xemu and informed him of the round's score. As you can kind of see from that picture, they had an energy and intensity that made it appear as though they were trading on the futures market.

When the game was over, the letters in the grid spelled out GOOD GAME CMON DOWN. And somebody won, I guess. I don't know who. I don't know that anyone does. But like any good game, it didn't and doesn't matter. Everyone was extremely happy to have been a part of it, just like the Convention in general.
tablesaw: -- (Default)
I thought I should mention this. Technically, it happened after the convention, but anyway . . .

I get to the airport and have to rush through security to get into a tiny tiny gate that only has two flights. I find myself seated next to a very cute young woman solving a crossword. So I test the waters, "Is the crossword any good?" "No," she responds, "it's way too easy."


I mention that I was at the NPL convention. She said she'd heard about it from a local newspaper. It was really interesting, she thought, though she didn't attend. I told her about some of the events. We chatted about how Boston has many people who are unafraid to be smart. We touched upon the MIT Mystery Hunt. Then our 5:30 flight was called.

Except that she was on a different 5:30 flight leaving from the gate next door to mine.

One could argue that, after having a wonderful week in Boston, it would have been too much to ask to be on a plane with another cute and smart Bostonian. But I won't argue that. I argue that it was Boston taking its revenge on me for not being able to dump frozen water on my head.

Stupid Boston. Stupid city full of smart people.
tablesaw: -- (Default)
I'm safely home from convention. I've nestled myself back into the house. Of course, there's no food in the house, because I didn't want any food in the house going bad. So maybe I'll go get some food. When I get back, maybe I'll tidy up a bit and watch a whole bunch of Angel.

It was a great vacation. Audio excerpts of it can be found below, now with handy titles so that you can tell which one is which. I'll try and spruce them up abit as the week goes on too. Adding context and information and pictures that relate.

Of course, not everything fit in there, so I'll have to do some writing too. Most especially, I want to tell you all about Kid Beyond. I mentioned that we were going to see his show, but . . . uh . . . Short version: See his shows [Link removed 8/13/11; originally ""]. Now. Fly to one if you have to.

In the mean time, here's what some other people have been writing about this past week from NPL Members Lunch Boy, Saphir, Foggy, and Wesley. There will, undoubtedly be more, and I'll probably keep linking them. Also, there is a notable report of one event from a passerby, describing the game of Schroggle. This person appears to have been armed with a better camera than any of the Krewe, so I think we're all thankful to her.

Also, in the meanwhile, I've probably got no chance of reading all of what's happened to all of you in the past week, so feel free to vaingloriously give me the highlights.

Hm. It's the food of the now time eating bye.
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.

So Soon?

Jun. 23rd, 2004 06:58 am
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The winter holidays may not be quickly approaching, but the summer holidays are, and it's time for me to face the fact that in two weeks I'm going to another state again. And this time, it won't be freezing cold.

I'm going to Boston, and I'm going for a convention of the National Puzzlers' League. I'm going to be there for a week. I'm going to do crazy things. It's just that I don't know what any of them are.

Well, that's not entirely true. The information regarding the official and unofficial convention activities seems to be coalescing, so I should probably do the same. So help me make some plans:
[Poll #312118]


Jun. 16th, 2004 04:41 am
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Did you see that? The phone just spontaneously melted in my hand!

Also, I'm going to be flying to Boston in two and a half weeks.

WedNYTX: 6:30. Apropos, and lots of fun.


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