tablesaw: An indigenous American crucified on a cross crowned by a bald eagle. In the background stands a Mesoamerican temple. (América Tropical)
Saturday: I went with [personal profile] temptingcuriosity to LACMA for the Drawing Surrealism exhibit. The raw imagination on display reminded me very strongly of the underground indie aesthetic championed by Anna Anthropy in "Rise of the Videogame Zinesters." There's a lot of interesting connections to be made there, with the Dadaists and surrealists using games to promote automatism in creation, the use of collage (reusing sprites), and even a possible connection to the Futurist obsession with machine art.

Sunday: Virtually attended the planning meeting for the MIT Mystery Hunt next weekend. It's always good to see everyone, even the camera was mostly on [personal profile] tahnan doing his one-knee-on-a-chair pose.

Monday: I said goodbye to the Xmas tree immediately after the Epiphany. That almost never happens.

Tuesday: Made it out to a boardgaming night for the first time in a while. Played Chaos in the Old World to completion for the first time, and actually eked out a win. I've had a hard time with this game before, because the extremely asymmetrical roles can make it hard to figure out how to do things, but I finally pushed through. Still not entirely my game, but I won't be so quick to avoid it, either. I also got to dazzle everyone with word knowledge when playing and generally refereeing Bananagrams.

Wednesday: My main glasses broke a little while ago, and my backups are threatening to quit too, so I scheduled a new eye exam. I also made a quick jump into Sherman Oaks to pick up last year's prescription, just in case I need to make an emergency run to Lens Crafters for a cheap replacement. Having two hours to kill, I went to one of my favorite restaurants, Toshi Sushi. It was a great evening, as I was joined at the sushi bar by three lovely women who over-ordered and were pleased to hear of my birthday so that they had an excuse to foist some of the food onto me.

A cameraphone picture of a plate of sushi, all slightly different, with an assortment of fish, rice, sauces and toppings. They all taste delicious.

Heading to bed now. More birthday stuff later.
tablesaw: A close-up of Dracula, from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The text reads "Dark Master" and in smaller text "bator". (Dark Master (Bator))
On Sunday, I went over to play long boardgames at Laz's. Because I was late in RSVPing, I ended up in an alternate spot for the game Laz really wanted to play: Republic of Rome. It's not one I'd've chosen. RoR is a complex, bureaucratic simulation of the Senate of Rome. Each player takes control of a faction or Roman Senators vying for influence in Rome while also working together to keep the state running and fighting wars. We played for about five hours, and the game ended with all of us losing when Carthage overwhelmed us.

It's from 1990, made by Avalon Hill, so a lot of its design feels terribly outdated now. There's lots and lots of chits, and lots and lots of rules, and it was never fully clear at a given time whether we were following the rules correctly. In representing the Senate, its gameplay is deliberately obfuscatory and bureaucratic. Like many diplomacy games of this era, game balance is not apparent, but instead relies on individual players knowing strategies not immediately clear in the rules or their interactions.

And in beyond the internal diplomacy, there's also a cooperative game going on, in which players have to keep Rome alive in multiple wars and quell state unrest. This aspect of the game also appeared to be brutally difficult, with the odds spiraling rapidly out of our favor. It feels like a strong influence on more modern cooperative games where everything is going wrong all the time, but for us, at least, the numbers just didn't work out to be winnable. And unlike a game of Pandemic I recently played where the deck was completely unwinnable, working through our unwinnable RoR game took hours not minutes.

I suppose it does what it's supposed to do very well. I just don't understand why anyone would want to do it.
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: Ration Hornblower, from the cast of Smile Time, peeks his horn nose out at you. (Ratio Hornblower)
Open to: Registered Users, detailed results viewable to: All, participants: 5

What incredibly geeky thing should I do on Saturday?

View Answers

Attend OrcCon, a local gaming convention.
2 (40.0%)

Attend a screening of all five original Planet of the Apes films.
3 (60.0%)

Defend your position:

I'm working on the Monday holiday, so I'm going to take Saturday off, and there are two competing amazingly geeky things to do, and I'm having a hard time deciding, so I'm polling opinions.

Things to consider (ETA: These are all things that people have asked me to help make a decision):
  • Links: Planet of the Apes | OrcCon
  • Distance: The Egyptian Theatre is in walking distance from my house, while OrcCon is a bit of a drive to the LAX area.
  • Cost: Between registration and parking, a day at OrcCon will cost about $40. A ticket to all of the Apes movies is $15.
  • Friends: Although the Apes marathon will undoubtedly be packed with Apes enthusiasts, I will probably not be attending with any previously known friends. On the other hand, a number of friends and acquaintances will be attending OrcCon either for boardgaming or role-playing. In fact, several of my friends are organizing a Houses of the Blooded LARP.
  • Uniqueness: Strategicon is held three times a year, while Planet of the Apes marathons are . . . somewhat more rare. On the other hand, I have all of the movies on DVD and could organize a showing in my house (with booze, even), while gaming is often ephemeral.
  • PKD: In A Scanner Darkly, the characters plan to attend a marthon of all of the Planet of the Apes movies. They do not plan to attend a LARP.
tablesaw: A man comes home frome work, his hat reads "Crossword Makers Inc" (Crossword Makers Inc)
Hey, Alyssa Bereznak, to paraphrase Ellen Ripstein, "What are you the best in the world at?"
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: Two women put the star on a Christmas tree. (Apocalyptic Christmas)
I'm finally getting some traction on the holiday season, and that includes putting up a holiday gift list for friends and family.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Things to avoid:

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

  • Planet of the Apes looks amazingly beautiful on the big screen.
  • Escape from the Planet of the Apes looks . . . pretty much the same on the big screen.
  • The Back to the Future trilogy . . . also looks pretty much the same on the big screen, but it certainly benefits from a marthon viewing.
  • The Hill Valley 2015 cosplayers looked fantastic.
  • Risk 2210 AD is definitely an improvement over original Risk.
  • Smallville the RPG is apparently out of playtesting, which means that now our group is just playing it because it's awesome.
  • Nightmare on Elm was more horrible than even the horribleness expected. I expected the horribleness of bad and pointless storytelling and filmmaking, but the movie really did decide to take extra effort to be offensive.
  • And I still miss Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles
  • Hey, people, why isn't anyone talking about Mercy? I think it's the best show on TV right now. And there's Bechdel-test passage up the yin-yin.
  • Kaiser Permanente seems like it's a really difficult HMO to work around, but if you have a Thursday off and are willing to wake up early to make a phone call, it turns out you can get almost any appointment you want.
  • Why would I need to get an appointment? GI: it's not just for Joe and Bill anymore.
  • Dear Octavio Paz: stop being wrong about everything. I am trying to finish reading your book.
  • Dreamwidth is a year old. Many people are celebrating by making DW-exclusive posts.
  • I'm going to a Mother's Day BBQ now.
Hopefully more soon.
tablesaw: -- (Default)
Been feeling sick. Spent most of yesterday in bed and still didn't sleep well. I've got some sort of stomach bug that's keeping me sidelined. But I will not let it stop me from seeing double/triple features this week.

No RPG last week, and possibly none this week, but I did manage to get some boardgaming in with [ profile] cramerica and [ profile] ojouchan. Games played: Bang, Red November, Werewolf, and Roll through the Ages. I got hosed in Bang, by the cards as well as the players, but we squeaked out a win in the cooperative Red November. (One gnome died at the very end, but everyone else survived.) Werewolf was meh, which is usually my opinion. And I really enjoyed Roll through the Ages, which had a lot of nice strategy in a simple presentation.

Three weeks ago, we were talking about Bioshock during RPG gaming. Another players was working their way through it and was a bit behind me. Two weeks ago, the other guy had finished the game, and I'd advanced another level. WHUT?

Shamed, I've been trying to hurry my gameplaying, but I'm a naturally slow player. And that caution has taken its toll. I've got way too much money, and when I try to spend it, I usually find that I don't have any thing I need to buy. I think I'm pretty close to the end now, though.

A map of the Southwest United States. The state of Arizona is red, and the label has been replaced with 'Police.' Drawn by Lalo Alcaraz.

Holy shit, Arizona!

It looks like Brewer signed the bill on Friday hoping to bury it in the news cycle. Campaigns like Alto Arizona are still set up to leverage a veto, so it's not clear what's going to happen going forward. But there's a demonstration planned for tomorrow, so I imagine there'll be a new course of action come Monday morning.

In other racism takedowns:

Fourth place in an icon contest. Hey, Dan, want a Ratio Hornblower icon?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

View Answers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

View Answers

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

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

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

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

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

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

View Answers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

View Answers

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

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

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

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

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

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

View Answers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

View Answers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

View Answers

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

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

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

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

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

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

View Answers

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

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

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

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

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

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

View Answers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

View Answers

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

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

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

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

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

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

When my family played, the best team got 28 points from betting. Can you do better?
tablesaw: Two women put the star on a Christmas tree. (Apocalyptic Christmas)
I've only got two more days to finish family trivia game. This year, I think I'm going to model it on Wits and Wagers, using differently colored post-it notes and a piece of posterboard. Luckily, this means I only need a few questions. But on the other hand, I'm getting really hard on the questions I've got, trying to have a nice variety. I may be posting some locked posts with polls about which questions are better.

But today's poll, I feel like doing some "best of 2009" or "best of the decade" things, but I don't really know what to do. So, suggest some things, and I will tell you the best of the year and the best of the decade for those things.

Poll #1940 Best Poll of 2009
Open to: Registered Users, detailed results viewable to: All, participants: 1

What "Best of 2009/Best of the Decade" topic would you like me to consider?

tablesaw: -- (Default)
Word Wars: The E-Card )

Word Wars (link changed 8/2/11; originally "") is a movie about the championship Scrabble circuit. It's been described by one of the directors as "Spellbound with drugs and hookers." Come on! How can you resist!?

Eric Chaikin, one of the directors, and a regular attendee at local NPL meetings, informs me that distributors for the rest of the country will be watching to see how well the film does in New York this weekend. So, New York bloggers, go see this movie. This weekend. Twice.

Here's some of the information from the recent e-mail announcement:

**Word Wars NYC Premiere**
The award-winning documentary "Word Wars: Tiles and Tribulations on the Scrabble Circuit" will open at the Cinema Village in NYC Friday, June 11th. Directors Eric Chaikin and Julian Petrillo, and top players G.I. Joel Sherman and Marlon Hill, will do a Q&A after the 8:35 show. Author Stefan Fatsis will be signing copies of his best-seller "Word Freak".

After party will be held at "Central" 109 E.9th Street (between 3rd and 4th Avenue) starting at 10:30pm. Open Bar from 10:30-midnight w/ ticket stub.

Tickets available online at or

**NYC Play The Experts**
We will be holding a "Play the Experts" exhibition on Thursday, June 10th and Friday, June 11th in NYC Parks.
11am-1pm Bryant Park
2pm-4pm Tompkins Square Park
5pm-7pm Washington Square Park, NW corner
11am-3pm Washington Square Park, NW corner

The public is invited to try their luck against Marlon and Joel, who will play multiple games at once. Every hour, we will give away a pair of tickets to a lucky person who can Stump the Experts with an anagram. Stefan Fatsis will be in attendance Friday to sign copies of his book "Word Freak". Public is encouraged to bring Scrabble paraphernalia for Joel and Marlon to sign. Media is encouraged to attend (Friday preferred).

**Also This Weekend**
Boston: Opens Fri 6/11, Coolidge Corner Cinema, Brookline
Salt Lake: Opens Fri 6/11, Tower Theater
Atlanta: Plays Sat 6/12, Atlanta Film Festival
San Francisco: Now Playing, Roxie Cinema
Marin: Now Playing, Rafael Film Center

Help this film! Go see it this weekend!
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: "The Accurate Tablesaw" (Accurate)
Step 2: Red CluesThe red eggs held clues reading assassinate, murder, physician, surgeon, sport on a plank, fortunate, beneficial, and inexpensive butt. Which suggested my copy of the game Kill Doctor Lucky [link changed 6/22/11; original link to ""]. Inside, instead of the low-overhead, high-concept game we've all come to know and love, there were several pieces of paper.

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

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

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

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

More on Puzzle Design )

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, though it had troubles, I liked this puzzle a lot, probably because I went through so much grief putting it together. But all of the wrinkles ironed rather well, and the hunt went on.
tablesaw: -- (Default)
So, I did most of my Christmas shopping today, although there are still some holes I need to fill. Along the way, I met up with Dad, who was armed with what he thought was my Amazon wishlist. Well, apparently whatever redirection mixup had struck everyone else struck my list as well, and what my dad actually had was a listing of popular items at Amazon. Apparently, items like Bette Midler Sings the Rosemary Clooney Songbook didn't raise red flags that it wasn't actually my list.

All I Want for Christmas (and My Birthday) )

And that's the run-down I can think of for now. It's a bit late, and I'm starting to feel woozy, which may affect things to. Hope this helps, Dad et al.
tablesaw: "The Accurate Tablesaw" (Accurate)
Does anyone among my readers know of a good online, multiplayer trivia game? Trivial Pursuit would be excellent, but any good facsimile will do. Unless I find one, [ profile] shadesong and I will be reduced to writing things like this until our next in-face meeting:

Wedge of the Pie )

FriNYTX: Don't know, the timer disappeared.
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.


tablesaw: -- (Default)
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