Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Postcard #1

It's been just over a week since I posted my call for postcards, and I've received my first one--from a completely random person on the Internet! A pleasant surprise, and now the bar is set. How about it, family and friends? Where's your postcard? :)

ADDENDUM: I sent this reply.


SnoutCast #35: "Sudoku, Tangrams, and Evilness"

A BANG 23 debriefing with special guests Doctor Sudoku and Professor Tangram! WARNING: This podcast may contain minor spoilers for some puzzles from BANG 23.

[ Download mp3 - 38 MB ]

00:00 - Disclaimer: puzzle spoilers ahoy!
01:30 - "evil"
02:18 - welcoming Dr. Sudoku and Prof. Tangram
03:25 - BANG numbering shenanigans
05:13 - puzzle hunt amnesia is a real thing
06:19 - secret identities revealed
07:28 - backstories and inspirations
12:38 - work is fun!
15:10 - puzzles puzzles puzzles
19:36 - 56 teams played on 2 days
20:21 - tangram quality control
23:19 - can an evil puzzle be "too evil"? um, yeah
26:39 - scoring, points, hints, ...
28:33 - lessons learned from BANG 23 (both of them)
35:37 - our Twitter contest was a bust :(
36:30 - upcoming events: Berkeley Mystery Hunt, "Odd Man Out" treasure hunt, Puzzled Pint: Octoberfest, Ghost Patrol BANG
39:12 - Curtis wants postcards
40:45 - The End

Music: instrumentals from "Code Monkey," "Skullcrusher Mountain," and "I Feel Fantastic" by Jonathan Coulton

[ Subscribe to SnoutCast / iTunes link ]

CKL DeeAnn

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Comic Book Report: Empire

I finally got around to tracking down Mark Waid's oft-praised, early-2000's mashup of deconstructed supervillains and epic fantasy--emphasis on the latter. It's all courtly intrigue, rife with hidden agendas and betrayals and reversals and technology indistinguishable from magic. Characters and situations are depicted in mile-wide brush strokes, and pretty much everyone is...

...wait for it...


Thank you! I'll be here all week!

Empire was certainly not a dull read, but it also was not the superawesomeOMGtodiefor book that certain reviewers have made it out to be. It's a tragedy through and through, but it all felt hollow. The last few pages should have broken my heart. Instead, I just shrugged my shoulders and moved on. YMMV.

See also: Neil Gaiman's Miracleman stories, which offer a slightly different take on the superhuman-as-world-ruler premise and, for my money, are much creepier and more emotionally involving.

Buy the book: Powell's, Amazon (affiliate links)


Saturday, September 25, 2010

Comic Book Report: Iron Man: Extremis

Much has been made of the quality of the artwork in this book, but let's be clear about something: if you pick up a comic written by Warren Ellis, chances are you're going to enjoy the ride--every goddamn insane panel of it. (Except maybe that part when he goes on way too long about using drugs. I admit I'm not the target audience for that, but still. Talk about bringing the story to a screeching halt.)

British artist Adi Granov produces his first rough sketches digitally, and it shows; the characters look like posed 3-D mannequins, which gives their bodies perfect size and proportions but can leech some of the emotion out of them. It only really bothered me in a few instances, and overall the consistency and added realism was a plus.

The story itself is pretty standard, and serves mostly to explain how Tony Stark acquired that crazy Extremis suit--which, admittedly, is not as crazy as what comes next, but it's still pretty crazy.

Buy the book: Powell's, Amazon (affiliate links)


Friday, September 24, 2010

Friday Flash Fiction: "Death Trap"

"Well, Dad, I've got good news and bad news.

"The good news is, we were able to save your life, despite your mortal injuries, by putting your brain in a jar and connecting you to The Matrix.

"The bad news is, The Matrix sucks."

Read "Death Trap" at 512 Words or Fewer


Thursday, September 23, 2010

Comic Book Report: Irredeemable, Vols. 1 and 2

There are very few comics books I actually purchase in monthly "pamphlet" form, because twenty-some pages just isn't enough story in most cases. And my wife generally isn't interested in a title unless she can get it in collected trade paperback form.

In the case of Irredeemable, even the collections aren't long enough. Only four issues? Are you kidding me here? I really like the story so far, but I'm glad I can get these from the library instead of paying $12 a pop--and that'd be after the Amazon discount. Cover price is $17, or $4.25 an issue. Seriously?

Anyway. Irredeemable is writer Mark Waid's answer to the question: "How does a man go from being the world’s greatest superhero to its greatest supervillain?" He's stated in interviews that as he sees it, "[in] superhero comics, pretty much everyone who’s called upon to put on a cape is, at heart, emotionally equipped for the job." And this is his idea of what might happen if, basically, Superman went truly and completely psycho.

It's a pretty gripping yarn so far, but we'll see how it shakes out after the flashbacks catch up with the real-time narrative.

Buy the books: Volume 1 - Powell's, Amazon; Volume 2 - Powell's, Amazon (affiliate links)


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Comic Book Report Twofer: X Marks the Spot

Two interesting books I did not entirely enjoy: Exurbia and Mister X: Condemned. The former is clearly a passion project, written by Dark Horse editor extraordinaire Scott Allie; the latter is a retro British mashup of The Fountainhead and, I don't know, some kind of low-budget "psychological" horror movie. They weren't for me, but maybe they're for you.

Buy the book (affiliate links):


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Book Report: Wireless

It's a good collection, showing a great range of Charlie's work, and including the 2010 Hugo Award-winning novella "Palimpsest." For more, I direct you to Strange Horizons' 2009 book review.

Buy the book: Powell's, Amazon (affiliate links)


SnoutCast #34: "Announcements Galore"

Curtis flies solo this week, with predictable results.

[ Download mp3 - 20 MB ]

00:57 - bad news and good news
01:43 - upcoming events!
02:04 - BAPHL 2 (Boston Area Puzzle Hunt League), September 25th, Boston: www.baphl.org/2
02:43 - Berkeley Mystery Hunt, October 2nd, Berkeley: e-mail mehtank@berkeley.edu
03:32 - "Odd Man Out" treasure hunt, October 23rd, SF's Tenderloin: e-mail dave@schweisguth.org
04:31 - Ghost Patrol BANG (Bay Area Night Game)--SOLD OUT!--October 31st, Berkeley: ghost-patrol.com
05:36 - Puzzled Pint #4: Oktoberfest!, October 12th, Portland: puzzledpint.com
06:43 - DASH 3 (Different Area, Same Hunt), April 30th, 2011, in 14 cities across the USA: playdash.org
08:33 - Curtis wants you to send him postcards!11:55 - you don't have to send a puzzle: team applications, from GC's POV
15:58 - Twitter contest!
    For a chance to win one of two surplus Puzzled Pint #3 Pirate Packets, follow @teamsnout on Twitter and tweet something to us with the hashtag #OGCTTF ("Only Game Control Thinks That's Funny") before 11:59 PM Pacific Time on Sunday, September 26th. Winners will be announced on the next SnoutCast!
21:52 - The End

Music: instrumentals from "Code Monkey" and "The Future Soon" by Jonathan Coulton

[ Subscribe to SnoutCast / iTunes link ]


Monday, September 20, 2010

CKL's "Wish You Were Here" Birthday Project

Next Friday, October 1st, is my 37th birthday. And, inspired by something our friend Linda did last year for her husband Brent's birthday, I'm asking you--my distant friends and family--to send me postcards to mark the occasion.

Since moving to Portland, the one thing I've missed the most is being around our friends. We love our new home, and we've met lots of cool and interesting people, but it's not quite the same. And regardless of how many new friends we make, we'd like to stay in touch with our old ones, too.

So I'm asking for a little slice of your life; a small, flat taste of where you live and what's special about it. We put a lot of thought into our decision to move to Portland, and I'd like to know about your current place of residence.

Are you in? Here's what to do:
  1. Find a postcard depicting something interesting in your town. It could be a local landmark, your favorite restaurant, or even a photograph you took (the USPS will mail just about anything with the right postage on it).

  2. Write a message starting with the words "I live here because..." Complete the sentence any way you like. Tell me what you love about where you live, or whatever it is that keeps you there.

  3. Address the postcard to:

    (Photo snapped by Igal Koshevoy at 30 Hour Day 2)

  4. Affix proper postage. A standard postcard* takes a single twenty-eight cent ($0.28) stamp to send by US Post.

  5. Mail it!

I'll scan all the postcards I receive, front and back, and post them to this blog. My goal is to collect thirty-seven postcards by the end of October. I'd love to get one from you!

ADDENDUM: To see the postcards I've gotten so far, look for the "37postcards" label on this blog.

ADDENDUM: Success! I received postcard #37 on October 21st--which, coincidentally, was my wife's birthday. Thanks to everyone who participated, and don't let this stop you from sending me a postcard anyway! I'll post 'em if you mail 'em. (See what I did there?)

P.S. As noted in SnoutCast #34, you do NOT need to send me a puzzle or encrypt your message in any way. Really, you don't. Just the postcard would be great. Okay. Thanks.

* Minimum size: 3-1/2 inches high by 5 inches long by 0.007 inch thick; maximum size: 6 inches long by 4-1/4 inches high.


Comic Book Report: Invincible Iron Man Vol. 4: Stark Disassembled

Wow. Matt Fraction must have really liked Dollhouse, because this entire five-issue arc is about (minor spoilers) Tony Stark being trapped in The Attic while his friends and allies restore his mind and memories from a backup wedge.

It's not a bad story, and Salvador Larocca's art continues to be impressive. An extended guest appearance by Doctor Strange and visits from Thor and both Captains America spice up the proceedings, but as with many crossovers, the big guns conveniently disappear just before the actual threat appears, so the titular hero can save the day on his own.

And, of course, they hit the reset button on Pepper Potts. Boo. I guess you still have to go to DC for real female superheroes. Oh yeah, I said it!

The next part of this series is titled "Resilient," and it'll be interesting to see how Fraction handles what should be a long and arduous process of rehabilitation. We all know Tony's going to get back in the suit, but it'll be more satisfying if he actually earns it.

Buy the book: Powell's, Amazon (affiliate links)


Fun with Google Auto-Complete

Now that's just wrong.

See also:

(Thanks to Cary and Andrew for the pointers.)


Friday, September 17, 2010

Friday Flash Fiction: "Working Graves: Habeas Corpus"

Griffin and Mira (and her daughters) come from the short story I workshopped at Viable Paradise in 2008. At the time, Jim Macdonald suggested I write "the next story" to figure out how all these characters fit together. It's taken me a couple of years and a few abortive attempts, but I think this may finally be a good start.

Read "Working Graves: Habeas Corpus" at 512 Words or Fewer


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

SnoutCast #33: "Listener Mail"

In which we finally get around to answering our backlog of listener mail.

[ Download mp3 - 24 MB ]

00:58 - "peaceful"
01:40 - DeeAnn was a spider once...
03:52 - Scott asks about mystery games: Are there any good ones? Can they actually make you feel like you're solving a mystery?
14:10 - Stephanie wants more about designing hunts for novice solvers, especially young children.
23:33 - Greg blogged about Puzzlehunt taxonomy and genealogy.
25:49 - The End

Music: instrumentals from "Code Monkey" and "Baby Got Back" by Jonathan Coulton

[ Subscribe to SnoutCast / iTunes link ]

CKL DeeAnn

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Friday, September 10, 2010

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

SnoutCast #32: "Post-PAX Ponderings"

We apologize for the low energy levels this week. In hindsight, we probably should have just recorded the conversation we had during the drive home on Sunday. Maybe next time...

[ Download mp3 - 35 MB ]

00:00 - teaser: this is not live radio
1:15 - "playful"
1:29 - we just got back from PAX Prime, and boy do we want to play games
3:04 - Friday: standing in line; a brush with Khoo
3:56 - thoughts on Warren Spector's keynote
5:20 - for the record, this is "Penny Arcade Expo"
7:25 - what's so special about PAX?
8:50 - always enjoyable: Mike and Jerry's Q&A, Make-a-Strip session
11:23 - tons of fun: Acquisitions Incorporated: D&D Live!
12:24 - the ever-increasing hugeness of the expo hall
15:59 - the lines were not too horrible
17:08 - meeting Gamers and other people we know at PAX
19:06 - playing Rock Band 3 with @davidscotton
21:38 - DeeAnn is not generally into playing demos...
22:10 - ...but she loves the new Gamma World!
23:21 - unlike us, Peter Sarrett did not enjoy PAX
24:04 - more tales from the lines
29:05 - flipping through the program book
32:16 - upcoming events: BANG 23 (registration now open), w00tstock, Ghost Patrol BANG (registration opens September 20th), Berkeley Mystery Hunt (October 2nd?)
35:15 - coda: Sunday brunch with Seattle-area Gamers
37:27 - The End

Music: instrumentals from "Code Monkey" and "A Talk with George" by Jonathan Coulton

[ Subscribe to SnoutCast / iTunes link ]

CKL DeeAnn Jasper

Friday, September 03, 2010

Friday Flash Fiction: "Guardians"

I need to work on coming up with more original titles. That is all.

Read "Guardians" at 512 Words or Fewer