Tuesday, February 28, 2012

SnoutCast #106: Makin' Puzzles!

This episode title may be more amusing if you imagine Rob Schneider saying it in a singsongy voice.

[ Download mp3 - 27 MB ]

00:59 - "lazy"
01:18 - the Ignite talk in question
02:06 - topic prompted by Iron Puzzler
02:55 - how we make our puzzles for Puzzled Pint
05:29 - the two things that help us finish our puzzles
07:49 - Ideas are cheap; playtesting is essential
11:42 - 3 steps: concept, implementation, playtesting (lather, rinse, repeat)
14:30 - do NOT wait for inspiration
16:43 - using playtesting as leverage to move yourself forward
19:30 - starting points for puzzles: encoding vs. activity
20:55 - group vs. individual prototyping
27:04 - "Let me sum up."
29:19 - The End

(In case you're wondering, yes, Jasper did eventually get fed, despite his bad behavior.)

Got a comment or question? E-mail podcast@snout.org or post at snout.org/podcast!

Music: instrumentals from "Code Monkey" and "I Crush Everything" by Jonathan Coulton

[ Subscribe to SnoutCast / iTunes link ]

Curtis DeeAnn Jasper

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

SnoutCast #105: Hooray for Hollywood

In which we repeat last year's exercise of asking: which Best Picture nominees might make good Game themes? And as a tribute to the Academy Awards telecast, we also run long. Yeah, that's the ticket!

[ Download mp3 - 33 MB ]

00:59 - "tropical"
03:08 - The Artist?
06:06 - The Descendants?
08:00 - Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close?*
09:27 - The Help?*
11:24 - Hugo?
13:05 - Midnight in Paris?*
16:10 - Moneyball?
21:15 - The Tree of Life?*
27:16 - War Horse?
32:42 - And the one which would make the best Game is...
35:57 - The End

* (We have not seen this movie.)

Got a comment or question? E-mail podcast@snout.org or post at snout.org/podcast!

Music: instrumentals from "Code Monkey" and "Tom Cruise Crazy" by Jonathan Coulton

[ Subscribe to SnoutCast / iTunes link ]

Curtis DeeAnn

Friday, February 17, 2012

Friday Flash Fiction: "The First Half of the Star-Sailor's Tale"

Inspired by David Dubord's literally fabulous story fragments from this week's Someday Crits session.

Read "The First Half of the Star-Sailor's Tale" at 512 Words or Fewer


Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The dream of the '80s is also alive in Portland!

You will have to wait until this August...

...For the best kept secret in the world of THE GAME...

Things will never be the same.



Tuesday, February 14, 2012

SnoutCast #104: Gamer Profile - Rachel Petterson, XX-Rated

This week, we talk to Rachel Petterson, captain of a Bay Area Game team which could be called the Pink Ladies, but is not.

[ Download mp3 - 28 MB ]

00:00 - teaser: Past BANG Future Echo
01:23 - "female"
01:52 - origins of team XX-Rated
05:42 - more cast changes than Law & Order
08:22 - introducing new puzzlers to The Game
10:42 - Rachel's first Game(s)
14:11 - Rachel's day job
15:53 - Googlers and Gamers
17:16 - transitioning from player to GC
22:16 - women and men, with respect to puzzling
25:30 - "I look forward to the puzzles that are written in lipstick."
26:48 - see Rachel's crafts at Pigs In Pajamas!
28:15 - The End

Got a comment or question? E-mail podcast@snout.org or post at snout.org/podcast!

Music: instrumentals from "Code Monkey" and "I'm Your Moon" by Jonathan Coulton

[ Subscribe to SnoutCast / iTunes link ]

Curtis DeeAnn Rachel

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Yes, Mom, That IS Me

Herewith, an excerpt from I'm Feeling Lucky: The Confessions of Google Employee Number 59 by Douglas Edwards, page 354:

(I'm pretty sure this is the first time my name has appeared in an actual book from a major publisher. Top of the world, ma!)

You can read more about that recruiting campaign, including details on several of the puzzles, on MathWorld News: Mathematica's Google Aptitude. And though I didn't come up with the idea for the billboard, I am the guy who calculated the proper ten digits for the domain name (with a Python script, natch) and then leaned on Schwim to get the server deployed in time. I should also point out that many of the puzzles were contributed by other engineers who knew their math a lot better than I did.

Anyway, I'm Feeling Lucky (an impulse checkout from my last trip to the public library) was a nice trip down memory lane--Doug's employment at Google overlapped my time there by maybe two years, and I later worked with one of his successors in marketing, Dylan Casey, on another puzzle project. Given my personal connections to the subject matter, I'm not sure I can give an objective review of the book, but if you've ever wondered what life inside the Googleplex is like, this book will give you a taste. (Current Googler Larry Hosken is also a fan.)


Friday, February 10, 2012

Ignite Portland 10: Win, Kill, or Rock

Last night, I gave a presentation on "A Homebrew Cat Feeding Robot" at Ignite Portland 10. It was very well received. In fact, depending on who you ask, I achieved one of the following:
  • "won" (1 2 3)
  • "killed" (1 2)
  • "rocked" (1)
  • "brought the house down" (1)
Thanks again to everyone on Twitter who gave positive feedback!*

Now I'd like to talk about the "brought the house down" moment, which was as gratifying as it was surprising--to me, anyway. (This is your cue to TL;DR.)

I did not expect this particular slide, a graph of our cats' weights during 2011, to get such a huge response. I knew I found it amusing, but it was one of the last slides I'd created, almost as an afterthought:

Our friend Richard suggested that after all the stories I'd been telling about the cats and their auto-feeder, this image simply nudged me "over the top" in terms of hilarity. (DeeAnn actually, literally wept with laughter. That reaction may have made me the happiest of all. I mean, I like all y'all, but I love my wife.)

Does this somewhat unwitting success mean that I've attained "unconscious competence"--i.e., that a particular skill has become second nature to me? I don't know. That seems a bit presumptuous after a single performance that went well. But it is encouraging. No less than six people came up to me after my talk and complimented me in person. That's huge, especially when you consider that this wasn't a traditional "show"--this was a bunch of geeks getting together to share their crazy ideas in five-minute chunks. I hadn't expected to connect so strongly with the audience.

I'm not lingering on this to crow over my triumph**, or stroke my own ego; I am honestly trying to figure out how I did so well. Because this has a bearing on other skills I'm working to develop and hoping to make a living with. To wit, writing fiction. (Making puzzle hunts is a distant, pie-in-the-sky second--as far as I can tell, nobody has ever succeeded in turning our particular type of events into a viable, consumer-driven business.)

At the moment, the only thing I can identify as a contributing factor is the thing everyone already tells you to do: practice. Put in the hours, do the work, keep doing it until you improve, and then do it some more.

I directed a lot of focused effort into the five minutes I did at Ignite, and that was backed by many years of experience giving presentations and performing in front of an audience. It's going to take a lot longer before I have the same kind of handle on fiction writing--which, if not a more complicated undertaking, certainly comes with less immediate feedback. I think of it as the difference between driving a car and making a car. A lot more work needs to go into the latter, because you can't make adjustments on the fly, as you can in the former situation.

Automation is hard. I guess that was the main point of last night's talk. But it is doable, and anyone can figure it out, if you're motivated and persistent.

So I'm practicing. I'm working. I'm not stopping. We'll see what happens.

(Photo by @geekportland)

* other words used to describe my talk included "great" (1 2 3 4 5), "loved" (1 2 3), and "awesome" (1 2); and at least two people ranked me among the best talks of the evening (1 2). Woot!

** I'm making a note here: HUGE SUCCESS. (Sorry, had to say it.)


Friday Flash Fiction: "Biological Imperatives"

What is this story about? You tell me. I just wanted to write some characters with distinctive dialogue patterns. I suppose you can tell me if I succeeded at that, too.

Read "Biological Imperatives" at 512 Words or Fewer


Tuesday, February 07, 2012

SnoutCast #103: Gamer Profiles - Jan Chong & Yar Woo, coed astronomy

This week, we hear from another Gamer couple with a young child: Jan Chong and Yar Woo of coed astronomy!

[ Download mp3 - 22 MB ]

00:59 - "coeducational"
01:12 - origin of the coed team name
03:55 - Jan and the Microsoft Intern Game
05:37 - coed history
07:18 - What are your day jobs?
09:26 - applying day-job skills to puzzle hunt creation
11:31 - running short vs. long Games
16:29 - baby Charlotte
20:27 - stockpiling puzzle ideas... for the next generation?
24:07 - The End

Got a comment or question? E-mail podcast@snout.org or post at snout.org/podcast!

Music: instrumentals from "Code Monkey" and "You Ruined Everything" by Jonathan Coulton

[ Subscribe to SnoutCast / iTunes link ]

Curtis DeeAnn Jan Yar

Friday, February 03, 2012

Friday Flash Fiction: "Monologue Therapy"

Speaking of phoning it in...

I'm good at writing dialogue. Have been since high school. That's not the problem; the problem is, I'm acutely aware of how much better I am at dialogue than at other things, like physical description or emotional arcs. And it's too easy to fall back on pages full of ostensibly witty banter, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

Or maybe I should be writing stage plays.

Read "Monologue Therapy" at 512 Words or Fewer