Dumb Things I Have Done Lately

Monday, May 19, 2008

A Moist Hunt

I have to be up especially early tomorrow, so naturally I dithered around the house and played Resident Evil 4 - Wii Edition (finished it -- the ending is a little lame) until I finally decided to start my Post Hunt followup entry now.

There's not really that much to tell; I didn't win (obviously). Actually, I didn't even come close: Of the 5 clues, I only got one (and that was largely due to overhearing a bit of info that jostled things into place for me).

I did get most of the way to solving the other 4, but I was flying solo, and I just don't have the temperament to be a puzzle person -- I'm impatient. I definitely work better at something like this as part of a team. So I was looking at this as a test run for future editions.

After some procrastination, I drove in to DC and parked my car in front of the Carnegie Library (which, as it happened, was one of the puzzle sites). Normally, I Metro in, but I'm glad I didn't -- it gave me a base of operations, though that just meant that I had the chance to swap to a more appropriate umbrella. (The rain varied from drizzle to moderate and back throughout the day. Naturally, the sun came out just as things were wrapping up.)

I didn't get a very good start at noon -- I was trying to juggle a cup of coffee, my Sunday Washington Post Magazine, a pen and my umbrella, so it took me a while to get organized. Mostly I followed the crowd in the beginning, which took me to the Presidents Race:

More exciting than any given Nationals game.

I got the "male hoofed ruminant" clue right off ("buck," though after I couldn't come up with an answer I considered "stag"), but I just couldn't make the presidential coinage connection -- I was stuck on $1.17 (a buck, and 17 -- 1 for Washington and 16 for Lincoln).

That pretty much set the tone of the afternoon.

The Fortune Cookie clue I got (mostly) -- I'd noticed the fake movie listings the night before. Though I didn't make the final connection until I heard somebody saying the cookie tasted like coconut (I'd eaten it without noticing - I was hungry.) I think one of the previous Hunt examples posted somewhere had mentioned a taste being part of the solution.

Now, I should have gotten the Post Comics puzzle. It was pretty clear which comics the standup routines were referring to. (Besides, anyone who reads the chats knows that Gene Weingarten likes Opus, Pearls Before Swine, and Frazz.) Where I failed was looking for numbers that could be gleaned from the comics, instead of looking for numbers that had been deliberately hidden in the comics (due to collusion with the artists). Diabolical.

Also, one of the comics onstage was Dave George. I'd worked with him a bit at AOL; I didn't know he did standup:

Comedian Dave George rags on elementary school janitors.

For the Second Glance puzzle, it took a moment of seeing all the other folks looking at the page in the magazine to figure what was up. (I don't like the Second Glance feature, so I don't pay any attention to it -- if I want to play Photo Hunt, I'll play Photo Hunt, in a bar or online -- gratification is instant and sometimes they even have naked ladies).

Post Hunt clues on the steps of the Carnegie Library.

It took a little bit, but I did notice that the V's had been changed to U's. Again, I got stuck on the wrong track, focusing on "15" or "125", instead of simply 5-5-5.

And for the Chinatown Arch puzzle, I got the little clues, but missed the big one. Not much to say there.

Since I didn't have a clue how to use the final clue (I did have an idea that the "crossed swords" were related to the crossword puzzle -- well, especially after seeing everyone else trying to do the crossword -- but with only 1 clue it was pretty futile), I ended up working on the crossword until the winners were announced.

Dave Barry sneers at the crowd.

Oh, and I was also wearing the same pants as Gene Weingarten (tan cargo pants):

Gene Weingarten

I also said hi to WashingtonPost.com honcho Jim Brady, and was amused to find out he was the final goal -- the guy at the indicated location wearing a Red Sox cap. You can read more about Washington Post staff cameos in the official post-mortem followup chat. And I've got a few more photos of no consequence in my Flickr set: Post Hunt, 5/18/08.

All in all, it was a good time (would have been a great time if the weather had been a little nicer). I was a little surprised at the good turnout, though I was also a little... wary? of the die-hards who'd come up from Florida and points further to participate. Come on now, it's fun and all, but it's like 3 hours (including a lunch break), and the 1st, 2nd and 3rd prizes were stays at a resort in Hollywood... Florida.

Anyway, I feel a little more prepared if and when (barring buyouts) they do it again next year.

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Monday, January 21, 2008

I Am Incubating My Brains Out

Of all the Dilbert characters, the one I've least associated myself with is Wally. Until today yesterday:

Wally: "To the observer, it looks as if I am doing nothing, but on the inside, I am incubating my brains out."

To that end, I'm trying to think big thoughts about online community and social media, and talking big talk whenever I get the chance. More on that as it happens.

Meanwhile, a few interesting items from yesterday's NYT (culled from my slushpile of topics on del.icio.us):

* Battlefield: Second Life? - EA announced that their Battlefield: Heroes game will be a free download, with users having the option to buy virtual goods (like customizable uniform bits or weapons) and power-ups. Furthermore, it'll be a "fun cartoon-style shooter which caters to players of all skill levels."

From my outsider perspective, it looks like it's taking a page from Team Fortress 2, and not just because of the cartoony graphics that forgo strict photorealism -- but to make it more accessible to people who aren't amped-up 14-year-olds with twitch reflexes, allowing them to still play meaningful roles.

The virtual goods angle is also interesting -- someone can probably tell me where this is already happening, but we seem to be headed to a convergence, through the introduction of persistent, purchasable (or unlockable) virtual goods in traditional shoot-em-up games, and the introduction of competitive or goal-directed behaviors in virtual worlds (like Second Life, where one criticism is that it's kind of... pointless, outside of socialization or acquiring virtual goods for their own sake).

Being somewhere in the middle, MMOs should be already be there, but something still seems lacking. I guess I don't have a strong enough grasp of what's happening in the games space to really articulate what I'm trying to get at. Hence the whole incubation thing.

* Twitter Campaign Reporting: Also from the Times, this is a roundup piece talking about the influence of Twitter on politics and microjournalism. I still haven't drunk fully from the Twitter kool-aid, so I'm still trying to decide what I think. As with other forms of media, we're seeing how the early adopters and first movers are having a disproportionate impact on right now -- as the technology diffuses, its impact will become broader, yet shallower (barring co-opting or concentration by older brands and media).

* Newspaper Survival Strategy: Pander to Boomers: -- It seems a little hard to believe (and I'm not sure that I do), but this Business section article credits an uptick in Newsday.com's readership, in part, to a crappy flash "Born to Be Wild" song parody about baby boomers.

I like cartoonist's Walt Handelsman's editorial cartoons (seen in print and also on that blog), but this is a horrible, horrible animation. But baby boomers are famously self-important, so maybe it did go viral. I wouldn't know -- I'm outside of their intended audience (who knows, maybe it's a Smothers Brothers flashback or something).

Since pandering to Baby Boomers isn't a long-term solution, is the lesson for newspapers to find more key audiences to pander to -- say, the folks who actually forward the e-mails that are featured on My Right-Wing Dad, or people who think Larry the Cable Guy (or Dane Cook, for that matter) are funny?

Perhaps there are fates worse than death for a newspaper.

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Saturday, January 05, 2008

Simulating Your Way Out of a Speeding Ticket

I was looking at the TruTV (formerly Court TV) Web site to find the next airing of their new Tiger Team show, since I missed it and the premise sounds interesting.

The site wasn't particularly helpful in that respect, though they do have a full episode online.

Anyway, along the way, I saw a promo for a Flash game for one of their other shows, Speeders -- you try to talk your way out of a speeding ticket:


I tried it out, and got off with a warning. Makes sense, since I'm such a smooth, articulate, and persuasive talker, right?

Then I tried it again, taking an alternate tack:

A Children of Men reference.

The police officer reacts negatively, as do I:


Realizing I may have gone too far, I express contrition:


The police officer reacts positively to my honest expression:




Armed with this tru-to-life simulation, you can be sure I will follow this script the next time I get pulled over.

If nothing else, this could lead to an appearance on another one of their shows.

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