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Friday, July 29, 2011

Friday Cheat Sheet

Okay, so just like last week we had two puzzles. One without any words and another consisting entirely of words. Also, my very first acrostic which I think I mentioned before how obscenely long it took me to make it. I wish I could find a way to better present those kind of puzzles online, because really if you wanted to solve it, you'd really have to print out both the clues and puzzle picture and do it by hand, and my God people we live in the twenty-first century! You should be able to solve acrostics on your laptop while you zip through the air in your fully automated flying car as your personal robot butler massages your feet. Well, one out of three ain't bad. Anyway, the answers to all of your questions, including life the universe and everything (42) after the jump!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Brooks Recommends - Sam Harris vs Rabbi David Wolpe

Frankly, you either get this picture or you don't.
I'm not gonna lie to you. I've always been a skeptical sort. I didn't have any traumatic experience with the church, but even at an early age I remember having doubts about the Big Bearded Guy in the sky. I remember vividly at the age of six being alone and having these doubts, but then trying to cover my tracks I would use my internal monologue to say in my brain "I do believe in God. I do believe in God," just in case the Big Guy was up there paying attention. As the years wore one, I became less and less cautious as it became clearer and clearer to me that this whole religious stuff was all a bunch of hooey.

However, I have respect for the religious. Growing up Lutheran, I can tell you that it was nothing but a good experience. Pastor Rockwood taught me everything I need to know about nuanced and intelligent public speaking and story telling. I met many good friends both young and old through the church. I sort of consider myself, like many "secular jews" a "cultural lutheran". When I listen to A Prairie Home Companion, I laugh because those are my people. But I'm about as atheistic as they come.

But I also like a fair and strong fight. Last year, notorious raconteur (and Cancer patient (we're pulling for you Hitch!)) Christopher Hitchens battled ex-Prime Minister Tony Blair on the question of whether or not Religion was a force for good in the world. Quite frankly it was a one sided blood bath. Tony Blair put up a pretty weak defense and Hitchens danced circles around his opponent. Far more interesting is the heated and significantly more nuanced debate author Sam Harris and Rabbi David Wolpe had concerning the existence of God, which they conducted two years earlier.

It's a long discussion, and there's not much to be gained by watching it. I do though highly recommend playing the video and doing something else as you listen to these two go at it with intellect and vehemence. Forewarned, Rabbi Wolpe  takes a decidedly Jewish slant on the issue, but it's a fascinating discussion all the way around.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Accidental Youtube - Bill Cosby Dreams

Ah Jello! Quite possibly the most delicious thing one can make out of ground up horse hooves. Watch this video of jello squares being dropped in slow motion. It's like taking mescaline but without the accompanying paranoid delusions. Or so I'm told...

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Acrostic Nature

Hi everybody! Today, I bring you an acrostic I made. It's the first time I've ever made an acrostic and believe it or not, creating these puzzles are HARD. I don't know if I'd say they're harder to make than Crosswords, but it certainly took more time than creating one of my average crosswords. But they're fun puzzles to do. It's a lot like solving a cryptogram and a crossword at the same time. If you've never encountered one before you might find this helpful. Anyway, here it is. Hope you enjoy!

The clues are after the jump:

Monday, July 25, 2011

Question Mark? Period-ical.

So I've got another image puzzle for you folks. Below is a series of twenty covers from contemporary magazines all of which should be able to be picked up at any standard periodical retailer. Of course, just like last time, I've removed the titles to each. How many can you name? I'll give you a hint: Hustler isn't one of them. Neither is The National Review. I didn't want to be offensive.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Je parle en peu l'Francias. Pas bien.

Last night I went to the Old Fashioned Melodrama, here in Cheyenne. I'm actually performing an olio act later this evening. Me and my friend Rory are doing a comedy routine that I wrote and by wrote I mean half the jokes are old vaudeville standbys. Perhaps I'll post the script later, and see what people think.

But this entry is not about Le Melodrama Antique, but is about how ashamed I am by something that happened there. A good friend of mine, who was playing the piano that night, brought a French foreign exchange student with her and insisted that I speak with him. That's partially because I studied French pretty hardcore in highschool to the point where I actually lived with a French family for a bit my senior year in Le Puy. Since then, I haven't really studied french much but I remember at various parties if I got drunk enough and met someone else who studied French, we would have superficial conversations in the language.

But upon meeting this teenager, I was barely able to cobble together a "bonjour". I wanted to say, "It's a pleasure meeting you," but for some stupid reason I couldn't reason out in my brain how to say it. It reminds me how I knew a guy in college from the Philippines who would sometimes forget how to use his native tongue he had been surrounded by English for so long. Nonetheless, I felt like a complete jackass, for being so unable to make conversation with the Frenchman.

For a while, it was a dream of my best friend and I to compete on America's The Amazing Race. Having spent two and a half years in Ukraine she knows her pidgin Russian pretty well. Also, she used to be the president of the Spanish club back in high school. I claimed that I could get us around in Francophones, and I had a somewhat working knowledge of German. But if I can barely make polite conversation with a French highschool student, what does that say about my ability to circumnavigate the globe? 

The lesson I've learned is to bone up on my French. I've discovered a couple of French podcasts that I'll listen to, and perhaps dive back into learning the language. If anyone has tips or pointers, please let me know. Au revoir! 

Friday, July 22, 2011

Cheat Sheet

I hear your tormented cries. "Answers!" you scream through your gritted teeth as you dance in pain and fury, "We demand answers!!" and while I don't have answers for everything, I do have answers for the two puzzles I posted earlier this week. So if you wanna spoil yourself, just continue reading this post!!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Spring Thing - Wetlands

Alright, after some helpful hints by some readers I decided to forge ahead and plow through the first entry early! The first game of the competition is Wetlands by Clara Raubertas. Unlike the IF Comp I'm writing this preliminary passage after playing through the game. I say that I "plowed" through this, but frankly it was more like playing morsel sized bites of it. I'd play it for a while and then put it down and do something else and then wander back to it. I really had to focus and force myself to work on it to completion. Not that it wasn't interesting, per se, but it didn't exactly have what I'd call narrative thrust, and no that's not a special term used by writers of erotica.

Final Verdict : Fun atmosphere and generally pleasant puzzles balance out nebulous storytelling.

But of course you crazy kids want to hear more than that, dotcha! Well you can read spoilers to your hearts content, AFTER THE JUMP!!

Brooks Recommends - Foucault's Pendulum

It can be very easy and tempting and down right fun to spend all one's time criticizing other people and the work they do. After all when people come out with things like this, it's pretty much like they're asking for it. But as much joy as I often get from hearing or reading or doling out, take-downs (thus one of my new favorite podcasts!) I think it's important to take time and revel in what is great and grand and glorious in this universe. Granted, the ratio of great to mediocre is still pretty depressing, but there's still a tremendous amount of great stuff out there.

So today, I'd like to recommend my favorite novel, Foucault's Pendulum by Italian author and linguist Umberto Eco. Now, I don't know if it's great in the same way that Lady Chatterly's Lover is, but I also know that it's a hell of a lot better than those awkwardly written doorstops The Harry Potter books. Frankly, it's intelligentsia pulp, a genre that could claim Eco's first novel The Name of the Rose.

In many respects, Foucault's pendulum has a lot in common with the Dan Brown style genre books. The only book of his I've read is the DaVincci code (which I read on a depressing cross-country bus trip made only more depressing because I was stuck reading that tripe), in that it's about a possible global conspiracy originating with the cult of the Templars and using some pretty broad leaps of historical logic to try to substantiate that claim. But as opposed to Dan Brown's books (I'm presuming (I saw the trailer to the movie Angels and Demons and it looked like more of the same(except without Audrey Tautou and let's face it, why would you want to see anything without Audrey Tautou?))), and others of his ilk, Eco's work is primarily concerned with the validity of those leaps in logic.

 It's a conspiracy thriller which questions the fundamental assumptions of the genre. Without giving too much away, it's a book concerned with the philosophy of history. What does history mean? How does it effect us and vice versa? While there is some clunky stuff involving a computer program which is imbued with unrealistic power (it was published in the late 1980's), it's a relatively minor complaint. This is a book about ideas, and it dances through chapters on medieval history, occultism, and Italian politics with such glee and merriment that I would argue most of the book is comic in nature, despite the way it's bookended in a Kafkaesque nightmare.

What I'm saying is you should read it. I've tried to get many people over the years to read this book, and I've been pretty unsuccessful, but seriously, if you're reading this right now and have been half-heartedly looking for a good book to read, the I implore you, please go and read this. The first fifty pages might be a little rough, and his many tangential threads might seem pointless at first. But please, this master knows what he's doing.

And the word of the day is...

Here is a Sudoku puzzle for you featuring letters instead of numbers!

And on a completely unrelated note, here is a funny joke.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Accidental Youtube - Legal Interns Being Nerds

I liked the idea behind this entry that I did a while back and so thought I'd revisit it. I even used the same website! This time I came up with the uncommon interjection "Oyez". This was the first link that came up. It is a video of a perfectly normal bailiff performing a standard opening ceremony for the Supreme Court of the State of West Moorleens (??).

It's nice to know that people who join the legal profession are just as prone to terrible bouts of embarrassing nerd humor as the rest of us.

Looking at the Spring Thing

The great thing about IF? The graphics.
So... there are a few IF competitions throughout the year. There's the generically titled "IF Comp" which begins mid-fall but the other "big" competition is the "Spring Thing". There are several differences between these two competitions. For one, the annual IF Comp gets much more attention (at least from outside the IF community) and it gets a ton more entrants. I'm fairy certain these two facts are correlated. But more importantly, the fall IF Comp is more for medium sized works of IF, whereas the Spring Thing has no such limitations and is thus implicitly if not explicitly for longer form games. The only problem is that is takes a TON of time to write one good medium sized game. Last year they didn't even have a Spring Thing because not enough people entered (i.e. I don't think there was any). This year, there was a substantial uptick with it looks like six entrants.

Crosswords - The Pick Up Artist

Hey, beautiful. I couldn't help but notice you standing across the room, looking beautiful and lonely. And I remember thinking that all you needed was an arm around your shoulder and someone to talk to. What are you drinking? Looks tasty. Can I have a... No, no.... You don't have to call over the bouncer. Ha. Ha. I was just joking, see look at me. I'm laughing! You're laughing! Wow, God. It's good to laugh. Ha. Ha. Ha. Wow. You know, it's amazing, I feel like we just met and yet I'm already feeling this connection to you. Like I've already spent time camped outside your bedroom window with binoculars. What? No! No way! No! That must have been someone else driving a red Toyota Camry. Say, let's change the subject, you know I don't mean to be forward but, is it just me or do you seem a bit uncomfortable right now? Hmm? How about we ditch this crazy joint and go back to my place. I've got a pantry full of rip olives and a DVR filled with Hoarder's episodes, huh? How bout it? Or we could swing by here and solve my new crossword puzzle, or we could-- Woah! Woah! Okay, okay! I get the idea! You don't have to spray me with mace in the face twice!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The IM-Personals - Part 1

Remember: This is what Julie Andrews looks like
Okay, so I was trying to brainstorm a puzzle idea, and it hit me that if I could find a repository of images of celebrity impersonators and then select a few that missed their marks, that it could create a pretty awesome puzzle. Well, frankly, after perusing this website let me tell you that I grossly under-estimated how fascinating looking at people trying to look like other people can be. So I've decided why not draw out a few separate blog posts out of it, amirite? Just like the gummint draws the blood of our nation through taxing the wealthy. Amirite? Sorry, I've been hanging out with libertarians. (NOT ON PURPOSE!!)

Monday, July 18, 2011

Judging a Book by its Cover

I'm not going to waste time talking about why I haven't updated this blog for a while, since it doesn't really matter. Actually, I hadn't even thought much about this blog until last weekend I published a new crossword puzzle (and there are more on the way!) and it occurred to me that my profile directs people to this website.

So it occurred to me that I might as well give them something to look at, eh? So here's a new visual puzzle. I've taken the covers of 20 classic works of literature and clumsily removed the title and author's name using some free photoshop clone from the Chrome store. Some of these are famous covers. Many are not, but well read and observant puzzle solvers should get most of them. How many can you figure out? I'll post the answers on Friday.

P.S. - Click here if you want to see a larger version of the puzzle.