September 30, 2003

Movie: America's Sweethearts

Trip report soon but this quick review first.

This came out in 2001 and I don't know how it went almost completely under my radar with this amazingly good cast. Julia Roberts, John Cusack, Billy Crystal and Catherine Zeta-Jones are the leads and I like all of them, particularly Roberts and Cusack. In addition, it has in supporting rolls the great Christopher Walken, Seth Green and Hank Azaria all of whom I really like. The movie is super-light and pretty predicatable but incredibly fun. Highly recommended. ****

Posted by aarondf at 01:21 PM | Movies | Comments (0)

September 15, 2003

Charbanova Hunt '03

Saturday was the day of Aaron Weissblum's annual Charbanova treasure hunt which benefits Cape Ann Animal Aid and takes place in Gloucester. This year it was at a YMCA camp there that Aaron has a long relationship with.

I put together a full team of 6 (in past years we had gone with 4 since teams only get 4 prizes but this year we decided to have a full team so that we would be sure to get prizes at all and to have a chance to compete for first) and we were the first full team to arrive (in 4 separate cars). Our team was fellow gamers Matt, Alec, Nate and Rob and Erik from my work. Being there early let me do a favor for Paul (AaronW's partner) in going to change some money to assist with people paying.

The hunt started a bit late which was kind of nice as it gave us a chance to talk as a team and to talk with other teams. I now know probably more than half the people at the hunt whereas the first year I went I only knew my own team and like two others and interestingly this is not because I met people there but because many people I know from other activities are joining this hunt each year.

The theme this year was Dogs and Bones and, although every year has a run-around element, this year's was very different. In past years, we were always sent by each puzzle to a specific location. This year we were not given any directions and instead had to wander all over the camp and trails to find 21 bones hidden around and then match them up with the puzzles. This wasn't a bad idea but ended up causing our team (and many others I think) a lot of headaches. First off, we probably spent like 6 (of 18) hours of team time or more looking for these bones which seems excessive. In addition, the structure encouraged one person to do all the running about since they would know which areas they had already looked at and not repeat stuff. The other scheme let the running more easily be split between all the team members. We did eventually find all the bones but only with like 20 minutes to go and it was just too much trouble and not that much fun I thought.

The puzzles on the other hand were generally very good and enjoyable but I personally was at a pretty low ebb for solving. The one puzzle we didn't solve (resulting in us being like 6th rather than 2nd or 3rd) I feel a complete fool for not having solved as I noticed enough of the trick that I should have seen the rest and somehow didn't. I also goofed up another puzzle as a result of continuing doing what a teammate had started on rather than taking a fresh look at what was not a difficult puzzle and right up my alley. The one we didn't solve also had issues because of a major misunderstanding that got passed on to everyone else on the team and caused us a ton of time barking up the wrong tree.

I have realized that two of my great puzzle strengths are in general organization (what should be done when and what to focus on - I am NOT good at the detailed organization stuff) and in my puzzle intuition. Almost all of my intuitions about things Saturday were on the nose but I screwed up specifics enough that I couldn't take enough advantage of it.

We ended up with no mistakes and all the puzzles solved but one and ended like 6th or 7th of 14 teams with 9 getting prizes. It turned out this year, though, that prizes were computer printouts rather than the nice wooden paintings of past years and that there were multiple copies of each. As such, in terms of prize choosing there was almost no benefit at all to being first. Our team also did my 'divide 4 prizes between 6 people auction scheme' which worked ok but only a few of us really understood it - not sure why; its not that confusing. The prizes were effectively valued at $15 by the system. I still think the system is pretty perfect at achieving the goals I had for it - basically that everyone should walk away happy, whether they get a prize or money.

The most amazing thing of this hunt was the winning team of David and Jess Kuznick (who I'd invited to join us earlier in forming our team) and Craig and Cori Swanson. They were a four person team in a hunt which really wanted lots of people so you could have people on the trails and solving. They got a perfect score and finished as one of the earliest teams - absolutely incredible and kudos to them. They are all good solvers and Craig in particular is absolutely brilliant about many things but I was still amazed at this performance.

Because of the Bone run-around and my own poor solving, I probably didn't enjoy this hunt quite as much as the previous years but that is also a really high standard to meet and I still had a great time and absolutely will continue to do it every year. Thanks so much, Aaron Weissblum and helpers!!!

Posted by aarondf at 12:51 PM | Events | Comments (0)

September 09, 2003

Google and the Web - Wow

This isn't at all a new thought but I had such amazing results with a couple of searches today that more and more I realize the Web is coming into its own as the global encycopedia of all knowledge with Google as the index.

I realized the power of the Web from almost the first moment I used Mosaic but over the years it has grown amazingly to meet that potential and Google has appeared to allow us to exploit it.

These are two of the searches I did today. I wanted to know the distance from Seattle to Portland and so did a search on it and not only did the first result give me an exact distance and estimated travel time it did it without me having to even visit the actual page. I also wanted to look up the name of a cooking store in Paris and found that as like the 3rd link with the store's name that I couldn't remember but could recognize again on the Google page without having to visit the linked page. This is for a country with a different language and a pretty vague search!

A toast to the WWW and Google!

Posted by aarondf at 01:46 PM | Tech | Comments (0)

September 02, 2003


Went to games days and parties every day of the long weekend and had a really nice time at Joe's, Andy's and Rob's. The only memorable new game I played was Killer Bunnies which was memorable in a very bad way - horribly bad game in all respects.

I also tried a quick 'teach' of square dancing at Andy's and plan to go to the introductory MIT class tonight although I have no idea if I will continue with it, even if I really like it, due to the bad evening and other issues.

Posted by aarondf at 04:24 PM | Games | Comments (0)