March 31, 2004

Hamburglary crime wave in America

I played the pretty new game Odds'R last night, which was surprisingly a pretty good game but one moment of the game last night was absolutely hillarious, having several of us laughing so hard we had tears in our eyes. I recommend the game for those into party games and who like wagering but are willing to put up with the very high luck level.

The review I link to does a nice job of describing it but I'll give a quick overview here. We played with 3 teams of 2 and the game is a trivia party game where all the questions are about odds and likelihood of events with 3 possible multiple choice answers. The game has a ton of luck in moving around the board and particularly a Free Parking like lottery system which gives a massive reward with no skill whatsoever. The innovative thing about the game is that the team(s) not answering a question get to bet on whether they think the active team will get the question right and can bet as much money as they want. The active team also bets but must bet to try to get the question right and are limited in how much they can bet. Thus, it could be your turn and a question could come up which I am certain you know the answer for but how much should I bet that you will be right? I could bet all my money but then you would only bet the minimum amount and intentionally get the question wrong so I have to be careful. On the other hand, if I think you really have no idea about the question, it isn't unreasonable to bet almost all my money on your being wrong as 2/3 of the time I will double it when you get the question wrong (this is also particularly true since the bizarre lottery scheme gives me a chance to get all my money back even if I'm wrong and you get the question right). I really enjoyed the betting on others scheme and it was also interesting how you could sometimes make guesses about what the question answer is based on how the other teams predicted whether you would be right. If the other teams all said they thought you would get the question wrong, well then probably it isn't the obvious answer and is some sort of trick question - quite interesting information to have in making a guess.

Ok, on to the particular hillarious incident. It turns out that, while all questions have three multiple choice answers, in some cases the third answer is a joke (like a question late in the game was In what Olympic sport has the greatest distance record been set? A) Hammer Throw, B) Discus, C) Dwarf Tossing) so as to effectively make it a 50% question rather than 33%. Other game shows like Who Wants to be a Millionaire? also commonly have a final choice joke answer for a couple of the early questions.

The first such question we had was: McCrime of the '90s: What crime had more occurences of in the 90's? A) Larceny, B) Burglarly, C) Hamburglary. Also, remember that 4 of us (the teams not answering the question) had already seen the answer and made bets on whether the active team would get it right (I think we bet for and the other team bet against but am not certain of their bet). Well, the active team was David (our host) and Alex, who was a very nice guy there for only his second time. Alex seriously though the answer was Hamburglary (presumably the stealing of hamburgers like in the ancient McDonalds add by the Hamburglar character) and his main argument was "Why would they put it in it wasn't right?". David realized it was a joke but Alex kept defending it and wanting to go with it for something like 5 minutes. This sent the rest of us into hysterical laughter as we couldn't believe someone would actually want to guess this and defend it vociferously. Despite our laughter which should have been a dead giveaway that the answer was not Hamburglary, Alex persisted in pushing for it. Finally, David convinced him it was probably a joke and they got the answer right (Larceny). I honestly can't remember the last time I laughed as hard as I did over this debate. Alex of course got some good natured joshing about this for the rest of the night but I'm going to make a point of not bringing it up in future as it might otherwise become a sore point.

ps. Another nice feature of the game is the plastic poker chips used for money. Not nearly as nice as Clay chips but so much better than paper money. Kudos for this choice to Eagle Games.

Posted by aarondf at 12:47 PM | Games | Comments (2)

March 29, 2004

The Office

Got Season 1 of the British comedy The Office from Netflix and watched it over the weekend. It really is quite funny although its hard to imagine how David manages to keep his job (and his superiors even want to promote him in one episdoe) given his direct lying to his superior and general incompetence. No big deal as its a comedy but a bit hard for me to get past. Too bad the season is so short. ****

Posted by aarondf at 05:15 PM | Television | Comments (0)

March 26, 2004

Checking up on your Neighbors

Pretty scary site in terms of privacy at You can enter a zip code and find all (or at least many - not sure the details of how they are getting their information) the people in the area who have contributed to political campaigns and how much they have contributed to whom.

Posted by aarondf at 10:32 AM | Links | Comments (0)

Movies: Shattered Glass

This was an excellent movie around the true events in the mid 90's at The New Republic with a writer fabricating stories and getting away with it. Excellent writing and acting. ****

Posted by aarondf at 10:27 AM | Movies | Comments (0)

March 19, 2004

New Google Feature

There's a cool new Beta Google feature called Google Local where you enter a location identifier (like zip code) along with your search terms. It does a very nice job of finding business that offer that search term near you. I have a chair that is broken so did a search on welding 02139 and immediately pulled up a number of places. I will probably take my chair in to one of them early next week and see what they can do.

Posted by aarondf at 03:36 PM | Links | Comments (0)

March 18, 2004

TrashCon at Matt's

Crazily, I went out almost immediately upon my return Saturday night to Matt's for games, particularly Rob's Haste Worte, and laundry ;) I had a good team for the HW game and really enjoyed the game, which we probably should have won but barely lost on the tiebreaker question. We knew more answers but bid slightly too high. It is a bit of an odd game in design but does work pretty well in practice. Played Tichu afterwards till 1AM in a very close game which we barely won. I avoided the Celebrities game due to the debates that happened the last time and think I am going to stick to that plan for the future unless we make some changes. With other groups, I'll happily keep playing this excellent game.

Posted by aarondf at 03:56 PM | Games | Comments (0)

Back from Berlin

Went to Berlin last week for a conference for work but extended the trip several days to see the sites. The weather was cold and snowy and gloomy and gardens thus weren't that interesting and fountains (which I love) weren't running but othewise Berlin was a nice city and we got around to lots of it other than very short shrift on the museums.

Our first day in (after sleeping most of the prior day after arriving around noon) we went to Checkpoint Charlie and the associated museum which was quite incredible and we spent a number of hours at. The next day we went around to find the street in Friedenau where my parents lived when my brother was born and around Berlin to see the Brandenburg Gate, Reichstag and other sites. Other major locations we went to were the Berliner Ensemble, Bertolt Brecht's grave, Alexanderplatz and sites including the great view from the Fehlturm (2nd tallest building in Europe), KaDeWe (amazing largest department store in Europe), apple streudel at Cafe Kranzler that my mother recommended, and various other sites including Schloss Soucci in Potsdam.

Cool trip although the flights on Air France were an extreme pain with middle seats on both long flights and a broken video monitor on the second one. I am going to be writing them and Delta who I booked my ticket through complaints over the poor service. 5 days later I am still not fully adjusted to the time change which is unusual for me and a bit disconcerting.

Posted by aarondf at 03:51 PM | Travels | Comments (0)

March 04, 2004

Trivia Redux

Trivia again last night with four of us. We ended up winning with a wire-to-wire lead but it was incredibly close at the end with scores of 110-109-108 as we blew both of the last two questions (What did TV Guide choose as the best television show in history? {Seinfeld turns out to be the answer which is ridiculous in my opinion - we went with MASH] and What sport has been featured on the Sports Illustrated cover the most? [Football by a tiny margin (less than 2%) over Baseball which we guessed]). However, the only team to get both right and bet the full amount started out 27 points behind us and ended up 1 point behind us. Other than the final two questions, we missed only a possible 6 points and could have actually had 5 of those points if we had gone with Bill's answers. On the other hand, Bill's ideas were somewhat contradictory as on one question he wanted us to go with one answer but when we decided to go with another answer he still wanted us to bet a lot of points which doesn't make a lot of sense. Fun game, anyway, although it was too bad that it started almost 45 minutes late as the regular guy again couldn't make it.

Posted by aarondf at 03:21 PM | Events | Comments (0)

March 01, 2004

Alf's Puzzle Hunt

Alf's annual puzzle hunt was Saturday and this year the theme was Harry Potter. As usual, I really enjoyed it although things went very long till 2am, even with a couple of puzzles being dropped. I submitted one small puzzle which I was worried was too hard for its slot in the hunt but turned out to be of just the difficulty I was aiming for I think. Particularly enjoyable puzzles were Shari's cryptograms and watching others work on the musical puzzle which I am useless at but which make for a really nice cooperative puzzle type. The dragon egg hunt in the park was also a really nice break from an intense day of mental effort. I hope the puzzles this year get on the web finally and will volunteer to help with this.

Posted by aarondf at 05:24 PM | Events | Comments (0)

Phantom Menace - Queen's Gambit

I happened to accidentally tape (and later watch) the ending of Star Wars: A Phantom Menace last night which I hadn't seen since it came out. I was reminded and amazed at how good a job the game Star Wars: Queen's Gambit does of simulating the final battles and really bringing out the experience with all the cool pieces and multiple battles. Really fun game and really good representation!

Posted by aarondf at 12:46 PM | Games | Comments (0)

Academy Awards

Well, the most surprising thing this year was that there were no surprises. In every single category, the favorite one as far as I understood the odds with Return of the King having a clean sweep of 11 for 11. I was for the most part happy about this with the technical awards (particularly Alan Lee) and very unhappy about the others (I liked all the other Songs better although I did like the title "Into the West" and of course was disgusted it won for Best Adapted Screenplay and a little less disgusted about Director and Best Picture).

In other awards, I would have liked Bill Murray to win for Best Actor but that is partly sentimental and based on that this is probably his only chance for it while Sean Penn will likely be back many times. I was also very glad Sofia Coppola won for Best Original Screenplay. Again, though, no surprises. My favorite moment of the show was probaby the song performance by 'Mitch and Mickey' of A Mighty Wind which was also very well done.

Posted by aarondf at 12:42 PM | Television | Comments (0)