January 27, 2005

Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow

This movie was very cool looking in an old adventure serial style and was a pretty fun action movie too. However, some little things quite annnoyed me as the heros are spending time chitchatting on multiple occasions while they have less than 10 minutes to try to save the world. I also was a little surprised at the ending. I thought Jude and Gwynneth were going to save the earth but be stranded on the rocket and go off to colonize a new world of beautiful kids, with the ark animals. ***1/2

Posted by aarondf at 12:26 PM | Movies | Comments (0)

January 25, 2005

Movies: Silver City

Excellent movie involving the crossovers of politics and business and how much you can get away with if you have the right connections. Danny Huston is amazingly good in this movie. Well worth getting. ****1/2

Posted by aarondf at 11:26 AM | Movies | Comments (0)

January 21, 2005

Mystery Hunt Notes

The team solving stats have now been posted and we were 3rd on this as well as on the overall hunt. Looking at solutions for a few of the puzzles we missed found that Joe had been on the right track with Ginormous but had trouble doing the second factoring step so I think must have had an error in his number somehow. Still, pretty tricky puzzle with three levels of factoring and a different trick at each stage for pulling out the info you wanted and no midway for-sure confirmations you were on the right track. Last year had a bunch of (imho bad) puzzles like this but this year had almost none.

Little People, OTOH, had a very reasonable solution and I can't believe we didn't get it, particularly given the obviousness of the flowers in the first image and the all green guys box. We worked on this puzzle quite a lot and its amazing to me that nobody figured it out - it just doesn't seem that tricky. It may have made a big difference that for a bunch of the time, people were looking at B&W prints so the all-green guys box doesn't leap out as much, and in general the characters don't seem as distinctive. I think we need to make a point of printing more puzzles in color to at least have one easily available color copy. Certainly the 'find the location of this photo on campus' puzzles are really helped by having good color prints.

I am not at all surprised that very few teams solved Square Mess. I personally think having a non-dictionary word in the solution makes this an unfairly difficult puzzle and I'm glad I didn't try to code it as at least three people on our team did without success. The basic search space is 19! and you have to limit it and dictionary search is the only reasonable way to do so. The solution talks about getting the start of the message using dictionary search and then working from there but I think this is pretty unreasonable. There are just too many possible starts to pick out the right one (even with the correct guess I made very early that the message would start "find "). We also guessed the exact answer to the puzzle based on backsolving so really no great need to solve this one.

Posted by aarondf at 12:28 PM | Events | Comments (0)

Movies: 42 Up

I finally watched the latest in Michael Apted's brilliant Up Series and it continues to be fascinating. Not surprisingly, there isn't nearly as much change between 35 and 42 as there was between 7 and 14 but it was nice to see the improvements in Bruce and Neil's lives and the friendship they had developed.

It really would be great if a series like this existed for other countries, given the significant impact the cultural background has on the people. In the US, I wonder if the class restraints would have been as strong and hope not.

Posted by aarondf at 11:28 AM | Movies | Comments (0)

January 18, 2005

MIT Mystery Hunt 2005

Thanks to Setec Astronomy who did a great job with this year's hunt, puzzles with linked solutions available here. The puzzles were almost uniformly clean and excellent, sometimes even a bit too excellent where the answer was so linked to the puzzle that it was guessable without solving the puzzle. Our team ended up third but easily could have won if we could have solved the final two super-metas more quickly, although I guess Acronym was stuck for even longer and lost their sizable lead and the hunt for it. The Purple meta wasn't even that tricky and I think only sleep deprivation explains why it took us so long. The Orange meta was a bit of different story, but we still should have solved it. View Source should be a standard thing to do when stuck and would have worked in all browsers. Interestingly, without that, Firefox on the PC worked well, Mozilla on the PC not at all (which was what I was using during the hunt unfortunately) and Mozilla on Linux worked a bit.

There was basically zero hinting till the very end (when it didn't matter for determining the winner) which is great, as it means the puzzles are solvable without it, and hinting really messes up hunts in a big way for all sorts of reasons.

There were so many good puzzles that I don't think I'm going to try to single out a few this time although if someone wants recommendations for particular knowledge/skill sets I would try to give them. Two more gaming friends came this year and made contributions, although each of them could only make it for part of the hunt.

My only real regrets are missing the endgame as I didn't sleep till too late, as I misjudged how long the hunt would go, and missing the wrap-up meeting as it was in the morning and not posted to the website, which must have been an oversight.

Posted by aarondf at 12:07 PM | Events | Comments (2)

January 06, 2005


Just writing an entry mostly as I haven't in a while. Had a great trip to visit my brother and his family in New Mexico for Christmas and New Years although unfortunately came down with the flu and am still recovering from it. World of Warcraft continues to eat up an incredible amount of time, amazingly addictive and very fun. I now have two characters, as I created a second to play with my brother, who is now also addicted. I at some point may have to really fight against this addiction but it has been especially nice to play while sick and not up for much else.

Highlights of the trip were playing with my 4 year old nephew and a couple really fun Go-Kart rides at a park in Tucson, Arizona we went to. I was quite amazed at just how much fun these were and tiring too on the arms. I may try to find a good track around Boston and arrange an outing.

Posted by aarondf at 12:44 PM | Miscellaneous | Comments (0)