February 2005 Archives


I've never thought Chris Rock was funny, and nothing I've seen on tonight's Oscarcast changed my mind. The man was too loud, enunciated poorly, and simply missed the mark with his material. I didn't laugh. The great thing about Billy Crystal is that the man exudes love for the movies and the industry, and that love is infectuous. Chris Rock is merely an abrasive, mugging outsider, horribly miscast for the job.

But that seems par for the course for this Oscarcast. The opening montage was utterly horrendous, lacking any kind of rhythm, thematic unity, or craftsmanship-- it looked like it was slapped together by a teenager with a Powerbook. The musical themes used to play people on and off included some baffling choices-- the themes from The Terminator and Star Trek: The Motion Picture among them. The idea of giving some awards from the auditorium floor was ill-conceived from the start. And what's the deal with Beyonce? Did she give 'em a bulk rate or something?

At least The Incredibles beat the two Dreamworks films for best animated picture.

Comments (9) | last by dana, Mar 13, 12:23 AM

Puzzle Hunt 8

This weekend was Puzzle Hunt 8 at Microsoft-- a weekend of puzzle-solving debauchery shared by 57 teams of 12 people each. The event started at 10 AM Saturday and ended at 5:30 PM Sunday.

A couple of years ago my team ran Puzzle Hunt 6 which was, by most accounts, the best hunt ever. This one was better.

My hopes were high going into the hunt, since Games Magazine contributors Mike Selinker and Mark Gottlieb were both on the organizing team. I'd played in a 3-hour hunt they created for a National Puzzlers League convention a few years ago, and it was top-notch. This hunt ran flawlessly. We required no hints for any puzzles. None. And I don't mean just hints released to the general population-- we didn't get any kind of assistance from the organizers at any time during the hunt. No verification of partial answers, no reinforcement that we were on the right track, nothing. It wasn't necessary. The puzzles were sensible, well-designed and executed, and required no superhuman leaps of intuition to solve.

meta1.jpgThe first round was particularly elegant, consisting entirely of a Las Vegas travel brochure that, at first glance, didn't appear to contain any puzzles at all. In fact it contained seven, plus the most brilliant meta-puzzle I've ever seen. Each puzzle resolved to an instruction. Following all seven instructions resulted in cutting out parts of the brochure, folding them into rectangular tubes, cutting holes in them, and shining a light on them to cause them to cast a shadow in the shape of a 5-digit phone extension. A thing of beauty.

meta2.jpgMy team won hunts 2 and 5, ran hunts 3 and 6, and lost hunts 4 and 7. Given that pattern, we "expected" to win this hunt. We got the first solve a few minutes into the hunt, securing a lead we never lost. We were on fire, solving almost half the puzzles before any other team and ultimately finishing the hunt at 5 AM, 19 hours in. The next team finished three hours later. On one level it was a bit disappointing to finish so early (we WAY overbought on the food front, expecting another twelve hours of puzzling), but they say it's always better to leave 'em wanting more. The hunt never wore out its welcome, and we finished exhilirated and satisfied.

I pity the team that has to follow this act. Because it's us.

Comments (8) | last by Steve Dupree, Jul 20, 12:47 PM

Survivor: Palau

That Pick 'Em game to start the show was cruel. Two people got axed from the game before they ever really got a chance to play. Granted, in Wanda's case it was a mercy killing. For us. The last person I'd want to be marooned with on a tropical island is Ethel freakin' Merman. But Jonathan got a shaft he never even knew existed. I'm hoping at some point we hear why Cody didn't pick Angie, after their "thank God I'm not the oddest one here" bonding. Seems like a stupid choice.

Meanwhile... pardon me while I indulge in a little schadenfreude and laugh uproariously at the morons who capsized their boat and lost their precious firemaking supplies in the bargain. Not really looking much like the "brains" team from where I sit-- especially considering they chose to go to a new beach, where they'll have to build a new shelter. Idiots. The right move would have been to stay at their old beach, lounging in the comfort of a shelter the losing team helped build, knowing that team was wearing themselves out building a new one! "Let's have a new adventure?" I'm sure Wanda and John had a grand old adventure being driven off the island on the power boat-- perhaps you should have gone with them instead.

Comments (3) | last by Stephen Glenn, Feb 19, 8:59 PM

I Never

I give the "I Never" sequence in tonight's episode of Lost the Best Scene of the Year award. Great stuff. Mining the Canterbury Tales for the show's flashback format was pure genius-- it just keeps getting better.

Comment (1) | last by dana, Feb 17, 11:47 PM

Five Years

Yesterday was my five year anniversary at Microsoft. Once upon a time, such an occasion would have been marked by bubble baths poured from bottles of Cristal purchased with proceeds from scads of fully-vested and appreciated stock options. Roses would sprout at my feet, a perfect pearl nestled in the folds of every bloom. When a downpour drenched the neighborhood, the clouds above would part to bathe my home in a single shaft of magnificent sunlight. Nubile giggling nymphs would flit around my head, farting crisp new hundreds every third revolution.

Once upon a time.

I started at Microsoft in February of 2000. Ring any bells? No? How quickly we forget. Perhaps this 5-year stock graph will refresh your memory. See that spike all the way on the left? February 2000. See that nosedive just to the right of it? April 2000-- the collapse of the internet bubble. Timing, as they say, is everything.

I was first offered a job at Microsoft in 1992. Had I taken it... well, my life would certainly be different. Perhaps better. Definitely wealthier. Everyone has crossroads in their lives-- beacons marking their big decisions, burning bright enough in their memories to spark "What if...?" questions, but never illuminating the answers. Curse Robert Frost and the horse he rode through the wood on.

Ah, well-- all that giggling would have driven me crazy, anyway.

Comments (3) | last by Nathan Beeler, Feb 18, 12:37 PM

Hide the Cucumber

When you hear "Dove body wash," do you think "gay soft porn"? One of the teams on The Apprentice is billed as having book smarts, but hasn't displayed smarts of any sort at any point in this season. They were thinking like students doing a class project or a fraternity video, not like businesspeople trying to satisfy a client. All they had to ask themselves was, "Would Dove want this commercial to represent their product?" I can't see how Trump would want to hire anyone associated with that commercial.

Comments (3) | last by Stephen Glenn, Feb 15, 3:18 AM

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