Archive for the ‘Fun’ Category

Social Media Halloween

Saturday, October 29th, 2011

My room mate Post and I threw our Halloween party this year on Friday. The Social Media theme was encoded into the party invite:

With everyone Still atwitter from Our SCotchtoberfest party, Post and I are goIng to bookend October by throwing Another social gathering at the end of the the month, in our space. Costumes of alL sorts, constructed using any media, are highly encouraged. We’d like to see your shinning or gruesoMely paintED face there along wIth your plus ones, plus twos, or plus threes. The socializing will start At 8:30pm on Friday, October 28th.

Our costumes were also in theme. Post went as the best Facebook costume I’ve seen, and I was Google Plus, in keeping with my recent trend of being a Google product.

As part of the Google Plus costume, I took pictures of all of the attendees, which I printed out as stickers with a Polaroid Pogo printer. I had them place their picture in one of three circles, “Pirates,” “Pimps,” or “Not Hipsters.” This is sort of like what you do on a Google Plus, since no one is actually on there. I think the costume was way more fun than actually using Google Plus. Here are the pictures in each category:



Not Hipsters

PAX East 2011

Saturday, April 16th, 2011

PAX East 2011 was held at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center on March 11th through 13th. I was only able to attend about half of it though, as I managed to schedule a ski trip with Paul starting on the 12th. I won’t make that mistake again. The PAX East sold out of all 69,500 tickets before the doors opened, which was a small attendance boost from the PAX East 2010 at the beyond capacity Hynes Convention Center. The Boston Convention center is enormous and PAX did not use all the space, so it should have some room to grow in the space. Luckily, for those of us in Boston, the only bigger convention space on this side of the country is in NYC, and the organizers don’t want to hold it in NYC, so it looks like they’ll be forced to stay in Boston for years to come. Although, next year PAX will be held on Easter weekend, so maybe they are having some scheduling issues.

I arrived a little later than I wanted to on Friday morning and proceeded to wait at least half an hour in line for the Keynote address, and it wasn’t even by Will Wheaton this year! Last year I managed to avoid all the lines, so this was a bit sad. The keynote was delivered by Jane McGonigal, who discussed three things of note:

  • How gamers increase overall utility of the population by mining happiness from the games.
  • How to turn tragedy or sickness into a game to enable you to get back on track.
  • How to simulate the expanse of history in a game.

I would argue that gamers may not be increasing overall utility, once you include the despair of overworked game developers, but there are a lot more gamers than game developers, so maybe it does balance out in the end. The simulation of the expanse of history game, is really just minecraft with some special rules: you only get one life, when you die, you must stop playing, and pass the game on to someone else, you can build anything you like except that you’re not allowed to leave signs with text. In this way the world is developed by each player who can only guess as to what the intentions of those who went before were by the artifacts that they left in the game. I thought this idea might actually get me to play minecraft! Paul came up with a nice addition on the Ski trip (post on that eventually): via modification of the game’s server and the use of unique keys (which must not be shared) everyone who went before the current player, could still log into the server in a read only mode and see what has been created. This is sort of a past generations looking down from the heaven’s mod, and it fixes the only big problem I see, which is that going first is kind of lame. See how well it emulates history!

Ok, so beyond the keynote, what else was there at PAX. Well, in the expo hall, at the Asus booth, they had a beast of a computer, case-less, running some kind of crazy graphics demo at over 1000 frames per second. They had a bunch of multimeter temperature sensors in place on the essential components, and they were cooling them by hand by dumping liquid nitrogen from thermuses into the strategic white cups. They claimed if they didn’t keep at the sweet spot of -150 Deg. F the demo would crash, and low and behold, when they screwed up it totally BSODed!

There were lots of board and card games! I did not manage to make it into the Dominion tournament, but I played some Bang and Lost Cities with some people from Long Island. The only other game I remember playing was called We Didn’t Playtest this at All. It was like flux but with even less strategy and even more swigny-ness. I was impressed that there was both an “I Loose” card, which causes the player to loose the game, but also an “iLose” card which causes anyone touching a cell/smart phone or similar device to lose.

The Nvidia booth had a lot of 3D games that were cool to look at, but that I was unable to figure out what to do to actually play or progress in, but there was no line to play Starcraft 2 on this huge screen. I spent 10 minutes beating a computer with a Void Ray rush strategy. The biggest thing I remember is the feeling that I wanted to zoom out. I still haven’t looked up if that is even possible in Starcraft 2, but I didn’t know how to do it for sure.

There were also some excellent cosplays. I suppose an MTG dress isn’t really a cosplay, but I’ll count it. There were a number of Professors Layton running around, but this group, whom I sat with for the keynote was the best; at the very least, he had the tallest hat and was handing out papers with puzzles on them.

I left right from the convention center to catch my flight to Utah to go skiing. I handed off my pass to my friend Jed, and he was immediately offered $40 for it, but he didn’t sell it, cause that would have been awkward. Some more of the best pictures I took at the event below:

MIT Mystery Hunt 2011

Wednesday, January 19th, 2011

Mystery Hunt 2011 Coin - Megaman, Prince and ? Block

This year my friend Sparky finally convinced me to join his MIT Mystery Hunt team. Mystery Hunt is a large, difficult puzzle competition at MIT, the prize of which is pictured above. We did not win the prize, but the team, the Manic Sages, did manage to come in second. We finished about 2.5 hours after the winning team and it was awesome!!!!!111 It was seriously one of the best things I’ve ever done. It ranks right up there with redesigning and rebuilding the team 677 First Robotics robot in 2005.

Like the 2005 robot, this competition occurred over about 3 days, and was a race to the finish that necessitated staying up all night and coming up with clever solutions, the faster the better. The video game themed Mystery Hunt culminated in a Portal like run around MIT, during which I got totally lost. FYI: Portal is way easier with a Portal gun than with 2 sub-teams and spotty cell phone coverage. I think, overall, Mystery Hunt was even more fun than the 2005 robot because all of this was intended, not the result of 5 weeks of work with a faulty premise.

I contributed to solutions of 7 puzzles that we eventually solved without working backwards from known solutions to other puzzles. I came up with a key insight that eventually proved to be correct on 1 more puzzles that we did not actually solve, and there are 3 more puzzles that I had a hand in/made and attempt. All of the puzzles are up at (or eventually at but suffice to say that 11 is a very small percentage of the puzzles, and I could have solved zero of them on my own. The 7 that I helped solve are:

  1. You Shall Understand What Hath Befallen
  2. Drafting Table
  3. Soooo Cute!
  4. Sufficiently Advanced Technology
  5. Plotlines
  6. A Representative Sampling
  7. The Path More Stumbled

The unsuccessful, but correct key contribution was to Where’ s Antoinette, and the other three are:

Ice Cream Marathon

Sunday, August 15th, 2010

On Saturday August 14, 2010 the long planned Wednesday Night Dinner Ice Cream Marathon occurred from 1pm until 7:30pm. We followed and approximately 7 mile route from Boston’s North End to Harvard Square in Cambridge following this route:

View Ice Cream Marathon in a larger map

We stopped at each place marked in green. We skipped over duplicate stores, chains, and stores we didn’t know existed. We carried score cards. Here is the digital representation of mine:

Location Time Flavor Size Score (1-10)
1. Gelateria 1:20pm Hazelnut / Vanilla Small 5 / 8
2. Sprinkles 2:00pm Butter Pecan Child 7
3. Emack
& Bolio’s
2:45pm Cake Batter1 One Scoop 3
4. Picco’s 3:25pm Cinnamon2 One Size 93
5. Bon Bon 4:25pm Pineapple Sorbet One Size 2
6. J. P. Licks 4:55pm Cake Batter Not Available4 0
7. Toscanini’s 5:55pm Cake Batter Kiddie 9
8. Christina’s 6:30pm Corn5 Small 4
9. Lizzy’s 7:30pm Vanilla Cookie Dough Kiddie 6

1Like most flavors at Emack and Bolio’s this cake batter is infused with chocolate. This is not an acceptable thing to do and still call it cake batter, but that is what they do.
2Also bread and water were provided at no cost at Picco’s.
3The flavor of the Cinnamon (and they Honey flavor that I tired) were so intense as to deserve top honors. However, we were unable to finish these flavors due to their intensity.
4J. P. Licks has suddenly, and without warning discontinued the cake batter flavor at all of their locations. This is not acceptable as it was the best cake batter flavor available in the city and my favorite ice cream overall. Until such a time as cake batter is returned to the menu I am forced to boycott J. P. Licks. I did get in line and ask for cake batter, only to be told they they don’t have it, to which I responded, “Ah, never mind then.”
5Bacon flavor was also available and I tried a spoonful of it. Someone got bacon flavor and was unable to finish the salty delicious treat. I had tired corn flavor earlier in the week and thought it quite good, but I was unable to finish my small size of it either.

The clear winner was Picco’s. Picco’s is a sit down pizza restaurant that also hand makes ice cream for their desert menu. They were great sports and sat a table for 13 who intended only to have ice cream. They also provided bread and water at no charge, which was most appreciated. Surprisingly appreciated was the bread! The flavors at Picco’s are intense, rich, and wonderful. I could taste the gainyness of the cinnamon in my ice cream! Everyone agreed this was the best place.

Clear runner up in my book Toscanini’s. Toscanini’s, since inciting me into their store for the first time in years with their ROFLCon inspired “Internet” Flavor (vanilla + grape nerds) has become my favorite ice cream parlor. The fact that J. P. Licks has recently committed seppuku has only help them reach the top. Other excellent recent flavors include Fig Newton, Ginger, and the best remaining cake batter flavor in town! Enough said!


Monday, October 5th, 2009

Since my friend Sparky got a job at Harmonix Thursday night games has frequently involved playing Rockband. I was never very good at Guitar Hero, and I was never a huge fan of the songs it came with but Rockband is awesome for two reasons:

  • Lots of great songs as downloadable content, which Sparky picks up for us.
  • Singing!

I have never been very musical. DDR and Guitar Hero proved that rhythm is not my thing. We’ll, the amount of concentration it takes me to clap in rhythm proved that long ago, but they reinforce it well. I’ve also never been good enough at singing to earn any sort of accolades for it. Thanks to my elementary school drama teacher for making me an understudy every year to get that little lesson across. But I still enjoy it, and I can apparently fake it well enough to make a machine happy, which makes me happy.

But I’m only any good on songs that I’ve heard before, so I have added the Rockband 1 & 2 songs to my usual playlist, so that I get used to them and learn what they sound like. I’ve been consequently paying more attention to all of the songs on my playlist and thinking about them in the same way as the songs that I’ll someday have to perform in from my friends to the satisfaction of the machine. It’s a lot of fun. I just wish that you could take any old song and play it in Rockband, as there are pleary of songs I already love to sing that aren’t options (pretty much all of Avril).

The other good thing about Rockband is that its introduced me to some new music. Avoiding advertising really cuts down on access to music pop culture. Well for those of us too cheap for satellite radio, and whose musical tastes are not well captured by Pandora. Anyways so lots of the new songs on the latest revision of my car mp3cd are from rock band. You know, i should really put my car mp3cd under subversion control. Anyways some of them are:

  • Panic at the Disco – Nine in the Afternoon
  • Weezer – Say it Ain’t So
  • The Main Drag – A Jagged Gorgeous Winter
  • Silversun Pickups – Lazy Eye

But my two favorite songs these days, both oldies from the ’90s, that I really wish were in Rockband are:

  1. Alanis Morissette – That I Would be Good: I’ve had a cropped short version of this song for a long time, but the full length one is even better.
  2. Aimee Mann – You Could Make a Killing:This is the only Aimee Mann song that I even approach to liking, but it is great. She was in an episode of Buffy and even that association couldn’t make me like the song she sang in the show.

Speaking of oldies, Beatles Rockband. I’ve always had an issue with the Beatles. I love the parts of their songs that I remember from my childhood, listening to oldies radio, but the songs I never heard, and even the non-choruses that I don’t remember I don’t like very much. A couple weeks ago I went to Beatles Rockband night at Improv Boston, entirely because of a girl, but while I was there I noticed that I like a lot more of the Beatles catalog than I realized. Last week at Thursday night games we had an actual singer, Ethan, and so I eventually settled into providing some harmonies while playing the drums. I can actually drum to the Beatles with some sort of competence on easy mode! It was way more fun to drum when I didn’t suck at it.

I Guess I Know Enough People Now

Monday, September 14th, 2009

The last two times I’ve gone out to bar in Boston I’ve run into people I know randomly. Now, granted, it was 2 months between consecutive bar trips, and the bars were actually in Somerville and Cambridge, but still. The first trip was to Joshua Tree in Davis Square on July 18th for my birthday. Across the bar I spotted some coworkers. Well actually, I first spotted a cute girl, and then I later noticed she was with my coworkers. Unfortunately for me, she’s recently married to one of them. Previous to entering the bar I’d seen Krishna, a gaming buddy & coworker, and his girlfriend out on the street. To be fair they live within a 500 yards or so of the bar.

View of Harvard from DaedalusThis time we were out last Friday for my room mate Sriram’s birthday. We were at Daedalus in Harvard square on a stormy night. We were the first of our group to arrive. Scoping out the room, I saw a guy I vaguely recognized, but did not know from where. Surprisingly, Sriram walked toward him, but that was just a coincidence. His name I found out is Doug, and I knew him as a 3 hop friend via Sparky and his friend Lilly. I met Doug at the 4th of July and a BBQ in August. Doug was there for a friend of a friend’s (2 hop) birthday. As it turns out, the birthday boy was Sriram. Doug recently became room mates with one of Sriram’s friends. Small world! Later on, one of my former room mate Biran’s friends, whom I know from Hog Island parties showed up.

It was a pretty fun night. Very similar to my birthday, there was Indian food followed by drinks. Lacking anything else interesting to try I had two Absolute Boston, yes that is a variety of vodka now, & Lemonades. The first one was very good, but the second one got old.

Agricola at Eriks

Monday, March 30th, 2009

Tonight I played Agricola for the third time. I won this time, instead of coming in second by one point as happened on both of my previous plays. Agricola is a board game in which you are the head of a farming household. It is similar to Puerto Rico in that it is a role taking game in which one aims to have the most points at the end.

Erik bought the game maybe a month ago, but we managed to not play it for two weeks after that. Then we played twice at my place in one weekend. Then I was gone on that ski trip, which I will write about later, and well first day back, we played again. It’s a pretty fun game. And we’re still playing a simplified version. This time we played at Eriks place in Beacon Hill.

A while back I dated a girl who lived at the other end of Beacon Hill. Whenever I go near there, I naturally think about the possibility of running into her. It’s pretty easy to discount the chances. It’s so densely populated, and so, the thought slips out of my mind rather quickly. Of course, since I’m telling this story one can easily assume I saw her tonight. Not 2 minutes out the door of Erik’s place on my way home I ran into her. This on the uber short 3 minute walk from his place to the T. At first I had a strange cockeyed look, thinking, “is that really her.” The rest went well, “Hi, how’s it going.” “Good.” Both of us continuing on with our one friend each in tow.

Then I had to wait for the T and fail at resisting the urge to reanalyze. It’s just still of note because it’s the first time this has happened to me. That is, running into an ex unexpectedly. Also, pretty rare event since I’ve only accumulated one ex-girlfriend in Boston.

Tennis on Sunday

Tuesday, March 17th, 2009

I played tennis this past Sunday with Mary and roommate Mike and his friend Debbie. We all suck, but it was beautiful out. I borrowed a racket. I made some great shots, but only when I was too busy positioning myself for the shot to worry about the shot itself. When things went slower I couldn’t help but make the ball sail out of bounds.

Ice Skating

Saturday, January 10th, 2009

A warm cold night
Photo by rcolonna

I went ice skating on Thursday for the first time. Sparky, Mary, Whitney, some other folks, and I met at Frog Pond on Boston Common around 7pm and skated for roughly two hours. I was rather impressed with myself for my first time on ice skates. I didn’t fall down once; although, I did come close while trying to execute a little spin maneuver. Of course, not falling down doesn’t mean I ever came close to spinning. I do think that my technique could use a lot of work; I think I was expending more energy than the rest of the group.

Afterwards Sparky took us to a local coffee place on Charles street for some hot chocolate. This place interestingly had a collection of Massachusetts state law books on the windowsill. We all took one and briefly looked for some interesting laws, but none were found. The hot chocolate was good, but it came in difficult to manage cups.

As per usual I’d biked to Harvard Square to save time getting to the T. Boy was I tired biking back home after having biked in then and skated for nearly two hours and biked back. I was also really cold. I didn’t warm up once after leaving the coffee shop. Not on the walk back through the park, or the 20 minute T ride, or bike ride. The bike ride usually warms me up no matter how cold it is. But I was going slower than usual so I guess that’s why I wasn’t as warm. When I got back home I was starving due to all the exercise, luckily I had some leftover couscous for a quick warming snack. Anyways, it was a fun night.

Halloween 2008

Tuesday, November 4th, 2008

This year’s Halloween was a lot of fun. I went to a party hosted by Mary, a new friends of mine whom I met through another new friend of mine, Sparky. They were both on the hike in the blue hills a few weeks back. After Paul told me about his awesome Dr. Horrible costume I decided that I needed to get creative this year. My old stand by priest outfit never did me much good, and it is definitely lame. After some significant brainstorming on the way to a Wednesday Night Dinner at Pho Pasteur in Chinatown I came up with my idea. I would go as the Red Line (the subway line serving Cambridge). I dressed in all black, the priest outfit actually, and pinned a red ribbon from my feet along my legs and back, over my shoulder and onto my arm for the line. I marked and labled each spot. I think it came out pretty good.

I was greeted at the party by an Obama pumpkin, and a scary Sarah Palin pumpkin, among many others. I didn’t carve a pumpkin this year. I went upstairs and found a room full of good costumes. Mary was a tropical bird, which after a short demo I was able to guess; apparently, I was the only one to guess right all night. There was also a girl with a green double ended triangle over her head which I deduced, after some pause as being from The Sims. There was Able Lincoln and his girlfriend sexy Darth Vadar (in combat boots). There was a Mormon (with biblical flash cards), a fairy godfather, Colonel Sanders, and Whitney made a convincing butterfly, even if she doesn’t think so. The best costume at the party was a guy who came with a home made KISS costume, including home made 6 inch platform boots. The party was fun, the highlight of my night was schooling Mary in Wii Tennis, Bowling, and Golf before she came back and beat me by a slim margin in golf.