Sunday, January 27, 2008

Mystery Hunt

Two weeks ago I went to Boston to participate in the MIT Mystery Hunt. I've been relatively active in a lot of the Microsoft-run puzzle events (between helping run the intern events and playing in the last two Puzzle Hunts), so when someone I knew from various puzzle-related stuff at work asked if I wanted to join, I jumped at the chance.

All in all, I'm glad I went, but I think I prefer the local hunts. Truthfully, I probably could have worked with the remote team (i.e., folks who didn't fly out to Boston) and noticed very little difference. There were some aspects of the hunt that made the event feel a little amateur; answers were phoned in to a human with no leeway on answers, some of which could be very vague (e.g., one had us translate Chinese to English, which proved to be very ambiguous and frustrating). While this isn't necessarily dissimilar to how things are done in other events, I like to think that if a team called the people running the event and could explain the puzzle, they'd get the answer if there was a translation error.

I probably could complain more, but on reflection, there's always a lot to complain about after a Hunt; some puzzles simply don't sync with everyone, and even after hearing the answer it can be natural to think "that person is crazy."

As I said though, I'm glad I went. I've been thinking more and more that I'd like to travel more, so while I spent most of the time in either a hotel room or a classroom, I'm glad I got out of the state. I suppose I rode the subway as well, which only serves to remind me how much I hate the lack of decent public transit around Puget Sound.

And all of this reminds me that I need to book another weekend flight here pretty soon.

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Saturday, January 05, 2008

Traveling Home

I plan on coming back and posting pictures and stories about my trip to visit Lyle in Japan, but as I'm really tired from the fight back, I though I'd post a few anecdotes worth remembering:

  • My original itinerary involved flying to SFO, chilling out in San Francisco for an our, and then flying to Seattle. Thankfully, when I got to Narita Airport, the first thing they asked when I checked in was "we overbooked the SFO flight; is a direct flight OK?"

    The answer is an obvious "absolutely." While this would potentially cause issues for my ride (since I was coming in two hours early, now at the wee hours of 8am), I appreciate any opportunity to skip connections.

  • When I finally did board the plane, they upped me to business class. This was incredibly awesome, as it meant I had tons of leg room (too much, actually), awesome food, and an otherwise comfortable 8 hour flight across the pacific. The flight included an awesome view of the sunset over Mt. Fuji, which is great, because the weather in Tokyo was always so bad that I could never see the thing.

  • As comfortable as the flight was, I still couldn't sleep. So now I have to relive Saturday as though I never slept Friday night. I've got some errands to run (no food left) and some other things I'd like to do, but I really don't think I should drive. Oh well.

I'll try to get photos up quickly (or at least start getting some up) and posting impressions. I have the feeling that Lyle is the only one who reads this though so maybe I can take my time since he experienced pretty much everything I did first hand.

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Monday, December 24, 2007


I'm spending this Christmas/New Years in Japan visiting Lyle. Once again I've managed to visit a country without the prep I ought to have done, leaving me to marvel how well (relatively speaking) one can get by without actually talking to the people around you. I should have packed lighter though.

There will probably be lots of stuff I ought to write about, but what seems really interesting to me right now is jet lag; I really, really thought it wouldn't be an issue since I was traveling westward, and the time difference really meant that everything was about six hours later than normal. Staying up can be a little hard, but I'm honestly surprised by the fact that I keep waking up at 4am and what's worse, feeling refreshed.

I'm probably just happy to be on vacation; I figured I'd have no problem sleeping in, but I'm getting less sleep than I'm used to and generally feeling better during the day than I usually do. I suppose actually being exposed to sunlight for most of the day isn't hurting the situation though.

I'm making an effort to take pictures; ideally I'll upload them sometime after I get back.

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