Thursday, July 7, 2016

Visiting the One World Observatory

I was surprised at how emotional this made me. Going up the elevator I felt tightening in my throat, and several times more as we filed out to the entrance hall with the sliding windows and watched the slideshow projected on them. The strength of my reaction seemed disproportionate: nobody I knew was directly involved in the event or witnessed it personally; at the time, I had one friend attending Columbia, but he was unaffected. I had watched the event unfold on TV, but when I deemed that I was getting late for work, I turned it off and got in the car. At work, it was unusually quiet. Our office at the time was a huge single room with cubicles, and I could hear someone near the front weeping. I never found out who that was. A few days after the planes destroyed the buildings, the newspaper delivered a flag, printed on 12x18 light card stock. I put it on the mantel and felt strangely comforted by it.

I wouldn’t consider myself seriously patriotic. I was born here, I live here. I like to think I’m reasonably objective when comparing my country to others. There are countries more sane than the United States in a multitude of ways, and there are many countries that are far worse. The United States has not always been welcoming to both my race and me as an individual; I’ve had my share of racial slurs thrown at me, received the micro~ and macroaggressions that call me a foreigner, outsider, and/or second class citizen, been told to “go back” to a country I’ve only seen as a tourist. I’ve been expected to disavow others of my ethnicity because they are immigrants and I am not. And I'm well aware that Asians in other states have it worse. But in the end, I’m an American, I live here, I love California’s weather, diversity, culture, food, and its high proportion of intelligent people, and I’d find it very hard to give up that winning combination.

We walked around the observatory looking over Manhattan and beyond, looked straight down onto the former footprints of twin towers, now fountains waterfalling over black stone, inward to a square dark hole in the center. It’s symbolically beautiful and appropriate.

I think what makes me emotional, what makes me mourn, is not the event itself or the lives lost there, but how it changed this nation so much. We’ve had acts of terrorism before -- from Timothy McVeigh, the Army of God, animal rights terrorists, and the Jewish Defense League, just to mention events in recent memory. But 9/11 indelibly associated terrorism with Muslims, Islam, anyone from the Middle East regardless of their religion, and even any bearded, brown skinned person. 9/11 created the TSA and its security theater. 9/11 divided the United States. One side believes fear is justified, that the nation is under attack, that the Christian religion is under attack, and any measures to protect the nation are necessary. The other group sees terrorists as small groups of people using their religion as a justification for violence, and do not represent Islam as a whole, just as the Westboro Baptist Church, which uses Christianity as an excuse to be as offensive as possible, does not represent all Christians. The United States is no longer the land of the rough and ready, optimistic people who throw in a helping hand and get things done, people who believe every problem has a solution. It seems decreasingly possible to compromise; people now insist on expressing their views, sometimes at the expense of others. Everything has spin. People seem far more inclined to put others in a box in order to more easily dismiss views they don’t agree with.

I’m just describing my thoughts/concerns. I don’t have answers or solutions for how to get our mojo back. But I do feel we have to get back to seeing our country as belonging to all its citizens and those who want to become citizens -- not just those who ascribe to our own views. We have to find the middle, the common ground; rate our individual desires by importance and be willing to let go of the less important ones in the interest of unification.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Compensating for Google Maps, again

I'd been trying to avoid it, but the new version of Google Maps has made it really difficult to get exactly 1000 points in MapTag. It used to be you could step out of the StreetView and it would leave your marker on the point where you were. That doesn't happen anymore; instead, to get your most-precise location you have to rely on the tiny thumbnail in the bottom left. And it's annoying, so I'm planning to widen the high-score area from 2m to maybe 10m.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Walkthrough for Wall by Yukihiro Hozumi

Wall walkthrough
Green triangle key
top left of “wall” door
Turn left take
blue square key and SD handle from drawers
Wall w cross:
+ blade for the SD top left,
and note screws
- on the left arm, + on the right arm
Assemble driver and open a panel. We need 3 shapes. Turn left to the square. On top is
a ruler, and a bunch of shapes.
Place the ruler
on the shapes.
There's a solid triangle in the left and a solid square on the right. Note the symbols between them.
-||-, WWW, circle with a dot
Go back to the cross. Insert your keys
triangle key in the left keyhole, square key in the right keyhole.
Change the symbols as appropriate. Press the blue button. This opens a door.

Next room.
Photos on desk: “center” on left side of photo 1, “right” in middle of photo 2, ‘left’ on right side of photo 3.
Desk drawers. Right locked with a bolt on the side. Center has paper with
1 2
3 4
5 6
Left drawer needs 4 symbols to open. Clock on shelf uses same symbols for drawer. Left right buttons trigger a move to a symbol (or the 1 o'clock position with no symbol) every 3 presses.

Picture on wall: 7 red blocks left to right at heights 3,2,3,1,1,3,2

Use these heights on the
3 drawers
to get a wrench. Use the wrench to open the
right drawer
and get a red circle key. While the drawer is open, click
the side
to see another set or symbols. This indicates to use the
square and circle keys
and the symbols
nnnn, |<|, sinewave
This opens another room. Take the stool and have a look at each of the windows to see 4 arrow sequences:
LLR, RLR, RRL, RLL. Note also the scratch marks below each, pointing
When you click these on the clock (later) they will give the corresponding symbols
tree, spiral, eye, mouth, but if you click the first and last
backwards, you will get
mouth spiral eye tree
Open the
pipe with your wrench
and take a knife. At this point you can toggle between the rooms just by clicking the blue button, no need to change the keys and sequence. I think those sequences are just for "unlocking". Go back to the desk room and use the knife on
the picture, twice
to get another screwdriver blade and a pair of glasses. Use the new - screwdriver on
the left side of the cross
to show 3 keyholes labeled
L, C, R
The photos on the desk will tell you the order of the keys here.
Square, circle, triangle
This turns on the eye. If you put on the
glasses you can play with the eye, but it's not especially useful right now
Use your stool and
have a look at the lamp
at the top of the post with the 3 drawers
Another sequence:
Triangle and circle keys, with double-dot, ground, and circle with an X.
Now you've got a room with 4 paintings, each with a pretty ridiculous caption, and a button. Write down all the number sequences, and map them to
the paper in the middle desk drawer.
You'll come up with numbers 1..4. From left to right
3, 2, 4, 1
Click the
painting buttons in that order
and the lights will come on. Now you can see this is the exit door. Use your glasses on
the painting captions
and you'll get 3
color sequences
Using those color sequences
on the eye, you'll get 3 positions for the square, circle, and triangle. You won't need these until the very end.
There's pretty much nothing left to solve but that stupid drawer!
mouth spiral eye tree
Take a gold key. Toggle rooms to the exit room, and take your shape keys back. Unlock the gold lock and you'll see a bunch of keyholes. Place your shape keys in the positions indicated by the eye and you are out!

Sunday, March 27, 2016

99 the Escape Game walkthrough

99 the Escape Game walkthrough

This is an evil, terrible game. You have a countdown clock starting at 99. When it gets to 0, you lose. This is the only time you can reset the game and start over, which makes writing a walkthrough a very, very slow process.

Even though it's only 4 rooms, you'll definitely want to draw a map. There are multiple sets of clues in the second room and it's hard to keep them all straight. Several solutions are direction-oriented as well. The rooms look very similar, so it can be disorienting.

If anyone understands the logic or has found the clue to the solutions I don't understand, please post it. I hate doing stuff and not understanding why.

Room 1
Turning through the room: A plant and a door, a screen, the exit door and a drawer, a pair of dots on the wall.
Open the drawer by the exit door to find a box with 3 buttons, and a book with the clue 1 > > < < 5
Click the center of the front part of the drawer, just above the knob. That unlocks the knob, which I'll call a pin, and you can remove it. You'll eventually get 3 pins in the game, and their colors can be changed by using them in the dots on the wall.  The doors can only be opened by a pin of its matching color.

You can also put the red pin in by the screen, and you'll get a + displayed. Clicking above, below, left, or right of the + will cause dots to be displayed, but you really can't do much with that right now.
The next door is blue, so put your pin in the blue wall dot, then open the door to room 2.

Nearly everything in room 2 is a clue for something. For right now just take a vase.

Go back to room 1 and insert your blue pin by the screen. You will see a - ,  which allegedly implies a shelf.
"North" is to the right as you enter room 2, the wall with the red door lock. Count the number of shelves on each wall.
Starting north and going clockwise,
7 4 5 6

Get a blue triangle. Take your pin back.

Face the room 2 door and open it, but do not go through. Use your triangle on the door to block it open. Go back to room 1 and change your pin to red, then go to room 2. Open the next door to continue to Room 3.

Room 3 -- opening the drawer in the wall.
I do not understand the solution here; I found it on a Chinese page . It has to do with the blue, pink, gray and yellow panel in room 2, but if there was any clue to achieve this sequence, I don't know what it was.
Face the yellow button on the wall
step forward and it turns blue
step back, turns pink
turn R, there's a pink dot on this wall.
turn R, gray
L, pink
R, pink
R, pink
R, then step forward. The button now looks like a target, and the drawer will open.
Get a screwdriver.

Go back to room 2 and remove the screw in the panel with the pin. Take the pin. Insert your red pin in its place. Look around and count the number of shelves intersected by white vertical lines on each wall. Also, while here, count the number of white vertical lines on each wall.

Go back to room 1. Insert your red pin in screen: +,  # of shelves intersected by lines.
As before, "North" is the exit to room 2, with the red door lock.
Starting north and going clockwise:
5 2 4 3

Get a red ball. Take your pin back.

Room 3 -- what to do with the ball
The purpose of the ball is to give you a color sequence for the box in Room 1.
Each wall in room 2 has two groups of books, creating a count from 1 to 8.
These correspond to the holes in the wall in room 3. Starting point is the wall with the drawer.
If the ball is dropped through the holes it will change colors to red, yellow, or brown.
Following the book count sequence,
you will end up with
Use this sequence on the box and get a wrench. Use the wrench in room 2 and uncover another set of color dots.

If it isn't there already, take your blue triangle back and use it to block open the door between 2 and 3 (red lock). Use your red pin on the green dot to make it green. Proceed to room 3 and open the green door to room 4.

Room 4
Stick your blue pin in the fountain straight ahead and fill your jar. Take back the pin when you're done.

Go back to room 1.
Green pin in screen: |,  # of white vertical lines on each wall
Starting north and going clockwise: 2 2 3 3
Get a green cube.

Time to tackle the little house in Room 2.
Go to the plant in room 1.
Use your water to turn it all green.
The branches indicate directions. The arrow at the bottom indicates to start at the bottom and go up.


Go to room 2 and put your cube in the little house, then click the sequence. You'll get one last pin. Take your cube back.

Take the new pin to room 1 and color it red, so you have pins of all 3 colors now. Head toward room 4, taking your triangle blocking the door as you go.
Go to the door diagram in room 4. Place your pins, starting from north and going clockwise,
It opens a door back to room 1.
Go to the panel with the spaces for your 3 objects, place them, and take the key.
Finally, on the wall click the following buttons:
>>, >,  ●, ■ , << .
(Props again to for this answer.) The TV will go on and display 99. Your timer has also reset to 99.
While your timer is still on 99 you can use the key and exit the door. (If you go wandering off and your timer falls below 99, you can press the sequence again and reset back to 99.

(Postscript: it occurs to me that the numbers on the three shapes (B=2, R=3, G=4) are actually telling you where to place them around the door. Which implies the number order of everything does not start at north, but rather west. I'm not going to go back and check it out, but it's possible this makes things more sensible? We leave it as an exercise for the reader ;) )

Escape from the Yellow Room 3 walkthrough

Escape from the Yellow Room 3 walkthrough

This one is long and a bit confounding. But brave escapers will prevail!

First floor: Quick look and easy item pickup:
“3” on the wall
can be rotated,
and a ladder we can’t go down due to fire
3 dots on the wall, and a lightswitch. You can take
one of the dots.

Another 3 dots you can zoom in on, but nothing there as yet.
3 levers with green buttons.

Make magic happen: turn off the lights
Look through the 3 dots on the wall and view a branch with 6 leaves, the sun, and 4 trees. Ok, so not that much magic. Lights on.
Play around with the “3”. Note that the switches change
colors depending on rotation.
W = Green Yellow Green. E = YGG. M = GGY.

Hozumi leap: consider the leaves, sun, and trees, and the colors of the levers.
Rotate the “3” to match
so they are GYG.
Then think about the numbers you’ve seen. You have 3 levers and 3 numbers.
Click the levers the number of times indicated (6, 1, 4).
The ceiling will open up and you can climb the ladder.

Second floor:
The sun on the wall, and a chair with a book. The book reads “cyan magenta yellow black”
Turning left, a sofa and lamp. Nothing to find here.
The ladder and the “3” on its back (echoing the figure on the first floor).
A bed, a yellow tube, and a table. The drawer is empty.
There doesn’t seem to be anything to do here, so let’s continue up

Third floor:
The sun on the wall, a chair, a mousehole, and a balloon.
To the left, a sofa and floor lamp, and 3 locked cabinets on the wall.
Next wall, 3 on its back, and a cloud.
A bed, a yellow tube with a hole in it, a nightstand. The drawer has 3 indentations on it. You can insert your disk here, so you’ll need to find 2 more. Click some more and you will also find
2 screws on the side.

There’s also a light switch here, so do
lights-out magic. Inside the mousehole is a chair, a lamp, and a drawing of cheese on the wall.

Also, look a little more closely at one object we’ve been using over and over.
The ladder. At the top you’ll find
another black dot, and a flashlight.
Go ahead and stick the dot in the nightstand, and check out underneath the bed and sofa. (Sorry, nothing!)

Keep using your flashlight on other floors. You’ll find a black dot
under the bed on the 2nd floor.
Bring that back to the 3rd floor nightstand and open it to get a roll of tape. You should fix
that hole
in the pipe.

Fiddle with the lights and rotate the “3”. You’ll discover 2 things:
If the 3 is in the “M” position, the 2nd floor M is purple. Clicking it turns the room purple.
With the 3 in the “3” position, the 3rd floor 3 is clickable, but doesn’t do anything.

Let’s go check out that purple thing. Turn the room purple, turn around and a moon with 6 stars has appeared on the wall. Also you’ll see 3 groups of numbers on the wall:1-2, 6-4, 5. Keep this in mind for later.

On the 1st floor, turn the lights off and take a look
through the three holes. Y
ou now have 3, 7, and 1 star in purple rooms.
Notice the switches are
all purple now. Do like what you did earlier with the switches.
Go up to the 2nd floor and grab a screwdriver.
Turn the “M” off.

Back to the 1st floor. Rotate the 3 to the 3 position. Go to the 3rd floor and you can solve the cabinets
Click the 3 cabinets in the order indicated
(1-2, 6-4, 5). For 3, click the 3
Get a slingshot frame. Remove the screws from the right side of the nightstand and open the drawer further. Get a rubber band and note in the book a drawing of a cloud.
The rain falling is a bit unusual too.
There are 2, 4, and 3 lines.

Go back to the first floor. Surprise, surprise, the switches
are now blue. Do that thing with the switches.
You’ve put out the fire!

Go ahead and assemble the slingshot. We need a rock or a dart for it.
Actually, you already have one.
The screwdriver.
Head on up to the 3rd floor and shoot that balloon down. You know you've been wanting to do that since you first laid eyes on it!

Hey! Bad mouse!! He’s taken your key
to the mouse hole.  
That naughty mouse is probably why there was
a hole chewed in the yellow pipe.
Take the tape
off the pipe. You may have to leave the floor and come back. When you do,
check the mouse hole again and the key should be gone.
It will be in the pipe.

Finally, we’ll check out Floor 0. You have a sketchy looking door, and a book with a clue: E = Escape. On floor 1,
rotate the “3” one last time to
turn that door into a real door.

Escape from the Yellow Room 2 Walkthrough

I originally wrote this walkthrough for posting on but I'll put a copy here as well, because Yukihiro Hozumi makes some beautiful and very hard games.
Escape from the Yellow Room 2 Walkthrough

First room
In the opening scene, there’s a blue doorknob. Above the word “Yellow” is a window to a blue room with the word “blue”. There are two screws in the O. To the right, take a landscape picture from the wall
by clicking the top left.
On the back is a clue
one might interpret as “up up down down.”
To the right again, a light switch and a yellow doorknob. To the right again, a “red” window looking onto a red room, and a red doorknob. Go to the light switch and zoom in on it. Before you click it, though, zoom in on
the 2
and take a tack.
Turn off the light and look round the room again. By the red window you now have a lamp and a table with a vase. If you turn off the tall lamp, you can turn it on again by going to the main light and turning it on then off. The table has a locked drawer. Click the top of the table and find a pattern of 4 dots that can be changed to lines. By the blue window you have a desk with a lamp, 3 shapes, and a book. The drawer in this desk is unlocked; take an eraser-like object. It has a pattern on the back
that could be interpreted as “right left right left”.
You now have the clues to go back to the table by the red window and open the drawer.
Combine the two clues from the picture and the brush.
Set the first dot to 3 o’clock, second to 9 o’clock, third to 3:30, fourth to 6:45.
Take a jar. It's not empty. At the desk by the blue window, use the jar
on the book for a grid clue.
Put the pin in the picture and hang it up over the 2. Turn off all the lights. As you do so, the
ball on the floor lamp chain will come off.
When all lights are off
you’ll see a pattern on the wall. BRR RRB BBR
Combine the grid with the book hint to get a color order.
Turn on the light and use this clue on the red and blue objects in the room -
the doorknobs.
Click them in that order.
You’ll get… a doorknob. With a convenient screwdriver in it.
Use the SD on
“Yellow” and get an odd silver object. It’s got an indent with a tiny hole in it. Combine it with
the thumbtack, then combine this with
the ball.
It looks an awful lot like
a key.
Use this on the yellow doorknob and enter

The second room.
The door closes behind you... Whew, there’s a light switch. By the light switch is
a smudge on the wall.
On another wall is a shelf/bowl thingy with a yellow handle. On another wall is a clock without hands. The door you entered by has vanished. Use the eraser on
the smudge to reveal a hand.
Click where
the finger is pointing… there’s a circle, which you also click to reveal
another hand.
Click where
*that* finger is pointing --
a tiny hole. You have one object that you can use here. Use
the screwdriver/doorknob
and enter

The third room.
Did I say this game has some serious atmosphere? Straight ahead is a table with a book and a vase, which you can take. It’s also very, very dark and there doesn’t seem to be any other lights except the dim one over the table. Go back to room 2 and
turn off the light there. Some bloody fool electrician has wired Room 3 to light up when room 2 is off.
Go back to now-lit Room 3. That’s much better. Now you can take another object from the desk.
The lightbulb.
It combines, eventually, with the yellow handle, and becomes
a flashlight.
On another wall is another set of dots which behave like the dots on the table in the first room. Also, while here, click around
the cone and take a knife.
Next, 3 niches shaped like a triangle, a square, and a sphere. Next wall, more or less nothing... Look for a place to use that handy knife. You’ll find it
in the book is a mirror
Explore the desk a little more and you’ll find a place to use it,
toward the back of the desk.
Get a
green cube.
Go back to room 2 and use your
flashlight to explore. You will find a clue for the dots.
3, 6, 9:30, 3
Use that on the
and get a blue triangle.
If you're trying to refer as little to this document as possible, you might feel a little stuck at this point, but there is one more thing you can do.
Close the door. Yipe!
And your knife is gone! However, you can do something else with
your flashlight.
Take it apart, then use the bulb
in the eye.
Fill your jar. Head on back to room 2 and
pour the water into the shelf/bowl
to get your last piece. Put all 3 items into the niches and everything will fade away. Except for
4 dots on the wall.
Walk on out and keep walking out. You’ll come to a white room with a nightstand with a drawer. Take the key. Use the key on the door. You’ll come to an end screen with 4 dots. But
you're not really done.
Recreate the pattern and you’ll finally be able to go to bed.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Website rebirth, fooling around with Dart

I think I originally built it around 1998 as a way of learning HTML. It was never as awful as Cameron's World but was originally a longish page of text with links to other longish pages, somewhat focused on a wicked good Irish actor. ("Parchment" wallpaper, but mercifully, no animated gifs.) Within a few years a purchase of Macromedia Dreamweaver gave it a menu made of slices (does anyone remember those?) and a frame for content.

It stayed that way for well over a decade, getting the occasional content update, eventually dropping the Irish actor stuff and just focusing on falconry. For a while I was updating it pretty frequently with my falconry activities, but that got tedious and I doubted anyone was reading it anyway. I kept it around as an archive to the FAQ (does anyone remember Usenet?) and an article about all these little maxims my sponsor taught me.

Around May I decided I finally had enough knowledge to redo the site with JQuery and CSS. I also had motivation: a chat room frequented by escape game fans was going through a lot of drama due to an out-of-control moderator/admin, and the owner had threatened to shut it down. I had been part of the chat room for about a year and liked the vibe -- very nice people, kind and supportive to each other in trying times. If the chatroom were shut down, it would need to continue elsewhere.

So I rebuilt the website (all simple and clean looking now) and tested out a couple different chat services. None of them really had the right mix of end-user fun, storing chat history, and security. (The crazy moderator was known for sockpuppetry and allegedly had hacking skills -- although from my perspective, I take "hacking skills" with a grain of salt when the description comes from end-users. Having been IT, I know all too well how end-users like to have one simple password for everywhere they go.) After several weeks experimenting with a few of the old chat users I'd managed to rope in (I'm grateful they stuck with me, registering and re-registering as we test-drove more chatboxes), I finally settled on a nice package called Blab!Chat. Granted, it's written in PHP, so aspects of security are suspect, but I could fiddle and tweak with it myself. It's now running happily with the core group of people from the old chat, which the owner shut down about a month after his threat and ran the crazy moderator off his site.

At about the same time I learned that Sonic, a well-respected Bay Area ISP, had finally begun to offer service in my area. I leaped on the opportunity to ditch my ATT service, with its utter lack of anything useful beyond basic Internet and landline, for slightly more bandwidth, real website hosting (as opposed to ATT's "storage" which hashed the names of uploaded files, making it impossible to build a website), server side scripting, and IP phone for $30 less.

So, suddenly and finally, I've hit the 21st century ;)

A couple days ago the bf suggested a new project -- write a Minesweeper game -- using Dart or Elm. I explored Elm but the functional programming paradigm is a little too foreign for moment. Dart is a mix of Java and Javascript with some nice DOM-element functions -- recognizable and comfortable -- indeed, using true Dart functions in a Dart program seems entirely optional. I bashed this out in about four days, needing only general structural questions to the bf. Right now we're doing code review with the goal of making it more Dart-like.