Tuesday, December 1, 2015

A long hiatus

I've not been busier in a long while.  Time seems to fly past and I don't seem to get anything done.  Writing on this blog has been put on the back burner and I seem to have trouble finding my way back to it.

I'm back though and thought I'd tell you all about our last boys and toys.  October 1st is Chinese National Day and as always, there was a gathering of puzzlers in GZ for the competition and just a good old time.

I had originally not planned to go up as Mr. Man  has been being funny about my travels (his job is dull and boring and he never leaves the office-poor man.) but when I told him how long I'd been going, he decided maybe it was a good idea if I didn't skip this year.  I ran over to Hung Hom right away and bought a ticket to GZ for Friday evening.  (I still had to get through 6 hours of classes first) I managed to arrive at the dinner around 8:30.  I'm very proud of myself because I managed the whole trip alone.  All the way up to the outside of the restaurant where I had to call and have Philip come rescue me.

We didn't stay long after I arrived.  It was off for karaoke as usual.  Interesting night it was. Since it's not rated PG I'll skip the details.  But I had Ming with me so all was well at the end of the night.  Stupid Rox forgot it was a holiday weekend and didn't book a hotel room.  Luckily I had Michael to rescue me and I spent the night with him.

The next day saw us up early walking around town to visit friends, and stopping by the competition.  If you've ever gone to one of these you know how not exciting they are, and we didn't stay long.  I think we are getting a bit long in the tooth, because Michael and Da Yan both wanted to take a nap and I thought that was a wonderful idea.  I passed out for about 3 hours and boy did my head need that extra bit of kip.

We ended up having dinner with a group of puzzlers, and as usual the drinking continued.  Me?  I've turned over a new leaf.  No boozing.  Honestly though, I just didn't feel good.  The guys went back to Karaoke again and I headed to the hotel.

The next morning we checked out and Michael went home, and I headed over to the competition.  It reminded me of that scene from "It's a Wonderful Life" when George Bailey turns Uncle Billie around and pushes him down the street towards home.

I watched a few twistings, visited with friends, had lunch with Uwe and Jet.  At the last solve of the day, the storm shut down all the power but it wasn't a big deal.  Philip had light and long arms.

All in all, it was a good day.  Jing, Adele and I ended up taking a train back to Shenzhen and I headed back to HK like a good little girl.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

TPC Puzzle Party

Ok, so maybe the human tornado isn't slowing down.  After landing in HK, we went home, emptied out the old dirty clothes, and filled the suitcase with clean clothes and a few puzzles.  The next evening we boarded a plane to Taiwan for yet another puzzle party!  I'll give you my view on this party later, but first I thought I'd give you my friend Otis' great write up of the events.

TPC Stands for “Taiwan Puzzle Community”. TPC Puzzle Party is an annual gathering of KPG. So What is KPG? KPG stands for “Kaosiung Puzzle Group”. They’re a group of people who like puzzles and living in Kaosiung city of Taiwan. The core members of KPG is John Lin. We consider him as the chairman of KPG, who is well known of his twistypuzzles modding work for years. Another core member Wu, is a puzzle lover and an artist as well. Huang, metagrobologist. Adn Shen, one of the greatest wood craftmen in Taiwan. Instead of Core members there’re more like Judochiou, dolimo, xb27 and David Guo. A TPC puzzle party was held at 17th of August. In the mean time, a group of puzzlers from Hong Kong and China, Smaz, Rox, Dayan, Ming, Kim and me are in Taiwan. So we attend the TPC puzzle party.
I’ll show you a group photo first. Totally 20+ puzzlers here!
Why are we in Taiwan? Actually there was a WCA competition named “Cross Strait Cubing exchange” held in Taiwan. So we go and join. Of course, Ming and Kim are here to help out. Rox, me, Smaz and Dayan are just visiting. The competition was held on 15th and 16th of August. Ming, as a WCA delegate, was briefing on the opening ceremony and also introduced some of us to Taiwan Cubers.
The competition was held in Science Museum of Taichung city. The hall is good. In the middle of the hall there was a Mosaic graphic made from 1000+rubiks cube. Around the hall there were a few stands, explaining the origins of Rubik’s cube, history of Taiwan cubing, How to solve a 3x3x3 cube and some information of a few top competitors.
There was a cube exhibition too. Around 7-8 cabinets were located in the hall. Each cabinet was showing different twistypuzzles, such as mass produced puzzles, competition cubes, cartoon head objects, and the dodecahedron series from mf8. The special thing is that there’were a few Taiwan local puzzles, such as Maru cubes, 3d printed, modded and even the well known proportional 7x7x7 cube. These puzzles we can only see in Taiwan.
These cubes deserve special mention. The top left one is “Rhombic Dodecahedron in Cube” by judochiou. The outer part is a transparent 3x3x3, while the inner part is a dodecahedron. Hand crafted perfectly. I’m not sure about the top right one but it seems to be the famous 24 cube. A pity that I don’t know who made it. Both bottom puzzles are designed by dolimo. The left one is Crystal Dreidel, a deep cut FT dodecahedron. And the right one is Connerminx, a puzzle which allow corner and face turning stimulatiously. Both puzzles are 3d printed.
We divided into two groups at the beginning of the competition because some of us are not speedcubers. Ming and Kim were helping in the competition, Smaz, Rox and I just stay there for a while. At last Smaz & Rox gave out the prize for winners.
The competition end on 16th. It came to 17th, the day of the TPC puzzle party. It started at 09:30 morning, so we went to the location: Ming Dao college very early. The collage is kinda big, we finally found the building which we should head to after a few hiding and seeking. We were on the third floor of the building, it is a literature room, a comfortable room for puzzle gathering.
The first thing we did when we arrived: Paying the fees. 300 New Taiwan dollar. The fees is for the organizer to manage room, lunch and leaflet. We got our own card after paying the fees. The card indicated you name, where you from. There’s also an interesting math sclupture logo too. When all puzzlers arrived, John Lin spoke welcome speech to us and explained the schedule of the day.
After the welcome speech there was an personal introduction part. Each person introduced themselves within 1-2 minutes. They expained where they are from, special skills and favorite type of puzzle. So everybody had an basic image of everybody.
And it came to puzzle connection time. Everybody took out their puzzles and put them on table. Many different types of puzzle were shown because each puzzler they like different kinds of puzzle. Sometimes you play mine and vice versa. Each of us enjoy very much.
Puzzlers of KPG mainly interested in wooden puzzles. The four different puzzles from the pic were shown by Tzy Hung Chein. The top right pic is a 42 pieces combination burr made by Wu. The top left burr is an interesting puzzle named “The Castle”. You’ll have to “rotate” some pieces during disassembling. The bottom left one is an intrique puzzle. I have 6 of this pieces and it requires me to form 3 connected cube. Sounds easy but actually quite hard for me.
Dolimo, aka Minh Sang Su, a famous puzzle designer in Taiwan, he attended the party as well. He is good at designing beautiful and challenging puzzles. Such as the Coner 3x3 II on the top left pic, it is a corner and face turning cube. The top right one is Helicopter Skewb, I’m not sure if he design this one himself or bought from shapeway. The bottom right is Flower Copter, his very first design. A beautiful cube which allow edge and corner turning at the same time. The bottom left one is the Flower Copter II. Similar to the I, but the corner pieces are hidden while the edges are divided into 3 parts. It’s a really great experience to try the real puzzles from Dolimo. That day I gave gim an Icosaix. It is a gift from mf8.
Smaz brought a few of his modded puzzles to the party. There were Time MachineInk CubeTruncated SQ-1,Luxor and Smaz Clock. He gifted his latest cube Curvy Metal to some puzzlers too. Everybody enjoy his creation very much.
John Lin brought many puzzles. There was a modded cube which seems like a combination of Mirrow cube and 3x3x4. But actually it is a bandaged 4x4x4 cube. quite interesting to solve. The bottom pic is a Burr set designed by him. Use any 6 of the pieces to form a burr. I didn’t try this one but admire of his work. He show me a few matching and packing puzzles too.
Shih is a Architecture Professor. He show us his creation. A cuboid. It’s kinda like a burr but I can’t find any angle to disassemble it. At last Shih show us how to disassemble: Twist! If you twist the cuboid it’ll become lose. And then there are more space enough to disassemble them one by one. And I finally realized what the puzzle is after disassemble. It is actually an assembly puzzle with only one element, meaning that every pieces are identical. You can form different shape with that pieces. Even some sculpture with hole.
Kao wen shan from Taipei city, is a great tangram designer. He brought two very big size tangram from Taipei to the party(that’s a bit far you know). The bottom left one is 18 pro tangram Octagonal Frame Puzzle. And the right one is the square version. The speciality of these tangram is that there are frame inside the frame. First you’ll have to fit the biggest frame with small frame, and then you’ll have to pack each smaller frame with many smallest pieces. During the party Kao share some experience of doing tangram puzzles. You may go to his webpage for further details. Kao wen shan from Taipei city, is a great tangram designer. He brought two very big size tangram from Taipei to the party(that’s a bit far you know). The bottom left one is 18 pro tangram Octagonal Frame Puzzle. And the right one is the square version. The speciality of these tangram is that there are frame inside the frame. First you’ll have to fit the biggest frame with small frame, and then you’ll have to pack each smaller frame with many smallest pieces. During the party Kao share some experience of doing tangram puzzles. You may go to his webpage for further details.
Liu Cheng Wei, aka xb27, is a teacher of Ming Dao college. Electronic enginnering is what he’s good at. He show us a display pack made of a plastic box. It can connect to stackmat as a bigger display. The inner structure are all combined and programmed by him. His engineering work really surprise me. Don’t forget he is the one who designed and made the proportional 7x7x7 cube! However that cube was showing in the competition showcase, a pity for me lost a chance to try the real thing. Liu Cheng Wei, aka xb27, is a teacher of Ming Dao college. Electronic enginnering is what he’s good at. He show us a display pack made of a plastic box. It can connect to stackmat as a bigger display. The inner structure are all combined and programmed by him. His engineering work really surprise me. Don’t forget he is the one who designed and made the proportional 7x7x7 cube! However that cube was showing in the competition showcase, a pity for me lost a chance to try the real thing.
Instead of burr puzzles, Chein brought us a few wire puzzles as well. Through the card I see these wire puzzles are an cooperation of Chein and Wang Yulong. I know Wang for a few years. He is from China, should be quite close to the city I’m living. However we never met before. Wang did not join this puzzle party, but his creation is here! Somehow I feel the puzzle spirit~
Everytime I attend a puzzle party, I always brought the Houdini’s Torture Cell by Mr Puzzle. This is a sequtiential discovry puzzle. The aim is to take out a piece of wood inside the transparent tube. This puzzle is small, easy to carry, good looking enough to attract non-puzzlers, not too hard but challenging. So I think this is the best puzzle to show people. This time I brought it too. And I see they enjoy the puzzle very much!
Times came to noon, we had a quick lunch in the room. It wan’t something special but good enough for our brain to take a rest. The lunch arrangement is good. John Lin ask us what we don’t eat by email a week before the party. And the food arrived our room quietly when we were playing puzzles. What a great arrangment~
After lunch we had a few lectures. The first one is by David Guo. The title is “Filling grid and packing puzzles”. It’s about using math view to see packing puzzles. David is a university professor, so his spoke extremely well. Not too easy but not too boring as well. He took a few examples on filling in grid, showing us in what circumstance filling full grid with one piece is possible, in what circumstance is not. And he expalined very well about the impossible situation with a well demostrated ppt.
The second one was me speaking about puzzle circle thing in Hong Kong and China. As Taiwan people don’t go to China often, John in ask me to do a talk about the puzzle activities in China and Hong Kong. And I introduce a few things I known, such as some puzzle carnival in Hong Kong, the workflow of Beijing collectors group, Gathering for Gardner in Beijing, and the China cube day in Guangzhou. I talked about a few important puzzlersin Hong Kong and China too.
The last lecture was “Stories about KPG & TPC” by Huang. It’s about the origin of KPG. So it is Peter Rasmussen and Wei Zhang who named them as KPG, and help them to join the one IPP in Japan. KPG had a hard time before. Lot’s of members just lose their interest.So John Lin turn himself into twistypuzzles modding, and successfully recruit a few younger puzzlers into KPG. From then on KPG was once again very active, which lead to an annual puzzle party-TPC. Through this lecture we all know better about KPG.
Puzzle connection again after 3 lectures. Everyone was playing different puzzles.
They even tried some puzzles which are not their type.
A few puzzles which I think worth to mention. The top left is Nifty Fifty. A packing puzzle. There’re 4 different sticks which you’ll have to pakc them into the frame. Designed by Jean Claude Constantin, quite a hard puzzle. The top right is a puzzle designed by Simon Nightingale. I don’t know the name. The aim is to take out the coin from the barrel. Very great looking one. The bottom left is Two key 9 step Iron Padlock. This is a puzzle from india, bought from Mr Puzzle. You have to open the lock with the two keys provided. The bottom right one is the 24 cell puzzle by Bob Hearn. This is an assembly puzzle. First you’ll have to take it apart, which is very easy. But the hard part is to assemble the shape again. 24 Cell seems to be a math polytope but I can’t tell you more because I actually don’t understand it…...
The top left is named Up Periscope. Assembly puzzle. It was an exchange puzzle by Laurie Brokenshire in IPP 34, made by Vinco. Each piece is shape like a periscope, but all of them are a bit different. The aim is to form a 1x2x2, 1x2x3 and 2x2x shape with 4, 6 and 8 pieces. The top right is Transparent Lock by Gary Foshee. Gary is a puzzle making master. The puzzle was available on IPP35 and Rox bought one to show us. It is a sequential discovery puzzle. Not too hard but the quality is just amazing. The bottom left is now a rare puzzle. Trillion, we consider it a 2d sliding puzzle. There are 3 different size tirning plate and one intersecting plugner to scramble the color pieces inside. The aim is of course to solve it. The bottom right is a set of hanayama chess puzzle. I just bougth them one day before I went to Taiwan. They’re not hard too, but I like the theme and hanayama’s quality.
Lot’s of photo were taken during the party. We all know each member though internet but this might be the first time we see each other face to face. These photos will be a good memory for all of us.
So the party end at 17:30, we don’t want to but still had to leave. Before leaving, XB27 brought us to the college’s enginnering room. He show us a 3d printing machine, a laser cutter, and even a 3d printer made by him! See the XB logo on the machine! I wonder how good the education environment of Taiwan is, to let a college having resources to teach student enginnering! They just impress me.
And we took a group photo in front of the college. The college’s name is not showing due to construction though…...
That’s all about the TPC puzzle party. I hope you like it.
But one more thing…...
Actually we got John Lin’s invitation to visit his home and his collection during the party. And of course we won’t say no~~so on 18th of August early morning, we took a train head to Kaosiung!
John and fellow KPGers were ready to pick us up at the Train station. The first thing to do was lunch, thanks for buying John! After that we head to John’s home. We were shocked when we arrived this puzzle room, full of puzzles! There’re a few ring puzzles hanging on a wall, a table of packed puzzles inside papaer box at another wall. And the bast wall, you are watching it. Five big cabinet full of puzzles! We took some photos with John in front of his collection~
John’s collection has many different variety. Usually a puzzler have his own interest of puzzle type. But you see from John’s collection, there’re Math sculpture, Origami, Burr and twistypuzzles. John can even told us a single puzzle’s origin, speciality and it’s interesting feature. He recommended a few puzzles to us. On twistypuzzles aspect, John is a very good solver too. Not to mention he is also a mafous twistypuzzles modder in Taiwan. His knowledge of puzzles just let me feel amazing.
We stay in this room for a while, taking pictures, talking about puzzles. Smaz, another twistypuzzles modder, was very interest in John’s modded puzzles. He watched them very closely.
The day we had another visitor. His name is Wu Cheng Han(pronounciation), let’s just call him Maru. Yes you’re right, he is man behind Maru Cube. We saw him during the competition a few days ago, but at that time there were too many people and he was working as photographer of the event. So we didn’t talk much before. It’s a surprise we met again in John’s house. Maru is a very nice young man. I even think he’s too young to manage a puzzle industry like Maru Cube. But I think he must be capable of it. He gave us a few Nano cube, the lastest product of Maru Cube, as a gift to each of us. He even invite us to visit his office in Tainan city. Thanks Maru, but a pity we already had some arrangement so we could only refuse with regret…..May be next time.
We went to another room after watching John’s collection. I think this is John’s study room. There’re a few puzzle related books and another a few puzzles as well. So we sat down to play puzzles for a while. John recommended a few puzzles to us, had a conversation about the tools of puzzle modding with Smaz, and Rox was playing a dexterity puzzle. The aim is to put 3 pieces on the rod without falling.
There were many twistypuzzles too. The top left and the bottom right are modded puzzles by John. The top left one is Squished Skewb which was already mass produced, and the bottom right seems like a 2x2x3, but actually a fake one. It is a bandaged 3x3x3 with some extended pieces. And two others are mass produced puzzles with John’s own stickers. John said that he like this kind of stickers and usually he’ll change a puzzle’s original stickers to his own stickers.
John is good at making math Sculpture too. The two puzzles on the top row are made by plastic band or card by John. Quite good looking. The bottom left is a 9 pieces hexagonal rod burr. John said that it’s not a hard one, but so beautiful to be a decoration object. He wanted me to try disassemble it. Well as a burr idiot I think I better not…...The bottom right is a nice sculpture made by Wu, another KPG member. So artistic.
I want to mention some special puzzles to you. The left one is named ODD puzzle. It is a packing puzzle. The aim is to pack all 3 pieces into the box. But as you see there’s only a rectangle hole to put them in, thus making it harder. I tried around 20 minutes but still fail to solve it. But Dayan solve it within 5 minutes…...OK I admit that you’re better than me…..The top right one is a very rare puzzle: original 4 color Dino cube! It’s a puzzle from 90s~Actually the puzzle is quite easy to solve, it just became rare because the manufacturer didn’t make many. Bottom left side is theRising Sun puzzle by Oskar Van Deventer. The aim is to take out the “sun” from the “cloud”. You’ll have to find a right sequence in order to solve it. The last one is a classic chair puzzle. we had 4 Isometric chair pieces in different size. The aim is to form a bigger chair with all 4 pieces. It’s quite hard as these 4 pieces don’t have the same length or width. But you’ll find it an intrique puzzle when you did it!
After some enjoyable play time we head to our next destination. A farm with nice view?
The fact is we were here to visit Wu’s workshop. Wu, as a teacher of Precise Machinery, drove himself into puzzle making after retirement of teaching. There’re many geometry objects in his workshop, wooden, metal, very tiny one, and even very big one. See the object is even bigger than Rox!
Wu makes puzzles with lego cuboid as well. See these creations, they’re all built by lego pieces. I can’t be sure but it seems these object are made by one kind of piece only! Some of them like a burr, some like building, some like math sculpture. I saw object as big as a TV, also object small enough to hold with my hand.
“I spent my whole life playing assembly puzzle” Wu said. His largest assembly object is a 6 pieces burr made of Truck Container! That’s a combine object by him and the city council. He make use of Lego pieces to build curve orject too. See the pic on the right, that’s a “Rubber band” made with only one type of lego piece! You can even bend it to make different shape! What an interesting creation~
In another room, we saw a lot more usual wooden puzzles. The top left pic is one of two identical pieces to form a cube. Wu told us he glue those little cube pieces one by one. I admire how insist Wu is. From the top right pic there’re some more often seen burr puzzles. But they’re made by metal by CNC machine. And the last pic at the bottom, it is a 18 pieces burr. Wu said that nobody make this burr before. What even better is that this burr only consist of two type of pieces. I really want to disassemble it after I heard that but…...better not.
參觀工作坊完畢後已經到了晚飯的時間, KPG們帶我們去吃了一頓很不錯的海鮮. 高雄一天的Puzzle活動就此結束了.
As a Hong Kong people working in mainland china, I consider myself quite familiar with puzzle circle and atmosphere in both HK and china. For puzzle circle of Taiwan, I only know a few persons. Some of them communicated before by internet, and more didn’t communicate before. So I see this journey to Taiwan a very precious chance, to meet the KPGers face to face. Not only me but with a few HK/China puzzlers as well! I hope that this will be a good starting point for the whole China’s puzzle circle!
I wanna thanks some people at last. Smaz, for telling me about this trip and ask me to join. Ming, for organizing such a great adventure. YC Lam, for helping me  to get some puzzle souvenirs gift. And finally John and KPG, for the TPC puzzle party! I hope we’ll join another puzzle party in Taiwan in the future! And it’ll be even better if KPG came to HK/China to have a party as well!

Saturday, August 29, 2015

IPP 35

Another IPP has come and gone.  And as always it was great fun.
After spending 2 days white water rafting George and I made it to the hotel.  Upon entering, the first person I saw was Bob Hearn.  A always, I ran up and gave him a big hug.  I checked in, got the bags to the room, changed quickly and went down to the founders dinner.  I wandered around quite a bit saying hello to old friends and handing out hugs and kisses all around.
I hear there was food, but as always, I was more interested in the boys and talking than I was eating.  The exhaustion of the earlier week and all the activity wore me out and I called it an early night.  The next day was the exchange and i had an early meeting about the post IPP trip for next year.

This year my exchange partner was Eitan Cher.  It was his first time exchanging and I'm pretty sure he learned a lot about both IPP and Rox.  He seemed to get on just fine on his own, and unlike past years greenhorns that I exchanged with, he already knew a lot of people. He was tickled by my little talk about my puzzle.  This time around I was thrilled to have a puzzle that was designed by Fritz Gobel.  He designed a packing puzzle that I was able to make myself using a laser cutter supplied by my dear friends over at Hanayama.  (After we made the prototype, I realized it could be made into a 4 color map so more material was ordered and off to the cutters I went.)

As always, we walked around the room for about six hours giving and receiving puzzles.  I really love the Christmas in August aspect of IPP.  This year there were 88 exchanges made on the day, and a few more made after.  I've been so busy since I've been back that I haven't had time to really play with any of them and filming them is probably a no go this year.

That evening was the banquet and I enjoyed that as always.  There were interesting table puzzles as is normal, and good company.  We chatted with many about the puzzles exchanged earlier in the day, and a few more as  always.  I made an early night of it as I really was exhausted from the earlier part of the trip.  (Note to self:  do post-IPP trips instead of pre in future.)

Saturday was the puzzle party!  The event of the year (most years).  I'll clarify my addendum.  I walked around the room and realized that I have almost all of the puzzles that were on display.  Ok.  not all but there were none that really appealed to me this year so I didn't purchase much.  No.  I lie.  there was a lot of wood that I just loved, but HK humidity and all.....

Saturday evening was the night of the Twisty Puzzles dinner and as always, it was filled with loads of fun and puzzles.  John Haché set up the meeting and a group of us headed over to the Three Brewers for dinner, drinks, and puzzling.  When there, we ran into another group of puzzlers and bid them all a good evening across the wall that was dividing us.  We puzzled away for about 3 hours then headed back to the hotel to see a fireworks show that was going on in the city.  Beautiful as always, but living in Asia, and seeing the Macao competitions, I decided a shower was needed and snuck away for a while.  The booms from the hotel room were tremendously loud, from the viewing room, we couldn't hear a thing.
After a quick shower and when the fireworks ended, we met again in the lobby and had another hour or so of puzzling.  I mentioned to Bob that I was having some prolonged leg cramps that had been diagnosed as shin splints (after a year of this, I know it was a misdiagnosis)  He brought me to his room to try on his pants!  Wow what a feeling!  See, it's not all puzzles.

Sunday was a free day and because I had brought my golf clubs with me (who does that!), Bill Ritchie, and George Miller and I went out and had a game.  The two gentlemen had a major handicap. They were only using a 7 iron, I had full use of my set.  Needless to say they still did better than I.

That night was the awards banquet and as always, it did not fail to entertain.  I'm always thrilled to see the diversity of puzzles that are put up and the winners of the awards.  This year our own Ayi won an award and I dutifully brought it home for him.  Again it was an early night for me.  Perhaps the human tornado is slowing down, or maybe she just had too much activity pre-IPP and was catching up.  But all in all, it was a great IPP again as always.
The only downside?  Oskar wasn't there, but through the use of modern technology, he made the rounds at the puzzle party, joined in a bit of the exchange and came to the Twisty Puzzles dinner with us.  (sorry about the red wine Bob!)
Monday saw me heading back to Chicago to pick up the kid from her grandfather and on to HK for a night.

Only 342 days until the next one!  And yes, George will be there with me again.

puzzle photography group
Twisty Puzzlers

Metagrobologists (former Renegades)
Three Puzzlers and their buddies

I love bearded men!

The two Hanayama chess sets