Thursday, August 21, 2014

Day 4-relaxing

This was the only day I had that wasn't filled with puzzling activities on this entire trip.  A picnic, hike, a swim.

This girl went to bed very satisfied.  :) Thank you Poseidon.  You granted my wishes.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Day 3-Top Secret Puzzle Hunt

Day 3 started off very early.  Breakfast at 7:30.  Which meant waking up even earlier because a girl needs a shower.
We met with Otis for breakfast and ate up quickly. Jumped in the car and set the GPS. What a wonder of modern technology that is! I've not driven in so many years, I was fascinated by it.  The drive over was around 2 1/2 hours.  We chatted as we drove. Otis played "The Room" for a while and then fell asleep.
After what seemed like a lifetime of driving we got close to the location but managed to get lost again. This seemed to be my lot on this trip. Lots of getting lost.  But That's part of the fun.  We finally gave in and called the organizer and realized that we had passed the location just a few minutes before.  Backtrack and we arrived at the secret nuclear bunker. 

Upon parking we ran into a bunch of other familiar faces.  Hugs were passed out all around!  After about half an hour we separated into teams and got ready to head into the bunker.  

The first thing we needed to do was to decode the puzzles.  I seem to have lost my book or maybe I gave it to Otis but no matter.  I remember many of the puzzles and the language has been burned into my brain.  6 people on the team and I was the only one who was fluent in squiggle. (I don't know if that's the name, but it's what I'm calling it).  It took me about 30 minutes to learn  it, and by the time we were finished with the hunt, I had one heck of a headache!
We weren't one of top three teams, and if truth be told, we were probably one of the last, but we did great work together. Sam made sure everyone had a chance to open a puzzle that they hadn't worked with before.  This was not only fair but great for me. I had the opportunity to play with a Dan Lock and as luck would have it, Peter had a spare and he sold it to me at IPP.  

The organizers had it set up rather nicely so that the teams were never in the same room at the same time.  We finished at least 14 rooms.  George asked what would happen if we went too fast.  The answer: we got a room that had nothing to do with the hunt. It really didn't matter because we had a fantastic time.  There were boxes, a wrap puzzle, a number of locks, a musicbox and another musical puzzle (Stairway to Heaven is Led Zeppelin guys-NOT Steppenwolf or what ever it was you said!)  There was a sideways burr that was a hoot!  Last puzzle of the day.  Rox read the line that told us where to start, but forgot how to read the English that told us to take the puzzle away with us.  

The entire day, we laughed until our sides hurt.  It was fantastic and if I lived in the UK I would beg the organizers to put together another one.

There were only 2 bad times during the day.  The first was when stupid Rox counted backwards and couldn't tell the difference between a bunch of pictures and a rebus. Doh!  Face palm!  Idiot!
 But hey, we managed to sort out our problem and carried on.  The other bad time?  I lost my sunglasses.  I know, who needs sunglasses in an underground bunker?  Rox of course!

We finished around 5, grabbed a sandwich and then watched a bit of the finals race before heading out.  There was a long drive ahead of us before we got to our final destination for the evening.  Next stop James Dalgety's! 

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Day 2-MPP

I had the good fortune of meeting many of the lads from MPP in May when I spent a day with Allard and Gill.  When the IPP invitation was sent out and I saw to contact Nigel for the invitation to MPP a week before the main event, I shot off an email right away and said I would join in the fun.

This MPP wasn't just for folks from the Midlands though.  As it turned out, there were boys from all over the world who showed up for this event.

The day started out with a nice breakfast at the B&B that we were all staying at followed by a drive to Allards and then a convoy over to the venue of the MPP.  We arrived and I pulled a few toys out of the boot of the car to bring in and off we headed for the GAP center.

We all congregated in the lobby area for a bit of puzzling and some early morning coffee, then the fun began!

After an hour or so, we moved into a big room and everyone set up tables of the toys they brought along.  There was lots of puzzling and lots more boys to talk to.  There were even a few tables with puzzles for sale. This bit surprised me.  I guess I knew of it from Allard and Kevin's blogs, but that hadn't sunk in my simple brain.  

I wandered around and took a few photos before settling down to attempt some solving.  As usual, I was rubbish at it, but hey, a girl has to try.  

One of the highlights of this puzzle party for me was to finally meet the infamous Kevin.  What a treat that was for me!  

Brian Young handed out some MPP souvenir puzzles that were quickly put together by one and all.  Even Sue got into some puzzling.  
I got to see Burgo's puzzle kit and some very large puzzles made by Steve and the new 3x3x3.  
I didn't manage to stay very long.  By 3 pm the jet lag set in and I was done for!  I headed back to the B&B for a nap before the BBQ at Allard's that night.  After getting lost, we finally got back and I was out in minutes.  Funny thing happened while I was sleeping. Brian's puzzle unsolved itself.  I must ross and turn a lot more than I thought.
At 6 my alarm went off and we headed over to the Walker's for a bit of burnt meat.  As last time I had the pleasure of joining them, the food was fantastic, the host and hostess even better.  (Photos have been shamelessly stolen from Ois' facebook page-I was so busy having fun I forgot to take photos!)

There was a lot of chatting and a lot of puzzling going on.  As usual, I handed out my Berrocals for people to play with. In this instance it was Louis Puzzleman-A real giant that I enjoyed torturing with those tiny pieces.  :)  

Around 9:30 I said my goodbyes to Allard and Gill.  No Gill, I really wasn't sick.  I was just struck down by jetlag and needed time to sleep.  There was still 9 days of puzzling ahead of me.  One early night wouldn't hurt would it????

Next up:  A top secret puzzle hunt.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Day 1-arrival

I left on August first and arrived on August first.  Lucky me, I gained an extra 7 hours that day and I took full advantage of those 7 hours.

I landed around 3 pm, flew through the airport to immigration and baggage claim.  That took ages to get through.  Luckily I fancy myself a bit of a runner and my legs flew through the crowds before they really lined up.  As it was, I waited 45 minutes to go through.  I had to laugh, the officer didn't believe I was there for a puzzle party but took "convention" as a given.  He also had a few questions about my frequent trips in to China and other Asian countries. Try explaining that away-3/4 of a passport filled with visas for heavy drug riddled countries.  The officer even joked about it, but I'm so dull and boring that I went into a bit about being an academic and began to describe my work....He waved me through and off it was to meet my friend.

After a long 3 hour drive to Warwick, I checked into the B&B for the night and headed down to a local pub to meet up with a few friends.  Jim and Susan Strayer, Brian and Sue Young, Otis Cheng, and Jeffrey Aurand were all there.  How strange I don't have a photo of us.  At one point, Brian was banished to a corner.  He must have been Brian again.

Dinner of Fish and Chips and mint(!) mushy peas followed by a beer and a half and I was back to form. Sadly jet lag set in early and it was back to the B&B for a good nights sleep.  The next morning I needed to rise early for MPP! And that post will be coming soon....

Friday, August 1, 2014


As luck would have it, I managed an earlier flight. Ok. It's only three hours but that's three hours sooner to see friends. 

I'm doing that dreaded airport boarding wait. I'm eager to get off the ground. The sooner that happens....

It's now time to hop on the flight! Yippee! Ready to go. 

See you in London!

It's that time again

Once again it's time for the biggest puzzle party of the year.  The one everyone looks forward to.  That's right.  IPP!

I'm sitting here at home getting ready to take off for the airport.  In 18 short hours or so I'll land and be picked up by a dear friend only to drive onwards back to Warwick and the good couple Allard and Gill.  MPP is Saturday morning and then Sunday will bring a puzzle hunt at some undisclosed location.

From there its a few days of visiting with friends in the UK before heading over to the main event!  Yes, this little girl is excited yet again.

After a bit of panic and what now is worth laughing over, Uwe managed to get quite a few puzzles sent off to London for me. All are waiting at the hotel we will be staying at.  Thank heavens they got there on time.  I'd have been very upset if they hadn't.  I'm pretty sure the recipient would have been too.

Right, time to take a shower and lock up those suitcases.

Stay tuned for postings on my take on IPP again this year.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Hanayama Galaxy

I hope I'm not going to be beaten for this, but rather than another post about Wil's egg, I thought I'd post about another little sparkly puzzle I have recently obtained. The newest puzzle in the Hanayama line up.  This one  first hit the puzzling scene in the 2013 IPP design competition.  The puzzle was designed by Bram Cohen who has been known to design a few others in the past.  The puzzle itself earned an honorable mention in the design competition that year.  Well done Bram.  Not only on the award, but also on getting another puzzle manufactured by Hanayama.

Ok. So on to the puzzle.  It's not exactly out on the market yet.  But you see, I go to my spa just 4 floors up from the HK Hanayama office.  The other day I was over there relaxing and decided to deliver a puzzle to Kyoo Wong.  We made an exchange and had a nice little chat about the next(!) puzzle to come after Galaxy.  (No, the one in the photo is not it. That's an ancient design that I had in my pocket.)  I had an interesting conversation about puzzle designing with Kyoo, and once the next one up is put on the web, I'll write up a nice little story about it.  In the mean time, The photo above to the right is a prototype if you will of something Kyoo was working on in year past.  He gave it to me because of the similarity to the Galaxy.  If I understood the story right, he and Bram had a conversation over these four bolts around the time Bram designed the Galaxy.  (Tell me if I got that wrong Bram.)

After I got the puzzle home, I managed to take it apart quite quickly.  That part is not all that hard.  I think it took me around 15 minutes of fiddling to do so.  Putting it back together again is another story.  It has still defeated me.  But I will keep at it until I win.  This puzzle will not beat me.  You'll notice, that while each of the four pieces look identical, they aren't  there are two matching pair.  As always, Hanayama has put a bit of a twist on the original design that makes it more difficult.  I'll not tell what it is.  I know you'd rather find out for yourself when you get the puzzle.

So where can you pick this up?  I'm sure Puzzlemaster or others will have it up soon.  I do believe this puzzle will be released in July of this year.  I think it's a level 2 or 3.  I'm not sure.  See, there's no packaging done up yet.  As with all Hanayama, the quality is fantastic.  Go pick one up, you won't regret it.

Friday, June 20, 2014

A visit with Geert and Berti

When Hendrik and I woke after my late night wanderings around the waters of Holland, we headed to Geert’s for my final puzzle party of this trip.  (For those paying attention-my few readers-this makes number 5) 

We arrived around noon and promptly set about looking at Geert’s collection.  I expected to see many many that I don’t have, but was shocked to discover few.  But the ones I did discover!  Oh boy!  I need I need!

Berti made Hendrik and I a sandwich and coffee. And Puzzle daddy arrived!  Yipee!  I was so happy to see Georges.  I knew he was invited, but didn’t know if he would show up.  You see, I’ve been playing with him online for years now but have only met him once.  This second meeting was truly wonderful for me. 

Chris, Jessica, Frank, and Thomas all came in.  We started chatting, but it didn’t take long for the puzzles to hit the table.  We dove into Franks bag, and Geert’s cabinets.  Others soon pulled out yet more puzzles and before long there was a table full of toys. 

Chris showed us a magnet and aluminum tube trick that I'd never seen before.  Even Berti got in on the puzzling after this.

We puzzled the afternoon away and puzzled some more.  Around 6 Karin started the BBQ.  My third this trip and each was unique.  Dinner was served along with a few more beers.  The conversation turned from puzzles to more mundane topics but was good all the same.  I really enjoyed myself.  At some point in the evening, the language switched to German and I was very pleased that I was able to follow most of it.  And even able to join in when they started talking about watching Bonanza in German.  A pleasant memory from my childhood. 

I finally began to feel the trip.  Around 10 I made excuses and begged Hendrik to take me back to the hotel my poor body had finally given up after 3 ½ weeks.  Needless to say, I slept in the next day. 

My final day in Holland was spent traveling from one beach to the next up the coastline.  A short walk through the woods and a final beer by the car before heading to the airport. 

And so my journey ends.  As happy as I am to see my family again, I’m sad to go.  I’ll miss my friends and the good times that we had.  But as usual, I know I’ll see most again in August.

I want to say a special thank you to all my hosts over the past month, Gino, Tomas, Timo, Vesa, Marti, Allard and Gill, Nanco, Maarten, Oskar and José, Guido, Wil, Geert and Berti, and especially Hendrik for putting up with me for so long-I know that had to be painful at times.  You all have made my long work trip worth going for.  I can’t wait til next years conference jaunt!  Denmark this time, but I’m guessing I can make a side trip or two.  Finland is a definite again, the Netherlands?  Or maybe I should go see friends in Germany? Who knows what the cards will hold.

And who knows, after IPP, I may be hooked on those boys and toys so much that I’ll travel back to Europe for one of the toy fairs

Thursday, June 19, 2014

A good time with a fellow puzzler

After visiting Wil, Hendrik and I headed over to the general direction of Geert’s house.  We woke late because we enjoyed the stay at Wil’s so much, that we didn’t sleep very early.  I needed a bit of a break.  I think Hendrik was tired from the driving.  I found out today that it is some 670 km to Amsterdam from his home. 

We wandered around the general area that Geert lives in.  Looked at the ships going up and down the canal, drove around the area for a while then headed to Belgium (!) for supper.  We watched the end of one football game and had another of those tasty beers that we had with Wil.  Oh yes, and Schnitzel.  Food I enjoyed!

Our final stop for the evening was the hotel that very conveniently had a bar next door that just happened to be playing the football.  Well, I’m game.  I’ll try anything once.  What the heck!  When in Holland when they are playing in the world cup playoffs you may as well go watch with the natives!  Did I mention this is the first ever football game I’ve ever watched?

What great fun!  I really enjoyed the match.  Well, I enjoyed watching people enjoying the match.  Had a few beers as you do, and when Holland whipped Spain 5:1 (Spain’s one point was on a penalty kick that I swear was a bad call!) we headed out for a walk.  Back to the canal.  Hendrik was humoring me greatly.  He brought me out to see more stars.  I told him I wanted to and he obliged.  (Like I didn’t have enough sitting on the roof of the hotel at Warwick….)  I’m guessing I finally let him drag me back to my room around 2.  I’m a night owl you see.  That poor man was dropping when I said good night at his door. 

I appreciate the trips to numerous beaches so I could see the waves and freeze my bits off while I took a quick swim, the walks through the trees to sooth my big city girl soul.  I loved seeing the rabbits and the deer.  Thank you for pointing them all out to me.

I cannot thank Hendrik enough for the help he gave me while in Holland.  A tour guide, a driver, a good puzzle friend.  And yet again, as sad as I was to say goodbye, I know I’ll say hello again in 6 more weeks.  IPP here I come!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

A visit to Wil's

I returned to Amsterdam for 2 evenings and 2 more meetings before being picked up by Hendrik for a trip to the southern part of the Netherlands.  My next puzzle stop:  Wil’s house!  Oskar had warned me that Wil had a house that was taken over by puzzles, but I refused to believe him.  Oh dear was I wrong!

I’ve never seen anything like it!  There were puzzles everywhere you turn.  I kid you not!  The living room was like a museum.  The kitchen had puzzles, The bathroom! Wil took me upstairs and showed me 2 rooms there.  Both were chock a block full of boxes filled with yet more puzzles.  I looked for one that I was missing but as luck would have it, he didn’t have that one.  (Oskar’s keys by Hanayama for those who are curious). 

He showed me one puzzle after another after another.  All I did was look at puzzles for the 6 or so hours I was there.  I can’t even begin to describe what I saw so the photos will have to suffice.  I attempted a few puzzles, but didn’t get far on any of them.  I didn’t want to mess with one that I couldn’t solve and with my track record, that meant I didn’t try too many. Another interesting aspect of Wil's house is the sprinkling of erotica throughout.  It tickled my baser side.

I saw a few that I don’t have-heck, I saw many I don’t have.  Too many.  While routing around, I found a few more that had to go home with me.  These added to the egg and other metal puzzles I’d already shipped home.

We went out and had a nice meal.  Wil ordered me a wonderful appetizer of salmon and eel.  Mind, I don’t like salmon, but it wasn’t wasted. Wil finished it off.  A t-bone and mushrooms rounded off the meal.  Oh wait, the best part was as usual, the beer!  I loved it so much that I had 2 more.

We headed back to Wil’s for a bit more puzzling and for him to pack up.  The man never stops.  He was off to MPP in Warwick.  Hmmm wonder if I was there recently?

Next up?? More puzzles of course!