Not a computer

I encountered a reCAPTCHA today that clearly depicted:


I knew what it was, but unfortunately I was unable to find the ∈ key on my keyboard.

UPDATE: Okay, this is getting worse:

Sadly, it rejected my attempt of Σ_k β_k^±.


A strimbolac is a non-circular coin.

Well, not really. That's something my subconscious made up. I saw it on the Internet, on a dictionary website ... in my dream last night.

Puzzles I wrote for SVPF

Here are four puzzles I wrote for the Silicon Valley Puzzle Fest this year.

Two of them are Killer Sudoku puzzles, and two of them are Cryptic Crosswords.

A word of warning: The "Easy" Cryptic Crossword may be a slightly heavy on technology trivia; while the "Hard" Cryptic Crossword contains a few terms specific to the Bay Area and one trivia item (similar to last year) that could be considered obscure knowledge. One solver at the competition seemed to be offended at its inclusion, which led to a rather lively debate on the car ride.

PNG for the hard Killer is below.

Voting Mail

Here's how I would vote if I obeyed every piece of campaign mail I got in my mailbox:

Senator -- Barbara Boxer
Governor -- Meg Whitman (5 times), Jerry Brown (once)
Lt. Gov. -- Gavin Newsom (once), Abel Maldonado (once)
Sec. of State -- Debra Bowen
Controller -- Tony Strickland (twice), John Chiang (once)
Treasurer -- Bill Lockyer (twice)
Attorney General -- Kamala Harris
Insurance Commissioner -- Mike Villines (twice), Dave Jones (once)
Superintendent of Public Instruction -- Tom Torlakson (once), Larry Aceves (once)

U.S. Rep -- Anna Eshoo (twice)
State Board of Equalization -- Betty Yee
State Assembly -- Paul Fong
Santa Clara Valley Water -- Louis Becker

Mountain View City Council -- Margaret Abe-Koga (thrice)

Prop. 19 -- Yes (once); No (once)
Prop. 20 -- No (twice)
Prop. 21 -- Yes (twice)
Prop. 22 -- Yes (once); No (once)
Prop. 23 -- No (twice)
Prop. 24 -- No (twice); Yes (once)
Prop. 25 -- No (thrice); Yes (once)
Prop. 26 -- No (5 times); Yes (twice)
Prop. 27 -- Yes (thrice)

Santa Clara County Measure A -- Yes (6 times)
Santa Clara County Measure E -- Yes
Santa Clara County Measure T -- Yes

Solving the Latch Cube

My puzzles finally arrived from Japan, so I was able to find some time to play with the Latch Cube. My intuition is that the easiest solving method is to do all the edges, then fix the corners, but I was a bit stymied as to how to consistently solve the corners. I think I have a pretty reliable solution method for the corners now:

Here's how it goes:

1. Assume that all the edges are solved.

2. Take any slice and turn it three times.

3. Orient the cube such that the U face has four clockwise
arrows, the D face has four counter-clockwise arrows,
and the F face has two counter-clockwise arrows.

Now: The sequence R'D*R will move any arbitrary
corner cubie from the D face to the FRU location.
You can easily commute this with turns of U to
generate any three-cycle you wish. For example,


does a 3-cycle of FRU to BRU to FRD.

This will leave you with corner-spin issues, though.
To deal with that, you'll just need the mirror-image
on the left-side -- instead of R'D*R, use LD*L'.

Rest is left as an exercise to the reader. :)

An old forgotten puzzle

Going through my old e-mail, I found this puzzle:

What do these U.S. cities have in common? And what other cities
can you add to the list?

Colorado Springs
Fort Lauderdale
Los Angeles
New York
San Diego
Virginia Beach

Annoyingly, I didn't write down the answer and have since then forgotten it! Looking at the surrounding e-mail context, it appears that both wordplay and trivia is involved.

Airline Lounge

Of all the airline lounges I've experienced before, Taipei seems to have the best food. There's ramen, oden, bao, grilled yams, congee, and a variety of at least 20 different soft drinks.

How this Japanese Hotel differs from standard hotels in the US

* Insanely hot water available. I turn the H faucet 5 degrees and the C faucet 270 degrees to get a temperature I like.
* No ice bucket. The ice machine is on only one floor and has paper cups next to it. It's only on a tiny room room in one floor, with vending machines that sell soft drinks, beer, Haagen-Dazs, and TV cards.
* The adult channels on the TV let you watch 30 seconds for free. Then you need to insert one of the aforementioned TV cards into the TV if you want more.
* A handy rechargable flashlight next to the bed.
* A toilet that washes your butt after you poop. No dryer feature, though.
* A deep bathtub.
* A retractable clothesline.
* A weird folding item. I think it's an ironing board but it's not shaped like any ironing board I've seen. Now that I look at it again, I think it's a shirt-presser, especially since there doesn't seem to be an iron in the room and the device has a plug and a button.
* A nice, long, shoehorn.
* A spray bottle of air freshener.
* Two teabags, but no coffee. I think the flat squarish things next to the hot-water device are teacups.
* The room has a doorbell.
* There's a letter-sized area on the mirror that doesn't fog up, just at the right height to see your own face at when you finish taking a hot shower. Don't know how it works.
* "The hotel curfew is at 25:00 am, after which under no circumstances shall entry and exit be