Friday, August 1, 2014

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!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

My last day with Oskar and José

How can one beat a puzzle party?  By going on a bike ride and hitting a museum of course!

We woke early, I packed up my now clean laundry (many thanks José) and once again boxed up a bunch of puzzles to ship home.  Do you see a pattern here?  We had breakfast, chatted a bit then jumped on the bikes and headed for Den Haag. 

The first stop was the Escher museum.  Amazing! I’ve seen some prints before, the classic ones of course, and I have the fish and lizards puzzles so I thought I knew all I needed to know.  Nope!  There were so many designs I had not seen before, and the portraits! Stunning work.  José pointed out some drawings of Delft and the tower I but bumped down along with some other buildings he sketched. 
 




From there we went to the peace palace.  Now Rox is a little bit slow as we all know.  José and I were talking about it on the ride to the building, and it suddenly dawned on me which Den Haag I was in.  Oh my.  What a fool I felt like.  I studied history for many many years; have two degrees in the subject and was clueless about my location.  (Maybe it’s a good thing I teach English now.) 

They made a full day of this for me.  Our next stop was the beach where we saw some cute statues of different fairy tales.  Next and final stop was a mirror maze.  I loved this.  Found the door rather quickly, so Oskar had us go back through yet again.  The second time around I got a bit confused but since I’m here now writing you know I made it out.  I had to chuckle.  I asked José if she had been in one of these things before.  Her reply:  “with my husband, yes!” As if I asked a stupid question.  In hindsight, I did.


From there we made our way back to the house, and chatted some more before they brought me to the train station.  I was sad to leave, but know I’ll be seeing them again in August. 

Many sincere thanks to Oskar and José for a wonderful weekend.  I had the most enjoyable time.



Next up: a visit to a puzzle palace!