Wednesday, July 8, 2015

FPP 2015

Since I've started this PhD, I've resigned myself to having to travel to Finland once a year (as if that bothers me).  I wait until Conference season and tack it on to that trip to save the wear on my slightly aging body.  Last year I posted on FaceBook that I was going and Tomas Linden  got in touch to say the Finnish Puzzle Party was taking place that week and asked me to join.  I enjoyed it so much, that this year when I planned my trip I contacted him!

First stop Helsinki for a night and of course I had to visit a puzzle shop!    Nothing for me though.  Can you tell how cold it was there?  Next stop Jyväskylä and a bit of intensive study before I headed off to the puzzles.

It was just as fun as last year and there was no disappointment at all.  This year the FPP was located in Turku along the southwest coast of Finland.  It's a very beautiful city and I enjoyed walking around it with my husband.  (Did I fail to mention he came along?)

We first went to a mathematical exhibition at what I think was an art center.  We had a bit of a guided tour, and while most of the items on exhibition I had seen before, we did get into a good discussion about why balls travel faster down different planes, and there was a really cool dice counting thing that I had never seen before.  You dump around 40 dice on the table, roll them then line them up randomly. Start with the first di and count that number.  As you go through the dice, you should end up with a few remainders, discard those, roll the rest again and restart the count.  You will then end up with no remainders.  I don't know what this is called, or why it happens, but it is sooo cool!  I was fascinated by it.  It was also great fun to watch the boys playing with bubbles!

From there we headed off to a school to do a bit of talking and playing with puzzles.  Of course Tomas was selling and I managed to get a few toys myself.  Once again it was a good haul!

I listened to a talk on different shapes and tiles that forgive me, went over my head, but was very interesting.  A icosahedron turned inside out makes 2 cubes.  Is that right?  Gave a short talk on where to buy Berrocals and then went on to puzzle play.  All in all we spent about 4 hours chatting and playing. I brought along the astronaut and sort of forced Vesa to reassemble it.  (I took it apart to show him how easy and different it was from the others I've brought in the past and made him fix it).  Sorry Vesa, but I really take great pleasure from watching people play with them.  (and thank you for the disk!) I brought along my copy of the 69 puzzle an if you count the shoes, you can see how many people it took to solve and reassemble the puzzle.  Good fun!

After we went to a man's house...Sorry, can't remember the name. We puzzled for another 4 or 5 hours, had a late bite to eat and headed home. While there, I managed to find an original price list for the Berrocal's I love so much.  How I wish I had discovered them 20 years ago!

We had some good fun playing with tops and various other what's its.

I can't wait until next year.  I hear it's going to be near a puzzle shop I went crazy in last year!

 Next stop: Copenhagen and a little shop that had to be found and a short visit with Oskar and José.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Amsterdam and a few puzzlers

After returning from my trip into China, I was off for conference season again.  This time Mr. Man decided to come along for the ride.  Poor guy was bored out of his skull.  Between puzzling and study he really had to entertain himself.

Our first stop was Amsterdam, he'd never been and I wanted to pick up some licorice.  Oh and stop in and see a few puzzlers as well.  We decided to go walk around the city and take in a few of the sights, and on the way, I stopped in a museum shop.  I managed to find a Rubik's cube at the Van Gogh museum and of course had to pick up a copy.  As we were walking, I realized that we were just a block away from Nanco's house so I gave him  a call and we stopped by to see his collection, and to have a late lunch and a few glasses of beer.  I really enjoy meeting with him. He's such a friendly man and oh so interesting to listen to.

Nanco had a dinner reservation so we said our good byes with the promise of returning on my next trip.  The next day was Monday and we were off for Finland-study and FPP-but before we left, I had one last person I wanted to visit.  I had to make a stop off at Recent Toys and say hello to Guido.  I had seen him in January at the HK toys fair, and he promised me a copy of Houdini. Since I was in the neighborhood......I thought I'd stop and take a few photos as well.  His office is cock-a-block full of toys!  I love looking at them. Not surprising, I had all but the two that he gave me.  Of course, in my defense, I've been playing this game for a few years now.  We spent an hour there chatting about production woes, new things to come, and his next visit to HK.  I'm sure I'll stop by and say hello again on my next trip in....

So far, it was a good trip.  And the best was yet to come.  FPP and a short visit with Oskar and José....

Saturday, July 4, 2015

A puzzling day in Hong Kong

Time flies when you are busy.  Forgive me for my late posts but be prepared to be bombarded with lots of drivel from Rox.

For the past few years there has been a puzzle exhibition with talks and play time held at a local high school right next to my university.  This year was no exception.  The puzzle party was held on the 2nd of May (see how late I am!)

It all started around 10 in the morning.  I missed the talks, but ran over around lunch time and dropped off a few puzzles to put on display.  I hung around and watched people play puzzles for the next 5 hours.

This week was a real treat for me.  Not only was it a weekend of puzzling with my local puzzle friends, but others were coming into town too.

When I got to the venue, I made a beeline for my dear boy Otis who flew in from Beijing for the weekend and gave him the standard Rox greeting of a hug and kiss.  Ricky was there, as well as Victor and Smaz.  Victor brought me some brass copies of the cast quartet that were made by a man in China, and before you get your nickers in a twist, I bought two copies as is my brief and handed one off to Kyoo when I saw him a few days later.

There were stalls selling puzzles, and lots of tables set up both to display some of our collection and for people to play with.

At 5 I had to run off to the airport to pick up our favorite prototyper.  After dropping his bags at his hotel, we ran to a puzzling dinner.  Sadly he had jet lag, and the party ended for us around 9:30 so I could take him back to get some sleep and adjust to the time difference.

Earlier in the week, I saw a Facebook post from Tanya who was excited about her first trip into Hong Kong.  Sadly she couldn't join us for the day or the dinner, but the following lunchtime, we all met up and had a nice little chat.  It was  too short as usual, but she had work to do, and Otis had to go pack.  I'm not sure what the other one did, but I had a family thing that night and that was that. 

The next day, I took George over to the Hanayama offices to visit with Kyoo for a while before I had to leave everyone for a conference in China.  As always, it was great to see friends, but the time was too short.  And, I looking forward to the next puzzle party in Finland....

Friday, April 10, 2015

meeting another puzzler

Around 4 years ago I had received a private message from a young puzzler asking if I might show his creations to my friend Uwe in the hopes that they would become mass produced.  Being the nice lady I am, I of course said yes and the puzzles were on their way to me.

A little while later another puzzler sent me another copy of one of the puzzles and I was ready to head to the manufacturers.

I'll be honest, while they are lovely puzzles, I knew when I looked at them that they would not be made. Too many parts, not appealing to the mass market, to small and to make it big enough would be to make it huge....I could hear Uwe already and I hadn't even shown him.  But I was duty bound and I took it over.  Sure enough, That's what he told me.

I didn't give up hope though and took the puzzle on to Mf8 and CubeTwist.  Both said similar things. Well, I boxed up the puzzles then and sent them back to the designer.  A few months after I saw the other puzzler at IPP in Berlin and hand delivered his.

To my surprise, when I got back from IPP I had another package from the young puzzler.  I opened it right away and inside were the two puzzles I just sent him.  Not delivered, return to sender.  I took the puzzles out of the box, put them on my shelf and forgot about them.  I showed them to a few other manufactures that year, but then....

Fast forward to last month.  I got yet another private message from that same young man stating that he was in Singapore and would be in HK soon.  Would you care to meet up Rox.  Well heck yes!  Why not?

I was thrilled, but he didn't send me a date. Well, he did.  But I missed it.  What a debacle.  I had to work, then had a dinner and totally messed up.  To compensate, I ran to the airport as he was leaving so I could deliver his toys and finally meet him. We met up, had a drink and a nice-although short-conversation.  Tanner is a very nice young man.  I'm glad I had the chance to meet him.  The puzzle he designed was brilliant for the age he was at the time.

I've never shown these to anyone outside the designers, and I now have his permission to do so. If anyone is interested, contact Steryne over on Twisty Puzzles.  I'm sure he'd be thrilled to hear from you about them.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Le Astronaute

Today i give you yet another Berrocal.
Astronaute hommage á jules verne (1979-1980)
I paid a small fortune for this puzzle, but it was well worth it.  I'd seen it before on the internet and was intrigued.  When fellow puzzler Jim was cataloguing his puzzles, I asked him for a disassembled photo of it.  He obliged and I jumped on the puzzle!  This girl loves her Berrocal's and when it's jewelry!  Even better.

The puzzle consists of 35 pieces.  Sadly, when I received mine 2 of them were missing but it's not a problem. I have already gone to the jewelers and am having them made.  The missing pieces are the holders for the earring balls.  Not a large missing piece and easily replaced thanks to the photos in the book.
Mine is number 308.  I'll be honest, it took me a long time to find the number. I must be blind.  I looked and looked and while chatting with a fellow puzzler just stumbled across it.  Not a noticeable number like on the other Berrocal's I have.   The dimensions follow:

130x162 mm
Head 66x108mm
1000 bronze exemplars, The rings are silver.
200 silver exemplars (I've just been told these have been changed to stainless steel not silvr-thanks Jim) and
6 18k gold exemplars.  It was made using lost-wax molding.  Which is different from the other Berrocal's I have.  The rest are cast.

This puzzle starts out with the removal of three chokers.  After the removal of those comes the removal of 3 bracelets.  After that it pretty much falls apart.  This one isn't a difficult puzzle to take apart or put together, but it was fun every minute of the way.

The next part of the sculpture makes up a divers helmet. Pretty neat. It is pictured to the left in it's stand alone position.

Once the helmet is removed, you can take out the brain and the face. The eyes come out next followed by the cheeks. As I write this, I can't help but think of butchering a human-Hannibal Lector style.  What a horrid thought.  The eyes are 2 silver rings that are enameled and the cheeks are made up of a folding ring.  One side is a moon and the other is the sun  The two pieces have a clasp that holds them together. Both the brain and the face can be worn either as pendants or as charms on the bracelets.  They can also be connected together.

Under the parts of the head, there are a few parts that make up a rocket ship that can take you to the moon.  This puzzle just keeps getting better and better doesn't it.  Pretties to wear AND a rocket!

Below the Rocket base is a set of three round plates.  Each of these can be made into a pendant. These have cylindrical and conical anamorphoses of a male torso which are viewed using special cylindrical and conical mirrors contained within the sculpture.  The mirrors are the upper most parts of the rocket ship shown to the left.

I attempted to photograph the pieces, but I cant do it justice so I've added a photo from the book.

Below you can see the jewelry all put together. The base that the sculpture stands on can be used to hold the 3 pendants.  A very clever design if I've ever seen one.  The genius of Berrocal never ceases to amaze me.  And because of this, I know I'll be hunting down more....

 As a final set of photos, I have put some of the various pieces of jewelry on.  I just love my Berrocals!

As a final treat, thanks to Oli, I've put together a video of the puzzle being put together. It's a bit shaky, and I warn you, it's long!  Enjoy.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Monday, March 23, 2015

Puzzle rings

It's no secret that I like a good puzzle and when it is combined with jewellery I'm even happier.

Today I present you with a pile of rings that I have picked up over the past 4 or 5 years.
You'll notice a lot of color on there.  Shapeways is a great place to pick up little bits and pieces...And of course puzzle parties too.

Starting from the right, I've ordered the black rings or at least one of them off Shapeways.  This is a very simple design that takes about 2 seconds to solve.  It is quite fun though because if you hand it to a non-puzzler, it very easily falls apart and takes a minute or two for them  to reassemble.  The wider 2 band black ring I have no idea where  I got it from.  I thought I bought it off Shapeways, but I can't find the order.  So much for that idea.

Next up are the two Japanese flags. I purchased those at my first IPP (30).  I'm not sure who I purchased them from, but based on the first orange/white puzzle, I'd guess it is a Vesa puzzle.  The design is similar. Both Flag puzzles break into 2 pieces that twist around a center core.

The next 4 rings are from Vesa. The 3 nylon ones I purchased from his shapeways shop and the metal OCC was a gift from him when I attended FPP last year. I think this year I'm going to purchase the jigsaw ring he designed...if I can work out how to put it back together....

The next batch of 7 nylon rings are all Oskar designs.  Oh, I'm getting this wrong, Bram also helped with them. I'm really fuzzy on the relationship here so forgive me. They are real pains in the bum to put together. All of these bands have a clasp around them and I will kill the fool who opens it!

Next up are 2 rings I purchased from Jeff Bell at his webpage.  The first is sixth sense by Bram Cohen, and the next is called fire. I liked the pretty red color.

After that is a simple traditional 6 band ring that I picked up god knows where followed by a gold and sapphire ring I just bought in Cambodia.

Now I know you are going to ask if I wear the nylon ones, and the answer is yes. They come with me to puzzle parties and are on my fingers when I play.  Fun fiddle factor, and it just might get people to talk to this shy girl.....

 One last photo for you all. Sixth sense in all the versions I have.

And before anyone asks, no I haven't played with any of the Oskar/Bram puzzle rings. Those two are just plain evil!

Friday, March 20, 2015

And then there were three

Berrocal Micro's that is.

Anyone who reads my blog and some of the random rubbish I post on Facebook will realize that I have been on a bit of a mission collecting the Berrocal Mini puzzles.  I managed to win Micro-David a few years back and have been looking for Micheline X, Micro-Maria, and Micromento ever since.

Well, I did it.  I found 2 of them!  Both were sold through auction houses recently, and I can now say I have only Micromento to look for.  (I know, I know.  That won't be the end of my collecting, but it will be the completion of the set.)

I was asked if the micro puzzles are the same as the mini puzzles and the answer is yes, but no.  They have a similar outward appearance, but the insides are just a bit different.

The first biggest difference between the micro's and the mini's is the ring. The rings inside each of the micros is a mesh band that can be folded around one of the internal pieces.  In the Mini puzzles, they are a solid banded ring.  The micro rings are a size 6 while the mini's have a 6.5 or 7 depending on the puzzle.

Starting with David, the Mini David has 22 pieces while the micro has only 17.  David was injection molded in 1968, while micro-David-off was made in 1971.

Michelle has 17 pieces while Micheline X has 23.  Michelle was produced in 1969 and Micheline X was made from 1975-1976.

Maria has 23 elements in both the mini and micro edition.  Maria was made in 1968-1969 while the micro version was made in 1973.

These are beautiful additions to any collection.  I highly recommend them to one and all!  I can be seen sporting these puzzles at puzzle parties worldwide, and love to have my friends share the pleasure of taking them apart. If you happen to see me with one, ask and I'll gladly hand it over for disassembly.

For more information on Berrocal, please see his website.  

Monday, March 16, 2015

One last night with Otis

We decided to have one last dinner before Otis left for Beijing again.  This time we met at a Chinese/Western restaurant and had a nice meal and a good chat.

There is not much to tell because most of what we spoke of it top secret for now....but we did have a few good laughs-mostly at my expense. Solved a few puzzles and just had a very pleasant evening (no beer!  are you shocked?)

Otis returned my Stickman Pirates Wallet having not finished it. It seems that the humidity managed to finally get to a Stickman.  No matter, a few days in the dehumidifier box and all is right again.

I brought two Berrocals for him to fiddle with, and a burr in a bag that I have not been able to get open!  Do I feel the fool.  It was such a simple puzzle....

Sadly Otis and I parted company around 10 and I won't see him again until April. As always, it's so hard to say goodbye to the boys.....

Saturday, March 14, 2015

A HK gathering

Chinese new year came and went and as usual, Otis was in town. What better excuse to get together for a puzzle dinner than a friend being home!

Before we went to dinner Otis and I met and headed to Victor's warehouse to get in a bit of puzzling and to purchase a few toys.  He very graciously gifted us a mathematical puzzle that could be solved in 5 different ways.  He said it was an old design, but I hadn't played with it before.  I had great fun with a 3D printed maze, and enjoyed a pingpong ball packing puzzle that he had made.

We met for a nice hotpot dinner in HK.  I can't remember the name of the place, but the food was good and the company was better.  Puzzles a plenty were played.  This year the boys cooked the dinner :)

This years dinner we were joined by Wai and his wife.  Along with Ricky, Victor, and Teacher Wong.  Of course Smaz and I were there too.  Wai brought along the cricket bat and the boys had lots of fun with that.

As usual, I brought along a Berrocal and let Otis give it a try. I think he's caught up with them all now.

I brought along Splinter's lock and we had a nice time trying to open it.  Ricky solved it, but then the problem of relocking began and that puzzle ended up being good value for money.

After digging into the puzzles, the food began to arrive, and as always we ate and puzzled at the same time.  Ricky is a bit of a charmer and soon had the beer girl attempting puzzles with us.  He even gave her one of his handmade puzzles to take home.  Gifts were exchanged as usual and wonderful company rounded out the evening.

We had a rather serious talk for a bit about a future puzzle party and carried on from there.  It wasn't a long evening, but it was a great one to share with friends.