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Games and Puzzles



Cockroach poker is a simple game. You plop down a card in front of Ralph, for example the rat card. You say "rat" or you lie "scorpion". Typically the other player will stare at your face. Then Ralph says agree, or disagree (or passes, i.e. looks at the card and does the same thing to another player). One of the two players will blow it and must keep the card face up, which is a bad thing.

We - multiple different players - liked this game and played it repeatedly. As a simple game its entertainment value was limited over time. This is the game to pull out when you've got a bunch of people with whom to play a game, you don't know what people will like, and you don't want to grind through rules. It's an appetiser.


The real star of the show this Christmas was Shifty Eyed Spies. It's hard to exaggerate how much fun we had with it. Two generations of people played it, and played it and played it, until insane o'clock. Then we played yet another round, after everyone again agreed to do so.

You more or less stare at other people. People get giddy. I would stare at a lady and make her laugh just because I could.
At one point I had all three people at the table winking at me. Imagine looking at each person in turn and they each wink at you, even that little girl, and you have to deal with it. I'm not too bright, it was funny, and I was unable to focus. Note that in addition to your reactive mission and your destination card you have a separate active mission where you wink at the person for whom you are holding a person card. And you're supposed to do something. And not get caught. I tossed my cards in the air. When I was eventually able to speak through the giggling I said "I broke".

Maybe it needs the right crowd. Having the ancient crowd play it is .. unproven. When we used four players I was wondering what it would be like to play with one extra player, which we did. But it worked fine with four players. You want a round table, or at least equidistant players. Eventually we cooled on being entertained by the game.


We also had success with this Ugly Dolls Loonacy, which we purchased after going to a game store and playing it. It is a frantic aspeed game, with no turns, that is exceptionally simple. You have ~ three piles of cards and you plop down one of your cards on a pile if one of the creatures on your card matches one of the creatures on a card on the top of the pile. As a group we liked to play this over and over.

We headed to a game store called A Muse N Games just after Christmas. We gave up on Sushi Roll, we were taught The Mind but didn't play it, and had success with the Ugly Dolls Loonacy shown above. Co-operative word game Just One has a good reputation. I found that this game does a solid job, but is not exciting. At the next table they were playing Tokyo Highway.


This experience tipped us into being fans of the hobby, including me (playing games is actually rare for me). After the game store we went next door to Yafee Cafe, an arab (Palestinian?) food joint, complete with live music with exotic instruments.

Getting wire puzzles is trickly because you don't want to get one that's pointlessly easy and you don't want to get one that's pointlessly hard. Meanwhile you don't know what you're getting.



If you've been to the stores looking at wire puzzles you probably came across The Screamer. It's a worthwhile puzzle, maybe slightly on the easy side (now that I've done it).


For the last office secret Santa I asked for a wire puzzle. I got wood puzzles, which aren't my thing. This Christmas I told my friend I wanted a wire puzzle. He gave me wood puzzles. I told my brother I would like a wire puzzle. He gave me wood puzzles. Classy looking, but not what I asked for. Twits.

I made a treasure hunt.
One side of a clue showed a Christmas tree with ornaments and said "FIND THE MUSIC". The other side said present the two separate notes to get your next clue. After forever and a half and the inevitable hints they finally found this in the tree.


This (Harmony, from Hanayama) is a simple puzzle, but not uselessly simple. It is certainly pretty, and it turns out to make a nice tree decoration. People had a hard time with it. Of three kids only one frustrated kid persisted with the treasure hunt. The tired dad (5:00 present opening, plus Santa shenanigans) got the puzzle after almost looking up the answer. So after that ordeal they were given the next clue.

One side said GHOTI. I instructed the girl, and later the mom, to "Say it". On the other side it said laugh women national, three words appropriately lined up on top of each other.







All this took more and more time, with people not getting it. I gave a clue with women, which was warped by peoples' minds. I had to go downstairs before I started calling people rude things.

Do you find this so hard to solve?

"Bilsang (I never could figure out if these names are capitalised) is a meaningless word. I had the name kicking around forever as a folder name for a game that is long gone and forgotten. I remember it as being exciting but a failure in the end. I've run through so many game ideas that I can forget what I've done. This might be similar to the original rules for bilsang. A glitch in the matrix there."

Well, I found this ancient page:



It turns out the name was not random at all. That was from back in the days when I read about science fiction books. The rules are not like the current bilsang. But the pieces are the same! There's some decent creativity there and I can see why I found it attractive, but this was abandoned as not being good enough. Rocks and Stones, also with no board, came later. Bilsang (now on the Games page) is going to have to be renamed.

What should the new name be? It could be thematic ("Castle and Crown"), abstract ("Squonx", "Carrots") or superficial ("Rocks and Stones", "Blue Circles"), or it could refer to the mechanism. It could also be a variation of an existing game ("Glarg Chess") or perhaps there is a story behind it.

Food and Drink (mostly drink)



maple fudge


Language and Culture


American regional humour

A fascinating brief bit from a Red Letter Media video that talks about humour in three regions.


Music, film, television





A lot happened over the holiday season. I even went skating for the first time since ~ 1982.


We went tubing. You can see some pictures here

I heard that we were going tubing. Tubing gives me images of tubing down a river, but obviously this would be at the height of winter. I couldn't picture a tube going down a mountain. In fact the tubes have a hard plastic sheet under them.

We went to Valleyfield Bible camp, shown here, outside the city. Manitoba is a flat prairie province, but these little hills popped out of nowhere. This has a respectable slope and, unlike the local riverbank where one usually takes the toboggan, it has length to it. Also unlike the local riverbank it does not have bumps that will send you flying chaotically.


I turned into a physicist, always trying to find a way to make it faster. It was suggested that the plastic surface could be sprayed with Pam. When giving someone a push there was a risk that I would go down the hill. I was trying to push a couple of people down and have someone hold a tube that I could jump on.


Going down the hill was no problem (what if your leg touched the ground?). That tow rope up the hill was another matter. Our group had various problems with that.

The odd origin story of the ball pit