Friday, February 6, 2015

A small Hong Kong puzzle gathering.

Back in November when we went to GZ to visit with Ron and Hanneke AJ mentioned to me that he was running the HK marathon in January.  As I was too, I invited him to stay with us for the weekend.  Hotels here are a bit pricey, and we have a sofa so why not save a bit of money?  AJ readily agreed and that was that.

Fast forward to the 24th of January and i got a call asking me to come pick him up.  We had a quick lunch then ran off to pick up AJ's race number.  From there, we headed back to my house which AJ aptly renamed "The Puzzle Hotel".  As it was still very early in the day, we headed into my bedroom and I showed him a few toys.  Of course we had to take the obligatory photo in front of my wall of shame....

Aj puzzled for about 3 hours, and I just kept pulling down one toy after another that he simply had to see. Most of which were of course Twisty Puzzles.  I have quite a few that are a bit uncommon and even more that are fairly rare.   Of course I also had to have him take a look at my pride and joys and I even let him disassemble a few.  Sadly, he couldn't get Maria back together so we chucked her in a bag to bring to Otis to assemble later.  I took out my Hanayama's and showed AJ a few of the test colors, and a few of the other special pieces I have in there.

We puzzled until Mr. Man came home and then we had dinner.  I discovered that AJ likes packing and tray puzzles, and pulled a bunch out for him to try.  Around 11 I chased everyone to bed because we had a little jog to get up or in the morning.

We woke at 6:00 to get ready.  Lucky for us, Mr. Man was awake and took a photo of the two crazy ones. AJ started at 8:00 and I started at 9:30.  He of course finished his run very quickly, while the old girl took much longer.  The night before I realized that Timur was going to be in HK and we arranged to meet up for lunch.  Thank heavens Otis is in town, because he picked Timur up and met us after the race.  I had to apologize to Timur.  I was not my usual bouncy self.  I was exhausted-three hours of running really took it out of me.  And!  I stunk!

We met in WanChi and had a local lunch.  Puzzled a bit and just enjoyed the company.  Timur needed to buy some gifts for his nieces and nephews so we took him over to the nearby toys street.  No puzzles to be found though today.  Sadly he was only in town for a few hours and we had to art company around 4 pm.  Otis took him to meet his co-workers while AJ and I headed home for a long overdue shower.  Otis later joined us at the house and some more puzzling.  We stuck around for about 2 hours then headed out to meet Michael for dinner.  As usual, we ended up in the same restaurant in Shum Shui Po.  We like the food, and the owner joins us when he has time.  

 Tonights dinner was just a small affair with only the four of us.  We will have a much bigger dinner next week with more of the HK puzzlers.  This one was just in honor of MY AJ being in town.

We really didn't have a lot of puzzles, but we had a lot of fun.  Otis brought a few as did I.  We had the two of them put together Maria.  And I had a good laugh at AJ's steadfast refusal to insert the key piece below.

As a parting request, if anyone knows a source for the puzzle below, I would love to know.  I've had many requests for it over the years and would love to buy a gross just to be able to give them away to people,  The one pictured here is called a "Tracy puzzle"  it has a coin inside that has to be removed.  

AJ and Otis wrote about the meetup over on Mf8 and you can read it there.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Hong Kong Toys and games fair

The toys fair was a bit late this year, or maybe my term started early. Either way, I  didn't have much time at the fair this year. I managed to spend 11/2 days at the fair this year.  Not long at all.  I must also admit to not seeing any booths other than those of my annual 'friends' and I even missed a few of those.

I have this horrendous schedule this semester: 18 hours of teaching!  Monday's in particular suck.  I teach from 3:00-10:00 pm!  Who signs up for a class at that time of night? 11 of my students that's who. Silly fools. This class meant I couldn't see any of the fair or my friends on the first day of the fair.

Tuesday morning I woke bright and early and headed over to bring Hendrik a few puzzles that had been delivered to my house the week before and my pocket wifi so he could be connected while he was in town (we just can't live without internet can we?). I didn't stay very long as I had class at noon so off I ran again back across the harbour to go teach.  I managed to get back around 3 in the afternoon and the first stop was Uwe's booth.  Jing and Adela were there as well so it was hugs and kisses all around.  Uwe wanted me to go get some KO cubes for him and took me for a little walk down the aisle.  He thought I could walk up, get some samples and be done with it.  Sadly, it doesn't work that way anymore.  I'm fairly well known now.  Back to the booth to meet up with Hendrik and we then went off to say hey to Mr. Tangle.  This year Guido was in town working the booth with Uwe so we had to say hello to him as well.

Uwe is bringing out a bunch of new egg shaped puzzles, they should hit the market within a few weeks.  Shiny!

Because I arrived so late in the day, that was it.  Nothing else to do or see.  What a girl I am.

That night we had dinner with Meffert's, Puzzle Master, Ventura toys, and a magician friend of ours.  Hanayama had the table next to us so it was a big puzzle dinner.
The place we ate is famous for a dish called beggars chicken.  It has to be ordered 24 hours in advance, and when it comes to the table, you have to open it yourself.

We had very nice conversation and talked for around 3 hours.  When it was time to go, Hendrik and I walked  over to TST east to meet Michael and Ayi for a drink or two.  That as usual turned into way way too many....I got started on the B52's and that was all she wrote.  Someone ordered tequila... Might have been the whiskey, could have been the gin... I vaguely remember switching venues, and watching the sun come up.  It has to happen at least one night of the fair.

Wednesday saw us returning to the fair to pick up a few samples and say hello to a few more friends.  It was a rushed day because Hendrik and I both mucked up on his departure date. Yes he was leaving Thursday.  At one minute past midnight!  How did we miss that?  We packed up his bags, said our goodbyes and I took him off to the airport.

This year I didn't collect many samples.  I did see some new boxes that are coming from mimi toys again and expect that Otis will get me samples of them before the year is out.  My photo of this years toys include those brought from the GZ day.  Sorry guys.  I really had no time this year.  Next year I'll have to just call in sick.  Oh wait!  I did that on Wednesday and I'm glad of it.  No time with Hendrik if I hadn't, and friends are the best part of the fair.

As always, it was great having friends in town for the fair.  I love this time of year.  I get to see some people for a few minutes and catch up, others I spend days with.  Both are equally important to me.  See, I don't think I really collect puzzles, I think I collect boys!  And there ain't nothin' wrong with that!

Saturday, January 31, 2015

GZ Boys and Toys

I have been remiss in not keeping up to date with things.  But who can blame me?  I've had a very busy month.

January is the HK Toys and Games fair month and as always, I had visitors from out of town. Once again my Hendrik came to stay.  I knew we would have to have a party for him. This time I managed to convince him to get a visa for China and off we went.

The weekend was pretty dull as far as boys and toys go.  I had things to do so we didn't spend a lot of time with the guys.  A Saturday night party was planned and i have to say, I'm very  proud of Hendrik.  He survived a boys and toys and did it with great gusto!

We met Ming and had a late lunch, then headed over to Mr. Fok's warehouse.  After gathering at the old one, we headed off to the new place and took a look around.  Talk about being in the right place at the right time. Mr. Fok announced that if we would assemble them, we could have a new puzzle.  We set off!  7 people, almost 2 hours later, and we were finally able to assemble 6 puzzles. One for each of us.   Truth be told, Hendrik and I didn't do much assembling.  I put the pieces in together and Hendrik did all the screwing.  As for assembling the actual puzzle, we really struggled with that part.

After assembly we went to a restaurant near Mr. Fok's old warehouse for dinner and puzzling.  There were around 20 of us there.  Many had flown in from far parts of China.  I'd like to say it was to see me, but I'm pretty sure I am no longer a guest of honor.  I've been one of the boys for too long.

I had jokingly told Ming before the dinner that Hendrik only ate pizza, and he offered to go run buy some for his dinner.  :)  See, we aim to please.  In the end, he even managed to use chopsticks!

At dinner we all chatted and ate as usual. Beer too of course.  As usual, Rox got pretty drunk pretty early on so she doesn't remember all who were there but I'll give it a go.

Witeden brought along his new 2x2x2 megaminx and handed one out to Hendrik.  A lucky draw was done for two more and your girl managed to get one.  Yipee!  We were also both gifted a transparent Mixed up Cube.

Da Yan, Mr. Fok, Ming, AJ, Michael....The usual suspects.

Ayi came down and brought his newest metal puzzle along, Gan brought his, goodness, my brain is addled after all this time.  There were many many more.

I had made some hinged cubes for everyone and brought long a burr and a wire puzzle for the first two people to assemble them.  A good 10 minutes worth of fun that was.  Those boys are quick!

DaYan gifted us a copy of his new pyraminx and signed them for us.

Hendrik very kindly passed out some of his exchange puzzles to the organizers and a few puzzlers that were there.

As usual, as we ate we puzzled.  There were loads on the tables.  After most of the food had gone, conversations started up and people started to move around.  Hendrik taught us a rope trick, Michael gave speeches, Ayi took photos.

Eventually we decided to leave and ended up in the usual KTV club.....Now I have to say, this was probably the best time I have ever ever had in a karaoke club!  I wont bore you with details, but fun it was. We went the distance.  Headed back to the hotel around 3 in the morning, and after just a little bit....I was sound asleep.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

The first puzzle of 2015.

It's hard to choose a first puzzle of the year.  I have so many that I have picked up over the past year, and so many more that I have not played with.

This past weekend has found me cleaning out all of bugs childhood toys and games, and playing many many more with her.  We've taken on a new set of games.  Big kid games.  But I still can't get the kid to puzzle with me.  She's just not like her mom in that respect.

I've spent the last 3 hours catching up on blog posts that I haven't read over the past 4 or 5 months.  My god you boys do write!  And I adore you all for it.  Thank you for keeping a girl from death by boredom tonight.

So my puzzle?  Hinged cube.  I was given this as a gift from a very dear man, and have subsequently decided to make some for my friends.  I have this boys and toys coming up and I want to bring along a little something for my friends.  The object of it is to form a cube our of the 8 pieces.  I'm sure the boys will make short work of it.  They are much better at solving puzzles than I am.

Many moons ago Mr. Fok had produced a bunch of small cubes that he handed out like candy to us puzzlers.  Most used them to make soma cubes, or easy burrs. Me?  I tossed them in a bag and didn't look at them again until I was given the hinge cube.  I decided that these would work perfectly with a bit of electricians tape and an exacto knife.  5 hours later and I have puzzles to hand out to the boys.  Simple, not well made, but a token.

Why?  Well, I've a trip to GZ for work (what else) and my puzzle friend from Germany is coming over for the fair.  We decided to have a boys and toys in his honor and what the heck, the guys often give me gifts-it's my turn.  (Ok, so I bring them toys every now and again when I travel and they get puzzles when I come back from IPP but....)

So I set up an assembly line as can be seen above. 8 cubes, a bunch of electricians tape and 10 minutes later we have a puzzle.  5 hours later, we have 30 puzzles.

 Now I know this puzzle design was patented in 2013, but I used electricians tape, not hinges, and I've no intention of selling it, and I don't expect any of these puzzles to make it past the night I give them out, and while the patent shows some hinged puzzles, there are many more it doesn't show so while I'm no patent expert, I wonder about the validity.... Anyway, as I said I'm not selling them and they are truly disposable puzzles.  After about 10 twists, they will fall to bits in the boys hands.  But hey, it's the thought that counts, and who knows....maybe they will come up with a better design, or better yet, a new puzzle!

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Yet another year in the life of a puzzler

I usually end the year with a silly poem or song over on Twisty puzzles, but this has been one heck of a year for me.  It's been full of ups and downs and I simply haven't had the heart to write anything these past few months.  But I have finally come out of my slump and will endeavor to sum up my puzzling year in one nice long post.

January started off with the Hong Kong Toys and Games Fair as always.  This year I not only went to the fair, but I was also pleased to host Hendrik Haak when he came for a sourcing trip.  I'm not sure how that happened, but I am pleased that it did.  I got to see my city through his eyes, and managed to cement a friendship.

February saw me traveling for work and little by way of puzzles.  I did go to a HK puzzlers dinner in honor of our friend Otis being in town for the Chinese New Year.  He did me the honor of letting me reprint his post for my blog.

March was brought in with another couple of small puzzle parties held in HK.  But the highlight of the month was my completion of my Berrocal Mini's, the purchase of Alexandre, and Many More Horses.  It was a wonderful month for me.  Expensive too!!

April was a month filled with work getting ready for the next two months of work and puzzle heaven!  I purchased no new puzzles that month, I don't even think I played with any.  I was saddened beyond belief when my best friend and long-time partner passed away.  Puzzling was not a priority.

May was a bitter sweet month.  I was still recovering from the loss of Mr. Brett, but had a series of puzzle parties set up that I was to attend.   I started the month with a few days in Northern Germany with a good friend and then moved on to Helsinki for the Finnish Puzzle party.  I was then pleased to have a few days with Tomas Linden and his family before heading off to see my professor.  Of course I picked up more puzzles than I should have, but then I've never been very smart when it comes to buying toys.  From Finland I headed across the water to Warwick for a conference and very kindly, Allard and Gil Walker put me up and even had a small party for me.

The first of June I flew off to Amsterdam for yet another conference, but first I had to get in a bit of puzzling.  I managed to get in a day with Nanco, a visit to Recent Toys and a rather enjoyable evening with Maarten Bos, all while managing to work!

From Amsterdam I headed south and spent a few days with Oskar and José.   Another set of wonderful hosts.  I was then placed upon a train and made my way back to Amsterdam for yet more meetings before being picked up by Hendrik for yet another trip south.  This time we went to Wil's house and then to visit with Geert.   During the trip, I even saw my first ever football match!  What fun!  

Between the work and the puzzle parties, I really must say a big thank you to all my friends that I saw during May and June.  Without you all, I would have never managed to deal with the grief I felt upon Mr. Brett's passing.  You all helped ease my pain with much laughter, and yes, I'll admit it-a bit too much alcohol.  I'm afraid I drown my sorrows a bit too often that month.  My sincere apologies to one and all if I was out of line.

Surprisingly, July was a real non-event.  Upon returning home from my month long European trip, I had work to do, and of course IPP to get ready for.

August was of course highlighted by my IPP trip.  This year there was an MPP thrown into the mix, and a visit to James Dalgety's.  I also took great pleasure in joining a top secret puzzle hunt set up by Steve Miller.  (Go check out his newest project!)  The end of the month saw Louis and Sue Puzzleman visiting HK and a nice time was had by all.

September was back to the grind and an attempt to video record my IPP puzzles.  I managed 1/2. Bad bad Rox.

In October we had the annual Guangzhou Boys and Toys.  This year though was extra special because DaYan, Smaz, and I all went to Nanjing for my other brothers wedding!  This was followed closely by my first ever Dutch Cube Day!  I hope it won't be my last.  I also had great fun working a different kind of toys fair with Hendrik and meeting fellow Twisty Puzzle moderator Konrad.

Upon my return in November, there was yet another boys and toys in Guangzhou.  After which Ron and Hanneke came to spend a few days in Hong Kong.

December?  Well, it was Christmas and all.  We took a holiday to Thailand, I worked, I moped around.  I did nothing.  Ok, I got my Karakuri Christmas presents, but have yet to play with them.  Ah yes, and my darling bug did buy me a few wire disentanglements for Christmas.....

And now it's January again and in one short week the toys fair will begin.  I sadly have to work insane hours this semester (18 per week!) so I'll only be attending for a few hours each day.  But this year should be fun again as I've got boys coming in!  Three months in 2014 with no puzzle events, no new toys purchased...I'll have to do better in 2015.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

A couple of Dutch cubers

After returning from my last trip to Europe I was invited to GZ for a night of puzzle competition and yet another dinner.  This time I brought Mr. Man along with me for the ride.  We left Saturday morning and met Smaz in Shenzhen and took the train up to GZ.

What was the occasion? Ron van Brucham and Hanneke Rijks were visiting from Holland.  They were in Japan for a speed cubing competition and had contacted Ming to see if there was a competition being held in China at that time. Ming being Ming immediately set up a competition.

We arrived and went to Mr. Fok's warehouse and waited for Ming and co. to come over.  From there we headed to his new warehouse and had a long play with a few puzzles, good chat, and even better company.

We headed back to the old warehouse to pick up Uwe so we could have dinner and more chat.  Another boys and toys....You know the drill.  Food, puzzles, drink....

When dinner was over we all headed to our hotel and had a good sleep.  The next morning Mr. Man, Smaz, and I went shopping.  We had lunch and dinner with another puzzler and headed back to HK.  A very short in and out trip but well worth it.  Another friend made.

Jump ahead a day and Ron and Hanneke showed up in HK.  As always, I was willing to play tour guide and we got together for a walk around some art gallerys and such.  I had a dinner arraigned for them and the HK puzzlers showed up.

The next day I planned a trip to the Hanayama offices and of course we walked away with a few toys and another nice afternoon was spent with Kyoo.  That is always a pleasure.

As usual we had a nice evening and at the end I walked them back to their hotel.  Chung King Mansions!  My first time to step into this place.  I'm afraid all the stories I've heard scared me off.  the next day we met and I took them off to the airport.  As always, it was great fun having visitors.  And even better making new friends.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Dutch Cube Day

For as long as I can remember I've always wanted to attend a Dutch Cube day.  As luck would have it, this year I was invited to give a few talks in Europe with an open ended date.  Since it was totally up to me, I checked the academic calendar and discovered that I could manage to attend DCD!  I headed straight into my bosses office, got leave granted and booked my flights!

I immediately contacted the organizers and a few close puzzle friends to set up a meet and such...
I flew into Amsterdam, dropped off my bags, ran to talk and then headed back to the hotel.  I'm such a lucky girl because my puzzle friend Hendrik was going to DCD as well so he took a detour and picked me up to drive down together.  

We drove down and checked into our hotel then headed back out for an afternoon of puzzling at Rob Hegge's.  When we arrived, I saw many familiar faces. Wil, Rob, Allard, Chris...More that I have forgotten over the past month of work and more work (I really should post these right away.  My memory isn't quite what it used to be.)   Rob has got a fantastic setup for his puzzles.  Well, his house is a lot bigger than mine and he doesn't have Mr. Man telling him to leave the puzzles in the bedroom.  Puzzle after puzzle I photographed.  I had a play with a few, but as always I' afraid to play with anyone else's puzzles just in case I can't get them back together again.  I managed to solve just a couple of puzzles which is very good for me.  I'm really not a solver.

From there we went to Rik's house for pizza and more puzzling.  Again, he's got a great room for his puzzles and I tool loads of photos of them.  His shelves though interested me the most.  He has this movable wall with loads of shelf space that can be adjusted to the height of the puzzles that are put inside them.  We all stayed around for a few hours, but with DCD looming, we had to head back to our respective hotels and sleep before the morning.  

Rox though is ever the party girl and had one last beer with Hendrik and Maarten before turning in.

The next morning I was woken early and we headed over to the venue for DCD.  As I was along for the ride, I was enlisted to help run Hendrik's table.  But that didn't stop me from being Rox.  I walked in and started giving hugs to all that I hadn't already hugged.  

The big thrill for me was to finally meet the infamous Tony Fisher.  He was sitting across from Hendrik so I got to spend a bit of time chatting with him.  Of course, he got the hugs and a few kisses from me too.  I got to meet Olivér Nagy as well.

The morning began with setting up the table and then I left Hendrik and made a run around the room.  I made a few purchases, but not many. It seems the longer I collect these things, the less I find that I don't have, or really desire.  I did find a few puzzles that I've been hunting for a while and picked them up without hesitation.  I finally managed to find a Bandelow's Magic Jewel and an Oki diamond keychain.  

I went back and ran the table so Hendrik could go spend some of his hard earned cash and while I did who came over but fellow puzzler Katten Vriendin.  We had been chatting online for quite some time and it was a real treat to finally meet her.  

After having contacted the organizers and inviting myself along, I was asked to give a little talk about puzzling in Hong Kong.  I had given one in Finland the previous spring and didn't want to repeat that, and Otis had given another at IPP.  Me?  I ended up talking about what else? BOYS AND TOYS!  For being the person who traveled the farthest to attend DCD I was given a nice Belgium beer which Hendrik and I shared later that night.  It really was good!  But the best thing for me was the gift of Oskar's Key that I had been looking for.  Wil found it and I purchased it from him.  That silly man kept teasing me about it being in his hotel room and you can only imagine my surprise when it was given to me as a gift.  Thank you Wil and others!

I pulled my usual take off David and hand it to some random puzzler.  This time it was Louis.  That guy is a puzzle king!  He had it back together in minutes.  I also brought Alexandre along and bless that man, he reassembled him.  Yes I know.  It's my puzzle, I should be able to do it myself, but well, I put him in a box and forgot about it.  I knew I'd find someone who could do it.

The day continued with me flipping between talking to people and selling puzzles for Hendrik.  At the end of the day we packed up the van and headed over to a local restaurant for dinner with Oskar, José, Splinter, Louis, TomZ and Hendrik.  Louis managed to get me to let him take apart Oskar's ring and ended up keeping it for a few more days before sending it back to me through the post.

From there I was headed to Munich for more work and a bit more puzzling and to help Hendrik at the games fair.  But first we made a stop in Zwijndrecht to visit my friend Gino and his family.  Hendrik seemed to like Benz quite a bit. Or maybe Benz liked Hendrik.  I'm not quite sure which it was. It's always great to see my boy.  Next time I'll have to stay longer but even a short visit with friends is better than nothing.  Poor Hendrik tolerating me again!

After we got to Munich, Hendrik told me he had never seen any of the city so we spent the day wandering around the central area and looking at the sights.  As we were wandering around, we discovered a new 2x2x2 puzzle and bought out the store.  I think he has a few for sale on his webpage.  That night we had dinner with Konrad and had a fantastic dinner along with a lot of puzzling.  I have now managed to meet all the TP moderators and had a great time with him.  I'm very glad he took the time to drive up to see us.  

I had a great time working the Munich fair with Hendrik, although I'm sure he didn't always enjoy my company. I helped out a bit, but probably lost him sales because of my bad (read non-existent) German.  After the fair was over he told me it took him longer to set up the booth with my help than it did when he did it alone.  The fair was very different from the toys fairs here in HK.  People sat around and played games and bought the ones they liked.  That would never go down here.  

All in all it was a great puzzle/work week.  I'm yet again thrilled that I have such good puzzling friends who not only put up with me, but also embrace my little bit of crazy and still love me.  I sincerely hope I manage to make it to another DCD in the future.  I owe a big thank you to all who made it yet another special trip for me.