Notes from Puzzle Palace

Wednesday, July 17, 2024

Ipp 41 Houston Texas

You know the drill.  I'm not allowed to say where the IPP is being held other than the city, but some folks have already posted the location.  Different rules for different people I guess.  We were lucky and able to check in at 2 when we arrived.  We headed straight up to the room and ran into Marti.  She's right across the hall from us so we've seen a lot of her.  

We brought our luggage in, I unpacked and we headed down to the lobby to chat with the early arrivers.

We were supposed to go to dinner with Bill and Scarlet, but it was a (mostly) fish sushi dinner and that just didn't appeal to me.  George and I have been maintaining our juice diet and the thought of fish was enough to make me sick even before I ate it.  Instead we made an even bigger mistake and had diner in the hotel restaurant with Marti.  The ribs were what we opted for, and it should have not even been on the menu.  It tasted like someone dropped an entire bottle of black pepper on it.  The waitress kept saying it was spicy when we complained.  Spicy I can handle. A ruined tongue I cannot.  That was an insult to the rib.  George was smart and made a salad out of the left over guacamole.  Marti and I suffered.

The next morning was just a day to relax and chat with friends, and boy did we.  We had a puzzle box workshop with Kelly Snache in the afternoon.  George signed up for it, but I built it.  We sat at the table with Allan Stein, Jules Constantine, Louis Toorenburg, among others.  We had so much fun laughing at ourselves with the mistakes we were making.  In the end though, we all had semi-workable puzzle boxes.

When this was over, George went up for a nap and I headed to Daiso.  That was a bust.  I did buy some chocolate for the family up north and some grapefruit drink for George and I but really, they had nothing.  It was a sad little store.  I did however get my Lego passport stamped when I visited the lego store and I found a supercharger and filled up the car.  

We had juice for dinner and continued to chat with friends and puzzle away the evening.

I helped George set up his 3D printer and we made up the rest of the Roxanne and George figures for my exchange puzzle.  He also made about 4 or 5 bucolic cubes to bring to family up north when we go.  Marti got a mini lesson in how to set it up.

Friday morning I headed out to yet another Daiso up north of us.  This one did not disappoint.  I was able to get great new kitchen gadgets!  I also hit Barnes and Noble to pick up a few puzzle books we didn't have (Murdle Most Puzzling volumes 1-3) and got a bit more OJ and milk for our breakfast.  When I got back to the hotel it was time for Rob's workshop to make yet another puzzle box.  This time I was with Patrick, and Haym.  

Mat and Lee gave us all a bit of help.  As I was going through the solve steps, I managed to have one piece go flying off my box so Rob himself came over and rescued me.  He glued it up, clamped it, and I hope it works when we get home.  

The Founder's reception was held in a BBQ joint a few blocks down the road from the hotel and we all piled in busses to head over.  Have I mentioned the heat and humidity here?  No, well it's hot. At one point earlier today I noticed the outside temperature was 105!  The BBQ was massive.  3 types of meat, one of which was a half a chicken! The biggest loaded baked potato I have ever seen, mac and cheese, and a tomato salad.  They aren't big on vegetables here I guess.  Sadly, I forgot to take photos of the meal.  There was enough food on that plate to feed George and I for a week at least.  I'm pretty sure everyone enjoyed it.  Jerry introduced the new IPPers, but the noise from the fan was so loud, where I was standing I couldn't hear a thing.  As it was Jerry's birthday, the band played a song and all sang along. A few minutes later they announced a bus going back to the hotel and the joint emptied out.  I was told later the usual suspects stayed behind, listened to the music and enjoyed the drinks and company.  I was also told a beer was $5 vs. a $21 glass of wine in the hotel. 

When we got back there was the design competition room to visit.  I spent a good hour with one of the guys from a puzzle company we all know and love and tried to sort out a few puzzles.  We also picked a couple to analyze for bringing to market at a future date.

I retired semi-early as George had already gone to bed and I was missing my emotional support human.  2 hours away from him and I get antsy.  

Stay tuned for IPP exchange and the puzzle party.

Monday, July 8, 2024

We have winners!

I thought you all might like a brief interruption in my usual rantings to learn about the Design competition winners. So here you go. Photo of the award first, then the winners below it.

And Finally

Saturday, July 6, 2024

Road trip to Houston

We left Bill and Scarlet and headed north.  Lake City or Bust!  Why Lake City?  What is there?  Nothing more than a Tesla Supercharger.  We stayed as I said at a dodgy hotel, but we needed to be in Lake Charles so we could go see the circus at Callaway Gardens.  

You see, when George was in an undergraduate at FSU (60 years ago!) he was a member of the FSU Flying High Circus.  He wanted to go to Tallahassee to see the circus area but since school is out and it's mid-summer, I knew it would be empty.  Instead, I decided that we would head up to Alabama for him to be able to see the circus in person.  Aren't I just the best wife?  

Being deep south, there was a lot of sun.  Sadly, I couldn't find George's sunglasses in the car so he had to wear my "Boca glasses".  

At one of the charging stations we stopped at, I just had to take a photo of the snack aisles.  I was shocked by the variety in the gas station.  Also, check out the sign for alcohol sales.  Yes, I tried the door and the cooler was closed 2 minutes before noon.  You've got to love the bible belt.  But for the demographic stereotype, I have to say, it surprised me. 

We took a 4 hour detour and headed north.  The circus started at 3 pm and we arrived around 45 minutes early. We went inside the tent and watched the practice.  He was in heaven.  The show started at 3 on the dot and lasted just over an hour.  

Sadly, it was a group out of Normal Illinois and not the FSU troupe.  But George loved it anyway.  It was more of a dance themed circus act.  They went from the early 1900's through to the 1990's with a variety of different dances that incorporated juggling, jumping stilts, unicycles and much much more.  Below are some of the photos from the show. 

When it was over, George went up and spoke at length with one of the jugglers.  

The look of shock on that young man's face was when George explained that he performed here 60 years ago this summer.  The whole crew were all college students from around the US.  Mostly Illinois and Florida, and all were impressed by this old man from the past who came to see them.  

We have now traveled to Italy, Spain, and Alabama to see where George has performed.  On the way back to Boca, we will swing by a Tallahassee so we can add his original performance location to our trips. 

When we left, my plan was to drive to Mobile for the night.  Sadly, mother nature had other ideas and we only made Evergreen, Alabama.  The rain was so strong, I was driving at 35 MPH on the interstate.  I pulled over at the first exit and we took the first hotel we could find.  UGH! The Red Roof Inn at Evergreen should be avoided at all costs.  Everything was sticky, the floors, the tables...I didn't look too hard, took a shower and fell asleep to the sounds of a tropical storm that only happens in this part of the world. 

The next day, we had a leisurely drive over to the Marco Hotel in Lake Charles.  I have to say, if you are in the area, it was a wonderful hotel. Clean, spacious rooms at a good price.  The only drawback?  No EV charger.  It was advertised as having one, but didn't.  No big deal.  We charged again along the way to Houston. We even had a table in the room that was large enough to play a game of Eurorails! 

On the 2nd we drove the last 3 hours to Houston.  Along the way we stopped at a Buck-eeys to charge up.  That place is insane!  I'm sure I'll insult many, but there is so much kitsch and crap there it isn't funny.  It's like Walmart on steroids.  

There must have been at least 40 gas pumps,
and the soda fountain and coffee bar was just crazy!  

One man showed us his out of production 52 ounce mug.  He was very proud of it.  And promptly turned around and filled it with soda....

After our stop, we headed on into town to see an old university friend of George's.  He and Willis have known each other since the mid-60's.  

The two chatted for a couple of hours then we headed out to lunch.  A local place called "Local Market".  I highly recommend this place.  The food was great. I had a vegan taco salad.  I wouldn't have know had I not been told.  Simply delicious!

And at 2 pm we left to check into the IPP hotel.  I'd like to say 10 minutes later and we were there, but we made 2 stops along the way to get juice first.  All is good though.  We are here now and enjoying ourselves as always!