Notes from Puzzle Palace

Friday, May 30, 2014

A day at Allard's

After FPP and Tomas' house I headed to Jyvaskyla to meet up with my professor.  No puzzling there I am afraid.  She did write a nice blog post about myself and her after I left.  I left Finland via train, bus and plane.  After traveling for around 12 hours I met Allard at the airport.  Nice man that he is fetched me and took me for a night in the  puzzle room. We played from the moment I got there till around 11:30 or so.  Allard of course had to work and I to be quite honest, exhausted!

Gill very kindly made dinner for us and we took a short break to eat.  When I first went into the puzzle room, I was in awe!  I like wooden puzzles.  I really do.  I just don't collect them because of the humidity in HK.  I've always said it is a waste of a good puzzle and I don't want to be a murderer.

Allard showed me a few, but let me have free reign of his cabinets. I was in puzzle heaven yet again.  But then those who know me know it doesn't take much.  In the beginning, I went straight for the Stickman Puzzles!  They are beauties!  Very attractive to say the least.  Allard let me move a few bits around on the Borg box but warned me not to take it apart.  No worries there mate, I couldn't even work out the first move!  On to doing what I do best.  Photographing toys.  I took loads and have many more I still want to snap when  I go back for a BBQ on Sunday. I can't wait to taste this burnt meat of his.

After a while I got up the nerve to really play and was quickly able to disassemble a puzzle from Stewart Coffin, made by Eric: Decoy (I've been corrected.  Thanks Allard). But I know that's not really the puzzle solved. I started to reassemble it, but got quickly bogged down.  It really was a beast!  Thankfully Allard said I could leave it.  What a gent!  I went on  to play with others that caught my fancy.

The Karakuri group cabinet jumped open on its own and I played around there a bit as well.  I'm glad I did because there were a few I've been thinking of purchasing and it gave me a chance to test drive them.

Allard showed me his

rubik's cube solving machine and let me play with the circle.  He did give me a tiny hint, and I was able to solve it.  Bastard!  I forgot to put the pins back in and he watched me lock it up before he told me!   I'm also happy to say I solved the Ferris Box as well.  Surprising little twist on that one.

The next morning I woke and began puzzling again.  I kept texting Saul when  I could solve a puzzle.  Silly girl.  In the end, I just took more photos.  Gill and I went for breakfast and to buy me a pair of shoes.  I forgot to pack those.  I was too busy bringing puzzles over for friends.

And guess what all?  She 'broke' me. She got me sewing!  And I got her puzzling!  Wins all the way around.

Next up...stay tuned....

Photos available here.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

A small puzzle shop along the coast of Finland.

When Tomas told me of the FPP and invited me along, he also very graciously asked me to spend a night in his house and to see his puzzle shop.  A girl can’t pass up an offer like that now can she?  I jumped at the offer and the morning after FPP we headed out for Vaasa.
  The ride was long, let me tell you.  Around 7 hours with stops, but it mattered not.  Tomas is a great host and we chatted all the way.  I guess we drove for around 3 hours before the first break to get some lunch.  While there he took me to Puzzle Street.  The next stop was his in-laws home to pick up a picture and then we went along for a while until we made a stop for some squeaky cheese!  Cheese curds!  I only get these in winter because of the heat in HK. See, we don’t have cheese curds there and my favorite dairy back in Wisconsin will only send them to me in January.  OK nough about cheese and back to the puzzling!  We finished our trip to his house, had dinner made by his lovely wife, and headed straight out to his work shop and puzzle shop.


WOW!  The first thing we did after unloading his van was to look at the worlds largest functioning Rubik’s cube!  No, we didn’t play with it, I didn’t want him to pull it all the way out.  But we did turn one edge of it. 

Tomas explained the machines to me and showed me how a few work.  He spoke of a hacker group that uses his shop for computer stuff, and then we dug into a few boxes!  HEAVEN AGAIN! 

I saw IPP exchanges, Kamai’s, Stickman’s, Boardman’s you name it.  After two hours rummaging through boxes, Tomas said it was time to go to his shop. No argument from me!


I went in and took a quick look around, but didn’t really focus on anything in particular.  Tomas showed me a few hidden areas but then went off to pick up his sister.  He left me alone in the shop!!!  I started to concentrate now on puzzles and began to make a pile on his counter.  I dug through boxes, I looked under cabinets, I searched and searched.  When I thought I had all I wanted, I sat down and began to play.  Before I knew it Tomas had returned and chastised me for not investigating the basement.  I’d not be a good thief. I’m just not curious enough. 


But first, a stop in the office area and a look through some cabinets.  Of course I found 3 or 4 more that I wanted and onto the pile they went. 


WOW! Is all I can say.  He has a full basement and I do mean full.  On the steps, I found a bottle I don’t have, and then another puzzle and another…. There is a pattern here.  At the bottom of the stairs, I saw boxes upon boxes stacked on shelves.  Like a kid in a candy shop I just started looking and couldn’t decide where to begin first.  Ok  be sensible Rox.  Start on the first row in the first room.   Hanayama.  Nothing new for me there so on to row two.  Eureka puzzles.  Same same. 

The second room started off with a bunch of Popular Playthings, SmartGames, and Think Fun puzzles.  Again, I have all of these, but did see quite a few that are no longer produced.  Backspin, spin out, switchback,  a few Nob designs….

Row 4 was promising.  I found some Pelican workshop puzzles that I hadn’t seen in a while, but already had and upon further digging, I was able to find a couple of packing puzzles that looked promising.  Up from the basement with a half a dozen more toys and Tomas told me it was past midnight yet again.  This long daylight is deceiving.  I had no idea it was so late.

After handing over a lot of hard earned cash, we beaded back to Tomas’ house for bed.  Once again because of the light, I saw 4:30 roll in.  I decided to finally take a sleeping pill and cover my head again.

We woke around 7:30, had some breakfast and got ready to head out.  But first!  The day before, Tomas showed me some Roger puzzles he had for sale, and though I tried desperately to find the prices, the simcard I purchased had very slow internet.  I photographed them last night and sent a photo  off to Saul.In the morning I was dreading not giving Tomas an offer, but I didn’t want to cheat him and he didn’t want to do the same.  Saul managed to find some prices for me and in the end Tomas and I struck a deal.  Back to his office to pick up 3 more toys!!!

It was then time to head off to the train station so I could finally go meet my professor.  I gave Tomas a hug goodbye with the comfort that comes with knowing I’ll see him again in a few more months. 

Tomas told me that he made a promise to himself.  That everyone would find a puzzle in his shop that they didn't have.  he didn't let me down.  If you're ever in Finland, I guarantee you the trip to Vaasa is worth it!  Go on, you know  you want to go now.

I’d say Finland has been successful!  Next stop:  Warwick and a visit with Allard Walker and his wife.  (And yes, a conference and a bit of work.)                         

Photos can be seen here.

Monday, May 26, 2014

On the road again

I managed to luck out and get a few conferences in Europe this month.  As usual, I posted in TP and on Facebook asking for puzzle shops and setting up meetings with like minded people.  I thought as long as I was going I may as well add a side trip to Finland so I can go visit with my professor.  So begins my adventure of the early summer…

The first person to contact me was Tomas Linden.  He told me they were having an FPP around the same time and if the dates coincided I was welcome to come.  I booked my flights hoping the dates would work for me.  As luck would have it, I got a message from Tomas telling me they had shifted the FPP to the weekend I was to arrive.  I made a quick change of plans and decided  NOT to head up to my university right away.  After all, I had a boys and toys to go to and we all know that is more important!

Now all I had to do was wait.  On the 18th of May, I left Hong Kong headed for Berlin.  A bit of work, a bit of play, and it was time to head over to Helsinki!  My flight of course was delayed but it didn’t matter.  I was smart enough to take a hotel at the airport.  At 9 the next morning Tomas called and picked me up. 

His children were participating in an annual running event so we took a quick detour to go watch them.  I’ve never felt so short in my life!  It was fun watching the kids run, but from there it was onto the boys and toys!

When we arrived, I recognized, Vesa, Timo, Matti, and Surprise!  Franz!  I wasn’t the only “foreigner” in the room!  No wonder the dates got changed!  There was not one, but two visitors from overseas.
There were around 18 of us there I think.  We started off being given a wooden burr type puzzle by Matti and set about solving it.  The gentleman next to me asked me to see a completed version, and when I passed it over, I suddenly had that Eureka moment!  I knew how to solve the puzzle!  My first of the day!

Around 15 minutes in, Vesa came over and gave me a ring!  This girl loves her jewelry.  And when it’s a puzzle combined!  Heaven!  He also gave one to Franz and explained that he only made three of these.  They are the prototypes and the nylon version can be found on Shapeways.  What a kind gift! 

After a while, Matti spoke of his early days collecting and passed around some booklets he’d made.  He then began to pass a number of paper puzzles.  Again, I managed to solve one!

Next up was some math puzzles on the white board, and a gentleman speaking of I know not what because I don’t speak Finnish.  I did get the gist of it though as he handed out another puzzle.  An optical illusion.  The next talk was about encryption and bless him, the lad wrote the slides in Finnish but spoke in English.  I came next and showed a few of my recent purchases and spoke a bit about the boys and toys we have in HK.  Franz was the last speaker and it was about a building he designed in Rotterdam, and then made a puzzle of! 


Timo decided to show us the robots his company makes, and all were eager to go see it.  It recycles building waste.  Very cool!  But first!  40 minutes stuck in an elevator with 13 men!  Now if I were a really sick person, I would say this was the highlight of the trip thus far.  I found it very entertaining.  I also enjoyed the fact that none of the smart phones worked, but the old dumb ones did!  A call for help was placed and we knew all would eventually be well.  Did I forget to mention we were about 6 stories underground?

We had some lively entertainment though.  After a while someone played some music, there was a bit of dancing, Vesa did some magic tricks.  I pulled out David who was in pieces in my pocket and we reassembled him.  Before we knew it, we were rescued and that was that. 

We then got to watch the robot sorter for a few minutes and headed back upstairs for the main event!  Puzzling and shopping!  I played with a few JC puzzles and liked two of them so much I had to buy them.  I passed around David and Many More Horses and those were well enjoyed.  Matti showed me the pieces for a coffin burr and I attempted to put them together.  No such luck.  I’m not that clever.  Lovely man that he is though, he handed the pieces over and told me to try at home. 

I ended up buying 2 puzzles from Matti and 5 from Tomas.  Adding the gift from Vesa and I’d say it was a good puzzle party. 

We all broke up around 6:30-7:00 and went our separate ways.  Tomo very nicely agreed to let Tomas and I spend the night so we headed to his flat.  A quick (2 hour) break for some puzzling and a few drinks.  I was in heaven yet again!  I got to play with some of the Prague puzzles that I had not seen before.  I handed out some puzzle locks for my hosts and a couple of NP360 metal jigsaws that my husbands company had made.  The locks were a hoot.  It took them a while to work out how to open them, but in the end it was done. 

We decided it was time for a beer and off we went.  When we got to the bar, we bought 3 different Finnish beers and played round robin with them.  None of us were clever enough to bring along a puzzle so we chatted and laughed for a few more hours.  When heading back to Tomo’s flat, we   I don’t know the names of what we had, but I enjoyed 3 of the 4 dishes.  The hamburger was "interesting"  More for them.  Around 3:30 or so we decided it was time to sleep and off we went. 

Only problem:  it didn’t get dark.  I couldn’t sleep because of the light coming in around the curtain.  In the end I covered my head with a blanket and passed out till morning.  Breakfast, a shower, and off we headed for Vaasa. 

Tomorrow look for my post on the adventure I had with Tomas and the small bit of shopping I did…..

Photos can be seen here.