Just a DASH of Nerd

May 13th, 2011

We don’t have a lot of magazines in the bathrooms at work.  They tend to linger for months, or even years.  One day, many years ago, I started leafing through an old issue of Rolling Stone while taking care of business and I came across this article (pages 2, 3, 4, 5, 6) about something called The Game. Ever since then I’ve wanted to play in one of these Games — yes, with a capital ‘G,’ and I think it’s warranted. Unfortunately, they’re never held in Chicago, they cost thousands of dollars, and I think they’ve been discontinued due to an injury.

The crux of the idea is this: Teams gather at a starting line where they are given a puzzle.  The solution to the puzzle leads them to another location where they encounter another puzzle, and so on until they reach the finish line.  It sounds simple enough, except the puzzles are so complicated they often take hours to solve.  These games tend to attract a somewhat narrow sliver of the populace, heavy on computer programmers, mathematicians, and technical-types.  In other words, nerds.

My wife, planning an elaborate game of her own, heard about a puzzle hunt being run in Chicago — much less elaborate than The Game, but the same general idea.  Knowing my obsession, she encouraged me to play.

DASH or “Different Area Same Hunt” is a game run simultaneously in several different cities. Players in each city are given the same clues, but are sent to different locations.

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Journey to the End of the Night 2011 Recap

May 12th, 2011

Every year I worry about how Journey to the End of the Night is going to work out and every year it’s fantastic.  Once again I was a staff chaser — this time chasing people in a suit.  It wasn’t as bizarre as the gorilla, but runners rarely thought a dude in a suit would start chasing them.

I’d say my favorite moment was standing alone on the beach between checkpoint 2B and checkpoint 3 and chasing people across that big sandy expanse.

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Best Birthday Present Ever

May 5th, 2011


Shama tried to surprise me with a dog for my birthday, but the shelter wouldn’t let her just grab a dog and put it in a box.  I know.  I don’t get it either.  So instead she surprised me by picking me up and taking me to the shelter to meet a dog she had picked out.  His name was “Mugs” and I loved him immediately.

We changed his name briefly to Maurice, but settled on Gus.

Gus and I have some similar features.  Shama says she has a type.  I’m reminded of this scene from 101 Dalmations:


Robot Surgery

May 1st, 2011

When I got a tour of the School of Engineering and Applied Science at Columbia University, from which I ultimately got a degree in electrical engineering, they spent a lot of time showing us the robotics lab.  It was probably the coolest thing a young aspiring engineer could ever see. In four years as a student, I never once set foot in that robotics lab.

Finally, I got my chance to play robot scientist.  My wife got me a black market Roomba for Hanukah a few years ago and it dutifully cleaned our house for several months before it started behaving strangely. Eventually it quit altogether.

Luckily, the Internet has a wealth of information for people wanting to fix their ailing Roombas. The Roomba itself, however, does not make it easy.  I figured there was about a 20% chance of the thing working at all after I opened it up and tinkered with its soft white underbelly, but a replaced IR emitter, a decent soldering job, and about 5,000 tiny screws later, Roomba is once again keeping our house clean from dust bunnies.

If anyone comes across this page with a Roomba that just backs up and spins until it stops and beeps 9 times, here’s what you can do to fix it: http://www.schneordesign.com/Avi/irobot/roomba_mod2.htm

Total Attention

April 26th, 2011

My cousins rarely sit still, and my brother’s dog even rarer still.  That only makes this picture more amazing and speaks to the powers my wife has over children and animals.  I’m not sure what she was telling the four of them, but they were totally engrossed.  She’s going to be a great teacher… or dog hypnotist… or both!


Journey to the End of the Night 2011

April 24th, 2011

This is my third year helping out with the Chicago edition of Journey to the End of the Night and it keeps getting bigger and bigger.  The first year (that I missed) had 75 people.  In 2009 we had 271 players.  In 2010 there were 404.  This year we have over 800 people saying they’re going to play on the Facebook group.  That’s some exponential growth, yo!

While the game itself is quite clever, what makes it great is how unusual it is to get hundreds of people together to play a game for no greater purpose.  I had the following conversation with someone at work:

Me: You should come it’s gonna be fun.
C: I think I will.  When do I need to sign up?
Me: You don’t.  Just show up.
C: How much does it cost?
Me: It’s free.
(C in dumbfounded silence.)

If you’re interested and want to play, the game starts at Welles Park at Montrose and Western at 7PM on Saturday May 7th, 2011.

I will be a staff chaser again this year.  I need to come up with a better costume than the gorilla.


Prepare to be Underwhelmed

March 3rd, 2011

Everyone was talking about this epic blizzard that was going to hit Chicago.  Man, was I excited.  With some rare foresight, I set up a camera to take timelapse photos during the whole thing.

Well, that didn’t work.

I purposefully picked a spot with street lights so it would be visible at night, but maybe I left the flash on or the lights in the room were left on… I don’t know.  In any case, you can’t see squat during the night.  Poop.

Here’s someone who knew what they were doing:

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And He Especially Liked Murdering Tresspassers

March 1st, 2011


On our way home from the water park, I really wanted to make a detour to my old summer camp.  It was, as expected, closed for the winter, but it seemed a shame not to at least peek inside.  So, in the glorious tradition of camp sneak-outs, I had a camp sneak-in — otherwise known as tresspassing.

Aside from some fresh paint on the cabins it looked pretty much as I remembered it.  It was strange to have the whole place all to myself, totally quiet.  There was something very peaceful about it.  Peaceful, that is, until the ghost stories of crazy people who roamed the woods started running through my head.

I told Shama we better go.



February 27th, 2011


Both Shama and I were rocking our winter weight, so instead of photos of us in bathing suits, you get these people.

When a water park craving strikes, there’s only one thing to do: go to the Wisconsin Dells.  It’s the middle of winter?  No problem.  The Dells is home to Kalahari: an “authentic African themed” indoor water park.  Just like the water parks in Africa, it had plenty of onion rings, hot dogs, slightly dorky teenage lifeguards who think they’re pretty awesome (they were pretty awesome,) and enough chlorine to sterilize a wildebeast.

After a day at the waterpark, we were planning to party all night at the authentic African-themed dance club.  We didn’t make it to the dance club.  We fell asleep at 9:30.


Don’t Buy the Liverwurst

January 3rd, 2011

Of all my parents’ records, I might have listened to Allan Sherman the most when I was little.  Maybe the William Tell Overture.

I just spent the last hour listening to all these old songs and they still make me laugh, although I now realize that I didn’t get a lot of the jokes as a kid. Who the heck is Billy Sol?

Do I have some song about Bernie Madoff that my kids are going to love?


The Bri Blog

January 2nd, 2011


My dad got some amazing tickets to a Bulls game for my brother Brian’s birthday.  I guess our company was part of his present, which works out well for me.

Brian’s always been pretty obsessed with sports.  My dad famously taught him math using Bears players.  A branch of mathematics my dad dubbed “Brithmatic.”  For example, Jay Hilgenberg + Jim McMah0n = The Fridge  (63 + 9 = 72).

Around his birthday, Brian decided to start The Bri Blog.  In his words:

Just for kicks I started a new blog: thebriblog.blogspot.com. It’s mostly dedicated to comparing and contrasting the geothermal implications of potential trans-atlantic heat waves leading to…..just kidding. it’s about sports.

UPDATE: How embarrassing!  I had the math wrong. Not the football players, the actual math.  It’s fixed.


A Muslim and A Jew on Christmas Eve

December 31st, 2010


There’s a tradition where Jews go out to Chinese food and a movie on Christmas.  I don’t remember my family doing the Chinese food much, but we did go to movies sometimes.  The last time we tried it, though, the theater was so packed we barely got in.  I’m pretty sure there aren’t that many Jews in Evanston.

Shama told me how she liked to drive around downtown late at night on Christmas because it was totally deserted, so this Christmas Eve, around midnight, Shama and I drove down to Northerly Island and the Planetarium.  It was snowing, silent, completely empty, and beautiful.  Plus, we could just drive up and park wherever we wanted, which was kind of wild.

I hope this becomes our new Christmas tradition.


Apples and Apples

November 7th, 2010


Quite early on in the wedding planning, Shama thought up the idea to use apple baskets as centerpieces for our wedding.  Turns out she doesn’t like flowers so much.  Good to know.

While we were buying apples, we saw some bags of oranges and we thought they’d be nice to add more color to the centerpieces.

We got numerous comments during and after the wedding about how much people liked the “apples and oranges” concept for the centerpieces.  Most saw it as representing two very different cultures coming together.  It was really nice.  I wish we had thought of it.  Really, we just thought they were pretty.

And so it’s been with our relationship in general.  A lot of people like to read something noble and important into a Muslim and Jew getting married.  Someone once (albeit jokingly) told me, “the future of the world rests on your shoulders.”  I’m glad people think we’re doing something good, but it really never occurred to me or Shama that our relationship had some larger purpose.  I just thought she was pretty.


Bauble Tree. Just Because It’s Pretty.

October 30th, 2010

Bauble Tree

Shama and I drove to the mountains of North Carolina to get away after getting married.  We did some hiking and reading and played lots of games and did a lot of the nothing we weren’t able to do in the weeks leading up to the wedding.

I suggested we go to a fancy restaurant one night and Shama said we should make it a whole high society day.

Evan: What’s a high society day?

Shama: We’ll go horesback riding and then before dinner we can go into town and buy a trinket or bauble just because it’s pretty.

So we went horseback riding, although it was probably a little more “rancher” than “high society.”  And we went into the town of Marshall, North Carolina (pop. 840) to look around.  I don’t think either of us were planning to get any sort of trinket or bauble, but we went into the Arts Center on Main Street and saw a painting we both really liked.  It’s title: “Bauble Tree.”


The Magic of Clipboards

October 24th, 2010

Having a Jewish/Desi wedding can be complicated at times.  Shama’s been trying to get some Indian fabric and other accoutrements on Devon, Chicago’s Indian district, but once the shop-ladies find out it’s for a non-traditional wedding, they become much less helpful.  One lady told her there was no shop that would sell her what she wanted.

Undeterred (okay, slightly deterred) Shama decided to be awesome.

She got a clipboard, put her hair in a pony tail, wore her glasses and went back to the same shops.

Shama: I’m a student at Columbia College and I’m the art director for a student film we’re entering in an international film contest.  It’s a Bollywood style film and I need to dress several characters including the villain, the pushy aunt, and the bride.  Today I’m trying to find pieces for the bride character.  Oh, and we’re on a budget.

I got a text message from her that afternoon:

This ruse is working frighteningly well.

Sometimes she’d send photos to her “director” (i.e. maid of honor) for approval.

She was happy to get what she was looking for, but felt a little guilty about having to be deceptive to get what she wanted.  Perhaps it’s a good question for The Ethicist.