Archive for March, 2009

The Count

March 29, 2009 - 11:15 pm Comments Off on The Count

As you’ve never seen him before.


March 27, 2009 - 4:16 pm 1 Comment

You know you’re always yelling at the people in the zombie movie about the stupid decisions they make. Okay, hotshot. Here’s your chance. Can you survive the outbreak? An interactive movie by Chris Lund that lets you call the shots and choose your density – I mean, destiny. So far I’ve died three times. Yay, me.


March 26, 2009 - 1:20 pm Comments Off on Hmmm…

Apparently my husband has time for a girlfriend. (Probably NSFW)

Prelude to a spidering.

me: I’m going to throw that giant spider on you.
e: Don’t. It’ll all end in tears.
me: Whose?
e: Mine.

Charlotte update: anatomy of an ARG puzzle solve

March 25, 2009 - 7:14 pm 3 Comments

As is sometimes the case with Alternate Reality Games, the break in the case came suddenly, just when the players were complaining that we would never get a break in the case.

On the IRC chat channel we had discussed and discarded seemingly everything, overthinking every aspect of the tapes, the emails, the author’s website, and anything else we could think of. “You are the one in charge” seemed like a clue, but I scoured my tape recorder’s battery compartment and plug receptacle and found nothing of interest save an old looking barcode.

Unfiction’s SpaceBass figured out a way to trick SpamGourmet into sending more than one email to the recipient. A couple of us tried his hack. I didn’t have high hopes.

The people on chat asked me to take more pictures of my package and recorder. I posted one to Twitpic on Sunday.


On Monday, those of us who used the SpamGourmet hack to send P.Martin mail got a response with an attachment:

Swell, he’s a parrot. Wait, what? Something has changed. The “OPEN” on the battery compartment has been changed to read “TURN.”

Cue major discussion and overthinking again. Luckily, I had already listened to both sides of my tape, so I didn’t have to spend time trying that. All that was left was to check out that old looking bar code that had seemingly nothing interesting at all about it.

Inside the battery case

Other people in chat reported that their “Device ID” and “Part No.” numbers were different from mine. Intriguing. I posted the closeup of the bar code, which others decoded – it was in Code 39 and read “6776616C686579.”

Hmmm, I thought – that looked an awful lot like it could translate from Hex to Ascii. Sure enough, it reads “gvalhey” when converted to Ascii. A quick decode from Rot-13, and “gvalhey” becomes “tinyurl.”

Hey! We got something, here!

We had collected a crowd by this point. Three of us were near our recorders and gathered the information from them. All the bar codes appeared to be the same, but the Device ID/Part No. were different. We had 1, 2, and 3 for the part numbers. On a whim, I tried putting the Device IDs at the end of the Tinyurl in order of the Part Numbers – (995/273/018). And whaddaya know? Dr. Ivan Krotzler in San Diego is a psychiatrist who has recently experienced a break-in and had patient data stolen from his office.

Perhaps patient data like tapes of therapy sessions?

Contacting Krotzler’s site netted a response from a Penny Farmer, who explained that Krotzler went missing last Friday and she’s very worried about him. And that’s where we stand now.

Believe it or not, the time elapsed between getting the photoshopped picture and finding the new website was 1.5 hours. And that was 11 days after getting the first recorder.

So that’s an example of how a puzzle in an ARG can work. We still don’t know who P.Martin is or why he sent us the mysterious tape recorders of mystery, but at least we know where he wanted us to go.

In which she earnestly and vaguely rants (to avoid spoilers, ahem)

March 23, 2009 - 12:04 am Comments Off on In which she earnestly and vaguely rants (to avoid spoilers, ahem)

Publishing companies: it’s all very well and good that you’re targeting certain readerships for upcoming thrillers. But when you throw the title of a book (or novella, or short story) out there that’s got a major twist at the end, and say “If you’re a fan of X book, you’ll like this one!” and then tie it to reviews that talk about the major twist at the end… well, could you have possibly given away the major huge thrilling twist at the end of your soon-to-be-released thriller?

Just a thought.

In possibly-related news, many of us have turned into gibbering, twitching masses trying to figure out where the crazy tapes lead. If you’re coming to this blog because you’ve received a mysterious tape recorder that wants you to play it, won’t you please leave a comment here saying what your story was about, what number was on the tape, and what it was wrapped in?

And if you’re intrigued, please do join us for conversation on Unfiction and check out Rowan’s guide which is a great way to catch up with what’s happened so far.

Enigmatic frustration

March 21, 2009 - 1:45 pm Comments Off on Enigmatic frustration

After much dithering around, we decided to ask P.Martin how to get in touch with the people from the tapes. His response:

You are in charge: All you need to do is putting together the parts.

Say what?

Rowan helpfully wrote a guide, and Thebruce “putting together the parts” on YouTube, but we are totally flummoxed. Nobody even knows what we’re looking for – a website? Email address? Phone number? “Help, I’m being held captive in a tape recorder factory”?

So now we’re spinning our wheels, looking askance at the non-ARG person who received the tape (must be a clue!) and anagramming everything possible (You are in charge = U+R+Charge = Rare Chug = Let’s all get drunk on expensive hooch!). We’re dismantling our tape recorders and examining everything under UV lights.

By the time this is over, we’ll all need Therapy. 😉

More mysterious mail…

March 18, 2009 - 3:36 pm 1 Comment

In electronic form, this time, from a SpamGourmet address. The enigmatic P.Martin, who sent the tape recording a few days ago, has this to say:

Do not follow me! I knew you would. I knew you would come over and look around.

I have seen your friends; walking down the street and looking for the apartments.

And you know what? They have been so close. I have been so close…

But you shouldn’t look for me. Instead you should look for the truth.
To get started, you should consider the items that you are already holding in your hands.

As a sign of my ongoing support I will grant you one question at this time.

Be careful since this email address allows you to send only one single email to me.
All other emails will never reach me.

Discuss your question with the others now so that you all can pick your one question before contacting me.


I’m assuming he saw the Unfictionites cruising Mission Blvd. in San Diego and looking for clues. So now we’re to ask him one question, and one question only. The mind reels. I’m terrible in situations like this. I freeze up! What if I ask the wrong thing and lead everything to chaos and failure? Thank goodness for hive minds.

What to ask, what to ask?


March 18, 2009 - 11:06 am Comments Off on SXSW

Just spent a great 5 days at SXSW Interactive, and I’m WORN OUT! I got to catch up with some old friends, meet some folks I’d been looking forward to meeting, conspire with my panel to disrupt the conference, laugh at all the people desperately and repeatedly pimping themselves, watch Brian Clark and Mike Monello ask the tough questions, see Alan Tudyk get in an elevator, do guerilla filming in a parking lot, stroll through the streets of downtown Austin covered in fake blood, and have lots of long lunches with chitchat (I think I missed all the keynotes). It was lots of fun, and I am really looking forward to Portland this summer.

You can see my SXSW-tagged pics (few though they might be) on my photostream.