Thursday, November 7, 2013

Cat in the Box and Cupcakes

Cupcakes make everything better. Making cookies? Use a cupcake tin? Pancakes? Bake those suckers in the round pan of glory! In honor of our love of the cupcake, we busted out the cupcake puzzle I received for my bday!

Oh yeah, our kitty loves the puzzles boxes too!

Rizzy loves the puzzles....a bit too much! She likes to much on the corners of completed puzzles....

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Social Network

Good Morning,
It's early here. Like 2am. I just thought I would share my latest social network modeling. Social networks are fascinating! M and I have actually been puzzling lately. Sorry for the lack of updates. This school thing is keeping me pretty busy lately! Here is one of my latest visualizations.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Look what I found!

Good morning!
Its been well, forever since I have puzzled or updated you guys. Sorry about that. Well this morning during my daily ebay search. I found a new big boy! (My wife thinks I a a shopoholic....) anyhow. Its a 6000 piece puzzle from Bits and Pieces. I didn't even know they made them!

Its colorful and fun, what do you think? (Guessing Penny thinks its ugly!)

Window Wonderland - 6000pc, Bits and Pieces

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Glacier and the Tower

NEW PUZZLE DAY! I love new puzzle days! Today the first 6000 piece Schmidt big boy showed up! It's a photograph of a glacier! This big bad boy is gonna be hard! The pieces are a great shape with skewed standard shapes and a wide range of scallops!

A few days ago, Gabor Szittya's Tower of Babel 6000pcs by Nathan arrived from San Diego! It's a great interpretation of the original work by Bruegel (we also own the 9000pc version of that one). The pieces have a very large lengthwise bias! I love the image of this one and look forward to it very much!

Hope all is well on your end! Anybody puzzling out there?


Glacier - 6000pc Schmidt
Purchased from ebay for $1.00 on 8/1/2013

Glacier pieces close up. Now that is a landscape for you!
Tower of Babel - 6000pc, Nathan
Purchased from private owner in San Diego 8-1-2013
Tower of Babel close up, the pieces have a strong lengthwise bias!

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Big Wine, The Kitty, M's first and Breaking Out the Sistine

M celebrating completing her first 1500 piece puzzle all by herself!

So its been kinda quiet over here! Sorry! We have been puzzling but its been more M than me. M finished up her Summer Porch puzzle! It looks fantastic! Our neighbor got a kitten and she has spends a lot of time with us these days. She is a bit rambunctious and  a little too curious about the puzzle table! In 2 seconds, she can have the time of her life and destroy days of puzzling!

I have been in a bit of puzzling funk, I think I am mentally blocked by all the missing pieces in the Wedding Feast and its overall difficulty level is really a pain lately. It seems like a chore to do and I have been opting to spend time on my studies or the Eternity II puzzle.

M decided she was going to motivate me to puzzle by working on the Sistine Chapel, and I have to say, it's working! She laid out the open "bag" of pieces yesterday. When she started, she said, thats funny, why do these 4 ziplock bags say 500,500,500 and 469? Well, it looked like they were the counts of the pieces in the bag from the previous owner. 469? That is A - a long ways from what should be 500 (indeed this is a 8000 piece puzzle in 4 bags so the sum of these parts better equal 2000) and its an odd number! Well, I guess we will see! Its kind of torture, this puzzle is so beautiful and colorful (unlike the Trionfo 8000) and I have to finish Wedding Feast and the 6000 Creation of Adam before I can work on it! Time to get busy!

The kitty (her name is Carib) is checking out M's completed Summer Porch and is eying the Wedding Beast!

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Eternity II Update

I finally have made some headway on the Eternity II problem. I have all of the pieces faithfully encoded and safely stored. It takes a long time to encode those pieces (about 6 hours with double checking). I have also done my first visualization of the problem!

Below is each piece of the eternity 2 puzzle. It is connected by a colored line to each piece it could possibly be connected to. The color of the line is representative of the 23 patters found on the edges of the physical puzzle. The idea I am investigating is if you remove all but 1 line of each edge color from each piece, will you have a solution to the puzzle? Good question. I will let you know what I come up with!

In other news, I have been making slow progress on the Wedding Feast but this weekend is looking like a  puzzle marathon! M is off work tomorrow and she is really getting close on the Summer Porch!

Talk to you soon!


Eternity II Graph
Eternity II Visualized

Monday, August 26, 2013

Back to the Table!

After a whirlwind course in Algorithms, I am finally getting back to the table tonight and the Wedding Feast! No real updates other than that, maybe in the morning :-) Hopefully M is not too tired tonight after work to come puzzle with me!


Friday, August 23, 2013

Algorithm Design and Analysis

Courses I am taking or soon taking. Not puzzles but
similarly very challenging!

I am taking a 5 day diversion from puzzling so I can complete my coursework in Algorithms. Not sure if you have noticed, but I AM trying to solve the Eternity 2 puzzle. Its a 256 pieces puzzle and if you can put it together you get a million bucks! Pretty cool right! Well, this requires a lot of mathematics and to solve.

I have always been a programer versus a computer scientist, I am trying to bridge that Gap with Coursera! You can take courses from free from the brightest institutions in the world. Currently my course is being taught buy a professor at Stanford. I love it! Check them out and expand your brain too!

Eternity II
The Eternity II Puzzle: A simple 256 piece puzzle? Easy.... um no, if you can solve it, you will win a million dollars! Bring your math skills! You can view more info here: Eternity 2

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Wedding Feast at Cana: Day 26

M working on Summer Porch while I a work on the Feast 
Wow, where is the time going? M and I puzzled for the better part of the weekend and I feel like I made a lot of progress! M has been working hard on her Summer Porch and I have completed the bulk of the Wedding Party.

I think I have identified at least three missing pieces. Two are edge pieces and one is a bright yellow piece in the guy pouring the wine from the water carafe. Its going to be tuff to make that piece for sure! I had forgotten about the missing pieces until this weekend when I realized they weren't there!

I really love the Wedding Feast, the colors are just fantastic.

M is really making progress on the John Powell's Summer Porch - 1,500pc by Big ben!

New Puzzle Day!

The collection is getting out of hand!
We have been slowing down on the puzzle purchasing, but there are just a few more that have shown up recently! Here they are including the first over 10,000 piece puzzle!

I am really glad the Neuschwanstein Castle is in great shape! This is really an important puzzle as it Ravensburger crushed the competition with this puzzle and remained the undisputed champion of the large puzzle scene for nearly 20 years! The bags of pieces are unopened and I unless I have some sort of change of heart, they will be assembled one bag at a time, there is  a LOT of scenery in this puzzle!

We have never done a 3D puzzle so we figured we would start with the worlds largest one! I guess we were inspired after watching the animation of it being put together!

I look forward to the Clementoni puzzles, they seem to be very well done!

New Puzzle Day: Neuschwanstein Castle
Neuschwanstein Castle - 12,000pc, Ravensburger
Purchased from ebay for $275 on 7/28/2013
New Puzzle Day: New York 3D
New York 3D - 3,141pc, Wrebbit
Purchased from ebay for $76 on 7/16/2013
New Puzzle Day: Dolomites
Dolomites - 6,000pc, Clementoni
Purchased from ebay for $20 on 7/14/2013
New Puzzle Day: Zodiac
Zodiac - 6,000pc Clementoni
Purchased from ebay for $53 on 7/9/2013

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Wedding Feast at Cana: Day 22

The Wedding Feast at Cana - 9000pc by Ravensburger. This thing is going slow but it is so beautiful!

This puzzle seems to be taking forever! It feels like I am about 1/4 of the way done with it after 22 days of puzzling! It is much slower going when doing a big one all at once! Today was a good day though, I actually was able to puzzle for about 5 hours and laid down a good 300 pieces or more. (my guess). I have been slowing down on puzzling lately overall and working harder on other things so I guess its understandable that its taking so long.

Also, our puzzle from Hong Kong arrived! More motivation to get this one out the door!


Monday, August 12, 2013

Wedding Feast at Cana: Day 16

Slow but Steady progress!

I finally got a few hours at the table today. I managed to hunt for and place about 20 red pieces and decided to orphan them and move onto orange. After organizing by shape, I was able to place somewhere around 80 pieces for about 100 piece day... It is painfully slow going for me, I prefer piece counts much nearer 500 but lately the time has been short. Anyhow, here is todays progress.

In other news, we have a new Puzzle Building Service project! We are building the 6000pc Creation of Man by Clementoni for someone in Hong Kong! Customs has the puzzle here in St. Thomas so it wont be long! We look forward to working on this one a lot! It's fantastic that the puzzle came all the way from the other side of the world for us to build it for someone! We could not be happier! What's even more awesome? We have been paid in advance with the 18,000pc - At the Waterhole puzzle for our efforts!

We are certainly going to be busy!

- Tom and Mercedes!

We offer a puzzle building service and are building this one for our friend in Hong Kong! It is the 6000pc Creation of Man by Clementoni.

Our newest puzzle to the collection, Ravensburgers 18,000pc At the Waterhole by David Penfound.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Wedding Feast at Cana: Day 13

Wedding Feast at Cana: Day 13
The Wedding Feast at Cana - 9000pc after 13days of effort.
M and I took a couple days off of puzzling to go sailing but last night I managed to set down for an hour or so and work on more red. I will spend two more hours on red before calling the rest misfits and moving on to orange.

Yesterday was also new puzzle day! The Springbok 500pc Round Puzzle of a Puzzle showed up! This one looks like a lot of fun! The colosr are bright and has the traditional Springbok irregular cut and extremely tight fit. This should fulfill my puzzle of a puzzle fantasy!

Springbok Challenger Series: 500pc Round Puzzle Puzzle
This should be a challenge!

Springbok Challenger Series: Detail
Great colors and shapes from this puzzle. Nice work Springbok

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Toasting Coconuts

We had the entire island of Hans Lollic to ourselves for the day. We beached our boat on the far left of Coconut Bay pictured above is the large beach on the left hand side of the large island.

M and I set sail yesterday after outfitting our little boat for adventure. We purchased a handheld VHF Radio so we can radio for help in an emergency, a soft cooler we can bungee to the trampoline, an anchor and 100 feet of line, a chart of the area and other various odds and ends.

We set sail around noon yesterday from Red Hook and enjoyed amazing conditions as we reached along the eastern shore of St. Thomas. Our destination was the uninhabited island of Hans Lollic located about 2.5km off the North Shore of St. Thomas. We look at this beautiful hunk of rock every day from our house and have dreamed of visiting it since we moved in!

Along the way. we took a lunch break and pulled up on the beach at Sugar Bay and had lunch at the resort there. Nothing special, but a quick easy meal. As we were leaving a small rain squall came in and the breeze helped us get back off the beach.

It was very warm, and we opted to sail naked for the rest of the trip! There is nothing like taking in nature naked! We decided to circle the island as we had not seen the backside or the little Hans island behind it.

The wind was blowing steadily around 15kts and we were broad reaching nicely. As we approached little Hans we decided to sail between them and moments later, a squall overtook us and we were pounded by a downpour. The sea flattened around us and turned a strange dark blue with a layer of mist and from horizontal splashing rain as the wind pipped up to around 20-25 knots.

I eased the sail but we were rocketing between the islands with only a 100 yards of visibility. The rain chilled our naked bodies, the sound of the pounding rain drowned out all other sounds as we zoomed past the rocky cliffs of the islands. This was one of the best 10 minutes of my life!

Predictably, after the storm and in the wind shadow of Hans Lollic, the wind died and we decided to take a break form sailing to make love and warm up! It took us an hour and a half to get wind again, but we finally beat around the windward side of the island and beached our little cat in Coconut Bay.

The island is uninhabited so we didn't bother with clothing for a while as we secured the boat and setup camp. We explored the ruins of an old building and hiked an ancient road all along the eastern ridge. The views were amazing and we encountered about a dozen goats along the way. We found the beach is home to thousands of hermit crabs! We watched them scuttle and hide about. We found lots of interesting creatures there!

We went about the task of building a fire for dinner. I felt a bit like Tom Hanks in Castaway burning palm fronds, driftwood and underbrush. Oh yeah, sadly, I forgot kindling back in St. Thomas so I resorted, after exhausting every other option, to burn a book we had brought with us ;-( The resulting fire however, was worth the sacrifice and we enjoyed an intense blaze which pierced the blanketing darkness of this lightless island. The orange glow of which danced on the ripples of sand long the beach which is something I have experienced nowhere near enough in my life. After dinner, we toasted a few more coconuts from the beach and hung out by the fire.

The evenings sleeping arrangement were to be done in the open air on the trampoline of the boat. As we turned in, we fired up our new VHF radio to get a weather report. "Scattered thunderstorms".... Then we thought about it, and indeed, it rains here almost every night. So we formed a plan, we would unroll the sail and cover ourselves in it in the event of rain. Well, this seemed like a great plan. The trampoline it turns out, is an awful place to sleep, I think the sand might actually be more comfortable. I woke up in a panic a few times as I thought I felt a rain drop and looking up, the stars were blotted out by clouds so I made the call to cover up. Turns out, this was a good call! The sky let lose and amazingly enough, we stayed dry! (We didn't have blanket so the sail did act somewhat as a blanket and we opted to sleep under it the rest of the night)

After a nearly sleepless night, we awoke well before dawn at the first sign of light and started to make way. We cast off at 5:45am and made a quick two hour voyage home!

It was a fantastic trip.

Now this is a view

Someone was nice enough to leave a lawn chair on the island.

My wood is a bit larger than my pit...

M says hello buck naked!

One of the many reasons we opted to not sleep directly on the beach...

The sounds of the surf pounding the shore makes you SLEEPY

Paradise all to ourselves


Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Our new whip

M and I bought a sailboat yesterday! It's a small 13ft Hobie cat. Its perfect for our favorite pasttime (besides puzzling) of beach going. It can be sailed right up on the beach. It's actually preferable to do so since it doesn't have a motor and all.

It's a wet and wild ride! Wish us fun. We are off on an overnight adventure to another island!

Our new whip!
You can't puzzle all of the time! This is our new (new to us) daytime past time! 

Monday, August 5, 2013

Wedding Feast at Cana: Day 10-12

Not a lot of progress really. We have been busy having fun sailing but I managed to get the red pieces organized and have but down around 180 pieces or so. Here is the cellist and Jesus. Turns out Jesus has two of the four broken pieces inside him. He is Wholly!

Wedding Feast: Jesus is Holy.
Jesus is coming along nicely but he has two of the four broken pieces in him....

Wedding Feast at Cana: Bass Player
The Cellist

Friday, August 2, 2013

Wedding Feast: Day 8-9

It took two days, but I am finally done with green. There are just a few stragglers left so its time to move on. Red is next, then orange then back to all of the stragglers before I move on to the sky.

Slow but steady - Green is now done.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Wedding Feast: Day #7

As you can see, there is still a lot of green to go! After green, I think I might tackle the sky. They sky should not be too bad. The pieces are easily identifiable as to what orientation they fit in and it appears that like maps, they contain rows of "odd" pieces which greatly aids in the finding of pieces! Occasional it appears that there are a pair of ultra "odd" pieces in a non "odd" piece row. But these appear to always come as a pair of a three knob/three receptacle piece so that the pair would continue the otherwise normal 2knob/2receptacle pattern. I included a pic of the 6 type/orientation pieces below.

He is coming together nicely. I need to figure out whom he is supposed to be. Anyone know?

Wedding Feast at Cana Piece
These are all of the different pieces/orientation in the Ravensburger's 9000 pc Wedding Feast at Cana. The "standard" shapes at right are easily distinguishable between vertical and horizontal pieces. The puzzles appears to contain entire rows of non-standard pieces which makes finding them very easy. Occasionally, their are a pair of the vertical orientation 3 prong and 3 receptacle pieces. In a sort of over 500 pieces, there were only about 8 of these pieces. 

Wedding Feast at Cana - Special Pieces
The vertical 3 prong and horizontal 3 receptacle are always placed next to each other in a row of normal pieces. These are found very infrequently in the die.
Wedding Feast Progress 8/1/2013
The state of things. It's nice to finally be able to lay out the entire puzzle with the puzzle table extension complete.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Wedding Feast: Day 6

After my 11 day diversion with Trionfo degli Asburgo, I am back to the Wedding Feast at Cana. I really like hoping from puzzle to puzzle! Today I was craving some Double Retrospect! I think I will go back to doing a section of that next. But who knows what will take my fancy by the time I get done with the Feast.

I only really managed about 50 pieces of green. Pics tomorrow!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Mounting an 8000pc puzzle to the ceiling

Trionfo degli Asburgo - Mounted on the puzzle retractable puzzle table
Trionfo degli Asburgo - 8000pc from Educa is mounted to the underside of our retractable puzzle table (Shown here stowed on the ceiling)

So when it came time to mount this beast there were several hurdles including how to flip it all over, and how to attach it to the table. The best way to explain it is with pictures so here goes.

Flipping the puzzle - Progress #0
Step 1: Break the puzzle back into sections that will fit on our puzzle boards. It just so happens that that size is the same as the die used to cut this puzzle (1000pc). The puzzle breaks neatly into 1000 piece sections. Incidentally, the piece pattern repeats for each section which aids in assembly significantly!
Flipping the puzzle - Progress #1
Next sandwich each section between two puzzle boards (cardboard). While pinching these together tight, flip them over. If you were ultra worried, you could use masking tape each time to insure the boards don't separate. It's not a terrible idea! These glossy puzzles are slippery!
Flipping the puzzle - Progress #4
Here it shows the reassemble of the puzzle upside down. Note, it should be obvious, but after you flip a section over, you have to swap places with its neighbor in the same column. 
Flipping the puzzle - Progress #5
Assembling upside down. Notice that the section in the second row right side up is actually the lower section but slide into place where it will go upside down (what was on the bottom has to go to the top)
A sea of peices
A sea of pieces!
Tight Roll
I then applied clear contact paper (using help from my neighbor) and rolled the puzzle around a pool noodle (you know, its a 5 dollar pool toy to float on). This made removing the puzzle from the table easy to do without messing it up.
Taping Off
We then flipped the table upside down and rolled the puzzle out onto to the table right side up. I centered the puzzle and placed tape around the border. The tape is to give a guide to make sure we lay the puzzle back down centered and to provide a clean edge for the glue.
Big Roll
Now we rolled the puzzle back so that half the area was exposed. Notice the much larger diameter roll. Dont try and make a tight roll, the pieces can't flex with that contact paper on the back like the can the other way!
Laying down plain old puzzle glue to hold the contact paper backed puzzle to the table
We used plain old puzzle glue. This particular glue is from Mega Puzzles. We have been using spray adhesive (3M #44) as suggested by Scott Slater but we have found that the glue never really sets up and have had several puzzles peel away from their foam backing. Since this puzzle is going to hang upside down on the ceiling, I really did not want that to happen. I did a test glue of a piece of contact paper to the wood using the puzzle glue and it worked fantastic! We are going to switch to plain old glue from now on (NOTE: We dont apply glue to the front of the puzzle, we use contact paper on the back to keep the pieces together, the glue is to hold the contact paper to its mounting only). We prefer this method because if you ever did want to disassemble the puzzle, you can remove it from the contact paper and this puzzle glue will break away from whatever you have glued it to. Since we plan on moving someday, this is a real consideration. Regardless, this glue appears to be the trick versus spray. I used a squeegee to spread the glue around.
Trionfo degli Asburgo - Mounted
Finished product! It was a lot easier than I thought it was going to be!