Monday, March 28, 2011

Dispatch from NY

This St. Patty's Day weekend, Brooklyn hosted the three-day American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, and F. and C.P. from Team Delicatessen participated for the very first time!

This is THE tournament of "Wordplay" fame, the one run by New York Times crossword puzzle editor Will Shortz and featured in The Wall Street Journal's middle column.

Puzzlers compete to see who can finish 7 puzzles in the fastest amount of time with all the squares filled in correctly. You get 10 points for each correct word. Each puzzle has a time limit varying from 15 minutes to 45 minutes. If you finish early you raise your hand and a proctor comes to collect your paper and note the time. You get 25 bonus points for each minute before the deadline, but for each wrong answer you will get 25 points deducted from your bonus, but not beyond.

F. and C.P. did crosswords online every day beforehand.

F: "The crossword tournament was fun. I really lost out on game 5 which was the hardest, and the theme was hit songs so I could not take advantage of using the theme either. I did finish early on at least games 1 and 7. Don't remember if I did on any others."

F. sat next to a guy originally from Mumbai, India. This was his 4th tournament. He normally comes with his friend by the same name of F.

F: "People went into the hall early the first day to grab seats. We did not go in until 10 minutes or so before start time and most of the seats were already taken. We had a hard time finding ANY empty seats, let alone together!"

C.P.: "The puzzles were pretty much what I expected. F. almost made the top half. I was about 10 places behind her until the last puzzle on Sunday. It was the usual Sunday Times puzzle. Not difficult but I tanked on it, probably because I had the flu. The judges marked the entries in blue pencils and scanned into the computer. Results were posted in an hour or so in the ballroom as well as the tournament's website. Overall, no real surprises and an enjoyable trip."

According to the results posted online, F. finished in the top 30 among rookies, and C.P. was in the top 50 out of 139 rookies.

As for the big winner? If you've seen "Wordplay," you know Tyler Hinman is kind of like a whiz kid in crosswords, but he was defeated by Dan Feyer last year. Dan won again this year. Ben Zimmer posted videos of the final round. It won't take you long to watch because Dan flies through this final puzzle in less than 7 minutes.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

A Sunday short story

A Sunday short story, composed from BY's Facebook post and comments. (commenters' names changed to initials)

A sad thing to encounter at the used bookstore: Momofuku (the cookbook) w/the following inscription: "To Tobias. And to the promise that forever the next noodle will be the best noodle. With love, Julie, Dec 2010." In gold lettering.

R.J. L. I hope you bought it. I would have.

M.L. Wow, that is super depressing.

K.Z. Maybe he had the best noodle and didn't need the cookbook anymore. Or maybe Julie's just a psycho.

L.V.S.C. So did you buy it?

P.W. Tobias is clearly a real jerk. Momofuku book is a real gift, as is the endearing Julie. RRrrrrrr.

D.M. This is even sadder than "For sale - baby shoes. Never worn."

E.C. this is the start of a great short story.

J.F. December 2010? Good god, man. You can practically feel the breeze. I like to think that Julie bought the book, had it embossed, and then had second thoughts about Tobias and decided he was not worthy [insert inevitable comment about "using her noodle" here]. Or maybe the embossers messed up (e.g., it was meant to be inscribed to "Tomas") so they gave her a new one to give to him.


To keep up on events in Japan, AP has an interactive that is helpful. The Before-and-After tab is alarming.


Is it blasphemy to say I like listening to Telekinesis' recordings more than listening to them live? That's not to say their show at the Hi-Dive wasn't fun. They're energetic on stage, and they got the crowd singing along to their lovely melodies and clapping. But the recordings are crisper, and the mood of the songs comes through more, on "I Saw Lightning" for example. The live show, as expected, is more about getting people pumped. A lot of the songs seem to just end on hard stops. "Coast of Carolina" was still great though. It's always kinda fun seeing a drummer on lead vocals. Anyway.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

News from Pueblo


Don Banner had whiffed on a bid to sell water from a ditch in southern Colorado when someone gave him another idea: Turn the surrounding ranch land into an energy park.

While supporters say the Pueblo attorney's idea will provide high-paying jobs and tax revenue, dozens of residents have voiced concerns that his proposal on about 37 square miles east of Pueblo includes not only plans for biomass, geothermal, solar and wind energy but a nuclear power plant too.

Pueblo County commissioners, who must approve a zoning change for the project, held three days of hearings to take public comment on the proposal, days after an earthquake and tsunami knocked out the power supply to a nuclear power complex in Japan, causing radiation leaks.

"I'm a Christian. I believe everything happens for a reason," said Banner, in his 60s. The reason this time? "I don't know why."

There haven't been any new nuclear reactors in the U.S. in a generation, but the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission is reviewing plans for new ones.

Nuclear power generation doesn't emit carbon dioxide and can produce huge amounts of power cheaply, after a plant is built.

Rising gasoline prices and concerns about greenhouse gases and imported oil helped nuclear energy gain political backing, but the disasters at Japan have led to at least a short-term pull back for some countries.

"There are a lot of competing interests here. All of that is background for making a very local decision," said Pueblo County Commissioner Jeff Chostner.

Colorado currently has no nuclear power plants. A uranium mill in nearby Canon City hasn't processed uranium in years, but Energy Fuels Corp. has plans to build a mill in southwest Colorado. Powertech has plans to mine uranium in northern Colorado.

Pueblo, meanwhile, is home to an Xcel Energy Inc. coal-fired power plant and a Vestas plant that builds wind turbine towers. Black Hills Energy plans to add a natural-gas fired plant.

Banner proposes creating the energy park on land not far from the Pueblo Chemical Depot, which holds 2,600 tons of mustard agent awaiting destruction under an international treaty.

Banner gives his idea a 10 percent chance of happening. He has no partners or water rights lined up to get a $5 billion to $8 billion nuclear power plant built, saying
he doesn't want to waste time on that if the county blocks his idea.

If the project moves forward, he said, he has agreements from a Colorado family and the family of Mary Clark of Comanche, Texas, to buy their Pueblo County ranch land, where the longest shadows are cast by clouds and power lines.

Clark's son Frazier Clark lives about 50 miles from the Comanche Peak nuclear power plant in Texas and said he has watched it pump tax money into local schools and provide jobs for everyone from engineers to people with shovels.

He said the same could happen in Pueblo County.

"I know the deal in Japan has changed everyone's feelings and thoughts, and I don't blame them," Clark said. "I'm not going to be living close to it, so I hate to say anything much.

"It'd be a great economic boom for that area, but if people don't want it, we'll still be in the cattle business," Clark said.

The U.S. has 104 commercial reactors that supply about 20 percent of the nation's electricity. Residents who spoke at meetings on Banner's idea were split on whether Pueblo County should host one.

Tatiana Floka-Cosyleon lived in the former Soviet Union and considers herself lucky that she left Kiev, Ukraine, one month before the Chernobyl disaster.

Colorado School of Mines nuclear engineering student Aaron Ackerman, born and raised in Pueblo, said after the hearings that perhaps the disasters in Japan could prompt people to become more educated about nuclear power.

"People are afraid of what they don't know," said Ackerman, who will be a nuclear engineer on U.S. Navy submarines after graduation.

One of the most critical factors commissioners plan to consider when reviewing Banner's proposal is water, Chostner said.

Water will be critical for cooling reactors, but in Colorado, it's a limited resource guarded for farming, ranching, recreation, wildlife and drinking water. Banner hasn't signed any water agreements for an energy park yet.

Commissioners are scheduled to vote April 25 on the zoning change required for Banner's proposal.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Itzhak Perlman

Hard to believe, but we got a little note Saturday that there were actually a couple of seats still left to see Perlman play with the Colorado Symphony in April. People who bought tickets and can no longer attend for whatever reason are also starting to return them to the box office, so there's a chance you could pick up one of those too.

Drive-By Truckers

We're writing a group concert review this time.

The last time we saw DBT in Denver was a few years ago, but the memories still linger of a rollicking, good time that went on for hours while the band drank on stage.

This time, we went to the second of 2 nights that DBT was playing at the Ogden at the end of a bunch of tour dates before they head back to Georgia. They were mellower this time, but it's hard not to appreciate them because they won't quit and will always be interested in putting on a good show.

On Saturday, the Truckers kept things slow for about the first hour. The people in the back by the bar were singing along and dancing to the lovely "Everybody Needs Love" but we were itching to be at a rock show. So it was great when the band revved up for "Birthday Boy," "Drag the Lake Charlie" and "Get Downtown" before things slowed back down. (R. was at the show Friday night too and was surprised DBT didn't keep the tempo up.) But Saturday was more of a journey.

As expected, the encore kept going and going, but we figured DBT was fixin' to have us leave once they started playing "Angels and Fuselage."

If you missed it, someone put a vid up on YouTube: