The City on the Edge of the Catholic Church

As I prepare to move (into my first home, ours the morning of October 16th), I've been catching up on my reading (cuddling up with a magazine or book when most everything else, like games, is packed away) and movie watching (this fall started my "watch every Star Trek ever made" marathon, the sequel to my "watch every X-Files ever made" of a year back). Along the way, I've happenstanced on two things of interest.

Whilst I'm pretty sure I've seen every episode of Star Trek: The Original Series, it was many moons ago when I was a wee lad of less than 15, easily. And though I recall seeing "The City on the Edge of Forever" many times then, it was only after rewatching it now, with the seasoned interest of a Wizened Old Man With A Goal instead of merely Childlike Wonder And Love Of Sci-Fi, that I grasped the significance and importance of one conversation:

Edith Keeler (ED): Did you do something wrong? Are you afraid of something? Whatever it is, let me help. Kirk (K): "Let me help." A hundred years or so from now, a novelist will write a classic using that theme. He'll recommend those three words even over "I love you."

In giving that phrase, "Let me help", some thought, I think I definitely agree. Harlan Ellison wrote this episode, though he "was dismayed with the changes Gene Roddenberry and D.C. Fontana made to his story." More information about the episode is available over at Memory Alpha and Ellison eventually told his side of things, prefaced by "a delightful, 72-page, no-holds-barred rant", in Harlan Ellison's the City on the Edge of Forever: The Original Teleplay That Became the Classic Star Trek Episode, which I plan to pick up soon.

The other thing of interest showed up in Fortean Times #215, where Alan Donnelly responds to an earlier article regarding "flying saucers [as] demonic manifestations". He mentions A Case of Conscience by James Blish, where Blish had been "assured that the Catholic Church had worked out a position on 'the plurality of worlds' and any inhabitants" - i.e., that the Catholic Church had already devised a religious response should aliens, or other non-Earth life, actually exist. Blish's introduction quotes (as transcribed from Donnelly):

"...[E]ach of such planets (solar or non-solar) must fall into one of three categories: (a) inhabited by sentient creatures, but without souls; so to be treated with compassion but extra-evangelically. (b) Inhabited by sentient creatures with fallen souls, through an original but not inevitably ancestral sin; so to be evangelised with urgent missionary charity. (c) Inhabited by sentient soul-endowed creatures that have not fallen, who therefore (1) inhabit an unfallen, sinless paradisal world; (2) who therefore we must contact not to propagandize [sic] but in order that we may learn from them the conditions (about which we can only speculate) of creatures living in perpetual grace, endowed with all the virtues of perfection, and both immortal and in complete happiness for always possessed of and with the knowledge of God."

The House is Ours!

I can start packing - the house is ours!


Terminator CCG Set List

An unannounced but recent portion of, my Collectible Card Game trade lists, is something I've been meaning to do for a while and is a perfect mesh of my love for card games, collecting, and list creation. However, it does require a fair bit of time and effort and, often, unanswered questions. For example, take the Terminator CCG - it was published by the now defunct Precedence and never had any expansions. Due to its meagre popularity, there is very little information on the web. And therein lies the investigative problem: just how many cards does this set actually have?

  • Precedence closed up shop on April 12th, 2002. Thanks to, we can still access its site and the cached version of August 15th, 2001 suggests two particular answers: in it's Gallery, we would purportedly be able to see images of 353 cards in the base set, though it's Release Information would suggest a sum of 393. Neither of these numbers are entirely accurate: the Gallery lists 5 promo cards (which reduces that number to 348), and it is unclear whether double counting occurs in the Release Information - of the 68 unique cards that appear in the starters, upwards of 38 are also Common cards (potentially reducing that number to 355).
  • The Second Edition of the Scrye Collectible Card Game Checklist & Price Guide says 349 cards, but contains numerous card title errors and one particular card, "Extrapolate", that doesn't have a price. The only other mention of this card is Richard Weld's review site which quotes 351 cards, and who also contributed to the Second Edition in question. Richard's two additional cards (at least in relation to Scrye's 349) are "Remington Police Model 870 F" (a possible duplicate of the known "Remington 870 C") and "Skills Upgrade: Marksman" being counted twice, once as a Common card and once as a Fixed.
  • There are two other major players when it comes to online card lists: Jeff Allender's House of Checklists! and Mahasamtman's Trading Post. Jeff's House has 348 cards (which matches Scrye's and Weld's 348 with "Extrapolate" and other errors removed, and the old Precedence website without the 5 promo cards). The Trading Post also reduces down to 348 from 361 - 1 ($Cash$), - 5 (Promos) - 7 (Uncut sheets).
  • A fan-created data file for CardTable doesn't list "Extrapolate" (in either the data file or as a scanned image), nor does it show up in the data downloads for the more modern CCG Workshop. Actual counts here were considered irrelevant.

The ultimate decision comes down to this "Extrapolate" card:

  • No one but Richard Weld and Scrye report its existence.
  • Scrye's record for it shows no price data.
  • It's not listed on the Precedence site archives.
  • An active trading community hasn't reported the card.

I am going to mark the set at 348 with 5 promos. Scrye's published errors include:

  • Scrye: "Cover Charge"; Card: "Cover charge".
  • Scrye: "Caught Off Guard"; Card: "Caught Off-Guard".
  • Scrye: "Firebase Delta"; Card: "Firebase -Delta-".
  • Scrye: "Late Breaking Story"; Card: "Late-Breaking Story".
  • Scrye: All M## cards (save for M-16A1) are missing dashes.
  • Scrye: "MD301 Bio Spray"; Card: "MD301 Bio-Spray".
  • Scrye: "Obstruction"; Card: "Obstructions".
  • Scrye: "Uzi 9mm"; Card: "UZI 9mm".
  • Scrye: "Wetware Processing Facility"; Card: "WetWare Processing Facility".


Perplex City: Season 1, Cards #025 - #028

Continuing my Perplex City solutations. Spoilers!

  • #025 - Read Between The Lines: This was the first card I ever solved, having been in the booster included with Scrye #100. It seems so simple now when compared with the other pictograms (ideograms? netherregionograms?) that flummoxed me in #003 and #005. The hidden text here says "Blondie Album?" and a quick hop to any music site will show you they had an album entitled "Parallel Lines", the answer to this puzzle.
  • #026 - Paint Factory Explosion: Bah, this card is simple, but time-consuming: just follow the regular ol' ROYGBIV (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet, though there's no "indigo" here - the proper color pattern is also shown in the border of the header) and you'll find the shape, which looks vaguely like a gigantic piece of turd with no relation to anything I've ever seen in my life. That's another name for a half-eaten "apple", with the stereotypical stem and leaf.
  • #027 - Bar None: Nothing incredibly difficult: "vowels in syzygy" (which was also Perplex City's previous name) could be 0 or 3 depending on the "sometimes Y" rule (it was 0), "corners on a cube" is 8, and there are 7 "deadly sins". Initially, I thought "null in German" was similar to "no", which is "nein" (pronounced like "nine"), but I was just being too tricky (the right answer is 0). "Love in tennis" is a score of 0, there are 4 "strings on a violin" and 6 "degrees of separation", the "atomic number of lithium" is 3 along with 4 "horsemen of the apocalypse", 7 "colours of the rainbow" and, to my delight, a "quincunx" refers to the 5 dots on a die, though it originated as a Ancient Roman bronze coin. Violet's phone number is 08700 463475. Calling it (months ago -- it's apparently disconnected now) reveals a personal message from Violet: ("Hello and welcome to Violet's phone. Well, it's not really Violet's phone, did you really think that I'd let Kurt print my *REAL* number on the card? Anyway, if you're that creepy guy from the bar, you're out of luck. Anyone else who wants to contact me can do so at")
  • #028 - Laundered: Another easy one. The message left is annoyingly reversed and reads (punctuation added): "Hi, Garnet. I was in a rush and all the machines were busy so I borrowed yours. Hope you don't mind. Tips. PS Someone left a massage [sic] for you at the office. Think it was Kurt." Tippy, who goes by the nickname of "Tips", ruined Garnet's shirt. I used "Tips" to solve the puzzle on the Perplex City site - not sure if "Tippy" would be acceptable too.

Perplex City: Season 1, Cards #021 - #024

Continuing my Perplex City solutations. Spoilers!

  • #021 - Divide By Three: This only took me a few minutes of dri... thinking (ROFFLE. SEE WHAT I DID THERE? HOoOOoO BooYYY!) Each of the three persons gets 2 full glasses and Person A gets the extra remaining full glass. That leaves 7 half glasses. We'll give Person B two half-glasses (he now has 3 "full" glasses), and do the same for Person C, which leaves us with 3 half-glasses left. Each person receives one of those remaining half glasses. There are a number of other possibilities.
  • #022 - Cold Fission: The name of the poem is The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost. There's some heat-sensitive ink which reveals "The password is YIISTIA" (stick it under a lightbulb or near a candle, as the card picture itself hints at). According to Unfiction, "the password [grants] access to the Wave Three-only pre-order from Firebox on the April 06 release date" when used on Violet's Blog (whose favorite poem this is; the password is now unenterable). The card's title refers to Frost ("Cold") and Robert Oppenheimer ("the father of the atomic bomb" for "Fission").
  • #023 - Pack O' Stars: I listen to an awful lot of music, but I certainly don't pay much attention to anything besides the sound itself. Cards like this, and a number of others that seem musically based (like "identify these guitar frets", forthcoming), will always leave me flummoxed. My best guess without hinting about would be Elvis (the sneer and the "King" of the clue, although he also appears to be carrying a hamburger), Madonna (blonde hair, lipstick, and pointy 5318008) and, oh, I dunno, Boy George (only because it's a male on a Queen of Diamonds). I had thoughts of Iggy Pop too (for "Pop" of "Rock & Pop"), but he doesn't seem to fit on the Jack of Spades, which isn't a King or Queen. Needless to say, I rooted around for help: Elvis and Madonna were right, but the Jack is Michael Jackson (ah, yes, the sparkly glove - that's what that was!), and the Queen of Diamonds is Freddie Mercury, whom I can only just barely recall ever hearing his name.
  • #024 - Double Vision: After what I thought was a studious glance and a proclamation of "TRICKERY!", my first tongue-in-cheek guess was the two Os, the two Ts, and the fact that his signature is on the left hand side. That felt too riddle-y (riddlin'? ritalin!) though. Over the past 23 cards, I've slowly come to the conclusion that the way the solution form is displayed on the Perplex City website gives a grande hint as to exactly how the puzzle should be solved. For this card, first time evah, I scratched it before I knew the solution, ran to the site, and received five text fields with labels "Begins with A", "Begins with B" (twice), "Begins with R", and "Begins with T". It became pretty obvious after this: apple, bird, button (from her dress; though I originally inferred that the hidden part of the tree was a missing branch), ray (from the sun), and tile (from the roof).

I'm now at rank 7825 with 209 Perplex Points, having solved 26 cards.

Perplex City: Season 1, Cards #017 - #020

Continuing my Perplex City solutations. Spoilers!

  • #017 - Easy As...: You're kidding, right?
  • #018 - Natal Name: The mother of my child solved this one a lot faster than if I Googled for it. 1910 is D, 1930 is B, 1970 is A, and 1990 is C. If I had done the Googling, I'd probably have ended up at the Top 10 Baby Names by Decade which concisely reveals the solution. There's dozens of these lists floatin' around.
  • #019 - Magic Numbers: Oh lord - another memory from elementary school, where we'd revel in the magick of showing our mad calculator skills by making it talk to us. I remember 5318008 fondly. The answer is "hello" (0.7734 upside down). Elite.
  • #020 - Barbeque: After thinking on this for a while and noticing a growing interest in Perplex City on #swhack, I broached the topic to Sean B. Palmer who pointed out my mental hurdle. Draw a table with 3 rows and 2 columns. If numbers represent burgers and letters sides of those burgers, place 1A, 1B, 2A, 2B, 3A, and 3C in each table cell, making sure that no one burger appears twice in a single row. With that visual aid, it becomes quite easy to solve, and a number of possibilities exist. Going by the entry dropdowns on the solution page, I did: Start (A: Top, B: Top, C: Off), After 5 Minutes (A: Bottom, B: Off, C: Top), After 10 Minutes (A: Cooked, B: Bottom, C: Bottom), After 15 Minutes (A: Cooked, B: Cooked, C: Cooked).

Perplex City: Season 1, Cards #013 - #016

Continuing my Perplex City solutations. Spoilers!

  • #013 - Sphinx: I first heard this riddle in elementary school, probably spurred on by an early lust for devious questioning or the inevitable Greek courses taught as part of History. Even without prior knowledge of its origins (or its first solver Oedipus, who answered "Mankind!, The human crawls on all four when it is a baby and at its weakest, when one is an adult one walks on two and when mankind suffers old age, it walks on three - with the help of a cane." -- depending on your source, of course; Perplex City only accepts "man"), a quick hop to Wikipedia's Sphinx gives it away. The card's painting is "Oedipus and the Sphinx" by Jean-Auguste-Dominque Ingres.
  • #014 - Cracked Crackers: Some of these I didn't actually understand at first and had to poke around to determine their meaning (though some I still don't "get" - lemme know!) The correct matchups, helped along by process of elimination, are: "What do you get if you cross a river with a bike?" ("Wet feet"), "When do astronauts eat?" ("At launch time"), "What's ET short for?" ("Because he's only got little legs"), "How does Bob Marley like his doughnuts?" ("Wi' Jammin"), "What goes 'Splish Spolsh' and comes from cows?" ("The Isle of Wight Ferry"; I've read that Cowes is a port of the Isle of Wight), "What do you call a man who has lost his spade?" ("Douglas"), "What's purple and shouts 'Help'?" ("A damson in distress"; being a purple plum), "How do you spell 'hungry horse' with just four letters?" ("M.T.G.G."; GG or 'gigi' is slang for a horse?), "Which bird always succeeds?" ("A budgie with no teeth"; why no teeth?), and "What do you call a reindeer with no eyes?" ("No idea").
  • #015 - Milo: I started with no clue on this one. The three phrases certainly looked and sounded like a crossword puzzle (a 5 letter word for pinnacle being "crest", with enough Google results for "needle crest" to make me believe it was right), but the picture of the cat or the title of the card (Milo of The Adventures of Milo and Otis?; though he was a tabby not Himalayan) left me puzzled. After a few hours of fruitless searching and "not thinking about it", I devolved for a hint: this was a cryptic crossword, something that isn't entirely common in the United States. No wonder -- I was treating the clues too literally! "Cool, teach" is an anagram (or "mixed") of "chocolate", which is a candy. It's not "crest", but "point", also the first letters of each word in that clue. Finally, the answer to "he's a-restin' in the mountains" is "him-a-layin'", or Himalayan. Together, the puzzle's solution is Chocolate Point Himalayan, the breed of cat on the card, whose name is Milo. Milo is owned by Jason Berkovi, who was an answer on card #008.
  • #016 - XXX: This one took all of five seconds - to guarentee a win, Tippy would need to play her next X in either the bottom middle or bottom right squares.

Perplex City: Season 1, Cards #009 - #012

Continuing my Perplex City solutations. Spoilers!

  • #009 - Ishihara: Blatantly easy, much more so because you can find the answer (45) linked from the Wikipedia article that makes up the bulk of the card's text. Of more interest, however, is the hidden number within the text: the sentence "Others feature a circle..." appears to start with the number zero, not the letter O. I've not seen this reported elsewhere.
  • #010 - Spot Anything?: Wow, a pictogram (ideogram? neitherogram?) I actually see without handholding: it's a dalmatian ("dog" is also acceptable) with its hind toward us and its head sloping forward to the ground to sniff something. The name of the card has the obvious clue of "Spot", being a common (if not stereotypical) dog's name, and the drawing, Dog Picture, "illustrates the Gestalt principle of emergence" and was used in Salvador Dali's painting The Hallucinogenic Toreador.
  • #011 - Revelation: Another -gram thingy! Jesus! Yawn.
  • #012 - Alcopoetry: I don't drink beer (I'm a hoity-toity mixed drink drinker), but my initial suspicion was "Rolling Rock" (which is correct), because there aren't any other brand names that were jump on your face obvious (like "Bud" or "Michelob" or "Miller").

This batch of cards was incredibly easy. These first 12 cards, plus the two freebies available on their site (which I'll get to when they come up sequentially), have pushed me into the "less than 10,000 club": I'm now at rank 9759 with 89 Perplex Points, having solved 14 cards. Meagre excelsior.

Perplex City: Season 1, Cards #005 - #008

Continuing my Perplex City solutations. Spoilers!

  • #005 - Out on a Limb: Another pictogram, like #003, but one I couldn't even hazard an intelligent guess. ("The canceled HBO series DEADWOOD?" *splutch* /me respawns.) I seem to suck at pictograms (ideograms? neitherograms?) and my chief failing is I'm not looking hard enough: hidden within the branches of the trees (much like "Jules Verne" in #003) is the phrase "I speak for the trees" which is an (obvious) pointer to Dr. Seuss' The Lorax. I say again: bugger all.
  • #006 - Winning Lines: One of those cards in which babelfishing in the dark works wonders. 1 is Italian ("I would want to kiss to you!"), 2 is Spanish ("We are going to dance?"), 3 is Dutch ("I love my bike - do you love me?" according to some #drupal native speakers, though it appears the last word, "mir", should be "mij"), 4 is French ("One eats Chinese or at home?" Probably along the lines of eating out versus eating at home.), 5 is German ("You wake the tiger in me."). 6 is Swedish and the devs of #drupal say it is literally "what are you sweet", though probably intended as "my, you're cute/sweet!".
  • #007 - Aromarama: MMm, scratch and sniff. Coconut, mint, banana, and chocolate. The colors gave them away really. You can also use the Whipsmart Ice ("Expanding waistlines and IQs since 242") flavor names as well, which are Coconundrum, Benjamint Franklin, Monkey Puzzle, and Choca Bloch.
  • #008 - Mind Candy: The folks of Mind Candy are the brains behind Perplex City, and they rightfully want us to match up their artistic representations with their earthbound photos (Perplex City finds photography passé: "But, looking a bit closer, it seems like you're asking why we use drawings a lot, not photographs ... I asked my sister, and she showed me in some old books and papers that we used to use photos a lot more. So... I think it's a "cool" thing. Like, when photos were pretty new we seemed to use them a lot, and now that they've been around for a while, not so much. I mean, it's not like we need them for ID, and you can get a lot of live feeds with your key so... they're a bit irrelevant." -- The Scarlett Kite). You can find 'em over at their Meet The Team page (save for Sente, of course) though this puzzle is unsolvable without further research: some of the drawn employees no longer appear on the Mind Candy site (like Justin Berkovi). Thankfully, the order in which the names appear in the "tell us your answer" form is actually the solution: A is Dan Hon, B is Michael Smith, C is Adrian Hon, D is Hannah Boraster, E is Justin Berkovi, F is Andrea Phillips, G is Adam Martin, H is Mike Whitaker, I is Fiona Silk, J is Naomi Alderman (unpictured), K is Jack Dixon, L is David Varela, M is Paul McCormick, and N is Jey Biddulph.

Perplex City: Season 1, Cards #001 - #004

Due to a freebie insert in Scrye #100, I've fallen in love with Perplex City, a game I had heard about before (due to regular reading of ARG news sites), but never had time to self-examine until it was shoved in my face ("Ooh, puzzle cards. Wait, Perplex City is about puzzles? SwoOOoon!"). Always loving a good puzzle, I ran off to order a booster box of Perplex City cards (entirely optional of course, but PuzZlzllES!) and set about reading the backstory and solving the free demo cards available on their website. Below I present my solutions but, more importantly, the journey taken on the way. Why? Because I'm a collector and these cards, along with their solutions, are going in a specially marked binder along with all my other paper valuables. Yes, it's worse than you imagine. I'll be starting with card #001 and progressing ever upward -- cards get more difficult the greater the number. You can track my solving progress at

Some introductory notes:

  • Puzzle solving can, and sometimes must, be a team activity. I'd be lying if I said I solved these all by my lonesome, but I tend to be overtly honest and will quite proudly proclaim myself retarded (like, say, on card #003, the third easiest card in Season 1, quote unquote). There's nothing wrong with solving a puzzle with the help of others and, naturally, the folks behind Perplex City encourage this behavior. More players is never a bad thing and, generically, withholding information in ARGs is frowned upon, not rewarded.
  • Spoilers abound. I'll be linking to the Perplex City Card Catalog as a reference point for card images (which are deliberately low DPI per the game's TOS), but you should expect everything in this and future Perplex City entries to contain more than enough to ruin the ending of your most favorite, yet unseen, movie. One of these days I'll make one of those swanky spoiler mouseover hover thingies, but I'm a lazy git. LAZY GIT!

Onward. Per my link dumps and fascination with bullets, four at a time:

  • #001 - Dem Old Bones: Being the first card in the set, this is a simple dinosaur silhouette to dinosaur name process of elimination. 1 is a Tyrannosaurus Rex, 2 is a Triceratops, 3 is a Raptor, 4 is a Pteranodon (think "pterodactyl"), 5 is a Spinosaurus, and 6 is the Stegosaurus.
  • #002 - Designer Flakes: A variation of Dem Old Bones - instead of matching silhouettes to names, you're matching paper snowflakes to the folded and mutiliated paper that generated them. 1 is A, 2 is E, 3 is F, 4 is B, 5 is C, and 6 is D. Took me two tries on this card - I had flake 1 and 4 reversed, erroneously believing that pattern B was slightly bigger than pattern A, and therefore must be related to flake 1. The real truth lies in the patterns surrounding the claw in the center edge.
  • #003 - Earth, Sea and Moon: I asked a couple of people about this one, feeling it must be so blatantly obvious that I was just being retarded, it being the third card and all (to what travesties must be forthcoming if I can't solve #003!) I bounced around the idea of RED PLANET or JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH, but gave both up without trying due to their ill relation to the "Sea and Moon" of the card title. I second-guessed myself - the answer is, in fact, (spelling counts) JOURNEY TO THE CENTRE OF THE EARTH by Jules Verne. Apparently, the raised grooves of the circles spell out "Jules Verne" - after about five minutes of anguished believing, I saw the letters too. Now that I look a second time, the letters seem painfully obvious. Bugger all.
  • #004 - Zoo Zanyism: oOOh, pixel city animal hunt! WheeE! I see a lion (#1), a polar bear (#2), a giraffe (#3), a zebra (#4), an elephant (#5), a snake wrapped around a pole (#6), and zomg, a monkey! (#7) A monkey in a tree! (#7!)


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