Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Guess What Is in the Boxes Contest

1) The word “boxes” is plural because the contest will be held more than one time. There will be a single box with something in it for each round of play.

2) I will post a photograph of the box here at the blog. There will be a description also – dimensions of the box and the approximate weight. My husband will pick up the box and shake it slightly, also tilt it in different directions, and I will post what he says about the heft of the box.

3) It will not just be an empty box. This is not a thought experiment. Something will be in there that I have acquired and packed up in there. If you win, and your mailing address is in the continental United States, I will mail the box and what is in it to you as your prize. If you win and your mailing address is outside the continental United States, I will mail you a personalized certificate of achievement.

4) When the photo and description are posted, I will also post a deadline for entries. Entries must be submitted via Twitter with the hashtag #gwiitb. I will not consider entries timestamped prior to my announcement on Twitter that the picture is posted, nor will I consider entries timestamped after the deadline. Entries should not be addressed to @JSvanBuskirk as replies – I will consider entries with the hashtag only. CHANGE EFFECTIVE AS OF ROUND 3: I will be pretty slack about this. If I come across your guess somehow, I will consider it. Also, guess as many times as you like up to the close of guessing. I will pick which one I like best for the final judging.

5) There is no business proposition involved here, and I am in it for the fun of picking out prizes and deciding who wins. I plan to stick to the start/stop times, and I will not play favorites with people I know. If they have the best entry, they will win – if not, not. My husband is not eligible to win, nor are my landladies, nor are members of my immediate family. It helps that none of the aforementioned people are on Twitter and all seem to wish I would be quiet about it.

6) A cat that is neither alive nor dead will never be what is in the box. I love cats, and I do not have access to the doohicky that would release the poison. Also, see #3, above: it wouldn’t work anyway. I will open the box and post a photo of what was in it before mailing the prize or the certificate to the winner. If you open the box in the alive/dead cat scenario, it collapses the probability wave-front and ruins the whole thing. That should be obvious.

7) There will be a winner. I will select the winning guess based on my sole opinion and fancy, with no appeals or negotiations. The winning guess will be the one that I consider comes closest to capturing the essence of what is in the box. If there is a tie, I will determine who gets the prize based on various factors, including but not limited to mailing address location, elegance of Tweet, prior wins, or some other factor that may become apparent at the time. The other tied entrant(s) will get personalized certificates of achievement.

8) It seems appropriate that I should give prospective entrants some idea of the history of this contest. I remember particularly these outstanding guesses from my INFO DEMO days:
Inside the box was a peculiar vase in the shape of two green and yellow polka-dot gardening boots, and the toes of the boots had googley-eyes glued on to them. The winning guess: “Biodome.”
Inside the box was a child’s party set with matching plates, napkins, little hats, streamers, and sparkly-fringed noise-makers. The winning guess: “Something that means one thing to children, another thing to adults, and yet another thing to cats.”
Inside the box was a miniature plastic bust of James Madison. The winning guess: “A shrunken head.”

Other past prizes (I can’t remember the winning guesses) have included a bamboo vegetable steamer, a large glass heart-shaped paperweight, a beer-stein decorated with maritime imperialist designs, a cheese-grater. Sometimes there have been themed collections: the latch-key child’s lonely afternoon prize-pack (two Matchbox cars, a pack of ramen, and a dying houseplant), the prize-pack of what was found in the motel room after that one guy disappeared on Senior Trip (a promotional plastic beer mug and a baseball cap), the Tiki princeling dinner set (a Tiki-torch candelabra, a fake flower lei + matching fake flower wrist bands, plastic Tiki goblet).

Prospective entrants should be aware that I am not interested in precise and literal guesses. I once refused to award a small storm lantern to the person who guessed “light bulb.” This contest is silly in many ways but serious in others. Light bulbs are about light. Storm lanterns are about light, but also about the danger of being in storms, being in primitive conditions, and dying by fire when the lantern is knocked over. The winning guess came closer to capturing that sense of threat.

9) Thank you for reading this far! I hope to have the first box packed, pictured, and posted tomorrow (Monday February 16) in the afternoon sometime, and we will get this show on the road! These rules are as complete as I can make them, but we should all anticipate that I will be more or less making some things up as things proceed.

Best regards,


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