Sunday, April 26, 2009

#gwiitb Round 11 !

Here it is - the box with something in it for Round 11 of The Guess What Is in the Boxes Contest. The dimensions are 5.5" x 6.5" x 1.5" and the weight is about 9 oz. A pretty thorough shaking results in the sound of soft packing material moving back and forth. The weight is at the center and feels both dense and evenly distributed.

Guessing will be open as soon as I make a #gwiitb announcement on Twitter, and will continue until I make a #gwiitb closing announcement. All guesses should be tagged #gwiitb, and do not need to be addressed to @JSvanBuskirk, although they may. New players seeking guidance can check out the original rules post and the previous rounds. You may guess as often as you like.

The projected deadline for this round is Tuesday, April 28, 2009, at 8pm EDT.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Winners Round 10 !! Certificate Winners

There are Three Certificate of Achievement Categories, listed in no particular order. Other than the winning entry, the guesses are listed within each category as they were received. In addition to the Certificate winning guesses, @icecolbeveridge gets a Certificate for entering the First Guess this round. Thank you all!

Cerificate: Best Guess Involving Clothing or Accessories

: Alternately, it could be a Chewbacca mask. Though I don't know why you would want to give that away. I mean come on!
- WINNER: I freely admit that were I to come into possession of a Chewbacca mask I would be unlikely to part with it. This guess takes this category because there's an element of the item in the box that requires putting something on your face and seeing things differently. As we all know, one becomes the mask one shows to the world, and wearing a Chewbacca mask would inevitably result in seeing the Universe in a more Wookiee-like way.

@icecolbeveridge: It's a big girl's blouse (or collection of).
- FIRST GUESS. And If I am correct in understanding that “big girl’s blouse” is a mildly teasing term for something along the lines of “lightweight” or “coward,” I cannot make an argument for this guess having any connection to the item in the box. The item in the box has a connection to youthful humans who might engage in mutual taunting along those lines, but that is not enough. If the guess was in fact intended to be a blouse belonging to a large-ish young woman, the item in the box is oversized, but in a complimentary way, not as an implied assertion of excess.

@snoozingdog: A yellowed, tatted-edged linen handkerchief, weighted with the hope & despair of a woman who waved it to her dog as he sailed to sea.
- A poignant guess. The item in the box is something for home, for passing one’s free summer days in the neighborhood, near the house, and – most importantly – near the dog. Do not despair!

@icecolbeveridge: A nice fluffy towel wrapped around a grooming kit.
- The item in the box is a kit of sorts, but not a grooming kit. A towel might be needed at some point after interacting with the item in the box (I am only speculating here) but I cannot draw a solid line from this guess to the item in the box.

@BrianPike: A teeny-tiny canary feather, dyed green. The weight is due to needlessly voluminous & heavy packaging materials.
- I have questioned myself repeatedly over the correct categorization of this guess, but (as you see) finally settled on “clothing or accessories.” What teeny-tiny dyed canary feathers really make me think of are the feathered earrings that were popular for a while when I was a teenager. There is some artificial coloring associated with the item in the box, but not enough.

@hippophagy: It's something to remind me of highschool on Long Island in the 80s
- It is partly because of @BrianPike’s guess reminding me of feathered earrings that I ended up categorizing this guess as pertaining to “clothing or accessories.” Much of what I think of as highschool in the 80s is clothing and accessories. There are other things, but self-presentation seemed awfully important at the time. While the item in the box is for youthful humans, it is aimed at kids, and there is no particular historical decade I would associate it with.

Certificate: Best Guess Involving Art or Craft

@jonathaneunice: Something to which a craftsman of olden times (e.g. a cartwright, cobbler, cooper, farrier, or sauntere) could relate.
- WINNER: I had to look it up: a sauntere is a salt-maker. It was fun to have to look something up. The item in the box is predominantly composed of a substance known to and used by humans well into the distant past. Craftsmen, scholars, and farmers of olden times would all certainly be able to relate to it. The other qualities of the item in the box beyond its substance are not addressed by this guess, which therefore takes the certificate in this category.

@AndrewLoeb: A beautiful reliquary containing a bit of hair from The King, Elvis Presley. (Not that he's dead, he just went home.)
- The strength of this guess is mainly in its mentions of “reliquary” and Elvis. However, my enjoyment of those things is not sufficient to judge it winner in this category against the strength of the winning guess. @AndrewLoeb and I had an exchange on Twitter acknowledging the movie references, but again, with a strong winning guess, that was not enough.

@atomicfez: The complete recordings of SIMON & GARFUNKLE on LP, possibly including the Central Park Concert and the soundtrack to THE GRADUATE
- I have a complicated train of thought regarding childhood on the streets of New York City (as presented in songs and movies) as forming some kind of connection between the item in the box and the oeuvre of Simon & Garfunkle, but it is really far too tenuous.

@MariAdkins: @atomicfez oh man! i [heart] simon and garfunkle!
- This was an unintended guess, but @MariAdkins agreed to let it stand. On reflection, I can’t find any stronger argument for this guess than I could for @atomicfez’s original guess to which she was responding.

@fleur325: A boxed set of paperback books featuring classic children/young adult stories by Judy Blume.
- The item in the box is for children, which makes this a strong contender in this category, but the demographics alone cannot supplant the winning guess in this category, which most accurately gets at the substance of the item in the box.

@BrianPike: A river-worn sandstone pebble with the neatly painted legend: 'Property of Sonoma County Sheriff's Department'.
- Another strong contender. A sandstone pebble with the suggestion of artistry connected to it gets at much of the essential nature of the item in the box. However, the inclusion of law enforcement in the guess counteracts, as the item in the box is intended for free expression in public areas, and could thus come into conflict with ordered society.

@AndrewLoeb: A lucite bust of President Woodrow Wilson. Overhandling leaves one dripping with thoughts of idealism and American exceptionalism.
- The item in the box has artistry in potential only, not already accomplished. The results it seems to promise, however, might be a uniquely American childhood pleasure, to be treasured.

@jnobianchi: I'm guessing its a receptacle, perhaps a chalice that carries our future hopes within it, or maybe just a coffee mug.
- The item in the box is not a physical receptacle of any kind. Symbolically, as something for children to use to express themselves, there is an argument for it being something that carries hopes for the future (not quite the same thing as “future hopes”). A strong guess, but the item in the box is more of a key than a chalice, in symbolic terms.

@suelyn: A bowl with sayings on it popcorn, peanuts or maybe fear, surprise, ruthless efficiency & an almost fanatical devotion to the pope.
- An intriguing guess. The different options listed as to what might be the sayings on the bowl astound me in their diversity. The item in the box is not a bowl, except symbolically as discussed above, and none of the options for labeling the bowl can draw a closer connection.

@myracles: Something that I can place cheese on, but that shouldn't have cheese placed on it.
- Well, I admit that you could place cheese on the item in the box. Without knowledge of specific circumstances, I would stop short of saying absolutely that it shouldn’t have cheese placed on it. Cheese is to do with cooking and eating, the item in the box is not to do with cooking and eating, so it is a situation of non-connection rather than of advised-against-connection.

@TheStepster: A purdy ornament representing something from its country.
- While there might be something uniquely American in the item in the Box, as discussed above, it is not an ornament. It is neither pretty nor ugly, being itself something in potential for the use of making visual things.

@carterbob2: it has strong metallic surfaces, that look like they could be used for cooking, but this would be a fatal mistake.
- Strong surfaces aside, there is not much connection between this guess and the item in the box. As in @myracles guess above, I believe that involving the item in the box with cooking would probably be inadvisable, but (more likely) would never occur to anyone.

@snoozingdog: zzz k-9 3rd guess -- a dog watch for a watch dog.
- I find this guess so charming, it is a shame there is no argument I can think of, however tenuous, to draw it closer to the item in the box.

Certificate: Best Guess Evoking Memorable Human Accomplishments

@AndrewLoeb: The difficult, yet nonetheless undying, blind gratitude for this and every single day. Big day, people! Big day today!
- WINNER: An example of a guess being the winner mainly because I say it is. As is my custom, I pored over all the guesses and made mental arguments for each as to how it could win the Grand Prize. Those with the best claims for the Grand Prize were set aside and then I slowly determined how the remaining guesses fell into clusters of general concepts/categories. It pleases and surprises me every round, how so many different people end up guessing into these clusters. So, given that there is a category for guesses evoking memorable human accomplishments, I hereby recognize what I consider the greatest accomplishment of all for any human.

@icecolbeveridge: It's the Olympic flame
- The Olympic flame and the Olympic games it represents are themselves tremendously memorable human accomplishments. Beyond that, however, I can find no connection between this guess and the item in the box except the speculative assumption that the item in the box could conceiveably be used by onlookers waiting for the Olympic flame to come by.

@BrianPike: A mid C19th Bavarian cast-iron 'Schwerthaler', the 2nd heaviest coin (1.2kg) ever minted. Badly rusted.
- I accept @BrianPike’s assertion that the ‘Schwerthaler’ exists and is the 2nd heaviest coin ever minted, and if he knows that, I consider its having been minted a memorable human accomplishment. It would probably weigh less by now if it were allowed to become badly rusted.

@AndrewLoeb: 61 more participants for the camp I serve at each summer to bring us up to the magic number? No? I mean, that'd be awesome.
- This guess pertains more to “would be” a memorable human accomplishment, and I can only wish @AndrewLoeb the best of luck in this venture. There is a connection between youth and summer and the item in the box, but not enough to really nail it down.

@KT30003k: It is the third-best kitten toy ever!! (FYI, best: another kitten; second-best: live prey)
- I would sincerely applaud the creation of a third-best kitten toy ever, given the potential draw-backs of the first- and second-bests listed. Unfortunately for kittens, there is nothing at all kitten-fun about the item in the box.

@BrooklynBridge_: The Brooklyn Bridge in miniature, giving all who come to see it unobstructed views of it from the street, and keeping history alive.
- I recognize that the Brooklyn Bridge, along with any product that magnifies its status as a memorable human accomplishment, is a wonderful thing. Unfortunately, a combination of the item in the box in the hands of youthful humans and the Brooklyn Bridge itself would probably be a very bad thing.

@KT30003k: 2nd guess! PR types lobby to get this kind of product on a space shuttle flight, ostensibly for "research" purposes.
- Like the Olympic Games, Space Shuttle Flights are inherently memorable human accomplishments. I am tickled to imagine what proposed “research” would be undertaken with the item in the box, because it seems unlikely there ever would be any.

@d_g_: The fossilized remains of a conversation with a loved one.
- This guess was difficult to categorize. I concluded that 1) the substance of the item in the box was a geological substance, and 2) having a firm and tangible remnant of conversation with a (presumably lost) loved one was a memorable accomplishment.

@snoozingdog: zzz k-9 2nd guess--A well-aged chew-toy that has my name on it engraved by a prescient human in years gone by.
- Similar to @KT30003k’s guess about the third best kitten toy, I would applaud such historical significance and personalization in a chew-toy. It would be a memorable human accomplishment and a good chew-toy for a dog to have.

Winner! Round 10 - Grand Prize and Short List

Revealed: The Grand Prize for Round 10 is “3D GIANT CHALK.” While I usually avoid having overtly branded items as prizes, the purported 3D properties of this chalk intrigued me sufficiently to pack it up in a box and post it on the internet. Almost as good as the 3D-ness (as shown in the artist’s conception) is the exhortation on the package to “WASHABLE ... CREATE OUTDOORS.” If the winner does not have any outdoors and wants the option to create and wash away some outdoors as whimsy prompts, perhaps this GIANT CHALK will do the trick. The GIANT CHALK comes with goggles that (I assume) cause what is drawn with the chalk to spring into 3D-ness.

@d_g_: A raw idea captured in its crystallized form.
- WINNER: I did some research, and although I was not able to satisfy myself that chalk has crystallized form in the geological sense (it is a porous sedimentary rock), it is a hard rocky form and, in the case of 3D GIANT CHALK that comes with 3D goggles it is seriously a raw idea crystalized in material and tangible form.

@pigstubs: A very large thinking cap to help me write my dissertation proposal! (focus. FOCUS!)
- The key concept that puts this guess on the Grand Prize Short List is “FOCUS!” I rather think this 3D GIANT CHALK would be more of a distraction than a help, as much as it puts one in mind of focusing on things.

@testfirst: Given that it's 4/20 today my guess is ... er, I forget. What were we talking about again?
- I was tempted by this guess because it is funny and because 3D GIANT CHALK, even just the drawing on the package, that would be great to have around to mess with stoned people.

@robinmatthewfry: Something you can see into but not out of
- This guess is very close, and was a strong contender. 3D things generally could possibly be described as things one can see “into.” However, the GIANT CHALK is for making drawings that are themselves 3D and is itself quite opaque.

@carterbob2: its curved stony surface evokes images of druids among massive monoliths. oh yeah, and they’re probably nude.
- I suppose that the GIANT CHALK, scaled up, would be a bit like monoliths (except for the roundness, pointiness, and bright colors), but that is about as far as I can follow you down that trail of thought, @carterbob2.

@LidMo: Scenic Snowglobe
- I had initial difficulty placing this guess. The arguments involve the entrancing of children by illusion. In a snowglobe, the illusion comes from miniaturization, water, and fake snow. I am not sure how the GIANT CHALK manages its illusion of 3 dimensions, and I have not personally tried it out.

@myracles: Something I'd give to a child so that it stops crying and gets distracted enough for me to steal the last cookie
-This guess could have been a strong contender if it were clear the crying child were old enough to understand 3D, hold the chalk, and draw something for themselves.

@ContemptSlots: When faced with intense stress, it always has capable hands, and a full-circle view of things.
- I was a bit stumped at the categorization of this guess, but I eventually decided that it is possible possession of this 3D GIANT CHALK could help give someone the impressive qualities listed in the guess. Possible, but not certain.

@ContemptSlots: A catalyst of spirituality.
- Like many items intended to spur creativity, this 3D GIANT CHALK also includes goggles to change vision. In sum, creativity plus vision could together be a catalyst of spirituality. As with the previous guess from @ContemptSlots, however, possibility is not certain enough to take the prize.

Monday, April 20, 2009

#gwiitb Round 10 !

Can't hardly believe it - this is the 10th Round of The Guess What Is in the Boxes Contest! The box this round, as you can probably deduce from the photo, came into my possession containing a set of glassware from Crate & Barrel. All of the glasses are now washed and on the shelf. Now the Grand Prize is packed in the box and it is up to you to guess what it is. The "Crate & Barrel" lettering is scratched out with a marker because the USPS requires markings on boxes to be scratched out.

Here are the relevant data: 13" x 13" x 7.5", 2.5 to 3 lbs. Yet again, I have no one on hand to shake the box and describe the heft. My best effort is as follows: something smaller than the box is well packed in the center and does not move much even with strong shaking. There is no noise when the box is shaken.

The deadline for guessing is 10 pm, EDT, tomorrow, Tuesday April 20, 2009. I am sorry to give such a small window for guessing, but I forgot to do it last night, and I have a bit of a busy day Wednesday.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Winners Round 9 !! Certificate Winners

There are three Certificate Winner categories this round, posted here in no particular order. The Certificate of Achievement winner is listed first in each category, and the other guesses in each category are listed in the order of entry. I didn't think there would be a full assortment of guesses this week, but the #gwiitb folks came through with a total of 31 guesses. Thank you!!


@KT30003k: 2nd guess! Brass knuckles for hipsters.
- WINNER - Although I can’t decide whether this guess is actually “brass knuckles for hipsters to employ punching others” or “brass knuckles to employ punching hipsters,” I expect there would be a certain amount of popular sentiment in favor of the latter. These days it seems the 30-somethings are torn between hating Boomers and hating hipsters. Regardless, this guess wins in the “Danger or Discomfort” category because there is danger in it for somebody and it made me laugh.

@ContemptSlots: It is something which will no doubt remind me of my childhood, as uncomfortable as that could potentially be.
- FIRST GUESS – Without specific knowledge of @ContemptSlots’s childhood, I am unable to speculate as to whether the item in the box will even remotely remind him of his childhood. If it does, I can only hope it will not be dangerous or cause terrible discomfort.

@odat: A running shoe belonging to a deceased Russian oligarch.
- The item in the box is nothing to do with shoes, running, Russia, or oligarchs, perhaps fortunately for all of us. I thought about this guess, and considered what train of events would result in my possession of a running shoe belonging to a deceased Russian oligarch. It would probably include some uncomfortable things happening to the oligarch and probably some danger to myself.

@BrianPike: A lead condom. [Attempt at product diversification by the ailing Colorado Lead Balloon Company.]
- This guess combines both danger and, I would have to assume, discomfort. While there is some metal integral to the item in the box, an enclosure of some sort, and a kind of protective quality, this guess is just too dangerous!

@jonathaneunice: It reminds me how difficult, complex & painful things can be, even when they should be simple and straightforward. And vice versa.
- It is probably useful and good to be reminded of these things, but it is often a discomfort. The item in the box is fairly simple and straightforward, and although I can imagine a complicated background story for it that could make this guess applicable, there is not enough of a connection.

@jonathaneunice: It's something that expands, pressing out, stretching--out, out, always out.
- This guess was difficult to categorize. In a sense, the item in the box contains and opens, but it is docile and homely and inanimate. It does not press or obtrude. If it did, that would be a discomfort and possibly even dangerous.

@jonathaneunice: It wraps, traps, and envelops. Like rope, string, or a net.
- As described above, there is an aspect of the item in the box that contains, but not like a rope, string, or a net. There is an aura of faint menace in this guess that convinces me a hypothetical grand prize it would apply to would be something dangerous.

@carterbob2: Although its reddish hues and pale blues are NOT due to an inherent radioactive decay, it does contain a heat source (or not).
- It is probably lazy of me, but I see the words “radioactive decay” and think “danger” even when the word “not” is in the same sentence in big capital letters. I believe that there are reddish hues and pale blues involved with the item in the box that are quite certainly unrelated to radioactive decay. There is no question of a heat source. A heat source’s presence or non-presence simply does not come into it.

@carterbob2: It has many pointy-things making it uncomfortable to hold, painful to bite, but soothing to look at.
- The item in the box is nice to look at in a number of ways, but it has only one or two very small pointy things. It is smooth and easy to hold and would be simply uninteresting to bite, not painful.

@d_g_: A seemingly limitless supply of limitations.
- This is a melancholy guess, definitely on the “discomfort” end of the “Danger or Discomfort” spectrum. The item in the box is connected to activities generally considered broadening, which are available only to people with sufficient resources to overcome geographical limitations.

@d_g_: One (1) gently used set of limited edition McDonald's Happy Meal toys
- This guess was also difficult to categorize, but after reflection I concluded that I would not want anything to do with a used set of McDonald’s Happy Meal toys, no matter how gently used it was. I would not put those toys in the hands of a child whose health was in my keeping. I note that the item in the box is also a gently used set, but of an entirely different sort.


@AndrewGent: Guess: T-shirt with a picture of a famous writer on it, wrapped around one of his/her books.
- WINNER - This guess is in this category because books are a form of communication. It is the winning guess because it has one thing enclosing something else, mentions the word “picture” and suggests some form of promotion or memorializing.

@icecolbeveridge: It's a first-edition copy of a censored Victorian novel.
- Again, a book is certainly a form of communication, and there is a connection between England and the item in the box. There is also the sense of something collectible, but the connections between this guess and what is in the box do not go farther than that.

@boyntonator: fictionary, a mighty leather-bound tome of all the lies told by obscure icelandic novelist and whale connoisseur, svein hreinsson.
- So many book-related guesses this round! What is in the box is a container of a sort that has representations of things, but as far as I can determine they are all actual things that really exist. Furthermore, they are not Icelandic or suggestive of whales.

@atomicfez: It's 3 reels of reel-2-reel audio tape with the lost sessions of the pick-up band "We're Not Who You Think": JFK, Elvis, Hoffa, Jimi
- I enjoy this guess, although I am surprised at the inclusion of Jimi Hendrix. Perhaps that is the “We’re Not Who You Think” part. There is nothing sound- or band- related about the item in the box. I can’t imagine any U.S. President, famous musicians, or labor organizers are likely to have ever come near it.

@felicitous: A tome of last sentences so long they could never be tweeted for worst-ever novels, Bulwer-Lytton Contest style.
- It is exciting to see the word “tome” appear twice in one round, and I am sorry that tomes are generally heavier than I would prefer to have to send in the mail as a prize. The item in the box is not anything bad, let alone “worst-ever.” The worst I could imagine anyone saying about it is “dated” or “cheesy” and I think both of those are unlikely.

@The_No_Show: Every #gwiitb guess ever made, cast as a nice diorama. In plastic.
- It actually blows my mind to imagine such a diorama. It would have to be huge! And so delicate and subtle to convey all the nuances. Awesome. I would keep that and never give it away. Perhaps I would post pictures. The concept of “images” is the only solid connection between this guess and the item in the box, however, as much as I love the idea.


@felicitous: What I truly, madly, deeply want for my birthday. It will make many smile, my husband may laugh; I will beam with joy!
- WINNER - This guess is the winner both because it is the most fourth-wall-breaking of the Fourth Wall Breaker guesses and because I can imagine getting a big holiday trip as a birthday present, and ending up owning an item like the one in the box.

@epicdeer: I assume it's a birdhouse because that's what everyone's been talking about today.
- No, @epicdeer, it is not a birdhouse. I say nothing about the habit of making assumptions, but if people were talking about birdhouses the day you made the guess, there is no obvious causal connection to what I put in the box a day or so before that, hmm?

@TheStepster: Has my approval and/or gives me satisfaction.
- The item in the box might very well have these qualities, but it is pure speculation for me on this end, and far too difficult to say.

@myracles: Something to play with while you're in the bathroom
- That is not the intended purpose of this item. One is free to do as one pleases, but I think it would not be the best idea. The item in the box could get ruined if it were to get quite soaked.

@vmason: Something rich, to make up for what we lost on tax day. (Play) money, perhaps.
- The return on investment represented by the item in the box is of the intangible kind. Further, it is a useful item, not for play or symbolic representation.

@hippophagy: it's a blue pillow for bathtime. you connect it to the side of the tub to rest your head on. and right now i want to be in that tub
- I hope you got to take a nice bath. As mentioned above, this item could be ruined by soaking and it would make a terrible pillow. There is some blue in it, and a bit of padding or squishy cloth, but that is as far as it goes.

Thank you all of you for all of the excellent guesses! The Grand Prize is revealed just below -

Winner! Round 9 - Grand Prize and Short List

Revealed !! The item in the box for Round 9 is


The case is very pretty, with a cloth covering over the wooden box. The cloth is padded and has gold and silver threads in a diamond pattern. There is a gold-toned metal latch on the front of the case. There are four souvenir coasters inside, each with an image of a famous Scottish site on it. Stamped on the felt backing of each coaster it says WIN-EL-WARE MADE IN ENGLAND and (I have assumed) the name of the place pictured on the front. I checked with Wikipedia for more information about the places pictured. I hope that both the place names stamped on the backs of the coasters and the information I found are reasonably accurate.

The Scottish scenes pictured are: 1: (visible in the picture) Eilean Donan Castle; 2: Blaven and the Cuillens [sic], Isle of Skye; 3: St. Fillans, Loch Earn, Perthshire; 4: River Dee, Aberdeenshire. Eilean Donan Castle has its own website. Blaven is a mountain and the Black Cuillen a range of mountains on the Isle of Skye. St. Fillans is a village on Loch Earn (apparently there are fairies nearby). The River Dee in Aberdeenshire, one of several rivers Dee, flows from mountains in the eastern Highlands of Scotland toward Aberdeen.

Yet again, and probably especially appropriate this round, the Grand Prize First Place guess is from an entrant in the U.K. without a mailing address in the continental United States, and who will therefor receive a suitable certificate proclaiming him the GRAND PRIZE FIRST PLACE HONOREE. I examined the remaining short-listed guesses for a runner up, and the First Place runner up does appear to live in the U.S. and will receive the actual Grand Prize.

@robinmatthewfry: A canister of earth from Omaha Beach, as collected by Tom Sizemore in Saving Private Ryan
- FIRST PLACE Grand Prize Honoree. This set of souvenir coasters presumably came “pre-collected” for the discerning tourist, but it is nontheless essentially a memorial bit of Scottish earth symbolic of the conquest of yet one more foreign shore by someone very far from home.

@cawcaw: A pair of bookends made of glass bricks with a Scottie dog etched into them.
- FIRST RUNNER UP, Grand Prize. As in the past couple rounds, here is an excellent runner up guesser who lives in the continental United States. I was actually dumbfounded that any guess mentioned specifically anything remotely Scottish, particularly something both decorative and useful for the home. This guess did not take first place because of the compelling symbolic resonance of the First Place guess.

Grand Prize Short List, In Order of Entry:

@AndrewLoeb: A box of matzah. Pretty much everything in my world right now is matzah. Bland, tasteless, and completely lacking in fiber. Matzah.
- A stack of square, cardboard-ish coasters is kind of like a stack of rectangular matzah. There is the additional connection of things existing for the memory of other things, although the memorial aspect of matzah is more important and symbolic than pictures of famous Scottish tourist sites.

@odat: A memento of the sea.
- This guess is on the short list for a simple reason. Memento = souvenir. Sometimes it is just as simple as that. There is some water in the pictures, a couple of lochs and a river, and the Isle of Skye is, of course, out in the ocean, but the power and specificity of the winning guesses edge this one out.

@suelyn:It is a heart shaped box filled with desire or perhaps just dark chocolate with cream centers.
- As I am sure many will notice, this round has a lot of guesses that come pretty close to being both metaphorically connected and literally connected to the Grand Prize. This guess is a guess about a box with things in it, and the Ornamental Case of Souvenir Coasters of Scotland is a box with things in it.

@snoozingdog: A brick of loose stale tea suited for tax tea parties in past 8 years; good for brewing at home today while sitting today's one out.
- Another simple connection. I, foolish American, rather loosely associate Great Britain with the consumption of huge quantities of tea. Furthermore, the whole tea party concept is connected with the separation of America from Great Britain. Now Americans who go there are tourists. And, one might need a coaster to put under a teapot.

@TheStepster: Made in China.
- This connection is a bit convoluted. Many of the Grand Prizes so far were made in China. It states quite emphatically on each of the four coasters in the set that it was Made in England. So, the reasoning is this: items made in China that say “Made in China” in roman script in English are items made in China to be sent somewhere else and to be used for purposes wholly unrelated to China. These are coasters made in England to be sent to Scotland for tourists there to remember Scotland, which (some would say) is not necessarily related to remembering England.

@KT30003k: Item is sold in multiples only. One *could* sell individual units, but it never happens, at least in the First World.
- Like @suelyn’s guess above, this comes close to being a fairly literal description that could apply to the Ornamental Case of Souvenir Coasters of Scotland. I am sure there are coasters sold individually somewhere, even in the First World, but it seems unlikely. One never buys a single coaster hoping one will only ever be drinking cold beverages alone.

Monday, April 13, 2009

#gwiitb Round 9 !

Here is the box for Round 9 of The Guess What Is in the Boxes Contest. Its dimensions are 6.5" x 8.5" x 4.5" and its weight is 1lb., 5oz. I do not have a third party handy to describe the heft, unfortunately. My best attempt at a disinterested description is that the item feels dense and well packed, almost no shifting, with the weight evenly distributed.

I apologize for the delay in getting this round up on the blog. The deadline for guessing will not be until 4pm E.D.T. on Wednesday, April 15 (yes, tax day).

Please review previous posts for rules and guidelines, and happy guessing!!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Winners Round 8 !! Certificate Winners

Just two categories this round.

Excellently Specific Guesses:

WINNER: @atomicfez: REAL GUESS FOR #gwiitb IS AS FOLLOWS: hand-crafted Parchesi set, which reverses into map of NY subway for travelers.
- This guess is the winner because it is so very excellently specific , mentions play and travelling, and, if accurate, would be a wondrous thing to be able to award to someone.

@atomicfez: The box has a gift certificate for "all the Shakey's Pizza you can eat; but only if you were born on April 8, 1966", & that's me!!!!
- This guess has sentimental appeal, given that @atomicfez and I share a birthday. However, this could only be a strong contender argument is if Shakey is a kooky-looking person in a bow-tie, and that is not indicated.

@BrianPike: A small, polite roar of indignation.
- This is an excellently specific guess, even featuring two adjectives. However, with regard to this prize, no indignation is appropriate.

@Spam_Bot: *SpamBot AutoGuess* -- A [12cm] [embossed] [foam] [mouse] [rack]. (Guess no. 1/128,000)
- This guess is very specific, and was (thankfully) not followed by 127,999 more guesses. Unfortunately, it is also incorrect. Almost completely incorrect. The item in the box is not related to mice at all.

@AndrewLoeb: A baseball glove and several dirty baseballs from a scene of the 1993 blockbuster classic, The Sandlot.
- This guess is wonderfully specific and was only barely edged out by the winner in this category. There is also the obvious concern that these items could not fit into a box of the dimensions given and would weigh much more than the box does indeed weigh.

@suelyn: Lightness is in the box, but that is a concept - so are dreams, sleep leads to dreams and one sleeps with the pillow in the box.
- This guess became very specific, which is good, but the item in the box is not a pillow. I also wish to encourage entrants to rely less on the descriptive comments at the round opening post.

@The_No_Show: It's a fake plastic tree.
- What? No watering can? Would that be all you wanted? All the time? And, for that matter, Radiohead, neither the band nor the Talking Heads song, is not in the box.

@suelyn: aww but the abstract is sometimes so much more fun than reality. Another guess is a stuffed animal.
- This guess is specific enough, and I am properly rebuked for trying to prevent entrants from guessing in any way they enjoy most. However, compared to the other guesses in this category, this guess does not specify very much about the stuffed animal, making it impossible to judge it the winner.

@fistsoffolly: Space-age barbells are light as a feather!
- I love the simplicity and enthusiasm of this guess, and it is too bad that it is not quite elaborate and specific enough to take this category.

@michael_elliott: hmmm...i think it's a plush toy snake. and it's brown and splotchy like a copperhead but smiley, who can resist it? :D
- This guess was a strong contender. Unfortunately, there are key differences between this plush toy as described and the actual item in the box that prevent this from being a winning guess in this category.

@TheStepster: A lighter box in a lighter box in a lighter box in a lighter box in a lighter box in a lighter box in a lighter box in a light box.
- This is a very specific guess, but a guess unlikely to succeed, when I have stated again and again that this is not a thought experiment.

@myracles: A duffel bag.
- This is a specific guess, but there is very little information about the duffel bag’s distinguishing characteristics. Were something else in the box, that might not matter, but given the peculiarity of what is in the box all the guesses need a lot of detail to get close.

@1sjcorbett: A rubber chicken.
- As discussed above, with such a peculiar prize in the box, all the guesses need a lot of detail to get close.

@carterbob2: It is an intricately designed, but non-mobile mobile.
- This guess was a strong contender, except that the prize is quite definitely and inherently mobile (although it is intricately designed). I cannot award the win to this excellently specific guess.

Excellently Ambiguous Guesses

@d_g_: A reason to smile.
- WINNER: I wasn’t sure whether to consider this guess pure smart-aleckiness. Perhaps it is. In fact, what is in the box is very much a reason to smile. This guess is in the “Excellently Ambiguous” category because it lacks specificity – there are many kinds of smiles, and many sorts of reasons for them – but I will not deny that what is in the box is a reason for at least one kind.

@icecolbeveridge: Technological paraphernalia, unsuited to any conventional use.
- There is an argument what is in the box is technological, but it has a conventional use and is not paraphernalia – it is the big thing in and of itself.

@ContemptSlots: A standard geometrical object surrounded by irregularly shaped objects within a rectangular prism saying "HANDLE WITH CARE" loudly.
- If there were a smart-aleck category this guess would be a contender. The object is not a standard geometrical object – it is irregularly shaped, encased in packaging, and only then in irregularly shaped objects and rectangular prism.

@hippophagy: something to remind spring that its time to stay and not just drop in from time to time. Maybe a tiny kite or paper flowers.
- This is a charming guess and apt to the times, but it is hampered by the hedging as to specifics. I am sorry not to be able to give it more recognition.

@KT30003k: Item has an official purpose, but is also a character test. The whimsical will put it on their heads; others will not.
- This guess made my day, but was too similar to something else I know about to judge it the winner. Further, I sincerely believe it unlikely that even an extremely whimsical person would put this on their head.

@jonathaneunice: It's something that goes well with a hearty breakfast.
- This guess is in a kind of limbo tie for runner up with @jonathaneunice’s next guess and @fistsoffolly’s guess just below that. Of course, yes. It is entirely conceivable, even likely, that this prize would be wonderful to own while eating a hearty breakfast.

@jonathaneunice: It's something I'd take with me everywhere. Even the bathtub.
- Again, yes, conceivable and even likely.

@fistsoffolly: I probably wouldn't think to take it camping, yet I might wish that I had.
- Again, yes, conceivable and even likely.

@TheStepster: Something with a purpose. Or with more than a purpose. It could be useful for me.
- Again, yes, conceivable but I am unable to determine the likelihood of this prize’s utility.

@1sjcorbett: An object of illumination. This object could shed either light or clarification on another object.
- I am pleasantly stumped regarding any arguments one could make that this prize could shed light or clarification on another object, unless, as in @KT30003k’s guess above, whimsical people would put it on their heads.

I will swing into action on preparing the Certificates on Sunday (probably around the same time I am getting Round 9 ready). Thank you all for playing, and I am sorry it took so long to get the results posted.

Winner! Round 8 - Grand Prize and Short List

REVEALED !! The Grand Prize for Round 8 is the

"Let's Call It A Hexacycle - 'Figure on Unicycle' Prize Pack"

Yes. The box contains a set of two "Figure on Unicycle" wind-up toys. One has a red coat and blue hat and bow-tie. The other has a blue coat and red hat and bow-tie. One of them has slightly darker hair and mustache.


The actual Grand Prize will go to @jonathaneunice for his guess “When I use it, I hear whirring, humming, or buzzing.” which is spot on. He is in fact the runner up for Grand Prize behind Grand Prize First Place Honoree @BrianPike, who does not reside in the continental United States, who guessed “A novelty letter-opener modeled as an elephant wearing a top hat and monocle.”

Grand Prize First Place Honoree
WINNER @BrianPike: [A *real* guess? Sigh.] A novelty letter-opener modeled as an elephant wearing a top hat and monocle. [Real enough?]
- Novelty, circus-related, top-hat. There you go. And yes, clearly real enough.

Runner Up, First Place Grand Prize: @jonathaneunice: When I use it, I hear whirring, humming, or buzzing.
- I had originally anticipated treating this guess as a “What Some Might Think Is Closest to What Is in the Box,” but as I reviewed all the guesses I came around to this conclusion. Doodads like these Figures on Unicycle exist almost exclusively to be used to make their characteristic whirring, humming, and buzzing sounds.

@The_No_Show: It's a riddle hidden in an enigma wrapped in a mystery. And encased in bubble wrap. And then boxed.
- Certificate for First Guess. It would be difficult to find any sensible person who would disagree that these figures on unicycle (unicycle with three wheels and handlebars no less) are anything but an enigma wrapped in a mystery. Where the guess goes wrong is with the bubble wrap. The matching Figures on Unicycle are wedged in the box with a reasonable quantity of foam peanut-style packing material.

@icecolbeveridge: A precious knick-knack, traveling disguised as something much larger.
- This guess was a strong contender, containing both the concepts of “knick-knack” and “travelling.” Despite the silly outfits the Figures are wearing, however, they are anything but disguised. They do not travel far, and never as anything but themselves.

@1sjcorbett: An ostrich feather duster. You know, the old fashioned kind with real feathers. Perfect for a spring cleaning.
- This guess made the short list due to its invocation of old fashioned things. If you are anything like me, these Figure(s) on Unicycle are exactly the sorts of things that might turn up unexpectedly during a spring cleaning. Unfortunately, there is nothing actually natural, or even legitimately old fashioned, about these Figures.

@AndrewGent: Guess: paper constructions, possibly origami animals or the Taj Mahal in paper and glue.
- This guess made the short list thanks to a tenuous argument involving spectacles likely to include animals. These Figures are not paper, and you have to buy the animals in the same circus toy series separately.

@thewesterly: It's a very small model of the Fountain of Youth, in honor of Ponce De Leon Day. Or the actual fountain. Or a metaphor.
- Another tenuous argument, this one involving perpetual youth: the Figures have what I would expect to be an enduring child-like appeal. However, this guess is hedged with alternatives. Despite its otherwise excellent specificity, I cannot give it the win.

@AndrewLoeb: Alternatively, since my first guess was not "light and airy" : a dreadfully-coulored empty pinata shaped as a small goat.
- There are many things in this world that adults think can only possibly interpreted as charming by children that turn out to be utterly peculiar or alarming. Those things include many pinatas and these Figures on Unicycle. The Figures are at the more entertaining end of that spectrum, and I cannot give this guess the win.

@carterbob2: It gives the illusion of floating, as if suspended in air, evoking powerful emotions, leaving a slightly unpleasant aftertaste.
- There is certainly illusion of some kind going on here. There are three wheels, but the name on the packaging says “Unicycle.” Furthermore, the figure is raised up and propelled by a concealed mechanism. As to the powerful emotions and aftertaste, I can only speculate as to what others might feel upon viewing this Prize Pack.

: Guess #2! It is an improvised communication device.
- This guess makes the Grand Prize short list because I am very pleased by the mere suggestion that a pair of “Figure(s) on Unicycle” could become any sort of improvised communication device. It is not one now, and this guess therefore falls short, but perhaps in the right hands it could be.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

#gwiitb Round 8 !

Here is the box for Round 8 of The Guess What Is in the Boxes Contest. For rules, please see the original post, and for more ideas on how this works look over the previous rounds. There are some extra warnings for this round below.

The dimensions are 9.75" x 6.5" x 4" and the weight is 7.5 oz. My husband describes the heft of the box as follows: light and airy, the very slightest bit of movement inside the box, with vigorous shaking can hear seems like packing material shifting , and weight feels evenly distributed.

The warnings for this round involve some special days that are on the calendar this week. I must emphasize that The Guess What Is in the Boxes Contest is non-denominational, and there is no theme or connection between what is in the box and any religious holidays now-abouts. Nor is there any theme or connection with my birthday, but perhaps some of you will wish me happy 37th on Wednesday. Some people celebrate the birthday of the Buddha on April 8th, and that makes me feel very special.

The deadline for guesses will be Tuesday, April 7, 2009, at 4:00 pm E.D.T. Guesses should be tagged #gwiitb to help ensure receipt. Guesses tweeted after my announcement of close of guessing will not be eligible to win the Grand Prize or Certificates. I am glad you are reading this and happy guessing !!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Winners Round 7 !! Certificate Winners

Here are the Certificate of Achievement Winners and the Short Lists in three categories:

Category: What Some Might Think Is Closest to What Is in the Box

@BrianPike: / Two bent slivers / Of soap: / Comedy and Tragedy /
- WINNER: This is not only a lovely guess, but it is the only guess that mentions soap. The object in the box is not soap, but is something that is strongly associated with soap. The object is also something potentially both hilarious and troubling, therefore possibly requiring two different kinds of soap.

@1sjcorbett: An ashtray from the 1962 Seattle Worlds Fair featuring the Space Needle. I think that would be pretty cool, that's all.
- That would be pretty cool, and is the sort of thing that might catch my eye as a potential prize. However, this guess makes the short list for “What Some Might Think ...” for the more prosaic reason of physical similarity. The object is shaped a bit like some ashtrays, and it could be used as one.

@1sjcorbett: A protective device along the lines of a set of drink coasters.
- I have not been able to reach a satisfactory conclusion in my own mind whether the object in the box is a protective device. I am certain that some would consider it so, and therefore this guess is in this category. Given the ambiguities in this guess, I cannot judge it closer to a win in this category.

@myracles: The object itself is a containment unit, in which the user can place either fluid or memories.
- A similar problem to the guess above. I cannot decide whether this object is properly considered a containment unit. If it is, there is the further question of whether it contains fluid. Some might have memories to place in it, but again, given the ambiguities, I cannot judge this guess closer to a win.

@1sjcorbett: A 25' tape measure. Just one element of the well stocked tool box. With a good tool box, most problems can be solved.
- This guess squeaks into this category solely through invocation of problem-solving. The object in the box is associated with cleanliness, which solves or avoids many problems.

@d_g_: A modicum of hope
- Another squeaker. The word “hope” rhymes with “soap,” and also puts one in mind of preparation for the future, which I associate with cleanliness. A disjointed argument, perhaps, but enough to place this guess in the “What Some Might Think ...” category.

@TraceyGW: @carterbob2 if I didn't know what you were tweeting about I would think you had a stroke or were on crack
- It is pretty obvious that @TraceyGW did not intend to enter the contest, but this tweet was tagged #gwiitb and therefore counts. It is in this category because I can’t help wondering whether there are a great many people who don’t know about the contest who see the guesses and think we are all deranged.

@toldorknown: A wooshing deadline, barely met.
- This is another difficult-to-categorize guess. Given the number of usual entrants who missed this round, and the number of folks who entered in the last few hours, it was a general acting-as-though-there-were a wooshing deadline in the box.

Category : Guesses with Ancient or Archeological Overtones

@lindstifa: A reminder of my mortality.
- WINNER: There are two reasons this guess is the winner in this category: 1) Ancient things remind us that eventually our times will be ancient times, and we will all be long dead by then; and 2) The object in the box is (at least symbolically) brimming with ever-renewed life, and that can make one feel old and mortal.

@toldorknown: Like a smoldering ember, it is both the remainder of what was and the seed of its rebirth, given the right catalyst.
- Others might not agree, but I think of seeds as somewhat archeological. I have seen many, many television programs about digs and such in which scientists are able to figure out what ancient people ate by what pollen or seeds were still just hanging out in some pot that had gotten buried. This guess misses the top spot because this object is in a state of ongoing, vibrant luminescence, not smoldering.

@toddadamson: The Pogues. Freeze-dried.
- The “Freeze-dried” portion of this guess is notable. The object in the box is of a durable man-made material that I believe was liquid at one point in its manufacture and then cooled to its present dry and durable state. It is not, however, the Pogues. I was just thinking of the Jim Jarmusch film “Straight to Hell” the other day (the whole band is in it), and was tickled to see the Pogues mentioned in a guess. But there is not anything musical about the object, nor anything “kissy” or even “kiss-my-ass-y” about it. (The Pogues’ full name in Irish translates to “Kiss My Ass,” I understand.)

@icecolbeveridge: It's a child's toy, rescued from an attic where it had been abandoned for many years.
- Like the next guess, this one is archeological in shorter “personal-life-span” sense. This object is not a toy at all, and is clearly designed for an adult concept of what is desirable decor (and I do not mean that in a smutty way).

@TheStepster: My stack of old-school posters that were thrown out by my old man. It has to be them.
- This is in many ways similar to the guess above. The object in the box has no obvious ties to pop culture, and is a rather mundane object. It is incidentally decorative and is primarily an object of utility that would be selected by an adult.

@fistsoffolly: A wing and a prayer. (Probably in more of a figurative sense.)
- I keep going around in circles on what category I like for this guess. I considered the Grand Prize short list and the “What Some Might Think ...” short list (cleanliness being next to Godliness), but kept coming back to the ancient lineage of both the phrase “A wing and a prayer” and of prayer itself. This conclusion will possibly never satisfy either me or @fistsoffolly, but I hope we will both continue to enjoy the contest and future guesses.

@whlteXbread: I'm pretty sure it's the shrunken head of my truly unfortunate elementary school gym teacher.
- The discussion of this guess must necessarily echo that of @toddadamson’s guess above. A preserved head is an undoubtedly archeological item, placing this guess firmly in this category. A person’s head, however, especially a known person’s head from an industrial society, just does not connect with any of the essential characteristics of the object in the box.

@carterbob2: Crawling thru the sandstorm of daily existence it burrows deeply into its tomb, and waits.
- Again, here is a clearly archeological guess. There is even a bit of a resonance between the word “sand” and the environment evoked by the object. However, this is an inanimate object that is not at all creepy, and I simply cannot judge this guess the winner.

@odat: An object of nostalgic import, a reliquary of memory.
- This guess was entered past the deadline, and would be ineligible to win. Reliquaries are often ancient or at least archeological. Reliquaries are also containers. This item is arguably a container (as discussed above) but not of memories. At least, that is, not of my memories. It is a relatively anonymous item.

Category: Guesses with the Word “Something” In Them

@AndrewLoeb: Something that glitters, but may not necessarily be gold. Something that wanders, but may not necessarily be lost.
- WINNER: The object in the box is a bit gaudy and very translucent, which brings it close to glitteriness without being gold, and its evocation of exotic places suggests wandering despite its mundane intended use in the home. Further, it is not lost, because I know exactly where it is.

@TheStepster: Something that brings comfort to the mind and body.
- This guess is a strong contender. The object has, in its physical appearance, qualities that might comfort someone’s mind. It its practical application, it might indirectly bring comfort to the body in the form of cleanliness, but the connections are not quite direct and definite enough to judge this the winner.

@KT30003k: It is something used for decision-making/values-clarification purposes.
- I have actually thought of a way this object could (quite indirectly) assist someone other than the owner of the object in decision-making or values-clarification with regard to the owner of the object. Again, without a more direct connection, this guess cannot be judged the winner.

@suelyn: Something to spark the imagination, individual items taken together to make things. Building blocks.
- While this object does indeed spark the imagination, it is a single one-piece item I expect would not be useful at all in making things. It is triumphantly solitary, like a grand plinth for a measly statue. So I cannot judge it the winner.

@trelvix: Something lonely but constant. Like a calendar gifted mid-year.
- As discussed above, this item is alone, but not lonely. It might be lacking something in its current failure to fulfill its practical purpose (revealed below), but that is temporary and of no concern. This object is awesome just the way it is. Yes constant, but not poignant.

Winner! Round 7 - Grand Prize and Short List

Revealed! The Grand Prize for Round 7 of The Guess What Is in the Boxes Contest is this Translucent Tropical Fantasy Soap Dish !

I did not realize it was translucent until I chanced to see it in bright light and noticed it was not completely opaque. Then I held it up to the sunlight and was delighted to see how clear it is. The foreground details are nearly opaque, but the sea and sky are almost totally see-through. It is wonderful.

There is a complicated winner situation this round. First Place goes to a winner who does not reside in the continental United States - he will receive a certificate. I have selected a first runner up, who it turns out does reside in the United states, who will receive the Grand Prize itself, though not credit as Grand Prize First Place Honoree.

@The_No_Show: A very small but perfectly formed replica of the statue of David. Includes fig leaf. To cover the tiny penis.
- GRAND PRIZE FIRST PLACE HONOREE: Double congratulations to @The_No_Show for this. It was the first guess entered in this round, and it is the winning guess, most accurately capturing the essence of the object in the box. One might ask what have Michelangelo’s David and fig leaves and penises to do with a soap dish? When it is this particular soap dish, they have many things. It is difficult to appreciate in the photo, but the soap dish is in a kind of 3-D bas-relief, giving the tropical scene an uncanny depth. The statue of David was carved intentionally out of porportion in order to look realistic when placed high above the heads of viewers in a church. It wasn’t ever put up high, and now it just looks like he has an uncannily large head. And like somebody glued a leaf to his penis.

@J1: a stunningly rendered (albeit small) painting of a non-existent marsupial once found in Mesopotamia
- FIRST RUNNER UP- GRAND PRIZE: The soap dish is stunningly rendered, and I choose to believe there is a marsupial of one sort or another (there are hundreds of species currently in existence) in that Tropical Fantasy somewhere. And, Mesopotamia was once a Tropical Fantasy itself.

As always, the short list for the Grand Prize is presented in the order the guesses were received.

@atomicfez: } a paper-back copy of the Karma Sutra translated into Esperanto and printed in Braille…?
- Soap dishes have strong connections to bathing, often regarded as a potentially sexual activity, and this Translucent Tropical Fantasy Soap Dish has an image rendered in three dimensions that could be discerned by touch. However, it is simply not really all that sexy, and the only text is on the sticker that says “MADE IN CHINA.”

@felicitous: What I should have written about for my Thesis.
- I am giving this guess the benefit of the doubt. Although this soap dish is amazing and worthy of in-depth scholarship, without knowing what field you studied, I cannot judge this the winning guess.

@carterbob2: baked in the fires of desire, this object is revered by some, and reviled by others.
- If this soap dish were not revered and reviled already, I certainly hope it is now. It was crafted with some sort of heating process related to a desire of some kind (mass-production trade), I cannot state conclusively that it was baked in the fires of desire.

@d_g_: A single moment of glory.
- Glorious indeed. However, the Translucent Tropical Fantasy Soap Dish is an enduring moment of glory, visible whenever it is held up to the light.

@KT30003k: 2nd guess! It is a device that used to be called by a lovely archaic name. The modern name is not nearly as good.
- This is another guess that I am giving the benefit of the doubt. I considered embarking on a research project to find out what (if any) archaic terms were used for soap dishes, but did not have time or energy. The best I can think of is “pot of lye,” and that is evocative, but not really “lovely.”

Thank you everyone for taking part! I hope to have Round 8 posted by the end of this coming weekend, and everything to go into the mail should be on its way on Monday.