Wednesday, May 03, 2006


On the way to a bat-mitzvah with Rachel, I found myself suddenly transformed into a monkey.

"There, there, my nice monkey," crooned Rachel. She patted my arm and kissed me on the cheek. "Let's just have a good time, and try to be interested in other people and not only talk about games."

I tried to answer, "Yes! Yes, I will, my darling! I will be both considerate and erudite!" But I found that I could not speak properly, and it all came out sounding like gibberish: "Game! Play! Dice! Blog!" My wife understood what I said, because she was used to this sort of thing.

The bat-mitzvah was in a lovely restaurant, the Taverna in Abu Gosh, Jerusalem. We found our seats at the designated table. I found it hard to sit with my new tail, so I wrapped it around myself, with my feet on the chair, hunched over my plate. There were some people next to me whom I didn't know. I tried to introduce myself, but it came out as more gibberish: "Play! Games! Boards! Blog!" They shook their heads and continued talking around me, while I grumbled to myself, "Games. Dice."

I retreated into my simian self, looking around at the humans with my beady eyes from under my dark bushy eyebrows.

Soon I saw some shiny objects on the table. I looked around, but no one else was looking at me; they were talking about someone's hair, the bat-mitzvah girl's dress, the wine.

Under the flower arrangements on each table were strewn a number of dark blue glass beads, the same type that I bought to use for my game prototypes. I looked around again, and then slowly reached out with my tail and grabbed one. No one seemed to be disturbed, so I grabbed some more until I had twelve in total. Lovely blue beads, they were flat on one side and domed on the other side.

Well, this was something. What can one do with twelve beads?

Someone was speaking I think, but I didn't notice. I had twelve beads. Oh, happy day!

First I lined up the beads in a row. I can count in binary. My age: first bead, third bead, and sixth bead. That was fun. What else?

I arranged a triangle with ten of the beads. I then told the woman across from me, "Look! A triangle! You can turn the triangle upside down by only moving three beads! Watch!" But it came out all garbled: "Game! Play! Puzzle! Beads!". Rachel slapped my hand, and said, "Bad monkey! Don't make noises during the speech!" I yipped and put my hands over my head, pulling my lip.

After the speech ended, I tried again, speaking to the woman across from me. "Look! Here's a game. One person secretly throw the beads onto a table where the others can't see. You pick up the ones that landed flat side up and you put them in your hand, hiding the others. Then you say that you have at least N beads. The other person can accept what you said, or challenge you. If they challenge you, then if you told the truth, you get a point. If you lied, the challenger gets a point. If they accept what you said, you hand them the beads and they have to name a greater number to the next player. And so on until the end of the players. See? Using 12 beads, you can simulate a game called Liar's Dice."

Of course, what she heard was: "Game! Beads! Number! Dice! Play!" and so on. She shook her head and said that she doesn't play games, and offered me a banana. I reached for it, but Rachel took it and said that I could have it at the end of the evening if I was good.

So I sat mumbling to myself some more. "Game. Play. Beads." I took the beads and randomly place them in a 3 by 4 row, up or down as they came out. Then I played the flipping game. You choose a bead and then flip that bead as well as all other orthogonally adjacent beads. The object is to end up with all beads up or down. I'm not sure if it can be proven to always have a solution.

But apparently someone had been speaking again, and Rachel potched me again. I howled and jumped up onto the floor, running around in circles with my hands over my head. Luckily, the father of the bat-mitzvah girl thought that I was starting a dance, so everyone came onto the floor to dance, holding their hands over their head and howling.

I escaped while the dancing was still going on. The woman was still sitting across from me.

I tried again. "Four people can each take 3 beads. They secretly select 1, 2, or 3 beads, and hold them out. Reveal simultaneously. Any duplicate numbers are eliminated, and the highest remaining number wins."

She understood some of that. She said that it sounded like paper-rock-scissors. And anyway, she didn't play games. So she went back to talking to her husband. I muttered to myself, "Games. Play. Beads."

I set up a goal halfway across the table, and played three bead football. You start with three beads in a row. You flick one forwards. Each subsequent flick, you have to pass one of the beads in between the other two, without the beads ever touching. You score by landing a bead into your opponent's goal (say, two fingers). I was using our placement card as the goal. The placement card was a card with our name and table number folded in half, so it stood up like a pup-tent on the table. I managed to hit the goal, but the bead went over it and landed on the other side.


I set up a water glass on the other side of the placement card, with the placement card set up like a ramp. Then I lined up four beads touching each other and aimed at the placement card. I placed my finger on the first one, and slammed one of my beads into the one I was holding with my finger. The energy passed through to the last bead which shot out, hit the goal, went flying over the placement card and the water glass and landed unnoticed into the woman's cleavage.

Eep! I jumped up and down on my chair and started reaching for the woman, but just then Rachel came back from dancing. She found me casually carving my food with a fork and knife in each hand, a roll held by my right foot, and a glass of wine held with my tail.

"Have you been a good monkey? Yes, you have!" she told me, nuzzling my cheek. Mmmm, I love Rachel. She stroked my tail. I tried to stroke her tail, but I forgot she didn't have one and she batted my hand away.

More speeches. I arranged the beads to form my initials. There were fireworks outside because it was Independence Day, so I arranged the beads to be fireworks. I arranged the beads to look like a computer on top of the placement card, and began to type on the little beads. Rachel rolled her eyes.

I made a coded message using the rules that I had sent in for a game design contest. Then I played the coded message game with the woman across from me. The idea is that you arrange the beads in a particular way, and then ask her to guess what number the arrangement represents. She guesses, and you say (usually) that it is a different number. You then rearrange the beads and do it again. She is supposed to detect the pattern, all the while accusing you of making it all up, because the pattern seems to make no sense.

The trick is that, along with the bead arrangement, you also leave between one to ten fingertips showing on the edge of the table near the bead pattern. These fingertips are in plain view. The number of fingertips in view is actually the correct number. However, most people will take a long time before they notice that it is not the beads that really count. You only told them to "look at this arrangement" and tell you what number it is. It is a fun trick once people realize they have been had.

The woman said that she might try it out on her kids. I was so happy that I danced around on my chair.

It was getting time for desert, when I realized that since I had a set of double sided stones, effectively, that I could play almost any game that had two color pieces, like Checkers or Othello, if only I had enough pieces. I quickly reached for the rest of the pieces under the flowerpot, but to my horror I managed to upset the flowers.

I jumped up to catch them, but in the process knocked over Rachel onto the floor. Stepping over Rachel, I managed to catch the flowers, only to find myself standing in the middle of the floor holding a flowerpot. Luckily for me, the father of the bat-mitzvah girl thought that I was starting another dance, so everyone came onto the floor to dance, holding a flowerpot.

I snuck away from the dancing with my tail between my legs, only to come face to face with a red-faced and livid Rachel. "Banana?" I asked, hopefully.

She smoldered at me, until she finally shouted, "Bad monkey! No banana for you!"



This tri-color game uses the merging on primary colors, similarly to a series of games that I invented.

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MaksimSmelchak said...

Hi Yehuda,

I enjoyed your story so much that I linked to you and posted your story over at my blog:

I added a photo or two as well.

Eep! Eep!


Yehuda Berlinger said...

Thought that presses every key or mouse