Mystillery Newsletter #7 - March 2021

From The Mystillery

Hope you are all well! Here in Maine some grass is peeking through the snow here and there. Kathy and I are hoping to schedule our COVID vaccine shots this week as our age group is now becoming eligible.

Activity: We have two months of challenges in the books! Participation in Medical Examiner is WAY UP over last year, and Six Shooter is down a bit. Beachcomber and Century Club are quiet, they do not get a lot of updates. Right now your host is easily able to keep up with submissions.

Search updated: The search engine had its monthly update this morning (Mar. 1), so your February submissions can now be found by it. This is only available from the Medical Examiner challenge page. See "Who else dissected my book?" at the top of the table. Part of the fun of the Medical Examiner/Six Shooter/Century Club challenges is that you get to see what the other challengers are reading, and read their reviews (assuming they wrote them) about your current books.

Duplicate submissions: I regularly get some duplicate submissions, sent in about a day apart. The only explanation I can think of is that challengers are seeing an old page stored in their web browser, and assuming their submission got lost somewhere. I try to get your submissions posted within 24 hours, usually better than that. If you don't see your latest submission, please click the REFRESH button on your web browser to see if it has been updated already. Each challenge page has a day/time stamp so you can tell.

Advance Signup gone: This year all challenges had an advance signup form available which got promoted all over the place. I won't do that again. The majority of people who signed up in the year-end frenzy are never heard from again, and the time I spent coding them into the challenges is lost. I have since removed those inactive people from the challenge pages. Back to the tried and true method - submit an entry to join the challenge.

Paperback Swap Members! Be aware PBS has recently changed the URLs for all member bookshelves! (and didn't mention it to anyone). This resulted in all the PBS links in the challenges breaking. This will not affect you if you navigate to your bookshelf thru the PBS interface. It will only affect you if you have posted a link to your bookshelf somewhere, such as on your blog or web page. If so, you should navigate to your bookshelf through their interface (or the corrected icons/links on the challenge pages), then copy the new URL from the address bar.

Meanwhile, in Indiana: Look what challenger Bev Hankins has been doing between reads:

In process:

Bev says: I did quite a few [jigsaw puzzles] a couple of years ago. Got two book-related ones (including this one) for Christmas and just got an Edward Gorey puzzle from the Friends of the Library bookstore. Thought it was time to start puzzling again.

Finished!

Overall, really quite lovely. But I do want to know why Alan Bradley is on here three times with all these classics. Seriously? And I don't think they could have picked a less interesting cover for Ellery Queen's The Greek Coffin Mystery (nearly all blue; upper right corner) if they had tried.

In the Mystillery Lab

Light a candle, come down the basement stairs, and open the heavy steel door with the well-oiled hinges. You're in the Mystillery Lab!

Would you like to experiment with a possible method of an automated reading challenge, one which frees the challenger from record-keeping, and doesn't require the host to manually post the entries? The idea is that challengers can submit a book, everyone's data goes directly into one public spreadsheet which is the log of the challenge. If it seems workable, it could become an interesting and low-tech way for you to host your own challenge. You can try this sample one out for fun:

  1. Fill out the form for a couple of books you have read. Simple: author, title, and rating (1-5).
  2. When you submit the form, the data goes into a publicly-shared Google sheet.
  3. Look at the spreadsheet to see your entries, along with everyone else's. The spreadsheet is read-only, but you can sort it however you like. Give it a try and play around with it.

If there is interest, I can write up some notes on how to set it up if you want to try your own. Let me know...

Medical Examiner news

An additional "Series" column is being added to the clipboards as they are updated, to indicate where the title is in a series, if applicable; such as Bakery Murders #6. This will hopefully be a help to those of you who are series readers. I had been trying to squeeze it into the Title cell but it really needs some space of its own. Should we bill David Baldacci for the extra boxes of toe tags we had to buy? His books are pushing the body count through the roof - and all victims carefully named, too...

Speaking of names - a single name is enough to identify a person in this challenge. For example, many times men are only called by a last name (particularly in the detective force - "Book 'em, Dano"). Servants may be identified only by first name (typically women) or last name (typically men). Stereotypical bad guys may have nicknames (Muggsy).

Six Shooter news

Six shooter is reaching critical mass - that is, people are starting to earn notches (which took about six months last year). Once that happens, the real fun of scoring begins and people begin moving up the chart. The bonus score is working well, a reward for scoring more than one notch - which eliminates a quirk discovered last year (a challenger could read six books by one author and retire with a perfect 1.000 score).

Beachcomber news

Still considering some tweaks for next year. One thing that needs addressing is making the four categories more equal. Detectives and Victims are pretty routine to complete, but Crime Scenes and Weapons are still troublesome for many. The other tweak being considered is to declare each person's challenge complete when the set of four beach bags is filled - that is, once you complete four, no need to continue on. Too many bags to carry back to the car!

Century Club news

Things are quiet on this long-term challenge. This is the only one where past reading counts, no matter when you did it, even a fourth-grade book report. Check your shelves and see if you can knock off a few more decades.

Abra Cadavers news

One month to go until baseball season! The Abra Cadavers Baseball Game (not really a challenge) opens April 1!

Back issues

Blondie by Dean Yound and John Marshall

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