Happy New Year!

A week late, but here’s my New Year’s post.  I hope you all rang in the new year with style and friends.  The in-laws and I had a fabulous celebration atop the Bellevue Place Tower at Daniel’s.  I couldn’t think of a more perfect way to start 2007. 

In case you missed it, here are the top Xbox games of 2006 from Major Nelson’s site.  Zuma came in at #14 for most arcade purchases.  Uno was number one for most arcade purchases.  I’ve heard a lot of good things about Uno.  I’ll have to give it a go. 

There was another Zuma mention recently from Bill Gates.  Looks like he’s still playing Zuma.  Check it out on the Scoble Show.  (around the 25 min mark, but the whole show’s worth listening to)

I wish you all the best for 2007!


Situation Update

Check out my update to our situation on my other blog.

Power Outage 2006

REPEAT POSTING – I just posted this entry on Ribonucleoblog, but I thought might be interesting to some of the readers from this site as well:   


This post was written at noon Pacific Time on December 18, 2006.




We’ve now had four nights without power in Redmond.  This is my first time on the computer since early last Thursday.  Right now I’m at the Redmond library.  They’re supposed to have free wireless internet, but it’s down right now, so I’m typing and will go search around town for some internet to use to post this.  This is by far the longest I’ve been without power so here are my thoughts:


I feel extremely lucky that this is rare.  I recognize that I am at least lucky to have a gas fireplace, indoor plumbing, food, a dry home, and a husband to care for me and my cats.  Many people go without these necessities for years on end.  I am certainly still blessed. 


It seems that much of this disaster is preventable using new technology (like putting the power lines underground).  I hope some progress is made on this in the future, but I doubt it.  I’m surprised my home doesn’t have power yet, because we live on a main road close to downtown.

Most of my friends are without power too.  I’ve been trying to get through, but most of the phones are out as well.  I hope you’re all doing well.  It must be especially difficult with young children.    I thought it was fun as a kid, but the power only ever went out for a day or so.  This must be much more challenging. 


At the top of the post is a picture of my altar of warmth and food.  I took the photo without flash and altered the light in MS Office Picture manager to try to give a more realistic view.  This is from 8am, so it is just starting to get light out.  Below the mantle is our single heat source, a natural gas fireplace.  It normally keeps the entire lower floor warm, but with two nights below freezing, it is only marginally helping.  We now have to stand within a few feet to keep warm.  On the mantle to the left is my breakfast:  baguette, salami, and a banana.   I kept the salami very cold outside on the patio overnight.  On the mantle to the right is my fondue pot, full of apple juice and mulling spices.  Warmed by a single tea candle, it took one hour to heat up, but no reason not to drink in style in the middle of a crisis! 


Here’s a typical day for me without electricity at home:


Wake up early, before 8am (yes, that is extremely early for us)

Have cold breakfast

Take mostly cold shower (calling it lukewarm might be too generous)

Do crossword puzzle, sudoku, or read

Go out around 10am to run errands

Go to Whole Foods for lunch and to buy afternoon snacks

After lunch, visit a friend or family member or go window shopping at a warm mall

Eat dinner out – usually sushi

Go to a book store

Go home around 8pm

Watch a movie until the laptop runs out of battery charge

More puzzles



I was also making my own Christmas Sudoku-type puzzle to entertain myself.  It is a Christmas present for my father-in-law.  I don’t think he reads my blog, so hopefully I’m not spoiling it by posting it here!  I’d rate it as easy.  It’s the same concept as Sudoku, only instead of numbers it uses letters from the word “Christmas” spelled “C-H-R-I-*-T-M-A-S.”  Each column and row must contain the letters from Chri*tmas as well as each 3×3 box (9 3x3s total).  I couldn’t make the 3×3 boxes darker or format the boxes in similar size.  My computer time today was limited.  Maybe I can fix that later.  I’ll post the solution after Christmas. 


H R I * T M A S
      C   S      
S   T       C * H
H     S   R     A
    A       H    
  M           C  
I A C       T R *
  T   A I *      
M S   T R C   H I

ScobleShow Appearance

When my friends Maryam and Robert Scoble were in town last month, Maryam asked if she could interview me playing Zuma.  She’s a big fan of the frog too.  So, she and Robert came to my home and they filmed my Zuma playing.  We had a great time with wine, teh internets, and teh Xbox.  It’s always a pleasure to see them and it was an honor to be on their show.  I hope you all enjoy the video.   

Taking a Break

I’ve been busy studying for midterms this last week.  I have a big test tomorrow, then it’s off to mum’s for Thanksgiving, off to Las Vegas for a wedding, and back again to school.  I probably won’t be up blogging again for another week, but I have 3 posts in the works:  Zuma advanced strategy, Zuma jargon, and Zuma bugs.  Feel free to post any questions or comments that I should include in those posts below and when I get around to blogging next week I’ll make sure to include them. 

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! 

Interview with Zuma Creator

Yesterday I found a blog by Trixie, an Xbox employee whose passion for Zuma rivals my own.  Her gamertag is trixie360.  The similarity in names is purely coincidental.  The difference between us?  She has the super cool job of community section editor at Xbox.com and I have to feel guilty everytime Zuma distracts me from my studies.  

Check out this great video from September of Trixie interviewing John Vechey of PopCap games and Zuma creator Brian Rothstein.  You know, I don’t live that far from Xbox headquarters so, Trixie, if you aren’t afraid to get pwn3d, e-mail me and we can duke it out on the Xbox.

Achievements Explained

I see that the Zuma achievements are listed many times on the internet (as if we can’t look them up on the Xbox), but I couldn’t find a place where they go into details.  So, I made a list that I thought would be more useful to players.  Unless otherwise stated, achievements are completed in Adventure mode.

Son of Sun (20): Awarded for achieving Son of Sun rank in Gauntlet mode.

  •  In Gauntlet you must get to Son of Sun 1 in each realm.  It will say “SS1” in the red box at the top of the screen.  There are 20.  Some realms may not be unlocked until you achieve the level of that realm in Adventure mode. 

Score Champion (20): Awarded for earning 2,000,000 scores.

Adventurer (20): Awarded for completion of Adventure mode.

  • Level 13-1, Space is the final stage in this quest. 

Secret shrine of Zuma (20): Awarded for completion of Secret shrine of Zuma temple.

  • Level 12-7 is the final level in this quest.

Coin Collector (20): Awarded for collecting 100 coins.

  • Shoot at the coins to collect them. 

Popo Poyolli (20): Awarded for completion of Popo Poyolli temple.

  • Level 9-7 is the final level in this quest.

24h (10): Awarded for playing the game for 24 hours.

Gap Finder (20): Awarded for earning 100 gaps.

  • Shoot balls through a gap in the line at balls in the line behind.  Each time you destroy balls in this way you earn a bonus. 

Quetzal Quatl (10): Awarded for completion of Quetzal Quatl temple.

  • Level 6-6  is the final level in this quest.

Temple of Zukulkan (10): Awarded for completion of Temple of Zukulkan.

  • Level 3-5 is the final level in this quest.

Chain 16 (10):  Awarded for 16 chains in a row.

  • In order to earn a chain bonus, you must destroy balls every time you shoot. 

Sharp Shooter (20): Awarded for completing 1 level in 5 or fewer seconds.   

Milestone Celebration: 3 Million Points

I broke the 3 million mark today!  Yippee!  Moved back up to #7 on the leaderboard (Before I took the summer off I was at #3).  Here are the final stats from my game: 

Total Points:  3,073,340

Extra Life Bonus: 1600000 (31 lives)
Total time: 1:44:54
Combos: 1030
Coins: 163
Gaps: 128
Max Chain: 10
Max Combo: 6

Here is a snapshot of the leaderboard as it stands right now:


(Click on photo to see full size.)

Entry into the 2 Million Club: Intermediate Level Strategy

My basic idea is to do three posts on tips, tricks, and strategy: one for beginners, one for intermediates, and one for budding masters.  This is an interesting thing to do because I have to remember what it was like to be at each of these levels.  A lot of skills overlap between levels.  Obviously, we’re always trying to be quicker and more accurate.  Some things never change. 

And I have to state the obvious:  This is my strategy.  It works for me; however, I don’t know what will work for everyone, so make sure to leave me comments if you try one of my tips and let me know if it helped or didn’t help.  If you have a totally different approach to the game, I’d love to hear it.  Consider this a barter:  strategy and tips for comments. 

I consider intermediate players to be those working for their score champion achievement (awarded for earning 2,000,000 points), having already earned at least 1 million points.  You should be familiar enough with the game that you can focus on strategy while playing and have mastered the points in my basic strategy post.  You should regularly be getting coins, gap bonuses, and combos.  Okay, here it is:

  • Get accuracy balls.  They’re always a help. (they’re the target looking ones)
  • You get points based on how far from the golden skull you shoot your last balls. Always end as far back as possible by getting combos, using magnetic force (see tip 3), and shooting back arrow balls.  This will help you not die as often too. 
  • Like colors attract.  Use this magnetic force to pull balls back away from the golden skull.  To do this:  When you have a large gap it will have 2 different colors on either side.  Get a ball that matches one of those queued up.  Shoot it to the side opposite its match.  The balls will pull back.  This can be more effective than a back arrow ball.
  • Get a gap set up and play mostly through that.  You will quickly rack up points.  The smaller the gap, the higher the bonus, but the more difficult to keep it open.  Balance these attributes.   
  • Resist exciting moves that screw you:  like explosions.  If you have a good setup for combos, don’t blow it by hitting a bomb.  Wait until it goes away.  Don’t use the slow down ball when most of your balls are in a tunnel.

These tricks do take work to learn, but I believe they will increase most players’ scores with time.  Have fun!! 

Revisiting old news with Major Nelson

Larry Hryb, Xbox Live’s Director of Programming, has a great blog under his gamertag Major Nelson.  There he keeps us updated on all things Xbox with posts and podcasts.  Back in May, Hryb interviewed Bill G. about Xbox Live.  Gates revealed that his wife and 9 yr old daughter are avid Zuma players and says, “When the family’s playing together we’re all seeing who’s the best at Zuma.”  I like to think that somewhere in an earth-sheltered mansion in Medina, Melinda is putting the smack down on her husband… Zuma style.