A long-lost “Choose Your Adventure” book finally sees the light: Escape from the Haunted Warehouse!

choose your own adventures

Click the photo to see it at full size.

Of the two books resting on my accordion in the picture above, you may have read the one on the left: The Cave of Time, the very first book in the Choose Your Own Adventure series, first published by Bantam Books in 1979. The one on the right is Escape from the Haunted Warehouse, which hits the shelves on April 15th.

(The copy of The Cave of Time featured in the photo belongs to my wife Anitra, and yup, it’s an original 1979 edition.)

Today, in the age of ubiquitous internet, smartphones and tablets, where it’s unusual for a home or office not to have a computer, interactive entertainment is commonplace. But back in 1979, when desktop computers were rare and the most powerful ones had 48K of RAM (not even enough memory to store one of the photos in this article), Choose Your Own Adventure books were a new, exciting idea to eleven-year-old me. The series led me to computer “text adventure” games (these days, they’re called interactive fiction), which in turn led me to programming, and eventually, my career.

Until last week, I thought that Escape from the Haunted Warehouse was an urban legend. Between 1979 and 1998, the story goes that 185 Choose Your Own Adventure books were written, but only 184 were released. Escape from the Haunted Warehouse, which had reviews that called it “the scariest one ever”, made it out in the form of a few promotional copies, but was never made generally available.

ChooseCo now publishes the series under new titles, with revised artwork and text (but using the same typeface — Souvenir!), and they’re releasing Escape from the Haunted Warehouse in a couple of weeks. I was sent an advance copy because one of their people found an old article of mine that featured a montage of 66 classic Choose Your Own Adventure covers:

Click the photo to see it at full size.

I’m flying to Boston next Sunday, and as a special treat for myself, I plan to not fire up the iPad or laptop, or read the in-flight magazine. Instead, I’m going to pull my copy of Escape from the Haunted Warehouse and see if I can get out alive. I’ll post a write-up once I’ve finished it.

Full disclosure: I got contacted by ChooseCo and was offered a promotional copy; they told me that they’d love to be “featured by me in the future”. And hey, I loved these books as a kid.


An apology to astrophysicist Katie Mack

Headline: @AstroKatie (Katie Mack) / Photo: Katie Mack standing against a starry night sky, with her Twitter joke.

The original joke and its creator, Katie Mack. Click the image to see her site.

Diagram: Lunar eclipse (earth between moon and sun), solar eclipse (moon between earth and sun), and apocalypse (sun between earth and moon)Last week, I found the image pictured to the right on Enno Park’s Google+ feed and thought it was amusing, so I decided to post it here on the Accordion Guy blog. I ran a few image searches to see if I could trace it back to its origin, but couldn’t find anything conclusive, so I gave credit to Enno Park.

This week, the pop science Facebook page I Fucking Love Science featured the image (they found it via another Facebook pop science page, ASAPScience) and pointed to this site — but not the article — so I re-posted the image in a new article that you’d see when you hit the page. Once again, credit went to Enno Park.

(Please don’t bring internet pitchforks and torches to Enno’s feed; I get the feeling he didn’t know about the image’s provenance either.)

In tweets linking to my post, I suggested that you imagine the joke being told in astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson’s voice. What I didn’t know is who its true author was, and that she herself is an astrophysicist. She’s Katie Mack, @AstroKatie on Twitter.

Here’s her short bio, as featured on her site (go check it out, she’s got lots of great stuff there, for both hard-core science fiends and laypeople who are curious about space):

Dr Katherine (Katie) Mack is a theoretical astrophysicist. Her work focuses on finding new ways to learn about the early universe and fundamental physics using astronomical observations, probing the building blocks of nature by examining the cosmos on the largest scales. Throughout her career as a researcher at Caltech, Princeton, Cambridge, and now Melbourne University, she has studied dark matter, black holes, cosmic strings, and the formation of the first galaxies in the Universe. Katie is also an active online science communicator and is passionate about science outreach. As a science writer, she has been published by Slate, Sky & Telescope,, the Economist tech blog “Babbage”, and other popular publications.

…and here’s her original joke, made on Twitter months ago:

katie macks eclipse tweet

She told the joke quickly and simply, using emojis, and eagle-eyed readers noticed that she even took care to make sure that the bright side of the moon was always facing the sun. That bit of cleverness didn’t get brought into the image based on her tweet.

While I slept last night (I’m in the GMT-4 time zone, known as “Eastern Daylight Time” to people in North America), a number of people pointed out my unintentional plagiarism on Twitter and in this blog’s comments. I’d like to thank those people for the heads-up, and would like to point out that my failure to reply immediately was largely because I was asleep at the time. Thanks for the heads-up, folks!

The creator of the image I used didn’t credit Katie, and as a result, neither did I. I’d like to borrow from the best scientific tradition and do what scientists do when they make mistakes: point out the mistake clearly and as widely as possible. I formally apologize to Katie Mack for not crediting her for an excellent astronomy gag, and hope this post goes toward making things right.

Note: My earlier posts featuring the image now start with a big banner pointing to this article.


Hello, “I Effing Love Science” readers! Here’s the eclipse chart you’re looking for.

before you read this article

The Facebook page I Fucking Love Science linked to this blog for a funny infographic about eclipses, but didn’t link to the infographic itself. For you convenience, here it is again. It works best if you imagine Neil deGrasse Tyson reading it to you.

Diagram: Lunar eclipse (earth between moon and sun), solar eclipse (moon between earth and sun), and apocalypse (sun between earth and moon)

Found via Enno Park.

America Florida

I had no idea there was such a thing as cookie icing

Photo: A grocery shelf with a selection of several tubes of cookie icing.

Click the photo to see the sugary goodness at full size.

I snapped this photo at my local Publix. I suppose that these are for decorating or spelling out messages on those giant cookies, but I’m also sure that there are some people who buy these because cookies alone aren’t diabetes-inducing enough. You could also use these to liven up your next Catholic mass by icing those bland communion wafers.


Do they still put these seats in station wagons?

I used to love riding in these things:

Photo: "What they were": rear-facing seats in the back of a station wagon / "What they felt like": Han Solo in the seat of one of the Millennium Falcon's gun turrets

Do they still have these in modern station wagons?

And for old times’ sake…