Saturday, February 21, 2009

Everything I Need to Know, I Learned From a Crossword Puzzle

Oh sure, life on the grid is a great way to boost vocabulary. I can tell you about rocky outcroppings ("tors"), mine openings ("adits"), and Italian spewers ("Etna"). I feel genuinely sorry for those whose fame lives on solely through puzzles (Peter Fonda as "Ulee", Crying Game's Steven "Rea", and musician "Satie." For those aspiring to greatness, my advice: Change your name to include a lot of vowels.

We've all heard that a crossword puzzle a day keeps Alzheimers at bay. (Non-puzzlers, not to worry. I've also heard that 15 minutes of face-to-face conversation does the same thing.) Still, there must be something that keeps me coming back every morning, Sundays, and the Thursday NYT special in the Post's Preview section.

Solving the puzzle reminds me that sometimes you have to look at problems from all angles. Stuck in one corner? Let it go. Start in a different place and you'll eventually work your way back.

Be fearless! I solve in pen because I like the way it feels on newsprint and its contrast that pencil lacks. But what about mistakes? I cross them out and keep going. Arriving at a solution isn't always neat and tidy.

Is it cheating to head to google or wikipedia for help? Does this taint the success of the day? Not if I learn something that will help me the next time around. Puzzles teach you to manage your resources.

In puzzle-land, Monday puzzles are the easiest. Sometimes I put myself in speed-solving mode and other times I solve just using the down clues. This teaches me to always look for ways to improve.

When the squares don't make sense and the letters don't fit, I have to humble myself and admit I might be wrong. I have to let go of my determination to be correct and start over. Beating my head against the puzzle, won't get me anywhere.

Walk away. If nothing makes sense, then letting my brain rest is often the best solution to reach a solution. Amazing how often a fresh start offers an "aha!" moment.

For a cruciverbalist, life has its acrosses and downs, but nothing beats the satisfaction of filling in that very last empty square.

Friday, February 20, 2009

I have a goal!

Because all goals should be attainable, I'll start with something doable. I'm going to post something every day for the next month. It may not be profound or witty or consciousness raising, but it will keep me writing!

A friend from church is posting a picture of himself every day for the next year. I'm not into that kind of self-disclosure by a long shot. If my soul is to be bared, it shall be via the written word.

Here's what I've been up to:
Scheduling the next year's classes for PREP. Talking to teachers, both current and potential, and admiring the Herculean effort that goes into putting which class where, at what time, and without conflict with the other classes it needs to feed into.

Praying for not one, but TWO pregnant mommies-to-be. Katie is due in May and Jaimee in September. It's a double-grammy-whammy!

Keeping my shoes away from Radley. He doesn't chew, he carries. My current solution - put them up higher - is not as effective as just putting them away. And that's why our bookshelves are full of random shoes.

Follow me on Twitter. It's lots of fun!


Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Omnivore's 100

Here's a fun exercise for the devoted foodie.

Here’s what you do:

1) Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions.
2) Bold all the items you’ve eaten.
3) Cross out any items that you would never consider eating.

The Omnivore’s Hundred:

1. Venison
2. Nettle Tea
3. Huevos rancheros
4. Steak tartare
5. Crocodile
6. Black pudding
7. Cheese fondue
8. Carp
9. Borscht
10. Baba ghanoush
11. Calamari
12. Pho
13. PB&J sandwich
14. Aloo gobi
15. Hot dog from a street cart
16. Epoisses
17. Black truffle
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes
19. Steamed pork buns
20. Pistachio ice cream
21. Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries
23. Foie gras
24. Rice and beans
25. Head cheese
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper
27. Dulce de leche
28. Oysters
29. Baklava
30. Bagna cauda
31. Wasabi peas
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl
33. Salted lassi
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float
36. Cognac with a fat cigar
37. Clotted cream tea
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O
39. Gumbo
40. Oxtail
41. Curried goat
42. Whole insects
43. Phaal
44. Goat’s milk
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more
46. Fugu
47. Chicken tikka masala
48. Eel
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut
50. Sea urchin
51. Prickly pear
52. Umeboshi
53. Abalone
54. Paneer
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal
56. Spaetzle
57. Dirty gin martini
58. Beer above 8% alcohol
59. Poutine
60. Carob chips
61. S’mores
62. Sweetbreads
63. Kaolin
64. Currywurst
65. Durian
66. Frogs’ legs
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake
68. Haggis
69. Fried plantain
70. Chitterlings
71. Gazpacho
72. Caviar and blini
73. Louche absinthe
74. Gjetost
75. Roadkill
76. Baijiu
77. Hostess Fruit Pie
78. Snail
79. Lapsang souchong
80. Bellini
81. Tom yum
82. Eggs Benedict
83. Pocky
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant.
85. Kobe Beef
86. Hare
87. Goulash
88. Flowers
89. Horse
90. Criollo chocolate
91. Spam
92. Soft shell crab
93. Rose harissa
94. Catfish
95. Mole Poblano
96. Bagel and Lox
97. Lobster Thermidor
98. Polenta
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
100. Snake