Upping the Ante on Big Boggle

Everyone knows Boggle, one of my all time favorite games. Also, a game at which I have barely ever lost.

For those of you who don’t know, Boggle is when you have a 4×4 grid of letters, and you have to make a list of words with letters that are adjacent or diagonally adjacent. In regular Boggle, the minimum number of letters is three, so HE would not count but THE would. In Big Boggle, the grid is 5×5 and the letter minimum is four, so HE and THE would not count, but THEN or THEY would. It’s a combination of quick eyes, quick hands to beat the timer, and a good vocabulary. When I am at home with my family, we usually play at least once or twice a week. Lately, I’ve been eschewing 4-letter words and just doing 5-letter words, because I see so many 4-letter words and those only score you one point, as opposed to 5-letter words, which, if only you have them on your list, give you 2 points, 6-letter words for 3 points, and so on.

So tonight, my dad and I played up to a preset 500 points, using only 5-letter words or more.

It was insane.

After about 10 rounds, I beat my dad 510-250 (or something like that) but the ante was upped with the five-letter limit. It was also much easier to navigate each board, without worrying about writing down ARTS, RATS, STAR, etc., when A-R-T-S appear in the grid.

It also made for some longer and more exciting words.

Over the course of the game, I got two  eight-letter words, rare in the ordinary game of Boggle, seasoner and reasoner, and a record nine-letter wordreasoners. I also got some fun seven-letter words I would not have ordinarily picked up on, like treasonartistecontainnunneryquality, peerage, deifies, and deified, as well as some uncommon shorter words, like arcaneardent, incestswaintattoosarin (a type of poison) and raglan (a style of sleeve).

So there’s one way to kill an evening.

Also, I still have about 8-9 spots open for my That’s So Jacob 16 snail mails in 2016, so comment below with your email address, let’s connect, and I will send you something fun in the mail for the new year!


Five Years of Words

A few weeks ago, I was checking my stats on Words With Friends and saw that I started playing on April 11, 2010. So, five years later, here’s where my life has been, along with 26 words I like to use, one for each member of the alphabet.

Games played: around 5,953, give or take a few.

My all time score: 737, 925.

Longest win streak 32 games in a row.

Highest score: 656.

And now, for the words:


What it is: A type of sheep found North Africa. It comes from French and Berber, specifically the Berber word udad, meaning “ram.”

Used in a sentence: What a lovely sweater you have there; is it aoudad fur?


What it is: The currency of Thailand. It comes from Thai, obviously and refers to a weight.

Used in a sentence: Good lord, Enid, what did you buy in that river market in Phuket that cost twelve million baht?


What it is: A type of salmon. Its origin is unknown.

Used in a sentence: If you take a hooker out to dinner, order coho for the ho and a bottle of rum.


What it is: A figure in Islamic mythology, and the inspiration for Robin Williams’ character in Aladdin. Language of origin is Arabic.

Used in a sentence: Were I a djin, I’d want my home to be a bottle of gin.


What it is: A rune, to stand in for the “th” sound in Old English.

Used in a sentence: There is no funny way to use edh in a sentence.


What it is: A South American shrub, also known as pineapple guava. Named for Joao da Silva Feijo.

Used in a sentence: I wouldn’t go near that feijoa smoothie if I were you.


What it is: A member of an African tribe whose job it is to tell stories. Originated from French and Portuguese.

Used in a sentence: “Tell us another one, griot,” said Tommy, “before our lands are gone.”


What it is: Past tense of “have,” in Scottish.

Used in a sentence: “Oh mother Mary,” said Oona, “I haen no more wool to make the tartans.”


What it is: A type of river dolphin found in South America.

Used in a sentence: You won’t find no inia in West Virginia.


What it is: Of or relating to the jugum (another good word), also known as the cheekbone. From Latin.

Used in a sentence: After Peter’s wife came to prison for a conjugal visit and he went to sleep, she and his cellmate Pedro had a con jugal visit of their own. (Oh oh, see what I did there?)


What it is: An underground limestone chamber. It comes from German.

Used in a sentence: After Brunhilda slipped and fell in the Alps, she was afraid she was cursed to remain in the karst forever.


What it is: Another fun money word, this time from Angola.

Used in a sentence: Holy cannoli, Camilla, what did you buy from that arms dealer in Luanda that cost twelve million lwei?


What it is: A shrub grown in Chile and southern California. Comes from Spanish and Araucanian.

Used in a sentence: In Southern California, sometimes they cut the maqui into the shape of a famous mouse.


What it is: The inner sanctum of a temple in Greece. Greek origin, obviously.

Used in a sentence: “Oh no,” said Aphrodite, “I think I left my blouse in the naos!”


What it is: A form of sorcery practiced mostly in the West Indies. The word claims roots from “Gullah, Jamaican English, Guyanan English, Sranan, Twi and Igbo.” Quite a pedigree for such a small word.

Used in a sentence: If you were scared of sorcery, would that mean you had obiaphobia?


What it is: A shortened form of a biology term, like “bacteriophage.”

Used in a sentence: Mitosis is just two cells going through a phage.


What it is: A judge in a Muslim community. From Arabic.

Used in a sentence: Abdul was hoping to be reassigned to a courthouse in a town near an oasis, so he could be the first qadi in the wadi.


What it is: A highly venomous snake from Africa, and Afrikaans.

Used in a sentence: The ringhals is so deadly that it is its own plural.


What it is: Well, it’s obviously from French, and it’s a ribbon tied around your neck, sometimes with a pendant.

Used in a sentence: Isabelle refused to let her daughter out of the house unless her sautoir was straight.


What it is: A fancy name for treacle.  Latin/Greek origins.

Used in a sentence: Who uses theriaca in cooking anymore?


What it is: A compound in urine. Either comes from French or Greek.

Used in a sentence: Urea is a great way to end a game, and I resisted the urge to make a pee joke.


What it is: Something to do with medical coding. I don’t know, it’s late.

Used in a sentence: I have never seen a voxel.


What it is: A notched stick used by Australian Aborigines as a hunting spear. From Dharuk.

Used in a sentence: “Crikey,” said Kyle, “I think I hit a wallaby with my woomera!”


What it is: A tree-covered promenade or path. From Latin/Greek.

Used in a sentence: Without a good xyst, I think we would cease to exist.


What it is: An Orthodox Jewish educational institution. Okay, I admit, I put this in for personal reasons but I have used it successfully and even as a plural. It’s Hebrew, if you couldn’t tell.

Used in a sentence: “They’ll never find me here,” giggled Sister Mary-Celine Dion, as she ducked into the yeshiva, thinking to herself that this was the best game of hide-and-seek the convent ever had.


What it is: Shortening of “pizzas.”

Used in a sentence: Passover is done so GIVE ME ALL THE ZAS.

That was not as fun as I thought it would be to type but I hope y’all enjoyed it. Good night, sleep tight, don’t let the aoudads bite.


Six More Things I Learned from Friends

So – total irony – I spent last night actually doing work instead of fretting over a post, and I actually had some good ideas for things to post, but I told myself I was going to focus on my work and I did. WILLPOWER.

However, after six pretty solid hours of class, I am ready to write something that isn’t school-related. That, and ready to stare at YouTube/TV/the wall for awhile.


Six More Things I Learned from Friends

6. Fire safety.

Candlelight dinner in the park = starting an open fire in a wooded area, PHOEBE.

5. Martial arts.

…or, freshwater eel. And on that note…

4. Japanese cuisine

I know what you mean, Rachel Green.

3. Team sports.

Specifically, how to pick teams; just bunny up. (What’s bunny u-) “BUNNY!”

2. Holidays.

The only thing that’s wrong here is that it was Passover, not Chanukah…but yes, there were superheroes and flying involved. Smile on, Joey.

1. Military time.

Just subtract twelve. Thank you, Monica.


A Philosophy For Blogging

I’ve been doing this thing a lot lately – this thing where I wait until the last minute to start a blog, publish it before I’m done so I can get it in before midnight to keep up a streak I’ve had since January 1, and then stay up for another few hours working on it and editing it, therefore delaying (and sometimes deleting) any hope of getting any schoolwork done. I’ve discovered that this method is no longer conducive to healthy study habits, so I’m just going to come right out and say it: my streak will most likely end tonight (if I manage to finish and hit publish before midnight). Most of the past weeks’ posts have been almost cheat-y in that way, including last night’s. I was going to write about the Oscars, but it wasn’t until 11:59 PM that I realized that I had been glued to my TV through the entire ceremony and Jimmy Kimmel’s post-Oscar show and hadn’t written a word. I’m probably going to go back to that post tomorrow and edit it to incorporate some thoughts about the Oscars.

Basically, I’ve been rethinking my whole blogging style.

I used to have a LiveJournal when I was a teenager (who didn’t?) and I would write mundane posts about nothing (truly, actually, nothing) just to get a 1 on my calendar for that day. I’m sort of falling into that pattern again, and I don’t like it. I know that some of my posts are significantly worse than others, and I’d like to minimize that in the future. More substance, less “word vomit.”

I’m a huge fan of Hyperbole and a Half (if you haven’t seen it, you really should; Allie Brosh is incredibly adept at capturing oft-misunderstood emotions and encapsulating them in childlike imagery via MS Paint) but what I like most about it is the philosophy of blogging that the author shares in her FAQ section.

Some of the points that I’d like to echo in my own blogging

  • Updating frequently does not = the best quality, necessarily. Though I’ve been known to write alarmingly quickly (like that time in sophomore year when I started a 15 page paper at noon on the day it was due, finished it 8 hours later, and turned it in 15 minutes before the cutoff time) sometimes my ideas are flagging since I’ve been focusing on other things all day that day and have nothing much going on inside my head that is substantial enough to share (and that bar is pretty low).
  • Sometimes it takes a while for inspiration to hit, or to find the time to get the ideas and details down to a publishable point. I have about seven drafts at any given time that I always mean to get back to, but never find the time to give them appropriate attention. Maybe this is a sign I should go back to those.
  • And yes, my details are sometimes selective. They’re not really exaggerated (at least not to my knowledge) but she’s right in that it takes the adding/cutting of details to make a “you had to be there” story into one that’s memorable and worth sharing on the Internets for all time. Basically, storytelling that has elements that keep it rolling, moving, entertaining, worth writing about and worth sharing.

This probably won’t be the last thing I have to say about my blogging philosophy, and who knows, maybe it’ll change. But for now, I guess I’ll get back to that paper proposal that’s due tomorrow over which I’ve been agonizing.


Wicked Game

To start, bienvenidos to my first-ever visitors from Paraguay and Bolivia…ole!

For one of my classes this week, we were given the assignment to go on a website about languages and find three links of value to the rest of the class. Easy enough, right? But then, out of the mist of the wild Internet, it appeared…

The Games Section.

I am a complete sucker when it comes to online games. Actually, games in general. I will play for hours and hours and hours, not only trying to get a better high-score, but to figure out how to beat the game. And if the game involves words, even better. A girl in my grade in high school once told me that I wasn’t fun to play games with anymore because I would always figure out how to win, and then do that every time. Didn’t work out so well for her, but hey, that’s the game.

Anyway, one of my sections was about improving one’s English grammar (http://www.roadtogrammar.com), and it included a games section with not one, but SIX addicting games.

Four of them were kind of duds, though. The game called MERGE is your basic doublet game, in which the player is given two four letter words and must change one letter at a time to connect them, like lamb-limb-lime-mime-mine or whatever. The one called FLUENT is sort of a general English challenge and is pretty easy, although for a couple of answers I disagreed, which tripped me up. WORD SLAMM [sic] involves flying letters, and making a Scrabble play out of them; a good concept, but poorly designed and executed. WORD SEARCH is mostly just your basic word search with a Minesweeper-esque twist, where if you click a letter that is not a part of any word, it costs you a life.

The two that were complete time-slaying demons:


Let’s start with CHOPPED, the lesser of the two offenders.

In this game, you’re given a sequence of ten letters, and must “chop” off letters (without rearranging them) in order to make a word, the longer the better. The concept is easy enough, but if you think “oh, I’ll just pick out the five letter word right off the bat, then you’ll lose. You get bonus points for five-letter words or more, but usually I ended up with only three- and four-letter words.

Then, onto the time-waster of the day, WORD STRIPS.

Again, a simple concept, but made increasingly harder by time, stress, and the infrequency of vowels. There are four strips of five letters each, and you can slide them up or down to make a four letter word in the center row. There is also a little red indicator on the side to see what letters you have in the center row. It also automatically stops when a four-letter word is formed; so sometimes it will stop you from trying to make, say, “stop” when you have “atop” or “shop” in the boxes, which is a time saver. Sometimes the four letters in the center row will already be a word, so just click on it and your work is done. Others are much harder, with lots of j’s and q’s and x’s in the mix, as well as a paucity of vowels.

So, strategies. There are a few, but none are completely fail safe.

First, you can look at all the letters before moving the sliders, then when you see the word, just move the strips and you’re done. However, when time is a factor, sometimes your eyes dart to the clock rather than making words.

Second, there’s the vowel pattern strategy. If you see a pattern of consonant-vowel-consonant-vowel, especially when there is an e at the end, just line up the second vowel and the final vowel and play with the consonants until you get a match. When the second letter is a and the last is e, there are endless combinations to make it a four letter word. In this paragraph, there are two: “LINE” and “MAKE.”

Third, there’s the “make it plural” strategy. Due to the sheer number of three letter words, when you have an s in the fourth position, it’s inevitable that the three preceding letters will make some word.

Most of all, don’t waste time looking for fancy words. This is not Scrabble, you don’t have that kind of time. Sure, a few times I ended up with “QAID,” “AMYL,” and “SOYA,” but that was because I saw absolutely nothing else.

My personal high score is 984.

There went several hours of my life, and probably several more in the future.

I’m toast.


It’s Colder Than A…

Okay, this is it. It is officially cold outside.

How cold is it?

TK TK gifs

By the numbers, it’s -23 F here in Madison.

Negative. Twenty. Three. 

And that’s not even the coldest on record here.

But it’s cold enough that two of my meetings tonight were cancelled, and that all morning classes at the University of Wisconsin are cancelled tomorrow. And hopefully the afternoon ones too, not that I don’t love Irish drama but it would just make my day even more special.

And since it’s cold enough for that, it’s officially too cold to think.

So I’m going to let Google do the post for me today.

Going back to the initial question…

How cold is it?

I’m going to defer to Aubrey Plaza on this one.


Fun New Words to Mumble Under Your Breath

One of the courses I’m taking this semester is a seminar in Irish drama. I don’t know much about Ireland and Irish playwrights as I probably should, hence the reason for taking the class. The reading list is gigantic, and with ten readings to be read before Tuesday, I spent the majority of my Saturday not reading them and have only read twenty pages into the first.

Reading an Irish play can be tricky. The language is colorful, to say the least, and it’s written in a dialect. It’s taken me the better part of an hour to read what I have so far, but I’ve been double dipping between reading and watching SNL. This sketch is kind of dumb.

But anyway, back to the play. The one I’m reading is Colleen Bawn by Dion Boucicault. The plot is fairly straightforward, and I’ve already learned two fun new words. And both of them have the same meaning.

First, spalpeen. Originating in the late 18th century, it can be pronounced either spal-peen or spal-peen. Versatile. According to Dictionary.com, it means “lad, boy, rascal, or scamp.”  It comes from an Irish word meaning “hired laborer.” I like the World English Dictionary’s reference to “rascal or layabout” better. I like this word because it doesn’t sound like anything in English, and is slightly sexual in nature.

Another fun one is blackguard. You may have heard this from the Family Guy episode where Stewie dresses up a la Tootsie to get a role on his favorite TV show, Jolly Farm Revue. I didn’t know what the word meant or even if it was indeed a real word. I actually thought it was “blaggard” because that’s how it’s pronounced, although saying it as if it were a compound of “black” and “guard” is also acceptable. And racist. Defined as “scoundrel,” the word refers to menial workers, who were often called the black guard. My favorite feature of this word is that it can be used as a verb or even an adverb, blackguardly, as in, “My man blackguardly left me with three kids and no money.” Now it’s not only racist, but doubly racist.

I…should probably not incorporate those into my daily speech. Maybe the world’s not ready for them yet.

But they still count in Words With Friends.