The Wordle Game Craze

I love word games. For months I kept hearing about Wordle, a new word game. People loved it. Finally, I decided to check out the fascination for myself.

It seems simple. In reality, it requires some serious thought and provides a real challenge some days. In essence, you have six tries to figure out a 5-letter word. Once you type in the first word, the letters change colors to indicate if you got a right letter in the right place (green), a right letter in the wrong place (yellow), or a wrong letter (gray).

I always like to start off with a word that has a lot of common letters, such as “steam” or “hears” or “fling” etc. Then the fun starts. If you get a right letter, wrong place (yellow) the challenge is to come up with another 5-letter word that uses this same letter in a different position. However, you don’t want to repeat any of the eliminated letters. If you get a right letter, right place (green), the challenge is to come up with another 5-letter word that keeps that letter in the same position. And of course if you get a combination of yellow and green, that can make the next guess easier or harder. It all depends on what the

Recently, I discovered a letter could appear more than once in a word (e.g., “dodge” or “cynic”). This made it both more challenging, and also easier, by expanding options. The game doesn’t indicate if a letter appears more than once, even it turns yellow or green. You have to figure it out as part of the whole word.

I confess, I’ve added Wordle to my daily repertoire of word games. I love it! However, what strikes me most about the game is it can only exist electronically. Wordle would not work across mediums the way a crossword puzzle or sudoku can. The game depends on the player getting feedback about whether or not a letter is good or not. This couldn’t work on paper. The colors of the letters also show up on the keyboard so you know what’s available, what’s eliminated, and what’s right.

Wordle game – took me six tries today!

Today’s game almost stumped me. It took me all six guesses to figure it out, even as I got closer with each round. Usually I figure out the word in 3-4 tries.

Valentine’s Day: About All Love

Red Tulips surrounded by Purple Flowers

Many people are surprised when I tell them that Valentine’s is my favorite holiday. In fact, it’s one of the only holidays where I regularly buy presents and send cards. Who wouldn’t enjoy a holiday expressly to celebrate love?

Some years ago, I read (and re-read) bell hooks’s book All About Love: New Visions. In it, hooks describes all different kinds of love. Other important kinds of love that get over-shadowed and forgotten by the shine of romantic, passionate love. Love for friends, family members, companions, pets, and ourselves. They all count.

When I think about love, a few notable examples of extraordinary acts in the ordinary act of daily life spring to mind. My father, in his final months of decline, still made dinner for my mother every night. The cancer had metastasized into the bones of his right forearm. Each day, he rested his turgid, swollen arm so he could expend his whole day’s worth of energy in that single act of love.

Earlier on, when he first started to get sick, he delegated his Valentine’s duties to me. He used to enlist me to go out and buy my mother something on his behalf. To this day, I still carry on the tradition.

I also think fondly of the fruit skewers my friend’s mom made for her engagement party. I’ve only made regular meat and veggie skewers, but they’re a lot of work! I can only imagine the time and effort this mother put in to make her daughter’s party something special. Each skewer contained a rainbow array of carefully cut fruits. A cut watermelon hosted the artfully arranged skewers. This clearly took a lot of patience to accomplish. And they weren’t the only thing on the food table.

Even thinking about it for a short time, I can quickly think of dozens of examples. That’s why Valentine’s to me is about all love. The day is not exclusively for romantic, passionate love. Who wouldn’t appreciate flowers, chocolates, decadent baked goods, or a good meal with enjoyable company?

Happy Valentine’s (or Galentine’s) Day!

Getting Sticky

The other night I was listening to one of my new favorite podcasts, Maintenance Phase. This particular episode, “The Great Protein Fiasco,” discussed the history, and politicization, of how NestlĂ© convinced the world formula was better than breast milk. Ironically, now all the emphasis is on only breastfeeding babies. This is a complex issue. The point I’m making is mothers were convinced and manipulated to accept a product trying to replicate what most of them could produce themselves.

Other food examples include molasses and Wonder Bread. Two products stripped of their nutrient value, only to have them “enriched” by replacing all the good stuff after.

These food examples remind me of technology. In many ways technology makes us disengaged and disassociated from our bodies. The solution is often wearable technologies, or apps, to reacquaint us with ourselves. Examples of this include sleep tracking apps, or Ivy by Bellabeat, a piece of jewelry that tracks health for women. Tracking includes heart rates, menstrual cycles, sleep quantity and quality, etc.

Tracking these kinds of things manually can be tedious. I’ve made lots of food journals for various reasons. However, manual tracking requires us to be more aware and present with what’s going on with our minds and bodies. As my grandfather used to say, the human body is one of the best machines of all time. One of his great regrets was he wasn’t taught how to use it better. But is an app, or wearable technology, going to accomplish that?

I recently started using a meditation app. I’ve been meditating on and off since 2006. Usually I attend sessions (pre-pandemic) or read about meditation to learn new styles. However, these options haven’t been available lately.

From the app’s report center, I know I’ve been meditating for 17 days straight. I’ve completed 34 sessions for a total of 9 hours. But is this a report on my progress to become more mindful? Or a measurement of the beneficial effects of meditation?

I think not, based on previous years of app-free meditation experience. I’ve always been able to gage the effects according to how I feel. That’s the reason I always return to meditation whenever I fall out of the habit. I’ll complete the app’s program before making a final decision about its effectiveness. Until then, I’ll rely on the wisdom of my mind and body to tell me how it’s going.

Human Connection: The Little Things

This past weekend I finally got the chance to return a holiday gift. With all the pandemics, restricted capacities, and bad weather, it took a while. I hit the bathroom before driving home. On my way out of the restroom, I noticed a woman sitting by the entrance. A pile of shopping bags formed a small arc around her body.

In passing I remarked it looked like she’d had a good day. Perhaps smiles could have been exchanged, had we been unmasked. It was exactly the kind of small, meaningless, yet somehow fulfilling exchange that’s been absent for so many months. I actually hadn’t noticed it was missing until I did it. I walked to my car musing about the many missed random, pleasantries. And how many remain unspoken because people are afraid of spraying aerosols through their masks. Or perhaps people don’t say them as often because we’re all masked and that conceals part of the communication. Plus it’s super hard to understand some people through a mask.

When I lived in NYC, talking was a fine art. Networking meant everything. You never knew who you would meet when, or how a single interaction might impact your life. I could hear a whole life’s story on a long subway ride home. Or hear something funny, strange, bizarre and quintessentially New York, anywhere, at any time.

Coincidentally, I also read an article about the life line group texts/chats had become during the pandemic. I had been part of various group chats throughout the pandemic. But just like in real life, the thread petered out. A new chat started. However, many gaps that normally would have been filled with the occasional in-person outing, were missing. The deficit was too much to satisfy with a string of text and a few uploaded photos. It was something, but it just wasn’t the same.

When we emerge from the heavy part of this pandemic, there will be a new normal. I just hope it still includes these small, random exchanges. I feel starved for them.

Snow Days

Last week we had a blizzard. It coincided with the first day back for schools to resume in-person learning. Schools had been teaching remotely following the holiday. The day started out stormy with lots of fast-falling snow. The kind that you know is going to last for a while. A few hours later, it was declared a blizzard due to the high winds and white-out conditions.

Some school regions opted for a real snow day. One of those rare, unplanned days off in the winter. I remember those days fondly, waking up early to listen for closures on the radio. Then happily falling back into a cozy slumber before waking up to play in the snow all day. I’m sure my parents did not share my opinion. Though my father was a high school teacher, so maybe he also appreciated the “free” day.

Other school regions, however, opted to keep up the virtual learning for one more day. I felt sad for those students. Denied a “free” day off to be warm and cozy or to play in the fresh snow during daylight hours.

It was the same reality for us in the office. At one meeting someone mentioned the “snow day” for their kids. Somebody joked back, “I wish we had a snow day.” Suddenly a new aspect of working remotely all the time hit me. No snow days. We were like those kids in the unfortunate school regions that decided the students would “go” to school, no matter what.

Almost 20 years ago, when I lived in New York City, I recall struggling to get to work during a terrible snow storm. It wasn’t a blizzard, but it was a snow emergency. I rode the subway and plowed my way to work through drifts of snow up to my thighs at some points. When I arrived, the offices were closed. Nobody told me about the special hotline to call and check for these things. Twenty years ago, things were done differently. But we still got a snow day once in a while.

It seems those days are over. Even if we do return to the office on a more full-time basis, we all know we can switch to remote instantly. And for as long as necessary.

Pandemic Failures: Testing

Almost two years into the pandemic and testing has failed, as Omicron surges. Where I live, we can’t get tests. This includes PCR and rapid antigen tests. To clarify, testing is available for a limited group of people who meet strict criteria.

For the rest of us, we’ve been told to assume every symptom is covid and to self-isolate for 5 days. This includes headaches, sniffles, runny noses, and more serious symptoms. However, without testing to confirm, how can we know if we’ve actually had covid? If I get a runny nose, or a headache, four times this winter, how can I know if I had covid one of those times? Or maybe none of those times? Or maybe I had it more than once? Each time, I’m assuming and self-isolating, as instructed. What about the people who don’t have jobs where they can work from home?

More importantly, people who have symptoms and don’t have covid, will be delaying treatment. For example, a friend of mine had to keep her kid home from daycare due to an outbreak. After four days her kid still had a temperature. She was finally able to take the kid to the doctor and found out the fever was from an ear infection. Did her kid start out with covid that turned into an ear infection? She’ll never know.

Rapid tests aren’t readily available. If they are, they cost hundreds of times more what they cost to produce (e.g., $40 for one test at the pharmacy). It’s obnoxious to be price gouging for a thing like this during a severe outbreak.

Schools were closed for the first weeks in January. They’re open today, but the province has already declared they won’t be tracking covid outbreaks in schools. Instead they’ll report absences, but without qualifying what the absences are from.

When I blogged about problems with testing last year, it was about the trouble booking them. Now the problem is we can’t get them. Without testing, there’s no tracking. Without tracking, there’s no accurate data to actually know who got infected, or when. It’s all based on assumption. Personally, I’d like to know if the headache and malaise I experienced last week after a known exposure was covid. Maybe I got lucky with mild symptoms. Then again, maybe it was just a headache and pandemic fatigue. I’ll never know.