Word Games

July 31, 2017 – Do people still play Words with Friends?

The popular word game that ripped off Scrabble disappeared in my circles, and I can’t say that I miss it. Scrabble is the original game that holds my loyalty and has stood the test of time.

Other classic word games not likely to disappear soon include crossword puzzles and cryptograms. These games have fed my love of words and helped me with my writing skills, so I partake whenever I get the chance. I’m not the best with crosswords; I am much better with cryptograms, and can challenge the best of them.

Last night I discovered another word game on Facebook that I thought was fun. Granted, it was 4 a.m. and in the battle with insomnia, it kept me occupied until I felt drowsy enough give sleep another try. Word Connect has a simple concept. When letters appear on screen, you build various word combinations and earn coins that allow you to continue to play. It’s a great way to keep your brain active and it’s more challenging than you might think.

Player feedback has been positive so far, earning 4.6 out of five stars. Perhaps it won’t be around as long as Scrabble or crosswords and cryptograms, but for now, it’s an entertaining way to spend your time.

Word Connect is a product of Zentertain. It’s available on Facebook, and as an app on Google Play, Android and the iTunes store.

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The Best Movies About Summer

June 26, 2017 – Summer usually means blockbuster releases at the movies, but if you’re like me and not a fan of super hero movies, the last few summers have been a disappointment.

To compensate, I started to think about my favorite movies that took place in the summer, and I found this interesting list on Ranker.com.  It contains a variety of great movies about summer, with a few glaring favorites missing from the list. There are also a few on the list that don’t deserve to be there, but that’s for another post for another time.

Here’s what’s missing:

A Walk on the Moon – The story of a young mother (Diane Lane) who’s world is turned upside down as she begins an affair with a clothing salesman (Viggo Mortensen) when the family vacations at a holiday camp during the summer of 1969, the same summer as the moon walk.

Indian Summer – Friends unite for a weeklong reunion at a summer camp that is about to close. The all-star cast includes Alan Arkin, Diane Lane, Bill Paxton and more, and the story is reminiscent of The Big Chill.

What About Bob – A psychologist loses his mind (Richard Dreyfuss) when his most dependent patient (Bill Murray) follows him and his family on vacation.

The Way Way Back – A shy teen goes to the beach for the summer with his mother (Toni Collette), her new boyfriend (Steve Carell) and his daughter. He has a tough time fitting in until he gets a job at a water park and makes friends with the manager (Sam Rockwell).

The Wonders of Lavender

June 5, 2017 – I never had much desire to visit France — I’m more of a fan of the Mediterranean countries, at least when I vacation in my mind — but these gorgeous photos of the country’s lavender fields make me want to pack my bags and go. With lavender’s ability to sooth nervous tension, relieve pain and help insomnia, the people in this region must be the happiest and most well-rested people on earth.

In my region of the world, June is lavender harvest season, and there are two close lavender farms in Bucks County, Pa. Peace Valley Lavender Farm and Carousel Lavender Farm are both located near the town of New Hope. Here are a few photos of each farm — although they don’t come close to those taken in France since they were taken after harvest.

peace valley sign

Lavender was used 2500 years ago in the mummification process in Ancient Egypt. It is also said that Cleopatra used a perfume infused with lavender to seduced Julius Caesar and Mark Antony.

It is said that Cleopatra used a perfume infused with lavender to seduce Julius Caesar and Mark Antony.

Queen Victoria used to require that her furniture be polished with a lavender-based solution, and she also sipped tea infused with lavender to settle her stomach and ease her headaches.

Queen Victoria used to require that her furniture be polished with a lavender-based solution, and she also sipped tea infused with lavender to settle her stomach.

peace valley shop 2

Lavender has the following properties: antibacterial, antidepressant, analgesic, and antiseptic. During London’s great plague, people would tie bunches of lavender to their wrists to fight infection and bacteria.

carosel sign

The lavender bud is covered in tiny hairs that contain the essential oils.

The lavender bud is covered in tiny hairs that contain the essential oils.

Back in the Elizabethan times, when baths weren’t common practice, lavender was used to perfume clothes and bed linen.

Back in the Elizabethan times, when baths weren’t common practice, lavender was used to perfume clothes and bed linen.

In French classrooms teachers used to crush lavender to calm disruptive and nervous students.

In French classrooms teachers used to crush lavender to calm disruptive and nervous students.

Writers Beware

May 8, 2017 – Replacing human jobs with computers is nothing new. However, to realize that robots will replace five million jobs by 2020, according to Digital Trends, or half the jobs within 30 years, according to Business Insider, is frightening.

Thankfully, I am a writer so I don’t have to worry about replacement, right?

Scrolling through the LinkedIn feed recently, this headline caught my eye: “What if Hollywood Replaced Writers with AI?” Of course, I clicked to read more and discovered that artificial intelligence algorithms wrote a short film, It’s No Game. They made it into a short film and cast David Hasselhoff to star the main role.

That’s right. AI wrote every line of the screenplay. All seven minutes and 40 seconds of it.

At first, I thought, how cool. A few seconds later, I began to feel envious. My human brain has been plugging away at this game for years, and though I consider myself lucky that I receive a paycheck to write nonfiction all day, I haven’t had any real success with fiction, my real passion.

I watched the film, and although I can’t wrap my head around the technology, or if the guy who programmed the AI could be considered the actual author because created the “author”, I’m back to thinking it is cool. Weird, cheesy and nonsensical, but cool. How did AI come up with a plot? It didn’t make any sense, but there was still a solid plot. And how did it write that ever so evasive first line? They are my biggest struggles.

I’m also relieved to see that with the product AI put out, human screenwriters aren’t likely to lose their jobs anytime soon. But in 50 years, who knows.

A bedtime snack?

April 24, 2017 — I used to work with a woman who bragged about giving her kids Benadryl before long car trips to make them sleep.

If she’d known about Kush Cakes, she could have saved herself from the awful stares of her co-workers when she told us about it.

Kush Cakes, advertised as the ultimate psychedelic brownie, are made with ingredients that are legal in every state by a licensed pharmacist and with a formula to help support relaxation and sleep. They also contain hemp protein, melatonin, valerian root and coco, and have a logo that resembles another hemp product that you might be familiar with.

Although the manufacturer says that the brownies are for adults only, especially those who need to relax after consuming energy drinks to fuel themselves at work all day, I’m sure the Benadryl mom would have an easier time giving her kids a brownie with rather than a teaspoonful of nasty tasting medicine.

I like the idea of eating a brownie before bed over popping an Ambien. At least Kush Cakes don’t have a history of making people do weird things like sleepwalk in the nude, or eat everything in the kitchen without any recollection. However, they are pricey.

Find out more about these delectable goodies at www.mykushcakes.com.

Need a Good Laugh? Surf the Web.

March 13, 2017 – The beauty of the Internet is that there is always something new to discover.

I came across a site appropriately named watchitbackwards.com, which is devoted to providing a good laugh to movie and television fans.

The premise is that story lines in reverse create a completely different and humorous outcome. Some plot lines even improve. For example:

“If you watch The Wizard Of Oz backwards, it’s about Dorothy escaping Oz by running away from the Emerald City and getting home to Kansas in a flying house.”

Or, “if you watch Pretty Woman backwards, it’s about Richard Gere transforming Julia Roberts into a hooker.”

And my favorite, “if you watch Scarface backwards, it’s about a man who gives up cocaine and crime to follow his dream of becoming a dishwasher to earn enough money so he can visit Cuba.”

The site is updated frequently, so even the latest Oscar nominations have been added. And if you’re clever enough to come up with your own backwards movie or television show, the site welcomes submissions.