Expert Puzzler

Besides penning her excellent Samuel Craddock mysteries, TERRY SHAMES is an Expert Puzzler.

When my Cable Guy and I got a 3000-piece puzzle as a gift some time ago, we said, “No way,” and put it on the giveaway table. Terry Shames took up the challenge, and here’s the result.

The puzzle on March 18, 2020

She shares her story here!

First, you do understand that 15 pieces are missing, right? My dog (or dogs) (Editor’s note, “Sparky”) snacked on them. Because it’s so big, it hardly matters.

I started it March 18, which is when my husband and I went into serious lockdown. It turned out that the only surface big enough for it was our large dining room table. Which was fine. I figured we wouldn’t be having people over anyway. 

Here’s the fun thing: I don’t look at the picture when I do a puzzle. I challenge myself that way. Turned out to be a huge challenge. And also turned out to be a huge mistake (see below) 
I usually try to organize pieces one way or another—by color and texture. There were simply too many pieces to do this. I had to slog ahead.

The puzzle on March 30, 2020

About a week ago, I got sick of it and decided I had to really make a push to finish or throw it away. Of course I’m too stubborn to quit, which meant if I was going to get it done, I had to spend hours every day for a week. But by then I knew that every piece I found a home for meant fewer pieces to have to look at.

The puzzle on May 6, 2020

As for the big mistake. Here it is: I had a big chunk that I had put together separately and as I neared the end, I realized it didn’t go anywhere. So I had to peek at the cover. And found that I had put two sections together wrong. The lower left-hand corner and the upper right-hand corner were switched—I mean really switched, like around 100 pieces in each section. The odd thing was that pieces fit together nicely—wrong.
So two mornings ago I got up and said, “Go for it!” I loosened each offending section and then slid them around to slot in where they were supposed to go. Needless to say, it answered some puzzling (pun intended) questions about what the thing was supposed to look like. An hour later, I was done!
Here is a better photo of the finished product. I had to stand on a stool and try about 10 photos to make it work: 

Done!

CONGRATULATIONS, Terry!

MY TARGETS

Sometimes I’m late learning a very useful word. This time the word is

Paraprosdokian

— a figure of speech in which the latter part of a sentence or phrase is surprising, frequently humorous. It’s said that Sir Winston Churchill was a big fan.

Here’s one I like especially, since it describes me pretty well.

To be sure of hitting the target, shoot first and call whatever you hit the target.

More often than not, this is my decision making process. No planning, just responses to what comes my way.

In the writing/publishing life, this is called being a pantser (writing by the seat of one’s pants), not a plotter (outlining the story).

It’s my theory, that in the general population, people fall into one category or the other. For example, how do you approach a dinner party at your home:

            a) write out a menu, check off what you have in stock vs what you need to buy, assemble menus, and so on.

            b) check out your freezer and fridge an hour or so before, and work with it.

How do you approach a project/hobby? (see above choices)

And so on.

Here’s what a pantser’s desk might look like. There’s a rare opening for writing out a postcard. A last minute thought: make a list of items you see here. A prize for the longest list in the comments.


Does your process work for you – whether you’re writing a book or learning a new skill?

That’s all that matters. The target will take care of itself.

A Spam Test

Last week’s post, a quote from Carl Sagan, earned me nearly 100 SPAM comments over the course of a couple of days. Was it Sagan who drew them? The quote itself? I have no idea.

I eventually deleted the post and all the spam, but what a nuisance.

This is a test—a simple photo a friend of mine took of the NYPL from her hotel room across the street, to see if the spammers will follow me here.

Yours, Camille/Margaret/Ada/Jean, and now Elizabeth!

House Decluttering Time

A guest blog today from my Shelter-in-Place partner, taking us down a bit of music history through technology.

Had enough time within your house to notice what’s in the nooks and crannies behind your everyday life? My last 30 years of music listening has produced hundreds of recorded media devices; LP records, “45” records, reel-to-reel tapes, cassette tapes, and CD’s. They took and take up a large volume of space. Recently, I converted all of the music on these devices to digital files using computers. I made many discs with these files and stored the files on them, in addition to having them stored on my computer. These discs needed 4 computer paper boxes to contain them.

Scale: 4 life-size computer paper boxes

Most, but not all, of this music was performed by various artists. Some of the music was from special concerts that were broadcast and others came from satellite transmissions. A typical special was the Farm Aid concert. A typical partial content of one of these boxes is shown below.

The entire digital contents of this 30 years of musical content is about 136 Gigabytes. It can be stored on this 256 GB Flash Drive, with another 120 GB worth of other digital content, like 10’s of thousands of digital photos from a Smart phone.

The disc in this package is about an inch long, much of the length needed to plug it into the computer that will play its music.

Do you wonder what’s next?

Sheltering

Today we have a guest author, JOSEPHINE MELE, sharing her thoughts on our lives with Covid-19.

Times Square, 2018

Full Stop by Jo Mele

The city that never sleeps is taking a nap.

Streets are empty.

Restaurants are for take-out only.

Bars are closed.

Theaters are dark every day.

Streets have no traffic jams.

Times Square is quiet.

Shops are closed.

Churches are empty.

A New York minute now takes a full 60 seconds.

Josephine (Jo) Mele is a world traveler, tour guide, magazine editor, and life-long mystery reader. Her first book The Odd Grandmothers, is a memoir of three generations of her immigrant family. Her second is Two Travel Mysteries: Bullets in Bolivia and Homicide in Havana. She wrote “ABC’s of Asperger’s Syndrome,” an article for Parents Magazine that was co-authored with her grandson Nick Mack; “Ellis Island Story,” New York Times; and is a regular contributor to Reminisce Magazine, The Lamorinda Press, and Cine Cuvee Magazine.

Jo and Patience

Check out Jo’s books: The Odd Grandmothers and Two Travel Mysteries.

Grand Slam

Pittsburgh Pirates Park

You may remember my husband as “the cable guy,” but we have hardly any physical cables anymore so I might have to refer to him as “flash-drive guy” or “Bluetooth guy.”

He used to watch sports. All sports. While he did jigsaw puzzles, while he read his newspapers, while he listened to music. In his younger days, he played a few sports; now he mostly watches. I’ve walked by his screen and observed scenes of football, baseball, basketball, hockey, tennis, volley ball, golf, racing, and of course Olympic sports, all in no particular order. He wasn’t a huge fan in the sense of cheering for one team. In general, he simply liked to watch.

What if we no longer have sports as we knew them — with stadiums full of people and athletes as pop heroes all over tv? What sports fans will do with their time is one thing. But What happens to our language, that is so dependent on sports terminology? Will anyone remember what the terms mean?

• step up to the plate

• go to the mat

• out of the gate

• down to the wire

• drop the ball

• hit it out of the park

• par for the course

• get the ball rolling

• take off the gloves

• eye on the ball

• below the belt

• low blow

• on the ropes

That’s a baker’s dozen (I hope we’ll get our bakeries back!)

What are your favorites?

SMILE

Are you ready for something silly?

These days I’m finding it hard to be cheerful, to see the humor in life. I wake up in a land I’d thought of only in sci-fi terms. A flare-up. An outbreak. An epidemic. A pandemic? When someone cracks a joke (rarely), my smile or laugh seem foreign to me, as if my lips and mouth are not used to the configuration.

So for this week, I thought I’d look for Quotes that make me laugh, or, at least not depressed.

• from George Carlin: May the forces of evil become confused on the way to your house.

• from Woody Allen: My one regret in life is that I’m not someone else.

• from Steven Wright: A lot of people are afraid of heights. Not me. I’m afraid of widths.

Fordham, c. 2020

• and this one is an original from my colleagues in our physics lab at Fordham U., c. 1965.

Me: The spectrograph is off kilter again. It’s going to take hours to fix it.
Ron, a classmate: Let’s just rotate the Bronx.

Keep safe, everyone!

WORD OF THE WEEK

I’m reading Susie Steiner’s MISSING, PRESUMED, an excellent British police procedural.

This evening I came across the word toerag, used by one of the detectives to describe a colleague. I figured out from the context what was meant, but decided to check it out. Was this an invention of the author or a widely used word in the UK?

My search produced no fewer than 72 synonyms, but here’s the best definition.

I might need to use the word in the near future.

Enjoy!

Another Thurso

I’ve gotten used to LOL, BFF, OMG, and other abbreviations, but there’s another trend that I’m seeing in Comments on social media and in other blogs.

Here’s the new rule: any word of more than one syllable gets knocked down to one or two. Thus, conversation becomes “convo.” Problem becomes “prob,” or, in a perverse twist, expanded to “problemo.”

Thinking about it, haven’t we been using “info” and “demo” for ages?

What new ones have you heard? What do you think of the new landscape of vocab?

Still Life with Books
attributed to William Notman
Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Real Me Comes Back

The Real Me is back.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

I wish it were all good news, but the upheaval in our lives in the wake of Covid-19 is frightening. I hope you are taking the necessary precautions and making the best of inconveniences.

My sympathies and best wishes for recovery to anyone who has not been able to escape the virus. 

What’s there to do or talk about while we struggle with isolation?

• Here’s a relatively new blog that’s perfect for your time at home, or otherwise:

            Check out Sara Bly’s PHOTOCRAFTING FUN. Neverending ideas for DIY projects for yourself and gifts for others. Currently there are instructions for a memory-matching game on the site. Check out Recent Posts for more ideas and sign up to follow!

It’s never too soon to start holiday shopping, especially when it’s as easy and satisfying as this. And please share the results of your crafting with us!

•  Books

            — Catching you up with a short story I contributed to the anthology of mid-century crime fiction. Read “Lorna” and let me know what you think! And read all the rest, too!

           

— A new series will debut on May 5: guess who Elizabeth Logan really is. You can preorder Mousse and Murder, the first Alaskan Diner Mystery.

            — My local Castro Valley library participates in the “Reads” program. This year, Attica Locke’s Bluebird, Bluebird was the choice. Because of gathering restrictions, the discussions have been cancelled. To be rescheduled, I hope, because the book is outstanding. If you’re looking for a great read, give it a try.

Let me know if you have interests or hobbies you’d like covered here. Book reviews? DIY crafts? Writing topics? Your own “book of the week” to recommend?

For more of The Real Me, or The Real You, SIGN UP for my newsletter and visit www.minichino.com

That’s it for this week. I hope you’re all taking care!