Friday, July 31, 2009

Rex Morgan Exclamation Mark Count, 7/31/2009

4 exclamation marks!

But just as amazing, 4 ellipses!!! I've never seen the number of exclamation marks and ellipses be the same! AND, no question marks!

Crosswords of the Day, 7/31/2009

Today was kind of a weird day for all three crosswords I do on Friday. I liked them all, but two of them weren't that much fun to solve (NYT and BEQ), and the other was great but had some really iffy answers that keeps it from being great to me, including a really questionable theme entry.

The NYT was a themeless, and had a bunch of nice answers, but kind of felt weird and boring at the same time. This happens occasionally, where I'm doing a themeless and liking some of the answers but in general just kind of feeling blah about the whole experience.

When I first got into crosswords and found out about themelesses (which are almost always more difficult than puzzles with themes), I thought they'd be a cool challenge. But in general, I don't like them for exactly the reason I didn't like the NYT today; they often seem arbitrary and like I'm just doing work rather than enjoying trying to figure something out like a theme.

Last Saturday's LAT themeless was a rare and wonderful exception, where for whatever reason, the answers were incredibly lively and different (FRAID NOT, EXUBERANCE, MALT LIQUOR, and LIZA WITH A Z were just a few of the really great answers in that puzzle), and while solving it, I felt that there was something really cool coming next, which there always was. By the way, BEQ's themelesses almost always follow this pattern of incredibly fun, lively fill and a solidly hard but fair difficulty level.

So, after all that, the NYT gets **1/2 from me today. Nothing terrible, but certainly not fun to do.

The BEQ was a quote puzzle, which he tends to do very very well. This one though didn't strike me as particularly funny or clever, so this one wasn't too much fun to solve. The fill also didn't have BEQ's usual sparkle of cleverness, there was a Roman numeral, the difficulty level was all over the place, and my tie for worst clue of the day is in this puzzle. ** for this one.

The LAT had a cute theme that lent to there being a whole bunch of X's in it. It was also pretty tough, which has not been the case for LAT puzzles of late. I had a lot of fun solving this one though, and some of the answers were truly great, like FRITATTA or LECARRE. This puzzle though also has my tie for least favorite clue of the day. But it also has my favorite clue/answer in it, so there you go. ***, and my favorite puzzle of the day.

Best clue of the day: "Service provider?" for PREACHER in the LAT. Love it. The same puzzle also had LAY AN EGG, which I just really enjoy as an answer.

Worst clue of the day: This is a solid tie. In BEQ's puzzle, there was a clue that went "City whose zip code is 44301" which is already a pretty annoying clue. The answer? AKRON OH. Yes, for a completely arbitrary reason, he threw in the OH at the end, which just bothers me to no end. I mean, OK, it's valid, but c'mon, man. It's VERY rare for BEQ to do something as arbitrary as that in a puzzle. My other bad clue of the day is from the LAT. "Not a whole person?" is the clue for HALF MAN. What? Very strange and arbitrary answer, kind of like EERIEST from yesterday but much worse.

Google Chrome

I wanted to stop in for a second to make a post regarding Google Chrome, the internet browser from, obviously, Google. Ever since I downloaded the new Mozilla Firefox, I've been having major, weird technical issues with it that are too boring to go into here, but were making it almost unusable for me.

Needless to say, it got to the point where I got fed up with it, and decided to finally bite the bullet and try Google Chrome, which I had downloaded a long time ago but hadn't used due to my (now gone) love of Firefox. I installed it, have been using it for a day now, and barring a total crash of Chrome, am never going back to Mozilla.

Google Chrome is everything Mozilla is but sleeker, faster, just as intuitive if not more so (I love how it handles downloads), and in the end, just a better browser. I've experienced virtually no formatting issues with webpages, and the ones that have happened are minor. Also, it handles videos SO much better than Mozilla does that I'm surprised more people haven't made the jump. Of course, that does kind of make sense considering that YouTube is owned by Google, but it handles other videos just as well as YouTube videos.

So, yeah, two thumbs WAY up for Chrome.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Rex Morgan Exclamation Mark Count, 7/30/2009

3 exclamation marks!

Also, two ellipses and two question marks!

Crosswords of the Day: 7/30/2009

Both the LAT and the NYT puzzles were terrific today. I have to give them both **** for their themes, and they were also both mostly free of bad clues, although they both had their fair share. They were also both very similar themes, namely dealing with letters that sound like words, albeit in completely different ways. The crossword blogs were in love with the NYT today, even though it feels like a less well done version of one of my all-time favorite puzzles, which had clues like "Where Sinbad sailed" and the answer would be CCCCCCC (count how many C's there are).

So, which one to give the nod to? Well, while I loved both, I actually think I had a more fun time solving the LAT today, and the NYT theme did feel a wee bit arbitrary, although it was undoubtedly clever. Still, great puzzle day today.

Best clue: This is from the LAT. "Part of a pickup line?" for TAXI. Love it, love it, love it. Clever, utterly misleading, yet totally fair. A close second was in the NYT, and was "Big chip off the old block?" for ICEBERG. Both quite good, but I like the TAXI one more.

Worst clue: There really weren't any noticeably bad clues today, which is rare. One that felt really odd but wasn't inherently bad was in the NYT, and was "Like H.P. Lovecraft among all popular writers?" for EERIEST. I mean, I figured it out right away, but that seems like a weird, opinionated clue (you could easily argue that Poe was just as eerie as Lovecraft, although I wouldn't agree). There was some bad crosswordese throughout both, like AGIN (clued as "Opposin'") in the LAT and a ton of plurals in the NYT, which felt really forced. But again, both puzzles were very well done. Good day today in crossword land.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Rex Morgan, M.D. Exclamation Mark Count-- 7/29/2009

4! Two days in a row! Very rare!

Also...three ellipses (!!), but only one question mark!

Crosswords of the Day: 7/29/09

Wednesdays are the days I do the most regular-sized crosswords i.e. not Sunday sized crosswords. Four in total.

The themes were very different today; heck, one of them (Brendan Emmett Quigley's) was a themeless! There wasn't a standout puzzle again today, nor was there a clear standout clue, but there was definitely a clue in one puzzle that I hated, and I'll explain why in a second.

NYT: **1/2
LAT: **
Onion: ***
BEQ: ***

The Onion was also done by BEQ, and those two were by far my favorites today. The NYT theme was very impressive as far as how hard it must have been to make it all fit, but completely arbitrary. The LAT theme was incredibly difficult to parse, especially with no clue as to how it worked. It took the bloggers multiple attempts to figure it out, and believe me, it wasn't worth it.

I think I have to go with BEQ's Themeless puzzle today as my favorite puzzle; it had a lot of terrific fill as usual (INFOMANIA, ANGELS IN AMERICA, and even HENRY LOUIS GATES!) and was at a perfect difficulty level. The Onion seemed very easy to me, and I liked the quirky theme, but it also had a miswritten clue; the clue was "High school type with cache, often" and the answer was JOCK. I assume they meant "with cachet." Typos = major points off for me.

Best clue of the day: Black cats, supposedly for ILL OMENS. I can't explain why I like that clue and answer combination, but I solved it without needing any letters in it, and it just feels right.

Worst clue of the day: Hindu "Destroyer" for SIVA. This is one of my biggest pet peeves in crosswords; using seldom used alternate spellings for things without noting that you're doing so. C'mon, almost no one solving the puzzle would call Shiva anything but that, right? I've certainly never seen Shiva written as Siva. Sigh.

God's Resignation Letter

I can't imagine it going any other way.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Rex Morgan, M.D. -- 7/28/2009

All right, here's my other new feature on this blog, something I've been wanting to do for a long time as well. One of the weirdest comics in the paper, and one that happens to be right next to the crossword every day in the Los Angeles Times, is the forever-running Rex Morgan, M.D., which is a soap opera about, you guessed it, Rex Morgan. M.D.

The plot line is almost incomprehensible to someone just casually picking it up, and it is also INSANELY melodramatic. By melodramatic, I mean that every single line of dialogue ends in either a question mark or, more commonly, an exclamation mark. It's utterly bizarre, and I'm always entertained by it.

Well, ladies and gentlemen, I present to you....the Rex Morgan M.D. EXCLAMATION MARK COUNT, a new feature on this blog. Every day, I will simply state the number of exclamation marks found in the day's Rex Morgan, M.D. Why? Because I can. And because someone's gotta do it. So here goes...

Today, a total of:


Also: Two question marks and two ellipses!

Actually, oddly enough, that's about as jam-packed as it gets (it is typically a three panel comic). Four is the most I've seen in the comic, and to have two ellipses AND two question marks...crazy day! Probably won't be as exciting normally. :)

Crosswords of the Day: 7/28/09

All right, here's one of my new daily features here on the blog. I've wanted to do this for some time, but for whatever reason, I never got around to it. So here we go. I'm going to rate the crosswords that I do from zero to five stars. Then I'll highlight my favorite clue/answer and my least favorite clue/answer of the day. Also, I'm going to try to avoid spoilers as much as possible here, so I'll just hint to what the themes were. The crosswords I always do every day or week are the following:

New York Times (Daily)
Los Angeles Times (Daily)
Brendan Emmett Quigley (M, W, F)
The Onion (W)

All right, so today the LAT and the NYT had similar themes; both revolved around commonly spoken phrases. Also, both were pretty meh; they were both fine, but nothing memorable. I would give the LAT a **1/2, and the NYT a ***. This one's close though; they're really pretty much tied, but I think I enjoyed the NYT a bit more today.

Also, there weren't really any clever clues today, so my favorite clue has to be from the NYT, Insect Monster of Japanese film, which is of course MOTHRA. LOVED those films when I was younger.

My least favorite clue/answer also comes from the NYT, which was Where one might see "OMG" or "TTYL." What was the answer? THENET. Ick. I mean, I guess, but c'mon, you have to be more specific with that clue, like CHATROOM or something. Also, that THE before NET feels kind of awkward, although I guess you wouldn't just say "NET."

Is Barack Obama An American Citizen?

This article obviously has its tongue firmly planted in its cheek, but at the same time, it provides explanations that are about as plausible for why "birthers" think the way they do about Obama as I can think of, and the research for the article is spot-on. There is extremely direct, physical, and electronic evidence that Obama was born in Hawaii, and yet, a LOT of people (as in at least enough to inspire a chief medical officer of Hawaii to address the national media about it) hold to the belief that Obama is ineligible to be POTUS. It boggles the mind.

Best Way To Start The Morning Ever


[thanks to Susanna Dodd]

UPDATE: I sent this to Andrew Sullivan this morning, knowing he would love it based on his work fighting against Sarah Palin and ensuring that she becomes nothing more than a figurehead. Well, to my astonishment, he posted it. It's not every day I beat AS to the punch with a video or news article, but there you go. I couldn't be happier. :)

Monday, July 27, 2009

Finally Returned!

Well, hello out there. I know it has been ages since I last posted (almost a month to the day, in fact), and I'm sincerely sorry for that. There has been a lot going on. Recently, I've been knee-deep in applying for this graduate program. I'm extremely excited about it, and can't wait to finish up my essay and get the whole process done. Also, as my friend Jeni said, I can't wait to have my nights taken over by classwork and reading and all of that. Back to school!

Also, I've begun training for the 2009 NYC Marathon, coming up November 1st. Long-time readers know that running a marathon has been a goal of mine for years, but through either not being selected in the race lottery or through ridiculous schedule changes (2009 LA Marathon, I'm looking at you), I've never been able to get into one. Until now. After three attempts, I finally made it into the NYC Marathon, and I couldn't be more excited. I think I posted about this earlier, but now I have a date, excellent running shoes (Asics to be exact, and I'm never going back), and two different training programs I've combined that have me feeling stronger and fitter than I've ever felt as a runner. Good times!

And, there is one other event that has happened since I last posted, and in fact, it is the main reason I haven't been posting since I got back to Los Angeles. Two days after I returned to LA, on my grandfather's 90th birthday, his blood pressure dropped dangerously low, and we spent the day in the hospital running tests. He was eventually discharged, but this inspired us to get him checked more thoroughly than we had in a while, and the prognosis is not good. His esophagus is failing, and he will likely die from not being able to swallow; the forecast is anywhere from very soon to about six months. I accepted something like this happening a long time ago, but still, it's quite hard. I'll post more about my thoughts on this later.

All right, well, I'll try to post more tomorrow, but until then, goodnight!