Thanksgiving on the Farm

Being a city boy mostly these days, it was nice to spend some time at the family farm in Oklahoma this Thanksgiving. I was surrounded by family, noodles, hay bales, baby lambs, peanut brittle, pitch*, and more...and it was great! I took Della along to give her a taste of the Midwest and she took to it quite nicely*

There's a beauty and simplicity to county life. The days centered around meals (which were plentiful and wonderful!) and excursions. Such excursions took us to dad's old homestead, which has seen better days, Norman to visit friends and family and cruise through the old stomping grounds, and a neat little roadside attraction off Route 66 that featured a 60 foot LED pop bottle and the soda selection to go along with it*.

Yes, it's good to go back home once in a while. This trip to Oklahoma reminded me that I should make a habit of going back more often. It was just so wonderful to be surrounded by family, the simplicity of life on the farm, and lots and lots of good eats!
Saturday November 26 2016File under: holidays, Oklahoma

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My Crossword Resume Grows

Just this week, Simon & Schuster Mega Crossword Puzzle Book #16 was released and contained 2 of my puzzles! It's my first puzzles published in book form and, while no NYT or WSJ, it's still exciting. The book contains puzzles by well known names in the industry*. If you've been meaning to re-up your crossword game, pick yourself up a copy (preferably from your local bookstore, but here's the amazon link just in case).

This represents my seventh published venue for a puzzle: Every time I have a puzzle published, I get a little giddy. It represents so much to me: accomplishment of a goal, persistence, recognition that what I've made is worthy, and so much more. Each new venue is another notch on that accomplishment list, and it just makes me smile. I've got my sights set on the next puzzle and the next venue, so stay tuned. In the meantime, go do a crossword.

Thursday November 17 2016File under: crosswords

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Minor Media Mentions - Anacortes Pride


Again for posterity, I submit this article from Anacortes Pride, the monthly newsletter/paper from the Anacortes School District. It was an honor to be profiled and really really fun chatting with the superintendent. The conversation ranged all over, much more than could be covered in this Q&A. The paper copy will go in my scrap book, but now it's in my digital scrapbook as well!
Thursday November 3 2016File under: media, Anacortes

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Zombie-tastic!

I recently had the opportunity to be an extra (or "background talent") for a TV show called

Being a film/tv extra has been my latest quest, an item on my life goal list that I hope to be able to check off soon.* Getting a chance to go on set for a TV show and participate in a few scenes was a big step in that direction.

And while I'm stoked to be moving in the direction of my goal, in reality, being an extra has its ups and downs. On the one hand, it is super interesting seeing how a set works, all the people around*, different jargon, number of takes to get a shot, the make-up process, famous people all around*, the food arrangement, talking to other extras and crew about experiences they've had, hearing how a director directs, stunts and stunt doubles*, and so much more. Really, with so much magic surrounding TV and movies in my eyes, seeing its inner-workings in person was really really interesting.

On the other hand, being an extra, esp. a zombie extra, has its downsides. Pay is minimum wage (8-hours guaranteed). The make-up takes forever to get off*. The outcome of your day on set is very random*. In my 2 very long days, I might be in 5 seconds of film (which mostly just shows my back). Kind of lame. And above all, it is super boring. Hours upon hours pass just waiting in the waiting tent (while totally covered in make-up, including your hands, so you can't even dinkle with your phone). Occasionally crew will chat, but mostly, they've got jobs to do. You never know when anything is going to happen or what it will be.

Despite the ups and downs, I'm really stoked to have had the opportunity. I put a few bucks in my pocket, got to see a behind the scenes look, got a really neat story to share, and snapped a few interesting pictures along the way.


If my footage doesn't get left on the cutting room floor, look for the back of my zombified head in Season 3, Episode 14, probably airing sometime in the spring. (My hands might make a guest appearance in episode 11 or 12 too!). However it pans out, I'm sure I'll post about it here, so stay tuned.
Wednesday September 21 2016File under: extra, pics

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Summer Performing 2016

This past summer has been a whirlwind of performing for Della and me. This weekend is the first in months we haven't had a gig*. And looking forward, there's at least one per weekend for the next month. So much for me "not being a performer." :-)

Although it's been busy, it's been super fun. Going to festivals and parties ain't a bad way to make a buck or two. And Della and I have been honing in our acts and are getting ready to debut our first show this weekend at the Sh'Bang at the Lookout Arts Quarry. It should be a blast.

The photos below hardly do justice to all the running around we've been doing. We're usually just so busy we forget about taking photos. Luckily, folks are kind enough to share theirs with us (which are way better than ours would be anyway).

So here are a few photos from Summer 2016. I hope you enjoy having a look as much as I enjoyed putting them together! (Photo captions give some context.)

Give'er
by the
River
Anacortes
Busker
Fest
 
Weddings
 
New Old
Time
Chautauqua
Skagit
County
Fair
 
Birthday
Parties
 
Lots of
Other
Fun Stuff

Sunday September 4 2016File under: pics, juggle

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Sleeping Around 2015-2016

Another year, another year's worth of sleeping around data. This brings me to 8 years worth of data on where I slept every night. That's 2922 nights. It's kind of crazy having a log of something so simple for so long, but I love it. And I love analyzing it. So, without further ado...

Observations:
  • Housesitting is off the hook, almost doubling from years past.*
  • Nights At Home, correspondingly, are way down at less than 40% of average
  • Domestic Travel (travel outside of Washington state) is at an all time low, meaning that while I may not be at home much, I'm sure staying close to home
  • International Travel is up nicely, reflecting that rambling trip to Egypt, etc.
  • Car nights are down, due in part to the uptick in housesitting and Della getting the Green Room*
  • Another year of just one tent night, though it is almost cheating because it was quite a deluxe tent out in the desert in Jordan

Additional Stats
# of Housesitting Houses8Some were Della's, some were mine. Some were one off, some were long-time clients
# of states (other than WA)5OR, AZ, WI, NY, CT
# of countries (other than US)7Hungary, Israel, Jordan, Egypt, UAE, France, [International Waters]*
Longest stretch at home8The longest stretches away from home, though, were 60, 58, and 45

If you care to have a look at the data yourself, do so here*. And if you really want to get into the weeds of data, you can look over my last 7 Sleeping Around posts: '08-'09, '09-'10, '10-'11, '11-'12, '12-'13, '13-'14, '14-'15. Otherwise, I hope you enjoyed my analysis even a tenth as much as I enjoyed making it. Really, nothing better than this data set helps me encapsulate my life in numbers.
Wednesday August 3 2016File under: stats

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Half Beard 2016


My ridiculous beard posts have gotten noticeably fewer in recent times (perhaps following the trend of BdW posts in general). One of the main reasons for this is that I've been growing the beard longer than usual. To me, it's more or less the same, except that I do enjoy have something to fidget with. But as I'm reminded when I head out into the world, it can catch some people off guard, which in turn catches me off guard. Some people, esp. those who I've met more recently, very much do not recognize me beardless.

With the heat of summer weighing heavily and with the knowledge if I didn't shave it soon, I'd have to wait until next Spring(!?), I gave Della the clippers and said "have a go!". She decided it was time to chop the hair as well which was fine by me! Plus, she beat her personal best hair cutting time by 10 minutes (which even included time for a mid-trim photo shoot!)
Monday June 20 2016File under: beard

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Wall Street Journal Crossword

Today I got another big notch in my crossword bedpost with my first Wall Street Journal puzzle. Coming shortly on the heels of my big NYT puzzle debut last week, it has a week of crossword accomplishments that has been so fun to sit back and enjoy.

A fun little story behind this Wall Street Journal puzzle: I have had my eyes set on getting a WSJ puzzle published ever since they started doing daily puzzles about a year ago*. While out at the Crossword Tournament this spring, I made a point to seek out Mike Shenk, the WSJ puzzle editor, and shake his hand in hopes it might get my name noticed when my puzzle crossed his desk. He explained that it wasn't him that did the culling, but he'd try to mention me to his assistant who did. Sure enough, 2 weeks later, I got the e-mail with my puzzle's acceptance. Whether or not my deliberate socializing helped my puzzle or if it was accepted on its merits alone, I'll never know. But it's a fun story nonetheless.

As always, I encourage you to support the people and publications that support crossword creators by going out and buying a copy of the puzzle. It's in today (June 7th, 2016) Wall Street Journal. But if you missed your chance, you can download a copy of the PDF here. Once you've done the puzzle (or if you get stuck), you can go read the review/solution at Diary of a Crossword Fiend. This one also got a gereally encouraging review, which started with the awesome line "Wren Schultz completes the hat trick today for getting a puzzle published in all three major dailies".

This crossword publication thing is pretty neat. Knowing that there are people out there doing (and hopefully enjoying) something that I've created and worked hard on really makes me feel great. And so much because of that, I hope to keep creating crosswords and getting them published. Stay tuned!
Wednesday June 8 2016File under: crosswords

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My First New York Times Crossword Puzzle

Today is a big day in my world—like really big. Today is the day my first crossword gets published in the New York Times. This is like getting drafted by your favorite NBA team (but with way less money). Or winning the lottery (but with way less money). Or performing on stage at Carnegie Hall (but, again, with way less money). This is a dream come true, an accomplishment that I've diligently worked towards and finally achieved.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. All the mushy stuff aside, it's still pretty neat. It was over 3.5 years ago that I first submitted a puzzle to the NYT (post here). Since then, I've gotten puzzles in various other publications (L.A. Times, Chronicle of Higher Ed (twice!), Uptown Puzzle Club) and learned lots in the process (through the help of some really great editors). This puzzle was maybe my fourth NYT submission (and actually a reworking of a previously submitted theme) and an idea I've been stoked on for a long time. So 11 months after I printed it out and sent it in, here we are.

Crossword folks always want the juicy details of what crossword creation and getting published is like. And while they might not be at all juicy, here are a few details. NYT pays $300 for a daily crossword. (Others generally pay less.) This crossword probably took me 40+ hours to create (accounting for making the rejected first version and the totally reworked second version, cluing, printing, communicating, etc.). That works out to less than minimum wage. The editor has final say on the grid and clues. Will Shortz (the NYT puzzle editor) changed one square in the grid and about 80% of the clues. That's his job, to tweak clues to account for difficulty, audience, style, etc. And I get that. But some of the clues I liked better before (ex: mine: Great Scott! vs. his: Scott in 1857 news* or mine: Glass with glasses vs. his: Part of a financial portfolio (for short)*. It's kind of funny, not really understanding all the clues to your own puzzle. But that's the way the game works, and as I get more savvy, I'm sure my clues will be tweaked less and less.

Another really neat thing about this experience is all the attention my puzzle gets out in the blogosphere. I'm writing this the night before it comes out and I've already read 4 reviews, all of which were more good than bad (xwordinfo.com, NYTs Word Play blog, Diary of a Crossword Fiend, and Rex Parker). I was actually pretty nervous about these reviews as my last puzzle (in the Chronicle of Higher Ed) got somewhat panned in its review, but I was really pleased with how this one was received. (I think it helped that many of the reviewers are constructors themselves so can appreciate the difficulty of the theme.)

So now you want to do the puzzle, eh? What, you mean you weren't waiting for Starbucks to open so you could pick up your copy of the NYT? That's okay. You can download the PDF of the puzzle here (but I do encourage you to support those who make the puzzles possibly by buying a paper every now and again). The puzzle will also run in syndicated version in about 5 weeks, so you can catch a copy of it then too.
Wednesday June 1 2016File under: crosswords

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Something Wonderful

Arrrrrggg! I'm a pirate— or at least I play one in the Bellingham Circus Guild's new production, Something Wonderful. The show tells of a boy taken through a magical world of sea creatures, ship wrecks, dreams, and more. The show is more highly produced than any I've been a part of so far which makes it really exciting. The costumes are top notch and the professionalism regarding timelines, rehearsals, and contracts has been very refreshing.

Last week, we had our first showing, on the big stage at Western Washington University. The huge stage with all the necessary contraptions, lights, staff, and more made it feel all the more big deal. The show went great, except for a couple drops by the pirates (opening night jitters, I guess). This upcoming weekend, we have a 3 show run at the Cirque Lab in Bellingham. There are tickets still available. The shows are going to be so fun!

The pirates do a juggling bit that involves 2-highs, complicated moving patterns, and a neat little passing the bottle routine. I also got roped into doing a little black suit puppetry as well, a new one for my resume.



While the amount of time spent on this, between rehearsals, teching, etc. has been more than I've been used to in the past (and makes the hourly wage far lower than minimum wage), the experience has been helpful and even fun. I'm proud of the show and I'm excited that it might get staged again in the future, maybe even at bigger venues! In the meantime, I look forward to the run this weekend. I hope to see you there!
Tuesday May 17 2016File under: circus, juggling

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Recent Comments:
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Recent Content:
*Thanksgiving on the Farm
*My Crossword Resume Grows
*Minor Media Mentions - Anacortes Pride
*Zombie-tastic!
*Summer Performing 2016
*Sleeping Around 2015-2016
*Half Beard 2016
*Wall Street Journal Crossword

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New pictures!
*Dullsound photos

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updated at 09:36 pm Dec 03rd


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