In today's USA Today newspaper, if you look on page 4D, you might find a familiar name...ME!! It's my first USA Today crossword and I'm very excited to have it published. The USA Today having one of the highest daily circulations in the country, it means that there are people in hotels, airports, and Starbucks all over the country that might be cursing my name and that makes me smile. Just kidding. I like to think either that they stop and appreciate the puzzle and maybe even glance at my name, or in the very least, think it no better or worse than the other puzzles they've done and that it sufficiently filled their time.
[Spoiler Alert] About this puzzle in particular, my theme idea started out somewhat different than what made it to the page. I proposed "DROP THE BALL", as in screwing something up but the editor liked "DROPPED BALL" better. While I think it is a less common phrase which makes the theme slightly less strong, I'm definitely not the one with years experience putting puzzles out to the world on such a huge scale, so I was definitely inclined to defer. In addition to the theme change, there were the wealth of cluing changes (that even make it hard for me to complete my own puzzle!) As I work more with an editor, I get more in tune with their style. Luckily, I think this USA Today relationship will be one where I get that chance! I've gone another puzzle in the pipes and submitting another one today!
As with all my puzzles so far, I've framed this for inclusion on my Wall of Puzzles* which keeps on growing! Does that mean someday I'll have to stop framing every puzzle? Or I could just buy a bigger house. We'll have to see when it gets to that point. Stay tuned!
While I always encourage you to go out and support the media that supports crossword creators, I know that isn't always possible. So here's a PDF copy of the puzzle (also available at puzzles.usatoday.com/crossword
|Thursday September 21 2017||File under: crosswords|
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If you have kids, or know anyone that does, you should go buy the book Hamsters Don't Fight Fires by friend of BdW Andrew Root. Not only does it get a 5-start Amazon rating (so you know it is good), but it gets my seal of approval (which should be enough for anyone.)
You might know the author, Andrew, as one of the tireless bloggers of Brothers Root back from the hey day of blogging. Well, he's all grown up now with the cred to prove it.
But seriously, what an accomplishment. My sincere congrats to Andrew on doing something so cool. I really do encourage you go out and buy a copy, not just because it is an awesome book, but because it's nice to support our friends. Andrew, keep cranking out the books!
|Tuesday September 19 2017||File under: books|
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|I always find it a thrill to have a photo of me in a newspaper—some mix of validation, fame, and glee. This summer, it has happened a few times for various juggling events we've been a part of. I wanted to post them here as an addition to my minor media mentions series, kind of a digital scrapbook.
Firstly, to your right, we have a picture of me from the Skagit County Fair, featured on the front page of the Skagit Valley Herald. That makes 2 years in a row of making the front cover for our performances at the Fair! Hopefully that bodes well for the Fair asking us back next year to be a part!
There were also a couple of photos from the Anacortes American. The first one was of us at the 3rd of July celebration at the Heart of Anacortes. The second one was also taken at the Heart of Anacortes, but this time for a show we did for the Anacortes Library. The library show was super fun for me because many of my old high school classmates with in the audience with their kids and the show got a great response!
Later towards the end of the summer, I'll do a more inclusive Summer of Juggling wrap up post (like I did last year!) with drone video, lots of pictures, a run down of the major events we did, and more!
UPDATE: The weekly paper* arrived this morning and low and behold, who was staring right back at me? Me! Granted I didn't even get a mention in the story or even my name in the caption, but it is a pretty neat shot!
|Monday August 28 2017||File under: media, juggling|
|This year, as a sort of New Year's resolution, I set forth to try to make it the year of "Yes!", accepting opportunity more readily than I have in the past. That was especially pertinent to my burgeoning circus career. If there's an opportunity, I'm on it. And it led down some interesting paths. Some turned out to be thankless gigs that paid very little. Some were gigs that pushed our limits and made us better performers. Some were hidden gems. And some were, well, just plain new.
It was through this yessing that Della and I found ourselves teaching circus camp to kids on San Juan Island, Lummi Island, and in Bellingham. Teaching circus is something that we've done quite a bit of in the past, both through Chautauqua and as part of festival, parties, etc. But these are always shorter sessions that let kids (and adults!) come and go as their interest waned or was diverted. The circus day camp where the kids get dropped off and picked up many hours later is a whole different ball game, one which we weren't entirely prepared for.
For the most part, it was awesome. There were some amazing kids who were super into learning, being helpful, and being fun! And from the feedback from students and parents, I'd say that the camps were a success, with the kids having a good time and nobody getting hurt*. But kids are kids, and there was definitely more "don't hit her with that", "pick up your trash", and "take that sharp stick out of your nose" than we expected, esp. with the younger kids. I can hardly blame them for not wanting to juggle for 3 hours straight, but it was still a bit of a learning curve.
One thing about the year of "Yes!", you learn a lot. And that has been wonderful. For next year, however, if circus camp opportunities roll around, we'll have more knowledge about what variable best suit our talents and interests. What does that mean, I don't know. But I know that at least for now, I'm happy to going back to just performing for a while.
|Wednesday August 9 2017||File under: circus, juggling|
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|I shall start this year's sleeping around post as I do almost every year's, with an explanation. My Sleeping Around project (now entering it's 10th year!) is my attempt at capturing and quantifying my life through where I rest my head. I attempt to summarize the year's data around this time every year and tease out the secrets that it holds. Let us begin.
This year's Sleeping Around data is the least diverse to date, by far. In fact, it is so boring that I had to make the pie chart into a pac-man in hopes of even getting myself to care. But even in the most boring data lies interesting tidbits.
Years from now, when I look back on all my Sleeping Around data, will I see the 2016-2017 year as an anomaly like it feels now or will it be the beginning of a trend? The only way to find out is to keep collecting data. And that's exactly what I plan to do!
(Previous year's analyses: '08-'09, '09-'10, '10-'11, '11-'12, '12-'13, '13-'14, '14-'15, '15-'16. And this year's data)
|Wednesday August 9 2017||File under: stats|
For the past 18 or so months, this amazing mansion with beautifully manicured landscaping overlooking the Salish Sea has been our home. We've been housesitting here for amazing clients in a situation that can only be described as, well, amazing. We counted our blessing every day and even tried to catch a sunset from the amazing view every now and then. But all good things must come to an end. Alas.
So it's out of the good life and back to gypsy transience for Della and me, bopping from here to there which does great things for spicing up the Sleeping Around project, but makes owning a toaster somewhat difficult. But that's okay. And I'm actually excited for the opportunities it brings. Since the ousting, we've already slept in a casino parking lot, spent the weekend at Oregon Country Fair, and have plans for much more! And this has also served as a great excuse to give the trusty faithful Outback a bit of a facelift, by adding a new window and lofting the bed. And with Della overseeing as interior designer, it's going to look great!
Such a big transition out of top tier living to back alley living felt like it warranted commemoration so that when I'm an old man looking back on my life, I can remember when there was that brief period when I was living like a king (albeit in a eerily empty house). So I offer up this blog post (and commemorative photo) as the slightest token of the magic, luck, and wonder of this amazing experience. I truly felt like a gypsy in the palace.
|Thursday July 13 2017||File under: work|
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|For the last year or so, I've been spending some energy pursuing one of my life goals of being an extra in a movie. I made my first significant progress a couple of months ago with a fleeting appearance on SyFy's Z-nation (covered here). Well, I'm happy to report that I'm moving on up towards that goal with my recent appearance on MTV's reality show called Promposal.
The filming of the show was super fun. We were brought in to be the background circus folks for the filming of a high school music video. Mostly, we just juggled and looked circus-y whenever they pointed the camera at us. Otherwise, we just sat back and watched the magic happen. It was fun seeing both the professional side of things (the MTV crew with the fancy equipment, lights, etc.) and the high school side of things (disorganized but having a ton of fun). We were there for 4 hours with a lot of waiting around (as is par for pretty much anything in TV/film or so I'm learning). At the end, we had no idea how much screen time we'd get if any.
Fast forward 2 months to air date. I was super excited to see myself and my circus buddies on such a popular network. We actually got a fair amount of screen time too! While a lot of it was background shots, there were a few featured-ish moments. And by golly, I even got a few solo clips, one with a line!! To top it all off, we even got our names in the credits! Overall, I'm super stoked on the whole thing—the filming, the screen time, the excitement!
If you have access, I encourage you to check it on MTV. I think it's even carried On Demand on various carriers. Otherwise, check for reruns, as I think it might happen every now and again. If you don't have access, shoot me an e-mail and we can try to work out getting you hooked up.
Yes, I consider this a big step towards my movie extra life goal Just like NYT crossword and some of the others, it doesn't happen overnight. But with persistence, hopefully it will become a reality. And whatever the case, as long the road to movie extradom is as fun as this Promposal experience was, I'm excited for the ride!
|Tuesday May 30 2017||File under: extra, juggling|
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|Due to conflicts arising from my having so many "jobs", I was only able to join Team Dude Camp for half of its annual work adventure up to Mt. Rainier. But in that time, I still was able to check off most of the Dude Camp highlights and feel like I helped out.
As loyal BdW followers may know, Dude Camp is what I call an annual work trip I make down to a job site just outside of Mt. Rainier National Park. We work hard cleaning, building, restoring, planting, and manicuring the grounds of a private vacation home while using our free time to play horseshoes, frisbee golf, poker, watch dumb (but awesome) movies, eat steaks and as many M&Ms as is justifiable.
Though the name wasn't christened until quite recently, team Dude Camp has been working at the site for almost 30 years from it's humble beginnings until today's not so humble magnificence. It's always great hearing stories about when this was put in, why that was torn out, the year it sleeted non-stop for 2 weeks, etc. Having been along for 5 of the last 6 years, I feel I'm starting to be able to join in on telling the stories and being part of the lore, even if in only the smallest way. All in all, it's a great reminder in stepping back and looking at things on a longer scale and what intense periods of hard work can create over time.
And in the interest of posterity and record keeping, here's a photo of the year's other big project (done by Flip, with my only contribution of my standard lifting heavy rocks with my back.) It's about 7 feet tall and really stunning. It being the first attempt at anything like it, there were some blowouts and hiccups along the way, but miracles prevailed with it being finished in the perfect amount of time with not one rock or glob of concrete wasted.
Anyway, another Dude Camp down and hopefully many more to come!
|Thursday May 11 2017||File under: work|
May I proudly present, for you viewing and beta-testing pleasure, the brand new www.WrenAndDella.com! Over the past 3 or 4 years, Della and I have been ramping up our performance presence beyond an act here or there in various shows. We have created our own stand alone show and really started booking lots of events (parties, festivals, fairs, etc.). It only seems fitting, now, that we have ourselves a professional looking website. And here it is.
We're both pretty stoked on how it turned out. It's great to have some wonderful photos and videos of our acts in the same place. We'll continue to tweak some of the text over time, and hopefully replace the grainy video with some professionally shot stuff after we amass it, but for now, we're hoping that it serves the dual purpose of letting people know who we are and what we're about when they see we are performing near them and increase our booking!
Every time I post about my juggling "career", I laugh a little about how far I've come—from never wanting to perform to being a professional juggler. But, as in so many elements of life, things change, and that can be a good thing. In this case it is: I get to do a job I love with a person I love making people smile. If I've gotta have a job, I can't think of a better one!
Anyway, feel free to check out the website and let me know if you see anything awry. Please include the browser/operating system/device you're using if you find a layout/technical issue. (A screen shot of how it should look can be found here). And if you know anyone looking to hire some dynamic, fun, genuine entertainment, point them our way!!
|Wednesday April 19 2017||File under: juggling|
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|In what has become a lovely yearly habit for me, I recently attended the 2017 American Crossword Puzzle Tournament out in Stamford, CT. With it being my 4th year, I now know my way around the tournament and hotel, have met some great people that I always look forward to seeing year after year, and have some helpful data to see the progress my solving skills are making. But overall, I just have a lot of fun.
First, the progress: This year, I finished 336th out of 619, putting me in the 54th percentile, my second best showing. Besides one stupid error (which cost me about 20 places in the rankings), I don't feel bad. The puzzles were decidedly harder this year. As usual, puzzle 5 destroyed me with a super complicated double theme. Puzzle 3, supposedly an easier one, left me somewhat flummoxed with names of elements I've never heard of. Puzzles 1, 4, and 6 I aced and had just 1 square wrong on each of 2 and 7. So, overall, I'm not displeased—room to improve but still a strong enough showing.
But the real fun of the tournament, for me at least, was the talent show. Since my first trip to the ACPT, I've been brewing this act combining my love of juggling and love of crosswords. This year, after poking at it here and there over the years, it all came together and I had a chance to present it. It was a hit, with people really appreciating the nerdiness as much as the talent. I'm excited to work out the kinks and get a few more run throughs to really solidify it. Then the hope is to add it to our upcoming summer shows. I'm sure the reception won't be nearly as great as it was with a room full of hardcore crossworders, but hopefully it will stand on its own. See for yourself!
Thanks to all who made the ACPT such a fun and successful event! Hope to see you all again next year!
|Thursday March 30 2017||File under: crosswords, video, juggling|
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