You know: in a foolish, undiscriminating way, I've been happy these last few months. I don't know why. I just am. I love my friends; I love my pupils; I love what I read; I -- dammit -- love my thoughts. I love the taste of oranges.
Thornton Wilder in a letter to Gertrude Stein, Aug 14, 1936

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


Not much more than a month ago, a friend introduced me to the Boggle App for the iPhone.

 I think it cost $1.99. I was willing to pay it, because for over a year I had been playing a couple of Boggle wannabes on my phone and computer. They had a 4x 4 grid of letters just like Boggle, but for trademark reasons they could not call themselves Boggle, one was Scramble and the other Wordtwist, and they had to employ different scoring criteria. They were enjoyable and sufficiently time-wasting, but they were not the real thing. Wordtwist was remarkable for its inclusive dictionary that did not shy away from obscenities or even most racial terms. It scored on a bell curve, where I usually found myself listed as "high average." For some reason this seemed more insulting that simply "average." Scramble's only advantage was its presence on the phone as well as the computer, but it made so much noise it had to be played with the volume off.

But then there was Boggle, the real thing, complete with the letter dice that rattled when you shook the phone to start a new game. I loved it and I played a lot. A whole lot.

When I played I never did anything more that bring it up on the screen and click "quick play," That got me directly to the game board. It was not until a month or so later than I looked more closely at the menu and noticed a tab for "Achievements."  "Ooh," I thought, "I wonder how I'm doing."

Turns out my longest word is "quietens," and yet for some reason my best word shows up a "cleavers." I don't know why one eight letter word should be better than another. There was an entry for the letters I used the most, which were unsurprisingly the most common letters in English words. In all my playing I had found a total of nearly 30,000 words. And then I saw it.

There was a heading for "Play Time." The information that followed was in a form that I at first didn't fully comprehend. There seemed to be too many slots for the numbers. Then I read it correctly. Over the past five or six weeks I had spent 1 day, 36 min playing Boggle. Yes, I had moved one day and thirty six minutes closer to my death playing Boggle on my iPhone.

That's an achievement? I guess it wouldn't be good marketing to list it as a disgrace.

Since then I have instituted some new rules for Boggle time. I try to play only when I am waiting for something, like water to boil. But my major playtime is while watching something I don't really care about on television.

(For other disturbing posts follow the "disturbing" label.)

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