How to get out of a bad mood

10 Apr

Pinterest won't let you feel blue! (From; via Sonya Greenhalgh's Pinterest board

Here are my best no-fail tricks for getting out of a terrible mood, overcoming an uninspired rut, or recovering from a bad morning:

  1. Music, music, music. It depends on the particular variety of bad mood, but the second movement of Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 12 in A Major works for me in most cases.
  2. Look at pictures of beautiful things on Flickr or Pinterest.
  3. Read old emails, postcards, and letters from friends and family. I keep a collection for just such occasions.
  4. Make something. Even if it’s just a terrible drawing, it usually gets me out of a creative rut.
  5. Take a nap. Being sad or mad is exhausting, but sleeping is awesome!
  6. Look at pictures of my friends’ babies on Facebook. I think there have been studies that show that this is actually supposed to make me feel worse about my life, but I swear it doesn’t. I really really like doing this.
  7. Solve a puzzle. It engages your brain in a different way, and allows your subconscious to problem solve.
  8. Do something nice for someone else. This is like magic. Works equally well with friends and strangers.
  9. Sink into it. Sometimes I have to admit that I just want to feel bad. And when that happens, the only thing I can do is feel the feeling all the way through. This allows me to move past it.
  10. Bake something. Then eat it.

What are your tricks?


Lucky Stars Scavenger Hunt

6 Apr

I have an idea for a luck-themed personal scavenger hunt. Rather than doing this as a group activity, I like the idea of pursuing these luck-related items on my own. And in fact, I like the idea of not even seeking them out specifically, but just being conscious of them if they come into my life (if I get lucky, so to speak).

Falkor, the Luck Dragon

“Luck” is culturally-specific, but here are some items that are generally considered lucky (in order of my perceived likelihood of stumbling across them in daily life):

  • The number 7
  • A penny
  • A pair of dice
  • A ladybug
  • A horseshoe
  • A four-leaf clover
  • A shooting star
  • A rabbit’s foot
  • A unicorn
  • A leprechaun
  • The Luck Dragon from Neverending Story

Once I come across all of the items, I’ll consider myself very lucky. Maybe that would be a good time to embark on a new venture. Or buy a lottery ticket.

p.s. I am not a superstitious person, so I’m really not one to endow objects or occurrences with any special meaning. Every once in awhile I find myself knocking on wood, crossing my fingers, or saying, “Don’t jinx it!” But I don’t really believe these things make a difference; it’s more out of habit than true belief. Still, I dig scavenger hunts…and unicorns.

How to have fun in Australia and New Zealand

4 Apr

Walk on a glacier.

Check out the Tilted House at Wanaka, New Zealand's Puzzling World

Go on an epic road trip along the south island of New Zealand.

Hang out with the locals.

Fly a freaking plane.

Go paragliding. Just kidding. I did not do this. Yet.

Disturb a sleeping koala.

Get to know some kangaroos.

Check out the Little Penguin parade! (Not my picture, since you can't take photos. This one is from True Wildlife.)

Hang out with one of your best friends who you miss a lot because she moved across the world! (Also, go to an Aussie Rules football game, even though it just looks like grown men trying to pants each other.)

Trivial Pursuits: An Interview With the Guys Behind Portland’s Geek Trivia Night

29 Mar

Awhile back I set the goal of attending every trivia night in Portland. To me it’s an ambitious but worthy goal, and I intend to see it through. My favorite event so far has been Geek Trivia at the Kennedy School, though I did very poorly in my first showing (does that mean I’m not a geek? Wait…am I cool, guys?).

Masterminded by Andrew McIntire in 2009, this event brings together hundreds of geeks fortnightly for friendly, nerdly competition. I had the chance to ask Andrew, along with current co-hosts Bobby “Fatboy” Roberts and Cort Webber, some questions about the behind the scenes goings-on at Geek Trivia. Read on for a healthy dose of insider knowledge about the makings of a great trivia night.

Everybody’s Invited!: How did Geek Trivia start? Did you feel the useless knowledge competition needs of geeks weren’t being met?

Andrew McIntire: I have always enjoyed quiz nights at the pub, but was having difficulty convincing my friends to join me. For the most part their complaints were based on the not inaccurate notion that the questions were primarily about sports, current events, and other topics that they were either not interested in or uninformed about. So I was sitting in my neighborhood bar lamenting the absence of nerdy comrades, and got in an alcohol fueled argument with another patron about which heroes were in the Super Friends. The ensuing feeling of geek pride upon crushing this would be contender to my knowledge of nerd ephemera got me thinking “We could channel all of Portland’s nerd rage for good, or at the very least for our mutual entertainment” and lo, Geek Trivia was born.

EI!: Nice. What do you provide that other trivia events don’t?

Bobby “Fatboy” Roberts: The prizes are pretty damned nice, for one, thanks to Things From Another World. Regular Geek Trivias routinely feature over $200 bucks in combined prizes, and Special-Edition Geek Trivias have featured prizes that include trips to San Diego Comic-Con, an original Pong machine, the Doctor Who box-set with all 11 doctors, etc.

It’s also probably one of the comfiest Geek Trivias, in that it’s located at the Kennedy School’s theater, where the seating is largely old, soft couches and sofas.

Also, Geek Trivia incorporates some game-show elements here and there, with visual puzzles, audio clues, video questions, that sort of stuff. We settle tiebreakers via Street Fighter or Mortal Kombat, which then completely transforms the event from a pub quiz into a sporting event, complete with impassioned geeks leaping to their feet, lustily shouting for KO’s, Fireballs, and Fatalities.

Cort Webber: I would agree with Fatboy and add that we also offer something a little more entertaining, less serious, more raucous and more interactive. We try to write the questions in such a way as to get a laugh or tap into some deep-seeded fanboy sentiment. Also, we typically allow a considerable amount of good-natured heckling.

But what really sets us apart is the concept of “mob rule.” Most trivia hosts put themselves in the position of arbiter to decide whether someone’s marginally correct answer is right or wrong. But we decided the best way to end the argument was to turn it over to the crowd. If the people say your answer is good enough, it’s good enough. But the crowd rarely thinks your crappy answer is good enough.

EI!: What’s your definition of geek? What’s your definition of trivia?

BR: Geek is getting sort of increasingly hard to define, and that’s largely due to the numbers of geeks consistently growing. It’s hard to create, or stick to, a hard definition of what Geek is, because it’s constantly churning and roiling as new geeky things become beloved and obsessed over. Basically – if you treat pop culture with reverence, in the same way that Batman reveres the concept of justice, you’re a geek.

Trivia is simply stuff that you probably shouldn’t know, but you do know because you care so much about whatever your geeky pursuit may be, and you’ve somehow absorbed the knowledge behind it.

CW: A geek is someone intensely interested in any something. You can enjoy watching Star Wars, but once you get to the point where you’re going out of your way to discover the names of the other bounty hunters in Empire, you’ve drifted into geek territory.

We cover everything from the more traditional sci-fi and fantasy aspects of geekdom to movies, music, gaming, internet trends, books, science and more. Pretty much, if it’s something we’re into, it’s fair game for questions.

EI!: What’s the process for coming up with questions? How much time do you put in before each event?

BR: Cort and I come up with the questions the Saturday/Sunday before the upcoming event, and for my part, it consists basically of putting on some music, sitting in front of the computer, and letting my brain just wander. A topic will pop into my head eventually, and at that point, it’s just a matter of asking myself what random facts I know about that topic, and then forming it into an amusing question.

CW: I typically stare at my bookshelf and DVD shelf and trawl Reddit looking for something to spark in my head. We try to steer away from questions that are too obvious, but also from questions that are impossibly hard. We know we’ve hit that “just right” sweet spot when we there’s an audible “oooo” after we ask the question.

Cort and Fatboy doing their thing.

EI!: What do you think makes a good trivia night host?

CW: I think the key is remembering to keep it entertaining. Most of the 200+ people in the room won’t win anything and a lot of those won’t even come close. The idea is to give those people a reason to come back every two weeks regardless. If they’re laughing and having fun, they’ll forgive the fact that they’ve never even come close to the top three.

BR: A sense of humor, and patience. Someone in the crowd is going to want to claw at your questions, revealing a mistake or a loophole that will let them score that one extra point that might put them over the top and get them a spot in the top 3. You’ve also gotta admit when you’ve goofed up, so humility comes into play as well, as does an ability to be self-deprecating.

EI!: I love trivia, but I can’t explain why. What, in your opinions, makes trivia so appealing?

CW: It’s validating that something you spent so much of your time learning is valuable after all. Sure, it won’t get you a college degree or a good job, but it might get you some really cool comics or a t-shirt.

BR: I think its appealing because it’s a way to turn a bunch of otherwise useless knowledge rattling around your brain into a reason to celebrate. For a lot of competitors, they never really got into sports as kids. Trivia nights are a way to scratch that competitive itch while using a completely different set of tools. Knowing the difference between a Cardassian and an Andorian MEANS something here, and my proficiency at setting someone on fire with a dragon punch in Street Fighter will earn me a theaterful of cheers.

AM: I also think that, at our event in particular, sharing your trivia knowledge is a means of self-identifying yourself as belonging to a community of like-minded individuals. At each event, I look out on the audience and see rival teams and complete strangers joking, laughing, and bonding over their shared love of these ridiculous bits of pop culture knowledge. That’s pretty special.

EI!: Some people hate trivia. Who’s right?

BR: Those people are weird, and I distrust them.

Geek Trivia happens every other Tuesday from 7-9pm at the Kennedy School in Portland, OR. Show up early to get a seat. It’s free.

Top 10 Awesome Jobs

4 Mar

From NASA Goddard Photo and Video

When I think about what I want to be when I grow up, my list sounds like something an 8-year-old would come up with. Am I doing it wrong?

  1. Astronaut
  2. Cowgirl
  3. Inventor
  4. Secret Agent
  5. Novelist
  6. Chef
  7. Puzzler
  8. Rock star
  9. Doctor
  10. Ringmaster

What’s on your list?

Leap Day

28 Feb

I remember seeing a tweet awhile back (I can’t remember whose) about how the author’s life was completely different than it had been one year prior. That strikes me as a worthy goal. Of course, I like a lot of things about my life right now so I wouldn’t want to change everything, but it’s interesting to consider how many big changes you could possibly make in a year. There are the obvious things like moving to a new place, changing jobs, or getting out of a relationship that’s no longer working. There are also more subtle, but equally powerful, changes – you could become the type of person who reads non-fiction, you could go vegetarian, or you could finally cross “run a marathon” off your list.

by Flickr user jhf

Leap Day seems like the perfect starting point for a transformative year. I’m going to challenge myself to identify three big opportunities to “leap without a net” in 2012. Three Big Risks. I don’t know exactly what they’ll be yet, but I’m going to be looking out for them so I notice them when they’re in front of me.

And at the same time, I’d like to be more mindful of the subtle changes that will happen gradually over the course of this year. Maybe I will become more expressive (a personal goal). Or maybe I’ll become a more visual person (another goal). Or maybe, just maybe, I’ll finally become a good joke-teller (serious life dream).

I think the combination of these two things – intentional risk-taking, and being mindful of smaller personal changes – could result in me feeling that my life is completely different one year from now. I can’t think of anything more exciting. Seriously. I can’t do it.


24 Feb

by Flickr user carolinabio

I’m going to break out my lab coat and my beakers and try some of these experiments:

  1. Think of something that you assume to be true about yourself, and spend a day as if it were not true.
  2. Go out to dinner by yourself and see how it feels.
  3. Make a list of important people in your life. Think of one thing you truly appreciate about each person, and then tell them. See how it affects them. See how it affects you.
  4. Change all of your news sources for a week.
  5. Do something that you haven’t done in years, but that you used to love.

Any to add?