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“yegg” May 26, 2010

Filed under: Crossword,Movies,Vocabulary — Amanda @ 12:01 PM

A curious word popped up on yesterday’s crossword: yegg. 

Origin uncertain, possibly from English or Scottish dialect, yark or yek; popularized in 1930s gangster movies.

Noun (slang)

A person who breaks open safes, a burglar.


1904 Capture of the ‘Yegg’ Bank Burglars – movie directed by Edwin S. Porter (with quotes in as part of title)

Movie Plot: A group of bank robbers meet at their campsite to plan a burglary. When everything is ready, they break into the bank and blow open the safe. Their getaway, though, is not a clean one. They have to shoot their way out, and the gun battle sets off a desperate chase.

I want to watch this movie now.  And I want a campsite from which to do my scheming.


Olives, Furr’s, and Glazes May 24, 2010

Filed under: Annoying things,Cooking,Science — Amanda @ 5:17 PM
Tags: , , ,

Learned thing #1:  More people eat dinner at Olive Garden at 4:30pm on Sunday afternoons than you would imagine.   

My roommate Who Eats Mozzarella Sticks for Dinner (RWEMSD) and I have been planning an outing to Olive Garden for weeks to celebrate the end of LOST and to reminisce on a time in our lives when the only restaurant choices available to us in our suburban hell hometowns were places like Applebee’s, Red Lobster, and Chili’s.  We planned the whole evening: dinner 4:30-6:30pm, LOST recap show 7-9pm, LOST season finale 9-11:30pm.    

As we walked up to the South Bay Shopping Center Olive Garden, melodious Kenny G. version of My Heart Will Go On wafting through the air, RWEMSD commented on how many cars were in the parking lot.  “Oh, they’re probably at Target next door,” I said.  “Look at all those kids running around in the grass out front,” he said.  “Better than running around our table whilst we try to enjoy dinner,” I said.     

RWEMSD pulls open the fake stone door, I get my first whiff of unlimited salad and bread sticks and make my way to the hostess stand, “two for an early bird dinner!”  “Thirty minutes,” the hostess says.  RWEMSD: “huh?”  “It’s a thirty minute wait, unless you want to sit in the bar.”   

SIDEBAR: People who eat dinner before 7pm freak me out.  What time did you eat lunch?  Won’t you be hungry again before bed?  Do you eat early dinners because you go to bed at 8pm?  Going to bed at 8pm is frightening.  Eating dinner before 7pm reminds of a time in my life when weekly meals with Grandma and Grandpa were at Furr’s Cafeteria.  Furr’s might be called Furr’s Family Dining now.  If you don’t know what Furr’s Cafeteria is, click here.   Basically, you get a tray and walk down a school cafeteria-esque line picking out tiny bowls of cauliflower puree and Jell-O.   

Anyway, as you can imagine, the decision to eat dinner at 4:30pm  on Sunday was a made only out of a necessity to be home in time for 4 1/2 hours of LOST.   The fact that the punk hostess was telling us that we had to wait 30 minutes to eat dinner at 4:30pm was appalling.  I was 3 seconds away from marching out in a huff and walking next door to Applebee’s when the punk hostess says, “or you can sit in the bar.”  Oh, can we?  Thank you, punk hostess, for pausing just long enough for me to hate you.   

So, we sat at the bar.  Everything was just above par and totally what we wanted.  Salad.  Bread sticks.  Eggplant parmesan.  Yum.  

Learned thing #2: Vegan baking is basically a science experiment.     

In the spirit of our office Cake-Tatorship, I made a poppy seed bundt cake with blueberry glaze this weekend.  The recipe called for buttermilk, which confounded me at first because 1) I wasn’t quite sure what makes buttermilk buttermilk and 2) I’ve never seen vegan buttermilk at the store.   

First, I did what any 21st century woman would do: I Google’d it.  Buttermilk is basically cultured, or curdled milk with acid, typically lactic acid.  Second, I Google’d “vegan buttermilk” and discovered that adding 1 tbsp of vinegar to 1 cup of soy milk will create the necessary conditions for delicious, cultured, vegan “buttermilk.”  It was amazing.  It was science. 

Here’s the original recipe from Joy the Baker.  I substituted 1/2 cup of vegan yogurt for every egg and vegan “buttermilk” made from vinegar and soy milk.  For the glaze, I had to add almost 1/2 cup more powdered sugar to get the desired texture.  

Freaking Delicious

Vegan Poppy Seed Bundt Cake with Blueberry Glaze


Critical Corner: Open Sesame May 21, 2010

Filed under: Annoying things,Criticism — Amanda @ 10:29 AM

Dear Dunkin Donuts,

This is a sad excuse for a sesame bagel:

Epic Fail




Order! Order! May 19, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Amanda @ 11:42 AM

I’m sad to say that yesterday’s crossword was a flop. Yes, it was sad. Yes, there were tears.

One interesting tidbit did come from yesterday’s failed attempt at puzzlry: Robert’s Rules of Order.

Robert’s Rules of Order is the short title of a book containing rules for conduct at meetings that allows everyone to be heard and to make decisions without confusion (also known as parliamentary procedure).   Most organizations, governments, etc. use a procedure resembling Robert’s Rules. 

The first edition of the book, whose full title was Pocket Manual of Rules of Order for Deliberative Assemblies, was published in February 1876 by then U.S. Army Brigadier General Henry Martyn Robert (1837–1923) with the short title Robert’s Rules of Order placed on its cover.  The procedures were modeled after the US House of Representatives.

Mr. Robert was a big, underconfident nerd.  His interest in parliamentary procedure started when he was asked to preside over a church meeting, but didn’t feel like he had what it would take to run a successful meeting.  He thought to himself, “there should be a manual for this!”

And so, Mr. Robert published 4 editions of this book before he died in 1923.  It has become the most commonly adopted parliamentary authority among societies in the United States.  The most current edition, published in 2000, contains provisions dealing with videoconferences, teleconferences, and email. 


Typical Example of Robert’s Rules

  1. Call to order.
  2. Roll call of members present.
  3. Reading of minutes of last meeting.
  4. Officers reports.
  5. Committee reports.
  6. Special orders — Important business previously designated for consideration at this meeting.
  7. Unfinished business.
  8. New business.
  9. Announcements.
  10. Adjournment.

Amanda Cooks, Kori Eats May 12, 2010

Filed under: Brilliant things,Cooking — Amanda @ 9:36 AM
Tags: ,

This is the first installment of a series we like to call “Amanda Cooks, Kori Eats.”  The topic is pretty self-explanatory.

Root Beer Float Cake

Recently, I came across this recipe on a blog I enjoy, Joy the Baker.  Two things prompted the cooking of this cake: 1) Kori and I both share a love of root beer floats, and 2) next week is the beginning of Cake Month (aka Cake-tatorship) in the office.  

I followed the recipe pretty much to the T, but with one twist: I edited the recipe to make it completely vegan.  Yes, VEGAN.  And it’s scrumptious!  

Click here for the original Root Beer Float Cake recipe.  

I substituted 1/2 cup of vegan yogurt for the eggs and soy margarine for butter.  I also had to use 70% cocoa for the frosting, instead of 60%, so I think it turned out a tad more bitter than it should be, but it’s still quite tasty!


Not so Smazing May 10, 2010

Filed under: Annoying things,Crossword,Vocabulary — Amanda @ 2:39 PM

We completed today’s NY Times crossword with a word that neither Korilearns nor Amandalearns had ever heard of: smaze.  The clue was “some air pollution.” 

What a great word: smaze.  It’s just fun to say “SMAZE!”  Now, we love learning new words, especially words that are fun to say.  You can probably imagine our excitement when we went to look up the actual definition and history of the word smaze:

A thick, heavy atmospheric condition offering reduced visibility because of the presence of suspended particles: brume, fog, haze, mist, murk.  (answers.com)

Dictionary.com gave us the detailed definition “smoke + haze.”  That’s it.  Try Googling “smaze.”  You get nothing.  No one ever uses it in a sentence.  Ever.

We’re pretty sure that Randy Sowell, today’s puzzle creator, made it up and then convinced Will Shortz that smaze is a real word.  Shame on you, Mr. Shortz.  We expect more from you.


A Brief History of Crossword Puzzles May 5, 2010

Filed under: Brilliant things,Crossword — Amanda @ 5:38 PM

Arthur Wynne's original crossword puzzle from December 21, 1913.

It’s no secret that we here at the Kori and Amanda Learn blog love crossword puzzles.  Who doesn’t?  But do you know who invented the crossword puzzle and when?  How are American crosswords different from British or Japanese crosswords?  Read on, dear reader.     

The first example of a crossword puzzle appeared on September 14, 1890, in the Italian magazine Il Secolo Illustrato della Domenica. It was designed by Giuseppe Airoldi and titled “Per passare il tempo” (“To pass the time”). Airoldi’s puzzle was a four-by-four grid with no shaded squares, but it included horizontal and vertical clues.      

On December 21, 1913, Arthur Wynne, a journalist from Liverpool, England, published a “word-cross” puzzle in the New York World that embodied most of the features of the genre as we know it. This puzzle is frequently cited as the first crossword puzzle, and Wynne as the inventor. Later, the name of the puzzle was changed to “crossword.”     

The crossword phenomenon was slow to take hold.  Our own Boston Globe, as early as 1917, was one of the first papers to regularly publish crosswords.  

In 1921, the New York Public Library reported that “The latest craze to strike libraries is the crossword puzzle,” and complained that when “the puzzle ‘fans’ swarm to the dictionaries and encyclopedias so as to drive away readers and students who need these books in their daily work, can there be any doubt of the Library’s duty to protect its legitimate readers?”  Initially, some viewed the crossword puzzle with alarm, and some expected (even hoped) that it would be a short-lived fad. 

The New York Times didn’t publish its first puzzle until 1942.  In fact, the paper was quite critical of these kinds of puzzles.  On November 17, 1924 The New York Times complained of the   

“sinful waste in the utterly futile finding of words the letters of which will fit into a prearranged pattern, more or less complex. This is not a game at all, and it hardly can be called a sport… [solvers] get nothing out of it except a primitive form of mental exercise, and success or failure in any given attempt is equally irrelevant to mental development.”    

In The New York Times on December 23, 1924 a clergyman called the working of crossword puzzles “the mark of a childish mentality” and said “There is no use for persons to pretend that working one of the puzzles carries any intellectual value with it.”  


Types of Crossword Grids       

American Style Crossword

Crosswords in North America typically feature solid areas of white squares. Each answer usually is required to contain at least 3 letters and shaded squares are typically limited to one-sixth of the crossword design.  In both North America and Britain crossword grids should have a 180-degree rotational symmetry, so that its pattern appears the same if the paper is turned upside down.

UK Style Crossword

Crossword grids elsewhere, such as in Britain and Australia, have a lattice-like structure, with a higher percentage of shaded squares, leaving up to half the letters in an answer unchecked. For example, if the top row has an answer running all the way across, there will be no across answers in the second row.    

The design of Japanese crossword grids often follows two additional rules: that shaded cells may not share a side and that the corner squares must be white.  Due to the Japanese writing system, which uses characters rather than letters, each cell is typically one syllable rather than one letter.

In Poland (shout out to Martufo!) crosswords typically use British-style grids, but do not have shaded cells.  Shaded cells are instead replaced by boxes with clues.  Also, in most Polish crosswords nouns are the only allowed words.

Crossword puzzles RULE!