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How to Win at Online Scrabble

February 21, 2013 Leave a comment

These are not guaranteed techniques to work in every instance, but if you’ve been losing against your opponent in Scrabble, here are some tips to give you the edge you need to win.

1. Play for the best possible points, not for the best possible word. Sometimes you’ll have a really good word you want to play, like oh say, QUIET, but it may be that simply playing QI may give you the best possible points. You may need to forgo the full word in favor of the two-letter abbreviations that work for you. Online Scrabble tells you the points you’d have if you proceeded with that play.

2. Use the dictionary feature available to you. It’s there for a reason. (This is different from going to a word generator on the Web that spits out all possible combinations of words from the letters you’ve been given. That’s definitely cheating. Don’t do that.) But some people I play with consider using the dictionary cheating so I don’t use that feature when I play against them. But otherwise, you may be surprised to discover the words that exist with the letters you’ve been given!

3. Aim to play high-point tiles on score-laden squares. See if you can play that 5-point K on a triple-letter square. Maybe you can arrange a word to play that J on a double-letter square. This will help give you the maximum amount of points.

4. Aim to play along the double-word square or triple-word square. That usually maximizes points as well.

5. Playing along the triple-word square may not necessarily give you the maximum amount of points. Depending on the letters surrounding the triple-word square, playing letters like AH may be best played against adjacent letters such as EM, for example.

6. Don’t play low-scoring words just because they’re cool. You don’t have to play TIT because you can. If TILT gives you more points, play that.

7. Don’t exchange tiles unless you absolutely have to. To me, it’s like wasting a turn. It’s very possible to play off of a letter already on the board with a tile rack of all vowels (AERIE or EERIE perhaps) or make a word from all consonants (CWM, DRY, and SHY are all valid words).

8. Play a bingo if you can. That means using all 7 letters provided to you. This gives you an extra 50 points.

9. If you sense that you have a bingo, don’t play until you’ve thoroughly explored all your options. Even if this means a day or not of not making a move, you’ll be happier if you took the time to discover that bingo. (Sometimes, you may be one letter off and it’s also important to know when you’re just short a bingo.)

10. If you have a bingo sitting on your rack, don’t pass a turn hoping your opponent gives you something to play off of. (I’m guilty of doing this, but usually if I’m far enough ahead in the lead.) Remember, the goal is to score the best possible points with the letters you’ve been given in the turn that you have. One, there’s no guarantee your opponent will set you up for what you want, and two, you give your opponent the edge in winning.

11. Learn from the teacher. The teacher is very good (not perfect; I have outscored the teacher) about showing the maximum amount of points possible that you could have played. Ignorance is not bliss if you keep losing in Scrabble. Be open to learning.

12. Sometimes, it’s just the luck of the draw. You have a better chance at winning if you get the higher-scoring tiles such as J, Q, X, and Z. If you get one of those tiles or tiles higher than 1 point (eg, C, Y, H), use them to your advantage.

13. Study your opponent’s moves. If your opponent is a consistent high scorer, study his or her moves and the words he or she uses.

14. Learn new words. Expand your vocabulary. See what words you can come up with when given the following letters: YESSTHC.

Those are my tips on giving yourself the best possible chance at winning at online Scrabble. Hopefully, they will help you improve your technique and win against that opponent who keeps beating you!

How to Succeed on Weight Watchers

February 19, 2013 1 comment

I’m not usually into writing how-tos but in the past month, I’ve lost 10 pounds while being a part of Weight Watchers online. This is just my take on what it takes to succeed on Weight Watchers.

1. Stay within your daily points as best as you can. It’s OK if you go one or two over and fall back on your weekly points—that’s what they’re there for. But do your best not to blow all your daily points in one shot. (My first week on Weight Watchers I blew through my daily and weekly points in one shot!)

2. Plan ahead. Before going out to a restaurant or while at a restaurant, look up the PointsPlus value of the dish. Often it will be well over 15 points. Try to eat half of the dish and save the rest for later. If you can’t find the exact dish in the Weight Watchers database, find a similar dish or guesstimate the PointsPlus value. (Here’s a tip: When guesstimating points, always overestimate. You probably eat more than you think you do. You do yourself no favors by underestimating a massive double cheeseburger laden with bacon as 10 points.)

3. Exercise. There’s no easy way around this. To give yourself the best chance to succeed on Weight Watchers, you must exercise regularly. This helps give you activity points and accelerates your weight loss. I exercise twice a week for at least 30 minutes. (I try to do more along the lines of 45-60 minutes per session.)

4. Eat salad for at least one meal a day. Whether it’s lunch or dinner, make sure that you have some greens for one meal. It may have protein or a small amount of carbs (like croutons), but it’s got to be primarily greens or vegetables and fruit that are considered 0 points, such as mushrooms, onions, peppers, strawberries, or Mandarin oranges.

5. Snack on foods that are 3 points or less. Bonus points if you can eat things that are 0 points. I’m allergic to apples and pears so I keep 100-calorie snack packs around. Those tend to be around 3 points. They are carbs, but if I wash them down with a bottle of water, I’m usually satisfied for a while.

6. Drink plenty of water during meals. Water can be surprisingly filling.

7. Use Weight Watchers in conjunction with a free health and fitness site like MyFitnessPal.com. MyFitnessPal has a wide database that is even more extensive than Weight Watchers online. I’ve found that also calorie-counting in addition to tracking points gives me a better view of how I’m eating. Sparkpeople.com and Loseit.com are great too.

8. Be vigilant about tracking everything. That scoop of ice cream is probably 4 points. Your coffee with milk and sugar is likely to be anywhere from 3 to 5 points. The cheese on your salad? 2 points. The dressing? (Yes, even the dressing.) 1 point (or more depending on how much you use). I’m not always good about this rule myself (See? I’m not perfect!), but this really goes back to that tip of overestimating rather than underestimating points. If it goes into your stomach, make sure to log it.

9. Eat meals like Smart Ones, Lean Cuisine, or Healthy Choice to give yourself an accurate version of portion size. You’ll eat and think to yourself, “Gee, that wasn’t very filling.” And that’s the point. That’s how much you should be eating. Supplement these meals with a healthy snack, such as a banana or carrots. Or eat a small salad beforehand to help fill yourself up.

10. Weigh yourself weekly before eating or drinking anything. Not daily. Weekly. You could go crazy during the week as the scale teeters up and down. And make sure that you weigh yourself first thing in the morning before eating or drinking anything. One, it’s a more accurate result, and two, the number on the scale is likely to make you feel better psychologically than if you weighed yourself after a heavy dinner that included carbs.

11. Get an accountability partner. Weight Watchers online has community forums for users to participate in to get group support. My husband and I are doing Weight Watchers online together and we hold each other accountable.

12. Utilize the Weight Watchers tools that are available to you. I’m doing the online version so I use the mobile app and online program to track my meals daily. There are also online recipes and success stories to inspire and motivate users. (Note: You can’t access the mobile or online features if you do not have a subscription.)

13. Use measuring cups and/or a food scale to help you gauge the amount of food you’re eating. Thus, you’ll have an accurate reading of what you’re eating and what the correct serving size is for each product.

Succeeding on Weight Watchers takes discipline, strength, and willpower. (LOTS of willpower.) Is it true that you can eat anything you want? Yes, but within moderation. You can’t eat everything you want on the same day or even in the same week. Is it true that you may feel deprived? Yes, you may have to pass up that delicious cheeseburger for dinner if you had a large portion of lasagna for lunch. Don’t be fooled: Weight Watchers is a diet plan, and with all diet plans come benefits and drawbacks. But the above tips are what have worked for me so far. Feel free to add tips of your own in the comments below.

Writing a Novel in 30 (or 31) Days

January 9, 2013 3 comments

In 2013, I hope to write a novel in 30 days—twice. Not only do I plan on participating in NaNoWriMo in November, but I also plan on writing a novel in 30 days in April. Here are the following tips I will apply to attempt this feat toward the beginning of the  year (and at the end):

  • Enlist community support. Tell friends and family about your goals. If possible, find a writing forum where you can have others help keep you accountable. Camp NaNoWriMo is also helpful way to write novels during the months of April and June.
  • Establish discipline. Nothing is more crucial to success than establishing discipline. Set a daily goal of x words per day, and determine to meet it. I will stick to the NaNoWriMo goal of 1,667 words per day.
  • Set benchmarks. This word widget can help you to establish benchmarks of 10 percent, 20 percent, and so on: http://wordmeter.herokuapp.com/picometer/words=0&target=50000. You can adjust the target to suit your goal and change the number of words from 0 to whatever total amount you have written. (Or you can utilize http://www.critiquecircle.com/wordmeterbuilder.asp.)
  • Discover good writing music. I listen to classical music when I write. I can’t listen to anything with words lest I begin typing the lyrics in my novel. But if listening to nothing but the sound of traffic outside of your window is best, go for that.
  • Have a rough outline of your story. You may not know exactly what your story will consist of—Who does? Sometimes characters surprise us!—but a rough outline can help you stay on track with the general goal of your hero coming out on top.

It is possible to write a novel in 30 days as long as you are dedicated and disciplined—two very difficult things to establish. But once they’ve been established, they pave the way for success.

25 Time Management Strategies

November 10, 2011 2 comments

In January and February 2011, I attended a two-part session on time management by Heartwork Organizing. Here’s a list of 25 strategies I obtained from that session with the ones I am working on in bold. Let me know three of the 25 strategies you think you could use.

  1. Keep a weekly (not daily) to-do list.
  2. Note 3 top priorities/projects/tasks to complete each day.
  3. Using the 80/20 rule (only 20% of your tasks are most important), ensure the tasks in your 20% are the first ones you tackle.
  4. Carry your planner everywhere, even to church, gym, and dates/appointments.
  5. Be aware when you are making a commitment to yourself and others.
  6. Make written appointments with yourself, and keep them as routinely as you would with your hairdresser.
  7. Separate making your to-do list from accomplishing your to-do list.
  8. Separate projects from tasks.
  9. Schedule time on your calendar to work on projects.
  10. Never check your email before __(insert customized time here)__.
  11. When working on projects at your computer, don’t leave your email and browser programs open.
  12. Use a sheet of paper as a “time container” and only write until full.
  13. Use “sticky notes” as disposable containers, not permanent records.
  14. Use “Prince/Princess time management” because you are a Son/Daughter of the King.
  15. Keep your calendar free enough to entertain angels.
  16. Beware of the latest electronic gadget as a time waster.
  17. When spinning, ask “What is the next thing I have to do?” and do it.
  18. Build in rewards for your efforts (e.g, I will get a snack after I finish this proposal).
  19. Remove technical issues when they exist.
  20. Ensure written goals are SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Time-bound.
  21. Practice conscious breathing. Schedule it if necessary.
  22. Decide if your tasks pass the five-year test. (What’s going to be important five years from now?)
  23. Use a time to chunk out unpleasant/large tasks 15 minutes at a time.
  24. Learn how to use your cell phone or microwave timer.
  25. Prioritize people over things.

Not all of these are practical tips for me. For example, I wouldn’t check my email before 5:30 in the morning because I’m likely sleeping, but if I don’t check it before noon, I’m at work where I really can’t view it. It’s also the primary means of contacting me during the day.

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