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Trivia Tool | Making trivia less trivial. Trivia Tool Making trivia less trivial. Skip to content Home Across and Down Link By Matt Vigorita | July 19, 2016 - 3:52 PM | Literature Leave a comment Now that I’m on summer break, I have time to master the New York Times crossword puzzle. I can spend hours on end trying to fill in all the squares. I’m like a kid playing Xbox all day, not stopping once to eat, sleep or go to the bathroom. However, time is hardly wasted on crosswords, for they provide numerous benefits. Obviously, crosswords teach words. I’ve probably learned more vocabulary doing crosswords than I did sitting in English class. Instead of passively absorbing words and definitions from glossaries and dictionaries, I am stretching my mind to find a word that best fits a description–not to mention a set number of boxes. This active learning makes the words stick. Now I know and remember more about geography, literature and famous people from all walks of life. Although, I don’t know when I’ll ever use Gulf of Aqaba, “Evangeline” or Clu Gulager in a conversation. Crosswords have also helped me with critical thinking. I can’t assume any word has one meaning or is only one part of speech. For instance, press could be a verb as in “press the button,” or it could be a noun as in printing press. Morever, I must consider a word’s different pronunciations. There’s tower as in Babel, and then there’s tower as in AAA. This wordplay keeps me on my toes. Thank you Will Shortz. The puzzles also provide practice in problem solving skills (check out the alliteration). It’s been said that many great crossword masters are musicians or people in math and science. Tyler Hinman said, “What those fields have in common is they’re both about looking at encoded information and being able to translate it instantly into something meaningful.” Hinman is a 5-time winner of the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament. My memory stays in check because of crosswords, and their effects go beyond remembering the words for mine entrance and Hawaiian goose (ADIT and NENE respectively). Crossword puzzles may ward off maladies such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Scientists at UC-Berkeley found that people who engaged in mentally stimulating activities such as crosswords had less a buildup of beta-amyloid than those who were not doing those activities. Beta-amyloid is a protein found in the plaques that characterize Alzheimer’s. The Alzheimer’s Association recommends crosswords. Another brain benefit I enjoy from crosswords is the Aha moment. I am trapped in a comic book, and these pencil-drawn motorcycle racers are chasing me. Kidding! Here’s how an Aha moment plays out. I get stuck doing a puzzle. I walk away or else the frustration will the drive me crazy (like no else). An hour or so later, I’ll return to the grid and the answer is clear as day. This moment is a great moment; all the frustration pays off. Along with Aha moments, I get Zen moments. While filling the boxes, all my woes and worries disappear. I’m only thinking across and down. In the background Eddy Arnold starts singing “Make the World Go Away.” I’m getting all this pleasure from something I tore out of a newspaper. That’s another benefit of crosswords. Coming out of newspapers, crossword puzzles are inexpensive and accessible. They can be found all over. Magazines have them. Websites such as boatloadpuzzles.com and webcrosswords.com, as well as newspaper websites, contain digital versions. Barnes and Noble has books filled with crosswords. I have a NYT book with 500 puzzles. I’ve been working on it since 2003. I enjoy crosswords when I’m alone, but I have a better time doing them with a partner or a group. Everyone can contribute to a puzzle whether that person be a jock, nerd or busybody. In fact, groups benefit from crosswords. Educators at Eastern Kentucky University came up with collaborative cruciverbalism, the solving of a crosswords by two or more people. They claim crosswords provide opportunities for creative thinking. The strategies involved are: collaboration, perception shifting, piggybacking, brainstorming, glimmer-catching, playing, pattern recognition, metaphor use and flowing. When summer ends and I must return to the classroom, I will bring a book of crosswords for my students. They are more inclined to engage in a lesson and work in groups when puzzles or games are involved. We could also have our own crossword tournament, for they like competition. My class could be enjoying all these puzzles and not realize they’re strengthening their brains with all the mental exercises involved. Maybe they will treat crosswords like Xbox. Movie Taboo By Matt Vigorita | July 13, 2016 - 5:48 PM | Film Leave a comment Here’s a game I invented, granted no one did before me. It’s a movie game. The player’s objective is to get his partner to name a movie by naming or describing movie characters. The challenge is the player can’t name characters in the particular movie or the actors or actresses who play them. Instead the player can only name characters the movie’s actors played in other movies or television shows. For instance, the player must get his teammate to say The Godfather. The player cannot say Don Corleone, Michael, Sonny, Kay, Connie or Tom Hagen. Nor can the player say Brando, Pacino, Caan, Keaton, Shire or Duvall. What the player can say is Stanley Kowalski, Scarface, Brian Piccolo, Annie Hall, Adrian Balboa and The Great Santini. Descriptive clues such as Superman’s father or Rocky’s girl would also be acceptable. Also, the actor’s name can’t be used if the actor plays himself in another flick. Another rule is NO ELECTRONIC DEVICES! Try to guess the following movies. The player with the most correct answers wins bragging rights. (I’d offer a prize, but this site isn’t making money.) 2012: Charlie Chaplin, The Huntsman, Johnny Storm, Dylan Rhodes, Lucy, Jules Winfield, F. Scott Fitzgerald. 2001: Rudy, Ned Stark, Elizabeth I, Will Turner, James Whale, Ash, Agent Smith, Mumble, King Kong 1988: Ethan Hunt, Captain Hook 2012: Watson, Sherlock, Magneto 1994: Joe Clark, Nuke LaLoosh, Mr. Krabs. 1961: Eliza Doolittle, Colonel John “Hannibal” Smith, Andy Hardy, the guy who worked in Archie Bunker’s bar, Jed Clampett, Fred Flintstone, Bugs Bunny. 1979: Han Solo, Frank Booth, Morpheus, Gus McCrae, Jor-El, Jeb Bartlett 1964: Taggart, Darth Vader, George S. Patton, Inspector Clousseau (1964) 1960: Thomas Crown, King of Siam, Paul Kersey, Tuco, Derek Flint, Napoleon Solo (Hint: Notice the number of characters) 2013: Black Panther, Han Solo, Abbie Mills, Elliot Stabler, Khan from King of the Hill, the Pirate in Dodgeball, Dr. Perry Cox 2015: Celia Foote, Zoey Barnes, Cesar Chavez, Boromir, Harry Dunne, Solomon Northup, Bucky Barnes, Troy Barnes, Jason Bourne. 2015: John Du Pont, John Connor, Tyler Durden, Driver Tagged Film Unitasking By Matt Vigorita | July 2, 2016 - 7:53 PM | Literature Leave a comment Multitasking is joke. Performing several tasks at the same time sounds amazing. It would actually be amazing if each task were done with excellence. Instead, a multitasker does several cursory jobs simultaneously. He* doesn’t give any job the required full attention. Multitasking is also a delusion because humans don’t do several tasks simultaneously. The reality is they switch their attention from one task to another very quickly, thanks to the frontal lobe’s executive system. This switching takes it toll on a person’s productivity and also makes it difficult for him to tune out distractions. You have probably experienced this while studying with music playing. The Magna Carta was signed in-I LOVE THIS GUITAR SOLO! My students like to believe the delusion of multitasking. When I tell them to remove their earbuds, I often get hit with the argument that the music helps them concentrate. What they’re really saying is that the music makes the schoolwork less painful. I understand that, for I’ve been guilty of multitasking. I’ve cleaned my apartment with music playing. However, I realized I finish my chores faster when I’m not distracted by harmonies and melodies. My students need to believe that less distractions means less time dying over work. My students can’t afford any musical distractions, for they’re learning algebra. This job requires a lot more brain power than folding laundry. One needs to be aware of all the concepts of algebra in order to understand it. One can’t keep shifting his focus from systems of equations to System of a Down. In algebra class, a mathematician must give full attention to the assignment in front of her. The divided attention will widen the distance between her and the solutions. It will also create more math problems within each math problem. Those who dread work should try something I like to call “unitasking.” When faced with a dreadful task, first remove all distractions. Turn off the TV, silence the phone and unplug the internet. Then bite the bullet and buckle down. Your other option is to drag out the drudgery. *I alternate between masculine and feminine pronouns in order to be inclusive. Sources: Cherry, Kendra. “Multitasking: A Few Reasons Why Multitasking Reduces Productivity.” Web log post. Verywell.com. About.com, 22 May 2015. Web. 2 July 2016. . Hamilton, Jon. “Think You’re Multitasking? Think Again.” Morning Edition. NPR. WNYC FM 93.9, New York, New York, 2 Oct. 2008. Radio. Around the World, Around the World By Matt Vigorita | July 21, 2015 - 3:08 AM | Geography Leave a comment Geography is important now as it was when it was first studied. In the beginning, man’s curiosity led to exploration of other places, which led to exploring nearly everything in those places. This is how geography came to be known as the “mother of all sciences.” Today, as global citizens, it behooves us to know all about our planet and its systems because Earth is an interdependent community. By learning geography, which is Greek for “earth description,” we can better understand what and who impacts our Earth and learn how to better navigate this world. If you don’t have time to read atlases or Nat Geo, you can learn geography by other means, some of which you probably have been using. By staying alert and looking closer, you’ll be all over the map. Sports Team names expose you to cities, states and countries. The name can teach you about the climate or topography of the team home (Colorado Rockies, Miami Heat). It can also teach you about historical events that occurred in those regions (San Francisco 49ers, Philadelphia 76ers). The name can also teach you about the region’s economy (Milwaukee Brewers, Pittsburgh Steelers). TV/Movies. Devils Tower in Wyoming is a major plot element in Spielberg’s sci-fi classic. Aside from watching the news or stations such as PBS and the Travel Channel, you can get your geography fix from Hollywood fare as long as you pay attention. Many memorable scenes feature important landmarks. King Kong climbs the Empire State Building. The aliens land on Devils Tower in Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977). Pee-Wee Herman visits the Alamo. Scenes such as these piqued my interest in reading more about these sites. I even learned that a lot of the geography is inaccurate. After all, these are fictional films. For example, Jurassic Park (1993) is set in Costa Rica but was filmed in Hawaii. War Who uses maps? Those defending our freedom. Writer Ambrose Bierce said, “War is God’s way of teaching Americans geography.” He has a point. Recent conflicts taught me about places such as Kandahar, Basra and Tikrit. I’m not suggesting we need more countries fighting so we can learn. I do recommend following war stories in different media. We learn about where our brave men and women fought and what they endured. I suggest watching Band of Brothers (2001) and Ken Burns’s The Civil War (1990). Jigsaw Puzzles According to the American Jigsaw Puzzle Society, the first jigsaw puzzle was made to teach children geography. Around 1760, a London engraver by the name of John Spilsbury put a map on hardwood and cut around the borders of the countries. This made studying maps more engaging than simply reading them. Jigsaw puzzles also help build motor skills, reasoning skills and above all problem-solving skills. You can buy geographic jigsaw puzzles at Puzzle Warehouse and Serious Puzzles. If you’re not into the hands-on kind, you can check out online puzzles at Your Child Learn. Google Earth This virtual globe is just fun to watch! It’s interesting to see satellite photos of anywhere on the planet! (It’s also eerie seeing photos of your own house. Hello Big Brother.) It’s neat jumping from your current location to another part of the world. Google Earth helps you with your sense of direction and gives you knowledge about your place in the world (literally, not philosophically). It’s ironic since Google Maps does the opposite. Postcards I’ve been collecting postcards for years. They’ve fed with me tasty, bite-sized facts about so many extraordinary places. This is good if you don’t like reading that often. Moreover, the cards with stunning visuals make the facts stick. Music You already know that songs help you remember. Many songs give shout-outs to various places. Here are a few favorites: “Istanbul (Not Constantinople)” by They Might Be Giants http://triviatool.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/Istanbul-not-Constantinople-They-Might-Be-Giants.mp4 “I’ve Been Everywhere” by Hank Snow http://triviatool.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/Hank-Snow-Ive-Been-Everywhere.mp4 “This Land Is Your Land” by Woody Guthrie http://triviatool.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/Woody-Guthrie-This-Land-Is-Your-Land-1.mp4 For more songs with geographic references, check out Eric Riback’s Songlists. Travel (duh) Travel was the very first geography lesson, and it’s still the best way to learn the subject Vacations create memorable learning experiences with all the new sights to see and different cultures to experience. Local trips can be memorable too, and I mean local. I went to a park I visited all my life. After all these years, I finally learned the name of the river that runs through it. I never noticed a plaque on the footbridge that says “Wanaque River” (and to think I didn’t know the name of a river in my own town). By using these methods and stockpiling geographic info, you will become a better thinker. Your navigation skills will improve. You will understand how people live in other countries and make sense of their cultures. You’ll even improve in other subjects such as science, history and economy. Look closer. Summer Learning Loss By Matt Vigorita | July 7, 2015 - 3:03 AM | Literature Leave a comment I asked my goddaughter what books she has to read over the summer. She said she doesn’t have any books. Instead, she must read 15 articles. FIFTEEN ARTICLES? That’s just wrong. I understand the detriment of summer learning loss, but this isn’t how to continue education during the off months. Students are out of school. They shouldn’t feel like they’re back in it. Children can loose a big chunk of what they learned the previous year. I spend September and October reviewing that previous year. Children’s ability to retain information is on the decline. They need to practice skills and review material on a regular basis in order to keep them in their brains. Some have suggested that school be year-round. That’s highly unlikely. That requires more funding, so taxpayers will pooh-pooh it. Also, beach towns and businesses that depend on the summer season will nix the idea. Moreover, the weather is beautiful, and children should be outside to enjoy it (even though many choose to stay indoors with the Playstation). They shouldn’t be doing assignments that keep them indoors or they might as well go to the school building. Children should at least get a daily dose of bite-sized education during the summer. Teachers should prescribe some skills or facts that students must practice or read over everyday. The information must be fundamental for the upcoming year. It should also be information that should be memorized once and for all. As a math teacher, I’m still experiencing students who still can’t recall arithmetic facts. Their number sense is lacking. Of course, they struggle with new lessons that depend on number sense. They should nail down number sense during the summer. I suggest children practice memorizing arithmetic facts using flashcards for 5-10 minutes each day. If they already mastered that, then they should move on to comparing numbers including decimals, fractions and integers. Several websites and app stores provide flashcards. You can also find flashcard videos on YouTube. If the flashcards are too dry for the child, I recommend showing Schoolhouse Rocks. Not only will the kid learn math, but they will also be exposed to cool music and hip animation. The awesome “Three is the Magic Number” should be required viewing. Heck, here it is. http://triviatool.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/Schoolhouse-Rock-3-Is-A-Magic-Number.mp4 I’m not an English teacher, but I know 15 articles won’t get children into reading. A students should read 1 or 2 books OF HIS/HER CHOOSING. Also, the books should be age-appropriate. A 6th-grader shouldn’t be reading Dr. Suess or Fifty Shades of Grey. Schools can also help by deciding if a book is appropriate or not because some books are age appropriate but have a few instances of sex, drugs, violence and profanity. When the child finally chooses the right book, he/she should read at least 15 minutes a day. Of course, if they read, they should also write. Readers make good writers and writers make good reading (I don’t know who said this, but I’m not claiming it as my own). They should do reports on the books they read, but they should also keep journals. Journals are a good way to keep their thoughts in order. Children should write three paragraphs a day. I’m leaving out science and social studies because math and English are a higher priority, especially with all this testing. However, there are still opportunities for other subjects that can be found during their leisure. Camp can expose children to science and nature. Travel can expose them to history, geography, world language and music. For 10 months, students have to endure structured, disciplined traditional education. They need that to build a good work ethic and good learning habits. By June, they’re burnt out from it. They need to blow off steam. However, they can’t afford to lose the skills for which they worked so hard. If children complete my assignments, they won’t lose it. They won’t even lose time, for the assignments combined won’t take over an hour. Once they take care of business, then they can run wild. Ursa Minor Detail By Matt Vigorita | June 14, 2014 - 9:36 PM | Literature Leave a comment Gary and his chums tie one on. I recently rented The World’s End (2013), starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. Gary, a 40-year-old man trapped in his teens, gathers his high school friends for an epic pub crawl (and that’s all I’m saying since I’m not prone to giving spoilers). It isn’t as funny as Shaun of the Dead (2004) or Hot Fuzz (2007) but it’s watchable nonetheless. One thing I learned from it was a bit about The Bard. Wanting to leave one of the watering holes, Gary says “Drink up. Let’s Boo Boo.” Of course, the gang is baffled by the last sentence, so Gary explains. In their high school, it said on a wall, “Exit, Pursued by a Bear.” This is a stage direction from Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale. Gary and his friends would use this line when they needed to make a getaway (at least in Gary’s mind.). The stage direction later evolved into “Let’s Yogi and Boo-boo” referencing the ursine characters created by Hanna-Barbera. Then it was just “Let’s Boo Boo.” Yogi and Boo Boo go after another pic-a-nic basket Now, do you feel smarter than the average bear? Dah Dah Dah By Matt Vigorita | May 24, 2012 - 8:58 PM | Science Leave a comment On this day in 1844, Samuel Morse (1791-1872) transmitted the first telegraph message. He asked, “What God hath wrought?” Morse wrote the message in his own code. The Morse code is either one of two codes in which letters and numbers are represented by dots and dashes or long and short signals. The message can be transmitted with flashes of light or clicks and pauses. Of course, Bell’s telephone replaced the telegraph, but Morse code is still used today. Some even use it for private conversation. In the underrated Let Me In (2010), Owen and his bloodthirsty friend Abby communicate using Morse Code. 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