Reflections on the 2018 A to Z Challenge #atozchallenge

Well, another A to Z Challenge is done and dusted. It was my seventh, and I still consider it the highlight of my blogging year.

In keeping with the way I tend to do things lately, I’m going to stream-of-consciousness my way through this, or to put it another way, riff my way through.

I was finished with all my posts well in advance of April Fool’s Day, i.e. April 1. Unless I’m mistaken, I was done by my birthday, March 25, so that part of the challenge was a piece of cake. (Mmmmmm…. caaaaaaaake….) In fact, I already have my theme for next year, word list and all. You’ll have to wait until next March to find out what it is.

But, as we all know, getting the posts done and sitting in the queue is only half the battle. The other half is visiting other blogs, particularly the blogs of folks you don’t already count among your “blog buddies.” That’s a bit of a problem, because as it stands a good portion of the blogs I follow are people I’ve met during previous A to Z Challenges. I don’t think I did a good enough job of keeping up with the Kardashians people I follow all year, let alone any new people. I think what happens is that I wake up and see there are over 200 posts in my RSS reader of choice (Feedly) and immediately become overwhelmed. By about April 20, I decided to do what I could during April, then do an extended road trip (about which you’ll hear plenty more in the coming days – watch the challenge blog for details) and try and visit everyone who did the Challenge.

I don’t think anyone wants to hear about the technical challenges I had to cope with. Suffice it to say I coped with them. I would like to remind everyone that the WordPress “simulcast” blog is just that, and that if the entries are unavailable there, you can always read the posts on the main blog. I know there are those of you who don’t like Blogger, but the posts you see on the simulcast blog are simply rebroadcasts of the ones on Blogger.

While I’m on the subject of technical stuff, I want to do a shout-out to Jayden, who came up with the idea of using Google Forms and Google Sheets to build the master list of participants as well as the daily lists of posts (which replaced last year’s system of posting your link as a comment on the daily letter page). I’m not sure how long they’ll be out there, so you might want to save them to your Google Drive account for posterity.

It’s always an honor and a pleasure to work with the other members of the A to Z Challenge Team. Arlee‘s blog was one of the first ones I read when I started thinking about blogging myself, and I’ve learned a lot from him in the 6 ½ years I’ve been doing this. J served as our team captain this year and did a fantastic job, making sure everything was done before the challenge began and keeping things going through the month. Csenge is always a joy to work with and ran the Twitter chats and was busy visiting everyone. I’d go to a blog to leave a comment, and nine times out of ten she had already been there. The aforementioned Jayden found a solution to the chaos we had last year as far as collecting links was concerned. I was so happy someone had thought of it that I welcomed her to the team before she actually agreed to be a member. And finally, but certainly not least, there’s Jeremy, who created all the badges and graphics and has A to Z Challenge t-shirts and other goodies available for purchase at his Neato Shop.

I’ll probably have more to say as time goes on, but this is as good a stopping point as any. Thank you so much to all the participants in the challenge, to those who commented whether or not you were doing the challenge yourself, to Arlee for starting this and to the rest of my teammates for keeping it going. Next year’s challenge will be the tenth, by the way, so be prepared for some excitement. See you in the funny papers!


Zwieback #atozchallenge


Almost done!

Zwieback (source:

When you were a baby, did your mom give you zwieback? It’s more popular in Europe, but they sell it in this country, and parents frequently give it to teething babies to give them something to gum on. It’s a sweetened bread that’s been sliced thin and toasted twice until it’s brittle and crunchy. The name comes from German, “zwei” meaning “two” and “back” meaning “baked.” The word biscuit means the same thing, from the Italian “biscotto” (“bis” twice, “cotto” baked).

I think the only time I had zwieback was when one of my friends had a baby sibling at home. He had this habit of taking the baby’s zwieback for himself. One day I was at his house. He went into the kitchen, came out with two pieces of it and handed me one. Turns out they were the last two pieces, and his mother was not happy. It might have been because he left the empty box in the pantry, I don’t know. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t all that impressed, and felt bad that the baby had to go without.

The Wikipedia article about zwieback says that it’s similar to Melba toast. I know I’ve had that before. Have you ever been to a restaurant where the bread basket is filled with crackers and such wrapped in plastic? There are usually a few packages of saltines, some packages of bread sticks (plain and garlic), one or two packages of Melba toast, some garlic rounds (as the name suggests, thy’re round crackers that are garlic-flavored), and usually one or two packages of Ry-Krisp, which looks and tastes like acoustical tile or packing material. You could always tell when the Holton boys were at one of those restaurants: there were empty wrappers all over the table and on the floor.

And that’s my final entry in this year’s Blogging from A to Z Challenge! Hope you enjoyed it!

Xenogamy #atozchallenge


The official meaning of xenogamy is cross-pollination, taking the pollen from one plant and fertilizing a different plant with it. It’s from two Greek words, xenos meaning “stranger” and gamos meaning “marriage.”

Everyone can practice xenogamy, even if they aren’t a horticulturist, farmer, or gardener. You might even say it’s vital. Cross-pollination doesn’t necessarily involve pollen or plants. It can involve a rock musician learning classical works, a ballet dancer learning tap, a horror author reading Regency romance. Or a physicist playing the violin…

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Roger von Oech, who wrote the books A Whack On The Side Of The Head and A Kick In The Seat Of The Pants, suggests developing friendships with people in different fields. Think of what an engineer could learn from a screenwriter, or a musician could learn from a financier, or a salesman could learn from a stand-up comic. And vice versa.

Practice xenogamy in your life!

Watt-Hour #atozchallenge


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I’m including this because it was one of my great “duh!” moments. I mean, I’ve only been reading and paying electric bills for 40 years, you’d think I’d have understood this. Usually, when we’re talking your electric bill, you see “kilowatt hour,” or more frequently the abbreviation kwh, and you’re charged per kilowatt hour, right? Well, one day I got to thinking “what exactly is a kilowatt-hour?”

So, off to Wikipedia I went, and learned that a watt (named for James Watt, who helped develop the steam engine, not the former Secretary of the Interior) is one joule per second. Which told me nothing, since I was so bad at physics, and that it’s a measure of energy transfer. But I know my times and gazintas, as Jethro from The Beverly Hillbillies would call them, so I figured out that one watt-hour is 3600 joules, and thus a kilowatt-hour is 3,600,000 joules, or 3.6 megajoules. All of which told me as much as what a watt and a joule were.

So I looked up kilowatt-hour, which I should have done in the first place, and it told me that a kilowatt hour is the number of kilowatts times the number of hours. So, if I leave a 60-watt bulb burning for one hour, it uses 60 watt-hours, or 0.06 kilowatt-hours. At 10.7 cents per kilowatt-hour, that cost me 0.6 cents.

Now, here’s where all this comes in handy. I have a ceiling fan in my office which I have a tendency to leave running all the time. Mary sees this, turns it off, then reminds me to turn it off when I’m not using it. So I got to thinking: what would it cost if I left it on all the time? I did some research, and learned that the fan draws 75 watts of power. Leaving it on for 24 hours would consume 1.8 kwh, which would cost 19.3 cents. Leaving it on for a month would cost me $5.79, and $69.50 for the year. Not exactly nothing, but it’s not going to break the bank.

I showed these calculations to Mary, and she said, “turn the fan off when you’re not in your office.” So much for that argument.

Maybe I should buy stock in The Southern Company