SOLVABLE SOLITAIRE

What is the most popular Windows program ever made? It’s not Microsoft Office or Word, it’s Solitaire. Practically everyone we’ve ever known plays it. It’s one of those “win some, lose some” kind of games. Or is it?

If you try Solitaire in Windows 10 they have an option: They have “solvable solitaire” options starting at “easy” and going up to tournament levels. Bob’s an ace at Solitaire, But Joy usually loses. So she tried the solvable “medium” level and won her first three games! Ha, ha, victory!

To find the solvable games option, you can either type “solitaire” in the search box in the lower left of your screen, or click the start button and scroll down until you get to Microsoft Solitaire Collection. We chose “Klondike,” the classic version.

Where to Get Off

When Joy was 15, she and a friend thought it would be fun to explore the whole length of a train. Somehow, they got separated from their group and missed their stop. Miraculously, they spotted the group on the freeway from a cab and moved from cab to van. This need never happen again with a new feature on Google Maps for Android phones.

Google Maps will tell you when to get off (no, not in that sense), whether you’re on a bus or train. It also tells you departure times and estimated time of arrival. You can also track your progress when driving, walking or biking.

To try it, tap Google Maps on your Android phone. Type in a destination, tap “Directions,” then select the picture of a bus or whatever and choose one of the selected routes. Tap the “Start” button to get on your way.

Learning a Language Through Apps

Two of our best friends are moving to Germany. He’ll be a chef and partner in a new barbecue restaurant, she’ll be an English tutor. They’re studying German like mad. Joy decided to learn German for moral support. Learning a new language is reported to be very good brain exercise, and Joy finds it more fun than the typical game on her phone. Here are some fun language apps:

— “Mondly” has 20 million users and is $10 a month and fun. It’s more conversational than some of the other apps we tried. Start a conversation in a restaurant, for example, and they’ll give you choices of what you can say when your virtual waitress asks you a question. Tap the microphone on your phone so she can hear you. If she can’t understand you, you’ll be asked to repeat. The voices include a man’s, a woman’s, and a child’s. After a while, they seem like family. The vocabulary drills are easy, because they show you a picture of what your new word means, so you can hardly fail to guess that the picture of a book, for instance, is “Buch” in German. All this builds confidence as you get to harder lessons.

— “DuoLingo” is  free and fun. It guides you up the language slopes ever so gently. Before you know it, “Auf Wiedersehen” is as familiar as “goodbye.”  This site just added Swahili and Romanian. A curious footnote here: Bob notes while many people think Swahili is what they speak in Africa, this isn’t true. There is no country in Africa whose native tongue is Swahili. It is a “Lingua Franca,” so to speak, used for trade, originally  with traders who spoke Arabic.

— “TinyCards,” also free, gives you free flash cards in the language of your choice. It reinforces what you’ve learned elsewhere.

— “Berlitz Talk & Travel Phrasebooks,” give you a free preview of lessons, then charges 99 cents. We found it helpful. All of the common idiomatic expressions are here.

Internuts

  • Google.com/flights helps find the cheapest flights.
  • TheFunTheory.com has a lot of real-life approaches to get people to have fun doing things they should do. For instance, 66% more people take the stairs instead of an escalator when they’re painted like piano keys. One hundred people recycled their glass bottles, compared to just two, when the receptacle showed a video game that required you to insert bottles to play.
  • FeastingOnFruit.com has desert recipes that use dates instead of sugar. Some have unhealthy ingredients like coconut butter, but there are many gems here.
  • TipsBulletin.com is a website for happy, handy, household hints. How to clean a countertop, remove nail fungus, “the ultimate guide to cleaning your hairbrush and comb,” and more.
  • Medium.com offers three free articles a day, with great variety. We read a piece on Einstein’s comment “spooky at a distance.” If you go beyond the daily limit, Medium costs $5 a month. Joy likes the Bitcoin articles.

The Nine Pyramids of Giza

In 2016, there was enough electronic equipment thrown away to occupy the space taken by all nine of the Great Pyramids of Giza.  If Egypt is too hot for you, you could pile up the equivalent of 4,500 Eiffel Towers or load 1.3 million 18-wheel 40-ton trucks –enough to form a line bumper to bumper from New York to Bangkok and back.

These numbers to ponder come from the United Nations University, a place we never heard of, which turns out to be the academic branch of the United Nations. The electronic trash includes stoves, washing machines, cameras, phones, TVs, computers, lamps and other electrical stuff. America produces the most per person. Alright … who’s number one?

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