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Stellar Recap | Cruciverbalism, mRNA Vaccines, & Memery Lane

Stella Min
Stella Min
Hello there,
I’m Stella and you’re receiving this email because you signed up for Stellar Recap, a weekly newsletter where I share my latest explorations, discoveries, and updates. Thank you for being here. If you enjoy the newsletter, please share it with a friend. If this email was forwarded to you, make sure to subscribe so you don’t miss out on future issues.

Decentralized blogging. Most people tend to think of Bitcoin and NFTs that sell for $69 million during discussions about decentralized platforms, but this technology can be applied outside of cryptocurrencies as well. One example is the blog maker called Sigle. I explored its capabilities last week and I was impressed with the UI of the platform. It still has some flaws, like the inability to easily share posts, but I can imagine more and more people quickly adopting apps like this over ones that use legacy technologies that collect and sell our data.
Cruciverbalism. The NY Times honored Will Shortz for editing his 10,000th crossword puzzle on April 7, 2021. The article reignited my interest in designing puzzles, which I briefly explored almost 2.5 years ago after watching the cruciverbalist, David Kwong, explain his process for constructing them. This was also around the first time that I ever completed a crossword puzzle, in addition to attempting to design one. Kwong’s whiteboard method, however, led me astray. I foolishly believed that I could retrace his process using Excel, but it was exceedingly difficult to design and fill a puzzle this way, at least as a complete novice.
My first attempt at building a crossword puzzle.
My first attempt at building a crossword puzzle.
After reading this series about making crossword puzzles by the NY Times, I learned there are several helpful tips and resources that cruciverbalists use to build puzzles. They don’t just brute force it like I did.
For the fledgling cruciverbalist. If you’re interested in designing crossword puzzles, don’t use Excel. I discovered that there are several resources that are much more helpful. Use tools like Crossfire ($50), Crossword Compiler ($169), and Phil ($0) to design and construct your puzzles. You can also turn to sites like OneLook Dictionary,, and Xword Info to generate ideas for words and phrases. Also, read Part 2 of the Wordplay series that I referenced above to learn helpful tips about strategically placing the black tiles. If you’re interested in solving crossword puzzles, you can subscribe to NY Times Games, Fireball Crosswords, The American Values Club, WSJ, and LA Times. See the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament‘s website for a full list. You can collaborate with friends on apps like (app and desktop) and Xword Info (desktop only). If you’re stuck, you can turn to websites like Wordplays to help. The NY Times also shared some tips for solving their crossword puzzles. There’s also a dedicated Facebook groups that you can turn to like the Crossword Puzzle Collaboration Directory.
A trip down memery lane. As I explored my interest in crossword puzzles, I thought that it might be fun to use memes as my theme set, which is how I came across this meme generator. Within minutes, I developed a deeper appreciation for the creativity that goes into the creation of memes, like this series of Winnie the Pooh translating financial jargon, as I realized that I’m pretty terrible with pop culture references and should probably pick a different theme for my crossword puzzle. On that note, I highly recommend reading these excellent articles about the origin stories of memes like Nyan cat and how early memes are making a comeback because of the rising interest in NFTs. Although some may debate whether Strong Bad and Homestar Runner qualify as memes, I think they fall into the same category and this Polygon article discusses the relevance of this old flash animation to modern times. Full disclosure, Strong Bad’s techno song was my ring tone for about a year.
Vaccine side effects. I received my first vaccine this week and, after experiencing the side effects, I dove deep into the research on the differences in experiences between people who received the Pfizer/BioNTech and the Moderna vaccines. I knew that both Pfizer and Moderna are associated with a higher likelihood of experiencing side effects relative to Johnson & Johnson and that the likelihood of reactogenicity also varies by age and gender. What I didn’t know was that people who were injected with the Moderna vaccine were (sometimes up to 2x) more likely to report that they experienced side effects than those who received Pfizer on nearly every measure, including injection site pain, chills, headache, and fatigue. I was also frustrated by the dearth of information on reported side effects by vaccine from the first vs. second shot. The only stats I could find were from this small study that showed that more than two-thirds of their sample experienced side effects after their first mRNA vaccine. I also have questions about which factors increase the likelihood of reactogenicity. For example, BMI is not associated with any differences in vaccine effectiveness but could it increase the likelihood of side effects? Women tend to have lower BMI than men, as do younger people relative to older people. Is that driving some of the differences in reports of side effects, in addition to hormonal differences? I imagine scientists are looking into this and I just haven’t found the information. I wish media outlets would report on questions like these, rather than anomalies like the 36/56,000 women who experienced menstruation abnormalities as a side effect. If this is news, then I would like to report that I experienced uncontrollable whimpering within 8 hours after receiving my first vaccine.
5 journaling prompts. If you’re following along with me in my one thing project, here are the five questions I explored this week:
  • What’s one of your proudest accomplishments so far this year?
  • What’s one thing you would like to accomplish before the end of the year?
  • What were the circumstances around a time when you changed your mind?
  • Describe a time when you surprised yourself.
  • What’s one of the most difficult decisions you’ve ever had to make?
Learn more about the inspiration behind the project through this post that was written by my lovely mother-in-law. Also, check out her podcast which explores how people overcome challenges and live life to the fullest.
Stellar Reads
  • Four leading theories on the rare instances of blood abnormalities after receiving the J&J and AstraZeneca vaccine that all seem to center around platelet molecules. The article also provides a great explanation about the differences between all the emergency approved vaccines (The Atlantic).
  • A glimpse into the lives of mothers during the pandemic. While most of it is heartbreaking, there are also moments of pure joy (The Daily; 25 min.).
  • Cities and states are trying to attract remote workers by paying them up to $10,000 to move there (Patrick Sisson; Marker).
  • If you need an internet router, you may have to wait more than 60 weeks before your broadband provider can get one (Bloomberg).
  • Axton Betz-Hamilton spent 20 years tracking down the people who stole her and her family member’s identities and ruined their financial credit. Like many victims of identity theft, she soon learned that the culprits were the people she least expected (This is Uncomfortable podcast; 36 min.).
  • An 8th grader found a 68-million-year-old T-rex tooth while on a hike in Boulder County, Colorado (Out There Colorado).
  • Legal loopholes have incentivized nearly 1.5 million businesses around the world to incorporate in Delaware, including 68% of all Fortune 500 companies (The Hustle).
  • A thorough review of the latest science on intermittent fasting, from the risks and benefits (Knowable Magazine).
  • Firearm injuries cost the country hundreds of billions of dollars a year (The Journalist’s Resource).
  • The latest data from the National Association of Realtors showed that the total number of active listings is down to record lows, which has lead median house prices to increase by over 17% since this time last year ( Nearly half of all homes listed on Redfin are sold within the week (Bloomberg) and the housing shortage is partly being driven by investors who are pouring into the market and now represent one in five buyers (John Burns Real Estate Consulting).
  • I want this $2.3 million home with 3 independent living spaces in Atlanta. I would also happily take this $839k home.
  • The median pay of chief executives rose to $13.7 million last year and over two-thirds of CEOs received a raise that increased their salaries by almost 15% (Wall Street Journal).
  • Street Food: Latin America is a perfect documentary series for anyone who loves food and misses traveling (Netflix).
  • Americans ranked their favorite states and the top three were (1) Hawaii, (2) Colorado, and (3) Virginia. America’s least popular states include New Jersey, Mississippi, and Alabama (YouGov).
  • The story behind Vanessa Carlton’s song “A Thousand Miles” (VICE; 22 min.).
  • The rise of ghost guns, like the one that was used in the recent mass shooting at the King Soopers in Boulder, Colorado (The Journal podcast; 15 min.).
  • Mark Rober gets personal and shares what it’s like to be the parent of an autistic son (10 min YouTube video). Support and help raise awareness by donating to NEXT for Autism and tuning into his livestream event, co-hosted with Jimmy Kimmel, on Friday, April 30.
  • Google released their latest update to Google Earth, which now includes a stunning timelapse using 24 million satellite photos that were collected over the past 37 years (Google Product Updates).
View more snippets of my digital consumption here.
Wishing you a productive week
Thanks for tuning into my newsletter! Don’t forget to subscribe, if you haven’t already. If you’re looking for more ways to connect, check out my website or follow me on Twitter–@TheSassyologist.
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Stella Min
Stella Min @OhhStellar

Stellar Recap is my personal newsletter where I share digest of interesting media that I've come across during the week, along with any personal updates.

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