He's Not a Nice Doggie--I Don't Want to Pet Him

Friday, March 27, 2009

Okay, so I'm sure that I contacted my manager no fewer than three times between Wednesday and Friday to remind him to let me know if the team needed me to drop off any equipment in Mauston, WI, while on my way to Bloomington. They didn't need anything he said. I proceeded to work until the last possible moment (actually 15 minutes beyond because I needed to shrink so database files to fit them on a thumb drive), and what happens--yep, you got it. Manager called to ask if I could stop in Madison and pick up a router. Managers... geez!

I begged off on the router, of course, promising to pick it up over the weekend, but that didn't mean I wasn't going to lose time. Of course not. Who're we talking about here? I was a good enough driver to make up a lot of time on the highway, but the I managed to take the wrong part of the I-94/I-90 split at Tomah. This not only added 13 miles to my trip, but it also meant traveling along US-52 for much of the remaining distance. US highways are often much slower than the interstates, and that mistake could easily have caused me to forfeit my first game. Fortunately, US-52 turned out to be an exceptionally unsual US highway, with traffic moving around 80 MPH much of the way. Good to know, good to know.

Made up enough time that I was able to stop at a Starbucks in Rosemount for coffee. I took advantage of the Chinese restaurant next door, Eddie Cheng, to order some chicken fried rice and egg drop soup. I was glad to save the time, but boy was that food crappy. I don't understand how they can screw up such a simple order.

Because of the alpha (really pre-alpha) deployment in Mauston, I'd hardly touched Scrabble since Guelph, nearly three weeks earlier. Well, my skills seemed not to have declined any--I played a nearly flawless game--but the same couldn't be said for my luck.

Just two significant mistakes, letting (t)YPER* go and missing UPR(I)SING/(QI)S, but even Scott had to admit he got lucky. "You can say that again," I replied.

Annotated Game

Unbelievable!!! A second game lost to a low-rated player, or so it would have been had Samuel Smith seen GAZAbOS to go out. I guess I would have been to blame, because I made the horrible mistake of missing GENTEEl/GENEtTE to take the LASS hook. Instead, I played (A)NTEGEnE*, which both scored less and emptied the bag. Perhaps my skills had indeed slipped.

Meanwhile, in the bathroom, another player flushed the urinal and then walked out without washing. My righteous anger was about to boil up when I suddenly had a flash of enlightenment. Maybe all these years I'd been wrong. Maybe using the urinal without washing is not necessarily a crime against humanity... under certain conditions. What if the culprit was dexterous enough to unzip, do his business, and zip back up all without touching himself? Oh, and flush the toilet with his elbow. I guess if he could do all that, not washing wouldn't necessarily be evil.

Oh, superdrat. After a great start against Steve Pellinen. After taking some solide momentum with VERSANT for 102, I made a very costly mistake. Missed LITIGA(T)E, and though I made the next best play, GAIT gave Steve a hook for LAITIES. Later on an even more stunning mistake, playing GLEE instead of GLUE. With the E, I would have had NEROLIS on my next turn. Despite these blunders, I gave myself a winning chance by being gutsy enough to try SAPOUR, winning the challenge. I played off KA to leave ADGO?, and then Steve surprised me by opening several lines with THROW(N). Four letter to play through--if I'd had an I, N, or U instead of two Os, I would have had a bingo I could find.

After falling behind quickly to Steve's AGNOSTI(C), I managed to leapfrong ahead with back-to-back bingos, TRAWLED and RESEWEd. Late in the game, Steve made an excellent find, (V)IDEOTEx, to take a five-point lead. I had no idea if it was good, but Steve was running low on time and there were still 12 tiles in the bag on a board that didn't look replete with scoring opportunities. I quickly decided I would take a lead with 28 for F(R)AT and win in the endgame. Well, Steve's next play was a whopping 57 for JEON!!! I hadn't expected that. Fortunately, I had enough of a counterplay to survive.

Annotated Game

During the game I spotted something remarkable, Joe Bihlmeyer's back-twin. By "back-twin" I mean a player who, from the back, and when standing in a particular manner, looked just like Joe. I found this discovery a bit refreshing because I had been missing Joe so very terribly. Some people assumed I was being mean and jealous towards Joe when I called him Wussy Boy over and over, but the real truth is that I just missed seeing him at various East Coast events (I include Ohio and Michigan in the "East Coast").

My 2-2 record ensured I was going to drop quite a bit even if I won my last game, and playing a lower-rated player did not help. Losing to that player helped even less. My most serious mistake was being usure of RYNDS, but what killed me was a late-game vowel deficit--and as it would turn out, I'd be plagued by vowel deficits all weekend.

Because of the way that final game turned out, I finished later than I expected. I was hoping for a massage up in a town called New Brighton, from a therapist who ostensibly stopped taking appointments at 11:00. I rushed off, to find a gas station first, and after gassing up it was nearly 11:00. I called her to tell her about my delay and found out if she still wanted me to come by. She replied that it was not too late, and so I headed out to I-35W and immediately began struggling to maintain control of the car on the curvy construction-burdened interstate while I pinpointed her address on my computer. Some five or ten minutes later, after I had ended the call, traffic came to a near standstill because of closed lanes up ahead. I crawled along for a few minutes and wondered how much of a delay I would see, and then suddenly I decided to get a better vantage point and I cut delicately across several lanes of traffic and maneuvered my way onto the exit ramp. From street level I could see no end to the slowdown, and I decided the delay was going to be too long. I called the therapist back and left her a message explaining the same.

The exit I'd taken happened to be Diamond Lake Rd. With breakfast from a restaurant on Lyndale in mind, I headed west in search of a place to park. I found a spot on a side street next to some business with trucks in its parking lot. During the night I discovered what that business was, when I found myself awoken by postal trucks a few times. I personally found it refreshing to know that our postal service never stops working, even in the middle of the night.

Before I got to sleep though, the therapist called back. When I explained that the traffic was just too bad to continue, she flatly stated, in a tone that indicated incredulity, that there was no traffic at 11:00 PM at night. She must not have gotten south of the city from her suburb in a while, because she had no idea what she was talking about. Traffic was slammed. She suggested I take a different route, and I replied that it was just too late. I was about to say that I could try again on Sunday after my tournament when she abruptly hung up. Immediately felt relieved that I had not actually gotten to New Brighton, because I've learned from experience that therapists who express impatience on the phone (or in e-mails) are generally not going to offer great customer service. Because of the traffic, I'd saved myself time and money, I liked to think that god himself had intervened and created the traffic to save me from a bad massage. Some people may think it silly that god would spend his time worrying about my massages, but is that any sillier than thinking that god determines the correct number of children a family will have?

Saturday, March 28, 2009

On the way to that restaurant on Lyndale I'd visited before (can't remember the name, but it's in my old blog (and financial database) I spotted The Egg and I. The clever name caught my eye, and when I entered I found a menu that advertised the biggest hotcakes in town. While that might have been true, they were far from the the best hotcakes I'd ever tasted. I cannot in good conscience recommend the place.

It didn't help that the hotcakes were a little dry because I dropped the container and lost about half the syrup. Had they been completely dry I wouldn't have been able to eat them. I found this a interesting, because a dry hotcake is not all that different from the cornbread that I used to get from this soul food restaurant in Seattle, Mrs. Helen's (now closed, because of the earthquake). Her cornbread was round, thin, and large, just like a pancake, but I never felt the desire or need to pour syrup on it. So why are hotcakes so different?

Hung out at Starbucks until it was time to leave, and on the way back to the Holiday Inn I realized I'd forgotten to get cash. Fortunately the various hotels that have been chosen for the Minneapolis-area tournaments are all relatively close to the Mall of America, and I've now nailed down the procedure for getting in there and finding the Bank of America ATM. I've got it down to a science, though I'll certainly be glad when I can find actual BofA branches in the city. Of course given the troubles Bank of America has had of late, who knows if that will ever happen.

Change of shirt must have worked, because my tiles in that first game were an order of magnitude better than anything I'd seen on Friday. Before the game I told Ricky Sirois that this was his chance to take advantage of me because I wasn't quite all there. Well, Ricky really didn't have a chance--I could have been asleep and won with those tiles.

Great game against Lisa Odom, well balanced. I started off strong with JAMBS for 47 on my second turn, but Lisa got the first bingo, LEUCITE. I took the lead a few turns later with double-double (I)NSULtER, but she came right back with UnEASI(L)Y. I finally took a solid lead late in the game with SECONDI, and then AXONE for 48 allowed me to fend off her VERATRI(N).

Annotated Game

OMG OMG OMG OMG!!! After Steve Hartsman's early 80-point FR(E)nZIES followed by NASTIES(T) a few turns later, my chances looked bleak. Even after OVERWI(N)D I was trailing, and few power tiles were materializing on my rack. Going onto the endgame, the rack still held Q, S and a blank, and any of those tiles might have given me a good shot. Didn't get 'em. Instead, I managed to bingo out with the miraculous A(C)IERATE!!!

Annotated Game

Lunch was different than I expected. Almost not meat except for bacon chips for the baked potato, and some in the chili. I guess I didn't mind, as less meat consumption is supposed to be better for the environment.

Okay, Ruth Hamilton officially became my most dreaded opponent. She had lived up to her reputation as a luckbox on two previous occasions, and she did it again in our fourth-round game. Three easy bingos, OUTSEEN, GRISTLE, and SENDING. My bingo? cORVINA. See the difference? In our three games, I could not remember Ruth's ever having made a non-trivial play. How could constant losing not be extremely frustrating. And lest you think I exaggerate, I have proof!

Annotated Game (March 28 2009)

Annotated Game (July 4 2008)

Annotated Game (March 7 2008)

Just like our first game at the RedEye, Steve Pellinen hogged most of the Es. I drew just three, and on top of that I had to deal with all six of the Ns polluting my rack. I didn't play perfect, for sure, but other than his two exchanges, it seemed Steve was having a much easier time of it with his more balanced racks. In fact, after ten games (including the NAST), I felt I was seeing an unusually high number of clunky racks. I think I spent most of the week groaning as I kept drawing dreck time and time again.

Aided by two won challenges and two phonies, I had my best game of the day, and of the tournament, against Vincent Van Dover. After opening PUJAH, he tried URALIT(H)* and I immediately challenged. I decided that was the best moment, psychologically speaking, to try E(P)ICIDIa*, and it stuck. Vincent didn't even hold, and I wondered if it was because he saw URALITI(C) right away, but the very next turn he tried to hook an L and I picked up another free turn. With an early bingo and two free turns, I was genuinely surprised when Vincent's second bingo, TOLUIDE, nearly tied the game. Didn't seem fair that he should be so close after losing two turns. I came right back with RIOTERS however, and I continued to score well enough to maintain a win-assuring lead despite Vincent's bingo yet again, for 92 this time. The lead allowed me to try and boost my spread with a fairly egregious phony, ZON(A)TES*. Yeah, that was shameless, but after the game when I went to post my win sticker I saw just how much spread Rob, Joseph, and even Vincent had, and I was glad for the phony.

Gotta give credit where credit is due. Rob Robinsky beat me flat out with a couple of solid bingos, E(V)ACUANT and DuBIETI(ES). The latter I challenged because of that well-known adage, a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. I had studied the 5-vowel eights enough times that I knew UBIETIES cold, and I was confident that I had not seen a front D hook listed in Quackle. I was wrong. Rob deserved to win, and I have to say in all our recent games he's proven himself a solid top expert (unlike others, who just seem to get lucky).

Annotated Game (March 7 2008)

Hmmm... excellent beans, rice, and tostones from Los Andes. Again, no meat--other than bacon bits and the chunks in the chili, I was going meatless all day. Even though I would not be able to turn lights off at 8:00 because I'd be at the movies, I could call that my contribution to Earth Hour.

I'd been looking to Gomorra for about a month. No, I'm not referring to some really freaky massage experience. Rather, an Italian movie about a town wholly corrupted by the mob. While I found the theme interesting, the film failed to engross me, and after 45 minutes I was so bored I decided I'd be better off catching up on sleep.

By ditching the movie early I was able to drive over to the Whole Foods a few miles away. Ahhh, Whole Foods. Some people have issues with their prices, or with their business tactics, but Whole Foods is miles better than anything available to me out in Twin Lakes, WI. I had been craving that FAGE (pronounced fay-eh) yogurt for weeks! Brown Cow used to be my favorite (I even tried to marry the mascot, Elsie the cow, once, but learned it was illegal in that state), but lately I'd been craving the FAGE.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

I'd parked on a side street behind the Whole Foods shopping center, and I looked forward to some breakfast from Whole Foods in the morning. Depending on which branch you might be able to find eggs, bacon, pancakes, potatoes, etc. in the morning (maybe just on weekends). Now don't get me wrong--grocery store breakfast sitting in metal containers is not going to be better than from a good restaurant. But I'd been stuck in Twin Lakes without easy access to Whole Foods for so long that I was kind of craving it. Plus there's the Whole Foods Whunnies. Okay, that probably not what anybody at Whole Foods calls them. That's probably not even what Playboy would call them if they ever do a Whole Foods issue. But the company does know how to pick attractive young women that look intelligent, artsy, and not stuck up. Definitely not Abercrombie & Fitch types. Not even Starbucks types. I've always wanted to date a Whole Foods girl, but now that I'm nearly an old man.

Ixnay on the eakfastbray tho--either the staff hadn't finished making it, or the employee who had looked me in the eye the night before and promised they would have breakfast had reneged. Sunny Side Up it was then, and their breakfast was as decent as I'd remembered from last November.

All that effort, nearly four minutes, put into finding the right play from my AELOORR rack (with FOP on the board)... all that effort wasted. Yes, my AELR leave yielded (P)EDALLER, but I then had to watch Joe Gaspard play SU(R)ICATE and later bingo three more times and draw eight power tiles to dump my spread into the toilet.

I have a new bit for Jeff Foxworthy. "You know it might be a crappy tournament when... the bottom seeds luckbag you!" Just like luckbox Ruth Hamilton before him, luckbox Matthew Ridout set the tone of the game early with bingo-bango-bingo (A)GENIZES, ANNUITY, and TAS(T)IESt. And guess how he played after that? You guessed it--dinky low-scoring plays, probably weak blocks that gave up tons of equity, butt with a 135-point lead and eight power tiles gone after four turns, expert play was not required to win that game. Let's see what our previous encounters looked like, why don't we? Ah, yes, mostly cheap plays all around.

Annotated Game (March 29 2009)

Annotated Game (November 9 2008)

Annotated Game (November 8 2008)

Annotated Game (April 6 2008)

Annotated Game (April 6 2008)

Annotated Game (April 5 2008)

Couldn't make the accusation of cheapness against against Bob Linn. Nope, not at all. Game was looking pretty good when I played Q(U)OD for 34 to leave AERS and take the momentum, but Bob immediately turned the tables with pREVISE(S). I finally got my bingo, RELE(A)SED, but that game him the admittedly excellent VITULIN(E). I had no idea, and I lost the challenge. Wouldn't have mattered either way, because Bob then scored 72 with Ga(U)ZE. As a final insult, I finally drew into a cute bingo WIN(T)ERER, but Bob blocked it with ARIS(T)ATE. I knew it was good, but what the hell--spread didn't matter any more, and the tournament was officially a disaster anyway, so why not challenge.

After the game Bob commented that players at our level should know words like VITULINE. I replied that it was too low probability, that I hadn't gotten there yet. I quickly looked the word up, though, and saw that it was in the top 5000. That means I had definitely seen it twice, maybe three times. But it hadn't stuck at all. My immediate thought was one I'd heard other experts express--I wondered if I had been spending too much time anagramming lower-probability bingos and not enough reviewing higher-prob ones.

With Jim Kramer next, I would have to have been very lucky to prevent disaster from turning into catastrophe. Better play might have done it too, but though I played some good words and gave up just 59 equity points, that wasn't good enough.

Annotated Game

What succeeds catastrophe? Ah, yes, cataclysm. I came close to averting it--so close, but in the end I choked in spectacular fashion.

Annotated Game

No time to dwell on my blunder, 6-game losing streak, and expected ratings drop. Whatever happened, happened. You can't change the past, so why dwell on it. Still, a 6-game losing streak. What kind of drugs must I have been on to let that happen?

I quickly lost myself in the darkness of the Landmark Uptown Theatre, and an excellent film Sunshine Cleaning. Unlike my tiles, the movie did not disappoint and was perhaps the best part of my weekend.

Can't exactly say that I was able to block out the tournament completely while watching the film. I couldn't help but think back to Bob's comments, as well as Robin's comments from weeks earlier about how I needed to study more. My position hadn't changed in those weeks, however. I had no more time to devote to study, not without giving up other things I consider important. In fact, when I first started club/tournament Scrabble, I had just read Word Freak and read about the amount of time some players devoted to the game. If I remember correctly, I told myself I would not allow myself to get to the point where I was spending too much time on Scrabble. It's possible I might have actually reached to that point in my six years of playing. Perhaps. But I've been trying to back away and devote time to other activities, including some of the popular culture I've been neglecting--books, music, TV shows. Some people regard these things as unimportant, but they fail to realize that all culture builds on what came before. Neglect anything, and chances are that you will fail to appreciate fully whatever media you come into contact with in the future.

Opponents' Bingos (NAST)

My Bingos

Missed Bingo Turns

Opponents' Bingos (Main Event)

My Bingos

Missed Bingo Turns

Analysis (NAST)

#1 - L - Jackson    
0.7 HOWL  
0 QI  
0 YOD  
0 BERM  
0 SAND  
0 (E)mBATTLE  
0 (D)URUM  
1.2 (P)HAT  
0 VENO(M)  
8.2 PU(G) GU(V) (should have known EIPRS a better leave!!!)
6 GRIT  
0 SUE(T)  
#2 - W - Smith    
2.5 PIU  
0 EF  
10.4 DE(I)FY HE(I)FER,HE(I)RED (first sure, then chickened out)
4.7 OOH  
5.8 ME C3 setting up V play
0 VIBE  
7.8 BEC(K) no idea what to do, so block
0 X(I)  
13 RU(E)D D(E)MUR (only 95% sure)
#3 - L - Pellinen    
0 YORE  
0 B(I)CE  
4.1 MAIZE  
7.6 (T)OD  
1.8 TOE  
12.9 GLEE GLUE (incredibly costly miss!!!)
0* LIN  
0 KA  
63 lose turn (DOOr(H)ANG*) ONDOG(R)Am
#4 - W - Hartsman    
7.1 RANG  
0 PE(E)N  
3.4 NO(D)US  
0 (U)VEAL  
0 QU(A)I MAQUI (see word but miss overlap)
5.6 (X)I  
0 F(R)AT  
14.1 MY  
7 KHI  
0 MAST  
#5 - L - Herfel    
0 -BGVV (EST)  
0 FL(O)NG  
0 P(A)RR  
10.8 YEN SYN
25.5 R(I)NDY RYNDS (about to play then chickened out)
4.9 -VWW (OSTZ)  
0 K(A)ZOO  
0 V(O)W  
0 VIT(E)*  
0 D(I)DST  

#1 - 1384 - L - 1.2 (16.1)
#2 - 1442 - W - 6.0 (78.6)
#3 - 1579 - L - 11.7 (140.8)
#4 - 1610 - W - 3.6 (43.7)
#5 - 1568 - L - 3.2 (42.2)

Avg: 5.1

Analysis (Main)

#1 - W - Sirois    
0 TAXI  
0.4 TERTIAL 7B  
4.7 B(E)TH PHT (saw word but then forgot to play it)
0 QA(T)  
2.4 (N)AOI  
6.4 PEG N10 TEP(A)/T(OOT)/E(N)/P(E)
6.9 WAME C12 WAT(E)rMEN (saw the word in my mind but not on the board)
3.2 ZO(O)  
#2 - W - Odom    
0.2 FOLD  
0 PHT  
3.7 DUD  
0 (I)NSULtER  
0 Q(U)EAN  
0 VOE  
8.9 AXONE  
0 OY  
0 WIT(E)  
#3 - W - Hartsman    
0 KINO  
7.7 OXEN  
2.5 MOAT  
4.2 -EIUUY (ER)  
0 J(E)ON  
0 BOI(N)G  
0 WEE(K)  
0* YO  
0* L(IF)E  
#4 - L - Hamilton    
0 FIT  
0 TUX  
27 MOW(S) WORkMAN,(PLANE)R hook (unsure)
0 WIN(G)ED  
0 RODE  
0 A(I)RY  
0 QI  
10 M(O)AS  
0 AZ(O)Ic  
#5 - L - Pellinen    
3.6 BARIC  
8.3 (O)X L(O)X
7.1 LO(C)I  
2.8 LW(E)I  
8.9 (E)CRU (E)CU (damn, I was sure the NEST leave was safer than ERNST)
0* Q(U)EST  
2 JIN  
7.5 JO exch
5.9 KI exch
0* -MNNPUV (N)  
7.9 DEV  
5 NONE  
0 NAN  
#6 - W - Van Dover    
0 E(P)ICIDIa*  
0 QAT  
0* D(U)MBO  
0* YEA(R)N  
6.8 OF  
5.3 FE FEU (duh!!!)
0 ZON(A)TES*  
0 DEV  
#7 - L - Robinsky    
10.7 (X)ERUS  
0.7 ONE  
52.7 challenge DuBIETI(ES)  
4.5 FEN need to create hook!
0* JUREL/(YEA)L*  
0* B(E)RGS  
0 WA(F)T  
28.4 wOO(Z)Y (S)LYbOOTS
#8 - L - Gaspard    
3.6 ROO(F)  
0 FAY  
9 -II (AEINS)  
0 E(N)ZYM  
0 BRA(W)N  
0* DEIGN  
10 KIT sets up Joe for bOHEA
#9 - L - Ridout    
0 MAX  
6 P(L)OWS  
7.2 (W)YN (W)YND
0 OM  
0 IR(K)  
1.2 JO(E)  
9.5 BO(A)  
0 V(I)LE  
0 AERO  
#10 - L - Linn    
4.8 -AHIIR (AR) stupid--HAIR was obvious
1.1 AX  
5.1 CH(I)C  
0 BA(H)  
0.9 Q(U)OD  
2 A(Q)UA  
47.9 challenge VITULIN(E)  
0.5 FAB  
0 HA(R)DY  
5.4 PO(OF)  
9 TIN(T)  
50 know ARIS(T)ATE it's good but have to challenge  
#11 - L - Kramer    
0 Q(I)  
0 (H)EAUME  
4.5 FIA(T) (T)AFIA
1.1 VI(A)  
0.4 FEYLY  
3.5 (L)UCE opens a good line
0 (E)NHAlOES  
12.7 (EXIT)S  
19.2 W(IT)  
2.8 IN  
#12 - L - Odom    
1.3 WIVER  
6.9 HE(R)O  
6 KEF 6B  
0.9 GAP(ER)  
0 BON(Z)E  
0 EYED  
0 QI  
0 CAP Quackle is wrong--PAC is more defensive
46.8 lose turn (R)EACTNIG*)  
0 AG  
14.2 FE  
12 TRO(W)S  

1 - 1520 - W - 3.1 (40.7)
2 - 1724 - W - 1.9 (23.3)
3 - 1610 - W - 1.3 (16.3)
4 - 1516 - L - 5.1 (61.7)
5 - 1579 - L - 7.3 (109.6)
6 - 1740 - W - 4.3 (55.9)
7 - 1845 - L - 9.3 (102.4)
8 - 1770 - L - 2.4 (26)
9 - 1502 - L - 2.4 (31.4)
10 - 1804 - L - 9.7 (126.7)
11 - 1871 - L - 4.5 (58.6)
12 - 1724 - L - 9.0 (134.3)

Avg: 5.0

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