April 21, 2006

Left Houston later than originally planned because of a last-minute opportunity to see an old high school classmate perform modern dance at UH. I skipped out at intermission, 9:00 PM, and I was on the highway by 9:20, but I still did not manage to read Dallas before I pooped out and had to stop. Really, there is no denying that I'm getting old. I remember one of my first long road trips, back in '99, before I started sleeping in my car, when I could push myself for at least a hundred miles beyond the point of exhaustion. Like I told Patrick, another classmate who also attended the dance concert, 34 ain't a kid anymore. Heck, according to Archie, 17 ain't young.

April 22

A few minutes (to defrost the windshield) past 6:05, I was continuing northward. My timing was good, because hit the freeway just in time to pick up two really fast cars. I mean, like, really fast. Hitting the tri-dig. A little too fast, actually. It wasn't quite light out yet, and I certainly wouldn't have been driving that fast by myself at that hour. Especially not around Fairfield, where I once had a cop approach my car with his weapon drawn. Again, that getting old thing, not willing to take as many risks.

I finally had to let them go, but they saved me enough time that, when I recalculated the distance to Ardmore (including Starbucks stops), I decided I had time to sleep another hour. Well, more like 45 minutes after the time it took to pimp some gas and gett situated in some parking lot in Ennis. I didn't fall into deep sleep, but closing my eyes helped, and when I got back on the road I felt much better.

Much better, at least, until I saw that patrol car on the overpass turn on its lights. Damn! Another ticket. My third since February. This could turn out to be a problem if they all get on my record.

My stops at the two new stores in Grapevine took longer than I had predicted... as usual. I had to leave Addison for the return trip, and I still was late for my meeting with Router. Router??? Yes, a strange name, but completely in keeping for a girl with the words "G E E K L I F E" tattooed on her fingers. Meeting her was a must, as my friend Howard had told me she was cute. Of course, he also implied that it shouldn't matter whether a fan is cute or not. Ridiculous, I thought. Of course it matters. The point of celebrity, even minor celebrity, is to meet cute chicks, not chubby pimply-faced 14-year-old boys.

That was not the only disagreement I had regarding Router. I had shown her profile to a coworker (The Duke) as an example of why mySpace and online profile's are cool (he disagrees). Two other coworkers also looked at the photos, and all three losers deemed the girl unattractive. These guys seem to be stuck on girls with conventional model-type looks. I tried to tell them those girls aren't real, in the sense that they are inaccessible, but there was no convincing them. They didn't seem to appreciate my assertion that a woman with whom you can discuss philosophy and other interesting topics is more desirable than a bleach-blonde bimbo. Men... ugh.

And even if a man does get the hottie, the price he pays is probably too high, meaning he has to put up with too much shit. Kind of like in a recent report on NPR where some sports expert stated that the team that gets the first round draft pick usually overpays. The second or third round picks turn out to be better values.

Router had arrived bearing gifts, and so I had to at least chat with her a bit and take some photos before rushing off. The clock ticked past 9:45, and when I did leave it was in a great hurry. Too much of a hurry, because I forgot my coffee from the two previous stores. Without it, those visits wouldn't count, so I had to pull a quick u-turn and scare the bejeezers out of two geezers sitting in front of the store as I screeched to a stopped and hopped out of the car and back into the store.

Why was that ambulance chasing me???

The road to the next store took me from downtown Fort Worth northwest along SR-199. Approaching Lake Worth the road turned into Jacksboro Hwy, and when I spotted the Front Porch Cafe advertising breakfast I really regretted that I didn't have more time.

Why was another ambulance chasing me???

Ho! What's this? The Odwalla... can't remember what happened to the Odwalla. Damn! I bet it was critically important.

As I left the Lake Worth store I considered skipping Saginaw even though that would mean having to detour back there on the way home. But then I had a sudden realization--the start time was posted as 12:30, not 12:00. Thirty extra minutes! Wahoo!!! I felt like Han Solo coming out of hyperspace to save Luke in Star Wars, and I was able to pick off that Saginaw store like a duck in a pond.

Evil manager?

I finally reached I-35 and started rushing north. I called Glenda and told her there was no way I'd arrive by 11:45, but that around 12:00 was a possibility. Definitely before 12:30. I arrived around 12:15, and when Brian spotted me he assured me they hadn't even started.

I made better use of my time against Orry the Swift, but I had less favorable tiles. I still drew both blanks, the Q, and an S, but somehow I managed only 270 points to Orry's 438. Looking back at my scoresheet, I am still mystified that my score was that low. Sure, I gave up nearly twice the equity as in my better days, 13 points per turn instead of 6-7, but even with those extra points I would have been under 350. I feel the game was unwinnable (by me), but that does nothing to changee the fact that my skills have declined with will continue to decline if I do not put the same level of effort into the game as when was at my peak. It sure would have been nice if I had been possessed of some amazing mental ability that allowed me to keep m\y

I drew both blanks once again and bingoed with each, even playing my first new bingo, GRO(D)IESt, but despite this I lagged during the entire game, it looked like I would once again be Short-changed by Glenda, and than the tournament would go the way of Dallas. Still, I played a much better game (5.5 per turn through 12), and it came down to the endgame, where I, down by 10, had a choice of trying to draw as many of the high-point tiles as possible (KQYY) and outscore her, or to bingo, which required setting up an additional line so she couldn't do both.

I went for the bingo, and I drew into AEGLRRS with the E to play through. It's high enough probability that I should have been 100%, but I wasn't sure. Still, I went for it and won the game.

Incidentally, the current Quackle says I gave up 15 equity points by playing off the As--I wonder what the new version would say.

The last-minute save was a relief for sure, but once the tension of the endgame was over I had time to think about all the sniffling I had been doing, and I started to suspect that it wasn't severe allergies that were the cause, but rather a late-season bug.

Before the start of the third round, Bryan called the Division 1 players up to the front and reported a problem with the pairings. As a computer programmer, I continue to be mystified that pairing programs continue to have mistakes.

Will Dabbs rattled off JENNIES, DIABLeRY, and EBONISED to open. I never had a bingo opportunity, and I drew only a S and the X. End of story.

My rematch with Geoff Thevenot, long-awaited by the odds-makers in Vegas, turned out exciting indeed. A troupe of the local high school's most vivacious sophomores cheered Geoff on as he bingoed again and again, three times total. Despite his hard-core bingos (EtESIAN, TENACES, TROpINE), I played a decent game and managed to score well enough to lead up until the 13th turn. It didn't look like I would recover from TROpINE, and in fact I think I should lose from this position, but I caught a break and pulled it out by 1, then 4 after a recount.

My best-played game of the tournament came down to a single lucky break on Jean McArthur's part. Through the first nine plays, the score difference never exceeded 16 points. Jean scored with the Q and Z, and I scored with the J and X. Jean bingoed with SURLIEr, and I immediately followed with SOLITUD(E). Then on turn 9, Jean played HONK at M11. I immediately saw the possibility of HONKY, but I had no decent way to block, so I made my best play, AX for 37. And BLAM, Jean scored 57 with WYTE, and that was the game. Later simulation would reveal that through those first 10 turns (of 12), I gave up only 2.8 points per turn. As far as unwinnable games go, I'm hard pressed to think of a better example.

My most exciting game of the day was against Matthew Hodge. I grumbled as I exchanged AEILUU(E), and then some more as Matthew played VASTIER. But my exchanged yielded SPR(I)NKLE for, and it was game on. But after the next two turns, Matthew was up by 53, and and then 57, and it started to look bad. Then I decided to gamble, and I caught a break. I held the J and could have scored deecently, but there was an O slotted next to a TLS, so I decided to hold on to that J, plus a G, and I played off five tiles to try and draw an I or O. It worked, and 57 for JIG tied the score. Then I scored big again, 52 for PSHAW (though giving up equity and missing a bingo), and then again with WHE(E)ZIeR. Matthew felt he had to challenge it off in order to have a chance, and with my extra turn I was just too far ahead to be caught.

The energy from two biscuit sandwiches and a Power Bar had long since faded into nothingness, and I was famished. I pulled off US-70 into a town named Wilson that appeared to be on its deathbed. My map listed a place called the Main Street Diner, but I didn't see it, nor anything else that lookeed open except Eagles Landing Pizza and Video. Turns out they were occupying the space of the former diner, and had just opened two weeks prior. Pizza and videos seemed an interesting combination for sure, but the more interesting question was why somebody would decide to set up shop in a dying town. The owner was pleasant enough as she explained that yes, the town was dying, but "they" were trying to keep it alive. She had always lived there, and they didn't have a pizza shop, and that was reason enough for her. Well, I surely don't understand her sentiment, but I can't really argue with it none neither.

WTF??? That's the second bird in two weeks I've exploded on my grill/windshield! What is wrong with these animals? Actually, I'm not even sure it was a bird.

I accomplished the first part of my mission and reached the Lawton store with enough light for a halfway decent picture. But my condition had improved none at all during the drive, and I decided not to push myself as far as Enid. Instead I drove directly towards Oklahoma City. It was early, only 8:23 when I reached the service area about 40 miles out, and my head was about to burst. I took my second pair of cold pills and hoped that I'd feel better in the morning.

April 23

When I decided to skip Enid the night before, I was convinced that there wasn't a chance in hell that I wouldn't return to the tournament site by 9:00. In the morning, when I started driving at 6:20 I didn't have a doubt in my mind that I had plenty of time. But, as always, somehow all that spare time evaporated like liquid nitrogen in a Phoenix summer.

Because of the location of the two stores I need to reshoot, I-240 & Pennsylvania and I-40 & MacArthur, my shortest route was to reshoot those first before heading up to Edmond to visit the new store. I still would have made it with just a few minutes off my clock if I had not seen the Wal-Mart, where I spent entirely too much time. It would have been quicker to grab an unhealthy breakfast from some Burger King, but at least I can take comfort in the fact that the resulting lost game was offset by healthier eating.

It was white knuckle driving all the way back to Ardmore, with the full knowledge all the way that I couldn't possibly arrive on time. I didn't give up though, because Kenji's Dover example had inspired me to try and play no matter how little time was left on my clock, plus there was always the chance that the start of play would be delayed.

After the game, I forgot to ask Bryan when they had started, but it must have been right on time because I screeched into the parking lot at 9:25, took less than 60 seconds to reach the playing room, and found myself with a little over 5 minutes on my clock. "Whoo-hoo, a challenge!!!" I thought, as I sat down to one of my most exciting games in recent memory.

Travis opened with WOLFS, and I took just seconds to make the right play, JIA(O) (AER?). Lack of time definitely cost me during my second turn--I saw plenty of bingo possibilities but missed hooking THEIST. Can't say if I would have played something other than GOLEM even with more time, but my next three plays would have come easy regardless. I'm less certain of whether I would still have played XU versus QU(I)RK on turn 7. Fifty points plus a chance to keep the Q (now that QI is good) is awful tempting. Given that all the Hs, Ms, and Ps were gone, I couldn't really have expect Travis to score 38.

At that point, the game spiralled out of my control. Travis found OVE(R)LEND to overtake me. I was able to retake the lead, but then, just as I was thinking about how I was going to win the game in a spectacular fashion with (D)ELATORS, he took my spot with STURDIE(D). Based on the sim results, I played well (4.9 per turn), but perhaps if my score had been some 20-30 points higher I would have tried to close up that last bingo line instead of leaving it open so I could bingo myself. I held for some 20-30 seconds, and decided I had to challenge--spread didn't matter. Funny thing is, even starting with around 5:30, I still ended up with about a minute and a half on my clock. Actually, it's not so funny, because I might have won if I had used the extra time.

Even though I lost, I was heartened by the fact that I had reconfirmed the fact that I can play really fast when I need to, which means that if I can figure out how to incorporate that speed into normal games, I should see a small advantage.

I would have gladly traded 20 minutes from my clock for not having to exchange 3 times against Jeff Purvis. I played another decent game (5.3 lost per turn), but assuming a modest average of just 17 points per turn, those three exchanges could have made up the 52 points I lost by.

Got a decent draw against Mr. Mumbles and won a game unremarkable except for maybe his faileed phony attempt, GLINTS/(DEMONIC)S*.

Lunch was equally unremarkable. I failed to find an appealing local restaurant that was open on Sunday. That's the down side of having tournaments in smaller towns.

At 4-5, I figured I needed to win my next two games to stay above 1600. I faced Geoff again, and the game was pretty well-balance and hard-fought. Like against Jean, it came down to a lucky break at the end. In the middle game I managed to keep a slight lead despite struggling with weak racks (AACELSU, AELRSUY, AERSSUU, AENRSUU) only thanks to an extra turn. I had let Geoff get away with D(I)VIN(A)L since it was wasn't worth challenging for 20, but when he tried to tack on an S, QUIPS for 56, I couldn't let that pass. That slight lead made it easier for me to give up a turn to exchange that final UU, and I drew an EO for an easy bingo. Unfortunately, Geoff's play forced me to push my bingo one column to the right, into the triple column, and BLAM--Geoff had the triple-triple!!!

At that point I could only hope that 5-6 would be sufficient to keep me from the inconceivable, dropping below 1600. But the curse of the scrub struck again, and Wil Dabbs once again outdrew me to win by nearly 200 and knock me squarely out of the ranks of experthood. Sixteen months above 1600. I don't know how that compares to, say, lasting eight seconds in a ring with a bull named Fu Manchu, but the overall sensation is that of dissatisfaction. It seemed like one of those things that simply could not happen, and yet it had happened. My limitations are, apparently, greater than I had imagined.

One interesting thing of note is that, despite my poor 4-7 record, my average equity loss per turn was lower than in most of my tournaments when I was maintaining an 1800 rating. What could explain that? Really bad tiles with limited scoring opportunities? The switch to Quackle? A simply math error on my part somewhere?

0 NU
10.1 WICH
2.3 SUQ
10.5 GO
15.7 INRO

0 NU
3.7 ZIG
11.4 FEST
23.9 LWEI
3.2 JEE
5.7 OUD
7.2 BINT

15 OPE
0 EX
8.1 GEN
12.3 SATI

2.5 TUB
11.6 VICES
3.7 FIT
9.9 VILL

10.1 GOON
7.8 VETO
2.8 OBI
0 AX
5.1 KIP

6.8 BOOT
11.8 DRUM

6.8 XU QU(I)RK
1.2 QI
5.3 MONK
10.6 YE

1.9 LAB
7.4 -IN
5.7 VIM
8.1 GIFT
18.6 -EOOUY

4.2 OWN
11.9 LUAU
3.9 FELL
13 QI

5.9 CRY
4.9 HARM
2.5 CAP
.5 LEY
4.6 SUE
5.7 -UU

4.1 TEAK
.4 -OOQ
6.1 TEG
2.6 -NLL
12.4 sTERNER
15.4 -EEYYU
5.7 DEVS

Average Equity Loss Per Turn (now using Quackle!)

1 - 12.7
2 - 5.5
3 - 5.4
4 - 4.0
5 - 2.8
6 - 9.2
7 - 4.9
8 - 5.3
9 - 6.1
10 - 3.6
11 - 3.6

Avg: 5.6

More Confessional