June 9, 2006

Never a dull moment in Winterville. Just minutes after leaving the house I made a sharp left turn at an intersection and heard a low thump and clanking sound. I also smelled motor oil, and I knew exactly what had happened. I had forgotten to replace the oil filler cap, and it had fallen in between the parts of the engining and possibly out onto the street. I finished my turn and pulled into the next driveway so I could to look for the cap inside the engine, but my flashlight had run out of power. I moved the car over to the light from a gas station, but I still saw nothing. I walked over to the intersection and probably confused the heck out of drivers as as walked back and forth across the intersection, but the cap was nowhere to be seen.

All of a sudden I heard a loud bang, and I turned to see that an SUV had somehow managed to get up onto the median and strike a traffic light pole. I, and several other onlookers, were probably wondering the same thing, how the driver had managed to pull that off. White smoke billowed from the engine as several passengers exited. I spotted one calling on his mobile phone, presumably for help, so I returned to my search.

I tried looking down into the engine once more. I found nothing, but I did catch the attention of a driver who said he was a mechanic and made a rather obvious suggestion that had eluded me. He pointed to the Advance Auto Parts right across the street. Here I had been trying to figure out how I would get to Fort Worth--borrow my parents' car? Borrow the cap from the Integra, assuming it fit? Rent a car? But the obvious solution escaped me, kind of like when I miss a glaring hook in Scrabble.

I bought the cap and went on my way, and I worried not about the 15 minutes I had lost, nor the money I had spent on the cap, because frankly I was much better off than the poor bastard stuck on the shoulder of US-59 with the entire front of his car on fire. I mean, like, on fire! Flames shooting out and everything, with a fire truck on the way. How does that even happen? Yep, never a dull moment.

The rest area past Huntsville was closed, but that was okay because there are plenty of picnic areas along Texas interstates and US highways. In fact picnic areas are often easier to sleep at because there are often fewer lights and less traffic. At the ones along the interstate, there are usually plenty of trucks parked, so I don't worry about any danger. The ones along US highways though, I do have to wonder who might be out there. Actual thieves and assassins, I doubt, simply because there just isn't enough traffic out there to make it worthwhile. But drunk rednecks and country cops--you never know what those types will do.

June 10

One problem with the picnic areas in the summer is that, since they lack a restroom, once the sun comes up I'm out of luck if I've forgotten to keep a cup or bottle in the car. And so it was on Saturday morning. I managed to ignore my bladder and get back to sleep after my 6:00-AM wakeup, but when 7:00 came around I had no choice but to move along.

Eek!!! A high of 100 reported on the radio. Practice for Phoenix, I guess.

First stop in Dallas was the new Starbucks at Gaston and Haskell. I exited Lemmon and turned onto Haskell, and as I drove down it appeared that parts of the general area were undergoing economic revitalization.

Starbucks out of the way, it was decision time. A biscuit and eggs from Bread Winner's, or Colombian food? It was too late too have breakfast and lunch, so I had to choose. I really wanted the Colombian food, but Casa Vieja wouldn't open until 11:00, and I was really hungry. Bread Winner's was just down the street, so I decided to just have a biscuit and then get the Colombian food. The to-go cashier did me a solid and sold me a biscuit for the price of toast instead of ringing up a full order of biscuits and gravy. I was grateful, because I had paid over $3 for a biscuit earlier that year at some place in Redmond, WA, and I'm still pissed off about it. Anyway, I took the biscuit from Bread Winners and went over to EatZi's for some juice, and when I entered I suddenly remembered that they made some pretty good scrambled eggs at a reasonable price. Oh, so many choices! Why couldn't America be more like the former Soviet Union? That way I wouldn't be overwhelmed by so many choices. I could just take my stale bread and like it!

One more stop before Fort Worth, a new Starbucks at LBJ & Montfort, where I met a faithful follower of my web site who was as much a fan of Starbucks and routinely sent me articles about new store openings. I chatted as much as I could, but I finally had to beg off and rush towards Fort Worth.

Hot as blazes.

The trip to Fort Worth took longer than I had expected. I had hoped for noon, but I missed the entrance to the Green Oaks, and that cost me about five minutes. Bryan was starting to get worried, I guess. When he saw me later he said to disregard the voice mail. I never got it anyway, so I wonder whose number he dialed. He said he used Judy's phone--maybe she has a different Winter programmed.

First up was my favorite opponent Geoff Thevenot, guns ablazing with INDR(A)FtS for 94 off my IXIA. 34 for QAT and 42 for WHOP cut Geoff's lead to 19, and I started feeling better. His 13-point CIG would have been great for allowing me to catch up... except it blocked my EGIILRS, either hooking MI or to a T. Geoff spent a lot of time on that turn, possibly seeking out a bingo I thought, so I was reluctant to create any openings. But I chose to play to a triple and gave Geoff (L)UNETTES. But again I caught a break, counterplay SHY for 44. Geoff tried to clean out his rack with ALULAE for just 20, but he drew dreck and had to exchange (7), and I was able to score 25 and 29 to cut his lead to just three points. Back in it! His ZIN(C)/35 versus my JUGA/31 (forgot the hook) kept it about the same. Then he risked opening a triple to score 32 with FRIT. No bingo with DEEORTU, but REDOU(T) yielded a blank. BrOADEN got me back into the game, and more favorable tiles allowed me to win the endgame.

Next up was Wallace Schultz. He had moved up in the world since our only previous meeting in Lubbock, and maybe the way he had done it was with phonies. SL(O)TTAGE* smelled hella fishy, but I let it pass. I know full well the past tense of SMITE is SMOTE, but I couldn't be sure that SMITED* wasn't an acceptible varient. Still, I had quickly caught up after his bingo and then maintained a 20-30 point lead. The board was tightening up, and tiles were running out, this doubtlessly made Wally anxious enough to try ANODISE*. Blam!!! A player, whatshername, had gotten this past me in Parsippany, or maybe Piscataway, and there was no way I was going to forget that. Smack!!! I got my bingo down in that last open spot, and though Wallace was able to start a comeback with the Q and Z, it wasn't enough.

In my first game ever against John Dalton, near as both of us could remember. I gave up very little equity, but my racks weren't that tough. The only plays I'd be willing to brag about would be ANDRO and (L)OVELIES. The latter didn't look right to me, but neither did LOVELYS* or LOVELEYS*. I was up 68 points, so I could have played more conservative, but since I had won the first two games I and looked to win a third, I was thinking about maximizing my spread and went for it, and that third bingo contributed to a big win.

One really cool thing about those first three games was that I made a concerted effort to play faster and managed to push all three opponents on time, and the two of them over. Of course, as I look over my score sheets I have to admit that I did not find my racks as challenging, and that is perhaps why I was able to win those games. In the next eight games I was not able to push my opponents on time as much, or at all, and I struggled with my racks more and only won two. So I can't say that I've recovered my previous speed. Not yet. Just hope I can get it back before my suspected mental deterioration reaches the point of no return.

I blew my chance to go 4-0 for the most bullshittiest of reasons ever, I miscalled my blank. I was frustrated over the fact that L(A)UREaTE would be slotted next to a TWS (even though I could have shifted the As) and that I just couldn't see the myriad bingos that must have been available, through the I, the D, off the N. I finally saw LUsTERE(D) and its anagram, and of course they both opened up 3x3s. I knew there was a safer play, but I was burning up too much time, so I just went for LUlTERE(D)... and Keith challenged off my folly. With a bingo-unfriendly board, it was cake for Keith to block my line and cruise to a 108-point win.

After a good start, Jeffrey Purington stumbled across an amazing run of luck to speed away in our game. It wasn't just his 7 power tiles and consistent scoring from turn 6 through the end, but also that he blocked my best plays. I even got stuck with, of all tiles, the W!

I had a whopping three voice messages, and I went outside to answer them. I was already irritated about having lost those two games and having to face Orry next. The fact that it was like 100 degrees outside and an oven in my car made it worse. So I really wasn't in the mood for the @#$%& that someone had left on my voice mail. Some number from the east coast, just garbled noise at first. Then on the second message, and actual reference to my name, someone named Jim, and some restaurant. Then the third message revealed whose phone it had been, and I couldn't help but think, @%#$&!!! What the @*&^%$ is my number still doing in her phone??? What's the point if the %^&$#@* ain't gonna return my calls. @#$%*&^!!! I already had to deal with a @#$%& tease in Houston who was &^#*@ annoying and hadn't gotten my number out of her phone. I didn't need any more of that *&$%#@!. And why the #$%^& were her drunk-ass friends calling me? Actually, "Jim" (if that's who he really was) didn't seem drunk. In fact, to give them the benefit of the doubt, they probably were looking for some restaurant somewhere. But still I was pissed and thinking a litany of @#$%*&^s.

After two losses I needed a break, but I didn't get it. Instead, I was paired with my real favorite opponent, undefeated Orry Swift (my account on nicknames.com expired). I had all the ammo I needed to beat him, but I couldn't manage to pull the trigger. Couldn't find any of the bingos in ADIRSS?, so after burning too much time I played DIS. Orry immediately slapped down (DIS)ECTING*, probably knowing it was a phony. I was too frustrated from my first rack to notice, and even if I had held I probably would have let it go. I did bingo, but missed the double-double. Uninspired play continued, and my equity loss allowed Orry to remain in the game. He finally got some tiles of his own, EIRSTQX for big scores and a bingo. In spite of this, I might have been able to fend off those tiles if I had thought to play KAE instead of KA at turn 8, which would blocked the S and left columns N and G as the only easy lines.

I've said it before and I'll say it again--winning 3 and then losing three is worse than alternating the wins and losses. You can't help think about what could have been.

I had a hankering for some mouth-watering food. The Austinites were taking too long to make a decision (or maybe waiting for me to get impatient and leave), so I headed over to the Starbucks and got on CitySearch.com. I was disappointed to find no restaurants in the Latin American category, only one in the South American (a steak house), and that most of the Cajun/Creole restaurants listed were Popeye's and Church's. I did see one soul food restaurant listed, Gladys, but the phone number did not work. I was too hungry to keep searching, so I just settled on some garden-variety Jason's Deli (GVJD).

For whatever reason the neighborhoods around University Village (is that a proper designation, or just the name of the Starbucks?) seemed unsuitable for camping, so I kept driving, and driving, and driving, until I finally ended up here, S Campus Ct. The short street dead ends in a cul-de-sac, but a dirt path (not picture on the map) continues off into the distance. Next to the interstate is a Sam's Club, and the whole area behind the building is a field.

The Sam's Club, plus a full moon, provided a good bit of light on the otherwise darkened street. I doubted I could be seen from the main road, and I figured the cops in Fort Worth on a Saturday night had better things to do than explor S Campus Ct. Still, I parked within six inches of the curb to avoid giving an officer a "legitimate" reason to hassle/ticket me. The field had not been cut in a while, and so I had grass/weeds/brush brushing up against my car throughout the night due to the strong breeze. The effect was rather spooky. Still, I was glad for the breeze everytime I stepped outside the car to kiwi. If I could have cracked the windows, the air would have felt great. Unfortunately there's these things called mosquitoes, and they are evil, and they have the ability to zero in on an unsuspecting mammal like nobody's business.

June 11

According to the timestamp of that first photograph of the morning, 5:21 (camera was still on Pacific time), I must have gotten up shortly after 7:00. I rephotographed three stores, and while I drove I debated whether I wanted to continue taking photographs or head up towards Lake Worth to that restaurant I had spotted on the way to Ardmore. I wasn't sure if I had time, but neither was I in the mood for fruit and yogurt--that gets old. I found a compromise on Hulen in the form of Yogi's Bagel Cafe. Real fried egg on the bagel sandwich. When I returned to my car I delighted in the could smell of the bacon coming from the bag. Delicious. Love that bacon.

I couple of more photos, including the downtown store, and I headed towards the hotel. I reached the Green Oaks at 8:52, but I had to stay in the car to listen to an NPR interview with Kevin Bacon, one of my favorite actors, about his upcoming movie and directorial debut Loverboy. All jokes and 6-degree games aside, I think he's done some good stuff. Mystic River comes to mind. Love that Bacon.

Any hope of placing in the money for the first time since November effectively disappeared with Cheryl Tylers viscous outdrawing in round 7. Of course I missed a sweet six-tile overlap that would have scored 42 and blocked her 52-point X play. I played decent the rest of the game (4.7), but that one mistake turned out to be critical. Hate it when that happens.

Second game of the day, second time in a row opponent started off with a bingo, this time Paul Holser and FLOATER, a word which pretty much describes how I was feeling about the tournament. I was able to come back though, with RETiREE, AX(ME)N, and INSNA(R)ED for the lead. Then my racks became difficult, and while I managed to keep the lead for three turns (with suboptimal plays), I finally made that critical error. I saw the hotspot at 6J of course, but since I couldn't play there I didn't even think about trying to block. Instead of ZI(G), which left a horrible leave, I had a play that would have cleared out all that dreck and block Paul's killer FROSH. He took the lead with those 41 points, and I never recovered.

Lunch break, and on the way out I notifced that the qualification period for the USSO started in August 2005, not September, as I had assumed. I made a mental note to check if I had had an 1800+ rating in August, but I didn't give it too much thought because I was still thinking about the possiblity of 1599.

My mapping program showed a place on Camp Bowie called the Sunflower Shoppe Cafe, but I arrived to find it closed Sunday ("for faith and family", bah). I kept driving, and for no particular reason I picked Tommy's Hamburgers. I'd stopped eating fast food burgers almost a year earlier, but I still liked the general concept of the hamburger. When done well, it was a treat to savor (instead of to spit out on the side of the road like my last Carl's Junior). The array of articles from local magazines and papers displayed on a wall made me hopeful, but when the waitress delivered my burger in just a few minutes I worried a bit.

While I waited, I come up with some more dope lyrics for my upcoming album.

Do you miss it? The way I pimp shit explicit?
When I see a wack rhyme I gots to dis it.
My pen's vicious
Like this Tommyburger, delicious.

Notice how I keep it real by shouting out to the local joints.

The fries were the stringy type that I don't like, but the burger was mighty tasty. I washed it down with something unusual, a Coke in an actual glass bottle, imported from Mexico.

I finally picked up my fourth win in round 9, but only because of the principle that states that it is nearly impossible to lose a game in which your opponent gives up six turns (and you give up none), no matter how bad you play. I gave up equity (225.1!!!) like today's teens give up their virginity. Like Pakistan gives up nuclear secrets. Like the U.S. gives up opportunities to make the world a better place. Like the Rockets gave up the ghost this past season.

It's nearly impossible... to remember what I was going to write about.

Phenomenal tiles continued into my game with David Bibb. I was a little worried when David Bibb followed my TOWLInE with ACQUIRE, but I went on to three more bingos for a 179-point win. 5-5, and I had reached a decisive moment. A win would boost my rating, but a lost might put me back under 1600 (maybe) and allow me to play Division 3 at the USSO. Even though in the few times I had played down I had never won the money I was hoping to win, I figured I had to be much stronger than the bulk of the Division 3 field, even in my weakened state.

Only minor mistakes in my first five plays against Keith Smith, and then a whopper. I saw UNMIXES, but I didn't see the easy hook, N/DAM! Later, when I simmed the game and discovered my error, I had a nauseating flashback to New Orleans and that game in which I saw FORCiNG but missed the hook. I don't understand how that happens, how I can see a word like UNMIXES but not see a simple two-tile hook. That doesn't make any sense. Unless, unless my mental capacities are truly diminishing. That's a scary thought. I may joke about erectile disfunction being the worst thing ever, but there is no doubt in my mind that the worst thing that could happen to me is to lose my mind. Worse than cancer, worse than HIV. Without my mind, I would be nothing.

My play during the rest of the game was decent, but I never recovered from that mistake. I left the game with a bit of hope, however, that 5-6 would drop me to 1599 and allow me to play Division 3 in Phoenix. Sure, all my previous attempts to play down and win money had failed, but why should I let that stop me.

June 12

My Division 3 hopes were dashed quickly. Mary e-mailed cross tables on Monday, and despite my 5-6 record I had actually gone up, to 1629. Bah. The thought of getting killed in Division 2 appealed to me none at all.

June 17

With just a day or two to go before the registration fee for the USSO increased, I finally got around to registering. Back in Fort Worth I'd spotted a flyer warning me about the registration deadline, and I had noticed that the qualification period started in August, not September. I thought maybe I had been over 1800 in August, but I hadn't looked it up--I was hoping more that I would drop into Division 3.

Well, when I finally checked cross-tables.com, I saw that indeed I had been rated over 1800 up until the mid-August. Bazaam!!! Over six months assuming that I would not qualify for Division 1, and I had already done it! Well, had I qualified for 3, it would have been a tough decision, but between 2 and 1 it's just no contest. If I'm going to get killed either way, I might as well try to draw a few lucky breaks and take out some top guns. As much as Reno had sucked, my third-round win over Trey Wright had been a pretty good highlight.

And having won only 6.5 games in Reno, it could hardly get much worse, could it? All I had to do was avoid coming in last or next-to-last, and I'd do better.

June 24

I never managed to get back onto nicknames.com. Something about being banned for "nickname abuse". Despite this, inspiration hit in the form of a new nickname for Orry, "The Unsuspecting Penguin". Why? Well, it has to do with a movie about a boy's last wish, a misplaced t-shirt, a supervisor at a movie theater, a local blues rock band, and the Blink-182 hit single that always brings back memories of that hostel in London where the girls all ignored me. Makes perfect sense.


3.5 IXIA  
0 QAT  
0 WHOP  
3.1 (W)ILE  
0 JUGA  
4.6 BrOADEN  
3.6 VROW  
12 J(A)ILER  
.2 FAUVE  
13.3 AXE  
6 LOW forgot E hook
9.3 PUTT(S)  
1.6 AY  
0 GAG  
6.6 DAY  
14.8 LUNIEsT  
9.8 -QCRR ReCOR(K)
22.2 OM pRIMROS(E)
15.9 CI(G)  
18 H(UNS)  
0 NARY  
4.1 FI(X) disagree
6 SHIV  
9.7 MOA  
--- A(Z)O  
6.2 YINC(E)  
2.3 WIPE  
0 DUH  
0 ENS  
.7 FOAMY  
0 TEW  
0 VU(G)  
35.7 miscall blank  
15.6 U(M)  
0 WET  
25.1 (U)N  
.8 SCALiER  
9.5 EMU  
18 F(I)B  
3 (F)ARD  
8.5 GO  
0 CEE  
0 TI  
13.5 EH NU(D)ZH
0 RITZ  
2 AUNt(L)IER  
0 TYI(N)  
9.5 HIRER  
10.3 DOTAGE  
0 FLUB  
7.5 KAY  
1.2 (M)UTT  
9.6 GLU(IN)G  
0 W(H)IR  
13.9 DIS many bingos (ARS?)
11.5 SEREnA(T)A 2x2s
13.9 DOE  
0 -LLLQ (ER?)  
16.7 FUNN(I)ER  
.8 OUTLAWs  
3.9 KA  
.3 JOB  
.6 LA  
0 GYP  
0 DUH  
13.5 DONNE(S)*  
1.7 FIE(R)Y  
.9 QI  
3.1 COURS(E)  
0 YAUD  
0 OK(E)  
.6 COW  
1.4 EA(V)E  
16.9 IOTA mistrack S
11.3 (E)TUI  
11 TIeR  
0 MU(L)LET  
2.4 RETiREE  
8.5 T(E)ND  
2.6 GAY (K)YAR
7.7 (J)IAO  
11.7 ZI(G) what a sucky play!
8.7 COY  
4.9 WAUL(S)  
11.1 GA(Z)A(R)  
13.5 LIE(R)  
0 KEET  
22 E(C)U 2x2 OU(T)SEEN
18.4 (L)IONISES  
26.2 OvEREAT  
21 MAY(0)  
15.5 VINO 15b  
16.9 (I)F what suckage!!!
18.3 SOUR  
4.8 ZE(D) GY(O)ZA
5.2 NIX  
1.9 OBI 8h  
0 HAY  
16.4 MI(N)E  
48.6 BIDs BLISSED (saw but unsure)
9.2 N(I)X GUA(V)A choice
0 GUA(V)A  
0 ROAD  
10.4 OVOID  
14.4 SlAINTE  
0 (O)DA  
4.8 MESA LEV(A) (give up 23 points???)
6.2 BOIL BLIN (shoulda left a vowel)
0 JOW  
.2 -LNTTVV  
41 MIX UNMiXES (saw but missed hook)
0 (YAM)UN  
1.8 ATONE  
0 BOY  
3.5 VAGIS  
5.5 CUR  
3.6 (P)UNG  
4 C(A)PE  

Average Equity Loss Per Turn (now using Quackle!)

1 - W - 2.7
2 - W - 9.3 (139.3)
3 - W - 2.4
4 - L - 8.4 (116.9)
5 - L - 4.5
6 - L - 5.5
7 - L - 4.7
8 - L - 6.1 (73.3)
9 - W - 16.2 (225.1)
10 - W - 8.6
11 - L - 5.4

Avg: 6.7

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