Achieving Success Through Low Expectations (or Hot, Hot Days and Cold, Cold Nights)

June 19, 2006

Conditions at work finally became intolerable. With only six more weeks to go on my contract, I might have been able to tolerate my manager's condecension and disdainful looks, but what finally pushed me to end the contract was a coworkers continued references to homosexuals as "fags". I had reported the situation to human resources two months prior, and to my contract agency the previous week, but I finally tired of waiting for something to be done. Leaving that job that was located just four miles from my parents' house was rather inconvenient at that time, but the true measure of whether a person is willing to stand against injustice is whether he will do it when it is inconvenient.

But on the bright side, if I couldn't find another job quickly, I looked forward the possibility of going into the USSO a stronger player. The possibility of reviewing those fours, fives, learning sixes, and broadening my bingo knowledge gave sparked in me excitement about the USSO that had been completely missing since the defeat of 2005.

June 25

Because of the job hunt, plus a determinating to sell as many comics on eBay as possible, plus general time wastage, I haven't managed to study as much as I hoped to. Still hoping to have enough time to learn enough to be able to hold my own.

June 28

After a week in Houston listing on eBay I got bored and decided to go on a road trip. Car trouble forced me to abort, and then I got a job offer in California and hit the road anyway after having my car fixed. I only managed to anagram eights and sevens, and not even that many of them, while I drove, and then when I arrived in Northern California I did not manage to study at all in the two weeks leading up to the USSO. I did manage to play at club several times, and winning the Los Gatos tournament over Jerry Lehrman boosted my confidence, but I still expected to have a rough go of it in Phoenix. I ran into Robin Pollock Daniel on ISC, and she said it was best to avoid studying right before the tournament. I thought that perhaps that might work for her, who already knew the words, but I still had a great number of words to learn in order to, at a minimum, avoid getting phonied to death. Of all the weaknesses in my game, that was my biggest concern.

August 4

Around 11:00 AM I started feeling nervous.

By noon my nerves were strong enough to distract me from work, and I did not get much done in the next two hours.

I left right around 2:00, and as I drove the frontmost thing on my mind was concern about how my new single-named identification would be treated by the airline and security staff, and by Enterprise Rent-a-car down in Phoenix.

No sooner had I entered the shuttle and started wondering how far the terminal would than than I realized I had forgotten my Pocket SamTimer. The shuttle drive was kind enough to wait for me, though he did not have to wait more than a few seconds because I was able to sprint to the car and catch up with him at the next stop.

I was worried that at least one of the security staff, which tend to include many immigrants at airports in places like New York, California, Texas, would not understand the "NO LASTNAME/WINTER" printed on my Southwest boarding pass, but I managed to sail through with no delay. I reached the gate with plenty of time to pop into the bathroom for a shave, always fun to do in an airport bathroom as you use your peripheral vision to notice which passengers stare at you. It had been days since I had shaved, and for half a second I considered leaving pulling a Joel Sherman-like surprise and leaving my moustache, but I got past the whole moustache-makes-you-cool thing in college. Men secure in their masculinity need no facial hair.

Food options near my gate were limited, and I was sick of CPK, so I went for a cinnamon roll. As I left the Cinnabon counter I noticed that the attractive young Asian-or-Latina-but-probably-Asian woman had a small tattoo on her ankle, some type of star perhaps. I had the sudden urge to kiss the tattoo, and as I continued on I was very, very thankful that do not suffer from that disease wherein a person lacks impulse control. If I did, I would be getting my ass kicked left and right.

Damn, that is one fine-ass woman leaving the plane. I hope she stays in NoCal so I can run into her and not have the courage to say anything. Of course, even if I had the courage it wouldn't do any good if I keep spilling food on my first, this time cinnamon roll crumbs.

I was torn between charing my laptop and getting in line so I could secure a seat close to the front, get off the plane quickly, and get to the rental car center quickly. I finally got in line and ran into John Green. He had been on the first leg but we hadn't seen each other. When the flight arrived in Phoenix he followed me to the rental car agency and I gave him a ride to the Biltmore. I'd warn John that I might have trouble with Enterprise because of my name, but the process went as smooth as could be.

I called Carol to let her know I could pick up my packet myself, but she already had it, and we agreed to just wait until the morning. I headed out and called my friend Arwen in Mesa, where I was staying, but she did not answer. I figured I'd kill some time at a Starbucks, but by chance I forgot to get on SR-51 heading south and instead took 16th Street, and by chance there happened to be a massage place advertising a $20 special. How lucky is that? Okay, so the special was only for $20, but for a little extra the diversion was well worth the stop. Just as I finished, Arwen called, and I headed out to Mesa, where despite my entreats I was left to sleep alone on the couch.

August 5

The couch was comfortable enough, but a different factor came into play during the night, a headache. I hoped that it was caused by dehydration, and I kept drinking water throughout the night. No help. By the time I woke up to see 7:30 on Arwen's VCR, my headache was piercing. Still I had to rush out if I was going to make it to Apache Junction and then the Biltmore on time. My headache was not the usual type, because the process of driving (vibration, the rushing lines on the road) made it worse. Across from the Starbucks was a Wal-Mart. I stopped in for groceries, and the process of walking around made me so dizzy and nauseated that by the time I got to the cash register I was feeling a strong need to vomit. I held on to the counter mentally rushing the cashier, and I immediately rushed into the bathroom. I heaved and heaved, but nothing, probably because I had eaten so little the previous day.

Time was short, so I had to steady myself and head across to the Starbucks. I drank some of the juice, and I think I felt better for it. Besides the coffee I ordered a donut, and as I headed back to the freeway I tried to eat it, but the process of chewing increased my nausea, and at the light I had to spit out the donut and try to vomit again. I had wanted to have some food in my stomach before taking my fake Excedrin, but I couldn't wait any longer. I turned the corner and stopped the car again, and this time I stuck my finger down my throat and heaved more strongly, but still nothing. All the while I was stopping the car to spit out phlegm, because swallowing it increased my nausea, made me feel bloated in my stomach, and gave me a sticky feeling in my throat. Every time I opened the door the car would chime, and I was really hating Kia for building in such a stupid feature. I finally got onto the freeway, and it was all I could do for the next 30 miles to keep it together.

I continued to drink my juice, but nevertheless hunger pangs came on strong during the drive. Still, I made it, and I think the fake Excedrin was kicking in. I rushed to see the pairings. My first opponent was none other than the fabulous Robin Pollock Daniel, who by far has the highest looks-skill coeefficient of any Scrabble player, probably ever. Coincidentally enough, she had been giving me advice the previous weekend. But scarily enough, she had been mentioned as a possibility to win the event. I very much wanted to win my first game, which I had not done at my previous two Nationals, but I doubted I could beat Robin without getting amazingly lucky.

As bad as I felt, I still felt a subdued glow of satisfaction as I put on my Division 1 badge. I hoped that I would be able to get my skills up to qualified for the 2007 event, because after putting on a Division 1 badge, nothing else compares. My satisfaction was muted a bit, though, when, in the bathroom, I went to spit up some of the phlegm that had been bubbling up all morning, and it landed right on my badge. Yuck!

Before our game, some comment by Robin, perhaps "good luck", prompted me to respond "that's the only way I'll beat you." In response I received a pseudo-lecture about attitude, but I still maintain that I was just being realistic. But attitude did in fact come into play after Robin took an immediate lead with FOXY (appropriately enough) and then RAPHE for 52, but I was able to clear my mind (mostly) of negativity and just focus on my tiles. I played them as best I could, and sure enough Robin had a couple of bad turns to allow me to catch up. Then she bingoed, and I once again had to fight the urge to become desponent and just focus on my tiles. Don't know if my 8-point (F)IG play (ADIRT) was the best or not, but I got my bingo (DILATOR(S)). Two turns later AMOSITE put me in the lead again, and after my next play I drew the blank and the game, nearly over, started looking pretty good. I didn't worry in the slightest when Robin played SERINGA, but rather I focused on finding a triple-triple--there was none, so I took my 74 for AR(S)ENaLS and a 36-point lead. It was endgame time, and that's where I blew it. Robin played OO(H) at 2i, and I was so focused on my tiles I missed that I could play on row 1. Had I played VELDS, I would have won. Instead, I played C(A)VED, drew the Q, and ended up with a tied score.

But still, a tie was better than a loss, especially against someone of Robin's calibre, and I was glad to take it. Gave me a little hope.

Against Michael Early, I missed RATLINS and played RATLIN(E)S for fewer points, but I still managed to stay even until got down PLOwING. I lagged behind for the duration of the game, and I drew the blank too late to bingo. Still, it was only a 29-point game, so if I had gotten RATLINS, and maybe two extra points for VALE (wasn't sure) instead of PALE, I might have eked out a win. Bah. On the other hand, the only reason I managed to cut the spread was a recently-learned (as in, on the plane) word, sCROD, so I can't fault myself too much for having forgotten some words.

After the game I realized that I had misplace my coffee. I had already consumed the four-once minimum to count my visit to the Starbucks, but I still needed the caffeine! Grrr...

You could say I had the tiles against Wayne Clifford, depending upon how you feel about HAEmOID and ABSENT(E)R. Are they gimmes or not?X

I was pleased with myself for finding SlAVERY against Steve Polatnick, and despite his RESI(N)ING (which I held for a long time) one the fourth turn, I left by 39. But I screwed it up with WIRR*, and Steve was able to cut my lead enough that I was loathe to exchange. So despite having the S with only one bingo line only, I couldn't give myself a decent leave by playing, and Steve beat me to it, OCTANES. Still, I had opened up another line, but leaves of IORS, IOS, and A yielded nothing before Steve hit again with EDITORs, and it was over.

Thankfully, anybody staying at a place like the Biltmore is not likely to have an interest in stealing a Kia.

Stopped at a chicken place on Glendale that for some reason couldn't prepare flautas, so I settled for tacos (not a taco man). I waited in the car for my order so I could keep charging the laptop, and I cursed the designer of that stupid Kia seat-belt chime. I HATE YOU MR. KIA!!! FUCK YOU AND YOUR ENTIRE FAMILY!!! When I finally got my tacos, they were truly the puniest weakest most pathetic looking things I'd ever seen. Had I been playing the dozens, and the tacos belonged to my opponent, I would have compared them to his moms.

Paul Epstein had himself a dream game against me. He opened with WOOED, and my OXY gave him a extra points for PLACInG (he would have had PeLAGIC). Then my GA(G)A gave him extra points for tEAZLIN(G). Only when he played LOO(N)IE for 10 and I followed with SATIRES did I see any possibility of catching up (66 pts down), but he immediately scored with BARIUM (37) and the phony DEAF(E)NER* (how the fuck should I know?). And for the final blow, he set up an S hook with G(E)NT, and I not only had I no way to block it (that I saw), but I had to play QI (for 12) and empty the bag, and of course he bingoed out with NERVOUS.

My sixth game was my first face-off against Joey Mallick, one of the players on my must-play list. Wish it could have been more of a game, though. The high point of the game came early, when, after Joey bingoed early with OUTfLEW, I immediately saw the double-double RIVET(E)RS. But Joey blocked the spot, scoring well with NOWAY. I still played the bingo, but for much fewer points, and I had to let Joey have the Y on the triple row, which he snapped up for 42 with JUR(Y). Then the second blank for BRaZIL(I)N, and I was el toasto.

A 2.5 finish to the first day would have been great, but I just couldn't get any momentum against Lisa Odom. But hey, at least she was Minnesota nice about it, and 1.5 was still better, as I recollected than the previous year (by half a game).

Hung out at Starbucks for a while, and when I left I forgot my scoresheet in the bathroom. It's a good thing that, when I called, the barista was able to find it, because otherwise those four examples of brilliant Scrabble playing might have been lost for all eternity.

I met Arwen at an independent coffee shop in Mesa, Into the Bean (can't get that early Madonna out of my mind now), where I tried a smothie, not the coffee, which was about to expire. Arwen, had, apparently been chatting about me, because several of the employees seemed to know who I was. In fact, the young kid playing the guitar not only knew who I was, but he included me in his song! Arwen insisted she had nothing to do with that.

Back at Arwen's apartment, sleep was a more pleasant experience than the night before, free of headache. Because Arwen was a schoolteacher and had to get up early, Saturday was the final night I could stay there (without having to get up at a quarter to 6:00), so if I was going to make a move, it had to be then. In the wee hours, groggy and not entirely rational, I made my move, but I was just as quickly spurned. Later, however, Arwen would admit that she had been tempted. That's something at least. I guess.

August 6

6:30 on the nose, when I woke up. Took a little longer to leave Arwen's as I had promised to wake her up and say goodbye. Then it was rush, rush, rush around the east cities taking photos.

Meanwhile, half the times I stood still to take a photo, I would feel a fly crawling on me. What's up with Phoenix and this fly infestation?

Keith Smith started off strong once again, with JOWED for 48, EX/(FA)X for 48, and the 93-point SEIZURe to follow my brilliant find, FURANES. A lucky parallel, BETH for 50 under FURANES kept me in the game, and the board tightened up to make the rest of the game tough. The climax came when Keith played OU(R) for 5 at N6 to block my IDOLATER, causing me to curse the bones of his fathers. I was easily able to score 26 at O15 to take the lead, but I suspected he had bingo tiles, even the second blank, and I wanted to give him the lowest probability tiles to work with. TAILED would have done it, but I played IODATE instead and gave him RATIONE(D). AARRGHH!!! I knew it, the lucky bastard. Thankfully, he had not had the blank, and my six-tile play drew it for KINdLED. Still a close game, only a 19-point lead, but I was saved by the fact that I held all the vowels except two Es. Keith, not knowning this, and looking at the possibility of a SATIRE rack, played off RES, leaving him with only one E and no way to win the endgame.

A ridiculous mistake early against Tony Leah, challenging TrIS(O)MES, ruined the rest of the game for me, and eliminated any justification I might have had to complain about how he drew the second blank or a third natural bingo. And on top of the stupid challenge, I made another weird mistake, I dumped my rack onto my lap while replendishing tiles, causing me to miscount and overdraw. I had already been hurting for vowels, so Tony of course took the E, and I did not see another until my next to last turn. Tony and I had a little dispute during the overdraw--he (and I know he's a director) seems to think that looking at the new tiles counts as mixing them (with the old), but I was sure that it is relevant whether you look at them or not. Of course it was moot, because I draw my tiles and place them face down first before mixing, but because of the rack-dumping it was not clear to Tony just what had happened.

I played my most exciting game to that point against Laurie Cohen, whom I had just read about in some Arizona paper. She started off with QuEENS, and I almost screwed up right away when I layed down RAINISH*, but I got a vibe from Laurie and picked up up, playing off HI instead and drawing into AC(A)RINES through her BRADOO(N)S. She immediately pulled away with (H)AFIZ, and I drew AEGRSTY, but nothing came to me immediately. After a while I saw GRAYEST, but nowhere to play it. I looked at the open N and the O as the likeliest possibilities for an eight, but I saw nothing. Finally the anagramming from who knows how long ago came back to me, and I saw GYRATES. Took me a while, but I finally saw the four-tile overlap, and that kept me in the game. The rest of the game was close, and tense, as Laurie picked up the second blank but couldn't make it work. I sweated as an unblockable T to play from sat there for five turns, until Laurie finally tried (T)ANkERED*. That was an easy challenge--I had no choice, and it came off. I was able to block the spot, and that allowed me the win.

I had the tiles against Jeff Widergren, but I blew it, and I knew I was blowing it even as the game progressed. With racks like EILSST?, DEEEIS?, and AEEINS?, I knew I had to be missing something. Finally, with EIINRS?, I tried RESINIn and had it challenged off. After a few moments, I saw the good bingos, INSIdER and IN(C)ItERS, and I hoped Jeff wouldn't blocked. He tried, but with (C)ONG*, and gave me back the turn. I drew the second blank, but the board was tight. The only line I saw was off an F, but then I saw I could score 37 with B(R)AY and open up a front-hook for YE, a likelier possibility. I had it--EEORST?, plenty of bingos, but I was running out of time (because having the first blank every turn had sucked up precious minutes), and all I could see was OERSTEd, which would play. So I played off (L)O to open a second line, I drew the H, and after a few moments I found bingos in both spots and felt golden. But that Jeff, he pulled it out, with (F)RENCH for 50. TEtHERS/LO(T) for 75 wasn't going to be enough--I needed to slot the H on the TLS. I saw SHERbET, but I didn't think LOS* was good. I needed a TH word, and I didn't see it, and so I lost by 8. There was a winning word though--Jeff knew it and verified with the computer. I think I'd seen the word somewhere, too. Damn! I'd been feeling pretty good with my 3.5 games so far, figuring I was on track to do better than Reno. But giving up that game really hurt. However, I didn't feel as bad as the guy sitting outside in a corner (in the heat!!!) with his head buried in his hands.

Later I would discover that I had set a personal best, missing bingos on five consecutive plays! That's just ridiculous.

I noticed something odd as I looked for lunch--many of the cafes and restaurants in the area were closed, including the Salvadoran restaurant I had spotted earlier that morning. Very strange. Around the corner I found a Mexican place, La Barquita, and ordered flautas. Unlike many orders of flautas... damn, I didn't finish my sentence, and now I can't remember if the flautas were good or not. I'll just have to hope the NSA doesn't schedule another USSO at the Biltmore.

Meanwhile, the heat wasn't nearly that bad. Of course, if I had been driving my hooptie instead of the air-conditioned rental, I'm sure I would have been singing a different tune.

As the tournament progressed, the tear in my left pants leg was growing more pronounced, and I was reminded of those precocious teenage girls who run around with torn pans as a fashion statement. I had to keep reminding myself that I was not in fact a teenage girl, and that if I started hanging out at the mall, the high school, or repeated screenings of Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, I was likely to attract unwanted attention.

A year or two earlier, at one of the east coast tournaments, Joe Edley told me that I was giving up pobability points by being so candid about my strengths and weaknesses in my log. Well, in the case of Ben Withers, my candidness was having the opposite effect. Since he knows (or thinks he knows) how deep my word knowledge goes, he has been tempted to try phonies that are beyond my word knowledge. Jason Katz-Brown had the same temptation, to play JARLED*, but he resisted. Ben did not, and tried OCUL(i)TIS*. I challenged it off, but only because of sheer luck, because of my mistaken belief that words related to the eyes are spelled with two Cs. Dumb luck or no, I went onto the run away with the game, after which Ben expressed no lack of irritation when he learned my challenge had been accidental.

Drew the bag against Michael Baker, which means that, as usual, I gave up a ton of equity. Most glaring was laying down and then picking up ODOR(I)ZES in the endgame, when there was no possibility that I would lose. Any other player would have played the word, I'm sure.

Outside the room (where there were power outlets), Quackle was giving me some really strange results. O'Laughlin happened to walk by, and he pointed out that I had the simulation set to many plies, which is not what you want to do until the endgame. That explained why my sims were running so slow, too.

John Luebkemann came in third at the Nationals in Reno, and I had no illusions that I could beat him with anything other than outrageous luck. I played for volatility, like slotting WAIT(I)N(G) at H4. Sure enough, I drew an O and U to my T, I that gave me some hope. But then John found S(U)RFiNGS, and I was stuck with DEGMNNV. Had I had a decent play, I would have let him have it. But I didn't want him to run away with it that early, so I challenged, and John went on to blow me out of the water.

The Grunge

Of all the cities I've visited, Phoenix and Tucson are extremely unusual because it is commonplace for strip clubs offering dances starting at $10. During my previous Starbucks-fueled journeys, I had always been either in a rush or on a tight budget. But with my finances in order, and time to kill, I decided to spend some time getting to know the strip club scene. I would call the adventure a "tour of taste", except that at the onset it was more like a "tour of waste".

I lasted all of about five minutes at Baby Dolls. It's not just that the dancers were unattractive. It was worse than one--a couple of them appeared to be of indeterminate gender origin. One particularly masculine and un-baby-doll-like dancer came up to me, and though I had no intention of paying her a dime, I still asked her to explain the dance schedule. Dances out on the floor were indeed $10, but the couch dances, the only ones worth getting, went up to $30. I was a bit incredulous, given the generally shabby nature of the club, and the fact that the dancers should be paying me for my attention, not the other way around.

Next up was Teasers, which resembled more of a sports bar. I wouldn't have stuck around if I had been charged a cover, or required to buy a drink, but somehow I managed to avoid being noticed. A few of the dancers were marginally more attractive, and at a price of $5 for the dances out on the floor (designed to get the men into the more private area, no doubt), it was worth giving a few girls a try.

Teasers got old quickly, and I moved farther down Grand to the Great Alaska Bush Company. Now this was the place. The dancers were more attractive than those I'd seen at most clubs around the country, so much so that they were worth paying $20 for (in the nude area, $10 in the topless). I tried to entice one of them, young and of Eastern European descent, into a rendezvous, but I did not really expect to hear from her. The most attractive dancers are generally the hardest to lure out of the club, at least for a few hundred bucks. I have to assume that enough money would do the trick, but once the price reaches the point of overseas airfare, I revert to thinking with my big head.

After about an hour, it was around 10:00, and I was bushed. It was time to go find a campground. But first I had to get some grub. While in the thrall of the beautiful Alaskan honeys, I had forgotten that my body required a different, more practical, kind of nourishment. And past 10:00 PM, as is common it was hard to find a restaurant other than the yucky fast-food fare like KFC and Taco Hell. I was about to give up and do the yuck (Taco Hell) when I spotted a Safeway in the distance. Saved!!! I was able to get fruit and yogurt and animal crackers and yummy yummy pomegranate juice to soothe my grumbling tummy.

If I had wanted, I could have stayed with Arwen again, but since she had to leave early to teach school, I would have had to be out by a quarter of six. I decided to take my chances with the heat. This turned out to be a mistake. The heat wasn't so much the problem, as the cramped nature of the suck-KIA. After a few hours of tossing and turning, and maybe some half-sleep, I decided to drive around a bit with the air blasting. I came across another club, Christie's Cabaret, and checked it out. Good choice. If the dancers were not as attractive as those at Alaska, the difference wasn't much. Of greater contrast was the male/female ratio. At Alaska there had been no shortage of unoccupied dancers, while at Christie's I spent most of my time waiting for this or that dancer to become available. And towards closing time, I was not even able to get a dance from a breathtakingly beautiful speciment because a group was monopolizing her take. Well, can't really blame her for going where the money was.

August 7

Cruised down McDowell from 24th to 48th, then back along Thomas but saw nothing that looked appealing for breakfast. Then I remembered the Lowdown Cafe (shopping center under construction), the smallest restaurant I've ever been in, even including Manhattan. In fact the article on the wall explains how the owner manages to stay in business despite limited table service by providing carry-out to a variety of corporate offices along the Camelback corridor. Anyway, even though the bagel couldn't have been made there, the peppered ham, egg, and provole sandwich was still pretty good.

I was once again able to push Ron Hoesktra on time, and over by a minute, but my ability to do so was hampered by really clunky tiles. Still, I could have won if not for one killer mistake, challenging (WILDER)S. That's the 28 points I lost by right there, and possibly more, because had I not challenged, I might have drawn the blank a turn sooner, and possibly been able to bingo.

Against Ira Cohen I got the opening blank bingo, ENCRUsT. His game was hampered by his missing NOT(E)CARD (which Marlon saw instantly, during our post-mortem), and mine was aided by the second blank. With that win, I believe I evened my lifetime record against Ira at 2-2 (yes, I keep track, and I will have a winning record against everybody before I die).

As bad as my first game against Jeff Widergren had been, our rematch was a disaster. I started off by having ROILERS* challenged off. Jeff then played HIE, and I missed the real bingo again. Then I missed H + AEILPRS. It seemed like the only bingos I could find against Jeff were pedestrian ones like ERASION. Far, far, far from my proudest moment, and I deserved the 251-point walloping I got.

I felt a great sense of relief after I won my 7 1/2th game, against Mark Kenas, for two reasons. First, I had beaten my Reno record, and because of my lowered expectations, every additional win would be icing on the cake. The second reason for my relief was the freaky misplay that led to my victory. Down by 78, the only bingo I saw with my ABIENU? was UNBAItE(D)*. I saw the more certain UNBIAsE(D) right after I hit the clock, and it's a good thing for the delay, because the latter would have resulted in Mark's playing Z(A)/ZED for 77 points, an 87-point lead, and almost certain victory. Funny thing about Scrabble, how the "wrong" play can result in victory. Actually, it's debatable whether the the play was actually "wrong". Given Mark's lead, at least one other expert would have considered playing the phony to avoid the risk of a big counter play.

A mediocre massage during the lunch break left me time only for a quick bite from the Lowdown Cafe again. Too bad the massage wasn't more relaxing, because I returned to the Biltmore to face sheer misery against Nick Meyer. Despite starting off with the blank, I missed (or never studied) fONDANT, so I played DON and drew TTT. Not that Nick was doing better, with LEU and NANA. Then he got down VOTABLE, but QA(N)AT and HOW for 37 kept me in it. Then the drek really started. IKNUVX? = (A)X for 37, while Nick got SUGAREd. With IKLNUV? I played (Y)UK and had to let Nick take the triple for 30 points. I finally got a bingo down, LIVENe(R)S, but Nick kept scoring for a 77-point win.

Against Sam Kantimathi it was two bingos apiece and a balanced draw, only slightly more balanced in my direction, to the tune of 45 points. The high point of that game for me was finally seeing ABU(S)IVE (had the S but couldn't play it and didn't want to risk ABU(S)IVES*). Since that was the word that would have kept me in that fateful opening game against Phoebe at the Dallas Open, I was glad to have finally seen it.

The final opponent in our little afternoon foursome was Craig Rowland, who looked nothing like I had pictured him. Not nearly Craiggish enough, and his Rowlandicity was equally dubious. What he did have, however, were the tiles for a triple-triple, STIN(G)IER. Unfortunately for him, he lacked the math skills to go with his tiles, and he scored the play as 113 instead of 131. A huge difference, give that I only won by 11! I imagine that, if he never bothered to run a sim (that's how I found error), that he is going to be rather miffed with himself if he ever reads this. Of course, since ratings are (supposedly) self-correcting, by the time I post this the effects of that loss should have been long since nullified.

After Sunday night's misery in the Kia, I decided to take Arwen up on her offer to crash on the couch again, with the caveat that I had to be out by a quarter of 6:00 when she left for work. Before I headed out to Mesa I tried again for a good massage at a place with a funky name, Arizona Beach Bay (Club?), and a mySpace page. Geez, everybody has a mySpace page these days. Anyway, I was pleasantly surprised when the therapist actually recognized my Starbucks project and seemed a bit tickled to have met me. Even better, my minor celebrity status got me a discount (but not a comp--that's when you know you've really made it big).

August 8

After the previous night's sleeplessness, Arwen's couch felt delicious. Unfortunately, as promised, I had to be out before six. 5:50, actually, and I slept the next hour out in the parking lot before I gave up and drove around to reshoot some of the Valley Cities stores.

Breakfast from the Lowdown Cafe again (because it was on the way to the Biltmore, not because of the owner's cute daughter), and I finally gave into my curiosity and asked the unsmiling owner Brenda if she had a problem with my my Starbucks t-shirt. She said it didn't matter to her left it at that--no explanation of why she always seemed short with me in the three times I had visited.

Whew! Unbelievable! I had exactly one chance to win by bingoing out against Dominick Mancine. From a rack of BIORVY? and a nearly closed board, my only chance was to play BY and hope to draw DE from a bag of EEEDDFLLT and play to the K(I) that I had just set up. I played my BY, and blam!!! ED!!! And Kevin couldn't block it, so he just had to sit and let his clock run over two minutes while he tried, but couldn't. Unbelievable!!! And fun too, to watch him squirm.

But I had to play Joel Sherman next, and I can't do shit against him, no matter how poorly he might be doing otherwise, and our Phoenix game was no exception. His opening exchange of 2 tiles, and maybe a later play of NOVAE, were the only times his rack fizzled. Even though I managed to bingo twice, INUL(A)SES and GEMINAT(E), I also had to exchange twice, and I dropped another turn trying RATAAN* (had four As). My loss was almost inevitable, you could say.

A couple of good bingoes, EDGI(N)ESS and BaC(U)LINE, plus the 60-point AZIDE, allowed Dean Saldanha to clobber me. Then a bad challenge, REHOUsE, (my third of the tourney, I think) probably cost me the game against Christopher Sykes. All of a sudden, the 12.5 or 13.5 wins that had seemed so likely at the beginning of the day seemed an impossibility.

No glaring mistakes that I could see, just outdrawn by Jeffrey Kastner. The only thing I could think of after the game is that, with 34 tiles in the bag and both blanks unseen, I could have played AEROGE(L) for 16 instead of (J)OE for 20. But I only led by 6 points and didn't want Jeffrey to score off the same J and pass me. Who knows?

A good start despite clunky tiles (EEHNPQW, EEGNQSY, AGNQSTV) turned into a disaster when Kenneth Rubin drew three (easy) naturals in a row, UTTERED, TRIODES, and REUNIFY. At that point I was 120 down, and by the time I had a bingo opportunity I was 152 points down. I missed SNORINg the first time, but what's funny is that I played off the N and drew it again, and then I found the bingo. I guess, theoretically, if I had found SNORINg immediately and drawn the second blank and bingoed immediately and blocked Ken's fourth natural, DIOPTER, then I might have won. But it probably wasn't meant to be regardless.

As soon as Larry Rand finished with Jeffrey I asked if we could start as soon as possible so I could rush off to my flight. He took a short break, and then we proceeded to play speed Scrabble for the first few turns. But after I played FLOWE(R)ED to counter Larry's WEARI(E)St, he slowed down considerably as the board tightened up and I slowly cut his lead, then took a slight lead, then extended it. Then on turn 10 he had to exchange, and I was up nearly a bingo. With a blank still unseen and bingo possibilities, I took nothing for granted. Thankfully I got that blank, and I was able to rush on out of there with 11 1/2 wins. Not great, but hellah better than '05.

Known Bingos Missed
(F)rOMAGES (unsure),wAGSOME,OhMAGES - found iMAGOES
V(I)RElAYS - found SlAVERY
(D)EVISEEs (unsure)
EEORST? with YE hook
SOrDINO - found (E)IDOlONS

Unknown Bingos Missed
(DO)MINaNTS (unsure),MuNTINS
ODOR(I)ZES (unsure)

1 BOO    
1.8 HUNG(E)R    
4 V(I)RID    
8 FEW    
4.7 (F)IG    
4 DILATOR(S) choice  
21.9 AWE AWA (that much diff???)  
11.9 ILK wanted to keep S  
3.1 AR(S)ENaLS    
32.7 C(A)VED VELDS  
0 Q(I)S    
8.8 EGA(L)ITE TE(L)EGA why?
11.8 GEYSER missed (ZINC)Y  
16.5 PALE unsure of VALE  
0 (G)AVOT why not DO(G)MATA  
14 ADD    
0 V(I)AND    
0 QA(I)D    
7.9 HONK    
10.1 NOR(I)    
1.7 sCROD why? no place 2 bingo  
6 (H)A(V)E EAU/A(JUGA)  
0 VOW    
0 HAEmOID    
0 QI    
2.7 GLACE    
11.6 ZON(E) L(U)TZ (why?)  
11.8 LO(W)    
16.3 GAPS    
0 ABSENT(E)R    
5.3 OXEN    
19 NEED    
1 F(I)AT unsure of (JOT)A/FAT  
0 FLUX    
10.5 SlAVERY    
9.2 PUTZ    
8.3 HAEN    
18.9 lose turn    
5.7 GING(ER)    
0 BOW    
2.5 AD    
10.7 ROU(T)    
0 M(O)RRO    
0 -IIIOV    
0 PALMS    
0 OXY    
0 T(OX)IC    
0 TAV    
0 UNDEN(TED)    
26.1 UH INR(U)SHES  
7.2 JEW    
0 ROOKS    
9.3 QI    
8.5 VEX -QVX(ERSS)  
2.5 QIS (K4)    
0 FADO    
0 AA    
6 A(X)E    
7.5 (L)EK    
4.9 T(E)D    
0 F(E)NCE    
9.3 H(I)P    
13.5 IDIOT(S)    
0 (I)NN    
5 HIC TEG (why?)  
8.6 AWARE (L8)    
23.9 iMAGOES (F)rOMAGES (unsure),wAGSOME,OhMAGES  
0 PLIE    
0 (A)ZO    
-- LA(V)    
7.5 QI B(U)RQA  
23.6 JO(Y)    
0 (J)APAN    
5.9 FUG    
8.5 VAC    
1 Q(U)OIN    
0 LOWE    
15.3 ARC    
5.2 IODATE    
0.4 KINdLED    
25 HA MI(k)VAH  
1 MI(R)I    
0 OV(A)    
2.4 ENURE(D)    
20 lose turn    
0 VIN(E)    
1.6 J(I)V(E)D    
0 WA(S)T    
0 LOAF    
8.2 I(G)LU    
10.1 GN(U)    
0 INHA(L)ERS    
0 NEO(N)    
0.4 HI    
9.2 AC(A)RINES    
12 OHO    
0 GRANT    
10.8 TA    
0 WEPT    
3.8 BI    
4.4 IS blocks bingo line, KOI doesn't  
2.9 ED    
8 O(E)    
0 TA(IN)    
0 OM    
0 VAV    
8.3 TR(A)DE T(E)T  
0 KO(I)    
0 PAX    
22.8 GENT ?ETTL(I)NG  
37.6 E(D)S (D)EVISEEs,(D)IErESES  
21.7 QI EQuINES  
40.6 lose turn EIINRS?  
6 INSIdER    
0 B(R)AY    
34 (L)O (F)RETSOmE,EEORST? with YE hook  
12 tETHERS    
0 -LM (EINST)    
0 HACEK    
0 EX    
19.6 GR(A)DE    
0.2 SILTER K3    
0 BOY(L)A    
24.4 BE(E)RY    
10.6 MOA    
0 E(V)ITE    
0 Wh(E)ELMAN    
6.4 NOON    
0 FON    
4.5 HA    
0 (Q)UOTED    
0.6 (V)ANED    
33.7 (KI)NIN (DO)MINaNTS (saw but unsure),MuNTINS  
9.5 STYMIEd    
9.9 AMUSE    
O JE(U)    
45.2 ZE(P) ODOR(I)ZES (unsure)  
1.5 DOOR    
0 SI    
6.4 JO(K)E    
0 DEFT    
25 lose turn    
8 -DGMNNV (E)    
11.9 CENOT(E)    
5.1 SHA(V)EN    
14.4 (H)ABU (H)ABITUE  
0 ETA    
26 lose turn    
1.9 DENUDES    
0 VAW    
4.7 TAJ    
0 GR(A)MP    
0 (C)HIP    
20.3 WILD(E)R    
39 lose turn    
0 QUA(I)L    
0 OB(I)    
0 (B)ANK    
0 F(I)G    
20.6 MO(O)    
1.3 ENCRUsT    
8.1 B(R)ANDED U  
10.3 (R)AKI F(U)NKIA  
11.4 JIN(N) JUG(A)???  
0 YOU    
0 EME    
0 HEELInG    
0 QI    
19.3 B(E)VY    
5.6 G(I)LD    
0 MAN    
0 ZA    
1.8 FENS    
0 TRIP(E)    
30 lose turn LORRIES  
9.7 B(R)A    
7.9 Y(O)    
7.4 (A)IR did I(L) get by?  
38 lose turn    
14.7 TI(T)TY    
6.1 HAJ 14F    
0 FOAMS    
0 JEW(E)L    
0 DIV(A)LeNT    
0 OUPH    
9.5 (T)OO    
0 UNBAItE(D)    
0.7 YOUR YOU  
2.9 CLAN    
0 RA(D)    
10.9 GET block  
f0 GI(B)    
--- (YA)G TEG (no way, have to block OM/(B)O(X)  
23.8 DON fONDANT  
1.4 -TTT    
0 QA(N)AT    
4.1 HOW    
5.6 (A)X    
10 (Y)UK    
49.1 RE(V) RE(TO)RTION  
1.8 H(A)T    
13.8 (R)AIN CRINOI(D)  
8.9 CORE    
0 BIDI    
0.9 R(AW)    
0 ROPE    
0 PFUI    
7.1 GOOD(Y) VAS  
4.3 ABU(S)IVE    
2.2 NONPAiD    
6.7 Z(O)NE    
0.1 PENDInG    
26.9 W(I)LL    
0 TORII    
0 DEF(O)G    
9.5 HAE    
13.7 AT    
13.4 OAK (Z)OUK  
0.6 WISE    
29.3 YIN I(C)Y  
30 FOU OF  
7.3 AAEEI (ET) A(W)EE  
2.5 TORT(I)LE TO  
10.7 AERO weak!  
9.8 -OOO frustration  
0 OX    
2 OI open line  
0 WANTON    
0 (V)IG    
9.4 ZI(G) (C)RY  
2.1 CESS BYS (need more points!)  
5.8 K(I) V(I)nY hmmm  
--- BY must draw ED 2 win  
6.5 GENUA    
5.4 ME(N)O    
4.7 KOI    
42 lose turn    
9.4 -AAA    
3.6 RATH    
0 ERRO(R)    
0 GEMINAT(E)    
14.4 (A)ZO    
0 EH    
0 UNPA(ID)    
0 LE(N)D    
2.4 LOVER    
17.6 H(A)KU uNHUSK(E)D  
0 FEW    
14.6 FUNGO    
9.1 BURY    
3.7 JI(N)GO JOC(K)O  
32.3 lose turn    
17.2 C(A)ROM    
8.1 J(E)T    
17 (J)UGA keep missing A(ZINES)  
22.9 BALED    
3.5 (H)ECK    
2.8 (E)XEC    
2.7 pIGNOR(A)S*    
2.8 M(I)NK    
12.3 ARE(C)A    
14.4 OIDI(A)    
14.4 VO(W)    
0.2 ENTERON    
0 BORIC    
0 AMID    
1.6 JOY JOEY  
3.2 (J)OE    
6.8 aA(G)GRO    
0 FU(S)ION    
0 YEGG    
0 VANGS    
5 Q(U)ITE    
13.5 AN A7 (I)NSURANt  
25.7 (R)UB S(T)UBbORN  
9.4 SNORINg    
10.5 OX MOH(E)L/L(OAF)  
6.8 POOVE    
1.2 PONCE    
0 VA(R)IA    
0 Y(U)M    
0 OCTETS    
4.4 SHA    
7.7 H(O)N block spot  
25.9 X(U) RIT(Z)!!!  
21.9 GLItTER(S) sets up QI  
0 QI    

Average Equity Loss Per Turn (now using Quackle!)

1 - 7.8 (93.1)
2 - 7.2 (86.8)
3 - 8.4 (109)
4 - 5.5
5 - 4.3 (42.6)
6 - 9.6 (124.5)
7 - 11.6
8 - 4.8 (62.3)
9 - 7.1 (84.6)
10 - 5.6 (83.5)
11 - 15.9 (222.3)
12 - 5.5 (71.3)
13 - 10.9 (141.1)
14 - 8.4
15 - 7.2
16 - 4.1 (57.8)
17 - 16.1
18 - 2.2
19 - 9.3(129.5)
20 -
21 - 10.8 (140.8)
22 - 4.5
23 - 7.7 (99.7)
24 - 11.8
25 - 8.4
26 - 7.6
27 - 11.8
28 - 7.7 (85)

Avg: 8.2

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