You Know I'm No Good



Friday, November 30, 2007

12:23, left work with 511 miles to drive direct, but really over 600 with all the Starbucks detours I had planned. I had worked late, 10+ hours, from Tuesday through Thursday, in order to put in enough hours so that I could leave early without getting any flack from the supervisor. I was technically past the scheduled date to complete the latest phase of my project, and asking for Friday off was probably not a good idea, not after the time I had to take off because of the wrecked car, plus my delays in getting back from Chicago.

Leaving at 12:30 got me over 35 hours at least, and it gave me a theoretical chance of reaching the new store in Kitchener before it closed at 11:00. Failing to make the drive in time would not be a tragedy, it would just mean an even more rushed drive in the morning, from Kitchener to Guelph to downtown Toronto and then Oshawa.

First delay was to stop back at the house to pick up my coat. Stupid to have left it. Traffic out to the Turnpike sucked as usual, but the real sucky delay was between Wyomissing and Allentown. What was supposed to be a quick 20-mile detour to the new store there turned into maybe an hour lost because of traffic on US-222. Stupid, stupid, stupid. But the light was good for a photo, too good to pass up.

I made such good time, 80-90 MPH, up I-476 towards Wilkes-Barre, that I decided to go and ahead and make the 20-mile detour for the Dallas store. Tge drive straight up and back was quick enough, but I passed so close to where Heather lived that I couldn't not drop in for a quick visit. Wilkes-Barre is fairly well out of the way, so I took any opportunity I could to see Heather. Not to diss on her or anything, I must confess that, unlike with Tulsa, I'm not willing to drive far out of my way to see her.

Looking at the time I started to think about skipping the remaining stores in NY and heading straight to Kitchener. But I was mighty hungry, and I needed gas, so I stopped at the new Vestal store anyway and grabbed a quick cheesesteak from the Home Deli. It was going to be close (isn't it always) but I could still make it. Or so I thought, until the snow started. It wasn't heavy snow, but the way it was blowing towards my windshield was starting to make me dizzy. I had to take my speed down quite a bit, under the speed limit even, and I knew I wasn't going to make it.

The snow did not last long, a good thing, because I wasn't sure how long I could have held off the vertigo. I was starting to be sure that the dizziness and loss of focus had to do with the glare of headlights on snow or rain coming at me. I hoped that I wasn't susceptible to that thing where flashing lights, like in a video game, or the animated London 2012 Olympic logo, cause certain people to have seizures.

I made good time westbound on I-90 towards Rochester, but by the time I reached the Greece store I knew it was simply not realistic to reach Kitchener by 11:00. On the bright side, I was able to chill a bit, chat with the partners, and update podcasts and charge the laptop. I also had time to reconsider my itinerary for the weekend, and by the time I crossed the border I had decided that I was better off getting as much sleep as possible and deferring the outlying stores until Saturday night.

12:29, I exited the freeway at Kiplington because I've had success finding suitable parking in that area, and also because recently I'd been finding more and more restricted parking in the residential streets closer into the city. Off Islington I found a street with an interesting sign, "UNASSUMED STREET. USE AT YOUR OWN RISK". I wasn't sure if that meant it was a private road or not, but even if it was, Canada is not nearly as infested with security guards as the United States.

December 1, 2007

7:39, a little over two hours to reach Oshawa (with the minimum time on my clock). Visiting the downtown Starbucks seemed doable, but I ought not have dawdled so much at Bloor & Islington. I tried to save a few seconds by exiting the store without putting on my gloves or cap, but quickly stopped and put them on. The air temperature was wicked cold. Even a few seconds of exposure had left my fingers stinging. Taking my photographs is inconvenient in such weather, because either I suffer through serious pain in my hands while waiting for the right shot, or I put the gloves on and sometimes fumble the controls.

8:29, I neared the Hannah & Atlantic store concerned that I was running out of time. The last thing I needed was to be pulled over, so of course a pair of eagle-eyed RCMP decided to stop me and verify that my car was legal. I tried to answer their many questions without any hint that I was in a hurry, except to show them the Oshawa flyer and mention the start time of 9:30. Past experience has tought me that mentioning any kind of deadline tends to trigger a search or prolong an interrogation in progress.

10-15 minutes later, the cops finally let me go, with the warning that I was probably going to be pulled over again. They were probably right. Just the night before, a sheriff's deputy around Rochester had pulled behind me and shined his spotlight at my back windshield for that reason. When I reached the next gas station I could see that the combination of the window tint and the grime on the windshield made it hard to see the tag. I wiped it off, but I figured I was going to get pulled over again, and I was right. I'd been concerned about that window tint thing when the car salesperson told me about it, but all the cars had the tint.

Another delay finding the Hannah store, and by the time I reached downtown and found Queen & Simcoe it was 8:59.

In the days before the event I had called the new downtown-area Starbucks to find out which were closed on the weekend, but somehow I had lost track of the information. As a result I wasted a ton of time trying to find Wellington & York because I seemed to remember that the barista said it would be open. It wasn't, and then I lost more time finding Royal Bank Plaza II. It's just as well that the barista there said that Front & Bay was not open weekends, because I was out of time. 9:21, and 38 miles to drive.

Once I got into the Gardiner Expressway I was able to drive pretty fast. On the Don Valley Parkway, faster still. But on the 401--I floored it, hitting speeds of 100 MPH and feeling very glad for the Honda's more powerful engine. The Hyundai would have been screaming bloody murder at that speed.

Parked the car at 9:27, ran into the Cultural Centre, slipped on the floor and gently slammed into a wall, and then rushed into the playing room and found my opponent, Glenn Dunlop. 10 minutes left, not a problem. Difficult tiles, plus being outblanked... problem. Towards the middle I finally bingoed, and then after Glenn's exchange I took the lead, but Glenn came right back with D(O)ZES for 45, and I was not able to catch up easily. I could have won if I had had more time to work out my endgame, but I lost by 6. I definitely cheated myself that time. Sooner or later playing short of time was going to cost me.

Against Jerry Scheiten I started with full clock , but I still I found myself short during the endgame. I mistracked an E, which allowed Jerry to score 32 with his Z and then go out first to win handily.

Still wasn't playing well, but I drew almost everything and managed to beat Shaun Goatcher. As an example of how bad I was playing, I verified that all the intermediate-point tiles were gone except my M and F before setting myself up for a play, and I totally forgot the J for J(AR)/JIG. I wasn't in danger of losing, but I gave up a lot of spread there. I could just feel that something was off about my mind, but I wasn't fatigue exactly. I couldn't figure it out--maybe just distracted.

Next up, a player who can only be described as the Mac Daddy of Scrabble. I'll never be able to beat him in romance, because he cheats, by which I mean that he wastes no time in talking to the ladies while I'm busy blogging about them. So I most desperately wanted to beat him over the board (again), but this mother opens up with SOLVErS followed by TERNION(S). Looked really bad, especially when he scored well with the Q and Z. I was able to come back with UN(E)ARTHS and then REDDEST/(WHEEZE)D, and it was all of a sudden game on. When Mac Daddy says jump, the ladies might ask "how high", but I wasn't about to jump, jump for him, no way. It was a close battle for the rest of the game, but in the end that second blank won it for him. I was left rather Kross. Ain't it a bitch, though, when a guy gets the girls and the blanks???

Got both blanks against John Lodinski, but it turned into one of those games. My GAR(O)TTeD lead only lasted one turn, and then John followed his GLADIER with AX for 54. I drew the second blank, but I could not manage a bingo before John beat me to HARRIES. I then saw DUNITEs, but I chicked out. I guess all my study of 8s had left me rusty on 7s. It becomes more and more apparent that, in Scrabble, it is very hard to have a chicken in every pot like Hoover promised.

I won a second game, against a bottom player Mark Edelson, but the win was hardly a comfort. At 2-5, I had pretty much written off the tournament and a ratings gain. I turned my attention to other concerns and rushed off.

First stop, the new Starbucks in Fairview Mall. I typically express nothing but disdain for mall food and people who stoop to eating it, but I was so hungry and had so much driving to do that I decided to give Caribbean Queen a try. I was surprised not in the least by the chicken, beans, and rice, but at least it was edible.

Six stores later, I finished in the far west municipality of Kitchener (not considered a suburb of Toronto, if I remember correctly) shortly after 9:00, and then I did something very stupid. I calculated that I had plenty of time to reach the two new London stores and return to Toronto around 12:30, by driving at 70-80 MPH. Given that there were flakes of snow coming down, that was a really stupid assumption. By the time I neared London there was already quite a bit of snow coming down, but I was so close I couldn't bear to turn around. By the time I finished up at the two stores, there was an inch at least on the roads, and I knew my return was going to be bad.

Oh, well, I figured, and I turned those lemons into lemonade by way of a visit to Mirage, a massage parlor where the therapists girls I had previously seen did not ask for exhorbitant tips like in Toronto or the major East Coast cities. I was not disappointed, and I cannot overemphasize the mood-restorative of being massage by hot, hot 20-year-old. The only think better would be if she were 19, and even better than that, if she were willing to quiz me on alphagrams during the massage.

But alas, my dream of the storms' having abated was just silly, and I went from feeling refreshed back to stressed out as I was forced to drive no faster than 40 MPH for the entire 120-mile distance back to Toronto. As I set off, I truly considered just scrapping the rest of the tournament, walking away like Kelly Clarkson, and sleeping the storm out at the service area. Looking back on that night now, boy am I ever glad that I found a second win and pushed on.

3:00 in the AM, I finally made it to Toronto and found a place to park off the Queensway, passing out almost instantly.

December 2, 2007

7:23, not nearly enough sleep, but no point in tossing and tournament. I hopped to the front of the car and immediately realized my mistake. I had forgotten about the snow plows. Actually, I had heard the snow plows in the early hours, and I had felt the snow they blow hitting my car door. But in my slumber I did not make the critical leap of reason to what the consequences would be, that in the morning my car appeared to be snowed in. It looked pretty bad, the way the snow reached up above my tires, and me without a shovel. I didn't even have the bat I had used that time in NYC.

So I did the best I could with my gloves, and to my amazement, by alternating between forward and reverse and turning the tires, I finally managed to push the car beyond the pile of snow and get some traction. Only took me 9 minutes. Whew!

As I visited the last few new Starbucks (that were open), I listened to a report on The World's Technology podcast about that most hated of web sites... This report actually featured an interview with the founder of the site, and I so wanted to throttle the man as I listened to him talk about how he wanted to make a difference, completely oblivious to the fact that feeding people just so they can survive in conditions of poverty does not make a difference. Such action merely allows the cycle of poverty to continue for generation after generation. I have no doubt that this man sleeps better at night for what he is doing, and that's great for him. Too bad the world is a worse place for his actions.

Remembering the bitter cold that had attacked me as I photographed stores on Saturday, I had an epiphany. I decided to put my thermal pants under my jeans. Wow! What a difference. My legs felt sooooo warm. Thermal pants... they're not just for sleeping anymore.

Woman jogging in the snowy roadway. Stupid, stupid, stupid. Can't you take a freakin' break for one day, lady? If a driver slides in the snow and hits you, you will have seriously fucked up that person's life. I myself drive in a state of constant terror that I will hit a pedestrian. One of the worst thing that could happen to me.

Arrived a at 9:45, and, as I had expected, the eighth round had not yet started. In fact, not only had other players been delayed, but two wusses had dropped out of the expert division. I was glad that there wouldn't be a bye, because given my record I would surely have been the recipient.

Sometimes I feel a little bad to outdraw an opponent, but I felt nothing but relief when I started off with DARTiNG against Sinna Vijayaharoldandkumar and the drew the other blank for ELOIG(N)Ed two turns later. JOY for 44, QAT for 31, an S, and generally favorable racks aided me to a 163-point game. Still, 3-5 was a pretty precarious position--even going 6-6 for the event would be tough.

And it didn't get much tougher than a 2-point victory, against Tim Anglin. I agonized forever about my JIBE play. Tim had just played FIN(E) to create a second bingo line, and I had to assume had the blank. JIBE mucked up both lines, but it only scored 26, and it set up a strong counter play if Tim had the S. Quackle hates the play, of course, preferring to take the 33 points for BOGIE. I preferred the safer route, but I cannot entirely disagree with Quackle. By taking the 33 and keeping J, if Tim bingoed, he would most likely score little more than 60. That would leave me only 30 down, with the J as the only power tile left (assuming Tim players both S and blank). Well, I made the blocking play, Tim indeed had the S for a 40-point W(I)S, and it was only the fact that I drew that blank that saved me.

Days later when I simmed the game, I discovered something fascinating. As had waited for Tim to make his final play, I noticed that I could have scored 14 with (VILE)R/(IN)R(O) instead of 10 for (A)R(MY). But if I had seen, and made, that play, I would have given Tim extra points with the (VILER) hook, and I would have lost!!!

Anyway, Tim of course recounted, and my heart practically stopped when I thought we discovered 2 extra points for Tim. Thankfully we were mistaken, and the win stood, but my nerves were shot going into my game with Tony Leah. It's a good thing I talked myself out of CARDOID* because, after Tony's EXUVIAE, and I needed every turn I could get. For the same reason, it's a good thing I did not challenge the fishy-looking AU(D)IbLED. Just like against Tim, the game was extremely close, 13 points, and it all came down to a lost turn--Tony's challenging N(I)TRO/(JUDGE)R. After the game Tony admitted that he had no need to challenge, and I breathed a hearty sigh of relief at another narrow escape.

As I neared 6 wins, I became even more nervous that I would encounter disaster. I certainly did not want to start a game by losing a turn, but I just couldn't let Lodinsky get away with LAV(I)TORY*--it just looked ridiculous. Knowing his rack, I agonized over my second play, because it would give him back 37 points, but it was correct. I kept my lead for a few turns, but then, in an unsual bingo-less momentum shift, over the course of 10 turns John slowly tied the game and took a 72-point lead. I was getting pretty desperate after dinking off tiles to no avail, but I managed LIFTERS before John could block that single bingo line. With a tied game, the Q and blank allowed me to win. Another narrow escape!!!

Meanwhile, I had to give a shout out to Loyd, who was 11-0 and on track to sweep his first multi-day event.

At 2-5, I had absolutely no hopes whatsoever of placing in the event. I just wanted to limit the ratings loss. But after winning 5 games in a row to get to 6-5, all of a sudden fourth place seemed a possibility! But my spread sucked, and I had to beat Max Panitch by around 125 points. Not easy, especially when he opened with a 32-point RAXING. But after staring at my bingo-looking DEIMOTU for much too long (because I wanted to finish quickly and beat the coming storm), I found the double-double. A few turns later Max managed to surge ahead with FIZ for 50 and JEEP for 33, and I saw my chances of winning by 125, let alone winning, in peril. So I went for the gusto and took a chance on hooking WOVEN with WATTlES for 101 (it's good), and then I immediately drew PACk(A)GES to surge ahead by 100. Could I do it? Alas, Max managed to bingo back, RELEARN(S), and though my victory was all but assured at that point, I was unable to beat the spread.

Still, winning all five Sunday games for a 6-game streak, on 4 hours of sleep, and despite having started off with a demoralizing 2-5... hell, I'll take that.

3:44, and I scooted out the door with weather on my mind. The drive east on the 401 was slow combined with periods of crawling when traffic was caught behind snowplows. Why do they have to run the snowplows in parallel like that??? Hunger and the need for gas forced me off the freeway in Kingston, where I, against my better judgement, given the weather, wandered around way too much, finally settling on a mediocre cheesesteak on the way out of town. The length of my delay became apparent when I reached the border, and, by coincidence, encountered the same border guard that had processed Chris Lipe and Austin something-or-another. He was rather surprised when I mentioned Scrabble, commented that a couple of guys had just come by with custom Scrabble boards and everything. Guy was tickled pink, and he let me go even though he couldn't pull my info up because of the single name on my passport (yeah, those federal computer systems are sooooo sophisticated).

I was a little miffed that Lipe had beaten me yet again, to the border, but more than anything I was relieved to find relatively dry roads south on I-81, and no snow. I was able to make good time to the two new Starbucks in Syracuse, though once I reached the city rain began. The second store I visited was called Sweetheart's Corner, and I guess its name stoked passions in me, and I decided to take a brief tour of the area strip clubs to see if any were any good. I was reminded of Jim's tales of spending hours and hundreds at clubs as I spent about 4 minutes in the first and less time in the second. Sometimes there is fun to be had at places that looked as divish as they did, but I was too tired to sit around waiting for an attractive dancer to magically appear. The cover at the next club was too high, so I just went on to the final stop before hitting the freeway again, Paradise Found, where they had a special going, $21 for entry plus a dance. Had the place been devoid of any attractive dancers, I would have been miffed, but there were a few good-looking girls about. Because I was tired, I went with the first dancer who spoke to me. That was probably a mistake. Besides being fairly flat-chested (a rip-off if you are in a strip club), she was a bit aloof, and furthermore she indicated that if I tried to get freaky I'd have about five seconds before she screamed. Apparently this girl has not heard of the "Stop Snitching" movement.

I didn't know how far south the storm would extend, so I downed that DoubleShot and drive as far south as I could, to a rest area north of Binghamton. My awakening, around 6:30 AM was rather rude. I thought I heard moaning sounds, like those of a woman in the throes of passion. Turns out the noise was coming from cows, in a cattle truck. A first for me, at a a rest area.


8.8 DOE  
6.9 OH  
0 QI  
1.1 KRONE  
10.2 -EIOUY  
0 FIL  
0.3 YE  
8.2 ENA(C)T trying to open
0 AHI  
3.6 (N)EB  
15 MU(REX)  
0 (QI)S  
24 YEG(G)  
4.8 NIX  
2.9 WAVER  
0 ILK  
3.3 ROUE  
0 EAV(E)D  
13.7 JEON  
11 IG(G) mistrack E
16 MA  
1 (BUY)S  
1.2 YEUK  
9.5 (K)OB  
0 (G)OX  
16.9 X(U) stupid
0 HI  
0* CyTOSIN(E)  
6.5 TIP  
--- (J)EFE  
8.4 PAN PAC (very stupid)
19.8 ID  
0.7 BERTH  
3.3 SCATtED miss (BERTHA)A hook
4.9 APE  
0.8 BUY  
0 AUtO(C)ADE  
3.6 OXES (A)X (noway thats just dumb)
1.1 (B)URRO  
0* VIN(O)  
0 WORD  
13.8 MA forgot J
6 FLON(G)  
0 RE(F)IN(E)  
0 E(t)UI  
5.6 IWI(S)  
6.9 GONEF  
2.2 EXI(T)  
0 LIF(E)  
0 ABUT  
3 AT(T)IC  
23.8 A(r)M KNAVE(S) (this play might have won!!!)
0 KANO*  
0 VOE  
4.3 PAD  
0 GAR(O)TTeD  
0.9 ACMES  
0 QI  
7.2 HOL(Y)  
12.9 MEZ(E)  
15.5 B(I)TE  
--- Y(O)GI  
45 (H)I miss opps out play
0 CIG  
2.9 MAW  
0 (C)IVIE  
3.5 BRIE/(FUSE)R*  
6.2 (J)UBE  
0 Q(I)  
0 P(I)TY  
11.4 OX  
0 DUI  
0 Y(O)ND  
22.9 TEN  
8.8 VIM  
0 JOY  
0 QAT  
0 TIE  
4.4 PE(O)N  
5.9 GN(U)  
20.4 ZA  
0 DENIE(D)  
2.3 EYED  
3.9 V(I)LE  
0 V(A)WS  
3 Q(I) felt strong need to rid Q
0 T(U)X  
2 DEMAST hoping for challenge
24.4 JIBE blocks both bingo lines
7.1 GOT block bingo ending in OS/ON/OR
0 A(R)MY  
0 GALLs  
0 FLUB  
0 YEN  
0 (S)PY  
0 (F)IZ  
0 N(I)TRO  
0 N(A)RCO  
4 SOT only 99% sure of (BROMATE)S
--- OATED*  
0 FAB  
0 AIT  
1.5 WO OW
0 MOPS  
33.8 TENSE SENNETS (unsure)
9.2 EON  
3.3 DI(N)  
6.9 (C)RY YIRR
4.7 Q(I) fAQ(I)R
9 pORK miss R(EVERY) hook
0 UH  
0.1 DIF  
10.6 PACk(A)GES pass up bingo
10.9 ANAL  
0 VISO(R)  
1.3 OH  
21.9 KI UKE
0 (NA)M  
6 LOU(P)E  

1 - L - 7.6 (129.3)
2 - L - 7.9 (102.6)
3 - L - 5.3
4 - W - 2.4 (34.2)
5 - L - 4.1 (44.8)
6 - L - 12.1
7 - W - 4.2 (54.9)
8 - W - 9.9 (139)
9 - W - 3.9 (50.5)
10 - W - 7.5 (90.2)
11 - W - 6.9
12 - W - 4.5 (58.6)

Avg: 6.4

More Confessional