This Is the Life

Friday, February 8, 2008

Clocked out at 3:31, stopped at Desert Moon for a burrito, and then made good enough time to State College to regret having stopped for that consistently mediocre early dinner. State College is a pretty lively college town, and I'm sure several of the many eateries I saw near the new Starbucks would have had better food than Desert Moon's bland corporatized fare.

The reason I had left work so early was to give myself time to detour to Jamestown, NY. My usual travels did not take me along the stretch of I-90 between Cleveland and Buffalo, so the 70-mile detour from State College seemed to be my best bet. In fact, the detour wouldn't even cost me any extra, because the gas spent to drive those 70 miles would be offset by savings on the tolls that I would have paid on the PA and OH turnpikes.

The interstates are great when you need to reach your destination quickly. The US highways are slower, but they provide more of a view, as well opportunities to find unique locally owned shops and restaurants. State highways tend to be slower still, and they often run through more open country than the other types of roads. Somewhere along PA-153 I stopped at a turnout to make the kiwi. Because of the remoteness and the clear sky, I was treated to a sea of stars, a view I appreciate all too infrequently.

As I approached Jamestown the throbbing in my right leg intensified. The reason for my pain was a scoundrel named Joe Bihlmeyer. His constant blogging about pullups and chinups were bad enough, but I did not expect to catch him right away and was taking my workouts at a reasonable pace. But then he went and posted about how he hoped to hoped to run an 18-minute 5K once the weather warmed. Well, I couldn't have that. I couldn't have him beat me at my game, running. I was deteremined to hit that 18-minute mark first. I pushed myself hard on Wednesday and suffered for it, pain in my right leg and shins. Despite this, I tried again on Thursday.

I blamed Joe for my pain, and when I finally reached the Starbucks and had to stand on that leg, I let out a litany for curses directed at the culprit. Now, if I had started cursing "Joe", people would have understood. They would have assumed that I was upset at somebody named Joe, figuring that Joe did me wrong. They would still have thought me odd, but they would have understood, because because there is a long tradition in America of guys named Joe doing somebody wrong. I assure you that right at this very moment, somewhere out there some guy named Joe is doing somebody wrong.

I, however, was not cursing "Joe", but rather "Bihlmeyer". "Bihlmeyer", not being common, was not necessarily recognizable, and thus my stream of curses made little sense. Thus it is understandable that the bespectacled man in the parka would stare at me, the two teenage girls would giggle, and the couple would call to their young child to come closer to them. Note to self: next time, curse "Joe", not "Bihlmeyer".

From Jamestown I headed to I-86 E, and this marked my first time ever on that interstate. Check another one off my list. I-86 merged into I-90, and from there I drove until I reached a rest area about 100 miles from Cleveland.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

7:24 was a good time to wake up, and I started heading west immediately, blasting Nirvana to wake me up. Immediately after I switched to the Dixie Chicks, "Voice Inside My Head". Years ago, Michelle commented that I was weird after I switched from Kelly Willis to the Wu-Tang Clan in a heartbeat. I don't think she meant it in a mean way. But I doubted she was correct--I'm sure there are a lot of people who listed to hard-score rap and also country music.

When I reached Cleveland, I needed to stop at the new Steelyard Starbucks. The detour cost me more time than I had expected because the barista I had spoken to a month earlier had indicate the store is just west of downtown. Dan Stock had actually e-mailed me directions, but of course I had forgotten to download them. Still, the delay was not a problem, and I still had time to get breakfast before reaching the tournament venue, but only if I called ahead. My map had a number for Lilly's Diner, but the number was busy. Not a problem, because I had picked up an emergency donut at the Starbucks, just in case. It's always good to have an emergency donut.

As soon as a I entered the West Shore Unitarian Universalist Church I noticed the acoustics. The hallway had a great echo, and I could not help pretending to be a submarine and making pinging sounds. In fact, I was able to close my eyes and find the playing room just by pinging alone, although I did accidentally make "inappropriate contact" with a couple of players.

Daniel already reported that there were no upsets in the early rounds, though it didn't necessarily look like that when Lambert Dieringer's first play was a bingo. I had scored 28 on my opening turn, and I had a play off his bingo to come close to tying, but I wasn't sure if BOOGIED was a good spelling. That's the nightmare scenario right there, when a player rated some 900 points below you opens with a bingo you don't know. Heck, even Steve Glass told me later that he wasn't sure of that spelling and might have challenged. But I decided to play it safe and just take my points. Lambert's luck did not continue, and after several turns I was able to take the lead with QUOT(H) for 51 and then 42 for (Q)UERN to extend that lead to the point where I was comfortable enough to screw around play for spread. That's the thing, see--games between experts and sub-1000 players should not be about winning or losing. Winning should be guaranteed, leaving the expert to worry only about equity and spread. I never should have had to worry about actually losing the game. In fact, the rules of the game should be amended to make it impossible for an expert player to lose to somebody rated a certain number of points below him--say, 800 or greater. As a concession to the lower rated player, the rule could specify that while the expert cannot lose the game, the lower-rated player gets to keep the spread. Or maybe even give the scrub a half point while still giving the expert the win.

Anyway, once I had a comfortable lead, I was able to try TEFFISH* for 122 to extend my spread, and I won by a good 205 points.

I had a much easier time of it against Chris Walleck. I was lucky to start off with CERA(T)OID, too, because Chris held, giving me a clue that he might not necessarily let anything get by. I tried for a couple more challenges, UNLEAD and OUTEATE(N), but I did not get them. Still, I won by a good margin to extend my spread to 383. I was feeling pretty good about that, until I learned that Steve Glass had over 600 points of spread after two games. I wondered just how many phonies he had played to get those scores, but he claimed to have played none.

Dan had taken a vote, and the consensus was to have lunch after two rounds, so I waited for Steve and we went off in search of grub. I considered the outing a pseudo-Salado like experience, traveling with a former Texan and spotting the Western-themed Rustic Restaurant. I was easily able to pretend I was back in Texas, but I don't know if Steve has the same ability to alter his reality as I do.

Back at the church, I had an experience that was more surreal than anything. I went to the bathroom to brush and happened to check my phone for messages. I had three, all from the same player! The first was to report a truly exciting development in his life. The second was to report that the development was not quite as exciting as he had originally reported. And the third was to ask me not to write about it, which is why you are not getting the juicy details. Maybe he'll post on his blog, and hopefully with photos and video.

After my loss to Pete Ziegler I quickly started running sims and immediately saw that he had missed (or chosen against) the higher-scoring ENGIRDS/DINGERS hooked to my opening GRIG and played RES(I)DING instead. Then he challenged my 40-point DI(R)AM, and with the extra turn I was able to take the lead. But guess what--Pete had already had (R)EINJURE, which explains why he grimaced as we walked up to the challenge computer. Fine. I had the S hook, ZIlLS for 58 to come just 12 short... and the lucky bastard goes all A(N)TIPOLE on me. From that point on he just managed to score, score, score, and he had a farely easy time of the win. Three bingoes in a row for the @#$^&*, and I was one loss away from another ratings drop.

I did some outdrawing of my own against Idalski to win by 255 and boost my spread to 567. Meanwhile, Steve had lost to Jeff Cook, meaning that I still had a shot, if I could get past Jeff and Steve. Later I would read that I had handed Idalski his worst loss ever. As far as nicknames go, the only one I can think of is The Basilisk, but basilisks are supposed to be fearsome creatures. Dude needs to, at a minimum, stop letting me get away with phonies before he has a hope of becoming fearsome.

Narrowly escaped disaster at the hands of George Viebranz. He managed to bingo twice to my none. His second bingo, CASERNe, put him up 15 with me holding ALRTUV? and three tiles in the bag. Tough, tough decision what to do next. I didn't know (C)ULTiVAR, of course (because I'm not an inhuman anagramming freak like certain players), so I went with L(AB). That gave George the win, had he just played something that scored more than the 6-point P(OD). Instead, I was able to outscore him with my last to plays and win by just five. Man, that was close.

Later, I would learn that my escape was even more dramatic than it first appeared. When George played GRADINE, he missed the triple-triple G(A)RDENIA off the M(A)SALA that I had just played. Oh, my stars and garters!

Final, round, not Steve Glass but undefeated Jeff Cook. Before the game he said he had managed to finally beat Steve, and he hoped to break his 0-2 losing streak against me. Uh-oh, I thought. Looks like I might get a comeuppance, and a serious one, because losing that game would drop me below 1700! But I got a the favorable tiles, pulled off the win, and managed to win the tournament and a spot in the NAST. And because the tournament was open, I got a pretty good payout, $180 + $10 for TEFFISH*.

I dawdled a bit, chatting with Glass about the upcoming Charlotte tournament that he had had to drop out of. I then went back to the Rustic Restaurant for a photo, and as soon as I reached the interstate I regretted my delay. I had forgotten that I needed to reach the new Canton store before sundown, and a store in a mall in Columbus before 9:00 or 9:30. I found myself rushing the rest of the evening, but that's a story for my Starbucking blog.



#1 - Dierenger    
2.8 PEKAN  
5.8 YOW avoid giving opp easy S hook
4.6 OHIA  
0 QUOT(H)  
0 (Q)UERN  
1.3 EXACT  
2.9 GIE  
0 TINE  
0 ATE  
#2 - Walleck    
0 (D)JIN  
5.6 UNLEAD  
0 WADE  
1.7 (C)OOEE  
0 BOPS  
0 (F)OXY  
1.7 MO  
0 QUI(R)K  
14.1 (A)L(A)R  
0 RE(IN)  
#3 - Ziegler    
4 GRIG 8E (should have turned board around)  
0 (G)RANT  
23.2 ZIlLS given Pete's luck I had to take the S/D hook
0.8 AC(R)OLeIN  
0 FAME  
16.3 (E)X EUT(A)XIES
1.1 UTE ETUI (risky given Pete's luck)
0 PIBE(T)*  
15 CASED this was my chance
10.5 T(I)ED shoulda played OWED
33 YOW  
0 V(O)W  
#4 - Idalski    
0.7 GAUGINg  
1.7 ARABIC  
8.6 DIG  
8.9 EX  
0 JO(T)  
O ZA  
3.2 -ENNOOQ  
0 PI(N)A  
0 QI  
4 OS  
0 N(O)  
#5 - Viebranz    
0.7 KETO  
0 FEN  
0 WIT(H)IN  
6.4 M(A)SALA MOS/(WITHIN)S (whoda thunk it took an S!!!)
0 FIX  
13.4 HE HET (stupid miss coulda cost me game!!!)
2.3 R(U)T  
0 ZO(O)N  
0 Y(O)N  
47.8 L(AB) (C)ULTiVAR
0 VAV  
0 TRUEs  
#6 - Cook    
0 QIS  
0 VA(R)A  
0 FIN  
4.5 M(O)S W(O)S (why give Cook another hook???)
0 MIG  
7.9 JANT(Y)  
0* GR(IT)H  
2.9 LAIC(H) U(R)ACI(L)
0 X(I)  
0 (P)OL  
0 A(N)I  
0 T(HE)  
0 UN  

1 - W - 4.5 (59.1)
2 - W - 2.2 (30.2)
3 - L - 9.6 (125.3)
4 - W - 2.7 (40.9)
5 - W - 5.5 (76.4)
6 - W - 2.9 (52.5)

Avg: 4.6

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