Friday, November 21, 2008

Official Move

New posts will be made at
Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Rebooting the Ducky

Okay, so I am still playing scrabble and several people have begged (or at least casually mentioned) that I need to get back to chronicling the weird world of scrabble. I played in a tournament last weekend and have plenty to say about it, but first I think a quick primer is in order for people new to the site or who have forgotten somehow all the bizarre topics that have come up. Those who know me best are now bracing for what is coming next: MEGA RECAP LIST OF DOOM........

1) Tournament Scrabble is not like any other game I know I played chess tournaments for years and also a strategy card game called Magic. There are lots of questions that must be asked when you have people compete for prizes in a long term structure. Questions like: How do we decide who plays who? How do we decide who is the overall winner? How do we keep track of performance from one event to another? What do we do if one person breaks the rules? Etc... There are very similar answers that the organizers of most other games have come to. Then there are scrabble answers... I have talked about this a lot in previous posts, but the short answer is this. There are many kind and well meaning people in scrabble, but something has gone horribly, horribly wrong. Wanna know what specifically? You will just have to tune in next week or click the links to previous posts (or at least ask a question in the comments forum. I am a sucker for feedback of any kind).

2) Because Scrabble is Crazy I Take a Duck With Me for Protection I am a very competitive person, but I can not take some aspects of scrabble seriously. To avoid frustration and to make sure I stay a good sport I carry around a tiny duck to watch my games and highlight the absurdity of the activity. It also seems to make opponents act a little kinder and a little less crazy (although there are a couple notable exceptions). She is famous and had her picture taken when we broke a scrabble world record.

3) The Blog's title comes from a list I studied called "knockouts". ScrabbleDuck as an address was already taken by a selfish person who does not even have anything at their site. A knockout word is one that would score so many points, it would be almost impossible for the opponent to recover. They are seven letter words that have two of the high point tiles in them (J,Q,X or Z). I have managed to play three so far and one of them set the new record for a first turn play.

4) There are Crazy People that Play Scrabble. Some Good. Some Bad The majority of what I write (trust me, check the old posts) is the experiences I have at tournaments with people who are very different than the humans I am used to. Some of them are delightfully quirky and I look forward to seeing them again soon. Some of them should not operate heavy machinery and may in fact be a danger to themsleves, other people and most small woodland creatures. More to come on both of these groups in the future.

5) There are/were Pie People that are Disturbingly Obsessed with this Site Only time will tell if they continue to read and post, but there are several posters (PiCurious, CobblerGal) with names related to pastry and or/mathematics that frequent my blog. Their identity is currently unknown. Is it one person with multiple personality disorder? Is there a cult that has made Scrabble Duck part of their dogma? Is there a fraternity (or even better a sorority) that hazes its pledges by making them read and comment on the site? No one knows. I have a filter on the comments, but weird and wacky comments continue to show up. I would block them, but I would lose half of my audience.

So come back soon when I discuss my trip to my first tournament after the mind bending journey to Nationals. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll check the definitions of words that exist only in scrabble and/or my own warped mind. See you there!

Friday, August 1, 2008

Muzjiks Man

So I have definitely overdosed on scrabble. Hopefully, some time off will rekindle my passion. It may be a little while till my next post. I will leave you with the top three (positive) moments from Orlando.

1) The knockout to end all knockout words showed up. Muzjiks, which means Russian peasants graced my rack with its beautiful presence. I did some checking of my own and some confirming with staff on site (more nice people by the way, particularly John Chew and his wife) and even with the blank for the "u", it looks like I beat the old world record for a first turn play by two points (126 to 124) which had been set by two people previously. The scrabble duck herself made it into the coverage
She was forgivably sleepy after the tough game she helped me with. How embarrassing would it have been to set a record on the first turn and then blow the game? Thankfully, we pulled it out despite our opponents inspired efforts. Hopefully, if they ever publish another edition of Everything Scrabble Professor P's secret identity will be dramatically revealed at that time (and not a second before).

2) I got to play on the first board of my division. This would "normally" indicate that I was in either first or second place, but thanks to the wacky scrabble system, it only meant that I was being randomly paired with the top ranked player. She went on to finish in second and as I said last time, she was a very nice lady and a pleasure to meet and play. I was extremely fortunate to beat her. I had found "candied" in my letters, but saw no place to put it. She was kind enough to play a three letter K word that got her a lot of points, but made a spot for me. Since there are no two letter C words she did not even get to do a high point answer after my bingo along the right side.

3) My last hurrah was in the 26th round (that just seems crazy to type). I drew the bag (I got almost all of the "premium" tiles) and got a couple bingos and several cheesy little words that got ridiculous amounts of points. I don't remember which ones, but it was stuff like qi or za on triple letter squares. She was a gracious loser and did the best she could with the tiles she got. Thanks to the scrabble obsession with spread I was officially in 4th place after that round. There were two more rounds to go though. I was outplayed by the eventual third place finisher in the next round and lost a close game. Final round it was my turn to get almost no good tiles and lose a laugher of a blowout. What goes around comes around. I clearly faded as the tournament wore on as my day by day record shows. I guess I'm just getting too old.

One last happy thought to leave you with while I go on temporary hiatus. With my rating gain I have moved up into the top ten list for my state. This is/was one of my secret goals. There are not many of these left, but there are a couple for me to still work on. For now though, its time to relax and wander off into the sunset with the coconut conundrum. Till whenever duckies, just remember: Just keep swimming (and whenever you get the chance, flying...).

Thursday, July 31, 2008

I'm Alive, sorta...

So we have made it back in one piece. I am still trying to process everything that happened over the last several days. I'll attempt to collect my thoughts as best as I can and I'm sure there will be many more posts on this trip, but for now here's a random list (ahh lists, more calming to me than prozac).

1) The Heat: How do people live there?!? I was worried about this before the trip and my fears were founded. Sure the tournament was inside, but I felt like I was going to have a heat stroke in the middle of several games and it sure did not help my play. The Acolyte and I visited the site for registration purposes the evening before and it was actually pleasantly chilly. The morning before the tournament we each picked up a jacket for the cold to come. While the Arctic Acolyte continued to snuggle inside hers somehow, mine was off and on the ground within minutes of sitting down. The air conditioning just could not compete with the number of large sweaty bodies giving off heat and humidity. Thankfully, I was able to trade my jacket for a swimsuit thanks to a returns employee with a good sense of humor.
"Hi, I would like to return this jacket."
"Do you have the receipt?"
"No it caught on fire as soon as I stepped outside of the door because its Florida in July."
" Well I can't give you your money back, but you can get other merchandise of equal or lesser value."
"Like a swimsuit and a coke which I could actually use in this part of the earth?
"Yeah swimming pools and soft drinks don't usually catch on fire. They're pretty popular here."
"Done and Done Sir!"

2) The Ongoing Resignation Saga: So I had another incident. Some early tournament jitters, a series of challenges that went the wrong way, the heat and some twitchy synapses made for a very bad combination. The division director aggressively told me I could not, and when I reminded him of the rule that existed it was sit down and play or get written up and face nebulous and ominous consequences. Sigh... Whatever, we played the rest of the game out and my opponent's spread would have been better if he had taken the 50 points. I spoke to the head director after the round and she told me that "my" director had ruled incorrectly and if a similar situation arose again I would be allowed to resign. If only that had been the end of it. Apparently, resigning is something that some scrabble players feel as strongly about as other people do about abortion or gun ownership. There is not a lot of constructive dialogue, but there is a lot of passionate emotion and strongly held beliefs. Maybe I will come back to this later when I am farther from the events of the last few days, but for now, let's just say that plenty of %$#@ happened over and over concerning this issue, but I did not have to (attempt to) resign any more games.

3) The Melting Pot of Madness: I met three general kinds of people in my division. There were several really nice, well adjusted people. By this I mean that you could talk to them before, after and evening during the game and they would make conversation and even have kind things to share. I was immensely satisfied that the top three in the final standings were all people I could see myself interacting with in a non scrabble setting. Unfortunately, many of the others I met seemed like they would be more at home working for the DMV and/or yelling at Pigeons while drinking out of a paper bag and laying on a park bench. The creepy thing was how the stress and heat combined with the unnatural act of sorting words out of random scrambled letters for four days slowly turned some initially nice people mean and/or crazy. One lady I met seemed ok before our game and a little grumpy though still essentially human after I beat; lied to my face on the last day. thanks to the beauty of spread, I needed her to sign off on a score correction from our game a few rounds earlier. The initial score was a gap of 60, but she had gone over by a minute and half which would be a penalty of 20 points. I wrote the correct final margin on my sheet and so did she, but she filled out the official results slip as a loss of 60 instead of 80. I saw that it said I won so I signed it, since to me that is all that really matters. When I talked to her about what had happened later, she literally twitched, had a glassy expression come over her eyes and then said:
"No, no........I never go over on time."
"Well can we look at your score sheet please?"
"Hmmm, No I .....lost it........"
"But you have a stack of them from previous rounds right there."
"Not that one though.......Something happened to that one......."
This is where I began to back slowly away. Since I didn't feel like trying to grab the score sheet and run away with it. Who knows what a crazy person will do? The twenty points she stole did not change her final standing, but did cause me to finish one spot lower than I would otherwise. There were at least two other delightful individuals who were worse to deal with. One was convinced I was somehow using my duck and her little bag/couch to cheat despite it being a tightly cinched bag a foot away from the board with a duck sitting on top of it... Another refused to say a single other word other than commands like "Record your blank" "Confirm your score" and "It is against the rules to have any fun or not scowl and act like a computer." The percentages of these jerks seem to get worse as you advance in the ranks. Hopefully, I am close to plateauing and will still have enough people to have fun with at the level I have reached.

4) The Ongoing Photo Quest: Players' pictures are displayed both online and with pairings at scrabble tournaments. There are two main scrabble sites (more on this some time soon) but they are connected and there is no "good" reason why they should not be able to efficiently share and synchronize their information. One site has had my picture for months and the other which runs coverage for the national championship (among other things) has had "difficulties" for that long. While it took over two days and the taking and editing of a new picture I was able to finally get a picture up. One of the pleasant surprises I had during my trip was meeting the head of the technical support team. He also had noticed the surreal quality of the world of scrabble and like myself was a little outside and a little in. Anyways, we bonded and started to joke about our ongoing little talks. I was actually a little sad when my problem was finally resolved. My head does look a little fat in the picture though... I'm gonna send an email to my new friend and shoot the breeze. On that happy note, I'll take a break until next time when I finish the list and share the beauty of Russian peasants...

Friday, July 25, 2008

Early Morning Excitement (#1)

In a couple hours, the Coconut Conundrum will be driving with me over to The Director's house. I will meet up with the Acolyte and the Crimson Commando and the four of us will drive together to the airport (sadly the wife will be staying behind this year to spend time with her Mom and her friend Teresa from out of town). No actual games today, just travel, registration and settling in. I am feeling nostalgic this morning so I'm going to let my mind drift back over a couple comparable tournaments to this imminent scrabbleganza.

Way back in high school, when I was a hot shot young chess player, I attended an event in Tennessee called Super Nationals. It was "super" because the United States Chess Federation, or U.S.C.F., decided to hold a championship for all levels of scholastic chess at the same time and place. There were over 2,500 kids participating from first to twelfth grade. There were seemingly endless divisions. I think I was in 9th grade Division Two. This meant I was "only" directly competing against around two hundred other people. My rating put me near the top and I remember naively thinking "Well I only really need to worry about these four kids ahead of me". Of course ratings are only an approximation of ability and children are especially prone to variance in performance. I got off to a good start, winning my first several rounds. One by one, the kids rated in front of me suffered at least one loss. Around halfway through the tournament (round 5 out of 9, I think) I had pulled into first place. Lucky me, a news crew showed up at his point and decided to tape some of the "top boards" (the two top ranked players in a division playing each other). I was paired up against someone from my home state who I had actually played against before in previous tournaments and beaten both times. He was a pleasant enough guy, but his "style" of play was somehow both very boring and annoying to me. We got into a position that should have been a draw, but I did not want to suffer my first non-win and fall out of first place so I made a couple risky moves that wound up backfiring and I went on to lose my first game. I bounced back to win three and draw one after that, but I could not catch some of the people in the standings. Unfortunately, the kid I had lost to fell apart after our match and lost several games in the remaining rounds. When the last round was over I had finished fifth, right where I started. I was ahead of one person with the same record as me (because I had beat them head to head) but behind the other three with the same record (and the winner who only had wins and draws). It was an overall fun experience, but a little bittersweet, because I was pretty sure I could have done better. Who knows though? By losing when I did, I didn't have to play as difficult opposition until the last couple rounds then if I had kept winning and stayed in first. Incidentally, chess does have a national championship, but the one time I went, it was as a high school state champion and the forty something of us were kept in our own little bubble, separate from the main tournament hall and the thousand or so playing in the "main event".

Magic also has a national championship (one for each of around thirty countries actually), but it is invitation only. There are two ways to receive an invitation to these prestigious events. If you can get your rating to a certain level then you are automatically qualified. Last time I checked it was top 100 in the world if you wanted an invite to the U.S. Nationals. I got pretty close to this threshold (125th or so) but could not quite make it. The other option is to make the playoffs of a Regional tournament. Depending on the turnout, somewhere between one and eight people would qualify. Alaska and Montana, for instance, usually have less than 100 people at their regionals and so can only send one representative. New York, California, Ohio and a couple others regularly have more than 500 at theirs, so they get to send a full eight. I'm pretty sure I went to ffive regionals over the years and attendance ranged from 250 to 400. Only the largest one qualified a full eight people. My first regionals I only won one round and quit before the tournament was over. There was also one year when I just was not having fun and left to spend time with the Coconut Conundrum (who I should have been staying with in the first place) One year I came as close as possible without qualifying: 5th place when the top 4 got invitations. The other two were moderate successes where I won prizes and pretty much recouped my expenses. The question on my mind this morning is this: what will Scrabble Nationals be like? I am nowhere near the top of my division and am very jealous of The Director who is one of the favorites in her division. People keep telling me I am in a good spot to gain rating points, but I do not really care about that. Its not like I can cash my point in for a car or even a free meal somewhere. Hopefully, I can go an have a fun time. At least I will have friends there. The more I think about it though, the more I am sure of one thing. Having my duck with me will be nice, but I am not going to another ocean of scrabble insanity this big in the future without my smiley anchor of sanity the Coconut Conundrum herself.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Idle Speculation and Upset Tummy (#3?)

So its early Wednesday morning (and I mean early enough that non crazy people are still asleep). My health is still not that great and the big day is fast approaching. We leave Friday and the first round is Saturday morning. Hopefully I can shake this funk pretty soon. I know part of it is the heat. Some people get sick in winter. I feel invigorated by the cold and find it easier to think. The world is also most beautiful while covered in snow. Why I live in a place that hits 100 degrees on a regular basis is a source of much speculation by myself and others. I am currently leaning towards the "reincarnation after after being a jerk that fried ants with a magnifying glass" theory. Lucky me, the tournament is in "sunny" (as in it feels like you are being sucked into the sun) Orlando Florida. If anything, it will be even hotter there than here. I would ask for some cheese with my whine, but the thought of eating anything that did not come out of a freezer makes me nauseous right now. I guess since I'm complaining ( which is so different from what I normally post) I might as well get some other things off my chest as well (like this turtleneck sweater, what was I thinking?!?). So a directive/ threat has been issued by the scrabble nazis (scrazis? nabbles?) in charge of the event, that ALL competitors must bring boards to the events. You would think that half of them bringing boards would be enough, but maybe they are using different math than I am. If you and your competitor do not have a board then you both will receive a forfeit. Due to this fearmongering, (which is not near as much fun as fishmongering in my humble opinion) all sorts of doomsday scenarios are being tossed around.

"What if I bring my board and set it up at a table at the beginning of the day (the normal procedure) and then have to sit at a spot with no board? "

"I guess you go get your board from wherever you left it."
"What if people are playing on it?"

" I guess you ask one of them for a board. "

"What if neither of them have one?"

Everyone gets a forfeit, quits scrabble, joins an angry mob, takes over Seaworld and holds Shamoo hostage until their demands of sanity and/or frozen treats are met."

"Well at least there is a plan."

Seriously, I expect people to be carrying around their boards and constantly setting them up and packing them back up again now. Thanks for the paranoia and unnecessary delays nabbles.
I feel like we are at scrabble alert orange or something. Speaking of signs of the apocalypse, we are a couple of days away from the tournament and the registered number of players has been holding steady at 666 for around a week now. The deadline to enter has passed and so unless somebody drops at the last minute we will have an unholy event of epic proportions on our hands here. Of course all this could have been averted if Galen had agreed to come with us. More on this in a bit. I need to get some exercise walking while I can still go outside without having a stroke. Be back soon with a nickname for Galen and some thoughts on the pie person/people's identity.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Revisions and Updates (#6)

Ugh. I'm not doing so well today. The big day is coming up fast and I am cracking under the pressure like ......a big cracky thing (my imagination and the simile center of my brain also seem to be damaged). I have also learned an important health lesson I'd like to share with the younger readers (and those young at heart). Lead paint chips may taste delicious, but...... Hmm, I can't remember what I was going to say. I guess that's it then. Lead paint chips are delicious!
The mistress of deception and misdirection had an interesting comment to the last post that I feel deserves a response:

OpenID offlabeluse said...

I'd like to suggest a different nickname for Michael. "Danseuse" and "petite" are the feminine forms of the words, and in French the adjective follows the noun. Michael is most definitely a male. Michael is also very gentlemanly and kind to his opponents. So, how about "Le Danseur Gentil"?

And what about Lamar? He needs a nickname that indicates his sunny demeanor and his blinding intelligence. Something that reflects the fact that his sunny demeanor distracts his opponents from his blinding intelligence ...until it's too late!

Ok sorry about the wrong french forms. I am shocked, SHOCKED, that the free internet translation site, Babelfish, let me down here. I officially decree that his nickname shall be changed to Le Danseur Gentil, but only because I read it as Le Danseur Gerbil the first time I saw it. She is definitely right that Lamar needs a nickname also. I have not seen him recently, but certainly hope I do soon. As I said before, my wit is not up to even my normal subpar standards, but lets go with "Sunshine and Pain" for now. It makes him sound like he's two people and I am pretty sure he is twice as good as me. You can also make fun proclamations like: "The forecast for today's game calls for Sunshine.....and Pain!". Umm, maybe I'll try again later. My wife and patient supporter in all things scrabble has also "requested" a nickname and has kindly pointed out that she procured my scrabble duck in the first place and so theoretically is just as deserving as any other more "traditional" scrabble player previously listed. Since she was also nice enough to provide me with the nickname so I did not have to burn the precious few brain cells I have left, I happily acquiesced. So look out world for the "Coconut Conundrum". I'm not sure exactly what that means, but hopefully she can try explaining it to me again soon and with smaller words next time. Sorry for the small post people. Hopefully, once I fill up on some more delicious lead paint chips I will be properly fortified for a more proper post. Till then duckies!