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Wednesday, January 23rd, 2008
9:30 pm - Copyright?

If Scrabulous or ISC looked like the above, would it violate a Hasbro copyright?1 Discuss.

1 I'm not saying that, as currently designed, they do violate any copyright. See http://www.publicknowledge.org/node/1359 for further intelligent discussion on this topic.

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Monday, September 24th, 2007
4:31 pm - What exactly is allowed, and who says so?
Our friend Albert Hahn says: “I'm not even sure I favor a vote. Last time I suggested we simply allow Sowpods games to be rated rather than force all players to play to one word list or the other, if they want games rated. Of course this is something John Williams has said he will not allow.”


I have some questions.

Is anyone in charge? Who decides these things? People keep saying things like “no, don’t take it to a vote; just do such-and-such.” Who decides whether something should be voted on? It’s not a democracy; what the heck is it?

Read more...Collapse )

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Saturday, November 4th, 2006
12:42 am - The Mara Biog -- Chapter 8
This originally appeared on cgp a couple weeks ago, but I liked it well enough I'm immortalizing it here. Can you spot all the 'new' words?

It was 2007, or 2008 -- Jomon "Biggy" Mara did remember it was at one of the first NACGPAPC events -- that the big board covers first became tres "de rigueur". But this was getting ridiculous.

Jomon had been shambling down the convention center corridor, his head in his ebook. This was not, as those who saw him might have suspected, because of his mega-autism or mega-introversion, or any of his other megas, but rather a strategy for averting what would certainly have been bookoo akinesia accompanied by vomito, if he allowed the poxy hotel breakfast churning in his gut to combine with the paisley-Warhol-on-LSD pattern on the carpet. In other words, his breakfast panini *would* combine with the carpet. Not that it would be distinguishable from the design.

'But what's the diff?' he thought...Collapse )

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Monday, September 18th, 2006
3:26 pm - A club team game
What follows is one of the team games Mosaic played against Alyssa, Brian and KC ('ABK') at Chevy Chase last week. We chose this one because it had a number of interesting positions and because we managed a come-from-behind winning bingo outplay :)

Play the gameCollapse )

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Sunday, August 20th, 2006
10:13 pm - Mosaic
Rack 2 after bingoing: AACUUUY. We decide to play through with YUCA. Before we draw four to AUU, John remarks, "well, at least we can't draw two more U's."

Next rack: a, eye, ar, u, u, double-u, ex.

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9:33 pm - OWL2 Anamonics
There's a ton of anamonics that, as far as we know, have not been updated for OWL2; so we set up a quick and simple little Wiki at Verbalobe so anyone interested can participate with us in creating revised anamonics. We've done a few and a couple of others including hector31 and basophil have joined in.

If by chance you've created a bunch of revisions already, feel free to share them!

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Saturday, July 29th, 2006
8:57 am - More Two-Headed Monster
mosaic 327, imagined 545 - july 28 06

CCDLNOT to open

M: I almost say dump CDL
J: I would just keep CON... or COT... CON
M (types 'exchange CDLT'): CON? OK?
J: Yeah

New rack: CONNNEF

M: Of course. I kinda knew that would happen.
Read more...Collapse )

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Friday, July 21st, 2006
1:08 pm
Well, Mosaic decided to try keeping track of its two-headed thought processes during two ISC games last night. I (Marsh) jotted things down on a piece of notebook paper so that we wouldn't forget them.

I (Marsh) wish we hadn't done that.

To sum up, Mosaic kind of sucked last night. We managed to talk ourselves out of perfectly good words, including a four — and a six!, which Marsh is very embarrassed about, since Marsh thinks she is solid on sixes, and talk ourselves INTO two phony bingos which, thankfully, stayed on the board. We missed a new eight; no excuse, we knew it, just missed it.

Some very random thoughts:Collapse )

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Saturday, July 15th, 2006
4:53 pm - Top 10 reasons to adjust your pace
I wrote this for M a while back. We've had a number of earnest discussions about it since, and some of it was off-target for her specific case. But we think there's still some stuff here that could be interesting to others.

I was also reminded of this, particularly #7, while reading crosstables's entry on pruning trees.

Speed up your slowest moves

1. Trust...Collapse )

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Saturday, May 13th, 2006
11:12 am - jvp - heh
Game 13, BAT Premier, against Scott Appel, opening rack: BEGIINN.

I play BEING for 22.

Four turns later, I look down at my scoresheet (where I also record my leaves) and see:

    IN       BEING 22


Game 14, against Joe Edley. Sixth rack: DEGIIIN. I play ID for 28, and draw... BN. I know this rack!

But crap. It doesn't play. I play BITING for 11.

Two turns later I'm looking at the YA in the middle of the board and trying to remind myself what its hooks are. Oh yeah. YAG.

I won both games. Scott's comment when I told him all this: "Missing INBEING is working for you!"

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Monday, May 8th, 2006
2:34 pm - jvp - BAT 1
You'll never trust me again -- I promised to continue with more Albany commentary and then I let real life intervene. So instead of an ambitious tome on my BAT experience, I intend to sprinkle odd comments as they jell. (Mixed metaphors r Us.) Herewith the first.

I'm particularly interested in Joel S's, Kenji's, and others' views on 'true' expertness and the strata of ability that separate genuine 'top-five' players, perennial 1940-ish players, perennial 1880-ish players, and then those like myself who have just reached 1877 as a new career peak. For there are very distinct strata here, and as I think I have said before, I am only just good enough to recognize them, but not yet good enough to ascend them.

That's the truth, and I do not believe that my 10-10 result (gaining a few ratings points) in Premier really says anything much one way or the other about my ability. I had good luck and bad luck, and so did my opponents. In two of my wins, I benefited from a last-second error by my opponent, where the play I had made was itself a game-losing blunder.

It might be said I am especially well placed to look at these questions, since I won the "get into Premier" card by coming in 3rd in Div A the previous year. As it happens, I would have qualified anyway -- but that begs the question: with the absence of Kenji, Dave Koenig, Jere Mead, and a number of other top players, was this Premier degraded compared with prior years?

On the other hand, the bottom seed was Chris Cree, who is undoubtedly Premier material any day of the week.

Maybe the only conclusion is that the ratings list, in any given snapshot, has flaws and aberrations.

All that aside: I had a great time playing very tough players, and deeply appreciated the opportunity to do so. All 20 games, even the blow-outs, were hard-fought and interesting. Maybe players like Joel S (who lost to me by only a dozen or so despite my bingoing with both blanks) and Jason (who won comfortably despite mistakenly accepting my phony 4-to-make-5 hook) felt they were clearly competing against an 'inferior' player (inferior by several strata). I won't argue the point. I know what I know, and when I arrive at their level I'll be the first to assert it.

Next: some game positions; an example game where I play at a demonstrably un-Premier level; bingo lists and other stats; endgame blunders; some comments on the effect of the new wordlist; and more, I hope.

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Monday, May 1st, 2006
12:28 pm - Marsh - Not The Real Thing
So the Boston Area Tournament … is over. Thank goodness. My post about my tournament adventures will have a title like "Auuugh" or "Almost OUGUIYA Is Not Nearly As Good As Almost AEINRST" or even "Someone Called Me Perky When I Was At 2-6: A Search For Meaning". But coming up with titles is far more fun than facing those ugly tournament sheets, so the real post will have to wait until I have a little more mental health.

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Friday, January 27th, 2006
10:58 am - jvp - Hard-wired for Scrabble - but how?
After 11+ years of online crossword-game play, totaling something like 15,000 games, it should not be a surprise that certain cues -- particularly computer-interface cues that are verbally oriented -- immediately prompt in my brain an urge to play.

Any time I make a typo (which is often), at the instant that I backspace to correct it, some trigger deep in my hypocerebelluthalamus whispers ssscrabbble!

. . .

So why should it be, when I was flipping through channels last night and happened upon a view of the Australian Open like this one, that I heard that same whisper?

The mind is wonderful and scary instrument.

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Wednesday, January 18th, 2006
10:41 am - jvp - Our weekend
We felt as if we were the only Scrabble players in North America not at a tournament. ISC was either quiet, or down, so we got very few games in as Mosaic, and several of those against questionable opponents.

The theme of our online games -- and of one conversation with Muzjik -- was how willing one is to play questionable words (or perhaps even intentionally bluff) when facing players whom one suspects of (at the very least) playing with a dictionary in their lap.

[Some have estimated a minimum 100-pt ratings advantage to the player who merely uses the book to (a) check questionable words before playing, and thus never phonies, and to (b) check opponent's questionable words, and thus never either allows a phony or mischallenges. It is a truism that on average, even among players who have signed the Fair Play Agreement, phonies are played, allowed to stand, and/or good words mischallenged on ISC at significantly lower rates than occurs in clubs and tournaments.]

Mosaic forewent a play of MISCOPY, unsure whether it was good; and after admitted that in real life we would certainly have played it. Muzjik spoke of resolving to relax on this point (we'll see how long that lasts :-) and then of a bluff that paid off for him.

There are some straight players on ISC.

* * *

Partly because ISC was down for a day, and partly because of some time stuck in Carmax's waiting room, we got some RL jvp-marsh games in, and split 2-2. The theme of these games was the new word list! Which marsh is well ahead on, due to extra jousts at Jumbletime. In four games we saw two QI's, one ZA, and two ONO's. Marsh also made a lovely -E hook on MERGE.

We need LOTS more study and LOTS more play to begin to feel that we have internalized the new list (especially 2's, 3's and 3-to-make-4's) sufficient to be competitive. We think a lot of players underestimate the deeply ingrained foundation of the shorter words that in turn enables the very organic sense of board control crucial to the higher levels of the game.

The DO looms.

* * *

I'm reading le Carre's 'Absolute Friends.'

Le Carre's perennial motif is: yes, this is international espionage, but unlike 007 and most other hero adventurers of the genre, my spies are weak humans, caught in a web of moral ambiguity that is MORE complex, not less, for being spun around the grand themes of Communism, Capitalism, Democracy, etc. That just because the avowed causes are (propagandistically, to be sure) grand, pure, absolute battles of Good vs. Evil, doesn't mean that the players (from infantryman to head-of-state) aren't confused, limited, and inconsistent -- and, like the rest of us in all of 'regular' life, mostly unaware of exactly why they choose as they do.

This discussion returned us to the notion (in Scrabble) of how we view elite play and elite players, and how we respond when we see we have missed something 'obvious.'

We've noticed two important things: (1) the perfect game is almost mythic, and the perfect player is utterly mythic; everybody misses sometimes, and to compound the error by heaping abuse on one's own head sets back the next game, the next tourney, the whole learning process. Give yourself a break. (2) Did you do the right thing in place of the missed bingo? Every play should accomplish something, preferably many things -- position, rack-development, probabilistic reasoning, inference, bluff, offense, defense, etc. A whiff on a bingo rack will hurt less if you consistently apply yourself to the total game.

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Thursday, January 12th, 2006
4:33 pm - mosaic - Online vs. Real Life
Interface and Information

Of all the characteristics defining the difference between online and real-life play, interface and access to information are both the most constant, and most ineffable. This means we can describe them, but not explain them, specifically identify or measure them -- nor avoid them.

Furthermore, some of these factors are self-equalizing -- that is, they affect both players the same, and thus make little real difference competitively; but a surprising number have the potential...Collapse )

Next: Tile Draw and Randomization

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Wednesday, January 11th, 2006
1:14 am - john - Albany Preamble, Part 4

Three days before traveling to the Early Bird, I confronted what I considered to be the heart of the issue.

If indeed I was going to play the tournament, I sure as hell wasn't going to roll over and play dead. I told myself, "Even if it's true that you have deteriorated and are destined to become a 1450 patzer for life, you need -- you need -- a way to ensure that you can bring your best game to the table, every game, and focus on making your best play, every play."

It wasn't that I forbade myself from visualizing failure...Collapse )

Next: Albany, The Early Bird

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1:07 am - john - Albany Preamble, Part 3

See the theme? But in this game, what does mean anything?

I had to rediscover the answer to that; it was a work for me, and a work for Mosaic. This was a blending of attitudes as well as skills. I can best explain with an example: we're on ISC, we have our wine and the dog and several cats, we're down a bingo, and we draw...Collapse )

Next: Attitude

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1:00 am - john - Albany Preamble, Part 2
The treatment protocol for my scrabble ills was multidimensional. First, I had to learn and memorize a specific counterclaim for every bit of 'evidence' that I was hopeless. Second, I had to regain my desire. Third, I had to conjure some kind of an attitude that would carry me through 22 games in Albany no matter what happened.


Here is the gospel according to Marsh...Collapse )

Next: Desire

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Tuesday, January 10th, 2006
9:46 am - john - Albany Preamble, Part 1
My attitude toward Scrabble hit an all-time low in the weeks prior to Albany (New Year's). I was heard to say, "I shouldn't play this game," "I wonder if they'd let me play down," and "no way am I expert material." And this just months after coming in third in the BAT expert division (officially Division 2, after the Premier).

How did this come about, and how did I attempt to fix it?Collapse )

Next: The Cure

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Sunday, January 8th, 2006
8:53 pm - mosaic - Online vs. Real Life, Continued

Obviously, people play on ISC in a wide variety of settings, from a Starbucks to the beach to a quiet den to an office cubicle.

Tournament (and to a lesser degree, club) play takes place in relatively controlled...Collapse )

Next: Interface and Information

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