02 November, 2012

Scrabble strategy

I have played a lot of online scrabble. It's a bit of a pride for me, albeit a rather unimportant one. Over the years, I have learned a few tricks that have made me a decent player. I could be a better player if my vocabulary were greater than it is. But tricks of the game can actually help a lot. And I will share some of them with you here, now:

  1. Know all the two-letter words. This enables you to build 2 or more words on almost every turn. Don't bother learning what they mean, or using them in a sentence. Because nobody is going to ask you. They're just going to think you are really smart.

  2. Never set someone up for a triple, unless you're playing a 7-letter word, or something worth at least 40 points, or you're ahead by at least a hundred points. The math of this is simple. Even if you have a good word, how many points is your opponent going to get on their next turn? Because your "net points" is how many you got minus how many you gave them with your reckless play.

  3. The one exception is if there is already a triple available on the board, but you can't play on it. Then, setting up a triple is a good idea, because you're increasing your chances of being able to play on one of the triples on your next turn. Of course, if this situation occurs, it is probably because your opponent is unaware of Rule #2, and set you up, in which case, they might not even notice either triple!

  4. Always know how many S and Blank are left. If there are no S or Blank left in the bag, then you can take advantage of this, e.g. you can make a word that ends one space from edge of the board without worrying about the other person adding an S to play a triple across the edge of the board. The same is true about being careful for words that could have a Y stuck on the end. As shitty as Y is, you shouldn't forget about that little detail.

  5. Always know when the J, Q, Z, X are gone. The game is dramatically changed in terms of how risky you can be. A 30 point lead when these letters are gone is much safer than when they are sitting out there unplayed.

  6. If you have completely garbage letters, make the decision quickly as to whether you're going to do an exchange, or try to play your way through it. Don't dawdle on it, and have multiple bad turns, and then end up exchanging anyway. Regarding exchanging, it's best to do it early when you're ahead by a good amount, or very late when it's a close game, since you have an opportunity to be serving up your crap letters back into the bag for your opponent to take.

  7. Try your best to maximize points out of the J, Q, X, Z, even if it means sitting on them for a couple of turns. These letters are your ticket to big gains. Don't play XU for 9 points. And don't ask me what XU means.

  8. Don't underestimate K since it's the next best letter after the big 4. 

  9. If you have 2 blanks, you should be making a 7-letter word at least 90% of the time. No excuses. It's there if you look hard enough, or sit on the blanks until you can, since it's guarantee of 50+ points. If you're behind by a bunch, and you get 2 blanks, it can be a good time to exchange almost everything but the blanks to increase the odds.

  10. If you have ING, consider sitting on it for a bit, because you essentially just need a 4-letter word in front of it for a 7-letter play, and that's one of the easiest ways to achieve it.

  11. Corollary #1 to the ING rule: Be careful how long you sit on that ING, especially if you see the game slipping away from you. There comes a time where you need to cut your losses. Think like a smart gambler, not a gambling addict.

  12. Corollary #2 to the ING rule: If you have an ING, don't neglect to look at other possible 7-letter words in your tray that do not exploit the ING ending. There can be a tendency to be blind to these. Example: INSIGNIA (with a letter already on the board). If you're mentally locked into XXXXING, you'll miss that kind of play.

  13. If you have some subset of ING, e.g. IN, IG, NG, consider sparing those letters unless there's a really big play using them. Because these are three relatively frequently occurring letters (especially the I and the N) and if you get all three, see above.

  14. Always look for any kind of common suffix/prefix, e.g. UN-XXXXX, XXXXX-ER, XXXX-IER, XXXXX-ED, XXXX-INE, XXXX-ANE, XXXX-IAN, XXXX-ION, etc.

  15. Don't forget to consider biology or chemistry words. These tend to involve certain letter combinations,  some of which are those suffixes mentioned above. But if you're blind to common words, mull over the science terms before giving up on a 7-letter word.

  16. Try not to get screwed by V, C, Y. These are the shittiest letters in the world. If you have all three of them, kill yourself. Unless you can spell VICEROY, in which case, good for you. The reason V and C suck particularly is that they are unable to produce any 2-letter words. They are useless.

  17. M is the only letter that can make every possible 2-letter word. MA, ME, MI, MO, MU, MY, HM. These are all words. That kicks ass. N and B are pretty good too. And H is nice because you can do HA, HE, HI, HO, HM, SH. Of all these letters, H is the best because it's worth 4 points, and it's in a lot of words, and plays well next to vowels and consonants (TH, SH, CH, PH, RH).

  18. Don't play a move when tired. I learn this lesson again and again. The hard way. Serious. It's worse than driving drunk. Ok maybe not that bad.

  19. If you play random opponents, never play a game against someone who has a much lower rating than you. Always take a game with someone with much higher rating. If ratings are close look at things like frequency of bingos. Good to play people who have lower bingo rate since you have less volatility in your odds. Playing people with lower rating has lots of downside risk and big damage to your rating if you lose. The flip is true of higher rating. Big bump to rating if you win and little damage if you lose.

That should be enough to get you started. Anything more, and you'll be beating me.

He said he was going to kill her... and... he did

More unpleasant reality. This guy has been arrested, and convicted for domestic abuse. Not once. Not twice. But fifteen times. Most recently, he was jailed for 9 months for threatening to kill his girlfriend. And when he got out of jail, guess what he did?

I'll give you a hint... it involves killing his girlfriend. Brutally.

I don't even know how the system could be modified to prevent this from occurring. What can we do? For one, I think it suggests that repeat offenders for this type of crime should be dealt with in a fashion that ensures that subsequent offenses are not possible. I don't know what that means. It's clear that the guy was not "corrected" in the correctional facility. That raises the topic of "What is happening in prisons?" Because, if it's not "rehabilitation," but merely "punishment" being referred to, euphemistically, as "correction," then it's not solving the problem. Letting someone out, after hardening them for 9 months, doesn't seem like much of a deterrent to repeat offense. Maybe I just don't understand our correction system well enough.

Perhaps someone who is s repeat offender should be released from jail with an automatic restraining order (perhaps he was), supplemented with a permanent ankle bracelet that tracks him, to ensure that he doesn't go anywhere near her residence or it triggers an alarm. Would she be willing to wear a similar bracelet that would alert her if he were within, say, a mile of her? Perhaps she would, if it could be the difference between living and dying. But we won't get to know the answer to that question.

If you've committed fifteen acts of domestic violence, it seems to me that you probably have given up some of your rights to privacy and freedom.

Armed with a pool cue

Today's enraging news involves yet another example of what could not possibly be deemed "necessary" or "justified" use of lethal force by the police.

This time, it's a drunk kid, with a pool cue, in front of his parents, being killed by deputies at point-blank range. For some reason, killing this guy was the only thing that occurred to the police officer. The article claims that the suspect was "about to swing at the officer's head." That's obviously what they need to say, to justify this use of force. Of course, the police can always justify use of force, because, well, they're the police. Don't fuck with the police, because they can shoot you if they want.

And the consequence of this unnecessary shooting? Probably a few weeks or months of paid vacation for the deputy.

You can spout off all the opposing viewpoints you want, to the effect of me not being in a position to judge whether the force was necessary. But it's pretty clear that the kid came out swinging at the deputies, because the deputies arrived at his place and he was drunk. Had there been no deputies, there would be no swinging. And the kid may be an asshole, and a criminal, but he had a pool cue, for Christ's sake. If you're a trained cop, go in there and take him down with a billy club, or maybe try your Taser more than once before you resort to pumping lead into someone. Or, even better? How about just back the fuck off and wait the kid out until he calms down. He wasn't going to start killing random people with his pool cue.

This was completely unnecessary.

Falls right in line with the other recent episodes in the news of police shooting a naked man, and a naked woman. Seriously. Naked. In the case of the boy, there was no weapon. In the case of the girl, there was a weapon, but the news stories have thus far failed to report what the weapon was (which would strongly suggest it was not a gun). Actually, further reading suggests that she was carrying an antique gun that belonged to her boyfriend, and was non-functioning. And she was insane.

When are we, as a society, going to make it a little harder for the police to get away with this shit?