Scrabble in the Snow: February Fury in Warren, MI

An "open" Scrabble tournament doesn't divide players into divisions by their rating. This means that the thousandth-something-highest player can end up playing one of the top players in the country. It means that Tina Totten King can end up playing a three-game match against "G.I. Joel" Sherman. This is no Cinderella story, though. I got whupped by Joel Sherman, and rightfully so.

That was last weekend. And despite having zero chance of winning even one of my first three games, that part wasn't so bad. The rest of the tournament, though, was downright dandy.

In what's become a common event, traveling to Michigan for a Scrabble tournament includes a short stopover in the Cleveland area to pick up friends. My usual traveling companions include Dallas Johnson, Pete Ziegler, and George Viebranz. This time we were joined by another Ohio Scrabble player, Kevin McCarthy. There're many advantages to doing things this way. First, it makes the last three-or-so hours of my ride much less lonely. Second, it almost guarantees the rest of the ride will be hee-larious. Them smart people are funny.

During the Warren tournament, I was invited to stay at the home of Steve and Joni Grob who live about 45 minutes from the tournament site. Steve is a good of many I've made in the Scrabble world. Steve's wife Joni is the type of woman other women want to be hang out with...friendly, kind, and smart. The Grob house is a warm, comfortable place and I felt right at home the whole time.

So, after my favorite pre-tournament breakfast on Saturday morning (egg and cheese on croissant from Burger King and a Mocha Joe), we got those three impossible games out of the way and started onward and upward toward the real potential for me that weekend. (By the way, those three games against Joel Sherman: 249-479, 216-550, and 365-461.) For the other 12 of my games, I went 7-and-5, winning three of the four three-game matches. My highest-scoring word: GROUSER (88) against Rob Long. My best game: 509-317 against Dianne Watson.

Having started as 31st seed, I finished in 21st place. For that, my rating went up 72 points!! Another, higher-rated player also finished 10 places above his seed, so the two of us split the $150 prize for that achievment.

And Steve Grob hit quite a stride that weekend. Faced with incredibly tough and talented opponents, Steve won the tournament and a very nice cash prize to go with the bragging rights. Jason Idalski, the tournament's spectacular director, gave a heartfelt, impromptu speech before handing over the envelope. Steve had kind words to say himself and even Joni Grob was able to make it for the prize ceremony.

As always, win-or-lose, traveling to Scrabble tournaments gives me the chance to see my friends, the chance to compete, and the chance to eat all the Pretzel Flipz I can find while laughing my way down the Interstate. The February Fury, though, definitely had some bonus material. It was a good tournament. It was a good weekend.

Oh, man. I've got to go study.

Top - My game against Joel Sherman. I'm the one with the glasses.
Middle - Jeff Clark and me at Saturday's typical group dinner.
Bottom - Jason Idalski reflects on a successful tournament as Steve Grob soaks up a little glory.

P.S. An extra special shout-out to Linda Hoggatt.
Without her, things just wouldn't be as much fun.

Animal Reflections

The last couple of days I've been reflecting upon humankind's protectiveness of animals. I'm speaking generally, of course. Obviously there are many people out there who aren't kind to animals at all and that kind of ties into what I'm saying. But the trouble we'll go to, even for a wild animal, is remarkable.

Last year, for instance, a black bear found its way into the river in Charleston. (It's not a stretch to imagine this situation because, although it's "downtown" Charleston, it's a relatively small, valley area and it's bordered by woodsy areas on all sides.) So while Black Bear is making his or her way to the river bank, the police come along and stop traffic so the bear can safely cross the road. I'm sure all involved were excited at the sight of a bear crossing the road in broad daylight and were happy to watch the bear climb the hill to safety. By the way, if you're city folk and can't imagine why people would be happy to see a bear headed into a woodsy neighborhood, black bears aren't like the bears of northwest United States. Unless in a highly-exceptional situation (like protecting a cub, being approached when wounded, etc.), a black bear tends to act kind of like a giant raccoon. They like to get into the trash, tear some stuff up, and usually run at the sight of a human. (The instances of black bear attacks are increasing with housing expansion but that's another story. The point is, don't try to make them your pet and it'll probably all work out fine.)

Here's the sad example I'll throw in the middle to kind of buffer it:

Yesterday I was turning onto Route 119 from Lucado Rd. and I saw, to my right, a deer which appeared bedded down right there in the gravel. I'll call it a "she" because of the relative sizes of the head and body...making it likely a female. I pulled over and called 9-1-1 and told them the deer was either injured or trapped (and freaked out) and that either way, help was needed. You might think a 9-1-1 operator would scoff at such a thing being classified as an emergency but he said he'd send someone (and by "someone" I knew he'd be calling the DNR's field unit). So as I sat and waited, the deer tried to get up and run away. Without going into graphic detail, it became clear that both of her front legs were broken. She made it to the other side of Lucado and collapsed at the hillside.

I realized that the deer could probably not be saved (because their front legs are very spindly and personality-wise they're not going to cooperate during healing) but I also realized that she didn't appear to be injured other than the front legs. I called 9-1-1 again and told them, for sure, what was wrong with the deer and that she probably needed euthanized because her injuries wouldn't provide a timely end to her suffering. (I didn't say it like that but instead spoke mostly in short phrases forced through tears.) And then I sat and waited, not wanting the deer to make it out of sight and not being able to simply drive off. (I was afraid she might make it far enough away to bed down and, therefore, suffer much longer.)

Many, many people stopped. Many had seen the deer on the side of the road and had come back around the neighborhood to check on her. Several stopped and asked if I had called, or to tell me they had called, 9-1-1 and to ask how the deer would be helped. People were very concerned about this animal even though the relationship between deer and humans is sometimes sketchy. (Deer will eat up your garden and your flowers and jump right out in front of your car...which can cause human injury, too, or thousands of dollars in damage to the vehicle.)

More time passed and the after-school traffic died down. I waited in my van across the road, about 20 feet from the deer. We both seemed resigned to the situation, and she stared at me and I stared at her and there we just sat and sat. About 45 minutes after I first saw the deer in the gravel, I saw the DNR officer's truck pulling around the turn. He told me he would either "put her down" or help her if he could. That was my signal to drive away and I did.

So the deer couldn't be helped, but it wasn't for people not caring...and it wasn't for people not being willing to help. Had it been possible, I'm positive someone would have had her in their Volvo SUV headed off to the emergency veterinary hospital just down the road.

And then there was the time the combination of roads and animals and people turned out to actually improve some lives. Just a few days ago, a small, confused Beagle wandered onto I-64 and became trapped...and terrified. Motorists stopped along this 60-to-70 MPH stretch of road to try and help the dog. They called 9-1-1 as the scared dog ran back and forth across the road. Somehow the Beagle escaped injury until police arrived. And what did the police do? I know you can guess. They stopped traffic on I-64. The dog took shelter under a truck where the police were able to grab it. Yesterday the Beagle's picture was on the front page of the newspaper and, of course, people were lined up to adopt it.

If you've watched Animal Police, or even just your local news show, you've probably seen the lengths we'll go to to save an injured or neglected animal. You've probably noticed some decently-harsh sentencing for people convicted of animal cruelty (even though some may consider it humans' place to reign over animals and treat them how they wish). So what does it say about society when so many of our members would spend so much time, so much effort, and so much money to help creatures they don't even "own"? And what is it about animals that cause us to get our protective backs up maybe even more than we would for the guy next door? I think it says our instinct is to protect those we feel are weaker. Or maybe its because animals live lives of relative innocence and they lack human sins. Food for thought, no matter what.

StuffI'mMovingFromMyMySpaceBlogBeforeIShutItDown: June 19, 2006 entry

We observe our heroine browsing through her old MySpace blog, checking it over for important tidbits she might not want to be lost when MySpace goes the way of glass eating, Wacky Wallwalkers, and the hi-top fade. Miraculously, she spots a blog entry of such high quality that she simply can't make that double-layer click-through then CATCHPA entry to finally see the entry deleted from 2007's favorite website.

Peering over our heroine's shoulder, we read...

June 19, 2006


One balmy summer night, I found myself on a train headed nowhere in particular. On that train, I met a man who made his living playing cards. It happened that we were both so exhausted we could not rest. Instead, we both stared out the window into the dark night. Eventually, we both tired of the monotony...of the silence...and the man started to talk.

He told me that he had built his career, even his existence, on studying other people's expressions. He could tell what cards they had by how they fixed their gaze. He said he hoped me didn't mind him saying as much, but he knew that I held no aces in my hand. In exchange for a drink of my Crown, he offered some guidance.

I passed the man my Crown, and he drank the last bit of it. He asked me for a cigarette (which struck me as odd since I don't smoke) and then he asked me for a lighter (which was even more odd considering I didn't give him a cigarette). Complete silence fell over the night and the man's face became expressionless. Then he told me, "If you're going to play cards, it's essential that you learn to do it right."

He said, "You've got to learn when to keep your cards and learn when to get rid of them." He said I'd have to know when to saunter away from the table, and when to race away. Then he told me to not ever add up my chips when I was seated at the table, because there would be plenty of time for that when the game was over. He said, "every card player learns the skill of staying alive in the game: recognizing which cards to throw out and which to hang on to." He went on to tell me that any hand could end up winning, and that any hand could end up losing. Mysteriously, he added that the most a card player could strive for was to depart this life while sleeping.

When he was done talking, he looked again to the window. He put out his cigarette (which I still have no idea where he got), and quietly nodded off. True to those cryptic words, sometime during that dark night, the card player met his goal. From his last words, I gained advice worth remembering. His words echoed in my head three more times.

Oh, sheesh.

The four-year-old just said (about me)..."Her shaked her head no." Her dad corrected her..."SHE shaked her head no."

I guess we should be glad his job is math-based.

StuffI'mMovingFromMyMySpaceBlogBeforeIShutItDown: November 20, 2006 entry

We observe our heroine browsing through her old MySpace blog, checking it over for important tidbits she might not want to be lost when MySpace goes the way of Trapper Keepers, the kangaroo ball, and guys with one earring. Miraculously, she spots a blog entry of such high quality that she simply can't make that double-layer click-through then CATCHPA entry to finally see the entry deleted from 2007's favorite website.


November 20, 2006

Super Feminize Me!

I was cleaning out a "catch all" file in my desk today and came across an article I had photocopied from Bust..magazine a year or two ago... It's a light-hearted look at what's fed to women by..society, the media, and other women, in fact, regarding what it is to be a woman... It cracked me up then and I was laughing out loud today reading it again... Enjoy.


The road to excess for the female sex

by Wendy McClure


Thanks to this year's gross-out documentary Super Size Me, we all know what happens when you eat nothing but McDonald's food for 30 days. ..Or rather, when a guy eats nothing but McDonald's for 30 days... We knew what would happen, and given the venerable male traditions of Jackass, Tom Green, and lad-mag beer-bong experiments, we knew it was gonna be disgusting. Still, a guy honking down Double Quarter Pounders at every meal is an exposé on American culture, whereas a woman honking down Double Quarter Pounders at every meal is either a.) in a TV movie about binge eating, or b.) Cameron Diaz. Belch! She's sexy! In other words, a woman couldn't have pulled a stunt like the one Morgan Spurlock did in Super Size Me and have it mean the same thing.

Then again, women have long known the effects of fast-food consumption. We've known, ever since we started reading YM at the age of 12 or so, that fast food totally makes your skin break out, and your prom dress too small, and that the nasty, icky, grody feeling you get inside after you break down and eat some fries at the food court thereby breaking your diet and ruining all your highly ambitious sophomore year makeover plans most definitely means McDonald's is bad bad bad! So that movie was not exactly news to us.

But what about the rest of the stuff that our culture feeds women? Are there other things out there that are bad for us when not taken in moderation-besides fast food, and also besides tanning, Diet Coke, cardio, ginkgo biloba, exfoliation, earth tones, accessorizing, flirting, spray-on butter flavor, highlights, carbs, cyber chats, lipliner, energy bars, conditioner, gossiping, fragrance layering, and vibrator use? There have got to be more things that women's magazines can warn us about, right? And if we're stupid enough that we need to be chastised for abusing salad dressing, then what the hell else might we be susceptible to? That's why I recruited a team of volunteers to investigate - ordinary women, like the ones on The Swan, only less, you know, dumpy. Each one would set out to over-consume an especially feminine pop culture offering and examine its physiological and psychological effects.

I knew there were dangers: after all, most of the girliest pop products out there are intended for occasional use only-as "indulgences," "escapes," "guilty pleasures," "treats," and "splurges," meant to give us girls a break from a world made of steel, made of stone. What would happen when these things were taken in decidedly non-"oh, just a little something" amounts?

My first volunteer, Cassandra L., read nothing but "chick lit" for 30 days, at the rate of approximately four and a half titles (256 pages average) a week. By day 11, she developed a bizarre tendency to fall down in high heels, especially in the presence of male employers and potential suitors, though by day 14 she began to carry a Marc Jacobs handbag, which she used to control her balance. By day 20, Cassandra needed special electromagnetic spectrum therapy to relieve the eyestrain caused by overexposure to the color pink on book jackets. By day 28, she slurred in a unique dialect that consisted of endearments like "crazy sweetie kitten" and weird British-isms like "naff." On her final day, she appeared disoriented as she stumbled up to the counter at a coffeeshop and tried to order something called a "cosmojito."

In order for Jennifer R. to peruse Playgirl every day for 30 days, five years' worth of back issues were needed to provide maximum muscular manpower. The effects set in as early as day six, when she went to her gym, glimpsed actual chest hair under a male patron's tank top, and began shrieking in terror. The routine physical examination at day 15 revealed she had developed an unusually strong right index finger as a result of hooking it through the belt-loops of male strangers whom she'd pull with considerable force into coat closets. She did this with great enthusiasm, though she reported having no idea what to do with them next, other than rip off their shirts and lick their pectoral muscles. By day 21, it was discovered that Jennifer's diet now consisted of only penis-shaped pasta, whipped cream, and chocolate sauce; it was at this point that she elected to end her portion of the experiment out of health and sanitary concerns.

Our third subject, Margaret P., was a fascinating case: she watched five TV movies a day for 30 days, a steady diet fed by channels such as Lifetime, Oxygen, and the Women's Entertainment network. She required intervention as early as day ten, after she began to frantically search for her baby in a supermarket. When well-meaning friends attempted to remind her that she never had a baby, she screamed, "That's just what you WANT me to believe, ISN'T IT?!"

Extra volunteers were called upon to provide in-home supervision for Margaret. This was difficult only for the three days she believed she was under house arrest for smuggling smack for her man; things went much more smoothly after day 17, when apparently she decided the women keeping an eye on her were fellow call-girls. On day 26, she turned to them and asked, "Which one of you bitches is my mother?" She then reportedly asked one of them if she could "sleep with danger."

Danger indeed, we decided. Do not try these experiments at home, girls. No, really, we're warning you - we're a magazine, after all, and we know what's good for you.

Black History Month: Read This Book

Black History Month is meant to celebrate the culture and achievement of African-Americans, to remember or discover significant events like the civil rights movement, and to acknowledge the icons who sparked change in American society. And the necessary backdrop to the celebration is remembering where we've been as a country. George Santayana said, "Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it." That's an interesting thought right now...especially since our country just elected our first African-American president. But to better understand where we are, we absolutely must remember how we got here.

And that's why I love this book -- Remembering Jim Crow. It's one of my favorites. It's not a book of stiff, academic history. It's not a contrived, over-the-top work heavy on rhetoric but short on objectivity. What it is is a collection of oral histories of people who lived during the Jim Crow era...including what you already know and what never would have occurred to you.

When reading Jim Crow, the parts I found most compelling were those where the interviewees talked about the very, very subtle facets of racism and the de facto rules of social subordination. These are the parts of America's history that aren't written in textbooks. Here's an excerpt from an interview with a man named Ralph Thompson, who grew up in Tennessee in the late 1930's and early 1940's:

[Parents] tried to keep you away from things that would be embarrassing when they couldn't fight back.
When you look back at it, you can tell why -- because they couldn't defend [us].
My daddy, if it was a white person around talking to him in some kind of business format, he would move away from us or tell us to go play or something. I guess it was to protect us from something that might be said to him that he wasn't able to defend.

The book also gives us some glimpses of the subtle but real pressures put on white people in the segregated south:
I can remember at the drugstore, some evenings we would stop in there and get ice cream, and the pharmacist was real nice to us.
In this particular drugstore he didn't put any stools at his counter. When you look back, I guess he said I'll treat you as fair as I can and if I don't put the stools here, I don't have to worry about nobody sitting down. You get your ice cream. You have to move on.
Though often sad or even disgusting, this collection of stories will, at some point, lift you back up because you'll not only remember the downfalls, but see the future. Really...if you can make time to read one book this month, I give this one the highest marks and enthusiastically recommend it. Even if you don't have time to read the book right now, you can listen to parts of the interviews on the Internet at

StuffI'mMovingFromMyMySpaceBlogBeforeIShutItDown: August 14, 2007 entry

We observe our heroine browsing through her old MySpace blog, checking it over for important tidbits she might not want to be lost when MySpace goes the way of Hammer pants, Dorothy Hamil haircuts, and The Macarena. Miraculously, she spots a blog entry of such high quality that she simply can't make that double-layer click-through then CATCHPA entry to finally see the entry deleted from 2007's favorite website.

Peering over our heroine's shoulder, we read...

August 14, 2007

On the road again

Today I drove from Charleston to Union, West Virginia and then on to Roanoke, Virginia in an attempt to find a man that my firm wants to give tens of thousands of dollars. Actually, we're not giving it to him, more like holding it for him. He was a class member in a big class action involving mortgages and the case settled. He's my last missing class member and it is absolutely required that we find him. But he's a hard man to find.

Nonetheless, I don't mind a road trip too much. A four-hour drive is totally do-able. Sometimes I amuse myself with my observations and stream of consciousness. Here is some of what I thought about and saw in my four hours of driving today:

I am unable to hear the song Three Times a Lady without singing the chorus, out loud, as: "Unce...tice...fee tiiimmes a maadaayy." What can I say? As a child, The Little Rascals and Saturday Night Live were two of my favorite shows!

On the way through Lewisburg, I saw signs that said, "fair parking," and "no fair parking." I can't imagine that the "no fair parking" gets much business. Honesty in advertising is great but maybe they should just get out of the business.

Do you notice that, with every really good song that comes on the radio, or from your CD, or iPod or whatever, you turn up the radio? When the volume finally reaches its limits, it's a real downer. Then you're just stuck and your hearing is, of course, depleted and permanently damaged, so now you can barely hear your favorite song!!!!

When I get to a spot with bad radio reception, I either hook up the iPod or search for a CD. Today, I found a CD. It was a CD of love songs that someone had made me when he was overseas with the military. (Aawwww.) That reminds me of another time in the van...I found an unlabeled CD. I put it in and the first song was something really cool like Al Green or something. After that, Kung Foo Fighting. (Also cool, but odd.) After that, another really cool song. After that, the MoviePhone bit from Seinfeld (audio only...duh):

It was like a hilarious mystery!! The pattern went on like that for the whole great song, then something funny. I still don't know where it came from. Eric probably made it and then just forgot.

And perhaps the three sexiest songs in the entire universe are Crazy for You (Madonna), I'm on Fire (Bruce Springsteen), and Every Breath You Take (The Police). I mean, they're ssseexxxxy. Oh, yeah.... Excuse me for a second.

Ok. I'm back.

I have never driven down I-64 across Sandstone Mountain when it did not smell strongly of burning brakes. That stretch of road must be absolute hell on the truck drivers.

To the lady in the red Corolla: that white pick up truck with a yellow, flashing light in the middle of the grassy median is not, as you fear, a police officer in the wrong kind of vehicle and with the wrong color flashing lights. It is, in fact, a Division of Highways vehicle. There is absolutely no need to slam on your brakes. This causes me to slam on my brakes and annoys me greatly as you'd been playing the "I'm not going to use my cruise control" game with me for about 20 miles. Moreover, there is really, really, really no need to slow your speed down to 55 on the Interstate..cop or no cop. The speed limit is 70.

Somewhere just over the West Virginia border (in Virginia), I saw a tree with maybe 100 coffee cups nailed to it. They were all over the half of the tree that faces the road and went all the way to maybe 15 feet up the trunk. How cool! I wonder if it was Outsider Art or if someone hung their coffee cup on a spare nail one day (so they could carry a package from the mailbox, or a stray goat or something) and just thought it looked damned cool.

I saw this sign when entering the Interstate in Virginia:

I wonder what it means. I bet they don't like The Fonz.

If I ever accidentally leave my cell phone on after talking to someone and while I'm driving on a road trip, they'll be treated to a non-stop Karaoke-like, bad-singing fest like they've never heard before. In fact, if this ever happens when you and I are talking, you'd best just go ahead and try to disconnect the call. My singing voice could seriously break your phone otherwise.

And whatever happened to Eminem? I haven't heard anything new from him since before he remarried Kim and then sort of lost it.

When I got to the Monroe County Courthouse, I walked in and asked the first person I saw in the clerk's office if they knew the guy I was trying to find. They did (they always do in small towns) but they hadn't seen him for years. They gave me his daughter's phone number, though. This reminds me of walking into the Lawrence County, Ohio courthouse looking to find the birthmother of a client. (I had already found her I just needed to find her.) The first woman knew her and sort of knew where she lived. The second guy drew me a freaking map to her house!!! (Here's a nice tidbit: when I drove out to her house and talked to her, she was, of course, wary of me. She asked what her supposed son's name was and I told her, "Brian." Her face softened. She knew that was right. Her voice was very sad when she said, quite simply, "I never wanted to give him up...but my parents made me." She went on to explain that she had been so distraught and inconsolable that the social worker had broken the rules and told her her son's adoptive name.)

When you drive through very, very rural where cars don't come along but maybe once a minute on the road...and when you do pass someone coming the other direction, the proper and accepted etiquette is to raise your four fingers (on the hand nearest the window) in a sort of modified wave. Everyone does it and I love it!! Okay, this may only apply to West Virginia. I've noticed it now in Monroe County and Pocahontas County.

That is all.

A Short Burst of Reality

When I got out of my van today (on my way into Taylor Books to study), I grabbed some trash that had accumulated around the passenger seat of the van. The passenger seat of my van could also be known as my filing cabinet/pantry, by the way.

I found a half-full bag of Pretzel Flipz (my favorite snack) that was sealed tight but, based on the chunky feel of the bag, contained Pretzel Flipz that were all melted together. Disappointed at the loss of my beloved snacks, I tossed them in the sidewalk trash can along with empty cups that used to contain sweet tea.

Sitting here in the coffee shop at Taylor Books, I saw outside the window a clean, neatly dressed man (whom I know to live in a shelter) walking along at a decent clip. He paused at the trash can, retrieved the Pretzel Flipz bag from the top of the contents, opened it, and started munching on the chocolate, salty deliciousness. He continued along at his previous pace, still enjoying the snack.

Good for him. I feel wasteful...but I'm happy to have been given the opportunity to think about it.

Follllowww meeeee...

Ah, sweet winter. Sweet freezing cold, oppressive ice, and wet, wet snow...and dark days. It's not good for the soul, I think, to be this cold and to live in the dark for more than 10 or so hours.

So I've added about a third of the blogs I read to the "Blogs I Follow" tool on Google. I've got two sections to go but also a short attention span. Doing even more to open up these lines of communication and expression help deflect winter's harsh effects, though.

And right now, I've got one follower. Want to lighten and warm my world even more? Become one of my Stalkers and Lurkers. (That's a "follower" by the way. See lower right-hand corner of my blog.) If you follow me, I promise not to lead lemming style and never to offer you any special Kool-Aid.

Thank you for your support.

Facebook's 25 Things About Me

Since I'm still in transition mode (from working full-time-plus to graduate school and more household stuff), my head is still spinning a little and I've had no inspiration for writing.

This little "tag your friends" thing that's going around Facebook right now at least made me think a little about the type of subjects you'd write in a blog. It's similar to some of the things that were passed around on MySpace back during its peak popularity (before ultra cool people like me transitioned to Facebook).

So it's a good jumping off point to (hopefully) get back into communicating. Without further is my "25 Random Things About Me" entry on Facebook...complete with annotations:


1. I eat any single peanut M&M by biting off half the chocolate, eating the peanut, then eating the rest of the chocolate. (You should see how I eat a sandwich.)

2. I'm trying to find time in my schedule to study yoga, Scrabble, poker and Spanish. (OH YEAH...and graduate school stuff!)

3. I love to cook but always cook way too much. I don't want food for guests to run out!

4. I still haven't figured out anything I'm really, really great at. (Okay...don't ever challenge me to a game of Simon...but that's the only thing.)

5. I was born in eastern Kentucky but have shed any Kentucky accent by living in other places. (That's Pikeville, people. The home of Hillbilly Days. Yikes.)

6. My neck turns obviously bright red and blotchy if I have to speak in public.

7. Small, repetitive actions (like the "I'm crushing your head" thing) are like nails on a chalkboard to me.

8. I'm completely addicted to Altoids Smalls mints. I eat maybe 20 or more a day. (If I really like you, I'll still give you a box of them even though I really want them all for myself.)

9. In my younger life, I seriously considered careers in medicine and photography.

10. I still physically cringe when I think about mistakes I may have made years ago...not that they were so bad, just that I can't let those things go. (What's really great is the older I get, the more of these jewels I collect. Is NIYYCE!!)

11. I've been told by strangers or near strangers that I had a calming effect on them. It's one of the most flattering things I've ever heard. (And that makes me more confident in my new career goal of counselor.)

12. I never smiled without feeling self-conscious while growing up. I got braces when I was 19 and that's made a huge difference in my life. (I had a significant fang on one side.)

13. I love the TV shows Intervention, Dr. G. Medical Examiner, and Mythbusters.

14. I've watched the movie Braveheart at least 100 times. (Probably closer to 200 but I couldn't say "at least 200 times" with confidence. What can I say? It was a boring year and I'm somewhat obsessive. Obsessive. Obsessive.)

15. I can't function with any physical discomfort...which is why I'm addicted to those breath mints and to lip conditioner and why I wear loose clothes. (And why I carry dental floss, Band-Aids, eye drops, and nasal spray. If I ever get stuck on an island like Tom Hanks in Castaway, fuhgeddaboutit.)

16. I'm a night owl stuck in a daytime life. My ideal awake time would be from about 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 a.m.

17. I'd love to write a novel. (Like all first novels, it'd be a loosely-based autobiography with enough fiction included so I could also deny the facts if necessary.)

18. Given the right partner in conversation, I could converse in mostly movie quotes. (And I still believe the best, most classic to be, "Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?")

19. I love giant fireworks displays and have to be sitting directly under them or I'm totally bummed. I'll travel for hours and wait in the park all day to see good fireworks.

20. I also love giant roller coasters and will travel quite far for them, too. My number one favorite so far...the Top Thrill Dragster at Cedar Point. (It's the only time in my life I felt like I was flying.)

21. I tend to procrasti





The Good News From The Good Doctor

I have a great family doctor. She's just friendly and thorough and very caring. I'm not the only one who knows evidenced by the two-month wait to become an established patient. (Once you're established, though, sick visits are almost always same-day.)

About ten days before Christmas, a mole I'd had on my back for years suddenly went kind of crazy. Without going into too much detail, I'll say that it went through a lot of changes very fast and, in the end, just looked bad.

Then the last day of my job approached, and my health insurance coverage was, for a time, not guaranteed. In a bit of a last-minute panic, I called my doctor's office on the morning of New Year's Eve and talked to them about the mole. A few hours later, the good doctor was conducting a small, in-office surgery removing a nice-sized chunk of my back, making sure the mole was completely removed along with a decent margin around it. About 20 minutes (and 8 stitches) after that, I was on my way.

Wednesday of this week, I went back in to have my stitches removed and found out that, instead of a potentially-nasty skin cancer, I had had a small, irritated hemangioma. Lucky me!! (Seriously...I'm not being sarcastic.) Moreover, although hemangiomas can be quite aggressive (and difficult to remove because of their high blood flow), the margins of my excision were "clean" meaning that crazy clump of blood vessels is likely done with forever.

Is niice!

New Year, New Scrabble Rating

A long time ago, I learned that one of the best things about going to Scrabble tournaments was traveling with friends. Most of the time, if I'm not traveling alone, I'm going to tournaments with my friends from the local club (Martha, Brad, Lisa, and Chris). Late last year, I had the idea to start venturing out a little further, riding to the Cleveland area and then carpooling to tournaments in Michigan or Canada with my friends who live there.

So these trips are basically the most fun things ever. Them smart people are funny...and right in line with my own twisted, sometimes perverse, sense of humor. Toward the end of the ride to Canada, it broke down to energy drinks and the "that's what she said" game.

And this last weekend marked my first Scrabble tournament trip of the 2009 (non-2008 Whirlwind Scrabble Tour) season. I had an easy drive to Cleveland where I met up with George and Pete...then on to Fenton, Michigan for a weekend of Scrabble that was, technically, separate tournaments on Saturday and Sunday.

Although I didn't win very many games either way, I won just enough to get a very decent rating increase (from 895 to 931). Sunday was a little hard emotionally, though. That tournament was what's called an "open" so players aren't divided into divisions based on their ranking. Even though I was being beaten by players much better than me, eventually just losing over and over becomes somewhat disheartening. The day ended with a win, though, which always helps.

Of course, Saturday night had the usual poker tournament, backgammon games, and drinks. Not to brag or anything, but after I was eliminated from the poker tournament I put together this quick sketch of the after-hours games:

NEXT...the Eastern Championship in Charlotte, NC. Until's study time, baby.