stuff that has recently made me happy
if it makes you happy, it can’t be that bad…
Food: Flavored Triscuits
Triscuits are no longer just edible building material. The newer, tastier, infinitely addictivier flavors of Triscuit (Olive Oil & Fire Roasted Tomato is my current habit) guarantee that you’ll be eating the whole box during one commercial break, even though the crackers look like they’re made from recycled burlap sacks.
Nature: Fat Orange Cats
Every morning, my neighbor’s fat orange cat suns himself on my doormat. When I see him snoozing there, it makes me want to call in sick and loaf the rest of the day.
Hearing him say, “humans are such suckers” as I walk off to work doesn’t help. Well, he actually says, “meow meow meow suckers meow“, but we all know what he really means.
Nature: Stupid People
They make me feel smart. From DarwinAwards.com:
October 9, 2008
For several days Johannesburg office workers watched a demolition worker slowly chip away at a pillar supporting the concrete slab above him. One observer said, “I wondered how they would drop that section.” The walls were gone, and only the supporting pillars remained.
Dozens of observers watched the slow and senseless demolition proceed. Finally the only possible outcome concluded this epic battle. The besieged support collapsed, crushing man and machine beneath a pile of rubble. Ishmael Makone, 52, was killed instantly inside the cab of his mini-excavator.
“I cannot believe they did not forsee this,” said a shocked witness who did not forsee this. Observers said they had been concerned about the workers’ safety for several days. “There was no common sense.”
Every year I get a new Nike jacket which I then proceed to wear almost every day until it croaks. Nike’s jackets are awesome because they are lightweight, warm, and have lots of zippered pockets. Basically, they are perfect for the pool player who must travel via public transit or on foot.
This is where I get my yearly Nike jacket for waaay cheap. Total spiffness.
Stuff: Good Hair Day
Currently in progress, and if I had the power, you BET it would be a federal holiday.
Poll: The Silver Bullet
honesty is the best policy
have a donut with those grapes of wrath
stay healthy with a balanced diet
I played pool this past weekend.
Some of you may recall I played in a local/loco women’s eight-ball tournament not too long ago. To say that was an interesting experience would be a massive understatement. There was no conclusion to the tournament because, although I made it all the way through the losers’ bracket in twelve hours from my first-round match, I was not allowed to play the final match due to the fact that it was closing time (1:30 a.m.).
I had to split the first- and second-place prize money with Ginger, the ever-so-slightly less-than-affable lady who beat me in the first round.
I did not consider my finish a tie for first place as everyone else did, but rather a second-place finish since I had one loss and Ginger had no losses. If we had played the final match, I was confident I would have won both sets of the true double-elimination format. Of course, we will never know if that is what really would have happened, since this is all hypothetical.
To me, second place and last place are worth about the same as a vice presidency the way 32nd Vice President of the United States John Nance Garner put it: “not worth a bucket of warm piss.”
Time passes, seasons change, Daylight Savings Time wreaks havoc with our schedules for a day or three, and just five weeks later, the tournament came around once again.
Once again, I woke up early and took the bus to the pool room.
Once again, the tournament started an hour later than it was supposed to. I don’t blame the Tournament Director for waiting — at the supposed start time there were only four of us present. When the tournament began at almost 2:00 p.m., there were seven players entered. Last time, there had been twenty. Apparently, a lot of women had emailed TD that they were going to come and then didn’t show.
Such is life.
Before we started, TD told us there were changes to the tournament format. Last time, it had been races to five on the winners’ side, and races to three on the losers’ side. TD, despite our warnings, did not anticipate that the tournament would run so VERY long. He had changed the format in the middle of the last tournament to races to three on both sides. Then, a change to shorten the races yet again, this time to a single game, was proposed. I did not agree to the race to one and the race to three was kept. We still did not finish the tournament.
This time, the races were to three on the winners’ side and to two on the losers’ side. The loser-breaks format was still in effect. Due to the low turnout, TD decided a round-robin format of races to three would be a better idea than the usual double-elimination tournament and give us all a chance to play more pool.
In a round-robin format, each player plays every other player once. This is good. The element of luck seems reduced, given that all competitors face the same opponents, and a few bad performances don’t mean you can’t win or place high. Winning is based on your win-loss record, so losing twice doesn’t mean you are out of the running as it would in a double-elimination tournament.
Regardless of the tournament match format, a race to three is a very short race. The shorter the race, the less margin of error you have. In a race to five, two games make up 40% of the way to five games, and you must win three more. In a race to three, two games puts you at 66% and only one game away from winning. Each game is exponentially more valuable the shorter the race becomes. There is no room for error and so my primary mission for this tournament is not to win, but to hold everyone at zero.
For my first match, I drew Kabocha, the player I had knocked out hill-freaking-hill in the last tournament in order to advance to the finals. She had not been happy about her third-place finish by letting me know, in no uncertain terms, that she “gave” me the win.
This was mildly annoying.
While neither of us had played well, I did not feel that the match had come wrapped in paper with a big shiny bow. We both fought for the win and, in the end, I may have gotten lucky or toughed it out just a little bit more, but I would readily admit that it had been tough and had she won, I would have conceded that she was the better player that day.
I don’t know why some people always have a need to point out that you didn’t earn the win. They have so many reasons such as 1).”I was off my best game and gave you that win “, 2). “I don’t really care that much about this tournament”, and I have even had this reason presented for my consideration 3). “I knew you would feel bad about losing to me so I lost to you on purpose.” The sad part about #3 is, it was said behind my back and a hell of a lot of people believed the speaker. I didn’t believe it because money was involved in that match, but hey, who am I to turn down free money and good times?
As I have said before, Kabocha is a dangerous player because she plays well and she is confident — almost arrogant — in her own abilities, and she is not afraid to tell you what she thinks of you, your game, and how lucky you’re getting. This extreme confidence can be intimidating and makes her a very tough competitor. That is how I almost lost the previous match we played. Many, including myself, were interested in seeing whether I would handle this match differently.
Last time, Kabocha dressed casually, as did all the players. Today, she was dressed to the hilt in swishy black dress pants, bright multicolored silk blouse, stylish short-sleeve cardigan sweater, and most blindingly, dozens and dozens of crystal bangles that jingled like a herd of Christmas reindeer.
You could tell she meant business.
I won the toss and broke the first game. I made a ball and began to run out. The equipment quality had not changed since the last tournament and I used that knowledge to my advantage. To prevent the shots from rolling off on the unlevel table, I hit them all with a crisp, firm stroke. I mapped out patterns that required less use of the rails since the rails were unpredictable. I was very conservative with the cue ball, preferring to move it only a few inches at a time. I could tell I was playing much better than before. I missed a cut by just a hair and now, it was Kabocha’s turn.
Kabocha played with a forceful stroke and that proved to be her advantage last time. Because she hit all her shots fairly hard, they were less like to roll off. However, she would have to be much more accurate with her aim as the pockets were still fairly tight and if she didn’t hit dead center of the pocket, the balls often rattled or bounced out. She also sacrificed some cue ball control in favor of power. Kabocha ran a ball or two before hitting one shot a little too hard and rattling it. It wasn’t a terrible mistake, though, as the ball she rattled stayed in the jaws of the pocket, therby ensuring her an easy shot later. Furthermore, that rattled ball now blocked that pocket from three of my balls which sat very close to it. Satisfied that the situation looked grim for me, Kabocha strutted back to her seat.
And indeed, the situation was grim. Kabocha had left me a relatively routine cut up at the head of the table, but my last three balls were at the foot of the table and her ball blocked their closest pocket. I could hear Kabocha telling herself the situation was all right because I had no chance of making my last three balls. I surveyed the table and saw what Kabocha could not see.
I cut the open shot in and sent the cue ball off the side rail where it bounced down toward the foot rail. It hit the foot rail and rolled up a few inches from the blocked corner pocket. I made a mental note to sacrifice a chicken to the pool gods who made sure the dead rails didn’t f— up that shot. Kabocha was mystified as to why I sent the cue ball into such a crappy spot. Was I perhaps thinking of banking one of my balls in the side? But what shot would I have after that? The other lower corner pocket was also guarded by another of Kabocha’s balls — so what the hell was I doing? I had ended up almost exactly where I had wanted to be. To the random barbox banger, it seemed like I had no shot but to anyone who had spent any time at a quality pool room, the answer was obvious.
I lined up for a long, steep cut shot on one of my balls into the upper corner pocket. It was a low-percentage shot and even if I made it, there were still two balls in tough position. I shot with the stroke and speed I had seen the regulars in my pool room shoot this shot a thousand times.
The predominant game in my regular pool room is one-pocket. I have the benefit of watching this game being played by very capable players every time I stop in. I have seen the most amazing outs where a player has run several balls into the same pocket all the while maintaining precise cue ball control. I have watched Efren Reyes run fourteen balls into the same under four-inch pocket for a thousand dollars a game. Observing quality one-pocket has greatly expanded my knowledge of eight-ball.
The object ball was a thing of beauty as it traveled nine feet into the pocket. With such a steep cut, it was obvious that I was going to have to strike the cue ball quite firm and probably lose control of it. As I planned, the cue ball hit one of Kabocha’s object balls and stopped, leaving me another long cut on my next object ball. I shot that into the same uptable corner pocket as the last one. The cue ball bumped into yet another one of Kabocha’s object balls, repeating its acclaimed performance, and — ta-da! — I had a shot on my last object ball. That ball also went uptable into the same corner pocket as the rest, and afterwards, I had a nice shot on the eight-ball in the opposite side pocket.
Kabocha looked surprised. I do not think Kabocha saw that one-pocket style runout as a possibility. I do think she saw that I was not the same player she had almost beat a few weeks ago. But really, how much can a person’s game change in five weeks?
A f—ing lot.
Coincidentally (and hilariously), I won the next two games almost in identical fashion. In both games, she missed once, but her balls ended up blocking the easiest pockets for my balls and required me to position the cue ball on the short side to play the shots into much tougher pockets.
I won 3-0.
Shortly after the match was over, Kabocha declared to the room that she was leaving. TD quickly told her that it was a round-robin tournament, so she still had a chance to win because there were several more matches to be played. Kabocha replied, “I don’t need to be here. If I was at the top of my game y’all wouldn’t have a chance. I gots another tournament to go to where my friends are at.” Kabocha left and forfeited her other five matches.
TD asked me, “You didn’t do something to piss her off in the match, did you?”
“Nope.” I hadn’t said a word the entire time. I don’t like to talk. If you don’t open your mouth, you can’t stick a foot in it, y’know?
“I can’t imagine she’d just up and leave like that when the tournament’s only just started. That’s crazy! She’s a good player, too, and has a great chance of winning this tournament.”
“Well, maybe I did piss her off…”
“I knew it! What’d you do?!”
Oh Kabocha, we hardly knew ye.
I won this match 3-0.
This was to be my first tough match of the day. My opponent, we’ll name her DVF, was a former national eight-ball champion and played very well. We had played one game in a league match many years ago which I still remember fondly. We took probably a half-hour to play a single game of barbox eight-ball that featured some of the best kicks, kick-safes, and intentional fouls I have ever played. It had been a masterpiece of defensive eight-ball. I had blinked first, and lost, but I had learned much from that one game.
We both made uncharacteristic errors in the beginning of this match. I won the first game, lost the second, and lost the third. With the score at 2-1 in favor of my opponent, I broke and ran a very difficult fourth game to tie the score at 2-2. I lost the fifth game and DVF won, 3-2.
I really, really, really enjoyed playing this match. There is nothing better than to play a tough match with a good opponent who respects the game as much as you do.
I considered DVF to be the best player in the tournament. In her previous match, she had played Ginger who was a strong player, but not of the same caliber as DVF. DVF had probably won that match, and now, having beaten me, was the only undefeated player in the tournament. The remaining players were not even remotely close to DVF’s level and she would have no problems winning those matches.
It crossed my mind that I was now playing for second place, but I let go of the thought and concentrated instead on my initial mission: keep everyone at zero.
It was time to play Ginger.
Ginger, you might recall, had defeated me in the first round the last time we played in this tournament. In that match, she had repeatedly sharked me by talking, interrupting me at the table, and moving around. After my loss, I shook her hand, but she had been very ungracious about that, too. I had fought all the way back to the finals, but time constraints forced us to split instead of playing out the conclusion. And so, I left that tournament unsatisfied.
Ginger was also a former national eight-ball champion and she played well. This would be a tough match, and I looked forward to it. Ginger may not have looked forward to it — I could see the the bitterness in her angry little-boy face. I think she knew what I also knew — sharking only works once. This time, I was prepared.
She brought her cues over to the assigned table and I said quietly, “Tails.”
Ginger instantly threw up her hands and exploded in a rage. Arms raised, she spun around as she ranted, “Tails? FINE! HEADS, then! HEADS! What the heck is that supposed to mean anyways?” She began to talk louder and louder and walked off towards a corner of the room. “Will SOMEBODY give me a coin since she obviously thinks I have one and I don’t? Heads! Tails! What is all this? Ugh!”
I patiently waited out the minutes of this pointless melodramatic death scene worthy of the most terrible high-school production of Romeo and Juliet. When she was done waving her arms, demanding justice from her angry gods, and executing various figure-skating moves, she turned around to face me and the spectators who had simply stared and watched in silence. Our silence startled her. She looked at me and looked down to the cue I held which pointed at something on the table. It was a coin.
“Oh.” Ginger’s eyes narrowed. “Where did that come from?”
“It’s been there. I put it there for you before I said, ‘tails’.”
“Yeeeah… Would you like to flip the coin now, or shall I wait?”
“No, no, I can do that.”
“Thank you. Tails.”
I won the flip and broke the first game. I came just short of running out by getting bad position on the eight-ball and missing the resulting shot. The table was wide open and there was no reason a player of Ginger’s caliber would not run out. Unless that reason was missing the first shot and giving me a clear shot on the eight. I was mildly surprised, but took the first win without comment.
Ginger’s pre-match theatrics may have tired her out beyond recovery as I gave her some opportunities, but she seemed to shoot without thought. She did not fill this match with inane chatter as she did before and I appreciated this as she only shuts the f— up when she thinks she might not win. I also did not speak and thoroughly enjoyed the unfriendly silence.
When Ginger was racking the balls for the last game, I remembered something and before I could forget, I turned to TD and asked if he was still running a Sunday tournament as well. He answered that he was not, as the Sunday tournament did not draw enough people. I turned back to the table where Ginger was just waiting to bark, “I don’t talk when you’re playing!” I remembered how her mouth was on f—ing autopilot all the other times we played. I smiled sweetly at her in response.
Ginger continued growling and finally broke the rack. She broke very well and it was an open table that could easily be run out. There were no balls on the rail, no clusters, and the stripes were sitting absolutely perfect as most of them were just hanging in the pockets. Even if she missed, the way the solids were clustered together in the center of the table ensured I would have a very tough run out. Ginger started shooting the stripes.
As easy as the layout was, she surprisingly began to get out of line. She hit all the shots extremely hard even though the balls were all very close to pockets already. By the fifth ball, she had hooked herself. Ginger made a very, very nice kick on her nine-ball and left the cue ball and nine-ball in the jaws of the lower right corner pocket. “What an excellent kick!” I said. Ginger snorted.
All of my balls were clustered closely in the middle of the table and I only had one very difficult shot from where Ginger left the cue ball. I had to cut my object ball very thin into the opposite corner pocket. I could only hope it would not roll off course since I had to hit the ball rather gently to maintain control of the cue ball. As luck would have it, I made the ball and the cue ball softly collided with one of my clusters. The cluster broke up just enough to allow me another shot into the side pocket. One by one, I wove the cue ball in and out until I had shot all seven of my object balls into the side pockets. I got perfect on the eight-ball, and made it to shut Ginger out, 3-0.
Ginger is an anal-retentive stickler for sportsmanship. The last time we played, although I had shook her hand after my defeat and acknowledged her fine play, she had deemed it “not a real handshake” and had said I was rude for not giving her “a real handshake”. After this final eight-ball went down, she stomped off, totally ignoring the fact that I, too, might have looked forward to “a real handshake”.
This amused me.
People often have double-standards when it comes to sportsmanship. With me, I sometimes shake hands, I sometimes don’t. It doesn’t matter if I win or not, it just depends on how I’m feeling that day. I’m simply not a fan of physical contact. However, I don’t crucify my opponents if they don’t want shake my hand. Losing sucks enough as it is and I am not going to antagonize them further for something so small.
One of the spectators watched her storm off and remarked, “She doesn’t seem to like you very much.”
“She’s really nice to you if you’re not a good player,” I said. “She was nice to me a long time ago, but as I got better, she liked me less and less.”
“No,” I said. “That’s pool. But it’s okay — I’d rather be feared than loved.”
I won this match 3-0.
I had not seen this girl, let’s name her Gina, before. She had gotten to the pool room at the same time I did which was almost three hours before the tournament started. This was the very last match of the day, and it was only fitting that it should be between the people that had been there the longest.
Gina was a very rapid shooter, but her aim was very good. She hit all the balls with the same hard stroke and didn’t think much about position, but with her exceptional aim, she didn’t have to. I was beginning to feel tired so I knew I had to be very, very careful with how I played Gina. Given an open table, she could run out at any time.
I won the toss and broke the first game. The rack did not break apart very well and left many clusters. Using extreme patience and self-control, I played defensive shots until I had broken up the clusters and moved my balls into makeable positions. This was a lot harder than it sounds. Since Gina was such a good shotmaker, she would always go for shots, no matter how difficult. Since she hit them hard, when she missed, the cue ball and object ball would go flying and often rearranged the layout — and often not in a good way. I could spend several turns moving balls with surgical precision only to have her wipe it all out with one crazy smack. Finally, I won the first game.
Using the same extreme patience, I won the second game. The fatigue was beginning to get to me and I found it increasingly difficult to look for, and play, the right defensive shots. I was only one game away from winning 3-0, so I tried to pull everything I had together for the last game.
In the third game, Gina ran out to the eight-ball before I did. My last two object balls were in tough positions on the rails and I played safe time and again in an effort to move them. Finally, I got ball-in-hand. The last two balls were on the same rail and the run out was pretty straightforward. I made the first ball, but didn’t concentrate on the second ball, and missed it. The eight-ball was not an easy shot, but Gina stepped up and fired it in.
Arrgh! Stung by this, I said, “That’s it. This is unacceptable. No more poor play.” I racked the balls and when I broke, I smashed that rack open. Many balls flew past the headstring to the head of the table. It was a pretty phenomenal break, even by Super-Angry-Little-Asian-Girl standards.
Everything was wide open except one cluster of three balls down by the lower left corner pocket. There were two solids and one stripe in this cluster. I could shoot a solid ball that would allow the cue ball to break up that cluster. I immediately lined it up and shot it. I made the ball, but the cue ball did not hit the cluster as full as I liked and only one of the solids broke out. The other one remained stuck to the stripe.
This frustrated me.
That is a massive understatement.
Here I was, with a wide open table that I earned with probably the best break of the day. I had been completely in a position to run, run, run the f— out and I had messed it up with the first shot. And that shot had been the only shot to break up that cluster. Goddammit! I was angry, irritated, and the blood was rushing through me at hundreds of miles an hour. I was going to find a way to run out. I was completely in offense mode and I wanted to run out more than anything. I had to find a way to run out.
I looked at the uncooperative table, stared down a shot, wound up my stroke and hit…
…a dinky little safety.
It will always be in my blood and nature to want to be a shotmaking runout machine. There is nothing so fantastic as to pull off a spectacular shot from a position of certain defeat that takes you to ultimate victory. Sometimes, that shot just isn’t there and recognizing that it isn’t there is just as important, if not more so, than pulling off those spectacular shots. If you cannot attack, you must defend. I had no offensive shot available to me so I did the next best thing — make sure there was no good offensive shot available to Gina, either.
Gina tried a long bank and she hit it so hard it went up, down, back up, and on its way back down, it caromed off another ball into the pocket. Nifty! She ran a few more balls but was unable to break out that lone cluster. She eventually got to the point where that was her last ball and there was no way to make it. She tried to bank it somewhere, missed, and I ran out.
A 3-1 victory. Gah.
Afterwards, I said to Gina, “You shoot very well although you shoot very fast.”
Gina burst into laughter and said, “I don’t care about this tournament. I don’t even want to be here.”
“You don’t want to be here? Then why did you come?” I was very surprised. She had been here as early as I had been. Why would you come that early to a tournament and play the whole day if you didn’t care? “You could have left long ago.”
“My teacher made me play in this tournament.”
“Oh. That’s unfortunate. No one should make you play pool if you don’t want to play. You shoot well, even if you shoot really freakin’ fast.”
“Pfft.” Gina tossed her hair and rolled her eyes. “I don’t care. This whole thing is silly.”
“That is the only difference between you and me… “
At this point, TD came over to give me my prize money. It was for first place. “First? How did I get first place?”
“You had the best record out of all the players.”
“But I thought DVF was undefeated.”
“No, she lost to Ginger. That meant you, DVF, and Ginger all had one loss each. You were all tied regarding match wins and losses, so we calculated it by how many games you each won. You won your matches by bigger margins — you had a lot of 3-0 matches — so you win, overall.”
“I never bothered checking the scores to see who was in the lead… That was probably a good idea.”
“Whatever you did worked for you.”
And this, dear reader, is why you should ALWAYS focus on playing your best, first, and think about winning the tournament second. If I hadn’t made it my mission to hold everyone at zero, I would not have won.
I turned back to Gina. “As I was saying, that is the only difference between you and me.”
“What? That you shoot slower?”
“No, that I care. I cared about playing well in this tournament. That is why I won.”