After a brief hiatus The Raj is back! This time with a piece on Jeopardy! trivia show. More specifically about the amazing run of current champion Matt Amodio who has enjoyed a 33-game unbeaten streak so far. In a summer marked by turbulence Matt is exactly what the doctor ordered for the show. Amid a slew of different guest hosts and controversy about permanent host selection the champ has continued his serene run. With a 33rd win in yesterday’s televised game Matt surpassed James Holzhauer in # of wins in regular season. Moving into sole 2nd place is guaranteed to bring comparisons with the runs enjoyed by #1 Ken Jennings (74-game win streak) and James and will inevitably lead to debates about who is the best. What interests me more is their journey, their style of play and characteristics and other X-factor/s!
1) Similarities between Matt, James and Ken: Encyclopedic knowledge, high intelligence, exceptional memory, interest in broad range of topics, great ability to zero in on correct response by fast elimination, ruthless efficiency, mastery of the buzzer, immense stamina and killer instinct
2) Differences between Matt, James and Ken:One could say they have competed in different eras. When Ken had his incredible run it was before social media became omnipresent. In some ways his run could be compared to a sleeper hit with interest growing as he kept adding to his wins. Both and Alex Trebek were in their pomp at this time. Ken’s approach was traditional (typically starting with low value clues in a category) and cautious, minimizing risks for win. Wouldn’t be surprised if he had a checklist in his preparation, like an engineer
James’ era was pre-COVID and when social media had become all pervasive. So, more visibility and probably more pressure. This was during the time Alex Trebek in his post-cancer diagnosis phase soldiered on admirably without letting the pain show. The James approach can be described as shock and awe effect. Go straight for the big $ clues, relentlessly hunt for the Daily Double and bet it all for maximum gain. The effect was very demoralizing on the other players as he steamrolled them and pretty much locked up the win very early in the game
Matt’s approach is a combination of Ken+James. Similar to James in going for big $ clues early on, try to get the Daily Double and bet it all (in Jeopardy! round) while building up a huge lead. In Double Jeopardy! round, with a comfortable lead, the amount bet on Daily Double just enough to pad the lead (if got right) or not lose significantly (if got wrong). In that sense similar to Ken. He has also improved the process efficiency and cut down response time by starting his response with “What’s” whether referring to a place, person , movie or whatever. It will be interesting to see if in any of his games there have been any clues left on the board due to time limit getting reached. In one respect this run has been different to Ken and James’ in that there have been more than 5 hosts in Matt’s case while Ken and James only had Alex as host. Matt has been able to adjust to the different style and cadence of each host without any noticeable problem
3) The all important X-factor: The secret sauce!
Last but not the least is the X-factor, what Matt shares in common with The Raj Interestingly both of us worked for the same employer at one time! Matt and Raj were residents of the same town when Matt attended Graduate school for his 2nd Masters degree! From all appearances it seems Matt may also like to laugh heartily like Raj. Alright, that was more of an observation, no points credited. Other than that nothing in common between Matt and Raj
It seems Matt is proud of the fact, and rightfully, that his fellow contestants who have bit the dust so far have all thought he is a genuinely nice guy and impressed by his soft touch even while putting them away. Killing them with kindness Hooray for Midwest politeness!
To me it’s fun to watch his reaction when he wins. After the game his first reaction is always “Wow, can’t believe I won this game” with a genuine smile and a look of disbelief. It’s a look of pure, unalloyed delight. Akin to a kid having fun and making incredible money in the process. Are there any apparent weakness in Matt’s game? Not really as he is done well in pretty much all categories. Couple of things I have noticed though. In going after big $ clues and hunting for Daily Double/s if another player buzzes in quick and answers right a slight look of anxiety creeps in. Likewise some anxiety when a player has won more than half of money won by Matt before Final Jeopardy! The closest match I remember was his first win when he was up against a 2-time returning champion, and going into Final Jeopardy! both of them had ~ 20K with Matt having a bit more money than the returning champ. Both bet big and got it right and the difference boiled down to Matt having slightly more money to bet and beat the returning champ. Amusing to think the streak could very well have been a non-starter
How to beat the champ?
It’s actually simple. Against all bigtime champs you got to beat them at their own game. In other words take it to them. To do that will entail buzzing in quick, going for big $ clues, getting them right (to gain control of the board in terms of clue selection/game flow), hitting the Daily Doubles, betting big on those and getting them right. In short, a near perfect game! Suddenly it doesn’t sound simple, eh? I am guessing Matt will eventually lose to a player who has more than half his money before Final Jeopardy!, bets it all, comes up with correct answer while Matt gets it wrong.
Now, for the Final Jeopardy! clue in the category ‘Recent Phenoms’:
This person has won phenomenal amount of money, more than million $ and counting, in recent times on a popular trivia game once hosted by the legendary Alex Trebek.
Correct response: What’s Amodio?
Note: ‘Who is Matt Amodio?’ is also an acceptable response
“A writer should write what he has to say and not speak it” – Ernest Hemingway
At least one thing Ernest Hemingway and Earnest WritingMyWay, yours truly, have in common
Shivered in dread
Some are now dead
It did rain
Bullets it did rain
Many are now hurting
Nation is now grieving
Who knew arrival of spring
This is what it would bring
No way this is springing forward
We have stumbled and fallen backward
Fictional American United States (AUS) Inc an enterprise, formed over 240 years ago, is well known in its field. Over this period of time the enterprise, which has grown into a behemoth, has established a rich history of innovation, scaling and responding to the needs of its customer base. Thanks to its wide sphere of influence and its sometimes controversial methods, it has attracted, in equal measure, awe, respect, admiration, fear and hatred from friends, foes and competitors.
VxCine is the current flagship product of AUS Inc, designed to address the C-19 problem that has vexed researchers and people around the world in recent times. AUS Inc has two main divisions, GOP – responsible for sales and marketing and Dems – responsible for R&D, production and distribution. For Q4 2020 quarter AUS Inc, under stewardship of CEO from GOP division, reported $74 billion in sales and $81 billion in expenses. It’s the biggest loss in AUS history and under pressure from the public a new CEO, from Dems division, assumed leadership role as CEO in January’ 2021.
The unprecedented loss in Q4 2020 was attributed to quality issues with the VxCine product. The aggrieved GOP division has accused the Dems division of stealing a march and getting a raw deal. Per GOP division sources losses can be reversed quickly by budgeting more for sales and marketing and solving quality and production, distribution problems on the fly with emphasis on moving at warp speed. The Dems leadership, on the other hand, have advocated for a more deliberate approach by increasing investment in R&D, streamlining and standardizing production and distribution. Per Dems the problems with VxCine run deep and require both a short-term and long-term approach for restoring AUS to good health. For the short-term, the Dems want to target the highest priority VxCine problems with alacrity which they expect to act as a shot in the arm cutting down the losses and returning back to profitability relatively quickly. For the longer term the Dems’ fix will require a overhaul of production and distribution processes and more spending on R&D to strengthen the offering and ensure consistently high quality product. The Dems contend GOP approach will result in more problems getting reported and resources getting diverted from more important tasks and their own approach will be better for long term health of AUS Inc.
Both approaches have their own merits and drawbacks. Continuing with GOP approach would probably improve the top line while addressing the existing problems could act as a drag on the bottom line. The Dems proposal comes with a hefty price tag involving transformational change with risk of falling short if the plan does not work as expected. Dems say that’s needed for the long term viability and stability of the enterprise. AUS Inc finds itself at the crossroads of history. Remains to be seen how it all works out. The world is watching
2020 is firmly in the rear view mirror now. As difficult and challenging a year as any many have seen or experienced in their lifetime. This piece is not about the difficulties and miseries that were witnessed throughout the year. It’s about my positive, uplifting experience on the last day of 2020. Three to be specific and one more later in the afternoon yesterday that was like chocolate on top of cookie!
Wikipedia is my go to website when I seek information about people, process, events etc in one place. When I think of Wikipedia I feel it must be one of the foremost agile projects of all time. Self-organized and highly motivated volunteers add information all the time. Remarkably most of the information is accurate and if there is something incorrect or erroneous governance kicks in and corrections are made based on feedback received. For the past weeks when I landed on a Wikipedia page after a search I was greeted by plea from Wikimedia foundation to donate to their cause for keeping the effort running and available for free for the general public. Finally I donated a nominal amount yesterday.🙏
Then my thoughts turned to United Way, another not-for-profit organization for good causes. Mea culpa: I have got more out of United Way than I have contributed. Let me explain. I keep getting calls repeatedly from folks claiming to be from organizations representing cops and asking for money. I am appreciative of the good work by cops to ensure safety and security of citizens. But the calls I get appear to be from individuals of dubious value. In times past whenever I got a call my usual response went something polite like “We donate to United Way and would prefer to continue with it” before hanging up. Nowadays I just go “We are not interested. Thank you”. As I checked my Email it appears United Way read my thoughts about donating to their cause: Sure enough there was an Email! I donated a nominal amount.
In earlier posts I have lauded PBS (Public Broadcasting Service) as a favorite place for information and news. I consider PBS as equivalent of comfort food. When shows in other TV channels offer fare that is not appealing I check out PBS and many a times I have learned something from the documentaries and other shows they have on. I was thinking about PBS after donating to United Way. When I checked my personal Email lo and behold! there was Email from PBS too. Donated a nominal amount to PBS.
Hip hip hooray! Three cheers for Wikipedia, United Way and PBS. Three organizations that do good work and share useful information.
Later in the afternoon I got a text from next door neighbor who is a nice, retired lady. When there is a heavy snow I sometimes help out by blowing away snow from her driveway and sidewalk. Not a big deal and it’s the snowblower doing the hard work. Mind you she has helped out a few times by lending her lawn mower when has behaved like a recalcitrant teen and refused to start. I checked my text and she thanked me for taking care of her snow the day before. She is profusely thankful when I help and feels guilty that I do it for free. If not cash there are other ways of paying and she has found out the right one! On Christmas eve she gave us fresh, home-baked cookies that were just delicious. She offered to bake some more of the goodies and gave it to us. While that offer was like chocolate on top of a cookie and kinda unrefusable I wanted her not to go through the effort of making them just for us. That’s when “the wise one”, my wife, offered her take. Neighbor is thankful and wants to express her thanks, don’t refuse it. That’s all a sugar-craving dude, yours truly, needed to say yes.
For wisdom there is always wife!
P.S. Sorry for not donating to other good causes my friends and other organizations may have reached out for. I wish I were more generous and had donated to all. This year the focus has been on food banks
The third in the series of TV Series is Criminal Minds. For a few years when I was working out of state I used to regularly watch reruns of this crime procedural series on ION Television after returning from work. Criminal Minds featured FBI agents criminal profilers working for Behavioral Analysis Unit (BAU), based in Quantico. Local law enforcement agencies sought help from BAU agents for their specialized skills in tracking down criminals and bring them to justice. The criminals featured were not the garden variety, run-of-the-mill types easy to track down but generally involved people of above average intelligence who planned their kills with precision and took pride in their ability to get away with it. Many were serial killers and some of them would even leave some clues to taunt the investigators in a catch me if you can kind of dare. To add to the difficulty of the local police (where a particular crime took place) the crimes generally spanned multiple jurisdictions as they went on their crime spree. Which meant reaching out to the good folks of BAU for their expertise and help
The BAU team had a team with different areas of expertise that could piece together the pieces quickly and more efficiently due to their training and experience. Some of the team members were (Reference: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Criminal_Minds)
1) Jason Gideon, Senior Supervisory Special Agent and BAU unit chief when the series started. Gideon was widely known as the BAU’s best profiler. He had a special talent analyzing the crimes and delivering very accurate profile of the criminal/s based on evidence available. Unfortunately after a few years of deep involvement in solving crimes he suffered burnout and left the BAU.
2) David Rossi, Senior Supervisory Special Agent. Highly experienced profiler who worked at the BAU when it was originally formed, then took early retirement to write books and go on lecture tours about criminal analysis, and then returned to the unit after SSA Jason Gideon left the unit.
3) Aaron Hotchner, BAU unit chief and Senior Supervisory Special Agent for many years. This character was a bit stiff (not to my liking) but the kind of manager that has the back of his team and tries to ensure that the Agents reporting to him don’t take excessive risks or do things, in their zeal to bring justice, that could jeopardize investigations or relationship with local police.
4) Derek Morgan, Supervisory Special Agent. A bit of a hothead but with his heart in the right place. He was also often the muscle guy knocking down doors or chasing suspects as FBI agents closed in on their target/s.
5) Spencer Reid, Supervisory Special Agent. A genius with very high IQ and elephantine memory and a great capacity to absorb and understand information.
6) Jennifer “JJ” Jareau, BAU communications liaison and Supervisory Special Agent. JJ served as the communications liaison on the team to local police agencies initially, left the team on a promotion to Pentagon and then returned to the team as profiler.
7) Penelope Garcia, BAU technical analyst and BAU communications liaison. A colorful character, who was originally an underground hacker. Garcia joined the BAU to avoid jail sentence as the team thought her skills could be put to better use on the right side of law. She has a remarkable ability to hack into any system and get any information that the team needs
8) Emily Prentiss, Supervisory Special Agent and BAU Unit Chief after Aaron Hotchner left the post.
Typically an episode would start with a request from a local police department anywhere in the US for assistance in solving a crime. The team would meet quickly in a room, BAU chief would give a brief based on the information received, Penelope Garcia would have more details in astonishingly short time for the team and after a short meeting BAU chief would announce “Wheels up in 30”, meaning the team flying out in their unit’s airplane in 30 minutes! Upon arriving at the destination for investigation the team would set up office in double quick time, gather some details from the local police and the scene of crime trying to strike a delicate balance in order to not appear as overbearing while gathering facts. After the initial fact finding the team would hunker down, sift through the known facts and then deliver the most important first part of the investigation: Profile of the suspect/s to the local police! One funny part of this aspect was the uniform way the profile was delivered in each episode. Each member of the team would deliver a line about the profile developed by the team, always by turn. I used to be amused by it and think “Come on, man, it doesn’t have to be the same way all the time. It’s ok if some team members do not get equal speaking time always” Anyways the profile delivered would help narrow down the list of suspect considerably and go a long way in solving the crime!
What did I like about the series? The analysis aspect and problem solving approach. Start with a wide list, analyze the pattern, connect the dots and whittle down the list to a manageable number. Not unlike support of software defects or errors: Start with a list of likely causes, look for a pattern, discard from the list causes that do not fit and zero in on the root cause! Most times it involves painstaking work and the reward is when all the dots are connected. The other thing I liked is the sense of justice being served and closure for families of victims on knowing what happened to their loved ones and a knowledge that the perpetrators will be brought to justice
Among the things I learned watching Criminal Minds: “unsub” = unidentified subject (perpetrator of crime), the word zugzwang (used in one of the episodes) which means a situation in which the obligation to make a move in one’s turn is a serious, often decisive, disadvantage, more commonly used in chess, the term “eidetic memory” which refers to ability to recall an image from memory with high precision for a brief period after seeing it only once, and without using a mnemonic device. That kind of memory would certainly help in job interview or when appearing for tests/exams
RIP Sir Sean Connery
Exuding feline grace and the ferocity of a wild cat he brought a pizzazz to the role that was undeniable Haven’t read any of the Ian Fleming novels but it’s quite possible the franchise may be an instance of the movies being more entertaining and interesting than the novels. I think I have watched only Thunderball with Mr Connery as Bond and he had quite a presence and it’s understandable why he’s thought of so highly whenever there is discussion about the actors who have played Bond on the big screen. There was a mischievous glint in his eye when he played Indy’s father in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Mr Connery essayed other roles too with distinction. While I prefer my heroes among regular folks and think of James Bond character as more of the Brits trying to relive their glory days and imagining one of the own saving the world the films make for good entertainment if you can just suspend disbelief and enjoy the thrilling ride. Off and on I play and enjoy the title music and even as I am typing this post it’s playing on loop. The creator of Mr Bond character probably did not realize he had you in mind when he wrote his novels. You played the role as if you were to the manor born We have come a long way from the time “Dr. No” was filmed. This year “Dr., No” sounds more like anguished cry of a person diagnosed positive for coronavirus infection. The franchise has had a good run and IMHO it may be appropriate to draw the curtains on the franchise after the latest Bond movie is released, especially with the original Mr Bond passing away
Well played, Sir Sean Connery, you were one of a kind
The second in the series of TV Series is Jeopardy! , a favorite of trivia buffs. The show in its current avatar debuted in 1984 (Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeopardy! ) with Alex Trebek as the host. The original version aired in 1964 with a different host (and possibly different format) and continued in the 1970s. In its current version the show has 3 rounds: The Jeopardy! round, the Double Jeopardy! round and the Final Jeopardy!. The Jeopardy! round has one Daily Double and Double Jeopardy! has two Daily Doubles where the contestant who buzzes for the clue can bet a max of all their earnings till that point (or max $1000 or $2000 respectively if they have less than those amounts). In the Final Jeopardy!, open for all contestants who have positive earnings, they can again bet all their earnings. Goes without saying if a contestant gives wrong response he/she loses whatever they bet and gain the same amount to the final tally if the response is correct. In the first two rounds person buzzing in first for a clue gets first crack, if the response is wrong person who buzzed later gets their turn until the response is right or all who have buzzed in get a chance. It’s a fast moving quiz show with knowledge level of contestants pretty high.
Alex Trebek has been hosting the show since the mid-1980s and he is very popular deservedly. The kind of host who comes across as knowledgeable, well prepared, witty and classy without imposing himself 👌 It also helps he is fluent in multiple languages (English and French for sure, possibly Spanish too. Can’t say the same about his pronunciation of clues with Indian origin though 😆 ). In short, Trebek, who is 80 now, is a consummate professional. The announcer for the show is a spry/sprightly Johnny Gilbert who is a young 96 year old. His voice sounds like someone half his age 👏. The show enjoys cult following with some of the big winners in the show enjoying a big fan following too. Among the winners Ken Jennings, James Holzhauer, Brad Rutter have become household names for those who watch the show. The show has also spawned variations of the regular format targeted for specific contestants. ‘Tournament of Champions’, ‘Teen Tournament’, ‘College Championship’, ‘Teachers Tournament’, ‘Celebrity Jeopardy!’ are testament to the show’s enduring popularity. 👍
The three biggest winners of prize money in the show have been Ken Jennings, James Holzhauer and Brad Rutter. I don’t remember watching shows when Brad Rutter won in his initial run. I have seen him win in other tournaments subsequent to his Tournament of Champions win. When Ken Jennings went on his incredible 74 wins streak I watched some of the games. Apart from encyclopedic knowledge that kind of streak requires focus, buzzer timing and endurance of the highest order which is quite likely not going to be matched for a long time. I watched most of James Holzhauer wins during his run. That’s the advantage of working from home and when the show airs towards the end of work day (4:30pm-5pm). When his run was on I blocked my calendar on all days when the show was on. Work is important but for the 30 minutes the show was on at that time nothing else mattered 🤣 When James was winning astonishing amount of money in each game my favorite activity was capturing his winning amount and when my wife came home from work ask her the question “Can you guess how much James won today?” 😂 Another highlight was watching Ken and Brad take on IBM powered AI competitor Watson.
Having watched Jeopardy! since mid-1990s I have seen some amazing champions who have been dominant and crushing competition or win through sheer will against strong competition. I generally get a few clues right. The ones that I get right tend to be ones that are generic, not involving knowledge specific to America. Categories like “Before and After” I don’t even try guessing. In that context I could identify with 2010 Tournament of Champions winner Vijay Balse. An Indian American he generally wouldn’t even attempt clues in couple of categories (out of 6) but the other 4 he would do remarkably well. He won 4 games in the regular season. So, he wasn’t an automatic contestant in Tournament of Champions. He qualified by virtue of having quite a bit of money during his 4 wins. Did not see his Tournament of Champions win but I was amazed he won against what must have been very strong competition. Kudos to him for winning on his strengths. 👏
Among the things I like about the show is real time check by the judges in case a contestant gives a response that is initially deemed incorrect and then they find the response is acceptable. In such instances the contestant gets credited for correct response which is fair. 👍 Few things I wish were different. Whenever I see a round finish with a few clues not completed I feel bad if it is not due to delay by contestant/s. IMHO all clues should be covered to maximize the opportunity and prize money win. Other thing that I don’t really like is pickiness when it comes to acceptable response. 👎 For example if there is a slight mispronounce in response it’s deemed incorrect and contestant is penalized. A little bit of leeway should be provided. Also, the response is always expected to be in the form of a question and I think it is strictly enforced in Double Jeopardy! round which can be tough when a contestant has got it right but forgot to phrase it in the form of a question. But these are minor irritants and on the whole I enjoy the shows quite a bit. 👍 The one allowance that is allowed is incorrect spelling in Final Jeopardy! Possibly a nod to the falling standards in spelling in these autocorrect and spell checker powered times when people sometimes use “Your” and “You are” in Emails to mean the same 🤣 Among the interesting trivia I have learned watching the show couple come to mind: 7 eleven shops got their name because those shops used to be open from 7am to 11pm (don’t know if it is still true), The Great Smoky Mountains is the most visited National Park. If there is a clue “It’s the most popular trivia/quiz show” my response will be “What is Jeopardy!?” 🙂👍🙏