Jeopardy! – Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda!

Mattea Roach’s fantastic run on Jeopardy! trivia show came to an end in game aired yesterday (5/6/2022). I did not watch all the games Mattea played but I thoroughly enjoyed the games I watched. Reason being it was good to see a contestant show personality, be authentic, have fun and do extremely well. Rare it is to see vivacity on display on the show and Mattea brought loads of it while playing the game. Her playing style was conservative compared to more recent champions with long winning streaks in that the wager on Daily Doubles and Final Jeopardy! were typically to not lose much ground if the response was wrong or pad the lead a bit more if right. The game she lost I would argue that the primary reason for the loss was Mattea was not her authentic self while wagering on Final Jeopardy! Going into Final Jeopardy! Mattea had $19,200 and the eventual deserving winner Danielle Maurer had $11,400. Danielle’s best chance to win was to go for broke, bet it all, get it right and hope Mattea got it wrong. In that scenario if the outcome went Danielle’s way her winning amount would have been $22,800. The next best chance was to be a bit more conservative while taking a risk. The assumption in that choice is that the person with the lead would bet just enough to edge out the challenger (if the response is right) and lose less money if wrong in the hope that the wagered amount increases the chance of not losing. With the target of $22,800 to beat in mind Mattea wagered $3,601 to the $19,200 she had going in to ensure the final amount $22,801 would be unbeatable. Danielle, probably guessing right which way the returning champion would go and/or choosing to be conservative, bet $4,200. Why that amount? A $3,601 wrong bet with $19,200 in hand would reduce the final tally to $15,599 and a winning wager of $4,200 with $11,400 in hand would bump the final tally to $15,600! Which is how it unfolded!

Why do I think Mattea’s defeat was due to her not being her authentic self? The two factors that determine the final wager have to be the category (which is announced prior to the round so that the contestants can decide how much to wager based on their confidence in the category) and a player’s risk tolerance. The category was USA. Given the scores going into Final Jeopardy! round and given her conservative betting nature I think there were two safer options available for Mattea.

1) Bet nothing and retain $19,200 at the end. This would work if the challenger got the final response wrong or got it right but did not wager more than $8,000 to bridge the gap between $19,200 and $11,200.

2) The second safer option for Mattea would have been to wager one $ lesser than her wager of $3,601. In case she got her response right the worst-case scenario would have resulted in both players finishing in a tie with final tally of $22,800 forcing a tie-breaker. In that scenario I would rate the possibility of a 23-day returning champ winning against a first time challenger higher due to greater experience, buzzing speed and the confidence of having being there and done it all 23 times before.

I realize ultimately these are woulda, coulda, shoudas amounting to Monday morning quarterbacking and doesn’t take into consideration the fatigue that creeps in after playing 20+ games. It’s fun to imagine the possibilities though 😊

Permanent Daylight Savings

Proposed change came from Sunshine State
Was it based on actual sunshine state?
The right time say those in favor
Not the right time say those against
They point to the Sun
No wonder there is daylight betwixt!

Other animals must be bemused
Wondering if humans are confused,
Tinkering with time
Time after time
To save time and energy
That’s a lot of spent time and energy! 🙏

Final Jeopardy! category is ‘Recent Phenoms’…/tel…/jeopardy-matt-amodio.html

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 😁

The AUS Inc. conundrum

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 🙏

Three Cheers!

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 🙏

TV Series# 3: Criminal Minds

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:
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, first Bond on screen 🙏

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 🙏