Packers High! πŸ˜‰

LOL … Looks like Aaron Rodgers and I share a passion for washing dishes! πŸ˜€ Don’t believe it? No worries, The Raj always has the receipts to prove it ( ) πŸ˜‚.
Hey Aaron, there have been quite a few lows this season for Packers team and fans 😒. The season could still end on a high I think. Could swing by Mr Rodgers neighborhood, we could go on a Ayahuasca trip and experience a Packers High! πŸ˜‰ What say? 🀣

Grand Master Lessons!

In the past few years chess engines have gotten so much better that it’s now well-nigh impossible for even top-level human grand masters (GM) to beat the most advanced chess engines. Processing power, AI and quick risk calculation all combine to make it a much more difficult job to take on the machines and emerge victorious. Having played Grand Master rated computer opponent in Scrabble I can now understand, to some extent, the frustration and empathize with the feelings of experts who get crushed by computer overlords. Below is my experience playing GM rated computer opponent in Scrabble.
1) My win loss ratio hovers between 1:6 and 1:7. Meaning, on an average I win once for every 7 or 8 games I play against the computer grand master. I am glad I am just an enthusiast playing for fun and not an expert playing for a living πŸ˜€
2) It’s been a very humbling experience, at times even humiliating 😒 when the virtual opponent goes on double-digit game winning spree, for sure. It’s like taking on a very powerful and talented opponent with instant access to the best resources πŸ™ The idea is to test oneself against the best and savor the occasional victory πŸ‘
3) I am not sure if the alphabet tiles for a player get selected randomly as it should be. Too many times I have ended up with all 7 tiles being vowels or all 7 tiles being consonants making me wonder if the intent is to load the dice even more against the humans intentionally. πŸ€”
4) Even when the opportunity presents itself to use all 7 tiles (and get 50 bonus points for that) the value of the tiles themselves are minimal reducing the benefits of 2/3 letter/word multipliers. In the left picture of this post, in one of the games, I managed to hit two 3 x Word multipliers (effectively 9 x word value) with the word ‘ORIENTAL’. Apart from the fact I had to use one blank piece (which can be used as substitute for any alphabet that fits a word) which does not have any value the rest of the tiles also had minimal value. Even if couple of tiles had more than minimal value the final outcome (right picture) might have been different πŸ€”
5) The computer opponent (of Grand Master rating) plays quite a negative game πŸ‘Žin the sense it’s always on the lookout for drying up opportunity for opponent to place on a value multiplier square. Maybe an extension of “Best defense wins championship” thinking on the board

Most times, when I am playing or the player/teams I support are playing, I believe that the player/team that plays better wins and the losing side just have to take it on the chin and get back stronger. There are times though when the virtual opponent sneaks in a high scoring word at the end and wins after trailing the entire game and leaving me shaking my head πŸ€¦β€β™€οΈin disbelief and mutter a word that rhymes with itch but starts with a ‘b’ 😑 No sexism there though, if the virtual opponent had been Joey instead of Zoey I probably would mutter a word that rhymes with dastard but starts with a ‘b’ πŸ˜‚. Actually dastard wouldn’t be a bad choice either. πŸ˜…

Bottom line: Biggest lesson learned is “It ain’t over till the petite lady stings!” πŸ˜ŠπŸ™

Jeopardy! Tournament of Champions: 2022! πŸ˜Š

The race is on to find Jeopardy! champion for 2022! πŸ‘
The Tournament of Champions started on Monday this week, hosted by Ken Jennings. It’s a multiple-week event featuring some of the biggest winners from the previous season. This year the excitement level is even higher as the tournament features many super-champs. Three of them (Amy Schneider, Matt Amodio, Mattea Roach) with 20+ wins in the regular season got a first-round bye in a nod to their impressive run earlier πŸ‘Œ. The first week couldn’t have had a better ending with Friday winner hitting Daily Double! in Double Jeopardy! round back-to-back, betting it all both times and getting it right! πŸ‘ The first time his score doubled from 5,800 to 11,600. When his next clue selection also happened to be a Daily Double and he announced his intent to make it again a “true daily double” the shock was evident in Ken’s face. By the time I collected my jaw that had dropped to the floor on hearing “true daily double” wager πŸ˜‚ the contestant, Eric Ahasic, got the response right and his score jumped to 23,200! It’s always fun to see contestants bet big, get it right and win big! It’s a tribute to the quality of other two contestants that the game did not turn out to be a runway for the champ before Final Jeopardy! round. πŸ‘
This year’s tournament may very well be historic in that it features a non-binary person, a transgender, a lesbian, a turbaned Sikh. Fun to see diversity when it results from inclusiveness instead of being in-your-face. πŸ‘ Kudos to Ken Jennings for doing good as host. πŸ‘ When he immediately followed as host after the legendary Alex Trebek he appeared stilted and a little awkward and Mayim Bialik appeared more at ease as the host. Some of it may have been due to emotions as he was close to Alex, some of it nerves stepping into the shoes of a legend and rest of it for trying to stick to the Alex way of hosting too much. In contrast Mayim appeared to be more at comfort in front of the camera. At this time Ken is better as host of the show than Mayim IMHO. What has changed? While Mayim appears to be solid professional Ken brings passion to the job. Whether consciously or through feedback from others Ken has been more Ken and less wannabe-Alex! That passion combined with other p’s (product, participants, presentation) combine for a great watch. πŸ‘ When Ken praises a contestant for responding correctly to a difficult clue it appears genuine. Staying true to himself also means he brings in his own sense of humor. Of course, sometimes it may land well, sometimes it may not (I should know that from personal experience 🀣). Also, some attributes that could have been a disadvantage actually turns out to be a blessing. Ken speaks fast which means when he is hosting all clues are covered in a game pretty much always! I am all for no clues left uncovered in a game and maximizing winning for the contestants. Hopefully the rest of the tournament is thrilling too that the participation of super-champs promises, with a memorable ending for the tournament. Can’t wait to see what is in store! πŸ˜ŠπŸ™

Tennis legend Roger Federer!

Tennis legend Roger Federer retired from professional tennis after playing his last match in Laver Cup couple of days ago, named after another living tennis legend of yore! πŸ‘πŸ™

In an amazing career spanning more than 2 decades he has left an indelible imprint with his style of play and raising the bar for success at the highest level πŸ‘ His game was characterized by athleticism, fluid grace and smooth strokes making it all look effortlessπŸ‘Œ In addition his fluency in expressing himself articulately in multiple languages and his fashion sense and sartorial choices made him the perfect advert for promoting the gameπŸ‘

He is like an adopted son at Wimbledon where he enjoyed the most success in Grand Slam tournaments. Known for stiff upper lip the Brits have not been shy of showing some emotion in the past two weeks with the passing away of their Queen and the King of Wimbledon announcing his move to the next phase of his life πŸ™

Let’s relive the moments of Roger Federer’s success at Wimbledon one more time.

Chair Umpire: Quiet please. Thank you!

Chair Umpire: Game, Set, Match, Championship – Roger Federer πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ™

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 😊

Another Jeopardy! streak!

Comeback for the ages!

That could be the fitting description for this Jeopardy! season. For a season that started disastrously with hosting announcement fiasco what has unfolded has been amazing. In a season which has already featured astonishing 38-win streak by Matt Amodio, 40-game win streak by Amy Schneider and almost forgotten 11-game game winning streak by Jonathan Fisher the newest sensation is Mattea Roach πŸ‘ŒThe young lady has been lighting up the scoring board and racking up big wins. As of Friday, 4/29, Roach has a 19-game winning streak on. Like other big winners of the show the 23-year old native of Canada has been absolutely dominating and it will be interesting to see how many more games she wins. She has an interesting personality too. Waving hands while speaking, thinking loud at times and showing emotion she has multiple tattoos and piercings too. What I like most is the look of total delight and disbelief in her smile after every win. Looks like a person who has far exceeded her own expectation and having a lot of fun while winning big. 😊 Would a genial Canadian young lady on a trivia show cause controversy? Alas. yes. ☹️

Some of the hardcore Jeopardy! fans can be a picky and prickly bunch with strong opinions about how a champion should play (eg. starting with low value clue in a category, finishing the category and then repeating the same in other categories; gestures and display of emotions etc.). From the games I have seen Mattea play what I see is youthful exuberance and genuine display of emotions when getting response right or wrong. Also a bit of impatience that comes with youth. In the most recently aired show one clue was “Two States in the US on the east and west coasts have their most populous cities with the same name”. The city name is Portland and the States are Maine and Oregon. In a hurry Mattea responded “What are Maine and Portland?” and then reacted as if she wanted to kick herself for making a silly error even while knowing the correct response. To me that seems like a natural reaction. In short she is somewhat quirky and kinda cute in the way she plays the game and reacts.

Ken Jennings has been quite good too as guest host of the show. πŸ‘ When he first started as a guest host last season he was filling in big shoes of a legend, appeared stiff and stilted and probably was trying too hard to be like Alex Trebek. In recent times he has been doing it his way, using some humor, supporting and encouraging the contestants and keeping the game moving smoothly. I have always believed seriousness and levity can co-exist if they are not mixed inappropriately. Yeah, there is a risk that sometimes the humor may not land well and fall flat or may be misunderstood. All is good if the intentions are noble or benign though. It’s better to be true to oneself and fail once in a while if the lessons learned are used to adapt at getting better.

There is also some concern about these long win streaks. Returning champions have the advantage of prior experience with the buzzer (signaling device) and familiarity with the cadence of the person hosting the game. I have thought of a simple solution for leveling the odds but that’s material for a different piece. Now it’s time in the sun for a young champion πŸ‘πŸ™

Guilty Pleasures Series: #3 – Sports

With March Madness in full swing and down to the Elite Eight it’s a good time to write about another guilty pleasure: Sports!

Sports at the highest level can be very entertaining, intriguing and interesting. I like sports played hard and fair. Sport at its very best showcases the very best in skill, talent, temperament, team spirit (if it’s a team sport) and the desire to excel. In addition it can teach life lessons about hard work, discipline, team spirit/working towards common goal, overcoming adversities, perseverance, persistence, giving one’s best effort and accepting the end result at the end of a fair contest. Sport can bring together fans from different walks of life in a way few human endeavors can. πŸ‘

Back in the mid to late 1990s when I first came to the USA I started following professional sports. It started with watching NBA basketball. The reason was simple. The goal is to score baskets! Not hard to follow even for a newbie. When I initially watched NFL football my first thought was “What’s the point about big, strong guys banging their heads and hurting themselves for what is in essence a trivial pursuit?” πŸ˜„ After I learned a bit about the rules watching the games on TV I have now become a convert and enjoy football games and appreciate the skills involved in playing the game. I could watch entire games earlier even during the regular season. Nowadays I rarely watch full games. Now it’s more about fitting the game between snacking sessions and doing other chores. Watching games without snacking is a no go 🀣 Me being a Wisconsinite the Milwaukee Bucks are my favorite basketball team and the Green Bay Packers in football. I also like the fact that the Packers are unique in that the team is owned by the town of Green Bay and it’s one of the most well known professional sports franchises in possibly the smallest town!

What do I feel guilty about watching sports?

1) Making it to the highest level in professional sports is very tough. To play well enough to make a full career out of it is even tougher. To achieve the pinnacle of success and to be able to sustain high level of play for a long time is the toughest. The career span of a sportsperson is short and in contact sports the risk of a career ending injury is just too high. While I enjoy a well executed offense or a well played defense it’s always difficult to watch a sportsperson limping off the field or being carted away due to an injury during play. ☹️

2) With the “winner take all” culture that is there it’s sad to see some sportspersons try to gain an edge by any means, fair or foul. Could be by taking banned substances or with dirty play or simply by needling opponents into making a stupid mistake and getting penalized for that. The superstars of course push the envelope secure in the knowledge the refs would give them more leeway as they bring is more fans to the games

3) Corporate culture has pervaded sports too in that the squeaky wheel always gets the grease. Good players who play with whatever cards they are dealt with and not making a noise are not surrounded by a good supporting cast to improve the chance of winning. If they make a noise and threaten to leave more effort and much more money is spent to keep them in the team. Just like an employee in an organization threatening to leave and then getting a big raise (for fear they may jump ship to work for a competitor). The cost gets passed on to the paying fans, the advertisers and the team sponsors whereas the cost would be less if valid concerns are addressed before they turn into full blown threats to leave. In some ways everyone supporting a team/sportsperson has some responsibility for this as chase for sporting glory justifies any associated cost. Such is life, such is business, such is sports. πŸ™

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. πŸ‘πŸ‘ 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 πŸ‘Œ
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 πŸ‘Œ
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 πŸ‘
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 πŸ˜‰ 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 πŸ˜‚

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! πŸ‘
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 πŸ˜†

How to beat the champ?
It’s actually simple. πŸ™‚ 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! πŸ˜… 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? πŸ™‚
Note: ‘Who is Matt Amodio?’ is also an acceptable response 😁