Monday, November 14, 2005

the test

Will a friend play Scrabble with me?

And how will they handle it when I paste them?

For that matter, how will I handle it?

There was a moment tonight where I seriously considered scaling back a little. I haven't known Java long; we'd just had a reasonably intense discussion about the difference between happiness and contentment and seeking right livelihood; I hadn't realized that while he reads voraciously, his spelling is very... phonetic. At one point I even joked, sort of, about easing up. Don't you ever hold back, he responded. Okay then.

I didn't tell him the story about playing against a group of guys from the dojo once, being the first up, and spelling "byronic" (all seven tiles+first player bonus=nobody else had the slightest chance).

None of them ever played against me again. I'm not sure Paramedic even spoke to me for a few days after that game. Which is awkward when two people are throwing each other around, doing joint locks, and so on.

Anyway. I have developed a theory about Scrabble players. I think there are basically two kinds (yes, I hate binaries, but they're so easy). Those who go for the most beautiful word regardless of points, and those who delight in wedging in letters in such a way that you get lots of shorter words, and a clotted, impassable mass somewhere on the board. I fall into the first category, my mother and Scrabble arch-nemesis the second. Oh, she goes for beautiful words, but she's also a much better counter than I am, and much more clever about using all the little spaces. My mother plays Scrabble the way she packs a box, come to think of it; everything is fit in quite neatly, and the box itself is much heavier than it looks. A sign, I think, of high spatial intelligence.

We played Scrabble a lot when I was growing up, my parents and I. Usually but not always Mom won. Sometimes Dad did. Depending on who you talk to, I didn't start winning until I went away to college. I like to tell the story of coming home the break after I'd declared a linguistics major and roundly trouncing my folks for the first time ever and Mom refusing to play with me after that, but she claims I'm making it up. Whatever the case, on the score sheets from the last few games I played with both my folks, when I'd gone home to help while Dad was sick, you can see where he got tired and we stopped, or he slept while Mom and I continued.

I've started playing online, because I burned out my software opponent, and that's kind of strange. Although it's possible to communicate with your opponent, I've only played one person who was willing to talk and play. Mostly there's not so much as a "hello" or "good play!". It's sort of like going to a sex club, really; you could talk to the other person, but why break stride to do so? But playing against another human, albeit a silent one, is more heartening than playing against a computer, which will always take its turn so fast that you start to feel like an idiot even if you're winning.

And in answer to the earlier question, Java came through fine. I wasn't playing all that well, from a numbers standpoint, but I still won by, well, a lot. And he was completely fine with that, said he'd want to play again, and then told me he'd teach me to play cribbage. Where he will doubtless get his revenge, because apparently cribbage is very numerical.

And I did manage to keep the bloodthirsty war cries to a minimum.

I'm learning.