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Jeff Ford's Journal
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Date:2008-07-25 13:51

"Brick walls are there for a reason. They are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. The brick walls are there to stop people who don't want it badly enough."

RIP Randy Pausch

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Date:2008-06-26 10:37
Subject:New attendance award level

I got my 1000th bridge masterpoint last night, granting the title "Silver Life Master". At my current rate it will be many years before I hit the next threshold. My only real remaining masterpoint goal is to never become a Platinum Life Master.

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Date:2008-06-18 08:53
Subject:Interesting bridge scores from last night's club game

On one hand last night declarer got the best possible trump break. Unfortunately for him that meant 4-4. Combined with a misunderstood SOS redouble, we collected 2800, my highest score to date.

On the last round we collected 650 twice. Normally this wouldn't be notable, but we were white both times. Five of a major doubled making and 3NT doubled with an overtrick. If only we'd defended something down 13 on the other board in the set.

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Date:2007-12-13 16:54
Subject:Know your opponents

I had a mildly interesting suit combination Tuesday evening:


I played the ace first, dropping the jack on my left. Is it correct to hook the 9?

This may seem like a restricted choice situation, but it's not. Well, it's not if your opponents are competent. Because a competent defender should play an honor from J10x on the A.

After thinking for a bit I correctly took the hook. In some sense this is an insult to the defender. Luckily if you judged them correctly they won't realize it. Of course if you judged them incorrectly they may laugh at you. :)

If you don't know what restricted choice is, it's the idea that in general it's more likely someone played a card because they had to, not because they chose to. So in this situation it's more likely they had to play the J from stiff J than that they chose to play it from J10. But if they might have also played it from J10x the calculation no longer works.

Edit: As pointed out below this analysis isn't right. Pretend it's K9x instead of K9xx.

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Date:2007-12-12 09:42
Subject:New York Times Crossword

Our local paper prints the New York Times crossword. Like all papers that syndicate the crossword, it's actually a six-week old crossword. Normally this doesn't matter, but this morning I realized the only way to make the puzzle make sense was if certain boxes had the entire word "TRICK" in them if read one direction and the entire word "TREAT" if read the other. Quite a clever trick (or is that treat?), and it would have been even more so had I worked it exactly six weeks ago when the NY Times first published it.

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Date:2007-11-29 11:22
Subject:German (?) games

So maybe there's at least one good reason to play Monopoly.

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Date:2007-10-30 09:22

Feel free to comment on the earlier auction if you think there's a mistake there. All of these are MPs playing 2/1.

1. NV vs. V, 1st
K10854 A1093 QJ Q10
1S - 2D; 2H - 3D; ?

2. V vs. NV, 1st
107532 Q8 2 A8543
P (P) 1C (1NT); ?

3. V vs. NV, 2nd
Q4 K1097652 Q93 Q
(P) P (2H) 3NT; (P) ?

4. NV vs. V, 2nd
KQ865 K K985 KJ3
(1H) 1S (4H) P; (P) ?

5. V vs. V, 1st
A52 KQ54 KQ832 Q
1D - 1H; ?

6. NV vs. NV, 4th
65 K76 AKJ65 1075
1C - 1D; 1NT - ?

(Edited to try to make the auctions clearer.)

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Date:2007-09-17 09:20

At some point I stopped reading the Wheel of Time series even though I enjoyed the early books immensely. The later books weren't as good, and as the series got longer and longer at some point I decided I was only interested in reading the rest if I could be sure that there was an ending. It brings me no pleasure to discover today that my worry was correct, as the Wheel of Time series will not be completed, at least not by its original author. RIP Robert Jordan.

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Date:2007-08-21 09:26

I've had some crazy auctions in my time at the bridge table, but never anything quite like this.

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Date:2007-08-14 10:07
Subject:Tichu Advice

From Board 2 Pieces

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Date:2007-08-09 09:19
Subject:Your call (the result)

MPs, NV vs. V, 4th seat
AKQ10x Jx xx 10xxx

(1NT) P (4H) ?

1NT is 15-17.
4H is to play.

For those who care, you catch partner with xxx xx AQxx AJxx, and everything's onside and all suits break. Yes, the 4H bid was insane, so you were getting a top anyway by beating it two tricks with no one else in 4S. Thanks for the comments.

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Date:2007-08-08 10:01
Subject:Your call

MPs, NV vs. V, 4th seat
AKQ10x Jx xx 10xxx

(1NT) P (4H) ?

4H is to play.

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Date:2007-07-02 09:01
Subject:Number 7

jonobie and I celebrated our seventh wedding anniversary yesterday. As a present I created a diagramless crossword for her. While the clues and answers are somewhat personal, I was pleased with how the grid turned out:

The long across word in the middle was "ANNIVERSARIES". For those unfamiliar with diagramless puzzles, you are given standard crossword clues, but no grid, so you start from a blank piece of graph paper and must ascertain the grid. So the heart and the J+J emerged for Jonobie during the solving process.

We also ate for the first time at The Herbfarm in Woodinville. The restaurant's philosophy is to serve food and wine from the Pacific Northwest, with most of the herbs grown on site. The food was exquisite, including fresh salmon, an assortment of mushrooms, a crab flan, and a number of desserts. The most interesting part of the meal was a few sips of Madeira served with dessert. From 1910. It was sweet and smoky and a thousand other flavors all at once. It's hard to fully comprehend that I was drinking something that was bottled before my grandparents were born. I certainly don't have the patience to stow things away to let them improve for 100 years when they taste good already, but I'm glad someone else is more patient than me. (And I suppose they cheated since the island of Madeira is nowhere near the Pacific Northwest, but I'll forgive them for this and for the coffee.)

Most years on our anniversary we've managed to have amazing food, such that we think it won't be topped. I don't know whether it's that the memories dull with age, or whether we keep finding better restaurants, but somehow we seem to do better with each one. At the moment, though, I find it hard to believe that this one will be topped.

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Date:2007-04-19 09:53

Tomorrow is orange and maroon day.

We are Virginia Tech.

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Date:2007-03-20 09:56

I recently returned from a long weekend of bridge in St. Louis. Mostly I went to play in the Red Ribbon pairs with rupes. This is probably the most important event that is restricted to B-flight players. We played well, and finished fourth (out of 204 pairs), one spot ahead of where nickjong and I finished last year. We were actually in second place with two hands to go, so while fourth is nice, it could have been even better. We also won the morning side series event with sessions of 65% and 67%. This put us ahead of second place by nearly 17%. For actual bridge commentary check out the writeups by rupes.

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Date:2007-02-14 08:41
Subject:Microsoft Puzzle Hunt A: Atlantis

This weekend I participated in a Microsoft Puzzle Hunt for the first time. It was a blast to compete, and I enjoyed almost every minute of it. Our team did quite well, finishing 6th out of 76th teams, 12 of which "completed" the hunt. To complete the hunt you didn't have to solve all of the puzzles, but enough of them to solve the final puzzle which depended on their answers. The event ran from 10am Saturday until 7pm or so Sunday, but we actually finished a bit before 6am Sunday. This was fortuitous for me since I had a wedding to attend, and I'm sure I was a much better guest with sleep than without.

I also had a good hunt personally. There were 42 regular puzzles which led to 5 meta-puzzles which led to 1 final puzzle. By my count I made major contributions to 11 regular puzzles and 1 meta puzzle as well as medium contributions to 2 puzzles and minor contributions to 4 more. I also spent a very long time almost solving one puzzle that I'm still a little bitter about. I'm not sure how to best organize my thoughts from the event, so I'll go with rambling chronological.Collapse )

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Date:2006-12-11 19:08
Subject:A new score

I played in a sectional in Tacoma over the weekend. The pairs sessions weren't particularly good, including bidding a grand slam off a cashing ace. The Sunday Swiss went better, though. The standard format in this area is 8 matches of 7 boards, each of which is scored on a 20 point victory scale, so your score for the event will be something between 0 and 160. After the first four matches we had 40 points, exactly half of those possible putting us in the middle of the field of 42 teams. After lunch we won all four matches getting 67 of a possible 80 points, and putting us in a respectable third place. First had 110, a score we would have achieved with slightly different bidding on one board in the last match at the other table or different defense at ours.

But that's not the highlight. I held ♠AJ10xx Axx void ♣J10xxx in second seat. While pondering whether this was an IMP opener my right hand opponent opened 1, giving me an easy 2 Michaels bid. Partner asked my minor suit with 2NT, and I obliged with 3♣. This was doubled on my left and partner ran to 3. I passed this to my left hand opponent who doubled again. When this came around to me I decided that partner must have had a reason for asking my minor, so redoubled to show displeasure with the current contract. This would have been an easy decision at matchpoints where if we were in trouble worse trouble wouldn't matter a whole lot, but harder at IMPs where just because you're losing IMPs on the board doesn't mean you can't lose more. Partner passed this too, and my right hand opponent thought for a long while before passing it out. Partners 8 solid diamonds and my 2 aces gave us a redoubled overtrick, +840. He admitted later he'd been trying to get doubled, although never dreamed we'd get to play redoubled.

At the other table 3 was opened instead of 1, and my hand somehow found 3♠ over which the person with partner's hand bid 5. So, win 13.

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Date:2006-08-10 10:34
Subject:It's even worse than this in England

I suspect this will be spread widely soon, but no more drinks or toothpaste on airplanes.

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Date:2006-05-12 20:43

The more interesting my life is, the less I find the time to write about it here. I'll attempt to catch up on the last few months.

Most importantly I've finished my PhD and moved near Seattle to work for Microsoft. jonobie and I actually drove to Seattle about four weeks ago. We're living on Mercer Island in temporary housing while we look for a place, still undecided about whether to rent or buy. Last weekend I flew back to Austin for my final PhD defense. I was a bit worried when the computer with my slides for my presentation crashed during the flight and wouldn't reboot, but everything was okay upon landing. The presentation went well, and the question period was mercifully short. I turned in all of the paperwork the next day, and I officially graduate in a couple of weeks.

That weekend was also the Texas high school computer science state contest. It's in two parts, a written 40 question test that I wrote and a 2 hour programming contest that I helped judge. The contest went very smoothly which was a relief as last year we had to remove one question and rescore another one from the written test after calculating preliminary results. I've worked with the high school contest the last eight years, and while I'm not sure I'll miss writing the tests, I'll definitely miss participating in the state contest.

Thanks to my scheduling prowess and/or luck last weekend was also a sectional bridge tournament in Austin, so I spent Saturday and Sunday playing bridge. Saturday went reasonably well, and Sunday less so, but given that I hadn't played in a month I was happy to get in some games. Upon returning to Seattle I finally made it to the local Mercer Island club game and was shocked to wander into a 20 table game on a normal club night.

When I last played it was at the national tournament in Dallas. nickjong and I played quite well in the Red Ribbon Pairs, coming 5th in the country in the event. The Red Ribbon Pairs has both qualification requirements and masterpoint restrictions, essentially making it the premier event for players not in the top 5% nationally. We played a system that included 4 card majors, a 10-12 no trump range, and 5 card undisciplined weak 2s in all four suits, aptly named "Every Hand An Adventure". Although perfectly legal it apparently upset a large number of people as we had multiple directors at our table to look at our methods. Amusingly, near the end one came over and said, essentially, "I know you're not doing anything wrong, but someone else complained, so I needed to wander over here to satisfy them." I also played in three national events, making it to the second day of both the Silodor Open Pairs and the Rockwell Mixed Pairs. These events are not stratified, unlike most events, and about half the field makes it to the second day. Playing here I got to compete against multiple national champions, but I think I was most excited to meet Nick Straguzzi in the Red Ribbons. If you don't know who that is and you play bridge, go pick up The Principle of Restricted Talent.

I also recently attended the Gathering of Friends, a board game convention in Columbus, Ohio. Conveniently jonobie went to Ohio State, so in addition to the convention she gets to see college friends, and this year we also spent a few days with her parents. In previous years I've written more detailed reviews of what I played, but this year I'll simply recommend Thurn und Taxis and Um Krone und Kragen and anti-recommend Diablo.

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Date:2006-03-09 15:09
Subject:You might be a runner if ...
Mood: hungry

A) You think Clif Bars make good afternoon snacks and
B) You have them on hand

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