Yearly Archives: 2018

Forgive me Readers, it has been four months since my last confession.

I have mostly, not entirely, given up online Scrabble.  I recently engaged in a few games with a randomly-selected opponent named Nadine.  Thanks to lucky letters, I defeated Nadine two games in a row, scoring a record (for me) 525 points one game.  However, our third game was much closer — during the game, each of us played two seven-letter words and after eleven rounds (with my having passed on the first round) the score was 385-381.

We started Round 12 with no letters remaining in the bag.  I played WOO for 29 points.  Nadine played YWIS for 23.  I texted to Nadine on the sidebar chat how I would be sure to remember YWIS the next time I had a Y, W, I and a blank in my tray.  I don’t think Nadine appreciated my comment.  After I played VEE for 27 points, she quickly played GREED for 10 points, clearing her tray and ending the game.

I won our third game by 24 points.  Nadine has not asked for a rematch.

It seems some Scrabble players want to win so much that they sit down before games and memorize odd words like YWIS.  And other Scrabble players want to win so much that they consult anagram-finders during play, to see what can be done with their letter tray.  Who is to say what took place there?  And moreover, does it matter?

I really don’t want to know the answer.  It is just a game.  Getting the win is fun, but I am not a better person if I win or a worse person if I lose.  If YWIS (Your World Is Scrabble) then we have little in common.

I have always tried to enjoy my interests and hobbies without feeling that I have to be the best — or even very good — at them.  At times, this has led me to resent our culture of virtuosity, where only excellence is admired and anything less means that your rightful place is in the audience.

Imagine a world in which human creativity and intelligence are not stifled by poverty, racism, sexism and fundamentalism.  Imagine what might blossom, if everyone in the world had the wherewithal (as I do) to achieve even their most modest goals (as I try to).

I know this is getting old, as it feels old to me.  I am still working on my The Price is Right optimum-bid research paper.  Since my last post, I did more study and found more data, and those findings led me to revise half of my text and almost all of my graphs.  So my new goal is to submit my paper to the MDPI Games Journal by Thanksgiving.

I need to finish this vanity project so I can move forward with my other vanity projects.

I resigned this month as the editor of our homeowner-association directory, after eight years of way-overthinking it.  I had originally volunteered because I was tired of seeing stock photos on the cover of the directory — of course, my photos would be much better.  Like most volunteer work, it was a thankless task.   Well, a few people did say thanks over the years, cancelling out those who found something to complain about.

As I said, time to move forward with my other vanity projects.

Fall-color-season in the Pisgah Forest of North Carolina has arrived again.  Which means that local tourism is in full-swing.  I don’t really get it.  Around our place, the leaves turn a dull yellow, then a crispy brown, then they fall off (except for oaks, which hang onto their leaves until spring, requiring two fall cleanups).  The brilliantly-colored trees, the maples and red oaks, are not as abundant here as they are in Pennsylvania and points north.

I say to the great people of Georgia, South Carolina, Florida and Alabama, drive another eight hours to the north, especially to the Laurel Mountains of Pennsylvania, if you want to see some really unforgettable fall colors and help reduce traffic congestion in Asheville.

Apathy is Death -- Scene in Asheville NC, 2018I voted early.  Afterwards, I stuck my voting sticker on the rear-view mirror of my car.  It may be too much to hope that my quantum act of political will will make a large-scale difference, but you never know.  Like the Mega Millions lottery, you may only be one of 300 million but someone is going to win.  You folks who bought a lottery ticket and figured out how to spend that billion dollars, I invite you to take the same chance on voting — it is free and the payoff is much better.

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The participants in major league baseball’s 2018 World Series have now been decided.

The two teams that will vie for the championship are the Los Angeles Dodgers, whose team payroll was $199,582,045 (3rd of 30 teams), and the Boston Red Sox, whose team payroll was $228,398,860, highest of all teams, and $20 million more than the next-highest team.

Meanwhile, the 2018 team payroll for Pittsburgh Pirates was $91,025,861, a little less than two-thirds of the league average.  The Pirates finished with a .509 winning percentage and  despite their hot streak in July were never really in playoff contention.

Moral of the story: If you want to play power ball, you need to spend mega-millions.

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We first visited Asheville in 2003 and moved here in 2005.  At the time, Asheville was widely touted as one of the best places to retire.  The city (2005 population was 75,000) had a thriving and diverse art culture and offered many opportunities for older-adult community participation and continuing education.  Not only that, Asheville was home to The Biltmore Estate, one of the top tourist destinations in North Carolina.  The city was the perfect base for exploring the bounty of mountains, rivers, waterfalls and forests that give the area its unique geographic identity.

What could go wrong?

Tourism and the commercial development that local business interests encouraged have made our downtown streets at least 50% more congested than they were 15 years ago, whereas our population has grown by “only” 20% since then.  I find that I cannot drive anywhere in the Haywood Street / Grove Arcade area without feeling like I’m playing some high-stress video game whose goal is to avoid hitting pedestrians walking out from everywhere.  Thanks to tourism (I cannot blame retirees — there are only so many times a year retirees shop for hand-made chocolates and high-end hiking gear), we stopped venturing into downtown Asheville on weekend evenings some 10 years ago.  And then we stopped visiting downtown Asheville on any summer evening about 5 years ago.  Now, unless we have out-of-town visitors, we pretty much wait until January to go downtown.

Asheville, or shall I say, the business and political forces in the area, pushed and prodded and pushed some more until this city finally became the Myrtle Beach of the Mountains.  Local thoroughfares bottle up with traffic at 8am and 4pm as if this city were twice its size. Commercial interests, not just hotels — but including hotels, who have doubled in number in the last ten years — exploited the “local charm” of downtown and have nearly sold it out from under us.  City mothers and fathers have not responded.  They seem to be paralyzed.

It seems that no one ever does a study about when the golden goose is too big to lay her next egg.  Instead, the idea is to just keep feeding the goose until it dies.


Three days after this post was published, my wife convinced me to go downtown to visit the Southern Highlands Craft Fair at the US Cellular Center (top of this map).  It was a pleasant October Friday.  We arrived downtown about 10:30 in the morning.  I dropped off my wife at the door and headed to the Civic Center Garage.  It was full, of course.  So I drove around the block to the Rankin Garage.   I found a police car blocking the entrance, since that garage was full as well.  I drove two more blocks over to the Wall Street Garage.  It was full.  And all the on-street parking I passed along the way, full.

I finally stumbled upon an on-street space at the corner of Otis and French Broad Avenue, a quarter-mile away, and hustled over to the civic center to rejoin my wife fifteen minutes after I had dropped her off.

After the show, I left my wife at the door (she recently had knee surgery) and returned to the car.  I headed south on Otis so that I could circle around the block and pick her up at the front of the civic center.  At least, that was the plan — I sat through two red-light cycles at Otis and Patton waiting to turn left, which was impossible due to congestion on Patton.  I decided not to sit through another — I did a u-turn from the left-turn lane, circled around and approached the civic center from the opposite direction,  and then did another u-turn to pick up my wife waiting in front of the building.

I figure I spent about thirty minutes total dealing with parking and traffic, for the sake of a forty-minute visit to a craft show.  But I would have experienced the same frustration if my reason for going downtown was an eye appointment.  The fact that this is now the norm in Asheville is why I say my city has been handed over to the tourism industry, as our hapless city and county leaders for the most part looked on.

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