Scrabbling for Mastery

a patzer's journey

100% on the Aerolith 7s at last!
me again
After many months of slow improvement, I finally got 100% on the Aerolith 7s. And with 84 seconds to spare. I think today's batch must have been particularly easy given the 14 people who have aced it so far, but still. After several near-misses I was wondering if I would ever do it.

Unrelatedly, is there anyone here who is going to the San Diego Open and looking for a roommate? Besides me, that is? Let me know.

So close on Aerolith 7s
me again
Since the NSC last August, I've been expanding my word knowledge fairly regularly, mostly by studying on the train to and from work. I've noticed that it's definitely helping. The biggest benefit to regular practice is that my anagramming speed has improved dramatically. When doing the Aerolith 7s and 8s, I often used to get stuck with about half a column unattempted when time ran out. Now, I tend to whip through the list getting at least half of the answers with a minute or two to spare, which I can use to go back and work on the ones I didn't instantly recognize.

A couple months ago, I finally got 100% on the 6s, and today I came so close to 100% on the 7s. I only missed EINSSTW (which I've seen, but forgot one of the anagrams) and ACDIPTY (which I've never seen, though I know CDHIPTY). So close. I'm more consistently getting in the 80-90% range on the 7s these days. It'll happen soon.

Taking a break in January
me again
Now that the Zyzzyva iPhone app has been released and some of the frenzy has died down, it's time for me to take a break from Zyzzyva development for a bit. I'll be abstaining from development until the end of January, and then it will be time to get back to work.

This last year has taken a lot out of me, especially the past few months. I'm not complaining, because it's been an extremely worthwhile experience and I have learned a lot. It's been a long, difficult task, which is the most instructive and satisfying kind. Mostly I'm writing it down to reflect on the experience and because I think it's interesting.

Near the beginning of development back in March and April, I would work on the app after the kids went to bed a few nights per week. I was mostly just teaching myself how to create an iPhone app in the first place. My wife and I also give each other an individual "night off" each week to leave the house and do whatever we want, and I would generally use my night off for Zyzzyva programming and watching iPhone programming podcasts.

As development progressed and the deadlines started getting closer, the schedules stepped up. During the summer, I started programming not only after the kids went to bed, but during the day on most Sundays and sometimes Saturdays. Everything was still pretty normal but a little more intense.

Then, sometime in October, I switched to the "every waking moment" schedule, where I spent almost the entirety of my existence working on Zyzzyva. All seven days of each week (except my wife's night off and the occasional family function) became Zyzzyva programming time. I would work at my full-time job during the day, go off to work on Zyzzyva during the evening and into the night, and come home to sleep for a few hours before starting again the next morning.

This took a real toll on my family. Fortunately we all understood from the beginning that this scenario would probably arrive sooner or later, and that it would end in December. I kept to the craziness for about three months, voluntarily. I know that a lot of people have to do this all the time just to survive, and the experience has made me feel fortunate that I can choose to stop.

So anyway, January will be a recovery month. I've been spending time with my kids, which is wonderful. I'll be going on a lunch date with my 9-year old daughter this afternoon. I went on an actual date with my wife last night. The other day, my wife also gave me a night off and forbade me from working on anything. I went to a movie, and enjoyed the experience so much that I stuck around and watched a second movie afterward. I don't think I've ever done that before.

Despite the fact that I know I need a break, I'm finding it difficult to keep myself away from Zyzzyva programming. It's been my focus for so long that it constantly pops up when I'm thinking about other things. I have a lot of exciting Zyzzyva stuff to work on starting in February, and I have to force myself not to jump in right away. In the meantime, I'm taking some time to catch up on all the slack I've left in other areas of my life, which helps me at least feel like I'm accomplishing something. I have a hard time when I don't feel productive, which is probably another good reason to take a few weeks and force myself not to be.

Scrabble year in review
me again
I guess this will be more for humor value than anything else.

tourneys this year: 1

15-16 +824
win percent: 48.4

rating in: 1781
rating out: 1772

avg score: 414

high game: 641 vs Randall Thomas
low game: 287 vs Darrell Day
most frequent opponent: Sam Rosin, played twice and lost both times

winnings this year: nada

highlights: Beating Joel W. was cool, even if I had to luck into a Q-stick to do it. Also a miracle come from behind win when Sam D-O gave me a U to go with EIMQRRS.

lowlights: Completely blowing an easy win on the last move, losing 479-480. Also playing a bunch of unintentional phonies. Embarrassing.

next year, studying wise: Learn OWL2, all of it. Get back on the Collins train if the CSW division at NSC happens.

playing wise: SDO, NSC. Those are my only current plans.

programming wise: Make Zyzzyva kick some major ass.

Zyzzyva iPhone app is feature complete
Sorry about that last post. Yesterday was such a horrible day for so many reasons.

Anyway, tonight I've finally completed all the features that will be included in the initial Zyzzyva iPhone release. For the next few days, I'll be making smallish UI improvements and fixing bugs, but no more features will be implemented before I submit it to Apple.

I'm pretty excited to get this app out into the world. I'm happy with how it has turned out so far, and I'm anxious to implement more features I know will make it even better. I almost can't believe I've actually done it. I started from nothing, no mobile device programming experience at all, and created a Zyzzyva app that does most of the things I could only imagine a few months ago. Sometimes I just pull my phone out of my pocket and look at it, thinking about how neat it is that I can make it do what I want.

After I submit this sucker to the App Store, and after I create a desktop 2.1.6 release to fix CSW12 playability numbers, I'll be taking two weeks off from Zyzzyva development. I really need it. I'll be back in action in January, working on the Executive Producer feature requests and desktop Zyzzyva 3. I have a lot of plans to improve both the desktop and mobile versions of Zyzzyva in 2012, and I can't wait to get started, so I'm going to have to force myself to take some time off.

This one is for the search engines
me again
Hello, Apple. I know you're reading this because I know you demand to have it in your magic bucket within 60 seconds of it being posted. Anyway, just FYI, I thought you might be interested in my latest git commit log message:

commit ebf915f0c62775059bcc208ca7e28ab8c69f5654
Author: boshvark <spam@spamcentral.spam>
Date: Sat Dec 17 22:31:25 2011 -0700

Change optimization level for AppStore and Release builds to None,
because Apple is too fucking stupid to ship with a compiler that doesn't
an entire day of my life that I'll never get back.

Please, pretty please, maybe even before you shut down the whole company for the holidays, could someone look at fixing this months-old "known issue"? I would be ever so grateful. It's too late for me, but perhaps you could save all those other suckers from a horrifically frustrating and pointless exercise in wasted time. Thank you.

Zyzzyva iPhone app is getting very close to ready
It seems impossible that less than a month ago, I was completely freaking out about finishing the Zyzzyva app before the end of the year. It's taken a hell of a lot of work, but as of right now, quiz features A and B on that list (the ones that absolutely had to be done) are done. You can now take standard quizzes that save your progress and sync between devices. You can also take cardbox quizzes, and can add and remove words from your cardbox, and of course everything syncs between the iPhone and your computer via Dropbox. The one major feature I haven't yet implemented is a dedicated Manage Cardbox screen to let you examine, edit, and reschedule your cardbox contents. I'll be doing that this week.

By the way, if you will want to use the sync feature and don't already have a free Dropbox account, please sign up using THIS LINK. If you use this link, you and I will each get a bonus of 250 MB of extra Dropbox storage space.

I've decided that December 18 is my absolute drop-dead date for submitting the app to the App Store. That's probably not quite early enough for it to be approved by the end of the year (especially since Apple is taking a week off for the holidays), but I would expect it to be available by the first week of January or so.

Just to be clear, the app you will get in January is not the final release. I've been calling it the initial release, because there is a lot of work still to be done. In particular, there are a few big features that will not be in the initial release, but will be implemented in a subsequent release:

- Database-centric searches like Probability Order and Playability Order
- Word definitions
- Movable tiles on the quiz screen (non-Flashcard Mode)
- Landscape orientation
- Support for lexicons with non-ASCII characters
- Native iPad interface
- Automatic sync, as opposed to the current manual sync
- Nice UI improvements like pinch/stretch to zoom, etc.

... and more that are on my list. I'm listing them here because I don't want people to be surprised that these features are missing, or to think that I will never implement them. I think it's more important to get an imperfect, usable app out into the world so people can start using it. Then I can iteratively add features to improve it.

I've also decided to start eating my own dog food by using the app as my exclusive study tool. That will expose many of its deficiencies pretty quickly. I've been taking notes as I've been using the app exclusively over the past few days, and I already have ideas for several improvements that won't be in the initial release, but will be available soon because they will personally make my life better. Once the app is available, I hope to hear suggestions from you all, too!

Here are the latest screenshots:

Aw dang it, you guys
me again
One of the reasons I decided to book up on OWL this year is because I discounted the possibility of Collins at the 2012 NSC. Now that there will be a Collins division (yes there will), the plan must be reevaluated. Curse you all for making me think.

So here's the new plan. I signed up for the San Diego Open in April not only because it will be a fun tournament, and I've never been to San Diego, but also because there is no Collins division to make me feel conflicted. Just the honest truth here. Las Vegas would be awesome and easily within driving distance, but I wouldn't feel right playing either lexicon there. The timing just isn't right for me.

I'd really like to play Collins at the NSC, though, and it's far enough out that I think I can do it. So I'll be studying OWL-only through April, then make the switch back to Collins again. I think that will give me time to get through a good portion of OWL before confusing the hell out of myself with Collins, and give me a few months to get back up to Collins speed before August. Yeah, I think that will work.

On a side note, I think I need to play online more. One disadvantage of playing Collins out in the Utah desert is that I'm the only person with any real interest in it. The local club is not likely to want to switch before a switch officially happens, and the nearest tournaments are about a thousand miles away. I could direct one myself, but I'll have to check my schedule and then get back to you after I stop crying. So anyway, more online play for me. I assume that's how most of you are playing Collins as well? Unless you're lucky enough to have real live opponents, you lucky luckboxen.

Zyzzyva app now syncing with Dropbox
My wife did the most amazing thing last week. She said that I should take a three-day weekend and stay in a hotel, and she would watch the kids while I got some solid, uninterrupted programming time. So I pricelined a hotel in Park City for three nights and I have been doing basically nothing but work on the Zyzzyva app since Friday night.

My goal for the weekend was to implement cardbox quizzes and get the app syncing with desktop Zyzzyva via Dropbox. I suspected that Dropbox sync would be the harder part, so I decided to tackle it first. And boy, was I right! It took me Friday night, all of Saturday, and half of Sunday even to get something functional. It's taken me until now to create something that's actually usable.

And it works! It's not the fastest thing in the world, but it works. I can now sync saved quizzes between iDevices. I haven't finished cardbox quizzes (yet... there's still 8 hours left in the day after all), but the hard part is done. Once cardbox quizzes are implemented, they will sync seamlessly with the desktop. I am psyched. This thing is actually coming together.

As usual, some screenshots:

Zyzzyva app now loading and saving quizzes
me again
Two days ago, I was freaking out because there is so much left to be done on the Zyzzyva app before the end of the year. There is still plenty to do, but this weekend I accomplished a lot. Except for when I was asleep, I've actually been bouncing around for the last 12 hours or so because I finished implementing loading and saving of quizzes in the Zyzzyva app. The app now saves quiz progress automatically and can load a saved quiz to pick up exactly where it left off.

Next up is cardbox quizzes, followed by cardbox sync. I'm very excited to get this implemented. I was doing some quizzes on my phone this morning (because I can!) and wishing I could use the app to interface with the cardbox system on my laptop. Once it can, this is going to be a wicked cool app.

I've been going back and forth about how I might implement cardbox sync. I think I'm leaning toward integrating with Dropbox. The service is free, they have an API that should be pretty easy to talk to, and I know some Zyzzyva users who are already using it to keep their quiz data in sync between computers. I hope it will turn out to be a brilliant and easy solution, at least for now. I'll find out soon enough whether that's true.

Here are some screenshots. Is it not nifty?


Log in