WORDS WITH FRIENDS – REVELATION

Words With friends and Foosball are the only two things I’m really good at.  With Foosball, it’s because I have an enormous home court advantage.  Charles got it for me as a surprise and, not knowing anything about Foosball himself, he set it up backwards.  The players are all bolted to their rods facing the wrong way.  And I didn’t notice at first because it had been decades since I’d played, so over the weeks that followed — this was maybe 7 years ago — I just learned to play backwards.  What’s more, the playing field slopes in interesting ways that are second nature to me now but a bafflement to strangers.  This summer, I am undefeated.  Last summer, I actually beat a former Seattle Seahawk.  Football and Foosball are no closer chickens and chickpeas, but it still feels good.

With WWF, it’s that I’m good at strategy.  And that I play so much, I’ve learned a lot of ridiculous but allowable “words” no one ever uses.  And yet there’s this guy I’ve just recently started playing — a smart guy, but c’mon — who, it pains me to say it, usually wins.  (Seriously: it pains me to say it.)  Indeed, I am way too competitive and self-aggrandizing to have said it, except for what comes next: the revelation.  In the midst of a game where he had just made MISTIER for the second time, using all seven letters again, we had occasion to speak on the phone about a business matter.

NODI?”  I began, where someone else might have said “Hello” (but he had placed MISTIER perpendicular to NOD, so one of the I’s in MISTIER turned NOD into NODI, which is how he found a place for it).

“I don’t know what it means either,” he acknowledged.  (My guess: a plural of nodes, like those worrisome nodi on his neck.  But I’m past looking these things up.  I do know what a RYA is, but who cares?  Where does that get me?  It’s only use is in Words With Friends.)

“Well, listen,” I said.  “Before we talk business I have to ask: do you use one of those anagram programs?”  I.e., do you cheat?  At which point, in an earlier age and a slightly different setting (and before telephones were invented), he would have squinted at me hard, spat out his chaw . . . and the whole bar would have suddenly quieted and grown tense as each of our right hands tightened under the table around the handle of our guns.  But in this case he just laughed, took it as a compliment, and said no, “just that thing that tells you how good your word is.”

Long pause at my end.

Eyes squinting.

What thing.”

“You know, the thing with the little Plus sign at the edge of the word that you click and it tells you how good the word you’re about to play is compared to the best you could do.”

“What?”

“Don’t you have it, too?”

“You mean that annoying thing Zynga keeps trying to sell me to get some revenue from the game?”

(Which as a Zynga shareholder myself* I hope loads of people buy, but I would never buy because, well, I wasn’t even sure what it was, but I certainly didn’t think it was fair to use some kind of computer aid.)

“Oh — I thought everybody used it,” he said, explaining that, because it was part of the game (if you bought it), it was, well, just part of the game.

Aha!

Now I had an excuse (or at least a rationalization) for my dismal record against him.  I felt much better.  The Word-O-Meter, as it turns out, gives you no direct help, but it does tell you how close to the best possible score the word you’re planning to use comes.  So instead of playing MISTER for 26 points, you might stop, when it tells you that’s a pathetic showing, and spend more time trying to figure out what much better option there might be.

Oh!  MISTIER!!!

And now I have given Zynga its 99 cents (or whatever) and have begun texting my various WWF partners to tell them about my discovery and to ask whether they use the Word-O-Meter, too.  “If you sue it, I will.  Otherwise, let’s not.”

Already, I’ve found another one of my regular opponents who, it turns out, has been using this all along.

I had  no idea!

Anyway, let Alec Baldwin know, if he doesn’t already, and anyone else for whom Words With Friends is an enormous time-waster.

*Long story; I’m not recommending YOU buy it.

CHROMECAST

I’m not exactly sure what this is, but I bought two of them and they’re supposed to arrive tomorrow.  Basically, they throw videos from your computer or smart phone up onto your giant TV screen.  I think.

Here’s one glowing review.

And here’s a little more measured review from my pal Don:

“Google’s ChromeCast will truly change things once everyone gets on board, but for now you are not missing much.  The easiest streaming is from Netflix: on your iPhone just press an icon on the cover art in the Netflix app, and the movie comes up on the TV.  Beautiful picture, no pauses or lags, works just like a DVD. Well… almost.  With a DVD you can pause at a particular point to scrutinize something in the background, and then forward a few frames. A wi-fi control lag makes pausing at an exact spot with ChromeCast like an arcade game.  But the biggest downside I found is that Netflix streaming has nothing I want to watch, no matter what device one uses.  Of the 75 of so DVDs in my rental queue, none is available for streaming. There is nothing new, sort of new, or even old that appeals to me.  I tried Indiana Jones, Goonies, Risky Business, and dozens of other old movies.  Nothing.  I think the selection of TV shows may be better … but you won’t find the Sopranos.  I was surprised to find I could not even stream PBS shows.  You are supposed to be able to stream to TV anything you can play on the Chrome Browser, but I have had limited success with that.  (There is a good App called CanIStreamIt at iTunes that shows you what is available on a dozen sites.  I hope that app will add a ChromeCast streaming icon to its menu — that would be a huge plus.)

“Oh, and the interface is clunky.  I always wanted to control TV with my iPhone — it seemed like a natural thing to do.  It ain’t. The reality is if you are gaming or surfing, you have to leave that app to go back to the Netflix app to pause or rewind. Google or someone needs to come out with a small wifi remote as an alternative / supplement to iPhone control. Ultimately the future will be TVs and DVRs with built-in circuits to respond to multiple command sources: bluetooth, wifi, and ir. If only Steve Jobs had lived to revolutionize TV!

“ChromeCast is definitely a work in progress and at a price ($35) that should sweep away the competition. Availability of films and entertainment will eventually catch up.”

 

 

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