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Awesome Jeopardy Math!

I’m a huge fan of the Jeopardy! game show. My viewing habits have ranged from diligently watching every episode live with my college roommates to DVRing every episode and catching up on the weekends to (currently) tuning in when I can, and not really stressing too much if I miss it (though I probably catch at least a portion of 3/5 episodes a week).  That being said – I’ve watched a lot of Jeopardy!! And as a math nerd (who really enjoys game theory), I love to analyze how much people wager (on Daily Doubles, but, more interestingly, on Final Jeopardy).

If you’re unfamiliar to the concept of Final Jeopardy! wagering, the general run-down is this: throughout the game, you’ve accumulated as much money as possible (while your two opponents have done the same — hopefully your trigger finger has been better than theirs!) and you are provided a topic for which the final Question/Answer combo is related to. Before you see the Answer to which you give your question (yeah, Jeopardy! is a game of you asking Questions to the provided Answers), you must wager an amount of money that neither of your opponents will see or know. You then get the Answer, provide your question, and Alex reveals each player’s answer (from last place to first) and their wager (taking them up or down accordingly).  You can wager any part of your current score (from $0 to all of it).

So there’s the setup – I watch a lot of Jeopardy!, and the wagering for the final question has the potential of being fun to analyze.

Tonight (January 10, 2013) had the following scores going into final Jeopardy:

Player A) 9600
Player B) 13000
Player C) 16400

Now, this is where I’d analyze a couple interesting situations that could come up.  There isn’t necessarily an optimal strategy, but there are a few different strategies that sometime make more sense than others.  Depending upon your confidence in the category that is revealed, and your confidence in other players’ abilities, you can pick the wager that you think is best for you.  So a run-down for me here would say this:

Player C knows that B has been doing pretty well this game (that’s why it’s not a sure thing that C is going to win).  So C might think “If B bets everything, she’ll have 26000, and so I need at least 26001 to beat her!”  and therefore A’s wager should be 9601 (that’s my thinking at least).

And Player B might know that C is thinking that way, so they’ll say “Well crap.. I can’t beat C if she gets it right… I’ve got to hope she gets it wrong.  But if A gets it right.. and A doubles her score up, then she’ll have 19200 — I’ve got to beat THAT!” and so B’s wager should be 6201 (again.. this is one possibility.  B could think “Well, if C’s playing to beat me, and I can only beat her if she gets it wrong, then I should wager 0 and hope it’s a super tough question that they BOTH get wrong.”  Another valid option.).

Finally, Player A is in a tough situation.  She’s 3400 behind B, and 6800 behind C.  If B & C get it wrong, they’re probably both wagering a lot, so maybe wagering nothing and hoping for incorrect answers would be good.  But really, she’s got nothing to lose, so she should probably just be confident in herself and wager everything. But crap, what if she lucks out and knows the answer — and C gets it wrong, and B went with the C getting it wrong “I’ll wager 0” — 3401 would beat B’s score and get the win! (I don’t actually know here.  3rd place strategy is tough for me — I just cross my fingers that I’m not in that situation when I get on the show.)

Alright, so now that we’ve analyzed, let’s see the question:  Ah crap, it’s something French that’s a law term — I have no idea.  Let’s see if A knew it — NOPE. 3401.. hmm, she went with the “Let’s assume B is wagering 0” strategy.. oh well.  Did B know it? Nope. 6201!  That’s an awesome play there, beat C and hope A screws up!  Too bad you missed it too :-(  All right, C was smart, they got it right, right?  NO!  Oh man, how much did they wager? 9601!  They wanted to beat B by $1, but instead… what’s this?! THEY TIED!!

So let’s see how this broke down:

Scores going into Final:

Player A) 9600
Player B) 13000
Player C) 16400

Wagers for Final:

Player A) 3401
Player B) 6201
Player C) 9601

Scores after Final

Player A) 6199
Player B) 6799
Player C) 6799

I was floored.  That was some really awesome wagering strategy by each player — they just had a super tough question (that Alex tried to make them feel bad about not knowing “What is Veeerdict. Verdict!”) and if any one of the 3 actually thought “This is going to stump all of us” and wagered 0, they would’ve had it made!

If you’re curious about why B and C ended up with the same final score, it’s because the difference between A and B was 3400 and so was the difference between B & C — it’s like magic!  The only cooler situation I could imagine is if A was half of C — and B split the difference.  That’d be only slightly cooler though.

Thanks for reading!  Feel free to tear apart my analysis in the comments.  I’m off to take the online Jeopardy! test in exactly 1 minute 25 seconds!  Wish me luck!


January 11, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Dell’s Support Isn’t Terrible!

I have heard horror stories about Dell and what a hassle their support is. That only made me slightly reluctant to buy my new laptop through my company’s sweet Laptop Purchase Program. But I took the gamble, crossing my fingers that I wouldn’t run into any problems. Last week, I got a blue screen and had hard drive issues for a few days before getting in touch with them.

I got on their online chat support (12th in the queue at 9:30 EST took about 25 minutes) and was helped by a rep named Justin. Justin was quick, efficient, and super helpful. After I explained the situation, he had me run a diagnostic startup tool to get the error code.

With the error code, he was able to overnight me a new hard drive. But then he wowed me. Justin asked if I wanted a link to the reference guide for hard drive removal (saving me time). Then he explained the shipping process and what to expect. Finally, he asked if I’d like to receive a call today to check to make sure I wasn’t having any more issues (not having to wait in the help queue again).

Sure enough, the hard drive came the next morning, the installation followed the guide to a T, and another rep called to make sure that everything was going all right.

Dell’s support definitely erased my woes from all the horror stories I heard. I don’t know if it’s just their small business support, but I have no complaints from personal experience now.

January 7, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment


The other day, I mentioned to someone (it actually may have just been myself…) that I wished there was a way to see just the FavIcon of some of my tabs in Firefox, because that’s all I need to distinguish things like GMail, GReader, GCal, and RTM (all of which I tend to have open the majority of the time).

And as if Lifehacker is listening to my conversations, they mentioned a solution in passing today!  FaviconizeTab is a Firefox extension which allows you to shrink a tab down to just it’s favicon (either by right-clicking and going to “FaviconizeTab” or by setting a shortcut like double-clicking)!  Now I can very easily distinguish between my first 4 tabs (which I always have open and know what they are from their favicon), and the rest of my tabs, which I actually need the first part of the title in order to know what it is.

April 10, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | Leave a comment

Expanding Your Dropbox

I love Dropbox!  It is a really easy and convenient way to sync files across multiple computers and it makes it so I don’t need to worry about forgetting my thumb drive anywhere.

But my biggest complaint is that it only syncs the files in your “My Dropbox” folder.  That’s a major problem when I would like to have my PHP code from my htdocs folder shared onto other computers or when I don’t want to move all of my files into My Dropbox.

Lifehacker to the rescue!  They pointed me to this really easy-to-use tool for creating junctions – Link Shell Extension.  So I go into my htdocs folder, right-click a folder I want to copy (let’s say Pass2), and select “Pick Link Source”.  Then I go into “My Dropbox”, right-click in there, and go to “Drop As->Junction”.  Voila!  Any time I change a file in either spot, it gets updated in the other (and, therefore, also uploaded to Dropbox!).

If you haven’t signed up with Dropbox, I still strongly encourage you to give it a shot through my referral link to get us both extra space: https://www.getdropbox.com/referrals/NTcwNzI1Njk .  To those of you who have used my link already, thanks a ton!  I hope you’re enjoying it too!

March 31, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment


I had read things about Dropbox last year when they left beta in September, but hadn’t gotten around to trying it until my buddy Justin told me about how solid it is.

It’s a free 2GB thumb drive that you will never forget in a computer.  There is a really simple web interface, but the real strength is the desktop application which seamlessly uploads and downloads the files in your “My Dropbox” folder.  Also, you can share things with your Public folder, or collaborate with specific people through shared folders.

All of my school files are saved in my Dropbox, so every time I save a file, it is automatically uploaded and accessible from any computer with an internet connection.

If you sign up via my referral link, we both get an extra 256MB.  So give it a shot for both of us!


March 30, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

YouTube Popout Bookmarklet

I was thinking about making this yesterday, then I saw this program on LifeHacker (DetachVideo) today, saw goodywitch’s bookmarklet, and improved upon it.

It’s pretty similar to Google Reader’s “Popout” feature next to embedded YouTube clips. It opens another window with the YouTube video embedded.  I used a couple regular expressions to turn goodywitch’s fixed size into a resizable window.  If you want it to be always on top, Matt Kruse has a suggestion for his bookmarklet which should work with mine.

Here it is!: http://www.personal.psu.edu/dri106/_PopOutYouTube.html

(Sorry about WordPress not playing nicely again…)

March 19, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

External Hard Drive Enclosure

My laptop has been acting up a little bit lately, and it’s been a little while since a reinstall, so I’m getting myself into the reformat mindset. I don’t want to lose everything on my hard drive, and I don’t want to burn 20 DVDs, so I started looking around for an external hard drive.

I started looking around NewEgg and TigerDirect to see what’s on the market.  I only really need about 100 or 150 GB, but it was looking like I’d be spending about $50 for that sort of size.  When I see 1TB drives (~8 times the size) for less than $125 (2.5 times the price), I couldn’t really justify getting ONLY 160 GB.  But at the same time, I don’t have $125 to spend right now.  So I was rather turned off of external hard drives.

When I remembered the dead computer sitting in my closet (I think it’s either a motherboard or CPU problem but don’t have anything to test that…), I realized that there is a 160GB SATA (and a 60GB IDE) drive in there, which I would actually like to get information off of as well!  So that’s when I started looking at external hard drive enclosures.

I found this one at NewEgg.  It works with both SATA and IDE hard drives, it had good reviews, and for $37 with shipping & handling, it was certainly cheaper than buying an external hard drive.  I ordered it Sunday night (2 hours and 13 minutes before a $10 mail-in rebate started… I’m going to see if I can get that anyways..), and it got here this afternoon (I love NewEgg’s speed!)!  I popped in an old hard drive (for testing purposes), and it worked right off the bat!  Now I can access the files I haven’t been able to touch in 2 years… and I can get ready for a reformat!

For $20 from now until March 30, I would definitely recommend picking up one of these bad boys if you have any internal hard drives or plans to buy one!

March 11, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Google Calendar Bookmarklet

A bookmarklet is a piece of JavaScript which you bookmark in order to add a little piece of additional functionality to your browser and make it easily accessible.  Bookmarklets can be used to do things like change the font size or style on a website, or they can help make a task simpler.

Just the other day, I found that RememberTheMilk (I blogged about the greatness of RTM back in August) has a task creation bookmarklet (they call it a “QuickAdd“).  Using that the past couple days, I realized how handy bookmarklets could be!

When I wanted to add the Penguins remaining schedule to my Google Calendar, I figured a bookmarklet could make the task easier.  After some Googling, however, I couldn’t find exactly what I wanted.  This article‘s #4 was close, so I took it and modified it with some additional JavaScripting.

Without further ado, here is my first ever bookmarklet!

<edit>All right — WordPress won’t let me play nicely sharing a bookmarklet IN a link.  So copy the code add the bottom of this post and paste it as the location in a new bookmark in whatever is your favorite web browser. </edit>

Whenever you want to add something to your Google Calendar, click that bookmark and you’ll be at the New Event page.  If you have text selected before clicking that link, the selected text will get put in as the “What”, otherwise, a prompt comes up in which you can type a “Quick Add” such as “Dinner with Mike at 7pm tomorrow”.

Code (modified from #4 at http://googlesystem.blogspot.com/2007/07/useful-google-bookmarklets.html):

javascript: var s;
/*Figure out the selected text*/
if ( window.getSelection ) {
    s = window.getSelection();
} else if ( document.getSelection ) {
    s = document.getSelection();
} else {
    s = document.selection.createRange().text;
/*If there isn't any text selected, get user input*/
if ( s == '' ) {
    s = prompt('QuickAdd');
var re = RegExp( '[AaPp][Mm]' );
if ( encodeURIComponent(s).match(re) ) {
} else {
    s = s + ' 1pm'; /*if there isn't an AM or PM in the text, add the default 1pm time*/
/*open a new window with this information in the Google Calendar event creation page.*/

March 11, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | 14 Comments

THON 2009

I have been involved in the Penn State IFC/Panhelenic Dance Marathon (THON) each of my 4 years at Penn State.  THON is the largest student-run philanthropy in the world, and it is a year-long fund-raiser, with all proceeds going to the Four Diamonds Fund.  This fund helps to defray the cost of pediatric cancers for families who have children afflicted with the terrible set of diseases.  The money we raise pays for all of the cost of treatment that the families’ insurance doesn’t cover, it goes to gas, hotel, and meal vouchers for the families, and it funds some cutting edge research and first-class facilities at the Hershey Medical Center.  This year, despite the horrific economy, we were able to raise $7,490,133.87 for the kids!  (For more information about what THON is, please visit http://thon.org/whatisthon )

I fell in love with THON my freshman year, when I was involved in the security as a Rules and Regulations committee member.  Seeing the kids in these families enjoying themselves as much as they did during that weekend helped me realize just how awesome an organization THON is.  Shortly after that THON, the 2007 Technology Overall came into one of my classes asking for applicants — since then, I have been a Tech captain and have loved every minute of it!

This year, the major task that I took on was rewriting the system which is used to allow visitors of THON to visit their friends and family who are dancing.  One of the other two-thirds of “El Tres Friends” (as the three of us third year Tech captains call ourselves) helped me set up all of the tables in the database and we began coding before we were even selected as captains again.  Both of us as well as a very promising third addition were selected for the Pass Team, and the rest, as they say, is history!  We finished up the system, tested it thoroughly, and had it in place for THON Weekend!

The weekend went amazingly, and our system was a huge success!  All-in-all, every bit of work we put into the system over the past 10 months paid off tremendously, and it was one of the best feelings in the world to see it working as well as it did!  If you ever want to know more about THON or want to hear some stories from me, I love THON and sharing it with others is one of my favorite things to do, so just ask!

March 8, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Oatmeal Sundae

One of the coolest things about being a college student is that I just made an oatmeal sundae for breakfast with no one saying anything other than “That’s awesome!!”

<edit> A lot of people asked (and by a lot, I mean the 3 people that read this…) — “What is in an oatmeal sundae?”  I meant to say this this morning, but was too excited to be blogging again.  I woke up and wanted oatmeal, and I saw my mom’s homemade cookies laying next to the oatmeal, so I broke apart a couple cookies into my oatmeal.  Then it looked rather chocolaty, so I decided to add some chocolate syrup on top of that.  At that point, it was basically an ice cream sundae, so I topped it off with some whipped cream and a cherry.  Had I had any sprinkles here, they absolutely would have made the whole shebang complete.</edit>

(My mom is great and wouldn’t have said anything against me eating an oatmeal sundae, she just wouldn’t have encouraged it.)

Also – I just wanted to give a heads up that the blogging will potentially be resurrected now that my life has settled down after THON!  Keep your eyes (or your Google Reader feed) open!

March 1, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments