Thursday, December 11, 2008

Ever notice how music reminds you of specific things?

Doing another late-night programming run, I found myself really coming to appreciate a very unique phenomenon. As one album after another comes on my iTunes player, I immediately have vivid memories burnt into my head that associate themselves with the music, simply because the music was what I was listening to at the time. A permanent part of the zeitgeist, if you will.

For instance, The Wallflowers' "Bringing Down the Horse" and No Doubt's "Tragic Kingdom" immediately remind me of the first place I had on my own, nights spent working at ABS Casino in Calgary and days spent playing FF7, Twisted Metal and Doom on the original PlayStation, complete with my gigantic two-joystick flight control.

Next, They Might Be Giants' "John Henry" immediately harkens back to being at the U of C, playing Ancient Anguish on the VT100 terminals in the open undergrad lab area, and spending time with my first semi-serious emotional attachment online. First of several women I've felt an affinity with who lived in Boise, oddly enough.

Melissa Etheridge's "Yes I Am" reminds me of more university nights, late nights coding on the Sun workstations in the Sauna by the Math Sciences Lounge, endless debates about just how much superior vi was to emacs, scrounging newsgroups and discovering the internet five years before the rest of the world had a clue.

Golden Earring's "The Continuing Story of Radar Love" plays, and I'm brought back to my parent's house in Calgary, playing (specifically) Star Control II on my clunky old PC.

Anything by David Bowie, or Simple Minds' "Don't You (Forget About Me)" reminds me of a dearly departed friend, which in turn reminds me of all the times that hearing said music immediately righted my somewhat whiny emotional compass -- stuck 25 max bets at a fantastic blackjack game at Deerfoot Inn, or my first trip to Kennewick, WA and my love affair with gambling in that state, or being short stacked and on the verge of elimination in a good sized poker tournament and mustering the courage to handle defeat with grace.

The Australia Opera production of "Trial By Jury" reminds me of relaxing in a jacuzzi in a nice suite in Alderwood, WA, enjoying a drink and savouring the middle of what would eventually be remembered as the hottest gambling streak I've ever known in my life -- but like all streaks, it too was doomed to end before I could even leave the state!

There's countless other examples.. usually just one song with one ember of a memory. It almost fades too fast to capture. I'd spend some time trying to catch them all, but I'd be lost forever in nostalgia. I'm content to let these least vivid ones blend into a general feeling of peace and beauty when I hear the music.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The least excited I've been while waiting to go to Vegas.

Current location: Denver International Airport, waiting for connector.

It's funny, I'm a couple hours from Vegas, and I should be over the moon. But I'm not.

It's not just because the primary purpose of this trip is business. I have a hunch that even though I'm going to be busy for most of the time doing work, meeting with clients and what not, the actual convention itself is going to be a wonderful good time. Imagine a giant science fair with every exhibit replaced by a new casino game. All those people who have dreams, have need of a mathematician, and have money. Good times.

The recreation part, however, just doesn't seem as awesome as it used to. Dealers in Vegas tip hustle like there's no tomorrow. Cabbies long-haul as a matter of tradition.

Of course, the weather will be nice, and the cheap alcohol is a nice plus. I can't argue with the notion of a casino willing to give wheelchair service to people who pass out at the dice tables!

It's funny though.. as far as just the actual 'getting some time to gamble', that's about the last reason I'd go to Vegas.

Now, getting to Washington to watch the Super Bowl in the Moose and play some cards.. now *that's* something I'm looking forward to!

For now, it's off to gate 20 and pray there's empty seats so I don't have to look in the dejected eyes of the person sitting next to me when they look at me and realize that, sadly, they've lost the "no fatties in my row, damnit!" lottery.

What makes poker games tough?

Recently, on the Two Plus Two poker forums, I came across a post (with an opinion poll) wondering if "poker training sites" are ultimately good or bad for the game.

For those who don't know, these "training sites" are websites where, for a subscription fee, you can watch videos made by highly skilled poker players while they play poker online, and they'll talk about their decision processes in any key hands while they play. In addition, you may converse with the authors of the videos and other like-minded individuals in an effort to improve your skill in the game.

Now, this has been a contentious issue, because poker is a fixed-sum game. Collectively, all poker players either break even, or lose money to the house that runs the games in return for collecting a nominal 'rake' from every pot. Some players believe that making it easier for smart players to "talk smart" about poker is bad for the game.

My opinion is basically that, in the grand scheme of things, poker training sites are a "1" and the ignorant attitudes of the 'new generation' of poker players are a "10" on the scale of "ruining the game", and my response on Two Plus Two went something like so:

I don't know whether poker training sites should stay open, or be closed.

I don't even know if they're good for the game.

But I do know the answer to this question: "are they bad for the game, per se?"

That is, does the proliferation of information automatically guarantee the games get tougher?

All I know is that blackjack, as a casino game, is about 100 years old. In 1954, the first 'correct' basic strategy on the game was released. Fast forward 54 years, through another hundred books on blackjack, the complete dissemination of 'card counting' as a legitimate strategy, several TV news exposes on the subject, a couple movies, and oh yeah, that 'information revolution' brought on by the internet for a mere 10 years.

Stop the fast forward at earlier yesterday evening, when I doubled A7 vs 6 and got told I was "an idiot" who "didn't know basic strategy" and "ruined the shoe".

No, the congregation of people who want to treat poker like a game of strategy has not ruined the game. Anyone who wants to learn has found the will and the means to learn. Anyone who doesn't want to learn can laugh in the face of all this information and play the way they want to play, negative ROI be damned.

You know what's led to tougher games?

Punk-ass trash-talking piece-o'-shiat barely-post-teenage filth who spit in the face of any notion of poker being a 'social game'. Desperate wanna-be-pro douchebags who insist on wearing an iPod, noise reducing earphones, a hoodie, wraparound sunglasses and a mother-flippin' Darth Vader helmet to low-stakes, introductory tournaments.

Maybe I'm a grouchy anachronistic man, at the venerated old age of 34. Fine by me. I'm certainly old enough to remember that the sign on the frickin' outside of the building says "CASINO", and to some people (even if not to us), CASINO means "a place to gamble".

Now, if I ran said casino, and someone bet thousands of dollars at a shot on the "snake-eyes" bet at craps, having a 1 in 36 chance of profiting 29x their bet, and they hit it on me thrice in a row, I'd treat this person like the frickin' Maharaji. I'd act with only the most patently insincere distress before bowing in admiration to that person's "gambling skill", wonder aloud how they knew they'd be on such a hot streak, then offer them a steak dinner solely for being the luckiest guy in the joint, take their order at the table and run it to the kitchen myself while they reveled in their hot streak and kept shooting.

Now, imagine the stereotypical poker player I decried above - one that you and I have encountered a thousand times - and put them that situation.. and what would they do?

They'd bitch at said craps player for making a bad bet and hitting it, then doing it twice more!

"OMFG you f****n donk, ur -16.7% EV u retard, wtf u bet that for? fu i hope you get syphillis and die you f*****n moron!!!!1"

Every single person who treats poker as a game of skill, and hopes to profit off the game by being more skilled than the average player, has a genuine duty to make sure that said 'average player' is comfortable playing their "standard sub-standard strategy". If you make them uncomfortable, they'll either refine their strategy, or quit playing altogether -- a devil's bargain if there ever was one.

You don't need to be patronizing. But if they make a bad call and say "I'm sorry, I had to call", for chrissakes, any response you give them had better not have a probability, percentage, pot-odds formula or profanity in it.

And until people figure that out, the sum value of "are poker training sites bad for the game" threads over the sum of all the forums will be about as meaningful as farting into a hurricane.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

China Arnold escapes the death penalty.

"Microwave Killer" Mom spared death penalty.

What do you know, another woman commits another horrid act of disgusting infanticide and escapes the death penalty. The only reason I even mention this vile, putrid individuals gender is for one simple reason: invert it, and "he's" off to the gallows before you can turn 'round.

As of Victor L. Streib's #62 issue of "Death Penalty for Female Offenders," women in the modern era through to December 2007 have accounted for 10% of murder arrests, yet only 2% of death sentences, 1.5% of people on death row and 1.0% of actual executions. For the same crime, men are 5x likelier to get the death penalty and 10x likelier to actually be executed.

But of course, there exists no cases whatsoever of institutionalized pro-woman (and in the case of zero-sum situations, anti-male) biases in our society whatsoever. No, no, none at all.

Yet, consider the counterpoint.

Imagine if females represented 10% of applicants for a certain job and only got 1% of the positions.

Imagine if females represented 10% of a Fortune 500 Company's working roster but only 1% of its executives.

You get the idea.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Pac-Man more to blame for auto theft than GTA.

Finally, my opinion has come back! to the Winnipeg Sun.

On May 2nd, Janice Martens published a rather ignorant letter, attempting to blame the GTA series for an increase of car theft in Canada.

Games make criminals

So we still really think that games like Grand Theft Auto have absolutely no impact? Hmmm, let's see ... the first game came about how long ago?

And the major problems with auto theft started when?

Give your head a shake people.

I know these 30-somethings will pout and say there is nothing wrong with them living out their bad-boy fantasies. They don't care if it's at the expense of impressionable eight to 10-year-olds who are playing this at their already dysfunctional homes, getting further lessons in desensitization. Go back to Pac-Man again if you've still got no life. What's next? Rape games for fun?

Janice Martens


As if the rambling conversational tone wasn't enough to convince you this person was conjuring statistics out of thin air, the rather unbridled assault on video gamers in general was too much to take. So, I had no choice -- NO choice, I say! -- but to do a little 'follow-up research' on her statistics.

The results found their niche in the Winnipeg Sun's letter column today, to wit:

Although Janice Martens wants desperately to blame real-life auto thefts on the Grand Theft Auto video game series, the very information she is citing tells a much, much different story. StatsCan reports that, in 1996, auto theft was occurring at a rate of 607 per 100,000 Canadians. The Grand Theft Auto series debuted in 1997, and auto theft dropped for four years straight to 521 per 100,000 in 2000, and was down to 487 per 100,000 by 2006; in other words, auto theft in Canada dropped 20 % in the first 10 years that "whiny 30-somethings with no life" have been playing the Grand Theft Auto games. Auto theft in Canada was at 383 per 100,000 when Pac-Man came out in 1980, and rose 58% over the next 17 years. Obviously, Pac-Man was leading kids to a life of crime until GTA came out and set us straight.

Charles Raymond Mousseau


Sadly, they did edit my piece a bit, cutting out some of the better rhetoric (citing Pac-Man and his ghost-eating homicidal spree and hedonistic dot-eating ways) and made it look like I was genuinely trying to blame Pac-Man. Nevertheless, I am satisfied with the result.

One nice thing about the information age is that it's so much easier to debunk nonsense claims. I am old enough to remember the "Super Bowl Myth" regarding an alleged spike in wife-battery that takes place on Super Bowl Sunday, and how it was completely unfounded in fact yet persisted for years and years.

Compare that to now, where WikiPedia, a StatsCan website and the local virtual soapbox can let the record be set straight in record time.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

NHL first round "Burma Shave" poetry

As some may recall, I did promise to summarize the first round of the NHL playoffs in "Burma Shave" poetry (that true All-American literary style :D)

Well, I haven't gotten the whole series done, but here are the first two of eight that came to mind. You may ask "where are the other six?" to which I can only say "this is art, not industry, and art cannot be rushed!"

At any rate:

Pittsburgh vs Ottawa:
Therrien's quiet,
Murray's bleating;
these sounds portend
a savage beating.
Burma Shave.

San Jose vs. Calgary:
The Sharks will win,
though Calgary's vicious;
Expect to see
some battered fishes!
Burma Shave

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Five cops and a drug dog.


Just came across the border after a little road trip gone haywire. Apparently the border patrol thinks I'm either a drug-runner or a tax-evading professional gambler. On the way down, I got to sit in an hour while they searched the car top to bottom. On the way back, I had the pleasure of waiting an hour and a half while I answered the same litany of invasive personal questions, and saw two officers turn into three turn into five plus a drug-sniffing dog that went through the entire car, looking for anything.

I guess if you rent a car and drive to the States to gamble instead of flying to Vegas with the rest of the frickin' world, and go for more than two days at a time, then you are guilty until proven innocent.

Dear diary. Current mood: furious!

Using my new scale of measuring building anger and frustrations, it weighed in at about 7.5 Cornette's. Worse than the famous "Dairy Queen" incident, not as bad as the famous anti-CZW rants he did as commissioner of ROH.