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.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

How could Obama's guys not see this?

Recently, Hilary Clinton compared herself to Rocky Balboa, like so:

Obama responded Wednesday to Clinton's comparison of herself a day earlier to Rocky Balboa, the underdog boxer from Philadelphia in the 1976 film. She said "when it comes to finishing a fight, Rocky and I have a lot in common. I never quit. I never give up."

I mean, EVERYONE remembers Rocky.. right?

So, how did Obama respond?

Obama told the union meeting: "We all love Rocky. But we've got to remember, Rocky was a movie."


Obama, you blew it!

Everyone knows what the proper answer would have been:

Obama told the union meeting: "We all love Rocky. But we've got to remember - Rocky fought hard, but he lost"

Monday, March 31, 2008

"No woman wants this!"

Resting up in my hotel room in Watertown, SD and watching some sick Law and Order offspring show.. I think it's "Special Victims Unit". This show in particular involves a woman who was a murder victim.. the only clip of the show I could bear watching without vomiting involved a female cop grilling a male suspect accused of murdering a woman.

In the scene in question, the female cop shows the male suspect pictures of the bruised and battered victim; he claims that this was the result of consensual violent sex, and she shrieks out "No woman wants this!"

Excuse me, fancy Hollywood Writer, who are you to say? I can say with absolute certainty that I've known several woman who have wanted WORSE than this, and the last thing I need is some ignorant character spouting such generic and needlessly hateful rhetoric just because you have an agenda to push or standards to meet up with.

For all of you who think I'm needlessly overreacting, consider this -- imagine the outrage if a TV show dimissed an actual case of domestic violence as "that's okay, he/she wanted this!".. as did the first Ann Landers column.

Seriously. The things locked away in the back of the human mind in terms of sexual impulses are far more complicated than simply saying "only men want this / no woman wants this!" And labelling anything kinky / violent / perturbing as something "only men want" and "something that no woman wants!" is a flagrant insult to both men and women.

To top this off, the next segment involves some worthless polygraph test being analysed and cleanly beaten by the suspect who is apparenly the murderer. But lo and behold! the polygraph analyst is smart enough to know when the person is cleanly "beating the test".

For the record, polygraph tests are not "lie detector" tests. Do you know why they aren't "lie detector tests?" Because they don't detect lies. They detect physiological responses in a way that the "polygraph tester" can simply interpret to get the results he wants in advance.

Hell, put the writers back on strike if this is the kind of crap that they're coming up with.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Watching "The Price Is Right" in Fargo, ND.

Yes, the road trip has started with enthusiasm. Besides doing my work on the road, there's lots of other treats ahead. TNA Wrestling live in Spencer, Iowa and Lincoln, Nebraska. A couple nights in a nice suite on a Native casino resort. Some time in Boise visiting friends. Really and truly, the stuff that dreams are made of!

For now, though, it's a Comfort Inn in Fargo, ND. I've been looking for a souvenir woodchipper, but no luck so far. So, reclined in the inn, it's time to turn on the tube

It's interesting watching The Price Is Right with Drew Carey. You might wonder what a strapping manly-man might be doing watching such a blue-hair's show, but there's really two primary reasons:

#1> I like game shows, and especially "Everyman" gameshows such as TPIR, Wheel of Fortune etc. -- mostly because watching the contestants on them tend to make me feel very smart and dignified by comparison.

#2> I used to watch this show with my late grandfather, Dick Davies, and it's interesting to see how so little of the show's mechanics have changed over the years, most importantly including the ever-popular "You lose!" brass solo.

(The following will assume you are familiar with the show's mechanics, so if it looks like part gibberish, forgive me.)

Nevertheless, it's amazing to see how the "contestant's row" portion of the show is so stacked against the player who has to go first, simply because placing a bid $1 above another person's bid will guarantee that the other person will have, essentially, no chance of winning, so if the first person's bid looks halfway plausible, one of the other players -- usually the last one! -- will wind up bidding $1 more than it. I'm so convinced that the advantage is this so strong, the first player should bid $1 and hope the second person bids plausibly, the third bids leaving enough room and the fourth person bids $1 over the third. You really, really want the second player to win if you can't -- because the new contestant will come into that spot and have to bid first next time, meaning you will bid last on the next round.

Incidentally, I saw a young blond woman rather pompously wearing a shirt that said "I don't need luck". She was bidding last, the highest bid was $899, and she bid $950. I guess she doesn't need luck because even luck wouldn't help her.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Happy Birthday, Katie

Near the end of March, 2005, a friend of mine called me up and gave me grief for not calling her on her birthday. My professing that "I don't know what your birthday is!" meant nothing to her, and on the spot, I put an entry in my Outlook calendar to remind me on March 24th, 2006 to wish Katie Pettengill a happy birthday.

Although she passed away suddenly before I'd have a chance to show her I was good to my word, it naturally seemed like the right thing to do on that day to just take a few minutes and remember a good friend, and so, it became a bit of a tradition for me to do so on March 24th. There are far worse ways to start a day, after all.

For those who hadn't heard, I met Katie through my Magic: the Gathering articles I wrote for Brainburst years ago. I had asked my readers to summarize me and my mannerisms in a Magic card in the gazillion-to-one chance I ever won the Invitational (and the winner would appear in a card, you see).

Egocentric Canadian
2UU, 0/2
2U, Tap: Say the longest word you know. If no opponent knows what that word means, you may pay (1) to bitch-slap that player.

The picture provided has unfortunately been lost to time, but it was priceless. Painstakingly drawn in MS Paint, it featured a man in a Team Canada hockey jersey, standing on an actual factual "SOAPBOX", standing in front of a math chalkboard full of equations, and holding a pointer to the bottom right corner which stated, plainly, "= I'M RIGHT!"

Even this early on, I could see that she had a keen eye for detail and appreciated my wit enough to return it in kind. I responded to this email, and her reply came back with a joke, the first of many she'd share with me:

How many existentialists does it take to change a light bulb? ...None, existentialists like their voids nice and dark! By the way, never tell that joke while drinking, it just doesn't come out well.

.. the first joke of many, I might add, that would redefine everything from nursing homes to fluctuations to Richard Simmons over the years.

Happy Birthday, Katie; thanks for the good times!


Thursday, March 20, 2008

Can anyone explain how this is fair?

In case anyone ever wanted hard-coded proof that men are second-class citizens in our culture:

It's okay to have one-sided statutory rape laws, really!

The law defined unlawful sexual intercourse as "an act of sexual intercourse accomplished with a female not the wife of the perpetrator, where the female is under the age of 18 years."

Nice. If you said, "this means that only males can be punished for underage sex," you'd be right!

This is the best part, though:

In a plurality decision, the Court held that the law did not violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, noting that "young men and young women are not similarly situated with respect to the problems and the risks of sexual intercourse." The Court found that the state had a strong interest in preventing "illegitimate pregnancy." The Court noted that "[i]t is hardly unreasonable for a legislature acting to protect minor females to exclude them from punishment. Moreover, the risk of pregnancy itself constitutes a substantial deterrence to young females. No similar natural sanctions deter males."

Uh huh.

No similar natural sanctions to pregnancy exist? Garsh, how about the "unnatural sanction" of an oppressive two decades worth of child support payments? Maybe that's a bit of a disincentive?

Now, I bet you that if you had a chat with young men in California - a state with notorious "equal treatment" laws - if such an anti-male law could possibly exist, I bet you they wouldn't believe it for a second.

This is why I have ALWAYS believed that we are doing our young men a disservice by not educating them on how shafted they are by child, family and sex laws. Of course, if the true gravity of the situation were shown to them, society as we know it would probably come to an end in 2 generations.

What a joke. What a sick, freaking joke.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Another beautiful song by Jade Valerie.

I was looking for Jade's new album, Bittersweet Symphony on iTunes; instead, I found myself this treasure, which moved me to tears. The lyrics are simple, even repetitive, but once again, Jade's haunting voice and some very good music combine to great effect.

Lying awake, I tremble and shake,
I'm trapped in those days, and I reach for your face
and I wonder.. where are you now?

In the midst of my mind, our fingers entwine,
and they're stronger than time, as constant as tides,
and I wonder.. where are you now?

Silently we say goodbye.
Silent as night.

Quiet as night, the angels came and closed your eyes,
and now, there's shadows where you used to lie;
I promise to remember.

Quiet as night, the angels came and closed your eyes,
I guess I'll never understand why;
I promise to remember.

Quiet as night, the angels came and closed your eyes,
and I guess I'll never know why,
but I'll always remember.. I promise to.

Been talking to God, but I guess He forgot, cause I'm
still standing here with my unanswered prayers,
and I'm waiting.. I'm hurting.

Silently we say goodbye.
Silent as night.

Quiet as night, the angels came and closed your eyes,
and now, there's shadows where we used to lie,
but I promise to remember

Quiet as night, the angels came and closed your eyes,
I guess I'll never understand why,
but I promise to remember.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Life can begin at thirty-three.

One thing which I've had on my mind lately is how busy I've been with life in the past nine months, starting with my move from Calgary back home, and finding myself rapidly getting lots of work in my chosen fields. It's interesting because I always feel that my best years were behind me - the frivolity of high school, the joys of university, and the easy going life two kids, 10 years and 100 pounds ago.

Nevertheless, I look at history and I can see that Richard Nixon didn't even begin his first political campaign until he was 33. Likewise, my absolute favorite librettist, W.S. Gilbert, didn't even meet his musical counterpart, A.S. Sullivan, until his (Gilbert's) 33rd year. Both Nixon and Sullivan, needless to say, had huge careers and lived relatively long lives - if not turbulent at time and crisis-filled at others!

A lot of that "it was so great being young" rhetoric in life is a combination of biology and society. The biology part speaks for itself, but our society seems rather obsessed with youth and 'faking' being young if you can't actually be young. It's nice to remember, on occasion, that sometimes, you aren't in a position to make something of yourself until you have a few years under your belt. As they say, only when the student is ready does the master appear.

Monday, March 10, 2008

One thing I'll never understand TNA Impact!

Watched the latest TNA Pay-Per-View this weekend, "Destination X". It was, all-in-all, quite good. My sweetie Gail continued to show why she is the best "diminutive babyface" in woman's wrestling today, the "Fish Market Streetfight" was far, far better than it had any right to be, and pretty much all the other matches except the "Elevation X" affair delivered the goods.

However, there's one thing that I don't get. As you know, Spike TV subscribes to the popular misandrist double-standards about violence, forgetting for a moment that pro wrestling is in fact performance art where violence is the primary means of communication.

Nevertheless, as I watched a recap of the moment where Robert Roode accidentally hit Sharmell (further elevating the Roode - Booker feud into atmospheric levels of heat) it dawned on me that this is the first time I actually saw it without the annoying freeze frame. All you'd ever see on impact is Roode winds up, the screen pauses for two seconds while we hear West and Tenay freak out, and the next thing you see is Sharmell on the mat. Forget the fact that the popular opinion was that Sharmell did an incredible job of selling it that added legitimate heat to the moment, which we never got to see. If you're going to do something annoying like that, at *least* add some comic relief to the moment and replace the freeze-frame with a 60's Batman sound-effect panel. I mean, Roode winding up, then a ***KER-PLAM!!!*** and then a shot of Sharmell on the ground? Solid $TEXAS.

Now, the reason I mention this is because of what you CAN show on Impact.

In this very feud, they had a protracted scene where an impromptu streetfight broke out between Roode and Booker, and Booker got knocked out by Roode, at which point Roode's manager Peyton Banks produced some handcuffs, chained Booker T to the post, and Roode took off his belt.

It's nice to know that women are so sacrosanct that the same network that thinks a man accidentally hitting a woman is too offensive to show has no problem showing a Caucasian savagely whipping a Negro that is chained to a post for well over two minutes. Mind you, Impact *is* primarily a Southern operation...

Sunday, March 9, 2008

My son's selective hearing.

This Saturday night, Luke was supposed to go to bed, but he wanted to hang out in my room and watch DVDs on the PS2 and all the other "I get to stay up late!" stuff that kids that age do on weekends.

At any rate, I decided that, with him off to bed, and me needing a bit of a distraction from my work that evening, I thought I'd play a little Culdcept Saga for the XBox 360. For those unfamiliar, it's roughly equal parts Stock Ticker, Monopoly and Magic: the Gathering. Actually quite a lot of fun, and my son is into it a lot. Enough that he can figure out what to do in an effort to give the computer AI a good game, which I think is impressive for an eight-year old.

Now, I haven't played the game in a couple of weeks, mostly because I have been quite busy, but also because, every time I try and play it, I have a little eight-year old rug-rat hanging on my ankle suggesting a play on each and every decision.

Sure enough, even though I've turned down the TV volume in the living room, and it's dark in the house, and it's almost 10pm, within (I kid you not) thirty seconds I hear some scampering footsteps and a cracker-dust covered kid in pajamas dives on the sofa and starts asking me what I'm going to put in my deck, why do I call it "4 Color / fast", why I should play that card, how cool that card is that he doesn't have in his collection (hint, hint!).

This naturally coincides nicely with the last dozen times I've tried to scold him for misbehaving and not doing what he's told and getting a teary "b.. b.. but I didn't HEAR you, Daddy!".

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Gary Gygax, may he rest in peace.

First, I'll get the obvious smart-ass comments out of the way:

Gary Gygax passed away on Tuesday, 4 March 2008. He will be critically missed. Let us all observe 1d6 minutes of silence.

Sorry, I know jokes like that would have him 'rolling' in his grave.

Okay. NOW with all that out of the way, I'll summarize it plainly and to the point: Gary Gygax created something that was, for decades, a part of my life. For many others, it was much greater. Overall, Gary Gygax contributed something very, very fundamental to the way of life that defined what it meant to be like me. I will miss him, as will countless other gamers.

It truly is a *shakes dice cup* *consults table* tragic day in geekdom.

In the earth lies Gary Gygax. May he rest in peace.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Conversational math strikes again.

Now, the standard example of "conversational math run amok" runs along the lines of "turning something around 360 degrees" having any change value whatsoever. For instance, we have Jason Kidd (the basketball player, not the old Flames' goalie) proclaiming, upon being drafted, that he "wanted to turn his new team around 360 degrees", or late-and-great wrestling commentator Gorilla Monsoon repeatedly describing the action in a match by saying "the pendulum had swung around 360 degrees" after the momentum had just changed.

For the record, Jesse "The Body" Ventura did once correct Gorilla about that, basically reminding Gorilla that, for the momentum to have changed direction, the pendulum would only have swung 180 degrees, and 360 degrees would just have it going the exact same direction. I have no idea about ALL of the cosmic repercussions of that discussion, but I can tell you that Monsoon is now deceased while Ventura is now governor of Minnesota. Just sayin'...

Anyways. Tonight's hockey game on TSN featured Washington and Boston. The commentators talked about how Boston goalie Tim Thomas felt that the Bruins' recent winning streak wasn't a case of Boston overachieving, just a case of "Boston playing to their full potential, and then some".

Uh huh.

I have no idea about ALL of the cosmic reprecussions of that discussion, but I can tell you that Tim Thomas got chased early in the game for basically playing like a pud, and Boston went down 6-0 in the first period and are down 7-1 midway as I type this. Just sayin'...

UPDATE: with 3:27 left in the 2nd Period, the Capitals are now up 8-1. On a goal by Donald Motherfarking Brashear.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Hard knock life for the win?

Just watched my first episode of this show in my hotel room here in wonderful Montreal, QC. In this episode, they have picked out a man serving in Iraq that had to leave his half-built home in ruins, his wife is at home with his autistic child, etc. etc.

They demolished the half-built house that was in ruins. Rebuilt the house. Took up a collection of Civil War artifacts for his house, had the mortgage paid off, and everything.

Next episode was some crazy Oprah episode where she had to pick some people blah blah blah.. bottom line, the audition tapes were filled with the saddest hard-luck cases you ever heard.

Please don't get me wrong, I think that it is very nice that shows like this are giving to people who need it.. but the way that these people on the audition tapes talk about their hard luck in life, and why it should let them win.. I don't know, the whole thing just rubs me the wrong way. Exploitation of the worst kind. To make people use their bad breaks in life as a "quick escape".

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Why Dan Harrington is the greatest.

Although I've been really too busy to be thinking too much about poker lately, with some serious work commitments preventing me from going on a raid to Calgary for two big tournaments happening around now, I have still been finding a bit of time to browse around the various websites and publications, and one thing really stuck out for me lately: it was an interview with Dan Harrington in Card Player magazine.

Dan Harrington, in case you don't know, is awesome. He is incredibly skilled, as his lifetime of winnings will attest to. He's also very real-world smart, humble, and realistic about the fact that today's tournament scene is little more than a lottery where your skill level merely means your tickets are slightly likelier to win. All this is detailed in the interview, and that's why it's such a good read.

But it's so much more than that.

In today's game, people are using poker almost as a mere springboard unto becoming a flash-in-the-pan celebrity. The level of theatrics and histrionics that goes on in the game today has gotten so bad, this year's World Series of Poker will actually be implementing rules that threaten penalties for excessive celebrations.

Back in the "olden days" (IE 1995) when Dan Harrington won his World Series championship, he was being interviewed him at the table and was asked the usual rhetoric - "What's it like winning this tournament, how do you feel, blah blah". Dan's response was to set up the cards and tournament chips and go through, step by step, the reasoning that led him through the hand.

Compare that to today, when some Stereotypical Generic Schlub wins his first pot in the first 10 minutes of what needs to be a 100+ hour run to the title, and he's dancing, singing, and generally throwing on a production that would put Rip Taylor to shame. All in an effort to be "flavor of the week" if he gets a couple hundred lucky breaks in two weeks.

I've said it before, I'll say it again: If poker is pro wrestling, Dan Harrington is Bob Backlund. The proof is simple: watch the 1993 WWE Royal Rumble, which was right around the 'cartooniest' era in pro wrestling. Backlund was in it, and the WWE booked him very strong with an over 60+ minute run. You can see countless scenes where the ring is packed with countless over-the-top personas, and right in the middle of it all is Bob Backlund, still with his red trunks and red boots, throwing out actual technical moves.

Of course, if that analogy does prove to be true, the WSOP should be very interesting this year; as any wrestling fan can tell you, Backlund spent his last few years in the WWE with a new gimmick that was basically that of a crazy, unstable old man would snap at the "youth of today". I admit it, I would pay good money to watch Harrington flip out and have a "gimmick" of tearing strips off of showboating internet stars.

As long as he still kept playing good poker, of course!

Friday, February 29, 2008

Pirates, zombies and Al Bundy.

First and foremost, Happy Birthday, Frederic!

.. and, in a shameless plug to the "Alpha Lackey glory days", it was four years ago that a "Continuing Adventures of Alpha Lackey" article used this legendary "Leap Year plot twist" in an article on the "letter of the law", or what gamers call "beardy rules". I'm quite proud of it, of course, but that's because I'm a helpless narcissist.

At any rate...

last night, I was watching the special features of Resident Evil: Apocalypse, and it was discovered that one of the recurring jokes that they cut involved one of the characters (the black guy that winds up being bitten by a zombie) being a women's shoe salesman.

Now, if you watched any TV in the 80s, you know There Can Be Only One hapless woman's shoe salesman, and that is Al Bundy.

As a result, hearing the reference to a hapless women's shoe salesman in a zombie movie immediately popped the following in my head:

"Well Peg, a fat zombie walked into the shoe store today. She said 'blrgg rrggr arrgrgrgragh', and I said, 'Well, much like an elevator, they have a two ton weight limit."

Poor Al...

Thursday, February 28, 2008

NHL Trade Deadline haikus.

Even though it's only 4am-ish or thereabouts, the competition for "funniest thing I'll read today" is already a mortal lock for this entry, the 2008 NHL trade deadline deals in haiku form.

My personal favorite:


The Florida Panthers acquired right winger/defenseman Wade Belak from the Toronto Maple Leafs for a fifth-round draft pick in 2008.

A fifth-round pick is
Better than a bag of pucks.
You go, Trader Cliff!


How on earth do you top this? The first round of the playoffs in "Burma Shave" prose?

Now, for the benefit of my younger readers, "Burma Shave" was a product that was notorious for advertizing over several billboards, each featuring one line of a four-line poem, followed by "Burma Shave" on the last billboard. For example, Roy Silvernail's entry from The Richard Nixon Memorial Burma Shave Showdown:

"I am not
a crook," said he,
following with
"Pardon me!"
Burma Shave.

There, you guys get two of my favorite links in one post!

And yes, I think I'll go that way. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Apparently I'm a senior citizen.

Spent some time at the insurance adjustor's office today. What I thought was an open-and-shut claim when a car crossed lanes to smack square into me was, apparently, being disputed. I'll spare you the gory details but suffice it to say his version of the story is so far removed from reality that any detail which actually was accurate was strictly by accident. It literally does appear like his strategy was to lie about every conceivable detail in the hopes that the resulting confusion would result in a matter/anti-matter kind of explosion.

He even went as far as to describe me as a "senior citizen". I kid you not.

Now this dude is in his fifties, yet because I have a few gray hairs, I'm a senior?

I'm amazed that he actually told his adjustor that I was driving a motor car (or as us seniors call them, 'horseless carriages'), truth be told. Apparently he forgot to mention that I was, in fact, piloting my hovercraft dangerously close to the surface of Sargent Ave. Perhaps a military-grade weather balloon?

So, despite the fact that I have given a very, very comprehensive statement, and he can't even get my general age demographic correct, there's a very real chance that this will be a 50-50 fault and I'll be out several hundred dollars.

I did try and take a camera picture with my cell phone, however, with the weather being nearly 40 degrees below, the lens fogged immediately on my taking the phone out of the car. I got some big speech about how "I didn't need to take a picture", etc. Frankly, the only reason I reneged is because we were done all the work and I didn't know how long I had the right to retain him afterwards. And besides, he seemed congenial enough, like one would expect from a senior citizen. An actual one, mind you.

Bottom line is - if ever I am in this situation first, the camera comes out first, plain and simple. And it stays out until the incident is documented to my satisfaction.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

I need a wild, crazy getaway.. to Kennewick, WA!

It's time for another Official WA State Gambling Bender.

The most recent one was late last year, so it's about right on schedule, which is about 3-4 times per year. I took but a few photos of my most recent one, the next one will have quite a few more.

For those unfamiliar with the routine, you take a quick WestJet flight to Vancouver, rent a car, and head down the road until you get to the border crossing. Before you know it, you're across the border and within 45 minutes of the first mandatory bender stop, the Club and Steakhouse in Everett, WA.

The following other stops are also mandatory:

Crazy Moose Casino in Mountlake Terrace, WA,
Coyote Bob's Roadhouse Casino in Kennewick, WA, and
Crazy Moose Casino in Pasco, WA;

the rest kind of gets made up as it goes along.

You might wonder why a degenerate gambler like myself wouldn't make the 'obvious' choice and simply go to Las Vegas. It's actually a reasonable question, until you consider the following:

#1> I like playing table games, not slot machines.

You know, if you tried to get people to sit in front of a machine, hit a button endlessly, pick up the odd nugget and listen to middle C dinging all day, you'd have to pay them. Tell them they have a one in a zillion chance of winning a car, and they'll pay you!

In Washington, non-tribal casinos can only have card games. Which naturally means that they will have to cater to that niche of gambler.

#2> I'm not nearly as big a fan of all the ridiculous Vegas casino gimmicks as much as I like the theme of Washington casinos, which are best described as "card rooms". The Crazy Moose Casinos are, for lack of a better term, like a lodge. Big screen TVs with non-stop sports, good food, pool tables, and a poker game in the back. Coyote Bob's is more like a sports bar, and is smaller and more intimate, complete with all the typical "bar trappings" along the wall. The Club is more spacious and has one of the nicest steakhouses I've ever been to in all my life.

But - oh horror! - none of them have circuses in the middle of them, miniature castles built over them, or a scale model of New York on top of them! There's no pirate battles - you may find scruffy guys with eyepatches, but pirates they most certainly are not - and if you want to see 'gay Paris', you need to ask around discreetly where she's hanging out these days.

#3> I play for stakes that are moderate by Vegas standards, but everywhere I've been in WA I've been treated very well in all but a couple specific cases. The customer service is far better all over Washington. The dealers are friendlier, classier, and on average more competent than most places I've been to in Vegas. And the cabbies in Tri-Cities don't try to long haul you at every step.

#4> The pace is much, much more relaxed. I actually enjoy the solitude of a car and the open road. Drive until you find a rest spot, pop up the laptop and do some work, write a few things, and kick back and think. It mixes in nice with the visceral thrill of half a day of non-stop gambling.

#5> The scenery is far, far better. Cruise around Tri-Cities, with the Columbia river running square through it. Or the wooded highways north of Seattle. Or the Cascades. Compare that to the wasteland that compromises most of Nevada, and even Las Vegas, with porn peddlers positioned in stations along every quarter of a city block.

Nevada does have a few advantages, however:

#1>You can't get comped for liquor in Washington. You also can't get 24 hour liquor in Washington. Both of which you can deal with when there's more to do than stagger around one small area in a hazy stupor.

#2> Vegas still does tend to be knee-deep in drunk, lascivious women. Although, the folks I've met in Washington have tended to be more interesting to talk to, which is at least some compensation. ;)

#3> Poker. The only real specific reason I'd pick Vegas over WA State. The games in Washington are incredibly small stakes by comparison. Although I think, for now, I'd rather pass on all the sharks trying to feast on each other in Vegas and head back to Calgary for some of that fast and loose oil money :)

So, it seems the target is four weeks from now, the last week of March. We'll see how things pan out.

Monday, February 25, 2008

The saddest picture in recorded history.

Don't be fooled by the hyperbole of this post's title. It does not rhetorically suggest something that is in fact pleasant, by virtue of its over-the-top claim. Nor does it needlessly exaggerate some trivial annoyance, in a vain effort on my part to get you to watch a Rick Astley video. It is, to my estimation, really and truly the saddest picture in recorded history. If you're up for it, click on it, look at it, and then I'd like to tell you why I think the way I do.

First, the picture in question: A daguerreotype from 1853.

There's some details on the page that you'll notice. For instance, we know the mother's name (Harriet H. Parker), the child's name (Fanny Melissa Parker), and that she was but 5 years and 6 months old when she passed away. Apparently there was also a short poem published in the newspaper. I am searching for it and if I do find it, I will update with a new post. However, there is much, much more to consider.

Stop for a moment, if you will, and think about how amazing a technology the daguerreotype must have been to Harriet H. Parker.

According to Wikipedia, it was proclaimed a "Gift to the World" on August 19, 1839, meaning that this technology was only about fourteen years old when this was taken. Given how much slower time moved back then, that would probably only amount to an equivalent "technological age" nowdays of a few years at most.

It certainly would have been borderline miraculous, no?

And what did Harriet H. Parker ask of this miracle of engineering?

Not to bring back her deceased daughter Fanny - which clearly would have been impossible to ever hope for - but merely to immortalize her.

And so, in addition to the horrible grief she must have been feeling, she took it upon herself to spend minutes, if not hours, motionless while gently holding her deceased daughter. If I ever brag about how "having a poker face for a few seconds at a time" is something amazing, please remind me of the pressure Harriet Parker was under, knowing that the 'quality' of the immortalizing depending on her stoicism.

She did all that, and why?

To remember, and to share.

To immortalize, but without cursing. After all, millennia of literature up to and including modern movies like "Highlander" (and even video games like "Lost Odyssey") focus on how literal immortality would be a curse, yet our imperfect "human" path to immortality - by remembering people after they are gone - is the single greatest blessing that can be given.

And even though I believe the factors discussed here summarize the true "sadness" of this picture, I would be remiss if I didn't mention how moving it is to know that, by viewing this picture, I'm not just looking blankly at two people from a century and a half ago.

With her actions, Harriet asked people to "feel" for the loss of young Fanny. And when I "feel" that sadness, I know that I am, somehow, contributing to her wishes, in a collective subconsciousness that spans time and space effortlessly. I must be. What else could you call the impulse to feel for something or someone in such a way?

And hopefully if you've read this far, that means you have too. If so, thanks for helping me out.