Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Bonne Année!

Everybody have Earth-shaking, shiver-inducing, rock-n-rollin' New Years plans for tonight?

Oh, you're playing The Mookie. That's cool. I have no money on FT until tomorrow. Such willpower have I!

I'll be at a party, possibly drinking my face off, more likely mixing drinks for people who have dubbed me their personal bartender. Let me warn you, the drunker I am, the drunker I'll make you. Also, I prefer drinks that are ONLY alcohol.

I've had trepidations about this party, mostly because the number of people I actually know there could be small. But I'm swinging my thought process over to the "fuck it, go and have a blast anyway" mentality, which is always the right state of mind to go to a party in.

Every year I don't hold the party, I'm reminded why I do. I bring all my circles of friends into one cohesive mess of bodies. 30-40 people mingling about in my condo, some getting reaquainted, others meeting for the first time, and most saying, "Hey! What's new since last week?" When I don't hold it, the groups splinter and I get pulled three ways, feeling bad about the ones I don't make it to.

Plus, I throw a pretty kick-ass New Year's hootenanny. Which is probably why everyone checks with me before organizing their own. I was asked at least 4 times in the last two weeks, "Are you throwing a party?" Silly humans should know that when I throw a New Year's party, the notice goes out in October so you have no excuse to get out of it.

So tonight I'll drive to my friend's place, drink my face off, and drive home. No... wait... that's asinine. I'll take the streetcar to my friend's place, drink my face off, and then see who wins the streetcar vs cab battle royal for the honour of taking my ass home. Driving drunk is idiotic.

Be safe, get home alive, and have a blast with whatever you do tonight. Tomorrow's a new year! Unless you're Chinese (or any of the other cultures that celebrate the lunar New Year) or Jewish, in which case tomorrow is Thursday and a strange mid-week day off.

Everything Must Go!

Remember when I talked about how terrible the retail picture was for the holidays? Worst holiday shopping in nearly FORTY YEARS.

Somewhere around 150,000 stores closed in the US this year. Another 200,000 is expected in 2009. 2000-3000 malls expected to close, most in the early Spring.

If I said I was surprised, I'd be a liar. Granted, the actual numbers are dumbfounding.

Here's a list of retail store closings. How many of these were near you?

So, with retail numbers down, stores closing, malls closing, and companies tightening belts, that means HUGE retail sector job losses, defaulted commercial mortgages, and the small banks that rely on those mortgages collapsing.

Not to mention the towns like Wasilla that are heavily financed by sales tax from their big box plazas and malls. They'll find themselves in debt or even bankrupt, cutting municipal services and public sector wages and benefits to stay afloat.

Towns go bankrupt, malls and stores close, jobs are lost, small banks collapse? Means more lost houses, more tough times, more saving, less spending, and more reliance on government help.

Military enlistment is up, which is where people flock for job security now. This costs the government more in defense spending, which is exactly where they should be CUTTING funds to try and save the US economy (since they're currently spending more than they make, which makes getting out of hock impossible). I'm sure Canada would buy Alaska and Florida off you for the right price.

So please, if anyone talks about a quick recovery... smack them... HARD. This ain't over by a long shot. 2009 ain't going to be much better than 2008.


A story about finding money. A woman found $10k in a box of crackers she got from Whole Foods. Turns out an elderly woman had taken her life savings out of the bank because she was afraid of the economic problems. She hid the money in a box of crackers, and then forgot and returned the crackers to Whole Foods, where this other woman bought them.

I had a couple problems with the article.

Whole Foods claims returned foods are sent to compost, but a mix up had this box put back on the shelf. Later on, the finder says she would have noticed an open box, so the old woman must have glued it shut. This tells me that Whole Foods policy is actually "if it's not opened, put it back on the shelf." Which makes sense I guess, and not too many people will reverse-shoplift by poisoning packaged foods and replacing them on the shelf (yah, now you're paranoid too). It also tells me that old women are sneaky cheats. Let's assume this box of crackers is $5 because it's Whole Foods. The woman gets home, opens the box (but not the interior bag?), and decides she doesn't want them after all, so GLUES the box top back together and returns them!

Also, the couple who returned the money never heard from the old woman. You miraculously get your life savings returned after you've been told they're probably sitting in a compost heap and you don't even call to say thank you? This old woman is either senile or a complete bitch. I'd hate to be the kids on her lawn.

Save Us

Could my Full Tilt reload timing be any more perfect? I haven't missed a TOC yet, and I don't intend to start.

So much for going easy on the poker... or sanity.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

And One Step Back

There's a handful of things I did wrong last night on the poker front.

I was taking care of a bunch of things as the evening progressed. I'd wandered around my fair city a bit, checking out various stores. I got home around 7, threw together a messy, hot turkey sandwhich (no more turkey leftovers! now to finish the beef), and sat myself down in front of the TV. I ate, and watched some TV on DVD. Then I watched another episode, because it was a two-parter. Then I realized I had chores to do. Then I took a phone call. Then I noticed the 70k was starting 2 minutes ago. I paid my buy-in and walked away to do those chores. Mistake 1.

I wasn't in the mindset to play, as I had other things that NEEDED doing, and in fact neglected one of those things in the end. I bought in and didn't play for half an hour. Now, I didn't miss much in that time, but the pocket jacks might have made a difference... who knows?

But damn if the DVD I was watching didn't keep dragging me along to the next episode, so I popped it into my computer and opened a window. Mistake 2.

I'm playing the $70k, a game that has a decent structure and not-so-donkish play and distract myself from paying any attention to my competition or the trends at the table.

During this, I managed to aggressively chip up, get lucky a couple times, coerce the same donkey into calling into my superior hands (AA vs AQ to cripple him and AQ vs AJ to bust him), and maintain an average stack with a not horrible M. Then that started to peter out as antes kicked in, and I went out on a hand that I don't actually regret.

KQh in position facing a raise to 3x the BB preflop. I think about re-raising, but that would commit me against a stack 3.5x my size who likely wouldn't fold. I call. Flop comes two hearts and the raiser checks. I push, figuring the overbet MIGHT get him off a non-scary flop and happy with my draw if he calls. He calls with rockets and I'm at a 2:1 disadvantage. Whoops. My draw doesn't hit and I'm done.

Now, as usual, I don't regret the hand I went out on, but I shouldn't have been playing in the first place. Ideally, I'd have registered earlier, or even satellited in cheaply, and had time to prepare. Instead, I was thirsty, distracted, and rushed when I sat down. Then I added more distraction to the mix with the DVD, and probably cost myself some opportunities to chip up early. A stronger chip position changes that final hand in a number of ways.

I might have re-raised preflop, and figured I was beat before the flop. I could have outchipped my opponent, keeping me alive longer after losing. I wouldn't have pushed on that flop, but just bet out or checked, saving myself money. In short, my previous mistakes changed my later play, and cost me the game. Which is sad, because when I WAS paying attention, I was once again on my game.

I imagine I won't see any cards tonight, nor tomorrow. In fact, it might not be until the BBmT on the 4th that I sit down at the virtual felt again.

I see January 1st (or thereabouts) as a fresh start poker-wise this time around. The last few months have seen far less poker in my life than the 3 years previous, and it's refreshing. The days leading up to the new year have proven to be a nice warm-up and refresher for 2009. I expect better things.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Thank Jordan

Yah, this Jordan. He went and posted about recurring themes in our blogs. This isn't about that. It's about his second point - that we're constantly relearning what we've learned in poker.

This was something I realized over the weekend. I'd finally reloaded on Stars and was able to play with a bit more abandon. Getting out of the doldrums of $5 turbo SnGs and $2 MTTs reminded me why I stopped playing down there in the first place. The play is simply horrendous. I'd get calls with 2nd pair no draw that would hit, or someone would flop the the double gutshot straight with unsuited 2-gappers after my re-raise of the preflop raiser. Shit like that can be disheartening, because you're relegated to playing your cards and praying for your hands to hold. Nobody can be bluffed off anything, and concepts like position and pressure are meaningless. If you can't trap with the stone cold nuts, then you're flipping coins.

So back to $20 games, and $40 satellites, and $5 rebuys (talk about a cheap way to get into the 70k - $10 invested, 20 seats, and 58 runners left at the break). It was like a dormant part of my poker brain sputtered to life as I played. Position became important again. Being cognizant of the stories both I and my opponent were telling held the key to victory. Reads meant more than knowing I had better cards, they meant knowing I could push my opponent off his sub-par hand with air. Playing the donkfest that was the World Record game was surprisingly easy until the blinds finally caught up with me after 3 hours, because my starting table had (oddly enough) some people who actually knew how to play poker. The Sunday (3.5) Million, horrible structure aside, saw well-timed moves rewarded, and well-laid traps paid off. All those things I've spent the last 3+ years learning stirred awake and came into play.

Of course, my old friend distraction came along for the ride and cost me some key spots. His buddy regret tried to get a foothold as well as great decisions were rewarded with could-have-been-magnificent suckouts if I hadn't folded, but I kept him away as best I could. The times decisions turned out to be poor and were rewarded by me NOT going busto on the river mitigated ol' regret somewhat. In the end, if I'd left the TV off and filled my screen with poker windows, I probably would have fared better. But in the end, for the first time in months, I felt on my game again. It wasn't cradle-to-grave, but there were moments of absolute clarity and runs of confidence and infallibility that I have missed. Looks like I'm getting back into the groove just in time for the new year and the Full Tilt reload. I can't wait for Goat's BBmT on January 4th.

On Bread

There are some smells in this world that are unbeatable. Fresh chocolate chip cookies. Roast turkey. Roast beef. Hell, just about roast anything. There's undoubtedly a smell from mom's kitchen that you wish you could capture in a bottle.

But universally, there's the smell of fresh bread. Be it naan in India, baguettes in France, soda bread in Ireland, rye in Russia, or the smell near the Wonder Bread factory in the US, there's nothing quite like the smell of fresh baked bread.

So I'm incredibly happy having a breadmaker on indefinite loan at my place. Sure, I'd like to mix and knead the dough by hand before shaping the loaf and placing it in the oven, but there's no way I'd be able to wake to that smell in the morning if I had to do it that way.

But every silver lining has a dark cloud. In this case, it's a very small cloud that's a lightly tarnished silver instead of dark. Recipes.

The Black & Decker breadmaker I have has a limited number of recipes supplied that cover a wide gamut of bread types. All of them work quite nicely. To expand on this though, one need turn to other source. Enter Bread Machine Magic. A book I picked up for my friend but somehow stayed with me. It has page after page of bread recipes. Some require sourdough starters, others require exotic ingredients, but most are variations on a theme. The problem is - they don't seem to be quite right.

The bread comes out fine. It's a good colour, good texture and consistency, and good size. The problem lies in the flavour. I've only made a couple loaves from the book so far, but both suffered from not quite going far enough.

The egg bread was good, but lacked the sweetness I was looking for. Looking back, the texture might have been a bit off too. The Challa my friend made (by hand) for Christmas was pretty much the exact flavour and texture I was looking for in the egg bread. So now I must look to replicate this. I suspect more egg and more sugar might be required.

The herb bread I made this weekend looks good, but suffers from lack of herb flavour and an annoying onion undertone. This may be a result of stale dried herbs, or not enough of them. The onion is understandable (1/2 cup of chopped onion sautéed for a 1.5 lb loaf), and is probably the right amount... if the herbs were more pronounced. So more adjustments need be made.

And of course, there's that big part of me that wants to say "fie!" to recipes in toto. That's the part that will get me researching what exactly makes a bread machine recipe differ from a hand-made recipe. The bread machine books claim their recipes are specially designed for machines... I question the veracity of this statement. I shall endeavour to divine proportions, weights, measures, and means in the creation of these breads, and create based on my findings.

After all, if I screw up, it's what... $0.30 worth of ingredients? $1.20 if eggs are involved.

Brief Rant

What the fuck is this Bromance shit? It's being advertised non-stop on whatever channel I have in the background (I think it's an MTV show, but since CTV owns MTV and everything else in Canada now, the ad is on every fucking channel). Brody Jenner (just discovered he even existed, shows how much I'm into reality TV) is looking for a new best friend to have a "bromance" with?

Why not just call it Gay Bachelor and end it there? At least Gay Bachelor would be mildly progressive instead of frat boys trying to pretend that competing to be friends with some never-was guy who's entire raison d'être seems to be filling in time in bad television shows is anything BUT homoerotic. How many times will the phrase "dude, this is totally NOT gay" be said?

Seriously? BROMANCE? WTF? And people thought I was gay.

You Mean I Have to Get Dressed?

Is it Monday already? I guess I'm lucky to have realized that at some point.

The extended long weekend threw me off completely by Friday. The fact I didn't leave my condo on Saturday or Sunday didn't help either. But here I am on Monday at work, pants on and everything.

So how were your holidays?

I spent Christmas Eve and the first half of Christmas Day at my folks' place. With my youngest brother in Whistler this year (did I mention he was trapped in that gondola accident a couple weeks ago? He's fine, but that was the least fun thing that's happened to him in a while), it was a much more low-key affair than usual. A handful of presents, mostly for the sake of giving presents, and generally hanging around chatting here and there. We did a full turkey dinner around 1pm, because I had plans in the evening. All-in-all, pretty uneventful.

Although I did get a fair bit of online boxing day shopping done. The online sales always start Christmas Eve, so I took advantage. Sometime this week there will be a slew of boxes arriving at my place. A new receiever (Yamaha 6190/VX1800), a Blu-Ray player (Panasonic DMP-BD35), and a slew of Blu-Ray discs and DVDs. I've also got some cables on order, so once everything arrives, it will be time to dismantle my home entertainment unit and rejig everything for pure awesomeness.

Yah, I know the point of going with the Panasonic instead of the PS3 was to avoid the receiver costs. What can I say? I'm a sucker for upgrading my technology. I opted against the PS3 simply because I know I won't use it. I barely play the games I already have on the Wii and PC and DS, and very little on the PS3 interests me anyway. I have a HD streaming device and DVR already, that is portable to boot. Plus, the Panasonic I did get was $120 less than a PS3 alone, nevermind adding on the remote, extra controllers, etc..

Now I should look into wireless bridges.

Anyway, I got home Christmas afternoon and hung out with my best friend. She's sans-family during holidays, so I'm it. We exchanged presents (tons on both sides, I now have a kick-ass vintage bar set), and then go to cooking. Christmas dinner number two was an organic sirloin roast (fantastic!), roast vegetables (great!), mashed potatoes (creamy delicious!), challa (because it's tastes so good!), and sautéed collard greens and garlic (bright and tasty!). The roast was a bit rare (still not sure why, it's possible my thermometer is suddenly a bit off, or I put it in too deep), but the ends were perfect and another 20 min in the oven fixed the rest. So between that and the turkey, I've got leftovers a-plenty for the week. There's a reason I made a herb bread on Saturday night (more on that in another post).

Boxing day was spent indoors. I woke up at 1-something and decided against hitting the crowds at the mall. Instead I hung out with my friend, watched a couple movies (FYI - Get Smart was better than expected and Semi-Pro is Will Ferrell Movie 2008, and I'm fine with that), and almost got the car stuck in the snow. I did get the car stuck behind two other cars that were stuck behind a car stuck in the snow though. I was about to back up down the street when another car came up behind me and honked... like I could do anything. He eventually clued in that he was a complete moron and backed up himself, allowing me to get off that road and head home.

Saturday and Sunday? Never left the condo. I satellited into into the $70 grand and the Sunday Million (both on Stars) on Saturday. The 70g didn't go so hot. The Million was going fine (over $3MM pot, and over 16,000 entrants, not too shabby at all) until the horrible structure caught up to me and a flopped flush draw didn't get there. The World Record tourney (35,000 entrants, wow) went slightly better, with me going out around 3100 for a small $24 profit (top 8750 paid... what ridiculous numbers). Overall, a very laid-back extra-long weekend.

A quick story. I woke up around 3-something on Saturday afternoon. At 4:30 someone knocked at my door. I wasn't expecting anyone, but wandered over and looked through the peephole. Some guy I don't know with a suitcase. He either has the wrong place or is selling something. I either case, I don't feel like answering the door in my pajamas. I wait for him to leave. He keeps knocking. Finally, he turns to go and so do I. I guess he saw the shift in light through the peephole because he turned back around and started knocking again, and calling out "Hello? Hello?". He KEEPS knocking, and tries to open the door! Finally I throw open the door and ask "can I HELP YOU?"

"Oh! Oh shit. I'm sorry. I'm... I'm... xxxC?"

"Other building."

"Damn. Sorry. I'm sorry..."

"Yah, bye."

Door closed.

What the fuck? Nobody answers your incessant knocking and cries and you keep trying? There are three towers in my complex, and it didn't occur to you that you might have guessed wrong? How about asking at the front desk where you're supposed to go instead of randomly guessing? I'm just glad my door was locked.

One final thing. A standard joke in Toronto is to make fun of Buffalo always being on fire. Think the Springfield tire fire... that's what we think of when we think of Buffalo.

Except it's far less funny when it affects someone you know. We all know VinNay. He's fine, but his friend Jeff's place just burnt down. Details are on Vin's site and the site set up to help Jeff out. I know it'd be disasterous if I lost my place, but I'd be devestated if I lost my pets as well. Go take a look, and throw a couple bucks to a complete stranger who needs help. Fuck, to have that happen over the holidays too.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

World Record Attempt?

500k guarantee on Stars on Sunday. $11 buy-in. Aiming for 30,000 players!

3000 starting chips, and what looks like a fairly decent structure for what looks like a donkey tournament. That's 90,000,000 chips in play!

And the Sunday game is a $2.5 million guarantee. Looks like a good Sunday for Stars.

Merry Christmas

Jew? Muslim? Hindu? Buddhist? Taoist? Daoist? Shintoist? Confucianist? Satanist? Atheist? Agnostic? Deist? Mormon? Jehova's Witness? Rastafarian? Pastafarian? Cultist?

I don't care. Merry Christmas! It's Christmas for me, and I wish you a Merry one.

Now back to Stars, where I finally found a mildly comfortable way to deposit a few bucks. Still sitting at zero on Tilt until Seacrest wishes me a Happy New Year.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Retailers Can Bite Me

I think I'm done my Christmas shopping. Oh shit, I'm meeting with friends tonight and didn't get them anything. Whoops. Other than that though... done. Except for the friends I'll see after Christmas and get gifts for during Boxing week or something.

Anyway, last night involved some retail frustration.

First, I call up Downtown Camera to see if they have the lens I want in stock. They've got the cheapest local price I can find. Yup, they've got a bunch. I ask, "are you having a boxing day sale?" and they drop the price $30 right away with, "You can have it for $350 today".

Great! A co-worker is going there anyway to pick up a camera I recommended. Hell, he didn't know the store existed until I told him about it that morning. I've had pretty much all good experiences there. He gets there, and they claim there's no way my phone call happened. He gets the guy to ask around the store and nobody admits to talking to me. What the fuck? So they won't honour the price I was quoted over the phone. I tell him to forget it, that I'll fight the crowds on Boxing Day, since I don't NEED the lens for Christmas (but it would have been nice for some family pictures). I'm just glad he was already going, because if I'd trudged through the snow and cold to be called a liar, I would have been even more pissed off.

While this is going on, I'm heading over to a quirky shop in little Italy. They had a Christmas card that would be perfect for a friend of mine. Of course, this was two months ago. I didn't pick it up then, and of course, it's not there now. Waste of a trip and token... so I picked up another card for another friend. This one is entirely my fault though, so I can't be upset at anyone but myself.

Then I head to my next destination. This visit is relatively painless, except that the first person I got to help me grabbed the wrong model of what I was buying. Lucky for me, I had to go to another part of the store for something else and when I returned had a new clerk, who grabbed the right one. The first tried to correct him, but he pointed out she was wrong (I even asked for the specific model and she got it wrong... oy).

Then I have one more stop at a store that I know closes at 7. I'm across the road from it when I see them let people out and lock the door. I check my watch... sure enough, 6:53. Like hell they're closing 7 minutes early 3 days before Christmas. I knock on the door and they look over... I give the "what the fuck?!" look and they reluctantly open the door and let me in. Lucky for them, I knew EXACTLY what I was buying and it required minimal effort on their part. Still though, these last days before Christmas are crunch time and you close your store early? Fuck that!

Then I walked home past the spinning truck tires, honking horns, near-misses, and general chaos, happy I live downtown and don't have to drive in this shit.

Tonight is drinks with friends down the hall, but I'll have to at least swing by the ol' booze place for a gift for them. Then again, they just bought a new place, so maybe I can find something a bit more personal... not that I have any desire to actually shop.

Sweets Pictures

Finally wrapped up the baking portion of Christmas last night when I finished the marshmallows, made some wreaths, and baked the cookie dough.


Homemade Marshmallows

Cornflake Wreaths

Cornflake Wreath

Mint Chocolate Chip

Monday, December 22, 2008

That Went Quickly

How is it Monday already?? HOW? WHY? WHAT? WHO? WHERE? WHEN? HUH?

I woke up 2 or 3 times this morning in a daze. First I imagined that time didn't quite work the way it really does, but that somehow my clock was synched up with the alarm through some temporal twist of fate. My bed was also 30 miles wide yet I managed to traverse it in less than a second to slam my hand down on the "off" button (snooze is for pussies!). Then I fell asleep again. I had a dream that I was waking up like I usually do (in brief, blinking moments where I stare at the clock and determine how much more time I have), except that my sense of time was distorted and I figured 9:00 was plenty of time for more sleep. In this dream I awoke at 10am, and realized that I was already 30 minutes later than as late as I could be, and panicked. As I ran around in my parent's house in my dream, it never occured to me that I was getting changed in the den. Finally, I woke up in the real world (or is it?) and realized it was, in fact, 8:30am and while later than I'd like, it was not beyond the point of no return.

Yah, it's one of those Mondays.

I spent Friday night at home practicing ye old culinary techniques. I made marshamallows (really Alan, they're quite simple and delicious), which are essentially gelatin, corn syrup, and then more sugar, and a lot of mixing. I made mint chocolate chip cookie dough. I made shortbread and coated pieces of it with hot fudge. I called it a night at 5am (two hours of Prince of Persia were jammed in there too).

I got a phone call at the ungodly hour of 12:30pm that woke me up. I fell back asleep for another hour. I slowly got myself together and then got back to the kitchen. I wanted to make chocolate fudge for a party that night (oh the fudgepacking jokes... okay, one joke, repeated every time anyone discovered the fudge... I wonder how the recently out-of-the-closet gay guy took it... oh, wait, he made it too). The problem was... no marshmallow creme, no milk chocolate. So I made marshmallow creme (waaay more than necessary), and substituted white chocoloate and semi-sweet + sugar for the milk chocolate, and it made it better. I simultaneously made strawberry ice cream, which I added the fudge-covered shortbread to in a (generally successful) attempt to recreate Ben & Jerry's now defunct "Cool Britannia" ice cream for my best friend.

I never got around to the corn flake wreaths, which was the point of making marshmallows the day before.

I was cleaning up as my ride arrived, which was fine, since he was early. We got away to a pretty good birthday dinner and party, where the fudge and shortbread was loved by all. I got home around 3am. I wrapped presents, cleaned up the mess in the kitchen, played some more video games, and got to bed around 6am.

Then my phone rang at the ungodly hour of 1:30pm. I went back to bed, and was up at 4pm. I eventually was in a more human state in time to head out for Sushi down the road in the frigid wind. It's a 5 minute walk that's quite easy in the summer... it's a 4 hour walk through arctic tundra in the winter. The sushi was quite good though. Got back home with my friend, gave her the ice cream, baked up some of that chocolate chip cookie dough (MUCH better than last time), and got my ass kicked in Monopoly. I played some more Prince of Persia and called it a night around 2am... which brings us back to this morning.

I still want to get out after work to pick up a few last presents and cards before getting home and finally making those corn flake wreaths. Tomorrow is pre-Christmas drinks with friends down the hall, Wednesday is a half-day at work before heading to the folks' for Christmas. Thursday is Christmas lunch before coming back downtown for Christmas dinner. Friday is Boxing Day which means hitting the downtown stores for bargain hunting. I love Christmas, but man, can it can be exhausting.

Friday, December 19, 2008

New York State of Mind

The City That Best Fits You Is New York City

70% New York City

65% Philadelphia

65% San Francisco

60% Denver

55% Boston

Well That Felt Better

It's nice when a plan comes together... more-or-less.

Got the bulk of my Christmas shopping done yesterday. I missed the company Christmas party (and more importantly, the charity auction and free box of cookies), but that isn't that big of a deal.

I'm one of those people who will break out a Christmas carol in July, but this year I just wasn't feeling the spirit. Maybe it was the anticipation of Vegas that dulled it at first, followed by being in a desert, pre-snow, and inundated with cheesy covers of secular standards. Whatever the case, with 20cm (8") of snow falling at the moment, it's feeling more like Christmas in these parts.

Sadly, I am still sans tree. I really have no need for a real one, so went looking for the faux variety. Sadly, the options were limited and not that appealing. There's still one place to check out, but somehow I doubt the Noma ones will be all that impressive.

As my mother always says, "nobody's ever been sorry about buying quality." Which probably means I take a look at the high-end ones, the Balsam Hill, Frontgate, or Hammacher Schlemmer it seems (although I've seen some good things about Tree Classics as well). Anybody have any experience with these? When did buying a Christmas tree get complicated?

A few more items to pick up, and I should be pretty much done. I'm still in shock that Christmas is less than a week away now.

Now to figure out what's actually going on that day.

Or maybe I'll just have a nice cup of hot chocolate and pull out some recipes and make some Christmas treats. Yah, this will be a year for fudge again, and cookies, and maybe some corn flake wreaths. Mmmm... delicious corn flake wreaths.

Damn, maybe I'll make those tonight... with homemade marshmallows?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Remind Me To Go Home

Yesterday's original plan:

- Come in to work
- Do work
- Do Christmas shopping on way home
- Go home
- Make dinner (the plan involved poutine)
- Call family to see what the Christmas plans are
- E-mail brother who was stuck in a gondola for 3 hours on Tuesday at Whistler/Blackcomb
- Do a couple chores
- Play 10pm PLO8 Stars blogger game
- Sleep

What actually happened:

- Went to work
- Toronto Stock Exchange doesn't open all day, so we sit on our hands and kill time
- Went to bar with a couple co-workers to meet up with our favourite ex-co-worker
- Stayed at bar until 11pm
- Grabbed and ate McD's on way home
- Checked e-mail
- Talked to friend
- Ordered and shipped a Christmas gift to Switzerland
- Slept

Yah, productivity wasn't quite has high as expected. So today I skip the company Christmas party to do some more shopping (although I just took care of a whack of it online, just in time). I endeavour to avoid the malls at this time of year, which isn't THAT hard when you live downtown, but I'll probably have to brave the big one regardless. It seems I also need a new coat, possibly a Christmas tree (artificial all the way!), and who knows what else? Elbows high! Then, if there's time, a return to the company party for the auction.

Crisis? What crisis? I'm spending like it's going out of style. I can't wait until Boxing day.

Shit, that reminds me... need to check out a couple charity sites too. I recommend Child's Play.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Poker and Heroes

Out 224th in the Stars blogger game yesterday... which started at 7pm for some reason instead of 5.

I'll say this - the play was better than I expected, but still pretty craptacular. I made at least one bad laydown, and possibly two, that cost me chips when I should have been committed. Weak poker on my part for sure. Of course, my starting table had CK 3 seats to my left, but I was moved about 3 or 4 times while the game went on.

I think I'll do some Christmas shopping tonight, especially since the Omaha Hi/Lo game that is tonight's event doesn't start until 10pm. I have no idea what to get my friends, so this might necessitate some mall shopping. Ugh.

Heroes. I haven't talked much about it here, but it HAS improved over the last while. Of course, this chapter ended this week, and doesn't return until February 2nd. Goat gives this week's episode a "meh-plus", and I agree.

Things that bug me - Nathan is written terribly. Peter has been proven right time and again and has SEEN THE FUCKING FUTURE about what Nathan's plan brings, but big brother refuses to listen. He found God at one point, but now is evilish? Hero concentration camps? Could we steal more directly from X-Men please? Maybe Adrian Pasdar just doesn't have the acting chops to pull this off convincingly, but I blame bad writing more.

Peter gets his powers back! I'll assume he's starting from scratch though, so he should be able to fly and make blue flames come from his hands, and maybe have Mohinder's strength too. Do they keep him from Claire? Or does he even have the power-absorbing ability?

Ando has powers, Hiro doesn't. I wonder if Ando's turbocharging ability can revive stolen powers? Maybe Arthur doesn't really take them so much as suppress them. Sadly, the writer's understanding of Einsteining physics is... a touch flawed, and a very weak plot point for rescuing Hiro.

Nice to see future painting Africa guy is still alive and non-decapitated.

Is Sylar really, truly dead this time? Please? I love Sylar, but if you're going to kill him, leave him that way.

Why couldn't Claire saved her mom? It's not like she hasn't been horribly burned before... she walked into a nuclear explosion once! I'll also assume bio-mom died from a building falling on her instead of the fire she's immune to.

And Hiro's destruction of the formula comes waaaaay too late. Mohinder's stil alive and no doubt knows the formula inside and out. Missing the catalyst is an issue, but knowing that it exists just means he has to rediscover it. I'm sure Tracy will do all she can ot facilitate that. I wonder if Bruce Boxleitner will be back.

President Worf! Awesome. Too bade Nathan's new plan is totally lame and will make the next chapter Heroes Prison Break or Heroes Fugitive or something. I wonder if they cast Michael Dorn after Obama won? Would it have been an old white guy if McCain did? Turnaround on a TV episode, especially a single scene in a limo, can be very quick. Anyway, that gives as a Dr. Who, Sulu, Worf, Captain Sheridan (Babylon 5), Malcolm (Enterprise), and Uhura so far from the Sci-Fi pantheon doing guest shots. At least they know their audience... now let's try and get Mr. Wheaton in there for some Blogger love.

A month and a half off, and then it competes with Battlestar Galactica. Man, if you think Heroes looks bad now, wait until you have a direct comparison with BSG's new and final episodes going.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Stray Thoughts

Or, how Vegas is going to cost me money and why my registration may be for naught.

Despite 3 epic posts recapping the trip, there are always smaller moments, conversatios, and general nuances that get missed.

One of those is one of the many chats I had with Penner42. I've hung out with the Penners before in Vegas, and they were two of the first bloggers I met on my first gathering trip out there (summer 07). Until now, I didn't know how much a photography guy he was. So during the tournament we talked lenses. He had the one I wanted next, I had the one he still needs. He also happens to have very nice telephoto and added another lens to my wish list. The 10-22 wide angle zoom takes some VERY nice shots, and now I'm jealous.

No Vegas, no desire to pick up that lens now too. There goes the winnings.

Then there's the Poker Stars blogger game. I registered, and then looked at the satellite schedule. What. The. Fuck? 2pm EST? 5pm? I guess since the Euro market is their focus these days, that us North Americans are stuck in the cold.

I can't make a 2pm game. I can't make a 5pm game unless I pre-register and rush home. I could play the Saturday NLHE game, except I have a birthday dinner/party to go to that evening. In short, there's a good chance I won't play in a single satellite game, making my entire registration useless for me, and temporary free advertising for Stars.

Seven Hours of Fun

The alarm made strange noises (no reception on the 4th floor of the MGM apparently) and we were up. As usual, it took a couple hours to get together and since the Blogger tourney started in about 90 minutes, I made the call that the MGM Buffet would suffice. That's kind of like winning the minimum on a straight flush over quads... it's not a bad beat, but it could have been much, much better.

By the time we were in and I'd finished, I had about 20 minutes to grab stuff from the room and get to the Venetian. I rushed upstairs, grabbed the bounty options and Full Tilt jersey, and made it back down in about 5 minutes. I first opted to take a cab, but the line was ridiculous, so I hurried to the monorail instead. It had been sitting there long enough to fill up with unhappy people. A couple minutes later it left, but I was pulling into Harrah's at 3... dammit! I powerwalked through Harrah's to the V and got to the desk about 3:10. Luckily, there were still seats available and I was seated between Penner42 and GMoney (later moved, then replaced by OhCountess, then replaced by The Wife), along with Zeem, YestBay, Mrs. Spaceman, Carmen's Dad, and a couple others I didn't recognize (and I'm notoriously terrible with introducing myself or others... really, just stick out your hand say hi, it'll snap me out of it).

I'd love to give a hand-by-hand recap, but I don't actually recall that much. I had QQ a bunch of times, and generally pushed people off with them. I was playing a very conservative style for the most part, which likely cost me a fair bit of potential chips... but with this crowd, I figured I didn't want to find myself facing a stupid decision on the river after runner-runner something hits for my opponent. Case in point, the ONLY rockets I saw all game went down to Penner's ATd after a runner-runner flush hit. I re-raised him pre, he came along, I slowplayed a paired (but not scary) flop, bet a bit at the turn, not particularly worried about the second diamond, and lost the minimum on the river. I won it all back a few hands later when my Q8d tripled up after turning a flush (I bluffed, got caught, and was committed after the re-raiser was called). Probably my only real suckout of the game.

I was doing pretty well heading into the break before the levels went nuts. 36k was a decent stack at 600/1200/100 ante, but sucked ass when we came back to 1000/2000/300. The levels climbed insanely from this point and it was a struggle to stay ahead of the blinds, as everybody was all-in or fold. I raised up TT after I'd rebuilt my stack to something decent and Bayne called with his 5 or 6 remaining chips with Q9... and caught two pair. It wasn't a big hit, but every little bit helped at this point. This is where I said to Kearns and anyone else listening that my new goal was to bubble and be very disappointed. I was able to double through Dawn Summers with AQ vs her pocket pair (55? 99?) to help me out a ton and see the final table.

Then, on his 3rd raise in about 5 hands, I re-popped Smokkee with KQo. I'd folded QJc in the BB to his raise about 2 hands earlier, and thought, "so what the hell WILL I go in with? I'm so going to lose with KQ". Smokkee made the easy call with TT for about 15k more and it held up. The most frustrating part was the AJx flop, which gave be the straight draw as well as two over, but it needed a TEN, which Smokkee had 2 of. Just like that, I bubbled out in 10th with great disappointment and no animosity. Smokkee chose the hammer lighter keychain as his bounty, and Love_Elf was very disappointed I didn't have kitchen utensils. I guess I know what I'm bringing next time!

So, bubbling after over 7 hours is disappointing. But it was loads of fun. I got to chat with Penner and Zeem a bunch, got to know OhCountess, Kearns, Garth, and Pablo a bit, picked up a bunch of bounties (OhCountess's Twins hat, a pick of Penner's pictures, Mana energy drink & a bottle of SoCo, and an extra bounty swap with Kearns - a hammer keychain for his GAME Joker), and generally had a blast. It's been over a month since I've played ANY blogger games, so it was like putting on that really comfortable pair of slippers again.

Post-tourney, bag full of stuff in hand, I wandered over to the slots to win back my buy-in. That took about a minute as I hit some 7's on the ol' Blazing 7's machine. It seems the previous night's slot tilt at Caesars was a temporary thing. I wandered back to watch the final table a bit more, then grabbed some grub, then returned, then headed over to the IP as Maigrey and Obie were heads-up. Somewhere in there I chatted with Al and Kat and others for a bit.

On the way, X, E and I went through Harrah's, and I discovered my slots nirvana. They have a pit full of $1 Blazing 7 machines! I couldn't resist and scoped out the one I wanted. There it was - while all the others hovered around $1002 or there abouts for their progressive, this one solitary one was $1022, by far the furthest from its base jackpot amount. In went the card and the $100. Away went the $100. Out came another Benjamin to "even up" the credits (only 2 left, can't have a non-3 multiple)... I turn to E and say "shhh.. I'm fooling the machine." Max bet, max bet... etc... $28 left in the machine, and I say, "What the hell? It's not hitting ANY sevens!" Max bet... blazing 7, blazing 7, blazing 7... JACKPOT! This was a silent machine, but the payline said all I needed. The attendant came over and I got me my second $1000+ win of the last 18 hours ($5 to $1250 at craps at 6am). I was definitely up on the trip now.

We continued to the IP, where Maigrey was already celebrating her victory as queen of the bloggers (an upgrade from princess to be sure) and generally being as beligerent as I would have been had I won. Good on ya! Turns out there was some discussion about me getting my buy-in back for bubbling, but that was shot down. Personally, I've got no problem with that - the structure was set, and I bubbled. Someone has to. Plus, I took down 3rd place money or something anyway from slot wins :). Although that didn't stop Maigrey from sticking $100 in my pants... which I politely returned.

X, E, and I played some craps, and the table got ice cold... until X rolled 3 points to make us all profitable. E chilled it right down and I got about 2 rolls in to seven out. I coloured up right then and walked... to the Let it Ride table. I couldn't very well let VinNay do all the winning there now, could I? I played, was up a bit, came close to even... and around then my brain melted.

I was falling asleep when I blinked, and my head suddenly started hurting... I could barely process any thoughts... so I called it a night at 5am. I swung by the roulette table to bet for some coworkers, doubled up, and was done.

I made a point of saying goodbye to those who were still around and made it back to the room without passing out... having a driver helped with that.   We almost had an extra room occupant with us though.

As we headed down the hall to our room, coming the other way was a tall ebony vision. Dressed in a rather nice little black dress and heels that wouldn't be out of place in any club, I still knew she was a pro from 50ft, certainly many levels above what you find trolling the Geisha bar. Nobody's walking OUT of the MGM at 5am dressed that way... certainly not alone. She glanced over and gave a nod and smile, which I returned with a half-hearted nod and a look that said "yah, I know, not interested, thanks" that I perfected with street vendors in China (but that is applicable globally with anybody selling anything I find). She continued on her way as I unlocked my door. She then turned and said "hey guys, having fun?" Which the Vegas virgin responded to innocently enough with "Yah, you?" She started towards us as I continued into the room, mumbling "don't encourage her, I'm too tired for this shit."

"What are you up to now?"

To which E jumped in quickly, panicked, unsure how to react now that he'd clued in as well (but X still hadn't), "Sleep... that's all!" and practically dragged X in with him. Oddly, I found it a bit rude.. after all, she was just doing her job.

I chuckled as the door closed and asked if perhaps we should let X's gf know that he almost accidentally picked up a working girl on his last night in Vegas. He seemed to think that might not be the best story to tell. Luckily, she doesn't read here. Don't know if he's found this corner of the web yet though...

Next day, we were up, checked out, and swung through Caesars for a bit of souvenir shopping and last minute money-tossing. I donated once again to the slots, but only around $220, which was a small bit of my overall profit. Sadly, X became a slots victim as he couldn't leave the burger girl alone... $20 after $20 into the quarter machine. I finally had to snap him out of it before he couldn't afford a sandwich. He has vowed he's done with slots... we'll see.

During all this, we neglected to eat. Burger King was the more appealing option in Terminal 2 of McCarran (easily the most pathetic terminal I've ever been in, and I've been in a lot). A Texas double Whopper... man do you regret it as you sit around digesting. I was back home around 11:30pm after sleeping from takeoff to landing. My most awesome friend had been house and cat sitting for me while I was away and had decorated, cleaned, and reorganized my place while I was gone... how amazing is that?? I go away, have a blast in Vegas, win money, and come home to find the disaster I left behind is now neat and tidy and Christmasy.

Then, there on my table is my new 27" Dell Ultrasharp monitor waiting to be set up. Set it up I did! I drove my friend home, came back, and checked out the ol' account balance, because it was bonus day. Lo and behold, when bonuses are down 20% across the board, I was up 2/3rds over last year!

SO - I leave Vegas up $1200 (which is around $1500 Canadian), come home to a clean place (oh, and I forgot the fresh butterscotch cookies and banana cupcakes too), new monitor, and a bigger bonus than I could have possibly expected. Let's just say that bubbling the blogger game pretty much vanished from my mind, because it was looong weekend that started awesome and ended fantastically. Talk about running good. Now I'll worry about what the downside will be...

But for now - the gathering was awesome as always. It was great to see the ol' familiar faces along with meeting a bunch of new ones. I found more things in Vegas I intend to do regularly (ziplining, and buying strange-coloured M&Ms), introduced another friend to the joys and agonies that Sin City brings, and generally had a blast. I apologize to all those I didn't spend nearly enough time with. As usual, it's tough to split time between two groups. I'll be back in the summer though, and don't forget Eh-Vegas, WaM, Okie, and The Bash - I'll be sure to make at least some of them.

Oh, and I'll get some of those zipline pics and videos on as soon as I'm able.

Monday, December 15, 2008

I Have Faith In This Guy

Noon. Fuck. That's far too late, especially when you're sharing a bathroom (note to MGM - put a door between the toilet/shower area and the sink area).

Anyway, we were downstairs by 2-something and hit the Showtime Cafe or whatever it's called in the MGM for some grub. As tempting as the carnivore's omlette was (5 types of meat I believe), I opted for eggs, sausage, hash browns, and "rye" toast.

We wandered the floor and found some bloggers (CK, Peaker, Jordan, and others) at the poker room. I said hi, but had an errand to run before committing copious amounts of time to things.

To M&M World! Where I picked up a gift for a friend to give to another friend of mine (from her to him, I'm just the delivery guy). I also managed to buy a bunch of M&Ms in colours I didn't know the candies existed in and got a free dispenser of my own. We wandered the store, and left to meet up with the remaining two of my now-dubbed entourage, now returned from golfing.

The debate was on - to see a show or not. I voted nay, for I had yet to play any poker, and knew my time was running short. X voted nay as well, for the show of choice was Wayne Brady and he'd already seen him on tour. So X and I went off to the Venetian to play in the 7pm tournament there. This was X's first casino poker ever, so it was a big event for him. I remember very litte from the game other than the annoying woman a couple to my right who talked incessantly about how she played poker. When you have no internal monologue, you seriously hamper your game as you explain to everyone what you're thinking while debating your next move. She made a boneheaded move when she folded AKo preflop with terrible rationale (she put him on 9's but was scared he could have KK after he reraised her, and she was afraid to push... the minor call for a small percentage of her stack never occured to her). I went out on something (I feel like it was my QQ vs Ax), but X was still alive. I won back my buy-in and then some at the Blazing 7's and returned to check on X... still breathing. I ventured to Caesar's to register for the midnight $65 donkament and caught the Mirage volcano show for the first time... better than I expected, but I didn't expect much. X got knocked out on my way back, and we killed some time.

By killed some time, I mean Instant Tragedy rang me up for a dial-a-shot and we wandered to the bar. I ordered us a couple Tanquery Ten martinis (at least 5 shots per) and toasted my buddy from Texas and wished he could have been there. Of course, I THEN popped some money in the video poker machine and the bartender promised me the next drink free. I won nothing, but when the rest of the posse arrived, I was able to offer them a free drink.

Two went off to play craps or something while the rest of went to grab some grub. The Venetian food court is convenient, but ain't cheap. $16 cheesteak, fries and Pepsi. We downed it and headed back to Caesars for donkeytime.

What a horrid structure. I was buzzed and maintaining and honestly didn't care about the game. I went out when I made a move at an unscary flop with overs, and got called by someone with a shitty flush draw that hit. Damn. Whatever. I enjoyed the Pussycat Dolls girls walking by to the employee area... a free show is always welcome.

A rookie hand of note. Two players got into a heads-up battle early on, and the board was Broadway by the river. Obviously, both were playing the straight now (betting didn't indicate the flush that was out there). Guy 1 bets, guy 2 calls and flips over A7o, showing what a donkey he was playing top pair no kicker on an AJTK board (Q on the river) by calling guy 1's bets all the way down. Guy 2 peeks at his cards, and I say "flip 'em.. FLIP THEM" (yes, he was a buddy, I won't name which one though), and he pushes them forward face down, figuring he's playing the board. Of course, the dealer mucks them and pushes the pot the other way. My buddy is wondering why he isn't getting any chips, and we all explain to him at once what he did. He was tilt for the rest of the weekend, depsite his protestations to the contrary. Oh, he had AJ, so had been ahead the whole way until the end. He'll always show his cards at showdown now.

Anyway, out and a bit drunk, I decided to go an win back my losses at slots again. It had worked so far. I picked the wrong machines... and went on slots tilt... and lost $600. Whoops. By 3am, 3/4 of my group were out, so we made our way to the IP. #4 made it as far as missing the money by 2 spots an hour later.

I'm a bit foggy on where I lost some more money, but I think we played some craps and it went not so well.

Then I sat down at let it ride with N, and soon enough, CK and VinNay found us and joined in the fun. F-Train opted out, as he didn't like losing money. I was about to call it a night, having $30 in my wallet at this point, but with the arrival of those two, I turned to the ATM game and won! Good call me, because I won some cash at the ol' LiR. Then we went to play more craps.

We visited the craps table again, most dear of inanimate Vegas friends. This time, the table was rocking nicely until they upped the limit to $10. We moved to the next table over and it was ice cold. I looked for Alan, but he was nowhere to be seen. Then the final guy from the old table moved over to a seat reserved for the stragglers (the limit increase was to clear us out). He says, "Just give me a spot that will get the dice. I didn't get to touch 'em at the last table and I just want to roll!"

I immediately felt good about the guy. N says, "I just want to survive until his roll." So we tightened up our betting. The guy gets the dice and I put $5 on the firebet, syaing "I have faith in this guy." He goes on a MONSTER roll. An hour later, he's hit 5 individual points, and about 8 or 9 total, with loooong rolls in between. As soon as a point was off, he cleared the 7's out of his system. He finally got the seven-out, and I was up hundreds from the rolling, and the $5 firebet paid 250-1 for $1,250!

I tossed the roller a green chip for his work, and was ready to go... except the guy two to my left (next to roll) says, "Fuck this! I want HIM to roll again. I pass." The ENTIRE table then passed the roll back to our new best friend. He grabbed the dice and rolled a point... then sevened out and I knew it was time to colour up. I flipped the crew a green chip and made my way to the cage, having recovered all my losses and a bunch more on one roll of the dice.

6am and back to the MGM, this time though, I set an alarm. For 11.

Sleep is For the Weak

Perhaps drinking and overeating before going to bed at 1am the night before my flight left wasn't exactly "easing" into Vegas. Four hours of sleep and off to the airport for 6:30am. Easy time through customs and security and plenty of time to spare in the waiting area.

Then we got on the plane and someone discovered mechanical difficulties that kept us at the gate for an hour. I slept, uncomfortably, through most of this. They finally got the wings glued on, or fixed whatever problem it was, and we were off! This actually worked out well, since two of my "entourage" (credit, I believe, to Pokerpeaker) were on a flight that left an hour after we were scheduled to... which meant 4 minutes after us now.

An uneventful flight (where I decided that The Incredible Hulk is pretty good and Wall-E is overrated robot love pap that is overly cute but very, very pretty) took us to McCarran and that old familiar smile crossed my face. Car rented, met up with the two stragglers, and hit the road. Easy check-in to the MGM, rooms down the hall from one another, and on the road to Bootleg Canyon.

It's an easy drive to a non-descript building in Boulder. We were met by Jasmine (pronounced Yasmine), signed our lives away, got weighed, and harnessed up. A quick drive in a beat-up van over some bike trails took us to the back-out site. 800ft test run to show us the basics and see if we still wanted to continue. According to the crew, only two people have chickened out at this point. After the run, I couldn't image the level of chickenshitedness required to get that far and THEN chicken out. I get not wanting to do it in the first place, but after you've driven out there, harnessed up, read and signed the waiver, paid your $150, and bumped along to this point... why would that easy little zip scare you off?

Anyway, we all had no problem with the test run and were fired up for the rest. The van made its way up some steep curves and almost died at the top. We climbed out, hiked a bit, and stared at the first run. 1800ft, over some great terrain. First though, we took in the view. To the left was lake Mead, with a VERY visible waterline. To the right was The Strip, which you could barely see through the orange smoggy haze surrounding it. It was one of the most disgusting things I've seen, as the surrounding desert was clean and clear.

We hooked in to the trolley and took off. I lack the writing ability to describe the sensation of hanging below a steel cable as you hurtle downwards at dozens of miles per hour with only your body movements to slow you down. All I wanted to do was go faster... until I wanted to slow down. Then I hit the brakes - shoebox-sized metal blocks on the end of the cable to slow you down before hitting the spring at the very end. THUNK! THUNK! And then you're going backwards. I wanted to jump off and RUN to the next one.

There were 5-7 runs, I wasn't really counting as I just wanted there to always be more. Some were over vast canyons, others took you only 15ft from peaks. Some had you going 60mph, others a mere 30. Some curved up at the end, so you had to build up a TON of speed to make the platform, or be stranded until rescue could come. All of them were awesome.

By the 2nd last run, the sun was setting. The last desert sunsets I saw were in Israel a couple years ago, but the surrounding land there was flat in comparison. As we waited for our turn on the line, we couldn't stop taking pictures and commenting on the sky. On one side, the sky was ablaze over the mountains, putting any attempts The Mirage makes at volcanic simulation to shame. To the other, the moon hung full among a spectrum of blue to magenta over Mead. The view alone at this point was a capper to the best start to a Vegas trip I've ever done.

On the last run, we hit twilight and had a run where depth and distance became confused by shadows and darkness. The final run is aptly named as Thunderbolt. Four breaks await you as you hit 45mph and maintain it the whole way. During each run, I forgot how jarring the breaks were... Thunderbolt made sure you never did again. The four of us on the lines at that time raced our way down. From a standing position we jumped off and streamlined as far as we were willing before snapping into a breaking position. Four jarring thunderclaps met us as we neared the platform... my shoulder didn't forgive me for 24 hours.

I'll be back there.

Oh, and they also run ziplines out of Grouse Mountain in BC for my Canadian brethren out that way.

We were met by a truck instead of the van... seems the van was now out of commission, having barely made it downhill. Two trips were needed for the group that day, and on our trip, we asked them to go fast... they obliged. Dirt roads, sharp turns, and only the headlights ahead of us made sure the adrenaline kept pumping (the GnR on the stereo helped too).

We said our goodbyes, promised to force our friends to go at gunpoint, and got in our boring car to drive on a boring road back to Sin City.

We pulled into the MGM with plenty of time to spare before dinner. Washed up, changed, and coming down off our high, we made our way to The Venetian for some kickass steak dinner. I grabbbed a sweet spot at the Palazzo lot and promptly got temporarily lost trying to find the access to the Venetian. It didn't take long to get my bearings and powerwalk in the right direction though, friends lagging behind. I strolled up 10 minutes late for the reservation, past a HUGE crowd of hungry people, and stated my name. The friends caught up, and we were seated immediately, the hungry and envious glares of the nonreserved drilling into our backs.

I love Delmonico. It's classy, the service is fantastic, and the wine list is 90 pages long. Upon hearing we'd been there almost a year ago to the day, a nice amuse of grilled cucumber with beef and barley topping was brought out on the house. Ahi tuna and Salmon tartare as an appetizer couldn't have been better. The bone-in rib steak was melt-in-your-mouth flavour in meat form. I vaguely remember the mushrooms and vegetable sides we ordered being good too... but I barely touched them as I had a decent portion of cow sitting in front of me. The 2005 Catena Alta Malbec was as delicious as I remember (which is easy, because I have 5 bottles at home). Hell, even the sorbet after was like eating icy versions of the fruit they were made from (cherry, cranberry, and persimmon). A cup of Jamaican Blue french-pressed coffee capped it off wonderfully. Delmonico is now a December tradition for me. My buddy who had never been to Vegas before was almost in tears with how happy he was. Never has he had as good a meal. The ziplining was the most exciting thing he'd done since I took him skydiving for his bachelor party (the subsequent divorce and financial ruin was no doubt a large part why this trip was so awesome for him). At this point, we could have turned around and gone home and called it a great trip.

But it wasn't yet 10 hours done yet.

Stuffed to the gills and two bottles of wine down our throats, we stumbled towards the IP for cheap craps (and I to FINALLY see some bloggers). On the way, some Japanese dude and some friends were walking the other way. I called out Alan and hugs and greetings were exchanged. I was introduced to the others with him. I recognized Gnome from previous trips of course, have forgotten (I apologize profusely, I usually require two introductions or one followed by a long conversation) who two of the other were, and then finally met PirateLawyer, who, as all bloggers, looked nothing like I expected. We both went on our merry way in opposite directions from there.

The IP was... well, the IP (BTW - did anyone other than me and VinNay notice that the number of pros seemed to be substantially down this year around the Geisha bar?). I played some craps, lost a few bucks, and wandered over to the bloggerdom at the bar. Talked baseball and hockey with PL and Zeem, met OhCaptain, and eventually his lovely wife OhCountess (after she was done being hit on by every male blogger who walked by... bloggers marry up). From here on out, I will link no more... they can be found to the left. Joanada was all hands with every male in grabbing distance as I chatted with her and BuddyDank, Pauly was smiles and waves, Iggy was busy biting people in the kneecaps whenever they nearly stepped on his head, Kat was downing caffeinated alcoholic beverages to make up for lost time and stay awake simultaneously, and, well.. everyone else was doing what we do - drinking, chatting, laughing, hugging, and generally being thrilled to be there. Oh, and some, like CK, Penner42, Doc Chako & Wife, and more were playing mixed games in the IP poker room. Forgive me for not mentioning you... there were lots of us.

Around 3:30am I called it a night and walked back the MGM. Along the way, I marvelled at the CityPlace and Cosmo constructions. 24/7 those cranes are running, and they're building a city into a Las Vegas block... I was in awe, considering all I've ever known in that spot is a hole in the ground.

The walk was uneventful save for a couple guys giving me a "what's up brother! ain't no need to fear the black man!" I love 4am Vegas :).

I noticed something disturbing with the MGM... severe lack of Blazing 7 machines. The burger girl is fun, but the 7's are my favourite machine, bar none. What I did find was the Majestic Lions machines, which are just Blazing 7's with different pictures. I picked my machine and cleared out my small craps losses + $300 in a couple minutes and called it a night, happy to be up a bit.

I hit the pillow around 4:30am, but neglected to set an alarm, figuring the guys I was rooming with who had called it a night 4 hours earlier would be up early enough.

We woke up at noon.

Asleep at the Keyboard

Quickie before hitting the hay for 4 hours of sleep before work.

- Ziplines rock
- Delmonico is now a tradition
- No gambling until I'd been in Vegas for 10 hours, wtf?
- 5 point $5 firebets rock my world
- $1000 slot jackpots rock it nearly as much
- Bubbling the blogger tourney after 7+ hours sucks donkey balls. At least I called both my place and the hand I'd bust with. I should have taken prop bets.
- Burger King's texas whopper should NEVER be your only meal of the day
- Oh, and coming home to finding out your bonus is up around 1/3 2/3 from last year in these times is a great way to end a trip.

These stories and more after I take a nap masquerading as a night's sleep.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Last One

This will likely be my last post until Monday or so. This time tomorrow I'll have been in Vegas for 2 hours already! WOOHOO!!

For those going - see you there!

For those not - that blows. I'll try and remember to fire out some dial/text-a-shots.

Bright light city gonna set my soul...

Fuckin' Bell

So I'm looking over my cell bill the other day. I usually have a higher bill than the base cost due to random long distance calls, web use (no data plan), excessive texts (Vegas), etc... but I did nothing out-of-the-ordinary since my last bill. $64.

This didn't sit right. I mean, I'm supposed to be a $20/month plan + stupid fucking access fee + taxes. So $40 or less.

I examine more closely. I'm on a fucking $25/month plan, and am being charged for call display and voicemail express. WTF? Those two are supposed to be included.

I upgraded my phone last year, and made it clear I wanted the same plan. I was told my plan didn't exist any more, but they had a comparable one that was actually better (free evenings and weekends included). Great! I made sure it was comparable with no fucking catches like "good for 3 months". Then he entered the wrong plan. I corrected him, he called front office, they switched it to the right one. Super.

Now I find out I've paid Bell $200 extra over the last year. Fuck 'em. I call billing and am told that the reason that happened was because the plan I was signed up on wasn't actually available to me, so they switched me. WTF? I asked, "shouldn't I have been informed of this?" Because I wouldn't have upgraded my damned phone if I had know that. "Oh, well we did this because you'd have been charged per call otherwise." Give me a fucking break.

So I asked, "can I get off this plan?" And out came the spiel about all great (read: shitty) plans they have. Meanwhile, I'm back on my corporate site checking out the plans available there... so much better than the crap being offered.

For the same base price ($25), I'd get free call display and voicemail, unlimited text, and overcharges that are a FRACTION of the regular price. I'm fucking pissed.

Yah, I should have caught this MUCH earlier, but not even an apology. It's not the fucking plan I signed up for.

So now I'm escalating by calling my contacts in the company and skipping past the bullshit to someone who actually knows what the hell customer service is. If they can't help me, I'll see how much their competition wants me.

A shame I found out now, when the bill is due on Monday and I'll be building up one hell of a cost over the weekend in text messages.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

More On Autos

Just a quickie. Take a look over here to see the main problem with the Detroit Three. Until there is significant reform in pensions, pay, and benefits that brings auto workers in line with the rest of the universe, the American car companies just can't compete.

Oh, and there's this too. I got a chuckle.

How Not To Run Customer Service

More tales of priviledged woe... why have a blog if you can't rant?

On Friday I decided to make an impulse buy of a new monitor. There's nothing wrong with my current monitor other than it doesn't quite fit multiple windows very well. Who knew that a 22" 1600x1050 monitor would be insufficient?

So a 27" 1920x1200 was bought. Multiple USB outlets on it, card reader, every video in you could want (except s-video)... it looks like a good buy. Oh, and 40% off too.

I complete the order and then realize I could get some more money off with my company's employee purchase plan. So I call up Dell to see if the can adjust my order. I call the EPP line, get transferred to sales, and then get told that since I don't have an order number yet (sent to my home e-mail address), they can't help me.

Okay, problem 1. You have a whole database of every order that comes in and goes out. You're telling me the ONLY way to track down an order is via its number? Got it, that's your primary key, but there should be other searchable methods. They tried my phone number and address, but found nothing (which is odd, since an order I placed the day before had already arrived at my place).

I go home and check my mail. There is indeed an e-mail from Dell. One confirming I have made an order, with no order number, and another saying there was a problem processing my credit card payment.

No worries, I call the card company and see what's up. Looks like I fatfingered the wrong expiration date. Aight. I call the number provided in the e-mail, complete with extension to a specific individual.

"You have reached my voicemail. I'm out of the office until Monday."

It's 6pm on Friday. You run a worldwide computer organization and you have banker's hours? I call other numbers, nobody can help me after 3 or 4 transfers. Online sales office is closed. But will be open on Saturday I'm assured.

The monitor is listed as sold out on the site now.

I call on Saturday - "Our offices are closed. Please call back during office hours." No office hours are given.

The monitor can no longer be found on the site.

I leave a message on the voicemail of the original person who e-mailed me with the pertinent info.

I wait until Monday. No call or e-mail from Dell. I get home and call immediately (5pm). "I've gone home for the day." ARGH! I check the e-mail again... office hours - 5:30am to 2:30pm! WTF?

I call today. Voicemail "I'm out until Wednesday." I call another number. Get transferred 4 times and end up at... an auditor's voicemail??? I try a third number, get transferred twice, and FINALLY get a guy who can help me.

Him: Hello.

Me: [pause].. uh... hi?


[pause]... who am I speaking to?

Oh, this is [name]. Am I talking to... [me]?


We proceed from there. He's able to set everything right, give me an order number, apply the EPP discount, and send me on my way... in about 20 minutes.

Now it will either arrive before I leave on Thursday and suck up hours of my time in playing with a new toy, or it will arrive while I'm in Vegas or after I return and fill me with anticipation.

At the end of the day though, Dell should have ONE FUCKING NUMBER. You call it, the person who asks what you need should have SOME clue where to send you instead of passing you around India looking for the right call centre. I did find it funny that as I moved up the ladder, the pretense of where they were disappeared. I went from Thomas/Mary/Tim/etc. to less generic names, and finally to Ali/Rajit/etc.. I guess once you get a VP title you get to keep your real name.

Running Out of Time

So after a string of terrible SnG games, I decided to play in some large-field cheap donkey MTT last night. The $8 $100k turbo on Stars. 39th out of 2700 isn't too bad, even if it only paid $39... at least it was quick.

A few ridiculous suckouts that went my way (77 turns into a flush over a flopped ace that beat me, flopping double-gutshots against overpairs, etc..) kept me going. I was in and out of the top 30 with regularity, and finally decided with half my stack committed and an M < 3 if I folded that a s00ted K-crap was good against a donkey bigstack who was playing with crap... turns out it didn't beat his s000ted A-crap... at least I was live.

So, it was donkfest turbo with over 2000 players, and I made it to the top 1.5%. Yet when it's 9 people in an SnG, I can't seem to even cash of late. I forgot until yesterday afternoon (reading LJ's post) that what little success I've had in this game has come in bigger fields. I play pretty decent survival poker, which obviously isn't enough to WIN, but is at least enough to keep from losing money so quickly.

So why the hell haven't I been playing super-cheap donkfests? I mean, should I be training for the blogger tourney on Saturday? What's wrong with me? Of course, now I have no time to hone my skills, since I plan to prep and pack tonight, and have work dinner tomorrow (hence the packing tonight). Obviously, I didn't give this enough thought.

Then again, I'll probably play at least one, if not two, Venetian or Caesar's tourneys on Friday, so that should help. I'd be all over that charity game Al was pimping, except the details are scarce.

From what I gathered:

$200+30 buy-in to play with a bunch of poker pros in a game for Leukemia and Lymphoma. But it looks like it's a REBUY with a gaggle of pros. So $200+30 + multiple rebuys + add-on gets pretty damned expensive. It looks like all rebuys and add-ons go to the charity, which means you're a ponce if you don't rebuy or add-on.

No details on structure on the site, or payout, or anything else. Hey, I'm all for charity, but I'd like to know what I'm getting into here. I played in the worst-organized charity game ever last year, but at least they provided the basic information.

That aside, it still has the potential to be far too pricey for my bankroll, especially with the US$ where it is these days vs the Loonie. Nope... Venetian tournament it is!

Monday, December 08, 2008

Free Doesn't Need A Bailout

Online Poker

I have registered to play in the PokerStars World Blogger Championship of Online Poker!

This PokerStars tournament is a No Limit Texas Hold’em event exclusive to Bloggers.

Registration code: 693157

Food (no pics)

I've been very lazy in the photographing of food lately. Bad me, especially since my camera is constantly on the counter.

But that doesn't mean I've been lazy in the making-food department. Although with my new stand mixer (Cuisinart 5.5 qt 800W... black) it's been more baking of late. Maybe it has to do with winter as well.

Shortbread cookies that need a little tweaking (I may drop the brown sugar, and definitely cook a couple minutes longer) after being taken from one of my favourite cookbooks (if not used enough).

Banana bread that is nearly perfect (needs a bit more baking soda and a couple less minutes in the oven) after combining a couple recipes (mom's and Alton's). This also led to me finally mixing up the dirtiest-sounding thing in my kitchen - Alton Brown's kitchen lube (vegetable shortening and flour, works great for greasing things).

Cream of mushroom soup which turned out pretty damned well for a first try. I Frankensteined a few different recipes together and added some of my own twists. Five types of mushrooms, all delicious. Next time? More garlic, salt and pepper, heavier cream, and maybe more flour.

And of course, a good ol' fashioned tenderloin steak. Juicy and red with oil, alderwood smoked salt, kosher salt, fresh ground black pepper. Side of fried potato and sweeet potato. Yum.

Good timing too, since Wednesday is Christmas dinner with work people, and Thursday-Sunday is Vegas, Vegas, Vegas!

Something to Talk About


And I imagine that our intrepid reporter-friends that will be in attendance will be inundated with questions about their Mexican (pronounced Meh-HI-kan) adventure.

Go read Pauly (like you need a link) for the story. Just nutty.

I have a very simple plan in Vegas - win lots, because everything I win is worth 30% more. Of course, everything I lose is 30% worse, so therefore I can't go and lose now, can I? Stupid commodity-based economy.

Oh, and if you're in the US and didn't catch Saturday Night Live - go watch this. Now. Unless you're at work... then maybe watch it later.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Response to Jordan

So Jordan asked me about freezing stuff. I'm not exactly an expert on this, but I'll share what I can.

Obviously, we freeze things for one of three reasons:

1.- They're supposed to be frozen (ice cream, ice, Ted Williams)
2.- We want them to last and not spoil (meat, leftovers, Walt Disney)
3.- It's an interesting experiement on the effects of cold on our enemies

But the questions was - how long?

My answer? Depends.

When you freeze something to keep it from spoiling, you're doing so to prevent bacteria growth. Most food bacteria survive freezer temperatures, but the growth comes to a stop since you're freezing them along with the food. So, as long as things are put in fresh (if raw) or soon after they've been cooked, the question of spoilage is fairly moot.

So the question becomes - is it still good? Well, it's generally edible, but sometimes it's not very tasty. Freezer burn occurs because the water in the cells eventually sublimates (think shrinking ice cubes), and the food becomes dried and shrivelled. There isn't really a hard-and-fast rule on how long this takes, as the type of freezer, packaging, environment, type of food, and other factors can contribute.

For instance - a manual defrost freezer maintains a more constant temperature than an auto-defrost one, so will lessen freezer burn. Think of winter - at -1 (30F), the ground is covered in ice At +1 (34), it's all slush. If your freezer fluctutes by +/- 1 degree from zero, the same thing can happen at the surface of your frozen food. A tightly or vacuum-wrapped piece of food will also stave off burn longer because it maintains humidity better within the packaging, and the sublimiation takes longer. but neither of these measures will keep freezer burn away forever.

With something like ice cream, it's a similar story, but slightly different. Every time you open the freezer door, or take out that tub of Cherry Garcia, you're raising the temperature. The ice cream melts a bit, some water evaporates, and then you return it to freezing. You get ice crystals forming on top. Sometimes known as the "protective ice shield". An Alton Brown tip for homemade ice cream is to portion it out into smaller containers, so you're not exposing the whole batch to room temperatures every time you serve. As well, there's a reason commercial ice cream has a plastic sheet on top of it. Take some plastic wrap and lay it on the top of the ice cream (not the container, the ice cream itself) when you freeze it.

So, how long can it all last? You're usually pretty good for a few months with most things before burn starts to kick in. Things like soup and other high water-content items will probably last longer since they're mostly liquid anyway. I've got meat that's lasted over a year in vacuum-packed plastic, while the same meat has burnt in a matter of weeks when the seal is broken. Your best bet is to store everything in clear containers or plastic wrap instead of foil, so you can actually SEE what it looks like.

But even if your food succumbs to some burn, it's not the end of the world. Freezer burn tends to be unevenly distributed, so as long as the whole thing isn't gone, you can just cut out the burnt parts once thawed and cook the rest. If that would decimate the food, then be creative. Steak or chicken becomes a stir fry or fajitas. Strawberries become jam or topping or pie. I recently did a beer can chicken with a roaster that had been in my freezer for over a year. The chicken looked like crap when it thawed, but after some liberal seasoning and roasting with beer infusing it, it turned out really well.

Vegetables will shrivel up and dry out after particularly long periods in the freezer. Most store-bought frozen veggies are flash-frozen to retain water and flavour and such, but your freezer isn't THAT cold. Some can be revived by soaking in water first, but most end up tasting "frozen" if they've been in there too long.

I'm sure some food safety nut will disagree, but I've never had a problem with anything coming out of my freezer health-wise. As long as it goes in before it starts to turn bad, it should still be perfectly healthy to eat when it comes out and is cooked properly.

There are something that shouldn't be frozen though - whole citrus fruit comes to mind. Water expands before it freezes, so anything that has contained water (ie.- an orange, think of each of those juice-filled cells) will likely "explode" and be useless when thawed. Things with a high alcohol or sugar content also won't freeze well either (think sticky popsicles if they've been in there too long). High-fat liquids (like milk or cream) will separate when frozen, and thaw strangely.

Also, there's a reason that your folks cooked every piece of meat in the freezer that time you forgot to close the door and nobody noticed until Tuesday. Once you thaw frozen food, bacteria growth begins anew. In many cases, even faster than before. Refreezing just isn't an option with things that have completely thawed (I'd argue that it's probably okay if it's only thawed a little, but is still generally frozen solid). So if you take out that roast, make sure you'll use it.

Make sure you freezer is cold enough. It should be set around the midway point of the dial (usually, freezers differ, read your manual), and be around 0 degrees C (32F). Any warmer and you aren't freezing anything, too much colder and you'll see lots of ice crystals and freezer burn.

As for thawing - I'm probably Alton Brown's worst nightmare when it comes to thawing. I often don't decide what I'm eating until I'm on my way home, if not later. If that something is chicken or steak, it usually involves me pulling a piece of meat out of the freezer. A solid steak can take all day to thaw on the counter, and a chicken breast all day in the fridge. A turkey? I buy those fresh.

Now, the PROPER way to thaw food is to put it in on a plate in the fridge. This allows for a slow thaw in a cold environment, which keeps bacteria growth to a minimum. I only use this method when I'm thawing a roast, since it's hard to quickly thaw something that big. For instance, the Eh-Vegas elk roasts spent three days thawing in my fridge before I could cook them.

Other faster methods include putting the item on the counter, in the sink, in the sink with cool water (not hot or warm), or microwaving. The counter works for beef, but I'd never do chicken that way. The sink without water is mostly just to keep it off the counter. The sink with water is frowned upon since it promotes bacteria growth (moist environment, still takes a couple hours). I've done the sink with water to finish thawing a whole chicken without problems though. The microwave method is fast, but you run a very real risk of cooking the edges of whatever you're thawing. I have yet to thaw chicken without microwave "boiling" parts of it, or ruin perfectly good steak.

No, what I do is use my oven. I preheat it to 200-250 degrees F, put the frozen meat on a sheet of aluminum foil with edges turned up to prevent spilling (I find baking sheets/pans heat up too much and cook the bottom), and put it on the middle rack. I let it sit with the oven still on for a couple minutes, and then turn off the oven. About 20-30 minutes later, I have a soft, thawed, UNCOOKED piece of meat. If I need to bring it to room temp (steak), I might leave it in longer. This works for one or two pieces of meat only though. If you have a dozen hamburger patties or are feeding the poker group, then they'll cool down the oven before it has a chance to thaw them effectively. You could crank up the heat more (but this risks cooking things), or leave it on the lowest possible setting for the duration, but I've tried neither of these.

Now the thing with my method is you can't leave the meat sitting around for hours afterwards as the warm oven environment will promote bacteria growth. While it's thawing, I suggesst prepping everything else so you can get to cooking as soon as possible. Since I use this method for steak, chicken breasts, sausages, pork chops, fish filets, etc., everything is generally fried, grilled, or roasted at a high temperature. I wouldn't use this for a roast or whole bird, or anything that would be delicately prepared at low temperatures afterwards.

Obviously, pre-cooked things are less of a concern when thawing. Mom's lasagna can be popped in the microwave and cooked away if you want. I prefer warming up frozen soup on the stove myself (it recombines better). TV dinners? Well, they never go bad (yay preservatives!) and can be cooked in 5 minutes.

I think I've exhausted what I know, mostly from my own experience. Bear in mind that I'm one of those guys who scoffs at a lot of best before dates (except on meat, milk and fresh bread) as ass-covering legal necessities. Most food lasts longer than the label says. The "use latex gloves and sanitize everything after looking at a raw chicken" school of thought is a bit overboard in my opinion as well. I take precautions (wash my hands after handling raw meat before touching everything else, and clean the counter with hot water and soap), but don't go overboard. A few germs and bacteria just make you stronger, right?

Who Are Their Writers?

This feels like a bad comedy. Let's do a quick economic recap.

Sub-prime mortgages collapsed across the board when market saturation was reached. Trillions in imaginary money disappeared almost overnight. Banks who had lent out money they didn't really have to people who didn't deserve it went belly-up. The economy is in shambles.

There is a root cause to this mess - overlending. Sub-prime mortgages and fractional reserve lending both involved people giving away money that didn't really exist to people who wouldn't be able to pay it back. The entire system was based on some rediculous concept that prices would just keep going up.

Now, instead of embracing deflation and contraction, the government is trying everything it can think of to bolster the economy and force growth on a system that neither wants it nor neeeds it at this time.

Their latest salvo? Trying to force lower mortgage rates.

How the hell do these people keep their jobs? How is it remotely possible that nobody smacks them upside the head and yells "YOU ARE A FUCKING MORON!"?

They bitch that banks aren't lending, depsite the fact they FORCED them to take bailout money. Now they're trying to spur homebuying by lowering rates! It was people buying homes they couldn't afford and banks lending out too much money that GO YOU INTO THIS MESS IN THE FIRST PLACE! How the fuck do you think this fixes it?

The banks are smart enough to keep rates where they are and not lend, realizing that they want to make money and that ain't going to happen by sticking to the lend-as-lend-can method of the previous few years. The government wants to force them to pursue unprofitable and damaging practices for the sake of growing a damaged economy. Since the gubmint owns Freddie & Fannie, they can use them to force others to be competitive with unrealistic numbers.

"Well, you have lung cancer due to all the cigarettes you smoked. My prescription is more cigarettes." Would you let a doctor that told you this keep his license? Fucking morons.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

How Interesting is Your Home?

I take a lot of pictures. No, I mean A LOT. It drives people nuts when I bring my camera somewhere, because I'm endlessly snapping shots... often to the point where I don't actually experience what I'm taking pictures of. For instance, my one week in Iceland? Around 3000 pictures.

Israel was about half that, but I had a smaller memory card and worse battery life.

When I'm home though, I often fiddle around with settings and lighting and such to learn a bit more about my cameras. But I find that my place is actually very boring from the photgraphic perspective.

I have a few things that are interesting enough to compose a scene with, but not so much that makes an interesting background. The dining room table suffices as a reflective, relatively neutral surface, but there's nothing around it that is interesting. My office is a mess, and when clean, it's boring. Unexciting walls and carpet (originally meant to be a guest bedroom... you want it to be boring enough that they leave) don't make for great shots. And I can't help but feel like anything I do set up looks exactly like that... that it's set up.

Which is probably why so many pictures from within my four walls are of the cats.

No real point here, just something that bugs me every time I pick up a camera and don't head outside.


For any Canadians out there, please, please, PLEASE don't let this coalition take hold.

Did you watch the TV addresses last night? Harper's little chat came in on time, short, clear, and IN FOCUS. It looked like what you expect from a world leader when they address their nation. Granted, what he had to say was nothing new, but I guess he felt everyone needed to hear it.

Then comes the coalition repsonse. Not really a response since both were pre-taped. It's late... then later... still waiting. Oh, it's at the central hub. Still waiting. 2 minutes. Let's talk about how poor the communication is on the opposition side. 2 more minutes. Okay, here we go!

What. The. Fuck?

Dion was out of focus the entire time. Literally. The bookshelf and flags behind him were nice and crisp, but he was a blur. It also looked like they did a bad crop of the image (did he spill coffee on his shirt?). It felt like the cable access version of a leader's address. He stumbled over words, repeated himself, was frequently unintelligible, came off as completely disingenuous, and generally a tool. The most important thing he had to say was that he was still leaving in a few months.

I know this seems like a minor quibble. The PM had a good camera crew, Dion obviously didn't. Harper was polished. Dion wasn't. What does this have to do with anything?

Lots. This is a group of disparate ideals trying to form a government. They can't manage to get a fucking VIDEO to the press on time and in focus! Their leader can barely get through a sentence when the sentence is RECORDED. I could give him a pass if the speech was live, but for fuck's sake, you had all day to put this together! It's called a RETAKE. If you can't get this most basic of tasks completed, how the hell are you supposed to run a country?

Anyway, Harper just got his wish and Parliament is prorogued. For those who aren't Canadian, it means that Parliament is suspended, but not disbanded. For the next 6 weeks, we essentially don't have a functioning governmental body. The next vote will be the budget in late January, where I imagine we'll be back to where we were yesterday. Unless Harper can swing about 20 votes his way in that time. It's not out of the realm of possibility I suppose.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

I'll Leave it to the Goat

But what was the point of the last two episodes of Heroes? Talk about poorly-written filler.

9 Days?

Man, time flies when you're waiting for fun.

I booked the Bootleg Canyon flightlines today.

Thursday @ 2:30pm, which means departing Vegas around 1:30pm, and back around 6.

I might have a seat or two open in the car if anyone is interested. Damage is $149 per person. Let me know.


A Little Cold Never Hurt Anyone

Sometime this week, a freezer is arriving at my place. Not a particularly large one, just 10 cubic feet I think, but a much-needed one.

My usual freezer, the one above the fridge, is perpetually full. Soups, meat, stews, home-made ice cream, meat, fruit, vegetables, meat, ice, meat, ice cream bowl, meat, bread, meat, and meat fill it up.

So, with a whole bunch more space added, it just gives me an excuse to make MORE food to be frozen and buy MORE meat. Maybe I'll start talking fractions of entire animals now...

Woo hoo!


A Separatist, Socialist, and citizen of France walk into a bar...

A joke? Nope. Meet our potentially new government. With a likely vote of non-confidence next Monday, the Liberals, NDP, and Bloc Quebecois have agreed to terms of a coalition to usurp the minority Conservatives.

Esentially, the NDP and Liberals would stick together through June 2011, and the Bloc would go along until 2010. From what I gather, this means they wouldn't vote in a way that would break up the government (ie.- vote with the coalition on all confidence votes - ie.- must-pass legislation like budgets), but would vote freely on other items. The NDP would have some cabinet seats (giving them the most power they've ever had), and the Bloc would effectively have veto power as their vote would swing the decision either way.

So yah... that sounds really stable.

If we were in economic boom times, I might support this cockeyed concept of a coalition. The NDP contributing to Liberal policy often results in respectable social advancements. But in these times? Keep the NDP as far away from decision-making as possible. What this group will accomplish is to fall in lock-step with the ridiculous idea that throwing money at the problem will fix it. Canada has so far held out very well in this situation, and the Conservative plan of minimal direct stimulus while trying to maintain a surplus instead of a deficit is admirable. I don't agree with two of the pillars of the "update" (cutting public funding of political parties and sale of pubic assets), but the overall idea is sound. If they cut those two items, the deficit would be a relatively small $2 billion spread over the next few years, and I could live with that. Plus, the Conservatives could save face by saying they were "forced" to run a deficit... which might explain the whole thing.

But of course, when I actually agree with a government, it falls apart due to short-sighted overly-socialistic views.

So, while I dislike the thought of another election, a mere month after the last one and promises of cooperation, I think it may be the best option over this coalition of the inadequate. Here's hoping someone blinks by Monday.