Friday, January 30, 2009

3rd in a 10-Cent Rebuy

After missing the first numblowme event, I wasn't about to miss the second.

What? You want strategy on a $0.10 rebuy turbo? Please. I pushed almost every hand, went all over the place, and then built such a monster stack that I was in NO danger at my table, because everybody else had starting chips at my table. Then I went on a run and ended the first hour well in first.

That held until around the final table, when Schaubs and I kept switching between 1st and 2nd. We got to 3 with Stoner and he came from behind and clobbered us both. To say it was a fun way to win $25 is an understatement. Around 1.5 million chips in play and no care about the money makes for some... interesting situations.

Donkament tonight. $1 rebuy, 9pm EST @ Full Tilt, PW: Donkarama.

Not Saying It Helps...

This was going to be a comment to Hoy's latest post, but it was getting long... now it's longer.


I guess I should preface this with the fact that I make >50% of my compensation in a year-end bonus. But then, I'm also not being bailed out.

There are a few other considerations to take into account here. I know they'll get no sympathy from anybody, but they are part of the thought process.

As a whole, "banks" these days are made up of different arms. There's the bank you deposit your money with. This same bank also gives you a mortgage, foreign currency, a savings account, a chequing account, and a credit card, among other things.

This is where many small banks end. Savings & Loan stuff. The money is made in the difference between the rates they lend at and the rates they pay. For other services, there are charges and commissions hidden throughout.

Then there's the investment arm of the large banks. Even these are often split into two groups - retail and institutional. The retail side takes Joe blow's money and invests it, either at Joe's discretion or their own if instructed to by Joe. The institutional side trades the money of other corporations, pension plans, BIG time investors, and the bank's own money. For the services of clients, every bank charges a commission of varying rates. When trading the bank's money, profit and loss is where the money is made/lost.

Now within all these arms and groups, things are further divided. Groups as small as a 2 or 3 people, or as large as hundreds, exist who have a specific mandate. Within those groups, individuals have different responsibilities. Some trade, some clear trades, some deal with back office, funding, rates, foreign exchange, etc.. Some write the computer progams, and some fix the computers. Then there are lawyers, accountants, risk managers, compliance officers, and countless other responsibilities.

Not all of them lost money.

Some groups actually THRIVED in the crash, and are still making money in this climate. Others are status quo. In some groups, 90% of the people made money, and 10% lost a ton. Sometimes the percentages were reversed. In that latter case, those groups tend not exist anymore.

So, say you're one of the guys who made a killing in the last 3-4 months of the year. The market tanked, but you were short positions. Or you were fully hedged and left unscathed. Do you deserve to have your bonus cut by 80%? No, you outperformed the market in a time when everyone else burned. Don't you deserve to make MORE than the previous year if you contributed more?

Sure, it's easy to say, "Bank X lost $80 billion! How can anybody deserve a bonus?" Well, what if a group MADE $1 billion more than last year? Shouldn't they be rewarded?

Or what if a group lost money, but one of the guys in there had a career year? He made more for the firm than he ever has, but the rest of the group tanked. Bonuses would be slashed for the group, but does he deserve to have his cut by 80% just like everyone else around him? What message does that send? "You kicked ass... and we still won't pay you." He's gone in an instant.

Now, to be fair, this is an industry where increases in bonuses was expected year after year regardless of personal performance. It was just they way it had been going for a decade or more. I shocked my boss one year. He said, "Well, it's been a tough year... so bonuses won't be as high as last year." I responded with, "Isn't that why they're called bonuses?" He was speechless that somone actually thought that way... that a bonus was actually a reward for doing a good job.

The mentality in Canada for this industry is to expect the worst in a down year, and expect to be disappointed in an up year. Then, if the worst doesn't happen and you aren't disappointed, it's a good thing. Plus, we make a fraction of what our US counterparts do.

But from what I've been led to understand, it's not quite the same in the States. Wall Street is where the big swinging dicks are, and they'll be damned if they aren't worth every penny they're paid. It's easy to justify when you're making money hand over fist for the firm, but when you lose money and bitch that your bonus was docked? I laugh, and then shake my head that people can be that self-deluded.

Anyway, the point to all this is that ANY across-the-board cuts are unfair. CDS groups should be largely liquidated, the money-losers should have big bonus cuts, but the few that actually made money? They should be rewarded proportionally. In the end, I imagine this largely happened in the lower levels. Those who lost money either got proportionately small bonuses or none at all, while those who outperformed saw an increase. Once you get to management and executive levels though, I have no idea how bonus is figured out. It's generally assumed that a random number generator is involved, and the result is multiplied by a million.

All in all, I'd guess we'd see upper-level bonuses cut 40-70% (which means only millions instead of tens or hundreds of millions), and the lower levels balance out at around 50%, with some getting cut drastically, and others seeing an increase.

Obviously, any arguments about the cost of living in a Central Park apartment and drinking $30 martinis are pointless and stupid.

After all, if anybody made money, wouldn't want to make sure they didn't jump ship? It's easy to look like a genius in a bull market, and the past 10 years or so have had the most bull ever.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Vegas, Eh?

It's that time again. Kat's getting the Eh-Vegas ball rolling for 2009! This year it will be in the much warmer month of March! March 14th to be exact. Trust me, this is better than February or January here in sunny TO. There could be snow, but -20C is far less likely.

You know you want to come. What else you gonna do the second weekend of March?

Banks Have Brick Walls, Right?

At least then people will have something to talk to and bang their heads against.

The "Bad Bank" idea is gaining all kinds of traction these days. The whispers of nationalization are also starting to get louder, this time not from the people, but the government itself. Geithner even brought it up as possibily an inevitable need for a short term. Like the government ever lets anything go once they get it and the wrong people figure out how to use it for political gain.

I'm pretty much on record that what should be done is nothing. The $2 trillion this could end up costing (and counting) could be better spent building a solid social safety net for all those who would be affected by the monumental collapse that the government keeps stretching out.

Let's look at the $1.5 trillion in "stimulus" packages so far - that's $5000 for every man, woman, and child in the US. If the government had simply handed $5000 to everyone, they'd either (a) spend it on something, stimulating the economy or (b) put it in the bank, stabalizing their balance sheets. Sure, some would just put it in a box, but that would be minor. Instead, the plans continue to try and socialize the losses and fuckups of large corporations, while privatizing gains and hiding the real numbers since there's zero accountability. Yes, I realize giving everyone $5000 is overly simplistic, but it would have had more of an effect than what's been seen so far, or will be seen.

What if the Fed/Treasury/etc. get their wet dream and the banks start lending again? Is there some idea that they'd lend anywhere near what they did before? I mean, banks ARE lending money still, that's their job. The "problem" is that they're only lending to people with good credit now, and people with good credit aren't borrowing, because they're fiscally responsible and don't NEED to go into debt. If the banks loosen their standards, it would be only slightly. The unemployed twat who can't save $20 let alone $20,000 won't be getting a mortgage ever again. The entrepreneur who has a boneheaded idea that lacks a viable market won't get business loans. In short, credit worthiness and viable business plans will once again be required to put yourself in debt. Banks want to have safety again, and they aren't going to throw money away just because the government asks. In short, all this "stimulating" won't actually make much of a dent, even if the banks DO "start" lending again.

Unless the government takes them over. Citibank of America, a federal corporation, anyone?

Aggravating End, Good Start

At least it was quick.

Played some poker last night. Started off with the Mookie, where I read my opponent just right except that he was a total donkey (which is something that should be assumed I guess). Bet on the flop and turn with overcards, not putting him on anything. The Kh on the river told me that he'd just caught a card. He checked, I checked behind, and he flips over AJh for the flush vs my AQo. That ate up a good chunk of my stack.

Then I went out to Bayne when he came over the top on the flop with a diamond draw vs my overpair. I looked at the very unscary board and figured him for exactly that. I pushed, he called, and turned his flush of course and I was your Gigli. At least the last of my chips went to a fellow team IT member... I wonder how he did.

So, my reads were bang on, but it didn't really matter.

So I fired up a 45-man SnG and a 90-man doublestack KO turbo. And proceeded to lose both to similar situations, where I read my opponents right, and they caught on the later streets. I played a couple 1-tables and died early in those too. The only time I went out or lost significant chips from behind was when I pushed 88 on the button into the BB's Aces. The one that ended it for me was my flopped trips losing to a rivered boat when the single 3 hit to match my opponent's pockets. After that, I knew it was time to give up for the night.

On the flipside, when I got into work this morning, I got a call from my Bell rep. "You are correct sir, you shouldn't be charged this."

"What about this?"

"Oh? You don't want that? Okay, gone and credited for last month."

"And this?"

"Well, that should be a charge, I made a mistake when I told you it was included. But since I told you that you wouldn't be charged, I'll put a 3 year credit on the account, so you'll be charged and credited simultaneously each bill."

"And is this other promo discount permanent?"


And just like that, $22/month in overcharges were gone.

He might have actually removed some other legitimate one-time charges that were on the bill as well since the account was in transition last month. So good start on the day.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

If It's Broke... Break it More?

So I've been having issues with my cell phone provider.

I might have ranted here about discovering I'd been overcharged for a while on my bill. Bell had switched plans on me without informing me, and for a year, I was being overcharged by $15-19 + taxes per month. I fully admit I should have caught it sooner. When I called Bell to get this fixed, I got generally unhelpful responses, and hung up with nothing resolved other than the fact I *could* change my plan if I got the right number for them to find it.

Instead, I got in touch with a friend on the inside and he started the process to get me elevated to someone who could actually do something. I had 3 months of the difference credited back, and an easy switch to my corporate plan. Yay!

Except for when the bill came in.

The plan I'm on includes unlimited nights and weekends. I'm being charged for it. they added Bell-to-Bell unlimited calling, and are charging me for it. There's a system access fee... when there shouldn't be under my corporate plan. My base rate has a 20% promotional discount applied to bring it in line with what it SHOULD be, but those discounts are easily removed when one is not looking.

All told, that's $22/month extra I'm being charged. They actually managed to fuck up more!

I've already placed the call to have it fixed and credited.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Rather Be Lucky

Played a wee touch of poker last night. I jumped into the 8pm PLO8 Tuckfard game on Tilt for the first time in... ever (it used to be HORSE). I chipped up early, walked away to scoop ice cream from the ice cream maker to a container, came back, and proceeded to give my chips away. No biggie, as a $3 PLO8 game is entirely for fun, and impossible to get upset with.

After my ousting, I went back to not playing poker for a while, and continued to work through the massive DVD collection I have stuffed into my entertainment unit. Around 10:30, I decided I was done lying on a couch and went back to the virtual felt. A $26 45-man and a $26 90-man turbo KO seemed about right for my mood.

The 45er went... poorly. The 90 was a case of yelling loud enough to catch my outs. Flushes on the turn and river, chasing those 11-15-outers and hitting, and sucking in the TP-shitkicker donkeys whenever a set was flopped or my overpairs were good. Naturally, I expected every out possible for my opponents to hit when I was ahead, but generally... they didn't. When we were down to 15 or so, I built a dominating (2.5x 2nd place) lead on a couple made flushes, and I believe by the time the final table hit, I had made back my buy-in on KO's. One perfectly acceptable (if disheartening) beat gave the biggest donkey at the table the chiplead, and he proceeded to luckbox his way through 3 or 4 of the players. I finished 4th thanks to his donkish domination, as opposed to any ability on my part. It put me back to positive on the year, which I can't complain about.


We've all been there - go read Change's latest post about her airline troubles trying to get to Sunny Santiago. In reality, it's a standard tale of short connection times being missed (as I touch every piece of wood nearby in regards to my upcoming Floridian connections), but with an ending that is far less common in these tales. I don't know why, but I liked it... maybe she just writes good.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Monday, WTF?

Where the hell did you come from Monday? It was Friday, like, 2 minutes ago. No fucking way you're already here Monday. WHAT DID YOU DO WITH SATURDAY AND SUNDAY? Oh... right.

Friday - Beer and Robbie Burns and Haggis and Bagpipes and Scotch
Saturday - Venture Bros and Bourbon Sour and Jambalaya and Hangin' out
Sunday - Pants? I don't need no steenking pants! Who needs pants to win a few satellites to the Sunday 750k just for the T$? Oh, and Fajitas and Crème Brûlée ice cream (stage 1).

So, good weekend. Just too fast.


BSG - Talk about trying to cram as much as they can in 10 episodes. This whole Gaeta thing isn't ringing true. I think the webisodes are key to understanding where this is coming from and where it's going to. Here's hoping the political plot gets resolved quickly or shoved to the background. I'm really quite curious how the whole thing is going to wrap up. Maybe everyone is a Cylon, and they'll all join hands and sing while a rainbow arcs overhead.


Heroes is back next week with President Worf. So Nathan is now going to round up all the people with powers. Super. If they introduce a Jewish character to smack us over the head with how it's just like Nazi Germany, I might throw up a bit in my mouth. Unless they name him Magneto... then I'll hurl heavy objects at my TV. I mean, they have two Japanese characters on the show (even if only one has powers), so the parallel to WWII Japanese internment camps should be easy enough to draw.

But it does recall the online comic from season 1 or 2, where future Peter rescues Nikki from superhero prisons, that are staffed by people with powers to hold people with powers or something. You know, government-sanctioned Heroes in special forces units vs normal people who don't want to be Government lackeys.

Yah, let's see if they can keep the second half of the season straight. I'll leave most of the vivisection to Goat.


Superbowl - Man, did I miss on my picks. Steelers vs Cardinals? Whatever. I'll pick the Steelers now, just because Roethlisberger is a fun name to say.

Let's see... Roethlisberger has 14 letters. Warner has 6. That's a difference of 8. So let's say Steelers by 8, in the lamest Superbowl of all-time. Unless I drink too much, in which case it will be the most awesomest Superbowl evah!

Friday, January 23, 2009


Just as I was going to type the first words of this post, the following popped up on CNBC: "Pelosi: The package will be as big as it needs to be."

Things like that make me go searching for a heavy plank of wood to whack against my head like a monk with a bible in a Monty Python movie.

Let's assume $850 billion, only because they're afraid of the big "T". Add that to the $700 billion earlier. That $1.55 trillion. Take $5000 of your money and flush it down the toilet and you'd have the same effect on the economy.

Okay, enough of that. It's only peripherally what this post is about.

After months of denial, everyone now admits the US, and pretty much the rest of the world, is in a recession, and has been for over a year. Some are even brave enough to call it a depression, but I think we're hugging that line, whatever it may be. However, with the density of job losses that we're seeing, we could very well be there by year end.

Some people are even bright enough to figure out we're in a deflationary environment, depsite the tunnel-visioned discussion of hyperinflation. Consumer prices are dropping. Gas, housing, stocks, and standard good are getting cheaper. Sales are lasting longer and the cuts are deeper. Jobs are being lost at a record pace. Companies are cutting back and shuttering plants and stores. Just because the government keeps printing money doesn't mean inflation is on the way, because that money isn't making it past the vault doors of the banks it's going to.

So, we're in a bad recession and a deflationary environment. What's the fallout on the street?

Well, we've seen Sharper Image, Mervyns, Linens 'N Things, and Circuit City go under so far. There will be more. Look for the stores that sell things you don't need and seldom can validate buying that have nobody in them. Look for clothing stores to start slashing prices before closing up shop. Look for jewelery stores to offer discounts and cut back on inventory. Expect Best Buy to selectively offer huge discounts and ramp up the pressure on the high-margin add-ons.

And look for advancements in technology and style to slow to a crawl. Reasearch and Development budgets will be cut, which I think is the wrong way to go, and companies will focus on existing lines and incremental improvements. Epic shifts in technology require large sums of money that don't see a return for years after commercial application. Intel is closing plants, AMD is in trouble, Microsoft is laying off people, Apple and Google are doing okay, but have their own problems. Expect small increases in speed, mostly cosmetic changes in design, and Microsoft pushing Windows 7 like mad (a Beta is available for free download from Microsoft).

Yes, a side-effect of recessions is that EVERYTHING slows down with the economy. Not only will it feel like money is tighter, but eventually you won't feel the desire to buy more stuff anyway, because nothing is really THAT new. In recent years, it somehow made sense to buy the newest iPod because it was a different colour or a 1/16" thinner and had another 40gigs you'd never fill. Now? That $300 could be better spent elsewhere. And maybe it doesn't make sense to roll that lease over to a new car... this 2-year old one you have still works just fine.

But those things you DO buy? That you either need or want badly enough to justify? They'll be cheaper, but perhaps more difficult to come by. I suggest learning to haggle.

In 18-24 months, things might start to turn around. But it will be unbelievably slow, and with any luck, we'll never see the heights that were seen in years past. Those levels are acheiveable only through false wealth and massive debt and leverage. Stability should be the order of the day, and that requires savings, productivity, and living within one's means, be it an individual, a country, or a planet.

Is This Any Good?

So had the complete series box set of The Wire on sale yesterday. Being me, I decided to pick it up sight unseen.

Is it any good?

I kid! Everyone and their sister tells me it's the greatest thing on TV since porn. Expect me to loathe it and post an episode-by-episode recap of why it sucks balls.

Or not.

Address to a Haggis

Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o' the puddin-race!
Aboon them a' ye tak your place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye wordy o' a grace
As lang's my arm.

The groaning trencher there ye fill,
Your hurdies like a distant hill,
Your pin wad help to mend a mill
In time o' need,
While thro' your pores the dews distil
Like amber bead.

His knife see rustic Labour dight,
An' cut you up wi' ready sleight,
Trenching your gushing entrails bright,
Like ony ditch;
And then, O what a glorious sight,
Warm-reekin, rich!

Then, horn for horn,
they stretch an' strive:
Deil tak the hindmost! on they drive,
Till a' their weel-swall'd kytes belyve,
Are bent lyke drums;
Then auld Guidman, maist like to rive,
"Bethankit!" 'hums.

Is there that owre his French ragout
Or olio that wad staw a sow,
Or fricassee wad mak her spew
Wi' perfect sconner,
Looks down wi' sneering, scornfu' view
On sic a dinner?

Poor devil! see him ower his trash,
As feckless as a wither'd rash,
His spindle shank, a guid whip-lash,
His nieve a nit;
Thro' bloody flood or field to dash,
O how unfit!

But mark the Rustic, haggis fed,
The trembling earth resounds his tread.
Clap in his walie nieve a blade,
He'll mak it whissle;
An' legs an' arms, an' heads will sned,
Like taps o' thrissle.

Ye Pow'rs wha mak mankind your care,
And dish them out their bill o' fare,
Auld Scotland wants nae skinking ware
That jaups in luggies;
But, if ye wish her gratefu' prayer,
Gie her a haggis!

-Robert Burns


Happy Robert Burns day this Sunday! Now to find me a haggis.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

It's All Relative

I'm pretty sure that my cats maintain the same size, weight, and volume 24 hours a day. Outside the normal fluctuations any member of the animal kingdom has of course.

But at 4:20am, after about 3 hours of sleep, I'm positive their lungs have grown 3 sizes and the volume of their impromtu fight is enough to wake all 347 units in my condo.

At 7:30am, after 6 1/2 hours of sleep, with an interruption around 4:20am, I also firmly believe they have gained 30 lbs and grown 5x their size as they now take up the majority of my queen-sized bed and are pinning down my legs.

You know that fish you had last night? The tuna casserole? Or perhaps the delicious fish pie. Maybe it was some cedar-planked wild sockeye salmon. Maybe it was Chilean sea bass (you bastard), or that rock bass you caught last summer at the cottage. It was really good, wasn't it? Those leftovers in the fridge must have looked really tempting when you decided to bring them in for lunch.

You, sir or m'aam, are an asshole.

Anybody who reheats fish in a company microwave deserves to be put in a pillory and whipped by their officemates. Do you have ANY idea how foul that shit smells? I don't care if it will hurt your wife/husband's feelings that you're going to buy your lunch today... the rest of us don't deserve to suffer because you can't say "no".

Oh, and low and mid pocket pairs aren't worth anywhere near what you think they are, even in the Mookie. You know who you are.

Where'd This Time Come From?

Oh, that's right. I opted to play less poker.

This week has seen night after night where I say, "it's only 9:30?" and I find myself in bed by 1am. The fact I've subsisted on leftovers and gifted food has helped too (chili Monday, lamb Tuesday, chili again Wednesday). Reheating is much easier than cooking.

But that naturally leaves me jonesing to make something. So I did.

Beer & Thyme bread is interesting. The beer and thyme flavouring are subtle, but strong enough to limit the usefulness of the loaf. It goes very nicely with meat, especially the chili. It works strangely with peanut butter. It's a bit off with regular butter, but that could have been due to its right-from-the-machine freshness. I may have to pick up some roast beef to try it as a sandwich tonight. I wonder how much of the flavour is influenced by the fact I used one of the cheapest beers I had in the place - a can of Lucky lager someone left last year... possibly last New Year's eve or Eh-Vegas.

Then there's the ice cream. I froze it last night, but can already say it's delicious. There's a tea store in Toronto called Tealish that sells a ton of pretty awesome loose-leaf teas. Walking in the door, you're assailed with the smells of tea, fruit, and nuts. It's quite amazing. One of the teas I picked up on my first visit was Lemon Meringue - a blend of green and red Rooibos that is lemony and creamy. When I bought it, my though was "this would make a great ice cream." I was right. The subtle tea flavour and strong lemon meringue flavour makes a great combination.

If anyone's interested, maybe I'll throw put up the recipes later.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Kinda Cool

Don't know why, but I really liked this pictorial how-to on making a tiny model orange.

Fighting Unarmed Opponents in a Battle of Wits

Largely out of boredom, I've found myself jumping to forum discussions on various topics. There is, of course, a pattern to these.

1.- Someone brings up a topic. It could be valid, it could be moronic.
2.- Someone else comments on this.
3.- Someone else changes topics slightly and begins a broader discussion, where they bitch about or defend things that hadn't been brought up.
4.- I jump in and rebut #3's moronic points with facts and examples
5.- Moron retaliates with conjecture and vague anecdotes from things they heard once from a guy who had a friend that knew someone who read something in a magazine once.
6.- I point out that I provided proof and they are giving an opinion based on nothing.
7.- They make random analogies that have no correlation to the argument at hand.
8.- I poke holes in their analogies, and finish off with a final restatement of the fact and figures, and tell them I'm done.

In the past couple days - the TTC and BOSE.

Someone was bitching that the TTC (Toronto Tranist Commision) does nothing to improve service. I pointed out the myriad of changes they're currently implementing. He said they weren't major (which isn't true), so I provided the link to the new trains coming on line this year. He compared it to Hong Kong's system. Someone else pointed out that comparing a Toronto to Hong Kong is a world of difference. I knocked down the bitcher's points again and then threw some math up to keep the whole thing on-topic (TTC getting rid of free parking). Nobody's responded since.

BOSE - If ever you feel like reading the same argument a dozen times, look up threads about ANY Bose hardware. It inevitably boils down to "I like my Bose" and "You got ripped off. Better stuff can be found for that price. It's not that Bose sucks, but that it's vastly overpriced for how much it sucks." Same story. Nobody had even attacked Bose yet in the thread (about a $100 pair of headphones), and a guy had to post all the reasons why his $2500-$3000 Bose system was worthwhile. I responded to each of his points with a cheaper alternative and presented my own system as a comparison. His only rebuttle was that I must like having multiple components (umm.. yah, then I can replace individual ones) and that my price must have been huge... when it was actually at least $500 cheaper than the minimum he'd have spent on his system, and had more features and better quality. Still awaiting a reply.

I love it when people are so convinced they're right that they argue themselves into a corner, surrounded by facts and figures that contradict every one of their arguments. This is why discussions about politics and religion are always so long and fiery... nobody's right.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Saves Me The Typing

If you want a recap of the root causes of the current financial crisis, and what Obama's facing, go read An Open Letter to Congress On Sharing The Pain. You might notice that the housing collapse is only mentioned as result of more basic actions, not the root cause itself. This is one of the reasons people STILL saying "the housing crisis is what caused this!" annoys the hell out of me. They don't go back far enough.

Monday, January 19, 2009

I'd Get A Twitter Account, But...

... work doesn't let me visit.

If you offer a rice dish, and you give people chopsticks with it, make sure that the RICE IS STICKY! Non-stick, undercooked brown rice != chopstickable.

0-2 Baby!

Yah, in the golf-scoring rules of football picks, I'm the winner!

Cardinals vs Steelers for the Stupendous Bowl.

I so don't give a shit. It had better be warm on the 1st, so I can walk home in a drunken stupor.

Now I must spend 11 days analyzing the key aspects of this matchup to determine a winner.

What rhymes with Cardinal?

Tuck Off

Item! Carson's couch is comfortable enough to sleep on until you wake up and realize your neck is killing you and you aren't nearly as rested as you thought.

4 tables of action at the Carsino on Saturday night resulted in much fun and a huge kick to the nuts.

The game is a decent one. The buy-in is small enough that you don't care about losing it, but with a big turnout the money won is enough to pay for gas. In short, it's a worthwhile price for a bit of fun.

I skillboxed my way through the game... except for that huge suckout with a K-high flush caught on the river vs a 9-high flush draw after chasing out the A-high flush draw (only 2 diamonds on the board, we all had 2 in our hand). The 9-high caught his low card on the turn, but the 5-outer diamond hit on the river to double me up. From there, I didn't look back.

Except when I did. But then I went on another tear with some aggressive play (amazing how much those antes are worth). The final table started and we got to the bubble.

I look down at cowboys and am near the top in chips. One of the guys who has me outstacked raises. I debate on my raise... how much to commit him? I decide on doubling the bet, which takes care of 2/3 of my stack and about the same from his. It goes around, he thinks, and finally pushes all-in. I insta-call, and he flips over... A9o?

"I couldn't get away". Well, good, that's what my bet was designed to do. Carson says he folded AJo, and I believe him.

Flop comes 568. I slam my head down and groan. The whole table lets out sympathy groans. We ALL know the 7 is coming.

Q on the turn gives me a small iota of hope... and 7 on the river sends me home. It couldn't have been the ace? A couple 9's? Noooooo.... has to get the 4-straight. He feels bad, I feel worse, and out I go as bubbleboy.

But, I made a profit in bounties (4 of 'em), got a $20 gift card for bubbling, and Phil Helmuth's Texas Hold'em as another bounty earlier (a $9 value!). So I actually made something like 4th place money in bounties and prizes. I can't complain.

I played 2 or 3 hands in the cash game before that dissolved... and lost 65% of my buy-in for that. I wasn't too broked up over the $6.50.

Then the whole thing petered out, but some of us stuck around, "played" "poker" where the chips didn't count and the rules kept changing and everyone was all-in every hand, but could change their minds if they didn't like the flop, and winners were determined by volume. And then I crashed on the couch until morning, when the snow was 32 ft deep and the woman across the road was breaking her snowblower.

Home, relax... nap... relax some more. Good weekend.

Right on Time

Circuit City is shutting down. This news came on Friday, but I didn't feel like ending the week on a downer.

34,000 jobs, 567 stores... gone. The Canadian operations (The Source by Circuit City - formerly Radioshack) will stay open.

This comes as absolutely NO surprise. Anybody who has a Circuit City gift card, go and use it now. They'll be liquidating until March 31st, and the card will remain valid during that time. Naturally, they'll be worthless after that date.

The article is interesting in its honesty, if a bit short on details. CC was late to the game on tech support (like Best Buy's Geek Squad), made some of the most bone-headed managerial decisions ever (fire the experienced, helpful workers for cheaper new idiots), and genrally didn't have the first clue how to survive, even when times were good. The fact they were living off creditors speaks to how terrible a business it was.

But this only affects me in that Best Buy now has even less competition.

In more concerning news, IBM and AMD are laying off thousands of workers over the coming month as well. I have friends at both those companies, and would hate to see them out of work. Same goes for my friend at GM. Little is more depressing than everyone trading stories of how they don't have a job and aren't sure how they'll pay their mortgage, especially when they can't actually sell their house in the current market.

Over 100,000 job cuts have been announced in the new year... and it's January 19th. Obama's upped his job creation number to 4 million, but they'll hardly be jobs of equal value. Maybe I'll rant about him later.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Helluva Side

Dinner post, again, no pictures due to hunger and camera being in another room.

I grilled up a pork chop last night. Dry rub of a whole whack of stuff (all ground - orange peel, lemongrass, coriander seed, mexican chili powder, marash pepper, habanero salt, sweet smoked paprika, black pepper, garlic salt, habanero powder, cayenne pepper), olive oil, and a cast iron grill.

It was good.

I also wokked up some bok choy, zucchini, garlic, and mushrooms in sesame oil and butter, with some salt, black pepper, and grated ginger.

Also good.

But the real reason I made the meal was for the twice-baked sweet potato.


I fried up a couple strips of bacon and drained them on a paper towel.

I took the aging sweet potato I had and forked it a bunch. In the microwave it went for 5 minutes. I flipped it, and nuked it for 2 more minutes. It was all kinds of soft and steamy. I quickly wrapped it in foil and let it sit for 5 minutes.

Oven preheated to 375 degrees.

While this was going on, I poured some heavy (whipping - 35%) cream into a bowl. I grated some parmesan reggiano and roasted garlic havarti into it. I chopped up a green onion and tossed that in. I tore up the bacon into little bits and dropped that in the mix. Then came the mexican chili powder, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, salt, smoked paprika, and black pepper. There might have been some marash pepper and habanero powder too, I'm not sure.

I cut the sweet potato in half lengthwise and scooped out the flesh, keeping the skin intact. The scooped stuff went into the cream/bacon/cheese/onion/spices mixture. Everything was mixed up until it was one creamy mashed sweet potato pile of goodness. This was then spooned back into the skins and smoothed out to fill the space.

Into the oven it went, flesh exposed. 20 minutes later I took it out, and was disappointed by lack of browning. Up to the broiler for a few minutes!

Alternately, you can microwave for another 6-8 minutes, but I wanted it to firm up.

I devoured one half, and forced myself to keep the second half until the everything else was finished because it was so damned tasty.

That is one that's going to stay in rotation.

As an aside, my mom tells me that I loved sweet potatos/yams so much as a baby that I turned orange. I remember seriously NOT liking them as a child the one time my mom tried to feed them to me. I further recall trying them again in my teens and twenties and while not despising them, having a really hard time eating a whole one.

Then I discovered why. Why do people insist on serving them with sweet ingredients? Cinnamon? Nutmeg? Honey? Maple syrup? Brown sugar? These options turn an already sweet vegetable into a sickeningly sweet one, to the point where it's unappetizing. In fact, I think the types of sweet involved here are at odds with one another, and end up clashing with whatever other aspects of the course there are (except maybe a glazed ham or fruit-baked pork roast/chop). When I first had them with SAVOURY ingredients, it was a revelation. The texture of a well-baked potato, but with far more inherent flavour. This creates a side that isn't overtaken by its additions (like a potato can be), but is complimented by them.

But if you really don't like them, try the above with a regular ol' potato (russet or yukon gold perhaps?), it will still be delicious.

NFL Picks?

Why, everyone else is doing it, why not me? Just because I don't follow football in the slightest, or get WHY people love it so much (outside of the betting of course) is no reason why I can't contribute.

Eagles vs Cardinals

Please. Eagles are fucking huge and fly fucking high and see really fucking good and can screech really fucking loud. Cardinals are red, sound like a squeaky wheel, and are the size of my fist. Eagles kill Cardinals easy. Also, it's Arizona! Didn't Toronto almost buy them once because they sucked so hard?

Ravens vs Steelers

What? Only one bird in this one? At least it's a raven, which is a pretty bad-ass bird. Big honking black carrion-eating emissary of evil vs the Village People? Yah, tough call. I mean sure, steelworkers are all strong and work hard and stuff, as long as they aren't reaching for that rainbow, but all a raven has to do is start reminding them of their lost love Lenore (or "Lenny" if you will) and they'll get all weepy and frazzled. Ravens beat them down emotionally and then feast on their entrails.

So that means Ravens vs Eagles for the Superbowl. That is one BADASS aviary pairing. I just remembered, I have Superbowl plans this year, I guess that means I should care enough to watch a bit on Sunday so I can bullshit my way through the game on the 1st.


I put up some pics and videos from my zipline excursion at the December Vegas gathering over here.



Back-to-Back Poker Weekends?

As I was preparing (read: not doing anything) to take down the ToC of my regular home game last week, I got an e-mail from that Tuckfard Carson inviting me to a game up at the Carsino in celebrating of the fact that nine months ago, someone let Nutzfirth stick his hoohoo-dilly in their cha-cha long enough to make a new Tuckfard. Please let mom be the major influence in Brody's life. :)

So Kat and I are heading northwards tomorrow with diapers in tow to low-roll some poker with some good folks (and Nutzfirth). There may be a beverage or two consumed as well. I did miss me some live poker. Of course, a Tuckfard game is really only nominally about the poker... it's far more about busting a gut laughing and picking the perfect time to say the right thing to get beer shooting out someone's nose.

I'm just glad it's at the Carsino and not the Cave. Carson lives on a real street that's around other streets that has a reasonable chance of seeing a salt truck and snow plow this week. From what I understand, Bam and Pebbles live in the middle of nowhere and have to hunt Caribou for sustenance in the winter. True story. It's why they've quit smoking, because a buck can see embers from 100 paces. Also, the plows only come down their street 10 minutes after you shovel the driveway.


Quick addendum to yesterday's Vegas post - It's actually possible to fly round-trip to Vegas from Toronto on Westjet for $212, taxes and fees included. I think the cheapest I've ever paid is $450. Of course, that price is Tuesday-Tuesday, but combine that with free IP (and cheap weekends), and you're looking at a week in Vegas for $300 + gambling, drinks and food. Damn.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

I Can Has Bailout?

Lewis Black was on The Daily Show last night, doing his regular segment of Back in Black. The topic? Bailouts.

It should have been obvious to everyone that once the Fed handed money to the banks, and then let just about anybody who dealt with money become a bank, and then said "aw fuck it, here's money if you want it financial world." that everyone would come knocking for a handout.

The auto companies were a no-brainer. They were asking come hell or high water. I expect the airlines to beg too. Then hotels of course. And malls. Retailers.

Towns, cities, states...

Some of the more ridiculous:

- Porn. Larry Flynt asked for money, because everyone's depressed and need porn for their sex life.
- Environmentally friendly golf courses
- Boat show operators
- A mafia museum in Las Vegas ($50 million to build the thing!)

So, why not ask for one yourself? Some of you are self-employed and run fairly successful small businesses. You should totally ask for taxpayer money.

The fact is, the government just squeezed out as much toothpaste as possible, and now can't get it back in the tube, so it goes down the drain.

Vegas Pushing Hard

In the past couple weeks, I've received:

Harrah's - Stay for free for 3 nights and get a free leather jacket at either The Rio, Paris, or Harrah's.
Planet Hollywood - Long list of extras + cheaper rates
Harrah's again - CHEAP rates at all their properties. IP for free, Caesar's for $79/night? ($117 on weekends)
and a couple MGM e-mails too.

The Venetian suites for $116 + $165 in discounts and freebies?

Circus Circus for 4 nights + round trip airfare from Calgary for $315 (shame I don't live in Calgary)

MGM Grand's lowest rates ever.

Wynn for $109?

Airfare from Toronto for < $400 round trip.

In short - "please, Please, PLEASE come visit us! PLEEEEEEASE?"

Vegas is hurting. Harrah's lost over $400 million last year. Caesar's new tower is built, but they aren't going to touch the interior work until they have demand. So it will sit closed for a while. Harrah's City Center hotel will be seeing the same fate, and a 200-room condo tower never materialized. The whole City Center thing might open up to tumbleweeds the way things are going.

I expect this to continue. The economy isn't picking up this year, and while some people might try gambling their way to financial security, my guess is that lotteries, horse racing, sports betting, and online gaming will see most of that, since you don't have to pay for a hotel or flight. Vegas will just want people in their hotels at any price, so they'll be in their casinos. The cheap rates will attract some, but for how long? I imagine the bulk of new visitors will be coming on the cheap, with microscopic rolls, looking for the discount shows and Vegas experience.

Granted this is also low season, but I don't imagine the spring will be going gangbusters. In the end, the summer gathering should happen, and it could be dirt cheap. Of course, there's Eh-Vegas and Weekend at Mookie's before that.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009



High of $1245.00 in July of 2000 (split adjusted)
Today's close? $0.12.

99.99% of market value lost.

They received bankruptcy protection this morning. At their peak, they were worth hundreds of billions of dollars and had 95,000 employees. Some of them were my friends. I even applied there half-heartedly when I graduated.

Everyone in Canada had/has shares of them in their portfolios.

But in the end, they have nobody to blame but themselves. How the mighty have fallen. There's no schadenfreude on this one. They had some good ideas, and made a good product back in the day. The problem all comes back to accounting. They lied, they believed their lies, and they grew based on those lies. The accounting was so messed up, they still haven't gotten all their reports (back to the 90's I think) in order. This is a company that is almost as old as the telephone, and now it'll be sliced up and the pieces handed out.

Down The Rabbit Hole

From sribbles and lies:

January 27th is the birthday of Lewis Carrol, author of ALICE'S ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND. Alice fell down a rabbit hole into a place where everything had changed and none of the rules could be counted on to apply anymore. I say, let's do the same: January 27th, 2005 should be the First Annual LiveJournal Rabbit Hole Day. When you post on that Thursday, instead of the normal daily life and work and news and politics, write about the strange new world you have found yourself in for the day, with its strange new life and work and news and politics. Are your pets talking back at you now? Has your child suddenly grown to full adulthood? Does everyone at work think you're someone else now? Did Bush step down from the White House to become a pro-circuit tap-dancer? Did Zoroastrian missionaries show up on your doorstep with literature in 3-D? Have you been placed under house arrest by bizarre insectoid women wielding clubs made of lunchmeat?

Let's have a day where nobody's life makes sense anymore, where any random LJ you click on will bring you some strange new tale. Let's all fall down the Rabbit Hole for 24 hours and see what's there. It will be beautiful.

Il Fait Froid

-20C, feels like -30. That's the forecast for tomorrow morning. Oh, and sunny. To translate to "I can't do math in base-10" American temps: -4, feels like -22. Your measurement system is fucked up.

It was effectively -25 when I was heading home last night... or as we call it in Canada - "chilly".

It was certainly a few degrees below "crisp", and nowhere near "refreshing" or "invigorating".

Be glad Eh Vegas is in March this year.

So what does one do in such cold? Why, play The Mookie! Team IT had a rough showing last week, what with the Power Couple taking 1st and 2nd. I'd make some comment about playing in the same room, but we know how Lucko gets when accused of collusion. I KID! We also know that both Lucko and LJ love taking a piece out of each other on the felt. What else they do on the felt? We'll just leave that to the imagination. I'm imagining a game of D&D, or perhaps a large jigsaw puzzle being done over a few months as "together time". Where was I? Oh yah, Team IT getting bupkis and Team "I didn't pick the Canadians from Toronto for my team and Astin isn't linking me in this post" taking a big lead out of the gate. It's time to step up and fix that. Let's see if NumbBono and Bayne are up to the task. I'll probably fall asleep after the first break.

Okay, I've obviously got nothing and am rambling. Time to stop.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Maybe I Need Blinders

No, not Blinders, just blinders. I'm addicted to the $26 45-man turbos on Tilt. Yah, they can be a minefield, but if you can double up early, you can coast to the final table. And since the top 3 prizes are solid for a $26 entry fee, people tighten up like mad near the bubble. This can be taken advantage of easily.

Unless you decide, with 13 players left, to start editing some old pictures to upload to Flickr. While watching The Daily Show. While surfing the web.

I believe a key difference between a terrible player and a decent player is the ability to self-assess quickly. The donkeys will blame others, the cards, the dealer, the site, or luck for their loss. Someone who actually pays attention and learns will ask, "What did I do wrong? How can I avoid that in the future?" If you've been at this long enough, then most of the time, you should be able to answer those questions in a matter of seconds.

I bubbled in 7th place. I had nobody to blame but myself. I had been coasting in 1st place since the start. At one point I had 67% more chips than 2nd place with around 15 left. But instead of buckling down and punishing the medium stacks and gambling with the shorties, I sat back and played around with Photoshop. I went from being the feared aggressor to an angry frog (or Swedish Chef from my view) who might as well have been sitting out. When I finally realized the danger I was in, it was too late. AJ didn't beat KK, and a once might chipstack could suddenly barely cover the big blind.

And therein lies my (oft-repeated) biggest Achilles' heel when it comes to online poker - distraction. I focus on something else entirely, and the rhythm, the groove, the zone - it dissipates and I find myself struggling and trying to grasp onto a horseshoe that I shouldn't have to rely on.

Monday, January 12, 2009

I'm Glad My Couch is Comfortable

So, my most awesome friend came over on Saturday to help me finally rebuild my home entertainment system. I've had the receiver and Blu-Ray player sitting in my place for a couple weeks now, and the cables arrived on Monday. But I also have a multi-piece entertainment unit that requires a couple people to dismantle so I could get to the back and start unwiring and rewiring.

It went pretty smoothly, with apparently just one snag (my Archos DVR Station isn't outputing the Red channel in its composite out). DVD player out, Blu-Ray (Panasonic DMP-BD35) in. Yamaha HTR-5760 out, Yamaha HTR-6190B (RX-V1800) in. Gamecube out, Wii properly hooked up with component cables instead of composite in the front panel. DVR station moved and hooked up to rear connections instead of front ones. Wires hidden. Speakers hooked up with wires of the right length and gauge. Laserdisc player hooked up so it works again. Digital cable plugged in the right place. And in the end... a whack of connections into the receiver, one connection into the TV (from the receiver).

I've laid the speaker wire under the rug and couch to hide it, but that's about as much cleanup as I've done so far. I just don't want to get up after sitting down in front of my clean, uncluttered system. I ran a test scene with Iron Man before any configuration of speakers and such. WOW.

We grabbed some grub (burritos and poutine! North American cuisine without that pesky US food). We came back and popped in Wanted after setting up the speakers (yay Yamaha's YPAO). WOW! The sound was simply amazing. I had a 7.1 setup before, but it was simulated as the source (DVD) was never more than 5.1.

Finally, The Dark Knight was put in and didn't disappoint. That opening IMAX scene was absolutely gorgeous, and the sound was of course top notch. All-in-all... I couldn't be happier with my purchase. If you don't see me at the tables this week, it's because I'm watching movies I've already seen and drooling.

Economic Thoughts

Just a couple things runnning through me noggin.

Toronto housing crisis - The year end numbers came in the other day, and sales at the end of the year were around half of what they were in 2007. Total sales for the year fared better, but that's because sales were still strong in the first 1/2 - 3/4 of the year.

But the stat that I found interesting was that average prices only dropped around 0.4%. That's miniscule. So what's that say? Just idle speculation here, but I'd say that it means that houses are staying on the market longer, or being taken off the market after failing to move at prices people are willing to sell. Also, with economic concerns and the US housing crisis, people are reconsidering moving, and speculators are looking into renting their properties instead of flipping them. It's better to pull in some income until the market can bear your price again.

It also tells me that this is just the start. There will always be people who need to sell, and those too stubborn to see that they shouldn't sell. There are also those who want to sell NOW because they see a drop coming and plan to rent until the market bottoms. I figured we'd see a significant drop in 6 months - a year, but I still refuse to call a crash here. The economic foundations are just different than the US situation. Upside-down mortgages are unlikely, and those that DO happen will be a small percentage of the total market. Debunk what you will about lack of space, inherited wealth, or urban demand, but the fact remains the closest we've had to a sub-prime mortgage is a 0% down with a 40-year amortization. Both of those factors are no longer legal in the country for new deals (although cashback and 35-year amortizations still exist, so the effect is practically identical). Anything under a 20% down payment has to pay mortgage insurance, and as much as prices spiked, they didn't reach the lofty heights of the worst-hit US centres. Well, maybe in Alberta, percentage-wise... but I'm talking Toronto here.

So I see this year as a good opportunity to invest in real estate in these parts. Everyone talks about stocks at a discount these days, but with rates as low as they are and prices dropping, real estate looks like a good place to find some serious deals if you have the cash.


Obama's Jobs - I think Obama's up to pledging 4 million new jobs under his plan. He's also stated most of these won't be seen until 2010 and 2011 due to the time it takes to get these things done. That should probably cover a good chunk of the job losses for 2008-2009. Here's the rub though - these jobs will suck. In fact, because these jobs will suck, they will take away these sucky jobs from the private world. We're talking a lot of make-work positions here, guaranteed by government contracts. The claim is 90% will be in the private sector, but that means building bridges and handing the contract over to a private construction firm under the condition they hire X number of people for $X. Welcome to the Davis-Bacon world when "prevailing wages" are at all-time highs. And once those bridges and roads are built and repaired... then what? 4 million temporary government jobs. Take a look at Japan over the last 20 years to see how well that works.

There's of course talk of green jobs, and new infrastructure that utilizes modern technologies. The interstate freeway system guaranteed jobs for the life of the roads. Cross-country rail systems means jobs. So, should high-speed rail lines be built? What effect does that have the airlines and regular-speed rail? Will new roads be toll roads? How many power plants will be built?

And at the end of the day, after the government foots the bill to build all these wonderful things, will they hold on to them? Or will they be sold to the highest bidder to shore up the budget one year.

This will (mostly) end up being even more short-term planning to look like something's being done. In the end though, the taxpayer will be once again be footing the bill.

I respect that Obama continues to drive home the point that recovery will not be easy. That it will take years. That some of his promises will have to wait. But he underlies this honesty with the hope of his $750 billion stimulus plan that will very likely NOT work.

But what REALLY worries me is what could happen when it fails. Desperation could result in some rather insane ideas being tried out. Especially as Paulson refuses to let go of this "banks need to lend and people need to spend" claptrap he's constantly spouted. The entrie economic braintrust of the US (and most of the world) seems to think that creating another artificial bubble is the way to save things. It would only make them worse in the long run.

A Wasted Bounty

After 3 wins in 5 appearances, a shitty heads-up loss for 2nd place, and a final table appearance, I figured I should offer a small bounty if someone knocked me out of the home game ToC. It went for naught as I once again dominated the field and took down another match. Yah, if there was any doubt who the champ was in that series, it was eliminated yesterday afternoon!

It was a short table, as only 7 of the 9 qualifiers could make the game. This suited both me and the game just fine, as it meant for opportunities to go fishing in the rebuy period.

The game started off surprisingly tight. The first all-in wasn't until the ninth hand, which is unbelievably late for this group (I've seen this thing played like the $1 Donkament), and everyone folded.

The guy to my left and I had an entire conversation with a single look after a hand went down when the biggest donkey at the table made called bet after bet down to a pot-sized bet on the river of a 3-spade, 3-straight board with an A and Q on it with nothing but K-high, no draw. The bettor had middle pair. Words weren't needed to express the shock at the absolute donkitude of this guy.

My "nemesis", a guy I've known for years through another friend, made a comment at one point of "I'm going to take all your chips this hand. Just so you know." So I went all-in blind before the cards were dealt and said, "go ahead."

I got two callers. He wasn't one of them. Turns out I had QTh and was against AQo and KJo. A ten fell on the flop, and that was all that hit, tripling me up early. I thanked the guy who taunted me.

From there, I sat back and waiting for hands with strong implied odds. I'd chase draws for cheap, bluff at scare cards when weakness was shown, and try to trap and value bet whenever possible. The all-ins came fast and furious as the rebuy period began to tick down, which created a couple stacks bigger than mine when the bell finally went.

Heading into the break, we were down to 6 (with the K-high caller finally calling it a day on rebuys after he ran out of $20's). The pot had $580 in it. Top 2 would pay out, with $390 for first and $190 for second (there was $200 in juice in there - rake from previous games - so it was suggested that go to 1st place entirely, and the remainder be split 50-50. Personally, I think the final split should have been 3:1 instead of 2:1, but in the end, that was a $45 difference). I was sitting in 3rd with 2800 chips (800 to start), 2nd had 4800, and 3rd had 5800. After me, it was 3 guys hovering around the starting stack.

One of the shortstacks managed to double up a few times to get to the final four. I was able to extract a small amount of chips (a near-family call of my minraise, followed by a bet from second place holding TP) with pocket aces. I got more from rivered boat-over-boat, but my opponent (chipleader) lost the minimum. From that I was able to chip up more, and took at least one other big pot before we collapsed to 3, making me the dominating chipleader with over 7500 in chips. (*Edit: I just remembered. I had 23o in the BB, and #2 in chips limped from the SB with K7. Flop came 22K, and we got it all in on the river.)

Fourth went out when he got AQ vs the former chipleader's Q7... and 77x came on the flop. A couple hands later, I once again played against the cameraderie between me and the guy to me left. Around 3 times during the game, we got into blind vs blind situations where we checked down. The last time this happened, we actually small-bet-called each other with the boat over boat. This time, I had T3c. The flop came 789 rainbow, and we checked it. Turn came the 6, giving me the 2nd nut straight. I checked with the usual "we're going to check this down" gestures and banter, and he went all-in. I instacalled and he flipped over pocket 6's for the turned set. I had him well outchipped by this point and now had a monster lead over my heads-up opponent.

We took a break, and those who were out left (way to stick around for the ToC guys). The guy I just busted kept asking me how he could have played it differently. I agreed that in his place, I'd have probably done the same thing. Truth be told, on reflection, I think he had the chips to afford a feeler bet. With a 4-straight on the board, he'd have to figure I'd see him as pot committed on his bet, and be willing to force the issue right there, which would at the very least give him something to think about. About the 3rd time he asked though, I realized he was just seeking validation for his move and wanted to know he wasn't a terrible player. He isn't, but his aggression is still unrefined, which makes it exploitable, and he relies on blind luck sometimes.

So, it was me and the host heads-up for the second game in a row. He still hadn't won his own tournament, while my name was on the trophy 3 times. I've known him for years as well, but there's no mercy for friends on the felt. We chatted as we played a few hands. I was willing to fold and avoid doubling him up, knowing that he was both willing and capable of suckering me in if he chose. It didn't take long though before I looked down at AQo and limped to his BB. He looked, thought, and pushed. I called. His 66 was racing me. Q on the flop, A on the river, and that was all she wrote. Another $20 turned into nearly $400 over the span of 3 hours or so. I've had worse rates.

During the game, we discussed when the new season would start. The first date thrown out was no good for me. The rest of the table agreed this made it a very good date indeed. I enjoy being feared. I'll likely enjoy it more when they start gunning for me in earnest.

How was your weekend?

Friday, January 09, 2009

Finish Him!

Man, if only you could knock people out of poker games like Scorpion knocks people out of Mortal Kombat.

The ToC for my regular home game is this Sunday. I've dominated the season with 3 wins, a 2nd place, and a 6th place in the 5 games I made it out for. That was more than enough for 1st in the leaderboard, with over double the points of 2nd place. I'm also the only 3-time winner and back-to-back winner as well.

So I fully expect to crash and burn this Sunday. Structure and setup is the same as always, as is the buy-in structure. The difference is that the pot has been juiced with rake from the previous games. The 5 level rebuy period should be extra nuts with this crowd.

The Full Tilt jersey will make an appearance, and perhaps the sunglasses and Bodog cap as well. They've worked so far after all. I think the fact they're the opposite of intimidating is what works for me, although I imagine a few guys will be gunning for me early and often since I've proven to be hard to kill when the blinds get high. With luck, I'll be able to turn that into a massive stack by the end of the rebuy period. If not... well, I'm up around $1000 in this series so far, so I've got some money to burn on rebuys.

Then it restarts all over again in February.


I finished working through Christmas leftovers last week, and finished off a bunch of delicious Montreal Smoked meat at the beginning of this week. I was glad to finally get back to cooking. This also happened to coincide with my weight hitting new highs, so I decided to adjust eating habits accordingly. Snacks are minimized, and I'm giving some thought to my meals. But I imagine you'll be surprised.

No pictures, as I was hungry.

A couple nights ago I decided to pull a boneless, skinless chicken breast out of the freezer. The plan was to glaze and bake it. I also developed a craving for some homemade fries after my friend raved about the ones we made on the weekend. Plans were adjusted though.

I had decided on a bourbon-honey glaze, but after combining those two ingredients, it was lacking the right bite and texture, plus, it just tasted like really sweet bourbon. I added a few dashes of hot sauce, some pepper, garlic powder, and finally, a nice dollop of dijon mustard. The mustard was the key as it added a bit of tackiness without turning it into a barbeque sauce like ketchup would have. It also took the whole thing up to awesome.

My chicken, however, was taking forever to thaw and I was impatient. Baking went out the window as I cut the chicken up into chunks and dropped them in the bourbon-honey-mustard sauce (not yet a glaze), and put the whole thing back in the warm oven to finish the thawing and to let it marinade a bit. I probably broke about 5 poultry safety rules right there. Yet still, I live.

I took a couple small potatoes and using a wave cutter, cut them up into crinkle-cut pieces, skin on. I dumped these in a bowl of cold water to rinse out a bunch of the starch (rinse and replace water a couple times) and keep them from browning until I was ready to use them.

Meanwhile, I poured a few inches of vegetable oil into an anodized aluminum pan and cranked the heat. I put in a frying/candy thermometer in to keep an eye on the temperature.

I also puleld out a frying pan and put a bit of butter and oil on it (butter for flavour, oil to keep the butter from burning), and turned the heat on it to medium.

As the butter melted and the pot of oil heated, I emptied the water out of the potato bowl and drained the potato pieces on a cooling rack over a baking pan. I used a paper towel to dry off the rest of the water. This is key when making fries, as water + hot oil = splattering hot oil.

I pulled out the chicken and dumped it and the sauce into the frying pan, made sure it was distributed evenly, and left it alone for a couple minutes.

Returning to the oil, it was at 325F and ready for the first fry. I gently placed the potato in the oil with a shallow steel spoon (I'd suggest a slotted spoon, or even better - a deep frying basket, neither of which I had on hand) and fried them for 2-3 minutes.

Potatoes come out, still white, and not done yet. I put them back on the cooling rack over a baking pan setup to drain and cranked the heat on the oil again (there's a lot of manual adjustment involved to keep the oil from overheating, but it drops rapidly when the fries go in).

I returned to the chicken, and flipped the pieces, which were a beautiful golden colour on the cooked side, covered in the glaze. I reduced the heat a notch.

Once the oil was up to 375F, I returned the half-fries to the pot and cooked for 4-5 minutes more, until they were the right shade of brown. I removed them with the spoon and put them back on the rack to drain. I IMMEDIATELY sprinkled them with kosher salt and garlic salt. This was so the salt would actually stick before the oil drained and evaporated.

I returned to the chicken, made sure it was cooked throughout (remember, it's in chunks, so it cooks fairly quickly), and plated it, covering it with the remaining glaze that was in the pan. Then I plated the fries, and enjoyed!

Okay, so the chicken breast makes sense from a weight-loss standpoint. Even the glaze is relatively healthy (low calories, low carbs, low fat, etc.) But fries? When done properly, fries aren't as terrible as their reputation. The trick is the double fry, the draining, and most importantly - proper oil temperature. If you do fries in oil that is too cold, they absorb the oil. If the temperature is right, they seal quickly and don't become a soggy, oily mess. I'm not saying they're healthy, per se, but a small amount of fries done right won't destroy your efforts.


Last night was easier. Marinated elk steak with baked beans.

I've recounted the amount of elk I have in my freezer. Among the roasts, burgers, sausages, etc., was a solitary elk steak. It had been there far too long as was starting to freezer burn.

Elk is lean. Elk is lower in fat and calories than just about any other meat, boneless, skinless chicken breast included. It's also higher in protein. Just in case the fact it's freakin' delicious wasn't enough.

I've generally done my elk with minimal additions. Salt, pepper, oil, that's it. But this puppy had seen better days. It needed some work.

I'd flipped on Chef at Home on the Food Network (Canadian show, doubt the Yanks get it, but it's great and pretty much exactly my style of "what do I have in the pantry?" only with a professional chef at the helm and a pantry to die for). Michael Smith was doing ribs, which meant BBQ sauce, which mean worcestershire sauce. Ding!

I was going to do a soy sauce marinade, but this altered things slightly. Plus, it turns out I'm out of soy sauce. I did, however, have some teriyaki sauce, which is too sweet on its own.

Teriyaki sauce, worcestershire sauce, apple cider vinegar, Salish alerderwood smoked salt, garlic powder, hot sauce, chipotle sauce, smoked sweet paprika, smokey mustard (I have 5 types of mustard in my fridge, and at least 4 or 5 more types unopened in my pantry... none of them yellow) and fresh ground black pepper made the marinade. The nearly-thawed steak went in and soaked on the counter for a bit after being pricked (read: jabbed) with a fork a few times (read: 7 or 8). And can I say? This marinade tasted amazing.

Baked beans? I cheated. One can of Heinz or Libby's or someone's baked beans with pork and tomato sauce opened and dumped in a pot over medium-low heat. Know what? They actually sucked. So out came additions. Hot sauce, garlic powder, pepper, and... pure, Canada #2 amber maple syrup. NOW they were great. I left them over LOW heat once they were hot, as the steak would still be awhile.

Beans are also an oft-neglected food when it comes to weight loss. That entire can of beans only has around 550 calories, and remember, this is canned, mass-produced stuff here with pork in it too. They're HIGH in fibre and protein, and low in fat.

Considering the elk steak probably topped out at 150-200 calories (it was a small steak), and the marinade (soon to be a glaze itself) added not much more, this was complete, filling dinner that was under 750 calories, or about 1/3 of the recommended daily intake for an average male - actually less than I could get away with for dinner.

Anyway, back to the steak. I put my cast iron grill on the stove and cranked the heat. Once water droplets vaporized on contact (and the grill was starting to smoke), I took out the steak, covered it in a sheen of vegetable oil, and sprinkled one side with smoked salt and black pepper. I put that side down on the pan and sprinkled the other side with roasted garlic salt and more black pepper.

After a 1 1/2 minutes, I turned the steak (but didn't flip) 1/4 turn to get nice grill marks. Another 1 1/2 minutes and I flipped the steak. 1 1/2 minutes, quarter turn. 1 1/2 minutes - I picked it up and made sure the sides got some grill contact as well. The steak was a touch on the rare side of medium-rare. Adjust cooking times to suit your likes. But for the love all that's antlered, don't cook your elk beyond medium-rare. Medium if you absolutely have to. Well done? Go buy the shittiest, cheapest piece of steak you can find at the crappiest grocery store in town and save the good stuff for people who can appreciate it.

I put the steak on a plate and covered loosely with foil to let it rest. I was lazy, but ideally you should put the steak on a rack over a plate so it doesn't sit in its own juices.

I dumped the marinade into a frying pan and turned the heat to medium-high. The goal was to reduce the marinade to a glaze (and kill whatever raw meat bacteria were in it from marinading). Once the marinade started to boil, I stirred it and turned the heat down to medium. It bubbled up again, got stirred again, and turned down a bit more. At this point, a steady amount of steam was coming off, and it was reducing quickly. Once it was the consistency I wanted (syrupy, but not a clumpy mess), I turned off the heat.

The steak rested for 15 minutes total, beans were plated, and a LINE of marinade was poured down the centre of the steak (as opposed to smothering a delicious piece of meat).

Results? The beans were tasty, the steak was awesome, but the marinade-turned-glaze had really concentrated the salt when reduced. It worked, but if I'd used more it would have overpowered the meat. In fact, the glaze was an odd combination of sweet (teriyaki), salty/bitter (teriyaki, worcestershire), and smokey (smoked paprika, chipotle sauce, smoked salt, smokey mustard). I have a small amount left in my fridge, which I will find a use for I'm sure.

Overall, two nights of delicious. Oh, and since hitting my high weight on Tuesday? Down 3.2 lbs. I don't expect that rate to hold up, but it's a nice way to start.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

One Use Only

This is fucked up.

Asking the Photogs

It appears a few of our assemblage enjoy the photography. So, in my never-ending quest to personally stimulate the economy, I seek your advice. Although chances are I'll have pretty much reached a decision by then end anyway.

I'm thinking of a wide angle lens. I'm no big rush, but the more I think about it, the more I want it before heading on vacation in February.

But for the Canon, there are 4 options, all of which have merits.

Canon 10-22mm f/3.5-5.6
Sigma 10-20mm f/4-5.6
Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8
Tamron 10-24mm f/3.5-5.6

I have a Canon Rebel XTi (400D), which has a small sensor. I also have a Sigma 18-200mm as my "walking around" lens, which does come into play in the decision.

First off, apparently the Sigma and Tamron have had quality control issues. When reviews specify if they have a good or bad run of a lens, I begin to worry.

Edge and corner sharpness on these two seem to rank fairly low in comparison to the Canon and Tokina.

The Tamron has the biggest focusing range ov the bunch with 14mm, which makes it more versatile, and the same aperture range as the Canon. The Sigma loses half an f-stop, which should neither be here nor there in the grand scheme of things, but might have a small effect if I'm doing any indoor or low-light shots, where and extra 1/2 of a second can make a difference.

Overall though, the Sigma and Tamron have their fans, and if you get a good copy of the lens, the results are generally favourable.

Their biggest win is price. The Tamron is under $500 CAD, and the Sigma is $700. Compare this to the Canon at $830.

Now, the Canon is pretty much universally lauded. It's a great lens by all accounts. I know Alan loves his, and has taken some great shots with it. But it's also the most expensive by $130. There's something to be said about sticking with the 1st-party manufacturer as well. A Canon lens with a Canon body is generally guaranteed to work seamlessly. Image quality is top notch, and vignetting and distortion is minimized because it's the only one built for EF-S mounts and their smaller sensors. The 10-22 range is also the second longest length next to the Tamron, with the same speed. The focusing speed with the USM also seems to be the quickest of the bunch, but for wide-angle shots, a millisecond won't matter. The 9" minimum focusing distance is pretty desireable though.

But then comes the ideal value play, which speaks to me in oh so many ways - the Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8. The thing that grabbed me first and foremost was the speed. A constant 2.8 f-stop on a wide angle? Wow. I can see this coming in handy for indoor shots, night shots, overcast days, etc.. Granted, on a sunny day or well-lit locale, this point becomes moot. There are those who would gladly trade the speed for the extra focal length though. I'm not sure if I'm one of them.

To compensate for the aperture, the focal length is smaller than the others. A mere 5mm. Now, with an 18-200mm lens, I'm only losing 2mm here, which isn't that big a deal. With 10 MP, I can always crop the 16mm to the 16-18 range if need be. But on the wide end, I lose 1mm, which doesn't hurt too much, but is a loss if 5.4 degrees in horizontal FoV (or the difference between 16mm and 17.6 mm in 34mm measures). Comparison shots between 10mm and 11mm I've seen seem to have minimal difference, but it might affect some more interesting compositions where you want to exaggerate the distance between near and far subjects.

The Tokina is also the heaviest of the group at 560g vs 385g for the Canon. Another drawback is that the minimum focusing distance of the Tokina is 12" vs the 9" for the Canon, but I question how often I'll be doing close-ups with an wide-angle. In every other way that matters, it's on par with the Canon. In fact, on the pictures I've seen, vignetting doesn't seem to a problem, which surprises me. The only area that concerns me is that it doesn't handle lens flare as well as the Canon, but that could be minimized with a hood or well-placed hand.

The price of the Tokina? $690, so $140 less than the Canon, $10 less than the Sigma, but a whopping $230 more than the Tamron.

In short:

- Least expensive of the bunch
- Longest focal length
- 2nd fastest aperture range (tied with Canon)
- Questionable image quality and sharpness, often dependendent on which "batch" you get
- Brand new lens, so objective reviews and test harder to come by

- Loses 2mm on the long end to the Canon, but still covered by my 18-200mm
- Slowest aperture range
- Shortest lens
- Generally liked, decent image quality, but noted for soft edges. Again, has some "bad" batches out there.
- Cheap compared to the Canon, better quality control than the Tamron it seems

- Shortest focal range of the bunch. Loses 1mm on the wide end and only goes to 16mm on the long end
- Fastest lens by far. A full f-stop faster than the next.
- Heaviest of the lenses
- Comparable IQ to Canon, and beats it in many regards
- Paying for speed over range

- Pretty much universally loved
- Focal length has some overlap with my 18-200mm, so lens-switching may be reduced
- Deals well with lens flare
- Good IQ
- Most expensive of the options by far

If price was the only factor, I'd get the Tamron. But the uncertainty and inconsistent reviews of it and the Sigma really make them less appealing. It's a shame really, because the Tamron 90mm and Sigma 18-200mm are excellent lenses. So that makes the decision honestly betweem the Canon and the Tokina.

I REALLY like the Tokina for its speed. I can see it coming in handy in a variety of situations. I do wonder if the f/2.8 will cause problems with broad detail though due to its DoF.

But I've only seen the Tokina that cheap at one place, and if they've changed the price or are out of stock, the price jumps $85 for the next cheapest. This becomes just a $55 difference from the Canon, at which time the speed vs range debate becomes more relevant.

Luckily, there's Pixel Peeper to help me decide too.

But as it stands, the Tokina looks like the winner unless I'm convinced otherwise.

Or I don't buy anything and figure 18mm (28mm equiv) is fine. How much in Key West does one need to take wide-angle shots of anyway? Oh yah... lots. Could be a lot of lens switching going on though.


I have never made but one prayer to God, a very short one: 'O Lord, make my enemies ridiculous.' And God granted it.
- Voltaire

Stupid Effing Lucko

Yah... I think I'll blame Lucko too. So what if I only had 945 chips when I shoved over his bet of 450? So what if the money all got in with my KJo vs his 77? The turn was a K and the river as a 7. Stupid effing Lucko. :)

I started off well enough in The Mookie, got lots of cards (JJ at least twice, AA once, AK 4 times, and a bunch of other pocket pairs, suited connectors, etc.), but ended up reverting to pussy poker after the first break and didn't last too long past then. I was out less than 90 minutes from the start. Whoops.

I think one of my favourite sequences was when I had 22 and minraised. Don, directly on my left, re-raises 3x my bet, and I fold. He says, "I thought that was a baiting move there." A couple hands later I get JJ in the BB and everyone folds to me, so I show. The next hand is good ol' AA. It folds to me again and I minraise, and this time Don thinks and calls from the BB. Flop is all unders but loosely connected. I put out a slightly-under-pot-sized bet and Don thinks for a bit before folding. I show the aces (natch) and Don says, "There it is."

Now, in a non-blogger game (or a BBT game), I probably play those Aces differently in that situation. But for relatively early in The Mookie, having a good time (I also enjoyed my back-to-back hammer wins earlier on), and against Don, who I've faced off with countless times, I figured I'd see if I could get it to play out how I expected after the deuces hand and have a little fun. I wanted to let the cards say, "I know you know what I've got, because this is about the 300th time we've been in this situation." After all, that was a hand I was either winning a little with or losing a lot.

Anyway, I had fun, and didn't realize quite how much I missed our Wednesday ritual until I was playing it again. The long break did me good, as I'm once again enjoying this game. Now here's hoping the BBT4 doesn't crush our souls.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009


Quick aside - he was loved in New York, and Toronto was no different. Mookie Wilson was one of our favourites during his 2 1/3 seasons here with the Jays. Hey, it's who I think of every time our Mookie comes up.

So I'm BACK. My Tilt account is reloaded, and I've been playing a bit since the New Year. It's been up and down, but overall going well. The ol' bankroll is up about 30% from Friday's reload, thanks largely to a couple decent SnG showings and the ease that is winning T$ in the $2 rebuy 50-50 satellite.

I've been hitting SICK hands like days of yore, and am once again disappointed if I don't see aces at least once or twice during a game. Let's see what I recall from yesterday.

Flopped a set of 8's, got it all-in (I had him covered) vs a flopped set of aces... d'oh! Case 8 for quads on the river!

Turning a boat that beat a turned flush.

Getting it all-in with an all-heart flop holding AhKx vs 78h... and turning the nut flush.

Turning a straight, then flopping the straight on the next hand.

Calling for the set to save my ass and hitting it (JJ vs AK, K on flop)

Oh, and of course the run of cards like AA, KK, AK, JJ, AQs, etc. and getting PAID.

Riding 1st place through entire games, and remembering how to play when I had twice the chips of 2nd place.

I guess I finally found my horseshoe again. Just in time too, because Tragedy went and drafted me in his MASSIVE bet with Schaubs for Mookie cashes.

Which of course, kicks off tonight! You know the drill. 10pm EST, $10+1, password: vegas1. I'll see you there. Just remember, if I'm raising, I have aces. If I don't have aces, I'll catch in the worst possible way.

More Mish

Mish has another post up that has me nodding in agreement. In it, he links to a Wall Street Journal article discussing how frugality and an increase in savings is deepening the economic crisis.

While I don't take quite as hard a line against Keynesian economic theory as him (I think it has merits, but then again, so does Communism, but that doesn't mean it works in practice), I do agree that the current thinking that still dominates policy is wrong-headed and close-minded.

How can anyone say with a straight face that people acting frugally is bad for the economy? It's easy if you don't look any further ahead than the next paycheque. Sadly, this is the state the US has been in for decades.

I never really accepted it until this crisis though, be cause Canada is traditionally a nation of savers (although this had started to change over the last 5-10 years, but we're snapping back to historical norms with the current downswing). I grew up in a world where you paid off you entire credit card balance at the end of the month, you kept your mortgage small, you maxed out your RRSP if possible, you could feed a family of 5 for $20 a day, you bought on sale, and you put every spare dollar in the bank.

So seeing that people who had been worth millions of dollars now flat broke amazes me. Hearing of billionaires committing suicide because their fortunes were wiped out is dumbfounding. We've lived in a world of super-rich who weren't. Things bought with borrowed money, a life paid for with debt. This was systemic throughout the whole of the US. Companies didn't actually have any real value. Instruments that had been "making" them loads of "money" turned out to be steaming piles of crap... or nothing at all. The government is $10 TRILLION in debt, with trillions more on the way to try and spend their way out of this mess (it won't work).

So now people are saving in the US. For the FIRST TIME IN HISTORY (well, 1952, when they started tracking), US household debt has gone DOWN. how sad is that? For at least 56 years, US families have been living beyond their means and constantly increasing that gap. And what does the WSJ do? It blames them for making the problem worse.

No, people are finally waking up to the fact that you can't keep spending what you don't have. Saving money, cutting spending, making your own meals, and keeping an eye out for real sales means that mom, dad, and their 2.5 kids will have more money in the bank and actually be able to pay for things with REAL cash, not some mythical amount they'll have in the future. Does this mean an economic contraction? Damn straight. And it's a good thing. Stores won't be able to sell as many high-priced goods, profit margins won't be ridiculous, the auto industry will actually have to MEET demand instead of creating more to match their overproduction, houses might actually be worth a value that makes sense, and companies will make profits that people can fathom instead of artificial billions. In the end, painful as it will be, the economy, the country, and the people on the whole, will be more efficient and stronger. This obsession with constant growth at the expense of a stable foundation is insane.

Plus, this idea that saving hurts everyone is bullshit. It hurts companies and corporations that don't adjust to a new attitude of frugality. Call me an idealist, but I believe that deflation and saving is good for the INDIVIDUAL and that's where the focus needs to be. If GM can't find a way to make money in that environment, then they can go the way of the dodo. Another, mor nimble, car company will take their place. *I* want to pay less, *I* want to feel secure that *I* have the savings to get by if need be. But those who set policy and are trying to "fix" things don't. They care about socializing debt and failure for companies that should be allowed to collapse under their own excess.

I keep thinking of the Simpsons episode where at the end, Homer, Chief Wiggum, and others are at the bottom of a hole they had dug while searching during a scavenger hunt. The question is asked - "How do we get out of here?"

Homer: "We'll dig our way out!"
[dig dig dig]
Wiggum: "No, dig UP stupid."

Welcome to every government in the world's (except Germany for the time being, and I hold out some small, tiny, miniscule hope for Canada) plan to get out of this mess.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

A Touch of Awesome

Every year, the Library of Congress and National Film Registry select 25 films to be archived for all time. They tend to run the gamut in production value, popularity, age, etc.. What they all have in common is that they somehow contribute to or represent society and life at the time.

You want a couple ends of a spectrum? This year includes both The Terminator and Robbin Barstow's home movie of a trip to Disneyland.

I saw Barstow's home movie online a year or so ago. It's one of those fantastic slices of bygone life that I often regret we don't see more of. Go take a look for yourself. It runs around 35 minutes. The family won the trip through a 3M Scotch Tape contest, and it covers the various attractions around Anaheim in 1956, including the recently-opened Disneyland. It even has some star power, as Steve Martin appears about 20:20 into it. He was 11 years old and selling guidebooks at the park in a top hat and vest. You wouldn't know it was him if he hadn't written Barstow himself to let him know.

Could you imagine making a home movie, and then 50 years later the Library of Congress decides it's worthy of preservation? What an honour for an amateur filmmaker.

People rush to record the big events. In 100 years, people won't have a hard time finding coverage of 9/11, or the Phillies winning the Series, or Obama's victory speech. But will they have any real idea of what life was like here? Where will they find the day-to-day experience of living in this time? What did the streets smell like? What was in that block before the megaplex went in? Did people REALLY dress like that? The home movies, the countless pictures, the diaries, the slide shows, the ephemera of the everyday is what gives life to a time. Does anybody know how Abraham Lincoln walked? How his expressions changed as he gave one of his many speeches? This simple video shows more slices of 1956 life than any movie retrospective or voyage through microfiched periodicals can. Dad's comments, the kids' behaviour, the bad acting, the colour of the wallpaper, the model of the lawnmower. These are the things that matter on an individual basis. Just ask Kat about her dad's boat. Or take a tour of James Lileks' site. Read the stories about parents, grandparents, favourite aunts, and the items we attach to them.

My mom handed me a paperweight of my grandmother's the other day. Every time I look at it, I remember the desk in the living room, her writing me a cheque for being quiet for 5 minutes, and every time the family sat together in that big room and talked. A simple ball of marble carries the weight of hundreds of memories. Somewhere in my parents place is a very short black and white video of one brother as a 5 year-old, the other as toddler, chattering away with my grandmother in her kitchen. I'd forgotten about it until now... there's something that needs to be committed to digital memory.

People wonder why I take a million pictures and videos of the seemingly mundane.

Seeing a home movie, even if it was for a trip won in a contest, being honoured in this way? Stuff like this makes my day.

No Exceptions

In his latest roundup of stories, Mike Shedlock talks about this story about 77% of Americans believing the media makes the economic situation worse.

I often agree with his assessments, and this time it's no different.

My first thought was, "turn on CNBC on a Friday" for talking heads who are trying to protect their own interests by talking about bottoms and recoveries and turnarounds. Read the e-mails I get daily about how things are going to get better by Spring. These people are either delusional, morons, or lying... or a bit of all three.

Anyway, I get the idea of doom-and-gloom in the media fuelling fear about the economy. Guess what? The US media's job has to been to fuel fear for a couple decades at least. Good news just doesn't sell. This is the latest thing for them to jump on.

But I don't think it actually makes the situation worse. Sure, it might stop some people from rushing out and buying stuff, or create additional job-related stress for those who are on the brink. It doesn't have much of an effect on the fundamental issues and causes of this situation though. Companies would still be collapsing without the media coverage, but people wouldn't have ANY clue as to why. Add to that the ignorance that would exist from people being unaware of the situation, and we'd be worse off. Why? Because people would still be tossing money into the market, or spending endlessly, or otherwise not being frugal and saving, leaving them even worse-prepared for a long recession/depression.

What REALLY pisses me off though, is this snippet:

Richard Scheff, a national expert on corporate liability and white collar crime issues, warns media that they could potentially be exposed to liability despite apparent constitutional protections:

"Although statements by the media are protected by the First Amendment, the survey results demonstrate that the public believes that the press bears some responsibility for the lack of confidence in the economy. One would hope that the media would act less out of self-interest in these times of national crisis," said Mr. Scheff, vice chairman and partner with Philadelphia-based law firm Montgomery McCracken Walker & Rhoads.

Shut the fuck up Dick. First Amendment rights except when it's not in the best interest of the nation? Who the fuck determines that? Who the hell is fear-mongering now? The media in the US is FAR from perfect, but I'd rather they tell the truth than blow sunshine up our collective skirts when times are tough. Hey, you're free to spout whatever moronic claptrap you choose, but you walk a dangerous path when you start talking about censoring the press.

You Don't Know Stacking

You know how you get card dead, but have a big chip lead, and decide to start stacking your chips into new and interesting structures?

Yah, we all suck at that.

Shanghai in poker chips