Thursday, April 30, 2009

An Easy Request

Had a chat with Tragedy today, and he requested that I put up a swine-related pork in honour of this nasty flu that everyone in the entire world has and will die from but has very little to do with pigs. I don't feel like hyphenating all of that.

This is easy. As I still haven't put up the roast ham (not smoked) from Easter. And before that I did the Tourtière post, full of ground pork, prosciutto, and pancetta. In fact, I thawed out a piece of that the other night.

Hell, I had pancetta in my soft-boiled eggs on the weekend. I had a BLT on Sunday. Even if this stupid "pandemic" came from pork products, I doubt I'd be able to keep it out of my diet.

So the roast ham post will go up soon. Then I may throw some other porcine dishes up afterwards, once I figure out how I want to do it. Maybe something in a pasta....

The Book Of Chrysler - Chapter 11, Verse 1

And thus it was spoken : No agreements shall be made outside of the protection of the bankrupt. Only shall concessions be found when protection is granted via bankruptcy. The number of thy counting shall be 3, and 3 shall be the number of thy counting.

Thanks go to whichever parties stopped Chrysler from staying out of bankruptcy. This is much better. With Chapter 11 being declared by the automaker, they can more easily shut down dealerships in their far-too-vast network of lots full of cars nobody wants. They can clear out lawsuits and claims that hang over them. Fiat will now partner with them (20% goes to Fiat). The government gets 8%. Canada gets 2%. Ontario gets 2%. GMAC is now their financial arm (why this wasn't done ages ago when Cerberus bought controlling interest in GMAC, I'll never know... oh right, they couldn't possibly share like that). The unions have made some decent concessions, but there are still some swords hanging over their heads. Chrysler may actually survive.

Which means that GM should be soon to follow. This will be a case of waiting for the first person to leave the party so everyone else can follow. The banks should be right behind, but I have a feeling they'll stick around long after the hosts are asleep on the couch... as long as there are still pretzels in the bowl an a beer or two to mooch.

Never Could Get the Hang of Thursdays

What's going on with The Mookie this month? Hoy wins? Pauly wins? And now Al wins? I suppose this is all part of the nefarious plan to raise the awareness of the Wednesday ritual. Congrats to Al on a job well done. Way to end it in two consecutive hands with Broadway in both. This time around, we won't have to debate about giving a ToC seat to the organizer. Couldn't have happened to a better guy. Well, okay, it could have happened to ME, but I went out 37th without playing a single hand.

Still haven't seen the Heroes finale. It's sitting at home, waiting to be watched. Tonight! Maybe. If I don't fall asleep or get so wrapped up in chores that I end up cleaning my whole place. Is it sad I only want to watch it so I can rant about it? That I look more forward to bitching about however they messed it up again than actually watching them mess it up?

Where's some new Torchwood or Dr. Who when I need it?

They broke up the Tamil demonstration this morning. Commuters are rejoicing, and war continues in Sri Lanka.

Jays lost 11-3 last night, which means they won't win their 7th straight series. Best they can hope for is a tie. Brian Burres, the rookie who got spanked in the 6th on Saturday, gets the start this afternoon. No idea on the kid - he could be the type to bounce back and buckle down or he could be shaken up and get blown out early. Either way, after giving up 11 runs yesterday and only scoring 3, I expect the Jays to whack around the Royals a bit today.

Blackhawks at Canucks tonight. As I started yesterday, the media's picking up on Luongo vs Khabibulin. I give Luongo the edge here, but the Bulin Wall has a tendency to raise his game when needed. I think the goalie battle overshadows the mounds of talent both of these teams have though.

Now I should go submit LAST year's taxes and get the money the government owes me from then... then I'll work on this year's.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

"This is like ... what terrorists do."

On Saturday, I was out for a walk. Near the US consulate was a small group of Tamil protestors (although I still think they're demonstrators, but that's semantics I suppose). A couple dozen waving flags and chanting across the many lanes of University avenue at, I'm assuming, the security guards on duty in the consulate. Canada has the largest Tamil population outside of Sri Lanka, so it makes sense that the protests against Sri Lanka have been taking place frequently here. In the past, they've lines the streets for kilometers, peacefully making themselves known until they block traffic in front of Union Station. It lasts a day, they go home.

I came back the same way an hour later - still there. 5 hours later - still there. 7 hours after that? At 1am, in the rain? Still there. I was impressed by the determination. In fact, if you scroll right and up in the Toronto panorama I posted a couple days ago, you can see this small group (look for the Canada life building, they're across the road and a bit north).

They stuck around Sunday. Then their numbers started to grow in the evening. Peaking at around 4000 in the early morning and blocking the street. The numbers dropped, then rose again.

Since then, the entire block has been closed to traffic as they've protested ceaselessly. 5 days - now I'm really impressed by their determination.

Finally, the police started to move them back across the road yesterday, and again this morning. You see, the next block north of there is called Hospital Row. There are 4 or 5 hospitals in that block, all of them major, all of them big. This means a preponderance of ambulances coming up and down that street regularly. They weren't even moving them OFF the street, just so they'd only block one side of it... and it's a big street.

The response? Well, here are some reactions. My favourite quote? "They're pushing us to be out of sight... I've never seen Toronto Police doing something like this. This is like ... what terrorists do."

ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME??? Someone smack that dipshit upside his head. THIS IS WHAT TERRORISTS DO? Find me ONE FUCKING TERRORIST who lets you protest for 5 days, blocking a major city street for 3 of them, blocking emergency vehicles (also a major police station around the corner, and fire station south of there), blocking thousands of commuters, while yelling for the salvation of a RECOGNIZED TERRORIST GROUP, and then moves you ACROSS THE STREET SO AMBULANCES CAN GET BY! SHUT. THE. FUCK. UP. YOU. FUCKING. MORON.

Look, I don't know nearly enough about the conflict in Sri Lanka to pass judgment. The Tamil Tigers have been at war with Sri Lanka for 25 years, there have been atrocities on both sides, and oceans of bloodshed. The Tigers are a recognized terrorist group, and the consensus seems to be they want a cease-fire to regroup and rearm as the Sri Lankan government has stepped up the fight. Their supporters say they want peace and an end to the fighting. I, naturally, smell bullshit on all sides of this. What I DO know is that comparing the Toronto Police to terrorists while you block ambulances from getting to hospitals is a very quick way to lose any support you've garnered from the community.

Then again, this was from The Sun - the bastion of sensationalist, poorly-researched, fear-inducing reportage in this city. If you listened to them, you'd think we were afraid to go outside because of the gang wars and rain of bullets here. So I suppose I should take their quotes with a grain of salt or seven.

Round 1 In The Books

How about that last 1:20 of the Carolina-Jersey game? Wow. I love NHL game 7s like I love taffy. And I'm a man who loves my taffy.

Great bunch of series in round 1. Upsets (Anaheim over San Jose? Wow), forgone conlcusions (Detroit over Columbus in 4), and young guns showing their grit (Chicago made it through, colour me shocked).

Round 2 could have its surprises too. I don't see the Ducks getting past the Red Wings, but the veteran presence of Pronger and Niedermeyer could bring some surprises. The Thomas-Ward mathup in the Bruins-Hurricanes series could be something to watch. Ovechkin vs Crosby and Malkin in the playoffs? If that isn't a hilight-filled series, I don't know what would be. And the Canucks vs Blackhawks? I have to lean towards Vancouver in the end during a tough series. They've got a good mix of veterans and fairly young guys, and I think that extra experience will give them the edge. They're about matched in talent. Khabibulin vs Luongo? Another solid goalie matchup.

So let's say...

Detroit in 5
Boston in 6
Pittsburgh in 6
Vancouver in 7

Which would set up a hell of a 3rd round with Detroit vs Vancouver and Boston vs Pittsburgh.

Randall Munroe Can Bite Me

Tag Combination

Once again, he finds the funny. I want his brain for awhile. Tell me this isn't a fantastic meme (and for fuck's sake people, it rhymes with "dream", it's not pronounced "me-me") he's just propagated.

Who Gots Skillz?

Ain't me.

I donked it up huge in the Skillz game last night, as planned from the start. If I'm going to play something as mind-numbing as online Limit Stud H/L (I'm sure I'd be more enthralled live), then I'm going to be the biggest donkey at the table (there is currently $3.2 billion invested in research into how this is different than any other time I'm at a table), ON PURPOSE. But much like the last time I donked it up in the Skillz Stud H/L a month or so ago, nobody came to this realization until I started sucking out on them with terrible hands.

So I ended the night by taking a chunk of Lucko's chips with some horrible 4-suited hand (AQT8h?), that caught an 8th on 6th street to outpair his 7's, took a bit of commentary from him, and then gave them all to TuscaloosaJohn the next hand with an equally donkish hand... I think I was chasing nothing while hoping he didn't have the straight he had. Like I said before the game - IF I was there, I'd be playing terribly. The 4 or so post-work beers on an empty stomach didn't help matters either.

But tonight is The Mookie! (10pm ET, Full Tilt, pw: vegas1) I may not be able to make this one, as I'm meeting up with a friend, but I'll try and be there eventually. That may mean free blinds for a while until I show up with a few hundred chips left and climb to the top of the leaderboard. Or not. Since it's the non-stop excitement of NLHE, I'll only be playing like my usual donkish self, not the über-donk I am during Stud.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Jays, NHL, and the Rest

And the Jays potent offense took a break last night in a 7-1 loss to the vaunted Kansas City Royals. It's one game, there are 3 more in the series. I'm much happier they lost big in game 1 than game 2 or 3, because it SHOULD wake them up a bit that they can't take anybody lightly. This is a team that is, realistically, mediocre on paper. They have a lot of young talent, and some veterans that have been all-stars and should be far from washed up, but they still need to work hard game in and game out to be consistently winning.

I imagine Cito will chat with them, point out a few mistakes here and there, and generally put them at ease and let them have some fun. He knows they can beat the Royals, the Royals know it, and the team knows it. I expect them to bounce back tonight.

Round 1 of the NHL playoffs is over tonight. Two game sevens happening nearly simultaneously. Jersey vs Carolina and Washington vs The Rangers. Two games that look to be good, but I'd much prefer the Devils-Canes game. Except it's on TSN2 here, and Rogers doesn't carry it. Go figure. I'll probably tune into the Jays game and jump in and out of the Caps-Rangers game (also known as Ovechkin vs Lundqvist).

The west is already set up for Round 2, with Detroit vs Anaheim and Chicago vs Vancouver. I can't see the Wings going down to the Ducks. Sorry Anaheim, but Detroit is no San Jose - this is a team that KNOWS how to win in the playoffs, and your only hopes are Pronger and Scott Niedermeyer grabbing the team by the neck and dragging them to some wins.

As for Chicago and Vancouver, I'm naturally cheering for the remaining Canadian team, and I think they'll put up a hell of a fight. I still don't think the kids on the Hawks have the experience to win it all, but they've shown they've got some grit and determination in there and could be a challenge for the Canucks. Still, I think Vancouver pulls this one out.

I missed Heroes last night. Completely forgot the season finale was on. I'll grab it tonight and watch it, fully prepared to bitch about it tomorrow. I personally like Torontoist's prediction for it (having not watched it this season since it's sucked since season 1) - Monkey Sylar. Or maybe just have Sylar do a T2 homage and change between all the personas he's been while melting in a pool of molten steel. I think that's required to kill him now. Of course, not before Peter touches him and absorbs all his powers at once, and then shapeshifts into Sylar so the character can continue... or something lame like that.

Skillz Game tonight. Stud H/L. I imagine I'll be doing something else, as limit, hi/lo, and stud are all anathema to me. If I do go crazy and sign up though, expect me to be playing incredibly loose in an effort to suck out a win. Where's PLO8?

That's One Solution For GM...

So, GM plans to cut 21,000 jobs, close 13 plants, cut it's 6500 dealerships to half that, and kill the Pontiac line.

And then give the UAW 39% of the company, 10% to it's bondholders, and 50% to the government.

The bondholders aren't pleased and will likely kill the deal. I don't blame them.

Me? I'll miss the Pontiac line. It's been pretty much my main car for the last 10 years, in various forms. A shame they made it so boring.

Here's the thing, I don't think dumping the company on the union is a terrible move. I mean, they have more sway over decisions than anyone else, why not make them major partners? The government being the majority shareholder is a joke though. Would YOU buy government-made cars?

And there's 10% 1% (edit: stupid brain) missing.

Basically, the whole deal looks like a disaster in the making, where I'm sure the major banks will end up making a killing with their CDS holdings. Funny, isn't it, that the government would sacrifice the auto industry to save the banks.

Personally, I still think they should just let 'em fail. If bankruptcy protection doesn't work, then I'd expect some of those thousands of workers would get it in their head that they could buy up a factory or two and make better cars. There has to be some enterprising entrepreneurs out there dying to take a stab at making fuel efficient cars with lots of modern features that people actually want. They'd jump at the opportunity to buy up some fully functional factories and hire former union workers in a profit-sharing venture. But that would be... what's the phrase? Free market capitalism? Can't have that, can we?

Monday, April 27, 2009

Cool Stuff For Monday

Big honking picture of Toronto taken from the CN Tower on Saturday. Around that time, I think I was walking on Queen St.

Just look at this video. 1000 fps (2500 fps in some parts). Fucking awesome.

I-Movix SprintCam v3 NAB 2009 showreel from David Coiffier on Vimeo.

There's a full-screen high def version there too.

Once again, Wired puts up a cool article. Neuroscience and Magic as told by Teller. I've always loved magic, and was damned near fanatical about it as a kid. Sadly, I don't remember any tricks anymore. Sorry... illusions. Tricks are something whores do.

About Time

Toronto Blue Jays - 1st overall in the Majors.

6 straight series won to start the season. Red Sox hot on their tail.

We're all pretty surprised 'round these parts.

Tallet 4-hit the White Sox over 5 1/3 innings with 5 K on Friday. A great performance from a traditional bullpen guy that was overshadowed by the 14 runs the Jays scored. 14-0... that's a beating.

Saturday saw the good guys give those back with a 10-2 loss when Burres lost it in the 6th, giving up 4 runs in that inning. But I figured one of those two games was a loss anyway.

And Sunday saw our ace, and the best damned pitcher in the majors for the past 7 years, Roy Halladay, get his first win in Chicago vs the Sox (hard to believe). He gave up 3, but locked in after that and went 7 innings before the bullpen kept the lead in place. 4-3 is tight, but unlike years past, not quite fear-inducing.

14-6, The Royals for the next series. I think this is the first real test for the Jays. What? The Royals? Yah. Sure, they're 9-9, and traditionally suck, but that's the point. The Jays, like all Toronto teams, tend to perform worst against the worst teams. They play to the level of their opponents. If the Jays crush Kansas over this series, then it will be a solid show of their commitment. The real tests of talent, coaching, and attitude will come in May, when they finally play the Yankees and Red Sox. Maybe they'll be 25-9 then though.

So Close

First, the good on the weekend.

Saturday was a great day. Up, quick and easy and tasty breakfast, and the afternoon was spent wandering the AGO for the first time since the renovation. My friend and I opted to buy the Contributing membership - the selling point was the "bring 2 guests for free every time". The reciprocal membership to galleries all over Canada and the States is nice too, but I doubt I'll be anywhere near those cities before the membership needs to be renewed.

The AGO is great. Love the changes, love the size. The last time I went, with the same friend, we left disappointed. The place seemed small, and they had to rotate their collection due to lack of space. This meant that favourite pieces were no longer being displayed. This time though, they had galleries to spare. We spent hours and only got through the first floor. We did take the new staircases all the way up and down, but outside of wandering the contemporary galleries very briefly, didn't really see the rest of the displays. Which is fine, the place isn't going anywhere. We finished by visiting the member's lounge and enjoying a couple coffees (espresso for her, cappuccino for me), which were dirt cheap in a great setting. Sitting in the window looking out at Grange Park removed any doubts about the membership. The cute, friendly staff doesn't hurt either.

From there we grabbed some dinner at Harlem. Before Friday, we'd never heard of the place, but it was quite good. Drinks were solid, food was well done (ribs were a bit too sweet for my taste), and the ambience was relaxing. I'm pretty sure it was the owner who greeted us and kept checking in, and he knew how to make people feel welcome.

Then off to Lewis Black. Damn, he's funny. Nearly two hours of ranting, politicizing, and pointing out any number of stupidities in the world. He even handled the "contributors" from the audience well, shutting up the few who felt the need to add their own jokes (not heckling, just assuming they were witty enough to be heard). Hard to believe he's 60.

Finally, Beer Bistro to finish. A couple decent brews (Ephémère and La Roja), solid conversation, and called it a night. One full day.

Sunday I woke up in time for the Brit game. First one I've remembered during the BBT. I rolled over the game for the most part, knocking out at least 5 or 6 people. Decent hands, (AA twice for those keeping score), play I was happy with, in first place from shortly after the first break onwards, with twice the chips of second place at one point, and then we got down to 3. I went fucking limp. I basically backed off, let Pushmonkey catch up, and then played like a pussy until I went out on a shitty hand in a shitty situation. So close to a seat. I don't know who won between Muhctim and Push, but I'm sure it was a decent HU match. Nobody to blame by myself for that one. When I should have been forcing my opponents to decide, I was sitting back and waiting for... what? I haven't a clue.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Two More Down

Add BJ Ryan and Ricky Romero to the list of Jays pitchers on the DL. That would be our closer and the rookie who's looked pretty damned good so far in the starting rotation.

Yet somehow, the Jays won another series. Making it 5 series wins in a row to start the season. That makes 'em 12-5, for first overall in the AL still, and 2nd overall in the Majors (Florida's 11-4, so we've got two games in hand. One could make the arguement we're doing better). We've got 3 games against the White Sox and 4 against the Royals coming up, and a decimated pitching staff. Somehow though, I don't think the clubhouse is panicking. The hitters are still creaming the ball, add Cito's keeping things loose. It will be interesting to see how Brian Tallet does tonight, being traditionally a middle relief kind of guy. If they can get 5-6 innings out of him, I'll be happy. This could be a must-win to keep the streak of series wins going, since tomorrow will likely see another rookie starter called up to replace Romero, and Sunday will see Halladay. One assumes a win with Doc, but the first two games will be question marks with the starters. Without a recognized closer, big leads are recommended, and I expect another complete game from our ace on Sunday.

Things will get interesting in mid-May, when we finally face off against The Yanks and Red Sox. Should be interesting to see where the team stands come June.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

So Much For The Plan

Out 26th of 83 in last night's Mookie. I blame... umm.... well, I guess I can't blame whoever called my KTo UTG shortie push with AQo from the SB.

Oh yah, I blame the fact I made two bad laydowns. QQ early on (UTG raises, I UTG+1 and re-raise, it folds to UTG who 3-raises me for 1/3 of my stack. In retrospect, I think I was ahead.) and KJc later on when I had a stack that was just barely middling (would have flopped TP with the FD, and turned the flush, because CRUBS ALWAYS GET THERE). Ah well.

At least dinner was fantastic. Huge ribeye with a great rub (fresh-cracked black pepper, roasted garlic salt, toasted onion salt, alderwood smoked salt, hickory smoked salt, habanero powder, smoked paprika, ancho chili powder, chipotle chili powder, garlic powder, turmeric, and ground coriander seed), fried potatoes (black pepper, roasted garlic salt, toasted onion salt, cayenne pepper, fresh garlic), and sautéed mushrooms (butter, garlic, salt, pepper, dill). I was afraid I'd overcooked the steak but it turned out perfectly rare. Damned filling.

I was tilty after the game, and shut down Full Tilt with AUTHORITY. Then I reopened it and played a $28 super turbo SnG out of anger. I should play on tilt more often it seems, as Full Tilt was so full of fear that it gave me hand after hand without loss, letting me dominate the game to victory. Then I won, and Full Tilt crashed before the Mookie was over, for it feared my retribution. Such is the power of my wrath.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Have I Done This Rant Before?

It's Earth Day. Possibly the worst-named theme day in existence.

The Earth is fine. No problem with it at all. None. It's in ZERO danger for the next few billion years or first Vogon visit.

The life on it? That's a different story.

The Earth is a big ball of rock with some liquid on it, some more liquid in the middle, and a bunch of gas and particles stuck behind a shield. Stuff sticks to it largely due to gravity. It's not going anywhere it hasn't gone before.

If we pollute the fuck out it, melt the ice caps, poison the waters, burn off the atmosphere, and nuke the shit out of its landmasses, Earth will still be here.

We won't. Maybe the cockroaches will stick around, and a few of the heartier lichens.

Calls to save the Earth are poorly aimed. The planet, as a mass of matter orbiting a star, will continue until something far more powerful than us destroys it. The calls should be to save ourselves and the other forms of life on the planet. Sadly, these don't fit on a button as well, and tend to give an impression of hippiedom and radicalism. I find that very strange, since one would think the arrogance of asking people to save an entire planet would seem more outrageous.

Are we fucking up the environment? Yup. Are we messing with the "natural" balance of things? For sure. Are we endangering our own health, if not our lives? Sure thing. Are we putting countless other forms of life, which regardless of one's view on extra-terrestrial life, are unique in the universe? You betcha. Are we endangering the planet as a whole? Nope. Worst case? It looks like Venus.

The National Geographic has some photos up from the first Earth Day from 1970. A small budget, a couple people, and a lot of effort got hundreds of thousands of people to rally for environmental change. That initial effort has become a global day of attention to how shitty we are as caretakers. I suggest looking at all the photos, but this one sums up the mentality most people have. We want to do better, but actually practicing what we preach is far more difficult.

So I suggest this for today, and every day. Don't think about the Earth. Think about yourself. Think about the children in your life. Try and stretch your thought process seven generations down the road and envision the legacy we'll leave behind. Be selfish and wonder why the hell you'd try to accomplish anything if people won't be around to appreciate for all eternity. Don't think about the rock we're standing on, think about what's standing on it.

Tonight's Plan

So we all know that The Mookie is tonight, right? Full Tilt, 10pm ET, private tab, $10+1 NLHE, password: vegas1. And you're all playing in it, right? Except team Schaubs, they can all braid each other's hair or gossip about which boys they think are cute or something.

I'll be there. Maybe I'll win. I mean, now that Hoy's won this thing, I need to win more so I'm not kept in such low company. Hell, if Mr. 72o-player can win a Mookie, anybody can, and it makes me feel less special. Yah, that's right Hoy, your week of glorious Mookiechampionship is OVER! It's time for a new alpha dog to step up and take the glory! No more porn star parties and hot tubs full of Cristal for you. Meet the darkside of the Mookie win high - the crash when someone else takes that precious title and you're forgotten by the masses.

Plus, I really want to answer Hoy's question for this week's winner.

But my play in the bloggerments has been sub-par at best lately. I need to step it up to win something as big as The Mookie. I'm pretty sure poker is 99% preparation and 1% paying off the right people. So after I remind the fine dealers at Full Tilt who has pictures of who with what animals and remind a certain dendrophiliac at the top of that organization about his "bark burn", I'll get around to preparing.

How? Well, as I've made clear before, the key to tournament success is proper cooking. Last night was some pretty solid pizza from Massimo's. Before that, I seem to have had a lot of leftovers (must remember to put ham pics up from Easter). So tonight I cook!

And it shall be... literally steak and potatoes. Simple, easy, delicious. A beer alongside, and I shall be sated and ready to kick some blogger and blogger-wanna-be ass.

I expect I'll be out before the first break.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


About 99% of the time my poker game suffers, it's due to a lack of focus. I sit down, ready to play, maybe even with a plan, and then I turn on the TV, open a browser with 13 tabs, start 3 or 4 chats, check my e-mail, pet the cat who just jumped on my shoulder, drink a beer, snack on some peanuts, pay some bills, phone a friend, do the dishes, take a piss, and contemplate the existence of the flying spaghetti monster while opening up my 3rd SnG. Then I wonder why I didn't win the Mookie.

But not recently. Oh sure, I'm still splitting focus, but usually it's a much smaller field of distraction. Something on the TV in the background I don't care too much about, or music, or BDR. I've cut down the distractions and try to focus on the game more than the rest. No, recently the problem has been my mentality.

I don't formulate a plan of attack. I know how a big-field tournament works. I know the type of players I'm likely to face. Hell, if it's a blogger game, I know the types of player on an individual basis, to the point I know what room they're sitting in and which stickers are on their laptop. It used to be I'd actually choose a method - if I wanted to start loose and then tighten up, or conserve chips early for more aggressive play when everyone else tightened, or whatever variation I chose. These days, I haven't.

I also find I'm relying on my fabled luck, but it hasn't always been around. I figure if I survive and hour without premium hands, then I'll get flooded with them the next hour. It doesn't work that way, and I know it. So I end up giving the impression of solid hands, showing the aces, getting to showdown with the nut flush, etc., but then not using that image to my advantage.

I'm reading people correctly, but not playing them right. I know when I'm ahead, but then my attempt to get them to overthink my play into a call backfires and I win the minimum. Throw in a little bit of the same bad luck anyone sees and I'm falling on my face.

It's getting to the point where I once again expect the worst when I get it all in, except the worse isn't happening this time around. My hands are holding up a reasonable amount of the time, but I'm convinced I'm running bad. I'm not, I'm just not running like a god. There was a time when running normal was enough for me to go deep at the very least. But now my attitude is askew, and it's resulting in bad calls or ill-timed moves at the worst possible stages of the game.

So I have a useable amount of focus, but an insufficient application of this. It's time I changed this. It may also be time for some live poker. Now if only I could find a free weekend.

Tempted to Revert

It started with a thought about photography. Now it's expanding rapidly.

The thought was this - maybe I should start from the basics.

In terms of photography, that would mean using only my cell phone camera, all 2 blurry megapixels worth from a lens the size of a ballpoint tip. Some would say go back to film, or even set up a pinhole, but I'm trying to be realisitic here. With a shitty camera and shitty lens, it becomes entirely about composition, timing, and lighting. The fancy camera stuff gets pulled out of the equation. No wide aperture to blur the background out. No master-slave flash configurations to create dynamic lighting rigs. No tripod and a long shutter speed activated by wireless remote to eliminate the moving parts of a scene. Just a small button to push and a grainy image. Anything worthwhile that comes of that comes from reality, not half a dozen settings.

Why? Because I figure it can only help when I climb back to the SLR with it's fast, zooming, or macro lenses. The thing is that you can take a professional photographer, and I don't mean some guy doing weddings in his spare time, but someone who's entire career, nay life, is pictures, and give him the crappiest camera available, and they'll come back with art. You can give the biggest poseur the greatest gear, and they'll come back with flat, uninspired, crap. I'd much rather be able to create art with crap than crap with science.

So then I thought, why just photgraphy? Why not poker? As I've stated, my game has sucked, so why not go back to basics there? Go to level 1. What are my cards? No bluffing, no tricks, no speculation, just top 10 hands and a lot of folding. Then move myself back up. Speculate a little. Draw once in awhile. Pay attention to pot odds. Then start thinking about my opponent's hands. Then maybe bluff a bit. etc, etc.. Rebuild from the foundation up. It shouldn't take THAT long, and gives me a goal. If nothing else, it will remind me how terrible poker can be if you don't put some damned effort into it.

Then I figured cooking could benefit from the same. I've got entire cookbooks of simple recipes. 3 or 4 ingredients, nothing fancy. Sure, I can do a steak with salt and pepper and hit the doneness most of the time, but why not aim for all the time? Why not force myself to use no more than 5 ingredients in a full meal and aim on getting it cooked just right and timed properly? Rebuild the base from there.

And in the end, why not rebuild myself the same way? Strip myself down the basic aspects of who I am and what I do. Figure out who I really want to be and work towards those goals in baby steps. I mean, I have a life that affords me that luxury, I should take advantage of it, right?

It's not that I feel I have gaping fundamental flaws in any of these things. I can take a pretty good picture, cook a killer meal, and even play some solid poker when I put my mind to it. I like who I am, and know full well what many of my flaws are, but sometimes it's good to start looking at everything from the bare foundations again. You find and fill more cracks that way.


I'm sure I'm not the only one noticing the smaller numbers in this round of the BBT. 115 runner Mookies seem to be a think of the past, as do 72 player Big Games or 56 person Mondays. There hasn't been a bunch of promotion this time around, what with our group tending to focus on a variety of non-poker topics these days. Politics, the economy, businesses, work, family, food, life, concerts, reunions, and the other day-to-day topics we all talk about with friends and family now permeate the the 'sphere. Poker posts seem few and far between. Perhaps we've covered all the topics there are to cover. Nothing we can throw up strategy-wise seems new. Maybe we haven't actually LEARNED the lessons, but we've heard them before. There's also a sense of not tapping on the glass even amongs our own group these days. Where before mistakes were called out, strategies questioned, and debates had, now people seem afraid to expose their weaknesses or strengths.

I guess that's my roundabout way of saying that we just aren't doing our jobs when it comes to promoting this thing. Once again, Al has done a great job of organizing a series of tournaments with some great prizes at the end, but the influx of new blood just isn't at the level it used to be. Hell, whether or not a game has the same sense of fun depends on the table you're at. I think we've forgotten what these games were supposed to be.

I know I have. I fire them up almost out of habit now, and then toss any effort to the wind. Then again, that's most of my play anywhere these days. I'm playing some terrible poker, and it's showing in my results. Since January 1st, I was at one point up 300% from my reload, but I've since given almost all of that back. Yet I just keep throwing buy-in after buy-in in and then playing well below what I'm capable of. The only saving grace is that I know what my mistakes are the second after I make them, so I know the knowledge is still in there. I just need to apply it.

Something I won't do in tonight's Skillz game, since it's Razz, the game of pure evil.

So here's my small part in letting people know what's up with this thing. We're halfway through, with 6 weeks left. That's what? 25 tournaments before the TOC?

It's all on Full Tilt Poker

Mondays @ 10pm ET: Riverchasers/PPI $24+2, password: riverchasers
Tuesdays @ 9:30pm ET : Skill Series $10+1, password: skillz
Wednesday @ 10pm ET: The Mookie $10+1, password: vegas1
Sunday @ 4pm ET: Brit Blogger Game $5+0.50, password: donkament
Sunday May 31st @ 9:30pm ET : The Big Game $69+6 superstacks, password: donkey

TWO $10k WSOP prize packages up for grabs, $2k packages up for grabs, plus cash, plus prizes. It's a pretty freakin' sweet deal folks.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Heroes - I Am Sylar

So Sylar is having an identity crisis. This is a problem when you're a shapeshifter. As per usual here, lots of spoilers, this is your warning.

I just can't enjoy this show any more. I'm only watching it because the season is over with the next episode. After watching this episode, I can't believe there's only one episode left this season. The whole thing, once again, feels totally rushed. Everyone will soon be converging on building 26 via one method or another. Sylar and Danko are apparently rounding up everyone in one big sweep thanks to Micah's server being available to them. More on that later.

The Ando-Hiro distrust story is just tired and old. The line about Hiro and Superman both being fascists was great, but Hiro's stupidity power keeps kicking in so he won't listen to his whiney friend. I guess the once again resolved this by the end.

Of course, not before they tried to talk Parkman into helping them. Hey, remember when Parkman had the gift of painting the future? Yah, neither do the writers. Parkman goes back to his ex-wife to return the baby (because that's a safe move, since the agents know all about the baby), is surprised there are agents listening in (shocking!) and awkwardly tries to reconcile with wifey. Is it really his baby? Does maybe wifey have powers? They have a lot to talk about at the cottage... except he's not going because he realized he has to take down the bad government guys who are chasing him before he can have a happy family with his superpowered baby and boring ex-wife. She's such a Daphne rebound.

Sylar going all Norman Bates was a decent touch. It's a shame that his mother is/was one of the most annoying and milquetoast characters the show has ever seen. But it at least pushes him to full Psycho now, and will confuse the fuck out of his motivation (see: Micah).

Speaking of Rebel... Micah's supposedly a technological genius. He can talk to machines and is a teenager, so therefore is aware of all new technology instantly. He doesn't have a fully-charged laptop and a full UPS hooked up to his setup so if someone, say the the government agency that's hunting you, cuts the power to your block, you can still maintain a net connection and access to your vital systems long enough to create a distraction? He should have been able to send out copies of important data to offsite locations and delete the local copies instantly before creating a shitstorm of alarms and problems that would help him escape. Hell, the fact he had to PACK before running was idiotic, but I'll chalk that up to being a kid.

Sylar actually listening to Micah was an unexpected touch. Explaining it away as his mother's personality dominating him was a bit weak. Michah's look of "oh shit, this dude is way more fucked up than I thought" was excellent though. Sylar having the big fake tear running down his cheek was just cheesy. Although it did remind me of the tear running down Tracy's frozen face. Micah has such an effect on people.

So we spend all of last episode building the Petrelli-Bennett family unit. There's talk about a new co-operation of the family. And then... Nathan flies off to confront Sylar on his own? Nathan knows EXACTLY what Sylar is capable of, and Nathan's only power is to fly. What the fuck did he think he could do? He was even warned by everyone (I even think Princess Leia and Admiral Ackbar showed up to tell him) that IT'S A TRAP, and he just strolls into his office. Lucky for him Danko was there to taser his ass before Sylar found a faster means of transportation.

And then Sylar decides to tell Danko to fuck off, he wants to be President now. And turns his back on Danko? Sylar's obviously not thinking straight, and is certainly letting emotion get in the way of logic. Does he not know that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few... or the one? Anyway, he gets knifed in the back of the head (pretty kickass), and then GETS UP. Sooooooo... did Danko just miss the spot? Did it move in all the shapeshifting? Is this some sort of freaky side effect of something so that Sylar is now unkillable? I suppose decapitation could still work.

Next week is the finale, but this felt like a mid-season episode that has a whole whack of plot left to go. The preview implies death and mayhem next week... and also that Noah and Angela (at least) are free after being surrounded by bad guys at the end of the episode. I predict a clusterfuck of a finale that will just piss me off.

I mean, this wasn't a TERRIBLE episode, but the show on the whole is so aggravating that I'm done. I shall soldier on for one more episode though.


After that last rant, here are some awesome pictures from Cassini.

I'd hate to see the Boston Globe go under, they provide some of the best photo compilations the web has to offer.

Image is Everything

I'm growing tired of the transparent attempts at image-making.

For a while now (let's say... oh forever), it's been more about how things appear than how they are. Be it PR, spin doctors, payola, political lies, magical accounting, SEO, or any other variation of marketing (both commercial and otherwise) that puts forth an image of something in spite of the realities.

Some of this is acceptable. Marketing has existed since Oog tried to trade his old axe head for Ugh's extra piece of mastodon meat. "Oog axe still make good cut in wood. Ugh's meat almost rotten, is good deal for ugh." So there's a built-in cynicism when it comes to selling things. I knew my Transformers weren't going to transform themselves and fire lasers, but I still wanted them. I know that whatever workout plan is being hawked at 2am isn't going to magically give me ripped abs. I might not know that the topsy-turvy tomato planter doesn't come with seeds or soil, but I'm not overly disappointed when I have to buy my own.

But I expect a higher calibre of deception from politicians and major corporations. It used to be there were vast conspiracies that could never be unravelled. It used to be that a politician would rail against something and anyone who would discover his deep dark secrets would disappear. Now? If you've got a Republican senator bashing gay rights, you know he has a brothel of Thai ladyboys in his back shed, but when they get found out, he claims he was just holding them for a friend.

Or maybe the CIA has to waterboard someone 138 times to get a confession. You know the main reason torture doesn't work? Because the person getting tortured will eventually tell you whatever you want to hear to make you stop. It's completely unreliable. If they honestly don't know anything but the torturers believe otherwise, then you break an innocent person.

Or maybe you use every sneaky accounting trick you can find for your bank to show a "profit" in the first quarter of the TARP-funded fiscal year. Short version - at best they broke even, but they mostly lost money and have nothing in reserve if things keep going badly.

The markets have reacted accordingly, up a ridiculous percentage since early March. I maintain it's all smoke and mirrors and a bunch of hot air under these figures. It will all collapse again. The thing is, the government (and it wouldn't have mattered who won) is happy to let these sort of obvious, transparent, and incomprehensible lies happen, because it puts forth the appearance of good news. That makes people happy and allays their fear, even though unemployment is climbing to new highs, retail numbers still suck, and the fundamentals of a strong, efficient economy are still nowhere near being realized. It's the same mentality the Bush administration applied to the middle east. As long as you TELL people you're winning, and you're doing the right things, they MIGHT forgive the lies and destruction of what makes places like the US the bastions of freedom they were. Obama's administration is allowing this mentality to dictate economic policy because they know full well they can't do a damned thing about it no matter how many trillions they throw that way. At least, on a fundamental level, they SHOULD know this, even if all their Keynesian economic education foolishly tells them otherwise.

Oh, and while I'm ranting, it's older news, but Obama's lawyers have created a new level of secrecy when it comes to the government doing illegal things to their citizens. Essentially, it says "if we haven't openly admitted we're doing it, we're immune from prosecution." Not even Bush's cronies had mustered up the balls for that one. Throw in the FIVE RIAA lawyers he's appointed to the Justice Department and tell me what "change" and "hope" smell like.

It doesn't matter who you vote for, the Government always gets in.

14 Games In

Well, we're about 9% of the way through baseball season, and sitting 1st overall in the American League, and 3rd overall in the Majors are... The Toronto Blue Jays?

Go Jays Go!

Obviously, it's still FAR too early to plan the parade route, but I was looking at their record the other day...

Last night's win vs Oakland was their narrowest and lowest-scoring win yet. 1-0. It obviously doesn't get any smaller than that. Their next lowest-scoring was 4-2 the day before.

Let's look at their 10 wins

12-5 vs DET
5-4 vs DET
6-2 vs DET
13-7 vs CLE
5-4 vs CLE
8-6 vs MIN
12-2 vs MIN
9-2 vs MIN
4-2 vs OAK
1-0 vs OAK

And their 4 losses

1-5 vs DET
4-8 vs CLE
2-3 vs MIN
5-8 vs OAK

87 runs for (tops in the AL), 58 against.

Average 6.2 runs per game for, 4.1 against.

Team .290 average is the best in the AL, and second in the majors. 4th in OBP (AL), 3rd in slugging (AL). Tied for 2nd in HR.

4th in the AL for ERA, 8th in the majors. 2nd in SO in the AL, 3rd in the majors.

4th in the AL for earned runs, much worse in the majors (16th).

So, it's the hitting that's pulling them through. When they score, they tend to score big. When they don't, they lose.

But the pitching has picked up lately. This is good if the hitting stays on pace, but the Jays have shown over the last decade that they tend to run hot on either hitting or pitching, but seldom both simultaneously. Despite the slow start for the Yanks, Red Sox, and Rays, those are still powerhouse teams that can string together big streaks quickly. If they Jays can't manage to fire on all cylinders fairly regularly, then they'll drop to the 3rd or 4th in their division once again. The AL East is the toughest place to play in the baseball, and this could very much be a make-or-break year for the team. With Ted Rogers death, the family's interest in funding the team is being called into question. A strong showing could keep interest high. This town loves a winner, and Jays tickets are cheap, especially when comapred to the Leafs.

I said it at the start, this is a team that will rely on hitting, and lean heavily on Halladay. Litsch is injured, so that means our starting pitching is ALL question marks and young guys (except Tallet, who is a career middle reliever). If Arnsberg can cut some diamonds out of those roughs, I'll call for him to get a contract for life and perpetual pay raises. I worry about the pitching come the end of the season, but the vetran hitting corps should still be strong then to cover the exhaustion these kids will be feeling. Or maybe Marcum, Janssen, or McGowan will be able to throw some balls around by then.

Right now, it's hope and that initial high from a good start. As any Jays fan should say - talk to me in August. If we're still going strong after the all-star break and heading into the home stretch, then some honest hope for a playoff shot could come into play. Stranger things have happened.

And if they do make the playoffs? It will all be thanks to the coaching staff, and players willing to listen.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Mmmmm... Beer

I was out last night with some friends. Some of whom I haven't seen in a long time. One guy who now lives in Israel (and who is getting married this summer - road trip!) was the reason for the gathering. He is sorely missed by all of us friends. It fell to me to pick a locale for gathering, so I chose...

The Beer Bistro.

But they were full and couldn't seat us until 9:30. So I switched to Volo! You know a place is serious about beer when they have an RSS feed of what's on tap/cask/new.

Let's see if I can recall my choices:

Dieu De Ciel!'s Péché Mortel - a delicious stout from Montreal

Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA, which has become a standby for me at beer bars, the beer that gave me faith that the US could actually produce a brew that was enticing and not just beer.

Granite Hopping Mad IPA - not as good as the Dogfish head, but fine nonetheless, and brewed about a 10 minute drive north of where we were.

Great Divide's Oak Aged Yeti Imperial Stout - at the recommendation of our waiter.

What I love about places like these is that the staff knows they beers COLD. Pick anything on the extensive menu (literally hundreds of beers) and they'll give you a full breakdown, comparison to other beers, food pairings, and general opinions. This guy saw that me and a buddy were drinking and figured we'd be the types who could appreciate the Yeti. He was right. Damn near chocolate in stout form, it was a rich, full-bodied beer that was a great finish.

Then he dropped a plate of chocolate in front of us. By this time it was just me and one friend, as everyone else was lame and lived far away. A chocolatier across the road made these for them - a 5 chili dark chocolate. Our server suggested they went really well with the beer. So we tried the chocolate - nice and spicy, but a bit off. My friend thought it was the wrong kind of chili being used perhaps, but I wasn't sure. However, with the beer, it was a great combination.

We mentioned our misgivings about the chocolate to the server, and returned with 4 more pieces - this time with vanilla bean in them. Also good, but this time I was able to place the problem - the chocolate was too dark.

This was a very high cocoa content (I'd guess 70-80% at least), and it created a very "dry", powdery texture and a bitterness that lingered far too long. It's perhaps possible he burnt the chocolate a bit in the processing, or perhaps just the region he chose didn't mix well with my palate, but it stopped these handcrafted nuggets from being sublime and made them merely an interesting curiosity in beer and food pairing. 10% lower cocoa content and I think they'd be a winner. Still, free gourmet chocolate? I can't complain that much.

Getting to bed at 3am hasn't helped me with consciousness today though. Yay Sobe Arush!

Not Much to Write About

Hmmm, seems I've let this place go without a post for a few days. Sorry, just nothign all that exciting to talk about. It's been a week of leftovers, shitty poker, and staying up too late. I'm just glad it's Friday, although I'll be sending very little of this weekend at home.

Don's The Big Game is Sunday - $26 1r+1a which is cool. 9:30 on Tilt, and TBG is still my favourite of the Blogger games. I'll sign up, but I don't know if I'll be home in time to make the rebuy or add-on period, which is a bummer.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Heroes - 1961

It seems people are happy with the Tim Kring penned episode that aired last night. Ooo! It's flashbacky! Those are always good!


While I don't claim to be as witty as this guy, I seem to have become as cynical when it comes to Heroes. Two episodes left, and unless they wow me, I doubt I'll watch the next season.

I think part of the problem has become that the characters, the actors, and the stories have all been too far gone for too long. I just can't bring myself around to caring. Noah still shows some signs of being complex and interesting and smart, especially last week, but he's bounced around so much alliance-wise that it's just getting old. At leaat he's better at it than Nathan.

Anyway, the episode. Last week left us with the question "why are they digging?" This week answered it with, "no particular reason." Matrelli made some blahblahblah about needing proof her sister was dead and looking for a scrap of clothing or something.

50 years, unlimited resources, access to the most powerful people in the world, and you NEVER CHECKED IF YOUR SISTER WAS ALIVE? On top of that, you're getting your family to dig up every grave in the place to look for some evidence one of the bodies is your sister.


Anyway, it doesn't matter, because her sister can control the weather and a storm springs up and Angela discovers her dream is literal... like they've ALWAYS BEEN. I don't know where this bullshit about having to interpret them came from, but there's been no discussion of that in the past.

So, her sister has been stirring up dust storms at Coyote Flats for 50 years whenever she needs to go steal something. Smart move. Again, Angela never noticed the strange, localized weather patterns at the site of her sister's supposed death over the last half century? Give me a fucking break.

The one remotely cool part of that storyline was the explanation for why Angela stole those socks that one time last season or whenever it was. I wonder if Kring really had that part figured out then. I'll go with yes, because he's the creator of the series.

Everyone else's story is unimportant, Nathan, Peter, Noah, Claire, and Mohinder were essentially window dressing for the episode.

Then there's the flashbacks. Okay, the other flashback episodes were good because they involved actors and characters we already knew and filled in questions we already had. How did HRG joing the company? How did he get Claire? How did Claude become his partner? Where'd the Haitian come from? Hey! That's Eric Roberts! And then Eric Roberts shows up regularly. "Company Man" was one of the best episodes of ANYTHING on TV that season. "1961"? Not so much.

See, this flashback episode wasn't needed. It was created from the previous episode. Coyote Flats didn't exist before then. Everyone who was in the flashback except Angela was dead. The only thing that interested me was what Deveaux's power was... and it was nothing new - mind reading and control. Okay, so he was a Parkman? That's just lazy. In fact, the flashback changed the origin story of Linderman.

If you follow the online comics, you'll know that Linderman was a young conscript in Vietnam who met Arthur Patrelli (who had no powers) while part of his company, assigned to kill a girl in a village who could make plants grow really fast. He saved Patrelli's life with his ability and they became friends. This origin had already been ignored and discounte in the past, and now it was taken even further. Sure, you could claim the comics aren't canon, but they're written and published and endorsed by NBC and the creators of the program. This isn't fan-fic or some loosely controlled universe like Star Trek. They've bridged stories from the comics into the series (see: Wireless), and vice versa, but they seem to also conveniently ignore them when they change their minds.

I guess it provided motivation for Primatech, and possibly lays the groundwork for the next season - the Patrelli's start a new "Family" to oversee things. This keeps known characters around and allows the introduction of new ones I suppose.

And Alice had better damned well play a role in the next couple episodes, otherwise this whole episode is essentially useless. Her insansity and perhaps a quest for vengeance could be woven in quite nicely.

The ending, with Sylar as Nathan talking to the press was a nice touch. It easily puts Nathan back in play in DC and could set up a nice "who's who" bit of writing as Nathan and Sylar both try to get the ear of the President. Of course, the writers will make it more like an episode of Scooby-Doo and have them running through various doors in a long hallway instead.

At least the season is almost over. Not that I'm even the least bit curious how it ends (death of Danko, maybe Sylar "dies" for the 3rd straight season finale, and probably one less Patrelli are my guesses).

Oh, and if anyone doubts for a second that baby Matt Parkman will play a key role in shutting down Sylar's powers when all seems dire, you haven't been paying any attention to this show. Or maybe they'll put in the twist and have the baby turn off the good guys' powers! Or everybody's!

Of course, the Haitian could have done that easily, or is he still too busy in Haiti?

I Got No Game

Wow, have I been stinking up the felt lately. Last night was just more terrible, distracted play from yours truly during the RC/PPI BBT NLHE game. Yes, those acronyms were intentional.

And the wee bit I played Sunday was characterized by terrible beats. At least those I can't be anything but frustrated with.

Not sure if I'll play the Skillz Game tonight or not. It's Limit HOSE, which I enjoy half of, but cry a little when limit comes into play. I may use the time to go for a swim instead. I think that will be more productive.

Considering I've owned my condo for over 4 years now, and I've used the pool about 3 times, I don't think I'm getting full value for the high, but not unreasonable, monthly fees I pay. Also, I'm about 22 lbs above the weight I'd like to be, so maybe this will be a step that leads to another step and another... or maybe I should stop eating the easter candy next to my desk.


A couple quickies. Let's go from angering to cool this time.

First, Betty Brown, Texas State rep, thinks Asian-Americans should change their names so that Americans can understand them. This stems from some fuck ups at a recent election when the morons who put together the registered voters list couldn't get it straight and the IDs of the people who showed up didn't match the incorrect lists. Please note: Asian-AMERICANS should change their names so AMERICANS can understand them. I'm pretty sure that Asian-Americans are still Americans too, especially when they CAN VOTE. Perhaps Betty Brown should change her name to Fucking Moron.

Now, the cool.

Peter Funch set up his camera at various locales in NYC, day after day. He'd take pictures from the same physical place at different times, and then Photoshop the images into composites. The results are awesome. Some of them take a second to figure out the common theme, but they're all pretty cool.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Hockey Pool Anyone?

My office runs an NHL playoff pool every year. It's a pretty solid pool, with a decent turnout. $20 buy-in, and last year had $2500 in the pot.

It's a bit different than your standard playoff pool. You pick 8 of the 16 teams that are in the playoffs, and they're scored according to their finish in the regular season.

So San Jose is worth 1 point, and would get 1 point per win. Anaheim is worth 16 points and would get 16 per win.

There's a double point team that, strangely enough, pulls in double the points.

You also pick your choices for finalists, and a cup winner, each of those picks being worth 50 points if correct. Double points don't count here.

If anybody is interested, fire me an e-mail - astin AT sympatico DOT ca, and I'll send you the entry form and more detailed rules. I'll of course take Full Tilt/Poker Stars transfers for payment if desired.

Of course, I have to know who the hell you are, so if you've just been lurking or stumbled upon this on a search and I've never seen you before online or otherwise, then don't bother.

Oh, and deadline for entries is Wednesday, before 7pm ET (first game of the playoffs). I e-mail daily updates throughout the playoffs. I suggest asking for the entry ASAP, as I don't check that address during work hours.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Vegas Isn't the Only Desert Mirage

The Independent has a great op-ed piece titled The Dark Side of Dubai. The writer explores the class system, slavery, ecological destruction, and excess of this desert nation that seemingly popped up overnight. The comment section is just as entertaining to read, with people accusing him of seeking out the negative and finding it. Ummm... yah, that was the point of the article, to peel back the fake, shiny façade and reveal some hard truths.

Is it applicable to 100% of the residents of the city? No. But the issues brought to light are important enough that they should be acknowledged by everyone involved.

I recommend reading through the piece, if you can stomach some outrage and avoid facepalming yourself repeatedly.

Me, being me, took something away from it that is only hinted at. Dubai is going to literally crumble. As evidenced by the description of The Atlantis and it's dripping water and falling tiles, or the beaches and their toxic water. Combine a slave labour force that is overworked, exhausted, sick, and completely disgruntled, with corruption and rapid construction, and you have a recipe for a civil engineering disaster.

Too Many Things at Once

Signed up Das Mookensteinersteinbergensteinalamadingdong last night. Went out unceremoniously with KQo vs AQ and KK with a Q-high flop and a K on the river. Yah, I suck.

I really shouldn't have been chatting with 3 people, reading up on a new cookbook that is VERY tempting, going through pictures, surfing the web and watching Demetri Martin while playing. Especially since it was the first game I'd played since... the Skillz game last week maybe?

Ah well. Probably won't see the virtual felt again this weekend, and I don't really mind. I think I'll just enjoy the 3 day weekend, especially since it's warming up (slightly) around these parts after a brief brisk snap.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

And They Tried So Hard

I walked into the office kitchenette to get some water today. I was greeted by a man in a Mr. Coffee shirt pointing out the very fancy and new machine we had. The old workhourse Keurig was sitting on a cart, waiting to be wheeled to coffee machine hell (where it deserves to be). Free cookies? A whole song and dance about the available flavours and features? Sure!

So I put in the pod of chai tea and hit the button. Chai-flavoured water came out. Milk and sugar gave it some substance, but no more chai flavour. My verdict of "weak" was confirmed by a third party.

I returned a couple hours later and decided to brave the chicken soup pod. Out came a yellow liquid with some green flecks. Ah, good ol' Liptons powdered chicken soup from my childhood. No noodles of course. The first sip was less horrific than expected. It seemd to improve as I went and my tongue adjusted to the copious amounts of MSG or whatever chemicals were scouring its surface. Then came the aftertaste... the horrible, horrible aftertaste.

Some chili, a banana, and water later, and the taste was nearly gone.

So then came attempt #3. Hot chocolate + coffee. This required manual combination.

There are 3 sizes to choose from - short, regular, and tall. The short tea had only half filled my mug before, so I figured a couple shorts should do. A short hot chocolate nearly filled it... so size is inconsistent. I shorted a paper cup with "caramel capullato", which was some bullshit caramel-flavoured coffee that was supposed to be reminiscent of a cappuccino, but without the milk part... so ummm... whatever.

Since they were seperate, I opted to try them both. The hot chocolate was watery, so I added cream and it improved marginally. The caramel thing was shite in a cup. Watery, bitter, and artificial. I mixed the two and the result was drinkable, but still weak. At least it was caffeinated.

So, 4 drinks, not great, some awful. That's now two pod machines that suck. Why people waste money on this stuff, I just don't know. Convenient? Sure. That doesn't mean it's worth drinking.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Jays Win!

So the Jays whupped Detroit 12-5 yesterday. Nice.

A less-than-stellar start for Doc Halladay, or so I hear.

I was in-flight for most of the game, and Air Canada doesn't do live TV.

The general feeling 'round these parts is that the Jays are in trouble. Our starting rotation is in shambles after losing McGowan and Marcum to injury. There's a lot of rookie doubt.

Our lineup hasn't changed that much, which is worriesome because it just hasn't produced in the past couple years.

Doesn't help that we're in the same division as the Yankees, Red Sox, and Rays.

But I have a modicum of faith.

Why? Well we have a significant difference than most of the last two years - a real hitting coach.

Gene Tenace is still showing the boys how to swing after coming back with Cito Gaston late last season. The last time the Jays had serious pop? Gaston and Tenace. I have faith in these two hitting-oriented minds. If anybody can turn what SHOULD be a very potent offence around, it's them.

Arnsberg is still coaching the pitchers, and he's proven year after year that he is THE man. Combined with Halladay's leadership and example on the mound, there's some hope that our starters could go deep into games and be absolute workhorses.

So there's a glimmer of hope, but it all comes down to the coaching and leadership. If the grip slips, or the players tune them out, then we could be fighting Baltimore for 4th in the division.

Bruised Back, Sore Leg

Ski vacations aren't really about relaxing. Sure, every hotel has a hot tub, every bar is busy, and the hotels make sure the beds are comfortable, but I could get all those things down the road if I wanted.

Ski vacations are about pain and exhaustion.

Five days on the west coast, 3 days skiing. Probably 3 more recovering now. I'd do it again in a heartbeat.

My brother's finishing up his season working at Whistler, and I promised him I'd come visit. It took a while, but I managed to make it out with one buddy last weekend. Our flight arrived half an hour early, the drive up was easy as we just dodged Vancouver rush hour traffic, and check-in was a breeze. We met up with my brother for a drink and some grub while we planned out the next day.

The next day we picked up our rentals (I hate lugging my own equipment on planes, especially as they keep changing the rules), and hit the slopes. Having never been up Whistler/Blackcomb before, E and I took it easy on our first day. We got a few runs in, felt the burn, and called it a day early.

Day 2 was longer and more painful, but this time the pain felt even better. With my brother guiding us to various runs, we had more of a plan this time around, and took in some truly stunning vistas on our way to the middle of the mountain. The sun was bright in the sky, the air warm, and the snow still felt like snow beneath the skis. As we wound down, my face slowly became a permanent grimace as I pushed and prayed to make it down one. more. run. When we called it a day, the snow at the base had turned from sno-cone consistency to slushie. The weather was fantastic for everything but the snow.

Dinner, drinks, and a raging headache led to an early night in, where I promptly fell asleep upright on the couch as my brother hung out with us. A proper sleep in bed couldn't come quickly enough as my body let me know exactly where it was angry with me.

Not that it stopped me from getting up the next morning and repeating the process one last time. A couple aspirin with breakfast, and a later-than-usual start up the hill and we were good to go. 17C at the base, and breaking freezing at the top meant it would be hard work. The peak was fine, if a bit icy, but all mid-mountain needed was some blue raspberry flavour to make it delicious. Down the front of Blackcomb, around the side, over the glacier, and a helluva view on the peak-to-peak gondola before heading down. No grimace this time, as my muscles had long given up any hope of convincing me to stop. We made our way down as the lifts closed, one by one, and hit the quagmire that was the base. A shallow, slow, long path between the Whistler and Blackcomb bases exists to move from the upper village to the main. It was the hardest part of the trip. Clear slush spot all over the place spelled doom. If you couldn't keep your tips up, you were going over. Slush moguls are damned near impossible to navigate. Somehow I remained vertical as those around me fell. In fact, I fell but once - while standing perfectly still at the top of a ridge. My brother had taken to lobbing snowballs at me, and was missing with great regularity from about 1.5 feet away. I turned slightly to continue mocking him when I lost my balance and fell... with my left midback nailing the edge of his snowboard. There's a less-than-pleasant bruise there, but as far as mountainside injuries go, it's pretty minor.

A great trip, with a good friend (depsite the constant persecution I lay on him), my youngest bro, and plenty of work. Now I just need to turn this pain in my legs into motivation to keep at this exercise thing.


Oh, and happy birthday to everyone I missed in my absence. I know far too many people with late March/early April birthdays. Aren't parents supposed to have sex when the kids GO to school?

Wednesday, April 01, 2009


As this guy requested, here's a recipe, and it's even pie-based.

A traditional Quebecois dish, Tourtière is essentially a pie filled with ground pork. Naturally, I couldn't leave this tried and tested recipe completely as-is. Originally, I had intended to do it with ground turkey, but then discovered I had ground pork in my freezer after all, and figured I'd get it right this way before completely messing with it.

I did, however add some smoked Niagara pancetta, and some 6 month old Canadian prosciutto. I also tried one of them new-fangled pie crust ideas that seems to be catching on. Who knew vodka would make for excellent crust?

This will take a couple hours at least. All because the dough needs to be chilled. I actually recommend making the dough for the crust way early, to let it chill for a few hours at least. Once the crust is ready, it's about 10 minutes of prep and 40 minutes of cooking, followed by 10 minutes of cooling. So an hour or so.

The pie crust recipe can be found here. The recipe's at the bottom, but I suggest reading the whole post to get some ideas of texture and such. I substituted the shortening with pure lard, because dammit, this is a dish from Quebec and THEY'D use lard (Quebec != healthy food). Lard also makes the dough easier to work with later and easier to repair if tears show up. There's a rumour it makes it flakier too.

You're making a 9" double crust.

Grease a pie pan (I used Alton Brown's kitchen lube - a shortening/flour mix). Put the bottom crust in the pie pan and set aside. Roll out the top crust and have it ready to put on top once the pie is filled.

Now, the filling. The amount of meat isn't set in stone. Adjust as is available. I based it off this recipe, with some additions.

565g (1 1/4 lbs) ground pork
58g (2 oz) smoked pancetta (or bacon if you wish), cut into small cubes
58g (2 oz) thinly sliced prosciutto
1 diced onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup water
1 tsp salt (kosher or otherwise)
1/2 tsp dried thyme, crushed
1/4 tsp ground sage
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/8 tsp ground cloves

I combined kosher salt, dried thyme, ground sage, ground black pepper, and cloves in a mortar and crushed them all together with a pestle. What a novel combination, mortar AND pestle. Of course, if you have ground cloves already, it's easier.

- Preheat the oven to 425F
- Combine everything EXCEPT the prosciutto in a saucepan and cook over medium heat until the liquid is boiling, stirring occasionally.
- Reduce heat to low and simmer until meat is cooked, about 5 minutes
- Spoon the meat mix into the pie crust, but try to minimize the amount of liquid you take with it.
- Lay out the slices of prosciutto on top of the meat filling to cover. It should look this this:

- Put the top crust on the pie, and pinch together the edges. Remove excess edge dough.
- Brush the top with an egg wash (1 egg + 1 tbsp cold water, beaten)
- Cut vents into the top crust to let steam escape. Use a sharp knife to make sure you cut through the prosciutto as well.

- Cover the edges with strips of aluminum foil to keep them from burning. You may want to grease the inside part of the foil to keep it from sticking to the egg wash. Alternately, you could cover first, and then apply the egg wash and cut the vents.
- Bake for 20 minutes.
- Take off the foil.
- Bake for another 15-20 minutes until edges are golden brown.
- Remove and let cool for 10 minutes before cutting.

- Cut a slice and enjoy. It's fucking AWESOME.

And I was worried it might not work out. I ate a quarter of the pie for dinner, and had to stop myself from taking 3rds.


BONUS: I had dough left over (the excess edge dough) and made a quick raspberry pie for dessert.

Split the remaining dough into two balls. Roll out flat.

Equal parts (I used around 1/8 cup each, which was FAR too much):

Raspberry jam (or any jam)
Soft butter
Buttermilk (or cream, or a 50:3 milk:acid ratio to simulate buttermilk. ie.- 1 cup milk + 1 tbsp lemon juice or vinegar)

And most of the leftover egg wash, reserving a bit to brush the top with.

Many jam pie recipes call for 1 cup of each of the above, plus 4 egg yolks. I've also seen 5 whole eggs called for. Since this isn't a full pie, obviously much less is used.

- Preheat oven to 350F
- Put the crust in a small pie plate or ramekin (which I did).
- Fill 2/3 with the filling.
- Either pinch the edge dough into a pocket or put a top on the pie.
- Brush with egg wash
- Bake for 40 minutes. Put a piece of foil or pan on the rack beneath the pie to catch any spillovers from boiling filing.
- Let cool for 10 minutes or so, and dig in.