Monday, August 24, 2009

More for Me

This is pretty much a list of what the fuck I need to get done before Wednesday. Really, it's for me.

- Buy shit - hat, sunscreen, and whatever else I lack enough of for 11 days in the middle east
- Assemble papers - passport, IDP, wedding invite, maps, e-tickets, confirmations, etc.
- Produce DVD of well-wishes for groom - took a bunch of videos at a party on Friday, need to edit them and burn 'em. Will add more (and photos) if time
- Rough out a schedule for the trip
- Laundry, laundry, laundry - probably 24 or 35 loads need to be done before I leave
- Stock up food for house/cat-sitter. If I fail to do this, I'll just leave money behind
- Charge various batteries and assemble electronics - DS? Archos? Burn some music and movies for the flight or stick with in-flight options?
- Pack
- Figure out communication situation. Rent a cell? Pay exorbitant roaming charges? I'm less concerned with contact back home as I am with local between friends and the groom
- Figure out where the wedding is and how to get there.
- Figure out what's open when. Getting on Thursday means our second full day is on Shabbat, which means some stuff will be closed. It also means early closures on the 1st full day.
- Make sure I have an adaptor. Stupid plugs.

I'll get this figured out eventually...

Friday, August 21, 2009

Coming Together

5 days left before I head to the land of non-stop sun and heat known as Israel.

Sheckels in hand. Car rented. Apartment ready.

Tonight? Haircut and RAM for the desktop need to be bought.

Tomorrow will involve some clothes shopping. Hat, shirts, shorts, longer swimsuit (holy sites like your knees covered... there's a joke in there I think), sunglasses, and probably a few other things I'm not thinking of.

Sunday? Regular poker home game. There's a small voice telling me this is a foolish what with the trip looming and all. But I'll be picking up my desktop from my brother on the way home, so it's a wash.

Monday - work, panic about half a dozen things I need to do.

Tuesday - work, panic about a new half a dozen things. Also, pick up TIFF schedule, pick films, and drop off passes. Hope that my picks get through so I don't get stuck with the leftovers.

Wednesday - Wake up, enjoy the fact I'm now officially on vacation. Rush around doing everything I still haven't done, panic about packing, deal with phone calls from travelling companions, make sure best friend has everything they need for house and cat-sitting duties, and get to airport a couple hours early. Fly to Frankfurt.

Thursday - Get to Frankfurt, leave Frankfurt, get to Tel Aviv. Meet friend, give him a huge hug followed by chastising him for not visiting more. Realize I sound like his mother, but don't apologize for it. Rent car, gather friends, find apartment, collapse in heap. Eat. Blog about the whole thing (assuming there's Internets, otherwise, not so much).

Rest of the time? See country again, have a blast with good friends that I don't see enough, get drunk at a Jewish wedding, surrounded by people who may not be as fluent in English as I am, but are definitely more fluent in English than I am in Hebrew, see more of the country, and eventually come home, probably 12 shades darker of skin (or redder), exhausted, and ready for my last 3 days of vacation before heading back to work.

Should be good times. Then I can focus on that Vegas thing in December.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

A Thought

A while back, Canada had 3 major airlines. Air Canada, CP Air, and Wardair.

Air Canada was government owned, CP Air (formerly Canadian Pacific, later Canadian Airlines) was your everyday publicly owned company with stocks and such, as was Wardair.

Wardair had fantastic service, great meals, and was the smallest of the three. They were eventually bought by CP Air (leading to the change to Canadian Airlines). There were two big players in the market.

Canadian had struggled throughout their existence, like most airlines do. Air Canada, being owned by the government, was "debt-free", and the bigger dog.

Then the government decided to sell Air Canada off. It became a public corporation just like Canadian. Then the usual airline downswings happened, and competition between two large airlines in a country with fairly low population density was looking unfeasible. They merged, with Air Canada taking over Canadian by government decree. Why? Because Air Canada was the one in the better position. To speak to Air Canada employees, it was because they were the better company and that their competition was never good at running a business. Woe be they who reminded them that they were born, raised, and matured as a wholly-owned government agency. So when they finally became public, they were debt-free. It had nothing to do with running a business and everything to do with taxpayers footing the bill for decades.

Soon enough, they went bankrupt too, then again, then almost again a few weeks ago before refinancing like mad.

The point? That government corporations have built-in safety net with the taxpayers. The reason private companies can effectively compete with them is because they are so INefficient that if it wasn't for this net, they'd be dead.

I can't imagine a parallel that could be drawn in the US right now...

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

A Photographic Turning Point?

An interesting day so far, camera-wise.

Canon announced some new camera. The G11 and the S90. A new camera announcement is generally nothing big, becuase there are hundreds of models out there across a dozen brands.

But these are interesting, to me at least.

The G11 is the successor to the G10, a rather popular semi-pro point-and-shoot. This would be your standard upgrade to a series, new image processing software, some ergonomic changes, etc.. The return of a flip-screen is nice, but the big change is that they DROPPED the megapixel count from 14.7MP to 10MP. This is fantastic news in the digital camera realm.

MP became the focus of camera manufacturers years ago. You only have a 3MP? You need to get 5MP camera. 5? Why not 6? The problem is, that as you increase the MP count, you need to increase the sensor size accordingly, and this wasn't being done. This is why your 10MP point-and-shoot takes incredibly noisy pictures if you're not outside on a sunny day, and why people dropping $3k on a high-end SLR get such crisp shots at higher ISO settigns (among other reasons).

14.7 MP on a a standard P&S sensor size is ridiculous. Most photographers have known this for a while, but the wider market finds these things out too late, when they enter "why are my pictures so noisy?" in Google.

So Canon pulling back on MP with a new model is impressive. It shows that the leader in the camera market is doing what's right for the user, not the marketing department. In the end, most people won't even notice the drop, but will notice the improved quality of their photos in lower light.

The S90 is another interesting foray for Canon. They dropped the S-line 4 years ago as it fell between their other P&S lines. But the recent popularity of Panasonic's LX3 - a compact camera with some pretty professional features - has seemingly revived this line from Canon.

It's a very compact camera with a professional-quality lens, and relatively large sensor. This, as stated above, means lower noise, and a much higher image quality. There are all kinds of manual settings, and Canon has moved some control to a lens ring that mimics your standard SLR use. Initial reviews are positive on this interface change. The S90 is a huge entry into a growing area of digital cameras - the professional compact. There are times when your SLR just isn't practical, is too cumbersome, is at risk (say, a hike over rough terrain, or visiting the UK) or frankly, just too much camera. The LX3 has been the current favourite for this range, but Canon coming back into the game is huge.

Finally, not new, but impressive, was this link to a wedding video. The wedding itself isn't important, but the quality of the video itself is. The whole thing was shot with Canon 5D Mark II's. Granted, there's a lot of other equipment being used to keep cameras steady, focused, etc.., but the actual filming device is a consumer SLR that can picked up in any camera shop. High def video of this quality, for a fraction of the cost of professional high def equipment is a HUGE game-changer. Digital video brought a new era of indie films, where the quality was no longer "Canadian" quality video, but clear images that didn't look like they were done on the cheap. Inexpensive high def will bring an even higher quality of image to filmmakers that don't have access to the big studios. Think the current digital photography boom, but in movies. A couple more interations in the firmware realm for these cameras, and there will be more 12-year olds making zombie films before you know it.

Hey, I'm excited.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


I'm currently in the process of planning two trips.

1.- Israel next week. Assembling cash, figuring out a rough schedule, renting the car, and generally guiding the rest of the crew of people coming along.

2.- Vegas. Getting golf info from a few friends who will be playing in the scramble that Bam and CK have set up. Still need to book flights, hotel, car, etc, but that can wait a little bit.

Yah, if you travel with me, I become your travel agent. It's something I inherited from my mother, who would plan our numerous worldly travels most efficiently. I'm talking "Hey, should we go to France next week?" followed by a family of 5 getting on a plane a week later for 9 days of travelling Paris and its environs in what a Kontiki tour would take 14 days for. I try to go a little easier on my friends.

I'm someone's favourite commentor. I think they're being sarcastic.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Why Aren't You Reading Over There?

Go head over to FilmChaw right now. I SAID NOW!

The Goat's assembled a pretty varied list of writers, and you can join too! I've already got two posts up, so I think I'm winning. Go read them. DO IT!

A Cheerier Side of the Weekend

Okay, so traffic-related individuals caused me no shortage of annoyance on the weekend, but it wasn't a total wash.

I finally got out to The Black Hoof, a charcuterie place in my fine city.


A charcuterie plate with various meats and pâté (all made in-house) was absolutely solid. The drinks are naturally fantastic when the bartendress eschews artificially flavoured liqueurs for her own infusions and fresh juices.

Gin, ginger syrup, ginger beer, and ginger ale? Gingery. Manhattan with macerated sour cherries? Best Manhattan ever. Tokyo Mojito? Sweet and light.

The main course of a duck confit sandwich that was great, but sadly not as interesting as the beef tongue on brioche, which was thinly sliced and cured heaven. Next time? Nothing but the stuff that scares me. Calf brains ravioli. Beef heart. Sweetbreads. The man behind the counter knows his meats.

They're closed for a few weeks now, but I'll be going back in the fall.

Now if Caplansky could just get his new spot open already so I can get fatter on Toronto Smoked Meat.

It Can't Be Monday

That was my thought as I went to bed last night and set my alarms. Half of me still believed the weekend couldn't possibly be over. It was the same thought as the alarms went off this morning. I lay in bed debating if it really WAS Monday or not. When I finally determined it was, I still refused to accept it. Sitting now at my desk, this still seems a remote possibility.

But, it's Monday. The weekend flew by, despite my nearly 6 hours in traffic on Saturday.

From the west end of Toronto to Niagara Falls is around a 1.5 hour drive. An hour on a good day. It took me 3.5 hours to get to the Seneca Casino on the other side of the Canada-US border. Traffic for miles for no apparent reason. Moron after moron on the road, driving slowly on the left side, a wide-open right lane, drifting into my lane without checking a blind spot or using a blinker (since I was often passing them at the time). Many were also deaf as the guy leaning on his horn (me) alongside them didn't seem to make them realize they WERE ABOUT TO HIT ME. It was absolutely no surprise to me when there was a 5-car accident on the way back.

The border wait didn't improve my mood. The trunk search (it's completely empty) only aggravated me more. The families of 12 crossing ON A RED FUCKING LIGHT WHILE I WAS DRIVING TOWARDS THE INTERSECTION nearly pushed me to a vehicular killing spree, but I had no desire to end up in one of those filthy US prisons I've heard so much about. The card death at the table seemed fitting. Up $35 after 2.5 hours (and what should have been around 5).

VinNay had a much better time. Next time - he comes across the border.

But, I picked up my DVDs from our Buffalonian friend and made it back across without incident (which annoyed me because I spent 10 minutes hiding DVDs around my car, but better to not be searched than searched and found out I suppose). I was looking to be just a little late for a friend's birthday dinner, until I discovered that all lanes on the highway were closed at about the halfway point home. So I turned off, grabbed some fast food (a donut will not sustain you for a whole day, not even if it's boston cream), and debated on detours. You'd think a tourist office would have a decent map available.

Detour determined, the ride home wasn't too bad, but took about half an hour longer than hoped, which meant I completely missed the dinner. I felt bad. But I did make it for post-dinner festivities.

Sunday was much more relaxed, brunch with the family for my brother's birthday, chilling out at home watching movies with my best friend, and then driving them home afterwards.

I could have hit 5 different cyclists on that drive and been exonerated of all charges on each of them. People on bikes in the big city are FUCKING MORONS. There are LAWS for bike riding, FOLLOW THEM YOU STUPID FUCKS. Instead of flipping me the bird when I honk at you for running a stop sign and turning left from the right side IN FRONT OF MY MOVING CAR without giving any sort of signal on your bikes without any reflective surfaces and then taking up the whole road - why don't you realize that I could have crushed you under my wheels and slept soundly that night without fear of prosecution because you'd be 100% at fault?

I love biking. I think the city needs more people on bikes. I also think they need to be licensed and held responsible for following the rules like any other vehicle-user. This has been a shitty summer for bike behaviour here.

So yah, it can't be Monday, because the weekend was far too aggravating for it to be over.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Because I Don't Blog Enough

Here's a paraphrased version of a conversation I had with Julius_Goat last night.

JG: You seem to like movies.
Me: I do.
JG: Remember Filmchaw?
Me: Filmwha? Is that still on the Internets?
JG: Forget I asked.
Me: Nonono! I'm kidding baby. Here, have some flowers. I'm sorry.
JG: Yah right, I've heard that before.
Me: I mean it this time. I'm sorry I made fun of your dead film blog.
JG: UN-dead film blog. I'm resurrecting it!
Me: Oh?
JG: Yah, you want to write for it? PLEEEEEEEEEEASE?
Me: If I say yes, what's my commitment?
JG: None.
Me: I can work with that. How much does it pay?
JG: Nothing.
Me: Seems fair for the commitment involved.
JG: I agree.
Me: I also agree.
JG: Do you know how to make soap?
Me: Did YOU know that soap-making can be used as a cover to topple the credit card system?
JG: It's almost like we're the same person.
Me: Except we're totally not.
JG: Right.
Me: Any rules about Filmchaw?
JG: Well, the first rule of Filmchaw is: Talk to EVERYONE ABOUT FILMCHAW. I WANT HITS!

So, in my neverending (it's over) quest to compete with Dawn Summer's blogcount, I'm now writing over at Filmchaw with the Goat. Well, I haven't written anything YET, but I will.

I've got me some 25 Criterion DVDs to pick up tomorrow. Seem a good place to start.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

To Do

In two weeks I board a plane bound for Tel Aviv.

Time zones are screwy things. I leave around 5:30pm, and arrive at 3:30pm the following day. That's 22 hours. Now, there's a 3 hour stop in Frankfurt on the way, and a 7 hour time difference, so that's 10 hours knocked off right there. Yup, 12 hours of flight, sounds about right.

Before then, I need to pick up an international driver's permit (15 minutes of my time), rent the van for the 6 of us ($1000 for 11 days, not too bad), figure out what I need to buy (no on the monopod, yes on light-coloured summer clothes and a hat... unless I advertise Bodog in the Holy Land... could be fun), and put together something for the huband-to-be.

But more importantly than all that is the stuff I've put off that won't be here when I return! Dream in High Park is doing The Tempest, and I want to see it. The Science Centre is showing Star Trek (the new one) on their OmniMax IMAX dome screen. The AGO has the Surreal Things exhibit until August 30th.

And dammit! TIFF! The full film list for this year's festival goes online on the 20th, and order drop-off is the 25th. Giving me JUST enough time to drop off my order. But I don't get back until 4 days AFTER ticket pickup, meaning I'd better not get screwed on my choices.

Yes, I have a very difficult life when my concerns before I travel to Israel for a week and half are what films I'm going to go see at the largest film festival in North America, and which plays, movies, and art exhibits I can get to before I leave.

I should probably refresh my memory about my last trip to Israel, so I can play tour guide for my friends. Lucky for me, I have that documented in pictures. Really, I'm excited about taking better equipment with me this time.

Strangely, 2 weeks feels like not nearly enough time.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Must Be Summer

Let's see... Recess is weight training, Riggs and PirateLawyer are in a weight loss prop bet (which includes VinNay, Dr. Chako, and CEM now too), and of course Waffles is walking away the pounds when his foot isn't all gouty so that he can get himself some hotties when his ex-wife is gone (despite the protestations of his sister).

Yup. People looked at themselves in the summer light and realize they were fat bastards. I'm among this group too, except I'm not really doing much about it.

For the record: 181.2 this morning. A great weight for some, but a belly for me and my 5'10 1/2 frame. 'Tis my genes - it all goes to the gut.

I'm not joining or starting any prop bets, I'm not starting some master plan, hell, I'm not even walking more. But I do want to get back to 165, and would really be happy to see the 155-160 range I was in after the last time I actively tried to get back into shape.

Or I'll take 175 and low body fat... but that ain't gonna happen.

A lack of willpower doesn't help though. I like to eat. I like to cook. And I hate to waste food. I've also reached the point where I can't be bothered to track calories like I did last time.

So now that the back seems normal again, it's time to get back into the daily exercise routine. Easy stuff, 15-20 minutes, easing up the difficulty and length until I FEEL fit. The rest will take care of itself. Why? Because when you're a lump on the couch, you don't care what you eat. When you're actively DOING something, you start to think about the food and *I* start to realize how terrible some of it is. Right now, I'm all kinds of salt sensitive for some reason. If I increase the greens, then I'll start to notice the oil and grease in other things. The current attempt to give myself diabetes through sugar consumption (damn you fudge and taffy and jelly beans and m&m's and pie and ice cream!) is working nicely too.

It's August. I have a wedding to go to in 2 1/2 weeks, and then a lot of walking around Israel. I have another wedding (locally) in October to go to... one where I should really fit into the $1000 suit I've worn ONCE for the last big wedding I went to. I've gained 10lbs since then.

And I wouldn't mind looking trim come the December gathering.

The point of this? None really. I doubt I'll be tracking progress, and I'm not even looking for encouragement... just felt the need to verbalize it.

A Poker Hand

What? Huh? Is this a post about poker? Well... yah.

From the heady days of two weekends ago, when I was in the city by the Atlantic.

On the last night there, I finally sat down to some live cash. I'm far too accommodating to my friends, which usually results in a TON of craps being played, and not so much poker. I keep meaning to change that, and then don't.

I digress.

I'd been at the table (1/2 NL) for a couple hours when a new guy sat down at the opposite end of the table from me. Typical 20-something skinny white boy who thinks a bit too highly of his game. He also happened to have a pretty smokin' girlfriend sitting at his elbow, providing plenty of... distraction.

He was all kinds of weak-tight. By the time he had sat down, there were at least 2 or 3 sizeable stacks to his right, and the table had become fairly cordial. He would limp or raise, and then fold after the flop to any pressure. Even the minnows like me could smell the blood in the water.

Anyway, a standard pre-flop round goes down, with some bets and calls and whatnot. I folded my crap, so from here on was merely an observer.

Flop comes KK6. Check, check, check.

Turn comes 9. Check, bet, call (new guy), call.

River comes J. Check, bet $100 (overbet the pot), call (weak guy, and he's shaking while doing it), all-in by the big stack for somewhere in the neighbourhood of $700-800, all-in call (another $500+), and the new guy looks like he got hit by a truck.

He's got maybe $100 behind here, and there's around $1500 in the pot. Granted, he's only got access to maybe $600 of it, but even that's the biggest pot of the night. He's shitting his pants.

He keeps debating. Those of us not in the hand start mumbling. It's obvious there's at least a boat-over-boat out there, if not quads over a boat. I figure KJ vs JJ between the two big stacks and maybe a smaller boat with the new guy, but something like a naked K isn't out of the question at this table either.

The old guy to my left leans over to me and says "how can you think with that much in the pot? Just put it in!" I nod, but have Jordan's mantra in my head of "If you're beat, fold." With all his thinking, he HAS to have a small boat, so the only question is if it's better than the at least one other boat that's out there.

He hems, he haws, and shakes his head. He says, "I flopped the nuts." We all know this isn't true, because he's insta-calling with quads.

Now, a brief tangent. In my biggest hand of the night, I had QQ and had a paired flop of undercards. I bet, got re-raised by the big stack (same big stack as this hand), and I thought about it and shoved. He debated what to do, and asked if he could show a card. The dealer said "no, not in this room, it's a dead hand if you do." So he didn't, and folded an underpair to me. This was before new guy sat down. /tangent.

The new guy still can't make up his mind. It's been a couple minutes now. He again states that he flopped the nuts and doesn't know what to do... and then... SHOWS BOTH CARDS. He doesn't drop them, he just hold them up for all to see. 66. So not even the 2nd nuts, but the THIRD nuts on the flop (okay, technically the 2nd nuts, since KK and K6 couldn't exist in the same hand here), and on a 6KK9J board it's the 7th (6th) best possible hand. Bottom boat.

There's nearly an audible gasp, because he's just killed his hand, and doesn't realize it. He keeps debating, but the dealer says - "It doesn't matter, it's a dead hand."


"You can't show your cards, it's a dead hand."

A couple players chime in with "but he's last to act, everyone else is all-in!"

"Doesn't matter. He just got reactions from TWO players. It's not allowed."

The other players realize this makes sense and agree.


"Your hand is dead, toss in the cards."

"But, no... I call. I mean..."

"Hand's dead. It's heads-up now."

"No! What?"

New guy is completely confused. It's obvious his ears have shut down in the panic of what he's done and the message isn't getting through. He tosses the rest of his chips over the line, indicating the he's calling. I shake my head at his stupidity. He just saved himself $100, and the whole table knows it, but he doesn't realize what's going on.

Dealer: "Take your chips back, the call's no good."

"What?" [sulk] He leaves the chips alone, intending to will his call to be good.

Dealer ignores him and has the other two show. Big stack has K6 for the flopped nuts (ie.- had the kid beat from the flop), and the 2nd big stack has KT for just the trips. Kid would have lost anyway, which surprises nobody.

Dealer gathers the chips, and gives the kid another heartbeat to take his back before shrugging and scooping his extra chips into the pot as well. Big stack takes it all, and the table is dumbfounded.

From the moment he showed his cards, his girlfriend started zipping up her hoodie (sigh) and looked embarrassed, trying to hide inside the white hood. She knew he was a moron too.

He got up and left, much to our disappointment, but apparently sat down at a 2/5 table a little later. Apparently 1/2 was too easy for his nuts-flopping ways.

What stuck with me the most wasn't that he showed his cards without first making sure it was okay (an easy enough mistake if he's not a regular), or even that he blanked on what was going on when he did and tossed in his chips (it's a confusing and panicky moment, and he wouldn't be the only player to have done something like this), but that he was POSITIVE he had flopped the nuts, when it wasn't hard to see that sixes full of kings isn't the nuts on a KK6 flop. The excitement of flopping a boat blinded him to everything else in the game. Such is the way of playing so weak-tight, when you get a big hand, you forget that there could be bigger ones out there.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Pie, Two Movies, and Lightning

This was one of those rare weekends that felt longer than it was. In a good way.

Friday saw me heading out of the office as quickly as possible. I got home with JUST enough time to finish a slab pie I'd started a couple days before. The filling and dough was done, it just had to be rolled out, combined, and baked. Oh, and the filling involved 2 cups of sour cherries, 2 cups of bing cherries, and two cups (total) of wild Nova Scotia blueberries and frozen Ontario strawberries that I'd picked earlier in the summer.

It's pretty delicious.

Why the time limit? I had a movie to go see - GI Joe.

Yup, GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra, on opening night. Why? Well, if you have to ask, you didn't sit 3ft in front of your TV after school waiting for that theme song in your youth.

I went in properly prepared. My brain was sitting in a jar back home. I wanted two things - red and blue lasers, and someone to say "Yo Joe!". Both wishes were fulfilled.

I suggested to my friends at dinner beforehand that the movie would be awesome. It wouldn't be a GOOD movie by any stretch, but it would be awesome.

And it was. I ignored anything like dialogue, editing, physics, or reality, and enjoyed two hours of straight up action and ass-kicking. It was an EXCELLENT GI Joe movie. Any critic who calls it crap was already old when the cartoons were on. Their GI Joe memories are of 9" tall solider dolls, not 5" action figures whose torsos you twisted until they popped off. Sommers did exactly what was needed - he made a popcorn flick that was nothing but FUN. Plot getting in the way of the movie? Throw in a ninja fight. Just had a ninja fight? More cleavage. The ninjas were fighting in front of cleavage? Time to blow some shit up. Ninjas were fighting in front of cleavage during an explosion? Blow up a polar ice cap, or melt a landmark.

And there is no doubt a sequel is being made.

I tire of those who hold their 80's television memories as sacrosanct - go and find some video of those shows. They were, almost universally, TERRIBLE. To expect a movie based on them to be a work of art is ridiculous.

Early to bed (3am-ish) and early to rise (3pm-ish) makes a man... well, very well-rested. 3pm was about as late as I COULD stay in bed, as a buddy was coming over at 6 to grab some dinner and catch another movie. This time? The Hangover. Yah, I'm late to the game on this one, but... DAMN is that one funny movie.

I fired off the e-mail on Friday to my usual December Vegas posse (or entourage, or what have you) about getting this year's trip ready. Seeing the start of Vegas in The Hangover had me turn to my friend and say "I want to go NOW." By the end of the movie, E was a bit afraid I'd developed a few new ideas for this year's trip. He's so ending up in the hands of Asian gangsters.

Another early night (3am) led to another early day (12:45pm due to a phone call). Sunday was chill. Hung out, played poker, watched TV, made dinner.

And watched one hell of a lightning storm.

I had originally been awaken around 10:30am by room-shaking bursts of thunder. I fell back asleep, and when I was up for real, the day looked fine. By the time I was making dinner, the skies were alight again. Flashes in the periphery followed by the sound of the sky cracking open. Another truly monumental summer storm was upon us. Regular breaks from pizza assembly were taken to try and catch a fork in the distance between the surrounding buildings. It started to die down, and dinner was completed and consumed.

Then it started up again. To the roof! In my bare feet! Why? Well, I figured the wet roof of a 15 storey building with no insulator between me and ground had to be the safest method of watching lightning. An umbrella was brought too, for extra safety.

None of that is a lie, except for the part where I actually thought ANY of that was remotely safe.

As soon as I set foot on the roof, a bolt shot off in the distance, sparking a series of other streaks spiderwebbing across the sky above. It was possibly the coolest lightning display I'd ever seen.

And it happened half a dozen more times over the next 20 minutes.

The sky didn't stop lighting up. It was as if the country surrounding my city was being bombed while a war with electricity was being fought overhead. The nearly complete lack of rain only added to this effect. To witness such a violent storm without getting wet was an oddity to me.

Convinced the storm was too far to take advantage of the world's tallest free-standing lightning rod, I kept following where the flashes were.

Then the tree of electricity opened up over south end of the city, with a branch deciding it needed to arc down and nail the beloved tower. For seconds afterwards, the sky was scattered with the after-image of lightning forks as my eyes adjusted to the blinding white that had just taken place less than a mile away, and less than a mile up. The fact this was also the first clap of thunder that had been made during the roof foray drove home the point that the storm wasn't quite gone yet.

The sky continued to sputter and spark silently, and I continued to be captivated. After the Tower bolt, I was also constantly checking the hairs on my arms to make sure I wasn't about to be struck myself. In the distance, likely the steel mills of Hamilton, bolts were raining down as if Zeus had decided that he was on the side of the NHL owners and was going to destroy the city himself. Streaks yellowed by the smog and clouds would strike and remain for what seemed like seconds before disappearing. To the south, St. Catherine's, Niagara Falls, and Buffalo looked like they were getting bombarded with white fire.

Eventually, it started to fade. The streaks and forks became fewer, replaced only with flashes and sheets of brightness in the distance. It was time to return to the far less exciting world of my living room, and call it a weekend.

May I suggest you visit here for an idea of the view. He's a little bit east of me, so it's not a dissimilar view. And this was a regular occurence during my time on the roof. I only wish I'd have grabbed my tripod and camera too.

Friday, August 07, 2009

V-E-G- you know the rest

And it ain't "etarian"


Here I still, still bitching about by Atlantic City losses, still blowing New Jersey germs into clean Canadian tissues, and the lovely, talented, far-more-organized-than-me April goes and lets us know there's a WPBT tournament scheduled for... December 12th! At Caesars!


Funny thing is, I was just writing up the e-mail to my usual gang of friends about it before the news hit.

Flights are now in the somewhat reasonable range from Toronto, but still far from the deals of last year.

Doesn't matter though. *I'LL* be there. Harrah's is giving me my money back dammit! That, or someone across the table is.

The Onion Reveals the Truth

Roy Halladay doesn't really exist

There is line after line of gold in that article.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

AC Day 3 Addendum

Something I forgot to mention in the last post (among, I'm sure, other things I've neglected) - the dealers at Caesars.

Driving in on the first day, we saw the billboards - "When dealers are ignored, EVERYBODY LOSES AT CAESARS AND BALLYS" brought to us by the UAW dealer's union. Why the United AUTO Workers are managing a dealers' union is beyond me. But it appears there's a dealers' union in AC, and they aren't happy about something. Frankly, I couldn't care less. Then came the rebutting sign "What is the UAW up to? Same dirty tricks, DON'T LET THE UAW TURN ATLANTIC CITY INTO ANOTHER DETROIT" brought to us by Harrah's. We couldn't stop laughing at that. What a fantastic return shot from Harrah's, brilliant PR.

Not much picketing, just a handful of people strolling along the boardwalk in front of the doors, handing out stickers. There were some notes of solidarity from other casinos (Taj craps dealers made a veiled comment about the poor quality of management at the Harrah's properties). But the poker room at Caesars was still going.

I got the distinct impression that the dealing staff was a mix of management, scabs brought in from other Harrah's properties, and rushed graduates from dealers' school. My first dealer in the tournament was a supervisor, and while completely capable, he didn't seem to really want to be dealing. His replacement showed how green he was quickly.

I had just knocked out the player on my right. Vacant chipstacks hadn't been removed yet, as they were still allowing buy-ins. The dealer dealt the next hand, including two cards to the now empty seat to my right.

"Wait a second - I just knocked him out, there shouldn't be cards dealt to that seat."

"I have to deal to all the seats, even if they're empty."

"But he's knocked out."

"That's what I was told."

"No, you deal to the seats with chips, but not to a KO'd player."

"Really? I don't know, this is my first tournament."

[head feels suddenly drawn to the table]

Another player, "Naw, you just deal to where there are chips."

"Oh, okay... should I redeal then?"

Everyone: "Yes."

And the redeal was done.

This added to the rookie impression he gave off, as the hand earlier (where I KO'd the guy), he miscounted the change coming back to me by almost 1/3! I won the hand though, so it didn't matter.

For the next 20 minutes, I counted every chip when I was involved in a pot, and watched every card he dealt, burned, or turned. We all started helping him with chip counts and bet sizes.


"2200 more for 3400 total"

"3400 to you sir."

etc, etc.. I later had him at the cash game, and he was at ease, joking with everyone, and doing his job properly. So he'd at least had a few days on those tables.

There were at least two more dealers who made equally rookie mistakes in the tournament, and one Asian guy who barely looked old enough to enter the casino, let alone deal me cards, but he was the most comfortable and skilled of the dealers we saw.

Even the floor directors were scattered. One would have to call over another to get payouts ready, another needed advice on how to merge the tables from us again (cards A through 10, and draw.... they screwed it up twice), and they updated the board all of three times during the 2.5 hours of play.

I overheard one of the FD's talking to the manager behind the desk too,

"It's great that you guys came up here to help us out, but you're kinda screwing up how we do things."

"Hey, I'm just doing my job. He wasn't where I needed him."

"He was helping me out! We're a bit more lenient on duties here."

"Yah, I can see that."

etc, etc.. until they calmed down a bit and got back to joking around.

During the cash game, dealers would be thanked by the floor and supervisor when they switched tables - "Thanks for coming in tonight." "We really appreciate you working through this." These were usually met with "what else am I'm gonna do?" shrugs or "Yah, well I'm not one of the guys complaining."

So solidarity might not be so strong in the union, and Harrah's has deep pools of employee resources they can seemingly tap. Especially with gambling volume down across the country, I'd think there are dealers and managers who are more than willing to fly in from Vegas or Detroit or wherever if it means they'll get some hours and tips out of it.

It certainly made for an interesting bit of observation.

AC Endgame - Where The Cash Runs Out

It's 9:30 when the alarm goes off. N and I are both down over a grand. No big deal in the larger scheme of things, but still more than either of us have been stuck in the past. Usually by this point I've hit a big slot win, had a great craps run, or cashed in a tournament to make up loses and then some. Not so much this time.

But it's a new day! We're checking out of the Slodge and moving to Caesars for the last night. We boldly speak of how the casinos will be our bitch this time, while secretly knowing we're going home busto.

We leave and head into town. It's prime checkout time, so we opt to drive around a bit before heading to Caesars. First stop? Harrah's. We wander around, grab some lunch at the deli, and opt not to spend a dime in the casino - It's the closest thing to a win we've seen. On our way out, we once again recoil in horror at the ugliness that is the Trump Marina. Never have I seen so ugly an exterior for a casino. It looks like government building that you suspect has a very dirty swimming pool in it.

Next? Might as well take a look at the Tropicana. We're both surprisingly impressed by their effort at the theme. Sure, the casino is old, but we've been in far, FAR worse, and they've obviously made an effort to keep the property in decent shape. I guess new owners will do that. A few bucks were dropped on terrible slots, but there was still no desire to drop cash on a table, although the surprisingly packed poker room was tempting.

Off to Caesars, in a storm. Once again, someone turned the sprinklers onto full, and the ramps in the parking garage were one large waterslide. We made it outside and already people were pulled over. Stranded women in the rain looked like they could use the wash, and rivers of garbage flowed alongside us. AC was getting powerwashed in front of our eyes.

The drive to Caesars was easy enough, and 10 floors up, we finally found a parking spot. I was surprised that parking would be at such a premium on a Sunday. We checked in without incident, and were amazed at how terrible the elevator alcove was. As I expected, our room was around a couple corners, at the end of the hall, by the fire exit, with frosted windows that don't open in order to protect us from the view. Ah, discounted rooms for Total Rewards members.

I opted to pay for the wireless (it's free at the Slodge, but costs $13 for 24 hours at Caesars... yah....), to see if LJ was going to make it down. No dice, but I don't blame her. Between terrible weather, WSOP burnout, and her general stress level over the past few days, a pretty strong case could be made.

We wandered down to the casino and went straight through to the candy store in the Pier shops. I needed me some M&M's of odd colours. After I had loaded up a couple bags of M&M's, I made my way to the Jelly Belly section and proceeded to load up on the best jelly beans in the world (I may have a bit of a sweet tooth). The woman at the cash had been eyeing me with great suspicion the whole time and finally walked over.

"You do know it's $11.99/lb, right?"


"Oh, okay."

And she was gone. I had expected this brief exchange much earlier, as they no doubt have people walk away when the bill is tallied, leaving them to resort the mixed up bag of candy into the appropriate colours. This is much harder for Jelly Bellies as different flavours sometimes share colours. $60 of candy later, I was out of the store and off to buy fudge and taffy. That came to another $20. $80 in candy has a way of taking away some of the pain of losing.

With our purchases dropped off in the room, it was FINALLY time to do a little gambling.

Except it was now 4:30pm, and dinner was coming up soon. So I hit the "restaurant reservations" button the phone and asked for a reservation at Buddokan. First, it turns out that button doesn't quite put you in the right place, as I think I ended up at the front desk. After a transfer, I was informed "we don't make those reservations, but we can give you the number."

Now I know I'm a nobody. The amount of money I gamble in a given YEAR doesn't amount to 10% of a moderately high-roller's buy-in for a single craps session, but I'm still a customer, still a member of your loyalty program, and still fairly annoyed by AC's overall ghetto-Vegas atmosphere. There's a restaurant in your shopping complex, attached to your hotel, and I want a reservation. You can put me on hold and call the damned restaurant yourself and spend the 20 seconds making the reservation.

But no, I got the number, and the reservation was made.

With about an hour and half before the res, we opted for... craps. Now, Caesars was ROCKING the craps tables. 11 tables going strong, most of them $10. We saddled up to one that felt good and played. There were some minor ups, and even half an orbit of warmth. Then it got downright chilly. In the next round, I was the only roller to hit anything (2 points), and even that was too quick to make serious cash. At least we got our hour and half out of it, but coloured up and cashed out down a bit more.

Dinner was, once again, great. Some solid "family-style" serving of chicken and ginger gyoza, kobe beef satay, edamame, lamb chops, and wasabi-crusted kobe steak. I had a hard time saying no to the banana tower for dessert, and N enjoyed the mini donuts filled with sweet cream. Unlike Sea Blue though, we weren't bursting at the seams from the volume of food.

Finally, FINALLY, came some more poker. We opted to ease back in with the 8:15 tournament at Caesars... which turned out to be a 14-man affair that wouldn't last long. I built up a nice chip stack through card-rackage and we merged tables at 10 people. N quickly became the chip leader in a killer hand where he had AA vs AK and KK all-in. Nice job there. I maintained a solid stack until a series of hands against shorties that re-raised all-in for less than my "get the shorty out of the hand" bets. Soon enough, I found myself near the bottom of our very short-handed table. In the end, I went on the bubble, to be later berated by N (who chopped 50-50 HU + extra from the other guy to cover N's withholding tax). AC charges taxes differently than Vegas it seems, and I think N got screwed by it (not the chop, but the casino). 30% off ANY winnings and BEFORE dealer tips, whereas Vegas is anything over $1200 and AFTER tips. Lemon.

While N was cleaning up at the tourney, I was sitting down at the cash games. I was playing it tight for a while, and chipped up nicely when I took down a couple pots (QQ that became 666QQ vs nothing against an all-in and AK vs KT or something), but generally played as weakly as the rest of the table.

My ass was saved at one point when my 48s hit the 6s5s7o flop. The turn didn't help, but all the money got in with my 2nd nut straight and straight flush redraw. The 9o on the river saved my ass when my opponent flipped over 89o for the nut straight that now split with me.

This pissed him off to no end, but I silently didn't tell him that it was minor compared to the straight he spiked on the river and orbit earlier against me for 1/3 of my chips.

As the night wore on, my stack wore down. I finally woke up to how shitty I was playing and upped the aggression. This worked nicely, bringing me up to mostly even before they broke the table at 4am. Sadly, even is not a win.

I decided to end my gambling for the trip with a visit to a slot machine I've never played... Hot Hot Penny. Yes, the official slots of Buddydank Radio, and the Buddy-Joanada union of bliss. This is, without a doubt, the most insane slot machine I've ever played. In no time at all, I had taken $30 to $200, and then dropped it back to $100 before going back to $160 and then down to $0 to end the night. I have no ideo what happened, what won, or how ANY of it works, but it's nuts... and far too much fun.

To bed, with a 9am alarm waiting for me. It felt like I slept for 5 minutes before than infernal sound started going. It took a full hour before I actually woke up, and then "rushed" (read: didn't rush) around getting ready. Some souvenir shopping also had to take place, and we were finally on the road around noon... which meant any dreams of making it back to Hertz on time would be shattered.

Sure enough, we got to the airport at 2:20, and were dinged with $70 in overage charges... $93/day to rent, $70 if you're an hour late. I fucking hate rental companies. I'm done with Hertz too, after they pulled the "oh, you'll have to talk to the manager" and then make us wait until we HAVE to leave to catch our 4pm flight. Nice move asswipes. I have to make that phone call soon.

Lunch at the bar by the gate, on our slightly delayed flight, and home before supper. Much like Vegas on the last day, there was no place I wanted to be more than... home.

So AC, you win this round. You took a couple grand out of my pocket, but you're just keeping it warm. Next time, I'm flying right into your heart and then I'll rip it out with my bare hands.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

AC Day 2 - The Slope Continues

Up at 10:30 after hitting the pillow at 4am. I consider that an oversleep for gambling time.

We met Dawn and Mary at the Showboat tables, said hi, and we moved on to exploring the sauna outside along the boardwalk. One long walk, some pictures, a blister, and a meal at Johnny Rockets' later, we continued our search for $5 craps. Alas, such a thing seem to be a non-entity in AC. Boo to that. We settled on a $10 table in the Boat and Dawn swung by to learn the game.

She sucks as a student. After explaining 12 times that 7 is only good before the point, and bad after point, she was still surprised when she rolled a 7 and they took her money away. She became even more confused when I threw out my customary "I have no singles" crew tip - two-way hardways with a hi-lo for the crew. I'm a generous soul. Of course, Dawn was wondering when my half-fat double latte was coming after I seemingly ordered coffee from the stick girl. She left to play poker, being thoroughly confused, in a legendary fashion, by the best table game on the floor.

Except that Craps can suck it. N & I were down hard, but were at least entertained by the drunk woman (not Dawn) who was berating the stick girl. She'd been cut off (the drunk, not the stick) and left to await sobriety at a video poker machine she wasn't playing. She figured that stumbling over to the craps table and attacking the petite asian girl would be the best way to get service. A man in a suit came and tried to talk her into waiting some more for her "drink", but just then the waitress came by and let the supervisor know she had been cut off. He gave the "I KNOW that, and I'm sending security, not you" look, but the waitress was too dumb to pick up on it and told him as loudly as possible that the woman was cut off, in front of the woman... leading to an all-out brawl that tore up the casino. Or more accurately, some shouting, and the drunk returning to her seat at the video poker machine she wasn't playing.

But would it end there? NO! Some drunk guy decided to then yell at the stick girl and the pit boss (who hadn't been involved) that if "she wants a fucking drink, you should give her a fucking drink!" These two should sober up and write a book on how to annoy paying patrons and get your ass kicked out of the casino.

The bad mojo ruined the table, and THAT was when Dawn left. Oh, and also, they were raising the limit to $15, which sucks balls and gets people to go away.

N and I lost more money over at the Taj, but not before winning a bunch first that we promptly gave back. He busted out and I was down to scraps when my roll came up and I promptly won back my losses for that table. This got N back in to lose a few hundred more before we called it a night for gambling.

We swung back to the Boat, found Dawn and Mary still at the table (some 10-11 hours at this point), and decided to wait until they wrapped up. A little video poker rejuvinated the spirits, even though I lost, because there was some value in the time spent. Then the search for food was on.

Dawn hates the House of Blues, so naturally I suggested we go there. If lasers could be shot out of eyes, my skull would have two holes in it. Then again, if lasers could be shot out of eyes, my skull would have been obliterated years ago by the people I've gotten that look from.

We opted for the themed restaurant next door instead - The Ha ck. Some know it as The Hard Rock, but there were letters missing.

20 minute wait, screw that! Instead we spent 3.5 hours walking the boardwalk seeking food. Megan's looked promising until the waiter told us we'd never get full eating their paltry bar food now that dinner was over. Off to the Pier for The Trinity Irish Pub. A pretty solid prime rib was had by me, but the lack of Kilkenny was shocking.

See, in Toronto, you can't find a pub that has Guinness but NOT Kilkenny. In the States? Aparently the creamy and delicious sibling of Guinness can't be found. At least the waitress knew what I was talking about, having been to Ireland. No wonder America is failing. Mary was appreciative of my plight, being an anglophile and all, and it was good to have one other person at the table sympathize with me.

Anyway, food was good, as was, once again, the conversation and laughs. I think Dawn has a problem though - she was tweeting during dinner, but her blackberry was dead, so she simply tweeted in the air, as if she was holding her precious device. I opted to tweet just because she couldn't. I'm awesome like that.

We did the 12 hour walk back to the Boat, with Dawn getting some Ben & Jerry's by shoving three old ladies and a blind parapalegic out of her way because they were taking too long to finish their orders for Cherry Garcia. She smashed the glass with one old lady's walker and scooped half a tub of caramel-caramel-caramel ice cream with extra caramel sauce into her custom ice cream cup before flipping off the cashier and then flipping them a quarter so they could call their mother or something. The details are fuzzy due to the running away and the dead fish smell at that portion of the boardwalk.

We made it back to the Boat, told security some terrorists dressed as cops were chasing us and made it to the parking garage in time to escape. The four of us decided to split up, with N and I heading to our car, and Mary and Dawn escaping to New York (a place movies had led me to believe you escape FROM). We said our goodbyes and left the flashing lights in the rearview mirror.

N and I decided to head to the Borg, and this time we did so with minimal getting lost. The place was rocking. So now I know where all the hot waitresses are. The Borg figured it out right - AC is an escape, just lower-rent than Vegas, and people don't want to see 45 year-old overweight women brining them their drinks. They want hotties. No wonder it's got all the press and Trump can't make a buck on the boardwalk. We wandered to the poker room, and N chickened out when he saw the sharks swimming in the water. I tried to explain that this might be the only time building a table image might MEAN something in AC, but after his monumental craps losses, he just couldn't bring himself to wager any more of significance that night. So we hit the video poker again. I've never played video poker away from a barstool before this trip, and let me tell you - it's a lot less fun. Maybe that has to do with the continued losing though.

2am rolled around and we called it a night, opting to get up early to check out and start gambling sooner.

But the dude who came over to talk to us in the back lot of the Slodge delayed these plans somewhat.

"Atlaaantic City baby!" is the cry we heard as we climbed out of the 'stang. "Atlantic City".

You know what's hard to see? A black guy in dark clothes under a tree at 2am. But he made sure we could hear him.

"You guys having a good time?"

"We've had better, knew it was time to leave when we ran out of money."

He walks over.

"Man, I came her to relax a bit, have some fun. Left the female at home this time. But ain't won a thing."

This is now confirming my belief he's a broke drunk degenerate looking for a handout, the "we're broke from the casinos" story will stay in force. Not hard, since it's mostly true.

"Yah, we hear ya. Never been this stuck before. Just not a good weekend for playing the tables."

"Yah man, I came down here before with my female, you know? And the first, FIRST slot machine I play, I win $7000. SEVEN THOUSAND DOLLARS. Man, I got that shit out of there fast. They all wanted me to stay, and put me up in a suite, and all this crazy shit."

"Of course man, they want you to give them their money back"

"Damn, yah! But I ain't falling for it. They say I can go think about it and let them know, so I get out of there to 'think about it' ya know? But this time, this time I lost what I brought. But you know the trick? You gotta only bring what you can lose. I leave all my credit cards, atm, all that at home when I come here. Where you guys from?"


"Canada, huh? I'm from DC myself. I left the female at home this time, ya know? But I can't win shit. I just want to come here, have some fun, and I can't even get my dick sucked man! I mean, when you lose, you can't get your dick sucked! I got 11 inches right here [grabs] and ain't no girls wanna suck me! When I won, I could've got my dick sucked, but not now!"

We look away from the grabbing and shift nervously... this just got weird. "Uh, yah... that's tough."

"Man, 11 inches! I mean, there's girls out there who LOVE to suck dick. The get all on it, and deepthroat it man, shiiit. You know you love that. Hot girl, wants to suck your dick, and she can all deepthroat it and shit"

He hasn't really stopped grabbing... we look for an exit, but this continues... 11 inches, deepthroat, can't get my dick sucked, etc.. He finally stops to take a breath.

"What you gonna do man? Well, good luck finding someone to do that for you."

"Yah man, hey how long you here?"

"We should have left yesterday after today's losses." We're walking away... about 5-10 ft at this point.

"Hey, hey! What's your room number? You know you'd say yes if some hot lady wanted to suck your dick. She's hot and can deepthroat and shit. You know, free of charge, and all clean and shit."

"Goodnight!" We're walking up the stairs. He gets louder, and it's after 2am.

"Hey, what's your room number? If I find some ladies, I'll send 'em over your way... you now you'd say yes if they wanted to suck your dick!"

N walks to the room door (which is facing the lot) and goes in, I follow and lock the door behind us. Then I suggest that next time he may want to go around the corner so the guy can't see where our room is, because if there's knocking in an hour, I ain't answering.

N thinks the guy was a pimp, I think he was dressed like a nearly homeless drunk, and might just be crazy. But the pimp theory does hold some water. Regardless, it was all a bit odd, and if anyone came knocking, I slept through it... although we were debating if a chair against the door might not be a bad idea.

Because an important rule is: If a pimp offers you something for free, you're gonna get rolled at best.

AC Day 1 - The Start of the Downward Slope

I was running a little bit behind. Every day of my life starts like that though, so it isn't really new.

I was well within both the range of time I'd agreed to meet N, and to make the flight, so I wasn't very worried. After the shortest ferry ride in the world (seriously - it's in the book), I was in line for the flight from YTZ-EWR. We were told we'd be moved up a flight. The 10:15 instead of the 11:15. Except that it was 10:05 at the time. When I asked why, we were informed of the fear of rain delays on the other side. Okay then.

I wasn't overly pleased though. I'd been looking forward to relaxing in the Porter lounge with a coffee and some snacks. An earlier departure also royally screwed us on the rental, because of the 24 hour days most companies measure in.

The 10:15 left around 10:40. We were in around noon. The 11:15? Cancelled with any remaining passengers shunted to 1:30. I was now quite happy with the 10:15.

Except for Hertz.

I get given the bill, and it's around $100 high. I asky why? "Extra hour on the last day". Take it off. Okay. We go to the prescribed spot, and what we got sure as hell wasn't a Mustang. It was a Pontiac G6. We returned to the desk. Manager-type is all apologetic and switches our contract to the right car. A few dings and scratches, and a cigarette burn in the driver's seat (and a couple filthy seats to boot) weren't a major concern, but got marked regardless. We were on our way.

And promptly got lost looking for the alley Google told me to go down for a camera store. Blackberry/Google/GPS combo to the rescue though, and the ghetto camera stores were found and quickly abandonded as possible places to find what I was looking for.

We got lost finding our way back on the highway. We had little desire to enter Manhattan, so found our way to turn around and head in the right direction. No worries from there on out until the next camera store stop. They had monopods, they had carbon fibre tripods, they did not have the models I was interested in. Ah well. Back on the road... after a quick Wendy's stop. The various detours and stops had managed to land us into some sort of rush hour. Another detour was taken to avoid traffic, the highway rejoined, and we were on the move.

Until the storm hit. A couple drops to a torrential downpour in seconds. Flashers on by everyone and a speed drop of 30 miles or more as we crawled through the storm. I opted not to stop, as we were already well behind schedule, and it was the right move. We pulled into the Slodge shortly after 6, checked in, and headed out for dinner with Dawn and Mary at Sea Blue. Then we got lost in the attempt to find the Borgata.

Oh, we could see it. But actually getting to it? That's a whole new challenge. It's on its little island of AC, that can only reached by asking the right questions of the guards, one of whom only tells the truth, and the other only lies. That, or you take the highway that promises a toll road, but doesn't mention that the toll comes FAR after the turn off to the Borgata.

We finally found our way to the Borg, the parking lot, and a powerwalked through the casino, a mere 20 minutes late for the reservation. An exasperated Dawn and Mary were already 3 sheets to the wind drunk and raging against the poor hostess until we stepped in and saved the staff. They rewarded us with oysters, except for Dawn, who got a dollop of Cheez Whiz on a Ritz cracker, because she told a racist joke.

At least, that's how I remember it. The video may show some other lie.

Dinner was great, but not quite up to the expectations I'd been lead to. It was all a touch... bland (excpet maybe the sea bass with miso glaze in a mushroom broth). Good, but perhaps too reliant on the flavours of the ingredients themselves without complimenting them with a touch of seasoning. N and I wanted the tasting menu, and N was busy talking the waiter into serving just the two of us instead of the whole table because Mary and Dawn wanted a la carte, when they both decided to be easy and go with the tasting. Now I must recreate the recipes for them in payment for their sacrifice.

Any shortcomings (and to be honest, the meal was excellent, just not super-excellent) were hidden by the riotous conversations being had by the four of us. Much of which is on Twitter @realdawnsummers. None of it from me, for I can't stir my coffee and tweet at the same time.

The time was about right to had to the Taj for the Midnight Madness. A not-terrible cheapo tourney that starts at 12:15 (obviously, that's why it's called the Midnight+15 minutes Madness). I have never been so card dead, and considering how quickly the thing turns to a pushfest (20 minutes after the break), that's saying something. I had pocket aces on the FIRST hand, won a decent-sized pot, and then saw nothing more playable than 77 the entire night. Ah well.

But at least we had a quasi-newbie at the table to entertain me. Woman who had "fish" written all over her and had obviously never played live poker before... or at least never raised.

When the blinds were 50-100, she started standard raising to 300. No big deal. Except for the time she tossed out a 500 chip without saying anything, and it was taken as a call. "But that's a 500 chip!" "If you don't indicate you're raising, then one big chip is just a call." "That's stupid." Everyone at the table: "That's the rule." "Oh." So a few hands later and the blinds at 100-200 she picks up her 500 chip and says, "FIVE. HUNDRED." and we all snicker a little because she's being funny and angry at the same time. Dealer grins and nods and play continues.

The blinds, going up every 20 minutes (or ONE orbit of play, what a slow table), get to 200-400, and there's a new dealer. The woman, who by this point has been pegged as a fish by everyone, not only because of her lack of raising etiquette, but the fact she was betting 300 into the pot on the flop no matter how many chips or players there were (2000 chips? 4 players behind? 300), and calling down the to the river with brilliant hands like KJo unimproved. If anyone had a pair, they were happy to pay against her. Anyway, 200-400, pre-flop, and she puts out the 500 chip and says "five hundred". Except, of course, 500 isn't a raise any more. Dealer says, "That's a call, minimum raise is to 800". "Oh, sorry, 800 then." "Too late." "WHAT?" Rest of the table : "You didn't say 'raise', so it's a call." "HUH?" Dealer: "Just say 'raise' when you want to raise honey, and you'll be fine." Me: "Just only say 'raise', no other words." Naturally, there are some more callers to her limp. Play continues. A little while later, at 300-600, play goes around to another guy, who tosses out a 1k chip and a 100 for 1100. Dealer points out blinds are now 300-600 and min is 1200. He apologizes and tops off the bet. Woman now starts to go a bit nuts - "How come THAT is a raise but mine wasn't??" "Because he bet more than half the big blind, and used two chips, so the raise was obvious." "This doesn't make any sense. This is dumb." Rest of the table : "No, YOU are dumb" (not really). Rest of table: "She's right, those are the rules." Woman fumes. But continues to play terrible poker until her final hand.

Rock in the corner limps, and so does she. Flop comes A29. Rock checks, she bets 2k into a 4.5k pot, rock checkraises to 5k, she thinks and calls. Turn comes A, rock puts her all in, she thinks and calls. Cards flip over, rock has AT, she has K9?? "I didn't believe you... ah well" river pairs the 2 for the Aces full boat, and she's done. As soon as she's gone from the room the table erupts - "Well, that wasn't unexpected" "How terrible was she?" "Pot's 3000? I bet 300." "I don't know how many times I had to call with my crap draws because she gave me odds." "I can't believe you won with 77 on that one hand against her... no wait, I can." Poor lady who sucks at poker.

Toss in a couple hundred in slot losses, and my first night in AC was not a promising start gambling-wise.