Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Booked and Booked

YYZ -> LAS = $500, which is $100 less than it was last week for my dates
Bellagio for 4 nights = $400, which is split with a buddy, so $200 for moi.

Seriously, $90/night + taxes for the Bellagio? I guess it's the new IP... oh wait, the IP was being offered up for free.

Dear Harrah's, I'm now glad your moron phone reservation staff wouldn't budge on my buddy's price for the 2nd room at Paris. You lost $600 and 4 loyal Vegas customers(at least 2 of which try to make it out a couple times a year, and are likely adding Atlantic City to the routine, as well as living only a few hours from your sole Canadian location) to the competition across the road, where we were willing to pay $200 more just to NOT stay at your hotel. I know it's not big money for you, but now I'll happily point people to your competition, and I find the slots and craps tables pretty hard to resist as I walk past them on the way to/from my hotel room. Vegas is hurting, and you can't train your outsourced staff to say "why yes sir, I can knock a measly $70 off the price of your second room for 4 nights if it means you'll stay with us."

Enough of that, I'm happy with the change. I wish the flight was a bit cheaper, but I figured it was good enough.

Now the details need to be worked out. Dinner at Delmonico is now a tradition for Thursday night for me and my travelling companions. Eyeing Joël Robuchon as well - I've never eaten at a Michelin 3-star restaurant before. Hurtling over Bootleg Canyon will also happen again if anyone's interested in coming along. And my usual posse seems to want to see a show again, but there's so little that interests me that time of year that I may once again find myself at a poker table during their entertainment. Unless I can convince them that the ballet is a worthwhile arts pursuit... shouldn't be difficult.

And of course, there's the blogger scramble on Friday, the tourney at Caesar's on Saturday, drinking at the Geisha bar on whenever... craps, poker, poker, craps, slots, and the usual shenanigans.

You are going, right?

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

It's My Birthday! Let's run down my NFL picks

Yah, I was squeezed out some 32 years ago today. My mother remembers it vividly. Me? not so much.

Yah, that's right, I'm still younger than you.

But what's 32? Nothing major. No milestones there. Still, a week's worth of activities await me. Dinner tonight, dinner with the people who lived with me for 20-some years (also called family) tomorrow, dinner Thursday, was out for dinner with friends last Saturday, and then another friend's birthday party is Friday, and then it's Nuit Blanche on Saturday, which isn't birthday-related, but still fun.

Slow down? Hah!

I called the MGM Player's Club membership line today to set up my online login, once I verified my birthday, Amber wished me a happy one without a missing a beat. I'd forgotten (for the 5th time today).

Anyhoo... let's review my brilliant NFL picks from last week, followed by the winner:

WAS @ DET - WAS - DET - WHA???
JAC @ HOU - HOU - JAC - sigh
GB @ STL - GB - GB - DING!
KC @ PHI - KC - PHI - sigh
NO @ BUF - BUF - NO - Buffalo hates me
PIT @ CIN - PIT - CIN - WHA???
MIA @ SD - SD - SD - DING!
IND @ ARI - ARI - IND - sigh
CAR @ DAL - CAR - DAL - sigh

8 right. An improvement over last week. The alphabet failed me a few times, and what the hell are the Lions and Bengals doing WINNING GAMES? I mean, the cats they're named after are awesome and all, but aren't they supposed to suck? Not that I know, I hate football.

Have a great birthday! Mine that is.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

More In-Depth NFL Picks

Okay, time to improve that shitty record from last week. Less science! More guts!

CLE @ BAL - Baltimore. Alphabetical order comes into play here.

WAS @ DET - Washington. Since Detroit lost last week, proving the universe like Dawn, and Washington won last week, it's proof that the universe likes racists. I still don't, but hey, this is football.

JAC @ HOU - Houston. Danny Huston is a better actor the Joshua Jackson.

ATL @ NE - Atlanta. Can't fight the alphabet forever.

GB @ STL - Greeen Bay. Saint Louis isn't the patron saint of anything affecting the Packers.

NYG @ TB - Noo Yawk. Buccaneers are no match for Giants, and also, alphabet.

TEN @ NYJ - Noo Yawk. Jets could probably take down some Titans. If they're armed with titan-appropriate munitions.

KC @ PHI - Kansas City. Chiefs teach their tribe to respect nature. Therefore the Eagles like them fine and let them win sometimes.

SF @ MIN - Minnesota. HELLLOOOOOO! We're talking about VIKINGS here. Hey, they should sign Brock Lesnar.

NO @ BUF - Buffalo. There is no God in Buffalo. Therefore the Saints are powerless.

CHI @ SEA - Chicago. Alphabet. Da Bears. What the fuck is a seahawk?

PIT @ CIN - Pittsburgh. You see, steelers will keep reaching for that rainbow, and Bengals are a pretty orange.

DEN @ OAK - Denver. Does Homer Simpson still own the Broncos? Doesn't matter, Oakland won last week, so they'll lose this week.

MIA @ SD - San Diego. Why? Because Flutie played there once.

IND @ ARI - Arizona, but just barely. Fuck the Colts and their not letting the CFL use their name back in the day.

CAR @ DAL - Carolina. I maintain that Dallas is an irrelevant city with irrelevant teams. Also, Panthers are pretty awesome.

There you go. How could these NOT be 100% accurate?

Random Babbling

So I went to Israel a few weeks back. I've been sitting down and doing some post-processing (although really, in this digital age shouldn't it just be called processing?) on the photos. Some have lent themselves nicely to HDR in various degrees of visual veracity, but most have involved minor tweaks in colour, contrast, sharpness, etc.. Skies never come out quite as blue as they are, although the ones that seem least real are the untouched ones (but shot via polarizer). This shit takes awhile. I'm halfway through day 1 of 11.

I should also sit down and do my trip report. That needs to be done from home though, where I have my log. Yah, that's right, I'm blogging from a log.

I'm also trying to fit back into a suit in a month, for the one wedding this fall that I can actually make (it's in Toronto), and then continue to shift this belly somewhere else through the rest of the year. Israel derailed these plans somewhat, and I haven't really lost any weight. But I'm at least maintaining a daily exercise regimen again this week, and that should help things along. After all, my weight (181 lbs) isn't that bad for my height (5'11") - it's on border of normal and overweight, it just happens to all be in one place (my gut). This makes things like buttoning the jacket a bit difficult.

In that pursuit, I'm trying to eat less crap, with some success. I couldn't resist the coffee crisp at work yesterday, but the roast chicken on a bed of vegetables for lunch, while high in salt, couldn't have been that bad... could it? They probably soaked it all in oil.

But dinner was delicious, and I share it here.

As usual, all my meat is frozen, and I'm lazy, and somewhat on a diet. So I decided on salad, because I should really get to my vegetables before they go bad. But simply tossing stuff in a bowl gets boring after a while.

So I roasted.

I cut a couple tomatoes into quarters, seeded them, tossed them lightly in olive oil, laid a single leaf of fresh basil and half a clove of garlic in each piece, and sprinkled with kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper. I laid them skin-side down on a baking pan. I then cut up a few large piece of red pepper, sprinkled those with salt and pepper, and put them skin-side up on the same pan. I drizzled everything lightly with a bit more olive oil, and put them in a preheated 425F oven for 40 minutes.

While that was going on, I slices up some white onion and tossed it into a non-stick pan over medium-low heat with some butter and vegetable oil. Then I poured some simple syrup on them and stirred them occasionally as they caramelized. Once they were a nice brown, I poured some balsamic vinegar on the whole thing and stirred it up until the balsamic had reduced and become a sticky coating on it all.

While all this continued, I hard boiled an egg.

Out came the roasted vegetables. I peeled the peppers and cut them up, and combined them and the tomatoes in a bowl with the onions. The egg was peeled and crumbled over the veggies. Then I shaved some carrot into the bowl, cut up and added a few sun-dried tomatoes, and mixed up the whole thing. No extra dressing required, as the caramelized balsamic onions, and the oil on the roasted veggies gave all the extra flavour needed.

Before the salad I had a couple cobs of corn. It all turned out to be a filling meal that at least felt like it was healthy.

Of course, I weigh the same today as I did yesterday.

Hmmm... and I just remembered I left my computer on at home. Whoops.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

NFL Picks Review

Let's see how I did...

CAR @ ATL - Me: ATL Reality: ATL
MIN @ DET - Me: DET Reality: MIN
CIN @ GB - Me: GB Reality: CIN Really?
ARI @ JAC - Me: JAC Reality: ARI
OAK @ KC - Me: OAK Reality: OAK
NE @ NYJ - Me: NE Reality: NYJ
NO @ PHI - Me: NO Reality: NO
HOU @ TEN - Me: TEN Reality: HOU
STL @ WAS - Me: STL Reality: WAS
TB @ BUF - Me: TB Reality: BUF
SEA @ SF - Me: SEA Reality: SF
PIT @ CHI - Me: CHI Reality: CHI
CLE @ DEN - Me: DEN Reality: DEN
BAL @ SD - Me: SD Reality: BAL
NYG @ DAL - Me: NYG Reality: NYG
IND @ MIA - Me: IND Reality: IND

Sooooo... that's 7 I got right. Not quite 50%. I'll need to refine for this weekend.

ATL, OAK, NO, CHI, DEN, NYG, and IND won. So I'll focus on those winning strategies. Except Oakland's was negated by Tampa's loss (same reasoning), so it will be the outlier.

ATL was picked due to alphabetical order of the city name. But that wouldn't have worked with Denver or the Giants. But if I'd used strictly this criteria, I'd have picked 9 winners. Hrmmm.

NO won because there's a saint who could talk to animals, and they were playing the Eagles. This seems a sound strategy.

CHI won because I like saying "Da Bears!" but that will grow old, so will depend on my mood.

NYG won because they're freakin' Giants. Also, they were playing Dallas. So they can only lose to teams who could conceivably beat giants.

IND was picked because I was feeling nostalgic for the heady days of 90's CFL and the Baltimore Colts. That won't last either, and also is rarely useful unless Shreveport gets an NFL team (or Birmingham, Las Vegas, Memphis, San Antonio or Baltimore).

So, alphabetical order, powers of persuasion over their opponents, and physical advantage seem to be useful metrics for picking teams.

Now to start my in-depth research into this week's matchups.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Getting Back in the Groove

Played in the Stars $70k last night. Sometimes decisions are made for you.

It was 10pm. I hadn't been at the keyboard all day, and had been meaning to play an MTT all weekend. It had been awhile.

I have about $2 on Full Tilt, and feel little motivation to reload immediately.

I have more on Bodog, and have actually been winning money in their $25 NL cash games, but do I ever hate that software. Every time I play I find something new I dislike. Plus, their tournaments are dead.

So while I had yet another cash game going on the 'dog, I decided to open the Stars client for the first time in a while. I recalled having reloaded a bit a while back. A lo! I had money there.

And the $70k was 30 minutes into late registration. Why the hell not?

And I cashed. It wasn't big, 91st, with 216 paying, for just under double the buy-in. But it felt good to effortlessly go through a game, and not sweat my decisions. I had closed the Bodog window an hour or so in. I turned off the TV towards the end, and I eventually just focused on the game. It was the first time I'd felt anywhere near the Zone for a long, long time. It was a good feeling.

Now to plug the holes I saw last night.

Is burnout finally subsiding? Is the anticipation of the Winter Gathering causing renewed interest? Perhaps. We'll see how it goes.

Friday, September 18, 2009

NFL Picks!

It's week 2! I missed week 1! I don't give a shit about football! Therefore, here are my picks for this week. Use them at your own risk.

CAR @ ATL - Atlanta. A comes before C dumbass.

MIN @ DET - Detroit. Huh? Well, Dawn Summers plans to pick the Vikings in her suicide pool, and I have a feeling the universe hates her this week.

CIN @ GB - Green Bay. C'mon, it's the Bengals. Even *I* know they suck. And I already picked the Lions to win this week.

ARI @ JAC - Jacksonville. Who can take a team of cardinals seriously? Little red noisy birds, pretty to look at, but not football players. Or are they those Popey guys? Hmm... naw, most of them aren't American, so they think football involves a soccer ball.

OAK @ KC - Oakland. It's talk like a pirate day this weekend. Raiders have an eyepatch. QED.

NE @ NYJ - Who cares? Let's go with the Pats.

NO @ PHI - Does Francis of Assisi play on the Saints? If so, he should be able to tame the Eagles.

HOU @ TEN - Tennessee. It has more letters than Houston.

STL @ WAS - Someone's getting rammed. That someone is the team with the racist name. Nobody likes racists.

TB @ BUF - Tampa. See: Talk like a pirate day Buccaneer. Also, Buffalo sucks.

SEA @ SF - I still have no idea what a Seahawk is. Seattle wins.

PIT @ CHI - I feel like saying "Da Bears!" today, so we'll go with Chicago.

CLE @ DEN - Denver. Their stadium has a height advantage.

BAL @ SD - How many fucking teams are there in this league? I hate football. I guess that's not a prediction though, just a statement of fact. San Diego because of Ron Burgundy.

NYG @ DAL - Is Dallas even relevant anymore? At all? In any sport? Besides, how do you beat a team of GIANTS?

IND @ MIA - Thank the Lord, this is the last game. All this typing is a pain in the ass. Well, really, in the wrist and fingers, but it's all connected. Indiana. What? It's Indianapolis? Is that in Indiana? It is? Phew. The Colts, because once there was a CFL team that wanted to be called the Colts, they played in Baltimore, but the NFL was all mean wouldn't let them, so they changed their name to the Stallions eventually. Yah, that's right, the CFL had US teams in the 90's bitches. I care only slightly more about the CFL though.

If you pick these teams, I guarantee* you that you'll win.

*guarantee not valid on any planets located within the Milky Way galaxy or anywhere else in the first 10 theoretical dimensions of reality.


So I've been playing a bit on Bodog. Still hate the client, the table layout, and the obvious lack of extensive usability testing. If it wasn't for the upcoming blogger series, I'd do a Bodog-Full Tilt cash swap with someone the software is so terrible.

BUT - I have a bonus to try and achieve at least SOME of. Since I tend to fail miserably at these pursuits (I rarely multitable, don't play much cash, and don't put in nearly enough hours), I'm curious as to how much I can actually achieve. Although the fact I haven't seen the "instant" 15% sign-up bonus bothers me...

Anyway, the point to all this is that I've been playing whatever quick single-table games I can find that are almost full, since I'm getting in late these days from films and such. And I've been cashing on a fairly consistent basis. These are TINY stakes mind you, but winning anything poker-wise these days feels good. It helps that the tables are stupidly soft, as reported.

Maybe I should start wearing my Bodog hat and shirt when I play...

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Heeeeere We Go

This is about hockey.

Part of the Film Fest this year are short clips from the Toronto archives and National Film Board celebrating Toronto's 175th birthday. One of these clips is of the 1967 Stanley Cup parade, the last one this city has seen. I like this clip because I get to yell out "OH MY GOD! WHAT THE HELL IS THAT THING?" when the cup appears on the screen.

Which brings me to today. Tonight is exhibition game #1 - the Bruins are in town. For the next few weeks, the coaching and management staff get to assess their talent in a game situation. The Leafs don't have a ton of talent, so this will make it difficult.

There's talk of making of the playoffs this year. It's remotely possible. The team's toughened up the defense a ton, and bulked up the team as a whole. Garnet Exelby, Mike Komisarek, Francois Beauchemin, Colton Orr, and Wayne Primeau (I still don't get that one) have all been brought on board. They'll be side-by-side with Jamal Mayers, Ben Ondrus, Luke Schenn, and others in the agitator and brick wall departments. It should help Tomas Kaberle and a now healthy Mike Van Ryn get into the play for some quarterbacking.

Throw in Gustavsson as the fire being lit under Toskala's ass in net and everything behind the blue line looks solid. If the opposition gets in the Leafs end, they should be punished for it, and if they still get the puck on the net, there should be some admirable minders between the pipes.

Which is all great, and will address the worst penalty killers in the league and one of the worst goals-against numbers. But what about up front?

Yah, goaltending, like pitching in baseball, wins you games and playoffs, but you still need to get some points on the board. Jason Blake? Mikhail Grabovski? Alexi Ponikarovsky? Matt Stajan? These are our big point getters? Maybe John Mitchell steps it up and becomes a star this year. Maybe Phil Kessel finds his way into a Leafs uniform and has a great season. Maybe we end up with another season with 4 20-goal scorers and not much else.

In short, we have half a team. There is no bona fide star on this team, and not enough "character" players up front to make it one of those hard-working, grinding teams that goes deep without a hot-selling jersey. This is the year for the young guys to step it up and impress. This is where talent is assessed in year 2 of the 5 year plan. Who's good enough to stay? Who's good enough to be traded? One thing's for sure, the front end of this team isn't going to remain stable.

Playoffs? Maybe. Boring, defensive hockey can take you far, even in a faster, more wide-open NHL. The Leafs seem to have the size and speed defending their end to effectively hobble other teams. The downside of the gritty and rough game they're gunning for is that injuries tend to pile up, which means there will be definite slumps, and probably running out of gas earlier than they'd like. Let's say they'll finish somewhere between 7th and 11th in their division.

I have no problem with this. The team needs to stick to a rebuilding philosophy, and doing too well this year will cripple those efforts. Next year - year 3 - is when they're supposed to start surprising people.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

I Used to Play Poker

I used to play poker.

These days? I try to clear bonuses that I never succeed at, and lose more than I'd gain anyway.

I sit at a real desk and play at a virtual table, but don't actually apply anything that could be called sense. I play the cards I see in front of me, ignoring the notes I've taken on those around me.

I let a known bluffer chase me off on the river just because I don't have a hand, even though my non-hand is better than his missed flush.

In short, I still don't really care. And my reduced play time shows it.

Perhaps as the days grow shorter and colder up here in the Great White North (note: not that white, not that north, but still great), I'll find myself drawn to it. But if it wasn't for the fact I'm filling my evenings with TIFF films these days, I'd be more inclined to watch some DVDs, play some video games, or read a book or 17. Somehow, those all seem like nobler pursuits.

I think I need to stare down an MTT with focus and determination and actually go deep in the fucker to get the groove back. I think I've forgotten what it's like to win, and to feel the adrenaline of putting it all on the line and caring about it.

Because dammit, I want to be in the zone come December.

Monday, September 14, 2009

TIFFing It Up

Four movies down, six to go.

Reviews of everything I've seen are over at FilmChaw.

Antichrist - Disturbing, brilliant, and graphic. You leave this one loving or hating it. They hated it in Cannes. We love it in Toronto.

Suck - Canadian vampire band road movie comedy. 'Nuff said.

Daybreakers - Most original take on Vamps I've seen in a while. Intelligent for a vampire movie, with the expected social commentary hidden between bloodbaths.

The Road - The end of the world has never felt so brutally realistic. Best of the fest so far for me.

Tonight is Bitch Slap. I've heard it disappoints. How can a movie where all I expect is cleavage, legs, cleavage, guns, and shit blowing up disappoint? Did I mention cleavage? What? I'm supposed to be high-brow? Fuck that.

Thursday, September 10, 2009


11 days in the Middle East is fun.

Okay, that statement really depends on WHERE. In my case, it was Israel. During Ramadan. Therefore, not much going on on the negative side of the coin.

I'll have my usual exhaustive day-by-day trip report up eventually, but right now I need to organize my thoughts, my pictures, and my feelings.

I'll be going back a 3rd time. I missed too much this time, and repeated too much from last time.

Traveling with 5 other people will usually carry stress with it. This was no different. Tensions were definitely high at certain points, and there were a handful of times I stopped myself from smacking people upside the head.

But on the whole it was a solid trip. Much done. A great wedding. Good friends that I didn't end up killing. Oh, and temperatures that qualified as way too fucking hot. 45? 50? Celsius mind you. That's what? 1000000 F? Oh... 120F. Maybe my t-shirts can be saved.