Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Year in Review

- I didn't post much
- I tweeted a bunch
- I didn't play much poker. When I did, I lost.
- I travelled - Montreal, New York, Buffalo a bunch, Orlando, Montreal again, Vegas.
- In most of those places, I ate some fantastic food. Orlando wasn't anything spectacular on that front.
- I didn't cook nearly as much as I should have. Especially nothing new or exciting.
- I took a ton of pictures. I've so far posted almost none of them.
- I saw Dawn Summers, Mary, and VinNay more than most of my non-blogger friends
- I took some photography classes, and learned that 3 per week is too much for me. Down to 1 per week next semester.
- I lost in Vegas money-wise, but won friends and food-wise.

Come 2011?

Probably more of the same. Already planning another trip to Montreal (they have such good food), and Vegas is permanently in the schedule. The rest is pretty open right now. Maybe I'll try and play more poker and actually work on and post some pics - there are so many I want to share. I also expect to be cooking a whole bunch more soon. Let's start simple with some fondue and egg nog for New Year's. I make awesome nog.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Golden Hammer Thoughts

I had just finished up a solid dinner with my posse, and had some time to kill before we dropped off two of our group at the airport for the Saturday red-eye. There was a call for more gambling, which I was not against, but I informed them that first I wanted to check in on the tournament, now heading into hour 9.

Last year's game finished around 11. The year previous, with a larger field, I bubbled in 10th around the same time. At 9pm, I figured the game was still far from over.

We walked in as a break was winding down and the remaining six were milling about the table waiting to start up again. I was happy to see so many familiar faces still in the game. And even though we were long eliminated thanks to my inability to win a damn hand, seeing teammate MiamiDon with a big stack in front of him was great.

Now, having gone deep the previous two years, I know how much of a grind it can be. I don't know if there was a dinner break this year, but there wasn't the previous. I was hungry, tired, and frankly a little sick of playing poker for so long for both my runs. My friends were out drinking and rolling dice and eating and generally having more fun than me, and the longer the game went, the more I wanted to be out there with them. Hell, both years I missed the chance to see one of my buddies off to the airport.

But I would have never chopped for the trophy.

Al made the offer to JoeSpeaker and myself the previous year when we were three-handed. "Chop, but I get the trophy!" No way. Joe and I looked at each other incredulously. How could Al make that offer? We'd happily chop the cash 3-ways, or even give Al a premium since he was in the lead at the time, but we were playing for the trophy. One a year gets handed out, and the list of champions is still short. Al refused to chop if he didn't get the Golden Hammer handed to him. So I ended it with, "That's the sort of thing someone who doesn't think they can win it on their own would say."

Now, I don't fault Don for offering the chop, or taking it. Hell, if I was in a dominant lead, I'd put it out there, expecting nobody to take it. Negotiating requires you to ask for more than you think you'll get, because what will you lose? Plus, Don had a very healthy stack of orange chips in front of him, and it could be argued that he was the most feared player at the table. But for FIVE other people to say "sure, no problem" without even an ATTEMPT at negotiation? Nobody even tried to talk him down on the cash - why not say, "You get 2nd place money minus whatever puts the rest of us at 3rd place cash?"

Cash aside, only ONE person (and I don't even know who he is) said, "I kinda want the trophy." Which he quickly followed with, "But I'm good with the chop." Don even put it out there that he was happy to play on if ANYBODY didn't like the chop. Nobody spoke up. I get the shortstacks taking the deal, their chances of getting past 5 other players slim, but that leaves 3 other players who had a legitimate shot at the championship who shrugged and went with it.

Poker is a grind, and after 9 hours, I get the desire to stand up and leave with over a grand in your pocket. Bills to pay, losses to cover, people have their reasons for wanting or needing the money. But this wasn't the noon $150 tournament, this was the WPBT Winter Classic, which I THOUGHT was a championship coveted by our little group. I was PROUD to have won the trophy outright, and would have been ashamed if I'd taken the money instead of trying to take the championship. Hell, if even ONE person had spoken up and said "No, I didn't just put most of my Saturday into this to not take a shot at the Hammer," and been talked into the chop by the rest, then someone could have held their head up. Instead, a few hundred extra bucks locked in was enough to toss pride aside.

Don made a big play without a single card and won. He won the trophy and the tournament with one last big bet. Do I think that's a deserving way to win a championship? No. Do I feel it tarnishes the win? Yes. Do I fault him for taking it? No. I probably would have done the same in Don's position, because I would have never expected FIVE of our crew to agree to such a ridiculous offer. Everyone who said yes though? You come off as a sellout.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

WPBT Report

I was there for five days, but I think it can be recapped in one post. Forgive the lack of links, I may add them when I get home.

Let's get the crap out of the way first - down. Down a bunch. Atlantic City levels of down. I don't think I won a damned thing. Craps? Hundos on the table, walking away empty-handed. Pai Gow? Down a couple, but most games were the expected break-even with +EV in drinks. Let it Ride? If not a for a 3-card set of jacks, I'd be swearing off the game. Poker? AA once in the tournament (where I went out in 86th) was the only notable hand in all the poker I played. Although I was up $23 in the MGM mixed game. Slots? Well, I'd better be getting some good offers from the broke-ass casino companies this year after the number of max-bet button presses on my cards without a cash-out.

So, totally negative on the gambling front.

Big deal.

I was still under my loss limit.

And it was more than made up for by the real reason I went - to see you people.

By "you people", I mean you. And you. But not you, because you didn't go.

As has been the case for every winter gathering I've attended (4 and counting), I had a small entourage of local friends in my wake. The regulars - M, N, and E were joined by a couple Vegas virgins - M2 and S. In years past, I've had small regret for having a posse with me, as they haven't necessarily integrated with the larger group well, which has left me torn between groups.

This year, I went where I wanted, and it worked out better. Local friends ditch the $10 table for the $5? Tough, I've got Otis on my right, and Chilly and Bayne on my left. I'm not going anywhere. Drizz, Maigrey, and Gus show up to make it even better.

Hey guys, I'm teaching you Pai Gow. I can't believe that worked considering one of them doesn't drink and another doesn't drink much. Talk about -EV.

You want to stay in the room instead of gamble? Have fun, I have a tournament to rail and a drunken Gus is too much fun to NOT join his craps table.

Got to meet BrainMC (world's worst Pai Gow player), xkm1245 (who I think was stalking me, dude seemed to be everywhere), NumbBono, PokerVixen, 23Skidoo, Josie (who I like because she called me skinny), and more. Probably played with even more people I didn't know without realizing it. Sorry to Wolfshead for not introducing myself at the mixed game - I was full of Robuchon and gambling angst and didn't think to make a formal introduction.

Then of course, there's my fellow Canucks - Katitude and Joanne1111. Only seeing Joanada in Vegas makes sense as Calgary ain't exactly next door. But Kat? We really need to start meeting up somewhere between the 20 minutes between our respective homes - I think 10 minutes is much more reasonable :). Then there's kinda-Canadian BuddyDank who was the first blogger I saw this year, and who I have just now decided I will blame for my early ousting from the tournament, as I spent most of my time chatting with him. Obviously, he drained all my good luck to make it to the 6-way chop.

Speaking of Canadians - OhCaptain's (from South Ontitoba, aka Minnesota) Bourbonators never really came together, but he DID get his group shot before the tournament and a bottle of Bowmore to bring to the next Eh-Vegas! Always good to see the cap'n.

Then there's VinNay and Dawn and Mary, who I've seen more than any other bloggers (and most of my local friends) this year. Amazingly, we still had some stuff to talk about, be it of substance or not. Although Mary and I seemed to be on different schedules and barely crossed paths.

I FINALLY played craps with Bayne after about 6 coincident visits to Vegas. That one's ticked off the list, and replace with "do it again, and win this time."

CK made it out to Robuchon this year! No crappy deals that never got done to keep her away from the best meal in Vegas. And for those who DIDN'T see her at the mixed game after? She cleans up great - who knew she even had a dress and heels? You'd barely know she was a deadly poker machine.

Al, Pauly, Iggy, CJ, Drizz, Falstaff, April, April, Garth, Gnome, MiamiDon, JoeSpeaker and many, many more - it was great to see you, however briefly.

I even managed to make it to Legasse's this year. Later than planned, but there was something great about walking into that suite, packed with people I knew, and some I hadn't even realized were there. Free swag from Full Tilt was icing on the cake. I'll have to start using my pool to justify the sandals...

And the food! I might have lost at the various gambling tables, but the dinner tables were nothing but win.

Sage = fantastic food, and an amazing value for a nice dinner. 3 course tasting menu, wine or beer pairing, and appetizer upgrade all for $140? In Vegas? Worth it. Oh, and our waiter was amazing - he rolled with our jokes (we were in town for a quilting bee) and was great for a laugh or six himself.

Delmonico's = still making the steaks right. Two years in a row now we've been put at the front of the restaurant - which is dark and sucks. Service has dropped off since our first visit 4 years back as well - it's by no means bad, but it used to be above and beyond. But they still know how to cook a solid piece of meat. The $25 corkage fee for our excellent self-brought wine was also very reasonable.

Robuchon - what can I say that I didn't last year? Awesome. With the new experience shine off from last year for half of us, I worried if I'd oversold it to myself. Nope. Still 16 courses of perfect food and impeccable service. Worth every penny. Hell, I'd lost more at craps the first night. Our sommelier being Canadian was a pretty nice touch too. Seriously, if you can afford it, do it at least once.

Julian Serrano - Last minute "well, we're all out of the tournament" dinner. Very nice tapas. Reasonable prices. I've certainly had better tapas in Toronto, but the dishes here ranged from good to "bring us another of those". The waiter was also incredibly friendly, and seemed genuinely happy to have served us. The fact he found a stamp-collector in our group, and he was an active one himself, certainly helped.

Legasse's - You'd be hard-pressed to find better food at a sports bar anywhere. Considering it was the only meal I ate between then and lunch the next day, it was welcome.

The last time I was down this much, N and I left Atlantic City with grumbles and vows to never return. Looking back, I can't believe how much fun I had while flushing cash down the felt toilets in Vegas. A huge thank you to everyone who was there, and a double thanks to Al, April (and her local cohorts), and CJ for taking care of all those logistical things that made it extra special.

Next year? Need to cram in a photowalk, and also get that indoor skydiving thing done. There's also the Jose Andres restaurants opening up this week at the Cosmopolitan. I task the Vegas locals to check those out for me and report back ASAP.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

First Vegas Pic

This year's view - room upgrade failed, but this will do I suppose.

Next time I'm here at sunrise, there'll be a new pic.

Ths Year's View

Friday, December 03, 2010

Gravy (WPBT)

This isn't about politics... just the next paragraph.

It's a word that in my fine city has become a punchline. Our current mayor's cries to "stop the gravy train" have infused connotations onto a word that is usually associated with deliciousness.

But dammit, I loves me my gravy! And you know what? Next week will be full of it!

Because next week is Vegas! A week tomorrow is when I sit my ass down to defend my Golden Hammer Trophy from over 100 challengers. You know what else? The pot just keeps getting more tasty with delicious gravy!

Poker Stars has increased their team last-longer prize from last year! Now Full Tilt has stepped up to grow our prize pool AND cover food at Sunday's football-watching extravaganza. Man, I wish that $100 bubble prize was there two years ago when I was that guy. On top of all that, both Tilt and Stars are putting bounties on people in the tournament! $100 or $50 depending on the sponsor, and hell, that could be $150 depending on overlap of bounties! AND a Hammer Challenge from Stars! $50 for winning post flop with the hammer? They should just throw money at the tables!

Between my inevitable repeating as champ, the 1-2-3 finish of Team "Astin is Awesome" (that's our name, right guys?), and me knocking out EVERYONE, with THE HAMMER, this will be a very profitable tournament for yours truly.

Let's be honest, I'm going home with a copy of Gigli and a hangover.

Plus, poker lessons before the tournament! I mean, let's face it... if I can win this thing everyone else must REALLY suck, and could only benefit from this opportunity.

Thanks to Sir AlCantHang and El Luckbox for putting this delicious topping together for us sorry degenerates.

I am figuratively bursting at the seams with anticipation for this trip. I always look forward to Vegas, but this year, it's also a real vacation from life for a few days. Everything else?


Did I Learn Anything?

My first semester of classes in over a decade are wrapping up in the next couple weeks. I'm actually missing two of the remaining six classes due to a small gathering of (sometimes) like-minded individuals in the desert. It's been a lesson in time management, and reminder that while I can still pull off the last minute cram session, it's not nearly as much fun as when I could sleep the next day away.

But the real question at the end of any period of education is - did I learn anything? The short answer is, "yes," but not necessarily in the way the institution had in mind.

The class that approximately equates to "Digital Photography for Dummies" actually turned out to be "Intro to Lightroom". The Photoshop course pretty much lived up to expectations of being far too rudimentary to be of much use to me. The history course? Completely useless and the most stress-inducing of them all for the least amount of gain.

So what did I learn then? There were snippets of usefulness here and there - try this setting, here's a list of shortcut keys, here's a feature I didn't know about. Largely things I could have learned if I bothered to Google the right questions, or just played around long enough. Of course, the key part is that I wouldn't have - so this is information I wouldn't otherwise have in reality.

But more so has been a massive improvement in my workflow. Having never used Lightroom before, I now see why it's such a beloved tool. It easily covers 80% of what needs to be done to most photos. I still have to switch to Photomatix for HDR, and CS5 for stitching, more advanced work, and actual editing instead of processing, but so much is now encapsulated in one fairly quick program that I may one day get through my massive backlog of photos.

Also, I think the actual pictures I'm taking are getting better. This is through no fault of the courses, and more a result of the sheer volume that I've taken with the specific goal in mind of "take different, good pics for class" instead of my vacation M.O. of "take a ton, sort 'em out later". There are still swaths of near-duplicates, but it has improved.

Perhaps the biggest change, and most recently noticed - keeping the work. I used to edit my photos, flatten the layers, and save it as a high-quality JPEG to save space. This recently bit me in the ass when I went back to edit my bounty picture. The aggravation of not being able to find a TIFF or PSD file with previous changes in place nearly broke me. I finally tracked down a full-sized JPEG and ended up altering it as necessary (sharpening and cropping to a standard print ratio). The whole time, an instructor's voice in my head - "I don't know why you WOULD get rid of your layers and save it as a JPEG or something. Then you can't edit it later." Lesson learned.

So now, with plans for yet another massive desktop upgrade (my 13" Macbook became the powerhouse with a simple memory upgrade, that can't stand), a new camera on the horizon (5D Mk III can't get here fast enough), and a noticeable drop in my bank account accompanying all that, I feel like I'm actually taking that next step in my photographic process. Amazing how even so little actual education can lead to such major progression.

Thursday, December 02, 2010


If mankind minus one were of one opinion, then mankind is no more justified in silencing the one than the one - if he had the power - would be justified in silencing mankind.
- John Stuart Mill

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

So It Begins (local politics)

Rob Ford begins his tenure as our esteemed Mayor today.

Always a wallflower and one who likes to keep his big trap shut, he's already pissing me off. This will be all over the place, with no backing evidence, and also, I'm hungover and tired. Forewarned, you are.

"People do not want streetcars. We're going to start building subways and we're going to start right now."

This one sentence contains so much condensed stupid, I'm surprised it didn't collapse into a black hole of stupid, dragging all surrounding intelligence into its stupid maw.

Toronto has an approved and funded transit plan. Transit City will lay out light rail transit lines across the city (not streetcars), cost a few billion over decades, and should surpass the needs of this city beyond that. Assessments of ridership, growth, cost, and environmental impact have been done. Contracts have been signed with various companies to provide vehicles, lay track, etc.. Higher levels of government have approved the plan and promised funding for it. It's all been budgeted, and the ball is already rolling.

Subways are a pipe dream. They'll cost 3-5x more than the agreed-upon system, create even larger disruptions in traffic and daily life (entire streets completely dug up and exposed, buildings and houses torn down for stations, etc.), and would require a whole new round of assessments that wouldn't be completed until at least the NEXT election has come and gone. Sure, subways would be great, if they were remotely practical.

On top of that, subways would be nearly empty. The proposed routes don't have nearly enough ridership throughout the day to support the capacity of a subway system. An LRT system not only meets current needs, but surpasses them enough that it will take decades of growth to reach a level of saturation.

Then there's the contracts already signed. Bombardier and others aren't going to shrug and say, "oh, you changed your mind... that's okay." Hundreds of millions in cancellation costs would come into play. Years of planning tossed out the window. For something that WILL NOT BE REALIZED. "Start right now?" You're fucking dreaming.

Now, this level of idiocy sets of alarms in my head - he can't be THIS stupid, can he? It's some sort of political ploy. Distract the masses with an outrageous claim. The real goal is to just dismantle transit plans until the next Mayor has to make decisions. Something like that. Except that Ford and his team haven't shown nearly enough acumen to be that smart. This reeks of pure, unadulterated stupid. Our mayor can't see past the end of his nose, let alone any sort of broad picture or consequences.

He wants to cut costs, and the FIRST thing he proposes would add BILLIONS to them.

Maybe he should just set up a model railroad and convince himself he's achieved his goal. He can be mayor of Moronia.

Fuck, it's going to be a long four years.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Vegas Photowalk?

I think I may have mentioned this on Twitter, I dunno.

Anybody feel like doing a small photowalk in Vegas? Cameras, wandering, picture-taking. I'm thinking of just staying on The Strip, maybe duck into a few casinos and see if we can't get a few pics of the non-gambling areas perhaps. I'm tempted to bring my tripod, but those things tend to draw attention to themselves.

That or maybe I just try and hitch my wagon to the Neon Graveyard trip.

To Do (9 Days)

Nine days until take-off. I'm definitely looking forward to this trip and locking my brain away in the room safe while I bask in the neon glow and stench of desperation and hope of The Strip.

But before then, there are things to do.

1.- Finish an essay for class tonight. It's due Wednesday, but I'll be good and plastered when I stagger in the door tomorrow night, so tonight, post-class is my last chance to make it presentable.

2.- Adjust and send off my bounty for printing and shipping. Going through mpix, and shipping to one of those awesome people I know in Vegas who has agreed to be my bounty mule. Should try and get that done tonight too. While it should only take a couple days to print and ship, I don't want to find myself without the physical bounty at the table. Then again, I forgot my bounties last year and won the whole thing...

3.- Work on a couple other class projects. Fairly easy stuff, all told, but time is still required. Due the Thursday after I return, I'd love to have them knocked off before departure.

4.- Study for an exam. Final exam the Wednesday after I'm back. Considering I'm barely paying attention in class these days, I'll be bringing notes on the plane and spending the 5 hour flight reading them. Then putting them away for the next 5 days, hoping I don't kill the brain cells that contain the information I need.

5.- Make sure I have some US cash. Good exchange rate, and now having both a US account and credit card lessens this need. As long as I remember to bring everything this time.

6.- Confirm reservations. Robuchon's already been locked in, Delmonico should be checked. Still no plans for Wednesday night, and sadly, José Andrés' places at the Cosmopolitan won't be open until the three days AFTER I leave. Poor timing José... poor timing.

7.- Figure out reno timing. I'm putting in hardwood. I need to get the flooring and schedule its installation. This also requires emptying out two bedrooms and tearing up carpet. This has the most potential to be the biggest wrench in things, seeing as I want it done by the weekend after I return. Need to harass some folks. Well, already harassing them.

8.- Automate more at work. Three days where others will be covering for me. I'd better build some more buttons for them to press.

9.- Play a hand or two of poker. Outside of 3 minutes of terrible turbo SnG play last week, I think it's been a month since I've logged in to the virtual felt. It's been months and months since I last played with real cards. Which means all my luckbox powers have been building up and are fully charged.

10.- Not go insane. After Vegas, the New Year can't come fast enough. Things SHOULD be settled down by then. Hell, barring a major catastrophe, 2011 should seem calm and easy compared to the last couple months.

Tap me on the shoulder, I'll buy you a drink, because I'll need another one myself.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


I'll probably bring a few random trinkets with me to the Winter Gathering. Hammer keychains and the like.

But Oh Captain reminded me of what I had planned this year's bounty to be.

This of course:
Sunrise From The B

Now I just have to print it, frame it, and pack it. I'm thinking of throwing in a full-sized TIFF of the image to, so whoever knocks me out can use it for their own personal, non-commercial purposes. Maybe.

Oh, who am I kidding? I'll have to reward it to the best Pai Gow player or something, since I'm winning the whole damned tournament again.

Was Worried, But Now Not

My job changed a little while ago. More responsibility. Generally good.

But I had a fear.

Would this mean I couldn't go to Vegas?

My annual trip? Where I have a non-refundable flight? And a hotel room booked in my name, and a roomie who could be stranded? What about the dinner reservations in my name? Will they be lost?

Apparently. No. Because I'm still going.


2 weeks from now I'll be airborne and probably over Minnesota or something, heading to the land of wallet-draining fun. The excitement over this is rising daily.

I can't wait to see all those degenerates that used to blog about poker. Like me. It's always a reinvigorating experience to slap some cash down on a -EV table game while knocking back concoctions designed to part you from your money even faster. Good decisions? Maybe getting vitamin C from a Greyhound will count as one.

One other one would be finding a third for my last longer team. There's me, VinNay (who I COULD link to, but he hasn't blogged in... forever)... and... you? Let's face it, Vin's got skills and math, I've got horseshoes in places backscatter x-ray machines can't find, AND am the defending Golden Hammer Champion, how could you not want to be on our team? Hell, my team came in 3rd last year, despite what the official record says, and one of our guys went out in the 60's!

This thing... let's do it.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Ego Boost

A week or so ago, in a bid to beef up my picture count for one of my classes, I spent a Friday night with a tripod, camera, a couple flashes, black sheets, and a few household items. A pewter shot glass, some tarnished silver wine cups, some wooden puzzles, and a crystal brandy snifter full of pomegranate seeds were my subjects.

I lit these items individually from various angles, watching how the shadows fell, or how the light was dispersed across their various surfaces. The most interesting, to me, were the seeds. Translucent, the light affected their look dramatically. The crystal glass they were in refracted and reflected the light.

And then, just before I put them away (in my belly), I decided to visit my old friend, HDR. The only HDR shot of the shoot, I took 9 exposures and blended them together.

Pomegranate Seeds

I showed the picture to a few friends, who loved it. It's the only shot I've put up on my Flickr stream since the Toronto Zombie Walk. I opted to add it to the Boing Boing Flickr pool, where it was marked as a favourite by Xeni.

Then, on Friday, a week after I'd taken it, it ended up on the front page of Boing Boing where it still sits. This has naturally pushed it to surpass my Vegas sunrise pic from last year as my most viewed, with the number still rising. After a long week, it was a huge ego boost, and something I kept mentally returning to as I worked through over 1000 pictures this weekend for submission to one of my classes. Sometimes I even think I might be getting the hang of this photography thing.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Crunch Time

Last night a reprieve was given.

The class I like least (and in fact, don't like at all), was made slightly more bearable with the question, "How do you all feel about an extension?"

So an essay I've barely begun has been postponed a week. Whew.

Still, 1000 photos are due on Monday. I have 1850 to choose from, but it might be tight after doubles (triples, dodecatuples, etc.), shots I don't like, HDR processing, stitching, and everything else is done to them. At the moment, I haven't finished with my initial round of picks.

Will it be tight? I don't think so. I plan to work on them more tonight, and Saturday, and Sunday. At some point I'll have to remember not to overdo it - that not every shot has to be processed and perfectly recomposed. That 1000 pictures will not be scrutinized for 20 people. It certainly seems more do-able now that the essay is due a week later.

Which will of course be what takes up next weekend. Then there's the 2 projects for my third course to work on.

School... I forgot about the homework part.

I miss poker.

Monday, November 08, 2010

How To Go Out of Business

I have a carbonator at home that I use to make my own soda. It works simply enough, insert bottle of water, blast with CO2. But the canisters need to be replaced from time-to-time.

And they're specific to the brand.

So I have to visit a local store to swap them. I give them my old one and some money, they give me a new full one. Simple enough, except that stores that are part of the program are few and far between in these parts. If I was in the States, any Williams-Sonoma would do.

I was thrilled a while back when I found a store that had just started carrying them within walking distance of me. On Friday, I decided to pay them a visit and swap my canister. A friend of mine has a similar system (same company) and decided to come with to swap her canister as well.

We walked in, and she grabbed a flavour syrup while I went to the cash. I pulled out my canister and said I wanted to swap. The owner reached behind the counter and pulled out a replacement. Then my friend pulled out her canister, an older model, but still on the plan. He balked, saying, "We don't do that company."

"It's the same company."

"No it isn't, this is Soda Stream, that is Soda Club."

"Soda Stream is Soda Club's new name - same company, same plan."

"Well, I don't have those canisters."

"That's fine, we want one of the new ones. The company website says they're exchangeable."

"Well, I don't know if I can, I'll have to check."

"Okay, fine."

At this point, my friend puts away her canister and decides to put back the flavour syrup, as she has no use for it without a working carbonator. The owner says, "You aren't going to buy that?"

"No, there's no point."

And he starts to put away MY replacement.

"Wait, I'm still exchanging my canister."

"No, I only have 6, not enough to bother."

"What? You don't want my money?"

"I don't care. It's not worth my time, I only have enough for serious customers."

I start to lose it a little.

"Seriously?? I come here, wanting to PAY YOU for a product, and now you're telling me no? Why?"

"Because you're being difficult."

"I'M being difficult? All we asked was if you could exchange this, and when you said you had to check, we said okay."

"My distributor is very difficult, he won't do it."

"You don't know that. So now you're not even going to check? You can log on to the website right now."


"Fine, you don't want our business, you won't get it."

"Good. Go someplace else. I'm sick of this product. It's for misers."

"Excuse me? Now you're judging your customers? I bought one of everything on this shelf last time I was here, and you've guaranteed you won't see another dime from me."

"Fine, go to another store."

"I will."

I'm not unreasonable, neither is my friend. At "I'll have to check", we accepted that. For some reason, he then decided that if MY FRIEND wasn't spending an extra $7, then I wouldn't be served either.

So fuck Pepper Mill at Hazelton Lanes. The owner obviously wants to see his overpriced kitchen gadget store go under. He'll undoubtedly blame the customers, not the godawful customer service.

On the upside, this lead me to check for other sources, and some even closer to me have opened up recently. So not only did this asswipe's attitude lead me to stop visiting his store, but has led me to other stores! I'm sure the owners there will be grateful for the business he's sent them.

Anyone who's seen my kitchen, and the room next to it, and the closet, and the pantry, might be aware of my affinity for kitchen gadgets and utensils and appliances... not the asshole running the shop at Pepper Mill though.

Oh, and it turns out he was right - store owners can't exchange for the old ones, it has to be done directly - but he wasn't even willing to check, changed his story at least 3 times, and was incomprehensibly rude. Quality service from top to bottom. But hey, at least the people at Soda Stream were friendly and helpful when I called.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Rarrrrrgh grawg arrrrghhh... brraaaaains

The Toronto Zombie Walk was on Saturday. I took pictures.

There were zombies who hunt


Zombies who yell


Militant zombies


Sexy space zombies

Space Zombie

Zombies who liked their parties

Party Zombies

And of course someone who could help the wounded

Helloooooo Zombie Nurse!

Oh, and Urungus


The whole set is here, and I'll probably add a few more pics once I get time to sit down and finish processing the ones worth seeing.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

As Expected

For 12 seasons he played in the relative obscurity of Toronto. You know, the only MLB team outside of the US? The only team to win the World Series outside of the US? (back-to-back). The team that shattered attendance records for three straight years. The team that nobody outside of Canada seems to realize exists.

His second game in the majors, the last of the 1998 season, he threw a no-hitter into the 9th with two outs.

After coming back in 2002, after rebuilding his game in the minors, Roy "Doc" Halladay showed every one of the dwindling Blue Jays fans that he was, without a doubt, the best damned pitcher in the majors.

2003 was his first Cy Young year. 22-7.

He showed time and again that he is almost always a lock for a complete game. He's thrown more than most TEAMS in the span of his career. He rivaled Dave Stieb in Toronto when it came to near-misses with no-hitters. And the fans loved him.

And nobody outside of the city seemed to care. They talked of pretenders to the throne like CC Sabathia and Johan Santana as the "best pitchers in baseball". We knew better.

Freak injuries, no run support, shitty relief pitching (which I have no doubt is what lead to him pitching so deep so many times) - they all robbed him of seasons that would have demolished the competition. There is no doubt in any Jays fan's mind that Doc should have at least 3 or 4 Cy Youngs on his mantle by now (I think 6, but will discount one for the insane 2008 Cliff Lee had). If he was playing on better teams, or dodged a ball to the leg, he would have them.

But outside of the baseball obsessive, he seemed ignored. Right up until word got out that he could be traded. Suddenly, every team in the majors paid attention. Their fans scrambled to see the stats, but the stats lacked the nuances that the fans here knew. He was better than you thought. He was more than workhorse. He was the closest thing to a guaranteed win you could get.

And now, with the 20th perfect game in Major League history, the second no-hitter in playoff history, a lock for the NL Cy Young, and his first season under the real scrutiny of baseball media, Doc has shown everyone else what we already knew - he's the best.

And at 33, with the training and mentality he has, he might end up being the best ever.

Here's hoping that Cooperstown sticks a Jays hat on his head when he gets inducted.

Good job Doc. I dare you to do it again, but with one less walk.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

First Showing

My favourite of the classes I'm taking requires that we show some printed pictures throughout the semester. There's one guy who has been bringing in stuff for three weeks in a row. He's quite good, and like me, should really be in a more advanced class, but has his reasons for staying here.

After two weeks of his pics, a few other classmates jokingly asked him to stop bringing in so many good pictures, because they felt inferior to him.

I figured I should keep his ego in check, while putting mine on the line.

Because it's easy to admire your own work, or throw it up for friends to see (that's foreshadowing), and bask in their praise. But to actually put it out there for critical assessment by a group of people you barely know? There's some risk involved.

So I went through my older stuff, and decided to focus on a few of the HDR shots I've done. Interestingly, six from a single walkabout shoot stood out as thematically and visually similar, so I made them my set.

I expected the teacher to pull a couple out and say "these don't quite work with the presentation" or comment on the over-processed nature (especially since part of the reason for me taking these classes is to bring me back to fundamentals). At the very least, I expected one of the other students to say "this isn't really my thing, I prefer more realism."

Instead, I got, "These are lovely" from the teacher, which isn't sarcastic praise from him. No move was made to rearrange the presentation, no criticism at all was offered. He also told the class, "don't be intimidated by these, you'll be doing your own thing". This prompted another student to ask why I was even taking the course. The rest was praise, followed by many technical explanations of the process, telling people that their cameras could auto-bracket (and what that was), and describing the lens used.

I feigned mild humility, and was actually somewhat disappointed that the discussion turned to the technical. I was hoping for takes on the composition, style, theme... something. In the end, it felt somewhat that it was more the process than the product that impressed.

Metal Iceberg

Aluminum Disaster



Mike's Arch


So now the plan is... what? I'm thinking more HDR, although I debate putting the Vegas picture in, simply because I might have a hard time matching it with other pictures for a theme (but the Disney pics might change that). But mixed in with those will be non-HDR shots that fit whatever story I'm trying to tell with what I present. Maybe I'll be able to transition from one style to the next without anyone noticing...

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Baby Steps

The classes I'm taking are generally of the basic variety. We're talking classmates who still haven't bought a camera, or know what Photoshop actually does. But my thought was "rebuild the foundation, and maybe pick up the odd thing here or there you haven't thought of." Sort of like going back and reading "winning poker is aggressive poker" and playing $1 SnG's because you can't get past the $10 barrier.

This is the week where the learning starts. A class largely spent making doodles on the back page of my notebook or helping those around me find the mode dial on their camera (it's the big one on top) yielded a few small tips and thoughts that I should have thought a long time ago.

We live in an age of information. A few keystrokes is all it takes to find answers, opinions, and data. The problem is, the context gets lost among the repetition of hearsay and elitist attitudes. Something that was true five years ago is still repeated as gospel despite technological changes. People with no hands-on experience quote other people with no hands-on experience. Subjective opinions are thrown out the window. If you aren't doing it all from first principals, you're doing it wrong.

A non-anonymous opinion is refreshing. Someone who can say "I do it this way, you do it how you want, but here are some examples" is welcome. My own malformed attitudes are already changing, and the results are encouraging. In the process, I'm relearning what I thought I already knew, and dropping those hang-ups leaves room for new observations.

So for now, a change in colour space, a change in applications, and a change in metering are already paying dividends. Maybe I'll actually get good at this thing eventually.

Friday, September 17, 2010


For 10 years I've been the guy who asked grad students how the could possibly want to keep going to school. After 22 years of education, I had needed a break from tests, exams, essays, reports, problem sets, assignments, and not being paid. They all respond with "I love learning."

And my opinion was that one can learn without attending a lab or class every day. In fact, one can potentially learn MORE because they aren't restricted by the subjects they've enrolled in.

Granted, I had toyed with the idea of doing a second bachelor's, in something like English or Philosophy, or some other course that would work my underused right brain. I had a knack for English before I did Engineering, and love to spew bullshit opinions that have no bearing on reality, so Philosophy seemed appealing too. They'd be taken purely for fun.

But as time went on, and I got older, they appealed less. I didn't want to be the "old" guy in a class of teenagers. Hell, I've barely read a book in the past 5 years (almost done Lost Vegas - it helps when I keep a book on the toilet tank), which I hear atrophies ones comprehension abilities.

New passions came, long-held ones expanded. My cooking went from something I enjoyed, to something I was actually getting accomplished with. Photography went from Mom's old Yashica to my own SLR to digital point-and-shoots to my digital SLR. With that final step came an explosion of interest, and many rabbit-holes to go down.

And now, with no small kick in the pants, I'm back in school. It's just taking up spare time that would have otherwise been wasted, and it's not shaping up to be anything challenging. Hell, most of it won't even be educational for now, as I'm starting from the bottom, and I've already taught myself up to the middle.

But it IS working my brain. In 3 days, I've gone from "what am I going to do for that assignment?" to spewing out enough ideas for the whole class to use and then some. I'm finding inspiration in things, and viewing the mundane scenes of daily life as potential subjects to explore. The creative juices are flowing again, and the structure that I've paid for will force me to actually follow through with ideas, to explore new avenues, and ultimately, to actually DO the work.

I've long lamented my lack of extra-curricular activities. I kept procrastinating on doing anything, and made excuses for it. Now, I may find I regret wasting that time.

I have no desire to go back to 30 hours of class a week, nor do I want to research ways to cure cancer. But 3 hours a night, 3 nights a week? For now, at least, that's looking like a pretty appealing practice to continue.

Thursday, September 16, 2010


The other day, I was informed that for the first time in a decade, I will HAVE to write something that at least resembles a formal essay. For the first time in longer than that, I will have to write an exam that takes a format that isn't really seen in the line of study I had followed in my school days. That is to say, I'm used to equations, problems, and code, but this will require rote memorization, critical analysis, and contextual discussion in short answers giving within a specified time limit.

Which just reminded me that I actually was granted extra time in high school for these sort of things, as I regularly took too long to formulate the ideas. See past blog postings (and this one) for examples of my ability to ramble.

Now I've just realized that my penmanship hasn't improved in ten years, and has most likely degraded.

But those are minor issues to the bigger one of having to write. I've filled countless screens in this little corner of the Interwebs over the past 4+ years. Recently, like many of you, I've slacked off in taking up valuable Google server space. Whereas this was once my main outlet to express opinion and impart the occasional half-witted joke, Twitter has usurped that position. In many ways, reducing what used to take hundreds of words into a mere 140 characters has been refreshing - see: brevity, soul, wit. However, I fear it may have atrophied my ability to expand these same thoughts into the long form. So I must increase my efforts to post here, and maintain my ability to flesh-out ideas.

I'm back in school. Nothing major, nothing overly stressful or time-consuming. Nine hours of my week that would have been otherwise spent in front of a television or computer or glass of scotch will be put to more productive use improving a hobby I am most fond of. When study dovetails with a passion, it hardly seems like study at all.

In the two classes I've attended so far, the spirit of discussion has been invigorating. Granted, one of them is better-suited to wide-ranging discussion than the other, as the 2nd does have fixed amount of material that has to be covered in the 13 weeks allotted. Being surrounded by students from 20-60 years of age means a broad range of opinions, knowledge, experience, and attitudes. Small class sizes also means less competition to be heard. Or maybe I just miss meeting new people.

If things continue on the path that's been seen in week one, this could be worthwhile time spent. If nothing else, this space will continue to be an outlet, and the results of my studies should be seen here regularly.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010


Just spent nearly a week in the land of the Mouse. Let's guess 1000 pics to go through... on top of the NYC ones I haven't gotten to yet.

Smoky Castle

Maybe one day I'll get around to blogging about this summer. Feels like I've spent more time in the States than home.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Oh Bell

Bell = Big giant phone/Internet/TV company here in Canada.

Me = Customer who has phone/cell/Internet through them.

I've been coming home to "1 missed call" on my land line for weeks now. Some 1-866 number. No messages, just the caller ID letting me know I've been missing a call. I look it up, it's one of Bell's 3rd party call centres.

They finally called when I was home, and I decided to pick up to tell them to go away.

Turns out, they want to upgrade my Internet service (quel surprise!). I'm currently paying $x/month for the ol' busted service that they really don't want me on (so much so, they up my price by $5 every 6 months). But hey! I can get their NEW service for $(x-5)/month and have double the speed! Hell, it'll be $(x-10)/month if I have other services and bundle! (It won't, because my cell is corporate plan). So I'll just sign you up then?


Wha? HUH? Why not! Faster! Cheaper! Awesomer!

Because I said no.

But? But? B-b-b-ut?

I don't want to be on a new contract.

No contract!

Also, you don't want me on my current plan because I'm one of the last blips on your "no download cap" map since I've had this plan for 5 years.

Yah, but this new one has a cap of 50 GB! No WAY you'd beat that! I'll check!

[insert silence]

So you're average is... umm.. 39.6 GB. Err... and your highest is... umm... 60GB. Oh. Well for $5 more you can add 40 GB!

So right now, when no new TV is on, and I'm not grabbing torrents or streaming shows, I've got an average of 40GB per month. Netflix is coming to Canada as a streaming service. More shows are going online every moment. Steam is my main means of buying games that are many GB in size. Games, even not online ones, send data back and forth. Every piece of software I own gets updates. My blu-ray player connects to the Internet. My Wii does. You don't think I'd eat up that extra cap space in no time? And that $5 extra means I'd be paying exactly the same amount as I am now. For what? A fake maximum speed that will never be achieved because you throttle traffic during peak hours and your fiber optic network is to-the-node and not to-the-door so I'm still bottlenecked by copper wire?

Umm... er... Yes?

I'm not interested. If I find myself interested, I'll call Bell.

I'll make a note... thank you for your time.

No problem, bye.

I can't wait to see if that number is on my phone when I get home.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Poached Pears

It's been a while since I've done a food post here. No time like the present!

I hit the market on Saturday and perhaps overbought.

Eat BEFORE Shopping

I live alone.

So I have all these sugar pears to do something with. Dinner was mostly raw veggies in salad-form (also getting rid of some of the pile). So I decided on poached pears for dessert.

Using these:


That would be the pears (I ended up using 4), a vanilla bean, candied ginger, cloves, allspice, a dried lemon, and cinnamon. All of this would go into the syrup of water (1L), sugar (1/2 cup), maple syrup (1/2 cup), and blueberry honey (2 tbsp).

I warmed the syrup up to dissolve all the sugar. While this was happening, I quickly peeled the pears and halved/quartered and cored them. Then I put the pears and other ingredients seen above in the syrup, over medium heat.

I cut out a circle of parchment paper, with a hole in the middle, and put it on top of the pears to keep them submerged.

I kept the syrup at a low boil and about 20 minutes later, the pears were cooked.


Then I dropped some dried cranberries into the still hot syrup and let them plump up as the pears and syrup cooled.

After cooling, the pears were removed and the syrup strained to remove all the other stuff.

I put the syrup back on the stove on medium-high and boiled it down to about half the starting amount.

Then I got impatient and put the syrup in an ice bath to cool it quickly.

I scooped out some homemade caramel ice cream I have, put a few pears and cranberries on it, and drizzled the syrup on top.

Poached Pears on Caramel Ice Cream

Yah, that ice cream melts fast, and I wanted to eat it.

It was delicious.

And I have leftovers.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Although Sometimes, Online is Pretty Good Too

You know, the plan was to get to bed by 2am so I could wake up to make the Farmer's Market.

It's 4:10 now... I guess that's a good thing.

[image removed after someone who wasn't me tried to get into my FT account]

7th in the 28k ain't too shabby.

One more spot, one more digit, ah well. AKh < 44, but I gave away chips a few times throughout, so it hardly came down to that hand.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Why I Miss Live Poker

Played in a $500 tournament last weekend. 7.5 hours to finish 14th 0f 68, where 6 got paid. Can't say it wasn't frustrating.

Can't say I played particularly well either. I started with a table I SHOULD have been able to run over if I had either cards or chips. Sadly, I had neither of those things. I had hoped to build a tight image, and be able to show a decent hand or two before taking advantage of that, but no decent hands came my way until the second break. Needless to say, my tight image was established, but by then my chips didn't mean as much. I treaded water for most of the game, got some chips and slowly bled them away again. In the end, I made a tactical error with snowmen, followed by presto going down to a turned two pair on the board and my opponent holding the ace. I hate that.

But this isn't about my flushing away of money. This is about missing live poker.

When I sat down, I immediately started observing my table. I watched every hand, no matter how quickly my cards were in the muck. I watched one guy shake like a leaf whenever he was holding a decent non-nut hand, scared that he was behind. I watched the table chipleader's hands tense up whenever he had to really think about something, be it chasing a draw or figuring out his value bet. The new guy couldn't stop breathing like he'd run a marathon when he was bluffing, and made obvious value bets when he was ahead. The aggressive guy might as well have played his AK like it was face-up, but I happily paid him off the minimum to make sure. In short, it was a table full of tells and plays that I could read like a book, and I was aware of all of them. I was engaged in the table, watching for every sign and read I could get, while trying to minimize any of mine that I didn't want to purposely give off.

Online? Not a chance. I take the odd note, but can't commit to watching bet timing, sizing, and tendencies of other players. Too many distractions, and not nearly enough on the line to care. But live, it's always good to know my reads are still good.

And then there's the conversations. Nobody has a casual conversation in the chat window, but live? One guy explaining the concept of M to another, without knowing what it's called or where it comes from. The other guy coming back with how he just goes by big blinds. Both revealing their panic zones, and hints to their ranges in those times. Thanks guys.

There was the guy talking about how bad Joe Cada was at the cash table he was at in Vegas last week. Others sharing bad beat stories, and WSOP hands, and analysis on all of it. Thanks guys.

Sharing info on the other regulars at the table gives me, the out-of-town new guy, info I couldn't hope to have had otherwise. Thanks for that. My ears are quite good.

And where else can you see Q7 vs KK win when the Q comes down on the x7xx board and EVERYONE at the table obviously knew it was coming? Not the 7, but the Q. No bullshit "I knew that was coming", because it was in everyone's eyes when the cards flipped over on the turn. And oddly, nobody claiming live poker is fixed, even the poor guy walking away.

Not that live poker isn't without its distractions too - my favourite hand, which I wasn't involved in:

Bets and calls pre, 2 spades on the flop with a J. Bet, raise, call. Spade on the turn, check check. Ace of spades on the river... and the very hot drink girl comes by to bring first-to-act his beer. He turns to pay her (no freebies in Canada folks), and then remembers he's still in the hand and asks her to wait a sec. Sees the 4th spade and checks. Turns back to pay, other guys checks. Cards are flipped over - first to act has KsKx, second has QsJx. Yes, that's right, the nut and second nut flush both checked on the river. Neither realizing what they had until the cards had been flipped. Ks had been distracted by a bigger pair bringing him beer, and Qs had forgotten he held the spade. What SHOULD have been a monster pot was a bust. I told the Qs he owed the cocktail waitress a tip.

I really need to get to some real poker tables more often...

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Picture Time

I visited the folks' place for Father's Day. While the frozen roast was turning into something fairly delicious, I wandered around where I grew up and took some shots. For the 90 minutes I was outside, I only got a few pictures, but it was, as intended, a learning experience.

There's a Mulberry tree in my parent's front yard. I'm fairly sure it was there before me, and is one of those fixed points in my memory. I remember my oldest friend and I playing in the front yard and her grabbing a berry from the tree and eating it. I told her they weren't edible, and she told me they were. So I ate one. It was good. I ate more. My dad snapped at us for eating the inedible berries that were "bird food". I didn't eat the berries for years... until my Godmother's husband told my dad that he made jam from the tree in THEIR front yard, which was a smaller version of ours. My young self shot my dad a look that got an immediate mea culpa years after I'd first tried those berries. Now I make a point of grabbing a couple when they're in season and I'm walking under her boughs. They stain your fingers like you wouldn't believe... also pants, shoes, shirts, and cars.

Once, years after that, I was coming home from school and walking under the old familiar tree. I looked into her twisted limbs and saw a bump that wasn't there before. I looked closer... the bump had feathers. The owl turned its head and opened its eyes a slit, and I was amazed. I'd never seen an owl outside of the zoo before, and here was one looking right at me in my front yard! I told my brothers and the nanny about it, and they didn't believe me until they came out to see it themselves. The owl couldn't be less interested. It was gone by the next morning, never to return.

I've passed this tree thousands of times in my life. It's older than me, and I hope it always will be.

Under Her Skirt (click to embiggen)

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Ba Da Ba Ba Ba

I'm McLovin' it.

Hey, the 16th is TODAY. 9pm CDT (or 10pm EDT for the more normal people out there) is TONIGHT! About an hour after 8pm CDT!

Also, I have it on good authority that Ronald McDonald is one of the clowns who DOESN'T eat kids. So it's not like his house is a supplier of tender soylent green. Mmmmm.... people. *drooool*

Sorry. Right. Ronald McDonald house provides a place for families to stay when visiting hospitals. I know *I* was confused about what they were for a long time. Then I looked it up on the Internets and found out it totally wasn't where Mayor McCheese retired to after his term limits were up (and his popularity down due to his inability to get Officer Big Mac to catch the Hamburgler).

Anyway, it's $10. So it's actually $1 cheaper than The Mookie, and 50% of it goes to a good cause. The other 50% goes to some donkey who sucked out on you after you got it all in pre-flop with AJo and he only had QQ. I mean really, who the hell thinks QQ is good after you push all-in from the button with 3 big blinds against his 20? That douchebag, that's who.

Unless that total dick gives his winnings to the cause as well, then he's not so much a douchebag as a tool with a good heart.

But hey, the world needs tools. So invite all the assholes you know! Also, your family. Unless your family are assholes, in which case you already invited them. And your friends, who while I assume they're assholes, I won't say that because you're my friend and I wouldn't want to offend you... asshole.

It's like a gaping convention in that last paragraph.

Right, kids... charity. Lots of people, jerkwads or not, means lots of money for a good cause. Buy yourself some good Karma. Is Karma capitalized? Beats me. All I know is that if you don't like donating to charity, then you should think of it as donating to your soul. That's selfish, but also selfless.

I signed up yesterday. Why didn't you? Obviously, you hate kids.

Hey, if I win, I'll donate my winnings to RMH Canada. Because I have a good heart.

And so concludes the most horrible post ever promoting a children's charity.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

NY Bound

My buddy E (bald Korean dude some of you met/played with in December) came to a realization last year that the majority of his non-business trips over the past few years involved me. Banff, Whistler, Vegas a few times, and Israel. Most people would be sick of me and strike out on their own. E? He calls me up and asks where I want to go this year. He suggests Oktoberfest or New York City. I've done NYC a couple times in the past, but wasn't feeling the Oktoberfest vibe, and decided that NY needed me back.

Fast forward a month or so, and it's all booked up. I'm heading out to that little, unimportant island in late July. I hear summer in New York is quite tolerable and not humid and gross at all.

So, outside of the usual touristy things (Empire State Building, maybe go up that Liberty chick's skirt, Guggenheim, MoMA, etc...) what's there to do? Any locals feel like showing a few friends around your podunk hamlet?

Should I bring my camera? Anything photo-worthy that way?

Oh, and I might want to eat whilst there... any good restaurants?

Man, I can't wait to ask people where Hewston street is, and where Times Square is while I'm accepting coupons to comedy clubs. Maybe I can see Bob DeNiro and keep asking if he's talking to me...

At least you have Tim Horton's.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Jays Early Season - Again

Well here we are at the end of May, and once again, the Blue Jays are "surprising". They shouldn't be, as they have a lineup that on paper should hit a ton, and the pitching was questionable due to its youth. But the pitchers have so far been pretty decent, and the hitters are actually doing what they're supposed to. I mean, Vernon Wells is having his best start in recent memory... finally.

And for all that, the Jays are in 3rd in the AL East, with a .563 record. 6 games back of the Rays, 1 back of the Yankees for 2nd, and a half game up on the Bosox.

In the AL Central, they'd be 1 game back of 1st.

In the AL west, they'd be tied for 1st.

NL East? 1 game back. NL Central? 3-way tie for 1st. NL west? 1.5 games back.

Not that anyone's talking about them. Even here in Toronto, where attendance is abysmal.

Major Leagues leader in homers? Toronto's Jose Bautista with 15. Bautista's also 4th in RBIs with 39... 3 back of 1st. Vernon Wells is in the top 10 in both categories in the AL.

Ricky Romero has 72 strikeouts for the 2nd most in the majors, only 3 back of the leader.

Alex Gonzalez and Vernon Wells are 1 and 2 for doubles in the AL (3 and 5 in the majors). With Fred Lewis putting 3 Jays in the top 10 in the AL.

Jays lead the MAJORS in slugging percentage, home runs (by 14 homers), doubles (by 10), RBIs, total bases (by 38), runs, and at bats. The pitchers are leading the league in strikeouts.

By any measure, that's a powerhouse.

Too bad their batting average and ERA stink.

Once again, the only team in Canada is playing exciting baseball to start off the season. In any other division, they're either in first or fighting for it. But in the most competitive 6th of baseball, they're already 6 games back and can't drum up interest from the fans.

So how do you keep up the team's interest in this case? "Hey, you guys are doing GREAT! Too bad it won't amount to anything against the Yankees and Rays and Sox. Or that nobody in the city gives a shit." If they can maintain this pace through the season, then they very well might get the attention of some people here. But it would suck if they have a fantastic season, only to be overshadowed by two other teams having slightly better ones.

Monday, May 17, 2010

He Who Lives By The Cardrack

After a disappointing home-game, saved only by a spur-of-the-moment winner-take-all second tournament that saw me break even, I came in a bit late for the BBT5 Invitational last night.

And promptly won back my blinded-away chips, doubled the initial stack, tripled it, and nearly quadrupled it over the next two hours.

I was getting hit hard in the face by the cardbat.

JJ, QQ, JJ, QQ, KK, mid-pair set, AK, AK, flush, etc, etc..

Was winning hands all over the place. Taking chips and names. Even the shit I folded would have won with top-two, flopped straights, and the like.

And then KK ran into AA, and I was done.

Not sure if it would have played any differently, regardless of how I played it.

I raised, got re-raised to around 2.5k. I had around 8k in my stack after having to hand some chips back to someone earlier. To test for aces, I'd have to put in 5k, and then what? Fold the last 3k if re-re-raised?

Or call and NOT get it all-in on a disconnected raggy flop? No ace or connecting anything came on the turn or river either, so I'd have been pot-committed the whole way I think.

No, I think I was going broke there anyway. Especially since I had been hit by a solid case of the run-goods to that point, and was supremely overconfident.

So out 36th... damn.

Poker from the Rail tonight? Methinks... yes.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Mookie Fail

Wow, that might have been the worst game of poker I've played in forever.

Card death? Let's see if I recall the decent starting hands.

KK won the blinds
88 won a small pot on the flop
22 was folded and missed a flopped set, but would have been crushed on turn flush
AK won blinds
AQ won blinds
AJ won a small pot

It didn't help that Joanne had position on me for most of the night, and she's taken to floating me to the turn and then popping me on the river. I'd stop her, except that (a) She's generally got something and (b) I usually have nothing when she does this. I think she's got the BDR superuser account tuned to me.

Couldn't get anything going. When I'd take a stab with air, I'd end up with multiple players. Position meant nothing with the crap I had and terrible boards that came. I think I folded all of ONE terrible hand that would have caught a winner.

In fact, I was lucky with my folds. I folded a bunch of hands that I might have considered for play, that flopped monsters and would have been killed by bigger ones.

But nothing going. Never above starting stack, never an opportunity to chase people away. Just awful.

And out 47th or so of 96.

Congrats to Tripjax for taking it down. Well-deserved sir. Now try and do it on a bigger screen.

See you Sunday. I'll be fresh from a home game, so I should be raring to go.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


It's really not that hard to spell people.

The Mookie is tonight! In all its Mookieliciousness! It's Mooktastic! Mookerrific! Un-be-mookin'-lievable!

10pm ET, Full Tilt, private tournaments, pw: vegas1, yadda, yadda.

Anybody remember Mookie Wilson? Anybody other than Torontonians remember when he played for the Jays and was a fan favourite here? Yah, he wasn't always a Met.


Okay, so my major problem in the BBT5 has been building enough of a chipstack to make a serious run in the middle-late stages. Making the final table with 1/2 the average is no way to win.

So why do I keep doing this? Because I'm not taking enough shots early on? Not paying enough attention to my opponents' moves? Just being card dead at the wrong times?

Probably all of those, plus lapses in positional awareness, and fear of the slowplay. I usually fall prey to chasing the wrong hand at least once and then having to walk away on the river when I've got a steaming pile of nothing.

So I've been prepping by playing a few games that I couldn't care less about. $1 SnG's. Some with regular blind levels, some super-turbos. The goal? To push around some players who I can be relatively confident aren't doing anything more than playing the cards in front of them.

No, I'm not saying all the bloggers follow this pattern. I'd hope that by now there's been some evolution. But it's to drive up my aggression and confidence a bit. This isn't a "raise or fold" experiment, but an exercise in table domination. The goal of these game is to grab a choke hold of the table and not let go. To strike fear into the other players. In the rare occurrence I run into another alpha at my table, I play with other strategies.

So far, so good. Let's see if it pays some dividends.

I fully expect to find myself at a table with every semi-pro big-game playing blogger in our group tonight... in which case, I'll just peddle some nuts.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

More Cash, Another Spot Missed

Out 7th in the Poker From the Rail game. So I'm back to my highest finish in this series so far. 3 final tables, 2 min cashes, that's 5 cashes, no seats.

This wasn't a great game by me. I had a few moments of desperation aggression that worked out, but generally played cards, and won little.

I need to get out that rut.

Because I was the short stack when I went out. If I'd built up some damned chips, I'd still be playing, as I was taken out by the next shortest. Of course, it was T7h turning a flush that beat my pocket Jacks.

Mookie Wednesday. Let's see if I improve over the last time I finished 7th...

Monday, May 10, 2010

The Economy and Poker Comparisons

A rather long, boring write-up on market reaction to the EU's proposed trillion $ aid package is here. But the segment I'm interested in is this:

“There has been a poker game going on between the markets and the EU,” said Gary Jenkins, head of credit strategy at Evolution Securities Ltd. in London. “This is probably reaching a climax as the EU has just gone ‘all in.’”

This is hardly the most egregious misuse of the phrase "all in", but it's not precisely accurate. Going all-in suggests that you've put everything you have on the line. In a tournament, if you lose, you're out.

But the economy isn't a tournament. It's a cash game. You go all-in there, then you may very well have some more cash in your pocket, or be willing to make a trip to Ye Olde ATM. In fact, if you aren't, then maybe you shouldn't have sat down in the first place.

And the opponent they're going all-in against in this case is a broke-ass degenerate gambler who's chasing more losses than he could ever hope to repay. This is the guy who has markers at every casino, have hit up all their friends for cash to the point where they don't have any more friends, been disowned by their family, and have five gorillas standing at the rail waiting to break their knees or take their money for the mobs they work for.

In short, they're going to call no matter what. Then, regardless of the cards, they're going to take all the cash and run for it. By the time the EU catches them, they'll have lost all the money and be sitting at another table.

And the EU will pull out its ATM card and reload.

Another Invitational, Another Cash

18th. Again.

At least the BBT5 has been cheap for me.

Last night was a tale of mediocrity, and ended as it should, with a mediocre finish.

I was playing a pretty tight game early on, and unfortunately had a table that respected that. Meaning that I didn't pull off much when I had the goods. How tight? Well, I folded KK to Joanada when she kept calling me down and then put out a good-sized bet after a flopped ace.

An otherworldly suckout against 1QueensUp1 with Q2h vs 55 on a Q53 flop gave me some real chips (runner-runner hearts), only to have James McManus take a chunk of my chips and move tables.

But I aggro'd my way back to a respectable position after that, only to then hit a run of counter-aggression from my table that led to me backing off for a bit.

After that, I never really got things going again, and the blinds caught up to me. I was ready to shove a few times, but not against other aggressors or with cards like 94o. KTc won me blinds and antes, and AJo ran square into McManus' AKo to KO me in 18th. MCMANUUUUUUUUSSSS!!!!

Seriously, loved the book, hated the being knocked-out. I believe I now have to send him a t-shirt.

Did I play badly? Not necessarily... but I played safely. Which was odd, because I was more focused on this game than any previous ones. No TV, no other games, no photo editing... just the game.

I need to adjust my mentality a bit too. I usually try to get to the late game with an around-average stack, and then play for first. I think I'll need to play for 1st from hand one now.

I'll try and fix that tonight in the Poker From The Rail game. Full Tilt, $26, 10pm ET, pw: 2010WSOP.

Friday, May 07, 2010

UB Security Flaw Take

Putting aside the general dislike of Cereus/UB/Absolute that is out there, I think the recent security flaw isn't as major as has been suggested by the various commentators out there.

Yes, using a simple XOR encoding instead of the industry standard SSL encryption is dumb. In fact, it's flat-out inexplicable. That's day 1 in cryptography. They may as well send the data as a text file.

But why it's NOT as major a concern as it's being made out to be is the interception portion of the situation. The vulnerability as it was described can only be exploited with access to the end-user's network.

So to be abused, the following conditions would have to be met:

- You're playing on UB/AP on a wireless network
- Someone knows you're doing this
- This someone is within range of your router
- This someone must access your router, either because its unsecured or by hacking it
- They must run some relatively available and simple code to access your hole cards
- They must ALSO play on UB/AP and sit at your table

This isn't a case of some random insider creating a superuser account against random players. You would have to be targeted. Now, if you broadcast that you play at these sites to unscrupulous people who know where you play from AND have the technical knowledge to pull this off (not complicated for anyone with a computer background, but above the heads of your average Joe), then you could make yourself a target. If you play from public, unsecured wireless networks (ie.- coffee shops, wi-fi hotspots), then you could be in danger. But again, someone would have to know you were playing on these sites AT THAT TIME, and know your online name in order find you.

If you're playing at home, have any level of access control on your router, or are wired-only, then you don't have much to worry about.

That said, I still won't play on these clusterfuck excuses of poker sites.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Playing The Mookie

The losses seem that much bigger in 50"

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

BBT5 Square 1

I'm exhausted today. Why? Because I in a foul mood for hours after the PftR game last night.

The evening started off poorly when I tried to get rush tickets to a doc I really wanted to see. My own stupid last minute change in plans and lack of compensating for the extra time resulted in my being too far back in line to have a chance. But I stuck it out anyway. Kicking myself on the walk back, I figured I'd soothe my mood by picking up some quality food if the Healthy Butcher was open. Nope, missed it by half an hour.

I cabbed it the rest of the way, and opted to turn just over a pound of ground elk into spaghetti sauce.

Caramelized some onions, softened up some yellow pepper and zucchini, all with a bit of salt and a mix of fats (vegetable oil, olive oil, butter, garlic oil, and bacon fat). Added garlic just before tossing in some ground star anise, and then browning the elk with it all. Shake some fish sauce on top (mmmm... umami), ground coriander seed, and more salt. Some canned tomatoes were added to the mix with dried oregano, smoked paprika, and a bit of cayenne. Bring to a simmer. Taste, added a mix of green peppercorns, black peppercorns, cubeb pepper, white peppercorns that were mortar and pestled. A splash of hot sauce, some spicy sundried tomato hemp pesto, and a couple splashes of worcestershire sauce finished it off.

It was delicious, and served on some barolo-infused pasta that my best friend got me ages ago and gently reminded me I'd never opened. Also delicious.

Having cooked some tasty, I was back in a happy place, 10 minutes before game time.

I sat down, and on the 3rd hand I saw KJo. Buddydank put a standard raise out and I called in position.

Flop comes KdJdx. Okay, top 2. Buddy bets, I raise, and he calls.

Turn comes 3d. Buddy checks, I bet, and he thinks and pushes. I have BDR on, and he's talking about how he's putting me to the test here. I review the hand so far, and figure there's no what he turned a flush. The talk on the radio is obviously meant to make me think he's weak. But I figure he's fairly strong here. Knowing it's Buddy, I put him on AK and make the call, and am willing to go home now if he's got AKd.

He shows AdAx. Stronger than I thought, but for all intents and purposes, the same thing. Before I can say "here we go" the 4th diamond hits the river, giving Buddy the 4-flush and sending me to the rail as Gigli.

Sure, it was the first level, and I could have folded on the turn, but you have to go with your reads, or why bother playing? If I win there, Buddy's gone, I'm the chipleader 3 hands in, and I can loosen up BIG TIME and maybe build a significant chipstack early on. I can't be pissed with Mr. Dank, but I can be plenty upset about the river. And I was.

This hand covered everything I needed to do to up my game in this tournament. Trusting my reads, making a good one, and being aggressive. I just needed a touch more luck, and I'm off to the races. In the end, if you get the money in good, and the river kills you, that's poker.

Still, I was back to a foul mood. So I fired up Arkham Asylum and beat the crap out of Joker's goons. Then I quit and played angry super turbo SnG's. The $5 one didn't go so well, but I was HU in the $10 one before the 25/50 level was over. Properly revenged on poker, I called it a night.

Except when I hit the pillow, I couldn't sleep. Bad moods will do that. At some point, exhaustion won. Still, today's looking to be a foggy one.

Monday, May 03, 2010

They Like Me! (Bragging)

Well, no... they like this:

Sunrise From The B

I had finished putting away groceries and playing some Guitar Hero when I checked Twitter for the first time that day. I had few @'s waiting for me, and all were along the lines of "Congrats Astin!"

Huh? Lost in my tweets was this one from Scott Bourne:

ScottBourne: Congrats to Astin who won our Spring Flickr contest - see his winning picture here. More contests coming -

Wha? I had heard about the contest last week, joined the Flickr group and submitted the popular sunrise shot from December's WPBT trip. You were allowed one addition per week, and I forgot to add another before the deadline.

Turns out I didn't need to.

I love the shot, but was shocked that it won. I'm under no illusions about my ability with a camera. I take enough pictures that I occasionally get a good one. See: blind squirrel, nut. That one turned out great, but I figured the HDR aspect of it and unusual dimensions would work against me.

From the announcement post:

Note the horizon doesn’t cut through the center of the frame, which would be distracting. The fountain center and the tower at the Paris hotel are both just slightly off kilter to each other which creates a nice balance.

The horizon is actually exactly where I wanted it. The photo has obviously been cropped (side and bottom taken off). Part of that was because the Bellagio centre column was in the right side of the shot (my room was adjacent to it). But the top/bottom was cropped to get the horizon and road roughly straddling the middle of the picture. Ideally, I'd have liked them both to be on the thirds, but opted for the horizon to be closer to that goal.

The fountain centre and Eiffel tower being off-kilter was purely a function of location. The room is where it is, and the table in front of the window is where it is. That table was necessary to set up my mini-tripod to get the shots. I'd have to check, but I believe I used 4 (maybe 5) exposures for the HDR.

Of course, this has now taken the most popular photo on my Flickr account and trebled its views. If nothing else, it's motivation to keep at this photography hobby, especially as I work through older shots and am reminded how much crap I end up with.

Movin' Up




My finishes from the last three BBT5 events I've played. I missed The Mookie last week, but my finishes have continued to crawl upwards with the Invitational last night.

Card rack? Maybe. AA 3 or 4 times. KK 3 times I think. A few AK in there too. Thing is, only a couple of those got paid.

One big suckout where 66 > 99 kept me alive at a key point.

Other than that? I tended to stay ahead of the blinds and upped the aggression in a few spots. But I fell behind in the wrong places. Near the final table bubble, and then with 8 left when I ran AQd into AKo. I should have really been pushing it after that, but just couldn't pull the trigger on hands like 83o and KTo with action before me.

I finally went down with A8o on the button running into the BB's AK. Unimproved for both = IGH.

I know what I have to do to step it up, and will aim to do so. But I'm not going to win anything unless I can get paid more on my big hands.

Tonight's the Poker From The Rail game. I'm already signed up, but there's a slim possibility my blinds will be up for grabs.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Improving in the BBT5

We're five games into the BBT5, and I'm showing a profit, but still without a ToC seat.

I've steadily improved as the series has progressed, both in terms of horseshoe powers and actual poker. I've rarely played a hand I couldn't justify (yes, even KO'ing Riggs with 89o.) I still need to up the aggression at key times, and need the odd "bounce" to go my way, but I like where I'm heading.

Sunday say me cash in 18th place, for a $36 profit. Last night's Poker From The Rail (which, when shortened to PftR reads like "poofter"... sorry, it had to be said, but does not reflect on Reverend Al, who is still da man) game saw me KO'd in 8th.

Last night was a case of lost races, bad position, and good decisions that had poor results.

AQ lost a couple races, including my final one. J9s on the button with a short stack isn't great, but enough to make me pause for thought. Until someone goes in before me. Of course, I would have won the hand and tripled up, but I can always console myself with good decisions, right? Right?

When I hit a few runs of cards, I got mostly blinds, or boards that crushed me. QQ looks great until you're up against an all-in and the chipleader. A9 won that hand, but I was smart enough to get out of the way before it cost me more than the cost of the flop. JJ went down to AA for a solid chunk of my stack, and I never really recovered from that one.

But my biggest problem was the guy to my left. Hoy, the eventual winner of last night's match, was there for the last half of the game. This wasn't such a big deal when our stacks were the same size. It became a problem as he built up a mountain of chips.

Hoy may lead you to believe he played only quality hands. In reality, he used his chipstack wisely. He made a few calls with suited connectors, A-rag, and other hands that he would have folded if the bets he was calling were any sort of threat to his stack. But they were catching. He also applied pressure at any sign of weakness. I can think of at least twice where he bet to put me all-in on the river and I was POSITIVE he was weak, but I was still weaker, so I had to let it go. Nor could I be sure I could have pushed him off whatever he had if I'd gone all-in before him. 9k vs 50k isn't really a contest in that case.

This position kept me from being too aggressive, and from being able to tell any sort of story that could get me a fold. Without cards, you have to rely on selective aggression and convincing your opponents you have them beat. Especially when you've got just enough chips to have some fold equity.

But a final table and back-to-back cashes ain't so bad. Here's hoping I keep the streak going. I'm not sure I'll make The Mookie this week, so I'll have to drag out that momentum a bit longer.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Mookietime at the BBT5

BBT5 Event #3 is tonight - Das Mookensteiner! I bombed out of the PftR game on Monday, and haven't really been playing optimal poker lately.

By "lately", I mean for the past year.

But I played a $5 rush tournament and the $35k last night, so I should be well-practiced for tonight! Right? Right?

I expect we'll see a big turnout. Full Tilt. $11. 10pm EST. Password: vegas1.

I also expect to be in the right state of mind. I've got a few chores to knock off post-work, tasty leftovers that are easily reheated for dinner, and by the time 10 rolls around, I should be ready to kick back with no worries and focus on the game.

I expect to gigli the thing,

Monday, April 19, 2010

The BBT5 kickoff was last night, and I went down somewhere in the 20's. I'd blown my load of good cards early on, and had neither the cards nor the balls to build a stack afterwards. But hey, I had fun and it didn't cost me a dime, how can I complain?

Tonight is event numero dos - The Poker From the Rail game. 10pm, $26. Much like Mondays at the Hoy from back in "the day", this has the potential to be a great tournament. A noticeable amount of cash invested, and a ToC seat for the winner only. Lots of people playing to win, myself included.

Be there - 10pm, Full Tilt, PW: 2010WSOP

Don't have $26? Go play a token game to win your way in for $8 and change.

Friday, April 16, 2010

The Search is On

There's a cafe in Montreal that serves a pretty great cappuccino. It also serves possibly the best non-nostalgia-laced (ie.- granny's) chocolate chip cookie I've ever had. Big, melted, soft, delicious.

I have no idea how they make it.

Well, that's not entirely true. Obviously, they have a chocolate chip cookie recipe. The problem being, there are so many variations on this classic, and every one changes the cookie in measurable ways.

More white sugar? Crisper. More brown sugar? Chewier.

More baking soda = more spread. Milk makes it chewier too and spreads it.

Cake flour? better lift. Bread flour? Chewier again.

More yolks than whites = moister.

Shortening holds up better than butter, but butter has more flavour. What about lard?

Salt - you need it, but if you sprinkle it on top, you can get a whole different taste.

Semi-sweet, dark, bittersweet, milk chocolate? Each one alters it.

Letting the dough sit in the fridge for 36 hours has a different effect than leaving it for 12, or not at all (moisture spreads more evenly).

Big chips vs small chips affect the chocolate distribution.

Even the cookie size can alter the texture and taste.

I don't even know what my grandmother's recipe was, and I loved that one. But now, I must attempt to replicate this cookie from another city... without the benefit of easy access to comparative samples.

I spent an inordinate amount of time tasting the last of the cookies I had. Trying to divine its secrets. Butter? Shortening? No fat at all? More brown sugar than white? Salty? Eggy?

All I knew for sure was that it was delicious, and used giant semi-sweet chunks and big milk chocolate chips. I lack both of those, but do have the respective regular-sized chips. So an attempt must be made.

In fact, I doubt I'll nail it first go. So many attempts must be made.

That's a lot of cookies.


If you haven't checked out Al's post with all the details yet... you should.

$50,000 in prizes. 3 WSOP Main Event packages! A whack (that's a lot... about $14,000 worth or so) of $2000 freerolls and bracelet race packages!

I'll be doing my damndest to make every tournament. That would include the invitationals on Sundays @ 7, The Poker From the Rail games on Mondays at 10, and of course, the venerable Mookie on Wednesdays at 10.

I'm actually most stoked about the new Monday games. I've long lamented the loss of The MATH tournaments and their $26 buy-ins. The higher price brings with it a smaller field and better play than the $11 Mookie (but I still love the Wednesday staple). The Sunday games could turn out to be some of the most interesting though.

And the best part? This starts this Sunday and end in just over a month! No 3 months of slogging through fields. No points-whoring. It's quick, and you have to win to get in to the ToC.

I bombed big time in the last BBT after 3 consecutive ToC appearances. I intend to get back into the groove on this one. So be wary of my pre-flop raises (it means Aces), and turn check-raises (also means Aces).

Yah... I'm pumped for this!

And once again - Al is da man.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Hockey Pool

Once again, I'm running an NHL Playoff Pool. Quick details:

$20 entry
Last year had 141 entrants
1st place paid $1250
5 places paid out
10% of the total prize pool goes the winner's charity of choice. Winner got the tax receipt on top of the prize.

It's not the standard pool type. Teams are given a value based on their finish in the league. So Washington is worth 1 point, and Montreal is worth 16 (last place). Each win for these teams gets them that number of points. So 5 wins for Washington is 5 points. 5 wins for Montreal is 80 points.

If you're interested in an entry form, let me know either here or at my e-mail (my name (astin) at sympatico dot com). It'll come with all the instructions and details.

Deadline for entry is Wednesday at 5pm.

Oh, and I have to know who you are. So lurkers and spambots? Don't bother.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Slow Climb

Strange what having no cash in your account can do.

My Full Tilt balance was down to $0.64. The next day I got $1.08 in rakeback. Well I'll be damned if that isn't just enough to buy into something.

An 18-man $1 SnG to be exact.

Made some cash on that.

Then a 9-person $1 SnG... cash.

Some $1 hyper turbos. Some 2nd places.

$10 in there now. More $1 games in my future.

Who needs reloading?

At this rate, I'll be able to afford a Mookie buy-in in no time!

Micro-sized numbers aside, this is as good an excuse as any to remind myself how to play this game with minimal risk while enforcing proper bankroll management. We'll see how long it lasts this time.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Tasty Quiche

I once made some crustless quiche. It was good. Last night I opted to go with the more traditional version. Why? because I had a bunch of broken eggs. Sadly, I waited to long to use them and they got tossed instead. I opted to crack some fresh eggs since I'd already started.

Quiche can be pretty simple, even if the ingredient list looks long. It's really just eggs (I've seen anywhere from 2-6, with most recipes in the 3-4 range), a cup of dairy, and 1 1/4 cups of cheese. Everything else is whatever filler you like. Here's my version from dinner:

Single shell pie crust (half of this recipe works nicely, but you could also just go store-bought, or use your grandmother's recipe, whatever. Note, the recipe I linked to comes together quickly, but needs at least an hour in the fridge)

5 or 6 or so slices of peameal bacon

2 oz butter
2 large leeks, chopped
1 medium cooking onion, chopped
fresh ground pepper
1 clove garlic, minced
1/3 cup water
A few leaves of fresh basil, chopped

3 eggs
1 cup half-and-half, or milk, or any cream % you like
dill (I used dried, but fresh would be better)
basil (I used dried, but fresh would be better)
smoked paprika
cayenne pepper
pinch of fresh-ground nutmeg

Around 1 1/4 cups of your favourite cheeses, grated. 1 cup of a Swiss variety + 1/4 cup parmesan are standard. I used gruyère, applewood smoked chedddar, 6 year old white cheddar, roasted garlic havarti, jalapeno jack, and parmesan reggiano.

- Preheat oven to 350F

- I'll assume the pie crust is in a pie pan. If not, put it there. If you're using your own pie pan, greasing it first might be a good idea.

- If the pie crust is raw, put a sheet of parchment paper or greased foil (slippery-side down) on the crust and weigh it down with ceramic pie weights or dried beans. Bake in oven for 12-15 minutes, take out weights and paper/foil, and bake for a few more minutes until golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool while working on the rest.

- Cut up the bacon into small squares. Whatever size you're comfortable having in the quiche
- Fry the bacon pieces in a large frying pan over medium heat until cooked
- Remove the bacon and drain on a paper towel

- Melt the butter on the same pan. If the bacon was particularly fatty, you can use less butter. Mine left almost no fat behind.
- Once the butter is melted, add chopped leeks and onion to pan. Add a few pinches of salt and pepper. Sauté for around 5 minutes, until leeks are softened and onion is turning transparent
- Add 1/3 cup of water and bring to boil
- Stir, and cover. Cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add minced garlic, cook 5 more minutes, covered
- If still watery, remove cover and cook away liquid. You should have a moist, but not soupy, mass of leek and onion and garlic.
- Taste and adjust seasoning accordingly. Turn off heat, add chopped basil, and let cool slightly.

- In a large measuring cup, mixing cup, or high-sided bowl, combine eggs, milk, and remaining seasonings
- Using an immersion blender or whisk, beat mixture to a froth. A hand-held mixer will also work here.

- Put the pie pan on a flat baking pan to protect from overflow

- Layer half the bacon and leek-onion mixture in the pie crust
- Sprinkle 1/3 of the cheese over this layer
- Pour half the egg mixture into the crust
- Layer the rest of the bacon and leek-onion mixture
- Sprinkle 1/3 of the cheese over this layer
- Pour the remaining egg mixture in
- Top with the remaining cheese

- Put the whole thing, baking pan and all, in the oven, and bake 30-40 minutes. The quiche is done when the top is lightly browned. There should still be some jiggle to the filling.

- Let cool 10 minutes before serving.

- Enjoy!

It was delicious. It SHOULD take about half an hour to assemble if you're using a pre-made crust, and another 30-40 minutes baking. If you make your crust from scratch, factor that into the time required.

As I said, the fillings are your choice. No peameal bacon? Regular bacon is standard. Basically, anything that goes well with eggs works here too. Asparagus? Broccoli? Tomatoes? All great options.

Next one I make will follow Michael Ruhlman's recipe, which involves a 2" cake pan, and 8 hours of refrigeration...