Fumbling and Bumbling
Spent all of yesterday out of synch. Decided to go for a hike in the woods, rolled my ankle while admiring the scenery instead of watching where I was going. Plus I had ominous pain in my feet that reminded me of the plantar fasciitis that plagued me last year. Think it was my hiking boots. The pain was still there during our volleyball game, though I think I was able to stretch it out. Doesn't hurt now. Fingers are crossed.
After drinking at the bar I got ambitious, unfortunately. I've developed a deep affection for my Crock Pot and I decided to slow-cook some ribs that I bought earlier in the day. They turned out just OK--I didn't put much liquid in (besides BBQ sauce) but the onions I added gave up their water as well and I ended up with something like French Onion Rib Soup. It isn't bad, but not the rousing success I hoped for.
Then I decided to 2-table at a higher limit than I've been playing. Just for fun. And I got killed, of course, the worst loss I've taken since I started playing again. Sigh, it's as if I didn't know that bragging about how good you're running is ALWAYS followed by soul-crushing losses. From now on I'll shut up.
A few random pictures from my hike through Hartwood Acres:
Wanted to take pictures of the deer that force me to stand on the brakes at least once a week, but only saw squirrels. Scores and scores of squirrels. The woods are infested with them. Nutkin here stood still long enough for me to snap a picture. Any idea how hard it is to peg a squirrel in the head with a rock? It's harder than it looks.
There are a few small stables in the area, and as I hiked I came across of few horseshoe prints in the mud. I managed to avoid the enormous mounds of dung those horses tend to leave behind on the paths. How come people who walk their dogs in the park have to pick up after them, but folks riding horses can let 'em crap wherever, with no consequences? The horse lobby is powerful indeed.
Last Friday was really the best day to see the leaves, and then the ice storm and wind blew through Saturday and brought out the browns. Not much red, gold or orange left. It may be 60 degrees out, but winter is just around the corner.
Choosing Between My Mistresses
I didn't realize that November 1st was just around the corner. Two days to go before I have to start cranking out the copy for NaNoWriMo
. I'm not all that concerned about hitting the 50K target--as long-time readers of this blog know, I have no problem with throughput. I just have to keep from getting distracted and/or discouraged. And since I think I've mostly figured out how to piece together the two plots I've been chewing over in my mind, I'm looking forward to hitting the keys.
Of course, I have other things to occupy my time. Still need to find a job, as my unemployment runs out at the start of January. Still doing some freelancing, have irons in various fires, and if worse comes to worse I'll start temping again until someone smart recognizes my talent. Wish a few more CEO's read my blog.
Another pastime that's been gobbling up my time lately is poker, Bill Frist be damned. Part of this is research, don't you know--part of the story deals an online poker player. So my staying up to 2AM last night playing was to ensure I can render the grinder's life with sufficient verisimilitude. Plus I'm clearing a bonus at Full Tilt
I've been playing online for three years now, but I never really moved up in limits. Every time I boosted my bankroll I took the money out and kept playing at my microlimits. And, heh heh, if I don't get a job in a few months I'll be doing that again. But since that probably WON'T happen, I'm actually playing with an eye to the future. Play well, build the bankroll, move up, play better, repeat. The sort of thing the rest of you did three years ago.
I actually struggled a bit at first, which was simply a bit of bad luck, but the last few weeks have seen more ups than downs. I'm in a sort of Zen state right now, where my bankroll is big enough to handle the bad times and I'm playing without fear. Just making the right decisions every hand and, if the cards don't go my way, shrugging and moving on. I'd like to get to the point where I'm playing like this at $15/30 someday, but that's a long way off. Still, nice to see some actual progress.
And there IS progress. I'm winning pretty consistently, winning pretty big. The last few days were pretty brutal card-wise, but I controlled the damage on a few sick hands and clawed and scratched enough to nearly break even. It was very satisfying when I checked my balance last night to see that it was right back where it started on Friday, after some truly disgusting beats.
The novel-writing is going to cut into the pokering, obviously. I don't know yet if I'm going to post excerpts of it here. I probably will, but not the whole thing--I'd like to think that maybe, maybe, I'll end up with something vaguely publishable. I still have lots of structural problems I'll have to deal with as I go along, as the Frankenstein's Novel I'm constructing isn't yet a completed jigsaw. I'm trying to figure out how big a sociopath to make the narrator. Or, how big a sociopath would be plausible. I'm actually looking forward to the twisted sickness. And, no, this story is in no way autobiographical. My mental and emotional problems veer in a different direction.
Think I'm gonna go for a walk. Beautiful day out. Walking always gives me ideas. Probably do a good bit of walking the next 30 days.
The Steelers Are the Best Team in the NFL
How can I make that seemingly ridiculous assertion? Simple--the Steelers are determined not only to beat the team lining up across the ball but to also beat themselves
. It isn't enough to post a mere W and move on to the next foe. Oh no. They have to beat the defending Super Bowl champions too. The fact that they ARE the defending champs doesn't seem to give them pause.
Three season's worth of mistakes and miscues in 5 games. They gave Cinci 21 points, gave Atlanta 21 points, and gave the Raiders 21 points today. Can't do that and expect to win in the NFL. Even against the Raiders. Still, give the Steelers credit, even after doing everything in their power to ensure defeat they had a chance at the very end to win each of those games. And then they dug deep, and found a way to mess THAT up too.
Last week Steeler QBs combined to go 24 for 35 for 433 yards, five touchdowns, and zero interceptions. They lost. This week the Steeler D held the Raiders to 98 total yards. They lost. It takes a very special team to pull off that double.
Season's over, alas. No chance to defend their title, no playoff run. I can't quite find the anger you'd expect. Frankly, after the emotional toll of the last two seasons, a year where the Black and Gold repeatedly crap the bed will give me a somewhat relaxing winter. No playoffs, no nail-biters in January. My buddy Mark and I are already talking about the Draft. Which is in April. Gotta have something to look forward to. Since the only thing to look forward to the rest of this season is maybe keeping the Bengals out of the playoffs.
And hoping Big Ben can somehow turn it around. That's probably the whole point of the rest of the season--getting Roethlisberger playing at a non-disasterous level. It's sad to say, had Roethlisberger not played this season, we're probably 4-3, at the very worst. Maybe even 5-2. Maybe 6-1. And it pains me to say this, but he's the worst player in the NFL right now. Or, he's played the worst. Nine games left before the season ends, and all we have to root for the rest of the way is that he returns to form. Because the playoffs are gone, gone, gone. It could get ugly. A 4-12 season is not outside the realm of possibility. Though that would make the Draft more interesting.
No Excuses This Time
Two years ago I'd just started a new job and just didn't have the time. Last year...I don't know why I didn't do it last year. Oh, yeah, some bad things were going on last year and I just couldn't get it going. But this year I have no excuses. I have the all the time in the world. I have the desire. I'm ready.
Yes, starting November 1st I will be participating in National Novel Writing Month, awkwardly known as NaNoWriMo
. Many of you have already done this. Now it's my turn. Over 30 days I'll be writing a 50,000 word novel. And, dammit, I'm gonna make it good
. Because that's how I roll.
I've actually been chewing over two separate ideas for two years now. Both are set in Pittsburgh, both involve a character who plays online poker. However, the one story was going to be something of a bildungsroman
, dealing with a how the past repeats itself through generations and the immutability of memory, utter nonsense like that. The other is about an amoral sociopath who commits the perfect murder and wonders if getting away with it kills all the fun. I couldn't decide which story to commit myself to, and also couldn't decide if either could be plumped out to 50,000 pages. So, in a moment of inspiration that came in the middle of a shower (where most of my brilliant ideas arrive) I think I'm going to combine these two stories into one glorious whole. Though, as I concede, blending these two rather disparate plots into a coherent story may pose something of a challenge.
But that's what I'm looking for, a challenge! So, at midnight on November 1st you'll find me hunched over my laptop. True, I'm hunched over my laptop most midnights, but for at least one month I'll be working on my novel.
This will of course cut into my poker playing, alas. But, hey, playing is research, right? Heck, I might write off my bad beats on my taxes this year. If I decide to pay any taxes this year. That's a joke, federal government. Just a weak joke.
I mentioned the other day that I've been playing well, and I did that just to test the theory that the mere mention of a good streak will bring that streak to an end. Once again, the theory stood up to observation. Oh, to hit a flop again. But I won half it back and so felt like I actually had a good day. The fight, it is a long one.
The War Against the UIGEA
Nice little post
by Radley Balko about some possible steps mighty Antigua could take against the US for it's WTO violations involving online gaming. Buy Antiguan!
Is it safe for me to say that I've been playing some very nice poker lately? It is? I haven't gone on a ridiculous tearn, I haven't gone 27 sessions without losing, I'm just doing the slow and steady thing and it's going good. And it's quite nice.
Poker in the Post-Gazette
I'm quoted in today's Post-Gazette article
about the UIGEA and it's ramifications. Odd seeing myself referred to as "Mr. Bromberg". Be curious to see what kind of feedback they get about it, might have to check back with the reporter to see if he hears anything back.
Oh, and this is somewhat unrelated, but what the heck. My last name, "Bromberg", is fairly rare. There aren't many of us around. And my first name, "Eugene", is understandably rare as well. You would think that Googling "gene bromberg" would be a fairly straightforward way to see what mark I (and my father, who has the same name) have left on the 'Net. You'd think that. Unfortunately there's a doctor out there named Bromberg who, and this is the funny part, works at the Department of Gene and Cell Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital. You see where the problem lies?
Actually, I should feel bad for him
. He's probably out there Googling "gene bromberg" to see how his latest research on peripheral tolerance induction to alloantigen in the mature immune system is being received, and instead he finds links to some jackass poker blogger. Who knew the Internet has a pathetic sense of humor?
A Kick to the Keystones
Who feels worse about today's NFL results, me or Al
? Steelers gift Atlanta with three turnovers inside the 30-yard line and then commit three more bonehead mistakes to seal their fate. And then the Iggles give Tampa two touchdowns outright, come back, take the lead with 30 seconds left, and then have to just sit there as a 62-yard figgie beats them. Steelers can probably afford to lose one more game if they want to make the playoffs (maybe two if they get some help) and maybe they'd have a chance if they weren't so hell-bent on beating themselves.
In all my line-dance fury the other night, I forgot perhaps the most, uh, interesting event of the evening. The night was winding down, my group was talking about heading out, and there was a scuffle on the dance floor. Bouncers grabbed up a few guys and a big mass of humanity started staggering to the door. It was hard to tell who was a bouncer and who was a bouncee, and as they passed us one of the uniformed cops who was standing at the door came over. He pointed his penlight at the group, and I don't know what he saw that he didn't like, but he pulled out his automatic and leveled it at the chest of one of the guys. Who was about 10 feet from me. The cop looked very, very serious, which I guess is the right attitude when you have a Glock aimed at someone's thorax. I think it was a Glock.
I sort of herded my group against the bar and out of the line of fire, which we were smack dab in the middle of. Had things gotten a bit more heated, I might've had to make a visit to the dry cleaners, if you get my drift. But as is the case in all situations, a gun made everything better, and the struggle came to an end.
Got a roast simmering in the Crock Pot, the flat smells...good. Really good. Pity that I had ribs and a very good burger at Mark's while watching the game. Stuffed to the gills. Oh, maybe just a tiny taste...
If Blogs Are Ghey...
Or gay, or teh gay, or whatever online lingo you'd like to use, how are we to describe the people who keep up a running commentary when a few high-stakes players are battling online? I logged onto Full Tilt and see there's a three-handed $1K-$2K limit game going with a "name" player involved. I saw the same game going on last night, so I check it out just to see what's goin' on. And just as last night, there's a collection of...people cluttering up the chatbox.
Adam Schoenfeld said something about people who want SO MUCH to be part of the poker universe...I don't have the exact quote at hand, but "pathetic" is the word that keeps popping into my head. And "pathetic" is certainly the word for the people who cheerlead for the big name at the table and trash-talk the others. Or vice-versa. Or propagate bizarre conspiracy theories about the legitimacy of the site. Or ask the players to transfer five bucks to their account because they've been "running bad".
I just wanted to see the ebb and flow of a game far beyond my scope (there's more aggression, that's my brilliant insight) but I just can't resist following the chat. It's appalling, yet compelling. And somewhat reassuring--I may blog about poker and therefore not be of entirely sound mind, but I ain't these folks.
Going out on an all-night bender tonight, which means I'll probably be home by midnight. Yes, that's sad. Was out late last night, don't much feel like imbibing again. But promises have been made, schedules established. Wish me luck.UPDATE
: Home around 2AM. Let me say this: there is nothing, NOTHING, more pathetic on this earth than seeing Pittsburghers line-dance to fucking Metallica. Don't ask me for context. You don't want it.
Let me say this also--Americans shouldn't line dance. That's something Nazis would do. Not Americans.
I danced. I did not line dance. I'd rather go to prison. If you think that's braggadaccio. YOU DON'T FUCKING KNOW ME VERY WELL.
Line dancing. To Metallica. I wasn't drunk enough, people. I don't think it's possible to be drunk enough. I suffered. Just watching, I suffered.
Still had a good time. Despite.
Sorry if my writing have gotten a bit schitzophrenic lately, alternating between calls to the barricades and "Hey, I won a $10 SNG last night!". These are strange days to be a poker blogger in America. We might be an endangered species, a fear that only deepened after I read Bill's post
on the UIGEA today (Bill also just posted
about Neteller's updated position vis-a-vis the UIGEA). I left my two cents in the comments, and unfortunately I pretty much agree with Bill's (and Chuck Humphrey's) analysis. Much of the "good" news coming out lately about online poker has struck me as something like whistling past the graveyard. I don't think "business as usual" is a reasonable expectation at this point. Party's immolation notwithstanding, we haven't seen the full ramifications of this law yet, not by a long shot.
One point Bill raised hadn't occured to me--let's say Stars and Full Tilt defy the law and stay open for US business. What happens if, a year or two down the line, online poker becomes legal for licensed operators? How could these two companies, who openly violated federal law, now expect to have legitimacy conferred upon them? They're in a really difficult position--grab market share and/or profits now before the well runs dry, or batten down the hatches and hope they can hang on until a can't-be-too-distant future when online poker is legal? No one denies that there's a gambling aspect to poker, and now it seems the same can be said about running a poker site.
Or running a poker blog. For nearly two years I've thought about changing my URL or starting a new blog that wasn't so pokercentric. Now I have a bit more incentive to take that plunge. Federal laws will do that to you.
Vote The Bastards Out
This is going to be a recurring theme on these pages as we approach Election Day on November 7th--Vote The Bastards Out. The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act is hardly the most catastrophic bill passed by Congress the past few years. Why, just yesterday President Bush signed the Military Commissions Act of 2006, which in some circles has been called the "Torture and Detention Bill". Because that's the power the Congress just handed to the President--the right to detain people indefinitely, without the right to a trial or to even hear the charges brought against them, simply by declaring them an "enemy combatant". And what is an enemy combatant? Anyone the President SAYS is an enemy combatant. Ever read the book Catch-22
One would think that the elimination of these most basic rights would raise some eyebrows, or that the conferring of dictatorial powers on the President might be of some concern. Apparently not. As Jonathan Turley, a law professor at George Washington University, said
"People have no idea how significant this is. Really a time of shame this is for the American system. The strange thing is that we have become sort of constitutional couch potatoes. The Congress just gave the President despotic powers and you could hear the yawn across the country as people turned to Dancing With the Stars. It's otherworldly...people clearly don't realize what a fundamental change it is about who we are as a country. What happened today changed us. And I'm not too sure we're gonna change back anytime soon."
So it isn't like the government has some specific grudge against poker players. They have a grudge against freedom, liberty, the rights of the individual, and personal responsibility. Instead of an active, vibrant democracy, they want us to cede more and more power to a tiny cabal who will take care of us, who will make all decisions for us, and who know what's good (and bad) for us far better than we know ourselves.
There was never any real danger that a terrorist organization could defeat the United States. The attacks on 9/11 were horrific, but they never threatened to bring the country to its knees. Even a worst-case scenario (like a nuclear device going off in a major city) wouldn't destroy America. The only way America could be destroyed by terrorism is if we decide to destroy it ourselves. If we allow cowardice, laziness, and venality to triumph over the courage, ingenuity and hope that has long defined our nation, then America will cease to be. Not with a bang, as the saying goes, but with a whimper.
The Military Commissions Act (and, to a far lesser extent, the UIGEA) show how swiftly the government is moving in this direction. The Constitution stood up to British imperialism and was strong enough to withstand Nazi fascism and Soviet communism--why does everyone think it's so feeble today? Why is it that in fighting a ruthless enemy willing to commit acts of unimaginable barbarism, our government thinks the only way to fight back is...by sinking to their level? By abandoning the very human rights (freedom of thought, freedom of speech, the right to a fair trial) that these terrorists most despise?
If the Congress won't stand up to the President, than we have to stand up. Vote on November 7th, and give the boot to the Republican toadies who currently hold office. Although this isn't really a Republican/Democrat or conservative/liberal issue. Our inalienable rights are being stripped away, and it's the Republicans in the House and Senate who are pitching in with both hands. We need to fire them before it's too late. If it already isn't too late.
The cover story of Rolling Stone this month is title "The Worst Congress Ever"
. It should, and probably will, leave you incredibly pissed off. So pissed off you'll be in the mood to write a ranting post like this one. Not that I'm not pissed off most of the time anyway.
I said it once, I'll say it again, and I'll keep saying it right through to November 7th. Vote the bastards out. It's your duty. Vote.
Why I Love Poker
So I'm 2-tabling last night, and the same guy is at both my tables. Within five minutes, the following occurs:
He has pocket fives, the flop comes 5-4-4. It's capped four ways. The turn is 3c. Capped three ways. River is the 2c. The final two cap it, and the other guy turns over Ac-4c for the runner-runner straight flush.
Like three hands later, at the other table, same dude has aces. Capped preflop. Flop is rags, capped three ways, including the table's resident frothing maniac. Turn is a king, one guy folds, the other two three-bet it. River is a king, just a bet and a call, and the maniac turns over K-5. Didn't hit a five on the flop. Goes all that way pre- and post-flop with K-5. Barf.
Gotta give the guy credit. He didn't flip out. He just uttered a brief "I can't believe this is happening" and kept on playing. Long enough to run his 2nd nut flush into my nut flush. "This isn't your night" I wrote. "No it isn't," he replied. Gotta give him credit.
Just got knocked out of a SNG in 3rd spot. Me and the shortstack are $100 apart, he pushes in the SB, I call with pocket eights. He has A-8. He's already said "gg" and "gl" when the ace hits on the river. "Omg," he said. "Sorry," he said. I handled it with my usual aplomb. "That sucked". And thence the weeping.
Can't speak for the guy who lost those two brutal hands, but even after that damned ace I still think Bill Frist et al are full of shit. Still wish that ace hadn't hit, though.
Oh, forgot to update yinz on two other minor developments from a previous post
I mentioned that I found a phone number given to me by a girl about ten years ago. Some people (cough, Pauly) said that I should call her up. This seemed a bit pathetic and stalky, so it immediately appealed to me. But, come on, I'm not going to call her. While I did have a talking point at hand (hey, I found your phone number in a book, wondered what you were up to, and with whom) it still seemed a bit weird. Until I had a second beer early Friday evening. Then I thought, what the hell? We were friends for a couple of years, after all.
Called the number. It's disconnected. Or, to use the lingo, "no longer in service". Yes, I was relieved.
But that's as nothing compared to what happened yesterday. With fall now entrenched I put away a lot of the short-sleeved gear and broke out my sweaters and flannels. I did some other cleaning and reorganizing, and found a few books I wanted to put up on my shelves. One was A. Alvarez's Poker: Bets, Bluffs and Bad Beats
. I'd been looking for that book, which I'd stuck in a box along with some random junk and old magazines. The book had an odd bulge in the middle, and I flipped open the pages, saw what was inside, and let loose an excited "Yes!"
What did I find? Only one of my most precious possessions. Yes, it was the autographed picture of Isabelle Mercier that Otis
got me in New York last year. I honestly thought I lost it. I'd planned on framing it (the frame holding my pointless B-school diploma wasn't doing anything worthwhile) but my ex-wife convinced me that would be spiteful. When I moved I had to put this sacred object someplace safe...and what could be safer than Mr. Alvarez's fine book? Until, of course, I forget I'd put it there.
So, a happy day. One I'll share with you right now. Even as I know that this is, well, pathetic and stalky:
And yes, Pauly and Otis had had a few when they did this best of good deeds.
Some Light Housekeeping
On this fine Sunday morning I thought I'd catch up on some issues raised in previous posts:
So, how did the haircut go? Well, the word "catastrophe" isn't one I use casually, but I want the record to be as accurate as possible. I went to the place where I got my last haircut and, seeing the shop was empty, took a deep breath and went inside. I felt pretty good at the start--nothing too asymmetric, nothing too ghastly. But when she got to the left side of my head (admittedly the Waterloo of many a stylist), disaster struck. I closed my eyes as she clipped so my pin-like follicles wouldn't blind me, and when I awoke from this uneasy slumber found that, well, ugh. I have this rightward-bending shock atop my head, and everywhere else it's pretty much buzzed. Not a total
disaster (and I know disasters, believe me) but pretty bloody awful.
Compounding the horror was this stuff she put in my hair, which I can only describe it as "goop". First of all, it gave my hair the texture of an artifical turf doormat--you know the ones. Second, it smelled like Pine-Sol. Seriously, who the hell makes evergreen-scented hair gel? As I staggered to my car I was sarcastically singing "O Tannenbaum" to myself.
I had to run to the grocery store to pick up a few items, but I couldn't go to Giant Eagle looking like THAT. So I went to Wal-Mart instead. I mean, if you feel self-conscious in Wal-Mart
, it's time to pick out a nice cave and spend the rest of your days eating bark and berries.
Making things worse was that I noticed this AM that she didn't really shave my neck, so I have this crew-cutting thing up top and a resprouting protomullet down below. I think another trip to Wal-Mart is in order, to get some kind of home-clipper thingy so I can at least keep my hairline trim and neat. Jesus.
I did make a big cashout the other day, but I kept a few bucks behind to play with and hopefully regrow my bankroll. Well, after a very successful week I did just that. I attribute my success to playing at higher limits. Not HIGH limits, mind you, but higher for me. I've played so small for so long that there's no fun, no juice. I moved up to the point where a win or loss actually means something, and I started playing a bit better. Still have a problem playing too passively when I hit a big hand that isn't the nuts, left a lot of bets out there, but you live, you learn.
I still have Aruba stuff to post, but now...I probably won't post it. Don't feel like it. Have a pic or two I might post, but perhaps not. Oh, with my poker winnings I went and bought a digital camera, so there might be more pictures here than in the past. One thing I learned in Aruba is that a picture is indeed worth a thousand words. Especially when you're lazy and can't think of anything to write.
What the hell, here's one. I live about 3 minutes from two huge parks, and so I went for a hike a few days ago and took the camera along to try it out and maybe snap a pic or two of the deer that infest this part of town. Ended up nearly walking over two of them and almost crapped my pants as they broke cover and ran away. Anyway, let's see how well this looks on the 'Net.
Felt kinda like Ichabod Crane walking around there. Very pretty, but a bit ominous in places. Especially when I saw this:
I don't think there were any archers out while I was walking around, which might be a good thing as I was wearing a brown sweatshirt and brown shorts and brown shoes and I have brown hair. Not exactly the full Bambi ensemble, but a bit of blaze orange might be a good idea in the future. Where I live is overrun with deer, and just about every time I travel on a side road I see one of these fender-smashing quadripeds blundering around. Deer are incredibly stupid and, unfortunately, incredibly solid when you hit them at 30MPH. Pretty to take pictures of in their natural habitat, not so pretty when their smashed corpses are lying at the side of the road, an all-too-common sight around here. I'll refrain from posting pictures like that here.
PPA on CSPAN
Michael Bolcerek, the head of the PPA, is on CSPAN right now talking about the ban. Just took a call from a lifelong Republican who said "I thought the Republican Party was about personal freedom, but after this ban, I'm starting to rethink that." He's STARTING to rethink that? Well, any path to the truth I guess.
Bolcerek is doing a good job, so far as I've seen.
"How dare they take that right away!" says an "old-fashioned woman" who doesn't gamble or even use the 'Net much. Bless her heart.
UPDATE: Everyone calling in sounds sleepy. Who the hell would call in to CSPAN at 10AM on a Saturday morning. Oh, yeah, look in the mirror.
So far no one has called in to say they approve the ban. Words like "outrage" are being used even by people who don't play poker online.
The CSPAN moderator (don't know his name) did a nice job of steering the conversation in the way we'd like. Hopefully they'll repeat this interview during a time when more people are, uh, awake.
Join the PPA. Numbers matter. Make them fear us. Regardless of who "they" are. It's nice to be feared.
Ooh, the winter fuels outlook conference is on CSPAN now! Damn, wish I had TiVo.
Shaggy Against My Will
I need a haircut. I've needed a haircut since I got back from Aruba. So why am I sitting in my apartment instead of taking care of the problem? The answer is simple--I don't know where to go. And for this I blame the American capitalist society, which has paralyzed me into inaction. With every passing day I look more and more like a member of the Bay City Rollers. Something must be done.
A few years ago a professor of psychology named Barry Schwartz wrote a piece in Scientific American called The Tyranny of Choice
(sorry, the full article isn't available online). Schwartz wrote that tbe dramatic increase in the choices available to Americans (in everything from cereal to mutual funds) has not corresponded to people feeling happier. As Schwartz writes, "Although some choice is undoubtedly better than none, more is not always better than less."
Think about it--you're having a cookout and you're sent to the grocery store to get mustard. Piece of cake, you think, until you walk down the condiment aisle and are confronted with a stupefying array of choices. Yellow mustard. Brown mustard. Dijon mustard. Mustard with horseradish, mustard with cracked pepper. Even within these categories some discernment is required. Yellow mustard is unlikely to offend anyone, but which kind? French's is perhaps the default yellow, but I greatly prefer Heinz's yellow mustard (when I can find it). Then you have to consider how much difference is there really between French's and the generic store-label mustard? Twenty cents saved, after all, is twenty cents earned. Are you being thrifty or a cheapskate? Jesus Christ, all I want is a squeeze bottle of goddam mustard!
I'm having the same problem vis-a-vis a haircut. There are two places within walking distance of my apartment, and since it was a beautiful day yesterday I walked to each. The first is located in a row of bunker-like offices that's so far off the road I can't imagine anyone ever finding it. The building itself is long and concrete and looks like a place the Departement of Defense would use to stockpile rifle ammunition. The windows were small and dark and I couldn't get a good look inside to see what manner of shearing goes on within. I passed.
I walked to the next place and saw to my dismay that in addition to getting your hair cut you can get your nails done and advice on cosmetics, etc. Again, pass. I don't have a problem getting clipped in a place that mostly caters to women, but somehow I doubt they get a lot of walk-ins with both an X and Y chromosome. Pass.
I walked home and did a Yahoo search. There are 25 different hair salons within 2.5 miles of my house. How the HELL am I supposed to choose between TWENTY-FIVE salons? What are the odds that, after emerging freshly-trimmed, I won't be overcome with buyer's remorse? The chances are good, very good, that after the stylist hacks and slashes at me I'm gonna come away looking pretty rough. So what do I do in six to eight weeks when once again I can't bear my hair and need a trim? Try someplace else? What if that place is worse? Go back to square one and accept a certain amount of follicular misery? Am I doomed to spend years wandering the desert, looking for that one person who can make me look not-hideous? I'm not even looking for sleek and stylish anymore. "Not-hideous" is all I ask.
Dammit, why are there so many barber shops and beauty salons and the like in this country? Shouldn't there eventually be some consolidation in the industry, shouldn't there be some mega-corporation that comes along and gobbles up all the Mom-and-Pop shops? I know the Wal-Mart near my flat has a salon, but I'm not getting my goddam hair cut in a goddam Wal-Mart. I would if there were no options, but so long as there are, I'll pass. And there still ARE options--Wal-Mart hasn't yet annihilated them. How do all these places survive economically? How can 25 businesses offering approximately the same service operation within a 2.5 mile radius of each other? I don't live in Hong Kong, there aren't THAT many people around here. The MBA in me keeps saying, This Shouldn't Be.
I gave some thought to getting some manner of crew-cut, shave it way down. The problem is that my head is shaped kinda...funny...and I'm afraid that if I did get it cut close I'd look like a Frankenstein. "That's fine," my friend Rick said last night over beers. "Halloween's coming up, when you go to parties you can just stick two bolts in your neck and you're done." Whatta pal.
It's after 4PM. My goal was to get up early, get a haircut, hit the library, cook the chicken I've had marinating. I did cook the chicken, and it was marvelous, but I'm still inside my apartment. I haven't ventured out. I grow isolated and depressed. And shaggy. I don't look good when I'm shaggy. I suppose I must risk all, lay it all on the line and go forth into the world, seeking a haircut.
Chasing Poker Players Instead of Al Qaeda
If Glenn Greenwald
isn't the best political blogger out there then he's near the top of a very short list. He's just written a post
about how the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act is just another Republican assault on our personal liberty. It used to be that conservatives (and Republicans) loathed government intrusion into the lives of private citizens and believed that what you did with your hard-earned money was your own damn business. The Bush Administration and Congressional Republicans obviously do not share those beliefs, and the UIGEA is just another brick in the wall, as you might say.
Another law that's gotten some attention the last few days is the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act, thanks in large part to the fact that it's Republican sponsor in the House, Mark Foley, stands accused of violating it. That law also targeted people who produce Internet pornography, which is protected under the First Amendment but, again, is something the far-right doesn't like. And therefore that right must also be wiped off the books in any way possible.
The never-to-end War on Terror is usually given as justification for the eradication of our Constitutional rights, but, as Greenwald says:
FBI agents are not being used to search for IslamoFascistJihadists sleeper cells because they are too busy satisfying James Dobson by searching for poker players and spending the day at the homes of single-person pornographers ensuring that their record-keeping is in compliance with the Byzantine requirements of Mark Foley's new law.
So, torturing people is OK. Arresting people and holding them without charge is OK. Ignoring laws you don't like is OK (so long as you're the President). But playing poker is WRONG. Porn is WRONG. So sayeth this virulently anti-American segment of the population. And the rest of us should therefore fall meekly into line and live our lives as they say.
Well, bullshit to that. November 7th is coming up fast. VOTE, people. Vote out the bastards who think they should be the ones who decide how we should live. Let's not forget--Rick Santorum is on record as saying oral sex
should be illegal. Does ANYONE think Rick Santorum has any business being in a position of power over our lives? Abso-fucking-lutely not.
To quote Greenwald again:
It has been obvious for quite some time, and certainly since the Schiavo travesty, that the Bush-led Republican Party is the very antithesis of individual liberty and a limited federal government. The administration and its Congressional loyalists not only seek unlimited state power in name of combating terrorism but also in the name of enforcing private morality.
Vote the bastards out. The electorate has the power to fire Representatives who do a lousy job of representing. We need to send out lots of pink slips on November 7th. Vote, dammit.
Why You Shouldn't Use Books As Safe-Deposit Boxes
I have a bad habit of hiding important documents inside books. I probably got this idiotic idea from, yes, a book, probably some junk mystery novel where the hero finds the final clue tucked between the pages of some forgotton (but somehow symbolic) tome. I think the first time I tried this myself was back in the 7th grade, when I was sick with love for this adorable girl but couldn't quite find the right way to declare my intentions. We were in the library researching for a report and I knew there was this particular book she would have to use. So I wrote this note telling her how she made my heart sing, my soul soar, etc, and craftily tucked it inside the cover.
The note went over like gangbusters. She found it, she read it, and a few moments later she was sharing it with a gaggle of her girlfriends. She was smiling. She was blushing. I have to give myself credit here--I'm not bad at all with words. I may be a big, dumb, pathetic galoot who gets tongue-tied when speaking to members of the fair sex, but put a pen in my hand (or a keyboard on my lap) and my words elicit giggles and sighs. I'm good.
Unfortunately for my seventh-grade self, there was one word I'd forgotten to include on that note--my goddam name
. My beloved knew that SOMEBODY thought she was the ultimate in femininity, but his exact identity remained a secret. And that's the way I kept it, for a day at least. For one thing, I was too embarassed now to have everyone know that such passion burned inside my heart. When I wrote the note I figured she'd read it, keep the contents to herself, and then approach me a bit later to say that she felt the exact same way about me. Eternal bliss would naturally follow. But having EVERYONE know what I wrote put my feet in the freezer.
Of course keeping something like this a secret, especially in the jungle that is the American junior-high school, is impossible. I forget now if I admitted authorship or if that legion of Nancy Drews sussed it out, but by the time we arrived in the library the next day everyone knew who wrote the note. The girl I wrote it to never acknowledged my existence. She didn't talk to me, she didn't look at me, she didn't share the same plane of consciousness as me. There was no "me", as either an objective or subjective reality.
That hurt for about...six years. Odd that after that she and I got to be friends and remain that way today. I was just thinking about her the other day, how I haven't talked to her in a long time. Think I'll send her an email once I finish this.
You might think this little episode might've killed any thought of hiding stuff in books, but you'd be wrong. Let's not forget that the actual hiding of the note had been a HUGE success. She'd been surprised. She'd been delighted. She LOVED it. The only problem was that the note had come from...me. Pardon me while I open a bottle of wine and drink it in one gulp.
I went to college at Penn State, where Pattee Library holds millions and millions of volumes. If I wanted to impress a girl by hiding a note in THERE she might die of old age before finding it, so I abandoned using books as flirtation devices and instead employed them for my own purposes. My freshman year came immediately after Penn State won the national championship, and so my football ticket was an incredibly important piece of paper. Don't know how they do it now, but back then you presented your ticket at the gate, they used a paper-punch to notch out the game you were attending, and you used that same ticket all year.
Anyway, to keep my ticket safe from whatever gangs or crews or syndicates might prowl Happy Valley ripping off tickets, I put mine inside one of the books on my shelf. Clever, yes? But as with my seventh-grade declaration of love, I made one mistake. I put my ticket inside a book while I was deep in my cups. Blitzed. Wasted. And as often happens when you've had a few too many, the memory of past events gets a bit fuzzy.
Flash forward two weeks, and the Nittany Lions are taking on Alabama in a nationally-televised game starting at 8PM. We've been drinking all day. We're ready to scream our heads off. Plus it'd been raining all day and promised to rain all night, which only served to whip us all into an even greater state of rage against all things Crimson.
My gang gathered to make the trek up to Beaver Stadium...and I couldn't find my ticket. It took me a few moments to remember back to that drunken night when I put my ticket in a "safe" place and realize that place was inside one of my books. But which one? I didn't have THAT many on my dorm-room shelf, but we were ready to go, and YOU try flipping through 10,000 pages when you're drunk and impatient. Plus the ticket was just a thin piece of laminated paper, easy to miss if your riffling is out-of-control.
Turns out the ticket was secreted in my dictionary, though I didn't find it until my second pass through it. And the Penn State went out and got killed by Bama. It wasn't a good night.
Out of college and a mature, responsible adult, I stopped sticking important papers inside books. Like a grown-up, I kept my documents in clearly-labeled folders--hell, after I bought my house I went out and got a file cabinet
. But five years later we put the house up for sale and I started throwing out everything I didn't want to move, and that damned file cabinet was high on the list. I found that one of the things I now wanted out of life was to not have so much crap that needed to be kept in a goddam file cabinet.
But there were a few piece of paper I absolutely had to have, and one of them was my birth certificate. I'd been keeping that in the nightstand by my bed, but when I cleaned that out to move it I had to do something with my birth certificate. How to keep it safe for the move? Of course, stick in in a book.
But which book? The most obvious candidates were the ones I had close at hand, and the one I selected was Ace on the River
by Barry Greenstein. It was an ideal choice--it wasn't a book I might throw away or give to the library, it was the perfect size to secure my BC, and the book's glossy pages would protect it like sheets of acetate.
When I found out I was going to Aruba I had to find my birth certificate to make the trip. Now, when I moved, it was a busy time. An emotional time, too. I didn't remember where I put the damned thing. But when I closed my eyes and calmly tried to recall where that blasted piece of paper was, a vision of Barry Greenstein floated up in my mind's eye. Went to the shelf, gave the book a flip, et voila
! Maybe at long last I'm getting the hang of this.
So last night, after I wrote my whiny post about how poker isn't going too good for me (and it got even worse today) I went to my shelf looking for something to read before I nodded off. I rarely go straight to bed; I read a few minutes until my eyes grow heavy. I just wanted something I could dig into for a few minutes and maybe pick up the next few nights as well.
The book I selected was one I haven't looked at for maybe 10 years--Psychotic Reactions and Carburator Dung
by Lester Bangs. I read it for a criticism class in college and probably re-read it at least a dozen times after that. A collection of essays, record and band reviews, fiction...it's impossible to categorize. One of my favorite books.
But one I hadn't read for a long time. Don't know why--maybe I read it so much in my twenties that I burned myself out on it. But when I saw that bright-yellow spine sticking out on the shelf my synapses twitched and I grabbed it. Reading Lester Bangs probably isn't the best way to get your mind ready for rest, but it was pushing 2AM and I was pretty much beat.
Got settled under the covers, flipped past Greil Marcus's introduction...and a sliver of paper fluttered into my lap. It was more than a scrap I might've used as a bookmark, and as I picked it up I saw there was writing on the other side. I flipped it over and saw it was a phone number, written in a feminine hand. And, like Proust nibbling his madeleine, I remembered exactly how I acquired it.
I'd just started working at this big departement store downtown, and until you were there a few months you had to go to HR and get a card so you could use your employee discount. The HR person I talked every Friday was a girl who was pretty and smart and funny...you know, out of my league. And because she was out of my league I felt no pressure being around her, and I'd spend an extra ten minutes or so up there talking to her. Best part of my week.
So a few weeks later a woman I work with tells me there's this girl she knows who "likes" me. We never really leave junior-high, do we? I ask who it is, but she won't tell me. She wants me to guess. I have no idea, so like 2 hours go by with no success and I'm about ready to throw her down the escalator if she doesn't cough up the name. When she does, and tells me it's that girl from HR, I about burst into song. Too good to be true.
So the next day I'm in the cafeteria reading Psychotic Reactions and Carburator Dung
, and she sees me and comes over. She sees the, uh, colorful title of the book and asks what it's about, and when I tell her she says, "It's hard to believe that YOU would be reading something like that". I said something about not judging a book by it's cover.
We finally get to talking about the game of 20 Questions I played the day before. Now, how cool is this? A girl I'm crazy about is crazy enough about me to stoop to the sort of childish games I
usually rely on. So like a sap I tell her I like her too, blah blah blah, and then she hits me with the right hook--"I guess you don't know that I have a boyfriend."
No, didn't know that. She'd been "with" a guy since high school. Been waiting for him to do the right thing and give her a ring. But he hadn't, and recently she'd been thinking it was time to move on. Thinking about it. Not sure. So here I am in this limbo state wondering where we go from here.
So we agree that maybe, at some time in the future, we should possibly give consideration about theoretically going on a date. Well, it wasn't that definite. Obviously she was very confused, and so was I, but whaddya gonna do?
She digs in her purse and tears the back off an envelope and scribbles down her phone number. She asks me to maybe call her over the weekend so we could talk. OK, talking is good. I took her phone number and stuck it in the pages of my book. When she left she was smiling, and so was I. "Love is a battlefield" said the noted philosopher Pat Benatar. I'd call her that weekend and we'd figure a few things out.
I left the book at work. Left her phone number in the book. Could not call her unlisted number that weekend. Was batshit crazy the whole time.
Now I'm not going to say that, had I called her that weekend, she and I would've lived happily ever after. She and I did go out a few times, we went to lunch at least once or twice a week for about a year. When I explained why I didn't call her, she accepted my explaination and wasn't upset.
But. She and her boyfriend DID talk that weekend, and she decided to stick with him. By leaving her phone number inside Bangs's book, I didn't even give myself a chance. And when her phone number fluttered into my lap last night it gave me a king-sized dose of the heebie-jeebies. I didn't fall asleep until like 3:30. Too weird, man. Too weird. It wasn't so much thinking about her, or what might've been. It was just...too weird. If the past is gonna sneak up on you and slap you in the face, it shouldn't happen at 2AM when you're under the covers. I wasn't prepared.
About five years after I changed jobs I ran into that girl again. She was doing some contract work for our bank and was in my building for a few months. It was good to see her, and one day we went to lunch and I told her about my recent engagement (which failed to cut her to the quick) and asked the leading question, "So, when did you get married?" She hadn't. She was with the same guy, still waiting for the right time to get married. They'd set and broken three wedding dates. What might've, but probably wouldn't, have been.
I'm looking at the bookshelf in my living room right now. Scores of books. Old books, new books. Probably nothing between all those covers except the words the authors put there themselves. I think I'll go ahead and believe that and resist the urge to go searching for lost treasure.
So What Do I Know?
Wow, I thought the suckouts in Hold-Em were rough, but after playing HORSE for a week or so I'm almost longing for those beats on the river. I'm just playing for fun, playing different games just to be different, but Jesus, could I please not lose EVERY time to a boat on seventh street? Could I pleass not brick out in Razz when my first four cards are A-2-3-4? Pretty please? I'm playing tight, very tight, but I am getting KILLED. Now, it's true that I know nothing about optimal strategy in Stud, Stud Hi/Lo, Razz, and Omaha Hi/Lo, and that my grasp of good Limit Hold-Em play is what might called "tenuous". But still...Jesus!
The recent passage of that anti-American legislation or not, my poker career might be coming to an end. I'm coming up on my 3rd anniversary of playing online, and I don't think I've gotten much better. Maybe a little bit. But I don't seem to have the drive or motivation to get much better. Oh, I have lots of poker books on my shelf, and I've even read most of them, but have I truly understood? Doesn't seem that way. Overall, I'm a winning player, but not by much. Not enough to justify the time I put into it. And for me to get better I'd have to put a lot more time into it. Which I don't seem willing to do. I enjoy playing, but I enjoy writing and reading and riding my bike, and maybe it's time I made that last, final cash-out and stepped away from the table once and for all. I've been tempted the last few days, but I can't pull the trigger.
Nah, probably won't cash out entirely. Still working off a bonus. Still like to play. But whatever hopes I had to become a "good" player have pretty much fallen by the wayside. It takes work to get good at this game, and I don't seem to be willing to do that work. And I don't know that my attitude will be changing any time soon.
Plus I don't want to go to prison. That was one of my New Year's resolutions last years, "Stay out of federal prison". I'd like to keep one of my resolutions for a change.
Gonna drink some beer, make some Chili Beef (recipe upon request), and watch the Passion of Terrell Owens. My apartment is filled with the smell of fresh laundry--and that soothing scent actually comes from the laundry I did this morning, not from the can of Febreeze in my bathroom.
It's a beautiful day out, blue skies, breeze rattling the shades. Have an article almost done, and I started a long post that grew too depressing so I tabled it for another day, maybe one when it's raining. Played poker with friends last night, had fun, lost a few bucks, drank a lotta Yuengling.
Wish I had more to write about. But not really. Nice day out. Football on TV. Beer. This'll do.
Actually, if a beautiful day, football and beer isn't enough to keep you happy, read this
, as I just did. Made me feel guilty, and mad, and grateful.
The Hammer in Action
I'm going to assume that you read the UB blog
and know who won the tournament and all that. Devon Miller, the guy who DID win, went on a completely ludicrous hot streak over the last 2 days. How ludicrous? How about This stat--once they got down to 18 players, he knocked out all but one
. Took out 16 of 17 opponents. That's sick.
There was one hand that will appeal to my readers. I was watching a different table when we heard there was an all-in. That wasn't unusual, as players were slinging chips pretty much the whole tournament. I arrived to find Miller all-in and his opponent contemplating a call. It was a battle of the blinds, Miller raised, the other guy re-raised, and Miller made a huge overbet and pushed.
The guy thinking over the call was somewhat notorious for taking a lot of time over his decisions. And he was the sort to talk out loud as he deliberated--you know, "If you have AK, I'm in trouble...but you could have a small pair...you could make that move..." Blah blah blah.
The guy has a lot of chips, and if he doubles up he's primed for a deep run. He keeps thinking, thinking, shuffing his cards. Miller calls the clock after about 4 hours of this and we start counting down. I think the guy has to fold. Miller had been playing like a maniac, but he'd shown down some big hands too. Miller's quite capable of making a move like this with junk, but the way he'd been running I wouldn't be comfortable taking a flop with him.
With about five seconds to go the guy says, "Know what? I call." He pushes in his stack and turns over A-4. Miller turns over...the Hammer. Suited, mind you, but he turns over the Hammer.
I think I was the only person in the room who KNEW a deuce was coming on the flop. Everyone goes nuts, but the other guy does have a wheel draw. And on cue the three of spades falls on the turn to give the other dude the straight. But it also gave Miller a flush draw. And, yes, the river is a spade and the Hammer reigns supreme. A totally sick hand.
At the party on Saturday night they have Miller his bracelet, and Jack McClelland, who I don't think is often given to hyperbole, said he hadn't seen a display like Miller's "since Stuey Ungar passed." No small praise. Miller himself said he got incredibly lucky. Somewhere in between lies the truth.
The People Who Rule Us
So Congress decides to kill Internet gambling because it's bad for us. And they know far better than we do what's in our best interest. We need to be watched over, don't you know.
There's a little scandal going on in DC that you might have heard about. A Republican congressman named Mark Foley resigned last Friday because it got out that he was (at the least) exchanging sexually-charged e-mails and instant messages with 16-year-old boys who work as House pages. Turns out that the Republican House leadership, including Dennis Hastert and John Boehner, knew about Foley's creepy, unethical and quite possibly illegal conduct...and did nothing about it. Buried it. Let this guy continue to have unfettered access to young kids.
During an interview on CNN today, anchor Miles O'Brien asked Ray LaHood, a Republican congressman from Illinois, about LaHood's call for the House Page program to be abolished. And here's what LaHood said:
LAHOOD: To send 15 and 16-year-old boys and girls to Washington, D.C., it's an antiquated system. And my idea is let's suspend it, send the pages home, and have some scholarly people in Washington really evaluate the program and bring it into the 21st century. It just -- it's a program that simply is flawed. It has its flaws. We should fix it. And then if it's a valuable program, perhaps bring it back.
O'BRIEN: Well, that's kind of a sorry state of affairs. In essence, what you're saying is that members of Congress can't be trusted to be around young people.
LAHOOD: Well, that's pretty obvious.
Try to wrap your mind around this. Members of the House of Representatives...can't be trusted to be around young people. And this is coming from a member of the House. THESE are the people who think they should protect us from ourselves.
Vote the bastards out.
Stating The Obvious--Bloggers Rule
A coherent post about Aruba is beyond me right now, so let me just sort of jump from subject to subject over the next few posts and let everyone know how things went down there.
The best part of the trip was meeting up with Linda
and getting to talk to them a bit. Linda quite possibly saved my life by giving me some cold medication that actually made headway against the bug that plagued me all week. With everything else she had going on during the tournament, she remembered that I was sick and brought the medicine the next day. And then we had a nice talk outside the tournament ballroom during one of those nights when I was wondering what the hell I was doing there. Thanks to her both my physical and mental state improved dramatically as the week wore on.
I pity those of you who haven't had the pleasure of meeting Mr. and Mrs. Doubleas yet. My biggest regret of the trip was not having more time to hang out with them and talk and drink and have some fun. I got to spend a lot of time talking to Liz in the hallway as Scott fought the good fight inside. He also saved my ass by giving me a copy of a photo-sizing program that allowed me to post the fantastic pictures I took down there.
And I just thought of something--I didn't get him to autograph my copy of his book! The one night we were down in the lobby of his hotel, drinking and writing (there's a picture of that on his blog) and Liz went to the casino bar to get more Balashis and, in the course of some innocent conversation, told the casino manager her husband is a poker player, and, on top of that, a famous author! Scott ended up trudging down the hallway to bring the guy a copy of his book and sign it for him. Success hasn't gone to his head.
One of the funniest moments of the week (at least for me) came during the first break after the tournament started. The overflow tables were set up in the casino and that's where Scott was, and I didn't realize until later that he was at a table with Layne Flack (who took 2nd in Aruba in 2005) and Cliff "JohnnyBax" Josephy (who took 2nd this year). Now, that's a pretty scary duo to have at your table. But when I talked to Scott, he said, "Yeah, I have Flack on my left...he's fun to play with. And Bax...he's a tough player..."
Most players (like me) would be wetting themselves if they sat down with those two guys. Not doubleas. I imagined him saying in his calm, laconic way, "Yeah...I have Bruce Wayne on my left...you know, he's Batman...and then across the table is...Jesus of Nazareth...He's good, but He doesn't have chips..." Unflappable.
Hopefully both Linda and Scott will attend whatever blogger function comes next. If they do, mark it on your calendar.
I read all about the Bash while I was in Aruba, and perhaps it was a good thing I couldn't make it, because I wouldn't have been much fun. I was sick as a dog Saturday night, and I stayed that way until Tuesday. I got home Saturday night intending to write a bit and then hit the casino for some slots fun and a few beers. Forget it. I lay down on the bed, crawled under the covers, and fell asleep watching the Notre Dame-Michigan State game. When I fell asleep Michigan State was way ahead, but I had a dream that Notre Dame came back to win. I guess my unconscious was still watching the game while my body tried to rest.
One thing about the trip--just about everyone I met was...nice. Really, really nice. Everyone having a good time, everyone pretty relaxed. I think the most unpleasant person I saw was the bleary-eyed SOB staring back at me from the mirror.
I'll probably post more today, lots of pictures and stories. But my cupboards are bare, I need milk and bread. I took 4th in Wil's tournament last night, and earlier in the day I took some free money Party gave me and blew it all on one big SNG, where I took 2nd. Like a lot of players, I'm playing loose and fast, hoping to hit one big score before the party ends. It makes me sick. As I've said before (and I'll keep saying), there's an election coming up in November. Vote the bastards out. Find ways to make your voice heard. It's not just about the gambling ban, just look at the state of our country. Time to clean house.
Bill Frist's Other Good Deeds
OK, so Bill Frist did a good day's work on Friday and killed online poker for millions of Americans. The bill he railroaded through also destroyed billions in market cap for online casinos. I don't exactly know how this plays into his Presidential ambitions, since millions of online poker players now equate him with the Grinch, before his heart (or brain, for that matter) grew three sizes too big.
So what did Frist do today? Well, he's taking a tour of Afghanistan (remember, Afghanistan, that war we had before Iraq?), and he's saying that we can't defeat the Taliban and should therefore negotiate and bring them into the Afghan government:
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist said Monday that the Afghan guerrilla war can never be won militarily and called for efforts to bring the Taliban and their supporters into the Afghan government.
The Tennessee Republican said he had learned from briefings that Taliban fighters were too numerous and had too much popular support to be defeated by military means.
“You need to bring them into a more transparent type of government,” Frist said during a brief visit to a U.S. and Romanian military base in the southern Taliban stronghold of Qalat. “And if that’s accomplished we’ll be successful.”
[...] Frist, who said he would announce whether he would run for the U.S. presidency in about a month, said he had hoped that the United States would be able to withdraw its forces from Afghanistan soon. But the 20,000 U.S. troops are still needed to help the 37-country coalition deal with an intensifying Taliban insurgency.
So...the people who turned Afghanistan into a hellish theocracy...who provided cover bin Laden before 9/11 and refused to turn him over after he murdered 3,000 American civilians...we should invite those people to participate in the nascent Afghan democracy. Sure. The Taliban will be happy to play parliamentary politics, they'll be happy holding important posts like Minister of Agriculture. They won't want total, unopposed power like before. Nah. I'm sure they think transparency in government is swell.
Meanwhile, in Iraq, a country that didn't attack us, that had nothing to do with 9/11 and al Qaeda...stay the course. Keep the troop there indefinetly. Keep spending hundreds of billions a year.
Oh yeah, and banning online poker is a national priority. I mean, the war, the deficit, torture, etc...that'll be there after the election. But gotta stop those poker players.
Bill Frist wants to be President, kids. Let us pause a moment to realize that he is the SENATE MAJORITY LEADER. Of the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. And he's actually going to be running for President. Now, if you're wondering how on Earth a person this blinkered could rise to such a position of power...well, look who's in the White House now.
There's an election in a month. You have to vote. You have to vote for people who you think at least have a kernel of decency within them, and who have enough brains to walk and chew gum at the same time. Find a candidate like that and it's gotta be an improvement. And if you're in doubt, vote against the incumbent. We the People need to scare these bastards into thinking they'll lose their jobs if they spend their entire terms fucking up.
No Time For Laughter
Well, after reading what Nolan Dalla wrote about the Internet Gambling Ban over at Bill's
site, maybe today isn't such a good day for a silly story after all.
It's funny, while I was at the party in Aruba on Sunday, I asked a few people if they'd heard that the ban had passed. No one had, and a few people were shocked and horrified. I was tempted to ask some of the pros if they heard, but I chickened out. To be honest, I didn't know all the particulars of the bill at the moment and didn't have the time to read up. And, besides, it was a party. If this was a swan song of sorts, why bring everybody down? I drank Balashi and ate shrimp.
But obviously, this is going to seriously affect the Annie Dukes and Phil Hellmuths of the world. Not just in the bankroll, either--one would think they've got lawyers reviewing the legislation and real estate brokers in Costa Rica looking for beachfront property.
As for we humble poker bloggers...I dunno. I've always liked the idea of someday being a renegade, an outlaw, living outside the boundries set by the squares and white-bread scumballs of the world. I just thought there would be a lot more fun and sex involved than I got playing $5 sit-n-goes and blogging about it. Well, at least if we all get sent to the same federal prison there will always be a game going. Good company, too.
Well, for me, I'm not cashing out yet, and I'm not going down without a fight. Obviously Bush isn't going to veto this bill, and I find it hard to believe that we'll see legislation re-legalizing online gambling even if the Democrats win back both houses of Congress. That is, unless the poker sites and online casinos lay out some really long bread, but that might be throwing bad money after good, now that it's too late. But when the going gets tough, the tough...hope there's some way to salvage a little something out of the situation. So, I'll keep my eyes and ears open, and if there's any little way to help or fight back, I'm down.
Let's All Laugh At Me!
With all the bad news poker-wise the last few days, how about I tell a funny story to cheer you up? The story involves me suffering and being generally miserable, so how could it fail to put a smile on your lips?
Took off from Aruba around 4PM yesterday, and we landed in Charlotte around eight. After switching planes, I figured we'd land in Pittsburgh around 10:30 and I'd get home around midnight. I was hungry, as the only thing I'd eaten since 7AM was a turkey sandwich and some vanilla cookies. Figured I'd stop at the Wendy's by my flat, have them fill up a sack with fast food, and have my own private welcome-home party.
The flight from Charlotte took less than an hour. Flew right over Downtown, and that's when I felt home. Didn't even get nervous during the landing. I'm getting better. My suitcase was one of the last to come down, and I fairly danced as I went outside to take the shuttle to the parking lot. It was already leaving, but the driver saw me and stopped, and I wrestled my suitcase on board.
"Where are you parked?" he asked.
"Thirteen," I said. Because that's where I parked. When I left my car two Friday's ago I looked up at the lightpole I parked next to and read aloud the sign affixed to it. "13-F."
The bus driver said, "Shelter 13?" I said, "Uh, yeah." Well, the shelter where travelers wait for the shuttle to arrive, they match up with that section of the lot, right?
And thus started the nightmare.
My suitcase was blocking the aisle, and when the driver arrived at Shelter 13 I decided to get off there and just walk to my car. I could see lightpoles with 13 on them, so what the hell? I got off and started walking.
I should say that, after 10 consecutive days of 90-degree weather, it was a crisp 48 in Pittsburgh. Did I say crisp? I should say damp. Every car in the lot glistened with dew. And I was dressed in a white T-shirt and shorts.
I walked around...and I didn't see a pole marked "13-F". They only went up to "13-D". Plus...the shelter next to the #13 section of the lot was marked #4. The #13 shelter corresponded to section #15. Confused yet? I was.
I walked around and around. And around. And around. And around. I couldn't find my car. What's worse, my mind was starting to play tricks on me. I was utterly exhausted. I was freezing. I had a horrible cold for five days in Aruba and it's still hanging around. I looked and looked but couldn't find 13-F.
To say that I was pissed does not come close to describing the anger, nay, rage that began to consume me. I wanted to go home. I'd managed to get myself to Aruba and back, and now I couldn't find my goddam car? This was fan-frickin'-tastic.
I lugged my luggage across the road and tried the section near shelter 13. Maybe I'd made a mistake and it'd been shelter 13 I waited
at, not section 13 where I parked
. And here's where Fate decided to give me a sucker punch. Guess what my seat assignment was on my flight from Charlotte to Pittsburgh. You guessed it--13F.
I was totally fried. I couldn't think straight. I was cold. I was hungry. I was thirsty. I'd been sick all week and operating at DefCon 5 for ten days straight. I tried to think back to that Friday morning...and drew a blank. 13-F, was that just stuck in my head because of the flight? That was possible...I mean, in my mind's eye I saw where I parked, I remembered walking the shelter to call the shuttle...but reality didn't jibe with my memory.
I walked, and I walked, and I walked, until I recognized the hopelessness of it all. I called my brother at his house, because that's where he sleeps at 11:30 at night. I told him my predicament, and he said he'd come to the airport and either help me find the car or give me a ride home. I felt like the Biggest Jackass In The Goddam World. I mean, sure, I had a lot on my mind that Friday morning. I was already feeling sick. I was about to travel 4,000 miles, and I'm afraid to fly. I had a lot of hard work ahead of me. I was under a lot of stress. But I thought I'd kept it all together, I had everything under control. Except for where I parked my car.
Ryan showed a half-hour later, and we started cruising up and down the aisles. I warmed up a bit, and we were able to cover more ground in five minutes than I had in an hour. We checked section 13, went across the road, and checked section 15. It was then that Ryan saw, about 75 yards away, that there were OTHER lots labeled #13. 13-E. 13-G.
We drove over there, went up, went down, and there it was. Right where I'd left it, right where I remembered it. Right by the pole marked 13-F. So my memory hadn't left me. That would've been so much comfort, if it hadn't been 12:30AM, and I was freezing and thirsty.
The distance between the section 13 I was looking in and the section 13 where my car was is about...150 yards. You have to go across a road, hang a left, and then you take a dogleg around a turn in that road. It's not in the line of sight. Whoever designed the numbering system went to the Sick Bastard School of Nomenclature. Oh, and the shelter I waited in that distant Friday morn? Number 11. That seems logical, yeah, it all makes sense.
So, the time it took me to fly from Charlotte to Pittsburgh? One hour. The time it took me to go from the baggage carousel to my driver's seat? An hour and forty-five minutes. Awesome. And then, to add misery to misery, on my drive home I somehow whiffed on the exit that takes me straight home (my brain was close to shutdown). No biggie, I'll just go up the road a mile and take the next one, only add another five minutes to my trip. Whoops, forgot, that exit was closed the week before I left. Had to go another fifteen minutes out of my way to get home. Fantastic.
Staggered upstairs, dumped my bags on the floor, and made a hot, comforting bowl of chicken soup. Didn't get to bed till 3AM, just too wired. Too tired. Too fried. Now I'm looking at the couch and thinking that a mid-afternoon nap sounds just about right. Embarassment and rage tuckers a guy out. I'll post lots more about the trip later. For now, nap.
A Change In Scenery
The view from my balcony at 9AM, yesterday:
The view from my balcony at 9AM, today:
I'll post more pictures and stuff later on, maybe today, maybe not. I wrote up a nice final post for the UB site and then I couldn't get logged on in my hotel room for the longest time. And I got paranoid about being late to the airport (ended up sitting around for over 2 hours) so maybe I'll post it here later with the pictures. Later.
Of course, when I said HOME, I meant the GPS coordinates where my apartment is. I'm not "home" in the sense of I'm back in the United States of America, because the United States of America, sadly, no longer exists. I'm not speaking merely of the Internet Gambling Ban that was passed the other day, but the ban is a symptom of the disease that took hold of our country the day the Supreme Court decided George Bush should be our President.
Our nation's history is full of horrible people who rose to high position in government. But what can you say about a country that elects George Bush and Dick Cheney to the highest offices in the land...TWICE. About a country that has it's legislative bodies headed by people the quality of Bill Frist and Dennis Hastert?
Online gaming sites have seen their market value halved this morning. Follow the money. I don't know if we're done, but I hear a fat lady warming up in the wings.
Our country has been sliding into the morass for over six years now. It's just our turn to get kicked in the balls, that's all. Just our turn.
Went to the UB party tonight, had a smashing time, headed home along the beach, thinking extremely deep thought. Which I'm not going to share with you, because I think they're only deep so far as I'm considered. Changed shoes, went down to the casino to donk off some money on the slots. Blew off a few bucks, then hit a nice little number, decided to call it quits down ten bucks. As I cashed out, I checked out the band playing in the casino bar. The guy on bongos was a dead ringer for Iggy
. Who is celebrating his third blogbirthday today. I looked at the guy, and looked at him, and looked at him so long he probably go the willies. Then I went to my room.
I had a blast. I met a lot of great people. The island is incredibly beautiful. But I'm ready to go home to Pittsburgh. It's time.