Mean Gene
Mean Gene
Pittsburgh's most decorated poker blogger, which I admit is like being the best shortstop in Greenland

Subscribe with Bloglines

My Articles

Presto, the Arlo, & the Hammer
An Online Code of Conduct
The Ethics of Ratholing
"The Professor, the Banker..."
"Ace on the River"

My Columns

Lose the Shades
If You Can't Say Something Nice
Whither the Kicker
The Lady is a Champ?
Covering the WSOP (or not)
Statistics, Luck, and Poker
Poker and New Orleans
Managing a Bankroll
How To Tell A Bad Beat Story
Telling Lies
The Power of Poker Tracker
Advanced Card-Handling

My Greatest Hits

5 Things To Do Before I Die
Cafeteria Nostalgia
Mean Gene's Dubious Dating Tips
Poker and Business?
There's No Such Thing As Luck?
Isabelle, Je t'adore
No Shirt No Shoes No Service
Well, The Food Was Good
Good Morning, Mr. Matusow!
The Weekend of our Discontent, I
The Weekend of our Discontent, II
Books That Left Their Mark
Ode to a Fish Sandwich
Bill Simmons Ain't the Poker Guy
The Sports Guy Still Ain't the Poker Guy
Again, The Media Tackles Poker
Five Years After 9/11
Hitting Pretty Girls in the Face
Sixth-Graders Suck

Fellow Poker Bloggers

Guinness and Poker
Cards Speak
Tao of Poker
Up for Poker
Boy Genius
Chris Halverson
Poker Grub
The Fat Guy
Todd Commish
Poker Works
Bill Rini
Bad Blood
Love and Casino War
Double As
Lion Tales
Paul Phillips
Daniel Negreanu
Poker Nerd
Poker Nation
Poker in Arrears
Human Head
Sound of a Suckout
Chicks With Chips
TP's Table Talk
Royal Poker
This is Not A Poker Blog
Chick and a Chair
Go Be Rude
Poker Cheapskate
Poker & Other Stuff
Seven Two
Musical Poker
WPBT Online
Isabelle Mercier
Cardschat Blog
Amy Calistri
BJ Nemeth
Annie's Blog

Poker Sites

Cardschat Poker Forum
Barstool Sports
Card Player
Internet Texas Hold-Em
Poker Pages


  • 12/01/2003 - 01/01/2004
  • 01/01/2004 - 02/01/2004
  • 02/01/2004 - 03/01/2004
  • 03/01/2004 - 04/01/2004
  • 04/01/2004 - 05/01/2004
  • 05/01/2004 - 06/01/2004
  • 06/01/2004 - 07/01/2004
  • 07/01/2004 - 08/01/2004
  • 08/01/2004 - 09/01/2004
  • 09/01/2004 - 10/01/2004
  • 10/01/2004 - 11/01/2004
  • 11/01/2004 - 12/01/2004
  • 12/01/2004 - 01/01/2005
  • 01/01/2005 - 02/01/2005
  • 02/01/2005 - 03/01/2005
  • 03/01/2005 - 04/01/2005
  • 04/01/2005 - 05/01/2005
  • 05/01/2005 - 06/01/2005
  • 06/01/2005 - 07/01/2005
  • 07/01/2005 - 08/01/2005
  • 08/01/2005 - 09/01/2005
  • 09/01/2005 - 10/01/2005
  • 10/01/2005 - 11/01/2005
  • 11/01/2005 - 12/01/2005
  • 12/01/2005 - 01/01/2006
  • 01/01/2006 - 02/01/2006
  • 02/01/2006 - 03/01/2006
  • 03/01/2006 - 04/01/2006
  • 04/01/2006 - 05/01/2006
  • 05/01/2006 - 06/01/2006
  • 06/01/2006 - 07/01/2006
  • 07/01/2006 - 08/01/2006
  • 08/01/2006 - 09/01/2006
  • 09/01/2006 - 10/01/2006
  • 10/01/2006 - 11/01/2006
  • 11/01/2006 - 12/01/2006
  • 12/01/2006 - 01/01/2007
  • 01/01/2007 - 02/01/2007
  • 02/01/2007 - 03/01/2007
  • 03/01/2007 - 04/01/2007
  • 04/01/2007 - 05/01/2007
  • 05/01/2007 - 06/01/2007
  • 06/01/2007 - 07/01/2007
  • 07/01/2007 - 08/01/2007

  • Powered by Blogger

    Thursday, September 30, 2004

    A Good Time to Be a Blogger; or, I Know How Dan Rather Feels

    Wasn't too long ago that the average American, upon hearing the word "blogger", thought it was a reference to a video game--you know, there was "Frogger", and this must be the PlayStation 2 sequal. But blogs have been big in the news lately, thanks to CBS News and their rather shaky fact-checking policies. Get it, "rather" shaky, Dan Rather...BWAHAHAHAHA! Ehh, I guess it was funny the first thousand times the joke was made out in the blogosphere, but not the next four million.

    Unless you live under an especially large rock you've heard the story by now. CBS News gets some documents written by Bush's commanding officer that allege someone was pressuring him to "sugar coat" Bush's military record. CBS went with the story on 60 Minutes II, and within milliseconds bloggers were crawling out of the woodwork contesting the authenticity of the documents. Within a day a variety of bloggers had shown that the docs looked like they'd been written on Microsoft Word; that the docs in question did not look anything like docs typed by the same office at a similar time; that it was highly unlikely that a National Guard post would have had access to the sophisticated typewriters required at the time to produce such novelties as superscripts.

    At first CBS said it had verified the documents independently, but then their verifiers said, "Uh, no, we verified zilch", and the scorn and calumny started to pile up as it became obvious that, not only were the documents almost certainly bogus, but CBS hadn't even bothered to check them out. If you want a full accounting of the scandal, including the ceaseless circling of the vultures, check out Glenn Reynolds' site Instapundit, which has been providing total gleeful coverage of the whole thing.

    "Rathergate", as the affair has inevitably been called, illustrates the enormous power we humble folks blogging for kicks can exert. You get a few motiviated cranks (and I use the term with all due respect) with bullshit detectors set on HIGH and they can quickly rip through stories and reports that in an earlier day would have been taken as gospel. Without the rapid response of the blogger brigade the CBS story may have sat out there, unchallenged, for days, even weeks. Eventually the Bush campaign would have done some digging and thinking and possibly exposed the documents as frauds, but when you're busy thinking up synonyms for "flip-flop" and concocting labrynthine explanations to hopefully confuse the electorate into thinking everything is going swimmingly in Iraq, you don't have a lot of time to deal with this sort of stuff.

    And so bloggers came to the rescue and gave CBS one seriously black eye. I don't think, as so many of the political bloggers do, that Rather will resign over this. Rather is a total kook, has been one for years, and I don't think anyone at CBS News has the oomph to even broach the subject. Maybe Sumner Redstone will look at CBS News' plummeting ratings and decide he needs to do the shoving, but I'm not holding my breath. Nor do I much care. I don't get my news from the networks anymore. I listen to NPR, watch CNN, I read Slate and The New Republic online, and I read a fair number of blogs. This menu may mark me as a political liberal, though I prefer the label "independent thinker". I'm a big boy, I know that there's bias in reporting, "fair and balanced" nonwithstanding. I can tell when a story is slanted, or, if I'm not sure, I take my news with a grain of salt and double-check things.

    That's one of the blogosphere's greatest virtues. You hear something on CNN, and with a few clicks you can see what half-a-dozen intelligent (or, if you prefer, not-so-intelligent) pundits think about it. What's more, they usually read and comment on each other's stuff, so you get a lot of back and forth discussion and debate. From there its up to you, the reader, to sort the wheat from the chaff. Instead of Dan Rather staring at you and intoning today's headlines, you get a big room full of people talking back and forth.

    A big, big room. Lots and lots of people. And sometimes they aren't talking, they're yelling. Screaming. Rending their garments. That's a problem with blogs, trying to figure out who's worth reading and who isn't. And there are lots and lots and lots of people worth reading. Far too many. For God's sake, check out the blogroll the next time you visit Iggy, it's out of control. And those are just blogs about poker, for crying out loud. Or check out l'homme gros for an endless list of blogs, poker and beyond.

    You could spend all day reading blogs and never even scratch the surface. It shows how many intelligent people there are out there, interested in every subject under sun, connected to each other by serendipity and hyperlinks. Blogs connect people who otherwise might never have known that there was someone else out into the same weird stuff. They enlighten people looking for another point of view. They let folks express ideas and dreams that otherwise may have died away, or been recorded in some dusty journal that would never see the light of day. Not every blog is worth its bandwidth, but there's so much good stuff out there that it's worth some digging.

    While I haven't done anything like expose a fraud committed by a network news organization, I like to think I've done some public service. I noticed I got a lot of hits from people looking up stuff about Dutch Boyd, and hopefully they read my posts detailing his involvement with an online poker room that went belly-up, stiffing a lot of players who had funds in poker accounts there. ESPN hasn't breathed a word about the controversy, preferring instead to glorify Boyd and his "Crew" and turn them into stars who make their WSOP coverage more compelling. As they've done to Phil Hellmuth, giving him tons of airtime the past two years to act like a self-absorbed, self-involved jerk, and I wrote a screed that argued behavior like that is NOT a good thing. Hopefully a few eyes were opened.

    But I've had rather a Rather moment myself. I read something poker author David Sklansky posted on one of the 2+2 message boards, a truly loony thing about women being insatiably attracted to intelligent men who are good at math. I read it, thought it deserved a reply, and cranked out a mammoth ripjob. Only to find out a few days later, thanks to Felicia, that Sklansky was just joking, that he writes oddball posts all the time. Well, shit. Unlike Rather, I immediately put up a post alerting readers that I'd goofed and overreacted and that my previous post should either be treated as fiction or as sewage. An honest mistake, and only perhaps 100 people read the thing, but I still felt goddam stupid and embarassed. Another weakness bloggers must work hard to overcome--too often we rely solely on the Internet, and other bloggers, for our information. Have to be very careful you don't get isolated, insulated from voices outside your normal sphere, that you aren't merely parroting what someone else said just because of who said it. It's not like I could've rung Sklansky up and said, "Hey, are you nuts?" as a "regular" reporter might have done, but I should've at least read the whole 2+2 thread to see if he'd come back to say he was joshing, which he in fact did. Bad Gene, no biscuit.

    But blogs are here to stay, they're in the mainstream now. If you don't have a blog, start one. Right now. Go to the top of the page, to the NavBar, and on the right you'll see the button marked "Get Your Own Blog". Couldn't be easier. If a total moron like me can put up a blog, you can too. And you should.

    OK, that's enough. If you weren't planning on visiting Iggy today, you should, because today is his blog's birthday! One whole year of destroying workplace productivity, imagine that. Thanks to Ig and SirFWALGman and Ryan (and I don't mean my 7-card-stud playin', Bush-votin' brother) for their help trying to get those stupid Adsense ads to work. Still isn't working right, which means I'm doing something wrong. Ahhh, I'll get it figured out eventually.

    I'll be asking for more help from my fellow poker bloggers in the near future, tho not about HTML this time. I'm writing a novel (well, I will be soon, more on that in a later post) in which poker of course plays a big role, and I need info from my fellow enthusiasts to give the story make it sound like I know what I'm talking about. And since I have access to this vast body of knowledge and expertise, why not draw on it? Why not, indeed.

    Tuesday, September 28, 2004

    Reaching out to the Blogosphere Again

    If you have eyes, or a brain larger than a pecan, you can see there is a horking great banner of ads covering up the NavBar at the top of this humble blog. For weeks now I've been trying to add the code for the Google AdSense program so that my much-beloved blog could become just another billboard for the pitiless global corporate cabal. Actually, I wanted to add it just to see if anyone ever clicked the ads, if they were at all effective. And, what the hell, maybe make a buck on this blog. And I mean that literally--although Google rather pointedly doesn't say how much you'll make per click thru (and even threatens sanctions if you reveal their pay schedule and/or try to goose the system) I can't imagine it's more than a few thousandths of a penny per. So for a change, I'm not in it for the money.

    But I can't get the goddam code to work on my template. I copy and paste the code, and I get what you see above. I try moving the code hither and yon, and I get even worse results. I emailed Blogger asking how to fix the problem, and they tell me to insert a snippet of code moving my content down about 40 points. I paste it in, and my content moves down...but the ads and the NavBar stay firmly rooted in place.

    So, I know I have readers who speaky the HTML and can probably solve the problem in about three nanoseconds. If anyone out there can lend assistance, be assured that you will ever after be the apple of my eye.

    An actual post shall be forthcoming soon. I'm in the middle of about three on different subjects, so it depends on what I finish first. Actually, it'll probably be the one where I endorse a Presidential candidate. So if you're still undecided (and, my God, who out there actually WANTS to vote for either of these jokers) stay tuned and I'll tell you how to squander your precious vote.

    Sunday, September 26, 2004

    Committing the Ultimate Poker Sin

    Since I totally cashed out a few weeks ago I've only played poker once, and that was when I was cut off from home by Hurricane Ivan and spent a day at my brother's place. I've missed playing, of course, but I've been busy enough that I really haven't felt the sting. Even if I wanted to play I couldn't, since I only have 73 cents in my Party account and, unfortunately, they don't have nickel-dime tables.

    But last night, and then again this afternoon, I wanted to see some cards in the air. Went out to dinner with a bunch of friends, and instead of going out to a bar afterwards my wife and I went home, since she's not much of a night owl and it was approaching 11PM. With her safely in Dreamland, this would normally be a perfect time to fire up Party and play a little Hold-Em. But these aren't normal times, so instead I watched football and did some work.

    This morning we went to a big crafty-type fair they have 'round these part every September, and got home just as the 1PM games kicked off. My Steelers aren't playing until tonight thanks to Hurricane Jeanne (aside--I'm getting lots of hits here from people who looked up Hurricane GENE by mistake), and with my yardwork done I had some free time to watch football some poker?

    I logged onto Party and Empire on the odd chance that they'd put $20 into my account to tempt me into playing, as they'd done several times in the past. No, they hadn't. I sighed and decided to log off. And then I remembered that anyone can play poker if they want to. They just have to play at...the Play Money tables.

    Did I dare? How low must one sink before he plays poker for fun instead of money? When I first started playing I didn't have money in an account, but I've been playing nearly a year, I've had success, and I know that playing poker without money at risk is like betting on an exhibition football game. I mean, what the hell are you doing? Do something constructive instead, go read a book, volunteer at your church or something.

    I decided that a twirl on the Play tables would be good research for the thing I'm writing. Don't know exactly how it'd fit in, but I'll think of something. So, OK, let's play some poker, let's see if I still have some chops after about a month on the sidelines.

    First of all, Party and Empire have had some upgrades to their sites, upgrades that do not agree with my antiquated laptop. After the first hand is dealt the whole table is filled with this crazed white-noise type background clutter, with only my cards and the cards on the board showing clearly. So I can play, but it's not easy on the eyes.

    At Party you get $1000 in play money to start with. If you run can get more. When I first started playing I quickly turned my $1000 into over $190K, which to my addled mind meant that I would soon be driving a Porsche around Pittsburgh with my poker winnings. Deposit fifty bucks, increase it two-hundred-fold in few weeks...yeah, so I'd be living on Easy Street.

    Silliness, of course, even if my tiny initial stake did plump up rather nicely. I logged onto a $25 NL table, the kind I often played for money. I sat down with 8 other souls and sighed with delight as the first hand was dealt.

    I picked up AQ suited. First guy bets $5, next guy is all-in, another guy all-in. What the hell? I call, flop an ace, triple up on the first hand. Next hand I fold, the guy two to my left goes all-in. The next hand the guy two to my left goes all-in. Next hand? He's all-in. Hand after that? All-in. I played about 20 hands and he went all-in on I think 16 of them. The other 4 times he just called before the flop...and then went all-in after.

    Oh, I had lots of fun those 20 hands I played. I soon had my stack up from $25 to $150, had AJ, flopped trip aces, made a full house on the turn, and had two guys call me as I shoved in half and then all my stack. Neither had an ace. Oy.

    After 20 hands I'd had more than enough. This wasn't poker. This wasn't even gambling. This was stupid. And boring. With nothing at risk there was no reason to play tight, aggressive, smart, crafty poker. Folding seemed ludicrous. Betting seemed ludicrous. Winning a hand was like finding a penny on the ground. Woo-hoo.

    If I have any readers who are thinking about taking the online poker plunge, do NOT dip your toes into the Play Money pond and think you're getting a taste of what it's like. Oh, you'll learn how to use the interface, how the bells and whistles sound, but so far as how to actually PLAY poker, no. No no no no no. The folks you're playing against aren't even the fish you find at Party. How to describe them...they're plankton? No, I think it's huge fish who eat plankton. Even those players at Party who are Most Likely to Appear on the Menu of Long John Silvers would find the quality at the Play tables appalling. A waste of time, if not money. And no one has so much time in their lifetimes that they can waste it this way. Read a book, go help someone in need, call your Mom.

    So again I'm shut out of the game. But no biggie. I'll get back in once I get properly employed and get myself back up to speed. Have some other things I'm working on at the moment, which I will bring up in future posts. Other things to write about that will hopefully amuse. Hopefully.

    Tuesday, September 21, 2004

    A Feast For Phil-o-Phobes

    If you don't like Phil Hellmuth, the Tournament of Champions ESPN showed tonight was a little slice of heaven. My God, did the Lederer clan put the screws to Phil? Howard Lederer had one of the great lines I've seen at the table. Howard made the nut straight on the turn, and Phil had I think third pair. Lederer didn't check the hand, he kept betting, as he had on the flop. Phil gets up, stalks around, and says "He's playing this like an amateur, bets on the flop, bets on the turn.."

    Even Johnny Chan had to laugh at this. "You're talking about the Poker Professor", Chan said before lapsing into what can only be called giggles. Phil called, a rag came on the river, and Lederer bet. Phil ranted and raved some more, then mucked his hand, muttering that Howard must've hit his gutshot straight draw (which was true). Lederer didn't show his cards, even as his sister Annie Duke begged him to. Phil said, "I hope they show this hand on TV so I know what you had."

    Lederer waits a beat then says, "Phil, don't worry, they'll definitely show that hand."

    And the whole table breaks up, with the exception of Phil, of course. You could almost hear his hair catching on fire.

    But the move of the night, along with everything else, belonged to Annie Duke. Heads up for two million, and every hand Phil stands up, walks around, whines, talks to himself. I believe Norman Chad compared him to Hamlet, and indeed Phil did seem like the melancholy Prince, solioquizing over and over again about how lucky Annie was, how she'd won every race, even at once point telling her to her face that he thought she was deliberately playing terrible hoping to get lucky.

    And then the hand in question. Phil has K-7 and bets out, Annie has K-9 and calls. Flop comes K-9-6, or some other rag. Annie checks, Phil bets, Annie check-raises. Phil paces, he whines, he bitches, he insults her play. I think he folded there, it doesn't matter if they saw the turn. What matters is that, when he folds, Phil tosses his king up to show he's laying down top pair. You know Phil, always proud of his massive laydowns.

    And Annie turns over her 9. And just the nine. Letting Phil think he just laid down the best hand, letting him think that Annie check-raised him with second pair. Phil goes nuts. Again, you can almost see him listing to the left as he tilts. It's just a brilliant psychological play by Duke, and watching Phil so agitated that he's about ready to bite himself is delicious.

    The final hand is a tough one for Philly. He has 8-10, Annie has K-10. A ten falls on the flop, Phil bets, Annie raises, Phil's all-in, Annie calls. And Phil goes nuts, bleep bleep bleeeeeeep. Phil doubled up early on in their battle with a similar hand, he had Annie outkicked, and he seemed well-pleased with himself when he won that hand. The shoe on the other foot, he's not so happy.

    The hands hold up, and Annie Duke has won $2 million bucks. She and Phil share a hug as comfortable as the ones Michael Jackson and Lisa Marie Presley probably once enjoyed, and then Phil stalks off the set to a medly of bleeps. The camera follows him down the hallway, where he rips on Annie, says he figured she was about a 30-1 shot to win the whole thing, that he keeps getting unlucky in tournaments, that he can't believe she went all-in with A-4 (don't know when that happened, but it wasn't relavant)...a classic Phil meltdown. I could almost feel bad for the guy, but, hey, it was a freeroll tournament, he should've been out an hour earlier when he hit a 10 on the river to beat Chan's pocket kings...screw Phil. You got beat. You got outplayed. And watching it was FUN.

    I could post more about what was a very entertaining show, but after getting just 5 hours sleep last night I should catch up now. No personal poker content to write about, but don't you worry, I've got all sorts of weird stuff coming, poker and non. Stay tuned.

    Sunday, September 19, 2004

    Giving New Meaning to the Phrase "Rivered"

    The whole city of Pittsburgh pretty much got rivered Friday night. Rivered and creeked and tributaried. Six inches of rain from Hurricane Ivan on top of 4 inches last week from Hurricane Frances turned much of the area where I live into a gigantic lake. I went to work Friday morning the way I always do, cutting through the little town of Etna because of construction on the onramps that lead to Route 28 and Downtown. The road I drove on was under about 10 feet of water by 4PM that night. I saw pictures of a new shopping center that just opened in Etna that sits on a little rise about the creek that overflowed. The center was spared, though the water was right up to the door. From the air you could see this tiny strip of fresh blacktop surrounding a tiny island of concrete and glass.

    I stayed at work until 9PM Friday night, watching as my possible routes home were slowly choked over by the rising water. I think that maybe I could have found a backroad up north that might have taken me miles out of my way but gotten me across the water, but at night I was afraid of driving around and maybe blunding into some water. I thought about heading up to my cousin Terry's house, but the route to his house was closed by a mudslide and, more ominously, I couldn't get in touch with him, most likely because the company he works for is in Sharpsburg, one of the hardest hit areas, and chances were good that he was down there doing what he could.

    I got hold of my brother, who had just gotten home after a 3-hour odyssey, and after hearing that they'd ordered pizza I decided to chance heading his way. No problems at all, if you don't count the tree that had fallen across an onramp and that I sailed past at about 60mph. It wasn't until I was about 100 yards past it that I got the shakes and said, "Whoa".

    Rarely has pizza tasted so good, beer so cold. My wife was home safe, I was safe, Ryan was playing some poker, all was good. Except that we got killed in just about every tournament we played. We were playing just $5 tournaments, so of course you don't expect inspired play, but good God. We were playing at PokerStars, and I guess I expected better play than you find at Party, but oh no. Appalling play, and on top of it the players were extremely aggressive. During one game this dude went all-in like 5 times in a row when there was any money at all in the pot. He stole the first four pots, and got knocked out when his AJ ran into QQ.

    Ryan specializes in 7-Card Hi-Lo, and I think we won a tournament playing that game, but we came in second in an Omaha tourney we played after we'd drunk about 15 beers apiece. That gave us the coin to try some Hold-Em, my game of choice. To be fair, I got no cards for about 3 of these things. You can't bluff terrible players, as I mentioned in my previous post, and when I tried I was punished for it. I limped in once with 2-4, and the flop came three clubs including the ace. I bet the pot, everyone folded but one guy. Another club on the turn, I made another big bet, call. Nothing on the river, I bet big, he calls. The dude called with the six of clubs. And then he had the gall to rip ME for giving him my chips. I typed something like, "you thought the six of clubs was good?" and he retorted, "I had a flush, you had nothing". Sigh.

    I waited to get cards so I could annihilate these fools, but it never happened. Once I went all-in with A-10 and had a guy call me with J-9, and lost. I went all-in with 22 and had a guy call me with Q-8, and lost. It isn't the losing I minded, it was these yutzes calling me with junk. Well, the losing bugged me a little too.

    Spent much of Saturday watching football, including watching the appalling Pitt Panthers slop around with an awful Nebraska team. My Nittany Lions beat Central Florida despite 6 turnovers, two lousy teams flopping about. Did see the excellent Florida-Tennessee game, proof that there a few teams out there that can still play this game.

    I watched that game at home, after finally finding a way to get home. Nice to sleep in my own bed again. The destruction is pretty horrendous. I ride my bike along the river near where I work, and there's an island called Washington's Landing that has a few hundred luxury townhouses on it, and a massive marina with a couple hundred boats. The whole dock broke free, nearly 140 boats floating free down the river, to crash into the Clemente Bridge. So much debris and junk floating in the water, stacking up against any obstacle it hits.

    There's one suspected fatality, a man who got caught in a tree as the waters rose and lost his grip before rescuers could reach him. Thousands of people lost pretty much everything they own, and about 99% of them don't have flood insurance. My friend Rico works for an insurance company, and he got called into to work today processing claims. My friend Frank is a volunteer fireman, and I'm sure he's been working all weekend.

    Don't how long its gonna be before Etna is open to traffic again. Weeks, months. Don't know how I'll be getting to and from work from now on. That inconvienience pales compared to those whose homes are under 10 feet of water, who lost just about everything. I work with a woman who lives in Etna, she left an hour early because of the flooding, and I wonder if she was able to get home. I think she lives high enough that her house wouldn't have gotten hit. But how would SHE get to work? Destruction all over, and we were 1500 miles inland of where Ivan hit. Unreal.

    OK, gonna watch a little more football, then do some stuff around the house. My Steelers played like garbage against the hated Ravens, though Big Ben got in and showed some promise. I wouldn't get too excited if I was a Raven fan though (all 250 of you who aren't just bandwagon jumpers from the Super Bowl year) because their offense hardly impresses. Deion Sanders got beat deep by Plaxico Burress and hurt himself lunging after the Steeler's ultra-underachieveing wideout, but Deion's best play came after he returned a punt 15 yards and, showing his true colors, ripped off his helmet to showboat. Fifteen-yard penalty, and shortly after that he was done with a bad hammy. Tragic.

    Friday, September 17, 2004

    Marooned by Hurricane Ivan

    And no, I don't live in Florida or Alabama. I live in Pittsburgh, for God's sake. But there's been a buzz around the office that a bunch of places around where I work have some serious flooding thanks to all the rain we've gotten, and I just went on the website of a local TV station and most of the areas around my house are being evacuated. My house is fine--I live 3 miles up a windy road, and if we ever get flooded, it's time to build an ark.

    The problem is all the roads that lead to my house are flooded. The route I normally take is a no-go...I got through Etna and the whole area there is under emergency evacuation. I can't take McKnight Road--it's under water, and traffic is allegedly backed up 15 miles. There are a few weird back roads I could possibly take, but there are creeks around there as well and for all I know they could flood any second. Just talked to my dad on the phone, and he and my mom nearly got swept away on McKnight Road (a big shopping corridor in Pittsburgh, lots of malls and whatnot). They hit water, then deeper water, then DEEP water, like 3 foot deep. They barely made it out. My dad said he saw whitecaps on the water.

    So I might be trapped here at work for tonight. I could cross over to the Strip District, find a dry place to park, and hit the Sports Rock Cafe for wings and beer. Ride out the storm there. But that seems a bit frivolous (not that that's bad) since the Strip is right on the river and for all I know could be underwater in an hour or so. It's raining like you wouldn't believe here.

    Actually, if you live south of me, you DO know what it's like. Unbelieveable the power this storm had. No wind here, just rain. Can't imagine what it was like down in Pensacola and Mobile. Don't want to, either.

    So, I'm stuck here at work. Hope the vending machines are stocked up. I may run to my car, get a T-shirt to wear, and make a night of it here. I'll post updates if there are any.

    UPDATE: Today was the rainiest day in Pittsburgh's history, we've gotten 4.05 inches of rain so far. The previous record was 3.66 inches, set...September 8th, when the remains of Hurricane Frances came through. Doesn't seem likely the rivers will flood much--at least not yet. It looks like I'm good and stuck.

    2nd UPDATE: I'm screwed. The way to the Turnpike is flooded...the backroads I thought about taking are flooding (and cars in the area are reported to be "floating", which is bad). We've gotten 5.08 inches of rain now, so that's the new record. As for me, I don't know what the hell I'm gonna do. My wife left work, I think. I may go look out a window and see what traffic looks like out on the bridges and decide it I want to go a-wondering.

    There is food in the vending machines upstairs, including what looks to be a delightful "Fruit and Cheese Tray", a pretty yummy looking "Avi Burger", whatever the hell that is, and, most appetizingly of all, a package containing two hard-boiled eggs "coated with natural resins". So you can still crack them open, though it isn't a shell you're cracking, it's "natural resins". Sounds delish.

    3rd UPDATE: Finally gave in and went to my brother's place, much more hospitable than the building where I work. You wanna talk about CREEPY--the building is an old factory, looks on the inside like a 1950's high school, probably has 500 people working in it--and I was the only person there. I went downstairs to move my car closer to my entrance, and to get another shirt out of my car, and it was SPOOOKY. Hearing my squeaky footfalls on the linoleum, long corridors with darkness at the end, wondering if Jack Nicholson would burst out of the shadows with an axe. I was afraid my temp card wouldn't let me back in the building, but I tested and and the thing still worked. Add the facts that I work within spitting distance of the Allegheny River, which while not threatening to spill over the banks is still friggin' high, add again the facts that next to my building are 4 huge building undergoing renovation into loft apartments and look all creepy and haunted, add again the fact that my building is in a part of town that's not known for general safety and abiding of the law, and perhaps you can understand why I was a bit skittish.

    Went to my bro's had some pizza, about 10 beers, played some poker with him online at PokerStars. Folks, the fish swim fast and deep there too. Not that we won, of course--played about 8 tourneys, ended up $12 in the red. Some diabolically horrible plays. What's the cardinal rule of poker? YOU CAN'T BLUFF TERRIBLE PLAYERS. I forgot that one about 10 times tonight. I either need some patience or I gotta start playing with better people. We got lousy cards, we got rivered more than our fair share, and all-in-all played well and got killed. Happens. Good to get a taste, anyway.

    The flooding is bad. Etna is pretty much under water. My friend Ted lives high enough up that he'll have no problems, but a friend of my brother's said that the neighbors had their JetSkis going up and down the street today. Not a good sign. A restaurant my folks had dinner at last Saturday is under about 10 feet of water, the second time I can recall them getting submerged. I figure I'll get home tomorrow one way or another.

    God, what a long day. Time for Bed, I think.

    Wednesday, September 15, 2004

    Another Post That's Much Ado About Nothing

    • Just watched the final episodes of the 2004 World Series...and why the hell did ESPN show an abbreviated version of episode 9 at 8:10 and then re-show it at 9? I friggin' taped the 8:10 show and thought that there was another episode in now I have to re-record it later this week. Idiots.
    • Speaking of idiots, I watched about 17 seconds of "Dream Job". Who the hell wants to watch a bunch of talking heads who can't talk talk about sports events you already know the scores of? Then they have to sit there and let nonentities like the short girl from "Cold Pizza" critique their delivery. You get these morons who say things like, "I was born for this job!". Really, you were put on this earth to read off a telepromtper while wearing a suit? Reaching for the stars.
    • Dan Patrick, to his credit, has criticized the "Dream Job" show because it gives a plum job in sports journalism to some yutz who just walked in off the street, while there are hundreds if not thousands of hardworking reporters working their way up the way he did--slaving away at college radio stations, covering high school sports, interviewing snot-nosed kids and putting together a 30-second bit for broadcast on their local TV stations. A bit more work than having a boorish personality and manageable hair.
    • Oh, maybe I should talk about the actual poker ESPN televised? How easy was it to root for Greg Raymer? An obviously talented player who showed class when he won, class when he got lucky, class when he got beat. The best line of the WSOP came when Raymer lost a huge pot when a guy hit his 2-outer on the river to stay alive. The other guy was justifiably celebrating, and Josh Arieh made a comment about it being a tough beat. Raymer paused and said, "I can't complain...that's the first time I've really been sucked out on in 4 days". Admitting that he'd gotten lucky up to that point, accepting that he couldn't expect to stay that lucky the whole tournament, ready to play the next hand with his focus intact. I knew he won and I was still nervous when he was in a big hand. Great job, Fossilman.
    • Josh Arieh had some rough luck as the players dwindled, but some of his behavior was kinda bizarre. He kept belittling other players for what he considered terrible all-in bets (when Harry Demitriou went in with AJ, when David Williams bet it all with pocket 5s), but both times Arieh called with the worse hand. Arieh had the worst of it pre-flop and after the flop, and yet when the other guy pushed in all his chips, and Arieh called, Arieh thought the other guy made the bonehead play. I didn't understand it. He was pissed when Matt Dean went all in with pocket jacks...what hand was he supposed to wait for? I can see Josh thinking it a bit of a gamble, but certainly not off-the-charts. I read Paul Phillips' blog and he mentioned that Arieh posted something on 2+2 apologizing for his comments after he beat Demitriou, so that's a mark in his favor. Plus, and I may be in the minority here, I really liked those crazy striped shirts he wore. I don't think I could pull one of them off, but they had a style to them. Looked comfortable too.
    • Paul Phillips also had a great line about Mike "The Mouth" Matusow. He said that The Mouth doesn't really mean anything by his constant patter, that if he didn't talk nonstop "he'd probably dissolve".
    • I'm going to make an obvious point--can anyone else watch Marcel Luske and not think of Goldmember? I'll admit that I didn't know what a Dutch accent sounded like before the last Austin Powers flick, but Mike Myers had it down pat.
    • I read a movie review once that identified the excellent actor William H. Macy as "the whitest man in the world". I think that Dan Harrington gives Macy some serious competition. I'm a big fan of Action Dan, but he's several different shades of gray. Light gray. Someone should tell him that wearing a pale gray-blue T-shirt is not the best color scheme for him. Everytime they showed him during a hand I started messing with the brightness feature on my TV--and then that green baseball cap flared like a supernova.
    • OK, think its time for bed. Oh, but in keeping with the spirit of my last post, got a haircut today. At Tony, my regular barber. And yes, I've been going to a regular barber for the last five years or so, not to some trendy salon with pink and green neon everywhere. I think it was Roberto who mentioned he used to get his hair cut at a shop next to the pizza joint where he worked...and there's a pizza joint right next to Tony's. Well, over the years there have been about 29 pizza joints there. A new sign goes up, they print menus, they're open for business for about six weeks, and they go belly up. Awhile back I asked Tony about his next-door neighbors and he shook his head in disbelief. "Don't they know that a dozen pizza places have failed there already? What possesses these people to keep trying?" My brother lives a block away from Tony's shop, and he usually tries those new places when the pop up just to see if someone inspired has taken up the ovens. He's usually disappointed. The location is absolutely awful (its well off the main drag of the town) and there are already 197 pizza joints in Bellevue. There's no need for another pizzaria. Maybe a brasserie featuring authentic French workingman's fare, a martini bar, a Thai takeout place. But, for God's sake, the spot is a deathtrap for pizza. Tony seems to do a brisk business though. And, just so you know, I look totally fabulous.
    • Except for the fact that I got poison ivy working in my yard and much of my body is a seething canvas of inflamed, blotchy skin. It's not been a good year for me working outside--got bit by a spider, four days in the hospital, leg oozing and weeping and disgusting. Get poison ivy, get a shot in the ass (great way to start a Friday morning, dropping your slacks and bending over a table) and still look like someone who should be in a Biohazard 4 containment unit. Hope its a friggin' harsh winter, teach those bugs and plants who's boss.

    Friday, September 10, 2004

    Dubious Dating Tips From Mean Gene

    Not long ago I wrote a silly thing about the role good and/or bad hair plays in the poker world. I mentioned my own tonsorial problems, specifically about a recent haircut where a young lady who looked like she was 14 years old gave me what was pretty close to a hack job. A well-known deviant wrote a leering comment asking for her phone number. Sorry, Pauly--she only looked 14. I'd bet the farm that she was all of 18, the bloom already fading from the rose, right?

    But all this dirty-old-manism points to a larger question--should you ever consider dating the woman who cuts your hair? Hey, I said it was a larger question, not a large one. But since I'm a few days away from posting any serious policy pieces, you'll have to be content with this.

    The answer to this question seems to be obvious--why the hell not?. Most men don't have the luxury of summarily excluding even small blocks of available women from his list. But there are traps and pitfalls that arise when you think about going out with your stylist, ones that don't even involve the fact that the woman in question often has scissors and other sharp implements in close proximity to some major arteries.

    Why wouldn't you want to date a woman who cuts your hair? Well, remember that your stylist performs what is a very valuable service. Find someone who can consistently give you a good haircut and you're a step or two ahead in the whole attract-a-mate game. This person has value to you. Perhaps the woman who cuts your hair is not as exalted as, say, your doctor, your dentist, or your lawyer, but you (hopefully) see her more often that those other three, and when you plop down in your chair you're probably going to have a more pleasant experience too.

    So this is not a relationship you necessarily want to complicate with matters of romance. Of course, if you walk into a salon, and you see her, and you hear the ringing of bells and singing of angels and you'd rather shave your head than spend another second without her by your side, then yeah, ask her if she'd like to get a cup of coffee sometime. But if the attraction is less than the strike of the thunderbolt, should you pull the trigger, or keep things professional?

    I can only give you my own opinion, based on my own experiences. As I wrote in my previous post, I've had some appalling haircuts. But I've also had some uncomfortable dealings with a few women who've taken on the challenge of cutting my hair, and it's those difficult days and nights that have shaped my opinion. So let me tell you my sorry tales and perhaps shape your own.

    It wasn't until I was 16 or so that I started going to a local hair salon to get chopped. Up to that point I'd gone to a local barber with very mixed results. My mom went to this place and she regularly came home looking perfectly acceptable. She recommened I try it as well, and when I said that I wasn't going to a ladies hair salon, she said it was "unisex". This should have alerted me right from the get-go--the word "unisex" is never, EVER a good thing, in any circumstance. There is no such thing as unisex ANYTHING. There are men, and there are women, and the twain never shall meet.

    So I went to this salon a few times, and came out with the best haircuts I'd ever had. I looked good. I looked sleek. I didn't look like I'd been raised in the 1950s and pushed into a tachyon field that transported me to the present. Each time I made an appointment I didn't ask for a specific person--I sat in the chair I was assigned and usually left well-pleased.

    But then came the day when I found myself sitting in Donna Marie's chair, and, sigh, the rest of the ladies laboring there faded away. Donna Marie was oh so blonde, oh so perky, oh so pretty. She was probably about 25, I was 18, meaning she was as attainable as the summit of Mt. Everest. She would cut my hair, and of course she'd have to touch me as she did so, and it was all I could do to keep from shutting my eyes and cooing with delight.

    We would chat as she snipped, often about her seemingly active social life. I noticed that she often talked about things she and her friends did, but she never mentioned a boyfriend and/or husband, and I pathetically held out hope that this delectable woman might somehow be interested in what I have to admit was a pretty unremarkable high school kid.

    The story may have continued on familiar lines (boy pines after gorgeous girl, gorgeous girl ignores boy, boy develops minor and common psychological problems) except for one visit I made a few weeks before Halloween. Donna Marie and I were talking and she asked if I was going to a big Halloween party that would be held at a local fire hall. I said no, and she looked at me in the mirror and said, "But you HAVE to go! I have this costume that's so cute, I'm going as a cowgirl, I have a little outfit with boots and a cowboy hat and..."

    She went on and on describing her costume, which sounded more and more like a outfit a stripper might wear while twirling around a pole to the song "I Wanna Be A Cowboy". What was odd was that she kept asking me if I'd go, and if I'd go what I'd wear, and didn't I want to see her in her cute cowgirl costume?

    Was it possible, possible, that this sexy, beautiful, and apparently non-vision-impared woman really wanted me to meet up with her at this party? As she finished and she led me to the front of the store, she said once again, "I hope I see you at the party!". They say hope springs eternal, but in this case hope would have to spring like a kangaroo on 'roids. She was just being friendly, right? I mean, come on.

    In the days leading up to Halloween I wondered what I should do. In the end, inertia, cowardice and common sense won out. Going to the party meant I'd have to get a costume; going meant I would have to seek Donna Marie out and...then what?; and, again, come on--no way was this girl really hot for me.

    I didn't go to the party, and a month of so later there I was, settling down into her chair. The very first thing she said was, "It's too bad you couldn't come to the Halloween party, we had SO much fun". I told some lie about having three other parties to go to, and then she said, "The only bummer was that my boyfriend couldn't come up."

    And I noticed that, for the first time, she'd cleared space next to the mirror for two tiny picture frames. In one picture my blonde goddess was hugging a guy who looked to be about eight feet tall and twice as wide and twice as mean as he was wide. The other picture showed the same guy in an Army dress uniform, looking like someone I wouldn't want to spill my Kool-Aid on.

    "Uh, oh, why couldn't he come to the party?" I asked.

    She sighed and turned on the clippers. "Well, he's an MP, and the day before Halloween he and his partner responded to a burglary call on their base. The burglars had guns and shot my boyfriend's partner, so my boyfriend got out his gun and shot and killed them both."

    I tried to swallow and failed. "He...he killed them?"

    She sighed again and nodded. "So they have to have this big investigation and he's confined to the base. He's not going to get into trouble or anything, he'll probably get promoted, but it's just like with a regular cop, they make sure it was justified."

    I managed to ask what happened to his partner. "Oh, she's OK, she was shot in the shoulder, it looked bad at first but she's going to be all right."

    I was horrified. Here I was, thinking about dressing up like a spaceman or a clown or something and making a move on this girl, and while I'm scheming her boyfriend is shooting and killing people. Totally in the line of duty, of course, which actually made it all a lot worse. I think I would've felt a bit better had she been dating a drug lord in the middle of some territorial dispute. I certainly had nothing to fear personally--I don't think her lethal beau would have considered me much of a threat.

    I didn't get many more chance to sit in Donna Marie's chair. Soon after she decided it was time to move South to be with her extremely dangerous boyfriend. I was both sad and relieved to see her go. Sad because, in addition to her aesthetic charms, she did a nice job cutting my hair. But I was relieved too because every time I saw her I was reminded of how far I had to go before I could reasonably expect to attract a woman like that. I just wanted to show up and get a haircut, not have yet another session of existential sexual misery. That's what high school is for, after all.

    I went off to Penn State, having a few horrible haircuts along the way but no potential pseudo-romantic entanglements. I even found a very good barber shop, though not until my junior year. But when I graduated and came back to Pittsburgh I started going back to my old salon. Until I had what was, without a doubt, the worst haircut of my life. At first I didn't think it looked too bad. It didn't look good, but not off the scale. But then I caught a glimpse of myself from the side, and saw that I wasn't so much shaved back there as scalped. She'd cut the hair around my ears so hight it looked like the aliens who make those crop circles had taken a detour and landed on my head. The back of my head, where the majority of my cowlicks reside, was a catastrophe. No matter how I tried to tame it, with comb, brush, water, mousse, gel, spray, and prayer, my hair refused to negotiate.

    What made things worse was that I was leaving for a beach vacation with about 10 of my friends in a few days time. We were supposed to be guys gone wild, chasing anything in a skirt or bikini, and I looked like something that escaped from the freak show. At work I mentioned to a friend that my haircut had been a disaster, and an opinionated woman who sat across from me sat up, looked me over, and said, "Yeah, it is pretty fucked up".

    I called the salon back, told them of my displeasure, and they said I could come in and they would try to salvage the situation, free of charge. I thought about it, but I had to pack, we were leaving the next morning, and I didn't see what could be done. There wasn't enough material to work with. I remember that vacation as the one where I wore a baseball cap all week. Even in the ocean.

    When we came back home I decided it was time to find a new place to get my hair cut. I couldn't risk putting myself through that hell again. My mom had switched salons, this time to a rather tony chain in our local mall. I was surprised to find that, although they charged women what I considered an exhorbitant price for a snip, they were quite reasonable when dealing with the menfolk. I decided to give them a try.

    The atmosphere was considerably different. At my previous salon the women wore jeans or slacks and listened to rock on small radios sitting by their chairs. This new place had techno and New Wave music piped in, and the stylists dressed in, well, dresses, and miniskirts and high heels and other funky and fetching ensembles. I felt a bit weird, as I was almost always the only male in the place, and the place where you sat and waited was faced by huge plate glass windows that let the passers-by gawk at you.

    But I got a good haircut there, and then another, and pretty soon I felt comfortable enough in my masculinity to sit in the waiting area and stare down the jackals who dared look at me through the windows. Unlike them, I cared enough to look my very, very best. And I was looking pretty good, I have to say.

    What's a good way to pick a hairstylist? I'd say that one sure-fire way is to pick someone who has great hair themselves. I mean, someone who cuts hair for a living should know who amongst her peers is an artist and who is a walking weed-whacker. She should know what is tonsorially possible, what new techniques and technologies are at her disposal. It's not a sure-fire rule--my mom quaked when she sat down in the chair once and found that the woman about to take up the scissors had spiked hair dyed bright purple. But Mom got such a fab 'do that she kept returning to her punked-out stylist.

    But when I showed up one afternoon for my haircut and found that Janine would be operating on me, I was pleased for multiple reasons. One, Janine had absolutely fabulous hair, tight auburn curls that fell to the small of her back. Two, she was absolutely gorgeous, I mean, she was a show-stopper. It was true that she had a nose that somewhat resembled the prow of a Soviet icebreaking vessel, but as with so many strikingly beautiful women what might be considered a flaw served only to bring attention to how spectacular all the other features are.

    I received a perfectly acceptable haircut from Janine. She wasn't much of a talker, which was fine by me, since my tongue would have been pretty much tied. Our transaction completed, I thanked her and we said our goodbyes. Nothing else of note occured.

    A few nights later my buddies and I went to a local bar to do what you do at a local bar--drink local beer and look at local women. It was a big place and it was crowded, but my friends and I carved out a space where we could talk and lean over the counter to ask the bartender for refills. While I perused the scenery, my eyes fell upon a girl with curly auburn hair. Sure enough, it was Janine. I admired her from afar, because she was worth admiring, but then I returned to my beer and conversation.

    A wee bit later she walked up right beside me, trying to get to the bar and order a drink. She saw me, I saw that she saw me, and I smiled and said hello. Her reaction caught me by surprise--she smiled and said hello back. She even remembered my name. We soon fell into a typically banal conversation, "Boy is it crowded", "It sure is", "Have you seen the bartender". I leaned across the counter and got the dude's attention. I ordered a beer for myself, some mixed drink for Janine, and suavely paid for them both. I said something along the lines that I owed her at least one drink because of how good everyone said my hair looked. She thanked me and said that this was one of the few bars she could get into with her fake ID. Turns out she was only 20, and she pulled out a license that belonged to a friend's sister. The girl in the picture compared to Janine as a Thomas Kinkaide seascape compares to the Sistine Chapel. I said something along those lines, wittier no doubt, and she accepted my compliment.

    We talked a few minutes more, and then she said she had to go back to her friends. I wished her a good night, and turned back to my buddies, who were chomping at the bit to find out who that scrumptions redhead was. I clued them in, making light of the incident, and we started talking again.

    But not for long, because suddenly Janine was there at my elbow again, asking if I could snag her another drink. This one she insisted on paying for. I handed it over, and she said her friend's boyfriend was boring them to tears by talking about his new hobby, racing cars. I liked the fact that she found such macho posturing irritating, because I didn't do much posturing back then.

    We talked for about 45 minutes, about nothing serious, but it was a good conversation. We could talk to each other, and that's a good sign. She finally said she had to get back to her friends, and I asked if I could have her phone number, give her a call so we could go someplace quieter some time. She said sure, and I grabbed a pen and scribbled down her phone number on a piece of placemat. NOW my friends were impressed. So was I. Not in a million years would I have walked up to her in a bar and asked her out, yet here I was, in possession of her phone number. Mean Gene was on the prowl.

    A question that men discuss with almost Talmudic complexity is, When should you call a girl after getting her number? There are those who say you should always call her the next day. Then you have the camp that says you shouldn't appear so eager, that a few days should elapse before you pick up the phone, giving the girl time to develop the doubts and insecurities that will make her more vulnerable to your pathetic lines and moves. Then you have the guys who say you should never call a girl after she gives you her number. Either she's a total nut (who else but a nut would give YOU her number?) or, if she is indeed a catch, you should make her abase herself and crawl after you, putting you in the dominant position in this budding relationship. Its games like this that make you wonder how any children get born, ever. Oh, yes, I forgot about alcohol.

    Anyway, I decided to give Janine a call the next day. Got her answering machine. I thought it over and left what I thought was a friendly message. Didn't get a reply that day, or the next. Well, that's not a good sign, but maybe she was busy, out of town, incarcerated. I had another problem--it was late summer and once again my friends and I were heading to the beach later that week. So I wanted to get in touch with her before we left, because I didn't know if I'd left such a powerful impression that it would survive two whole weeks. So I called her again. Got the machine, no message. I was starting to think that I was about to cross the line from showing interest to humiliation, but then I remembered that she wasn't just some girl, she was a GORGEOUS girl, and I gave it one more shot.

    This time I got her. I said hello, introduced myself, and reminded her of our conversation. Dead air. I reminded her again, and this time I managed to extract an, "Oh, yeah" out of her. The conversation went downhill from there. It was obvious that she had no recollection of me whatsoever, or, if she did, she'd deleted it from her hard drive. After a minute of pulling teeth she said she had a call on her other line, I said no problem, and we disconnected.

    Ugh. Pretty ghastly stuff. I played back that night in my, she hadn't been drunk. No, she hadn't been high. Yes, we had made meaningful eye contact. Yes, we had conversed for the better part of an hour. I thought it over...and decided this was just one of life's little lessons. I didn't know what the lesson was, but you live and learn. We've all been there, you meet a girl, think things are going to work out, and abruptly they don't. Live and learn.

    But I had a problem. A month later my hair was getting a bit shaggy, and what was I going to do about it? Did I really want to go back to where Janine worked? Uh, no I didn't. Good God, what if I made an appointment and SHE was the person assigned to cut my hair? That was a gnarly situation I didn't want to put myself in. Do you see know why such romantic entanglements can lead to ruin? I needed a goddam haircut...but did I dare? I could try some place else, maybe come out looking like Don King...I didn't want to find another salon. I decided to gamble.

    That first visit I got very lucky. Not only did I not end up sitting in Janine's chair, she wasn't even there that day. And the woman who cut my hair did such a fabulous job that I decided to ask for her the next time I got my hair cut. Which I did the next time I needed shorn--and this time Janine was working.

    She didn't ignore me. She didn't pretend I wasn't there. In her mind, I really wasn't there. You know how you can tell when someone is deliberately ignoring you? She walks past and keeps her eyes focused on some point in the infinite distance? You could be on fire, with a shrieking air horn sticking out of your nose, and wrestling an anaconda, and she'd breeze right by you. This wasn't how Janine acted as she led her client to the chair next to the one I was sitting in. Either she was a brilliant actress, or she had no recollection of me at all. She didn't avoid looking at me--she just didn't look. She briskly went about her business like nothing weird was happening--because for her, apparently, it wasn't weird. Sure was weird for me.

    And more than a little bit insulting. I'm sure a girl that hot attracts guys by the bushelfull, and she can't be expected to keep them all straight. But I thought I would linger more than one night in her mind. Every time I went to get my hair cut I was filled with a wee bit of dread at seeing her. It was just uncomfortable. What if I found myself standing right next to her? Should I say hello, how are you, take the moral high ground, or just shut her out and do unto her as she did unto me? This was the kind of pointless stress you don't need when you're going to get your hair cut. Especially for me, since getting a trim has often turned into a screaming nightmare.

    For the next two years I got consistently excellent haircuts and saw Janine there only occasionally. There was a time when she wasn't there three or four times in a row and I hoped she'd moved on, but no, she was there the next time. I very nearly and literally bumped into her one summer night during a big party in Pittsburgh's Market Square, but again she showed no signs of recognizing me and I displayed the poker face that today stands me in such good stead. Time wore on, and I no longer felt weird to be in her presence. Hell, I even started to think that whole night at that bar had just been just a very vivid dream.

    And then came the day I came in for a haircut and sat in the chair and Janine came up to me and said, "Hi, did you see that Kangaroo's closed down?"

    My jaw rebounded from my lap and I said that I indeed had heard that the Aussie-themed bar where we'd talked two years ago had gone belly up. She said that she hadn't been there in a long time, and I said I hadn't either, but it had been a fun place when it was in its heyday. She smiled at me, she was pleasant, she said have a good night to me and the woman who cuts my hair and she left to go home. I was completely flummoxed. I mean, for two years she'd shown no indication that she knew I occupied a place in the time/space continuum, and two years later, TWO YEARS, she picks up our conversation practically in mid-thread.

    I guess the shock showed on my face because the woman cutting my hair said, "She's pretty, isn't she? A bit goofy, though."

    A bit goofy? I recounted my experiences with her coworker as I got my cut, and when I finished my stylist stared hard at me in the mirror and said, "You don't want to get involved with her, believe me. She's a head case, a total head case. Don't get me wrong, I love her to death, but you're a really nice guy, you do not want to get mixed up with her."

    She was very, very serious as she said this. I wanted to know exactly what the deal was, but I'd wasted enough energy worrying about this crap. I mean, if I pursued it any further, I'D be the strange one. I treated the whole situation like a sleeping dog, and let it lie.

    In time Janine did move to a different location, so I didn't have to be reminded of the unpleasant past over and over again. And the salon I went too soon jacked up their prices to a point where I was willing to risk a follicular disater rather than fork over so much cash. I did have one more psyche-scarring experience there--the woman who cut my hair was training four young ladies who were I guess recent hires. Three of the four were just unbelievable, I mean, ridiculously good looking, and the fourth, while not in the same league, was no eyesore. My stylist had the quartet watch as she worked, using me as an example because I had such difficult hair to deal with.

    It started off as rather a pleasant experience. Having a gaggle of girls staring at you and you alone is quite nice. But as the work proceeded it became apparent that the scrutiny was purely professional, and on top of that, it wasn't exactly positive. One girl said, "Oh my God, look how it grows out of the top of his head. It's like a swirl..."

    Another girl ran her hand through my hair. "It's so soft," she said, which was nice.

    "It's feels like fiberglass after it's cut," said another, which wasn't so nice.

    Their instructor said, "When you're cutting hair like this you have to be very, very careful not to go too short, or you'll end up with a real problem." There were nods of agreement, and I looked in the mirror to the plainest girl of the four and I will never forget the expression on her face. It was like she'd looked into the abyss, that she'd glimpsed the Horror. I'd bet you see that look in medical schools a lot, first year students getting their first look at a corpse, or at their first spurt of hot blood. And this girl had just seen her own personal Heart of Darkness in the back of my head.

    Soon after I left that salon for good, priced out of the market. Fortunately I found a barber just a few minutes away from where I lived, and even though I've moved further away Tony still gets my patronage. The price is about a third of what I used to pay, but I still come out of his shop looking neat and clean. The experience is a bit different--we talk about sports instead of the local bar scene, and I'm usually in and out of Tony's shop in 15 minutes instead of an hour. I know going in that I'm not going to have a trying and/or humiliating experience, but I also know I'm not going to see a couple of hot women in short skirts. You give a little, you take a little.

    Back to my original question--should you date the person who cuts your hair? I would advise against it, obviously, but you aren't going to listen to me anyway. No one listens to anyone else when it comes to affairs of the heart. And you shouldn't, either. "The heart wants what it wants" said Woody Allen. Uh, maybe that's not such a good example. Nor is this a particularly good example, but, hey, I want to help my readers anyway I can. Especially since I'm not playing poker at the moment and I have to write about something. Maybe I'll change this blog to "Mean Gene's Advice to the Lovelorn". Or not.

    Wednesday, September 08, 2004

    The Lion Speaks Tonight

    Actually, he spoke Tuesday night. If you look at my blog list on the right (a little alliteration to allay your animosity and annoyance) you'll see a link for Lion Tales, which is written by Richard Brodie, a gentleman living the dream of just about every blogger out there--he's out there playing just about every World Poker Tour event, from Aruba to Paris. And if you watched last night's World Series coverage and saw "The Nuts" segment, I believe you saw Richard, because he's the dude at the end who says that he wrote the original version of Microsoft Word. Yes, every time you've hit "Print Preview" and then can't get back to your document without all those weird symbols on the page and you start screaming "WHAT THE HELL IS GODDAM OUTLINE VIEW??!!", in some way you've been screaming at Richard.

    The fact that Richard was an old-school Microsoftie perhaps explains where the "Quiet Lion" got the coin to act like an jet-setting playboy, flitting hither and yon around the world looking for the biggest action in the world. It's remarkable that Microsoft, considered by many the epitome of the totalitarian, fascistic, build-a-pyramid-of-human-skulls corporation, has so many former employees enjoying unusual, interesting, or quirky hobbies. Bill Gates spends much of his time and money helping immunize children in the developing world, about as noble a pursuit as one could hope for, yet still finds time for another popular pursuit, loafing with anti-trust lawyers. Steve Ballmer took over from Gates as CEO, giving him even more opportunity to engage in his favorite activity, screaming at underlings. Paul Allen owns NFL and NBA franchises and has built museums in homage to some of his teenage obsessions, Jimi Hendrix and science fiction. One wonders if soon there would be a groundbreaking in the Pacific Northwest for a museum dedicated to Penthouse magazine. Two Microsoft guys quit and, since they liked bowling, they bought the Professional Bowlers Association. They couldn't get a lane at their local alley? And then we have Richard Brodie deciding to give poker a whirl by locking horns with the biggest and baddest tournament players on the planet.

    If you've never read "Lion Tales" you will of course head there shortly and dig in. Richard has never made the final table at a WPT event, though I think he did crack the top ten in this year's Reno event. But if you want an idea of what it's like to play in one of these massive events without taking out a home equity loan, this is one way to do it. It's not all glitz and glamour and Shana Hiatt in heels and a miniskirt (though Richard's borderline stalking of the WPT co-host always proves entertaining). And you get all sorts of insider tidbits that don't make it on the broadcasts. Like, Howard Lederer's nickname (other than the Poker Professor) is "Bub". Can you imagine calling Howard Lederer "Bub"? Me neither. Richard has also had a few run-ins with Phil Hellmuth, and when I wrote my screed about Phil I got a positive comment from the Lion. He knows first hand of which I spoke.

    I think I actually enjoy reading about the resorts and restaurants he and his fellow players visit more than the poker. I think its because I've started getting into wine a bit, and I like reading about the especially piquant Cabernet Sauvignon he and his cronies selected to wash down that Kobe beef. In fact, while your typical poker blogger probably dreams about winning the World Series, I dream about appearing in Richard's blog in an entry that would go something like this:

    After getting busted out again by "Mean" Gene Bromberg he accompanied me and Andy "The Rock" Block to dinner at Squelch, a new Asian-Scandanvian bistro I've heard good things about. I ordered the gravlax
    with miso while "Mean" Gene lectured us on the proper way to play Ace-Queen offsuit. The 1994 Robert Mondavi Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon I selected arrived, but when the sommelier opened the bottle and was about to pour Gene snatched it out of his hand and went into a 30 minute tirade about how the Mondavi reds need time to breathe before they're ready to drink. "Mean" Gene reduced the sommelier to tears, but during that profanity-laded half-hour the wine fully rounded into shape and was, we all agreed, superb. "Mean" Gene asked if perhaps he'd been too hard on the sommelier, that he usually prefers to reduce grown men to tears at the poker table. Andy and I laughed and told Gene that he'd acted perfectly correctly in our eyes.

    OK, maybe it's just me, but I think that'd be so cool.

    I think it's the wine references that get to me. I've started to get a bit more interested in wine, which is making me a bit nervous, as I don't need another obsession to crowd my life. I mentioned in a previous post that I cashed out a good 3/4 of my poker fund and blew it on a trip my wife and I took with some friends up a wine festival in the Finger Lakes of New York. And the other day I cashed out the remaining $61 in my Pacific Poker account and it's going back into the bank. My poker bankroll is, officially, at zero. I've decided to desist from playing until I actually get a real, full-time job. My temp gig ends at the end of October, and while I'm sure I can get another quicky job, I'm working with a career conselor to find a "real" job. So, that's what I need to spend my time on. And I'm trying to lose a ton of weight. And do more writing. My figurative plate is full, even as my literal plate holds three ounces of chicken, a small boiled potato, and a cup of green beans.

    So, if I'm not playing poker, is this the end of Mean Gene's Poker Blog? Fear not, dear readers, I'll still be posting, about poker and beyond. My own play is hardly worth writing about, but I'm sure I can still find grist for my poker mill. Like this post, for example. I definitely will play again sometime in the future, I'm not giving up the game permanently. It's good to know that, when I want to or need to, I can step away from the table. It's also good to know that I still want to play. But for now my poker fun will have to be the vicarious sort. Like reading about Richard Brodie's adventures at Lion Tales. Read and enjoy, boys and girls. Maybe, if he gets a gaggle of new readers, he'll consent to play in our next blogger tourament. Buy-in is, ah, five grand...

    Saturday, September 04, 2004

    Some Super-Quick Random Thoughts

    I'm in the middle of writing a long-postponed post about poker jumping the shark, but I've painted myself into a rhetorical corner and I don't yet know how to extricate myself. It'll come to me, I'm sure. It always does, at least to my satisfaction. Whether it will to you will have to be seen.

    I was going to play a little tonight, but writing got in the way. Read some blogs (do you realize there are like 1500 poker blogs now?), and went to Card Player magazine to see what they have new there. Uh, I looked at the lists of articles, and I saw Jeff Shulman's latest article, and, uh...

    Here's the link to it. Check it out first, then read on:

    It isn't the article that caught my eye--it's pretty innocuous. No, it's Jeff's picture. Um, I don't know how to phrase this, I don't mean to offend anyone, Jeff in drag? I mean, I looked at the magazine's table of contents and saw the small thumbnail picture, and I really didn't think it was him. I mean, Shulman's old mug shot showed him with a scowl and some stubble and sunglasses on. This picture...I mean, as the publisher of the magazine, or the CEO, or whatever title he holds, wouldn't he have say about what picture was used? And he picked that one?

    During this week's WSOP coverage we got to hear the music of Mike Matusow. Can you imagine being at a poker table with Matusow, Phil Hellmuth, Phil Laak, and Tony G? If you can, then you can imagine Hell as vividly as Dante did in his Inferno. Matusow's reaction when he was brutally rivered and knocked out of the World Series was reality TV at its very best--by which I mean it was appalling. Matusow is aboslutely insufferable, and I'm sure that's exactly his intent. Watching a group of large men beating him with sticks would probaby be great fun.

    But it wasn't much fun watching him dissolve into tears after getting knocked out. I didn't feel sorry for him, exactly, though losing on the river to a 3-outer is painful no matter the circumstances. I was surprised that I felt some pity for him, as he flopped on the ground and his face in his hands and sobbed. But pity wasn't the dominant emotion. It wasn't wasn't empathy...I think perhaps it was relief, that no matter how poorly I've handled some reverses in my life, I've never burst into tears on national TV. And now that I know how it looks, I know how vital it would be to control myself if every put in that situation. Kill yourself after the cameras have stopped rolling, that's what I learned.

    Another priceless moment from Tuesday's episodes--Phil Hellmuth coming over to congratulate Doyle Brunson for still being in the running, and Brunson looking like he wanted Phil to evaporate. I wonder if Hellmuth realizes how awful he's come across during this year's coverage. Got knocked out of the limit Hold-em event and went on a pathetic rant than ended, "Well, if there was no luck involved I guess I'd win every one of these things". He dragged ESPN's cameras over to show them he had pocket kings, and then ostentaciously folded them saying, "This is only the fourth time I've ever folded this hand in the World Series". According to a post on Paul Phillips' blog, Phil's opponent only had a pair of tens to his name, making Hellmuth's laydown with kings rather a serious blunder. Of course we're not told that, leaving us to think that Phil indeed has the sixth sense.

    It's odd, you read Phil's columns, you see him on TV, and he's constantly bragging about the incredible laydowns he makes. Not his bluffs, or the bluffs he calls down, or the monsters he flops, but hands he voluntarily surrenders. Now, to be sure, you can't win in poker without the courage to fold a big hand on occasion, but that seems to be how Phil wants to define himself, as the guy who lays down the hands no one else dares give up. There's a saying in business, that you can't shrink your way to greatness. Can you fold yourself to a tournament victory?

    OK, I'm tired. Gotta get up early, do a lot of work around the house, then our last night of beach volleyball and beer. The summer, she's slipped away already. Alas. get this widget Please visit Pokernews site for more poker news, poker strategy articles or poker rules.

    Play Poker Online
    Play Poker Online at Full Tilt Poker
    Learn, Chat, and Play with the Pros at the fastest growing Online Poker Room.


    Play Poker Online at Blind Bet Poker. Bonuses and promotions by online poker rooms like Doyles Room, Titan Poker, Full Tilt Poker and Noble Poker. Poker strategy for beginners, advanced, and professional poker players. A poker terminology section, news & online poker tournaments.

    Poker Forums
    Definitive online poker portal, featuring a poker odds calculator, poker forums, an excellent poker bonus code section with deposit bonuses.

    Full Tilt Poker Freerolls
    Party Poker Strategy Guide

    The 2006 WSOP
    Total Coverage
    From the Urinals to the Hooker Bar



    Poker Savvy