Friday, July 29, 2005

Cards in Newark

My brother took me to play cards on Friday. It was a big open warehouse full of tables and about 40 card players. Here’s how it works. People bring their own chips and play a couple of loosely organized tournaments. If you don’t play the organized tournaments, or if you get knocked out, you can join or start a side game. We were there just for the side games. One gaping whole in my understanding of this place is that of who pays for it. None of the games are raked and there’s no entry fee. All the money you pay in goes back out to the winners so what’s going on? Here’s the kicker: The concession stand is fully stocked, self-serve, and free. They have free soft drinks, chips, candy bars, etc. Who pays for that?

I’m taking the “don’t ask, don’t tell” position on that. So long as the cards are good, it’s easy money. Oh yeah, I should explain that. The majority of the players at this place are absolutely terrible. These people will showdown with any two cards, regardless of the action coming at them. This point was reiterated over and over again when people would call my pre-flop “all-in” with great cards like 2-7. After I rake in the chips the poor guy surprisingly often defended himself with, “but they were suited.” My job in this situation is to nod in artificial agreement and watch the terrible play continue.

Of course this can be frustrating, too. When people play any two cards, they get lucky sometimes. When this luck comes in streaks two things happen. First, the players getting burned while making the right decisions, like my brother and me, get a little frustrated. Second, it teaches the player and those observing that the cards don’t matter. So long as you can keep number one in check, number two will continue to pay you in large sums.

This simple fact was proven Friday night. The first tournament we played, Chris and I did very well. It came down to three players (from eleven) with relatively close chip stacks. Chris and this other guy get involved in some heavy betting. Chris makes top-pair on the turn and re-raises all-in. After 10 minutes (seriously) of deliberation, this other guy calls with all of his chips. He flips over an open ended straight draw. Let me lay this out for you. This guy did not have a made hand, only a draw. If he put Chris on a pair or better, he’d have to hit the straight to have a chance at the pot. This gives him eight outs or about a 17% chance to hit the straight.

Even if he put Chris on a total bluff, his cards were low so he’d still have to hit to win the hand. This situation gives him perhaps fourteen outs, his open end draw (eight) plus either of his hole cards (three+three). Wow, a whopping 30% chance. Those are pretty bad odds to commit all your chips, too. This makes even less sense when you consider that he had about as many chips as each of us—we were all pretty even. Other than this particular hand, this guy wasn’t too bad.

Not to deny mathematics, he did not hit his draw and Chris won the hand, giving us first and second place (the only places that paid). Even though Chris had me covered 2-1, we split the money and moved on to another game.

All told for the night, we each made $80 each, making it the single most profitable and easiest poker night I’ve ever had. I almost feel guilty ;).

The plane (oh yeah, I’m currently at 22,000 feet) just began its descent so I better close up.

Mary Lyle-Storie’s Wedding

I’m not sure what Sarah and I were thinking as we planned out our weekend but we messed up somewhere along the way. We left for Newark, Ohio from NC Thursday night and arrived very early Friday morning. Sarah did the whole wedding decoration thing all day Friday. Friday night we did the rehearsal dinner thing. After the dinner Sarah threw Mary a bachelorette party and I went with Chris to play cards.

Here’s where I might have slipped up. We played cards from 11 pm to 3:15 am. Oops. I’ll cover this more later.

So the next morning, Sarah’s up bright and early to do more wedding stuff and I get to relax until the wedding. The wedding goes very well and concludes with a nice reception.

Afterward we caught dinner with my family and headed back to NC at about 9:30pm. We were both really, really tired. We stopped after about 3.5 hours and slept for an hour. We drive for a couple more hours and stopped for another nap. After a couple more hours, breakfast. We finally got home around 10am, 12.5 hours after we left. This drive usually takes about 8.5 hours. Ugggh. I guess it’s better than driving off the road…

I know I didn’t talk about the wedding much, but I’ve got to leave something for Sarah to talk about ;).

Thursday, July 28, 2005

TiVo to the Rescue, Slickdeals.net

I just (finally) picked up a Tivo. I've wanted one for a long time but simply couldn't afford it. It wasn't even the initial cost--often they're available for < $100--it was the monthly service fee of $12.95.

Well I came across a deal I simply couldn't pass up. Thanks to SlickDeals.net, I found a Toshiba Tivo with 140 hour capacity and a DVD-R burner for $100. As an added bonus, the unit includes basic service for free.

Here's the deal breakdown (this is ridiculous): pick of the $600 unit and use a 50% off coupon at checkout. This brings it down to $300+tax. Then send in a $200 rebate to bring the final cost to $100+tax. Hell yeah! I was lucky enough to find one in stock and have it all up and running. Many thanks to SlickDeals.net.

The unit includes 45 days of TivoPlus for free so I am enjoying all those great features. I admit that I will probably end up picking up the service after the trial expires, if only for Season Pass.

One thing I don't understand with this thing is that it still requires a phone line to set up initially. After the first 20 minute phone call, you can use a sold-separately network adapter to hook the unit into your home network, but you've got to make that call at least once. Normally this wouldn't be a big deal--but I don't have a phone line!

There are lots of sites that give tips on using special dial codes, etc. to avoid the phone line stuff but none of them proved successful for me. I ended up hauling the unit over to my Dad's to borrow to the initial setup. No big deal.

Another thing I'm confused about is commercial skip. What happened to it? It seems this is a feature that they removed to appease the television guys. Oh well. It was just a button for crying out loud!

So now the only remaining issue is whether or not to buy the Plus service. If I do get the Plus service, which I probably will, do I get the lifetime subscription or go month-to-month? The lifetime subscription isn't as good as it initially seems because it's good for the life of the unit, not the life of the owner :). If a unit malfunctions, though, the service would then carry over to the replacement unit.

The cost? $12.95/month or $299/unit-life. I'm leaning toward the lifetime subscription. It'll pay for itself in just under two years ($299/$12.95 = 23 months) and people tell me that their Tivo's have been running for at least that long. Even if it dies, the service can carry over to a new one, anyway.

I know the subscription thing is what made me hesitate to buy initially but let me explain. The unit is not likely to become obsolete for a least a little while--it's currently top of the line. The subscription is optional (it used to be required!). I'm not in college anymore so I have a little bit more money.

Comedians

I love comedy, who doesn’t? I’ve been listening to a lot of comedy on CD lately and it makes for a great travel soundtrack. My two favorite comics are Dane Cook and the late Mitch Hedberg. I've also recently picked up a new CD by Alonzo Bodden.

Mitch Hedberg


Mitch is definitely my favorite comedian. He’s been on Letterman several times and has two CD’s. His first CD is now available in stores as is his second CD, produced by Comedy Central. I highly recommend both discs. If you are new to Hedberg, though, go with the second disc.

I saw Mitch live last year and he was great. He had a lot of excellent new material and put on a great show. Unfortunately, he passed away last year. He will be missed. If you ever watch Comedy Central’s Comic Remix or Shorties Watching Shorties, you’ve probably heard some of his jokes.

Dane Cook


Dane cook is another of my favorite comedians. Unlike Mitch’s one-liner style, Dane is more of a story teller. His first CD, Harmful is Swallowed, is excellent and highly recommended. It also seems that he has JUST released a double-disc album full of new material. I can't wait to pick it up!

Alonzo Bodden


I just picked up a 40 minute audio of this comic through Audible. He’s a bit more like Dane Cook and definitely keeps you laughing. The general consensus seems to be that he pales when compared to Mitch, but he’s definitely a good listen. Apparantly he was on last comic standing, a fact I didn't know until I started researching this post.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Work Updates

I’m working out of my home office, telecommuting to the Aurora, Ohio office. It’s pretty neat and the hours are very flexible. You wouldn’t believe the morning traffic, though. Sometimes the fourteen feet I must travel to find my desk are total gridlock.

The plan is to have an office in the area “soon.” I’ll let you know when I know .

Presently I’m working on a bunch of software for a big project. I don’t really know if I’m allowed to talk about it so I won’t. It’s not hush-hush or anything, I’m just being extra careful my first few months until I get a good feel for what is appropriate and what is not. Besides, why bore you with the details?

Sunday, July 17, 2005

New site

If you've been here before, you no doubt have noticed that things are now completely different. I've dropped the custom blogging stuff that I wrote for this spiffy application. I'm a big fan of rolling my own software but it's hard to resist free software that is so well supported.

I managed to import pretty much everything from my old blog with one big exception: photos. I still have my photo gallery but all my imbeded pictures are gone. How's that for a backup plan? Oh well--you live, you learn.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Diary of a Mad Black Woman (0/5 stars)

There's no easy way to put this so here it goes: this movie sucked. Actually that was pretty easy. This was one of those movies that you start watching, but about 30 minutes into it you start thinking you should just cut your losses and stop. But you don't because you keep thinking, "This is the slow part--the character development--it'll start not sucking soon." And they never do. Sigh.

I'm afraid that I must place the blame for this one completely on Sarah. You know to be a little anxious when she says something like, "Just so you know, I take no blame for this if it's bad." M'kay.

Oh, I just thought of another reason to not see this movie. Sarah is pretty sappy when it comes to movies with love stories. If it's got a couple people who like each other, the good guys don't cheat, and the movie has a happy ending, she's usually sold. Believe it or not, this movie had all of the above and she didn't like it at all! There you go, it failed the sappy-sarah test, so don't even think about it.

As you may come to realize, though, my choice in movies may not be any better.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Batman (3.5/5 stars)

Oh boy, what a classic! Batman, the original. 1989, wow.

Batman has always been my favorite super hero. Why, you ask? Because he's really just a regular guy, that's why. Anyone could be Batman. I don't have to mutate or learn to fly; I just take up ass-kicking, hire a butler, inherit a crap-load of money and I'm good to go.

It's weird going back to see a movie like Batman. It's probably been over ten years since I last saw it and my memory isn't so great. I always end up a little disappointed when I do something like that--go and see a movie that I haven't seen in forever and have kept in high regard. I guess I'm setting myself up for it :/.

Anyway, I'll try my best to ignore those feelings. Although a little weird (like the 80s), it was really neat. It had all the charm of a great comic book take off without all the fancy computer graphics. I wish I could say that the acting stepped up to cover any potential gap, but alas. I am reminded of a Celebrity Jeopardy! as paraded by SNL staring Michael Keaton, Batman. You see, I've recently seen the SNL skit and just assumed that Michael Keaton was being caricatured by the SNL staff. Having seen his career's best work, I was wrong. SNL portrayed him perfectly.

On the other hand, Kim Basinger as Lois Lane--err--Vicky Vale (why always with the alliteration?) did pretty well, as did Jack Nicholson.

I've got to give it a 3.5/5, but that includes some bonus points for being a classic and portraying my favorite super hero.

Garden State (4/5 stars)

I must admit that I was a little hesitant to see this one. I really like Zak Braff on scrubs and Natalie Portman's been cool since she played the preteen assassin in Léon so I gave it a go. By the way, did you know that she was born in Jerusalem, Israel? At least according to imdb.

I really liked it. I thought it moved along a little slowly at times but overall, I felt it to be pretty true-to-life. I connected with the characters on some levels (certainly not too many ;)) and really seemed to understand where they were coming from.

I'm new to this movie reviewing thing so this is as good as it gets as I'm the first to admit, I'm not a professional critic. If you have any titles you'd recommend, drop me an email or post a comment.