Sloe Times

A journal of my adventures in learning and growing personally and professionally

Tuesday, September 28, 2004


General: The goings on of things

So last week was full of fun and excitement... ok maybe not so much fun... and not so exciting. It was however busy as hell. Work over the last couple of months has sucked. The company has been working towards being merged and as that process has moved along the project work basically dried up. What this means is that the job I'm there to do just isn't happening. That's ok though because we're short handed on the production support side so I've been filling in there :( I don't look down on the job so much as dislike it because I've put in my time on the front line and don't really like being back there. The company on the other hand still pays me so I guess I'll do what needs to be done.

This past weekend the boy has started to stand with some version of balance. This basically means that he'll pull himself up on something... distract himself with whatever is in his hands and then realize he's not actually holding onto any sort of support and fall down. My money is that he'll be walking about in a month or so and then begins the reign of "The Terror of Tiny Town!" He's also started talking a little bit. According to the wife he really doesn't say much during the day but when I get home he's quite the chatter box. The only truly intelligible word is "Da-Dee" which is says when he's looking for me. That so totally rocks. Everything else is still garbled in jibber jabber but we try real hard not to coo or talk nonsense back at him so hopefully this is how the learning process works. The current concern is that we have a beautiful tile floor in the kitchen.... a nice hard tile floor. Bets on when he lets go and busts his head? There's really no way to prevent this from happening and we've resigned ourselves to the fact that it's a when and not an if event. I can only hope that I'm around when it happens to put humpty dumpty back together again.

I've kicked off my Dragonlance Play-by-Email campaign this week finally. I ended up starting fewer players than I wanted but I was able to alter the adventure enough to fit the group while leaving room for anyone else who is able to re-join. I officially canceled my Star Wars Galaxies accounts today so no more of that... Probably forever, but it was fun while it lasted (about a year of active playing). Beta testing still continues on Axis & Allies, the improvements there are steady and generally make the game more balanced and challenging. I received my discs in the mail for the start of the Sid Meiers Pirates! beta test over the weekend. I came into the A&A testing relatively late so I had missed a lot of the fits and starts that occur during the early stages of the testing. The first patch came out yesterday and playability actually took a step backwards when some things that were working well got broken. What can I expect, that's the process. We're pretty limited in what we can say about the game but I think it's safe to say that if you enjoyed the original, or enjoy Sid Meier/Firaxis games, you're going to love Pirates!

The work crew is getting together this Friday for our "Engineering Round Table." I'm pretty stoked about that. It's been awhile since we've been able to sit down for a night of cards and I think in general we're all looking forward to the trash talking, drinking, and attempting to empty each others pockets. This Sunday is also the next College Poker Championship satellite on Royal Vegas. I apparently missed a few between the last time I played and now but I couldn't exactly help it. Their email keeps getting gobbled up by the earthlink spam blocker even though I keep telling it that mail from them is ok. *sigh*

Monday, September 27, 2004


General/Poker: Where did my week go?

Holy Cow! I haven't posted anything in a week and honestly I didn't even realize it. Not that I'm ignoring my blog or anything but between work and home there hasn't been much time to do anything other than eat, crap, and sleep. I played a little poker over the weekend but it was nothing to write home about. I think I actually ended up down a little after encountering my share of suckouts and hands that held up. I'm not sure how I feel about trying to blog about my play. I've not had a lot of time to read and study to make any real progress on improving my game and writing about the wins and losses just doesn't seem to hold any real interest for me. I think from a development standpoint I'm to the point where the bad beats really don't phase me very much.

I've backed off of my aggression a little bit but that has actually seemed to induce more suckouts (perhaps it's just misaligned perception). In either case, thanks to some truly monumental suckouts this morning, I've actually busted out online. Honestly, I'm not sure that I particularly care at this moment. With the boy growing like a weed and becoming both mobile and talkative he's much more interesting than when he was sleeping all of the time. Also, having picked up a new game to beta test (Sid Meier's Pirates!) I guess playing online has moved down in my list of priorities. It's funny how things work out. Two weeks ago, I couldn't find enough to do to fill my day, now I can't find enough day to fit it all in. I'll probably get back into it, but honestly it may not be until after the first of the year. I'll still try and get into any of the home games I can in the area but in the final analysis, I got to play a lot of poker for free, got some great new poker chips with some of my winnings, and got to take a much needed vacation on the rest of the winnings. That's a pretty good showing for a guy who has played less hands in 6 months than some people do in a week. So, there's no shame in imploding today. I'm not exactly happy about it since that means I'll have to resort to traditional savings to save up for the 2005 GenCon since my original plan was to build up the bankroll again to support another vacation.

What in the world will I blog about then? Despite the fact that this will probably alienate the few folks who have been reading this thing (according to StatCounter, ~40 return visitors a day) I'll continue blogging about my non-poker related stuff. This is a little depressing. I've always liked being a part of the poker blogging community, but it's hard to be a part of it when you're not contributing and frankly I haven't contributed much in the last couple of months so maybe I haven't been a part of it longer than I realized.

There's been a lot of stuff happening the last couple of weeks with the boy, the beta testing, and my tentative steps back into the role playing world. I'll get to those items tomorrow when I have more time. On top that, the weekend was another disappointing loss for my fantasy team. McNair has truely been a let down so far this season.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004


General: The Apprentice, A How to Win Guide

I finally got to the second episode of The Apprentice on my TIVO this evening and all I have to say is that Caroline had the best, and most telling, statement of the whole show. To paraphrase she said, "A 10 year old kid could do this better." At the time she was talking about the Ice Cream task, but frankly after the first two episodes I think this really applies to the whole process.

The sad part is that, I could not afford to take 15 weeks off from work to show the world how it's done, but I'm confident that there will be a season three, assuming that this season doesn't tank in the ratings, and to that end I will offer my guide to potential candidates on how to survive the show and earn the coveted spot as The Donald's apprentice.

Step One: Know thy self
If you are a social reject that likes to push peoples buttons (no matter what the wife says, this does not describe me.... really, I swear!) you probably want to reel that impulse in.... completely. You're going to be tossed into close proximity with strangers that will want to work with you at first, and then want to shove you out the board room window after they have been inflicted with your special brand of charm and wit.

You're not nearly as funny, cute, smart, talented, attractive, etc... as you think you are. Actions speak louder than words and instead of trying to convince everyone about how good you are by telling them about your past exploits, show them through your ability to work effectively on a team as well as effectively lead a team. The Apprentice is a unique opportunity where your past experiences and self promotion only open the door for you. To step on through you have to put your actions where your mouth is, so shut up, keep your eye on the prize, and do what needs to be done.

Some people don't do so well at self examination and may not know what an annoying jerk they are. Fortunately for them, if they are observant and can listen/accept criticism they may have a chance to correct the behaviors that can make teammates want to work against them instead of with them.

A healthy ego can help you display confidence, ability, and trust. Keep a little humility on the side though because while you may think you're smarter and better than the rest of the wanna-be apprentices, you may just find that someone is smarter, better, and stronger than you in a lot of areas. All is not lost though, you can overcome this with wisdom and experience.

Step Two: Lead Effectively
When it's your turn to be the project manager your priorities are very simple. First, you must understand the task. If you understand what is expected of your team, then you should be able to plan, communicate, and direct your team. Leading by democracy isn't going to work. Too many people have too many opinions and you'll burn precious time if you let everyone have their vote. Since you understand the task at hand, step two is to lay out your vision of how it can be accomplished and solicit feedback to improve weak ideas or enhance the plan to exceed expectations. Once you have a plan for success, step three is to delegate the tasks. If you have communicated the plan and expectations to your team well enough, you should be able to ask for volunteers for specific things and let your team members step up to demonstrate their strengths. If some tasks are left unclaimed you're going to have to delegate. Given the type of people you're likely to be teamed up with, you should be able to trust your team members to pull their weight. That doesn't mean that you don't keep track of what's being done to make sure the team is on track, but it does mean you don't have to be standing over their shoulders telling them how to do something unless they are completely incapable of performing a task. If that's the case, you probably made a mistake in your delegation and you need to correct it immediately. Allowing someone to fail so that you can drag them into the boardroom with you is unacceptable. As the leader, you're expected to adapt and do what is necessary to be successful. If you do this and still end up in the boardroom then you were out played but honestly, if you do it right, the only way you're going that route is if you lost a coin flip style challenge where both teams were super strong.

If you end up in the boardroom be prepared. You planned it, executed it, and failed. Have some ideas of how you could have done better. Now that you have identified some areas of improvement, decide why those specific areas were not as strong as they could be. Was it poor planning? Was it a resource failure? Was it uncontrollable fate that no amount of planning or experience could have foreseen? Honestly though, this is for your own self improvement. The fact is that the tapes have been seen and everyone involved has their perception of how things went. You'll use this mental exercise to adjust those perceptions where necessary but the moment of truth comes when its time to decide who is coming to the boardroom with you to get fired.

From the first minute you met and started talking to the other players, and ultimately your team mates you've been sizing them up and identifying strengths and weaknesses. In your mind you've got a running rating of your team mates from strongest to weakest. Unless the strong member did something some monumentally stupid (Bradford) you want to bring the weakest team members with you. The reason is simple, a stronger team reduces the chance of ending up in the boardroom again. When asked why you picked them, the answer is simple. Based on what you've seen to date, they are the weakest members of the team and you feel that the team has a greater chance of success without one of them. Don't be afraid to verbalize what it is about that person that makes them the weakest team member in your mind. It's review time and fortunately no one is perfect (including you) so keep your comments constructive and professional. Everyone wants to survive so the people you brought with you are also going to be trying to take you down. Acknowledge their criticism of you and politely disagree if necessary. Getting into a childish argument of "Yes you are!" and "No I'm not!" isn't impressing anyone. If Trump cares why you disagree, he'll ask and you have an opportunity to explain why a perceived weakness is not what it seems. Don't use your rebuttal to attack your team mate, you've had your say and dodging the opportunity to represent yourself so that you can try and flip the script on your team mate isn't altering any perception, you're just dodging the issue.

Step Three: Be an Indian
We've all heard the saying about too many chiefs and not enough indians. When it is someone else's turn to lead the team you're going to have a role to play, and it shouldn't be to undermine the leader. Participate in the planning and offer suggestions. Give advice when asked, and sometimes when you haven't been asked. Open communication is as important for the team members as it is for the Project Manager. If they don't know what you're thinking, they can't adjust a possible mistake or improve the teams chances of succeeding without feedback. Pull your weight. If you've been involved in the planning, you know what is expected of you for a given task. If you need someone to tell you want to do, or rather how to accomplish your part of the task, you either volunteered for something that was way over your head or you didn't speak up when tasks were being delegated to let the leader know that this was a weakness for you and that you were not comfortable with your ability to perform the task. Not knowing how to do something and saying so is less of a sign of weakness than making a half assed attempt at a task and then blaming the project manager for poor direction or leadership (although a PM who's on top of things will realize you're floundering and should adapt the plan).

If you end up in the board room, you already know in your mind what your perceptions of the strengths and weaknesses are of the other two people with you. If the task could have been done better, say so and support that position. Be prepared to identify why things could not have been done any better than they were. Individual mistakes and quirks are well know to everyone because it was caught on tape. Unless an individuals activities directly impacted the teams success do not try and attach the failure to a single person. The team failed. Presuming that your part in the task (and previous tasks) were performed at 100%, or more, of your abilities speak to that when it comes time to state your case of why you shouldn't be fired. When it comes time to respond to who you think should be fired, use the same process as if you were the leader who got to choose the two team members with you. Identify the weaknesses and why firing the weakest of the two would improve the teams ability to succeed in the future.

Step Four: The Task at Hand
Keep things simple. The more complex you make the solution to a task/problem the more opportunities you're providing the team to fail. This has nothing to do with risk and everything to do with understanding what has to be done and being able to execute on it. I believe that by keeping solutions simple and straight forward, you can take a little more risk but be able to reduce it while maximizing the reward because simple plans are easier to adjust when risky activities throw curves your way.

Contribute as much as possible, especially in areas that you consider to be your strengths. Positive visibility is the key. Remember, you know you're great, but by showing your teammates and everyone else that you can do things successfully and efficiently, you're building a good reputation and visibility to the people you want to hire you. Building the perception of strength and success through action is the key to winning. Not just on a silly game show, but in life in general.

Appendix A: Choosing a Team Name
Why does so much effort get wasted on something so meaningless? I mean really. Yes, you need a team name, but your objective is simple. You want something that sounds cool and represents success, power, and ability. My suggestion, make two lists of six words. The first list should be words that imply scope like International, Infinity, and Total. The second list of words should imply success, power, or ability like Professional, Solution, and Triumph. Number each entry in the columns one through six and then take six small pieces of paper (numbered of course) and draw one from a hat two times. Combine the two words drawn and that's you're team name. You'll want to avoid something like planets and electronics for categories since Dilbert has already shown us that you're likely to end up with Uranus Hertz.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004


Poker: A step towards tilt proof

So I was playing on the slot machine that is the Party $0.50/$1 tables this evening. -33 BB later I can't say I played all that horribly, but I can say that for every gut shot, river chased, suckout that I endured I was a little frustrated but there was no wailing at the monitor or gnashing of teeth. The stunning part was that all 33 BB were lost on sets that were winners right up until the river with the fish capping the whole way. But one rivered flush and one rivered straight later and I'm at the decision point of nabbing more chips or heading to bed. Bed is gonna win this round but I'll be back. Oh yes, and they'll rue the day. When I get back. At the tables. Because I will set them up the bomb. This was much funnier in my mind with the Bullwinkle voice.


Poker: I PokerBot

So I went and had a read of the MSNBC article on poker playing programs and basically I have to say I'm not too impressed. A proliferation of bots, if it were to ever come to that , would just leave us at that state of the game where everyone is great and the poker rooms take everyone's money with the rakes. Bots would also be a bad thing even if that were not the case. Talk about having an ability to over-fish the population. If bots eat all of the fish, the only thing left will be a bunch of sharks staring at each other and trying to figure out which end to eat first. I appreciate the AI opportunities in programming a really good player, but to build something like this and sell it so that others who are not good players can automatically become good players is hokey at best, but more likely just plain wrong. It's bad enough that people collude and cheat in other ways, but being able to drop a bot into an MTT, go to bed and wake up in the cash is not what the game is about. This is as bad a form of cheating as any other. It's not you that's playing but you're trying to reap the benefits. Maybe that's not such a big deal. What would be a big deal IMO would be someone using a bot to win a WSOP or other live tournament seat and getting a vacation so they can go dump their chips at the tournament on day one.

Maybe bots are not that big of a deal, but they offend my sense of right and wrong.


General: Axis & Allies RTS Redux

The deadliest weapon in the world is a Marine and his rifle. It is your killer instinct which must be harnessed if you expect to survive in combat. Your rifle is only a tool. It is a hard heart that kills. If your killer instincts are not clean and strong, you will hesitate at the moment of truth. You will not kill. You will become dead marines, and then you will be in a world of shit, because marines are not allowed to die without permission. Do you maggots understand?
-- Gunnery Sergeant Hartman played by R. Lee in Full Metal Jacket Ermey

It occurs to me that I didn't really give a complete review of this game as it stands today and having played it quite a bit to this point I think it is a game that others will enjoy. First off, I unfortunately do not have any screen shots to offer. The developers have asked us not to post any since its current state and look may not be how it appears when it hits store shelves. That being said, my testing rig has a GeForce 5600 Ultra and playing at 1024x768 on light weight 15" LCD (makes taking hardware to LAN parties easier) the graphics for this type of game are pretty smooth. Currently there are still some glitches during large scale battles (5+ regiments per side going at it in one area) that cause a stutter but normal play is smooth and beautiful. Like other RTSs there's plenty of replay factor here since it's never the same game twice. However, just to take it up a knock the developers have added some twists.

The sides in the game are made up of the classic A&A combatants, USA, Great Britain, Russia, Germany, and Japan. Each side has similar standard units with the ability to generate unique advanced units. For example, Germany can build King Tiger Tanks and Russia can conscript infantry (cheaper infantry option for building up Russian human wave attacks), and the Japanese can build tankettes. In addition to choosing a side, you also choose a leader. Each side has 4 possible leaders that bring different special abilities to your game. The special abilities can be temporary boosts in power for selected units, additional supplies to support your troops with, special bombing attacks that do more damage, and even the atomic bomb. There's a decent balance between the leaders so you have the flexibility of choosing one that fits your play style without feeling you'll be over powered by not taking 'the best leader.'

My past experience with RTSs have included C&C, Warcraft, and AOE. For the most part A&A RTS plays a lot like AOE or Warcraft does in terms of building base structures, researching improvements, and support being based on your bases development. Something that makes this a more strategic game than say C&C is that in general is that building nothing but the biggest units is not going to win your engagement. To win, you'll need to use combined arms to take advantage of terrain, enemy weaknesses, and to overcome a well defended base. Like AOE or Warcraft, you have building limits that dictate how many of each types of regiments you can have in the field based on the number of HQs you've constructed. Regiments are either infantry, airborne, mechanized, or armored groups built by one of 4 different types of HQs. Each HQ can only control a limited number of regiments. For example the Infantry HQ can only command a maximum of 5 infantry regiments and an Armor HQ can only command a maximum of 3 armor regiments. To field more of a given type of regiment you'll need to build out more of that type of HQ. This is generally a win-win situation since instead of having to have resource gatherers, you gain money at a steady rate based on your HQ infrastructure, town occupation, and resource utilization.

The balancing act of resources (money, ammunition, and oil) requires that consideration be used in what types of units you build, bunkers built to defend your base (AA, pill boxes, and fixed artillery), and the quantity of units you can field at a given time. If you don't manage your oil and ammunition supplies it will severely cut into your money/income levels.

The only combat type missing from the game is naval. There are some scenarios that can be built by the map editor that can give players aircraft carriers and battleships but there is no naval HQ that would allow you to build other ships. The air combat is fairly simplistic so the focus is generally on the land engagements.

That's all I can think of for now but I'll try to add to this if I think of anything else. The new Sid Meier's Pirates! Beta has kicked off and the CD should be hitting my doorstep late this week. I never played the original VGA version, but I am eagerly anticipating the swashbuckling goodness to come. :)

Saturday, September 18, 2004


General: Resident Evil & Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow

I hadn't been to the movies in awhile and while talking with Steel_Rain I figured there were at least a few out recently that I had not seen yet and that wouldn't be an unplesant way to spend the afternoon alone. First up, Resident Evil: Apocolypse. Of movies based on video games, this is probably about as good as it gets. The Mortal Combat and Street Fighter flicks left a lot to be desired. The Resident Evil movies on the other hand have everything you could want in a movie like this; guns, zombies, creative deaths, attractive stars, and a nice straight forward plot line. To put a little icing on the cake, they left it open for what should be an interesting third movie. Damn that evil Umbrella Corporation! This one's a keeper for when it comes out on DVD.

I also saw Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. All in all it was just wierd. I'm one of those people that rarely sees a bad movie. If I think a movie is going to be bad, I just won't watch it. If on the other hand I watch a movie regardless of what the critics think about it, I tend to find something I like about them. Anyway, I didn't say that because I think people will decide that this is a bad movie, just that when you take a 1940 style setting and then apply the robots of the future plot line you've got to do something a little different to entertain the audience here in 2004. And this is where I ran into something I thought was annoying. A lot of the language and manners just didn't fit the setting. Perhaps they should have named it Sky Captain and the World of Yesterday. Based on the actions and speech used you would think that what really happened is that someone from present day was transported back into the 40s to fight off the evil invaders. I liked the plane, that was cool, got to get me one of those :) Otherwise, it was worth the watch, but probably not a repeat.


Poker: Spur of the moment game

Work was winding down yesterday and a couple of the guys at the office were going out for drinks and since the boy and the wife are off visiting grandma this weekend I figured I could hit a beer or two before heading home. We get to the bar and one of the guys mentions he's got to bail in a couple of hours for a game to which my only response was, "Where's the love?" After a phone call and a couple of beers his friends calls back says they're all full so no game for me tonight. Well since I'm not playing I'm drinking. I lost count of the pints but place it somewhere <10 but >5. Doesn't really matter though because apparently I had drank myself into an invite to the game. I'm not sure if that is a good thing or not, but I figured if Al can do it, why can't I? Of course once you start drinking like this, it's hard to stop, I didn't try so there were another unknown quantity of beers >1 but <24 through the next 2 hours.

I am sure I've mentioned it before, by my live game play that involves anything other than a casino is generally social. I'm not playing to win big, and I enjoy the atmosphere and friends. When it comes to playing with new people I also try not to play too hard since I want to be invited back. That being said, I also try to make sure I walk away fairly close to even whenever possible. So the play last night consisted of 3 NLHE tournaments, $20, $20, and $40 buy-ins with the last one having a twist that the first 2 guys busted out picked a local bar, and the winner had to contribute half of his winnings to the bar tab where everyone would end up after the game.

There were 6 of us for the first game and I couldn't tell you what I held at any point in the game but after about 45 minutes I've got all the chips. Hmm, I'm up $100 and noticed a few comments about shark... then again maybe I'm paranoid. Ok, fair enough, the game was extremely soft (as were the other two) and since winning isn't the goal, I loosened up to just before the point where you would just play any two cards. Suited Big little, one gapers, off suit connecters I was there for just about any flop. Game two was going well until my big pair ran into 4 diamonds on the board and I couldn't get the guy with x2d to lay down with an all in shove so I was gone. Game three came around and it's getting on to about the time I need to catch a train and I try to get out early and call an all-in with pocket 3s. Would you believe they held up? I can't recall much of the rest of the play in the 3rd game except that after doubling up I played pretty aggressive and it ended up heads up with me and another guy who had shown up late enough that this game was the only game I played with him in. The last hand of the evening, we were about even in chips (he had me covered probably) but I caught A9 so I shoved figuring that he hadn't folded anything else he'll call and I feel ok about my chances. He calls and shows Tx. The cards come down and he hits a ten somewhere in there and I hit nothing and that's the ball game.

Not too bad really. I had fun... I think... and after food, drinks, and a cab ride I broke even for the night so it was all good in my book. So I've drank more than I've eaten and I've got just a few minutes before the shut down the McD's to get some hot nuggets and cold fries to try and absorb some of that alcohol while waiting for the train. While sitting on the steps waiting and eating I got to witness a train wreck of a different type. There's a couple of girls sitting below me and they've obviously come from a concert. Apparently it was a Von Bondies concert which I only know because they said it. (Being the good little researcher that I am, I actually looked them up, their music isn't too shabby) Anyway, a short time goes by and a guy carrying a guitar case (I'll give him the benefit of the doubt and assume there was actually a guitar in it) sits down near the girls and starts chatting them up with what had to have been the worst attempt to pick up a girl I have ever seen. He started off by asking girl #1 about her bracelet that was coincidently (according to her) the same pink color as the poster she was holding. The problem was that it sounded like he was making fun of her for wearing something the same color as the bands colors. It then deteriorated from there to the point where they were both dissing each other and the girls ended up just walking away. It's been awhile since I've tried to chat up a girl, but I don't think it’s supposed to work that way.

Friday, September 17, 2004


General: Axis & Allies RTS

So today, Atari partially lifted the NDA for the Axis & Allies RTS game that is being developed. Yay, that means I can blab about it which I've been dieing to do since I started testing it. First things first, if you don't like real time strategy games, there's no help for you no matter how much you might like the Axis & Allies franchise. I think beyond using the name, and the countries likeness for units and designation, there's nothing here related to the board game.

If you've played Warcraft, AOE, C&C, etc then the game play will be familiar to you. You build your army of infantry, mechanized, and armored units by constructing corps buildings that let you recruit various types of units. There are technologies to research that allow you to improve units defense, attack, and speed capabilities as well as modified units like adding a flamethrower infantry regiment or flame tanks.

It's not clear how much more development there is to go yet, but hopefully the AI gets some work done to it. So far I haven't found it very challenging because there seems to be an optimum strategy for beating the computer. That being said, I've found that in order to play effectively you have to use a combination of units and abilities to overcome your live opponents.

The gameplay is pretty smooth but some of the things like unit pathing and some terrain effects with shadows still need to be resolved. Like many types of these games I expect that there will be a lot of tweaking in terms of game mechanics so I am looking forward to seeing the game evolve into what will become the final product.


General: A week with my brother

So my brother is headed back to New Mexico today after hanging out for a week while he was in Chicago for training. It was cool having him around but it was unfortunate that he wasn't able to schedule a little weekend time so that he could actually see some of the area and tourist type things. Fortunetly he is headed back around the 1st so hopefully I can get him involved in the work game that is happening on the 1st. I'm honestly not sure how well he does or doesn't play poker but I figured I would stake him and it would be a good time hanging out with the guys, knocking back a few beers, and playing some cards.

I've never really been close to my family. Not for any real reason other than I'm not particularly close to anyone other than my wife and son. I'm sure it's a personality defect but it's not something so horribly broken that I've felt it needs to be fixed. That being said, I had forgotten that I actually like hanging out with my brother. He's a little younger than me, but we have a lot of the same interests. He's actually looking for a job in the Chicago area so I'm kind of stoked that he may be moving into the area if he can find a gig. To that end I've been banging around my network of friends to see if they've got any openings for a unix/windows/os X admin. Hopefully something will turn up soon.


General: FFL Picks for Week 2

Week 1 was a horror. It's not like I had the studs of the NFL to start with, but the 'strong' players I did have didn't score to their potential. Once again attempting to make lemonade out of lemons, here's what I'm going with for week 2.

QB S. McNair (Ten - QB)
WR S. Moss (NYJ - WR)
WR An. Johnson (Hou - WR)
WR A. Bryant (Dal - WR)
RB W. Dunn (Atl - RB)
RB O. Smith (Min - RB)
TE L. Smith (Phi - TE)
K J. Hall (Was - K)
DEF Jacksonville (Jac - DEF)

Here's to a better week.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004


General: Mid-everything blues

It is the middle of the week and the middle of the month. If there were any more things going on right now, I would probably have lost my mind.

For the last couple of weeks work has been about as interesting as watching paint dry. This week however things took a turn for the chaoticly busy. Projects that were dormant came to life just as I was trying to take on some other things to pass the time. Truely a case of be careful what you wish for.

My brother is in town for some training. It has been cool having him around and it reminds me that I generally do not get to see much of him beyond the once a year visit south for Chirstmas or Thanksgiving. I'll have to re-evaluate that as the boy gets older.

Speaking of the boy, he is sick again. After road tripping with his mother to grandmothers house (200 miles or so away) then to her friends house (also about 200 miles away oddly enough in a triangle fashion) and finally to home. With all that running around and exposure to other people (and apparently sick people) it is no wonder he feels horrible. To top it off, his bottom two teeth have come in and his others are starting.... who knew they would be so sharp.

I have started to really read the Small Stakes Hold'em book and am about 1/3 of the way through it right now. Nothing super revealing in there after months of playing and adapting to playing on Party, but I'll finish it up since there's always a nugget or two that appears when you need it most. I am not disappointed having picked it up, and as others have mentioned it is easier to read it than the other Sklansky books. If you are struggling with the low limit games, this may be a good purchase for you. If you are cleaning the fish regularly, then save your clams for something more useful.

I have been gearing up for my Dragonlance PBeM campaign and have noticed that a lot of rules have changed since first edition AD&D. That is ok though, I have been having fun getting back into the fantasy and role playing. Aside from getting into the 3.5e and Dragonlance stuff I also started looking at Eberron which is the new campaign setting for D&D. Some interesting stuff there. I've only read through the first couple of chapters of the campaign setting book but so far I am interested. The concept of action points is interesting and the setting has lots of room for just about any type of adventure. The concept of a world where magic is the rule rather than the extrodinary is a bit of a twist from other campaign types. The new races bring in some nice twists from other campaign worlds and at least something new in terms of the Warforged. For classes it's more or less the standard fair however psionics are more of a core rather than a rarity. Also they've added the Artificer which seems appropriate given all the magic that abounds. That's as far as I've gotten so far, I'll leave you with just two words, Warforged Monk.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004


Poker: Recent and Upcoming poker rooms

Awhile back I fired up Doyle's Room when they opened up. The site is back ended by platinum casino software and in general the site was pretty weak. The interfaces were clumsy and the action on there was limited at best. I probably gave it a go for a month and then just walked away with a sizable deposit bonus unclaimed ($350) and down $60 from my initial deposit. It is somewhat unfortunate because I had some high hopes for it, probably because I bought into the hype of it being a poker room endorsed by Doyle. I think if the software/client were better behaved that it would cure a lot of ills, but it is damn hard to get away from the fish barrel that is Party.

Speaking of new poker rooms, Check n Raise Poker is opening its doors later this month (the 26th I believe) and I am somewhat anxious to see what it will be like. I will try to ignore the grief they caused with Pauly last month and look forward to a client and service that cater more to making the online experience better. Or at least, that's what their hype would lead you to believe. Obviously it is hard to know how it is going to play until they open up, but assuming their client really is the cats meow and they can attract enough players, it may be worth spending some time on.

The ultimate client IMO would be a combination of UB(mini view for multi-tabling) and Stars(avatars and overall general client appearance) with the user base of Party. You got to wonder how hard it would be to write a kick ass service with a client API and let some solid interface people create skins/clients for poker rooms.

Saturday, September 11, 2004


General: Don't second guess

For my fantasy football team I've got McNair and Delhomme and I had originally planned to use Delhomme this weekend, but let myself be talked out of it. I'm almost certain this is going to be one of those examples about second guessing yourself. The Tennessee vs. Miami game is over and Tennessee won it, but to judge by the play by play, you would think that McNair broke his arm in the first quarter. Lets see here, 14 attempts, 9 completions for a stunning 73 passing yards for the whole game. I should be thankful that he hasn't thrown any interceptions... oh wait, you have to throw the ball for that to happen. On an alternate note, there have been 21 penalties for 132 yards (14 of them and 77 yards for Miami) during this game. Every play where yards are gained looks like a fricken yo-yo. The yards lost for Miami would be worse except they got a few of those penalties in the redzone near the goal line so only lost a yard or so per penalty. I'm not bitter or anything. I'm thankful that the 1 yard pass into the endzone got me some points for that touchdown. Without that I think McNair would have racked up a whole 3 points for my team today. The moral of this missive, don't second guess yourself. Do your analysis, make your call and if you're still sort of on the fence, go with your gut, don't look to someone else to tell you how to play it (especially if they're in your league).


Poker: Bad Beat Tables

My Party bankroll really is not in a shape to play the Bad Beat tables but that's only a minor cautionary flag if you are willing to play solid and not get caught up in the craziness that seems to afflict people who are trying to put bad beats on one another. The last few days I've been catching a stream of cold cards while playing $.50/$1. After annihilating about half my bankroll ($70) there, I opted to take a break and change things up a bit. I played a SNG that laid some evil bad beats against me (and the rest of the table for that fact). The fellow to my right was playing very aggressively and betting into pots when he had nothing or bottom pair. After the table pretty much figured him out, his bets didn't get any real respect, but he must have tipped the dealer pretty nice because in looking back through the showdown history, there were 4 All-ins against him after he bet to try and steal the pot where his trash hand caught runner and at least once, runner-runner to knock people out. I busted out on the bubble when he shoved against my raise with JJ and I called his 88 putting me all in. Ah well, maybe hold'em is not my game right now. I figured I would give omaha hi/lo a shot and sat down at a 5+1 SNG. It was fun but I busted out 9th. <yoda>Much to learn of Omaha I have</yoda>. After that triumphant attempt at poker for the last two days where I set myself back I figured I would sleep on it and give it another go today.

Hey, how about playing the bad beat tables? The reasonable side of me would never suggest someone move up in limits just to make up for losses, but I rationalized it by figuring that if I was going to get pummeled by bad beats, then I was gonna play where it might pay me off anyway, and if I had gone back to the $.50/$1 or even the $25NL tables I was likely to play scared. So, I took it all to the $2/$4 bad beat table and planned to win or bust, but definitely not play scared. I sat down with my $60 and contributed my blinds for the first couple of orbits and caught my card rush in the 3rd orbit. The first winning hand was one of those trusting your parachute plays. I've catch 88 in the BB. The flop came down 6c,3c,Kc. One over card, very likely that one (if not more) of the 4 other people in the hand have a K at least and possibly a club flush but, I put a cheap feeler out there to see. So I lead out with $2 UTG and it called all the way around. Ok, no raise so either someone is slow playing their flush, or they have a weak Ks. The turn is an 8h giving me the set, and I'm no longer worried about the Kx, but what about a slow played flush? Probably a weak area in my game is that I'm aggressive when I probably shouldn't be. I lead off UTG again with the $4 bet to see who gets froggy. I lose one but have 3 callers. Hmm, Kx and a weak flushes that just won't let go? The river pairs the board with a 3d and I'm figuring my house is golden so I lead off again lose one player but get the other two to pay me off with exactly what I figured, Kx. The one I couldn't figure out, he was playing K2o, WTF? Yes, the 2 was a club, but he couldn't possibly think that would allow him to scrape if a 4th club hit. The other one was only slightly more reasonable in that he had K6o (no clubs) and had nabbed two pair on the flop. The next hand was J4s and I was the SB. Easy enough to get away from when the flop missed me completely. It didn't go so well for the guy who caught his gutshot straight on the turn and ran into quad 5s on the river.

The next hand was a fluke, I would say I was click happy and accidentally called on the button with J8s but that wouldn't explain what came next. The flop came down 7c, 8s, Ts (I have hearts) and there are 4 of us looking at this thing. It checks around to the guy on my right (the same knob who played K2o earlier) and he bets out. I'm not sure why I decided trying to push him around was a good thing but I raised it up to $4, the other two guys call, and he raises to $6. I am claiming temporary insanity because I called with my middle pair, and oddly enough, so did the other two players. The turn brought a 3s (remember I have hearts) and the guy to my right leads off again. Ok, so my options here are a gut shot draw to a 9 to catch a straight that can't beat the spade flush. Maybe the 3rd 8 that would give me a set that could also not beat the spade flush. This is clearly a folding situation, so I call and so do the other two guys. The turn drops Td on the board pairing the high cards and it checks all the way around to me. Somehow sanity reasserted itself and I also check and end up scraping with my two pair, Ts and 8s. Hopefully, I have described this accurately enough to show the MANY mistakes that were made by me. Yes, I scraped but from beginning to end I shouldn't have been in that hand with my short stack against 3 other people with no outs that could beat what appeared to be an obvious flush.

However, if I ever needed a hand like that to set up a big scrape, it came at the right time. The very next hand I've got A8s (hearts again) in LP and I call a small raise just before me as do 4 others putting us 6 handed going to the flop. I must have paid my dues because the flop gave me the nut flush with 6,7,3 and being in late position really let me take advantage of it. The guy to my right leads off and I go ahead and raise getting two callers and losing two players before it gets back around to him and he must have read my mind and raises it up just so I can cap it and keeping the other two callers. Can you say "payday?" I knew you could. The turn is a 2s and the guy to my right is still betting into me, so I oblige him by raising and we cap it again on the turn. I'm thinking at this point he's got a set and is going to be pretty unhappy if he thinks I'm still suffering from the insanity of last hand. And just to turn that little molehill of a thought into a mountain the river pairs the board with a 3d. Can you say, "Sheeeee-it?" That's a movie reference that I just can't remember the name of right now... has Edward Norton in it and he's getting busted by the DEA because he's got drugs in his couch. Anyway back to my real nightmare, he leads off again and I figure I'm making my crying call into an $88 pot. Turns out he was holding KJs and I scraped $93. WTF was he thinking? I mean even if he did have me pegged as a maniac from the last hand, even maniacs catch cards and he was content to bet into me and cap it out with less than the nuts.

All of this is to say, that I had a bit of a roller coaster experience the last few days, I'm back up and above my goal for the week, and that if you're not playing them you should seriously consider the bad beat tables. If nothing else you can come take my money when I have my lapses in sanity.

Friday, September 10, 2004


General: Crunch Time

So the season is upon me and it's crunch time. I got the royal shaft in the Yahoo Autodraft in terms of running backs, and then to add some icing to that crap cake, 4 of my players hit the injured list and at least one of them out for the season. So, here's the line up I'm running this weekend.

Starting Lineup -
QB S. McNair (Ten - QB)
WR S. Moss (NYJ - WR)
WR An. Johnson (Hou - WR)
WR C. Rogers (Det - WR)
RB M. Williams (Min - RB) [Traded Steven Jackson to cover for Bennett]
RB W. Dunn (Atl - RB) [Traded Reggie Wayne for a starting RB]
TE L. Smith (Phi - TE)
K M. Andersen (Min - K) [A 'lucky' waiver pickup after losing Nedney]
DEF Jacksonville (Jac - DEF)

The Bench -
BN J. Delhomme (Car - QB)
BN A. Boldin (Ari - WR) [Injured]
BN W. Green (Cle - RB)
BN S. Morris (Mia - RB) [Picked up off waivers, dropped Calico]
BN M. Bennett (Min - RB) [Injured]
BN G. Jones (Jac - RB)
BN B. Franks (GB - TE)
BN P. Dawson (Cle - K)
BN Pittsburgh (Pit - DEF)

Thursday, September 09, 2004


General: If I were single today

The wife has been gone for a couple of days to help her mother redecorate her kitchen as a birthday present. This also means that the boy is gone leaving me with the cat and the dog. Honestly, I could do without the dog, and the cat... well he can take care of himself and generally ignores me until he needs some attention or food. So as I'm getting ready for work this morning in my way to quiet house the question occured to me, what would I do if I were single?

Things sort of break down into catagories of priority of which only the 'neccessities' are important. My neccessities would break down to the following:
  1. Companionship (of the human female variety)
  2. An income stream (to pay for toys, entertainment, bills)
  3. Food (A mans gotta eat)
  4. Transportation (Walking will only take you so far)

Funny that being 'with' someone is still a pretty high priority. I guess it's hard to let go of the idea of having someone to share your time with, not to mention the physical and psychological well being benefits being in a relationship grants you. That being the case, there is this gorgeous red head that works in a retail branch of the same bank I work for that would probably be filing a restraining order against me after the first attempt to ask her on a date. It is odd being old (relatively speaking). If I had the self confidence around women that I have now, 10 years ago, the world would be a different place. However, that still rules out the clubbing and bar scene since that is the hunting grounds of the twenty something crowd.

I would most likely maintain the type of job I have now, however with no responsibilites other than myself, I might be a little more willing to take risks in terms of exploring career options. What I do for a living is not hard, in fact some days I fantasize about getting a mindless clone to replace me in most meetings. I was also at the right place, at the right time, during the Internet boom and bust so I have no real complaints about anything. However, if my lifestyle wasn't so engrained and I didn't have any dependants, I probably would make a stab at becoming a pro poker player. I have credible skills that may (or may not) be dy-no-mite! with significant time and effort invested in playing. I would probably also become a teacher. Elementry or Middle School I think. I enjoy enteracting with children, and the opportunity to warp fragile little minds shouldn't be missed if you can help it. Maybe adult education wouldn't be so bad. I'm a soft skills kind of guy so I like to think that public speaking is something I'm good at. I'm not sure if I'm a good motivator though. I can see when things need to be done, plan to accomplish it successfully, and I have been able to coordinate others in achieving specific objectives. However, I am not certain that I have what it takes to really motivate people. When I think of people who have successfully motivated me to do things, I like to think that I've learned something from them and would apply the same principles and drive to motivating others. It is just one of those gray areas for me.

On the food front, that's a tough one. Being single has some other hassles associated with it. Especially when you reference need #1. That means I would probably have to eat better than I do now, and add more exercise to the mix. I should be exercising more now, but that is really not the point. Back in the before I was married time, I took care of myself well enough. I cooked and at reasonably healthy for a poor college student. Anyway I guess I would have to start cooking for myself again and that's not really all bad, I'm good at it. I'm probably not Boy Genius good, but I can hold my own.

On the transportation front, I probably would not change much. I have a Mazda 6 that is a nice warm yellow in color. Being single I would have probably gotten the stick instead of the automatic and also the black leather instead of the scotch guarded fabric, but it is a great car that is fun to drive. Because it is bright yellow and also has the sports package with some additional cosmetic upgrades, it turns heads and gets lots of positive comments. My ultimate dream machine is a BMW M5, but I'm not that rich yet.


Poker: Card Rushes and "Lots of Action"

So a week or so ago I started mulling over the idea on card rushes and their occurrence. Should you play in a manner that may or may not induce them, or should you just ignored such obvious nonsense and play your normal game and enjoy the occasional streak?

I really have given this a lot of thought, but I suspect that what I am about to write is just going to sound very Brunson-esq. Perhaps that's appropriate since one of the main thoughts on trying to take control of a table through rushes comes right from his book Super System. The strategy, if you want to call it that, is that when you have a winning hand, you play the following hand (cheaply if necessary) regardless of the cards. The result being that you can capitalize on the times when the deck is slapping you in the face no matter what you play. I believe there's also a psychological component that applies to higher limit and no-limit games in that when a person is on fire, you're less likely to tangle with them without a great hand.

When I first suggested this as a valid playing strategy I mostly caught a lot of comments to the effect of playing any two cards(ATC) after a winning hand only has a negative expected value. It was never my intention to imply that no matter what you should play a hand after winning. Frankly, without a little luck, you're not going to catch great cards hand after hand. What Brunson suggested, and I support, is playing the hand if you can do it cheaply. After a lot of reflection, my reason for doing this is less about creating a card rush, and more about giving a little action. If I make a loose play cheaply and getting away from it quickly when it doesn't work out then I'm giving some action so that later on I get action when someone believes I am playing a little too loose.

I've been playing this concept for a couple of weeks now and at least online (the only place I can get accurate records) I have been gaining about 8 BB/hr. The frightening statistic is that my flops seen % floats around the 40% - 50% range which makes me look like a bloody maniac. Prior to playing ATC after a winning hand my flops seen was around 30% - 35% and honestly my gains were about the same 7 or 8 BB/hr. So, while I have not really been able to play enough hands over a long enough period of time to definitively say that this is a viable strategy or not, my earn rate hasn't suffered and I sure get to play in lots of hands.

I would be interested to hear some feedback from anyone who seriously attempts to employ this strategy. My own results could be skewed from a combination of factors so any other input would be appreciated.


General: Feedback Loop

So the other day I solicited some feedback on my writing from someone else who's writing I have come to respect. Yes, this is a personal effort, however one of my primary goals with starting and continuing with a blog has been to improve me writing skills. Honestly, I am pretty stunned with my ability to have stuck with this. Perhaps even more so that I have found that I actually enjoy writing about all the little odds, ends, and experiences of my days. I read every blog in my list (and some that have not quite made it to my blogroll) on a daily basis, or at least as frequently as they post and it appears in my Bloglines feeds. I used to be a little more active in the commenting on other peoples posts but lately it has felt a little dry to just chime in and say that I agree with the half dozen other people that already commented on your post. I am not sure why I have slowed down in that area. I know I appreciate it when people chime in on my posts and I figure that like links, comments can and should be reciprocal. Thanks to all of you who have provided hours of advice, entertainment, and the occasional vicarious thrill.


General: Male Genetic Dirt Blindness (MGDB)

I nearly choked on my Pepsi when I read this.
Male Genetic Dirt Blindness (MGDB)
By Dave Barry

I like to think that I am a modest person. (I also like to think that I look like Brad Pitt naked, but that is not the issue here.) There comes a time, however, when a person must toot his own personal horn, and for me, that time is now.

A new book has confirmed a theory that I first proposed in 1987, in a column explaining why men are physically unqualified to do housework.

The problem, I argued, is that men -- because of a tragic genetic flaw -- cannot see dirt until there is enough of it to support agriculture. This puts men at a huge disadvantage against women, who can detect a single dirt molecule 20 feet away. This is why a man and a woman can both be looking at the same bathroom commode, and the man -- hindered by Male Genetic Dirt Blindness (MGDB) -- will perceive the commode surface as being clean enough for heart surgery or even meat slicing; whereas the woman can't even see the commode, only a teeming, commode-shaped swarm of bacteria.

A woman can spend two hours cleaning a toothbrush holder and still not be totally satisfied; whereas if you ask a man to clean the entire New York City subway system, he'll go down there with a bottle of Windex and a single paper towel, then emerge 25 minutes later, weary but satisfied with a job well done.

When I wrote about Male Genetic Dirt Blindness, many irate readers complained that I was engaging in sexist stereotyping, as well as making lame excuses for the fact that men are lazy pigs. All of these irate readers belonged to a gender that I will not identify here, other than to say: Guess what, ladies? There is now scientific proof that I was right. This proof appears in a new book titled "What Could He Be Thinking? How a Man's Mind Really Works".

I have not personally read this book, because, as a journalist, I am too busy writing about it. But according to an article by Reuters, the book states that a man's brain "takes in less sensory detail than a woman's, so he doesn't see or even feel the dust and household mess in the same way." Got that? We can't see or feel the mess! We're like: "What snow tires in the dining room? Oh, those snow tires in the dining room.''. And this is only one of the differences between men's and women's brains.

Another difference involves a brain part called the "cingulate gyrus" which is the sector where emotions are located. The Reuters article does not describe the cingulate gyrus, but presumably in women it is a structure the size of a mature cantaloupe, containing a vast quantity of complex, endlessly re-calibrated emotional data involving hundreds, perhaps thousands of human relationships; whereas in men it is basically a cashew filled with NFL highlights.

In any event, it turns out that women's brains secrete more of the chemicals "oxytocin" and "serotonin", which, according to biologists, cause humans to feel they have an inadequate supply of shoes. No, seriously, these chemicals cause humans to want to bond with other humans, which is why women like to share their feelings. Some women (and here I am referring to my wife) can share as many as three days' worth of feelings about an event that took eight seconds to actually happen.

We men, on the other hand, are reluctant to share our feelings, in large part because we often don't have any. Really. Ask any guy: A lot of the time, when we look like we're thinking, we just have this low-level humming sound in our brains. That's why, in male-female conversations, the male part often consists entirely of him going "hmmmm." This frustrates the woman, who wants to know what he's really thinking. In fact, what he's thinking is, literally, "hmmmm."

So anyway, according to the Reuters article, when a man, instead of sharing feelings with his mate, chooses to lie on the sofa, holding the remote control and monitoring 750 television programs simultaneously by changing the channel every one-half second (pausing slightly longer for programs that feature touchdowns, fighting, shooting, car crashes or bosoms) his mate should not come to the mistaken conclusion that he is an insensitive jerk. In fact, he is responding to scientific biological brain chemicals that require him to behave this way for scientific reasons, as detailed in the scientific book "What Could He Be Thinking? How a Man's Mind Really Works", which I frankly cannot recommend highly enough.

In conclusion, no way was that pass interference.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004


Poker: Party Improvements

So, I finally caught some time this afternoon and fired up Party to work on my weekly goal and kill some time. I hit my mark and as I was cleaning up I went to request my hand histories which is my normal habit and lo and behold, I get a pop-up saying they are not available on my local hard drive. This seriously rocks. Hopefully this means no more lost hands and no more worrying about missing hands when you breach 100 hands between requests. Yay!

Tuesday, September 07, 2004


General/Poker: Where did it all go?

I feel so lazy lately. In the last week or so, my posting has really dropped off. Not so much because I've been ignoring my blog, but because I've been so busy with everything and nothing all at the same time. Other than the few things I have already written about, absolutely nothing has happened worth writing about lately. That being the case, I will now inflict upon you all the crap still floating around in my head.

On the poker front, I've been doing relatively well. This of course being relative to how much I'm actually getting to play which isn't much lately. I'm on track with the goal I set earlier, so I have nothing to complain about. I did have the home game this weekend and was playing real well right up until the very end. We played a tournament and I took 2nd in that when my A6 didn't improve over an unimproved A7. Them's the breaks. We played ring games after which consisted of Stud, Hold'em, and an orbit of Omaha. We were playing 6 handed and I was playing a nice solid game. I got schooled by the wife a couple of times early on after I had made a big deal of sitting down with her a couple of nights before to explain how to play it tight so she could play pretty much all night without losing all her money early on. Perhaps I shouldn't have been so liberal with the lesson ;) Anyway, we got down to 4 handed after awhile and then the games got expanded to 5 stud, 5 draw, baseball, and finally midnight baseball. The midnight baseball game cost me my winnings and my buy-in but that's life. I pulled a 3 with 3 or 4 cards left to roll and after counting out the pot figured out it would put me all in to match. That didn't seem so bad considering at the time I had the best hand with cards to go and if I caught another 3, that would be just fine because I was already all-in. So I went.... and lost. That's ok, it was good times and good fun with friends. Final tally at the end of the night left me -$20, the wife -$1, Steel_Rain +$33, his brother -$17, my canadian friend and his girlfriend +$5. The funny part is that my friends girlfriend was also pretty new to playing and he got cleaned out and she recovered nicely for him ;)

Speaking of my friend from Canada and his girlfriend. I was glad he could make it down and seeing him and meeting her made for a nice weekend. Other than dinner at Fogo the other night we went out to Navy Pier (something I honestly hadn't done before and I have lived in Chicago for a long time now). It was fun, and a bit aggravating when the ticket dork miscounted the tickets she gave us for the ferris wheel and then rather than acknowledge the mistake basically called my friend a liar. It's not like this was a tough issue, she got $20, and gave us 3 tickets (tickets are $5 ea). What's the problem here? So after some escalating back and forth and $5 MORE later, we're climbing 150 feet into the air and checking out the skyline of Chicago. Now, just to add insult to injury here, we had timed it fairly close so that we would be up near the top of the ride when the nightly fireworks started. They started late and we were on the down side behind a building with no view of the lake where the fireworks were being set off when they started. Bastards. This was obviously conspiracy to mess with my evening.

I have been reading my AD&D books and finally came to the conclusion that I miss gaming of the roleplaying, paper, and dice variety. To that end I've put together a quick campaign that I'm building on in the Dragonlance setting. I'm doing this for a PBeM campaign that will probably start up in a week or so. I've always liked the Dragonlance stories and campaign setting. It's always seemed to be more geared towards roleplaying and getting your characters more involved than 'travel to the dungeon, slay the creatures, collect the loot, rinse, and repeat.' So for that, my hats off to Margaret Wies and Tracey Hickman for building a vivid and gripping world that has provided years of entertainment.

Work is about as boring as it gets right now. All of the projects I'm involved in are stalled for one reason or another outside of my control. Because of this I've been relegated to helping with production support activities, or doing nothing at all. I don't mind helping out on the production stuff, but it is definitely not what I hired on for so the sooner the projects start back up, the happier I will be. What makes this an absolutely horrible situation is that because we are still in the process of reorganizing the teams, I do not have anything going on giving me some visibility to the folks that are building the new teams out. I am not worried about losing my job, but I am concerned that I may miss out on an opportunity because I'm unaware of it and the people making those decisions don't have any visibility to me. I could do some cold calling and just get my name out there, but one of the other factors here is that the team I'm currently on hasn't had any real announcements in terms of it's future structure and frankly I like the folks I work with, no knob-heads to speak of and if it's going to stay intact, I wouldn't be upset with staying where I am. So I'm trying not to let too much of the 'grass is greener syndrome' grind on my mind.

The boy is super mobile now and using anything he can get a grip on to pull himself up into a standing position. Of course he doesn't have any real balance while standing yet so it requires that whatever he is holding onto not being mobile. This isn't so bad except for thing in the kitchen. When he falls and hits the carpet, there's plenty of padding and he's not falling far enough to cause any damage. The kitchen on the other hand has a floor made for cracking skulls so I suspect it's more a matter of when than if. *sigh* However, if I want to just turn him into a drooling, unmoving, zombie all I have to do is pop in the Baby Mozart DVD and he goes into this unbreakable trance. That helps when I've got baby duty while trying to get some work done.

Sunday, September 05, 2004


General: Odds and Ends

There are a few things that really make me feel pretty dumb when I either can't figure out something that should be pretty easy to make work like the new version of Poker Tracker that's supposed to be able to do some auto analysis and determine the level of player(s) you're up against after a certain number of hands goes by. Still haven't been able to get it to work. I guess I'll just have to wait until it's out of beta and the documentation is better.

In other news, I went out to dinner this evening with the wife and a couple of friends. We ate at the Fogo de Chao here in Chicago. There's basically nothing finer than all you can eat meat. Just as we were sitting down to our table my wife notices that Kerry Wood and Matt Clement are waiting to be seated. Me, not being much of sports person, I didn't recognize them but the wife was basically leaping out of her skin. Of course, I do recognize that both of my brother-in-laws are HUGE Cubs fans. So my wife does the pee pee dance or something trying to screw up the nerve to ask for an autograph. Me, I'm like WTF? So there I am, I politely approach and say (remember, I'm not a sports person and barely recognize that this guy is a pitcher for the Cubs), "Excuse me, are you Kerry Woods?" Kerry, "Wood, yeah I am." .... So long story short, I probably came off like an ass by not even getting his name right, but he did give me an autograph for my brother-in-law that we're gonna get framed and give to him for his birthday.

Thursday, September 02, 2004


General: Sifting through history

So I'm a bit of a pack rat. Not in the sense that I can't throw anything away, but I have a hard time letting go of things that I once had more than a passing interest in. For example, until a few moments ago I had a shelf of Dragon Magazines from 1979 through 1988. I say until a few moments ago, because I need room for other books and magazines and well, they are disposable. I mean really, the game has definitely moved on since 1988 although a lot of the cover artwork was really good I need to let go a little. What really brought this collection into perspective is that I happened to acquire the most recent issue of Dragon and Dungeon while at Gen Con this year. I was about to pitch them also when I noticed that Wil Wheaton had a column in Dungeon. That being the only thing I read from Dungeon I'm pretty glad I did. Wil was writing about cracking the books after many years so that he could run a game for his sons. That dude rocks. It makes me all the more anxious for my son to get a little older so that I can share with him the 'cool/geeky' things that I know and enjoy.


General: Template Trashed

I'm not sure what caused it, but something made my template go all goofy so being the lazy person I am at the moment, I decided to fall back to a blogger standard template. I may, or may not, try and fix my previous template. This for now should resolve the display weirdness that was occurring.


Poker: General Malaise

In the poker game of life, women are holding 72o and always cracking your nuts.

Last month was actually an up month. Of course the trip to Gen Con generated a hit against the bankroll, but that is what it is there for right? I would like to thank the fish on Party and Pacific for helping fund my vacation.

My current goal is to have poker cover my Gen Con vacation next year. In figuring out what I spent, along with what I wanted to spend I figured that if I could average $20 a week from now until Gen Con Indy 2005, I would have it covered. Given that my play last month was severely cut short (relative to previous months) for a variety of reasons I figured that this was a reasonable goal.

Something funny I've come to realize lately is that I love playing poker, I love talking about poker, I hate grinding through games just to build up a bankroll. The most fun I have playing is with people I know, being somewhat social, and basically not taking things too seriously. Grinding up a table by myself can be profitable but boring. So what's my motivation in playing? To have some fun, make a little money on my mediocre to decent poker skills and pacify the gambling monkey. Sure, I have held the fantasies about putting in the time and practice enough to try and replace the income I work for with income from a hobby, but that chances of me actually being good enough to follow through on that are pretty damn slim. Just to maintain equilibrium we are talking about needing to regularly pull down $9k-$10k a month in net winnings. Besides, there are some new things on the horizon that are destined to compete for my game playing time. The new Star Wars Galaxies expansion is coming out in about a month. Also this winter Microsoft is releasing Settlers of Catan for playing online.

I'm still working on organizing my thoughts about card rushes, their psychological impact on a table, and stratagies for maximizing this. I've appriciated all the feedback thus far as it's helped confirm some of my thinking or adjusted it as needed.

In more relevant news...

I finished Amber and Ashes last night. That was a great read. Of course now I'm annoyed because the book just hit the bookstores this week and so it will be some number of months before the next one comes out. *sigh* I did order the Annotated Legends so hopefully that will be here soon and that will tied me over. In the mean time I'm reading the next pulp novel in the Tom Clancy Op-Center series, Call to Treason, it helps the two hour train commute every day pass with relative ease. I've had a hard time really starting Small Stakes Hold'em but I'll probably try and start and finish it before the month ends and at least figure out if there are any parts worth re-reading to improve my play.

Since Iggy mentioned it I gave the Badbeat tables a run yesterday at $2/$4 while I was doing some system patching for work. It was interesting how often people would call you all the way to the river and then fold at the river. It was an up session for me so I didn't notice the rake being too oppressive. The thing I did notice is that the jackpot was over 100k and the qualifier to get it was quad 8s, go figure.

Since I was up pretty late from patching last night, and I am going to be doing it again tonight I opted to work from home today which means basically catching up on documentation and keeping the right eye on a poker table. I stumbled across ICP purely by accident (I hadn't had him in my buddy list until today) and since there was an open seat at his table I figured why not have a seat and at least be social. Some spectacular (bad) play on this table and it was ripe for the picking and getting beat down. At one point I was +30BB but walked away for lunch +15BB. ICP didn't admit it but I suspect my chatty ass was a bit of distraction since he was multi-tabling and getting his big hands cracked by truly bizarre cards. The conversation that ensued there is what generated the quote above. It seems much more appropriate than the associated Rounders quote. Speaking of which, I've just been told to clean my office... Ah well, it's for a good cause, I've got friends coming in from Canada tomorrow and what is building up to be a decent home game for Sunday.


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