Monday, February 28, 2005

Grinding and nerves

No, not a post about my bruxism problem, but about poker.

"Playing Limit Hold `em is like a job - the more hours you work the more money you'll make. Money management and the self-discipline from which it comes are almost the most important factors in Limit, second only to learning how to become a good player...." - Doyle Brunson, Super System
I switched over to playing mostly Limit Hold `Em games in mid-February for a number of reasons. First I'm grinding away at the 100% bonus on my $50 deposit at UltimateBet. To the uninitiated: most, if not all, poker sites offer some type of deposit bonus, ranging from 20 percent of your money upwards. In my case, since UB was trying to get me back, they sent me an offer around Christmastime offering a full 100 percent on my money.

Since the inducement is to get you to play, not run off with their bonus money, all sites also have some sort of mechanism to ensure that you do play if you want your bonus. In UB's case, they put the bonus in "bonus dollars", which ever-so-slowly get transformed into real dollars dependent on the time you put into the tables.

So, I started playing the $.10/$.25 Limit tables at UB, with the occasional foray into the $5 +.50 No Limit SnGs, and quickly found that I was consistently losing at the SnGs, and consistently making money at the Limit tables... to the point where I started automatically recouping my $5.50 SnG loss by heading over to a Limit ring game.

At the other site where I play, PokerStars, I accidentally signed up for a $5.50 Limit SnG (which UB doesn't offer), and ended up taking first, and $22.50. Yesterday I deliberately found another Limit SnG... and again took first, and another $22.50. Two in a row.

How can this be, you ask? Because he is the Kwisatz Haderach! Whoops, sorry.

I'm not sure whether it''s the influence of the Limit games, but my No Limit game has fallen apart. Limit depends more on staying with playable hands, and bailing on unplayable ones rather than on betting/raising, which is the raison d'être of No Limit. Limit betting is also controlled (that is, as the name implies, you already know the limit you/your opponent can bet on any given hand) rather than unpredictable, sometimes wildly unpredictable, as it can be in No Limit.

My No Limit games follow such a regular pattern that I'm both getting bored, and also losing my nerve, backing away from hands that I know I should be playing because I'm too scared of losing. I'm being raised off of hands I want to play and, in hands where I bite the bullet and stay with a raiser -- and even occasionally re-raise -- I'm being whacked, usually showing the second-best hand if we make it past the River.

Conversely, knowing that I'm losing my nerve, I'll start playing recklessly, and lose early. If I don't, while I'll usually make it to 4th or 5th position at a No Limit SnG, I'm predictably always the short stack at the table because of my conservative play, and always in danger of being blinded out if I don't start gambling. I tend to get past the bubble and into the money either because I get lucky, someone plays recklessly, or both.

And I find I hate having my future depend on either luck or someone else's play. I think that's the key there. In No Limit lately, I don't feel I'm in control. In Limit I do.

So, while Limit doesn't have the heart-stopping skydiving "is the chute gonna open?" feel of No Limit, it seemingly suits my style better at this point in my game, and I'm going to focus on it for the next month or so and see what results I get, as well as grinding up/down the UB bonus without losing my stake.

Proof will be if I can take a Limit money tournament. In No Limit money tournies, I've placed 8th in one (for $60-odd dollars) and 2nd in a UB freeroll that garnered me all of $11 - and a free entry into another money tournament, where I was promptly knocked out - for nearly five hours play. We'll see.

I burned up my deposit bonus at PartyPoker several weeks back, and with a zero balance, have let that site see my departing behind.

ricoM's stake as of Feb. 28th 2005:

UltimateBet: $63.13
PokerStars: $88.01

Total: $151.14 Up +$51.14 from initial $100 stake.

Note to bloggers: "Never complain, never explain"

Well, maybe not the first, or there would be a dramatic reduction in blogging.

But one thing about blogs that makes this Constant Reader testy are explanations about why the writer isn't writing, such as this one from Wil Wheaton...

I've got a huge trip report from the WPT Invitational slipping around in my brain, but so many incredible things happened while I was there, I'm still trying to get my head around it.
and this series from Iggy at Guinness and Poker...
Again, so much to blog about but instead of a Workplace-Destroying-Guinness-Fueled uber-post, I've got something much different.

Dernit, I just came home and was setting up (drinking a Guinness) to write an uber-post when Al mentions the RGP HORSE tournament starting in a few on Full Tilt Poker. How can I pass up my first chance at a HORSE tourney? Answer: I can't.

Anyway, I'll try to write up an uber-post in the next few days, but for now, I wanted to repost the entire Losers tale in one post, for posterity's and easy linking sake.

Oddly enough, I much prefer to write about poker after a big losing session; so no insights tonight.
This isn't to beat up on either Wil or Iggy, both of who have blogs I (obviously) like to read. Both have valid reasons not to write... like a life. But you know what, guys? I don't want to hear about why you're not writing whatever it is you think you should be writing. There's nothing more boring than hearing a writer write about why s/he isn't writing. Take it from one who knows.

Just don't write anything. And if/when you do write something, then we'll read it, But stop with all the "dog ate my homework" postings, okay?

And while I'm on a rant, I'm thinking about starting a "Let's put Iggy back to work" campaign, as the guy, while trying his damnedest, obviously isn't cut out to be a degenerate gambler. His blog hasn't been the same since he quit his job to try his hand at being a full-time poker player. All we get are excuses, massive re-postings of postings from RGP, now he's even taken to cribbing from The New York Times, for God's sake. And, even worse, apparently working off the theory that you can make more money selling groceries to the gold miners than mining yourself, he's co-written an e-book.

Oh, the humanity.

So, let's save Iggy from himself, o gentle readers, and find him something productive to do, so he won't do it and instead do what he should be doing, blogging. Let's Put Iggy Back to Work.

Lame corporate blogs

I like the idea of corporate blogs, they're so the reverse of normal marketing communications, where anything slightly controversial or opinionated is usually squeezed out prior to publication.

When done right, like Macromedia's or Jonathan Schwartz's Weblog, or Robert Scoble's, corporate blogging works. When done by the status quo crew of ad agencies, marcomm experts, and legal review, they are, in the words of Halle Berry, "a piece of shit."

Here are two examples: one a so-called "viral marketing campaign" using fake blogs and bloggers to extol the wonders of MSN Search put together by a Microsoft ad agency. The other, not as obnoxiously sleazy, but a perfect example of the sort of Bizarro World blog you get when you're blogging by marcomm committee and review/approval cycles is the extremely boring Google corporate blog. Even a Google blogger thinks it's bad...

It's a surprising mis-representation - the culture we work in is fast, decisive, and colloquial but the blog voice is stiff. It's your not-so-cool uncle unbuttoning his shirt, listening to The Postal Service (but only the single of Such Great Heights) and proclaiming that Yeah, I totally dig your stuff you kids, this hip-hop speaks to me too. Um. Dogg. *flashes hang ten sign*.
(via John Batelle's SearchBlog)

Berry accepts Razzie, Calls 'Catwoman', "...piece of shit"

The Razzie Awards sound more fun than the Oscars.

Berry was named worst actress of 2004 by the Golden Raspberry Award Foundation for her performance in "Catwoman" and she showed up to accept her "Razzie" carrying the Oscar she won in 2002 for "Monster's Ball."

She thanked everyone involved in "Catwoman," a film she said took her from the top of her profession to the bottom.

"I want to thank Warner Brothers for casting me in this piece of shit," she said as she dragged her agent on stage and warned him "next time read the script first."
Link (via BoingBoing)

Hollywood

The obligatory Oscars post, yes? I went to bed to read shortly after Morgan Freeman's classy acceptance speech, so I'm no one to ask. Peg, as usual, got addicted and lasted through the entire show but said nothing of interest really happened. Everyone we expected to win, won.

Mark Evanier's news from me has a lengthy near-real-time series of Oscars posts worth reading. My favorite line...

Clint Eastwood has had plenty of honors...and even if he went home without an Oscar, he'd still be Clint Eastwood.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Thursday, February 24, 2005


Fred and Bear take air (click on the picture for a larger view) Posted by Hello

Ever live in California?

Or know someone who did? Maybe there's some money waiting for you or them. Find out at the Unclaimed Property Search page maintained by the California State Controller's Office. Like Mark Evanier, I started plugging in the names of friends/acquaintances from the days I lived in CA, and quickly found a couple of hits. No big money for me, though.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Cool Tunes

Mike's Classic Cartoon Themes has just that, and I just had a great time listening to some of my faves, including Spiderman (is he cool, listen, bub, he has radioactive blood), Spaaaaace Ghost, and my all-time fave, Jonny Quest... although I'm sad to say that it doesn't have the pterodactyl scream that should properly open the music.

via BoingBoing

Cool Tools

Although its content could be wildly hit-or-miss, especially in its waning years, I miss The Whole Earth Review (which looks like it completely stopped publication, virtual or otherwise, in 2003), especially when it was being edited by Howard Rheingold or Kevin Kelly.

Part of Kelly's web site is devoted to Cool Tools, and immediately reminded me of the old WE mag, and the even older Whole Earth catalog. Lot of "I wants" found, just on the initial browse, although I could have done without knowledge of the reusable menstrual cup.

A cool tool can be any book, gadget, software, video, map, hardware, material, or website that is tried and true. I am chiefly interested in stuff that is extraordinary, better than similar products, little-known, and reliably useful for an individual or small group.
I've added "Cool Tools" as a "Places to Go" link.

Americans Would Abstain From Sex for One Year for a $2.3M Online Poker Jackpot

Since this survey was published on PRNewswire and was conducted by a so-called "independent public opinion research firm" (which also happens to be a marketing communications company) on the behalf of PokerStars.Com, I would take the ah, results, with a full salt shaker. But it is amusing.

When it came to the pot needed to win, size mattered to men. The average
cash amount men cited they would require to live sex-free for 365 days was
$2.1 million; women were willing to sleep solo for a lesser $1.9 million.

The survey also asked respondents who they would most want to ante up with
in a game of online poker. Americans selected President George W. Bush as
their most-preferred celebrity poker competitor, followed closely by Oprah
Winfrey and Bill Clinton.
Yeah, right. Bush, Clinton, and Oprah are who I'm looking for at my table. Me, I'd prefer Dylan, Wil Wheaton, and Shana Hiatt.

Link

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Will the last writer leaving the Blogosphere please turn off the lights?


The Morning Improv.

02/20: Taking a break from blogging until Monday, February 28.

The Disney Blog


Yeah, I know technically it's not yet spring. But never the less I'm taking a vacation from blogging, email, and the like, until March 6th or 7th.

John Batelle's SearchBlog

It's Winter Break, and that means time to pack the kids into our car and head on down the road. Posting will be light...

Maudie's Poker Perspectives

I'm feeling rather insignificant and stupid right now. So, don't expect to hear from me for a while. There's far better and more interesting content happening elsewhere.

Ciao.

BurningBird

Saturday I’m off on a road trip where I have no intention of weblogging, or even accessing the internet. I decided that this would be a good time to take a longer break, and focus on matters outside of this weblog. Besides, Spring is a good time to try new things, don’t you think?

*****

I'm as restless as a willow in a windstorm, I'm as jumpy as puppet on a string
I'd say that I had spring fever, but I know it isn't Spring
I am starry eyed and vaguely discontented, like a nightingale without a song to sing
O why should I have spring fever, when it isn't even Spring
I keep wishing I were someone else, walking down a strange new street
And hearing words that I've never heard from a girl I've yet to meet
I'm as busy as spider spinning daydreams, spinning spinning daydreams
I'm as giddy as a baby on a swing
I haven't seen a crocus or a rosebud, or a robin on the wing
But I feel so gay in a melancholy way, that it might as well be Spring
It might as well
be Spring.

(Richard Rodgers, Oscar Hammerstain II)

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Color Blind

She repeatedly described her characters as women with blue eyes, fair hair, and skin as white as ''pure'' or ''driven'' snow. Her books ''Four Girls at Cottage City'' and ''Megda'' follow a group of adolescent female friends in eastern Massachusetts from childhood to marriage, with no mention of the difficulties facing black women. In fact, in her complete works, there are only brief references to "colored" characters, usually servants.

So how did Emma Dunham Kelley-Hawkins become cited as one of the leading black writers of the 1890s by scholars of African-American studies, even inspiring, according to editor Henry Louis Gates Jr., the Oxford University Press's 40-volume Schomburg Library of Nineteenth-Century Black Women Writers?

It apparently started with a misinterpreted photograph and was later compounded by torturous scholarly arguments such as the one that her characters would have been understood as ''white mulattos'' by readers in the late 1800s, or that her works were meant to represent a color-blind utopian future. Holly Jackson presents the story of how a woman thought to be a pioneer of African-American women's literature turns out to be a case of mistaken identity.

What fascinates me about this article is the a priori thinking demonstrated by the critics studying Kelley-Hawkins. Apparently because she has (arguably) African-American features in the photograph published in her novel, "Megda", critics claimed that she was clearly trying to identify herself as a black writer. And, if she were a black writer, then her work has to be African-American, even though her characters and subject matter had nothing to do with racial concerns of the 1890s.

Henry Louis Gates Jr. says he does not know how Kelley-Hawkins came to be
identified as African American. ''I'm intrigued by the idea, however, that so
many scholars have concluded that this woman was black, and it certainly will be
interesting for us to figure out why,'' he said in a telephone
interview.
Posted by Hello

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Low tech

I've decided to say goodbye to WeatherBlox for the time being, still having my suspicions that the Flash plugin is causing Firefox to crash and contributing to the instability of my laptop system, which is still crashing regularly.

It's one of those real annoying problems, as there are sites, such as the Flash ad-laden CNN site, that will cause Firefox to crash immediately, while other sites - such as fhb - will work fine for awhile, and then cause Firefox to spew out an error message about the plugin. Still other sites with Flash seemingly have no problem at all. I suspect it's the number of instances that Firefox loads a Flash animation. fhb will usually blow up if I have several tabs open simultaneously, all running Flash animations.

Who knows? Who cares? As far as I can determine from digging around the web, it's a reported problem to Mozilla and Macromedia is rumored to be working on a fix.

In the meantime, I've restored a links menu and will be improving the decor of fhb with imagery as the mood strikes.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Even more dogs playing poker

Trust the internets that no matter how arcane the subject matter, someone has put up a site about it. I somehow missed the Dogs Playing Poker site which has, yes, everything you ever wanted to know about dogs playing poker.

If it's not in the blog, it hasn't happened yet

After her crash in the Rodeo and my subsequent posting on the accident, Peg wondered, only half-jokingly, how long it would be before various family members started calling us. As it turned out, my brother emailed me that evening offering legal help if needed, and my brother-in-law, after reading fhb that weekend, turned to Roberta and said, "you better call Peg."

The blog, the new millenium's version of keeping in touch with family.

I picked up the repaired Rodeo on Tuesday, and turned in the brand-new Taurus with only 1,900 miles on it that I had had as my rental.

The Taurus is long, at least compared to the Mini-Cooper, and even the Rodeo, and I had had a lot of trouble fitting it into the garage. Last week I came home, parked the Taurus in the garage, and hit the button to close the door. As I was heading into the house, I heard a "bang!", turned around and saw that the door had hit the back of the Taurus. Although the automatic garage door has the usual safety feature which automatically lifts it if it touches anything, it hadn't started back up.

"Jesus!" Frantic Fred screams, dropping his packages and rushing back to the garage, visions of how he's going to tell Allstate about this. I hit the garage door opener, and the door starts lifting the back of the Taurus into the air.

"Jesus!" Redundant Fred screams again, and I hit the button again to stop it.

"Calm down," I encourage myself, since I think I'm on the edge of a heart attack, and seriously consider gobbling some of Peg's blood pressure pills.

I scramble over the hood of the Taurus, as I can't get around it (Peg asked later, "Why didn't you open the passenger side door?" And you know, it never occurred to me), get into the driver's seat, start it, try to pull ahead, can't, realize I have the parking brake on, pull a lever, nothing happens, realize I still have the parking brake on, pull another lever, hit the gas... and bang hard into the wall.

The hood flies open.

"Nooo," Fred screams at this point, thinking I've now succeeded in damaging both the front and back of the Taurus. I get out of the car, circle to the back, where I've now cleared the garage door, and open the door fully, waiting to see how bad the damage is.

There's no damage. Not even a scratch. Nowhere. Bumper's fine, trunk lid is fine. Underside is fine. My God. So I hop back into the Taurus, back it out, and take a look at the front end. No damage. And I finally realize the first lever I had yanked was the hood release, and that's why the hood opened.

I stagger into the house, where Bear is screaming, because he had heard me screaming, and Kittenish is howling because Bear is screaming, and we all calm down.

I have a big martini later.

New York is Book Country

Some beautiful, and very reasonably priced, posters from the New York Book Festival, including Tara McPherson's Dream and Death from 2004, and my favorite, Leo and Diane Dillon's poster of one of the lions at the NYPL.

Neil Gaiman notes that you can get a signed copy of Tara's Dream poster directly from the artist.

More on dogs playing poker

"The (paintings') sequential narrative follows the same 'players' in the course of a hand of poker," said an auction note from Doyle. "In the first, our main character, the St. Bernard, holds a weak hand as the rest of the crew maintains their best poker faces. In the following scene, we see the St. Bernard raking in the large pot, much to the very obvious dismay of his fellow players."
And the lady who is sometimes referred to as the Great Whore of the Universe in our household, not in a sexual sense, but because she's so successful in appearing everywhere, was of course at the auction...

Comedian Caroline Rhea of Manhattan, who attended the auction, told the New York Daily News that the Coolidge paintings were the highlight of the event.

"It's not the Mona Lisa -- we were joking it's the 'Bona Lisa'," she told the paper.

Rhea is such a publicity hound (pun intended) that she'd attend the opening of a letter.

Link to the CNN story.

More on the fired Google blogger

An interesting interview with Mark Jen.

“At first, they beat around the bush,” Jen said. “But then they told me my blog had upset people and that I wasn’t a good fit. I asked them if there was anything I could do to change their minds, but it was a one-sided conversation. So I said ‘I’ll see you guys later.’ ”
In a nice piece of symbiotic irony, Jen's site now gets so many hits that he's using Google's AdSense.

via John Battelle

Own your own Disney gondola

All sorts of cool ephemera is being auctioned off by Disney, including a teal-blue gondola from the Disneyland Skyway ride. This would be perfect in our back yard, possibly as a planter. Peg!

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom where Someone from the Eastern Standard Tribe Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town

Cory Doctorow, who is a pretty good writer, but can sometimes hit the height of pomposity in his BoingBoing postings, writes:

Last spring, in the wake of Ray Bradbury pitching a tantrum over Michael
Moore appropriating the title of Fahrenheit 451 to make Fahrenheit 9/11, I
conceived of a plan to write a series of stories with the same titles as famous
sf shorts, which would pick apart the totalitarian assumptions underpinning some
of sf's classic narratives.

Which made me want to write a series of stories with the same titles as Cory's works which would pick apart the egalitarian pretensions of someone not fit to shine Bradbury's shoes. "Totalitarian assumptions," Jesus. And Shakespeare is anti-Semitic and we don't even want to talk about Mark Twain. Cory's first theft ah, sorry, "title appropriation" demonstrating his remix of Asimov's totalitarian assumptions is "I, Robot."

You have till tomorrow to get to be in a movie with Drew Barrymore

Drew Barrymore and Eric Bana are set to star in "Lucky You" at Warner Bros.
Story revolves around struggling singer (Drew Barrymore)who hooks up with
professional poker player (Eric Bana)as he collides with his estranged father at
the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas. The casting company for the movie is
currently seeking poker players and dealers for the film.

Details and application forms are available here.
Casting Search for a Major Motion Picture seeks Los Angeles and Las Vegas
based TEXAS HOLD’EM DEALERS and PLAYERS.
Males and Females of All Ethnicities
and Ages Wanted.
No previous film experience necessary.
Deadline for submission, February 18, 2005

We’re looking at all different skill levels.Your experience determines the
role you may play. If cast, you’ll be playing a role close to yourself at a poker
table.

Poker playing dogs paintings fetch nearly $600k

NEW YORK - A pair of paintings from the famed series depicting dogs playing
poker fetched nearly $600,000 at auction Tuesday.

link to the news story and links to various images of "A Bold Bluff" and "Waterloo" Who says we don't have poker content at fhb?

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

One more poker post

I requested a hand history from my Saturday $10 Sit-and-Go at Party (the one where I placed third) because, for the first time in my Hold `Em (if not my entire poker) career, I hit a straight flush.

The play is shown below, but for my poker-vernacular -challenged friends, here's a summary: We're playing limit Hold `Em with T150/300 blinds (T=tournament dollars). There are four players left from the 10 who started. Blinds are forced bets so that every hand has some money in the pot, in this case, T450. To get into the game before any cards are dealt you have to at a minimum match the so-called "Big Blind", at this point T300.

I'm "ricoM" and at this point have 1550 in chips (T1550). I'm dealt a Jack and 10 of spades pre-flop (before the first three community cards are dealt), and being the tight-ass I am, merely call, T300. The other player out of the blinds folds. The Small Blind, who already has been forced to contribute T150 to the pot, adds in another T150 to stay in. The Big Blind, having already contributed his T300, merely has to check.

***** Hand History for Game 1580185174 ***** 300/600 TourneyTexasHTGameTable (Limit)
(Tournament 9498614) - Sat Feb 12 14:45:36 EST 2005 Table Table 11495 (Real Money)
-- Seat 6 is the button Total number of players : 4
Seat 3: Justin_F (2005)
Seat 4: WMeister (3530)
Seat 6: ricoM (1550)
Seat 10: Jrwayne (915)

Jrwayne posts small blind (150) Justin_F posts big blind (300)
** Dealing down cards **
Dealt to ricoM [ Ts, Js ]
WMeister folds.
ricoM calls (300)
Jrwayne calls (150)
Justin_F checks.

Oh my. Look below and you'll see that Little Rico just got the nuts straight flush and is praying that the other two players think they have a hand, as I can't be beaten. Jrwayne bets T300. JustinF apparently can't beat a flush, and decides discretion is the better part of valor. As we're in a limit game, I can only raise the max, T600. But I still luck out, `cause Jrwayne is short stacked (in other words, with few chips left) and has a pair of 7s and a nut flush draw (he has the Ace of spades although I don't see that yet), and goes All-In with T315. A lesson for the student: it will only cost ricoM T15 more to call. What is his decision?

** Dealing Flop ** : [ 7s, 9s, 8s ]
Jrwayne bets (300) Justin_F folds.
ricoM raises (600) to 600
Jrwayne bets (315) Jrwayne is all-In.
ricoM calls (15)

The game is over at this point, although two more cards, the turn, and the river, need to be dealt.

** Dealing Turn ** : [ 5s ] **

Jrwayne probably thinks he has the hand won at this point, having made his flush. Even if I've made a flush, he's holding the Ace. Poor Jrwayne is soon to be disappointed.

Dealing River ** : [ Kd ]

A meaningless card to either of us.

So, I won the pot, T2130 and also knocked out player 4 at the same time, thus guaranteeing I'd be in the money. A few hands later I'd be short-stacked, and go All-In with a flush draw that I wouldn't hit.

Creating Main Pot with $2130 with Jrwayne
** Summary ** Main Pot: 2130 Board: [ 7s 9s 8s 5s Kd ]
Justin_F balance 1705, lost 300 (folded)
WMeister balance 3530, didn't bet (folded)
ricoM balance 2765, bet 915, collected 2130, net +1215 [ Ts Js ] [ a straight flush, jack high -- Js,Ts,9s,8s,7s ]
Jrwayne balance 0, lost 915 [ 7d As ] [ a flush, ace high -- As,9s,8s,7s,5s ]

How much does a science fiction writer make for a 1st novel?

Not a heckuva lot (surprise, surprise), according to Tobias S. Buckell's informal survey of 74 writers:

The range was from $0-$40,000 for an advance on a first novel.

The average was $6363.

The median advance is $5000. The median figure is a better indicator of what most people consider 'average.'

Payments tend to go up, of course, the more you publish, and if you can get agented, but most professional science fiction writers main source of income isn't from sf, in my experience, or even from writing. Most have a day job, which makes their ability to finish anything even more impressive. Most of the successful writers I've met are driven to write. The money has had little to do with it.

My advance for my only piece of professional sf/fantasy was $1,500 for "Once in a Lullaby", a novelette published in Bantam's first "Full Spectrum" anthology, and apparently not a bad payment, considering that sale was almost 20 years ago. Although I still dabble in fiction writing, and suspect there will be a day when I return my focus to it, the effort/reward ratio as shown above forced me away into other things that paid better and more consistently; multimedia development for about 10 years, now back to freelance business writing.

There are times I regret that choice... but not all that often. And I still have time.

If you were looking for a good way to learn more about comic books...

I couldn't think of a better place to start than Alan David Doane's 100 Things I Love About Comics. And be sure to check out his 100 annotations to the list. Of particular note, and certainly in my top 100 list would be:

#21 - Ernie Colon's Richie Rich.
#40 - Hellboy.
#48 - Alan Moore's Marvelman/Miracleman
#78 - Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson.
#83 - Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons.
#85 - Daniel G. Clowes. (for Ghost World in fhb's opinion)
#91 - Alan Moore's Swamp Thing.

And because I can't look at such a list without adding some of my own amendments, I'll add three more to round up to ten.

Daredevil - Born Again Frank Miller with artist David Mazzucchelli.
Scott McClouds's Understanding Comics
Batman: The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller, Klaus Janson, Lynn Varley


Monday, February 14, 2005

Time for a poker posting

My luck, she apparently had a good time at Mardi Gras last week and rewarded me with the golden chip in all three games I played this weekend... two Sit-and-Goes (SnG) and one ring game. I cleared around $35, big deal that I am.

Finally worn down by Iggy's constant, merciless shilling of Party Poker (Bonus code IGGY, damnit!) and hypnotized by the flashing animated gifs on his site, I had moved some of my winnings from PokerStars over to Party Poker in January after getting my initial $50 stake there a bit over $150. But at some unremembered point in 2004 I had already signed up at Party so could neither collect a bonus or toss anything Iggy's way.

The humanity.

Perhaps suffering the curse of no bonus code IGGY, I almost immediately went on a losing streak both at Party and at PokerStars, dropping my initial Party stake from $50 to $11 within a few weeks and shrinking my PokerStars stack from around the remaining $100 to less than $60. Admittedly, I had gotten hooked on the "Step Challege" at Party, mini-tournaments where the pay-out could be as much as $9k for a $12 buy-in. The size of my remaining stack should provide a clue on my success to date at the step challenge.

In fact, in the month or so I played at Party, my only winning was a 1st place in a SnG, which I actually accomplished in the first game I played there. As I said, by this Saturday I had $11 left in my stake, and went into a $10 +$1 limit SnG... where I placed third and won $20.

So I'm still in at Party, but unless I continue to stay lucky, when the stack goes, so do I. While Iggy and some other poker bloggers are vocal fans of Party, I'm less than enthusiastic about the site. I don't like the interface, which is like a crude version of the Sims. And maybe I've been spoiled by UtimateBet and PokerStars, where you start with T1000 or T1500 in SnGs as opposed to Party's T800, but that smaller stack means you need loose play right from the git go to stay alive... a strategy which does not suit tight as a tick Mr. Rico.

Loose play is of course the reason Iggy and other poker bloggers crow about Party, a virtual aquarium of fish, according to some. But they're playing ring games, mostly, where you can afford to sit out hand-after-hand, at least opposed to SnGs where the blinds will eventually force you to gamble, strong hand or not. With no rebuy in a SnG, a fish's loose play - where they still win the hand - can make your stack drop drastically, no matter how well you're playing.

And it moves too damn fast! Again, I suspect it's one of the reasons that the younger bloggers like Party, but at age 52 you lose a few steps and half the time the cards are flopping so quickly at the turn and river that I have to scroll back up the Dealer's chat box to discover how I won - or lost - the previous hand.

I had been on such a bad roll through most of January that I was thinking about taking some time off from on-line poker and hit some live charity tournaments instead, but I enjoyed the last World Poker Bloggers Tour event so much that I decided to take the $50 I had bankrolled for live play and drop it into UltimateBet instead. The fact that UltimateBet had sent me a "you used to be a player" promotion with a 100 percent deposit bonus also had a little to do with it, too.

So, I'm back with UltimateBet, where is where you'll find me as ricoM most times these days, as I (very) slowly work to convert my bonus money into real money. I currently have $60 at UB, $62 at PokerStars, and $20 at Party, giving me a grand current profit of $42 from my two $50 investments to date. I've been playing at PokerStars since October of last year, still living the large (at least my version of it) from my 8th place finish in the October bloggers tourney. $100 spent where I've played on the average of two to three times a week for four months isn't a bad investment - one of my cheaper hobbies, in fact.

Batman unbound













Separated at Birth?






Over at "news from me" Mark Evanier has another funny and thought-provoking post on the ah, "gayness" of the Dark Knight.

Dr. Fredric Wertham, who looks surprisingly like The Meanest Old Man in the World (on the other hand, why is that a surprise?) wrote a book, as you probably know, called "Seduction of the Innocent" and suceeded in making my childhood life a living hell. For several years, I had to hide my comic books from my father who would trash them upon discovery, convinced as he was that comics would lead me to J.D.ism, depravity, drugs and wild sex with blonde bombshells who smoked a lot and carried pistols in their purses (well, I was hoping for that last one). I'm not sure my Dad ever actually ever read Wertham''s book, but he had somehow picked up the gist of it and I suffered mightily as a consequence. After awhile my father gave up on trying to wean me away from comics, more put out by that time that I was now openly reading Playboy and Penthouse.

One of Wertham's more provocative claims was that Batman annd Robin were gay, although as Mark points out, that's not what he said, but rather something to the effect that their lifestyle was "...like a wish dream of two homosexuals living together." I know very few homosexuals whose wish dream is to beat up criminals on a nightly basis, well maybe a couple into S&M, but I'm digressing. Mark wrote a book with the joking title, "Wertham was Right" (at least about some stuff) where he noted:

In one issue of Justice League of America in the sixties, the heroes discover they have contracted a cosmic plague that will doom everyone they've recently touched. Green Lantern shudders to think that he has infected his eternal fiancée, Carol Ferris. The Flash realizes he has doomed his beloved, Iris West. Even the Atom thinks about the fate that will befall the woman in his life, Jean Loring...

Batman, meanwhile, thinks: "Robin...what have I done to you?"

There is a wonderful copy of that comics panel at the link above. As Mark says, the great Gardner Fox probably dissolved into giggles while writing that scene. It's amazing that D.C. let it go.

Liveplasma

An affinity search engine that I've been having fun with over the past several days. Hooked into Amazon data, Liveplasma displays a visual map of music/movies that you might like based on your selection of other music/movies.

via John Battelle

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Hello, it's fucking radioactive!

Since it was filed under the heading, "Diamonds are for Pussies", one could safely assume that most readers would figure out that Xeni Jardin's post on giving your sweetheart a highly radioactive uranium ore sample as a Valentine's Day gift was a joke.

But this is after all, the internets, and Xeni later posted a clarification explaining that irradiating your lover is probably not the most romantic thing to do, as well as a PC acknowledgement that... "it appears to be a product of the same deeply corrupt, violent economic system that surrounds production of most of the world's diamonds..."

Cyber romance ends in divorce

I suspect this is a little too perfect to be true, but what the heck.

A budding romance between a Jordanian man and woman turned into an ugly
public divorce when the couple found out that they were in fact man and wife,
state media reported.

via BoingBoing

You're better off shoplifting than downloading

Here's one of those items that just make you stop and realize how crazy the world is. Not-a -lawyer, Karl Wagenfuehr, posts an article on the Penalties of Stealing vs. Infringment.


Summary

StealingInfringing
Absolute
Minimum
$0
no jail
$4,400
Absolute
Maximum
$100,000
1 year jail
$3,400,000
1 year jail
lawyer fees and costs
Real World
Example
Winona Ryder*:
$2,700 fine
$6,355 restitution
$1,000 court cost
3 years probation
An Average RIAA settlement**:
$14,875


via BoingBoing



Tired of seeing some OTHER guy win the big stuffed animal?

Impress your girlfriend/wife (preferably not simultaneously). Be THE MAN!

Knock down those milk cans, shoot the red star out of the card, get the hoop over those blocks! Now you can, or at least have a better shot, with the self-published, "The Secrets of Amusement Park Games... Revealed! (Third Edition)"

via BoingBoing

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Blog at Google at your peril

A Google employee, who blogged about the company's activities, has left Google, according to John Battelle. The ex-employee, Mark Jen, wrote on January 26th:

i goofed and put some stuff up on my blog that's not supposed to be there. nothing serious and they didn't ask me to take anything down (even the stuff where i'm critical about the company). i'm learning that google is understandably careful about disclosing sensitive information, even vague financial-related things. the quickest way for me to fix the situation at the time was to take it all down. now i'm back up. just so you know, google was pretty cool about all this. thanks for and sorry for the frenzy of speculation.
Apparently Google wasn't as cool as Mark thought. Fired, quit, or something in-between? We'll probably never know for sure.

Google was the second super-secretive company I worked for (as a Google Answers contractor. Google would take the position I never actually "worked" for them), so paranoid about revealing any information that in my year's employment, I never knew the names of anyone at Google I worked for/with. The Google Answers editors -- themselves rumored to be contractors - preferred to hide behind the portmanteau "Google Answers Team" title and email address and used much of their anonymous correspondence to remind researchers that we were never, ever to reveal any information about GA or Google itself that we might become privy to.

About the only pieces of information I can remember that I did discover were that the engineer charged with maintaining the GA system had a pair of ferrets and wasn't good about doing her laundry, and that I didn't want to work for Google, either as a contractor or otherwise.

To my knowledge, at least three Google Answers Researchers (or "GARs") were either fired/suspended/quit over Google secrecy paranoia. Again, with Google you're never completely sure what is going on. At least one of those people thought she had been fired from Google Answers, but they claimed a suspension/misunderstanding and that she could regain researcher status by acknowledging that she'd never write about Google Answers again without first being vetted by Google. She refused.

Me, I just got frustrated with GA editorial incompetence, finally said the Bad Word to an editor in an email, and quit shortly thereafter.

The CEO of the other super-secretive company I worked for, which is now out-of-business but still shall remain nameless, once told me when I complained about the virtual information vacuum everyone labored under, "I like not revealing too much. I think it makes me more... intimidating."

Personally, I thought she was an idiot.

My Life with Pets

Everyone who loves animals has one of these, if only as a mental image. As Scott says, it would make a great poster.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Way cool

... is the new Google Maps application, full of the "Wow" factor. Wonder how long it will be before they hook into a satellite map?

(via BoingBoing)

Monday, February 07, 2005

Complete Calvin & Hobbes available as pre-order on Amazon

The Complete Calvin & Hobbes, three hardcover, four-color volumes, 1440 pages, in a slipcase edition, is now available for pre-order at Amazon at more than a 1/3 discount on pre-orders. Getting to September is going to be a long wait.

One percent of Dutch Boy

is worth $178.50, according to the market.

Now that'd be an interesting idea, which somebody has probably come up with already - a poker players market. Buy, sell. and trade shares in pro poker players, market prices based on how well they're doing on the circuit.

Boyd has taken grief on selling stakes in himself, but I suspect it's the wave of the future for players .

"Toot Sweet" => "It's Really Love" => "Johnny's Song"

Mark Evanier posts a fascinating history of "The Tonight Show" theme, including a link to an MP3 excerpt of Annette Funicello (!!!) singing "It's Really Love", written for her by Paul Anka, who had recycled the song from an earlier Anka composition, "Toot Sweet" as he would recycle it again into "Johnny's Song."

Apropos of nothing, all men of a certain age had the hots for Annette, as I did, and as I did for Hayley Mills. Annette wrote a charming autobiography several years ago titled, A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes, which I heartily recommend if no other reason that it's one of the few autobiographies I've read where there are no stories of exploitation, abuse, or backstabbing.

If not fully a charmed life, as she now suffers from
multiple sclerosis, Annette seems to have had a pretty good one, and one that she's appreciated even through illness.

Deep Throat's identity may soon be revealed

according to an L.A. times article.

Bob Woodward, a reporter on the team that covered the Watergate story, has advised his executive editor at the Washington Post that Throat is ill. And Ben Bradlee, former executive editor of the Post and one of the few people to whom Woodward confided his source's identity, has publicly acknowledged that he has written Throat's obituary.


via Mark Evanier

Send some mojo...

...to Sketch, Wil Wheaton's cat, please, who at last report is doing better. But Wil is going through a rough time, as we all do when a pet is sick. Peg and I still miss Speedy Tomato something awful, even after almost four years.

Hah! As I started to write this, "Jellicle Songs for Jellicle Cats" started playing on MusicChoice. A good sign, Wil.

Death on Wheels

A man, a plan, and a car named Alexi.

Propane is actually pretty damned safe, at least as safe as you get when you are in the market of 15 foot fireballs.


via William Gibson

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Blinds and Kings were my undoing

I placed a respectable, but out-of the-money, 39th out of 151 entrants in the World Poker Blogger Tour tourney last night, 21 slots away from any winnings. But I had fun.

Sometime in Hour 1 the Big Blind went all-in with about $2k worth of chips after I raised with pocket Ks. He had a pair of 9s. I got burnt by the “maldito rio” when another 9 surfaced on the river and Sinatra sang in my head, “Kings don’t mean a thing…” It took me a moment to realize that I wasn’t out of the game, but still had a meager $350 stack left.

My luck, she decided to turn at this point, and I was dealt suited AJ, AQ, and an unsuited Big Slick in close succession. Called each time on all three all-ins, I tripled my stack in about 15 minutes back to where it had been before being crippled by the 9s. Someone commented at this point that if I succeeded in doubling up a couple more times I would have gone from last place to chip leader in five hands.

But my luck, she decided to go out for a drink and the cards stopped coming. I finished Hour 1 with around $2,900 in chips. Sometime before getting stripped of my stack and recovering I had been dealt the infamous Poker blogger hammer while in mid-position. Everyone in front of me having folded, I threw out a triple the BB raise, about $600 in chips I think at that point. And everyone folded. And of course I showed my cards and crowed. And everyone congratulated me.

Iggy would have been proud.

My stack yo-yoed up-`n-down in Hour 2. I picked up a few hands, but lost more, and the blinds continued to increase. At some point I was moved to a new table, which also threw me off my stride. Probably like most players I play better the longer I stay at the same table. You tend to pick up the rhythm of the table and the other player’s betting patterns.

Someone once said that it’s never the hand that you go out on that’s beaten you, but usually several hands before. I think the game changer for me was when I called in late position with a suited K7, and one other player called. The flop showed a rainbow 77J, and I went all-in with my set. After a few moments my opponent called and flipped over a Q7. So he also had the set with a weaker kicker and I thought I was on my way to doubling my $1,600 in chips if I could avoid the Q. As it turned out, the board paired the J on the turn, and we ended up chopping the pot with a board full house.

Chopping’s better than losing, of course, but missing that pot really took the wind out of my sails, as it had been the best hand I had seen in the past 45 minutes. And the pitiless blinds kept eroding my stack.

About five minutes before the close of Hour 2 and the start of the next break I was in mid-position again when The Hammer reappeared in my hand. Everyone in front of me folded again and I raised to $800 with half my remaining stack. I thought I had the blinds stolen as I watched a succession of folds until the BB re-raised. Calling him would put me all-in with my remaining $835 of chips.

At this point ricoM is faced with a decision. I have a 7 deuce off-suit, the well-known “worse starting hand in poker” and the chances are better than good that whatever Mr. BB has it’s more powerful than what I have. On the other hand, letting the $800 I’ve already committed to the pot go leaves me with a pitiful short stack and I’m then going to need a series of monster hands and successive all-ins to survive much longer.

And, after all, it’s pre-flop, where Spring is in the air and anything seems possible. And it is The Hammer, and it is a poker blogger tourney. As someone who regularly plays the blogger tables had said earlier, “Welcome to my world, where 7 and 2s on the flop are more feared than As and Ks.”

I call.

I flip my Hammer, getting a laugh from the table, and the BB shows what I had lost with much earlier in the tourney, a pair of Kings. The poker gods, being the whimsical characters they are, give my opponent a scare and me some hope when the flop shows a 7. Another 7, or a deuce, and avoiding a K would make me a winner, but the turn and river bring no joy and I’m out in position 39.

“Good try,” someone notes in the chat box. And you know what? I’m satisfied, loose crazy move that it was. You’re usually only one card away from winning, and I was.

Less chat than I expected in this tourney, maybe because there seemed to be less bloggers and more readers this time around. Or maybe I was just at the wrong tables. Many of the heavyweight bloggers whose names I recognized finished early. One-armed Iggy went out very early at place 102, maybe due to his game being off from his recent operation. Again, I didn’t get to play at a table with him, something I’ve always wanted to do, but maybe next time. If Fast Eddie was in this one, he was under a new handle I didn’t recognize. Wil Wheaton didn’t play this time either as far as I could tell. I think life has been getting in the way of Wil over the past few days. He has a sick Maine Coon, btw, and Bear and I are beaming “get well” thoughts to Sketch in California as I write this.

One chat conversation that did annoy me happened during Hour 2, where a player complained when another player re-raised him and forced him to fold. In the subsequent play, #2 won the pot and knocked an all-in out. Player #1 apparently had the strongest hand and would have won the pot if he had stayed in, and went into the usual whine about “How could you raise like that with that hand?” #2 politely noted his thinking, which just infuriated #1 more. “Bad move,” he said. “Okay,” said #2.

“You know,” I wrote in the chat box, “I think I’d rather win than be right.”

“Thank you, rico,” Player #2 replied.

The $22 buy-in shrunk my stake by half, but I’ve been playing off my winnings from the last blogger tourney in October for the past three months, and I’m okay with that. At one point I was up to $150, but variance, bad beats, and bad play when I tried to force hands have taken their toll. I was planning on hitting a live tourney this Saturday with a $50 buy-in, but I think I’m going to drop some more change into PokerStars instead.

“You need some socialization past Bear and Kittenish,” says Peg, but you know, I have a pretty active social life, even though it’s with people I never see.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

A day without a crash would be like a day with sunshine

If you're watching carefully, you'll note that the two Blox apps to the right are no longer with us. As Roseann Roseanna Danna used to say, "If it's not one thing, it's two things." My Dell laptop, my primary work PC during the winter months, has been having serious crashes on a near-daily basis during the past week or so. I haven't been able to identify what's going on, as symptoms vary, but one suspect on my list is Firefox having some sort of problem with more than one Flash app loading at a time...and that can possibly be traced to the Lazlo "Blox" apps.

Ironically, I found a possible reference to the problem on John Dowdell's blog. "Ironically" because Dowdell, whose on-line personality could best be described as this in my opinion, and I used to exchange barbs on a semi-regular basis on the DIRECT-L mailing list back when I was doing Director work.

In any case, one error message I'm getting on a regular basis when in Firefox is about the Flash plug-in. And I usually crash when I have the fhb site open in Firefox (that's not much of a clue, because I usually have the fhb site open). So, I'm disabling the Blox applications -- at least for a bit -- to test and see whether that will make the problem go away. I've never been real happy with the LinkBlox app in any case and, the WeatherBox app, while cute, can be replaced with something else if necessary.

At some point I'm going to redesign "fhb" once more again, as it's become a pretty hacked-together piece of work.

Merle Haggard to join Dylan on next tour

Bob Dylan will be doing March and April concerts in five cities, including multi-night runs in Seattle, Los Angeles and Chicago. Joining him on the tour--which is dubbed "The Bob Dylan Show"--will be Merle Haggard and The Strangers, as well as Amos Lee.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

The hippo and the whale might be cousins

ahem, a zen poem

The problem with hippos is

A group of four-footed mammals that flourished
worldwide
for 40 million
(40 million!)
years
and then died out in the ice ages
is the missing link between the whale and its not-so-obvious nearest relative,

the hippopotamus.

The hippo and the whale might be cousins
the loon and the vulture bros
The hippo and the whale might be cousins
one sleek, one not necessarily so.



Peeing your way out of trouble

A Slovak man trapped in his car under an avalanche freed himself by drinking 60 bottles of beer and urinating on the snow to melt it.

(via Rising Slowly)

I'm feeling tricksy

Fark, which is a site hard to explain, even if you read its FARQ, ah, FAQ, is having a "hack Google's interface with Photoshop" contest. Many of the results are hilarious. Here's my current favorite, which would be the result if MiddleEarth had had a Google.

(via John Battelle's Searchblog)