Thursday, March 31, 2005

And a Good Time Was Had By All

My luck, she sputtered out at around 11:25 p.m. last night, as I put my T2207 of chips All In with a pair of 4s during the March 30th edition of the WPBT. I almost made it around the table but was called by "Minus790," who showed an off-suit J 10. The flop had another J and I was eliminated just outside inside the bubble in 19th 18th place out of a field of 109 players.

Thinking I had again reprised my ongoing role as Bubble Boy, I tried to sign off Poker Stars, only to be given the canned warning that I was still in a tourney, and I noticed my avatar, with zero chips, was still seated at the table.

It took almost a minute for me to discover that I had finished in 18th rather than 19th place, as the Poker Stars software apparently mulled over who had been knocked out first, me or a "Posner60," eventually deciding in my favor (sorry, Posner60). The difference being $0.00 for 19th and $26.16 for 18th.

A whopping $4.16 profit, or as Peg pointed out this morning, less than $2 an hour. Better than zilch, of course, but I'm more pleased with my play than with the money. I had a very solid game (he says immodestly) for almost all the 2 1/2 hours I was in the tournament. According to the stats:
Played 202 hands and saw flop:
- 5 times out of 25 while in small blind (20%)
- 5 times out of 26 while in big blind (19%)
- 26 times out of 151 in other positions (17%)
- a total of 36 times out of 202 (17%)

Pots won at showdown - 7 out of 11 (63%)
Pots won without showdown - 13
I was able to avoid all-ins all but three times (the fourth all in I was knocked out, see above). In two of those I had the best hand - pocket rockets in one case where I knocked out a pair of 8s - and in the other hand I went all in with off-suit Big Slick against a pair of pocket Js after getting pot committed pre-flop... a loose play with compounded mistakes where I lucked out when another K showed on the river.

Out of 202 hands that's the only loose call I can remember making. If I made an error, it was too conservative play late in the tourney, where I let a circa $7,200 stack get whittled down by blinds and antes to the point where any hand I played was probably going to turn into an all in situation. As it did. But the cards weren't there and I had made the decision to finish in the money if I could. And I did, if just by the skin of my teeth.

In 2 1/2 hours of play, I only sat at two tables, which I think helped. Being moved is disconcerting and distracting, and, after a certain amount of time all tables tend to fall into betting patterns, making play easier to predict. Both tables I played at had solid, conservative players. There was some probable blind stealing going on (even the tight ricoM pulled off a couple of bluffs), but in most cases a solid bet meant a solid hand. I only saw one Hammer play during the entire night, where someone (name now forgotten) went all in with a pseudo-Hammer, 7 2 suited. The table folded and he flashed his cards triumphantly.

Minus790, who eliminated me, finished 5th. A "GameC" finished first and collected $654.00. The Guinness-swilling Blogfather of Poker finished an impressive 4th.

A fun night, although I'm paying for it this morning. I'm looking forward to the next round, which I saw in chat is being planned for April.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Calling all Raspberries

The Cartoon Raspberry Museum "is a collection of valiant and horrendous raspberry spellings in print," and curator "Steve" over at The Sneeze is looking for contributions.

Not surprisingly, there are a couple of classic Calvin & Hobbes panels included. Nobody loved a good raspberry better than C&H.

via Drawn

Brad Bird vs. The Suits

Brad Bird speaks on getting fired from Disney, being a troublemaker, and hints at things to come

BB: You can tell from The Incredibles what kind of jobs I dislike.

RM: The corporate bureaucrats?

BB: Yeah, the small-minded managers. Oftentimes the people at the top are really fun and the people on your way up are really fun, but there's something about a lot of middle managers-people that don't have the power to say yes but do have the power to say no. The ones who are just sitting there and making sure the paper clips are clipped on at a certain angle.

via Drawn

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

WPBT Tourney tomorrow:

The next event on the WPBT is this Wednesday March 30th at 9pm EST on Poker Stars.

Buy in is $20+2 and the password is: thehammer. The tourney is open to bloggers (that's me) and readers (that's you). My handle on Poker Stars (and every other poker site) is ricoM. Say hello if you see me there.

I'm currently in 65th place in the WPBT standings, a figure that looks better than it actually is.

Monday, March 28, 2005

"Islands in the Stream"

- one of my favorite movies, based on my favorite Hemingway novel, will be released tomorrow on DVD. George C. Scott does about as good a Thomas Hudson/Ernest Hemingway as you're ever likely to see.

As opposed to the pop culture perception of Hemingway as a hairy-chested slayer of animals, I've always thought of him as something of a mystic, best shown in works such as "Big Two-Hearted River" and "Islands."

I bought a VHS copy of "Islands" several years ago from half.com, after I found it was out-of-print, and had planned to transfer it over to DVD after we bought our DVR/TiVo system. For reasons known only to Paramount Home Video, this obscure movie, which did poorly in both theatres and VHS release, was copy-protected, pissing me off tremendously when I discovered that I couldn't save it to DVD. Did Paramount really think dozens of bootleggers were going to be circulating copies of "Islands"?

Here, there, and everywhere

Mal Evans began the 1960s as a Post Office engineer in Liverpool. By the end of the decade, he'd appeared in three out of five Beatles films and was an occasional musician on their albums. It was Mal playing the organ on Rubber Soul, Mal who sounded the alarm clock in A Day in the Life. On Abbey Road, it was Mal, not Maxwell, who banged the Silver Hammer.
A long article from the London Times on Mal Evans, who probably had the best claim of any as the "5th Beatle."
John Lennon, who had a predilection for enigmatic silences, would punctuate these with murmured requests such as "Socks, Mal" — at which point Mal would scoot off to Marks & Spencer to fetch six pairs in navy cotton.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Diane MacPherson Art

Our friend, Diane MacPherson, recently put up a web page displaying her art work.

Peg and I are lucky to own the second piece Diane created when she decided to get serious about her art a couple of years back. And she just on keeps getting better and better. I especially like "Angel Cove", which just won an award.

What kind of dog are you?

Kind of sounds like a Ray Charles song, doesn't it?

CATS (Canine Algorithmic Transfer System™) is a Flash application that someone put a lot of work into which determines what kind of dog you would be on the basis of your answers to 10 questions. Being the strange guy I am, CATS decided that I mostly closely resemble the Shiba Inu, a breed that no one has heard of.

UPDATE: My buddy Jill writes, "I've heard of a Shiba Inu--I once walked one named Ro-Ro halfway around Sendai, Japan, and he never stopped sniffing/snorting/panting the entire time. Most hyperactive dog I have ever seen, EVER. Couldn't stop laughing at him, though--my ribs hurt by the time it was all over."

Semi-link to CATS, which because of obnoxious web programming requires that you click on the "WHAT DOG ARE YOU" link in the right-hand bar (right above "Listen to music from the film")

(Thanks, Peg!)

Posted by Hello

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Giant Steps

... designer/animator Michael Levy's take on the Coltrane classic. I love the opening vinyl pop-`n-hiss.

via The Morning Improv

Kiddie Records Weekly:

"Basic Hip Digital Oddio" is posting complete albums of children's records on a weekly basis during 2005. Each recording is in MP3 format available for download. The current list includes some of my childhood favorites, "Story of Robin Hood" and "Tales of Uncle Remus." Coming in April is "Pecos Bill" (narrated by Roy Rogers!).

I guess this is primarily for nostaligia buffs, but I wouldn't be surprised if today's kids (even as media-saturated as they are) still enjoyed some of the stories too.

Miracleman Watch

We're in the concluding stages of talks to bring the Alan Moore Miracleman stories and the stories I wrote and Mark Buckingham drew back into print. (The stories are copyright Alan and me, the art is copyright by the artists who did it.)
From Neil Gaiman's Journal March 21, 2005

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

The Circle Remains Unbroken

Saturday, and we're tooling down I-20/59. Kind of like Rome, all roads in Birmingham lead either to I-65 or the I-20/59 route. We're in an enormous Lincoln town car, which we need since we have three adults, three kids, and assorted kid's stuff packed in. Jill's in back with Jack the baby, his brother Johnny Mak, and their cousin, Lizzie. I'm up in front with Lizzie's Mom, Leigh.

She was born too late to fit the bill, but Leigh reminds me of an unreconstructed hippie. Tomorrow we'll be tie-dying t-shirts at Leigh's prompting after a barbecue where she and Jillbo feed us steaks, burgers, salmon, plus slaw, plus greens, plus salad, plus several other things I've forgotten but were good. Not fried green tomatoes, though, which are one of my favorites. I had fried green tomatoes the night before, and pound cake as a first course the night before that. Not knowing much about Southern customs, I ask Jill if having cake before anything else was some sort of tradition. "Nope," she says. "It's just the first thing we had ready and the kids were hungry."

After the Sunday barbecue, Jill and I will desperately scramble to get kids, food, kid stuff, plates, and more kid stuff in before an approaching thunderstorm that has chain lightening snaking across a black Alabama sky, both of us nervously calling for Leigh from the shelter of the house while she stubbornly faces down the Storm King and keeps on tie-dying, finishing up the last shirt.

That's Leigh. But that's also tomorrow. Today is Saturday,and we're off the highway and cruising down a Homewood street, looking for the Community Arts Center. We're going drumming at Leigh's invitation.

We're late, because we're always late. It has something to do with a kids' special theory of relativity, I think. No matter what time you start, you arrive late if you have kids. If necessary, kids will force time backwards and forwards or even sideways until you're late.

I can hear the thrumming of drums as we enter the Center and go into a room that looks like a small gym. There's a circle of seated people , beating on a variety of drums, everything from bongos to Indian war drums to Ricky Ricardo congas. People open up the circle, we grab chairs, park Jack's stroller, secure the nearest free drums, and start drumming.

It's not as loud as you'd expect, more like a steady drone. The kids immediately get into it and start pounding away. I look over at 15-month Jackie and he seems to be digging it. But Jack, he of the goblin face and pumpkin grin, he's always digging everything as far as I've seen.

There are maybe 25 to 30 people in the room, adults, parents, a sprinkling of grandparents, kids. The kids are around Johnny Mak and Lizzie's age, 4, 5, 6, a couple older, a few just barely walking. A towheaded toddler with enormous blue eyes who's bouncing around the circle's center solemnly hands me a drumstick and then goes hunts me up another when I take it.

I'm tone deaf, have a voice like a crow, and my sense of rhythm is not much past one-two-three-four, but I'm holding my own. Leigh and Lizzie are doing about the same. Jill, who used to drum in high school, is tattooing out an intricate rhythm that I can't follow, but interleaves nicely with the group's beat.

Johnny takes off all-of-a-sudden, Jill yells for him, and I chase him down. "I need to go pee!" he tells me. "Can you do it on your own?" I ask. "No," he replies, so I take him to the Men's Room. Maybe he just needed directions. Johnny heads into the stall, and I wait as he does his business on his own. I think of Robbie back when he was Johnny's age, hauling him into a bar's men's room where he refused to use the stall after he saw me at an adult-height urinal. I ended up propping his feet on the edge and bracing his back as he streamed into the urinal, enormous grin on his face.

Johnny and I head back to the gym and the drumming. "You like this?" I ask. "Yes," he says.

Me too. Peg and I don't have kids, but in the "there are two kinds of people" measurement, we're the kind of childless couple that likes kids, like having them around, and like doing things with them. Robbie is either Peg's "first cousin once removed" or her second cousin, depending on which definition you use. In any case, he's her cousin's boy and for more than a few years was my boy, too, in both his and my mind. Most of what I think I know about kids I learned from Rob.

Back in the circle. I give Johnny my sticks and he starts a speed sprint beat on his drum. I check on Jack, who seems a little uncomfortable, and discover it's because the wandering kids have been dropping paper machie apple and orange rattlers into his stroller as they cruise by. I pull out about a half-dozen of them and Happy Jack is much happier.

The drum leader thinks Jack was bored and hands me a transparent plastic rod based on a South American rain stick. "Maybe this will help," he says. Jack's already cool now that he's got some room in the stroller again, but digs the rain stick anyway, quickly figuring out that if he turns it he can watch the stuff inside twirl down to the other end. I pick up a bongo and resume the beat just about two seconds before a break is called.

The leader is a barefooted guy named John Scalici who's been doing drum circles for about five years and runs a program in B'ham called "Get Rhythm." "One of the nice things I see are the different family groups inside the circle," Scalici says. "Different conversations." "Different interactions."

And he's right. There are kids playing, wandering away, coming back, people talking, getting up, playing drums, not playing drums. But the circle always stays formed and the beat always goes on. I bet it's always been this way, campfires, family groups circled around at day's end, talking, children playing. Someone picks up an instrument. The music starts. A circle of drums looping around thousands of years, a new link added here in Birmingham.

We start drumming again. Scalici has a couple of people who are either regulars or part of his team who lead and change the beat, sometimes adding new sounds at his direction. One has picked up a small, carved, wooden frog and strokes a stick against its spiny back.

Johnny's face lights with delight as the frog makes a very realistic croak and he cranes to watch how it's being done. "Cool, huh?" I say. "It sounds like he's burping!" Johnny Mak exclaims, and I have a moment of pure joy.

I can't really talk about it without sounding like an unreconstructed hippie myself, but it's things like that that make me love kids. Jill, Robbie's mother, Beth, other Moms I've known sometimes express surprise at how comfortable - the word "patient" comes up a lot, too - I am with kids, but there's something very Zen-like about them that relaxes me. They're totally in the moment, you know? That's something most of us lose long before we hit our teens. The day's events, the next day's expectations, they mount up and we're usually thinking about what happened, or what's going to happen. Kids live in the present. They see the day as it is. No tomorrow. No yesterdays. Not even five minutes ago or five minutes from now. I can sometimes get back to that way of thinking -- more truly, "no-thinking" -- when I'm hanging with kids. And every now and then, when I'm lucky, I get to see them discover something totally novel -- the first time they've ever experienced it - and I get to see that look I just saw on Johnny's face.

Yeah, I know, a childless guy romanticizing kids, shades of J.M. Barrie, right? But I try not to, and Johnny's got all the badness and exasperating `tude you'd expect from a little boy, too. He and Lizzie totally bypass the fact that they're cousins -- in fact both refer to Jill and Leigh interchangeably as "Mommy" -- and are into a full sibling relationship when together, beating on each other one moment, kissing each other the next. Together, they leave a path of destruction wider than the trail from an Alabama twister. And Johnny, who's father, Mak, is Japanese, starts constantly referring to me as "Unco Fred" on Sunday. Later, Jill laughingly tells me that "unco" is Japanese for ah, feces.

On the other hand, when I drove up in my rental, Johnny ran over to the car, pulled open the passenger door, hopped in and hugged me. I can put up with a lot of "Uncos" for moments like that.

Saturday night, drumming over, we're coming back to Leigh's after dinner out. Johnny Mak is passed out in the back seat, leaning against Jill. It's another thing I like about kids. Johnny reminds me of my cat, Curly, when he was a kitten, playing one moment, the next sound asleep wherever he happened to be. We once found Curl face-first in the rug, still standing, but sound asleep.

I reach into the back of the Lincoln and gather up Johnny, a nervous Jill sounding like my mother as she worries over my back. I carry him into the bedroom, and Jill slips off Johnny's shoes, covers him up. He never wakes.

Jill and I walk back outside and I think about carrying Robbie to bed 15-odd years ago, thinking further back, thinking about being half-awake, half-asleep myself, being carried securely in my father's arms into my grandmother's house in Waterville, Maine. The circle keeps on re-forming, and the drumming never stops.

There are a million-and-one stars exploding above us in the Alabama night.

For Jack, Lizzie, and Johnny Mak - Birmingham, Alabama -- 3/11-13/2005.

You could see this one coming

It's been apparent to at least one Constant Reader that Iggy started having second thoughts on his decision to quit work and try a career as a full-time poker player about 10 seconds after making it. Now, he's finally talking about it as a front end to an uber-post.

Is playing poker a dream job?

It's always seemed like a slice of ambrosia....but for me now, it's become unfulfilling. I've gotten bored. Playing poker full-time isn't much of a purposeful life. It's a bitter pill to swallow, trust me. And this after my best month yet, due to the vast amount of table time I put in.
The Blogfather hints at a unique job opportunity later in the post which I hope will be something PR-related in the online poker world, as he's one of the funnier flogmeisters I've ever read.

Buck the Stag

As well as crooning six classic songs including ‘Sweet Home Alabama' and ‘Suspicious Minds', Buck will say whatever you want him to, amazing the assembled company (and quite possibly scaring them half to death.)
Hmmm. "Sweet Home Alabama"? I know a certain house in Texas that will soon be undergoing renovations. I wonder if Buck would fit right in with the new decor? Link to Buck the Stag

Posturing Congress ignores public opinion as does media

Just as every judge who has heard the Schiavo case so far has ruled in Michael's favor, so has every poll taken shown that the majority of the public supports the husband's position. In survey after survey dating from 2003 to the present, asked who should have the final right-to-die decision, the majority of Americans have answered: the spouse. From national polls (e.g., ABC News/Washington Post, 65-25; and Fox News, 50-31) to statewide polls (e.g., KING-TV in Washington, 67-19; and St. Petersburg Times in Florida, 75-13) to unscientific, interactive polls (e.g., CNN, 65-26; and MSNBC, 63-37), the response has always been the same. A 2003 poll by CNN/USA Today had a similar result: Eighty percent agreed that a spouse should be allowed to decide whether to end the life of a person in a persistent vegetative state.

Full Salon article (subscription or one-day free pass required) via news from me

Monday, March 21, 2005

Peter Bagge "Buddy" Doll

I'm a semi-fan of Peter Bagge, "semi-" in the sense that reading Bagge is a lot like eating fudge. It's good, but I don't want a steady diet of it, either. Bagge's characters' cross of world-weary cynicism and absolute naivete can quickly get tiring... kinda as if you had a real 20-something in your life that you can't get out.

A Japanese company called Presspop is either selling or will be selling, or may just have made it for their own amusement, a Buddy Bradley doll. Even cutting Presspop some lost in translation slack, their Web site has my vote as the least informative I've read.

DeLorean dies:

Back when I first started work with DEC in the mid-`80s, I used to see a DeLorean in the ZKO (Spitbrook Road, Nashua NH) parking lot. It was owned by a VMS software engineer, who I buttonholed one morning to ask how he liked the car.

I caught him on a bad day, "Wanna buy it?" he asked. Seems he was having problems with both gull wing doors, which sometimes refused to open altogether and usually refused to open easily, and recurring cosmetic rust on the stainless steel body (claims that the DeLorean was rust-proof seemed not to have taken New England winters into consideration).

Nevertheless, it was a cool car.

Link to the AP obit. Link to various DeLorean pages, and Link to a gold-plated DeLorean in Snyder, Texas.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

I’m Not There: Suppositions on a Film Concerning Dylan

Bob Dylan will be portrayed by seven actors — one of them a black woman - in a film about his life scheduled for releaes in 2006.

Director Todd Haynes, he of "Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story" and the more commercial "Far from Heaven" fame, confirmed last week that he is searching for a woman who can do justice to Dylan’s “inner blackness”.

Paramount, the producing studio, is not totally happy with Haynes decision. An executive said: “Dylan has always acknowledged his debt to blues and gospel, but critics may say there are other ways of celebrating the African-American musical heritage. Todd is, however, a serious film maker and we are confident that he will treat it all with respect. We hope.”

Who could make this stuff up? Link

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Eye on the Sparrow

I have mixed feelings about the Robert Blake verdict. Like nearly everyone I've discussed the case with, and as two jurors noted on the "Today" show this morning: "Innocent?" No.

But then, who of us are? Of course, few of us have murdered our spouses, as I suspect Blake did, or at least had a hand in, as one of the jurors all but said. But, while he's free, his problems are far from over. As he's claiming, I suspect he's dead broke. And, in case he does have any assets left, Bakley's heirs have a "wrongful death" suit (warning: link is to an Acrobat PDF) filed against him.

Don't go to bed with no price on your head
No, no, don't do it.

Don't do the crime, if you can't do the time
Yeah, don't do it.

And keep your eye on the sparrow, when the going gets narrow.
Don't do it, don't do it.

Where can I go where the cold winds don't blow, now.
Well, well, well.

"Like a Rolling Stone" turns 40

And Greil Marcus, who wrote one of my favorite books about Dylan and Ol' Weird America has a "biography" of the song coming out at the end of the month, Like A Rolling Stone: Bob Dylan at the Crossroads.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Ed Emberley's Drawing Book of Animals

Because I know her son, Johnny, likes to draw, I recommended this book to my buddy Jill, as much taken by the dedication, "The book I wish I had when I was a child", as the positive reviews I had read about it.

Jill brought the book, as well as Johnny and his brother Jack, to B'ham for our annual junket to the Writing Today conference, and I spent a fun half-hour going through it and following Ed's instructions.

And you know what? I found out I can draw, too, even though my usual claim is that I can't even draw a straight line. It really is a book I wish I had found as a kid.

Emberley also has a pretty neat web site too, which you might want to explore before buying one of his books.

"So, they laugh at my boner, will they?"

Did you miss me?

Okay, first with the pithy comments and links. One of those blog memes that I keep on encountering has been various references to 1951's Batman #66, "Batman's Greatest Boner." Today I found a link to the complete comic incomplete comic.

via Drawn which also has a link to Cartoon Network's new toon, "Krypto the Superdog", premiering on Monday, April 4th at 9 a.m. (don't ask me why. Is it targeted to pre-schoolers or out-of-work geeks?).


If you watch the preview, note the cameo appearances by Streaky the Supercat and Ace the Bathound. Can a Legion of Super-pets cartoon be far behind?

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

It might as well be Spring...

even though it's 14 degrees out and the wind chill has it down to -2. I'm on Spring Break, and so is fhb.

See you in about a week. Stay warm.

If Fred were a South Park character


Posted by Hello


Created using a Flash tool from Das Planearium. which has one of the better copyright notices I've seen: "I put a lot of time on this thing and I don't want it stolen. If I see this flash on somebody's website I'll fucking kill him. Seriously." (via Hella Hold `Em)

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

When multimedia was black and white

I remember those days, too. The first multimedia job I ever did was a demo to the company I was working for at the time (as a writer), in an attempt to convince them that it was going to be worth our while to get into the multimedia - or multi-media, as it was more commonly called back then - biz. This was in 1991, lo those days of old.

The demo, which was a Hypercard stack running on a Mac, worked too. I eventually ended up becoming a "creative director" of multimedia, sometimes running a group of as many as five other people, sometimes when times were tough, being the group.

The first paying multimedia job I ever did was for the defunct Digital Equipment Corporation, another Macintosh job, and not much more than an animated slide-show with music, as I remember, done with a very early version of Macromedia Director. In fact, the version was early enough that the only way it would run was on a Mac. Digital had a strong "don't use if not invented here" bias and we ended up hiding the Mac in a hollow podium, used a generic (that is, non-Apple) monitor, and I guarded the installation to make sure no one peeked.

Seriously.

A few years later I was sitting with another Digital client reviewing the prototype of an animation loop we had created for their COMDEX trade show booth. The loop displayed a classic `65 Shelby-Cobra GT350 zooming on-screen, then screaming off with a screech of tires as a notebook PC followed in the same fashion. The idea being, of course, that the PC they were introducing was faster than anything then known. I think it had all of a 75 MHz processor.

"Nice," said my client as he watched the loop. "You know, we're bringing a replica of one of those cars to our booth and giving it away. It's worth over 30 grand."

"Wow," I said. "How are you to give it away?"

"Oh, probably the usual goldfish bowl," he answered.

Not knowing much about trade shows at the time, I had to have him explain that they were going to choose the feedback forms of four people per day over the course of the show. On the last day, the 12 lucky people would have their names dropped into a goldfish bowl. A name would be pulled from the bowl, and they'd have their winner.

I chewed on that for a day or so, then called my client. "Given that this is such a major promotion you want to make as big as splash as you can," I said a little breathlessly. "I think we should come up with something that ties into the notebook introduction and is more exciting than a gold-fish bowl."

And we did. I had my development team create another animation (this was still so long ago we were doing it in 3.1 on the Mac, porting it over to Windows 3.0, and running it through the Director Player for Windows). This movie had the Shelby zooming on to the screen too, but then it waited there, faintly trembling, with the rumble of its engine throbbing in the background. There was a large on-screen button, based on the Cobra logo, displayed under the car.

"So here we are," I told the client as I showed it to him on one of their new notebook systems. "It's the last day of the show, and your finalists are ready to go." I brought out a helmet we had purchased and offered it to him. "Pick a disk."

We had created special disk labels for twelve 3.5-inch floppies, displaying the Cobra logo. The disks were identical. The client chose a disk from the helmet, and I distributed some of the disks to other people in the room.

"Try it," I said.

One after another, they inserted their disks into the notebook's floppy drive and clicked on the Cobra button. The first few players heard the car's rumble grow into a thunderous roar as it seemed to prepare to leap from the screen. But at the last moment the car began to shake like an ill-fed dog, the engine noise expired with a sickly wheeze, and the word, "Sorry" appeared on the screen. A few moments later, the screen reverted back to the original animation sequence, and the next person would try.

I had reserved one of the disks for myself, and after allowing a few people to go ahead I said, "I'll try now." Again the car's engine roared, but this time it screamed off the screen, leaving a blazing trail behind, which formed the words, "You win!"

The client loved it, we ran it for real at COMDEX, and the crowd loved it, especially the person who won the Shelby-Cobra replica. In fact, the promotion was so successful that the client purchased more replica cars and we ended up doing it four more times over the course of two years. I ended up traveling from Vegas to Chicago to Atlanta and New York, and learned more about trade shows than I ever wanted to know.

The first show at Vegas just about gave me a heart attack though. Since, in essence, what Digital was doing was a lottery,there were all sorts of rules and regulations imposed on us, including that the 12 disks had to be kept under seal until the show. Some ad rep was in charge of them.

Of course he forgot then in New York. Happily, I was a paranoid soul and had brought a duplicate set in case of trouble. I thought my client was going to kiss me.

So, it's the last day of the show, and all 12 lucky people are there for the drawing. Two of them had extended their stay just to be in the drawing. It's a big deal, lots of Press is there, a big gun from Digital shows up, the crowd swells. I'm standing with my client, who has my forearm in a death grip. Right before we start, he looks at me and says, "It'd be a shame after all this build-up if the first person wins."

"True," I answer. "But there's no way of telling. Even I don't know."

That wasn't entirely so. I had put a little white dot on the winning disk so I could keep track of it. Since people reached into a helmet in order to pull a disk, I wasn't worried about somebody figuring it out. Even if they knew about the dot, there'd be no way to get that specific disk.

First person goes up. Loser. Second loser. It goes that way to number 6. Loser.

Law of averages. When we tested it, sometimes it'd be earlier, but nothing to get worried about. I hoped.

7 through 10 take a try. Losers. The crowd's going wild. 11 is standing next to me and says, "That means it's either me or him, right?"

"Yep," I say. "Good luck." I look at the disk, don't see any white dot.

Loser.

My client, who looks on the verge of a stroke, looks at the remaining person and yells, "That means you're the winner!"

"Let him try his disk!" the crowd screams back.

And he goes by me, and I'm trying to look at the disk, but his hand's covering it. My mind is working overtime. Did I screw something up? I knew I had put the winning disk in the helmet. Had our multimedia program gone bad?

He puts the disk in. It's the winner. The absolute, last disk.

Later my client and I are having drinks at a bar. "You son-of-a-bitch," he says. "You set it up after I told you I was worried it wasn't going to be exciting enough, didn't you?"

"Hey, it just worked out that way," I answered.

But he never believed me.

That's what multimedia was like, kiddies.


Sin City



As Scott says, "whoa!" (hint: watch the trailer)

If you have a choice, never have a job

Number 2 from Milton Glaser's speech to the AIGA Voice Conference in 2002. "10 things I have learned"

One night I was sitting in my car outside Columbia University where my wife Shirley was studying Anthropology.

While I was waiting I was listening to the radio and heard an interviewer ask ‘Now that you have reached 75 have you any advice for our audience about how to prepare for your old age?’

An irritated voice said ‘Why is everyone asking me about old age these days?’ I recognised the voice as John Cage. I am sure that many of you know who he was – the composer and philosopher who influenced people like Jasper Johns and Merce Cunningham as well as the music world in general. I knew him slightly and admired his contribution to our times.

‘You know, I do know how to prepare for old age’ he said. ‘Never have a job, because if you have a job someday someone will take it away from you and then you will be unprepared for your old age. For me, it has always been the same every since the age of 12. I wake up in the morning and I try to figure out how am I going to put bread on the table today? It is the same at 75, I wake up every morning and I think how am I going to put bread on the table today? I am exceeding well prepared for my old age’ he said.
All of Glaser's points are good ones (I also like "Good is the Enemy of the Great" a lot), but, for obvious reasons if you know my story, that's my favorite. My goal is to be doing the same thing at age 75 that I'm doing at age 52, and have been doing for the past 2 1/2-odd years... wake up each morning and think "how am I going to put bread on the table today?"

There are much worse ways to live.

Forever young...

Today would have been Richard FariƱa's 68th birthday.

Monday, March 07, 2005

BoingBoing Goes to War

Evil empire vs. irreverent e-zine. Outcome still to be determined.

A nice Google trick...

that I didn't know: put "weather" (without the quotes) and a zip into the Google search field like this and get a four-day forecast.

(via BoingBoing which notes that you can also do it the long way: city and state)

Wil Wheaton on CSI this Thursday

The episode of CSI, titled "Compulsion," that Wil Wheaton appears in, will air on CBS this Thursday, March 10th, and our TiVo is already programmed.

Roberta's Dylan news.

Dylan's new tour, "The Bob Dylan Show" begins tonight in Seattle, and speculation is already running high among fans about what to expect, given that his opening acts are Merle Haggard and Amos Lee, and Dylan reportedly has hired country-western musicians for his band.

More than 500,000 copies of "Chronicles Volume One" have been sold, according to Rolling Stone, Chronicles has been nominated for a National Book Critics Circle Award, with a winner to be announced on March 18th. The rumors continue that the book may also be a Pulitzer Prize nominee (announcement of nominees on April 4th).

A paperback version of
Chronicles is due in October. Simon & Schuster also plans to publish Chronicles: Volume Two, but no one expects to see the manuscript soon. "It'd be wonderful to have it in the next few years," noted Dylan's publisher, David Rosenthal in the RS article. "But we'll get it when we get it."

Martin Scorsese's documentary in Dylan, the unimaginatively named, No Direction Home, is due to air on PBS in September, followed by a DVD release. The three-and-a-half-hour film will draw from ten hours of taped Dylan interviews. The movie will reportedly focus on 1961 through 1966 in Dylan's career. Another spin-out from the documentary will be the Bob Dylan Scrapbook, which will include Dylan lyric sheets and contracts.

And on the music side,
A two-CD collection of outtakes and live recordings used in No Direction Home is tentatively set for an August 16th release, under the aegis of Dylan's Bootleg Series.

And Dylan told Rolling Stone in October that he has "a bunch" of new songs written and that he hoped to record them "sometime in the beginning of the year." There have been reports that Dylan will trot out some of the "new songs" on the tour. However, that's unlikely since Dylan has repeatedly said in interviews that he doesn't like bootleg versions of his songs appearing before the "official" release.


Tour dates for "The Bob Dylan Show" include:

3/7: Seattle, Paramount Theater
3/8: Seattle, Paramount Theater
3/9: Seattle, Paramount Theater
3/11: Portland, Chiles Center
3/12: Portland, Chiles Center
3/14: Oakland, Paramount Theater
3/15: Oakland, Paramount Theater
3/16: Oakland, Paramount Theater
3/18: Reno, NV, Reno Hilton
3/19: Las Vegas, Aladdin Theater
3/21: Los Angeles, Pantages Theater
3/22: Los Angeles, Pantages Theater
3/23: Los Angeles, Pantages Theater
3/25: Los Angeles, Pantages Theater
3/26: Los Angeles, Pantages Theater
3/28: Denver, Fillmore Auditorium
3/29: Denver, Fillmore Auditorium
4/1: Chicago, Auditorium Theater
4/2: Chicago, Auditorium Theater
4/3: Chicago, Auditorium Theater
4/5: Chicago, Auditorium Theater
4/6: Chicago, Auditorium Theater
4/8: Milwaukee, WI, Eagles Ballroom
4/9: Milwaukee, WI, Eagles Ballroom
4/11: Mt. Pleasant, MI, Soaring Eagle Casino and Resort
4/12: Detroit, Masonic Temple Theater
4/13: Buffalo, NY, Shea's Performing Arts Center
4/15: Boston, Orpheum Theater
4/16: Boston, Orpheum Theater
4/17: Boston, Orpheum Theater
4/19: Newark, NJ, New Jersey Performing Arts Center
4/20: Verona, NY, Turning Stone Casino and Resort
4/22: Mashantucket, CT, Foxwoods Resort Casino
4/24: Atlantic City, NJ, Borgata Resort Spa and Casino
4/25: New York, Beacon Theater
4/26: New York, Beacon Theater
4/28: New York, Beacon Theater
4/29: New York, Beacon Theater
4/30: New York, Beacon Theater

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Poker Tracker Guide and H.O.R.S.E tourney





Iggy was gentleman enough to not only to take my desire about a "Let's Put Iggy Back to Work" campaign in stride, he even mentioned it on his blog. So, the least I can do his flog his new e-book, The Poker Tracker Guide. Disclaimer: I haven't read - or bought - the Guide yet. I do have the demo version of Poker Tracker, but haven't used it all that much, since I found it confusing the few times I opened it.

I suspect I'm not alone in that feeling, and hence The Poker Tracker Guide, co-written by the Iggster and Henry "HDouble" Wasserman. A 60-odd page PDF document, the $20 guide might seem a little pricey at first blush, but the next time you're dropping some money into your account at an on-line poker site, I'd suggest doing what I plan to do - divert $20 over to pokertrackerguide.com instead. Download the demo version of Poker Tracker, which allows you to import up 1,000 hands of your on-line play history for free, and give the Guide a whirl...

In our first section, "Reviewing Your Play," we explain how to improve your play simply by examining the contents of your Poker Tracker database. Not only does Poker Tracker record every single thing we do it at the poker table, it also collects this data and organizes it in ways that allow us to find systematic errors ("leaks") in our game. For example, in our "Leak Finding" chapter, we discuss why cold calling raises can be one of the biggest mistakes made in limit poker. In addition, we explain how you can pinpoint every instance in which you cold-called a raise and see the results of your decision-making. For many players, this can be a truly enlightening process.

Like many players, I suspect I
do make the same play mistakes repeatedly. It'll be interesting to see what Poker Tracker finds from my play, and whether I can learn - and improve. I'll provide a full review once I have the Guide in hand, probably sometime next month.

Incidentally I had a "duh" moment while reading Iggy's bio, discovering simultaneously that he was a John Kennedy Toole fan and where he had picked up his handle. Ignatious, indeed.

I'm sorry to say that I'll be missing the next WPBT tournament...
A $5 tourney on

Sunday. March 13th
9pm EST
Name of tourney: WPBT HORSE Tournament
Full Tilt Poker
password: thehammer

I'll be travelling to a writer's conference in `Bama, and will have to miss out on this one. But I'll look forward to the reports. I wish I could have made this tourney for several reasons, not least because 1) It's only a $5 buy-in. 2) Felicia Lee, a great blogger and a great poker player wil be in it, and I'd love the opportunity to play against her 3) and I've wanted to give the Full Tilt site a try, as it's a site which many pros are associated with... at least in name.

I had to go look up what the heck "H.O.R.S.E" was, and discovered it stood for
Hold 'em, Omaha 8/b, Razz, Stud, Stud Eight/b. A different game every 10 minutes, apparently, which sounds like it could be wild fun.


Friday, March 04, 2005

Last thoughts on HST - A Great Fear of Falling

So, the latest report is that he left the phone, went to a typewriter and typed the word "counselor" in the center of the page, and then shot himself. He used the stationery of the Fourth Amendment Foundation, an organization he had set up to defend privacy rights, and of course there's already speculation that he was making some sort of political statement.

But maybe it was the first piece of paper that came to hand, and who knows, maybe when the big black was starting to close in he was thinking about Oscar Zeta Acosta, his so-called "300-pound Samoan attorney" long ago disappeared. Or maybe he was looking for help. Or maybe he was trying to design a fitting coda for a life that in the end had become too much the cartoon strip. If so he got what he wanted.

But I think he was sending a message to someone, making some sort of statement. Maybe to Anita. Maybe to the world at large. No one, unless they've gone completely over the edge, or sending a message, or both, commits suicide while on the phone to their spouse and with family, including a six-year-old, in the next room. No one leaves a one word suicide note unless they want endless speculation on what was meant, with no resolution, ever, since the one person who could provide a definitive answer isn't taking calls anymore.

Back in 1964, Thompson went on a pilgrimage to Hemingway's grave - as most of us who admire him find we eventually have to do - and later wrote...

It is not just a writer's crisis, but they are the most obvious victims because the function of art is supposedly to bring order out of chaos, a tall order even when the chaos is static, and a superhuman task when chaos is multiplying...So finally, and for what he must have thought the best of reasons, he ended it with a shotgun.
I don't think so. Hemingway was another suicide sending a message, as almost all suicides are doing, usually something to the effect of, "you failed me." Hemingway almost certainly deliberately positioned himself in the hallway of his home so that his wife Mary would have to step over his body in order to reach a phone... or even get downstairs for that matter. I often wonder what was going through Hemingway's poor, confused, electro-shocked mind at the end, maybe just "Fuck you, Mary".

Maybe something similar was going through Thompson's mind. I think in the end for Thompson, maybe it was just despair, the one sin the Church won't forgive. And maybe the message was meant for God. I think Thompson, if anyone had ever asked, would have agreed with Twain's opinion, "If there is a God, he is a malign thug."

One of the ironic things about Thompson's early books, better recognized when they were first published, and increasingly lost as the gonzo message was celebrated by later generations, was the thread of despair that ran through them. Thompson was a disillusioned child of the `60s, another one of us who believed there was a moment in time when things were going to change...
"There was no point in fighting -- on our side or theirs," he wrote. "We had all the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave. So now, less than five years later, you can go up on a steep hill in Las Vegas and look West, and with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high-water mark -- the place where the wave finally broke and rolled back."
... and things did change, but not for the better.

In the end maybe all that was left for him was the Villon epigram that opened "Hell's Angels"

"In my own country I am in a far-off land
I am strong but have no force or power
I win all yet remain a loser
At break of day I say goodnight
When I lie down I have a great fear
of falling"





"Fall of Icarus" by Breughel

About suffering they were never wrong,
The Old Masters; how well, they understood
Its human position; how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along;
How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting
For the miraculous birth, there always must be
Children who did not specially want it to happen, skating
On a pond at the edge of the wood:
They never forgot
That even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course
Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot
Where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer's horse
Scratches its innocent behind on a tree.
In Breughel's Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away
Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may
Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,
But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone
As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green
Water; and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen
Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,
had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.

Copyright © 1976 by Edward Mendelson, William Meredith and Monroe K. Spears,
Executors of the Estate of W. H. Auden.



"In three words I can sum up everything I've learned in life: It goes on."
-Robert Frost
And our ship sails on.

Memory fails

At least part of my ongoing problems with the laptop (a Dell Inspiron 8200 that I use as my primary work machine at the kitchen table) can be chalked up to a bad RAM module. I discovered that Wednesday when the laptop refused to boot Windows except in safe mode. A little research and experimentation later, I had the laptop do a "thorough" check at startup, where it reported...

"Memory address line failure at...
The computer automatically shut down the offending module, leaving me with a now-working computer but one with only 128MB of RAM.

For reasons I don't understand in retrospect, I tried calling Circuit City and Best Buy to see whether they carried RAM that would work in a Dell, and whether one of their techs could do it for me. I'm sorry - but not surprised - to report that in both cases, after going through voicemail hell I ended up with service representatives who obviously did not have American English as their mother tongue and both of whom were reading from knowledge base scripts (that is, "If the customer says, 'My computer doesn't work', ask, "Have you tried pressing the 'on' button?' Go here if the answer is "Yes." Go here if the answer is "No."

The Best Buy rep - who was actually a "Computer Geek" rep since Best Buy has apparently outsourced support to them - was particularly egregious, ignoring my increasingly strident demands to "Listen to my question! I already know what the problem is. What I'm asking is whether Best Buy carries the RAM I need, and whether someone there can install it?"

It took over 5 minutes with the CC guy and nearly 10 with the BB/CG guy, but both finally admitted that they didn't have an answer to either question, and I would need to bring the laptop in to find out.

Bah.

Having finally wised up, I did what I should have done in the first place, and went back to the Web, where I quickly found, in order:

Crucial Technology, which I highly recommend. It took me less than five minutes to walk through their wizard, determine the RAM I need, buy it, and have it shipped for next-day delivery. I ended up buying a 512MB module based on the Wizard's rec's for $93.

The Dell Inspiron 8200 User Guide, with everything you need to know about replacing parts, including memory.

The memory came late yesterday, I installed the new 512MB module this morning, and after some mucking around to get it seated correctly (my biggest problem), I then identified the offending old bad module, tossed it and re-installed the (so far) good 128MB module, giving me a total of 640MB. There may be some issues with that, I haven't bothered to check about whether the new/old process at different speeds, yadda, yadda, which I've seen warnings about. But, I'm working at the laptop even as I write this, and everything is working, and I'm the proud owner of a laptop with 640MB of RAM for a total cost of around $105 dollars and about 30 minutes of my time. As usual with these things, if I had to do it again, it would go much more quickly as I know what I'm doing now.

Dell replaced the CD/DVD drive when I dropped the laptop shortly after buying it, which I think was in the late Fall of 2001. The machine actually bounced off the hardwood floor, the CD drive tray opening in mid-air, and snapped off as it hit for the second time.

In 2002 the hard drive began clicking, and ultimately failed altogether. As with the RAM, after frustrating phone calls with both Dell and some local shops, I went to the Web, found a replacement hard drive, and walked my way through pulling the bad one, installing the new one, and transferring as much of the contents from the old drive to new as I could get.

I suspect the fan will go next, as Bear has the inappropriate, but cute, habit of falling asleep against the warmth of the back of the computer, smothering the fan in the process. I move him when the fan's whine gets particularly high-pitched. It's possible, even probable, that overheating is what caused the RAM to fail, as the drop may have eventually contributed to the hard drive failure, but who knows? I've never used a computer as much as I have the laptop, often on it for 8 to 9 hours a day, five days a week, and Peg uses it regularly over the weekend.

So, are all problems solved? Dunno. I read hints on the web that all the various failures we've seen over the past few weeks could be attributed to bad memory, so it's possible I've fixed it all in one fell swoop.

We'll see.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

R. I. P. Bubba the Lobster

First HST, now BTL, where will it end?

The world mourns.

Dylan Unscripted

42 black and white photographs, originally commissioned by LOOK magazine, and never published because Dylan was considered “too scruffy for a family magazine" by the LOOK editors are on exhibit at The Perfect Exposure Gallery in L.A.

For those not on the West Coast, some of the Dylan photographs can be seen at photographer Douglas Gilbert's site (warning, obnoxious pop-up window demanding your agreement not to copy anything from the site).

Boston Globe article on Gilbert and the photographs. Note this from the article...

The 42 exhibit photos are a fraction of the 900 pictures Gilbert took of Dylan over a seven-day period during the summer of 1964 in Woodstock, N.Y., Manhattan, and at the Newport Folk Festival.
The catalog from the exhibit is available at $14.95 through Amazon.

And, while there's no mention of price (bringing to mind the adage that if you have to ask...) the gallery page notes:
• Concurrent with the exhibit, a special series of ten matted gelatin silver prints in a specially design box of Bob Dylan: Unscripted by Douglas R. Gilbert.Edition of 15.

• Matted gelatin silver prints.
8x10 SG-Prints matted unto 11x14 Matts. Edition 35.
11x14 SG-Prints matted unto 16x20 Matts. Edition 35.

Gilbert lives in Amesbury, MA, just down the road a piece, as we New Englanders like to say, and I think I'm going to drop him an email and see just how pricey those prints are. Who knows? Maybe I can get a bargain on one of the other 858.

3/04/05 Update: Received the following message from Gilbert...

All photographs from the exhibit are for sale. There are two sizes, each in a limited edition of 35. The exhibit print size is approx. 9 1/2 x 13 1/2 inches and sell for $2,000.00 each. Prints are also available in 8x10 size for $1200.00 each. All prints are made to archival standards and processed for permanence. They come matted in 16x20 mattes.

There is one photograph of Dylan with Joan Baez in the exhibit. All sales are being handled through The Perfect Exposure Gallery.
His reference to Baez is in answer to my question about whether he had any shots of her or -- who I really wanted -- Dick and Mimi Farina, thinking he might have something in those 900.

Which he might have for all I know. Looks like I'd need to win a poker tournament to afford one of these. If I had my druthers, I think I'd get the one of him in his kitchen with a woman (Sara?) in the background.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Snow



Snow
It won't be long before we'll all be there with snow
Snow
I want to wash my hands, my face and hair with snow

Snow
I long to clear a path and lift a spade of snow
Snow
Oh, to see a great big man entirely made of snow

Where it's snowing
All winter through
That's where I want to be
Snowball throwing
That's what I'll do
How I'm longing to ski
Through the snow-oh-oh-oh-oh

Those glist'ning houses that seem to be built of snow
Snow
Oh, to see a mountain covered with a quilt of snow

What is Christmas with no snow
No white Christmas with no snow
Snow

I'll soon be there with snow
I'll wash my hair with snow
And with a spade of snow
I'll build a man that's made of snow
I'd love to stay up with you but I recommend a little shuteye
Go to sleep
And dream
Of snow