Wednesday, September 27, 2006

In the midnight hour

Podcast boy is taking off soon to Podcast Expo, so last night's Wheaties isn't going to get the attention it deserves. But, in brief...

Placement: Mr. Rico placed 2nd in last night's field of 64, lending further weight to my superstition that I place higher the more players are in any given WWdN. This is my second WWDN 2nd.

Notable players: Lots, including my buddy, Lydia the non-tattooed lady who got her short stack into the final table and 8th place and probably would have placed even higher if she hadn't been recovering from whatever the hell she was doing at that Boathouse; Dugglebogey, who between the cards and his play probably should have been 2nd last night - if not 1st - rather than me. And of course, the Kenosha Kid, Budohorseman, who neither Duggs nor yours truly could ah, unhorse and who deservedly won.

Lots of other friends and acquaintances last night, too. Apple-polly-woggies for giving you short shrift, but it was as always, a pleasure.

Notable hand: I'm holding $8,000 in chips, and am actually short-stacked at my table, as well as hovering in the money (9th place up paid) bubble. 200/400 blinds $25 ante.

I get dealt 4s 4d, limp in with two folds ahead of me. SB calls. BB checks. Flop is 5d 7d 8d giving me, let's see, a possible straight, a possible flush, and oh my, a possible straight flush. Everybody checks to Mr. Rico, who checks too. Turn is 4c, now giving me a set of 4s, as well as those other three draws. SB checks. BB bets $2000. I raise another $2k.

SB now goes all-in with a $15k raise, giving me pause and I figure him for either the straight, or more likely, the nutz flush. BB calls and now I know he's got one or the other too, and with that much money in the pot and all those outs, plus less likely things like Quads and full houses and with only $3k left in my stack, I naturally call too.

SB flips the nutz flush, natch and BB flips the straight, double-natch, and Mr. Rico's three 4s ain't looking all too good... until the River, where the beautiful 6 od Diamonds falls, giving me the straight Flush and about $25k in one hand.

As Dugglebogey would say, "Fred goes from bubble to leader with one river stars card," and that card would be enough to take me to the final table and eventually to 2nd, although I still had to fight and wait my way there.

As I said, a short hiatus as I go to confer, converse, and otherwise hob-nob with my brother wizards.

Until next week.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Dylan at the Grammy Awards - 1991

One of my favorite surrealistic Dylan moments, as Dylan, backed by a band of gangsters, sings an incomprehensible version of "Masters of War" a few days into the first Gulf War as pop stars and industry figures look on.

Things to watch for...

1) A `90s Dylan under an iconic `70s Dylan banner

2) Cuts to reaction shots of the B-52s and Diana Ross

3) Jack Nicholson beaming at Dylan as if he were the prodigal returned

4) Dylan's Chaplinesque play with his hat before accepting the award

5) And of course, the "Exceptance Speech," which goes:

"Well," he said, "my daddy, he didn't leave me much, you know he was a very simple man, but what he did tell me was this, he did say, son,

"He said so many things, yknow?"

"He said, you know it's possible to become so defiled in this world that your own father and mother will abandon you and if that happens, God will always believe in own your ability to mend your own ways."
Critics would claim Dylan was drunk that night. Dylan would say years later he had the flu and was running a 104-degree fever. Me, I think he did and said exactly what he wanted.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

And, in this week's Dreamtime podcast

How Morey Amsterdam listened to a soldier, had an inspiration, and wrote a song to the tune of "It ain't gonna rain no more." The twisty history of "Rum and Coca-Cola."

Thursday, September 21, 2006

How Random Is the iPod's Shuffle?

via The Wall Street Journal

Earlier this week, Mads Haahr ordered a customized iPod with "God Plays Dice" engraved on its back. Mr. Haahr -- a random-number enthusiast, lecturer in computer science at Trinity College in Dublin and keeper of the Web site, a popular source of random numbers -- intends to answer a question that has long bedeviled users of Apple's popular music player: Does the shuffle function really play users' songs in random order?

All you need to use this is nerves, a good front and consistency

Shades of The Eudaemonic Pie!

via The Guardian Unlimited

For sale for £1,000: gadget that means you'll never lose at roulette again

Paul Lewis
Saturday September 16, 2006

Professional gamblers are rushing to buy £1,000 devices that they believe will enable them to win millions of pounds in casinos when the gambling industry is deregulated next year.

Hundreds of the roulette-cheating machines - which consist of a small digital time recorder, a concealed computer and a hidden earpiece - were tested at a government laboratory in 2004 after a gang suspected of using them won £1.3m at the Ritz casino in London.

After the research, which was never made public but has been seen by the Guardian, the government's gambling watchdog admitted to industry insiders that the technology can offer punters an edge when playing roulette in a casino, and the advantage can be "considerable".

But rather than ban the devices, which are outlawed in many jurisdictions across the world, the Gambling Commission will require casinos to police themselves. Phill Brear, the commission's director of operations, admits predictive softwares can work but suggested it might be possible to prosecute someone using them under a new Gambling Act offence of cheating.

However Mark Griffiths, Europe's only professor of gambling, said using computer devices would not constitute cheating."If someone's got a piece of equipment that calculates where a ball will land, then that is akin to card counting in blackjack. It's not cheating - it's using science to give yourself a better advantage."

Amid the confusion, the commission confirmed that it is advising casinos to refuse to pay people caught using predictive devices, requiring the gamblers to take legal action in order to obtain their winnings. Roulette cheaters say that is unlikely to deter them. The supreme court in Spain recently ruled against a casino that was attempting to ban a father and son, both of whom claimed to have won millions by forecasting roulette.

The most high-profile roulette scam in Britain was executed by a woman and two men who, in 2003, won £1.3m at the Ritz using a device concealed inside a mobile phone. They were arrested but later released and their winnings were returned.

The government's national weights and measures laboratory investigated the technique. It is thought the cheats first identify a "biased" wheel, where the ball appears to commonly drop in roughly the same zone. They also look for signs on the wheel of a "manageable scatter", which means that when the ball strikes a certain number, it will usually fall into a neighbouring pocket. The unpublished report concluded: "On a wheel with a definite bias and a manageable scatter, a prediction device of this nature, when operated by a 'skilled' roulette player, could obtain an advantage when used in a casino."

Mark Howe, who sells the devices for £1,000 from a workshop in Sheffield, claims his software will also work on level wheels. Surrounded by the soldering irons and laser sensors he uses to make his devices, he gave the Guardian an apparently successful demonstration of the software he said earned him a substantial sum before he was banned from British casinos in the 1990s.

The equipment consists of a clicker that records the deceleration speed of the rotor and ball, a remote computer device concealed inside a mobile phone or MP3 player, and an earpiece that instructs a player which zone the ball will land in.

Mr Howe says a gambler with the equipment can gain an edge of between 20% and 100% over the casino, overturning the casino's normal 2.7% edge over customers. "Next year is free hunting for anyone interested in making money from casinos," he said. "All you need to use this is nerves, a good front and consistency."

Keith Tayler, an ex-croupier and gaming inspector, says regulators are unwilling to ban predicting devices because it would amount to an admission that wheels can be biased. "The commission would be opening themselves to litigation or disputes at the table," he said. "The last thing a casino wants is punters arguing about why their numbers have been missed all evening."

The Gaming Commission wrote to Mr Tayler last year stating: "We now agree that roulette wheels can develop a bias of the type you describe and that, particularly with the use of electronic equipment, players can use the bias to predict with some accuracy the segment of the wheel in which the ball will come to rest, thereby giving them an advantage."

No one from the world's leading manufacturer of roulette wheels, TCS John Huxley, was available for comment.

How it works

Clicker Used to record the speed of the rotor and ball, the data acquisition clicker can be concealed in a pen, a watchstrap, a shoe or even clipped to a molar tooth. The device is clicked as the two entities pass reference points to gauge the deceleration speeds. The data is sent to a remote computer

Computer Uses the timings to calculate which number the ball will strike based on an algorithm from data gathered and transmits the information to the earpiece. It is small enough to be hidden in a mobile phone, MP3 player, handbag or cigarette lighter.

Earpiece Placed inside the ear canal, where it cannot be detected, the earpiece relays instructions to the player about where to place bets. It can be worn by many players to place simultaneous bets or one can be swapped between them to confuse casino management

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

And in this week's Wheaties...

... Mr. Rico again played the "Survival" game and finished #20 in an, ah, larger field than in the past several weeks of 69 players. I'm not quite sure why I tend to place higher the more people there are in any given WWdN, but I do. Maybe it's got something to do with my style of play.

Not much to comment on in last night's game as, again, it was mostly either fold, fold, fold, or taking a small pot, usually pre-flop. I had pocket As three times last night, and wasn't able to maximize the pot in any of the three hands. A 3 x BB the 1st time while in mid... and everyone folds. A minimum raise while in mid-position the 2nd time around... and everyone folds. A limp while UTG on #3, and I get one caller, who calls on my flop bet with an obvious flush draw on the board which hits on the Turn, and I fold in the face of his all-in.

And so it went. Most of my game was spent at one table with little chatter except for some chit-chat about the WSOP, which apparently was playing on several TVs last night, and some back-and-forth about another game that several players were evidently involved in.

If there's anything less interesting than playing at a table where people are talking about the action at another table, I don't know what it is.

Anyway, I'd eventually get moved and get whacked by EasyCure who had called my big pre-flop raise with a J9o. You'd say that was a loose call, but you'd be wrong, as Easy easily had me covered with his $11k stack against my $2,300 or so, and luck walked in the door for him. J9 something on the flop, and me with a short stack, pot-committed and holding A9, I go all-in. His two pair hold up, and that's it for me.

EasyCure would finish in 6th place, the game would be won by weak_player who had been running rampant through the night, and I was pleased to find my buddy and fellow New Hamsterite, xkm1245 finishing in the money too, last night.

Until next week

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

The girl with the error message eyes

Oh, there's such a story to write in this. via Warren Ellis.

Still Number 9 in our hearts

The 25 most controversial films of all time...

... of course they're really not, it's just a list put together to sell copies of Entertainment Weekly and to provide water cooler conversation, but that's why we like these sort of lists, right? Some highlights:

#25 ALADDIN - "The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee balked at a lyric describing the film's Arabian setting as a land ''where they cut off your ear if they don't like your face.'' Result? The studio dubbed out the lyric for subsequent releases."

#20 CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST - "...After its 1980 Milan premiere, the film's print was confiscated by the city's magistrate. Later, Deodato faced life in prison when Italian authorities believed the stars of his film were really killed. The actors finally appeared on TV to prove otherwise."

Friday, September 15, 2006

Return of podcast boy

It's not easy being a professional musician. Bad food, a bad lifestyle where bottles, pills and needles are all too available. And there's too much travel, and nights staring out at a sea of faces that you can barely see through the lights. And the next day is the next town, and you have to get there somehow.

American Life in Poetry: Column 077


Li-Young Lee, who lives in Chicago, evokes by the use of carefully chosen images a culture, a time of day, and the understanding of love through the quiet observation of gesture.

Early in the Morning

While the long grain is softening
in the water, gurgling
over a low stove flame, before
the salted Winter Vegetable is sliced
for breakfast, before the birds,
my mother glides an ivory comb
through her hair, heavy
and black as calligrapher's ink.

She sits at the foot of the bed.
My father watches, listens for
the music of comb
against hair.

My mother combs,
pulls her hair back
tight, rolls it
around two fingers, pins it
in a bun to the back of her head.
For half a hundred years she has done this.
My father likes to see it like this.
He says it is kempt.

But I know
it is because of the way
my mother's hair falls
when he pulls the pins out.
Easily, like the curtains
when they untie them in the evening.

Reprinted from "Rose," BOA Editions, Ltd., 1986, by permission of the publisher. Copyright (c) 1986 by Li-Young Lee, whose most recent book of poetry is "Book of My Nights," BOA Editions, Ltd., 2001. This weekly column is supported by The Poetry Foundation, The Library of Congress, and the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. For information on permissions and usage, or to download a PDF version of the column, visit

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

ricoM showed [Ah As] and lost with a pair of Aces

ricoM: raises 600 to 800
Wil Wheaton: folds
Maudie: raises 848 to 1648 and is all-in
heffmike: folds
VTepes: folds
ricoM: calls 680 and is all-in
*** FLOP *** [6d 4d 2c]
Up4Poker [observer] said, "6"
R-Gee said, "oy"
*** TURN *** [6d 4d 2c] [9h]
ricoM said, "Jesus"
*** RIVER *** [6d 4d 2c 9h] [3d]
yestbay1 [observer] said, "Maudie does it again!"
*** SHOW DOWN ***
ricoM: shows [Ah As] (a pair of Aces)
Maudie: shows [6h 6s] (three of a kind, Sixes)
Wil Wheaton said, "oi"
hacker59 is connected
Ursus Aureus is connected
Maudie collected 3260 from pot
Maudie said, "3 times tonight"
R-Gee said, "its like she's been touched"

ricoM finished in 27th place (eliminated at hand #6265823527).

Even when you're by yourself, pixels and phosphors in place of people, chat box instead of chatter, poker is a social game. It's funny, I've had games where I've played well and taken it all and, when the final table closed, had a "ehhh" feeling about the whole thing. Satisfied that I won, but feeling like a grind, not really enjoying the play or people. Then there are the real bad games: I've had games where the trash talk has gotten on my nerves so badly that I've gone into silent mode , even games where avatars have made me irrationally irritated. Sometimes I've won those, sometimes I've lost. Either way, I feel like washing my hands with strong detergent afterwards.

And then there are the good ones. The fun games. The social ones. A couple weeks back was a good one, a WWdN that I would have paid the $11 just for one hand... going all-in after Iggy made a mega-raise, waiting him out as he went into the tank, and then laughing out loud as he typed into the chat box, "Eff you, podcast boy" and folded.

Such moments are priceless, as the commercial says.

And last night was one of the good ones, too. I've played in enough WWdNs aka "The Wheaties" on PokerStars that now I expect to "know" and usually have played against one or two people at any table I'm at. Last evening's WWdN tables included my buddy, BrainMc, who I think thinks I'm a better poker player than I think I am, the (evil) ISS Spock, AAjoshmanAA, who I believe took me out the night he won the Wheaties, and a host of others. Notable among that host was MsJoanne, whose play I've noted and admired before last night. I've watched MsJoanne at several previous WWdN tables - seldom having the opportunity to tangle with her those nights - but noting she had a tough, aggressive style, forcing other players to fight for every hand they were in with her. She tends to either build up a large chip stack early, or go out early... sometimes both in the same tournament.

Last night we did tangle, and tangle repeatedly during the 1st Hour. Like Wil, whose play is quite similar to hers, MsJoanne bets hard initially and bets harder at any sign of opponent weakness. I decided early on when we repeatedly became the only two players fighting for a pot that the only way I was going to survive her was to match her aggressiveness. Passivity was just going to prolong an eventual loss. Happily, I had the hands to play, although there was more than one where I was on the edge of my seat praying for her to fold while she took her time in the tank deciding how to play.

MsJoanne would eventually semi-cripple me with a pair of 10s vs my pair of Kings. A 10 would hit at the River, giving her a set and busting out my pre-flop dominating pair. A sign of things to come.

Shortly after, with a greatly reduced stack, I'd get moved and find myself sandwiched between my buddy, the Okie Pokester, and Our Host Himself. Maudie and I have played in many WWdNs at the same time. A few times we've been at the same table... but the usual scenario is one of us shows up and the other busts out a few hands later. I don't remember all that many hands played against Maudie. The other scenario - which tends to happen a lot in games where the players know what they're up to, like the WWdN - is that one or the other of us would make a big pre-flop raise, and everyone else would wisely fold. So, I've watched her action, she probably has mine, too, I have a feel for her play, but I haven't really ah, engaged, with Maudie a whole lot.

Last night both of us were on the semi-short stacks with blinds moving up. At 100/200 Blinds, Maudie had $1648 in chips, and I had $1480. Given that the table chip leader had over $9500 at the time, neither of us were in particularly good shape and needed to double up soon. To rehash the play: I get AAs, which is about all you can ask when on the short stack, and raise to $800 in the hopes of getting a caller/re-raiser. And, that, that, Okie obliges. I go "Oh my," when I see Maudie's slim 6s are like super-dominated by the testosterone-infused Mr. Rico, and am already composing a suitable "gg" farewell to her.

Of course the flop drops a 6. My one-word reaction - which was not a call to Mr. Ferguson - is shown above. And that's all she wrote.

Except that I had a wonderful time, and if I have to lose to someone, let it be to a friend so I get to tell the story.

Until next week.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Achtung Hippie!

I first heard of Burning Man through some writer - I think I remember which one, but since I'm not positive, I'll leave him anonymous and avoid the potential litigation - who hauled his young child along on a reporting trip to"one of the hottest nastiest driest places on the planet." The resulting article would have been strong evidence in a child abuse case, in my opinion. Burning Man has never high on my things to do, and in this hilarious article, Patrick Mulroy details why it probably won't be on your hit parade either.

If being forced to view hundreds of hairy ass cracks as you gag down breakfast sounds fun, Burning Man is for you.

If you want to live in a trailer park with 40,000 people where insane drinking, drugging, public nudity and lawlessness are the norm, Burning Man is for you.

If you want catty advice on how to dress from a crowd of Rocky Horror Picture Show rejects, Burning Man is for you.

If you are white and prefer to party with whites only, Burning Man is for you.

If you love the Devil and the events he supports, Burning Man is for you.

Big Things appear to be happening on the iPod front

As of apprx. 8:30 am ET, this is what you'll see if you try to go to the iTunes Music Store.

Monday, September 11, 2006

American Life in Poetry: Column 076


I'd guess we've all had dreams like the one portrayed in this wistful poem by Tennessee poet Jeff Daniel Marion. And I'd guess that like me, you too have tried to nod off again just to capture a few more moments from the past.


Last night in a dream
you came to me. We were young
again and you were smiling,
happy in the way a sparrow in spring
hops from branch to branch.
I took you in my arms
and swung you about, so carefree
was my youth.

What can I say?
That time wears away, draws its lines
on every feature? That we wake
to dark skies whose only answer
is rain, cold as the years
that stretch behind us, blurring
this window far from you.

Reprinted from "Lost & Found," The Sow's Ear Press, Abingdon, VA, 1994, by permission of the author. Poem copyright (c) 1994 by Jeff Daniel Marion, whose most recent book is "Ebbing & Flowing Springs: New and Selected Poems and Prose, 1976-2001," Celtic Cat Publishing, 2002. This weekly column is supported by The Poetry Foundation, The Library of Congress, and the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. For information on permissions and usage, or to download a PDF version of the column, visit

Podcasting and poker ruminations

Cincinnati Sean and Brent Stacks have folded up their virtual table and poker podcast at Card Club on Lord Admiral Radio with Episode 84. A shame to see them go, as they were the only other poker podcast I subscribe to. I sample a lot but find most of them are bad - often Very Bad, real stinkeroos, as Dan Ackroyd used to say on SNL.

If you haven't listened to CCoLAR before, and want to check them out, I wouldn't recommend the last show, which sounds like it was haphazardly cobbled together as quickly as possible, probably symptomatic of why Sean decided to shut the podcast down. The sound quality is so bad through most of the episode that I thought my iPod was broken. Kind of a shame that they'd go out that way, but there are any more - and much better - episodes in their archives that you can give a listen to. Sean also makes several claims in the last two shows that while he's done with a regular podcast - I suspect the Cincinnati Kid makes a regular schedule impossible - he expects to post occasional shows when time and tide allow. So, I'll keep subscribed to his feed, and CCoLAR will stay in the blogroll for awhile longer.

I liked Sean and Brent's conversations, but the highlight of CCoLAR for me was Columbo's One-Minute Mysteries, a sample poker hand offered to the reader for thought on how it should be played out... and then Columbo's explanation on how he played it out, sometimes rightly, sometimes wrongly. The Good News is the Columbo has moved the OMM to another podcast. The Bad News is that it's Ante Up, (warning: annoying QuickTime load at their site) one of those poker podcasts that (in my opinion, of course) falls into the latter category I noted in my opening paragraph. But it's been some time since I last listened to AU. Maybe it's improved, or maybe Columbo will be enough incentive for me to stay listening. But I dunno. And this isn't an encouraging sign about the longevity of AU either.

The other poker podcast I recommend is PokerDiagram, which I warn in advance, won't be to everyone's tastes. PD, as their intro states, are two Brits "playing online poker, and talking about it as they do so." I know that sounds as enticing as listening to a podcast about paint drying ("Do you think?" "Well, let's try!" "No, still tacky, I'm afraid.""Okay, and what color did we choose again?"), but I find it a perfect podcast to exercise by or mow the lawn.

Yesterday, while doing that very thing, I was listening to a PokerDiagram conversation about correctly reading another player's cards, realizing that you were behind... and still playing out the hand. "Ain't that the truth," I thought while later playing in a SnG, on the bubble with AA in my hand. I have a smallish-size stack of around $3k. Blinds are $100/200. I bet out $800, and get a call from the chip leader, who has like four times my stack. Flop is Q blank, blank. I bet the pot, and he calls me, which tells me he probably has the Queen, with the possibility of maybe he's holding a small pair that has tripped out for him. Turn is a Queen, so now he's tripped that if I'm right. I check, as does he, which I expect him to do if he's laying a trap. River is another blank, and he bets just enough to convince me that he does have the Queen... but I call him away. And, of course, he did have the Queen, as I knew from the Flop. But I still bet it, in a perfect example of the hand disregarding what the brain is telling it.

Why do we do that? Who knows, but we all do at one time or another. Bubbling out on that game, football on the TV and Peggy out, I'd go into another SnG and end up taking 1st place, a nice salve for my wounds.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Dreamtime Episode 12 - Love, Theft, and Emails

The DJ spins a few platters while reading emails, answers reader questions and looks into the antecedents of "Love and Theft" in an alternate world version of "Theme Time."

Quote of the Day.

Creating your own blog is about as easy as creating your own urine, and you're about as likely to find someone else interested in it.
via Wired News

The Simpsons vs Star Trek

The title says it all. I want to know where he got the cool theremin.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

The Return of this week's Wheaties...

... and Mr. Rico gets crushered early when his pair of Kings runs into a pair of Queens that trip out on the flop, and out in 43rd of 52.

Until next week.

Rusticating in the Big Country

"I had a job in the great north woods" - Bob Dylan

(Left: A non-vacationing Bear and Curly wait for their Uncle Joe to come take care of them.)

As Peggy and I get older we seem to be getting more rustic. Last year's Fall vacay was in Nova Scotia, this year we went as far north in New Hampshire as you can go without stepping into Canada... and then we stepped into Canada.

Peg booked us into the Lopstick Lodge and Cabins way up in Pittsburg, NH for the first part of our trip. We stayed in Cabin 6... not quite spartan accommodations, as it included a 2-person Jacuzzi and DVD player among its amenities.

"So, what do you do up there?" someone asked before we left.

Well, let's see. You peep a lot. Our view of First Connecticut Lake right from our porch was spectacular. All the views were spectacular. You forget how much country is still in this country until you get to somewhere like the Great North Woods. It's nice to be reminded that there's still Big Country not that far away from most of our doorsteps.

You animal watch a lot. Route 3 in the area is nicknamed "Moose Alley," as there is sometimes more moose on or near the roadway than cars. We only saw one moose on the trip up, but the cabin's journal listed dozens - if not hundreds - of moose sightings, mostly in the early morning, when the vacationing Fred and Peggy were loath to rise. The cabin journal is a nice tradition. Each Lopstick cabin has its own journal, where visitors can record impressions and animal sightings. Cabin 6's journal was filled back to 1995.

Anyway, outside of our sole moose, we saw lots of loon - enjoying their weird maniac cry - ducks, frogs, and a mooching Brittany spaniel whose name might have been "Russell" or "Marshall." The Lopstick also doubles as a hunting lodge during bird season, and the owner's wife runs a pack of eight Brittanys. As my dad used to say, there's no such thing as owning one bird dog if you can own two, or three, or eight.

One of the pups, Marshall, enjoyed visiting us, especially if he thought he could get some cheese. But Marshall was a gourmand, he was happy to eat anything. To your left you'll see him chawing down what was left of some crackers I had tossed out for the ducks who also came to visit each evening. Marshall took great glee in first pointing at the ducks and then scattering them to the winds.

If you like the water, and we do, you can also boat on the many ponds, lakes, creeks, rills, and rivers in the area.

Peggy and I wanted to try kayaking this trip and after successfully bopping around our side of First Connecticut Lake, we girded our loins and strapped the kayak on the Mini - to the amusement of many - and went meandering off to adventure.

The adventure included scuffing up the Mini's roof and bruising Fred's nose when we accidentally dropped the kayak on the return trip, but except for that minor mishap a good time was had by all. We're thinking about buying a (lighter) 2-person kayak and maybe a holder. Or maybe a new SUV, as the Mini - once named the Bub but at the moment called Mr. Scruffy - is petitioning to be returned to Southhampton where he can be adopted by a family appreciative of the British motoring experience, rather than the mad fools he's currently stuck with.

On Friday we did the other thing you do while you're in the Great North Woods (if you're not fishing or hunting) and went hiking to the northernmost point in New Hampshire, up to Third Fourth Connecticut Lake - which is no lake at all but a boggy pond - and the source of the Connecticut River.

When I say "northernmost point" I mean it. Pittsburg, the last town in New Hampshire, is closer to the North Pole than it is to the Equator, being above the 45th Parallel. 20 miles north from Pittsburg, you park next to the U.S. Customs building to get to the trail, and the hike has you regularly crossing the U.S./Canada border. To your left is one of the border markers, which if you straddled, would give you one foot in the U.S. and one in Canada.

The guide books note that the trail to Third Fourth Connecticut is "steep at times," which you may find a masterful understatement when confronted with near-90-degree pitches. But maybe (no "maybe" about it baby, I hear my wife chime in my head) I'm just a wuss, as we met while hiking up a family that included baby in backpack, small child, and grandfather, all enjoying themselves immensely. As did we when we finally made our way to the lake and stood at the source of the Connecticut, not much more than a brook at its beginnings.

Peggy spotted many moose tracks on the trail, but no moose.

On Saturday we crossed the border and made our way over to Montreal, where we didn't have a bad time, but didn't have as much fun as we did while rusticating. Probably lots of things contributing to that. The weather, which had been coolish but sunny during our stay at Lopstick, went funky on Saturday and drizzled through Sunday. Last year we made out like bandits on the Canadian exchange rate (and had done pretty well on our trip to Niagara Falls a few years back, too). This year the exchange rate was almost equal between U.S. and Canadian currency. And Montreal is not a cheap city to eat, stay, or play turista in. By Sunday I had coined the slogan, "Montreal, you're going to pay," after emptying my wallet at bars ($11 Canadian for a martini!), restaurants, flower gardens, and even churches. "All the money goes to the church restoration," the girl behind the counter said, I think seeing my wince as we paid to visit the gorgeous Notre Dame Basilica in Montreal. On the other hand, she gave us a great tour.

Maybe the Montreal stay was too short or maybe the contrast was just too much. Dunno. But we're planning a return to Lopstick soon, and I think you'd have to give us a reason to go back to Montreal.

American Life in Poetry: Column 075


In many American poems, the poet makes a personal appearance and offers us a revealing monologue from center stage, but there are lots of fine poems in which the poet, a stranger in a strange place, observes the lives of others from a distance and imagines her way into them. This poem by Lita Hooper is a good example of this kind of writing.

Love Worn

In a tavern on the Southside of Chicago
a man sits with his wife. From their corner booth
each stares at strangers just beyond the other's shoulder,
nodding to the songs of their youth. Tonight they will not fight.

Thirty years of marriage sits between them
like a bomb. The woman shifts
then rubs her right wrist as the man recalls the day
when they sat on the porch of her parents' home.

Even then he could feel the absence of something
desired or planned. There was the smell
of a freshly tarred driveway, the slow heat,
him offering his future to folks he did not know.

And there was the blooming magnolia tree in the distance--
its oversized petals like those on the woman's dress,
making her belly even larger, her hands
disappearing into the folds.

When the last neighbor or friend leaves their booth
he stares at her hands, which are now closer to his,
remembers that there had always been some joy. Leaning
closer, he believes he can see their daughter in her eyes.

From "Gathering Ground: A Reader Celebrating Cave Canem's First Decade," University of Michigan Press, 2006, by permission of the author. Poem copyright (c) 2006 by Lita Hooper, whose most recent book is "The Art of Work: The Art and Life of Haki Madhubuti," Third World Press, 2006. This weekly column is supported by The Poetry Foundation, The Library of Congress, and the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. For information on permissions and usage, or to download a PDF version of the column, visit