Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Halloween Hands... and an addendum

busted hand after hand until the bitter end, Mr. Rico's pair of 10s were laughable against a pair of Kings and resulted in a dead-last finish.

Dead indeed. Until next week.

But an addendum: As I found myself at loose ends a lot sooner than expected, I signed up for a $5.50 18-person SnG, ended up placing second, and covered my losses for last night as well as several weeks back in time. And proved to myself I can still play poker.

I got a letter yesterday

yes, I did, from the Hon. John E. Sununu, United States Senator of New Hampshire, in reply to my letter protesting his affirmative vote of H.R. 4411, aka the "Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2005."

I won't quote the entire letter here. Suffice to say that Senator Sununu recapped the history of the bill: Merger of Goodlatte's H.R. 4777 and Leach's 4411. On July 11, 2006, House passed 4411 by a vote of 317 to 93. During joint House/Senate session, proponents of 4411 inserted text from the bill into the so-called "SAFE Port Act "(H.R. 4954).

Sununu used the overwhelming need to pass the SAFE Port Act as the reason behind his support of the bill, and finished his letter with the notation that, "I will keep your concerns in mind should Congress consider any pertinent legislation during the remainder of the 109th Congress" and thanked me for sharing my views.

sigh. Not that I expected much more, but the letter is a typical example of noncommittal political rhetoric. I'd almost prefer to hear, "by God, somebody needed to protect you from yourself, you degenerate, you." But no, I'm left no wiser - except my suspicions of course - about whether Sununu is for or agin Internet gambling.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Dreamtime Episode 19 - That Ol' Black Magic

Dreamtime has its Bob Dylan mask on with a special Halloween show that includes The Little Man Who Wasn't There; Samantha Stephens; Peggy Lee; Jerry Lewis; The Five Blobs; a young Bob Dylan; a Dylan imitator; Judy Garland; The Jitterbug; and The Munsters.

Happy Halloween!

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Friday, October 27, 2006

Flatt & Scruggs Seranade Granny with a little Bob Dylan



... about as many of my favorites in one clip as I'm ever likely to see. Flatt & Scruggs, The Beverly Hillibillies, a Dylan song, and Granny and Jed cutting a buck-and-wing.

Who could ask for more?

Fund free mammograms

My friend Patti tells me that The Breast Cancer Site is having trouble getting enough people to click on the "Fund Free Mammograms" button on their site so they can meet their quota of donating at least one free mammogram a day to underprivileged women.

It doesn't cost you a thing, and 100% of collected revenue from the sponsors goes to pay for the mammograms.

Go visit today and once a day thereafter, and click on the "Fund Free Mammograms" button.

American Life in Poetry: Column 083

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE, 2004-2006

Poems of simple pleasure, poems of quiet celebration, well, they aren't anything like those poems we were asked to wrestle with in high school, our teachers insisting that we get a headlock on THE MEANING. This one by Dale Ritterbusch of Wisconsin is more my cup of tea.


Green Tea

There is this tea
I have sometimes,
Pan Long Ying Hao,
so tightly curled
it looks like tiny roots
gnarled, a greenish-gray.
When it steeps, it opens
the way you woke this morning,
stretching, your hands behind
your head, back arched,
toes pointing, a smile steeped
in ceremony, a celebration,
the reaching of your arms.


Reprinted from "Far From the Temple of Heaven," Black Moss Press, April 2006, by permission of the author. Copyright (c) 2005 by Dale Ritterbusch. This weekly column is supported by The Poetry Foundation, The Library of Congress, and the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

American Life in Poetry: Column 082

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE, 2004-2006

Many poems celebrate the joys of having children. Michigan poet Jeff Vande Zande reminds us that adults make mistakes, even with children they love, and that parenting is about fear as well as joy.


Clean

Her small body shines
with water and light.
Giggling, she squeals "daddy,"
splashes until his pants darken.
Five more minutes, he thinks,
stepping out quickly,
pouring himself a drink,
not expecting to return
to find her slipped under,
her tiny face staring up
through the undulating surface.
Before he can move,
or drop his scotch,
she raises her dripping head,
her mouth a perfect O.
The sound of her gulped breath
takes the wind out of him.
Her face,
pale and awed,
understands the other side
of water and air.
His wife didn't see,
doesn't know.
Her feet pulse and fade
in the upstairs joists.
His daughter cries,
slips from him, not giggling.
She wants out.
He tries to keep her
in the tub, in the light.
He's on his knees.


Reprinted from "Rattle," Winter, 2005, by permission of the poet, whose most recent book is "Into the Desperate Country," March Street 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 www.americanlifeinpoetry.org.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Everything was going so well until I was hit by that truck

In last night's Wheaties, that truck was the always-tough HighOnPokr, who submitted the proposition that pairing a board-high 10 backed by a pocket Ace doesn't necessarily mean Rico's winning the hand... certainly not when your opponent is holding a pair of Aces. And I was out in 14th. HighonPokr would finish in 3rd of a very small field of 41 where only five places paid out.

Some mantras to hum to oneself in future games....

  1. An opponent who continues to bet, (or calls your big bet) when you've paired the board and are holding an Ace kicker is very likely to have you beat.

  2. Going all-in when you have your opponent covered is a powerful weapon. Going all-in when your opponent has you covered is seldom a good idea unless all signs point to your winning.
My biggest leak continues to be aggressiveness with problematic hands, especially when I'm the relative short stack at the table. But, on the other hand, finishing 14th out of 41 is a helluva lot better than finishing 47th out of 48th.

Outside of playing relatively better - albeit still out of the money, which is the only measurement that counts in tournament games - I had the pleasure of being one slice of bread in a Maudie sandwich for most of the game last night, the lil' dwarf being the other. That conjures pictures beyond the pale, I know, but what the hell. It was fun, and I owe Maudie and Iggy the story of my Dad's adventures as a seaplane charter pilot in Miama during the `30s at some point... but only if BONUS CODE: IGGY on FullTilt becomes a Dreamtime sponsor.

Until next week.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Saint Misbehavin'


Although he probably doesn't remember me, I briefly knew Wavy Gravy, nee Hugh Romney, in the early `70s. Professional clown turned "hippie," (as if there were ever any difference) and now back to professional clown again, Gravy now has a well-deserved documentary produced about his life.

Another reason to go to Woodstock.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Go read this op-ed article...

in the NY Times...

"Thus society is weakened every time a law is passed that large numbers of reasonable, responsible citizens think is stupid. Such laws invite good citizens to choose knowingly to break the law, confident that they are doing nothing morally wrong."
Hear, hear.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Lighting a $10 bill on fire...


... would have been just as economical as my play in last night Wheaties, where Mr. Rico placed a shameful 47th out of 48 eight minutes into the tournament.

Placing dead last has a certain frisson to it - you can always claim bad beats, recklessness or a devil-may-care 'tude.

Placing second to dead last is just embarasking, as Popeye would say.

Wha' happened? I think louddwnunder - who ended up finishing 4th - hypnotized me or something, as my finger refused to move the cursor from the "Raise" and "Call" buttons even though all I was holding a sooooooooooooted A9. But did I have a flush draw at the flop? No, I did not. I did now have a pair of Aces, but the emphasis should have been on the pair, rather than the A. And did loud continue to bet hard at me, and had she had already raised me pre-flop and then re-raised my raise? Yes, she did. And did I continue to ignore the information that was being telegraphed to me? Yes I did.

And when I went all-in with my raggedy-ass'd pair of Aces, did loud flip over a pair of Kings with one more already flopped on the board? Yes she did. And was I thoroughly beaten and now drawing all but dead? Yes I was.

And why did I do this? Well, you could say that I know loud is an aggressive player and thought she had made a bluff raise pre-flop to steal my blind, which was all of $20. And once that misread started me down the slippery slope I continued to compound the error rather than rethink and cut my losses. You could say that.

Or you could say that like Our Host noted about himself in this week's tournament notes, sometimes I suck at poker.

Until next week.

Monday, October 16, 2006

American Life in Poetry: Column 081

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE, 2004-2006

Readers of this column during the past year have by now learned how enthusiastic I am about poems describing everyday life. I've tried to show how the ordinary can be made extraordinary through close and transforming observation. Here Tess Gallagher goes to the mailbox to post a letter. We've all done that, haven't we? But notice how closely she pays attention to this simple experience, and how she fits this one moment into the meaning of her life.


Under Stars

The sleep of this night deepens
because I have walked coatless from the house
carrying the white envelope.
All night it will say one name
in its little tin house by the roadside.

I have raised the metal flag
so its shadow under the roadlamp
leaves an imprint on the rain-heavy bushes.
Now I will walk back
thinking of the few lights still on
in the town a mile away.

In the yellowed light of a kitchen
the millworker has finished his coffee,
his wife has laid out the white slices of bread
on the counter. Now while the bed they have left
is still warm, I will think of you, you
who are so far away
you have caused me to look up at the stars.

Tonight they have not moved
from childhood, those games played after dark.
Again I walk into the wet grass
toward the starry voices. Again, I
am the found one, intimate, returned
by all I touch on the way.


"Under Stars" copyright (c) 1987 by Tess Gallagher. Reprinted from "Amplitude: New & Selected Poems" with the permission of Graywolf Press, Saint Paul, Minnesota. Gallagher's most recent book of poetry is "Dear Ghosts: Poems," Graywolf 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 www.americanlifeinpoetry.org.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

NBC announces late-night poker show


... seems like the worse of all possible timing, but what the hell, anything that keeps poker in the news right now is a Good Thing. And it includes the return of hubba hubba Shana Hiatt:

EW YORK - Oct. 11, 2006 - NBC invites viewers into the exclusive Las Vegas poker scene with its new late night show, "Poker After Dark," debuting Jan. 2 at 2:05 a.m. ET/PT, it was announced today by Marc Graboff, President, NBC Universal Television, West Coast. The nightly hour-long show, hosted by Shana Hiatt, one of poker's most recognizable faces, will air Monday - Saturday and features six poker professionals vying for a winner-take-all $120,000 first place prize.

Hosted by former World Poker Tour host Hiatt - dubbed one of Maxim magazine's "Hot 100 of 2005" - each night of original programming will feature an intimate look at one table as it develops over the week, culminating with a winner on Friday night. Saturday night's show - the "director's cut" - will recap the week's events with Hiatt and that week's winner offering commentary and insight into their winning strategy (airing from 1-2 a.m. ET/PT following "Saturday Night Live" check local listings).

Set in the back room of various casinos on the Vegas strip, "Poker After Dark" gives viewers an intimate look inside a poker game usually reserved for the eyes of the professional poker players themselves. "Poker After Dark" will feature the world's top pros, all miked during the weekly battles for the $120,000 pot - including Phil Ivey, Daniel Negreanu, Doyle Brunson, Howard Lederer, Chris Ferguson, Erick Lindgren, Jennifer Harman and Gus Hansen - fighting it out for poker supremacy.

"There's a vibrant late night audience looking for original programming," said Graboff. "We felt this inside look at the professional poker scene is perfect for late night television and those viewers seeking an unique and original broadcast."

Hiatt, an East Coast native, hosted the World Poker Tour from 2003 to 2005. A former model, Hiatt has also appeared in the films "Must Love Dogs" and "Grandma's Boy."

"Poker After Dark" is produced in conjunction with Poker Productions, the only television production company owned and operated by top professional poker players. Producers Mori Eskandani and Eric Drache bring 63 years of combined poker experience to their company and both have played a key role in producing some of television's best poker shows, including both seasons of NBC's "Heads Up Championship," two seasons of GSN's "High Stakes Poker," three seasons of Fox Sports Net and NBC's "Poker Superstars" and CBS' "Intercontinental Poker Championship."

Friday, October 13, 2006

The balloon goes up

Bush Signs Ports Bill With Poker Provision
Port Security Bill Includes Unrelated Section Tightening Ban On Most Online Gambling


(a separate report has it that Party Poker was down for "scheduled maintenance'," with the implication that the "scheduled maintenance" is to make Party's real money games unavailable to US players, as they've already announced.

I just logged into UltimateBet, which has a link to the following press release...

UltimateBet believes players deserve the best gaming experience on the net! That’s why we continue to be available for play by all members of the online community worldwide, including US players.

The new US legislation, expected to be signed on Friday, October 13, does not prohibit the online community playing online poker. At UltimateBet, it’s business as usual. All players’ deposits are held safely in a segregated account at a Tier 1 legal institution.

Business as usual at PokerStars too. The next 270 days will be a lot like the Chinese curse, "may you live in interesting times.")

***

CBS/AP) President Bush signed into law a bill Friday to help prevent terrorists from sneaking a nuclear, chemical or germ weapon into the United States inside one of the 11 million shipping containers that enter the U.S. each year — many without inspection.

The bill also includes an unrelated provision that seeks to strengthen laws that forbid most online gambling.

Mr. Bush used the bill-signing ceremony to assert that Republicans are tough on terror, a key issue in congressional elections just less than four weeks away.

"We're going to protect our ports. We're going to defend this homeland, and we're going to win this war on terror," Mr. Bush said.

He did not mention the gambling provision. Instead, Mr. Bush focused on the multiple ways the legislation tightens security and closes a loophole in anti-terror defenses, especially at ports.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

And from the people that brought you the IGP...

as the saying goes, the definition of an honest politician is one who stays bought...

again, via Iggy

PokerStars says business as usual

PokerStars speaks via the Iggster:
PokerStars.com - Our business continues as before

Dear PokerStars Player -

As you are probably aware, the United States Congress recently enacted the Safe Port Act which contains provisions relating to Internet gambling.

PokerStars has received extensive expert advice from within and outside the U.S. which concluded that these provisions do not alter the U.S. legal situation with respect to online poker. Furthermore it is important to emphasize that the Act does not in any way prohibit you from playing online poker.

Therefore, our business continues as before - open to players worldwide including the US. You may play on our site as you did prior to the Act.

PokerStars believes that poker is a game of skill enjoyed by millions of players and we remain committed to providing you a safe and fun environment in which to play. We value your loyalty to PokerStars, and look forward to continuing to serve you with the best online poker experience, as we have for the past five years, six billion hands, and 40 million tournaments.

PokerStars Management
Well, that's all well and good PS, and it's one less thing for me to worry about. Now if my bank and ISP would say that, I'd be reassured. Actually, I'm not all that worried about my bank. I have a feeling that as far as they're concerned, a transfer to Neteller falls under compliance... it's not the bank's responsibility to monitor where the money goes from there. But, I can easly envision a scenario where pressure is brought on Adelphia - soon to be Comcast - to block my access to online poker sites. And that does worry me.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

and in the Weeekly Wheaties...

... Mr Rico finished almost in mid-field, 27th out of 52, trapped and beaten all but to a pulp when his pocket Queens met a perfectly slow-played AA.

Even then the indefatigable Rico brought his remaining 90 chips up to $400 something until blinds ate him back down to $260. A pair of 5s seemed worth the move, but an AJ hand matched both on the flop and that's all she wrote for me.

I was going to beat up on the ballless poker blogging community, which seems to have bailed en masse from online poker, apparently worried that they might be the last fool getting their money out, but 52 is a helluva lot better than the 20 who were signed up when I arrived at 8:00, although nowhere near last week's 72. Kudos to those who played. And to those who didn't, I hope you have a better excuse than cashing out. Me, I've developed the `tude that I'm playing until PokerStars throws me out... I'll take my chances, thank you.

On October 9th, 1940...

... John Lennon was born. He would have been 66 yesterday.

It would have been nice to have a 66-year-old Lennon around. I suspect he would have been much like the 65-year-old Dylan, constantly reinventing himself, constantly surprising us.

Monday, October 09, 2006

and over in the Dreamtime podcast...


Episode 16 is up: on High School USA, the "Facenda Freeze," and more than 15 minutes of fame.

American Life in Poetry: Column 080

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE, 2004-2006

One of poetry's traditional public services is the presentation of elegies in honor of the dead. Here James McKean remembers a colorful friend and neighbor.


Elegy for an Old Boxer

From my window
I watch the roots of a willow
push your house crooked,
women rummage through boxes,
your sons cart away the TV, its cord
trailing like your useless arms.
Only weeks ago we watched the heavyweights,
and between rounds you pummeled the air,
drank whiskey, admonished "Know your competition!"
You did, Kansas, the '20s
when you measured the town champ
as he danced the same dance over and over:
left foot, right lead, head down,
the move you'd dreamt about for days.
Then right on cue your hay-bale uppercut
compressed his spine. You know. That was that.
Now your mail piles up, RESIDENT circled
"not here." Your lawn goes to seed. Dandelions
burst in the wind. From my window
I see you flat on your back on some canvas,
above you a wrinkled face, its clippy bow tie
bobbing toward ten. There's someone behind you,
resting easy against the ropes,
a last minute substitute on the card you knew
so well, vaguely familiar, taken for granted,
with a sucker punch you don't remember
ever having seen.


Reprinted from "Headlong," University of Utah Press, 1987, by permission of the author. First published in "Prairie Schooner," Vol. 53, No. 3, (Fall 1979). Copyright (c) 1979 by James McKean, whose latest book is nonfiction, "Home Stand: Growing up in Sports", Michigan State University Press, 2005. 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 www.americanlifeinpoetry.org.

Uncertainty driving cashouts

Gracie from sheverb and "ScurvyDog" from Sound of a Suckout get interviewed by the AP on the impact - both current and future - of the Internet Gambling Bill. Highlights...

Internet poker players and other gamblers in the U.S. have withdrawn thousands of dollars from their Web-based accounts while some gaming sites have raced to block U.S. residents' access to online poker, casinos and sports-betting just a week after Congress approved a ban on banks doing business with the sites....

Gracie Logan, 40, of Gainesville, Fla., was one of the poker boom's early players, who started playing after seeing Moneymaker win on TV. Between Monday and Wednesday, she withdrew "a few thousand dollars" from her online poker accounts after hearing about the bill's passage and will instead likely play live poker with friends or on casino boats along the East Coast.

"I'm not a professional poker player, but I have enough (in the accounts) that I was concerned about pulling it off-line," Logan said. "I won't be reloading until the climate settles down. ... There are so many alternatives for live games here. There's a thriving poker community in my town."

The changes in the online poker industry were even harder for Seth Shafer, 32, of Lockhart, Texas, who said he stands to lose up to $40,000 a year in revenue from gambling, blog advertising and signing up new players on gambling Web sites. He said he also has pulled out thousands of dollars from gambling sites.

"The primary reason for me was uncertainty," Shafer said. "The worst-case scenario was what I was imagining - everyone withdrawing simultaneously and not enough money to go out and PartyPoker declaring bankruptcy and going insolvent - you would be at the very bottom of a long list of people asking them for money.

I'm one of those people who cashed out, although nothing near the "thousands" enjoyed by Gracie and Seth (reminding me of what small beer I am in the online poker community), and like Gracie won't be reloading until the dust settles. Titan Poker has apparently closed US players accounts, now too. FullTilt is claiming that business is as usual with them - although we'll see what happens when the bill is signed by Bush. Still no word from either of my two favorite sites, UltimateBet and PokerStars.

Lots of money at stake here, folks, and just not betting money. Take a look at ScurvyDog's post here for elaboration on why he is looking at losing between $30-40k a year thanks to the law.

Your Zen Bob Dylan Moment of the week

wherein a Dylan puppet plays "Only a Hobo"

via The SeattlePI Bob Dylan imitation contest

Thursday, October 05, 2006

How the IGP was passed...

a pretty good article from CBS News here. Some excerpts:

All of this came to a screeching halt last weekend, when an unexpected confluence of political events led Congress to stick a provision into a port security bill at the 11th hour — one that's designed to shut down Internet gaming in the United States.

There were no hearings and no debate in the Senate, originally created by the Constitutional framers to be the "world's greatest deliberative body," where the potential passions of the mob as expressed by the larger, more populist House of Representatives, would be slowed down and moderated by the careful consideration intended by the rules of the Senate.

Not this time.

House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., concerned that his involvement with the discredited Jack Abramoff (lobbyist for Indian gaming interests) might jeopardize his re-election prospects in November, instructed the House leadership to pass a bill restricting Internet gaming in the United States — no matter what it took. The House did just that.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., who would love to run for President in 2008, was eager to do the same in the Senate to show the vocal Christian right wing of his party that he shares their aversion to gambling. (Remember the Reagan days, when the conservative wing of the Republican Party won elections by railing against big government meddling in people’s lives? I guess those folks will have to vote Democratic now.)


But Frist could not move a bill through committee and onto the floor prior to the November elections. So he found a way to slide a provision into an unrelated bill designed to increase security at America’s ports, without any hearings or debate. At the last moment, just before Congress recessed so Hastert and Frist and their colleagues could go home to campaign for re-election, the Senate passed the port security bill, including the Internet gaming provisions.,,

...Technically, the new law does not make it illegal to play poker on the Internet. Instead, it makes it illegal for any bank, credit card company or other financial intermediary to process transfers to or from an Internet gaming site.

In other words, there is no practical, safe way to legally deposit money into your PokerStars account to play in a tournament or take money out if you win.

The word on the street is that three of the largest Internet poker sites — PokerStars, Party Poker (note from Fred: already happened with Party) and Pacific Poker — will shortly announce that they are withdrawing from the U.S. market. The last of the major sites, Full Tilt Poker, is on the fence about what to do....

...I predict things will not stay this way for long. Once the election is over, those with an economic interest in the poker industry (including the banks and credit-card companies) will prevail on Congress to replace this hastily contrived political fix with a more sensible legislation that legalizes, regulates and taxes online gaming....
I hope the writer, Ken Adams, is right, with that last opinion. But it's a helluva lot harder to get a law changed than to get it enacted...

PartyGaming shares continue to collapse, PokerStars IPO cancelled

... and the fallout continues...

PartyGambling continues to unravel Wednesday following a serious of negative announcements while number two facing online poker brand, PokerStars, declared it will not be seeking a previously-planned IPO any time soon. Shares in beleaguered PartyGaming took a further battering today following a newspaper report which said it would have to negotiate a new loan facility with its banks within 30 days of anti-gaming legislation being approved.

Internet gambling stocks crashed on Monday after strict new laws to crackdown on online betting in the United States were unexpectedly approved by Congress at the weekend.

The value of the sector was halved and billions of pounds were lost as shares in the London-listed companies tumbled to their lowest ever levels.

Party Poker owner PartyGaming saw its stock slide 58% on Monday and a further 9% on Tuesday as it generates three-quarters of its business in the US.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

And a note from your station manager...

Blogger is finally stumbling into Web 2.0, allowing some things (like labels, drag and drop rearranging of page elements, etc.) that other blog creation tools have been offering for years. I've been holding off, as I knew that "upgrading" would break my highly customized template. But, as it was breaking with today's posts for some reason anyway, I decided to bite the bullet.

fhb will slowly but surely return what we laughingly refer to as "normal," but I'd place more emphasis on the "slowly" part for the near future.

Katie Melua enters record books - world's deepest underwater concert

via Peggy, who has been feeding the blog of late. We're both big fans of Katie Melua:

via the BBC News


Singer Katie Melua has entered the record books by playing the world's deepest underwater concert.

Melua and her band performed for workers 303 metres below sea level on the Statoil Troll A gas rig in the North Sea.

"This was definitely the most surreal gig I have ever done," Melua said.

The 22-year-old singer underwent extensive medical tests and survival training in Norway before flying by helicopter to the rig.

"It took nine minutes to go from the main part of the gas platform down to the bottom of the shaft in a lift," said Melua.

"Giving a concert to the workers there was something really extraordinary and an occasion that I will remember all my life."

Deep sea set-list

The songs Melua performed included Closest Thing To Crazy and Nine Million Bicycles.

Guinness World Records has confirmed the gig sets a new record.

The concert was held to celebrate the 10th anniversary of gas production on Troll A and was filmed for Norwegian TV channel NRK.

Melua is currently the UK's biggest-selling female artist.

In this week's (and we hope isn't the last) Wheaties

Possibly distracted by all the bad news, moaning, and gnashing of teeth about the cloudy future of online poker for U.S. players, Mr. Rico placed an indifferent 46th in the largest field we've seen in awhile, 75 players (and yes, I know, a counter-argument to my "Fred does better in larger fields" proposition). I would imagine that many people were there in case it actually was the last Wheaties. No word on that, though the rumor mill is rife about more sites banning of U.S. players in the wake of Party Poker's announcement on the 2nd.

To my readers who don't follow poker news: the Internet Gambling Prohibition (IGP) Act was passed by Congress last week - as an attachment to the "Safe Port" Act. I'm ashamed to say that both New Hampshire representatives voted in favor of the bill. So much for Live Free or Die. The IGP amendment is expected to be signed into law by Bush... possibly as early as today.

1) The IGP amendment will require financial institutions to monitor and block funding of poker accounts, whether Credit Cards, ACH, Stored Value Cards, electronic checks (debits), electronic funds transfers or physical checks. Within 270 days the Federal Reserve Board and the Attorney General will proscribe policies and procedures with which banks and other financial institutions will enforce this act to monitor and block financial transactions.

2) The IGP amendment requires that “Interactive Computer Services”, essentially Internet
Service Providers (ISPs), remove or disable access to internet links and hyperlinks “that reside” on the ISPs servers to “Internet Gambling” upon written notice from a State Attorney General, or the Attorney General of the United States. The exemptions included in the “Prohibition” are for wagering on Horseracing, Intrastate Lotteries, Intrastate Gaming (where legal), Indian Reservations, and playing Fantasy Sports, but not poker.

According to the Poker Players Alliance, more than 70 million Americans play poker, representing almost a quarter of the U.S. population. Roughly one-third of poker-playing Americans play over the Internet. In addition, the game is played legally in public card rooms in Nevada, New Jersey, Florida, Connecticut ,California, Washington, Missouri, Mississippi, Iowa, Indiana, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Michigan, South Dakota, Michigan, and many other states. Strangly, the new law -- upon its signing by President Bush -- protects state-run lotteries and horse racing from the new law, but lumps poker in with games of chance such as craps and roulette.

I don't know what's going to happen, of course, and I've been surprised by the precipitous action already taken by Party Poker and other sites. Part of this is apparently because the opinion stated by Nolan Dalla, former Director of Communications for PokerStars.com, seems to be shared by many. Dalla apparently resigned his position on the advice of his lawyer as a direct outcome of the imminent passage of the law. In an open letter to the poker community he writes...

Once this bill is signed into law (possibly as early as Wednesday, Oct. 4), it becomes effective immediately. This is why 888, PartyGaming, and others are suspending US operations, effective immediately...

I expect this to have a ripple affect across the entire industry. Most of the larger poker sites, and likely offshore sportsbooks as well, will be forced to block wagers from US residents. Otherwise, all operators/employees are subject to arrest and prosecution if they enter US territory. Those here and elsewhere who have stated this new law “only applies to financial transactions” have a narrow and tragically misguided view of the legislation. It essentially makes any employee or agent of the offshore site a criminal under US law — UNLESS they block transactions from US residents...

You can read Dalla's full article here. I'm not sure I buy everything he's saying. But on the other hand, his conclusion, a nod to the old bumper sticker that reads If you're not outraged, you're not paying attention is right on.

Until next week... I hope.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

What I'm not getting for Christmas this year...

...via Peggy.

This year's Neiman Marcus holiday catalog offers gift seekers a slew of ideas ranging from a $25 crystal desk bell to the $1.76 million space charter for six passengers including medical assessments, training, a ride on the Virgin Galactic spaceship and an after-party at Virgin boss Sir Richard Branson's private-island retreat in the Caribbean.
But honey, it's only $1.76 million and includes a four-night stay on Necker Island in the British Virgin Islands!

Monday, October 02, 2006

American Life in Poetry: Column 079

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE, 2004-2006

The news coverage of Hurricane Katrina gave America a vivid look at our poor and powerless neighbors. Here Alex Phillips of Massachusetts condenses his observations of our country's underclass into a wise, tough little poem.


Work Shy

To be poor and raise skinny children.
To own nothing but skinny clothing.
Skinny food falls in between cracks.
Friends cannot visit your skinny home.
They cannot fit through the door.
Your skinny thoughts evaporate into
the day or the night that you cannot
see with your tiny eyes.

God sticks you with the smallest pins
and your blood, the red is diluted.
Imagine a tiny hole, the other side
of which is a fat world and how
lost you would feel. Of course,
I'm speaking to myself.
How lost I would feel, and how dangerous.


Reprinted from "Open City," Winter 2005-2006, No. 21, by permission of the poet. Copyright (c) 2005 by Alex Phillips, whose chapbook "Under a Paper Trellis" is forthcoming from Factory Hollow Press. 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 www.americanlifeinpoetry.org.

American Life in Poetry: Column 078

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE, 2004-2006

Mothers and fathers grow accustomed to being asked by young children, "What's that?" Thus parents relearn the world by having to explain things they haven't thought about in years. In this poem the Illinois poet Bruce Guernsey looks closely at common, everyday moss and tries to explain its nature for us. I admire the way the poem deepens as the moss moves from being a slipcover to wet dust on a gravestone.


Moss

How must it be
to be moss,
that slipcover of rocks?--
imagine,

greening in the dark,
longing for north,
the silence
of birds gone south.

How does moss do it,
all day
in a dank place
and never a cough?--

a wet dust
where light fails,
where the chisel
cut the name.


Reprinted from "Peripheral Vision," published by Small Poetry Press, Pleasant Hill, CA. Copyright (c) 1997 by Bruce Guernsey and reprinted by permission of the author, whose latest book is "The Lost Brigade," Water Press and Media, 2005. 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 www.americanlifeinpoetry.org.