Tuesday, November 27, 2007

God's Little Toy

As William Gibson notes, "God's Little Toy" is what Bill Burroughs called the tape recorder, as he used it to create his "cut-up" compositions. Here's an image variation of the cut-up technique, which I think Burroughs would have loved as much as Gibson and I do. Drop in a word or phrase into the "net.art.generator," click a button, and it pulls related images from the Web into a sometimes beautiful collage. Above, the image I generated from "Poker." Peggy would be amused, but not surprised, that when I tried "Fred Bals," the central image was of Bob Dylan.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Monopoly With Real Money

via The Wall Street Journal

In 1941, the British Secret Service asked the [Monopoly's] British licensee John Waddington Ltd. to add secret extras to some sets, which had become standard elements of the aid packages that the Red Cross delivered to allied prisoners of war. Along with the usual dog, top hat and and thimble, the sets had a metal file, compass, and silk maps of safe houses (silk, because it folds into small spaces and unfolds silently). Even better, real French, German and Italian currency was hidden underneath the game’s fake money. Departing allied soldiers and pilots were told that if they were captured they should look out for the special editions, identified by a red dot in the Free Parking space. Any sets remaining in the U.K. were destroyed after the war. Of the 35,000 prisoners of war who escaped German prison camps by the end of the war, “more than a few of those certainly owe their breakout to the classic board game,” says Mr. McMahon.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

What I Want for Xmas, Part the Nth

Unless Santa wants to bring me one of the new iTouchs (iTouches?), then I would be satisfied with this way-cool Steampunk skin for my appropriately ancient (all of a year!) Nano.

Quote of the Day

"If you're driving around with a pig, everyone knows what you're doing."

Possibly not. In this case, we're talking about truffles. Smithsonian magazine interviews primo truffle hunter, Charles Lefevre who owns New World Truffieres, a business that well sell you hazelnut and oak seedlings inoculated with truffle spores. A good climate (which unfortunately is not New Hamster's), patience, luck, and a good pig or hunting dog, and you too can farm a product that can run from $100-1,500 per lb (at least when in the wild).

Monday, November 12, 2007

November 11-12, 2007

"The Sergeant said, "Sir, are you sure
This is the best way back to the base?"
"Sergeant, go on, I've forded this river
About a mile above this place.
It'll be a little soggy, but just keep sloggin'.
We'll soon be on dry ground."
We were waist deep in the Big Muddy,
And the big fool said to push on." - Peter Seeger, Waist Deep in The Big Muddy

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

The link to Maudie's poker blog has....

... changed to www.pokerperspectives.com. So, if in some strange twist of fate you still have Maudie's poker blog old link in your blogroll and you haven't heard the word anyplace else by now, go fix it.

Questions still pending, Ms. M. How does one have 1/2 an affair? What happened to the word "Poker" in your logo? Huh, huh?

No Free Lunches in Poker

"TANSTAAFL," Robert Heinlein noted in his best book, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, and although bars stopped offering free lunches to patrons decades ago, the truism still holds.

The Globe had an interesting article yesterday on a free-play poker site, the so-called "National League of Poker," (NLOP) based out of Framingham, MA. The business plan of NOLOP is advertising... and lots of it, too. You can't gamble for money on NLOP, instead you accumulate points and you become eligible for cash and prizes. According to the article, NLOP "...guarantees $25,000 will be paid out [each month] in cash and prizes including trips, electronics, sponsor specials, and seats at the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas. Last month the league mailed to more than 3,000 people checks ranging from $5 to $500..." The CEO notes in the article that the site generates over $125,000 in profit each month.

So, I hied my electronic ricoM over to NLOP and was, ah, less than impressed in an admittedly short one-hour session at the tables. Lets see:

  1. The site does not work with Firefox. I use IE only when I have to, mostly because some clients require it, but I went through the NLOP installation process, which required downloading an ActiveX control and updating Flash (even though I actually had the latest version, NLOP required a re-install, claiming my version was outdated).

  2. The interface is klutzy. The game play area is a non-resizable window and does not allow you to ALT-TAB to any other IE window. There are ads flashing continuously at right and bottom in the game play area - both annoying and distracting. The poker interface is bare bones. You can do well-executed Flash poker interfaces. The now-defunct Dead Man's Hand, used to promote a video game and later Deadwood, was an example. The NLOP interface is not an example of a well-executed Flash poker interface.

  3. Play was s l o w, like molasseses. A round could take from 2-3 minutes with player hands being continuously time-outed.

  4. Play was what you would expect from what is essentially a free-roll. Lots of all-ins and suckouts with nothing.
All-in-all if you're used to play-for-money poker sites, you're probably not going to find anything to like about NLOP. If you're a n00B to on-line poker, aren't particularly technically snooty, tolerant of banner ads, and looking for "cash and prizes" you might want to give it a try. On the other hand, most established poker sites already offer free play. Just put in .net rather than .com. You won't get those cash and prizes, but you'll probably have a better user experience and possibly even learn how to play better poker.

A couple of other comments on the Globe article itself. It's news to me that the UIGEA was "created to stop offshore poker sites from capitalizing on foreign market exchanges" as the article states without explanation. Out of the various "official" explanations I've seen, the most repeated is that the UIGEA is/was to prevent money transfers from U.S. poker player's banks to/from offshore accounts.

As is usual with popular reporting on on-line poker, the reporter uses extreme examples as "color," one a 23-year-old who reportedly plays 12-hour sessions at a time. Of course, people like me, who play a few hours a week in weekly games, aren't all that interesting.

Monday, November 05, 2007

What does it take to get you up, you damn fool?

As my friend Croz says, any cat owner will find this scenario very familiar. Bear's variation is to go into the bathroom and start knocking anything that is knockable over with his booners. It's pretty bad, but so far no other cat has ever exceeded our late Heidy-Ho, Speedy Tomato, who would drop objects - preferably pointed - into my slippers before getting me up, and then watch with little-disguised amusement as I hopped around the room cursing.

It takes a special personality to live with a cat.

More Separated at Birth

I entertain and amuse Diane, our friend and the lady who has been cutting my hair (as well as Peggy's) for at least a decade and a half, as hard as that is for all of us to believe.

I amuse Diane not least because I'm willing to go along with most anything that occurs to her. She used to get quite creative back in the day with dyes and special cuts, although I finally had to call a temporary hiatus when Diane dyed my hair a particular gaudy orange, and somehow I also ended up with a temporary tattoo of a bleeding heart that said "Mother." That would have been fine, except I forgot that I had a meeting later that afternoon. I brazened it out, although I did get a few strange looks, and at the end of the meeting one of the V.P.s put his arm around me as we walked out and said, "You know, Fred, I like you because you remind me of my son."

Diane had been waiting for me all this Halloween, as I was the only adult whose hair she knew she could spike and dye a fluorescent blue. Earlier she had had a seven-year-old in, who had gotten permission from his Dad for Diane to work her magic to transform him into his favorite character - Sonic the Hedgehog.

So, I spent the rest of Halloween as Sonic's older brother, Fred. The kids who came to the door later loved it, but my favorite moment was stopping by a comic book store earlier in the day, where I'm a regular. The clerk behind the desk, a Goth with black fingernails and multiple piercings, looked up at me and smiled, "Like the new hair."