Following some Amazon recommendations, I decided to take a chance on Michael Craig's "The Professor, the Banker and the Suicide King", which is the story of a billionaire's attempts to beat a bunch of cash-game pros in Vegas over the course of a few years. I'm not too interested in reading about this kind of poker, head-to-head limit Hold 'Em, but thankfully, the book isn't much about the actual game play.
Instead, a nice bonus of this book is that I finally got to read a lot more of the backstory behind the pros I see on TV on the World Poker Tour or High Stakes Poker. I have an immense amount of respect now for players like Ted Forrest, Todd Brunson and Jennifer Harman, and I found out a lot more about some of the other characters like Howard Lederer, Johnny Chan and Chip Reese, not to mention what Doyle Brunson is doing these days (rarely do I read anything about him that isn't just a biography of his life before he got to Vegas).
If you are a fan of either of the TV shows that I mentioned (or any of the World Series of Poker broadcasts), you will definitely want to read this book. It tells you what has been going on in Vegas (not just with the players but with the casino industry) while these shows have gained in popularity. In addition to all of this backstory, the author (Craig) also tells the story of how Andy Beal (the billionaire) fared against all the pros, including the negotiations of stakes, game conditions, and so forth, and what Beal did to make himself a better player.
All in all, surprisingly good. Nothing much here useful about poker strategy, but probably the best collection of present-day poker stories out there (as opposed to the countless books that retell the story of the origin of the World Series of Poker).
The great thing about Tom Tomorrow is that he knows all of the arguments (both sides) for every political issue so thoroughly. And that allows him to summarize debates concisely and always with a twisted sense of humor. His latest book, "Hell in a Handbasket" is a collection of cartoons since about the beginning of the Bush presidency, and he deals with everything big since then.
This is actually a fun and easy way to learn about the major political arguments of the last 5-6 years. Or I suppose you could just be a cheapskate and read his online cartoon archive. There are so many great ones, including one of my favorites:
An important issue heading into the November elections ought to be the Iraq War. It's not in the news much right now, of course. It's too boring for the "liberal" media to follow the disastrous quagmire killing dozens of our troops every month, not to mention hundreds of Iraqis (time for a big shout out to the "Culture of Life" crowd!). But it is still there, sucking our resources away, killing or permanently damaging (physically and/or emotionally) our best and brightest. Meanwhile, the administration responsible for most of the war decisions, you know, the guys who all had other priorities when it was their turn to fight long ago, are making tax cuts for the wealthiest 0.1% their top priority.
Here are a couple of quotes, courtesy of Glenn Greenwald, from back around the beginning of this mess. Read them for yourselves and see if you can figure out who has credibility to talk about the Iraq War today.
First, from the dishonest law professor known as "Instapundit":
Maybe we shouldn’t rub in just how wrong, and morally corrupt the antiwar case was. Maybe we should rise above the temptation to point out that claims of a "quagmire" were wrong — again! — how efforts at moral equivalence were obscenely wrong — again! — how the antiwar folks are still, far too often, trying to move the goalposts rather than admit their error — again — and how an awful lot of the very same people who spoke lugubriously about "civilian casualties" now seem almost disappointed that there weren’t more — again — and how many people who spoke darkly about the Arab Street and citizens rising up against American "liberators" were proven wrong — again — as the liberators were seen as just that by the people they were liberating.
I guess it's too bad this idiot doesn't have a "corrections" section in his blog, because I'm sure if he did, he would have rushed to correct this horrifically embarrassing observation many Friedmans ago. A Friedman is "6 months", by the way, which is always how long it will be until we "turn the corner" in Iraq. It's always just a Friedman away, and then when a Friedman passes, it's another Friedman away. The unit is named in honor of Thomas Friedman, a stupid pundit who likes to give neocon fantasy war heroes intellectual cover by talking about how bold and daring their latest horrible decision is.
Here is another voice from the era right around the start of the war, a voice that was almost universally ridiculed by the Traditional Media while the wingnuts were tossing around terms like "traitor" and worse:
I believe it is my patriotic duty to urge a different path to protecting America's security: To focus on al Qaeda, which is an imminent threat, and to use our resources to improve and strengthen the security and safety of our home front and our people while working with the other nations of the world to contain Saddam Hussein. [. . .]
Had I been a member of the Senate, I would have voted against the resolution that authorized the President to use unilateral force against Iraq - unlike others in that body now seeking the presidency.
To this day, the President has not made a case that war against Iraq, now, is necessary to defend American territory, our citizens, our allies, or our essential interests.
The Administration has not explained how a lasting peace, and lasting security, will be achieved in Iraq once Saddam Hussein is toppled.
I, for one, am not ready to abandon the search for better answers.
As a doctor, I was trained to treat illness, and to examine a variety of options before deciding which to prescribe. I worried about side effects and took the time to see what else might work before proceeding to high-risk measures. . . .
We have been told over and over again what the risks will be if we do not go to war.
We have been told little about what the risks will be if we do go to war.
If we go to war, I certainly hope the Administration's assumptions are realized, and the conflict is swift, successful and clean. I certainly hope our armed forces will be welcomed like heroes and liberators in the streets of Baghdad. I certainly hope Iraq emerges from the war stable, united and democratic. I certainly hope terrorists around the world conclude it is a mistake to defy America and cease, thereafter, to be terrorists.
It is possible, however, that events could go differently, and that the Iraqi Republican Guard will not sit out in the desert where they can be destroyed easily from the air.
It is possible that Iraq will try to force our troops to fight house to house in the middle of cities - on its turf, not ours - where precision-guided missiles are of little use. . . .
There are other risks. Iraq is a divided country, with Sunni, Shia and Kurdish factions that share both bitter rivalries and access to large quantities of arms.
Iran and Turkey each have interests in Iraq they will be tempted to protect with or without our approval. [. . .]
Some people simply brush aside these concerns, saying there were also a lot of dire predictions before the first Gulf War, and that those didn't come true.
We have learned through experience to have confidence in our armed forces - and that confidence is very well deserved.
But if you talk to military leaders, they will tell you there is a big difference between pushing back the Iraqi armed forces in Kuwait and trying to defeat them on their home ground.
There are limits to what even our military can do. Technology is not the solution to every problem.
Kind of amazing, isn't it, just how prescient the speaker (Howard Dean, by the way) was about the war? How do you suppose the Traditional Media is treating him these days? You think when he is mentioned on a news show, they talk about his opinion on the Iraq War, or is it still all about "the scream" and how much of a liberal he is (you should check his record as governor of Vermont, by the way, before you believe that kind of crap).
It was even worse when Dean later claimed that the capture of Saddam Hussein and the whole Iraq War hadn't made America safer. You should see the kind of crap the wingnuts have been saying about Dean all along. And the same goes for anyone else of note who speaks out against the war and the mistakes/crimes of the Bush Administration.
So why hasn't the Traditional Media given more play to the anti-war people who were right all along? It is because their views aren't mainstream? Hmmm, not according to the polls:
52% of people want all troops out of Iraq in a year.
What percent of members of the punditocracy have expressed that opinion?
Who's elitist and out of touch?
I wonder when the Traditional Media will begin to get back in touch with what most Americans believe? Maybe when their fuckwit corporate Republican owners and publishers let them?
I gave Stephen Colbert a couple of weeks at the beginning, but his show was just a little too awkward. He was too nervous. His scripts were too busy, and he had many embarrassing stumbles trying to keep up with all the verbiage. And the writing just wasn't funny enough to sit through all of that.
From the looks of the recent clips, Colbert has hit his stride, and now the show may be DVR worthy again. This recent video of him interviewing the representative from the District of Columbia is the funniest interview I've seen on television in at least a year.
At last, at long last, the old house is sold. Thanks to my brother and many other things I have no understanding about, our payment to complete the transaction magically shrank to about $60. That's about as close to breaking even as you can get, I think. To borrow a phrase from Daniel Negreanu, when it comes to realtors, my brother is The Nuts.
I've read a lot of books on the media, from "On Bended Knee" by Hertsgaard, which documented the media's behavior during the Reagan years, up through Alterman's "What Liberal Media?" and Wolcott's "Attack Poodles". And I've read lots of political books with a chapter or more worth of discussion on the lazy corporate media.
Eric Boehlert's "Lapdogs" is definitely the most thorough and damning indictment of the media I have yet to read. It got me depressed and angry. I found I couldn't read large chunks in one sitting because there was just so much to digest.
In an early chapter, Boehlert discusses "The Note", the political website of ABC News that tends to drive a lot of the inside-the-beltway media coverage. It shapes perceptions among the media elite, and it's astonishing when you pile it up just how hostile it is to Democrats and the ideals of liberalism. Compare the Note's coverage of the Lewinsky saga with, say, the Downing Street Memo or the Novak leak.
Reading the Note will help you understand why the media are just SO BORED with the whole depressing Iraq War thing. Isn't that over yet? Oh, did some troops die today? Yyyyyyaaaawwwwwnnnn. Oh, did Paul Krugman write another shrill boring deficit rant? Pfft, he's not one of the Kewl Kids, how embarrassing for him. If Republicans take a stand on something, it's based on principle (you know, anti-flag burning, Terry Schiavo, etc). When Democrats take a stand on something, it's because they are cynically trying get elected because they really don't have any core values. That's the attitude, and if you don't believe me, just follow it for a few days. It's really amazing just how far the traditional media's eye is from the news ball.
More recently, the media has become obsessed with the "angry left", as though liberal bloggers are the source of all of this unleashed and unhealthy rage that makes it difficult to be a member of the media. Nevermind that right-wing bloggers regularly issue death threats to traditional media members who report things that make the Bush administration look bad (satellite photos of NY Times employees are still up along with home addresses and directions). No, the problem is the attitudes and ethics of liberal bloggers who sometimes use BAD LANGUAGE in their emails! Boehlert has a chapter on this, filled with plenty of examples from the past few years, along with how the media has reacted to both sides.
If nothing else, the most convincing argument Boehlert makes revolves around the media's treatment of Bush and Kerry's respective military histories. Kerry generally acquitted himself well in Vietnam and was awarded medals for bravery and heroism. And yet the Swift Boaters were given all kinds of prominent airtime to make Kerry look bad, even though their stories had all kinds of holes and contradictions and they were clearly full of shit. Contrast the media's parading the Swift Boaters on every news show and front page with what happened to Dan Rather when a minor unconfirmable error cropped up in a story about Bush's military service.
Remember that? The so-called fake memos that eventually led to Rather's resignation? They didn't change the story and weren't even that important to the overall story of Bush ducking out of his service requirement for a year or more, even after getting preferred placement at the head of the line thanks to family connections. The way Kerry was treated in the traditional media, he was only in Vietnam to hook up with Hanoi Jane, while Bush was gallantly defending the Texas coastline from invasion (when he bothered to show up) because ... well, just because that's how it was.
Boehlert also covers the media's abominable behavior in the run-up to the War in Iraq and the 2004 election, and it's just overwhelming, maddening and deflating all at the same time. To read this book and realize we live in a world dominated by this media leaves me without much of a shred of hope that elections will change anything in this country in the near future, despite what the polls may say.
My only hope is that the traditional media model is changing and that more power will tend to flow toward blogs like Daily Kos, which is a community-built website for discussing national politics. Kos isn't perfect, but it is an important tool for understand what's going on in the world. What's needed now is a liberal blog that starts to perform some of the same functions the traditional media used to, which is to employ and publish several full-time investigative journalists but also to just keep up with regular news without a White House OK.
Right now, most blogs are dependent on news organizations for their basic structure. Without news articles to link to, there wouldn't be much worth reading on the 'net. You can only stomach so many opinions in a day. We need a left-leaning (or at the very least non-corporate) news source, and it's going to have to be funded by a sugar daddy. Because it is clear that the big money is going into the outfits like Fox News or the big networks (broadcast or cable) that are all part of the problem.
All of that right now is pie in the sky, and so ultimately this book (for now) leaves me with the inclination to just tune out, drop out and just hunker down and ignore all politics. Sometimes, the world is filled with too much fucking stupidity to deal with. It's like trying to beat back a tidal wave with a leaf rake.
Our buyer's mortgage company is apparently incompetent, and they still haven't turned in their paperwork to the title company so that we can close, despite promising it no less than four times now. If it isn't there first thing in the morning, M*chelle and I are going to seriously consider backing out of this deal and asking for triple the earnest money from the buyers. If they aren't willing to put pressure on their mortgage company to get this done, we'll damn well put pressure on them.
Who knows? With this other person (a neighbor's friend) wanting to buy the house, we might even get more than we're currently getting with this deal.
I know it sounds irrational, but my thinking is that every day that passes increases the likelihood that we have yet another flaky buyer on our hands, and I'm about ready to wash my hands of this one. I mean, at some point when they've lapsed on their closing date, you simply have to put things to an end. What if they don't have the papers in tomorrow? Friday? Monday?
And the longer we wait, the more likely this other potential buyer is to desert us, if she hasn't already. I'll have to call the neighbor and find out if said friend is still interested tomorrow morning if I learn that closing is still not happening. It's about time to learn more about our alternatives if we are going to have any leverage here at all.
In other news, summer for little three-year-old D*niel is all about killing segments. I use that term after the morning show guys I always listen to. Their show is split up into three 15-minute segments per hour, separated by five minutes of commercials. It's a nice format unlike most talk radio which is 4-1-3-2-3-1-4-2-2-3 of talk/commercial/talk/commercial, etc. I like just being able to tune out for a while. Sometimes I'll time my drive in to work (which is about ten minutes) to occur during the first few minutes of a segment so most of my commutes are commercial-free.
Anyway, the hosts are always looking for ways to kill off the 12 segments that their 4-hour show consists of, and the language creeps into everything. A trip to the swimming pool? Sure thing, that'll kill a few segments? Another episode of Thomas? Two segments! C*dy go play with D*niel and his sandbox on the porch. Two more segments! New coloring book and markers? Many segments, bonus if he wants to color by himself sometimes and show us his work!
What do you do with your little ones to kill segments? We're running out of ideas and don't want to overuse the DVR.
Closing on the house has been pushed back another day. Grrr.
Douglas Coupland has a real place in my heart thanks to a really cool story he told about online romance that I described when I talked about his book "Microserfs" long ago. I've been hoping since then that he would write something similar, something about geek culture with lots of different weird plotlines and funny observations about society. The closest thing I've read, in some respects, was Stephenson's "Cryptonomicon", something he hasn't matched in later works, sadly.
Anyway, now this book "JPod" is out, and it's a lot of what I was hoping for. Coupland follows a group of six employees in a little cubicle pod whose job is to do the game design gruntwork for a company. Mid-level managers assign them silly projects, and they have to make the games work, putting in the long crazy hours, getting all their work trashed and having to start over, the whole corporate thing.
The main character is Ethan, who has some pretty funny parents, but the other members of JPod all have some pretty cool scenes to themselves. The dialogue here is very sharp and funny, and the plot (such that it is) is interspersed among what looks like a stream of consciousness or a compilation of a bunch of files on Ethan's laptop, some of which describe what is going on.
Coupland himself is referenced and appears as a character in the book, which explains the writing style as part of the plot. I picked this book up in the library on the new books shelf and tore through it in a couple of days. Very fun read.
Theoretically, we close on the house tomorrow. I'll believe it when I sign the papers. After all the fees and crap, plus the fact that we're selling the house for less than we bought it, means we'll end up paying in the neighborhood of $1k just to sell the house. We knew it might end up like this, but it still sucks. Looking back, I would say the decision of the guy back early in the year to change his mind and walk with three days left until closing probably cost us about $7k plus six months of stress.
But it is coming to an end, and once we're free and clear of that house, we do have a very nice situation with this house because of the low purchase price and good neighborhood. Of course, this current house of ours needs energy efficiency upgrades like crazy, and that'll be an investment over the next few years that will pay off in the long run.
I just like the fact that I don't have to go over and take care of the other damned yard anymore.
In other news, I gave J*stin his chance to resolve the Bl*ckbuster issue today, and he spoke to a flunky at the store. Poor J*stin simply could not articulate his story clearly, but another employee was there who heard the same story told by me on Friday, and so she relayed that to the manager who arrived later.
I sent J*stin back to the store again to try to get his money back, but the manager gave him the run-around. He explained that the credit card had already been charged, and he simply couldn't reverse it since we already paid for another month of movies. But, hey, he *could* make sure that it doesn't automatically renew next month!
Gee, thanks, pal. That's what we already did on Friday. I told J*stin that the next step would be either to ask the manager what needs to be done to get a refund and/or ask to speak to the district leader, but J*stin didn't seem too interested. He was willing to write off the $27 rather than try to get it back.
Fine by me. Once he gave up, I called the store.
Manager: "Yes, sir, well, you see, the problem is that once we've already charged your credit card for the month, we can't undo that charge."
Me: "Ok, that's fine, so how do I go about getting reimbursed for that charge?"
Manager: "Ah, well, I suppose we would have to cancel your account for the month just to be sure that no movies are checked out during this month."
Me: "That would be great, and so I'll bring my credit card in so you can suspend my Bl*ckbuster account, and then you can put the $27 refund onto my card."
Manager: "Uh, it's a little complicated."
Me: "Yes, I understand. So please tell me what else I need to do to resolve this situation."
Manager: "Well, you'll have to come in to the store.."
Me: "Ok, great. I'm on my way, and I'll bring my credit card."
Once at the store, the manager made a point to tell me how out of the ordinary this is, implying he was doing me some huge favor, blah blah blah. I was all business and polite, and it was done in five minutes. If J*stin shows any interest in pursuing the situation, I'll be happy to explain to him what I did and how I got the money back, but my guess is he has already written off the money.
I'm not really sure how to encourage the boy to try to resolve problems and avoid getting ripped off. I thought $27 might motivate him to learn how to be a smart consumer, but apparently, the stakes were too low.
According to this great Kos diary, it appears that Antonin Scalia (the most right-wing justice on the Supreme Court if you don't count Thomas, and who ever does?) has said that presidential signing statements are constitutionally significant.
Why is this important? Well, you can read the Kos diary, but here's a shorter version: According to the Constitution, the Congress has the sole power to make laws. It is up to the Executive Branch to execute the laws and the Judicial Branch to interpret the laws. What Bush likes to do when he gets a bill he doesn't like from Congress is that he issues a signing statement in which he puts down his interpretation of the bill, which is often completely the opposite of the intention of the bill (as revealed by the text or the Congressional Record of the debate).
Now that's completely hijacking the lawmaking ability from Congress, and it is totally invalid and inconsistent with our history as a nation. If Bush can "interpret" laws however he pleases, then the role of the Legislative Branch in the government is essentially neutered. And, of course, the liberal media doesn't bat an eyelash (link via Atrios). And a Supreme Court Justice, of all people, has actually made comments that indicate this is okay with him!
And so again the truth of the "conservative" movement is laid bare. It is not about loyalty to some philosophy like "small government" or "strict constructionist" or "fiscal conservatism". No, these days the hallmark of a "true" conservative involves one thing and one thing only: absolute and total loyalty to the Bush Administration. Anyone who strays off the reservation, including former administration officials, and criticizes anything significant, like the war in Iraq, is immediately labeled a "liberal". I mean, why waste time with second-rate insults like "terrorist-lover", "Islamofascist" or "traitor", when you can use the time-tested favorite?
Sadly, when this cancer of a presidency is over, Republicans are going to try to back away from it by saying Bush wasn't a true conservative. While that's kinda true, they cheered him on the whole damned time, and they can't have their cake and eat it, too. The people who support this president have shown that they are unqualified to state an opinion on how this country should be run, and the best thing they can do for America is shut the fuck up. Forever.
After all that I've read and learned about parenting, I still managed to screw something up yesterday. J*stin decided to relieve his boredom this summer by getting a month-long 2-at-a-time rental deal at the Bl*ckbuster down the street. He's been going almost every day for the first few weeks, then when Becca Fever hit, he stopped and just started spending his days sitting in the yard in 105 degree heat, waiting for his little hottie to come out and talk.
Anyway, as it wound down, I kept reminding J*stin to turn in his movies and cancel the membership. We've done some variant of this almost every summer and/or Xmas (hi, trolls!) holiday for the past few years, and J*stin has seen me start and stop these memberships. The way it works is that you sign up for a month and then it automatically bills you for a renewal every month until you tell them you want to cancel.
The last day to cancel was Thursday at noon, and J*stin diligently went down to the store and turned in his movies on time. Unfortunately, as I discovered yesterday during casual conversation, J*stin did not bother to go inside and tell them he was ending his membership, which means they are going to ding me (and therefore him) for another $27, even if he takes out no movies this month.
What I should have done at that point is told J*stin what a shame it was that he lost $27 over a silly mistake and offered him some advice on how he might be able to remedy the situation (i.e. talk his way up the chain of command until he found someone with the power to undo the membership in exchange for him stopping his bitching). Then I should have stepped aside and let him learn a lesson in what a pain in the ass it is to deal with your typical chain store business in the real world.
Instead, I lost my temper with the boy and took charge of it myself, the result of which is that I left a message with the district manager and have to wait until Monday to talk to the store manager to try to straighten it all out. Of course, J*stin will go with me to talk to that store manager, and I'll let him handle it from here, but it was a mistake to get myself in between J*stin and Bl*ckbuster in the first place. I shouldn't have gotten mad at J*stin either, but I did both.
It's like poker, I guess. I read all the books in the world, but in the heat of the moment, I forget what the right thing to do is sometimes and go with the gut.
The difference between me and the president, I suppose, is that I usually know what is the right thing to do, and I can usually realize and admit to my mistakes. He just goes with his gut all the time and doesn't give a fuck.
This column by Jamison Foser of Media Matters is a perfect summary why Al Gore can't run for president. He'll forever be known as "the guy who says he invented the internet" or "the guy who exaggerates everything", even though the main stories behind those media narratives are completely and totally misleading if not outright false.
Oh sure, Gore isn't perfect. No politician is. But compared to most, Gore does a pretty good job of being the kind of guy you want representing you, even if you may not agree with his political stands. His ethics seems to be pretty strong, and he's well-spoken. But unless you care enough to really look into it, and the vast majority of people can't be bothered, you won't give Gore another chance.
And that's the fault of the "liberal" media, who at the same time ignored an incredible number of lies by Bush, not to mention his shady past, which was far less admirable than, say, Clinton's. It's an enormous mountain any Democratic candidate will have to climb (ask Kerry) to have a chance at getting elected president.
I finally had a free afternoon today, first time in a while, so I took the kids swimming at the splash pool at the local Y we are members of. D*niel was very, very excited. He made sure to tell everyone in the house "I'M GOIN' SWIMMIN'!" a few times before he climbed into the van on his own. Guess it has been longer than I thought.
We got there, and the water wasn't as cold as usual, so we didn't have much trouble getting D*niel to start going down the big frog slide. He had a blast. At one point, he was following some little girl trying to kick water on her, but his attempts were so pathetic he wasn't even hitting her. I told him it's not polite to splash people, and he shouldn't do that.
He looked around at everyone and said, "I'm sorry, people!" He's always very cute at the pool. After about 30 minutes, he wanted to go over and sit on a beach chair in my lap all wrapped up in a towel. He likes to have a snack and drink there after a swim and provide a running commentary on everything he sees. "Look! There goes C*dy! I went swimmin' on the frog slide. That's the splash pool. Hee hee! Oooo, wow. I'm havin' fun!"
Since M*chelle had mom-in-law here to help out, I decided to go play poker again last night. I got some better cards than last time, including pocket aces once (which won me about $70) and a nut flush on the turn once (which won me about $120), but those were the only really solid hands all night (both paid off by the same guy, who I wasn't trying to pick on but he calls almost everything if he has a small investment in the pot). The rest of the night I had marginal hands (top pair several times, but usually with a horrible kicker), and it was a mixed bag of results.
I had a couple of bluffs I was very proud of. Some people there are finally respecting my tight image, and I managed to bluff a couple of them when the usual callers had already folded earlier, but I also made a couple of horrible misplays. My problem when I'm playing a hand with a lot of money in the pot is that I just stop thinking because of the excitement of the hand. I'll put a guy on a flush draw after the flop, and then when the last diamond comes up that he needs, I forget that I thought he was drawing to a flush and so I stupidly call his big bet.
Without a couple of mistake hands, I might have ended up the big winner and had to buy ribs again. As it was, I was up $235 (which is $540 total for my six poker nights) for the night and the guy whose flush I paid off (costing me around $60) ended up about $350. Now maybe my sweetie can go play some bingo this week.
In other news, we have a serious offer on the house, and we're closer to selling than we have been since January. Problem is that their opening bid was reasonable, but they let the option period expire without asking for any amendments. Technically, then, they are bound to honor the contract as is or forfeit their earnest money. But now they have asked for a huge amount of money for repairs even though the inspection report stuff doesn't look like it adds up to more than at most $500 (they asked for $3500).
We have to decide whether to be nice and offer than some compromise amount or just be firm and hope they don't run away. I would much rather sell the house to these people than get an earnest money check, even if we give them some money that we don't legally have to.
A great Kos diary does some great legwork to round up all of the details surrounding a leak that was published in all the major papers a couple of years ago that seriously damaged national security. Of course, back then the leak was purposefully made by the Bush administration to make themselves look good in an election year (remember back when the terror alert level would move up to some new high about twice a month?).
Apparently, it was no big deal, because the wingnuts weren't calling the Times' reporters out for treason or publishing maps to their houses, telling their readers to grab for the brass ring and make some headlines.
For the past couple of weeks, I've noticed a young girl always hanging outside her house in the front yard, talking on her cell phone. It's a little odd because there aren't that many kids in the neighborhood and no teenagers except for ours. Well, a couple of days ago, our 17-year-old J*stin sure noticed her while mowing our front yard.
I gather the two must have made some eye contact, and so after mowing, he decided to make a habit of sitting outside to listen to his music. This from a guy *always* complaining about the heat and bugs when we ask him to go outside and play with our 2-year-old D*niel in the evenings. Well, it wasn't long until "B" came over and the two started talking. She says she's 15, but her dad tells us she's 14. Probably more mature than our J*stin, to be honest, but anyway, the two compared iPod lists or something and hit it off.
Now if I were that girl's parents, I would be a little creeped out by the thought of my 14-year-old (we just so happen to have a 14-year-old daughter, by the way) chatting up some 17-year-old boy. To the contrary, they invited J*stin over for a swim, and he stayed over there most of the day. We were worried J*stin (not the most socially aware of kids) would overstay his welcome. Fortunately for J*stin, B's parents took a liking to him and at her urging, they invited him today for an overnight stay at a nearby lake.
B and her family are in town for a total of three weeks, having come down for their annual summer visit from the East Coast, and alas, the three weeks comes to an end later this week. After this, they move to England, so unless she comes back next summer, they may not see each other again. So far, according to B's mom, it is all very innocent. We'll see if it stays that way at the lake under what I presume will be some very strict parental supervision.
And then back to their respective schools to sing to their friends about their summer romance. This isn't exactly the same world as "Grease", though, so I imagine the two will exchange email and may even stay in touch. It's great for J*stin, though he now seems to have no appetite and would totally blow off his running if I weren't kicking his butt. I imagine after B leaves, he'll be in a big time sulk until his big running camp starts up at the end of July.
We spent today rearranging the house and getting the carpets cleaned, moving our computers to a more spacious room. To get ready for this, we had the cable company come out and install a couple more drops in handy places. When we finally got the computers hooked up, there was no internet signal. The cable TV was working fine in the other room, but no signal on the cable modem.
Last time this happened, we waited a couple of days, and the cable guy comes out and does the usual, "Well, it looks here like the last guy who was out here didn't know what the hell he was doin'. See here how this is connected with a DX 420 and an RV 4565 splitter? Jesus! There's three of 'em! I don't know how you were gettin' a signal in the first place, buddy."
In a nutshell, the problem was that the cable line coming into our house had been split too many times by inefficient splitters, and a lot of the loose ends weren't properly terminated, so the cable signal was too dilute for the modem to pick up properly. I figured the same thing was happening this time, so I went ahead and called the service line to make sure that's the problem.
So she says, "Oh my, it looks like it is pretty backed up in your area." What a shock. "We can get someone out there Tuesday afternoon. That's the first available appointment. I'm really sorry." Yeah, I'm sorry that the guy you just sent out here yesterday was too incompetent to realize that our modem wouldn't work, even after we *specifically* asked him to test the strength of the signal because of the problem we had at the other house.
So after I got off the phone and cussed for a couple of minutes, I decided to go up to the attic myself and check the connections, just to see if this is easy to solve. I got up there, and I could tell where the main input line came in, and it was split by a triplexer, and then split again by another triplexer. Plus the line coming out of the wall for the internet is split by a duplexer.
So first I go rid of the duplexer coming out of the wall, which wasn't even necessary. Then I went upstairs and figured out which cables go to which outlets (we only use three total), hooked them up to the main incoming triplexer and threw the other triplexer and cables on the ground with much more force than necessary. Came back downstairs, and bam, cable modem signal.
I got your fuckin' Tuesday right here, lady. We have the internet now, but I'll keep the service appointment just so the guy can clean all the unnecessary cables out of our attic.
Of course, when the cable modem showed it had signal, our computers still weren't connecting properly. Fortunately, I learned my lesson on this after sitting through a 12-hour long interruption a couple of years ago. Must ... reset ... router. So I solved that problem in about 15 fucking seconds. Damn right.
Don't tell little D*niel, but he's going to get a mess of wooden Thomas and Brio trains and tracks plus a train table for his third birthday. All for cheap thanks to eBay. A couple of months ago, I set up a search to ping me if wooden Thomas stuff went on sale within 50 miles so we could avoid shipping and just pick things up. I lost several auctions, but eventually, my cheap bids won a couple of good lots, so when D*niel wakes up Sunday morning, he's going to be a happy camper.
We picked up the last lot today, and while we were out, we stopped at a huge Half-Price Books and got D*niel some activity books to kill time during the summer. He loves to color and draw, especially trains (he can draw a recognizable train, which is pretty good for his age, I gather). It's nice to know that my three year old child has more curiosity and reads more books than the President of the United States.
I just learned that the next Covenant book, the 2nd out of four, isn't going to be out until "late 2007". Gah, that man is going to die before he finishes this. I'll be in my mid-40's before the last book comes out. Even Rowling has been faster than this with the Potter books.
In other news, after many long years playing multiplayer Diablo at home, I finally succumbed to temptation and duplicated some items, including a bunch of runes so that now I have four copies of every rune in the game, all the way up to Zod (used the Cube with some lower runes and gems to build up from my crappy runes all the way up the rune table). Now I'm hunting for socketed items so I can make some of those cool rune words I've read about that are actually better than the unique or set items I have.
C*dy is trying to win Normal mode with a Frenzy Barbarian, but he doesn't really "get" the whole bit about upgrading equipment, so he was trying to progress through Act V with a couple of maces that did about 10-30 base damage (average damage with bonuses was about 70). That kinda explains how he survived all the Iron Maiden spells in Diablo's Sanctuary ... he wasn't doing enough damage to hurt himself!
I just gave him two axes that I found legitimately a couple of years ago and multiplied his average damage by about five (to an average of almost 400) and increased his attack speed by 40%. The poor kid was getting by with chain mail with about 100 defense and only a 5% frost nova mod, so I gave him my "Duriel's Shell" with the yummy "Cannot Be Frozen" mod, which I know he'll appreciate.
I figure I'll let him gain some confidence by blowing away the rest of the game in Normal and even Nightmare before breaking the news to him about monsters with Physical Immunity (and Mana Burn) in Hell mode. With the new equipment possibilities, I might eventually get through Hell mode with my own Frenzy Barbarian, who is a bit more fun to play than the Hammerdin. My Hammerdin is devastatingly effective, but there's not a lot of creativity in battles. The only decision is precisely where to stand and when to move slightly to shape the cloud of hammers that comes out and kills everything in sight.
From John Deering:
Via The Sideshow comes a link to Billmon's review of "An Inconvenient Truth", which is a hell of a lot better and more thoughtful than mine. I guess that's why he gets thousands of visitors per day and I get five.
It's one thing to see the movie and think about the science. It's quite another to think about the hopelessness of the political situation in America, and that's a necessary backdrop to any discussion these days.
I snuck off last night to see Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth" before the last theater brave enough to show it around here finally decided to get rid of it. I figured I would need to see it in case the subject came up in my summer class. Stupid me, thinking college kids these days would go out and get themselves politically informed. On the other hand, their total ignorance is fertile ground for me to plant the subversive seeds of scientific truth.
Anyway, the movie was fine. I had no real arguments with any of the facts presented there, but things are presented in a way to minimize the range of uncertainty and really only talk about the potential problems at the bad end of the range of possibilities. That's valid but not really bending over backwards to make the opposite case as a good scientist would do. I think the Nova/Frontline film "What's Up With the Weather?" from a few years ago does a better job of this, maybe even going too far to give the few skeptics a big voice.
Another big part of this movie was a bit of Gore biography, and I take Gore's word for it that he isn't planning on running for any office. With that in mind, the movie comes across as genuine and not much of a political ad. If I find out he is going to throw his hat in the ring for president, I would vote for him in a second, but that would make this movie less impressive from an ethical standpoint, I think.
Gore has a few neat visual tricks and ways of approaching subtopics that I found interesting and will likely adopt. He did a good job talking about the temp vs carbon dioxide correlation, and he did a good job emphasizing how the carbon abundance is much different now than in the past few hundred thousand years. He also had some excellent points to make about CAFE standards. I was shocked to see how far we are behind China and the rest of the world on this.
Anyway, a good movie overall, but for my class, I still have a better option.
Toles sums up the coming Congressional elections nicely:
Even though the Republicans have run things into the ground, the media will ensure that the pox on both houses mentality is alive and well among the electorate, depressing voter turnout and giving people an excuse not to get informed or involved. Thus, it is a near certainty that Republicans will keep control of both houses of Congress. It doesn't hurt that all Congressional districts are drawn and redrawn in such a way that we don't vote for Congress, the various Representatives essentially choose their voters.
One of the more interesting primaries has involved Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, who more and more has been making statements in support of Bush and the Iraq War, questioning Dems who criticize the president, etc. Holy Joe has incurred the wrath of the left side of the blogosphere, which is now supporting his primary opponent, Ned Lamont, who is a bit more liberal on many issues than Lieberman. The main difference between the two candidates, though, is that Lamont is openly critical of the war and, like 2/3 of Americans, wants us out ASAP (those crazy treasonous left-wing moonbats apparently now have pulled the wool over the eyes 2/3 of Americans).
Anyway, polls are making it look like Lamont is going to beat Lieberman in the Dem primary coming up soon, and Lieberman has been threatening to run as an Independent, opening him up to a lot of criticism from fellow Dems, who think Lieberman should step aside and support the primary winner Lamont, if that's how it turns out.
Conservative dickheads, as is their fashion, have felt more than free to offer their heartfelt advice to Democrats. The latest is David Brooks who joins various other "moderates" (who are really just Bush-supporters who say things like gay marriage isn't a bad idea) who don't like this idea of wild-eyed liberal bloggers "purging" the party of wishy-washy Dems in favor of braver liberals. Atrios has a lot of good things to say about this, including:
Why is official Washington up in arms about the Lieberman primary but unconcerned about the Chafee and Akaka primaries?
Bobo Brooks has put on his concern troll hat yet again. I am so glad he's always thinking about what's best for the Democratic party. As a conservative movement activist that's his primary job, after all.
Bobo didn't feel the need to write one single word of concern when Pat Toomey almost beat Arlen Specter in the Pennsylvania primary in 2004.
Toomey has a right-wingnut who didn't like Specter's views on abortion and Supreme Court justices (this despite the fact that Specter has always been a loyal soldier to Bush when the chips are down ... he always makes independent noises and then backs off when people stop paying attention). He almost beat Specter in the primary, but we didn't hear much about a right-wing "purge" of the party. Certainly not from all these advice givers.
Anyway, I hope Lamont wins, and I think Dems need to stand up and be brave about being liberal and being opposed to the war. The public needs to see there is a genuine choice here. That's the only chance we have, to broadcast a message so loud and clear that it gets through the rolled eyes and sarcastic questions from Fox News wannabees.
Ben Sargent has it just about right here:
Everything is treason these days, and now that definition has expanded beyond mere criticism of Republicans. Now you can make any logical leap you like, from photos to puff pieces to the inflection of a news anchor's voice when talking about gas prices, and it's all a nefarious plot to bring down the president and help Al Qaeda kill our troops.
There's news today, leaked by the government of course to make itself look good, that we supposedly stopped a plot to bomb some tunnels in New York City. But wait a minute, isn't handing out details like this showing the terrorists how we catch them? TREASON!
Oh, except it isn't the New York Times repeating information leaked purposefully from the Bush administration for public relations purposes. It's the Daily News, so that must be why all the crickets are chirping over in the wingnuttosphere. What a stupid world we live in.
You know how the old time gas pumps used to have little spinning wheels to mark off how much you paid for a fill up? My wheels were turning like crazy yesterday. It started with a $600 check for some running camp Justin is going to (he is working this summer and doing fundraising, so I expect to be reimbursed for that one in part or in full because I'm a ridiculous optimist). Then it's off to the doctor with Justin for next year's physical, and guess what, the boy needs glasses!
So, we pay the $40 for the physical (which will be "passed" when Justin returns with glasses and can read the eye chart), then we pay another $40 to the eye doctor for a prescription, then another $180 for glasses. Naturally, there was only one column of glasses frames that was the most expensive of the whole wall, and that's the frame we picked, and I'm a cheap bastard so I grumbled and groaned about it. Really, it's just funny how that seems to work out, because going into that store, I took a quick look around and would've put even money on us eventually picking frames from that column. And the wheels kept rolling.
Fortunately, we just got another real offer on the house. It's for a lot less than we were originally hoping for, but that's life. We knew we were only going to get full price if we got lucky and ran across a buyer who was desperate for 4 bedrooms at that location like we were. If we had known then (about the $4224 broken windows) what we know now, we sure as hell wouldn't have bought within such a short walk of the school! After that, we couldn't trust the boys to go down there alone, so what good was it to live so close to a park?
If all goes well, we will close on the offer in about two weeks, and finally, our finances will be predictable again and I can put together a budget for the next year. Our budget year pretty much goes from June 30 to the following June 30, because June 30 is the day I get the first of two big fat summer checks, supplemented by extra teaching money and other summer work stuff.
I don't really "budget" formally, I just try to guess roughly if we are going to be in the black or the red in an average month, assuming usual expenses plus the occasional big thing like dental work or a big car bill, etc. Until we sell the other house, there's no guesswork about it, the wheels are spinning up big bucks every month, and it sucks.
We got lucky today, too, because we were thinking about buying a pricey swing for baby B*n because swinging seems to be the only reliable way to soothe that child other than walking him around for hours on end (D*niel was much easier since he liked the vibrating bouncy chair). Fortunately, a friend at church is going to loan us hers (her baby just outgrew it and she's planning on having more later) until ours grows out of it, and it is even nicer than what we were thinking about buying.
The only shame about Ken Lay kicking the bucket is that the greedy bastard never got to spend a single day in prison.
I took C*dy, J*stin and D*niel to see fireworks last night while M*chelle stayed home with B*n. Ashl*y is off this week at camp. Last year, the fireworks experience was a disaster because we couldn't get as close to the show as we wanted like two years ago and ended up watching it go off about a mile away from some mosquito-infested park. And the show was a lot shorter, so we left grumbling.
This time, we went to watch a different show that starts on time (unlike the show that has to wait for the end of a baseball game ... never a good idea unless you are actually at the game) and has gotten better every year we've seen it at a distance. We got there maybe 20 minutes before it started and had a decent location. The show was great. D*niel had plenty to say about the explosions, usually just asking for "More!" or "Can you say 'more'? *BOOM* I did it!"
The traffic home was nasty, so next year I will have to plan the exit strategy a little better. Still, we were home by about 10, which is better than the 1130 or so of last year.
Now for the last few days of my first summer class...
Last night was one of those nights when I just couldn't get any cards, and even when I did, I usually played them poorly. For the first couple of hours, the best opening hand I had was a pair of jacks, and I got chased out after the flop came A-Q-5 suited (which didn't match either of my suits) and there was a bet and raise before it even got to me. A little later, I had A-Q and left when a King came out and the betting got too steep, and I was happy with my laydown when I saw someone pull out pocket aces (which appeared an incredible 7-8 times last night, never in my hand).
I managed to split a pot with A-7 suited when I got two pair, but I didn't really win anything at all for a long time. You know how sometimes when you fold a half-decent starting hand and see the flop would've hit you perfectly and you have folder's remorse? I swear for the entire night that maybe happened to me twice, that's how bad it was.
I had already blown through my first $200 of chips and was on my third hundred, eating away all of my winnings from two weeks ago (I was playing a little more loosely, trying to speculate on some hands when the bet was 10-15 or less, but it never worked out). That's when I got deuces and got to see the flop for just 10.
The flop came out J-8-2, and a guy bet 13, and I reraised him all-in for a total of about 75. He had pocket queens (and said he had put me on A-J or K-J), and thank God he didn't spike another Queen or I would've been going home. From there, I managed to stay even and then recover slightly with around an hour to go when I got three good hands in a row and turned them into another 60 or so (I might've gotten more if I had played differently there ... I was just too scared to raise big without the nuts).
I was glad to get away from that night down only about 105. What's funny is that the first time I played with this group, I lost 60 and left after about three hours. I spent the rest of the night replaying almost every hand, and I was crazy about losing money. After last night, I'm confident I played well. I did make some very good laydowns, but if that's the best you can say about your game, then you didn't make much money. Anyway, I didn't really have any big regrets or hands I thought I messed up badly or bad beats (I actively avoided a few moderately bad beats, actually), so I slept like a baby.
I still have another 120 or so of profits to play with next time (since I was up about 270 two weeks ago minus the cost of taking the group out to lunch for being the big winner). My brother was the big winner last night, with him and one other guy pulling down some truly amazing hands and playing them very well. He won about $700.
The problem with playing a table full of loose players is that if you don't get cards, you really are screwed, because you just can't bluff some of these guys. So it's a long night if you are dealt trash the whole time. On the up side, if you get some good hands either starting out or from speculating, you can make a fortune in just a few hands, which is what I managed to do a couple of weeks ago, too. My brother was doing the same thing but getting some very bad beats, so he had a winning night coming to him.
Like many bloggers, it's hard to know what to say about the latest thing that is sending wingnuts into a frothing rage. Greenwald has been following it, but here's a short summary.
Over the weekend, the NY Times Travel section posted some photographs of the vacation homes of Rumsfeld and Cheney on some exclusive resort island. Use of these photos was explicitly consented to by Rumsfeld, but I don't know about Cheney. Their homes were mentioned as a couple of examples of all of the well-to-do mansions in the region, and similar stories have been done many times over the years (for example, the Clintons' home in upstate New York was described in detail two years ago).
The wingnuttosphere has come to the conclusion that this is a double super-secret plot by the NY Times editors to get their revenge on Bush administration officials who criticized the paper last week for "treasonous behavior" when they publicly revealed a bunch of already public stuff based on quotes of administration officials who wanted this stuff out there to make them look good in the fight against terror. Anyway, the NY Times editors are supposedly steaming mad at the administration for this betrayal and so are publishing all of this personal info in order to give terrorists a roadmap into how to get at Rumsfeld, Cheney or their families.
Basically, according to the wingnuts of the world, the NY Times is actively, knowingly trying to help terrorists kill Americans, specifically, members of the Bush administration.
These are the people who currently control the discourse in the traditional media, the people who are overrepresented on news talk shows by margins usually far greater than 2:1, the people who control the executive and legislative branches of the government (the judicial branch only agrees with them 90% of the time).
Make no mistake, the majority of Americans think this is all ridiculous, not just this latest stupidity but the whole right-wing enchilada. Poll after poll shows this. Despite the fact that the more ignorant you are, the more likely you are to vote Republican (remember the PIPA study? I'm too lazy to dig up the link), there are enough people out there who support liberal positions that constitute a clear majority. So why are we ruled by such fuckwits?
The possible answers to this question are more scary than the question itself.
Not much going on today other than 5 hours of driving around, most of it to take 14-year-old Ashl*y and her group to camp as part of a caravan. C*dy had a good experience last week at the 12-year-old camp. He asked a girl out to the dance at the end of camp, but he claims he asked the wrong girl because she looks similar to another girl when they were all swimming (and they do look similar in the camp photo).
Anyway, this girl was "bossy" at the dance, and C*dy doesn't really like her, and he assures us he told her that. He *certainly* didn't kiss her or anything like that. Yuck! But now apparently, she thinks that they are going steady, even though she lives hours away (this camp was a regional camp open to members of churches from hundreds of miles away).
For some, uh, inexplicable reason (oh yeah, so she didn't get her feelings hurt), C*dy gave her his phone number, and she has called a few times now since he got back yesterday. C*dy really doesn't want to talk to her because he says she just babbles and mostly talks to other people while on the phone with him.
I told him yesterday that if he wanted to, he could tell her that we were severely limiting his phone time because he had been neglecting his chores. He said, "I already used that one!" He has to be careful with this one, because she made friends among the group of girls that C*dy sees at our church all the time, and if C*dy is a jerk to her, she'll relay that and get him in hot water here.
To take C*dy's mind off of it, I'm giving him a Diablo tutorial. He's got his Barbarian up to level 20 already playing in multiplayer (/players 8) mode, and he's just about done with the first Act. Died a few times, but he'll get better. He got really excited when I showed him how to get Charsi the blacksmith to imbue one of his axes. It came back with +1 cold damage (which he now understands and appreciates), +40% extra gold find and some damage bonuses.
The boy hasn't even found a super unique yet or a half decent regular magic item, let alone a set item. If he can kill Andariel all by himself on /players 8 difficulty, I'll be so proud. Heh.
After reading all about it in other books, I finally sat down and read "Caro's Book of Poker Tells" by Mike Caro. This was a legendary book when it came out, although not at the level of Brunson's famous "Super/System". The book was a very fast read, despite being a thick, oversized paperback. That's because of big margins, lots of pictures and a fair bit of repetition of similar points.
The pictures are hilariously outdated from the 70's, and they are pretty poor quality, but Caro gets his points across pretty well. I don't have enough experience to know just how well these tells apply in the game I play in. It seems to me that Caro's tells are more apt to work in Vegas when you are playing with a bunch of strangers rather than a friendly cash game.
Some of Caro's tells, like someone intentionally grabbing for the pot to try to show strength before the hand is over, would be over-the-line rude in the game I play, and a few other ploys are of that quality in the book. Still, tells like "glance at your chips" or "pretend disinterest" when strong are probably useful if I were observant enough to catch them.
I actually found Phil Gordon's summary of Caro's rules more concise and useful than Caro's book, but that summary wouldn't have been possible without the mad genius of Caro in the first place. I would love to see an updated version of this for use in friendly home games rather than casino games, also a version exclusive to Hold 'Em.
BTW, with my new bankroll, I'm playing again Monday night with my brother's group. Unless I do horrible, I'll be playing with my profit from a couple of weeks ago, so it should be a lot of fun. Maybe I'll be brave enough to be more aggressive, though so far, playing very tight has tended to pay off. I imagine my luck is bound to change because there are too many other good players in this group (even the loose players seem to have good instincts from so much experience compared to me).