Thursday, December 29, 2005

I hope everyone had a very merry Christmas. I went up to my sister's for the weekend. The three of us, myself, my mom, and my dog, left at 6:30 Saturday morning. I had hoped that traffic wouldn't be too bad on Christmas Eve, and that everyone would have gotten where they were going Friday. Apparently I was right, as there was no traffic to speak of (though the drive going South on I-5 looked less pleasant). Furthermore, the weather was perfect. But that wasn't enough to make Tanner enjoy the ride. He was excited at first; he had seen us packing, and was relieved to learn he was going with us. But he had never been on such a long drive, and didn't know what to make of it. We stopped a lot, in Griffith Park and in various rest stops along the grapevine. Unfortunately, Tanner does not like to go to the bathroom while on his leash, so just getting him to go potty was frustrating. Still, the lack of traffic made the drive a lot less unpleasant than I had anticipated. We arrived in San Jose around 2:00.

Michelle has two dogs, and how they would get along with Tanner was the major wildcard of this trip. It turns out Tanner was fine with them, and Scout the beagle was fine with Tanner, but Ebi the corgi was not fine with Tanner. As soon as Michelle let the dogs out, Ebi jumped on Tanner and bit his ear. I pulled Ebi off him, and Tanner retreated, with Scout bounding off after him. Michelle and Eric reined in Ebi, and after Scout and Tanner got introduced, they tried again to introduce Ebi to Tanner, but Ebi still was nipping at Tanner. And Tanner got right in Ebi's face, making it very clear he wasn't going to put up with that crap. So long story short, Michelle's dogs spent most of Christmas weekend in their kennel, and barked at Tanner whenever he went outside (Tanner slept in the guest cottage with me, while her dogs slept in the house).

When Tanner wasn't dealing with the dogs, he was trying to come to terms with the baby. This was my first time seeing Grace. She's cute enough, with big ol' chipmunk cheeks and a tuft of blond hair. She seems pretty chunky, I suppose--everyone comments on what a big baby she is, but she seems fairly typical to me. She's nice enough, I suppose, as babies go, and I'm sure once she can talk and control her bodily functions, we'll get along swimmingly. Tanner didn't like her, though, especially when mom or I would hold her. I think Tanner was afraid he was being traded in for Grace, and we were going to leave him there. He never really relaxed the whole trip, and just didn't have a very good time. On a happy note, Tanner was so upset, he would get even more anxious than usual when seperated from me, so I was able to get out of going to church on Christmas Eve. Stayed home and checked out Michelle's digital cable instead.

Christmas was fine. I got pretty much what I expected. Not a lot of gifts, but mostly stuff I wanted. I got the latest releases of MST3K and The Simpsons on DVD, as well as Lifeboat and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I also got some books, an Allison Moorer CD, and a clock radio into which I can plug my iPod (works pretty good, except it lets out a horribly obnoxious beeping when you set the alarm, which is annoying when you're trying to set the alarm at two in the morning and others are asleep). My sister got me a martini shaker with stuff in it, so that you can make a lemon drop martini just by adding vodka. Neat idea. I got my sister We Love Katamari. Unfortunately, so did Eric. So I need to return that for her and get her a gift card. I also burned her a copy of the Katamari Damacy soundtrack, which I put inside an iPod box, to keep my mom from guessing that I was giving her an iPod (used, my old 20 gig model). We listened to my iPod on the drive up, and she had nice things to say about it, and seemed very excited to have one of her own (especially as she will be flying up to Michelle's pretty regularly, and will have a lot of time to kill in airports). I had uploaded her CD library onto the iPod, as well as other CDs I thought she would enjoy. I got her Brian Setzer's Christmas album, among others. Then a few days before we left, she suggested that I buy "Barry Spitzer's Christmas music" for us to listen to on the long drive. Once I figured out what she was talking about, I was bummed she had to come up with that idea independently. But she was still surprised on Christmas morning. She even said, god help me, "Now I can listen to Barry Spitzer on my iPad" (I've given up on correcting her, instead just trying to move her over to at least a more reasonable wrong name, like "Brian Seltzer"--I mean, I'm pretty sure no one named Barry has had much success recording rockabilly songs). I also gave her a copy of The Orchid Thief I came across while cleaning out my closet, which I thought she might enjoy, as well as season two of Columbo (unfortunately, I bought season two on sale some time ago, unaware that season three--which includes the Johnny Cash episode--would be out in time for Christmas). I got Eric a collection of home-made monster movies on DVD, which he seemed to enjoy, as well as some odd CDs. But the most exciting gift was probably Michelle's gift for Mom. Through a friend with extensive connections, she was able to get my mother a personally autographed picture of Judge Judy herself. Quite a coup.

Christmas was over around 9:45 or so, and I went back to bed. After I got up and we ate, I joined Michelle and Eric on a trip to the movies. We were going to see the dreamworld of magic that is Narnia, but it was sold out. So we saw The Producers. It was okay, not nearly as bad as the reviews suggested. The direction of the film was terrible, but in a rather fascinating, what-the-hell-were-they-thinking-when-they-set-up-this-shot sort of way. The main problem with the film was that it was unnecessary: Most of the funny bits in the movie are from the original, and were better back then. In particular, Matthew Broderick is no Gene Wilder. Making the whole thing seem particularly pointless was, that the weakest part of the musical is the music. The songs aren't funny, and just serve to slow down the pace. The only exception might be Will Farrell's numbers, which were pretty funny, especially his audition. I can't really recommend it, but it's not as bad as the reviews suggest.

After that, we had dinner and killed time playing games. Mom got herself a game for Christmas, the Turner Classic Movies version of Scene It, one of those DVD-based board games (and let me just say right now, someone needs to release the old Clue VCR mystery game on DVD...I bought the original off eBay some time ago, but was shocked to learn that just about anyone else who remembered playing that game in the early '80s had rather unpleasant memories of it, and getting people to play it with me is difficult). We played a game of that, and Mom won, though I was at least competitive, while Michelle didn't do very good (Eric doesn't watch many old movies, and it showed). Mom had one handicap in the game, though, in that she couldn't keep her mouth shut during the DVD segments, and would repeatedly give away answers to the question that would ultimately be asked. After that happened several times, a clip from To Have and Have Not came up, and Mom volunteered that Lauren Bacall was 18 when she acted in that film. I joked that the question would be about Bacall's age, and then, sure enough, the question was, "How old was Lauren Bacall when this movie was released?" The answer was 20, not 18 (though she might have been 18 when the film was shot, if it took a long time to release), but it was multiple-choice, so Eric got it right. Yet after that, Mom still would talk during the questions. (We played another game last night--Michelle is down here for a wedding--and things went more smoothly, and though Mom won again, it was an extremely close game)

We drove back Monday morning, leaving around 7:30. I was sure that traffic would be much worse on Monday, especially as it was raining. But it wasn't bad at all. The only traffic we hit was by Magic Mountain. We were home by 3:00, and Tanner was very relieved to be back on his own turf (so was I, truth be told). It was too bad that Tanner didn't get along with Michelle's dogs, but otherwise it was a good trip.

A new security hole in Windows has been discovered. Until Microsoft issues a patch, you can protect yourself by going to "run" on the start menu and entering the following:
regsvr32 /u shimgvw.dll

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

PopMatters' Top 10 Country Albums of 2005. Good list, though I would have picked Georgia Hard as number one. I don't think I'll make a top-ten album list, since I tend to drag my feet so long in hearing new albums, I'm not sure whether some of my favorite albums are new to 2005 or just new to me. But Georgia Hard is right up at the top, were I to make a list.
A collection of banned album art.
Peekaboom is like a visual version of Password. And apparently it helps improve computer technology or something.
Vincent Schiavelli, dead at 57. If you don't know the name (I didn't), you'll know the face.

Friday, December 23, 2005

The Saturday Night Live sketch I mentioned in my previous post is available for free on iTunes, if you want a copy to call your very own.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

On Saturday Night Live last week, they had one of the funniest things I've seen on that show for some time. And sure enough, it's on the web. Check out "Lazy Sunday."

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Nellie McKay leaves Sony. Good news for those of us who wanted to buy her new album, but are boycotting Sony.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Sometimes I wonder why I still subscribe to Outside Magazine, and then I read an article like "Raising the Dead", from the August issue (yes, I'm a little behind in my reading). A suspenseful adventure yarn of the highest order, it still always remains respectful to the morbid subject matter--Dave Shaw's effort to recover the body of a diver trapped about 800 feet down in an underwater cave. I don't want to say too much, so just read the article.

Don't click on these links until you've read the article:

A collection of media coverage of the story, compiled by Tim Zimmerman, author of the Outside piece.

Dave Shaw's website

Monday, December 12, 2005

This weekend, I watched some old-school TV, dusting off a few DVDs I've picked up some time ago. First off was The Best of Ernie Kovacs. Bizzare by the standards of his time, bizarre by modern standards. Sort of like David Letterman meets Spike Jones and His City Slickers meets Monty Python at their silliest. More surreal than outright hilarious most of the time, but the Nairobi Trio certainly made me laugh--a musical trio of men in monkey masks, you could tell the conductor monkey was getting enraged by the antics of his peers when the man in the mask would breathe heavy and suck the mask in and out...I guess you'd just have to see it. And the various syncronized musical numbers were pretty awesome. If you've never seen him (I hadn't), it's worth checking out. The Best of Ernie Kovacs DVD has a lot of material, though after about 90 minutes in one sitting, it becomes a bit overwhelming. Be sure to pace yourself.

After that, I watched a couple episodes of Peter Gunn. I've enjoyed the soundtrack CD from the show, and figured I should check out the source. It's decent entertainment. It was a bit ridiculous, in the tradition of old serials, in that it seemed like Peter Gunn should have died in every episode I watched (but I guess Peter Gunn as the Detective who Dies wouldn't be very exciting). And 25 minutes isn't really enough time for a well-developed film noir detective story to play out. But it's still reasonably exciting, with great music and a hip style. I was surprised how well the episodes I saw held up. Not earth-shattering stuff, but not bad.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Radio DavidByrne's playlist for December has an awesome mix of classic country. I'm just not in the habit of tuning in to Byrne's radio station, but I'll have to try to check it out more often, he plays some great stuff.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

I've had my computer back for a few days now. Seems to be working pretty good. A fair amount of data was saved, but plenty of data was lost, too. I've gotten most of the essential software reinstalled, but most of my time has been spent getting my music library back in shape. It seemed like all my music files were salvaged, but once I got everything set up, it appeared that several hundred songs were missing. So I decided to discard those songs and retrieve the songs from my iPod, but in the process of doing that I accidentally lost several songs, including virtually every song I purchased from iTunes. And I also lost my playlists, song ratings, and so on, which is no big deal, but certainly a minor inconvenience. But I've been able to recover a good part of what was lost from Limewire, and have dug up several CDs I need to reburn. Of course, I'm not entirely sure of which songs were lost, so I'm sure some months down the road I'll want to hear a song, and it'll be gone. But slowly things are returning to normalcy. Being without my computer really threw me for a loop.

Monday, December 05, 2005

I spoke to the repair place, and I'm getting a computer overhaul, rather than a new computer. I didn't want to buy another Dell, due to their crappy customer support, so I went to HP's website. With the holidays, there is quite a wait for customized computers, but I found one with nice specs for $760 after rebate. So I called the tech guy to see how my computer was coming along, and we agreed it was time to cut our losses. He suggested that I purchase a new processor and hard drive from him, and have it installed into my existing system. I had considered this, but was of the mind that I'd rather just have a brand new system. But he ended up offering me a pretty good deal, so that I get the new processor and memory and hard drive, including installation and transfer of the data recovered from my old hard drive, for about $370. I decided this was an offer worth taking, and decided to pass on the brand new system. And the best part is, he says he might have it ready today, which would be fantastic. So maybe the next posting on this blog with be composed on my new old computer.
My computer is still sick. The guy at the repair place says there are other problems beyond the hard drive, and I might need a new motherboard. So I'm thinking maybe it'd be worth it to just buy a new computer. The repair guy should be calling me back today, and then I should be able to make that decision. In the meantime, I am without computer at home (this is being composed on the company's dime), and at a total loss at home. At least I've managed to get some reading done, and do some cleaing. My closet is much more organized, so that it is now actually theoretically possible to find a book I might be looking for in there.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

My involvement in Paradise Poker's Million-Dollar Freeroll has come to an end. Out of 4871 players I came in 3359th place. I was on the verge of elimination when I managed to triple-up, and get right back in the action, but then pocket kings got cracked by J10 on the river, and the following hand, in dire straits, I went all-in with a flush draw, against trips, and I made my flush while my opponent caught the fourth king, to send me home. So I am not going to be on TV, playing poker in a mystery tropical location.

Friday, December 02, 2005

My hard drive crashed on Thursday. I'm writing this on a borrowed laptop. My computer is in a repair shop, where hopefully a technician will be able to recover some of my data (I've backed up a few crucial files, but not nearly as much as I should, and this could be a bad loss). Dell customer support sucks. I ended up paying $100 for them to keep me on the phone for four hours before telling me I needed to take my computer somewhere. The repair shop is reasonable, though, $49 for diagnosis and installing a new hard drive, and $49 for data recovery.

The timing was rather poor, however, as this weekend is Paradise Poker's Million-Dollar Freeroll, for which I have won a seat. Fortunately, I was able to borrow this computer, so I don't have to worry about my computer being repaired in time for the tournament's 11:00 start time tomorrow morning. I have about a 1 in 5000 chance of winning $1,000,000, and a 1 in 500 chance of winning $10,000 and a trip to a mystery tropical location.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

I've been dragging my feet so long in discussing my Vegas vacation, it feels like ancient history now. But I'll touch on the highlights, such as they are.

I stayed at the Stardust for the first time. I enjoy gambling there, it has a very old-school charm. The pit boss, who reminds me of Lunchlady Doris of Simpsons fame (or, if you prefer, a Night Court bailiff), is a Vegas landmark, to me at least. Hearing her Vincent Price impression always makes me squeal (sadly, I saw her, but never spoke to her this trip). As rumors are swirling about the future fate of the Stardust, I figured I should stay there at least once. There's probably no reason to stay there again. The rooms reminded me of the rooms at the Fremont, downtown, only larger, and with nicer bathrooms. Rather underwhelming, though I thought the artwork was nice, by hotel room standards. The small TV's remote control didn't work, but the front desk quickly sent up a replacement. The bathroom was reasonably large, and had a blowdryer, if memory serves. Overall, it's a decent room, in a decent location, and better than other Strip hotels in its price range (i.e. Imperial Palace).

One criticism I had for the hotel the first night--the shampoo they provided smelled like ass. I was taking a shower, put some shampoo in my hair, and nearly puked. Really foul. I had visions of a hotel employee putting sewage in a shampoo bottle to avenge some slight I may have given them. The next night, the shampoo was fine, but I could still detect a hint of odors which, if present in different quantities, might smell like ass. So I concluded that the shampoo the first night was from a defective batch, and let it slide.

Gambling didn't go too well for most of the trip. I just didn't have an adequate bankroll. The money I'd been waiting on from various online casinos arrived while I was in Vegas, but cashing a check in this town is hard. The casino cashed a small check for me, but I had to resort to ATMs with outrageous fees, and daily limits, so that I didn't have the deep pockets I would have liked. And so I played scared, feeling like I had to take risks to get a decent bankroll or bust out trying. And mostly, I went bust. Fortunately, I had some good luck my last night at the Stardust, and at the Riviera on my way out of town. So overall, I left a small loser.

I gambled a lot at the Stardust, but also put in a fair amount of action at the Wynn. A brief stab at the table games proved disastrous, but I had somewhat better luck at the machines, at least insofar as I lost slower and got to play for awhile. And I got a buffet comp, which was exciting. The buffet room is very nice, if perhaps a bit over-the-top. The buffet itself, however, was disappointing. I started out with a nice soup and salad, and some seafood. But as I slowly progressed through the buffet line, nothing really grabbed me. The ceviche station was a nice idea, but despite the variety, was ultimately nothing special. The sushi was of poor quality, though that can be expected of buffet sushi. The made-to-order risotto was a nice touch, and the shellfish was excellent. But the baked fish was dry and bland, and I had a hard time finding other foods that excited me. I think it may just be a matter of whether any of their specialties happen to be one of your favorites (I don't think I'd ever seen Cornish game hens in a buffet before), and for me, they weren't. Of course, good desserts can save a buffet, and the desserts certainly weren't bad. A chocolate mousse with chocolate brownie was quite good, and the ice creams were top-quality, but the bananas foster had an odd aftertaste. My main complaint, however, was with the service. Every time I got up to get a new plate, the servers decided I had left and bussed my table. When I returned and the waitress brought me a new water and silverware, she acted like she was doing me a big favor. Then I'd get up, and they'd do it again. And I never got another water after that. Even when I went for dessert, and was gone less than 90 seconds, they cleared my table. Luckily, they weren't able to seat another guest before I got back. Overall, I'd have to say the buffet, while by no means bad, is not the best in town. If I had paid $32 for it, I'd have been pissed off. I still prefer the Paris buffet (though I haven't eaten it since Harrah's assumed ownership, so I can't guarantee it's current quality).

The reason why I ventured over to the Wynn from the Stardust was because I bought a ticket to see Avenue Q. The ticket was obscenely expensive, though not too terribly out of whack by Vegas standards. But I rarely see shows in Vegas, and figured after all the comps I've received over the years, I could splurge to see a show that came so highly recommended. And I did enjoy myself, though ultimately I don't think I could recommend it, given the price. I was also disappointed by the lousy seat I received, six rows back, on the aisle. I could see the primary action well enough, but the recessed portions of the set, when doors open and walls are cast aside, were not very visible. Even worse, the backs of the puppeteers blocked my view of the hot puppet sex during the Act I climax. Fortunately, some elderly couples in my row didn't return from intermission, and I took their seat.

As to the substance of the show, my general opinion is that the show is for people who want to say they like "edgy" productions, but really don't. I mean, "The Internet is for Porn?" Wow, what a cutting-edge observation! But it certainly had its moments, and the basic story, of young people trying to find their way in the world, was touching enough, if not exactly novel. Of course, it's a shame the ticket price created a disconnect between the target audience of this story and the demographics of the audience, in Armani suits and furs. But then I suppose those are the sort of contradictions that drive Vegas. I was amused to discover that there was a character of Gary Coleman in the play (the building's super), and I did enjoy several songs, including "Everyone's a Little Bit Racist." Overall, it's an entertaining show, and if you can see a touring production when Wynn's exclusive arrangement is done, at a reasonable price, check it out. I just didn't think it necessarily lived up to the hype, or the ticket price.

I'm sure there were other delightful happenings in Vegas this trip, but I've waited too long to write this, and I'm just going to wrap it up. I stopped off at the Riviera on the way out of town, and had some great luck, so that I only left town a modest loser. Overall, it was a disappointing trip, as the odd turn of events in my online gambling overshadowed the trip.

Which means, I suppose, this is a good time to provide an online gambling update. First off, both casinos paid me. I'd have to give Casino On Net the edge on payouts, because while their posted cash-out times are ridiculously slow, they came pretty close to meeting those goals, while King Solomons was quite slow on the cashouts, compared to their posted policy. But I like King Solomons' software better, and they take care of their players a bit better, I think.

So I now feel much better about the integrity of these casinos, and their willingness to pay after a win. Unfortunately, my luck has turned. It got ugly. The sort of losses that would have me in tears, if it was real money, but since it's just credits in a computer, there is enough of a disconnect from reality that the money can just slip away. Fortunately, I got enough money off the table and tucked away that I didn't completely wipe myself out. But I still find myself thinking of what might have been, had I just walked away. I mean, really, how much did I think I was going to win? But ultimately I just have to accept that much of what I won is gone, and just look at the long-term picture, and concede that, overall, I've done alright. And just not let myself go broke trying to get back to where I once was.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Randy "Duke" Cunningham pleads guilty to taking bribes. Of course, that he was guilty as hell has been clear for some months, but I must admit I was surprised by the initial revelation that he was a corrupt politician. I vehemently disagreed with his politics, but I always figured he was at least a straight-shooter. And the lesson, as every person I've discussed this with mentioned immediately, is, if you're going to take a bribe in the form of free room and board on a docked yacht, don't name the boat after yourself (The "Duke"ster). And for what it's worth, I'll give him credit for taking the blame in the end, even if he had little choice. He could have pulled a Traficant.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

John Water's one-man show, A John Water's Christmas, will be at the Casbah December 18. $40 seems a bit steep, but I'm real tempted to go. I'm going to have to miss Los Straitjackets' Christmas show at the Belly Up, so this might be a good consolation.
Pink Martini are performing on Conan tonight. Don't miss it. I'm debating whether to buy a ticket to see them at UCLA this spring. I'm hoping they'll add a San Diego show, but somewhat doubt they'd be here twice in less than a year. Of course, if they do, that just means I can see them twice.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Today's Foxtrot addresses the recent Sony fiasco.

I'm sick, and I'm dragging a bit, but I'll post about Vegas soon. As for the Lovett/Hiatt/Ely/Clark concert of some weeks ago, I'll just say it was a great show, and I fully intend to explore Ely's music.

I also saw Lewis Black recently. Still funny, if not in top form. Trying out new material, some worked, some didn't. Looked tired, but hard to see anything in my nose-bleed seats (three rows from the back of the upper balcony, I could almost touch the ceiling...bad for seeing Black, but nice for checking out the architecture).

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

I've been rather tired lately, so I haven't had a chance to post about my trip to Los Angeles on Saturday. I had tickets to see Lyle Lovett, Guy Clark, Joe Ely and John Hiatt at Disney Hall, and I took the occasion as a chance to see the Sergio Leone exhibit at the Autry National Center. Unfortunately, I encountered traffic, and only had about an hour to spend at the Leone exhibit. I would have liked to linger over some of the film clips and scripts on display, but was basically able to see the entire exhibit in an hour (but was unable to see the other exhibits at the museum. I wouldn't make a special trip to Los Angeles just to see the exhibit, but I did find it informative and enjoyable. At the entrance to the exhibit, you can pick up a very nice mini-poster with a brief overview of the exhibit and of Leone's history. The exhibit briefly discusses Leone's background and early work (in his last stint as an assistant director, he worked on the chariot scene in Ben-Hur, before getting to the so-called Man With No Name trilogy. Clips from various films are screened through the exhibit, alongside informative signs about Leone's concept of "Cinema Cinema" and his various influences. Several scripts are on display, with translations, as are many props and costumes, including Blondie's poncho in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. One wing of the exhibit was dedicated to Leone's work with Ennio Morriconi, and while some of the listening stations were experiencing technical difficulties, I enjoyed this portion very much. I didn't have much time to watch the videos in the "Leone's legacy" portion of the exhibit, but from what I did see, it just seemed like a bit of fluff. But overall, a very good exhibit.

On the drive up, I got to thinking that the gift shop might be selling a replica of the poncho. I realized that I am not really a poncho person, and it would be rather impractical, but I decided I ought to treat myself a bit with my recent winnings, and decided, if they had a replica and I liked it, I might go as high as $200. Knowing how expensive those gift shops can be, I figured that was a reasonable price. Turns out the gift shop does sell a replica poncho, but it is $500. I was not prepared to go that high. I did look at a very nice duster, which I quickly decided was impractical after seeing its $200 price tag. But after leaving, I kept thinking back to the jacket. I dismissed it rather quickly, so I didn't really get a good look at it, but I think it would be rather flattering on me. It looked durable, and I emailed the store to learn it is made from a 100% cotton canvas. I first dismissed it because of the price, and also because I didn't know when I would have occasion to wear it. I soon realized that I had occasion that very evening, as I'm sure I would have looked very dapper at the evening's concert. I will not be in Los Angeles again until January, and the store couldn't tell me if they would still be stocking the jacket at that time (the Leone exhibit will be over, but while the duster was displayed near the poncho, and certainly seemed to have been delivered straight from the set of Once Upon a Time in the West, I don't think they stocked it only for the Leone exhibit...they had a lot of Western wear on sale). But I wouldn't be surprised if I soon make the duster part of my wardrobe.

The museum closed at five, and the concert was at eight, with a tour of Disney Hall at seven. So we had some time to kill, but proceeded to Disney Hall to eat. Unaware that Disney Hall actually had a nice restaurant, we started walking around the neighborhood, and ended up eating at an outdoor cafe outside of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilian. Decent food, overpriced. My mom asked for a medium-well cooked hamburger, and what she got was nearly raw. But it was a nice night for al fresco dining, and we were seated next to an old soap opera star my mother immediately recognized, who apparently was performing next door in the new Mamet play.

So that just leaves my comments on Disney Hall and the concert. But I'm very tired, and I need to pack. So I'll just say I had a good time, and try to elaborate when I get back home. Stay tuned.

King Solomons Casino paid me today. Not all my winnings, just my first cashout request (due to daily withdrawl limits, I have to stagger my cashout requests), but that alone leaves me with a profit, off the table. My the time I get back from Vegas, I should also have my money from Casino On Net, and my King Solomons Casino cashout should have made the journey from Neteller to my bank account. A shame I couldn't get the cash in hand in time for Vegas--as Maj. Kong would say, "a fella could have a pretty good weekend in Vegas with all that stuff."

Incidentally, while I've had my money stuck over at King Solomons Casino, I've still been playing. I had one truly ugly session, but lots of truly amazing sessions that more than made up for it. Makes me wonder why I ever go to work, like a sucker. Of course I know, from lots of personal experience, that this winning streak can't last forever. But that's no reason not to enjoy the ride. I just hope my luck holds in Vegas.

If, like me, you've been following the Sony spyware/copy protection scandal and intend to never buy a Sony product again, they have a list of all the labels currently owned by Sony on their web site.

I've been rather fatigued lately, haven't finished my post about this weekend's concert, but I'll try to post that tomorrow.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Gambling trade group speaks out against FBI data-mining in Las Vegas. If threat of terrorism doesn't keep you away from Vegas this New Year's, threat of government snooping should.
Salon has a fair and even-handed article on the DeLay case. Some of those who have ran into prosecuter Ronnie Earle have rather nice things to say about him:
Partisan considerations don't enter into it with Ronnie," says Republican state Rep. Terry Keel, who worked for Earle in the D.A.'s office. "I don't think it involves political ambition or is a political vendetta," says former Texas Attorney General Jim Mattox, a Democrat who was indicted by Earle while in office in 1985 for felony bribery. (He was acquitted at trial.) Adds Joe Turner, who represents John Colyandro, one of DeLay's codefendants, and once worked for Earle: "I like Ronnie. He's a good person. I don't think he's an evil person. And I think he truly believes that what he is doing is correct."
And Earle's record includes highlights not likely to be widely cheered by Salon readers:
Earle also risked the scorn of Austin's African-American and liberal communities when he tried 11-year-old Lacresha Murray -- the youngest murder defendant in Texas history -- not once but twice for negligent homicide in the death a 2-year-old child. (Both convictions were later overturned.)
After reading the article (and in particular the details about the attempted Hutchinson prosecution), I feel better about Earle's chances. I don't know if he can get a conviction, but I think at the very least, DeLay will have to answer the charges at trial.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Arrested Development looks to be in its death throes. There's always the hope of another network saving the show, but I hope at the very least they are allowed to wrap up their storylines.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Judge vacates verdict against Zucchet, sentences Inzunza to 21 months. It was a complicated case, so while I don't like to see judges disregard the thoughtful decisions of juries, this is the sort of thing where the judges decision may have been right. I've said from the beginning I wasn't sure on which side I was (other than that, guilty or not, Inzunza was a huge jackass), and would go by the court's decision, so I'll say that it is certainly possible the judge was right, and that the sleazy dealings of Zucchet, which the jury found criminal, were merely business as usual in politics today (by all accounts, the case against him was much weaker than that against Inzunza).
I was playing Elvis pinball, a fine game the praises of which I am sure I have sung here before. Unfortunately, the game at my local arcade has gotten rather run down, and in my first game, started behaving erratically. On my very first ball, moments into play, the game went into multiball mode, with ball saver mode also active. Once I got Hound Dog mode going, you can imagine how I racked up the points. Eventually ball saver came to an end, but multiballs kept starting for no apparent reason. As I was playing my first ball, up to about 600,000,000 points, and realizing it would be almost impossible not to get the new high score, I began thinking about that Twilight Zone episode, where the gambler dies and goes to a Vegas-style afterlife, with gambling and women, and he begins to win and win and win, and eventually he decides it's not in his nature to enjoy winning, so he asks his guardian angel if he can leave heaven and go to the other place, to which the "angel" replies, this isn't heaven, this is the other place. As I raked in the points at Elvis pinball with no effort to speak of, I began to wonder if I failed to wake up one morning a week or so ago, and that those of you reading this blog are merely fellow travelers in an ethereal nether region where my spirit is no longer hindered by probability and statistics. For my gambling winnings are piling up to a degree that's, frankly, scary.

Of course, I haven't seen a penny of that money, yet. I got an e-mail from Casino On Net (the operators of which, judging from their newly designed website, with the annoying pop-ups missing from the main page, at least, must read this blog), explaining that my cashout would be delayed a few days, because my check to them has not yet cleared. As they pointed out to me in the e-mail, this is a reasonable policy, as it probably does take the purported seven days for an American check to clear in Gibralter, which I believe is where Casino On Net is based. I was slightly annoyed that it wasn't until the third day of processing my cash-out (said processing generally taking one day, according to their own timetable) that they bothered to contact me about the delay, and more annoyed that their e-mail claimed the delay was required "according to our cashout policy," when their cashout policy says nothing of the kind. Again, I ultimately feel that it is reasonable for them to require the initial deposit to clear before processing a cashout, but I am still disappointed that they were more obtuse about this policy than they admit. What this means, of course, is that I will not have that money in time for my Vegas trip.

But I had already concluded it was unlikely I would have that money for Vegas. I was hopeful, however, I would have my money from King Solomons Casino. And I was still hopeful that, should they process my cashout by tomorrow morning (now this morning), I could still get the funds to my bank in time for the trip. Then I remember Armistice Day, bank holiday, and realize it's extremely unlikely the money will be available by my trip. Which means I will be going to Vegas with a very puny (by my standards) bankroll. For a brief trip, I should be okay, unless my luck is horrendous, but since I am, as I've said, a wraith of good fortune doomed to spend my eternal non-existance accumulating winnings, that shouldn't be an issue. But I'm less concerned now about getting my money from King Solomons Casino in time for Vegas than I am about getting my money at all. By their time frame, the money should have hit my account today, but it did not. But I understand that one's first cashout might take slightly longer than is typical, so I'll give them a break. I wouldn't worry at all, except that it is at King Solomons that I have had luck that I am hesitant to believe mortal men can have. Basically I log in, win money, take a break, log in, and win more money. So I now have a lot of money to cash out of my account, and am wondering if I'll ever see that money. Again, my experience in the past leads me to think highly of King Solomons Casino. In my experience with them the last few weeks, they've extended good offers to me, and I had no major problems. But it's easy for them to treat me well when I'm losing, but now that they owe me a lot of money, are they willing to pay up? Time will tell...I will be sure to update you on my experiences with cashing out from both King Solomons Casino and Casino On Net.

As for Elvis, I did earn a high score, about 1,300,000,000 points. I was hesitant to enter my initials, as I didn't truly earn that high score, but I did. Makes up for the high scores I lost when they moved the machine into the back (though I'm pretty sure I didn't have the number one slot).

McDonald's employees fooled by calls from "police officer" ordering them to strip-search fellow employees.
[Clinical psychologist Jeff] Gardere goes on to say that it was no accident that caller was targeting fast food restaurants. "Everything is by the book," he explained. "This is how you serve it. This is exactly how you do it. You follow the book -- you're OK. I believe he picked fast food restaurants because he knew, once you got them away from that book, once it was something outside the manual or the procedures, they would be lost."
The apparent perpetrator of the hoaxes was employed as a prison guard...makes you wonder how he entertained himself at work.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

A couple more posts went missing. I've realized the problem is that I was using an outdated version of Safari at work, and it was causing problems. Unfortunately, I can't upgrade, but maybe in the future I can use Internet Explorer to post here from work, and see if that works better (it's only an issue when I work in the ticket booth, which I only do one day a week these days). These were the links I were posting:

Pat Boone weighing in on the parchesi vs. dancing debate.

Odd use of umlauts in the New Yorker.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

I don't think I included the link for election results in my earlier post, so here you go. As I go to bed this evening, it seems pretty assured that every ballot measure in the state has been defeated. So was Donna Frye.
Energy reregulation defeated at polls. No big shock, but disappointing. I think this article illustrates the lack of information that was put out on this initiative. Take this quote from a voter: "'I didn't want the state getting involved with regulating electricity. We already know what happened with the last crisis,' said David Culbertson, a 48-year-old electrician from Long Beach who voted against the measure." The crisis he refers to (Enron, et al) was caused by deregulation. If you don't like "what happened last time," you're supposed to vote FOR 80. The article explains this near the end. But, unfortunately, the media decided not to explain this to people before the election, since no one was buying ads from them on either side of the issue, and therefore it was, in their eyes, a non-issue. I never did hear an explanation as to why there was virtually no campaigning, on either side. It's like they went to the trouble to get it on the ballot, and then gave up.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

It's 11:18 PM, 56.1% of precincts reporting, and every proposition on the ballot is being defeated. Prop. 75 is touch-and-go (49.7% yes), and a lot of Orange County votes have yet to be counted, but so have a lot of Los Angeles County votes, so I'm fairly confident Arnold just got his ass handed to him. He made a public appearance recently with his skeletal wife, a shit-eating grin plastered on his face, trying to look like a winner, to put a happy image in the face of the electorate, lest we picture him sitting in a darkened room, sobbing inconsolably. He vows to build more roads. Don't know how we're gonna pay for that, probably with the same magic money tree that's paying the $50 million for this election.
I saw Dave Alvin this weekend, performing at Acoustic Music San Diego. The show was unusual for Alvin in that it was an acousic show, and even more unusual in that it was a solo performance. He seemed somewhat uneasy with the format, looking a tad nervous as he bantered with the audience while tuning up between songs ("I should probably tell you a funny story...think of your favorite funny story...yeah, that's a good one"), but this certainly didn't manifest itself in his performance. "Haley's Comet," "Wanda and Dwayne," and "Out of Control" were a few stand-out tracks, as was anything off the new album, Ashgrove. He segued effortlessly from blues to country to folk, and adapted some interesting material for the acoustic show ("This is why Chuck Berry never did acoustic shows," he explained before one adapted electric guitar solo, which still sounded damn good to me). Before playing a Blasters tune (maybe, I can't remember for sure), he mentioned driving to the venue down Adams Avenue, and passing the old Adams Avenue Theatre, where he played in the '80s with the Blasters, and noticing it stands today as a fabric store. He seemed troubled by that, and who could blame him? But I hope he didn't take that as a sign that his best days are behind him, because Saturday night showed me that Alvin is still a tremendous talent. I'm kicking myself for missing him a few months back, when the Knitters were in town.
I hope you all made it out to vote, if they're voting where you are. CNN has reported a Democratic win in Virginia. Unfortunately, Donna Frye seems to be heading for defeat here in San Diego. But I am very optimistic about our statewide election. I do fear that maybe Arnold might win on one proposition (74 seems to have a decent chance to squeak by), and be able to claim victory since he seemed doomed to humiliating defeat. The whole lowered-expectations thing. But we should have a good idea in a few hours how things have played out. Oh, and if you're in California and haven't voted yet, do so, and vote no on everything except 79 and 80.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Wynn Resorts posts $14.2 million third-quarter loss. The article mentions rumors of disappointing ticket sales for Avenue Q, which makes me wonder if I should have bought my ticket in advance, or taken my chances on buying tickets when I arrived, and saving some Ticketbastard fees. Who knows, maybe the half-price ticket outlets might get tickets. I doubt it, but you never know...I've seen them offer discounted (not half-off) tickets to O before, and those tickets are generally hard to get.
A 78 year old woman, taken into custody by casino security after picking up a nickel left by another gambler, was awarded $600,000 in punitive damages on appeal (reduced from $875,000). The appeal court's ruling (PDF file) is an interesting read, and a reminder that one is not necessarily better off playing in the nice, legal brick-and-mortar casinos, given the disregard for civil liberties many of them have been known to show (and are finally beginning to pay for in court). I may have anxiety about Casino On Net actually paying me, but at least they are extremely unlikely to detain me against my will (and I'd like to think the La Mesa Police Department would be on my side, should they try--but I have no doubt on which side the Las Vegas authorities would come down if I had a problem in one of their city's fine gambling parlours).

Thursday, November 03, 2005

I've come to the conclusion that online gaming may not be the best thing for someone of my compulsive tendencies. I'm not writing off online poker entirely, just thinking of scaling back my efforts in that area. Taking a little break. Getting back to my first love, reminding myself that poker is not the only game in town. And so I have booked a trip to Vegas, two nights at the Stardust, and even bought a ticket to see Avenue Q at an obscene price. I figure it's time to do some serious gambling, in my prime element, where I know the score. Remind myself of what's out there, so that I don't think I have to stake my survival on becoming a better poker player.

So I decided I would tone down my gambling until the trip, but decided to make one last jab at online riches. Give poker a brief respite, and hopefully return to the game with a fresh outlook. Instead, I directed my attention away from the poker rooms and towards the online casinos, and their lucrative new player bonuses. At first glance, these deals are no-brainers, with new players often getting 100% bonuses on first deposits, sometimes up to $400. But I've avoided these offers, for two primary reasons. First, I've never trusted the casinos to offer legitimate games, and pay off fairly. They have much more to gain by cheating at casino games than at poker, where the house merely takes a cut of the action. Second, a related point, I don't trust them to give me my money if I win, especially if I win while taking advantage of a bonus offer. The terms and conditions at many of these sites basically state they can take your money if they think you're taking advantage of them, and you have no recourse. And, of course, any site can fail to pay you for any or no reason, and you really have no recourse. To be fair, most casinos seem to offer fair games and pay their obligations, but it always worries me. Moreso with casino games than poker, because, as I mentioned, the house doesn't have a direct stake in the action at poker, but also because of the higher stakes of casino gaming, where you might be chasing a huge jackpot rather than just some big pots. A casino might pay off small wins, but what if you hit it big?

So this form of online gambling makes me nervous. But I believe the major players in the market are honest and legit (they do have one thing in common with poker rooms--they're making too much money legitimately to risk cheating customers and driving off their clientele), and the sign-up offers are tempting. So I played at several casinos this week. Had some good luck at King Solomons Casino, but had bad luck taking advantage of some good follow-up offers they sent me (and also had some technical issues in taking advantage of those offers). Decent site overall, and since playing there once they twice deposited $50 into my account (one of these times was a birthday present), with no apparent strings attached (I lost it both times before trying to cash it out, but there didn't seem to be a minimum play requirement). The technical issues bothered me a bit, though, and customer service was only adequate, at best. Bodog seems a good site for people who don't want to shop around. No great signup bonus or anything, just a standing offer of 10% added to every deposit, with minimal play requirements. After playing and losing my initial deposit and my second deposit, I logged in a few days later and found $55 in my account. Never received an email telling me they gave me a bonus or anything, so I found that a bit odd. I'm not real crazy about their banking interface, and their deposit limits seem a bit low (though you can apply for a raise). I played at other sites, but only one other merits mention.

I won't actually put a link to Casino On Net, because of the horrendous overuse of popups and javascript windows, but feel free to go to their website,, if you like (the windows are annoying, but won't download anything unless you consent). They are one of the oldest players out there, and have a good reputation, and a generous 100% deposit bonus, up to $200, for new players. So I deposited $200, and did pretty well for awhile, and then things turned ugly. I eventually went broke and deposited again, and things were looking pretty bleak. And then I hit four deuces at deuces wild. And then I returned to blackjack, and kept winning there. And now I find myself facing the situation I wondered about: Will the casino pay me when I hit it big?

I'm not too worried, as Casino On Net has a good reputation. My main concern at the moment is when the cash will hit my bank account. One annoying aspect of Casino On Net is that they basically sit on all cashout requests for five days, then spend a day or two processing them, and then it takes a day or two to finally reach your bank. So they say a wire transfer payment should take 10-13 days. Which means it will most likely post the day I leave for Vegas. So I have no guarantees I will have that money to fund my Vegas trip. And as I hate banks and their piddling interest rates, I find myself in a bit of a cash crunch, with few liquid assets. I've transfered about everything to my credit union, and I will have a decent bankroll for Vegas, but if Casino On Net pays me in time, I will have a little more flexibility for taking risks in Vegas.

To conclude my discussion of Casino On Net, I'll just say that their software is somewhat annoying, as is their website, and their cashout policy is ludicrous (they are most generous in that, after you have wagered at least $3 million at their casino, they will only sit on your cashout requests two days before processing them). But I had good luck there, and so I will most likely play again. I would have to say, though, that both King Solomons Casino and Bodog are more likely to get the bulk of my action. And I'll probably keep shopping around, as I still haven't found a casino that offers everything. And so while I have put some of my big win towards replenishing my dwindling poker bankroll, I do plan to reinvest some of that win into some more lucrative sign-up bonuses.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

A touching and amusing Peanuts strip. Charlie Brown's refrain is rather reminiscent to a Magnetic Fields tune, "The night you can't remember, the night I can't forget", or something like that.
Another post of mine has disappeared for some reason...don't know why, but it happens infrequently enough that I choose not to worry about it.

UPDATE: This replacement post also didn't show up, but I was able to recover this post, since I hadn't logged off yet. So I don't have to type this post a third time. I think it has something to do with the "preview" option, so I just have to stop checking my spelling and HTML coding, I guess)

Anyway, the last post was just to let you know that Music Without Boundaries is returning to San Diego radio, on 91X. Thank you, Clear Channel. I've discovered several artists on this program, including Natalie MacMaster, and (one of my all-time favorites) the Hot Club of Cowtown. Too bad my tendency to sleep in, now that I don't work Saturdays, means I will probably be an irregular listener, at best.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Poll numbers show that all of the governor's four ballot propositions losing. And momentum doesn't seem to be on Arnold's side (though given his horrendous poll numbers personally, I was surprised the percentages were as close as they are). Now we just have to hope low turnout doesn't lead to any nasty surprises.
The following are my results from one of those personality tests you can take online. I'm posting it since, if I were truly paranoid, I would not put such damning test results online, where my friends and loved ones could find them and use them against me. So the test is clearly bullshit. Probably was rigged to give me bad results by one of my closest friends, just to drive me mad. But I'll show them soon enough... (actually, I would say it's my low narcissistic score that puts the validity of the test in doubt, as I tend to think I'm pretty full of myself)
Paranoid Personality Disorder:High
Schizoid Personality Disorder:High
Schizotypal Personality Disorder:Moderate
Antisocial Personality Disorder:Low
Borderline Personality Disorder:Low
Histrionic Personality Disorder:Low
Narcissistic Personality Disorder:Low
Avoidant Personality Disorder:Moderate
Dependent Personality Disorder:Low
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder:Moderate

-- Take the Personality Disorder Test --
-- Personality Disorder Info --

Sunday, October 30, 2005

This sounds like an act I'd like to see on Jackass sometime.
I saw The Mikado performed by Lyric Opera San Diego Friday night. It was my first opportunity to see their newly restored theater. I have tried to visualize the block in my head pre-restoration, and cannot (you can see a photo of the theater mid-construction on, with a little scrolling), but it looks nice now. The marquee on University has been fixed up, but the main entrance is actually on the side street. Probably a wise choice, but I hope they plan a more aesthetic fix to the University entrance, which is currently boarded up with plywood and makes an odd juxtaposition with the flashing lights of the marquee. The lobby is nice, with art deco posters on the walls and an antique silent movie projector near the concessions stand. The lobby was a bit cramped during this sold-out performance, but not too bad. The actual theater is quite pretty, and gives the Lyric Opera a lot more room for staging and the orchestra. The lighting protrudes into the auditorium, which is unfortunate, and the seats are a bit too cozy, with the leg room barely being sufficient for myself, but these are minor points. All in all, they have restored this vintage movie theater (the first suburban theater in San Diego, at a time when this neighborhood called to mind the description "suburban") quite nicely (I understand there are plans to show films here again, through some cinema society, which is very exciting)

This was my first time seeing a full-length Gilbert and Sullivan production (I've seen Trial by Jury before), and I enjoyed the experience. The Mikado presents a deliberately naive Victorian fantasy of Japan, utilized as a satire of the absurdities of the British judicial system, among other elements of English existence. And surely many of the production's points are applicable to our society today as well. Lyric Opera San Diego's production was sure to insert some jabs at our local political messes, with Pooh-Bah's multitude of meaningless titles now including the mayor and various city council seats currently unfilled in San Diego, thanks to the pension mess and some corruption convictions. Most additions of this kind were amusing, though I cringed when they slipped in a Lorena Bobbit joke (which left me wondering when the Judge Ito joke would surface). The cast was uniformly strong, with Nanki-Poo and Katisha standing out (I don't have the program in front of me to recognize the actors by name). The stage design was spare but effective, and the orchestra was wonderful. The acoustics of the venue were adequate--there are better venues in town, but there's really nothing to complain about. Overall, I enjoyed myself. This was my first Lyric Opera San Diego performance, but will most likely not be my last.

Friday, October 28, 2005

In a sneaky maneuver, a Christian broadcaster is attempting to appropriate a high school's radio station frequency. You can find an address to write to the FCC in defense of the school and local control of radio at the station's website.
Libby indicted, resigns.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Do they know it's Halloween?
Miers withdraws Supreme Court nomination. In other news, Fitzgerald is expected to announce indictements tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

I witnessed a nasty accident on my way home from work today. A motorist hit a bicyclist, and sent her flying a fair distance. She seemed banged up pretty good. Crying a lot, and seemed in a lot of pain when they put her on the stretcher, but at least she was alert. I was the only person besides the two involved who witnessed the actual collision (and stopped). Unfortunately for the bicyclist, I had to tell the police she was riding in the wrong direction (though the driver still should have looked both ways before pulling out). Hopefully, her injuries aren't too severe (and fortunately, she was very near a very good hospital).
Kansas to teach Stork Theory alongside Pregnancy Theory.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Rosa Parks, dead at 92.
I have a paper due Thursday for a film class I'm taking. I hadn't done much preparing, but I was going to really buckle down tonight, and take notes on all the films I would be writing on, and then go to the library tomorrow. One topic we could write on was a particular filmmaker or comedy team, and I got the idea to write about Ealing Studios comedies, as a sort of comedy team. Seemed like a fun topic, on which I should be able to find a lot of material. Then I was looking at the syllabus of the course this morning, and I happened to linger a bit on the title of the course: "American Comedy Films." And slowly it began to dawn on me that maybe my topic was somewhat flawed given the regional scope of the class. So now I'm at square one.

This quarter hasn't gone that great. It'll be fine, I've just slacked off a lot, not put in much effort. There weren't really any classes offered that would fill the last few holes which need to be filled to graduate, so this quarter really seems rather inconsequential. So even a very easy assignment (like the four-page paper mentioned above, for a lower-division class) seems like too much trouble. I'm sure it'll all turn out fine in the end, but I'll be glad when this quarter is over, and I can maybe accomplish something in the spring.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Copyright issues lead to Strangers With Candy's distribution deal being dropped. Little did I know that, months later, the painful legacy of The Dukes of Hazzard: The Movie would linger on. Hopefully someone else will release this, at least on DVD.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

I saw Tim Burton's Corpse Bride on Thursday. Rather enjoyed it. I've always been somewhat ambivalent about Tim Burton. Even his movies I haven't really cared for are still fun to look at, and his best films are wonders. But I remember not really having any strong feelings either way when I saw The Nightmare Before Christmas. And as much fun as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was, I really didn't like Big Fish. But I was really able to get into Corpse Bride, both the look of it all and the story. Tim Burton sometimes bugs me when he tries to be an ersatz Edward Gorey, like in The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy, but here the Victorian look really fit the story, and the character's visual charms really helped the film (I liked the football-headed boy with the round eyes who gets reuinited with his grandfather). I'd definately recommend this as one of Burton's successes.
I saw Country Joe McDonald perform at Acoustic Music San Diego last night. Good show, overall, and I enjoyed myself. The place was almost full, an older audience that was obviously enjoying the show for the nostalgia factor as much as anything (the person next to me asked why someone my age would be there. I told her I recalled hearing "I Feel Like I'm Fixin' to Die Rag" in history class). Country Joe still has a good voice, and played a mix of both new and classic material, peppered with stories about the 60s and about the history of Country Joe and the Fish, their run-ins with the law, and the experience of being paid not to appear on the Ed Sullivan Show. His story about trying to get high smoking bananas was particularly amusing. It was a bit odd hearing the "fish salute" in a church. Overall, I had a pretty good time. Really looking forward to seeing Dave Alvin there next month.
I bought a new iPod Photo. I knew it was only a matter of time before I broke down an upgraded, so I figured now was as good a time as any, given the sale price of the old iPod lines. I ran in the Chancellor's Challenge 5K at school on Friday (26:07, a rather disappointing time, but no big shock, as I'm still rather out of shape), and swung by the bookstore afterwards. Which turned out to be a good idea, as quite a few people were taking advantage of the sale prices, and they only had maybe 12 of the 60 gig iPods in stock (they didn't have the video iPods in stock yet, that I could see). The iPod Minis, at $129, were a particularly popular item.

It took me awhile to get the new iPod set up, but it's working fine now. I'm very happy with my decision. The color screen is a nice touch, and the firmware for the iPod photo is definately improved from that on my old iPod. The clickwheel is more responsive, it seems, and Podcasts are in folders, with the date of each episode clearly displayed (I still wish they would display the oldest podcast first, instead of last, but that's a minor issue). The firmware takes up more space, so that the 60 gig iPod only has about 55 gigs of available space (the firmware on my old iPod was well under 2 gigs). I was somewhat upset by this until I realized the new iPod OS works better. But part of the space is no doubt taken up by the photo technology, which is underwhelming. It's not why I bought the iPod, so it's no big deal, but the photos don't look that hot on the tiny screen. But that just makes me happier I didn't pay extra for a video-capable iPod. I don't think a half-inch larger screen will make the experience of watching videos any more appealing than watching pictures on this iPod. And the video viewing software probably eats up a bit more of the available space. So I think I made the smart move, and hopefully won't have to upgrade again for some time.

Friday, October 21, 2005

I find myself out of space on my iPod. I knew this moment would come, of course. Once I had less than a gig of space left, I knew it was only a matter of time. I wasn't too alarmed by the eventuality, but now that I am officially out of room, it's more emotionally draining than I anticipated. The agony, of course, is only intensified by the fact that there are products on the market that would make the problem disappear. iPods with larger capacity, that can store photos, even play videos. And they're smaller than my iPod! I want one so bad, but it just seems so wasteful to spend that kind of money to buy a replacement for something I have only had about ten months, which still works fine (despite being dropped--hard--onto concrete, twice). My mother gave me an out, though, hinting that she thinks it would be neat to have an iPod. I don't really know why she would need one, but she said it would be nice when she goes to visit my sister and her granddaughter. Because, you know, you need something to listen to to help pass the time on that grueling flight from San Diego to San Jose. So now I'm thinking, I buy myself a new iPod, give Mom mine as a Christmas present (load it up with her CDs, and maybe a few new ones), and I've sidestepped the moral issue of whether my behavior in this matter is wasteful. I'm just spending $300 on my mother for Christmas, though somehow I get the new product and she gets a used product with a rapidly deteriorating battery life (so I'm told, I haven't had any battery issues yet).

The waste isn't my main concern. It seems a good use of some of my recent gambling winnings (though my ugly turn at the casinos today makes it harder for me to treat gambling as a magic cash machine), and seeing as I use the iPod a lot and feel that the purchase of my first iPod was a life-changing event, who am I to begrudge a few hundred bucks? I mean, if I don't buy the iPod, I'm not sending the money to starving people in Nairobi. So, my main worry at the moment isn't so much that, but rather a concern that a new iPod will be released in early 2006, that will dramatically improve on the video iPod concept. So I'm tempted to hold out for awhile longer. Further complicating the issue, the UCSD Bookstore has the old iPod Photos on sale. So I can get a 60 gig iPod Photo for the same price as a 30 gig iPod Video. I don't really care about the ability to play videos, but I'd rather have the feature than not have it. But I'm more interested in space. So I think I'd go for the old 60 gig model over the new 30 gig. But for $100 more, I could get the 60 gig model with all the latest features. But $100 is not chump change, exactly. I'm leaning very heavily towards getting the old 60 gig model, but I can't quite make up my mind. I might swing by the bookstore tomorrow, after the Chancellor's Challenge, and see if I can take a look at the old iPod. Unless it's a lot bulkier than my 20 gig model, I can't see paying the extra money for the sleek new model. Of course, that sidesteps the question of whether I need a new iPod at all. But seeing as I'm going to the trouble of typing out this long rambling post just to talk myself into doing what I know I'm eventually going to do, I guess I've made my decision on that count.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

For a second time, a post of mine seems to have disappeared. Last time, it was about the Sea Chantey Fest on the Star of India, this time it was about a possible incidence of bioterrorism in Washington, D.C. What's the connection between these posts? The truth may be just too horrific to ponder.

Or maybe I made both posts at work, and I'm not familiar with Macs, and did something wrong. Or maybe Blogger sucks (thought I haven't really any problems besides two missing posts). Or maybe the computer is trying to serve as a judicious editor for me.

I just stumbled upon a discussion of Zener Cards, which I found rather interesting, for several reasons, but mainly because of the obvious point, which never occured to me (probably because I don't spend a lot of time sitting around pondering Zener Cards), that with a deck of 25 cards, 5 of each figure, card counting was a significant factor in experiments with the cards. Apparently some supposed psychics beat Edward Thorpe to the concept of "beating the dealer" by about 30 years (though Thorpe's uses of the skill were more lucrative).

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

My last update on my online poker situation was rather bleak. But I'm now happy to report that things have turned around dramatically. Unfortunately, I must be honest and say that luck, not skill, is purely to blame. The sessions I've done the best are the sessions where I've lost my patience and made stupid moves. No bluffs are called, and every crying call seems to pay off. But I'll enjoy the money (a lot of it) nonetheless.

Still, I'm beginning to wonder about my long-term future in poker. I think I've been pretty fair in my self-assessments here. I don't claim to be a poker god. I think I am somewhere between a slightly-below-average player and a slightly-above-average player. In fact, I may just be, god help me, average. But that's okay online, for two reasons. The casino's take is much smaller online (they might rake $0.50/$1.00 out of a pot that a brick and mortar casino would rake $3.00/$4.00), and there are a lot of real shitty players online. But while the house take may be smaller, you still have to be a good enough player to overcome that take. If you're a weak player, a lower rake just means it will take the casino longer to drain your bankroll. And I'm finding fewer and fewer fish at my favorite casinos. And recent reports about stagnation in the online poker industry, which have led investors to hammer away at the stocks of online gaming company, do not bode well for the future of the poker ecosystem.

But perhaps I'm just being negative. I mean, I made a solid four-figure win this week, and I'm complaining about the game? Sure, I got lucky, but getting lucky's the only way to win at this game. Everyone gets lucky sometimes; the trick is not losing too much money between lucky breaks. Anyway, I'm not writing off the game of poker entirely. I'm just saying, in my gut (which Steven Colbert assured me last night is what I should be listening to), I don't see me getting rich off online poker. And I think I'll keep my attention directed more firmly on Vegas.

I tried to see Tim Burton's Corpse Bride this evening, but unfortunately the projectors were broken down at the Pacific Grossmont Center, and all the shows were cancelled. You'd think they'd put up a sign or something, but instead they just closed up the box office and left us to figure it out. I thought maybe they were selling tickets inside, so we went in, and the guy at the customer service desk just acted confused and explained all the shows were cancelled. So that stunk. Maybe Thursday I'll go see it (I have to watch The Graduate tomorrow, for a class).

Monday, October 17, 2005

Charles Rocket, dead at 56. His role in It's Pat: The Movie would be high on my list of best performances in truly crappy films.
The Complete Idiot's Guide to Randy Newman. Don't let the name fool you, Newman's music is not for complete idiots, so don't plan on eating potato chips while you read this. There are links to mp3s of quite a few Newman songs, but I don't believe they are current. I could object to things here (I don't consider "It's Money that Matters" shallow, but find it rather heartfelt, in the same vein as "The World Isn't Fair"), but still enjoyed reading it very much, both for his insight and for encouraging me to think over Newman's entire body of work in one sitting.

As an aside, I will mention a pang of guilt I felt in reading the above article. A co-worker was telling some bizarre story about a website that rents children, that apparently has been all over the news lately, yet no one at work had heard of it besides her. Though I'm sure I made some lame crack at the time, it was not until reading the above article, and encountering the lyrics to "Love Story," that I realized I missed an opportunity to make a lame Randy Newman joke in response to this apocryphal news story. It was the same regret I felt recently, after encountering a link on another site to an article I also linked to, regarding David Byrne's musical factory. Nowhere in my link to the news did I make the screamingly obvious joke, which I encountered in the headline, "More songs made by a building, no food." Funny? Not really. That's not the point. Failing to make the joke, however lame the joke is, makes one even lamer. So let me just say, that unless Stockholm has a greater audience for conceptual art installations than this country, around this factory you won't find long lines, but rather (Nothing But) flowers. A big old factory like that sounds plenty spooky, though--I'd hate to be in there with a psycho killer, qu'est-ce que c'est? But really, why waste time on such trivial projects when we're living life during wartime? I wonder if David Byrne will appear in the exhibit naked? And so on.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

An article from the Las Vegas Review-Journal about the Poker Players' Alliance. Somewhat more positive than an article I linked to earlier, and somewhat more vague in what exactly they hope to accomplish, or at least how they hope to do so. In any event, I wish them luck.
The Sunday New York Times has a report on the Judith Miller case. Rather odd story. Very long, yet I didn't learn much. Probably because, according to the article, "In two interviews, Ms. Miller generally would not discuss her interactions with editors, elaborate on the written account of her grand jury testimony or allow reporters to review her notes." This is how cooperative she was in an interview with her own paper. One gets the impression Miller is a bit of a loose cannon, whose decision not to testify might have been motivated as much by an unwillingness to be held accountable for her reporting as any higher journalistic principles (though the fact that Miller didn't publish what she was told undermines this point--though the Times piece suggests, in conflicting reports, that the failure to print the information was not for lack of trying). So all we get is the back-and-forth between her lawyer and Lewis Libby, and it still doesn't make a lot of sense why she was in jail. She still claims she just didn't believe Libby's waiver of confidentiality was freely offered, but then, after hearing the tone of his voice, was suddenly convinced he was eager to talk (even though he still expressed confidence she would exonerate him, when she actually did the opposite). It sounds more likely she became more eager to cut a deal with the special prosecutor when it was suggested he might empanel a new grand jury and keep Miller in jail for 18 more months (seems unlikely a judge would go along with this).

In any event, the article doesn't add too much to what was already known, though it is probably worth reading for discussion of the difficulties for the Times in covering the case while defending Miller's pledge of privacy. And for those wondering where the grand jury is heading, from what one can gather from the description of grand jury testimony in this piece, it seems purjury charges against Libby might be in the cards.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Getting caught up on MP3 blogs, I came across a good notice for a band called Castanets on Salon's music blog. I did enjoy the clip, and was intrigued when I saw a quote from an interview with Castanets on another site, mentioning a move from San Diego. I went to the interview, and was surprised to read in the introduction, "Ray Raposa's songs are like midnight gunfights between the superegos of Hunter S. Thompson and Johnny Cash." Surprised because Ray Raposa used to work for me over at the Cove. Nice fellow. Glad he's doing so well. I'll be downloading the new record from eMusic in the near future.
In hearing reports about Katie Holmes pregnancy, I learned of the existence of a project she had to drop due to the pregnancy, a biopic of Spade Cooley. His life story does seem well-suited to the movies, though I wonder about Dennis Quaid trying to direct.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

An interview with Kurt Vonnegut. He's quite the cheery fellow. I was unaware his daughter was briefly married to Geraldo Rivera.
David Byrne turns factory into instrument. A shame I won't be in Stockholm anytime soon.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

As I may have mentioned here before, I've been looking forward to seeing Lyle Lovett in L.A. for some months now, and the date is fast approaching. It will be my second time seeing Lovett perform, and my first Lovett concert in the "Songwriters' Tour" format, with Joe Ely, Guy Clark, and John Hiatt also performing (I saw him with his large band, which was great, but a jazzier experience, while this will no doubt be a more countrified evening). A trip to L.A. for the concert also offers an opportunity to see the Sergio Leone exhibit at the Autry National Center. A nice little mini-vacation (and not even gambling-related!).

Anyway, I got an e-mail from an online friend, whom I've met in real life a few times at Randy Newman-related activities, offering me two tickets to the Lovett concert if I knew anyone who wanted to go. Now, I had thought about bringing my mom to the concert, because I took her to see Lyle Lovett with me as a Mother's Day gift, and she was disappointed, because he kept trying to sound like Harry Connick, Jr. (I understood her point, but enjoyed his jazzy and blusey numbers as much as his country songs) So I thought she'd enjoy a more acoustic, country show. But as I was buying a series subscription to make sure I got a seat for the Randy Newman concert, there wasn't a practical way to get a ticket seated with me for her as well, so I dropped the idea. But now, due to Ralph's generosity, my mom can go to the show (though she wasn't too thrilled when she found out, as a condition of attending the concert, she had to return to the Autry museum), I get a much better seat for the show, and I can pass my ticket on to another member of the online Randy Newman community to enjoy. Should be a fun night.

Several articles on the front page of today's Union-Tribune arts section cover the debut of Lyric Opera San Diego in their new home, a converted movie theater in North Park. I went ahead and bought a ticket to see The Mikado on my birthday. I'm slightly miffed they apparently lost or ignored my request to be added to their mailing list, as I might have gotten a better seat (and their online ticketing system is error-prone, though I do like the ability to pick one's seat from a seating chart showing what exact seats are available). But I imagine with their big move, these things happen. Anyway, should be a fun show, only my second time seeing Gilbert and Sullivan performed (and my first time seeing anything by Lyric Opera San Diego, as I never made it to their old digs in Balboa Park).

Friday, October 07, 2005

I've had a few days to familiarize myself with We Love Katamari, and just taken on it's own merits, it's a fantastic game. In comparison with the original Katamari Damacy, it falls somewhat short, just because it fails to surpass the original. The original is probably the best video game on the market today, and given it's replay value, a sequel was perhaps not really needed. But we got one, and we might as well enjoy it.

The fundamental game play is unchanged. Controlling the katamari, a ball, you roll up anything you can, starting with small things, then bigger things as you get bigger. So at first you're picking up postage stamps and erasers, and later you're picking up trees and bicycles and people. The controls are very simple, utilizing the two analog sticks like tank controllers. Your mission is to get your katamari as large as possible, as fast as possible. One change from the original is that, on the basic levels, you first try to get as large as possible within the time limit, and then on your second time you just try to get to a certain size as quickly as possible. After meeting both goals, on future tries you can choose either goal. Having two (similar) goals to choose from, and the fact that your starting point on each level changes each time (from a few set start points) increases the replay value.

The most obvious changes from the original game involve some of the less traditional levels introduced in this sequel. Like the original, there are several levels that involve rolling up as many of a particular type of item (i.e., flowers) as possible. I never enjoyed these as much as the basic levels in the original, and feel the same here. They're fun enough, but there are better levels (though the level where you are at a school, and have to roll up 100 children, is fun, though disturbing, if you start to think about it). So far, I haven't encountered a level where you have to roll up exactly one of an item (i.e., roll up one cow), and you have to avoid rolling up small cows until you can roll up a big cow (I hated those in the original game). Instead, We Love Katamari has many levels not really comparable to the original. On one level, instead of a katamari, you're pushing a sumo wrestler. You must get him enough food, so that he gets big enough to knock another sumo wrestler out of the ring (you get added honor if you can win the match by roll-up, rather than simply knocking the other sumo down). This one is a lot of fun, with the oval shape of the sumo wrestler changing the feel of the game, and creating new challenges. One game involves making a snowman, while another involves a race, where your katamari is constantly moving, and all you can do is direct it. Some, like the snowman level, fall flat, but other levels, like the racing level, are pretty fun. My first reaction on encountering some of the more bizarre levels (i.e., the sumo level) was that the game designers were just adding cheap gimmicks to a game that didn't need any improvement, but after giving these levels a chance, I have to say I approve.

So just based on gameplay, the sequal is pretty darn good. Unfortunately, when it comes to the more general tone and feel of the game, they just can't quite top the original. It feels like, with Katamari Damacy, there was no expectation of the game being successful, and so the makers figured they could just do whatever they wanted. Yet with We Love Katamari, you can feel the desparation to achieve the success of the original, and the charm of the game suffers for it. It was a clever idea to make the original game's success part of the storyline. And some of the stories the King tells during load times are cute (of course, the original didn't have any loading time in the middle of a level). But the cut scenes telling the story of the King of All Cosmos' childhood can't quite match the oddity of the astronaut's family story in the original. The music also is a tad disappointing. The opening theme is great, and most of the songs are good, but just not as crazy as the original's. The J-pop tune is quite enjoyable, but just feels a little too slick for this game.

But whatever I say, it doesn't change the fact that We Love Katamari is, when you get right down to it, a great game. Katamari Damacy is a great game, too, and probably a better game (and cheaper to boot). That said, I've found We Love Katamari as addictive as the original.

Someone has been fraudulently using my credit card. Fortunately, the bank was on the ball and only two charges of $1 each went through (presumably to verify the account info), and three larger charges in the $700-$800 range were blocked. Fortunately, I don't use the account in question, so getting a new account number is not a major inconvenience, and I'm not responsible for the charges. I do wonder how they got my account number, but assuming I don't have problems with the credit card company down the road, I don't seem any worse off for being the victim of this crime. I'll have to pick up a copy of my credit report in a month or so and see how things look, but I can do that for free.
I signed up today at, a service which monitors what music you listen to, and keeps a log of all the music you play on your computer (or, using a program called audioPod goes iScrobbler, on your iPod), for all the world to see. It also enables you to listen on internet radio stations programmed based on the music people like yourself enjoy. It's free (for $3/mo., you can get a more personalized radio experience), and it nicely humors my more compulsive tendencies (surely monitoring subtle shifts in my music habit will complement my recently began project of ranking every episode of every television show I have on DVD...which I am considering expanding to every scripted--i.e., The Daily Show is exempt--television show I watch).

Anyway, what this means for the dedicated readership of this blog--both of you--is that you can now see my music profile, and learn what I was listening to, and when (though I can't figure out how to set my local time zone, so you might think I've started getting up at six in the morning). I've added a link to the profile near the top of the page. At the moment, Randy Newman, the Love Hall Tryst, and Pete Seeger are in the top three most-played artists, but just between us, I think Pete Seeger is on his way out. But only time will tell. Send in your long-distance dedications for Seeger now! (Which reminds me, we got our tickets for Arlo Guthrie in the mail a few weeks ago, and got box seats, which for two tall people is good news. Should be a fun show)

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Sven's Revenge. I think I found this so funny because it fits the theme of the Perry Bible Fellowship comic, and yet the premise would almost not be out of place in a Ziggy strip. That poor Ziggy just can't win, you know?
The trailer for The Shining if it were released today (Quicktime file). Having just seen The Shining for the first time last weekend, I found this quite amusing.
I got an email the other day, about planning for my ten-year reunion. Argh. I doubt I will be going.
A Poker Players Alliance to lobby on behalf of poker players, online and off. Good idea, though the astroturf nature of the group (the seed money was provided by online poker rooms) may prove a hindrance. In any event, I hope this is the start of a trend. I am reluctant to think that the inexorable march of history will easily be changed, but I do think the time is ripe to break from the traditional boom/bust model, where gambling expands dramatically, and is swiftly reigned in by a moralistic backlash. It is time the government approached gambling regulation as predominately a consumer protection matter. Not that the government should not regulating gaming to keep the social costs contained, but players should receive a fair deal from a gaming establishment chosen in a competitive marketplace, just like any other market in this country. Lobbyists working for gamblers (even if pushing a fairly narrow agenda) should help advance this mindset. Though I will just say, while I do think this is a good time to strike, I'm not particularly optimistic. Sure, poker's popular, but how has pot's popularity affected the war on drugs? Of course, unlike marijuana, gambling has a bevy of legal companies in this country (MGM/Mirage, Harrah's, et. al.) eager to expand into the online market, and numerous tribal casinos, which should welcome federal regulation, sovereignty be damned, because one cheating scandal at a podunk Indian casino could kill their business). Anyway, only time will tell.

This seems a reasonable time to update you, dear reader, on my own online poker exploits. This was a bad week. Real bad. I do believe I cried at one point. Bad. I was in a bit of a funk earlier this week, and probably should have known I was not in a good mindset to play poker with discipline and patience. But instead I gave back what it took me a long time to win. Plus a few bucks. It's not a catastrophic loss that will force me to swear off gambling forever, but it's still frustrating that a few hours online can wipe out the benefits of a lot of hard work. I'll be taking a break for a few days, and sometime next week I'll start building back up my bankroll. And hopefully I'll be a little wiser, having learned not to chase losses, and not to play when depressed (though I already knew that, and fat lot of good it did).

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Monday, October 03, 2005

Consumer alert: Target has a number of TV-on-DVD boxed sets on sale for $18.88, a remarkable value. I bought the second season of Gilmore Girls, and the second season of Everybody Loves Raymond (to give as a gift). I also picked up the first season of Smallville, after noticing a mail-in rebate which brought the price down to $8.88. The rebate offer (available in a PDF file from Amazon) is for between $10-$50 depending on the number of DVDs you buy (basically, you get $10 off every DVD you buy after the first one), and covers quite a few TV-on-DVD boxed sets. I'm going to buy Mission Hill on DVD before I send in the rebate, and I'm tempted to pick up season three of Gilmore Girls on DVD, too, though I'll probably just wait and see if season three goes on sale some day.

While at Target, I also picked up We Love Katamari. The clerk who assisted me was very enthusiastic in his praise of the game, saying it's better than the original (hard to imagine how that's possible). My review will be forthcoming.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

"Don't be shy. Put your nose right up to the bunghole:" Some overlooked early works of famous authors, including Martin Amis' Invasion of the Space Invaders: An Addict's Guide to Battle Tactics, Big Scores and the Best Machines. Paul Collins discusses the article on NPR.