I wish I could make up stuff that is this funny or this sad.
With all of the fawning over President Obama and the political arguments during the campaign just past, this little blurb from MSNBC struck me as quite funny and quite true:
"Are your political views backed by reason? If you're a staunch Republican or Democrat, they're probably not. Areas of the brain associated with reason are hardly active when dedicated partisans explain away contradictory statements made by their preferred candidates, according to brain imaging research."
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/28814417/?pg=2#Tech_BrainScience to view the page.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/newsnight/2007/08/the_political_brain_by_drew_westen.html for more details on the research.
Now, if you know someone who is always partisan (republican or democrat), they are likely feeling more than they are thinking.
It seems like everybody else is writing about the greatness of the current President. I've been hearing about how much he got done on his first day in office (anyone could with 11 weeks to plan it), how he is having to stitch the Constitution back together (it's still in the glass box as far as I know), and how great a dancer he is (I think Michelle was leading - just kidding).
To be fair, I think I should write down the positive that I see currently. Even though I'm a conservative libertarian (little "l", not the libertarian party), I can see that he does have his good points. Even though his ardent supporters think he comes close to walking on water, that shouldn't keep me from seeing the good as well as the suspect. Let me explain 4 positives that I see.
The economy needs a change.
Much of economics, as I understand it, is as much about human nature and emotion as it is about GDP, bankruptcies and interest rates. Right now, the emotional state of the consumer is horrible, and for good reason. Too many folks are losing their jobs. Too many folks are walking away from mortgages that they can no longer afford. Too many folks are not buying like they used to because they are scared about what the future might bring.
It is that emotional segment of the problem that could make the downward spiral longer and deeper. A new man at the helm can help with this directly. Just having him there has lifted the sprits of millions. Hope for the economic future can help. The new administration has probably 9 months to a year to show some progress before the 'hope' effect wears off. The 2 or3 trillion dollars of stimulus/bail-out money should start having some effect before then.
He is Black.
I guess that is stating the obvious, but it is a good thing. There are a lot of white folk who carry around a lot of guilt over the way blacks have been treated through the years. I hope this eases their pain some.
There are a lot of folks (of both pallor and color) out there who feel like the system is a little less stacked against them now that the US has elected a person of color. Taking an issue like this from "It can't be done" to "It has been done" in about 9 months is remarkable and inspiring. It is a "stick in the eye" to all the bigot of the world that says "your time is past." It also says to the Europeans who have been talking down to us for the last 6 years or so, "Hey, you've got citizens of color. When are you going to catch up?" I didn't vote for him, but I don't like outsiders talking bad about my country.
He is young and tech savvy.
I'm not so young anymore, but I work in tech and enjoy much that the latest computer and entertainment technology has to offer. I can't stand the the old world monopolies of TV, cable, phone, High-speed Internet, etc. that old government think has brought us. There are better ways. Europe, for one example, is way ahead of us in high-speed Internet penetration. Net neutrality and more choices in providers of cable and Internet would be great for the country. We can even dream of legally depositing to on-line poker sites one day. Sigh.
The conservative movement needs him.
Lord knows that the conservative movement has been lost since the end of the Reagan administration. First GHW Bush compromised with the democratic congress and raised taxes while they ignored their side of the bargain (lowering spending). That led directly to Clinton's election. Since then, the democrats have talked more (yet done next to nothing) about conservative ideologies than have republicans. The republican congress that came in with the Contract for America flittered away its leadership opportunity with moral and political corruption. 9/11 put the last nail in the conservative coffin by ending all talk of smaller government.
That is where the stomping of the republicans in the election of 2008 come in. Now the conservatives will have an opportunity to get back to the values of smaller government, lower spending, strong national defense, and free enterprise. Who knows, maybe the republican party will become the conservative party again. At least I hope so. It will be a while until the message is heard, but I believe that these principles are best for the country and all its people in the long run. The liberal economics are like no-interest balloon mortgages. They are great for those things that we want now, but maybe can't afford. Things seem so much better for a while, until the real bills come due. (Note: I'm talking economic policy here, not social policy. That will have to be another post.)
If President Obama embraces smaller government, lower spending, strong national defense, and free enterprise, I'll be among his biggest fans. However, I really don't think he is strong enough to control his own party (read: Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, et al) and that will put a more radical wing of the democratic party in control. I don't think most Americans will like the result. I'm willing and able to wait and see.
He is so Dreamy!
In the mean time, I reserve this space for picking on any Obama fans that are still acting like infatuated teenage girls (except for those that are infatuated teenage girls, of course).
I just got a peak at this little jewel:
The short of the story is that the Senate Democrats want to provisionally seat Al Franken as a US Senator.
I've heard a lot of heartache about how Bush shredded the Constitution in making up law as he needed. Well, just over 24 hours into the new administration and the party that the new president leads is going to seat someone who has not been elected. Yes, he is leading, but the state has a constitution and laws that allow for the current process. He has not been elected. So let's hear the same level of anger toward Biden (he chairs the Senate now) and the new party in power.
No, I don't expect to hear a thing because it is Democrats that are doing it and all the bullshit about Bush has just been partisan politics, not arguments with principles. At least I won't be surprised.
For those who don't know, I travel a lot. I travel for my job and I travel a good bit during my time off. One thing I do when traveling is to check out the poker in the area. It is really surprising how many places around the country and world that live poker is available. Some of the oddest I've come across it are Milwaukee, Budapest, Florida dog tracks, and Seattle (Seattle is just odd). I've probably played poker in 25 or more casinos outside of Las Vegas over the years.
My last vacation happened to be at a resort in the Dominican Republic. We found out on arrival that it had its own casino (Make that "My wife found out..."). A quick lap showed that the casino had exactly one poker table. Both Dr. K and I knew right away that I was going to have to try it out.
I returned after Dr. K's bedtime to try my luck. This was, without a doubt, one of the worst organized poker games that I've ever played in, EVER! Most home games are better organized that this. I knew I was in for an experience as soon as I sat down. To start with, the chips were the wrong colors. The $1 chips were red and the $5 chips with blue. Well, that's really not a part of the poor organization, but it was a reminder that I wasn't anywhere near Kansas.
The big blind had just passed by seat when I sat down and put my money on the table. The dealer asked by if I wanted to play. I said "OK". She gave me chips, I posted $5 (it was a $2/5 NLH game) and I got cards. Those who play a lot know the problem here. One is never allowed to enter a game between the blinds and the button. I guess that is now "almost never."
Unfortunately, I got into a head-up battle with the big blind where I lost a lot by turning a low straight and my opponent rivered a gut shot for a bigger straight. I announced "straight after he called my river bet. He silently turned over his cards and the dealer started to push the pot my way. We both had to read the board for her to get the chips to the real winner. She would make that mistake several more times before her 30 minutes was up.
She also did not know the concept of matching the stacks. Each chip had to be counted and placed in it's own stack. This got especially bad at the end of every hand when she would count down the pot and then remove the rake from the pot. That's right, the rake was taken after the hand was over. The rake in this game was 5% with no max. another oddity.
The casino was very bad about allowing non-players to sit in the vacant seats around the table. This had three bad effects. The first was that those players kept getting dealt in which slowed down the already tortoise like pace. The second was that many potential players did realize that there were seats available. I like to have many players and lots of money on the table, so I had to point out to potential players which seats were available. The third bad situation here is that the guy sitting beside me, who was not playing, was sitting and leaning up on the table closer to my chips that I was. His arm was literally 3 inches from my chips. I also noticed that the poker table appeared to have no eye-in-the-sky. If he had grabbed a chip, I probably would not have had any recourse. I made him sit back and all was cool.
I won't even go into the string betting that was just rampant except to say that a certain blind-nazi I know would possibly been arrested for justifiably assaulting other players. There was one interesting case where a player bet and he was asked how much more he had and he pushed it out so the requesting player could see his stacks. The dealer pushed the stack into the bet assuming the player had gone all-in. It took us a while to explain to the dealer what had happened. Her English not so goot.
The worst situation came up in a big hand near the end of the night. I was showing down a hand holding q10 on a Q 6 3 2 9 board. There was about $120 in the pot as we are ready to show. My only opponent grabs his cards and then notices that he has 3 cards. I hated that, but his hand is dead at that point, right? Not necessarily in this game. No, the dealer starts to split the pot and return all money. Of course I calmly stated (ok, probably shrieked) "NO!". Luckily, the other guy was a good player and knew the rule and agreed with me that I won the hand. He showed that his was playing JJ and I showed that I beat his pineapple hand with my hold 'em hand anyway. That was a nice pot that got me up for that session.
The other interesting development was a hand where I called an extream-aggro player's post flop all-in with air on a 7 high board (I think it was 7 6 2). He had a 7 in his hand and I had AQ. I spiked a Q on the river to talk a $150 pot. I never get in that situation to suck out like that, but he asked for the action and represented a big hand pre-flop and I'd seen him do with with air, so that happens. Still maybe a bad play. Don't care.
At the end of the trip I came out ahead by $260, so I can enjoy the oddities of poker in the DR with fond memories.
I read a lot going into and during my winter vacation. Here are the titles of two books with my thoughts.
Fatal Revenant - The Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant by Stephen R. Donaldson
I've read this entire Thomas Covenant series which is up to 8 books now. This is the second book of the four book Last Chronicles. I never really got into the fantasy genre, but I really enjoyed these fantasy adventures as a teenager. Maybe I'm older now or maybe Donaldson needed a few more paychecks, but I didn't enjoy this one all the way through. He spends too much time on fillers and repeating the character's motivations and thoughts. I was looking for more action. Thankfully, the end of the book provided it. The end also provided a pretty serious hook to get me started on the next book (impending end of both worlds will do that). Looking back, it was worth the time. I'm hoping that there is more planned for the 3rd and 4th books. I already know I will have to read them. What is a revenant anyway?
1421 - The Year China Discovered America by Gavin Menzies
I'm a history guy. I like reading good stories and learning why things are the way they are. I loved the biographies of Ben Franklin and Alexander the Great. I like knowing something about the places I visit. Through the years, I thought I had picked up a pretty good basic knowledge of world history with a deep pocket here and there. 1421 changed a ton of that. It had me saying "Holy Shit!" and stopping the wife to tell her the discoveries several times during the reading. Miesies' explanations of why the European adventurers of the 15th and 16th centuries did what they did. They were not ignorant people. For instance, Columbus did know how big the world was and where America was. Magellan knew where to find the straight that is now named for him, and Cook didn't discover Australia. he had a map of it! This book is tight story telling (for the first half anyway) and a very enjoyable read. After you read this one, you will never trust another historian.
I'm currently reading Menzies' follow-up book, 1434. I'll post my comments when I'm finished.
BTW, a revenant is a person or ghost who returns, in case you were wondering.
Here is a quick rundown of the happenings:
Got back home from Germany with 2 days left before Christmas Eve, which is the cut-off for getting Christmas done. I managed to get enough done for Christmas to happen on time. The weather in Germany during my entire stay was cold and damp. I really didn't get out much and saw little to take pictures of, so there is not much to add of my adventures.
Christmas was great. I think we were all glad to have 2007 in the distant past. Everyone was happy and healthy.That picture above left is neither Germany or our Christmas.
Dr. K's birthday was on the Saturday after Christmas. She and I celebrated it on Friday and her family celebration was on Sunday, so she cut me loose to play poker on Saturday (her real birthday). Her legend (and my good fortune) just grows and grows.
New years found me in Greenville, SC again (3rd year) for the Bad Blood Poker Tourney. I rode down with Falstaff and T. I lasted longer this year than years past, but still not close to the money. I finished around 14th. I made back all but $20 in the cash game, so I start the poker year $20 in the red. The oddest thing happened on a hand of Omaha. I was dealt AAAA. I think the odds on that are 1/(52x51x50x49) or about 1 in 6.5 million. I've not seen AA in a hand of Hold' em since October and I've played thousands of hands during that time. Go figure.
Poker at Falstaff's won me another $16 to bring my balance for the year to -$4. And the picture is neither Greenville or Falstaff's yard.
Dr. K and I just got back from a winter vacation in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. We stayed at the Majestic Elegance resort. It was absolutely wonderful. We had read some really bad reviews and some really good reviews. The place has only been open since November 1, so we didn't really know what to expect. We spent our days sitting on the beautiful beach or by the pool drinking rum drinks, reading, eating, and whatever else came to mind (but not necessarily on the beach or by the pool). I did cut loose to play some hold' em at the on-site casino. My two very short sessions netted me around $260. I've still not seen AA (except in other people's hands) since Vegas in October, but I only mention that as a curiosity as I'm winning pretty consistently over that period, so no complaints. The pictures in this post are of our resort from our trip.
I need to do some more detailed posts about the interesting parts of poker in the DR and some other things I've seen since my last post. But for now, I have to get back to work and try to get my mind off of Punta Cana. Later.