Monday, March 30, 2009

OK, so what are G20 Protesters?


Pretty much says it all.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

AIG and the President

Man, I keep thinking that I'm going to quit writing about politics.  I do worry that I'm angering more folks than I'm changing minds or informing, but it's what is on my mind, so here I go again.

But first, a little background to make sure everyone is up to speed.  American International Group put together many of the financial instruments that added to the current recession.  I don't think they caused it.  Lending to folks who could not afford the mortgage was the cause.  These financial instruments hid the problem and misstated the  risk associated so that good folks who were invested in these instruments got hurt.  For that, AIG as a company and those responsible inside the company should make those investor whole before they have anything in their lives beyond the necessities.  I don't that that much will get much argument.

What I have a problem with in the case of AIG is when the politicians involved know the truth and say things that ignore that truth for political gain.  The case here is the President and congress.  This week, the President has been out in public proclaiming his dismay at the 'bonuses' that are being paid by AIG after they have been bailed out by the American taxpayer.  Were that the whole story, I'd be right there with him.  In fact, I think that was my first reaction.  But there is more to the story.

Note: The facts following come from an article in the Washington Post (a more liberal paper does not exist).

The 'bonuses' are not really bonuses, but are retention payments, meaning, workers/managers who signed contracts agreed to stay through the year and in return, they would get these payments.  It is nothing more than restructured salary.  This was the conclusion of the Federal Reserve.  The administration agreed with this conclusion.  The payments were so well known that the congress made protection of this type of 'bonus' a part of the bailout bill.  It is the law now.  Here is the amendment as proposed by Sen Chris Dodd (D-Conn) and passed:

"Crack down on bonuses, retention awards and incentive compensation: Bonuses can only be paid in the form of long-term restricted stock, equal to no greater than 1/3 of total annual compensation, and will vest only when taxpayer funds are repaid. There is an exception for contractually obligated bonuses agreed on before Feb. 11, 2009."

So not the President is out playing politics by expressing outrage and vowing to "pursue every legal avenue to block these bonuses."  Many regular folks are also outraged instead of informed and the employees of AIG who had nothing to do with this are under armed guard at work because of the threats caused by the President's grandstanding.  Many employees are not coming to work and some of their work is to unravel the mess made by those responsible.  If that does not get done, the economic situation can get worse for us all.

I would expect my president to stand up for fulfilling obligations, like employers paying employees, and to stand up for the law.   I certainly don't want him spouting off with false surprise because it will play well with the public.  In this case it is endangering the employees of AIG and the economy.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Give me a break indeed.

From Jake Tapper's (ABC News) blog (

"At an event at Union Station today where Vice President Joe Biden was heralding the $1.3 billion in investments in rebuilding train stations and passenger rails, a microphone picked up one of the former senator's myriad Senate colleagues addressing him, formally, as "Mr. Vice President."
That met with Vice President Biden's standard reply.
"Gimme a f*&$#ing break," he said, apparently unaware that the microphone was on."

This is news?  It sounds to me like the VP is being friendly and real person.  OK he said "fuck."  Good for him.  Jake, don't try to make news where there is none.  Concentrate on the man's policies and don't harp on this picky crap.  I didn't like it when you did it to GWB and I don't like it now.

Maybe it's just me.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

So what is this blog about?

A web buddy of mine named Jimmy May and his blog pointed me to a cool little tool called Wordle.  This Java applet analyzes a site or blog and then arrange the most used words.  Here is the Wordle for Special K's Place:

SpecialKsPlaceWordleThis is so interesting to me.  I didn't realize that I overuse certain words the way I do.  I probably use 'probably' too much.  I think I use 'think' to much, too.  It is good to see my bud's names showing up prominently.    I don't see Dr. K, and I know she gets a lot of ink.  Curious.  It is still a fun little tool.  Check it out:

Monday, March 09, 2009

Mastodon Revisited

It was almost a week (or two) ago now, but some strong memories remain from the big Mastodon Weekend in G-Vegas, SC.  It all started with a Rev. AlCantHang uprooting himself from the cold of the Philly suburbs and touring the east coast as he moves to Key West.  A plan quickly grew up around the tour stop in Greenville so that it included a procedure (which I will leave for others to describe, or not) and poker game.  Once the date was set, the A-listers of the poker blogging world started making their plans to attend.

Mr. & Mrs. Falstaff and I staged a preliminary event in the Queen City when Al stopped in for the Wednesday night before.  We took him around the uptown area for some dinner and drinks.  The end of the night was a great deal of fun.  Al had put everyone's drinks on his tab.  Knowing Al as a great drinker and humanitarian, he would try to pay for said drinks at departure, so when he went to prepare himself for the road (aka drain the weasel), Falstaff and I quickly had the bartenderess apply our $40 cash to the tab.  When Al returned and asked to settle up, he was presented with a bill for 6 beers, 5 shots and a glass or wine and a total of $16.50.  Un-rattled, Al just shook his head an muttered that he has been drinking in the wrong places.  We did nothing to correct him, but enjoyed it thoroughly.

Hot Brain the Red and I headed to G-Vegas after work on Friday.  We arrived as the early arrivals wandered in fresh from step 2 of the Procedure.  Falstaff stated, "I smell of cigarette smoke and strippers - Rock On!"  Many of the other poker players were enjoying the affects of an afternoon of drinking.  I was thinking that this could work to my advantage.  It did not.

Among the celebrities attending were Iggy the blogfather, Mr. Jones (former professional poker room manager), Badblood (our host), Otis (professional poker scribe), Big Pirate, G-Rob, Doc Chako from Seattle (yep, he really came all that way just for the event), TripJax, Bro O. Tripjax (BOT), Falstaff, Shep, Team Scott Smith, Rocket, and more that escape my memory at the moment.

We started around 7:30 pm dull (as apposed to sharp).  The first two hours saw little movement in my stack.  I was down to about 80 when I caught KK in a NLH hand.  I got all my money in and got 2 callers.  Triple-up!  The timer then went off and it was my turn to change tables.  That stack went mostly down over the next 2+ hours when I finally went busto around midnight.  It was tough to spend that time watching none of my hands catch while BOT seemed to catch every freaking card he needed.  It had me wondering when I would ever have such a night.  It had never happened in five years of poker play so this was just more of the same.

Along with my rebuy, I also picked up some a beer and SoCo 100 to sooth my mangled sprit.  I got to feeling pretty smooth pretty quickly.  The night seemed to change as I retook my seat at the table.  Iggy thanked Frank the Tank for dealing for the entire table.  The rest of the table quickly followed suit.  I drew upon my frustration to unleash a expletive laced tirade about the dealing.  My only intent was the humor of the situation and my wink allowed everyone to enjoy my misforture, me included.  It helped, and how.  I started catching cards immediately.

Shortly  thereafter, I took down a monster pot in PLO8 when I hit my nut-nut card on the river.  In all honesty, I didn't realize that I had NN (the best hand for both the high and low).  I thought I only had the nut low.  That quaded my new stack up to around 400.  Doc C contributed more than a few chips to both my plays with monsters and my plays with air.   We lost a few more players and combined tables for the final table of the night (morning).

Then came the big hand of the night for me.  In a hand of PLO, I picked up AAJX.  It has been too long since that night, so most of the details are lost to time.   There was some minor raising preflop and 4 players went to the flop.  The board was very uncoordinated.  I check and Otis to my left bets 40. I think we get one caller before I call.  The turn was a pretty but perplexing A.  Set o' Aces is a pretty strong hand in hold'em, but not as much in PLO.  I check again and Otis fires out a bet of 100.  The other player folds and I go into the tank.  Otis has had my number for many sessions previous to this.  The board did not have a low yet.  A straight was possible, but not likely.  There was also no flush, so I'm probably ahead, but there was no guarantee.  I called.  The river paired the ten on the board to give me As over 10s for the boat.  I think I bet another 100 and Otis goes all in by betting POT.  I snap called and turned over my boat.  He looks disgusted and mucks his cards.  I drag a monster pot of almost 1k.

Later, Brain told me that he wanted to smack me for showing my hand so quickly.  He would have been right to have done so since Otis should have shown first and we all would have liked to see what caused him to bet so hard.  In any case, my play was probably not correct.  I really don't know what I'm doing in any of the Omaha games, but this was my most profitable hand of poker ever.

I won a few more pots and lost less before the night came to an end around 4 am.  I counted out my chips and even I was astonished to add up 1548 in chips or a profit of 1348.   That beats my previous best poker day by 3 or 4 times.  My night had finally come and it felt better than I imagined.

Brian, Falstaff and I retired to a nearby hotel for the rest of the morning.  Falstaff was staying on for the rest of the weeked, so Brian and I left him there and headed back to the Queen City. It was a great trip and a good weekend.  My repeated thanks go out to Badblood and his family for putting up with us for the night.  I'll have to invest more time in the good times next time.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Microsoft Songsmith gone bad

We have a winner in the category of the most bazaar use of music software.  Songsmith is a program from Microsoft Research.  You sing to the program and it creates accompaniment for what you sing.  Some folks have played some well known recording into the computer to get new music for old lyrics with hilarious results.

I heard this while listening to a podcast in the Charlotte airport.  I cupped my mouth with my hand and my eyes started to water until I could no longer contain myself and had to turn the Ipod off. It will be the funniest thing you hear today.  Real music fans will probably barf.

So without further delay, I bring to you the Police and "Roxanne" accompanied by Microsoft Songsmith: