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Below are 20 journal entries, after skipping by the 40 most recent ones recorded in stm4e's LiveJournal:

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Monday, July 20th, 2009
3:41 am
Final Table, Baby!

(And I had a chance of doing better, when we were down to 3 players, but I had 10 straight bricks on 4th street. Razz, sigh. Though to be honest, I'm not sure how you're supposed to modify your Razz game at a shorthanded table, so it probably didn't matter.)

You may say that 120 people isn't much to beat. You may say that netting $13.30 is a bad investment for 5 hours of work. You may say that even if I came in first, I'd still be negative in tournaments for the year anyway.

To that, I respond: "Final Table, Baby!" You don't win these things without practice, and you have to get there to have the practice..
Sunday, July 19th, 2009
11:55 am
Encounter with a policeman
So, on Friday, I was driving home from the CABS meeting. It was around 1:30 AM, and I had a sack full of White Castles (yay!), when suddenly notice there's a car behind me. Looking closer, I thought I saw the (currently dormant) siren on the top of the car, and decided that it was probably a police car.

The ride home takes me on a long stretch of 4-lane highway, that is 45 MPH near Columbus, and 55 closer to where I live. I wasn't sure what the speed limit was in the spot I was in (turns out, it was 55), so I slowed down from my about 60MPH to about 40. Then, after about a minute of this, I realize that maybe if I wanted the cop to pass me, I should get into the slow lane, and so I did.

I get passed (it was a police car), and grabbed a cheeseburger from my bag, all proud of myself for not getting caught. Go me!

That's when the second police car pulled me over. At that point, I realized that what I was doing (excessive slowdowns, delayed lane changes, a little bit of swerving as I was staring in my rearview mirror or grabbing some food) could be seen as classic "I'm a drunk driver who realizes they're drunk and don't want to get caught" behavior. Which, of course, is what they thought.

So he comes over, talks to me:
"Where are you coming from?"
"A boardgame club meeting."
"You mean like Chutes and Ladders?"
"Well, a little more complicated than that."

Which at the time I thought was typical non-gamer misunderstanding, but now I wonder if it was calculated to get me on some kind of drunken "You don't know what real games are!" rant. I think that they have pretty good algorithms for determining drunken behavior..

Anyway, after being satisfied I wasn't drunk, just stupid, they let me go. The whole time, they were cheery and friendly, and so was I. And as I made it the rest of the way home, it occurred to me that maybe I have the right attitude about this whole thing finally.

When I was in college, right after I got pulled over, I would have been filled with inept outrage, and thoughts like "I pay this guys salary!" and "Don't you have better things to do than to fill your quotas going after me?", and I would've gotten them mad at me and gotten a ticket for something stupid.

When I was in Grad School, I would've thought that I was smarter than they are, and used my fantastic skills of rhetoric to try to convince them that I wasn't doing anything wrong. Since cops hate a smartass, they would've gotten mad at me and given me a ticket for something stupid.

(I still think those things, by the way. The only difference is now I have more context. They are doing something more important than harassing me- going after drunk drivers. I may be smarter than them, but people don't like to admit they're wrong, and I can't imagine any policeman, anywhere, ever, saying "Wow! What a well-reasoned argument! I'll never give another traffic ticket again!". Besides, the procedures that they follow are usually smarter than I am regardless)

Anyway, it helped this time that the guy was nice and cheery and friendly, but I think it helped that I was too. I'm finding that when you get pulled over, the best policy is honesty. Even "Yes, I was speeding a little there- you got me". Sure, sometimes you get Officer Crankypants, and it won't help. But Officer Crankypants is giving you a ticket anyway, and you don't want to make things worse.
Wednesday, July 1st, 2009
10:55 pm
My New Favorite Player
(well, favorite non-Yankee. Because you've gotta be true to your team.)

Meet Clay Zavata. Not only does he have an awesome name, he's probably the first player since Rollie Fingers who could pull off the handlebar mustache. Go, Clay! Wax that sucker up!

I also like the way he pitches- like he's throwing everything he has into the ball, and kind of falls off the mound. I don't think he's very good, but he's got style and personality, and that's cool.

We need more handlebar mustaches in baseball. And basketball, for that matter. Shaq needs to grow one. Wouldn't that be awesome?
Monday, June 29th, 2009
2:45 pm
Hurray, Bureaucracy!
(and by the way, man is "Bureaucracy" a hard word to spell..)

My parents called yesterday to tell me that I had been summoned for Jury Duty.

In New York. Where I haven't lived since 1995.

That's a pretty amazing amount of time to be wrong about me. We started wondering why I never got taken off of any lists. It can't be based on driver's licenses, since I haven't renewed a NY license since 1995. We finally decided it's probably based on voter registrations. Which leads to the interesting question "am I still registered to vote in New York?".

If so, that's a little scary. I guess lots of people fall though the cracks like this. Enough to throw a close election? Maybe. The real question is whether a suitably determined nefarious agent could figure out who the "double-voters" out there are, and organize them in some useful way.

I'm a little bummed that I couldn't vote against Hillary in the primaries twice, but I guess it all worked out anyway..
Friday, June 19th, 2009
8:38 pm
What's the right strategy?
Early in one of my cheapo $1 tournaments, I still have around my $1500 starting stack, blinds are 15/30.

I pick up AKo in early position, and raise 3xBB to 90. The next player shoves all-in (he has about 1500 too), and it's folded around to me. What do I do?

Here's my thought process:
- I think I'm better than 75-80% (at least) of the table here. The fact that this guy just pushed for such a massive overbet means he's probably one of the lower-skilled players.
- That means he has a very wide range, which I'm probably ahead of. AQ, A8(!), KQ, low pairs, and things like that are all probable.
- So I'm ahead of most of his probable range. If this was a cash game, that makes this a pretty straightforward call.
- But it's not a cash game, and if this guy has something like 33, I'm in a coin flip against a field I should be better than. So should I play small-ball and stick around until I have a much better margin?
- On the other hand, pushing for 1500 when the blinds are 15/30 is only about 50 big blinds. Which, while a lot, is not tons. And if I fold, I just lost 3 of them.

I end up folding in these situations more often than not and saving up for times when I'm more likely to have a larger advantage (case in point- I just went all-in with QQ after a J-high flop, getting called by TT and KJ. The KJ guy made two pair, but at least he was the shortest stack.), but I wonder if I'm giving away too much waiting for those situations (and when I do reach those situations, my double-up gains me less chips)

I do something similar in my Razz freerolls- not raising or reraising on third street because I don't have a made hand yet, even though 5 people are coming along, many with face cards showing. Too many people want to cap every bet in those situations if I help them. My pot equity is huge, but I feel like I'm putting too much of my stack at risk on just one hand.

Is that too passive?
3:51 pm
Legend of Zelda- Majora's Mask.
I got a Wii for my birthday back in October, and I knew when I got it that the best part of it for me would not the motion sensor (which I think is too fiddly and doesn't work very well), not the games for the Wii (I think my wife has more innate-Wii games than I do). For me, the best part of the Wii is the Virtual Console. They have tons of old games for the NES, SNES, N-64, Sega Genesis, and other old consoles. Heck, they even have some Commodore 64 games!

So, a week or 2 ago, I saw they had Majora's mask up for $10, and I bought it. It's a "sequel" to Ocarina of Time, which is probably my favorite Zelda game, and it's from the Nintendo-64 generation. Which is fine by me- the characters are defined well enough for my tastes, and I don't need much fancier graphics than that.
Details Ahoy!Collapse )
Wednesday, June 17th, 2009
2:36 pm
Yet another sign of my sick mind
One of the faculty for the summer research here apparently is a fan of "Peep Art", where you make dioramas and things out of marshmallow Peeps. Apparently, this is real thing with contests and stuff. Which, well, ok, I guess I can't complain about anyone else's strange hobbies.

She's trying to get the summer research students to make a local contest here where they make their own displays. She filled a giant cart with boxes of peeps, and started handing them out to everyone. Which was a little creepy, but I guess it's good she's trying to inspire others with her hobby- it's sort of like what I do withe Board Game Nights for the students.

But talking about it over lunch, about all of the ideas we could come up with were really twisted..

  • A Peep on the rack, being stretched out and having all the marshmallow filling stretching between the head and tail.

  • "The Peep and the Pendulum", with a Peep strapped to a table with a giant pendulum blade coming down on it.

  • "No, Mr. Peep, I expect you to die." Related to the above, but the Peep is strapped beneath a giant laser.

  • "Peep Show". A Peep dressed in a bikini being stared at by other Peeps in little cubicles.

  • "Peeping Tom" A Peep looking through a window at another Peep undressing.

So, maybe it's best I stay out of this contest :)
Thursday, June 11th, 2009
3:18 am
Is this the voice you want?
So, in response to the government's seizing poker player's assets recently, they dug up Al D'Amato to talk about it on the news. Here's the link they put up on the PPA page: http://theppa.org/special/sdny/

I guess I understood the logic of bringing him in- he knows all about the shady back room dealings and how the sausage of American legislation gets made. I haven't seen him do a whole lot, but I don't know what's a realistic amount of progress to expect.

But in this video, he sort of sounds like someone's drunk grandfather. Sounding condescending ("Guess what?"), saying things you maybe don't want him to say (the whole rant about "the Chinese taking our products"), rambling between topics, never really giving a coherent message. The guy is pretty old, and it sounds that way. There's lots of good arguments to make, but I don't think he made them very effectively.
Tuesday, June 9th, 2009
1:32 pm
Um, huh?
On the Yahoo home page right now is a link to "Thousands in India swallow live fish stuffed with medicine" (not sure if the link works, sorry).

If you click to see the video, sure enough, you see people in India swallowing live fish. (The kids look particularly unhappy). But there's no reporting, now explanation of why they're doing this, no explanation of what medicine got stuffed into the fish, no nothing.

I can't decide if this is a) intentional to just show a video with nothing else, b) a mistake, and the actual story will show up sometime soon, or c) some strange hoax.
Monday, June 8th, 2009
3:10 pm
Summer Project
Summer for a college professor isn't all just relaxing and laying on a beach, like you may think. This summer, I've got several long projects to work on:

  • I'm doing summer research with a student on a game theory/graph theory project, which means I have to teach him, guide him, and (since he's really a physics/econ person) do a good chunk of the programming when it's needed.

  • I'm trying to learn Python and decide if it's a good choice to use in our CS1 class. (Early returns are mixed)

  • I need to upgrade FreeBSD in our majors lab to whatever the new version is. I'll then need to figure out how to get PostgreSQL (among other things) working in there for our database class in the fall.

  • I need to get as much of my classes and homeworks and things together in advance for the fall as I can, so that when the Giant Roulette Wheel in the Sky decides it's time for our baby to be born, I won't fall too far behind.

  • There's a possibility that more poker study stuff will come my way, but I probably won't know it until it happens. We thought it would be cool to look at the 100 million hands and attack some of the "online poker is rigged" conspiracy theories, but while it's interesting to think about, I'm not sure it's interesting in a "someone wants to pay to get the results" way. Mainly because most people believe it's not rigged already, and the conspiracy theorists out there (who believe that it is rigged) probably won't be convinced by a study where the actual hands were given to us by the poker companies themselves.

But most of that is pretty dreary and boring. So in an effort to pick myself up and get me motivated to do something cool and also something that will help keep my CS abilities honed, I decided to take on a fun programming project.

There's a game called Football Strategy that is basically played on a grid. The offensive player picks a number between 1 and 20, the defensive player picks a letter from A to J, you look on the grid to see the result of the play. It's pretty much the definition of a Normal form game in Game Theory. So I thought it would be neat to program it up and write a computer player that played using a game-theoretic mixed strategy. There's some neat algorithms in there, and some cool decisions that have to be made (the chart doesn't take into account worrying about downs and stuff- how do I incorporate it into the strategy?).

I started working on it last week, and I'm pretty close to having a program that can read the chart and enforce the rules of the game (which has lots of fiddly pieces to it- penalties, the amount of time a play takes, change of possessions, ...). I'm hoping that I can get to a point where the program plays really "intelligently" against good human players.

It's a shame that this doesn't really count as "research", because I think this would be a really good thing for a student to work on as well. Sometimes I think the pressure for research to be "new and original" is constricting, especially for undergraduates. There's no new ideas here, really, but it's a cool implementation of ideas that are out there, and they'd be just as new to the student as anything that's "real research".
Thursday, June 4th, 2009
10:06 am
Look at me- I'm a rock star!
Yesterday I got contacted by the people who do the morning show at Q92.3 Radio, in South Dakota of all places, to talk about the poker study. I have no idea how they got me instead of Paco, since his contact info is on the report, and mine isn't. But they also wanted to ask about "my book", so I think this is the sort of thing that got passed through several hands before it reached them. Anyway, they wanted to set up an interview for today, which just finished a few minutes ago.

I was a little worried that I was going to get the Bill O'Reilly or Howard Stern treatment but they were very nice and supportive. They were interested in the results, and in what I had to say, and they pretty much agreed with everything, which is nice. Of course, their reason was mainly "I see the pros on TV and they win pots with all kinds of crazy hands, so they must be using skill", which isn't exactly a reason I'm a fan of, but I'll take it.

It's really cool to see this study taking off and being seen by lots of different people in lots of different places, especially people who aren't part of the "poker community". Getting the word out can only be a good thing.
Sunday, May 17th, 2009
10:50 am
Star Trek
Went to see it on Friday, and I liked it. Probably, I liked it because I'm just a casual fan, but hey.

I liked that there was lots of action, I liked that the characters were obvious homages to the characters in the original series, while still having their own personalities (I especially liked McCoy). I liked how the plot tied into the "real" Star Trek Universe.

Actually, that was a really neat reversal. In a "normal" plot, a main character goes to an Alternate Reality, sees how wacky it is, panics and get home somehow. In this movie, almost all of the characters had this Alternate Reality as the only reality they've ever known, so we follow them as we grow up in it. I thought that made a cool counterpoint to the normal plot.

Yes, some hard-core Star Trek fans might think it was too much action and effects turning it into something that's not really a Star Trek movie anymore. Yes, the Enterprise bridge looked like an iphone ("iEnterprise"?) Yes, Scotty's little Godzooky buddy was annoying and pointless, but thankfully didn't do much. And Scotty himself was really just a comic relief, which I can see some people complaining about, but I didn't mind- he pulled it off well. But man, that dude has the largest nostrils I've ever seen. I'm just saying..

But anyway, good job. I'm actually looking forward to seeing more Star Trek movies, which is kind of a rare event for me.
Wednesday, May 13th, 2009
10:40 pm
Guess which ones I flew to?

visited 26 states (52%)
Create your own visited map of The United States

One of my lifelong dreams is to drive on all of the "2-digit" US interstates. I don't have a list of those handy, but I bet I'm doing pretty well.

I guess it would be cool to see all fifty states as well, but some of them are more enticing than others..
Wednesday, May 6th, 2009
9:06 am
Bad signs
30 minutes into a 3 hour final and 25% of the class has finished it already. Uh-oh.

Did I make it too easy? (I didn't think it was possible with this class)

Are people not putting in enough effort? (They seem to want to only write 5 words when 10 words are needed)

Are people giving up? (So far, the people that have handed it in are mostly the people who don't show up to class very often. But it looks like they've answered all of the questions)

This should be interesting to grade. They're closing in on 50% now, I may be out of here by 9:30 at this rate. I guess it makes up for some finals I gave in my first year which went way over time (4-5 hours instead of 3). But still..
Sunday, April 26th, 2009
5:36 pm
A stupd question, asked 15 years too late.
I finally watched the finale of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. I say "finale" and not "season finale" because it's a show that I like and it's on Fox, so there's no hope it will get continued another year.

Which is a shame, because I liked it. Some people online seem to think it moved slowly, but I don't really think it was about action. It was about trying to stave off the apocalypse while being constantly chased, it was about seeing there was more than two factions in the fight, and watching the birth of an AI and how creepy it is to see something that's just a machine (or something) starting to formulate ideas and feelings. I don't think it's perfect, but I think the tone of the show was a good one.

Anyway, at the end of the finale, they show Shirley Manson (lead singer of Garbage. Not the best actress, but I'll forgive her because she's the lead singer of Garbage, and plays a T-1000, which is totally cool) going though time. And they make a point of noting that according to the laws of the Terminator universe, only organic things (or, organically-coated things) can go through. She actually comes out of the time machine naked.

But here's the thing- she's a T-1000. A robot made of liquid metal. She reshapes her body to form clothes seconds after arrival. If only organic things can come through the time machine, what's organic about a giant pool of metallic ooze?

You can ask the same question about the T-1000 in Terminator 2. Maybe some people did, but it just occurred to me.
Friday, April 24th, 2009
4:28 pm
Playoff Hockey
I went to see the Blue Jackets play the Red Wings last night in their first ever playoff series. Since this is hockey we're talking about, where 16 teams make the playoffs each year, and the Blue Jackets have been around since 2000, it says something about how bad the franchise has been. For me, I think this was my first non-Yankee playoff experience (unless you count seeing the first round of the NCAA basketball tournament last year).

And it was cool. The fans were into it, but nice. There were lots of Red Wings fans around, but they were treated politely and not beaten up, which the New Yorker in me found strange. The game was really good- even though we lost 6-5, we came back from 3-1 and 5-3 to tie the game, and both times I was sure the game was over. The game ended on a ...questionable... penalty on the Blue Jackets in the last 2 minutes, which I thought was a real mistake by the referees, but I can't get too upset about it given that we were down 3-0 in the series and even if we won that game were likely to lose the next one. But the fans were really pissed off, throwing bottles and stuff onto the ice and things. It's good to see some of the attitude from back home :)

Overall, it's cool to have a "real" professional team (unlike Ohio State, which may as well be) in town, and it's good to see them improving. I'm hopeful they can improve and stay good for a few years.
Monday, April 13th, 2009
2:16 pm
Thursday, April 9th, 2009
2:26 pm
Wild Fluctuations
When the Yankees play during the day, and I want to "watch" the game from work, I use ESPN's GameCast feature. It's a pitch-by-pitch simulation of the game, and since I've been using it for like 10 years now (really? Yikes.), I've seen it come a long way.

This year, they added in a cool feature called "percent chance of winning". Basically, they use statistical analysis of similar games in similar situations to see how often one team wins.

So, in the game I'm watching now, there's one out in the third inning, and Baltimore has runners on first and the score is 0-0, so Baltimore has a 65% chance of winning.

Just now, they got a hit, and now the game is 1-0, so now their odds are 72%.

What's strange is that they take the count to the current batter into affect. So when the batter arrived at the plate the Orioles had a 69% chance of winning (the last batter flew out). After the first pitch was a ball, the odds went up to 70%. Is it really possible that just one pitch that wasn't even swung at would have such a (relatively) large shift on the potential outcome of the game? I don't know, but it's kind of neat, and gives more meaning to "every pitch counts".

I'm sure this thing doesn't have much merit as a predictive tool. But it's a fun thing to look at.

The count is 3-1, and the odds went up to 71%. Back to the game.
Sunday, March 29th, 2009
5:06 pm
Watchmen Movie
Or, "How to know if you're old and crotchety".

I guess I should start by saying that while I liked the Watchmen comic, and understand it's importance in the whole "Graphic Novel as a literary medium" argument, I didn't love it. I'm not one of those people who thinks this is the Best Thing Ever, and pawns it off on people, or anything. For a lot of it, I feel like I was missing something. The whole Pirate story didn't make any sense to me, for example. The comic spends way too much time relating stories of the "last generation" of superheroes. Some of that is cool, but I think it was too much. But in a way, I suppose those strange things are the point. So feel free to revoke my geek street cred.

Anyway, the point of this is to say that I think they did a good job pruning the whole Watchmen story into a movie-sized chunk. I felt I better appreciated the story in the comic after seeing the movie, and there aren't many movie adaptations that make me feel that way.

But I think the movie isn't really good for people who haven't read the book. Lots of things are just sort of put on in the background or explained lightly that people who read the comic would get and understand but regular people wouldn't. I guess I was expecting more exposition about things, and that those viral marketing videos, which I thought were awesome, would actually be part of the movie, because they added a lot of depth and background that the "uninitiated" would need.

The main thing I didn't like about the movie, though, was the violence. I guess this marks me as an old crotchety "you dang kids and your violent movies, get off my lawn" person, but there was way too much kneecap-splitting, bones poking through skin, and things like that. I took my wife to see this because I thought it would be a good comic movie for her to see, but the violence really turned her off. It didn't do much for me, either. One of the main points of this book for me is that these people (with the obvious exception of Dr. Manhattan) are just regular people. When these regular people start showing feats of strength that are way beyond "normal", it's hard to think of them the same way. Before the movie started, I said to my wife that only one of the heroes was "super-powered".

I guess I should put spoiler protection upCollapse )
Overall, they did a good job matching the feel and pace of the movies, and resisting the urge to "Hollywood" the story. I don't think there will be a "Watchmen 2", and for that I'm thankful.
Friday, March 27th, 2009
1:07 pm
I survived.
The conference call went well, and I managed to not say anything stupid. Actually, I managed not to say much of anything at all. Most of the questions were about the technical aspects that were better answered by the other guy.

One weird question that I got was "What do you say to people who think that poker's not a game of skill because it has strategies like aggression and bluffing?" At least I think that was the question- It didn't make sense to me then, and it still doesn't make sense to me. The formulation of a strategy takes skill. The application of a strategy at appropriate times is skill. So anyone who think that poker is a game of strategy is really agreeing with us.

Anyway, if you're interested, the results are here , and that site has a link to the actual article I helped create. If you're a poker person, there's really nothing too earth-shattering there. Our main goal was to explain in simple terms that the cards don't decide the outcome of the majority of the hands. Hopefully we've come up with something that's easy to explain and can be used by lawyers, lobbyists, the PPA, whoever, to build a case towards legalizing internet poker.
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