A locus for eccentrics (hopefully)

Monday, October 30, 2006

Red Alert!!!



Sunday, October 29, 2006

Quick Hits

--You know what? Welcome back, Pat Summerall. Sportscasting needs you. Call the play, offer insights when you can, and otherwise keep it understated. And yet Paul Maguire is still employed. No justice.

--I had to make my first purchase of a protective cup since an ill-fated experiment at catcher in Little League, after receiving a brutal nutmegging in my game on Friday night. I was pleased to note that my local sporting goods store of choice does not offer returns or exchanges on such products.

And a couple of quick reviews for your trouble:

GM Proving Grounds (Milford, MI): Once every decade or so GM opens up its main testing facility in an open house for employees and friends/family of employees. Econ Lady knows a girl who works there as an engineer, so I was able to go. It was interesting, but it also underlined some problems with the General. Why are there like 10 different badges? And if they're supposed to appeal to different demographics, why does Buick offer an SUV? Why do Pontiac and Saturn both sell coupes aimed at around 20k? It's incoherent. I came away with a more favorable impression of the company as a whole, but at the same time they still don't sell a car in my prospective market that doesn't look like ass (Pontiac GTO, I'm looking at you.) . I was also fairly hung-over, which wouldn't have been that bad except you had to drive around a 20 deg bank on their superoval track to get to one of the tour areas, and that's a bad combination. B

Puma V-Kat RC:
After a lot more effort than I care to go into, I finally got a hold of an expensive pair of keeper gloves. Only one use so far; on the positive side, they have a great grip and nice firm palm to them. On the other, they definitely run large and I'm left with a bit more room than I need. God help me if the finger protection ever breaks on me, because there's no way to remove them without removing stitching. B+

This Big Gay Soccer Ball:
Oh yes. This is pretty sweet. I have not doctored this picture. A+++

Friday, October 27, 2006

Me?? Work with lasers???

In a recent interview with CNBC, Gee-Dub was asked if he uses Google, or has ever Googled anyone. He said, yes, "One of the things I've used on the Google is to pull up maps." Two years ago, he referred to rumors on "The Internets"
He also said: "I tend not to email. Not only tend not to email, I don't email."
Guy Tarkington, do you use e-mail? "Yes. Yes I do. I use it a lot. If by 'a lot' you mean, 'not at all', then yes, I use it a lot."
That reminds me of what he said last year about 401(k) accounts: "When I was young, I didn't know anything about 401(k)s because I don't think they existed."
I've had it with this lunkhead. Anyway, his clumsy attempts at tech-savvy reminded me of this funny piece from McSweeney's:
By Mike Sacks
- - - -
"What up, chief?" asked Larry. He had just finished soccer practice and was now sucking back on a bottle of his favorite brew, 40-Dog Buzz.
"Nothing, friend," said Kyle. They had been best buds for three years now. And Kyle knew absolutely everything about Larry, including Larry's intense hunger for "vagina."
"How was math class?" asked Larry, trying to get Kyle's goat. "Did you study for that test?"
"Fuck off, bitch!" said Kyle. "You know damn well that I didn't study for that test. What in the world?"
Larry laughed, as he knew that Kyle was merely being facetious. And besides, "bitch" was a term of endearment when used among good friends and close acquaintances.
"So, are you planning on attending that party tonight?" Larry asked.
"Hell yes!" answered Kyle.
"Better yet," declared Larry, "how about that frat party we learned about on the World Wide Web? The one taking place in Florida? I'm thinking road trip!"
Kyle thought for a minute, and then replied: "'Cause I'm thinking the same. Let's do it. And let's invite Janet!"
Larry gave Kyle the high five and then climbed into his tremendous sport utility vehicle, or S.U.V., complete with the most amazing stereo sound system in the world.
"Kick out the jams, motherfucker!" screamed Kyle, from the passenger's seat.
Larry did as he was asked, and within no time, Limp Bizkit [sic] was blasting from the nine Bose speakers and seven specialized sub-woofers that Larry had installed the previous month. The sound was absolutely monstrous.
Larry and Kyle sped off through the university's streets to Janet's dormitory in the western, and more fancy, part of campus. Janet was already waiting for them. She looked ravenous: extremely tight shorts, blue tank-top, open-toe sandals, breasts (soft and large) swinging to and fro. Exquisite.
"What's the story, boys?" Janet asked, climbing into the back seat of the S.U.V., but not before Larry caught a quick glimpse of her tremendous right nipple.
Larry, Kyle, and Janet had been friends forever. She treated them like brothers and they, in turn, treated her like a sister. A sister whose image they could fantasize about and then later, when it was dark, masturbate to.
"Nothin'," answered Kyle, taking a swig from his freshly opened bottle of brewsky. "Just high-tailin' it down to Florida. For a little of this and that."
"Sweet," said Janet, absentmindedly stroking her sweaty tank-top. "Freakin' sweet."
- - - -
It was a few hours later and Kyle, Larry, and Janet were walking down the main avenue of Fort Lauderdale, searching for the fraternity house they had read about on the AOL.com.
"I'm so high that I could fly," said Kyle sarcastically, taking a puff from the marijuana cigarette he had just lit up. "The world is all about colors and love and freedom."
Larry and Janet laughed. It was nothing for them to see one of their friends "high," but this was ridiculous.
"Where in the fuck is this party?" asked Larry eventually, growing frustrated.
"My god, she's beautiful!" declared Kyle, pointing to a large, all-glass house situated directly on the beach. "The fraternity house! The answer to all of our dreams!"
Within no time, Larry, Janet, and Kyle were eagerly making their way into the large Gothic-spired mansion. What they observed next absolutely amazed them, stunning them beyond belief:
Large fraternity types placing compact discs into compact disc players!
Half-naked women, their breasts jingling and jangling, perched on the shoulders of football players!
Pyramids, 15 feet high, created with only empty beer cans!
Pizza pies, half-eaten, lazily strewn across expensive leather couches!
A rock and roll band playing very loudly!
A fat man with a beard pouring vodka into a crystal punch bowl!
"Aw, spit!" exclaimed Larry. "This is the best fraternity party that I've ever seen!"
Kyle could only nod. He agreed, but was too shocked to say anything.
Janet, on the other hand, could not stop talking: "This is incredible, absolutely incredible. I mean, I've always thought fraternity parties were supposed to be good, but this ... this is not good. This is excellent!"
Janet stopped talking. She looked over to Kyle, who looked over to Larry. And then, without another word, they linked their arms together and walked directly into the amazing, cacophonous fray.
- - - -
Kyle turned off his miniature cellular telephone and placed it back into his T-shirt pocket.
"That was the fraternity president," exclaimed Kyle from the S.U.V.'s passenger seat. "He wanted to thank us for coming to the party. There sure was a lot of wonderful vagina!"
Janet rolled her eyes. "All I've heard since leaving the party is 'vagina this' and 'vagina that.' Enough!"
"Easy, you two," said Kyle, flicking on the powerful car-stereo system. "Time to bust out the kick-ass tunes!"
The sounds of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, a very popular funk and soul band, filled the S.U.V.
"Goodnight," said Janet, absentmindedly swiping at her sweaty left nipple and then at her right nipple, which was also sweaty. "See you when I see you."
"Until then!" exclaimed Kyle.
"On the other side," responded Larry.
College life is sweet, Janet thought, falling into a deep and gentle sleep. So goddamn sweet that it is motherfuckin' ridiculous.
- - - -

Thursday, October 26, 2006

More Good times for developed world Islam.


It's cool, he was misinterpreted and misquoted. I mean, you know how it is, you're speaking to your mosque, you're the head guy, you're not expecting anyone to listen to you or take you too seriously. What is wrong with the media these days? Oh well, he's off the job for a couple weeks--that'll teach him.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The New Exhibitionism

Lately, I’ve had a strange fetish toward exhibitionism, mainly, the thought of driving naked gives me a perverse thrill.

I like the thought of motoring down the freeway during rush hour, entertaining a private joke shared only with drivers of 18-wheelers, but to everyone else, I’m just a shirtless guy in a Toyota Corolla.

Eventually, I would become bolder in my erotic game:

Driving naked at the bank drive-through, I would pull up to the closest window, to be sure the teller could see me, and, while pointing to my crotch, say, “I need to make a deposit, a rather large one as you can see. Can I do it here with you, or do I need to come in?” In my lap would be a check for $80,000 ─ the proceeds from selling my boat.

At the Burger King drive-thru order box, I order just one thing: A large order of onion rings. I pull up to the window, fully naked, and remark to the drive-through girl, “How would you like to eat those onion rings off of this?”, and show her the antique porcelain plate I inherited from my grandmother. “Because I do it all the time,” I would add.

At a busy intersection, a panhandler approaches me. I am completely nude behind the wheel of my car. I unroll the window and he asks me for a dollar. I give him four quarters from my coin holder and he says, “God bless” and returns to the corner. As I drive away, “Beds are Burning” comes on the radio and I jam, I jam, I jam.

Criminal justice

So I was reading a story online in our local paper about a guy who was driving around the West End of Galveston with a shotgun barrel hanging out the window. Apparently police stopped the guy and happened to notice that he had two stab wounds on his torso. They later search his house, finding, "Three rifles and an undisclosed number of hunting knives scattered throughout the house." OK, fine. (He also said his wife had been the one who shivved him, but the police discovered that he is not married. Still okay.)

But what gets me is the last sentence:
--Police charged the man with driving while intoxicated and deadly conduct, both of which are misdemeanors.

So dude's got an veritable arsenal at home and is driving around with a 12-gauge on his lap. And he gets slapped with two misdemeanors??? That, apparently, is Texas justice, my friends. Good ol' Texas.

Monday, October 23, 2006

New movie idea

The President of the United States, an ultra-right conservative whose approval ratings have recently dipped to an all-time low due to his veto of a comprehensive education bill, receives a letter from his alma mater, a small liberal arts college in the Midwest.

Turns out, it seems, that when he completed his undergraduate degree his credits were miscalculated and he should not have been awarded the political science degree he obtained more than 40 years prior- he was one class short. His subsequent law degree is called into question, and the American public debates the issue.

Now, the most powerful man in the free world must re-enroll in college and finish the class: a tough political theory course, with the hardest professor on campus, and not coincidentally, one that once gave him a failing grade during his undergrad studies.

You can imagine the hijinks that ensue:

The President sharing a dorm room with three other students!
Topless women having a pillow fight!
Rigging up an awesome bong from an 18th century telescope given to him by Tony Blair!
Toga parties!
The President eating macaroni & cheese and Top Ramen!
Having to sell blood, clothes and CDs just to go out drinkin'!
His "diplomatic relations" with three cheerleaders!
Totally losing at Risk because of faulty intelligence!

By the end of the movie, the President learns from the students, and realizes he should be supporting the American education system instead of putting bilions of dollars into meaningless military campaigns.

At graduation, he delivers the keynote speech, and promises to be the patron of education from now on. His national approval rating skyrockets for the remaining two months of his term.

Pardon Moi?

I'm supposed to care that Kenny Rogers' left hand looked like he'd wiped his bare ass with it for the first inning last night in a world where Barry Bonds is still dragging his giant head around and Mark McGwire's not here to talk about the past?

Fuck you, sports journalism. And fuck ESPN.com's Gene Wojciechhowski for reliably writing the most pedantic, cloying, obvious bullshit possible. Great, I get it-- Ben Roethlisberger should have worn a helmet. Allen Iverson should practice harder. And that Floyd Landis, hoo boy, he really shouldn't cheat either.

I bet you style yourself as a pro-education voter, don't ya Gene?

Sunday, October 22, 2006

And Again

I don't want to turn into one of those "ha ha, my students are dumb!" bloggers, but this one has a real precious gem snuggled deep within its bowels:

Neill, Any chance you can meet with me tomorrow (Monday)? I have some things I'd like to go over regarding the paper that is due on Wednesday and was hoping to talk to you about them. I'd come on Tuesday, but I'd really like feedback before the day before the paper is due. I'm definetly open to meeting outside your office and to be honest, later at night is better for me. Let me know if you're available tomorrow and what times are good for you.
Emphasis, as always, added. I love this one because the student seems to believe that the limiting factor on whether or not we meet outside of office hours is whether they are up for it.

That's right, man. I was going to suggest 9 in the evening, right after I watch the replay of last night's Colbert Report, but I was worried about impeding on your schedule. Thanks for being understanding.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Ron-ri-er Now More Than Ever

North Korean leader Kim Jong Il reportedly told a visiting Chinese official yesterday that he regrets detonating a nuclear device and does not plan additional tests, the Associated Press reported (see GSN, Oct. 19).

“We have no plans for additional nuclear tests,” Kim told Chinese State Councilor Tang Jiaxuan, an official in Beijing told the Yonhap News Agency.

Kim also said “he is sorry about the nuclear test,” according to the Chosun Ilbo newspaper.

I've been studying international security at a high level for 3 full years now and I have never seen a case of the "Shit dawg. You know what--this one's on me. My bad, my bad!" defense for a military provocation before.

Also! I'll add this in as your Friday Neillster 2-Pack, without any additional comment:

Russian police detained two men during an attempt to sell 5 kg of uranium fuel pellets, Moskovskiy komsomolets reported on 13 April 2006. One of the detainees, a 38-year old employee of the Machine Building Plant in Elektrostal, Russia, later surrendered an additional 17 kg of material that he had stolen from the plant and kept in his garage. According to the report, the seized material was low-enriched uranium fuel (4% U-235).

The arrest was the result of an undercover police operation, which started after the Moscow Oblast Department of Combating Organized Crime received a tip that local residents were looking for buyers of "radioactive metal." The police officers posed as potential buyers and arranged a meeting with the sellers on the Moscow-Nizhniy Novgorod roadway.

The seller was a production supervisor at the metal construction shop at the Machine Building Plant and had access to fuel production facilities. His accomplice, previously convicted of theft, worked for a different company. No other newspaper or agency besides Moskovskiy komsomolets reported this incident.

Frontline again...

Frontline this week is awesome. Check it out--Lost Year in Iraq. There's definitely a lot of bureaucracy types coming out of the woodwork and saying "but we had a plan to do it right!" but on the other hand I also believe that a good deal of it is true.

It's very easy to forget what real journalism (not talking head opinion leader bullshit--O'Reilly, Olbermann, whatever your favorite flavor is) is like.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

My Alternate Career in Marketing Copy Writing

"Suppan! Perez! It's Game 7 of the N-L-C-S, tonight on FOX!"

Too Much?

John Q. Undergrad wrote:

May I have an extension on the paper, until the class period following the original due date? I have three midterms this week and one next wednesday, same as when the paper is due. As you may guess, my focus has been on other things recently.

Anything at all would be helpful.

John Undergrad
Dear John-- No, I can't offer you an extension. This assignment was posted in the original syllabus, meaning that you've been aware of this responsibility for 6 weeks at this point. Furthermore, you'll recall that it was already extended by two weeks from the original deadline of Oct 11th.

For future reference, I'm sure I can speak for both myself, Prof Z. and the GSIs and professors for your other courses and say that any of us are always more than willing to talk to you about improving your study skills and strategy and time management ability during scheduled office hours.


Zach Galifianakis stand-up

I don't enjoy much stand-up, but parts of this were funny. It takes forever to load though, so I would just wait until the whole thing has loaded before viewing.

"Who's the boss now?"

Monday, October 16, 2006

Stat of the Night

Recent Individual Bears Passing TD Leaders:

2006: Rex Grossman, 10
2005: Kyle Orton, 9
2004: Chad Hutchinson, 4
2003: Kordell Stewart, 7

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Fearless NFL predictions week 6

Herein I offer my wholly unsolicited and inexpert predictions. We'll check the tally. I'm hoping for over .500. This week is easier than others.

Buffalo at Detroit
Not too pretty for either of these teams. Detroit's defense has allowed the most points in the NFL this season. Buffalo got absolutely crushed last week by the Bears. It's payback for the mighty J.P. Losman Buffalo 28 Detroit 24

Carolina at Baltimore
Carolina is experiencing a resurgence while Baltimore, despite its incredibly Jacked defense, is suffering from Air McNair's incompetence. I'm going to go Carolina here. Carolina 17 Baltimore 8

Cincinnati at Tampa Bay
Apparently Gradkowski is the next incarnation of some great former QB. Regardless he's a hell of a lot better than Simms had been. Cincinnati seems to be slightly disappointing this year. Their defense is not good. I'll pick the home team. Cin 21 TB 24

Houston at Dallas
No contest. Houston 20 Dallas 41

N.Y. Giants at Atlanta
This could be interesting. I was pretty high on Atlanta until their dismantling at the hands of the Saints. NYG have been really spotty as far as I can tell. Atlanta is playing at home, though the Giants have had a great run defense so far. I'll take the Falcons though. NYG 14 Altanta 27

Philadelphia at New Orleans
I'm guessing this will be a high scoring affair. Even though the Saints are playing at home and the Eagles are a battered bunch, McNabb wins this in the 4th. Philly 31 N.O. 28

Seattle at St. Louis
This may be the best game of the day. Seattle struggled vs. the Bears without Alexander. St. Louis is still questioned. Their defense, however, appears to be the real deal. I like the Rams at home. Seattle 13 STL 21

Tennessee at Washington
Who knows? Will Vince Young pick it up this quickly? Will the real Redskins show up? Well, they are at home, and the Titans' defense is abysmal. Skins pick them apart. Titans 14 Washington 28

Kansas City at Pittsburgh
Actually this should be another interesting matchup. Huard is defying the odds, Roethlisberger is playing like shit. Can Big Ben not throw 3 picks? I say yes. KC 13 Pitt 21

Miami at N.Y. Jets
Two ugly teams in funks. Harrington is the answer? I'll say the Fins take it. Miami 17 Jets 7

San Diego at San Francisco
San Diego should take this one in a rout. SD 31 SF 6

Oakland at Denver
The Raiders are absolutely, positively, awful. Denver comes off a big home win vs. Baltimore. Denver kills 'em.
Oak 3 Denver 24

Chicago at Arizona
The Monsters of the midway are back. Lovie Smith for Prez. Leinert gets eaten alive. Yadda yadda. Da Bears 143 Zona 0.
(That's right; 20 TDs, 1 FG.)


We went to our local Mexican place this morning for breakfast. It's called Gorditas and is so freaking good. We go often for lunch and dinner, but we had yet to experience the awesomeness of breakfast. The wife's OJ was freshly squeezed goodness. They served us chips and salsa immediately. I love their salsa. You get his and hers, at least in our case: green spicy and red tomato based, the latter served hot. I chose one of my favorite dishes, Chilaquiles, which, until recently, I never knew was primarily a breakfast offering. Anyway, it was perfect: chips crisped in a lovely redish glaze, topped with cilantro and crumbled American cheese. Around them were crema, papas, frijoles, y pollo. Ah man that was good. And to think I almost made us go to Denny's instead. I'm such a fool sometimes.

We also sat in our favorite seat: underneath a gigantic (approx. 8' x 6') black and white reproduction of Pancho fucking Villa eating at a picnic with some other Mexicanos.

P.S. Where'd that n^2 post go, Neill?

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Fun with camera in laptop lid

Millie & me. I am entranced.

Aw. Hug.

Boot Camp.

The Facial Hair Driven Life

Bill Simmons has a recap of his 10 minute video game battle against Tiger Woods up. I'm not a golf man myself, but it turns out that the man has much more in common with those of us here at the Lemur than you may have guessed:
He has been playing video golf ever since the Atari 2600/5200 days and can't get over the fact that there's a video game named after him. Also, he never plays himself in video games. He creates two characters -- one a big, fat guy, the other a cooler guy -- and plays those guys instead of the Tiger character. He always gives the surrogate guys goatees because he can't grow facial hair so he lives vicariously through them.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Tongue in cheek but horrible

Can anyone, for the love of God almighty, explain to me how in the hell David Hasslehoff's shitalicious song is #3 on the UK charts this week? Holy hell!

Rhetoric 201

One of the underreported dark sides to T9 predictive text entry on cell phones (at least, on my cellphone) is the way it handles user-edited entries. I've found that, for instance, I've had to enter contractions manually since for some reason "im" is not recognized my default. I dealt with it, since the alternative is digging through another couple of menus to get an apostrophe added, or saying "i am," which of course is way too much work.

You get reminded of this when you try to write digits into a text message. If you press "4," for instance, and then start clicking up to find the actual 4, you also get a list of everything you've custom-edited that begins with either G, H or I. On my phone, when you press 3, you see:


Working on a sex farm / hosing down your barn door / bothering your livestock / they know what I need

I managed to resist getting the first Guitar Hero (DDR with a guitar), but... the new one is going to have Nirvana, RATM, Sabbath... and fucking Danzig. That's awesome.

Oh-- and Spinal Tap!

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Getting back into it

Holy love monkeys this is good stuff. Woxy radio, which is an all-internet radio station and had been basically bankrupt, has been resuscitated and is back on the "air." It is some seriously great shit, my friends. There is some annoying plug-in thing you have to get somewhere but it's totally worth it. I've listened to so much great music today. Very entertaining. And the first song to kick off the rebirth: "Kick Out The Jams [muthafucka]," by the MC5. Good start.

Saw "The Departed," Scorsese's new gangsta flick. It was getting hella-good metascores at metacritic, and I am just the world's biggest sucker for anything Matt Damon. It certainly boasted an ensemble to be reckoned with (Jack N., Wahlberg, Martin Sheen, DiCaprio) but it just didn't do it for me. It was pretty good, but something about it just didn't work. The blood ran thick and slicked the ground repeatedly and Nicholson gave a fantastic performance, but between DiCaprio's shitty Boston accent and a police room that just seemed too incompetent even for a police dept., it didn't hold its water. So...I'd give it around a B+/B.

The little lady just picked up her very first Macbook, which is an entirely pleasing piece of aesthetics. They really do plan their products well, that Apple lot. I'm still getting used to a few of the differences, like the laptop eating the CD every time you put it in, Safari (which is pretty fine as far as I can tell), and just the way that programs close and whatnot. But I can tell already that the iTunes interface is pretty sweet, the built in videocamera is great (I've got some nasty, shirtless photos that deserve posting for posterity), and it is just a beautiful piece of work.

I've been getting into some Bonnie "Prince" Billy shit, and man is it good. Sort of rustic Americana for dat ass, Todd Oldham really knows how to create some melancholy, broken ballads. I just love that sort of shit. Call me a sadsack. Actually, the only thing I have so far is an older disc, back when he was in a band called Palace; the CD is called Palace Music. There's another band I am sorta into, called Canada. They are from Ann Arbor and play an organically inclined indie-folk set. Not too shabby, but nothing to write home about. Writing on one's blog, however...

Oh yeah, it's still hot as balls in Texas. Incredible.

I missed the Hold Steady show last night in Houston, but I am planning on going to the Built to Spill and Broken Social Scene shows next weekend. Should be dope. I was considering going to Okkervil River too, though I am not sure how they will translate to a live format.


Monday, October 09, 2006

Journalism Dies by Self-Inflicted Gunshot

Today's New York Times describes outgoing UN Sec-Gen Kofi Annan as a "diplomatic rock star."

Thursday, October 05, 2006

The Return of Guy Tarkington

Greetings, fellow Lemurs, and hello! It is I, Guy Tarkington.

First, a bit about where I’ve been.

Yes, it’s true that “Polka on the Pier” did not go off as well as I had hoped. I had once considered longshoremen to be true Renaissance Men, conduits in the appreciation of art, nature, literature (pronounced “LIT TRA CHUR”) and French poetry. But, when you arrive dockside by parachute, prance about in short-shorts playing the Beer Barrel polka and shove an accordion in their dirty faces, they tend to stab you.

Let’s just say that I, Guy Tarkington, lost something that day. My innocence. My wallet. Forty-eight dollars. A business card from a guy who I don’t remember.

But Guy Tarkington will not be beaten. You can force me to the ground, pin my arms and make me hit myself, but I still have my dignity. You can repeatedly ring my doorbell and knock, and I will look through the blinds and stand perfectly still in my bedroom, because I am afraid of 12 year-olds selling candy bars. But I am a prideful man.

I take pride in my job: Driver for the city’s red bus route, delivering people to their jobs, court appearances and homes. Some people ask, how does Guy Tarkington stay focused on his job, and with such enthusiasm? How can Guy Tarkington tip his hat to women, and call his male passengers by name? How can Guy Tarkington keep calm, even in the busiest traffic, and when careening across the grass of the city park? When Guy Tarkington discovered that the new overpass was not completed, how did he summon the gusto to “floor it” and jump the chasm, to the cheers of his passengers? I’ll tell you: Pure pride.

I take pride in my home: Every day, I turn on the motor that inflates the 20-foot-tall man who stands in front of my home, dancing.

I take pride in my appearance: A crisp, pressed waistcoat, hand-tailored breeches, knee-high stockings and a powdered wig. Occasionally, a silver snuff box under my arm.

Fear not, fellow Lemurs, for I am with you. You will never be alone, for wherever you walk, I walk. When you cry, I cry with you. When you are showering, I shall be in the bushes outside your window, masturbating.

Freakonomics and poker

Steven Levitt, one of the Freakonomics authors, posted his strategy (on his blog) for a recent poker tourney. Obviously, I've been doing it all wrong this whole time. I know it's long, but I'm going to post it below:

I was in Las Vegas yesterday celebrating my 10 year anniversary with my wife Jeannette, who loves me but not nearly as much as she loves poker. So even though this blog is about my anniversary and about commitment, it is not about the sort of commitment you might suspect. Rather it is about what economists call a “commitment device,” which is when someone locks himself/herself into a course he/she wouldn’t otherwise want to have to follow, but as a result the person benefits.

The idea of a commitment device is counter-intuitive. How can it make you better off to lock yourself in so that you have fewer options to choose from? Aren’t more choices always better than fewer? If there is no strategic interaction, more is always better, but when you are competing against someone else, limiting your options can be helpful. A classic example is an attacking army burning the bridges behind them so that they have no easy way to retreat. It commits the army to fight harder and might lead the opponent to retreat, avoiding a battle altogether. In the famous criminal case of the nanny Louise Woodward (who was accused of killing the child she took care of in Boston), defense attorney Barry Scheck tried to use a commitment device on the jury. I don’t remember the exact details, but in Massachusetts the defense can elect not to allow the jury to settle on a lesser charge, forcing the jury either to find the accused guilty of murder, or finding the accused innocent, but not letting the jury give a verdict of guilty of some less serious charge like negligent manslaughter. (Maybe some lawyers who read this blog can spell out the details of this in the comments section.) The idea behind Scheck’s gambit is that the jury would be willing to find Woodward guilty of a lesser charge, but not the most serious charge. By taking the less serious charge away from them, he hoped she would be found innocent. In fact, though, it backfired and she was found guilty of the more serious charge, although the Massachusetts Supreme Court later overruled it.

Anyway, back to my 10 year anniversary. My wife wanted to spend our last hours in Las Vegas together playing in a poker tournament. Because I am a loyal husband, I agreed to do it. It was a $430 buy-in tournament at the Mirage and 20 players were entered. It started at 5 pm and we figured there was plenty of time to catch a flight at midnight. Since neither of us had ever played in a live tournament, we had no idea how long these take to complete. It took about three hours to narrow it down to a final table of ten players. I was still in the tournament at this point, although Jeannette got knocked out on a bad beat relatively early. Two hours later, there were still five players left, including me. I had about an average number of chips among the remaining players. I also had a dilemma. My flight left in two hours. It was the last flight of the night. I really wanted to catch it. On the other hand, having just played this tournament for five hours, I was hoping to get a nice payoff and maybe some bragging rights.

So it was 10:15 pm and I figured the latest I could leave for the airport and comfortably make my flight was 10:30 pm. I decided that I would go “all in” with any hand that was decent at all. This would give me a chance to either lose quickly or maybe win quickly. I didn’t announce this strategy to the table, I just adopted it. Over the next 12 hands I was “all in” about 6 times. Four times everyone else folded. I won one of the other two hands, and lost one against someone with fewer chips. That left me with a lot more chips than before, but no one had been knocked out.

It was now 10:30 pm. Much to the surprise of the people at the table, I said I had to catch a plane so I was only going to play one more hand. There was a player who had so few chips left that he was going to be eliminated any hand unless he won one, and I would get fourth place instead of fifth…that would be worth $300 to me. The people at the table were very happy—I was essentially giving away maybe $1,000 in expected value to them by quitting. Since it was my last hand, there was not really any reason to do anything but go all in. Any chips I had left were worth nothing to me since I was quitting anyway. The other players at the table were smart enough to understand that. So I look down at my cards and I have pocket aces! So I go all in like I would have with any two cards, and the guy next to me also goes all in with Ace-queen, thinking this is his lucky day. We turn over the cards and I beat him and I knock him out and now I have more chips than anyone. Which made leaving a lot harder because now I was the favorite to win the $3,000+ first prize.

So here is where the commitment device comes in. Everyone knew I really had to leave. So I announced that from here on out I was all in on every hand. Even if I had the worst possible hand, I was going all in. They may not have believed me initially, but when I went all-in four straight times, it started to seem credible. It was clear I was following a strategy that is generally not sound. It is valuable to have the option to fold bad hands. But, at the end of a poker tournament, most of the hands are won by someone betting a lot of money and everyone folding. There is a big advantage to being the first one to bet, since it is likely everyone else will fold rather than risk the whole tournament on a mediocre hand. Since I had more chips than anyone else and it was clear I would be all in every hand, any player who made any bet knew that if he lost he was out of the tournament. Furthermore, each player could see that there was a chance that if he was patient, there was a good chance I would knock out the other players at the table first since these all in moves are often like coin tosses in terms of who wins.

Consequently, because everyone knew I was commited to going all in and because I had so many chips, almost every hand involved me going all in and everyone else folding. This was doubly good for me because it meant the hands went very quickly, which helped my chances of making my plane. I never would have had the nerve to play this way if I didn’t have the constraint of the flight. Occasionally someone would call my all in or go all in themselves, and they won a couple of those, but since the blinds were so big and I had more chips I was still way ahead and I knocked out one person. When it was down to three of us the incentives for the other players to fold were even stronger because the difference between second and third place payoffs was much larger than between third and fourth place payoffs. Going all in against me only raised the chance of his finishing first a little because I was so far ahead, but made finishing third quite likely. So even though the two opponents collectively would have been much better off coordinating to try to go in against me and beat me, their individual incentives were at odds. They both tried to sit back and let the other one take all the risk. It didn’t take long before both were so weak that all they wanted to do was to outlast the other. With a little luck, I knocked them both out, grabbed my cash, and made a dash for a cab that just got me to my airplane on time.

Word to the wise: having seen how well it worked this time, if you ever sit across from me in a poker tournament and I say I have a flight to catch, don’t believe it.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006


It doesn't get much better than that!

Just for Posterity

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Sighted in the Local Coffee Shop

A group of four people wearing leather jackets with a large decal on the back reading "CHRISTIAN MOTORCYCLISTS ASSOCIATION--RIDING FOR THE SON."

Everything Old Is New Again

In the last 10 minutes, I've heard Zeppelin's "Wearing and Tearing" as the background music for a Bengals highlight reel and Sabbath's "Iron Man" in a Jeep commercial.

How Guy Tarkington?

People have been stopping me on the street lately, asking, "Guy Tarkington?" It's a strange question really, because its status as a query is perilously assigned to the asker's inflection. But it deserves some attention.

Let me start by saying that, no, Guy has not been made redundant. In fact, we at "Le Lemur" have recently reached out to G.T. to offer a substantial compensation package.

Alas, our requests have obviously rung hollow. Our staff has recently offered that perhaps Guy, under the cover of night, has sullied off into a witness protection program somewhere in Kansas. Likely, this all stems from his participation in the infamous "Polka on the Pier" and the unwanted resultant attention received from the longshoremen there. Understandably, one would lay low after something like this.

However, others have wondered if, indeed, Guy's disappearance is not actually "foul play." Reports of the curious "Badminton Bandit," whose exploits have struck as far north as the Sawtooth Mountain range and as far south as El Paso, Texas, may have had a hand in this. Evidently, "B.B." is known to frequent local Piggly-Wigglys, wielding a wooden racquet and a forlorn countenance. On happening upon unsuspecting victims, who are usually in the Hostess section of said grocer and carrying a full-stop chilli dog and a 32 oz. Mr. Pibb, the Bandit asks if they've seen a shuttlecock lying about. Confused, the victims either look around or continue rummaging through the twinkies, looking for the one with the most recent Born-On date. It is then when the Badminton Bandit strikes, his blows raining down upon the victims shoulders like a Philistine cyclone. Few have rustled up the gumption to tell the tale of these brutal attacks. Piggly-Wigglys everywhere have included "No Racket" to the requisite "No Shoes, No Shirt, No Service" stickers adorning the sliding doors.

Let us all pray that Guy is alive and well.

*above image related to, but not directly taken from, here. Gotta love the South.