I think I like this "poker" thing...

For funsies, I thought I'd give a 7-Card Stud tournament (play money, alas) a whirl tonight. I've been playing mostly texas hold'em in tourneys as of late (with a little omaha mixed in here and there) and I thought I'd try a change. 92 players entered, 16 places were paid, and despite a couple gem hands I wound up in 10th place, getting about a 67% premium on my buy-in (460 payout, 275 buy-in). Not too shabby for my first try. Well, technically it's my second try as I played in a HORSE tourney the other week.

If only these were common occurrences...

The best possible starting hand in 7-Card Stud...

I eventually got a sixth diamond, but it wasn't the Ace...



Oh yeah...

...I had a birthday this week. Sigh. I'm like... less young or something.

Also, my cousin Amy is back from her 5 month jaunt in England, so it'll be nice to see her after a long while... once she's had time to hibernate and recover from jet lag, anyway.

As well, I've been having fun trying to teach my friend Rob's 6 week old son bad habits over the past week. It's fun to warp minds, but so hard to do when the little ankle biters can't understand you. Maybe if I speak louder...

And I think this whole road to not smoking thing might actually be feasible as I'm down to one cigarette every day or two. Except yesterday. I had two cigarettes. My bad. I bought my (hopefully) last carton October 31, 2006... and I have about half a pack left from that. My intention is to be done with the habit when that last pack is finished. I even ordered some aid guide from the government but it was completely useless... nothing but common sense, really.

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Okay, yesterday's Smallville (which I finally got around to watching today) wasn't horrible. Certainly not as bad as I expected, but far from fantastic. We finally got to see Martian Manhunter in action (properly, anyway) although I kept wanting him to act more like Jackie Chiles. Acting was pretty darn good, especially the paranoia from Chloe (schwing!) and the anger from Lex. Tom Welling was his usual mediocre-at-best, but he fared acceptably. I give it a thumbs barely up (bureau42.com wasn't as nice as me this week, though) and I still hold out hope for good episodes this month.

So, why did I not see it until today? Well, my friend Jean-Paul was in town for a few days so I caught up with him and others to go for dinner and catch a movie. The others bailed so it was just he and I off to see Pan's Labyrinth (his choice). While he quite enjoyed it, I... I don't know what to think. My first impression was I didn't like it, but I didn't hate it. The story was iffy, the characterizations were flawed and some of the plot points were completely, well, pointless. For a new movie it's rated extremely highly on the IMDB, and I can definitely say I disagree with the rating it's received thus far. I'd have to give it somewhere in the range of a 5 or 6... decent, watchable, but nothing I'd care to see again or even really think about once I've left the theatre. The upshot is I got a stack of movie passes for Christmas so at least it didn't cost me anything to see the show.

Dad and Willi are off to Mexico this coming week, and I really ought to get over there and get this PCMCIA wireless card installed in his ThinkPad since he wants to take it with him... I wonder if he got his passport yet. I know as of last weekend it hadn't yet arrived and with all the kerfuffle these days at the passport office, it's quite possible he's not yet received it.

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Love and Monsters

I've got such a love/hate relationship with Smallville it's not even funny. More often than not I find myself dreading to watch the show, generally tossing it to the bottom of the pile when I have to decide what to watch for stuff I've downloaded. Still, there are times when that dread is wiped away and I've been very glad to have seen a certain episode. Those times are rare, but continually renew any faith I have in the show.

This week was one of those nuggets, with the viewers/fans finally able to see the burgeoning Justice Leage of America in action. Not all the players are in place yet (Wonder Woman, Batman, etc.) but we do have Green Arrow, Cyborg, Aquaman and The Flash so far (of note, one can easily see that Gough & Millar are again breaking DC canon by having the JLA started by these members). All had of course been featured separately in the past couple years, but this is the first time we get to see them in action as a group.

I honestly have no idea if there was a tacit notion early on in the minds of the show runners to have the series finish with JLA overtones, and I seriously doubt it, but it's nice to finally have the show seem to have purpose. So many episodes, especially early on, felt like throwaways with the Freak of the Week (FotW as kryptonsite.com would call them in years past); later on, they felt wasteful with all the soap opera elements at play. Sometimes, as I noted a couple months back, the waste is on a larger scale... I still feel the build-up in season 5 regarding Brainiac and Zod was a waste given how briskly the notions were discarded in the season 6 opener.

Given it's been nearly 3 months since the last of these 'nuggets' (counting, of course, the holiday season hiatus), it makes me sad to realize this may be the last good episode for a while. I fully anticipate the show going back to the drudgery until sweeps... meaning 3-4 poor episodes may yet come before anything good again airs. I do hope to be proven wrong, though.

EDIT: It seems I'm not the only one with the opinion of this week's episode ("Justice"). fiziko (I don't know him personally, but he too is from Edmonton) over at bureau42 has posted his remarks on the episode. Edited 22.01.2007



Penguin Day

For no good reason, yesterday I celebrated the waning of my bout with the flu by declaring it to be Penguin Day... that being me sitting on my butt watching Penguin stuff all day. I decided to do it when I began to download Farce of the Penguins, while also having a screener of Happy Feet handy and March of the Penguins from way back when still to watch. I also threw in the Futurama episode "Birdbot of Ice-catraz" featuring penguins (watching it a second time for the commentary, too). I didn't have the stamina to also throw in Batman Returns, alas, as it would have been an ideal way to round out Penguin Day.

So, all in all it was... well, worthless. Happy Feet was first up, and I really had no desire to watch it. I wasn't disappointed, as it was really not a good show. The 80s tunes were nice to hear, the animation was wonderful, and the technical aspects of penguins were covered correctly (as I later learned from March of the Penguins), but Robin Williams generally bothers me in his comedic roles and this was no different (as he had three roles including the narrator). Plus, the story was meh. Next time, I might have to just judge that book by its cover since I'm right far more than I'm wrong with such gut instincts.

While I waited for Farce of the Penguins to burn, I watched the Futurama episode and loved every minute of it. The show is still among my favourite animated series ever, and while the commentary for this particular episode wasn't anything fantastic it was still wonderful overall.

March of the Penguins was up next and by far the most enjoyable of the feature-length selections. It was beautifully photographed and well-narrated by Morgan Freeman, and most importantly (as a documentary) very informative. That being said, it was far from exciting and I fell asleep about 25 minutes into the show. I picked up where i left off after napping for a couple hours and ultimately decided the show was worthwhile.

Lastly, we have Farce of the Penguins. I hadn't even heard about this until my friend Tom mentioned it to me when we got to talking of penguins the other day. I sort of wish I'd not heard of it as it was simply terrible. It's basically 80 minutes of dick and fart jokes (and not of the Kevin Smith calibre, either) dubbed over stock footage of penguins. It was unoriginal, uninspired and plain unfunny. It was written and "directed" by Bob Saget (yep, *that* Bob Saget) and I'm still not sold on his standup-era humour.

Overall, I wish I had the drive to also watch Batman Returns, especially since (like each of the other feature-length items chosen) I've never seen it completely, just bits and pieces. It's not supposed to be fantastic, and I'm really no fan of Tim Burton, but I have a feeling it would have been a good palate cleanser.

Or, maybe I just need to not come up with silly theme days.

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MacWorld Expo Keynote

This morning featured the Steve Jobs keynote for the annual San Francisco MacWorld Expo, a favourite vacation destination of mine (I've gone 6 times in the past dozen or so years). Nothing says welcome to January like the San Fran pilgrimage by the Mac faithful.

There's no shortage of content out there regarding the transpirings of the event, so I'll be brief with my remarks. Basically, I'll restrict myself to why I don't care about what was introduced.

AppleTV: It's a good start, I suppose. A set-top box for the rest of us, to borrow a phrase. I'm currently in a position where I have a very viable system in place for viewing downloaded content on my TV. For better than 3 years now, I've had a DivX-capable DVD player which quite easily handles DivX/XviD, MPG, MPG2, etc. No WMV (thank God!), no fringe stuff (mkv containers, etc.). Just the basics, just the formats in which most downloadables are distributed. Download, burn to DVDRW, watch, erase, repeat. So, I don't need a set-top box.

720p maximum resolution... uh, what? Jobs proudly stood on stage at the 2005 (that's two years ago for those counting) San Fran keynote and declared that to be the YEAR OF HD. So... it's now 2007... and the Apple set-top box can't even do full HD resolution? Sorry, not acceptable. Amazingly enough, I've not seen this comment/complaint mentioned on any news sites I've read (maybe I'm not reading the right ones?). 1080p TVs are finally plentiful and are entering the realm of nicely priced, and Apple ships... uh, this. Okay, so my TV doesn't support higher than 540p (I don't count 1080i, which it does support) so if I were to use an AppleTV I'd get downsampled content (kinda like with a PS3, if I had one). Some might say I bitch because I can't even get the 720p offered by the device, but that's not the case. I bitch because the thing is incomplete at best.

No raw MPG/MPG2 playback? No VOB playback (yes, yes, VOBs are just MPG2 files, shush)? I can understand the lack of DivX/XviD playback due to the stigma attached to it, but come on, not all of us have video purchased from the iTunes Store. I live in Canada, by definition I *CAN'T* have video content purchased from the iTunes Store. If I buy a set top box (and wow there's no shortage of much cheaper options with much wider capabilities) and it can't play back what I want to see, then what use is it?

So much for "the rest of us."

iPhone: This is a sweet, sweet product. I won't deny that. It's so sweet, it's completely useless to me. Lack of Canadian availability aside, I dig the swiss army knife concept, but it's overkill, man. I don't want the cell phone I have now; I don't want a cell phone, period. I don't care about portable video; I'm quite content with music when I'm out and about. I have a USB flash drive if I want to carry around photos, and yes Virginia, loads of DVD players have USB ports for uses just like that. Internet on the go? I love the net, don't get me wrong, but I can go days without using it or checking my mail... I have no use for the ability to remotely see how many penis enlargement spam emails I have sitting in my mailbox.

GSM... that might be a good thing for the Yanks, but up here, at least from what I'm told, that's not a great idea. The sole GSM-capable carrier here is Rogers/Fido, and last I checked, the Rogers network was abysmal at best. I'm told the data costs on the network are also obscene. No, for Canada we need a 3G phone IIRC. Jobs in the keynote said Apple was investigating 3G handsets, but if they released such a thing, wouldn't that have an adverse effect on the internet capabilities when not in range of a WiFi hotspot (I don't actually know the answer to that)? GSM and the SIM card slot will be wonderful for the European market though, and I'm glad to see Apple at least endeavouring to make a product that can be used globally. It sucks to see cool cell phones and smartphones out there whose abilities are restricted to a given geographical region or mobile carrier.

The coolest part overall would have to be the interface. It rocks. Nothing comes close to it. I won't get into details, but for the curious, make sure to check out the video stream of the keynote to see the cool nuances offered by the interface. Oh, and the random access voicemail is very cool... but that's nothing which will be available outside the US, unless Apple/Cingular license or sell the technology to Rogers, Orange, Vodafone, whoever. That's assuming I'm getting things straight with the network infrastructure requirements for that capability.

So. One thing is severely inadequate for today's market, the other is extreme overkill. Mash the two of them together and you meet somewhere in the usability middle.

AppleiTVPhone? Nah, go with what Eric Schmidt said... AppleGoo!

802.11n Airport Extreme: While not covered in the keynote, Apple also released a draft-n spec router. Which looks just like the form factor of the AppleTV. Coincidence? Hmm. Still... draft-n. I don't own any 802.11n devices, and if 802.11b & g have taught us anything, USB adapters with wireless n capability will be few and far between for Mac availability, if we see any at all. I just bought a new router 6 months ago anyway, I don't want to spend MORE money on another one. Certainly not for $200. While other companies have far cheaper alternatives, nothing is as sleek-looking as Apple's offering. Oh, and after selling wireless routers for like 7 years or so, Apple has finally thrown in some ethernet ports on the back of the router. Way to join the party, guys.

The upshot of all this is I have zero urge to part with my money. I love Apple, but the more stuff they release, the more I realize I'm well outside their target demographic. My needs/desires are either vastly greater or lesser than what they offer.

The downside... all the stuff that should have happened but didn't. How about a progress report on Mac sales? Market penetration? Leopard progress? New displays? The options scandal? There are a dozen stories crying out to be told which weren't. Instead, we get products that miss the mark for a whooooooole bunch of people.

I love Apple, but, baby, why you always gotta make me hit you?

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Congrats to my friends Guinevere and Allen for finally getting engaged after about 4 ice ages of dating, and to my friends Rob and Gail for the birth of their son, um, Robert the Fourth.



My Dad is amongst the hardest people to buy Christmas gifts for... much like me (the apple doesn't fall far from the tree) he's the type of guy to go and buy something if he wants it, and generally not wait for birthdays/holidays to let someone else buy it for him as a gift. Well, that was the situation this past Christmas where there was nothing that anyone could think of to get him as a gift. I'd decided to buy tickets for an Oilers game or two, but in order to do so I had to wait until today when the next batch of game tickets were made available. I could have bought tickets for other games at an insane premium (some places I looked at were charging literally double face value) but I opted to wait for today to get tickets. How hard would it be to get a couple seats together for a worthwhile game, right?

Well, Dad is taking some holiday time early this year, going to (I think) Mexico and Vancouver in January and March, respectively. He's also having cataract surgery on each eye; one in February, the other in March. So, with all that to contend with, my choices were limited. Ultimately I decided on the San Jose game January 26 and also the Calgary game March 3. I made sure to be awake early enough to hover at the Ticketmaster website right when the tickets went on sale at 10:00. I sat there hitting refresh until finally I could buy tickets.

Except, I couldn't buy tickets. I'm not sure how many seats were available in the first place, once promo seats and season tickets were factored in, but I could not get two seats together for either game at any price. At least, that was the end result after the retarded spam protection at the web site kept failing (the old "here's the obfuscated string of gibberish alphanumeric characters you have to type in to confirm you're blind and don't deserve to use our site" bit). I had tabs open for each of the two games and it took the better part of 10 tries for each game to get past that stage. I know for fact I was typing in what was presented to me but the system refused me access. So, I wound up waiting all this time to get nothing. Just for kicks I tried calling the phone number to buy tickets -- the line was perpetually busy, of course.

So, I had to go with Plan B to try to salvage something out of all this. The World Curling Championships are in town starting at the end of March, so I ordered a couple seats for the Championship weekend. The seats are at least decent considering general sales began in early November. If I knew they wouldn't go to waste (and if I could afford them), I could have had really nice seats for the whole 9 day event. However, $1000 was well beyond my means. So, the upshot from all this is the tickets are for Thursday night and for various times Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Dad's work schedule generally has him off Fridays, so we should at least be able to catch all the draws without anyone juggling any schedules. Unless, of course, I find a job before then... but then that's not really in my plans for the time being.

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