Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The Ballad of Eskimo Clark.

I don't listen to modern country music, but I don't get the impression they're much on "story songs" these days. A lot of country hits in days gone by were mini tales of some real or imagined event, like Johnny Horton's "Sink the Bismarck" and Jimmy Dean's "Big Bad John." The saga of Eskimo Clark at this year's World Series of Poker is the kind of thing I could imagine being made into one of these songs.

Paul Clark is known as Eskimo due to his supposed resemblance to the logo of Alaskan Airlines, although he's originally from Louisiana. He's won 3 WSOP bracelets to date, but his quest for a fourth at this year's edition just might kill him. Last week he collapsed during the Seven Card Stud Hi/Lo event. Initial reports speculated on a heart attack, and many blamed the hot conditions inside the tent his table was located in. Yesterday he collapsed twice during the $1500 Razz event, prompting paramedics to be called in during the second incident, although Clark convinced them to let him continue playing. Some sources are claiming it's the result of low blood sugar, but others are saying that Clark is having strokes, and the fact that one side of his body went numb during the second incident yesterday sounds like evidence of a stroke to me. Clark has signed a waiver absolving the tournament of liability should he suffer permanent damage.

Clark made it to the end of the event, coming in third, with Katja Thater winning. But at what cost? Is winning a fourth bracelet worth the health risk to Clark? He thinks so, but it seems like obsession taken too far to me. And even if he is able to compete in further events and does win a bracelet it's gong to be overshadowed by his collapses.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Italian Tax Dollars At Work.

If you're an Italian you may be annoyed with this use of your tax dollars. An Italian state prosecutor intends to bring obscenity charges against the creators of the film version of Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code. Those named include Dan Brown and film director Ron Howard. The charges come as the result of complaints by a group of priest that the movie is obscene from a religious prespective under Italian law because it claims Jesus was married and had a child. The charges can be thrown out by the judge that first hears the case, and hopefully they will be. The Italian legal system presumably has better things to spend time on that a silly complaint about a silly movie that will do little more than provide more press time for this already overpublicised book and movie.

Monday, June 18, 2007

I Won't Meet You On Tau Ceti VI Next Year.

Science fiction writer Charlie Stross has written an interesting piece on why interstellar colonisation may not be doable. The responses are equally interesting. Frankly I think too many of them hinge on the flawed argument that since we now have X when Y years ago we believed it was impossible or didn't even conceive of then there's no doubt that solution Z will come along and solve everything. It's also amusing that some people can't get the idea that writing about something in a work of science fiction doesn't automatically mean the writer believe's it's actually possible in the real world. As is often the case they seem to place an overemphasis on the "science" part of science fiction.

Given that fusion power has supposedly been a decade away for six decades I don't think I'll hold my breath waiting for a hyperspace drive system to appear.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Door To Door Safety.

This morning some Jehovah's Witnesses were canvassing the neighbourhood. Fortunately they didn't come to my door. Seeing them made me think of another religion that likes to proselytise door to door, the Mormons. But a major difference between the two is that Mormon canvassers are usually young people, while Witnesses frequently send out older folks, and sometimes children are brought along. And the thought came to mind that the Mormon practice is safer. Their young proselytisers are likely to have a much better chance of escaping trouble than their Witness counterparts, and given the attitude many have towards such efforts there is always a risk.

My way of dealing with such folks is to tell them I'm not interested, which is effective. I've occasionally had thoughts of doing something slightly mischevious when they come around, like play some of the harsher and weirder entries from my music collection, but frankly why go to the effort? I certainly never try and talk with them about the questionable elements of their beliefs, as your doorstep is not an appropriate place to do so, and it might encourage them to come back.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Kid Poker Joins PokerStars.

There's really no argument that Toronto born Daniel Negreanu is the best known and most successful professional Canadian poker player, and indeed is one of the world's best known pros. So it's no surprise that online poker powerhouse PokerStars would recruit Negreanu to its team of pros, which includes 2003, 2004, and 2005 World Series of Poker Main Event winners Chris Moneymaker, Greg Raymer, and Joe Hachem. It also includes another Canadian, Quebec's Isabelle Mercier.

Negreanu had previously been associated with the poker site Full Contact Poker, including playing a role in founding the site. And yesterday's announcement of his joining PokerStars coincided with Full Contact announcing they will merge with PokerStars. As one blogger commented this can be considered evidence of the consolidation of the online poker industry. Last year's American legislation against online gambling had a major impact on the business, with many sites deciding to leave the US market. This included PartyPoker, which had been one of the big players in the US market, and was claimed before the passing of the Safe Port Act to be the biggest of the online poker sites..

But many sites decided to continue to service American customers who wanted to play real money poker. This included PokerStars, and as a result they scooped up a large percentage of US online poker players abandoned by other sites. This resulted in them taking over the position of biggest online poker site in the world, and their strength may very well push other sites to merge in an effort to compete, while others may decide they just can't compete and cease operations, especially if they aren't willing to take the risk of servicing the lucrative American market.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

The Universe Coughs Out Another Funny.

I was watching Jeopardy tonight and two of the contestants had the first names Toho and Sara and were seated in that order. I knew the combination sounded familiar, and sure enough I was right. Toho Sara is a Japanese avant garde rock group that includes Makoto Kawabata of Japanese neo psychedelic band Acid Mother's Temple. There's little doubt this was sheer coincidence, as I doubt anyone on the Jeopardy crew has ever heard of Toho Sara.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Old Tech Survives.

I went into the local 7/11 today and got a surprise. Someone ahead of me was using his credit card, and the clerk was taking his info with an old fashioned credit card imprinter instead of using a scanner. I haven't seen anyone use one of those in years, but a quick check online shows you can still buy them. Some younger readers may not be familiar with these devices, but that's how credit card transactions were done prior to the widespread use of electronic card scanners. The one I saw today was of the once familiar slide type, where you place your card on the imprinter and the clerk slides a bar across it, imprinting the card's markings on a sheet of paper. I really should have asked her why she was using one, although I presume the credit card scanners weren't working at the time.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Sarge Turns 40.

Friday was the 40th anniversary of the initial release in the UK of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. Wow, hard to believe it was 40 years ago. Into the CD player it went, which made me wonder again when the Beatles' catalogue will be remastered. You'd think they would have done a new set of remasters in the late '90s or early 2000s given how much digital mastering has improved, but instead we still have the late '80s version in the shops. If you live in the Western half of North America and some other places there's still time to listen to it on the album's fortieth birthday if you move quickly.

Billy Shears will be grateful.