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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in Catullus 5's LiveJournal:

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Tuesday, June 28th, 2011
5:25 pm
Got your tickets?
Was today the day I finally turned the corner on strength training?

I'm at the point where I don't need to lose any more weight. What I need now is some muscle tone. But even though I've steadfastly counted calories every day for seven months, and I've willed my way up to running half-marathon distances over the past few years, this miraculous flood of motivation has not yet spilled over into weightlifting. There's still a mental hump I need to get over.

If I have the power to make myself go running for almost an hour in the summer routinely, or maintain a 750-calorie daily deficit for seven months straight, then you'd think a few situps and pushups in the air-conditioned comfort of my living room should be a trivial matter. But it's not. I don't know why. Maybe it just takes time. It's another habit to form. It's the same deal with weight training machines - worse, in fact, since those involve a trip to the actual gym.

So today I went in at lunch and I did a few arm curls, tricep extensions, shoulder presses. Now it's five o'clock and my arms feel GOOD. They are actually exuding a pleasurable feeling right now. This is a strange new feeling for me. With running, it took six or seven years before I even stopped hating it.* And even today, I don't truly "feel good" afterward. The satisfaction I get is a cerebral one base on pride and accomplishment, not actual pleasurable sensations in my muscles.

This is so weird.

I think I'm going to go down right now and see how much I can bench press.

* Which is why I did it in the first place. I always used to say: "I know running is the best exercise, because nothing sucks more."
Thursday, June 2nd, 2011
3:07 pm
How I lost fifty pounds while eating Burger King or Wendy's most days
How’s my resolution to keep writing in LiveJournal working out? Ha. Don’t worry, I’m about to make it up in volume. This is probably my longest post ever. This is what I’ve been up to for the past six months.

I avoided mentioning it, online or in person, for a long time, a) just in case I fell off the wagon and would look like an even bigger fool,and b) because I wanted to see when – and how – my friends would notice, on their own, without any prompting.

Shortly after my football season ended in December, I happened upon an interesting blog post from some novelist I've never heard of:

"How I lost 30 pounds while eating a donut every day"

It's a pretty good read if you're looking for motivation. As a geek, this guy went about it from a sensible and analytic perspective, an approach which appeals to me as well. He doesn't evangelize about any fad diet or alleged medical breakthrough. His is simply a story of fewer calories input. It's really that simple. There is no quick fix. Calories in minus calories expended; end of story.

This writer recommended a free phone app called LoseIt, which I downloaded and tried out. It's a calorie counting app. There are several other such apps out there, and they presumably work similarly. I picked this one simply because the blogger suggested it, and now I can recommend it in turn. It’s actually a web site; the app is just another interface for it. The app works without a data signal, which is nice.

To start, you simply enter your age/gender/height, your weight, your goal weight, and how aggressively you want to ramp downward. 2.0 pounds per week calls for too much austerity, while 0.5 would take eons. 1.0 is a number I've heard many dieting references quote as the rough limit to what you can lose sustainably. But since the app lets you choose all the way up to 2.0, that suggests to me that 1.5 is considered sustainable as well, at least by the app’s designers.

I wanted to lose 42 pounds. Why 42? Because that is the answer to life, the universe, and everything… but moreover, because that would get me one pound under my all-time adult low. That would be a sentimental victory. In order to arrive there by the start of preseason football in August, I had to go for 1.5 per week.

So you enter in your specs, and the LoseIt app runs whatever standard formulas the medical establishment and USDA endorse, and it tells you your calorie budget for the day. Then you enter in what you eat, and any exercise you get, and the counter decreases as you enter foods (or increases upon exercise). Exercise works like negative food. If you run far enough, you can buy yourself an entire small pizza, or a bunch of beers. Without exercise, though, those indulgences are hard to fit in.

The LoseIt app has a big database of foods. It’s stored locally on your phone, which makes it instant and convenient. It’s got store brand foods, menu items from restaurant chains, and generic items like “Beans, green, 1 oz.” You can enter data yourself, from, say, the nutrition label of a food that’s not in the database. If you just don’t know, you can just substitute something the app does know. Border Café tortilla chips become Tostitos. Absinthe becomes rum. The blood of unbaptized babies becomes Nestle Quik.

After entering just one meal, I knew I could keep it up without quitting. I knew I was all in.

For me, the key was making the process quantitative instead of qualitative. “Avoid fatty foods… exercise more… don’t drink too much… don’t order appetizers….” That foggy hand-waving advice is not effective. What worked for me was planning my meals with the quantitative knowledge that a Wendy’s Spicy Chicken Filet is 470 calories, their small chili is 220, an average beer bottle is 150, running 5 km will save me 535, and my budget for the day is 2114. A value like “628” is much more useful, much more actionable, than the vague concept of “less.” If you live your life trying to uphold the vague admonishment of “less,” you guarantee nothing. Whereas if you enter in your foods, and don’t lie to the app, and stay under your budget every day, You Will Undoubtedly Lose Weight.

In fact, I lost a lot more than those 1.5 pounds per week, on average. Either the app is using conservative math, or my living-and-breathing baseline expends more calories than the app estimates. I’m not complaining.

So the budget and formulas Will Work. You’re going to lose weight – if you don’t quit. That’s the hard part. It’s annoying to enter every meal every day without skipping. It’s tempting to lie by intentionally underestimating, say, the number of Doritos you just ate, two at a time every minute or two for 45 minutes. It sucks to restrict yourself to just one beer when you used to have three plus a shot. And it sucks to be hungrier than you’re used to. (I was afraid I’d be in a stomach-growling state for the first two weeks, but it lasted just three or four days, thankfully.) But I somehow got and kept religion about it. Again, the process becoming quantitative was what made the difference. Thoughts of “Oh, sure, why not have one more slice” are much easier to defeat when you know the quantitative severity of what you’re doing. “Try to do better and eat less” is once again unhelpful. After all, one extra slice is better than two extra slices.

Here’s what I’ve found and what I’ve decided:

• People say “You gotta let yourself relax once in a while, give yourself a vacation every ten days or so.” Nope! Even though it wouldn’t be the end of the world, I don’t ever break my daily budget unless I absolutely need to. (And if you have to wonder about it, then the answer is no, you don’t absolutely need to.) Look, one pound corresponds to about 3500 calories. For every pound per week, you are eating 500 calories per day below your maintenance level. So if you cheat by 500 calories one day, that’s not the end of the world. On a 1.5 slope, I could cheat by 500 calories every single day, and the worst that would happen is I lose 0.5 that week instead of 1.5. But here’s why you shouldn’t even do it once. If you declare occasional cheating acceptable, then that’s one more temptation you have to wrestle with every single day. For me at least, it’s so much easier to tame myself if I’ve declared cheating off the table entirely. The question of how best to allocate my scarce calorie budget is much easier than the challenge of not abandoning the budget in the first place.

• People say “You still shouldn’t eat so much fast food.” Too bad. Factors like cholesterol, sodium, et cetera… those are secondary concerns, far in the distance. My primary concern is calories. A calorie is a calorie is a calorie. If a fancy all-natural wholesome dish “costs” the same as one greasy Whopper without mayo, then I’m going to choose based on personal preference alone. It’s hard enough to keep religion on the calorie front. I don’t also need to fight the war on the sodium front. The skinny have that luxury but not the fat. In fact, I suspect a lot of people, when they decide to diet, choose to focus on those secondary concerns because those are an easier substitute, a cop-out. Fighting calories full-bore and ignoring cholesterol is actually harder, and requires more discipline, than fighting both with reduced intensity.

• I skip breakfasts. When I started, my budget was 300 calories more than it is now. (A heavier person starts off with a higher baseline, just because living takes more energy.) Back then I could have a small breakfast – in fact, I started by having a Snickers (280 calories) some mornings! But now my budget is under 1900 calories and I just can’t afford to waste 200-300 before noon. That would put me in skimping mode for the remaining two meals, and I’d rather avoid that, even if it means being kinda hungry in the morning. People say, “You shouldn’t skip breakfast. You actually eat less if you have breakfast than if you skip it.” That’s empirically true, but only for people who aren’t on a quantitative diet, and are just eating when and what they feel like. Maybe N calories at breakfast results in you unconsciously desiring >N fewer calories at dinner. But me, I’m on a budget, and I know damn well how many calories I’m eating at dinner. My 1900 calories won’t magically make me fatter when I eat them in two meals as opposed to three.

• Likewise, I find it’s easier to go hungry for a while in the evening and have a late dinner, then eat at six and run the risk of hunger at bedtime. If that happens and I’ve exhausted my budget, I’m in trouble. I can’t fall asleep with my stomach growling. I probably have to cheat. I’d rather save a few hundred calories until late, just in case. People say “You shouldn’t eat just before going to bed.” This advice, like the breakfast complaint, does not apply to me. Once again, a calorie is a calorie is a calorie. N calories at midnight counts no more and no less than N calories at noon.

• Diet sodas. I chug liters every day. Each 20-ounce bottle buys me a half hour to an hour before my stomach realizes it’s been had. Water is fine too, obviously, but diet sodas are more pleasurable. People say “You shouldn’t drink so much diet soda – those chemicals are bad for you.” That concern is beneath even secondary ones like cholesterol. Anything that gets me through the day more pleasantly, I’m drinking, regardless of whether a mouse once got cancer after 100,000 times my daily dose of it.

• If I have calories to spare at the end of the day, even if I’m not hungry, you know what I do? I eat them! People say “You shouldn’t eat if you’re not hungry.” First of all: Oh, but I WANT to! Why do you think I skipped breakfast, if not to enjoy my dinner more? But more importantly: This is a conscious decision I’ve made, and a very important one. I try not to allow myself “rollover minutes.” Sometimes if it’s Thursday, and I’m not hungry, and the weekend is coming up, and I know I’ll want to drink a lot, then I’ll let myself stay, say, 400 calories under budget, so I can go 400 over on Saturday night with a clean conscience. But I don’t make a habit of that. “Rollover minutes” would actually cause more stress, not less. Every meal, regardless of circumstance, would become a dilemma: If I eat N more calories on Tuesday, that’s N more I won’t have available on Wednesday, or the following Monday, or next Christmas. I can’t deal with that. I stick to a daily budget, not weekly or monthly. And if I get to the end of the day with calories to spare, I eat them. I take rollover minutes out of the equation, and by removing them as a possible option, I save my sanity at every other mealtime.

• I don’t bother entering tiny things, like salsa, or a peppermint from the secretary’s bowl. As long as you’re not making return trips when she’s away from her desk.

• The LoseIt app underestimates running, I want to think. I compared the app, the readout from a treadmill (which takes your weight into account), and the results from typing “running 3.1 miles in 25 minutes, 205 lbs” into WolframAlpha.com. The latter two give similar numbers. LoseIt gives less. So when I go running, I use WolframAlpha to find a calorie value, and then in the app, I make up time and speed numbers until the app thinks I burned the same amount.

• In the last six months I have found myself choosing chain restaurants over individual restaurants. Why? Because chain restaurants – some of them, at any rate – have calorie information online. I have a folder of bookmarks in my phone’s browser for everything from McDonald’s to the Capital Grille. Some chains publish them on their own websites. Some don’t call attention to them, but they do business in New York or California where they’re forced to supply calorie numbers, and someone on the Internet has posted a PDF of their menu from there. And some chains just have calorie information supplied at third-party sites without attribution. Like, you can go to “myfitnesspal.com” or some place, and they allegedly have information for some menu items from Legal Test Kitchen, but don’t say how they got those values. I don’t really trust those sites to be accurate. I’m just mentioning it because you’ll encounter this.

• There are only a few foods I’ve nearly given up entirely. Pizza is one. That was a hard goodbye. Pizza is so, so good. But each 1/8 slice of a pizza is anywhere from 400 to 650 calories depending on radius and toppings. If you order by the slice, a pizza place will give you 1/6 or even 1/4 of a gigantic pie; and if you order by the pie, the slices are smaller but you sure ain’t stopping at just one. It’s just too many calories, and too hard to resist. French fries are another. They just don’t offer enough satisfaction and/or satiation for how fattening they are. If I have 1000 calories to kill, instead of a Whopper and fries, I have a Whopper and another kind of burger! Seriously, a burger is tastier than fries to begin with (that’s why burgers come with fries and not the other way around) and most chains’ junior burgers have fewer calories than all but the smallest size fries. It’s win-win.

• Wendy’s chili rules. A small chili tastes good, feels heavy in your stomach, takes several pleasurable minutes to eat, and has only 220 calories. Whereas a medium fries vanishes in sixty seconds and has twice that many calories despite not even filling you up. I eat a Wendy’s spicy chicken sandwich with chili several times a week. It’s a great lunch, full of that indulgent fast food taste, but only 680 calories. Or even better, the grilled chicken saves you 90 calories and fills you up just as much as the fried one.

Jen (Costumes Jen) was the first to notice, since she’s the one who would dress me in my corset as Brad Majors. She noticed in only two weeks. My parents – whom I did tell – claimed to notice after about a month and a half. Everyone else started noticing about three months later.

Tonight, I’m meeting some football officials to study some rules questions before meetings and testing begin. None of my fellow officials has seen me since 52 pounds ago. I’m going to be so impressive.

I’m not going to quit keeping track of my calories, or even quit losing more weight. But I’ve been on this for six months, and tonight is one of the main reasons why.
Friday, April 1st, 2011
11:44 am
Celebrity cameo
The guy in the condo across the hall is a pretty cool guy. I've run into him in the hall a few times. His name's Gere... which I only know because it's written on his mailbox. I completely forget his first name. I just know it's not Richard. Richard Gere is someone else. Whom I also saw in the hallway this week.

Yes. You read that right. It turns out the guy across the hall is Richard Gere's nephew (or something).

So a famous celebrity was crashing at his nephew's place for a few days this week. Incredible. Not even for filming a movie or anything. It's some sort of family issue he was vague about. Understandable.

So I met him.

And I shook his hand.

And I invited him in for a drink.

And so here is a picture of me and Richard Gere, in my living room, drinking pints of my own homebrew.

He stayed for about five minutes. I really didn't know what kind of small talk to make. He just complimented me on my beer and briefly explained why the hell he was in my building, enough so I wouldn't ask. Nice guy. I guess being a celebrity's nephew's neighbor has its privileges.

Yep, that is definitely the coolest* and most ridiculously random** thing to happen in this particular condo since I moved in.

Just think, someday I'll be able to point to a movie poster and say "See those two? I've poured drinks in my own home with both Richard Gere AND d_day!"

* (non-sex-related)
** (again, non-sex-related)
Thursday, March 31st, 2011
11:59 am
The biggest little trip in the world
I spent seven days around Reno and Lake Tahoe and a day in San Francisco this month. I hadn't skipped work for two consecutive days in over a year, so it was time for the longest vacation I've taken since college. I owed it to myself. And I also owed myself six, yes, six visits to In-N-Out Burger.

Skiing the Sierras was my primary objective. I lugged my skis and boots clear across the country, and paid big money to rent an SUV so I could negotiate the mountains in snow. But the weather only cooperated on two of the seven days. The rest of the time, no matter which resort I tried, I found windy conditions had closed most of the mountain. At Heavenly, for instance, they had half the lifts running and expected to shut down entirely at noon as a storm rolled in. But they were happy to sell me a full price ticket for 91 dollars. I rolled my eyes - it was instead to be another day of poker and blackjack in Reno. I put that $91 to much better use losing a tournament or two.

That scenario happened twice, once at Heavenly and once at Alpine Meadows. I also found the road to Squaw Valley closed on another morning. I started giving up after that, booking hotels in Reno proper where things were actually open for business. That way, I wouldn't have to drive the serpentine Mt. Rose Highway in a blizzard.

This squiggly thing is the main road between Reno and North Lake Tahoe. It's one lane in each direction and reaches 8911 feet. (Lake Tahoe is at 6225 and Reno is down at 4505, for comparison.) It is in fact the highest pass in the entire Sierra range that doesn't close for the winter. And the first time I had to drive it, it was after midnight, I was all by myself, and the snow was zooming toward my lonely headlights in giant spiraling clumps. Like a disorienting screensaver. It was just me, a mile and a half in the air, surrounded by blackness. I encountered no other cars and only two snowplows. I kept ascending, passing several ominous signs with flashing orange beacons to warn that snow tires or snow chains were mandatory. I had all wheel drive, but only the kind of tires they put on rental cars in coastal California. The conditions deteriorated visibly with every mile, every hundred feet of elevation. The road gradually changed from completely bare to completely snowed over. I inched along at about ten mph. And when I hit the summit, it was time to drive even slower, because on the way down gravity became my enemy. When I finally reached a trio of humble log-cabin casinos, I knew I was finally down at the shoreline, and I then realized how tense I'd been. The road is about 25 miles. It had taken me an hour and 45 minutes.

I did get to ski twice, though. Thursday was the only bright, sunny, flawless day. So I hit Squaw valley, the biggest and rawest resort. This place was massive. It goes on for miles, in terms of both slopes and across the mountaintops. And the craggy peaks were incredibly raw and steep, rivaling Jackson Hole in places. I had a fantastic time. Even on my old-fashioned East Coast skis that weren't quite wide enough for the kind of powder I was dealing with. I struggled through my first run, but quickly got the hang of it, and proceeded to own the mountain for most of the day. Then in the late afternoon I was worn out and I started sucking again. All in all, it was fabulous. I also got to ski a few days later at Northstar. it was snowing, but the wind was weak enough - and I'm told Northstar is more protected from wind than other nearby places - that the mountain was fully open. Northstar had far less challenging terrain, but the powder this day was much fresher and deeper, and thus more tiring. I didn't mind slopes that weren't as steep on this day. Besides, I was just thankful to be skiing at all.

I played tons of poker. I entered about a dozen tournaments and made the money in just one of them. But that one I finished in first. I just about broke even in tournament play, and I feel good about that. I probably had some negative variance. I felt great about my tournament game. I felt in the zone. I knew what I was doing with each bet and why I was making each decision. I was playing good post-flop, making nice aggressive plays, playing to each opponent's chip stack... I felt in control.

Cash games are what kicked my ass. I'd been studying Dan Harrington's books on cash games, but they didn't stop me from feeling lost. As confident as I felt in tournaments, that's as nervous and uncomfortable as I felt whenever I had to make a decision in a cash game. I lost about $500 and managed just one winning session. And pulling out just that one win took a sick, nerve-fraying call.* It was stressful like a root canal. I promptly researched some other cash game books when I returned home. They just came in the mail today. I love Dan Harrington's tournament books, but when it comes to cash games, I think I need some more help.

Reno is the last place in North America where you can play real single deck blackjack, the kind where a blackjack pays the full 3-to-2. (I'm telling you, Do. Not. Play. 6-to-5. Blackjack. Seriously, playing 6:5 blackjack is like playing triple-zero roulette when there's a double-zero wheel ten feet away. Why would you voluntarily play at the worse table? Why?) So I played some good old single deck, the kind I used to find in downtown Vegas when I first started back in 2002 or 2003. What fun. You can make money counting cards without ever jumping your bets by more than 4x. But I pumped it up to 6x, because who cares if they kick *me* out? And they never did, not even when I angrily sat down after a disheartening poker session determined to count brazenly without cover or subtlety until I got the tap. Floormen and security know exactly what it means when a bunch of 5s and 6s show up and I suddenly jump my bet from $5 to $40. But they never came over in an hour. Maybe they just don't care about someone betting that small.

So that's what I did most of the week. While the mountains were getting snow by the foot, it was 40 degrees and slightly rainy in Reno, and I just did my thing. Some poker, some blackjack, some nice lunches and dinners, and on Saturday I paid ten bucks to watch the UFC pay-per-view with two free drink tickets. I wondered what a fight night would be like in a big room of gamblers. It was actually more subdued than the March Madness guys in the sportsbook. That is just a bunch of drunken foul-mouthed degenerates completely flipping out like a psychotic whenever there's a) a foul, b) a basket, c) a missed basket, or d) no foul.

Reno seems somewhat nice. I mean, there are drunken bums all over the place like any casino town, and the nearest In-N-Out Burger is four exits south of town, but it still had its charm. The downtown casinos are somewhat bigger than downtown Vegas joints, and some of them are kinda nice. Then there's the Peppermill and Atlantis about a mile south, two resort-style places that are very nice indeed. I really liked the Peppermill's decor, all dark with bright primary-colored neon and gel lights. The brown-yellow Truckee River runs through town, enhancing Reno's old-west cred. You know, I rather like Nevada. I always have this feeling like I'm less than five miles from a ghost town or abandoned mine. Even in the heart of Vegas I can feel the wind-swept wild dust country, in the distance, and in the ether.

I checked out Carson City briefly, too. That's rather old-timey as well. Imagine driving down Route 9 into Natick and Framingham, for about five miles. Imagine you pass three or four small casinos, each about the size of a large bank. Then you pass two stone buildings that happen to be where the governor and the legislature convene. Then you pass some more gas stations and shopfronts. It was quite strange. Where I come from, our state capitols have shiny golden domes and sit in cities with skyscrapers, not on the Automile.

I actually pulled into a Carson City casino to use the bathroom. I checked out the blackjack but it was the day shift and only two tables were open, both crowded. (A card counter loathes crowded tables. We need lots of rounds between shuffles, and the presence of other players ruins that for us.) Across the street I saw a coin store, so I went and checked that out. There used to be a US mint in Carson City. Maybe I could buy a Carson City coin in the very town where it was minted. I checked Wikipedia; the old mint was at 600 North Carson Street. I glanced at the coin store's address. 601 North Carson Street. Wow! I looked across the street. Sure enough, there it was, the old mint building. It's now a Nevada history museum.

Unsurprisingly, the coin store had a whole display devoted to Carson City silver coins, for guys exactly like me. Guys who think the idea of obtaining a coin right across the street from where it was minted 133 years ago is awesome. I'm sure I paid a markup, too. But I do know what to look for in a coin. I picked a Morgan with good eye appeal and lots of feather detail in the eagle. I went with 1878, the first year they were ever made. This is the best of what coin collecting is all about - the history of it all and the personal meaning. For the rest of my life I can look at this coin and remember where and when I got it - Carson City itself, a hundred feet from the coin's birthplace, on a ski vacation when I was 32. And it happened on the spur of the moment, just because of where I happened to park.

I skipped over San Francisco until now, even though that was the first day of my trip. When I spent a few hours there last winter, I wished I could go running through the city. Go for a jog in the picturesque hills or over the Golden Gate Bridge. So this time, I brought the right clothes and shoes. I chose a bridge route, for the views, and because my mom mentioned running across it once upon a time. A family tradition, I suppose. I took a bus to Sausalito, armed only with my iPhone that freezes if I ever try to use the GPS. My plan was to run across the bridge and then over to Fisherman's wharf. About six miles. Well, I underestimated how far into Sausalito the bus would drop me off. It took more than two miles, all uphill, just to get back to the bridge itself. So I ran those two miles, and I ran across the bridge, and it was an impressive touristic experience. And I ran along the shore to Fisherman's Wharf. And then I decided to keep running along the Embarcadero, just so I could watch the vintage streetcars clambering up and down the street.

Boston keeps two antique cars on display in the Boylston station: Kinda cool. San Francisco runs dozens of those antique cars in actual revenue service on city streets: Extremely cool. The vintage cars come from all across the world, and the city runs a subset of its collection from time to time like a rotating exhibit. So I ran the Embarcadero checking out the old-timey cars as they passed. My legs started to hurt about this time, but I was too close to my hotel to quit now. So I ran all the way from Sausalito to my hotel, 10.5 miles. The first 7 were fine, but the last 3.5 were tortuous. My legs took a day or two to recover. But I was very proud of myself. And I saw the city for 10.5 miles.

Then that night I checked out an industrial show at DNA Lounge. This is a nightclub owned by a somewhat well-known old-school Internet personality, one of the original Netscape programmers whose blog I've been reading since I was in high school, before blogs were known as blogs. It was cool to finally check the place out. And the music was fun, too. Like a live Xmortis. I've been getting into this general aggressive electronica recently. I've stopped telling myself that computer music is wrong and weakens the ability to discern good metal. So I've just gone with it.

So that was my afternoon and evening in San Francisco. Ten miles running and an industrial concert. (Plus In-N-Out Burger.) In the morning I was off to Reno.

*Okay, okay, here's the hand that blew my synapses.
Preflop: $1-2 no limit. Our hero is in the big blind with 77. There are two limpers. The villain in middle position raises to $10. Everyone folds. Our hero calls. The two limpers fold. The pot is $25.
Flop: K 4 4, three suits. I could well be ahead here. Or, the villain could have a king or a pocket pair better than my 7s. How can I find out where I stand? I could bet and see what he does. But if I bet half the pot and he calls, that tells me nothing. So instead, I plan to check-raise. I expect him to make a continuation bet whether or not he has something good. Then, if he calls my check-raise, I can be pretty confident that I'm behind. So i check. Sure enough, he bets $10. I check-raise to $30. And he calls. The pot is $85. That call means he's too likely to have a K or a pocket pair or maybe even a 4. So I'm done with this hand unless....
Turn: 7. No flush possibility. Bingo! That's my money card. Now I'm kicking ass. I have 77744 and I'm way, way ahead. Whether he has a king or a pocket pair, he's drawing to two outs. I'm behind only KK or 44. There's no flush draw and a straight draw is very unlikely, so I can afford to lay a trap. He has no idea how far behind he probably is. He has about $80 left. I'll let him bet enough of his stack that when I raise, he's committed to betting the rest. I check. But he checks back.
River: K. FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK. I can't believe that just fucking happened. This is how it's gone all week. His most likely holding - king something or "Kx" - just made KKK44 to beat my 777KK. He caught his two-outer. Goddammit. But there's still a chance he has AA or something. Maybe he even has a 4. If I check, he might bluff with those hands and I'd have a hard time calling that bet. So I bet $30, reducing his willingness to bluff if that's actually what he has. But he raises all-in for $80. So I'm almost surely hosed. His betting on every single street has been very consistent with Kx. But... the pot is $195 now and it costs me $50 to make a crying call. That's 4-1 odds that he has one of those wishful-thinking, worse-than-Kx hands. I think long and hard about this - estimating whether the chances of me being beaten exceed 80%. Because they sure as hell exceed 50%. Probably exceed 65% too. I sigh and make the call. I realize, by the way, that I screwed up somewhat. If by betting $30 I was committing myself to calling his all-in raise, I should have put him all-in to begin with. That way I'm still committed to the same number of chips, but I increase the chances that he folds. Oh well.

So I make that crying call, I can't believe how shitty my luck was and how much money I lost on this hand, and the villain says "good call" and turns over 22. I win. Good lord. That kind of agonizing stress is what it took to eke out one winning session.
Tuesday, March 8th, 2011
10:47 pm
And so I get NOTHING. I LOSE. Good DAY sir.
This Saturday will be my sixth anniversary with the Full Body Cast!

I joined on March 12, 2005 as a security techie. A mere three months later, I wound up at the Rocky convention in Las Vegas, having caught the bug quite thoroughly, enthralled, and knowing then that I wanted, someday at some other con, to be in the show.

But today I learned that's not going to happen. Probably not ever.

My guess - not necessarily my plan - is that I won't attend another convention after this one. I mean, how much longer will I keep up this Rocky business in the first place? Plus I'd greatly prefer a con with casinos, skiing, or some FBC castmates - and there's been only one fitting that category since Vegas. And even if I go to one, what are the chances of getting cast? I'm not active in the worldwide Rocky community, so nobody knows who I am. Making a kickass video was probably my best shot. But I managed no better than fifth out of seven.

It didn't help that most of the other competitors could count on ALL of their castmates' votes. And it didn't help to compete against some very well-known figures in The Worldwide Rocky Community. But those are just contributing factors. When you flunk an audition it's usually because you're simply not good enough. I should have invested in a Bedazzler for my corset. I shouldn't have lost my realistic Brad wig on the day of shooting. I should have used my brother's high-end microphone. I should have lost more weight. I should have done more takes.


This is actually the second March in a row where a dream of mine never came true.

But I didn't get fired yesterday, so that's good.
Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011
1:43 pm
Broomball recap
We closed out our broomball season last night with a doubleheader.

Our team picked a good night to start scoring more than two goals. As goalie I held the fearsome blue team to just two scores, which was definitely the best outcome we could have hoped for, and our offense exploded for three. The blue team went on to win the championship, and they would have been undefeated if it weren't for our miracle game.

Then in the second game, we taught the red team a lesson, opening up for a whopping five goals. Good thing, too, since I let in a season-high three. But even though I ended the season allowing three, I still left happy after we had become the only team to beat the blue guys. And we were the only team to go undefeated in the doubleheader. For just one night, we were far and away the best team in the league.
Saturday, February 19th, 2011
7:09 pm
Everything but the bracelet
So last Wednesday I figured I'd go play some poker in New Hampshire after some half-made and ill-remembered plans fell through. I got there in time for a rebuy/addon tournament. I almost didn't play, because I've never really learned what proper rebuy and addon strategy is.[1] But I entered... and I lost most of my stack with KK against AA... but I later doubled up and had about my initial stack when the addon deadline came at the end of the first hour... and I decided not to add on because I wasn't sure doubling my stack would really double my equity and thus justify doubling my stake (see footnote 1)... so I was relatively short-stacked after the deadline... but I remembered Dan Harrington's advice on how to play as a short stack[2], and managed to gain chips for a while, and ran pretty well, and got mentally into the zone... I just kept playing pretty well, and I noticed who was loose pre-flop and who would fold to aggression, and I paid attention to stacks so I knew who was desperate and who was conservative... Anyway I made it to the final table.

There had been 53 buyins and 35 rebuys/addons, for a total of 88 entries, and I was in the final ten. The payout table went down to nine players, so we quickly agreed unanimously to award a small prize to tenth place. (The money came out of the first place prize, lowering it from 25x the buyin to 23.33x the buyin. I have no problem with that. With 53 players, everyone at the final table deserves more than zero.) The guy with a very small stack thanked us graciously, and sure enough, he was gone soon.

I got into the top four with a bit of luck. My KQ beat the fifth place finisher's KK thanks to a flush. At that point the guy on my right had 1/2 the chips, I had 1/4, and the two other guys had 1/8 each. The big stack offered to split the prize pool (i.e. everything above four times the fourth place prize) so he got half and the rest of us got a third of the remainder. I politely balked at that. I can't do independent chip model math in my head, but surely with 1/4 of the chips my equity is more than 1/6! [3] Besides, ICM doesn't take into account player skill, and of the two short-stacked guys, I was pretty sure one sucked, and I had a good read on the other. Anyway, I shyly said no, and the three opponents huffed and puffed. They wanted to pressure me. I just stayed quiet and bashful, rather than say anything that would make them actively hate me. A player who hates you will, if he changes his strategy to punish you, almost certainly hurt his own chances - but he will indeed hurt your chances too. To prevent this, I avoided saying what I wanted to say: "You expect me to take the same money as these two? I have twice their stack! These guys suck! Get one out of the way and then maybe we'll talk."

So I successfully survived until the two short stacks had busted out, but it was the big stacked player who won their chips. So I had about 1/4 and he had 3/4. He offered me a deal where he got 5/6 of the pool. You can imagine my reaction to that. I offered my own deal where I got slightly over 1/4, but he was insistent. At this point even the dealer tried to talk me into settling: "Okay, let's make a deal. We could be here for hours," he said the instant it was down to us two. I presume he wanted to go on break or go home. I was pretty annoyed by that, and I almost called the floorperson over to make both the dealer and opponent shut the hell up. We played heads up for a little bit while my opponent gave me the occasional stinkeye. "I'm not trying to pressure you into anything, but..." he would say as he commenced doing exactly that for the tenth time. Also, I noticed he was lying, overestimating his stack size, to convince me that his rip-offs were fair deals. I knew there were 88 entries for 5k chips each, and I had 118k. So, no, sir, I highly doubt you have "nearly" 400k chips. I suggest you count again. I didn't actually say that.

Well, I guess this guy wasn't very confident in his heads-up play, because he started to worry when I started taking some of his chips. He wasn't aggressive enough. I made some stop-and-go bluffs on the flop, and he could have destroyed me by coming over the top on just one of those. But he didn't. Meanwhile I went all-in about five times - with anything from bottom pair on an ace- and king-less flop, to a pair of jacks I was praying he would challenge - and he never called my all-ins. In fact, by the time I had won just under 2/3 of the total chips, we still hadn't gone to the showdown once. And at that time, he offered me a deal where I got just under 2/3 of the total pool. Finally, a mathematically fair deal from this guy. I guess he was scared out of his mind. And by accepting more than half, I can now call myself the tournament's winner in my mind and on LiveJournal.

I took home 19 1/6 buyins[4] and he took 16 2/3.

Notice I have not mentioned specific dollar values here on the internet. Ask me in person or on the phone.

Let's just say it's a new personal record.

Let's just say, it was enough money that I decided to hide in the building for about fifteen minutes, just in case somebody who saw me get paid decided to wait for me in the parking lot. It was after 11 PM after all.

Let's just say, I expect to be in the black for all of 2011 if I never win another dime.

So, that's that. Anyone want to join me next time?

[1] Since then, I've read some posts in some forums, but none of the advice has been very well explained. I need a cogent decision process for figuring out when and whether growing my stack size from (Current) to (Current)+(RebuyOrAddon) is worth more equity than $(PriceOfSaidRebuyOrAddon). And for rebuys in particular, it would help if someone could logically explain how rebuying a stack of X - into a tournament where your average opponent now has substantially more than X - could ever be a better use of your money than simply entering an identical tournament later on. Because that's not intuitive to me. Al, any advice?

[2] Proper strategy changes based on your stack size, right? For example, if you have 2x the big blind, K3o looks good and 76s looks bad. Whereas if you have 50x the big blind, the opposite is true. Now if you have X and an opponent has 4X, you can't win his extra 3X, nor can he use that 3X against you. As far as you and your strategy is concerned, it's as if those 3X chips aren't even there. But for him, he has to worry about all the other players too. For him, his extra 3X chips definitely matter. He has to play a big-stack strategy. And as he plays proper big-stack strategy against the others, folding K3o and playing 76s, in your short-stack universe he is actually making errors. Which means you profit. In a cash game, walking into a deep-stack table with a minimum buy-in is actually a pretty good recipe for success. And in a tournament, should you have the misfortune of finding yourself short-stacked at a table, you'll at least have the same principles working for you - except, of course, you have to make your moves faster than the blinds increase, and you don't have the luxury of buying back in.

[3] Sure enough, I looked it up later and my equity was actually slightly greater than 1/4. The math depends on the payout structure, but 1/6 of the pool for 1/4 of the chips is a rip-off in just about any realistic tournament.

[4] Except I tipped the dealer $20.
Sunday, January 30th, 2011
8:08 pm
Vermont and back
I haven't posted about a fun-filled weekend in a long time. It's not as if my weekends haven't been great - I've just been lazy. But sometimes I go read my old writings, and I enjoy recollecting some of my adventures past. It helps me to appreciate the prior years in my life - because sometimes I have the tendency to think of the years as lost forever, irretrievable, time I can never have back. And that gets sad. Going back and remembering what I filled those years with can actually turn that feeling into happiness - and not just the wistful kind, either. I mean Aww Yeahh happiness. Aww Yeahh, I do recall how much ass I kick and have always kicked.

So anyway, I drove to Killington at dawn and went skiing all day Saturday, bombing down the slopes to Rammstein and riding the chairlift to Tom Petty. Man, does that give the legs a workout. No breaks, either. I ate my lunch in bar form and stayed until they blocked the gate to the chairlift.

I swung by Rocky to get buzzed at the Border. (A tradition which will never fall out of favor.) I saw how much improved my convention video became thanks to Alex. I hung out with some great company and drank fine Hedonism whiskey. And on Sunday I went running with the hashers. That is a lot tougher after a whole day of skiing. My leg muscles complained but hung in there. They're such troopers. It's a good thing I'm invincible.

Oh, and there was a Blazers lacrosse game with my brother and some of his friends. That's always fun, too.

No, this weekend - perhaps thankfully - wasn't truly insane like my football season weekends, but it was certainly fun-filled. It's one I'll be glad to remember.
Thursday, January 27th, 2011
12:08 pm
New England ski resorts ranked by feet per minute
What's the best ski area to drive to? How small is too small, and how far is too far? What's the best mountain, in terms of height versus distance?

Here's an answer. I just made a list of all New England ski resorts with a vertical drop of 1500 feet or more, and ranked them by the ratio of vertical drop to distance, in minutes according to Google Maps, from my home.

I chose minutes as my measure of distance, instead of miles, in order to reward mountains that are convenient to highways. Keep in mind, this method still doesn't reward such mountains enough, because Google Maps underestimates everyone's speed on highways - and especially mine! It assumes the posted speed limit, which as we all know is a convenient Orwellian fiction that nobody under age 80 can hope to comply with.

So, here's the list of qualifying mountains, ranked by feet per minute. (Feet per minute? I do believe I have calculated the VELOCITY of a mountain.)

Killington wins because it's the tallest by a long shot. (This is top to bottom, mind you, not top to sea level.) Next are Loon, Cannon, and Waterville Valley - which are all near each other - because each is sizeable, nearly due north, and right off the highway. Mount Sunapee sneaks in at number five - it's the second shortest on the list, but also the closest.

Mountain	Miles	Minutes VFeet	VFeet/Minute
Killington	165	187	3050	16.31
Loon		136	148	2109	14.25
Cannon		144	152	2146	14.12
Waterville V.	131	157	2020	12.87
Mount Sunapee	104	127	1510	11.89
Sugarbush	189	224	2650	11.83
Okemo		151	184	2100	11.41
Pico		168	184	1967	10.69
Wildcat		165	198	2112	10.67
Stowe		210	222	2360	10.63
Stratton	133	189	2003	10.60
Sugarloaf	229	268	2820	10.52
Smugglers' N.	236	261	2610	10.00
Mount Snow	125	174	1700	9.77
Burke		193	206	2000	9.71
Attitash	155	181	1750	9.67
Magic Mountain	125	177	1700	9.60
Sunday River	183	220	2000	9.09
Mad River Glen	208	222	2000	9.01
Bretton Woods	160	170	1500	8.82
Jay Peak	236	245	2153	8.79
Bolton Valley	206	217	1625	7.49
Saddleback	237	278	2000	7.19
Monday, January 24th, 2011
2:35 pm
Sardines update
Okay, I still like sardines, but only the small ones. I've tried four or five different brands now, and so far it seems the cheaper brands actually give you the bigger fish. That sounds like a good deal, but it's not, because the bigger fish have more perceptible bones. The meat starts feeling chalky in your mouth. (Chalky is the right word, because of course that's calcium you're crushing between your teeth.)

And I keep noticing spinal cords and picking them out, and then I look at the pile of spinal cords on the side of my plate and it's just really gross.

I'll bet the vegetarians hated reading that just now. It's not a pleasant concept to me, either.

So I'm gonna buy the $3.something kind where the sardines are small ("King Oscar" is one good brand), and stay away from the $1.something Bumblebee cans.
2:07 pm
Spiked stories
I said I would try to write in LiveJournal more. But in the last month, the two things in my life that I would call "front page stories" are both things I choose not to comment on. I expect to spill the beans regarding one of these, as well as my reasons for keeping it hush-hush, in a few months. The other is simply not the sort of thing one blabs about. Coy vagueness is not my intention, but it's necessary. I'll be happy to talk face to face.

So what can I talk about? I guess there's this: I won an FBC poker tournament for the first time in over ten months. In that span I had only cashed once! Finally I am back in the money now.

Of course it took some good luck, as always, but only the standard kind of luck, not the kind of hideous, you-made-a-giant-blunder-but-sucked-out-anyway luck that would cause me to discount a victory. I mean, everyone gets good luck and bad luck. Nobody has ever won a tournament where they never had to come from behind on a hand. Nonetheless, I felt pretty comfortable and zoned-in the whole evening. I felt I was playing well, picking my spots opportunely, and even tailoring my plays for different opponents.

It's all very auspicious for the upcoming year, and meanwhile, I'll gladly accept all the luck the universe bestows on me.
Friday, January 14th, 2011
9:25 pm
Me versus food
In the past month, I've tried several new foods for the first time in over a decade, if not the first time ever. And I've liked them all.

Sardines. It's so weird to eat the scales and bones, but you can't even detect them. In the end, sardines taste better than tuna. Sardines are my new go-to canned fish. Dip 'em in Grey Poupon.

Caesar salad. I know, I know, but I hardly ever eat salads at all. Salad dressing always grossed me out, historically. And I still dislike cucumbers and whole tomatoes. Good thing a Caesar has none of those. Just lettuce and non-gross dressing. And croutons. By the way, Bertucci's has my favorite croutons so far.

Anchovies. Another canned fish. These are excessively salty, though, thanks to the brine they're preserved in. So what's the point? The tiny fish is just a vehicle for the brine, which is what you want ultimately, even though ironically drinking the brine directly would be unappetizing. It's the same story as popcorn and the like: You're not in it for the bland flavor of corn, you're in it for the salt and the oil and cheese powder and all that good stuff. Beef jerky, too.

Caesar salad with anchovies. Yeah, apparently people order these together sometimes. I dunno. I understand things like chicken Caesar, or Wendy's Baja Salad - they're for when you want to pig out and have all the ingredients of a burger, while lying to yourself about not eating a burger. But anchovies and Caesar? I ate it, but I didn't grok it. It felt the same as if the anchovies were on a separate plate and I was eating them simultaneously for some reason.

Moxie. It's a soft drink that they only sell in New England or thereabouts. I tried this in the nineties and gagged, but now I like it. It starts off with a hint of cream soda, almost an egg nog flavor, but then finishes like an alien root beer that zaps the back of your throat with a weird sensation, like you're eating an evergreen tree. Maybe my taste buds changed and I'm more receptive to bitterness. Try it. Seriously. You might hate it, I promise.

Hi-Fi Pizza, in Central Square. Just kidding. It is truly horrid.
Tuesday, January 4th, 2011
10:35 am
+EV Lottery Advantage Play! I am only partially kidding.
If you know me, you know that with very few exceptions, I only place bets when I have a positive expectation of winning.

Well, tonight, the Lottery is +EV... sort of.
Lottery officials estimate that the lucky winner could take a cash option payout of $208.3 million.

The odds of matching all five numbers plus the Mega Ball and winning the jackpot are roughly 1 in 176 million.
It costs $1 to play, so your $1 ticket has an expected payout of $208/176 ~= $1.18, right? 18% +EV right off the top, right? Plus any lesser prizes (which I haven't bothered to look up)? Man, I'd kill for that kind of EV at a blackjack table!

Yeah, it's very silly in a way to talk about EV in a game for which you'd have to play many trillions of times to get into the long run. But actually, if you had (or could borrow) 176 million dollars, you could theoretically buy every possible number combination and guarantee yourself the payout of 208 million! Right?

Only two problems: First, that doesn't include taxes. I'm no expert on top-tier tax rates, but I roughly assume your $208M drops by around half. There goes your EV right there. Second, larger jackpots entice greater numbers of players and thus heightened chances of co-winners splitting the prize, further decimating your EV. Sorry, folks.

However, I can offer some strategic advice to decrease the chances of splitting the jackpot. I hypothesize that players like to choose the numbers of months and days at greatly disproportionate frequencies. Thus, I recommend choosing only numbers that are greater than 31, since those are less popular. Every number has an equal chance to come up, of course. If you don't believe that, then... well, in fairness, if you don't believe that, then you're exactly the sort of miserable punter the Lottery was made for.

In fact, I would go further and avoid any other number that you think might be appealing for others to pick. Avoid 33, 44, 55. Avoid the highest numbered ball in each drawing. Avoid numbers ending in 0, 1 or 2, in case someone is concatenating or rearranging the digits in a date (since I'm pretty sure 0, 1, and 2 are the most likely digits to appear in a random month-and-day). Prime numbers might be a good idea. The first five primes above 31 are 37, 41, 43, 47, and 53. But don't pick all five of those, because even that would be too much of a pattern. Even though half of lotto addicts probably pick birthdays, there's got to be at least one wiseass who picks primes. Be even less orderly than him.

This is how I operate. I'm always analyzing a system and looking for the theoretical edge. Even in a game as simple (and stacked against you) as the Lottery, you can find slight edges. Whether or not those edges actually make the system +EV in practice, let alone worth playing, is a different question. (Answer: not bloody likely.)
Friday, December 31st, 2010
7:01 pm
2010: The Year In Status Updates I Decided To Make Into LiveJournal Posts
As I do every year, I've collected my first LiveJournal sentence of each month in 2010 - excepting my usual April Fools Day hoax. I didn't write in LiveJournal very much in 2010, a state of affairs which I have resolved to change, but as a result, when I wrote something, more often than not it was something personal and interesting. I kept the idle silly stuff on Facebook.

In one sense, 2010 ends the way it began: I was a single bachelor who does engineering, football, and Rocky, and that's how I remain. But putting the year in those terms conceals the stories and journeys underneath.

2010 was the year I became a homeowner. I love my condo, and even though I skimped on vacation time all year in order to earn more money toward the mortgage, my condo's awesomeness was such that, even without more time off, I never became restless.

I spent the first half of 2010 feeling heartbroken. Thinking about it still makes me sad even today, so let's just say I realized about a year and a half too late how happy she had made me, and would have made me again. The end of 2010, in contrast, finds me happy and carefree, albeit not at a level as profound as romantic love would be. A host of different events unfolded in December alone, events that would have made me jump for joy if you'd told me in June how things would go.

When I was heartbroken, I had trouble sleeping. I started getting up and running at five in the morning. I started running farther and farther, culminating in the summer when I pushed myself through 13.1 miles. So that was cool.

In football, I worked my first playoff game, quite an honor. The game itself wasn't terribly exciting; it just came and went. But I was thrilled for the opportunity.

And in one final respect, I can have confidence, for the first time in a while, that the new year will be superior to the old. The last month has already brought me dividends in this regard. Sorry for the vagueness. I will explain WTF I'm talking about, and my reasons for being vague, at the appropriate time - sometime, if all goes well, in late May.

And now, the first sentences of my year.

January, Outdoor Sturmface FTW. The NHL Winter Classic was a lot of fun, and had a storybook ending.

February, Angel Dream. The lyrics of a song gave me the courage to ask her out again.

March, I, Language Crank - another continuing series. Just say dreamed.

April, Hollow Bunnies Are Abhorrent To God And Nature. Easter's almost here, that special holiday celebrating the first Sunday after the last full moon before the day Zombie Jesus rose to deliver eggs and chocolate to all the confused little children.

May, International Weekend Of Awesome. I took last Friday off and drove to Montreal for one night.

June, Epic As I Wanna Be. (Note: To preserve the secrecy surrounding Pip's bachelor party, portions of this post have been redacted.)

July, Worst episodes ever. This is pretty friggin' funny.

August, Demotivational fail. Am I the only one with a pet peeve about improper "demotivational" posters?

September, Prime time. High school and college football have begun, which means the busy season is upon me.

October, Could you not eat those? My baby is trying to sleep. News item: "Frito-Lay...is pulling most of the biodegradable packaging it uses for its Sun Chips snacks, following an outcry from consumers who complained the new bags were too noisy."

November, New Year. Since my football season happens to coincide with the run-up and climax of Rocky's epic Halloween weekend, the months of September and October find me insanely busy.

December, He say you Blade Runner. Blade Runner's studio-imposed voice-over has always been, by conventional wisdom, a famous example of Hollywood suits bringing demands, unartistically interfering with the director's vision, and making a movie worse.
Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010
11:43 am
And also presumptuous of you
Rocky casting results are in. Looks like I'm a full-time Riff again! That pleases me greatly. I like looking cool and evil. And I like my cast. We'll have a lot of fun on stage together.

On the other hand, I auditioned for Frank as well, but appear to have finished fourth out of four. Bummer. I knew I wouldn't be the best, but I didn't expect to be the worst. Oh well. Five and a half years of Rocky auditions and there's a first time for everything. Assuming I'm still around, I'll just have to improve and go for it again.

I'm kinda surprised to find myself this disappointed. At the start of the process, my first choice was, at least subconsciously, probably Riff. I wasn't sure whether I wanted to be Frank strongly or not really. But a funny thing happens when you practice for a month, including a week in which you scarcely leave the house except for commitments. You get committed and invested.

At least I won't have to put on Frank makeup 26 times next year. But I'm pretty disappointed I won't get to wear it at least once.

This is obviously some personality defect I have. I've been playing broomball for the past few weeks, and losses have left me more upset than wins make me happy. What's up with that? Likewise, here I've won a role and lost one, at the same time, and look which one I end up writing more paragraphs about. Who am I, Eeyore? Cut the crap, Thirj. Where are the breathless giddy passages about how you get to spend the next twelve months kicking off the show with a flying leap from the stage? In scary makeup and a tailcoat? Like you wanted to for the past six months? 1/1/11 is going to rule.
Tuesday, December 21st, 2010
5:48 pm
As luck would have it
My office had its holiday party today. I work with several guys around my age; most of us got hired out of college within a year of each other. I've been there nine years now, long enough to see many of them get married and have a kid. I expected that to happen to me by now, but I seem to be moving in slow motion.

Then again, I will hear a co-worker, younger than I, lament that he misses his days of doing spontaneous things, staying out late, traveling, hitting on girls, getting wasted. And I will smile inwardly.

I'll get where they are at my own pace. And in the meantime - every once in a while - I'll settle for being their hero.
Wednesday, December 15th, 2010
7:02 pm
Afterparty ETA: A cheat sheet
Have you stumbled in from the Border Cafe in the middle of The Rocky Horror Picture Show and wanted to know exactly how much time was left? Sure, you can see what scene is playing, but how well can you really estimate the remaining time from that? Even after several years I can only manage a rough guess.

That's why I just did this little bit of research.

Assuming your print has Super Heroes, here's how much time remains until the closing credits. Print out and save:

95:34 20th Century Fox logo and fanfare.
60:00 Thirty seconds before Rocky moves his arm for the first time.
45:00 "Promise you won't tell Brad?"
30:00 "Happy birthday, dear Rocky"
15:00 "Erotic nightmares beyond any measure"
10:00 Right after Rocky flips the switches.
Friday, December 10th, 2010
1:26 pm
Sports prediction for the record
The Red Sox, Patriots, Bruins, Celtics, and even the Boston Blazers, will all make the playoffs in the calendar year 2011. I'm calling it right now on 12/10/10.

Userpic win! btw. Anyone get the reference?
Wednesday, December 8th, 2010
11:31 pm
Nasally speaking
At this time last year, I was going into surgery for my smashed septum. I had taken a football facemask to the nose back in October. My left nostril is still a little bigger than my right, up inside, and it will be forever, but at least I can breathe through both. And most importantly, it's still symmetric on the outside.

Also, for some reason, I now get a runny nose - on the left side only - whenever I exercise. Which is a little bit inconvenient.

I have become somewhat squeamish about seeing people get hit in the face. I'm still a fan of mixed martial arts, but I get anxiety when a guy takes damage to the nose. I don't know how these fighters do it. It's unfathomable to me. You get in that cage, and immediately you take the equivalent of a facemask to the nose, and then that happens again and again for fifteen consecutive minutes.... It is simply beyond my comprehension how anyone can stand that. Wow.
Wednesday, December 1st, 2010
5:08 pm
Out of Rainbows
I've been listening to Radiohead's In Rainbows at work for the last two days. Just leaving it on and chilling while I type. But just now, out of the blue, I suddenly realized: This album sucks.

I'm so done with Radiohead. We'll never get another The Bends or OK Computer out of them; that much is clear by now. Hail To The Thief gave some hope - the five best songs on that album could make a good EP - but by In Rainbows they have sunk back into the same impressionistic, near-ambient pablum we got too much of in Kid A, Amnesiac, and Thom Yorke's solo album The Eraser. This guy's voice is so good, it deserves to soar over some real rock, not a slow parade of subdued piano pieces.

I can deal with a few of these, like the great "Pyramid Song" on Amnesiac, but not a whole album of them. (Don't get me started on The Eraser.) And none of these tracks are even as good as "Pyramid Song." I just don't find anything on this album compelling. It's just mush.

Compared to the zenith they reached, it's Radiohead's St. Anger.


(Yep, that's me, never afraid to review an album three years after it comes out.)

I have switched over, for my fix of soft heartfelt melodies that make me swoon, to my trusty Blackfield. Steven Wilson's side project should have a new album next March. I'm super excited. Maybe I'll comment on it that same year.
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