Thursday, April 27, 2006

Now that was a duel!

A friend just sent me this link to a nicely done lightsabre duel. Everyone I've shown it to has said something along the lines of; "That's better than Star Wars Ep1". They did a great job.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Society and Goals...

During the course of my diet and exercise I've fielded a lot of questions ranging from "How did you get so thin?" to "Why are you doing [it]?" That last one I seem to get the most. Today I completed my first 3 mile run - I'm very pleased with myself. However, most folk look at me with that "you didn't do a marathon, so who cares?" stare.

They are right, I didn't. However, for someone who couldn't run a 1/4 mile or do 10 push-ups at the start of my exercise doing 3 miles and 50 push-ups is awesome! It's unfortunate that most of society seems to press us to either put-up or shut-up in this regard. The goals you set for diet and exercise should be attainable goals that you step up over time.

Working on losing weight or toning up? Go back and reread that last sentence. The keyword being "you". You cannot let others dictate your goals. You want to work up to Marathon or drop 100 lbs, great! Work toward it, but make sure that you work toward the goal over time. Why? Unless you have a lot of dedication, focus, and discipline when you hit that first "I can't do it" plateau, what you'll see is the distance between where you are and that marathon. Most people will give up at that point - "It's just too much".

Aye, but you can do it - just break it up. Twain said it best;
The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex, overwhelming tasks into small, manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.
-Mark Twain
How far can you run now? Good, do that for a week. Then increase it over time. Working to a marathon? Use one of the training guides to help you focus and build up over time, no one does this over night. However, most people are going to expect you to.

As for me, I'm following the Phase 1 BUDS (Navy Seals) Suggested Student Preparation at the moment. I'm dead on for where I should be given the goals I have set for myself. That, more than anything, is what's most important.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Where there is an online economy....

Over the weekend I got on to try to break my streak over at PokerStars (but more whining on that another time). I was in a 2k tournament and we were in that "Under 1 minute before the game starts" time and an observer started asking if anyone wanted to sell play money chips.

I thought it was a joke, but the guy seemed serious. He was offering, if I have this right, about $12US for 500,000 chips. I'm not sure which sadder; that he was buying up fake chips to sell/use or that my reaction was "Oh look, a gold farmer in PokerStars".

He quickly left and we went on to play our game, but it got me thinking. Like EQ, WoW and other games that have an economy and system that has a currency seems to attract people who want to convert that currency into and out of real money. EQ decided to open its own store to do this (mainly because they finally realized the potential earnings they were losing *snicker*), WoW is trying to stay on top of it by banning and chasing Farmers, and Second Life tossed the whole idea to the wind and has people making a living from converting fake currency back into real money.

Aside from Second Life, the attempt to control the market has resulted in secondary markets that influence the original one. Give you an idea of what I mean; in WoW I am pleased to report after buying my 100g mount, 12 levels later I have close to 60g. It's taken me that long to get the money from questing, using the auction house and selling to NPCs. You can shoot over to a website and buy a thousand gold for $50-$80. Quick, simple, no time spent.

If you want to look up the pro's and con's of this type of transaction I'll let you hit google for it. The simple answer is that the quick influx of cash into a character who didn't earn it destabilizes the economy in some way. A quick google lands a few sites selling chips this way. Which leaves me wondering how the games are or have changed at PokerStars.

Time will tell. I wonder what PokerStars stance on this is.

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Thursday, April 20, 2006

The user would never do that...

When not playing WoW or on PokerStars I've been relaxing playing Rainbow Six 3 on the Xbox. I just finished up an interesting section where you are looking to liberate a hostage from a loading dock inside an oil refinery.

As we moved into the last section of the map, we were jumped by a decent squad of terrorists. Some sniping from windows, others behind cover on a ledge and a few on the ground. One of the ones on the ground had an RPG and, for some reason, a desire to blow the heck out of an empty fuel cylinder (think grain silo with the top snapped off). The game quickly informs you that you have to kill the RPG guy before he frags the oil refinery.

Ooops, too late, he did that while I was listening to the briefing. No problem, reload, move in. Have the team Flash-bang toward the terrorists on the ground, swap out to my grenade launcher, wait for the flash, pop out, frag all the ground based terrorists then mop up the others. Perfect. No deaths on the team either.

Okay, now what? The map is locked solid, and I can't see anything new. So I went off and burned an hour exploring the entire map trying to find what to do next. I was stuck. I tried going back in and clearing the terrorists again (using the same grenade trick). I was so stuck I resorted to the ultimate cheat - I looked it up online.

"Kill the RPG terrorist and the Warehouse doors open"

They do? Go back a few days later, work my way down, miscue on the team and end up bum rushing with my MP5 blazing. Thankfully the team had me covered, and I got the ground based terrorists and - oh look! - the door opened up to the warehouse.

It seems that the designers require me to shoot the guy in the head with a projectile not blow him up with secondary damage.

Um, guys, if he's firing RPGs and has cover fire, I'm not going to get close to him. But, as any programmer has said at least once in his career; "The user would never do that."

Right? *laughs*

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Wednesday, April 19, 2006

I think I understand

The week that prompted my cold-turkey stint away from caffeine was also the worst week I've had on PokerStars. I managed to drop 100k in chips in one week. As you can imagine, I wasn't too happy - sure it's only play money, but it still stings. It did give me a better understanding of Phil Hellmuth, I think.

During my losing streak I was making some amazing calls. I had a good read on my opponents and was making good moves. Give you an example, I managed to call an all-in raise for my entire stack with A-Qo, only to have my opponent flip A-Jo. The flop was no help to either of us, and then he caught two Jacks. *splat* Another time I had kings against my opponents 3 card straight - you guessed it, he runner-runnered the straight. And so on when my 100k in chips.

I finally heard myself say "If it wasn't for luck, I'd be winning". Ut-oh. Not a good sign there, I guess I had to exorcise my Hellmuthian rants to get through it. It was true though I had made the right move, only to be clobbered. You know what?

That's Poker.

Thankfully I'm on the rebound. I took a week off, got clobbered in a few more tournaments and figured out that it's going to happen. I'm not close to my 130k, but I'm back to feeling like myself at the table - it's no longer "their luck beating me up" it's just a "bad beat".

I placed 268 out of 6000 (top 4.5% and in the money! w00t) last night at a 300+20 freeroll tournament. A definite confidence builder. Now I need a solid place in a 10k tournament so I can get back to rebuilding my stack! *laughs*

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Good upgrade!

Sometimes you just have to laugh. My kids inherited my old gaming rig (minus a few parts that upgraded Mom's system). It's a stable Win2k build that has survived my gaming and two kids so far. Not bad for the first system I built from the ground up.

When the kids started surfing I did the unthinkable in the Windows world; I made their accounts unpriviledged. Yes, that's right they can't install every virus, trojan or bot out there. They need Mom or Dad to come in to upgrade the software they use and keep the system up to date. Oh darn. It's worked well.

It was no surprise this morning when my Son showed me that he needed to update Flash and Shockwave to play some of his favorite games on I put down my work for a moment, logged in as Admin, and he directed me to where the prompts were and we got the updates installed. Good.

Nope, no Good. For some reason his favorite Dora game kept telling us that Shockwave wasn't installed. Odd since I could play games at no problem - even weirder was that Macromedia's "About Shockwave..." site didn't think it was installed either.

Weird. Uninstalled, reinstalled, jumped through hoops. No luck. Still wouldn't run - as Admin or Restricted. Very weird. So I start googling for solutions and after some toying did find the answer ... ready?

The {SystemDir}\System32\Macromed directory needs to be writable by all users. Then things work fine. I still wonder why, but at least they can play again.

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Thursday, April 13, 2006

Scream of consciousness...

The best indication that your run is becoming routine is to find your mind wandering. In between bursts of the USMC Cadence CD and the cars going by (thankfully my route keeps me on sidewalks so the guilt in using the MP3 player is minor) I found myself thinking - and for once it wasn't about how many steps until I get to the top of the hill.

I've often wondered why I have an easier time dealing with a DI style work out rather than the "Rah-Rah" latest fad work outs. It seems to come down to the feeling of belonging,. I grew up around Military types, and it resonates with me.

Why? Most people I talk to equate the Military style workouts to someone screaming at you at the top of their lungs. Given what the movies show of DIs and boot camp, I'm not surprised. Those people are preparing to go to war, we're just working out. The same techniques apply though. In both cases you are working to overcome your worst liability - yourself.

The biggest change you'll see if you keep pushing yourself wont be in your physique, it'll be mental. You'll stop thinking "I can't do it" and start thinking "I will do it". That is what Boot Camp in the Military is for - to prove to you that you can do things that you may have felt were impossible.

Had you asked me a few years ago if I would be working on running 5 miles, I would have laughed. Running from the outer edge of the grocery store parking lot to the door would have had me asking for oxygen. Now I run two miles comfortably and am preparing for the next stage of my training, going from 6 miles a week to 9. The goal for this year is 16 miles per week with a peak daily run of 5 miles. So much for running across the parking lot!

This change came from the video and the cadences. The message in both are to keep going, push yourself, you can do it. However, its not some buff Arnold type that lifts weights for a living belting out catch phrases like the cheering section at an NFL game. It's ordinary people who stepped up to defend our country and in the process learned more about themselves and what they could do than they thought possible.

Video: Scott Helvenston's Navy Seal Camp DVD
CD: Run to Cadence with the US Marines (Vol 1)

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Useful sites...

Time for another of those compilation posts. This was triggered by an article over at SANS' ISC 'Spam Reporting Addresses' which talks about the various email addresses you can report spam to. Here are some other sites that I use when I am trying to figure out what is going on on the 'net.

SANS ISCThe SANS Internet Security Center reports on software/hardware bugs, attacks, and trends in the industry. As long as I've kept up with it, I've not got caught by the latest viruii and exploits going around. If you've gotten a "Go update this now!" email from me, likely I found it here.
SnopesSnopes does the hard work of researching and cataloging the various emails that go around. Odds are if its on the 'net you can find out if it is true here. If not, there is always Google.
Symantec Hoax ListSymantec (makers of Norton Antivirus) have always had a good listing of Viruii. Makes sense as they have to deal with it daily. This list is the hoaxes they encounter. Like Snope, this is a good resource to find out if something is real or not. For the curious you can also check out the complete list of viruii.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Addiction ... ?

Like most of us I find myself picking up some nasty habits. The past few weeks have been illness central - the kids have been sick, the wife has been sick, I avoided it - not sure how really. However, my avoidance required half a box of Bawlz and enough Mountain Dew to keep Pepsi sending me thank you cards for their extended vacations. It got to the point where I needed one or the other to 'wake up' in the morning. This from the guy who usually has an orange juice and water. Not good.

What would you do?

Now take a moment to think about it. Any morning coffee drinkers out there? What must you 'have' in the morning? A Shower? Favorite websites? Email?

I'd be surprised if you didn't have some sort of morning ritual - probably benign. This caffeine kick I was requiring was no longer benign. I don't like having to 'need' something to start the day so I took action.

No more caffeine, at all for a week. Harsh? Maybe, but only for a few days while my body decaffeinates. Then its back to (ab?)normal and onto life where when I do need that pick up, I have that option.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Bluffing requires...


It's one of the first lessons I learned when I started playing tournament poker, you can't bluff someone who doesn't realize they can lose. Most often you see this with new players who are as likely to call you down with a pair of 2s as a straight-flush - they are next to impossible to read and probably don't know what they have...

So here's a quick quiz (see if you can guess the author) on bluffing:
If you're going to bluff someone:

a) bet enough to put some heat on him;
b) wait until you feel he cannot call you;
c) do the bluffing against someone capable of folding his hand;
d) all of the above.

Answer: d.
Author? Phil Hellmuth (article can be found at The Poker Gazette). It's a good article, covering more than just bluffing. I agree with him though, there are two things that can really eat through your stack; playing marginal hands when you don't have to and bluffing against players who can't be bluffed.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Poker on TV is edited?

I hope you read that title and said "No kidding!" or "How could you not know that?!" Thing is, I've gotten into discussions with people where they were basing the game play on the few hands we see on these shows. While a good way to pick up some tips, it certainly isn't a replacement for playing or reading any of the numerous books that are available. Since I'm a nobody, I'll let you read about it from Daniel Negreanu over on The Poker Gazette.
The post entitled "There's more to televised poker, so be careful what you learn" talks about what I've been saying.

Here's a quick summary;
  • "There is always more to the story than what you see on television"
This should be a "duh" but we, as television watchers, do forget it. The game is edited! Your only seeing the most "interesting" hands. Which means someone, somewhere, edited out all the other plays. We rarely see a pro fold an Ace unless there has been some action in front of him, etc.
  • "...if you operate this way in a normal tournament setting, you're playing far too recklessly and aggressively."
On PokerStars I watch these "All-in-fanatics" implode all the time. Do they win occasionally? Sure they do, however, its bursty. I'd rather place consistently than always win or always lose.
  • "Viewer discretion is advised. Do not try these plays at home! Why? Again, the play is very advanced."
These guys are playing the game well above the home-table level. While we all aspire to this point, not many of us have Negreanu's or Brunson's sitting in. Oddly enough, using these advanced plays on your neighbors will likely bust you. As the man said, "You can only bluff an opponent who is paying attention."

As with most of what I've read from Daniel Negreanu, the post is to the point and dead on. I only wish his website offered an RSS feed of his blog and links to his posts so you didn't have to aggregate it yourself. Daniel: Add a technorati tag!

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

That's just...

Cold? Wrong? Nutz?
Though the players started with winter coats, they had the option of rebuying if they lost their chips by trading in the parka. Varkonyi did in fact rebuy, and played the remainder of the tournament in a t-shirt.
That was from a CardSquad post talking about the 2006 Extreme Poker Challenge. This years match was held on an Arctic Ice Shelf in Kemi, Finland. If you busted out in the first 30 minutes of the game you could trade in your parka for a rebuy.

When I read the original CardSquad post I thought the winner was nutz. It seems you need to be nutz in order to go:
WSOP Champion Robert Varkonyi was hit early on with a Bad Beat so played the majority of the tournament on only his shirt, running around the table to keep warm as his lips turned blue. The game continued for 1 ½ hours with 4 players wearing just their shirts, until Rob Varkonyi managed to beat off the opposition in a stunning final hand.
Perhaps you'd like the weather report: Temperature -15c and -20c with wind-chill (-10f)

That's just cold. Remind me not to complain about my trips on the flop losing out to the runner-runner straight. At least I was warm!

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Ouch. Okay, Two strikes...

I finished reinstalling my laptop, again. At this point the biggest headaches are getting the premissions set for the way I like having Cygwin setup. Thankfully, the rest mostly works, given a missing registry key here or there. Nothing huge.

When I bought the laptop I also got an external HD and Norton Ghost v9.0 figuring, that if this type of headache occurred, I could backup and restore the system in no time. As you've seen me complaining, I've yet to get a complete image restored - this time I finally got curious enough to go poking around and found an answer;
Symantec does not provide technical support for imaging RAID drives, regardless of whether the drive uses software level RAID or hardware level RAID. Successfully imaging a RAID drive is dependent on the specific computer model, driver controller, hard drive, and RAID implementation. Symantec provides the following information only as an aid to cloning RAID drives. This information is a suggestion only. It is likely to work only in limited circumstances. Symantec does not provide support for the following information.
That could explain why I can't get the full image to restore. Man, did I fall for the hype. When the laptop works, it cranks, but its the only system I've ever owned where each time I power it on I cross my fingers and hope it boots. Then, I finally get Ghost, after seeing it put to good use and forget to ask the obvious question - Will it work with my hardware? Looks like the answer is no.

Strike 2 qor, nice job... Why didn't I build another desktop? *shrugs*

Monday, April 03, 2006

Not Again...

Wife: "How'd you do at the poker game?"
Me: "I placed 2nd!"
Wife: "Want the bad news...."
*I feel my heart drop*
Me: "What did you do to my laptop?"
Wife: "I didn't do it! It says 'operating system not found'"

And it went downhill from there. Yup, once again my Alienware has decided to give up the (norton) ghost for no good reason. Talking with tech support only taught me how to use the reinstall images, rah, want to tell me that whatever caused this loss of OS wont happen again?

Grr. I paid $3k for a gaming cadillac. First, I found out the security, comfort, and leather seat options came seperate and had to be installed by the dealer - and that was me. Okay fine. Then the windshield imploded, and they replaced it. Then, after chasing it for three months, we found out that the engine was bad and that was replaced. Now, randomly it would seem, it forgets how to start.

But, since it does start. That's ok.

Is it just me or if this wasn't a PC they would have replaced it? Appologized? Perhaps even offered me a new one since this one is clearly defective?

Nope. You can reinstall it, and your apps again.

Lessons I have learned from this experience...
  1. This is my first and last Alienware. I have never paid so much for a system I can't trust.
  2. Norton Ghost doesn't like to work on RAID based systems. I have a complete backup, and even specifying the drivers for the RAID controller, I still can't do a complete reinstall. (If you know how, please let me know!)
I hope Dell has better luck with Alienware than I have.