Poker Update

When one of the best players gets lucky, everyone else is in trouble. Tonight that person was not me. I played well and it didn’t matter.

In the early going, 4 players limped in. I figured I would limp in with any connectors, pairs, high cards… just about anything. I had Q-7. Not that. I folded, and the flop was Q-Q-7. Argh, I shoulda limped in with everyone else. The next hand three players limp. I have Q-7 again! I grit my teeth and fold. The flop was Q-7-3. Oh, c’mon! Later in the night I was dealt Q-7. I had to call. The flop was A-K-4 and I summarily folded.

Meanwhile one of the other good players is hitting cards left and right. Our eleven players are down to four. Top three finish in the money. I have the second biggest stack, but he has over 50% of the chips. With blinds at 200-400, I have K-J suited and position. I go in for 1100, he calls me from the small blind. The flop is K-x-x. He thinks for a while and bets 1,500. I’m fairly sure he has nothing or King with a low kicker. I think about stringing him along. Eh, why take chances? I call his 1,500 and go all in for 3,200 more. He calls. He has A-J. He had the better hand preflop, but I have the K on the board. You can see where this is going to end up, right? Yes and no. The turn and river are 10 and Q, he gets the straight to knock me out. Annoying. I finished just out of the money.

Tonight: -$20
Running Total: $550

Stuff Like This is Why John McCain is Going to Lose

The New York Times magazine had a great article on the re-branding of John McCain. This particular quote stuck out at me.

Reviewing the tape, it didn’t concern Davis that Palin seemed out of her depth on health-care issues or that, when asked to name her favorite candidate among the Republican field, she said, “I’m undecided.” What he liked was how she stuck to her pet issues — energy independence and ethics reform — and thereby refused to let Rose manage the interview. This was the case throughout all of the Palin footage. Consistency. Confidence. And . . . well, look at her.A friend had said to Davis: “The way you pick a vice president is, you get a frame of Time magazine, and you put the pictures of the people in that frame. You look at who fits that frame best — that’s your V. P.”

Shameful. The very next paragraph:

Schmidt, to whom Davis quietly supplied the Palin footage, agreed. Neither man apparently saw her lack of familiarity with major national or international issues as a serious liability.

This is not a man who showed good judgement. This is not a man who put his country first. This is a man who let the most base and political advisers pick his vice president because she looked good.

Book Recommendations

Been some time since I did one of these posts. Wonder how many I forgot?

    One of my favorite genres of books is a new breed. Exemplified by Freakonomics and Blink, these books tell us where the new areas of thought are developing, how you can view phenomona through different eyes, or explore an everyday topic through the eyes of many different professions. The first three are all in the broad area of knowledge.

  • Supercrunchers (Ian Ayres):This is the most “quant” book here. That’s because the book is about the power of using quantitative analysis of large datasets. How are Google, Amazon, Facebook, and other big internet companies able to know more about ourselves than we do? How did evidence-based medicine start, and why is it still such an uphill fight? My favorite anecdoate from the book: The author wanted to call the book something else. He chose several potential titles, and ran a test. He placed Google ads in a controlled experiment, altering the title each time. He gave up on his original title and renamed it Supercrunchers, which had tested better than the others.
  • Predictably Irrational (Dan Ariely):Many books have been written about the non-rationality of people. In my opinion, the main advance in economics in the last thirty years is the incorporation of human psychology into the caricature of rational man. This books start there and goes a step further. It’s not just that people are crazy, it’s that we’re crazy in very specific, very predictable ways. If you have any interest in understanding what makes you tick, you’ll enjoy this book. My only criticism is that it draws to heavily on his own research. Relying on one experimenter means that some studies are suggestive rather than conclusive, and other parts of the field are ignored.
  • Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us) (Tom Vanderbilt)Traffic is something we all deal with, we all get frustrated by, and we rarely think about in a rational way. Vanderbilt tours us through anything and everything touching on traffic. What’s an efficient merge? Does having more signs help? What’s the impact of big cars on a road? Does building more roads make things better or worse? How do you design roads when the people driving them are so wildly heterogeneous in the goals and abilities? Does Los Angeles actually do a good job with their traffic? How do other countries deal with it? Are cell phones really that big a problem? Who are the worst drivers? What exactly is a good road system supposed to do? How do you balance the impact of faster speeds for all vs accidents for a few? Are safe roads really safer? Etc, etc.
  • Mr. Sebastian and the Negro Magician (Daniel Wallace)I am really far behind. I was scanning the shelves at the library and couldn’t resist the title. I read it while our daughter was being delivered five months ago. (No, not literally while she was being delivered.) It’s by the author of Big Fish, and shows the same kind of raw story-telling abilities. Wallace can make the fantastic seem ordinary and the opposite in the blink of an eye, and do it so that you are fully immersed in the story, never once thinking how little sense any of it makes. A book filled with sadness and wonder.
  • The Little Book of Common Sense Investing: The Only Way to Guarantee Your Fair Share of Stock Market Returns (Little Books. Big Profits) (Bogle, John C.):My investing “career”, such as it is, has been a steady progression from active gambling to passive investing. My first stock purchase was rolling the dice on Ticketmaster which lost 50% of it’s value the next day. No lie. After a couple more blows (and a couple successes here and there) I realized that I was not a particularly good stock picker. From then on, I split my personality. Gambling is for gambling, which I do as much as possible but for small stakes. My real money was moved to mutual funds, which then became index funds.

    All of which is to say I was already a believer in index funds before I read this book by the legendary John Bogle (he started Vanguard). I knew two or three good reasons index funds are superior, but this book showed me two or three more. I am more convinced than ever that purchasing anything else is a fools errand.

    (See my other favorite financial books here.)

  • His Excellency: George Washington (Joseph J. Ellis): A fascinating biography of George Washington. I learned a lot about him and the times he lived in. It was amazing to see how someone could rise up from virtually nothing to become the unquestioned king of America (even if the title was different). And then to have the personality that willingly and eagerly gives it all up — you see how the force and character of his personality has invested our national character. My favorite scene – when he decides to crack down on some wannabe rebels personally. He’s the only president to ever lead the army personally during office. The rebels basically gave up the second they knew he was on his way.

The Election: It’s Over (Part II)

Since we all seem to be fans of fivethirtyeight.com, here’s their money quote from a day or two ago:

John McCain’s chances of winning the election have dwindled to 3.7%, down from 6.5% yesterday.

Even Scott McClellan is voting for Obama. Bill Weld too. Virtually every moderate republican has flipped sides.

Muttrox curse aside, does anyone have any reason to think that McCain could pull this out?

This comic below is apparently true, I’m seeing anecdotes in other places with the same theme.

keith knight

Links o’ Interest

Sports quote of the year

Shopping cart fail

A wonderful picture of Mt. Fuji

Twins

Terry Tate is back!

Trying to get arrested by the TSA

Ignorant parent of the year award. Just, ugh.

Why you don’t friend your boss on Facebook

Walking the Walk

Early Sesame Street has been released. Not appropriate for children.

New video released of McCain as POW

Tom the Dancing Bug is just so good. Even when it’s not as it’s best, it’s great.

Ron Howard/Opie/Richie Cunningham endorses Obama. Along with Sherrif Andy and the Fonz, he finally reprises his childhood parts.

Greenspan cops to the idea that he messed up a bit.

Rich Lowry’s Idiocy

On NPR, Rich Lowry gave one of the dumbest defenses of McCain ever. It’s not even a defense of McCain. It’s allegedly why McCain might win the election after all, but there’s nothing in there to support it. It tells us what a great guy he is, it tells us how unfair the media coverage has been, it tells he’s been through worse, but not one word about why he might win.

Well, fine, I’m used to that. But surely the editor of the National Review can spot this doozy in his own piece?

In our imaginations, we always yearn for political candidates who demonstrate bravery and independence, who put conscience above expediency and don’t take partisan marching orders. Among current national figures, John McCain — for all his flaws — might be the closet approximation to this ideal.

Not bad, a very reasonable point.

Sure, his campaign has been negative, but how else is he supposed to beat a vastly better-funded candidate in a hostile media environment when his party’s image is in the pits?

Conscience above expediency, eh? That’s exactly what conscience would be, avoiding an incredibly sleazy campaign because it’s the right thing to do. Poor McCain. He wants to run an honorable campaign, but Obama is making him be a dirtbag! Oh, how horrible it must be to be John McCain, suffering day and night over your decision to run this election through every mudhole your team of Rove proteges can find! Cry me a river.

2008 World Series of Poker

Last years post was so popular, time to get some WSOP commentary going. Sadly, I don’t have much interesting to say yet.

* I’ve been rooting for Phil Helmuth. I want to see a pro win, I want to see someone interesting win. I guess it’s not to be. My next favorite is Mike Matusow. What on earth happened to him, that weight loss put a new brain in his head or something.

* Guess who sponsors the Planters Good Instinct Moment? Go ahead, try. I’ll give you a hint. It says “Planters” on the screen, there’s a picture of a giant gentleman peanut, and the announcer is saying the word “Planters”. If you guessed Planters, you were right. This is a direct quote: “This Planters Good Instinct Moment is brought to you by Planters! Planters – Instinctively good.

* That Russian string bet was ridiculous. It couldn’t have been more illegal. That tournament director should be crying in his beer right now.

* Helmuth was clearly a jackass in last weeks episode. They said that he was penalized 9 hands, appealed it, and the penalty was overturned. So he gets no penalty at all? What is the point of having these rules if no one ever has to play by them?

Obama’s Negative Ads

I was beaten to the punch by my commenter, I was going to post almost the exact same thing.

His comment about Obama spending more on negative ads than anyone in presidential race history is probably accurate, and yet 2-to-1 people think that McCain is running a more negative race. Why – probably because Obama is also doing more positive ads than anyone in presidential history too, while McCain doesn’t have the cash for the ads to actually improve his reputation.

There’s a lot of detail about their advertising spend and how it breaks out here. A nice graphic is here.

As a percentage, McCain is running much more negative. And most of that negative is what’s called “character-based”. His top three ads (1) call Obama dishonorable and lie about a quote, (2) talk about William Ayers and blind ambition, and (3) paint Obama as a compulsive tax-cutter. Two out of three are “character-based”. In contrast, Obama’s are all about McCain’s policies, none of them are “character-based”.

Obama is spending about four times as much as McCain on advertising. Obama has announced even more record donations, so the margin is growing ever bigger. Of that, 41% is negative. So he sets a record. McCain is much more negative. If he had the money, he would set a record. But he doesn’t, so he complains about it. Another weak talking point that falls apart.

The Election: It’s Over

It’s really been over for over a month. But this just put the final nail in the coffin.

WASHINGTON — Senator Barack Obama on Sunday captured a forceful endorsement from former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and announced he had shattered campaign finance records in September, gaining an immense financial edge that will allow him to overwhelm Senator John McCain’s efforts in every corner of the country.

Fiscals and Financials of the Economy

This post from Ezra Klein (sourcing the CBO) lays out another interesting relationship between our fiscal and financial woes.

We have a fighting shot at avoiding a large crisis by the various interventions we’re doing now. All these interventions cost money. The money is not money we have, it’s borrowed. It’s borrowed in the form of bonds that are sold to whoever will buy them. Right now, there are still plenty of buyers. But as our fiscal problems continue to get worse, we will have to offer more money (in the form of interest) to keep finding buyers.

The core driver of our fiscal problem is spending more than we got. The area where this is getting the worst and biggest the fastest is health care. In other words, fixing the health care systems is not just a medical and social issue, it is an economic one.

Links o’ Interest

The customer is not always right (truly hilarious stuff. Go to the top quotes and start reading).

Guaranteed workmans comp

World Sunlight Map

A great update on a great experiment about the beginnings of life.

Roger Ebert’s review of “W”

The Morality Test. Well worth taking, find out more about yourself and others.

Metallica vs. AC/DC

Religion

Loser says what?

More on Joe the Plumber. Who isn’t Joe, isn’t a licensed plumber, doesn’t plan to buy the business, doesn’t pay taxes, etc.

Photo guidelines for the economic crisis

Interactive map of the US, where’s the economic troubles?

John Cleese on Sarah Palin

Tips for new paupers: First hand Poverty research

Dissent

Warren Buffet: Buy stocks now

Another Weight-loss plan

The other day at work I had a four-hour meeting. Two hours in I looked down and realized my leg was pumping. I am a fidgeter. Always have been, always will be. My leg had been pumping the entire time. Did you ever wonder how many calories are burnt by fidgeting?

It turns out a good fidgeter burns an extra 350 calories a day. That’s not bad — 10 days of that is worth a pound of fat. My inner fidgeter is going to get out more.

(The post title refers to my other post, with another dose of dangerously illiterate medical theorizing.)

Poker Update

I had five hours sleep last night. I gave blood in the morning. I went to play poker. I stunk.

Early on, I limp in with J-9 suited. The flop is J-x-x, turn is nothing either. We raise each other a couple times until he puts me in. I suspect he has J-A. He probably has J-A. What the heck, I’m calling. He had J-A. I bought in again.

Still early, I get A-A. I raise preflop and get three callers. The flop is J-J-x. Player one bets out. Did my Aces hold up? What are the odds that one of them has a Jack? Pretty good. Nevertheless, I stay in and lose a lot of money to the set of Jacks. Very poor discipline.

I stayed low stack for the rest of the night. I won just enough pots to stay alive. Other people knocked each other out. Somehow I found myself in the final three. I was waking up and playing more aggressively. I knocked out the short stack. Down to headsup! The very first hand, I called a 4-4 all-in bet with K-J suited. Didn’t make it. I was now down 28K to 2K in chips, with blinds at 2K and 4K. The next two hands were dealt up since I had to go all-in in the dark. I won them both. I made it back up to 12K. I called an all-in with the best hand, but he caught the flush and knocked me out. I was very happy with second place.

Some other hands were interesting, but I’m too tired to remember any of them.

Tonight: $32
Running Total: $570

Morning after update: I remembered my favorite hand of the night. I was in the big blind. Everyone folded except the small blind who limped in. I checked the option without looking at my cards. The flop was A-4-3, the 4-3 was suited diamonds. The small blind bet big. I figured he had A-x or a set. I looked at my cards and found a nice pair of aces underneath. Now I had trip aces. The only likely hands that could beat me were 2-5 and a flush draw. I was sure he didn’t have 2-5, he would have folded the blind to me. I didn’t think he had a flush draw, he would likely check with that. I figured him for a set of 3s or 4s. As it turned out, he had the set of 4s and I took most of his money with the better set. Fun!

Later I tried the same thing. I was short-stacked in the big blind and checked my option without looking. I needed to look on the turn and by then I had to fold. It’s interesting to not look at your cards. If your opponent doesn’t have premium cards, they don’t know how to play you. And because you make your betting decision after seeing the flop, if you make a big bet, they have to figure you for a much wider range of hands. They can’t assume away the terrible starting hands that got lucky.

User Interface: A Good One

I found a new feature on my car. The intermittent wiper has a great little twist. The settings range (of course) from least frequent to most frequent wiping.

Here’s the cool part. The most frequent is no delay at all. It’s the exact same as having the wipers on low constant wiping. Until I used this I hadn’t realized how ridiculous it is to continually switch between the shortest delay and no delay at all, which usually entails having to change wiping modes entirely. This is brilliant, just brilliant.

Fundamentals of the Economy

McCain has been roundly criticized over his belief that the fundamentals of our economy are strong. With a real threat of the Great Depression here, can anyone believe that? I can. The criticism is a bad one, McCain is more or less correct.

There are (at least) three levels of economics and finance to think about.

Financial: All the trouble we have right now is at the financial level. All the troubles are on paper. No houses have been destroyed, no buildings have been razed, etc. Financial issues are Wall Street issues. If an issue is mainly associated with Wall Street, it’s a financial issue. If you can’t understand it, it’s probably a financial issue. The current (phase of the) crisis is a Wall Street problem that has infected the economy as a whole.

Fiscal: Fiscal is just government spending. Our national debt is huge and getting bigger, we have enormous unfunded obligations coming due in Medicare/Medicaid (and Social Security to a lesser extent), and we aren’t addressing these issues. We’re making it worse with all these bailouts, nearly one trillion dollars added to the bad side of the ledger. But remember that this crisis is a long and ongoing. bailouts aside, which are a response to financial problems, nothing much has changed in the last couple years. (Except the fall of the dollar, which is directly connected to our debt level.)

Fundamentals: The GNP of the United States is enormous. Not only are we the biggest economy in the world, we are the biggest by a huge margin. We are over three times the size of the next country (Japan). We are far and away the most productive nation. We lead the world in just about every conceivable indicator of economic strength. Our political and cultural institutions are without peer. We are still the big dog.

These are roughly in reverse order of importance. It is most important to have strong fundamentals, which we do. It is next most important to be strong fiscally, where we are so-so. It is next most important to be strong financially, where we currently are awful. McCain should not be criticized for saying the fundamentals of our economy are strong, they are.

Links o’ Interest

The literal version of “Take on Me”

Political sign

Yep, that’s racism

Shia LaBeouf. No.

15 gravity defying houses

George Costanza’s top 10 ladies

It’s worth the extra $3.

Facial attractiveness scale (composites from Hot or Not). If nothing else, this demonstrates the power of good lighting and eyeliner.

The highest-earning dead celebrities

Terry Pratchett (author of the Discworld books) talks about his Alzheimer’s.

Ouch. Just… ouch.

Song for Sarah Palin (made by friend of a friend)

The candidates as trains

How McCain lost his brand. “…delivering to McCain innumerable victories in the battle for the daily—and even hourly—news cycle. But presidential campaigns are perverse, quicksilvery things, and it appears that the very tactics that for a while gave McCain the faint hope of victory are now the main obstacle to any hope of a late-stage revival. The new McCain may have won some news cycles, but he is losing the contest of the meta-narrative—and with it, perhaps, the election.”

The hidden cost of war, a short video