Links o’ Interest

Garfield randomizer

Now that’s just mean. And this takes brass ones.

The people of Walmart

Clever programmers uses PC desktop CD tray to rock baby

Hit and run fail

Make up your mind

Spiderman in court

Trolling is an art. (You have to know internet culture well to get this one.)

Shitmydadsays

Where?

The pills are working. A very sad cartoon.

Teaching a friend about the internet

Perfect spinning kick knockout

How hard is sarcasm? Chandler Bing must be a super-genius.

Man leaps into river to escape his wife’s nagging

Planes

A cognitive scientist on Who Wants to be a Millionaire.

Race doesn’t matter? Josh Howard vs. Josh Hamilton

Ted Kennedy

I feel like I should say something. I was a big fan of Kennedys. He lived by his brother’s words “For of those to whom much is given, much is required”. None of the Kennedy’s ever needed to lift a finger for anyone else, they were born with everything. Nevertheless, they all entered public service. Despite their many flaws, each of them left the world a better place for their efforts. Very few of us can say the same.

Today, tens of thousands of mourners are out in Boston. I would not be a bit surprised if there’s another zero on that by the end of the day.

Random Ted Kennedy story: My father was in the same Harvard class as Ted Kennedy. For most of his life he has hated Kennedy with a passion. Not only does he disagree with him politically, but he knows the Kennedy cheated on that Spanish test. Here’s the crazy part: My father (like me) has almost no Boston accent. But whenever he talks about Ted Kennedy it comes back. “That ahshole! That bahstahd!” My father almost never swears either, so it’s doubly funny.

More about Taxes and Days

tax freedom

cost of gov

If you divide the top graph by the bottom, you get something useful. But I’m not sure what. Something like the government revenue that comes in divided by the money that’s spent? Is the light blue line on the first graph the same as the second graph? I think maybe it is…

Poker Update

I had a plan going in. Or at least something to work on.

Objective: Play less hands. On the hands I do play, play them more aggressively.

I achieved my objective. It worked well. Every hand I played I felt confident I had the best hand or could bluff the other folks out. I did.

But I didn’t get many cards. I suppose I got fair share of A-J and K-10 sort of hands. But I never saw a pair over an 8, I never had a hand that was an obvious “get all the money in the post” kind of hand. Every time it was a decision. That’s good for practicing poker skills but not for actually winning.

There were two mistakes I made. Near the end I had 10-9 suited in early position. I was thinking that if I raised the blinds I was pretty sure I could steal it. The problem was that the blinds were at 200-400 and I had 2400. So raising would cost me half my stack. I decided to just call. The flop was 10-x-x. I called the 850 all in bet and lost to the 10-J. That knocked me down to 1,200. I was annoyed – if I had trusted my read and raised pre-flop I would have stolen the blinds. Still, tough to risk that much.

The most frustrating part of the night was the pace. We were getting in about 8 hands a round. There is one guy who always forgets to shuffle the deck. It’s not malicious, he’s just a space case and forgets that it’s his job to shuffle the deck after dealing. So we always have to wait. On three different rounds that cost me when the blinds went up due to his delays. Other people weren’t much better. Aimlessly sitting around when they are the dealer, not realizing it’s their turn to bet, etc. It’s one thing if it’s a social talkative night, that’s part of the fun. But this was just annoying. And as small stack, it killed me.

Unlikely hand of the night I was involved in: At 100-200 the blinds are raised to 650. I have A-J. The raiser has been raising a lot and could easily have something weak. I decide to call, hoping to bluff him off post-flop. We get one more caller behind me. The flop is J-x-x. The initial raiser puts in 1,000. I only have 1,700. I still half-think he’s weak, or at least has a worse kicker than me. I push all-in. The player behind us thinks for a long time and finally folds. It turns out that all three of us had A-J. What are the odds? It also shows the kind of night I had. I split the pot and earned the split of the third players money, but I had to earn it. I had to make a tough raise to eke out even a little profit.

Unlikely hand of the night I wasn’t involved in: The two big stacks raise and re-raise each other pre-flop and eventually both of them go all-in. They each had pocket aces.

Now the blinds were at 300-600. I have 1,600 left. I have to make a move before the blinds get to me. In dealer position I have a pair of 8s. Someone else has bet it up to 2,400. Close call for me. If he has two high cards I want to call and play out the coin flip. If he has a higher pair I am screwed. I decide not to risk it, he told me that he had two high cards. Dang. A few hands later I went all-in with Q-9. I felt like I had no choice. I was called by A-7 and got knocked out.

Oh well, that’s how it goes. It was a fun night. For the most part I thought I played well. Heck, throw in one more strong hand and I would have had enough chips to start making a difference.

Tonight: -$20

Our New Credit Card

We’ve had the Delta American Express Card since 2001. We’re done with it.The rewards it gives are frequent flyer miles, one per dollar spent. That’s not good enough. Why?

  • We don’t always fly Delta anymore. We fly AirTran a lot.
  • Miles aren’t easily transferable. Mrs. Muttrox and I have separate ledgers based on our individual spending with the card. Trying to move miles around is logistically hard, requires a lot of lead time, and costs extra money.
  • It’s incredibly hard to redeem miles. They restrict the number of seats available. Cashing in a free flight is essentially impossible unless you are willing to fly at 3 am, or pay yet more money.
  • We want to be able to use reward points more flexibly. We do fly a lot, but since other programs allow you frequent flyer miles as well as other rewards, why not use those?

It was time for a new card. The last time I tried to cash in miles started the ball rolling. My Vegas trip in March cost almost as much as if I had paid the normal fee. I was finally triggered to take action by an interesting article in the New York Times that had some specific suggestions. I sat down to figure out what we wanted in a new credit card.

What were the criteria?

  • One of the majors: Visa or American Express. (I’ve had a MasterCard for 20 years, no reason to have two credit cards from the same group.)
  • No annual fee
  • We don’t care about APR or balance transfer rates. We pay in full every month, and always will.
  • Very flexible rewards redemption. There’s nothing more flexible than cash.
  • A high rate of rewards. The standard is 1% or 1 mile for every dollar spent. We wanted to beat that.

Capital One sucked. Their offers are all based around APR rates, terrible rewards program. Starwood Preferred Guest is a good program but wasn’t for us. It has a $45 annual fee and the rewards are all based around hotel rooms. We don’t stay at hotels much. It came down to two programs.

  • The Costco American Express TrueEarnings card:3% cash back for gas and restaurants, 2% for travel, 1% for everything else. Because we’re Costco members already there is no annual fee. Straightforward and generous.
  • American Express Blue Cash Card: The terms are a bit more complicated. On the first $6,500 a year spent, you get 1% back on groceries and gas and 0.5% on everything else. Not very good. But after $6,500 you get 5% back on groceries and gas and 1.25% on everything else, which is very good.

The next stop was Mint.com. This is a personal finance site. They make most of their money by making you offers on financial products like credit cards. The neat part is that they already know your financial situation. They can make recommendations based on true knowledge of your spending patterns. Sure enough, once I filtered out the “sponsored listings” I was left with the same two choices as before. Because it knows what I spend my money on it can make informed estimates of how much I can expect to save with each one. Costco came out barely on top. But I didn’t trust their numbers. I ran my own.

After 10 minutes of furious scribbling, I decided that the BlueCash card would have an approximate 1.6% rewards rate, and the Costco card would have a 1.4%. However, that was highly dependent on how much spending we did every month. Which is highly variable for us. With only slightly different assumption the Costco card looked better. And frankly, we like Costco. That’s what we applied for, our new cards should be here in a couple weeks.

What do you use for your credit card? And why?

Update: We’re approved.

Links o’ Interest

These make me giggle

I like my women the way I like my coffee

Spot the dictator!

Don’t swallow your gum.

Total Eclipse of the Flow Chart

Scottish man at U2 show

Fun with Bob Dylan translations

25 thinks I promise never to put my child through

Ow! That isn’t how it’s played.

Are you a white collar criminal unsure how to cope with going to jail? These consultants can help. (not a joke)

Barney Frank rules

Well that sucks. DNA evidence can now be fabricated.

A simple visualization of how health care reform will affect you.

The 11 oldest actors to play teenagers (I feel like Daniel San should be in here)

Bad design in Star Wars

Wow. Bike stunts. Just gets better throughout.

Pentagon Assesses Global Warming-related Threats

the Pentagon is being ordered by Congress to study threats that arise out of global warming. This is a bi-partisan mandate. It presumably starts from the Pentagon, who has been warning the White House for years of the potential effects of global warming.

I wish I knew the voting on this measure. I think this puts the ideological Right in an awkward position. On the one hand, they know global warming is a myth. On the other hand, the military should never be questioned. But if the military says global warming is real… what to do, what to do? How does a right-winger reconcile those beliefs?

exploding heads

Poker Update

Last Week:

I had 9-A. The flop was 9-4-2. I raised, he went all-in. I figured him for pocket Js, called for some reason. He had pocket 4s. But I caught a 9 on the river to knock him out. That was a lucky draw.

An hour later I had about 2,800 with the blinds at 200-400. The blind was raised to 800. I went all in with A-Q. I was not expecting to be called, but he had pocket Ks and knocked me out. I think the all-in was the right play, and I certainly can’t complain about luck after that river 9 before.

This Week:
Man, that sucked. I went in determined to be (1) aggressive early, (2) play the players not the cards, (3) get an early big stack and use it. It started off great. The very first hand I had K-A and added a few hundred to my stack. Two hands later I had Jack high but pushed around someone who was radiating weakness. Things looked good. Until..

Blinds at 50-100. Everyone folds to me in the small blind. I have K-J. With only the big blind left I raise it up to 400. He calls. The flop is Q-x-x. I don’t think he has the queen. I bet another 400. He thinks about it and calls. The turn is a Jack giving me a pair. I bet 800. He quickly raises me another 800. There are 3 diamonds on the board. He’s caught the flush. I know he’s caught the flush. I have to fold and I do. He had K-3, and yes, they were diamonds. Son of a. I’m surprised he called the preflop 4x raise in the first place. After that he was just lucky.

Now I was short-stacked and everything went wrong. I was quickly knocked out and rebought. Ha ha, I thought, a new stack of chips, look out here comes Muttrox! It was not to be. I didn’t get good cards. Everytime I made a move someone came over the top. When I had good cards they didn’t connect on the flop. Nothing worked. It’s not even worth relating the final hand, it was anti-climatic and preordained.

That was a couple of the most frustrating hours of poker I’ve played.

Tonight and last week: -$60

And yet more poker…: That flush hand is really sticking with me. I am still annoyed because I think I may have been Helmuth’d. I raised the blind 4x and he called with K-3. That was a defensible, but bad call. In my opinion. The only part I may have done wrong was only betting another 400 on the flop. He was calling 400 to get 1600, and he had about a 35% draw chance so it was an ok call on his part. I suppose I could have bet 1,000 or something, but I didn’t even have a made pair. I just had a read, an absolutely perfect one, that I had him beat. It would have been hard to commit 25-50% of my stack on that read. Nyargh. I’m not sure why this one hand is bothering me so much, but it is.

Links o’ Interest

The sexist computer

It doesn’t work like it says

How men and women argue

131 reasons David Banner turned into the Hulk

Alex, what are “Brass Ones?”

OK, that last guy has a point.

An honest end-user license agreement

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia gets a spinoff (sorta)!

True evil

The internet made you stupid

My first fail

Oh father!

If you’re threatening to jump off the Golden Gate bridge, who comes to help? Not a therapist or negotiator, just an ironworker. And they’re better at it.

The caste system

A rebuttal to Michael Pollen

Happy 10th Birthday Iron Giant! One of my favorite movies. And not just because Pete Townshend is an executive producer and made a whole album about it. Well, maybe a little.

The Washing Hands Prompt

One day this appeared in the bathroom.

washhand

This is incredibly patronizing. I know when to wash my hands. I know how to wash my hands. I don’t need to be reminded that washing my hands is a good idea. The time to teach me this was when I was four. By a happy coincidence I was taught this when I was four. I’m pretty sure everyone else at work also learned it when they were four. I am no longer four. I don’t want to be treated like I am still four.

My company pays me a salary with the expectation that I can make important decisions without holding my hand. They trust me with millions of dollars of intellectual assets but not to wash my hands appropriately?

All that’s missing is a reminder to zip up afterwards.

Links o’ Interest

Lots of good ones today…

Reimagining of Peanuts

Barack Obama’s birther-day card

Feel the snark.

Epic neighbor lawn chair war. Read the emails.

Are you there printer?

Facebook Genesis

Cool ad

I never cared for John Hughes that much. But this is still touching.

You think turtles are slow? That’s what they want you to think.

What is married life like, a metaphor

Depressed dog attempts suicide

I hate my job

Ayn Rand kid

Things are out of hand. Someone actually drew this.

More incredible sand animation. (Is that “Nothing Else Matters” near the end?)

Will you kick the ball already!?

Just hang in there…

Cat Rackham. Don’t know what to think about this.

Frame of reference. I guess flat earth, creationism, and hard physics can agree on something after all

Relationship Dealbreaker (NSFW)

5 massive hit songs that almost didn’t get released

Ad Age on the Dos Equis ad campaign

Ways to be cool

Creatively altered signs

Bananas are bad

7 songs from grandpa’s day that would make Eminem blush

Flagpole Sitta, the 1965 version. (Since some of my readers don’t get the joke, here’s the awesome original. One of the few modern albums I have.)

Give ‘til it hurts. Now that’s a logo.

Disney Philosophy. And Donald has had it.

Dog bites laser pointer

Dean Kamen on the healthcare debate. Fascinating viewpoint.

Economy Predictions

Feeding of Ole’s comment from the last post: What are your predictions for the US economy?

I’m not sure I have a prediction, but I have an observation. I was criticized last year for breaking up my viewpoint in three parts: Financials, Fiscal, Fundamentals. Tough, I still think it’s a good way to look at things. The crisis was created at the financial level and excacerbated by the poor fiscal status of the government. I think Obama has done a credible job of fixing things at the financial level. There aren’t anymore huge financial institutions going under, credit is slowly starting to flow again, the mess of the housing market may not be getting better but at least it is getting clearer, etc. Fiscally, we’re a little worse off thanks to all the stimulus debt, hopefully that was still the right thing to do. I think as the financial ship rights itself other areas of the economy will improve. So color me an optimist, I see things slowly but steadily improving through 2010.

This Housing Market

Deutsche bank just put out a very depressing report.

Over 25% of mortgages are under water (the house is worth less than the outstanding amount of the loan).

That’s an incredible statistic. One out of every four loans. They expect this to rise to 48% in the 1st quarter of 2011. (To be fair, keep in mind that anyone who has fully paid off their house is not part of that statistic because they don’t have a mortgage.

Poker Update

A weird night. All kinds of bad beats and weird draws. I’ve forgotten most of the hands, except this one.

Blinds are at 300-600. There are only five players left and play is fairly tight. The blind is raised to 1,600. I have A-9 in the small blind. I call. The flop is A-10-8. I feel good about my hand, a pair of aces with a good kicker. I put 2,800 into the pot. The other guy thinks about it for a while before moving all in. It’s another 4,900 to me. I have about 7,000 left.

The raiser is a tough one to figure. He used to play conservatively. Very value-based. To a large degree, if he raised, you folded. But he’s been studying poker and his game is vastly improved. I know I can’t read him well, but he has been pushing big all night. It’s obvious he’s been stealing pots a lot.

So… I got the pair of Aces. I figure he has an Ace also. What beats my 9 kicker? If his kicker is 8,10,J,Q,K then he has me beat. That’s a lot of cards to beat me. But it’s 4,900 to get roughly 13,000, those are good pot odds. But if I’m wrong I’m basically out of the tournament. And he did raise pre-flop. That’s what convinces me. If he had A-4 or A-5, it’s less likely he would have raised pre-flop. I figure him for A-J. Grudgingly, I fold. He turns over the A-7. Aaauuuggghhh!!!

I ended up playing him in heads up. I got a lot of Aces and face cards. He was disposed of quickly. I won!

I’m $110 richer. I’m also tied for first place in the league standings. I think I’ve finished in the money the last four weeks. That’s a pretty impressive run.