31 January 2008

What to Watch?

With Lost debuting tonight, ABC tosses a final dart into the morass that television has become with the writers strike. My wife and I are television junkies, so this has been a particularly challenging time for us. Here are a few hidden gems that you might try out in your spare nights.

Make Me a Supermodel My wife wanted to watch this, and I didn't think much of it. I haven't watched any of the model shows and wasn't expecting much. This is a keeper. The young men and ladies aren't clones, which makes it more interesting I think. They're also definitely pushing the sexual envelope (see last week's show on sexual chemistry). Starting with only fourteen models makes the series quickly approach good candidates who are going to get booted off. New episode tonight.

Iron Chef America. My mom got me hooked on this when we were with my late grandfather. The Food Channel show is a knockoff of a Japanese show featuring an Iron Chef (one of five chefs on the show) with a top chef. The Chairman (some weird guy) is sort of the host, the guest chef gets introduced, chooses the chef he/she wants to go up against, then a secret ingredient is introduced. This has to be featured in the five dishes that the chefs will prepare in sixty minutes, with the assistance of two sous chefs/assistants (not sure what sous chefs actually means). The guest chefs aren't amateurs; they are some of the best chefs in America. Definitely very inspiring, and they are incredibly creative. Watch it once, and you'll be hooked.

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles This new Fox show is a home run, with Lena Heady as the mother of John Connor who is trying to keep her son alive and prevent skynet (or whatever it is) with the help of hottie cyborg Cameron (Summer Glau). You may remember Heady as the queen in "300."

Millionaire Matchmaker I think this was the worst-promoted new series in quite awhile, showing millionaire matchmake Patti Stanger in a too-tight red outfit. I'd vowed never to watch this show where Stanger sets up dysfunctional guys with money who can't find, win, or stay with the woman of their dreams. Yet here I was watching it today after taking a nap. Bravo does a great job with these reality shows. They aren't formulaic and don't drop down to the easy moronic tactics that make reality shows fairly stupid to most people. The show introduced two millionaires, Patti along with her three assistants select about a dozen or more hotties with some substance (or not) to meet and greet the two. Each guy selects three ladies to "speed date" (ten minutes), then each selects one for a date.

Top Chef Chicago Padma Lakshima. Plus cooking competition.

More photos, but I'm headed to dinner now. Any other shows?

52/365 Junkyard Dog


52/365 Junkyard Dog
Originally uploaded by csquard

Just got into Tullahoma, Tennessee (home of the Dickel distillery, passed Jack Daniels on the way). I haven't been traveling in a normal fashion this week. I drove as far as I could Tuesday night before finding a hotel, I haven't had a reservation anywhere I've gone (I'm pretty detail oriented when it comes to travel usually). Last night, I crashed at a Best Western near Cullman, Alabama after a great dinner in Nashville with my cousin and her husband. Today, I've pulled into a Hampton Inn.

I used to travel 60-80% of the time, with doses of international travel sprinkled in. The last two years or so, that's been cut back to <15% of the time. It is a bit strange for me now. It used to be simply who I was, heading to airports and hotels, calling home every night and talking to my wife for lengthy chunks of time. Logistically, it has become more difficult to travel in general. Personally, I'm not sure how I will react to it. I've become very insular and alone in my daily life, so being thrust into the work lives of so many others is actually very healthy for me.

My cameras aren't great, but they have become a comforting partner for me. It's given me pause to stop and capture things I think I would normally whisk right by. I don't mind that at all.

There is a significant disconnection that occurs when I travel, especially when I'm in a different place each night like this will probably be. You lose all sense of what's going on in the world, your local and virtual communities, and your family. Even the Super Bowl seems like some foggy rumor rather than the biggest event in the US.

Next week is starting to flesh itself out, and it should be a grueling sprint around Canada. Looks like I'm in Edmonton Monday, near Toronto Tuesday (Ancaster), Thamesville Wednesday, Longueuil on Thursday, and hopefully Bromont on Friday. I am pretty sure I can make the Edmonton-Toronto trip and get in Monday evening, but I need to book everything. I'll put more out there once I get everything firmed up.

Goats and Sheep and Emus, Oh My!


Goats and Sheep and Emus, Oh My!
Originally uploaded by csquard

Very tired after a long day. More in the morning. Night-night!

30 January 2008

Hidden Inflation


Room Service1
Originally uploaded by csquard

I'm on the first day of my travels across the US and Canada, impulse departing around 11:20PM last night rather than leaving around 5:30 this morning. It was a very windy trip with torrential rain at times. I stopped twice to get Diet Cokes and finally decided to check into a Doubletree Hotel around 2:20AM Central. I could have slept even longer except there is remodeling going on either in my room or outside of it, I'm not exactly sure which.

Price increases have been few and far between over the last decade or so due to a number of factors: globalization and the growth of Chinese manufacturing, Wal-Mart et al, 9/11, and the significant increase in sophistication within Purchasing/Supply Chain organizations within companies. Sure, there were the different items whose prices had increased year over year (e.g., education, healthcare), but by and large getting price was a fool's errand.

Marketers have long known that initial price and price+discount are big draws for consumers especially. More and more, companies have headed for add-on fees to capture price. My room service, as an example, came with a $2.55 service charge and a $2.63 delivery charge. Most of the time, these fees and charges are collectively deployed within an industry (e.g., phone bills), leaving consumers with nothing to do but suck it up and pay. Look for these to increase as well as prices to continue to creep up as raw material costs suck dollars from our accounts.

29 January 2008

Is Bloglines/Google Reader the Death of Blogs?


Sunrise on Coiled Sphere
Originally uploaded by csquard

As always, leave it to me to be slightly behind the times (if you call several years slightly). Anyways, through the help of a few technical wizards, I finally started using Bloglines then Google Reader.

As I became more efficient whipping through content, I feel like I became more distant from the people behind these words and their sites. Is that right at all, or am I just a neophyte?

Edmonton: -25 Degrees F


Winter Magnolia
Originally uploaded by csquard

So after I head to Tennessee and Alabama this week, I head to the nation north of here (Canada). First stop on Monday: Edmonton. It is supposed to warm up to +8 Degrees F on Monday, up from -25 Degrees today. They weren't listing the wind chill online (they call it Feels Like). "I guess you can't feel anything once it gets that cold!" laughed my contact for our Monday morning meeting. I'm not quite sure why I decided it was a good idea to head up there...

The Mute Button


50/365 Morning Wait
Originally uploaded by csquard

I'm in the midst of preparing for five weeks of travel and am struggling a bit with myself. I'll be interviewing customers of a client around the US and Canada, talking more to more people than I have in six months.

I've found that I've lost my ability to talk as I have spent more time emailing and blogging. I don't know if this is common or not, but I suspect it is. I've had folks ask questions like how I communicate the best (phone or email), so I'm assuming that this is an emerging phenomenon.

Is it?

28 January 2008

Interview with Anne Marie Almedal

First in a series of interviews from people we want to learn more about. We'll give away two iTunes downloads of her new CD The Siren and the Sage after randomly drawing those who leave comments or link to this interview. email met at csquard@gmail.com to be sure you've gotten your entry in.



if you’re still there when it’s all over
I’m scared I’ll have to say
that a part of you has gone
since yesterday
and as we sit here alone
looking for a reason to go on
it’s so clear that all we have now
are our thoughts of yesterday

“Since Yesterday” The Siren and the Sage

The lyrics of Norwegian songstress Anne Marie Almedal reflect love and love lost, yet they hardly reflect where she is. After being part of the Velvet Belly for ten years (and winning a Norwegian Grammy in the process), she’s happily married, a mother, and catching a glimpse of a global audience for her life’s calling after being featured as a New Release on iTunes. Her voice is unique, her words simple yet poignant.

CC: Let’s begin at the beginning. You are from Kristiansand, a large town on the Southern coast of Norway. Describe Kristiansand and Norway.

Anne Marie: Yes, I come from Norway, the picture postcard place of endless Scandinavian pine forests, fjords, northern lights, midnight sun - and yet with an underbelly of high suicide rates, loneliness and an intense "social democracy" that unwittingly numbs a vast amount of it´s people. I live in the Southern coast, the so-called "bible belt.” The coastline is rugged with the crashing waves of the North Sea, and we are 300 or so kilometers south of the capital Oslo - in the love-hate, but proud city of Kristiansand.

CC: You studied Theology in your University years. How has faith been a part of your life and your music?

Anne Marie: Faith has always played a major part of my life. My grandfather was a priest, a major figure in the family, so religion naturally figured in my upbringing. The perennial questions of faith are fascinating and necessary for me, you, and everyone we know--whether they like to admit it or not! Music can feel uplifting in the same way as religious faith. It takes you to the wide open spaces of beauty where you can lose yourself and feel truly happy, a place with no fear.



CC: You studied at the Music Conservatoire of Rotterdam. How did your time their impact your music?

Anne Marie: I studied voice in the "light music" department, which means I touched everything from cabaret to jazz to pop. This knowledge and serious study of voice had a big impact on me. It opened up my musical horizons and perhaps added a vital edge to my own songwriting and performance. As artists, we should never stop searching for new ideas and approaches - and as well as teaching others. Even now in the Music Conserveratory in Kristiansand, I am equally glad to attend other voice seminars - as an ever-keen pupil - like recently at the amazing "Institute for living voice" series I attended, with a seminar given by an amazing American, vocalist/composer Meredith Monk.

CC: Are there any common traits in Norwegian music?

Anne Marie: In these globalized times, the borders just get smaller and the ideals (and idols) get closer. Norwegian music does maybe have a certain addictive melancholy and melody that is perhaps quite unique. You just have to lose yourself to Jan Gabarek´s soundscapes, Kings of Convenience, A-ha – you name it! The quality has always been there, but in recent times the rest of the world has finally begun to listen…

CC: Do you see yourself as a singer or a songwriter?

Anne Marie: Singer, Songwriter, Siren, Sage

CC: What is it like to be an artist and a mother? How do these different aspects coexist for you?

Anne Marie: In these -me me MySpace “I don´t want kids” - times, sometimes you wonder whether female artists are really scared of having children and finding a balance with their career ambitions. It really shouldn’t be an issue. Of course having children means less freedoms; at the same time, it brings discipline, purpose, and focus. Studio time and touring is much more of a logistic jigsaw puzzle these days – especially with my husband (Nicholas Sillitoe), who is both in the studio and performing live with me.
All in all, my two children have been a huge inspiration for me…and it feels very harmonic.



CC: Your first release, The Siren and the Sage, is a beautiful recording.

Anne Marie: For this album, the primary concerns were warmth, beauty, and organic delivery. We did much of the recording in a vast disused factory space, where the long natural reverbs defined much of the character of the album. A sound to lose yourself in. The “Siren” is indeed a voice of beauty, driving the listener away from the path…dangerous in the sense that it can overwhelm you. The “Sage” is perhaps the wisdom of femininty…very much based on my own experiences as a vocalist and being a seasoned explorer in the labyrinth of the music industry. But, perhaps the message is just simple. There is so much love and freedom in this album. Like floating in water, looking at the sky, the clouds and dreams that come and go...

CC: What do you draw your inspiration from?

Anne Marie: Quiet suburban roads, lonely lampposts, the deep red sunsets over pine trees in my garden. This is what I see from the window when I sit down by a piano and write songs. Magic moments of solitude and joy.

CC: And the words?

Anne Marie: Love and Loss, somewhere between the alpha omega rush of falling in love and out of love. My words are personal, yet with emotional layers I clearly want others to relate to. Issues of faith, dreams, melancholy, yes! – but at the same time full of hope. On my new album songs like “Trouble” tackle the delights and trappings of unfaithfulness. “Monterosso” is simply my own heavenly experience of hearing the distant sound of nuns singing in Italy while I was in a half-awake state, how moments, sensations, places can just take you away. I hope listeners can take their own experiences, feel somewhat mirrored by the lyrics and delivery; after all, the words to the songs are like the script to the film--essential!

CC: Your voice has so much warmth and heart, yet you’ve been an artist really your whole life and have a technically trained education. Where does the intimacy of these songs come from?

Anne Marie: Again, it´s maybe the result of growing up in a small coastal town, with innocent suburban dreams and ambitions. Close to nature, close to God, being in tune with the voice within. When people refer to my songs and “sound” they often tune in to a sense of loneliness and at the same time a feeling of togetherness. Maybe this is emphasized by the quietude of my own writing process, my surroundings and also the openness of the production.



CC: Your album is available at iTunes, which has to be pretty exciting.

Anne Marie: iTunes, digital Downloads – yes tomorrow is indeed now!
Being a front page featured new release just recently on iTunes in the US and having at least for now the chance to be discovered in the digital (and legal) Apple music supermarket is wonderful news! It can really take a long time before Warner will ever release the “physical” cd in the US – so for now iTunes, Amazon etc. is where it´s at!

To reach music lovers and new listeners via their laptops, iPods and with airplay on cutting edge stations like California’s KCRW – this is all a really good step forward. Feedback from the US has been really positive so far, so I hope all this can eventually lead to some live performances in the States! I love to perform in in an acoustic setting, stripped from all the studio trickery. We are five people on stage; no drums, no bass,but a lot of heavenly sounds and timeless folksy grooves! And truth is, I love to travel and perform… so as long as Warner Music delivers what is promised, we´ll be there. Quiet and very proud! Meantime, I’ll be close to home. There are festivals and live gigs to plan and play, songs to sing, day to day promotion, management, and of course the joy of family life. I’m actually starting some new recording sessions tomorrow. Inspired and full of light and love!

Anne Marie can be found on MySpace, and head to iTunes to download The Siren and the Sage.

(photos: Julie Pike, courtesy of Warner Music, all rights reserved)

The Tiger Woods Effect



My brother alerted me to a Slate article discussing research done by Jennifer Brown (Cal-Berkeley Ph.D. candidate in Economics). Her study is on the impact that a superstar (Tiger Woods) has on a peer group (PGA golfers). Some of her findings:

>> Tiger has a +1 stroke/round impact on PGA Exempt players when he is in contention (within five strokes of the lead)
>> The decline in scoring was not due to riskier strategies (e.g., going for the green on dangerous par-5's)
>> This impact goes away when he was in a slump
>> The potential prize money declines for other players due to his presence

In her job market paper, she explores how these findings could be analogous to corporate questions (e.g., impact of bringing in a rising star VP into a mix of executives, sales incentive programs for sales forces, Jack Welch's 20/70/10 program of eliminating the bottom 10% of employees and promoting the top 20%).

Where Should This Head?


49/365 A-Peeling
Originally uploaded by csquard

As you may know, I'm transitioning my blog from a poker blog more toward a general site. I'd like your help as I plan where to grow this site. If you have the time, I'd love for input on the following questions:

1. What interests you the most about my blog?
2. Where would you like me to focus in the future?
3. What should I avoid?
4. I'm assuming I should have a different domain name and connect the blog to that. That's correct, right?

Thanks in advance for any and all input.

Post-Mortem: Being a Single Parent


48/365 Me and the Boys
Originally uploaded by csquard

My wife arrived last evening from her trip to Charleston, and we picked her up at the airport. I survived the five-day trip and hopefully didn't leave any lasting damage on the boys. Highlights:

>> Low point: letting the boys watch "300" while hosting a poker game
>> Damage to home: family room carpet (dog threw up twice while I slept Sunday morning; very, very yellow stain), master bedroom (dog pooped)
>> Number of times we ate out: 5/12
>> % of luncheon meat eaten: 5%
>> Number of times I fell asleep in the bed: 0/4
>> Number of times our youngest woke up in the night and moved me to our bed: 3/4
>> Number of times one of us bathed or showered: 12
>> Number of online poker hands played: 230
>> Amount won during hosted poker game: -$9
>> Amount missing from the bank that I ate: -$40 (still not sure what happened)
>> Number of pre-flop re-raises during our six-handed six-hour game: 1
>> Number of check-raises during our six-handed six-hour game: 1
>> Number of different poker games played: 9 (NLHE, PLHE, PLO, PLO8, Razz, 7-Card Stud, 7-Card Stud 8 or Better, Crazy Pineapple, Reverse-Flop Hold-Em)
>> Number of full houses I had after rabbit hunting: 3
>> Number of movies watched: 1 (Witness)
>> Number of pots or pans used: 1 (omelettes)
>> Number of meals skipped: 1
>> Number of times we forgot to feed the dog: 1 (fed twice/day)
>> Number of times we forgot to feed the cat:: 5 (fed wet food twice/day)
>> Number of pars or birdies I had in our backyard golf event yesterday: 3/9
>> Number of double bogeys or worse: 4/9 (had a quadruple bogey on a par 4 that started in our backyard and went to the flower bed in our front yard; had a quadruple bogey on a par 4 that had to go up and around the Magnolia tree and back)
>> Number of times our three-year old played Call of Duty 4: 5
>> Number of times our three-year old asked when he could have his own gun: 9
>> Amount spent shopping: $15 (bought a 100' phone line to connect the TV to TiVo in the basement)

She had a great time in Charleston, and I hope I can shove her out of here a couple of times a year. We survived, so I'll take it!

25 January 2008

Love and Sex with Robots


I was perusing my brother's recommendation of The Colbert Report's interview with David Levy, author of Love and Sex with Robots. Additionally, a text interview on About.com.


How far away is this? Levy talks about people who have difficulty finding a partner for sex primarily and love secondarily. Developing robots for sexual acts, he says, will come sooner, while those able to connect emotionally will be developed forty-fifty years from now. Regina Lynn from Wired highlights the SaSi from Je Joue. The SaSi is a vibrator that, through the user's feedback, can refine it's movements and performance to become a highly customized device of euphoria. It will be available in April 2008 for $175, exclusively at Babeland.

Not exactly sure if this leads to a decrease in the divorce rate or an increase. I'm guessing the former.

Costar Christopher Plummer on Heath Ledger

In case you're interested, Entertainment Weekly has an interview with Christopher Plummer, who was currently filming The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (directed by Terry Gilliam).

24 January 2008

Father of Three


Three Boys in Snow
Originally uploaded by csquard

With my wife in Charleston for five days, I'm now forced to take over the sole parenting duties for a hundred hours or so. It is one of the most important times in my life, and it teaches me so much about so many things.

My wife I'm a lifer when it comes to marriage, always planning on growing old with my bride. Each morning that she is still with me is a truly special morning, as I've never really understood why she chose me and stuck with me.

The Role of Mother With her gone, I'm able to step into her shoes in the role of mother. One component of being a mother is the sheer project management required. It seems more like rappelling than some elegant dance from event to task. And it's all fairly simple right now, with a 6th grader, a 4th grader, and a three-year old. I'm not quite sure how they get fed, how they get bathed, how they get all their homework done, how they get from here to there. And all of these are simply the tasks of motherhood, tasks that simply can not be overstated as to their value. The heart of any mother is of significantly more value. The more the daily chores can be reduced or redistributed, the greater the opportunity that the mother's heart can be put fully into action.


Father of Three vs Father of Each It is easy for me to simply herd my trio of lads from one place to another. I too often think of them collectively rather than individually. As the sole parent, I'm forced into more frequent and varied alone time with each of them. It is so easy for me to slip into my role as father in the chair or driver's seat, barking a reprimand here, giving a hug there, all the while believing I'm a stellar father. Being alone exposes the lack of focus I have with each of them. I don't even think it has to do with being a good father or bad, growing better or worse kids. It's more that as a father, I have this incredible opportunity for intimacy, for understanding, for amazement if I just take the time to focus on each of them and spend time with each young man on his own terms. The pendulum in these relationships will shift in their favor soon enough, and I'll have to somehow make an appointment in their lives. I went to music class with our youngest this morning, a ridiculous gathering of half a dozen mothers trying to fill their days and navigate through all this. It was an amazing morning as I just held and listened and watched and chatted with this youngest man in our home. I don't want to be a better father; but these times show me how much richer my life is when I slip beneath the skin of these boys.
The Joy of Fatherhood I used to think being a proud father was about seeing your child excel, winning the game or being the best at something. It really has nothing to do with outcomes of a child's actions. A father's joy seems to come only when the father can get out of his own way enough to have magic with a son or daughter. With lives filled with so much noise and static, it takes a hushed mind and an open heart to be prepared enough to soak in what it means to know a child, if only for the briefest of moments. For some, maybe it is a vast reservoir to tap into again and again. For others, it is fleeting and confusing. And for some men, they know less about a father's joy than those without children.

What a blessing, to have three boys, to have children be so elastic and resilient as to overcome the mistakes, ignorance, and apathy of a father, to have a sparkle in each of those six eyes that look at me. My wife is having a great time away, I know. There is no way it is more special than these hundred hours as father to each of these three sons.

23 January 2008

In Case You Missed It

Here are some must reads from the last couple days.

Back in My Day, Being an American Gladiator Actually Meant Something (by Turbo, The Onion)
ESPN.com Ranks Every QB Performance in Super Bowl History (Allison Wachs, ESPN.com)
Dear Rich People...Stop Complaining and Help the Economy (Daniel Gross, Slate)
Across America, Deadly Echoes of Foreign Battles (Deborah Sontag and Lizette Alvarez, NY Times)
Seattle Starbucks Tests $1 Coffee, Free Refills (Reuters, USA Today)
Heath Ledger: Fallen Star (Josh Rottenberg, Entertainment Weekly)

Asian Girl Looking at Camera, Not Saying Anything

American Idol: We're Brothers Forever!! (Pure Gold)

"As an Actor..." Tom Cruise Parody (Jerry O'Connell, Funny or Die)
American Idol: We're Brothers Forever! (Pure Gold!)

When the Wife is Away...

44/365 From Beneath

A quick special thanks to the top referrers to CC's blog over the last four weeks. It is always a pain to change links, but it is very much appreciated it.

MiamiDon
The Wife
Smokkee
surflexus
Pokerati
Pokertart
IGGY
Bankwell
CarmenSinCity
jusdealem

My traffic dropped significantly when I moved to PokerWorks, built back up, then dropped again when I moved back here. I've appreciated all who have come back here and chime in.

My wife is headed to Charleston for a five-day junket with her best friends at a Furman alumni trip. I'm assuming they will be the only ones under seventy there. I'll have the boys alone. The last time she did something like this, I think the two oldest basically cared for themselves while I slept at odd hours. I distinctly remember our middle son shaking me and kissing me before heading off to the bus. I've vowed that I'll stay awake when they're awake this time. PARTY!!!

I have a list of about 80+ tasks, so I'll give you the highlights and lowlights.

22 January 2008

New Sites and Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon

I have several new sites to the right. I haven't been too rigorous with updating my bloglist, but these are a few that are either very new to me or I just haven't had here. You should know DrChako and The Wife. You won't want to miss her post today, My Infidelity. Check the other sites out as well. From religion to movies to Iraq, you'll find a wide array of stuff folks are capturing.

New music I've downloaded: On a Dead Machine's Hey, Charade (only available on their MySpace site, but really, really great song), Anne Marie Almedal's The Siren and the Sage (Norwegian siren, especially for the chicks and guys in the doghouse who need to get their lovely lady something sweet to listen to; also for guys who have found their feminine side like me, I guess...). Her photo below:



With that, Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, where we head from here to see where we end up in cyber-blogdom.

Strange Culture First up is a new site I found from a couple of movie nuts. RC and Grete had a Films+Faith blog-a-thon which I'll definitely have to dive into. It was a collection of posts form a couple dozen blogs, all of which look very interesting.

SF Gospel Well, if there's one thing I know, it's that Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon is always going to take us to new places. The subtitle for this site is Explorations of faith in science fiction and popular culture. He has a post titled "Top 10 Action Heroes Who Deserve a Comeback." Who made the list? You'll have to go there to find out (I don't think #1 will surprise you, but guess anyways before heading over there).

Nerve All I can say is "Wow!" Maybe I'm a dork and am the only person who doesn't know about this site (DON'T ANSWER THAT!), but this will absolutely become part of my daily routine. Blogs, film, hipness. It might be just a big personals site as well, I'm not quite sure. I'll let you know.

Risky Biz Blog Any and everything about the motion picture industry from inside the ropes. Steven Zeitchik, who reports at Variety, is the editor and leader of this site.

Six Square This is the home of Will Keightley, and he hits music (way cooler and more out there than me, which doesn't take much I realize), film, and television. Lots to explore here (Danny Warhols vs Veronica Mars is as good a place as any to start).

Blog is a Mix Tape Jason, way out cool soul brother. Musical exploration to the max. I'm sure I'm just at the tip of the iceberg, but I'll have to spend a good chunk of time here. His "Ten Other Things MLK Said" video is short but very, very powerful.

Bonus link: I bought a book by E.B. Sledge, "Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa," for our eldest son at Christmas. It is a first-hand account of heading from Marine boot camp directly into the South Pacific. The author is from Alabama and has a passage where he addresses a veteran Marine, Jay, who he called one of his best friends. My grandfather's name was Jay (J.T. Hellums), and he was a Marine in the South Pacific at that time. I'm not sure if they are one and the same, but I'd like to think they are. Studs Terkel has a collection of interviews with WWII veterans that are truly fascinating to listen to, and one is with E.B. Sledge.

The Worst of Times, the Best of Times

Amidst all of the doom and gloom of today's pending stock market bloodletting along with the continued Writers' strike, the Oscars nominations were just announced. And CC's fav Juno hit a home run, with a nod for Best Picture, Best Actress (Ellen Page), an incredible Best Director for Jason Reitman, and Best Original Screenplay for our buddy, Diablo Cody. Continued strong box office, #1 album on iTunes (Kimya Dawson, featured prominently on the soundtrack, featured in a NY Times article from yesterday).

Here are the nominations:

80th Academy Awards

Best motion picture
“Atonement” (Focus Features) A Working Title Production: Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner and Paul Webster, Producers
“Juno” (Fox Searchlight) A Dancing Elk Pictures, LLC Production: Lianne Halfon, Mason Novick and Russell Smith, Producers
“Michael Clayton” (Warner Bros.) A Clayton Productions, LLC Production: Sydney Pollack, Jennifer Fox and Kerry Orent, Producers
“No Country for Old Men” (Miramax and Paramount Vantage) A Scott Rudin/Mike Zoss Production: Scott Rudin, Ethan Coen and Joel Coen, Producers
“There Will Be Blood” (Paramount Vantage and Miramax) A JoAnne Sellar/Ghoulardi Film Company Production: JoAnne Sellar, Paul Thomas Anderson and Daniel Lupi, Producers

Performance by an actress in a leading role
Cate Blanchett in “Elizabeth: The Golden Age” (Universal)
Julie Christie in “Away from Her” (Lionsgate)
Marion Cotillard in “La Vie en Rose” (Picturehouse)
Laura Linney in “The Savages” (Fox Searchlight)
Ellen Page in “Juno” (Fox Searchlight)

Performance by an actor in a leading role
George Clooney in “Michael Clayton” (Warner Bros.)
Daniel Day-Lewis in “There Will Be Blood” (Paramount Vantage and Miramax)
Johnny Depp in “Sweeney Todd The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” (DreamWorks and Warner Bros., Distributed by DreamWorks/Paramount)
Tommy Lee Jones in “In the Valley of Elah” (Warner Independent)
Viggo Mortensen in “Eastern Promises” (Focus Features)

Performance by an actor in a supporting role
Casey Affleck in “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford” (Warner Bros.)
Javier Bardem in “No Country for Old Men” (Miramax and Paramount Vantage)
Philip Seymour Hoffman in “Charlie Wilson’s War” (Universal)
Hal Holbrook in “Into the Wild” (Paramount Vantage and River Road Entertainment)
Tom Wilkinson in “Michael Clayton” (Warner Bros.)

Achievement in directing
“The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” (Miramax/Pathé Renn), Julian Schnabel
“Juno” (Fox Searchlight), Jason Reitman
“Michael Clayton” (Warner Bros.), Tony Gilroy
“No Country for Old Men” (Miramax and Paramount Vantage), Joel Coen and Ethan Coen
“There Will Be Blood” (Paramount Vantage and Miramax), Paul Thomas Anderson

Performance by an actress in a supporting role
Cate Blanchett in “I’m Not There” (The Weinstein Company)
Ruby Dee in “American Gangster” (Universal)
Saoirse Ronan in “Atonement” (Focus Features)
Amy Ryan in “Gone Baby Gone” (Miramax)
Tilda Swinton in “Michael Clayton” (Warner Bros.)

Adapted screenplay
“Atonement” (Focus Features), Screenplay by Christopher Hampton
“Away from Her” (Lionsgate), Written by Sarah Polley
“The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” (Miramax/Pathé Renn), Screenplay by Ronald Harwood
“No Country for Old Men” (Miramax and Paramount Vantage), Written for the screen by Joel Coen & Ethan Coen
“There Will Be Blood” (Paramount Vantage and Miramax), Written for the screen by Paul Thomas Anderson

Original screenplay
“Juno” (Fox Searchlight), Written by Diablo Cody
“Lars and the Real Girl” (MGM), Written by Nancy Oliver
“Michael Clayton” (Warner Bros.), Written by Tony Gilroy
“Ratatouille” (Walt Disney), Screenplay by Brad Bird; Story by Jan Pinkava, Jim Capobianco, Brad Bird
“The Savages” (Fox Searchlight), Written by Tamara Jenkins

Best animated feature film of the year
“Persepolis” (Sony Pictures Classics): Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud
“Ratatouille” (Walt Disney): Brad Bird
“Surf’s Up” (Sony Pictures Releasing): Ash Brannon and Chris Buck

Best foreign language film
“Beaufort” Israel
“The Counterfeiters” Austria
“Katyn” Poland
“Mongol” Kazakhstan
“12″ Russia

Achievement in art direction
“American Gangster” (Universal): Art Direction: Arthur Max; Set Decoration: Beth A. Rubino
“Atonement” (Focus Features): Art Direction: Sarah Greenwood; Set Decoration: Katie Spencer
“The Golden Compass” (New Line in association with Ingenious Film Partners): Art Direction: Dennis Gassner; Set Decoration: Anna Pinnock
“Sweeney Todd The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” (DreamWorks and Warner Bros., Distributed by DreamWorks/Paramount): Art Direction: Dante Ferretti; Set Decoration: Francesca Lo Schiavo
“There Will Be Blood” (Paramount Vantage and Miramax): Art Direction: Jack Fisk; Set Decoration: Jim Erickson

Achievement in cinematography
“The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford” (Warner Bros.): Roger Deakins
“Atonement” (Focus Features): Seamus McGarvey
“The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” (Miramax/Pathé Renn): Janusz Kaminski
“No Country for Old Men” (Miramax and Paramount Vantage): Roger Deakins
“There Will Be Blood” (Paramount Vantage and Miramax): Robert Elswit

Achievement in costume design
“Across the Universe” (Sony Pictures Releasing) Albert Wolsky
“Atonement” (Focus Features) Jacqueline Durran
“Elizabeth: The Golden Age” (Universal) Alexandra Byrne
“La Vie en Rose” (Picturehouse) Marit Allen
“Sweeney Todd The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” (DreamWorks and Warner Bros., Distributed by DreamWorks/Paramount) Colleen Atwood

Best documentary feature
“No End in Sight” (Magnolia Pictures) A Representational Pictures Production: Charles Ferguson and Audrey Marrs
“Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience” (The Documentary Group) A Documentary Group Production: Richard E. Robbins
“Sicko” (Lionsgate and The Weinstein Company) A Dog Eat Dog Films Production: Michael Moore and Meghan O’Hara
“Taxi to the Dark Side” (THINKFilm) An X-Ray Production: Alex Gibney and Eva Orner
“War/Dance” (THINKFilm) A Shine Global and Fine Films Production: Andrea Nix Fine and Sean Fine

Best documentary short subject
“Freeheld” A Lieutenant Films Production: Cynthia Wade and Vanessa Roth
“La Corona (The Crown)” A Runaway Films and Vega Films Production: Amanda Micheli and Isabel Vega
“Salim Baba” A Ropa Vieja Films and Paradox Smoke Production: Tim Sternberg and Francisco Bello
“Sari’s Mother” (Cinema Guild) A Daylight Factory Production: James Longley

Achievement in film editing
“The Bourne Ultimatum” (Universal): Christopher Rouse
“The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” (Miramax/Pathé Renn): Juliette Welfling
“Into the Wild” (Paramount Vantage and River Road Entertainment): Jay Cassidy
“No Country for Old Men” (Miramax and Paramount Vantage) Roderick Jaynes
“There Will Be Blood” (Paramount Vantage and Miramax): Dylan Tichenor

Achievement in makeup
“La Vie en Rose” (Picturehouse) Didier Lavergne and Jan Archibald
“Norbit” (DreamWorks, Distributed by Paramount): Rick Baker and Kazuhiro Tsuji
“Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” (Walt Disney): Ve Neill and Martin Samuel

Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original score)
“Atonement” (Focus Features) Dario Marianelli
“The Kite Runner” (DreamWorks, Sidney Kimmel Entertainment and Participant Productions, Distributed by Paramount Classics): Alberto Iglesias
“Michael Clayton” (Warner Bros.) James Newton Howard
“Ratatouille” (Walt Disney) Michael Giacchino
“3:10 to Yuma” (Lionsgate) Marco Beltrami

Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original song)
“Falling Slowly” from “Once” (Fox Searchlight) Music and Lyric by Glen Hansard and: Marketa Irglova
“Happy Working Song” from “Enchanted” (Walt Disney): Music by Alan Menken; Lyric by Stephen Schwartz
“Raise It Up” from “August Rush” (Warner Bros.): Nominees to be determined
“So Close” from “Enchanted” (Walt Disney): Music by Alan Menken; Lyric by Stephen Schwartz
“That’s How You Know” from “Enchanted” (Walt Disney): Music by Alan Menken; Lyric by Stephen Schwartz

Best animated short film
“I Met the Walrus” A Kids & Explosions Production: Josh Raskin
“Madame Tutli-Putli” (National Film Board of Canada) A National Film Board of Canada Production Chris Lavis and Maciek Szczerbowski “Même Les Pigeons Vont au Paradis (Even Pigeons Go to Heaven)” (Premium Films) A BUF Compagnie Production Samuel Tourneux and Simon Vanesse
“My Love (Moya Lyubov)” (Channel One Russia) A Dago-Film Studio, Channel One Russia and Dentsu Tec Production Alexander Petrov
“Peter & the Wolf” (BreakThru Films) A BreakThru Films/Se-ma-for Studios Production Suzie Templeton and Hugh Welchman

Best live action short film
“At Night” A Zentropa Entertainments 10 Production: Christian E. Christiansen and Louise Vesth
“Il Supplente (The Substitute)” (Sky Cinema Italia) A Frame by Frame Italia Production: Andrea Jublin
“Le Mozart des Pickpockets (The Mozart of Pickpockets)” (Premium Films) A Karé Production: Philippe Pollet-Villard
“Tanghi Argentini” (Premium Films) An Another Dimension of an Idea Production: Guido Thys and Anja Daelemans
“The Tonto Woman” A Knucklehead, Little Mo and Rose Hackney Barber Production: Daniel Barber and Matthew Brown

Achievement in sound editing
“The Bourne Ultimatum” (Universal): Karen Baker Landers and Per Hallberg
“No Country for Old Men” (Miramax and Paramount Vantage): Skip Lievsay
“Ratatouille” (Walt Disney): Randy Thom and Michael Silvers
“There Will Be Blood” (Paramount Vantage and Miramax): Matthew Wood
“Transformers” (DreamWorks and Paramount in association with Hasbro): Ethan Van der Ryn and Mike Hopkins

Achievement in sound mixing
“The Bourne Ultimatum” (Universal) Scott Millan, David Parker and Kirk Francis
“No Country for Old Men” (Miramax and Paramount Vantage): Skip Lievsay, Craig Berkey, Greg Orloff and Peter Kurland
“Ratatouille” (Walt Disney): Randy Thom, Michael Semanick and Doc Kane
“3:10 to Yuma” (Lionsgate): Paul Massey, David Giammarco and Jim Stuebe
“Transformers” (DreamWorks and Paramount in association with Hasbro): Kevin O’Connell, Greg P. Russell and Peter J. Devlin

Achievement in visual effects
“The Golden Compass” (New Line in association with Ingenious Film Partners): Michael Fink, Bill Westenhofer, Ben Morris and Trevor Wood
“Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” (Walt Disney): John Knoll, Hal Hickel, Charles Gibson and John Frazier
“Transformers” (DreamWorks and Paramount in association with Hasbro): Scott Farrar, Scott Benza, Russell Earl and John Frazier

US Government Cancels All Holidays

UPDATE 8:26AM

The Fed didn't take the holiday off. Moving as aggressively as they can, they lowered the prime 3/4% to 3.5%. Look for the rockiest of days today. For those interested, the New York Times Magazine had a very insightful profile of Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke.

The text from the Federal Open Market Committee, hot off the presses.

------------------

While kids were enjoying Martin Luther King Day and their three-day weekend, the rest of the world were tossing their net worth out the door. Asian and European stock markets plummeted Monday and continued their sell-off today, with Asia leading the spiral down. Japan's stock market was down 5.7% today after Monday's 3% decline.

Stay clear of walking under any tall buildings today as brokers and investors may take the great leap. The rest of the world, left to figure the US economy and recently announced stimulus package, have decided we are at the beginning of a US-led global slowdown. If you missed my post last week on What You Should Do in a Recession, check it out.

21 January 2008

Global Poker Strategic Thinking Society

Incredible Google video of the Google Tech Talk of Harvard Law School professor Charles Nesson and Harvard Law student Andrew Woods. My brother has told me about this, but Nesson is developing a curriculum using poker to teach strategy. This is a very long video, over fifty minutes. This is well, well worth the time commitment. Really fascinating to listen to. One of his objectives: to legitimize poker as a skill-based learning venture.

Poker Teaches at Google Tech Talk

Click through to view

I think the most interesting part of this is that this is going on at Harvard vs. poker content of the video itself. Global Poker Strategic Thinking Society website

Caution: Poker Content to Follow

I remembered why I so love treading water playing poker. Dropped $250 four-tabling full ring $5/10 LHE (VPIP: <15%) then made it up four-tabling first $0.25/0.50 NLHE then $0.50/NLHE 6-max (nothing like chasing your losses to get the juices flowing). Hands like these have created vast sums of wealth for the programmers and executives of online poker...

POKERSTARS GAME #14700112398: HOLD'EM NO LIMIT ($0.50/$1.00) - 2008/01/20 - 16:08:46 (ET)
Table 'Feodosia III' 6-max Seat #3 is the button
Seat 2: csquard ($194.60 in chips)
Seat 3: CommanderG ($98.50 in chips)
Seat 6: Be11er ($134.25 in chips)
Be11er: posts small blind $0.50
csquard: posts big blind $1
*** HOLE CARDS ***
Dealt to csquard [Js Td]
CommanderG: raises $3 to $4
Be11er: folds
csquard: calls $3
*** FLOP *** [9d 8c 7s]
Alidrum joins the table at seat #4
csquard: bets $3
CommanderG: raises $7 to $10
csquard: calls $7
*** TURN *** [9d 8c 7s] [Kc]
csquard: checks
CommanderG: bets $19
csquard: raises $161.60 to $180.60 and is all-in
CommanderG: calls $65.50 and is all-in
*** RIVER *** [9d 8c 7s Kc] [5s]
*** SHOW DOWN ***
csquard: shows [Js Td] (a straight, Seven to Jack)
CommanderG: mucks hand
csquard collected $196.50 from pot
*** SUMMARY ***
Total pot $197.50 | Rake $1
Board [9d 8c 7s Kc 5s]
Seat 2: csquard (big blind) showed [Js Td] and won ($196.50) with a straight, Seven to Jack
Seat 3: CommanderG (button) mucked [Ks Kh]
Seat 6: Be11er (small blind) folded before Flop


POKERSTARS GAME #14700046129: HOLD'EM NO LIMIT ($0.50/$1.00) - 2008/01/20 - 16:05:59 (ET)
Table 'Feodosia III' 6-max Seat #5 is the button
Seat 1: DjuNKeLL ($105.15 in chips)
Seat 2: csquard ($133.40 in chips)
Seat 3: CommanderG ($71 in chips)
Seat 4: lino99 ($64.20 in chips)
Seat 5: Rolf44 ($57.05 in chips)
Seat 6: Be11er ($96.25 in chips)
Be11er: posts small blind $0.50
DjuNKeLL: posts big blind $1
*** HOLE CARDS ***
Dealt to csquard [Kh Qc]
csquard: raises $3 to $4
CommanderG: folds
lino99: calls $4
Rolf44: folds
Be11er: folds
DjuNKeLL: folds
*** FLOP *** [5h Tc Ah]
csquard: bets $7.40
lino99: calls $7.40
*** TURN *** [5h Tc Ah] [Jh]
csquard: bets $17.50
lino99: raises $35.30 to $52.80 and is all-in
csquard: calls $35.30
*** RIVER *** [5h Tc Ah Jh] [Jd]
*** SHOW DOWN ***
csquard: shows [Kh Qc] (a straight, Ten to Ace)
lino99: mucks hand
csquard collected $126.90 from pot
lino99 leaves the table
*** SUMMARY ***
Total pot $129.90 | Rake $3
Board [5h Tc Ah Jh Jd]
Seat 1: DjuNKeLL (big blind) folded before Flop
Seat 2: csquard showed [Kh Qc] and won ($126.90) with a straight, Ten to Ace
Seat 3: CommanderG folded before Flop (didn't bet)
Seat 4: lino99 mucked [Kd Ac]
Seat 5: Rolf44 (button) folded before Flop (didn't bet)
Seat 6: Be11er (small blind) folded before Flop

POKERSTARS GAME #14700071611: HOLD'EM NO LIMIT ($0.50/$1.00) - 2008/01/20 - 16:07:03 (ET)
Table 'Pickeringia' 6-max Seat #4 is the button
Seat 1: csquard ($130.40 in chips)
Seat 2: Alpha 5.20 ($309.05 in chips)
Seat 3: Luthor113 ($104.05 in chips)
Seat 4: here2win2003 ($101.40 in chips)
Seat 6: Magardan ($101.60 in chips)
Magardan: posts small blind $0.50
csquard: posts big blind $1
*** HOLE CARDS ***
Dealt to csquard [As 7s]
Alpha 5.20: folds
Luthor113: folds
here2win2003: folds
Magardan: raises $3 to $4
csquard: calls $3
*** FLOP *** [5d 4s 3h]
Magardan: bets $5
csquard: calls $5
*** TURN *** [5d 4s 3h] [3s]
Magardan: bets $12
csquard: raises $19 to $31
Magardan: raises $61.60 to $92.60 and is all-in
csquard: calls $61.60
*** RIVER *** [5d 4s 3h 3s] [Ks]
*** SHOW DOWN ***
Magardan: shows [2c Ah] (a straight, Ace to Five)
csquard: shows [As 7s] (a flush, Ace high)
csquard collected $201.20 from pot
*** SUMMARY ***
Total pot $203.20 | Rake $2
Board [5d 4s 3h 3s Ks]
Seat 1: csquard (big blind) showed [As 7s] and won ($201.20) with a flush, Ace high
Seat 2: Alpha 5.20 folded before Flop (didn't bet)
Seat 3: Luthor113 folded before Flop (didn't bet)
Seat 4: here2win2003 (button) folded before Flop (didn't bet)
Seat 6: Magardan (small blind) showed [2c Ah] and lost with a straight, Ace to Five

btw, I seem to alternate between being really, really good and really bad.

Tom Cruise: Prophet or Wack-Job?



1,881,206 views. That's how many folks have looked at Gawker's article and nine minute video of Tom Cruise speaking about Scientology prior to accepting the Freedom Medal of Valour Award from the International Association of Scientology. He covers a wide range of topics, including SP's (Suppressive Persons) as well as the unique role of Scientologists in today's world. "Being a Scientologist, you look at someone and know absolutely that you can help them," he says in the video. "When you drive past an accident, it's not like anyone else when you drive past. You know you have to do something about it because you know you're the only one that can really help."

My wife has always held Mr. Cruise in the #1 spot of her Top Five Crushes, so I've always been a bit leery about the guy I'm happy to say I can look down upon were we to stand side by side. It also is very easy to ridicule him and Scientology. I don't know anything about L. Ron Hubbard and Scientology, and Cruise can only be described as looking and sounding pretty creepy at times during his video. But his call to action, to doing; I'm sure it is easy for this to resonate with those wandering and wondering. Regardless of your opinion, it is fascinating to see this very different side of him.

I've Never Believed in Eli Manning



I've never been a fan of Eli Manning. Having grown up in Southwest Mississippi, I was raised worshiping Archie Manning during his time with the Saints. Archie's career will always be a testament to quarterbacks that follow about the dangers of heading to a horrible franchise who never builds any line to protect him (imagine Dan Marino or John Elway playing for those Saints).

Cooper Manning was the first great son to follow in Archie's footsteps. Cooper was the gifted athlete of the three, a top wide receiver in New Orleans catching pass after pass from a young Peyton. A congenital spinal problem caused him to shelve his pursuit of football before heading to college, a blow that helped further shape Peyton's drive.

Peyton has been the surrogate for my affection for Archie from the Manning clan (btw, surrogate looks like this year's best candidate for most overused word). You don't need me to discuss his work ethic and preparation. I've always gravitated towards players in the NFL rather than teams (growing up as a Saints fan, can you blame me?). Gale Sayers, Paul Warfield, Jerry Rice, Brett Favre, Peyton Manning. I'd pull for each along with their teams when they suit it up.

Then comes Eli. My father and I always disagreed about Eli in college. He felt the Ole Miss QB was a leader of men. I thought he was a privileged frat boy out of his league. When his father organized the coup to get him moved from San Diego to New York, I thought it was a bone-headed move. Here was an undertalented player going to the crucible of New York?

I listen to Mike and the Mad Dog on WFAN, truly the standard in sports talk radio in all of the land. Francesca was hardly an Eli apologist, but both would continually struggle with the question of exactly which QB would you want after the first five or six rather than Eli. I wasn't quite sure in a head-to-head comparison, but I figured there had to be someone better.

However, Eli has had a transformation over the last four or five weeks. He has somehow decided to simply be who he is and forget becoming a QB in the mold of his brother or his father or Phil Simms or Carson Palmer or Tom Brady or anyone else. He has morphed/evolved into a man, a leader, and the captain of the Giants ship who simply has come to understand what it takes for his team to be successful offensively. It was hardly ironic that he showed this awakening again and again in the 2nd half and OT yesterday while arguably the greatest QB from Mississippi (Brett Favre) showed once again how his momentary lapses in judgment always limit his teams more than they help them.

I'm fine if you argue that Al Harris and the Packers defense was moronic for picking a schoolyard brawl with Eli and Plaxico Burress. Just remember that Burress is hardly Jerry Rice. He was successful because the combined beast of Eli and Plaxico was no match for one defender, whatever his name might have been. Eli looked like he was throwing a Nerf football in the backyard where his crew of undersized neighborhood tykes were battering the older jocks simply through impeccable timing.

I do hope that the Giants can play as good in Arizona as they did at the end of the season against the Pats. And Brady's team is definitely beatable, which makes their accomplishment that much more stunning. Let Vegas set the lines, but here's hoping that these Giants can be led by their frat boy. Eli's finally has figured out he doesn't have to be a giant to become one of the greatest Giants to ever play in New York.

20 January 2008

Home Church: Worry and Seeking

Church was canceled with the cold and snow here (although it is an absolutely beautiful day, with nary a cloud in the sky and a tattered blanket of snow covering the ground). We had home church this morning, where we sing songs, pray, and study a passage of Scripture. It is truly one of my favorite things when the boys are ready for it; sharing with your family brings an intimacy with God that is difficult to describe.

We read Matthew 6:25-34 today, one of the easiest passages to understand yet one of the most difficult to live.

25"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? 26Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life[b]?

28"And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' 32For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

-----------------------------------------
So many life lessons in these words. Do not worry has to be one of the toughest directives that God has ever given to us. If there is anything an American is good at, I suppose, is worrying. the command not to worry would be impossible to understand without verse 33: "Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness..." If we truly are seeking His Kingdom in our lives and are looking for righteousness (right-in-us is the easy way I remember this, or living close to God), then the context of our lives change. The delighters of our lives change. Things become less important than connecting and loving.

Hope everyone has a wonderful day today. Even with so much going on, with the NFL playoffs and school out tomorrow for most us, take some special time today to focus on those closest to you. Even if you're caught up in the games today, take five minutes in the midst of it all to reach out to those most important to you.

Here are a few of the songs we sang in home church today. Take care.





19 January 2008

The Weekend

Snow Day

What to do on a snowy day in the ATL? Get out in it. See my shots from today's winter wonderland.

18 January 2008

What Should You Do in a Recession?

My brother, a Ph.D. Economist at Baylor, sent me to Intrade. This site is a prediction market, where buyers and sellers can bid on the likelihood for certain events to occur. Currently, the US will go into recession in 2008 is trading at 73 (meaning there is a 73% likelihood that this will occur). Note the definition of recession given: For expiry purposes, a recession is defined as two successive quarters of negative real GDP growth.

I'll let more knowledgeable folks get into the nitty gritty of what's going on, why we're in this mess, how long will it last, and what happens at the other end. In my view, we're going to see a few things in 2008:

>> The dollar won't gain significant strength vs the Euro and major Asian currencies
>> Oil prices are going to stay in the $80-120 range
>> Price increases are going to continue to be commonplace in the consumer marketplace, especially tied to scarce recources (stagflation condition)
>> The housing and sub-prime crisis hasn't shoved fully through the economy

So what do you and I do during these times? Here are a few ideas to consider.

1. Aggressively reduce debt Take a good, hard look at your short-term liabilities, including credit cards. Set aggressive goals to cut your expenditures, increase your savings and available credit, and work hard to eliminate any debt with high interest rates.
2. Find one-three additional revenue streams This could be a side business, a part-time position, selling of stuff that you can produce or obtain (excluding theft). Start building now in the event that you need to ratchet up one or more of these sources quickly.
3. Prepare your resume for August 2008 and June 2009 This isn't a typing and formatting exercise. What do you want it to look like after the first half of this year? What can you get done over the next eighteen months? Be prepared as companies will accelerate layoffs under the earnings pressures to come. If your company is struggling, now is a great time to start networking. It is always easier to find a job when you have one.
4. Make the switch if you're thinking about it Have you been pondering taking a new path in your career, say switching to being and educator or heading to Healthcare? Figure out how to start back into educating yourself as soon as possible so that you're ready with new skills in 1-3 years.
5. Celebrate life While you cut costs, find fewer better things to do with your time and resources. Cook and over-the-top gourmet meal once a month. Take only one big trip but make it the best one ever. Take on a new hobby that interests someone else important to you. Shut off your computer two days a week when you aren't working. Use this time as a time to energize the health of your relationships and yourself.
6. Acquire opportunistically There will be deals to be had, so find some resources to take advantage of them. This means that you'll have to spend more time being sure you know whatever it is that you're focused on (so that you know when the deals are great or when you're the sucker). This year will be a year of the buyer for many, many things if you have the resources deploy. Find some resources to deploy and get after.
7. Wait a bit longer, then spend on advertising and marketing These are the prime areas to cut in most businesses, which means these are the prime times to get great deals as well as to stand out in whatever industry you are in. If you are in the advertising and marketing industry, this will be a time where ROI and creativity will be king.
8. Don't shrink away at work Benjamin Franklin, in his autobiography, said that he carried a large package across the streets in the morning then returned with it in the afternoon. The purpose was to give the impression that he was a hard worker. Now is the time to be a hard worker. Take on more responsibility and don't quibble about whether you should be paid for it. Become indispensable and visible. Make absolutely sure that whatever you do is contributing directly to the success of your company. Find cost savings each month, no matter how trivial. Run with growth ideas.
9. Hold off on toys Even if the next plasma screen or iPhone looks enticing, just say no. Liquidity is more important than being cool.
10. Take the losses Sell whatever you were going to sell at the best price you can get. It won't get any better later.
Bonus for parents Teach your kids what's important in life Don't let this be a time that breaks your family apart or tears down your marriage. Show your kids how irrelevant things are, how unimportant what everyone else has is to your self-worth, how important intimacy and involvement are in the lives of your family. Use this time as a time of rebirth for your loved ones rather than a time of tremendous stress.

2008 is going to suck, make no mistake. You can navigate through this if you start now!

17 January 2008

Why I Detest Major League Baseball



Owners extend MLB Commissioner Bud Selig's contract through 2012. This is the same former Brewers owner who reigned over the Steroids era in Baseball, doing less than nothing while every other sport in the world were aggressively pursuing steroids and performance-enhancing drugs.

Clemens, Congress, et cetera, et cetera. All of this, imo, is totally irrelevant after the fact. Why do you think testing is such a big deal in other sports? Because that is the only way to prove what is in an athlete's body. Having Senator Mitchell investigate this ten years too late and putting him in a place where he has to defend himself? Ridiculous.

"Congratulations, Mr. Selig. You allowed your sport to be corrupted by drugs that shifted millions of dollars in salaries from the clean to the users while single-handedly padding the coffers of all of us (the owners). We'd like to keep you around another four years."

Why I Never Finished My Brandi Hawbaker Interview



I saw IGGY's post last week about a new 2+2 thread on Brandi Hawbaker, and I've seen Waffles updating a Cliff's Notes version about the thread. Let me tell you about my own interactions with Brandi, whose phone number in my cell phone always causes me to stop and pause.



Like many, I was intrigued by all of the rigamoro on 2+2 over a year ago with this new girl on the scene. Her name was Brandi Hawbaker or Brandi Rose, she'd been the chipleader at a big Bellagio event only to crash and burn. When the strange 2+2 posts started, many authored by herself, it was hard to figure out if she was even a real person or some cyber-creation.

I was given her phone number and conducted an interview with her over the phone in May of last year. She'd escaped Vegas, she said, and wasn't sure exactly what would happen next. She proclaimed poker greatness, rattling off her stellar results that were to be found nowhere by me, telling me about dark people who had entered her life, about how she'd seen the light.

As I started to listen to the interview and transcribe it, I took my keys off the keyboard and simply listened to it once. I never typed it up and still have the tape here on my desk. Why? I simply didn't feel right about it. I assumed I knew where the truth was in her answers, where the grey area was, where the stretch lines in the truth were, but what was the point? Was there any redeeming value in any of this, to be honest?



Fast forward a couple of months. I'd read the posts about her tutelage under David Sklansky, had seen her at the Rio walking with him, introduced myself to her, gave her a hello every now and then when I would see her. I told her I'd had some problems with the interview and needed to sit down with her again, and she was nothing but nice and gracious to me. She played several events in the WSOP, including the heads-up tourney (see above, one of the first players out of the event--her chips on right).

I didn't know enough about her play and her training with Sklansky to have an opinion about whether the several times that she sat in the Amazon Room were worthwhile. Jennifer Harman had cashed once in the 2007 WSOP, and Brandi had her first cash in a $2k NLHE event. Was all of this lol-blonkaments anyways? Did all of the pot odds and changing gears and position and all of that, was all this one big luckbox anyways? Maybe she was some wunderkid in the mold of Anna or Annette.

The missing piece in all of this for me was that I'd never heard about all the hard work she'd put in, about all the online and live tourneys she'd played in preparation for these big buy-in events.



I never reached back out to Brandi, although I tried to help her as she had her health problem during one event (she'd headed off to the hospital and came back to nurse her stack, IV bandage still in her arm). Maybe I should have. Maybe I should now. Is there any redeeming value in picking apart lives who are more screwed up than your own? Obviously, a huge part of our country think there is (see Britney et al).

Maybe I'll transcribe that tape one day, listen to it again, or even just put it here for anyone to listen to. Maybe.

15 January 2008

The Re-re-reraise: CC's Take

I posted a hand yesterday that I played with Hoy early in the MATH. For those of you too lazy to click, here it is again:

FullTiltPoker Game #4863271790: Mondays at the Hoy (35910897), Table 1 - 15/30 - No Limit Hold'em - 22:07:49 ET - 2008/01/14
Seat 1: csquard (3,125)
Seat 2: pushmonkey72 (3,150)
Seat 3: SirFWALGMan (2,980)
Seat 4: Fuel55 (3,130)
Seat 5: pebble78 (2,940)
Seat 6: hoyazo (2,675)
hoyazo posts the small blind of 15
csquard posts the big blind of 30
The button is in seat #5
*** HOLE CARDS ***
Dealt to csquard [7d 2h]
SirFWALGMan: yay 78 is good!
pushmonkey72 folds
SirFWALGMan folds
Fuel55 folds
pebble78 folds
hoyazo has 15 seconds left to act
hoyazo raises to 90
SirFWALGMan: it was s00ted. I had a backdoor flush draw!!
pushmonkey72: da goot
csquard raises to 245
hoyazo raises to 735
csquard has 15 seconds left to act
csquard has requested TIME
Fuel55: rereresqueeze
csquard raises to 3,125, and is all in
hoyazo: gl guys
SirFWALGMan: this is a fun table
hoyazo calls 1,940, and is all in
pushmonkey72: oops
Fuel55: rerereresq
csquard shows [7d 2h]
hoyazo shows [Th Td]
Uncalled bet of 450 returned to csquard
*** FLOP *** [8h Jc 3c]
hoyazo: NICE
*** TURN *** [8h Jc 3c] [8d]
*** RIVER *** [8h Jc 3c 8d] [5c]
csquard shows a pair of Eights
hoyazo shows two pair, Tens and Eights
hoyazo wins the pot (5,350) with two pair, Tens and Eights
SirFWALGMan: lol
*** SUMMARY ***
Total pot 5,350 | Rake 0
Board: [8h Jc 3c 8d 5c]
Seat 1: csquard (big blind) showed [7d 2h] and lost with a pair of Eights
Seat 2: pushmonkey72 didn't bet (folded)
Seat 3: SirFWALGMan didn't bet (folded)
Seat 4: Fuel55 didn't bet (folded)
Seat 5: pebble78 (button) didn't bet (folded)
Seat 6: hoyazo (small blind) showed [Th Td] and won (5,350) with two pair, Tens and Eights

Jordan asked me to put my two cents in, so what follows is the collective wisdom I have gathered in all my days of poker.

I won't bore you with any actual stats and percentages first of all as I don't have them in my brain. I will definitely go back to some site to figure out odds after the fact, but I won't here as because it wouldn't reflect my decision making. Let me also make a couple statements. I haven't played any tourneys in quite awhile and hardly feel sharp. I have very healthy respect for Fuel at my table, feel Waffles isn't going to get wacko crazy necessarily, and feel Hoy focuses very heavily on tournaments and will be looking to play second and third level good. This really meaning that I'm thinking with the table that he'll be ready to mix it up and make plays on occasion.

This was the 12th hand of the event for us. Hoy had raised three hands in a row earlier, and he made it 90 to go with everyone folding to him in the small blind. I had 72o, and I must tell everyone that I don't play the hammer. I understand it, but I simply don't embrace it nor its power. I read his raise more as a positional, bullying type of raise, just take the pot with any ace kind of raise. I decide to pop him and take it down as I really don't think he is going to call with much out of position. When he raises again, it definitely stops me in my tracks. I just don't see him doing this again with aces or kings, especially with my raise. My thought was that he had the lovely AQ or a little pair and wanted to get it over with right there. I had decided to push but waited for the fifteen second timer to kick in. I do that most of the time when I have a big hand pre-flop when I'm four tabling 6-max. I assumed he could lay down anything but aces, kings, or queens there. I assumed wrong, he was ahead, and he took the pot.

Would I have called with tens? I really think it depends on if I was focused or not more than anything else. I actually think I'm calling with tens only when I'm not focused nor playing well in that spot. I'm sure Hoy had his reasons, but I really don't think he had the odds to call there. I won't go through all of the hands I could have there, but the options are pretty limited. Bayne left a comment that I've played AKs that strongly there, so that is definitely an option where he's ahead. How often am I making this play with that hand vs. aces or kings? I'll let better minds weigh in.

So I actually feel fine with my play at that point with any two cards. Hoy stuck his chips in with the better hand in a place I hope I wouldn't have. I think really the only other qualifier in all of this is if Hoy thought I was just being a total dork and making a pure move. That is possible, to be sure, but I think it is much less possible when I haven't been in the tourneys for so long, probably <5% of the time will I do this with an under pair or junk.

There's all the wisdom I can muster regarding the re-re-reraise. All thoughts are welcome.

14 January 2008

Exhibit A: The Re-re-re-raise

Is it possible for anyone to fold early in a tournament to the re-re-re-raise? As some of you may know, I am no expert in tournament poker. I defer to the experts out there to provide this answer.

FullTiltPoker Game #4863271790: Mondays at the Hoy (35910897), Table 1 - 15/30 - No Limit Hold'em - 22:07:49 ET - 2008/01/14
Seat 1: csquard (3,125)
Seat 2: pushmonkey72 (3,150)
Seat 3: SirFWALGMan (2,980)
Seat 4: Fuel55 (3,130)
Seat 5: pebble78 (2,940)
Seat 6: hoyazo (2,675)
hoyazo posts the small blind of 15
csquard posts the big blind of 30
The button is in seat #5
*** HOLE CARDS ***
Dealt to csquard [7d 2h]
SirFWALGMan: yay 78 is good!
pushmonkey72 folds
SirFWALGMan folds
Fuel55 folds
pebble78 folds
hoyazo has 15 seconds left to act
hoyazo raises to 90
SirFWALGMan: it was s00ted. I had a backdoor flush draw!!
pushmonkey72: da goot
csquard raises to 245
hoyazo raises to 735
csquard has 15 seconds left to act
csquard has requested TIME
Fuel55: rereresqueeze
csquard raises to 3,125, and is all in
hoyazo: gl guys
SirFWALGMan: this is a fun table
hoyazo calls 1,940, and is all in
pushmonkey72: oops
Fuel55: rerereresq
csquard shows [7d 2h]
hoyazo shows [Th Td]
Uncalled bet of 450 returned to csquard
*** FLOP *** [8h Jc 3c]
hoyazo: NICE
*** TURN *** [8h Jc 3c] [8d]
*** RIVER *** [8h Jc 3c 8d] [5c]
csquard shows a pair of Eights
hoyazo shows two pair, Tens and Eights
hoyazo wins the pot (5,350) with two pair, Tens and Eights
SirFWALGMan: lol
*** SUMMARY ***
Total pot 5,350 | Rake 0
Board: [8h Jc 3c 8d 5c]
Seat 1: csquard (big blind) showed [7d 2h] and lost with a pair of Eights
Seat 2: pushmonkey72 didn't bet (folded)
Seat 3: SirFWALGMan didn't bet (folded)
Seat 4: Fuel55 didn't bet (folded)
Seat 5: pebble78 (button) didn't bet (folded)
Seat 6: hoyazo (small blind) showed [Th Td] and won (5,350) with two pair, Tens and Eights

11 January 2008

Merkley??? Party for Launch of 111 Nude SF Girls on Sofa`



merkley??? is hosting a party in San Francisco tonight to celebrate his 111 Nude SF Girls on a Sofa Flickr book being launched. Cost is $111.11 here. Stunning photos from a real pop visionary. If you've never checked out his photos, you simply must. He should hit his 11,111,111th view of his photos sometime today.

10 January 2008

Happy Birthday to Me!

I'll keep adding to this post throughout my birthday.

8:00PM

Two birthday cakes (actually three)!! Two carrot cakes plus one chocolate cake=goot birthday!!

Two Cakes

5:45PM

Congrats to Bertrand "ElkY" Grospellier, taking down $2m and winning the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure. My interview with him this summer at the WSOP. And thanks to Otis and his team for covering it on PokerStars Blog.

2:45PM
Thanks for all the birthday wishes, keep them coming! Here, I celebrated my birthday in my storage closet!

31/365 Happy Birthday!

7:54AM
My middle son woke me up at 6:05 to have prayer breakfast. We snuck out in the fog for omelettes when he gave me a present, "...bought with his own money..." as my wife told me later. It was the Complete Guide to Barbells, so I now have even more incentive to start working out more. It was a total shock when he whipped out a gift for me at the little cafe where we had breakfast. I took him to school then made my way home, where I received birthday wishes from my wife, my eldest son, and my youngest (who just made his way down to my office). My wife hung these framed photos that I took in Paris, some really great shots. I don't have them digitally, but I'll have to get the negatives from my Mom and get them digitally.
10Jan08 002

3:11AM
As part of my birthday, I ran a contest to give away a free Flickr Pro account or iTunes gift card for the response to Britney's Horror Paragraph. It was a tough battle, with Jordan making a strong case (probably too strong--pictured him riding a bus with AARP members to Atlantic City). Here is the winner from a young photographer in Mumbai:

During the past year, Priyanka has been photographed doing a chicken dance with the mayor on Independence day and forcing him too to dance, and has appeared to be a lot more stupider than before. She also made a fool out of herself by only waxing one of her legs ntentionally, beat herself with a grape vine, spent a day in jail for eating the carrot in the cop's garden and has had yellow frog skin growing all over her, including one (finger) in which she has a tatoo saying 'retard'!!

You can see her photos here. Congrats to her, and thanks for everyone who participated. Heading to the sofa to sleep a few hours.

09 January 2008

Chris Sligh from American Idol

Very funny video on making his new album, out in April.

New Hampshire and the Media

My wife and I flipped channels a bit last night, watching the pilot for Cashmere Mafia, Coyote Ugly, and the New Hampshire returns on CNN. (As an aside: Lucy Liu in the Sex and the City knockoff, not sure if it's a keeper; Coyote Ugly, great flick)

I guess I thought this before, but listening to the CNN gurus scrambling then reading the newspapers this morning has me more convinced than ever that the Media is a big part of the problem with at least elections and politics. On the one hand, they all high-mindedly scorn American youth's obsession with Britney et al. Yet here they all are (and I'll say all) forecasting Obama's victory, scrambling with the realization that Clinton would win, trying to explain why they were all wrong. Couple that with all of the Comeback and Upset headlines?

This is trainwreck, Britney, sexy photo headline yellow journalism, IMO. In fact, I think the Media is being irresponsible for both parties. JUST SHUT UP!! On the Democratic Party side, treat this just like Obama did, that this is a long journey. Treat this like Clinton started to understand, that this primary season is an opportunity for Americans all over the country to interface with these two candidates and for these two to interact with Americans. This is a two-person MLB season, so let's treat it like that, that we'll get to see over the long haul what Americans think about these two.

On the Republican side, it is much murkier. To me, the story for all of us is that Huckabee and McCain are showing that they can run campaigns with less resources than Romney and Rudy. Who emerges from the GOP, again, let's wait and see. I'm personally leaning toward McCain if he's alive when it gets to Georgia then deciding between the Democrats and McCain if he makes it or heading for the Democrat if it's anyone else. But again, can we treat this like a marathon rather than a sprint? I think this is just too many experts, too much Media competition causing too much shouting and not enough patience with this.

08 January 2008

Melissa Gilbert Cleavage Redux



About eighteen months ago, I wrote about a bizarre dream that I had. It included romantic interlude with Melissa Gilbert of Little House on the Prairie fame and former Screen Actors Guild President. "Melissa Gilbert cleavage" has been a recurring search engine set of keywords for this site ever since. Her MySpace site is here.

I was reminded of this after my own dream about my wife and I going to TomKat's house for a sleep over. Tom was what we would describe as lacking basic interpersonal skills. He went outside in the morning to see his dog. As I followed, he jumped into a big mud puddle with said dog. He then proceeded to leap into the Pacific Ocean which was on his property (I'd asked him if he and the kids ever swam in the water--it was sort of a little cove filled with sea turtles and rays; he then jumped in fully clothed). As we left, he pulled me to the side and asked how he'd done at beating my record of one hour twenty minutes for a continuous conversation. He was pretty giddy, and I told him we had about ten minutes left. I assumed that we were now best buddies). I'm not quite sure how Tom Cruise got into my dreams. He has held the #1 or #2 spot on the crushed out men spot that my wife has for probably fifteen plus years. It is a list I won't recite for you now.
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