Friday, January 28, 2005

Still Puzzled

If anyone's curious about the solutions for the puzzles posted the other day I've put the answers up for questions 1 and 2 in the comments there.


Thursday, January 27, 2005

What to teach?

I've been thinking a bit more about that silly test-prep job and whether I would take it if the position is really offered. It's part-time which is great, so I can still primarily concentrate on my own business and yet it would contribute a nice, regular stream of income.

The more I consider it the more I recall another idea I had months ago yet did nothing about. Why don't I start up a poker school? So many people I know are starting to take it up, likely due to television exposure I'm pretty sure the demand is there. The course could be done privately or as some sort of continuing education class.

What do you think?

If anyone knows about the in and outs of the processes and/or economics of continuing ed. I'd greatly appreciate it.



What's the longest you've had to wait to hear about a job you were applying for?

July 27/2003 (18 months ago) I applied for this G.MAT instructor position that pays ridiculously well and that I am unusually qualified for. After firing off an email, I never heard back. Until yesterday when I recieved this:

From: PonceyName
To: Irascible Benjamin

Subject: PonceyName


I am new to the PonceyName team and will primarily be working with all of
our instructors. I am interested to learn a little more about your
background with PN as well as your current availability for
part-time work in Toronto. I am hoping to acquaint myself more with all
of the instructors and update our Instructor List. When you get a
chance, let me know about your involvement with PonceyName thus far and
your current availability. Thanks, Benjamin.


Somebody Hyphen-Ated

Likely it's just a big screw-up. If anything else come of it I'll let you know.


Wednesday, January 26, 2005


I hate selling things.

Hate. Hate. Hate.

When what I’m selling is something I have faith in it’s terribly difficult. If it’s something I don’t wholeheartedly believe in it’s a non-starter. I even have trouble selling myself in interviews, and other than fleeting doubts I certainly don’t lack confidence in my abilities.

Selling. Ack.

It nauseates me.


It corrodes my soul.

At the moment I’m leaning towards raising some funds to accelerate the progress of my business and I'm negotiating with potential investors.

Here’s something you can’t touch, but the idea is fabulous. Awesome.

Believe in the idea.
Believe in me.

You’ll make tons of money.

You say the idea might not work. You have concerns about implementation.

The return doesn’t reflect the risk.

But you still want in.

Are your concerns from the heart? Or are you just trying to get a better deal?

Why do you doubt me so?

It’s not personal, just business.

Selling sucks.


Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Linky Linky

Ontario Architechure: Not an Oxymoron!

Accretion Disk Theory Down the Drain? Discuss.

Firefox: Not only a spyplane movie from the 80's but a better browser


Monday, January 24, 2005

Mmm, Asparagus

“Not a small change, like the day you discover you like asparagus after all, or when you stop wearing white socks. This was life altering stuff.”

From chindi by Jack McDevitt

I’ve had a number of these moments. For me, the change seems small at first but yet somehow permeates to other aspects of your life and your outlook in general. There are much more affecting instances but since I’ve mentioned it a few times lately I’ll tell the story about how I became a poker player.

I’d been working in the charity casino industry (30 tables maximum, generally 27 blackjack and 3 poker) for a number of years. I’d started the job as a stopgap after my undergrad to pay the bills while I determined what the hell I wanted to do with my life. I started off as a croupier and was soon promoted a number of times until I was managing the largest operator in T.O. The money was good, the lifestyle was enticingly quirky; I was sucked in.

At this point in time I gambled once in a blue moon, never for any sizable amount of money. As part of my job I was privy to how much money the casinos raked in, both figuratively and literally. Gambling I thought, is only for amusement, nobody can make up for the difference in odds that the casinos get.

The owner of the company I worked for was erratic, mercurial, and arbitrary. One moment he was all smiles and your best friend, the next he was publicly tearing a strip off you. I likely should have left long before I did but the comfort of working with people you know as well as the perks offered when he was in Dr. Jekyll mode somehow kept me around. Eventually, I had too much and switched companies, leaving for pastures that weren’t quite as green yet much more pastoral.

I knew a few of the people at the new firm but most of the staff were complete unknowns. One of the differences at this company was that they had a semi-regular after work poker game where the staff faced off against one another for relatively small stakes ($1/$2 vs. $5/$10, the minimum offered during operating hours). Viewing this as an excellent opportunity to get to know my new co-workers I pushed my misgivings about gambling to the side and joined in. Being a bit of a statistics freak, I kept meticulous records of how I did at these games and was quite surprised to see that I’d won 28 of the 32 sessions that I played.

My winning record, was not by itself, sufficient for me to start playing outside of this environment; I had spent far too long living well off the gambling losses of others to suddenly be convinced that I could beat the rake (the casinos cut of each poker pot) where so many others fail every day. Well that and the stats freak would speak up and say that a sample size of 32 in woefully small. The impetus that brought me to the tables was the provincial governments decision to scrap the industry.

I could rage about the shutdown for a long time, it still gets under my skin the way it was handled, but another time maybe… Anyway, I was (relatively) suddenly out of work and if I wanted to find a new job in the industry I’d have to relocate. Unwilling to move to some backwater bordertown and armed only with a degree in some esoteric science I, along with the rest of the industry pondered what to do.

All of us who had our livelihood summarily eradicated (by the fallout from a non-binding referendum question on municipal ballots) now had plenty of time to think about what we were all now going to do. There’s only so much time one can pursue gainful employment or investigate alternate career choices and needless to say most of us had a lot of free time on our hands.

Now although I was not one of them, casino staff are generally gamblers and I would often get invited to go for a drive up to the casino in Port Perry (about 45 min. away) where the only legal poker room in the province (there are others now, but it’s still my favorite). Before switching companies and my nice little run playing cards I would’ve said no, but with all things considered I began saying yes and hence began my poker playing days.

When I started going it was just to blow some time, have a few drinks and hopefully make a little money to supplement the meager EI checks I was getting. A pastime really, at no point during this time did I consider this as an alternate career choice. Even though I was consistently winning each loss would shred my confidence and I’d be kicking myself for the whole drive back home (if not longer). Most gamblers “chase” their losses, gambling more and more, trying to get back into the black; after each loss I’d stay away for days until I was able to weave the tatters of confidence into something wearable or at least until the ennui of unemployment was too much.

I’m not sure if I ever would have made the jump to playing full time except for one particular incident. About a month and a half into semi-regular play (2 or 3 days a week) I was up at the casino, biding my time waiting for a seat. As is typical, I would survey the various tables, finding where the “action” was best and the bad players were sitting – determining which table I would eventually get seat at when one of the other regulars (who was a good player, and with whom I got along with) saw me scouting things out and asked what my position was on the waiting list. I had just checked and so I was able to tell him that I was next to be seated. Upon hearing this he announced to the table “Nobody get up. We don’t want him sitting here.”

Now, in itself this comment in itself wasn’t really anything weighty but it was the last bit of evidence that tipped the scales to get me thinking about playing poker professionally and to eschew the search for more traditional employment. After this point I ramped up my playing to about 40 hours per week and began treating my poker with much more gravity.

More than finding a needed source of revenue, I now recognized that I had a skill that I could always fall back on if other things didn’t pan out. It gave me a modicum of financial security at the time but more importantly, I didn’t have to take some job I hated just to make ends meet. Lacking this in the past, I’d worked some awful jobs and stayed far too long in unpalatable/unhealthy work environments. Had I known this earlier I would’ve definitely left the high paying managerial job with the psycho casino owner much, much sooner.

Poker has many downsides: unpredictable short-term results, strange schedules and it leaves gaping holes in your resume. This step to playing full-time lasted for a year but the repercussions are still felt. For better or worse I decided to take an unusual path.

I should really wrap this up better but this post is already far, far too long and nothing comes to mind that will enable me to tie it into either asparagus or white socks. So I'm done. The end.


Thursday, January 20, 2005

Innately Irascible

A small confession, the puzzles posed in the next-to-previous post were a cop out a pitiful distraction a thoughtful lead in to talking about this. I’m sure you’ve all read/heard about the comments made recently by Ha.rvard’s president, Lawrence Sum.mers, at a private academic conference stating there are innate differences between men and women.

People are shocked. Dismayed. I don’t get why.

Sure his reasoning may be seriously flawed but that’s not what people are upset about. People are screaming that equality must hold true. Even over specific cognitive processes. Why? I’m unsure. To vastly oversimplify, it seems to follow that the same factors that give males an edge over females in beard growing might also have an impact on the method that the brain develops or the chemistry that helps (or impedes) certain functions. (Not that beard growing and aptitude for math are necessarily complimentary, they may in fact detract from each other.) I’d be surprised that if a definitive study was done eliminating other (largely environmental) factors and it found that men and women have exactly the same aptitudes in all things.

Strangely, math scores from SAT’s over the last 20(?) years, comparing boys to girls, were shown on the news the other night, seemingly lending credence to Dr. Sum.mers statement. As a lead in to the graph the newscaster qualified the data citing likely social factors. No kidding. Why present it at all then? Or better yet, why not compare the top five or ten percentiles (perhaps reflecting only those that had been encouraged to pursue math?) It couldn’t be that hard to do. The sample size would likely be large enough to have a meaningful result and it would eliminate (at least some) environmental factors. Freakin’ Idgits.

What if this, or some other decent study was done and found that women actually had a stronger aptitude for math than men? I really wouldn’t care. I wouldn’t bemoan the fact biology handed me the (slightly) shorter end of the math stick and I certainly wouldn’t try to fashion that stick into a crutch. When I’m told or read that women are innately superior to men in communications it doesn’t make me feel any worse about myself. And it certainly doesn’t dissuade me from using what meager language skills I possess.

I now present a few quotes from a far better communicator, Margaret Wen.te, as appeared in today’s G&M:

“Sometimes the surest way to upset people is to tell the truth. These days it’s not permitted to say there might be cognitive differences… between men and women.”

“Today, women outnumber men in many law and medical schools…. But at the hard-core end of the science spectrum… they’re still a minority.”

“…at the furthest end of the bell curve of pure mathematic(s) (women’s) numbers are practically at the vanishing point. But so are the number of female NBA players and psychopathic killers. And we don’t get our knickers in a knot over that”

Whether or not there's a differnce in aptitudes there certainly could be, so unknot you knickers or unbunch your boxers, differences aren't necessarily bad.


Bass-Ackward Rationalization

See, see - this - is why I drink.

Really, it's for the health benefits.

Now it they'll only do a study that co-relates the benefits to the number of drinks consumed...


Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Puzzled About What To Write

I must be getting better, I finally got around to shaving. Not that the mountain man look doesn't have its advantages but damn, it's itchy. Anyhoo, I haven't really been out and about enough to get into any sort of interesting trouble so in lieu of praising the merits of syndicated television I present you all a challenge:

In increasing difficulty, three questions from seemingly random sources.

[1] From a McK.insey & Co. interview:

You are given a scale (ala the scales of justice) and 8 objects that are identical in every way except one weighs more. What is the minimum number of weighings necessary to definitively determine which object is heavier and how is it done?

[2] Flipping channels I caught this on some game show:

What is the circumfrence of the Earth at the equator? Without actually having this factoid stored in your head there are ways to calculate the answer. I know one I'm sure there are others and would like to hear them. What's your guess and how did you arrive at it?

[3] From the most-wacked out, and likely most intelligent, girl I've dated:

Same sort of setup as #1 but you have 12 objects, one of which is either lighter OR heavier. What is the minimum number of weighings necessary to difinitively determine which object is the outlier and whether it is heavier or lighter? How do you do it?

If someone can get [3] I'd be willing to give some sort of prize, what I have no idea so:

[4] What can I offer as a prize for the puzzle king/queen?

Have fun.

Hints in comments.


Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Going Around

There’s obviously some sort of bug going around out there and I’ve got it too. A stupid annoying head cold; and I didn’t even get to kiss any strange girls to get it *sigh*

When sick, I’m usually one to employ willful denial and try to conduct life as usual, even when regularly emitting trumpet-like blasts blowing my nose and turning said nose red enough that I could likely guide a sleigh on a foggy night. Though unintentional, this likely makes me one of those evil bastards that come into the office/store/pub and introduce the overcrowded herd of germs inhabiting their nasal passages to your greener, unsullied pastures.

This time though my normal remedies and pigheadedness aren’t quite doing their job. In concert with my other symptoms I haven’t been able to sleep for more than 3 hours a night since Thursday and it’s taking a toll. I intended to go out tonight and cause some trouble but I begrudgingly have to admit it’d be too much and I’ll be staying in. One less hazard out there I guess.

Stay well/get better everybody.


Monday, January 10, 2005


WARNING: Contains teasers that won’t be elaborated upon.

Confidence is a funny thing. With most everything being subject to the capricious mistress of luck, even the best strategies can fail causing a cascade of self-doubt. For instance, when I played poker for a living I won 46 of the 50 weeks I played. But after each of those weeks that I lost I’d be left wondering if I really knew what I was doing. Even going and looking over the numbers for the whole endeavor couldn’t fully restore faith in my play.

A biz-school friend of mine, though not a poker player, has been very active in the stock market and even gave day trading a go for a year. Although successful, he too suffered from similar blows to his confidence when short-term results lagged behind historical expectation.

As a tradition we get together a couple of times a year and give a poor, lonely, neglected bottle of scotch a good home. Friday, it was a sherry cask aged bottle of Balv.enie, and yes, it was very good, both the scotch and the company. As is typical we update each other on how things are going and often use each other as sounding boards for biz ideas we’ve got floating around.

Things this time were a little different; he’s found a position that seems a good fit (after leaving the stifling environment of banking (sorry, couldn’t help myself)), we never got around to discussing others from school and I atypically delayed asking him for advice about my current ongoing concern. His advice is usually top-notch and even in retrospect I can’t figure out why I took so long to talk about my project.

Basically, the prime thing that I needed to discuss is whether or not I should try and raise some funds to accelerate the growth of the business I’m working on. The reasons to raise capital are legion (I just needed to write that, “legion” hee hee) but the project’s at an early enough stage that I’d have to give up a lot, maybe too much.

In addition to his take on things I was in part hoping that he would impart a boost in confidence for my undertaking. I’ve already had one effort go down in Hiroshima-like flames and although minor, have recently (Nov) been handed a setback in my current business. After beating around the bush a little I finally got around to the crux of the matter, did he recommend that I seek funding?

Much better than expected not only did he impart some of his typically excellent advice but offered to invest himself. As a result, subsequent to shaking off the residue of the scotch in my bloodstream I’ve been happily toiling away all weekend. Whether or not I go ahead with fund raising my confidence is back up. Funny how that works.


Friday, January 07, 2005 defeats Carls.on

I haven't yet watched Fox N.ews and after viewing this video sent to me by Krazy Courier Girl I likely won't anytime soon. The video should be work safe unless idiots yelling spurious arguments overtop of one another is unacceptable. For a text version click here.

It also includes a segment of the show featuring Caroyln Par.rish and Tucker Carl.son. Also not a fan of this show I couldn't tell you if Mr. Carlson's incoherent hate-mongering and superior attitude were typical. At least CNN let this bufoon go.

Why anyone would want to watch "pundits", and I use the term loosely, pat their country on the back in such unmeaningful ways I have no clue.

Scary stuff.


Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Checking the Odometer

Last post I bitched about the inane practice of celebrating New Years. What sense is there in celebrating the passage of time? Well maybe it gives you a marker to gain some perspective.

New Year’s Day I woke up at a buddy’s house with a minor hangover. The evening before was nothing special, neither was having a hangover for that matter. My friend, like many others recently, has a burgeoning interest in poker and has begun playing online. He knows about the year I spent playing the game professionally and was curious about the casinos around that have the game. Having little else to do we decided to head to the venue where I used to ply my trade.

Other than online or at home games I haven’t played in years. In a skuzzy way the lifestyle certainly has its appeal. You make you own hours, there’s no one to answer to and there’s a certain dirtbag glamour to playing cards for a living. Once upon a time I would average four days a week playing for 10 or so hours a session. Needless to say I was a bit of a fixture and was well known by the staff and the other regulars (either professionals or degenerates or both).

From the time of my arrival to our departure 12 hours later a bevy of dealers, pit bosses, players and servers would come by and say hello, wondering what I’d been up to during my long hiatus. In all, it must have been over 100 people. Wow. What makes this even more odd was that it was brought to my attention how long it had really been.

An old gambling acqaintance noted how short(!) my hair was. Sure enough, I used to have long locks but that was at least 4 ½ years ago. Enough time has elapsed since I was last at the casino for my hair to be cut short (for the temporary dalliance I had with cultivating a traditional career) and for it to grow to its current state as a mad-scientist like mop and for me to become accustomed to it.

If for nothing else I guess that’s what New Year’s is good for, marking the passage of time. Damn, time flies.