31 January 2004


Woohoo! Opportunity is off the landing platform and Spirit is expected to be back to 100% functionality by tomorrow. Opportunity has already detected iron oxide which is hypothesized to have formed in liquid water.

Also of interest to the incredibly nerdy might be this discussion on /. about the specifics of the software failure. For the history buffs, this page about the first successful photographic mission to another planet, as experienced by a Mariner IV scientist, is very cool.

Marathon Session

After dinner tonight I worked on my current project of transforming an antique stereo cabinet into a TV table/cabinet for our living room. As usual, my carpentry leaves a lot to be desired: the end product will be pretty ugly looking. I guess I'm not patient enough to get it just right, like Scott.

At about 10:30 I decided to join MRhe in the poker lounge. A conversation at dinner had given me the idea to try the 10-20 Hold 'Em game at UltimateBet more frequently. I discovered that the game is definitely juicy, but also very dangerous.

I had one of those streaks of cards where you get monster hole cards which totally miss the flop. This was compounded by a few flopped flush draws which didn't pan out and then a few hands where I made calls on the end which were clearly mistakes. The bottom line was that after a couple of hours I was stuck on the order of $600 and wavering dangerously close to busting my online stake.

I hit a couple pots and then hit another rough run and it was suddenly 2AM and I was still hovering around that -$600 mark. I was getting pretty exhausted at this point but I was determined to make some of it back before I gave up. Thankfully I was able to stave off sleepiness and catch a couple of lucky breaks. I was in one three handed pot where all of us had an ace and I was outkicked by both dudes when the flop was A high. Thankfully I turned aces up and took down a $300 pot. A couple minor victories later and I flopped a set of Queens from the small blind and two callers gave me action all the way down. At the end of that hand I was holding firm at $1006, showing a monster $6 profit.

I played around to my blinds and dropped $30 on KQ before calling it quits. I'm not sure I'll ever be so happy with a -$24 session again.

30 January 2004

A-Side Poker Room

I've always wanted to get custom poker chips but I've never had any reason since I don't have a regular home game. Hopefully that will change soon, giving me an excuse to splurge on cool chips and design my own table. On the left is one of the sample chips from the aforementioned website and on the right is a proposed $25-denomination design for the A-Side. You can see the A-Side artwork in more detail here.


29 January 2004

Royal Flush

I did a google image search for "royal flush" in order to try to find some images to use for some artwork I'm doing. I discovered a number of things I did not expect:

  1. There are tons of people who name their horse Royal Flush. Seriously, there were more pictures of horses than playing cards in the search results. This holds true (to a lesser extent) for dogs, mules, goats, gerbils and cats.

  2. One manufacturer or anal-plugs makes a model called the Royal Flush.

  3. There are a number of toilet-hardware related items called Royal Flush (this one is perhaps not unexpected, but it was amusing to see so many pictures of toilets).

  4. There was at least one disgusting picture of a hacked open clogged artery, from a page discussing a procedure known as the "Royal Arterial Flush".



On the right is the portrait of Andrew Jackson from the twenty dollar bill. On the left is presidential hopeful John Kerry. Spooky. Also, this must be the least flattering piece of campaign propaganda ever rendered. The Committee to Elect John Kerry should definitely solicit Adobe for a donated copy of Photoshop.

28 January 2004

Grow A Penis

My boss today pointed out that Spiro Agnew has an unfortunate name-anagram. He also pointed out the hilarity which can ensue when you enter the following at your friendly neighborhood UNIX prompt:



I've accrued a lot of Dartmouth friends and acquaintances, mostly via a certain MRhe. My freshman year I went out with a girl from Dartmouth (whom I met completely independently of Mike) and between the two of them, it became my school-away-from school. Among the many things imported to my life from Hanover are kitchen-table pong, a position as Russia in a PBEM diplomacy game, a lot of slang, and, most recently, this really sweet email from a friend of Mike's who is currently a prop player at the Hollywood Casino:

5-5 pot limit at hollywood park, the game i've been playing for the last few months. i'm rolling, and have about 1400 in front of me when i pick up two kings. there's a straddle and a limper, so i make it 50 to go, get a caller to my left, and demetrii (who loses somewhere between 100,000 and a million a year in this game) makes it 200 to go from the small blind. i flat call, and dude to my left calls. flop comes 5-6-7 with two clubs, he checks, i bet 600, he moves me all in, and i call. "i've got a straight" he says. i almost puke. the dealer deals off a three, and a queen, i shrug and flip up two kings. he shows me an ace and throws his hand into the pot. "you got the pot" he says. i count it up at 2,885 dollars. what a monster fucking pot.

about an hour later, i'm planning to leave before the blind hits me. my last hand, i pick up 7-7. call the 5, demetrii makes it 25, and there are 2 calls to me. flop comes 5-7-9 with two spades. i bet 105, demetrii calls, others fold. turn is a five. i want the pot to be huge, since he's probably drawing dead, and will hopefully get there, so i bet the max, 315. demetrii thinks for a while, then says "you really don't want me to buy it, do you?" then he calls. i know he's either drawing, or trapping me (he thinks) with the trip 5 he just hit. either way, i'm check raising him on the river, so he can bet his draw if he hits it, bluff if he misses, and so i can double up if he's trapping me with the trip fives. dealer peels off a queen, and i give a quick check, trying to convey extreme weakness. i love it when he says "bet the pot" so quickly and ferociously that i think he probably missed his draw. i have some second thoughts as i'm pretending to ponder what i'm going to do, but remember what my instinct had told me. 'if he's got a hand, he's probably got trip fives, or maybe even fives full, and he'll definitely pay me off.' i push all in for about 2,400. demetrii hesitates for five seconds, and i think he might even fold it. then he begins a tirade

"if you have two queens in the hole, son, you have just made the best bet in your life. otherwise, you have just made the worst. i am calling you with nines full." he flips them up. i grin, "alright. see yall tomorrow." the net loss was four hundred, but those two minutes was every penny of three grand.


The New York Times ran a story (free reg. required) today about people who find deals on eBay by searching for misspellings which cause posted items to get few bids and thus sell for a fraction of the price for similar items.

While the idea itself is clever, and I wonder how many searches eBay will start getting for dimonds, anteeks and j00lz as a result of it, I'm most amused by the following quote from a woman trying to sell "chandaleer earrings":

Ms. Marshall, who lives in Dallas, said she knew she was on shaky ground when she set out to spell chandelier. But instead of flipping through a dictionary, she did an Internet search for chandaleer and came up with 85 or so listings.

She never guessed, she said, that results like that meant she was groping in the spelling wilderness. Chandelier, spelled right, turns up 715,000 times.

Interesting to see how people check their spelling--not even by looking a word up in an online dictionary, but by googling for the proposed spelling. Also goes to show that this woman has no concept of the size of the interwang since she thought 85 hits on the word "chandaleer" made it bonafide. I'm sure Amrys will be fascinated by all this, as it's right up her alley.

27 January 2004

Extreme Programming

Continuing with my rover obsession, today's news is that people on Earth have recreated the problem on Spirit and are working on a patch to be uploaded to both rovers ASAP. The forecast for Spirit is good: NASA now thinks it will be fully functional again within a few days. The problem was evidently due to an out of control filesystem hosing the flash memory.

My question is this: "How does the dude who wrote the code with the bug feel?" I feel pretty bad when my software has a bug and somebody working at another university has to send me email asking about some kooky result he got, and I'm occasionally stricken with panic at the thought that somebody could've published flawed data generated by my software. What about discovering that bug when the two platforms running the app are 100 million miles away?


I'm getting my hair cut at 3:30 today at Dellaria in Kenmore. This represents two firsts for me:

  1. Getting my hair cut at a "salon".

  2. Having to schedule an appointment for a haircut.

Maybe those are really manifestations of the same thing? Anyway, John recommended his stylist, Kelly, and I figured, "Why shouldn't I pay a little extra to get a real haircut?" Now, of course, I'm terrified; what do I know about salons? I need to learn to relax.

26 January 2004


Being a new bløgger, I have a quick etiquette question: If somebody you know comments on your bløg, is the appropriate place to respond in the comment area? Do you just assume he'll see your response some day? And now for something completely different.

The Continuing Saga of Bungalow Spirit

I don't know why I'm so fired up about these rovers. Actually, scratch that, I do know why. I've had a love affair with NASA since I was a little kid and now that I've strayed from the career path that might've led me to work there I can only enjoy their excitement vicariously.

Seems like this weekend was a big win for the whole team: Opportunity splashed down right in the bullseye with all systems go, and Spirit has made real progress towards getting back in action. Evidently its flash memory was having some problem with the filesystem, causing the thing to reboot like 120 times in the last couple of days. Does WAL*MART have an outlet on Mars? You can get a CF card there for like $50.

But back to what I said about abandoning my childhood dream of working for NASA... I guess it's never too late to try it, even now. It's scary, though to think about trying to get a job there with my shitty grades and my unrelated work experience. Gah, the last thing I need now is yet another reason to reconsider my grad school plans.

A Big Leak

I've recognized a big leak in my poker game lately. I eliminated my occasional problem of playing crap hands like QT after a long boring stretch of bad starting hands. Now the problem is when I go slamming in with AK after a long drought and the flop is 479 rainbow. I bet at the one dude in the pot and he raises me and I call him, refusing to believe he could possibly beat my gorgeous hand (which is now not that sweet). Even worse, I call on the turn and the river despite having A high.

Gotta remember that flopping 17% isn't enough if you're seeing 80% of your flopped hands down to the river. Yuck.

24 January 2004

My Good Friend Brenda

Got email from Brenda today with the Subject "Check out my snatch!" I'm very relieved about this, since I recently sent her an email which went a little something like this:

Dear Brenda,

How's your snatch? The last time we spoke, at that screening of that French film by that artistic guy, it seemed that you were worried about your snatch. I hope that he/she has overcome his/her problems. In any event, please do let me know when I can next check out your snatch.

Warm Regards,


I'm considering going with Scott's TMDA email gestapo approach.

Ongoing Spirit Saga & The Final Frontier

So the latest on the Spirit seems to be that it is fux. For some reason I have a really personal reaction to its demise (or at least its entry into a coma). I was actually excited by the President's whole Space Exploration speech. A part of me knows that it's a reelection gimmick and that Bush, unlike Kennedy, planned this thing for so far in the future that he doesn't have to worry about getting the prodigious amounts of money required to actually do this thing.

Still, there's a part of me that wants to work for NASA and that wants them to recapture the glory of the Apollo days. I have a very emotional reaction to the idea in a kid-looking-at-the-stars kind of way. Apollo is an example of the kind of project that captures a generation's imagination and becomes bigger than the people working on it or the specific goals they have. Going to the Moon didn't accomplish much for the average American (unless you count Tang), but it became a source of unity and pride.

I desperately want George W. Bush to mean what he says about a new plan for NASA. I thought the Mars rovers' success would serve as a prompt to the public to pull together behind that new vision, but it looks like we're losing the element which matters more than a bigger budget or a commitment to finally mothballing the shuttle: our Spirit.

23 January 2004

Spirit in the Sky

At 8:30 AM EST, NASA got about 20 minutes of data from Spirit at a rate of 120 bps (yes that's bps and not kbps). Not exactly enough for the planned Earth-Mars pr0n feed, but a big relief for the JPL nerds, I'm sure.

Big Fish

I saw Big Fish last night. It was a really nice piece of filmmaking, and it reminded me of my thinking about writing for the stage. The first job of the author is to tell a story. Big Fish tells a lot of stories, including the central one which links all the others together. I think it succeeds because it never wanders too far from telling that story by indulging in fluff or outrageous fortune.

I do think that they could've handled a few things better in terms of the film itself. The bit where the goon from his high school is reintroduced as his love's fiancé is over the top. We know who he is because the Ewan McGregor sports-hero sequence left us wondering why this dude was being highlighted. And the coda should've been cut short right after the funeral. But I guess those are two nit-picky personal preferences.

22 January 2004

Spirit Dead?

Seems that NASA hasn't heard from their Mars rover, Spirit, in more than 24 hours. What a disaster this would be. Just as people are getting excited about space exploration and the President is calling for manned missions to the Moon and Mars, NASA suffers yet another technical failure. It's depressing.


21 January 2004

Too Many Secrets

How relieved am I that Setec won the hunt? Very relieved.

Random would've had the same problems we did in creating a hunt for next year. I hope they get the chance to do it soon, but I think we need MH2005 to be written by some old pros with a track record for extremely well written puzzles as opposed to some fancy-schmancy theme/characters/gaming aspect. Hopefully Setec will get us back to a shorter hunt with more polish on the individual puzzles.

As for me next year, I'm not sure what will happen to the Armada. I know that some people are bummed that Setec won because they wanted to try to hunt with them next year, and that some people would rather hunt with anyone than have to see our motley crew again. I'm hoping that some core of people will stick together and that we'll have a fun group for next year. My biggest fear is that the people I really like on the team will end up splitting into two separate groups and I'll have to choose between them.

Ack, why the fuck am I even thinking about this? Can't I just forget about the Mystery Hunt? PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF GOD!

Mystery Hunt Withdrawal

I'm still having Mystery Hunt related nightmares and I'm still waking up with images of puzzles flying around in my head. Hopefully that will wear off soon enough. What's even more troubling is the sampling of reactions to the hunt that I've seen.

A lot of hunters were quick to criticize the brokenness of many of the puzzles and "bad attitude" of the call center operators. As for the former, there were many puzzles that were broken as all hell, and I guess I just feel guilty for not writing and solving more. I certainly learned some things about writing the hunt, and I think there was a broader lesson there but I'm not sure what it was.

And about the call center bad attitude, that was a combination of a few people on the Armada who just don't understand how to behave reasonably toward other people and a few people on hunting teams who took it way too seriously. People need to chill out--if you're doing the Mystery Hunt, you're obviously not stupid, so just relax and don't worry what some random person says over the telephone.

I guess I wish there had been some acknowledgement of all the work we did this year. I know how much I worked on it, and I wasn't even in the top ten biggest devotees.