|random thoughts and thoroughbred selections|
|"All life is 6-5 against" - Damon Runyon|
Thursday, November 16, 2006
If I Believe it to be True
I am Co-Commissioner of my fantasy football league (seven years running) with a top aide to Speaker-of-the-House-elect Nancy Pelosi. Since she's third in line for the presidency, since he's an aide in her office, and since I hold an equal amount of power with him, I believe that makes me about the twelfth most powerful person in the free world.
I want this story to be true too. I think we all have our own metaphors that filter along those same lines. You know, the sort that go, "For every time 'X' happens, 'Y' happens too." I think for me it'd be something like:
· For every time I melt cheese over a meal, I push the reality of having sex again out by at least fifty unaccomplished sit-ups.
· For every time I put more than $10 on a horse to win, some first-time gambler with a $2 ticket sees a 30/1 shot coincidentally named after his best friend's nephew's third grade teacher's dog fluke his way into the winner's circle.
Add your own in the comments if you wish. I will award the title of "Captain Obvious" to the first person who refers to an open-ended straight draw and/or getting all your money in as a favorite.
By the way, I talked briefly with Jeremiah yesterday, who claimed that both he and Mrs. Head were fighting with their internal HR folk over taking time off to join us in Vegas in twenty-two days (!). I support his efforts and wish him the best and most expedient resolution to his problem, if for no other reason than to save us from the inevitable two weeks of posts that look like this:
To look directly upon the approaching tyranny and force myself to see these pant-suited HR drones for the insidious creatures they are, and to confront the innermost part of myself that doesnít want to believe they wish to exert their undue control over what I hold true as paid time off. Devastating, if I may use the word, is the freezing water realization that if we seek to preserve our vacation time then we as Programmers, Architects, Administrators and Help Desk alike cannot stand idly by while pretending the horrors committed in the name of the shareholders and in the name of corporate policy donít exist or arenít as awful as all that. The fix has truly been in for a while now. Devastating is the fact that the people of the IT Department, who used to look among ourselves in large part with admiration or envy, now pity our own apathy, our own laziness, and our own general subordinance to 40-something women setting and interpreting corporate policy through the business end of a sledgehammer. Most Of Our Holidays Are Going To Be Co-Opted By Double Speak And Policy is our new unspoken and unacknowledged legislation. The fact that our broken Human Resources Department or complicit, spineless managers, directors and Vice Presidents do not show us the truth as it is, and the fact that we have collectively used this as an excuse to believe blatant lies in trade for giving up our control of vacation time in exchange for Hawaiian Shirt Day rends me to my core every time I consider it. -(adapted from J's post here)Or something like that. While he's busy gnashing his teeth over Habeus Corpus, these women are plotting to stick you in worthless day-long training courses and looking to cut costs by taking away your access to free coffee in the break room.
They came first for the complimentary crullers, but as a donut man, I did not speak up.
Anyway, seven days and I'm flying back to Michigan for Thanksgiving, twenty-two until Vegas, and thirty-six until Milwaukee for Christmas. Mom's having Christmas with her boys right after the turkey next Thursday, which means we should be celebrating the New Year about twenty minutes after that, and Valentine's Day sometime Saturday morning. I'm almost completely done with Christmas shopping too, with only about $20 left to spend on Bob (any ideas? Email me), and $20 on my step-sister. Everyone else? Done. I've even had all the gifts shipped out to my dad's in Milwaukee, with only a couple of very small items going into my carry-on for the flight back. Now I just have to figure out how to pack in order to maximize space to bring my vast bounty of Xmas booty home with me on the plane.
It's a beautiful thing to be done with your shopping (mostly) before Thanksgiving. I suggest giving it a try next year. Pressure's completely off.
Skip the next part if you don't give a shit about fantasy football...
I'm absolutely giddy right now about my prospects for this year and next in my keeper league, which - sorry Decker - is the only one I really give a shit about. Despite having drafted Daunte Culpepper and Edgerrin James, I'm 8-2 right now, the top scoring team in the league, and have a three game lead with four to play on the next-best team in my division.
Basically, I only need to win one to make the playoffs, in the most likely of all scenarios, as all the tiebreakers are in my hands right now.
Anyway, I'm not only hooked up for this year - barring, god forbid, injury - but I'm going to be in excellent shape for next year too. I can keep Steven Jackson for my first round pick (which will be low in the round), Willie Parker for my eighth rounder (#4 scoring RB in the league right now), and Drew Brees for my thirteenth rounder (#4 QB). Our league has a $100 buy in, and just making the playoffs is good for $150. If I can manage to squeak out these next five weeks without a major injury to those three guys, Chad Johnson or Reggie Wayne, I'm in excellent shape to make my first championship game in this very competitive league.
/end FF talk
Couple of quick notes before I wrap this up and actually try to do some work this morning:
· About two years ago I briefly dated a girl who I stopped calling when she got all shrieky at me in a restaurant after I cut her off because she was telling her friend one of my stories and doing a poor job of it. Anyway, I got word through the grapevine that she's seeing someone now who, apparently, looks exactly like me. Just found that interesting.
· I tried online dating in October, and went 1-12 getting women I tried to contact to return my email. It ended up being the one I most wanted to meet, but after two emails each back and forth, she hasn't contacted me in over two weeks. I'm letting it go, but I can't pretend I'm not ridiculously distraught over my batting average.
· I did, however, have six women attempt to get me to email them back. Here's your composite sketch: not quite done with college, 235 lbs, one-point-two-five children. Strike one, strike two, strike three. Most of them had their own unique strikes, however, such as the one with the finger-in-light-socket hairstyle and the large and colorful tattoo of a scorpion eating a butterfly on her back. Yeah, no thanks. There was another one whose grammar was atrocious, and another who referenced three romantic movies in her profile as what she was looking for ("The Notebook," as one example). Naturally, I would imagine any woman who wants a romance like she's used to seeing on the screen is going to be wildly disappointed when instead of living the Rachel McAdam fantasy, she's stuck in a Woody Allen-esque carnival of neuroses on display. Of course, if any of these women were remotely close to the body type of an early 70s Diane Keaton, I'd probably be more apt to see if they'd be okay sublimating their fantasies to my reality.
· I just started subscribing to Showtime/The Movie Channel on my cable system, and I must say that the three or four week novelty of having access to late night softcore porn has worn off. I think it was right around the time the fecal monsters showed up in Flesh Gordon and the Cosmic Cheerleaders. Not kidding. I did, however, catch the last ten minutes Anna Nicole Smith Playboy video showing on TMC purely by accident while trying to TiVo Busty Coeds. That was like catching a $2 winner on a $1 scratch off at the gas station. It's the little things...
· On a related note, is Jezebelle Bond this generation's Shauna O'Brien? She seems to be in just about everything I've seen on the late night lineup. Whatever happened to Kira Reed? Why aren't these movies as entertaining as I remember? Am I growing up, or has the Internet changed forever the novelty of seeing boobs on TV?
· Still haven't smoked since sometime in either late September or early October. It's unclear as to if I'm going to try to stay away from smoking in Vegas, or if I'll buy a couple of packs for the weekend. The one thing I don't do is bum cigs off people, unless of course they're smoking my brand. Since no one does, that makes that obstacle easy. If I were a betting man, I'd put odds of 4/1 on me NOT smoking.
· Speaking of Vegas, I'm taking the Thursday off (8th) before the Friday departure in order to try and handicap as many tracks as possible for Saturday and maybe Sunday. I figure if I'm more prepared, I'll feel better about playing. Anyway, instead of playing the tournament on Saturday, I'm going to be playing the horses. As you bust out and such, come on over and say hello.
· I also spent some time lately wondering about a specific difference between the divergent cultures of Pauly's sort of jam band fandom and my love of jazz music. Seems to me that both bases of fans are passionate about improvisational music played at some length by talented musicians in environments that are aesthetically appealing to the specific nature of both groups of fans (jazz clubs on one hand, a festival-type atmosphere on the other). So why are there not legions of fans following Herbie Hancock from club to club around the country? Is it the perceived demographic difference? The drugs?
· Unrelated, but staying near that topic, let's throw a big umbrella over fans of "the jam band community" for the purposes of this question. Now, you could segment the fans under this umbrella, and the biggest pieces of the pie chart would be "Grateful Dead fans," "Phish fans," "Allman Bros fans," and, naturally, those that mix their allegiances among these three artists ("Dead/Phish fans," "Dead/Allman fans," etc). I think, generally speaking, these segments would represent - by a mile - the vast majority of the pie chart. Question then becomes, in reference to the whole community, does it buy a fan with more widespread tastes (e.g., "Dead/Phish/Allman/String Cheese/Galactic fan") more "street cred" within this group to have tastes that go beyond what represents the mainstream of that specific group? And does this give the fan whose tastes run to more and more esoteric extremes outside the mainstream more mental satisfaction to know that their tastes are broader and/or somehow maybe "better" than those who claim to be under the umbrella with the most mainstream of tastes?
I'm not applying this only to this specific community. Same question could be asked in poker terms, as someone who understands Triple Draw and 7-Card Stud and plays plenty of PLO8 could look more narrowly at the masses at the Hold 'Em tables as less complete and nuanced than they themselves are. Or, in my case, applied back to jazz music where being just a Coltrane fan means that person is missing out on the great stuff Jackie McLean, Jimmy Heath and Tina Brooks were doing, and they're not as much a fan of jazz as I can claim to be.
I'm not saying that those whose tastes branch farther and farther off the trunk of the family tree of the mainstream are choosing to go to those ends simply because they are looking to establish moral superiority over a cultural majority in the mainstream, I'm saying that a general consequence of increasing the depth of your knowledge of an artform naturally has you comparing the vastness of your appreciation against those whose tastes seem much more narrow, even if those tastes are largely the most representative that exist in your genre to begin with. And this makes your appreciation better than theirs, because it is more vast.
It's the perception of your own taste I'm talking about, not the actuality of whether liking something to a greater degree than the guy to your left actually makes you "better" somehow. Just that we measure what we love in degrees, and the farther you go outside whatever that mainstream is, the more you feel your depth makes your love more real than someone who just loves what's easier and more accessible - even if that stuff in the mainstream is really, really good.
Am I making sense? Do you agree or disagree with that? Help me out here...
Update: Two and a half hours later, I see a link online to this list, the self-proclaimed "Top 40 Bands In America As Voted On By A Bunch Of Effing Music Bloggers That Only Listen To Cooler Than You Guitar Based Indie Rock And Not Much Else." Point is, you've got seven bands of forty (questionably) on this list who could possibly have sold at least a million copies of one of their albums. These guys are not mainstream, and while I think these bloggers making these lists generally and genuinely love "The Decemberists" or "Girl Talk," whoever they are, they are just as pleased with themselves for not pandering to the mainstream by acknowledging that (insert-name-brand-artist-here) made a pretty damn good album this year.
I think they are proud of their "indie street cred." I think they wear it like a badge in instances like this. I think it influences how they see these indie bands, amplifying how much they like them in relation to how much they might if they discovered them on MTV (well, the MTV that used to play videos).
Why Is It...
...that it's surprising when customer service works the way you think it should?
Due to the hefty medical bills I paid in the aftermath of my surgery, I hit my deductible and my "out of pocket maximum" for coinsurance before I woke up from the anesthesia in February. Since I thought health insurance to be a single umbrella, and "out of pocket maximum" to mean in literal terms what it says (you pay this much and no more), I took this to mean that I could start seeing a shrink without having to pay for it.
I looked at my benefits guide, which referred to the terms "deductible" and "out of pocket maximum" for coinsurance in the same way as if I were looking at another hospital stay, so I figured I was good. I wanted to confirm what I was seeing, as since playing with my teeth was covered under a different plan than playing with my innards, there was always a chance that shrinking my brain was different than resectioning my sigmoid.
So I called the customer service line at Blue Cross/Blue Shield, and the operator confirmed that all this was under one plan, and I could see the shrink up to 20 times this year (since we were in September, and since I'm not that messed up, that was a moot point) and it would be covered.
I went twice in September and once in October before I started getting the bills. Turns out, there is an entirely different deductible and "out of pocket maximum" for coinsurance for mental health as there is for physical health. This is entirely unexplained on the benefits charts and in the literature, so I really am clueless as to how people are supposed to understand this going in.
Since I had been told it would be covered by a BCBS rep, I called back and expected to have to fight someone who'd do nothing but deny and call me a liar. Ten seconds into the call the operator had pulled up the previous conversation, admitted freely that operator gave me erroneous information, suggested I write an appeal letter, and gave me the call log conversation number so I would have proper evidence to reference.
On 10/27 I wrote the letter, and yesterday I got an updated statement noting that all three of the visits I was contesting charges on were fully paid.
No gnashing of teeth, no escalating the conversation, no forcing me into a partially acceptable solution, no denials, arguments or counter-offers.
I asked once, they paid in full. This shouldn't be so hard to believe.
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
NaNo is NoMo
I'm going to try not to complain too hard today, as there was a profile on the news last night of an eighteen year-old girl on the ten year anniversary of her hemispherectomy, and how she went from seizures shaking the left side of her body every two to three minutes as a child to living without half her brain and functioning at a remarkably high level. She's a college freshman, drives a car, has no speech problems, and aside from the fact that her left arm hangs fairly limp and she walks a little funny, she's totally fine.
Cute too, might I add.
Thing is, I still have to bitch just a little bit, but if you bear with me I'll link you to some good stuff at the end.
First, I've thrown in the towel on finishing the "book" by end-November. I intend to write it, but it's just going to take longer to draw all that suckage on to the page. Anyway, it's not all bad that I'm giving up. It's the job situation that's irking me lately.
Just to recap my last nine months or so career-wise, at about the same time I was asked to help out here in Pennsylvania on what I understood to be a temporary basis, some other good opportunities opened up for an internal move/promotion in my company in Portland and Chicago. I applied to both, started interviewing within my group for them, but was asked to take the temporary situation here in Pennsylvania and give it the stability it needed.
Basically, we've been in a competitive bid situation for about a year here to take our piece of the pie and expand it globally. This is a ridiculously attractive notion to me, as if I can put that experience under my belt, I'll be the only person in my company to have taken our business to Europe. As our little division gets bigger, and as the business I'm in (outsourced procurement solutions, in a nutshell) becomes more widespread with Fortune 500 companies, the expertise I'd be able to acquire through a global launch is going to position me in a unique way within my company.
That's why I'm here and not in Portland right now. The possibilities to be a hero here (with the stability, which I've achieved) along with gaining the experience no one else will have were just too attractive to pass up.
Anyway, the bid decision kept getting pushed out as the year went on. June, then July, then September, then November, but now I'm actually convinced they're going to decide before year's end. If we win, I get what I want, I get a promotion, and I'm here in Pennsylvania for the long term. If we lose? Well, I still have a job with my company, but they're probably going to ask me to move again. Not only that, but I've watched my peers get promoted, people on whom I have over a year of seniority get promoted, and to this point I've had nothing but unfulfilled promises that it'll be "my turn soon" tossed my way. Three years with this company, I'm doing a job that's two levels above my title (and paycheck), and I'm about to get jerked around again if we lose.
This bid thing is entirely out of my control at this point, and I've tried not to internalize it too much. Yesterday though, my contact who's in the room with the decision team, and who usually is extremely tight-lipped about what's going on, came to me and gave me some inside info about where my company is "perceived as weak." I don't think he comes to me with this if we're still 50/50 even or 51/49 ahead of our competitor here, so the only possibility is that we're behind. And frankly, I don't think he comes to me if we're just negligibly behind either.
So I got a little angsty again yesterday with the house of cards I've been putting together here threatening to collapse, and the frustration of knowing that if/when they move me again in the wake of all this shit, that I'm probably going to see my long-deserved promotion pushed out just a little bit farther as I get my feet wet in a new situation. In all actuality, there's really no reason that they couldn't promote me with another move, other than I won't believe I actually have been given a new title and a bump until I see it in writing.
On the table as possibilities for a new destination if this thing goes south here include New Jersey and DC, and maybe Oregon. I should know more in late December.
It could be worse, I suppose. I could be in a more tenuous situation with my career's continuation dependent on the outcome of this bid decision. I don't think I'm going to be out on the street with all this crap falling apart (if it falls apart), as none of it will have been my fault. There's also a distinct possibility that the competitor makes a play to bring me aboard their team if they land the bid, which would get me the bump and the title I feel I deserve. That's actually fairly common in our industry, taking the consultant along when the program is acquired. I'd have a hard time moving though, as I believe in my company and really enjoy and trust the people I'm working for. But, then again, if I get this knowledge of global procurement with the competitor, I could always come back to my current employer down the road when the right situation came around for me.
Thanks for listening, now here's your reward... Go here and register, then go listen to stuff like:
· Van Morrison from the Bottom Line in NYC - 1978 (try the show-closing "Caravan" or "Into the Mystic")
· The Band at Boston Garden - 1974 (with a rollicking "Up on Cripple Creek")
· Clapton in NYC - 1970 ("Little Wing" is exceptional)
· Dire Straits in Central Park - 1981 (featuring an absolutely ridiculous "Sultans of Swing")
· And, oddly enough, John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band - 1986 (trotting out "On the Dark Side," which may be cheesy, but is definitely likeable)
300 some-odd shows you can stream here, with everyone from the Dead and the Allman Brothers Band (the usual suspects), to Flock of Seagulls and Moby Grape. I tooled around in here for a couple hours last night, and was just absolutely giddy.
Question is, is there any way to capture/record streaming audio in an iPod-ready format? Someone smarter than me should have the answer to this one, right?
Also for your amusement:
Funniest thing I've heard all day: "And I think that the Vatican has got to -- needs to wise up or shut up. Am I wrong, Mr. (Pat) Buchanan?" - Bill O'Reilly from last night's "Factor."
Second funniest:"OK. No offense, and I know Muslims. I like Muslims. I've been to mosques. I really don't believe that Islam is a religion of evil. I -- you know, I think it's being hijacked, quite frankly. With that being said, you are a Democrat. You are saying, "Let's cut and run." And I have to tell you, I have been nervous about this interview with you, because what I feel like saying is, "Sir, prove to me that you are not working with our enemies."" -- Glenn Beck, last night talking to Minnesota's newly elected Democratic Rep Keith Ellison, who is Muslim.
"I know a black guy. I like black people." NH Beck... nh.
Sunday, November 12, 2006
ReviewMe? Review You!
On the advice of Maudie, I signed up for the ReviewMe service, just to see what the deal was.
Since the following is a paid review and advertisement of sorts, I guess you could figure I've signed up and will give it a test drive for you.
ReviewMe is a website where you can submit your blog for consideration from possible advertisers, and they can offer you cash for your time and troubles. You end up getting set a "price" by the site after they calculate what your posts are worth (using Technorati/Alexa and RSS sorts of formulas), and your "payout" is half that number.
For example, I was given a price similar to Maudie's by ReviewMe, our payouts would be half that, and I'm required to give you 200 words on my impressions of what ReviewMe all about.
Free money for a little work. I can dig that. You control what you agree to review, and you're not pressured into writing only positive words. As a matter of fact, that's against the rules.
Here's the thing though... I don't know enough yet to tell you whether or not ReviewMe is going to be worth your time. What kind of things are they going to ask us to review? If it's something like a movie, are we going to get comped for it? Will we get sent books and such in the mail, or will the advertiser reimburse us? And how prompt will the payment be? I opted for the check to be mailed, although PayPal is an option if you're set up to receive it.
So I'll keep you posted as to how this thing is going. I don't figure I'll get all shilly in this space, but if I happen to get offers to review things I'd be buying/seeing/whatever anyway, why not make a couple of bucks along the way?
It's not many bucks, and the only offer I've gotten (in the ten minutes) since I've signed up is to review ReviewMe itself, but give it a shot if you'd like. I don't think there's anything to lose...
Bill Simmons @ ESPN
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