Archive for November, 2008

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Sports Betting Is A Capricious Mistress

November 17, 2008

I don’t gamble on sports very often anymore, and weekends like the one that ended yesterday make me delighted that this is true.  Gambling is by nature arbitrary, and losers are often prone to consider what wretched God would allow things to go the way they did.  This is all the more true in sports betting, where you wager not just on a team to win, but on a team to win by a certain amount of points, a fact that has nothing to do with the team’s decision making process – for them, a win by a point is as good as a win by ten.  For you, not so much.

Take yesterday’s Steelers/Chargers game.  66% of the money wagered in legitimate gambling venues was on the Steelers to win by five points or more (this is not great for the casinos, who would rather have about half the money on either side of the wager).  With 10 seconds left in the game, the Steelers go up by one point and give the ball back to the Chargers for one final play.  Now, there are a few options here for the millions of people who bet on the Steelers.  End the game with no change, you lose.  Other team scores a touchdown, you lose.  Steelers intercept and run out the clock, you lose.  The ONLY situation that has you winning is “Steelers get the ball (either interception or fumble recovery) and run it back into the end zone on the same play for a touchdown,” which is exactly what happened, and millions of people couldn’t believe their fucking luck.  Then, a whistle blew, the referees called the play dead on a violation by the Chargers and took the points off the board.  Steelers didn’t protest, they won by a point instead of 8 points, but they still won.  Chargers didn’t complain, they lost by a point (instead of 8 points), either way it’s a loss.  Tens of Millions of dollars didn’t care, they went to the casinos instead of the bettors. Later, the referees admitted their mistake, but since it didn’t change the outcome of the game, the score remained as it was, Steelers by one.

And it’s not just professional football that is arbitrary.  On Saturday, the USC Trojans were beating the crap out of the Stanford Cardinal, when the Cardinal lined up to score a field goal at the end of the game. Now, a field goal doesn’t change the outcome of the game in any way, and apparently it just annoyed the coach of USC that Standford was prolonging the game to make the drubbing only marginally less impressive.  In a bit of a petty move, the USC coach called timeout just to give the opposing kicker a couple minutes to stress about making the kick successfully.  The coach of Stanford, upset at the pettiness changed his mind and called a different play, throwing for a touchdown; again no impact on the final outcome, a significant margin of victory for USC, just a mild bit of gamesmanship between two petty men.  This play was successful, and the point differential caused by this touchdown allowed everyone who had wagered on Stanford to beat the spread to win, and everyone who had wagered on USC to lose.  This bit of minor bad sportsmanship between two people who couldn’t (literally, are not allowed to) care one bit about the official wagering line affected the shift of millions of dollars nationwide.

All that said, I lost $5 on the Lakers Friday night.  I think that fucking TripleSteak bartender is bad luck.

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My Bartender Is A Triple Steak Guy

November 16, 2008

Living in Los Angeles is weird.  The guy in the cheap leather jacket in this Taco Bell commercial (“medium well”) was my bartender Friday night when I went to watch the Lakers game at a local sports bar called The Parlor in Santa Monica.  I always knew about the “waiter/actor” stereotype, but up until now, I only ran into celebrities I knew, out living their lives or wannabe celebrities I didn’t know, taking my drink order.  This was the first time I got waited on by somebody I’d seen on TV.  Famous enough that I recognized him easily (he’s a character actor who has been in a number of commercials) but not famous enough to be able to quit mixing drinks for people.  Weird goddamn city.

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Malaysia: The Future Awaits

November 15, 2008

I’m a comparably big internet dork, which is to say “more so than anyone I know, but much less than actual dorks you would meet on the internet.”

For example, not only do I use Firefox instead of IE, I customize the shit out of Firefox to my specific tastes, including editing the application registry so that I don’t have to type my Google searches into the built in search bar, but can just type phrases directly into the Address Bar (where you would normally type in the URL you want to visit) and hit return to feed that query to Google.

But here’s where being a “comparably big” internet dork gets you. Somehow I fucked up the registry edit & while I can query directly from the address bar, every single time I do, Google asks me if I want to restrict my search to just “pages from Malaysia.” What are you trying to tell me, Google? Why Malaysia?  Is this a clue?  Am I supposed to leave my current life behind and move to the land of young ladies with peanut butter colored skin & a poor grasp of communal property laws?  If you say so, I guess I have to do it.

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Los Angeles On Fire (again)

November 15, 2008

Living in Los Angeles, I regret the absence of seasons, specifically snow days, several times a year. Growing up in England and living on the East coast I miss the change, the exotic nature of days where everything is blanketed, etc.  In specific, I remember the blizzard of 1996 & the impact of massive snow drops on a city ill prepared for the outcome.

But I’ve noticed this year that L.A. has its own version of extreme weather in the form of giant raging hillfires.  In the last three years, I’ve had the following fire related experiences:

  • Ash & smoke making the air cloudy from Los Feliz fires as I walked into a club
  • Major strips of the hillside along the 405 laid bare overnight barely two miles North of my house due to a fire that flared up at 1:00 AM and was out by morning.
  • Entire chunks of the coastal drive to San Diego completely reinvented by massive, countywide fires earlier this year
  • As I sit here tonight, the hills on the north side of the San Fernando Valley a good 20 miles away are burning out of control, and the smell of woodsmoke is carried on the wind into my back yard, where my daughter is playing.  It’s a bizarre sense; the weather is cooling, the winds have slowed, and I can smell the ruins of hundreds of peoples lives through my open window

It’s not as peaceful, nor as beautiful as snow, but it is exotic & memorable.  I suppose the same could be said for earthquakes, mudslides or any other devastating force of nature.

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Sears Layaway

November 14, 2008

This is my favorite spam of recent days. Layaway. Like in the pre-credit days. Amusingly, everything in my house was bought on reverse layaway, where I take the product home with me today and don’t pay anything for it for months or sometimes (in the case of my television) years later.

Layaway is, if I understand it correctly, “give us monthly payments and we’ll hold on to this item for you, and when you’ve paid it off, you can take it home”.

I love that Sears is selling this scheme like it’s a consumer benefit. “Keep Gifts Out of Sight!” You know, with the little cupcake approaching the inquisitive age, hiding her Christmas presents will be a problem. Maybe I will hide them at the toy store until Christmas!!

“Reserve the Best Before It’s Gone!” What era of product scarcity are these ads living in? I’m pretty sure that if the Samsung TV I’m looking at sells out before I buy it, that’s only because a better one has come along that costs less.

What’s next for this relentlessly optimistic harbinger of consumer hard times? A Pawn Shop? “Tired of stuff cluttering up your house?!? Turn that old guitar into HARD CASH!!”

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Time To Go To The Nickel

November 14, 2008

I’ve been interested in a trip to The Nickel, a new diner in downtown L.A. that is run by three interesting women (including a former pastry chef from Thomas “French Laudry” Keller), but two things today pushed me over the edge.  First, Jonathan Gold (the LA Weekly’s pulitzer winning food critic) named The Nickel one of his “99 Essential LA Restaurants”, and second, I saw this article about how The Nickel is now selling bacon donuts.  To quote Jonathan Gold’s review:

Even given the gentrification of downtown, the Nickel appears less like a diner than a movie set, a seemingly unreconstructed ’40s-era greasy spoon that popped up a few steps from what used to be considered the gamiest intersection in town, on a block where artists in natty hats share the sidewalk with homeless guys and dazed European tourists. The Nickel occupies the site of a long-forgotten diner — the remodelers uncovered hand-painted wall menus with prices last current during the Truman administration — but while the restaurant reflects the flavor of the neighborhood, it is more ambitious than that: The BLTs come with arugula; the hash is made with spicy pulled pork instead of canned corned beef; and all the toast, including the cinnamon-dusted Nickel Bag, is made with bread baked in-house. There are fancy dishes of baked eggs over polenta and mushrooms, as well as the usual fried (and vegan scrambles), brioche, as well as pancakes, and alongside the freshly squeezed orange juice is a cucumber-intensive house-made version of V8. The Nickel, which serves only breakfast and lunch for the moment, is a new kind of downtown diner, a Ships for a generation for whom full-sleeve tattoos are the new black — and it’s about time. 524 S. Main St., dwntwn, (213) 623-8301

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Dorkiest news report ever

November 14, 2008

In this report from the UK about a woman divorcing her spouse because he was “online cheating” with another woman in the avatar based “Second Life” community, the following paragraphs were particularly memorable:

The couple met in an internet chatroom in 2003 and married in real life and in a fantasy tropical setting in Second Life.

However, Taylor always had suspicions about Pollard’s online loyalty. At one point she hired a virtual detective to test whether his avatar was cheating on her, after finding him at the computer watching his character having sex with a prostitute.

There’s so much nerdery there, I’m not sure where to start.  I’m willing to acknowledge that couples meet on the internet and those meetings can lead to marriage, but this goes way beyond that.  The couple married twice? Once in real life and once in Second Life?  She hired a “virtual detective”? Such things exist?  He was watching his character have simulated sex with a virtual prostitute?  There are virtual prostitutes?

Is there are shadenfreude-esque word for the mixture of fascination/revulsion/pity/amusement/superiority I’m feeling about this whole article?