October 2nd, 1999

Well, I'm sure everyone is wondering where I've been the last month and why I have not posted to CPROG. Well, a lot has been going on, so let me tell you about it. I've had a bunch to think about lately, where I want to go with my life and what I want to do.

Firepond has received a verbal OK for my work permit from the Dutch government. Hopefully I'll see it sometime soon. In conjunction with that, I've signed another 6 month contract to stay in Holland. This is effective pretty much immediately and replaces my last 2 months in Holland from my last agreement. So I should be here until April. I get to miss the Minnesota winter, yeah! I'll be doing Nathalie's project manager job while she is away on maternity leave. It will mean more paper work and I'll have to work more on planning and reporting than programming. Everyone is telling me it will be good to be more rounded and get project management experience, but I'm not sure.

I went to the premiere of Star Wars Episode 1 again. I did not repeat my American feat of seeing it twice in the first 12 hours. Mark Wall and I went to the midnight show at the best movie theatre in Amsterdam, City 1. It's not the coolest theatre (That is the Tuchinsky), but it has the best sound system. Lots of people were interested in going with us until they found out it was at 12:01. The Amsterdam crowds were out for this movie. Some TV cameras were there. Then Mark was interviewed on Dutch radio, his answers were totally simplistic Dutch, but almost accurate. "Ich wonen Amsterdam!" <I live in Amsterdam> "Es lekker" <It's good>. Until they asked him what he was doing when the first Star Wars came out. Mark didn't understand the question, so I explained it to him. His reply "Mooie Marijuana". <Good Weed>. The interview ended right there. He was joking, I think. The movie was just as good as I remembered. But the plot holes were more pronounced on the third viewing.

I've seen a couple other movies lately. Thumbs up for Analyze This, with Billy Crystal and Robert DeNiro. Thumbs down for Life, with Eddie Murphy and Martin Lawrence. I want to bill those two for the two hours of my life they wasted.

Clare convinced me to go see The Pretenders in concert. Excellent show. It was in a small dance hall, holding maybe 700 people. We were in the front row, right infront of the guitarist. He was superb. Before going to the show I couldn't remember a song they did, but at the show I recognized several songs. Lots of famous bands are that way for me. I nominate the Rollings Stones as another one.

My kitty, Spook has had some episodes lately. She hadn't been herself, snapping at me and crying loudly. I know the snapping is her common behavior to many other people, but this is not her behavior towards me. I suspected the sounds of the dogs barking in the neighborhood, but that didn't appear to be it. So I've been spending much more time with her. I'm trying to be home at night more and grooming her more. She's been better the last week. I define that by no more scars this week.

America! I'm coming home in a few weeks. Probably late October. This means doctor visits, shopping, and seeing my family. I can't wait. Christmas is still a maybe. I might stay over here and go to Christmas services in a 400 year old Cathedral. That has a certain appeal. So does waiting until February and going skiing at Steamboat Springs.

I spent most of the prior weekends at the casino in Amsterdam playing Poker. From 21:00 - 2:00 Saturday night and Sunday from 16:30 - 22:00. I did pretty good. I'm practicing for a large tournament they are planning on holding in November. After winning on Sunday, I enjoyed one of the best steaks I've ever had at NY Steakhouse in Leidseplein.

My philosophy on Gambling: Boy it's fun. That isn't the most politicly correct statement, but it's true. I enjoy Las Vegas, I wish there were more casino's closer to where I live and that they can offer any games they want. So blackjack and poker and craps and anything the patrons want to play they can.

Blackjack is strictly a mathmatical game. Based on odds and what cards have been played, the expected return varies from an advantage for the house of a percent or two, to slightly in the players favor at times. The difficulty is figuring when the advantage is in the players favor and waiting for that brief time to happen. The player has the advantage when the deck of remaining cards is 10 heavy. So you can play for hours waiting for the deck to swing in your favor, then you try and get a large bet out when the odds are in your favor. The casino in Amsterdam uses a perceptual shuffling machine, so it can never be favorable. Players can win, even when the odds are not in their favor. It becomes more a game of luck, and an enjoyable evening. Double and single deck games are offered in Las Vegas and offer a better chance of winning. I'll play for a little while in Amsterdam, but just for fun and practice.

Lotteries/Slot machines - a mathematical view is that they are a tax on stupidity. The state's advertising view is "A ticket to a dream." I believe both. People are fools to believe that they can win, and whenever I buy a ticket I have the best dreams and daydreams. For a buck, I can imagine what it is like to be a millionaire. Most excellent. I can justify the $1 when the jackpot is $100 million or more. I can't justify it for $2000 or whatever slot machines offer. I don't have any dreams of winning when I'm hoping for 3 cherries. I'm more annoyed by the stupid sounds of the slot machines.

Craps - Sam Charchian taught me how to play last time we were in Vegas. Cool game, just not played everywhere and tough to find good odds on. I'd probably play more if it was offered in Minnesota. Odds bets in craps are even money - the house has no advantage at all. The best bet in Las Vegas.

Horse racing - I've gone once with Mike Giles and came close to hitting a few exactas and trifectas. I read books on it before going and discovered it would take quite a bit of effort and studying to get good at it and the returns weren't very good. I enjoyed my day at the track watching the horses, and had some fun for the $50 bucks I spent.

Sports betting - Pretty fun and the odds makers are very good. Most of the time if I bet on a football game and got 6 points, the other team would win by only 5 points. If I bet on Army and gave 10 points, they would win by 9. So you can pick the winner and still lose the bet. Not cool.

Poker - My current game of choice. Specificly Texas Hold'em Poker. There each player receives 2 cards and 5 community cards are dealt. Each player attempts to make the best 5 card poker hand out of the 7 cards. There are 4 rounds of betting. It is very mathmatical to figure out the odds of what combinations are possible and what cards could come. But the psychology of the game is fascinating. Do I have a better hand than my opponent? Is it worth betting on these cards? Could cards come to improve my hand? What could my opponent(s) have? Would they bet like they did if were bluffing? If you play only good cards and fold most hands, the game can be rewarding. Major difference from the other games mentioned - You aren't playing against the house, you are playing for other people's money. Every player buys in for a certain amount of chips and your stack goes up or down by what other players have lost to you. This is a major factor. Some people grow too attached to their chips and don't act enough, others get too personal when beaten. On October 1st, I made a straight flush. It was my second one ever. Neither was a royal flush, the highest hand possible in poker, but really rare anyway. I had the 4 and 5 of diamonds, the flop was 2 of diamonds, 6 of diamonds, and a King of hearts. The turn was the magical 3 of diamonds. I raised, was reraised by a guy on the end of the table, reraised back, he called. On the river, I bet, he called and he turned over a King high flush. I could not believe he didn't have an ace high flush. After seeing me reraise him, he should have folded immediately knowing I had a monster hand. But he didn't and I made an extra 120 guilders from him. I was so pumped I had to walk around the casino for a little bit and let the adrenaline stop. It is important to be calm and collected when playing, so you don't give too much information away to opponents.

Link of the week: Astronomy Picture of the Day http://antwrp.gsfc.nasa.gov/apod/ - Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

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