Thursday, May 29, 2008
Here is a short anecdote to show off how truly lazy I can get. With the exception of rent and my utilities, which gets tacked onto my rent, I pay all of my bills online. I set them on the corner of my command center and typically deal with them around the middle of the month. All I have to do is log onto my checking account online and set the date for which they are paid. It's a painless process that literally takes minutes. As you recall, mid month I finished the novel and took a break. Too lazy to pay the bills. Instead I finished off those Stargate episodes (more on that in a minute) and started pondering my God and my faith. Too lazy to pay the bills.
Anyway, it gets to the 26th, Memorial day, and this is when my internet bill is due. Still too lazy to pay it. On the 27th, I finally sit down and pay all of my bills. Don't worry, they're all on time except for my internet. Literally hours after I pay the bill, my service is cut. The bill will take a couple of days to process so I am currently without internet access. Hopefully, it'll be turned on late Thursday or early Friday. It wasn't like I forgot to pay it. Every day or two, I'd look at the bills sitting there and I just kept putting it off. Too many important things to think about, but really, that's just heady talk for, too lazy to pay it.
I am fortunate that I have evolved into a high enough being that I can access the internet with my mind. It seems the only tools I need to aid me in the process is my laptop and the wireless connector that's built in.
As I said a moment ago, I finished yet another project. My ten seasons of Stargate viewing has been completed. when last I commented, I praised the show for starting a cerebral long term plot arc. Unfortunately, it only lasted the second half of the ninth season and the first half of the tenth season before returning to the single serving size that bored me. I may, someday, revisit this plot arc, but I doubt I could muster up the energy to watch the entirity of this show again. Don't get me wrong. It's a fine show for what it does and it is enjoyable if for no other reason than it takes itself no more seriously than it needs to, but at the end of the day, I do not find it as gripping as I do other shows sci-fi shows. Mosse insists the show is much better when viewed one episode per week as opposed to back to back. I am sure he is correct.
That was a lot of TV viewing for me over the last month and a half or so, but I am glad to get it out of the way. It means I can start a new project, and like it or not, it's going to be the second novel. I have started it already, but not by much. Essentially, I have completed the preface and now it is time to pick up where I left off. I may or may not get to starting on it this weekend. Kim was supposed to come out and visit while attending a tea convention, but she had to cancel as things were too busy at the building. She has asked me to attend part of it on her behalf so I can pick up the literature.
In doing this, it will be the first time I have actually bothered to go down to the far end of the strip. I have been working on getting back on to a daytime schedule so that I can attend this convention for a day. It will also be good since I want to start the second novel in earnest on Sunday or Monday For some reason it has been quite tough flipping schedules this time around. I slept this morning from about 6am to noon and it was easily one of the worst six hour periods of sleep I have ever had. I was up seven times in that six hours, but I think this is a good thing. With any luck I can manage to stay awake until late this evening and sleep all night. We shall see.
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
Unfortunately, the word lame has undergone a slight metamorphosis since his day. He meant the word to imply crippled, not boring or "unfun" as it is often taken today. Even the Catholic church has begun accepting mass quantities of science into their coffers, up to and including the Big Bang Theory. If only they could get over their sexual repression, especially the use of birth control, I'd probably give them more respect. Sexual repression is an issue I have with most Christianesque churches. For whatever reason they are trying to treat sex as a mental and spiritual exercise when it is a biological one, but the issue of sex is not what I am to discuss today.
I have been thinking about the concept of Faith itself. It is a curious thing. By definition, matters of faith require no proof. I find it to be the foundation of hope and optimism, so without it, I feel people would lack enthusiasm, curiosity, and desire. A person with no faith in anything is truly a mere shell of a person.
I find it unfortunate that modern science has chosen to attack back at religion as religion has attacked it in the past. Worse yet, religous people choose to cut off their nose to spite their face, by denying science. We've all read about the religions/cults that believe in the healing power of prayer. Whereas, I will be the first one in line to say that people should rely less on medicines and focus more on their health, there is no amount of prayer that will help most cancer patients. We've also all read about the miraculous remissions that sick people can fall into overnight. Miracles or not, such things do not happen to everyone. Not even enough to warrant blind faith that the Lord will cure them. I see no sensible thought process that prevents a person from praying in addition to chemotherapy and/or operating.
Of course, in such an extreme cases, I am sure those that will be reading this blog agree with me. Yet, it points out the extremity of faith. The lack of a need for proof and it doesn't have to involve a strict religious setting. Of course, this example uses such a vehicle, but there are examples where faith misleads a person, and it has little if anything to do with organized religion.
Michael Crichton, yes, of Jurassic Park fame, spoke of such an example. He has become quite the philosopher of late and in particular, he speaks of environmentalism. Somewhat unfortunately, he does so from an anthropologists point of view and has used the anthropological definitions of what constitutes a religion. By this account, he decrees environmentalism to be a religion. I am not going to debate the merits of this point of view, since, as I have spoken in previous posts, one can make a definition as they see fit and mold it to their own ends. I will employ Potter Stewart's archetype for a definition in that I cannot fully define what a religion is to consist of, but I know it when I see it, and I am a long way off from counting environmentalism as a religion. More abstractly, I have no doubt that you can define an apparent religion from anything that involves faith.
I digress; How does one observe issues of faith in environmentalism? The simple truth is that most environmentalist "facts" are nothing more than observations that make sense to the average person. Let's start at the top: Global warming. There really is only one fact that we know about global warming and that is the observation that the earth is warming up. Without wasting the time to look up the precise numbers, I believe the average rate of increase is in the neighborhood of 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit per century. I could be wrong. Feel free to correct me, but whatever the proper figure, it is not anything anyone would notice in their lifetime.
Of course, since my childhood, third grade in fact, I have endured theories in the news and the classroom about greenhouse gases and other sorts of speculations. Quite simply, they are all theories that try to explain why the earth is warming up. Like many boys, I had a curiosity in dinosaurs and read about ice ages and other natural disasters that eventually wiped them out. As I got older, I managed to correlate the two phenomena and form an opinion of my own. In particular, we know the earth has undergone four ice ages in the last million years. The last one ended about 10,000 years ago. To my thinking, the ending of an ice age must be defined by a warming trend. In short, we are obviously still in the warming trend of the last ice age.
Thus, any discussion or theory about global warming must take this into account, but they do not. People concerned about the environment, and for the record I don't blame them for I am concerned myself, have sought modern causes for something that started quite naturally 10,000 years ago.
Quite frankly, there is little evidence of man's impact on the environment because it does not suit those with the proper resources to look for it. There is no funding from big business because they would be wasting resources to shoot themselves in the foot. There is little funding from governmental resources because our government is run by big business. Worse yet, people still have the power to influence don't want to pay for it in the form of taxes, so they let the science pass them by in hopes that they won't have to deal with the environmental fallout in their lifetimes. Of course, that's not faith. That's sticking ones head in the sand.
Where does the faith come in? Environmentalists accept certain things on faith. They accept without proof, the greenhouse gas nonsense. Not so much because it makes sense, but because they need to believe that this our fault. Obviously, they feel the need to protect the environment and are willing to accept unproven statements to back their belief that we need to change our ways. Again, I couldn't agree more. I am not debating the merits of their position, merely, what causes them to accept that position. They attempt to grasp at science to prove their claims about the degradation of the environment, but in reality, science doesn't have their back.
I could go on, but I am kind of running long. It is perhaps best that I simply link the speech Michael Crichton gave in regards to environmentalism as a religion. He makes the point far more eloquently that I could. I highly recommend it.
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
As a logician, it pains me when people say such stupid things. This statement is OBVIOUSLY self-contradictory. It takes about 0.02 seconds to come up with an example of something that is not possible. For instance, I cannot physically be both 5 years old and 55 years old at the same time. I could continue with examples, but you have already come up with examples of your own no doubt.
I have not written the past few days. It is the crash I inevitably go through once I accomplish a goal. I need to take a little time to recover and set new goals. I have also not allowed myself to set any time consuming projects. If I am to do that, it will be a writing project. Specifically, the second novel.
As a result, I have been doing a lot of thinking. These thoughts do have a catalyst. As strange as it may seem, the Stargate episodes I have been watching have finally gotten good. It took until its ninth season for it to start asking really deep questions about life and death. The first eight seasons were your standard TV bullshit. Every episode its own little story and at the end it was concluded with a pretty bow slapped on top. It seems this candy is what endures on television, because any show I have ever seen that has an intelligent, well crafted, story arc continuing from episode to episode, dies a quick death.
In the ninth season, the show begins to have a serious continuing arc that allows one to go into some serious theological and philosophical debates. So what happens? The show becomes so cerebral that, after changing it's formula, it is canceled by the end of the second season under this new format. I am not here to discuss or debate the stupidity of the average television viewer. I understand that most people cannot handle discussions any deeper than what lies in their tissues after they blow their nose. I typically put these people in the "Cows just chewing away at their cud" category and move on. If you're reading this, you're unlikely to be one of those people.
Since I have been thinking away at these deep issues for a few days, I will likely talk about them in my posts for a few days. We shall see. Anyway, getting back to my initial comment and tying it in with Stargate episodes. In short, the show begs the objective question, "what is God?" or "what is a god?" I think I'll get into those questions at a later date. For now, I will discuss my views, and get into more tomorrow.
First off, I do believe in God as a creator, however, I am not a Christian. Naturally, I believe in many of the Christian principles of the Bible, and some of the principles, I do not. Simply put, I am not a Christian because I do not accept that Christ was the direct Son of God. I believe he was the son of God in the same way that we are all children of God.
That said, I do not believe in an all knowing, all powerful creator. If such a thing existed, anything would be possible and we all agreed at the beginning that that was a self contradictory statement. Feel free to reassess your opinions that you carved out of the first paragraph. I am not here to convince you my thoughts are correct. I am simply expressing my thoughts.
Back in the days when I was learning and teaching fencing, one of the students was a Presbyterian Minister. She and I became good friends, mostly, because I did not treat her as a Minister. I treated her like anyone else. She found it refreshing to have a friend who was not associated with her religion, but that is not to say we never discussed theological matters. Naturally, I proposed the age old question, "Can God create a stone that he himself cannot move?"
Obviously, the question is self-referential intentionally. In logic, it well known that the cause of many many paradoxes are due to self-referential statements. The obvious verbal paradox created here is that we have set the stage for something that God cannot hope to accomplish. Either God cannot create such a stone, or it is possible for there to exist stones that God cannot move.
My friend countered with, "Why would he want to?" A valid point, although, not a logically valid point. We can all see the sensibility of her statement, but it evades the argument without addressing it. If you go back to one of the logical fallacy pages I offered last month in my Slip Sliding Away post, this type of counterargument is called an irrelevant appeal.
The above discussion is a funny thing that is a cousin to faith itself. The question is not illogical to ask, but the answer, either way, is irrelevant. It is a curious thing that it is up to the individual as to how much logical self-contradiction we allow our perception of God to have. If you choose to accept God as an all knowing, anything is possible, type of God, then you are allowing your universe to make as little sense as is logically possible. Contrariwise, if you accept that God has limits. That is, there exists things that even God cannot accomplish, your universe can actually be made logically consistent.
Again, this is just the logician throwing out my thoughts, my but this makes sense to me. I have no problems in believing in a creator that has flaws and is even capable of failure. My universe is not consistent otherwise and that is unacceptable to me because God did not create the universe to be so messy. I used to tell my calculus students that if I didn't make five mistakes by lunchtime, I wasn't trying hard enough. If I was truly made in God's image and I am but a shadow of that likeness, I hesitate to imagine how many mistakes God sets out to make by lunchtime.
Sunday, May 25, 2008
For instance, I spent a few days working on math. Granted, that was a couple of weeks ago and I didn't expect to make any real progress on the problem, but it is always good to revisit such things from time to time. I have also been working on watching all those Stargate episodes. They are getting cumbersome, but I am beginning to see daylight in the stack. I am getting close to the end of the 8th season. That makes a little better than two to go.
Last night,I couldn't watch anymore Stargate, so I started another new side project. It has kept me from getting any writing done for close to two days, so this week will undoubtedly look bad on paper. That is, if one considers just raw numbers. But I am giving myself a little leeway since the first novel was just completed. Knowing myself, I will likely lolly-gag until after Kim leaves from her visit next week. I'm okay with this. Hopefully you guys are too.
Anyway, one of the topics I come back to time and again is programming. I find that it amuses me to work my problem solving skills in a different formal language other than mathematics (or English for that matter). I don't usually give it top project status, but the last time I dabbled in Java was about three years ago. I programmed a board game that I had played in an arcade when I was in high school. Yes, they actually had arcade board games. It was a relatively simple game and I had previously programmed a version just after I finished a programming class while still attending Hobart College. Yes, that means I did it for fun and not as a class project. The class project, I programmed a Tic Tac Toe game that my friend John claims to have beaten, but the only way that could be possible was if he was using an outdated or corrupted version of Java. I programmed it to be unbeatable.
Anyway, I called the game Complexity and I was never happy with the original version, so after breaking up with Rebecca, I programmed a new version from scratch. (I used it as a tool to take my mind off the break-up. It didn't work very well.) It had been seven years since the last time I had done any programming, so I had to reteach myself everything. The new version kicked butt if I do say so myself. I spent about 10 days on it. Working anywhere from 10 to 18 hours a day. I can email it to anyone who wants it, since I used a tool to make it into an executable. The artificial intelligence (AI) I made for it, will beat me more than half the time. Of course, in studying the game to create the AI, I believe that if I ever try to program the game a third time, I will be able to make an AI that I would have no hope of beating. Strange how that algorithm is still in my head and I have continued to work on it these past three years.
I continued working on that project for more than three weeks. I took the game up a notch in the next iteration so that each time you beat the game, a new rule was added, and the game would get more complex. One of the reasons I named it complexity. The most interesting thing about that project was that I used the same AI algorithm for all the levels. In other words, the computer never considered the new rules when it computed its moves. It played as though it were still playing the base game. At the higher levels, the AI was just as tough. I found it an intriguing experiment in game theory. Basically, the lesson I learned from studying these types of games along with the AI, was to determine the main focus of the game, make your strategy, and then keep your eyes on the prize. That is, most rules are often there to distract you. A lesson I try to carry on in my day to day life.
That's a bit more of tangent than I wanted. Basically, I wanted to teach myself how to create macros for my computer, but I didn't want to spend 5 weeks on it. So last night, I picked up a tool that would allow me to make some simple macros. A macro is a small program that does nothing more than perform a simple task at the push of a button (or click as the case may be). Basically, they are made to do repetitive annoying tasks on your computer, so you don't have to.
I doubt I'll spend too much time on them since there is very little I can use them for, but I am sure they'll be most useful in making things go smoother in my internet browser. I use Firefox to surf the net and the program I am using has a special plug-in with this browser. I am sure I'll get tons of joy making little programs here and there. More likely, I'll hardly use them at all. But it is another iron in the fire.
Friday, May 23, 2008
Since it's raining and pouring, the old man, namely me, has been snoring. I slept a good portion of today, but I will get back to that later. I went to the Hilton to watch a basketball game last night. This is the first time in a couple of weeks that I have done this, mostly because having the long term bets on the line, I generally opt to avoid watching the games involved. Watching a game where I have $3000 on the line is a little more stressful than I want to deal with. I'd much rather check in later to see how the bet settled.
Anyway, most of my closer friends know that I have been complaining about a semi-long term ear issue. I have been assuming that it is an infection that won't quite go away. Most ear infections will go away on their own and this one seems to clear up for a couple of days or weeks and then returns. I have been trying to figure out when exactly the pain kicks in and why and I think I am getting to some of the triggers.
The last couple of weeks I have spent huddled in my apartment, forcing the daytime schedule on myself. I've gone out mostly to go to the grocery store and a few other nearby establishments (like one place to make a bet or two). Mostly, I've just gone out and have come right back. As I've blogged, it's been pleasantly quiet for myself.
Last night, after hanging out at the Hilton for a couple of hours my ear started bothering me for the first time in several weeks. By the end of the game I was on the verge of a migraine and I knew it was imminent. I came home and went to bed a bit early, but after sleeping for a few hours I awoke with the migraine intact and couldn't get back to sleep. I consumed 4-5 ibuprofin tablets and watched some more Stargate to pass the time. Eventually, as in five hours later, the headache had dulled enough and I went back to bed.
That was around 8am, and I slept until 1:45 this afternoon. I somehow doubt my precious daytime sleep schedule will survive after 3 weeks of continuity. Oh well, I was kind of getting bored with only be awake during the days. I guess.
Getting back to my ear, I am pretty much convinced my problem is not an infection. I think I may have incurred some damage to my ear drum. Perhaps, I blow my nose too hard. Actually, I think that likely. I have been improving my technique over the past few weeks. It was obvious to me that sitting next to those loud, repetitively noisy slot machines very quickly aggravated my ear last night and after getting some rest and enjoying the peace in my apartment, all signs have gone away.
The best I can do is to continue to self diagnose it. I don't have medical insurance to get it checked out properly and will just have to suck it up, much like I did when I first blew out my knee and had to forgo physical therapy. Much like the time I crashed on my bike and broke my wrist. That wasn't so bad. It healed in about six months and I suppose if I couldn't function I would have gone to the doctor's to have it fixed properly. Then there's the second and third time I blew out the same knee. I didn't even bother to go to the doctor's for a diagnosis on these occasions. As long as I listing ailments, there is the plantar fasciitis I have been complaining about in my heel for more than a year.
Well, no need to go on. I have been old for well over 12 years now and since my life is likely half over, there's no need to dwell on the things out of my control. All I can say is, thank goodness we don't have free health care in our country. I am so proud that we attempt to commodify everything. With any luck, some pleasantly international corporation will start charging me for rainwater like they do in Selangor, Malaysia. Or better yet, force me to apply for a permit to collect rainwater, like the World Bank tried to Cochabamba, Bolivia.
Excuse me, I have to run outside and get some of this rainwater while it's free. Hopefully, my ears, wrists, and knees hold out while I'm at it.
Thursday, May 22, 2008
Anyway, I guess that title doesn't exactly describe me. It seemed I enjoyed my Monday/loaf-day so much I did the same thing on Tuesday, so nothing new to report on that day.
I decided yesterday (Wednesday) that I had to get a move on and get back to writing, but when I woke up, It seemed my internet had been shut off. It seems I received my first DMCA warning. After yawning, I decided it was a good excuse to write first rather than waste a half hour perusing the weather and other equally useless websites. I'm not sure why I check the weather every day here. Especially since it never changes, unless you consider "Sunny and beautiful" a significant change over "Sunny and hot". I never checked the weather in Albany.
Monday and Tuesday was "Sunny and hot", so I could pretend that that was my excuse for my period of sloth. Yesterday was "Sunny and beautiful" with a high of about 82 and today, the high is supposed to be about 73-75. (Yes, this is in degrees Fahrenheit.) It does not appear today could be more perfect.
So anyway, after getting in a session with a nominal bit of writing, I called Cox Communications about restoring my internet access. It was truly painless procedure and it appears my downloading of an episode of the "The Simpson's" was the cause. I have never heard of a TV episode causing a DMCA flag, so I assume it was because of the Simpson's movie that was released last summer.
For those of you that don't know what a DMCA warning is, DMCA stands for Digital Millennium Copyright Act. A law passed about the turn of the millennium to supposedly protect people's copyrights. Unfortunately, it a basically a stop gap measure pushed through by corporate interests in hopes of them having to delay making changes in their economic advertising model. Which, of course, is in dire need of being updated to accommodate for the new mediums provided by the internet and other technologies. So rather than grow with the times, they are trying to punish people like me who are capable of circumventing their advertising. At the moment a DMCA warning is nothing more than a corporate finger wagging asking me to play ball.
Technically, they have civil recourses. They could sue me for copyright infringement, but it would cost them more to sue me than they would ever be able to get out of me. The RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) has attempted to target a small number of people to sue for this infringement, but they have mostly targeted poor people, who cannot afford a lawyer and can be bullied to settle out of court for a few thousand dollars. As far as I know, they have lost or backed down in almost every case that has actually gone to civil court.
The DMCA warning I recieved was from the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America). The MPAA serves many more DMCA warnings and as far as I know, they are yet to even sue an individual, though I know they have gone after a few piracy rings. I am not opposed to them going after those who attempt to profit from their work, but trying to scare people like me who profit nothing, is a waste of my time and theirs. We both know they aren't going to waste their time suing me. And thanks to the Safe Harbor addendums to the DMCA, those who provide internet access cannot be sued for the acts of those who use the service, so Cox Communcations is safe from my actions. They are only required to pass on the DMCA warning on to me. One can only hope that Kim and Charles have been paying attention to the last couple of sentences should they ever seek to protect themselves from litigation.
The real problem is that copyrights and patents are an archaic concept that have never been adequately updated, more correctly, they have been too slow to adjust to the quickly changing media of the last ten and fifteen years. They were originally created four and five hundred years ago not to protect the author/creator of a work, but more so the publisher. So even in those "ancient times" they were a byproduct of "big business". If they actually protected the creator of a work, I'd probably be much more respectful.
Despite the corporate tsk-tsking I received, my internet was restored in minutes. The representative even said I did not have to delete the file. I merely had to remove it from my BitTorrent queue. It appears the only downside is that Cox Communications has a three strike policy. After a third DMCA warning, they will drop me as a customer. I suppose that is fair enough, considering they have to pay for the resources to slap my hand and tell me, "No!"
After being booted, I suppose I can switch to Verizon DSL, where I'll have free access to the services of ESPN360.com. Cox Communications doesn't offer this service. I won't even have to go to the Hilton to watch my basketball games. I guess I better get downloading....
Monday, May 19, 2008
Today was one of those "lost" days. I didn't really do much of anything. With the temp getting up so high, I wasn't too interested in seeing if I wouldn't melt, or more likely, evaporate. I chilled out in my apartment all day, though chill is an inept word since it wasn't until 7pm until I turned the air conditioner on. My apartment was not unbearable, but eventually, it got hot enough that I started to sweat while sitting. A fine sign that things are too hot and it's time to cool off.
As I said, I did nothing. No writing or anything of value to myself or society. Played my alien game online for a bit. I watched a number of Stargate episodes. A TV show that I can only say was done competently. It's not bad for a TV show, but like anything it allowed itself to get a little too formulaic and I can see through an episode in the first 10 minutes. Thus with 35 minutes remaining, the rest of the episode gets a little cumbersome to watch.
I suppose I continue to watch them merely to see how things turn out. Besides, when I talk to Moose, I can complain while he tries to defend the show. Though he has his issues with the show, he appears to like it much better than I. Sadly, we discuss it at length and even tie concepts into the books I/we are writing. There is merit for me in practicing these critiquing skills at the very least, so I will press on. Who knows, maybe they'll come up with some stuff to surprise me.
Naturally, watching these episodes was not the goal I was talking about when I started this post. That was a tangent. Mere filler, which I guess describes the entirety of this post seeing as I really did nothing at all today. It can be therapeutic to do this from time to time. I wish more of my friends could take a day off to sit around and be completely devoid of any human contact for a full 24 hours. If only to just recharge a bit.
Anyway, the goal met for today, after seven or so weeks, was that I finally finished the Easter candy Kim sent me.
Sunday, May 18, 2008
These temperatures are, apparently, about ten degrees over the norm for this time of year. Tomorrow's high is predicted to reach 107 degrees. Almost makes me feel like spending the afternoon in a nice air conditioned casino. I probably wouldn't think twice if it weren't for all the people smoking in the casinos. Apparently, it is not as bad as it used to be because even Vegas is starting to jump on the public smoking laws bandwagon, but people are still allowed to smoke in the sportsbooks and on the casino floor. It is tolerable every once in a while, but even I am prone to migraines when I spend more than a few hours around the smoking masses.
Things have also been heating up with my betting. The astute among you will have noted that I have not commented on it in well over a week. The truth is, I don't like talking about my bets when they're pending. I don't treat the money as "pending" I treat it as though I have lost it, until it is won. I discussed it momentarily with my mother when I spoke with her on the phone, and she wanted to know how it was going. I was vague and merely said that if my current bet loses, then I will be behind and if it wins I will still be well ahead.
That particular bet took about 10 days to settle and it finally won this afternoon. Originally, I went to the Hilton to bet on a hockey game, but when I arrived I noted that they had posted in-series bets for the second round of the NBA playoffs. This means, I would be betting on which team would win the seven game series, but the series had already started. Both the Lakers and the Celtics were up 2 games to none in their respective series'. They had each won their first two home games.
The line on the Celtics series was -1500 (laying $1500 wins $100) and the Lakers series line was -1000 (laying $1000 wins $100). I stared at these two lines for about twenty minutes and performed a few calculations that finally convinced me that these were better bets than the hockey game. (Turns out the hockey bet would have own and the follow up bet I would have made the next day would have won as well.) I walked back home to grab more cash. I had only brought $500 with me to bet and returned to the Hilton with $3000. I parlayed the two bets: $3000 to win $520.
The quick analysis: I was betting on the two favored teams and they each had already won two games. Thus, they each had to win two more games before losing four for the bet to win.
The longer analysis: Teams do come back from being down 2-0 in a series. In fact, it has happened 13 times out of 211 different series where this scenario has occurred. From this, I reasoned that each team had 93.8% chance of winning their series and so combined, both bets had about 88.06% chance of winning. The payout I was recieving, $3000 to win $520, written as odds, is 75 to 13. To break even on those odds, you need to win 85.23% of the time. That means my chances of winning were 2.83 percentage points higher than the payout odds. In essence, I had an advantage over the casino.
Of course, these are the slightly more refined numbers. When I was sitting in the Hilton and had to do all of this in my head, I rounded things off and came up with a little better than 3 percentage point advantage. It is rare when one can get a payout advantage at a casino, but I found one and bet a lot of money on it.
Mathematicians and statisticians are very fond of talking about these advantages as time goes to infinity. Effectively, assuming these calculations continue to hold, I could make similar bets over and over and in the long run I would make money. Similarly, if I were to stand at a craps table or a blackjack table long enough, I am pretty much guaranteed to lose because of the house edge.
What I find funny about this mathematics mentality, is that I only get to place this bet once. The calculations were enough to convince me that it was a good bet, but the betting advantage I had is not what sold me on the bet. What sold me was the 88% chance of winning. This is far more important to me seeing as I am not going to have money to be making bets like this as time goes to infinity. I've got about a year, and advantageous bets like this will only come up once in a while.
Getting back to the "getting hot" theme. As it turned out, the Lakers won their series four games to two, but the Celtics, sort of, let me down again. Their series went to the seventh game again. The home team won in each of the first six games and the Celtics hosted the 7th and final game. I didn't bother to check to see if I could hedge this bet. I probably could have come close to a small losing hedge (as opposed to last time where I had a small winning hedge). But I decided that I couldn't be looking to hedge out of all these types of bets. I wouldn't get anywhere if I did that.
Fortunately, Boston won 97-92. That puts me up $575 for the month and $1770 since I started. That means I'm still on a pace for paying about half of my total bills. I can live with that for now.
Friday, May 16, 2008
I have written 27,477 words since coming to Vegas.
The final first draft total is 103,806 words. (The file has 291 pages if you prefer that as a standard no matter how vague.)
I just spoke with Moose and read him the last seven pages and he likes the ending. So it is partner approved. Nothing is effectively resolved and I am not sure it is a solid breaking point for ending the first novel because of this, but it is where I wanted to be when ending the first novel, so as far as I am concerned it is done.
In some sense, this fulfills one of my childhood dreams of writing a novel. It is a bit hollow as far as victories go seeing as how the story is completely unfinished and in some ways just beginning, but it is a completed work nonetheless. I suppose I could die now and be happy in this goal even if it is a very minimalistic achievement. Naturally, I won't be truly happy until the full story is told.
Also, Moose and I both agree that there are a number of necessary underlying themes that I have not been successful in portraying and this will need to be fixed in the second draft, but as I have said before, the first draft is merely the vehicle that I am using to get me to where I need to go, namely, the completed story. Tying things together will be much easier the second time around now that I know the details long before I write them.
I think the rest of the weekend will involve me updating the character sheets, something I have been avoiding, so I have a little more to do before starting the second novel. Most importantly, I can say that I finished the first novel on schedule. I wanted to be done in mid-May and it is currently May 16th. It doesn't get much more mid-May than that.
I am curious as to whether or not I can finish the second novel by the end of the calendar year as per my secondary goal. We shall see. I'll likely start it on Monday. I had intended on taking a little break before continuing, but since I took most of last week off, I'll forge ahead and take my break when Kim and (maybe) Charles come out to visit at the end of this month.
At the moment, I have more important concerns. It's time for lunch.
Thursday, May 15, 2008
I don't normally post first thing in the morning, but I am not sure I'll be doing any writing today anyway. Perhaps I'll just be loafing the day away. We'll see. I suppose I should explain the sports metaphor in the title, assuming it is not obvious. As I was lying in bed, trying to figure out what that dream was about, it occurred to me that my novel is not finished. It seems I have forgotten to explain one matter. Namely, why the 7th book is named, "The End of Ascension".
Actually, I had not forgotten to write that in so much as I had forgotten that I had intended on writing about it after or during the scene I am currently in. So I guess I'll have to redecide after I continue the scene as to whether or not I really want to end the first novel where I am at. For the moment, I am leaning towards ending it after I lengthen this scene to include the aforementioned information.
But then, who knows. May, I'll change my mind again.
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
I was thinking about how today was an interesting day, but it would seem like I am constantly saying that I had interesting days or boring days that I make interesting and so it seems as though I am repeating myself every day. My second thought was that every day is an interesting day, in its own way. If not, you need to do something about your days.
I have not mentioned my writing mostly because last week was such a poor week. Once again, while repeating my sleeping woes, my writing suffered so I eventually decided to not fight it and took most of the week off. I wrote one day for 600+ words. All things considered an embarrassing week, but I also feel as though I needed a bit of a break. I had seven decent weeks of writing under my belt, so it was quite easy (in my zombie state) to convince myself to take that time.
I started anew on Monday and in the first three days this week I have managed 2700 words -- Not too shabby. As much as I hate to use the word, something interesting happened today. I got to a point and thought that I may have reached the end of the first novel. That's where I stopped for the day.
It was strange. A half page previously and I had been happily writing away oblivious to the fact that the end was near. In fact, if anyone had asked me, I may have been inclined to say that I could have as much as ten or twenty pages to go before the end, but "BOOM!" It had suddenly arrived.
The oddest part, is that I am still not sure that I am done. It was so abrupt, I don't know if I want to continue with a bit more, or if maybe I really am done with it and need to start the next novel. I'm going to take a fresh look at it in the morning and go from there, but I may just be done with the first novel. With any luck I'll get a chance to consult with Moose tomorrow. Maybe he'll have an opinion.
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
"Woe is me. I can't stay up all day."
"How do people manage to find time to work?"
"Jobs are for suckers."
All those things and more. Well, here's some more whining.
I have been awfully tired the last few days. I suppose that's not so atypical for a man who can't be bothered to find a steady job, but it's been a bit worse the last few days. You know the old saying, "I can quit anytime I want." It's usually the first sign that someone has a problem. In my case, concerning caffeine, it's actually true.
As much caffeine as I consume, I've never really become addicted. I know people who are addicted get migraine headaches and such when they don't get their fix, but every now and again, for whatever reason, I'll lose my taste for it. Actually, I lose my taste for soda. I don't drink coffee or teas, so my caffeine consumption is in the form of soda about 99% of the time.
I generally prefer salts over sweets, but if I have one weakness for sweets, it is that I drink too much soda. I would rather have a Pepsi than the finest of chocolates or other candies. Anyway, as I said, I basically have been sick of soda the last few days, which means no caffeine. My only withdrawal symptom from not consuming caffeine is drowsiness. Well, even more drowsiness than usual.
Sunday was especially tough. It was my second day without caffeine and I didn't manage well. I ended up sleeping through the window that I planned to call my mother to wish her a happy Mother's Day. I like to think that she has better things to do on her special day than sit and wait for a phone call from me, though that is a tidy excuse.
I did manage to call her yesterday. We had a rather pleasant discussion on the corporate view of the labor market. In particular, how they expect you to put your job ahead of yourself and your family. A notion I find beyond repellent. Most anywhere else in the world and the workplace actually expects you spend time with your family, but in this country you are expected to set all that aside in honor of your "barely making over minimum wage that may or may not, but probably not with medical benefits" job.
Worse yet, these jobs don't even pay a person enough to live on and they're expected to be satisfied with them? That's why I no longer complain when I go into a supermarket or other place that has apathetic cashiers and employees. Quite frankly, they don't get paid enough to care about their jobs and I don't blame them for being apathetic. I blame the companies that refuse to pay them a decent wage all in the name of increasing profits by a percentage point or two.
Tip cups at many service jobs have become all but ubiquitous. Fifteen and twenty years ago it was standard corporate policy to not accept tips. That has changed in many places. I know just about every Dunkin Donuts and corporate bagel shop in Albany has them these days. They are so unwilling to pay their employees a decent wage they essentially allow their employees to pan handle on the job!
I have mixed feelings about all this. It offends my sensibilities, but I don't like to punish the employees because it is not their fault they don't get paid squat. If I feel I get an actual service, I will generally tip the change, but rarely can I bring myself to tip any more than that. If I did, I feel as though I would be tacitly approving the way the system is evolving.
I certainly don't. I'd love to hear what others think.
Saturday, May 10, 2008
I forced myself back onto a day schedule yet again. The last couple of days, I have slept from 9pm to 4am. Hours that aren't ideal, but I can live with for now. It took a few days where I did no writing and now have no chance to reach my 4000 word goal this week. In fact, I'll be lucky to reach 2000 words seeing as I have only written 600 so far today. I plan to have another writing session shortly.
I did manage to get in a couple of phone calls that I have been meaning to make so there is one positive. I hope to make a few more calls this weekend. I suppose one of which should be to my mother seeing as tomorrow is Mother's Day.
So what have I done all week? I started working on my baseball studies, though I am yet to make any bets. Probably a good thing as many of the ones I have been looking at have been losers. But, I guess, that is why one takes the time to wait for patterns to emerge. I have also watched an exorbitant amount of anime that I have downloaded. It was necessary to keep myself awake for extra hours to push my sleeping time forward. The biggest drawback to this technique of changing my sleeping times is that I end up losing a day in the end.
If one thinks of sleeping during the day as being a half day out of cycle, then using three 28 hour days to get back on cycle puts me the other half day back in cycle, but it is, effectively, at the expense of living 9 days in the 10 day time span, from the point where I fell off the wagon of sleeping on nights.
Speaking of falling off wagons. It occurred to me that I have not consumed a drop of alcohol since moving out here. That's over two months without a drink. This is not a good start to my becoming an alcoholic. I still have 8 more sessions to go this year if I want to deemed an alcoholic.
For those that don't know the story. I had a really lame health teacher in high school, though to call him a teacher is a disservice to competent educators everywhere. His method of teaching consisted of a hell fire and brimstone approach that attempted to scare teenagers into a more Christian way of life, though obviously he never specifically said as much. At any rate, it goes to show you how stupid he was, considering such tactics rarely work on teenagers. Teens still have the "I'm indestructible" mentality, so to try to scare them into anything is waste of time. They're at a point in their lives when they're seeking acceptance from their peers as well as adults, so an adult should be accepting of them and attempt to reason with them like they're adults, not scaring them like children with Grimm's Fairy Tales, but I digress...
Anyway, one of his scare tactics was to present us with a "scientific study" that "proved" something like 60-80% of all adults were alcoholics. I can't remember the exact figures, but they were ridiculously high. Then, of course, he went on to show what detrimental things alcoholics did to themselves and their families.
As he was reading the preliminary figures to the class, I just couldn't accept them. I knew I was pretty naive about the world outside of Penn Yan, but I just couldn't believe so many people were stumbling around drunk all the time. Having parents that rarely drank and almost never to excess; having never even once hearing from a friend about their parents getting trashed; I just couldn't buy it.
At the bottom of the page, the definition that was given to an alcoholic was: "A person who has 3 or more drinks per session with a minimum of 10 sessions in a year."
Naturally, I asked the obvious question, or at least obvious to me: "How do these people justify using this as the definition of an alcoholic?"
As I have said, the teacher wasn't there to teach us anything with a rational methodology, so he dismissed my question and forced the class to move on, despite the fact that the rest of the class objected with me after I pointed out this obvious flaw. I am yet to meet anyone who agrees with the above as a definition for an alcoholic. A fact that a class of young teens knew instinctively. How he expected anyone to buy the garbage he was selling is beyond me.
Anyway, using the above definition, I am attempting to label myself as an alcoholic, but it is tough going. I don't really drink alone that often. In fact, I daresay it has happened maybe 3-4 times in my life and not in the past 4-5 years. I am quite likely destined to be the worst alcoholic ever.
Tuesday, May 6, 2008
Baseball is not a sport I am overjoyed at having to bet. A lot of the games are afternoon games, and that means afternoon relative to an east coast schedule. On the west coast, some games will start as early as 9:30am, though more commonly they'll start at 11am. In any event, they start at a time when I want to be awake enough to be able to place a bet!
I think my only choice is to take the next few days to keep pushing the time I go to bed later and later so after 3-5 days I'll be going to bed in the really late afternoon or early evening. I don't mind getting up really early if it allows me the chance to do some research and time to make the bet.
Since I had such a lengthy post yesterday, I did not want to add to it by throwing in a bunch of miscellaneous crap. I will now throw that crap in this post since all I am doing is whining anyway.
Last week, for the second week in a row, I managed to obtain my goal of 4000 words with my writing. Due to my sleeping woes, I wrote on four of the seven days. So obviously, the days I did write I averaged over a thousand words a day. Though I guess it really was two good days and two average days.
Also, because that large bet did not settle by the end of the month, nor did it pay in full, I only made about $500 through gambling for the month. This puts me at +$1200 for the two months out here, so I can't complain, though as expected, my finances are a slow bleed.
I would like to push things a bit more aggressively so as to make at least $1000 a month, but baseball is a tough sport to bet on. It's not like basketball in several key ways. First, it does not play with the same emotional intensity.
Second, there are twice as many baseball games in a season compared to the basketball season. Which means each game has less value to the players. In baseball, there is more of an, "Oh well, we'll get them tomorrow" attitude, because the teams are literally going to play again tomorrow.
Third, the talent pool in baseball is spread much more thin and evenly than in basketball. This manifests itself in two ways, on a microcosmic level and a macrocosmic. In the microcosm sense, basketball games are often decided by one player "getting hot" and running away with the game for their team. This happens a lot. In baseball, it is less likely for a single player to have a game turning offensive and defensive performance in the same game.
In the macrocosm sense, a good baseball team will finish the season winning only 60% of their games and a bad team will win about 40%. This means that on a day to day basis, betting on baseball is at best a 60/40 proposition. Contrariwise, a good basketball team will win 65-70% of their games and a bad team will win 20-25% of their games. As you can see, there is a discrepancy in terms of the weaker teams winning fewer games than the better teams are losing. This is because the talent pool is not spread quite so evenly in the league.
The quick summation of all that is there are more good teams to bet on in basketball and those good teams are more likely to win the day to day games that they ought to win, which makes predicting game winners a lot easier. Regardless, for the next five months, baseball is the number one professional sport and I'll have to find some way to win at it.
Monday, May 5, 2008
In a certain sense, perhaps even by definition, good luck is nothing more than a fortunate coincidence and bad luck is nothing more than an unfortunate coincidence. When you consider all of the people in the world, they all have fortunate and unfortunate happenstances occur around them all the time. Clearly, it is not the way of the world that these things alternate. It would be a crazy world indeed if we could expect something bad to happen right after something good has happened.
Thus, it is inevitable that some people will have more fortunate coincidences occur for them, just as it is inevitable that other people will have more unfortunate coincidences happen to them. To not put too fine a point on it, the former are lucky ones, and the latter, unlucky. This is why I believe in luck and say that I am a lucky person. It is because it is a probabilistic certainty that such people will exist, and I can honestly say that in my life, I have had many more fortunate coincidences happen than unfortunate.
I also believe that people make their own luck. At least, some of it. Obviously, you can't go through life expecting all of nature's influences to hand you everything you could ever want. You have to work for it. The people who are neither unfortunate, nor are they active enough in their own matters to create any good fortune are easily found in a crowd. You can recognize them easily enough (in most cases) because they are constantly complaining about how they can never get a break.
The bet that I have been expecting to lose for the past two weeks, ended up winning. I made a parlay bet on The Boston Celtics and the Detroit Pistons both winning their first round series in the NBA playoffs. They were the two best teams in basketball (based on their record) and I fully expected them to win their best four out of seven game matches and move on to the second round with relative ease. Essentially, I bet $3000 to win $266 that these two teams would win their matches.
I had my reasons for betting so much for so little. Obviously, I thought it was as good a bet as one could make or else I would not have made the bet. Detroit had been playing good ball and was facing the Philadelphia 76ers. The Sixers had been struggling the previous couple of weeks, so I expected Detroit to win fairly easily and maybe drop a game or two. They lost the first game. Actually, they blew it. They had it won and they let it slip away. After the third game of the series, Detroit was losing 2 games to 1 and were being soundly beaten. I was beginning to fear they were going to lose.
In the mean time, Boston won the first two games of their series quite easily against the Atlanta Hawks. The Hawks were the worst team to make the playoffs and didn't even have a winning record heading into the post season. Boston won each of the first two games by about 20 points in Boston. The next two games in Atlanta were rather close and much to my dismay, Atlanta managed to win them both to tie the series 2 games apiece.
At this point, both series' were heading in the wrong direction and I was getting seriously worried. Detroit managed to get their act together and won the next three games to win the series 4 games to 2, but as I said, it started out badly. Boston won the 5th game in Boston. Once again, crushing Atlanta. They now led 3 games to 2.
The sixth game was played in Atlanta, and once again, Boston squanders and early lead to allow the Hawks to win the game by 3 points. One game remained on the bet. The seventh game was to be played in Boston where they had won their 3 games quite handily.
All that money that I had bet in the beginning, two weeks ago, was now bet to win so little on a single game. The odd part was that, in Boston, the Celtics were favored so heavily the moneyline on the game was -2200 for Boston and +1500 for Atlanta. This meant a person would have to bet $2200 on Boston to win $100, but a bet of $100 on Atlanta would win $1500. I placed a bet on Atlanta, $210 to win $3150.
This meant that if Boston won, I would win the series bet for $266 and lose the game bet on Atlanta for $210. A net win of $56. If Atlanta won, I would lose the $3000 on the series bet, but would win $3150 on the game bet. A net win of $150. I had hedged my bet in a way where I could not lose. Normally, a hedged bet is a guaranteed loser. This is why the casinos make money.
In the end, Boston won the game with ease just as I had expected. I had been tempted to let the bet ride, and I would have won, but in the end I took the guaranteed winner because I was no longer betting on what I had intended. I would never be so foolish to bet that kind of money on the seventh game of a series. Even though Atlanta could not seem to win in Boston and barely scraped by in their own house, a single game that could turn out to be so emotional and unpredictable is not worth gambling on.
Of course, that means last months bets did not quite cover the costs of my rent and after going five days into this month, I am only up $56. I have some work to do. I hope my luck continues.
Friday, May 2, 2008
It was an interesting day/night. I was too tired to get any writing done, but forced myself to stay up until 2:30am to be sure I could take a bit of a nap, so that I could at least attempt to stay up all day. (Recall that I had slept to 3:30pm yesterday afternoon!) It seems that action was unnecessary as I proceeded to sleep until almost noon today. In the end, I did feel refreshed enough to do some writing and that is all that matters. Especially since I had not written in two days. One day off and one awkward sleeping day.
The time now approaches midnight and I kind of feel like going to bed. I don't think I'll fight it this time, though I doubt I'll have the same success as I had last night. If one would call sleeping too much a success. It's that age thing again.
Anyway, I wrote well over a 1000 words today, giving me 2700 for the week. Thus, I only need to put down 650 words each day over the next two days to reach my goal for the second straight week. Since I am so close, I'll have to make a serious effort. As I said before, it seems writing from this character's point of view agrees with me. I like the character and I guess I like the way the character has the ability to shape the story.
And yes. Right now, he's my only friend in Vegas. Poor me.
Of course, Kim and Charles will be stopping by at the end of the month for a few days so that Kim can do her Tea Expo, or whatever it is; that girly crap that makes her happy. Charles and I will be doing important manly stuff, like the Star Trek Experience at the Hilton.
Anyway, back to the writing: I tend to write very organically. Everything flows, more or less, off the top of my head. I don't plan much in advance except the main story arc points. In fact, I killed one character off, only to like her so much that I wrote one of the later books from her point of view. I guess I'll have to change that when I write the second draft eh?
Still, things are not as muddled as all that. I, we, as in Moose and I, do have a plot outline for the entire story. It's just that the road we have set out upon currently has very wide shoulders with which to play upon. I guess, for this 7th book, I am enjoying the writing a great deal more than some of the others and that always makes the writing much easier.
Thursday, May 1, 2008
I am honestly amazed at the power of the sun. It's 93 million miles away. At that distance it takes light eight minutes to get to the Earth. An amazing amount of time considering a light wave would circumnavigate the globe at the equator 7.5 times in a second. These are all facts that I have sitting on the top of my head, for whatever reason or another.
But knowing all these facts, I still can't believe a waning, late afternoon sun, has the power to illuminate the outdoors to the point that my one window, that lies on the other side of the building, will still let in enough light to allow me to see my toilet which sits around a corner in the back end of my apartment. Now that is just extraordinary power....
My apologies for not posting anything yesterday. I took the day off.. I just felt due for a day off. Completely unrelated, I have started slipping into an overnight pattern again. Thus, I woke up at 3:30pm and have ordered a pizza for breakfast as I listen to the Detroit Pistons - Philadelphia 76ers game. I am still a bit tired and don't know what to say as it is the beginning of my day. With any luck, I'll be able to take a nap for a couple of hours tonight which will allow me to stay up all day tomorrow. Or, at least, most of the day so I can go to bed at 9pm or so.
I would like to get right back on a day time schedule. I was rather enjoying being up during the day. Despite the fact that we had two 90-93 degree days, the rest of the week will be 75-85 and sunny, all day, every day. I am not mentioning this to brag, but as a precursor to my comment regarding the surprising coolness of my apartment on both of those days. I was very pleased to find that my apartment's temperature was quite tolerable even through the hottest parts of the day. This is good news as I want to use the air conditioning as little as possible.
I will leave everyone to their tasks and keep this post a bit on the short side. I want to get in some writing before midnight lest I go two days without getting any writing done. Plus, my pizza is here.