A Letter from the Dog

August 28, 2008

clip_image004TO: GOD
FROM: THE DOG

Dear God: Why do humans smell the flowers, but seldom, if ever, smell one another?

Dear God: When we get to heaven, can we sit on your couch? Or is it still the same old story?

Dear God: Why are there cars named after the jaguar, the cougar, the
mustang, the colt, the stingray, and the rabbit, but not ONE named for a dog?
How often do you see a cougar riding around? We do love a nice ride! Would it
be so hard to rename the ‘Chrysler Eagle’ the ‘Chrysler Beagle’?

Dear God: If a dog barks his head off in the forest and no human hears him, is
he still a bad dog?

Dear God: We dogs can understand human verbal instructions, hand signals, whistles, horns, clickers, beepers, scent ID’s, electromagnetic energy fields, and Frisbee flight paths. What do humans understand?

Dear God: More meatballs, less spaghetti, please.

Dear God: Are there mailmen in Heaven? If there are, will I have to apologize?

Dear God: Let me give you a list of just some of the things I must remember to be a good dog.

  1. I will not eat the cats’ food before they eat it or after they throw it up.
  2. I will not roll on dead seagulls, fish, crabs, etc., just because I like the way they smell.
  3. The Litter Box is not a cookie jar.
  4. The sofa is not a ‘face towel’.
  5. The garbage collector is not stealing our stuff.
  6. I will not play tug-of-war with Dad’s underwear when he’s on the toilet.
  7. Sticking my nose into someone’s crotch is an unacceptable way of saying
    ‘hello’.
  8. I don’t need to suddenly stand straight up when I’m under the coffee table.
  9. I must shake the rainwater out of my fur before entering the house – not
    after.
  10. I will not come in from outside and immediately drag my butt.
  11. I will not sit in the middle of the living room and lick my crotch.
  12. The cat is not a ‘squeaky toy’ so when I play with him and he makes that noise, it’s usually not a good thing.

Wikipedia: The half-assed Encyclopedia Britannica

August 28, 2008

image It’s no secret that I seethe at the lack of accountability that is Wikipedia. 

It’s like how YouTube gets copyrighted content posted to it and declares that ‘it’s not responsible’ for what people post and that removal or lockdown is done on a best effort basis.

Saying that it’s a reliable authority on any given topic is like throwing a dart at a corkboard and assuming all throws hit bullseye.  It’s a poster child of how the unregulated “power of liberal community” does not work in the same way that knowledgebases and support databases do.  You can’t fire someone for entering irresponsible data into Wikipedia.

Well, good ol’ Kotaku has recently pointed out yet another point of evidence of how ludicrous Wikipedia has gotten.  Their eyes have been focused on the fact that in terms of content posted:

  • Sonic the Hedgehog has 7,832 written for it where as GOD has 3,726. 

Unbelievable.  GamesRadar continues with other comparisons like:

  • Call of Duty vs. World War II
  • Electronic Gaming Monthly vs Time Magazine
  • Pokemon vs Poker
  • Master Chief (Halo) vs ANY given US President
  • Starship Enterprise vs the Automobile
  • Metal Gear Solid 4 vs War & Peace
  • Final Fantasy Music Albums vs ALL Rock & Roll history
  • Megaman X bosses vs ALL Serial Killers
  • Minor Star Wars characters vs US Founding Fathers
  • …etc…

KOTAKU LINK:  http://kotaku.com/5022282/fifteen-minutes-on-wikipedia-is-like-a-semester-at-yale-if-yale-was-a-wow-server

GAMESRADAR LINK:  http://www.gamesradar.com/f/the-wtf-world-of-wikipedia/a-2008062510326553058/p-3


HOWTO: Boosting your comps ‘Part 2’: Some feedback from actual pit bosses

August 26, 2008

image The other day I benignly wrote a blog post that surmised that one’s casino rating was possibly skewable using a number of methods that I’d witnessed others using in the casinos (Hey – there’s not much else to do other than observe others in the casino once you’ve thoroughly chatted to your tablemates and the dealer) and while I hadn’t actually tried some of them, I’d seen people do it and assumed the reason was to ‘up’ their play ratings.

Welllllllll, that was a few days ago.  Since then much to my surprise, I’ve been contacted by a few people that were actual former casino pit bosses at Las Vegas strip casinos (Boy, you guys surf a lot! [grin]) about this post and got… well… a lot of interesting lessons about how things really work, not to mention more than a pocketful of advice.  (Translation:  There were a lot of people willing to school me Tony Montana-style for many of the inaccurate bullet points I wrote up.  Sorry guys.)

So here’s some of the corrections to what I originally wrote:

  • THE VALUE OF AN INITIAL BET IS A TOTAL MYTH
    A common thread amongst folks that wrote was that your initial bet is hardly the only bet recorded and really over a normal period of time doesn’t do much at all for your average if the pit boss tracks your bet level with the correct frequency, which almost all will.  They observe, record, and make judgments about your behavior on a consistent basis… which is their job.
  • HOTEL BILLING IS ENCOURAGED ONLY TO MAKE COMPING EASIER FOR HOSTS
    One person noted that the only reason hosts want you to put things on your hotel room is so that when you ask to be comped, they can simply slash it off your bill.  Having services purchased on your hotel charge and having it comped by a host is apparently a easier thing to rationalize instead of outright handing someone a free dinner or spa treatment.
  • RATHOLING IS ULTIMATELY WORTHLESS
    The general consensus is that removing chips off the table or ‘ratholing’ is a well-known & obvious practice to 100% of all pit bosses.  Sure small amounts could be very slowly ratholed but these low numbers make the result not worth actually doing anything and only results in unnecessary risk. (i.e. the wrath of the pit bosses & managers for trying to mess with their work)
  • CASHING-OUT/BUYING-BACK-IN IS EASY TO DETECT
    The technique of cashing-out & buying-back-in (the thing that the woman that was sitting next to me during my last trip was doing) raises your overall buy-in but this number is compared to your “actual win/loss” when you walk away.  In other words, disproportionate buy-ins are relatively easy to detect.  It went unsaid however I assume that the implication here is that this is pretty much pointless unless you lose a lot, in which case – who cares what you’re being rated at since, well, you’re losing.
  • CASHING-OUT/BUYING-BACK-IN IS REALLY ABOUT GETTING A LOAN
    I was told by a couple folks that the real reason I catch people ratholing chips is because they’re trying to cycle time through the casino with cash borrowed on casino credit i.e. markers to ultimately take out an interest-free 30 day loan without actually gambling the money borrowed. 

    Huh???  Yeah – that’s what I said.  It apparently has nothing to do with the player’s comps.  Call me surprised, but for my part, I’ve always had more than enough casino credit everywhere I’ve played and this isn’t something that I’d even fathomed a player doing being that I always have the cash in the bank to back up any marker I place. (I’m just too lazy to withdraw the money and take it with me to the casino)  Apparently, and I guess not surprisingly, a lot of people in Vegas need money loaned to them in these increments and this is, I guess, an easy albeit unethical way to do it – not to mention a quick way to destroy your credit across town.

One interesting thing was that all the individuals I talked to seemed… uh… frankly a little angry about my post, despite having “retired” from the casino industry, which I found interesting.  In talking with them, some seemed a bit hardened by their time working as a pit boss, others seemed at relative ease, being almost jovial about their former employment.  But they all sounded like by writing that post, I’d committed an injustice that needed to be rectified – hence their immediate desire to IM me, email me, or post a comment.  My guess was that they either felt compelled to quash my ignorance (regardless of my ultimate insignificance), or they felt some loyalty to the “cause” of pitbosses & dealers everywhere, which I guess is understandable.

Either way, in case any of them are reading this, I did appreciate the information.  Really.  Thanks everyone for having the patience to answer my questions.

Now, on a positive note, my dear reader, one of these former pit bosses told me a variety of ‘very interesting things’ that I’m still debating as to whether I should post for fear they could find their way back to that person.  Apparently, as one would surmise, knowing how things work ‘on the inside’ can provide a great deal of opportunity for… what said person called, ‘mischief’.

How about this:  If you know me, just ask me the next time you see me and I’ll tell you what this person told me.


“Hungover for Vegas” – Joe Sedita Band

August 26, 2008

Just thought I’d share this little ditty with anyone who’s reading:  It’s a song that was first posted on the “Five Hundy by Midnight” website (“The original Las Vegas podcast”) and it’s really gotten stuck in my head.  And there’s only been a few songs that have managed to wedge itself in the vacuous space known as my cranium and I guess this is the latest

imageThe song’s called “Hungover for Vegas” and besides the awesome licks, the lyrics brings back memories of some of my trips to Vegas when I was in college and couldn’t afford anything but a room at Circus Circus and $1 blackjack tables at the Frontier.  It makes me want to fire up my lighter and hold it up in the air:

LISTEN:  http://www.myspace.com/joesedita

—————-

Incidentally, until this song the Sarcastic Gamer song “How you kill a Brand” was the song most commonly stuck in my head.  Thank you Joe Sedita for finally dislodging this remake of the Fray’s song “How to save a life” from the ol’ dome.  For what it’s worth, these songs follow an illustrious line of highly catchy tunes that I’ve found myself humming to myself on the drive home from work… going back as far as “Centerfold” by the J. Geils Band.

Here’s the last song in my head:  Sarcastic Gamer’s “How to Kill a Brand


Large Denomination United States Currency… how cool is that?

August 24, 2008

The folks at Five Hundy’s most recent podcast talked about how Binion’s is putting up $1,000,000 up on display, much like they used to have back in the old days.  It’ll be stacks of $100s, $20s, and smaller bills.  What’s interesting is that the $1,000,000 that Binion’s used to have on display used to consist of $10,000 bills.

$10,000 bills?  Yep.  I’ve never seen one either.

imageimage

So I did a quick search and sure enough, there’s some really neat photos of the large denomination bills that were created back in 1918 that the public really and truly could own.  Apparently, the original $10,000 bills from Binion’s were auctioned off by the last owner of Binion’s for as much as  $160,000.  Sick.  Really sick. (http://www.moneyfactory.gov/document.cfm/5/42/160.)

But why not $100,000 bills or some other denomination?  Well, $100,000 was the largest denomination ever created in the U.S. and I seem to remember there being something illegal about owning a $100,000 bill and sure enough, I was right.  In 1934 they printed these bills and they were used explicitly between Federal Reserve Banks.  And yes, it’s illegal for even collectors to own them. (http://www.moneyfactory.gov/document.cfm/5/42/1359)

image image


Interesting Las Vegas links for a Visitor

August 24, 2008

image If you were going into a part of the city where you knew people were trying to take your money everywhere you go, wouldn’t you want to be on your guard by doing some research first?  Where should I go to avoid getting held up?  Where are the safest places?  What should I do to protect myself?

Guess what?  In Vegas – everyone wants your money.  Don’t just go to Vegas ignorant. Go to Vegas armed with information to protect yourself.  ‘Cause like G.I. Joe says, “Knowing is half the battle.”

  1. Resort Comp Calculator
    What kind of comps can you roughly expect based on your current level of play? 
    And no, your $10 betting isn’t going to get you a free room.
    http://www.vegastripping.com/compcalculator/
  2. Casino Game Odds
    What is the house advantage (or ‘edge’) against you as a player? 
    nd why the hell are you still playing Keno & Wheel of Fortune?
    http://www.insidervlv.com/CasinoOdds.html
  3. Casino Death Watch
    What casinos are looking like they’re going to ‘go under’? 
    Yes, Circus Circus has been on here for years.
    http://www.jetcafe.org/~npc/gambling/casino_death_watch.html
  4. Las Vegas Restaurant Reviews
    Check out what others say about that “high priced, highly acclaimed” restaurant before you go.
    Seriously.  Check this out before you go anywhere.
    http://www.yelp.com/c/lasvegas/restaurants
  5. Resort & Casino Property Owners
    Who owns that Vegas spot that you like to go to?  Is the comp plan aligned with others?
    Long live the independent properties!
    http://www.jetcafe.org/~npc/gambling/casino_owners.html
  6. Vegas Hotel Discounts & Coupons
    Looking to book a room at a discount?
    Pamela’s got all the hook up and going to Vegas on the cheap.
    http://psloveblog.com/
  7. Maps of Vegas
    No, not the crappy ones you see online.  Really good ones you’d be proud to use printer ink on.
    Check out the “Coke vs. Pepsi” map!
    http://www.vegastodayandtomorrow.com/
  8. The Original Las Vegas Podcast
    Want to listen to something that’ll get you in the mood for Vegas?  This is the best thing to load up your music player with to start that engine running.
    http://www.fivehundybymidnight.com/fhbm
  9. Photos of Vegas Food
    Wanna actually see what the food looks like at a given location?  This photographs everything she eats.  It’s an unmatched encyclopedia of visual notes on basically every Vegas restaurant’s food.
    http://vegasandfood.blogspot.com/
  10. Construction in Vegas
    What the heck is getting built on property X?  What’s the back story on that?
    http://www.vegastodayandtomorrow.com/page2hotels.htm
  11. Pre-reading for Blackjack Players
    I wrote an blog post specifically for folks going to Vegas to play Blackjack.  You might find it informative.
    http://kurtsthoughts.spaces.live.com/blog/cns!97895BBB8AD10F37!375.entry
  12. Blackjack Basic Strategy Card
    Here’s something to print out right before you go to Vegas.  How to play perfect Blackjack.
    http://www.blackjackinfo.com/bjbse.php
  13. Advice around Taxis in Vegas
    Want to avoid getting ‘longhauled"’ i.e. getting taken for a longer ride than necessary between the airport & the resorts?  Read this article.
    http://kurtsthoughts.spaces.live.com/blog/cns!97895BBB8AD10F37!990.entry

HOWTO: Avoid being overcharged by Vegas taxis

August 22, 2008

image In my younger years I was the victim of several taxi scams in Las Vegas.  A little older, but admittedly not a whole lot wiser, I can tell you that these sort of things still go on but you can take some specific steps to prevent yourself from getting Shanghai-ed by a disreputable driver.

AIRPORT-TO-RESORTS
The most common way for a taxi driver to overcharge you is to do what locals call “long-hauling”.  Basically this is the practice of taking a longer than necessary route to get you to your hotel/resort destination.

The most frequent long-haul from the airport to resorts is to “use the tunnel”.  The tunnel connects the airport to the I-15 and tacks on around $5 or more to your cab fare depending on the route they take after getting off the I-15.  It’s very obvious after you’ve taken the trip from McCarron International to the strip several times.  The fare just seems excessive.  The driver will always say that it’ll save time but most of the time it actually adds time to the ride and it charges you for the taxi’s movement.

It should be noted that if you’re staying on the far end of the strip or downtown, this route DOES make sense.  Anything on Fremont Street for example, is better approached via this route.

Otherwise, as a general rule, always have the taxi drive to use Paradise Road when going to or from the Airport. It will be a lot cheaper, it could save you $10 depending on your destination.  The cost for a taxi from the McCarran Airport to the Las Vegas Strip:

  • $9.00 to South end of the Strip (MGM)
  • $13.25 to Mid Strip (Mirage)
  • $15.50 to the North end (Sahara)

(Note:  An interesting article about this was written by a Las Vegas cabbie and offers something of an alternative view.  YMMV.)

SCAMS
Here are a few scams that have purportedly been used in Vegas to up fares as taken from Mr. Vegas’ web site:

  • Zone Charges. Every once in a while, a Las Vegas cab driver may try to impose a “zone charge”. This will typically occur when the particular taxi ride is to one of Las Vegas’ outlying areas.  “This is a zone 3 trip” the driver may suggest, trying to add a few dollars onto the meter fare.  Be forewarned, there are no zone charges for any Las Vegas taxi cab.
  • The Shim.  The “shim” is a small piece of plastic  (or toothpick) that some drivers will place in the buttons of their meters to play a trick or two with the fare total. Most commonly used from the Airport or when someone leaves the cab to “run in” for something.  Presently, only two cab companies have “shimable” meters. I won’t tell which two, just be on the look out for strange objects sticking out of buttons on the meter. This one is almost obsolete, as this type of meter is being replaced.

RANDOMLY PICKING UP CABS ON THE STREET
You can not for the most part hail a cab in Las Vegas – unlike other cities, this is illegal and most cabbies will drive right by unless you’re in an alley or some place out of view.  They can’t even pick you up at a restaurant or bar unless you specifically called them to have them pick you up so you can’t even wait at the door of a place like Lawry’s and expect someone to come by.

Cabs can only pick you up if you’re at a casino or hotel so find the nearest Vegas Casino and ask the bellman or valet where the taxi stand is located.

DO’s AND DON’Ts
Do not bring alcohol into the cab.  It’s illegal to do so.
Do not attempt to pay in casino chips.  This is illegal as well.
Do not barf in the cab.  This may result in a $25-$50 charge and a really ticked off cabbie.
Do tip your cabbie.  Below $10, assume you should tip $2 for any ride.  Above $10, 20% is considered standard.  (The IRS taxes all cabbies on the basis of an assumed 23% tip for every fare.)  And if you leave something in your cab – like you cell phone and you get it returned to you, be doubly sure to retip heavily.  The cabbie is losing a ride by honestly bringing your valuables back to you.

PROBLEMS WITH CABS
This was some advice I am taking verbatim from a comment on Frommer’s web site:
”Always note the taxi number of the cabs you take. The name of the company does not matter as each number is unique. Should you have a problem with the cab “long-hauling” you, call the taxi Authority at (702) 486-6532. Get as much information as you can (time of pick-up, name and description of driver, etc). They will investigate and the cab drivers that are found to be abusing this can lose their licence.”
Here’s a web site for submitting complaints:  http://taxi.state.nv.us/ComplaintInstructions.htm


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