Thursday, December 10, 2015

A simple resolution for 2016

New Years Resolution time is coming up again. Like I mentioned in the past - resolutions are something I like doing even if it is a little pedantic.

Next year I'm going to make it my goal to learn how to cook. I currently only have one entry under my Cooking label and boy was that a catastrophe. This wont turn into a recipe/cooking blog but I'll make sure I post the highlights and more-entertainingly, the lowlights.

Why learn to cook? Aside from the obvious health and wallet benefits, I feel like this resolution could take my appreciation for food to the next level. I love to eat and I consider food to be one of the few things I'm truly passionate about. I know all people my age generally love food and travel... but if I'm being 100% honest, the only reason I travel is to try new food. Yeah there's architecture, history, and culture or whatever... but I don't really care about all that. I just want to eat my way through the world!

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Liking something because you spent money on it

I was hanging out with my friend Syp the other day and we talked about doing bottle service at the club and how it's possible that people say they like stuff just because they spent money on it. Full disclaimer: the bottle service was awesome from my perspective. Maybe because I was with 7 girls and I got to drink a ton. Maybe it was because of the extra space. Maybe the attentiveness of our designated bouncer. Maybe it was the particular DJ spinning that night. Maybe the venue itself was great with girls dangling from the ceiling. In any event, that particular experience was a great time for me and I typically hate "clubbing". Some pics below of the awesome night.

Anyways, back to what Syp said about being priced into liking something. A long time ago I wrote an entry about how I think my friend was in love with someone because she was with him for so long. She was "invested" in the relationship and stayed together with him (probably longer than she should have) because it was reaching a "point of no return" (shes now engaged to a wonderful guy who makes her happy). In the same way Tam was invested with time and effort, perhaps people feel emotionally invested and like something more just because they spent money on it.

I'm currently mattress and rug shopping and trying to get honest opinions from my friends. I'm trying to differentiate peoples opinions of Tempur-Pedics between those who actually like them or those who are saying they like them just because they dropped a substantial amount of money. Same thing with rugs. A shag rug to me just looks stupid as hell (unkempt, messy) but they're expensive and apparently it's "in style". While I'm immune to style-based peer-pressure with a shag rug, I did demo a Tempur-Pedic and it was heavenly.

I'm sure whatever I end up choosing I'll convince myself I like it more than I really do... I wonder if there's a specific name for this phenomenon. My google-fu has only lead me to stuff like mere-exposure, propinquity-effect, sunken cost, and escalation of commitment. All of which are similar to what I'm talking about but not quite exactly it... looks like it's going to be another Cog-Sci night.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Buying a Condo in San Diego

Biggest news of this month is buying my condo in San Diego!

A preview for a future entry: I want to rant about how people always ask questions like, "How's the job hunt?" "How is the house search going?" as innocent ways to make conversation when the answer is clearly, "It's going fucking terrible unless I'm bringing it up to celebrate with you!" Anyways, that's a rant for another time and a much more negative entry than the mood I'd like to set for this one. Back to good vibes and big smiles... Woot! I'm a condo owner!

I've heard that buying a place is one of those most stressful things you'll go through in your life. I have to agree. I always try and take things in stride and minimize stress... but when you want something bad enough you can't help but start to set expectations of how things are supposed to go. I had plenty of twists and turns along the way and this entry will go into the process I went into in a generic sense (think a HowTo) sprinkled with specific-to-my-experience lessons learned. Hopefully this will be useful for friends who are looking to buy and don't know what to expect. Without further ado, the process of buying a condo in San Diego:

Step 1) Figure out what you want and what you can afford.

Use a mortgage calculator to figure out how much house can you afford. There's a rule-of-thumb that it should be 3x your yearly salary. This has wiggle room depending on your other monthly expenses and existing debt.

Now that you have a reasonable idea of what you can afford comes the fun part. Checking out places and figuring out the stuff you like! "What area do I like? How much do granite counter-tops, updated appliances, carpeting/flooring, crown molding, etc. matter to me?" Additional questions for those buying condos, "How much do I have to pay for Home Owners Association? What does the HOA cover? What amenities does it cover? Is there a litigation on the complex? How much do they have in the reserves? Is it an apartment conversion?" Do your research. Figure out what's "good" and what's typical for condos in the San Diego area. Apartment conversions may not abide by the same codes as buildings intended for condos. Are the walls thinner? What about a past litigation? Are the issues fixed? Is there proof that it's fixed so my lender can give me a loan?

After a first few visits I started looking at listings online (using Redfin and SDLookup). Once I knew the stuff that mattered to me (location/garage) it narrowed down my choices a lot. This is a good opportunity to pause and tell you a bit more about Realtors and what they do because I didn't really understand it completely. Realtors, simply put, are your liaisons to the seller. Your Realtor is generally hired by you, works for you, and the payment they receive is rolled into something called Closing Costs which I'll talk about later. Realtors also have access to all the listings available (MLS) and have neat tools that will allow you to search based on location, price, date built, days on market, etc.

Step 2a) Put in an offer. Negotiate price. Seller accepts the offer. Open Escrow.

Your Realtor does all this negotiation for you. This process is exactly how you would imagine it. I put in an offer 20K under asking price. Seller comes back with 10K under asking price. I come back with 15K plus cover closing costs. Seller agrees.

Time to open up Escrow. Escrow basically involves these steps: Putting down some Earnest Money. Proof of funds. Get an inspection. Response to the inspection. Termite inspection (condos might have this built into the HOA). Get Home Owners Insurance. Get your loan commitment. Remove all contingencies. Do a final walk through. Close Escrow. That's the high level of what Escrow entails, but the actual step by step will be below.

Step 2b) Get a loan.

You don't have to wait until your offer is accepted before you get a loan. If anything, going through a pre-approval process will get all your documentation together. Do you have all your W2's from 3 years back? How about signed letters from people if you've been staying with them rent-free? What about work history, pay-stubs, credit reports, etc?

For the actual loan itself... figure out what your options are: Are you a first time home buyer with not that much to put for a down payment? Maybe an FHA loan is good for you. Are you a veteran? Look into VA loans. Can you put 20% down to avoid paying PMI (mortgage insurance)? Can you afford to pay off your loan in 15 years as opposed to 30?

Don't look with just 1 lender - Shop around. Be diligent. Don't worry about multiple lenders running your credit, if it's all within a similar time period it won't negatively effect your credit. Do. Your. Homework. I can't stress enough how important it is to shop around for a loan. People spend tons of time at the store shopping so they can save $30 on a pair of sunglasses or $2 on a box of cereal. When you're shopping for a loan, the savings can be tens of thousands of dollars. I don't want to get too heavy into the math but over the course of 30 years .125 of a percent can mean a lot of money. Interest is powerful, don't let lenders try and tell you "It's a difference of $30 a month, don't worry about it." "Well Mr Lender, if I'm looking at the life of my loan which is 360 months that's $10,800 you're asking me to not worry about."

Additionally, doing your homework and getting pre-approved can do a couple things for you:
1) It will make your offer more appealing to the seller. If I'm a seller and I have two equivalent offers from buyers but Person A is pre-approved and can close within 30 days I'll be more inclined to go with them than Person B.
2) It can save you from disappointment down the line if you put in an offer, get it accepted, and it turns out you don't qualify for the loan.

Step 3) Hire an inspector.

While you hire an inspector your loan company is hiring an appraiser. These two people are doing more or less the same thing, however the distinction is that the inspector works for you (and is hired by you). Because this is one of the largest purchases you'll ever make, you want to know if what you're buying is worth the price tag. This person is literally hired to find problems in your house, so don't be shocked when they do.

Between the appraiser and the inspector you will now have a list of things that need to be negotiated with the seller. You can negotiate for the seller to fix these issues themselves or have the seller give you a credit towards fixing them. My preference is to get a credit as there is a conflict of interest if the seller fixes the issue (they're going to do it as cheaply as possible). This negotiation is handled again by your Realtor and as with everything negotiation related (asking price, seller credits) your leverage is based solely on whether you're willing to walk away and if it's a buyers or sellers market.

Step 4) Complete Escrow.

For me, Escrow is the most stressful time. At any point so many things can go wrong. Maybe the seller ends up not getting their job transfer and backs out of the deal. Maybe the buyer goes through illness or doesn't complete all the paperwork. Maybe the title or escrow company fails to notify agents in a timely matter about liens or problems with the property. Maybe the appraiser is not local and misunderstands the market and the loan is not approved. Any contingencies found in Step 3 need to be removed before you can complete.

Lastly comes the final signing where you should take your time and really figure out what you're buying. Call the title company and HOA as many times as you need to answer your questions. All of your costs should be handled by escrow and rolled into Closing Costs.

Step 5) Yay you're done!

Do the final walk through. Get your keys. Let it finally sink in. It didn't really hit me until I had the keys in my hand and a new garage door opener. A whole new adventure awaits me as a home owner but I can say the "buying" part is finally complete.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Go ahead, take a picture.

Things I've said in the past year:

"When are you actually going to watch that video of the fireworks?"
"Can you put your phone away when we hang out?"
"But first, lemme watch you take a selfie."

I was talking with a friend at a tailgate the other day and we were exchanging travel stories. She admitted that she is the type of person who tries to schedule as much as possible when shes on vacation. You know the type: do as much as humanly possible, take tons of photos during the process, and feens for the WIFI in order to upload the pictures before anyone else.

In the past I would typically get on my high horse about living in the moment or talk about how our generation is obsessed with social media and 1-upping each other... but instead I said, "Hey, whatever helps you enjoy it." My response was due to thinking a lot about the topic recently.

I saw this photo on reddit the other day with the title "The Difference Between Generations." It's a photo that illustrates the younger generation trying to get a picture of something (I think it's the pope?) and an elderly lady sitting with a soft smile just enjoying what shes seeing. It's a great picture and plenty of great little nuggets like the man from the baby-boomer generation who appears to be struggling with technology.

If you have more time here's a great read about Millennials and why they're so obsessed with food. Anthony Bourdain has a great quote within about why he posts pictures of food: “to share the experience with friends, to develop my brand as a food writer and maybe, if I’m being honest with myself, to show off.” The article goes into the psychology of food as a resource and what it means to show off to people that you're eating well. I think it's interesting that we feel the need to show others that we're having a good time via club-selfies, pictures of sunsets, pictures of food, etc.. Digging deeper, it's the desire to develop social currency and creating "our brand" among our friends. I never really thought about why I take pictures of food and told myself "so I can remember if what I ate was good or not." but I do think there is truth to what the article and what Anthony Bourdain said.

While I feel that it's important to be present to the moment and that documenting your life can distract you from actually living it... I now understand that people enjoy things in different ways. I recently had an awesome adventure that wouldn't be possible if my friend didn't care about taking photos of stuff. An entire night was spent "trying to get a good picture of the Super Blood Moon." It turns out weather didn't permit, the photo was awful, and there were some really great photos online afterwards taken by professionals... but that doesn't change the fact that we hung out and got lost together while having a great time. The next time I'm hanging out with a friend and they want to whip out their camera/phone... instead of rolling my eyes I'll try and remember how I'm feeling in this moment and just say, "Go ahead, take a picture."

Monday, September 14, 2015

My Experience with Speeding Tickets

By request - one of my coworkers was curious about my previous speeding ways, when I stopped speeding, and the time in between.

I guess you can say I'm an experienced speeder. My license got suspended after getting 9 tickets in 18 months. I was a pretty dumb kid to say the least. I viewed speeding tickets as a "tax to go fast." I boasted how I was a safe driver that went fast and was a "better driver" than most of the people going the speed limit. "Rules are made to be broken." Looking back, I kind of hated that Andrew. Rules aren't made to be broken... they are actually made for the exact opposite reason. Anyways that's a rant for another time.

I sped. I sped a lot. I fought a lot of tickets. If you've never got a ticket what happens is that you're given a ticket and on it will be the court location and date to show up. At the day of your court date you can either attend yourself or have a lawyer represent you. This first court date is actually just entering your guilty or not-guilty plea. Save your sob story and reasoning because this court date isn't about that. If you plead guilty you can take care of your fine right there. If you plead not guilty a future court date will be set up for you to do a trial for your traffic ticket. It's in that trial that you appear before a judge and submit your side of the case. Up until the moment you enter your plea you will hear a whole host of reasons to plead guilty. This is the preferred option for the court system. This is how they make money. The good reasons to plead guilty and pay your fine that day:

1) It's over. You won't have to show up again.
2) You'll most likely receive a reduced fine. This is to incentivize you to plead guilty.
3) They will offer you traffic school so it doesn't "show up on your record." This hides your ticket from your insurance company and you are eligible to do traffic school once every 18 months.

Your other option is to plead not guilty. This is the best option if you have the time to fight it and you're looking for a complete dismissal of the traffic violation. Winning in court is easier than you think. You can even submit a written trial or "Trial by Declaration" in which you and the cop submit your side of the story via letter. It's here where you can try and explain that maybe the officer misunderstood the situation, maybe it was dark, maybe they pulled over the wrong car, or maybe the speedometer wasn't calibrated properly or recently enough. What's nice about this approach is that it's convenient for you in the sense you don't have to go to court again. The other option (the default option) is to appear in court where you will verbally plead your case. In either case, if the officer doesn't show up or write his testimony then you automatically win.

When it comes to lawyer services I think it's actually worth it if your time is valuable to you. They'll show up for both hearings for you. If you don't want to pay someone $100 to show up a couple times for you I would still recommend pleading not-guilty and fighting it on the chance the officer doesn't show up. If he does show up, you can try and fight it with some of the reasons I mentioned above but if you are found guilty you can still try and get a reduced fine or traffic school. The moral of the story is don't be persuaded into the court-preferred option of pleading guilty. It costs the court more for you to fight it and it costs you more time to fight it... but it's worth it if the ticket is completely dismissed.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Stuff People Get Wrong: I could care less

The latest in the Stuff People Get Wrong series.

When you say you "could care less" you're saying that you care. The phrase broken down into it's literal meaning is saying that you could care less than you already do. Which means that you care some non-zero amount. They aren't saying how much they care (could be the maximum, could be a small amount) but having the ability to care less than they currently care means that they could care less. People say this phrase when they want to say they don't care about something... but the phrase means the actual opposite.

The correct term for the feeling they are trying to convey is "I couldn't care less." This is saying it is not possible to care any less than you already do. If you truly don't care about the thing that you're talking about this is phrase you want to go with.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Fall in love when you're ready not when you're lonely

Let me first start by expanding on an entry I had a long time ago about being "real." I was on one of my cog-sci related adventures (created a new tag for these) and I discovered a phenomenon called New Relationship Energy. Simply put, NRE is a state of mind that involves having heightened emotional and sexual receptivity and excitement. Have you ever felt the wave of heat from your body when your crush touches you on your arm or shoulder? The butterflies or giddiness when you have a date coming up? That's NRE.

NRE exists in both long term and short term relationships alike (as every relationship is new at some point). An interesting aside: the polyamorous community covets NRE as something that is sought in new partners while maintaining long term relationships with others.

So far I've given an unbiased and factual representation of what NRE is and how it exists in society. However, it goes by many other names depending on how you want to paint it: Infatuation (connotes fake or unrealistic), Puppy Love (connotes immaturity), The Honeymoon Phase (connotes that it's subsequent to marriage). While NRE generally implies something fun and positive, there are downsides to NRE which can involve lapses in judgement or seeing something for what you want it to be instead of what it actually is.

Alright that was a lot of preamble for what I really wanted to talk about which is having relationships when you're actually ready for them.

Anyone in my current social circle knows I've been thrusting myself back into Single Life. I've been having a lot of fun dating around and I think it has effected my life in a positive way. NRE is a very powerful emotion that can effect your mood even outside of relationships. I'm not sure if it's coincidence (I'm going to guess that it's not) but I have just recently been identified as a high performer at work (candidate to move into management), I've been more emotionally available to my friends, and I have been more willing to take risks in my personal life (which I view as positive).

While NRE has had an overall positive effect on me, I do want to be extra self-aware that I'm not "chasing" NRE. In the past, my enjoyment of Single Life and NRE trumped that of cultivating meaningful long-term relationships. I used to push people away once they started getting close. This leads me to the title of my entry. The concept of "rebounding" is usually thought of as having sex with someone to fill the void of your ex or as a confidence booster to get back into the dating game. My worry is that my "rebound" is instead of feeling lonely I'd much rather enjoy experiencing NRE. How sustainable is NRE? How meaningful is NRE? Can I possibly love a person more than I love NRE? Is this fair to the women I'm dating?

The feeling that I have now is similar to how I felt in the past about Improving over the O.K. Plateau and pushing myself outside of my comfort zone for self-improvement. On one hand is my fear of being alone and fear of making bad decisions. On the other hand is my thirst for NRE and self-improvement. With NRE and falling in love it's important to be doing things for the right reasons. Right now I'm excited and optimistic that what I'm doing can lead to good results in my life and in cultivating meaningful relationships.

Monday, July 13, 2015

My Trip to Jamaica

A year ago I went to Jamaica for a family vacation and it was one of the best trips I've ever been on. The way I explain Jamaica is like a Vegas for relaxing. When people go to Las Vegas it's to get rowdy, sin, and party it up. Everyone in Las Vegas from the staff to the other tourists are all aware of your goals and it's a good time because people enable that behavior.

Now imagine a place where relaxing and living comfortably are your biggest priorities. The airport, the resort, all the people you meet are all there to relax and the mantra of "no problem man" is really hammered home. I stayed at an all inclusive resort which included everything from being picked up from the airport to every single meal. Different from other countries (or maybe it was the resort I stayed at) the excursion people were not pushy and sales-y at all. It was actually hard to track them down when we wanted to go zip-lining.

Picture I took during dinner, our view before enjoying dessert.

An early morning at the double infinity pools with a swim up bar.

No bed bugs, mosquitoes, or angry lizards running around. Quality entertainment, delicious food, and a perfectly relaxing atmosphere made Jamaica my favorite vacation to date. All inclusive is definitely the way to go. All you can eat, all you can drink, and all you can relax!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Human Memory vs Computer Memory

Knowledge and learning are evolving in today's society and it has to do with the internet and the way we consume information. Ask yourself which is more important? 1) Memorizing how to do something. 2) Being able to find the answer to something you don't know.

The value of rote memorization (The What) is going down while the value of being able to remember how you got there (The How) is going up. While both are still technically memorization it's no longer just visual. No longer is it reading from a textbook, taking notes, and committing something to memory for a test. It's physical now too. "Learning" something today might involve remembering the keywords typed in and the series of links you clicked.

No where are you really taught this. I suppose this is another addition to the things I would do if I became President. Maybe not a whole class dedicated to learning proper search syntax (using pluses, minuses, and quotes)... but at least being technology positive when it comes to learning. Too often growing up did I hear, "You won't have a calculator when you grow up!" "Only one page of hand-written notes!" While I actually support these methods, the emphasis shouldn't be from a tech-shaming point of view. The emphasis on these techniques should be on the real value they provide. (Memorizing math properties really serves as a foundation to learning more complicated math. Hand writing notes improves retention and allows kids to not worry about memorizing constants and formulas.)

We are limited by our biology. The amount we can remember is finite. The internet and information grows at a rate faster than we can consume it. While it might be impressive to know off the top of your head the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow.... it's more important to know how to search up these unknown facts on Google.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

The Vicky Lustrum

How awesome is the word lustrum? It means half-decade. Get more time-period names here.

I might as well type it out while it's all still fresh. Today marks the end of a 5 year relationship. Vicky is the third girl I've ever truly loved. The first being Lily and the second being Linda.

When I first met Vicky my past really shaped the person I was. I was all about Single Life, and honestly I was pretty jaded and hardened from my past. Because Vicky is a masochist or likes puzzles (or who knows why), she decided to get involved with me and figure me out. It was a long process but she really managed to break down my barriers and got to know me better than anyone else ever has. Once we figured out we were a good match we decided we'd stay together as long as our relationship was healthy, happy, and productive. It was. For a very long time too. I look back on our relationship and I see two people in their twenties figuring out their lives and growing and learning off of each other. The way I like to think about it is: we weren't perfect for each other for the rest of our lives, but for that moment in time we were exactly what the other person needed.

When you're doing all this learning and growth it's natural to change as people. That's the point, it's expected. I'm not talking small change (liking new foods or whatever), but I'm talking about real change from deep within. The stuff that shuffles up your core values and makes you evaluate the things that truly matter to you in both life and relationships.

If you manage to stay together through all that change then I guess you're meant to be. Sometimes you grow too far apart. When the realization hits that you aren't meat to be with each other it's time to move on. We knew each other so well and we both saw the writing on the wall... signs too obvious to ignore. As it turns out, breaking up is much easier when both people see things the same way. It's not a surprise that my best relationship also had the best breakup.

I'm less than a few hours removed from uttering the words, "It's unfortunate I couldn't love you the way you wanted me to... but that doesn't mean I didn't love you with everything I had."

Vicky I know you'll end up reading this and I really do hope you find what you're looking for. With you I've learned that real relationships are worth having. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't hurting a bit, but like my entry about grief, I don't want to be unhurt by it all. Feeling hurt and sadness means that I felt some great things in the past... and for that I'm grateful. My world is still somewhat spinning around but as I type this out I feel a sense of calmness and relief washing over me.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Card Counting: Beyond the Game

The third Entry in my series of Card Counting.

Card counting is not only great because you make money in the long run, but Casinos operate on a system of "comps." From a business perspective: it's a loyalty program that rewards people for gaming at the same place (or family of casinos).

They will give out players cards to anyone in order to send advertisements in the mail and coupons for stays. On top of this though - players cards are used to determine complimentary services that can include everything from your hotel stay, meals, or other amenities that the casino offers. Contrary to popular belief, the amount casinos comp is not tied to how much you lose. It's actually tied to statistics that are easier to track - buy-ins, average bets, and time spent.

These statistics are great for card counters, because we're often spending large amounts of time at the table waiting for favorable counts. While a pit bosses main job is to resolve issues, manage the dealers, and prevent blatant cheating, they also track your average bet and buy-ins on screens connected to the tables.

Keeping players fed, drunk, and close to the action is favorable for Casinos for obvious reasons. For counters this is a great way to enjoy the process of Card Counting which would otherwise be a very grindy process.

To make it fun for myself I get to know the dealers, pit bosses, and the players to turn the experience into a social one. Also in order to mask the fact that I card count I act like your typical superstitious blackjack player that believes in streaks or other non-math based things that don't truly effect you. I'll act bothered or happy when someone hits or stands incorrectly. I'll talk about luck or "felling it" as an excuse to bet big or walk away when I feel that it's a good stopping point.

With all my entries on Card Counting it may seem like it's easy or that you're guaranteed to win every single time and if any card counter tells you that then you know they don't know what they're doing. What makes card counting profitable is playing perfect and consistent over a long period of time. I do have losing sessions and I do track my winning and losing. With the amount that I bet (conservative) I do not make enough to sustain myself as a "professional player." The better game right now to play professionally is probably poker as that is a much more consistent game where you can consistently outplay opponents. That being said, blackjack is also a great table game when played correctly and if you're gaming the comp system it can lead to a fun and profitable experience in the long run.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

American Pharoah and the Triple Crown

As a person who lives in San Diego and frequents the Del Mar Race Track, I've always enjoyed going to the races and betting on horses.

First of all what is the Triple Crown? There are three races: Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, and the Belmont Stakes which are the three biggest races of the year. Only the elite horses are invited to participate and it's a rare feat for any single horse to win multiple of these events due to the fact that the races are held within weeks of each other. The Triple Crown is awarded to a single horse that wins all three races. Since 1875 there have only been 12 horses to ever accomplish the feat:

Sir Barton (1919), Gallant Fox (1930), Omaha (1935), War Admiral (1937), Whirlaway (1941), Count Fleet (1943), Assault (1946), Citation (1948), Secretariat (1973), Seattle Slew (1977), Affirmed (1978), and American Pharoah (2015)

Since Affirmed in 1978 there have been 13 unsuccessful bids (winning both Kentucky Derby and Preakness, but failing at the Belmont) at a Triple Crown. Since I've started watching horse races I can remember two heavily favored horses to attempt the Triple Crown and both Big Brown and California Chrome came up short in the end. Finally, last Saturday, I got to see a Triple Crown in my lifetime.

The horse alone is such a great story which I'm sure will eventually be turned into a movie. Beaming with character, American Pharoah has tons of unique traits: His sweet temperament, short tail, and overcoming an injury early in his career. "Pharoah" has a permanent but inadvertent misspelling in his name. The owners are Arab, the jockey is Mexican, the trainer is an old white man, and the horse has "America" in it's name... American Pharoah embodies the United States.

So what does the Triple Crown mean for the sport? Well I suppose it depends on what you think of horse racing to begin with. For an average consumer of sports/news, it can be hard to relate to what my friend calls "a bunch of billionaires racing their ponies." There's also a camp that claims the sport is animal abuse. To clarify (this is fact) not all owners are millionaires and certainly not all the people involved are millionaires. From equine nutritionists to the stable and barn hands to the track photographers and judges all the people involved are typically there because they love the sport or they love horses. Also (this is opinion) these horses lead fantastic lives and are cared for better than your average human being... but that'll be a rant for another time.

The Triple Crown, no matter how you look at it, is good for the sport. For some it will get them into horse racing when they otherwise wouldn't. Perhaps a young jockey will be inspired by the story and generosity Victor Espinoza. Perhaps a trainer or an owner will take their passion to the next level. For a large majority it's a small blip on the radar but it's a reason to celebrate because we got to witness a fun, unique, and rare experience.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

My Pick for the NBA Finals: Warriors in 6

Here's my take on the matchups and how I think this series plays out. As of today Klay is still under concussion protocol and Love is a scratch. So this is being made with the assumption that Klay misses no time and Love misses the entire series.

Curry/Klay/Iggy vs Irving/Shump/JR. Have to give this to the Warriors. The largest variable here is JR Smith and the bench battle will largely depend on his shot falling or not. The guard play will mostly define this series as Curry has emerged as a unique talent with the vision and handles to dish paired with a 3 ball that feels like cheating. He just doesn't miss open 3's and his ability to get his own shot whenever he wants just hasn't been seen before. He takes care of the ball and more importantly is surrounded by excellent talent so his dimes don't go to waste. He's basically unguardable, which brings me to the next matchup...

Green/Barnes vs LeBron. Advantage LeBron because LeBron. How does a team lose Kevin Love and get better? Well emergence of Thompson and the best player in the league playing to what hes capable of. Watching Prime LeBron against the Hawks was pure destruction. For all the things Curry is, LeBron is similarly unguardable. On any given possession he will put his head down, get to the rim, get fouled, and probably still make the shot. 3 points the old fashioned way. Want to double him? Well other than just crushing the double team 1v2 (because he does that) he can also pass well too. Guess what, he's also capable of defending your best player and doing a damn good job. He's a once in a generation kind of talent and 5 straight finals appearances is not luck. The wildcard in the forward matchup is Green because I think he has the ability to average 15/10/5 but it's hard to expect an offensive explosion from him as he has to guard the best player on the planet.

Big Men:
Bogut vs Thompson/Mozgov. Advantage Cavs again but the advantage here is mostly in board grabbing and making driving lanes difficult but this advantage is mostly nullified as the Warriors are fine passing until they get a good look at a 3.

Call this a wash. Blatt for all his stepping on court blunders has actually made some pretty decent adjustments and I wouldn't be surprised if JR made a start in this series to try and go small vs the Warriors. Kerr just has to keep his guys motivated and hungry which shouldn't be hard for a bunch of guys who haven't been there before.

How this series plays out is the Splash Bros combine for 50 points a game and we'll get an outstanding performance from an otherwise role player like Green/Barnes/Iggy/Bogut. LeBron does enough to win a couple games (maybe a buzzer beater). Curry gets a Finals MVP Trophy to go with his season MVP trophy.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Cinco de Mayo

May 5th, Cinco de Mayo, Cinco de Drinko, Drinko de Mayo.

First let me drop some knowledge. This holiday is not "Mexican Independence Day" it's simply a celebration of an unlikely victory of the Mexican army over French forces. The actual Mexican Independence Day is on September 16th.

Not knowing what Cinco De Mayo is really about won't stop Americans from celebrating. Cindo de Mayo is more just a celebration of Mexican culture. Here in 'Murica we bastardize holidays into excuses to go drinking or buying crap we don't need. While I can rant about this for hours let me instead put on my sombrero and go to Old Town and drink a margarita the size of my face.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Bystander Effect

After eating lunch one day I witnessed a fight break out before my eyes. I was out with two co-workers and we walked past two women arguing in the parking lot. "You don't know my life! I'll beat your ass right now!" We kept walking but stopped and turned around maybe 100 feet away. The situation escalated and two women in their twenties started to full on fighting. Well I wouldn't really call it a fight, the larger of the two women struck the smaller one to the ground and continued to hit her. I also notice two other people very close to the fight and another group of people closer than us standing around and watching.

Part of my gut said, "Do something." but instead I stood there petrified due to what I now know is called "the bystander effect." The bystander effect is a phenomenon where the diffusion of responsibility is inversely proportional to the amount of people in the area. That is, the more people witnessing something - the less someone feels responsible to "do the right thing."

Instead of doing anything at all we end up turning around and heading back to the office after some comments about World Star and "wow did that really happen." Sadly that's the state of society at this current moment. People would sooner pull out their phones and record the fight then actually help a person in need.

On the car ride back and at work I started processing what just happened. I put myself in the shoes of the woman laying on the ground getting beaten with 10 people around watching and not doing anything. She probably lost her faith in humanity.

I don't know the exact situation and everything happened so fast. So many variables. Another thing is that I don't know if either of them had "backup" or if either of them had a weapon or anything. But I do know that on that day I dismissed it as "not my issue" and "not my problem."

I'm not advocating putting yourself in danger or doing anything at all if this situation happens to you. I just know now that I'll be doing SOMETHING next time. Calling the cops, yelling "Stop," or just something more than nothing. If not for helping someone else out - for my own conscious and preventing this guilt that I feel right now.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Good Grief

At the beginning of the year I started a search for new music. At work there's a small group of people who share music with each other and every now and then someone suggests a theme: Cheesy Internet Songs, Throwback Thursday, Foreign Music, Instrumental, etc. One day I requested "Sad Songs" as our theme which was immediately met with concerned responses.

"Are you okay?" "Did your girlfriend break up with you?" "Why do you want to cry?"

It's complicated to explain but every year I celebrate the birthday of a deceased childhood friend and for some reason I feel a little better when I listen to sad music.

Why do I do this? Why does it make me feel better? When is it okay to be sad? Is it healthy? I started down one of my rabbit holes of thought. I discovered the "stages" of grief: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance. I found a great comment on reddit and an awesome quote about sadness from a South Park character of all things. These two quotes sum up very well how I am currently feeling about grief and how it can sometimes be good. Also I'm not sure if this is part of "Acceptance" but I think there's another stage past that called "Appreciation." Anyways here are those quotes:

"Well yeah, and I'm sad, but at the same time I'm really happy that something could make me feel that sad. It's like, it makes me feel alive, you know? It makes me feel human. And the only way I could feel this sad now is if I felt something really good before. So I have to take the bad with the good, so I guess what I'm feeling is like a... beautiful sadness." -Butters from South Park

Reddit comment from /u/GSnow:

"As for grief, you'll find it comes in waves. When the ship is first wrecked, you're drowning, with wreckage all around you. Everything floating around you reminds you of the beauty and the magnificence of the ship that was, and is no more. And all you can do is float. You find some piece of the wreckage and you hang on for a while. Maybe it's some physical thing. Maybe it's a happy memory or a photograph. Maybe it's a person who is also floating. For a while, all you can do is float. Stay alive. In the beginning, the waves are 100 feet tall and crash over you without mercy. They come 10 seconds apart and don't even give you time to catch your breath. All you can do is hang on and float. After a while, maybe weeks, maybe months, you'll find the waves are still 100 feet tall, but they come further apart. When they come, they still crash all over you and wipe you out. But in between, you can breathe, you can function. You never know what's going to trigger the grief. It might be a song, a picture, a street intersection, the smell of a cup of coffee. It can be just about anything...and the wave comes crashing. But in between waves, there is life.

Somewhere down the line, and it's different for everybody, you find that the waves are only 80 feet tall. Or 50 feet tall. And while they still come, they come further apart. You can see them coming. An anniversary, a birthday, or Christmas, or landing at O'Hare. You can see it coming, for the most part, and prepare yourself. And when it washes over you, you know that somehow you will, again, come out the other side. Soaking wet, sputtering, still hanging on to some tiny piece of the wreckage, but you'll come out.

Take it from an old guy. The waves never stop coming, and somehow you don't really want them to. But you learn that you'll survive them. And other waves will come. And you'll survive them too. If you're lucky, you'll have lots of scars from lots of loves. And lots of shipwrecks."

Monday, March 9, 2015

Stuff Rocky Says

This will be a unique entry in the sense that it's going to be constantly edited with new stuff.

I have a coworker named Rocky and she's a goldmine of fantastic quotes. She's a quirky 20-something that has no filter and she'll be the first to admit that she speaks before she thinks.

Without further ado, quotes straight from the mouth of Rocky:

"#2 on my to-buy list is a friendship collar." *I stare at her blankly* "'s awesome, it's from Australia!"
"I don't watch the news."
"If you went green on Ingress I don't know if we could be friends. I mean I'd go with you to the co-events but that's it."
"You're bow legged and you have a gimp leg."
"My computer is telling me basically not to work."
"Remember, sweat is just your fat crying."
"My room is going to be rustic romantic."
"I've driven past that M my whole life." (the company we work at has been in this building less than 5 years)
"It's been a dream of mine to go to WhiteFort settlement."
"I eat Altoids like candy." *long pause* "I eat Cliff Bars like candy."
"I wanna be like Napoleon Dynamite and have tots in my pockets."
"Her dress game is on point."
"I have an issue with running shoes and jeans."
"Hey don't have a happiness party without me."
"Three's comfortable?"
"You don't get good sleep with red wine. You sleep... but you don't SLEEP... you know?"
"Oh god, I stepped in my trashcan."
"This year is going by so fast, it's Feb 19th."
"We should have chocolate available at all times."
"You don't drink tap water? If you put ice in it you can't even tell it's tap water."
"I've been listening to the same podcast all day, it's only 30 minutes long."
"The eyes have walls."
"I spent an hour finding my dog today. He was across the street at the body shop."
"Nate is like the wind - he's like a plastic bag."
"I'm like a garbage disposal at a buffet."
"How come we don't have 21 cannon salutes anymore?"
"Chocolate bath?! That's my dream. Can you eat it?"
"If you can say things correctly then why say them wrong, you know?"
"She was a sexy feather duster though."
"I used to be a Carny. If you want to rob someone, go to Sea World and rob a Carny."
"Can you imagine being married to one of them? (Kardashian) You lose brain cells watching that show. I mean, I still watch it but yeah."
"Hulu's commercials are the worst because you have to watch the same one over and over."
"I'm gonna steal your name."
"I don't wear my seatbelt because we live in a water based city."
"You gotta check em before you wreck em... THEN YOU WRECK EM!!"
"Who discovered Ice Cream, they're so smart!"
"How would you get a package of ham out from between the wall and my desk?"
"I wouldn't survive a cold place if I was naked."
"I was driving and I'm not used to diamonds and they blinded me."
(After I say "Nice polka-dot shirt.") "Thanks, but I like to call them polka-spots!"
"I mean, like, we're friends... and I have never fondled Andrew."

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Searching for a Music Epiphany

In conjunction to writing more this year I want to broaden my music taste. This resolution stems from a moment where I was with some music-head friends who were geeking out about so-and-so's new album. While I was present with them while they were taking it in, I just didn't share the same appreciation and enthusiasm for what I was listening to. Like a cigar or fine wine is for your mouth. Like art and photography are for your eyes. Music is that for your ears. Maybe this particular album I was listening to wasn't for me... but as I sat there I started thinking about my past and if there ever was a song that captured me the way a stunning photograph or a great meal captured my other senses.

Maybe music just isn't for me. I'm not an audio learner, I learn by seeing and doing. I was never good at anything that has to do with rhythm (dancing, singing, playing an instrument), For some reason music never really "clicked" with me. So this year I set out to have an ah-ha moment with music, a Music Epiphany if you will.

I thought the best place to start would be trying to find some music I've never heard before. Finding a song or a genre that really grabbed me. At the start, the amount of music out there is intimidating. It would take many lifetimes to listen to all the music ever created. so I started by asking friends for recommendations. When that dried up I went to /r/music and just started clicking away.

So far my experience has been awesome and I've had my mind (ears) blown by some awesome music that I never knew existed.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Card Counting: Advanced.

If you have ever taken in a course in probability, you know that having a 1% advantage is not a lot if you have a small sample size. It's statistically possible for you to flip a coin and lose the flip 100 times in a row. If you replace "losing a coin flip" with "losing a $100 blackjack hand" you can see why this might suck.

Quick vocab lesson for some card counter lingo:
  • Shoe - This is the remaining cards. It's name originates from the device that the dealer uses to pull cards from after shuffling.
  • The Count / Running Count - The integer that represents how many high cards in proportion to low cards exist in the remaining decks. How to calculate this was mentioned in Card Counting: Basics.
  • The True Count - The Running Count divided by the number of remaining decks in a shoe.
  • Penetration - How deep the divider card is put into the Shoe. The divider card tells the dealer when to shuffle.
  • CSM - Continuous Shuffle Machine. A machine that shuffles the cards between every hand. This makes impossible to count cards.
In Card Counting: Basics we learned how to calculate the running count. By incorporating the number of decks remaining we can determine the true count. A good way to identify how many cards are left is by looking at the dealers discard pile (which usually is in the corner of the blackjack table. 

How much do we actually increase our betting based on this true count number? Depending on how aggressive you want to be there are several ratios you can increase your betting by - 1:8, 1:10, and 1:12. For this entry and example I'll be using a 1:10 spread of betting. Remember that these are ratios so 1:10 could mean betting $100:$1000 or $5:$50. For the majority of play you'll be betting the minimum and waiting for the true count to increase past 2. Betting progresses as follows, 1:2:5:10 where the true count is <2:+2:+3:+4 respectively. Example for a 25 minimum game would have your betting at $25:$50:$125:$250. Suggested bankroll for a given session is 15 times your maximum bet to account for variance. Although blackjack is a very up and down game, you can go on streaks of losing even during favorable counts.

So as the true count increases your edge on the house increases. But what about gaining advantages before the cards are even dealt? There are some rules and details about blackjack that can effect your probability as much as the count does. Do they allow you to double down after splitting? Do they allow re-splitting Aces? What do they pay on Blackjack (6:5 or 3:2)? Surrender available? It's generally true that if they offer something - it's favorable for the players (except for insurance).

Note that throughout both of my card counting entries so far I have not talked about how you actually play Blackjack, That's because I play "by the book" regardless of the count. I always hit or surrender 16 against a 10, I always hit 12 against a 2 and a 3. Some optimal lines of play include changing the way you play when the count reaches a certain point, but I have always played by the book no matter what on every single hand regardless of bet size. This makes the part of actually playing the game rather mechanical and allows me to focus on the count instead.

How are casinos counteracting card counters? The first thing they'll do in penetrate the decks very poorly. That is, they'll leave a large amount of the cards undealt. This prevents the True Count from getting too high, or if it does it's only high for a few hands and the shoe is over. Card counters can also be kicked out of a casino or more commonly they can be "Flat Bet" which means the player is no longer allowed to adjust their betting (nullifying the edge you have on the house).

In my next (and last) entry about card counting I'll go into things beyond the game and dig a little deeper into the world of advantage gaming.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Super Bowl XLIX

A day after the Super Bowl and what some are calling "the worst play-call in Super Bowl history." I want to argue that the call at face value was not that bad. The situation is 2nd and goal on the 1 yard line with 20 seconds left. You have 1 timeout.

The most attractive and high percentage play in your playbook is a run. You have the arguably the best running back in the league, he has a nick-name of "Beast Mode", etc. So calling run-run-run is the optimal play calling in my opinion. In this world you force the Patriots to make one of the best goal-line stands in NFL Super Bowl history. For the record, I think running the ball 3 times is the correct choice.

But for arguments sake let's say Marshawn gets stuffed on his 1st run. This leaves a scenario where you are telegraphing your 3rd down play. You either 1) rush to the line for another play or 2) you call a timeout. When you rush to the line for another play, you are telegraphing run (because you're saving your timeout). When you call a timeout you are telegraphing your next play to be a pass (because you're out of timeouts and an incomplete pass would stop the clock and give you another play). So in either case, the defense knows what you're doing on your 3rd down play which is why passing it on 2nd down makes sense. This leaves you with a stopped clock (in the case of an incomplete pass) and with a timeout left and your full playbook at your disposal with your two remaining plays.

I think the way it played out it highlights Belichick's ballsyness to not call a timeout when Seattle lined up for their play on 2nd down. Seattle most likely thought they'd force New England to call a timeout by moving to the line. Love him or hate him, Bill Belichick will go down as maybe the greatest NFL coach of all time along with Brady being one of the best QB's of all time.

Now for the real winner of the Super Bowl.

This shark was AWESOME. I want this costume so bad. He (or she) was the highlight of this years Super Bowl for me.

After watching the halftime show it really got me wondering what year it is though... In just this last year: Cowboys won a playoff game. Missy Elliot and Lenny Kravitz got huge cheers at half-time. A Ninja Turtles movie just came out and a Star Wars movie is coming out. Gas prices are low. The next presidential race might be Bush/Clinton. Am I in high school again?

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

2015 Back to Blogging!

My last entry was all the way back in 2012. Since then I've been in a stable relationship, had a couple career changes, went on a few awesome vacations, and plenty of other random things to ramble on about.

So what made me decide to start blogging again? Call it a New Years Resolution. I have decided to "pick up the pen" again in order to keep my writing skills in tact and hopefully improve a bit. Additionally it serves as a place to store my thoughts, ideas, and memories. I recently went back to re-read some of my old entries and found myself saying, "Oh yeah, I forgot about that!" as well as having a couple cringe-moments.

A new thing is that I am going to open up this blog to my friends and co-workers. I have been a bit of a privacy nut in the past but I think sharing this will help me gain ideas for topics since my overall goal is to keep writing. Feel free to leave ideas for entries in the comments section of any entry and share any of my posts if you know someone dealing with a quarter life crisisclimbing out of ELO Hell, or looking for a new job. I'm not sure how I feel about my friends knowing about all my most personal moments or how I hate Snuggies and Breast Cancer Awareness but I'm excited to see if this little experiment works out.

Happy New Years all!