June 30, 2009

It's a bird! It's a plane! No, wait… it actually is a plane.

Category: Life — Cranky @

As I look out the window I’m presented with a wonderful array of cumulus clouds stretching as far as I can see. Most of them are resting on the same thermal layer, giving me the perspective that I’m at the bottom of an ocean of air, with the clouds floating on the surface.

The ability of the mind to find familiar shapes in the clouds is quite amazing. Certainly there’s no insight in that realization. Anybody who can see at all has searched for patterns in the sky. Today I can see a dog, a horse head, a family of four on a snowmobile, a pod of whales, a nuclear explosion, and an orchid.

That ability to equate the shapes of clouds to seemingly unrelated objects must be one of the defining features of humanity. I can’t imagine that a rabbit is ever startled by a cloud that looks a bit too much like a fox. It’s a complex process. I wonder if that type of mental ability is an extension of other types that are more mundane.

If you walk your dog on a leash enough times, eventually he’ll figure out that if he wants to go out he should bring you the leash. That symbolic connection is a big deal. A rattlesnake in full rattle means danger, a female dog in heat means reproduction… these things are obvious or biologically driven.

Leash to walk, on the other hand, is an abstract connection. Is the ability to make that kind of link an extension of type of understanding that allows the abstraction of the skies? Is it only a matter of degree that separates these abilities?

I realized today that my understanding of the nature of intelligence is sorely lacking. As I get older, what I don’t know gets larger, and the time to learn it all gets shorter. How I wish I was 20 again. It was easier when I already knew everything that was worth knowing.


June 28, 2009

How Long Can You Keep It Up?

Category: Entertainment — Cranky @

I played a poker tournament at a local casino last week, and I quite enjoyed it. I didn’t place – I was 14th out of 90. I haven’t played tournaments much in the last three years, but I’m remembering why I enjoyed them when I was first learning to play.

I played solidly, but not perfectly. I made one really clear mistake, and that’s all it took to put me on a path to elimination.

I had “the bachelor” – jack/king offsuit – and I called for 8 percent of my stack. That’s a high call, but the blinds were creeping up and it was time to mix it up or slowly be ground out. Somebody else raised it to what would be 40% of my stack.

There were two correct moves here: all-in, and possibly pick it all up immediately, or simply fold and conserve my chips. Either choice would have been good. Maybe folding would have been best.

Instead I called, which was NOT the right move. I was out of position. The first cards came 9-4-2, missing me completely. I couldn’t even beat ace high, and I didn’t have enough cash behind to bet him off, so I had to fold to the continuation bet.

40% of my stack was gone, and with the cost to be in a hand climbing rapidly I was forced to gamble to try to rebuild, and I didn’t get the opportunity I needed.

Tournament poker is a mental endurance competition. I made that error after only three hours of tournament play. I can only applaud the ability of the pros to keep their concentration during tournaments that last for days.

Going tonight to play another tournament. This time I’ll do better.


June 25, 2009

"It's Not Your Fault, But Pay Up Anyway."

Category: Current Events — Cranky @

This week a passenger from US Airways Flight 1549 has gone public with her claim that the airline should be paying for family therapy sessions while they deal with the trauma created by the event.

For those who aren’t familiar with the event, Flight 1549 landed in the Hudson river after a flock of birds disabled the engines. The captain was hailed as a hero, the plane was in perfect working order, and everybody did their jobs correctly. The airline paid for the recovery and return of whatever cargo could be found, and they paid each passenger $5000 after the fact.

“I expect my family to be taken care of in the very best way possible, and I don’t feel like that’s happening when you’re balking at my claims to a therapist and you are setting limits on that.” – Tess Sosa

Well, she can expect it all she wants. She just shouldn’t get it.

This woman sees a few thousand dollars in therapy bills that the airline should cover, even though they are in no way liable for the event. What she doesn’t see is the floodgates that would open if such a claim were honoured. Imagine the fraud that would instantly appear throughout the frivolous lawsuit capital of the world – the U.S.A. – if the airline actually paid.

In fact, that precedent would cause problems for all sorts of industries, transportation or otherwise. Caught in an elevator in an office tower, and personally know a therapist? Well, hot damn! Now you need therapy for claustrophobia, and for a 50/50 split you don’t even have to attend. The building owner or the elevator maintenance contractor will cough up. Did that ride at Disneyland creak more than expected? Now you’re afraid of attractions, but for a few thousand you might be able to overcome it.

People already cheat their way through physical injury claims. Imagine what a field day people would have if the “injury” was mental, and thus invisible.

I’m not saying the trauma isn’t real, or that the family doesn’t need therapy. I’m saying that if the company isn’t liable in this case it’s far better for everybody if they don’t cave.