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Party time. Excellent.

My little blog is one year old, and I am celebrating the occasion with a stolen photograph off of the tinterweb.  Sorry if it’s yours.

 

Hot stuff baby this evenin’

Perhaps I should have waited before fudging my graphs.  Variance is playing games with me, but this time I’m not too bothered.  Just look at this!

 Slight recovery.

Power, Corruption and Big Brother

Separated at birth?

Colour code wheel used on New Order record sleeves, circa 1983

Big Brother logo, 2007

The oven is in the bedroom.  The fridge is in the garden.  The men are nowhere to be seen.

A stalker, the whistle posse and twins?

And there’s clearly a hidden message in the eye, somewhere.

As usual, my summer is over before it’s begun.

EDIT: LOCAL TWINS!

Wannabe banks

If the Halifax former building society want to be treated like a bank, they should act like one.  There we are with a hundred quid in silver, saved up over many years in a Cadbury’s Roses jar, and she’s all like "only five bags a day".  It does say this on the counter too.  But I mean, how much effort is it really?  They don’t count the coins.  They don’t even have to pour them into a sorting machine.  She took my five bags behind a partition and presumably weighed them, as the whole thing only took about 30 seconds – including the walk.  It might have taken 40 seconds if she’d accepted my full deposit.

Apparently this restriction doesn’t apply to kids’ accounts.  Clearly high revenue earners for the banks, children.  Especially the ones who have a freaking mortgage with them, like me.

I’m not done though.  Sorry, there’s more.

PayPal.  For crying out loud.

Last week I attempted to get a refund on a transaction from a seller that has proved to be less than honest.  Claire found a nice little sideline in used printer cartridges, buying them from eBay and either recycling at a profit, or sending them to Tesco for 100 Green Clubcard points each – that’s £4 a pop if you use the points towards a Virgin holiday to you know where, or some other Clubcard Deals.  I paid through PayPal using my MBNA credit card to earn BMI diamond club miles, towards yet another holiday to you know where.

I have no problem with naming and shaming here.  Hopefully search engines will pick this up so that anybody who wants to check out the seller will find our story: Image Warehouse (eBay name imagewarehouse) sold a box of empty Lexmark inkjet cartridges that were just not up to the job.  Listed as virgin (not yet refilled) and official, they were mostly neither – a box full of poor quality "compatible" cartridges that were in no state to be recycled.  Some of them had literally fallen apart.

The seller agreed that we could return the box for a refund, which in itself cost about £60.  Since then he’s not responded to a single email, despite still apparently doing a healthy business on eBay.  Right now, he’s had 17 negative comments in the last month, but he shifts enough stuff that this only equates to a 99.3% positive feedback rating.  Most buyers wouldn’t even look any further than that.

The problem with PayPal – for buyers dealing with another country, at least - lies in the fact that they will only open a dispute within 45 days of purchase.  These cartridges were sent surface mail from the USA so took about five weeks to arrive.  After sending them back, it was clearly way past 45 days before we could be sure that the guy was ripping us off.  PayPal won’t help and Mastercard won’t start a chargeback over a "quality of goods issue", even though I have emails stating he would refund and proof of shipping.  That just encourages honest citizens to lie to their bank and say that it’s a fraudulent transaction, surely?  Telling the truth sure as hell doesn’t do any good when the "buyer protection" policies just aren’t worth a damn.  We’re pretty much screwed on this one.

On the other hand…

I’ve also been on the seller side of a dispute.  A web site I took over a few years ago included a store that sells downloadable software and web traffic.  It’s far from being a retirement plan, but it does get the occasional order.  The software sales work just fine, but since it’s way down my priority list, I’ve not bothered to keep up to date with traffic prices from various suppliers that I’d resell from and I’ve not accepted an order for some time.  I actually care about this web site so little that, rather than hack about with a mess of a web site, I just decided to put a message at the top of the page saying that these products weren’t unavailable.  Unashamedly cheap, but I thought it might do the job.

You can see the message here: http://www.arrayal.com/wholesale_web_traffic.shtml

It’s not subtle, is it?

Still, I got an order last month for $129.95 and about an hour later – as it didn’t instantly arrive – the buyer put in a complaint with PayPal.  Doing so locked those funds pending a review so I couldn’t use them, even to send a refund.  As the buyer clearly couldn’t be bothered to read the massive red text warning, as far as I was concerned he could wait a little while for his refund now – I wasn’t going to make a deposit in order to pay him back and then wait weeks while PayPal decided if I could have my money back, or if he’d actually get refunded twice.

The only option for any kind of communication open to me was to submit tracking information for the sale.  I did this, selecting delivery method "online" and tracking number "none", and wrote a message in the comments field to explain that this actually wasn’t tracking information, but it was all I could do.  The email confirmation they sent after submitting the information did not contain the comments I’d entered, nor were they visible anywhere in the PayPal screens.  I’m not sure if anyone ever read these – it doesn’t look like it – and obviously I don’t have an exact copy, but from memory it went a little something like this:

"This product ordered is not available at present, as is stated clearly on the order page.  Buyer needs to pay more attention before entering payment details online.  Please refund the buyer in full – I cannot do this as the funds in my account are frozen."

Weeks pass, and I hear nothing.  Then this:

"According to the User Agreement, PayPal’s Buyer Complaint Policy applies only to the postage of goods and not to services and other intangible goods.  For that reason, we are unable to take any action regarding this complaint."

Result?  Err… no.

Now it’s his turn to be screwed by a brain dead PayPal policy that, really, is an open door to online fraudsters.  If someone is prepared to send you money with PayPal for anything that you don’t have to ship (software, a web site subscription, an e-book, etc) then you simply do not have to deliver and the buyer has no comeback at all.  Why not try it?  There’s a lot of money to be made if you’re that way inclined.

This result in my favour is no consolation to me really.  I could keep the $129.95 to offset what I’ve lost on the other deal, but then I’d be as bad as Ron from Image Warehouse.  I’m still going to refund this poor sucker eventualy.  First I just want to make sure he knows how fucked up PayPal really is. (*)

(*) I considered censoring my language here, in case it jeopardised search engine indexing, but a quick search for "paypal fucked up" reveals that I’m not the first to say it, and that it’s just fine and dandy with Google.  Good job.

Damn lies

I’ve decided to fudge my poker graphs a little, so here’s where I fess up to what I’ve done.

Before

After

You can click the thumbnails for larger versions if you want, but it’s pretty clear what happened from these tiny versions anyway.

My doomswitch was flipped a few days ago.  Everything I touched turned to shit, and the graph I posted on Friday was only the start of it.  I’d already sunk four buy-ins on Poker Stars and I thought a change of scenery might do me good.  Especially as I’d already achieved Gold Star status on Stars for next month but was miles away from the next level, earning a few more FPPs wasn’t really going to matter.

I found a $25 freebie in my Party Poker account and a $100 reload bonus on Empire.  Often I’d just blitz through these on $1/$2 limit, but as I have a no-limit goal right now, what harm could it do to carry on playing for my NL50 target on here?  Quite a bit, as it happened.

Five more buy-ins dribbled away before I’d unlocked the bonuses.  $250 down for $125 of bonus - not good at all.  Though I got lucky on Party to start with, 250 hands wasn’t enough to realise that this game plays rather different to what I’d gotten used to.  By the end of 1000 hands on Empire, I’d just about figured that out and almost stopped spewing.  Almost.

So I’ve decided to write off the hands on Party and Empire.  Quite naughty I know, but it makes my graph look so untidy otherwise, and a little deception is worthwhile if it helps to keep me motivated.  My original plan was, after all, to see whether I could beat the NL50 game on Stars in particular so I can tell myself somewhat convincingly that it’s not too bad to discard some bad results.  OK it’s still cheating, but I’m not counting rakeback or bonuses (so far worth at least $600) in my profit figures, so it all cancels out in the end.

The comeback begins now, with only a four buy-in mountain to climb to get back on track, not nine.  Suddenly that seems much more achievable.

I’m not gay or owt

Saw the Pet Shop Boys last night, in Wolverhampton.  It sounded a little something like this.

When I look back upon my lie-uf
It’s always with a sense of shay-um
I’ve always been the one to blay-um

The fact that this clip is the best I could find from about twenty thousand cellphone bootlegs on YouTube is surely reason enough to allow people to take decent recording equipment to concerts these days.

If a whole bunch of people are going to stand in front of me holding their phones up in the air, rush home and see who can be first to upload a tiny, shaky recording of half a song with terrible sound that’s not even in sync with what video you can see, I’d much rather they were getting in my way with a decent camera and a boom mic.  At least that way I’d be able to see the bits I missed when I got home.

Anyway, what’s so gay about an on stage shiny gold cowboy teaching another cowboy on screen to swing his pants? Am I not allowed to find this entertaining?

This is how it feels when the last 5,000 hands mean nothing at all

I appear to be broken.  Tell me this is no big deal…

 

Laughing out out out out out out out loud

Time for a quick poker lesson in how to represent a hand, courtesy of Rickib78.

a/s/l?  We assume from the username late twenties, and probably male but using a cool or deliberately feminised form of Richard.  PokerStars tells me he’s from Clayton, Victoria.  G’day, Dick.

Representing a hand is simple, apparently.  Just bet and raise wildly and then your opponent has to assume that you currently hold the best hand available with the community cards that are showing.

Here’s the example :-

Poker Stars – No Limit Hold’em Cash Game – $0.25/$0.50 Blinds – 9 Players – (LegoPoker HH Converter)

SB: $49.45
Hero (BB): $71.40
UTG: $39.95
UTG+1: $28.65
MP1: $16.90
MP2: $21.05
MP3: $34.10
CO: $48.00
BTN: $51.25

Preflop: Hero is dealt K T (9 Players)
UTG calls $0.50, 5 folds, BTN calls $0.50, SB calls $0.25, Hero checks

Flop: ($2) 9 K 8 (4 Players)
SB checks, Hero bets $1.50, UTG calls $1.50, 2 folds

Turn: ($5) 7 (2 Players)
Hero bets $2.50, UTG raises to $10.00, Hero calls $7.50

River: ($25) 2 (2 Players)
Hero checks, UTG bets all-in for $27.95, Hero folds

So I folded the best hand.  He proudly showed QJo, thinking he’d pushed me off a big hand and not, in fact, the weak pair and busted draw that I had.

luckydonut said, "wow u misread ur hand"
Rickib78 said, "looool"
Rickib78 said, "did u have a straight?"
luckydonut said, "you think i folded a straight?"
luckydonut said, "lol"
Rickib78 said, "loool"
luckydonut said, "looooooool"
luckydonut said, "whats this, lol envy?"
Rickib78 said, "well i represented a flush !!!!"
luckydonut said, "you did?"
Rickib78 said, "3 spades on the table"
luckydonut said, "oh so you represented what on the turn, before you decided to represent the flush, exactly?"
Rickib78 said, "on the turn it was a straigh"
Rickib78 said, "looooooooooooool"

Looooooooooooooooooooooooooooool.  I win.

But really, I don’t know what’s so funny.  Clearly I have a lot to learn to take on a player who is good enough to represent a different hand on each and every betting round.

I think I should probably just fold every hand.

Train Tilt

It’s my last work trip to London, for a while at least.  Pros: no more 6.30 alarms.  Cons: no more compilmentary at-seat breakfasts on a free first class ticket.

Thanks to the Virgin Traveller programme, which I "qualified" for by booking eight return tickets to Cheltenham, I’ve been able to sit in a slightly bigger seat for free on any Monday morning or Friday evening journey.  It’s already more than paid for itself – entry to the programme cost about £500, and every morning journey I’ve made to London would have cost £54, in a cheap seat, without breakfast.  I didn’t even need to go to Cheltenham.

Membership has its benefits: two first class weekend return tickets to anywhere on the network.  I always book both seats, even if I’m travelling alone.  That way the seat reservations are always for a proper four-seat table, not a one-on-one table.

That’s the theory at least, but seat reservations appear to mean very little, particularly to people who pay £150 to get to work.  At least in standard class you see people looking a bit shifty when they know they’re sitting in someone else’s seat, ready to get up and avoid embarassment as soon anyone looks like they’re going to confront them.

The real problem is that I’m absolutely hopeless this early in the morning.  So when I see two ladies sliding into opposite corners of my table just ahead of me, one saying "you go that side so you can spread out a bit", I’m in no fit state to politely and, more important, coherently point out that one would actually be spreading into my seat, would you mind letting me sit there, and it has to be the window seat so I can use my laptop, and by the way can’t you read the fucking sign?

What’s that… is it a monster?  No, it’s just me before I’ve had my third cup of coffee and luke warm hash brown.  I decide it’s best not to engage them.

What do you say?  "Hey, you’re in my seat".  So she lets me sit next to her and opposite her friend and I get caught in some crossfire talk about shopping or periods or whatever while I’m eating a particularly chewy sausage.

Do I really whip out the second ticket and say "I pwn your seat too"?  The best that can happen then is she moves over to the other side of the table and I have to face her for the next hour and a half.  Hell hath no fury like a woman asked to move seats by a fat dude?

All I want to do is curl up and zone out until my rubber bacon arrives.

So here I am squatting in some other bastard’s single seat – I know this because it says "reserved" above it, it’s not hard – and winding myself up because I only got one seat for free, not two. 

I’ll try to calm down a little when I get off the train and to Costa Coffee.  Even though I know they’ll assume I want milk in my Americano.  No.  Thank you.

What an amazingly spoilt start to the week.

Fifteen grand down the drain

Poker Stars dealt their ten billionth hand this evening.

It played out at a 1c/2c blind, no limit hold’em table.  The winner, justine0003, had a stack of $0.82c at the start of the hand, and dragged down a mammoth $100,003.31 pot with an eight-three suited.

For this promotion, Poker Stars were paying everybody dealt into the hand a $10,000 bonus, and the winner hand of hand #10,000,000,000 got their bonus upgraded to a cool hundred large.

These awards were to be increased further based upon your rank within the VIP program.  Conspiracy theorists may note not only that it’s impossible to earn any frequent player points (and therefore progress through the VIP program) at the stakes played on the chosen table, but that it was also 6-handed table, not the usual 9-handed.  The cost to PokerStars was precisely $150,000 – not to be sniffed at, but on a full ring mid or high stakes game it could have cost almost double that.

The winner’s suited garbage made a flush on the turn to beat a five-four offsuit, a nine-ten suited and one other hand that was mucked and is not visible in the hand history.  Four players were all in before the flop.  Two folded pre-flop.

Those two players probably made the worse mistake in online poker, ever.

Players inwooke and XTedForrestX, sitting on stacks of $1.73 and $2.95 respectively, folded after the first player to act moved all in with his $4.83.  An astute move by Rechargeable, because with a hundred grand at stake you’re going to play, but you want to be racing off your cards against as few players as possible.  You’d think nobody will fold here ever, but at least you can give them a chance to get it wrong.

Here’s what getting it wrong fold cost them: for a saving of $2.95 (let’s take the worst case scenario) they gave up a one-sixth theoretical share of $90,000 additional money.  That’s an expected return of $15,000, not to mention the few dollars in the actual pot itself.  It’s over 30,500 to 1 pot odds, and and even with a hopeless hand you’re surely no worse off than a 20-1 shot to strike it rich.

Playing scared is one thing.  Winning ten grand for nothing but then not wanting to risk three bucks on the best lottery ticket you’ll ever get defies logic.