January 2023
« Apr    



Mixing business with pleasure

I met a prospective new client today.  Half way through the meeting, as he stood up to fetch me a coffee, one of his colleagues muttered something to him, they both grinned, and then this happened.

"Chris, rub that plant"


"It’s not a trick or anything, just rub it, it’s a lucky plant"

I am confused as hell, but I eventually oblige, expecting it to be a comedy vibrating plant, or to light up or start singing or something.

Instead, as I touch the leaves I notice a pound coin begin its trajectory upwards.

"Heads or tails?"

"Err… heads"

It lands on the floor – tails.  Apparantly I broke the plant.

He pulls a wad of money from his pocket and starts counting.

So I was only wearing three items of casino clothing today (Caesars jacket, Plaza shirt, Luxor socks – obviously I like to dress well for such meetings) but even if he’d noticed the subtle signs, I guess it’s wrong to offer me a piece of that action when he hardly knows me.

"So what happened?", I ask.

"You lost me a hundred and fifty"

I think the meeting went well otherwise.

T-47: a fistfull of dullards?

Hooray for starting a premature collection of dollars.  Or "dullards", as Matt keeps telling me they’re called, even though he can’t tell me why…

The best exchange rate in town was at the Cheque Centre, which has recently taken over a butcher’s shop in Longton.  The shop is so new you can still smell the carpet glue.  They offered $1.92 to the £1 and 0% commission – two or three cents better than everywhere else.

In fact the rate on my Citibank dual currency account was only $1.94.  Not much in it if you change up the cash before you leave, when you have to pay ATM fees over there.

"How would you like the money", he asked.  "Large bills are fine", I replied.  I remembered where I was and readjusted to British English.  "Hundreds, if you’ve got them".

"We’ve got fifties", he offered with a smile.  Oh dear.  Our faces dropped in unison.

I tried to explain.  "Well, we’re going to Vegas and fifties are unlucky.  But twenties would be like this big..".  I held my hands a good few inches apart, apparently indicating the five figure bankroll that one day I actually hope to have, and not the few hundred we’d gone to change up.

From his reaction I’m sure he hadn’t heard this nonsense before, and I’m glad.  Because I have no idea where it came from, and just wouldn’t know how I’d explain it if pressed.  We talked about this afterwards.  Claire says it’s something I told her, but I’m sure it’s something I picked up from her.  I’ve searched online to try to find some far fetched urban legend or just some unwritten rule, but nothing turned up.  Google does index unwriten rules, right?

The best I’ve managed to find is an old Question of the Day from Las Vegas Advisor, which I can’t even link properly to because it’s a subscription-only page, so I’ve had to reproduce some parts of it here and hope that Anthony Curtis doesn’t mind.  Actually, if I find out that a Vegas legend reads my blog I wont really care about the consequences!  If you’re a subscriber, you can see the full thing here

"The Las Vegas Hilton told us that they hold some $50s, but that many casinos don’t order them, because they’re considered unlucky. (They also said that casinos tended to avoid dealing with them in the past because of their resemblance to $100s and the risk of error, although we’d have thought that this would apply more to $10s.)

The Plaza acknowledged that a bit of superstition surrounds the $50, with some people considering them lucky and others the reverse, but they didn’t know the reason behind either belief.

Stratosphere claimed its Asian customers like getting $50s, while the Imperial Palace stated that its big players do not like them.

The Golden Gate said they don’t hold $50 bills, i.e., if they receive them they’re not given out, only banked. But they didn’t know why.

Bally’s, Binion’s, and Caesars had all heard of the unlucky connotations, but they all keep and give out $50s."

So essentially, nobody really knows.  Still, better not take any chances eh?

We like ice cream

The summer is nearly here, so we decided to head to the seaside.  Using a complimentary weekend train ticket, our destination was fabulous Torquay.  This trip didn’t actually work out too bad.  It’s a 4.5 hour journey each way, with 6 hours there to soak up some rays, go for a swim, or whatever.  I’d never pay for that train, but there’s worse ways to use a free train journey than to head for the coast.

The only problem: no beach.  Nothing to speak of, at least.  Plenty of water, but only one tiny strip of sand.  Perhaps I should have done more research than just try to name a seaside town, check if the train went there and make sure the station was within walking distance of the coast.  Maybe it was just high tide the whole time we were there.  There were a few bucket-and-spade shops, which suggeests there’s more to Torquay than water, but I didn’t see it.  Maybe it’s just a bit further away than we could venture, but by foot we were stuck with whatever piece of coastline was nearby.

Boats.  There were lots of boats.  Claire asked if I’d ever want a boat, and I said only if the other guy had a flush.  Oh how we laughed at the very clever poker joke.  I’d seen a pier on the map, but it wasn’t much more than a plank out into the harbour.   What a con.  At least there were seagulls and the smell of the sea drifting in and out.  Not to mention dodgy amusement arcades, where we came across more than one fruit machine pro.

Oh my word, how fast they need to press those buttons to do this for a living.  Having waited for me to drop two quid into a machine and walk away, one of them jumped straight in there, pumping it as hard as he could in order to squeeze out the five pound jackpot.  Plus EV.  I think it only cost him £4 more so that’s a pound clear profit for those who are willing to put in the time to learn the system.  If you can do that three or four times a day, then… wow.

But of course the most important things were clotted cream – which it’s illegal to leave Devon without, and which made me very pleasantly sick after we got home – and ice cream.

We do like ice cream, as you can see.


It’s grim in Stoke too, you know

To the anonymous reader who took issue with me saying that it’s grim up north, which (whilst it clearly is in parts) was really just an excuse to put a KLF song on my blog.  Are you still reading?

I’ve used a free train ticket to book a trip to Newcastle this weekend.  We’re going to be there for 10 hours – Claire somehow thinks she can get me to Derby station for 6.39am – and will be getting around on public transport.  We want to go the MetroCentre and some kind of seaside, not sure if there’ll be time for much else but open to suggestions.

If we get to go through Byker station on the Metro, that’s a bonus that will provide minutes of childish pleasure.  Just like how it was compulsory to hum very loudly the time we had a stopover at Dallas airport, I’m sure Claire will briefly be the Donna Air to my Ant or Dec.

Cullercoats Bay looks the easiest beach to get to, but Whitley Bay, South Shields and Sunderland are options.  Where is the sand most likely to resemble yellow, and the sea likely to be the least black?

[Insert Monty Python quote here]

My plans for the evening were scuppered because City Link are useless cretins who don’t actually know how to deliver a parcel at all, let alone on time.  How hard is it?  I mean, if post addressed to "Gordon the Gopher, The Broom Cupboard" can get there, what’s the problem with my order for the components I needed to actually do some work tonight?  Delivery was refused on Friday – because they took it to the wrong building, apparently just guessing wrong once – and today they claimed the postcode was wrong and refused to even put it on a van.  Which it wasn’t.  Why not just call me if you can’t find the place, you bastards?

Anyway, I decided to head over to Trafalgar Square to watch the Spamalot cast’s world record attempt for largest coconut orchestra.  I won’t keep you in suspense any longer because I’m sure you’re dying to know.  They smashed the record, previously held by… the New York cast, of course.

I cooed a little when two of the original Monty Python members were wheeled out –Terry Jones and Terry Gilliam to be precise – and I watched over 4000 people clip-clop along with Always Look on The Bright Side of Life.  Something you don’t see every day, for sure.

I was too late to actually get a pair of coconuts to take part, and didn’t even get a picture of some.  They were special Spamalot coconuts, you see.  I couldn’t decide whether asking "could I take a picture of your coconuts" would be safer with a random man or woman, so I just took some photos of a flying inflatable foot interfering with landmarks instead.

The National Gallery:


Alison Lapper Pregnant:

Nelson’s Column:

And just because it’s the 25th anniversary of the Sinclair ZX Spectrum, I have to also include this picture too.


Choo choo

The most interesting thing I saw this weekend by a mile, but that’s not saying much.  The brick train sculpture in Darlington, marking the location of Britain’s first railway line.  Now the site of a Morrisons supermarket.

The KLF were right

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

I’m still due some luck then.  Today it wasn’t a case of being crippled because I couldn’t win 50/50s, it was that I couldn’t win the hands where I dominated.  I finished 19th from 100, lasting long enough to collect the goody bag they gave out to the final three tables, but not long enough to collect any cash.  Still, I’m now the proud owner of a GBPT swimming bag which came preloaded with a t-shirt (size L, and not good enough to motivate me to lose that much weight),  a pen, a chip, a keyring, a pin badge and a card protector which is actually rather nice.  Oh, and the obligatory pack of cards, but the guy next to me spoke for everyone when he said "like I need another one of those".

I’ll probably post some pictures of the freebies when I get home, along with as much as I managed to photograph of the local places of interest. They’re not all that interesting at all – I was bored after not much more than an hour of driving round trying to find stuff.  I’d seen a sculpture of a train made out of brick, which "pushed at the boundaries of brick technology" – boy was I impressed – and a transporter bridge, apparently the world’s longest but so much less useful than a road bridge that you could cross at any time without stopping, instead of at fifteen minute intervals during the day and not at all at night.

Yes, it’s grim up north.  This far north anyway.  This is up beyond Yorkshire, where you have a city with rich Roman and Viking history in York, the fastest growing city in the country in Leeds and a lot of picturesque moors, which have only been spoiled by the occasional serial killer.  Up here in Cleveland, the world is stuck in a timewarp, and not in an endeering way.  Parts of the towns I explored could very easily have been the set for any period drama based in the 1970s.  It may well already have been used for that, I just can’t be bothered to check.  Getting back just now I filled my car up using a petrol pump that had a mechanical seven-segment display, none of your newfangled liquid crystal that’s becoming so popular with the rise of the pocket calculator.  Not quaint, just crap.

I also wondered if we were stuck in the 1970s after an indicent at the poker table.  One player had raised pre-flop and got one caller.  The board was queen high, the raiser bet and the caller called.  The turn brought another queen, the raiser bet again and the caller moved all in.  The raiser must have had kings or aces and eventually folded and the caller – a dark skinned fellow, seemingly of Indian origin but a Teesside local through and through – showed his king queen.  Disgusted, the raiser shouted across the table, "Why don’t you go back where you came from?".  For a brief moment, if felt like things might be about to get ugly.   "Whadeeya mean, like?", he asked.  "Back to that other table", came the reply.  Oh right, he hadn’t long been moved here.  False alarm then, probably.

I’m not writing a match report tonight, but I probably will.  I have to be in Hanley tomorrow afternoon for an eye test, and so sleeping before the three hour drive (Autoroute said 2h15 but I don’t believe it) is a good idea.  I have notes from all my key hands and this time there were a few interesting confrontations.  However, for at least the last hour I was there, the tournament structure left a person with an average stack less than ten big blinds, so there was no poker left to be played.  Short stacks had to move all-in with any old garbage and big stacks had to call them with not much better, and everything just went a bit random.  In the midst of that, I couldn’t get lucky enough to capitalize on the strong position I’d got myself into during the first four hours.

The tour hits Nottingham next month, I might get to have another crack.

Hear this

This is a sign on the tube in a space where proper advertising could go, so you know it’s serious.  It’s a funny angle, but I really didn’t want to have to shift on a busy train to try to get the perfect shot – it does the job.

Really, how has this ever been an issue?  I can’t believe whoever came up with the idea of putting this sign on an underground train has ever been on the tube, let along been on it with an iPod.  If you can hear anything out of your own headphones, you’re doing well, nevermind how you could possibly be concerned about a little sound escaping from someone wedged next to you.

This is especially with European model iPods with the volume cap that’s imposed on everyone because of some stupid French law.  My old Creative MP3 player came from the USA and I could hear OK it at three notches below top volume at full speed on the Circle Line.  Whereas my iPod nano bought in England didn’t stand a chance until I invested in some noise-cancelling headphones.

The volume cap surely does make it harder to deafen yourself if you really can’t tell when it’s too loud (clues: ears ringing, bad; ears bleeding, very bad) but just like the law that prevents you buying more than a handful of painkillers at time so that it;s more difficult to kill yourself if you don’t realise it’s wrong to take a whole bottle, it’s just a bloody nuisence.

Must try harder, T minus 20

Back from Vegas. Mustn’t grumble – going back again in less than three weeks. 🙂

Ten days without blogging – I didn’t plan for that so I need to regain momentum now. When you land a hotel that only pretends to have internet access though, it’s kind of a problem. Sure, there was a decent wifi signal. It looked to be working great too, right up until I put in my credit card number. It accepted and told me to go surf. I tried. It got slow. It died. It never recovered. Still don’t know whether they actually charged me or, really, who the hell it was operated by. The hotspot name was Cheetah something or other (hah – not kidding), and I’ll find out more if they do actually think I’m going to pay for it.

So all my plans to write lots of random crap about Vegas at Christmas time were thwarted. I did say to Claire I should try to find some net access and at least put up a post to explain, but then she pointed out that my reader was also stuck in Vegas with no net access.  Thanks.

I do have a notebook with a few scribbles and a few hundred photos to sort through as soon as I’m a bit more awake to do that so there’ll be some retrospective holiday cheer to come. Before Twelfth Night too, with any luck. Here’s a very quick summary, with elaborations to follow:

Two final tables, two cashes and two bustouts with pocket kings – which I’ll try to argue I couldn’t avoid – from 7 tournaments. Christmas lunch is just dinner with a couple more turkeys served at lunchtime.  Wayne Newton is still a Vegas legend, but it would be nice if he could still actually sing.

I found a link to the fireworks we missed here:  Bear with the commercial – it’s worth watching.  My New Years Eve was celebrated with the pilot reading out the most pathetic countdown you ever heard and a plane half-full of passengers mumbling a bit.  Nobody dared sing Auld Lang Syne, or lift up their top.  Happy New Year.

I’ve seen better Christmas hats…

This is the Christmas window display in the Apple store on Regent Street, where I spent much too long drooling over £300 headphones last night.  Boy they’re good.  Coldplay was on in the store, so I stuck on a pair of Bose Quiet Comfort 3s, turned on noise reduction and bam… no more background drivel.

I’m afraid I don’t really get the tree-on-a-stick.  Maybe having just a snowman isn’t enough to say "It’s Christmas, buy more stuff".  And isn’t that Tommy Cooper’s hat?