Archive for April, 2010

Gambling and the Slot Machine

Slot MachineSo we took a trip this weekend to our local Hotel and Casino. It was just an overnight trip to get away. I took some time to reflect on the trip, and came away with some knowledge about myself, which is always a good thing.

Maybe it’s just my age, but I have decided that I am against me gambling. Notice I didn’t say I’m “against gambling”. I said I’m against “ME gambling”.

First of all, I have never been a big gambler. The only time I ever sat at a real casino table was playing blackjack just for fun. It was a slow night at this casino, so I figured I’d give it a shot.

I lost $35 in less than two minutes.

I stopped.

Now I’m not saying someone can’t make money at gambling. It’s just that the odds are against you. Some people get a thrill from that sort of thing.

Dangerous thrill, but whatever.

I’ll leave the analysis of high stakes gambling to the big dogs. I’d rather go a bit more small time and talk about the Slot Machine. I have decided that the slot machine is one of the most ingenious god damn inventions on the planet.

Think about it. People willingly put their hard-earned money into a slot, lose their money, and, here’s the kicker: they are OK with it.

That’s fucking ingenious. I mean, they aren’t buying tangible goods and services, they’re buying into an illusion.

I decided to look up “Slot Machine Probability Statistics” just to do some research for this and sure enough, appropriate to the topic, the internet is clogged up with slot machine scams.

So, I’m not going to link your computer to the unfortunate mess of online slot machine scams. You’ll have to trust me on this one. If you really want the link from which I draw my data, I will be more than happy to disclose. I had to comb through a lot of shitty data to find the real scoop on slot machines. I am no mathematician, but here’s some basics about what I found, and I am sure that many of you already know this, so I’m not expecting this to be groundbreaking information. Looking at the math, though, I find it interesting:

  1. Every slot machine has what’s called a “lookup” table with mathematical weights corresponding to each symbol in the reels, the higher monetary value symbols have lower weights. That means the higher the monetary value of the symbol, the lower the probability they will align. This is perfectly legal and does not break any US laws.
  2. The historical payout of the slot machine makes no difference whatsoever. A machine in which you put your first coin is just as (un)likely to payout a jackpot as a machine you’ve been playing all day.
  3. There is a built in psychological “mind trick” to slot machines with the way the reels are organized. They are situated in a way that gives people the illusion that they “almost” hit a jackpot or higher payout. For example, someone might get a reel that is one symbol off from winning 20 credits as opposed to 2 credits, leading them to falsely think they “almost won” for that spin. The idea, of course, is that this will get said player to keep playing under the pretense that the next spin will increase their odds of winning. This is an illusion. Once again, perfectly legal in the US.
  4. The “payout” on slot machines, even including jackpot payouts, on a per user basis can be anywhere from 86% to 97%. What that means is for every dollar you spend, considering all factors, you will get anywhere from 86 to 97 cents back. But, that is statistics according to the Casino, not on a per-outing basis, which means that one visit to the Casino does not guarantee this “return” (emphasis on the quotes). One outing you might lose all your money, the next may be up by $40 for that visit, whatever. In other words, you should expect to lose 3 to 14 cents overall per dollar spent on total visits to slot machines. Sure, you might indeed hit a jackpot and be one of the few people who actually win something life-changing, but considering all factors, it is a losing proposition, tantamount to playing the lottery. Odds are you will be out money. The odds of winning a full jackpot are anywhere from .00004 to .00007 percent, according to my “research,” for what it’s worth.

They don’t put slot machines in casinos for nothing. They are profit-making machines like anything else. But what is ingenious about it, is that they are exploiting human psychology. It’s one thing if you buy tangible goods, but putting money into a slot machine like that, it’s just too damn easy for them.

You might say it’s great for the free booze, but that’s all part of the loss as well. You are certainly more likely to spend more money if you are inebriated than if you are not. I don’t think I need to quote statistics on that.

Me? I’ll keep my money, thank you.

If anyone finds a flaw in my analysis or math, please make a comment below. I’ll be the first to admit that I am no mathematical genius. Just please be gentle. :)

* Image courtesy of Jeff Kubina via Flickr

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How We Spend Money in America

Everyone has something they spend their money on, and one thing that never ceases to amaze me is our American super-human ability to spend money on shit we don’t need.

Now before you cry “pot calling the kettle black” I will be the first to admit that I am guilty as charged. I have a penchant for cigars and scotch. My $120 Humidor full of $200 worth of cigars and the $80 bottle of scotch adorning my liquor cabinet are testaments to that. Everyone has something they spend money on, and like it or not it’s part of our American way of life. My brothers ride dirt bikes; my dad has a motor home; my father-in-law is into ham radios; my thing is cigars and scotch. “One man’s trash is another’s treasure,” as the old saying goes.

My wife’s thing? Coach purses.

We took a trip to our local Coach Outlet store recently. As we walked in, there was a greeter conveniently giving out “20% off” coupons.

Anytime that happens, I ain’t getting out of there without her buying something. My wife’s a sucker for a sale.

Anyway, I’m looking around the store. The “trash vs. treasure” theme was apparent early on, when I spotted a $120 men’s wallet.

HELL NO!

I’d never spend $120 on a wallet. That’s fucking ridiculous. It had better be made of gold, or spontaneously spit out money on its own, or give me the occasional hand job while it’s in my pocket, or fucking something for $120. But people buy them all the time. There was a guy who just happened to purchase one while we were there.

My wallet? $12. Had it for 3 years and counting. Pisses me off that I actually have to go through the pain of buying one every so often.

But, remember we all have something we spend our money on. If you don’t, well then consider yourself lucky.

But the Coach saga gets worse.

I spotted a bin full of pink, heart-shaped plastic bags a bit larger than the palm of your hand. They were heavy and full of sand.

I held it up to my wife and asked her “What the fuck is this?”

My wife shook her head. She had no idea.

One of the Coach attendants overheard me and politely responded with, “It’s a paperweight.”

“What?” I asked.

“It’s a paperweight.”

I looked down at the price of this paperweight.

$19.

It’s a plastic bag full of sand.

And then the attendant says “We have a sale on that and the matching heart-shaped Coach mouse pad.”

I look down at the price of this mouse pad.

$29.

I smiled and responded with my usual smart-ass sarcasm, “Well, you know, I can get paperweights for free. I got connections. A good rock will do. Those are free.”

She smiled and said “Well, it’s for the girl who already has everything.”

Indeed.

I guess what I’m saying is that everyone in America has something, a “vice” as it were on which they spend their disposable income. “Disposable” is a very appropriate word, because that is exactly what we’re doing.

So the next time you want to criticize someone for throwing their money away on something that makes them happy, take a look at your own expenditures and be sure you’re not the pot calling the kettle black.

Let the (Sort of Related) Rant Begin:

And, on a more serious note, you should feel fortunate you live in a place that gives you the opportunity to spend your money on shit you don’t need. There are a lot of people in this world who don’t have that luxury. I mean, we live in a country where we have TV shows about other people buying a house, called House Hunters and call it entertainment. That show makes me sick.

I’ve seen third world conditions first hand, and to hear those people complain about their kitchen “not being as quaint as we’d like it” makes me want to stop them from procreating.

That’s why the rest of the world hates us. Oh. That, and because we’re idiots.

See you next time.

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Pixels Destroying New York

I am in my 40’s, and have been here for over a year now. I grew up with the earliest types of gaming and was hooked from the very beginning. Some of those games set the stage for me in the types of games I play and seek out to this day, whether from an unconscious nostalgia aspect… or they somehow peek into my personality.  Whatever it is, I may explore that aspect in a future post.

I consider myself extremely lucky to have owned one of the first generation home game consoles (ok, my Parents officially bought it).  It was in 1976 and called the Wonder Wizard.  It was a Pong game.  Can’t count how many hours I played that with someone else or alone against the computer.  BUT, it was Pong… eventually it became rather redundant.  The second-generation home gaming consoles introduced 8-bit circuit boards.  These were fast enough and advanced enough to bring color to the world of gaming, and it thus changed gaming, for everyone. Arcades were born in this era as well.

So I’ve played a bunch in the 8-bit generation of games, and many are the ones that are considered classics and icons in the history of gaming.  They became a part of society and of history.

The point of this post? Simply the fact that I came across a very well produced video on YouTube today that mixes modern computer animation with the 8-bit world of graphics. Any gamer worth his salt will recognize all of the references in it.  I sat here and smiled as I watched it, and wanted to share it with the other long-time gamers out there.

It is called “Pixels.” Enjoy!

This video was Directed by Patrick Jean and Produced by Benjamin Darras and Johnny Alves at onemoreprod.

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My Addiction

My daughter was born a few weeks ago.  Newborns change your schedule completely.  During one of my late night feedings I was channel flipping and saw that IFC was running a documentary on Kurt Cobain: Kurt Cobain: About a Son.  It was a collection of recorded audio interviews set against various visuals.  I loved it.  I mean, I really loved it.  Now, I grew up listening to 90’s alternative music, but I wasn’t really a Nirvana junkie.  Don’t get me wrong, I like Nirvana music, I remember where I was when I found out Cobain was dead, and I appreciate their place in history, but that wasn’t the only reason I was riveted.  It is because I am a music addict.

I listen to every kind of music, with the exception of true blue country, sorry its just not me.  From rap to rock to bluegrass to swing to classical to the blues, I take it all in.  My earliest music memories are of listening to Oldies music in my Mom’s station wagon and then starting to listen to pop music.  But, even then, in my early years I listened to different types of music. I had my Janet Jackson Rhythm Nation, Beastie Boys License to Ill and one of the Cars tapes.  I found my true love in grade school when a classmate gave me a tape of a bunch of Guns N’ Roses music.  I was hooked and from then on I couldn’t get enough, not of Guns N’ Roses, but of music in general.  I signed up immediately for BMG and ordered my first ten CD’s for a penny or whatever the ridiculous hook was before you started paying $20 a disc.  I can’t remember what those first ten discs were, but there was some Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Aerosmith.  Let’s go through some of my quirks:

  1. Growing up I listened to music all the time.  Now I know what you are saying, “All kids listen to music a lot.”  I’ll grant you that, but do all kids walk around with a headset glued to their ears, while they are eating dinner with the family, while they are dating a girl in high school (that didn’t end up working out too well, big surprise right?), or taking the SAT’s (before the teacher told me to take them off)?
  2. I’ve coined a personal phrase…”lyric days.”  These are the days I wake up and I hear the lyrics to a song clearer than usual.  Lets be honest, lots of music is covered up by heavy bass beats or overwhelming guitar riffs, but some days I just wake up as I am sure others do and I can just hear the words to songs better than I usually do.  I searched the radio dial to pick up any words I have ever wondered about.
  3. Not only do I not allow any of that kiddie music in my car, but before dinner every night my son and I rock out to Killer’s music.  He is a big fan.  I made sure that he was properly introduced to music while he was still in the womb.  My wife and I took him to a Smashing Pumpkins concert and if it wasn’t for Rivers’ bus accident, my daughter would have had the same experience listening to Weezer.  Speaking of Weezer, did I mention I DVR’d the Weezer episode of The Chronicles on the Fuse Network months ago just so my son and I can watch them playing on the Muppet Show?  He gets Kermit and Ms. Piggy, I get Waldorf and Statler.  He sleeps listening to the lullaby versions of ACDC, Guns N’ Roses, Smashing Pumpkins, and Green Day.  Have you ever heard Thunderstruck, lullaby style?
  4. I was never a mix tape guy back when I was younger,  I would make tapes to give to people with music I thought they would like, but never some cheesy “I Love You” collection.  This is because I associate people with the music they listen to.  One of the very first questions I ask someone when I first meet them is, what type of music do you listen to?  This is an extremely important part of me getting to know someone, because everyone can be judgmental and I am no different.  The only slight difference is that I don’t form my first impression on cars or clothes or jobs, I make mine on music taste.  If you are strictly a pop music fan I lean towards shallow, country I lean towards arch-conservative, and because of my own predilection as an alternative fan I usually tend to think its fans are a little more understanding of others.  I have always believed that if we were all freaks and geeks that we would be a much more understanding world, but I digress.

Look, the bottom line is, music has always and will always, be a major part of my life.  When I hear certain songs or artists playing I may sometimes think of memories of my own, but more often that that I think of people.  One of my oldest and closest friends will forever come to my mind when I hear any Billy Joel music.  Fast Car will always make me think about a friend from high school, not because of the lyrics, but because it my mind that song is her.  When I hear The Who, I think of my wife, always.  Any real twangy country music I hear always make think of a friend from college, who does happen to be an arch-conservative.  What can I say, the man has a “Reagan 84” t-shirt.  There are the songs that remind me of a particular moment, For Those About To Rock by ACDC will forever bring my mind to the greatest wedding entrance I have ever seen by my best man at his wedding, fireworks and all.  My wife and I walked into our wedding reception to music from Kill Bill, but the song equaling a moment is not what I am getting at.  In my mind, which I admit is somewhat warped, equates people with music.  It’s how I remember people and occasionally judge people.  Let me say at least once that my initial judgment can very easily be changed once I actually get to know someone a little bit better after I find out what type of music they listen to.  That being said, you’d be surprise how often the music matches my assumed personality.

I admit sometimes I can go a little overboard.  I once questioned a Best Buy employee as to why the Zwan new release was not in the new release section.  The woman looked at me like I had as many heads as the hydra, but I was pissed.  This was the music of my youth reborn and how dare some corporate entity downplay it.  When music is this important to your life, this is something stupid that you do.   New release Tuesday is a weekly Christmas to me.  (Quick side note, speaking of Christmas, if you have never heard Chris Cornell sing Ave Maria, check it out, it is simultaneously beautiful and horrifying all at the same time.)

What I am trying to say is that music is like another limb to me, I couldn’t imagine my life without it. I think it is because I can get lost in it.  I am an incredibly stressed out person and really high strung, ask anyone I know.  I’ve toned down since I was younger, no more burning pictures in frying pans, throwing sodas at minivans, or dressing in all black with a headset around my ears. I cook breakfast for my kids in frying pans now, wear bright shirts, and…no I will never have a minivan, but you get the point.  Music gives me those brief moments of release every day.  Sometimes I think of the person it reminds me of, what the song means to me, or even something as simple as a color it makes me think of, but it’s mine and that’s enough for me.

One of my current favorite songs is off of Weezer’s second newest album, the Red Album.  The song is named Heartsongs.  It lists various song references and alludes to the fact that these were all songs that the singer sang to himself and were close to his heart.  I love the song.  Its catchy and even has a good story to it, sort of, but that is not the real reason it gets me.  Songs from all walks of life are what has gotten me to this point in my life.  They are old friends to me or new acquaintances getting me through a tough day.  I know this has gotten pretty sappy, but come rock out one night with my son and I listening to “Jenny Was a Friend of Mine” and tell me you don’t see my point.

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Scotch: It’s Cake for Men

I love scotch. Scotchy, scotch, scotch. Here it goes down, down into my belly. . .

– Anchorman Ron Burgundy

This one goes out to all the ladies. If you have a man who loves Scotch, my hope is that maybe what follows will help you to understand him a little better.

At the ripe old age of 36, I have become a Scotch Man.

I was previously a Whiskey Man, but I feel like I am part of a new club, as it were, you know, “running with the big dogs” now. I keep asking myself why it took me so long. I could have been enjoying it all this time. I guess it’s better to have found it late, then never to have found it at all.

My analogy for what Scotch means to me at this point in my life, goes like this:

Imagine that you have never had cake before in your entire life. Ever. No cake. None. Never in your entire life. Now, imagine going without it for 36 years, and all of a sudden you try it for the first time. Think about it. I mean, it doesn’t even have to be good cake. Imagine taking a bite out of that beautiful cake triangle. You close your eyes as you savor the taste. You find the most delicious combination of frosting and cake, and savor it over and over again. Isn’t that one of life’s little treats?

Cake.

It’s one of the most beautiful words in the English language.

That’s what Scotch is to me right now in my life. It too, is a new, delectable treat to be savored. The rosy fumes coming up from the glass, the taste as it goes down, the finish. The smell alone relaxes me. It’s a beautiful thing.

That’s the good news. . . . There’s one little problem, though. Let’s go back to our little cake analogy.

What would you want to do after you have tasted cake for the first time? . . . .

That’s right, you’d want to try every possible flavor of cake on the planet. Chocolate with Chocolate frosting, Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting, Raspberry Marble with Vanilla Frosting, and the ever-popular “Death by Chocolate” Cake.

“Why is that a bad thing,” you ask? Well, let’s apply this idea to trying out every Scotch on the planet:

Have you ever looked at the price tag on a good bottle of Scotch? If you have been reading my posts, you know that I’m the type who enjoys the finer things in life. A cheap $10 bottle of Scotch simply won’t do. . . . No. . . . I’ve got to try all the good stuff. The 18+ year Scotches. You know, the Scotch that at one point flows over the thighs of virgins as part of the distillation process.

I mean, I’m fucking loaded, but I’m not that loaded. I’m not the type that can afford to bathe in the stuff.

Mmmmmmmmmmm. . . .  Scotch bath. . . . . . . . . .

Anyway, my plan is three-fold:

  1. Buy the good Scotch as I can afford it, and drink it only on the weekends. In other words, put myself on a Scotch ration/budget, which is either fucking awesome or horribly pathetic, depending on your attitude about booze.
  2. Order Scotch at bars to try out different brands, which is still expensive on a per-glass basis, but at least I’m not blowing ~$100 per bottle on it.
  3. Get advice from you people. Suggestions are, of course, welcome.

So that’s my plan anyway.

It’s very exciting for me, and it really enhances my life. I can’t wait to try out new Scotches. It’s an adventure for me.

Well, it’s getting late and I have a Scotch bath waiting for me. See you next time.

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We Are Moving!

Update: We moved!  The move went rather smoothly, and I’m extremely happy to be with our new host.  I’m impressed with the speed as well.  I think I’m going to move more of my sites over to ZeHosting for sure.  Thanks to Pierre-Luc for putting up with all of my questions ahead of the move, too!

You may see some strangeness from our site (more than usual) over the next few days.  Do not panic, we are simply moving to a new hosting site.  It may cause some strange things and the site may appear broken, in pieces, or not there at all.  It should all be good by the end of the weekend, and we will be back in full force thereafter.

Thanks for coming by, and we will hopefully see you soon.

The Guys