Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Last Time I Did This...

…my post was referenced in a review of the blog, not very complimentary. The reviewing blog is something with the phrase “we’re rude get over it” in the title, which I can’t find using Google. (Interesting, as if you type ratherthanworking or rather than working into Google, I’m the first result. No iteration of we’re rude… got me anywhere. If I could find it, I’d give you the link.) I’m not sure why it reviewed me, though it did. I got a less than positive review. Some of the criticism: no color other than the shirt in the photo; they wanted to know if “Recommended” in the sidebar came with a guarantee; they didn’t like that I wrote about politics. It went on. They especially didn’t like my titles, one of which was “I Just Watched a Movie.”

Well, I watched a movie last night. It might not appeal to all of you, or most of you. It will be panned by Rick, were he to ever watch it. But, it is really well done. It chronicles the Sixties, starting with the “age of innocence,” moving to the “age of Aquarius,” Then it moves to the age of outrage against the war, that other, former, war. All amplified and illuminated by the songs of the Beatles.

It’s called Across The Universe. It doesn’t “star” anyone. The actors are all, to me, unknowns, twenty somethings who are great singers. Of all things, it’s a musical. The fourth one I’ve liked in my lifetime. One was Oliver. Another was Hairspray. Then there was Rocky Horror Picture Show.

It has levels and levels of references to the era. Homage to everything and everyone. There’s a Jimi Hendrix/Billy Preston character. There’s a Janice Joplin. There’s a young Yoko (Prudence in the movie). It ends with the rooftop scene of the Beatles’ last concert. (Hey) Jude and Lucy (In the Sky With Diamonds) get back together. Some is contrived, some is inspired. There's a cameo by Joe Cocker singing Coming Together.

For those that didn’t live the Sixties, or lived it as a prepubescent, the references won’t mean much, though I’d still recommend it as a piece of emotional history. It captures what kids and young adults were thinking and feeling back then. All the stratas of society, bound together by a decade of change.

Or, if you just like the Beatles, listen to the music, remixed and rearranged, and well done. Four out of five stars for me. Here’s what has to say:

Here's what the New York Times has to say:

Five More Cuts...

…till you get money for free, with a ¼% bonus for your trouble:

Fed Cuts Rate To 2%

It's Bush's secret plan to bring the Chinese, Saudi's, etc. to their economic knees.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Clinton's Green Mile

Clinton's newest attack on Obama is that he "can't close the deal" as evidenced by his loss in Pennsylvania.

That probably depends on what you're counting. Obama has won the popular vote in 26 of 43 primaries. He's ahead by 500K or 600K in the overall popular vote, depending on how you count it. He has 1489 delegates to Clinton's 1,333. Using popular vote, he's won 26 states to Clinton's 17 (including FL and MI). Using delegate count rather than popular vote to determine a primary winner he has 29 primary wins to Clinton's 13 (2 ties). From Clinton's "big" win in Pennsylvania she picked up 10 net delegates (83 to 73). Using delegate wins in big (CA, Il, NY, OH, PA and TX) versus small states as a predictor of electoral votes he won 2 of the 6 big states to date and 28 of the 37 small states to date.

I can't find any statistics for it; but, Obama, by all reports, does much better with independent voters than Clinton does.

If the Democrats used the same delegate system as the Republicans do, like McCain, Obama would already have the nomination locked up.

Clinton is a "dead [wo]man walking" for the next month or so. The deal is closed, the paperwork just hasn't been signed yet.

(Statistics are from

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Old Men Are Often Stupid

Read this article from Then go to the link in the article to the list of Senators, including John McCain and both Georgia Senators, that voted against cloture on a bill that would extend the statute of limitations for sexual discrimination in the workplace beyond the current six months after the first act of alleged discrimination. And read their explanations. It’s 2008 and women have to put up with this shit.

I’d write more, but I’d get more angry and the article says what I’d say better.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Are You Jealous?

My friend the cop gave me tickets to Santana tonight. Chastain is an amphitheatre here in Atlanta. We even get to park in VIP as my friend will wave us in. I'm told there is a really good blues band opening.

Once the Braves lose to the Mets, I'm going to warm up with a CD or two.

Sorry you're working Rick

Friday, April 25, 2008

Excessive Consumption By Design and For Convenience

I read this piece by David Pogue, a technology writer for The New York Times. In it he notes that 25% of the electricity used by appliances, computers, TV, etc. is used while they are "off." His solution is to connect them through power strips so that one flick will turn off a brace of wattage guzzlers.

Reading that, I pictured my living room as it is right now. The following items are using electricity though the components are all turned off: TV, satellite receiver, home theater, router (it has no off switch) and two powered computer external speakers (no switch). In the kitchen/bath/utility rooms: refrigerator, microwave (so as to power the clock which is usually blinking "12:00"), water heater, alarm and two clocks.

In my office, I power down the computer and scanner when I leave; but, the phone still uses electricity to power the display and the printer has no off switch.

There's nothing I can do about some of the consumption; but, I can use the power strips in the office and my living room at home. We'll see how long my resolve lasts.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

When Do You Quit On Someone?

Obama is getting flack for not calling out his pastor for his comments over the years.

Clinton stood by Bill during the Lewinsky imbroglio.

McCain thinks that the President is just fine, despite his Iraq adventure, his siege against fundamental rights and ineffective management of just about everything else.

When I thought of this post idea, I intended to say something about how Obama is right for staying at his church despite Wright’s intemperate statements.

Then I got thinking, if someone is wrong and you are a public person, don’t you have an obligation to say something, publicly, or suffer being tarred by the person’s conduct?

I think that Obama gets a negative chit for not having said something years ago about Wright. But the same thing goes for Clinton and McCain.

I think we have to judge them by their associations and positions. I’m not too upset with Obama about Wright, who’s not an important person. I’m more upset with Clinton’s “stand by your man” stance with Bill. I’m incensed by McCain’s pandering to what he seems to see as the Republican base, what blogs and the media call “neocons,” though I hate that word.

Interestingly, I think Obama believes what he says about Wright. I don’t believe a word of what Clinton said about Bill and Monica back in the nineties; and, I don’t think that McCain really agrees with how Bush has mismanaged his presidency. And that tells me something about all three.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Second There Was Wikipedia

If you want to know what the title means, go here:

They're All Bastards

Read this article, or even a few pages of it and the assume that the article is only say one-third accurate.

Given my background, gross negligence comes to mind to describe the media. Malicious disregard for the the truth fits the "analysts." The government, well whatever disdain you had for the Bush administration and the Pentagon, quadrupole it. Here it is:

Bastards doesn't quite do my opinion justice.

Friday, April 18, 2008

The Competition For Endorsements Heats Up

“'We don’t mind–actually we like Mr. Obama. We hope he will (win) the election and I do believe he is like John Kennedy, great man with great principle, and he has a vision to change America to make it in a position to lead the world community but not with domination and arrogance,' [Ahmed] Yousef said in response to a question about [Hamas] willingness to meet with either of the Democratic presidential candidates."

Senator Clinton's campaign released the following statement:

"Hamas is a Johnny-come-lately to the ranks of terrorist organizations. Campaign staffers are in intensive talks with high level Taliban 'Super-Mullahs' as we speak. An expected endorsement by the group has been delayed as the leaders ponder whether the Hamas popular bandwagon should be joined. We are confident that they will withstand the temptation of following the whims of rank and file terrorists, and exercise the judgment that led to their elevation to positions of influence within the world wide terrorist community." RTW News Service.

Senator McCain's campaign had no comment on these developments or on recent reports that the campaign planned to woo Al Quada once Osama bin Laden is located. RTW News Service.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Ladies' Lunch

I ate lunch yesterday at a Cracker Barrel, a faux country chain that puts its restaurants at Interstate interchanges around the south. If you haven’t been there, don’t go except for breakfast, which is pretty good. The other food is generic and bland.

I was seated across an aisle from two ladies who looked to be in their sixties. They were discussing a wide range of topics. I’ll stick with one.

Within that topic, I was struck by two things.

First, the source for almost every topic was “they said….” “They” had a lot of information.

I’ve found myself citing the same source in conversation, not too much given my legal background, but, some. “They” are better when accompanied by the grade school “who, what, when, where, why.”

Second, they (the ladies) sounded more like guys than women. The conversation was a staccato recitation of facts and opinions, mostly unrelated to each other. The kind of things guys throw at each other as non-sequitors.

They were equal opportunity dislikers. They didn’t like Bush’s Iraq adventure – “that’s his daddy’s war, I don’t care what anyone says.” They didn’t think Obama is honest – “I don’t trust him.” And “she’s no better.” “No she’s not.”

In Gwinnett County, Georgia, none of the candidates are safe if my aisle-mates are typical. Though, I don’t know that I trust their sources.

This Headline Made Me Smile

Iraq Cracks Down on Seat Belt Scofflaws

I haven't read the article and I'm not going to. In the midst of the strife over there, it's just good to know that traffic cops are doing their job.

The High Cost Of Food

There's been a deluge of news pieces about the rising price of food lately. The other day I saw an article about the national pizza chains' woes due to huge increases in the cost of cheese and flour. Then I saw a piece about how a drought in Australia was causing riots in Asia because there was less Australian rice to go around.

On the home front, fuel costs and ethanol subsidies are reducing the supply of wheat and corn for food production, increasing the price of foods that include those crops.

I'm not an economist; but, some brief internet research surfing led me to two federal programs that are idiotic in the face of the rising prices.

Back in the nineties, the Republican Revolution in Congress "reformed" the federal farm subsidy program. Instead of price supports, they transitioned to a "free market" program (with a seven year duration - you know how that turned out) that would pay farmers a base subsidy and allow them to do whatever they thought best with their land, as long as they didn't develop it. Texas had about 600,000 acres planted in rice at some point prior to the change. Texas now has something just north of 200,000 acres planted in rice. What happened to the rest? Landowners realized that they could make more money by kicking the tenant rice farmers off their land and grazing cattle, growing trees for timber, etc. One enterprising owner bought 75 acres of former rice farm and subdivided it into large home tracts. He marketed it in part by telling prospective buyers that they could put a house on one acre and get a couple of thousand bucks a year from the feds for "not growing rice" on the other 9 acres.

Then there's the federal "conservation" subsidy. Started as a way to protect land from erosion, it is now a program that pays about $2 billion a year to land owners to not farm 34 to 40 million acres (the sources varied, one described the area as the size of the state of New York).

A few billion dollars is chump change when it comes to federal spending. But, tens of millions of acres of diverted farm land is not chump acreage when it comes to food production. Stopping these subsidy programs won't in the near term, or probably in the long term, result in all of those acres returning to farm use; but, some will. In the meantime why pay money to people to do the opposite of what is in the national interest?

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Words I Don't Like

Artisanal and Heirloom. They're annoying as they’ve been co-opted (another not favorite word) by advertisers and don’t mean what they used to mean.

Artisanal is an adjective for something made by an artisan, a person who hand makes things, especially mechanical things. Now it means bread or some other food made by a small, versus big, concern that uses allegedly fresh ingredients.

An heirloom is something passed down to you by your family. Seeds may be passed down from generation to generation; but, I doubt that most of the “heirloom” vegetables and fruits you see in the store are being sold by the recipient of their ancestor’s beneficence (I like that word).

I’m not much for trendy. I know that language changes, and it should; but, it shouldn’t be hijacked.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Resolution, Fatigue and Contentment

I spent, for me, a long day of thinking, talking and negotiating on my figurative feet today.

I had a mediation, which is a voluntary process to settle a lawsuit. I told my clients that there would be a lot of very boring sitting around, interspersed with some intense back and forth. They dealt with it better than I did. I get bored, I got bored, and impatient; but, you can’t let that interfere with the slow boring process of resolving the dispute.

You’d think that sitting around in a luxurious conference room in the Lenox area of Atlanta looking south from the twentieth floor south to Midtown and Downtown wouldn’t be tiring, and you’d be wrong.

I won’t go into details, one of my clients reads this blog. Doesn’t matter whether we settled or not; but, I always forget how thinking, constantly, is tiring.

So, I’ve been home for a couple of hours and I’m mellowing. I watched some TV, I surfed some blogs and listened to some Sirius blues. I just by accident hit a button on the remote that switched me to “Siriusly Sinatra” on Sirius Satellite radio. He’s just the thing. I’m transported to my childhood when my father wouldn’t let us listen to rock and roll. Frank, Dino, Dixieland Jazz, a time when there were no problems in the world other than the anxieties of being a child.


Monday, April 14, 2008

Newly Recommended; and, Now I Understand

I came across flights, I think, by way of a comment on a post by Pos at Niagaran Pebbles. Flights has some interesting posts that are quite well written.

Rather than working (hah! I that's the first time I ever inadvertently used the title in a post) this morning, I've been catching up on blogs for a few minutes.

Flights' author is Shawn Smith. He is a software developer. He did a post on Friday about the need to allow mistakes in software.

You've all read the forwarded Email about if Microsoft made cars, the car would periodically stop running, you'd pull to the side of the road, turn it off and then turn it on again. It would then chug along until the next "crash." Now I understand why software is so buggy.

"I have no problem putting something imperfect into the hands of the crowd and then watching it to see how and where it falls short - within reason." Shawn said in his post. As I am wont to write in posts, "huh?" Shawn goes on to say "[c]ompanies are understandably careful about everything they unveil that has their mark on it. When careful goes too far, however, one pitfall is a culture of fear, where people are afraid to make mistakes or deviate from what is safe and known and familiar." I get the point; but, a "process" that promotes "innovation" often masks "half doing."

My product, words and analysis, does not flow perfectly from my mouth or keyboard (as evidenced by these posts which are for the most part, dashed off); but, I don't throw my imperfect draft at my audience. I play with it until it is, within economic constraints, as perfect as I can get it. The phrase "economic constraints" is, I think the real reason that design products often reach their users "half baked."

In the construction business there's a document called an RFI or Request for Information. It's sent by the user to the architect/designer when there's a hole or ambiguity in a drawing or specification. In effect the user, usually a contractor, is asking "please clear this up" or "please fill in the blank."

As a construction lawyer, one tell-tale sign of a badly designed project is a large number of RFI's. It means that the architect/designer did not think the project through and relied (or hoped) that the mistakes and holes in the design would be caught by the contractor. The designer has been using the contractor as its quality control department. Some architects/designers do this as a matter of practice. Others resort to it because of budget. Whatever the genesis, it means problems for the user.

Now, I understand the use of a "Beta" product. But, a Beta should not be used as a quality control process which is the responsibility of the designer. A Beta should be a last, user oriented, look at the all but finished product.

In a way, I'd like to see this process imported to the law. "Dave, your analysis on this issue has a lot of holes in it." "Your Honor, it's a Beta brief, I'm looking for your user notes." "Oh, oh, I'm sorry, I'll get them to you in a week. When can I expect to see Version 1.1?" "Your Honor, my plan was for a Service Pack in the short term." "Very well, the Court will take the matter under advisement."

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Overused Phrases

"Spot on" is OK when it is used by British people to describe something that is ideal or accurate; but, it shouldn't be used by someone living in Iowa. Just doesn't sound right. To put the point another way, only people who can credibly say "spot on, old boy" should be allowed to use the phrase. Say it to yourself out loud. If it rings wrong, you shouldn't write it either.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Throw Away Post

This site will show you the number one song (Billboard) for any date back to 1890. I plugged in my birthday and wandered through the music of my life.

I of course knew all of the songs and the artists when I was a kid. By the early nineties, the titles of the songs weren’t ringing a bell and I recognize maybe half the artists. Another sign of age I guess.

Friday, April 11, 2008

I Don't Know How You Do It

Live up north that is.

I moved south twenty-five years ago, first to Miami and now in Atlanta. Every now and then I'm forced north. Yesterday was such a day. said Bloomington, IL would have a high of sixty and would be cloudy with some showers. Lies! All lies!

Given the weather prediction I wore jeans and a sports coat. (I was going to a factory, hence the jeans. I also wore steel toed shoes.) I walked out of the Bloomington airport into a gale. Twenty plus mph winds, driving light rain. It may have been forty degrees. The weather got worse as the day went on.

Before my exodus south, I lived in Michigan, Nebraska, Minnesota, Ohio and briefly, in West Virginia. Living in all those states, I can remember what I felt yesterday: a moment of resolve as my mind and body internally steeled themselves before opening the door to the outside.

My client picked me up at the airport in a rental car. They come equipped with a heavy duty ice scraper and a long snow brush. I have an ice scraper in my car, somewhere; and, I use it once every year or so.

I got up this morning and put on a wind jacket as the temperature was in the mid-fifties. The high today is going to be in the high seventies. There is a blue sky with fluffy clouds. All of the trees have now budded. Looking out the window there are white and lavender flowers on the trees. Down the road in Augusta nature is in full riot mode.

I'll leave you with a few pictures. God finished up his work at Augusta National, realizing he couldn't do much better.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

I Want To Be A Government

Earlier this year, Shirley Franklin, the Mayor of Atlanta, announced that because of something like stupid accounting (that’s not a quote) she had just learned that the City was about $70 million short. Lots of talk: early retirements, layoffs, tax increases.

The Atlanta Journal Constitution reported today that the Georgia Department of Transportation may be a BILLION dollars in the hole due to spending state funds based on expected federal funds that it wasn’t entitled to.

Then there is the fed its self, just about to give out something north of a HUNDRED BILLION BORROWED dollars to stimulate the economy. We won’t talk about Bear Stearns or Iraq.

Given the bucks, I’ll settle for being a township (we don’t have those down here, but, I’m willing to move up north). I’ll just spend a bunch of money and then announce that I’d not been paying enough attention. I won’t apologize. I’ll just announce that the rest of you people in MY township are going to have to hunker down, tighten your belts and help us to get through this crisis.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Don't Believe What You See On TV

I’m a fan of “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” on the Food Network. The host is a guy named Guy Fieri. He’s a bit weird looking, but funny.

I’ve decided that whomever chooses where he goes needs to do a bit more homework and that whomever stages the segment is really good.

I just watched a show that featured the Marietta Diner. It’s on US-41 Northwest of Atlanta. On the show it looked great, the food appetizing, everyone there, customers and staff, was happy and friendly.

In reality, it’s overpriced and the service is terrible, given my three or four visits. My last time there was a couple of weeks ago for lunch on my way back from the Cobb County Court House.

As I walked from the parking lot, I realized I had no change to buy a newspaper. I sat at the counter. And sat. And sat. A waitress finally came over (after having stood at the other end of the counter talking to someone, overtly not looking my way). “What do you want?” I had my dollar bill in my hand. “Coffee, and could I get four quarters for a newspaper?” “You’ll have to go over there (gesturing vaguely towards the cashier as she walked away).”

So I walked over to the cashier and waited in line for a couple of minutes for my quarters, went outside, got my newspaper and sat down. My coffee was there, after having sat in the warmer for, in my best estimate, an hour too long.

I waited another five or so minutes. During that time, another waitress, used to using that part of the counter as a staging area, stood there looking over my head, talking to the busboy and putting doggy bag Styrofoam on top of my newspaper. I moved my newspaper. “Oh, sorry, I’m not used to someone sitting here.”

My waitress came back. “What do you want?” “I’ll have the pork chop special.” She walked away before I could ask her to change out the stale coffee.

Long wait. She was still talking at the other end of the counter, studiously not looking my way.

She approached and slammed down my lunch, never looking at me and walking back to the other end of the counter. I looked at my lunch. It did include the menu advertised mashed potatoes and mixed vegetables, but not a pork chop to be found. Instead it had what appeared to be brisket chunks in a tomato sauce.

You know what’s coming next. I looked forlornly down the length of the counter as she ignored me. I had to be somewhere soon so I started eating what I hadn’t ordered. Not real good, but it was edible.

Next time, I’m going to time my visits with the Food Network crew. Oh, I left a decent tip and still can’t figure out why.

Irreconcilable Differences

It wasn't destined to last. I knew that going in. But as in all such matters you ignore what you don't want to know.

There were signs along the way. Time spent together while the mind wandered to other more enjoyable activities. Thoughts about the cost: Is it really worth it? Small moments of doubt about honesty.

We parted company last night. I reached my limit during the phone call. "If we charged you $1.75 a week, would you stay?

I started Sunday home delivery of The New York Times last year, getting a deal for the first few months. When the price went up, I called to cancel and was talked into staying with a rate of about $2.25 a week. It turned out that wasn't a permanent rate, it was another promotion. Looking at my credit card statement this month, I found out they'd bumped it up to just over $7.00 a week without telling me. Hence the offer of $1.75 a week when I called to cancel.

It's for the best. As the weather is nicer, I find myself reading less of the paper. I can always read it online, at least the price is right.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Mysterious Traffic Jam Solved: UPDATED

You've all experienced them. Traffic slows or grinds to a halt. You creep along for a while and then traffic starts moving again. No sign of an accident, no one getting a ticket.

That happened to me today; but, the mystery was solved. I could see traffic picking up about a half mile ahead. When I got nearer, I could see a van on the side of the expressway with a police car facing it. As I got nearer, I saw a man and a woman walking in the direction of traffic and a policeman walking backwards in front of them. Then the cause appeared. The lady was leading a llama.

A bit ahead of them, there was a horse trailer, or I suppose properly, a llama trailer pulled over with an "animal ambulance" next to it. Same size and configuration as a human ambulance. A paramedic (?) was walking toward the human/llama procession.

It was then time to speed up. There's a story there that I'll never know. Had the llama just wandered on to the expressway and the police, ambulance and hauler dispatched to handle it? Had the llama escaped the trailer and was it being rounded up? Had the man and woman let it out of the van (it was maybe four foot tall and would have fit in the van) to let it stretch it's legs?

What do you think? Well, here's the UPDATE: reports what actually happened, less interesting than my surmise.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

$694,000,000.00 and Change (thanks to Life Hiker (see his comment))

That’s how much has been contributed by people, PACs, previous campaigns and “other” to all of the presidential candidates through February 29, 2008 according to It doesn’t count the $42.9 million that Romney gave himself. The news today reports that Obama took in $40 million in March with Clinton getting about $20 million.

That totals three quarters of a billion dollars. About $254 million to Republicans and $500 million to Democrats.

There’s seven months to go till the election.

I’m thinking were aren’t likely to get a result that’s worth the money.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Too Many Topics

My choices are,

Me being less than happy with MasterCard/BankAmerica.

Me winning the first bid protest I've had in a very long time.

A strange case I mentioned awhile back in a post that has gotten stranger.

My meeting a multi-millionare executive of a multi-national company that stopped in the neighborhood bar on his way to a local executive airport to hop a private jet to play a practice round tomorrow with un-named people at the Augusta National Colf Club. In the event you aren't familiar with the venue, check out the Golf Channel at any point next week.

A fascinating man.

I'll settle for telling you that I'm about ten minutes into the most depressing movie in the history of movies, and one of the best, Leaving Las Vegas.

Write to ya'll later.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Adopted By Asians

To wrap up the Biloxi trip, Bill, one of the guys that went down for the weekend, introduced me to Pai Gow poker Sunday afternoon. He described it as blackjack/poker for dummies, saying he'd played it years ago before starting to play blackjack. He was right and wrong.

We played for about an hour Sunday afternoon, me playing the beginner stripped down version of the game with Bill's oversight. The dealer deals all of the cards from the deck, including jokers to the six stations of the table that looks like a blackjack table and seven cards to him/herself. The object is to make up the best five card and two card poker hand. The joker can serve as an ace or any card in a straight or flush. If the player's hands are both better than the dealer's hand, you win the amount you bet. If you split the hands with the dealer, it's a push and your bet remains on the table. The dealer takes your bet if both of your hands are beaten by the dealer.

Then there's the "bonus" circle at each station. You can put a chip in it, a dollar up to the table maximum. If you do, and if your hand includes certain hands on a list like straights and flushes, you get a bonus. There's more to the rules, but that's the basics. Bill described this as a sucker bet, and he was probably right from a statistical point of view, but wrong from the Asian viewpoint.

As we played that first hour, and I learned, my goal was not to appear as stupid as I was. Stupid things I had to overcome: do not hold cards except over the table, do not let cards touch your body: cheating preventers. All cards can be face up, but only in order of play. Bill was to my left, he could not look at my cards until he had made up his hands and placed them face down on the table. This takes away any advantage you might gain by seeing the cards on the table before playing your cards. This rule was largely ignored.

Sitting to my right was a Chinese lady of indeterminate age. She took about ten seconds to arrange her hands and then would scold me. It was a bit unnerving as I was still at the stage of learning protocol. But, she had my best interests at heart as my stern taskmaster. "You no do that, this right." As she gestured quickly at my cards, me having no idea what she meant at first. "No pair together you no have ace or face." Thus I learned the next level of hand arrangement. If you don't have an ace or face card to put in your two card hand and do have two pair to put in the five card hand, you split the pair between hands to give you your best chance of winning both. If you have aces or face cards, you don't split other pairs. (Rereading this paragraph, don't get the idea that I'm being disrespectful to the lady by the way I'm structuring her comments. She spoke as I have quoted her. Her English was heavily accented, adding to the difficulty of understanding her. She was a smart lady, just impatient with me.)

Between Bill and the lady, and getting some pretty good cards, I won a hundred dollars in an hour which is very unusual.

After dinner (fried shrimp and fried catfish, Biloxi is the land of fried fish), I wandered back to the Pai Gow table on my own now.I was a bit better at the mechanics, but had added the handicap of now being not fully sober. And of course Bill and my Chinese lady were elsewhere.

I learned that you could show the dealer your cards and be told what the "House Way" of playing them was. When in doubt I showed them and got instruction. As this was going on an older gentlemen sat on my left. He didn't speak (or at least wasn't speaking) English. When I looked at my cards he would too (remember you aren't allowed to do this) and nod and smile if I did it right. If it was wrong, he'd shake his head no. I'd rearrange until I got a smile.

He left after awhile and a couple sat down. It turned out they were Vietnamese, though they spoke English fluently, living down the coast in Mobile. The wife became my new tutor. I learned some new aspects of the game. The dealer explained that I really should take the sucker "bonus" bet because that was "the only way to make any money." As he explained, everyone at the table nodded yes. Being analytic, my head said no; but, I couldn't say no to my new friends. I made the right decision, as I now learned the true nature of Pai Gow. There is a community of players with the goal of beating the House.

Part of the strategy of beating the House is using the bonus game. So, I joined the team, putting down my dollar chip in the circle, to be regularly scooped up by the dealer when I didn't win a bonus. Overtime, I won a few small bonuses, a couple of bucks. Over the course of the night, playing the bonus probably cost me twenty bucks, but gave me entry into the group.

At a point when I'd won a few bonuses, the husband half of the Vietnamese couple held up a five dollar chip to me and asked if he could support me. Of course, I had no idea what he was talking about. As it turns out, he was wanting to ride my current bonus luck. It is against the rules for him to make a bet on my outcome; but, he can support my luck by giving me a chip which I place in the circle for him. If I win the bonus, he gets the payoff on his portion of the bet.

I didn't fully understand this at first, but who was I to decline his support. "Sure, throw it in there." "No, you have to put it on the table." So I did, putting his $5 chip on my $1 chip. "No, it must go below your chip, it's support." So I rearranged them. As best I can tell there was no rules basis for the positioning, it was just symbolic.

For whatever reason, the support worked. I went on a mini-roll of bonus wins. During this period, a young Vietnamese woman sat down next to me. She noticed my luck and asked if she could support me. I of course accepted. The table was now a full team. I spent the next too many hours having a great time, winning a bit then losing it back with my new friends.

Two more things to end this ridiculously long post (I must be channeling Jeni).

Pai Gow, in English is roughly translated as garbage, junk, s**t. It refers to the worst hand which is seven off suit, non-sequential cards. The worst would have a nine as the high card. As the dealer reveals his/her hand, players seeing a lousy hand are happy and say, sometimes yell, pai gow.

Finally, I went out with a flourish. It was very late and the only players left were me and the Vietnamese girl. I decided to up my bets. I took everything except the hundred I started with and a $10 chip to leave as a tip and split it between the main bet and the bonus circle. I pulled a seven card straight, less one card, having ten or fifteen dollars bet on the bonus. The dealer dealt herself a straight flush, beating me on the main bet. One of her cards would have filled my bonus straight. The Vietnamese girl was livid, mad at the dealer for beating me on the main hand and depriving me on my bonus straight which would have paid me $750 (and her another $750 for her support). Of course, the dealer has nothing to do with what is dealt, the cards are spit out of an automatic shoe. Didn't keep the girl from what I took as swearing in Vietnamese.

We left with her muttering under her breath.

Other than lack of sleep, a great evening.