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(no subject) [Jul. 25th, 2012|02:37 pm]

Philip K Dick - An introduction

You might not have read a Philip K Dick book, but you have certainly been exposed to many of his stories. Hollywood has been plundering his canon since the eighties. (And what a canon it is, 44 published novels, 121 short stories). Blade Runner, Total Recall, A Scanner Darkly, Minority Report, Paycheck, Next, Screamers, and most recently The Adjustment Bureau are all based on his books. The motif at the very end of season 4 of Breaking Bad is plundered almost wholesale from A Scanner Darkly.

Blade Runner aside, few of these films even begin to do justice to the genius of Dicks books. The worst thing is that they don’t even attempt to. Blade Runner, which is an incredible film, cheerfully jettisons almost everything but the initial concept. Technically nearly all of Dicks work are science fiction, but in truth this is misleading. He, along with Borges and Kafka, defy simple categorisation. Taking Blade Runner as an example, (or as the Dick entitled it, Do Androids dream of Electronic Sheep?). It is set in a post apocalyptic near future, and follows the main protagonist, bounty hunter Rick Deckard in his quest to track down and kill Androids who have escaped from the colonies. But that is only what lies upon the surface, it’s a thoughtful meditation on what it is to be human. If an android feels a real emotion, is he still an android? Rick isn’t driven by notions of good or evil, or even fame or fortune. He wants to make some money so that he can impress his bed ridden wife, and also so that he can stop being embarrassed by the relative wealth of his neighbours. In another writers hands Rick Deckard would be driven by an either good or evil. Dick doesn’t really do good, or evil, his characters are almost uniformly small men or women. Small in the sense that they are hostage to events that overtake them. Small in that they act based on the very human motivations of loneliness, jealousy and umbrage. The closest they come to an evil act is when they are petty. This is one of the ways in which Dick transcends his genre, his characters are all believably human. Asimov, for all his talent in creating a an entire Universe, never once created a character that was anything more than a projection of himself.

Dick - “Science fiction writers, I am sorry to say, really do not know anything. We can't talk about science, because our knowledge of it is limited and unofficial, and usually our fiction is dreadful. A few years ago, no college or university would ever have considered inviting one of us to speak. We were mercifully confined to lurid pulp magazines, impressing no one. In those days, friends would say me, "But are you writing anything serious?" meaning "Are you writing anything other than science fiction?" We longed to be accepted. We yearned to be noticed. Then, suddenly, the academic world noticed us, we were invited to give speeches and appear on panels—and immediately we made idiots of ourselves. The problem is simply this: What does a science fiction writer know about? On what topic is he an authority?”

The most poignent trajedy of Dicks life to me, and there were many, is that he wrote brilliantly about the human condition in a way no other writer has, but because of the literary ghetto that is science fiction he remains unappreciated and misunderstood. Hollywood has popularised him, and made his estate into a small economy in its own right, but at the cost of watering down and obfusticating his message. Blade runner is a triumph, but it isn’t Dicks. The only film to do justice to his vision is A Scanner Darkly. Unfortunately this is a very confusing film. Dick vision of the world was a cruel, dark and confusing one. Minority Report is a good example of Hollywood ignoring Dicks greatest strengths. In the book, the first line is "I'm getting old. Old and fat and bald." This character is played by Tom Cruise.

One of Dicks great strengths is his ability to portray paranoia. I have never read anything, by any author, that comes close to relaying the all encompassing fear and terror of paranoia that Dick manages to evoke. This has to be, at least in part, because Dick was an incredibly paranoid person, especially in the years before his death. He suffered a break-in that clearly affected him emotionally, and became convinced that it was the work of either the CIA or the FBI. In a scanner darkly, Dick portrays a world in which anyone could be working for the secret police, including the hero of the story. It is never clear exactly who he is working for. Who are the good guys? Only Dick could write a novel in which the main character spies on himself.

My favourite of his books, The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, traces the use of an illegal drug Can-D, and its more dangerous sister, Chew-Z. Can-D is an immensely popular drug, that allows users to share hallucinations. Chew-Z however, is a much more insidious and dangerous drug. It’s properties are never explained properly, but chewing it seems to result in the user becoming entwined in his own afterlife. Anyone who has been at the wrong end of a ketamin experience can relate to the feelings of Mayerson towards the end of the book, as he gradually loses a grasp on the workings of reality, and begins to doubt everything that his senses tell him to the point where he no longer trusts, or believes in an objective reality. At one stage he believes his teeth have become possessed by his arch nemesis, Palmer Eldritch. A common refrain for Dicks protagonists is the possibility that they are constructs of a hallucination, subjects of an experiment by a higher power, or constantly moving between alterable states of reality.

Dick was prolific in his output, and unfortunately the quality of his books clearly suffered. Some books seem unfinished, perhaps a result of the time and budgetary constraints he faced. But when he was good, he was like no other author. His prose could be at times clunky and haphazard, but when he was concentrating it could be subtle and yielding. His most accomplished book, The Man in the High Castle, centres around language, and he writes with a subtlety and sensitivity to the small details that is breathtaking. Unfortunately towards the end of his life his paranoia led to his work becoming increasingly unreadable. His last few novels are massive, stupefyingly boring pseudo religious tracts that culminate in Valis. It manages to tie almost all of Dicks beliefs and interests together, touching on Christianity, Taoism, Gnosticism and Jungian psychoanalysis, Greek and Modern philosophy, but unfortunately as a novel its quite a dull read.

Dick died without completing what he felt would be his greatest work - Exegesis. Apparently it comprises of 7000 pages, with Dick trying to describe the structure of the universe itself, touching on Greek philosophy, early Christianity, theology, mental illness, metaphysics and occult literature. I have to add in here, that Dick claimed to have regular episodes of Xenoglossy, which is when a person is able to speak or write a language he or she could not have acquired by natural means. He claimed to have be able to sometimes speak Koine Greek, an ancient greek language, and under the influence of LSD, think speak and read fluent latin. Perhaps it’s better it was never released.

 'For everyone lost in the endlessly multiplicating realities of the modern world, remember: Philip K. Dick got there first' - Terry Gilliam

Flow my tears, fall from your springs!
Exiled forever let me mourn;
Where night's black bird her sad infamy sings,
There let me live forlorn.
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Ronan & Sarah's engagement mix [Dec. 19th, 2011|09:49 pm]

Everlasting Love - Carl Carlton
I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me) - Whitney Houston
Everybody Needs Somebody To Love - Blues Brothers
You Can Call Me Al - Paul Simon
This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody) - Talking Heads
Go Your Own Way - Fleetwood Mac
Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)- Beyonce
20 Kanye West ft Jamie Foxx - Gold Digger
Get Busy - Sean Paul
mundian to bach ke [jay-z remix]- panjabi mc
girls, girls, girls - Jay-Z
Someone Great - LCD Soundsystem
Da Funk - Daft Punk
Frank Sinatra - Miss Kittin & The Hacker
The Sky was Pink (Holden remix) - Nathan Fake
Silver Screen Shower Scene - Felix Da Housecat
The Difference It Makes - Superpitcher Mix The Mfa
Beautiful Life- Gui Boratto
Take Me Higher - Rogerseventytwo
Happy Together (Wade Nichols Edit) - The Turtles

Soundcloud won't let me share it because of copywrite issues. So here it is: https://rapidshare.com/files/1808991138/Ronan___Sarah_engagement_mix.mp3

Leann made a wonderful cover for this, but unfortunately I forgot to take a picture of it.
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Mr. Boring [Dec. 2nd, 2011|05:04 am]

Apologies, this blog is going to get pretty boring for the next month. I've been playing much better, and running ok since I made the last post, but I've gotten out of the habit of playing much. (I've been absolutely destroying COD online though!). I've actually gotten really unprofessional, so in an attempt to combat that, I'm going to post up the volume and length of my sessions each day, as well as how well I'm playing and various other bits and bobs.

I made a promise on Boards that if I didn't play 60k hands this month I'd donate €50 to charity. Given the recent footballing events I'll give it to Aware.

So day 1: Thursday 1st December

Had a good sleep, played 2108 hands over 3.7 hours. Not a huge amount, but I had football as well. I'll need to vastly increase this rate if I'm to make my target, considering there are so many holidays/parties coming up. Played well and ran well; spent at least half the time chatting as well which isn't so good.

Edit: Oh, I should mention that myself and Michelles (Satnav) journey as come to an end. She decided that she didn't enjoy playing online cash games, and wants to explore tournaments instead. I'm a little annoyed at this turn of events, although some of the blame lies with me as well. In my initial post I thought I had made it quite clear what would be expected, to be honest it didn't even cross my mind that someone would apply without having the desire and application to see it through. This was a mistake on my part; it's often easy to think that everyone is the same as you and your peers, but for most people spending several hours a day playing the same game is pretty boring.

The thread itself exploded, with people taking staunch pro or anti Michelle stances; I think both are wrong really. I mean, it was clearly a mistake, but that's what life is about, learning from your mistakes. I'm as much to blame as Michelle is. You can read the bickering here: http://www.irishpokerboards.com/forum/showthread.php?t=10734&page=2

For what its worth I think that we had made some good progress, she had definitely picked up on some important concepts she wasn't aware of before. I'd like to do something similar again, but I have other priorities at the moment.
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Homicide, A year on the Killing Streets [Nov. 23rd, 2011|04:12 pm]

I recently read Homicide, A year on the Killing Streets, which is the novel David Simon wrote about a year he spent embedded with the Baltimore murder detectives. One of the things that struck me was the similarities between a poker player and a detective. Bear with me....

There is huge pressure on detectives on what is called the clearance rate. Simply put, this is the percentage of murders that they have "cleared" every year. A case is cleared once they have charged someone with the murder, and the case has gone to the public prosecuter. A good clearance rate is a sign of a good detective right? Unfortunately it's not that easy. There is a huge amount of varience in each murder. Some of them are called "dunkers". Thats shorthand for a very easy to solve murder, a slam dunk. A typical dunker might involve a domestic abuse in which the spouse immediately confesses, or a crime of passion with plenty of witnesses and an obvious motive. The other side of the coin however is "who dunnits". These are much harder to solve. At worst these can mean there is no evidence, no crime scene, no witnesses; just a body and endless questions.

Some cases become much easier over time, some much harder. Some cases shelved for months due to lack of evidence can be reopened because of a random phone call, or a witness might turn up hoping to make a plea bargain deal rather than go to jail. In other cases witnesses may recant their testimony, or be killed.

As you can see there is a huge amount of luck involved. No matter how good or bad a detective is, he is at the mercy of the events beyond his control. That said, there are numerous ways in which a good detective can influence his clearance rate. A detective with an eye for detail may spot an inconsistency in witnesses statements, or notice an avenue of investigation that hadn't been fully explored. A detective with a good interrogation technique may get a confession where a bad one would only get lies, or worse silence. (The most interesting part of the book is the lengths the detectives go to to browbeat the suspects into confessing. Always staying within the letter of the law, if not the spirit, of the law. It's quite the art form).

There are no training simulators for murder detectives. They work as back up to a senior detective on a couple of cases, and then they are thrown in on the deep end to see if they can sink or swim with a real case.

One of the things that struck me as I began to play poker, as this was one of the few times I felt like I was actually experiencing numbers. After you have played a certain amount (Maybe a million hands!) you actually feel the maths wash over you. You make as good a decision as possible, and then late fate decide the outcome. Any time you put your money in a pot, you trust in the immutable law of averages to come up with an equitable solution. (Although you secretly hope this could be somehow tilted in your favour!).

But what if it goes wrong? Like a murder detective, the skills involved in playing poker are real, yet somehow intangible. One of the key skills to playing poker is to get your opponent to put money in with a worse hand. However those worse hands will sometimes win. If your running bad, those hands may win again and again and again. Do you change your methods? Or do you try and reduce the role that luck plays? (Which is ultimately fruitless.)

As I read the book, I could empathise with the detectives battling against the randomness inherint in their work. One of the best detectives has a very bad year, and all of a sudden his unusual working methods are being closely examined.

As you may of guessed, I'm on a bad run. So what am I doing? Well I've metaphorically reined in the horses. I'm playing less tables, for less time at lower stakes. I've also freed myself from all distractions. My phone is in the other room and the only things I have open on my desktop are my poker client and winamp. Hopefully it will turn around, or else there may well be a stone cold "whodunnit" right here.

(The book is great by the way).
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Full Time Poker Player. [Oct. 21st, 2011|01:41 pm]

I think this is one of the only times I could actually call myself a full time player. Recently I have been putting in some serious volume, playing for 9 or 10 hours at a time. I haven't really being playing very well, and I've been running worse; but the volume means I've been doing ok. I'm looking forward to not running so bad, it's hard to keep motivated when every large pot ends with me having the losing hand. Still, things could be worse, much much worse. Yesterday Full Tilt made about half their staff redundant.

From what I heard the decisions were basically taken at random, with no thought or care extended to the employees well being. In the department I worked in, it was very obvious who did the most and least work (and to the quality of the work), and it seems like this wasn't a huge factor in their decision making. Also they didn't offer voluntary redundancies. Rather then let those staff leave who would choose to, they decided to swing their great big redundnancy axe willy nilly. If you were there less than 2 years then you got a handshake and a months notice. Fine for a twenty something who might jump at the chance of giving poker a chance, not so fine for a thirty something with a mortgage and kids.

It might be because I spent 5 years working for EBS, a mutually run building society (or at least it was when I was there!) but I'm always surprised when companies treat their staff badly. There are loads of ways in which Full Tilt could have made their employees quality of life better (both now and before Black Friday) without spending any money, but instead they choose to act like a poor mans Kafka bureaucracy. Consider this fact - since they lost their license they have still been expecting their staff to come in and sit at an empty desk, on Friday and Saturday nights! I was told, and wouldn't believe had I not worked there that they recently disabled the cd drives in all computers to stop their staff watching DVDs. Bare in mind that there is literally nothing to do, and the shift is ten hours long.
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Winamax 6 max [Sep. 28th, 2011|05:31 am]

I played the 6 max tournament held in the D4 last week. I played day 1a, which was Thursday. The day didn't begin that well, I had trouble getting to sleep, and when I dragged myself out of bed I didn't feel like playing poker. Also, I had planned on getting a breakfast from Juniors, which is a great restaurant just beside me, but all they were serving was lunch, so I had some mediocre soup.

When I found my table seat, I was annoyed that directly to my left was Rory Brown, Downtown from boards. I've played with him a few times, and the last thing I wanted was an aggressive good player with direct position on me. As it happened it didn't make much difference, for the time we were at the table together we didn't play any big pots.

The rest of the table were French. A few hours in to the tournament, and I would guess that their VPIP's would be all over 50%, with one guy in particular with a VPIP of close to 100%. This trend continued all day. This type of player is generally very easy to beat, with one caveat - you need to have a hand. They are continually showdown bound, happy to call multiple bets with weak or non-existant hands. I play with these players every day, but I had never actually anyone play like that in real life.

One problem that this type of player creates, is that they are very aggressive, but there is no method to their madness. On the river you really need to concentrate on your own hand strength and call according to pot odds. Their hand will never make sense. The best example of this was played between Rory and a French guy on my direct right.

The French guys raises, and Rory 3bets. Everyone folds and the French guy calls. The flop is Queen high, all diamonds. Frenchy checks, Rory bets, Frenchy calls.

The turn is an offsuit jack. Frenchy checks, Rory bets, Frenchy calls.

The river is an offsuit ten. French now bets 5k (massive bet for this stage of the tournament, I think the BB was 50). Rory thinks, then shoves for a little more.

The French guy should really have a bluff here - probably a high diamond. He could also have slowplayed a monster (like a flush) or somehow backdoored two pair or something. What does he turn over? Q9o - which really makes no sense at all. Is he bluffing? Is he value betting? It's very hard to read someone who has no idea what they are doing. In any case, Rory had backdoored a straight.

What they do do well though, is to make it hard to win a pot without a hand. I played for about 8 hours, and I only remember two c-bets getting a player to fold in all that time. Nearly all the hands I played I was forced into a weird decision on the river because I had a very weak hand, but my opponents range was so big I had a decision to make.

One that went right: Late on I raise on the cutoff with Ax. (Can't remember the other card). The flop is J9x. I bet and he calls. I probably shouldn't bet here against this particular guy, but normally I would. Anyway, the turn is a 9, and I check. He bets and I call. The river is an 8 which is a really really bad card, it completes all sorts of draws, makes pairs out of some draws and gives some hands two pair. I check and he bets again. He didn't seem that comfortable, and I figured I couldn't really fold since he is betting all his air. I called and he mucked. I still have no idea what he had.

One that went wrong: Early on I raise with K9, an utg limper calls me. The flop is T78 with a heart draw. Check Check. Turn is an offsuit 2. He checks and I bet. I'm actually betting here for value, and protection. He calls. The river is a 5. He checks and I bet quite big, naievly hoping he might fold some small pairs. He checks raises. I think for a long time and call, putting him on a 9 or flush draw, and I have the 2nd nut K. He tables 9Jo for flopped gin. That hand never even entered my consciousness!

So the day went on and on, I managed to keep afloat by occasionally stealing a few blinds. I then got lucky in a multiway pot where I turned the nuts. An older Irish guy called my turn raise, then reluctantly folded the river after much thought. I would of bet a lot of money he had one pair at best, in a situation where my range is the nuts, and possibly the 2nd nuts.

This hand counted against me though, a few hours later I played a similar pot, but unfortunately this time I was bluffing. Had I remembered this previous hand at the time I never would of attempted the bluff, but after 8 hours of playing live poker my memory somewhat deserted me.

That hand crippled me, and I busted soon after with k8 on a 866 board against 65. I raised with about 12 blinds in late position, and got check raised by a young maniac who kept trying to speech play me in French - i figured his range contained both 8's and 6's, as well as draws and random bluffs. I had hoped he was unlikely to call my shortstack raise with two many hands containing a 5, but unfortunately not. So that was it.

The tournament was great fun though, I really enjoyed the atmosphere, it was like being in France for a day. Had I got any sort of decent cards I feel like I could of gotten very deep. I got kings twice early on, but that was pretty much it. I gave an awful beat to a player mid way that I should mention though, we got it in pre TT vs TT. I rivered a flush!
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Up's & Downs [Sep. 28th, 2011|04:50 am]
This graph is from yesterday - I lost at every limit I played, bar $2 $4 where I made €29 in 2 hands, giving me a BB/100 of 181.5. For those two hands I was making $1,742 an hour. Sat in beside a fish, won a hand, then left once he sat out. Unfortunately I basically didn't win a hand apart from that, which got pretty annoying.....

This graph is from today - I won at every limit I played.

I've been putting in a good amount of volume recently. I need to keep it up for a couple of weeks, and then think about moving up, which will involve changing site.
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African House Mix II [Sep. 27th, 2011|12:10 am]
Last years African House mix was the most popular mix I've ever recorded. Since then I've been planning a follow up. This follows the same format, roughly 70 minutes of house music from Africa, or inspired by African music. A big shout out to Michel Cleis, Radioslave & the Awesome Tapes from Africa blog, (http://www.awesometapes.com/) without which this could have never happened.

A friend asked recently why I love this type of music. There are three things, in order of importance. 1) The drums, or more specifically the rhythms. 2) The melodies. 3) The clash between old and new.


Litoral - Michel Cleis
La Tortuga -Michel Cleis
Push Push Afriqu Edit - Kings Of Kigali feat. Juliet Sikora
Koma Koma (Steve Lawler Remix) - Radio Slave
N.I.N.A. - Radio Slave
Maria (Dub) - Riva Starr
Dark Glasses - Michel Cleis
Bantuma - Daniel Steinberg
Abataka - David West And Ida Engberg
The Beginning - (Michel Cleis Remix) - Spencer Parker
Moto - Delicious
Amalfino - Kaiserdisco
Canoa - Gregor Salto DJ Gregory
Bailando - Daniel Steinberg
Cowbell - Martijn Ten Velden and afroboogie
Raw Sweat - Uner and Coyu
At Night - Ridney
El Botellon - Uproot Andy
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Mi Casa Es Su Casa [Sep. 20th, 2011|04:47 am]

I just had one of the strangest sessions of my life. I arrived home after inadvertently taking the weekend off around 6pm. Feeling guilty about doing no work this weekend I decided to put in a marathon session. I played non-stop from then until 4am, breaking only to give Michelle a short session. I never check my results in the middle of a session, because not knowing if you are up or down allows you to concentrate more on what matters and less on your short term results. One added benefit of doing that is that I get a little excitement at the end of each session. Usually I have a reasonable idea of if I'm up or not, but after ten hours of playing I really had no clue. I thought I was up a little bit, but I had lost some stacks early on and wasn't that optimistic.

The site I play on is pretty antiquated. When you open up the cashier window it briefly flashes up whatever it was the last time you checked, before refreshing to the current balance. This is the first way I find out how I've done in a session. So a couple of minutes ago, when I opened this I was saddened to see my balance drop by about €150. Putting in ten hours of work to actually lose money is quite a depressing experience. (Thank god for rakeback!) I then opened up Pokertracker, and filtered it to show me today's results. It said I was up €855. That's weird. I look back to my cashier screen, and before I opened it it slowly dawned on me, I hadn't paid any attention to that all important 4th digit. I had assume whatever swing I was in for would only be three digits. Cue some music and whiskey to celebrate.

I find it amazing that I had no idea I was up so much. I was playing mostly 25 50, some 50 1 and a few tables of 1 2. I have noticed that nearly all of my biggest winning sessions come when I'm really paying very little attention. For the first hour or so I concentrate hard, but then I start browsing reddit, IPB or 2+2, listening to audiobooks, downloading music or lately, watching OZ. This really should lead to worse results, but doesn't seem to. I'm aware I may be confusing cause and correlation (as if I'm losing I concentrate), but it definitely doesn't lead to significantly worse results.


My project with Michelle has been going really well. You can read about it from both of our perspectives here: http://www.irishpokerboards.com/forum/showthread.php?p=404871#post404871.
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(no subject) [Sep. 5th, 2011|07:29 pm]

That's a Full Tilt kangaroo.

Still no word from Full Tilt, although the longer it goes on the worse the situation becomes. I'm not that up to date though, its been a real pleasure no longer browsing the two plus two forums for nuggets on information. My heart goes out to the staff still there, and all those whose funds are tied up. Hopefully there can be some sort of amicable solution.

On a more personal note, poker has been going well. Frighteningly well in fact, it makes me fear for the inevitable downswing. At the moment however its great. I've moved up to the €100 and €200 tables. It seems crazy that 3 months ago I was playing 5c 10c with a bankroll of €300!

I've also decided to start a kind of public coaching project. I put a post up on Irish Poker Boards (http://www.irishpokerboards.com/forum/showthread.php?t=10567) asking for people to apply. I hadn't fully thought through how difficult it was going to be to pick someone though. I'm not very good at saying no. For a variety of reasons I chose Michelle (michelle SatNav). She was very enthusiastic, but also she has little or no online cash experience, so would be much more of a blank slate. I'm intrigued into how quickly I can get across the most important concepts. We will be keeping a public record of progress, which I'll post a link to as soon as we get started.
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