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Habeas Blogus

Book reviews, more for my memory than anything else.

Location: Austin, Texas, United States

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Is This an Apt Metaphor?

I love to gamble. I'd be an addict if I didn't live 6 hours from a major gambling center. I love it so much that I once took up a part-time job dealing blackjack, poker, craps, and roulette for a company that did "casino night" parties. It didn't pay well and there was no "real" money in it, but at least I was around all those shiny chips and all the intricate formality surrounding the games.

My favorite was craps... you know, dice. You can bet money on the next roll, on some theoretical roll in the future, or on a specific sequence of rolls. You can hedge one bet with another. You can decide whether you want to risk more money to get "true odds", or you can pay the casino a little more and make a bet that's more likely to win. As a dealer I just liked being around all the screaming; it was pretty close to the thrill of being a player.

People start to play. They put money on the line. They put money behind the line. They put money on the Field, the Come, the Place, the Buy, the Big 6/8, the Big Red, the Horn, the Lay, the C&E, all the good Don'ts, and if they're feeling charitable, they can holler "Two-Way Yo For the Boys!" and everyone cheers. They can play their money in a round: by throwing money out on every roll, they can start new meta-games of their very own that have nothing to do with the main event, which they're probably also betting on.

As a dealer, you have to keep up with all of this. You have to know how each of these bets pay out, you have to keep an eye on the dice as well as the drunk people around the table. You have to match each bet with the person who placed it. You have to encourage people who don't bet much, to increase their stake. You have to do all this with a smile, while representing the company and making sure you aren't getting in the way of their having a good time. I've been involved in games where there are at least a hundred chips on the table I have to keep track of, because I know for sure there are 8 people watching me who know exactly what they've put down and how it's supposed to pay. I have to pay out 5-6 bets for every roll, and I only have about 30 seconds before the next one.

Sometimes I look down at that littered table and watch the dice slam into the chips. They go scattering, off the table sometimes. I have to remember where they were and get them back before the next roll, making sure busy hands don't steal chips from the table while I'm rooting for the lost ones on the floor. I've seen 60 year old men in Vegas screaming and threatening violence when the 22 year old dealer behind the table didn't get this right.

In this situation the dealer wants what I call "a deep-cleansing seven". When the seven comes, don't make eye contact with the people around the table. You drop your chin, not in sorrow or in shame, but to hide your smile. Your relief. You reach down and scoop every chip off the felt, sort them out, and stack them up. They belong to you now. You look up and express false sympathy to those who have lost everything. They didn't have to put those chips down in the first place now, did they? The money they had been accumulating, parlaying one bet into another and increasing their odds payouts... it was never actually theirs. It didn't ever even exist. It was fiction.

Seven is the hand of justice, punishing greed and arrogance, righting wrongs, and wiping out all the mess. Things are simpler after a seven. You look down and see green, with yellow and red lines criss-crossing. Everyone at the table knows that the odds are better of a seven coming than any other single number. Every side of the six-sided die can be used in making a seven, and that is true for no other number from 2 to 12. You know it's coming. No casino in the history of mankind has instituted a bail-out plan, even for gamblers who were "too rich to fail". Without hell, there can be no heaven.

When will it be time to push for the "Seven Plan" and just get it over with?

Monday, August 25, 2008

People I Miss



I guess I just didn't know how good I had it.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

I don't know about you, but

Why in the world would I care that a 9-year old lip-synched what a 7-year old was singing? Was it rude? Yes. Were the reasons stupid? Yes.

My goodness, though... can't we find other, more important points of contention about what the Chinese cover up and how they justify it? Can't we do the same for our own country?


Tuesday, June 03, 2008

An interesting book list

I got this meme from my dear friend incandragon, and I think there's a lot in it for me. Maybe it will get me into reading again. Maybe it will get me into blogging again. Maybe what I've been needing is a good challenge... the last book I spent any quality time with was The Web Application Hacker's Handbook. Oy.

I'm going to do bold for the ones I've read, and italics for the ones I don't own and haven't read (and, what the hell, bold italics for the ones I've read but don't own).

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
Anna Karenina
Crime and Punishment
One Hundred Years of Solitude
Wuthering Heights
The Silmarillion
Life of Pi : a novel
The Name of the Rose
Don Quixote
Moby Dick
Madame Bovary
The Odyssey
Pride and Prejudice
Jane Eyre
A Tale of Two Cities
The Brothers Karamazov
Guns, Germs, and Steel
War and Peace
Vanity Fair
The Time Traveler's Wife
The Iliad
The Blind Assassin
The Kite Runner
Mrs. Dalloway
Great Expectations
American Gods
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
Atlas Shrugged
Reading Lolita in Tehran : a memoir in books
Memoirs of a Geisha
Wicked : the life and times of the wicked witch of the West
The Canterbury Tales
The Historian : a novel
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
Love in the Time of Cholera
Brave New World
The Fountainhead
Foucault's Pendulum
The Count of Monte Cristo - in French, thankyouverymuch
A Clockwork Orange
Anansi Boys
The Once and Future King
The Grapes of Wrath
The Poisonwood Bible : a novel
Angels & Demons
The Inferno
The Satanic Verses
Sense and Sensibility
The Picture of Dorian Gray
Mansfield Park
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
To the Lighthouse
Tess of the D'Urbervilles
Oliver Twist
Gulliver's Travels
Les Misérables
The Corrections
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
The Prince
The Sound and the Fury
Angela's Ashes : a memoir
The God of Small Things
A People's History of the United States : 1492-present
A Confederacy of Dunces
A Short History of Nearly Everything
The Unbearable Lightness of Being
The Scarlet Letter
Eats, Shoots & Leaves
The Mists of Avalon
Oryx and Crake : a novel
Collapse : how societies choose to fail or succeed
Cloud Atlas
The Confusion
Northanger Abbey
The Catcher in the Rye
On the Road
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Freakonomics : a rogue economist explores the hidden side of everything
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance : an inquiry into values
The Aeneid
Watership Down
Gravity's Rainbow
The Hobbit
In Cold Blood : a true account of a multiple murder and its consequences
White Teeth
Treasure Island
David Copperfield
The Three Musketeers

I've got a lot of work to do. Amazing how many of these I own, but haven't read... and here I've been thinking I didn't have anything left worth reading!

btw, I don't like to quibble with lists, because I could go on all day about it... but... um... what the hell is Angels & Demons doing on there?

Langdon shook his head, "[...]I seriously doubt I'm the kind of man who could ever have a religious experience." Vittoria slipped off her robe. "You've never been to bed with a yoga master, have you?"

Hey Jess, Zen, Anne U, TAG!!!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Something to get me out of hiding

This story is just too awesome.


"I can imagine frustrated and horny readers cursing the ferrets and skipping ahead in search of the next nipple."

Please enjoy. I'll try to start posting more soon.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Wom Kim's Peach Pudding

Incandragon will disagree with me, but not by very much I think. I've long considered Wom Kim's Peach Pudding, served at Hyde Park Bar & Grille in Austin, to be the best dessert in the city. It's a light, spongy sweet cake, light and springy and pourous, with thinly sliced peaches at the bottom. It's served floating in a pool of cream, and they give you a ramekin full of cream to pour over the top.

This cake is amazing because it stays right there and absorbs the cream, holding it, ready like a tres leches to release it all when you start to chew. I've never been able to duplicate it. The recipe in the magazine says to use "sweetened whipped cream", but that would forego the best part, and in my opinion, obscure the delicate texture.

I've been casually glancing through their RSVP section for years, thinking to myself "I wonder if they'll have the recipe for Wom Kim's this time... nah, they wouldn't write that up. It'd be too lucky. Maybe I should write them one day and ask them..." Well this time, someone in Dallas did just that. It's in the August 2007 issue (page 38). They don't sell the virtues of the cake like they should. They should put it on the damn cover as far as I'm concerned. It's really that good. I called my wife over because I was too weak to stand. I think I may have muttered in tongues for several minutes, trying to calculate whether or not I had all the ingredients. I had always thought it was a corn cake of some sort, but no... it's just buttermilk (and lots and lots of butter).

Incandragon, you must bring this to Seattle!

Wom Kim's Peach Pudding

As this bakes, the fruit will sink to the bottom of the pan.

Nonstick vegetable oil spray
1 3/4 cups plus 2 T all purpose flour
2 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cups (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 3/4 cups sugar
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
2 large eggs
3/4 cups buttermilk

4 c peeled sliced peaches (from about 3 pounds)

Whipping cream (sweetened as you prefer)

Preheat over to 350F. Spray 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish with vegetable oil spray. Whisk flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda in medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat butter in large bowl until smooth. Gradually beat in sugar. Beat in vanilla, then eggs, 1 at a time, incorporating well after each addition. Using low speed, beat in flour mixture alternately with buttermilk in 3 additions each, beating well between additions.

Transfer batter to baking dish, spreading evenly. Arrange peach slices over batter, overlapping slightly as needed. Spray sheet of foil with vegetable oil spray; cover cake with foil, spray side down, and seal at edges.

Bake 45 minutes. Remove foil (some cake may stick). Bake until top is golden brown, edges are crusty, and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 40 minutes longer. Cool 1 hour. Serve warm with cream.


Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Watch for Cowboys on Segways

I think I am the first person in the history of the world to hit a cowboy on a Segway with my car.

No injuries, no lawsuits, everyone's ok. I just got a few scuff's on my wife's car and one hell of a story to tell.

Any graphic artists out there want to mock me up a "Cowboys on Segways X-ing" sign? Maybe "Cowboy on a Segway" should be my patronus...