Saturday, December 31, 2005

HK photos, as promised.

This was on the wall in our hotel room in Guangzhou, mainland China. "Don't be taken into the trap of 'sex-procuring robbery'. Some strange 'procuress' may take you to somewhere to commit a robbery by their criminal gang."

Well, if it isn't a guy with an amputee monkey on a leash. Yes, it is.

You know what they say about guys with big feet...

A nameless woman eats "dragon beard candy", something flaky wrapped around something peanutty.

Hong Kong Island on this side of the harbor, Kowloon peninsula (where we stayed with hwong14's grandmother) on the far side.

Nice park. A little boy was running wild and some park official yelled at him, calling him "my little friend" in Mandarin, but I swear I heard the words "Chairman Mao". My belief in reincarnation has been reborn.

Throngs of Filipinos, displaced from their usual sitting place by an enormous Christmas tree, snack it up under a tall building whose name I didn't bother to discover.

The Central District: where the eating disorder was invented.

And this doesn't remotely capture how crowded Hong Kong is. But it was nice being the tallest person out of 7 million, so I could see where the foot-traffic backups were.

What could I possibly add here?

hwong14 and her brother hit the booze at Al's Diner, diner by day and 1980s-music-video-haven/bar by night.

Construction on the south side (non-skyline side) of HK Island, where we went shopping.

All six of the hwong14 family, waiting to cross the street.


We had dim sum almost every day, and the loudest day was spent at the table next to these girls, who played rock-paper-scissors to decide on who would get to eat EACH PIECE of food, and each time they threw they cackled hysterically.

hwong14 and me, with Hong Kong Island skyline behind.

A cave on Cheung Chou island, an hour's ferry ride away from Hong Kong Island. It was pitch-black; I was only taking photos for the flash. I'd see, for a thousandth of a second, the next place to crawl, I'd crawl there and then take another photo. This only lasted for four photos before I lost my nerve and got the hell out of there.


View from a temple.


Of course.

Dragon boat. Nice beard.

Filleted fish, drying in the sun on Cheung Chou.

Me, after sleeping from 4:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. the day after returning. If you've been considering wearing a fauxhawk, don't go to the salon: sleep for 13 1/2 hours, turning over every 2 or 3.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Back, with bloodshot eyes

It's 8 p.m. Friday in the Bluegrass State, but E.S.C. feels like it's 9 a.m. Saturday. Full wrap-up, with photos, coming ASAP.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

A pre-Merry Christmas, all

Had a great time in PA the past five days; sorry if I missed you. Early Friday morning finds me flying to Minneapolis-Tokyo-Guangzhou en route to a week in Hong Kong, joining my girlfriend and her family on a pilgrimage to see more family, and possibly some nightclubs. My first brush with communism, other than college classes, awaits! Hope to put up pictures when I return.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Thank you, Mr. President

I'm so bummed. John Spencer died of a heart attack. He played Leo on The West Wing, and with Aaron Sorkin not writing for the last few seasons, it became even more clear that Spencer was head and shoulders above most of the cast in acting talent (Sorkin made them all look good w/ his patter).

I guess they'll have no choice but to write the death into the show. I have no idea how many episodes are left to tape this year, but the season was supposed to end with the presidential election. In a few days I'll start wondering who they'll sub in for VP candidate, but now I'm just bummed.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

I'm in a vile mood, and this doesn't help...

FORT WAYNE, Indiana (AP) -- A man accused of killing his family told police he beat and strangled his wife and killed their three young daughters after the couple argued about household chores, according to court documents.

As killings become more commonly visible -- on TV war coverage, on Law & Order, whatever -- does that chip away at the huge mental obstacles that keep a sane person from committing similar crimes? In other words, is a single life considered less valuable and untouchable today than it was 50 years ago?

And what if the population is 20 billion in a few decades? Will anyone think twice before killing someone just to get some elbow room?


Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Damning with faint praise

(Former President Gerald) Ford's chief of staff, Penny Circle, would not say what kind of tests were being conducted, but said that Ford is as healthy as any 92-year-old.

Better luck next time

There was gonna be a limerick in this space, but I botched it. Here were the rhyming words: "burrito, libido, surrender, engender, Hirohito."

It showed early promise, but an attempt to make MacArthur the protagonist complicated things beyond repair.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Belly laugh

By all means, check this out and your day will improve.

Just lovely

Airport mayhem, just as I'm preparing to fly to Philly, then back here, then to Minneapolis-Tokyo-Guangzhou, all in the next three weeks.

"Symmetrical book stacking."

"Just like the Philadelphia mass turbulence of 1947."
"You're right, no ... human being ... would stack books like this."

Since the get rich, famous and published thing is coming slowly, I have a side project: Take all the books in the apartment that I want to read and haven't, and read them all in order. There are 27. First one up (I'm 40 pages in): Catch-22. And yes, they're all in one stack. Just like the Philadelphia mass turbulence of 1947.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Kristmasy in Kentucky

The apartment now sports clove-stuffed oranges and pine wreaths. It blots out the stale smoke smell from the hallway, somewhat.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Um, 4:42 update...

All done. KT vs. AK, and I was the chump. Finished 2,471st, whatever that means.

4:05 update

Mostly stayed out of trouble. Switched tables a couple of times. Folded a QTo on the turn after a queen-high flop bet when a king came, but reraised a pot w/ AKo and took it preflop, plus added some on w/ QQ (only my fourth pocket pair, after 66, 22 and 22) on a jack-high flop.

Players remaining: 3,049 (1,181 knocked out in the second hour)
My stack position: 1,391 of 3,049.
My stack: 3,525.
Average stack: 3,993.

Will have to get involved in a few more pots if I expect my stack to stay competitive. Blinds will be 75-150 when the break ends, FYI.

3 p.m. update

The first hour was the tale of two aces: a very bad one (and a very bad play by me), and a very good one.

After I crept from 2,500 chips to 3,000 w/ a couple of decent hands (66, QJ hits a QT9 board), I went for a blind steal w/ A2o, but was called in late position by a tough player and I didn't have the sense to give up the ghost and minimize my losses. I couldn't get rid of him, and crippled my stack. He and another good player picked off another steal by me (quickly given up to an impossibly scary board), so I figured my table image was suffering.

I got AKo in 4th position and raised three times the big blind, making it 120 to the guy who crippled me. He reraised another 200 and I called. Flop was K42 rainbow; I bet, he called. Turn was a 2; I bet bigger, he called. River was a J. I didn't think he was reraising me preflop w/ KJ and he's too aggressive to have waited this long with aces, so I went all-in, he called, and I won, back up to 3,200, which is where I sit now.

Players remaining: 4,230 (641 knocked out in the first hour)
My stack position: 1,253 of 4,230.
My stack: 3,200.
Average stack: 2,878.

Well, at least I got to post one update. In the second hour, since my table hasn't had much player turnover, I'll try to do better at picking on the softer players and avoiding the savvy ones.

About to start

Quick notes on the tournament, which starts in 7 minutes:

The final tally of registered players is 4,871. Hopefully some of them will forget about the tournament or will have dentist appointments, so I could steal some blinds from the post&folders. Stacks start at 2,500 chips and the levels are a distressingly long 30 minutes between blind increases.

Here goes nothin! Be back in an hour.

Tourney time

Just reread my post about Friday's run. I should go back and edit some sense into some of the non sequiturs, but I think it's more fun the way it is. It should certainly boost your (the reader's) confidence in your own writing, anyhow.

Today at 2 p.m. EST is the million-dollar freeroll online poker tournament in which I am. You like that syntax?

The pattern is 60 minutes of play, 5-minute break. Until the 5,000-player field is reduced to 10. Then those 10 will be flown to Barbados (I think) at a later date to finish the tournament on TV. Top 500 get paid, at least $50, but second through 10th pays $10,000 each, and the winner makes $1,000,000. Or, as the IRS likes to call it, nowhere near $1,000,000.

I could bust out in the first 10 minutes as the result of bad play (mine or someone else's), but as long as I last, I'll post updates on my stack size and interesting hands during each break. I'll have a top-notch mix playing on iTunes, a bottomless Brita filter, and a candle that smells like carrot cake. I can't miss.

After an 8-year hiatus, please welcome back...

...the runner's high!!!

I haven't had one since senior-year track, but Friday I was determined to run the longest I'd run since then. And I did, an 8-miler. That speaks to my laziness in college, but nothing to be done about that now. So I pulled on my spy suit (Under Armour longsleeve and Asics tights) and wraparound earmuffs and drove to the park.

It was so, so cold.

The high was 33 today, and at 3:30 when I got to the park I'd put it at closer to 26. I stretched more than usual, started the watch and decided that I at least wanted to do the 8 without stopping, even though I was simply freezing. If I managed to warm up, my goal would be to break 1 hour -- a 7:30-per-mile pace.

I warmed up. And I'm, as ever, an unpaceable misfit.

First mile: 6:44. My defense for this one is that I was simply moving as quickly as possible to warm my body, and I could not bear to hang back for a 7:30 just for the sake of negative (or even consistent) splits.

Second mile: 6:45. Now we see obstinance rear its ugly head. There was no reason for me to push this pace on a flat mile in the middle of plenty of trees (no wind, less cold). But I felt vaguely like I was dragging after I closed the first mile, and I suppose I just wanted to jolt myself further into running mode. At any rate, after the second mile, I started to think, "Well, I know I can't break 7 for all of them, but let's just see how many I can do before I have to drop back into a saner pace." Pretty stupid, if you're planning a strategy for a long run, but like I said, I haven't done an 8 in a while, and I was just having some fun. So...

Third mile: 6:53. The third mile (and seventh) is the reverse course of the second (and sixth), while the fourth (and eighth) is the reverse of the first (and fifth). Two miles out, two miles in, two miles back out, two miles back in. Simple. The first (fourth, fifth, eighth) mile is much hillier than the second, and thus is harder to slog through when you're tired. But by this point, I resolved to break seven for the fourth mile and then everything else would be gravy.

Fourth mile: 6:56. 27:18 for half the run. (I ran 27:15 doing negative splits on Monday, and that was the entire run, so I felt pretty good about today's 4.)

Fifth mile: 7:23. Ahhh that felt good.

Sixth mile: 6:41.

Okay. There's no good explanation for that one, EXCEPT, I was FINALLY warm. Finally. It took five and a half miles, but my legs finally defrosted. Can I use the word finally again? And this is when the runner's high started to kick in and take over my brain. "If I break 7:20 I'll be under 7:00 pace for the first six miles; obviously I have no shot to keep the last two under 7:00, so let's lay out while we've got the goods." I swear, that's what I was mumbling to myself, word for word. Confusing colloquialisms, shoddy math; this is my brain on drugs.

So yes, six miles in, I was under 7:00 pace -- 41:26, about a 6:54 average. And with a 34-second cushion, I decided to get greedy. What the hell, I just ran a 6:41; if I could turn that around again, I could coast in with a sub-8 and still keep my average in the sixes. They're numbers, arbitrary goals, but I'm my own coach and these are the carrots I dangle for myself; I'm still math-oriented, even though I haven't taken math since, well, since my last runner's high.

Seventh mile: 6:40. Ka-pow. If I can just get to the last U-curve below the last uphill at around 6:30, I can do it.

Last U-curve below last uphill: 5:30.

Eighth mile: 6:57.

Second 4 miles: 27:41.

That split pattern again (as track coaches everywhere cringe):
6:44, 6:45, 6:53, 6:56, 7:23, 6:41, 6:40, 6:57.

Average mile: 6:52:36. Elapsed time: 54:59. I had five minutes left in my hour, so I used one for vomiting, then four for staggering. And then I drove home. (Where I stretched for years and years, hakuna matata.)

Highlights: Last remnants of Thanksgiving-break-football lactic acid expunged from muscles; first runner's high since high school; first running-related vomiting since junior high; sweaty earmuffs, one pair of.

WELCOME to the end of the post! Most likely, you skimmed through the numbers until the last ones, and with good reason. But anyway, the run was great, and it's nice to reach a goal I've set for myself. The best feeling was realizing that I finally have the guts to run in sub-freezing temperatures, and I don't expect it to get much colder than 26 here, so this spring will be the first in a while in which I won't have to start from scratch after a winter of exercise that consists entirely of shivering under blankets.