Tuesday, November 10, 2009

What I did on my summer/fall vacation from blogging:

1. Went to Las Vegas and came back with more money than I took with me. This is due to a roulette strategy known as "progressive betting". In a nutshell:

(1) bet a certain amount X on a 50/50 proposition (red/black, odd/even);

(2) if you win, pocket your winnings and go back to step (1);

(3) if you lose, bet amount X again;

(4) if you win, you're back even and can go back to step (1);

(5) if you lose, bet amount 2X;

(6) if you win, you're back at even and can go back to step (1);

(7) if you lose, bet amount 4X;

(8) etc. keep doubling your bet each time you lose.

This works reasonably well... for a while. But of course if you do it enough you'll eventually bust out (lose your entire bankroll) or run up against the table limit.

But the odds are pretty decent. Say your starting bankroll is $1,600. Your bets would be $100, $100, $200, $400, $800, so you could lose a 50/50 bet 5 straight times before you busted out. I'm too lazy to figure out the exact probability, but this is a relatively rare occurence, and in all likelihood, before it happens, you will have doubled your original bankroll, in which case the next time you'll have to lose an even-more-unlikely 6 straight times before busting out. But my suggestion is that, upon doubling your bankroll, you grab your chips and head off to get a double vodka at the bar (you'll need it -- this type of gambling is tough on the nerves!).

2. Played softball. Our team is awful. I play third base. I'm probably one of the best fielders on the team, even though I tend to make a sub-par amount of throwing errors (I'm old, and my arm tends to start hurting on about the 4th throw during warm-ups). I'm a poor hitter. I tend to hit the ball hard, but 8 times out of ten it's a fly-out. Hitting a line drive on a pitch that's coming in at a downward angle is harder than it looks. Of course, when batting against our team, a fly ball has about a 75% chance of being a multi-base error instead of a fly-out. So it goes.

3. Went and saw U2 at Jerry Jones' Death Star. The show was awesome, I'm told. Our seats, unfortunately, were terrible. Our view was blocked by a leg of the set's giant spider thing. The seats were also approximately 1/4 mile above the floor. And the acoustics at that altitude, inside the giant reverberating dome, were amazingly bad. We could barely tell what song was being performed. But on the whole, it was quite a scene. The Death Star is a gaudy, monstrous abomination, unparalleled in its enormity (yes, enormity) among such venues. In other words: Great!

4. Fought the law and won. A few months ago I received a citation for "Obstruction of a Fire Lane". This occurred during a night out at a semi-local bar. The parking lot was filled beyond capacity when we arrived, but luckily we found a single parking space around the back. There were cars parked solid on either side of the space. When we returned after leaving the bar, we saw a ticket under the windshield wiper. Sure enough, we had parked in a fire lane, as had approximately 3 dozen other vehicles. I wasn't keen on paying $250 behind this bullshit, so I made the 55 minute drive down to the pissant suburban court two weeks later to plead not guilty (they don't allow you to plead not guilty by mail, though of course you are more than welcome to send them a check for your fine). On the way, I stopped by the bar and took this photo of the place we parked:

Notice that this is the visibility of the fire lane marking during broad daylight. When we parked of course it was pitch black back behind the building. So, after killing the greater part of an afternoon listening to teenagers and immigrants and teen-aged immigrants mindlessly waiving their rights to counsel and pleading guilty and asking for extensions to pay fines levied against them for a whole bunch of really trumped up sounding bullshit charges (ignorance of the system is apparently a huge (and depressing) factor in filling municipal coffers these days), I was called before the judge, pled guilty, and was assigned what they referred to as a "trial date". I found out later that this was not, in fact, a trial date (I never actually believed it was), but rather my one and only opportunity to speak with the prosecutor assigned to my case. So I was then forced to spend another whole afternoon driving down to this podunk court, sitting and watching downtrodden folks (this time, a few of them were actually represented by counsel), be called one by one into a small room to discuss their cases. I went armed with several photographs and a couple of Google Maps, but the nice young attractive prosecutor wasn't interested in my evidence, but rather distractedly cut off my story and explained, in a very rote fashion as if this was the dozenth or so time she had said it, how they had discussed this matter with the fire marshal and the property owners and believed that they had, now, erected, at this particular location, some very obvious indicators of the "No Parking" nature of these specific areas of the parking surface, and that therefore, to the best of her actual knowledge, this type of "mishap" or "misunderstanding" was not at all likely to ever occur again. When I began to relate findings from my most recent trip to this location, which had occurred only within the last few hours, and to impart to her my first-hand observation that, in fact, the condition of the fire lane was exactly as it had been several weeks ago, if not worse, she sort of half-rose out of her seat and immediately interrupted me to say that these observations were not at all relevant to my case, and that the bottom line of the whole situation was that the charges against me were being dismissed and that I was therefore free to go.

And so while there are probably a lot of implications of this story worth delving into, my main takeaway was to wonder, out of all the dozens of people ticketed that night at the bar, and other nights at the bar -- out of all the hundreds of people likely to have fallen prey this municipal con game, this kafkaesque government racket -- how many of those people simply bit the bullet and wrote out a check to the City of Watauga, TX, in the amount of $250, and mailed it in?