Sunday, August 31, 2014

British Isles trip, part 2: The selfies

No sooner do I tell you how I'm going to do posts in this series than I violate the protocol.

This is just a quick assembly of the selfies I took for posting on Twitter day by day, along with whatever I wrote about them when posted. They were taken with my cell phone, not the good camera. They were just silly shots to remind my friends that I was going places and seeing things.

August 18: I haven't mastered the "destination selfie" like @BJNemeth, but here I am at the Tower of London this morning.

August 19: For today's selfie, you have to guess where I am. NO HINTS!

August 20: Selfie-upon-Avon. (Today's tweet sponsored by Wm. Shakespeare.)  

August 21: Liverpool selfie. Like Paul, I'm the cute one.

August 22: The city of York formally expelled me for violating this ordinance. 

August 22: The City Council of Leeds commands you to litter. 

August 23: Today's selfie comes from the shore of Lake Windermere in NW England. I call it "Duckface with duck." 

August 24: Today's selfie comes to you from the bonnie, bonnie banks of Loch Lomond. 

August 24: Bonus selfie to induce envy in golfers. 

August 25: Today's selfie is from the top of Edinburgh Castle. 

August 26: Today's selfie is from the ferry from Scotland to Northern Ireland. It guest-stars my 91-year-old father. 

August 27: Today's selfie comes from Giant's Causeway, Northern Ireland. It's one of the most amazing natural sights I've seen. 

August 28: Selfie with sister on tour bus in Dublin. Flying home tomorrow. 

August 28: Selfie with sister, s-in-law, brother, and father, last dinner of our big trip. (B-in-law sick, stayed at hotel.) 

OK, that's all of them. I'm really not as narcissistic as that series makes me seem, taken in all at once. They were just for funsies. After this post, I disappear behind the camera. 

British Isles trip, part 1: Introduction

From August 16 to August 29, 2014, I was touring the British Isles (England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, and the Republic of Ireland) with my 91-year-old father, my brother and sister-in-law, and my sister and brother-in-law. It was organized by a tour company in Utah called "Fun For Less." There were a total of 87 people, plus two tour leaders. Travel was by motor coach, except (obviously) for the trip from Scotland to Ireland, which required a ferry. We started in London and ended in Dublin.

I had a wonderful time. I have not spent so much time with my family since the three of us kids were all still living at home. It was a pleasure and honor to be with them all.

We had signed up for the trip back in January, so we had a lot of lead time. In February, I bought a new camera specifically with this trip in mind. I had become frustrated with the technical limitations of my old one, and wanted a better tool for what I felt was a growing ability to find aesthetically pleasing photo opportunities--as well as to simply document what I knew would be the trip of a lifetime. After spending a lot of time considering the bewildering options available, I bought a Sony NEX-3N. (See reviews here.) I was heavily influenced in this decision by David Pogue's ongoing cheerleading for Sony's innovative push for much larger sensors than most of its competitors use; see, e.g., here.

I'm glad that I bought the camera that far in advance of the trip. It took those several months of intermittent experimentation before I felt reasonably comfortable that I could intelligently select among the myriad of options for a given photo situation. I still have not come close to wringing all of the potential from this instrument, however. Most notably, I take pictures in RAW+JPEG format, but I don't even own software that will open the RAW files. The camera will automate HDR imaging, but I have not even looked at those pages in the owner's manual. In short, I still have a lot to learn. However, I have zero doubt that the Sony is allowing me to take much better pictures than I could with my old pocket-sized Nikon point-and-shoot.

At many places in our recent travels, there wasn't much that I could do creatively, because of constraints of lighting, crowding, and, most of all, time. Trying to compress five magnificent countries into 12 days of sightseeing meant that there was barely time to see things, let alone absorb them. Taking time to, e.g., dive into the camera's menu to turn on the fill flash setting, in order to reduce facial shadows on family members, meant grumbles of impatience from other people waiting to take pictures in the same spot before the bus left again.

All of which is a long way of getting at this point: Despite more sophisticated technology than I've had before, the majority of my pictures still ended up being basically the same touristy snapshots that a billion other people have taken before--though probably with less spoiled shots from camera motion, errant exposures, etc. There were never more than a few images in any locale in which I feel any pride of originality; often the number was zero.

Here's how I've decided to present things. First, I'm going to use this blog rather than Facebook because it gives me more control over the formatting, and because, frankly, I just don't trust Facebook to keep everything fully under my control in future years.

Second, each stop of our trip will be a separate blog post. I'll do a lightly edited memory-card dump to Picasa, and include the link for the rare reader who wants to look at all of the pictures.

Then the post will be divided into two parts. "What we saw" will be the best selection of my quickie, touristy shots, just to convey a sense of what's there. When there are one or more special shots that I went out of my way to capture, those will be under the heading of "What I saw."

I make no claim that the latter will rival Ansel Adams or otherwise be of great artistic merit. But they are ones that please me, because the final image bears some reasonable similarity to the what my mind's eye saw before I clicked the shutter release, and because the images are, to the best of my amateurish ability, actual compositions, rather than just depictions of a thing.

All of the posts will be accessible via the "British Isles trip" label. I hope you enjoy looking at them half as much as I am going to enjoy editing and assembling them--but be patient, this process is likely to spread itself out over two or three weeks, and maybe more than that. I have a lot of photos to sift through, digitally tweak, arrange, comment on, etc., while I'm getting back to my badly neglected real work--you know, the stuff that keeps the bills paid.

For my poker-minded readers, I apologize in advance for commandeering this space for something that has nothing to do with poker for the next while.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

PokerNews articles #27 and #28

I'm back from my two-week trip to the British Isles. While I was gone, published two more of my series:

Chopping blinds 


Friday, August 15, 2014

Post deleted

On August 13, 2014 I put up a post with updates to a post I did on May 9, 2009, about difficulties I had with an advertiser. As part of settling that old dispute, I agreed to remove the newer post, leaving instead just this marker of having done so. The 2009 post now has a dated addendum with further details.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

PokerNews article #26

This one is about quirky house rules:

On rereading it now, I think I may have used the word "artillery" incorrectly. That is, London's problem was a combination of bombs dropped from German planes and the infamous V2 rockets. I'm not sure either one is properly considered "artillery." Oh well.

Saturday, August 09, 2014

The math of monster stacks

Jonathan Little has an excellent blog post, in which he dissects the nutty idea that so many amateurs apparently got this year that the new "Monster Stacks" event at the WSOP was a better value to enter than events with the same entry fee but shorter stacks. Little shows why this is exactly the opposite of the truth; in fact, the pros' edge over the amateurs increases with bigger starting stacks.

There's an old saying among trial lawyers: "If the law is on your side, pound on the law; if the facts are on your side, pound on the facts; if neither is on your side, pound on the table."

In poker, there's a tension between the skill factor and the luck factor. If you're at a skill disadvantage, you want to increase the relative role of luck in a tournament. You do that with smaller starting stacks, with faster blind structures, with more aggressive all-in betting (as opposed to the pros' preferred "small ball" approach), with taking more coin flips, and so on. If you have a skill edge, you want the exact opposite on all of those variables.

Of course, it's possible that the mistake the enormous field of amateurs made in selecting Monster Stacks over more conventional tournaments was not in having a misunderstanding of the effects of stack size on the skill/luck dimension, but a misapprehension of where their skill lay with respect to the whole field. It is a truism that most poker players think they are much better than average, and the great majority of them are simply wrong in that assessment.