December 14, 2010

Why we're in a financial crisis

My local Bank of America branch moved to a temporary office while their building is being renovated. I pulled up yesterday afternoon in the rain behind another car, which stopped halfway between the two spots in the loading zone in front of the building.

I thought about sounding the horn. In Boston we would have sounded the horn after about half a second, but in Seattle sounding the horn is considered rude for any occasion short of a nuclear attack.

So I waited patiently for about 30 seconds for the driver to notice I was behind him waiting to pull in. He remained motionless in his car so I pulled up beside him and made the universal hand signal for "would you please move your car one way or the other?" He rolled his window down, puzzled, and I asked if it would be possible for me to use one of the parking spaces. He looked around at where he was parked (squarely in the center of the two-spot loading zone) and then said, "I guess I could move up a little." I thanked him, maneuvered into the space behind him, and then watched as he tried to get into the bank.

I say "tried" because the obvious door to the bank on the main street, Kirkland Ave., has no handle. To its left is an unmarked elevator door, and to the left of that is an ATM vestibule that actually connects to the bank but it's not obvious. Around the corner to the right, hidden from view, is an actual door that works. That's the one the man, now wet, ended up using. I went in through the ATM vestibule and made my deposit while the wet man was dripping and filling out his deposit slip.

"Why can't you enter through that door?" I asked the branch manager, who was standing behind the tellers.

"That's an exit only door," she said.

"Yes," I offered, "but you haven't really answered my question. Why don't you make it an 'enter and exit' door?"

"Oh," she said, "It has no handle."

"Very true," I said. "But why doesn't Bank of America put a handle on it?"

"Because it's an exit door."

I looked at the wet man, next in line to visit the tellers. "Surely," I said, "Bank of America has enough money despite the financial crisis to install a handle."

She looked like she was thinking hard. Finally she said, "It's a temporary location."

I smiled and nodded, then turned and walked out the exit door, steps from my car in the conveniently located loading zone.

September 13, 2010

Afraid of the wrong things

Politicians control you by inventing things for you to be afraid of, then convincing you to give them power so they can protect you. That's why they invented God, the ultimate protection racket. Behave like they want you to or else you'll be tortured for all eternity. And pay no attention to the man behind the curtain molesting the altar boy.

Second to God is the foreign enemy. This one's trickier because they really exist. But to put things in perspective:

Residents of USA who in the last 10 years:
Died of heart disease, cancer, and stroke: 12 million
Died in accidents: 1.2 million
Died of the flu or pneumonia: 560,000
Died at the hands of terrorists: 3000
Died because imaginary sky daddy decided to kill them and torture them for eternity: 0

So may I humbly suggest that there are a lot of people afraid of the wrong things?

Get your flu shot, put your phone in your pocket when you drive, and don't get fooled again.

August 2, 2010

No on Washington Income Tax Initiative I-1098

Every few years someone tries to slip an income-tax proposal into Washington State. We the voters have consistently told them that we don't want one. This particular proposal is worse than most, although cleverly designed to try to get it to pass:
  • It gives a $4800 tax break to self-employed professionals making $200,000 a year while not lowering taxes significantly for most working people.
  • It claims to reduce the "state portion of property tax" by 20%. Since most of the property tax is local, that translates into a reduction of only 4.2%!
  • It unfairly targets people with income that varies widely from year to year. An author who works for 10 years on a book and then makes more than $200,000 would get socked with the tax even though he only made 10% of that per year.
  • Likewise, if you retire and sell your home or liquidate your life savings from the stock market, you will have to pay 5-9% of any profit over $200,000.
  • It allows no deductions for home mortgage interest, medical expenses, or charitable contributions.
  • Worst of all, the legislature is free to change the rules two years after this would pass. They could add another bracket or extend the tax all the way down to your first dollar earned.

Washington is currently in the top ten states both for per-capita income and median income. We have a business tax based on the revenue of the business -- we don't subsidize unprofitable companies like many states. Time and time again our cities are listed as among the most desirable places to live -- and no state income tax is part of the reason.

Some people say that Washington's tax system is unfair and regressive. But the lion's share of taxes come from Federal Income Tax, and of course most of that money comes back to the state (one elected official I talked to estimated 75%). Make no mistake, the purpose of a state income tax is to make it easier for government to make itself bigger.

Vote no on 1098. Keep Washington government small and taxes low.

June 29, 2010

Those darned "new atheists"

This frustratingly shallow article in Slate by Ron Rosenbaum attempts to make the case for "new agnosticism" by casting atheists and theists as two sides of an arrogant, closed-minded, faith-based coin. It begins:
Let's get one thing straight: Agnosticism is not some kind of weak-tea atheism. Agnosticism is not atheism or theism. It is radical skepticism, doubt in the possibility of certainty, opposition to the unwarranted certainties that atheism and theism offer.
Well, no. That's not what those words mean. And no radical skeptic would consider for a moment the possibility that unseen, all-powerful being(s) are influencing our day-to-day lives despite the absence of a shred of evidence of it over the entire course of history. And it's not like nobody was looking.

The reason the "new atheists" as so shrill and strident about the fact that there are no gods (yes, we call conclusions reached after thorough study of overwhelming evidence "facts") is not that we hate religious people. It's not that we, as the author of this article believes, "display a credulous and childlike faith, worship a certainty as yet unsupported by evidence." In fact, every available bit of evidence points to no gods.

Before memetics, it was puzzling to see that so many people believed in something that wasn't real. But now we understand the dynamics of mind viruses and how certain ideas catch on regardless of how true they are. The god meme grew from below, out of people's desire to have a simple explanation of things they didn't understand, and from above, as priests and politicians found they could use it to control people. Which they still do. There's a reason churches are tax exempt.

No, the reason we are shouting so loud that there is no god is that we believe everything will work better if people think and act based on reality rather than on fantasy. It makes me nauseous when I see the President of the United States talk about his imaginary friend. What other ridiculous things does he believe and how do they factor into his decision making? How much did fairy stories influence Bush to get us into two wars? And we won't even talk about the beliefs of the kids who crashed five planes on Sept. 11.

The "new atheists" see the tipping point coming and we want to kill the god meme before it kills us. We have important decisions to make and I'd rather not have my elected officials making them based on chicken entrails.

As for the "new agnostic," let me offer Ron Rosenbaum a better definition: An atheist who's afraid to tell his mother. Ron, grow a pair.

June 11, 2010

$2500 Six-handed Limit Hold 'Em today

I wish all the events were six-handed. The more players at the table the more you have to fold and the more boring the game is. Six-handed events have more action and finish faster than nine- or ten-handed events. Now if we could only convince Harrah's...

The event starts at 5 p.m. and I will be tweeting my progress as quietlion.

June 1, 2010

WSOP event #5: $1500 NLHE

I strolled into this event just as level two was beginning. We started with 4500 chips (all the events start with three times the buy-in amount in tournament chips) and I began a steady climb to about 10k by the middle of level five, when I lost a series of small pots and had about 6500 when the following hand occurred:

100/200 blinds, 25 ante. Not particularly active player, actually I guy I know from gambling in the casino and who isn't a professional poker player, raises to 600 in the hijack (two to the right of the button). I call with A9h on the button and the blinds fold. The flop comes 952 with two clubs. He bets 1000 and I move in for 4900 more. He has me covered by a few hundred. He makes the call with A4 offsuit. Turn 4, river 4 and I Go Home Now.

Next event tonight at 5pm: 2-7 triple draw lowball.

More on the Washington State Supreme Court case

We had a great time down in Olympia. The State Supreme Court was just like the US one, with nine Justices firing questions at the attorneys for an hour. I think the State's case rests on the Court deciding that non-economic interests dominate the ban on Internet gambling. To do that, I think the legislators would have to have had a reasonable belief that Internet gambling could not be regulated in such a way as to make it as safe as the gambling allowed in the state, which is pretty much everything.

I can't see any reasonable way to believe that. All kinds of commerce takes place over the Internet and regulations are working fine. As Justice Johnson pointed out, his daughter could just as easily squander money buying shoes from as playing online poker. Washington could easily require gambling sites to require age and identity verification that would work better than brick-and-mortar casinos.

When I took a seat in the third row for the hearing, I accidentally took the seat of Attorney General  Rob McKenna, not realizing his notebook was leaning up against the armrest. He graciously sat next to me. After the hearing I said, "Pretty interesting case." He mulled it over. I said, "I am so sick of hearing 'crack cocaine of gambling.' " He smiled. His job is just to represent the law, but I can't think there's much political will behind keeping people from playing online poker.

If you'd like to follow the case, go here :

May 24, 2010

Rally to overturn Washington State's prohibition of online poker May 27

Come to the Poker Player Alliance’s Rally for Poker on May 27th at 10:00 a.m. on the north steps of the Capitol Building in Olympia. We will be rallying to show our support for Lee Rousso as he challenges Washington’s anti-online poker law in front of the state Supreme Court. Phil Gordon and I plan to be there along with former Senator Alfonse D'Amato.

While not absolutely necessary, it is greatly helpful if you contact the PPA via email at to register your attendance. Please include your full name and a telephone number where you can be reached. Your information will be kept confidential and it will only be used to provide you with more details about the rally as the date approaches.

We look forward to seeing you as we join together to say that Poker Is Not A Crime! Thank you for your support.


  • If you want to view the Supreme Court arguments you need to be at the Court House in Olympia by 9:00 AM on Thursday, May 27th to get a seat in the courtroom.
  • The post-hearing rally will begin immediately following the Supreme Court arguments on the courthouse steps. Estimated time for the rally is 10:00 AM.
  • PPA will supply custom made "Poker is NOT a Crime" T-Shirts to the first 100 members at the courthouse.
  • Snacks and beverages will also be provided.

Washington State Supreme Court Complex
415 13th Ave SE
Olympia, WA 98501

May 13, 2010

My WSOP Schedule

For those of you who want to draft me to your Full Tilt Poker WSOP Fantasy Team, here is the tentative list of events I'm planning to win:

 4 May 30   $1500  Limit Omaha Hi/Low
 7 June 1   $2500  2-7 Triple Draw Lowball
18 June 9   $2000  Limit Hold 'Em
23 June 11  $2500  Limit Hold 'Em Six-handed
27 June 14  $1500  Stud Hi/Low
29 June 15  $10000 Limit Hold 'Em Championship
31 June 16  $1500  HORSE
37 June 19  $3000  HORSE
42 June 23  $10000 HORSE Championship
44 June 24  $2500  Mixed Hold 'Em
48 June 26  $2500  Mixed Event
53 June 30  $1500  Limit Hold 'Em shootout
57 July 8   $10000 Main Event

This list is subject to change but it should be pretty close. If you see me in Vegas come and say hi!

April 30, 2010

Fun with security questions

From security guru Bruce Schneier:

Create your own security question and answer

Q: Can you ever forgive this presumptuous intrusion into your personal affairs?
A: Oh, I suppose so, but don't let it happen again.

Make your own!

April 11, 2010

Poker peeves

Although I don't play many tournaments any more, these reenactments of pet peeves at the poker table had me lolling. There's even a surprise appearance by Allen "Chainsaw" Kessler, perhaps the greatest natural comic in the poker world.

Hat tip to Rakewell.

April 6, 2010

Math is hard even for the TSA

A friend just had a nip of Hennessey Cognac confiscated by the TSA in Chicago. They said anything over 70% alcohol was flammable and therefore hazardous. Hennessey is 80 proof, and therefore 40% alcohol.

The word "proof" comes from the 18th Century, when liquor was tested to see if it had been watered down by mixing it with gunpowder and seeing if it would ignite. That only works if the booze is at least 57% alcohol. The fact that the gunpowder ignites when the liquor is 100 proof or more is the proof. In the US this was simplified to 50-50, probably by the same government officials who legislated pi equal to 3.

My friend argued with as many as five TSA officers but to no avail. Rather than miss his flight, he abandoned the minibar plunder to the innumerates.

A few years before, I was checking a heavy bag at the Alaska Airlines counter in Las Vegas. A young ticket agent I hadn't seen before asked me what was in the bag to make it so heavy. I said there were a few bottles of wine. She asked how many. I asked if there was some kind of restriction, as I had never heard of such a thing.

She said, "You can't check anything with 70% alcohol, so if you have five or more bottles of wine that adds up to more than 70%."

"I'm not sure math works that way," I said. "You don't add the percentages in different bottles to get a higher percentage. It's all still the same percentage."

"Over 70% isn't allowed," She said.

I assured her there were fewer than five bottles of wine.

April 3, 2010


Rue La La

To listen to the stock market's marathon fiddle sonata, you might not think the economy was burning. But the ability to create your own reality by positive thinking ends where the brick wall begins and like the casinos in Vegas, high-end retailers are feeling the pain. People can't use their vanished home equity as an ATM any more, and so the dozens of boutiques that sprung up in way too many locations before the real-estate house of cards tumbled need to find a way to liquidate their product.

Enter Rue La La.

Since discovering Filene's Basement in my youth in Boston, I've loved finding bargains on high-end stuff. Rue La La, an invitation-only (your invitation is here and earns me $10, thank you viral marketing) boutique liquidator, uses an interesting version of the window of opportunity meme. Every day they open a few collections for deep bargains, but the opportunity only lasts three days. They even have a clock ticking in front of each virtual storefront to underscore the urgency.

Today there are several high-end clothiers I've never heard of, a sports equipment company, Mario Batali cookware, a spa, and even a Napa Valley winery. Mmm...just picked up a trio of 2006 Rubicon Captain's Reserve for $59.

It's definitely a buyer's market right now, and soon many of these retailers will shut their doors or reinvent themselves more in line with Wal-Mart. But for the time being, I'm getting in on the bargains.

April 2, 2010

How To Train Your Dragon

Sometimes I'm asked what the most important invention in human history is. Before I moved to Seattle I used to answer air conditioning, but antibiotics are right up there and I'm also fond of the Internet. When I was a kid I used to do stop-frame animation with my Super-8 camera, so it's fun to see animation technology keep advancing as we creep closer, ever closer, to the era of the home holodeck.

How To Train Your Dragon, seen in 3D at Gold Class Cinema, gets pretty damn close. A coming-of-age story about a scrawny freckled intellectual boy in a land of burly Vikings (who for some reason speak with Scottish accents), its 3D effects seem natural and lifelike and enhance, rather than distract, from the movie's charming message: instead of making war against those we don't understand, we can live together in harmony and enslave them.

With dragons flying out of the screen and pieces of ash dropping down seemingly in arm's reach, 3D has moved from gimmick to genuine technological advance. Home 3DTVs are already here, waiting for the content to drive their sales. The studios are churning out children's movies at a pretty impressive rate, but traditionally it's the porn industry that drives home-entertainment technology, and potential 3D offerings may bring a whole new meaning to the term "train your dragon."

March 31, 2010

Solving the death panel problem

On Wednesdays I have lunch with the boys and we solve the world's problems over barbecue. Today, despite the distracting hullabaloo over the new Russian edition of Virus of the Mind, we solved the sticky problem of the "Death Panel":: who decides when to pull the plug on a terminal patient? Studies show that 27% of Medicare dollars are used in the last year of life. At some point, someone has to decide how much to spend on expensive treatment and maintenance at the end of life. Fearmongers in Congress have referred to this necessary evil as a "death panel."

Who will be on these death panels? What criteria will they use? Will some people be considered more worthy than others? These are really tough questions. We decided it's much more civilized to have the patient decide. And we have the perfect model for the decision-making process on TV every week: Deal or No Deal.

The insurance company has actuarial tables that will tell them, on average, how much it will cost to do everything medically possible to prolong the patient's life. So all they have to do is offer a fraction of that to the patient, to pass on to the family, in exchange for pulling the plug. $275,000: Deal or no deal?

What would you decide?

March 30, 2010

Online seminar Thursday, April 1, 4pm Pacific

Richard Brodie
Dear Friends,

This month on, I’ll be participating in the new Heal Your Life Online Course, featuring world-renowned experts in the fields of inspiration, health, nutrition, personal growth, and divine guidance, who will share their insights on how you can transform your life—both inside and out. I hope you’ll join us!

The Heal Your Life Online Course Heal Your Life Online Course . . . Top Experts Talk to You LIVE
Limited availability—register now—it’s free!

I am proud to share my event on April 1st, which is just one of eight FREE live online seminars that will be offered throughout the month of March! This special Heal Your Life Online Course features free lessons from more of your favorite authors: angel expert Doreen Virtue, empowering storyteller Alan Cohen, #1 weight-loss specialist Jorge Cruise, spirit whisperer John Holland, celebrity skin expert Kate Somerville, beloved teacher and author Louise Hay, and "Father of Inspiration" Wayne Dyer. To sign up for this FREE spectacular Heal Your life Online Course, click here. The series runs from March 9 to April 1, and space is limited.

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Whatever time of day, whatever mood you’re in, whatever struggles you’re facing, whatever questions you’re trying to answer, we’re here for you 24/7—a family of authors, experts, and like-minded friends who will listen and share their expertise and experiences with you — and the best part — it's all FREE!

COME TO HEALYOURLIFE.COM TODAY and read my latest article, Life’s Little Training Wheels: Getting past beliefs that work against you. Plus, you’ll meet the world’s hottest best-selling self-help authors; the leading intuitive, health, and success experts; up-and-coming inspirational writers; and new like-minded friends who will share their insights, experiences, personal stories, and wisdom so you can heal your life and the world around you . . . one thought at a time. Click here to get started.

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March 17, 2010

Book Update

Both of my self-help books are now available in their new Hay House editions for print and Kindle. Virus of the Mind is also available in audio, although it's heavily abridged. I changed the subtitle of Getting Past OK. It's now The Self-Help Book for People Who Don't Need Help.

I don't have a lot of seamy underblog stories now that I've found true love, but now that I finally got the blog ported over to Blogger I may post more frequently. I've also finally added the photos to the Johnny Chan entry. Enjoy.

March 13, 2010

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