Yearly Archives: 2010

The Online Poker Experiment

I’ve been on sort of a gambling kick lately. I feel a strong urge to play the stock markets and open up an e-trade account. I feel like registering 20 “clever” domain names and then just parking them. I felt like and already put ads on my website and RSS feed. And finally, for some unexplainable reason, I decided to throw $50 into a legitimate poker site to see what I could turn that into.

Initially I didn’t even realize it was still legal to play poker online for real money. Sites like Full Tilt Poker and seemed to only allow play money and give you endless amounts of free chips. But after a little researching, it seemed like there are real money counterparts to the play sites – and they are just harder to find because it’s illegal to advertise.

Oddly enough, I felt very safe and legitimate when signing up and putting 50 dollars into my Pokerstars account. It seems that they have to go through so many more checks and balances of verification than almost any other vendor that deals with money and online transactions. I made a debit card account credit, and with my 50 dollars at the ready, I jumped in.

I began by playing very low stakes limit hold ’em. I grinded out an hour or so of very conservative play with 5 and 10 cent blinds. The average pot size was well under a dollar but this was a perfect means for me to adjust to the fast pace and learn the basics of how the online poker world differs from real life. The hands and betting take place so fast that you really have to be on the ball and know exactly what your hand is. After an hour or so, I was up 10 dollars.

This limit table fizzled out and I was proud of going up 10 bucks. Even so, 10 dollars for an hour of grinding out conservative play was kind of boring. I went for the 25 and 50 cent limit hold ’em next. In this table it was amazing to see the difference in play quality. The 5 and 10 cent games were obviously noobs cutting their teeth to online poker and it was easy for me to keep a positive bankroll moving. But even this small jump to the next level brought a significant difficulty jump. I was forced to play a bit more “loose” because I noticed a few consistent betters could take down every pot. My quick adaptation of playing somewhat loose kept me in the black, and I had turned my 50 dollars into 67 dollars by the next 30-45 minutes.

After feeling confident and getting the hang of it, I made a pretty big mistake that cost me alot of money. I ended up making a Ace-5 straight, and I had decided to bet that hand no matter how high the pot went. Well, it was a 4 player pot and everybody kept raising each other. As the hand concluded, I did oust two others, but there was a player that landed a 3-7 straight. For some reason, I had the feeling that having an Ace in my straight made it unbeatable (as it would have been in a flush, for example). But, when your Ace is the low card; a higher straight will beat yours. So, the pot went to the player with the 3-7 straight. A couple small pot losses after this big one, and I could tell I was going down hill fast. My 60 plus dollars was now 37 and I had to force myself to quit.

I take away a very large positive here even though I ended up down 13 bucks on the night. And that is the fact that I was in the black for nearly 2 hours of solid play. And, the only reason I went into the red was because of my own mistake and not fully grasping the value of my hand compared to potential hands on the table. This tells me that if I don’t make stupid mistakes, I can most likely keep it in the black.

With last night in the books, I’ll see what happens as we move forward. Hopefully and in all likelihood I can grind my 37 dollars back up to the 50 range pretty quickly. But, who knows – I may lose the rest of my bankroll tonight. 🙂 And if that happens, we’ll call the experiment over with.

Sheer Ads

Maybe a year ago, I did a trial run on some Google ads on my site. They were up for maybe 6 or 8 months.

My site’s traffic has gone up pretty significantly since then, and I figured it might be nice to give them another shot. Therefore I have inconspicuously and tastefully placed a couple ads on my site.

I also finally took the plunge to creating a feedburner feed for this site. So I’ve redirected the RSS traffic to the feedburner feed vs the locally generated WordPress feed. This obviously allows me to place ads in the RSS feeds which I have clearly done.

I advise all users to never click any of my ads. 😛

Top Ten: Albums

Music has always been a big part of my life. From my early years recording radio stations to blank cassette tapes, through my Sony Discman and car stereo phases, and onto the digital iPod and streaming of present day.

I’ve started to try to determine my top ten list of albums of all time. Vanbergs and I have had several discussions recently about favorite bands, songs, and various musical debates. This has sparked me to do some soul searching and survey my life as it currently stands to determine which 10 albums have made the most impact on my life.

Behold the following list with a brief synopsis of MY top 10 albums and why I have chosen them. Note that they are in no particular order, as that was simply impossible for me to formulate.

Sponge – Rotting Pinata
The opening guitar riff of “Plowed” alone brings this one into consideration immediately. Sponge has a unique sound mixing harder guitar riffs with punkish uptones and laying down some fairly epic and emotive lyrics to complete the mix. This album instantly makes me think and feel the better memories of my high school times. Plowed is by far my favorite track, but there is not a bad song on this album. Molly (16 Candles), Rainin’, and Drownin’ complete this masterfully diverse album that is always going to hold a special place in my life.

Live – Throwing Copper
Many people claim that Nirvana’s album Nevermind was the fall of the hair bands/glam metal that ruled so much of my child hood. Live’s album Throwing Copper is what converted me. I was never a huge fan of Nirvana to begin with (still to this day, not a fan), but the solid rock background and brilliantly raspy lead vocals on this album tugged me into the alternative rock world. Throwing Copper unleashed Lightning crashes, and not to mention 4 other singles that broke the top 20 of US Alternative Rock charts. By any and all means and measures, this is a highly regarded album. It blazed the trail into the world of rock/hard rock/alternative rock for me as I matured past my hair band stages of youth.

Drist – Bitter Halo
The band Drist is not very well known. They were discovered by me via Vanbergs/Guitar Hero bonus tracks. They have since discontinued as a group, but their Bitter Halo album showcases the spirit and aggressiveness of an independent artist trying to make a name for themselves. The track “Dissolve” is one of my favorite songs ever. Period. I can’t really even put the words in place as to why I love this band/album/song – even though I’ve tried. I can listen to this entire album anytime, any place and not skip a track. That’s hard to beat.

Korn – Follow the Leader
Korn quite simply defined the nu-metal genre. Their Follow the Leader album represents the peak and culmination of me as an adult. This might sound odd, but it’s quite amazing the bond that a dorm full of college men will develop when they unite as one to repeatedly call into MTV’s Total Request Live as many times as possible to vote for Korn’s video: Got the life. Some days it was number one, some days it lost to the likes of Britney Spears or Backstreet boys. But the friendships I made during this all impressionable year are still in tact today. And as “korney” as it sounds, this album played a role in that. Robinson Hall’s 2nd floor class of 1998-1999 has their unofficial theme song. And also Reginald Fieldy Arvizu is their bassist.

2pac – All Eyez on Me
Sure, I went through a gangsta rap phase. What teenage white small town city boy didn’t? I had an expensive car stereo that could really only get a full workout with some serious bumps and bass. 2pac’s quintessential offering is the single best representation of rap ever created. It will never be topped, and it has only gotten better as it has aged. He’s truly a master with lyrics, and I really “feel you” (you feel me??) 2pac. Countless summer nights spent “cruising” with my windows down bumping 2pac over 500 watts and two 12 inch JBL subwoofers will always be the first thing I think of when my sense of hearing starts to get unexplainably worse.

Tool – Aenima
Tool has an undeniable sound. They are one of the few bands that you can honestly say “don’t sound like anybody else”. Their best work (in my opinion) comes from the Aenima album. Stinkfist, Eulogy, Forty Six and 2, and Aenima are all top tier works that a listener just cannot forget. Keenan’s lyrics are very subjective in most cases. He leaves the listener up to interpret exactly what his point is; and this only adds to the impact of the music as it forces it to become a personal relationship. Their music is completely pure and almost tribal, and their talent is unmistakable. The sound of Adam Jones on guitar ices this cake, with his creative palm muting and brutal delivery of seemingly simple power chords. This album is simply epic. And it is only fate that they were slated to play in Grand Rapids Michigan on September 11th, 2001. The show was moved to Sept 13th and it stands alone as one of the most significant events I have ever or will ever attend.

Bullet for My Valentine – The Poison
The Metalcore genre of music combines the speed and guitar riffs of “metal” with a mixture of clean and harsh vocals. This is a sound that many bands/artists simply cannot pull off without sounding very cheesy (A7X, I look in your direction). Bullet for My Valentine’s debut release is one of the best examples of doing this genre justice. The guitars almost act as an additional singer on this album, as the solos are literally world class. Their primary musical focus is on guitar riffs; and this is shown not only by the speed and key of their music, but the versatile use of various guitar tunings. Bullet for My Valentine’s initial album is very widely regarded as one of the top works in Metalcore, and this is without argument. The writing is easily relate-able for me, and its easy for me to put myself into the subject matter of these songs. Even on a first listen, I don’t think you can help but bob your head and sing along.

Mutiny Within (Self Titled)
Mutiny Within is hard for me to justify on this list. It’s a debut album from a new band that hasn’t had much time to blossom yet. But even in that scenario, the talent and composition of this album is superior on all counts. The vocals are nothing short of award winning (wouldn’t be surprised by a Grammy honestly), and the music plays the perfect counterpart. The rhythm, lead, bass, and drums are so highly technical that it’s genuinely unbelievable for all to work together in such a seamless fashion. They are EASILY the best band in their genre of all time.

Taproot – Gift
Taproot holds a significant appeal for me on a few different levels. They put on a fantastic live show which I’ve seen multiple times. Mike DeWolf uses very uniquely distorted guitar effects that give off an almost electro-static feel. Combine that with the far reaching voice of Stephen Richards, and enjoy. Richards’ clean/harsh mix gives Taproot an unmistakable depth that may turn away some “hardcore” fans. I’ll admit that I have even felt this way in the past. But I’ve grown to appreciate the wider range of music and the slower Taproot most definitely is in that category. Their album “Gift” is by far my favorite offering, even though I’ve listened to this band for approximately an entire decade.

Disturbed – Ten Thousand Fists
Disturbed has really achieved a vast following for a “metal” band. They started out as a mockable band with some silly grunting and “suack”ing. But something about their 2nd album transformed them. Somehow we all went from mocking this band to seamlessly loving them. The song “Prayer” is probably the most clear turning point – but they continued through their next release. In my opinion, Ten Thousand Fists is the very apex of the Disturbed bell curve. They started low, rose to royalty, and have fallen hard unfortunately. Pain Redefined, Stricken, I’m Alive, and Sons of Plunder are just a handful of the tracks that define this astounding artistry. The album rightfully debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200. Even their recent decent, I can’t deny the fact that Ten Thousand Fists may genuinely be my favorite album by any band ever.

Brothers (2010) – Rated R for Language

Demons of war came between them. What can bring them back together?

The movie “Brothers” was actually released in 2009. Starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Tobey Maguire; “Brothers” depicts intense conflict between two brothers resulting from war torn emotions and altered states of complete detachment.

The entirely fictional plot of this film was rendered in exact non-fiction between my brother and I over this past weekend…

However, the stakes of this actual brotherly civil war were much higher than that of the movie. Instead of family, marriage, and war’s effects on humanity; My brother and I waged an epic battle of FANTASY FOOTBALL.

This was a very key matchup. I stood atop the league with a perfect 4 – 0 record. My team has put up astounding numbers of points on multiple weeks to leave me in a commanding position. My brother’s team stood in 2nd place. His record of 3 wins 1 loss was met with similar numbers of fantasy points. It was clear and certain that this was nothing less than a battle of giants, the supreme battle for 1st place.  The titans of the WPE fantasy football league clashed with such force, the entire universe trembled with fear.

My team’s projected fantasy numbers were heavily favored – 147 points vs the 115 of my brother. His team was heavily injured, hurting, limping, but poised with dedication to claw their way to the top. His star running back, LeSean McCoy put up a 25 point game while wearing a FLACK JACKET covering his FRACTURED RIBS.  A truly remarkable feat. Meanwhile, my star running back Arian Foster rushed for a bastardly 25 yards on 11 carries resulting in a despicable 4 (FOUR) fantasy points.

The brutality of this contest weighed heavily on our remaining warriors.

  • My brother’s quarterback, Peyton Manning,  put up equally disappointing numbers in what must be his worst fantasy output ever. 8 points.
  • Anquan Boldin held to one singular catch for 8 yards; making my WR2 position nothing but a sheer travesty.
  • Single digit points continued from at least 3 players on both sides of this contest. The misery and disbelieve in what was taking place continued to add up.

As others fell, the dark horses emerged with valiant efforts to pull their respective teams ahead.  Philip Rivers put up astounding passing numbers coming from my bench.  He now leads the NFL in passing yardage and is tied for most touchdowns thrown.  For my brother, Santana Moss and the Philadelphia Eagles defense combined for nearly 50 fantasy points.  The battle raged at even keel as night time drew upon them.

As Sunday came and went, my brother enjoyed a 20 point lead over my team as we looked to Monday Night’s game.   The final and deciding battle in this epic 2 day war.  I still had one last hope: The New York Jets defense.  My brother’s lone combatant still remained as well: Jets’ tight end Dustin Keller.  Keller posed a worthy foe; as he has been the favorite target of QB Mark Sanchez lately.  Meanwhile, the Jets’ defense faced an aging and somewhat injured/interception prone Brett Favre.  Both sides lined the battlefield stacked with an agonizing blend of hope and frustration.

As the final battle drew closer, we each seemed certain that the other was going to be the victor.  Vanbergs awaited numerous interceptions by my defense on the “pic-prone” Favre.  I dreaded the notion of Dustin Keller catching multiple touchdowns as he has done in the red zone this year.

With the utmost anticipation; we clutched onto our very souls for the final game of the week: Monday Night.  Jets vs Vikings.

The stage poetically set in heavy rain, thunderstorm delays, and utter warfare; the game begins with optimism on both sides.  The rainy weather seems to foretell many short yardage passes to TE Keller; While Favre’s age and health would eventually lead the Vikings scoreless throughout the first half at the hands of my defense.

As the first half drew towards a close, Jets QB Mark Sanchez targeted Dustin Keller for a touchdown pass that was sure to be the nail in my coffin.  I couldn’t bear to watch.  I had to turn away.  Through the complete downpour of rain, the killing strike  of my undefeated season had been unleashed.  As the play closed, the slow motion replay was simply poised to agonize me… but it was time for me to face my fate.  I watch the replay, and the image of Keller dropping the touchdown pass will never leave my memory.

With only a couple receptions for Keller, and a couple turnovers in favor of my defense, I had cut the margin from 20 to 7 at the half.  But time was running out.  Two Vikings touchdowns early in the 3rd quarter increased my uphill climb to victory; but the Jets were heavily run focused and not passing to Keller at all (at the detest of my brother).  As the game wore on, the Jets maintained a narrow lead over the Vikings and my brother was under 2 minutes away from squeaking out a viciously epic, hardfought, and utterly narrow victory.

But with some terrible clock management, the Jets had given the Vikings a striking chance at a final game winning drive.  The offense took the field for Minnesota, and they would serve as salvation for one of the VanBergen brothers.  As the aging Favre drew back his next throw, he unleashed all of the torment and hardship that this fantasy war has caused.  The most momentous and profound pass ever thrown was screaming through the air; the outcome of true warfare spiraled into the rain soaked air. With only 1 minute left, in one of the last plays in the last game of the week, Brett Favre threw an interception to my Jets defense that was returned for a touchdown.

I simply cannot imagine the blinding red infuriation caused by this singular play.  In one play, my team wins by one point.  In one play, Vanbergs’ team falls from 2nd place to 4th place.  In one play, I have maintained an undefeated season thus far.  In one play, the relationship between brothers may never again be the same.

Annual Football Post

This is undoubtedly my favorite time of year. Football is my favorite sport by far, and the start of NFL/Fantasy/College Football this year has me very excited.

Let’s start at the top:

The Detroit Lions
Every single year, I am overtaken with immense anticipation of what the Lions are going to offer. Continuously, it is an immense let down. The Lions are literally astounding at how they can grip their fans’ optimism and crush it over the regular season. The Lions hit rock bottom in 2008; finishing with a record of 0 wins, 16 losses. The PERFECT season of fail. 2009 was only marginally better; with a record of 2 – 14.

I have some cautious optimism this year; as the Lions appear to have some significant improvement in their offense with the likes of Jhavid Best, Tony Scheffler, and Nate Burleson. Matthew Stafford showed really pretty impressive numbers in the pre-season; so I maintain my optimism as we look to the season opener this weekend.

University of Michigan
The college football season opened last weekend, and Michigan played excellently well. It’s been hard for me to maintain a fanhood to a single college team over the years, primarily to the change in rosters and rancid BCS bowl system. But, having my cousin Ryan VanBergen as a starter on the U of M defense makes it very fun and exciting to watch.

U of M has some upward ground to climb to overcome two pretty awful seasons of their own. But, if their opener is any indication; then I have high hopes for them this season. Denard Robinson was somewhat a surpise start over Tate Forcier, but he killed it in their opening game. He rushed for just under 200 yards and has really improved his passing game as well. It was a really fun game to watch, the Wolverines looked like a strong team, and my cousin got a couple awesome hits in the game. I’m thinking RichRod finally has things turned around; and that’s a good thing – if he produces a losing record this year it’s pretty much universally guaranteed that he’ll be fired.

Fantasy Football 2010
Much to my own surprise, I have decided to play fantasy football this year. I have been pretty disgusted with how my last two seasons have turned out regarding fantasy football. I’ve drafted very competitively and intelligently. My teams have put up very good and even league leading numbers; but I’ve been in the bottom shelf of the league since its effing inception. Last year I thought was a breaking point, as I declared via bloggity that I was quitting for good. Vanlandw and others may call out my bluff here, and that’s fine. I’ve shown my ability to stick to my stubborn guns already this year as I quit watching 24 halfway through its final season.

Months of downtime has healed my fantasy wounds. I have overcome complete and whole frustration to forward-looking excitement and anticipation of the fantasy storm that ensues during football season. There are some good changes in our fantasy league that will breathe some freshness into it, and I did end up with a pretty decent draft.

I am going to make bold predictions that this is the year for the tri-fecta of turnarounds:

  • Detroit Lions finish with a decent record (9-7 or 10-6) and may even make the playoffs.
  • U of M makes a bowl game; following on the heels of their conference wins over MSU and Ohio State. 😛
  • “The Double Rainbows” (my fantasy team) will win the effing league.

I look forward to updating this post in early 2011 declaring all my predictions completely wrong on all levels.

AIM Style Emoticon Keyboard Shortcuts in Pidgin

Have to start with the meat… Here’s how you get AIM style emoticon shortcuts in Pidgin.

  1. Download the file gtkrc-2.0 or copy the text from the end of this post
  2. Put or create the file in your .purple directory. “C:\Documents and settings\Username\Application Data\.purple” for Windows users, “/home/username/.purple” for you Unix/Linux folks. NOTE: The file must be named “gtkrc-2.0” with no file extension
  3. Start or re-start Pidgin and enjoy the old-school AIM-style emoticon keyboard shortcuts!!!

The Backstory
Back in the good ol’ days of late 90’s early 2000’s, it seemed like everyone was signing up for Aol’s Instant Messenger. It brought everyone some enjoyable times with a revolutionary emoticon set and user warning system. The AIM software became ad-ridden and bloated while more chat protocols surfaced – so the community embraced replacements and combination appliations such as DeadAim, Gaim (now Pidgin), Adium, and so on.

One of the more efficient and beneficial functions of these applications, including Aol’s official AIM client, was the ctrl-x keyboard shortcuts for each emoticon. E.G.: Ctrl+6 was the “kissy face”, Ctrl+7 was the “angry face”, etc.

As time has progressed, Pidgin ceased the emulation of AIM’s ctrl+x keyboard shortcuts for emoticons. Myself and most of my friends used this feature EXTENSIVELY for worthy communication, and it became frustrating to click/move the mouse to find the correct emoticons. Time evolved my skills and I was able to become somewhat proficient in just typing the actual characters to build the emoticons manually… But it was still a long shot away from matching the ctrl+x shortcuts.

Meanwhile, Russellteee visited my family lifespace to meet my newborn child. Somehow during his visit, we arrived on the subject of discussing these former shortcuts and how awesome they made our respective lives. We vowed to construct a plugin to re-insert these plugins into Pidgin.

The week continued and I discussed this scenario with my coworker chouse. He was immediately gripped with the idea of getting this set up with a config file. Within just a few minutes, he formulated a working solution by creating the file called “gtkrc-2.0” and putting that file into “C:\Documents and Settings\username\Application Data\.purple” directory. They keymap functionality in gtk2.0 is a little wierd – we had to work pretty hard to get ALL of the keyboard shortcuts to work. When you have the ctrl+shift modifier, it forces you to use the rendered value of the keys pressed.

For exampe: “ctrl + shift + 1” is actually just “ctrl + !” as the shift key changes the output. But, those key symbols are special ascii characters that you have to actually put by name into your key bindings file. With a bit more research, I was able to find most of these pretty quickly. The caret (“^”) gave me the most trouble; for some reason the ascii hex code of 5E is rendered as “asciicircum” in the GTK keymap. Seems like some programmer has made a joke pertaining to the caret and circumcision. One would expect “caret” would be fine; but whatever. I found it via Ascii -> hex -> keymap.h translation.

What beholds from this immense display of teamwork and coordination is a result that is literally too pristine to describe in written english verbiage. I can only give you directions.

Here is the text that goes into the file, if you prefer to create it manually.

binding "faces"
bind "<ctrl>1" { "insert-at-cursor" (":-)") }
bind "<ctrl>2" { "insert-at-cursor" (":-(") }
bind "<ctrl>3" { "insert-at-cursor" (";-)") }
bind "<ctrl>4" { "insert-at-cursor" (":-P") }
bind "<ctrl>5" { "insert-at-cursor" ("=-O") }
bind "<ctrl>6" { "insert-at-cursor" (":-*") }
bind "<ctrl>7" { "insert-at-cursor" (">:O") }
bind "<ctrl>8" { "insert-at-cursor" ("8-)") }
bind "<ctrl>exclam" { "insert-at-cursor" (":-$") }
bind "<ctrl>at" { "insert-at-cursor" (":-!") }
bind "<ctrl>numbersign" { "insert-at-cursor" (":-[") }
bind "<ctrl>dollar" { "insert-at-cursor" ("O:-)") }
bind "<ctrl>percent" { "insert-at-cursor" (":-/") }
bind "<ctrl>asciicircum" { "insert-at-cursor" (":'(") }
bind "<ctrl>ampersand" { "insert-at-cursor" (":-X") }
bind "<ctrl>asterisk" { "insert-at-cursor" (":-D") }
widget "*pidgin_conv_entry" binding "faces"