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Posted by on Oct 22, 2012 in Blog, Essays, Politics | 9 comments

Masters of Hate — The Conservative Disinformation Campaign

Stupid Tea Baggers

 

Conservatives love to hate President Obama.

They’re willing to resort to any means necessary to defeat the incumbent President.

They will lie.  They will cheat.  They will steal.  And, then when that’s not enough to produce a voting majority, they’ll lie even more.

Consider the wacko disinformation campaign that’s been blasted from one inbox to another over the Internet ever since the name “Barack Obama” surfaced as a serious Presidential candidate, some five years ago.  Since then, we’ve witnessed a toxic assembly line of lies almost always consisting of fabricated junk meant to create confusion and hatred for the President — about his intentions, about his character, even about his patriotism and nationality.  I suspect that most of you reading today’s column have received these same emails occasionally, which are essentially nothing more than political garbage.

Invariably, they are easily debunked as completely false.  Most of the time, a ten-second Google search reveals most of this stuff is quite simply made up.  Yet, just as it’s difficult to scrub the ring out of a toilet bowl, the filthy concoction of lies continues to get passed from one scared little person to another, circling around in the right wing’s sewer pipes, pumped from one fanatic to the next.

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Posted by on Oct 9, 2012 in Blog, Essays, Politics | 1 comment

An American First: Protestants No Longer a Majority

nolan-dalla-religion

 

Here’s a multiple choice question — Pick the only one of the four candidates on this year’s presidential ticket who is a Protestant:

A. Paul Ryan

B. Mitt Romney

C. Joe Biden

D. Barack Obama

If you guessed “D,” Barack Obama — you got it right.

Yet irony of all ironies, the man often accused of being a Muslim by millions of Protestant fanatics is, in fact, one of their own.  He’s the only one of the four candidates in this year’s race who professes to be a Protestant.  Romney, of course, is Mormon.  Ryan and Biden are both Catholics.

Not that this will matter.  This year, Protestants will vote in overwhelming numbers for Romney and Ryan – which are more inclined to be “anti-Obama” votes than a genuine show of enthusiasm for their own ticket.  Fortunately, those numbers are continuing to show a steady decline as more and more Americans sever their lives being tethered to a fairy tale.

The most recent poll results of religion and politics in America reveals some encouraging news.  For the first time since this nation was founded in 1776, fewer than half of the population identifies themselves as Protestants.  Think about that for a moment, and consider the ramifications – which we’ll get to in a minute.

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Posted by on Oct 8, 2012 in Blog, Essays | 0 comments

Online Gaming: The Pursuit of Getting Players “In The Room”

Online Gaming: The Pursuit of Getting Players “In The Room

 

For those of us who follow the evolution of the gaming industry, there is a kind of fascination with how the online and land-based industry compete. Of course, it’s often the case that there is crossover among the two industries, but while the big Vegas casinos will have online sites, the majority of online casino operators do not have, and never will have, physical premises.

The interesting aspect is that the land-based industry never really suffered its moment of digital disruption in the same way as, say, Blockbuster video did at the hands of Netflix, or bookstores did due to the rise of Amazon. Casinos don’t close down in the same manner as brick-and-mortar stores on main street, citing the impossibility of competing with the internet. Both industries are in rude health.

The point is that playing poker, blackjack, roulette of online is something you might do, whereas going to the casino is an event; perhaps, something you would describe as momentous. That clear line marked between the two has been very important from a business perspective.

Live dealer games seen as huge success

Yet, there has always been an ambition within the online casino industry to replicate the real casino experience. As you might expect, that goal has been at least partially realized with the advent of live dealer casino games. Today, if you sign up to casino.com to experience live Hold’em, you’ll probably agree that they have made great strides in delivering on that promise. The cards, dealer, sights, sounds and strategy are the same.

Live casino has been immensely popular, giving players much more in the way of the experience of an “event” than, for example, the animated gameplay on dedicated poker sites. This is not to say that live dealer poker is better than the offerings of a poker site – any assertion like that is a subjective one – but it is much closer to the real thing than anything else we have seen online before.

Technology does not stand still, however, and the multi-billion-dollar industry in online casino game development is already firmly behind the next steps in creating experiences that truly rival the real casinos. What they want, ultimately, is to get players “in the room”; to allow you to take a seat at a virtual poker table and look into the eyes of your opponent.

VR iGaming industry set to take off

The side of the industry working on this has been tagged as VR iGaming, and the projects they are working on are surprising in their ambition. Much of it has to do with VR, of course, but there are also elements of AR (augmented reality) and MR (mixed reality). The idea will be to eventually get everyone into the room, offering an experience that recreates real casino to such an extent that it makes little difference whether you are in Las Vegas or your bedroom.

We should make it clear that this kind of thing is not readily available yet. Software developers have been brandishing Oculus Rift Headsets, HTC Vive Pro Headsets and Touch Controllers at exhibitions, but it might be a few years before it is all readily available.

Perhaps surprisingly, online casinos are not alone in pursuing this kind of technology. The land-based casino industry is also looking to bring such experiences to life. The reason? Millennials. Land-based operators have realized that millennials are not as enthused about playing games of cards and dice as generations past, and they believe that the virtual experience might be the key to sustaining the industry.

Does the above mean that we will one day eschew the traditional way of playing casino games? Will sitting at the table chatting to the croupier with a cocktail be a thing of the past? Perhaps. But not in the way you might think. Why would millennials go to a casino to play the same games but in a virtual format?

Well, that’s the key. The industry has realized that the future of the casino industry is not to find novel ways to replicate classic games of the past, but to offer something entirely different: Skill games; gambling adventure games, where you defeat monsters for cash; playing poker in a virtual saloon that puts you in the Wild West. This is the type of experience they are aiming for. There will always be room for the classics, of course. But the pursuit of technology will soon look beyond getting players in the room, and put them somewhere else entirely.

__________

 

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Posted by on Sep 24, 2012 in Blog, Essays, Travel | 0 comments

“I See Dead People” — My Review of ‘Psychic’ Sylvia Browne’s Flim-Flam Act

 

Sylvia Browne Fraud

 

INTRODUCTION

Someone should have warned me about Sylvia Browne’s utterly shameless and abominable one-woman stage act.

I suspected it would be mind-bogglingly awful.

What I couldn’t possibly have predicted was — her show would actually be worse than I expected.

Where to begin?

Sit down.  Get comfortable.  Grab a drink.  Hell, get a bottle.  This review is going to be one for the ages.

 

BEFORE THE SHOW

Click here to read Part 1:    WHO WOULD PAY MONEY TO SEE THIS QUACK?

Browne’s show was scheduled to begin at 8 pm on a Saturday night inside a busy casino showroom.  Tickets were priced at $42 a pop, plus tax (I got in for free — story to come later).

Prior to her performance, Browne’s devotees are lined up outside the main entrance.  By the time I arrive, a few hundred people are streaming into the arena.  There’s a single ticket-taker, who must have been in his 70s.  I must admit, this senior took his job very seriously.  The way he meticulously checked every ticket (one surely has to be on the lookout for counterfeit Sylvia Browne tickets), the way he tore each in half, and then placed them carefully inside the box — made me think he he missed his life’s calling running the nuclear reactor at Chernobyl.  Of course, this process slows down the line considerably, making the wait an unnecessary 15-20 minutes.

Fortunately, there’s something to keep those who are waiting occupied.  Sylvia Browne has several books and jewelry items conveniently positioned right next to the line to tempt us.  How nice of Mrs. Browne to think so much of her followers and their discomfort from having to stand in a long line to (coincidentally?) position her four tables right along the queue.  I’m not a psychic, but I suspect Mrs. Browne picked up a few extra sales that way.

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Posted by on Sep 16, 2012 in Blog, Essays | 2 comments

The Dropped Third-Strike Drill

 

 

Writer’s Note:  This is the second in a two-part series.  This blog is contributed by someone who wishes to remain anonymous.  All names of those in this story have been changed at the author’s request.  Please take the time to read this.  It’s beautifully written — and a wonderful inspiration to kids and adults alike.

 

PART II.

 

If you’re a kid playing baseball, there is nothing that causes more disappointment than striking out.

You walk up to the plate and every eye in the stadium is focused on you.   Regardless of what the statistics indicate about your potential for success, the level of expectation is still high.  When a pitcher gives up a home run, it is certainly a disappointment for him.  But everyone knows that in order to be effective in his role a pitcher must throw strikes.  Pitches in the strike zone are, for the most part, hittable and sometimes they are hit out of the park.

When you’ve struck out however, you have either missed the pitches that were in the strike zone, or swung at pitches that were not.  Sometimes both.  You were given multiple opportunities and you wasted them.  To make matters worse you must now take a long, lonely stroll back to the dugout, which affords you ample opportunity to contemplate your recent failure.

But you are certainly NOT a failure — for in the battle between pitcher and hitter, a significant advantage belongs to the pitcher in almost every case.

It has been said that hitting a round ball with a round bat is the hardest fundamental task in all of sports and yet each time you come up to the plate, you expect to and are expected by others to, hit the ball.

When a player makes an error, he may be given the opportunity to redeem himself on the very next pitch.  A diving catch or a perfect throw results in a stadium full of cheering fans, and the dejection that was felt mere seconds ago has now been drastically reduced if not completely eliminated and replaced by a sense of joy and accomplishment.  Strike out however, and several innings will likely pass before you get another chance to bat.  You will carry that sense of failure with you from the batter’s box to the dugout and when you take your position on the field, that sense of failure will continue to haunt you.  It will likely persist even as you take your next turn at bat.  Striking out can be horrible.  Indeed, the disposition of the entire town was adversely affected — their hopes gone, their dreams crushed — by one single example of missed opportunity when The Mighty Casey struck out.

Every summer there are kids on diamonds all across America striking out.  They walk back to their dugouts with their heads hung low while their parents either sink in their seats trying to hide, or scream at them to keep their eye on the ball, or worse yet, telling them they suck.  Right, as if that beer-bellied dad could hit a 65-mph fastball on the inside corner thrown by a 11 year old from just 45 feet away.

Pick any team, on any summer day, on any diamond in America and I guarantee you’ll see it — unless by some miraculous improbability the team you pick happens to be one that I coach.

When coaching youth sports, I believe that it’s important to be as positive as possible.  Emphasize successes, not failures and look for opportunities to promote success in difficult or disappointing situations.  Give the athlete something specific to focus on improving rather than dwelling on the negative result.

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