It was priceless.
A comedian’s dream.
A pundits paradise.
And quite possilby the single four-word phrase that might torpdeo Mitt Romney’s last chance to win the U.S. Presidency.
In case you missed it, in last night’s presidential debate, Romney was asked in a town hall format about how his presumptive adminstration might provide and protect equal opportuities and pay for women.
For veteran politicians, these are pretty standard run-of-the-mill questions that have been asked numerous times by the public and media alike, which are easy to address. They are political softballs, tailor made to be smacked out to the park by any savvy candidate.
In his rambling two-minute answer, Romney alluded to his first few days as Governor of Massachusetts, when he was eager to staff several key executive vacancies in his new adminstration. No doubt, Romney intended to demonstrate a commitment to equal opportunity and pay for women. Instead, he pulled back a symbolic curtain of sorts, unmasking himself to be anything other than an equal opportunity “Oz” in the increasingly bubble-prone Mitt Fantasyland.
In a proverbial sense, Rome is burning to the ground. And, while much of our national economy lays in ashes and the American Dream smolders in flames, all anyone seems to be talking about is the opera.
That’s the terrible tragedy of tonight’s Presidential Debate, which has been covered and discussed more like the buildup to a Super Bowl game rather than any bona fide exchange of real ideas and actual substance that will solve some very serious problems. At this moment, parading around out in front of the arena where the debate will take place, thousands of “fans” are holding signs cheering for their side. One would think Ohio State is playing Michigan. It’s a contest of who can scream the loudest or who can make the cleverest sign.
Indeed, the gravity of our nation’s problems are very real and quite serious. Yet — while a senseless foreign war continues, while we continue to bleed ourselves dry policing the entire world, while we drown by the trillions in debt, while our inner cities crumble, while affordable health care is more costly and out of reach than ever before, and while millions of Americans remain hopelessly out of work, after tonight’s debate everyone’s going to be asking one utterly baffling question — “who won?”
I’d like to ask my own question — why are we focusing on “who won?” As long as we focus on such trivialities, then we all lose.
Northwest Indiana is famous for some things. Well, on second thought, it’s not really famous for anything.
The mishmash of small working-class suburbs encrusted by lead smelters, railroad tracks, and oil refineries — mostly filled with people with unpronouncable last names that don’t contain a single vowel — is utterly indescript. Gary and Hammond and East Chicago and Highland and Hessville and Munster and Calumet City and all these places in between are to greater Chicagoland what North Jersey is to New York City — little more than a warehouse and freightyard to a far more vibrant place. It’s bascially like a giant Self Storage unit the size of a county, with plumbing pipes and electrical wires running along every roadway, railroad track, and field. That’s the picture I see when now think of Northwest Indiana.
Indeed, Gary and Hammond — where I’m staying and working over the next few weeks — are nestled right across the Illinois-Indiana state line. These are old industrial cities that pretty much look unchanged since the post-WW2 boom. Red brick buidings. Cracked sidewalks. Old storefronts littered with faded out “For Lease” signs that more symbolize a loss of hope rather than any possible prospects of gaining a tenant. As the great writer-biographer Robert Caro would more eloquently write of another time and place, this is where “windows, glassless except for the jagged edges around their frames, stared out on the street like sightless eyes.” (Footnote 1)
How do you go out to two seperate dinners at two different restaurants and still end up starving at night’s end?
Well, it happened to me tonight in the industrial garden spot of Hammond, Indiana — which is right cross the Illinois-Indiana border, outside of Chicago.
First, a few words about Chicago — the city I’m visiting over the next nine days. It’s basically a city of trains, truckers, tolls, and traffic. Ranks right up there with Philadelphia, Cleveland, and Detroit, only with more people, and apparently far worse food. What would you expect from a city made up mostly of Eastern Europeans? World class cuisine? What’s the only thing worse than spending nine days in Chicago. Answer — spending ten days in Chicago. Not a fan.
But I’m here.
Here’s the story. Last time I was in Chicago, I stayed here two weeks. During that entire time, I don’t remember having one memorable meal, unless one considered shocking disappointment to be a virtue. I’m sure there are some great restaurants in this city. There has to be. I just haven’t experienced one yet. I’m zero for 20. I’m the Chicago Cubs of snob diners. In all fairness, most of the restauants I’ve tried have been either around O’Hare Airport or over in Gary-Hammond — which is kinda’ like saying you hate New York’s food because you spent most of your time in Flushing or Newark. I realize Hammond is not the charming neighborhood of the northside.
I do remember one thing. Last time I was here, I had a horrible meal at some Italian place on Calumet Road. So, where did I chose to go for dinner tonight?
You guessed it — the same Italian restaurant. The place couldn’t be that bad twice, could it?
NOLAN DALLA: 2012 POSTED SEASON RECORD
29 WINS – 23 LOSSES – 1 PUSHES —– (+ 8.7 units / 1 unit = $100)
STARTING BANKROLL: $10,000.
CURRENT BANKROLL: $10.870.
BEST BETS OF THE WEEK: 2-2-0
Coming off a bitter losing week because of Packers last-second upset loss at Indy……went from being a 5 unit gain to a 6 unit loss due to one play…..Big card coming up in Week 6 with 11 wagers including an unsual situation with two BEST BETS of the week — Wagering $4,990 on 11 bets. Note: All wagers are for amusement-purposes only. I bear no responsibility for those who may decide to follow my plays.
In a scene right out of Mad Max, some places are now charging $5.90 a gallon for unleaded. The premium fuel has actually hit six bucks.
SIX DOLLARS! A GALLON!
Where is this? Some remote whaling village in Norway? No, it’s right here in the USA.
Here’s a snapshot of the sign out in front of the Chevron station in Shoshone, California — which is located close to Death Valley. Admittedly, this is a tough place to reach. So, gas is going to cost a little more in out-of-the-way places where it simply costs more money to transport fuel from the producer to the consumer.
But a 50 percent markup from the national average of just under $4 a gallon? (Note: This sign and price was not unusual — other stations in the area had similar prices per gallon).
Might this be a conspiracy?
Let’s agree that it costs significantly more to truck gasoline to remote parts of the country, such as Death Valley. I’m not sure precisely how much more it takes to drive a tanker from a fuel hub such as Los Angeles, which is 200 miles west. But let’s concede that it costs more.
I wonder — does it cost any more to transport fuel out to the desert than, let’s say, to a small town in the hills of Tennessee, where the same gallon of unleaded gas now costs $3,89 a gallon?
Someone please explain this to me. $5.90 a gallon in Shoshone….$3.89 a gallon in Gatlinburg.
Roughly the same geography from refineries and tankers, and the same reliance on overland transport. Shouldn’t the high dessert in California and the Smokey Mountains in Tennessee have roughly the same gas prices?
Again, please educate me.
Moreover, Id like to know that if indeed it’s more difficult to move goods to the consumer to a place like Shoshone, then why aren’t the other products also marked up significantly? A coke that costs $1 in Los Angeles is not priced at $1.50 in Shoshone. In fact, it’s the same $1. A candy bar that costs 60 cents elsewhere is also 60 cents here. Same with just about everything — except gasoline.
When people in one part of the country are forced to pay a 50 percent markup on a product that is widely available in similar regions at a substantially lower cost, something is very wrong.
I have a solution: I hope the day comes when this nation nationalizes the oil industry. Seize them all. Acquire all their assets. Take them over in the public interest and damn all the greedy shareholders who are caught holding an empty bag.
But all this pales in comparison to my final inquiry. Alas, I’ve saved the biggest question for last. Take a close look at that sign again. Look carefully.
I wonder — can’t the idiot who runs the Chevron gas station afford some legitimate signage, rather than using black electrician’s tape? I mean, the criminal oil company and the service station are raping consumers to the tune of $6 a gallon. And the sign looks like a fucking lemonade stand?
This is a public service announcement.
Be on the lookout for a sick pervert in the habit of trolling women’s restrooms.
He was recently photographed on Thursday at noon in the tiny desert town of Shoshone, California at a Chevron gas station. The perverted man appeared shocked just as he was caught in the act of leaving a women’s restroom. Check out the look on his face. This disgusting man is clearly guilty of immoral acts, and perhaps worse.
This man is a danger to society. He remains at large and was last seen headed in the direction of Las Vegas.
Me and laptops don’t get along.
I average approximately three laptops per year. What this means is — I somehow manage to lose or destroy about three laptops every 12 months. Given those dismal odds, I started buying refurbished laptops a few years ago — which refers to discounted merchandise that went through hell and was returned to the store usually by some lying scumbag who pretty much did a war dance on the keyboard and then blamed the computer for suddenly “not working.”
Things got so bad for awhile, that I resorted to buying used laptops off of Craig’s List — which is really scrapping the bottom of the barrel. I figure — why spend $795 paying retail at the store when you can fork over $250 for a used machine from some thief that will probably last just as long?
You’ve already read what happened to my new Acer while visiting France. I bought that machine at Costco for $695. It lasted only a month before some punk walked into my hotel and stole it. Read the story here: WHERE’S INSPECTOR CLOUSEAU WHEN YOU NEED HIM?
So this week, as soon as I got back home, I returned to Costco again and bought the same Acer model that had been pilfered in Cannes.
This one lasted a day.
Even worse, I somehow managed to destroy my backup HP mini-laptop — the one I use in case of emergencies. You know, such as when something goes wrong with the primary laptop.
How this happened is a marvel not to be believed. Here it goes:
Wednesday afternoon I was busy installing files onto both laptops — the new 16-inch Acer and the older 12-inch HP. The laptops were plugged into the wall and sat on the floor beneath my office desk.
Marieta usually makes me a tumbler full of some kind of cocktail during the late afternoon. The tumbler is actually a stainless steel mixer that’s commonly used as a shaker by bartenders. At home, I prefer my cocktails served in a giant tumbler which stays colder longer because its made of metal rather than glass.
I have absolutely no idea how the following happened. But we do own two cats — Alex and Faro — and they’re both now serious suspects. I sat the 20-ounce tumbler down on top of the desk and walked away. Meanwhile, the two computers beneath the desk were downloading new programs.
When I returned a few minutes later, I saw a horrifying sight. The empty tumbler was laying on its side. Liquid was spilled all over the desk and was dripping down onto the two laptops beneath. The carpeting was SOAKED. Both laptops were open and had a puddles of liquid and ice cubes all over both keyboards.
It was not a pretty sight.
No big deal, I thought.
I grabbed a towel and padded down both laptops, hoping to soak up what remained of what would have been a delicious Rum Runner. To my amazement, the Acer keyboard no longer worked. Worse, the HP showed a black screen. After rebooting both laptops several times, I feared the worst — an accidental spill had wiped out not just one, but two laptops — one of them not even 24 hours new out of the box.
A hectic web search on my wife’s desktop (she usually forbids me to touch her computer, for some reason) found one possible fix — holding a hair dryer over the keyboard and blowing hot air into the motherboard. Supposedly, this dries out the liquid trapped inside. I tried that. It didn’t work.
I allowed the laptops to rest and dry out overnight; but when both laptops were turned on this morning, the results were exactly the same. The bottom line was — two laptops had been destroyed in my faux home happy hour.
The HP appears to be fried. Ruined. Gone. Oh well — no big loss. I bought that unit for $140 off Craig’s List a year ago.
But the Acer was more problematic. I’m not exactly sure what the warranty says about spilling cocktails onto the keyboard and the liability thereof, but I decided to chance it and try and return the laptop to Costco, hoping for an exchange. This afternoon, I returned the Acer with the keyboard that mysteriously no longer works, with no questions asked. For those out there in the market for a refurbished laptop, you may want to avoid a silver Acer if you lean over the keyboard and get a heavy whiff of Bacardi.
So, for those keeping score — that’s four computers destroyed in 2012. And, I still have nearly three months left to go.
What you’re reading now is my first post on a brand new Acer, bought (you guessed it) at Costco. In a few minutes, Marieta will be bringing me a Tennessee Highball, encased in my beloved silver tumbler.
If you don’t see me updating my blog for the next few days, you can pretty much guess what happened. And keep those cats out of the office.
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.
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.