Sonoma Valley

[Content Disclosure: Arrival 93%; looking forward 12%]

I am, at least temporarily, residing in the Sonoma Valley north of San Francisco. Specifically, I am living for a time in Tina's Hut, while she spends time in the desert southwest. I have already encountered five of my neighborhood cats; always a good sign. Having been told by a very close friend that I always sound happier when I am in California, this seems another good omen. From her lips to the ears of local spirits and sprites.

Chaos and confusion have been drifting about my world lately, I expect some of that was just the twitterings of the move but so much more seems just jiggering out of reach. Perhaps I will explore some of those sinkholes here soon, but for now I am going to enjoy a glorious sunny day in Sonoma and see how many more of the feline pack I can encounter. Followed by a long, leisurely evening of fiction.

Neither Here nor There

[Content Disclosure: Exclusively Pictorial]

Contemporary Internet Commentary

[Content Disclosure: Politics 88%, Humor 2% Reality 103%]

Like so many of you my disturbed readers, I am not fond of internet jokes, puns, religious or patriotic homilies. However, nearly everyone on my email list knows me well enough to forward the prime juice of the internet vineyard. Of all the UTube, MyRace, Blogophenia items on the election and inauguration, this one .... well, just this one....

Dear World,

We, the United States of America, your top
quality supplier of the ideals of liberty and democracy, would like to apologize for our 2001-2008 interruption in service. The technical fault that led to this eight-year service outage has been located, and the software responsible was replaced November 4. Early tests of the newly installed program indicate that we are now operating correctly, and we expect it to be fully functional on January 20. We apologize for any inconvenience caused by the outage. We look forward to resuming full service and hope to improve in years to come. We thank you for your patience and understanding.


The United States of America

Actually I would have put it this way: "Sorry, but periodically our flawed system of governance produces rampant stupidity, greed and regression. We will try to do better, but be prepared to cover for yourself because we will inevitably do it again."

Swayed into Blinking at a Black Swan

[Content Disclosure: Books 90%; Semi-Literate Culture 22%; Poker 0%]

got caught up in a cultural phenomenon awhile back, it seems that the world is irrational and that we humans have some skills that only a few of us know about to deal with this situation. Wouldn't you know it some academics figured out that information would make for interesting reading for the general enlightened public. So a spat of books have come out in the last couple of years basically focused on our innate abilities to seek and find the truth in what science might call irrational or illogical ways. Anecdotes abound in these various works but being a big fan of anecdotal evidence myself, I can live with that. What I am not so fond of is a string of examples that basically lead to nothing a but big Ta-Dah! All meat, no bone as my good friend Dr. Desmond loves to say.

Here is my four book foray into the world of irrational logic:

The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable by Nassim Nichols Taleb. You may want to notice that a couple of these authors have written several books on similar topics. While the whole Black Swan concept is interesting, his previous book: Fooled by Randomness was much more to my liking. Still the Black Swan is an interesting bedtime read.

From Amazon.com: "...the really important events are rare and unpredictable. He calls them Black Swans, which is a reference to a 17th century philosophical thought experiment. In Europe all anyone had ever seen were white swans; indeed, "all swans are white" had long been used as the standard example of a scientific truth. So what was the chance of seeing a black one? Impossible to calculate, or at least they were until 1697, when explorers found Cygnus atratus in Australia."

Nassim argues that most of the really big events in our world are rare and unpredictable, and thus trying to extract generalizable stories to explain them may be emotionally satisfying, but it's practically useless.

Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell didn't read his first book, The Tipping Point, but rumors are it was better. Blink suggests that our first thought or impression is more often than not correct. But I think we knew that already.

"Blink is about the first two seconds of looking--the decisive glance that knows in an instant. The author campaigns for snap judgments and mind reading with a gift for translating research into splendid storytelling."

Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior by Ori & Rom Brafman

Thisbook has the typical scientific prejudice against the non-linear and therefore, they say, the non-rational. Too bad because they write well and basically trash the premise of Blink; but they go too far, just as Blink did not go far enough. The authors also take anecdotal evidence to an nearly intolerable level, which is unusual since their argument comes down on the side of empirical science.

"Sway investigates the submerged mental drives that undermine rational action, from the desire to avoid loss to a failure to consider all the evidence or to perceive a person or situation beyond the initial impression and the reluctance to alter a plan that isn't working."

Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions
by Dan Ariely.

Still the scientific model here but with more reasoned look at the irrational. Must have been the psychological approach the author took. Still when will science come to understand magic?

"People tend to behave irrationally in a predictable fashion. Drawing on psychology and economics, behavioral economics can show us why cautious people make poor decisions about sex when aroused, why patients get greater relief from a more expensive drug over its cheaper counterpart and why honest people may steal office supplies or communal food, but not money."

All in all, I found everything after the first few chapters of these books to be unsatisfying. Good articles that never reach the potential they should have to qualify as a full length well structured book.

Patience is a Virtue?

[Content Disclosure: Life 64%, Patience 83%, Poker 2%]

The two most powerful warriors are patience and time. -Tolstoy

The aptly named Poker Grump wrote an intereting article disagreeing with my distaste for Poker = Life metaphors. I have been working on a "patience" section for a new book but today I am pondering patience not poker. I have noticed that patience tends to come with the ease of age. At least is how it seems to me these days. Yet I find others younger and older to have more patience in areas than I might. It appears we selectively decide that some areas are out of bounds for restraint, something about not abiding idiots or tolerating fools.

I guess I don't want to trounce any intolerance today, but I do notice that life in general is requiring a goodly dose of patience these days.

I have several writing gigs in the "hold" position. Actually one has come through and others linger. Patience, my boy, patience.

One of my good friends is under consideration for a position that would be great for her and just an excellent decision for the company involved, but nothing yet.

On the lighter side, I was at dinner the other evening with my brother and one of my recently retired poker buddies. When I asked them what the plans were for the weekend, they gave me an eloquent and mirthful dissertation on why making plans too far in advance is unwise when you are in full retirement mode. It seems you don't want to add stress or structure to a life of leisure. Wise and deservingly slothful men these are.

What comes next for me? Now there is a question, a whole galaxy of questions that are requiring a lot of patience these days. Patience and just existing at the edge of the void. Really an interesting if not completely comfortable place to pitch one's tent.

Female & Male Endings

[Content Disclosure: Gender, Understanding, Passion, Reminiscing and no poker]

“Those who restrain their desires, do so because theirs is weak enough to be restrained.” --William Blake

Well that certainly is one side of the equation Mr. Blake but a side I am familiar with. Not because I am what anyone would describe as a overtly emotional person. Just the opposite, but I have traveled with many manic, creative, socially high energy friends and lovers. I am not one to tolerate inane or insane behavior for its own sake, I generally just absent myself from such goings on. However, the wild creative energy that so often infuses artistic talent and emotional commitment does lend itself to over-percolation followed by incoherent eruptions. It is here where gender takes a role in my encounters with the varieties of the emotional precipice.

The few women with whom I have had messy, incomplete, unclosured endings; will invariably describe our final days as tinged with anger. My anger not theirs. I do not deny such characterizations. I object, of course, to the elevation of anger to a level commensurate with rape, murder and child abuse, but that is just a simplistic tactic of a gender unable to grasp the finer nuances of curling, the zone defense and beer pong.

Men on the other hand are completely different. I have male ex-friends, who would describe our defunct friendships in exactly the same way and anger would never be a factor. We were friends and then we were not. I have no idea if they have a "story" about how or why we became former acquaintances and I really don't care. Contrary to popular folklore men really don't "need" to be right in these situations. Two opinions, two positions, two points of view that irresolvable lead to an end. Done. Finished. No conversation required.

The other gender, from the land of hormones, wants completion, resolution and yes, closure; not to mention punishment. But, in my experience, these must happen without any bilateral process. They seek an ending that sheds a redeeming light on their unexamined behavior. (Play the "he was angry" card here.) How quiet they become when someone actually enters the conversation.

Desires come in all shapes, sizes and forms. Denying any of them is a sign of weakness. Controlling them is an indication of personal strength. Exploring them demonstrates courage. Being uncomfortable with your desires reveals your humanity and is never something to apologize for--ever.

Random Pokerish Thoughts

[Content Disclosure: 45% Poker sorta; 32% Wisdom or a reasonable facsimile; 9% Other, but I give good other]

"God does not play dice with the universe; however, she is not above a good check raise when you least expect it." -- Me

For my non-poker versed readers, a check raise is a move where you pass or check your opportunity to bet your hand and then when your opponent bets, you raise their bet with an even bigger bet. It is the poker equivalent of saying: "I gotcha!" And more than that, it is saying: "I gotcha and you had no clue it was coming." Now, of course, your opponent might just fire another even bigger bet right back at you but you get the idea.

I am not a big fan of the "Poker is like Life" books and articles. I also don't forward emails on why Men are Like Cars or Women are Like Wine. These are called analogies or metaphors and generally are too general to carry any more wisdom than a dribble glass. So, periodically you will find me ranting about such poker comparisons.

"Life is not like Texas Hold’em; Wall Street is not a game of five card stud and international politics is not the best place to practice your poker face." --Myself

Check Raising the Devil is a brilliant title for a book but in the eventuality you actually encounter Satan in your local card room, I suggest you fold and request a table change.

However for my true poker buddies, especially those in the poker media:

"Life is not like Badugi, Life is like Crazy Pineapple played with a joker, a live straddle and a full kill." --I

We now return you to our regular programming.

Cleaning Up After the New Year

[Content Disclosure: Detritus 12%; Flotsam 9%; Jetsam 17%; Dust Bunnies 23%; other 47%]

Time to put 2008 to bed and dance on into whatever comes next, but first some housekeeping chores I may have been putting off.

RSS feeds: For the many or several who have requested a notification when I put up a new post, the various feeds are now up there on the top of the right hand column, pick your favorite and you will never miss a witty, insightful bon mot from Keeping Your Head in All the Games.

Actual House Cleaning, Discarding & Transporting: I am just back from a trip to Sonoma County and I will be departing Las Vegas for a cottage in Sebastopol something mid to late month. The available sublet from an olde and dear friend just seemed too synchronous to ignore. I will be in and around Northern California until at least mid-May and then we shall evaluate the various options that life presents.

Another Book: Well it appears that the team (Amy, Mike and me) are going to press on with the partnership and begin the Matusow tournament book. I am planning to spend time with Mike while I am still here in Las Vegas and in all likelihood will work through the WSOP this summer to complete that project.

Dis-Ease: There seems to be a lot of maladies of all kinds around my orbit these days. Friends and family and family of friends are manifesting illness, age and dissatisfaction. I get it, no really I get it. My only advice is paying attention and participating in your own somatic presence. Don't turn your health or your life over to the gods of the white coats. Use them and their potions judiciously and wisely. Enjoy Life--This is not a Dress Rehearsal.

Frequency: I will be posting here more this year then last. I have way too much percolating to leave it all on the pillow, so stayed tuned and keep in touch; I shouldn't be doing all the talking.