Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Apparently This Is Worth 50,000 Words

Monday, November 27, 2006

4 Days to Go

4 days remaining, less than 15k to write.

I got less than I wanted done over the Thanksgiving weekend, but I am still well within striking distance. Just have to bear down and put finger to keyboard.

Of course I have a new fear: that I won't get to finish the narrative (such as it is). I am hoping to use this to my advantage, enabling me to pump out words faster than I would normally in an effort to finish my story's arc. Time will tell whether that kind of motivational doublethink will get me there.

It also seems I may be one of the few NaNoWriMo survivors. Hopefully everyone got something out of the effort, and will use it as motivation to try and get there next year. Don't be afraid to turn whatever you did this year (even if it was brainstorming, or prepping characters, or just thinking about writing a piece of significant length) as a springboard to bigger and better things.

Next year I'm handing out buttons:

* * * * * * * *

While I was busy not writing, I also played a bunch of poker this weekend. In between fooling around with Razz, and playing monster sessions of low limit NLHE with tables of bloggers, I also spent a bit of time on Full Tilt's tournaments. I seem to have worked out some kinks in my turbo peep game, which seemed to reflect on my general NLHE tournament efforts. In conjunction with having a decent strike rate in obtaining tokens I also went deep-ish in the 25k a couple of times, and had a decent showing in the 35k last night.

Though I didn't cash big (though I won a blogger last-longer on Friday night, busting out somewhere in the mid 100s of the 1200+), I played solidly, made good moves, and got my money in good. Saturday night I took solace when busting on the bubble (263rd when 261 paid) after playing a hand as well as I think I could, just having some joker donk out on me. Not only did I feel I play the hand well, but I wasn't afraid of making plays even when the bubble loomed.l

Hopefully I can continue in this vein. All of a sudden FT has gone from one of my least comfortable NLHE tournament sites to a favourite. Maybe I should just thank Party Poker for that one.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Heavy Lifting

With the month of November chugging along, and my lack of writing for NaNoWriMo, things were looking a little bleak. But as I kept saying to my mate All-Star "if I make it to 25k by the end of this week, I'm looking good". Unfortunately All-Star kept asking "how many words have you written now?" and the answer was "13,339" on Wednesday, Thursday, and also Friday. I had always thought that I could probably write 5k apiece on Saturday and Sunday, so if I slightly over-achieved I would make the mark.

Of course I was also planning on going up to Baltimore on Friday night to help celebrate a mate of mine's birthday. That probably meant staying up Friday night, and then doing the long train ride of shame back to DC on Saturday... not known as optimal writing conditions. Still, I was optomistic.

I actually made it back to DC on Friday night, thanks to a couple of friends of mine who stayed up in B-Vegas later than they expected, so I got a good night's sleep, which was important after the last few days of alcohol abuse. Things were primed for a NaNoWriMo run.

Except for the old Ohio State/Michigan game. Probably was going to be the College Football game of the year. I mean, I have to watch that, right? And I had a friend who was throwing a party for the occasion. Twist my arm, I'm there. But I'll make sure to head back to my place straight afterwards.

The game was a good one, and I didn't drink too many beers, but as I took the bus home I felt pretty knackered. Once home I sat down on the couch and considered trying to write, trying to play poker, or even trying to go out. At 9pm I threw in the towel and actually went to bed... a ridiculously early hour for a Saturday night.

This meant an early start for me on Sunday, as I got up at the crack of 11am. I briefly flirted with the idea of giving up, but I decided that I would make an assault on NaNoWriMo this Sunday, try and complete what I refer to as a "heavy lifting day", and see how it looked once it was all said and done.

At 11:40am I sat down at my MacBook with a Vitamin Water and a coffee, and started typing like a madman. A while later I stopped, and checked my word count, and the gains were impressive. At that point I took a quick break, putting a load of washing on etc., before heading back to the Mac.

That was pretty much how I spent my day, pausing for an hour or so at 4pm, but basically writing up until 9pm-ish. By the end of the day I had written 11.7k, getting me to 25,104 words in total. I was content to finish at 24,300+, but a final push from Gracie made me hit my goal and taste the sweetness that is over-the-halfway-mark.

I now feel I clearly in striking distance, especially considering I have the four day Thanksgiving break. I am hoping to be able to get some words down today and tomorrow, but Wednesday and Thursday are probably going to be write-offs. Friday, Saturday and Sunday should be clear, however, so I should be able to get some more heavy lifting done then.

I would probably be happy with 40k by the end of Sunday, leaving me 10k to complete in the final four days. However, heady from my weekend success, I am going to shoot for 45k by week's end, hopefully while avoiding another Sunday NaNoWriMoAThon. I think that's doable (and hopefully pressures me to make sure I get some done today and tomorrow), and should make it a snap to stumble over the finish line by the 30th.

For right now, I am just riding the buzz.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

NaNoWriMo Status

In case anyone was wondering, I am still tackling NaNoWriMo despite the self-imposed obstacles (you know, like going to AC and Pittsburgh). Unfortunately the biggest threat to my completion of NaNoWriMo is.... Triple Draw on Stars.

I like free money, and that's what is being given away right now. Apparently they have even started spreading $1/$2. How the hell am I meant to buckle down and grind out chapters now?!

Even worse: I was planning on drinking tonight.

I'll probably still go drinking.

* * * * * * * *

Remember how I said I was going to stay away from NL TD? I make one exception: when it gives me the opportunity to play against Greg Raymer. Of course I only got to do this for a couple of hands before he left, and I didn't get a screenshot, but there you go.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Triple Draw: It's What's For Dinner

So I spent the weekend in Pittsburgh, eating and drinking like a champ, not doing enough NaNoWriMo, and going to the Steelers/Saints stoush. But I'll get to that later. Because, hold the phone, Triple Draw just came to PokerStars.

Oh, baby.

Early reports (I'm not at home so can't verify) suggest that they only have low-limit games running as a form of beta test, but those still might be good. I'm hoping they bust out some higher limit games soon. If they do, and if they get some traffic, it might give me a possible route to actually working my way up the limits. Of course getting a lot of bonus and rakeback at UB is still very nice, but varied limits + larger pond = nicer place to play.

Stars also seem to be offering PL and NL Triple Draw, but I'll be steering clear of that. Well, I might have a shot at PL. We'll see.

What a glorious day. Huzzah!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Oh! Calcutta!

It is difficult to describe the Melbourne Cup to non-Australians. It is the most prestigious horse race of the year, but it is more than that; it is literally the race that stops the nation. Held on the first Tuesday of November, it is the most watched sporting even on the calendar. Victoria (the state of which Melbourne is the capital) has a public holiday to mark the occasion, and in workplaces all over the country people down tools to watch the race and gamble. For us it is like the Triple Crown and Breeder's Cup all rolled into one... except that everyone cares.

Unbeknownst to me, the Australian Embassy usually holds a function for the Cup. This shouldn't be surprising, really, and I am amazed that I hadn't gotten wind of it sooner. In fact, the only reason I knew about it this year was because a couple of Australian friends of mine had mentioned it to me. Despite still feeling the effects of my weekend trip to AC (some kind of trip report forthcoming, though you can check out Jon's take on it here), I decided that the siren song of Australian beer and gambling must be obeyed.

I arrived at the Embassy just before 8pm, and proceeded to sink a few VBs. I looked over the options for having a (hypothetical) flutter on the ponies, despite the fact the only thing I knew about the horses (via the Boy Genius) was that a nag by the name of Geordieland was being ridden by a top American jockey. Fortunately the Embassy provided us with form guides we could use to make (ill)informed picks.

For those that wanted a low-risk piece of the action they had "sweeps", where you paid $2 and were issued a random horse's number. If the horse came in first you pocketed $16, 2nd paid $8, and 3rd paid $4. Not that exciting, but you had some horseflesh to cheer for.

For those who craved a bit more action, there was the Calcutta. Part one of the Calcutta was a raffle for the rights to a "half-share" of a horse. Part two was an auction for the other "half-share" to a horse. The backers of the winning horse would win 60% of the prize pool (that is, 30% to each half-share), 30% for the second-place horse, and 10% for the third-place horse. Looking at the numbers for the last two Calcuttas (which were provided) it looked like the total prize pool might hit $4000, with the horse receiving the most interest in the auction going for $250+.

Now, I am not a horse racing man. Not that I mind it, but the only times I bet on the ponies is if I am at the track (which is usually only done for a prestigious event like the Perth Cup), or for something like the Melbourne Cup. Nonetheless I was determined to see if I could get a share of one of the runners. I plonked down $20 for 20 tickets in the raffle, hoping that that would get me some action. Unfortunately I blanked on the first round, and I was faced with either throwing my hat into the auction ring, or being forced to be an idle (though drunkie) spectator.

I borrowed a pen off my mate, and went through the form guide marking those horses I thought might either have a decent shot at money or that I reckoned could go for a reasonable price given their chances of coming home. The action for the first few horses was fast and furious, with last year's high bid mark beaten early. All of a sudden I was doubtful about my chances at getting a horsie of my very own, though for a moment it looked like one of my targets was going to go in my range. The moment was fleeting, however, as my opponent kept raising strongly... and so I bowed out, fearing that he was prepared to go way past the $75 he had just bid.

The next couple of horses I liked were much too expensive, followed by a slew of horses I didn't care for. All of a sudden there were only 5 horses left to bid on in the field of 22, and it was loooking like I was going to be left out in the cold. But the next horse was Geordieland, which had the aforementioned American jockey onboard.

I must have looked like a man ready to throw money around, as an older woman standing next to me leaned over and asked "Do you like this horse?" When I nodded, she added "Me too."

"Oh," I said, searching for some piece of intimidation. Smiling, I added: "I have very deep pockets."

That seemed to do the trick.

Despite my mind games I didn't get a bid in as the price quickly raced over the $250 mark. Sheepishly my neighbour and I grinned at each other.

"How about the next horse, do like that one?"

"Yep," I replied, "but so does everyone in the place. It'll go for a mint."

The older woman paused.

"OK then, how about we pool our resources. I can go up to $120, so $240 combined. You do the bidding"

This sounded like a fine plan to me, and so I gave my assent. All good, until the next horse actually went for $380. We commiserated with each other regarding our inability to bring home the bacon, and eyed the remaining 3 horses. Knowing the question was coming, I informed my new partner that I didn't like the next horse, but I did fancy the next-to-last offering, Delta Blues. I decided my plan of action was to see how the bidding went, then if it looked good I would jump in with a slight overbid compared to the action to try and freeze the field.

The auction for Delta Blues began, and quickly went above $150. I was afraid our chances were shot, until the action petered out at $190. Two blokes in front of us, who had been bidding for everything, finally gingerly raised their hands and announced "$200". I paused for a beat, then raised my hand.

"$220!" I bellowed.

The two blokes in front turned around to see who had just outbid them.

"I really like this horse," I informed them as convincingly as possible.

They folded like a map, and Delta Blues was ours for $220.

I gave a little fist pump, ecstatic with finally getting a horse... which is right about when my partner's husband rocked up.

"Mark", my partner began, "you need to give this man $110."

I grinned as Mark gave me a strange look, though he indeed reached into his wallet and gave me the readies. I tangoed to the cashier, and handed over our money. The good news was that the pool was huge, edging over $5000. Now all we had to do was hit at least a place to make some money.

Settling the nerves with a few more VBs, I edged closer to the screen that the race feed was being projected on. I was hoping that our horse got out fast so that I would at least be able to locate it - in a 22 horse field it can be pretty easy to lose your nag in the crowd, which makes the cheering a little anti-climactic. I wasn't sure where my partner was, but since she had ponied up the dough already I wasn't too worried. At just after 11pm EST all the horses were ready in their gates. The tension in the room was palpable.

And they were off!

Delta Blues did get out early, and was actually in first momentarily before settling into second just off the rail. I was happy with that, though a little worried about the pace and whether the horse would get stuck on the rail. The jockey did well, however, holding his position nicely and not getting pinned.

As the horses rounded towards the home straight, Delta Blues made a little move, edging a little wider and gaining a clear path. It was at that point I started to realise we were in with a shot.

"Mate, he's looking pretty good," I said to my friend Gazza standing next to me.

At the beginning of the straight my horse kicked, and started opening a lead on the field. Halfway down the straight I raised my arms, sure that it was going to come home... but all of a sudden a pursuer emerged from the pack and began reducing the margin at an alarming rate. With arms still raised I eyed the screen wildly. Where the hell was the post?!

Heads nodding in unison, Delta Blues and Pop Rock hit the line...

... and we were home by a nose!!

Out of nowhere my partner raced up, leaping into my arms for a big hug. We jumped up and down, then jumped up and down some more. Mark wandered up and congratulated me on my horse betting acumen, though I received no hugs from the big guy.

After an eternity the results were made official, and my partner-in-crime and I made our way up to the cashier to accept a rather fat envelope. Total winnings: $1583 between the two of us. Not a bad night's work.

The crowd began to thin out as people began to leave the Embassy and head home. My partner and I carefully split the money and gave each other a last victory hug before we waved goodbye. I wandered out into the cool DC night, floating in an alcohol and adrenaline induced haze.

I should really get to the embassy more often.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Let's All Do The Trop

We interrupt this NaNoWriMo blog with some poker news: I have been talked into heading up to Atlantic City by bdrweb and penneriii (easy sell, some would say) this weekend. I'm about to head out from work to meet pennerii so we can zip up to the big AC. This will be my second trip up, and I'm hoping it is better than the first.

Yes, that means that means I am already going to have a day where my word count won't increase, but I'm pretending this is research. Maybe my character can head up there for a little gambooooling or something.

* * * * * * * *
Today's excerpt:

"As I wait for traffic to subside so I can safely cross Washington Circle, I admire the lack of driving ability being put on display by the morning rush hour traffic. The DC Metro area contains the worst drivers I have ever seen, bar none - and I've lived in quite a few places. Some people claim that New England drivers are horrible, which I counter by saying that New England drivers are actually very skillful, they are just mean and unusually cruel. DC drivers, on the other hand, just suck. I watch as cars veer from lane to lane without using their turn signals, abrupty stop for seemingly no reason, and commit various other traffic atrocities while their drivers slam fists into horns.

The most memorable stretch of poor driving I have experienced was during a drive home from Baltimore. In that trip alone I saw three crashes, two near crashes, and one car on fire as it sat forlornly on the side of the road. This all occurred on a gorgeous Spring afteroon."

Thursday, November 02, 2006

And on The Second Day He Said "What?! 48,000 Words To Go?!"

"I do have some other random knowledge gleaned from my many years of being a booze hound. For instance, most people don't seem to realise that a lot of Art Galleries put on shows that feature free alcohol. I'm more than willing to go off the beaten track and knock back a few glasses of red while looking at some art. The trick is to try and not raise the suspicion of those serving the alcohol, though I usually go the other way - I make it very clear, very early, to the wait staff that I am trying to drink as much as I can. Most of them are usually students anyway, and so are sensitive to my plight - and it's not like I'm not the only person doing it. I just make sure to slip them ten bucks or something early on "for their trouble", and away you go. While standing around drinking as fast as I can I like to engage other people who are there, particularly if they are happen to be women. My favorite opening is simply "I'm not convinced by [insert artist] here. What do you think?" Fact: any person who goes to an Art Gallery showing will answer that question at length, if only to prove to themselves that they are an educated art-lover. If you run out of wine during the conversation, not to worry. Just say to the other person that you think you might get a top-up, and ask if they would like one as well. If they say "No" you have an out, which is handy if they were completely boring (which, let's face it, is pretty likely). If they say "Yes", then you can happily go and get yourself and your new friend a drink and see what happens from there. If you think they are disapproving of your drinking, screw them, there are other people to talk to while you do your quaffing. Numerous gallery attendances mean that I have developed a kind of baseline level of art appreciation, or rather the ability to participate in a conversation abour art, and not sound like I am completely ignorant despite not saying much. This has helped me get laid at least twice in my life."

* * * * * * * *

Two days in, so far so good, particularly since I have had a couple of old friends staying with me the last couple of days. To all those doing NaNoWriMo (particularly for the first time) let me say this: there is a time for editing, and that time is December. I know that for those of us posting excerpts on our blog the urge is going to be to try and rewrite and polish everything, but RESIST THE URGE.

Also in the "nice" column: I came in 4th in the Mookie last night, which means back-to-back final tables (though admittedly I lemured out in 9th last week). One of my friends actually watched me play the final table in person, and it was neat to explain out loud my thought processes.

In the "sucks" side I managed to strain my back, by not doing much at all (who knew reaching for the shaving cream could be so devastating?). It's painful, but not completely debilitating, so hopefully I'm 100% tomorrow.

Now, let's see if I can squeeze a few more hundred words in...

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

My Opening Sentence

"I suffer from blackouts. "

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I am tinkering with the idea of blogging a short excerpt of my novel-in-progress each day. I thought the opening sentence was appropriate for the first such post. Hopefully there is something new to throw up here each day.

For those of you who are also doing NaNoWriMo, or for those of you who just want to see how I am doing, my handle is the cunning "Garthmeister J.". You can go to the NaNoWriMo page, click on the "Authors" tab and search for my name. For you other people out there doing it, let me know your clever pseudonym. I'd love to keep tabs on you all.

See you at the finish line.