Friday, August 18, 2000

Gamera is Really Neat

Best quote out of context I've seen in a news article lately:

"AOL spokesman Rich D'Amato said the company is still looking into how Gamera escaped."

--from an article in yesterday's Washington Post.


"Following his death, Ware re-joined the organization."

--from an AP obituary of one of Mensa's co-founders.

Monday, August 14, 2000

Gold Diggers

Last night I went to a co-workers house for an attempt to win a bunch of bucks from Well, mostly to watch an attempt.

The idea behind is that you're asked three trivia questions at a time. You compete against one of the thousands of other players. Winners advance; losers go into some sort of lame consolation round. (Ties are broken by a lightning round, where speed counts.) The final winner gets $100K with a chance to million dollars. I have no idea how they hope to turn a profit.

The idea behind last night's gathering is that if we got several people playing in the same place, they could help each other out while still having several people playing. So, after much furious networking, 4 systems were set up. There were about 8 of us, so I and others merely observed.

The first sign of trouble came in the first round, when two of the computers sitting right next to each other were paired off. The odds of that seem pretty slim, but we can't figure out any explanation. One was connected via a modem, so it's not like they were matching up IP addresses. Anyway, that knocked 1 out, and the questions were so easy that others were forced into lightning rounds and knocked out pretty quickly. The last remaining one lost in about round 6. (Out of 13 or more.)

We watched the rest of the questions. Then things degenerated into a discussion of how to network Windows 98 machines, and I hit the road.

Sunday, August 13, 2000

A Day at the Races

I went to Laurel Racetrack yesterday with Mensa. I'm sure that sounds like we figured we could beat the system, or makes people wonder what smart people are doing throwing their money away on the ponies. But, really, it was just a social event.

I had never been to the track before, so it was an interesting experience for me. I had to ask a lot of questions before starting to get how the whole betting thing works. It's neat; the final odds are not determined by a handicapper, but by what bets get placed on which horses. So if lots of people bet on a longshot, the odds come down. It take a little getting used to, but it's really a "free market" type of system, and those things are pretty darn efficient most of the time.

I decided I was willing to lose $20 (we figured to stay for less than 10 races, so that would allow at least a $2 bet in each race). I announced this fact, to everyone's great amusement. My strategy was simple -- pick the horses with the most interesting names (e.g., Party Guy, so I could yell "Party! Party!" during the race). The strategy worked for my first two bets -- but I kept letting things ride and lost $10 on the third bet. On my fourth bet, I wanted to bet the favorite but at 1-5 odds (or 2-5; it kept fluctuating), it hardly seemed worth it. So I went for the exacta. Voila, now I had another $10 to bet. But I lost that bet, and the next one. We decided to leave early, and I was only down $10. So on the last race, I put 2 $5 bets on the longshots, one to show and one to win. The 40-1 longshot I had to win was leading pretty late into the race, which was exciting, but he ended up fading to 7th. Such is the way of longshots. The other horse ended up 9th. Anyway, all in all it was pretty fun, and a fairly slow way to lose money.