This thing, you need. Run your smartphone for days.
Thanks for checking out my little blog here. I know it’s been extremely neglected; honestly, I’m just not into technology like I was.
Part of that is changes in my personal life, but a big portion of that is that I feel like new technologies just aren’t revolutionary anymore. Some software is pretty good, but the hardware just doesn’t feel life altering anymore.
The iPhone and iPad were both life-altering for me, but new iterations and the new unstable iOS just haven’t impressed me. I don’t see anything out today that would make a significant change in my life. Some of the stuff on the horizon looks very promising to me… unfortunately, nothing from Apple is on that list. It really feels like the magic died with Steve.
Prior to the first iPhone, I switched from a Palm Treo to a candy bar Sanyo phone without a camera or games because it was super light and had a substantial talk time. I was still using landlines as well. The iPhone changed so much for me.
The original iPad seemed like a uselessly large iPod Touch — damn was I wrong about that. The iPad affected how I interact with the internet and create art. It changed how I dealt with emails and allowed me to connect with people even when I was extremely sick (months).
The first capacitive styluses (styli?) revolutionized art creation for me, and the pressure sensitive ones doubled my tablet drawing abilities. The new ones are exciting, but they just don’t seem leaps and bounds better. Each has tried to be an improvement, but reports of accuracy issues plague each. I know what my Intuos Creative Stylus (one) and Pencil can do, how they’ll perform, and I know that they’ll perform accurately. Assuming my iPad works. (More on that in a bit.) I don’t know that about the new stuff, and it just doesn’t seem worth the gamble. (I live in Reno, NV — there are other ways to do that.)
The MacBook Pro Retina put power and a fantastic screen onto my lap. Light, fast and sleek, it was a nearly perfect notebook for me — something that was a true desktop replacement.
The new stuff doesn’t strike a spark with me. Faster? Yes. Better in-general? Of course. Dynamically different? Hardly.
The Apple Watch? Maybe after a few generations. It’s nothing that I need or even really want. For a few days I thought that it would be fantastic, but I don’t see what it’d do for me that my iPhone 5S doesn’t already cover. It’d just weigh down my wrist.
Perhaps if iOS performed better for me, I’d have more faith in the Watch software. Each iOS iteration seems to make older Apple devices perform worse. My phone locks up, lags and crashes almost every day. My iPad? Nearly nonfunctional. Perhaps that’s how they’re going to convince me to buy a new one come Fall. The old one will just freeze up on the lock screen and won’t allow me to draw; so I’ll be forced to upgrade. That’s pretty shitty.
The only Apple technology that I’m somewhat interested in at the moment is a (possible) new Apple TV. Why? Because mine (current ten) crashes a lot while watching Netflix and Hulu. Again, a shitty reason to upgrade: because you have to — the current one stops working.
Not done with blogging.
So I’ve been writing about other things, controversial things. Political and social things. Everyone will admit that America and the rest of the world has serious problems, but people vehemently disagree on how to solve them. Heck, people don’t even agree on what the problems are.
I expect that when I start posting this stuff in earnest, it will have to be at a different site, it will draw out trolls and disgusting comments, death threats and the like. My intention is to stimulate honest dialogue and debate on issues, and I hope to get some of (or mostly) that, but people have a tendency to say awful and evil things on the internet.
It’s really just an exaggerated form of what’s happening in the “mainstream media” (TV, major news sites); more insults and rhetoric than reasoned debate and solutions. I expect (and appreciate) that from regular people (if there is such a kind) pundits, not politicians. Opinion pieces should be challenged by other opinions, and solutions should be challenged by alternative solutions — but that’s not really what’s happening.
I intend to try and offer both. I don’t see much point in saying, “well, that policy won’t work,” if it isn’t followed by “here’s what will.”
It takes a lot of time and research to formulate a cohesive and coherent commentary; creative viable alternatives to current proposals is tremendously more challenging.
It will take time and practice; I don’t expect my early works to be gems. I’ll probably make new enemies, but I think it’s worth it — and maybe I’ll make a few new friends.
And I’ll still write about technologies when something comes up.
It looks like I’m really going to need to do something about this site. Not getting accurate anything, and just loading the editor is a bit of an issue. Maybe because it’s an old version.
I’ve been thinking about creating something simple to replace the SAYS BRAD atop this site.
I haven’t figured out how to color it, or even if I really like it, but I wanted to create something simple and clean, since most of what I design isn’t. It’s an S that looks something like $ with the bar in the center, but it can also be interpreted at SB — two letters connected in the center.
Maybe I can turn it into an Apple Watch face. Something that I don’t need on something that I don’t need… but kinda want.
Thoughts on Apple Watch & the (new) MacBook
Do people still wear watches?
In all seriousness, I know that people do. I used to — but that was years ago. Simply, why wear a watch, that may or may not be accurate in timekeeping, when I have a smartphone with smart time? I’ve grown accustomed to checking my phone for the time when necessary. Yes, the process is slower than glancing at one’s wrist, but I don’t live a life that requires me to (nearly) instantly and frequently know what the time is. My guess is that that’s true for most people.
Of course, the Apple Watch does a lot more, but is it worth it?
But hey, it’s Apple, right?
Well, I might’ve bought into that logic when Steve Jobs was still at the helm, but the Apple isn’t ripe anymore; it’s lost its luster, and there’s some mold growing on it.
iOS 7 & 8 have had serious issues. Crashes, storage problems, battery life issues, WiFi connectivity issues, lag… in pursuit of doing more and looking prettier, Apple has killed the best feature of the iPhone and iPad — responsiveness.
My iPad 1 & 2 never felt slow. Swipe, open or close an app — it all felt instantaneous. iPhone 3GS felt that way, too, even after a new generation replaced them. Everything since has been disappointing; in particular the iPad mini and iPhone 5S. It makes me hesitant to buy a new Apple mobile product because it feels like I’m paying full price to beta test.
Form > Function
Stylish and slower. That’s the new Apple way, apparently. The new MacBook looks fantastic. Super thin, color options, streamlined everything.
Except now it has only one port (plus headphone jack), USB-C. So if you need to charge the notebook and use USB, you’re SOL unless you pay for an adapter. No more MagSafe power. The onboard processor isn’t likely to remain fast for very long. Also, instead of 720p (pseudo-HD), the new MacBook has a 480p FaceTime camera, a disappointing concession likely made to keep the screen ridiculously thin.
In total, the MacBook looks like a design ahead of its time; when the component manufactures catch up, I’m sure the super thin and light notebook will shine, despite its drawbacks. But right now, it’s like a concept car; visually stunning but impractical — perhaps too radical — for the current market.
And I see a similar thing with the Apple Watch — to an extreme.
The Apple Watch is an expensive toy.
I really wanted to like the watch. The concept is interesting and admittedly, I was excited when it was announced. Unfortunately, technical limitations and FDA rules and restrictions keep it from being the device that it should be.
Granted, I haven’t personally seen or used one yet. I admit, when I first heard about and saw the iPad keynote, I thought that that device wasn’t a great idea. So wrong about that. I’d like to be wrong about the watch, too… but that seems far less likely.
Tech reviewers and journalists have tested the device and only a few are really excited for it. Several mention feeling confused and underwhelmed, unsure of what the device offers for its price point. Several mention that the apps seem to load slowly and that the UI and buttons seem unintuitive.
It’s also a bit ironic that Apple convinced us that we need (want) bigger iPhone screens, only to turn around and essentially say: those screens are too big to be truly usable, what you want is a tiny one.
So the question for consumers is: are you willing to spend $349 - $17,000 for a wearable gadget with less than 24 hours battery life that does less than your iPhone and does it slower?
Note: I’m not trying to talk anyone dead-set on buying an Apple Watch out of buying it — it’s your money, do what you like with it. These are just my questions and concerns.
But I’d personally struggle with buying an overpriced first-gen device that doesn’t seem to add much value. If the watch is successful, Apple will inevitably release a Watch 2 that will do more, last longer and operate quicker (actually, I have doubts about the latter). And then a 3 and 4… or perhaps an Apple Watch Air.
And unlike conventional, dumb watches, the Apple Watch isn’t a buy-once, lasts-a-lifetime device. While we may be prepared to drop $200-500+ for a new iPhone every year or two, how many will want (or be able) to add another $350+ to keep the phone+watch combo updated? This in addition to the every 2-5 or so years between computer upgrades and 1-2 years for a new iPad.
Also, if you browse the [Apple Store], you’ll see that the watch bands aren’t cheap, and there’s no way to pick a Watch base model without a band — so if you want to personalize the Watch, it will cost you an extra $50+. Some of the bands are stupid expensive. I get that Apple may be attempting to position itself as a luxury goods brand, but it should be a tech company first.
Apple Watch: Functionality Restricted
Our stupid government has also contributed to handicapping the Watch.
The Apple Watch could have had all kinds of sensors that allow it to essentially offer diagnoses — but it can’t, thanks to the FDA.
It reminds me of [23andMe], a company that offered a DNA test that revealed genetic predispositions for all kinds of health problems (or benefits) for $99 — until the government kneecapped them for not paying up to satiate bureaucrats and cover special interest operating costs. Now their product is far less cool — it gives you info on your heredity.
The FDA would require from Apple boatloads of paperwork and millions of dollars for the watch to do more than give you general wellness information. Their stance is essentially this: we’re too stupid and impulsive to hear the truth about our own condition — an issue also faced by 23andMe during its short-lived battle against the Federal government.
The Apple Watch could’ve likely made preliminary diagnoses for everything from serious neurological issues to a common cold or flu.
That would be an incredible reason to wear it every day.
By simply tracking your normal resting and active heart rate, blood pressure and movements, it could determine when you’re off your game and notify you.
Instead, it’ll tell you how well your run went and when you should stand up at work. Great.
I hope I’m wrong about the Apple Watch and MacBook.
Won’t have to wait long to find out.
Are you going to buy an Apple Watch and/or MacBook, and if so, which model/s?
Leonard Nimoy 1931-2015
Yesterday people were still talking about a crappy photo of a crappy dress. It was frustrating, and I was sad. But not about that.
Leonard Nimoy passed yesterday at his home, and many reacted as I had. Not much to say other than he will live on as Spock in the minds of millions of Trekkers and Trekkers-to-be.
So after that Royal draught, comes the flood I guess. Unfortunately luck turned really quick after the $2000 Royal, and I've been drawing nothing. It was enough to make me quit for awhile; lost a lot.
So now I'm going to spend more time outside the casinos — and if I do play, it'll be the much lower volatility Full Pay Deuces Wild.
But now that I'm home a bit more, I'll have time to write and catch up on reading.
A progressive Royal Flush at Grand Sierra Resort in Reno, NV.
After a Royal Flush draught, it's really nice to hit one. There are a number of things that I don't like about GSR — the lines, the parking — but there is a game there that's pretty cool. A progressive Double Double Bonus game.
Despite its high variance, I like playing this game. Maybe more than 10/6 DDB non-progressive. I like the mini-progressive jackpots for Aces, 2,3,4's — I like the excitement of four-of-a-kinds. It's also great that I've been really lucky playing this machine.
Without a four-of-a-kind (4oK), you could lose more than $100 per hour. At a minimum, a 4oK is worth $62.50. If it's a special 4oK (2's-4's, Aces, 2-4 w/ a kicker A-4, Aces w/ kicker), it's worth a minimum $100. The game is more exciting than grinding away to profit $2.50 to $5 at a time.
Unfortunately, the machine GSR uses for this game also has Blackjack and Keno on it, so people are often playing 5¢ Keno on a machine that gives me a good (albeit risky) game.
Yes, there are other places in town to play. But I've never been more lucky at a machine. I know that that luck will likely run out, but for today, despite my cold and broken car (I was rear-ended earlier in the month, still nothing from the insurance company USAA), things are okay.
Video Poker is a game of variance, skill and luck.
Even a knowledgeable player playing an advantage game can lose a ton of money really quickly. An advantage game one is where the player actually has an edge over the house — in Video Poker, this advantage is usually no more than a few percent if you include cashback, comps and casino perks. The best consistent game in Reno offers players a 0.762% advantage on the base game (Full Pay Deuces Wild).
I’ve been on a bit of losing streak, aka negative fluctuation. These fluctuations are the real world results of variance, or the standard deviation from the expected return (ER). Example: holding four cards to a Royal Flush has a 1 in 47 chance of turning into a Royal Flush; on single play, I’ve been dealt over 60 of these (RF4) without completing the Royal Flush. This isn’t very unusual, but it does suck.
Because the Royal Flush makes up, on average, between 2.5-3% of a game’s return, any given cycle without a Royal is played at a negative. Royal Flush Cycles (the average number of hands played between hitting Royal Flushes) are usually between 37,000 and 44,000 hands, and unfortunately, it’s not unlikely that you’ll play through several cycles without a Royal.
Understanding the math behind the game makes session losses a lot less painful, but it still sucks when you’re trying to make money and leave with less than you started with. Playing Video Poker is not an easy moneymaking endeavor; if you play less than perfectly (failing to hold the mathematically most valuable cards every time — not always intuitive or psychologically easy), you cannot expect the theoretical return in the long run.
And then there’s Lady Luck.
Good luck, or bad, makes up a significant part of the Video Poker experience. Any given day, you can do everything right and lose your entire bankroll while the idiot next to you plays poorly a terrible short-pay game, hits Four-of-a-Kind after Full House after Flush and feels like a genius. Although mildly irritating, I accept it. I also know that that sort of player will be a long-term loser, and that that type of play keeps casinos open 24/7.
As stated, recently, my luck hasn’t been great. I normally play Deuces Wild ; when dealt three Deuces (or any three-of-a-kind), drawing two leaves a 1 in 23.5 chance of getting that elusive final card. I’d been dealt three deuces 51 times on single-play and 11 times on triple play (three line Spin Poker) without getting a fourth Deuce. Many times I’d thrown away Straight Flushes (such as WWW45) and Five of a Kind (WWW77) when 5oK pays 75 instead of 80 coins (as it does on NSUD, normally a 99.73% return game) and ended up with a 25 or 20 coin Four-of-a-Kind.
And then finally on Sunday, magic happened.
I was essentially killing time before a slot tournament, playing off $20 free play with a 5¢ Spin Poker machine with the NSU version of Deuces Wild, playing three lines (75¢ per play). A few hands go by, some missed Wild Royal Flush chances… and then I’m dealt Three Deuces — and it completes in the center line. Woo! Though only a $50 win, it was still a relief to finally see the elusive hand.
I played a few more hands, was dealt a Straight Flush playing nine lines (+$22.50) cashed out, and moved to my usual 25¢ “progressive” NSU Deuces Wild game.
(It’s called Progressive, but the reality is that the Royal Flush is just set at a perpetual $1199 — one dollar underneath the W2-G amount and $199 more than a normal quarter machine Royal Flush.)
Initially, I was dealt into several Flushes and natural Full Houses (no wild cards), drew into a bunch of Full Houses some Straights. And then luck turned and $70 turned into $1.25 really quickly.
I dropped in another $20 and fluctuated between $30 and $2.50 over five minutes. I was considering quitting to walk around a bit because nothing exciting was happening. A lot of Wild Royal misses. Not fun. Last hand, I suppose.
I was dealt a single Deuce and garbage. On average, holding a solitary Deuce is worth about even money. I’ll get my bet back and cash out. Draw.
The remaining three spill out. +$250
Up about $300 for the 35 minute session with hours until my slot tournament round, I played for an hour or so and stayed even. I hadn’t eaten lunch, so at 5pm I went to the Chinese restaurant in the casino and had a decent fried rice while relaxing, resting, writing/working a bit and watching some YouTube videos. After eating, I still had a few minutes to kill, so I sat down again. Put $25 in and lost most of it really quickly, and then drew a Five-of-a-Kind.
At 6:30 I played my slot tournament round, got a decent score but nowhere near the top ten (I did manage to place finally last week, somewhere between 21st-40th, at JA Nugget in Sparks, NV — winning $100 free play), and headed over to another casino (Grand Sierra Resort) to pick up a free gift that they give away every Sunday. It happened to be a Christmas dinnerware set; apparently, it was extremely popular because they ran out and needed to get more from the stock room. Twenty minute wait I was told. Sigh.
At this casino, the best game I’ve found is a particular Progressive Double Double Bonus quarter machine.
Recently on Instagram, I was indirectly criticized for playing $1199 Royal Flush Jacks or Better (99.956% return) instead of (probably 9/6 — Full House returning 9 coins per coin bet, Flushes returning 6) DDB (a practically unplayable 98.98% return). However, because the GSR progressive was at a decent number, it’s playable, albeit volatile.
The night prior, I hit four Queens twice in five minutes ($125) so psychologically, I felt good about the game. Plus, I needed to earn some tier points to get the next level card (Earning me a free buffet every Tuesday. My parents like to go there on Tuesday).
I sat down and started playing, staying fairly even. A few Flushes and Full Houses, many Three-of-a-Kinds and tons of duds. About 25 minutes in, I thought that the sets were stocked so I hit the service button so an attendant could watch the machine for a moment. A minute later, a slot guy came by. Right then, I was dealt a Full House, Aces and Eights. I immediately hit hold on the Aces.
While many people are probably happy with a guaranteed 45 coins, ($11.25) it’s the wrong play. By a lot. Playing Double Double Bonus, Aces are worth so much that you toss the pair and keep the three Aces. Most of the time, this will end with a 15 coin Three-of-a-Kind; on a rare occasion, it will become a Full House again (albeit with another pair since it’s impossible to draw discarded cards). Very rarely, it will become Four Aces (worth 818 coins on this particular machine, though normally 800).
But when luck is on your side…
I was just about to leave to get the free Christmas set before drawing two replacement cards, but thought, I shouldn’t leave the machine mid-game. I hit draw.
Very, very rarely, three Aces becomes Four Aces w/ 2,3,4 — a hand that normally pays 2000 coins, or $500 on a quarter machine — but this progressive was at $547, or 2188 coins. That’s why you don’t just hold the Full House with three Aces. Most of the time it’ll be disappointing, but occasionally: jackpot!
In this DDB game with the 2188 coin progressive 4 Aces w/ Kicker and 818 coin Four Aces, a Full House is worth just 9 coins for every coin bet for a total guaranteed return of 45. Holding three Aces and drawing two is worth an average of 13.1665 coins — about 1.46 times more than the Full House.
In the long run, holding the Full House instead of just the Aces on a quarter machine will cost you about $5 each time.
After this big win, I cashed out, got my free Christmas dish set and checked my tier points. I was close to upgrading my card, so I went back to play the machine. (Incidentally, since hitting the Aces with kicker, the game went from being practically even to a slightly negative game.) Unfortunately, someone was sitting there playing Video Keno (a game with a huge house edge) 5¢ per play. With several bucks in the machine, I thought it’d be a long wait. Unfortunately, there’s only one in the progressive bank of machines set with a good payable, and he happens to sit there and play a game he could find on dozens of nearby machines. I almost offered $5 for the seat; I wasn’t thrilled about it however, because the game was worth slightly less due to the progressive reset. Fortunately, he ran out of money and left after several minutes.
Since I only needed a few tier points, I didn’t need to play too many more hands. Fortunate, since I wasn’t really feeling well. Twenty or so hands in, nothing exciting. I was about to leave, down about $20 or so. And then I hit four Sixes.
With perfect play on a positive game, you’ll still lose about 60% of the time.
If you’re going to play Video Poker with the goal of making money, know that after any several hour session you play, you’re likely leave the casino with less money than you started with. Competent players can play 500-900 hands per hour; most people play quite a bit slower than that. Within a several thousand hand sample size, it’s unlikely that you’ll hit a jackpot hand, which can account for 2-3% of the game’s payback (depending on the game type).
It’s a very risky way to try to make some money, but if and when you do hit that big hand, it’s pretty nice. If you’re going to play, remember the odds and the math — and practice, practice, practice.
For more Video Poker stuff, check out my Instagram (@bradtastic).
Since I normally play Deuces Wild, here’s a bit about the variations worth playing:
The NSU game paytable (99.73%), betting five coins, should have the following numbers from Royal Flush down to Three-of-a-Kind: 4000=1000=125=80=50-20-20-15-10-5 — With the $1199 Royal Flush, this game has a slightly positive return.
Full Pay Deuces Wild (100.762%): 4000-1000-125-75-45-25–15-10-5 — It seems like a lesser paytable, but the 25 coins for Four-of-a-Kind makes all the difference. In Deuces Wild, 4oK is a common hand due to the presence of the wild cards, mathematically more frequent than Full Houses, Flushes and Straights, appearing about 6.5% of the time.
Note: These variations of the same game cannot be played the same way. There are numerous strategy changes based on the payout.
Lastly, I’m not a “video poker expert” — if you’re looking to learn, check out books by Bob Dancer and Dan Paymar. Good place to start. If you’re looking to check unique paytables, check out the Wizard of Odds Video Poker Strategy Calculator. It lists the odds of the game, probabilities and generates a strategy chart.