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Steve Brecher Below are the 10 most recent journal entries recorded in the "Steve Brecher" journal:

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December 19th, 2012
04:27 pm

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My Strange Brain

A few minutes ago I filed something in my file cabinet. In doing so I came across a folder labeled "Northrop Corp./consulting". I did some contract software work at Northrop (now Northrop Grumman) in the late 1970s. In the folder were a couple of security clearance applications I had filled out, as what I was working on there was DoD stuff.

I looked at an application, which contains among other things all the places I had lived from childhood until that time. A few of them were only a city, saying "address unknown - see employment history" for residence addresses I'd forgotten. One of them was "(address unknown) Alpine Rd, Portola Valley, CA" from when I was in college in the mid-1960s. As soon as I saw that entry, I blurted out "4091 Alpine Road."

I checked using Google Maps, and that street number is in the right place.

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April 30th, 2012
12:58 pm

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Oversized chip rule when big blind has the option

[Of interest primarily to poker tournament rules aficionados. Everything below in square brackets is my own annotations.]

Matt Savage is one of the principals of the Poker Tournament Directors Association. On Twitter, where he is @SavagePoker, Matt is the go-to guy for poker tournament rules issues and questions. Recently Matt tweeted:
#SituationOfDay Blinds 100-200, called in two spots, gets back to BB who pulls out 200 and throws in a single 500 chip?
Matt's ruling on this question is that the big blind's action is a check:
#SituationOfDay Only thing "obvious" is that by pulling out 200 is it's unclear, I will rule it a "call." "Unclear" bets revert to smallest.

#SituationOfDay the final vote [at the time of this tweet] was 30-30 so it has to be "unclear" hence reverting to the smallest bet of 200 (the big blind amount).

#SituationOfDay If intent is to raise it's easy to make clear by throwing out 300 more in 100's or simply say "raise."

#SituationOfDay so as you can see there is much confusion so in this cases "revert" back to lowest action which is call.

#SituationOfDay FWIW I would have no problem calling it a raise if clear majority of players/TD's wanted it that way but it's not the case.

#SituationOfDay Like many rules @PokerTDA uses a majority agreed to rule it one way and we all comply because consistency is most important.

[In response to] RT @Andrewbadecker: so what's your default when there is no posted rule cuz looks like that the case here [Matt says:] <~Exactly...revert to call amount.
Several tweeters mentioned the Oversized Chip rule:
38: Oversized Chip Betting
Anytime when facing a bet or blind, placing a single oversized chip in the pot is a call if a raise isn’t first verbally declared. To raise with an oversized chip, raise must be declared before the chip hits the table surface. If raise is declared (but no amount), the raise is the maximum allowable for that chip. When not facing a bet, placing an oversized chip in the pot without declaration is a bet of the maximum for the chip.
I can't see any ambiguity in that rule: it expressly says that it applies only "when facing a bet or blind." The big blind with the option (to check or raise) is not facing a bet or blind.

The "when facing a bet" language is in the rule in order to exclude cases in which a player who has the option to check silently places a single chip in the pot. A case that has never been in contention is that of a post-flop player who is first to act or whose action is preceded by one or more checks: if the player silently bets a single chip, the size of the bet is the denomination of the chip in no-limit or the current bet size in limit. I assume that it is also not in contention that the big blind can silently raise with an oversized chip if the initial post is not pulled back. (If that assumption is incorrect, i.e., the position is that the big blind is required to verbalize in order to raise with a single chip then I am going to have to slink into the night muttering to myself.)

A couple of tweeters mentioned a request for change, and in fact Matt's ruling that it is a check implies that the action is an implicit request for change. Matt was explict about this in a hypothetical variation of the issue:
#SituationOfDay @BJNemeth @SteveBrecher @tchanpoker let's say he did it before action was on him, is he raising out of turn?

[In response to] RT @BJNemeth: @SteveBrecher @tchanpoker I'd say yes. What other logical explanation is there for the big blind's actions? [Matt says:] <~He wants change
Let's consider the "request for change" position. If the big blind initially, before the cards are dealt, posts an oversized chip, it customarily constitutes a request for change. (Good dealers will cause the change to be made so the pot is right before dealing, but many dealers don't do that and will let the oversized post remain, possibly until after the big blind's turn to act.) So this position is thus that when the action reaches the big blind, pulling out the posted chips and throwing out a single oversized chip is the same as having initially posted only the oversized chip. Note that this position has nothing to do with TDA Rule 38, the Oversized Chip Betting rule. As I said previously, that rule expressly does not apply to the big blind with the option; further, it addresses the question of whether an oversized chip is a call or raise and the big blind with the option has no option to call because one cannot call one's own bet. The big blind with the option can check (not call) or raise.

But the action in question is essentially different from initially posting an oversized chip. Regardless of what chips the big blind posts, after one or more players have called the blind and no one has raised, when action is on the big blind there is an option—a question as to what the big blind will choose to do. At that time the dealer should be looking at the big blind, awaiting action. The fact of its being the big blind's turn is what makes the action different from the initial pre-dealing posting of chips.

Suppose at this time the big blind pulls back the initial post, says "May I please have change?", and throws out an oversize chip. I would consider that bizarre behavior, but regardless, let's continue this fantasy. Suppose the dealer obliges and obtains change for the chip and places it behind the big blind's cards (so it's clearly not in the pot), and the big blind now re-posts the big blind amount in its normal position. Without other physical action (e.g. tapping the table, or pushing the blind amount towards the center of the table) or verbalization would that constitute a check? I don't see how it would; I would think any sane dealer would continue to await the big blind's action.

But now suppose that after the big blind's throwing out the big chip with a verbal request for change, the dealer places the correct big blind amount in the pot, gives the balance to the player, and deals the flop—in other words, the dealer assumes the big blind has checked. This dealer assumption would presumably be regarded as correct by those who say Matt's Situation of the Day action constitutes a check. But what is the basis for this assumption? As discussed above, it can't be the Oversized Chip rule. I can see no basis for the assumption.

Consider another scenario: the big blind pulls back the 200 and silently throws out two 500 chips. Would Matt rule that to be a raise or a request for change? I'm assuming that he would rule it a raise, although I'm open to correction. The only basis for the difference in the two rulings can be the Oversize Chip rule. But it doesn't apply to the big blind with the option. Yet a significant number of players (mistakenly) thinks it applies. Therefore, Matt reasons that because of this widespread (mistaken!) belief the one-chip scenario is unclear; and it is an (unwritten!) principle that in unclear cases bet sizes should be ruled to be the lowest legal amount.

Wouldn't it be better for Matt to use his well-earned Twitter following to educate on an aspect of the Oversized Chip rule—that it doesn't apply to the big blind with the option—rather than to make a ruling that contradicts that rule?

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January 12th, 2012
04:05 pm

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Fairness: Dead at the Bike

After the dinner break on Day 2, Weds. Jan. 11, of the WSOPC Main Event at the Bicycle Casino my table was moved to the "feature table," the feature being that it was streamed, including hole cards, to the Bike's "Live at the Bike!" web site. We were told that, despite the "Live" part of the name, the webcast was delayed one hour from real time. We were further instructed in a specific procedure required to reveal our hole cards to the RFID receivers embedded in the table at certain locations.

We had no prior notice of the requirement to reveal hole cards. I objected and stated I would not follow the specified procedure. I stated my reason as the potential for unequal information among the players after the one hour delay, when most of us would likely still be playing against each other. Those who had friends or paid assistants watching the webcast could learn opponent hole cards from an hour earlier, and those who did not could not. Opinions will vary as to the value of this information, but there is a lot of money at stake in tournaments like this -- in this instance, a prize pool of about $800,000 -- and in my view this potential inequality of information about opponent play is unfair. I said that if the Bike provided a monitor displaying the earlier hole cards that was visible to all the players, I would have no objection to revealing them. Incidentally, we were informed that players would NOT be allowed to watch the webcast on their smartphones or other devices at the table.

The rejoinder was that there was equality of opportunity among all the players, i.e., that all were free to recruit or employ assistants to provide them with opponents' earlier hole cards.

I was told by Tournament Director Mo Fathipour that if I did not follow the specified procedure, I would be given a one-orbit penalty for each refusal, and after two such penalties I would be disqualified from the tournament.

Please note that not only had I not provided any prior consent to comply with this requirement, I, and none of the other players, had any notice of it. The only loosely-related notice was the following on the receipt providing starting table and seat numbers given to me after I paid the buy-in and entry fee: "The final table of this tournament may be streamed live to the Internet via "Live at the Bike!" at management's discretion. If selected, players will be required to complete a Player's Release form before final table play can begin. Your participation in this tournament indicates your consent to this filming and internet streaming." In short, after paying to play the event, players are put on notice that they will be required to execute an agreement, the content of which is as yet not revealed, "before final table play can begin."

At the time my table became the feature table, it was not only not the final table, the tournament field had not yet reached the money.

I was told that I had to perform a specified procedure with my cards, which had nothing to do with providing or protecting the tournament play -- i.e.,nothing to do with the services for which each entrant paid the Bike $145 -- and was not in any way for the benefit of the players, or I would be disqualified from the tournament and be forced to abandon thousands of dollars of equity.

I considered disqualification with ensuing legal action, but in the end I decided to allow the dealer to follow the card revelation procedure with my cards before releasing them to me. All of the other players at the table elected to place their hole cards in the designated spots for a couple of seconds so they could be read by the RFID receivers.

[I inquired about the real-time security of this information. I was told that it was transmitted by cable, which was visible on the floor, to a booth containing personnel who were required to leave their cell phones outside.]

I have played at many "TV tables" and have had no objection to showing my hole cards to recording equipment. But in all those instances the revelation was to be months later, well after the end of the event. In this instance -- and in others -- the revelation is 30-60 minutes later, when many if not all the players involved will still be playing against each other in the same event. This webcast trend is burgeoning, and I don't actually expect much support for my objection to it.

But I do hope for support for the more absract issue: that venues should not be allowed to require arbitrary positive action of tournament entrants that is not related to providing or protecting the game, without prior notice and consent and with disqualification as penalty for noncompliance. By "prior" I mean not only prior to paying to play, but prior to traveling to the venue.

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September 3rd, 2011
03:31 pm

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The shape of the news

ABC News story:
A 24-year-old Cincinnati father died from a tooth infection this week because he couldn't afford his medication, offering a sobering reminder of the importance of oral health and the number of people without access to dental or health care.
Summary: dentist recommends extraction, which the guy can't afford; later, emergency room prescribes antibiotics and pain meds; he can't afford both, chooses pain meds, dies of infection. Now, however you look at it, this is a sad story. But the "because" in the story's lede seems more a sociopolitical comment than a statement of fact, as does the "sobering reminder" which follows. I would assume the guy's lack of knowledge of the risk of death that he faced was at least as causal as his lack of funds—that he didn't choose the pain meds to die soon more comfortably.

New York Times story headlined "G.O.P. Stands on Health Mask Records as Governors":
The three current or former governors running for president — Rick Perry, Mitt Romney and Jon M. Huntsman Jr. — are firmly united in...
Either the reporter is ignorant of Gov. Gary Johnson's candidacy, or thinks most NYT readers are. I suppose the latter could be correct.

Edit: "The three" became "The three most prominent" after I emailed the reporter about the omission of Johnson. Coincidence? NO! I SHAPE THE NEWS!

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April 13th, 2011
03:43 pm

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Whew, no one injured at Reno airport!

I burst out laughing when I heard, on an AP video report, the statement "No one was injured" on a 2:00 AM flight into Reno-Tahoe International airport last night while the sole air traffic control tower controller on duty was napping.

A Las Vegas Sun story says,
Air ambulance operators are trained to respond to medical emergencies, not to make emergency landings.

But a team flying a sick passenger into the Reno-Tahoe airport early this morning appears to have had to do just that, when an air traffic controller fell asleep on the job.
Emergency landing!? That is ridiculous.

Air traffic control (ATC) provides a useful service in helping to separate taxiing, landing and departing aircraft at busy airports. But the great majority of airports do not even have ATC towers. And at many airports which have towers, the towers close at night—but the airport remains open to arrivals and departures.

Reno-Tahoe at 2:00 AM is not a busy airport. Its tower could be closed at that time without adverse effect. But now, because Secretary of Transportaion Roy LaHood is "totally outraged" that several controllers on solo duty have been caught napping recently, Reno and 26 other airports will get a second controller during the wee hours.

Addendum:
Nevada Senator Harry Reid, quoted in an ABC News story:
To think that this pilot was forced to land without any controls on the land is very, very scary. This shouldn't happen in Nevada. It shouldn't happen anywhere in our country. It shouldn't happen in any airplane. And it certainly shouldn't happen in an air ambulance.

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February 10th, 2011
01:27 pm

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Comma that name!

As previously noted, commas, are, proliferating. But especially comma now is their use to set off names. E.g., "Apple's leader, Steve Jobs, announced to his employees in 2004 ..." Why? I don't know.

P.S. "Steve Jobs, Apple's leader, announced..." would be a traditional use of commas to set off a non-essential adjectival phrase.

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February 9th, 2011
03:31 pm

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Attorneys Out of Control

At the end of an email confirming a reservation at a Capital Grille restaurant:
This e-mail message is for the sole use of the intended recipient and may contain information that is confidential, proprietary or privileged. Any unauthorized review, use, distribution, copying or disclosure is strictly prohibited. If you are not the intended recipient, or the employee or agent responsible for delivering it to the intended recipient, please notify sender of the delivery error by replying to this message and then delete it from your system. Receipt by anyone other than the intended recipient is not a waiver of confidentiality or privilege.

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January 28th, 2011
08:07 am

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Joule Patents Organism That Poops Jet A?

For some reason the headline above cracked me up. (Jet A is fuel used by aircraft jet engines.) Here's the story.

Edit, Jan. 31: In the headline, "Poops" has been changed to "Makes".

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December 24th, 2010
02:50 pm

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Secure, or just smug?

From the manager of my homeowners association:
Please be assured that your [email] address will not be shared with any property owner, company, or other entity. It will be protected through a secure web master.

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December 15th, 2010
05:34 pm

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On Randomized Clinical Trials

Dr. E. E. Peacock:
One day when I was a junior medical student, a very important Boston surgeon visited the school and delivered a great treatise on a large number of patients who had undergone successful operations for vascular reconstruction.

At the end of the lecture, a young student at the back of the room timidly asked, “Do you have any controls?” Well, the great surgeon drew himself up to his full height, hit the desk, and said, “Do you mean did I not operate on half the patients?” The hall grew very quiet then. The voice at the back of the room very hesitantly replied, “Yes, that’s what I had in mind.” Then the visitor’s fist really came down as he thundered, “Of course not. That would have doomed half of them to their death.”

God, it was quiet then, and one could scarcely hear the small voice ask, “Which half?”

Dr. E. E. Peacock, Jr., quoted in Medical World News (September 1, 1972), p. 45, as quoted in Edward Tufte's 1974 book Data Analysis for Politics and Policy, as quoted by Alex Tabarrok at Marginal Revolution.

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