No wonder they’re all going bankrupt.

I knew it was only a matter of time before the financial clusterfuck of the century would affect me. Last week I received a letter from Citibank stating that the APR on my Citi Mastercard would rise from 7.99% to 19.99% effective immediately.

The first thing that came to mind was: WTF??!!? If they were to jack up the rates to maybe 9.99% or even 10.99%, whatever, that’s understandable. But to raise them by twelve freakin’ points??? What are they thinking? Did I miss a payment or something? Am I over my limit? Nope.. none of the above… this is nothing more than highway robbery.

To clarify, I absolutely hate credit cards, and believe that they are the cause of much of the trouble modern society has experienced over the last 20 years. People live way beyond their means, and cheap and easy credit facilitates this facade. The current economic crisis is simply the pimple coming to a head, caused by people spending more than they make and kicking the can down the road. Out of sight, out of mind. I rarely use my credit card, mostly when using it makes the purchasing process easy — like for plane tickets or hotel rooms or online purchases. I’ve always payed off my balance right away, and very rarely carry a balance. I’ve worked hard to establish a great credit score and am what I consider would be an ‘ideal’ customer to any credit card company. I refuse to be a slave to a creditor… I don’t like to be owned by anybody.

Anyway, I knew what this letter was all about and why my rates were being jacked up, but I wanted to call and hear straight from the horses mouth. The nice customer service lady verified what I already knew: because of the increasing number of defaults of their customers, the card companies are having to raise rates and lower limits to the rest of their customers in order to offset their losses. This is regardless of the quality of those customers. I asked her if there was any way for me to keep my current rate, seeing how I’ve never been late making a payment and have been a customer of theirs for over 10 years. She replied by saying, “unfortunately, this is a financial decision that has been made by management and I am unable to reverse it.” I retorted, “can you please inform your management that punishing your good customers because of the actions of your bad customers is going to cause you to lose all of your good customers.” She replied that they have been keeping track of the complaints and will act accordingly, whatever that means. Apparently they’ve been getting a lot of angry calls from customers about this.

Can someone please answer this for me: in what business, any business, if you were to penalize your best customers, would you be able to stay in business? If you owned a bar, and someone skipped out on their tab, would you turn around and ask your regular bar patrons to pay more for their drinks? No, because if you did, they would no longer be regulars. Say goodbye to your bar.

At the end of the day, I don’t really care. I pay off my balance right away, so the APR doesn’t affect me, but it’s the principle of the matter that pisses me off. These companies make billions, yet they can’t even afford to hire some mathematicians to come up with an algorithm that determines which customers to punish and which to reward. Decisions like this make me say: no wonder they’re all going bankrupt.

Let them fail. Citibank lost a good customer today. The free market has spoken!

Getting rid of my crappy little stamps.

So I finally finished up my stash of 40-cent stamps, but I still had a shitload of 1 and 2 cent stamps left over. Rather than let them go to waste, I decided to use them up, and here is the result:


Stamps - Click for Full-size Pic

(10) 1-cent stamps and (16) 2-cent stamps for a total of 42 cents. And the best part is, it actually arrived at the destination! I was a little worried that the USPS would reject it, but then again, I think that would be against the law.

Card Craps at Barona Casino

CrapsThe past couple years, I’ve really grown to love the game of craps. For me, it always requires a trip to Vegas, because by law, in California all table games require cards to be legal. No dice allowed unless cards are also played. Despite the explosion of Indian Casinos in San Diego, I never quite enjoyed myself at them because of the lack of craps.

Recently, however, I saw an ad for Barona Casino advertizing craps. My prayers had been answered! I could finaly enjoy myself in a casino without a trip to Vegas. Wrong. As it turns out, Barona got inventive and created a game of craps using cards instead of dice. It’s the same craps table we’re all used to, with one glaringly obvious difference. I went right up to the table, got some chips, and layed down my pass line bet. Waited around for the dice to come flying down the table, but instead heard the stickman call out a number. “What the hell,” I said to myself, “I didn’t see any dice.” Confused, I watched as people placed more bets, followed by the stickman calling out another number. It took me a few “rolls” to realize what was really going on.

Card craps, as it’s called, involves two shoes of cards containing only Aces and 2 through 6, the equivalent of the values on dice. For each “roll” the boxman pulls one card out of each shoe, resulting in the point value for that “roll.”

After some initial hesitation and desire to take my chips and run, I thought I’d give it a try for a few “rolls.” Turns out I didn’t like it ONE BIT. There are a couple reasons:

One, there’s no dice! Part of the fun of craps is watching those things fly down the table and bounce around till they land on a number. There’s more suspense in that, I feel, and that’s why I love craps.

A second reason why I don’t like card craps, related to the first, is that a lot of the social element of the game is removed when the dice are removed. There’s no longer incentive to chit chat with your neighbor, or to cheer for the shooter when he hits the point. You also lose out on the chance for a pretty lady to blow on your dice before rolling. The whole draw of craps for me is the social aspect. It’s what sets it apart from any game in the casino.

Third, and probably most important, is matematical probability. I’m a fan of games where prior results have no effect on subsequent ones. A clean slate every turn. It’s like flipping a coin: whether it came up heads or tails on the first flip has no bearing on whether or not it will be heads or tails on the next flip. The same is true for dice. With a deck of cards, however, this is not true. For example, if a 6 and a 3 are pulled on the first “roll,” that’s one less 6 and 3 in the deck, so it is less likely that a 6 or 3 will come up on subsequent “rolls.” I know this is wierd, but I felt cheated by this, as my clean slate for every roll was no longer there. Craps Dice ProbabilityAdditionally, this is a completely new probability structure from the original craps structure that has taken me years to get used to. You always know the probability of dice: 7 is most likely, followed by 6 & 8, then 5 & 9, etc. The way that card probability works injects a sense of unease that makes me feel uncomfortable. On the other hand, blackjack players have been known to use card probability to their advantage by “card counting.” I wonder if the same could be done here? It seems like it would be much harder in this situation, because there are less card values to work with (only aces and 2-6). Any card counters out there like to comment?

Fourth, there were some general annoyances. One that drove me crazy was, WHY DOES THE STICKMAN HAVE A STICK? There are no dice to retreive or push around, so it’s completely pointless for the stickman to have a stick. He didn’t do anything but wave it around like a magic wand, and it was obnoxious. Finally, the dealers didn’t know what they were doing! They’d forget to pay out bets and wouldn’t move my bets where I asked them to. Maybe it was because this is a new game and they were still learning, or maybe I’m just spoiled by the professionalism of Vegas, but it was the final straw that broke the camel’s back, and I was out of there.

I guess it’s back to Vegas for me. No complaints there, mind you, but it would be nice if I could play a round of craps in my own back yard every now and then.

I did some research on the no-dice laws and found out that there was an initiative on last years ballot to “Expand Tribal Gaming” and that included the exclusive usage of dice in table games! Unfortunately the initiative was rejected by the voters, so don’t expect to see classic craps in Indian Casinos any time soon.

Coronado Sand Dune Grafiti

Coronado San Dune
So I was messing around with the amazingly new Google Maps and it’s satellite imagery tool today when I discovered something quite interesting. I was checking out various local spots I’ve been to and/or frequent, and as I made my way over to Coronado Island to check out the Hotel Del Coronado, something caught my eye. In the beach just to the north of the hotel there appeared to be a large-scale grafiti project in the sand.

Now, beach grafiti is nothing new, but this was a little different. I asked myself, “What are the chances of someone’s beach grafiti being present at the very moment that this satellite image was snapped?” I continued, “Damn, that’s some BIG fucking sand grafiti!” Then it dawned on me. This is not some random act of violence against our beloved San Diego beach sand… this was a master-planned “HELLO WORLD” from the people of Coronado! Though it’s upside down in the satellite photo, the text in the sand reads “CORONADO.”

Check it out for youself: Google Map of Coronado’s Sand Grafiti

I’ve always thought the sand dunes there were neat, but assumed they were a natural feature of the beach. There’s no possible way to know they actually make up letters when you’re on the ground, because they are HUGE. Bigger than the Hotel Del itself, which is a beast of a hotel. And as a San Diego native with a pretty good knowledge of local trivia, I had never heard of this before.

Most impressive, Google… most impressive.

Disneyland = 666 = Evil?

I am a Disneyland freak. I’m such an afficionado, I want to be burried there. I love cruising around the park and noticing all the little details. However, the greatest detail I’ve ever found is a dark one… an EVIL one. Take a look at this photo, taken from the parking structure down to the road below. Notice anything a bit … ummm… SATANIC?

Disneyland = 666 = Satan

The happiest place on earth? More like the EVILIST place on earth! Wait, is “evilist” even a word? 🙂