Friday, January 28, 2005

Card Gambling...

One thing I've noticed over the years is the proliferation of legalized gambling. Casinos seem to be popping up all over the country, often in surprising places.

I'm not a gambler. I have tried it before, and it quickly gets boring. However, a lot of people do enjoy gambling, as evidenced by casino parking lots -- they are typically full, regardless of what part of the country they are in.

I do stop at casinos occasionally, which often have made nice provisions for truck parking. I especially enjoy what I consider to be the "real" casinos in Nevada as opposed to the "wannabe" casinos in other states. The casinos in Nevada tend to have better food and nicer, more glitzy buildings.

When selecting a casino to stop at, always go for the nicer-looking ones. Nicer Nevada casinos tend to subsidize their restaurant food prices with the gambling proceeds in order to attract more potential gamblers. As a rule, most Nevada casinos tend to have excellent food.

Apart from the food, I enjoy the way the bigger Nevada casinos look inside. Some of the casino interiors are absolutely spectacular to look at.

Casino building design is a very deliberate science. Once you walk away from the entrance, there are no windows and no clocks. Unless you have a watch or walk to one of the exits, there's no way to tell what time it is.

Of course, there are hidden cameras everywhere. Casino security is monitoring everything that goes on. They also go to incredible lengths to account for all of the money that passes through the system. In large casinos, there are people who's job is to do nothing but count money around the clock.

The card gambling tables are particular areas of interest for security. Their cameras can zoom right in so they can monitor every bit of card gambling table action to make sure that no one is breaking the rules, including both the card gambling customer and the casino card dealer. If they suspect that something is going on, they can instantly send someone from casino security in to intervene.

In particular, casinos don't want so-called "card counters" in their casinos. If someone is branded as a card counter, they are typically banned for life from the casino. Major casinos in Las Vegas exchange lists of banned gamblers. Banned gamblers will frequently try to put themselves into a disguise in order to be able to make it back in so they can resume their card counting.

If the police are called in, large casinos also have what amounts to their own temporary "jails" where they hold people until the police can come and pick them up.

Casinos as a business model really aren't good for society in general -- they tend to bring the worst out in people. I would be happy if casinos were mostly contained to Nevada. The casinos that are popping up in other states, along with state-sponsored lotteries, are bad ideas that essentially prey on the populace.

That's my take.


Thursday, January 13, 2005

Say Hello To Freedom From Religion...

Someone sent me an email making me aware of a Ted Koppel ABC News "Nightline" broadcast about a gay male teenager named Michael Shackelford in Sand Springs, Oklahoma, a suburb of Tulsa, Oklahoma. The teenager and his Sand Springs church were unfairly protested by a church out of Topeka, Kansas called the "Westboro Baptist Church" and the Reverend Fred Phelps that travels around America and the world protesting what amounts to tolerance of "sinners." They seem to be most obsessed with acceptance of homosexuality.

I'm not here to debate whether homosexuality is right or wrong. What I'm more interested in debating is this particular church's behavior and the behavior of its "followers." They've made a lot of national news lately by traveling around the country protesting various individuals and institutions.

It's my observation that when so-called "Christians" wrap themselves in the Bible and start waving it in peoples' faces, they set back the cause of all Christians. The strategy seems to be to protest individuals and institutions that are "soft" like Michael Shackelford's church in Sand Springs, Oklahoma. Destroy an 18-year-old's life by making a big local Tulsa media splash -- yeah, that's really a good example of "Christianity" in action.

Bible-thumping, hypocritical parents usually end up creating children that are rebels and conformists. Part of them will end up becoming just like their parents, and the other part of them will end up rebelling and trying to be the opposite. Bible-thumpers typically present one face to the people at church, and quite another to their children at home. The kids at home live with the parents day in and day out and know what they are really like. Reasonableness in the face of a Bible-thumper is not allowed. Bible-thumping hypocrites on the right produce the anti-religious zealots on the left. Both sides begin to evolve each other in an ever-widening circle of madness.

The danger of this type of church is that its absurdity will actually bring an end to the Freedom of Religion we have always enjoyed in America. Thanks to the Thumpers it will soon be completely taboo to even admit in mixed public that one is the least bit spiritual. The Thumpers are bringing on their own persecution as well as persecution of all people who proclaim themselves Christians, whether they are reasonable people or not. All are tarred with the same black brush.

When people see behavior so outrageous and unreasonable from those proclaiming themselves to be "Christians" they want to throw the baby out with the bathwater. The immediate reaction is "Well, if this is religion I want nothing to do with it. If this is God and Jesus then I'll be an atheist."

Don't take my word for it -- see how you react -- check out the "Westboro Baptist Church" website and see for yourself. They've got another website as well as Is a pattern starting to emerge? Here's a typical sample link on the website:

Thank God for Tsunami. Thank God for 3,000 dead Americans!

With stuff like this coming from the far right, is it then any wonder why our society is being marched towards a godless, monolithic, atheistic society where the government itself is revered as God? There is such a thing as Good and Evil, no question about it. Evil takes two main lines of attack -- it either convinces people that there is no right or wrong, that evil doesn't exist in the hearts of men and women; or it wraps itself in the Bible, quoting versus and chapters like mechanical, mindless robots, freely hurling accusations and wagging it's fingers in peoples' faces. This type of thing makes freedom from religion look appealing to the masses.

That's my take.


Saturday, January 08, 2005

Should People Be Making Money Off Of Blogs And Podcasts?...

I have no objections to anyone trying to make money off of their blogs or podcasts. On the other hand, the basic appeal of the blogging and podcasting concept is that we can put our stuff out there for free for anyone to listen to or read that is interested.

The bloggers in the "Rather Gate" document forgery incident back during the U.S. election didn't get paid for exposing CBS and Dan Rather's Nixonian escapades. In fact, the bloggers had the scoop and the "paid" media was dragged along, kicking and screaming, playing catch-up.

The concepts of blogging and podcasting are turning the "paid" media concept on it's head. We have real freedom of speech and it's time we started using it before it goes away.

In the old days, say 15 years ago, I'd write letters to the editor to newspapers and often they would get published. Starting about 10 years ago, it got much more difficult to get a letter to the editor published if it didn't fit the newspaper editor's editorial ideas. Blogging and podcasting blow it all wide open.

The word processing program and a Laserjet printer gave everyone access to their own personal printing press. Blogging and podcasting over the Internet give everyone access to publishing technologies that were once reserved for those with big enough money to make them happen.

Blogging and podcasting are a revolution in the making. Gone are the days when news and opinion have to turn a profit. This is a complete paradigm shift. Blogging and podcasting cost little or nothing above what people with Internet access are already paying for. No editor can stop bloggers and podcasters from editorializing. The days of the editorial filter are gone.

Why is blogging making such a big splash? It's easy to see why. Any newspaper or magazine editor will tell you that the most-often-read areas of newspapers or magazines are the reader comment sections. Blogging is powerful because it eliminates the newspaper/magazine middle-man editor. People can now go directly to the source, and they are doing it in record numbers.

I or anyone else can express and publish our own editorial opinions directly to the Internet without having to worry about offending a sponsor. There is no editor around to stop it from happening or trying to exercise control.

We bloggers and podcasters are engaged in a brand new phenomonon -- direct communication with each other and the world, without boundaries.

There are plenty of old-line media guys that feel threatened and are responding with anger. My advice to these people is to can the anger -- it isn't hurting anyone but them.

That's my take.


Friday, January 07, 2005

What The Heck Is "Podcasting?"...

Back just before Christmas, I heard a new word -- something called "Podcasting." What in heck is "Podcasting?"

Podcasting is more of a confluence of ideas and technologies than anything else. The idea is simple -- anyone on the Internet who has the know-how can create their own multimedia files -- usually, though not limited to, audio MP3 files. In other words, it's possible to create one's own "show" of sorts. Most Podcasts are in a talk radio format, though music can be included as well.

The ability to create audio MP3 files has been around for years -- nothing new there. What makes Podcasting different is that it gives one the ability to "publish" something that's known as an RSS feed with an "enclosure." "RSS" is short for "Real Simple Syndication."

So this is the idea -- I can (and have) created my own "show feeds" in both audio MP3 and video MPEG formats. My "RSS feeds" are out there for anyone who finds them to "subscribe" to them using a program installed on their local computer such as Doppler Radio ( or Ipodder ( Every time I "publish" a new file, the RSS feed is updated, and the people who have subscribed to my "feeds" automatically receive the files downloaded to their hard drives. It's really quite a fascinating concept.

My "feeds" can be found at:

Visit my video movie reviews at
Visit my Trucker Blog at
Visit my Podcast at

Almost everyone is interesting in some way, some more than others. One of the neat things about the podcasting concept of podcasting is that it allows anyone who feels compelled to create their own content. It doesn't matter if the audience is big or small. The podcasting concept totally bypasses the traditional "established" distribution channels. The Internet is still just in the beginning stages of the overall revolution.

One day we will able to get all of our audio and video content -- just the content we want -- directly from the wireless Internet, watching and listening to exactly what we want, strictly on our own terms. Anyone who wants to can create content, and all of us who create content will also be consuming more content than we ourselves create. The old adage still applies -- if you can't find what you are looking for, go out there and create it yourself. This is especially important in the digital device Internet age, since all of this stuff can be done very cheaply. If it's important and compelling enough for us to create it, then the only investment that's really needed is a bit of our own time.

That's my take.