More Fun Than
Chucking Blueberries

Last night I played bass with a "band" for the first time since May of 2002. Outside of playing on a few recordings with my old band (for which I played guitar and never found a suitable bassist), I'd hardly touched the thing in seven years. It turns out that I'm still somewhat capable. Playing with two superb musicians certainly helped. It was also the first time I had played with my good friend Max since that last L.A. show in 2002.

The studio had the appearance of a run down wreck. A sign posted on peeling drywall spoke of renovations to bring the place from "your last resort to your first choice". No matter - the gear was actually quite good for a rehearsal studio. At one point Max was extolling the virtues of my Les Paul (he didn't have a guitar in NYC, so I brought mine), prompting Alan to ask, "Are you mad at it?" 

Anyway, Alan had not even heard the songs before. So Max took out his little internet/phone gadget and played the songs streaming live from his website. Pretty high tech. But the phone isn't too loud, so he held it up to a microphone and played it over the PA. Pretty low tech.

So what were we playing? Max has a new project, Max and the Marginalized where he writes a topical song every week and posts it up as a political blog entry on The Huffington Post. It's more of a band now, since he has two other guys in California that he plays and tours with. The songs have Max's typical tight arrangements and sharp lyrics along with his signature style of guitar abuse. We worked on three of those: Rope (a semi-straight up hardcore tune about the glorification of lynchings in the South), Free Evenings and Weekends (a jaunty tune about the complicity of phone companies in illegal wiretapping practices), and Hounds (I had never tried playing reggae before, but I can see why people like it).

So what were Alan and I doing there? We're sort of the East Coast ringers. If there's some shows over here and not a full tour for the West Coast band to come on, maybe we'll play those. It feels good to be playing music again, especially on great songs that have something to say. But more than anything it was a hell of a lot of fun.

Ending Prohibition

So it turns out that poker players are, in fact, lazier than pot heads. I wrote the following in my poker blog last week: 

"President-elect Obama is giving the American people an unprecedented opportunity to give input to our new government. His transition team website: has a special section where citizens can post issues of concern for anyone to vote on. As per the site: "The best rated ideas will rise to the top -- and be gathered into a Citizen's Briefing Book to be delivered to President Obama after he is sworn in." 

To tell the President to explicitly legalize online poker, all you have to do is click this link: 

Vote Up, fill out the quick form, and leave a comment if you wish. That's all. You can even do it while you're playing 8 tables."

Similar messages were plastered across poker websites for the past week. After a strong start, the well worded suggestion to "Boost America's Economy with Legal Online Poker" finished in eleventh place. It had a net positive count of under 5,000 votes, about half of what first place "Ending Marijuana Prohibition" received. Now, it's possible that marijuana has a broader audience than online poker. But I choose to think that poker players are simply lazier than pot heads (not that the two are mutually exclusive).

Don't get me wrong. I've never smoked pot in my life, but I support ending marijuana prohibition. The government should not be telling us what to do in our own homes. Further, the hypocrisy of allowing alcohol and cigarettes but not pot mirrors the absurdity of allowing poker in casinos and on TV but not online.

So to marijuana law reformists, I'll say "good game" and best of luck. To all of my friends who took the time to vote I send a hearty thanks. Together we can make a difference. This wasn't the first time the incoming administration asked for input, and it won't be the last. So keep your eyes and ears open. I'll be here waving my arms and making all the noise I can.

Note: This post has been edited to reflect the closing of the polls.

Chucking Blueberries:
A Recipe For Fun

In what may quickly become a Sunday ritual, I spent this morning cooking up some blueberry vegan pancakes. I'm not sure what non-vegan ingredients one would desire in pancakes (besides regular milk), but I'm convinced they're thoroughly unnecessary. These pancakes are fluffy goodness and taste great with or without blueberries, raspberries, or whatever else you want to throw in there.

The following recipe feeds two:

Preheat your non-stick griddle (or greased up sticky old thing). In a mixing bowl, whisk together:

1¼ cups flour
2 tablespoons sugar (or substitute)
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt

Then add:

½ cup water
1 cup soy milk (vanilla or plain)
2 tablespoons apple sauce

Stir it up and plop it on the griddle in whatever shape you fancy. Add the blueberries. Cook evenly on both sides and douse (or drown) in maple syrup.

It works a little better if you kind of chuck the blueberries down into the batter. It's all in the wrist. Perhaps you could just mix the blueberries up with everything in the first place, but I like to control how many blueberries are in each pancake. Besides, what's more fun on a Sunday morning than chucking blueberries?


I play poker for a living. I love being my own boss, setting my own hours, and doing something fun for a job. But at times it can be boring, terrifying, depressing, or just generally make you want to punch a metal door. With your face. So to avoid punching too many metal doors, it's imperative to cultivate a proper mindset to maintain throughout each session. Following the advice of Stoxpoker mental game coach Jared Tendler, I made a little warm up video to help me achieve this mindset.

The second slide of the video says:


  • Relaxed Focus
  • Honest
  • Fearless

Relaxed Focus: I call this Zen-lite. Literally it's about living in the moment. Operating at peak alertness and awareness, but not by straining. Introducing unwanted tension (mental or physical) saps your strength. This extra tension is wasted energy. Energy spent doing something which doesn't need doing. A lot of the emotions that arise at the poker table create tension, thus it can be useful to reduce the amount of emotion floating around. This isn't done by forcing them out of your head, but by observing them and allowing them to pass. This self-observation will help later in  removing the cause of  unwanted emotion, but that's a topic for a different day.

Honest: It may seem odd that I remind myself to be honest just before playing a game which hinges on bluffing and deception. My intention is not to be honest with my opponents. It's to be honest with myself. There are times at the poker table (as in life) where you know what you're supposed to do. But you talk yourself out of it. A poker example would be where you call down when you know that the odds aren't there, but you don't want to fold, so you convince yourself that your opponent may be bluffing. Your intellect and your instinct told you to do one thing, but you did another. Doubt? Fear? Perhaps. 

Fearless: The trick is to not give a shit. Yankee fans beware: I'm going to use the 2004 Red Sox as an example. These guys didn't care that they were down three games to none. They didn't care that they were facing the best closer of all time. It was simply see ball, hit ball, steal base, score run, win ballgame. That's the absence of fear of failure. The majority of competitors pay too much attention to the forest when they should be looking at the trees. 

Those same Red Sox can teach us more. In the first game of the World Series they made four errors and blew a five run lead. Manny Ramirez fell down. Twice. The whole team looked like a bunch of, well, idiots. But they didn't give a shit. They weren't worried about screwing up. They weren't looking at the fans covering their eyes. They were looking at the trees.

In poker it's easy to worry about what your opponents think of you. In fact, it's important to know how they perceive you since it affects how they play against you. But it's not important to impress them. And worrying about what they think about you can only get in your way. As long as you're not afraid to be honest with yourself, it's easy to consistently make good decisions. In poker and in life. So relax.

Being a Better Boss

For all of my adult life, I have taken on careers which require me to be my own boss. In fact, I have never had an actual "job". So I don't really have any idea of what a good boss looks like. And the trouble is, I'm not that bossy.

But I recently had a few realizations which are enabling me to become a better boss:
  • I'm mildly manic depressive
  • I'm more productive when I'm manic
  • I enjoy checking boxes more than I like crossing things out
Okay, so the first two I already knew and the last one sounds like no great revelation. But I'm using these three things together to get better at telling myself what to do. By saturating myself with creative activities, I'm getting myself stuck in a manic phase. While in this phase I am working to establish habits. The primary habit I'm establishing is a compulsion to check things off.

In the past I would make lists of items to cross off after they were completed. That never worked so well for me. So on New Year's Day I made a list with check boxes next to each item. By the end of the day I had checked everything off of the list. But instead of a post-it with a bunch of stuff crossed out, I had a post-it with a list of things which I had accomplished that day. The first list was really simple - I set myself up to succeed.

So where do we go now? Well, putting something on the list for enough consecutive days will develop a new habit. The whole system is a positive feedback cycle, where one day's activities fuel the next. It's like feeding an addiction, except instead of being addicted to Tetris and soy ice cream, I'm addicting myself to work, exercise and creation. So excuse me for a while as I go check this off my list and feed the cycle.

Introduce Yourself

Who am I?

I would label myself a "free-thinker". I'm not really into thinking outside the box. I'd rather leave the box out of the conversation. Ironically, I've just failed to do that.

Quick life story: I grew up in Hell's Kitchen, NYC. My first ambition was to be a cheese delivery man. This didn't pan out as I became a vegetarian at age 5 (pretty much when I found out that chicken came from chicken) and a vegan at age 20 (I'm not so good with moderation). For most of my childhood I wanted to be a professional baseball player. That dream was waylaid by the lure of technology.  My computer programming career was cut short at age 14 by the difficulty in generating truly random numbers on a machine - more irony to follow.

Now I use computers to make my living playing something which ESPN alleges to be a sport (that would be poker, which requires random numbers). I also play music (guitar and bass mostly) and practice martial arts a little bit. Okay, I don't do anything a little bit - I think I mentioned the thing about moderation. In fact, Taekwon-Do is the only thing which drags me out of my cave on a regular basis. Actually, I live in a Manhattan apartment.

I'd like to travel a lot in the next few years, find a way to prosper in these bleak times, and maybe even make a small dent in the huge problems our world faces. Okay, so I can't settle for a small dent (again, not so much with the moderation). But I've found that when you aim to hit something as hard as you can, something usually gives.

I left out the bit about wanting to be a writer when I was thirteen. I suppose that's the reason for this blog. But what I am I going to write about? Your guess is as good as mine. After all, when a Zen Madman sets along a Rambling Path, he doesn't know where he's going unless he's lost.