Shweetie

 

My wife, the Beautiful AP and I were outside checking on the damage that some fallen branches had caused on our property due to the storm Isaias. I am on one side of our house; she is on the other side of our house.

A fence was hit with a large branch right near the bedroom side of the house. “There’s a totally broken fence over here,” I shouted. “Destroyed the fence and just missed the bedroom by about a foot too.”

“There’s Shweetie asking for food over here,” she shouted.

“Shweetie was on the deck’s railing yesterday asking me for food,” I shouted back. I did give him some seeds yesterday.

We named him Shweetie because almost all Cardinals are shweeties. But this one was our special one.

“Hi Shweetie,” laughed AP.

I went around to that side of the house and sure enough there was Shweetie, the Cardinal, standing on our gutter looking down at us and squawking.

But we needed to check the house so we walked around it. Shweetie followed us around the whole house. He was on the gutters and we were on the ground. Shweetie made sure we were always within sight and sound.

“We have to feed him,” said AP. So when we got to the deck at the back of the house, AP went inside and brought out some seed. Shweetie was on the railing, waiting patiently, about five feet from us. I was talking to him; asking him about his day and how his family was getting along.

When he saw AP approaching with the bowl of food he hopped onto the branch of a nearby bush. Although Shweetie knew us from weeks of contact, since we’d talk to him gently as if he were a member of our household, he was a wild bird and still a bit leery of us.

Shweetie was not like the pigeons in New York City or the gulls in almost all shore towns; such birds have little fear of people. In fact, they will steal food right from your hand you if you aren’t paying any attention.

The Beautiful AP and I sit on our deck almost daily during the COVID shutdown and one day he joined us. Now after months of his daily visits we have met his whole family consisting of Mrs. Shweetie, and his three juvenile daughters.

Shweetie feeds them in the bushes, trees and right on the railing of our deck. He spends hours eating seeds and then regurgitating them into his children’s beaks. The children quiver when he approaches them. Interestingly enough, Mrs. Shweetie has not done any feeding. She is also more skittish than Shweetie, but I think the juveniles take us as part of the landscape.

We delight in their presence and find their family meals more entertaining than anything on Netflix.

“Why don’t people have Cardinals as pets?” I asked. “These birds are absolutely beautiful. The male’s red and black coloration is amazing. Their songs are great too.”

So we looked it up. Cardinals are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918. Cardinals cannot be sold as cage birds as they were over a century ago.

Sadly, in the wild Shweetie will probably live only three years. In captivity he could live almost two decades.

As I write this I hear the call of Shweetie outside my window. He has a family to feed and the Beautiful AP and I are ready to help him out. It’s the least we can do for our friend.

Photos by Alene Scoblete

Frank Scoblete’s web site is www.frankscoblete.com. His books are available on Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, Kindle, e-books and at bookstores.

Five Major Craps Mistakes

Craps is a wonderful game where the player has a great chance to beat the house.  Craps is simultaneously a horrible game where monstrous house edges eat away at a player’s bankroll until it exists no more.

How can the same game be both glorious and forbidding? Because craps has so many different bets, some few which are good but most which are bad, that many craps players, not understanding or appreciating the math of the game and its impact on their bankrolls, will jump into the deep end of Lady Luck’s pool without a life jacket.

Dangerous  Craps Strategy # 1: I see a Number; I bet that Number!

Unfortunately unwary craps players, sadly adhering to foolish schemes such as numbers predictably getting hot promulgated by craps know-nothings, will go up against edges in the double figures. Such Everest-like edges are as great as or greater than slot-machine edges!

So why do craps players, many of whom are bright in their non-casino lives, make such foolish bets as the one-roll Horn bet (the numbers 2, 3, 11, and 12) after seeing a Horn number appear? One answer has to do with how the house edge actually works. In the short run play of the game certain streaks will happen that can blind the player. One or several Horn numbers might have just hit and the player thinks, “This is a streak that will continue!”

The player in this case is absolutely wrong. The streak might continue or it might not continue. In a random game there is no predictability, only probability. The Horn numbers have six ways of being made, which is about 17 percent of the time. In the long run that 17 percent give or take a fraction will be how often that Horn appears. And the house will take a nice fat cut when the Horn actually does appear. How much of a cut? Well, 12.5 percent. So if you bet $100 on the Horn every time a Horn number has just appeared you can expect to lose $12.50.

But players see a “winning hit or a winning streak” and have no idea that the house is grinding them down slowly but surely. The best way to think of gambling edges is to realize that every time you make that Horn bet you are losing 12.5 percent of your bet – whether you win the bet or lose the bet! The house edge works on the total amount wagered, not this or that win or loss.

So a player buying into this stupid strategy will lose. If he bets a Horn every time he sees a Horn, given a craps game with 120 decisions per hour, our bettor will see a Horn number appear 20 times and then bet on half of them. If our bettor dumps $10 on those 10 Horns his expected loss is $12.50 per hour. That’s too heavy a loss indeed.

Dangerous  Craps Strategy # 2: I Say that Place Bets are Better Than Come Bets!

After the shooter has established his point and the player wishes to get up on other numbers, there are two ways to do this – he can make Come bets, where he puts his wager in the Come box and waits for the number to be established by the shooter’s subsequent throw or he can simply Place the number directly.

Many wacky gaming “authorities” believe that Place bets are better than Come bets because you can go up on whatever numbers you like, whereas the Come bet’s destination is solely in the hands of the shooter. Unfortunately the Place bets have such high house edges that selective betting does not overcome the low house edge of the Come bets.

Let’s see how this works.

A Come bet has a house edge of 1.41 percent. The Placing of the 6 or 8 has a house edge of 1.52 percent. The Come bet will lose a $10 player 14 cents each and every time he makes it. However, the player who places the 6 or 8 must place these numbers in multiples of six dollars. Thus, a $12 Place bet will lose the player 18 cents.

From there it gets worse. The placement of the 5 and 9 comes in with a four percent house edge. Our $10 Place bettor will lose 40 cents on each of these numbers. The placement of the 4 and 10 comes in with a whopping house edge of 6.67 percent so our player now loses about 67 cents for such placements.

Would you rather lose 14 cents or would you rather lose 18 cents, or 40 cents, or 67 cents?

In a random game, Place betting is far worse than Come betting; which is the end of the story.

Also, the idea that you can take these bets off whenever want means you’d have to take them off a considerable number of time to make up for their high edges.

Dangerous Strategy #3: I Will Bet with the House and Beat the Game!

There are some misguided players who believe that they can actually beat a random game of craps by betting the “don’t” or Darkside of the game. Here a player is betting that the shooter won’t make his point or number and will seven out – in which case the Darkside player wins.

Unfortunately, you cannot beat craps by betting the Darkside either. The very first placement of the Don’t Pass or Don’t Come brings the house edge hammering on your head because you will lose this first placement eight times and win it only three times. While the Don’t Pass and Don’t Come are actually good bets, the stupid notion is that somehow these bets are making you play on the casino’s side, guaranteeing a win.

Not so – the casino doesn’t need you as a partner, doesn’t want you as a partner, but prefers to take your Darkside money too.

Dangerous Craps Strategy #4:  I Increase My Bets When the Table Gets Hot!

Let me put this in flaming terms: The table never gets hot. Now in icy terms: The table also never gets cold. The table is just a table. Random shooters who have just hit 100 numbers without the appearance of a 7 have a 17 percent chance of hitting that 7 on the very next roll. They also had a 17 percent chance of hitting that 7 on the first roll, the second roll, the 40th roll, and the 73rd roll and with every other throw up and down the line.

Every time you increase your bet because of what you just saw a random shooter do is simply losing you more money. If you had a Place bet of the 6 for $12 and you increased that bet to $24 because a 6 just hit a couple of times, the casino is going to extract 36 cents from that $24.

One more time: It is the total amount you bet that the house edge works on – whether you win or lose the bet is irrelevant! Therefore, increasing your bets into a random shooter will just lose you more money in the long run.

Dangerous Craps Strategy #5: In the Short Run I Say All Bets are the Same!

No, they aren’t. The following bets will give you a much lower chance of winning on any given session: the Any 7 (16.67 percent house edge), the 2 or 12 (13.89 percent), the Horn (12.5 percent), the 3 or 11 (11.11 percent house edge), Hard 10 or Hard 4 (11.11 percent), Any Craps (11.11 percent), Hard 6 and Hard 8 (9.09 percent) and on down the line it goes.

If you want to be a smart craps player then limit yourself to the good house edge bets like the Pass and Come or Don’t Pass and Don’t Come. Take the maximum in odds behind these bets and you will be giving the house a tough game – and giving yourself a decent chance of coming home a winner.

Even in the short run, bad is bad and good is good. Keep that in mind the next time you think of making a stupid craps bet.

In general, rolls are that one-roll bets are more dangerous than rolls that are not.

All the best in and out of the casino!

Frank Scoblete’s web site is www.frankscoblete.com.

Stop Minding My Business

I am not a busybody. My wife, the beautiful A.P., has to remind me all the time of our neighbors’ names. “That’s Mrs. Kyle, next door.” “That’s the retired NYC police detective Mr. Grimes across the street.” “Mrs. Millicent had her fifth daughter last month.”

I just don’t connect to them and while I remember their faces, what the heck are their names? Forget about knowing what they do or did to make a living, or how many children they have. Except for my own grandchildren and great nieces and nephew, all other kids look more or less alike to me. Truthfully, I don’t have much of a fondness for “other” kids either. I like my own.

On our early morning walks through our beautiful village on Long Island in New York, my wife knows just about everyone and gives them cheerful greetings, while I nod hello, pretending to know them too.

“Who was that?” I’ll ask when the person passes.

“That’s so and so,” she’ll say. “She lives on Wright Avenue in that big blue house.”

“Oh,” I’ll say and then totally forget that person and his or her big blue house after my next eye blink

I do not pry into anyone’s life, including that of my family or friends. You want to tell me something, I’ll listen; ask me for advice, I’ll give it. The only time I push my ideas is when I write about gambling, which is part of my career after all. So, as you can clearly see, I am not one to jam my advice down anyone else’s throat.

At the gaming tables or slot machines, I never interfere with the way people play. It’s their money to bet as they wish – whether those bets are advantage-play bets, smart bets, not so smart bets, or absolutely stupid bets. I write therefore I am is true, but I don’t mind other people’s business, which is just as true.

So why am I subjected to that which I don’t subject other people to? In my real life I always have people prying into my business. “How much money do you make writing all those books?” “Are you a degenerate gambler?” “Is A.P. as pretty as you say she is?” Even the Internet wants to find out what my net worth is. Geez!

At the blackjack and craps tables, though, is where busy-body-ness becomes so offensive that I have, at times (and I am not proud of this), lost my normal calm composure and told people to go f…uh, to go fly a kite, so to speak.

At craps I use the 5-Count; a method developed by the late Captain of Craps, my mentor and the greatest craps player who ever lived, to reduce the number of random rolls one faces and put one in a position to take advantage of controlled shooters and/or big rolls. Indeed, the 5-Count cuts down the number of random rolls you face by a whopping 57 percent! Yet, I will have players turn to me and say, “How come you aren’t betting on every shooter right off the bat? What’s your system?”

Of course, I tell them (politely) that I have no system, I just bet when my instincts tell me to bet. That’s a lie but it usually shuts them up.

Some others will know I am using the 5-Count and they will loudly proclaim to the entire planet Earth, “You know that 5-Count garbage just doesn’t work!” Some will take into their confidence (in their overbearing, loud voices) the box person and the floor person. “Hey, you people, do you think that 5-Count stuff really works?” The box and the floor person invariably snicker. How stupid can anyone be to use these tools?

At times such as these I feel like taking the stick from the stick person and doing something obscene to the loud mouth.

Unfortunately, blackjack is the game that brings out every false expert who has ever lived! For some peculiar reason, blackjack players, even the worst ones who have no idea of the computer-derived basic strategy, think of themselves as truly gifted strategists who must tell everyone else at the table how to play their hands. Worse, they must tell you just as you make your decision why that decision is good or bad. Worse still, they must tell you in such a loud voice that everyone on this side of the Atlantic Ocean is now fully aware that you don’t know how to play the game.

“How can you hit that 12 of yours against the dealer’s two?” they shout.

“You are doubling an eleven against a dealer’s ten? That ten is a power card!”

“Whoever told you to split eights against a ten? That is a dumb move!”

To these loudmouths I would like to grab a handful of chips and…well, you can finish that thought.

For those of you who wish to take my advice, it is simply this: Mind your own business when you play; don’t give advice; and try to ignore those whose loud voices are attempting to change your smart casino play.

My Everest of Annoyances

I am annoyed. Most of these annoyances are petty. I admit that. They itch like mosquito bites.

  • I am an attractor of mosquitoes and these annoying creatures leave my skin burning in the aftermath of annoying bites.
  • Loud leaf blowers that break up the still of the day and overpower beautiful bird calls annoy me.
  • People driving around my neighborhood in annoyingly loud cars or on annoyingly loud dirt bikes annoy me.
  • The annoying jingle of the ice cream truck calling forth hordes of annoying children annoys me.

My petty annoyances have grown into an Everest of a mountain. But a mountain is still a mountain be it grown by pettiness or not.

  • I love baseball. I’ve been a Yankees fan since I was six years-old after meeting Joe DiMaggio. I even like this year’s shortened season, but what truly annoys me is the fact that they are now putting up commercials as the game progresses.

You are watching a tight moment and bam! on the now split-screen you have an annoying commercial and the ballgame simultaneously. This is ruining my viewing of the game.

I set my DVR to tape the first hour or so and then I watch it on tape, fast forwarding through the commercials as the DVR keeps recording. The fact that the game is an hour behind doesn’t matter. I have no idea of what happened, so it is as if I am watching it fresh. But now those annoying split screen commercials have brought my annoyance level sky high.

  • I do not like women, adult women, who pretend they are little girls. (“Oo, I’m a widdle gurl.”) The first one of these I met was in college. She was a big girl, cute, but large, big boned as they used to say, and she affected this widdle gurl She sat next to me in a writing class, taught by Rod Serling no less, and she’d drive me nuts when she asked her widdle gurl questions. I figured Serling would write a story where some monster killed her by chopping out her annoying vocal cords. Didn’t happen.

Then two days ago a widdle gurl with tufts of grey hair came by to talk to my neighbor. I couldn’t understand exactly what she was saying because she was wearing a mask, but she was saying it in annoying widdle-gurl talk. Ubie doobie wa wa wa. I secretly hoped the annoying ice cream truck making the rounds would run her over.

  • On Facebook, it annoys me when posters tell me to share this or that annoying post of theirs or one they had reposted. Some actually challenge you: “Repost this if you dare.” A lot of times it has to do with religion, “Jesus loves us. Share this if you agree.” “Heaven is real. Share this and God will save you.” “Mary has appeared in this tree stump or a potato chip. Share if you love our Virgin Mother.” I didn’t share any of these.

The political ones are truly annoying when someone commands you to share an annoying analogy, “So and so is Hitler! Share this to save America!” I didn’t share it.

“Dr. So-and-So stated that COVID-19 is not real, vaccines are unhealthy, and people should not wear masks. Share this to alert your friends!”

Well, I looked up Dr. So-and-So. She also believes that incubus and humans have sex during the night and that there are lizard-men in the Deep State. I didn’t share it.

Actually, I do not repost any of these. I have no problem sharing posts I like, but, let’s face it, these people are annoying.

  • How about those car commercials? Just about all of them, just about all the time run special sales or events. Does any car dealership not offer continuous discounts all year long? Does anyone actually pay full price for a car? Not according to these commercials. “It’s our get-ready-for-summer-time special offer!” “It’s our fall, winter sale!” I surmise that the real price of the car is the sale price, and the phony sale price is simply the basis for an annoying commercial.

If you are going to give a discount on any one of the 365 very special days of the year, then make it a discount of the discounted price. And please silence that annoying actress pitching your annoying product.

Like my annoying Everest, I must handle it. Why? Because it’s there!

Frank Scoblete’s books are available on Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, Kindle, e-books and at bookstores. Receive Frank’s articles in your email. Join up today!

Why Do We Gamble?

 

Why do we gamble? I know this question has been asked a million times and there have been a million answers. Make that one million and one, as I am going to give it a shot.

Certainly in life we all have to gamble, as life is one long contest with luck, circumstance, and our eventual big loss. Life has a house edge to it, certainly, that grinds away at us, and even those who have had the best of times cannot escape the worst of times when they must say sayonara to the world. Of course, those who have had rotten lives because chance or circumstance or both caused some things or everything to not go their way might look upon the fateful last moment as a blessing. I am so happy to be out of here!

I think real life is a combination of the fated and the decided. You are fated to die. The generation that will never die has not yet been born. You are fated to get old despite wrinkle creams and face lifts that often look like someone is trying to rip the skin right off the skull.  I look in the mirror and I see a guy with gray hair who is closer to 80 than to 60. Is that really me now?

The other day in the bagel shop the girl behind the counter asked me if I got the senior citizen discount. My wife was asked that very night in our small village theatre if she got the senior discount for the movies. We both said “no” as if that would mean that fate was not hastening us towards seniorville – the place from which no one returns!

Oh yes, we can fight fate; scream at fate; regale fate and maybe even delay the ultimate fate, but we can’t change the fates. In the ancient societies fate was often called “nemesis,” which does not bode well for us.

Most of the rest of life, at least in America, and for just about all Americans, has to do with the decisions we make and the aftermath of those decisions. Not every decision is going to be a good one. Some of them explode in our faces and we have to make more decisions to handle the poor decisions that went ka-boom.

The “decided” begins when we do, too. Even little kids make decisions that have very real and very long-term consequences. That first grader goofing off when the teacher is instructing in math doesn’t realized that his fun today will limit what he can do with his tomorrows. If he goofs off throughout his school career, his prospects will be severely limited, and rail as he might against the “system,” or “society,” this person created his dismal situation and only he can uncreate it.

Most personal stories about individuals who goofed off in school and screwed up their early lives do not end up with everything just fine, thank you very much. Those great-ending stories are the exception to the rule because some other factors, some other decisions, worked to these rare individuals’ advantage. The rule of life is biblical – as you sow so shall you reap – and that rule starts as soon as we start crawling around the house looking for stuff to chew on. You can bank on that.

We gamble in life because we must gamble – there is no other choice. Not gambling in life is actually gambling that doing nothing will have a better outcome than doing something. We have to decide what schools to go to or whether to go to school at all; what should we study or should we forget about studies; whom should we marry or whether to marry at all. Each and every decision opens some doors, and closes other doors. No decision is without some consequence.

And that is exactly what we do in the casinos, admittedly in a more rarefied, more symbolic but still very real way. We engage in the life struggle. We face the fate of the ever-grinding house edge and what that means for our future prospects. We devise plans for how to handle early defeats at our favorite game in order to come back into the black. Some players will increase their bets figuring something good has to happen and they can make it all the way back with just a few wins. Other players bet smaller amounts after a dismal start figuring bad times are the norm in the casino so they want to ride it out.

When we face real life there are just too many factors to fathom from each and every moment. The complicatedness of life makes it somewhat messy and hard to grasp fully. Our decisions are usually made with not enough information. You love Jane. Jane loves you. Pretty simple, right? Will the marriage work out? Who the heck knows! That’s just too complicated a question, requiring an insight into the future none of us has.

But the casino games are not like that at all. Even experts at casino gambling must admit – it isn’t all that complicated. The games are relatively simple and have to be in order to attract the largest crowds to play them.

Let us say we know, for example, that the one-dollar slot machines pay back 92 percent of all the money put in them. We know if we were to play those one-dollar machines forever that we’d be behind about 8 percent of all the money we put through the machine. Our gamble, a very simple gamble, is that the machine does not pay back smoothly. It is volatile. It is cold more often than hot but when it gets hot you can hit some big money. Our gamble is that it will hit for us in the short time we are playing it.

Most of the times it won’t. We accept that fate. But we have decided that the gamble is worth the intermittent thrill of a big win – or any win – because that win goes against long-term fate. We know we are bucking the house edge. We know the casino will win in the end – against almost every single casino gambler out there. But we gamble we can change that fate, at least for ourselves, at least for tonight. And sometimes it happens.

And that is the big thrill. Casino gambling is the war against fate – a war almost everyone must lose but occasionally some of us will win.

It doesn’t have the interminable unknowables of whether you and Jane will be married happily ever after. It isn’t like the war against fate in real life where we have no possibility of winning and we all know this. The war against fate in the casino gives us a lot more power than we have in real life because occasionally we do indeed cheat death.

And that’s why 26 percent of the adult population in America loves to gamble!

The Icing on the Conspiracy Cake

 

They are out there. The folks who truly believe in unsubstantiated conspiracy theories of all types. They could be your friends, your neighbors, members of your family, and perhaps they could be… you.

And now a new conspiracy based on an old conspiracy, at least a current old conspiracy, is about to put icing on the cake for many conspiracy advocates.

Many conspiracy theorists believe that the COVID-19 crisis was manufactured to hurt Donald Trump. This conspiracy must be worldwide, as over 160 countries have had their own horrible taste of this pandemic. Of course, the Democrats must be in charge of this one with the whole world following their plan. Look, our enemies hate Trump and want him out; our friends don’t like him either. They are all conspiring to get him go away!

And the Democrats don’t actually control anything because they are being manipulated by the grand conspiracy masters.

Some theorists believe that Dr. Anthony Fauci heads the International Conspiracy along with his fellow conspirator Bill Gates. The duo is trying to take over the world with the help from, well, the whole world. The assumption is that Fauci and Gates want to inject us all with GPS-type systems, so they can follow our every move.

An amazing percentage of American theorists believe that wearing masks won’t help prevent the contagion. Of course, early on they didn’t believe there even was a contagion. Remember how Trump announced that there were only 15 sick people and the disease would disappear like a miracle? That led to the cry that being made to wear a mask was a violation of our inalienable rights. These theorists have sided with President Trump’s disdain for masks. In fact, there have been actual fights—of the physical kind!—in stores, buses, airplanes and streets between those who wear masks and those who refuse to wear masks.

Some conspiracy theorists point to the low percentage of people who die from the virus— somewhere around 0.5 to 1.5 percent. Those of you who know anything about card counting in blackjack, know that a 0.5 to 1.5 percent edge over the casino will get you the pit boss reading you the Trespassing Act. To casinos, such a small edge is considered highly dangerous and damaging.

Other conspiracy theorists will cite the number of people who die from just about everything else under the sun or in the shade to show that such things are far worse than COVID-19.

But it goes far further than the above. Indeed, some conspiracy theorists believe that all the conspiracies in history can be laid at the feet of the one great worldwide conspiracy created by some ultra-powerful group from the Illuminati to the Catholic Church to the Masons to the United Federation of Teachers.

The list of conspiracies is impressive, so I’ll just name a few:

JFK’s assassination

Hoax of a moon landing

Mass murders

Gun control

Obesity

Lizard overlords

Incubi

Chem trails in the sky

Recently conspiracy theorists have theorized that the “Deep State” is inflating the COVID-19 deaths by counting deaths from causes other than COVID-19 in their statistics including heart attacks and falling down the stairs.

Come the winter statistics (now remember this!), deaths from flu will be lower than in many years past; deaths from pneumonia will be lower as well because so many millions of Americans are wearing masks and social distancing and quarantining themselves; therefore, those other disease numbers must come down. They are not being added to the COVID-19 statistics.

COVID-19 has its own statistics; a reduction in the flu and pneumonia deaths will not impact the COVID -19 statistics at all.

However, the conspiracy theorists will take the reduction of other deaths to mean that these deaths are now being recorded as COVID -19 deaths. That will prove to them that this giant conspiracy exists.

Future reality will be created by the illusion of a grand conspiracy because reasonable analysis of statistics by reasonable people will be unreasonably interpreted by conspiracy theorists.

Come on, believing in a grand conspiracy makes you a powerless, hapless nobody. So, if you can’t take down the almighty conspirators, there can be no individual power in wearing a mask or keeping socially distant. However, if you look to science for your information, you are accountable for your actions—and in that case, wearing a mask and keeping socially distant are mighty personal statements indeed, despite what the United Federation of Teachers says.

Frank Scoblete’s web site is www.frankscoblete.com. His books are available on Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, Kindle, e-books and at bookstores. Why not get Frank’s articles by email. Sign up today.

The Meaning of Marriage

My friend Tom is one hell of a guy. He is also the funniest person I know. In a totally weird way. When the Beautiful AP and I first met Tom and his lovely wife Martine in Cape May, I was thrown by some of the things he said. I couldn’t figure if he was being humorous or out of his mind.

Let me give you a recent example. The four of us were eating lunch at the Mad Batter Restaurant in Cape May. By this time our friendship was sealed tightly and I knew he was outrageously funny. I also knew that most people didn’t get his humor, especially at first, and they would look at him aslant.

The server was taking our order. My wife the Beautiful AP and I ordered our usual, the orange-almond French toast, Martine ordered a salad and Tom then put in his order: “Can I have the salad that she’s having but I want salmon as well. I’d like some toast with butter on the side.”

“Okay, sir,” said the server.

“Wait, wait,” said Tom. “Now it is very important that there is no salt put on anything.”

“No salt,” the server nodded.

“Maybe write it on the order form so the chef knows no salt. I have dangerously high blood pressure.”

The server nodded, “Okay,” she wrote down the “no salt” instructions. “There we go, sir!”

“And I’ll have some ice tea, no sugar,” said the Beautiful AP.

“I’ll have just plain water,” said Martine.

“Water is fine for me,” said Tom. “Make it two glasses, large ones.”

“Seltzer for me,” I said.

“Okay,” said the server. “Let me just repeat the orders.” And she did. She finished with, “And no salt for you sir.”

Later, the server placed the orders in front of us. Tom looked at her as she put his order down, “No salt in this right?”

“Yes, sir, no salt,” she smiled. She had served the four of us many times before and we were good tippers so she was happy to serve us again.

“Everything fine?” she asked happily.

We all nodded. Tom smiled then reached across the table, grabbed the salt shaker and poured salt over his entire meal! You could see salt crystals on top of salt crystals all over everything. “Ah, looks great,” he said and dug into his food.

During this pandemic Tom and I have a special day and a special time each week when we talk for about an hour on Zoom. Tom is the head of a giant non-profit Jewish organization that he nursed from an almost storefront level 40 years ago and made it a big player for seniors of every religion and race that employed people from every religion and race. The man is—in my opinion—admirable.

But he is not perfect.

On our last call, Tom said, “Scobe, I made a big mistake with Martine yesterday. I’m in trouble. I’ve been working seven days a week the last couple of months and she told me not to do any cleaning this weekend. I’m just to relax. But you know I like a clean house (he does) and I do some cleaning on the weekends. I’m not crazy about it (he’s not) but the upstairs bathroom needed to be clean; the shower, the floor, sinks, you get me (I got him).”

“So you told her you were going to clean?”

“No, that’s the problem. I told her I was going upstairs to take a shower. I snuck Mr. Clean and a roll of Bounty paper towels with me. So I took a shower and then I spritzed the shower with Mr. Clean and wiped everything down with the Bounty paper towels. I cleaned everything in the bathroom. Then I heard her outside the door.

“’You okay?’ she asked.  ‘Yeah, yeah, I’m fine,’ I said. ‘I was just enjoying a nice hot shower’”

I jumped in. “You know Tom, you are a disgrace to the male sex. You should have trained Martine to let you do all the cleaning.”

“Very funny,” he said.

“We’re not talking about me, Tom. This is about you. If you want to clean, then she should let you clean. I mean you’re the man, Tom; act like a man. Demand that she let you clean.”

“I kept cleaning throughout the day, Scobe; here and there, when she was out gardening or cooking. I just want a clean house.”

“Doesn’t she do any cleaning?”

“Yeah, but she’s French and they use rags. It takes forever. She dips the rag, cleans a little, then cleans the rag and then dips the rag again and cleans a little more. It takes three times longer than it takes me. I just use Mr. Clean and Bounty and it is really fast. Spray and wipe. Spray and wipe. Spray and wipe. It’s over, just like that. Then I go read.”

(Tom and Martine do not have a television set. They read. Tom will read books and the newspapers online. Martine reads books in French.)

“You do realize that you are sneaking around Martine because you don’t want her to catch you,” I said.

“I know that,” he said.

“Your problem is that you are married. You have just explained the real definition of marriage. It’s not anything Shakespeare wrote or any of the flowery cards from Hallmark. No, it is you sneaking around in your own house wanting to clean but being afraid of your wife. That’s the true definition of marriage.”

“I suppose you’re right,” he said. Tom paused and took a deep breath and then he said: “Martine is putting salt in my wounds and, you know, I hate salt.”

Frank Scoblete’s web site is www.frankscoblete.com. His books are available at Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, Kindle, e-books, and bookstores. Receive Frank’s articles in your email.

Play With What You Have

When the great New York Yankee Hall of Fame baseball player Phil Rizzuto died, the papers were filled with stories about how such a short guy – Rizzuto was “just” 5’6” – had overcome his height disadvantage to achieve such big things.  He was an all-star, an MVP, won ten pennants and eight World Series during his 13 years with the Yankees. He was described as a “winner” in baseball and in life.

On Rizzuto’s plaque at the Yankee Stadium Memorial Park it reads: “A man’s size is measured by his heart.”

That got me to thinking. Was being 5’6” a disadvantage in baseball or in life? I am 5’6” and I never felt that I was short. I never made comments about being short or jokes about myself as some short people do. Indeed, it never occurred to me to do those things.

In my mind I was the right height. People who were taller than I were tall; people who were shorter than I were short. I played basketball; I played baseball. I played with and against the best players in New York City. I never felt as if I had to overcome anything. I just played to the best of my ability.

Intellectually I now realize that I am on the short part of the height continuum but in my head I still have that “I am the right size and everyone else is either tall or short.”

Casino players can learn a lot from Phil Rizzuto. You play the game with what you’ve got and in casino terms that specifically means with the bankroll you’ve got for actually playing such games. You can’t wish and hope to have more money to play with because that makes you feel bad about yourself. What has the size of your bankroll got to do with anything? You are who you are. There’s nothing to be ashamed of.

The casinos, obviously, are skillfully designed to reward those players who bet (and lose) large sums of money. But it does not follow that the player who loses large sums of money is a better player than someone who loses small sums of money – how good a player you are is not determined by the size of your bets but by the strategies and decisions you make.

I’ve seen many of those high rolling players using strategies that were so awful you wanted to shake them by the collar and say, “You are throwing your money away!” And I have seen mere five dollar players engaging in tight contests with the casinos. Of the two types of players, which is to be respected? The answer is obvious.

If a high roller doesn’t use basic strategy at blackjack; if that roller makes high house edge bets at craps; if he plays low payback slots and video poker machines; if he uses his “intuition” to guess what trends are about to appear or disappear, this person is large all right – he is a large fool.

The small wagering player who knows how to play the games the right way – using all the tools the casino allows to reduce the house edge to its minimum – is really a large player indeed. It is not the size of the bankroll that counts; it is the intelligence in which it is used.

Often in the casino atmosphere the red-chip player wishes he were a green-chip player and the green-chip player wishes he were a black-chip player and the black-chip player wishes he were a purple-chip player and the purple-chip player wishes he were an orange-chip player (and on it goes) – that is a caste system that must be discarded in order to play the games properly. Wishing you were someone else is not going to make you a better player. Learning the proper playing strategies will.

So let the casinos put people in castes, that’s their business; to get people to bet more, play longer, in order to “impress” the casino comp raters; but your business as a savvy player is to play perfectly with the money you have and ignore all the other players playing higher denominations and not worry about comps.

Phil Rizzuto played the game the best he could with all his ability. That made him a Hall of Famer. That made him a winner. Height be damned!

If you want to enter the casino Hall of Fame than you must play with what you’ve got and you must play the perfect strategies. There is no shortage of good betting strategies that follow the math of the games; strategies that give you a real chance to bring home the casinos’ money.

Phil Rizzuto’s object was to win games and that should be your object too. You are your own standard of performance; no one else is. Be happy with what you’ve got and play accordingly.

All the best in and out of the casinos.

Frank Scoblete’s web site is www.frankscoblete.com. His books are available on Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, Kindle, e-books and at bookstores. Join his email group!

 

 

Perfect Presidential Poll

 

You have the Rasmussen Poll, the Gallup Poll, the Quinnipiac Poll, the Elway Research Poll, the Fox Poll, the CNN Poll, the NBC Poll and assorted other polls by various universities, news media and political parties.

In the 2016 election right up to the very start of the voting the polls stated emphatically that Hillary Clinton would win the Presidency. As the returns came in, many news anchors changed from certainty that Hillary was a shoe in, to uncertainty to complete disbelief that “the Donald” would actually become the President of the United States. There was sadness in many a newsroom that day.

What was with those polls? How could they have been so wrong? Easy. There were many Trump voters who did not say out loud that they were Trump voters when the pollsters came a ’calling. Their mouths may have said one thing but their votes said something entirely different.

And today, right now, the polls of every stripe have Joe Biden clobbering Donald Trump. I do not trust those polls because I have discovered the truly precise 2020 Presidential poll—and I don’t mean the election itself.

The true Presidential poll is this: who is wearing a mask and who isn’t? Since the COVID-19 crisis has been turned into a political football, the Trump voters—like Trump himself—eschew the mask because the virus is a hoax, a world-wide conspiracy against Trump, a bid to deprive citizens of their inalienable rights, proof that you are a wuss, or all of the above. The anti-Trump voters wear the masks because they believe it is a public health crisis that masks can mitigate.

President Trump is leading his people to the polls—and they’re not wearing masks.

So, go ahead and count the number of voters who wear masks and the number of voters who don’t. True, there might be some little crossover between them, but overall my poll, which I am naming the Scobe 2020 PPP (Perfect Presidential Poll), will be the most accurate of all. Count on it!

Frank Scoblete’s web site is www.frankscoblete.com. His books are available on Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, Kindle, e-books and at bookstores. Get Frank’s articles in your email by signing up today.

Three Strikes and I’m Out: Amazon, Delta, and P.C. Richard

 

Strike One: Amazon.com

Amazon.com has benefited from the Covid-19 virus because mail order is now a bigger part of our economy than ever before. Amazon’s profits increased by close to 30 percent. Indeed, on Wednesdays our village collects cardboard and just about every home is overflowing with Amazon boxes to be recycled.

Over the years Amazon.com has been a big seller of my 35 books. Like many authors, I have also had a special Advantage contract with them under which they sell autographed copies of my books. Amazon sends me the order, I then autograph the book, and mail it to the customer. I get to keep a part of the sale price, as does Amazon.

I’ve been getting orders that I can’t fill because the Advantage program suddenly didn’t accept my password. Okay, so I created a new password but Amazon did not recognize that one. Then I created another password and Amazon didn’t recognize that one either. I continually receive orders through the Advantage site, but once I log in using any of these passwords, no orders are listed. I can’t fulfill an order without knowing the purchaser’s name and address.

I looked for ways to contact someone at Amazon who could combine my three Advantage accounts and then figure out who had ordered books. We’re talking a good number of books here too.

No one was “home.” No chat, phone, or email was available to get through to Amazon Advantage.

Okay, so at the moment I have lost money that I would have earned had Advantage functioned. That isn’t a huge problem. But here is the problem: People who have tried to buy autographed copies are being told that they can’t because the orders can’t be filled! That frustrates the customer and makes me look bad.

Yes, my wife the Beautiful AP and I have been trying to contact someone at Amazon to solve this problem. We thought we got through to Amazon and were told there is no direct line to Advantage, but someone from Advantage would call us back within 24 hours. It’s been 168 hours and no call.

Strike Two: Delta Airlines

“I’m sorry but we have many phone calls and our agents are all busy. We cannot answer this call.” Click! Hang up.

The above is a paraphrase of a message I received from Delta Airlines when I called to find out about a refund or credit on my tickets. It took me several hours to get through to them. Well, to get through to the click!

I had two round trips scheduled for Canada, one in June (Montreal for three people) and one in July (Calgary for two people). That’s five first-class tickets in total.

On the website, I saw that they were giving me personally, but neither of the other two fliers, a few hundred dollars as a credit for the Montreal flight. Three first class tickets do not cost only a few hundred dollars. One first-class ticket does not cost that either.

I also received (now get this!) a notice that I could fly from Calgary to JFK in New York when I was originally supposed to—just me, no one else.

Of course, there was no such flight because Canada is closed to Americans! So I couldn’t fly to Canada but I could fly home from Canada. Indeed, the flight was cancelled by Delta even as they were telling me that if I sneaked into Canada I could get back to New York. Of course I would not be with my wife, the Beautiful AP, but I guess Delta figured we had been married a long time so we needed a little time apart.

Finally, yesterday, the Beautiful AP received a boarding pass for Calgary in an email. Yes, she could now fly to Canada. Wait a second; isn’t Canada still closed to Americans? So we checked Delta’s website to see if there was a flight taking place to a country that doesn’t want us there. No.

So we now have a boarding pass for a flight that doesn’t exist to a country that won’t let us in. But if I do get illegally in to Canada, somehow and in some way, I can get back home.

Strike Three: P.C. Richard and Son

I write just about every day and when I am done I either read a book, a magazine or watch a good movie or television show. Actually I do all those things. In short, I reward myself for my daytime efforts.

I had an in-house theatre installed when I came home from a particularly lucrative trip to Vegas, with speakers that can blow the roof off my house. “Will you lower that?” the Beautiful AP says constantly as she hides in the bedroom. “Wear noise cancelling earphones!” I yell back but she can’t hear me because the speakers are too loud.

A couple of years ago I bought an LG 4K HD television—a big one—so I could watch my shows with the fullest of pleasure. I figured I deserved that, right? I mean, I started my life in a cold-water flat where three of our six rooms were not heated in winter, and now look at me!

Yeah, look at me. My stinking LG 4K  HD television is on the blink. Every so often the set pauses and displays the LG logo, interrupting the show or movie for about 30 seconds. This can happen over and over or just every once in a while. But it has now been going on throughout the virus lockdown.

I bought the set from P.C. Richard and Son here on Long Island, along with a five-year extended warranty from the store. So they should send someone over to fix the screwed-up set. That’s what the extended warranty stipulated. Yes, it stipulated that in clear terms. I have the paperwork. (Actually, my wife has the paperwork.)

P.C. Richard and Son states they will honor all warranties except those—yes, you guessed it —for television sets. Refrigerators, washing machines, dishwashers, clothes dryers, toasters, stoves, air-conditioners, microwaves – all of which by the way we have bought from P.C. Richard and Son over the years— are essential items and will be serviced during the Covid-19 virus. But no televisions!

On its official web site P.C. Richard and Son states clearly: “We Are Here for You!”

Mr. Richard and Son, I’m okay, but my television isn’t. Why bother with a warranty if you won’t honor it?

So, my friends, no autographs, no flights, and no television. This is almost as bad as the pandemic itself!

Frank Scoblete’s books are available on Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, Kindle, e-books and at bookstores. Receive Frank’s articles in your email. Sign up today.