Gold Breaks the $1300 Mark

Well the COMEX price of gold per ounce has been flirting with $1300 for almost the whole month now. Today it finally crossed over. The greatly boosted the price of my Barrick Gold stock (ticker symbol ABX). Gold stocks have strangely not done quite as well over the same 30 day period. Market pundits would say that this reflects market sentiment that Gold is going to fall back once it hits the $1300 mark. So people bought gold stocks in anticipation of gold hitting $1300 and sold them off as the price of gold got closer- a classic case of buy the rumor, sell the news.

From my experience watching this market, gold will in all likelihood retreat from it’s new high, but I’m thinking it’s new high might be a bit higher than $1300. $1325 to $1350 seems like where it might stop and fall back. Of course, when that happens, people will say that gold is finally starting to collapse and return to where it was ten years ago. These people will be proven wrong when gold hits yet another high another six months down the road. Gold is in a long term bull market and will continue to be for some time. It’s hard to say when, but I don’t see the price of gold coming down anytime soon with the US government running trillion dollar a year deficits and the Federal Reserve undertaking quantitative easing (AKA printing money) in order to stimulate the economy.

How Much Do Religious People Actually Know About Religion

A recent article in the LA Times reports the results of a survey which shows that, on average, the most knowledgable people about religion are those who don’t believe in it. When asked 15 questions about world religions those who reported their personal belief as either Agnostic or Atheist scored highest. The next highest were Mormons and Jews, with Protestant and Catholics brining up the rear.

Wow. I tested this out myself and went and took the Pew Research Questionaire on US Religious Knowledge . ┬áSure enough, I got 93% correct and I’m an Atheist. So there ya go. We who don’t believe know a lot more than those that do. Of course, it goes a bit deeper than that. I went to sunday school quite a bit growing up and there was those five years of Catholic Theology that I got in parochial school. So my religious knowledge should be far above the norm, but this survey verifies something I have long held as a personal truth. Those that believe most fervently that the Bible is the literal word of God are those that have simply never read the book.

I say this and always get a “Oh yea,” from the Bible thumping Baptists, but I’m usually able to ace them on actual Bible knowledge when we get to discussing things. For instance, I will ask them how exactly they explain Jesus’s actions regarding the fig tree that bore no fruit when it wasn’t supposed to. I often get a glassy eyed stare in response. It gets far worse when you start asking them about comparative Biblical accounts. For instance, why is the “Slaughter of the Innocents” (where King Herod ordered the first male children of all Israelites put to death) only mentioned in the Gospel According the Matthew? Was it not a significant enough event for the other Gospel writers to mention it? Or, for that matter, how come the Gospel According to Mark not include the accounts of Jesus’s Virgin birth? Mark opens up discussing Jesus’s life as an adult. You mean to say that this guy who hung out with Jesus his whole life and wanted to record his life for posterity did not thing the Virgin Birth a significant enough event to actually record? Was he just low on ink?

The vast majority of Christians, particularly those who believe the Bible is the absolute literal way it happened, have no idea that the different Gospels contain different (and occasionally conflicting) accounts of the life of Jesus. They furthermore are very hard pressed to actually know which Gospel has the briefest account of Jesus’s life, and so on.

It has been my lifelong experience that those who believe in religion the most are those who know it the least. It’s strange, given how fervently they seem to cling to their devotion, but it’s true.

Defending the Big Blind and Preflop Hand Selection

I’ve been criticized in my limit play for calling a single raise out of the Big Blind with hands such as A6 offsuit. Poker players are prestigious as Jennifer Harmon in Super System 2 say that you should not call a raise with a hand as weak as A7 off in a 10 full game if the initial raiser is under the gun.

The logic being that an under the gun raise is not an attempt to steal the blinds, but rather a raise based purely on hand strength. And if all forms of Hold’em people tend to avoid hands that might be “dominated”- which is to say they don’t want to be in a hand where they have the same top rank as their opponent and in inferior kicker. In this example, an Ace with a 6 or 7 kicker figures to not do well at all against someone with an Ace and a superior kicker. The reasoning being that if in order to win the hand you’d have to pair your lower rank and hope that the opponent isn’t going to pair his other rank. So, in a match of AK versus A7, the A7 hand has to hope for a board that contains a 7 with no King and that’s the only way he’s going to win. Such is a rare board, and that’s why people fear being dominated.

The thing is that this very reasonable fear of domination leads people to seek hands that are definitely far away from the range of the preflop raiser. Thus, people would not want to call a raise from the big blind with A7, but would instead prefer to call with a hand like 87 suited. Here’s the thing though, if we take a program like Pokerstove, which can evaluate your pot equity (your percentage of winning a hand over infinite trials) and put in A6 offsuit versus a villain with the range of hands of pocket Aces through pocket 99s, plus all Ace-Kings, all Ace-Queens, Ace-Jack suited, and King-Queen suited (a typical preflop raisers range) we discover that A7 has 27% equity against that range.

27% means you’re about a 3-to-1 dog to the preflop raiser, but since we’re discussing limit Hold’em and you’re in the big blind, 3-to-1 is what you’re getting to call a single raise. This is why I defend the blinds with such hands. In deference to those who argue for suited connectors or small pocket pairs, 87 suited has 30% equity against the villains range, and a pocket deuces has 35%. Of course, the problem with deuces is that that equity assumes you’re calling all the way to the river if you don’t improve the board against a hand like AK, and that can be a fairly daunting task. Still, the math seems clear that you can defend your blind with all of these hands and be alright. Continue reading Defending the Big Blind and Preflop Hand Selection

Atom Weaver’s Deck Bashing Challenge

I’ve long been an advocate of trying to make powerful decks from a limited selection of cards. Such “commons” decks thwart the argument that a given CCG is merely the realm of the those who want to invest large amounts of money into it if they can do reasonably well against such decks. This was the reasoning behind my Barbed Wire decks that I made and still sell that mostly use Jyhad card stock.

Another VTES player, perhaps inspired by my Barbed Wire decks, made his own limited card selection challenge: Atom Weaver’s “Deck Bashing Challenge.” This challenge revolves around making as competitive a deck as possible by combining two starter decks of your choosing. While I like the idea, I do have a few reservations about the idea.

For one, starter decks in VTES are much like Magic: the Gathering and are set specific. If one were to find a great combination of starter decks to make an excellent general purpose deck, the starters you were using might be out of stock two years down the road and simply be of little use to the proposed newbie who needed it. Secondly, the starter decks all revolve around a certain strategy; by combining two of them, all you are really going to be able to do is refine that strategy a bit. The starter decks themselves are not toolboxy enough to really serve as the blank slate that I like as a deck constructor. Of course, one could combine two separate starters, but that runs into it’s own problems. Lastly, VTES is a game that has always favored certain strategies such as sneak and bleed or vote and cap. Starter decks, such as the Malkavian or Venture starters from Keepers of Tradition, will be quite competitive whereas working with the other starters from that set means that you will be building a deck that will simply never be as competitive. That’s just the nature of VTES and CCGs in general.

Continue reading Atom Weaver’s Deck Bashing Challenge