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Thursday, December 08, 2016

My News Withdrawal

It's been a month since Election Day, and I have been in news withdrawal. It's not that I eschew all incoming information, but for the last four weeks I have made every effort to avoid any article or social media post or television story about our president-elect.

I don't care to hear any post-mortems on the election, why he won, why she lost, or a litany of predictions about what he's going to do. I don't want to read essays about the forgotten voter. I certainly don't want to hear prognostications from any pundit who got the election outcome blatantly wrong but, rather than being held accountable, continues to have a speaking role in the blather-sphere.

I'm not willing to expend any brain power reading about who's on his transition team or who he's chosen for the cabinet. It's not that I don't care about the negative impact he will likely have on the Supreme Court, Obamacare, climate change, and other issues. I simply burned out on all of it.

I haven't watched any of the late-night-show monologues, although I had already cut way back on them because none of the hosts are creating television that compels me to record them in the first place. I gave up on "The Daily Show" many months ago, so I've missed Trevor Noah's take on the election entirely. While Samantha Bee's "Full Frontal" remains one of our favorite shows, my wife and I sadly skipped through it this week because we felt like we were being hit in the head by a ball-peen hammer.

I have unfollowed several reporters as well as some friends who continue to post items on this subject on their Twitter and Facebook feeds. In fact, I spend a lot less time checking those outlets -- because they're too full of that from which I'm abstaining.

It's not that I'm denying reality. Rather, I feel as if I binged and overdosed harshly on the far-too-long campaign season, and quitting cold turkey was the only answer. Or maybe the better analogy is to a crash diet -- except instead of keeping unhealthy crap out of my mouth, I've barred it from my eyes and ears.

Most of all, I'm glad I don't have a daily talk radio show in which I probably couldn't ignore all of this. I'm happy to do my politics-free three hours a week of nonsense on Friday afternoons and walk out of the building feeling happy -- instead of the sense of dread I witness on the faces of too many of you.

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Adam Renewed Everything

Glad to hear that TruTV has renewed "Adam Ruins Everything" for another 16 episodes in 2017. It's one of the best shows on television, particularly at a time when we (sadly) need more proof that facts matter. If you missed my conversation with host Adam Conover a few weeks ago, check it out here.

Sports Stadium Redux

Here we go again. Another plan to use taxpayer money to pay for a sports stadium in St. Louis.

Despite numerous studies over the years that show that investing public funds in these projects does not return a windfall profit to the city or create enough permanent jobs to justify them, authorities on both the local and state level are so desperate to attract a Major League Soccer team that they're willing to give away the store.

Mike Faulk of the Post-Dispatch says the team's ownership group wants Missouri to provide $40 million in tax credits. What will it get in return? An estimated $44.8 million in tax revenue -- but that's over the next 33 years! A return of 12% would look good on an annual basis, but as a total, doesn't even keep up with inflation over three decades. And then there's the land giveaway (the acreage next to Union Station that's now publicly owned) and the $80 million contribution from the city of St. Louis, which will have to be approved by a public referendum. Hopefully, voters will give that the thumbs-down.

I'm not saying any of this because I don't want a Major League Soccer team in my town. Frankly, I couldn't care less either way, since I'm never going to attend a game. It's fine that someone wants to start a new enterprise downtown. However, I'm being consistent in my opposition to using taxpayer dollars to underwrite projects that will put more cash into a business owner's pockets than into the municipal coffers. I said the same things about the new Busch Stadium and Ballpark Village and the doomed efforts to build a new stadium for the Rams.

Politicians must stop falling for these pitches and the economic blackmail that comes with it. When these ownership groups say, "If you don't give us what we want, we'll go somewhere else," we'd all be a lot better off if our leaders said "So long!"

Bottom line: build these behemoths with your own money, not ours.

Worth A Link

  • If you're a St. Louisan who hates the Rams as much as I do, you'll enjoy this piece on

Pearl Harbor

This story first appeared on this site on December 7, 2009.

A few years ago, we went on vacation to Hawaii, and made the obligatory visit to Pearl Harbor. I wasn't sure what we'd see or how I'd react, but I got more than I bargained for.

As part of the tour of the USS Arizona Memorial, we joined a hundred other tourists in the park's movie theater to see a short documentary which gave an overview of the naval base's history and details about the attack of December 7, 1941. When it was over, a US Park Ranger asked us all to remain seated. He said that, from time to time, they get a visit from a survivor of the attack, and we had one in the theater that day.

He introduced a man who'd served aboard the USS Raleigh, a cruiser that was hit by a torpedo while moored at Pearl Harbor. While listing and nearly capsizing (pictured above), gunmen on the Raleigh still managed to shoot down five Japanese planes, including the one that dropped a bomb through the aft section of the ship. None of the crew died, though a few were wounded, as they saved the ship from sinking (here's a full report on what happened to the Raleigh that day). The Raleigh was repaired and back in action less than a year later, while most of the crew were transferred to other vessels, where they joined the fight in the Pacific when the US entered World War II.

The Ranger asked the Navy veteran to stand up, which he did, to a rousing ovation from the crowd. We all then left the theater and got aboard the launch which took us to the USS Arizona. When we docked, two Navy personnel escorted the Raleigh veteran off first, while we waited patiently.

As we took our time to observe all there was to see at the Memorial, I noticed that no one was approaching the vet, so I went over to him. I told him I didn't want to bother him, just wanted to thank him for his service. He looked up at me and nodded as he said, "I lost too many friends in this war." I told him I could only imagine the horror he'd witnessed that day. We stood there silently for a few more seconds before I thanked him again, we shook hands, and said goodbye.

When it was time to return to the launch, everyone was on board except the Raleigh veteran. He was talking quietly to two young sailors who were accompanying him outside in their starched-white uniforms. Just as they were about to help him onto the boat, he turned, brought his octogenarian body to full attention, and offered a crisp salute in the direction of the Memorial.

I teared up. My daughter grabbed my hand. No one said a word. We all understood.

One final show of respect for the long-gone but not forgotten.

As I Tweeted

If the Boston Red Sox have any sense of humor, they will schedule Throwback Uniform Day for Chris Sale's first start.

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Poker Collusion

There's a scene in the movie "Rounders" where a bunch of professional poker players from New York City are in Atlantic City and end up at the same table with each other. Then some non-pros sit down and, while the pros aren't colluding with each other, they know they have a better chance playing hands against the amateurs than against each other, so that's what they do...

A guy from Las Vegas was in St. Louis recently and sat down in our $5-10 no limit hold'em game. Naturally, the conversation turned to where he usually played in Vegas. He talked about the action at Aria, the Encore, and the Venetian. Someone asked him about the Bellagio poker room and he replied that he still played $5-10 there occasionally, but won't play in the $10-20 game anymore because, too often, there are players at the table working off the same bankroll. That means that they've agreed to share their winnings and losses, and because they're not playing against each other, they're more likely to team up on you whenever you get involved in a hand with them. If there are a couple of these teams at the same table, that makes four out of nine players who have a distinct advantage over anyone playing on their own (which we all should be).

I've been at the table when two opponents were obviously playing together, making moves to push other people out of pots, even when they didn't have much of a hand. The worst example I remember was in 2010 at the Venetian, a stop on the PokerStars North American Poker Tour. I was in a pot-limit Omaha cash game at about 3am, playing four-handed, and I knew one of the other players, John, who was from St. Louis.

That's when Young Guy One sat down at the table. He played fairly tight poker for about 15 minutes until Young Guy Two sat down. They barely looked at each other, but both of them started getting way too aggressive for this game, pushing people off hands and taking down several pots in a row. They were especially sticking it to John, whose losses had put him on tilt. He started playing more hands than he should have and they kept playing right back at him. However, when they had gotten him out of the way (for instance, raising and re-raising so much on the flop or turn that he had to fold), they stopped betting against each other. They even laughed as they showed their hands, and we could see that neither of them had anything decent most of the time.

After a half hour of this, I'd had enough and called over the floor supervisor, told her I thought these Young Guys were colluding at the table, and explained what I'd seen. She turned to them and asked if they knew each other. There was a pause before they both quickly picked up their chips without saying a word and left together. John was pissed off at me because he wasn't going to get a chance to get his money back, but I explained that he was at such a disadvantage against those two that it wasn't going to happen.

On another occasion, I was accused of collusion. It was during a tournament series in Tunica, Mississippi, and there were a lot of other people from St. Louis there. After busting out of a tournament, I put my name on the list for a pot-limit Omaha cash game. I was eventually seated at a table with Alan and Debbie, two very good players from back home.

We were talking about our experiences in some of the tournaments and other cash games when someone at the table that we didn't know -- who had been losing because of his terrible play -- said, "I knew it. You three know each other. It's obvious that you're playing together against the rest of us." I responded, "If you think we're playing together, you're not paying attention. Debbie would like nothing more than to take all my chips, and I'd be ecstatic if I got all of Alan's chips. That's true in St. Louis as much as it is here in Tunica."

Alan and Debbie laughed at this as another player we didn't know chimed in, adding, "They're not colluding. I've watched every hand at this table, and I haven't seen any evidence they're playing together. You're just mad because they're better players than you are and you keep giving your chips away." That really put the loser on tilt. On the next hand, he was all in on the flop with a non-nuts straight draw, and when it hit but he lost all his chips to someone with the nuts (who was not Alan, Debbie, or me), he stormed away from the table.

By the way, Debbie took about $1,200 off of Alan and me that day. And she never offered to split it with us.

Monday, December 05, 2016

Betting and Punting

Here's something I wrote in 2004 about an incident at a Las Vegas casino that no longer exists...

The Stardust sports book in Las Vegas is considered the sports book, because it is traditionally the first to post the line on most sporting events, and many other books follow its lead. Bob Scucci, who runs the Stardust book, has been on my radio show many times.

Two weeks ago, I was in Vegas and went to the Stardust because it was a great place to watch the AFC and NFC championship games. Naturally, I said hello to Bob and we chatted for awhile. He told me how much the north end of The Strip is changing for the better, thanks to Steve Wynn's new mega-resort and the Fashion Show mall being in the neighborhood. That's good for the Stardust, so I was happy for him.

He comped me breakfast at their coffee shop. I went to eat, then came back to find a seat in the sports book and put down a wager or two. Since I didn't have a hometown rooting interest, putting some money on the games would make them more fun to watch.

One of my bets was a parlay that included one of those proposition bets. It had to do with which team would punt first in the AFC championship game. Since the Colts hadn't punted once in their two previous games due to their high-powered offense, I bet that it would be the Patriots.

As the game went along, neither team punted for quite awhile. It was well into the second quarter before one of them got in trouble and had to kick it away. Unfortunately, it wasn't the Patriots. The Colts lined up for the punt that would immediately make my bet a loser -- but the ball was snapped over the punter's head! As it rolled deep into their own territory, the Colts' punter, Hunter Smith, ran back and kicked the ball on the ground out of his own end zone, for a safety.

Since I had money on this, I ran over to Bob and asked, "Does that count as a punt?" He replied with authority, "I don't know!" He explained that he didn't think so, that it would probably be considered a muffed punt, but that he'd have to wait until they got the official stats from the NFL.

After a safety, the team that was scored against has to kick off on the next play. But because their regular kicker doesn't do it (the punter does), I raised the question of whether the kickoff counted as a punt. This one, Bob knew: it's not a punt, it's a "free kick." In other words, as far as the Stardust was concerned, there had yet to be a single punt in this game, so my wager was still alive. Whew!

The game continued until more than halfway through the third quarter before the outcome of my bet would be settled. Unfortunately, it was the Colts who were forced to punt at that point, and this time the ball didn’t go over the punter’s head.

That killed my bet -- and made my earlier meal the most expensive breakfast I've ever had.

Update: after the Stardust was imploded in 2007, Bob Scucci went on to be Director of Race and Sports for Boyd Gaming Corp.

Saturday, December 03, 2016

David Pogue's Basics: Money

David Pogue, the man behind Yahoo Tech, returned to my show to talk about the latest in his Basics series, this one full of tips that will save you money. He has hundreds of suggestions of discounts and freebies you (and I) didn't know about, including a few that we discussed:
  • why you should buy your own cable box and modem instead of paying rent to the cable company every month;
  • what your options are if you cut the cord and just watch TV online instead;
  • why you should have a credit card that pays you cash back instead of airline frequent-flier miles;
  • why you shouldn't change your car's oil every 3,000 miles;
  • how you can get your flat tire repaired for free;
  • how you can get Starbucks to give you coffee that's hot but won't burn your mouth;
  • a problem with AT&T's "unlimited" data plan that they don't warn you about.
The full title of David's book is "Pogue's Basics: Money -- Essential Tips and Shortcuts (That No One Bothers To Tell You) About Beating The System."

Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!
Previously on Harris Online...

Showbiz Show 12/2/16

This week on the showbiz segment of my show, Colin Jeffrey and I reviewed "Manchester By The Sea," "Bad Santa 2," "Moana," "Rules Don't Apply," and "Nocturnal Animals." We also talked about an upcoming CBS reality show, "Hunted," some streaming suggestions, and more.

Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Harris Challenge 12/2/16

On this edition of my Harris Challenge -- the most fun you can have with your radio on -- the topical trivia categories include I See Dead People, Things That Happened In December, and Where Was That? Listen and play along, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Want more Harris Challenges? Click here.

Knuckleheads In The News® 12/2/16

On this edition of Knuckleheads In The News®, I have stories of a costly eBay error, a thief's debit card, and online breakup revenge. Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Want more Knuckleheads In The News®Click here.