Friday, October 13, 2006

Is the PartyPoker over?

I had a little bit of trouble getting to sleep last night thanks to the roving PSO welcome wagon (a/k/a NewJane and JoyBell) who came knocking on my hotel room door sometime after midnight.

After battling the Minnesota snow and 15-degree wind chill, their smiling faces and personal warmth were appreciated…no matter the hour.

In any case, I managed to crawl down to the breakfast area in time to grab the last copy of USAToday, where I found the following editorial under the title, “Is the PartyPoker over?”

“It’s a long shot that more than a handful of the millions of Americans who gamble on the Internet ever heard of the Safe Port Act, which President Bush is expected to sign today. But they’re about to feel its reach.

A measure hastily tacked on to the port security bill is designed to crack down on offshore, online casinos by banning payment with credit cards or electronic fund transfers.

Even before Bush signs the bill, it’s had an impact: The larger online casinos saw their stock prices plummet on foreign exchanges, and several said they’d stop taking bets from U.S. customers. Considering that U.S. bettors generate more than 50% of industrywide revenue, many operators could go bust.

That’s no tragedy. Gambling can have devastating social consequences. And when people can do it 24/7 from computers, it can lead to financial trouble and social isolation. For students caught up in the current poker craze, it can invite educational failure.

But whether the act is the right remedy is another matter. There’s reason for doubt.

First is the question of whether the plan is workable. That won’t be known for a while. The government has 270 days to write regulations, and that will be a formidable task.

U.S. Banks and other credit card issuers can be restricted easily. But third parties outside U.S. jurisdiction – notably a company called NETeller – take electronic transfers from banks and pass them on to gambling sites, charging high fees in the process. That’s not easily stopped.

Then there’s the question of whether the government should be telling adults how they can spend their money. Barring a casino from operating in a state to keep gambling distant is one thing. Meddling with people’s bank accounts is another.

Restricting gambling for minors would have been a amore sensible place to start. That would have addressed the most vulnerable population and served as a useful test.

Regardless, the new law will be an interesting experiment. It might rein in the gambling craze, or it might just shift more of it to less responsible operators. Either way, it’s a safe bet that this is the first hand to be played in a much longer game.”

From USA Today, Friday, October 13, 2006

Wednesday, April 5, 2006

Seattle Trip Report Part #1

From Boonville, Missouri: 01:02:03 PM on 04/05/06, hmmm…

Seattle Trip Report Part #1

Greetings to my family and friends:

I apologize to those who expected to hear from me earlier than this. I have landed in a motel (where I’ve been since this past Sunday) blessed with the ‘wireless Internet connection from hell’. It is a weak signal to begin with. And anytime two or more guests try to get on at the same time, both seem to get dumped. On top of that, they put me in the furthest room from the router and they claim they can’t move me because they are booked every night until next week. Apparently they are expecting big crowds for the annual Boonville Folk Festival, Catfish Fry & Pig Roast. Problem is…I don’t see any cars in the parking lot, just pick up trucks and a few 18-wheeler cabs. I decided to write up a summary of my trip so far and transmit it from the lobby. Hey, it beats tornado warnings! Those, unfortunately, are scheduled for tomorrow…

Anyway, I left Cambridge, NY two weeks ago today when Rob Klengler picked me and deposited me at the home of Steve Schunk and Doug Rackow in Highland, NY. It was a bit ironic for two reasons. First of all, one of the current Easton Mountain residents was taking me away to the home of a former Easton Mountain resident. To understand the significance of this, you should know that I came to Cambridge to volunteer at Easton Mountain. Now the inmates, I mean residents (he said fondly), are partly responsible for whisking me out of town. Secondly, right about this time last year Rob was climbing on his touring bicycle near Seattle to begin his cross-country trek. His destination: Easton Mountain. My destination is Seattle. So I’m making essentially the same trip in reverse. Rob’s web site ( is the featured site on my web site this week. Go there and read about his bicycle adventure and see some great photos. Read more about Easton Mountain on my site as well. This and subsequent trip reports (together with photographs, of course) will eventually be posted there under the button “D’s Village”. Read on please.

I probably should start at the beginning and explain why I am headed to Seattle. It is one of the few places in the U.S. that I have never visited. Until now, I have slept in 40 states. After this trip, it will be at least 45 (missing only Utah, New Mexico, South Dakota, Alaska and Hawaii). But that’s not why I’m headed there. The Great Northwest, particularly the Kitsap Peninsula where I will be staying, is a spectacularly beautiful area. For many years I have had it on my list of places to see (Curious? Visit their site here: ). But that’s not why I’m going there now. Yes, there’s a woman involved, but not in a way that you might imagine.

“Your stories need to get told”, she said. “I would be glad to bring you out this way on a train, and if you are not deeply involved with a job or a project there, you might consider an extended visit to casa es su casa!” She was telling me in a polite way that this book I’ve been working on since 2003 isn’t likely to get completed unless I decide to focus on finishing it. All I wanted was 15 minutes on the phone to interview her for the book. That, and I wanted her to visit my web site to read what I wrote on the Delilah page and tell me it was acceptable to her. “I don’t want to be the next James Frey”, I told her.

On the telephone, she seemed to be hinting, not so subtly, “If you want to interview me, then come here and do it.” I explained that it is no longer safe for me to fly due to the propensity for my legs to form blood clots on long trips. “Take the train,” she responded, “and you may book any trip you wish. Please include as many gorgeous sights and stops as you possibly can.” Then she added, “You may stay as long as you like.” Of course, I asked her why she would make such an offer to this tired old man. I will save her response for the book. Obviously, I have accepted her kind invitation. As always, however, I chose to take an indirect route (sketchy nomad that I am) in order to accomplish multiple objectives.

My itinerary is as follows:

March 23-26 Highland, NY; March 27 on the train between Poughkeepsie, NY and Chicago, IL; March 28-30 Chicago, IL; March 31-April 2 Columbia, MO; April 3-9 Boonville, MO; April 10-15 Lebanon, MO (April 15 is Carolyn & Dave’s wedding at Bennett State Park in SW Missouri); April 16 Columbia, MO; April 17 on the bus between Columbia, MO and Chicago, IL; April 18-19 on the train between Chicago, IL and Seattle, WA; April 20-24 Seattle, WA (until Delilah returns from her Africa trip – see her website for details: ). April 24 -??? Port Orchard, WA (to see a photo of the place I will be staying, go to Delilah’s site, click on “Photo Gallery” on the top right of her home page, then click the albums entitled “The farm” (a/k/a D’s Village) and “Landscaping”).

En route I can be reached by cell phone, and from now until mid-day April 10, I will be at the Boonville Comfort Inn 660-882-5317, room #224.

I just got some good news! The manager of the motel called to say he moved the wireless Internet access point to his room, which is directly under mine. I will end Part #1 of my Seattle Trip report here and try to get to my e-mail before the other guests complain. I’m wondering if my threat to sit in the lobby with my laptop persuaded him make the switch. Or maybe he figured if I can’t move the complaining guest, then I’ll move the source of the complaint. Now, that’s customer service!

In my next part of the trip report I will talk about my visit to Chicago, the chess tournament on the University of Missouri campus, the InsideOUT anniversary celebration, my journey to the spot where Carolyn and Dave met (plus some details about how they met), and the walks along an old railroad bed called the Katy trail. I’ll try to do that tomorrow, tornados permitting. Perhaps I’ll attach a few digital photos.

Thinking about the Boonville Folk Festival got me thinking about Noel Paul Stookey of Peter, Paul & Mary fame. “Y’all going to the toad suck?” he asked. “Yes. And I been practissin’, cause last year I swallered one an’ got disqualified.” Maybe I’ll get to see my first toad suck this weekend. I’ll bring my camera, just in case.

Much love to my family and friends. Special thanks to Delilah Rene and Steve Schunk for making this adventure possible. Remember that every day is a Gift, and that Real friends are friends forever.

Best wishes,Frank Niro, 4/5/06