July 11, 2005

The Wizard's News

July 11, 2005

You might have missed the last newsletter!

Many subscribers didn't get the last newsletter because it got tagged as spam, because one of our advertisers is on a spam blocklist. (They're no longer our advertiser, by the way!) So if you didn't get the June 11 newsletter about social security then read it now because it's most excellent! The Wizard gives you the inside scoop on the social security controversy, and he should know, since he used to be one of the primary number-crunchers for the Social Security Administration. (read last issue...)

From the Wizard....

All about Montreal

I'm back from the 2005 Global Internet Gaming Summit and Expo, which was held in Montreal June 13 to 15. This was my fourth trip to Montreal in five years so I feel I fairly familiar with the city by now. The show itself was rather uneventful for me and I question myself if it was worth the time and expense. The highlight was winning a $500 ATM card from Pay Spark. I also won a week in a Cabo San Lucas condo in a charity auction, donated by the Gambling Federation. When I told Bluejay he said he didn't know that Starfleet allowed gambling. (groan)

While it is still fresh in my mind I thought I would devote this newsletter to my suggested things to do in Montreal. First, don't be worried if you don't speak French. Almost everybody in Montreal seems to be bilingual and about half of the conversations I overheard are in English anyway. I think when visiting any foreign country you get a lot of mileage in learning just a few phrases like hello, good day, good evening, and thank you. It shows respect to the people you are visiting and that is usually repaid with a smile or better service. When I went to Shanghai last year I surprised everyone with a few words in the local Shanghai dialect, as opposed to official Mandarin Chinese.

Tourist central of Montreal seems to be Saint Catherine Street, roughly from Crescent Street to Saint Laurent Boulevard. This is where you'll find lots of shopping centers, movie theaters, souvenir shops, restaurants, and cabarets. Crossing Saint Catherine is Crescent Street which has numerous nightclubs for the younger crowd. However I prefer Saint Laurent Boulevard, north of Saint Catherine. In my experience it is closed to traffic during the day as lots of locals walk up and down. This part of Montreal features lots of older small shops, bars, and restaurants. During the day vendors set up stands, many selling food and jewelry up and down the street. Saint Denis Street, which is several blocks to the east, is similar but smaller has more of an ethnic feel.

Old Montreal borders the waterfront and has plenty of old buildings, and the Notre-Dame Basilica. On a pier jutting out from the waterfront is a large science museum/Imax theatre. This is certainly worth a visit but is too touristy in my opinion, with countless identical souvenir shops. The public square features some jugglers and musicians during peak periods. I would like to put in a good word for the Les Rampart restaurant, which features authentic French food in a basement under a small hotel. This is not only one of the best meals I've had in Montreal but anywhere. The address is 97 Commune East. I led some of my fellow webmasters there during the show but I think the rest wanted something more informal (and Bluejay decried the lack of vegetarian options) so we went somewhere else. I regret I never had the chance to go to Les Rampart this trip.

Every trip to Montreal I visit Mont-Royal Park at least once. This is a large park on a hill within walking distance north of downtown. There are lots of jogging/biking paths, and small dirt paths for hiking. At one place there is a gigantic staircase to the top, but it was closed for repairs when I was there this time. The observatory at the top features a fantastic view of the city and it is good exercise getting there. Much less enjoyable is the Olympic Park, which I visited on a previous trip. They have tours of the major facilities but it is out of the way and rather vacant. I'd make that a low priority.

Of course I have to mention the Montreal Casino. Although I think I described it in an old newsletter I'll revisit that topic. It is in a very modern split level facility. It is located on an island in the Saint Laurent River. To get there you can take the subway and then a short trip on a connecting bus, or a cab. The games rules are competitive but it is crowded. During busy times it can be difficult to find a $25 minimum blackjack table. There isn't much to do in the casino except gambling, but if you have the gambling itch it is an enjoyable place to scratch it.

I'd also like to put in a good word for the modern art museum, located on Saint Catherine Street. This features lots of bizarre and interesting exhibits in the temporary section. The permanent exhibits I found much less inspiring. My favorite part was a room lit only by bicycle lights, powered by people on exercycles behind the scenes, who were serving community service time. I find that kind of thing much more compelling than the usual paintings of just a solid color, and random splattering of paint, prevalent in U.S. modern art museums, which I still don't get.

I could go on and on but I've probably bored you enough. Until next time, may the odds bet with you.

From Michael Bluejay....

What the Wizard didn't mention about Montreal was that he spent $100/night for four nights for a hotel while I stayed in a hostel three blocks from the convention center for only $20/night. Sure I had to share a room with five other guys but since all I used the room for was sleeping I didn't mind. Here's a picture of me with some of the CasinoPays people. That's Sammy on the left and Liat on the right.

Popup-free wonderland

You already know that Wizard of Odds doesn't have any popup windows. But what you might not know is that we don't allow our advertisers to have popup windows, either. If some site wants to advertise with us, then there can't be a popup when the reader clicks over to their site. We want you to have a good experience with our site, even at the point where you click off the site to go somewhere else.

Now, sometimes an advertiser tries to cheat and sneaks in some new popup windows after we verified that they don't have any. If you find an advertiser cheating like this, let us know! It's pretty rare that that happens because we pick only high-quality advertisers and they're all fairly reputable — not to mention our new policy that advertisers can lose their ad spot without a refund if they sneak in popups. Still, if you do see popups when clicking one of our advertisers be sure to tell us. The first person to let us know about any specific naughty advertiser will get a free copy of the Wizard's new book Gambling 102.

Free book by the Wizard

Speaking of free books, for the foreseeable future one lucky subscriber will get a free copy of the Wizard's new book Gambling 102 in every issue of this newsletter. Today's winner is subscriber #458 (out of 8018), Bill Blackburn! Bill's copy of Gambling 102 is now hurtling towards him through time and space.

Bluejay's Internet tip o' the month: How much electricity does your computer use?

Ever wonder how much electricity your computer uses? Of course you have. (Yes, you have, don't argue with me.) The first thing we need to know is how electricity is measured. That's easy, it's measured in kilowatt-hours. When you use 1000 watts for an hour, that's a kilowatt-hour. So if you have ten 100-watt light bulbs on for an hour, that's a kilowatt-hour. Or one 100-watt light bulb on for ten hours is also a kilowatt-hour. Let's abbreviate that with kWh because I'm getting tired of typing kilowatt-hour over and over.

The average cost of electricity in the U.S. is about 10¢ per kWh. A typical computer uses about 65 watts, plus another 80 watts for a 17" CRT monitor, or 35 watts for an LCD monitor. (Laptops use 15-45 watts.) So with an LCD monitor, we're looking at 65 + 35 = 100 watts. If you use your computer three hours a day that's about 90 hours a month, or 90 hours x 100 watts = 9000 watt-hours = 9 kWh, or about $0.90. Not a lot. But one reason to save electricity is not just to save money, it's to decrease pollution, because electricity generation is a dirty business. To save electricity set your computer to go into sleep / standby mode automatically when you're not using it. That uses at little as three watts, depending on the model. In Windows 98 go to Start > Settings > Power Management, and in Mac OS X go to System Preferences > Energy Saver.

You can save a lot more electricity by focusing on cooling, heating, and lighting than on computer use. There's more about this on my Guide to Saving Electricity.

Previous tips:

What's new on the website

Here are some new things at Wizard of Odds:
  • New "Search our site" Okay, you asked for it, you got it: Now you can easily search all of Wizard of Odds with a simple search box, located in the sidebar. A quick test shows the only instance of the word "sex" on Wizard of Odds was in an article I wrote in the newsletter a couple of years ago.
  • Pick 'em Poker. The Wizard analyzes a new video poker variant.
  • All-in Holdem. Get the scoop on a new poker-based table game being field-trialed now at the Bellagio.
That's all. Until next time, set your expectations high.