Library e-books

April 30, 2011

My recent semi-retirement and purchase of a smart phone have again given me time and the means to read for pleasure. I tried downloading a few of the free titles on Amazon’s Kindle and Google’s Books sites, and enjoyed reading them (I set the phone for white type on a black background, which conserves battery life and makes for easy, eyestrain-free viewing). I was surprised at how comfortable I was reading books on my phone (you also can use a laptop or e-book reader if you have one).

Looking for new material, I happened upon the Upper Hudson Libraries digital collection site, which I highly recommend. After downloading the Overdrive app, you’re good to go with e-books and audio books, great for those long drives. The selection is a little bit limited, but I’m sure it will be growing. I believe the site is open to all residing in Albany and Rensselaer Counties. Kudos to Upper Hudson for providing this great service!

Northeast blackjack update

April 28, 2011

No hit 17

I just read on a gambling message board that Foxwoods – one of the largest casinos in the world, not to mention the northeast United States – is in the process of converting all but its high limit blackjack games to hit soft 17, the evils of which are explained in a post below. Another ripoff perpetrated, no doubt, by the same MBAs who gave you the shrinking contents food containers. Thanks.

New Orleans

April 5, 2011

I just returned from a brief visit to New Orleans, my second since Katrina.  The tourism sector seems very healthy, and the French Quarter, Garden District and as much of Uptown as one can see from the St. Charles streetcar were crowded and in good physical shape.  However, the central business district seemed less crowded than before, and not completely repaired.  In some of the less glamorous areas, there remain many boarded-up, damaged and abandoned structures, as well as vast tracts of vacant land, concrete foundation slabs being the only evidence of their prior developed state.  The city as a whole, beset even before Katrina by poverty, crime and other urban woes, still has a long way to go.  However, my friends and I had a great time, enjoying some of the country’s best restaurants, historical architecture and continental joie de vivre.  It’s unique among US cities, and I hope its comeback continues.

One thing I, as a shoestring traveler, like about New Orleans is direct public transit from the airport to downtown.  It’s a local bus that is slow and that follows the least scenic route imaginable, but with only a weekend bag to carry and no rush to get to or from the airport, I was delighted to pay two dollars each way instead of  the cab fare (non-metered) of $33 plus tip.  Why CDTA fails to provide similar service to and from the airport and rail station here continues to baffle me.

Another thing I like about New Orleans is the casino, which offers decent blackjack and video poker games, albeit at relatively high limits.  The games overall are better than those its owner offers at its Las Vegas outlets, even though the New Orleans casino is highly taxed and has little competition.  One negative for high rollers – if you hit a taxable machine jackpot, you will be subject to mandatory withholding for state income tax.  How hard it is for an out-of-state visitor to procure a refund I don’t know, but I imagine that, in most cases, people don’t bother to try.