Sunday, May 4, 2014

This is What Passes for News These Days...

Not much in the way of interesting news today.  Plenty of geekdom, though.

Source: No more blackjack for Ben Affleck at Las Vegas casino (CNN)
'The actor was "banned from playing blackjack at the Hard Rock casino in Las Vegas," a source close to Affleck told CNN on Friday.

Affleck was "not booted" from the casino as other reports have indicated, the source said. Rather, the source says, he was asked to leave after casino security told him: "You are too good at the game."'

You ask me, this is much more embarassing for the casino than it is for Afleck.  Because counting cards is neither cheating nor morally questionable, whereas most casinos will simply use multiple decks to thwart the practice and let people play.  What I'm wondering is why the Hard Rock didn't throw eight decks into the hopper and then let Affleck (or whoever else) try counting as best they could?  Because it messes with the mythos if you can't win at the table.

"Ukraine’s se­cu­rity forces pressed their as­sault to try to re­claim the pro-Russ­ian strong­hold of Slovyan­sk on Sat­ur­day, even as the rebels freed seven Eu­ro­pean mil­i­tary ob­servers and the Krem­lin cited the deaths of dozens of peo­ple in Odessa as proof that Ukraine could no longer pro­tect its cit­i­zens.

The Ukrain­ian troops built on re­cent ad­vances in­to Slovyan­sk’s out­skirts...  But even with the mil­i­tary ad­vances, the vi­o­lence on Fri­day in Odessa, far west of the coun­try’s restive east­ern re­gion, was a meas­ure of how far events have spi­raled out of the au­thori­ties’ con­trol. It al­so added to pres­sure from Rus­sia, which has long said it could in­ter­vene in Ukraine if it be­lieved Russ­ian-lean­ing res­i­dents were in dan­ger...

An of­fi­cial in the city said 46 peo­ple had died as a re­sult of street bat­tles be­tween pro-Rus­sia and pro-Ukraine groups; many of the dead were pro-Rus­sia mil­i­tants who had re­treat­ed in­to a trade un­ion build­ing that was then set on fire."

So, thirty-eight or thirty-nine people died in a fire in a previously uninvolved part of the country, and eight or nine died in isolated incidents in the east, the part that is ostensibly in revolt.  At this point, it seems like Putin has the pretense he's been looking for to invade, but analysis I've seen recently is that he'd much prefer not to do that, for a variety of reasons.

Seems reasonable to me.  I don't know that I necessarily think that the West's sanctions on Russia are working, but they've certainly had a chilling effect on the Russian stock markets.  If Russian businesses can't raise capital for new projects, that can become a very real deterrent to growth in the medium term--or sooner.

On the flipside, it seems that NASA now has no good way to resupply the International Space Station without Russian rockets.  I grant you that in the long term that's both a solvable problem and a business opportunity for Elon Musk and SpaceX, but I wouldn't want to be hanging out in the ISS wondering where my next meal is coming from in the meantime.

Today is May 4th, Star Wars Day, "May the Fourth Be With You..."


Leave it to a super-aggressive mega-corporation like Disney to own the world's most successful social media marketing campaign.  I mean, when guys like Cory Booker are getting in on the act, you know it's world-wide.

And here's the trailer for the new Star Wars cartoon, Rebels.


Yup.  That was my favorite Free Comic Book Day book, too.

For what it's worth, I also really liked the new Amazing Spider-Man #1.  But I don't know that I thought it was the world's best jumping-on point.  It builds straight off of everything that's happened over the last five or so years, maybe a hundred issues of the old ASM and then twenty-something issues of Superior...

This cover was great, but this issue wasn't
nearly this shiny and happy.
I mean, it's great and all, but I feel like I'd have been lost if I didn't know what was up with Spidey before he and Doc Ock did the old mind-switcheroo.

Enough.  I'm done.

Happy Sunday.

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