Friday, May 25, 2007

Casino Royale

casino gamblingThe first casino in the U.S. was opened by John Davis in 1827 at the corner of Bourbon Streets in New Orleans and kept it open for 24 hours a day for betting. The first high-profiled casino was one called The Palace of Fortune which opened in 1832 on Pennsylvania Avenue, just a short distance from the U.S. Capitol. The casino was patronized by government officials, and when the casino owner died, then US president James Buchanan attended the funeral along with several congressmen.

The first casino in Las Vegas was the Northern Club, which opened in 1931 with only one dice table, two blackjack tables, and one table for poker. Vegas's first casino hotel and resort was the El Rancho Vegas, which opened in April 1941 with 63 hotel rooms, a casino, and a 250-seat showroom.

According to a 2003 census, the population of Las Vegas was 535,000. On that same year there were about 150,000 slot machines in Las Vegas. It means that the ratio was about 3.5 people for 1 slot machine.

The slot machine was the most popular gambling method in Las Vegas. Invented in San Francisco in 1900 by a mechanic named Charles Fey, the first slot machine featured playing cards and the Liberty Bell. Three bells paid the largest jackpot which on that year was 20 nickels. On March 21, 2003, a 25-year old software designer from L.A. hit the jackpot at Las Vegas's Excalibur Hotel and Casino. He had put about $100 into the machine before the magic numbers hit. His total jackpot prize: $39,718,982.25! In Atlantic City, the largest jackpot ever won was $8.5 million in 1994.

Now, before you pack your suitcase and fly to Las Vegas, consider this: the average slot machine makes $100,000 each year after subtracting payouts. That means that the odds are really not on your side. In fact, according to New York Times, gamblers lost $6.1 billion in 2003. Put it simply, that's $696,000 lost every hour of every day!

While the rich people go to casino to unwind and relax, the large percentage of people (75%) gamble to win "a really large amount of money". The average Vegas visitor had a gambling average budget of $480 with which they hoped to amass quick wealth. But that was not the case of computer programmer Chris Boyd. In 1994, after saving $220,000 from working over 3 years, Boyd sat down at the roulette table at Binion's and bet the entire amount on the red. Red hit, and Boyd left the casino with $440,000.

Then there's the story of William Lee Bergstrom. In 1980, Bergstrom come to Binion's Horeshoe Casino with a suitcase filled with $777,000 in cash which was reportedly lent to him by a bank. He put the suitcase on the craps table without even bothering to change the cash into chips, and bet the entire sum on a woman's roll, and won. However, on Nov. 16, 1984, Bergstrom did the same stunt, this time with $1 million. He lost on a single roll of the dice. In 1985, he was found dead of drug overdose.

Random Odds & Ends
  • Most casinos don't have clocks or windows. This makes the players lose all sense of time and play longer which inccreases the odds of the casino winning.
  • The oldest known dice with regular sides were discovered in northern Iraq. They were made of baked clay and were estimated to date to about 3,000 B.C.
  • The kings in playing cards represent real leaders and conquerors from history, although not all of them had the title of "king". Based on cards designed in 15th-century France, the kings are: spades -Biblical King David, clubs - Alexander the Great, hearts - Charlemagne and diamonds - Julius Caesar.
  • In 1966, Howard Hughes stayed at the Desert Inn in Las Vegas. Annoyed after being asked to leave by the hotel management, Hughes purchased the Desert Inn on the same day.
  • It would take 288 years for one person to spend one night in every hotel room in Las Vegas.
  • About 150 couples get married in Las Vegas every day.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Rockin' and Rollin'

The term "rock and roll" was derived from its original usage as an African-American street slang expression for sex during the late 20's to early 30's. It was Cleveland disc jockey Alan Freed who in the 1950s first used the term in reference to music. The first rock and roll song was a song aptly titled "Rock and Roll". Released in 1949 by Modern Records, the R&B 78 rpm single by Wild Bill Moore was the first song to use the term "Rock and Roll" and sound like it too. However, a lot of music historians consider the first true rock and roll song to have been recorded is "Rocket 88" by Ike Turner in 1951. While the first rock and roll song to reach #1 position in the charts is "Rock Around the Clock" by Bill Haley and the Comets in July 1955.

The first Rock and Roll concert was held March 21, 1952 in Cleveland. The event titled as "The Moondog Coronation Ball" was organized by Alan Freed and promised performances from the Dominoes, saxophonist Paul Williams and guitarist Tiny Grimes, among others. A riot erupted after the police shut down the concert due to extreme overcrowding.

The most famous and historic rock concert was the 1969 3-day concert at Woodstock. Billed as "Three Days of Peace and Music", the concert promoters expected 50,000 people maximum, but 500,000 showed up. Actually, the event was not even held in Woodstock, but a few miles away on a farm in Bethel, N.Y. During those 3 days, 3 people died in the audience - one from a heroin overdose, another one from a ruptured appendix, and one was ran over by a tractor. There were also 2 pregnant women among the audience who gave birth during the event.

Guitar smashing is a common stunt during rock concerts. The first one to ever did this act was The Who in 1964. Performing at a stage in Railway Hotel in Harrow, England, the ceiling was so low that Pete Townshend often hit his guitar against it. Losing his cool, Townshend smashed the guitar to pieces. Another Who incident, this time on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour in September 1967, Keith Moon's base drum exploded when a pyrothechnics effects went awry. It left Pete Townshend partially deaf.

Another bizarre concert incident was when an audience threw a live bat onstage during a 1982 Black Sabath concert. Thinking it was a fake, Ozzie Osborne bit the head of the bat and afterwards was forced to undergo a painful round of rabies shots. And in a 1969 Alice Cooper Toronto concert, a chicken found its way on the stage. Not knowing that chicken could not fly, Cooper threw the chicken into the audience. The audience got hold of the chicken and like savages, tore the animal to pieces.

Rock songs have the reputation of having hidden or subliminal messages within it. The Beatles' "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" was banned from the airwaves by BBC, thinking that the song, with initials LSD, was about drugs. John Lennon insisted that it was inspired by a drawing Julian Lennon had done of a friend named Lucy. And during the early 70's the U.S. army, on order by then President Nixon, compiled a list of songs and warned radio stations not to play any of the songs in the list or risk losing their license. Among the songs is "Puff, the Magic Dragon" by Peter, Paul and Mary, which many thought is a euphemism for smoking marijuana. However, the group insisted that the song is merely about a boy, his mystical magic dragon, and growing up.

The most extensive investigation regarding a song was a 2-year investigation of the song "Louie Louie" done by FBI from 1963. Rumors circulated that the song contained dirty words that were intelligible only when the record was played at a slower speed. After the extensive examinations, FBI concluded "Louie Louie" was "unintelligible at any speed".

Random Odds & Ends
  • The first music video was "Bohemian Rhapsody" by Queen, which was shown on the British show Top of the Pops in 1975. The first video shown on MTV was "Video Killed the Radio Star" by the Buggles, aired on August 1, 1981 at 12:01 am when MTV first signed on the air.
  • Elvis Presley earned $5,000 on his first record contract. In 2004, Elvis earned $40 million, most of it goes to his daughter, Lisa Marie, who owns his estate.
  • 2 Live Crew was arrested in 1990 when a federal court declared their 80-minute LP to be "obscene." The said album contains 226 uses of F-word, 87 descriptions of oral sex, and many references to female and male genitals.
  • Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven" is the most famous Rock song of all time but never charted because it was never released as a single to the general public. Radio stations received promotional singles which quickly became collector's items.
  • Phil Collins was one of the school kids brought in as extras for a scene in the Beatles movie "A Hard Days Night." He didn't make the cut, but years later, the film's producer gave Collins the outtake footage with him in it and had Collins add commentary to the DVD release.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Lost In Translation

Babelfish is one of the most famous translation tool in the web. It had been around for some time and is very useful when translating phrases or even entire websites into another language. It can be funny sometimes too - for example, try translating "Would you be shocked if I put on something more comfortable?" into korean, then copy the korean text and translate it back to english.

Advertisers even do worse when it comes to translation. For example, I have mentioned in previous post that KFC's slogan of "Finger Lickin' Good" was initially translated into chinese as "eat fingers off". Another one is Pepsi's "Come Alive with the Pepsi Generation". The chinese translation came out as "Pepsi will bring your ancestors back from the dead". And Coors's "Turn It Loose" was loosely translated to mexican as "Suffer from diarrhea".

Then there is the case of Salem's 3-word slogan campaign: "Salem - Feeling Free". In Japanese, advertisers translated this as "When smoking Salem, you feel so refreshed that your mind seems to be free and empty".

Sometimes the brand names are the ones that gives translation headache. In 2003, Buick tested their car "Lacrosse" to a group of teenagers in Quebequois, Canada and everytime the car name is being mentioned, the teens giggled. The company found out that Lacrosse means "to masturbate" in French Canadian slang. Another car, the Ford Pinto means "small genitals" in Brazilian. Ford renamed the car the Corcel which means horse or steed.

In Italy "sega" is a popular slang for male masturbation. So, the popular videogame makers SEGA Enterprises, attempting to disassociate SEGA from sega, changed the pronunciation to "see-ga" in their ads. Many Italians are surprised to learn that SEGA is not pronounced see-ga, but say-ga, outside of Italy.

When Coca-Cola first entered the chinese market in 1928, they found out that there is no representation of the name in chinese characters. The company did an extensive research to be able to come-up with something that sounded like "ko-ka-ko-la". However, before they come up with the official characters, chinese shopkeepers began putting up signs that would sound as "ko-ka-ko-la". However, the sign meant "Bite the wax tadpole" when read. Read more.

Movies face the same predicament when it was shown in foreign countries. "Dumb and Dumber" was called "Two Stupid, Stupid People" in Spain, "Blair Witch Project" was "Night in the Cramped Forest" in China, "Boogie Nights" was "His Powerful Device Makes Him Famous" in China, and "Pretty Woman" was titled "I'm Rich but I like Cheap Prostitutes" in Germany.

Even famous world leaders are guilty of mistranslations. In 1963, John F. Kennedy made a trip to the Berlin Wall and made his famous announcement, "Ich bin ein Berliner." He had meant to say "I am a citizen of Berlin", which would be "Ich bin Berliner" (without the ein). Ein Berliner is a popular jelly doughnut. So what JFK actually said was, "I am a doughnut". In 1989, nearly 30 years after JFK's Berliner speech, Ronald Reagan said the same phrase and made the same mistake.

In a trip to Poland after the fall of the Soviet empire, US president Jimmy Carter offered aid to the Poles, saying that he wanted to know their desires, but the translator used the word for "lust" instead. The translated sentence came out as "I lust for Poles."

Random Odds & Ends
  • An American t-shirt maker in Miami printed shirts for the Spanish market which promoted the Pope's visit. Instead of the desired "I saw the Pope" in Spanish, the shirts proclaimed "I saw the Potato." ("Papa" with capital P means "Pope", "papa" with an accent on the last "a" means father, "papa" means potato).
  • Odds that a new york city driver was born in the U.S. - 1 in 10
  • Ray Charles endorsed Coke in 1969 and Pepsi in 1989.
  • Stalin deemed crossword puzzles bourgeois and degenerate and was once banned in Soviet Union.
  • Because of the shortage of Arabic translators, an arabic wiretap recorded by NSA on September 10, 2006 was translated only after 2 days later -September 12. The message was translated as "tomorrow is zero hour."

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Secret Recipes

Here are three of the most-guarded secret recipes in the world:

Krispy Kreme Doughnut:

When people talk about a Krispy Kreme doughnut, they're usually referring to the signature variety - the Original Glaze - which was created by Joe LeBeau, a New Orleans cook, in 1933. The recipe is now being kept in an envelope inside a combination lock at the company's headquarters in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. To ensure that it will remain confidential, three separate groups of workers prepare separate portions of the doughnut and then mixed together at the plant.

KFC Chicken:

The recipe for the Colonel's chicken is locked in a vault at Kentucky Fried Chicken headquarters in Louisville, Kentucky and is accessible to only 2 people. As with Krispy Kreme, KFC has two separate companies that prepare half of the portion of the recipe, thereby ensuring secrecy. It is then blended in a way, which according to KFC, cannot be reverse engineered.

In 2000, a couple purchased the Colonel's house in Kentucky and claimed to have discovered the secret recipe in a book written by the Colonel which is hidden in the Attic. KFC quicky sued the couple, but later dropped it after determining that the ingredients were not the actual KFC recipe.


Better known as "Merchandise 7x" by the Coca-Cola employees, the formula for Coke is kept in a bank vault in Atlanta, Georgia, and is very seldom seen. The company's bylaws specify that only 2 high-ranking executives will know the formula at any one time, and is passed down only by word of mouth. The company even have a policy that those 2 executives cannot fly on the same plane at the same time.

In 1954 a rumor spread through Morocco that Coca-Cola contained pig's blood, which would have made it taboo among Muslims. The beverage remained under suspicion until the sultan's son publicly drank a Coke. The company eagerly publicizes one fact about its ingredients — that the glycerine used is extracted from vegetable matter, not pork.

In 1977, the Indian government demanded Coca-Cola to disclose the soda's ingredients. Rather than submit, Coca-Cola stopped its business and left the country, only returning in 1993.

So the next time you are in KFC and having a combo meal of original recipe chicken with Coke, remind yourself that you are putting in your stomach two of the world's top secrets.

Random Odds & Ends:
  • When KFC first translated its advertising slogan "finger lickin' good" into Chinese, it came out as "eat your fingers off."
  • KFC products are the most popularly requested items for US death row inmates' final meals.
  • On May 15, 1950, Coke became the first product ever to appear on the cover of Time Magazine.
  • The first Coca-Cola was sold on May 8, 1886 at a soda fountain in Jacob's Pharmacy in Atlanta. It was originally marketed for its medicinal qualities.
  • Krispy Kreme produces enough doughnuts in about a week to make a line of doughnuts from New York City to Los Angeles.
  • The hole in the center of the doughnut is credited to a young boy named Hanson Gregory, who, in 1847, suggested to his mother that she put a hole in the middle of her “fried cakes” to ensure the cake was fully cooked in the middle.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Body Art

The word "tattoo" comes from the tahitian word "tatau" which means "to mark something". It may have been picked up by sailors — the first to popularize tattoing in the West — who likely learned techniques from their travels at sea. The actual origins of tattooing are unknown, since evidence traces it to nearly all ancient cultures, from Maori tribesmen to the Thracian women of fifth-century Greece, to the Ainu of Japan, to the indigenous tribes in polynesia. In fact, "Oetzi, The Iceman" - the oldest and best-preserved frozen mummy ever found - had 57 tattoos.

Tattoos have served as rites of passage, marks of status and rank, symbols of religious and spiritual devotion, decorations for bravery, sexual lures and marks of fertility, pledges of love, amulets and talismans. Ancient Greeks marked criminals and slaves with tattoos as a form of punishment.

Tattooed Roman soldiers popularized the art form, spreading it across the Roman Empire. However, roman emperor Constantine banned tattooing after deeming it un-Christian.

Prior to 2004, tattoing is illegal in South Carolina and Oklahoma. In 1999, there was a sensational case of illegal tattoing in South Carolina, as Ronald White appeared on TV tattoing a customer. 10 days after that, police officers dressed in full combat gear and bulletproof vests arrested him at his home. White was then sentenced to a year in prison and a $2,500 fine. It was later reduced when White appealed that tattoing is a form of art and should be a part of the first ammendment. The tattooing ban was lifted in 2004 in South Carolina and in 2006 in Oklahoma.

In 1936, 10 million Americans have tattoos. Today, the figure rose to 40 million. However, 17% of those people regret getting a tattoo, but a mere 2% only actually have it removed.

Some of the historical world leaders with tattoos are: Winston Churchill (anchor), Joseph Stalin (death's head) and Franklin D. Roosevelt (family crest).

If you are aspiring to become a tattoo artist, you should be aware that you could be sued for misspelling. Dan O'Connor was sued when he misspelled "Fighting Irish" as "Fighing Irish". Another tattoo-related lawsuit arose when Joseph Beahm misspelled "Why not, everyone else does" as "Why not, everyone elese does". And Lee Beck got sued for inking chinese characters which are supposed to say "Love, honor and obey", but made a frank by inking letters that actually said "This boy is ugly".

Now, if you need extra money, you can use your head as a billboard space. Jim Nelson in 2003, for example, put his head on eBay for auction, which was won by CI-Host, a web hosting company based in Dallas entitling it to tattoo its bright orange and blue logo onto Nelson's head. The fee was $7,000.

Random Odds & Ends
  • Humans shed about 600,000 particles of skin every hour - about 1.5 pounds a year. By 70 years of age, an average person will have lost 105 pounds of skin.
  • The Nazis, during the Holocaust, used human skin as a substitute for leather in the manufacture of lampshades and shoes, among other things.
  • A fetus acquires fingerprints at the age of three months.
  • Every person has a unique tongue print.
  • Every time you lick a stamp, you're consuming 1/10 of a calorie.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

The Cyberworld

The Internet has become a part of our society and our daily life. More and more people are becoming dependent on this technology, primarily on seeking information, but also for other purposes as well, such as business, communication, entertainment, and of course, sex.

Internet and sex seems to go hand in hand, and there is even a joke that the Internet was invented primarily because of sex. In fact, according to a recent survey, the odds that an internet search includes the word "sex" is 1 in 300. As there are about 200 million searches performed in Google everyday, that is around 660,000 "sex" searches everyday in Google alone. Other terms as "porn", "nude" and "xxx" are also in the top 20 search terms.

The birth of the Internet, actually can be traced as far back as September 2, 1969. On that day, several graduate students at UCLA hooked up an Internet Message Processor with a computer in the school, the first instance of data being sent back and forth through a central processor. The school put out a press release announcing "UCLA to be the first station in nationwide computer network". Not one newspaper thought it was important enough to print.

The first actual communication between two computers happened on October 29, 1969, when a computer at Stanford was hooked up to the same Internet Message Processor in UCLA. The word "L-O-G-I-N" was typed at UCLA; Stanford received "L-O-G" before it's computer crashed, ending the first message sent across cyberspace.

Email had its beginnings in 1971 when Ray Tomlinson devised a program called SNDMSG that allowed users on a computer in Cambridge, Mass. lab to send messages to other computers in the same lab. While the Guiness Book of World Records says the first email message was "QWERTYUIOP", Tomlinson said that he doesn't remember what he wrote, only that he was afraid of being caught by his boss. Tomlinson is also the one who invented using "@" to address email recipients.

Today email messages around the world travels at about 10,000 miles per second, and is widely used for personal, business and spam - the term used for unsolicited email advertisement. The term "spam" was only coined in 1994 but the first actual spam email was sent on May 3, 1978 when the marketing department of Digital Equipment Corp (DEC) sent out email to some 600 individuals announcing an event at which the company's new computer would be showcased.

In 1995, there were only about 1.3 million total number of web pages. By the end of 2004, there were about 8 Billion. Domain names itself becomes an asset. For example, the domain name was sold for $7.5 million, for $5.1 million, and for $3.3 million.

Speaking of domain names, be careful if ever you select one for yourself. Make sure it can not be presented in a way with another meaning. For example seems a good name for a website that specializes in custom-made pens. But then again, one would read the name as Or, if you are looking for a family or marriage therapist, seems a good way to start. Unless you misread it as

Domain names are limited to 63 characters (excluding suffixes), and currently the two sites using all 63 characters are the website for the longest name of town which I mentioned in previous post, and this site about the longest things in the world.

Random Odds & Ends
  • The original name for the computer mouse is "x-y position indicator for a display".
  • In 1988, there are only 6 known computer viruses. By the end of 2003, there are 137,529 viruses identified.
  • In 1976, Ron Wayne sold his 10% stake in Apple to Steve Jobs for $500. Today, that 10% stake is worth $1.3 billion.
  • ENIAC, the world's first computer weighed 30 tons and can perform 5,000 calculations per second. Today, the fastest computer can do 41 trillion calculations per second.
  • 41% of computer users have considered physically assaulting their computers. 7% have actually done so.