Sunday, November 26, 2006

Casino Generale

I awoke this morning at 7:33am, considerably earlier than I had planned, feeling quite refreshed, other than the aching in my shoulders and legs from a workout, and despite falling asleep about five hours before that. I couldn't fall asleep again at that point, so I decided to consider today my lucky day, and I got up and made myself breakfast. I had awoken from an interesting dream that I thought I'd share, since I now have all the time in the world to do so.

I have this strange thing where I just know details from the beginnings of dreams. I don't know how this works. Maybe the setting and early details of the dream are just inferred during the course of the rest, or maybe my brain gives me a quick trailer before the movie part of the dream starts. Or, maybe the early details actually were part of the dream, and I just don't have the faintest memory of them anymore. (That one's probably most likely.) But anyway, I don't know how I know the following paragraph of setup details, but I do.

I had been invited to a celebration and awards show honoring people who do interesting things that most of the world doesn't know about. Hey, it's my dream. Shut up. I remember that the first thing that came to mind is that it sounded an awful lot like those yearbooks that gullible parents are offered—the ones that contain pictures of kids whose parents were dumb enough to buy one or more close-to-$100 books of pictures of kids with other stupid parents. (I feel like I've blogged about this before, but I can't find the post anywhere.) Anyway, it was a free flight and hotel to a place I'd never been before, so I decided to go. The city was the headquarters of IBM, wherever that is—or wherever my sleep-deprived brain completely made up that it is.

The dream, as I remember it, started out with me driving around in this city. It was icy, and the IBM fall/winter interns had sanded the roads using colored sand that spelled out distracting phrases like "IBM INTERNS 2006" on the roads. Don't worry; this is an entirely useless detail; I only mention it because I was driving for quite a long time through this dark, foggy city. I made it to the building where the event was to take place around dinnertime, having skipped the numerous intellectual presentations that afternoon, from other nominees who were interested in various academic topics in math and sciences. Symposia just ain't my thang.

I arrived at the registration desk, and suddenly my "scam" lights turned on once more. The evening's "welcome entertainment," which had been glossed over in the brochure as an "exciting surprise," was a casino night. Except, unlike a typical "for fun" casino night, this one was for real cash. There was a required $500 buy-in, with a requirement that you have an extra $4,500 on standby in case you want more funds. Those who did not gamble were not eligible for recognition at the ceremonies the following day. Scam! Scam!

But I did it anyway. I've never actually gambled with real cash, so it seemed like an interesting thing to do. I charged the $500, and took the stack of cardboard tokens that I was handed. These tokens had to be traded in for actual gambling chips at a different table. So, essentially I used my plastic card that represents money to buy cardboard tokens that represent money to be traded in for plastic chips that represent money. Anyway, I showed up at the exchange table, and the banker asked me how many chips I wanted to buy. I wasn't required by the event rules to spend any particular amount for chips, so I decided to start out with $200, saving out $100. The cardboard chips had bizarre denominations like $45 and $55 and $3, so I started trying to count out $200 in chips. There were a lot of people in line, so I went quickly, and wasn't sure if I ended up with $190 or $200, but clearly the other guy would recount them, so I just handed him the stack. Then, I decided it was silly to spend so little on chips up front, so I counted out another $200 and handed them to the banker. He said I was ten short, so I gave him another token for $10. I was then given two red chips. I examined these, and they said $50 on the face. I asked the banker what was up, and he said, "That's one hundred dollars. You gave me ninety dollars and then another ten; one hundred." Now, I know that's not right at all. I gave him way more than $90 to begin with. Just two of the tokens were worth that; I remember them quite clearly, because they were yellowish-tan and had a picture of a fish on them. I gave him two of those, plus plenty of $55 tokens and lower denominations. I asked for my tokens back so I could recount them, but he had already added them into his stacks, so there was no longer any proof of how much I gave him. I was quite frustrated at this point, much to the annoyance to the jerk behind me in line, and I was just about to complain when the dream ended.

Dreams should not require math skills.

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