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Stokes's Bristol Nightclub incident in detail (From: The Comeback Summer by Geoff Lemon)

IF YOU’RE LOOKING for a place where misadventure could begin, you can’t go past Mbargo. The nightclub’s streetfront is painted a purple so bright you’ll see it in your dreams. Strings of giant sequins shimmer in the breeze. Its phonically inventive name is spelt in silver letters that climb its three-storey terrace facade. Inside are strips of burning neon, a few booths, floorboards so marinated in drink that they have an ingredients list. Bristol is a student city on England’s south coast crowded with music and nightlife and street art. This is Banksy’s home town, and the tourism board suggests in rather strong terms that ‘you would be a fool not to see his amazing work firsthand’. The same organisation describes Mbargo as ‘intimate’, which is fair for a place where you can catch an STI standing up. Students cram into its modest dimensions while people with names like DJ Klaud battle for billing with £1.50 drink deals over seven sloppy nights a week. To get a sense of the story about to come, consider that it’s the kind of place open until two o’clock on a Monday morning, and that at two o’clock on a Monday morning, Ben Stokes still thought it had closed too early.
The Ashes of 2017–18 had disciplinary bookends. It was after that series that Australia’s two leaders went off the rails in South Africa. It was a few weeks before that Ashes tour that England’s biggest star windmilled his way into his own disaster.
In the early hours of 25 September 2017, Stokes and teammate Alex Hales were barred from re-entering Mbargo after a night out on the piss. A Sunday thrashing of an abject West Indies in an ignored series at the fag-end of the season apparently required ample celebration. After arguing with the bouncer and hanging about at the door for a while, they wandered off to find a casino in the hope of more drinking. They’d barely made it around the corner before getting in the middle of a conflict between four locals. As is said on the internet, it escalated quickly.
The 26 September reporting was bloodless. Withholding names, police stated that a man ‘was arrested on suspicion of causing actual bodily harm’ while another went to hospital with facial injuries. England’s director of cricket Andrew Strauss separately confirmed that Stokes was the arrestee, adding that he had been released without charge and that Hales had gamely offered to ‘help police with their enquiries’. Administrators had a good chance of hiding behind that investigation, and the next day Stokes was named in the upcoming Ashes squad as expected. But that night the video emerged.
Bristol student Max Wilson had shot it on his phone, then offered it to The Sun. What he thought was playing hardball was actually lowball: his opening price of £3000 was snapped up by a tabloid that would have paid ten times that. The Sun went on to make a mint by syndicating the rights worldwide. From a window above the fray, the vision showed six men on the street below performing the muddled choreography of a melee. One was right at the centre of it. One was waving a bottle, one dipped in and out, one tried to calm it. Two others floated around the edges. The central figure was unmistakable: red hair burning even in the streetlight as he launched into a series of blows against two of the men, falling to grapple with them on the ground, then following both across the street, swinging punches the whole way. Hales trailed behind, repeatedly and impotently shouting ‘Stokes! Stop! Stokes! Enough!’ The ECB could fudge issues that existed only in thickets of legalese, but not those captured in moving colour. Stokes was stood down from the next West Indies match, then suspended indefinitely. It emerged that he had broken his hand during the fight, something he’d done twice before while punching objects in dressing rooms.
The response in Australia was fierce: Stokes was a thug, a lowlife, a selection that would disgrace England. It was not entirely coincidental that a ban for England’s best player would be handy for the Aussie team, but there was also a cultural split. In England, plenty of people still minimise pub fights as lads letting off steam. In Australia, heavy media coverage as a succession of young men were killed had inverted that tolerance. The discourse now saw any punch as potentially deadly and accordingly reckless. This was more poignant in a cricket context given that David Hookes, the dashing Test batsman and state coach, was killed in 2004 by a pub bouncer’s fist.
The PR situation was bad for Stokes as details emerged of the injuries to the men he’d hit, and that one was a young war veteran and father. Stokes wasn’t officially removed from the Ashes squad through October but stayed behind when his teammates left, hoping for police to dismiss the matter in time for a late dash to Australia. His annual contract was renewed on the due date in case that came to pass. Then 29 October brought a twist in the tale.
‘Ben Stokes praised by gay couple after defending them from homophobic thugs,’ ran the headline. Kai Barry and Billy O’Connell had emerged. Not entirely out of nowhere: while Stokes had made no public comment, this story in his defence had initially been leaked to TV host Piers Morgan after the fight, as soon as the video appeared. Police body-camera footage played in court would later show that Stokes had given the same story to the arresting officer on the night. But no-one knew the identities of the fifth and sixth men in the video, and police appeals had turned up nothing.
It was The Sun again with the breakthrough. Kai and Billy were perfect for a readership not keen on nuance. ‘We couldn’t believe it when we found out they were famous cricketers. I just thought Ben and Alex were quite hot, fit guys,’ said Kai, who was memorably described as a ‘former House of Fraser sales assistant’. The paper had the pair do a full photo shoot: layering the fake tan, showing off chest waxes, mixing Ralph Lauren and Louis Vuitton into a range of outfits. Their best shot had them standing back to back, heads turned to the camera, in a mirror-image Zoolander moment.
Suddenly The Sun was the England team’s best friend. ‘Their claims could lead to the all-rounder being cleared over the punch-up and freed to play in the First Test in Australia next month,’ it gushed, then gave a tasting platter of quotes: ‘We were so grateful to Ben for stepping in to help. He was a real hero.’ ‘If Ben hadn’t intervened it could have been a lot worse for us.’ ‘We could’ve been in real trouble. Ben was a real gentleman.’ Would it be known forever as Kai and Billy’s Ashes? No. While the Bristol boys provided spin for Stokes’ reputation they didn’t influence the police. With charges still pending there was little choice – not given Strauss had previously sacked Kevin Pietersen for being annoying. Stokes remained suspended through the Ashes and a one-day series in Australia, and lost the vice-captaincy. It was January 2018 before the Crown Prosecution Service laid a charge.
That charge surprisingly came in as affray, a crime that can carry prison time but is classified as ‘a breach of the peace as a result of disorderly conduct’. The men he had punched, Ryan Ali and Ryan Hale, faced the same count, charged as equal participants in a fight rather than Stokes being charged with assaulting them. Alex Hales was not charged, despite being seen in the video to aim several kicks when Ryan Ali was lying on the ground. Given the underwhelming standing of the offence, Stokes was cleared by the ECB to tour New Zealand, and kept playing until his trial in August 2018, which he missed a Test to attend. None of the three defendants would be convicted.
The reasoning behind the charges was never released and was attributed vaguely to ‘CPS lawyers’. The service gave the case to Alison Morgan, a prosecutor of a class known as Treasury Counsel who usually handle serious criminal matters. Morgan had a scheduling clash and never ended up court for the case, but in 2018 and 2019 she would go on to win damages and admissions of libel from The Daily Mail, The Times and The Daily Telegraph variously for incorrectly reporting that she had been responsible for the inadequate and inconsistent charging decisions.
Morgan’s successor on the case was Nicholas Corsellis QC, who on the first day of trial was permitted by the CPS to request two assault charges be added against Stokes. ‘Upon further review,’ claimed a CPS statement, ‘we considered that additional assault charges would also be appropriate.’ This was patent nonsense from the service that eight months earlier had chosen the lesser charge. Any lawyer knows that no judge will allow new charges once a trial has begun, because the defence hasn’t had time to prepare. But such a request could deflect criticism of the prosecution service by technically making the judge the one who disallows the charge.
Working through the story from the trial and the tape is complicated. You had a Ryan and a Ryan, a Hale and a Hales, a Billy and a Barry and a Ben. You had several versions of events as to who knew whom, who was drinking with whom, who had insulted whom and who had merely engaged in ‘banter’, a word that in modern Britain has to do an unconscionable amount of lifting. The reporting had constantly mixed up the Ryans as to who had which injury, who was in hospital, who had played which part in the fight, and whose mum had which stern words to say about it.
Let’s agree that from now Ryan Ali is Ryan One, the firefighter who ended up with a fractured eye socket and a cracked tooth. Ryan Two can be Ryan Hale, the soldier who scored concussion and facial lacerations. Mr Barry and Mr O’Connell are best known per The Sun as Kai and Billy. In scorecard parlance we’ll leave the cricketers as Stokes and Hales.
Amid the confusion, Stokes and his lawyers built his case in a straightforward way. The UK legal definition of affray is ‘if a person threatens or uses unlawful violence or force towards another person, which causes another person of reasonable firmness present at the scene to fear for their safety’. That means it doesn’t account for violence that harms a target, but violence that might frighten a theoretical bystander. The wiggle room for Stokes was with ‘unlawful’, because the charge excuses violence in defending oneself or others.
This interpretation hinged on the beginning of the video, where Ryan One waves a beer bottle about and takes a swing at Kai. The version from Stokes was that he was minding his own business walking down the street when he heard homophobic abuse. He intervened verbally and was threatened verbally by Ryan One – something that Ryan One denied but that couldn’t be proved or disproved. In fear for his safety Stokes had to nullify that threat by bashing Ryan One before it went the other way. He registered Ryan Two in his peripheral vision as another possible threat, and again had only one recourse.
Stokes also had to convince the jury to disregard testimony from Mbargo’s bouncer that he had been looking for a fight. A solid lump of a man, Andrew Cunningham had not enjoyed his patron’s attempts to get back into the club after the bouncer declined an offer of a bribe. ‘He got a bit verbally abusive towards myself. He mentioned my gold teeth and he said I looked like a cunt and I replied, “Thank you very much.” He just looked at me and told me my tattoos were shit and to look at my job.’ Cunningham described these words as coming in ‘a spiteful tone, quite an angry tone’, and said that Stokes still seemed angry as he walked away.
These were details the doorman had nothing to gain by inventing, but each of them Stokes denied. By his own accounting he had drunk a beer at the game and three pints at his hotel, then ‘potentially had some Jägerbombs’ along with half a dozen vodkas at the club. He insisted that after all of this he was not drunk.
If I may take a moment here to call upon the wisdom of experience – a person who cannot definitively say whether they have had any Jägerbombs has definitely had some Jägerbombs. A Jägerbomb is an experience that does not pass one by. Further to that, a person who says they have ‘potentially’ done something has definitely done that thing and doesn’t want to admit it. A person who has had between 15 and 24 standard drinks in one evening is shitfaced. A person who tries to bribe a bouncer £300 – three hundred quid! – to get into Mbargo – Mbargo! – is beyond shitfaced.
If Stokes admitted that he was drunk then the prosecution could say he was out of control. He claimed clear recall of assessing a threat, feeling fear and deciding to protect himself with force. He confidently denied details from the bouncer’s testimony, like using the word ‘cunt’ or mentioning gold teeth. Yet on other details he claimed a ‘significant memory blackout’. He didn’t remember the punch that saw Ryan One taken away by ambulance. He didn’t remember what the Ryans had said to Kai and Billy, only that those words were homophobic. With no head injury, as one of the few people who hadn’t been hit, he had supposedly suffered this memory loss despite being sober.
The version from Kai and Billy was compatible but vague: they had been walking along, they ‘heard … shouts’ of abuse from an unspecified source, then Stokes ‘stepped in’ and thus they avoided possible harm. They claimed to have been bought a drink by Stokes at Mbargo, although CCTV showed them meeting outside. The overall implication from both accounts was that the cricketers had been pals with Kai and Billy, while the Ryans as per The Sun’s headline were a roving band of thugs.
The reality though is that the Ryans were the ones hanging out with Kai and Billy at Mbargo. Police discussed CCTV from inside the club in questioning and at trial. On that footage the four Bristolians bought drinks for one another, danced together, and Kai was noted to have variously touched Ryan Two’s crotch and Ryan One’s buttock. Ryan One told police that all of this was taken lightheartedly and wasn’t a problem. Indeed, when the Ryans called it a night the other two left with them.
This much is clear from footage out the front of Mbargo, which shows Kai and Billy exit the club and start talking with a subdued Hales and a demonstrative Stokes, who are stuck outside. The vision was played in court to determine whether Stokes was antagonistic towards Kai and Billy, as he appears to impersonate them and to throw a lit cigarette their way. More interesting is that after a few minutes the Ryans emerge, and all six actors in the fight video briefly form a prequel in the one frame.
Ryan Two pats Billy on the chest in friendly fashion with his right hand before clapping him on the back with his left. He moves past and does the same to Kai before leaving the shot. Ryan One stops to speak to Kai. They lean in for a moment, talking, then Kai turns and they walk out of frame together. Billy hangs around for a few seconds at the door and then looks after them and races to catch up. Stokes and Hales remain outside the club to remonstrate further with the bouncers. Whatever discord develops around the corner is between four men who left amicably together minutes earlier.
There’s no way to know what caused that friction. If Ryan One did use homophobic slurs, he might have been drunkenly obnoxious for no reason. He might have had an insecure macho response to some extra flirtation. He might have thought unkindness was funny – ‘banter’ once again. Or he might have said something that was misunderstood, as both Ryans insisted in court that they had not used nor had the impulse to use any abusive language.
What clearly didn’t happen was an attack by bigots on random passers-by. This kind of crime is regular enough that an audience understands the horror of it, and this is what was evoked by the public accounts of Stokes, Billy and Kai. All we know is that there was some verbal dispute among the Bristol locals, and that Stokes came along behind them and put himself in the middle of it. Ryan One responded to the interference aggressively and away they went. There are plenty of reasons to look sideways at the idea that Stokes was a saviour. Foremost, neither Kai nor Billy was called upon as witnesses in court. You’d think it would be ideal to have Stokes’ story backed up by those who benefited from his selflessness. But his defence team had developed the impression that the pair had shown a changeable recall of events amid a hard-partying lifestyle, and would be dismantled by the prosecution on the stand.
That raises the question of whether The Sun coached their quotes for the 2017 interview. Despite missing court, Kai and Billy clearly enjoyed the attention. In 2018 after the trial they did a follow-up spread in the same paper about how poor Ben had been mistreated. They got a television spot on Good Morning Britain and glowed about his heroism. In 2019 The Sun wheeled them out once more to say that Stokes should get a knighthood. In 2017 they had ‘never watched cricket’ but by 2019 were supposedly volunteering sentences like, ‘He saved us, now he’s saved the Ashes.’ Whether they were paid for these appearances is not known, but the chance to be famous for a day can be lure enough.
If you find this cynical, consider that on the night in question, the Bristol boys were so deeply moved and thankful for Ben’s intervention that they left him to be arrested and never attempted to find out who he was. Seconds after the video ended, an off-duty policeman reached the scene. You might think that someone grateful to a saviour would speak on his behalf. Instead, said Kai, ‘it all got a bit scary so we walked off. It was too much for me and we went to Quigley’s takeaway for chicken burgers and cheesy chips.’ They didn’t give their hero a thought for over a month while police issued multiple appeals for witnesses.
As for Stokes, he told his arresting officer that ‘his friends’ had been attacked. After three minutes of chat outside a nightclub, these friends were so dear to him that he has never contacted them again: not after the newspaper piece, not after the verdict. He didn’t want to see how they were or thank them for their support. He didn’t mention them by name in his solicitor’s statement after the trial.
The Stokes defence rested on Ryan One’s bottle, which he had carried out of Mbargo to finish a beer, not to use in a Sharks versus Jets amateur production. But once he turned it over to hold it by the neck it became a weapon. Intent and interpretation can change the material nature of things. Part of Stokes’ justification in court was that the bottle implied that the two Ryans might have ‘other weapons’ hidden away. You can understand how a jury could decide that created doubt.
Not being convicted, though, doesn’t give the contents of the video a big green tick. It does not, as his lawyer claimed, vindicate Stokes. Looking in detail, Ryan One is belligerent but his movements telegraph a bluff. Hales is the person he’s gesturing at, but they’re several metres apart when Ryan One cocks his arm ostentatiously, showing off the bottle rather than bracing to swing. He skips forward but Hales skips back and Ryan One doesn’t follow. Kai stretches out an arm to impede Ryan One, who has a drunken stumble, nearly eats pavement, then staggers towards Kai and hits him in the back. That hand is still holding the bottle, but his strike is a side-arm cuff on a soft part of the body. It’s all pretty tame.
This is where Stokes gets involved. Having moved across to protect Hales, he now takes three large steps to run around Kai and booms his first punch at Ryan One. They fall to the ground and the bottle clinks away. Stokes gets to his feet to punch down at the fallen man, while Hales arrives to kick him ineffectively then runs off across the street for some unknown reason. Ice-cream van? Stokes is soon back in the grapple having his shirt pulled up to show off his Durham tan. Ryan Two steps in for the first time to pull Stokes away, prompting a couple more random punches at this new target, then Stokes trips backwards over Ryan One and sprawls in the street. Hales chooses this moment to return and aim some solid kicks at the head of the man on the ground. Nothing so far is a triumph of moral philosophy or the pugilistic arts. But if it all stopped here, perhaps you could say it was somewhere approaching fair. Ryan One has behaved like a turnip and it’s not an entirely unjust world that would give him a whack across the chops. The antagonists have disentangled, Stokes has some distance, it’s time to dust off and go home. Ryan Two steps forward for this purpose with his palm raised in conciliatory style and says, ‘Settle down, stop.’
So Stokes punches him.
It’s roughly his fifth punch overall, and he really winds up into this one. He misses so hard that he stumbles away into the shadows of the shop awnings along the road.
Hales starts shouting for him to stop. Ryan Two backs into the street, still holding his palm up. Stokes closes on him from about five metres away, six large steps, to where Ryan Two is standing on his own. Stokes pushes him a couple of times, as Ryan Two keeps trying to placate him and saying ‘Stop.’ Stokes throws his sixth punch, largely missing as his target ducks.
Ryan Two keeps pulling away and reversing, into the middle of the street now. Stokes follows him, grabbing his sleeve to drag him back. By this point Ryan One has found his feet and walked around behind his friend. Both of them are in the same line of sight for Stokes, and both are backing away. Stokes aims his seventh and his eighth punches, which Ryan Two tries to deflect, as Hales walks up behind Stokes to grab him.
Stokes yanks away from his friend and switches to Ryan One instead, taking seven paces to grab him before throwing his ninth punch of the night. He grabs again; Ryan One blocks that arm and pushes himself back away from Stokes. Ryan Two again intercedes, putting himself between the two with his palms up and his arm extended.
Stokes throws his tenth punch, a right-hander at the face of Ryan Two, then shoves him backwards. Ryan Two backs away once more, four paces. Stokes follows, steadies, lines up, then launches his strongest punch yet, his eleventh, a proper right hook from a solid base, one that cracks across the man’s head and gives him concussion. Ryan Two ends up flat on his back in the middle of the street, his hands still outstretched for a moment in useless protest until they twitch and drop to the blacktop.
Stokes isn’t done. He once more shoves away the restraining Hales and follows Ryan One, who keeps backing away saying, ‘Alright, alright, alright.’ Five more paces from Stokes before another blow at the man’s head. Kai and Billy are now standing over the poleaxed Ryan Two. The video ends, but seconds later Stokes will punch Ryan One hard enough to knock him out too, before off-duty cop Andrew Spure arrives on the scene to bring down the curtain. When the body-camera footage kicks in some minutes later, Stokes is in handcuffs but Ryan One is still laid out in the street. Ryan Two has regained consciousness, folded his shirt under his friend’s head and is asking police for an ambulance.
‘At this point, I felt vulnerable and frightened. I was concerned for myself and others.’ This was how Stokes described that sequence to the court. An elite athlete with years of gym work and training to snap a bat through the line of a ball with astounding power and precision, swinging fists as hard as he can at men with none of those advantages. Punching so hard that he breaks his hand, and repeatedly shoving away a friend so he can punch some more. Frightened and threatened by two targets shouting ‘Get back!’ and ‘Stop!’
The off-duty officer testified that Stokes ‘seemed to be the main aggressor or was progressing forward trying to get to’ Ryan One, who was ‘trying to back away or get away from the situation’. The student who filmed the video can be heard on the tape at one stage exclaiming ‘Fuck!’ and testified that it was because ‘I felt a little bit sorry about the lad that had been punched and it looked like he had his hands up’. That tallied with the prosecutor’s depiction of ‘a sustained episode of significant violence that left onlookers shocked at what was taking place’.
The defendant stuck to his strategy. ‘No, my sole focus was to protect myself.’ All up, in the 33 seconds of footage after he falls over, Stokes takes 35 steps forward to keep hitting two men who keep trying to get away. Not once is he hit back.
After the verdict, Stokes’ solicitor positioned him as the victim. It had been ‘an eleven-month ordeal for Ben … The jury’s decision fairly reflects the truth of what happened that night … He was minding his own business … It was only when others came under threat that Ben became physically engaged. The steps that he took were solely aimed at ensuring the safety of himself and the others present …’ The statement was impossibly self-righteous and self-absorbed.
If there was anyone to feel sorry for it was Ryan Hale, the second of our two Ryans. He’s the one who emerged from the club with a friendly arm around the shoulder for Kai and Billy. He’s the one who interposed himself to end the fight, then kept putting himself back in the firing line, trying to calm an intimidating stranger while dodging blows. For his show of restraint he got laid out regardless, concussed in the street, then was issued a criminal charge equal to that of the man who hit him, and described in national media as a violent bigot in an untested story to support that man’s defence.
Lawyers for Ryan Two made a more convincing post-trial statement, noting that Kai and Billy, ‘neither of whom were relied upon by the prosecution or the defence team for Mr Stokes, have taken the opportunity to speak with various media outlets about the alleged homophobic abuse that they received in the early hours of September 25. Mr Hale has passionately denied this allegation throughout the course of this case,’ it continued.
‘It is upsetting to Mr Hale that although he was acquitted, the accusation that he was the author of such abuse remains. Both Mr Hale and Mr Ali were knocked unconscious by Mr Stokes, and although Mr Stokes has been acquitted of an affray, Mr Hale struggles with the reasons why the Crown Prosecution Service did not treat him as a victim of an unlawful assault.’Good question. Avon and Somerset police were the investigating force, and they were frustrated by the decision. Ryan Two was filmed clearly not hurting anyone, but police were instructed by the CPS to proceed with a charge. Hales (the cricketer) was filmed fighting but ‘a decision was made at a senior level of the CPS’ not to proceed. Police expected Stokes to be charged with assault but the CPS declined. It doesn’t take a wild cynic to think that placing the same lukewarm charge on three men for vastly divergent behaviour might ensure that none would be convicted, even as the trial would maintain the pretence that a defendant of influential standing had not been given a free pass.
A couple of years down the line, the original interview with Kai and Billy has disappeared. All traces have been scrubbed from The Sun website, its social media history, and even from the Wayback Machine internet archive. Given its headline of ‘homophobic thugs’ and text that names Ryan Two but not Ryan One, the libel liability isn’t hard to spot. Later interviews with Kai and Billy take the passive voice – they ‘suffered homophobic slurs outside a Bristol nightclub’.
The article that was once claimed to exonerate brave Ben Stokes now links only to a missing content page, with a picture of a dropped ice-cream cone and the phrase ‘legal removal’ inserted into the web URL. In terms of consequences, Stokes missed one tour. When he resumed his career in January 2018, the Australians hadn’t yet ruined theirs. Their year-long bans looked much more stringent. But the Stokes case dragged on in other ways. With no criminal liability, the Australians confessed promptly enough for the sporting world to give them the full length of the lash. Their situation was ugly but there was closure. Stokes got stuck in legal stasis, unable to be fully backed or condemned. Instead his issue was always present, a browser full of open tabs that the ECB swore they would read any day now.
Through 2018 Stokes was back but he wasn’t back, in the sunglasses and finger-guns sense. In his return one-day series he nearly cost England a match with 39 from 73 balls in Wellington. His first Test hit was a duck as England got rolled in Auckland for 58. At Trent Bridge while Stokes was injured, England posted a world record 481 against Australia. With Stokes three weeks later at the same ground they made 268. He crawled to 50 from 103, the second-slowest any Englishman had reached that milestone in 20 years. That span covered Alastair Cook’s whole career. It was apologetic batting, acting out responsibility via the scorecard. Stokes was creeping back into the team like he’d been kicked out in a blazing row and was hoping to tip-toe to the sofa.
It was December 2018 before the ECB disciplinary committee ruled on him and Hales. In a ‘remarkable coincidence’, wrote Simon Heffer in The Telegraph, ‘the punishment both players faced in terms of bans from playing at international level was covered by the amount of games they had already missed when dropped by England’s selectors, in the furore that followed the incident’. The verdict compounded the omissions around the case by not addressing the violence at its heart. Nor did Stokes, apologising only ‘to my team-mates, coaches and support staff’, and then ‘to England supporters and to the public for bringing the game into disrepute’.
The implicit next step was to rebuild that reputation. It might have been easier had his court defence not meant that he wasn’t game to admit any fault at all. It might have been easier if he or his advisers had been willing to change tack once the trial was done. Imagine a world where Stokes had stood outside court and apologised for overreacting, for the injuries he’d caused, and for the time and energy he had sucked out of other people’s lives. That would have been a show of responsibility beyond a scorecard. When the time came around to assess forgiveness, it might have meant forgiveness was deserved.
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UPDATE: More books added by siffis and West1234567890 further down
If are late coming across this post then do not worry you can still message me your email for a book.
To celebrate my day off today and Thanksgiving tomorrow I would like to gift my audiobooks.
In order to recieve a free audiobook gift just message me any title (below) along with your email address. If you have not recieved a gift before then you will get the audiobook for free. More details here and here. I am in the US market (but I hear from Canada and UK that it still works).
Books crossed out are not available.
TITLE - AUTHOR (Ordered by author)

siffis has generously offered to include his collection. If you like any of the books below then message directly.

West1234567890 [Also added additional books below](https://www.reddit.com/audible/comments/k0s76n/us_promotion_i_would_like_to_celebrate/gdlwylu?utm_source=share&utm_medium=web2x&context=3).
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There are a total of 50 slot games available on Slotland.eu, which is far less than we expected from a casino that has “Slot” in their name. However, the quality of these games and their graphics is extremely high so we will give them a pass for valuing quality over quantity.
The number of reels that you will find in these slot games ranges from 3-reels to 9-reels. The number of paylines that you will find ranges from 8 paylines to 40 paylines.
Many of these slot games share a progressive jackpot which is also shared with the video poker progressive games. Even the games that are not participating in the progressive jackpot appear to come with a ton of bonus features which keeps the games fun and your potential earnings high. A great example of this would be the Zodiac game which does not have a progressive jackpot but still comes with FOUR bonus features.
We are extremely impressed by the innovative nature of some of these games since some of them do not appear to be your usual average slot game. For example, Slotris incorporates the game of Tetris into their slot and your spins determine the shape of the piece that drops next. Another example is the Slot 21 game which incorporates a blackjack mini-game into the slot game.
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Table Games at Slotland

It is clear that Slotland does not feel that table games are an important part of an online casino since they left them out entirely. Whether they are correct about that or not is undetermined, but they do offer one slot game which has a blackjack mini-game built into it.

Baccarat at Slotland

Sorry, Baccarat fans. You will not find any sort of Baccarat games on Slotland Casino.

Blackjack at Slotland

Types of Blackjack Offered: Slot 21 You will not find any traditional blackjack games at Slotland Casino since they do not appear to be very fond of table games in general. However, one of the slot games named Slot 21 comes with a bonus blackjack game for those who are really itching to test their luck at this popular two-card table game.

Roulette at Slotland

If you are looking for roulette games, you will have to take a spin at another casino since Slotland does not currently offer any.

Video Poker Games at Slotland

Video Poker Games Offered: Jacks or Better, Double Bonus Poker, Aces & Eights, Deuces & Joker Wild, All American, Tens or Better, Joker Wild, Jacks or Better Progressive, Wild Heart, Striking 7’s Video Poker Betting Limits: $0.10 to $25 per hand
Video poker games are clearly the second most popular game that you can find on Slotland and nothing else really comes close. While you will find classic video poker games such as Jacks or Better and Double Bonus Poker, you will also find unique games that are tough to find on other casinos such as Wild Heart or Striking 7’s.
One of the most exciting parts of this collection of video poker games is that some of them come with a progressive jackpot attached to them. For example, Striking 7’s and Jacks or Better Progressive currently share a progressive jackpot of over a quarter of a million dollars which can only be won by hitting a natural royal flush while simultaneously betting the maximum amount of $10 per hand.
However, you should be warned that the odds of winning the jackpot are not the same as the odds of hitting a natural royal flush. Considering the fact that you need a natural royal flush to win the jackpot, this means that the game designers altered the odds to make these video poker jackpot games more like slot games, which is why some review sites have chosen to blacklist Slotland.

Specialty Games at Slotland

Keno 101 is the only game you will find on Slotland which is neither a slot game nor a video poker game. This popular lottery-style game simply requires you to pick what numbers you think will be the winners and also comes with a Quick Pick option which will select random numbers for you. You can bet anywhere from $0.50 to $10 per round.

Live Dealer Games at Slotland

Sorry folks, you won’t find any Live Dealer games in the game library of Slotland. If you can’t live without having a human dealer while you play, you can check out our list of highly recommended brick-and-mortar casinos here.
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Mobile Games at Slotland

There is no mobile app available on Slotland, but you can access the casino through your mobile web browser. All you need to do is download Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox to your phone, visit www.slotland.eu and then log into your account to begin playing.
The devices that you can use to access their website include iPhones, iPads, Android phones, and Wii consoles. We have never seen a Wii console as an option for an online casino so we give them props for being so innovative in this area.
As is the standard for mobile versions of online casinos, you will not be able to access every game that you normally would from a computer. In fact, the only type of games that you can play on your mobile device will be slot games. However, you will still be able to redeem any bonuses from your mobile device without any issues.

Welcome Bonus at Slotland

The welcome bonus promotion at Slotland gives new players a chance to claim up to $1,075 in bonus funds over the course of their first TEN deposits. This might seem like a lot of deposits, but the level of investment that is required is relatively low compared to other casinos.
On your first deposit, you will be greeted with a 100% match bonus up to $100, since $100 is the maximum deposit for your first three deposits. On the second and third deposits, you will be granted a 50% match bonus for up to $50 in bonus funds each time. For the seven deposits that follow those, you will be rewarded with a 50% match bonus on a maximum deposit of $250 each time. When all is said and done, you will need to deposit a total of $2,050 to receive a total of $1,075 in bonus funds.
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Other Promotions at Slotland

Once you have already taken advantage of the Welcome Bonus, you might be wondering what else Slotland has in store for you. The rest of their promotions program involves a tiered VIP, a ton of deposit bonuses, a weekly raffle drawing, and a unique newsletter which provides bonuses to its readers.
This is a fairly well-rounded list of bonus promotions, and if you combine that with the low playthrough requirements on every single bonus it is clear that this program is superior to that of most online casinos. We are extremely impressed with the effort that they have put into giving back to their regular players and highly recommend getting involved with as many of these promotions as possible.

VIP Program

The VIP Program on Slotland provides frequent gamblers with a way to win extra match bonuses, a subscription to the VIP newsletter, higher chances in the weekly draws, and special VIP customer service. The three VIP levels that currently exist are Bronze Level, Silver Level, and Gold Level.
Unlike other casino VIP programs, you will not belong to any VIP level when you first sign-up on Slotland. Once you have deposited at least $3,000 they will consider adding you to the Bronze Level, although this is not guaranteed to get you in since they use other unspecified criteria to decide who qualifies. The final level, otherwise known as the Gold Level, will provide you with 15% cash back, a $200 welcome bonus, a 200% match bonus in addition to all the other perks that Bronze Level players receive.
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Newsletter Bonuses

Slotland is smart to realize that most people do not read newsletters that come from online casinos, so they decided to add some incentives to get people to do so. By checking out the monthly newsletter that is posted right on their website, you will be able to find out what the game of the month is and exactly what perks come from playing this game.
Usually, the prizes for this promotion include a match bonus that you can claim twice per day using the code “GOTM” as well as a random cash drawing. For every 100 rounds you play on the game of the month, you will receive a ticket into the random cash drawing where $600 is up for grabs among the four players whose tickets are chosen. Every month these prizes will change and so will the game that you must play to clear the playthrough requirements, so be sure to keep an eye out for any new newsletters that pop up on their site.

Monthly Mystery Bonus

The monthly mystery bonus is another promotion that utilizes the monthly newsletter since the only way to earn this bonus is to play in the mini-slot game that can be found there. The only catch is that you must redeem this bonus during the first seven days of the month in question.
The results of your spins on the mini-slot game will decide which reload bonus will be waiting for you during the following month. The reload bonus that you are given will range anywhere from 30% to 100% for players with a low VIP status while the more experienced VIP players will be rewarded with a bonus that is anywhere from 45% to 150% of their deposit.
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Weekday Bonuses

No matter what weekday it is, there is guaranteed to be a deposit bonus that you can claim as long as you currently do not have any other active bonuses. Each bonus comes with its own wagering requirements and is only valid for specific types of games.
On Mondays, you will receive a 50% match bonus using the bonus code “50MOBILE” and you are only allowed to play slot games on your mobile phone. On Tuesdays, you will receive a 60% match bonus using the bonus code “KENO60” and you must clear this bonus using the game Keno 101. On Wednesdays, the match bonus is set at 75% and you have to clear the bonus using oldies slot games such as Booster, Golden 8, Lucky Ducts, and Lucky Stars. For Thursdays, the match bonus will be 40% if you use the bonus code “VPOKER” which can only be cleared using video poker games. Lastly, Fridays will reward you will a 50% match bonus that can be cleared using any slot game of Keno game.

Weekly Free Draw

For every dollar you deposit during any given week, you will be rewarded with one raffle ticket into the weekly free draw. Each Wednesday, a total of 20 players will be chosen to receive prizes and you will have to check your email to see if you won. The first place prize is an impressive $500 while 2nd through 10th place will receive $100 and 11th through 20th place will receive $10. If you are a winner, you will be required to wager your prize 1x before you can withdraw any of the money.
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Bonus Terms and Conditions at Slotland

Each bonus promotion on Slotland comes with a different playthrough requirement which is specified on the webpage that is dedicated to that specific promotion. These playthrough requirements appear to range anywhere from 1X to 18X, which is EXTREMELY easy compared to other casinos. In fact, this might be the easiest playthrough requirements that we have ever seen since most casinos set their requirements between 30x and 60x. There also appears to be a very lenient timeframe in which you have to complete these requirements since 90 days is more time than most casinos will give you.
However, just like on most other online casinos, not every game will contribute equally towards clearing the playthrough requirements for each bonus. In fact, the only type of game which will count 100% of your wagers are slot games. Keno will contribute 50% of your bets towards the wagering requirements, video poker games will contribute 20%, and roulette games will contribute 1%.
One strange clause in these terms and conditions that we have not seen before is that any players from the countries of Argentina, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Brazil, Hungary, Poland, Romania, South Africa, Tanzania or the United Kingdom will have playthrough requirements that are 5x as hard as normal. For example, if the playthrough requirement for a specific bonus is originally 10x, players from these countries will need to wager 50x their bonus amount before they withdraw funds.

Customer Support at Slotland

Customer Support Options: Email, Live Chat
There are two ways to contact the customer support team at Slotland and the only key ingredient they seem to be missing is a telephone contact method. However, the Live Chat feature works INSTANTLY whenever the Live Chat button is yellow and says “Live Support Online”. Despite the fact that they advertise 24/7 customer service, this button is sometimes grey and says “Live Support Offline”, so you will need to use email in those instances.
Speaking of email, there are numerous email addresses that you can use to contact them and you will normally receive a response in under an hour which is relatively fast for this method. The email address that you choose to contact will be decided by the issue that you need to speak to them about. For general inquiries, you can contact them at [email protected]. For billing inquiries, you can contact them at [email protected]. Finally, any VIP players will be permitted to contact them at [email protected] which has a quicker response time guaranteed.

Deposit and Withdrawals at Slotland

Minimum Deposit: $25 Maximum Deposit: $100 ($250 after your first three deposits) Deposit Methods: Bitcoin, Litecoin, Bitcoin Cash, Visa, Mastercard, Skrill, Neteller Withdrawal Methods: Bitcoin, Litecoin, Bitcoin Cash, Check, Wire Transfer, Skrill, Neteller
If you are a cryptocurrency enthusiast, then you will truly appreciate the fact that Slotland accepts three different forms of this digital currency. While it is normal to see Bitcoin on the list of deposit options for an online casino these days it is equally abnormal to find sites that accept Litecoin or Bitcoin Cash.
All deposit methods will be completed instantly and free of charge. They also have the exact same minimum and maximum limits. The only real difference between the cryptocurrency methods, e-wallet methods, and the bank card methods is that your bank might charge an international transaction fee of up to 10% if necessary since all transactions are processed in U.S. dollars.
If you plan on taking advantage of any of the deposit bonuses that we listed in the promotions section above, you will need to enter your bonus code BEFORE making a deposit. You can do this by clicking on the “Bonus Code” option on the side menu once you access your account cashier.
Once you are ready to withdraw the funds that are in your Slotland account there is a total of seven methods that you can choose from. Each of the methods that are available to players from the U.S. comes with a minimum withdrawal limit of $100, which is a little high considering the fact that the minimum deposit is $25. Players from other countries will be able to withdraw a minimum of $25 by using Neteller or Skrill.
When you choose Bitcoin, Litecoin, or Bitcoin Cash as your withdrawal option, your transaction will be processed the very next business day. This is much faster than the check or wire transfer withdrawal methods which will take 5-10 days to process and receive. Therefore, we recommend using one of Slotland’s supported cryptocurrencies so that you can take advantage of the high level of efficiency that these three coins offer. On the other hand, players from other countries will be able to take advantage of the 24 to 48-hour processing times of Skrill and Neteller.
In the event that you have a lucky day and win more than $5,000, you will need to make special arrangements to withdraw your money in increments. The best way to do this is to email them at [email protected] and they will work with you to figure out a payment plan.
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submitted by freespinsbonus to u/freespinsbonus [link] [comments]

Live vs. 2K: Devil's Advocate's argument to both

So lemme preface this, so I can avoid the people who will die on a hill playing 2K and will vehemently defend the game if they assume it's being talked about negatively. I've got 1000% nothing against 2K, but even a blind man can see the game has issues that never seem to be addressed. With that out of the way let's get into the meat of my argument.
NBA Live vs. NBA2K. An argument I can have all day honestly, but I don't think it won't get either person any further anywhere. A constant stalemate in my mind. Both have strengths and weaknesses so let's go over both.
2K: Since I'm gonna be getting murdered in the comments for even saying anything about this "God tier" basketball game, lemme go ahead and rip the band-aid off of this one.
Here we go. NBA 2K has a grand creation suite allowing you to essentially make your own league of you choose. It's got a middling story mode and even has support from actual pros. However, the gameplay bugs on day one, the rampant monetization and 2K20's myteam being a literal casino, ends up being the game's downfall. Yes I'm aware they spend like tens of millions on this game and they gotta make their money back somehow, I get that. However, your players should come before profit and lately 2K has not done that lately.
The neighborhood is a neat little MMO like space where players can meet up, get some cosmetic work for their characters, play some park or rec center and the like. It's a good idea. My problem lies in the players, not everyone, just the few who believe they are better than everyone and every loss of is their teammate's faults. A loss is everyone's fault, everyone plays a part in a victory and a defeat. Some players don't think that way. There's other problems about the online experience, but I think that's the major one.
However, I do like the product I'm given if I ignore the toxicity and bad seeds (easy to do without ps+). I stick to MyLeague myself and I can tell you it's in need of more features. I'm sure there's a list out there, but one feature I want added would be a feature to host wipe the league clean and pick your own teams for each conference.
Live: The one that competed, then fell off, then rose again (sorta). I've been playing NBA Live since NBA Live 2000 for the N64, and I'm gonna be real, it's better than most modern 2Ks.
Let's start off simple, there's no next to no monetization, except in the Ultimate Team mode, only one spot. The only problem is that NBA Live 19 is still using the 2018-2019 rosters as NBA Live 20 was cancelled due to ea sports waiting to wait for next gen.
Where 2K sorta fails is in complete player control of their character. Here's how your player can get better at NBA Live 19; playing and earning exp which gives you a skill point which you place on any category that's relevant to your player's position and archetype. For shooters, you will only need to worry about 2s and 3s and maybe dunk and layups, with some ball handling and some light defense. You're not going to be worrying about stats you're not likely to use. In 2K, in order to get max you need to put points in every attribute regardless if you are going to be in need of it. Like when am I hold need blocking as a Guard? Shot contest yes, but not blocking
In NBA Live you are given traits for doing stuff like making shots with good or perfect timing, playing good defense, etc. Like badges in 2K, but with one small thing making the difference; they do make an actual impact. If they pertain to your skill set, they even increase your overall by a point or two. This helps with customization of your player so he fits your playstyle. I like how badges are earned in 2K20, but I have a bigger soft spot for the traits system in NBA Live 19.
Finally there's the ICON system. By selecting an ICON, you essentially gain the skills of the NBA or WNBA player it's based on. My personal fave is Chef, based on Steph Curry. His ICON specializes in making threes consistently as making them increases your ability to finish at the rim. Much like a battle pass, playing will unlock parts of ICON's rewards line, which include stat boosts, cosmetic stuff for your character (shoes, classic and current Jerseys), new animations based on that player (Steph Curry's jumpshot, dribble moves or even his signature celebrations), and more. At the end of each tier (there's three; bronze, silver and gold) you can choose to either boost your attributes or make your ICON ability more powerful by adding more time it's active or boosting effectiveness.
All in all, I bought both and I spend a lot more time in Live than 2K, but that's not the point I'm trying to get across. Play what you want, I just thought I'd give a little comparison. Now I wanna go ahead and make some counter arguments as to why people haven't at least given NBA Live a try. It was on sale for $3 the 2019 all-star weekend and I think it's on sale like a lot so it's definitely worth trying just for the price tag. How often does any 2K game go on sale? Not often, they rarely go on sale during a holiday. I mean you can buy the PS3 version of 2K17 new for $30 but still $60 digitally... That's highway robbery honestly.
"Live sucks" You... you're kidding right? I know they fell off after NBA Elite 11 and tried making a comeback on multiple occasions, but NBA Live as a series doesn't suck, you've been so complacent with 2K being "the only NBA game available" that you actually didn't search for alternatives because your friends are playing 2K and you don't wanna look like a chump or miss out on something. A little FOMO is not a bad thing.
"Live isn't half of what 2K is" you're right. It isn't and I don't think it's trying to be. It's trying to be a good game. It has its flaws but 2K has a buttload more issues. There's articles and videos detailing all of 2K's problems. You rarely see anyone complain about NBA Live's issues because there's not a massive issue that's worth talking about.
"NBA Live doesn't have [name feature 2K has here]." Yes NBA Live doesn't have that, but honestly I don't need every game to have a deep creation suite, classic teams, a deep and engaging story mode (2K16 had the better story mode, fight me), or any other thing 2K has. I just want a basketball game, as long as I can play basketball, I'm fine. My real problem is this next statement
"If you play Live you're [insert insults of your choosing here]." This is a common thing heard amongst those who don't play 2K like the rest of the world but instead play NBA Live. I have to admit it's rather childish to say that to someone because they don't agree with you.
Long story short, NBA Live and NBA2K have their strengths and weaknesses. Live allows you to get better without a lot of grind whereas 2K makes you grind or pay up (I'm aware of the fact there's ways to expedite the process, but unless the game specifically tells you of these ways, you'd never know unless another player tells you or you somehow figure it out). There's no microtransactions in most online modes in NBA Live (the only exception being Live Ultimate Team, but there's microtransactions everywhere but play now and MyLeague in 2K.
If you asked me to play one and drop the other, I'd have a heck of a conundrum on my hands. I like both, so it'd be hard to choose. However, I know just about everyone here would go with 2K and that's fine.
I'm not sure what compelled me to even do this post, but I feel like I got something off my chest. Not sure what I got off... But it ain't there anymore.
Y'all have a good day. Tagg
submitted by taggerungDC to NBA2k [link] [comments]

OBLIGATORY FILLER MATERIAL – Just take a hard left at Daeseong-dong…5

Continuing
“Hey, Viv!”, I say, as we’re all being shuttled onto the bus which will take us to our hotel, “Toss me one of those miniatures, if you please. Yeah. Of course, Vodka’ll do. It’s bloody dusty round these parts.”
Viv chuckles and asks if anyone else wants anything. He’s a consummate scrounger and somehow sweet-talked a demure and pulchritudinous female Air China cabin attendant out of her phone number, Email address, and a case of 100 airline liquor miniatures.
That he looks like a marginally graying version of Robert Mitchum in his heyday and speaks fluent Dutch, French, and Italian might explain his success. I mean, a guy with four ex-wives can’t be all wrong, right?
He’s a definite outlier in this crowd. We could be characterized as a batch of aging natural geoscientists who collectively, sans Viv, add up to an approximate eight on the “Looker” scale. Besides the years, the mileage, the climatic, and industrial ravages, it’s a good thing we all have expansive personalities, as most of us are dreadful enough to make a buzzard barf.
But, save for Viv, no one presently here is on the make. Oh, sure; we’ll all sweet talk some fair nubile into a free drink or a double when we really ordered a regular drink, but we’re all married, most terminally, that is, over 35 years and counting. The odd thing is that save and except for Viv, none of us married folk had ever been divorced.
That is strange, considering that the global divorce rate hovers around 50%, and we are often called to be apart from kith and kin for prolonged periods. However, we are always faithful and committed to our marital units and those vows we spoke all those many long decades ago.
But, hey, we’re all seriously male and not anywhere near dead; and there’s no penalty for just looking, right?
Continuing.
We’re all loaded on a pre-war, not certain which war, by the way, bus which stank of fish, kimchee, and diesel fuel. We really don’t care even a tiny, iotic amount. It’s free transport, we’re tired of traveling, and not keen on walking any further than we absolutely have to.
Viv has been passing out boozy little liquor miniatures, and I’ve been handing out cigars since I bought a metric shitload back in Dubai Duty-Free and somehow got them all through customs.
We didn’t light up, as there was neither a driver nor handler present. So, we figured we’d all just wait on the cigars, and concentrate on having a little ground-level “Welcome to Best Korea” party until the powers that be got their collective shit together and provided drivers, herders, and handlers.
We sat there for 15 long minutes. Being the international ambassadors of amity and insobriety, we started making noises like “Hey! Where’s our fucking driver?” and “I am Doctor Academician! Of All State Russian Geological Survey! How dare you make me wait?
Suddenly, a couple of characters in ill-fitting gray suits and fake Rays Bans are outside the bus having a collective meltdown. Somehow, someone fucked up and put us on a ‘regular’ bus and not the ‘VIP’ bus. In other words, we got to see what the locals really got to ride around Pyongyang on instead of our supposed to be impressed by the bus that wasn’t there; but was now just arriving.
A spanking new purple-and-chrome Mercedes long-haul bus shows up. It even has our group name emblazoned above the placard that normally tells where the bus is headed or who it is for: “’국제 석유 지질 과학 연합’ [Gugje Seog-yu Jijil Gwahag Yeonhab] or ‘International Union of Petroleum Geological Sciences’”.
We are brusquely ordered off our present bus and into the opulent, obviously bespoke, bright yellow faux-leather interior Mercedes-Benz Tourismo RH M. It’s so new and so obviously a ploy to get us to think that all things here are so new and opulent, it even smells of that new car, ah, bus, aroma.
“Well, we’ll take care of that soon enough”, I muse, as the bus is equipped with ashtrays and we’re going on the scenic route to our hotel, which is only 25 or so kilometers from the airport. However, it was announced that it’ll take us about 2 hours to get to our hotel since we need to see the city in its best light and get a feeling for the town if we should ever find ourselves lost and alone.
We all know what’s going on. They’re getting our rooms ‘ready’ for our arrival and need some extra time to make sure everything’s all wired in and transmitting properly.
“Guys”, I muse to our new handlers, “I’ve been to the Soviet Union, pre-wall fall. I stayed in places where I was definitely among the first westerners ever to grace their porticos. We’re a busload of natural scientists, of eight different nationalities, covering the economic spectrum from staunch capitalism to sociable socialism to hard-core communism. You even think for a second we’re going to spill any beans about anything you’d find interesting or useful? Think again.”
In fact, it would become a running joke between us all to see what sort of fake bombshells we could drop into the normal conversation what would give the listener’s the greatest case of the jibblies.
But for now, our bags were all loaded into the cargo compartment of this very, very nice, I must admit, mode of conveyance. Our handlers: ‘Yuk’, ‘No’, ‘Man’, and ‘Kong’, are all seated upfront and please with their latest tally of bodies. We have a couple of shady fellow travelers with the knock-off Ray-Bans and shiny gray suits that just appeared out of the woodwork in the back, seated by the loo, watching over all of us, and we’re going on a fucking city tour, whether we like it or not.
We’re all present and accounted for. Let’s keep our camera in our bags for the time being as the drinking and smoking lights had just been lit as the bus fired up its new German-engineered and machined precision diesel engine.
The bus rumbled to life and after a moment or two of checking that all dials, gauges, and indicators were where they were supposed to be; without so much as a cursory glance, we pulled out into traffic.
Except there was none.
Not another bus, pushbike, tap-tap, scooter, car, truck, hover-board, or motorcycle in sight.
Nothing.
Seems we were a big deal. They shut down the main drag so we wouldn’t be encumbered by such proletariat things like traffic jams or people-things cluttering the roadway, clambering for a look at the Western scientific cadre.
So, away we whizzed, sans traffic and into the very belly of the beast, and onward; eventually, towards our hotel.
Our handlers were very kind to point out passing scenes of interest.
“Look, look! There’s the Potong River. Notice all the lovely birds, ‘eh what? See the Norwegian Blue? Beautiful plumage!”
“See here, look. Here’s the Taedong River. Many forms of fish in the river. Maybe we’ll see some fishermen. If you like, we can stop, and ask them about today’s catch.”
We all declined, as we were certain that the fish the ‘random fisherman’ we’d talk to was flown in fresh from elsewhere earlier in the day.
Besides, we were comfortable. We had our drinks, our cigars, and we were leaving the driving to someone else.
After being driven around the city and seeing all the wonderful monuments, like the faux Arch of Triumph, which looks exactly unlike its namesake Arc de Triomphe de l'Étoile in Paris.
The Arch of Reunification, a monument to the goal of a reunified Korea, which, by necessity, is unfinished. Then there’s the Tomb of King Tongmyŏng, where people are lining up, just dying’ to get in.
Finally, we all called for our hotel, the Yanggakdo, after yet another mausoleum, the Kumsusan Memorial Palace of the Sun.
Arches or tombs. Such a stunning array of monuments and places of less than moderate interest.
We were interested in Mirae Scientists street (Future Scientists street). It is a street in a newly developed area in Pyongyang to house scientific institutions of the Kim Chaek University of Technology and its employees. But we were told that it was too late, there was not much there to see, we needed to express written permission to visit, and we’d be going there tomorrow or next week.
We wheel into the parking lot of the Yanggakdo Hotel and are immediately unimpressed by the pseudo-Baroque concrete fiasco that appears to stand, wobbly, before us. It’s a page right out of the Soviet Construction-For-The-Masses Handbook. A cold, gray concrete edifice with multitudes of seemingly little, tiny windows. A perfect metaphor for our travels thus far; look at the expansiveness of Best Korean wonders, through this pinhole.
However, we judged too soon. We were told to go inside and check-in, whilst our luggage would be de-bussed for us and handled by the expertly efficient hotel staff. The lobby was opulent, tastefully laid out in earth tones of facades of veneers of marble, granite, some garnet-mica schist, if my hand lens doesn’t lie, some Prepaleozoic anatectic migmatite, displaying intricate and intense plication, xenoliths, and graphic delineation of minerals by segregation through melting points. There was a gigantic well-appointed and well kept up aquarium, complete with snuffling sharks and nuclear-submarine sized groupers.
Very handsome indeed. Impressions increasing slightly.
Then we see that there’s a bloody casino on the bottom floor of the hotel, several bars interspersed throughout the hotel, and karaoke, of which I’m not terribly fond, but some of my European counterparts almost swooned at the prospect. There are a large pool and weight rooms/gymnasia, saunas and places to relax outside of one’s room, but still under the watchful eye of the thousands of ill-concealed video cameras at every turn.
“Covert surveillance” may be a thing in Best Korea, but it’s a practice still leaves a lot to be desired. The Eastern Siberian Russians back before the wall fell were more covert with their obvious button audio microphones woven into the fabric covering the headboard of your Intourist bed than the Best Koreans here. Their cameras were ‘disguised’ as flower arrangements, overhead lights, and speakers inexplicably placed into things like standing ashtrays, refuse bins, and randomly placed holes in the wall.
The floors were all covered with exquisite what looked to be hand-woven rugs of most vibrant crimson and gold; the usual Communistic colors. Always with some sort of floral pattern or pattern that’s supposed to be reflective of nature, as I was told. Evidently, for workers to remember what nature was as they don’t get out much with 14 to 16 hours workdays here in the Worker’s Paradise.
Enough of the travelogue; we all wander up to the front desk, and each with their own passport in hand, request our reserved rooms. We supposed that we would all have rooms on different floors as the reservations were made, expired, re-made, juggled, rebooked, allowed to expire, re-jiggered, and finally formalized a scant week before we left the UK.
Nope. No such luck. We were all on the 39th floor. The place boasts 47 floors, of which, the top floor is a revolving restaurant. Evidently, food tastes better when you’re rotating.
However, it won’t spin unless you first buy a drink.
We had that thing whirling like a NASA centrifuge after its discovery the second night.
Yeah, all 12 of us are bivouacked on the 39th floor. A floor with approximately 30 rooms.
I guess we could have played “Room Roulette” and see who got which room and who’s luggage. Or we could switch every day or two to drive our handlers nuts. Or, we could just take our assigned rooms, which were conveniently located one empty room apart.
Meaning, no one had adjoining rooms. Why? Fuck if I know. We didn’t spend much time in our rooms, and that time was either sleeping or showering. We’d all meet at the bar, casino, restaurant, karaoke, bowling alley (all three lanes) or actual meeting rooms every once in a while when we thought we should get together and compare notes. It was the most inexplicable situation.
Plus, we spent an inordinate amount of time waiting on the fucking elevators to take us to our room. These elevators, and if you think you’re going to get a batch of aging senior scientists to schlep it up 39 floor’s worth of stairs, think again; are the slowest elevators in the civilized world. And that was the consensus of scientists representing not only Europe and North America, but Russia as well. 15-25 minutes added to each journey, up or down; stopping on every floor, except 5, on the way down..
Jesus Q. Fuck, dudes. If you can’t construct a bleedin’ elevator that works better than those at the Sozvezdie Medveditsy Guest House in Lesosibirsk, Eastern Siberia; then I suggest you seriously rethink your plans for world domination and new world order.
Grako and Erwin once, while waiting for the fucking elevator, figured out that we were earning some US$25 each just to wait for the lift to arrive and take us to our rooms. Every day. Sometimes several times per day.
With that, we all agreed to toss our “waiting time” funds into a kitty and on our last day of captivity here, blow it all in the hotel casino. Whatever became of that would be donated to the Koreans we thought most deserving of our largesse.
Would it be our handlers? How about the Korean Scientists we’d be meeting? The affable and most accommodating concierge? Or that plucky little Korean charwoman who was always on our floor and kept everything spotless, right down to our freshly laundered and pressed field clothes and newly polished field boots; done without our requesting or knowledge?
Only time would tell.
It could be a fortune or it could be bupkiss. Just like our expectations of the Heavenly Kingdom where we were currently sequestered.
As it was, with our official protestations, they kept only photocopies of our passports as we roundly refused and threatened a full-scale karaoke battle right here in the lobby if they didn’t relinquish our passports immediately. I had broken out my nastiest cigar and was primed to offend.
With that, we all had our keys and trooped over to the elevators for our first, of many, inexplicable waits. We made many uncharitable and potentially nasty remarks about the Anti-Western posters that made up some of the wall décor. Once we finally made it to our floor, we all fanned out to find our rooms. Viv found his first and was quite pleased to report to the rest of us that there was a “Welcome” basket in his room.
We all hoped that we would be receiving one a well.
I was in room 3914; which I considered a close call, but later only wondered as there was no 3913. Upon entering, I saw it was 1980s Hotel 6 opulent, but with an excellent over-city view. True it was late, dark, and the city was only somewhat lit up; I was looking forward to the view of the town in full daylight.
The room had a ‘king’ bed; that is if the king in question was Tutankhamen, the stubby, Egyptian boy king. The bed had no mattress pad and no box spring but it was hard enough for my liking. Many of my compatriots didn’t agree and complained bitterly. They eventually received thin mattress pads for all their kvetching.
There was an ancient Japanese color television, which only had 2 English language channels - Al Jazeera and the BBC, which was on a dated news loop. Watching the local channel is amusing though; the ads for ‘personal enhancements’ were hilarious, even without understanding a word of the language.
There were a couple of chairs and a low table, built-in dresser drawers for our clothes, a rusty and probably unusable room safe with corroded batteries, a small table built out of the wall that would serve as my travel office, and would-you-believe, a rotary telephone; how’s that for nostalgia?
There was an old-model radio built into the nightstand next to the bed. I was very surprised to find it not only received AM, FM but shortwave as well. I had brought along a pair of Bose headphones and during some rainy down days, spent many fun-filled, and I mean that sincerely, hours DXing from the comfort of my ‘enormous’ king bed.
Beyond that, the room was very nondescript. Like any other of the millions of rooms in hotels around the world that unlike here, aren’t claiming a 5-star rating. I mean, it was clean, if not a little long in the tooth. But didn’t smell too terrible, even after I took care of that with my Camacho offerings. It was utilitarian, everything worked, even the water pressure, which surprisingly could strip off layers of one’s skin if you weren’t careful.
The bathroom, though no Jacuzzi, had a large enough bathtub for the occasional soaking period. Western accouterments in the bathroom were also welcome additions. My knees can’t handle the traditional squat-holes any longer.
There were an electric teapot and several brands of tea, but no coffee. A quick “Gee! I sure wish I had some coffee!” to the four walls and damned if 30 minutes later, a porter didn’t arrive to replenish my tea and courtesy in-room coffee…
There was a small Japanese brand in-room refrigerator which I thought might house a mini-bar. Oh, no! It was actually a complimentary larder stocked with all sorts of Best Korean goodies. Multiple cans of Taedonggang beer. Several bottles of Pyongyang Soju, in various flavors ranging anywhere from 16.8 to 53 percent alcohol by volume. My fridge was skewed towards the right-hand side of the bell curve; the more heavy-duty boozy side.
Evidently, my reputation had preceded me again.
There was a selection of German-style wheat beers from the Taedonggang Brewery and the more familiar ales, steam beers, and lagers. There were some imported beers like Heineken, Bavaria, Pils, a couple of Japanese brands: Asahi and Kirin, and something called ‘Hello Beer’ from Singapore.
There were also ‘sampler’ bottles of Apricot Pit wine, and a couple of high-alcohol fruity liquors made from constituents such as apple or pear, and mushrooms. There were also special medicinal liquors like ‘Rason’s Seal Penis Liquor’.
That is going home with me unopened.
There were a couple of bottles of local sake, called Chonju. Finally, there was a couple ‘samplers’ of homemade alcohol known as Makkoli. Plus there was something called ‘Corn Grotto’, which for the life of me, looks and tastes much like a very passable Kentucky Sippin’ Bourbon.
I put our concierge on instant danger money the very next day. He’s yet to source me more than a fifth of the stuff so far.
I found that there is a popular drink here which mirrors the Yorsch of Mother Russia. Beer and soju can be mixed to create *somaek’; a foamy, frothy, funky drink of many flavors, depending on the soju chosen.
Is ethnoimbibology at thing? The science of how different cultures drink and the effects of drinking culture on different societies. If not, now I have another Ph.D. to pursue after I endow a chair at some likely Asian university.
Anyways, in everyone’s room was a “welcome” basket, just chock full of Best Korean goodies. Postcards, stamps, ads for coin sets, stamp proofs and other goodies that could be purchased at the hotel. There was a field notebook, which I thought was a very nice addition, newspapers, cookies, crackers, biscuits, candies, fruit drinks, and some fresh fruit; although tamarind chewies and durian chips aren’t on my list of personal favorites.
There were a couple of tour books, just chock full of staged photos. These were very nice as well, as so far, we haven’t had much time for shopping outside of government stores or smaller family-run shops in town or out in the boonies.
A few of us were hungry and decided to see what the hotel had to offer room service-wise.
Bupkiss.
But, they did have a selection of restaurants. There is a Chinese restaurant, a European restaurant, and a Korean restaurant on site but they all serve the same food...a Best Korean attempt at western food. And it was weird being the only ones in the restaurant even though it was fully staffed.
We grazed lightly and decided to do some late-night perambulations around our hotel. Our handlers admonished us to stay within the confines of the hotel, or see them if it was absolutely necessary to go walkabout. In the hotel, we were on our own.
We found that there were tunnels in the hotel’s basement. The basement tunnels were a real bonus. There’s a bar with pool tables, a karaoke room, bowling, and a massage parlor, where I was beaten and pummeled into submission by tiny, diminutive, little Korean lassies fully 1/5th my size.
It was wonderful.
There was a hairdresser’s, who were completely befuddled by my shoulder-length silver-gray locks and full gray Grizzly Adams beard. They did provide a lovely shampoo/cranial massage though for the equivalent of US$2.
There were a couple of shops selling Chinese goods rather than local stuff, which was sort of disappointing, a cold noodle bar, and another casino. No shops selling Korean Communist propaganda posters, as I wanted to augment my Soviet-era collection. Perhaps I’ll find something in-country later on.
We were shocked to find that the casino had WiFi that was uncensored and we were able to access; after a fee of liquor miniatures and a cigar or two. We were supposed to have access to the global internet, not local intranet, from the universities that we would be visiting. However, all of that was under the heavily squinting eyes of handlers and guys in shiny suits wearing fake Ray-Bans.
I still had my secret satellite internet lash-up available, but that was iffy, a pain in the ass to set up, and ridiculously expensive. However, it did work on the 39th floor and the times I used it instead of wandering down to the tunnels, no one appeared to be the wiser. Thus far.
So typically, we’d just head to the basement casino with our laptops, iPads, and phones. Bam! Robert’s your Sister’s Husband, we could connect more-or-less free with the outside world; hence how you are reading this now.
Herro! “Yes, I’d sure like another beer. This time a porter, if you please.”
The more they overthink the plumbing, the easier it is to stop up the drain. Or the more they put into locks, the easier they are to pick.
Besides, we were told we’d have access to unfettered and free internet. OK, so we just found it for ourselves. Whaddya expect? We’re scientists, motherfucker, back off.
Ahem.
Back to reality.
The breakfast buffet the next morning had a wide choice of Asian and Western food, although the choices seemed to be the same every day. The main event was to beat the Chinese tourists to the egg station every morning. Breakfast always included fried eggs, a limited selection of pork, kippered fish, potatoes, rice, fruit, and a very Titanium-dioxide-white white bread
After a while, I took to going to the small market behind the lobby, buying some imported Chinese or Japanese nibbly bits and heading to the tunnels for a few breakfast beers before the long hard day’s work. It took almost a week, but I gained the trust of some of the workers in the tunnels and they showed me the on-site microbrewery at the hotel. It produced very passable, and very, very cheap beers of several varieties.
Liquid bread. Beer. Is there nothing it can’t do?
After breakfast our first day at the hotel, we were told to meet in the Conference Room “Il-sung” as we were going to have a ‘Welcome foreign imperialist scientists’ introduction and indoctrination.
Besides our handlers and the shiny-suit squad, there were several Korean folks we didn’t recognize. These were students, scientists, and scholars from the Kim Chaek University of Technology, Kim Il-sung University, the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology; all hailing from Pyongyang, and the University of Geology from North Hwanghae Province.
“Oh, marvelous”, Erlen remarked, “It’s going to be a bloody Chautauqua. We’ll be here all day.”
“Well”, I replied, “It could be worse. We could be on a bus headed off on another unscheduled road trip.”
As we found our seats, our Korean counterparts were busily setting up portable screens, like the ones your grandfather had for showing his 2.1 Googleplex worth of travel slides every Christmas or Thanksgiving get-together. They had a couple of ancient Chinese brand laptops that could have doubled for body armor, they were so thick and heavy.
While they fiddled with running cords for the overhead projectors and 16mm film projector; yes, it was going to be movie time as well, the hotel’s restaurant folks wheeled in carts laden with scones, cupcakes, and other sweet sorts of bakery. Another cart was wheeled in with pump-pots of hot water, tea, and coffee. Usual scientific meeting fare.
There was one final cart that made the day bearable. It held a pony keg of hotel micro-brewed beer on ice, with several dozen frosty mugs available for all who wanted to partake.
There were instantly 12 mugs that were spoken for.
I grabbed a cold beer and wandered around the conference room, sipping beer, chewing on an unlit cigar, and just trying to be pleasant to our hosts and their scientific guests. I was surprised when one North Korean professor, who spoke amazingly British-tinged English, offered me a light for my cigar.
“Is smoking allowed here?” I asked.
“Allowed?” he laughed heartily, “My good man, it’s practically a prerequisite.”
“Here then”, I said, offering him a nice, unctuous Camacho, “Try one of mine.”
Dr. P'ung Kwang-Seon of the North Korean University of Geology became my instant and lifelong friend at that moment.
We had a very nice chat, much to the chagrin of the gray suit cadre, who could hear what we were talking about, but probably didn’t understand anything beyond every 8th word.
After a while, we were asked to take our seats, after refreshing our drinks, and introduced to the group of Korean geoscientists we’d be interacting with during our stay here in Best Korea.
I tried to record every name, but between the students, other scholars, and professors from the various universities, I decided I’d ask for a list of participants once the day had worn on. After all, they had all our names, references, and resumes if the thick folio they kept referring to was any indication.
There were a couple of hours of introductions, as every one of the Korean geoscientists there introduced themselves, mostly through translators, told of their personal area of specialty, and their latest work.
Most were what would be considered geoscientists, but oddly enough, not one that you would consider a petroleum geoscientist, however tangentially.
There were geomorphologists, structural geologists, petrologists, mineralogists, marine geologists, engineering geologists, and seismologists. However, there were no stratigraphers, sedimentologists, paleontologists, or geochemists. We were all geoscientists, but apart from the obvious Korean:English disparity, it was as if we spoke different scientific languages as well.
That would be our first hurdle to overcome.
They had no oil industry here; none whatsoever, therefore why one would bother with the geosciences that fed directly into petroleum? That, in and of itself, would make it difficult to explore for oil in the country. Couple that with the fact that they’re so insular, think their version of ‘science’ is the best, at least that’s the official line, and think all other’s ‘science’ is capitalistic, substandard, and inferior doesn’t bode well for your country discovering anything either oily or gassy.
We were having another conclave around the beer keg, ack, err…a ‘coffee break’ and I mentioned this fact to my scientific colleagues.
“Guys”, I need input here, “We’re going to get precisely nowhere if they won’t even acknowledge that they have major problems from the start.”
Ivan replies, “Very true. I’ve seen this before back home. You get a group so entrenched in their own little corner of science, they can’t even accept or acknowledge that others exist. Not only exist but actually know more about a certain problem than do you.”
Dax joins the fray, “Sure, that’s very true, but who’s going to tell them this unfortunate fact? They could take that as a personal, national, and global insult. Imagine you’re at an international conference and a bunch of foreigners walk in just to tell you you’ve been doing it all wrong for the last 75 years.”
I add, “Remember, though. These characters are scientists as well. I think it’ll be a good measure of seeing what sort of science and scientist we’re dealing with here. If they are truly researchers, they’ll listen to and evaluate what we say as for veracity and accuracy. If they’re just a bunch of Commie goons; no offense, Comrade Academician Ivan, they’ll get all pissed off, kick us out, and we get to go home and enjoy our triple Force Majeure pay.”
Ivan walks over and deliberately steps on the toes of my newly polished field boots.
“In Soviet Russia, field boots walk on YOU.” He laughs in his heavily inflected, and scary, Soviet-era speech…
“Yes, I agree”, Joon adds, “But who is going to address this issue with our hosts? Perhaps one of our Russian comrades, as they are, or were, more politically aligned with our Korean friends and perhaps best understand the issue?”
Ack speaks up, grinning maniacally, “No, I disagree. We should have the one person here who so encapsulates the ideologies and political leanings that they love to hate here so much. You know; the quiet, diminutive, and soft-spoken North American…”
Dax recoils, “Oh, no! I’m not going out in front of this mob of ornery Orientals…”
I smile wanly and tell Dax to cool out.
“Relax, Dax. They’re talking about me.”
“Oh, yes”, a collective group of voices replies, “Yes. Let out fearless Team Leader break the bad news to our Eastern Colleagues. That way we can gauge their reactions to being bounced around scientifically by a member of the Evil Capitalist Cartel.”
“OK”, I reply, “I’ll do it. But be forewarned, my fine feathered fiends. I get stuck on a topic that’s not precisely my bailiwick, I’m going to throw your ass to the wolves. Remember, we’re all in this together.”
Whoops, and catcalls were reduced to mumbles and ‘Aw, fucks.’.
Chautauqua resumption was called and I asked for the floor.
It was a bit off the agenda, but since they’ve been chewing the air for the last several hours, they understood it would be appropriate for us to at least try and get a word in edgewise.
I downed my beer, and grabbed a fresh one as what I was going to say was going to be harsh, cut-and-dried, and rather pointed. But delivered in a pleasant manner.
I hoped.
This all had to be filtered through a series of translators, one for general conversational Korean and another for the more technical and scientific transliterations. I realized I was going to be up here for a while. So, I brought a cigar.
One way or another, I was going to deliver our pronouncements and hell, I may as well be comfortable while doing it.
.
“Greetings and felicitations, my Eastern Colleagues. Let me first say how nice it is to be here in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea as part of the ….”
I’m going to fast-forward through all the flowery bullshit and introductory happiness; I’ll going to just cut to the guts of the matter.
“…Now, you do know why there has been virtually no oil, gas nor any other hydrocarbon related deposit discovered here in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea?” I asked by way of a rhetorical question.
I sipped my beer and lit my cigar. In for a chon, in for a won.
I let the buzzing subside on the side of our eastern counterparts.
“Because, and please do not take this as insulting or derogatory, but as a statement of irrefutable fact, no one with the proper training nor experience has been looking. You’re historically guilty of applying the science incorrectly and letting dogma and politics guide your search, instead of the scientific method and the facts. Geology, like all natural science, is just as truth based on the facts for a capitalist as it is for a communist. Reality is not influenced by your beliefs, be they scientific or political, secular or spiritual, ‘trusted’ rather than ‘thought’; any more than by your wish that it wouldn’t rain today during a raging thunderstorm.”
Little Boy over Hiroshima was dropped with less effect.
Our Democratic People's Republic of Korea colleagues erupted into a chaotic mixture of stuttering, internecine yelling, accusations, and sputtering.
Calling for decorum, I figured that since I was this far gone, I may as well push the plunger all the way to the bottom.
“Gentlemen, I do not denigrate the science of geology as taught and practiced here in Best Korea.” I actually said that, sort of a slip of the tongue. Continuing, “However, one would not fish for Bluefin tuna from a rowboat in a pond with a fly rod. One does not hunt bear in the city with a slingshot. Just as one doesn’t search for oil and gas with mining engineers, geomorphologists, and seismologists.”
I let that sink in and after the translation, they calmed a bit and wanted to hear the rest of what I had to say. I could sense a couple was less than thrilled with what I had to say, but forging onward…
“One fishes for Bluefin tuna in the deep ocean with huge rods, reels and a specialist boat captained by someone with deep experience in hunting the elusive fish. One hunts bear in the proper environment, the taiga or forest, with the proper tools and guided by one with the education, learnedness, and experience to know how to make the hunt come out successful.”
Hit them with some analogies they can relate to and digest. Now, go for the carotid.
“Just like one does not hunt oil and gas without stratigraphers, sedimentologists, geophysicists, petrophysicists, and other oil and gas experts who have the education, experience, and knowledge to know where to look. Knowing which environment looks most conductive to hide your quarry, if you’ll pardon the pun, and how best to find them, the guys who know how to corral and de-risk them once you find them, and the engineers and technologists who know how to bring them to the surface so they can be utilized.”
They had stopped being irritated and were listening in rapt attention.
“My colleagues and I have spent the last few days going over, in detail the geology of your country. There is nothing we can see that would preclude the development, entrapment, and preservation of economic quantities of oil and gas. Ture, the geology is quite complex as is the structural history of the entire peninsula. That’s one other thing you will have to accept. Geology doesn’t give the tiniest shit about political boundaries. One must look at the big picture, and that doesn’t stop at some man-made borders. Ignore that fact at your peril, because if you continue to view the geology here as not existing across political boundaries, you are preadapting yourself for failure.”
Drs. Ivan, Volna, and Morse make certain that everyone sees the ex-Soviets agreeing with the bushy-bearded, cigar-chomping American capitalist.
“So,” I said, hoping to bring this little spit-balling session to a fortuitous close, “If we can have an agreement; scientific agreement, on these points, then I am certain we can find a way forward with not only this discussion but the program we can devise for the best Korean (notice phase shift?) geologists to take the project forward both scientifically soundly and economically successful.”
My North Korean counterpart gets up from his seat in the conference room, goes to the keg, taps a couple of beers and walks up to the podium where I was standing.
“Thank you, Dr. Rocknocker, for saying what needed to be said”, he spoke in perfect English as he handed me a beer.
I grinned and gratefully accepted the beer.
“Why, Dr. Chang Kwang-Su”, I said, as that was his name, “You old fraud. You do speak English; and very well, I must add.”
“Yes, almost all of us do”, he relayed, “But, as you said, we are most reserved. We were more or less under orders of the ‘most illustrious’, to play coy, and act as if we spoke no English.”
“I see.” I said, “I’ve worked in several FSU countries as well as Russia and saw that there as well. I guess old habits die hard.”
“That they do, Doctor.”, he replied, “But, we must now tell you the truth. We knew exactly what you said is true, and we agree. We are not as totally insulated from the outside world as some suspect.”
“Well, I was going on what your superiors related to us. Like the police that had all their toilets stolen, I had nothing else to go on.” I replied.
“Ah, ha! Quite!”, he chuckled, “We had long suspected that we were lacking in certain areas of scholarship. What you said cements that fact as it was an independent conclusion. We can now present that to our superiors with the caveat that unless we bolster work and training in these areas, the hunt of hydrocarbon resources here will be for naught.”
“I am relieved”, I said, truthfully. “I was slightly concerned that some might take umbrage to being told their science is not up to specifications. I tried to be the bearer of that bad news but deliver it gently. Here, I find you need that to use that as a truncheon to smack one’s boss upside the head and tell him that an upgrade is required. And fast.”
“Ah, so”, he replies, “We are in total agreement. Now that is out of the way, we would appreciate it if you’d help in designing a course of study for up and coming local geoscientists. Then, we can go forward with a great plan to search for oil and gas here in…Korea. Correct?”
“Absolutely”, I remarked, “You’ve got over 400 man-years of science and exploration expertise here in this room alone. Let’s shoot for the moon, so to speak. Let’s get you up to speed on scientific journals and articles that are available out there in all of academia and industry. Let’s get you communicating on a global basis. Let’s prove that you can talk science with global scientists and still not have it affect your political or nationalistic aspirations one little bit. Let’s see if we can drag you, figuratively speaking, kicking and screaming, into the 21st century.”
“Doctor”, Dr. Chang remarked, “You are the embodiment of what we were always told what Americans are. Brash, loud, confident, and evil. Except for evil, you are American as we were led to believe.”
“Hey, I take that as a compliment”, I exclaim. “You think that’s bad, I’ve got a bunch of earnest Europeans, raucous Russians, and a couple of cagey Canadians on my side as well. Before we’re finished here, we’ll have you ordering hachee, dining on Caldo Verde, snacking on salmiakki, drinking Russkaya vodka with Pabst Blue Ribbon beer, eating poutine, and rooting for the Packers.”
“Doctor, I don’t know what half of that means, but I hope it comes to pass. It sounds most fascinating.” Dr. Chang chuckles.
The rest of the day was spent with various groups crystallizing and breaking off from the main crowd; then reforming as different groups. This was good, as it showed an interest across not only national borders but across ideologies and scientific specialties.
Most everyone here spoke English with some degree of fluency, so the translators were called in only occasionally.
I made certain they were included in everything that transpired that day. I want everyone to feel ‘part of the team’. How better to show the classlessness of Western science to include everyone in on both sides of every discussion and activity?
To be continued…
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Phantasy Star Online 2 NA Confirmations, Speculations and Information

I thought I'd do a follow-up post to my previous post over here: https://www.reddit.com/PSO2/comments/evz3c7/pso2_na_misconceptions_pc_release_content_etc/
That one isn't going anywhere and I appreciate some of the comments and discussions that went on, however:
For this reason (and the fact that the PSO2 Twitter released some new information), I wanted to do a second post that addressed some of the things I failed to address last time as well as make things more clearer. The information provided in the post is a combination of conclusions I made together with discussions I had with various acquaintances and friends on the Phantasy Star Fleet Discord.
With that said here we go...

Confirmations

PSO2es
The release of Phantasy Star Online 2 NA will not be accompanied with PSO2es at the moment. (https://twitter.com/play_pso2/status/1222957649915858944?s=20)
Xbox Live Gold
More of an issue to pick with Microsoft than SEGA, although Phantasy Star Online 2 is free to play as with many other free to play titles on Xbox One you will need an Xbox Live Gold subscription.
Windows 10 games that make use of Xbox Live do NOT need an Xbox Live Gold subscription.
No Character Transfers
A response to a question regarding character transfers has revealed that there are no plans for JP players to be able to transfer their characters to the NA version. (https://twitter.com/play_pso2/status/1222371507948548096?s=20)
Casino Confirmed
Nothing much really, the Casino is confirmed for Beta for those who had doubts it would be in the game at all. (https://twitter.com/play_pso2/status/1222707050741809152?s=20)
Group Chat & Voice Chat
In addition to the Group Chat introduced in Episode 6 a Voice Chat functionality has been added in the game. The way they worded it seems to imply that it will be between party members with no details on whether you'll be able to Voice chat with Team Members. (https://twitter.com/play_pso2/status/1223048445474242560?s=20)
In addition, one thing to keep in mind is that the Group Chat was a feature added to the Episode 6 client of the game. (http://www.bumped.org/psublog/countdown-to-pso2-starsepisode-6/). While it is possible SEGA might just have isolated the feature, keep in mind that features are tied to Client versions. If this is the case this might mean PSO2 NA will start off with Episode 6's Quality of Life updates and balances. Whether Episode 6's story, classes and content is gated temporarily on release will be seen.
English Dub & Dual Audio
In a surprise announcement, it has been confirmed that PSO2 NA will have full English voice-overs. (https://twitter.com/play_pso2/status/1222323522598526977) Apparently even Quna's songs have been dubbed to English. If this is a bother do not worry as the game will have Dual Audio options. This does however change the approach the game's text would have as dialogue boxes would essentially be transcribing the dub as opposed to just simply translating what is being said so playing the NA version in Japanese would make the text more of a "Dubtitle".
There is no information on VAs involved though hopefully, we can expect the same kind of quality we've seen with SEGA's other dubbed games like Judgement and Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise.
Closed Beta Content vs Final Game
It has been confirmed that the features and content available to players during the Closed Beta will not be indicative of the final release. So if content is gated (its beginning to look like the Closed Beta will be limited to Episode 1), please don't jump to the conclusion that the full game would launch in that same state. (https://twitter.com/play_pso2/status/1221535315422109696?s=20) (https://twitter.com/play_pso2/status/1223459098919723008?s=20)
No IP block for EU
A very vanilla confirmation to bring up, especially since it was brought up today but I feel its important to emphasize since it was a worry many outside of North America had. Today's tweet however confirmed that an IP block will not be taking place: https://twitter.com/play_pso2/status/1222967403895611392. Xbox One (and Windows 10) regions are not account bound so you can freely change your region to US or Canada to gain access to the Beta and eventually the final game from the MS Store.
Azure Cloud
Many people came to conclusion that "Powered by Azure Cloud" meant the game would be streamed akin to the likes of PSO2 Cloud or a Google Stadia game. The announcement of the game's file-size and that there will be future updates expected should confirm that Phantasy Star Online 2 will be running natively on Xbox One (and hopefully PC). To give some clarification about what MS Azure's use is for, Cloud Servers are now used to host game servers. Notable examples include Minecraft and Sea of Thieves making use of Microsoft Azure and Fortnite using Azure's competitor; Amazon AWS. According to a Japanese exclusive interview, the reason SEGA decided to use Cloud Hosted servers is to be able to cover more geographical areas much easier (Anyone who's played Phantasy Star Universe might remember that game being hosted on a single data centre in the West Coast)
SEGA ID
As a recent tweet from the social media accounts confirmed, Phantasy Star Online 2 NA will NOT be using a Western version of the SEGA ID. (https://twitter.com/play_pso2/status/1222586390094827521?s=20) This essentially makes PSO2 NA similar to Phantasy Star Universe's Xbox 360 version which utilized Xbox Live as your account. GamerTags are also present on Windows 10 which is how your Xbox One characters would be usable on Windows 10 and vice versa.
This doesn't rule out a Steam release or other platform releases just yet either. I can't vouch from Steam (*can anyone who plays Halo: Master Chief Collection tell me how you sign in to Xbox Live on the Steam version?) but in recent years Microsoft had been interested in rolling out Xbox Live to other platforms with Minecraft and Cupheads on Nintendo Switch making use of Xbox Live functionalities.
"All the Content" is still happening... to an extent
Like it or not, to many of us "All the Content" was very vague... all the content up to that time? all the latest content? do Collabs count as content? This entry is as vague as their post but if there is one thing to confirm... is that they are at least working on it apparently: https://twitter.com/play_pso2/status/1222956665621733376?s=20
Microsoft's Role
I want to make clear that Microsoft is NOT the publisher. According to a Japan-exclusive interview, Microsoft approached SEGA with the intention to have PSO2 released in the West and have one of its platforms be Xbox One. They do however bring up that they will be co-operating with Microsoft due to them having more experience managing Online games and dealing with the Western communities, though as we've seen... SEGA does have the final say regarding some matters (Phil Spencer couldn't comment about an EU release or account transfers)
Windows 10 Version-Release
No one knows EXACTLY when it is we'll be seeing the PC version released. However given some posts from the PSO2 Twitter (which I have put in one place here: ) we can probably narrow down a rough timeline of when we MIGHT expect it.
*The Windows 10 version releasing "later in 2020" was not meant to mean "later in 2020", but rather that it simply releases AFTER the Xbox One version. (https://twitter.com/play_pso2/status/1217980202858381312?s=20)
*The Windows 10 version is still scheduled for release during Spring. Now bear in mind that Spring lasts from March to May (or sometimes June?) so I'm not implying that both of them might launch simultaneously (https://twitter.com/play_pso2/status/1213892177224318976?s=20)
*I'm stretching "confirmations" a bit here but... its to be expected given how vague the PSO2 Social Media can be. There appear to be implications that some kind of Beta (Open or Closed) will be taking place for Windows 10. (https://twitter.com/play_pso2/status/1216039123355455489?s=20) (https://twitter.com/play_pso2/status/1220433244237303809?s=20)
I am aware that some scepticism may be present in trusting PSO2 NA's social media accounts, but given that most of what we know about the NA release (including the fact that its dubbed, has voice chat, Beta rewards) had been given out on Social Media and NOT put on the website... I think it's fair to say their information might be a bit more valid in comparison to the website for now (check in Speculations for a theory on why) which leads to...
The Website's Information As we already know, the current website has had problems in terms of updates, no Beta rewards announced, None of the new information posted there. Thankfully, the Closed Beta date announcement revealed that a new website will be going up at the same time as the Closed Beta. While we don't know all the new information that would be present on the site, we have gotten some hints that we will at least get to know a bit about a potential Community/GM Team. (https://twitter.com/play_pso2/status/1222245074911686656?s=20)
Terminology & Name Changes
As we already know, there are some names that are spelled differently and terminology changes that have taken place. Some of the terminologies that were confirmed to be for NA were first revealed to us through the PSO2 Episode Oracle official subs so it's fair to say it counts as a reasonable source for what got changed. Although this section is called "Confirmations", I bent the rules here a bit by me trying to explain the potential reason these terms were changed so please bear with me...
Patch Name Official Translation Name Potential Reason
Darkers Falspawn My only guess is, the localizers didn't like the name "Darker". SEGA JP's Official Spelling is "D-arkers" (You can see this spelling in the English track name in PSO2 Volume 1 Japanese Soundtrack). I seriously doubt it has anything to do with "Darkers being offensive" when the antagonist "Dark Falz" remains as is. These kind of changes are what is commonly known as "Woolseyism", look it up on Tv Tropes for reference...
Darker Infection F-Factor Changed to match new name for Darkers. Also creates an allusion to PSO1 and its "D-Factor" infection.
Dark Falz Double Dark Falz Gemini In addition to maybe the localizers feeling "Double" sounds like a weak name given the context, the Kanji used to spell Double's name actually means "Twins". Please check back with my original post for a more thorough explanation on this. So again, "Woolseyism" at work.
Emergency Quest Urgent Quest "Emergency" and "Urgent" are the same word in Japanese. This is also the terminology planned to be used for the 2013 translation and which would be carried over to the SEA version. My guess is... it also helps to avoid confusion with "Emergency Codes" since even now that's what people think got changed.
Naberius Naverius No idea why this change took place, especially since SEGA JP's official name spelling is "Naberius"... though strangely, although Nab Rappy don't have an official English spelling... the Katakana for their name reads "Navu" as opposed to "Nabu" while the planet is spelled "Naberiusu".
Campship Gateship Localizers used SEGA JP's official terminology. You can see this name used in the English track name in PSO2 Volume 1 Japanese Soundtrack.
Dewman Deuman Localizers used SEGA JP's official terminology. You can see this in the Opening video (after character creation) for EPISODE 2
Gettemhart Gettemhult Localizers used SEGA JP's official terminology. You can see this spelling in EPISODE 1's end credits.
Melphonsina Melfonseana Localizers used SEGA JP's official terminology. You can see this spelling in EPISODE 1's end credits.
Lisa Risa Localizers used SEGA JP's official terminology. You can see this spelling in EPISODE 1's end credits.
Tea Tia The twin's names were meant to be a pun on "Patientia". Official SEGA JP spelling is "Tiea" as seen in EPISODE 1's end credits.
Patty Pati The twin's names were meant to be a pun on "Patientia". Official SEGA JP spelling is "Patty" as seen in EPISODE 1's end credits.
Zig Jig Localizers used SEGA JP's official terminology. You can see this spelling in EPISODE 1's end credits.
Ulc Ulku No idea why this happened.
Photon Rings Photon Halos Attempted Woolseyism
Coat Edge Coated Edge Attempted Woolseyism
If by any chance I missed anything, please let me know and i'll try to keep this list updated
SEA Translation
Before I start this section I would like to define what counts as "SEA terminology". You see, portions of PSO2 SEA's scripts were based on that of the translation intended for the original 2013 release and are in fact SEGA of America's terms. Some of these terms include:
With that said, "SEA terminology" by my definition, of course, refers to changes that AsiaSoft (at SEGA of Japan's request) did which usually goes against established Phantasy Star terminologies like:
Terms like these were thought to make a return to PSO2 NA (and changes like Falspawn get compared to them... despite the fact that Darkers haven't appeared in a past Phantasy Star game). The class list today, however, made use of the proper class name "Force" and throughout various posts referred to Monomates by their proper name. So rest assured... despite all the name changes, the AsiaSoft terminology that goes against past PS games is not being used.

Speculation

Why no concrete date is given I'll keep this one short and simple, given what happened the last time the game was 'delayed', could you imagine if a REAL (and not just "actually cancelled but we say its delayed") delay happens how the community would react... yea...
Why information is different across Social Media and the Official Website
As many of you have known, there has been some conflicting information regarding PSO2 NA. First, the website says the Windows 10 version isn't expected until later in 2020, then the social media confirms "Later" does not mean "Late 2020", then another confirmation that states the Windows 10 version is still planned to release in Spring.
Simply put, the website hasn't been updated much, in fact, the most recent update only added the Closed beta date without including any of the new information revealed in the Twitter such as the Beta rewards (site stills says "rewards will be announced soon"), said Open Beta that was recently brought up, specific information (if you were new to the game, you wouldn't know about each Race and Class from the website... but the Social Media feed).
Hopefully, when the full website releases on February 7th we will get more concrete information on these details that the current "Teaser Site" has. (*Fun fact... did you know the PSO2.com domain is actually owned by SEGA Europe?)
Why the Closed Beta is exclusive to Xbox One
I will not disregard the complaints there have been about the Closed Beta being an Xbox One exclusive. However I at least wanted to give an idea on why Xbox One gets a Closed Beta. Simply put... its a new port and no matter how alike Windows 10 and Xbox One are there are still some things that would need to be tested on it, particularly in how it handles with Xbox One exclusive features.
Ideas on when the PC version comes out
So if you read the details above concerning the Windows 10 version's release, you'll know that SEGA can be quite vague with their information but have given us some details to narrow down a potential time frame for when we can expect the Windows 10 version. Furthermore, the game's website brings up "Windows 10 version coming soon" in a section talking about the Closed Beta and also responded to various people's comments with things like "Closed Beta test is for Xbox One. Windows 10 version coming soon". The vagueness comes in the sense that we don't know whether "Windows 10 version" refers to the full game or one of the Betas (Open or Closed), however assuming it is and combining it with the points previously brought up, one of the following scenarios might take place:
Windows 10 Version Will be UWP
I am aware that not many of us would be happy for this. However, from a development point of view it makes sense why the PSO2 Team might choose to do this. Currently in the Japanese version patch files have to be compiled for each specific platform... so now add needing to compile and put out patches for the multiple platforms and also prepare the patches for the NA version. Assuming the Windows 10 version of PSO2 NA is distributed on the MS Store, a UWP port of PSO2 makes the game nearly the same under the hood so only a single set of Patch files that work on Xbox One and Windows 10 would need to be created.
This in turn helps to explain why the game would be exclusive to Windows 10.

General Info

Who does the port
Game publishing, especially when it comes to MMOs, is not as straightforward as SEGA JP giving Microsoft or SEGA of America the source code to the game. All features and content for past version of PSO2 (SEA and Taiwan) were in fact developed by the Japanese team. While SEGA West (and/or their outsource responsible for portions of the game) might do things like translating the text and recording the voices, things like porting to Xbox One, programming Dual Audio support, Implementing Voice Chat and (once the game releases) developing potential NA exclusive content all fall on the development team in Japan who also need to work on PSO2 JP updates.
Circumstances Regarding other Platforms
Yes so... as much as I'd like PSO2 to be available on all platforms as Phil Spencer said, there are various circumstances that might affect their release in the West.
Server Host
People bring up that Microsoft is "hosting the servers", I figured I would explain what this entails. The way MS Azure works... Microsoft has about as much involvement managing the server as Amazon does managing Fortnite (sorry for bringing it up!) servers. Microsoft Azure is a Cloud Platform that any company that subscribes to can use for various purposes, including hosting servers. Microsoft's responsibilities fall on making sure that service stays active, is well maintained and doesn't have problems. As such, SEGA's responsibilities involve less managing the physical servers and more managing the server software and what goes on in the actual game.
I'd like to bring up also that using Microsoft Azure should have no bearing on the game releasing on other platforms. Microsoft Azure is NOT the same as Xbox Live in the sense that it's more 'general purpose' and is something that even Sony uses.
No release date and Radio Silence since E3
I cannot explain the EXACT reason why SEGA does this sort of thing, but I will say that its not something specific to PSO2. There has been radio silence and lack of information for SEGA's localized 2020 titles, namely Yakuza: Like a Dragon, Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA Mega Mix and Project Sakura Wars. Much like PSO2, those games have only a vague 'release period' (Project Sakura Wars is also planned for "Spring 2020", Miku Megamix has a vague release period of just "2020").
This post may be updated over time so please check back from time to time, especially whenever a new update is available. Proper criticism on certain points I bring up will also be taken into account and changed accordingly (if you feel an entry doesn't belong to the right category, etc)
EDIT: New confirmations I forgot to add when I first wrote this.
EDIT 2: Added info on the dub (nothing new for many of us) and specified about the Xbox Live Gold subscription not being needed for PC. Also.. thanks to whoever gave me Silver and Helpful Award! ^ I'll be sure to keep us updated on things.
EDIT 3: I got Pati and Tia's name wrong. As a result, it doesn't line up with SEGA JP's official terminology. In addition, another terminology discovered, F-Factor.
EDIT 4: Rephrased some sections, added some extra details on certain localization entries and added an extra line on the origin of some of the statements said.
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