Thursday, February 16, 2017

Of automobiles and computers

Novelist Booth Tarkington first published The Magnificent Ambersons in 1918, which won the Pulitzer Prize the following year. The novel is about the downfall in finances and prestige of the richest family in Indianapolis. A key plot point is introduction of the automobile by inventor Eugene Morgan at the turn of the last century. A scene in Chapter 19 takes place at the dinner table during a party, and a main character, George Amberson Minafer,  who is still stuck in horse-and-buggy times lambastes Morgan’s invention, saying: “Automobiles are a useless nuisance . . . They’ll never amount to anything but a nuisance. They had no business to be invented.”
After the personal affront, Morgan is forced to defend his invention powered by the internal combustion engine. His words are particularly prescient, seeing author Tarkington wrote them around 1916.
Now let’s pretend the novel was written in 2016, a century later, and George Amberson Minafer has just lambasted the “computer” as a “useless nuisance” and “had no business to be invented.” And let us further pretend that Eugene Morgan invented computers rather than automobiles, and is forced to defend his invention.
What follows is Morgan’s soliloquy in The Magnificent Ambersons, with two changes. I’ve substituted the word “computer” for “automobile.” And in one instance I’ve inserted “central processing unit” for “gasoline engine.”
Give this one-hundred-year-old paragraph a read.
“I’m not sure he’s wrong about computers,” Morgan said. “With all their speed forward they may be a step backward in civilization – that is, in spiritual civilization. It may be that they will not add to the beauty of the world, nor to the life of men’s souls. I am not sure. But computers have come, and they bring a greater change in our life than most of us suspect. They are here, and almost all outward things are going to be different because of what they bring. They are going to alter war, and they are going to alter peace. I think men’s minds are going to be changed in subtle ways because of computers; just how, though, I could hardly guess. But you can’t have the immense outward changes that they will cause without some inward ones, and it may be that George is right, and that the spiritual alteration will be bad for us. Perhaps, ten or twenty years from now, if we can see the inward change in men by that time, I shouldn’t be able to defend the central processing unit, but would have to agree with him that computers ‘had no business to be invented.’”

R.D. Byron-Smith’s novels and non-fiction works are available in paperback at Amazon.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Don't Be Chicken to Write Your Memoirs

First blog in a long while because I was polishing a new memoir, just out. YOUR STORY, MY WAY: A Memoir on Memoirs and How to Write Them (e-book and paperback at Amazon) is a different kind of beast.
It’s a memoir on how to write a memoir.
It is also written for folks who want to pen a “family record” for later generations, and speak to them in immortal voice if you will.
While the title might remind some of “my way or the highway,” it won’t stand over you and beat you with a wooden ruler. Anything but didactic and schoolmarmish, it’s written in an easy-going style, often fun and conversational, maybe a touch sinful. Still, I had ages from teen upward in mind when I wrote it.
The book’s heart is a treasure trove of writing tips and tools I learned the hard way by doing them. Hey, I went to J-school, but things I reveal in this memoir weren’t taught at the university, and they won’t be found in any other book on writing memoirs, either. I got them when ornery editors jammed them down my throat. Yet I assure you, you won’t feel any pain.
The book has a personality and is richly lavished with personal stories and anecdotes, just like my 2015 best-selling memoir, TRUE STORIES I Never Told My Kids.
Here’s a quick taste from the new book, a humorous little ditty on using colloquialisms in writing a memoir.
I grew up in Michigan where we called dragonflies “sewing needles” – don’t ask me why. Each region has its own colloquialisms, or slang words and expressions unique to it, and these can brighten writing when used in a way that provides enough context for readers to understand what’s being said. Yet, if there is one overarching rule in using slang phrases, it is this: be damn sure you know what they really mean.
Like this: a Wall Street Journal reporter once quoted a guy who said that he had had more “fun than choking chickens.” Day of the story a reader from the South called the newspaper. “Down here choking chickens means masturbating,” the caller explained, with a laugh.
Neither the Journal reporter nor his editors knew what the colloquialism “choking chickens” really meant. Had they known there is no way a quote essentially saying someone had more “fun than masturbating” would have been printed.

– From YOUR STORY, MY WAY: A Memoir on Memoirs and How to Write Them (2017), available at Amazon and other booksellers.

Friday, April 29, 2016

We'll Always Have Venice

As follow-up to my bestselling memoir, TRUE STORIES I Never Told My Kids, here is what the publisher writes about my just published novel, WE'LL ALWAYS HAVE VENICE, available exclusively on Amazon: In 1944 eighteen-year-old Michael Sandler enlists in the United States Army and, after being told in basic training that half of the recruits in his Regiment would be killed in the war, he’s shipped off to fight Nazis on the Italian Front to prove it. From the Army’s disastrous Anzio beachhead to its bloody slog up the North Apennine Mountains towards liberation of Italy, Private Sandler is buffeted by fusillades of German bullets in front of him and, from behind, by the rampant anti-Semitism of his own comrades. Caught in the midst of what he learns to call, “felonies of war,” manhood is thrust upon this naive Brooklyn Jew, who experiences both the extreme trauma of frontline combat, and after Italy’s liberation, the delightful pleasures of a worldly Italian woman who is as stunningly beautiful as she is cunning. Above all, however, wartime teaches Michael Sandler that all enemies don’t hide in bunkers – some dwell deep inside his own guts. For decades he never talks of his heroism under fire, nor of WWII secrets of murder, Army corruption and personal betrayal. A self-portrait of bloody war and doomed love, We’ll Always Have Venice was inspired by recollections – confessions, if you will – of an American soldier who survived fierce combat on the Italian Front, only to be haunted ever after by “felonies of war.”

Sales of the novel have been brisk, and I thank all of my loyal readers. Have a great summer.


Monday, August 10, 2015

TRUE STORIES I Never Told My Kids

Here is what the publisher says about my new memoir, True Stories I Never Told My Kids:

“Whether crashing the film set of a Robert Redford movie, chasing down the true father of sex goddess Marilyn Monroe, or stumbling into a deadly shootout between cops and bank robbers, there was nary a dull moment in forty years of news reporting by R.D. Byron-Smith. In his witty, often irreverent memoir the author takes readers along for a bumpy joyride in pursuit of news at all costs. Readers ride shotgun as he confronts death row killers, introduces oddballs and media meatheads, and harasses Hollywood celebs. Readers even get a bleacher’s seat as he goes tête-à-tête with a disgraced U.S. president at the World Series. The author’s wild ride is worth admission. And best of all, they are, every tale, True Stories I Never Told My Kids.

This book has been four decades in the making. Unlike my first memoir, Dinner With A Killer, which is being featured in an upcoming CBS Television series on serial killers, this book focuses on my forty years as a newspaper reporter, and attempts to give readers some of the stories behind the stories, and to sneak them into the newsroom where a lot of zany people work.
For instance, here’s a tidbit from the book:

Even thinking about this story makes me laugh.
We had a college intern who must have been the most naive female in America. Editors sent her to cover a real cattle drive. It was an overnight affair in which a bunch of cowboys herded cattle all day, and at dusk made camp, ate beans and slept fireside under the stars. These cowboys had been on cattle drives before and one of their traditions was making beef jerky on the campfire.
This student reporter wrote a story about the cattle drive and described how the cowboys sat around the fire at night and made and ate beef jerky.
She filed the story and as it was being read by an editor an explosion of laughter erupted on the news desk.
Of course reporters wanted to know what was so hilarious. What she had written soon went viral in the newsroom.
The intern had written that after a hard day’s work the cowboys sat around the campfire and put strips of beef on the heat to dry and make jerky. She noted their ritual of “jerking the meat” lasted for hours.

Like most memoirs this isn’t autobiography, so don’t expect the literary equivalent of a television reality show, you know like “16 and Pregnant.” However, what you will find are stories I am sure you have never heard before. And you’ll be right behind me as I report them – but duck because bullets will fly.

Just published, the book is available exclusively at Amazon for 90 days. Go to Amazon and search “R.D. Byron-Smith and True Stories.” And thank you for reading my novels and nonfiction books, I truly appreciate it. R.D. 

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Invisible Print In The Iran Nuke Deal

Editor’s Note: our college intern, Alice Paradee, has submitted this “news scoop” from her unofficial White House sources. We publish it herewith and cannot vouch for its accuracy. We will allow, however, that in a world of sham, it could very well be the genuine article.

By A. Paradee

President Obama, emboldened by his successes in negotiating with Cuba and Iran, has his sights on negotiations with ISIS.

“POTUS . . . .”

I interrupted my confidential White House source as he was about to give me the details. “POTUS? What’s that?”

“President Of The United States,” said the source, who is familiar with the President’s thinking.

“That’s the ugliest acronym I’ve ever heard,” I put in.

“Not really,” he corrected me, “SCOTUS is.”


“Supreme Court Of The United States.”

“SCOTUS. Yuk! It makes me think of scrotum. You’re right, SCOTUS is uglier.”

“What do you think about when you hear, POTUS?” he asked me, suddenly amused at his own thoughts.

“I better not say,” I said, ducking it. “But, what about POTUS negotiating with ISIS?”

“I didn’t say he was going to negotiate,” the source said, a little angrily now. “That said, what people don’t know is the Iranian nuclear deal has a secret codicil.”

“You mean something President Obama hasn’t revealed?”

“I said it was secret.”

I confidently took a guess. “It’s probably about the Americans being held hostage in Iran. It’s what the President said he wasn’t ‘content’ with at his news conference.”

“Hostages? Nobody’s talking about hostages . . . .”

“That’s rather been the problem, hasn’t it?” I said.

“You’re as nonsensical as CBS reporter Major Garrett.”

“Be that as it may,” I said, “what does this secret Iran nuke deal codicil say, if not about releasing hostages?”

“To the effect that in exchange for letting Iran make a bomb, the Supreme Leader will attack the Islamic State.”

“You mean we’re putting Iranian boots on the ground in Iraq, to defeat ISIS?”

“Something like that.” The White House source formed a self-satisfied grin. “Not our boots, theirs. The President is so clever. Siccing Shia on the Sunni.”

“Maybe too clever by half.”

“Why would you say that?”

“What if Iran defeats ISIS and takes over Iraq, and then turns on Saudi Arabia and Jordan?”

“By then the Saudis and Jordanians will have a bomb of their own,” he said. “Call it Middle East nuclear détente.”


“It worked in the 1970s between the U.S. and Soviets!”

“I don’t remember President Obama ever saying anything about Mutual Assured Destruction in the Middle East.”

“And, he won’t,” said the source. “He learned reams from the ‘you-can-keep-your-doctor’ remark.”

My stomach was turning sour. “You’ll let Iran take Iraq, something even Saddam Hussein wouldn’t have let happen?” I could tell my questioning was pissing him off.

“Our calculation is it won’t come to that,” he said. “Iran and ISIS will battle to a stalemate. Like the Iraq-Iran war in the 1980s.”

“That’s a good thing?” I asked, skeptically.

“It’s when POTUS steps in and negotiates with ISIS.”

“You said President Obama wasn’t going to do that?”

“You’re so naive, politically,” said the source, with distain similar in tone to the President’s condescension of CBS’s Major Garrett. “He won’t. That is the beauty of it. It will be for the next administration to deal with. Obama assumes Donald Trump will be elected in 2016.”

I looked at him shocked.

The source slightly nodded, raising his eyebrows.

“Not Hillary?!” I gasped.

The source ignored me, and stayed on talking point. “The President says Trump brags about his negotiating prowess. You know, The Art of the Deal, and all that. Trump will have to negotiate with ISIS and Iran. President Obama says he’ll delight in watching Trump getting beat up!”

I couldn’t resist. “Like Iran did to President Obama?”

Sunday, June 28, 2015

In the Middle of a Manhunt

The hunt for two escaped murderers in upstate New York is over. It went on for weeks and reminded me of thirty-five years ago when, working as a newspaper reporter, I stumbled into a manhunt-turned-shootout in Southern California.

It was a Friday, the day banks made sure they have plenty of money to cash workers’ paychecks. I was a fearless, paid-stringer for the Los Angeles Times.

Chatter came over the scanner of a hot police pursuit of bank robbers, and they were heading my way. The 40-mile chase was a throwback to the Wild West, with the sheriff’s posse galloping after the Clantons. Followed by a phalanx of lawmen on Interstate 15, the robbers disabled patrol cars by knocking out engines with an “elephant gun,” and fired assault rifles and tossed homemade grenades at the cops.

I phoned the Metro Desk of the LA Times and was told to get to the scene and report for the paper’s early edition. The first reporter to arrive, my adrenalin sank when I saw a CHP blocking the road the robbers used to flee into the eastern foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains. “Nobody’s getting up in there,” the officer said. “A command post is being set up, and you can go there when they open, but not now.”

A man in a Jeep overheard him and came up to me, asking if I was a reporter. “There’s another way in,” he confided. “It’s on the other side of the creek. I’ll take you.” I jumped at the chance to get nearer to the action.

As we jumbled in his Jeep through brush and over river rocks a tragedy was unfolding a couple of miles north of the CHP roadblock. The bandits stopped their truck and formed a skirmish line with their assault rifles. When a deputy sheriff drove around a bend they ambushed him. On foot, the deputy’s killers fled into a heavy canopy of forest where fog was settling in.

Over the next hour hundreds of police special weapons officers from all over Southern California streamed into the area for the manhunt. They borrowed a military helicopter with high-seeking gear for the manhunt, which was unusual for the time.
Meanwhile, the man stopped his jeep. “I live back this way,” he said, pointing westerly. He dropped me where I couldn’t see fifty feet because of fog and thick vegetation, and drove away.

I was alone. Or, so I thought.

I slogged for a half mile northerly, determined, in the direction of the robbers. I faintly heard water trickling in the creek, which I couldn’t see but knew it was east of me. Periodically I heard rotors of a helicopter, but never saw it.

Suddenly. “Pop! Pop!”

I froze. The sound stopped my heart, and my bodily senses surged. It was gunfire – and damn close. For the first time since getting into the man’s Jeep, I realized how stupid I’d been. Scores of lawmen with assault rifles hunted for cop-killers and I had heedlessly stumbled into the middle of what I now figured was a cops-and-robbers shootout. My next thought slapped me hard: the cops might think I’m a crook and the crooks might think I’m a cop.

In the forest and fog I was in no-man’s land.

Breathlessly I ran back the way I’d come, tripping on tangles of brush and falling, breaking tree branches, and making far, far too much noise. Such fear had never braced me, not even as a teen when I was chased by a bear at night.

I “hightailed” it all right. But, little did I know: augh, for this scared rabbit, the real ordeal had just begun . . . .

– Excerpt (©2015 Pilar Publishing) from the memoir, TRUE STORIES I Never Told My Kids by R.D. Byron-Smith, whose books are available at Amazon and other online booksellers.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Internet Cafes Lose Sweepstakes

The state’s Supreme Court has guaranteed that big games of chance in California remain a duopoly between the state Lottery and Indian gambling tribes.
In a precedent, a unanimous court ruled that computerized “sweepstakes” games in Internet cafés are illegal because they are “slot machines” of chance prohibited by state gambling law.
Cafés offered sweepstakes jackpots up to $10,000.
“Slot machines, sometimes called ‘one-armed bandits’ (although younger users might wonder why), have long been outlawed in California,” said the court in the June 25th opinion. “Under review are devices that resemble traditional casino-style slot machines in some ways and offer users the chance to win sweepstakes prizes. . . . We must decide whether the devices come within the statutory definition of a ‘slot machine or device’ in (the) Penal Code. We conclude they do.”
The case began in 2012 when the Kern County District Attorney’s Office in Bakersfield filed civil actions against the Internet cafés under anti-gambling laws, and lower courts ruled in favor of shutting down the sweepstakes part of the businesses.
Little noticed in the ruling is a brief discussion of other “sweepstakes” games in California, and these remarks by justices might send shivers down the backs of corporate America, and might energize law enforcement in the state.
While these both are big “mights,” here’s what the justices wrote: “Defendants (the cafés) assert that the devices here have features in common with sweepstakes operated by national companies like Coca-Cola and McDonald’s, and that a holding that the devices here are illegal slot machines would mean those and similar sweepstakes are also illegal slot machines. How similar the devices here are to other sweepstakes, and whether other sweepstakes would meet all of the elements set forth in (the Penal Code) is beyond the scope of this case. Such questions would have to be decided in a case in which someone claims some other sweepstakes system is an illegal slot machine.”
Uh-oh. Does that open a door, or what?
The Coca-Cola Company operates a “rewards” program accessed by home computers and McDonald’s USA is well known for giving freebie shakes and fries in its Monopoly game.
Not to worry. In fact, I’ll bet a Big Mac right now that the odds of prosecutors ever filing similar cases against either Coke or McDonald’s is a big fat Coke Zero.
Slot machines are illegal in California and the only slot machines allowed in the state are on Indian lands, which fall under the purview of the federal government. The other game of chance is the state-run California Lottery.
As a cynical Web poster said of the ruling against the Internet cafés: “If the payout were Lotto tickets, it would be OK.”
In essence, the café owners argued the sweepstakes games were legal because the results were predetermined by computer software and not by the machines customers used.
American Gaming Association, representing casinos which oppose sweepstakes operators, claims such games are offered in a dozen states and account for $10 billion in sales a year.
From the court records here is how the sweepstakes worked.
“The sweepstakes operations at issue here were similar to each other. In each instance, the business sold a product (either Internet time or telephone cards) and, along with the product, provided the opportunity to play sweepstakes games, with the possibility of winning substantial cash prizes. Customers could also receive a limited number of free sweepstakes entries per day or could receive more by mailing in a request form. The customer had the option of either obtaining an instant sweepstakes result or playing games at a computer terminal to reveal the result. To begin playing the sweepstakes games, the customer would swipe a magnetic card or enter a number at a computer terminal. Those choosing to play the games had a choice of games resembling slot machines or casino-style games. The sweepstakes operation was an integrated whole, with an outside company (in Canada) supplying the software to operate the game. The outside company’s software, which was connected to the computer terminals at the business, predetermined the result of each game. Neither employees at the business nor the customers themselves had any control over the outcome. The games themselves merely revealed the predetermined result; they had no influence on that result.”
The Supreme Court included a history of similar rulings in California in its opinion.
“We must decide whether the defendants’ sweepstakes operations come within this definition (of the Penal Code). We are not the first court to grapple with this definition in recent years. Numerous courts have found devices similar to the ones here to be slot machines under this definition.
“California courts have found (Penal Code) section 330b to prohibit a variety of devices where prizes may be won based on chance. In People ex rel. Lockyer v. Pacific Gaming Technologies, a vending machine that dispensed telephone cards for $1 included a sweepstakes feature with audio-visual displays resembling a slot machine. When customers purchased a phone card for $1, they were given a chance to win a cash prize of up to $100. A preset computer program determined the results. The Court of Appeal held the vending machine was a prohibited slot machine under the plain language of section 330b, because ‘by the insertion of money and purely by chance (without any skill whatsoever), the user may receive or become entitled to receive money.’ Similarly, in Trinkle v. Stroh, a jukebox that dispensed four songs for $1 was found to be a prohibited slot machine or device under section 330b because the operators also received a chance to win a cash jackpot. (In) Score Family Fun Center, Inc. v. County of San Diego (the court held that) an arcade video game that simulated card games violated 330b because operators could, as a matter of chance, win free games or extended play.”
The justices also said that a recent federal case applying California law to an Internet sweepstakes game provided another example of the illegality of the sweepstakes games. (In) Lucky Bob’s Internet Café , LLC v. California Department of Justice, “Customers were given 100 entries to the Sweepstakes for every $1 of purchased internet time. In addition, each customer was entitled to 100 free entries for every 24-hour period. Customers were also able to mail a request for $1 worth of sweepstakes entries to World Touch Gaming, but this option was never used. Purchased internet time was loaded onto a player card, which the customer swiped into an electronic card reader located at an assigned computer terminal. The user would then select a method for revealing his winnings from the monitor located at the terminal. First, a customer could immediately reveal whether he won a prize. Second, a customer could play one of the seventeen casino-style games, then reveal whether he had won a prize at the end of the game. Many of these casino-style games are commonly associated with slot machines. Plaintiffs’ equipment operated a sweepstakes gaming system that was manufactured and licensed by World Touch Gaming, Inc. The World Touch Gaming system predetermined prize outcomes based upon chance as set forth in predefined odds tables for the gaming system, prior to when customers revealed their game entries on player terminals. Based upon the odds tables, a game’s overall financial outcome would be set at the time the pool of outcomes was generated. The system would then sequentially assign entries to patrons from the pool. Playing the casino-type games could not change the game entries’ prize values.” The cash prizes in Lucky Bob’s ranged from 10 cents to $3,000. The players did not use most of the Internet time they purchased. At Lucky Bob’s, a total of $1,225,055 was spent for 204,176 hours of internet time and 97 percent of the total purchased internet time was unused.”
Relying heavily on Pacific Gaming Technologies, the Lucky Bob’s court found the device at issue to be an illegal slot machine under section 330b.
Here is how an Internet café worked, according to records.
“Defendant John C. Stidman owned the I Zone Internet Café in Bakersfield. Among other products, I Zone sold Internet time to the public for $20 per hour, which customers could use on computer terminals located on the I Zone premises. To promote the sale of Internet time and its other products, I Zone offered a sweepstakes to customers when they made a purchase. Non-customers might also enter the sweepstakes; that is, no purchase was necessary to enter. To enter a sweepstakes without purchasing Internet time or other products, a person could receive up to four free entries from the cashier each day on request. Four additional entries were available by mailing a form with a self-addressed, stamped envelope. A company known as Capital Bingo provided a computer software system that effectuated the sweepstakes.
“Under the software system, a purchaser of Internet time or other products at I Zone received sweepstakes points for each dollar spent. A customer also received sweepstakes points for the first purchase of the day and for being a new customer. The customer received a white plastic card with a magnetic strip, which an I Zone employee activated at the register. A customer swiping the card at an open computer terminal was given the option of using the Internet function or playing sweepstakes computer games. If the customer chose the games, the time playing them did not reduce the Internet time available. Both options were touch-screen operated and did not require a keyboard or mouse.
“In playing the sweepstakes computer games, I Zone customers used their sweepstakes points in selected increments (simulating bets) on games with names such as Buck Lucky, Tropical Treasures, or Baby Bucks. According to the I Zone sweepstakes rules, each increment level available for play ‘represents a separate sweepstakes.’ Gambling-themed games resembling slot machines were prominently displayed on the I Zone terminals. According to a detective investigating the business, ‘It appeared the subjects were playing casino-style slot machine games on the computers . . . The audible sounds were that of casino-style slot machines.’  The detective noted that on one occasion, no one was on the Internet, but instead ‘all the people using the computer terminals were playing the sweepstakes games.’ Participants in the sweepstakes had a chance to win cash prizes ranging from small amounts to a top prize of $3,000.
“In contending the sweepstakes games were not slot machines, Stidman presented evidence and argument regarding how they functioned. His position was that the computer sweepstakes games were merely an entertaining way for customers to reveal a sweepstakes result. A customer could also reveal a sweepstakes result by other means, such as by using a special function on the computer terminal or by asking an I Zone employee at the register to print out a result on paper. As Stidman described it, ‘Each time a customer reveals the results of a sweepstakes entry, (regardless of the means used), the next available sweepstakes entry in the ‘stack’ is revealed,’ in sequence, from a prearranged stack of entries. The ‘next available sweepstakes entry’ contains a predetermined result that would be the same regardless of which method was used to reveal it. Thus, when the customer engaged the sweepstakes computer games, the outcome was determined by the particular sweepstakes entry that was being revealed at that time, not by the workings of the game itself. That is, the game simply revealed the predetermined result of the next sequential sweepstakes entry.

“Stidman provided further documentary evidence of how I Zone’s software system conducted the sweepstakes. This evidence indicated there were three distinct servers: (1) the Management Terminal, (2) the Point of Sale Terminal, and (3) the Internet Terminal. As Stidman’s counsel summarized in the trial court, ‘It is at the Management Terminal where all sweepstakes entries are produced and arranged. Each batch of sweepstakes entries has a finite number of entries and a finite number of winners and losers. Once a batch of sweepstakes entries is produced at the Management Terminal, it is ‘stacked’ . . . and then transferred to the Point of Sale Terminal in exactly the same order as when it left the Management Terminal. Each time a customer reveals the results of a sweepstakes entry, either at the Internet Terminal or at the Point of Sale, the next available sweepstakes entry in the ‘stack’ is revealed. In other words, the Internet Terminal simply acts as a reader and displays the results of the next sequential sweepstakes entry in the stack as it was originally arranged and transferred from the Management Terminal – it is never the object of play. In fact, exactly the same results (are displayed) for a specified sweepstakes entry whether the customer chooses to have the results displayed in paper format at the Point of Sale Terminal or in electronic format at an Internet Terminal.’ Stidman’s evidence indicated that neither the Point of Sale Terminal nor the Internet Terminal had a random number generator and could not be ‘the object of play,’ since those servers could not influence or alter the result of a particular sweepstakes entry, but merely displayed that result.”