Saturday, June 24, 2017

Off to the Northwest and Southwest

A long-awaited vacation has finally come! I was off this past week (despite having to make up a day of work on Tuesday) and used it to catch up on a bunch of personal matters that needed attention. However, today begins some fun as it is travel time.

This afternoon, my wife and I will be flying to Seattle to visit my son, who recently moved there. My wife has never been to Seattle and I haven't been there for over 30 years, so we are looking forward to the next few days. On Wednesday, my wife is flying to Phoenix to visit her best friend. I originally planned to just fly back home, but instead decided to reward myself for all the work I had been doing on my mom's house. So, you guessed it: I am going to Las Vegas for a few days!

Several poker friends are there for the WSOP and might be gone before I arrive. However, I know that Rob and TBC will be in town, as well as most of my local friends. I will be in Las Vegas for four nights, to be followed by a five night trip the third week of July.

Having dropped off my administrative gig at work eight weeks ago, I can clearly see now that it was certainly the right decision for me. For the first time in over five years, I am on vacation with absolutely no work worries hanging over my head. It feels great!

If you are in Las Vegas June 28 to July 2, hit me up via text, twitter or email.


Sunday, June 04, 2017

Where Have You Been, lightning?

Is it really June already? I only authored two posts the whole month of May and have had much less of a presence on social media the past five weeks. There must be a reason, right? Well, there is.

I have not had a free day since sometime in April. My previous two posts referenced the work that was needed on my mother's house, getting it ready to be sold. On days I was not working at my regular job, I was working to empty out, clean, and starting today, paint the house. The month of May flew by as all I did was work and work some more.

Cleaning out the accumulated belongings of over 50 years is quite a task. It is just not a matter of going into a house and removing everything. First, things have to be sorted. Check out just one of the horror show of storage areas:
Additionally, the number of plastic bags that were recycled required a couple of trips to the local grocery store recycling bin. I went to a company that recycled styrofoam. I made nine trips with a full van to Goodwill and another trip to a different resale shop. Mind you, I donated box after box after box of things that had to be sorted first.

My brother Dan hauled away several truck loads of garbage that he was able to empty into his company dumpster and his wife put out several boxes of recyclables. The time finally came to rent one for most of the rest of the garbage. A week ago, we filled a 20-yard dumpster. It was pretty big: 14 feet long, seven feet wide and five feet tall.  It was packed solid. A metal scavenger came by a filled an old U Haul with metal including old appliances from the basement: a refrigerator, a stove, a water heater and a dryer. The local recyclable haulers probably have a new favorite as we loaded up more than the usual little recyclable bin. Check out the stack of boxes below. 
Unfortunately, the picture does not do just to the majesty of the pile. It was 6-8 feet deep and solid with paper, cardboard, plastic and glass.

What to do with all the furniture ... Some was destroyed, some given away, a few items still left in the house, potentially heading for a landfill.

Painting started today as two rooms were badly in need of it. We got one room finished today and at least got  a start on the other. Additional cleaning still needs to be done, some repairs are being done to a bathroom, and a basement and garage emptying are still not completed. 

It has all been more work than I could ever have imagined. However, like any seemingly overwhelming task, the key is to not focus on the total project, but to take steps and see continual progress.

I was able to sneak in a few poker sessions on some of the weekends, but essentially I have not had a day off now for over five weeks.I'll be forced to do so, if not before, when my wife and I visit our son in Seattle later in June.

Part of what has allowed me to keep my sanity through all this is my return to the rank and file at work, stepping down from my leadership position. After one month, the jury is in; things are great! The person who took over as acting director has had her hands full with some personnel issues. Meanwhile, I can go into work every day free from some of the hassles I dealt with for the past five years.

In summary, life has been extremely busy but good. I trust that the rest of this month will continue to be much the same. I am looking forward to a little freedom come July.

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Playing with a Maniac

I have spent the past several weekends taking off from work early and driving up to my late mother's house to get things thrown out or donated, and working to get the house ready to be put up for sale. Fortunately, when the enormity of the task threatens to get to me, I can find solace in the Harrah's Joliet poker room. The bad beat jackpot there is inching closer to $800,000, so there is always that fun element of thinking you could hit it big while playing $1/2 NL. Last weekend, I got in two sessions. The Saturday night sessions was unremarkable until the local maniac sat down at the table.

The regulars at my table were familiar with the gentleman. I trust that what we saw Saturday night was similar to what the regs have seen in the past. One person said that he heard that the guy had lost $15,000 already that weekend at the tables. Things at our poker table were about to change quickly and dramatically.

Prior to the maniac sitting down, the game was a generic $1/2 NL game. Over the past couple of hours there were regular raises, standard play, nobody really getting out of line except a woman who kept straddling $10 every chance she got. Unfortunately for her, I don't think that she was quite as good as she thought, blaming all her losses on having second best hands or getting rivered.

The maniac bought in for the maximum $200 (I had a stack of about $200) and quickly began raising every hand by grabbing a handful of chips, usually around $35 worth, and betting without even looking at his hole cards. People kept limping in, and yes, he raised EVERY hand. He at first accumulated some chips before anyone played back at him. As luck would have it, he sucked out several times before anyone won against him. One time when he raised to only $23 I called with pocket 4s. The flop had three overs and I was forced to fold to a huge bet. I fired that one blank and figured that I would wait to take another shot. It came when he raised to $33 and I was holding KsJs. As good a time as any to call, I thought. The flop came Jack high rainbow. The maniac bet and I shoved, thinking that I was most likely in the lead. In the excitement I didn't see his cards, but he claimed after the river that he had two pair, apparently after the flop or the turn. It didn't matter, because the turn and river were spades, giving me runner-runner second nuts. I more than doubled up (there was at least one other person in the hand for the flop) and told him that I would give him a chance to get his chips back.

A few more hands were played, he spewed, and he bought back in for another $200 and was in for $600 total. I then looked down to see a thing of beauty: pocket Aces! Play came to me and I limped in, knowing that he would raise when the action got to him. As expected, he raised to about $35 and I pushed all in. He called. The flop consisted of  rainbow of cards below face cards. He flipped over his cards to show that he had a gutshot draw with two cards to come. Fortunately, the turn and river were both blanks. I felted him, he congratulated me, and then left the table. In a span of about 15 or 20 minutes, he spewed $600, and I grabbed $500 of it.

I took a restroom break, came back and played a couple of orbits, then cashed out with my $500 maniac profit. Some nights poker can be really fun!

Friday, May 05, 2017

Life Update: May 4, 2017

Wow -- it is hard to believe that I haven't posted in almost three weeks. April was one heck of a month. With that, what has been going on with me?

Work: Ahhh ... the feeling of freedom! My last official work day as director of my department was Friday, April 28. Although actually not in charge this week, I am still finishing up a few things dealing with the transition. I am hoping to extricate myself from all that sometime next week. I was able to walk away from a difficult personnel situation, which certainly will make my life much easier. It's been a long five years.

My roof: The roof on my house had been degrading in quality. While still protecting the house, the organic shingles were starting to look pretty bad. Some bad wind days blew off a significant number of shingles. I'll spare you the details, but add in a good homeowners policy and a favorable determination by an insurance adjuster, and lightning is a happy guy.

My Mom's house: This past Sunday, my brother, thundering36, moved back to Melbourne, Australia, vacating my late mother's house. Now the work of cleaning out a house that accumulated 50 years of junk begins in earnest. On Friday, my brother-in-law and I will be hopefully making some decent progress.

My family: My wife loves the new job she started working at in February. We are very thankful that she was able to get into a position where she is appreciated, unlike her previous job. In just over a week, my oldest daughter will be graduating from the University of Illinois with a degree in Women and Gender Studies. My son is finishing up his program at Illinois in Math and Computer Science with an online class he is completing while working as a software engineer in Seattle. He will likely earn his bachelor's degree this summer. College costs have significantly cut into my sockroll over the past several years. It will be nice to have that monkey off my back.

Las Vegas: I will be heading out to Sin City July 17-22. One evening during the trip, I am hoping to grab dinner at Hugo's Cellar. What about it -  Koala, Alysia ChangVegasDWPgrrouchie? Anyone else?

Finally, the beginning of May brings some time for reflection. My father would have been 93 years old. And this year for the first time, my wife and I will be celebrating Mothers Day without our mothers. If your parents are still alive, appreciate them while you can.

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Righting a Couple of Wrongs

I believe that most people who know me personally would probably say that I am a nice guy. I mean, I, of course, have my bad days and moments and have been known to be a tad dickish at times, especially when provoked (see Attack of the Man-hating Woman). But in general, I think that I have had a lifetime of pretty good behavior.

As I have referenced several times in this blog, in social media and personal communications, this past year has been rough. So rough that, in fact, I believe that it has been the worst year of my life, surpassing years when my father died, when I found out that my son had cancer, and when I had a mild heart attack.

I've never been one to get depressed beyond the normal/reasonable stage, but recently, I had been wondering if I had been seriously depressed during this past year. Being a clinician, I had already thought that, although I was not overly depressed, the stress I was under was enormous, causing me to think, say and do some things that I would not normally have done. I saw it was time to right a couple of wrongs I had done to other people.

I have a colleague with whom I have sometimes gotten along with, sometimes not. I was in a small meeting with her and our boss when my frustration with work and life in general got the better of me, and I ripped into her. After some time had passed, I sent her an apology email. As you might guess, I got no response. I finally got a chance to talk with her face-to-face last week and grovel in person. After about an hour-long talk about us, our relationship and work, I felt like we were about as good as we were going to get. I was a little disappointed that she refused my invitation to smack me in the face. It probably would have made both of us feel better.

Well, that was one down. However, I felt like I owed at least one more person an apology. It might surprise you who I owe that to.

On my last trip to Las Vegas in January, I was pretty much a dick to none other than Tony Bigcharles, whom I have often accused of being a shitty friend. Well, being frustrated with life in general and then finding out that, once home and back at work, I would have to deal with a brand new time-consuming and crappy issue with an employee, I treated Tony in pretty much the way I have called him out for in the past. So, for once, the shoe is on the other foot.

So Tony, my apologies for blowing off your calls and texts when you were trying to get us to play some poker at the Nugget. Friends shouldn't treat other friends like that. Period.

Things have been straightening out in my life, and life will continue to get better in the weeks ahead. Dang -- it looks like the evening will be pretty nice tonight.

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, April 01, 2017

Reclaiming My Life in a Month

Back in September, I wrote a post titled "Crossroads: A Work Dilemma," which dealt with a decision that was coming up for me at work. I gave some information about my situation and solicited feedback and suggestions from my readers and friends. I was given much great advice and many suggestions, for which I am grateful. However, the process associated with the change moved ever so slowly. Things became a little more clear toward the end of last month. Although I had a plan that made all the sense in the world, it was not readily accepted.

About a month ago, I emailed my boss and informed him of my intention of stepping down as head of my department at the end of April. It was a bittersweet moment, as there were many successes during the past five years. But, in truth, I was often haunted by the scourge of authority positions: personnel management. The highlight was probably having to talk with a female employee about her odor. Heady times indeed!

Before I took on the management position five years ago, I was having rocking poker weekends, traveling to Harrah's Horseshoe in Hammond, Indiana almost every other weekend. Poker jaunts to Las Vegas throughout the year were common. I hosted some poker games at my house and had a great international home poker game to go to once or twice a week. I was six months past a mild heart attack and had lost a bunch of weight. Energy was high and life was great.

Things changed after I took the management position. Extra hours and stress weighed upon me, and fatigue became part of my regular life. I eventually cut back on my poker trips and settled into a new existence.

After one year I actively ran for election to complete the final two years of the director term. I got the extra two years, and then, fearing cutbacks and tough decisions that might have to be made, I ran for a final three-year term, wanting to be the person at the helm if things got really bad. After the first year, I began longing for my old life and probably sounded pretty whiny to some of my fellow directors. Unfortunately, my personal life took some huge hits beginning with last May: my wife lost her job, my mother passed away and my mother-in-law also passed. These things really got me thinking.

In the end, I really didn't want to continue as a director unless I got certain things that, in my mind, brought the negative side of the job up to a level I could accept. When I didn't get them, it was clearly a sign that it was time for me to go.

I have one more month left as director, then basically either two or three more years of work until I retire. I haven't set the date yet.

Although I feel conflicted, I am looking forward to only having to be responsible for myself at work for the first time in five years. I have almost forgotten what it is like to not check work email the first thing after I get up in the morning ... to not have to be accessible on a moment's notice ... to not be the one contacting police, students, sometimes parents, trying to keep someone from killing him/herself ... to not have to sit through boring meeting after meeting after meeting ...

I've got a pretty good feeling that things will feel pretty good a months from now.


Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Jerry Krause: Finally Getting the Credit He Deserved

Former Chicago Bulls General Manager Jerry Krause passed away yesterday. Krause, who presided over player acquisitions during the Bulls championship run in the 1990s, assembled the coaches and players that aided superstar Michael Jordan in delivering six championships to Chicago in eight years. Yet, despite all that success, Krause was often seen as more of a negative than a positive.

Nicknamed "Sleuth" for his secretive ways, Krause delighted in discovering talent. If there was a rumor of a great basketball player somewhere, Krause would be on it in an instant. Unfortunately, in an era of smooth talkers and beautiful people, Krause didn't fit in. He had a reputation of being gruff with people, and his frumpy appearance was mocked most notably by Michael Jordan, who, among others, mocked Krause by calling him "Crumbs," in reference to one or more occasions when Krause would have donut crumbs on his suit or shirt.

I would be remiss if I did not admit to mocking Krause for his most infamous quote: "Players and coaches alone don't win championships, organizations win championships." Unfortunately, the word "alone" was often left out of the quote, making it seem much worse. Focusing attention away from players and on staff and management seemed foolish. In retrospect, Krause might have not been as far off as originally thought. If only he had found a way to merge the importance of both players and sound coaching and management.

Having watched and cheered for the Chicago Bulls since their very beginning, the six championships were pretty heady stuff for me. Watching games in the old Chicago Stadium was fantastic, and the United Center proved to be another great venue. And ... living in Illinois, I was able to watch virtually any Bulls game on television during the great run.

The players from that era will always be special to Chicago sports fans. The coaches were legendary. Today's passing of Jerry Krause brought back many outstanding memories across Chicagoland. And finally, for what really seems to be the first time, Jerry Krause is getting his due for being the best executive in Chicago sports history.