Wednesday, July 03, 2019

What It's Like to be Falsely Accused of Improper Conduct

This is a post I wrote last September, but never published. It was written during the Kavanaugh Supreme Court hearings. I actually wrote more than one version of the post but ultimately decided not to publish it to make sure that there was no way it could possibly cause me any trouble with my job. Well, things have changed. My plan to retire in July 2020 was accepted by my school's board of trustees. And, much to my delight, I found out today that the woman who is the subject of this post is now no longer employed by the  school. I will happily buy some donuts for my co-workers Monday morning to celebrate.

With this as some background information, I now present the post I wrote last September.

Disclaimer: I am in no way suggesting that Brett Kavanaugh is innocent (or guilty) of the actions of which he is being accused. I have no direct information on which to make an informed opinion at this time. I also in no way wish to minimize the pain that women who have been sexually assaulted have had to suffer. I only wish to present a true event that reaffirms the need to not just believe (or disbelieve) a story based only on a person's gender without some type of substantial evidence.

I have worked nearly my entire adult life in higher education, often in administrative positions that involved supervisory responsibility. As I near retirement, I consciously decided to no longer take on an administrative role, but instead to enjoy my last months before I move on. Although there are many gratifying aspects of being a supervisor responsible for the effort of an area or department, I and others who have done so will likely tell you about the most challenging part of the job: personnel management.

Now I have to tell you, when it comes to work behavior, I am not exactly a company guy. I am not afraid to speak my mind to administration, I am brutally honest, I rebel against things I think are stupid or unreasonable, I relish in being a non-conformist. But aside from this, I am pretty much a boy scout when it comes to unsavory behavior. People who know me know this.

I was recently head of my department for a five year period. I supervised several professional employees, most of whom were heavily covered and supported by unions. Disciplinary processes and procedures for one union were extensive and specific. The good thing about that: good employees were amply protected. The bad thing: poor employees were also amply protected.

One employee in my area was just a poor employee. When I began my term, I had many things to fix. One of these was this employee's job description, which was poorly written and allowed her to essentially manipulate things so that she did little work while being paid for full-time employment. Once her job description was amended, she continued to exhibit poor work habits. She hid in her office and sometimes refused to do work she was obligated to do. She had no problem lying to cover things up. I had to discipline her under the union progressive discipline guidelines. And then things started to happen.

It began with emails to me that read along the lines of "lightning, you frighten me so sometimes. You are usually so nice to people, but you have been scaring me. I would like to resolve this issue." When her emails were getting her nowhere, she decided to up the ante after being disciplined for not doing her assigned work and lying about it. She went to Human Resources and told them that I has slapped her on her ass! Human Resources, of course, had to investigate this claim. And until the day I die, I will not forget the day that the director said "lightning, I need to ask you this: Did you slap this employee on her rear end?" And I had to say " No, I absolutely did not do this nor have ever touched this employee in any way, shape, or form." Very uncomfortable and somewhat humiliating. 

Now fortunately for me, HR had dealt with this employee previously and knew of her manipulative and lying ways. So the director chose an interesting way to deal with this: she told the employee that if this was true, the employee, now that she alleged this, had to go all the way with this and lodge a formal complaint that would be investigated. The employee then asked for paid time off to write this up and was given, from the head of HR, a complete paid day off to write up her complaint! I was told that my employee would not be in the next day so that she could be paid to stay home and write up her lies against me!

Well guess what? The employee took the day off, came back to work the day after, and informed HR that she decided not to follow through with her complaint. Looking back, I wish my life had not been so full of complicated work issues and family issues that I didn't have the time nor the energy to possibly seek some sanction against the employee. And I had to keep in mind that she was still in my area and I would be responsible for supervising her after her false claim, which was personally extremely difficult. And in dealing with this, I had to just go on with my job and without everyone, save one person in the department that the employee confided in, knowing what had happened.

I grew up a religious person and spent my life trying to do the right things. Dealing with my anger over this has not been easy. When horrendous things were happening at work and things in my personal life became very challenging, I just seethed over this. It is several years in the past now, but not forgotten.

I fear for the future when I hear biased politicians, talking heads and commentators of the day espousing themes like "men are bad" and "women should always be believed." Has a significant percentage of our population really gotten that stupid and rigid? Hey thundering 36 -- is that spare room in Australia still available? You might get a boarder.

Thanks for reading.  

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

The End of an Era

June 2019 has certainly been a month of significance for me. My previous posts indicated that my June Las Vegas trip did not go particularly well. Also, apparently (since I have not yet received official notice), my retirement request to end my current employment in July 2020 was approved by the college's board of trustees at their June meeting.

With retirement now slowly becoming a reality, I had to take care of some business with my family automobiles. Nine years ago, I bought a 2002 Mitsubishi Mirage for my son to drive as he turned 16. He drove it for several years before finishing school and moving to Seattle. Afterward, it was driven by my oldest daughter for a bit after her college car was sold. She bought a new car a year ago and the Mirage mostly sat in her driveway for a year. I had plans to sell it this summer, but the long, cold winter took its toll on the car. After putting a replacement battery in it, I started it up and drove it a few blocks about three weeks ago. However, when I got back to her house, smoke started coming from the engine. I am guessing some squirrels did some damage under the hood. The car didn't want to start again and didn't seem to be driving properly, so along with all the body damage it sustained over the years, it was time to let it go. I stopped into an auto salvage business on Saturday and agreed to sell it. They were to two it in on Monday, after which I could go back to the business and pick up my check.

On Sunday, however, my world changed. I decided to play a little poker at the riverboat that is about 90 miles away from my house. I hopped into my baby -- a 2000 Ford Mustang convertible (pictured) -- and was on my way. Just about half way there, my car started making a bunch of noise. Metal against metal sounds were coming from the engine. The temperature gauge suddenly started approaching Hot. I got off an exit ramp, turned the engine off and saw smoke/steam coming out from underneath the hood. When the car cooled down a bit, I looked under the hood. Cooling fluid was everywhere. I called a tow truck to tow me the 50 miles home. I tried to start the car, but it wouldn't start. The tow truck driver said "It looks like it seized up." Ut oh -- did my water pump go bad and ruin the engine?

The Mustang, which I never did name, was bought by me back in 2002. I was looking for a red Mustang convertible, preferably the GT version. I couldn't find any in the area and decided to search at I found a nice looking 2002 car in Louisville, KY that only had 8,000 miles. It wasn't a GT, but it was the closest to what I had been looking for. I met the owner in southern Indiana, about halfway between our homes, to give it a spin. I liked in, made a deal to buy it within the next week, took a friend with me to Louisville and bought it. I've had it ever since.

I was actually prepared to get another car two different times over the years. About ten years ago I bought a new house and had trouble selling my old one. I was paying two mortgages and accruing about $1,000/month interest on a bridge loan. This all happened right when the economy went in the tank. I was finally able to sell my old house after it was on the market for just over a year. I went to my bank to refinance my house loan and consolidate my bridge loan, and the poor economy helped me make a great deal and finally have some financial flexibility. I decided to get a newer version of my car and had a program vehicle picked out at an area dealership. However, before I could get the new car, we found out that my wife would be losing her decent paying public school job when her position was eliminated. With a substantial loss of family income, a new car would have to wait for me.

Later, after having bought used cars for my oldest daughter and son to drive when they turned 16 and got their drivers licenses, I decided that I would give my youngest daughter my Mustang when she turned 16 and got her license. I went back to the same local dealership and picked out another program vehicle -- also a newer version of what I had. Similar red color, same black roof and interior,  also a convertible. There was just one problem: my youngest daughter decided that her anxiety with driving was too great, and she decided not to get her drivers license. I decided to keep driving my old car, for it still ran great, looked good and had few mechanical problems.

Part of my personality, as some of my family and friends might know, it that I am not big into fancy possessions. I have a nice house, but aside from the house, I never had much interest in fancy cars, jewelry, clothes, other things. I could have bought a new car, but why do so when mine ran great and still looked good? Plus, it was almost a part of me after having spent so much time driving it since 2002. My hope was to keep it running until I retired from my current job, then sell it, donate it or give it away to someone.

Unfortunately, my plan ran into a major glitch: the engine, which had been great for so many years, needed to be replaced. The cost: around $5,000, not an amount you put into a car that is almost 20 years old. I was ready to make another deal with the salvage yard when my regular auto repair shop called me to say that a guy who works there might want to buy the car and make a personal project out of it for his young daughter to drive. I felt much better knowing that the car might still provide some pleasure  for someone else rather than just being relegated to some heap of scrap metal.

I feel very sad about the car. It had been with me through thick and thin for so many years. I knew its time was approaching but, similar in waiting for that time with an elderly parent or relative, it is still a shock when that day comes. It's also a sign that my life will soon be changing and that I'd better prepare myself for the transition. I look forward with excitement, but I am trying to keep some of the fear and anxiety away at arm's length. Such is life when you start getting older. *sigh*

  Ballad of Ole' Betsy
Betsy, Betsy, ahh
She was born in '32, and was she ever pretty
She rode a freight train west, all the way from Detroit city
Betsy's seen more places than I'll ever hope to see
Betsy's been more loyal than any friend could be
With some she traveled fast, with others it was slow
Betsy's seen them all, she'd seen them come and go
She must have had some others before I finally met her
And now that she's all mine, they'd better just forget her
Betsy was a lady and that she will remain
Betsy took some beatings but she never once complained
She had a classic beauty that everyone could see
I was the last to meet her, but she gave her life to me
She may be rusted iron, but to me she's solid gold
And I just can't hold the tears back 
'Cause Betsy's growing old

Brian Wilson and Roger Christian

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Las Vegas Trip Report Part II: Some Fun, But Poker Continued to Suck

Although I hoped for things to begin moving in a positive direction when I moved into the Orleans, I had to face a start reality: the cold that I felt coming on when I was ready to leave for Las Vegas continued to get worse and just wear me out. I hated to be that guy at the poker table spreading germs, but what else could I do? It's not like I could stay in my room for a for days and still have a semblance of a vacation left. I did my best to blow my nose away from the poker table and tried to be as hygienic as I could, but my nose kept running and my congestion was getting worse.

The original plan for Tuesday was to head to Wynn and play some poker and drink adult beverages with Pete Peters and VegasDWP. However, I felt completely drained Tuesday morning and let PPP know that I just didn't feel up to playing poker at Wynn. He let DWP know and the plan was scuttled. I was going to take a nap, but instead I just laid down in bed in a zombie-like state. At least that made me feel better. I decided to get my butt in gear and headed to Mirage to play some poker. I actually had good luck getting seated at Mirage most of the week, as some places had such long lists that I didn't even go near those poker rooms. Those rooms included Aria, Planet Hollywood, and most Strip places aside from Mirage, MGM and Bally's. I did run into DWP there, but we were seated at different tables and didn't get a chance to speak other than to say hello. I do recall turning a profit that session, and I was hoping that things would turn around.

That evening ended up with one of the two best nights of the trip. Because of his degenerate ways, PPP had accumulated many MGM comp points and used them for us for dinner at Tom Colicchio's Craftsteak in MGM. Although I am generally not a wine drinker and rarely drink Cabernet, PPP did order an outstanding Cabernet that evening.
I likes the atmosphere in Craftsteak, and the food was even better.

After three hours of a leisurely evening of great food and wine, we finally called it a night. A special thanks to PPP for the dinner. As I was kind of struggling that day because of the cold, it was a welcome break from poker.
After some poker Wednesday afternoon at Mirage, PPP met me at the poker room and we Ubered it to Sam's Town to meet up for some food, drinks and donkament poker with Flushhdraw, ManInBlack, and Chris Abramski. Right about this same time last year, a group of us played the Sam's Town tournament one night. Sam's Town is a nice place to go to get away from the Strip, and it's evening poker tournament is really not bad for $50. We also all popped in another $20 for a last longer bet ( I was the last one out last summer, but have been unable to get anyone from that group to pay up for my imaginary last longer bet for that night!), and it was off we go! ManInBlack was at my table and, partially because of his upcoming work shift, was really aggressive and built up a decent chip stack. I wasn't getting much in the way of cards. Unfortunately, a terrible player at the table sucked out on me, leaving me in bad shape. I pushed all in with top top after one flop and was behind as one guy made a stupid call and hit two pair on the flop. I was one card from being the first one out but got saved by a miracle river card.

Eventually MIB lost his chips and PPP went out, leaving three of us to vie for the last longer. I was moved to Chris's table, looking for spots to jam. I found one and then lost the second time I jammed with a short stack and was out. There was  crowd  somewhere north of 50 in the tournament (hard to know the exact number since the tournament was capped at 50, but alternates seemed to get in forever after people busted) and I and another player busted out on the same hand, taking 11th place. The game stopped to get everyone at the final table, and Flushhdraw busted shortly thereafter, making Chris the winner of the last longer. However, he got even more cashish when he got hot at the final table and got the largest amount of a four-way chop. It was a fun night!

Chris drove the two of us back to the Strip, and we sat at a table together at Mirage. Before he got seated at my table, I got some hot cards and built myself a nice cushion. However, Chris's hot streak continued, including a big pot I gifted him when he hit his flush on the turn one hand, and on the river I had two pair - Aces and Kings -- that I couldn't let go. Chris then went on a heater and was taking money from everyone. He had some great cards, but he certainly also played some excellent poker to get a huge stack before cashing out. Well done sir -- outstanding evening of poker for you!

By Thursday, my last full day, I was still feeling fatigued, but did go to Trooper Thursday for the fourth time. I started the afternoon out in wonderful fashion, entering Westgate Casino after my Lyft ride and walking directly into a bathroom. A women's bathroom. I quickly got the idea that I was in the wrong place when I say no urinals and saw graphics of female sports stars on the walls. I scooted out of there quickly! My poker frustration continued as I had open ended straight draws after the flop on the first two bomb pots, but got no help on the turn or river. Finally, I had a big Ace and caught top pair on a flop, but got stacked when another player hit a three-outre on th turn. At that point, I felt like I was done with poker on the trip and headed from Westgate back to the Strip to mash some buttons. At least I was able to win at slots.

I don't have much else to say about Thursday night, and on Friday checked out of Orleans in the morning to catch my flight back to Chicago. Fortunately, I slept most of the flight home before driving the final 100+ miles back to my house.

I have mentioned very few poker details from this trip as I can sum things up very easily: it sucked and I sucked. I lost more money on this trip than any other Las Vegas trips I've ever taken. With being sick almost the entire week, it is easy to say that this trip is in the bottom tier of all the trips I have taken to Las Vegas -- 100+. The saving graces were the Craftsteak dinner night and the Sam's Town tournament night. I did get to spend many hours with poker buddy PPP, which also kept this trip from being a total disaster. Being sick, losing money, having more limited options due to the great number of poker players in town for the Big 50 at WSOP ... yes, you could say this was not among my greatest Las Vegas trips. The next one will have to be better!

Thanks for reading!

Monday, June 03, 2019

Las Vegas Trip Report So Far: Alms for the poor ... 🙁

Greeting from Las Vegas! I am now on the third day of my trip and hope the gambling luck will improve. Otherwise, I might have to hit up Tony Bigcharles for a sockroll loan!

The poker started out great on Saturday. I went to Bally's and hit a couple of sets. I felted one guy twice. But then, after getting up a comfortable amount, I made some poor decisions, got a cooler hand (my straight vs a higher straight)  and shoved with a nut flush draw after the flop, hoping the villain would fold. Unfortunately, he had pocket Aces and had no intention of folding. I didn't catch my flush, and that was all she wrote. In essence,  I guess I was a bit tired from the trip to Las Vegas and just played some poor poker. I decided to call it s night. 

On Sunday, I again played at Bally's and wasn't getting many cards. A-K, straight draws, flush draws - none connected or just didn't get there. I saw Pete Peters take an unreal beat. Sometimes when players play any two cards, weird things can happen. I ran two pair into a stealth set and was finally felted when a guy went runner runner for a flush. It was that kind of day. 

I finished out the night at Mirage. I lost with trip Kings when a guy kept on calling my bets with only a pair of 4's. Unfortunately,  instead of winning a big pot, I lost it when he hit a two-outer on the river.  Later, I had A-K in late position. Guy with 4s previously  raised and a shorty went all in. I raised to $100 and Mr. 4's shoved. I called. When an Ace came on the flop. I thought I was good. Unfortunately, he had pocket queens and binked a Queen on the flop.

On the bright side, I checked into Orleans Hotel and Casino today. I got a nice room - much nicer then the one I had at at an off-Strip motel that is east of Bally's my first two nights. That hotel serves its purpose, but using Uber late at night is a must.

On the positive side, I've been winning at slots and have already played some poker with Pete Peters. We are eating dinner tonight at a nice steakhouse. Steak and drink pictures are sure to be tweeted tonight.

So ... I am still in Las Vegas, which is great, and I'll be seeing more friends over the next couple of days. However, it would be nice to get unstuck and not feel like a complete fish in poker. Till next time ...

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, June 01, 2019

Heading Out to Las Vegas Today 😁😁😁😁

After seemingly endless days of gritty work, I finally got some time off to go to Las Vegas. My flight boards in a half hour and I am more than ready to go. I found out the flight is completely sold out, but not overbooked. Wanting to gamble a tad here (he he), I got my name first on the bump list. I haven't gotten bumped for some time, so why not today? It would be nice to get a win before taking off.

However, my big news is that I officially turned in my notice of retirement at work. It is still over a year away (July 2020), but exciting and scary to do so nonetheless. By the time I retire, I will have put in 26 years with my current employer and a total of 38 years in higher education.  For the first time since I was five years old, I will not be going to or working at a school. I will finally  graduate!

But back to Las Vegas. I will be in town playing cash games until next Friday. Let me know if you want to meet up or get a drink or a meal. I have a few plans and hope for some good times.

I believe this is the first time I ever posted by phone. It was not as terrible as I thought. I just might write a post or two this next week.

Cheers, and thanks for reading. 😃

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

I Remember Mama

Irene Dunne as Marta Hanson

Some of you might be familiar with the 1948 movie "I Remember Mama" starring Irene Dunne as the mother of an early 1900's San Francisco Norwegian immigrant family. It is a popular movie for several television channels to show on Mothers Day, and this year was no exception. My brother, thundering36, and I used to kid our own mother about this movie. It will always have a sentimental place in my heart.

I have been extremely busy with work and was unable to post on Mothers Day like I wanted. However, I do have a bit of time today, and to celebrate Mothers Day, albeit a tad late, I'd like to tell you a story about my mother.

It was somewhere around 1970, maybe 1971. It is interesting that thundering36 has no recollection of this, most likely because he had recently graduated from high school and was probably in San Antonio at the time.

My mother found a lump on her breast. She went to her doctor about it and was told that a biopsy would be taken and that she would need to have the lump removed. Now mind you, we are talking about almost 50 years ago. Having breast cancer was a death warrant at that time. The vivid memory I have is of my mother coming home with her coat on and doing everything she could to hold back the tears. Aside of thinking about her own mortality, I'm sure that she was also thinking about how her husband and children would be able to make it without her.

The reaction I had at that time was cold and brutal - my mother may die soon. I remember taking a walk with my younger brother, Danny, and feeling like pretty soon I was going to have some major responsibility for helping him grow up. It was pretty frightening for a guy in junior high.

As things turned out, the lump was removed and was non-cancerous. Years later, I read that a study was done and a correlation was found between women who were bitten by a cat and getting lumps in their breast. Does this sound familiar to anyone? Our cat, Frisky, had bitten my mother sometime before the lump appeared. I have always wondered ...

As my mother was recovering, I remember seeing the cavernous hole in her breast from where the tumor was removed. Yeesh!

Despite this health detour and many, many more along the way, my mother was able to live a long life, finally passing away at 90 years old almost three years ago. How fortunate I was that the difference between cancer and a non-cancerous tumor meant that my mom lived about an extra 45 years. For that, I am very thankful.

Mothers Day, circa 2019, is one of many emotions. My wife is a wonderful mother to our three kids, a dog, two cats, and several fish. Unfortunately, her mother passed away eight months after mine. While we are happy for our life together, there is a certain emptiness that we now have with both sets of parents gone.

If your mother is still alive, I hope you celebrated with her, told her how much you love her, thanked her for all that she had done for you. The day will come when you no longer have that opportunity. You will then have only sweet memories to reflect upon and make you smile when Mothers Day comes.

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Catching Up

Wow - almost a month has gone by since my last post. To update a few things ...

I mentioned in my last post that  it looked like I would not have enough time to play poker in Seattle since I had to change my flight to the great northwest. This ended up being the case. The day I rented a car my wife, son and his girlfriend went to Whidbey Island.
After getting back to my son's place that evening, we went out for dinner. At the end of a long day, I was just not ready to head out late at night for a poker session, knowing that I would have plenty of opportunities to play on the next leg of the trip and, of course, wanting to spend as much time as possible with my son.

After spending three days and nights in Seattle, it was time to head to Phoenix to visit family and friends. With five nights in the Phoenix area, there would surely be plenty of time for poker and a few other things. I was able to see my nephew's daughter (7 years old) play in a soccer game and talk a bit with my oldest brother, who is retired and lives in the area. Unfortunately, his wife was having some medical complications after surgery and family members who were to meet me a a Chicago Cubs-San Francisco Giants pre-season game were not able to go. However, that did not stop me.
I'm sure thundering36 will comment on this outfit

Sloan Park - the place to be!

Former stars at the park

I spent the first third of the game really watching the play. The second third, I walked around the park to absorb the atmosphere. I gawked at the former stars who were signing autographs (for a price, of course) and told Bert Campaneris that he caused ache to my heart when I was a boy because of how his great A's teams kept my White Sox from going to the World Series. The final third of the game I just enjoyed the environment. Fun game, great park, excellent time.

As for poker, I got in several sessions at Talking Stick. Results were mixed. I had a few good sessions where I won a buy in or two, but I also had a few where I lost parts of a buy in. In my last session, I got cold decked as I had flush and open ended straight draws after the flop, but was felted when my third nuts lost to the second nuts. Meh. I did have a fun night meeting and playing poker with a former online poker buddy, Brian, #Phillies Phan. We did okay at Talking Stick and then both played a forgettable session at Wild Horse Pass the next day.

Back Home
I've been back home for 2 1/2 weeks. During that time, I have gotten in some poker. I had a session at Harrah's Joliet and won 1 1/2 buy ins, then actually played in a charitable poker game in the area last Saturday and, shockingly, came out a buy in ahead. Of course, it helps when you are dealt AA, raise, get re-raised, and then have your shove called by ... A-Qos? Crazy, but profitable ... for me! I also had a session last Sunday at Joliet where I was down around $500, but fought back and cashed out ... +$5! It was clearly a moral victory.

Family and Work
Two of my cousins (from two of my mom's brothers) went to Poland to research family history last September when I was in Australia. I rooted through some old family pictures that I had saved from my mom's house, and we shared pictures and stories. They have invited me to go to Poland with them in July, but I am just not as enthused as they are to spend time and money researching the family tree. However, it was great meeting up with some of my cousins.
Sue, Rich and me

I have been off work now for 2 1/2 days due to a nasty cold and respiratory issues. I hope that later this month I will make make my retirement official - to be around July 2020. Having a few rare sick days off this week reminded me that life does exist outside of the daily work grind. Readers who work a regular 40 hour (or more) a week schedule can likely relate. I have been working full time since finishing grad school. I will mark my 25th anniversary with my present employer on August 1 this year, and when I retire in about 15 months, I will be completing a 38-year career in higher education. Man, how time flies!

Thanks for reading!