Sunday, January 08, 2017

Brief 2016 Year Review in Pictures - Part II

Celebrated 28th wedding anniversary. Time flies. 

Went to Cubs/White Sox games at Wrigley Field and The Cell with thundering36

Saw Paul McCartney in concert at Busch Stadium.Played poker with Iron Mike Sharpe the next day.

Back to Las Vegas. MY kind of steak dinner at Ellis Island - $8.99!

Caught playing one of dem GOOD machines

A "real" steak - Beef Wellington at Gordon Ramsay's Steak. We finally celebrate thundering36's birthday a few years later than planned. Mrs. lightning36 was here also and met TBC.

I also played some poker with VegasDWP at Caesars Palace -- link to interesting story here -- and with Tony Bigcharles at Wynn.

Saw the Happy Together oldies concert tour with my wife and old friends Steve and Carol

Aside from the concert, September sucked.Work ... and work ... and more work.

For the first time in my lifetime, the Cubbies go to the World Series!

October meant being obsessed with the MLB playoffs since the Cubs were projected to go to their first World Series since WWII! I can't even tell you what else happened that month. Nothing else really mattered.

The Cubs win it! I can't even describe the feeling. Simply unbelievable.

At the University of Illinois vs Iowa football game with friend Steve. It was cold!

Christmas with my family

Back to New Orleans! At Cafe Dumond with Mrs. lightning

Had a nice dinner at Broussard's

Finishing out the trip with a Hurricane at Pat O'Brien's

Such was my 2016. Many people are glad to see it go, and I can certainly be counted among those. The combination of losing my mother and my wife losing her job -- and some unsavory stories that go along with that -- pretty much spoiled the rest of the year. I am soooo looking forward to a great 2017!

Sunday, January 01, 2017

Brief 2016 Year Review in Pictures - Part I


Nice trip to Scottsdale, crappy sessions of poker. Meh.

Met up with Lester (above) and James at Ho-Chunk Casino, Wisconsin Dells.

Trip to Las Vegas. Liking the Mirage poker.

Selfie with Michelle. And yes - I did wash my shirt!

Everyone should have a private Uber driver.

Another good session at Mirage. Why do I play elsewhere?

Even the local casino was treating me right!


This blog turned ten. Who'd have believed it.

Went to an exceptional concert in a small venue.


April must have been one dull month. Nothing much memorable happened. Little did I know that was the lull before the storm.

With my mom on Mothers Day before my trip to Las Vegas.

Just AC and Michelle having a little "fun" at AC's digs.

Clowning around with Flushhdraw at Johnny Rocket's.

MGM chip porn.

Aria chip porn while playing with Mr. Subliminal.

After my excellent trip to Las Vegas, things started falling apart in late May when my wife lost her job for no good reason. Little did I know that things would get even worse.


Unfortunately, the picture of my mom and me that I posted for May was the last picture we had taken together. She passed away on June 16 after a torturous week of the family watching her slowly pass away. Fortunately, the weekend brought us some relief as my family celebrated my son's 22nd birthday

The lightning36 clan

So the year that started out fun and with lots of promise suddenly turned to crap in May and June. Little wonder that I, along with many others, can't wait for this friggin' year to end.

Part II to come ...

Monday, December 26, 2016

Merry Christmas & Off to New Orleans

I hope everyone had and/or is having a wonderful holiday season. I wanted to get a group selfie with the family on Christmas. I have to admit, I kind of like it!

As the end of 2016 began dragging on and on, I had little energy or incentive to write a new post. I am thankful to finally have a few days off work.

Later this morning, my wife and I will be heading to New Orleans for a few days. We were unable to go earlier this summer when my mother passed away. I am looking forward to this, my second visit there. Rest assured that I will get in a session or two (or three) at Harrah's New Orleans. On my previous trip I did quite well. I am looking forward to flinging a few cards.

We almost had a big scare on Sunday when we were notified that our flight to New Orleans was canceled, apparently due to expected heavy fog in Chicago this morning. Fortunately, we were able to re-book the flight and leave instead from St. Louis. It means driving a bit further, but we should only get in about four hours later than originally planned.

I doubt I will make a new blog post while in New Orleans, but I probably will send out a few tweets. You can follow me on twitter at @lightning36.

Time to begin a major poker heater. I can't wait!

Friday, December 09, 2016

"Dad - You're not a Republican!"

It looked like dinner Thursday evening was going to be solo. My wife and my younger daughter both had plans for the evening, leaving me with numerous choices for dinner. I decided to call my older daughter and invite her to dinner. She, being a poor college student, jumped at the chance to get a freebie meal courtesy of her old man. She chose a family restaurant, and off we went.

Just as an interesting point, do you have any guess at what I ordered? Shades of TBC ...
While eating, my daughter and I talked about her upcoming finals, all the papers she still has to write and the usual concerns of  a college student. The talk finally gravitated toward politics, as it usually does. She heard my views, which I present as coming from a moderate Republican, and I heard her views -- the views of a far left liberal majoring in Gender and Women's Studies.

Before I dropped her off at her apartment, and after she heard me whining about how the Republican party has left many of us behind, she said something that surprised me: "Dad -- you're not a Republican." I was pretty surprised to hear this. I have been called a RINO (Republican In Name Only) more than once in my life, almost always by someone on the far right. In fact, I believe that Tony Bigcharles even called me this once! It is the way that the far right aficionados try to shame people who share some of their values but are not nearly as, shall we say, adamant about conservative ideology.

If my daughter is correct, what exactly am I? I did have fun with my liberal co-workers, asking about the "secret hand code" that I thought Democrats had -- making the letter H with fingers from both hands. I clearly am not like the far left, that group that seems to exude arrogance and bitterness more than any other political group. And although I see that I have some libertarian leanings, I would not want to classify myself as a member of that group. Maybe I am a member of the new version of Nixon's "silent majority."

I thought about delving further into politics and political beliefs here,  but I think I will just stop at this time. I had on both CNN and Fox News earlier this evening. I've already had my more than my fill of the division within our country for one day.

Peace out.

Sunday, December 04, 2016

Poker Relationships

Yesterday, the annual World Poker Blogger Tour (WPBT) tournament was played in Las Vegas. There were only 23 runners, a far cry from when the weekend could attract so many people that the tournament had in the area of 140 runners.

I wonder if we are are the verge of a new revolution in poker. Vlogs now seem to be the latest venture by a number of poker players. I may be mistaken, but it appears that Trooper97 ("What up? It's The Trooper.") might be the Chris Moneymaker of poker vloging.

Anyway, poker relationships are quite unique. I started this blog over ten years ago -- right when poker was riding the wave of popularity across the globe and certainly in the United States. I, like many others, played online poker virtually every day. And not just for a few minutes. Somehow my wife did not divorce me during this time when it seemed that I lived and breathed poker almost every minute of the day.

At that time, I had a number of poker friends and acquaintances that were part of my daily life. Most had a poker blog, so significant time was spent reading all the blogs each day. Posting was frequent, the gossip flowed, hand histories were posted and analyzed, and good cheer and friendly digs ruled the day.

The highlight of the week happened every Wednesday night when The Mookie, a private tournament for bloggers, took place. It was like having a prom every week. No matter what I was doing, I tried to be home Wednesday nights at 9:00 p.m. Central time for the weekly social gathering. There were also other blogger tournaments, but The Mookie was the king! I never actually met Mookie, a guy from Texas who kept stats, posted the results and even featured the winner in a blog post. And if you won, the next week's tournament featured you or your blog's name!

I have to tell you, many of the poker bloggers were really talented poker players. Winning The Mookie was tough. I actually won it the second time I played it and figured that I would just crush it every week. Ha! I didn't win another for over two years! Check out this picture from ten years ago that I used to advertise "The Mookie - Lightning Strikes:"
There have been many ups and downs since that time. A couple of bloggers turned bad and cheated some of their friends. Many just faded away as poker's popularity faded. The restrictions on online poker that were thrust on many of us via the U.S. government dealt a crushing blow to much of the poker enthusiasm. There were some relationships that were tattered for one reason or another as, after all, we are just people. But, I have to tell you, when problems arose, poker buddies always seem to have your back. The support I got from my poker buddies when my son was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer many years ago was unbelievable.

Toward the end of the poker boom, a newer crowd of poker bloggers started appearing on the scene. Some of those people remain some of my most treasured friends and are actually some of the people who still read this blog. For those friends, I am particularly thankful.

I have met many online poker buddies in person because of the WPBT and subsequent trips to Las Vegas. It is always interesting meeting online friends in person. And the most fun? Being able to actually sling some cards in person with these friends, whether in Las Vegas, Reno, the Wisconsin Dells, St. Charles, MO or any other place that has a poker room ready for action!

As for my future poker schedule, aside from infrequent trips to my closest rooms, East Peoria, IL's Par-A-Dice Casino and Harrah's Joliet, I do plan on playing at these distant casinos over the next two months:

December  17: Ho-Chunk Casino, Wisconsin Dells
December 26-30: Harrah's New Orleans
January 23-27: Las Vegas

And finally, thanks to the people who read this blog. If there are any people from the "old" days, make sure you pop in on the comments occasionally so I know you are still around.

Onward and upward!

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Thanksgiving Update

Happy Thanksgiving to all my online and real life poker buddies and other assorted friends!

In my job, the journey from Halloween to Thanksgiving is like a three to four week sprint -- fast and furious action! One goal is to just make it to the Thanksgiving break without feeling worn out or sick. I think I made it!

Work has been challenging in that the state of Illinois legislators and governors refuse to work together. They didn't pass a budget for last year and haven't for this year. They are anticipating not passing one until 2018. In the meantime, the state debt continues to grow, pension debt increases and public colleges and universities, as well as social service agencies cut, cut  and cut until being on the brink of disaster. My school had to not offer contracts for next year to several outstanding new faculty. Morale is low. Meh.

Being indecisive as I sometimes tend to be, I still don't know what my role at work will be come May. Either I will take on added responsibilities or will go back to my regular role I left 4 1/2 years ago. I hope to have some clarification by January.

I hope to actually make another post this holiday weekend. For now, have a great Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 06, 2016

Cubs Win the World Series & Life Goes On

After 108 years, it finally happened: The Chicago Cubs are World Series champions! It's not like this is a complete surprise since the Cubs were the favorite to win it at the start of the season and had the best record in the regular season. However, these were still the Cubs, who have known to blow it time and time again at the worst possible time. I guarantee you that most Cubs fans felt the way that I did when the Indians tied it up late in game seven. My stomach was feeling quite unsettled. Thank goodness for the rain delay, which was probably the true MVP in the deciding game.

Of course, now many of us are living in a new reality. How does one's prospective of life change now that the Cubbies have won the World Series? It's like seeing that thing you always hoped would happen but never would finally coming through. For me, this was the final team that needed to win it all since I started following Chicago professional sports teams. The pressure will now switch to the Chicago Bears, whose last championship was over 30 years ago. Since that time, the Bears have only reached the Super Bowl once.

The day after the big Cubs victory, I did have my wife go to Dick's sporting goods store before it opened so that I could get some sweet, sweet swag.
 My boss, one of those dastardly Cardinals fans who are overpopulated throughout central Illinois, did stop by my office to drop off a congratulatory donut treat.
All in all, the last week was one of great stress, especially after the Cubs went down 3-1 on the series and also when Cleveland caught up in game seven. However, the jubilation and associated feelings certainly more than made up for it.

And of course (u see), just when things were going great because of the Cubs, things seemed to take a turn for the worse at work. Some untenured faculty are not being rehired for next year in a cost-cutting measure designed to cut expenses and move my college to the point where we no longer have to depend on money from the state. My department is currently down 1.5 staff, and another retiring in April will likely not be replaced. I am scheduled to present a report on student mental health challenges in my school at a board of trustees meeting on November 16. I was hoping to use the meeting as a forum to make a compelling case to replace the counselor retiring in April. However, it appears likely that a big faculty contingent will also appear at the meeting, pretty much pushing my request into the background.

My status for next year in still uncertain as no plans have been finalized for the merging of another department into mine. I am scheduled to stay in my current leadership position for another 18 months. I had already been considering calling it a day on those obligations at the end of April next year, and I am pretty sure that I will not get what I asked to remain in my position and take on additional responsibilities: more pay and for someone to get an upgrade to associate director so that I would have someone with some real authority to back me up. It is likely I would be offered a nominal increase in pay, but I seriously doubt I will get the administrative help I need. Unless either I am offered a decent increase in pay and/or I decide to bite the bullet for the sake of my department, it looks like my administrative duties might come to an end in April. Either way, life will be quite different come next summer.

Thanks for reading!