Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Jimi Jamison, lead singer of Survivor, dead at 63

Pop rock music has lost another member as Jimi Jamison, lead singer of Survivor, popular band of the 1980's, died of a heart attack on August 31. Jamison took over lead singing duties of Survivor from David Bickler and recently was touring with an updated version of Survivor that included Bickler. Yes -- two former lead singers sharing the lead, as I saw in the December 2013 concert in Bloomington Illinois, Rock to the Rescue.

While the name Jimi Jamison may not jump out at you, he was the lead singer of some Survivor classics ("High on You," "I Can't Hold Back," and "The Search is Over,") as well as the iconic Baywatch theme song, "I'm Always Here."





Monday, September 01, 2014

Rockin' the Par-A-Dice

I had been a tad jealous of my friends who were in Las Vegas, playing poker, mashing buttons, betting on sports and generally having a great time. Here I was, however, in central Illinois. What to do?
Yesterday, the answer to that question became very clear. My mother-in-law and brother-in-law were using my house as a base for their travel to visit relatives and friends in the area. But ... they were leaving on the next leg of their trip. My youngest daughter was getting ready to go to her weekly Sunday gathering with friends. My wife was going with a friend to visit someone in a nursing home. That left this guy all alone with nothing to do on a Sunday afternoon. When all else fails ... head to the nearest poker room!
I hopped in my car and headed to the Par-A-Dice riverboat casino in East Peoria, IL. Two shorthanded tables were running so I was seated immediately. It's tough making good money when playing $1/2 NL with only a few people at the table. Eventually more players came in, however, and I won a big pot when I hit a set of Queens on a flop with two hearts showing. A villain raised and I made a huge re-raise. He went all in (only about $17 more) and, of course, I called. The turn was a heart and he turned over his cards to show that he had the nut flush draw and hit it. However, the river paired the board and I announced "I have a boat" and turned over my pocket Queens. Cha-ching!
The table was eventually shut down to be used for a tournament, and I cashed out a nice profit. I was then on a wait list to be seated at the only cash table going, so I played a little video poker, but my favorite machine just wasn't hitting. I headed down to a different level to play my favorite slot, the Willy Wonka machine. A minimal investment and I was on my way. Shortly into the session, the Oompa Loompa bonus gave me this:
I stayed on that Wonka Machine and then hit a bonus that looked to just be decent ... until it was multiplied 10 times!
Doubly sweet!
My name was called on the intercom as a player left the cash game, opening up a seat for me. What to do? The decision was easy ... stay on Wonka!
Wonka stopped giving shortly thereafter, so I played a few other slots. Blogger friend cokeboy99 texted that he was able to come to the poker room, so I headed upstairs and got seated at one of the two cash games running. I was in the big blind the second hand at the table and looked down to see the dreaded pocket Kings - two black ones! Most of the table had limped in, so I bumped it up to $22, not knowing anything about the table. One guy called. The flop: three diamonds, Queen high. I checked, he bet $20, and I bumped it up to $50. I was pretty sure I was still ahead. He called. The turn was about the worst card imaginable: the Ace of diamonds. I checked and he went all in. I was pretty sure he had at least one high diamond (confirmed by the guy next to me who spied the cards before the villain mucked) or, at the least, had a big Ace. I grumbled and folded.
I reloaded and soon got into another big hand when I flopped a set of Queens (the ladies were with me that night!) and saw a flop that included  two spades and a King. I bet out $30 (about a pot-sized bet and was raised by one villain. Another one called, so I pushed all in. Both guys called. One had the nut flush draw, the other likely had some type of straight draw. Thankfully, the turn and river helped no one, and I scooped a huge pot.
cokeboy99 soon checked in and we played at the same table for several hours. Eventually I had to think about the long drive home, and when I left both cokeboy99 and I both had a nice profit.
Two winning poker sessions and a winning slot session in an unexpected trip to the casino. Sometimes things just work out right.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

I Should Be On My Way to Las Vegas, But ...

This post comes to you not from Las Vegas, not from the airport, not from the highway ...

Working in a job that has a cyclical work year, I have traditionally taken some vacation time in early September, right after one of my busiest and stressful months. In the 1990's, a common practice of mine was to gather with the menfolk of my wife's family and head north to Nestor Falls, Ontario, Canada, for a week of fishing. Whether we were fishing for bass, walleye, crappie, northern pike or muskie, the days on the water were long and fulfilling. The important part (along with, of course, the fishing, beer and camaraderie) was just totally getting away from work and from regular life. I would come home ready to take on the new challenges at work.

After my brother, the King of Komps, moved back to the United States from Australia in 2000, I shifted away from the fishing trips to Las Vegas trips, especially since KOK's birthday is around Labor Day, and we frequently went together to have fun and to celebrate. However, this year proved to be a challenge. KOK takes care of our mother and currently is unable to get away for more than a short time. I have been busy with some new initiatives at work and am already far behind where I should be at this time. As a result, there was no Labor Day Las Vegas trip this year. Today would normally be the day that we would be leaving.

Making things worse, in a sense, was reading of the escapades this past week of PPP, Rob, ~Coach, Tony Bigcharles and grrouchie in Las Vegas. Throw in some poker at the Venetian, a guest appearance by the mysterious Alysia Chang, some sweet sweet video poker and a filet or two, and I am one envious guy! To make matters worse, this past week at work absolutely sucked. You know you have had a golden week at work when you get back to your office for the last hour of the work week before a holiday weekend and a colleague tells you "You haven't checked your voicemail? You should have a message on there from the police in the neighboring town."

But ... hey, getting a day off work should never be overlooked. And the NFL season is upon us. And the MLB season is nearing an end (never too soon for a Chicago baseball fan).

Time to start searching hotel deals from Caesar's, flight possibilities, and somehow fitting in a little vacation time with a busy schedule. September is just beginning. There is always time to fit in a Las Vegas trip, right?

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Concert Review: Eddie Money at the Urbana (IL) Sweetcorn Festival - Aug 23, 2014

So what could be more Midwestern than a festival honoring and featuring sweetcorn in August? The annual Urbana Sweetcorn Festival has been going on in Urbana, IL (home to the University of Illinois) for 39 years. Aside from the delectable ears of corn that are available for a nominal price, the streets of downtown Urbana are filled with other summer delicacies, drinks, and music.

The headliner for the 2014 festival was Eddie Money, iconic 1980's rock star. His fairly recent Geico insurance commercial ...

... certainly made me wonder if it would even be worth my while to see him at a free festival. Reviews found on the internet seemed to be one way or another: either he was great or he appeared to be drunk and put on a terrible performance. His voice is pretty obviously shot, and I know there has been criticism in that he doesn't sing enough of the lyrics himself, instead deferring to his adoring crowd. But ... what the heck -- I missed out on seeing Steely Dan at the Illinois State Fair the weekend before, so it was time to hit the free concert!
Money's tour schedule indicates that he plays primarily three types of venues: small clubs/concert halls, casinos throughout the U.S and festivals/fairs. He had what appeared to be a few thousand people listening on a wonderful Midwest August night.
His set started out with a classic, "Baby Hold On." His daughter, Jesse, sings with Money's stage band, and she seemed to do well throughout the evening, especially when featured.
Money covered all of his hits throughout the hour-long set, including "I Wanna Go Back," "Walk on Water" and  "Take Me Home Tonight" (with Jesse doing a fine job with the Ronnie Spector part). He closed out the set with "Think I'm in Love" and his signature hit "Two Tickets to Paradise." The obligatory encore concluded with the hit "Shakin'."
Money is a big supporter of military veterans and is donating proceeds from his new single, One More Soldier Coming Home, to the Fallen Heroes Fund. He came out immediately after the performance to sign Eddie Money items bought at the concert, which largely consisted of tee shirts (some portion of the profits going to support military/veterans causes) that sold for ... $40! During the concert, when speaking about the shirt sales, Money said "Hey -- this is not like the Rolling Stones -- the shirts are $20 ... really $40." I thought he was kidding. Needless to say, I declined.
So the big question: What was the concert really like? Money was having a great time with the crowd and was pretty, for lack of a better word, goofy. I didn't think he was drunk, but got the impression that this was just where he is right now in life. He did, unfortunately, defer waaay too much of the singing to the crowd, especially on the choruses of his big hits. His voice, never one of the great voices of popular music, has diminished over the years, but was certainly better than the way it sounded in that Geico commercial. I guess he enjoyed the campy act he put on in that advertisement. Money's performance on the saxophone and harmonica, however, was really quite good.
So ... if you are a music purist and want to see Eddie Money perform songs just as he recorded them, you will be disappointed. But ... if you are having a good time at a free fair and free concert, you will find that he puts on a pretty decent show. I enjoyed the show, but was glad that I had the proper expectations beforehand.
Rock on, Money Man!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Dog Days

Just a quick post so that I can get away from work for at least a few minutes.. August is usually one of the busiest, if not THE busiest, month of work for me. The past few days I have been working to correct some situations that needed correcting and trying to keep my own grumpiness at bay while I deal with others who are clearly showing the fatigue of a nasty four-week period.

The rest of the world has still been going on, right? At certain times of the year, I sometimes wonder if life even exists outside my office!

Speaking of my office ... it is really nice, but looks like total crap since I was never able to move in properly. Additionally, in my department's move to new digs, we found a treasure trove of old files that need to be examined before disposing/shredding them. I guess I will try to do that in the next few weeks.

This is usually the time I get ready to go to Las Vegas to recover, but it looks like Sin City will just have to wait for me this fall. Since I will apparently have jury duty sometime in October, I honestly don't know when my next trip to Las Vegas will be.

I feel the need to play a little poker, so perhaps a weekend trip to Peoria, Joliet, or Hammond is in order.

We are are the dark side of the work week! Yea!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

The Gathering: Ten Years After

I've written about my father several times over the past eight years. Often, the thought of him came about because of days that were special to him, like Memorial Day,

or perhaps memories of something funny or something special popped up for one reason or another. The memories of ten years ago -- August 17, 2004 -- however, are the kind that stay with us all of our lives.

My father had been in poor health. However, the more disturbing thing was that dementia had already taken hold of his life and had begun to rob him of memories and cause him problems with simple everyday living. He had turned 80 the previous spring. The beginning of the end started when he collapsed at home shortly after having been released from a rehabilitation center.

There was really nothing medically that could be done for him. He did not regain consciousness, and what little brain activity he had was likely just random brainwave activity. We all knew what was coming.

A light moment came when someone appeared to talk with my family about organ donation. We were wondering what might potentially be harvested from an 80-year-old man with significant medical issues. When we were told that he would be able to donate his liver to someone in need, several of us started smiling, remembering that my dad had had more than his share of whiskey and beer while we were growing up.

A time was arranged for the family to meet at the hospital as my dad would be taken off the life support system he was on. We were pretty sure that death would come quickly because of his poor health. He was taken off the life-giving machines and the family stood around his hospital bed, arm in arm, crying as we watched my father pass away. Thankfully, as we hoped, death came quickly. I can't even begin to describe how painful those moments were. The words do not exist.

So now, ten years later, the King of Komps and I will go out to the cemetery, maybe with my mother, if she is feeling well enough to do so. The KoK does a great job keeping the grave area looking a way that I am sure my dad would like.

Ten years. Sometimes it seems like so long ago, and sometimes it seems like it was just yesterday.

Sunday, August 10, 2014


I think it was at Trivia Night two weeks ago that I heard this song for the first time. Although this is the less well-known version, it is just kitschy great. Transport yourself back to the 1960's and sing along with this classic. Thank you Lee Hazlewood and Nancy Sinatra!

And you might have thought that I only paid attention to pop rock and rock 'n' roll!

Oh yeah -- "Jay-pan flan" = Japan fan!