Wednesday, May 30, 2012

How Do You Like The New Look?

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Even When ...

... the stakes are small,
there is still nothing like the feel of a victory.

Memorial Day

My Dad on Memorial Day ten years ago. It was probably his favorite day of the year. He was one of the last few surviving WWII veterans in my hometown at the time. He passed away almost eight years ago. Sadly, there are no longer any WWII vets left alive in the town.

Tom Brokaw coined the term "The Greatest Generation" to descibe people like my Dad who grew up during the Great Depression and fought in World War II. The sacrifices made by these men and women are almost unfathomable. Some debts can never adequately be repaid.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Tuesday's Tantalizing Trough of Trivial Treasures

Okay okay -- so maybe tantalizing is too strong a word. But what the heck -- if it got you reading this far it did the trick.

BBT6 ?
AlCantHang, much to my amazement, recently sent an email to several bloggers, gauging interest in a new possible Battle of the Bloggers Tournament -- BBT6. Could it really be? Check out the info on Al's latest blog post. As we have so often said: "Al -- you da man!"

If This Only helps One Person ...
Yesterday I had an appointment with my cardiologist. Blood pressure, HDL, LDL, total cholesterol, triglycerides -- all great! Eight months after my mild heart attack I am in tremendously better shape. Outside of just the great numbers I mentioned -- due to exercise, a sensible eating plan, and medication -- I have also lost over 30 pounds and am very happy with what that has done for me in so many ways.

I really feel stupid that I let my life be determined by a plethora of bad habits I accumulated over the years -- mostly poor eating patterns (supplementing healthy foods with junk food and late-night fast food runs, using salt on everything) and lack of exercise (laziness coupled with fatigue and too much time on the computer). I also suffered from the most insidious of thoughts -- that it could not happen to ME. Well, it did!

If you are like I was -- eating the wrong stuff and not exercising properly -- get yourself to a doctor today and get checked out. I am fortunate that my artery that was clogged was not the widow maker. Had it been, this site would most likely be the be the lightning36 memorial blog site.

Don't be a chump like me. If you know you might be at risk for a heart attack or stroke or might have fallen into the same potentially deadly habits that I fell into, get some help today!

Prom and Beyond
I have told people that I did not go to my first prom until I was 34 years old. That is true. I also have stated that I went with a pregnant girl. Also true. Of course, she was my wife, so it is not like it was that much of a scandal at the time.

I find it hard to believe that my son has now attended two proms in high school. Not only that he is almost 18 years old, but that the socially awkward kid really hit his stride in high school, making lots of good friends and getting one heck of a cutie for a girlfriend.

Just over two years ago I wrote a post dealing with the challenges and successes in raising Rick. Little were we to know that within two weeks we would be confronted with the awful news that he had a rare form of cancer. We handled that challenge as a family. Rick has been cancer-free for over two years. He has finished his high school classes and will graduate tonight. He is starting college in the fall with as many as 30-45 college credits, mostly due to AP classes. He will major in Computer Science (of course he therefore thinks that my whole profession is just a load of bunk) and thinks he is smarter than his old man -- WRONG! Yeah -- he sponges money off me all the time, but I love him just the same!

Some days can be really crappy days. Other days, like today, I feel like I am the luckiest guy in the world.

Have a great Tuesday!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

We'll Miss You, Robin

Till I finally died, which started the whole world living ...

Friday, May 18, 2012

Goodbye Kerry Wood

Chicago Cubs pitcher Kerry Wood retired following today's Cubs - White Sox game after getting one last strikeout. A great article and video can be found at the official Chicago Cubs website.

Wood's career seemed to mimic the perpetual story of the Chicago Cubs: lots of hope and promise, some success, but failure to get to the promised land -- the World Series. He did come soooo close during the monumental Cubs collapse against the Florida Marlins in the 2003 MLB National League playoffs.

Wood has been a tragic figure in many ways. In his early years he was about the best there was. However, a litany of arm problems and other injuries kept Wood from achieving what had been hoped for him.

What made Wood so special was his desire to win and earn his paycheck and his dedication to the Cubs organization and charitable endeavors in the Chicago area. He joins a select group of Cubs who are among the most beloved players in the modern Cubs baseball era.

We'll miss you, Kerry.

And, as a tribute, one of the finest games ever pitched -- twenty strikeouts against the Houston Astros.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Monday Miscellaneous Musings

* Mothers Day went really well at my house. I grilled some hot dogs and sausages for lunch and we went out to a family-friendly restaurant for dinner. Afterwards, we bought something that always works for dessert: a cake that is comprised of eight pieces of different kinds of cake. No fighting, yelling, or arguing at any of the meals. Remarkable!

* I heard this great classic song on the way into work this morning:

Aside from being one of my all-time favorite songs, the tune reminds of the time when the group played at my college. I was in a service club that helped load and unload equipment at concerts (lightning -- the roadie!). While I was taking a short break after the concert, I looked in the stands to see Joe Frank, bass player for the band (middle guy in the picture), having a sweet little conversation with my girlfriend. Argg! I broke that shit up very quickly. The night ended when my guys wanted to get stuff loaded on the band's trucks. The band and their roadies and hangers-on were having too much fun wrestling each other, so finally we said "the hell with it" and left them to load all the crap themselves.

* Softball game tonight. The weather should be excellent. We have not played for three weeks due to rainy weather. I have no idea where I will be playing: pitcher (doubtful), second base (likely), designated hitter (maybe), outfield (possible). I bring a .500 batting average into tonight's game.

* On Tuesday night I will be hosting my international home game group at my house. We will not play our usual tournament but play solely cash games since we will be operating on one big table. It looks like a nice write-up of the evening may be in order.

* I had some blood work done prior to my next appointment with my cardiologist. I have been told that my cholesterol numbers continue to be very good. My weight has continued to stay down to the point that the jeans I bought when I hit my earlier plateau are now seeming too big. I have been slacking off on the exercising, though, and need to get back on the stick with that.

Have a great Monday!

Questions: The End of an Era? & Still Got It?

Last night was the final episode of the most recent season of Survivor. I began watching Survivor toward the end of the first season. In that era before everything was available online or on DVD or by online pirates, I remember buying a videotaped set of the first season on ebay. How things have changed over time!

I am thinking that I have missed the season finale only once or twice before last night -- but had it taped so that I could watch it later. This season, however, I almost completely lost interest in the show, watching only a handful of episodes. Does this mean that my 12 year Survivor jones is at an end?

Years ago almost everyone I knew talked about being on Survivor. I thought about applying, but in the early seasons, especially season two, the contestants literally starved. Living without much food for six weeks was not my idea of a challenge I was willing to take. One co-worker told me that she thought I would be great on the show Big Brother. I am not sure if she was referring to my ability to get along with people and successfully negotiate complex relationships or a perceived tendency toward duplicity in relationships at the workplace!

Oh -- and yesterday I played in a small private tournament on Black Chip Poker. The results:

That was not the best part of the online poker evening, however. Very Josie joined me at an Omaha table and had some fun with the other players, saying things like "Is this Omaha?" and "I don't know how to play this." Now a few days ago Joe C was tweeting about how she beat me by playing Poker Grump's favorite hand, the ol' 2-4: "Double up off of Lightning 2-4 vs A-K. Very next hand I beat him when he has 2-4. Obv he needs 2-4 lessons." The biatch! She called a big raise when I had A-K sooted (an unbelievably terrible call, but one designed just to possibly luck out and then harass me -- which she did!) and hit one of her puny cards while I whiffed. Then, I had her when I played 2-4, but my hand got counterfeited on the river when a second pair hit the board, giving her a win when she had diddly-squat until the river suckout. But last night I got my revenge in Omaha. I had QQxx and saw a flop of A-J-J -- certainly not good for a Q-Q hand. Josie made a small raise, which I called. The turn was a beautiful Queen. After the river I was deciding how much of a value bet to make when Josie said something like "I'd better win this hand." Shades of TBC -- thank you for the information that made my decision easy! I shoved and she called, tabling AJxx -- a flopped full house, but unfortunately the second best hand at the table. Needless to say the payback was schweet!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Big Day for Lightning Kids

Okay -- so yesterday was one of those days when it just felt really good to be a father.

Reason #1: I became a father for the first time 20 years ago yesterday. It is hard to believe that my oldest turned 20. I guess I can no longer say that I have three teenagers.


Reason #2: It was my son's high school Senior Class Awards program yesterday. He was recognized for three academic awards: Prarie State Achievement Award, Illinois State Scholar, and National Merit Commended Scholar.


Two good looking, bright kids. Of course, that should not be a surprise considering who their father is.  : o )

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Primer in Understanding Autism

Since the most recent post by TBC has created a firestorm of comments, I thought it might be helpful for people to actually read some information regarding autism. Tony has publicly stated that he has been diagnosed as autistic.

Autism Speaks, a leading autism advocacy group, provides a wealth of information on many aspects of autism. I have included some easily understandable content here.

Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are characterized by social-interaction difficulties, communication challenges and a tendency to engage in repetitive behaviors. However, symptoms and their severity vary widely across these three core areas. Taken together, they may result in relatively mild challenges for someone on the high functioning end of the autism spectrum. For others, symptoms may be more severe, as when repetitive behaviors and lack of spoken language interfere with everyday life.

Research suggests that children with autism are attached to their parents. However the way they express this attachment can be unusual. To parents, it may seem as if their child is disconnected. Both children and adults with autism also tend to have difficulty interpreting what others are thinking and feeling. Subtle social cures such as a smile, wave or grimace may convey little meaning. To a person who misses these social cues, a statement like “Come here!” may mean the same thing, regardless of whether the speaker is smiling and extending her arms for a hug or frowning and planting her fists on her hips. Without the ability to interpret gestures and facial expressions, the social world can seem bewildering.

Many persons with autism have similar difficulty seeing things from another person's perspective. Most five year olds understand that other people have different thoughts, feelings and goals than they have. A person with autism may lack such understanding. This, in turn, can interfere with the ability to predict or understand another person’s actions.

It is common – but not universal – for those with autism to have difficulty regulating emotions. This can take the form of seemingly “immature” behavior such as crying or having outbursts in inappropriate situations. It can also lead to disruptive and physically aggressive behavior. The tendency to “lose control” may be particularly pronounced in unfamiliar, overwhelming or frustrating situations.

Some mildly affected children exhibit only slight delays in language or even develop precocious language and unusually large vocabularies – yet have difficulty sustaining a conversation. Some children and adults with autism tend to carry on monologues on a favorite subject, giving others little chance to comment. In other words, the ordinary “give and take” of conversation proves difficult. Some children with ASD with superior language skills tend to speak like little professors, failing to pick up on the “kid-speak” that’s common among their peers.

Another common difficulty is the inability to understand body language, tone of voice and expressions that aren’t meant to be taken literally. For example, even an adult with autism might interpret a sarcastic “Oh, that's just great!” as meaning it really is great.

Sleep problems are common among children and adolescents with autism and may likewise affect many adults.

Hmmm ... does any of this appear to describe anyone we know?
Everyone is entitled to their own opinions. However, the more you understand autism and its many complexities, the more you begin to see TBC in a different light.
M.S. in Clinical Psychology
Director -- Counseling and Advising Center
Some College in the U.S.A.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Mini Road Trip To See TBC - sevencard2003 - Tony Bigcharles

It had been several weeks since I had taken a poker road trip of note. The opportunity came Sunday as I hopped in my car and took off on a poker adventure -- slinging some cards with TBC aka sevencard2003 aka Tony Bigcharles. I had hoped to do so the weekend before, but Tony's rampant paranoia about protecting his roll kept him from mentioning where he was until it was too late for me to sufficiently get my other life responsibilities in order to make the trip. In fact, I almost did not make this one.

A confession to make: I know I am exactly the kind of guy that Tony should fear. I mean, I own a house, am married with three kids, have a great job in higher education, and work as a professional counselor -- just the kind of guy who would be looking to mug someone and steal all his cash! Furthermore, I had met Tony earlier in the year, had sprung for a late night meal for him, and even bought him a pair of jeans that I had shipped from a department store to him. Obviously my cunning nature knows no bounds!

I had tentatively arranged to meet Tony at the Harrah's Joliet poker room on Saturday. However, his obfuscation of travel plans derailed that idea. The same with Sunday -- late notice, which certainly made things more difficult for me and took away the opportunity for Tony to get free lightning36 taxi service for the day. Ah well ...

I hemmed and hawed for awhile. Fool that I am, however, I took to the road Sunday afternoon. I almost turned back about 25 miles into my trip since I was still upset at Tony's lack of trust in me. Had a phone conversation with Very Josie. I dropped many f-bombs. I felt better. I drove on.

Pretty soon I began to think that I had made a big mistake. Rain and darkness enveloped me. This was my view out the front window. Looks kind of dark, huh? It was mid-afternoon -- about 3:30!

It got even worse as the rain came down even harder and the hail started beating on my car. Seeing the road? What road? Muhahahahaha!

I had to pull over and park under a bridge. That, of course, is scary in itself. Nothing like watching trucks whiz past you, hoping one doesn't lose control.

I got to Harrah's at 5:00 p.m. and went straight to the poker room. I texted Tony that I was there. He came shortly thereafter and sat down next to me -- right in time for the big blind. You can guess what happened next. There was a slight misunderstanding between Tony and the dealer. Tony left and came back a couple of hands later. No post was required and sanity returned to the poker room.

We played for a few hours with mixed success. I failed to get my really good hands to pay off. Unfortunately, they came against conservative players who folded to my reraises when I flopped the nut flush and flopped a set. At the end of the first session I was up a little bit. Tony lucked out when he called an all in with A-Q after the flop against a pair of tens on a low board. The turn: Ace. The river: Queen!

After getting something to eat in the Diamond Lounge courtesy of Tony (for I am a lowly Platinum Total Rewards Member), we sat down at the NL table again. This time Tony took one on the chin when he had a pair with a good kicker and called an all in push by someone with A-K that didn't improve after the flop. This time the Ace on the turn stole the hand from Tony. Later on he said he was tired and should stop, which would have saved him some money. He called an all in with A-Q, thinking the guy was just bluffing. Unfortunately, the player had K-K and took a large chunk of Tony's buy in. I lost a little bit and ended up down a few bucks for the evening.

After poker, I watched Tony play some traditional blackjack. I am certainly not a blackjack expert and do not have the strategy chart memorized, but it seemed to me that he only made one questionable move in the time I watched. He won back some of what he lost in poker, which seems to have been a common theme these past several months. In truth, I was more impressed by the blackjack skill I saw than by, in my opinion, questionable poker play.

Tony then sat down at the Omaha table, but I needed to get back home. We got someone to snap a quick picture of us ...

... and then it was back on the road to once again travel into a monsoon.

As I was tiring in the wee morning hours, I was abruptly awakened by the flashing red and blue lights of an Illinois State Trooper who pulled me over for having my rear license plate light out. I imagine the monsoon might have done that. Seeing that I was not intoxicated, he gave me a warning ticket and I was on my way for the remaining 45 minutes of my trip home.

I pulled into my driveway in the wee hours of the morning, tired after a quick 12-hour poker road trip. There was only one thought on my mind: Must sleep immediately ...

Saturday, May 05, 2012

The REAL Story: Playing in an SNG with Very Josie

"Some people handle the truth carelessly; Others never touch it at all." -- Anonymous

Yes, truth is oftentimes a difficult concept to grasp. I try to tell my kids in this computer-driven world not to believe everything they read. The need for critical analysis is always present. Just because someone says something does not mean it is true. With this as a preamble, I will attempt to give my readers an accurate version of my experience in playing in a friendly SNG with Very Josie last night.

"That's the thing about poker--sometimes even the bad players win. Otherwise, they'd just quit playing." -- Poker Grump

As I tweeted last night, Poker Grump, as always, is spot on. His other tweet -- "What do you get out of it? I mean, it's not like there's much to brag about in beating Josie at poker" solidifies his reputation as being among the most isightful and intelligent bloggers. That being said ...  : o )

I invited our Princess to play in a one table SNG at Black Chip Poker last night. It sounded like it might be fun. It really wasn't. Now you have to remember that Joe C can be a pretty good tournament player. I have played against her enough to know how she operates. I know exactly how to play her. That does not mean that I will always win, but I certainly do not lack confidence in playing her. However, she rarely acknowledges that she is perhaps among the most lucky poker players I have ever seen. You know how most of us cry and complain (foreshadowing here) about the turn or river card that screwed us? Josie's online poker life consists of being the person who has an uncanny knack of catching great cards, then having dimwits at the table who gift her their chips. I mean geez -- in the first couple of minutes of an SNG she hit two full houses and got paid off on both? While I was getting 8-2os and the like she suddenly tripled up? What poker god did she "service" to continually get such good fortune?

"I hit another boat a couple minutes later, bullied Lightning with my chipstack, cuz that's how I roll and then he was out." -- Very Josie

Uh ... not accurate at all. As I recall, Josie raised me once when I held little, so I folded. However, she seems to forget that I purposely raised her several times and got her to back down. Play was tricky since our Princess tripled up early and I was down a few chips, but I got back to the starting stack and up a couple hundred when I finally got a legit hand -- Q-Q. I induced someone at the table to go all in pre-flop, and he showed 10-10. Of course, you all know what happened next: the turn was a 10 and I was out instead of doubling up and being second in chips at the table -- and within spitting distance of you know who. This same donk who made the awful move against me was apparently astute enough to snooker our Princess at the end, felting her when he flopped a set of 5's.

So there you have it -- the TRUE story of what happened when Josie and I played an SNG at BCP last night. I declined to play another game. There was certainly no fear in playing against Josie, just a tired resignation that excellent online poker play is oftentimes rewarded with a kick in the nuts, and I was unwilling to have them bruised again that night.

Oh yeah -- Josie said to mention that she is wonderful. Done.

A Grim Reminder

When I saw the sad news yesterday I got a sick feeling in my stomach. Adam Yauch,  MCA of the Beastie Boys, passed away at the age of 47. This tragedy hit right at home, however, because Yauch had been fighting cancer of the parotid gland -- the same rare type of cancer than my son had in 2010. Fortunately, with excellent medical care and by the grace of God, my son has been cancer free for the past two years. However, he knew that Adam Yaunch had salivary gland cancer, and I knew that this news would hit him hard.

Surely enough, shortly after I got home from work, a discussion on his upcoming college registration turned into a rant. Although he was not bringing up what really was bothering him, I forced the discussion and his barriers started breaking down. His older sister, with whom he has always been close, came into my bedroom and the three of us had a short group hug and shed a few tears. This seemed to help clear the air, and shortly thereafter my kids and I grabbed dinner at a local Mexican restaurant. There is calm tonight, and the specter of this difficult time in our lives has been shooed away again for the time being.

And while I am on the subject of this devestating disease, please keep good guy and blogger buddy Lucki Duck in your thoughts and prayers as Lucki and his family struggle with the lung cancer that has been diagnosed in Lucki's mother. Thinking of you tonight, my friend.