Friday, June 07, 2024

Las Vegas, Here I Come -- Again -- June 9-14, 2024

I am sooooo ready to return to Las Vegas this weekend. This trip was scheduled quite some time ago so that I would have some time to visit and play poker with old Aussie friend and former blogger @Koalapete. Pete and I met many moons ago when online poker was played by seemingly everyone. His last visit to Las Vegas was two years ago.

I was originally going to organize a meet up game, but I decided instead to leave most of my visit unplanned so I can change things on the fly. I'll probably play mostly cash games with maybe one donkament and a daily Resorts/WSOP tourney on my agenda. Mostly, I am just happy to get away for several days.

Hit me up on Twitter or other means if you want to meet up to fling some cards or grab a meal with me. I imagine I will spending at least some of my time playing poker at MGM and Bellagio, currently my two favorite places to play in Sin City.

Thanks for reading! ๐Ÿ˜€ 

Saturday, June 01, 2024

Poker: Where I'm Winning and Where I'm Losing in 2024

With the first five months in 2024 now having flown by and with a trip to Las Vegas just over a week ahead, I thought it might be a good idea to examine my 2024 poker sessions. I tend to win or lose in streaks. That is certainly great when the streak is a winning one, but very unpleasant when the losses pile upon one another. I almost always play either $1/2, $1/3, or $2/3 NL depending on the casino. Being a recreational player out for fun (and some profit!), I like chasing promos. It is especially fun when winning a promo or two adds to your session profit or keeps you from having a losing session.

My 2024 list through May 31:

Bellagio (Las Vegas)
Desert Diamond (Glendale, AZ)
Lone Butte (Chandler, AZ)

Talking Stick (Scottsdale, AZ)
Horseshoe (Las Vegas)
Wynn (Las Vegas)

I used to rarely play poker at Bellagio, but started playing there more this year. Talking Stick had been my honey hole in 2023, but the advent of the new poker room that opened in winter seemed to spell disaster for me. Actually, I have played some poor poker here, usually after a session where I took a horrendous river beat. Unfortunately, I have taken some nasty beats at the Stick and have lost some pretty big pots.

In terms of activity, the rooms I played in most frequently are:

Desert Diamond (Glendale, AZ)
Talking Stick (Scottsdale, AZ)
MGM (Las Vegas) 

I'll have at least one more post before I leave for Las Vegas. It should include information about a meet up game on June 11 or 12.

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, May 25, 2024

Survivor Needs Some Changes; Blocked on Twitter by a Survivor Villain

I have been a fan of the television show Survivor since the end of its first season. People might not remember, but both Survivor and Big Brother started at about the same time 24 years ago. I had seen previews of both and decided that I would watch Big Brother and not Survivor. I lost my love for Big Brother sometime after Season 2, but I have been pretty faithful over the years to Survivor. My favorite season has always been Season 2. My brother, thundering36, and I would pour over all the internet clues from people across the US who were sleuthing big time. We listened each week to the three main predictors of who would be voted off. I took part in a radio station's Survivor contest and was in position to win going into the final episode. I decided to pick Tina Wesson to win over Colby Donaldson, and I was right! Being the contest champion won me a cool $1,000. I promised my kids that they would share in my winning if I won, so there was a great celebration at my house when Tina won Survivor. I don't remember what the kids wanted, but I'm pretty sure a doll and a video game was involved.

Anyway, my wife and I continue to watch each season of Survivor. It remains a link between some of my family, as I regularly text/message thundering36 and my nephew, Andrew, who is a huge Survivor fanatic. After watching the shocking Final Tribal Council vote (my main favorite during the season was Kenzie, followed by Charlie and then Maria), I felt like there were some things that definitely need to change in the future if Survivor is to improve or not backslide. they include:

1) Do not allow helping another contestant during a challenge. I thought it was decidedly unfair that Liz was able to help Kenzie win that crucial challenge at the final five over Maria.
2) Enough with all the hidden immunity idols and advantages! It was amazing that in this season, so many people were eliminated while holding an unused immunity idol. Still, I believe the idols have a disproportional affect on the game.
3) Enough with the puzzles! So many physical challenges were cheapened by having a puzzle at the end. I just think Survivor has gone puzzle crazy. Keep some in, but eliminate the high number of puzzles.
4) Eliminate the fire challenge at the final four. I am tired of seeing it. Maybe you are also.
5) Keep away from making political statements. In past seasons, I was tired of hearing people talking about how they were representing for various ethnic/gender/geographic groups. Diversity is important, but can we get away from quotas?
6) Improve casting. The past two seasons have included too many people who have quit or were woefully prepared to be on a show like Survivor. Can you imagine applying for Survivor and not expecting to be starving on a tropical island?
7) Go back to the old format for the reunion show. Imagine being Charlie and having the aftershow  right after seeing a million dollars slip through your fingers. Having the live reunion show gave us a look at what the contestants look like in real life and give them the change to reflect on their experience. It also gives the pre-jury people a chance to be there. Imagine what fun would have gone on if Jelinsky had been there!
8) Bring back some other discarded features, like the gross eating competition and the "ghost walk" before Final Tribal where all the contestants were named and we heard a nice thing or two about them.
9) Go back to having the final vote being between only two people instead of three. Almost always, there is one person like Ben who has no chance of winning.
10) Time to bring in some fresh blood assisting or replacing Jeff Probst. If you recall, the final episodes used to be such big news that CBS had big name people hosting the reunion show (Bryant Gumbel and Rosie O'Donnell the first four seasons). I am thinking that maybe now would be the time to bring in an assistant for him with the thought of passing the torch. But please please please -- not Boston Rob!
11) Bring back the visits from loved ones. Thanks to @griff10 for the suggestion. ๐Ÿ˜€

As for the ending of season 46, I could not believe that Maria voted for Kenzie (the woman who beat her out due to help from Liz) instead of her buddy, Charlie. I understand that they both had plans to vote the other out in order to win the game, for there can only be one winner. But for her to talk about "Uncle Charlie" and how they were great friends ...  I commend Charlie for taking the high road with her despite his profound disappointment. I doubt that I could do it. And frankly, if it were me, I doubt that I would have ever spoken with her again. As things are now, it looks like the friendship, not surprisingly, has gone el busto. 

Maria has been giving lame reasons for her voting for Kelsie, and I don't buy them. I responded to a tweet by Dalton Ross with the following:
I had many people like my tweet. Today, I was surprised to see the following:
Really! I know that Maria has received a ton of hate, including a number of nut cases who have contacted her, harassed her, etc. That is really sad. However, I did not contact her nor even send a tweet to her. When you become a public figure, especially of your own doing, you should know that a certain price comes with it. That includes criticism. However, I completely abhor that some people have decided to be so outwardly cruel to her. That was certainly not my intent, but I did feel that my comments were not out of bounds. Ah well.

Comments about my suggestions are certainly welcomed. I know that some people do not like to comment on the blog but post their comments on Twitter, However, the Twitter comments often seem out of place since the body of the message does not appear with the comment. However, any intelligent comments, criticisms and suggestions are always welcome. And believe me, if Charlie was my bud, no way would I have given my final vote to someone else. No way.

Thanks for reading!

Monday, May 06, 2024

In Honor of What Would Have Been My Dad's 100th Birthday: A Reposting of a Dad/Rolling Stones Story

It is with fold memories and some sadness that what would have been my dad's 100th birthday is now almost over. My father passed away almost 20 years ago. Can it really be that long? Perhaps it is by divine providence that I am going to see the Rolling Stones in concert tomorrow night -- a reminder of a funny night that I shared with my dad waaay back in 1978, when I was a know-it-all college student.

The setting: The Rolling Stones were hosting and the musical guests for Saturday Night Live. Mick Jagger's voice was totally shot and sounded like crap. With that in mind, I take you back to a post I wrote in 2011.

Funny, the things we remember sometimes. This week marks the seventh anniversary of my father's death.  One of my favorite memories of my dad was a night many, many moons ago when we were watching Saturday Night Live. The Rolling Stones would be performing some songs on SNL, so of course I was going to watch.

Dad was sitting in a rocking chair and I was standing as the Stones broke into a tune. And then ... the moment ...

My goodness, you'd have thought that someone dropped a bomb on our house! The sight of Mick Jagger's tongue going near a guy had my dad ranting and raving. I tried to settle him down by saying "Dad, Jagger is just trying to be provocative and make some headlines." But it didn't matter -- the dirty deed had been done.

So yeah -- 33 years later the memory still remains -- a young guy and his father watching one of the greatest rock and roll bands ever.

So yeah -- almost 46 years later, the memory still remains. Happy birthday, Dad!  ๐Ÿ’“

Tuesday, April 16, 2024

2024: Another Year of Concerts

 A little over two years ago, I declared a 12-month period my "year of concerts." It really was a spectacular year as many musicians and groups were anxious to get back to performing on the road after COVID-19. It now appears that 2024 will rival that 12-month period. Having missed seeing Tom Petty one last time and Gordon Lightfoot due to death of the artists, I decided to be a bit more flexible in who I will see. I recently passed up Frankie Valli again since it is common knowledge that he lip synchs at his concerts. Other concerts, such as Foreigner, have no original members left, really making the band more of a tribute band. Knowing that some musicians might not be out of the road again, I decided to see the following in the 13-month period that began in December 2023:

Trans-Siberian Orchestra -- Dec 3

Billy Joel and Stevie Nicks -- Dec 8

Eagles and Steely Dan - Jan 19

Toto -- March 17

Stayin' Alive - Bee Gees Tribute -- April 19

Beach Boys -- April 26

Neil Young -- April 27

Rolling Stones -- May 7

Justin Hayward -- June 25

Doobie Brothers -- June 26

Journey, Def Leppard and Steve Miller Band -- Aug 23

Jeff Lynn's ELO -- Oct 21

There is still plenty of time for me to get tickets to another few concerts if the right groups perform.

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, March 16, 2024

Jury Duty Littered with Sex: My Life This Past Week -- Part 2


The FBI agent the case centered around was interesting. She was obviously trying to look stone faced during the trial, but that resulted in her having an unusual look on her face. She had received special training to work cases like this, and she was unflappable on the stand. The prosecution, of course, lobbed her softballs to lay the foundation for the case. She did a great job in explaining everything in a clear fashion. The jury was, however, bored to death at the overkill the prosecution used to go over the defense exhibits. 

Once the defense got its chance, it was clear that their objective was to make the FBI agent appear not only inaccurate in her work, but also selective in sharing information, implying that she didn't keep records of conversations that would help exonerate the defendant. Additionally, they pointed out some photos of legs of the adult FBI agent that, according to them, could not be mistaken for the legs of a 13-year-old girl. Finally, the defense pointed to conversations at all hours of the days and some other interactions that should have tipped off the defendant that he was not speaking to a young girl. Although he did not speak at the trial, the jurors had the impression that the defendant was not particularly bright.

I believe that everyone in the courtroom had a good idea of how things would end. The defense seemed to have everything stacked against them and appeared to be grasping at straws. Their only defense, aside  from what I mentioned previously, was to question a sex expert whom they imported. The alternate theory was that the defendant and the girl were involved in DDLG (Daddy Dom/Little Girl) role playing and that the defendant was aware the the girl was really a woman. However, DDLG was only mentioned once in 700 pages of chat (unless there was more and the defense missed it, but I doubt that), and several things the defendant had written made it abundantly clear that he really believed that he was talking to a young girl.

It was heart wrenching to see the defendant's parents, and especially his mother, in the back of the courtroom, listening to the sexual chat their son was aiming at an eighth grader and seeing pictures and videos of their son's penis and him masturbating. At one point, the mother could not take it anymore and left the room. I couldn't even imagine my own mother (R.I.P.) having to sit through such a scene, or my wife listening and watching the same scene with our son as the defendant.

We knew virtually nothing about the defendant, and he seemed more of a pathetic person than anything. There is absolutely no excuse for what he attempted to do, but I think that, aside from the elicit sex he was hoping to have, that he actually might have fallen in love with this fake persona. He came from a small town and had never even flown on an airplane before his trip to Phoenix. I didn't see any reason why he couldn't have used common phone apps to find someone closer to his own age.

The court case concluded with instructions from the judge late Thursday afternoon. We were excused a little early and instructed to begin jury deliberations at 9:00 a.m. Friday morning. In my mind there was no doubt that he was guilty as charged of the first two charges, but the third dealt with "obscene" material, and I knew there would be no quick decisions on the third charge.

We began our deliberations on time. I had originally thought that I'd like to be the foreperson, but knowing that we had several people who liked to talk a lot, I decided instead that I would make my role one of trying to bring the group to a final decision if we were stuck.

We decided upon the first two charges rather quickly: guilty on both. The third charge, however, would be difficult. The judge's instructions (including the Miller test) seemed to contradict the basic charge. Everyone had a different idea of what was obscene. We were supposed to leave our own beliefs aside. We finally took a vote on each of the nine items we were to consider as being obscene. A few items had 9-3 votes. Most were closer to 7-5. One was 11-1. We sent a note to the judge asking for a clarification on seemingly conflicting information and took our lunch break. when we returned, we received the response from the judge. It was basically "figure it out yourselves."

We were discussed many things but but were moving very slowly to a conclusion. I threw out two logical ways we could end the stalemate: 1) If the one holdout who said one video was not obscene  would change her answer to yes, we could vote not guilty on the others and guilty on only that one; and 2) The fact that we discussed  the issue for several hours and could not come to a consensus on what materials were obscene (Can anyone really decide what is obscene?), that likely means that the bar for "reasonable doubt" was met. Since the defendant was already going to prison for the first two charges, we decided that our lack of agreement justified a not guilty verdict on the third charge. It was a decision that we all could live with. We took our final break, then informed the court officer that we had reached our verdicts.

The final part of court went very quickly. The court officer read the verdicts and we were excused from the court. The judge asked us to return to the jury room as he wanted to speak to us for a few minutes. We went back to the jury room and the judge came in a few minutes later. He thanked us for our service and attention, especially since we had to deal with an unpleasant topic and pictures and videos that we would rather not have seen. He advised us not to feel guilty for what we had decided as the crimes committed were solely the decision of the defendant. We only did our duty in determining the facts of the case.

I was thinking that some of us might stick around to talk for a bit, but everyone seemed to scurry away and begin their weekend a little early. Maybe they felt as I did -- that it had been a long week and they wanted to rid themselves of the muck we were living in the past several days. I headed home.

It is less than 24 hours after the case ended and I still feel very strange. It's a feeling I can't accurately explain. I detested the boredom of the testimony that laid the foundation of the case. I liked my fellow jurors and appreciated that we all had different opinions. I was happy that the defendant never harmed a real little girl, but I felt some sympathy for his just being a pathetic person and especially for his parents. It was awkward seeing the pictures, videos and sex objects publicly with so many people, but I felt some degree of desensitization with it all.

I get to take the rest of today to physically, mentally and emotionally recover from the trial. Tomorrow (Sunday), I will see the band Toto for the first time, and then Monday morning, I head to Las Vegas for a much needed three night stay. A little time with Las Vegas poker and some of my poker friends will hopefully help me get back to feeling normal again. I look forward to that.

Thanks for reading!

Friday, March 15, 2024

Jury Duty Littered with Sex: My Life This Past Week -- Part 1

This past week, I have had most of my daytime hours wrapped up in jury service. I was originally scheduled to serve in January, but my brother-in-law had already scheduled a week-long visit to Arizona then, so I asked that my service be deferred. Strangely enough, a different brother-in-law (and his wife) scheduled a visit for this week, thinking that I likely wouldn't serve on a jury. Ha!

My jury week started on Tuesday morning at 6:00 a.m. After waking and showering, I git dressed and headed from just outside the north side of Phoenix to downtown. There is nothing like running into that morning commute traffic. I had never been to the district court house and had trouble finding the parking garage jurors were to use. Instead of being at the jury meeting room promptly at 8:00 a.m., I slithered in seven minutes late. Fortunately, several more came in after me, and there some delays and problems with video equipment meant that we sat around for an extended time. When the judge for our case was ready for us, we lined up and headed to a court room. There were 37 of us, from whom a jury pool of 13 (12 plus one alternate) would be chosen. I figured that I would probably be one of those excused.

Once the judge began asking us questions, it was apparent that there were several kooks in the group. One guy talked about what a sacrifice it was for him to be there, how he should be excused, and anything else he could say in a negative fashion to make sure that he was excused. After making a total ass of himself, I guess he figured that he needed a little icing on the cake, and explained that he didn't trust the government. Dork. We were alerted that there was a significant sexual component to the trial, as it dealt with an adult who was attempting to have sex with a young girl. Several of the jury pool claimed to be so triggered that they could not be impartial. Some even related their own brief personal stories of being molested when young. There seemed to be a lot of pain in the group.

I had one thing going for me and one against, depending on whether it was from the perspective of the prosecutors or the defense. I had to divulge that my oldest brother was a sheriff in the state for 17 years. However, a point for the other side was scored when I related that I had served on a previous jury  where the defendant was found not guilty. We broke for lunch at noon and were told to report back at 1:00 p.m. Thirteen would be selected for the jury and the rest would be excused and considered to have fulfilled their obligation. I was thinking that my chances were about 50/50 since some people had already been excused and some others were pretty obviously not going to be selected. From the group of 37, I had been juror #2. Therefore, after lunch, the wait was short when the jurors were announced. "The following jurors will be staying: #2, ..." I was now officially juror #1 for the trial. The selected jurors were all seated and sworn in, and the case began immediately. The judge was a former marine and ran a taut courtroom, which we all appreciated.

The prosecution laid out the basic story: a 48-year-old man connected with a 13-year-old girl on Instagram and traveled to Phoenix from another state to have sex with her. There was a chat log of about 700 pages and several pictures and videos that man had sent to the girl -- pictures/videos of his erect penis, of him masturbating, of women performing oral sex on other women, and of women pleasuring themselves. We would see much more of the defendant that we would ever want to see. However, there was one fatal flaw in the man's plan: the 13-year-old girl was actually an adult female FBI agent who had used an age regression app for her photos so that she looked much younger -- like maybe about 13 years old. The defendant was apprehended after he arrived at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport with condoms, vibrators, and other sex articles. A court order stated the following: 

"Defendant is charged with three counts, each of which relate to his attempt to engage in sexual acts with an individual who he believed was a 13-year-old girl: (i) attempted coercion and enticement of a minor in violation of 18 U.S.C. ยง 2422(b), which carries a minimum sentence of 10 years and a
maximum sentence of life; (ii) travel with intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct in
violation of 18 U.S.C. ยง 2423(b) and (f), which carries a maximum sentence of 30 years;
and (iii) attempted transfer of obscene material to a minor in violation of 18 U.S.C. ยง 1470,
which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years."

The defense said in its opening statement that we should keep in mind the following saying: a picture is worth a thousand words. It was clear that they had a strategy to discredit the work of the undercover FBI agent. The prosecution had a few minor witnesses, like someone employed by Meta (Instagram) and a cell phone data extraction expert. But the whole case revolved around the FBI agent who posed as a 13-year-old girl. She was the one who chatted the defendant up and developed almost the entire case. She was on the stand for more than a day.

To be continued ...

Thanks for reading. Part 2 coming soon.