Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Latest in the Never-Ending Saga of Full Tilt Poker

Forbes has published an update on the Full Tilt Poker situation regarding paying back the fools players who played on Tilt before the Black Friday shutdown. As always, there is some good and some bad. Don't start counting that money yet, everyone.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011


'nuff said

Sometimes "One Time" Is Just Not Enough

This past weekend I wrote two posts about the family cat that had gotten lost and then miraculously returned. In the first post, I lamented "So Mother Nature, how about 'one time' for the family? We didn't even get to say goodbye." Not too long after I wrote the post, Ivy magically appeared on our front porch and I reported "Mrs. Lightning made a trip to the emergency vet (cha-ching), who said that Ivy is severely dehydrated and running a fever. She's getting an IV and staying overnight at the clinic (cha-ching), but should be okay."

Happily, Mother Nature did grant me my "one time." Sadly, it looks like Ivy is not going to make it. She did not respond to the hydration and anti-biotics given to her at the emergency clinic. After a screw up with our old, old vet (who we will probably not be using any longer), we took our cat to the new, ritzy vet office in town. My experience has been that these goomers never saw an expensive test they did not like. Mind you, I had already spent an good deal of money for the emergency care. The new vets wanted to run a bunch of tests on Ivy. Already having had experience with this place, I asked my wife to ask how much these tests would cost. I was not surprised to find that the answer was in four figures. Yeah -- no decimal point. They had also talked about the possibility of a feeding tube -- right. We decided it was time to take our baby home.

Unfortunately, the home environment did not seem to help. She is exhibiting classic signs of a cat that senses it is dying. It looks like we will have to carefully check on her, keep her comfortable, and barring any amazing recovery, may have to put her to sleep. It is one of those life lessons that my kids are learning the hard way.

A co-worker who grew up on a farm simply cannot understand. In her life, cats were farm animals who were always living on the brink of disaster in the rural environment and usually did not live long. To this guy who grew up in the suburbs, however, pets were things to be loved and cherished. My family has always had a good number of pets and my kids have certainly developed an affinity with God's furry creatures.

I am thankful, however, that Ivy did return and that we will all be able to say goodbye, painful as that is. At least that is multiple times better than not knowing what happened to her.

Update: My wife wants to consider trying feeding with a syringe or even a feeding tube. Should I grab my ankles?

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Sunday Post Mania #3: Mini Review: Survivor at the 36th Annual Urbana Sweetcorn Festival Aug 27, 2011

Late summer in Illinois brings festivals and weekend celebrations galore across the state. No Hurricane Irene here, baby! A wonderful breezy evening was the perfect setting for 1980's rock legends, Survivor, to play to a crowd of a few thousand revelers.

To back up a little: this is not exactly the Survivor group that had major hits in the 80's, although original guitarist Frankie Sullivan is still the driving force in the band. Founding member Jim Peterik (from the band The Ides of March) is gone, as is original vocalist Dave Bickler, who actually went to high school in my home town, fronted the Jamestown Massacre, and later went on to be the singer in the Budweiser Real Men of Genius commercials. Jimi Jamison, the lead singer through most of the glory years in the 1980's, also is no longer with the band. Drummer Marc Droubay has been with the band for most of its existence.

With all the personnel changes, one might guess that Survivor would not be more than a poor cover band. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the 2011 version of Survivor kicked ass in concert. It was like being back in a concert in 1985.

Current lead singer Robin McAuley sounds an awful lot like Jimi Jamison, and he had the front man antics down pat. The hard-driving guitar sound of the band is still there, and the band seemed to efforlessly go through the Survisor playlist including mega-hits like Eye of the Tiger, I Can't Hold Back, and High on You. They also smoked on Rockin' into the Night, a .38 Special hit that Jim Peterik and Frankie Sullivan co-wrote.

Just to make sure we thought we were in the 1980's, the band did feature a lengthy solo by keyboard player Mitchell Sigman  and a guitar/drum duet by Sullivan and Droubay. All we needed was the smell of ganja in the air.

The band finished its crisp set 80 minutes, sending away a satisfied crowd hoping to secure maybe just one more brew before the festival ended.

Sunday Post Mania #2: A Sad Memory

Sometimes memories come flooding back from the strangest things. We were eating lunch this afternoon when my son remarked that a certain salad dressing was his favorite. I mentioned that I knew a guy that used to scoop huge gobs of sour cream on his salad. Actually, the guy was the father of a friend of mine. Then the flood started ...

Jerry moved into the area when fifth grade started. He was a pretty bright guy and had some of the same interests as me. We quickly became friends, and soon were working on a geography project together. I always had wanted to work with Jerry because his dad was a civil engineer and always "helped" his son with school projects. Shit -- they all looked professionally done. Now I would find out how much Jerry actually did himself. Well, maybe because outside people (me) were involved, Jerry's father did not help with (or do) the project. It looked like crap. I guess we all then knew who really did the work on Jerry's projects.

Anyway, I became close friends with Jerry and went to his house quite often. On the many times when Jerry would disappoint his dad, the dad would haul off and hit Jerry in the back. Hard. Hard enough to make him cry. It sure seemed wrong, but in those days it seemed like there were lots of crazy parents who would discipline their kids in unique ways. Today we would call it child abuse.

I am sure that the family violence had an effect on Jerry. By the time he finished high school he was the biggest sociopath I knew.

I had not thought about this family for several years, but was able to readily find information on them online. Jerry is now an attorney, so if his sociopathic  ways continued he is now in a profession where they would serve him well. His father, now deceased, had a national reputation due to his hobby/side business. It is interesting to read all the great things said about him due to his expertise in his field. Unfortunately for me, I can only remember him as this big guy who beat on his small, skinny, fragile son.

A Strange but Happy Return

It is always darkest before the dawn. Really. Just when you think all is lost ... tada!

Mrs. Lightning and I had just returned from an outdoor festival and Mrs. Lightning was opening a window in the front of the house. She heard a familiar meow, opened the front door, and saw Ivy sitting on a chair on our porch!

Very interesting. Ivy's tags are gone off her collar, but the collar is still there. She had no marks to indicate that she had been in any kind of fight. She was very lethargic, though, and would not eat or drink anything.  So ... Mrs. Lightning made a trip to the emergency vet (cha-ching), who said that Ivy is severely dehydrated and running a fever. She's getting an IV and staying overnight at the clinic (cha-ching), but should be okay.

So ... what happened? We had previously speculated that she might have been caught somewhere and couldn't get free. It looks like that might have been the case. Anyway, we are glad to have her back, but these vet bills are killing me!

The Missing Girl Returns Home

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Family Depression: Come Back Home, Ivy

Although my family made it through the excitement of a new school year starting (it affected four out of five of  us), we are having to cope with something rather unpleasant -- the loss of a family pet.
The lightning household is a regular zoo sometimes when it comes to pets. Dogs, cats, fish, chinchillas, birds, tarantulas -- yes, we've got them. But a very special member of our family has been missing now for over three days -- and I am expecting the worst. I think that our oldest cat, Ivy, will not return.

Although I grew up with a family cat, I never seemed to have trouble with them until my young adult years. I developed a nasty allergy to them and would immediately get a runny nose and watery eyes when coming close to them. Therefore, a family cat was always out of the question.

That changed six years ago when one of my wife's friends stopped over to visit. Although it was months past my wife's birthday, this friend brought over a new kitty from her cat's new litter and said that it was a birthday present for my wife. I was thinkinging "wtf -- who gives live pets as gifts without checking first." She then disappeared out the door before I knew it. Of course, at the time I did not understand that the whole thing had been a setup to get my wife a kitten.

Strangely enough, we found out that my allergic reaction to cats disappeared over the years. Ivy became a new family member.

Although I was not happy about picking up an additional pet and did not like Ivy too much at first, she became fun to play with and left minimal scratches on my hands and arms. I could play rough with her and she could keep up.

She had this bad habit, howevever, of catching bunnies and birds and leaving the bloody entrails in our dining room. Well, we thought, at least she ate in the right room!

In the weeks prior to Black Friday, she would lay on the bed with me as I played online poker tournaments.  She got accustomed to sleeping on my bed during the day and would act indignant when she had to move. I had to give her props for having a personality and showing little fear.

I live in a subdivision that is adjacent to some farm land. It would not be out of the question to think that a fox or coyote might have helped Mother Nature even the score with Ivy. That is what I think happened.

In the meantime, my kids have posted fliers around the neighborhood, we continue to search, and we have put some posts on So Mother Nature, how about "one time" for the family? We didn't even get to say goodbye.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

It Must Really Suck To Be A Woman Sometimes

Two incidents that recently happened to some female friends of mind really gave me pause to think about how sometimes it must really suck to be a woman. No, I am not going to compose some scholarly treatise about gender in society -- as you might guess from this post's title. However, I am reminded that sometimes males just don't have to put up with shit just because we are guys ... and it sure is not right or fair.

Example 1: Very Josie recently wrote about her success in a deepstack tournament at Foxwoods. Now if you have ever played against Josie before, you know that she plays a very aggressive game. Very. She is also a  very good tournament player, which I am sure pissed off some guys she outclassed at the Foxwoods tournament. However, her account of the angles that were shot, the verbal abuse she took, and the general douchebaggery that was directed toward her were waaaaay over the top. That kind of crap would not go on if her name was Joe C, not Josie. Guys might try a little of that against another male, but in general most guys know not to push things too far or face consequences. Unfortunately, size sometimes does matter. If you are a regular size guy or on the big side, your mere physical stature tells other males "beware: you might not want want to fuck with this guy too much." But take a woman like Josie who hovers at just over five feet tall -- bam, it is like open season to take a shot. And another. And unfortunately, it appeares that Foxwoods did a shitty job of keeping the game decent for all players.

Example 2: Angela, a good friend of mine at work, has a heart of gold. Yet, even though she can be loud and is not petite, the fact that she is a woman somehow gave a classless lady the idea that it was okay to take out her frustrations on Angela and physically abuse her. I work in a professional office in a community college, which is usually a very friendly and genteel place. However, this mad woman got upset that Angela was standing where the woman wanted to walk, and she shoved her baby carriage into Angela! So imagine -- a woman with a small baby in the carrier, thinks "screw my kid, I'll ram my carrier into this woman because I am pissed off and she is in my way." I guarantee that this would never happen to a guy.

I sometimes hear about nasty people giving a hard time to the administrative assistants and student workers who are stationed at my department's front desk. Yes, the people who work at the desk tend to be female, so I guess some people, both male and female, think it is okay to blow them shit when they don't get what they want. A couple of years ago, we had a student named Andre working the desk. Andre was very tall and just looked like a guy one would not want to mess with. And virtually no one ever did.

My oldest daughter is an avowed feminist who sees her moderately conservative father as traveling somewhat down the road of misogyny. Of course, like most 19-year olds, she knows all with having only a modicum of life experiences. Please don't show her this post. I have already upset her world by telling her that I switched political parties and am now a Democrat. She just might actually find that life is not always what it appears to be when seen through a different prism.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Casey Anthony Back In Florida: Lawyer

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) -- Casey Anthony has returned to Florida.

Speaking Sunday on Fox News' "Geraldo at Large," Anthony's attorney, Jose Baez, said she's in Florida and will report to a probation office in Orlando to start probation if an appeal fails.

"We are going to follow the law wherever the courts follow the law and I am certain she will do what's asked of her if necessary and hopefully it won't come to that," Baez said.

Circuit Judge Stan Strickland sentenced Anthony to a year of probation in January 2010 after she pleaded guilty to stealing checks from a friend. At the time, Strickland said Anthony should serve the probation upon her release, but those instructions never made it into a written order. Corrections officials interpreted the sentence to mean Anthony could serve the probation while she was in jail awaiting her murder trial, where she was acquitted in the death of her 2-year-old daughter, Caylee.

Hmmm ... Neo, any extra room at the inn for me? Muhahahahahaha ...

My Italian Weekend

Have you ever had a weekend that, strangely enough, seemed to have a theme running through it? I certainly did this weekend -- my Italian weekend.

First off, let me tell you a little of my ethnic background. I was born in the USA, my parents were born in the USA, but their parents came from the "old country," as just about anywhere in Europe was called. I have a mixed European background -- Irish, German, Austrian, Bohemian, French. You will notice, however, that I did not mention Italy. The only Italian family member of whom I am aware was my Uncle Benny (Bettino LaMantia -- how is that for an Italian name?), who married into the family. Someday I will have to write a post about Uncle Benny's words of wisdom, but for now, let's just say that there is very little Italian in the Lightning family tree.

Friday set the tone as Mrs. Lightning received a booklet from the local adult education office, listing some workshops for the fall. We talked about attending a cooking class led by our friend Carlo, who is about as Italian as you can get. We had come to know Carlo through a friend who attended one of his classes, and then became a part of a monthy Italian Dinner Club. Along the way Mrs. Lightning got invited, and for a few years now we have been regulars at the Italian Dinner Club gatherings.

Saturday's big news was that our favorite Italian blogger, Very Josie, went deep (natch!) in a Foxwoods deep stack toureny. Yea Joe C! And of course, that night -- Carlo's annual picnic at his home with our Italian Dinner Club friends. But the weekend wasn't over yet.

On Sunday, I made what had now become a regular trip up north to my "home" poker room at Harrah's Horseshoe Hammond. There are a couple of poker rooms closer, but The Shoe has the best poker action in the Chicago area. On the trip up (just over two hours -- some "home" room, huh?) I decided to give Josie a call to congratulate her and also wish her a happy birthday. When I got her voicemail, I left a message that started, "Get your lazy Italian ass up." I figured that she was still sleeping after her deep run at Foxwoods the night before. I did get to speak with her in the afternoon as I was donking away the profit I had made earlier in the day.

Before I headed for home, I stopped for dinner at the Harrah's buffet. There was a long line and seating was slow, so when ready to be seated I got a shout out from a woman who was also eating alone, asking me if I wanted to share a table so we could get seated sooner. It sounded good to me, as I was starving. There were few people at the Italian food station, so I grabbed some pizza and Italian sausage and brought it back to the table to chow down. My companion said "I noticed you went for the Italian." Knowing a statement like this could only give hope to a certain blogger, I told her that I did so because it was readily available. I am chuckling as I write this!

After stuffing myself with prime rib and chocolate mousse, I hopped in the car to make the evening two-hour return trip. I had the stereo blasting to help keep me awake, and just as I was about to get off the interstate a couple of miles from home, the oldies station played a great classic by The Outfield. As my long trip and what seemed to be a long weekend was about to end, I sang along with the familiar lyrics: "Josie's on a vacation far away ..."

Happy birthday Joe C!

NOTE: Disclaimer ... in the words of Senator Geary in The Godfather:

Senator Geary: Uh, Mr. Chairman, I would like to verify the witness's statement. For years now a growing number of my constituents have been of Italian decent, and I've come to know them well. They have honored me with their support and with their friendship. Indeed, I can proudly say that some of my very best friends are Italian-Americans. However, Mr. Chairman, at this time, very unfortunately, I have to leave these proceedings in order to preside over a very important committee, my own committee. But before I leave I do want to say this: that these hearings on the Mafia are in no way whatsoever a slur upon the great Italian people. Because I can state from my own knowledge and experience that Italian-Americans are among the most loyal, most law-abiding, patriotic, hard working American citizens in this land. And it would be a shame, Mr. Chairman, if we allowed a few rotten apples to give a bad name to the whole barrel. Because from the time of the great Christopher Columbus up through the time of Enrico Fermi right up until the present day, Italian-Americans have been pioneers in building and defending our great nation. They are the salt of the earth, and they're one of the backbones of this country.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Lick

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.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Girah, Online Poker, and the WSOP Circuit

Although the world of online poker has been relatively quiet in the USA since Black Friday, the latest online poker scandal, involving Jose "Girah" Macedo, the "Portuguese poker prodigy," has been fascinating. If we thought the the Ultimate Bet superuser cheating was interesting, how about a low tech version of it?

Online poker players are quite interesting regarding their views on honesty and honor. Considering that we play a game where the goal is to take the other person's money, there is really a high degree of trust and respect in many circles. Money is throw about in a way that is foreign to most people in everyday life, yet the degree of trust seems to be higher, even in a world where it is so easy to hide behide computers and the internet. We honestly seem surprised on occasions when we are stung by fellow players -- particularly when the scamming involves people with big reputations with little (comparitively) to win and everything to lose.

Of course, with the regulation of online poker an international joke and with so many of the top online players being young and living in this fantasy world of ridiculous riches, what is to stop the temptations of scamming with virtually no consequences? In the "real world," this type of behavior gets you time in jail ... or dead.

With Black Friday now over four months in the rearview mirror, I find that I miss online poker very little. I had already begun to decrease my time playing online before the roof caved in, playing mostly private tournaments against friends. People with full time jobs, spouses, and kids  ofttimes run into a wall when playing too much. There are only so many hours in a day.

All is not lost between poker and this player, however. The lack on online poker has forced me to take several road trips and hit the brick and mortar poker rooms. I am happy to report that the results have been positive and I have been having a blast.

With the 2011 WSOP now history -- except for the Main Event final table, of course -- I am looking forward to playing in a couple of WSOP Circuit events at the Horseshoe Hammond and/or Horseshoe Southern Indiana. Both these sites have exceptional poker rooms. I have played a few circuit events in the past and have found them, as expected, to be extremely well run. However, I have been playing mostly cash games over the past several months, and my questionable tournament skills are a tad rusty. Maybe I should seek out some coaching from Very Josie?

Friday, August 12, 2011

Rockin' The Diamonds at the Georgetown Fair

In some previous posts I had mentioned one of my softball buddies and home game poker players who is a professional singer. His group, The Diamonds (the current version of the 1950's group), had a gig close by at the Georgetown Fair in central Illinois. Naturally, this was a great opportunity to have a fun night out and see one of my friends in action.

If you are a fan of 1950's music, The Diamonds are definitely group to see. They played for almost two hours, covering top hits by many artists from long ago. There was plenty of loose banter between songs, as the evening was meant to be a fun celebration of the past.

I had told my friend Bob that during the show I was going to yell out "We love you, Bobby," but Mrs. Lightning beat me to the punch. He he -- nothing like razzing your friends in public.

For me, the highlight of the evening came at the final song. A few days prior, our softball team played its final game of the season. After the game, several players and their families retreated to a local pizza joint for some food and drink. After having a few frosty ones, I became my usual obnoxious self and started telling Bob that I wanted to sing his beginning to The Diamonds' monster hit, Little Darlin'. Having no shame and singing with my best high voice, I belted out the beginning to Little Darlin ' : "Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa Ya-ya-ya yaaaaaaaaaaa Ya-ya-yaaaaaaaaaaa-aaaah ... Mrs. Lightning was not flustered, knowing that I actively seek out opportunities to display my terrible singing voice. Of course, for me it was a blast.

Anyway, just as Bob, the group's tenor,  was getting ready to belt out the opening to Little' Darlin, he grabbed the microphone and said "This is just for you, John" and started with the Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaa ya-ya-ya yaaaaaaaaaaa ...

Yessssssssssssssssss!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  It was a fun night!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Concert for Bangladesh : August 1, 1971

You’re watching 'Bangla Desh' (Live). See the Web's top videos on AOL Video

Forty years ago (August 1, 1971), two seminal rock concerts were held at Madison Square Garden to provide relief for the starving people of Bangladesh. The concerts, organized by then recent ex-Beatle George Harrison, brought together an all-star cast of musicians including Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan, Billy Preston, Ringo Starr, Leon Russell, Ravi Shankar, Klaus Voormann, and Badfinger.

Although riddled with financial issues, the concert and subsequent album sales and movie receipts raised millions of dollars and provided a beginning for future musical benefits such as Live Aid and Farm Aid.

The concert only cemented George Harrison's status as an ultimate hero to young, impressionable rock fans like me. Now, almost ten years after his death, the effect is still felt.

Monday, August 08, 2011

A Midwest Kind of Weekend

In this past loooong weekend which started Friday afternoon and ended late this afternoon, I was surprised at my hours spent in a car (roughly 24) and the unintended romp through several Midwestern states (Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Iowa ...and just a stone's throw from Michigan). It included visits to two casinos, a stop at a major health care center, Indian food, and a sampling of Mediterranean food. The weekend ended with a softball game and pizza and beer afterwards.

Work? Tomorrow? Do I have to?

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Saturday Wrap Up

Blue Chip Casino

I made my first trip to the Blue Chip Casino in Michigan City, IN today. I was looking forward to playing in its poker room, but ... there was no one playing! I was quite shocked to see only two Blue Chip employees in the room on an early Saturday afternoon. Quite disappointing.

I played some slots and hung around for awhile with my brother, but franky, there was nothing special in this casino to keep us there. It is not very big and was too smokey for my tastes. It is part of the Boyd Gaming properties, places I usually do not frequent.

Horseshoe Hammond

We decided to bypass the Majestic Star Casino in Gary, IN and went straight to my favorite non-Las Vegas poker room, Harrah's Horseshoe Hammond. I only had a short wait as a new table was ready to open shortly after I got on the waiting list.

The play was predictable -- less than stellar. I had to settle for only doubling my buy-in as a streak of poor cards kept me on the sidelines most of my last hour of play. Unfortunately, we could not stay very long since I still had several hours of driving that night and a long trip the next day. I was hoping to meet The Poker Meister at The Shoe, but we missed each other by 2 1/2 hours. I can't wait to hear how he did.

Friday, August 05, 2011

Water Water Everywhere & Saturday Indiana Casino and Poker Room Romp

The Water ...

I wish I could say that yesterday was a lovingly boring day and today I am already far into weekend mode. That is not the case, however, as my dreaded enemy, water, once again chose to do battle with me.

If there was ever any final confirmation we needed that the outdoor drainage problems in our subdivision extended to us, we now have it. We had a water disaster that came in through a main floor toilet and then soaked areas of our basement, particularly our storage room. I had to take the afternoon off work to help with recovery efforts. While we were fortunate to have probably lost a minimum of items to the water damage, it did make for a somewhat nasty afternoon of cleaning. Our backyard looked like an oceanfront beach with towel after towel after towel stretched out on the lawn to dry. Today we are mostly depending on a dehumidifier and a fan to begin bringing our basement back to normal.  Good news: no damage to my poker table.

The Poker Rooms ...

I am heading up to the Chicago suburbs tonight and plan to visit one, two, or three Indiana casinos with my brother on Saturday. Hey Ken P -- watch out for Illinois guys invading your turf! The casinos are the Blue Chip Casino in Michigan City, the Majestic Star in Gary, and Horseshoe Hammond. There is an outside chance that I will get to meet The Poker Meister while he is visiting relatives in the area, but it appears that our schedules might not match up. Can Horseshoe Hammond handle both me and the PM on the same day?

I hope your weekend is dry. Dry is good. Always.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Thank Goodness No One Was in the Car with Me Tonight

No, I was not speeding down a crowded street, smashing up cars, mowing down pedestrians. It was much worse -- I had an oldies station on during a pizza run and I was singing full throttle. The damage:

Soon you will come to know   When the bullet hits the bone...

Hey now, hey now    Don't dream it's over ...

I found the simple life    Ain't so simple ...

Well heck -- I liked it ...