Friday, September 30, 2011

lightning36's Weekend Report

Ivy, the Cat That Was Near Death
You probably remember that I wrote a few posts about Ivy, the family cat that disappeared for three days and returned close to death. Although I sprung for some medical costs for having her go to the emergency vet clinic, I balked when our regular vet wanted to do additional testing that would run four figures (yes – four figures just for some additional tests – not including other tests, appointments, examinations, medications, etc). Instead, my wife did some force feeding, force hydration, and some subcutaneous fluid injections. The results – bingo! Ivy slowly recovered and seems to have gotten almost all the way back. All the family is very happy at the way things turned out.

My Recovery
I am now 15 days past my mild heart attack. I continue to toe the line in terms of eating, drinking, and exercising. The results so far are that I feel very good and have already lost eight pounds from the maximum weight I hit right before the attack. Looking back, I can see some things very clearly now, like how I was feeling pretty crappy the two weeks before the attack. I did not realize how bad I had gotten regarding simple things like getting winded from walking. I plan on continuing the current regimen so that I will hopefully lose several more pounds and get back to where I was several years ago. So yes, things are looking and feeling good right now.

I am traveling to Harrah’s Southern Indiana next week to spend a few days relaxing, playing some cash games, and playing in the Seniors No Limit Hold ‘em non-ring event at the WSOP Circuit event there on Wednesday, October 5. I am tempted to play one of the regular ring events, but I feel like my tournament play is rusty due to the lack of tournament play after Black Friday. Memphis MOJO set the bar pretty damn high for playing in seniors events this past summer at the WSOP in Las Vegas, so I know that a deep run is required to keep up. Wish me luck!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Goodbye, Ozzie

Thanks for the World Series championship, but it is time for you to go. Best of luck.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

One Week Later

What are things like one week later? I plan on returning to work for a few hours tomorrow. This should not be a bad segue back to the real world. I have been off all this week -- which I am glad I did.

I have been surprised at my body's reaction to exercising. It has actually been better than I expected. The blockage I'd had effected me more than I realized.

My stomach has to wonder what bizarro world it has entered. I have kept a strict watch on what I have been eating -- low fat, low sodium, all wholesome food consisting of mostly vegetables and fruit. No red meat. No junk food. And it hasn't been bad ... yet!

Thanks to all my online poker buds who left kind messages on my blog and in chat forums, called, or otherwise offered their support. It has been much appreciated.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

What Is Really Sad About Full Tilt Poker

The latest Full Tilt Poker disaster story has now exploded across the world's media: radio, television, newspapers and soon magazines, and the internet . I am imagine that you and other poker players have been like me, handling inquiries from non-poker playing friends wondering what the heck is going on.
In yesterday's post I listed three links for some of the best sources for news. For the best reaction and blogger analysis, however, I recommend reading today's post at Hammer Player's Poker Blog.

Four months ago, I posted a personal update of my online poker inaction a month after Black Friday. I have read several blogger reports of the latest DOJ actions, and many poker bloggers have mentioned the really sad thing about this (aside from the fact that millions of dollars were purportedly ripped off by some of the biggest names in the poker business): playing at Full Tilt Poker was fun.

I originally played at probably over thirty poker sites in the good ol' days (pre-safe Port Act passage and the freezing of  Neteller funds) before playing my first game at Full Tilt Poker. Yeah -- the cute little icons at Full Tilt made playing there a little more fun.

Over the years, poker blogger tournaments -- at least for the informal blogging network to which I belonged -- almost all gravitated toward Full Tilt. While people complained about the customer service (really the lack of it) at Tilt, withdrawing money never seemed to be a problem. Full Tilt seemed to be the bloggers' friend, occasionally adding in money and tournament entries to our games. Once blogger AlCantHang became employed by Full Tilt, the cashish got even better. WSOP buy-ins, food at the annual blogger gathering, swag -- yes, Full Tilt Poker was okay by me. Some more cynical derided Full Tilt's efforts, claiming that we were "owed" much more because of the cheap advertising Tilt received. Heck, I was just happy to get the freebies, which were all just bonuses in my book. Full Tilt paid for my first WSOP buy-in from a freeroll, so who was I to complain?

Now, however, seeing and hearing how the everyday player at Full Tilt has taken it up the butt from the head honchos there, I just feel sad. I guess it is sort of like finding out that this friend you thought was one of your good buds ended up being a dick and was never really your friend in the first place. You just got played. And that is regrettable.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Latest Full Tilt Poker News: Howard Lederer, Chris Ferguson, and Rafe Furst Added to DOJ Complaint; Full Tilt Called Giant Ponzi Scheme

Holy crap -- the shit is really hitting the fan now for Howard Lederer, Jesus Ferguson, and Rafe Furst. Links to the most recent news:

Although I had always been optimistic that players would eventually see their money, I now doubt it.

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Aftermath

I am now over three days past my heart procedure and it is time to plan for the future. That includes making some doctor appointments and signing up for a cardiac rehab program. Additionally, it is time for some change in dietary habits.

I grew up a skinny kid in a family that had all thin children. I was always quite active in the early years, and, going to a small high school, was able to participate in sports such as cross country, track, basketball, and baseball. I always ate like a horse but that was never a problem due to all my activities.

Things changed in college, however. I had the same appetite but my level of activity decreased. As a result, for the first time in my life I was no longer the thin guy, putting on excess pounds that I had never seen before. Things changed again in my senior year. I was halfway through my senior year and had just broken up with my long-time girlfriend. I looked at myself in a mirror and did not like what I saw: a bloated guy with longish hair and a mangy beard who was destined never to have a date again. I was determined to turn things around. So ... I immediately changed my eating habits, substituting in massive amounts of vegetables for all the other stuff I was eating. Although I lived in a fraternity house where drinking went on 24/7, I switched my drink of choice to diet grapefruit juice. I exercised in my room every day.

It seemed to take awhile, but one day the pounds just seemed to start melting away. I looked good and was able to keep the pounds off through the poor, grad student years.

At the start of my professional career I was heavily involved in sports -- basketball, volleyball, indoor soccer, broomball, softball. For a part-time job I served as the intramural sports director at my school. Hell, I even taught P.E. classes.

The past twenty years or so (coinciding with the birth of children) saw me slide down a slippery slope. More responsibility at home and on the job. Less activity. More bad eating habits. About every five years I would see my "standard weight" jump up a little. What happened to me last weekend should not be such a surprise. I guess the surprise is that we always think that those type of things happen to other people, not us.

So ... what to do? Although my cardiologist is not an extremist but an advocate for living a healthy lifesytle with reasonable choices, I believe that what works best for me is more like what I did my senior year in college -- extreme turnaround. This will be a test of willpower as I give up the familiar things that are bad for me and get back to some healthier choices.

It is less than twelve weeks until the WPBT -- the big gathering for poker bloggers that is held each December in Las Vegas. My hope is that everyone will see a new, improved (yeah -- I guess it is possible) version of lightning36. That is my goal -- realistic and doable. I have already begun. Time to get serious.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Wake-Up Call

We have heard this term before -- The Wake-Up Call. I just got mine Thursday. I had a mild heart attack.

I feel very fortunate that The Man Upstairs saw fit to give me this warning and let me off the hook with minimal damage. Bad habits acquired over a long time period and lack of effort in decreasing my risks put me in that position. I guess that I, like others, had this faulty view that it could not happen to me. Well, it did.

As poker players, we know that the difference between winning and losing sometimes is due to chance -- the luck of the draw. This past Monday I took a 650-mile trip, taking me through mile after mile of beautiful rural southern Illinois. What if this problem surfaced then? Fortunately, I was in town on Thursday and sought help pretty quickly when it appeared that the problem might be more severe that I originally thought.

I went to the emergency room of a local hospital, where they ran a bunch of tests. The EKGs all came back as normal, but one test result on heart enzymes showed a little elevation and they thought it best to keep me overnight for observation. The succeeding enzyme tests during the night showed more elevated levels, and combined with my symptoms, led the cardiac specialist to tell me in the early morning that he was 100% convinced that I had a mild heart attack. He was ready to do a coronary angiogram, and off I went.

I will spare you the details, but will tell you that after a successful procedure yesterday morning I am home recovering today. I will have to invest some time in follow-up doctor appointments, take a bunch of pills, and change my eating and exercise habits, but these are things I can do and will do to put myself back to where I need to be health-wise.

If there was anything really positive to come out of all this, it was that my groin got looked at by more young, beautiful women than at any time since my 20s. Yeah -- the word  incorrigible has been used more than once in describing me. I hope it will be used for many, many more healthy years to come.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

lightning36's One-day Adventure

The weather was nice and the circumstances were right, so I did decide to make a one-day road trip to southern Illinois and St. Louis to visit two Harrah's casinos just to spend a relaxing day on the road and to take part in Harrah's Great Race to Rewards.

Anyone who knows me well knows that mornings are not my key time of day, so despite efforts to leave early, I did not begin the trip until somewhere around 9:30 am. I had not been on the road very long before I got a call from jamyhawk. I had been hoping to meet up with him in St. Louis, but things were just not going to work out today. Bummer.

I lived for three years in Effingham, IL. Effingham bills itself as the "Crossroads of Opportunity,"  a play on its status of being the intersection of Interstates 57 and 70, along with other state highways and railroads. If you have ever been past Effingham on I-57, you know that you will drive past the huge cross which is billed as the largest free-standing cross in the world (disputed).

After driving through tons of construction areas, I finally got into the beautiful southern tip of Illinois, famous for the Shawnee National Forest. Soon I was at destination number one -- Metropolis, IL, home of Harrah's Metropolis riverboat.

Harrah's Metropolis is an older riverboat, opening in 1994. The original owner was Merv Griffin, who had a number of "interesting" casino interests and purchases around that time -- including one in which Donald Trump fleeced him.

The casino sits on the Ohio river, right across from Paducah, KY.

The casino itself is not really big. It does have four floors, although it appears that the top floor has no gambling. The poker room is small, and as expected, was empty on an early Monday afternoon. I am still not sure whether or not it only operates Thursday-Sunday, but I believe this to be the case. For the slot junkies: no luck on Goldfish, but excellent luck on Silk Kimonos. I was actually tempted to stay for a little longer on Silk Kimonos, but I thought it wise to leave while still ahead.

Of course, you may also know that Metropolis is the home of ... Superman! Well at least this small own is the self-proclaimed home of Superman and holds an official festival every year. And if you didn't believe that this is the real home of Superman ...

... the giant statue on Superman Square!

And ... it was back on the road again to now double back the previous 90 miles to then head west toward St. Louis.

One always gets a good feeling when seeing that familiar St Louis landmark, The Arch.

As I learned this trip, taking pictures out of windows while driving through construction areas is definitely a challenge I do not recommend.

I finally arrived at Harrah's St. Louis, which is really in Maryland Heights, just outside St Louis to the west.

The poker room had two $1/2 NL tables going, one Limit table, and a wild Omaha table that saw some massive pots being shipped all-in preflop. Nah -- I'll stick with Hold Em.

I was not particularly impressed with the casual manner in which the room was run. I had heard that there are a lot of locals who play here, and I felt a little out of place. I did get seated after waiting about 30-45 minutes. Management seemed hesitant to open another table with a tournament on tap for the evening.

Unfortunately, I received virtually no cards and only got a little action on the two times I got pocket Kings. Other than that -- zilch. This was too bad as the table was beatable, as evidence by three guys who made poor calls/bets for their stacks. The overall play was good, but I was surprised it was not busier. The next time I am in St. Louis I will check out some of the other poker rooms in town.

The trip home would seem long after a long day, but the roads were empty and the radio music was good, making the final leg better than expected. Unfortunately, I decided to not attempt a final photo while driving in the darkness. If so, I would have snapped a picture of one of my favorite signs which warns one of the exit for Pontoon Beach. Why this? Well, for years and years my wife and I have had a private joke that whenever we passed the sign, I would say "Hey -- Poontang Beach. Let's go there!" So, even though it was a tad late at night, I had to call home to inform my wife. I am sure she appreciated it! And yes -- I may get older, but I will never grow up.

I pulled into my driveway in the early morning hours. Nothing like a little 650 mile day trip to remind you that life exists outside the little routines and ruts we sometimes let ourselves get into.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Road Trip

I was originally planning to spend several days at Harrah's Southern Indiana this week, but decided instead to test out my car's new brake job with a little more extended driving. Barring any last-minute changes, my first stop will be straight south to Harrah's Metropolis (IL), a tiny little riverboat that I have not been on for years. This casino has a small poker room, I hear, but the information online makes it sound like it is only open Thursday through Sunday. I have read that it spreads a $2/5 NL game that is loose and wild, but I doubt I will see any action at the time I get there.

Should the spirit still move me, I then plan on heading northwest to Harrah's St. Louis. I played poker there once before (flopping a boat on the first hand and having someone push all in is not bad!), but that was maybe two years ago?

Inspired by photbugs Memphis MOJO and OhCaptain, I am bringing a camera along with me just in case I see anything that fits into the strange but true category. Report to follow ...

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Chicago Bears 30 Atlanta Falcons 12

Chicago Bears football was back big time today as the home team Bears stuffed the Atlanta Falcons 30-12 in their opener. Key turnovers, big games by Jay Cutler, Matt Forte, and Brian Urlacher, and great play by the defense, offense, and special teams made for a relatively easy Bears win over a tough Falcons team.

This was the first step in determining whether the Bears will be contenders or pretenders in 2011. The next two games against the New Orleans Saints and Green Bay Packers will give us some idea of what the Bears really are this season.

Friday, September 09, 2011

Mini Review: Happy Together Tour 2011 at the Effingham (IL) Performance Center

Being a huge fan of 1960's pop music, I snatched a four pack of tickets to the Happy Together Tour 2011 concert at the Effingham (IL) Performance Center shortly after tickets went on sale. So ... with my wife and two friends from our Italian dinner club, I headed down Interstate 57 on August 25 to Effingham, a town where I had lived for three years many moons ago. It was time well spent.

I would post a blow by blow description of the concert, but a review of the current tour's stop in New Jersey sounded almost exactly like what I would have written. Instead, I will focus on a few of my personal insights.

As you might guess, the crowd was rather ... mature. I saw a few youngsters in the 20's, but this tour is really designed to attract people in their 50's, 60's, and beyond. Needless to say, I saw more concert attendees with oxygen tanks than I had ever seen at any concert before!

The first act to take the stage was The Buckinghams ... er, at least the 2011 version of The Buckinghams. Actually, they consisted of original members Carl Giammarese and Nick Fortuna. Unfortunately, former lead singer Dennis Tufano is no longer with the band, and years ago Giammarese stepped in to sing the lead vocals. Unfortunately, as much as I love Chicago area 1960's bands like The Buckinghams, the sound is not the same without Tufano. I did not like the fact that Giammarese sings the songs cabaret fashion and seems to have an affinity for back phrasing.

Next up was The Grass Roots. I wrote a post six weeks ago about the passing of Rob Grill, the long-time lead singer of the band. Current bass player and lead singer Mark Dawson is actually pretty good in filling Grill's role, but without Grill the band is, well ... what it is. Long-time guitar player Dusty Hanvey played his heart out, but the glory days when Grill and a cadre of decent singers and musicians (Creed Bratton, Terry Furlong, Brian Naughton, and Dennis Provisor) were The Grass Roots are long gone.

The Association, featuring Larry Ramos, Jim Yester, and Russ Giguere, took the stage, looking like angels that came down from heaven, dressed in their all white outfits. Although their harmonies were a bit rough at times, it was a thrill to hear classics such as Cherish, Windy, Along Comes Mary, Never My Love, and Everything That Touches You. However, they also did a kick-ass version of California Dreamin'. Yes -- the show finally started picking up!

Mark Lindsay, former lead singer of Paul Revere and the Raiders, showed what an unbelievable amount of energy -- and flexibility -- is possible at the ripe old age of 69. He was thinner than I expected and was actually able to kick above his head. Lindsay tore through some Raiders songs and some of his solo material, covering hits like Hungry, Kicks, Arizona, and Indian Reservation. I need to find out what this guy did to take care of his body!

The final act was The Turtles -- Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan. Volman's long, wiry hair made him appear much younger than he is. But sheesh --  I would never have recognized Howard Kaylan. The Turtles bring a really light hearted approach to their performances (could anyone sing Elenor with a straight face?) and were the perfect group to bring the show close to the end. It is amazing how the song Happy Together is totally ageless.

The show ended with all the performers returning to sing a short snippet of one of their biggest hits with the others providing background and harmony. It was a fitting end to a show that brought back many good memories of a time when pop music was relatively innocent at the same time that our country was embroiled in an awful war.

Friday, September 02, 2011

A Straw Bale Garden

Very Josie asked to see a picture of a straw bale garden. This is a picture my wife took last year. It has been great for producing lettuce, cabbage, tomatoes, peppers, green beans, peas, cucumbers, zucchini, canteloupe, and watermelons. The care is pretty easy. Of course, it is not like I had anything to do with it!

Holiday Weekend Update

Woo hoo -- we are almost at the Labor Day holiday weekend here in the USA. Hopefully many of you will be enjoying a day off Monday as I will.

My brother Jim, who I have sometimes mentioned in this blog (King of Komps), has a birthday tomorrow. I'm driving up to suburban Chicago to go out to lunch with my brother and my mom, then maybe out to Harrah's Joliet, where I am sure I would wander down near the poker room.

Cat news -- Ivy is at home and still alive. She is being fed food and water every day via syringe. She looks a little better, but at some point she needs to start eating and drinking by herself. I hope that day is soon.

Tonight I am going to see if I can catch one of my neighbors who is a board member of my homeowners association. It seems that we received a letter from the association's attorneys, requesting that we move the straw bales from our back yard because they would be a place that would harbor rodents. The bales, by the way, are my wife's straw garden, which has been up for about 16 months! How nice that our association, which talks about our "friendly neighborhood," wasted money and went to attorneys instead of, say, speaking to us or sending a a letter if they thought something was amiss? We like our house, but hate the neighborhood. It is the most unfriendly place in which I have ever lived.

If I play some poker at Harrah's Joliet I will be sure to post a report. The last time I played there I hit some big hands and walked away a happy man. It would be nice to have a repeat performance.

Happy Labor Day!