Sunday, August 31, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, August 24, 2014

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Dog Days

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, August 16, 2014

The Gathering: Ten Years After

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, August 10, 2014


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

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

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

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Quickie Life Update

August is traditionally one of the busiest months for me work-wise. While some of you kiddies might have been playing around or on vacation, I have been fighting the good fight. Things will get even busier next week, but then hopefully begin to calm down as we get closer to Labor Day.

Last week, I made another trip to play poker at Par-A-Dice Casino in East Peoria, IL. Cokeboy99 and I arranged to meet there, so it was nice to feel like, for once, I was not totally one of the outsiders there. Cokeboy had a rough night (including getting one-outed by yours truly!), and mine came crashing to a halt after a marathon session.

I waited well over two hours before I got my first pocket pair! One hand with A-K (no help on the flop, of course, and eventually had to fold when my c-bet didn't chase anyone out) and a whole lot of crapola was all I got. My stack was somewhere in between +$150 and -$150 all night. On the final hand I played, I had A-Q and either raised or called a raise -- I don't recall. The flop was 9-A-Q. Relatively new player at the table (who impressed me as being a poor player) raised $25 and was called by a guy who lost earlier, took a break, then came back and had some success. I bumped it up to $100. The new player called, and the other player pushed all in. Only fearing a set of 9's but with less than $100 in front of me anyway, I of course called, as did the new guy. The guy who pushed all in had J-10 for an open-ended straight draw. I never saw what the new guy had (maybe A-9 or A-x?). The turn was an eight ... and no help on the river for poor lightning, who saw a pot of $500+ slip through his fingers.

My wife and I have recently been playing in a weekly trivia night sponsored by a local bar/pizza place. $1.50 PBR bottles and Miller Lite drafts and half price pizzas make for a great night. The first week we played we won two rounds (getting a $10 gift card for each) and finished a respectable 7th out of 19 teams. Not bad, considering we only had four people and the maximum is eight.

Softball-wise, I am having a great season playing in the senior league, where I am one of the young bucks. Heck, I even pinch run sometimes! My fielding has been the best it has been for many years, and my on base percentage (we count walks in with hits instead of using batting average) is .525 after going 5 for 5 this week. Shazam!

Oh -- and I'll leave with a funny work-related note. Yesterday I was in an important meeting with some work bigwigs -- Police Chief, Vice President, Director of Human Resources. I hadn't silenced my phone, so of course I heard my sound that indicated that two text messages were received. Then, the loud music to indicate an incoming call flooded the conference room. I looked down at my phone to see who was calling me. It was ... Tony Bigcharles! Talk about bad timing!

Time to return to work and earn that money that the fuels my exorbitant lifestyle of PBR and Chinese buffets.

Catch ya on the flip flop!

Friday, August 01, 2014

Crazy Hand to End 2014 PokerStars Canada Cup Main Event

Imagine getting to the final table in a big tournament. As the number of remaining players slowly goes down one by one, you see your payday increasing. But … you also know that you must carefully weigh the size of your stack and its fold equity. Take risks and you might bust out, losing the sweet money that goes to the top finishers. However, let you stack get too low and you become the whipping boy of everyone else at the table, increasing your chances that your big move will be called by a big stack with virtually any two cards, putting your tournament life at risk.

All poker players who have known any degree of tournament success have faced some of these decisions. But what would happen if everyone left at the final table put it all on the line?
Check out the video of the final hand of the 2014 PokerStars Canada Cup Main Event that was recently held in Montreal. The players had been playing at the final table for nine hours.  And then … it was time for everyone’s juices  to really start flowing …

So … what do you think? It certainly made sense for Justin Miller, a small stack with 675,000, to move all in and attempt to pick up the pot with K-Q. Amazingly, Vincent Jacques then went all in for 7,490,000 with … A-10? Really? With two players still having action? However, the capper was Ryan Rivers, who tanked and then also went all in with 8-8 with two people ahead of him already putting it all on the line. It would have been reasonable for Rivers to think that he would move up to a minimum of third place money with a fold since Jacques was in good position to knock out Miller and likely had a better hand as evidenced by his all in shove. Even in the best of circumstances, Rivers was probably going up against two players with over cards. How could he possibly make that call?
Of course, with the other players all in, chip leader Robert Notkin obviously joined the party, calling with the second best starting hand in poker. Thankfully for Notkin, he dodged several land mines and won the hand … and the tournament … in an unbelievable four-way all in poker hand. Does tournament poker get any crazier than this?

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