Friday, December 25, 2009

December Truckin’

December 2009, Vol. 8, Issue 12
1. Stiff Santa by Paul McGuire
The Beverly Center had one strict rule -- never under any circumstances remove the bunny head in public. That would mortify young children. Josh turned to Ritalin to solve his problems... More
2. Christmas Money for Misty by Johnny Hughes
Misty laid her best story on Sam, her road story. She was temporarily broke, like most casino folks, but she was to inherit the historic Morgan Ranch, 473 oil wells, 47,000 acres, and a bunch of cows in the Texas panhandle... More
3. The Hobby by Milton Burton
The driver himself was a small-time coke pusher and wannabe heavy metal musician named Ronnie DeLoach who would never make it big, partly because he was void of any real musical talent. But mostly this sad fact could be attributed to his very limited life span... More
4. Dick-Hole, Part II by Bobby Bracelet
Most guys will yank it twenty times a week but they won't feel their balls for lumps. I see it all the time... More
5. Absence of Fear by George Tate
The turns became hard to handle and Gatlin knew it wouldn't take much to be over a guard rail and down the side on his back, load, tractor, and all. He suddenly cleared his mind and focused on the words, "Turn off the engine, that's it."... More

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Threads

Sometimes, things just happen.  I’ve gotten too old to let my ignorance as to why bother me.  Then again they can be such little things that suddenly become very important to someone else.  Thankfully, this time it appears to be a good thing.

What the heck am I writing about.  This morning I get a Tweet from my buddy Falstaff.  He is trying to build a writing career and is really still in the startup phase.  Not the writing part, the career part.  Instead of just spamming everyone he knows or directly begging for money, he asked everyone who got the tweet to “Email someone that you think would like my writing and give them a link to this site.”  Since this was a great idea and I generally want to support his writing, I decided to help him out and send the email.

I don’t know many people who I would describe as touchy-feely in a poetic sense, but I thought my friend LB (who also happens to be my ex-wife) might just fit the bill.  So I fired off an email and went on with the day.

After a little bit of audio work and computer work and Christmas shopping I return to my email to find a couple of mails from LB.  To paraphrase it in short, it read – “Our friend MI’s boyfriend BS found someone else and is moving out.  MI’s chemo is having some bad side effects.  I couldn’t afford a ticket to be with her.  I told mutual friend WB who sent a ticket, no questions asked.  I’ll move back to CLT as soon as a job opens up.  My boyfriend CH won’t move to NC, but I need to be there.  I’ll be with MI Christmas day. I was so happy to hear from you.  See you soon.”

Wow!  If there was ever a year when I was just going through the motions of Christmas, this would be that year.  But when you see the kindness and selflessness of folks like LB and WB and the rough times that befall nice folks like MI, it both restores and calls to action.  People really aren’t as bad as I’ve been feeling that they are (BS may be an exception).  There really are more good ones than bad ones.

So from a simple favor I get so much in return.  That is likely not to be the end of that story.  Now I have to figure out just how I can help.  It would be good to help out to bridge the gap until LB can get to town.  We’ll see what the season will bring.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

New Podcast

New episode of the Gambling Tales Podcast is now available: http://gtpodcast.com/.  Enjoy.  Please send feedback to gtpodcast@live.com.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

In the middle of a blogger weekend

Who knew it got foggy in Las Vegas?  It’s really not foggy, outside anyway.  The time rushing by certainly make this weekend a blur.

This is the December weekend when friends we call the poker bloggers descend on Vegas to hug, drink, talk, and gamble a bit.  I scheduled this trip for myself back in the August heat of Iraq as a present to myself.  Of course, Dr. K has been great about allowing/encouraging this trip, so at least half of the gift is from her.

The trip out was smooth.  I had a first-class upgrade on US Airways, so the booze started flowing before we left the ground.  After 4 more mini-bottles of of tequila and a nap (go figure), we touched down in Vegas.  First stop after check-in, the MGM poker room and the first of several monetary losses playing hold’em.

Next came the Geisha Bar at the Imperial Palace and the gathering of friends, both old and new.  Of course Falstaff found his bachelor party level of  intoxication and seemed to enjoy every bit of it.  Dr. Dave Schwartz came by and chatted for over an hour.  What a great, fun, nice, smart guy.  It was a pleasure to let Falstaff buy him a drink or two. :) 

A big shocker was the attendance of Mrs. GCox.  I knew (and still very much regret) that GCox would not be attending, so it really didn’t register when I saw the Mrs.  My mind told itself “she looks an awful lot like Mrs. GCox.”  It wasn’t until later that she came back around and we had a great talk.  The GCox’s are some of the finest people I know and a always come away from visiting with them richer for that time.

Yesterday brought a visit to the Neon Boneyard.  Here is an areal view:

It’s a little hard to see on the small view, The lots full of old vegas signage are on either side of E. McWilliams Avenue in the center of the map.  In the lower lot is a clear view of the old skull sign from the Treasure Island.  This was a great time and well worth the 2 hours and cold temperatures.

Here are a few pictures of the Neon Boneyard from ground level:

PIC_0016

PIC_0018

PIC_0021

My trip report on the second half of the weekend coming soon.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Hard Rock Poker Lounge Rocks

This weekend’s blogger gathering was hosted last night at the Hard Rock Poker Room for cash games of hold’em and omaha.  Pokerati in Chief Dan Michalski hosted the event.  It was a great event in every way.  The Hard Rock Poker Lounge is a nice facility.  It has all I like in a poker room: Lot’s of room, comfy chairs, compentent dealers, and “knock your socks off hot” waitresses.  The room added an extra gift of comping the dinners of all of the poker bloggers.

The evening also give my a great opportunity to get to know several bloggers that I’ve read, but not gotten to know.  Poker Peeker Dan, Jordan, CK/BWOP, and an excellent poker player named Alanna all came by to sling the cards.  I also got to talk to a most interesting book-maker/actor/producer from Birmingham England named Ian.  He was great fun and agreed to do an interview on a future episode of the Gambling Tales Podcast.  It will be a good one.

Thanks again to the gracious hosts at the Hard Rock casino and to Pokerati Dan for a great evening.  Go visit the lounge next time you are in Vegas.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

More to this life than meets the eye

On Monday, my cousin Chuck passed away from cancer.  While I was traveling that day, I had a thought of him sitting on his boat in the waters near Key West grinning that grin he always kept around.  At the time, I wondered how he was getting along and moved on.

Though the miracle of Google alerts (I have one on my last name), I learned that next morning that Chuck was gone.   Because of my “vision”, I believe he really has gone fishing.  He probably takes my dad out with him from time to time.  I know my dad loved that man as much as anyone on this earth.  I’m sure they are happy to be back together.  I imagine his dog Leon, his sister Susan and his friend Shel are glad to see him again as well.  Susan was a gem of a person.  One of the kindest, bravest, funniest people I’ve ever known.  Chuck and Shel Silverstein were good buds down in Key West.  I was once fortunate to be visiting Chuck when Shel stopped by.  That was a treat.

The rest of this post may sound crazy or a bit creepy to some.  That’s fine.  I know from my FaceBook post yesterday that more than a few of us on this earth have felt the passing of loved ones from hundreds of miles away.  I’ve experienced it before and I’ve seen other evidence that I can’t ignore.  My rational side keeps me from reading too much into the phenomenon, but there is something there.  This post is about the most obvious of those events in my experience.

Way back in 1994, I was living in a little house on a very busy street in Charlotte to a woman who would only be my wife for another 18 months or so.  I had a new job with a major software company and on this night was sitting at the computer working hard on skills that I needed for my new job.

All of a sudden, my was-wife (she still calls me wasband) came into the room searching for something.  She actually seemed pretty desperate.  I asked and she explained that she wanted the picture of her father that used to be stuck in the corner of the mirror over her dresser.  I didn’t remember seeing the picture, but I pitched in to help anyway.  It didn’t take but a couple of minutes before she found the picture behind the dresser, took it and went back out of the room.  I had never seen her act that way before.  I’d soon find out why.

It was maybe 15 minutes later that the phone rang.  It was was-wife’s sister with news that their father had been found unconscious in his Delaware trailer and that an ambulance had been called.   Truth was that he had already passed.

There were no calls before this time.  We had no text or email or Twitter.  There was no way that my was-wife could have known, but she did.  She felt something and any amount of logic can’t explain it away.

So back to Tuesday.  I wasn’t too surprised that Chuck was gone.  I still don’t know what time he left this earth, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was around 2;30 eastern time.  If so, I appreciate that he would pay me a visit on his journey.  One day, I’ll understand what that journey is all about, but there is no hurry.  Until then, I’ll just keep my mind open to the possibilities and know that there is more to this world and this life than meets the eye.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Some of the best geek video ever

STS-129 Ascent Video Highlights (If you know what this is already, you’ll love the video)

http://www.vimeo.com/7852885

Enjoy

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Odds and Ins and Ends and Outs

The odds of me making my 100 post year seem to be slipping away.  I only write when I feel like it or if I have something that really needs to be said despite how I feel and that is just not conducive to a lot of posts this time of year.  So be it.

I am having a hella good time with our new podcast.  The whole intent of the podcast was to have fun, go fun places, and meet people that I want to meet.  This has worked out remarkably well.  We’ve (we being Falstaff and me) posted 2 shows and recorded the tracks for 2 more.  That’s enough to get us through our upcoming Vegas blogger trip and that trip should be a bounty of material.  That’s our plan anyway.

If you haven’t, check out the ‘cast at http://gtpodcast.com.

I’ve been learning about digital recording, editing, creating Feedburner, Call Burner, Skype, mp3s, WordPress, RSS feeds, iTunes, Audacity, jpg logos, and on and on.  It has been frustrating at times but I’ve really enjoyed learning new stuff.  I think/hope that the result looks and sounds professional.  That is a key to getting and keeping an audience.  I know a lot of podcaster don’t want to charge or get sponsors for their podcasts out of a desire to remain creatively unfettered or under some moral obligation to keep the internet free.  No me.  I’d like to get some sponsorship and make the deal produce some cash.  Not a lot of green, but enough to cover the cost of the equipment, licensing, and maybe a room in Vegas for a few nights.  That should be doable.  Heck, my poker hobby has made money so far.  Why not our podcast?

Did I mention that it is up at http://gtpodcast.com?

Other Odds and Ends:

  • The trip back from Sao Paulo was hell and I really don’t feel like reliving it enough to write it up except to say that the gate agent who thinks seat G is an isle seat can kiss my American butt.
  • Everything I had to be thankful for in 2008 is still in my life in 2009 plus one or two things.  It has been too much to have asked for.  All I can be is thankful.
  • I’m skipping poker tonight to be with Dr. K.  Good call.  I’m really glad the game found enough players without me.

That’s enough for now.  Dr. K will be home shortly.  If you need something to do, take 40 minutes or so and listen to The Gambling Tales Podcast.  You’ll sleep better for it.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Impressions of Sao Paulo

I’m winding up my visit to the 3rd (or 3° as it is written here) largest city in the world (or 6°, depending how you count).  There have been many interesting things I’ve noticed here so I’ll jot a few down before I forget.  First, the caveat: I’ve only seen a small portion of the city, namely Morumbi, and the roads between there and the airport.  All observations are from my very limited experience.

The place looks like many places in the US at street level.  There are tall buildings and shops and busy people going to and from work.  The people dress about the same as in the US.  I think I could have forgotten that I was in Brazil if I didn’t speak with anyone.

There is no such thing as someone who looks Brazilian.  They have a much or more of an ethnic mix as the US with Europeans, Asians, Africans, and Native Americans.  They do talk funny, though.  They really, really like their meat.  The Brazilian restaurant is the same, but the meat is much better than where I’ve been in the states.

Brazilians pride themselves on being good hosts and do a fantastic job at it.

The elevators are odd.  You hit an up or down arrow as I’m used to.  When the arrow above the elevator door lights, that doesn’t mean the elevator is arriving.  That arrow might just go out with no elevator.  The arrow will flash when the elevator is arriving.  So you get on and hit the button.  If you don’t hit is quick enough, which may be before the door closes, you very well may be going the direction you didn’t want to go.  This get to be a real problem when you have to swipe a card to get to your floor.

Some here say Portuguese sounds more like Italian than Spanish.  I’ve always heard that it’s enough like Spanish that Portuguese speakers can usually understand Spanish.  I’ve been corrected.

They have TV channels that don’t have soccer, or so I’ve been told.

Tipping in the restaurants and for other service workers is not expected.  When getting change for a purchase, the cashier will usually not give the pennies unless you insist.  They will, however, insist that you give them enough to cover every penny.

The hotel staff here at the Hilton Morumbi has blown me away with great service, especially the staff at the Canvas restaurant.  I arrived for dinner tonight and the hostess remembered that I was there for Sunday brunch.  That was 4 days ago.  She almost remember my name.  I left a cheese plate on my table when I left and it was brought it up to my room in case I wanted a snack later.  Now that is service.

I’ll probably think of more later.  All in all, it’s been a good trip.  I’m still looking forward to home.  It’s been a long year of travel.

Sao Paulo is Huge

Here is the view from my hotel.  I’m not downtown, but on the outskirts of town.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Podcast has arrived.

“Press release” from bloggers Falstaff and Special K

Gambling Tales Podcast is now available.  Join Falstaff (John Hartness) and Special K (Curtis Krumel) as we take you through the best in lies and legends about gambling today and through the ages.  .  Show #001 with Badblood and the origins of gambling is available immediately.  New shows are scheduled to appear every two weeks.  Guests scheduled to appear in future shows include Dr. Pauly, Lee Jones, Dr. David Schwartz (UNLV – Roll the Bones)

The podcast is available at http://www.gtpodcast.com

RSS Feed: http://feeds.feedburner.com/GamblingTalesPodcast

Available on iTunes at http://itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewPodcast?id=339814710.

It will be searchable on iTunes by the weekend.

Email address for Questions, Comments, and Suggestions: gtpodcast@live.com

Subscribe today!

Bloggers: Become a friend of the podcast (FOP) by posting this information on your blog.  Drop us an email with a link to your post and we’ll link to you on the Friends of the Podcast list.  See you in Vegas Dec. 10-14!

Sunday, November 08, 2009

G-Vegas Poker Conversations

I played poker badly at Badblood’s last night.  The drive down is getting easier and seemingly shorter.  Blood introduced a great new set of clay chips.  They played much better than I.  On several occasions I was not thinking about who I was up against and/or not trusting my reads.  It cost.  I did get lucky late and finished up about $50.

Table conversations:

  • Douchbag Marital Moves – aka bailing a friend out of jail.
  • Boy parts?  I need more Doritos!
  • Having our own personal WSOP on-site reporter
  • Darvin Moon is the worst player ever to make the final table – What?  He’s still in?
  • Stina with a winna
  • Gary Gary the faux fairy
  • Date night poker at Badblood’s
  • The teller at the Sphinx convenience store touched my prostate.

My big lesson on the night: When you notice and admit that you’re playing like crap, there is really nothing to tilt at.

Friday, November 06, 2009

The Podcast is Coming

Did I mention that I’m starting a podcast?  It’s not just me.  It’s Falstaff and I.  Actually, I did mention it a few posts back, but I didn’t say much about it.  Now that we have a couple of shows in the can (save for editing the segments together) and will be posting it to the web, I fell like I can say a bit more.

The title of the show is The Gambling Tales Podcast.  We will talk about what is going on in the gambling world, tell gambling stories (mostly about other people’s stories) and have an interview where our guest tells his tale.

I’ve been doing a lot of reading and gathering stories and there are millions or stories, so we shouldn’t have a problem with material.  The bad economy is also fueling a lot of action around legalizing casino gambling around the country.That along with poker news should keep us full of recent developments to talk about.

Most of all, we are looking to have a load of fun with the podcast.  It will be a vehicle to talk to people that we would like to talk to anyway and to go places that we want to go.  We may even find a sponsor or two if the show is any good.  That would be a big plus.

There are a few things left to organize, but I’m hoping to post the first show today or tomorrow (since we talk about the upcoming WSOP main event that starts back up tomorrow).  Be on the lookout for it.  I’ll post the url on this blog once it is finalized.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Sick on the Road

I’m sitting in the airport terminal at Baltimore (BWI) at the end of one of the most difficult trips.  The customer wasn’t ready with my workstation.  Fixing that took half a day.  Things went well for a while until I started coming down with a cold.

I’ve been on over 200 customer visits in the last 5 years on this job and I’ve never gotten sick to the point I could not go to the site.  That is, until yesterday.  It’s not that I couldn’t work.  I did.  I just couldn’t is good conscience expose my customer to my illness.

They were great about it and they all wished me well.  The boss even made a joke that I should use more virus protection.

I’m feeling much better today.  I got to the site at 6 am to finish up what I needed at the site and headed to my current location.  With luck I’ll be home in a couple hours. 

Monday, November 02, 2009

Grill Cheese Tilt

I have one fun story left over from my last trip to Las Vegas.  It happened in the Venetian poker room on my last full day in town.  I started playing around 3:30.  At the table next to mine was a blabber-mouth with a voice that carried great over the clack and murmur of poker chips and conversations.  Everyone for three tables in all directions could hear everything this guy said.

I remember him going on for at least ten minutes about one of his fellow players being Canadian.  He yapped about someone he once met from Canada and how it gets cold there sometimes.  Yap, yap, yap, eh.

Luckily for my ear and bankroll (my stack was shrinking) I had to go over to the sports book to meet CK and F Train.  They didn’t arrive right away, but I was ready for a break so I stayed in the sports book.  Once CK arrived we chatted while we waited for F Train.  In all I was away from the tables for for about an hour and a half.

When we get back to the poker room, I got seated immediately at the same table that I had left.  This time I was facing in the direction of the loud mouth.  It was no surprise that he was still running he mouth, but now his tone was different.  He was angry and frustrated.  It had something to do with a grilled cheese sandwich.  He was calling the floor to ask how long it should take to get a sandwich.  He wanted to know where the server who took the order had gone.  He wanted the name of the cook.  Basically, he wanted someone’s head on a platter. And a grilled cheese sandwich.

This went one of at least 15 more minutes.  I could tell my entire table (who had been listening to this guy for over 2 hours were pretty humored by his frustration.  I started making some cracks about the situation.  I told my neighbor “I want to order a grilled cheese just to see if I can get mine before he gets his”, and “If I had a grilled cheese right now I would stand up and exclaim aloud that this was the best grilled cheese that I’ve ever eaten.”  The whole table was into the act before long.

About this time I look over to the table with the loud mouth and noticed that he was in a big hand with his opponent all in and two-thirds of the loud mouth’s stack involved.  Loud mouth was behind and did not catch up.  Unbelievably, that shut him up.  He silently grabbed a rack, loaded up his chips and faded away.  Thus ended the first known instance of grilled cheese tilt.  And the whole poker room quietly rejoiced.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Poker Friday Night

Many of the usual gang and a couple of unusual folk gathered at the Special K casino for some poker and camaraderie. Both were found in generous supply.  Falstaff came by early for dinner a bit early.  We were soon joined by Mr. Jones, Jim the Knife, LouD, Big Nick, and special guest Shamus and thus we had our 7 to get us started.  We were later joined by the Brown Recluse and Lane B.

The game of choice was .5-1 NLHE.  I don’t remember much from specific hands.  I was able to out kick Falstaff on a couple of hands, but he was able to out draw me on a couple of bigger hands.  The middle of the night was especially cruel to me time after time seeming to draw the worst card out of the deck at the worst time over and over.

At 11:00, we switched out to .5-1 NL Omaha which was a bit better to me as I recovered my earlier losses to end even for the night.  Mr. Jones and JtK were the big winners with LouD and Falstaff funding their score.  That is all from a day old memory, so me need correction.

Some of the table conversation:

  • Is Barak Obama more likely to win the best actor oscar or start at quaterback for the Panthers.  Answer: Probably both.
  • Ups and Downs of the Breeders Cup
  • Running numbers for the mob
  • Good gambling books
  • Vegas in December – Blogger Gathering
  • Never going back to the IP (that wasn’t me)
  • Gambling in WVa, AC, Cherokee, and Tunica
  • Could we switch to the deck with the face cards in it?

It was a bit stressful getting the right number of runners for the night, but all worked out well in the end.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Impressions of Vegas – Oct 2009

Unlike last year, I’ve not made many trips to Vegas in 2009.  My business travel destinations have just not been to the west coast.  There was a trip to Vegas back in May with Falstaff in which I lost a chunk of bankroll.  Otherwise, I’ve had to satisfy myself with the home game action that I can find and an occasional casino game when the business or vacation road takes me to a good location.

But last week, Brian the Red was going to a professional conference in Vegas, so I thought that as good a reason as any to book my own trip.  I also convinced the Pirate Monkey to join us (or so he blamed me).

I’ve already posted my monetary results from $1-2 NLHE.  I/we did a few other things and I left with some interesting impressions.

One of the biggest impressions was City Center.  Wow!  That thing has come a long way since May.  The buildings look mostly finished.  There is still a lot to do at ground level, but it seem impossible that they have come so far so fast.  It was just a hole in the ground back in March of 2007 when my group at work had a conference at Bellagio and my room overlooked the site.  Now it is a small city with 8 or 10 tall towers.  Some signage is up.  The chrome-looking retail center that runs up and over the sidewalk on the strip looks cool from a distance, but when you get up next to it the scale of the thing is overwhelming.  The whole project took 62 acres and 8 billion dollars.  What boggles my mind even more is the effect that this will have on the rest of Las Vegas as it starts to come on-line in December.  They are already giving away rooms.  What they will be able to do with all of this inventory is anyone’s guess.  I’ll bet there are some really scared people in Vegas about now.

The Pirate Monkey had an excellent run in the Venetian daily tournament.  He took 10th out of about 180 runners for a nice 3 or 4x score.  He would have run much deeper except for a bad suck out.  I don’t remember the details, and since he sucked out on me in fantasy football last night, I don’t really care.  To be fair, from what I saw of his play, he did an excellent job and deserved a better finish.

The Bellagio is back to spreading $1-2 NLHE.  They were spreading $1-3, like Caesar's, but I guess they didn’t get the numbers that way.  I didn’t check the drop, but I’m guessing they will still drop $5 on big pots.  The Venetian is still be best room for my play.

The Venetian has their new player tracking system up and running.  They were about to turn in on the last day of my trip in May.  Players no longer get credit for time away from the tables, but we no longer loose time when we forget to log out.  I guess that is a wash.

Did I say they were giving away rooms in Vegas.  I stayed at the Hooter’s Hotel and Casino for $55.  That is not per night.  That was for three nights.  Many hands of poker that I played were worth more.  Hooters always gets a giggle when I mention it, but it was a nice hotel and the room was just fine.  I’d do it again.

I did get on the elevator with a john and hooker on my final night there.  He was a little balding white guy with kakis, sport shirt and a wind breaker.  She was a 6 foot tall slender black woman with huge boobs in a day-glow yellow stretch halter top and skin tight jeans.  Obviously, it was only my prodigious sense of observation that allowed me to size up this situation.  Once the elevator arrived it was just the three of us.  No one stood near anyone else.  No one spoke.  No one even glanced at each other.  Except for me, that is.  I lit up.  “Hey, how are we doing tonight?  Having any luck?  Man, I sure have.  Let me tell you…”  I thought the guy was going to open the door in for floor of the elevator and jump.  The hooker didn’t flinch.  She must have been a professional in every sense of the word.  Floor number 4 was never so far away, but it arrived and they scampered.  I laughed until my sides hurt.  I love Vegas.

The town was mostly dead compared to a year ago.  I like it in the short run.  It is easier to walk on the sidewalks, the wait for service is no so long, and the deals are great. But I also know that it is not good for Vegas or poker in the long run.  Eventually (read “when city center forces the weak properties to take drastic action”), deals will go away along with poker rooms and other things that I now enjoy, and that will be more than just sad.  It’s probably coming.  I’ll just have to go back in December to enjoy it before it changes again.  My flight is already booked.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Quick Vegas Results

I spent three days in Vegas this week.  I have many impressions that need more time and space than I have right now.  Instead, I’ll just post my results graph.  I tried to record my chip stack every time I got the button.  That allows me to estimate how many hand I play and how I’m doing during the trip.  Here is the result from this trip:

vegas1009graph

The blue line is my chip stack at that time.  The red line is total win/loss.  Each tick mark along the x axis is a button.  I estimate that I played about 540 hands in a little over 20 hours of play.  My late rally brought me back close to even from the trip.  I actually lost $6.  I saw AA 4 times, KK 3 times, QQ 5 times and JJ 2 times.  On average, I should have seen each 2.5 times each.  Though that could be considered catching good cards, I did not win one substantial hand with any of these 14 hands.  I lost much more with them than I won.

More Vegas impressions to come.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Last Night’s Poker Report

We had a gathering of poker heads at the warehouse last night.  Me, Jim the Knife, T, Lou D., B Razz, the Brown Recluse, and later Falstaff joined in the festivities.  I’ll just say right off the top that it was my best night in a local poker game.  I started off hitting my cards and pretty much ended the night the same way.  Since I' knew a trip to Vegas was starting early in the morning, I called it quits at midnight with 414 more than I came with.

Our table discussion had a good run and many laughs with quotes from Monte Python and the Holy Grail.  The Life of Brian also came up.  I’ve run into several conversations where people found LoB just as funny as HG.  I don’t see it, but that opinion was voiced again last night.  Maybe I’ll have to go back and watch it again.  I’ve only watched it once sober and that was on commercial TV.

Several fun jokes were made about the balloon-boy saga that hit the news this past week.  For example, I heard something in the 911 call that I would never want a parent to hear, “Does your son know how to operate the flying saucer?”  We also put the odds on Pres. Obama winning the best actor oscar at 2:1.  Also heard - “You only have $10?  You’d be better off buying my book and going home now.”

I’m sitting in Pheonix’s Sky Harbor Airport as I write this.  We board for Vegas in about 10 minutes.  Here’s hoping that the roll will continue.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Poker this weekend

I traveled to G-Vegas for some good poker action and camaraderie.  At least I got some camaraderie.  I would say that my play was bad, my cards were bad, and my mind just would not stay on any one track.  I felt fine, I just wasn’t quick mentally.  Even so, I left with a profit, so it could have been worse.

Some quick examples:

8:10 flopped boat holding A4 and AA4 on board.  I slowplay.   4 on river allows the other player holding an A to catch up. chop pot.

9:25 next had won

9:55  double through G-Rob - my AJs v. AQ.  We get all-in preflop. Two jacks hit the board for me to luck out and chip up.

11:00 I get KK when I’m first to act.  My raise is too big and I win 7 in a walk.  Dumb.

We went to O8/Hold’em rounds after 11 and I took a couple decent hands O8 hands to get out of the hole and make my small profit.

The funniest story was about someone not at the game.  This single father sent a sexually blatant text meant for his girlfriend to his 8 year old daughter of the same first name.  Ouch.  It would be funnier if I were to post what was actually written, but it was a bit over the top so I won’t.

I got caught up with Otis and his crazy travel schedule.  I hope I have him and another buddy schedule for our upcoming podcast.  That should be a hoot.

A profitable night of poker is like any plane landing that you walk away from.  Hopefully, Vegas will be even better.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Little League Football

I took this picture this past weekend.  “Hennessey” is my nephew.  Beyond that, this picture caught my eye because of the actions of all the boys in the shot.  In some areas it is easy to see what is going on.  In others it’s hard to imagine what the boys are doing.  Come to think of it, that’s just how it looks live.

Enjoy

Monday, October 12, 2009

Metapost

Another friend just passed the 4 year mark on her blog.  Like her, I don’t pay a lot of attention to that sort of thing.  But she got me thinking about my blog and where I am in age and posts.

Well, I started this blog on December 2, 2004.  Before that I had a website (www.curtisk.com) since about 1999 and had figured out in 2002 how to post to that site from the road, in effect creating a blog before the term was probably even coined.  I’m pretty sure that all of those pages have been lost over time.

Back to this blog.  Since 2004, I’ve posted to this space 409 times (410 when I publish this).  I posted 116 times back in 2005 and peaked again in 2008 at 115 posts.  So far this year I’ve been really lazy and have only posted 49 times.  Having the ability to make quick posts to Facebook have cut my posting quite a bit, but laziness is a big part, too.

I’ve still got a few weeks left and I can do better.  My life in not boring, so I do have stuff to write.  And I understand that it’s mostly interesting to me, but if I hit something you find interesting or funny 1 out of 10 times, then it’s probably worth your time.  At the very least, I get to come back in a year or two and remember a lot of details that I’ve forgotten.

So I’m going to energize this blog.  I’m headed to Vegas next week and again in December.  That is always blog-worthy. I’m scheduled to go to Brazil in November.  I won’t be touring much in Brazil, but I’m sure I’ll find something to write/post.  I’m starting a podcast with a friend, so there should be a stream of post coming from that.  All-in-all, I have plenty to share without falling back on politics or passing on others’ posts.

My goal is to get to 100 posts by the end of the year. Since today is day 285 of 2009, I have 80 days left to post 50 times.  Heck, I should be able to go around the world in that time.  50 posts sounds easy.  We’ll see.

Friday, October 09, 2009

POB

Here’s a fun picture for my poker friends who follow the behind-the-scenes of the poker world.

POB

Maybe this is Capt. Tom’s truck.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Triathlon

With the running of a short triathlon, I checked off a bucket list item on Sunday.  Folks who have been around us in the past 6 months know that my wife has really enjoyed working out and getting physically fit. She has a trainer that she likes and a determination that I really envy.  It all started with her 24 hours of booty ride to raise money for brain cancer research but has now taken on a life of its own.

About a month ago she hit me with a challenge for us to run a ‘tri’.  I told her that I would like that, too.  I had no idea at the time that she meant “Let’s run a triathlon SOON.” 

My travels have made it easy for me to not workout like I should.  I didn’t run at all in Iraq during August for obvious reasons.  Since my return, my travel schedule has been no less crazy though I have done somewhat better in recent weeks.  For instance, I’ve rented a locker at the local YMCA.  I have really enjoyed swimming laps before work.  Even with that, I knew I wasn’t where I wanted to be for a triathlon.  I started referring to it as a try-athlon.  Oh how accurate that was.

We signed up for the Take Flight Triathlon that took place in Huntersville this past Sunday.  The event consisted of a 250 meter swim, 10 mile bike ride, and a 3.1 mile run; short for a tri.

Things didn’t start all that great for me.  As I arrived at my bike storage location I dropped the pop tart I was having for breakfast from my pocket.  Just having a pop tart at a triathlon is like interviewing Bill Gates and taking notes on a Mac.  I would have gotten fewer funny looks had a dropped a dime bag or “Bring Back Bush” bumper sticker.  We checked in and got marked with our numbers (magic marker on skin) around 6:30 am and then had to hang around for over 2 hours until our start times.  I took a nap in the truck.

Dr. K started the race about 7 minutes in front of me.  She insisted that I enter a higher 100 yard swim time and it was this time that was used to set starting positions.  The swim section was in a pool.  We were to swim up one lane, turn and push off and under the lane ropes back to the other end.  The pool had 10 lanes, so the whole course was 250 meters.  It was good that I got to watch her swim as she is a really good swimmer.

Almost before I knew what was happening it was my turn.  3..2..1..GO and I’m swimming.  All I hear now is the rush of water by my ears.  I’ve got a long way to go so I’m concentrating on my stroke keeping it long and consistent.  There were times when I felt like I wasn’t moving in the water at all.  I glanced up at one point and counted 2 more laps than what I thought remained.  Curses!  I did manage to do crawl the whole way.  I passed 3 people and didn’t get passed so I felt pretty good at this point.

Then I had to run wet and mostly naked outside and around the building to the transition area where the bikes are kept.  It was now about 9:15 on an October morning.  My blood was pumping pretty good but it was still a bit chilly.  I find my bike and stuff, get dry, put on shirt, socks, bike shoes, helmet and I’m off on stage 2.

After fumbling with my pedals for the first 200 yards I get the bike moving.  I’ve got the wind in my face and no sound but the tires on the pavement, oh yea, and my breath that is really not in the sprit of the moment.  The breath getting a bit short and there is too far left to go.  I saw a young woman wipe out on her bike going up one very steep hill (there were no non-steep hills).  She said that she was OK which is good because I don’t have to feel bad about not stopping.  I wasn’t stopping in any case, I just didn’t need to carry guilt, too.

As I mentioned, the hills were rough and I had to coast a few down hills to keep moving and I wished that my bike had one lower gear than it has, but I didn’t stop and after what seemed like an hour I got back to the starting area.  Now it’s off the bike, off with the shoes and the helmet and on with the running shoes and number.  My legs are mush and my lungs are struggling,  but it’s time for a 5k so up and off with me.

Here is where it really gets bad.  I start to cramp in my calves and my stomach felt like it is about to reject the pop tart I had for breakfast.  It was about this time I hear another runner yell “Number 447, you suck!”  Wouldn’t you know it was my lovely bride who had already looped around the halfway point and was headed to the finish. 

Then is gets worse.  I gotta go.  I tell my body to forget it, but it insists.  I gotta go #2 and soon.  I’m looking around for a porta john, abandoned lot, phone booth, anything, but there is nothing.  So I do what I’ve got to do.  I find a resident and plead for a toilet.  I really didn’t have to plead.  Just the fact that I stopped running to ask let her know that the situation was dire.  She may have rightly decided that it was either going to be her bushes or her toilet so she led me into her house.

Once the pressure and about 5 pounds was released I was back on the course and doing much better.  I was able to run the final 2 miles to post a not awful time.  Final results for the event with splits is available here: http://www.setupevents.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=event_results&id=1546.  You’ll find me down in 300th place in the men division.  Dr. K’s times were better than mine in every phase of the event to beat me by 3 minutes and 148th place among the women. As usual, I’m very proud of her.

As difficult as it was, I look forward to going back next year.  I’ll be sure to do a little more than 1 months training next time so I can shave a little bit of my time.  I’ll be sure to go before the race, too.  At the very least, that item is done.  Triathlon: Check.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Truckin’ has a new author - Me

Go read my story.  I’ve been told by several kind friends and family members that it is the funniest thing they’ve ever read.  I hope you enjoy it.

In fact, go read all of the stories in this month’s edition.  Paul (Dr. Pauly) is a great writer and editor.

Thanks.

Truckin’

October 2009, Vol. 8, Issue 10

1. The Booth by Paul McGuire
A fidgety Larry had nowhere to blend in as only person sitting in a booth along the wall. The cops had to pass him on their way out and they'd know that he was fucked up. How could they not know... More
2. The Demon of Oscar Braathen's Tavern by Sigge S. Amdal
The baby wants attention and makes a horrible shrieking sound, making the hairs on my back stand up. That's exactly what you'd expect from a demon hovering above a deserted town. It's just doing what demons are supposed to be doing. But it freaks me out nevertheless... More
3. Just Lunch by Betty Underground
We're not strangers, though perhaps we should be; the span between the time when knew each other before and now, is vast. Back then, we didn't even know ourselves, and what we knew about each other was drawn with immature minds. When we first reconnected I'm sure we imagined what we thought the other had become... More
4. Danger Box by Curtis Krumel
In Mexico they have Montezuma's Revenge. In Iraq, the bane of the visitor is Saddam's Revenge. The source of the condition, like that of the Nile, is shrouded in mystery, but the effects are unmistakable.... More
5. Two Memories by Johnny Hughes
I was called in the middle of the night, when I was higher than a hawk's nest, and drunker than Cooter Brown. Joe explained the deal, and he and I both knew Jesse had a handful of warrants out, and unresolved entanglements with Texas laws... More

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Hangin’ in San Antone and Catchin’ Up

I got a bit of a night off tonight.  I’m visiting a customer in San Antonio all week.  When I’m out of Charlotte like this, I usually have a lot of research or writing to do.  But tonight, I’ve decided to take some time for myself.  I got in a good run in the hotel fitness center and then a nice meal at a nearby chinese  buffet. For the balance of the night I’ve enjoyed working on a special project that I’m not talking about much at the moment.  There’ll be no problem picking up work in the morning. 

I have been meaning to update some recent adventures on this blog.  I took a big chunk of September off from blogging.  I was always too busy or tired or just not in the mood to blog. 

So what happened while I was away?  Well, I was away.  After returning from Iraq I took Dr. K on a vacation down to Punta Cana.  We went there earlier this year and liked it so much we decided to try another resort on the same island.  We got a great deal that included airfare on US Airways.  That may not sound like a positive, but considering that I’m Platinum Preferred, it is a big plus.  See, we got bumped up the 1st class both ways on our $166 tickets.  We also like Punta Cana because it is a direct flight from the hometown of Charlotte.  We leave the house and arrive at the resort in just about 5 hours.

We had a great time swimming and sunning and eating and drinking and whatever else came to mind.  here are some of the very few pictures I took:

That’s a pretty cool feature of Windows Live Writer that I just discovered (photo album).  Sweet.

Back to the story.  About a week after we got back, it was time for my next business trip.  This time Mannheim, Germany was the destination.  The weather was better this time than during my December trip.  It was still cloudy the whole time, but it was still a nice trip.  I got to hang with my buddy Trace as I trained him to present a class while I taught a bunch of Army contractors to use our database software a little better.  They had good things to say about the class and I had good things to say about them.  Can’t beat that.  I even got in some sightseeing before heading home.  Here are a few more pics:

Now another week has gone by and I’m on the road again.  I’ll get to take a little break from traveling after next week (Pennsylvania) and I’m really looking forward to that.

Oh, yea.  Did I mention that Dr. K and I are swimming/biking/running a triathlon this weekend?  It’s true except in my case (out of shape) it will more of a try-athlon. It’s really is all fun and I have no complaints.  Chao.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Luecke, Texas

I had an early morning flight today.  Charlotte to Dulles to San Antonio.  It was bad that the flight left at 6:00 AM, but was very smooth otherwise.  I had a window seat on the DC to SA leg and I saw something that reminded me of why I still like window seats.  Now you can see it for yourself.

http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&hl=en&q=austin,+tx&btnG=Search&t=k&ll=30.083058,-97.143688&spn=0.065951,0.173035&t=k

This is not a photoshop or any kind of fake.  This guy cut the trees on his property to form the pattern with .25 mile high letters.  Actually, it is just his name, but it well may be the biggest name in the world.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Poker Saturday Night

Saturday night saw the return of the Falstaff home game.  With all my travels, I’ve not played at this location since before going to Iraq.  T, the Knife, Nate the Elder, and Brian R joined us for the short-handed poker action.

It was a night of rivers.  I don’t remember seeing some many 2 and 3 outers on the river to reverse the flow of chips.  Nate built a huge stack early.  Jim went into his roll a few times but ended the night with a lot more than he came with.  My holdem hands were awful, but the Omaha hands made up for that late.  I ended the night with a small profit.

The Knife also paid off the football eliminator challenge that I won in just 2 weeks.  We had 3 misses and one no-pick to eliminate everyone but me.

A few of the conversation topics from the poker game:

  • Jim took down $1k this past week
  • What does an Asst. Principal do?
  • Brian the Red’s rough job.
  • Falstaff’s new sofa.
  • Skip, the Canadian butt@^er.
  • Shooting pool with your fly down.
  • Vegas in December (at least 4 are going).

The next 2 weeks are going to be really busy, so there won’t be many opportunities.  Hopefully, with the cold weather setting in, we will be able play a bit more regularly, or at least more often. :)

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Bad Poker Rules, Iraq Style

Being a guest in Iraq means doing without a few things that I enjoy. My wife and beer come immediately to mind. Being a short timer here at the Liberty/Victory Camp Complex means I’m a guest of those long-timers who are here for a year or more. This comes into play with things like bunk selection and transportation. I just can’t front someone who is putting up with this lifestyle when I’ll be home in under two weeks (9 days now, but who’s counting).

It also comes into play at the poker table. Most of us players have been in the situation where we are the new person in a group of regulars. We are the guest and we should act like it. That means not talking too much about things that no one else has any interest in. It means being extra observant and polite about the rules of the house. Is everyone taking off their shoes? Can I go in the fridge? That sort of thing.

It also means not being a jerk about the rules of the game. They play a certain way so that’s the way I’ll play tonight. I’m having to do a lot of that playing here in Baghdad. Our regular home games are pretty serious about the rules of the game. All of us have played a lot of casino poker and we try to fashion our rules after theirs. After all, they developed those rules over many years for various reasons. I like to say, “We learn from the mistakes of others because we don’t have enough time to make them all ourselves.”

But here in the desert, I get the feeling that most have not seen the inside of a casino and several kitchen table rules are in effect.

Two cards wins in Omaha. In every casino I’ve played in, if there is a showdown, the players must show all of their cards to win the hand. Not here. Actually they have started enforcing that rule for hold’em, but most of our hands are Omaha and winning players regularly show only the two cards they are playing. This has led to the comical grab for the face-down cards when the player realized he’s folded a winning low. Thankfully, those cards have been ruled dead and much laughter generally ensues.

String bets are out, but unannounced single-chip raises are fair game.

Announcing “there is a low” “there is a flush” “there is a straight”. Yep, talking about the hand when you are not involved is not only tolerated, it is encouraged. I cringe every time I hear it and I hear it on every hand. “There’s the low”, “There’s no low.” There’s the straight/flush/boat/whatever. Arrrrrrrggggggggggg. I just bite my lip and shake my head. It’s their game.

Dealing the turn and river after the flop. I saw and commented on this one last year. Usually, after the flop, the dealer will continue with a burn and the turn card face down and then another burn and the river face down. Some have even been known to deal the cards and then immediately deal the flop, turn and river, all face down. We almost had a hand killed when mucked cards hit the already dealt board. Do you think that put an end to the practice. Nope. I’ll admit that I’ve been able to pick up whether the down cards are face cards or not from time to time. If they are going to make it a part of the game, I’m playing.

There are apparently no cut cards in all of Iraq. I’ve seen the cards shuffled face up, turned over and sat in front of the cutter who just taps the deck. I generally know 3 or 4 cards on the bottom of the deck when the deal starts. If I miss it I just have to be patient because the bottom card will be flashed several times before all the cards are dealt. Since we are playing Omaha, those cards are likely hitting the board.

The worst one came last night. One fellow was having a really rough night. He was complaining about all of the bad play and suck-outs that he was enduring. We all know the drill. He had a really bad habit of holding his cards down on his lap under the table. This made me a bit nervous, but he was on my immediate right and I could see his cards so I doubt that anything dirty was going on. He finally sees a hand and a flop that he really likes and goes all-in. As play in the hand continues, he takes his cards with him to the fridge, to show the other table and all around the room. On the turn or river his high straight got counterfeited He got quartered and lost money again. I had no sympathy.

But like I said, I’m a guest and I don’t make many suggestions and they seem to respect the one’s I do make. Maybe I’ll try for cards on the table at all times tomorrow night. I’m afraid I’ll have to leave them with early dealing. I’ll call it a quaint local custom down at Huckleberry Farms.

And I lost $80 last night. So there.

The Boys are just Sick – Iraq Poker II

I played the local game again Wednesday night. It may have been the sickest game I’ve ever been involved in. It didn’t take any time at all (literally 2 or 3 hands) before guys were regularly pushing all-in preflop playing Omaha 8 or better. A-2-x-x Shove. That was the game. Most folks buy in for around $40. One guy got a little ill, stood up and threw $200 on the table stating “OK, if that’s the way you want to play, let’s go!” That just makes this rock smile from ear to ear. I got to say my favorite phrase 3 times this night - “I’ve got the nuts and there is no low.” Is that poetry, or what?

We also played so freaky games that I’m not sure I remember. We played 5 card double draw with 5s and 10 wild. I won one of those with K5K10 for quads. We played a couple of variations of stud with a chicago (low or high spade gets half). I took one pot when I got dealt the 2 of spades and pushed everyone off the pot. Cool. Before the night was over, I had dubbed this game “Huckleberry Farms” because there is ALWAYS a huckleberry around. I walked out a bit early with $202 more than I came with.

Here are a few random pictures from around the office:

Be careful what you put on your ‘Nilla Wafers:

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Jeff is slaving away:

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Our lifeline:

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Let’s all learn some Microsoft stuff:

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Later.

Friday, August 21, 2009

More Poker for Iraq

Last week, regular readers will recall, I took a pair of aces and drew three cards to get a full house (AAA55) on the only draw of the hand.  So what are the odds of that?  One of the two aces and two of the four 5s or three of the four 5s?  (4.3% * (8.7% * 6.7%)) + (8.5% * 6.5% * 4.4%) = .0493% or 1 in  2027.  I’m sure someone can get exact numbers.

Now what if I told you that we played another hand of draw tonight and the same thing happened.  This time it was KK and I drew K55.  That makes it twice in a row.  .0493% * .0493% = 1 in 4.1 million.  Live poker is so rigged.

The rest of the night was really dry.  The cards really ran against me and I still managed a profit of $36.  I love this game.

Otherwise, I’m learning a ton on this job and keeping things on track well enough.  That makes the time go quickly so all is good.  Thanks to my FB friends for their notes and well wishes.  That really helps, too.

Iraq – Poker and Pictures

Well wouldn’t you know it. I managed to find a juicy poker game here in Camp Victory. I suppose it is frowned upon by official sources, just like at home, but I think of it more as recreation. Besides, playing with some of these guys is not gambling at all.

The game is dealer’s choice. All games so far have been no limit and all players pay a quarter ante on every hand. There are no blinds. That is a first for me in hold’em and omaha, but it works. There is tons of action. I hesitate to say it, but I actually think it is looser than the Falstaff home game, even those nights when Nate the Elder and Jim the Knife are both attending. I’ve yet to find an amount that won’t draw 4 callers.

Last night in a hand of O8, there is very little action to the river when a third heart hits the board. I’m acting first and take a pot sized stab with 3 players to act behind. The first folds as does the second. The fish at the table calls me with a 4-3 as his low (no A or 2 on the board) and a pair of jacks for a high. Of course I got quartered because I was just making a play. I lost 3 or 4 bucks on that hand, but the information on that player made me 5 times that much before the night was done.

A big hand late in the evening had me catch a set of 8s to bust AKs with and K8x flop. Funny thing was that the flop was all diamonds. AK leads post-flop for $25. I’m 90% sure he didn’t hit his flush there and I’ve got a good shot at a boat so I go all in for the $36 more that he had. No improvement for either of us and I take the pot. That was one he could have gotten away from.

The we played one hand of 5 card draw (only one draw and two round of betting). I get a nice AAxxx hand. My bet only gets one call on my immediate left. I draw three and get A55 for a miracle boat. I bet $15 and my opponent calls and shows a high FLUSH. I still can’t believe he didn’t shove. If the cards are reversed, I go broke every time knowing that it is the right play.

We also played some Crazy Pineapple (called by the degen from NC). That was fun. I get a crap hand and keep 34. I really feel obligated to play since no one had ever played it before. The flop come J52. Now I’m interested. I bet and get two or three callers. Blank on the turn so I bet more and get called. The ace on the river gives me the nuts, a nice pot, and a rash of shit from my new ‘friends.’ Good stuff. I’m glad only one of them had a gun. (Hummm, just like the home game).

I’ve played two nights and netted about $180 so I’ll be back next week for sure.

We had a major dust storm yesterday, Here is a picture of the masque that I used as an air quality reference last year. This is what it didn’t look like yesterday.

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See my posts from June 2008 to see what is supposed to be there. Dust gets on and in everything. Here are a couple expamples:

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Here is a shot to give you an idea of how hot it get in Iraq in July/August. This is necessary for a south facing door:

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Finally, a picture of my new wheels. I like having some personal transportation. It’s not a Boxster but this ain’t home:

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Let me wrap this post up with a funny shirt that I saw in a store back in Kuwait. Take care, all. I know I’ll try.

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Thursday, August 20, 2009

Yea, what he said.

Thank you, Spaceman, for putting into words much of what I’ve been thinking about the health care debate. Your post titled “

A Few Reasoned Thoughts From An Outraged Retard

Really hit the spot this morning.  No matter which side you are on, you should read this for some independent, reasoned thinking.

Friday, August 14, 2009

What am I doing here?

I’ve got a week to go here in this hot, dusty, hard, boring place known at Camp Liberty/Victory near Baghdad, Iraq.  I feel the need to assess my attitude and begin the push toward a strong finish of this project.  So forgive the navel gazing for this post.  This is an exercise in attitude self-adjustment.

So here are my reasons in roughly ascending order:

Number one, there is money involved.  It’s not a great deal of money, but it’s not trivial either.  It’s gap money.  It makes the gap between what is in the bank and what is owed every month a little wider and that’s not a bad thing.  It will also pay for my post-trip rehab (vacation with Dr. K).  For many of the contractors here, that is the reason heard most but those folks are doubling, or more, the amount they would make or save working a normal job in the states.  But for me, for just one month, there has to be more to it than just a little financial boost to make this a bigger reason to be here.

Number two is the adventure.  I’m a sucker for a reasonably safe adventure.  Coming to a hellish part of the world and testing myself against the discomfort and long working hours, lack of transportation, bland meals, second or third rate working conditions, and more, is something I have to do to myself to feel that I still measure up.  The stark difference between the life I have in the states and life here makes me all the more respectful of our military men and women and all the more thankful for the life I lead back home.  The saying goes “you don’t appreciate things until they are gone,” I come here to make sure I appreciate all that my life is and to put perspective around my disappointments.  I also need to press my limits here and there to see where they are now.  I can imagine the great explorers like Byrd, Livingston, and Shackleton thinking the same way on a much larger scale.  My job just offers a war zone and army life as a small scale testing ground for me.

The economy has something to do with it.  This is not the kind of economy that I want to be out in looking for a job.  My heart goes out to my friends who have been forced into that situation.  It is much tougher than just not having a much money as before.  No one has threatened my job nor have I been told I need to “pick it up.”  My billable hours were down for the FY one month in and there is nothing like 5 84 hour weeks to get that back in line.  But I also show myself to be a team player by taking assignment that others might not.  I know that some folks have situations that prevent them from these assignments, but I have a wife that understands some sacrifice for a career and we have no kids, so I do this to put a bit of a gap between me and the headhunters.  I’m not married to my employer, so I want to leave in my own time for my own reasons (I’ve been saying that for 15 years now).  This helps.

I’ve really enjoyed gaining and regaining new skills in the SQL Server product family.  I found out that I already know more than I give myself credit for, but I’ve not had a month of consistently working with Integration Services, Analysis Services and SharePoint as well as building servers and putting them into production.  I wanted to come here and hone my skills and I’ve gotten just that.

The biggest reason I’m here is that I support what is going on over here and I get a sense of pride out of giving of myself toward that end.  Now before you make any political assumptions about the meaning behind '’what is going on over here', please hear me out.  What I see here is a people with a chance at freedom.  They have a chance to make for themselves a place that is safe and strong.  A place that loads less of a burden of worry about the life of loved ones on their shoulders.

The debate about how this country got to this point has merit on both sides and I really don’t know if the ends have anything to do with the means.  But I can see what IS right now.  I can see what not finishing this job correctly will mean for this place.  I’d say the chances of this place finding anything close to the peace I describe as very slim (due as much from our political friends as our enemies), but that’s a far better situation than they had 2 years, 5 years, or 10 years ago.

I’m also very proud to be from the place that has produced the men and women that I’m working with, namely the officers and soldiers of the US Army.  These are not people who are interested in killing anyone.   They are committed to ending this thing the right way for the people of Iraq.  They talk of freedom often.  They understand the difference between a lawful and unlawful order and they have a cause and are committed to it.  Sure, there are outliers, those who don’t fit the above description for one reason or another.  But the average soldier here is smart and strong and noble.  This is a historic place and a historic event.  The boots on the ground here are the best ever.  It is what I believe our country is and should be – Smart and Strong, and Noble.  There are still patriots and some of them are here.  I’ll return home proud to have served their mission.

This is already a bit long, but I want to pass on a story that I received in email this morning that I really enjoyed.  I hope you do, too.

From a Chaplain in Iraq :

“I recently attended a showing of 'Superman 3' here at LSA Anaconda.  We have a large auditorium we use for movies, as well as memorial services and other large gatherings.

As is the custom back in the States, we stood and snapped to attention when the National Anthem began before the main feature. All was going as planned until about three-quarters of the way through the National Anthem the music stopped.
Now, what would happen if this occurred with 1,000 18-22 year-olds back in the States? I imagine there would be hoots, catcalls, laughter, a few rude comments; and everyone would sit down and call for a movie. Of course, that is, if they had stood for the National Anthem in the first place.

Here, the 1,000 Soldiers continued to stand at attention, eyes fixed forward. The music started again. The Soldiers continued to quietly stand at attention. And again, at the same point, the music stopped.

What would you expect to happen? Even here I would imagine laughter, as everyone finally sat down and expected the movie to start. But here, you could have heard a pin drop. Every Soldier continued to stand at attention.
Suddenly there was a lone voice, then a dozen, and quickly the room was filled with the voices of a thousand soldiers, finishing where the recording left off:

   "And the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air, gave proof through the night that our flag was still there. Oh, say does that Star Spangled Banner
    yet wave, o'er the land of the free, and the home of the brave."

It was the most inspiring moment I have had here in Iraq . I wanted you to know what kind of Soldiers are serving you here. Remember them as they fight for you!
Pass this along as a reminder to others to be ever in prayer for all our soldiers serving us here at home and abroad. For many have already paid the ultimate price.

Written by Chaplain Jim Higgins
LSA Anaconda was at the Ballad Airport in Iraq, north of Baghdad”

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Publishers Note

I've taken a few posts down for a little while. I decided that there might be some risk to keeping them up, so I scheduled them for republishing upon my departure from Iraq.

SK

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Oh the Noise, Noise, Noise!

Apologies to Ted Geisel, but that is what I’m noticing about Iraq today.  This is one really loud place.  Sure, my bed is hard and a bit too short and every meal is in one of three mess halls nearby, and work is 12 hours a day, every day.  All of that adds to the grind, but noise never cuts a break.

We get a few low flying helicopters over our house back home.  The hospital is very close and sometimes the pilots take a bit of a shortcut overhead.  Those are little toys compared to the Blackhawk helicopters that are flying here day and night.  Those suckers fly low and loud and in noisy pairs.  When they come in over the trailer where I work, everything on the walls either rattles or flaps.  I feel it very clearly in my chest.  Is it bothersome?  Yes, but I still want to run outside and watch them fly by every time.

All of our power comes from generators on base.  Each one looks just like the kind shipping containers that you see unloading from cargo ships.  In fact, guess they are shipping containers.  They had to get here somehow.  Those monsters run on diesel and make a humming sound when you are indoors.  When outdoors, it sounds like you are riding on the front bumper of a tractor trailer truck.   Of course, they point the fumes sideways instead of straight up so we can enjoy the smell as well as the full effects of the sound.  The one that I hear the most is running the electricity in my workspace.  I know this because several times an hour, I’ll hear the generator engine slow down.  Two seconds later every computers battery backup will give off a single “BEEP”.  It’s like they are talking to each other.

Then there is the mess hall, or DFAC (Dee-Fak).  I know they had a competition in Spivey’s Corner, NC (home of the hollern’ world championships) to design a chair/floor combination that would maximize noise and irritation.  I hope no animals were harmed in the testing because if so, there are so mighty irritated swine in Eastern NC these days.  Those heavy metal chairs have a seat that percusses like rock drummer’s tom-tom.  Soldiers must be drilled in the methods of moving chairs without the chair ever leaving the floor.  I can see Lou Gossett yelling at Richard Gere now, “HOW ARE YOU GOING TO SIT IN THAT CHAIR WITH IT IN THE AIR BOY?  YOU GET THAT CHAIR OUT AND GIVE ME 20, MAY-O-NAISE, AND i DON’T WANT TO BE ABLE TO HEAR NOTHIN WHEN YOU ARE DONE!”  I promise you, Lou would be deaf as a stump after 20 reps.

Finally, the heat in this oasis has a noisy side-effect that is oh so American – the air conditioner.  They are everywhere and they are loud.  That make’s a lot of sense as they don’t get much of a break.  The heat here is just incredible.  First thing in the morning is just a little hot.  I’ll break a little sweat walking the 50 yards from the showers to my trailer.  When the sun finally comes up, then it’s really on.  A temperature of 110 (which happens often) means over 140 in the sunshine and boy houdy does the sun shine.  It’s a hot that you don’t get used to.  It just keeps coming and coming.  All you can do is get out of the way.  When you feel it, you really understand that this is dangerous heat.  Not taking it seriously means trouble, big trouble.  So the air conditioners are always under a heavy load.  I don’t even think a few of them have thermostats.  No need since they never catch up.

To top it all off, I got a real audio treat last night.  It was just short of midnight and I had a dream about riding in a car that had slammed on the breaks but wasn’t stopping and then I imagined that I was in my bed and a car was coming through the wall.  About then I woke up enough to realize that my AC unit had decided to throw a bearing and start the most awful metal-on-metal screeching sound I’ve heard in many years.  I little testing showed that the unit was on it’s last legs.  I turned it off and by 3 am the heat was too much.  I turned it back on and it did fine for about 10 degrees and 15 minutes and then Screeeeeeeech!  I made it through till morning with that.  If it’s not fixed tonight, I may be wishing for a bit more noise while I try to sweat and sleep.

Friday, August 07, 2009

The monkey tells it better

I admit, this is just down-right stupid.  I just can’t help myself.


No monkeys were injured in the posting of this clip.  More stories of Poker and/or Iraq in the works.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

A Thousand Words About Our President

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Can you pick which two are friends?  Can you pick the racist?  Can you pick the one who is looking forward to the photo shoot?

 

Thanks StB.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Iraq – Nothing Spectacular Thank Goodness

I’ve been on this journey for a week now and there’s not been a lot of blog-worthy post material.  It’s been busy and that is a blessing.  boredom and loneliness are the enemies.  As long as I can avoid them the time will pass quickly, I’ll get a good amount of work done and I’ll leave feeling it was all worth it.

My roommate and replacee left yesterday leaving me in my own CHU (hut, bunk, whatever).  It’s not home, but it’s better.  The days here are 12 hours of work and meals, a few hours of recreation and/or relaxation, and sleep, rinse, repeat.  It is a grind but like I said, it helps to make the days go by quickly.

Unlike last year, I’ve got wireless internet.  That means that I have connectivity in the office and the bunk with a wide open connection.  It gives me enough bandwidth to make a Skype call and slow web pages.  And posting to the blog, of course.  Most everything else is just how I remembered it – Hot, dusty, dry, and hot.  Did I mention hot?  Most days are running 110 to 115 in the shade.  Thankfully the air at work and the bunk works pretty well so comfort isn’t a big deal

I made a poker contact yesterday.  Come to fine out there are games 3 nights a week.  I’ll check out my first real action tomorrow night.  I’m not sure how much poker I’ll be able to handle with the compressed sleep schedule.  I’m thinking 2 nights might be doable.  I’ll know by Wednesday.

Time to get back to work.  Thanks for stopping by.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The President Comments

So the President admits that he knows none of the details about the arrest of H.L. Gates, Jr.,  but comments about the actions of the police officer anyway.  Just how often does he make decisions without knowing what he is talking about.  Do you really want this guy running your car company?  Health care plan? You son’s military unit?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Stalled in Transit

If you were reading this blog last year, you might remember that I arrived in Baghdad on time, but my luggage didn’t make it until 3 days later.  Well this time neither me nor my luggage has made it to Baghdad as yet.

My trip started off well enough.  Dr. K dropped me off at the Charlotte airport in plenty of time to get something to eat before my flight.  While there, I ran into T from our poker home game.  She was on her way to a “professional conference” in Las Vegas.  That’s lucky right there.  I hope she is doing well at the tables.

My flights from CLT and Dullas both departed on time and arrived early.  Due to problems with my paperwork, I knew that I would spend a day at the hotel airport until the issue got resolved.  In talking to the gate agent for my Kuwait to Baghdad airline, he pointed out that the passport number on my paperwork didn’t match the number on my passport.  Great, a second problem.

They called the hotel and get me an escort and bus ride over to the hotel. The two advantages to this hotel are that I don’t have to officially enter Kuwait to stay there and it is cheap.  My first shock came when I learned that I would not be getting my bags at the hotel.  They would have to stay at the airport.  I had meds, a t-shirt and change of underware, so I could handle this for one night. Next was the size of the room.  I’ve owned bigger closets.  I knew right then that I’d only be in this hotel one night.  I’d be one my way to somewhere else the next day, whether that was Baghdad or a better hotel or the streets of Kuwait City.100_0418

Due to the time zone and timing of the flights, it was pie-in-the-sky thinking that this paperwork would come through on time for me to fly on Monday.  Luckily, my contact in Baghdad got me in touch with Mandy, a local employee of the company we are working for.  She told me that they have apartments set up like dorms that are used for just this type of layover.  I got myself back to the airport, got a visa to enter Kuwait, tracked down my bags and escaped the airport.100_0423 

I had to hang out at the Caribou Coffee just outside of the official airport for about 90 minutes until Mandy could come pick me up.   I must say this apartment is really nice.  I have access to food, a big screen TV, Internet, and a pool table.  There are a couple other guys staying here right now.  It is nice to have someone to chat with and just be around.  Loneliness is my mortal enemy for the next 4 weeks.  This place really helps on that score.

The apartment in in a high-rise right on the Persian Gulf.  Attached are a few views from the windows.

100_0428

I’m still waiting to hear from my project manager on my paperwork, but I have to believe that it will come through today (Tuesday).  I’m currently schedule to fly to Baghdad on Wednesday evening.  If I don’t get it by 11 pm or so, I’m going to miss the guy I’m replacing and not get any real introduction to the project.  It will be a big disadvantage to my start on this project.  It could also mean that I’ll take a military flight into camp.  That sounds like a bit more adventurous though maybe not Dr. K approved.

There isn’t anything I can do about any of this.  It is all in the hands of the project management and the Army.  My attitude is to be patient, do what I need to do first and what else I can do second and to keep my cool at all times.  So far I’m good on those points.

Steve Streater

Steve Streater was a star on the UNC football team when I arrived on campus in 1979.  Two images of Steve will always be with me. 

The first was on the field when he was the punter.  Steve was All-ACC when he kicked the ball.  He was even better when he ran with it.  I remember Steve taking a snap, bolting around the line, through the defense and into the end zone as 45,000 fans cheered wildly.

The second image was probably on the same day.  I lived in Ehringhaus dorm where most of the football team also lived.  The walkways on each floor face each other.  When Steve arrived back at the dorm after the game, the walkways were full of students cheering and chanting “Streat, Streat, Streat.”  he just waved his appreciation and went into his room.

The rest of the story is a sad one if looked at from a perspective of what could have been.  On the way back to Chapel Hill after signing a contract to play for the Washington Redskins, Steve’s car hit some standing water, flipped and broke his spine.

I met Steve a few years later while working in Wilmington for a local TV station.  Steve spoke to high school kids about wearing seatbelts.  I produced an interview with him after the speech.  He was nice and easy to talk to.  He seemed as happy with his lot as about anyone.  I heard no regrets.

Steve passed last month.  I just read about it here.  My condolences to his family and friends.  Thanks for the memories, Steve.

Monday, July 20, 2009

An Accident That May Save a Life

The Iraq 2009 adventure has begun and not on the best of notes.  I’m currently in Kuwait trying to get the proper paperwork to allow me to get to Baghdad.  It might happen by tonight, but I’m not counting on it.  I’ll post more details about that later.

This post is about an incident that happened last week and will continue to play out over the next two.  While I was in Texas, Dr. K’s car got side-swiped while it sat parked on the street in front of our house.  We have a house in a very old part of the Queen City and ours does not have a driveway or garage.  We’ve been parking on the street without anything worse than an occasional break-in for over a decade now.

That changed on Wednesday morning when my wife saw the damage to her car.  She did the right thing and called the police.  While the police were there, the couple from next door came out and the woman said that she had seen the accident around 8:30 the evening before (still light in NC).  She gave a description of the car and how the driver had stopped briefly after the impact and then sped away.  Dr. K was a little dumbfounded that this neighbor failed to call the police or call our house or at least knock on the door but we weren't there and don’t know what may have distracted her.  The police estimated the bent sheet metal, scratches, broken mirror and ruined molding would cost about $1200 to fix.  In other words, the damage was significant but wasn’t horrible.

Dr. K left me a message explaining what had happened so that I didn’t worry when I saw the damage.  When I did get home that night we talked about all that had happened, but we knew that there was probably no way to catch the person at this point.

Fast forward to the next afternoon as I arrive home from work.  Another neighbor, this one is the nice lady from down the street, calls my name and hurries up to my house.  What she had to tell me was almost unbelievable.  She had seen and heard enough to know who hit my wife’s car.  It was the friend of a teenager that lived at the end of our block.  Nice lady remembered the car from the girl’s birthday when the friends decorated it with condoms among other things. Kids these days!

A few minutes later, Dr. K and I are headed down to the house on our block just in time to see the girl get into her car preparing to leave.  We stop her and have a chat with her.  The poor little girl starts shaking like a leaf and basically spills the beans on her friend giving up her name and cell phone number.  The last name is very uncommon so we take that back and before I can warm my seat back up, I’ve got her father Googled, identified, and on the phone.  The girl does not live with her father so he didn’t know anything about an accident.  I was about to finish my conversation with him when there came a knock on our door. 

It was the girl, the hit-and-run driver, come to confess to the crime of which she had already been caught.  To her credit, she didn’t try to explain it away except to say that she was on her cell phone and wasn’t paying attention to driving.  She took responsibility and offered to do what she could to make it right.  She too was shaking and about to cry a couple of times but she held it together and Dr. K and I did our best to keep her calm.  We told her how impressed we were that she had come forward.  She’s just a kid and we had nothing to gain by chastising her.

After she left, I told Dr. K that I’m not upset with her in the least as I probably would have done the same thing back in my youth.  The Dr. told me that she was a little angry and that leaving the scene would never have crossed her mind.  I believe her.  That’s still how she is.  What would you have done?  It’s an interesting question that require some personal honesty.

Well, the estimates look more like $1600 and there will be charges for a rental car for a week or more, so the total damage to this young lady’s bank account will be somewhere around $2000.  It won’t feel like it to her, but that is still pretty cheap for such a big lesson.  If it causes her to put down the phone while she drives, this accident may have just saved her life.