Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Hill Climb

Set up a couple hundred feet from the bottom
Rev it, pop clutch and run through the gears
Take it to the highest speed you feel fairly safe with
Hit the bottom and start climbing

Incline causes you to lose momentum
Lose traction
Front end gets lighter
Then downshifting to increase torque
Run out of gears short of the top

Front wheel bounces high
Bail out, bail out
Get away from the falling metal
Bike lays on side of hill

Lift it, heavy
Dead weight
Hand holding brake
Position it pointed downhill

Release brake
Devil's Hole, Idaho 1976
Run alongside
Hop on
Pop the clutch
Thumper comes to life

Ride, slide to the bottom
To try again

(For Jack, CB III and Leadbelly)




Friday, June 1, 2018

Squirrel Nuts


-->
The following is the absolute truth I swear
I was at the golf course this afternoon
Polishing my single digit handicap a little
(Alright I have lied already
But this is the last time honest!)

I was sitting at a picnic table
Outside the clubhouse
Enjoying a sandwich
(Okay it was a hot dog with everything.)
And I couldn’t help but notice
There were at least a dozen squirrels
Within fifty feet of me

They were all playing Squirrel Nuts
Some were looking
Some were burying
Some were digging up
Some were eating

I don’t know
I was thinking they were all a little confused
"Acting squirrelly" you might say
It made me think of our 535+1
Maybe they are all playing Squirrel Nuts too

Don’t forget though
It’s all our fault
We put those squirrels there

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Geezer - The Transition

No, this isn't me.
But it is close.
Unlike factual events including birthdays and anniversaries, I don't think there is an actual moment a person officially becomes a "geezer."  Its more an evolving state of mind that qualifies you right?  Perhaps your own state of mind, "Damn, I'm getting old." Or others, "Wow, look at that old geezer!"

I would like to point out here that Geezer is yet another male-dominated class...the dictionary simply defines it as "old man."  So sorry ladies, we own this one.  You don't want a piece of this anyway.

Perhaps it is part of the progression from the old moniker "Squeeze" (young person) to "Wrinkle" (old person) although I am pretty sure many of us achieve Wrinkle status well before Geezer status.

In addition to a progression of wrinkles, there seem to be many characteristics that distinguish a person as a Geezer.  I can think of a few and I had better list them here before I forget them...short-term memory loss being a key sign of geezerness.  Here are my top ten, in no particular order:

1. I just mentioned short-term memory loss.  When a person is young this characteristic is most often thought of as absent-mindedness and it can often be brought on by "information overload." (Yeah, better Google that.  Check out author Alvin Toffler while you're at it.)  When you get old its different.  For a Geezer, it just happens...no excuses.  Plus, if you didn't hear it, how could you get it let alone remember it?!

2. Infirmities: My observation, likely observed by millions of others before me; as we grow old and greet our peers we increasingly tend to discuss our infirmities before moving on to other topics.

I first observed this tendency just as I was entering the world of geezers, somewhere in my early 60's.  Geezer conversations are not for the faint of heart - or better yet, perhaps they are only for the faint of heart!

3. Pills: Wasn't taking many at all really when old age started creeping up on me.  At first that is.  Then, I gradually kept adding to my morning regimen until I adopted the "load up a plastic compartmentalized container marked Sunday through Saturday" technique to save time in preparing a handful or so.  Next, some evening pills quickly became candidates for similar advance packing.  Now, I use two blue containers for night pills and two of other colors for day pills so I can set aside two weeks' worth at a time.

The worrisome thing about the container technique occurs when you get down to that last day. You then realize two more weeks have gone by and you will not get them back.  But you buck up and press on, loading them puppies up for another round. Outwardly you remain undaunted for this exercise but inwardly...WTF?!

4. Wrinkles: Previously mentioned.  No need for further discussion.

5. Walking:  Hey, its just putting one foot in front of the other right?!  But then, why does this suddenly become less predictable?  Is there such a thing as short-term memory loss for muscles?

6. Sleeping:  Lets face it Geezer...when your head hits that pillow its anybodies guess.  You don't know if you are going to sleep or not and if you do, whether you will sleep for ten hours or two.

7. Exercise:  Well Geeezers can do it just as often - but more restful (in)activities are much more appealing right?!

8. Thinking:  Seriously, I love this one.  As a Geezer, I get to look out the window and think of moments in life when I was a vibrant Squeeze...loving, learning, running, chasing, taking in every last possible moment.  Call it sentimentality if you like.

9. Dying:  Yes its gotta' be on the list right?  Geezer relatives and pals are dying off and you miss them.  Each one also reminds you of your own mortality.  In these modern times...you have Facebook friends who still have pages yet have passed.

10. Gratitude:  Yup, no list of qualifications would be complete without this one.  You have to be eternally grateful to your God or to your circumstance, whichever you prefer,  to have lived long enough to gain your Geezer status.

Geezer Remedies: diet, exercise, stretching...repeat ad nauseum.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

My Valentine

My Valentine - 1970
"Happy Valentine's Day!"
I said first thing this morning.
She said it back to me.

My response; "This is the 49th time we have said this."

She said; "Yes.  And my Mom passed away 50 years ago today. I can't believe it has been that long."
(My Valentine was just 18 at the time.)

I want to somehow fill that empty space in her heart. Space her Mom could have filled for so many more years. I know that I cannot possibly do this.

And I think about the wonderful relationship she has with her daughter.

And I wish she could have had more of the same with her Mom.

And I wish I could say this to her Mom;
"Your daughter has filled the room with her smiles and laughter for all of her days. She warms the hearts of her son, daughter and husband every moment she is in our lives. You must be so proud of her, your Julieann Marie. Thank you for giving her to us and Happy Valentines' Day Betty Thomas."




Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Flipping

On our short, three block segment of ten street homes, one home has flipped and two are in the process already this year.

Time had come for folks who weren't so old when we first moved into the neighborhood just over 30 years ago.

Millie and Ken's Place
Good folks now gone
The house across from us was once occupied by Millie, retired school teacher and Ken, retired engineer.    Ken passed a few years back and Millie has found fun in a retirement center. Their home of around 55 years just hit the flip stage.  You can tell as the Mercedes, BMW's and Grand Cherokee's park often and stay a while...their owners carefully going over the premises inside and out.  Makes me think of vultures hovering over a desert carcass. Of course it's not really that bad, just time marching on.

Millie and Ken never really upgraded their home from when they bought it new around 1959, save a new roof a few years back.  Now it needs dual-pane windows, new flooring and new kitchen redesign and remodel, 2.5 baths remodeled and a wall or two knocked down.  Could also use new contemporary siding, some serious lawn work and quite possibly new furnace and air conditioner.

The flippers are all over this one like a cheap suit.  Hell, I was even kicking it around with Julie.  But...I am too ignorant about putting the proper deal together plus, Millie and Ken's daughter has it priced about $50k over market...way past the ballpark.  The expert flippers will figure it out though, eventually.

This is Sacramento in 2018 and there ain't enough homes to go around. 'Merica.  Land of opportunity. 

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Quantum Poker - The Wrinkle's Run

We used to have these terms; "Squeeze" referring to someone who was young and "Wrinkle" was...well you know, the opposite.  I have now moved well beyond wrinkle status.  However, somehow I manage to hang around in poker tournaments to reach the final 'cash' table now and then. This is in spite of the fact that there are plenty of "squeezes" hanging around to apply the pressure with smart, aggressive play.

This past November, one of our newer Sacramento area casinos, Stones Gambling Hall put on their "Quantum" tournament. This included a number of satellite tourneys a player could use to qualify for the final day, in all a $100,000 guaranteed pot. I got lucky in one of the cheaper $120 qualifiers and won $250 while bagging 91,000 chips to go along with a seat in the "Main Event" final day tournament. On that day, you could just enter cold for $900 and get 100,000 starting chips or have previously qualified as I did. You could also re-enter for another $900 if you got knocked out.

Early on the final day a poker pal, Eric, shoved all-in in front of me with pocket queens while I was sitting on pocket Aces and I doubled up.

It was pretty cool that Eric went to the cashier's cage, bought in again for another $900 and ended up finishing 7th overall in the tournament.

The rest of the day went pretty smooth with no major set backs and I continued to increase my chip stack in spite of the young, and not-so-young guns in the crowd. We went from 11Am to about 11PM with a ten-minute break every couple of hours. Then, to my surprise, I found myself among the 9 players headed to the final table.
Final table underway!
(click on the photo to enlarge)

Stones Gambling Hall's Table #11 is set up professionally for televising with commentary. It has several cameras and special lighting. The table is set up to electronically read the cards players as they are dealt so commentators can share details about players and hands with their audience. What made this event special was our commentators; Lon McEachern, the voice of poker pretty much world-wide and Michale Loncar, teaching pro. Those two were the frosting on the cake for a great tournament.

Our final table was to be broadcast live on Twitch.tv. That meant a 20-minute delay so competitors couldn't be coached by outsiders during real-time action.
Nah, I'm not going to play this one...
(click on the photo to enlarge)

I was pretty excited about the whole thing so I texted the family in case they were still up and could watch. Son Tyler and wife Julieann were up and dialed it right in. It wasn't long before he began coaching me on general play and I loved it. Some of Tyler's texts included:

(click on the photo to enlarge)
He's telling me to say calm - much like I used to advise him when he was pitching in baseball; "Deep breath, back of the hand." The "breath" to help calm him and "Back of the hand" a technical reference to positioning his pitching (left) hand toward the batter before he began his wind up.

(click on the photo to enlarge)
I did not have the presence of mind to tell him even pocket Aces gets beat 18% of the time but his advice was right on. Loved the "unzip" part...right after following this advise, we caught a couple of hands and got back in the game enough to outlast a couple more players.

(click on the photo to enlarge)





















We couldn't hear the commentators at the table so it was pretty cool that Tyler shared their impressions with me.  I went out fifth and, as I was cashing Tournament Director Justin Kuraitis asked me if I wanted a security escort to the parking garage. I initially said "no" but after collecting that fifth place cash I thought better of it and the guard accompanied me to the car. It was 2:30 am so not a bad idea eh?!

And there you have it...an old wrinkle's adventure. If you want to see some of the actual proceedings here is a link to the YouTube episode: Quantum $100k Guaranteed Final Table.

Thanks Stones Gambling Hall, Thanks Son Tyler and most of all, thanks Lady Luck!



Monday, January 22, 2018

The "Clock"

In the poker game of Texas hold'em there is an etiquette option for a player to call the "clock" on an opponent.  This occurs when a player is taking what appears to be more than a reasonable amount of time to make a decision to call, raise or fold his hand. It is an option rarely used because players recognize how tough a decision can be and generally want to give their opponents all the time they need.  

The vast majority of players make their decisions quickly. But, calling the "clock" can be useful when a player "tanks" (takes too long to take action).  In reality, you might not see a clock called in thousands of tournament poker hands.  When it does happen, the dealer calls the Tournament Director to the table to notify the player and begin a 30 second countdown, typically with "10 second" and "5 second" reminders.

So here's the story...yesterday in our local Capital Casino Sunday tournament we were well into the second series of four intervals (maybe 2 hours) when this hand occurred:

I was at or near the big blind (last to bet on a hand preflop) and looked down at Ace, six unsuited.  I had a decent chip stack of about 20,000.  The blinds were 300/600.  Bets went around the 10 player table and there were 4-5 callers before my turn.  I rarely play Aces with small kickers but, since no one had raised I sensed an opportunity to take down the sizable pot by semi-bluffing so I raised to 6,000.  Players folded around the table but one player, with a somewhat larger chip stack decided to go "all-in."

I was sitting with one third of my stack in the pot and was almost certain I would be behind when the hands were revealed.  My choices were to "ship" the rest of my chips to a likely losing cause or fold.  I did have a small chance my Ace was on top but it didn't look good. At that time we had maybe 30 players left of 60+ in the tournament so we weren't that close that I had to hang on to my chips  in hopes of hitting the final and cashing.

Being left handed - I have to admit that I struggle with working without deadlines so that probably had a lot to do with my predicament as I sat for long time trying to decide what to do.  So, a fair amount of time passed.  Then finally, one of my old pals, "A.F." said something like; "Tom, with all respect and I love you like a brother and all but you have to make a decision here."  Ordinarily, players not involved in a hand are not allowed to comment while another player is all in but no one including me objected.  I said something like: "Your are right A.F. - go ahead and call a clock on me."  He didn't want to do it so I called one on myself.

In 8 years or so of live tournament poker I have only seen a clock called maybe a dozen times and three of those times I have called it on myself.  I needed that deadline in order to act you see.  I really can't see that as associated with being left-handed but the old wives tale says we lefties are procrastinators so I will go with that.

The Director came to our table and the dealer told him I had called the clock on myself.  The Director, Mark then began a 30 second clock.  "Ten seconds."  "Five seconds."  At that I decided it was probably time for me to go home so I shoved my remaining chips into the pot.  My opponent showed Ace, Jack off suit against my Ace, six off suit.  The flop (next three cards) was uneventful, the turn was the same...nothing for either player.

The river (seventh and last card) came and BOOM, it was a six giving me the win.  This is called a "suck-out" in poker parlance and it was big.  I pulled in around 50,000 in chips and was on my way to a 3-way chop (tie) for first place in the tournament, pocketing 8 times the entry fee.

I had several other suck-outs yesterday...it was one of those days where Lady Luck kept patting me on the back even when I didn't deserve it.  It happens to all us players now and then.

This reminds me that poker is, in many ways like Christmas.  The dealer gives you cards (presents). When you look (open) at them you see something you were hoping for 'Pocket Aces!' or you see another set of underwear that Grandma gave you, or something in between.  It's the in-betweens that can give you fits.

See you at the Final Table.





Saturday, December 30, 2017

Crisp


Crisp cold day
The "Pistol", JMC; "Microphone", TTC;
"Pen and Quill", SMC
Sketch by Samantha Marie Campbell
(Suggested tattoo for Dad who wanted one...
pending) 
Early morning Sun sends warmth
Through closed car window
Gentle, easy on my face

Leather wrapped steering wheel
Connected to me
Gentle, baby soft on my hands

Traffic lights all turn green before me
Clearing path to destination
Gentle, good signals through my eyes

No radio on
Just the deep growl of a mighty American V-8
Gentle, familiar and relaxing to my fading ears

These are ofttimes my collected thoughts
Simple things meaningful to me
Yet unknown to others unless mentioned here

But yes, there is another CRISP
And many more that could be titled the same

Monday, December 4, 2017

Poker - When You're Losing

Probably the most memorable quote I have heard concerning poker, mainly Texas Hold'em Poker is one from Daniel "Kid Poker" Negraenu.  Someone asked him about the difference between a professional and an amateur poker player.  His answer; "When an amateur is winning, he thinks he is good.  When he is losing, he thinks he is bad."  Here, I believe he is subtly pointing out that we, us amateurs that is, often forget how significant plain old good luck is.

Sure there is plenty of patience and skill involved in the game but Lady Luck is definitely the Big Kahuna.  Around Hold'em tournaments at break time, sad stories abound: "I had xx, the other guy had xx.  The flop came, then the turn came then the river and  then the lucky sob had xxxxx and beat me."  If you are listening you hear these stories at a ratio easily exceeding 10:1 in favor of "sad" as opposed to "glad."  My overall calculation of the factors it takes to win at the game, in another story in another time, goes like this: Luck, 25%; Skill, 25%; Patience, 25%; and finally Luck again, 25%.  Yeah, yeah Vern I know I have made this point before... right here...in this entry: "Aces in Places"

If you are a fairly long-term amateur like me, sometimes those hard luck stories hit you personally and if they occur close together you start feeling the Negraenu syndrome - like you are a "bad" player.

The spoils of a hold'em game...
Case in Point:  Yesterday (Sunday) I was in the weekly tourney on my home court (Capital Casino) and I had an extraordinary run of luck, as in "bad luck."  The same guy (Let's call him "Lucky SOB") nailed me three times with *suck-outs.

The very first hand of the tournament, I looked down at pocket Aces, slowed played them a little to build the pot and lost to Lucky SOB who had King, Jack off-suit and hit two pair.  Okay, no serious damage as I only dropped about 1/6th of my stack.  A little later I look down at an Ace-Jack off-suit, smooth call the blinds and flop Ace, Jack.  Again trying to draw action I put in a small bet and get a couple of calls.  The cards play out and I end up losing over half my stack to to Lucky SOB who rivered a straight.  Next, I have worked my stack back up and my pocket tens get short stack shoved by a different player with pocket Queens that hold up.

I hang steady for another hour or two, and build my stack up a little.  We have redrawn twice and my new table includes the guy who sucked out on me twice earlier.  The blinds are almost a third of my stack at 1,600 and I am in the big blind.  I look down at pocket tens.  Every one folds behind me except Lucky SOB who calls my blind.  I figure I can get him this time so I shove my stack of 6,000+ and he calls damn near immediately.  He turns over Queen, Seven of diamonds.  the board plays out and on the river he ends up wrapping a straight around the 7 so I am out.  Lucky SOB has nailed me three times including the very beginning and the very end.  I have never been zapped by one player so many times before.
My chip stack at it's peak that day...

And you are absolutely right Daniel, the whole deal made me feel like a crappy player.  But I will be back soon because the week before that...I absolutely kicked ass and cashed three times for thousands.  That's how she goes though...old Lady Luck - she gives you a smooch one day and whacks you with a hammer the next saying; "Let's not get too full of ourselves dooooooood."

*Suck Out - When someone with a lesser hand wins.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Luck Of The Draw - Where Poker Begins

Texas Hold'em poker tournaments are like a reflecting pool on life. Take a close look at the features of one and you may see most or all the features of the other.  I mean you don't choose anything about your start in life. Parents, race, location are all the luck of the draw right?  But they are all reflected in you. A poker tournaments begins the same way. You don't choose your seat.  Yet the game unfolds with many similarities to life.  And sometimes....sometimes it is almost to much to take in at once.

You walk up to the registration window, pay your entry fee and are handed a random card or ticket by the person there.  It tells you what table and what seat you are beginning the tournament with.  As the tournament progresses you may be moved around as part of a process the director uses to keep player numbers balanced at the tables.  Typically, this happens as other contestants are knocked out and there are fewer tables needed.

So your seat and table draw is where Lady Luck first enters the scene.  As the tournament progresses with "cards in the air" certain seats end up luckier than others.  Most often, momentum shifts among seats and the luck moves around.  This is most always the case but every once in while, the Lady hovers over one seat for a long, long time.  When this happens, even an average or below average player can run up a big stack of chips just going with the flow of cards.  In poker parlance, this is called a "heater" or a "run" and maybe some other names I am not familiar with.

On a recent Saturday at my local favorite haunt, Sacramento's Capital Casino, I witnessed a rare, extended run on a seat at a table near mine.  In my seven years of getting poker lessons (Yes Vern, each tournament is a lesson) I have seen maybe one other like it.

From what I could tell, the player was hitting everything he went for.  The proof was a huge stack of chips in comparison with the average stack among the rest of us.  I am guessing he had over 200,000 compared to an average of 20,000.  Over the years I had seen some great runs but quite as wild as this one...

But there was one thing I didn't notice as his action was going on behind me - I would just turn and look occasionally when the other players at his table would make a "holy crap he hit again" type noise like "OOOOOoooohhhhh!"  The thing I didn't notice, but heard about some time after, was that the player was so excited about his run of luck, he was ordering himself beers two at a time. (I should probably point out here that 99% or more poker players don't drink at all during a tournament.)

Then, it was fairly late in the tournament, only two tables left out of seven that started, maybe 20 players left out of seventy.  I noticed movement, looked up and saw our tournament director gently sliding the lucky player, who was passed out in his chair, away from our tables and into a corner of the casino.  I swear there was a smile on the player's face as he and his chair slid by.  The director then parked him in a corner where he slumped over his arms on a small table and appeared to be sleeping.

A few minutes later, he barfed all over the table and floor in front of him.  The director and pit boss then slid him and his chair out of the casino to the sidewalk and two security guards were assigned to watch over him.  The casino staff quickly cleaned up the mess and things sort of returned to normal.  What wasn't normal was the large stack of chips the player left in his original seat position.  This meant that he would be dealt hands that would be automatically folded by the dealer and that his chip stack would draw down as his turn for blinds and antes came around.

It wasn't long after that I was knocked out of the tournament and left.  A couple days later I asked the director how it all ended.  He told me the player remained passed out for about two and a half hours then recovered somewhat.  After some discussion, the director determined the player was capable of returning to the game so he did...with chips left of course.  The last three players, including the two-beer man with the lucky seat ended up chopping for a couple thousand dollars each.

There is a moral here somewhere I guess - sometimes Lady Luck will hang around and crown you even when you don't necessarily deserve it.

And yes Vern, the casino was practicing some seriously good customer service that day...

Monday, October 16, 2017

Quasimotor II - Butt Ugly


In the evolution of auto design "different" often seems the only goal...not so much "sleek" or "classic" or even at a minimum, "decent looking." It's like the folks in charge are saying; "Just make it different you pitiful designers. The new generation of buyers doesn't want anything that resembles the old...get it?!"

Recent cases in point include the cat-eye look of Lincolns, the high butt look of certain new model Jeeps and similar others, the patch job of odd mismatched geometric forms that is the Prius, the Lexus big-mouth (gulp!) look and the fast growing transformer look.

Examples?  Yup, there are plenty to choose from:

  • Lincoln MarkX - cat eyes.  I know, I know some like them... Makes me feel like should set out a litter box or there's gonna' be a big mess.



  • Jeep Trailhawk - Looks like they just didn't finish the design.  "Say...Aren't the tail lights a little high?!"


  • Prius - Busy...way too busy.  Looks like someone fell in love with boomerangs plus several other weird forms.  A crazy plastic template with lots of odd curves was let loose on this one.  Note: this is what started it all - see "Quasimodo or Quasimotor."

  • Lexus - "Allright, let's just slap a huge mouth on the front end of that puppy!  That's different right?!"  Looks like it could suck up an entire family...no need for doors.
  • Transformers - Lexus again plus many others (the new Corvette).  Again, way too busy.  Plus, my main fear is that drivers have an optional button that when pushed, will cause these things to stand up on their rear tires, unfold into 20 foot tall metal warriors and blast all oncoming vehicles out of their way.

  • Tesla - The butt (again).  "Hey, I got an idea, lets blow up the butt on our beautiful sedan design and call the whale a crossover!"  Hopefully this person is one of the hundreds who was recently fired. 

I know there are many who find beauty in these designs but frankly Scarlett, I don't. Just gimme an Audi Q5 or A6 coupe, or a new Mustang, or a Jaguar or....well, you get my drift.