Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Yes, newspapers still have younger readers

When I walked in from my morning run clutching the newspaper, one of the twins, Andie, pointed at it and said "newspaper."

I think one twin is getting an extra jellybean tonight.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Finally, a snow day

It's been a dry winter. I'm cool with that since it's a lot easier to run on a dry street. But it was time, and sure enough, Thursday the snow started falling during my 6-mile run and didn't stop until today. We got enough to earn it a title - the Blizzard of '09.

Here's what we did with it.


video

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Five ways I know I'm a parent of three young children

Hey. A lot is going on with me right now, and I can't really talk about it just yet. But I want to post, so here's a lighthearted post. Five ways I know I'm a parent of twins under 2 and a toddler under 4.

• I have the agility of a ballet dancer. I used to be clumsy and unsure, even when I was climbing mountains every weekend (I was always surprisingly nimble on the thin ledges or rocks, however). But now? I can dodge a minefield of dolls, lego blocks, Hot Wheels cars, DVDs, blocks with sharp corners, toy strollers, big fire trucks, shoes, clothes and the occasional twin, toddler or dog. All in a manner of seconds. When I do inevitably trip, I usually do some Baryshnikov-like move in the air and land on my soles. I usually skip the bow, though, because I'm probably chasing after a twin, and they're pretty fast now.

• I can cheer silently during sports, even Kansas basketball. It gets a little tougher now, during the tournament, but I keep it in check for the most part. I used to LOVE to yell, both good and bad, at them, but having a dog cut out the bad, and having kids cut out both.
I'm not perfect. I was cheering the other day and the toddler, Jayden, kept looking at me and laughing and saying, "Daddy, what you doing?" He asks me that 1,576 times a day anyway, but I could tell he was slightly concerned. When I asked him "But it's all in good fun, so it's OK when Daddy yells because it means he's happy, right?"
He looked at me and said, "Well, no."

• I have the patience of a monk. OK, not a monk. Maybe a hyperactive monk. Still, I am a 100 times more patient than I used to be, which means I"m still not quite patient enough with the three. When Jayden spilled all his cereal all over himself the other day, mainly because we were screwing around during breakfast, he cried and I merely laughed a bit and told him it was OK. I could not do that two years ago.

• However, my laser-like memory has been reduced to swiss cheese. I can't remember people's names as often as I should, and that's because my brain is too occupied with things like:
- "Where did Andie go?"
- "Where did Allie go?"
- "Where are their pacifiers?"
- "Where are their juice cups" (Today I found a cup with cottage-cheese in it because it had milk in it for a couple weeks and we just discovered it. Oops.)
- "Where are their fucking juice cups?"
- "When are they going to bed?"

• I can change a diaper in the dark, while grabbing another twin with one arm, with my back turned, with poop getting on my hand, while the other one fights me, while getting their bath ready, while screaming (softly) at Kate for help, without missing a beat or gagging.

Bonus: I really enjoy even the screamiest heavy metal now because, hey, it can't be any worse than when the girls start feeding off each other.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Crossroads

Everything should be fine. We're a strong country. We've survived worse. I think. Not since I've been alive, but we've survived worse.
Everything should be fine. So we'll lose a few businesses. It won't shake our foundation.
Everything should be fine. So people are losing their jobs. That will just create new opportunities for people.
Everything should be fine. So newspapers are shutting down or closing, and jobs are disappearing and the market is flooded with good writers now. Your newspaper can hang on. It's smaller and we matter here.
Everything should be fine. So you're not really sure you could do anything else other than write, and it's hard to say how many writing jobs are out there. People who can actually write are rare. Your skills will be valued.
Everything should be fine. So yeah, wow, it's starting to look super scary out there, but it's not like our economy will just collapse.
Everything should be fine. So the easy targets are disappearing at PokerStars. The UEIGA will be repealed, and soon the fish will be back.
Everything should be fine. So you're worried about the freelance jobs you already do have. You didn't NEED the extra money anyway, even if you were putting it toward an emergency fund that you're afraid you're going to have to use.
Everything should be fine. So you're worried about how you'd make it with your three young kids and the house payment if you did lose your job. Kate still would have hers and the cars are paid for.
Everything should be fine. Yes, your newspaper seems to have half the people in the building it once did, but you've survived. You're good. You're valuable. You'll make it even if more cuts happen.
Everything should be fine. Web journalism appears viable, even if they haven't figured out how to actually make money at it. More people are reading than ever. I'm sure they wouldn't mind paying for it.
Everything should be fine.

Denial is a wonderful tool. Maybe I'll actually start believing those statements up there. I'm just not sure when it becomes delusion.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Omaha, Vegas

I strolled up to the Venetian's poker room confident as a cock...er, rooster....ready to stake my claim.
"What would you like?" the lady asked.
"Omaha," I squeaked.
My voice came out like I had just sucked down enough helium to fill the balloons at a Red Robin grand opening.
I really wanted to do this. I had fallen for Omaha in a way I had not felt since the Heather Thomas poster I had on my wall during my junior high school years. I not only love the game, I'm infatuated, and play it in the PokerStars cash games probably as much as Hold 'Em, mostly for two reasons:
1. Hold 'Em, even No-Limit, at the nine-handed tables that I play usually feature about as much action as two 12-year-olds on their first date watching "The Little Mermaid" in front of her parents. There's usually five rocks waiting to get A-A so they can win the blinds when they raise, one fish, one aggressive idiot and me.
But Omaha has action. Lots of good, fun action Jackson at .10/.25 pot-limit, especially six-handed.
2. The players, unlike the Hold 'Em players, are much worse than me. I've seen so many lately push their whole stack in with Q-Q-x-3. I called off a player just last night with two-pair, J-5, because I knew he had an overpair. Sure enough, he showed Kings with no hope for a draw, then reamed me for five minutes. I declined to educate him.
Still, I knew the live players would probably be better than that, and not only that, but I'd have to play HI-Lo, which is fun but not exactly a game I play often. Namely, like, never.
I got a few tips from Drizz and CK, however, and so I felt somewhat ready to play.
On the first hand, I was lifting up my cards when the dealer gave me two and nearly caused a misdeal because I not only knocked my third card face up, I nicked the player's to my left. The dealer gave me a look, like, "Um, hey, idiot, remember this is a four-card game."
It was a good start.
I bought in for $200 and immediately lost about $75 of it. I resolved to tighten up a lot more and then played A-2 that eventually turned into a wheel. I had the low on the turn and figured I was freerolling. I scooped the pot.
I was so proud until the dealer set the half-kill button in front of me and told me to stack six chips on it.
Why? I want to enjoy my pot! I don't want to just give it away!
Oh, yeah. OK.
Of course, when it got to me, I was three milliseconds away from mucking my hand when the dealer "hinted" that I might want to hang on to them, as those six chips are an automatic call. Nice job, I told myself, and laughed, remarking that I must really love my hand. The table laughed too. Ah, well, at least I was a comedian among the old, grumpy guys and annoying know-it-all to my right who pointed out the high and the low whenever someone tabled his or her cards before the dealers opened their mouths.
To know-it-all's credit, most of the dealers knew the game, but some clearly didn't. One seemed to have no clue how to divide a split, three-way pot that had a quartered low and a side pot. I know that's confusing, but isn't that her job? It took, literally, five minutes to figure it out. Granted, had the other players just shut up and let her work, it would have gone much faster, but we know how often that happens at a poker table.
Some general observations about my play:
• I was afraid of going for just half the pot, especially when it was a low. As a result, I folded a couple of lows that I maybe should have stayed with. But they were not the nut lows by the turn, and usually it was either heads up or against one other player, and it just didn't seem worth the chance of it not getting there or me getting quartered. Which, by the way, happened to me twice regardless.
I'm not sure if that's good or bad to worry too much about winning only half the pot.
• I had some bad luck when I flopped a full house on a K-K-6 board and a pair of 6s in my hand. I was heads-up with a woman who was clearly clueless. When the third K fell and she smirked, bet and then looked away, I mucked my hand with a touch of anger. I'm pretty sure she would have called down my raises to the river with her trip Ks. I also had a set of Qs shot down by a flush on the river, but I did not pay the two players with flushes off.
• I rarely played a hand without a good low possibility, meaning if I didn't have A-2 or A-3, I usually didn't play it. I did play high cards but not too often. It didn't seem to cost me, either, as I would not have hit much, but the quality of the show-downs - some won with only two pair or even just a pair at times - made me think I should have played more hands. I probably need help on hand selection. CK's tip to not play hands with a dangler really did help.
• The table was very passive, with a ton of check calling. I realize that's not a bad way to play in Omaha, as opposed to Hold 'Em, but I'm also convinced a better, more aggressive player who could put people on draws could have made a lot of money.
Any tips, though (CK I'm on Facebook!) would help.
I left about $125 down after several hours. I considered it the price of entertainment and a nice sorbet to clear my poker pallet before I would make it all back, and more, at the $1-2 NLHE tables that night.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Proof

Thoughts on two days in Vegas:

• Proof that I don't mind adventure (in case you haven't guessed that by now) - I played 4/8 Omaha Hi/Lo at the Venetian. Definitely a highlight of the trip. Fun-wise, not bankroll-wise.

• Proof that there are some certifiable nuts on the strip: A guy in a Jesus saves ballcap (maybe from "Jesus Christ Superstar?") was shouting at people with a mic. One of his arguments was, "You have no guarantees in this world. A satellite could fall from the sky and land on you."
So I should start kissing a Jesus statue's feet because of a 1 in one quadrillion chance (or about as much chance of me sucking out on someone)? Sign me up!

• Proof that one in one quadrillion chances do occur: I pushed my semi, frustrated short stack against a guy who was fairly tight at the Bellagio Friday with A-K on a K-high flop. I thought I was dead when he turned over two more Kings. I was right until I went runner, runner straight for the pot.

• Proof that I can play too weak - I had far too many pocket pairs to count but didn't play them strong enough (just one set out of the literally 30 I had would have helped, but I digress), but I got a little gun shy after an old man cracked my A-A with K-3 sooted and my J-J with 8-3 sooted.

• Proof that I was not in charge of the trip: No Steel Panther. Sorry, Blood, Wife, Doc, Trooper, StB. I have failed thee.

• Proof that I still have The Goods: Five women hit on me this weekend. And only four of them wanted money for their services.

• Proof that I'm delusional occasionally: The fifth was stumbling, bumbling drunk.

• Proof that I can run well after a couple frustrating, soul-crushing poker sessions (including dropping $200 at a 3/6 limit game, which I was playing so I could join my buddies at the poker table) - At Caesar's, I finally flopped a set, doubled up through a guy's Kings, then flopped a straight with 10-9 sooted and got paid.
I was shocked at how dead Caesar's poker room was. There was tournament action but the cash games could barely get one two $1-2 no limit games together. Shame.
At that night's 3/6 game, which we were playing to unwind before bed at the MGM, I didn't even have chips yet when the dealer asked if I wanted a hand.
Well, sure.
He dealt me 2-2. I announced call without my chips and we were off.
Flop 2-8-2.
Not bad.
One guy bet, another raised, and again without my chips I announced call. I thought about raising but there were two hearts on the board and I was hoping at least one of them had a flush draw.
The third heart came. Bet, bet, and I announced "raise." Sure enough one folded but the other called.
He bet out again - heaven - and I raised on the river, without chips. He called and showed an A-high flush. I quickly flipped my quads because slowrolling is for douchebags. The table went nuts. How sweet is it to have your chips brought to you while a pot is shipped to you at the same time?
That's like....um, well, Mom might be reading this so never mind.
• Proof that there is a natural balance to things - The quality of the women went down as we walked south down the strip, from Caesar's to the Bellagio, then to New York New York. The MGM helped things a little but it just wasn't the same.
• Proof that I had a good time - I didn't even care that Kansas blew its game against Baylor.
• Proof that I'm lucky - My kids and wife were waiting for me when I got home.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

I deserve a break today (but I'll wait until Thursday)

I've discovered the key to being a good parent.
Sorry, but it's not the time you spend with them.
Sorry, but it's not God.
Sorry, but it's not good clothes, good schools and a good place to lay your head.
Oh, all those are important. But they're not the key.
The key is the break.
If I know a break is coming, I can work for weeks on end without complaint. I can take all the fussing, sussing and fighting. I can take anything. I can go without sleep and run like the wind for many days in a row. I can do anything.
But only if I know a break is coming.
Well, it's coming.
In 24 hours or so, I'll be on a plane.
Viva Las Vegas.
Baby.
Thursday morning, I'll arrive, and by noon, I'll be at the poker tables. Then some buddies who are turning 40 arrive Thursday night, and it's time for a nice dinner and whatever else happens.
I don't have to plan anything.
Friday, we might even go to see Steel Panther.
I don't get many breaks. And this one's only a couple days long.
It's all I need. It's not the break itself, although that's awesome.
It's the fact that it's coming. And close.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

One dog day at a time

We went to a psychiatrist last night. Ha ha, no, it wasn't for me.
It wasn't for Jayden or the twins, either, though I've been tempted. The wife? She's the only real stable one in the house.
No, it was for our dog, Denali.
We wanted a husky when we walked into the animal shelter eight years ago. I'd always loved them, and they'd be perfect for the name I already picked out. Plus some of my best friends had one and I got along with her better than most of my girlfriends, despite her about as much attitude as many of them.
But we walked by the cage, and he met our eyes and started wagging his tail as if it was a metronome, and by the time he had finished with his back and forth, he had our heart.
We knew there would be some issues. He shuffled on his butt, as if he was afraid of someone booting him there. It took some work, but underneath all that fear was a sweet, loving dog who wanted to please, played ball with the best of them and lay with us at night on the couch.
When he bit the first person, a jogger, about four years after we had him, it didn't seem that seem that serious. He didn't hurt the guy, really, and he was running right at me. I honestly didn't blame him.
However, the next time, it was a friend. Again, not serious, but it was like that once or twice a year. And then, two weeks ago.
My sister-in-law's mom and dad came to Kate's parents. And they just walked in the door.
That was the thing. If you spent a little time with him, Denali would be in your lap in a few minutes. But if he didn't know you, and you walked in the door, he'd bite you. And this time, it was serious.
He bit her so hard, in fact, she had to go to urgent care. Thankfully it really wasn't that bad, but there were two puncture wounds, and we know it was terrifying for her. Frankly, it would terrify the hell out of me.
We were ready to put him down.
I called our vet, who I've known for years, and he recommended a behaviorist. That's who we visited last night.
She's made a career out of reading animals. She'd probably make a pretty good poker player, as she's a master at reading non-verbal clues. But she's a mother of three and very busy. Her time is in great demand these days.
I could see why right away.
She taught us how to defuse his anxiety, as that's what was causing the bites. I agreed with her. It seemed that first year never did leave him, no matter how much we loved him. She taught how to help him relax, mostly with food, and how to establish his own area where he can feel safe.
It will be some work, but there is hope now that our dog, really our first child, can stay with us and leave his demons behind.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Five things I don't want to hear another smidge about

1. Stories about how the economy is affecting businesses. I don't need to read a single word about how the economy is hurting the ketchup industry or the diaper industry or the tampon industry. Editors are just getting lazy now. Things are bad. I get it.
2. That batshit woman who had eight kids. Let's not reward her heinous act by feeding her obvious, disturbing need for attention any longer, OK?
3. "The Bachelor." OMG. He DUMPED ONE WOMAN FOR ANOTHER. Holy Cow. That NEVER happens in relationships! He had a change of heart? What a BASTARD! Come on, people, let's pick up our jaws off the floor and move on, shall we?
4. How newspapers are dying. Thanks.
5. American Idol. Unless Change 100 is writing about it.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Things will get better....right?

Downswings happen. We know that as poker players, right? Everyone loses at some point. That's why we have bankrolls. They're there to absorb the hard times.
That's what gets me about everyone's utter lack of faith in the economy right now. That's what the bailouts are for. We're just using part of our nation's bankroll to help with these hard times, until the cards come our way and the economy gets better.
But I am beginning to have serious doubts, try as I might not to worry.
I never doubted my ability as a poker player before this two-month downswing because I have the bankroll to play at the level on PokerStars, but what if, I thought, these hard times are more of a trend than a symptom? What if it's going to be like this for the year, until the UIEGA gets repealed and the fish come back? What if nothing happens?
The same thoughts about our economy crawled through my mind this weekend during the annual Colorado Press Association convention. The Rocky Mountain News went under Friday, leaving Denver with one newspaper and rumors of the Post doing just as poorly. The room for the awards ceremony seemed empty and sullen. Everyone spoke of hard times.
I'm facing a different situation than many of you. I'm not too worried about being downsized, even though all our salaries were cut last week. When I won three awards at the ceremony this weekend, including two firsts, my publisher and editor were sitting right next to me. They know I'm important.
I just don't know if our industry will survive. It is, literally, like being the captain of The Titanic, as cliched as it sounds.You might be important to the ship, but that's not all that great if it goes under.
Regardless, lots of companies are going through the same thing, and I could not help but wonder if our nation's bankroll is enough. I don't know what kind of a reserve we have, but what if we go broke? It's happened to even the best poker players. I pictured our nation as a Mad Max wasteland, with people fighting over busted-out homes and sticks with fire. Really.
I want to believe that we will pull out of this, and that this is just a painful readjustment of what we can live with as a nation.
I've never carried any credit card debt, my cars are paid for, and my three kids are clothed, fed and have plenty of toys (they are still whiny as hell, but you can't have everything). We do this on a teacher's and journalist's salary, the two professions lowest on the scale with college degrees. I'm not saying this to brag. I'm saying this because it is possible to have an economy where everyone lives comfortably without relying on credit to power it. Granted, my life isn't fancy, nice or stuffed with luxury. But it's comfortable.
I like what Obama is doing, but I also know he's a poker player, and it does seem like a risk. Even if it is smart, we all know that getting our money in good, that playing smart, doesn't always work.
It's a new month, March. And I had a terrific session Friday, wiping out half my losses in one night. Then I went and played some live poker with friends, and despite suffering four awful suckouts, including almost all my chips to a literal one-outer, I cashed. Then I went home and wound down with some Omaha and won again.
I went to bed last night feeling good about poker and my game again. I'm just looking for the same encouraging sign for our country.