Monday, June 28, 2010


I played in a home game Saturday. It's probably the first home game I've played in at least a month.
The poker was good. I booked a winning session. But it wasn't about the poker. And that's when it hit me.
It was the first time in quite a while I've had any fun at all playing poker.
It's not the extending losing streak I'm currently enjoying. I'm actually down less than the cost of a new video game. Sure, putting in your money when you're ahead and getting constantly sucked out on sucks (that must be why they call it sucking out). But the online game just doesn't excite me all that much any longer, and the opportunities to me to play live just aren't there very often. A training schedule, kids and weekends full of both will do that to you.
When I finally got the call from Pokerworks that my services were no longer needed because of cutbacks last week, I was grateful for the opportunity for the freelance work and not surprised at the same time. Times are tough everywhere. I was honestly surprised it lasted as long as it did.
I have no obligations to poker any longer. I'm not sure where that leaves me with the game. I may not play very much any longer.
Not only do I not have that much of an itch to play any longer, but the game may be passing me by. I'm probably old school despite the fact that I'm only 38. I learned the old way to play from the books, and I'm not aggressive by nature at the game. I don't know if I'll ever be too aggressive, and I don't know if I'm willing to put in the time to learn to play that way. You might think this is fine, I can just stick to the lower limits, but even the lower limits are filled with tough, aggressive players these days.
I may concentrate only on Omaha for a while, but I fear in a year or two the same thing may happen to me.
So what am I doing in those rare, spare times when I actually have some free time? Well, I'm reading, writing and raising my kids. And I'm playing Nintendo 64.
You remember that system, don't you? Yeah. I brought it back out, and it's amazing how good some of those games actually were. When you're raised on thinking blobs of light shooting at other blobs is fun, your standards are pretty low, so playing games that are 12 years old just doesn't bother you like it probably should. You tend to think those games are still pretty fucking cool. Which they are.
So where does that leave this blog? Well, this really hasn't been much of a poker blog for a couple years now. I'll still write here, and I suppose the dozen or so of you will still read it, as I doubt you had expectations about why AK in early position really fucking rocks.
I still watch poker on TV, I still read poker blogs and I still keep up with the game. But it's now only one of many activities I chose to spend my time on, and right now, it's probably in the back of the line.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Oh, Hanna, hey, Hanna Ho?

I'm - how do I put this - disappointed in Miley Cyrus' latest career move.
This is really no surprise. As you can probably guess, I haven't really liked anything Cyrus has put out (that's a pretty funny sentence once you get the context of this post further down). In fact, I thank my lucky stars, as I guess she would say, that my girls are too young to like "Hannah Montana." The amount of time she's spent on my TV screen is a tiny millifraction of the time, say, the Backyardigans have camped there.
In fact, to even say I'm disappointed implies that I expected anything other than crap. I really didn't.
Yet I am a little surprised by her new direction, and for this, I guess, I'm disappointed.
Hannah Montana is now a sexpot.
Maybe even a slut.
Someone who knows me - and that's probably all of you, or else there's really no reason to read this - could easily point out the many contradictions that will follow. Yes, I read SI's swimsuit issue. Yes, I've pointed out certain women who are hot. Yes, I've even defended a woman's right to choose her own path, and if that includes celebrating her sexuality, then so be it.
So why am I not standing up and cheering Miley Cyrus' transformation? She says she's "matured" as a songwriter. Shouldn't I celebrate that?
Well, no. I'm disappointed, and here's why.
She's still Hannah Montana.
She's still the girl with the blonde wig.
And she didn't need to Ho herself to become rich and famous.
Now believe me, I'm impressed with the way her handlers have managed to move her past her child-star status. That's mostly her father, who was known for a stupid novelty country hit before he was Hannah's Daddy. I once interviewed Billy Ray, and I thought he was very nice but dumb as a post. Apparently I didn't give him enough credit. He's managed a rare feat: He gave a child star a career beyond the teen years. Usually they not only fail, they fail miserably. Gary Coleman, God rest his soul, and his supporting cast in "Different Strokes" is a perfect example.
But her latest image is just so unoriginal. I had hopes for Cyrus. I honestly believed that because she was already huge, she wouldn't feel any pressure to prance around in her underwear in a video and sing about how she's so wild and slutty, as she does in "Can't Be Tamed."
A lot of female pop stars obviously DO feel that pressure to sell records or even get signed for the privilege of making one, and let's be honest, they probably do. Alicia Keys didn't really have to do that, but there aren't many who have her chops (and truth be told, she's not exactly innocent these days).
Now I know I look like a prude here. I'm hardly that. In fact if someone like Nancy Grace or Dr. Laura was ranting about this very topic or about Cyrus' video, I'd probably think she sounded screechy and all finger-pointy.
So why am I disappointed?
Well, the world hardly needs another Britney Spears. But my main fear is not unoriginality.
I have twin girls.
I have twin girls who just turned 3. They already like pretty dresses and necklaces and shoes, so they are well on their way to girlhood. It also means they are influenced by what they see, and that means I have to counteract what they see with good, sound advice.
It's quite possible that they will never really know Hannah Montana and only know Miley Cyrus, and they may see Cyrus as some weird pop diva who sings crappy songs. Man, I hope so.
But knowing Disney's unabashed preference for squeezing every last drop out of its most famous characters - just take a gander at the famous "Princess" line of toys and clothing, where Snow White, Cinderella and other "princesses" get recycled for proof - I have a feeling that one day they will stumble across some "Hannah Montana" product and think it's pretty cool. That might lead them to the TV show.
Eventually they will have to make the connection that Hannah Montana is, in fact, that weird pop diva who prances around in her underwear. They will see that Hannah Montana is now a sexpot.
And how hard will it be for them to make the connection that in order to be liked, or popular, or even just to get a little attention, you need to be ultra-sexy. If it worked for Hannah, a little girl with a blonde wig who was a huge star, it might work for them. After all, even Hannah had to be sexpot, and she was already popular!
So as much as I don't care about other pop stars flaunting what God gave them (or their plastic surgeons), I really wish Hannah Montana had decided on a different route.
I will have a big influence over my girls' lives. I'll encourage them to play sports, possibly play music and follow their hearts. But I don't want to choose their TV shows for them, and if they like "Hannah Montana" or her clone in 15 years, well, so be it.
I remember with a little longing at some of the stars of the 80s. Whitney Houston didn't really get naked, and neither did Tiffany or Debbie Gibson. Dads could rest a bit easy if their daughters liked them.
Then again, maybe it's only a matter of time. Houston got stoned. And both Gibson and Tiffany? They posed for Playboy.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Is it the sunshine or the new hemp necklace on our shoulders that makes us happy?

We're heading back tomorrow from a week in Maui. And while the trip was wonderful, once again, Hawaii wasn't what I expected.

It's funny how you see the pictures of waterfalls, beaches and people snorkeling when you see pictures of Hawaii. Maybe a few people with a lei. Maybe a volcano. Maybe people surfing.

You do not see what makes up a good portion of Hawaii, and that's people selling and buying crap.

The first time we went to Hawaii, four years ago, we stayed in Waikiki, and I was surprised at how unfulfilling it was. Everywhere we went, someone was trying to sell us something. I probably spent as much time looking at shirts and other souvenirs, and when I wasn't doing that, I was telling people I wasn't interested in what they were selling.

This is partly because my wife's mother loves to shop - she'd rather do that than anything, actually - and partly because the sales pitches, stores and people selling crap were unavoidable.

Oh, there were things to do that didn't involve money. They were just hard to find.

I find myself worrying about Jayden as I think about this. He's with us on this trip. The twins are with my mother back in Colorado. We figured, correctly, that Jayden was old enough to appreciate the trip. It''s been nice to have him here. We've had a good time.

Well, a good time, that is, when he isn't asking for toys or shirts or necklaces or all the other stuff he runs into when we run into a store for something. Sometimes his begging and pleading is embarrassing. Sometimes we don't listen. Other times, I'm sorry to say, we give in.

And so, when I think about this trip, I find myself worrying about how we consume. It seems our lives are geared around consumption. Our errands, our jobs, our daily lives and even our vacations. Especially our vacations. When we're supposed to be taking a break from many things, we're actually revving up our consumption of crap we don't need.

Before you start to get the idea that I'm pointing a finger at you, I'm guilty of this myself. Probably not as some, but I definitely do my part. I've bought a couple shirts, a hemp necklace and some new sunglasses on this trip. I went on a submarine ride and also took a snorkeling cruise with a private company when I got tired of waiting for the Pacific Whale Foundation, which supports the ocean when so many others aren't, to take my order (in fairness to me, I did wait a half hour).

I've also done my share of things you'd expect from me. I ran a rainforest trail through a beautiful misty wonderland, ran on a beach, ran 8 miles today along a coastline and went to a bird preserve. Yet as I've done these things lately, I get fulfilled, and yet I also get sad.

Have you seen "Planet Earth"? You should.

After watching it, and watching how all these animals interact with each other, with each species playing a role in a sensitive eco-chain, I'm struck by something. We are probably the only species that worries about obtaining things rather than just the stuff we need to survive. We do not worry just about food and water and shelter like all other animals.

No, we worry about and lust after T-shirts, and hemp necklaces, and cars, and jewelry and travel guides and paintings and new dresses and turtle earrings and iPods and swim shirts and shoes and running shoes and computers and digital cameras (both waterproof and regular) and cheap sunglasses and…and…do I need to go on?

And we start them so young. My girls are fixated on things. They sleep with their Made In China toys from McDonald's until they forget about them three days later and we put it in the drawers full of other crap.

I understand that probably 90 percent of all our livelihoods rely on this sort of thing. I know my job does. As much as we'd like to believe how sacred journalism is (and I still do believe that, at least the kind that runs in newspapers and maybe a few magazines and a couple blogs and maybe a TV program), we rely on advertising to survive. I wish it weren't so, but I can't think of another model that keeps us viable.

This all has a price, and we're seeing that price right now. It's all over the gulf and threatening Florida and the very things I love. BP's oil spill is just the beginning. As shocking and sad as it is, it was inevitable.

I believe one reason we're still using oil, other than their powerful lobbying efforts, is rather than focus on ways to find other sources of energy, we're too focused on consuming things, and so we're tapping into oil the way addicts shoot up their drugs of choice.

The new shit is what gets us high.

But I wonder.

The sub ride, and the snorkeling trip we took, was packed with people who wanted to see pretty fish. Whenever they saw something cool, an eel, a blowfish, hell, just something other than a guppy, goldfish, beta or anything else you can't buy in a pet store, you'd hear cries of joy.

"Oh my God, that's just so beautiful!" a woman said through tears after seeing a dolphin on our snorkeling cruise.


As much as I would like to think I'm different because of my connection to nature and begin outdoors, as I see time and again, I'm really not that much different. I've just got the tools to experience it more than others. I'm fit and skilled and knowledgeable, and many aren't and don't have the time, desire and energy to reach the levels that I already have available to me.

But that doesn't mean they don't want to see nature. Most people not only love nature, they're willing to spend hundreds of dollars in one sitting to experience it. The sub ride took us to the bottom of a coral reef for less than an hour, and the only real cool thing about it was the opportunity to see different fish. Yet people paid almost $100 per person to go.

I get the idea that people are exactly like me. They just don't know it. They don't get the satisfaction they believe they should from stuff. They get their joy and satisfaction and life forces even from nature and being outside. We're still animals. We still play a place in the ecosystem.

We're at the top, thanks to our intelligence and force of will, even if we'd probably be somewhere in the middle if we didn't have those traits (and after seeing some of the fish thanks to that sub and the cruise, I wonder if we wouldn't be near the bottom).

Do we stomp on it all in our path in the quest for more stuff, or do we begin to tread lightly? I fear I already know the answer, but for now, I'll remain optimistic that more people will become self-aware of their need for a diverse, complex and fun world around us and do something about it.

My son, like me, is walking a thin line between those two choices. He adores nature and the outside world. And he loves stuff and wants more of it all the time.

I suppose I shouldn't worry too much about him after all. In our world, either way, he'll fit right in.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Tri-ing something new

I gazed around the hardbodies. Not in lust. In anxiousness.
But I was determined not to let it get to me. I was at the Greeley Triathlon Sunday morning. And this was supposed to be for fun.
I was determined to keep my competitive nature in check. That's easier said than done for me. But I had to this time out of necessity. A lot of these people were going to be better than me.
Many weren't going to be me on the 5K, even with the concessions I was making because I knew I'd be tired. I was hoping for 24 minutes. That's a decent 5K time in a triathlon, especially on a tough running course on a hot day.
But the swim?
Ha. Ah. The swim.
I do not swim. This is not a mantra. It's a fact. If you tossed me in a pool, I would survive, and I enjoy our neighborhood pool as well as any Dad who likes to see his kids burn their energy and maybe sneak glances of the college girls and their bikinis. But actual swimming? Well, I'm not Michael Phelps. 
Water is kind of scary, and open water is even more frightening. It's generally colder and much, much deeper, and there's something unnerving about swimming in something where you can't touch bottom.
But honestly Sunday, as I approached the mat, in my frogskin wetsuit (borrowed from someone who CAN swim), I reminded myself to have fun. 
And I did have fun.
I loved it.
Unfortunately, I did not have the strength to swim the full 500 yards like a real swimmer. I had to "backstroke" sometimes. But I did make it out. When I approached the transition area to get my bike, I was stuck with a new feeling: Nearly last place.
I hopped on my bike and started to burn. And then I got a little sick. Oops. So I had to back off and just rode a hard 12 miles.
The run was the run. I can do that. I passed at least 20 people on the run and ran a respectable 24 minutes. I'd hate that time for a normal 5K. But I usually don't bike and swim before them. 
I'm posting this now, and I don't even know my time. It wasn't recorded by my chip, so I had to get it by hand, and I won't know what that is until it's posted on the Web site.
And for the first time in a long time, I don't even care.