Returning the Favor and other Slices of Life

Returning the Favor
Returning the Favor
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Thursday, January 31, 2008

Random update

Still nothing terribly interesting going on.

Yeah, that'll drive up the old readership numbers.

I realized yesterday that starting mid-day tomorrow I'll be out of the office for a week and a half, basically. That kinds threw me for a loop, as this round of work travel has kinda snuck up on me. I'm leaving tomorrow afternoon to go to Raleigh to attend a grand opening performance at Burning Coal's new theatre, which we installed the lighting system for. The Burning Coal folks have been striving for years to get their own space, and they do a great job of bringing edgy professional theatre to the Raleigh area, while still maintaining high production values and great performances. They're almost everything I wanted Off-Tryon to be, only not quite as edgy as we were. So I'm very happy that they now have their new facility, and it's a really nice venue, too. It's a converted school auditorium, turned into a 175-seat black box (at it's max seating configuration).

I could be more thrilled with the choice of grand opening plays, since I've recently seen a mediocre production of Inherit the Wind and am not exactly jumping at the prospect of seeing the play again. But I didn't pick the season, so I'll see what their take on it is.

Then Monday I head to Denver for three days of management training. It's interesting that my company has only recently begun training the managers, which shows in a way how far our industry still has to go. We've been around for 60+ years and have just started training our mid-level managers, and most other companies in our business have no management training at any level other than the purely practical. This looks to be two days of leadership training and mental gymnastics, and a half-day session that is more practicum-based, as it were.

Don't get me wrong with referring to it as mental gymnastics, I understand the value of leadership training. Hell, I'm still paying off tuition from my grad school leadership training (which I dropped out of and kinda still regret). I just don't really have a better term. It is taking a bunch of people who are largely gearheads and salespeople and training their minds to leap through different hoops. The last one we had was very good, and I got a lot out of it, but I need to focus more on retaining and integrating those leadership strategies into my daily work habits to be a better manager.

That's not just lip service in case my boss wanders by here (although if you do, go away!). I want to be better as a manager, and I'm putting some things in place to make my team better and position all of us better to be more effective, but it's hard to balance being the top salesperson and the manager, and I frequently focus too much on the sales aspect to keep the management aspect flowing. Maybe someday I can just be a manager, but I think I'd probably hate it.

The last two days I've had the big boss from corporate down for his quarterly visit, which happened to fall right before we spend a week at the same management training session together. It's always good to see Bill, and he was pretty happy with the way things are going with my group, but it was just one more thing to try and deal with as I get ready to be gone for a while.

Fortunately at the end of my training week I stuck a weekend in Vegas on as a 3-day layover, so I'll be in Vegas Friday afternoon through Monday mid-day. I'm hoping to hit up some rooms I've never played before (like Bellagio), so games I've never played before (like Stud at the Mirage) and more tournaments. If I can win a couple quick buy-ins on Friday night, I'll enter the $540 Deep Stack on Saturday at the Venetian. Otherwise, I'll stick to small tournies like the Sahara and maybe the Planet Ho tourney. So those of you who live there, I'll be in town, call me for lunch or dinner.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008


I've got too much shit. My house is full of stuff. Books, CDs, DVDs, all kinds of entertainment jazz, not to mention hundreds of items left over from running the theatre. So every so often I get into a mood to purge a bunch of stuff.

And since I'm generally a cheap money-grubbing bastard, I look for every chance I can to make a nickel back off all this stuff I paid for in the first place. So I've been listing a bunch of stuff on ebay, and taking tons of stuff to Goodwill, and wanted to share with you fine folk a couple of other ways I'm trying to turn my crap into cash.

First is - this place lets you send them CDs, DVDs and video games, and they give you cash for them. You've gotta ship your shit to them, but they're pretty quick about putting the cash into a paypal account. Some stuff they pay next to nothing for, but some stuff is pretty good. Their search feature on the site is good, too, so you can quickly figure out what they're offering to pay for things before you send them off.

Next is Amazon - their seller program is pretty easy to use and convenient. I've listed a bunch of scripts and books on there in hopes of getting a few bucks back out of my book investment, and a couple have already sold. It's just like anything else in that you might go days or weeks without a sale, but since these are books that were just laying around the office anyway, I don't really care. It's too cold to box them all up and set up a flea market booth, and this way I get a little better payday for most of them.

Then this morning I purged a bunch of shit from my office as well, in an effort to streamline my life a little bit, because really, couldn't we all use a more streamlined life? Oh yeah, poker? None here. I've taken a hiatus from playing online again after reminding myself once again that I suck outrageously at poker on the internet. So I might pop up now and then, but right now I'm more interested in playing Marvel Ultimate Alliance on my Wii.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Spread Limit Home Game

So last night was a diversion from the norm. For those who have never played it (and if you're ver in Charlotte on a weekend, let me know and we'll fix that problem), my home game is usually $.25/.50 No Limit Hold 'Em with a high hand jackpot that awards at Midnight. I take $.50 out of every pot that sees a flop to fuel the jackpot and half goes into the nightly jackpot and half goes into a rolling jackpot that builds until somewhat hits quads or better. For our jackpot, quads is defined as four of a kind using a pocket pair. So it can get up there. The nightly high hand is just the biggest hand anyone makes, no matter if it uses both hole cards or not. Then usually after the jackpot is awarded, we switch to a $1-$5 spread limit mixed game, with anything they'll spread in a casino eligible for play.

Last night I asked if folks minded if we played mixed games instead of Hold 'Em, and everyone said that was fine, so we did Dealer's Choice, $1-5 spread all night, with a $2 ante from the dealer instead of blinds. That kept it fair when we played stud games, and generally kept the confusion down.

The unintended consequence of this choice was to make the game play MUCH bigger than normal, since people very seldom took advantage of the lower end of the spread. I went into the game for $360 by the time the night was through, 3 buy-ins for myself at $100 each, and a $60 buy-in for Suzy. I managed to climb back for a profit based largely on some success at Razz and a $100+ pot on the last hand of Stud where I started with rolled up Aces and got called on every street only to have Nate misread his hand and announce a full house when he actually only had trip fours. That made me profitable for the night by about $50.

But that's a lot bigger than we usually play, and the problem with it running bigger was that not many people adjusted their play, so several folks went broke way earlier than normal (frankly BG usually ends the night with a decent stack, and he got broke early). It wasn't a remark on their play (or mine, since I was 3 buy-ins deep), just a remark on the fact that the calling stations in the game didn't adjust to the bigger levels, and the suckouts were for bigger pots. I thought that putting a spread limit in place would slow down the action and give people a chance to splash around in more pots for a reasonable price, but since the red chips were flying right off the first bet, it ended up having the inverse effect.

A large part of Nate's game is based on making his opponents fold. He hasn't yet realized that we've all seen him show down so much abject trash that there's no way he can push anyone off a hand early, so he gets a $5 bet on 3rd street in stud called in five place. By that time, with $30 in the pot, it's hard for anyone with any kind of hand not to see every hand to the river, especially given that his range of hands is so wide, and he's usually controlling the betting. Many times last night I'd see people reach for chips, look over to see if Nate had cards, and then check, knowing that he'd bet if they checked, and raise if they bet. One hand Skoon and I even discussed it, saying "I wanted to bet $5, not $10, and I knew he'd raise if I bet, so I just checked and got the money I wanted in the pot anyway."

So it ended up being a bigger game than I expected, and it really did take me most of the night to get back up to a comfortable stack after some brutal suckouts in Omaha (and while I understand that Omaha is a drawing game, a 2-outer is still brutal, and I lost two big pots to boat over boat on the river), mostly because my opponents didn't know enough about the game to fold. I did better in Omaha when I folded through most of one orbit, and waited for Stud, where people could actually lay down a hand. I did okay in Razz, since I kept getting 3 wheel cards in my hand and people understood enough to lay down most face cards.

Heh, sounds like a lot of my game is based on getting people to fold, too. But we knew that already. So the whole idea behind the $1-5 spread experiment was to keep the option open for people to bet small enough to see a couple of streets, but also have the option to bet big enough to make people fold. Maybe next time around I just make it all No Limit or Pot Limit games, then people can bet whatever they want, and maybe get away from hands cheaper. I welcome any opinions on the subject from folks that were there or who weren't. It'll be a couple weeks before there's another game here, just because of some travel I've got going on. I'm in Denver the first week of February, and then I'm in Vegas that weekend, so look me up if you're in either place. I'll have at least one day to go to Blackhawk and check out the casinos there, and I'm gonna try and play my way into the $540 Venetian Deep Stack event on that Saturday, but if I can't win enough to cover my buy-in then it's a no-go. That's a little out of my bankroll right now.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Home Again, Again

Spent the last three days in Raleigh on business, and now I'm finally home. Nothing terribly interesting to write about from the trip, just another business trip. Wednesday was the rescheduled prebid meeting that was supposed to be held last week and resulted in a wasted trip for me and a wasted night in a hotel. The meeting went well, we got a lot of questions and conflicts in the construction docs resolved, so everybody's bidding on a level playing field, so the process will be fair. We're at a disadvantage going after this job, since there's a certain amount of on-site hand-holding that needs to happen with the electrical contractor, and we're the furthest bidder from the job site by a couple of hours, but we'll take our best shot at it regardless.

I'm not a huge fan of bidding work, as a rule. In a bid job, typically the cheapest price gets the order rather than the people best suited to perform the work, and for something as complex as a theatrical lighting system, I think it's better to make a purchasing decision based on the expertise of the vendor rather than solely on price. Certainly there are things that I sell that can be purchased without my expertise to back it up, and on those items I don't mind competing on price, but when a system has some teeth to it, I typically prefer to get a direct path to the customer and sell the job based on our merits as a company rather than just bidding numbers.

It helps that I work for the largest company of its kind in the world, and I've been doing this for a long time. I probably have an experience and resource advantage over almost all my competitors in the Carolinas, so of course I want to be able to sell the job based on merit rather than just on price. It's just like picking a game because you think you're a better player than most of the rest of the table, I feel like I have an edge when I get to use my design skills, so I'm going to gravitate to that work. That means I chase fewer of the very large projects, or put out a perfunctory price on those jobs, because if I get the order on a big general construction project, that's great, but I tend to focus more on projects where we can work directly with the end user to design the system and make it fit the needs of the job rather than just throwing numbers at someone else's construction docs. This is one of the times that I have to go in without an edge, so we'll see how it all works out.

Thursday and Friday were spent in training classes on two new types of lighting control consoles. We flew in a factory guy to train on these consoles because we've never sold any of them before, so I sat in on the trainings to get a handle on the boards. A lighting console can be as simple as faders that correspond to each light, and are pretty simple to program, or as complex as a heavy-duty computer that can control hundreds of lights and effects. These consoles were of the more complex variety, and it's several months before we'll have a chance to send folks up to the factory for training, so I wanted to attend these training sessions so that I'd be able to train folks on the consoles when we next sell them. So I got a pretty good handle on the console we trained on today, so I feel like I'll be able to train on the next one we sell.

Yeah, I know it's supposed to be a poker blog, but no poker til tomorrow night, when the donkey mixed game descends on the Casa de Falstaff. I'll be back with a report later.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Is CNN trying to cause a recession?

The following contains my completely uneducated and largely uninformed views of the current financial crisis facing our country.

It's mostly made up.

There are some stupid things happening financially, and people are beginning to panic, and the gubmint is considering giving some $150 billion to people in tax breaks and rebate checks for taxes that we may or may not have paid.

That doesn't seem smart to me, and someone with more financial acumen can feel free to explain it to me. I understand that a lot of people are feeling a big pinch right now, and a lot of people are in a shitload of trouble because they bought more house than they could afford on mortgages that had adjustable rates that adjusted the fuck out of them last year. So a bunch of people ended up getting their asses foreclosed upon, and they're fucked.

That sucks, no question. BUT, nobody held a gun to anyone's head forcing them to buy a big house that they couldn't afford, and nobody made them sign on for an adjustable rate mortgage that then blew up on them. I understand the appeal - we've been told forever to buy more house than we can afford, and I certainly did the same thing. It's only been in the past two years that I could really afford my house payment, and I've been in my house for over 8 years. But I struggled through it, made my house payments, and moved right along.

But the folks that couldn't, got foreclosed on, and that led to banks, who wrote thousands and thousands of these silly loans, losing billions of dollars. But listening to a bank cry about losing billions of dollars feels a lot like listening to oil companies whine about tough times while booking record profits in 2007. These companies are still profitable, maybe just not as insanely profitable as they appeared to be a year ago. But there must still be a pile of money to be made in mortgages, because Bank of America is in the process of buying Countrywide right in the middle of this mess. Not the kind of move you'd expect a company to make if there wasn't a good chance for a pile of profit, it it?

So a bunch of people lost their houses, and that sucks. But it's (at least partially) their fault for buying more house than they could afford with payments that seemed too good to be true. That led to developers building fewer houses, and that leads to less work for people who build houses for a living. Now those guys really do have a legitimate whine. They build things. That's it. When people aren't buying all the things that have already been built, there's no need to build more things. And people that have lost their homes don't typically buy a lot of other shit, so folks that build things to be sold, or sell things might not have as much to do, either.

Except people are still buying things. I haven't seen any tumbleweeds blowing around car lots lately, and the registers at Best Buy are still ringing merrily along. And there's practically nothing in that store that could be considered a necessity, with the exception of a few appliances.

So what am I saying? I'm saying that unless you own a big pile of Countrywide stock and are planning to retire this year, or are in a similar situation with another company that took it on the chin in this housing debacle, you're probably not in terrible shape. Yeah, my 401(k) took a shit the past couple of months, but that's money I'm not touching for a couple of DECADES. I think that regardless of any current issues, there will still be a lot more money in there in 25 years than there is right now.

So why the panic? Why is this issue the front page of so many newspapers and news websites? Because there's nothing more interesting going on. The race for who will be the next leader of the free fucking WORLD is taking a backseat to market hysteria, which the media is doing nothing but fueling. Joe Six-Pack doesn't know fuckall about the stock market, and only knows that it's bad that the Dow dropped below 12,000 because somebody told him it was a bad thing. If CNN and the other major news media didn't feel it necessary to pull a Chicken Little every time some big company didn't make as many bajillion dollars as they initially thought they would, most people with a little bit of money invested would just sit back and say "if I wanted safe, I'd have bought a CD."

Now I could be completely ignorant, not that that's ever stopped me before, but I really feel like the shallow ledes in most news articles on this shit is a big contributing factor in the hysteria. If they'd start off articles with something like - "Really, it sucks today, but it'll be okay in six months," then people would be less concerned. Of course, they'd sell far fewer papers and get less hits that way. It's interesting that at this point troop casualties are buried, if even reported, while the Dow dropping to 12,000 is front page news. In a year, the Dow will be over 15,000. But those kids will still be dead.

Financial markets fluctuate. As long as people are still working, and there are plenty of jobs in NC if you're willing to live here to take them, there is a decent economy. What I don't like is the idea of mortgaging our country's future to bail out the current pile of shit. $150 billion economic stimulus package is what's being touted by liars from both parties and the administration. See, I'm being all even-handed here, they're all fuckwits, not just W. I understand the concept of heading off a bigger crisis, but if they're not willing to raise taxes or cut spending somewhere to pay for that $150 billion, then it's just bad business. No, I don't want to pay any more taxes than I already do. But if you're going to spend the money, it's gotta come from somewhere. And if we want our government to spend money on 'economic stimulus,' that money has to come from somewhere.

So in typically long-winded fashion, I'm saying that I don't think there's nearly the financial crisis that the media is claiming there is, and if they'd all just shut up for a day or so, that a lot of stability would come around after a week or so. But they won't say that, because that's not interesting. I'm also saying that as much as I'd like a $1600 check from the gubmint, I'd rather they not send out $150 billion to all us folks if that's money that doesn't really exist.

Think I'm an idiot? It's entirely possible. Use the comment field to tell me so.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Falstaff Home Game - Ice Bowl Edition

So there was poker of a sort played this weekend. Attendance was down due to birthdays, travel and weather, but five brave souls ventured out into the ice and snow to exercise their degenerate muscles.

I had two weather-based cancellations, one because he's a pussy and didn't want to drive in the 1-3 inches of snow we were forecast to receive (regardless of the fact that we saw basically zero accumulation), and one because OF pussy, which is a much better reason. His wife's evening plans were cancelled, so he decided to stay home and spend time with her. That translates into "I'm staying home to try and get some, for you non-married types. I applaud that decision.

It was an up and down night for me, mostly down. I didn't have many memorable hands, most of my wins were exploiting a tell I've picked up on Nate, and most of my losses were chasing bad and missing, or missing nut low draws in O8 or missing draws in Stud. That can get expensive fast. I finished up down $45 (not counting the $40 Suzy lost), so that wasn't bad for being almost $300 into the game.

Big Nick joined us, coming down off his tournament-only high horse for an evening on donkitude, and managed to score the Donkey of the Night Award. Special K raised from the cutoff to $2.50 ($.25/.50 blinds). I called from the button, T folded her small blind and Nick (big blind) looked down at his cards, and tossed out a call.

At that point I reminded him that the red deck was in play on that hand, not the blue deck that he was shuffling. Since the cards he looked at before calling were from the blue deck, he might have made a -EV move. Flop comes down with an Ace, Special K fires, we all fold. Nick is ashamed. Nice Hand, sir.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Well, that's time I won't ever see again...

Nothing like being prepared and on top of things. So I find out that there's a pre-bid meeting on a renovation project that I'm interested in taking place in Raleigh this morning. I understand myself well enough to know that I won't make it to NC State University at 10AM unless I start my trip somewhere closer to Raleigh than I typically begin my day. Since I typically begin my day 3 hours from there.

So I go to Raleigh last night. I highly recommend the Residence Inn near the airport if you need a place in Raleigh. Nice. So I'm heading up and I see that there are threats of weather. In North Carolina, even the whisper of 'snow' makes people rush out to buy bread and milk like there's no tomorrow.

Why do all these people make French Toast when it snows?

So there was a certain level of panic greeting the potential for the 'first winter storm of the season,' but I felt pretty good about my potential for making my meeting on time. After all, my Tom Tom said the address was only 15 minutes for my hotel, so even I should be able to navigate there with satellite assistance in an hour.

And I did.

And I walked 1/2 mile from the parking deck to the student center where we were to meet to have the pre-bid meeting. And I encountered the assistant of the purchasing agent who looked horrified when I told her why I was there.

"You didn't know? It was cancelled because of the weather."

So I drove 3 hours, rented a hotel room, wasted a tank of gas, and drove three hours home. Just to do it all over again next week. Because the purchasing agent didn't want to drive in the mess. The mess that consisted of rain. Cold rain, I'll give you, but rain. There was no ice anywhere, and it was in the upper 30s by the time I left my hotel at 9AM. To say I was irritated would be an understatement.

To say that I felt like I had wasted my efforts at communication when I emailed her and told her I was driving halfway across the state to make this meeting, and if they cancelled on account of weather to please call my cell phone.

I love state purchasing agents. Really, I do.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Hey - do something good - January Edition

We love Scott's wife, too. She's a bona fide saint for putting up with him. If you've got any spare change this month, hook her up. From his blog -

I love my wife more than anything. She has been nice enough to stick around through all the crazy that is me. On top of being my wife she has an even tougher job. She works for the Lance Armstrong Foundation here in Austin and spends her days speaking with people that are suffering through and fighting hard to overcome Cancer. There is not a day that goes buy that she doesnt cry. She is very close to several of the people she helps and each one of the losses touch her just like they are family.

MommaMc wont let me just give her the money for this little contest but I figure the least i could do for all the love she gives me and others is post it on this here little blog.

Dear Friends,

The LAF has a strong record of contributing to cancer survivorship in the Gulf Coast following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Four days following the landfall of the first hurricane, the LAF announced its commitment of $500,000 to help cancer survivors affected by Katrina get immediate assistance with their basic needs and healthcare. The LAF granted its first award on September 12, 2005, just two weeks after the storm. Applications for assistance came in on a daily basis and a committee of LAF staff met to review the requests on a rolling basis. The Foundation received 32 proposals for assistance and over the next six weeks the LAF awarded $599, 746.92 to 17 different organizations in 9 states. As a result of the LAF's contributions, more than 1,100 cancer survivors found the funds for food, temporary housing, transportation, utilities and the general necessities of life.

Lance, the LAF team, and Habitat for Humanity are looking forward to another great opportunity to provide hands-on assistance to cancer survivors in New Orleans. The LAF will collaborate with HFH to relocate New Orleans –area families who have faced the twin challenges of fighting cancer and displacement by Hurricane Katrina. Over the course of two days, January 29 and 30, Lance, the entire LAF team, elected officials, celebrity guests and stakeholders will work together to build new homes for these families.

I will be traveling to New Orleans over these two days as part of a 20-person team to build a new home for a family in need. Please join us by making a tax-deductible contribution to support our efforts to provide assistance to these families in need:

Thanks in advance for all you do!

Your Friend,
Brooke McMillan

Monday, January 14, 2008

I fully intend to play this tournament

But there's always the possibility that I won't make it. Smokkee has been pimping this thing forever, and apparently there will soon be a new tournament series in place. I should be able to suck in that just as well as I do other tournies. Give it a shot with me!

You're invited to play in, post or forward this information on.

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Sunday, January 13, 2008

Hi there

Remember me? I used to post here with some regularity. This has been a really busy week, so less time has been available for you, dear reader (yes, I assume at this point I'm talking to a singular entity), and for that, I apologize. So, to recap my life this week -

I figure that I've written somewhere in excess of 20,000 words on various events at the Aussie Millions this week, without ever leaving the country. I've also spent 10 hours driving, not counting my normal morning commute (which is 20 minutes each way, so I don't really even consider myself having a commute), 27 hours in the office, 3 hours at a mini-trade show that our Sales Manager threw this weekend (quite successful, I might add), 7 hours on site at three different site visits (one of which included several trips to a catwalk 60+ feet in over the floor of the Greensboro Coliseum), and managed to squeeze in four workouts, a date night with Suzy (we went to see I Am Legend, not bad) and some sofa time this afternoon watching Dark City (never seen it before, total headfuck). So if I seem a little disjointed, it's because I am.

I'm not bitching, mind you, it's been a pretty good week all told. I've been busy, and am getting more engaged in my day job again, which is a nice feeling. I'm not sure why I became disengaged, but since I felt like a light switch was thrown a month or so ago I'm trying to focus on keeping it in the "on" position.

On that note, I really don't know what caused me to be disengaged, disenchanted, uninterested, whatever you wanna call it, with my job. I've been through it before, but this period of disengagement had gone on for a long time. Like nearly two years. I've suffered from depression off and on since I was in high school, and maybe that was it. I never felt any of the crushing darkness that I did when I was younger, just a general malaise where my job was concerned. I continued to perform, and my numbers were good, but that only really affects half my job. I'm not just a salesperson, I'm a manager as well, and my management kinda sucked for the last while. I'm lucky that the people on my team are pretty capable of self-motivating because I haven't provided great leadership for a while now.

I'm not saying that I'm going to turn things around 180 degrees overnight, and I'm not saying that I've instantly become a dynamo sales manager, but I'm trying to pay more attention to what's going on around me, and to consciously focus on doing things rather than letting things happen. Hopefully I can hold on to this improved focus, but it's probably worth talking to a doctor about some little happy pills rather than taking chances on the malaise coming back and me losing my job.

I've spent a lot of time this week playing with money, and working on our family finances as well. I've been readig Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover, and while I'm not totally read to drink his Kool-Aid and sell the car I just bought for Suzy to focus 100% on paying off all our debt, I am taking a harder look at our finances and our debt load, and trying to make our money work for us better. I opened an internet savings account with HSBC last year, and it gives me 4.25% interest, which is some ridiculous amount better than my Wachovia savings account, so I've moved our savings into that account, and I'm pouring as much money as I can into paying off our two credit cards. We only owe about $5,000 on the both of them, so I think I'll be able to pay them off within the next month if I try hard and pour all my writing income into those cards.

Then it's time to focus on paying off a couple of other small debts (a tiny medical deductible from last year and a few other things like that), then work very hard on paying off the new car early. If we send all the money we've poured into credit cards and savings over the past year into making extra payments on the car, we can pay it off in 2 years instead of 5. That would save us over $1,000 in interest on the car! I also want to refinance my house this spring or summer. Because our credit sucked when we bought the house, we got stuck with a stupid high interest rate. Between improved credit and equity that's built up in the house, I should be able to refinance into a 15-year note and keep my payment the same. Then if I make my payments weekly instead of monthly like I've done for the last several years, I can pay off my house in 12 years!

That's something I highly recommend for anyone who's not already doing it - make more mortgage payments. Obviously if you rent it's irrelevant, but if you own your home, splitting your mortgage into four weekly payments not only takes less work in your budgeting (as long as you get paid weekly) because you send a small amount to the mortgage folks each week rather than a BIG check each month, you also end up making an extra payment each year, which gets applied to principal.

Weekly payments = 52 payments/year. 52 payments/year = 13 payments. 13 payments = 1 payment going directly to principal.

Making one extra payment each year on a 30-year mortgage reduces the life of the mortgage by years. For example, on a $200,000 mortgage with a 7% interest rate, making one extra payment each year reduces the interest paid over the life of the loan by $68,000! That's a nice car, with enough left over for a nice vacation. Depending of course, on your opinion of a really nice car and nice vacation.With my personal values on cars, it's enough for a really nice car and a couple of nice vacations!

But you don't come here to read my financial advice. But that's what I've been paying attention to this week, in addition to redistributing my 401(k) money and making sure that I have a good method in place for making the money to pay off all these debts. It might be a pipe dream, but it would certainly be nice to be 100% debt free by age 50. Like I said, I'm not totally ready to drink Dave Ramsey's Kool-Aid, but I'm taking the ideas that he has that I like and incorporating them into my life. Ditto Suze Orman, who also has some good ideas.

Keep checking back, at some point I may even play poker again. I'm donking around with $25 NLHE on Stars right now, and will likely continue to play for half an hour or so each night. Now it's off to eBay to sell off some of the shit I found while cleaning my office tonight.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008


Lots. None of it here. I'm recapping all the Aussie Millions events for PokerNews and the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure for PokerWorks. I didn't expect PN to want recaps of all the preliminary events at the Aussie Millions, so it's taken me a couple of days to get my schedule straight and make sure that I'm going to bed early enough to get up early enough to write for 'Works, then do the Aussie recaps on my lunch break. If this goes well, I can pay off the Christmas credit card bills a couple months early thanks to increased freelance work.

Now if a couple of people would book major tournaments for May, so I can afford to play the WSOP Shootout this summer...

On that front, I am again going to try to play a WSOP event this year. But with new goals emerging for physical and financial well-being, it might not happen. I've decided that if I buckle down and pay off as much debt as possible, I can likely be completely debt-free within the next ten years. That includes mortgage. That would be nice, but given my very obvious difficulty controlling my penchant for buying new shiny things, it might be tough. So I might blow off all my fiscal conservatism by April and just live like there's no tomorrow. In which case I'll definitely play.

Of course, if I hit the PowerBall on Wednesday, all bets are off, baby!

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Andrew Olmsted, blogger, soldier, casualty

hat tip to Shane.

I read this and cried out loud.

From the Rocky Mountain News - "Fort Carson-based Army Major Andrew Olmsted is blogging from the war in Iraq, where his mission is to teach members of the Iraqi Army how to defend their country and provide security for their people. Major Olmsted is a veteran blogger and he is determined to make a difference in Iraq."

He puts together cogent thoughts on the war and his place in it. I wish I'd known his writing earlier. Major Olmsted was one of three US soldiers killed in action on Thursday. Whatever your views on the war, and I know many of my friends disagree, moments like this make me feel very John Donne about the whole endeavor. I am diminished by Major Olmsted's death.

I'm gonna go tell my wife I love her.

Doc - Come home soon.


If you don't read Truckin' every month, you're missing out on some fantastic stories. I told my dad over Christmas that the story he told me about driving home drunk as a skunk from Indiana on leave from the Army in the 50s had been published on the internet, and he was tickled pink. I think he'd approve of all of this month's stories. Go check 'em out.

On a related note, the Good Dr. and Change100 are down under as part of the PokerNews coverage team for the Aussie Millions. You can find their live updates here, along with my daily recaps, which means that my little writing vacation is now officially over. I'll also be doing recaps of the events for PokerWorks, so check out Linda's space as well. I've been on a writing for hire hiatus for a couple of weeks, but it looks like January is getting busy. Which is good, since I did just buy a car and all. It's great having their live updates to pull from as I write my recaps, they make my life easier.

Alrighty, spent all morning redoing my wireless network at home, so now I'm going to do some really exciting shopping. I need a shelf for my office and some drawers to organize cables. Yep, life of excitement, that's me. But really, I've bought pretty much every cool new toy I could want, so now I just need to clean up my house so I can find and use them all! So in answer to StB's question - I'm sure there is a toy I don't have, but only because I haven't decided I really want it yet.

I made a list of all the travel and home improvement stuff I want to do this year, then balanced it all against my typical household income. Looking at that, I really hope there continue to be lots of big poker tournaments all over the world, because Johnny needs the mobneys. Here's a partial list -

1) New Stove - our stove took a shit about 3 years ago. Obviously I'm no BG or Astin in the culinary department, but that might be a little long to cook everything in a toaster oven, hot plate and microwave oven. Problem is, our stove is a drop-in style, which is a 27" surface. Stoves nowadays are 30". That means I need to tear out part of my kitchen cabinets to make this happen. I've done the measurements, and I think it can be accomplished without any major structural modifications, just a wrecking bar, jigsaw and circular saw. I have all of those. I don't however, have the modicum of carpentry skill required. So friends o' mine, beware - the call will be coming soon to help Johnny put in a new stove. You know who you are.

2) New sofa - the one in the den was on a set for a show we did a long time ago. It sucks ass and must go away. This will eventually lead to a full-scale renovation of the den, including flat-screen TV, new back door, new windows (hopefully), and new flooring. That's not happening in '08 unless I hit the PowerBall. So for this year, a new sofa and new area rugs for the den are about as good as it gets.

3) New bed - we got the mattress and box springs, and a cheap-ass frame. Now we need a bed to go with the plan Suzy has for the room. I'm sure that's going to cost a couple of buy-ins, but it would be a nice change to have a headboard. Maybe something with posts, or at least rings to put the shackles through. That may need to move higher on the list.

There's a bunch of other shit on the list, but you care less about that than you do about my needing a new sofa, unless of course you've been on my sofa, in which case you pretty much agree that I need a new sofa. Whatever, I'm going to by storage drawers for my office. Later.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Impulse Control?

Not so much.

But damn, it's cool. And with CompUSA going out of business, I did manage to save $40 off list price.

Yes I did find the iPod I thought I had lost in Vegas. So I didn't really have the justification I was looking for.

Yes, I also have an iPod Shuffle that I love for poker.

Yes, I also have a 3rd Gen iPod with a battery that's pretty useless for anything other than sitting in the iHome alarm clock and waking me to the dulcet tones of Billy McLaughlin on acoustic guitar (and if you like Jazz guitar, you really should check him out. His story of overcoming an incurable neurological disorder is at least as incredible as his music. He is one of the finest guitar players I have ever seen live, and I've seen a lot of the biggest names in music.

So I got a new toy. It's not a pretty shade of blue like Suzy's new toy, and it doesn't have wheels, but it's still pretty damn cool.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

That's a better beginning

There's a reason this guy has been my favorite writer for ages -

May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you're wonderful, and don't to forget make some art -- write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. And I hope, somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself.

Yesterday we loaded up Me, Special K, Jim and T into the Toaster and cruised on down to G-Vegas for my 3rd annual trip to the house of Blood for his New Year's Day game. G-Vegas has a warm spot in my heart not just because some of my best friends live down there, or because Blood always throws a good tournament with a great structure, but because it's one of the few places on earth that I'm actually profitable as a poker player in the long term. Between taking down the BadBlood New Year's Day tourney in '06, and cleaning up in the cash games at Bradoween and a July 4th game at The Mark's place, it more than makes up for the debacle of going broke for New Year's day in 2007.

So with that, and with my recent modicum of tourney success in Vegas, I felt pretty good going into the game yesterday. I felt even better when I drew my table slot with Jim and the Wolverine both on my right, and The Mark, G-Rob, BadBlood and Otis all at different tables. My starting table was made up of me, Mrs. Blood, someone I don't remember(CRAP! That was the Big Pirate, who I promptly forgot was at my table because I don't play pots with Wes. Period. And I'm pretty sure I played not a single pot against him. But I think he got busted on a suckout, too.), Stan, TeamScottSmith, Jim and the Wolverine. I've played with the Wolverine before, and I was glad to not only be on his left, but also to see that he was brutally card dead. I didn't realize until later that the only three past winners of the event were all at the same starting table (Logan, Me and TeamScott). I managed to make it through the first three levels with a little more than my starting stack without any really interesting hands, but business definitely picked up after the first break.

Jim had earlier busted Mrs. Blood when he raised preflop, she min-reraised and he called with A9 soooted. Flop brought two nines, I don't remember who led out, but all the money went in on the turn when the third spade came down to give Mrs. Blood the redraw to the nut flush with her pocket Aces. Unfortunately for the hostess, the river was the case nines, giving Jim quads and a bunch of chips.

Frankly, I didn't mind Jim picking up a ton of chips early, since he was to my right and he tends to play way too loose when he has chips. So when I picked up Aces a little later, I happily re-raised Jim, and when he went all in over the top to push me off the hand, I of course insta-called. This time the Quad Gods were with me, as I flopped quad Aces to double through him and his little pocket eights. That gave me a cushion and saved me from having to play many hands, but I hit a sick rush for the next couple of levels, picking up ever single big and medium pocket pair for the next hour. Really. Between the first and second break I held every single pair tens or better at least once. So when we got to the final table I had chips, which was nice.

There were 23 total entrants, and the final table was 10-handed, so after playing short-handed all afternoon, we slowed way down when the final table started. I was loving it, since I had chips, so I just waited for my spots and generally stayed out of TheMark's way. He drew the seat just to my left, so for the most part I was avoiding him unless I had cards or a whim to play hard at him. Worked well for the most part. I'm pretty sure I busted TripJax with Queens against his AK or something like that. I remember that Blood raised preflop, TripJax re-raised all in, and I went over the top of Trip for not a ton more, but enough to bust Blood had he made the call. He laid it down, my hand held up, and Jax was busto.

That was the theme of my late-tourney play - BadBlood not getting busted by me. That was the first time he could have been the gracious host and gifted me with his chips. The next was the hand that actually gave him enough ammo to compete. He open-shoved with Q-3, I woke up with 88 in the big blind and called. He caught a 3 on the flop, and another on the turn to double up. I was feeling a little short after that hand, but still had enough chips to be patient, and my exit came on another hand that Blood managed to avoid busting on. He limped in with trash, I checked my option with my trash. Flop came down A-3-7, he bet, I shoved because my trash included a 7, and he called because his trash included the 4-6 of hearts, and the board not only gave him a gutshot but the flush draw as well. The 5c on the turn left me drawing dead and I was all in on the next blind. So I finished 3rd, blowing my chance at becoming the only repeat New Year's Day Champ by not managing to have my hands hold up at critical moments late in the tourney.

I feel really good about my play, as I don't remember dishing out any brutal suckouts when the pots were big (I did call a preflop raise with A-4 soooted and flop the wheel, but Jim managed to get away from my turn raise). I caught good cards, but I also think that a philosophy change hit me midway through the blogger event at the Venetian. I now think of having chips as giving me the freedom to play fewer hands late in a tournament, rather than a license to play more hands. When my M gets down around 6-8, I start to feel desperate and like I need to make things happen. If I can keep my stack relatively healthy, I can sit back and wait until other people make more desperate moves, and get my money in with the best of it more often. Not a new philosophy, I know, but new to me. I have historically tended to accumulate a big stack and spew them all back out as I play more hands than I need to. I feel like I have turned a corner in understanding more effectively how to use a big stack as a weapon late in a tournament.

And it was nice not to have to tell the people that rode with me to G-Vegas this year "well, I'm out of the game until I get my writing money for last month." I booked a nice little profit for the day, and had a great time with some of my favorite folks. Sounds like a winner all around.