Returning the Favor and other Slices of Life

Returning the Favor
Returning the Favor
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Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Is this right?

While I don't want anybody's babies getting fucked with on Halloween, this seems a little Orwellian for me. From

"At 5 p.m., we are going to require all of our probation/parole/pardon sex offenders to report to the office and they'll remain here from 5 to 10:30 p.m," agent Gerald Black, with the South Carolina Department of Probation, Parole and Pardon, told CNN affiliate WYFF.

Authorities in Roanoke, Virginia, will do the same. "You have a safer public. We have all the offenders in this area that are on probation or parole in one location. We know where they are," Randy Phillips with the Department of Corrections told CNN affiliate WSLS.

Ummmm...maybe I'm a dumbass, but if these parole and probationed sex offenders pose a threat to society on any night, not just Halloween night, why were they paroled or probationed in the first place?

Or is this just so you don't have to deal with the dry cleaning when all those clown suits need to be cleaned up?

C'mon kids, let's play name that serial killer!

A Scary Proposition, to be sure

So since StB can't handle the studliness of my kilt & mimosa combo, he asked what it would cost for me NOT to wear the kilt to the WPBT tourney.

Always willing to listen to reason (and the cha-ching), I hereby propose an auction.

Bid whatever you think I'll be interested in (money counts, obviously, but you can be more creative than that, I'm sure), and the best bid gets to determine whether or not I wear the kilt in Vegas in December.

Please note that you can bid for me TO wear the kilt (Kat) or you can bid for NOT to wear the Kilt (StB).

If you're really, really brave, you can also put in a bid for me to play the tourney in my bike gear, complete with helmet.

But that had better be a helluva bid.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

WPBT Winter Gathering FAQ

How fitting that post #600 on this little blog is a FAQ for the WPBT Winter Gathering. As of now, we officially have more people registered for the tourney than the total attendees at the Orleans debacle. Not surprising, as the Winter part-ay always has more folks. So here's a list of the Frequently Asked Questions that I've been getting about the Winter Gathering.

1) When is it?

December 6 - 10 in Las Vegas.

2) When and Where is the Tournament?

December 8th at 2PM at the Venetian.

UPDATE - Time is now 3PM

3) What's the buy-in?

$125 + an optional $10 dealer toke for more chips. $25 of the initial buy-in is juice.

4) Why so much?

It's getting harder to find people that are interested in hosting a private tournament, and fewer facilities are able to host a group of our size without going to the banquet department. Plus the Venetian is a really nice room, and they've allowed us to manipulate the structure slightly to make it more player-friendly.

5) Is there anything else going on?

Yes - since the WPBT isn't an "official" group and has no "official" leadership and frankly is made up of a bunch of people who frequently sneer at most things that are "official," it should come as no surprise that there aren't any "official" events. More like traditions. So here are the "traditional" gatherings that will be taking place.

Thursday Night - Drinking and Pai Gow at the Geisha Bar - Imperial Palace.

This event has been known to cause tall Aussies to wear Elvis glasses, Maigrey to be called the Pai Gow Princess and F-Train to terrify small Asian dealers (yes, there are people smaller than F-Train) by screaming "Pai Gow" at the top of his lungs. It could also lead to hookers rubbing themselves against portions of your body heretofore unhookered at the craps table, and you might find yourself in either a wheelchair or a restroom of an inappropriate gender.

Those are all true stories.

UPDATE - With the early Thursday arrival of the Gcox duo, karaoke may well happen this night as well.

Friday Night - Mixed Games at the MGM and Drinking at the Sports Book

This event has been known to cause bloggers to mysteriously fall down and splash and entire beer in their face, random blogger to play other random bloggers' chip stacks in a cash game, the introduction of "the rock" to a 3-6 table, and lots and lots of overtipping. It can also lead to your drunk ass sleeping through the tournament regardless of how late in the day we start. I warned you not to try to drink with Al. I've only seen a couple of trained professional livers manage the feat (Big Mike and Pauly). The rest of us (Otis) just fall down.

UPDATE - mixed games begin at 7ish. By 'ish' I mean I need two tables worth of people there at around 6:30 to lock up our tables.

Sunday Morning (I use the term "morning" loosely) - Sports Book at the Mandalay Bay

This event has in recent history moved to the sports book at the IP due to ease of takeover. Check with Al for actual location of this last stand of debauchery. I've never managed to drag my ass out of bed to get there. This year will be no different, I'm sure.

Random events - Storming the Castle - at some point the call will go out and we will assemble at the Excalibur to play like donkeys and make prop bets on wheel spins. If you've never played the Excalibur and don't know of what I speak, then you probably don't want to miss this. It's the site of DonkeyPuncher catching runner-runner quads on me and the site of G-Rob singlehandedly funding AJ's education by betting Joe Speaker on the color of the wheel spin and losing 312 spins in a row. Statistically impossible, you say? Well, science claims that hummingbirds can't possibly fly.

6) Can I invite my friends?

Yes. This event has a history of having friends, spouses and non-bloggers playing. Most of my home game is coming. Al is bringing some of the Riverchasers folks. Friends are welcome. Especially if they suck at poker. Some readers have come to this event and started blogging afterwards, which is also cool.

7) What should I wear?

Kilts are required garb for the WPBT Winter Gathering.

Yes, I'm serious.

No, I don't expect anyone to believe me.

Yes, I will be wearing my kilt for the tournament again. But I need a new one since I lost weight. So I better order one quick like bunny.

UPDATE - Utilikilt is sold out of kilts my size, so there might not be a kilted Falstaff at the WPBT.

8) What else do I need to know?

I'm hopeful that Pauly will repost his list of tips from a couple years ago. Or email me.

9) How do I sign up?

Email me at johnhartness AT gmail DOT com and I'll send you the spreadsheet link. That's where you put your blog name, real name (if you want), whether or not you're playing the tourney, cell phone # (if you want), and where you're staying. It makes a helpful repository for folks who don't know many people, and we've got a bunch of new folks coming out this time.

If you haven't emailed me, please do, so I can keep the sheet updated. I'll email everyone with a final list the week before we go out.

UPDATE - Some of you (DAWN, CC, Schaubs) have emailed me but haven't input your information yet. Some of you may not have emailed me yet. I will be sending the contact list early next week. We are currently (11/29) over 100 players for the tournament. I will take whatever number we end up with and add one table's worth to it when I go to the Venetian Saturday, so the slackers among us (and assorted hookers, groupies and readers that we may pick up) can have a seat. That sentence is in no way meant to say that members of our group must be any of the following - slackers, hookers, groupies or readers. It is also not meant to say that people may not be hookers, groupies AND slackers. After all, there is always F-Train.

Email me with questions. Do it often. I want everyone to have a great time. And answering emails and updating this FAQ means I actually spend less time working, which is +EV.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Free Poker trip reportish thingy

So since I was in the ATL, I wanted to play any poker I could. Even free pub poker, which I typically shy away from as much as possible. But BrainMc let me know that the Jocks n' Jills in the mall attached to my hotel had free poker on Tuesday nights, and we made plans to hook up. I'd hung out with Brian a little this summer at the WPBT get-together, and was looking forward to spending some time with someone who wasn't a lighting geek.

So I got there, had a pile of wings with Brian as we waited for the tourney to start, and hung out for a bit. He's not gonna be able to join us in Vegas in December, which is really too bad, as he's a cool guy that I enjoyed hanging out with. We got seated at the same table not out of any great gamesmanship, but more because I wanted there to be someone I knew would be cool at my table.
Our starting table was fairly typical for free or low buy-in tourneys - out of the 8 at the table, three of us had a clue, three others thought they had a clue, and a couple were abjectly dumb. I noticed early on that the standard preflop raise for the table was 3x the big blind, so any time I had a hand worth playing, I raised 4xBB. I wanted to thin the field a little more than the standard raise, and make people think I was playing better cards than I had. It helped that I caught a bunch of good cards. At one point, when a guy made a remark about my play being "all over the map," I told him truthfully that I had to that point (a couple hours into the event) only bluffed twice all night.

And one of those was a required play, since I raised Brian's big blind with the Hammer, and showed it down. I picked up a lot of pocket pairs, flopped sets a couple times, and managed to release them the other times when I missed. I just focused on playing straightforward, aggressive poker, paying particular attention to position. I didn't want to make many moves, since I figured there were only a few people at the table smart enough to fold.

One interesting hand early on came when the weak-tighty two seats to my right raised preflop, the first time he'd done so in two orbits of the table. His MO had been that of a calling station that overvalued any ace, as he would call a lot of preflop raises, but could be pushed off the pot with a continuation bet. That was another thing I tried to do all night - make a bigger than normal continuation bet. If I was in the pot, I was in there swinging for the most part. Well, Weak-Tight raised preflop, and I looked down at two black Kings, and made a quick decision based on my position (cutoff) and the number of people other than myself and WT currently in the hand (0) to just flat call the raise and try to price the Big Blind into the hand. I did, it worked, the Big Blind called as well, and of course, there was an Ace in the door.

Now I put WT on a big Ace, since he raised preflop, so I was done with the hand when he bet pot on the flop. BB also folded, and I started a streak of Kings not being good for me. Sevens, however, were very good all night. BrainMc especially managed a BBDQB Special on one dude, when he flopped a set of sevens out of the big blind, led out on the Jack-high flop, got raised, re-raised the other guy and got a call. I couldn't see it from the other side of the table, but I'm pretty sure Brian popped a little wood when the case seven fell on the turn, then quite likely needed a napkin when the other guy bet into his nuts with unimproved AK. Brian tabled his Quads, I let out a "Dem's Quads, Beetches!" and he raked a pile of chips. Brian had played pretty tight up until that point, and really didn't need to do anything different at that table, since ABC poker was good enough.

When we got down to 4 tables was when my bad run with KK continued. I'm sitting in the BB with a couple of Cowboys, the UTG played raised 4xBB, and I shove all in over the top of him. This guy hadn't been at the table long, and I had put a read on him for being very aggressive. I figured I'd shove, push him off whatever BS he was raising with, and that would be all. We were the two big stacks at the table, so there was no point in him tangling with me unless he had a premium hand.

Queens count as a premium hand. They get more premium when the flop comes down J-T-Q. I'm thinking "okay, I've got 10 outs, and this shit is not getting cracked again" as the 4d rolls off on the turn. And then I hear that cracking sound as the case fucking queen landed on the river to give homeboy his own DQB moment. I had him covered, but not by much, and for the first time all night, I feel short stacked. So I start to shove. And I start to pick up orphaned blinds, and before too long I'm not all that short anymore.

Then I pick up pocket threes in late position, and raise to steal. I get one caller from a guy in one of the blinds, and decide that the flop of all clubs isn't really that scary, since my three is one of the clubs. Homeboy leads out into me, I shove all in over the top, he goes into the tank, makes the comment about my play being all over the map, Brian and I share a "WTF?" look, and he calls. His pair of Jacks is no good (Jack-high all clubby flop) and HGHN. Now I have ammo, and am very happy to get broken down to two tables, especially when the guy who cracked my Kings is moved to the other table. After Brian busted (but not after I gave him a courtesy double up when his KQ outflopped my Presto - damn premium pocket pairs underperforming) he was the only guy at our table that I was worried about. I had a good read on everyone else and was pretty sure I could outplay them even if I didn't get cards. Or even if I kept getting Kings.

So my new table had several very short stacks, and a couple of people that were about even with me, and one guy that had me way covered. I wasn't at that table long, just long enough to see the shorties all bust in an orbit, to push the big stack off one pot with a medium-sized c-bet, and then we were down to 10 and it was final table time.

I got to the final table probably 4th in chips, and the disparity between the top half of the field and the bottom half was huge. I chose my seat carefully, sitting directly on the left elbow of the King-cracker, putting him exactly where I wanted him. How much do I love the fact that we got to make our own seat selections? Almost as much as I loved the fact that I was the only one who looked around the table at relative stack sizes before choosing a seat.

I played the final table exactly like I played the rest of the tournament - I waited for good cards, entered every pot with a raise if I was going in, and got my Kings busted.

For the record, I had Kings 3 times, not 4 times as I said at the event (the time I claimed to have Kings hold up I actually had Ah-Kh and missed the flop entirely. I was pretty sure I was still ahead, so I shoved, got no callers, and flashed a single King. This was about 4 hands after my big hand where they got cracked, so the move made sense if I had really had KK and felt snakebit. Which I was), and they got cracked twice and coolered once. The cooler was at the final table, when the UTG player raised, lots of folds back to me in the BB, I look at my Kings, shove, he calls, tables Aces, and I match up stacks and ship chips.

Point of question, though? Why, when someone catches Aces, all the money goes in preflop, and they hold up, do people feel it necessary to tell them "nice hand?" It's not like you've actually done anything, you just caught cards and made them hold up. I think an actual compliment is better reserved for a good bluff, or an accurate calculation of odds or a tough call.

Or I could be bitter because my Kings kept getting cracked.

So pretty soon were down to 4-handed, then the guy who killed my Kings busted, and we were 3-handed. This was when I found out there were prizes! 3rd place got a $15 gift card, 2nd place got a $25 gift card, and the winner got a $40 gift card. Since there's a Jocks n' Jills in Charlotte, I started to give a shit at that point.

Overall, everybody was really nice all night, and there was only one time when I thought anybody was a dick. The pot (I wasn't in it) got three-handed preflop with one guy all in. On the flop, the EP guy checked, obviously intending to check it down. The other guy makes a big bet, and the EP guy folds. Bettor turns over his set of sevens, which normally would have been great, except All-In guy flopped a set of eights. EP guy would have made a straight on the turn to bust the All-In guy, and another guy who wasn't in the hand got very heated when EP guy told Bettor that the right move was to check it down to eliminate the other player.

I tend to agree. Unless you flop the stone cold nuts, check it down. In fact, earlier I had bet into a dry side pot when I did flop the stone cold nuts. I just wanted to speed things along. I flopped a straight with a suited one-gapper on a rainbow board, so I had the only possible straight at the time. But if I'm at the final table, in a multi-way pot, I check down my set. What do you do?

Anyway, we eventually get to 3-handed, and I'm about even in chips with my nemesis, the KK/QQ guy. We've been playing together most of the night now, and the other guy is very short-stacked, so we make quick work of him to get to heads-up. I pick up a slight chip lead, and heads-up play doesn't last very long, because I start to catch cards. I see paint or an ace in almost every hand of heads-up. And when I don't I pair something on the flop and hammer
him that way. In the final hand, he raises preflop and I re-raise. He goes all in over the top and I make the call with A-J. His cards are live with 8-9, but I hit an Ace on the flop and it's all over.

I eventually find out that there's a tournament of champions with more prizes (and an entry into a $1000 tourney) that I'm evidently qualified for after winning this one, so I might have to ride back down to the ATL for more free poker in January. If nothing else, I had a great time hanging with Brian, who stuck around to sweat me through the end, and I picked up a $40 gift card, which is a $40 profit on the night. Now maybe someday I'll win a tournament again where there's money on the line...

Nah, anybody can do that!

Thanks, Porter

Another legend gone. Some folks have so much style, the rest of us are always trying to catch up.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Home Again

I've been in Atlanta all week for a conference on church facilities - how to build them better, how to staff them, how to select equipment for them, that kinda jazz. Since my daily work life consists of designing lighting systems for theatres, churches and other facilities that need performance lighting, it's a good conference for us. I think we generated some good business contacts out of the show, and the sessions that I and Peter (another systems goof from our Denver office) presented did a good job of positioning us as experts in the field and lent credibility to the stuff we were saying at our booth and our demo room.

For those of you who have gone to conferences for work, you understand the concept of the exhibit hall. It's where everybody who makes or sells things for the industry that the conference is about sets up displays and stands in front of them in monkey suits and plays the grip and grin game and hopes that they can remember the names of the guy they met at last year's conference. We do this a bunch, since we have a bunch of product lines that cross a bunch of different areas within the lighting world.

For this show, we did something a little different. In addition to our booth on the show floor, we set up a demo area in a couple of meeting rooms off the show floor. This gave us the chance to have customers come to our demo room if they had specific questions, or just wanted to take a few minutes' breather from the noise and pressure of the show floor. It also gave us a chance to make real connections with the customers, rather than just the "hello, goodbye" that you get on the exhibit hall floor where you're surrounded by other people (and competitors). There were also drinks, cookies, chips and salsa in the demo room, which was most of what we ate for three days, since it was busier than we expected and Peter and I missed a couple of lunches.

I think this is probably how we need to do trade shows from here on out - have a smaller presence on the show floor, and use our booth to qualify the leads and get them into the demo room. It made for a very good opportunity for people to engage in real conversation, and we had plenty of time to actually learn something about the customers that we were dealing with. Not to mention the concept that if someone took the time to walk all the way over to our demo room, they were a qualified lead already!

So that was cool, but I had expected this show to be less fruitful than it was, so I'm friggin' exhausted! Not to mention the fact that since it was just in Atlanta I drove rather than flying, so I had to drive home today. I would have left yesterday, especially since there was a concert in town last night that I wanted to see, but several of our other guys were getting on early flights, so I was stuck dealing with loading out our booth. A process that took twice as long as it should have when the morons from the exhibit company lost our empty crates for our booth and we had to wait around for over an hour after we were done with the rest of our strike waiting on our empties to arrive. I was less than thrilled.

Our Denver office sent out the cage with the chairs, lighting console, dimmers and a bunch of other gak, and when we were waiting for the cage to be brought from storage, one of the other guys said "so who's gonne pack up the leftover chips and salsa and have it trucked to Denver?" So I poured all of the stale tortilla chips into a bag, packed them carefully with peanuts, poured salsa into a leftover Diet Coke bottle, and wrote "Attn: Peter - PERSONAL" on the outside of the box.

Peter's on vacation for the next week, so the salsa should be sentient by the time he opens the box. This is what happens when you leave me in charge of load out.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Saturday Afternoon Cruisin'

I strapped on my bike shoes, set my iPod shuffle up on one ear so I could still hear traffic with the other one, and started my laps. The business park was pretty close to deserted by noon, as the early-morning fitness nuts hadn't been up til 1AM playing terrible poker and giving money away like a Democrat at a homeless shelter, so I had the route mostly to myself. I started off going clockwise on the short loop, a 2-mile lap that just has enough hill to warm up my legs. After one lap of that, I reversed course for a counter-clockwise 3-mile loop that took me through an offshoot in the business park and added a couple of fairly steep inclines to the ride.

Falstaff's first law of cycling states that whatever you zoom down, you're eventually going to have to climb back up, and that's always the hard part, but this deserted lap of asphalt through the business park let me work on my climbing, get more comfortable with my gearing and work on riding more in the drops (the lower curved part of the handlebars). With a road bike, there are a bunch of different places to put your hands, to keep you from getting fatigued during a ride, but I've never been very comfortable riding hunched over in the drops. When I started, it was because my knees kept hitting me in the gut, but that excuse has faded as my gut has shrunk. My knees still hit me in the gut, but a lot less, and it doesn't bother me as much.

Now my concern has been more along the lines of control. When I'm riding laid out and steering from the drops I feel like I have less control of the bike, and I can't look as much forward, because the neck can only bend like that for so long, so I have to look ahead with my eyes more and keep my head down. So that took some getting used to. Another thing I realized when I finally got comfortable riding more laid out, is that the pedal stroke is much more efficient in that position, and I get 2-3 mph more out of my pedaling when I'm in the drops. I'm using slightly different muscle groups and using them in a more efficient manner, so I can keep my speed and cadence up without pedaling as hard, and that lets me ride longer distances.

So I put in 15 miles yesterday by myself and then hooked up with a couple of friends today for a 13-mile ride. One of these friends is a triathlete, and there's no way I can keep up with him climbing hills, but I noticed that riding with stronger riders forced me to keep a better pace for longer, and I rode a lot longer in a higher gear than I normally do, so after 13 miles with them, I was more tired than after 15 miles by myself. I was pretty surprised at the pace we kept for a lot of the ride, averaging 16 mph for the first 5-6 miles, then averaging 19-20 for a couple miles through a long flat section. I realized that it's just the hills that kill me, if I lived in Kansas, I could ride for hours without stopping.

So as I work on my training, I need to focus on attacking hills more and finding better places to climb harder and longer. And I need to make myself do it, rather than wussing out. If I can get together with people and ride more often, that will help, because I want to be able to keep up with the stronger riders. It's still fun to ride, especially when I can find folks to ride with, and it's even more fun for me if they're people that I have to work to keep up with , because I always want to push myself to do better and improve.

I went down to my parents' house last weekend for a cookout, and found myself truly humbled by one hill on my ride, having to get off the bike and walk back up that beast. So now I have a new goal for Thanksgiving - to be strong enough to ride back up that bitch. And to weigh in at under 210 by Thanksgiving. It's tougher than it sounds, since I have two weeks of work travel between now and then, and that always means drinks and dinner with clients, so at least my hotel this week has a good gym in it.

I'm a little concerned about getting under 200 by Vegas. It's gonna be tough to lose 15 pounds in the few weeks we have left, but I'll at least be very very close to 200 if I don't make it under. I have 6 weeks left, and 15 pounds, which is close to 3 pounds per week, with two weeks worth of conferences and Thanksgiving between now and Vegas, so that might not happen. But worst case would be under 200 by Christmas, and that would still make me very, very happy.

I'm pretty happy with the way I look at 215, but I still have some belly to lose, and a few more places on my legs and chest that could stand to be more toned. So I think my original goal weight of 190 might end up being lighter than I want to be. I think if I can get down to 195 I'll be happy floating between 195 - 200 for a while. As long as I keep working out I feel like I can maintain whatever weight I want, I just need to continue to pay attention to what I eat and exercise like a fiend.

My buddy Bill told me today that he wouldn't have recognized me if he didn't know who he was meeting for our ride, and it's only been since summer since I saw him last. Oughta be interesting running into some clients and friends from other offices of ours at the WFX conference this week, since most of them I haven't seen in at least a year.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Other Upcoming Boogie

I will be found, rocking like a high school kid, at the following upcoming shows. Feel free to join me if you think you can hang.

October 28th - They Might Be Giants - Neighborhood Theatre, Charlotte - I last saw TMBG at the 1313 Club in something like 1993, and they kicked a whole lotta ass then. I expect the audience to be full of thirtysomethings who know all the words to "Flood." I'll be in my element.

November 5th - Cross Canadian Ragweed - 5 Points, Columbia - There will be much partying. Hopefully I can crash on my niece's couch cause I'm sure I'll be too tanked to drive home.

November 14th - Reckless Kelly - Cat's Cradle, Carrboro - They put on one of the best concerts I've seen in my life last time I saw them. It'll be worth the 3-hour drive.

November 24th - Cowboy Mouth - Visulite, Charlotte - I've managed to be out of town every.single.time these guys have played Charlotte before now. Really looking forward to this Nawlins-style frenzy.

January 24th - Enter the Haggis - I have no good excuse for missing their last show. It won't happen again.

Come hang with Uncle Falstaff as I rock out through the fall and winter. My plan this next six months is to see more good boogie and do less boring theatre.

Upcoming Boogie

So my current favorite band is playing Charlotte on the 16th of November. Which would be great, except that I'm gonna be in Orlando for a conference. So I'm gonna head to Carrboro on the 14th to see Reckless Kelly at the Cat's Cradle, a music joint I've heard a lot of good things about but never managed to visit. Anybody wanna go with?

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

heh - naturally

Of course the morning after I make a whiny-ass post about not being able to break the 216 barrier on my scale, I wake up and weigh in at 215. So now I have officially (as official as my bathroom scale allows me to be) lost 50 pounds since I started this process in April. That's a pretty big milestone for me, as it puts me down to a weight I never thought I'd see again, and didn't really have a whole lot of interest in looking for. I have 25 pounds to go before I get to the goal weight I set for myself, but I have to admit, if I don't see 190 it won't kill me. I think I can be happy at 195-200, but at least once, I want to see the first digit on my scale change to a "1" before I settle in at a maintenance weight.

All the body mass indices and other ideal weight calculators are telling me I need to weigh somewhere around 185 - 195, and I think I'll be happiest around the top end of that scale. I've put on a lot of muscle in the past couple of months, mostly in my legs from riding so much, so my real healthy weight may be higher than normal. But I still have a gut that needs to go, and I have a pair of 36" waist jeans in the closet that I purposefully bought a little snug, so that I would continue to work towards something.

I rode my ass off on the exercise bike last night while watching SVU, which comes on immediately following my only reality TV show indulgence - The Biggest Loser. It should come as no surprise that I relate to the people on that show, who are real people fighting the same fight that I am fighting every day. I look at the guys on that show and see myself in a few years if I hadn't started working out, and it's hard for me to watch them struggle without getting emotional. Because unlike some other shows where the contestants are striving for money, the folks on that show are trying to get better, not just for themselves, but so they can have a normal family life.

And it's hard. I've never really thought about how differently the world treats fat people, until I started to work on not being fat anymore. It's as simple as having trouble wedging yourself into a booth at a restaurant because your gut is bumping into a table, and as annoying as having to stop on a short walk at Merlefest because your knees hurt so bad. So I get emotional when I see the contestants on The Biggest Loser have to go home, because I know how hard it is to do this shit on your own, and I never had as much to lose as most of these people.

So last night my favorite contestant, Phil, got eliminated. Phil is a BIG dude. He's way over 6', probably close to 6'5", and started off at over 400 lbs. He was also the guy carrying the red team, and when they got stuck in elimination, they couldn't come to a decision about who to vote off, so the blue team got to pick who got sent home. Since Phil was the biggest threat, the blue team picked him. Good strategic move for the blue team, since it is a game and there's money on the line, but I really liked watching Phil compete every week and sometimes by force of will alone carry his team to success or survival in the challenges.

At the end of every episode, they show the updates from the player who was eliminated, and last night we got to see how Phil had kept up his exercise and diet regime. He lost 61 pounds in the 6 weeks he was on the show, and has lost another 40+ pounds since his elimination, bringing his total to over 100 pounds! That's almost an entire F-Train!

Yes, I measure weight loss in units of F-Train. When I started my diet and exercise I weighed in at 2.04 F-Trains, and my goal weight is 1.46 F-Trains. My current weight is 1.5 F-Trains, so I'm getting closer! Of course, if F-Train makes his weight gain goals for the December WPBT gathering, then my scale is all fucked up and I don't know how many F-Trains = 1 Falstaff.

Great week in sports

But the biggest story isn't 43 year old Vinny Testaverde coming off the couch (yes, couch, not bench) to lead the Carolina Panther to victory over Arizona. We in Charlotte are grateful, and almost ready to adorn our cereal boxes with Vinny Flakes, but it's not the greatest story in sports.

The biggest story isn't the Colorado Rockies making it to their first World Series (and making a nice 2-game parlay for my imaginary sports betting). Winning 21 out of their last 22 games is a monstrous run, but it's not the biggest story in sports.

Nah, Kevin Everett is the biggest story in sports. Because he walked a few steps. With a walker, yes, but the Buffalo Bills tight end has movement in his legs, something that a few weeks ago people didn't ever think would happen again. Yes, this young man's football career is 99% likely to be over, before it really got going. But he'll walk again. After a life-threatening neck injury, the kind of injury that leaves people needing to kind of care usually reserved for the stars of Jeffrey Deaver novels, this kid is gonna walk and lead at least most of a normal life. And that's the biggest story in sports this week.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Headed to the ATL

For a conference on building churches next week. I'll be there all week, from Monday afternoon til I leave on Saturday morning. My conference is done on Friday afternoon, so if anyone has a home game on Friday nights in Atlanta, I'd love to come visit.

You know how to find me.

Plateaus and Updates

So I've been stuck on my weight loss for a couple weeks and it's getting irritating. For the last two weeks I've bounced between 216 and 217, which is only really annoying because 215 is a magic number for me. At 215 I will have lost 50 pounds, which is 2/3 of my total weight loss goal. And no matter how much I ride, or how little I eat, I can't seem to break that barrier. And it's PISSING ME OFF.

Ok, I feel better. I know it'll pass, and I know it's just a momentary setback, and all that shit, but it is still annoying.

So on to the updates - the number of people already signed up for the Winter Gathering currently exceeds the total number of people who played in the shitty little tournament the Orleans threw at us (note - not FOR us, but AT us). So it's gonna be a great time. With returning regulars like the Good Dr., The Rev. Al, Gracie, The Rooster, 142 Pounds of Fury and the Man of 1,000 Hair Products, we're sure to have a great time.

We've got a bunch of new folks coming out for their first WPBT Vegas gathering, and it's always something I love - the meeting of new people and corrupting them at the Pai Gow table (right, Astin?). Some of the Virgins this time 'round include The Poker Tart, The Poker Peaker, Bacon Bikini Mary, and in a highly anticipated WPBT debut - Kat's Hunny Bunny, putting aside all rumours of his imaginariness.

Yep, just invented another new word - imaginariness. So fucked up in its composition that Blogger's spellchecker didn't even try. Heh. But it does tag spellchecker as being misspelled.

So far I've received zero confirmations from the G-Vegas crew, and neither of the brothers Bracelet have confirmed, although the Endowed One has been known to make a surprise appearance at these events before.

So the time is drawing nigh, and hopefully before too long Pauly will repost his Vegas WPBT primer for all the new folks to get the tips on how to survive their first blogger Vegas gathering (even for folks like Jordan, who lived through a Bash at the Boathouse, Vegas with these nutjobs is something even bigger).

On other fronts, I've been riding a bunch, and if I keep this pace I'll pass September's total mileage by the end of the third week of October, which is nice. I'm averaging 65-70 miles each week, and I'm going to try a 26-mile ride this Saturday, if I can drag my ass out of bed early enough to get down to Chester, SC for a 9 AM start time. That part has potential for extreme sucking. My attendance is entirely dependent on the end time of the poker tournament at BG's place this Friday night.

Monday, October 15, 2007


So after my miserable play last weekend, I went into the home game this week with a new plan. o really, I had a plan for the home game. It may sound ridiculous on the surface, but when you realize that there's something like $6-700 on the table, there's money to be made in this home game. My plan?

Stop calling preflop raises with shit, and play my big hands harder.

Yeah, that was it. It doesn't take a whole lot, really. Just tighten up a bit preflop and jam my big hands more. I still feel like the right way to play this game is to see as many cheap flops as possible, and then if you hit something big on the flop, take full advantage.

So it's not that I was trying anything tricky. Just the opposite really, I was playing much more straightforward than usual. Since nobody at the game ever gives me credit for having decent cards, I don't need to get creative. Just wait around to catch decent cards, and then play hard when you get them.

Now my definition of decent cards is a bit looser than most, and includes suited connectors are one-gappers as low as 8-6, but all it took to reverse my fortune from last week was that minor adjustment in my game.

It didn't hurt that Nate didn't catch every single hand he chased this week. I hit a fair number of draws, but missed or folded just as many. In general, I decided to play tighter than normal and take advantage of the fact that everyone assumes I play nothing but shit cards.

Yeah, I know most of the folks in my home game read this from time to time. It doesn't matter, they still won't give me credit for any decent cards. And by the next time we have a game, I may have decided to go back to playing looser than a JV cheerleader.

I gotta boogie, Monday Night Football is on, and I took Don's advice and took the Falcons. 5 minutes into the first quarter and it looks like good money. Still plenty of time for it all go pear-shaped.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Not sure how to feel about this...

But I heard from a reliable source that the company I was supposed to be directing a show for (until they cancelled it) has closed down. On the one hand, I hate to hear that any producing entity, especially in this less-than-artsy town, has shut down. One the other hand, the vindictive little part of me is thinking "If you'd let my show happen, your company would still be around."

But a big part of me just doesn't care. I shouldn't have become involved in the project in the first place, I only took it because it's tough to get directing gigs in this town, so I wanted to take the show. But I wasn't passionate about the show, and while I worked hard on it, I never felt a great connection to the script. I was never upset that the show wasn't going to happen, just that the cast wasn't going to get the chance to do the show.

Oh well, doesn't matter now. I've decided that the only shows I'm doing at this point are shows that I can get emotionally invested in. I love theatre, but it's only worth doing if it's theatre I love. Otherwise, I'd rather ride my bike(s).

Coming to Vegas? Let Me Know!

If you're coming to the WPBT Winter Gathering and you haven't already updated all your info on the spreadsheet, please email me at johnhartness AT gmail DOT com and I'll send you the link to the spreadsheet so you can plug in your attendee status, whether or not you're playing the tourney, your cell phone number (so we can call you if we notice any missing wheelchairs) and other shit.

So email me and I'll send you the link to the spreadsheet.

No, leaving a comment doesn't count, especially if I don't have your email address!

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Reversal of Fortune

Some nights, you can do now wrong. Some nights, you sit down at a table to sling come cards and chips with a few friends and you just sense that it's all gonna go your way. Some nights, no matter how far behind you may be, you know that it's all going to work out in the end.

Me? Oh hell, no! I'm not talking about me, I'm talking about Crazy Nate. Friday night Nate took almost five hundred imaginary dollars out of my home game, which is ridiculous when you stop to consider that it's a $.25/.50 game. At one point I looked down at the $200 sitting in front of me and thought I was doing pretty good.

Then I realized that I was $400 into the game. By storming back to finish the night down $160, I decided I was a winner. Just because I wasn't the biggest loser. Nate caught every ridiculous thing he chased, including two rivered gutshot draws for pots worth well over $100 each. And once he got chips, he played the table bully as well as anyone I've ever seen. It was truly ridiculous.

One of my great joys in my home game is to watch the faces of people that have never played with Nate. He's an old dude, 78 to be exact, and he's played poker for ever. And it's probably never been very good poker. But here are a few things to understand about Nate.

1) His entire game is predicated on making you fold. Therefore, he could teach Brunson a thing or two about aggression with trash.

2) He doesn't give a shit about the money.

3) If he calls a bet on the flop, there's practically no bet he won't call on the turn or river. He will chase whatever he is chasing until 9th street if you let him, and he will not lay down middle or top pair no matter what. He will sometimes lay down an underpair or bottom pair, but don't count on it.

4) If he raises preflop, he has an Ace. It may have a 3 kicker, but there's an Ace in the hand.

5) Unless he has pocket Aces, in which case he will limp.

6) He also limps with Kings.

7) He also limps with 8-4 offsuit.

I asked him at one point after he took down a pot by hitting his gutshot on the river to crack my flopped two pair "Nate, do you call an all-in on the turn if I bet it?"


He was sincere. My all in would have been over $100 into a $25 pot, and he would have gladly called it.

We couldn't be upset with Nate for having a good night, because he frequently loses $200 a week in the game, but it certainly didn't feel very good to give it all back to him in one night.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Bring it!

Online Poker

I have registered to play in the PokerStars World Blogger Championship of Online Poker!

This Online Poker Tournament is a No Limit Texas Holdem event exclusive to Bloggers.

Registration code: 2059579

Thursday, October 04, 2007

WPBT Winter Gathering Update

So there's this little get-together coming up in December...

And there's usually a little poker tournament associated with it...

And some of you are wondering where and when that will take place...

And some of you are wondering about structure...

So here's the deal -

Saturday, December 8th

The Bloggers go Italian as the WPBT Winter Gathering Tournament hits the Venetian!

Format - Freezeout

Buy-In - $125 ($100 to prize pool, $25 juice)

Chips - $4,500 in chips

Starting Blinds - $25/50

Adder - $1,500 in chips for a $10 staff toke (optional)

Levels - 30 minutes long

I'll put up the final structure as soon as I have it confirmed, but it will most likely be the one I posted a couple weeks ago with more play early, shooting for having a 75/150 level and one other, and cutting out a couple of later levels.

If you haven't let me know that you're in for the Winter, please do so now! I will start pulling together a list of attendees, in a spreadsheet that will be distributed to all peeps coming.

And please indicate if you're playing in the tourney or not.

You can get in touch with me at johnhartness AT gmail DOT com.

And I'm betting that even with a 2PM start time, at least one blogger is still gonna be too drunk to play, and that Al will still be drunk from the night before when the event starts!

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Zoom Zoom

New bike is fast.

Way fast.

I took it for a quick spin around the neighborhood last night before it got too dark to ride safely (since I haven't put lights on it yet), and did 6 miles at an average of 12 miles per hour. I had been averaging around 9 - 9.5 mph on my other bike. So it's fast. I got it up to 21 mph on a downhill, and lemme tell ya, 21 mph on a bike feels like you're screaming fast.

The road bike also works different muscles than the hybrid, since I'm riding more hunched over and focusing more power through my legs. But it's light, it climbs well, and is screaming fast on flats and downhills. Now I've got something that I can put on a longer ride, and I can't wait for the weekend to get the chance to stretch it out a little.

Of course, I've got rehearsal at noon Saturday for a one-night-only event Saturday night, and I've got a 1:30 poker tourney Sunday afternoon, so I'll just have to get up and ride in the mornings.

The Saturday night thing is pretty neat, actually. This year celebrates the 80th anniversary of Theatre Charlotte, the local community theatre. TC is the longest continually-operating theatre in NC, and I've done several shows there over the past few years, including Oliver last weekend. This event is a fundraiser, and it's a concert reading of the first play ever performed at Theatre Charlotte 80 years ago. The cast is a collection of local actors who have been involved at Theatre Charlotte for their careers, some of whom have been involved at TC for more than 50 years. One of the women involved in this performance was actually in a 10th-anniversary production of this play in 1936! So it's neat that I get to play with these folks in this event.

Speaking of Oliver, I went in to actually run the lights for the last two performances, since the board operator had conflicts and couldn't make the last two shows. So I thought "no big deal, I designed it, it shouldn't be a problem for me to run it."


At some point I became one of those musical theatre designers who isn't happy unless there's a light change for every chorus in every song, so I averaged 2 cues per minute of stage time for Act 1. Thank god the stage manager for the show was top-notch, because by three weeks after opening, I had forgotten everything about the show, and if she wasn't calling it perfectly, disaster could easily have ensued.

For those of you who've never done technical theatre (or theatre of any type for that matter), the way lights happen is this. A designer (yours truly), decides where the lights should go and what each scene should look like. Personally, I can see it in my head, I call it the movie in my mind, because that's exactly what it is for me, a movie of the play, with the lights looking like what I think they should look like.

Then I spend a few hours (typically 6-8 for a musical or complicated play) programming the lights into the computerized lighting board where I set intensity, number of lights and the time that they fade up or down in. Then we go through technical rehearsals and we see how closely the movie in my head matches the movie in the director's head. Usually there are things that I or the director don't like when we see it on the stage and on the costumes, so we spend a few days tweaking color, patterns, intensity or timing.

During rehearsals and shows, the light board operator only has to press one button if things go well. There's a button marked "Go" on the board, and every time a cue is supposed to happen, the operator pushes the button. There's a monitor at the light board that displays what cue is currently running, what the next cue is, and what level (1- 100%) each light is currently at. If something gets all fucked, the board op can jump forward, backwards or sideways in the cue stack to get to the appropriate moment, but nothing EVER, EVER happens, unless the Stage Manager says so. Once the show is open, the SM is in complete control, and nobody pushes any buttons or turns on any spotlights until the word "go" is uttered by the SM. Usually, once the show has begun, the SM won't even use the word "go" in a sentence, referring to it as "the g-word," because when you say "go," something happens. And if something happens at the wrong time, it's often worse than nothing happening when it's supposed to.

Like the time my buddy Jay wondered what that red button was on the stage manager's panel, so he pushed it. Releasing the duck that was supposed to fall out of the sky in Act II. Before the show had ever begun. So as audience was getting settled and getting ready for Beauty and the Beast to begin, this random duck falls out of the rafters and lands in the middle of the stage. That was not Jay's most shining moment.

So all that explanation was to get to the point that I don't run shows very often. Like not in the past 4 years. And I certainly don't run musicals that I design. Mostly because I write a LOT of fucking cues. And I don't wanna pay that much attention for that long. But last weekend I did, and it actually felt really good to use those mental muscles, and be part of the "crew," working in black and in obscurity to make magic happen onstage. Sabrina is a monster of an SM, and she made my show look just like I wanted it, which is what a top-notch stage manager brings to the table. It was fun to actually run a show again. But I'm perfectly content to wait another four years to do it again.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

The challenge...

The boys at the office have challenged me to go for the next 30 days without buying a bike.

That's after I found this puppy on Craigslist.
It's a 2006 Scattante R560 Triple, with a triple chainring up front, Shimano 105 shifters and derailleurs, and a carbon fiber fork and seat post. It also included a computer, water bottle cages and a cargo wedge. I gave $400 for it, and it was about a $1200 bike when it was new. It's been ridden for 425 miles or so and looks almost brand new. And just in tooling around the parking lot at work, it's pretty damn fast. Now we'll see how it does on the road!

Monday, October 01, 2007

My Legs Hurt...

But after the raping I took at the home game Friday night you'd think my ass would hurt, too! Basically I played most of the night ahead or slightly behind, then an orbit of stud where I couldn't hit water if I fell out of a boat, followed by a final hand of O8 where I couldn't catch a cold put me busto for the night when I finally got to the point where I'd rather shove all in and lose the little I had left in front of me than cash out $27. So I did - lose the little left in front of me that is. It was a fun night, with a couple of nasty, nasty stud hands making for big pots.

In one, I started life with rolled up Aces, and led out for $2 (this time we were playing $.50 - $2 spread limit), because as I mentioned "if you have an Ace in the door you have to bet. It's a stud law, right?" As is typical, nobody thought I had anything to go with the ace, since I typically don't. When I hit the 4th Ace on 5th street, I just kept swinging, and people kept calling. Oddly enough, my quads were good.

Fast forward a little to the next orbit of Stud ($1-$5 spread limit now), and BG starts with buried 6s. I pick up two pair, and Jim and Rassler both had really flushy boards, so when I don't boat up on 7th, I dump my Aces up. Good move, since Jim and Rassler go at it with boat-over-boat, and all the chips slide over to BG when he turns over his very own quads to drag a true mosterpotten. Jim ended up the big winner for the night, taking almost all of Nate's money, while I think Rassler finished up almost exactly what I was stuck, so it was a fun evening overall.

We were shorthanded all night, since Uncle Phil phoned in sick and Little Nick got mugged the night before and was in the hospital. Dude was walking home a block from his apartment, in a decent neighborhood, when he got jumped by three of the dumbest crooks in the history of the world. They beat the shit out of Nick, cracked his skull and ran off when the lady whose house they beat him down in front of turned on the lights and called the cops, but then proceeded to use his credit cards at several ATMs (with cameras) and at a nearby drugstore (with cameras). So they'll doubtless get caught, and all I can hope is that they're identified very clearly, and let go. I know a few guys that might want to have a little chat with them. Nick will be okay, they're talking about letting him come home today or tomorrow, once they're sure the blood clot on his brain has been absorbed. He got lucky. If they'd hit him just a little bit harder, he'd be dead.

So after getting my ass kicked Friday night I hop on the bike early Saturday morning and go for a ride. More like I load the bike onto the back of the Toaster and drive to a safe place to ride, but whatever. I put 12 miles on the Schwinn Saturday, and realized that I really, really want a road bike. The Schiwnn Voyageur just is too heavy, and geared too small, and all sorts of other things that don't give me enough power to make anything happen. So now I'm shopping again, and will soon have the Schwinn up on ebay or craigslist. My project manager here at work has a bike that he'll sell me for $600 if he wins the ebay auction he's watching for a new bike, so we'll know tomorrow how that looks. Otherwise, I'm looking at craigslist, since I just can't see me dropping $1200-$1500 on a bike right now. More like, I can totally see me doing that, and it would be a BAD THING, so I'm concentrating on the used market.

Been playing a little poker online. I still suck. No news there.