Monday, 24 February 2014

Bitcoin Blogger Freeroll

Hi there.  For those who have never met me this may come as some sort of revelation.  For everyone else, no shock should be induced.  I like poker.  I at times obsess about it.  The opportunity to play in a free tournament is always a good thing.  Even better when prizes are awarded.  I have been considering playing on this site for a while, but I have not had to the ability to deposit.  I am still not sure if I can play, as I am in Canada, and this site seems to be populated mostly by Americans.  At the very least, this will serve as a small promotional post for a poker site that is generously putting up significant prizes for a bunch of bloggers who love poker.  Please consider joining us on Wednesday at 5 pm pst, the site can be found at the link below.

Check out Poker Meister's blog for more info.  Located here.

Thursday, 13 February 2014

The Boys and Their Parts

Thursday morning is generally reserved for plenty of lounging and relaxing at our house.  Today is no different.  Sheila is at work and Jasmine is at school.  The men?  We are about as relaxed as can be.  Those who know really well won't find this revelation shocking, but some might.  I hate clothes.  Not certain kinds, or certain styles, just all of them.  I put them on to leave the house, but this is only out of a desire to conform with social convention.  My reasonably new hobby of lifting weights has only made fully clothed at home time even more rare.  Honestly, who wants to lift weights with sweaty clothing draped all over their body?  So, I sit at my computer between sets in my skivvies.  No, I don't recommend others use my computer chair.  Asher has picked up the habit to some extent.  He seems to be okay wearing clothes around the house for some activities.  Others, not so much.  Carpet hockey simply cannot be properly enjoyed with clothes on.  When he has settled on playing, he will quickly strip his shirt and pants then holler: "Naked boy!"  His tiny little dinosaur or pirate briefs are much cuter than when a 30 year old man sports the look.  Today, in an attempt to obtain the pinnacle of relaxation, Asher is going with the shirt only get up.  No pants, no socks, no underwear either.  There is something bizarre about looking over and seeing a toy helicopter "fly" through the air, steered by a little guy while his little bird dangles in the wind.  We also played baseball, had a game of hockey, then raced our hot wheels cars, all while we were free and easy.  I told you, Thursday is for relaxing.

While Thursday is almost always for relaxing, we are even more tired today then normal.  You see, "us mens" had a busy day yesterday.  Getting out of the house by 9, we went to Strong Start to play a little basketball in the gym.  After basketball, we spent time painting, playing store, building a train track, having a snack, singing songs, listening to a story and getting a stamp.  All of which are important to a good time at Strong Start.  We came home and ate and napped, as one is wont to due after all that excitement.  Asher woke in time for us to go and pick up Jasmine from school.  Off to the swimming pool where I chased Asher around for over an hour, while Jasmine did her thing.  We had just enough time to come home and have dinner before Jasmine went off to her friends house (she was meeting up with Sheila at the pool to swim again).  Asher and I made our way to the CN Centre to catch the Prince George Cougars against the Portland Winterhawks.  We walked around the rink before the game, during the intermissions and after the game.  Asher started asking to go home during the second period, even though he was into the game somewhat.  He was playing hockey against himself during the game, drawing plenty of smiles from other fans.  If you haven't seen a hockey player fight himself you don't know what you are missing.  I laughed pretty hard when not long after standing and swaying while listening to the 2 national anthems, Asher decided to sing O Canada again himself while the game was on.  It was a small quiet crowd so all those near us could hear what he was up to.  Some of the little things he notices during the game are very cute, and they let me know just how much Asher is going to love the game.  He is mildly irritated when the Portland goalie didn't sway back and forth during the anthem.  He pointed out the distinct lack of pucks caught in the safety net, as he had scored a puck once when it was jostled out of the net at a game.  In his most profound moment, while sitting on my lap he let me know that "none of these guys has dads".  Referring to the players.  They were unlucky enough not to have a dad with them while they played.  "But he has his dad", pointing about 50 feet away.  Asking him to clarify, he pointed again.  Asher had noticed a man about my age with an older gentleman of about 60.  If I was to guess, he was probably right.  There was some resemblance.  I thought this observation to be much too astute for a 3 year old.  Not to worry, I assured Asher that the hockey guys most likely had dads, they just weren't on the ice with them.  He was content with that thought. 

I've had my mind somewhat cluttered lately while I try to find a balance between time with my children, and earning enough money to provide for my children, and also trying to find leisure time for myself.  My leisure time is complicated by the fact that poker falls into both the trying to earn money category and the leisure time category.  Asher and I have lots of time on my days off to fart around and be guys.  In any given week we play hockey in the carpet, hockey in the driveway, we watch hockey on television, we attend live hockey games, we consume hockey in any available form.  We wrestle regularly, and we also like to watch wrestling (go Daniel Bryan!).  In a scene out of those extreme parent shows, I was counting reps for Asher as he performed shoulder presses yesterday.  This was all his idea, but I have to admit, his form was pretty good.  Unfortunately, as Jasmine gets older, she seems to be getting less interested in spending time with Dad.  I'm not sure it can be helped, as this is likely pretty common with girls.  She still likes to go places with us, swimming with Asher and I yesterday and attending a movie Tuesday with Sheila.  Her hobbies are important to her to some extent, but time with her friends is definitely priority number one.  I just want her to be happy, so I will have to kind of play it by ear.  I want her to be able to confide in me, so I need to maintain a friendly relationship with my big little girl.  At Strong Start yesterday, I had another adult mention how well Asher was eating his snack.  I thought, um, well, it's an english muffin with honey, who the hell wouldn't eat that?  As the discussion continued, I mentioned that the only thing Asher turns his nose at, is if something is "too picy". (sic)  As a consequence, onions are the only thing we won't go for.  This drew astonishment from the two ladies at the table, one who's daughter refused a muffin with jam on it (she doesn't like jam, what?!?)  This led me to mentioning that my 10 year old daughter likes everything.  I could not think of a thing that Jasmine won't eat.  She tasted a bit of Brussel Sprout at Christmas.  She recently told her Grandma " I don't really like zucchini, but hey, if it's mixed in with other things."  Mom and I both found this both funny and profound.  Last night, as I prepared omelets for dinner, I mentioned to Jasmine that I was going to add bean sprouts and bok choy to make an asian style.  Jasmine actually got excited.  No child has ever had their heart race when hearing about bean sprouts.  "Dad!  It's been a long time since we had Bok Choy!"  "Mmmm, I forgot had good bean sprouts are!"  Said while shoving bite after bite into her mouth.  Jasmine also shares my affinity for Indian cuisine, going so far as to claim the same favourite restaurant as me "Dana Mandhi".  Perhaps food can be the hobby that keeps us close as she enters her difficult teenage years.

I mentioned finding a balance between earning money, spending time with my children, and relaxing.  It seems my children have taken over, and I don't regret that for an instant.  I have a few hobbies that really enjoy.  During the winter months, hockey in all its forms provides hours and hours of entertainment.  This week alone, I went to the Spruce Kings game Friday with one of the guys from work, I played hockey Sunday with Sheila and the kids watching, and last night Asher and I went to the Cougars game.  Tonight, a friend is coming by to watch the first game of the Olympic hockey tournament.  I am entered in no less than 5 hockey pools.  Sheila and I like to watch sitcoms together, and lately we have found some time to enjoy a few movies together.  We have watched the Butler, Dallas Buyers Club and Fruitvale Station in recent weeks, and we thoroughly enjoyed all of them.  I like to read, though most of my reading time is when it is quiet at work.  I have almost gotten through "A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man" which has been one of the most challenging reads I have ever tackled.  James Joyce is just not going to be a favourite of mine. 

One of my more time consuming hobbies doubles as a money maker for me.  Poker for me is part hobby, part job, and part obsession.  Lately, it has become more job and less hobby.  This has consequently led to it becoming less fun.  I want to enjoy it, but it has become boring over time.  I have played a lot in the 8 years since I learned the game.  It was an absolute obsession for many of those years.  I didn't play hockey in the winter, or soccer in the summer, or have a toddler to entertain, or weights to lift, or runs to take.  All of my free time was spent playing poker.  I made more free time by not committing to anything.  Last year, 2013 was quite a drop off as far as result are concerned.  I've identified a number of reasons above.  I often would chose a 5 km run over a poker session.  I'd lift weights instead.  I'd play with Asher out in the yard.  Sheila and I would watch a movie instead.  Ultimately, I spent about half as much time at the tables in 2013.  I think my casino time only totaled about 180 hours all together.  Online, I got away from playing my best games, settling for whatever I had time to squeeze into my schedule.  I don't win playing online cash games, and I am a breakeven player in sit and gos.  I am a modest winner in the tournaments, but I rarely had the time to sit down and play.  The schedule for tournaments is pretty undesirable after 9 pm, which is when I would be able to sit down.  This had all become quite frustrating as I knew that I needed to make a little money to supplement my income.  Even with all the negative feelings surrounding my money making hobby, I still managed a winning year at the live tables, averaging around 8 dollars an hour.  That said, while I am confident in my abilities, its hard to have high expectations when the other players are spending considerably more time than you are practicing their craft.  Even bad players will benefit from time spent.  I'm too dedicated to my family and my own health to devote the amount of time to poker that I used to.  At the same time, there is nothing stopping me from making the most of the time I have.  I have an extensive library of poker books that I can re-read.  I can access the myriad of advice available online for study.  Ultimately, I would like to play 10-12 hours a week.  There is more money to be made at the casino then on the computer, but I also must risk considerably more to win said money.  The days of the week that I am available are not the best ones, and on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays most opponents will be of the heavily seasoned variety.  Online, again, Friday and Saturday night play would be best, but I work.  Perhaps I could play 2 sessions during the week, periodically replacing an online tournament session with a trip to the casino.  My confidence found a boost last week when I scored two decent results.  On Monday I made the final table of a 11 dollar 6 max tournament, finishing 4th of 272.  On Wednesday, I bested myself, scoring 3rd out of 278 in the same tournament.  I played a few more sessions since, so I currently sit at about 400 dollars more than I had a couple weeks ago.  I have now final tabled this tournament 5 times in the last year, which has me focusing on tournaments again.  Lucky?  Yes, to some extent.  I made a number of really good plays that surprised myself.  I had lost my swagger, and these results will hopefully bring some of it back.  I don't expect to get rich.  Just to survive. 

That's enough for me today, Asher and I have some eating and napping to do.  What?  I told you we were relaxing. 

Sunday, 2 February 2014

It's Been a While (Super Bowl, hockey, movies and fitbit)

As I type we are less than 9 hours from the start of the holiest of American Holidays.  I guess you could call the whole day a holiday, or perhaps even the week should be set aside.  The National Football League really is in a class all its own when it comes to marketing.  Most of us are aware at least to some extent the kind of money involved in the Super Bowl and all of its accompanying pageantry.  A short 30 second commercial spot during the game today will likely cost 3 or 4 million dollars.  Players who the casual observer have never heard of will be "made famous" for a variety of reasons today, both good and bad.  Any other television show mentioned during the big game will get a huge boost.  This is actually how Survivor was originally marketed.  It didn't hurt in the ratings game when millions of snack covered sweat pant warriors were unable to emerge from their food comas to turn the channel, hence the Survivor viewing numbers.  What I find most impressive about the job that the NFL does, is how they manage to get millions and millions of people to care about a game that they have no rooting interest in. 

I have a weird relationship with the sport of American Football.  As a child and teenager, I never watched.  My dad wasn't interested, my small handful of friends were hardly interested, and I was more than occupied with my own hockey and volleyball interests in the fall and winter months.  When I had free time, I spent it watching hockey, or playing various forms of carpet hockey once my brother was old enough to provide adequate fodder.  I watched some NFL action during University, particularly on Sundays when I was feeling lousy from whatever stupid things I did the night before, and my interest intensified if I had assignments deadlines looming.  I think my interests picked up when I discovered the rush of sports betting.  I had some fun for a few seasons, but this year my only ties to the NFL were in the form of a couple of fantasy teams that I shared with a friend.  The fantasy season wraps up in the regular season, so my interest in the playoffs has been very limited.  I watched the Seattle game last week, taking a number of short naps while the game was on.  Will I be watching later today?  Probably.  I feel like I am suppose to.  I'm battling an illness, so I won't be surprised if I end up napping my way through parts of the longest sporting event of the year.

At our house, we had a trying week as our little Asher went through his first illness of his life.  He has had a cold once or twice, but last Monday heading into Tuesday we could tell something was wrong.  Asher went to the walk in clinic with Sheila on Wednesday night and ended up with a prescription for antibiotics.  He had been diagnosed with bronchitis.  While we dealt with plenty of whining from our little guy, it soon became clear that Asher had no idea how to deal with being sick.  For most of the week, he laid in bed watching "teetee", hardly eating.  We knew he was really sick because his hockey gear lay idle.  Three morning in a row he asked me if he could have a bath.  Asher loves having baths, but he has never asked me to run a bath for him early in the day like that.  They seemed to pick up his spirits quite a bit each time, but it was back to laying down and cuddling after each one.  He was very upset about taking his medicine, unable to make the connection between the liquid and the idea of getting better.  For that matter, he kept insisting that he wasn't sick.  Yesterday, recovery seemingly well underway, Jasmine asked me if she and Asher could go and play outside.  Keep in mind, she asked while I was in the shower.  Clearly not thinking straight, I called out a fatherly warning to dress very warm due to the cold spell we are currently enjoying.  After a few more gallons of steamy hot water hit me I hollered back to Jasmine.  I had changed my mind after remembering that although Asher was feeling better, it wasn't a good idea to send him outside.  This reversal of fortune was traumatizing to the little guy.  He was hearing none of my reasoning and had to be bought off with a snack and an episode of Sponge Bob.  A little later we were talking about all of the activities he was going to get back to next week, now that he is feeling better.  He couldn't decide what he missed the most, but he is looking forward to going to daycare, Strong Start and the swimming pool next week.

Sheila and I have decided to combine Valentine's Day and her birthday into one date.  Hey, as parents of two on a shoestring budget, we are lucky to have a night out at all.  Sheila is still on could nine about our engagement and told me not to bother with gifts for the two special days coming up.  I know better than that, so will be on the lookout for something she will like.  Pretty much anything will be a let down after "the ring", so I'm pretty much sunk.  It is cute that Sheila seems to have taken on some of my spend thrift ways.  The date night planned falls between Valentine's and the birthday, on Tuesday the 18th.  We can avoid the Valentine's crowds (i'm working Valentine's evening anyway), we can visit the theatre on cheap night, and best of all, we can use the gift card Sheila has for the Keg.  Of course, if I am polite enough not to mention sports, poker or any other of my annoying guy hobbies, she won't probably won't care that the date is being paid for with pocket change.  It's the time spent together that really matters, right?

The gift card that I mentioned above was one of quite a few that Sheila has been given by her manager at work recently.  It seems that he gives these to her as a token for all of her hard work and dedication to her job.  Sheila works at a transportation company, and a few weeks ago they took on a significant amount of new business due to the closure of another company in town.  This has led to considerably less down time between tasks, and also has had Sheila working the last couple of Saturdays.  The manager at the company is a very nice guy from what I can tell.  Sheila enjoys working for him, and these tokens of appreciation are a solid gesture.  She works her ass off because that's just how she is, and also because she wants to be considered for advancement and raises like most due.  For most people, it's just talk.  They want to advance without working for it.  Sheila has gave her company the best effort she has for over 5 years.  Actions speak louder than words as they always do, and I know Sheila takes pride in what she does.  As the company grows and new opportunities arise, I have no doubt my lady will be there to "carpe diem" as they say.

I think that part of my blase attitude towards watching or caring about football is that I have spent the last number of months totally immersed once again in all things hockey.  With my little man getting more and more into the sport himself, it has only given me more reason to get carried away.  I have spent much time cursing my Oilers on the television, enjoyed 10 or so live Spruce Kings games, caught a few live Cariboo Cougars games (15-17 year olds), attended 2 WHL Cougars games (once with my friend at work, the other with Asher), participated in 5 different hockey pools, played nearly 20 games for my rec league team, also played pick up hockey a few times, gone skating with the kids a few times, played hours of basement hockey, and also i've watched dozens of NHL that didn't involve the Oilers.  It seems finding new teams to enjoy is one way to keep from going off the deep end.  Edmonton has driven me to begin calling the New York Islanders, the Dallas Stars, the Winnipeg Jets and the Tampa Bay Lightning my "other favourite teams".  I also follow many players that find themselves scattered throughout the league due to their presence on one or more of my pool teams. 

I most enjoy watching hockey when Asher watches with me.  He will curl up with me on the couch or bed to take in the "Oilahs".  Humourously, he has taken to saying that they "suck" recently, something he likely picked up from me during one of their many losses.  Before a recent game he asked me "is the Oilahs losing Daddy?"  I told him the game hadn't started, but he just responded with "they suck Daddy."  Sure enough, I was able to confirm that they were indeed losing just a few minutes later.  Asher has even started figuring out some of the other teams.  He knows the Canucks, and his Mom and sister's mild affinity for them.  He surprised me last week by calling out the "Blackhawks" name.  He knows that Montreal is his Uncle Patrick's team, and that Toronto is Daddy's friend Jason's team.  Definitely the most fun we have had recently, was our father and son trip to the Cougars game a couple of weeks ago.  Asher brought along his gick and a puck, which kept him busy for the most part.  We found a seat 3 rows up right behind the net, and we even switched ends each period so we could see the Cougars goals with little chance of missing them.  Asher sat with me for most of the third period, and we had a lot of fun cheering for each goal.  We already have plans to go back for one more game, in a couple of weeks they are playing mid-week again, and he is raring to go.

Lately, I have been able to view a number of really, really good movies.  Sheila had been itching to watch "The Butler" and we finally had a chance to check it out.  I was skeptical about my chances of staying awake for a 3 hour drama film while laying in bed tired.  As it turns out, I had no problem keeping my eyes open.  The film is moving and heartfelt.  Its put together in a way that really showcased Forest Whittaker's acting talent.  Oprah played a supporting role as the butler's wife, and she's no slouch in the acting department either.  I am lucky enough to go to the movies at work fairly regularly, and in recent months I have seen "American Hustle", "Lone Survivor", and "12 Years A Slave" at our local theatre.  Sheila and I also got a chance to watch recent release "Dallas Buyers Club" the other night.  I tell you what.  That is a hell of a collection of movies right there.  Hustle, Buyers Club and 12 Years A Slave are all up for Best Picture at the Oscars.  It's extremely difficult to rank these movies as far which was my favourite, but that is what I do, I make lists.  So here it is.

5) Lone Survivor is probably the best movie Mark Wahlberg has ever done.  The movie is almost entirely made up of a gunfight between al Queda fighters and 4 American soldiers.  The action during the fight feels so real and genuine, it's easy enough to get lost in its authenticity.  3.5/5

4)  American Hustle was great as expected.  The cast is filled with superstars from Christian Bale to Bradley Cooper to Jennifer Lawrence.  It started to drag on a bit towards the end, but that took away from the movie only a slight bit.

3) The Butler Definitely one of the best movies for couples to come out recently.  A love bio pics, as it seems to add an element of importance to the story being told.  Add in the previously mentioned performances from Whittaker and Oprah, and you have a really well done movie.

2) Dallas Buyers Club I have raved to anyone who would listen about how good Matthew McConaughey was in his last movie "Mud".  I went so far as to list it at #2 in my favourite movies of 2013.  He has outdone himself with this one.  Everyone is talking about his losing 50 pounds for the role, something I find amazing considering the physique he already had.  There was no fat to be dropped, losing 50 pounds of mostly muscle is pretty incredible.  His character, Ron Woodruff, is so complex, but McConaughey seems to handle it with ease.  Coupled with the supporting performance by Jared Leto playing a transgendered woman who becomes Ron Woodruff's business partner, I was hooked from beginning to end. 

1) 12 Years A Slave Words simply can not do this movie justice.  Everyone over the age of 16 should see this film.  The unique way in which the director Steve McQueen shot the film, captures even small details and makes you realize that they are all part of the bigger picture.  Incredible acting performances by everyone in the film.  Engaging subject matter that left me unwilling to look away.  Heart wrenching scenes, culminating with Lupita Nyong'o's character getting a violent beating that the slave owner forced her friend to administer.  This is likely one of the best movies I have ever seen, and I am still shaken from his powerful force days later.  Do whatever you can to get out and see it, it's a life changer.

Before I wrap this up, I can't neglect to mention a most awesome gift I was given by my sister Erin for Christmas.  She was lucky enough to pull my name for our family secret santa this year.  She was very generous, and one of the things she gave me was a fitbit flex.  It's a little wristband with a tracking chip inside of it.  You wear it, and it tracks your steps taken, distance traveled and calories burnt throughout the day.  It also can track sleeping patterns though I haven't sued it for that.  It does work as a silent alarm as well, though my habit of smashing the sleep button leads me to worry that the fitbit won't wake me up.  Sheila is such a light sleeper that the silent vibrations at my wrist wake her up.  I digress.  Erin is well aware of my affinity for all things fitness, and while I had heard about the fitbit, I knew little about it.  As it turns out, it has done wonders to motivate me to keep active.  I find it very hard to have a lazy day when I have this readily available visual reminder about how much or how little I have done on any given day.  Even when I am having a lazy day, usually falling on Sundays and Mondays due to sleep deprivation, I find that my fitbit gets me to at least do some physical activity.  The lights on the wristband let you know how close to your daily goal you are.  I have mine set to 10,000 steps taken, so for every light it's 2000 steps.  I haven't had a day under 6000, even when I am "taking the day off" so to speak.  I have knocked it out of the park a few times, culminating last week in a day when I hit 18,000 steps.  If I remember correctly, that day consisted of 3 different walks, a jog, tons of work around the house, taking the dog out in the yard, a hockey game and more.  When choosing something to do, I find that the fitbit has me leaning towards the most active option almost every time.  Thanks Erin, it's definitely one of the coolest gifts I have received.

With that, I bid adieu to my small gaggle of loyal readers.  To my mom, hang in there, I'm looking forward to visiting with you soon.  To my most loyal reader Sheila, thanks for lighting a fire under my blog neglecting posterior.  To Elizabeth, I hope your recovery is going well, please take it easy.  To the rest of you, take care, I shall be back soon.