Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Jerry Krause: Finally Getting the Credit He Deserved

Former Chicago Bulls General Manager Jerry Krause passed away yesterday. Krause, who presided over player acquisitions during the Bulls championship run in the 1990s, assembled the coaches and players that aided superstar Michael Jordan in delivering six championships to Chicago in eight years. Yet, despite all that success, Krause was often seen as more of a negative than a positive.

Nicknamed "Sleuth" for his secretive ways, Krause delighted in discovering talent. If there was a rumor of a great basketball player somewhere, Krause would be on it in an instant. Unfortunately, in an era of smooth talkers and beautiful people, Krause didn't fit in. He had a reputation of being gruff with people, and his frumpy appearance was mocked most notably by Michael Jordan, who, among others, mocked Krause by calling him "Crumbs," in reference to one or more occasions when Krause would have donut crumbs on his suit or shirt.

I would be remiss if I did not admit to mocking Krause for his most infamous quote: "Players and coaches alone don't win championships, organizations win championships." Unfortunately, the word "alone" was often left out of the quote, making it seem much worse. Focusing attention away from players and on staff and management seemed foolish. In retrospect, Krause might have not been as far off as originally thought. If only he had found a way to merge the importance of both players and sound coaching and management.

Having watched and cheered for the Chicago Bulls since their very beginning, the six championships were pretty heady stuff for me. Watching games in the old Chicago Stadium was fantastic, and the United Center proved to be another great venue. And ... living in Illinois, I was able to watch virtually any Bulls game on television during the great run.

The players from that era will always be special to Chicago sports fans. The coaches were legendary. Today's passing of Jerry Krause brought back many outstanding memories across Chicagoland. And finally, for what really seems to be the first time, Jerry Krause is getting his due for being the best executive in Chicago sports history.

Monday, March 06, 2017

A Gut-Wrenching Day: Saying Goodbye

Sunday, March 5 was one of those days that you know is coming, you dread, but also know that, as is mentioned in the Semisonic song Closing Time: "Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end." My son, Rick, had accepted a job as a software engineer in Seattle and moved away -- almost 2,000 miles.

My wife and I had been pretty fortunate in that our two oldest children, while attending college and beginning their adult years, lived in apartments right in town. Although they lived their own lives and we saw them from time to time, it was always nice knowing that they could always come over for dinner or special family events, or even use our washer and dryer, pretty much whenever. The only time outside this new beginning when they weren't around was when my oldest daughter moved to Texas for two months after high school six years ago. I was devastated at the time and wrote a really raw post about having your child move away. Those feelings returned on Sunday.
How do they grow up so fast? It seems like just a short time ago Rick was this little kid. He had many challenges as a child and was lucky to have a mother who was his biggest advocate, supporter and source of comfort. This was especially needed when, at 15, he was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. We took him to the Mayo Clinic, where delicate surgery was performed. This is one of the "good" pictures I can post:
If any of you have kids, you can imagine what a terrible time this was. He had temporary paralysis on half his face, yet weathered it all with amazing courage. However, the threat of cancer returning caused him problems with anxiety in college that he still battles today.

Rick always had this dream of becoming a computer programmer. When he was young he ordered computer parts and put together his own computer. I would see my wife going to the library and bring home computer programming books for him when he was in fifth and sixth grades, He was a natural.

He couldn't wait to be off on his own and moved out 3 1/2 years ago. We always knew he would surface when he wanted free laundry use or when a grocery shopping trip was needed. He is a foodie and always had items on his shopping list that were totally unfamiliar to me. He will love living downtown in a major American city.

He moved back in with us while he was interviewing for jobs in the Silicon Valley and Seattle. His moving back was what actually made his move on Sunday more difficult. It was kind of nice to have another of our children living back with us. However, today was a particularly difficult day for my wife, who had just lost her mother last month. Letting go has been the depressing theme of our lives the past year.

After many tears today, we attempted to get on with our lives, although we were certainly feeling more than a bit empty. I finally got around to writing this post late at night after everything was quiet and dark. I knew Rick's flight would be getting in, and I texted him to make sure things went okay. I got the following response:

"Yeah, I'm just exhausted and still have to take a long ride to my place and check in. Please stay up so I can make sure I can check in. I should be able to pay my rent on my credit card because my credit limit is high enough, but I'd like to make sure I have some type of backup plan."

Okay -- long-distance parenting. It is still nice to be needed.

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Re-posting of a blog post from last year

On March 22, 2016, I wrote the blog post below. It looks like the final part of the race is almost over. My mother passed away less than three months after the post. My mother-in-law's death is imminent. Sometimes life just hits you and forces you to remember that we are only on this planet for a relatively short time. Make the most of what you have and be thankful for what you have been given.

Note: Today would have been my parents' 70th wedding anniversary.

Unfortunate Race to the End

Racing usually involves two or more people or machines going against each other in a match of speed, each trying to be the first to cross the finish line. Be it track and field, NASCAR or drag racing, the competition and drama are all part of the fun of the race. Some races, however, aren't fun. Such is one "race" in my life.

2016 is proving to be a difficult year so far as the health of both my mother and mother-in-law continues to get worse. My mother turned 90 last October -- something which is kind of amazing in itself. Despite numerous health issues, she has already outlived my father by over 11 years. My family would never have believed that she would live this long. However, she has a diagnosis of "failure to thrive" and continues to slip away little by little. In visiting with her this past weekend, I was surprised to see that on last Sunday, which I imagine was not one of her "good days," she did not even remember that I stayed with her for four nights after Christmas so that thundering36 could get a respite from his care giver responsibilities. However, at least at most of the recent times that I have visited, she has been relatively okay as far as remembering her children's names and making sense with much of what she said.

My mother-in-law has, unfortunately, had a rapid downswing. Due to back and other problems, she is no longer able to walk. My wife spent this past weekend in northern Wisconsin helping to clean and sort out her mother's belongings since my mother-in-law is now in a nursing home for the duration of her life. Her dementia has caused her to have all sorts of strange delusions. Fortunately, she still recognizes her family, so at least there is that. However, my wife has had to deal with the difficult part of knowing that the mother she grew up knowing is fading further and further away.

The mother and child relationship is one of the greatest gifts that we have been given. As I think back over my life, I am fortunate to have known that no matter what happened to me in life, good or bad, there was always -- no matter what -- at least one person there who was on my side. I am sure that my wife has felt the same about her mother. And strangely enough, in probably the darkest hour in my life, the person who was there for me was my mother-in-law.

So, life goes on, day by day. And even as the race heads closer and closer to its conclusion, I think of how lucky I have been to have had the competitors in my life.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Life Updates -- Some Good and Some Bad

I haven't felt motivated to write a new post for a couple of weeks, largely due to life fatigue and fatigue in general. Some updates, for those interested:

1) Wife gets job! My wife had been unemployed since the end of last May. Unemployment benefits ran out in December, so the need to come up with a job became more acute. It looks like she has landed something that will work out really well: a job as office manager for a chiropractor in town. My wife is friends with his wife, and the three will be working together. It seems like a great fit.

2) Son gets a job! My son is completing his degree in Math and Computer Science this semester with an online class. He accepted a job as a software engineer for a start-up company in Seattle. The job appears to be great, but that also means that he will be moving over 2,000 miles away from his family. Fortunately, Seattle is only a plane ride away, but it will be quite different not having him in the area. His mother will have an especially difficult time with this and I am dealing with it as best I can. He is finally living out his dream, which is, I guess, all that a parent can hope for.

3) The clean up of my mother's house began just over a week ago. It is difficult beginning the process --  seeing the house that you grew up in and all the requisite memories getting further and further from your grasp. My brother, thundering36 (I have three brothers and a sister), will finally be resuming the life he was living in Australia 17 years ago.

4) Death will again soon be visiting the family, as my mother-in-law is on her final days. I am pretty sure that I had written in the past that my mother and my mother-in-law were having a sad race to their deaths. My mom passed away last June, but was still in pretty decent shape mentally until the end. My mother-in-law was not quite so lucky, as dementia hit her hard and fast. My wife went to be with her yesterday. Sadly, it is just a matter of time.

Work pressures continue to build as the State of Illinois -- specifically the legislature and the governor -- seem determined to devastate higher education and social services in the state. My department is losing staff (people leaving are not being replaced) and we are gaining the many new responsibilities as a small office is being merged into mine. I am scheduled to remain head of my department until May 2018, but I may decide to step down at the end of this coming April. There are many things to consider, and I hope that I will have an answer by the end of this week.

I have been playing a little online poker recently. I have been reminded how frustrating it can be: know-it-alls popping off in chat, horrendous beats, lots of time spent playing. I probably need to stay away. I've played some brick and mortar poker in 2017, winning a little in a few early January sessions at the local riverboat, losing a buy-in or two in Las Vegas last month, and dumping a little bit at Harrah's Joliet. I'll probably up my play once a little bit of the pressure currently on me subsides.

I'm thankful for tweets, Facebook posts and blog posts and comments (on other blogs) that have kept me connected to my friends and acquaintances. The past nine months have not been great, and things will only get worse soon. I am hoping that by the middle of summer, things in my life will be more settled and life will be a little less challenging.

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, January 26, 2017

TBC Meet Up Was a Great Time!

Last night a small but fun group met for the 1st Annual TBC "Memorial" Meet Up in Las Vegas. I decided to get there early, so I caught a Lyft ride from Caesars Palace and arrived at TGI Fridays about a half hour early. Nice to relax and wait for people to come.
It was kind of funny waiting and watching people come into Friday, wondering if any were looking for the gathering. Two guys walked in and appeared to be searching for something, and yes -- they were here for the meet up. It was officially on! One of them, Arch, sat down at the table while the other, Stacy, went to the bar with his wife, Miyuki, returning a bit later. These gentlemen knew Tony from Las Vegas (The Strat) and Jean (Gold Strike) and were happy to meet some people with the common TBC link.

The star himself arrived later with his good buddy Vince, who actually prefers to be called Vinnie (I hope my spelling is right). Alysia came a bit later and, stopping over a few times to make sure everything was alright, Dallas, who was working that night and who helped with arrangements at TGI Friday.

What can I say? It was a great night! We all shared some Tony stories and information and discussed Tony's future plans. The beer was cold and we kept ordering appetizer plates. There was lots of talk about poker, Las Vegas, the Gold Strike, Lake Tahoe and life in general. I hope that Tony enjoyed the evening, as people there genuinely are among the many that want him to succeed and have a good life.
Front: Alysia, Arch and Miyuki
Back: TBC, Vinnie, Dallas, lightning and Stacy

Part of the benefit of going to the meet up was hearing about Tony's next step. Of course, I will not DISCLOSE his plans just in case someone is stalking him with hopes of procuring the sockroll, u see.

Several people who hoped to attend were unable to due to work, family or other obligations. Mr. Subliminal sent his regrets as he was under the weather -- an occupational hazard for those who panhandle in the rain and cold. Michelle (9ontheturn) was still in the hospital and unable to finally meet Tony.

Some very special thanks from last night -- to Dallas, for suggesting the restaurant and extending happy hour drink and food specials for us; to Alysia, who generously covered the bar tab for everyone; and to Arch, who generously covered the food tab for everyone.

Tony, I hope you read this and comment on it. We had a great time and all wish the very best for you.

Now -- back to donking off money at the poker table!

Saturday, January 21, 2017

1st Annual TBC "Memorial" Meet Up Has Been Set for Wednesday, January 25

The Man ... The Myth ... The Legend ...
Tony Bigcharles

After much TBC Inner Circle haggling, posturing and fighting, a decision was finally reached to have the first ever international Tony Bigcharles meet up in Las Vegas this coming week. All friends and followers of Tony across the world -- and beyond -- are invited.

Actually, I had been kicking around this idea for about a year. Of course, the purpose, u see, is to have a FUN gathering for many of people who seem to live and breathe poker on social media sites like Twitter and/or who have at least a passing interest in the blog or gambling exploits of Tony Bigcharles. Come and meet or say hi to people you interact with or have read online. Have a drink or some food and come and go as you like.

1st Annual TBC "Memorial" Meet Up
Wednesday, January 25, 2017
6:30 p.m.
TGI Fridays -- 4570 W. Sahara Ave., Las Vegas 

Happy Hour will be extended for those coming and will include the following specials:

For those looking to mash some video poker, try your hand at dem Fridays GOOD machines. 

Some people tentatively set to be in attendance include:
  • Tony Bigcharles -- @sevencard2003
  • Alysia Chang -- @Onechiquita
  • Vince (Tony's sometime landlord)
  • serge -- @grrouchie
  • Dallas Leavitt -- @DallasLeavitt80
  • yours truly, lightning36 -- @lightning36
Sound like fun? Maybe not? Really -- what else would you be doing? Stop by and check it out!

If you are tentatively planning on coming, please leave a note in the comments section or pm me on Twitter.

We hope to see you there!

* special thanks to Dallas for helping with arrangements

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Ready for Las Vegas: January 22-27

We are in a new year, Donald Trump is waiting to be sworn in as president, the future has a lot of questions, but ... there is always Las Vegas!

This month has not been as stressful as usual at work. The beginning of a new college semester always means the transition from planning and getting everything ready to actually beginning the semester -- and for what I do, that actually means one of the less busy times of the year. It has been pretty much a tradition for me to head out to Las Vegas at the end of January or in February. But the transition was not going to be as easy this time because ... the dreaded flu virus got me.

I snuck in a session at the closest poker room (90 miles away) on Monday night. Just after I got home, I felt a pain in my gizzard. I knew right away that I caught the same thing my wife, daughter and son had. I thought I would make it as the only one in the house to escape it, but ... believe me, you do NOT want to know the gory details. I've missed two days of work and hope to return tomorrow. At least I am fortunate to have gotten sick before my trip began.

My brother, thundering36, and I will be arriving in Sin City on Sunday and will be there for five nights. It looks like I will have to miss watching the Packers/Falcons game that day, but at least I should be able to catch most of the second game should I desire.

We will be staying at The Cromwell this trip. I was originally booked at Excalibur and thought of switching to Hooters, but due mostly to the previous degenerate ways of my brother, CET gave us an offer we couldn't refuse.

Earlier on Twitter, I had posted that the 1st Annual TBC Memorial Dinner would be held Wednesday, January 25 at approximately 6:30 p.m. Surprisingly, Mr. Bigcharles is actually in Las Vegas right now and, unless the rabbit in him takes over quickly, could attend. I really thought about making a reservation somewhere, but the last time I arranged a meet up meal in Las Vegas, only a couple of people showed up. I guess I should have known that a brunch was too early for most people. 

Alysia Chang suggested the new In-N-Out at The LINQ as a place for a meet-up. Of course, she knows my FONDNESS for a double-double animal style, u see. So, if any blog readers or Twitter followers are able to show up, that would be great (said in my Lundbergh Office Space voice). I'll send out a tweet or two soon. I always look forward to meeting online people in person and reconnecting with my Las Vegas friends. Consider yourself invited on Wednesday, January 25 at 6:30 p.m. at the In-N-Out t The LINQ.

If you'd like to arrange a personal meet-up or sling some cards while I am there (current favorite rooms are Mirage, Bally's and MGM, but I am open to other places), hit me up with a private message on Twitter -- @lightning36, naturally!

I imagine this post sounds pretty scattered. I'm still woozy from the flu, but looking for increasing health by take off time.

See ya in Vegas!