Tuesday, August 18, 2009

In Memory of Bertha Balan-Olenik

This is the eulogy I gave in remebrence of my grandmother, Bertha Balan-Olenik on what would have been her 94th birthday and I now post it here to honor her memory.

"Today we gather to warmly remember, honor, and share our grief as we celebrate the life of my Grandmother, Bertha Balan-Olenik on what would have been her 94th birthday. She leaves behind a loving husband (Samuel Olenik), three adult children (Arliene, Barry and Elinore), eight grandchildren, numerous great grandchildren, cousins, relatives, people she touched throughout her life, and a beautiful legacy.

Beginning life in 1915, grandma saw so much of what was right and wrong with our world. She had so many memories that she shared with us all and we have so many of her. Each discussion with her was a treasure - especially our last.

My sister Jody and I remember fondly grandma's cooking. Things like Fried Matzah, chopped liver, and that soft boiled egg thing. As my sister recalls, if it had an egg in it, Grandma could cook it. We remember sleeping on the patio in Century Village, riding the gigantic tricycle, The Grammy Scale, and how Grandma always anticipated our arrival so she could show off her grandkids to all her neighbors. We both recall walks along Deerfield Beach, which in time evolved to sitting on a bench, visiting and talking. Her wisdom was endless. Although all of the memories my sister and I have of Grandma are precious, let me share two specific stories with you.

The last time I saw Grandma was on Saturday, June 6th of this year. I flew with my girlfriend, Meredith, to see Grandma after she had broken her hip. We joined my mom and Sam to visit with her at the rehabilitation center. After a long day, my mom decided to leave to run errands and allow Sam to get some rest leaving Meredith and me with Grandma. She was as sharp as a tack - very clear and very coherent. Meredith and I sat with Grandma for several hours. At some point during that time I left the room and Grandma looked at Meredith and said, "Meredith you have a gem right there, a real gem." We feel the same about our grandmother.

Another special memory occurred with Grandma and Sam in early 1999. After my Papa, Irving, passed my grandmother suffered from a severe broken heart - her world was in disarray - so I made every effort to visit her frequently to lift her spirits and comfort her. Then I heard she had a boyfriend so I flew down to Deerfield Beach to meet her new beau and evaluate him on behalf of the family. I left that trip thankful that my Grandmother had met a man who renewed her zest for life and treated her with the love and support she deserved. Since then Sam has become a very special part of our family, we love you and will always be there for you.

I would like to close with a portion of a poem that I believe would echo what my Grandmother would say to us today. It is called "I Am Always With You"

"..be thankful we had so many good years.

I gave you my love, and you can only guess
How much you've given me in happiness.

I thank you for the love that you have shown,
But now it is time I traveled on alone.

So grieve for me a while, if grieve you must
Then let your grief be comforted by trust
That it is only for a while that we must part,
So treasure the memories within your heart.

I won't be far away for life goes on.
And if you need me, call and I will come.

Though you can't see or touch me, I will be near
And if you listen with your heart, you'll hear
All my love around you soft and clear

And then, when you come this way alone,
I'll greet you with a smile and a "Welcome Home".

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Writing Removed

I haven't updated my blog lately and it hasn't been for a lack of desire. Over the last month or two I have been inundated with items at work, items at home and other items of a personal nature. In short I have been removed from the opportunity to write, but now I am back.

Late last month I lost my grandmother and will soon post my eulogy to her as my final act of public mourning.

Also, today is my Mom's 64th Birthday.

So for now...adieu.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

WSOP Single Table Satellite Structures, Binion's Poker Class and The Grand

Some people have asked me about tournaments during the Top 3 Poker trip to Vegas for the WSOP, so I thought I would share some of my thoughts on getting into one of the WSOP events which are echoed by one of the Full Tilt Pros I have previously met.

First, you don't have to spend $1,500 to play an Event or even $10,000 to play the Main Event at the WSOP. There are a number of multi-table and single table satellites that you can enter for as little as $65 and win enough chips to buy into a WSOP Event. My preference is to play the $175 Single Table Tournaments, because in many cases if you can get down to the final 2 there is enough to split and make it worth everyone's while, but strategies differ.

One thing I would not recommend is buying directly into a high dollar single table satellite. Win your way into it through a $275 STS or lower and take your 1 in 10 shot from there at a $1000 + $30 single table satellite to make it into the WSOP Main Event since the value of tournament chips is less than the value of the actual equivalent dollars. I did and it almost landed me in the Main Event in 2008!

Another great event that mirrors the WSOP is Binion's 4th Annual Poker Classic with much more affordable buy-ins than the WSOP. This is especially relevant in the current economy. These events range from $100 to $1000 to play in large fields with some pretty decent players. The structure for the 4thAnnual Binion's Poker Classic is available here.

If you are staying with us at the Golden Nugget, I'd recommend you take a look at The Grand Poker Series. This is another affordable event that should have good players. You can view the schedule for this event here.

No matter what you decide to do during your time in Vegas get out there and play!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Skepticism, Mexican Standoffs, and Electronic Boarding Passes

I am a traveler.  Not your average traveler either.  I am an inquisitive traveler – dare I say a “professional” traveler.  A traveler always looking for new ways to enhance my journeys whether they are for business or pleasure, so at the beginning of my most recent trip when I went online at delta.com to check-in, I was surprised to see an advertisement about the ability use your PDA or Smartphone as your boarding pass. 

When I saw this my thoughts immediately shifted to my Nokia E61i as I wondered if this new capability – nay opportunity – Delta was touting on their web site was real, would even work in the current travel environment and how the heck I would get through the TSA security screening process using my PDA.  Naturally I decided to test out the system and attempt my first paperless trip. 

First off I went to mobile.delta.com on my Smartphone and checked into my flight.  The interface Delta provides is simple and familiar to those that travel with them often.  Simply select “Check-in”, enter your SkyMiles number, pin, select the options such as bags to check and it is off to the races.  The next thing you see is a boarding pass with a strange looking bar code and all the information you would need to find your flight.  Now, let the fun begin! 

When this maverick of travel entered the doors of the South Terminal there was a Mexican standoff with the agent standing in the door.  She had no idea about paperless boarding passes.  I decided to head problems off at the pass and got a paper ticket from the kiosk as backup.  Afterwards I approached my endearing nemesis and bantered with her about “electronic boarding passes”.  I decided to educate her by showing her my own and she was impressed.  At the same time my expectations dropped down to about the same level I have for airplane food. 

Now I was approaching the South Security Checkpoint at Hartsfield thinking in my mind I’d have a better chance of winning at Keno than having anyone even know what the heck I was trying to do with my new fangled technology – let alone a government employee.  My confidence plunged to a new low.  As I approached the first TSA agent I handed her my identification and my PDA, she immediately said, “I hate these things” – darn government employees I thought to myself, but wait – she quickly handed me back my Nokia and requested I scan the barcode over a black box with a red light just to her left.  I did and nothing happened.  She then directed me to hold it lower, which really meant closer.  Ping, the device scanned the barcode from my PDA, popped up my name and she said “have a nice day Mr. Meadows.”  Imagine my surprise – it had worked.  

My skepticism began to fade as I headed to the Crown Room ready to have a celebratory drink before my flight.  Next thing I knew my flight was boarding and I moved like O.J. through the teaming crowds to my gate.  I stepped to the boarding agent with my “pass” in hand.  I showed it to her and she directed me to scan it.   I did, but this time it didn’t work.  Well technically it did work because I had been upgraded and it alerted the agent that they had already printed out a new paper ticket for me.  Score one for Delta!  I boarded the flight content and impressed that the system had worked, the processes to allow it work had been modified, and the people I encountered where it mattered knew in advance about the system and how to operate it.  

With my skepticism abated I tried the system again, this time with mixed results in Las Vegas.  At security the TSA agent hadn’t turned on the scanner for the electronic boarding pass – oops!  Once she figured out what the power button was for the system booted quickly and worked as it should allowing me to pass quicker than my papered counterparts.  At the gate the electronic boarding pass did not work and I gave my name and seat number to the boarding agent without incident – again I was upgraded.  Score two for Delta!! 

Overall my experience with the new system was actually much better than I anticipated.  I would give it a “C” only because of my experience in Las Vegas with the TSA not being prepared to accept it and the gate not being equipped to use it.  

Would I do it again?  Absolutely – and I think within the next 3 years this innovative program that utilizes the technology most savvy travelers already consider common for personal and business communications will become so ubiquitous the paper ticket will become obsolete.  So obsolete that airlines will expand their ala carte pricing models for things like baggage and fuel surcharges to include providing us a paper ticket.  Okay, that is a joke – but tell me you couldn’t envision it? 

In closing, kudos to Delta for having the chutzpah and foresight to transform the travel experience once again in a positive way – and for the upgrades.  Now if we could just convince them to provide their new Wi-Fi service on all flights for free! 

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

In Memoriam: Somber Thoughts on Those We Have Lost

Today, the American Poker Invitational (API) family lost two people close to us. First we found out about the passing of Tammy Oliver's father, who I did not know, but feel badly for Tammy, Paul, her family and close friends. After losing my father as an adult I know the pain and wrenching anguish of losing one's parent. But wait, as if G-d had a bad sense of humor tonight when I arrived at The Tavern I learned that a person that inspired me to become a better poker player, a walking storybook, former player of the year, 2007 Team API Member that represented us at the WSOP and tournament director had passed away as well. We will miss you Jon Atkins. That sense of humor, the stories and the hijinks's now live within us as we mourn your passing.

G-d speed to you both. You are in our thoughts, prayers and your memories will live on in the hearts of all that knew you.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Foundational Concepts

There is a running joke between one of my good friends and myself about the "The Meadows Foundation", but I am starting to think that this joke might be better as reality.  The joke began a while back when my friend, who is aware of much of the charitable work and giving that I do, said he wanted to reserve a spot in my foundation in case things went bad for him and his family. 

Given the way things are going today I am beginning to think that creating a real "Meadows Foundation" might not be such a bad idea given the economy and the needs that I see on a daily basis.  I believe charity should be a fundamental part of our lives and the benefits of giving far outweigh the benefits of receiving so today I am going to outline some of my core beliefs of what this Foundation should look like and seek input from those that know me best or at least care to read my rant.

First, I think the primary purpose of this charity should not be to help the homeless, those on welfare, etc.  The target of this Foundation is average everyday people going about their everyday affairs.  You won't be able to apply for benefits, they will be bestowed in anonymity and require only the information needed to garner non-profit status.  The main principle of the Foundation will be to "pay it forward" or "general reciprocity".  In other words, the good you do comes back to you in other ways - one of the main ways is the abundant joy and reward of doing good for others without seeking external adulation for your good acts - hence the requirement for anonymity.

My hope is that in time by "paying it forward" that there will be a greater propensity of all people to treat others that they encounter, friend or stranger, with acts of random kindness leading to a more peaceful existence.  This kindness doesn't have to be monetarily focused.  The simple act of holding a door, helping a single mom struggling with multiple kids get on an airplane, letting someone with a couple items go before you in a checkout, etc. all help build a better world for us and those who occupy this world after us.   

Now the real work begins.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Can't Wait for Lost Vegas

Now I am not saying that I created the Internet, but I did think of it well after it was actually created by the U.S. Government - and no Al Gore wasn't the inventor (more like the Department of Defense).  One of the benefits of being a net head is that I read a lot of material online and one of my favorite blogs is that of Paul McGuire, a.k.a. known as Dr. Pauly, located at http://taopoker.blogspot.com. 

This deviant and his blog will lead you to sites such as "Guess Her Muff" among many others, but in the end this site is about the reality of the poker lifestyle, the grind of major tournaments, and the pitiful life of prostitutes among other subjects.  

Soon Paul will be publishing his first book that I am aware of called "Lost Vegas".  The subtitle says "The Redneck Riviera, Existentialist Conversations with Strippers, and the World Series of Poker".  Now I am not as traveled as Pauly, but I always thought the Redneck Riviera was Panama City Beach, Florida?  Back to the point I was trying to make.  

I can't wait to read this book because Paul McGuire has covered more WSOP's than I have been too and not only does he have a fun and jovial writing style, but he tells it like it really is instead of glamming up his writings like many journalistic failures I know.  He thinks his book will only sell well in France and Europe, but I think he will be presently surprised by his American fans too.

Can't wait to read Lost Vegas.  

Friday, March 27, 2009

Googling Your Girlfriend

I can't and won't take credit for this idea...I read it on another blog that I found through another blog and now I am bringing it here for you to try.

Go to Google and type in the searchbox "how to convince your girlfriend" and see the completions they recommend.  

You cannot make this stuff up!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Value of Chips

Whether I am playing at an API event, or at a casino I always try to keep in perspective that the deeper I get into a tournament the more value my chips have, eventually getting to a point that I can put a real numeric value to them.  

For many API players this might seem crazy since the tournaments are "free", but as you get deeper in API nightly tournaments or API major tournaments the closer you get to the final 2, 3 or 8 that get prizes you can literally put a real value on your chips.  Most API players won't get this even still, so let me give a great example.  

Back in November I played in the API Quarterly at The Tavern, eventually winning the tournament.  As I got closer and closer to the final table my chips starting taking on a monetary value in my head based upon the prizes for various positions at the final table.  In the end the value of my chips was a trip to the 2009 WSOP.  Early on in the tournament my chips had little to no value since there was such a long way to go before the likelihood of winning was even possible, but as I moved through the tournament their value and the importance of preserving and gaining more became higher and higher until eventually I could put a real dollar value on them.  To be clear, no cash is awarded at API - just prizes and sponsorships - but a prize or a sponsorship cost someone somewhere something and because of this you can assess value.

Another great example is in a Sit and Go Tournament.  If the tournament started with 9 or 10 players and there are now 4 left and only 3 are paid your chips are almost worth the 3rd place cash.  On Full Tilt in a $10 tournament of 10 players that would be $20 and each subsequent position adds more value to your chips based on the prize structure.  Even if you have $1 in chips left and get pocket aces with 3 other players in the pot, but 2 are all in and one is a massive chip stack your $1 in chips is probably worth $20 - so do you play and risk getting knocked out to win $3 in chips or do you fold and stand a great chance of cashing?  Simple - YOU FOLD.  Your $1 in chips has a real value of $20 in prize money.  If you go out the value of your chips is $0.

I have come to believe that in MTT's or SnG's at casinos or API that this general philosophy is one of the key differentiators between the good players and the bad players.  Loose play early on in either type of tournament can cost you too much and deposition you for a run in the end.  You have to be in to win and without a doubt you will need to gamble and get lucky at some point if you are going to take it down, but a little understanding about the concept I explain here will definitely take you farther.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Crappy Company - Crappy Cars

All the bailouts of automakers that the U.S. Government did a while back really pissed me off - and now this from Consumer Reports to enrage me even more!

"Chrysler, which tied with Suzuki for last place in our 2008 ranking, fared even worse this year. Overall reliability of Chrysler vehicles, which was average last year, dropped to below average this year. No Chrysler, Dodge, or Jeep vehicles are recommended."

At one time in my life I worked briefly at a Dodge dealership and back then their quality was absolutely horrible.  It seems times don't change and verifies one of my core business beliefs.

Behind every crappy product is a crappy company.  

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Giving Over 100%

This comes from 2 math teachers with a combined total of 70 yrs. Experience.

Here is a little something someone sent me that is indisputable mathematical logic. It also made me Laugh Out Loud. 

This is a strictly mathematical viewpoint...it goes like this: 
What Makes 100%? What does it mean to give MORE than 100%? Ever wonder about those people who say they are giving more than 100%? We have all been to those meetings where someone wants you to give over 100%. How about achieving 103%? What makes up 100% in life? 
Here's a little mathematical formula that might help you answer these questions: 

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z 

Is represented as: 
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26. 


8+1+18+4+23+15+18+11 = 98% 


11+14+15+23+12+5+4+7+5 = 96% 

But , 

1+20+20+9+20+21+4+5 = 100% 


2+21+12+12+19+8+9+20 = 103% 

AND, look how far Ass Kissing will take you. 

1+19+19+11+9+19+19+9+14+7 = 118% 

So, one can conclude with mathematical certainty, that While Hard work and Knowledge will get you close, and Attitude will get you there, its the Bullshit and Ass Kissing that will put you over the top.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Purim for Idiots

I almost called this post "Purim for Dummies", but figured I had less chance getting sued by the "Idiots" guys whose books don't sell nearly as well and can usually be found on the clearance rack of your local bookstore.  Part of it seems to be the titles, which include Tattoos, Tweakers, All You Can Eat Buffets, Modeling, Astrology, etc. for Idiots.  

Maybe it is just that I am in a foul mood that I started today's blog with a jab at what I see as an omen to shear stupidity, but now to the topic at hand - what is Purim?

Purim is a Jewish holiday and yet another celebration of Jewish deliverance...this time from the hands of the Persians.  As told in the Book of Esther, the high ranking political advisor to King Ahasueres, a.k.a as Xerxes I of Persia, named Haman had hatched a plan to kill all the Jews in ancient Persia, but the plan was foiled by Esther (Ahasueres Queen) and Mordecai (another politician).  In short, Haman was a bad guy who not only wanted to kill the Jews, but also Ahasueres and in the end was hung for his treachery in a gallows he had constructed for Mordecai.

The moral to this story is simple.  Don't "F" with the Jews, not all politicians are evil (just most of them), good always triumphs over evil and never trust a guy named Haman.  We celebrate it by trading gifts of food and drink, giving charity to the poor, have a celebratory meal, wearing masks, drinking wine, and other celebratory events.  

That is why I plan on attending the Hawks game, throwing a buck to a homeless guy on the way in, eating all the free food and drink, hiding my face when we leave and fully leveraging any additional benefits of Purim that I haven't even thought of yet on my gentile friends.  

Monday, March 2, 2009

How To Lose 20 in 10

Recently I have learned how to lose 20 pounds in only 10 days and I am about to share it with you, my valued reader.  Before we go further let me say that I do not endorse this method - it is painful, uncomfortable and above all unhealthy.

Good.  Now that we have that on the sidelines let me tell you how I lost 20 lbs in only 10 days - one word - Gastroenteritis.  Gastroenteritis is a joint irritation and inflammation of the stomach and intestines that causes one to feel constantly nauseated, consistently vomit, have cramps while seeing massive amounts of watery grossness be violently thrust from your pooper.  Got the picture?  This was not fun and I am not even fully recovered yet after 10 days, but the bright side is I have managed to lose 20 pounds of my body weight, or a mere 7.5% of my total body mass.  

I am still dealing with the lingering effects of the medication I was put on to eliminate this scourge from my body.  The medication solved the queasy stomach and knocked out the virus or bacteria that caused my discomfort, but in return made me drowsy, sensitive to sunlight and unbelievably dizzy (now doesn't that sound like fun!).

In hindsight I don't know if it was the crab cakes at a business dinner just outside Philadelphia in the Desmond Hotel that gave it to me or the Krystal meal I had the next night before our regular poker game, but in the future I will be sure to avoid both at all possible cost.

I feel better now that I have written about my illness and the effects it has had on me and pray that in the next day or two I am back to my old self - just 20 pounds lighter.

Friday, February 6, 2009

An Insider View on Flight 1549

Normally I wouldn't post an email I received to my blog, but I got this one through some trusted sources and found it amazing and compelling enough to share.  It is a first hand account of a passenger on the flight - a Partner at Heidrick & Struggles who was on Flight 1549.

"As many of you now know, Gerry McNamara was on US Airways Flight 1549 last week. We caught up with him to discuss the harrowing incident and present his stirring account:

Thursday was a difficult day for all of us at the firm and I left the Park Avenue office early afternoon to catch a cab bound for LaGuardia Airport. I was scheduled for a 5pm departure, but able to secure a seat on the earlier flight scheduled to leave at 3PM. As many of us who fly frequently often do, I recall wondering if I'd just placed myself on a flight I shouldn't be on!

Just prior to boarding I finished up a conference call with my associate, Jenn Sparks, and our placement, the CIO of United Airlines. When I told him that I was about to board a US Airways flight, we all had a little fun with it.

I remember walking on the plane and seeing a fellow with grey hair in the cockpit and thinking "that's a good thing... I like to see grey hair in the cockpit!"

I was seated in 8F, on the starboard side window and next to a young business man. The New York to Charlotte flight is one I've taken what seems like hundreds of times over the years. We take off north over the Bronx and as we climb, turn west over the Hudson River to New Jersey and tack south. I love to fly, always have, and this flight plan gives a great view of several NY landmarks including Yankee Stadium and the George Washington Bridge.

I had started to point out items of interest to the gentleman next to me when we heard a terrible crash - a sound no one ever wants to hear while flying - and then the engines wound down to a screeching halt.

10 seconds later, there was a strong smell of jet fuel. I knew we would be landing and thought the pilot would take us down no doubt to Newark Airport. As we began to turn south I noticed the pilot lining up on the river still - I thought - en route for Newark.

Next thing we heard was "Brace for impact!" - a phrase I had heard many years before as an active duty Marine Officer but never before on a commercial air flight. Everyone looked at each other in shock. It all happened so fast we were astonished!

We began to descend rapidly and it started to sink in. This is the last flight. I'm going to die today. This is it. I recited my favorite bible verse, the Lord's Prayer, and asked God to take care of my wife, children, family and friends.

When I raised my head I noticed people texting their friends and family.... getting off a last message. My blackberry was turned off and in my trouser pocket, no time to get at it. Our descent continued and I prayed for courage to control my fear and help if able.

I quickly realized that one of two things was going to happen, neither of them good. We could hit by the nose, flip and break up, leaving few if any survivors, bodies, cold water, fuel. Or we could hit one of the wings and roll and flip with the same result. I tightened my seat belt as tight as I could possibly get it so I would remain intact.

As we came in for the landing, I looked out the windows and remember seeing the buildings in New Jersey, the cliffs in Weehawken, and then the piers. The water was dark green and sure to be freezing cold. The stewardesses were yelling in unison "Brace! Brace! Brace!"

It was a violent hit - the water flew up over my window - but we bobbed up and were all amazed that we remained intact.

There was some panic - people jumping over seats and running towards the doors, but we soon got everyone straightened out and calmed down. There were a lot of people that took leadership roles in little ways. Those sitting at the doors over the wing did a fantastic job, they were opened in a New York second! Everyone worked together - teamed up and in groups to figure out how to help each other.

I exited on the starboard side of the plane, 3 or 4 rows behind my seat through a door over the wing and was, I believe, the 10th or 12th person out. I took my seat cushion as a flotation device and once outside saw I was the only one who did.. none of us remembered to take the yellow inflatable life vests from under the seat.

We were standing in 6-8 inches of water and it was freezing. There were two women on the wing, one of whom slipped off into the water. Another passenger and I pulled her back on and had her kneel down to keep from falling off again. By that point we were totally soaked and absolutely frozen from the icy wind.

The ferries were the first to arrive, and although they're not made for rescue, they did an incredible job. I know this river, having swum in it as a boy. The Hudson is an estuary - part salt and part fresh water - and moves with the tide. I could tell the tide was moving out because we were tacking slowly south towards Ellis Island, The Statue of Liberty, and The Battery.

 The first ferry boat pulled its bow up to the tip of the wing, and the first mate lowered the Jacobs ladder down to us. We got a couple of people up the ladder to safety, but the current was strong pushing the stern of the boat into the inflatable slide and we were afraid it would puncture it. There must have been 25 passengers in it by now. Only two or three were able to board the first ferry before it moved away.

Another ferry came up, and we were able to get the woman that had fallen into the water on the ladder, but she just couldn't move her legs and fell off. Back onto the ladder she went; however, the ferry had to back away because of the swift current. A helicopter arrived on station (nearly blowing us all off the wing) and followed the ferry with the woman on the ladder. We lost view of the situation but I believe the helicopter lowered its basket to rescue her.

As more ferries arrived, we were able to get people up on the boats a few at a time. The fellow in front of me fell off the ladder and into the water. When we got him back on the ladder he could not move his legs to climb. I couldn't help him from my position so I climbed up the ladder to the ferry deck where the first mate and I hoisted the Jacobs ladder with him on it. When he got close enough we grabbed his trouser belt and hauled him on deck. We were all safely off the wing.

We could not stop shaking. Uncontrollable shaking. The only thing I had with me was my blackberry, which had gotten wet and was not working. (It started working again a few hours later).

The ferry took us to the Weehawken Terminal in NJ where I borrowed a phone and called my wife to let her know I was okay. The second call I made was to Jenn. I knew she would be worried about me and could communicate to the rest of the firm that I was fine. At the terminal, first responders assessed everyone's condition and sent people to the hospital as needed. As we pulled out of Weehawken my history kicked in and I recall it was the site of the famous duel between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr in 1804. Thankfully I left town in better condition than Mr. Hamilton who died of a mortal wound the next day! I stayed with my sister on Long Island that evening, then flew home the next day.

I am struck by what was truly a miracle. Had this happened a few hours later, it would have been pitch dark and much harder to land. Ferries would no longer have been running after rush hour and it would not have been the same uplifting story. Surely there would have been fatalities, hypothermia, an absolute disaster!

I witnessed the best of humanity that day. I and everyone on that plane survived and have been given a second chance. It struck me that in our work we continuously seek excellence to solve our client's leadership problems. We talk to clients all the time about the importance of experience and the ability to execute.

Experience showed up big time on Flight 1549 as our pilot was a dedicated, trained, experienced professional who executed flawlessly when he had to.

I have received scores of emails from across the firm and I am so grateful for the outpouring of interest and concern. We all fly a great deal or work with someone who does and so I wanted to share this story - the story of a miracle. I am thankful to be here to tell the tale.

There is a great deal to be learned including: Why has this happened to me? Why have I survived and what am I supposed to do with this gift? For me, the answers to these questions and more will come over time, but already I find myself being more patient and forgiving, less critical and judgmental.

For now I have 4 lessons I would like to share:

1. Cherish your families as never before and go to great lengths to keep your promises.

2. Be thankful and grateful for everything you have and don't worry about the things you don't have.

3. Keep in shape. You never know when you'll be called upon to save our own life, or help someone else save theirs.

4. When you fly, wear practical clothing. You never know when you'll end up in an emergency or on an icy wing in flip flops and pajamas and of absolutely no use to yourself or anyone else."

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

I Just Kooza'ed On Myself!

Cirque Du Soleil's Kooza, which is in Atlanta through March 1, had me laughing so hard I nearly Kooza'ed on myself!   

I had the opportunity to experience Cirque Du Soleil's Kooza in Atlanta with my girlfriend.  Her opinion of the show was that it was "great", but I think a bit more analysis is warranted.  As an avid fan of Cirque Du Soleil I was extremely happy with the show and enjoyed the aerobatics, clowning, theatrics and music as always yet even for a Cirque veteran like me there were still a few surprises.  

I had heard that Kooza was a step back to the early days of Cirque Du Soleil when shows had less of a story line and more of an even flow of entertainment, but what I saw tonight left me with the impression that Kooza was created with the idea of pushing the limits of the circus arts to new limits while rekindling the focus on clowning.  If you have not seen the show stop reading now as what I am about to discuss may constitute a spoiler.

The opening of Kooza was very surprising for me.  Like most shows it started with clowns in the audience, but not just 3 to 6 like in other touring shows, with many of them all over big top from the time the doors opened until the curtain was drawn back unveiling the relatively modest set.  The set for Kooza is relatively unassuming by Cirque standards - the usual roman arena seating wrapping 260 degrees around the circular stage, a massive yet simple curtain used to conceal the delights that await and a large three level traveling tower called the "Bataclan".  The set serves the production well as it does not compete with the performance and instead serves to enable many of the gags and trickery that come in a Cirque production.

The acts were excellent and contained what I consider the most important aspect of any acrobatic performance - passion.  All of the performers seemed to find a bit of the circus performance gumption that was present when Cirque started years ago.  Not only did they get the crowd going by putting on a fabulous show, but they were verbose and played to the audience injecting the crowd with a fantastic energy.

The music was fitting to the moment and at times surprisingly intense and at others surprisingly mellow, but never what one could call mainstream.  The two singers are less present on the stage than I have seen in other shows, but their  presence is known when they take center stage on the Bataclan as they bellow out beautifully haunting lyrics.  

By the way - can someone tell me how to get a seat at Section 201, Row J, Seat 1?  Oh yeah...and the female "volunteer"  - she sure does seem to go to a lot of shows and get "volunteered" a lot. 

Go and see the show.  Hopefully you will enjoy it as much as I did.  

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Did Bush Do Anything Right?

Last night as I sat with some friends after playing tennis the often taboo subject of politics came up and I found myself in a sea of vitriol and venom focused on George Walker Bush.  The table had six people at it including myself and instead of contributing to the opinions being bantered about I decided to hold back and listen.  After 15 minutes I asked one simple question to the group that was decidedly anti-Bush.

"Did Bush do anything right?"  No one offered an answer.  

Isn't that a great question?  Given all the gaffes and folly that many people mindlessly repeat regardless of its basis in reality I really want to know if he did anything right.  For being in office for 8 years he must have!  Even Barack Obama himself said, "the President made the best decisions he could at times under very difficult circumstances".  Granted he later qualified his statement generically mentioning "bad decisions", but it seems Obama himself realizes the gravity and potential consequences of the Presidential role. 

I personally don't buy into the rhetoric and posturing of the Bush myrmidons that follow the party line or parrot Hannity and Limbaugh, trying to justify the war in Iraq as some masterful strategic move and I too must admit that the items Bush did right are faint in my recollection, but there still has to be one - just one and there is - protect America since September 11th.

Since September 11th there has not been a single terrorist attack on the United States. We are now in our eighth year and there is simply no way there has not been a concerted effort.  I  don't know how they've done it, and I expect no one will for 50 years until some old CIA spook writes his final manuscript.  

I suspect Obama knows the secrets and hope that his tenure as President is not marred by terrorist attack either.  Hopefully he will only fix what needs fixing and not what is working so that at the end of his term we have addressed the challenges that face our nation today and continue the period of solitude and safety we have experienced since 2001, because if we are attacked on his watch the public is fickle and the compassion and change he offers today may be rebuffed by the people he serves.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Who's The Hero of Flight 1549?

Much has been made of the "hero" of US Airways Flight 1549 that crash landed into the Hudson River after departing New Yorks La Guardia Airport. Let me first say that I agree Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger III did a fine job with all the things a commercial pilot should do when his aircraft is in trouble, but with so many people labeling him alone the "hero" it leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

Why? Because as a pilot and a frequent traveler on commercial aircraft I recognize that the entire crew - and not just one person - are the heroes of this episode. It is assumed Captain Sullenberger was flying, but he has not confirmed that nor has the NTSB investigation proved it out yet and flying is only one aspect of aircraft operation. What about his Second in Command? What was his role? Most people don't even seem to realize that are two pilots in the cockpit - so yes, there were actually two pilots of US Airways 1549. Want to bet you cannot name the the other one?

Also, what about the flight attendants that apparently did such a splendid job of getting the passengers ready for the crash landing, out of the aircraft onto rafts and wings so that they could be rescued? In typical media fashion there has been a sensationalizing of the Captains role and a diminishing of the rest of the crew and it is a shame.

Here is a list of all the heroes.   The crew members of US Airways Flight 1549 were:

Captain Chesley B. Sullenberger, III - Age 58, joined US Airways (PSA Airlines) in 1980. He has a total of 19,663 flights hours.

First officer Jeffrey B. Skiles - Age 49, joined US Airways (USAir) in 1986. He has a total of 15,643 flight hours.

Flight attendant, Shelia Dail - Age 57, joined US Airways (Piedmont Airlines) in 1980 and has more than 28 years experience with the airline.

Flight attendant, Doreen Welsh - Age 58, joined US Airways (Allegheny Airlines) in 1970 and has more than 38 years experience with the airline.

Flight attendant, Donna Dent - Age 51, joined US Airways (Piedmont Airlines) in 1982 and has more than 26 years experience with the airline.

Our safety when flying a commercial airliner is a group effort, so in my opinion labeling one person a "hero" before all the facts are in does a major disservice to the entire crew and the publics understanding of each crew members role in their safety. Think about that next time you fly.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Another One Bites The Dust

As the President of APPA I play various API venues to get to know the players and support the venues, but I will at times also go outside of API to sample other leagues games 3 or 4 times a year so I am informed when making recommendations about the future of APPA.

Last Monday after my weekly tennis drills I headed up to Canton to check out another leagues game at Jocks and Jill's and came in 3rd, winning $10 house cash. It is funny how I always seem to do well when I play in other tournaments outside API since I have no preconceived notions about how the players will act and revert back to my core solid / aggressive with switch ups as needed.

Today I received a blast email from the other league (into my alias email account) telling me that Jocks and Jills in Canton is no longer in business* (oh well - so much for my $10 house cash and their game), but this reminds me that in the current economic environment how important it is for us as players to support (read spend money with) the venues that we frequent.

As the old saying goes, nothing in life is free and the same goes for free poker. There is a cost to the venue, the league and you to keep our games viable and active at each of the venues API brings to the table. Venues will change from time to time due to the competitiveness of league poker in the Atlanta Area, the needs and desires of venues, and the support from the players, but for my money you can't find any better league to get you ready for the "big tournament" than API.

*NOTE: I could not contact anyone at Jocks and Jill's Canton location to confirm it was closed and when I contacted their corporate office I was told they were unaware of the closing and to contact the owner Michael Holiday directly at 770-704-5455 for confirmation. I was unable to reach Mr. Holiday. If it turns out they are still open I will follow up with another blog on ethics of poker leagues.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Not Cirque Du Soleil

As you might know if you read my blog I am a big fan of Cirque Du Soleil.  Let's suffice it to say that the video below is not Cirque Du Soleil.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

A Dark Day for Nortel

I spent a fair part of my career with Nortel Networks so today's news that they company has filed for bankruptcy protection is met with mixed emotions.  First, now that I work for one of their competitors I am glad since this may just open up more opportunity with my customers.  On the other hand, I have a fond spot for this company and hate that poor management of this once great technology powerhouse has driven it into the ground.  

At least the misery for those of us who ever had any financial or emotional ties to this failure is finally over.  

Rest in peace Nortel.....rest in peace.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Chips Are Not Chips

Following through on my commitment to play three 1 hour ring game sessions per week I spent several hours tonight online playing a $.10/$.25 ring game on Full Tilt.  Tonights lesson - chips are not chips - they are money.

I started my evening with $15 starting my session about 8:00 p.m.  I was up down early on and then ended up with a huge swing to the upside when I gambled a bit and my pair and straight draw on a low board up against pocket 10's.  I pushed thinking the player I was up against did not have a pocket pair, but was pushing based on previous show downs and his betting patterns seemed to back up my hunch.  I was wrong, but I drew a 2 on the river for a set and won a large pot vaulting me to more than double my investment.  

Over the next few hands I started to notice that my starting hand selection had loosened and I was doing a lot more calling and folding.  I sat out a few hands to think about what was happening and came to the realization that I was not viewing my chips as money.  That is a bad move.

In any cash game, whether it be tournament or ring you should always keep in mind that just because you won a lot of chips there is no need to give them away and chips represent dollars. This is the exact reason casinos introduced chips - to remove the emotional connection from your hard earned money and you.  

Keep this in mind the next time you go up big in a cash game, or for that matter any API tournament.  Using your chips stack is one thing, giving it away is another.  

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Addressing Weakness

I feel that one of the weakest areas of my poker game is when I get into a ring game.  The reason for this is simple, I learned to play poker tournament style, and the skills and objectives of the two types of poker are somewhat conflicting.  Is it the same game?  Sure, NL Texas Holdem - but the objectives and goals are different.  In a ring game marginal mistakes do not cost you everything, where as in a tournament marginal mistakes can - and usually do - cost you everything.  

To address what I feel is a weakness in my game I have dedicated to playing 3 hours a week of ring games.  Tonight was my first session and I ended with a 30% positive return on my money and avoided any major swings to the negative.  I would say my play was tight and the area of glaring improvement that I found was betting less aggressively with a made hand, after all I want these guys to stay in and give me more money - not fold.  I think working more on this will also help me in tournament play to extract as many chips as possible from players.  

We will see how it goes, but tonight went well.  I was patient, folded when I thought I was beat and avoided chasing from behind.  

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

So True

Thanks to TV and for the convenience of TV, you can only be one of two kinds of human beings, either a liberal or a conservative.

- Kurt Vonnegut

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Smiling at SkyMiles

When Delta announced they were merging with Northwest, many were skeptical - especially those of us who fly Delta a lot.  It seems upon further review that the merger is going to be a good thing for SkyMiles members and today I was very pleased to see that the "new" Delta has brought back segments as a way to earn elite status. 

This is huge for those of us in Atlanta and other hub cities that fly a lot, but cannot seem to to catch a long enough flight to build up the miles for that next elite level and an even bigger deal for flyers out of cities like New Orleans and Jacksonville that must connect to get everywhere they are going. 

I am very pleased with these changes and hope Delta continues to make changes with their loyal customers in mind.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Must See Travel Web Sites

Here is my latest must see travel web sites (in no particular order):

1. Farecast - Predicting airfares is tough. This site makes it easier by giving you advice based on historic data if the price is likely to go up, down, or stay the same based on your travel dates.

2. Happy Median - Ever have multiple friends getting together and you cannot decide where to meet that would be fair to everyone, well Happy Median takes care of this by allowing you to enter multiple addresses, selecting the type of place you want to meet and providing recommendations of locations as central as possible to everyone.

3. Inside Trip - InsideTrip takes flight search to another level by letting you add comfort level as a search parameter. Is legroom important to you? Aircraft type? Lost-bag or on-time percentages? InsideTrip is the sight for you.

4. Trip It -
TripIt takes the hassle out of travel itineraries. Simply forward your travel confirmation e-mails to its email address and TripIt will build you a master itinerary, complete with flight/hotel info, maps, driving directions, weather reports, and much more. This site is a real time saver!