Monday, August 26, 2013

Life Gets in the Way

I was all set, and fairly amped, to hit Vegas again this week.  I had 4 nights booked at Aria.  I was ready to spend some quality time at the pool, and get down on some football props.  But then life got in the way.
The proverbial shit has been hitting the fan at the office, and I just don't think I can take 3 days off this week.  Unless a man is willing to live in a cardboard box (and who the f*ck would do that?), sometimes you just have to suck it up and get the job done.
Notwithstanding this, in effort to turn lemons into lemonade, I'll be spending the weekend at the beautiful Jersey shore.  Yes, back to AC.  Harrah's still wants $1,200 for a room.  But, fortunately, I still have plenty of sweet, sweet SPG points banked, so I'll be free-rolling a suite at the Sheraton.  This will also free me of the Caesars' shackles, and allow me to gamble where ever I want (i.e., Borgata / Revel).  Hell, I may even spend afternoons at the beach . . .
This past weekend was more of the same -- two afternoons at the pool, and an afternoon game at Camden Yards Saturday, followed by dinner at Ruths' Chris (which put a fairly large dent in my "roll" . . .).  I even ran into the world's greatest Olympian and poker player extraordinaire on the beer line at the Yard:
My clutch Saturday was, however, offset by my Sunday.  To paraphrase Will Farrell: "Pretty nice little Sunday, going to go to the Home Depot, buy some cabinets . . . maybe look at a little flooring . . ."  Yes, after a series of preliminary appointments, my condo renovation is in full swing.  Appliances purchased and full kitchen redesign being worked out.  Along with new floors.  I'm really not sure I'm ready for this process.  I'm also not sure I really have a choice, particularly now that the train has left the station . . . 

Monday, August 19, 2013

"Can I Ask You a Favor?"

"Excuse me, sir - can I ask you a favor . . ." 
This is the last thing I want to hear on an airplane.  Well, maybe not the last thing.  But close...
It was last Wednesday that I booked my flight to Fort Lauderdale for this past weekend.  As you might imagine, seating was limited.  I used miles for the flight, and was able to book first class going down.  However, first class was sold out on the 6:58 am flight back Monday morning.  In fact, the entire flight was nearly sold out.  There were a handful of middle seats left, and a few of the "premium" aisle seats.  You now, the airlines' newest scam, where you pay extra for a seat that looks and seems (and is) like every other seat in coach.  Now, I don't do window seats anymore.  And I sure as hell don't do middles.  This is largely because I have the bladder of a 90 year old man and inevitably have to get up to use the bathroom at least once or twice a flight.  And I'm considerate of others.  I don't want to make my issue someone else's issue by forcing another person to repeatedly get out of his/her seat so that I can hit the head.  So, I plan ahead, and I always book an aisle.  So, this time, I sucked it up and paid $49 for one of the few remaining aisle seats.
Fast forward to this morning . . . 
6:25 am.  I boarded the flight with my fellow Zone 1 frequent flyers.  Shortly after I was seated, a woman came and took the window seat in my row.  The middle remained open.  As was the middle seat in the row across the aisle from me.  Over the course of the next 20 minutes, a stream of passengers filed by, and I played the "Oh God, please NO!!!! Please God NOOOO!" game in my head as a parade of slovenly heathens approached and, fortunately, filed by.
Then it happened.  I was barely paying attention when I noticed a woman and a small child standing next to me in the aisle trying to get my attention.  "Excuse me, sir - can I ask you a favor?
I know what's coming.  I've fallen for this before.  Now I'm like Taylor Swift - I'm never, ever, ever falling for this again.
"Would you mind switching seats with me?"
While I know the answer already, I ask the question anyway: "where is your seat?"
"The middle seat over there."
"Sorry, I don't want a middle seat..."
Now, normally, I no longer feel bad about saying no.  I've said "yes" before, gotten out of my aisle seat, marched to the back of the plane, and discovered that someone has, unbeknownst to me, traded their middle for my aisle.  I'm not doing that any more.  Here's the thing -- I'm not sitting in an aisle seat by coincidence.  I've planned ahead.  I've specifically chosen the seat I'm in.  Yes, the exact seat.  Hell, this trip I even paid extra for this seat!"   But, this time, I did sort of feel bad; this was a poor woman and her small child.  Still. Whatever.   Don't make me responsible for your lack of planning.
Several passengers in the area looked at me like I was a complete dick.    Of course, there were three other people who had seats in our row, any one of whom could have spoken up and offered to switch his/her aisle/window for one of this woman's middle seats and resolved the crisis.  Of course, no one spoke up.  I guess I'm the only bad guy.
In the end, this woman decides to just sit next to me and carry her child  (who appeared to be 2-3 years old) on her lap.  This meant that for two and a half hours, I had said kid's feet alternatively resting on my leg/kicking me.  But, I guess this is what I deserve for being an awful person . . .
Aside from this, it was a fine weekend.  The weather was good.  The water was warm.  And the beers were cold.  After getting up both mornings and grabbing some breakfast at the Platinum lounge, I spent a few hours by the pool.  Then I stuck a room key, a credit card and $20 cash in my board shorts and headed down the beach to spend the remainder of the afternoon hopping between beachside bars and the ocean.  Not a bad way to spend a weekend:
The Westin Diplomat

View from the suite



Friday, August 16, 2013

Feeling Diplomat[ic]

Last summer, I spent 5 days down at Hollywood Beach at the Westin Diplomat.  It was fantastic.  One of the best Westins I've ever stayed at.  Incredible pools, great stretch of beach, and good restaurants and bars.  Also, some of the best recognition/treatment of its "Platinum" members of any of the Starwood properties.
Well, this weekend, I was thinking about heading to AC to play some of dem poker.  But, apparently, Harrah's would still rather sell rooms for $350 a night to the club kids crowd (who don't gamble, and generally trash the joint) than comp an actual gambler a room for the weekend.  F that. 
So, I thought, why not head back to the Diplomat for the weekend.  A change of pace.  Plus, I've got to work on my tan a bit more so I'm ready for the pool at Aria Labor Day Weekend.
Thusly, 45,000 USAIRWAYS miles and 36,000 SPG points later, I'm freerolling a first class flight down to FLL tonight and an ocean view corner suite at one of my favorite resorts.   
Life is rough sometimes . . .

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Pete Peters and Year One of the Rumble

It was approximately one year ago that I got some semi-life changing news.  I blogged about it here:
Pete P Peters and the Big D.

Shit happens.  And you just have to deal with it.  There are far worse things in life.  This, I certainly recognize.  In fact, in retrospect, it was a blessing.

In response, I made changes.  And, within 3 months, through a combination of diet, exercise and minimal oral medication (no insulin), I was able to get my AC1 (the average measure of blood sugar over a period of months) down to 5.8, which is basically in the normal range.
A full year has now passed.  I still work out 5 to 6 days a week (including weights and running about 40 to 50 miles a month).  My diet remains very tight.  Almost always less than 100 grams of carbs a day.  Lots of lean meat, fruit, vegetables, salads, protein shakes, Greek yogurt, et cetera . . .  With de minimus exceptions, I haven't had sugar in a year.  Yes, no desert or unhealthy snacks in a year . . .     Also, no pasta in a year . . .  No pizza in a year . . .  No juice in a year . . . No bagels in a year.  Basically, everything I use to like to eat, I haven't had in a year.  And, frankly, it's not all that bad.

Sure, there are moments where it's depressing to think about never eating ice cream or a burrito again.  Like, ever.  And sure, on occasion, there are days where I'm at a coffee shop getting a beverage and I feel like giving my left nut for a blue berry muffin.  But that passes. 
The one area I've slipped since my diagnosis is drinking.  Last September, I basically gave it up all together.  Now, I'm back to enjoying some adult beverage on the weekend, particularly while out at a ball game or the casino.  However, I drink only Miller Lite (with its 3.5 grams of carbs) or red wine, neither of which seem to have any material negative impact.  Sure, it sucks not to be able to go to a brewery and "walk the line."  It's worse when I have to take shit from this guy threatening to pull my "man card" for drinking swine.  But, again, that's life.  And it's better than nothing . . .
This week was my one year check up.  I was a little concerned having just recently gotten back from ten days of Vegas degeneracy.  But even then, despite an ample amount of Miller Lites and Cabernets, my diet was otherwise quite good.  As soon as I arrived in town, I filled the hotel refrigerator plain Chobani, almonds and Muscle Milk:
Lunch every day was a salad, usually with grilled chicken or seared ahi:

Dinner consisted of steaks, grilled fish or sushi, and vegetables.  This, combined with an hour or so in the gym nearly every day of the trip, seemed to minimize the effects of the daily degeneracy. 
And, a year after diagnosis, my AC1 is 5.6.  Still basically perfect.  And I'm still in the best shape I've been in since high school -- body fat in the 16% range. 
In the past, I was never obese.  But I was probably a bit over weight.  I worked out, and I ate "healthy" for long periods -- whole grains, low fat snack bars, all-natural juices and smoothies, and the like.  I was able to maintain my weight at 150 to 155 or so, but just assumed that that was as low as I was capable of going.  But this past year has required more significant changes in attitude towards fitness and eating.  I've come to realize that even whole grains, brown rice, smoothies, most yogurts and other supposedly "healthy" foods are really not all that healthy.  After given them up, I'm fifteen to twenty pounds lighter than ever before, and have been able to easily maintain such weight.  I've adopted the old cliché of "eating to live . . ."  This past year has proven that the difference between being in shape and healthy, and being sick and overweight, is simply a matter of discipline.  At least for me (and, frankly, probably 99.9% of people).   
And now, on to year two of the fight . . .

Monday, August 5, 2013

Monday Morning Suffering

Monday morning.  Feeling the pain yet again after another insane weekend.
I left work Thursday afternoon and headed out to Merriweather Post for the OAR show.  After checking in to the hotel down the road from the venue, it was off to happy hour at the local Clydes.  $3 Miller Lites are hard to pass up.
I got to the show around 7:30, a solid hour before the headliners took the stage.  After grabbing another adult beverage, I found a sweet spot in front of the stage:

I was able to hold the spot on the rail for the first hour or so.  But, ultimately, as it always does, the need for another beverage outweighed the desire to be first row. 

Friday morning was . . . rough.  Fortunately, I had already decided to take off from work to head down to AC, which I promptly did, at the crack of 11:00 am...  I arrived at Showboat around 2:00. 
I'm almost at the point where I feel like abandoning my loyalty to Caesars.  In fact, if not for the Horseshoe opening in Baltimore next summer, I'm pretty sure I would.  First, with a few exceptions (like the Augustus tower at Caesars Vegas and the Waterfront Tower at Harrah's AC), most of the casinos are crap.  I'm hesitant to even touch anything in the rooms half the time.  Even places like the PH, which I sort of like, are sliding down hill quickly.  Try getting up early on a Saturday morning and playing some VP at the PH.  See who approaches you first -- a waitress with coffee or a hooker still on the prowl from the night before.  I really don't need to have a handful of awkward conversations with various whores before 9:30 am when I'm trying to rack up some sweet, sweet tier credits.
Perhaps more importantly, I think the Caesars properties have the worst VP and slot hold in both Vegas and AC.  Playing at any Caesars property is like flushing hundreds down the drain.  I've played enough the past few years to rule out variance/coincidence.  My last trip in Vegas, for example, most of my VP play was at MGM, Aria and Bellagio.  Over the course of nearly a week and a half, I basically came out even at the MGM properties.  I hit lots of big hands -- flopped monsters on the hundred hand machines and quads at Bonus Poker nearly twenty times.  In contrast, on two of the days, I decided to play over at PH, Flamingo, Bally's and Paris.  I lost over $1,500 in a small fraction of the time.  In fact, if not for hitting four-deuces over at the Piano Bar at Harrah's (for a cool $250), the damage would have been even worse.
AC is no different.  Playing at the Showboat is like lighting money on fire.  Likewise, I can't remember the last time I actually won anything of note at Harrah's.  But, on those rare occasions that I play at Borgata or Revel, I've faired far, far better.
This trip was more of the same.  Upon my arrival, I went directly over to Revel to use some "resort dollars" on lunch at Village Whiskey.  On my way out, I stopped to play some slots.  In 40 minutes, I was up $220.
Then it was back to Showboat.   Before I even realized it, and without hitting so much as one decent hand, I was $600 in the hole.  Nothing.  Nothing at all.  Just a slow and steady loss of credits.
The poker room at Showboat was dead Friday night.  Apparently, everyone was at Revel playing "high hand jackpot," as the room is closing in the next few weeks, and Revel is giving away the bad beat jackpot through hourly high hand bonuses.  I decided to pass on sitting on my ass for hours trying to limp with pocket pairs in hopes of hitting bingo . . .  Instead, I grabbed a steak and some decent wine and called it a night.
The next morning, I decided to fuck the Boat (notwithstanding my comped room) and went directly to Borgata.  Once again, within a few hours, I was up over $350 on slots and VP.  The hand of the day -- a flopped Royal w/Deuce on the hundred hand machine for $150:
A few minutes later, I hit a straight flush on single hand triple bonus for $100 over at B Bar while enjoying a comped beverage. 
Ultimately, as is often the case, I gave nearly all of the profit back to the Borgata and walked out just better than even.  But, still, it provided a solid five hours of fun and cost me nothing.  Break even + free beer +$26 in comps is +EV in my book.   I think it's possibly time to give my AC action to Borgata once again...
Saturday night, I finally made it around to the poker table.  I sat down at a $1/2 NL over at Harrah's at around 9:00.    Over the course of an entirely unremarkable 3 hours, I made $187, without hardly ever having to even show down a hand.  It was one of those nights were the game just felt easy.  I could have kept playing, but was getting tired and wanted to head over to Amada at Revel for some wine before last call.

All in all, I ended the weekend down around $150, which is an easy price to pay for two days of degeneracy.  I'm hoping my play over at Borgata will bring my weekend room rates down to a reasonable number, particularly once fall comes around.    I need 600 more tier credits to hit Diamond at Caesars for another year, which I'll certainly get before the end of December.  But, in the meantime, when I stop over at AC on the way to the Jets games this football season, I think Borgata will be home base.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Zooooom . . . . Back to the Scene of the Crime

Last month, I spent a weekend at the Showboat in AC.  It did not go very well, as described here: Clusterfuck on the Shore.  This weekend I'm seeking redemption.  I'm heading out of the office momentarily.  First stop -- the O.A.R. show tonight at Merriweather Post Pavilion outside Baltimore.  Then, tomorrow morning I'm continuing the trip north to the Jersey shore for two full days at The Boat.  I'm planning on playing some cash and perhaps a tournament or two.  I'll also be donking some VP and a bit of Ms. Kitty/Mr. Cashman.  I'm currently at 14,000 Caesars' tier points, and cruising into another year of Diamond status and all the free parking, lounge access and unwarranted sense of self-importance that comes with it.
Thursday afternoon . . . 2:18 pm.  Let the weekend begin.