Thursday, February 24, 2005

Good Timing

Lexi and I went to Tahoe again this weekend. We managed to miss the snow and traffic going in and out of Tahoe. It was the inaugural weekend for our new skis. The extra powder made it a little tough for me as I had never been skiing in it before. I had a tough first 3 days. My boots were pinching. I took a bad fall at Heavenly, luckily my new helmet kept me from hitting my face and the powder kept me from breaking anything. It was a most spectacular looking fall. I had slowly made my way down what had turned out to be a very mogully black run. When I got near enough to the bottom, I took off straight down the rest of the hill, to build speed for the flat area coming up. The flat area turned out be very bumpy. I couldn't start a turn because I was bouncing all over the place. I then made the classic mistake of trying to pizza cut to slow down. Both edges caught suddenly and I slammed flat down on my face into a pile of powder. No rolls, no tumbles, just smack into a dead stop. I was covered in snow. This was part of the reason I've decided I don't like Heavenly. They insist on putting bumps everywhere on their mountain. It's nearly impossible to find a flat, fast, groomed, blue or black run. Nearly every blue is at least bumpy. They also don't believe in grooming. They let the powder pile up into these annoying obstacles that make skiing more of a chore than a pleasure. Lexi assures me that I will grow to enjoy the challenge of moguls, but I'm definitely not there yet.

On our last night in Tahoe, we scheduled an hour massage at the Spa at Harrah's. It was a little pricey, but they do let you chill out in their jacuzzi for an hour before or after your treatment. We split a bottle of champagne right before our treatments. After the champagne, an hour in the jacuzzi and an hour massage, we felt like a million bucks. It's probably why we played so well that night (read below).

The last day of skiing was great. We went to Kirkwood where they actually groom their slopes. I tore up the blues and blacks on my new skis and my boots were feeling much better. I was kind of down after the second day of falling on my face at heavenly so I really needed that last day at Kirkwood to pick me up. Lexi thinks that the boots and skis weren't feeling right earlier in the weekend because I was skiing unfamiliar terrain. It seems that way and I certainly hope that's what was wrong with them.

We had a great weekend at the tables. We cleared $390 in profit. Our last night was great. I got caught pushing a few early hands too aggressively (An AK that didn't hit anything and KK that got beat by someone catching an A) Then the cards started hitting for Lexi and I like mad. We have this technique we use on limit tables. We enter a table separately so no one knows we're married. Then, when the first of us to act raises, the other re-raises with anything but the worst hand. The idea is to build the pot and also push out the speculative hands that could bust our big hands if they hit. It also establishes the two of us as the primary aggressors, which helps us push people out later. This time when Lexi raised on her pair of Aces, I reraised with a J4 of hearts. We got another person to reraise after and I reraised him, capping the first round betting. Then the flop came 4-4-8. I got a few rounds of raises out of him and he was sick to see that I had raised J-4 of hearts. After that and a few other good hands where my rags hit miracles, I was up 150 and Lexi was up 100. It was a great night, but it sent me off tilt on my internet poker the next night where I lost 300+. The lesson I learned is that I can control my play when I'm down, but I need to learn to control my play when I'm up. I don't get discouraged into playing bad hands by bad cards, but this last run of good luck had me playing too loose for the next day and it cost me. Still, atleast it's the internet poker losses. It's only 60 we've invested and we're still at around 450 in the account.

I really needed this break. I don't think there's another place we could enjoy ourselves as much as we do when we're skiing and playing poker at Tahoe.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

New Skis and Chocolate Fondue

I spent the first bit of last week feeling a little under the weather. But it wasn't until Thursday that the cold kicked in full force. So I had the somewhat surreal experience of being in the middle of a no-limit hold 'em tournament, with a pretty large stack of chips in front of me, when my nose started bleeding and the pressure in my sinuses mounted to the point that all I could think was "please let me bust out soon so I can go sleep on the couch". Of course, once you think that, the game's over.. I finished somewhere in the middle of the pack.

But it turns out that maybe it wasn't a cold after all. A few days later, when Andrew was at his conference and I was cleaning the house so I could cook (long story, but once I get to cleaning it's gotta be the whole house or nothing, and the kitchen has to have some clean surface before I can cook), I unearthed another possible explanation. See, the ferrets have a little cage they sleep in when we have guests over and don't want them (the ferrets) underfoot. And in that cage is a bowl of the ferrets' favorite food: kitten kibble. The ferrets love the kitten kibble because it has a really high fat content. The cat also likes the kitten kibble, probably for the same reason. But if the cat gets into the kitten kibble, he'll eat too much of it in one sitting and will get sick, so we normally keep the ferrets' cage door closed even if the ferrets aren't in it. Anyway, a few days ago, the cage door happened to be open, and the cat had apparently snuck into the cage (bear in mind that this requires significant motivation on the part of the cat, because of the relative sizes of said cat and cage) and eaten the whole bowl of kibble. He had then crawled a little ways away before puking in a hidden corner. So by the time I found it, the mess was pretty foul, and there was mold growing on it.. so maybe the little mold spores had something to do with my "cold".

Anyway, by Monday I was feeling tons better, and the house was pretty darn clean. It is, like, absolutely mold-free. Too bad I had to spend Monday night by myself because of Andrew's conference... anyway, I picked up some champagne and chocolate in anticipation of celebrating Valentine's Day a little bit late. But when Andrew got home on Tuesday, he had come down with a cold too. So our plans were foiled yet again. We finally had time tonight, though, so I made chocolate fondue. (The ratio is 4 oz chocolate (a mix of different kinds of chips) to 1/2 cup milk, melted slowly; then you dip marshmallows or strawberries or kit-kats in it and enjoy.)

Hopefully Andrew will be fully recovered by Friday, because we're going skiing again. This will be the inagural run of our new skis. Ski shopping is way more work than I remember it being. (I mean, I haven't ever been the actual purchaser of skis - there were so many sets in my parents' house I just assumed there was a ski fairy.) First we went to the REI near our house, because they were having a winter clearance sale. We found skis for Andrew no problem (Omni 4.5s), but they had no skis short enough for me, except for little kid skis. Then we went on a whirlwind tour of other bay area REIs and ski shops, but it seemed as if there were no skis shorter than 167 to be found. (Seriously, do only people taller than 5'7" ski?) Finally, we stopped at the ski shop in San Mateo, which had a huge selection. Not only did they have the model/size I thought I was looking for (k2 burnin' luv in 153) but had something way cooler - Atomic M11's in a 152, seriously on sale. These promise to be amazingly fast and versatile skis, and I am sooo psyched up to try them out.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Black Diamond Weeks

These last few weeks have been black diamonds on and off the slopes.

Last week started out with a few blue slopes. There is a huge meeting at the district coming up to renegotiate how all the Academy programs in the district are charged. I see it as a huge opportunity because he wants to wipe the slate clean in terms of salary (which is a cost that increases every year) in exchange for giving us a little less in operating budget 15-20 thousand a year. As our state grant has no cost of living increase built in, this gives us the chance to build it in at the district level as long as all the academies can agree on a similar level of staffing. Problem is I get to play the grown up with the other Academy leaders who either are clueless about the budget process and need their hand held or just want to complain about a one time rollover of funds that the district botched. If I can rein them in and keep the discussion aggressive without being confrontational, we will come out ahead and I'll even be able to promote a healthier staff to operating budget ratio in the other Academies.

Then came the black diamonds. My good friend who was running one of the Academy programs at another school had a manic breakdown. I've been working with her for a long time. She's not just a great teacher and mentor coordinator, but she is also a good friend. When I caught up with her after her breakdown I was really worried. She reminded me of a friend I had back in college who had a similar breakdown. All the same signs were there: the seemingly bottomless supply of energy, overcoming extreme odds and taking on too much, and finally facing a problem that is beyond her control and breaking down. I was even more worried after she called me from a strangers cell phone rather late one night. When I tried to call her back, her cell was full and she wasn't picking up at her apartment. No one at work knew where she was or how she was doing. I finally looked her parents up on the internet and found out she was back in the hospital, which was some relief. Atleast she was somewhere safe even though it was a step backwards in her recovery. All the while I was worrying about my friend, I also had to worry about her program, which was drifting without her at the helm. I got in touch with her replacement, helped them get enough teachers to go to the conference so that they didn't violate their state mandate, and set up a meeting with their administration to try to get things back on track. That meeting's tomorrow, to be followed by the big guns meeting next week with their principal and the assistant superintendent. Hopefully we can pull their staff back together in time to save the program and the state funding. I'll probably need to spend a lot of time helping them through new student and staff recruitment. Hopefully I can get some structures in place to help them remain stable for a few years as they build up their team and their new leader.

Finally the real black diamonds. Lexi, Bryan, Gen and I went skiing this weekend at Kirkwood. I got some loose boots the first day and held back, but the second day I traded them in for the best fitting boots I've ever had and tackled 3 different black diamonds (I tried a 4th but I scraped down it real slow because it was a bit steeper than I was ready for so it doesn't count) I'm feeling a lot more confident about my skiing and I'm having even more fun than before all thanks to Lexi's patient tutelage. I spent the rest of the time on the last day of skiing practicing my turning form. I've been relying too much on those extreme kick stop style turns. I focused a lot of time and energy this weekend on developing better slight turns, to help me regulate my speed more gradually and to help me learn to handle faster speeds. All my luck went to my skiing though as I ended up a total of $16 down after two nights of poker. Not a huge loss and I'm getting better at not letting bad cards lure me into bad calls when I have a string of bad luck in a night. However I am tightening up a little too much as I should be playing more hands than I am in middle position. I'm going to back to practicing those starting hands on-line so I'm ready for ski week's tahoe trip. I also learned another good lesson at Google poker night. Don't over slow pay your bullets. I had two aces in the hole and just called. I hit a third ace and checked it. The turn put a 3,5,7 on the table. I raise twice the pot and the other guy goes all in. He had a big blind special of 4,6 giving him the straight. I caught another five on the river for aces full, but I felt really bad about breaking him on that hand. (OK not that bad, I won). Overall, Lexi and I have been faring better at Google poker night. We started out breaking even, but this last time we were up a total of $60 at the end of the tournament coming in 6th (me) and 4th (Lexi).