Wednesday, February 9, 2011

It's time

You know what's funny? Since my last blog post, I really thought this blog was essentially dead. I mean do people still read blogs? It doesn't matter... this is more for me than anyone else. Between my last post and now, I've done a lot...

1) Went home to Japan in October for a visit
2) Went to the Outback Bowl
3) Went to the AFC Championship game in Pittsburgh
4) Went to Lucko/LJ wedding in Jersey
5) Went to the Superbowl in Dallas

And yet none of these made me think/want to post here until today but I want today to be memorialized...

I'm gonna have to put down Tivo, my cat. He's 18 and he's been a trooper. He's had a kidney disease which actually got better after changing his diet and giving him medication. His heart murmur was under control also in large part due to medication and quite frankly, he was unbelievably spunky for an 18+ yr old cat (not sure of his exact age as he was a stray when I first got him).

But now, it's clear his time is near. After I got back from Dallas this weekend, he seemed to be eating less and less. This morning, since he really wanted no part of his food or the treats, I decided that it might be time so I took him to the vet. I just got a call saying that his kidney worsened, his white blood cell count is up (ie, fighting an infection somewhere), and based on the vet feeling his abdomen, something is not right with his liver/stomach. He's nauseous right now and basically, the diagnosis is that he needs more fluid for his kidney but his weak heart may not be able to handle the amount of liquid needed to keep his kidneys well.

I was ready for this but like the death of any family member, you're never really ready.

Tivo and I shared a lot...

He was with me in this past decade where a lot had happened:
1) bought my first house
2) bought my second house
3) got married
4) got divorced
5) moved to FL

All these years, he had feline HIV also... basically, he was defying all odds and even my vet back in VA was surprised that he was doing so well when I was moving from VA to FL. But eventually, all good things come to an end.

I still remember the day he was welcomed to my household. My gf at the time had a huge part in this. But everytime I walked out the door, he would come out from behind the bushes as if to greet me. Everytime I pulled in to the driveway, he would once again come out from behind the bushes. He looked like shit at the time so we decided to feed him... we set up flyers all around to see if he belonged to anyone but no one claimed him so we decided to take him to the vet where they gave him all the shots and medication to rid him of the worms/infection, etc that he had at the time. Based on I don't know what, the vet determined that he must be 8-9 yrs old at that time.

He and I were like one. He's dirty, he acts like he doesn't give a shit, but he's always by my side (or more like by my feet - I stepped on his tail countless times). He required so much medical/special diet attention but it was never a burden... While most guys feel a bond with their dogs, it was like that with Tivo. Hell, I even had him on a leash one time when going to the vet cuz he'll walk when I tell him to.

But at this point, I just don't want him to suffer. We can administer treatment but it might not make him better and considering his age, it would be prolonging the inevitable. I don't want to lose him but even more than that, I don't want him to suffer or be in pain.

So, thanks for all the great memories Tivo but I'm gonna have to pull the plug. This might be the worst week ever.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Poker related post!? Craziness!

So over the course of the years, I've met most of the bloggers that I've wanted to meet. There are still a few out there that I haven't but they are getting fewer and fewer... one of the guys that I've "known" the longest who I actually never met was cmitch. He never came to the winter gatherings that I've been to and I have not gone to any blogger gatherings that happen during the summer (during WSOP which I think cmitch goes to). Well, now that I've moved to Tampa and he lives in Orlando, I figured it was a matter of time till we met, especially considering there's a casino in Tampa. Recently, FL passed a law that no longer caps the buy in at the poker tables so all the more reason for degens to get together right?

Well, so Thurs, I get a text from Cmitch telling me he's gonna go to Hard Rock Casino (here in Tampa) on Fri. Since i live 10 minutes away, I told him that he can just text me when he gets there and I can go meet him. Now the last time I was in this casino was back in December... during my apartment hunting trip. And sure enough, the games were shitty and but so was the rake/service so I decided that I see no point in coming to this casino... So despite living 10 minutes away (like 6-7 miles away), I never bothered to go... until tonight... and boy did I underestimate the power of degeneracy...

Friday evening, the Hard Rock Casino exit is packed... I mean there's a line on I-4 to get off the exit. I patiently wait and eventually, I enter the parking garage where I proceed to text cmitch (who was already waiting for me at the bar) that I am now in the parking garage... This begins the 30 minutes of trying every level of the parking garage looking for a spot! Eventually, I got tired of being stuck behind a long line of cars doing the same thing I'm doing so I drove to a nearby neighborhood, parked my car in there and just walked to the casino.

Cmitch and I had some drinks together to get acquainted and then we hit the tables. He quickly got to his 2-5NL table and I was seated at a 1-2NL table shortly thereafter. I also signed up for the 1-3NL table but since 1-2 was starting a new table, I figured I'd go sit there. With the law no longer capping the buy in, I show up with $200 stack when the dealer quickly tells me that for 1-2nl, the cap is a $100. WTF!? And then I see a bunch of people buying in for like $40 or $50 bucks... 3rd hand in, I don't even remember what I had but I stack this other guy and yet I'm only up like $50... WTF!?

Fortunately, I hear my name being called for the 1-3NL where the minimum buy in is $100 and max is $300. While there will still plenty of guys buying in at the minimum, at least it was a $100. The table was fairly nitty but there were two juicy calling stations who kept buying in $100 at a time (one of them bought like 5 times while I was there) and then there were some other donkeys that would spew for a while and leave empty handed. I was one of the lucky recipients of such donkeys when my AA > JT on a J high flop. T9 was also a great hand for me tonight as I hit two pair twice, both times getting me a decent pot. Some more wins and spews here and there netted me +$253 for the night. Considering the stack sizes, not a bad night.

I called it quits around 1:30am when my table started getting short.... cmitch didn't quite seem ready to go home yet but I saw on twitter that he left about an hr after I did with a profit of $200... follow him on twitter or go check out the blog (linked above) for his trip report (assuming he posts something).

Overall, it was pretty fun... the players were pretty terrible and it was an enjoyable activity... having said that, I doubt that I would go there more than once a month. Let me put it this way... It ain't no Vegas...

Saturday, July 17, 2010


So I had a doctor's appointment this week... just the normal regular checkup on my knee. And he talked to my therapist and then checks out my knee and as usual, he gives me his "You get a A plus on your knee. I can tell you're working hard and it shows!" Now, when you hear that every time, I always joke with him that that's his standard line. Part of it is obviously encouragement but then he did say that I'm at a point where if I had NBA Finals next month or the Superbowl to play in, I am at a stage where they can attempt to get me back by then in playing condition. Of course, with that comes a lot of risk as well and then he proceeded to talk about Rod Woodson who had the reconstructive surgery and while his recovery time was projected to be 6 to 12 months, he came back in 4 to play in Superbowl XXX.

Dr Craythorn who performed my surgery and who I have follow up visits with is (or maybe was) Tampa Rays doctor so he's also used to assessing where the recovery stage is and push harder than a normal doctor to get the patients back. Now, he's also used to dealing with the regular Joe Schmoe's like me but he knows what to look for and so with his thumbs up, he's able to authorize me to do more...

And so now, I am starting to jog on the treadmill... I do intervals and I use that term very very loosely as I am walking for 30 seconds and jogging at an 11 minute pace for 2-3 minutes... but considering some doctors don't allow their patients to even start jogging until 6 months post op, this is huge that I am starting now, merely 13 weeks after surgery.

I already declared on here that I will PR my half marathon in December in Vegas. I ran 1:43:00 last year and I intend to break 1:40 this year. It will be tight and it will be a lot of work but competitive and determined are two words that pretty much define who I am. I told my trainers that that is what I'm gonna do so they need to make my training to gear towards that and while at first, they jokingly laughed, I think they now know I am dead serious. I mean the assistant did go from "I'm not sure you'll be ready to do a half" to "I'm not sure you can get a PR in your half" so clearly, my improvement is going better than he expected. The head PT guy is a guy that has done more ACL's than anyone else in Tampa and based on what he's seeing out of me, he's fairly certain that I can be back to running hard in the next couple of months. Beyond that, it would be up to me to get my endurance back.

Who knows? Maybe I'll be able to get back to basketball before 2011... after all, I am already jumping off my left leg and landing on my left leg. While it's still a little unstable, I am months ahead of where I was when I had the same surgery on my opposite leg 12 years ago.


Saturday, July 10, 2010

My second home

Most of you know that I'm born and raised in Japan. Well, if you don't... I am.

But now that I've moved to Tampa, it feels like I have a second place to call home. And that's Richmond, VA. It's funny how it is. While I was there, I couldn't wait to move out. I mean there were parts of it that I loved but there were more things that made me want to move somewhere else. But now that I moved, I miss it. To be honest, I really don't know if I miss Richmond or the people there. Probably both and probably weighted towards the people... but this morning, I realized that I missed the place itself as well.

In Tampa, I live 3 blocks away from Howard Ave which is known for all the cool restaurants and bars that are down in Hyde Park area of Tampa. It's a "trendy" place where lots of "young professionals" hang out. It also happens to be the douchebag capital of the world. I swear, there must be a dbag fountain somewhere around here... Ed Hardy shirts that are two sizes too small, bling-ish sunglasses worn at night indoors, etc. Yep, typical douchebags. But chicks dig that. And these are also hot chicks. So I guess everyone just plays the game. Don't get me wrong. Douchebags are everywhere. In VA, they pop their collars. But at least they weren't as over the top as they are down here. Anyways, so while I love going to the bars on Howard, I was also craving a more chill atmosphere too. Because the whole, being a dbag, pretending to be something more than you really are, and just trying to get laid is not the game I play. Just not how I roll. I'd rather not get laid for years than to sleep with someone that I don't care about that I'll never see again (until you awkwardly run into them at a bar again or whatever).

Well, when I went to get a haircut, I was talking to the dude and I asked him for some advice on places to eat. He's openly gay and lives in Ybor (kinda known for where the gay people live/hang out - sometimes referred to as "gaybor" per wikipedia, not my words) so I figured he would know more of a different feel restaurant than this Howard Ave dbag crowd (that I would assume would be extremely homophobic). And sure enough, he told me about this breakfast joint that he and his bf go. Some homely diner where they know your name, run by a family, etc.

So... today (Saturday), I decided to go check it out.

Pach's Place. Once you walk inside, it's definitely that family owned diner feel. It's small, crowded, busy, and loud... and it reminded me of the diners I used to go in Richmond. For Richmonders, think rivercity diner but smaller, boychik's but packed in tighter, or Jimmy's but louder (and def busier). I sat at the counter since I was by myself and sat next to this old lady, Connie, who told me about how the diner has been around for years and it's family owned and the people that work there has been there for years (except for our waitress who just started today). I also talked to two other older ladies from West Virginia and so I told them about how I've been to Charleston and also driven out to Huntington for a friend's wedding. I told them that I thought the state was beautiful (the drive to Huntington crossing the state is gorgeous) and they were stoked that I knew WV and that I was so appreciative of the state. They told me that you never realize how beautiful that state is until you leave there and move down here to flat FL. So true.

It was just so nice to be in a homely feel type of place. I was craving that a lot more than I realized until I got it. The food was good... I mean it's standard eggs, bacon, grits (finally found it here!), homefries, and toast (slabbed with melted butter). Ah, finally, some southern flair. As I crushed my food, said goodbye to the ladies, and left the place, I realized that for that last 30 minutes or so, it was like home sweet home. Who knew that I would actually miss Richmond like this? I sure didn't.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Third World Country Part 2

As I mentioned in my previous post, I intend to keep this very brief. After a week long binge drinking and partying, by the end of the week, between all the alcohol and the sun that we were getting, along with the crazy bug bites, we were all ready to leave. I mean it was just a long week and so it was just draining. Plus, keep in mind that 10 of us are sharing a house and despite it being a large house and many of us having the bedrooms to ourselves, eventually, you start missing home and your normal life... at least I do.

So, the last night that we were in Roatan, we went to this bar, partied some but didn't go crazy... at this point, alcohol was starting to not get the job done for me... which I was ok with. Well, Friday night, it became really stormy and nasty... apparently, tropical storm Alex was coming in and so it was just a lot of rain and wind... and sure enough, Saturday morning, the day we're all supposed to leave, I'm woken up by one of my friends who came into my room and said "all the flights are cancelled!"


I mean are you serious? I was looking forward to going back to the US and to my home and now you tell me we have to stay another day here? I was not happy about it at all. Some of them were gonna go to the airport to sort things out but I just decided to check the status online and just go from there.

Well... remember how I had to switch my flight because Delta was delayed and so I ended up missing the flight that everyone was on? And so I had to book Continental? Well... CLUTCH!!!! It was only Delta that cancelled all their flights for the day. Continental (flying a different route obv) did not cancel any of their flights so I actually got to go home... And boy was I glad.

Don't get me wrong. Roatan was a lot of fun and being with my friends is always great. But after 7 days of just nothing but partying (I don't know how to "take it easy") and such, I was ready to be home. Also, the bug bites and the sun was taking a toll on my skin and I was starting to get bumps and rashes and I wanted some american medication. (No CVS or Walmart in Roatan)

When I touched down in Houston, I was so psyched. Connection to Tampa was no problem and the tropical storm... well, I never saw it or was affected by it so I don't know why Delta was being such a pussy but it is what it is.

You know, the cool thing is, despite remembering that I wanted to come home by like Friday, as time passes, only the good things stick in my head. The fun times that we had. Getting to know some of the others on the trip. And just having fun with old friends. I'll probably never go to Honduras/Roatan ever again... but I'll always remember the fun times that we had.

Third World Country

I have so much that I've been wanting to write about but just failed to make writing a priority. Knee is coming along good but still very slowly. 9-12 month recovery is no joke and though it's week 12 now, I can only jog for like 30 seconds at a time so as not to stress the ACL (or the ligament that is now in the place of ACL) too much too soon.

Well, few weeks ago, I went to Roatan Islands off the coast of Honduras with 9 of my friends from Richmond. Going into the trip, I had mixed feelings about this. The deal was that we were all staying in a house... of course, the house is like super nice. I mean this is the view from our deck...

Literally, we go down the steps and there's the beach... and the pier... which we went on the boat rides 2 of the 7 days that we were there... well, sort of.

And this is the island we were on...

So here's the deal. Generally, beautiful views and gorgeous scenery really doesn't do much for me. And on top of that, this is Honduras... a country where I imagine poor people walking around with AK-47's, trafficking children to be sold for sex slaves, and obviously, dealing drugs. Yes, I'm narrow minded and very judgmental. But, I was definitely stoked to see my friends. I mean two of my very close friends were gonna be there so naturally, I was just glad to see them. See, the thing is, as much as I love Tampa and all, I really miss my friends... like terribly. If it weren't for the great career opportunity, I would move back in a heartbeat. Fuck Tampa, friends are so much more important. But that's why I try to take the opportunities I can to join them and so, this trip to Roatan.

Interestingly enough, by Saturday (the trip was Sat-Sat), I was excited. I get to the Tampa airport, ready to party it up when I see that the flight is delayed... due to "crew rest." I mean are you for fuckin real!? In talking to the gate agent, she tells me that there's no way I will make my connection to Roatan... But I'm supposed to meet all my friends in Atlanta where we will hop on the plane there! No dice. She told me that I can call the reservation desk and they can try to get me on another plane but of course, the one that I'm supposed to get on is the last flight to Roatan. And Delta doesn't fly to Roatan on Sundays. And Monday is booked up. So the earliest they can get me to Roatan is Tuesday. Naturally, I said "fuck that" and I canceled the trip... got a full refund since it was their fault, called my friends who were already in ATL and told them the story. Then everyone (my friends in ATL) and I get online (me at TPA, at a bar, watching World Cup) to look for flights on Sunday... and sure enough Continental flies there and the tickets are essentially the same price. So, I rebook and I arrive there a day late. This will actually be very key for the return trip but I will hit on that later.

So I get there and sure enough, my friends are there to pick me up. Despite a night of partying, they looked alright... obviously, because I wasn't there to ruin them completely... since that is what I do. But in the truck that they drove to pick me up, they brought me a bottle of southern comfort (my staple, even though Al clearly has that title in the bloggerdom but I was into Soco way before I even knew blogs existed) and so we all took a swig. Of course, since I wasn't driving, I took a pretty big swig. And once we got there, well... all hell breaks loose. Games of beer pong starts, and we go nuts with the shots. I mean that is what I do. At one point, we somehow decided that a shot of tequila would need to be done in the crawl space. So that is what we did here.

Tequila always hurts so good (I'm stealing a quote from a friend who probably got it from some movie or show).

Despite all the drinking and the memory loss (that is slowly being pieced back together via Facebook photos), the following day was more of the same. Our boat captain came to get us and we went to different bars on the boat. And as you can imagine, more of the same.

Btw, I'm not doing these shots alone... I've cropped out my friends who are in the photo for privacy purposes FWIW. And unfortunately, no Soco in honduras so we ended up doing more tequila shots.

After a while, we noticed that there were t-shirts on the ceiling with people signing stuff so I volunteered my shirt and all of us on the trip signed the shirt to leave our mark in Roatan!

Of course, after all that drinking and partying, I was passed out on the boat... and boy did that feel really good with the breeze and everything (but I paid the price forgetting to put sun screen on my face).

Wow, I thought I can finish this trip summary in one post but I obv can't. It's already long enough so I guess I'll break it up into two parts (and this is really a very summarized version... I believe there are like 800+ pics on Facebook of this trip).

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

World Cup - Japan and a trip down memory lane

Yesterday, Japan recorded its first win ever in a World Cup match. While some countries (namely European and South American countries) are expected to win each and every game, for a small island like Japan, getting to the World Cup is a big deal in itself... Think #16 seed in a NCAA tournament. Just happy to be there. We'll do the best we can, knowing that's probably far short of everyone else.

Of course, having said that, I always have hope. Well... that and the fact that I'm demanding. I get this from my dad. Just relentless pursuit of perfection or doing it right. With him, there were numerous times I felt that winning isn't even good enough. It's how you win. Like winning almost becomes a consolation prize... like "well, at least you won. But..." and there would be million things I coulda done better. I always thought that was shitty... until now, I realize that's what I demand from myself and it has made me that much better and stronger, both physically and mentally. I remember back in my freshman year in high school or something. I came home with I think a 3.64 GPA (out of 4.0). For all you "A students" out there, that might be normal but I was your typical "do well when I tried but was always distracted and found ways not to study" guy... in other words, a typical teenager (and back then, we didn't immediately find some random "disease" as an excuse like A.D.D. or whatever). So anyways, I am extremely proud of this report card because before this, I always flirt with the 3.0 line (B average) but that's it and I always have to explain why I got a "B" instead of an "A" and heaven forbid, any of the classes that I get a grade below B, I had to explain why. What did I slack off on, what homework didn't I do, what tests did I not study for, etc etc. I hated report cards. Anyways... I get what I consider a pretty awesome report card and while I can tell he was happy, his comment was "well, we need to be careful because it can only get worse from here."

Now to his defense, he's not doing this to hurt me or to pressure me more. It's more of a defense mechanism for him. He's a pessimist by nature so it's almost like he's always bracing himself for what he considers the inevitable failure. By finding fault in everything, including success (or winning), he'll now at least have a reason as to why they couldn't sustain it.

Anyways, back to soccer... so my dad always thinks Japan sucks (which we do) and that we'll never win (I'm more hopeful). However, back in 1993, leading up to the '94 World Cup, Japan came as close as they ever have in making the World Cup. Japan's professional league called the J-League had just started and everyone was really getting into soccer. The guys who have grinded it out in the 80s when soccer wasn't nearly as popular was getting a chance to be on the center stage and everything was going well. We had our backs against the wall a few times but inspirational plays from unexpected players brought Japan to within one win away punching that ticket to the '94 World Cup.

The game was against Iraq. We were up 2-1 with minutes left in the game. We're approaching the 45th minute of the 2nd half...

When we were watching it, to call that devastating was an understatement. Up until that point in my life (I was a high school senior), I was never so emotionally invested in a team... that was such a painful goal. The goalie couldn't even move or react to the goal. There were ensuing questions about why... why couldn't he dive for it, why couldn't he react... but in reality, you know that there's no one who wanted to save that more than the goalie himself who was a veteran who played through the "dark years" of soccer in Japan. But nonetheless, it was so painful.

So, having that in the background, for Japan to now be pretty much expected to make the World Cup is definitely an improvement. And sure enough, yesterday, against a much talented but very poorly playing Cameroon team, we recorded our first victory on world stage... when no one expected us to...

While I still realize it's a long shot, if we make it to the round of 16, it would be awesome. Next up, the Dutch! GOOOOOOOOOO JAPAN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

My old boss

In our lives, we all have people that are extremely influential to who we are today right? I mean the most obvious being your parents... whether they were great parents, shitty parents, were available or were gone, they somehow impact you. Well, and then there are the rest of your family that you might have a special relationship with. Then maybe your friends, teachers, and other social influence. Well, one of my influential people is my former boss...

I spent 8 years in public accounting, working for a regional firm... a good sized firm with visions of moving up by increasing clientele and/or merging with other firms. In my time there, I definitely had visions of the firm succeeding... strangely, I've always been a company guy... when I was with the firm, we had a motto called "One Firm" and I truly embraced that concept. Once I jumped to Capital One, I was a very corporate guy... what was best for the company and what would make sense for the company is a question I always asked myself. And in my new company now, I obviously adopt that motto... what I've now realized is that that makes me unique... but valuable to a company. And, because of that mentality, it becomes normal for me to go above and beyond the normal course of duty. I just try to do what is right.

Well, all that is to say that one reason I am able to think that way AND perform in the way that I believe is the most beneficial to the company is because I had a great boss and now a great friend. A partner in the accounting firm had a significant influence in my formative years as a professional and he was great. He recognized my strengths and weaknesses and enabled me to work in areas that really allowed me to showcase my strengths.

To be honest, so far, despite working for a traditionally conservative accounting firm, then a credit card/banking industry, and now a 100 year old insurance company, I have been blessed with great bosses. Now part of it is definitely me. I have a strong personality and will not cave easily to people, even with higher power. However, generally, I've had bosses that allowed me to run my own show and grow my own way.

Why am I writing all this? Well, my former boss from the accounting firm was in Tampa this week because of work and so I went out to dinner/drinks with him tonight. We talked about family, the firm, my current job, etc... and to be honest, it just reminded me of how much I missed working for him. We share so much when it comes to vision on the "greater good" which in a corporate world is generally geared towards what's best for the company... or at least, that's how we feel it should be. But admittedly, a lot of companies create a silo where each section would be responsible only for their parts and without a strong central leader, there's not enough coordination.

In talking to him, I was reminded of how lucky I was to have spent the 8 years of my 20's working for him and making me who I am today... and giving me the ability to believe in myself and that my values made sense. It's funny how he went from being my boss to being my friend... and to listen to his struggles even in his 50's about working in the firm. This is one perspective I would not have gotten if I stayed in the firm... but on the same token, we did have a lot of discussions around values and strategy and just thoughts about the direction of the company... and I know that every time we talked, we were on the same page. I have since moved on to other companies but one thing that doesn't change is our values. It was just nice to be able to catch up with him and despite the fact that we are 20 years apart and that we only talk like 2-3 times a year, we share very similar values and visions.

And you know he is a great boss when me and I think a few of my friends would go work for him if he were to break off from the firm and needed help from us. Now THAT is loyalty that you can never buy. You'd have to earn that and he certainly has.

I don't miss Richmond at all but I do miss all the people that are still there.