My first ski trip since high school was awesome

The Monte Carlo at Breck

I lay on my back, staring up at the blue sky. I assume it was beautiful, although I can’t really remember because I was desperately trying to catch my breath at 11,000 feet above sea level.

I looked past my feet, up the mountain to find my ski. My friend had already found it and was bringing it down to me.

“I. Don’t think. I’ve. Ever. Been. This tired.” was all I could say.

Our group had just accidentally gone down a Blue run, which we later found out was basically a Black, and it had not gone well. I tried my best to maintain control, but I had gone down the un-groomed part of the run, which meant I was basically skiing down a black on ice.

This moment was one of many that we would later call the #VailFail, and it was definitely a low point. But around this low point was a week of high points and a lot of fun.

Skiing for the first time in a long time

Last week, I went skiing for the first time since high school. All of my previous skiing experiences were terrible, so I wasn’t expecting to have much fun.

Fortunately, my friends insisted I try skiing on real mountains with real snow, so I went to Breck to give it a shot.

I had an amazing week and really enjoyed skiing. It was a lot easier than I expected and I picked it up faster than I thought I would.

So this will be more of an old-school day-by-day recap of my trip, mostly for posterity.

Day 1: Traveling there

A few of us rented a car and drove from Gainesville to Orlando, where we flew Southwest directly to Denver. Then we rented cars and drove from Denver to Breck. Everything was entirely uneventful, which is how I prefer to travel.

Once in Breck, I immediately felt the altitude and got winded just walking up stairs and doing other simple things. I also got a low-level headache that persisted for a couple of days despite all the water I drank.

We rented a ridiculous three-story house that slept 13 people. “The bunk room”, which I shared with three other guys, was crowded but fun.

That first night, we got our ski gear, settled in, and went out for our first crepes of the trip.

A picture of a giant crepe

These crepes are delicious and enormous.

Day 2: Lessons and getting settled

Everyone I talked to said, “You should definitely take lessons on your first day. It’s the best way to learn the basics.” This was great advice, which I think they learned to give after other training methods failed.

For example, I think they used to teach newbies how to ski using a sort of Scared Straight methodology (“This is a blue run. You will fall a lot, but by the time you make it to the bottom, you’ll be ok at skiing.”), which probably isn’t the best way to learn.

So several of us split into groups for snowboarding and skiing lessons. There were only two of us skiers, and our instructor was Dave. There were two other folks in our group, which meant Dave only had to work with four students—that was great for us.

My first ski lesson

We gradually worked through the basics, and I felt pretty good right away. Skiing was already less awful than I remembered. By lunch time, my friend and I had progressed past our two fellow students and were quite a bit more comfortable with the green runs we were doing.

Just before lunch, Dave took my friend and I on a couple runs while the other two members of our cohort took a breather (they were very tired and frustrated, and I think Dave correctly assumed the best thing was for them to rest so they didn’t get hurt). We did our first blue and it went pretty well—we could see that we were making real progress already.

After lunch, we did a few more runs, worked on some more advanced (for us) techniques, and officially graduated to “Level 4” (of 5?), which felt pretty good.

We finished the day by meeting up with most of our other friends to ride up and do the 4 O’Clock Home run (which is mostly green with a little blue up top).

One of the nice things about the awesome house we rented was that we could almost ski in and ski out. It was super convenient to walk for three or four minutes, put our skis on, and hit the lift. And it was even more convenient to ski down the 4 O’Clock, pop our skis off, and get home in about 5 minutes.

Our only in-house group dinner

After we finished skiing, some of us headed off-site for some hot-tub time while others went shopping to get supplies for our only in-house group meal of the week. I sautéed asparagus for everyone, which meant I got to hang in the kitchen and meet new people as they passed through to see what we were up to.

This was probably my favorite meal of the week and I’m hoping we do at least two of these next year.

Body Body Body

After dinner, we played Body Body Body, which is like a live-action version of a game called Mafia. I’ve always liked Mafia and I like Body Body Body even more.

There were about 10 townspeople and 3 mafia members. Once the mafia members have identified each other, we turn the lights out, crank up spooky music, and wander around the mansion in the dark. Mafia members kill townspeople by mock-slashing their throats. Once a townsperson has been killed, they stop walking and drop to the floor. The game continues until someone finds the “body” and shouts “Body body body!” so that everyone can turn the lights on and run to see who died.

Then the game moves to the more typical “Mafia”-style game where everyone talks things through and nominates a couple people they think might be in the mafia. Eventually someone is voted out and the game resumes unless the mafia have all been discovered. The game ends when either the mafia are all voted out or there are equal numbers of townspeople and mafia remaining.

The game is a lot of fun and we played pretty much every night. My only regret is that despite playing 10+ games, I was never mafia (which is the most fun part of the game) thanks to a series of unfortunate events that culminated in our narrator tilting and skipping one game, causing some logistical snafus that caused us to redraw for spots the one time I actually drew a “Mafia” card.

C’iest la vie.

Day 3: First normal ski day

Lessons were physically and mentally exhausting, plus I was still feeling the altitude, so I was admittedly not super stoked to hit the slopes again.

Fortunately, a couple of experienced friends, who arrived later than the rest of us, were heading out for their first day on the slopes and offered to take me along and help me slowly work up from Greens to Blues. (Shout out to James and Jen for being awesome teachers.)

By lunch, we were doing Blue runs and I felt pretty comfortable. They were a little fast for me, and I didn’t quite have the control I wanted, but I was able to move down them pretty quickly, mostly maintaining control, and without falling. All in all, a pretty big win.

By the end of the day, I felt comfortable on Blues, which was pretty remarkable considering I had taken beginner lessons the previous morning. Some of the group took a short Black to finish the day, but I skipped it. I was super tired and just didn’t want to risk hurting myself with two days left to ski.

Mi Casa

We went to a local Mexican restaurant for dinner, and it was pretty good. Although… my stomach didn’t take too kindly to it. Normally, this would be no big deal, but an upset stomach plus altitude meant Day 4 at Vail would be challenging.

Assume there was hot-tubbing, Body Body Body, and probably crepes

The evening routine was pretty consistent. Here was our view from the hot-tub:

Hot Tub View

Day 4: #VailFail

This brings us full circle to the beginning of this post. We decided to make a day trip to Vail, which is about 45 minutes from Breck. At first, it was a smaller group, then it expanded to be almost everyone. In theory, the skiing is better at Vail, plus we could get an awesome group picture at a famously beautiful spot on the mountain.

But, all the best laid plans…

We arrived at Vail and easily got onto the mountain thanks to some great planning by the more experienced members of our crew. Our first order of business was to rendezvous at the top of Lift 37 for the infamous picture, and then we could all split off into groups based on experience level.

Our plan was to take a long catwalk to another catwalk that would drop us at Lift 37. But a Vail employee convinced one of our crew that there was a better way: We could cut out a lot of catwalking by taking an easy Blue after the first catwalk.

“We have a lot of beginners. Is that Blue going to be ok for beginners?”
“Definitely!”

We knew we were in trouble pretty much right away. The entrance to the first catwalk gave a lot of folks serious problems. I made it down to the catwalk without falling, but it was a dicey run.

Once we eventually got across the first catwalk, we stopped to regroup before heading to the beginner-friendly Blue we had been promised. But first, we had to wait out a pretty serious windstorm that made me thankful I brought my balaclava since the wind-driven snow felt like a sandblaster to the face.

Another ominous sign.

At last, we all get around to the entrance of the beginner-friendly Blue and we realized… this was not beginner-friendly. It was super steep and icy—not good for beginners. I tried my best to take shallow angles and control my speed, but I just wasn’t good enough to manage it. I fell over a few times—nothing serious—before heading to a part that another skier said was probably a less-steep way to get down.

Turns out I was heading for the most steep part of the run, and a more experienced skier in our group later told me, “I saw you heading over there and thought, ‘He needs to turn back the other way or this could get really ugly.'” I did not turn back the other way. Things got pretty ugly.

This is the part where I wound up sliding head-first down the mountain on my back, losing one of my skis in the process. Ironically, this may have been the best outcome for me once I chose this particular path.

We later found out from another Vail employee—a friend of the group—that this was basically a Black run and that beginners had no business being on it. There was a groomed section, which they considered a Blue, but most of us had not taken the groomed section. (This might be my only regret of the trip—if I had known about the groomed section, I may have gotten down with little trouble.)

Exhausted from accidentally attempting a Black run, I caught my breath and chugged half a bottle of blue Gatorade, then made my way down to the second catwalk. As I worked my way across the catwalk, the wind picked back up—it was getting worse.

Most of us met up at a natural stopping point before heading down to Lift 37. Bad news was waiting for us there: Lift 37 had been closed because of the wind; only Lift 36 was open; there was no way to ski down.

A few of us had made it onto Lift 37 before it closed. Some of us were stuck waiting for Lift 36. And others had been so far behind that they were blocked from the catwalk and could not even make it Lift 36. We were now scattered all over the mountain.

The lift line at Vail

They had also been slow to close the catwalk, so people continued pouring in as the line backed up. We waited there for over an hour, totally exhausted and dehydrated.

By the time we got off Lift 36, it was after 1:00 PM. We had been on the mountain for over three hours and had almost nothing to show for it. We finally made it down to our next rendezvous spot where we were able to regroup and get a less-spectacular version of the picture we had been chasing for the past several hours:

Our group at Vail

And here is where we coined #VailFail. We had been on the mountain for about four hours and had almost nothing to show for it. The back side of the mountain had been closed, we had done like 1.5 runs, we didn’t get the picture we were chasing, and several of our crew were wiped out from the initial “Blue” that we descended.

We split up by experience level and managed to get a few runs in before calling it quits and meeting up at The George for an early dinner. Even the Greens at Vail were pretty steep and challenging—some of them harder than the Blues I had done at Breck.

After the high of making such quick progress the day before, this was a pretty serious low for almost everyone. I was glad the day was over and that we would be back at Breck for the rest of our trip.

Day 5: Redemption

This would be our final ski day, and I was really happy to be back at Breck. I spent most of the day doing Blue runs, which all felt really easy after the runs we did at Vail.

We all met for lunch on Peak 7, where there was a food court with a fantastic view of the mountain.

The last real run I did was Monte Carlo, which is a really long, fun Blue. A friend got some photos and video of the run so I have a record of where I was skill-wise after my first real ski trip. I felt much more comfortable than I expected, but can also see that I have a lot of work to do.

The Monte Carlo at Breck

I finished the day paying it forward: A less-experienced skier in our group and I did a couple of super-slow Blue runs to get down off the mountain. This gave me a chance to help someone the same way I was helped on Day 3, and also gave me a chance to really enjoy the views and reflect on how much I had learned in just a few days.

On Wednesday, I had no idea what I was doing and felt accomplished for scooting down the bunny slope without falling over. On Saturday, I was helping another skier get down Blues to get off the mountain.

Day 6: Traveling back

After a long week, I was ready to get home. But first we had to drive back to Denver, fly east for a few hours, rent a car in Orlando, grab dinner and drive back to Gainesville. We would be lucky to get home by 11 PM.

But on our way to dinner, we passed Andretti Karting and our crew couldn’t resist. Actually, I could totally resist—I was about 5 hours past my “have fun while traveling” limit—but the other four in our little group were all about it.

So after about seven hours of traveling, we stopped off for some kart racing. My only options were to just sit around and watch them race, or to join them and hope I could compete despite how tired I was. We warmed up by playing a reaction-time game and two quick-shot basketball games (I won two of three of the games I played) while waiting for our track to be ready.

The race was really fun except we were surrounded by terrible drivers who kept puttering around the middle of the track. All of us would’ve gone much faster if we hadn’t had to work around the slower drivers. I tied for 2nd overall, and I felt pretty good about that.

Our Andretti Racing crew

Then we finally started our drive home from Orlando, talking about the Oscars most of the way.

I finally got home around 1:00 AM and immediately crashed.

Planning for next year

Before this trip, I had decided I hated skiing. Now I’m looking forward to heading back out next year. My friends were right: I hadn’t really skied before, and skiing out west is much more fun.

Hopefully I’ll be shredding Black runs by the end of our next trip.

Dodgin’ storms in the U.S.A.

Two Sets of Fireworks

As we finished the last of the vanilla ice cream and blueberry cobbler, it began to rain. And not just a light drizzle – a pretty serious summer downpour, even by Florida standards.

We hadn’t seen this one coming on the radar and then it was right on top of us, soaking everything only 30 minutes before we were supposed to take the boat out to the Gulf to watch the fireworks.

What we had here was a classic Florida pop-up shower, which is usually a quick-hitter sort of thing. You don’t see them coming, then you get drenched for a few minutes, then they’re gone.

We had a decision to make: Go out on the boat as planned, or watch the fireworks from the porch? Although there was a pretty dark group of clouds behind us on the horizon, we decided to head out and chance it. Even if we got hit by a couple small pop-up showers, at least we’d get a great view of the fireworks.

As you can see behind my friend Jenn and me, the sky wasn’t too bad as we made our way out. We barely made it out to the Gulf before they blocked the channel, and we went to our spot where we would watch the show that would begin in about 45 minutes.

But then, that dark gray storm began drifting in from the west. And we noticed another storm to the north. We started getting a little nervous: Those weren’t little pop-up storms; they looked pretty nasty.

But our intrepid captain had a plan: “I’ll shoot the gaps!” He told us how he would hop around to avoid this storm, then that one, then pop down to this other gap, then back over and we would be fine.

And then the rain started.

No problem! We would just “shoot the gaps!” So we punched it and got to the first gap. Nice! The sky was actually pretty blue and the rain stopped for a minute.

But then it started up again, so we had to try to find another gap. This time, instead of following the coast, we headed seaward. But the gap we were heading for closed, the rain got heavier and colder, and the sky got darker.

Uh oh. In hindsight, playing Boat Frogger with thunderstorms probably wasn’t the best idea. Hindsight is 20/20, of course.

The ponchos and towels came out, albeit a little late. I was wearing cotton shorts and a t-shirt. There were not enough ponchos. Did I mention the rain was cold?

We spotted another gap and headed that way. This time, we arrived in what felt like a sort of clearing. It was dusk, so the sky above us was dark blue and calm with a few whispy clouds. But this was little solace because we were now surrounded by storms on all sides—there were no more gaps to shoot and it seemed like our present gap was closing even as we arrived.

Justin, who was huddled in a sort of parka fort on the floor of the boat, got out his iPhone 7—they’re water resistant now!—to take a look at the radar and see where our gaps went.

Sure enough, we were in a teenie-tiny gap which was literally surrounded by red storms. This was not good. Red basically means “THIS IS VERY HEAVY RAIN AND WIND! YOU DO NOT WANT TO BE OUT IN THIS STUFF!” But we were out in this stuff. On a boat. In the Gulf. At dusk.

Suddenly, there was a lot of lightning and things went from bad to worse.

I grew up in Florida. Heavy rainstorms happen here all the time. In the summer, they happen pretty much daily. So being stuck in a rainstorm in a boat on the Gulf isn’t like FANTASTIC or anything, but it’s not too far away from what a typical Floridian experiences once every year or so as they make an afternoon run to Publix.

Of course, as a Floridian who grew up with frequent intense rainstorms and hurricanes, I also learned to have a healthy respect for lightning because it will kill you. This lightning was probably 5–10 miles away, which meant we were in striking distance.

Where do I go from “Uh oh.”?

Things got nastier still.

“I think we should go south!”, Justin shouted from his parka fort as he stared at the ever-updating radar. Then he showed us the radar, which showed that things were about to get considerably worse. But maybe there was a gap down south, so we headed south.

As we were heading to our new southern destination, Justin showed us the latest radar. The area we had just evacuated was now PURPLE. This is worse than red. According to Weather Underground, we were experiencing the second-most-intense level of rain they measure. On a boat. In the gulf. At dusk. Plus there was lightning everywhere.

The rain was steady, though less intense than it had been earlier in our ordeal. But now we were literally surrounded on all by sides by dark skies and lightning.

Here’s a video of one of the bigger, more surprising strikes. You can hear our intrepid captain’s concern excitement as he and his dad marvel at Mother Nature’s fireworks as she tried to kill us.

This meant that although we were hopefully headed for a gap, we first had to head directly into a lightning storm. Still, the floorboard-parka-fort command center said to go south, so we went south.

After 10 or 15 minutes of heading into a lightning storm at full throttle, we found the gap the radar had foretold. It was near the shore, which happened to be one of the only stretches of uncolonized beach in the area. It was beautiful and eerie. The clouds had dissipated overhead, so we were in a sort of void, surrounded by lightning storms, next to an empty beach as the sky got darker.

We waited and watched the radar, hoping that no more storms would pop up and that the storm we had escaped would continue moving westward into the Gulf.

After 20 minutes or so, a few small fireworks popped just inland of us—a good sign. The gap we were in began to grow so that we could see several miles up the shore to the original position we had abandoned earlier.

We could see that the people who had stuck it out were getting absolutely hammered by an enormous storm. The sky above them was black, constantly lit by lightning strikes. As bad as our situation had been, theirs may have been worse.

More fireworks began dotting the shoreline to our north, and we consulted the radar to confirm the worst had passed. The red was all to our west, so we began creeping northward along the sleepy shore, dodging the beach’s outstretched piers as they reached for us.

Things still looked pretty bad by the channel where we naively began our journey—dark skies, lightning and rain—but then we saw some bigger fireworks that seemed like they would be part of the big show. Our technicolor lighthouse showed the way, so we pushed the throttle, heading back to our starting point.

When we finally cut the engine a few hundred yards short of the police boats and buoys that cordoned off the splash zone, we got to see not one, but two spectacular fireworks shows: In the foreground, the man-made one we had come to see; in the background, the lightning that had chased us from gap to gap, into the Gulf, then south, and finally back to the shore we followed home.

Two Sets of Fireworks

Why I cut my 2014 WSOP trip short

NOTE: I wrote the first draft of this on Sunday morning, July 6.

I’m in Atlanta, waiting on my 8:00 AM connecting flight back to Gainesville. It’s been a while since I took a redeye, but this is the real deal. I took this flight because I didn’t have many other options when I decided to cut my annual WSOP trip to Vegas short.

Why did I do that? To be honest, I’m really not sure, and I’m processing that question as I write this. I was really excited to head out this year, and I’d been looking forward to it since I returned from last summer’s trip. So I packed my bags, flew to Vegas, and immediately just felt… off. Instead of looking forward to playing tournaments, I sort of dreaded it. I was there for three days before I played my first tournament (the $1,500 Monster Stack, where I hung out for 10 hours and busted at the end of Day 1). It was another four days before I played my second tournament (a $300 tourney at the Wynn, where I busted on a bad beat after about four hours).

After playing only two tournaments in a week, I thought the remaining 11 days of my vacation could be better spent than puttering around Vegas, playing a tournament every few days. I decided I would rather spend my final week off in Gainesville, where I can relax and work on TaskBook. So here I am.

But I can’t help but wonder if there’s a little more to it. I’ve been playing poker for 11 years, and I was really, really fascinated by it when I began playing in little home games in college. I was the guy who went out and bought books and started reading poker forums to get better in my five-dollar home game. When I graduated from college, moved to Dallas, and started working full-time, I also started playing a lot of poker online at night after work.

I played a lot and read a lot, but I never went all-in the way some online pros and grinders did. I just didn’t have the will or desire to grind eight to 10 hours a day online. That didn’t sound fun to me.

I continued playing a lot of poker online for the next several years, and started visiting Vegas for the WSOP beginning in 2009. A couple months after my WSOP trip in 2009, I was let go from my job and started playing a lot more online poker. I still enjoyed playing, but not nearly as much as I had when I began, and playing online started feeling like more and more of a grind. I think that’s when I began to burn out.

My poker reserves began running low late in 2009, then my online time tapered a bit through 2010 and had all but disappeared by the time Black Friday hit online poker in April of 2011. From then on, I would play the occasional cash game in Florida, but mostly just played during the summers in Vegas.

Late in 2011, I began writing Heads-Up Tournament Poker and building my first web application (ShareAppeal). Pretty much all of my poker energy went into the book, and the remainder of my creative and intellectual energy went into learning Ruby on Rails. I never really saw poker as a way to create a dependable income, but I felt differently about web applications – I felt there could really be something there for meaningful future income. I began shifting my energy and interest from poker to app development and stopped playing poker entirely except during the summers in Vegas.

My 2012 trip was a month long, but I was working full time for the entire month, so I didn’t play much poker. I almost didn’t make the trip in 2013, but was persuaded by a friend to make the trip (and I’m glad I did – that was a fun two weeks). I think my 2013 trip emptied the tank, although I didn’t realize it at the time. I didn’t play a single hand of poker between the WSOP 2013 and my trip this summer, or maybe I would’ve realized sooner that I had used up most of my interest in poker for now.

I’m not saying I’ve quit poker, or that I’m over it. I just wasn’t feeling it this summer. I’ve been working hard on TaskBook, and that takes a lot of energy and can be sort of distracting when playing poker. I see TaskBook in particular, and app development in general, as a way to generate real income on the side, and it’s still very interesting to me. Unfortunately for poker, app development uses a lot of the same creative energy as poker does, so there’s just not enough room for a deep interest in both.

I hope that I can replenish my poker-energy reserves over time. I may play some cash games around town, or jump into some Florida tournament series this fall, or I may not. But for now, I’m just not as interested in poker as I used to be, and I’m more and more interested in app development. So my guess is my energy will be focused there for a while, and poker could be on the back burner indefinitely.

Off to Vegas for the 2012 WSOP and lots of work

I’m writing this post from a plane somewhere over New Mexico, and I’m on my iPad, so this may not be the best-written or -formatted post I’ve ever written.

Anyway, I’m heading to Vegas for my annual trip to the World Series of Poker. This is the first year I’m staying in a condo instead of hotel hopping like I usually do. My typical routine is to hop back and forth from the luxurious Gold Coast to the Rio (where the WSOP happens) since they’re right across the street from each other. I will usually stay at the GC on the weekends (when it’s significantly cheaper than the Rio), and at the Rio during the week.

This year, I have a job, so I need a place where I can work without the sounds of slot machines and depression in the background, so I decided to rent a condo. I managed to talk Luckbox Larry into splitting it with me, so I’ll even have a roommate. The bottom line is we’ll probably both feel like we’re living in the lap of luxury since we’ll have our own rooms and, you know, the creature comforts like a fridge and oven. My guess is it’ll cost 30-50% more at the condo than it usually does I’m the hotels. But it’s hard to compare because we’ll have much better accommodations, WiFi, laundry, a gym and that sort of thing. All in all, I think it’s a good value.

Originally, I booked this trip so I could be here to promote the heads-up book, which we were trying to release before the WSOP Main Event, but that ain’t happening so I’m just here to work and pay poker this summer. When I say “work”, I really mean several things: my “day job”, of course; ShareAppeal, which is really getting rolling; writing a new book about my career so far (I’ve already written about 2,000 words since we took off); and editing the heads-up book so it’s ready to release later this year. I’m keeping pretty busy, as always.

But of course there’s poker too, right? I hope so. I don’t know how much I’ll be able to play with all the other stuff I have going on, but I’m going to at least try to play a few WSOP events and some side tournaments. I would like to play the Main Event again, but I have no idea if that’ll actually happen. Last year, I didn’t decide to play until about three hours before the beginning of Day 1 D (scroll down to Day 18), some still have about three weeks to figure out a way to play again this year.

We’re starting our descent, so I’m going to sign off. I don’t know if I’ll do a daily diary this year, but I’ll be sure to keep everyone up to date one what’s going on.

Oh! But I would like to give people a better sense of what the WSOP is like, and what it’s like for me every summer I Vegas. So, if you want to know more about that sort of thing, leave some comments with suggestions on what you want to know or see. I’ll do my best to create some content to give a sense of what it’s like out here at the WSOP.

2011 Seattle Trip Diary (cont’d)

I ended up getting almost two more days in Seattle after Vancouver, so I figured I should capture that. I didn’t think I should append two more days to a weeks-old post, so I’m creating a new post.

Day 7: I took the bus from Vancouver back to Seattle, arriving around 3:30 PM. That was my first time taking a (non-charter) bus between cities and it wasn’t bad at all. I had loaded up my iPad with some TV shows, and I was still working on “The Big Short”, so I had plenty to keep me busy.

Once I was in Seattle, the food tour continued with a stop at a Vietamiese place called “New Saigon Cafe”. They had really, really cheap sandwiches (like $2.50) that were pretty tasty. Since we had some time to kill, we hit Molly Moon’s on the way back to Case de Huge (@hugepoker‘s place). I went a little nuts, getting a “split single scoop” (which is just a “single”, but two flavors instead of one) plus an extra kid’s scoop. I got Scout Mint, Vivace Coffee and Salted Caramel in a waffle cone. It was delicious.

After a quick food-coma nap, I headed over to Dan and Maya’s place, where we had another excellent salmon experience. I’ve already mentioned (in my 2011 Vancouver Trip Recap) that I’ve been inspired to learn how to make delicious cakes, and word had gotten back to Maya, so we made a carrot cake. It was pretty delicious and I learned a lot about cake making.

This cake making thing could be dangerous for me because I’m basically incapable of ignoring any dessert or sweets if it’s in my vicinity. Acquiring the ability to make my own delicious cakes could be the end of me.

Anyway, we had dinner and dessert, and then I went and crashed back at Case de Huge.

Day 8: I started off the day at Lighthouse Roasters, where I did a lot of reading and a little work. Then it was time for lunch.

Some friends of mine are involved with a start-up, and I was invited to tag along to a meeting among a few of the investors. It was really interesting as I got a chance to see and hear how investors think when considering their options for funding a company. I’m really interested in that sort of thing, so it was cool to eavesdrop on a real-life meeting of investors (as opposed to discussing “start-ups” in a business class).

The afternoon was pretty laid back and mostly consisted of walking around Seattle.

For dinner, the intrepid Jimmy Trent picked me up and I got to have dinner with his family. It was crazy to see how much his kids have grown since I saw them last in Gainesville (in late May). We had some good taco soup and brownies for dessert. Well, the brownies were really our second dessert because Jimmy stopped by Top Pot on the way to his place. He got us all donuts, and mine was a giant Boston Cream donut that looked more like a small cake than a donut.

On his way to drop me off back at Case de Huge, we made a couple stops. First, we dropped by his new employer and church home, Mars Hill Church. He showed me around and got to show off some major renovations they’ve been doing. Next up: more Molly Moon’s!

Then it was back to watch an episode of Dexter with Laurence and wife before getting some sleep before the long (full-day-wasting) trip back to Gainesville.

Things in Gainesville should be pretty typical for a while. I’m still writing a couple of books and working on some of my own stuff for the blog. I should jump right back into the old routine and hopefully we can get one of these books knocked out before the end of the year.

2011 Vancouver Trip Recap

I just got back from a two-week trip to Vancouver, so I might as well recap it for posterity. I didn’t do a “diary” because there just wasn’t enough going on to justify that format. It would’ve all been like, “Day N: Woke up and went to Starbucks to do some work. Talked poker and watched my friends play online. Watched Netflix.” I realize that most of what I write is boring, but even I wouldn’t sink so low as to write that particular diary.

So anyway, I stayed with some friends who recently relocated to Vancouver. I went to Starbucks a lot. I talked about, wrote about, learned about and watched a lot of poker. I specifically worked quite a bit on my heads-up game since I’m writing a book about heads-up strategy and both of my Vancouver friends have had very good results in heads-up play.

Otherwise, I went to see three movies: “The Help“, “Drive“, and “Moneyball“. They all appropriately received good scores on Rotten Tomatoes, so I was looking forward to all of them. “The Help” was a good movie with pretty solid acting. The story was the most compelling part, and it was a good story. “Drive” was excellent. It was violent and dark, but very, very good. Some of the acting was excellent, some was just good. “Moneyball” was really good. It’s a great story (as most of Michael Lewis‘ stories are – I’m reading “The Big Short” right now, and it’s excellent). The acting is pretty good. It’s not terribly wonky or sportsy.

As I mentioned above, I also did a lot of reading. I also watched a lot of Netflix (mostly “Parking Wars” and caught up on TV shows online. “Breaking Bad” is awesome this season.)

I also started watching “Top Chef: Just Desserts“, which is another good show from Bravo. I love desserts, I like reality TV, so this show is pretty much made for me. I decided I want to learn how to make good cakes. I mean, I eat more cake than most people, so why not figure out how to make really good cakes? On the bus trip down from Vancouver to Seattle yesterday, I brainstormed some good cake flavor combinations. The one I’m most interested to try is a ginger cake with green tea icing. Hopefully I’ll get to take a crack at that soon.

That about sums up my two weeks in Vancouver. It was nice to visit, especially since I’ve never previously been to Canada. As you can see from the pic, it was mostly dreary and rainy, but at least it wasn’t 90+ degrees and humid. Now I’ve got a day in Seattle, then I head back home to Gainesville.

Who’s the chicken NOW?!

While I was in Seattle, I had a couple of meals over at Dan‘s (of Fat Yeti Photography) place. On the last night I was there, he was giving us a tour of his studio and we ended up doing a quick, impromptu photo shoot (see Day 5 of my 2011 Seattle Trip Diary post for the story). Here are a couple pics he took. I thought they were both pretty funny, and it’s always great to have my picture taken wearing a chicken head.

This one is actually my favorite (and I think everyone else liked it the best as well). I think we all like it because the chicken (I?) looks pretty confrontational.