Mar 222015

There is this Cupertino Education Endowment Foundation. I didn’t really know much about them, except that they do school fundraisers. Sometimes we goto particular restaurants or grocery stores during the year and money gets kicked back to the Cupertino schools. They have a party every year. Casino themes, Hawaiian themes – all interesting to me, keeping me curious about going but we have never gone.

This year though, I noticed that Sal’s teacher won the teacher of the year award. Which was the tipping point. Strangely enough, in conversations with Sal’s Kindergarten and 1st grade teachers, they didn’t find me bringing up this reason to be as amusing as I did…

We got the tickets not really knowing what we were in for. Some folks we talked to brought up the prospect of spending the evening dining with bureaucrats and fundraisers. Which I hadn’t really considered, but by then, the tickets were bought. And right after we got our seat assignments, I ran into a teacher selling bead necklaces, to be part of a “heads or tails” game to win a dinner. Maybe there was something to that hustling perspective. But the teacher hadn’t really sold many. Thinking that it’s for the kids, I told him we’re in for a couple of necklaces.

A few food tasting stations and wine tasting sessions later, I see him again. And we’re still his most recent sale. So I buy some more, to share. And while we’re talking about how many, another lady working the fundraiser comes by, with a neck full of beads, encouraging me to buy some beads…but I have to take them off her since her hands are full (food station and wine stations).

It’s for the kids I’m thinking again, but since I’m reminded of the kids, I turn back to the original teacher selling the beads and buy some beads from him for our table. And then some more for Sal’s teacher and her fiancé. And I think I bought a few more later too.

The game works like this. Someone’s going to flip a coin. And you’re going to guess if it’s heads (hands on head) or tails (hands on rear). And if you guess right, you get to continue. If you’re wrong, you lose a necklace. If you’ve got no necklaces left, you’re out. The game was more entertaining than I had expected. Though I was out pretty quickly. I was out in 4 flips and I had 3 necklaces…so pretty bad. But fun to cheer on the folks continuing.

The winner had pooled together some of my other gifted necklaces though, so I consider it a partial win.

But all that was a setup to the live auction.

Winning hatI haven’t been to many fundraiser live auctions before. And the last one I really remember taking seriously, I regretted afterwards. Had a chance to win a round of golf with Larry David. Which would have been a great gift for my father. And I let it slip away. I didn’t want to let that happen again.

But nothing really jumped out at me on this auction. Hockey tickets. Some Napa getaway. Another Napa getaway with balloon rides. A diamond pendant. Stay at a resort in Mexico. Dinner for 8 at Testarossa though – that could be interesting. And dinner for 8 at a firehouse – sounded kind of interesting too. But more as girls’ night out. No alcohol on the firehouse premises. Seems like a good policy in general, but certainly quite different themed than the dinner at a winery. Girls’ night out dinner though with firemen cooking leaves a lot to the imagination. Maybe with a chauffeured car. Maybe visit a winery beforehand for a tasting…that could all come together nicely. The Testarossa dinner started at high price and I think I bid with my number facing the wrong way. Embarrassing!

So now I have a fireman’s hat and a toy firetruck too. And plans to get 4 of Sal’s teachers together and his principal (who seems like a blast – very different to talk to principals at a parent instead of as a student) for the dinner.

Catherine tells me it was the most expensive item for the evening. I am not sure I bid properly. In hindsight, I think I treated it like a poker game, where I was bidding aggressively, and that might have been dumb. As soon as the other guy bid, I re-raised. He’d think about it and I’d re-raise instantly. Before the auctioneer could finish asking for the next price. I don’t know if I thought I could bluff him out or what I was really thinking. Probably something like “auctions are fun!” or “Catherine’s putting her hand on my arm as a sign of support!”

I never gave him the joy of seeing me think it over and feel like he might win. And I regret that. Cause I just kept raising my hand instantly. It would have been more fun, for him and crowd, if we had let it go to “going once…going twice…” a couple more times, both ways. I think I have played too much bad poker and haven’t studied Storage Wars enough. (That fire truck is a solid 3 dollar bill though!)

Then he made me feel worse, afterwards, coming up and congratulating me on the win. He pointed out how he could make reservations at Testarossa anytime, but he couldn’t call up the firehouse and ask them to make him a home cooked meal for him and his 7 friends. I think he really wanted to go see the firetrucks and maybe slide down the pole and wear some big pants with suspenders. At that moment, I was already wearing big pants with suspenders…and me saying it was going to be a fun girls’ night out didn’t seem to make him feel any better.

Oh well, it was for the kids!

Jun 222014

Here’s what happened on the ride:

  • My max speed: 43.6 mph
  • Times I will ride the bus: 1
  • Number of miles spent riding the bus: 4
  • Will I ride my bike over the finish line: Yes.
  • Weight difference between 5/31/14 and 6/8/14 (negative means I lose weight): -1
  • Average speed for all miles cycled (mph): 12.3
  • Day of my fastest average speed: 7
  • Day of my slowest average speed: 1
  • Number of minutes I wore a tutu: 0.
  • Total steps taken during trip (pedal strokes relate to steps the way I use Fitbit) (in thousands): 361
  • Number of times I do the QuadBuster hill (1.5 mile hill on day 3 @ mile 10 out of 67 for the day; 0 means I rode the bus, 1 is normal, 2+ means I went back to do it again!): 1
  • Number of strangers hugged: 1
  • Time of checking my bike in on final day (minutes): 1:38 pm
  • Earliest start time of day (minutes): 6:50 am
  • Latest finish time of day (minutes): 6:47 pm
  • Number of times I get someone to help me adjust my bike somehow: 3
  • Crashes: 0
  • Wardrobe malfunctions: 1 (ankle tape ended up wrecking my knee)
  • Difference between my 6/8/14 weight and the total of the first game of the NBA Finals: 16
  • Number of seconds iOS Mail is featured during the WWDC keynote: ~125

IMG_0098Seems like having someone “borrow” my towel in the shower on the first day should either count as a hug or a wardrobe malfunction.  But not sure which it is.  Didn’t matter for the betting pool anyway.

Turns out, no one gives my weight enough credit for max speed (highest guess was 30).  Kari got the latest finish time on the dot.  But at the same time, she also wanted chaffing to count for wardrobe malfunctions and wanted 3 of them to happen to me. Those were kind of disturbing guesses that were on my mind in the saddle occasionally.  When Candy predicted I was going to fall twice, at least she joked about it.

I do not hug enough strangers.  Or as many as folks want me to at least. Though with this new knowledge, things might change. If people take the hint?

I was also shaved a lot more on this trip than I had expected. That was an unexpected side effect of this ride. And the swollen ankles. And carpal tunnel issues.

Anyways, after a lot of spreadsheeting, Kari and Sonny won dinners. Too strange trying to break the tie. It wasn’t clear if I was biased or not either. Sonny made me sign up for this silliness (he actually signed me up) and Kari was rooting for chaffing. I didn’t have a favorite.

Other randoms:

  • Best Good Morning from the breakfast line: “I like the way you eat your banana.”
  • Best line not said in response to a compliment in the breakfast line: “I like the way you’re handling my sausage.”
  • Road kill: A skunk tail – no body, just the tail. Also saw a dead baby deer. Saw a 3/4ths eaten adult deer too. And a decapitated blue bird, with its head about 20 feet away from the body. Too many squirrels to count.

I signed up for next year already too.

Maybe feeling will return to my fingertips by New Years so I can start training again. Parts of me wants to try it on a road bike, cause my road bike friends were definitely having a different trip than I was. They were washing clothes and not standing in line for showers and getting massages, while I was just trying to survive. But doing it on a road bike is lose lose. Either I’m an idiot for doing a trip so hard this year, or I’m a lame cyclist and a road bike is just as miserable…

May 302014

There was a time when I was riding off on my own and we thought for safety’s sake, I should pay for Runkeeper so it could broadcast my trip. And then if Catherine ever needed to find my body on the side of the road, she’d know where to start looking.

The day after I paid for it, RoadID came out with the same service for free.

Oh well.

The benefit is now you’ll be able to follow my ride at this link – but to really follow it live, they’d like you to sign up for a free Runkeeper account too.  I think it’d be worth it. But maybe I’m biased.

Anyway, that was one way I thought I could cheer people up during the week. Ever feel down?  Go load that page up and enjoy a good laugh at me…

But then, I was thinking I wanted to do something to help keep people more engaged with the whole phenomena of the ride. And prop bets seem like the right answer.

So let’s play.

Right answer gets you a point.  If no one hits the number perfectly, closest answer, without going over gets you a point (aka Price is Right style). I’ll do my best to update my stats daily.

Most points win. In the case of a tie, all the people with the most points will have the deltas for the ones they didn’t get perfectly right summed up.  Smallest delta wins.

What do you win?  I’ll take you (and your family/significant other) out to dinner.  If you’ve sponsored my bike ride for any amount, it’ll be a nicer dinner.

Here are my props:

  • My max speed:
  • Times I will ride the bus:
  • Number of miles spent riding the bus:
  • Will I ride my bike over the finish line:
  • Weight difference between 5/31/14 and 6/8/14 (negative means I lose weight):
  • Average speed for all miles cycled (mph):
  • Day of my fastest average speed:
  • Day of my slowest average speed:
  • Will I wear a tutu?
  • Total steps taken during trip (pedal strokes relate to steps the way I use Fitbit) (in thousands):
  • Number of times I do the QuadBuster hill (1.5 mile hill on day 3 @ mile 10 out of 67 for the day; 0 means I rode the bus, 1 is normal, 2+ means I went back to do it again!):
  • Number of strangers hugged:
  • Time of checking my bike in on final day (minutes):
  • Earliest start time of day (minutes):
  • Latest finish time of day (minutes):
  • Number of times I get someone to help me adjust my bike somehow:
  • Crashes:
  • Wardrobe malfunctions:
  • Difference between my 6/8/14 weight and the total of the first game of the NBA Finals:
  • Number of seconds iOS Mail is featured during the WWDC keynote:

Entries need to be posted/emailed to me by midnight Sunday night.

Good luck!

May 102013

It always starts innocently enough.  Someone in my group talks about The Counter burgers.  Someone else says they haven’t been.  Someone else say they haven’t been in a while. Okay, team lunch there.  Easy enough. But where is the twist? There has to be a twist, doesn’t there?

The fun of The Counter is building your own burger. Wouldn’t it be more fun if someone else built your burger for you? Though it wouldn’t be fair if people were assigned burger partners, so it’d need to be random. That’s how Burger Roulette was born.

Everyone makes a burger. We shuffle the burger forms before giving them to the waiter. Then we also get randomly assigned numbers and when the burgers come out, they are distributed in that order.  No one cares about which burger comes out, just what number burger it is.

Initially, I called it Burger Roulette, after Russian Roulette. Thinking that people are playing with loaded guns/hamburgers. But cause we are well trained computer scientists, as the plans developed, it became more of a prisoner’s dilemma problem. That problem, from game theory, basically has two folks caught doing something bad.  They both get the same deal.  There’s enough evidence to put each of you away for 2 years. But if you turn on your partner, you’ll go free but your partner will get 4 years.  Though if you both turn on each other, you’ll both get 4 years.

Do you turn on your partner or not? Theoretically, you should turn. Because if you don’t turn, you’ll either get 2 years (partner didn’t turn on you) or 4 years (partner turned on you).  Average sentence = 3 years.  If you do turn, you’ll either get 0 years (partner didn’t turn on you) or 4 years.  Average sentence is 2 years. Clear cut call. Theoretically.

The game also has a version called the iterated prisoner’s dilemma, where you play the game with each other many times, and thus, your strategy changes. Hopefully some trust can be built over time.

But let’s get back to the more pleasant (and practical) topic of burgers. Do you make a burger you’d think was the best burger, hoping you’d get your own burger?  (Don’t turn!) Or do you think it’d be fun to create a monster of a burger, hoping you don’t get your own burger? (Kinda turning…I mean, it’s just a burger after all…)

Because we work with each other, there is somewhat of an iterated feel to it. Folks you turn on will you’ll be working with for a while still. They aren’t getting whisked away to a cell somewhere else.

We have been to Dining in the Dark together. So we have trusted that people weren’t messing with your food in the dark already. This is similar, just with burgers, and light. And maybe a shake thrown in. It made a good burger outing quite fun.

The waiter was a little flustered when we shuffled all the cards infront of him, but once he understood what was going it, it made things easier.  All burgers are medium.  Bring us every type of fries. And we really didn’t care who got which burger. How much easier can you make it on a waiter?

Everyone said they made a burger they would be willing to eat.  Though a few qualified it with “but I wouldn’t have ordered it for myself”.  Some had themes, like Thai (peanut sauce, pineapple, sprouts, carrot strings, sliced cucumbers + bacon, just cause Thai food is better with bacon right?), or fire (everything that sounded hot).

And all the burgers were enjoyed.  One (only?) person did get their own burger. And it was one of those folks that qualified it with the “i wouldn’t have ordered it for myself” lines. The most challenging aspect (besides the jalapeños – but that was more of a mental thing) was the size for some people.  I guess people typically get the 1/3 pound burger while I happily checked off the 1 pounder.  The burger I got was only 2/3rds of a pound and I was done before some of the folks were done assessing their burger…but everyone finished.

Cause if you didn’t finish, you got the pleasure of picking up the bill.

Anyway, if you ever wanna play burger roulette/dilemma, I’m down.

Especially when their special shake of the month is Churro.  That thing is fantastic!

Mar 022012

I love local competitions among my friends and coworkers.

But even more than the competition, I love the handicapping.

And I love seeing how everyone handicaps differently.  So when my fellow Apple co-workers, who are new to this process, asked me about the odds for the fitness challenge, I was excited to say that we weren’t doing odds, since that would require one unbiased person to handicap.  Instead, I was going to show them all how to expose their biases.

Out of the 9 rankings, 3 people have me finishing first.  One person has me finishing last.

My wife, was not one of the 3 people that has me finishing first.  She went on a little rant about how I’m not in as good of shape as I was last year.

Which is fair – I’m turning 40 this year.  Each year, I’m a year closer to dying.  (Health care workers don’t like hearing that when they ask you how last year was, by the way.)

But it’s all good fuel for the fire.

I just wish I didn’t have some sinus issues that put a sharp pain in the back of my head when I climb a fight of stairs.

Still, the show must go on.

And of course, I’d love it if you’d sponsor me.

We’ll see if I can represent for the nearly 40 crowd tomorrow…

Oct 142011

I have a little best friend who’s willing to get up at 6:15 on a Sunday morning and drive up into the mountains to watch another friend try and do a 7 mile obstacle course in less than 59 minutes.  We were excited driving into the fog, rooting for miserable weather, only to get excited when we were above the clouds and enjoying a unique view.  He didn’t even mention getting car sick once.

He knew there was money at stake.  He knew there was a time to beat.  We killed the time looking at their vendor stands, eating some specially branded Chex mix.  When the first finishers came in and jumped in the mud, he let out a joyful cackle as he saw someone willfully do something that seemed so…not right.  He loved watching everyone jump in the mud.

But when we saw Shawn, it was all business.  In the video, you’ll hear him ask near the end “time? time? time?” – he was a little anxious too.  But my favorite line was his candid observation.

Afterwards, he was excited – talking about how easy it was to win money, since I didn’t have to do anything.  I spent the drive back down the mountain trying to explain to him the difference between betting on something you can control and something you can’t.  He spent the drive down the mountain thinking about what Gundam robot he was going to get with the winnings.

He’s seen the fun side of friendly wagers.  He acknowledges that he’s got the easiest task in our family weight bet (Catherine and I have to lose weight, he has to gain weight or grow).

Then he turned on me.

We’ve been playing a bit of Battleship on the iPads now and then.

They’ve extended the basic game a bit by adding super weapons.  You unlock those by achieving various goal through the game.  Sal was talking some trash to me the other day, because he unlocked the Sky Sword.  It basically uses 1 shot to wipe out a 5×5 diamond on the board.  I wasn’t sure if I had unlocked it on my account, since it sounded tough – winning a game in less than 10 turns.  I was impressed he did that.

But you can’t show weakness.

So I told him I had a Sky SuperBomb which would fill up the entire board with one shot.

His eyes opened wide and he leaned across the table towards me.

“I bet you don’t!”

“Yes I do.”

“That’s not even possible in the game.”

“Yes it is.”

“What did you have to do to unlock it?”

“I don’t remember…something super tough though.”

He kept pestering me about the various super weapons.  Till he found enough weakness, mixed with enough self-confidence…

“I bet you a hundred million thousand dollars you don’t have that weapon.”

“Ha.  Sal, you can’t bet money you don’t have.”

“Okay.  Five dollars.”  He said it without a pause.

“Uh…I don’t think I’ll take that bet.”

“Because you don’t have it!”

So the next morning, we played.  I kept bluffing that I’d use the Sky SuperBomb, but of course, I don’t have one.  I was pleased that I had the Sky Sword though at least.  But I missed everything with it.  He got 2 hits with his.

I still won the game.  Couldn’t let him know I didn’t have that super weapon and lose the game all in one fell swoop after all.

But I am pretty sure I only won just a battle…not the war.