Wheel of Fortune audition

So I thought I would write up something about my recent audition on Wheel of Fortune. My kids had encouraged me to try and get on the show a few weeks ago, so I went to their website and signed up. Actually the first time I tried to sign up, their website was down and I wasn’t able to sign up, so I had to try again a month or so later. The application itself didn’t really have anything more than basic contact information, and they say that over a MILLION (!) people try to get on Wheel of Fortune each year.

Time goes by and then suddenly I got an email telling me that there was a tryout in Louisville (about 1.5-2 hours away) on a particular day. As it turned out, that was the exact day that my family and I were planning on leaving for vacation. After talking about it, we decided to take the detour down to Louisville and do it.

On the appointed day, we got the van all loaded up and left about 8:30. My audition was at 11, but we wanted to get there a bit early, so we could drive around Louisville and show Carolyn where she’d be hanging out. We had marked out a library and a mall where she could spend time with all the kids while I was in the audition for 1-3 hours. It was a catch-22 – the longer I was in the audition, the longer she would have to kill time with the kids, but it also meant the better chance I had of actually making the show.

My audition was in the “Gallery Ballroom” on the 16th floor of the Brown Hotel in downtown Louisville. My email suggested I get there 15 minutes early, which I did, but I was still one of the last people there. I had NO idea what to really expect – I was guessing many hundred people there but it ended up being only about 60 people. They gave us all an application to fill out, and there were sections about what makes you unique – hobbies, interests, etc. I mentioned my 6 kids, as well as being a world record holder, and my goal to visit all 3,142 counties in the US.

Then they had some simulated games. They had 4 workers there – there were 3 that were behind a table taking notes on people and running a laptop that projected puzzles on a screen, and 1 off to the side who was “spinning” a replica Wheel. I put “spinning” in quotes, because really they were just making it be whatever they wanted. Usually they’d just be some random dollar value, but sometimes they would make it say “Free Play” or $5,000 or Lose a Turn or Bankrupt. They said for the last 2 not to worry about that but sometimes they would do that if you were “up” for awhile so that they could move through and give everyone a chance.

One lady would randomly call out contestants and then you’d have to either spin, buy a vowel or solve. They called me like 3rd or 4th so I popped up out of my seat. I ended up guessing a letter correctly, then buying a vowel and solving the puzzle (“Let’s get to the good stuff”). Then I waited while they went through all the other contestants. After they went through everyone once, they went through some folks a second time. I was picked but didn’t get to do anything before I “Lost a turn”.

After they finished doing as much of as they wanted, they passed out a “test” where they gave us 5 minutes to solve about 15 sample puzzles in different categories with some of letters filled out. I did okay on that – about 10 or 11 of them. In addition, I made up answers for a few of them that didn’t really make sense but fit the spaces (“Rocket Fancy” :-) ). One of the ones I missed was under the category of “Places” – _ _ S S / _ _ L L. Think about it and I’ll give the answer at the end.

When the 5 minutes was up, they collected everything and then gave us 20 minutes to hang out while they “graded” our tests. They called us back in and then said they were going to call out the names of people they wanted to stay and then everyone else would have to leave. They instructed that if they called your name that you should say “Woo” to let them know you heard them. It was tough because I had no idea how many names they were going to call. After awhile, some people tried to give “alternate” sounds. While I was waiting for my name, I was thinking of what I might say. Everyone calling the same thing sounds “weird”, and while they were encouraging everyone to “show enthusiasm”, sometimes forced enthusiasm just sounds awkward. They called my name about 12th or so and they ended up picking 21 people to stay.

After everyone else left, they took pictures of us who were remaining. Another thing I was trying to do was to initiate conversations with the folks next to me. This is something that has always been difficult for me but I have been trying to improve at – plus I figured if the Wheel folks saw me, they would see that as me being outgoing and the type of person they’d want as a contestant.

Next they called up groups of 6 for more of the simulated games they were doing in the beginning, and you just rotated through everyone just like in the regular game, except with 6 people instead of only 3. One of the instructions they gave were that they wanted everyone to show “happy” faces and enthusiasm, and they also talked about how fast you had to call letters. No umming or hemming or hawing and they also said that when you pick a letter to just call out the letter rather than saying unnecessary things like “Umm Can I get a ‘T’”. I was in the 2nd group, and they called my name first, but I strategically put myself in the 2nd position so I didn’t have to go first :) . After the guy in front of me either missed a letter or they “Bankrupted” him, it was my turn. I spun and picked a letter and bought some vowels but when I spun again I “Lost a turn”. It made its way through all 6 of us and back to me and the guy in front of me guessed a letter that wasn’t in the puzzle and it was my turn. I already knew what the puzzle was – “Setting a world Record”, which I thought was quite apropos :-D . But when I spun, intending to select an ‘R’, she put me on “Lose a Turn” :( . I actually think (hope?) that this was a good sign – that they had already decided how awesome I was and didn’t need to see anything else from me.

After our group of 6 was done they went through and had everyone introduce themselves and tell a little bit about ourselves. I went with “I’m Dan Miller, a computer programmer from Cincinnati, Ohio. I’m a world record holder and today was actually the day my family and I were supposed to leave for a family vacation, so right now my wife and 6 kids are driving around Louisville in a packed minivan”. I thought that gave a lot of interesting tidbits about me while a) leaving them wanting more :) and b) not taking up a lot of time. I have to share one lady – she started talking about how she’s had all these near death experiences and then proceeds to list them all out – “I was hit by a car and then a few years later I was hit by a semitruck and then I got really bad heatstroke” She went on and on and then topped it off by saying that now she knows that God has a purpose for her in life. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that she was NOT selected.

One of the puzzles was “Nickels Dimes and Quarters” (another good puzzle for me) and after the lady solved it (I was not in this group), the lady next to me said something to me like “I can’t believe she didn’t go for the ‘Q’!” This was EXACTLY what I was thinking – there was an earlier puzzle that had an ‘X’ in it and I thought – “Man if I have the chance to guess Q or X on Wheel of Fortune I’m TOTALLY doing it!”

After they went through all 21 of us (6-6-5 and then 2 couples against each other), they went back in to the secret room. It’s always kind of awkward when you know people are talking about you. Then they came out and picked out 5 people (not including me) to go a 2nd time. I got the feeling that they had already decided “Yea” or “Nay” on everyone else but were “on the fence” about these people so wanted to get another look at these folks.

And…. that was it. They said that they would send a letter out in the mail within the next 2 weeks if they picked us. So if 2 weeks go by and I haven’t heard anything by then that it probably didn’t work out. I called Carolyn to come get me and then I just had to hang out for 30 minutes or so for her to come get me. I was talking in the lobby with some folks and my “Mormon radar” was going off. Young and married… with 2 young kids…. knee length shorts…. Utah was mentioned… :-) . I was not sure how to ask since it seems kind of weird to just be like “Hey are you Mormon”. I tried dropping clues like how I was married young too, and I had 6 kids, but they weren’t biting…. finally I just had to be like “Yeah I’ve never been to downtown Louisville before but my church has a temple a little north of town” and … JACKPOT! They were indeed Mormons and it turned out there was another auditioner that was also Mormon. Yeah that’s right – we’re infiltrating everywhere!!! This lady’s husband was on Jeopardy last year too.

Overall I thought that the audition went well. I don’t know if they were only looking for a specific number of contestants or not, but I think that the fact that I got “Bankrupted” a few times was a good sign (or a really BAD sign). Plus, who wouldn’t want me and my awesomeness!!!

(By the way, the “place” I missed was “Mess Hall”. One of the military guys who was sitting in front of me got it, of course!)

Skyfort Playset Installation – Day 9 (4/7)

They say it’s my birthday!! Doo doo doo doo doo duh doo!

But what could be more fun to do on your birthday than continue building a giant playset?!?!? I’m not sure.

Now that the playset is out in its “final resting place”, it is a little more challenging to get set up and put things away each day. Especially since my drill is not cordless :-(

First order of business was to continue working on the picnic. I knew that I would have a few hours and the weather forecast was pretty good, so I set the ambitious goal to get from Step 19 all the way up to 30.

Unfortunately, tragedy struck early on as I realized that something was not right.

I was trying to lay the boards for the top of the picnic table, which are supposed to lay crosswise across the support pieces near where my son is sitting. You can see the first three placed there, but if you look closely, the spot where the last two are supposed to go is blocked by a board sticking up.

Turns out that (once again), Leisure Time did not provide adequate instructions as to orientation of the boards, and I had that board flipped the wrong way. In fact, I was so annoyed with the instructions, I thought it was worth its own pic

You may need to click to see the detail, but there is the board (K14) in question. If you look closely, you can see that it does indicate that the hole on the top is closer to the top of the board than the hole on the bottom is to the bottom of the board. But again, would it have killed them to just call that out!!!

Luckily it wasn’t a big deal and I was able to just unbolt it, turn it around, and put it back in.

With the picnic table fully assembled, it was time for the inaugural snack!

After snack time, it was time to put the troops to work again.

They’re carrying the “fence” boards that go around two sides of the picnic table area. I got the one side on without a problem, but then see if you can spot the problem in this pic?

It’s kind of like a mobius strip or an MC Escher puzzle! :-) If you haven’t noticed, the top board is behind the post, and the bottom board is in front of the post. Which makes it kind of hard to level-ly attach the up and down posts. Again I was lucky that it wasn’t hard to figure out which board was wrong (the bottom one) nor was it difficult to take it out and put it where it belonged.

You have to space the boards out with a certain amount between each one, and all of my experience putting the balusters on our deck came in very handy here. I settled in to a rhythm pretty easily – measure it out, attach the tops, level the board, and attach it on the bottom. Every two or three, I measured my remaining space and adjusted accordingly. The reason for that is that if you’re even 1/4 inch off on each board, you don’t want to leave a huge (or tiny) gap between the last board and the edge. So by re-measuring every few boards, you can check and adjust your space if you need to. Nobody’s going to notice that one set of boards is 3″ apart instead of 3 1/8″, but they’ll definitely notice if all the boards are 3 1/8″ and the last set are only 2″ apart.

It was all looking good but then it started to rain, and this was a good stopping place, since the next step starts with the 2nd story of the clubhouse, so I called it a day.

Day 9 time: 2.5 hours
Total time: 18.5 hours
Mistakes made: 2 today (4 total)
Steps completed: 19-24 (out of 103)

Skyfort Playset Installation – Choice and delivery

Our family of seven had had a playset on our “list” for several years before we actually purchased one. We wanted to buy one soon enough that our kids (at the time ranging in age from 10 to 2) were young enough to still enjoy it but old enough to be able to do stuff on it. But there always seemed to be a higher priority to spend our money on

Finally we had saved up enough money and bit the bullet.

We were very familiar with Rainbow playsets – there’s a distributor nearby that offers free play a few times a week, so we’ll occasionally go over there and play in their showroom.

We ended up deciding to buy this version from Sams Club, mostly because of the price. The Sams Club playset was (IMO) comparable to some of the $5000-6000 playsets from Rainbow, but instead only cost $1299.

I have no idea how long that link may work, as the playsets from Sams, Costco, etc. seem to “be upgraded” (i.e. cost more money) every year.

But basically it’s a standard playset

Here are the “specifications” from the link

  • Top level clubhouse with natural wood roof
  • Lower play deck with sandbox play area
  • Rock wall climbing feature
  • Crow’s nest lookout with play telescope
  • Lower level picnic/activity table
  • 2 heavy-duty belt swings with chain
  • 1 heavy-duty glider with chain
  • 10′ Fast-Trac deep slide
  • Monkey bars
  • Flat step entry ladder with handrails
  • Detailed assembly manual
  • Ships in 5 boxes
  • Recommended for children ages 3-10 years

I ordered it online on Thursday March 24th. It indicated 10-14 days for delivery. I originally had some problems with my Sams Club membership showing up on the website but eventually got it figured out. When I hadn’t heard anything for awhile, I was worried that somehow the ordering process had screwed up, but I got an email on Monday the 28th that the order had shipped. It had a tracking number (but no link to what site to use!). Eventually I “tracked” it down (pardon the pun), and it said it was on the truck with estimated deliver date of the 29th (the next day).

We weren’t sure when it would come, but it turned out that “delivery date” of the 29th was just when they call to schedule delivery. They called and set up delivery for the next day, Wednesday the 30th, between 1 and 5 pm.

And the journey begins!

2010 Miami Triathlon Report

It is once again that time of year – time for another triathlon report from TPMHTDM! I know my faithful readers have been waiting for a full report, and while I will attempt to blame external forces, the delay in the writeup for this race is mostly due to laziness.

As always, you may also be interested in my 2007 MUSF report, 3 pigs triathlon report, my 2008 MUSF report or my 2009 MUSF report

The months leading up to the race were not marked with the greatest in training regimens by me. I did train some, to the point where I was not expecting to die (always a bonus!), but my heart was just not in it. I don’t know if it’s just that the race has lost some of its “novel”-ness, or lack of time, or desire, or what, but my regimen was definitely half-hearted. One possibility would be to move up to a higher distance race, but I’m not sure that will do it for me either.

In any case, you may have heard of the 7 P’s. The way I first heard it was Prior Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance (which I know is only 6 Ps – click the link if you want to). In this race, we will instead prove its corollary, Poor Planning Produces Poor Performance.

But enough of all that mumbo-jumbo – let’s get to race day! I have to say, having all these detailed prior year race reports is very handy for race day planning. For instance, I knew to set my alarm to 4:30, and knew all the things I should bring.

I slept much better than I did last year, but just like last year I did end up waking up on my own about 15 minutes beforehand. So I got up, got dressed and packed my standard race-day breakfast of peanut butter bagels. Again like last year, I had sufficiently “carbed up” with donuts the day before :-)

Due to the empirical data, I could better analyze my route towards Oxford. Last year I took 275, which measured 30 minutes and 23.3 miles. This year I took the Lateral to 75 to Cross County, which got me 25 minutes and 19.7 miles. Sounds like a clear winner! Though it does produce the odd effect of starting out an hour long trip to the northwest by taking 71 SOUTH!!!

After getting over to 75 and starting to head northwards, I passed the “lovely” aromas of the Jim Beam plant. When I was in college, I interviewed for a co-op position with a company called DataBeam. My roommates always refered to it as “Jim Beam” even though I’m sure they’re not related at all. So anyways, I didn’t get a job with them and a year or two passed. One of my out-of-town friends called me up out of the blue. She was studying something along the lines of environmental cleanup or something and was wanting to get a job at Jim Beam and asked if I had any references. I had to let her know that I was NOT going to be able to be very helpful at all!! :-)

Whenever I’m doing a race like this, I keep a notebook with me to write down snippets of things I want to include in the race report. Otherwise I’d clearly forget them. I’m sure this speaks to some strange side of my personality. Unfortunately, since the route to Oxford is pretty much the same every year, I tend to end up with a lot of recycled jokes, which I then have to filter out. Can’t remember the name of the town between Cincinnati and Oxford? Done. Talk about how I used to geocache here? Yup, did it already.

But one geocaching thought that I did have was some good memories of Electric Shavers, who was a guy who lived up in Hamilton who favored the “quantity not quality” method of hiding caches. And when I was really into geocaching, I always liked to keep my “list” of close caches clean. So that was really the last time I did much traveling up here. Had some good memories of that, even though the caches were not always the greatest.

So what does Jim Beam and shaving have to do with this race? Uh, nothing. But that’s what I’m all about! Continuing with my non-race jibber-jabber, I did notice a few things on the drive up to Oxford. It’s interesting since I only ever drive up here once a year (at least for the past 4 years) to see the new things each year. Some things I noticed on this trip – the speed limit was only 45 mph north of Millville – that seemed new. And also, there was a center lane through McGonigle (not to be confused with McGonagall). I know, I know – fascinating stuff….

Okay so onto the real race stuff. I managed to find a place to park on a street that did NOT have a Parking by City of Oxford Permit sign on it, unlike last year, so no parking tickets for me! I made my way with my bike over to the natatorium to pick up my packet, only to find it completely empty. Apparently they moved the packet pickup station to tables out in the lawn. So I went down there to check in. Except there was a brief problem in that it was still dark, so awful hard to see anything in there! Eventually I got checked in, and then got my timing chip (slight delay as I was there so early that they hadn’t set those up yet). One interesting thing I was told was that the swim caps were mandatory this year, which I thought was odd for a pool swim. I mean for an open-water swim sure, makes sense since you want to make sure you don’t “lose” anyone, but in a pool it seems odd.

One of the downfalls of planning enough “buffer time” is that when nothing actually DOES go wrong, you have a lot of time to kill. So after I got everything set up (on the “prime” end of row location, of course), I wandered around a bit. I checked out the parking garage that is right near the transition area to see what the deal was with that (i.e. if it was free). It appeared to be $5-10 to park there, or what we in the “business” refer to as the “sucker’s price” for parking.

Another key piece to my race planning was the post-swim towel placement. In previous years I had placed an extra towel on a set of bleachers that was placed near the swim exit. Basically the idea is that when you get out of the pool, on the way to the building exit (and path to transition area), I would stop, get this bonus towel and begin the drying process a few crucial seconds earlier. Two problems with this though – first, last year the race guy pointed out this bleacher and said you could put towels there, which led to it being a lot more crowded than it used to be. And secondly, the bleachers are not QUITE on the way to the door. So you have to detour a bit to get the towel, perhaps costing you the seconds that you gain.

So this year, I found a new spot – along the railing of the path outside that leads from the swim building into the transition area. Originally I was going to just put it in some bushes, but I found a pretty good spot along the railway that was tucked away somewhat out of sight. The idea there is that I didn’t want a) some race folks seeing it and deciding that it was not allowed and taking it and b) another racer seeing it and deciding “ooh! free towel!”. Later on as I was inspecting the area, I did see several other towels nearby.

Another thing I did pre-race was look for someone. My friend Kent who raced with me last year was not able to do it this year, due to recent birth of twins, but he had passed the info onto Brett, who I also knew somewhat (though not very well). Brett and I had exchanged a few emails about things and said we’d look for each other before the race. So I was trying to keep an eye out for him. Unfortunately, while I thought I would recognize him once I saw him, I was not really sure what to look for other than someone who was tall :) . But I spotted him before too long and we headed into the pavillion area.

We talked for awhile, and then as we were about to kick off the race, I was mentally prepping for what I would need to do, and realized I had left my goggles back in the transition area. So I had to race back there to get them. When I got there, they had already started up the timers on the pads at the entrance / exit of the transition area, so I had to walk around. Back at the race meeting, it went pretty well. One interesting thing was a note saying that the race organizers had tried to work with CSX to route the trains around the race course but they were un-responsive. And in fact, CSX apparently would not even provide them with a train timetable. They said that they had volunteers at the tracks and a plan to compensate times if it came to that, so that was…interesting and I filed that away.

So after awhile of waiting and watching the first crazy-fast swimmers go, Brett went down to take his turn, and around half an hour later, I went down too. I once again subscribed to the belief that because racers were “seeded” on their listed swim time, it’s better to put down a time that is faster than you actually are. My thoughts are that it a) might help you to swim faster as you try to stay with the racers that are around you and b) it’s faster and less taxing to be passed by people than having to pass people.

While I was down in line, waiting for my turn to start swimming, I was chatting with a few folks near me in line. Even though the original talk was that swim caps were required, later I heard that they weren’t, but I just kept mine on just in case. While we were chatting and such, we noticed someone swimming the wrong way in a lane. With a serpentine / pool swim, you swim down Lane 1 for 50m, then back the other way in Lane 2, then back down in Lane 3, etc. until you are swimming back in Lane 8 and then exit the pool and building. So at the end of each lane, you have to duck under the lane ropes. Apparently when this guy got to the end of Lane 1, he didn’t make it under the ropes into Lane 2and started swimming back in Lane 1. So we’re all trying to shout at him, like we’re in Planes, Trains and Automobiles – “YOU’RE GOING THE WRONG WAY!” but he couldn’t / didn’t hear us because, of course, he was swimming (“Ah he’s drunk – how would he know where we’re going”). So after he passed us and it became apparent that he was not going to change directions, we all watched him to wonder what he would do as he got to the end (errr beginning?) of Lane 1. Would he make it under the ropes and start swimming the wrong way in Lane 2, or would he realize his mistake and drop under 2 lanes and start swimming in the correct direction in Lane 3. And the answer is…. c) none of the above. He just turned around and went back in Lane 1. When he got to the end of Lane 1 again, he must have figured it out as he correctly ducked the ropes and got into Lane 2. So I guess for him it was the 500 meter swim! :-)

As it came to be my turn and I got ready to jump in, I readied my watch to start my time. But as I crossed the mat and started my time, my stopwatch wouldn’t start. I tried to fiddle with it and “hit buttons” but I quickly came to the same place I did when my goggles broke back in the 3 Little Pigs triathlon – either keep fiddling or just GO. So I just went. Later I realized that due to the fact that it was Carolyn’s watch and I was not familiar with it and I was just not hitting the right button.

The swim went fine. Nobody passed me till the end of Lane 2, and even then, because of the way the serpentine course is designed (i.e. you pass on the left, but at the end of the even numbered lanes you turn to the right), I passed right back because I had a shorter turn (being on the inside). They passed me right back at the start of Lane 3, and I was periodically passed by folks. Still, it was good, given my relative lack of swim training – I didn’t really feel in trouble and I was able to freestyle swim the whole way.

Made my way out of the swim area and grabbed my (carefully concealed) towel which was right where I left it. Sped through the transition time, putting on my shirt, socks, shoes, shades and helmet and went off on the bike. The bike course was the same as it has been the past 2 years, and I could definitely tell that my timing was not as good. Whereas last year, I was clipping around 16mph heading out, this year I was struggling to make 14. There was a bit of a wind going, but I don’t think that was most of it. I passed a few people and again was passed by some as I anticipated the big bad hill at about mile 3.5. It actually wasn’t that bad – I mean it was big, and hard to go up, but I biked the whole thing and passed about 5 people who were walking it.

The rest of the course was more of the same – rolling hills. The 2nd big hill was more of the same – I biked the whole way up and passed a few people walking. A little bit after that, at about mile 9-10 I heard the train whistle. I got a bit worried but figured that there was plenty of time for the train to go through and I was right – when I got back to the tracks it was clear. But afterwards I talked with Brett and he said that he hit the tail end of it. As he got to the tracks there were about 15-20 people lined up there and he had to wait, though only for about 15 seconds. I’m not clear if they adjusted his time or if so, by how much.

In any case, I made my way back to the transition area and went to put my bike on the rack. Final totals for the bike were 19 passed, and passed by 38 people. Having secured the end of rack spot, I was just scanning for my stuff, but I couldn’t find it! Eventually I figured out that someone had put their bike in my spot and I just put my bike on the rack next to mine and headed out. I have a fast transition time reputation to uphold!!!!

Run wasn’t too bad – it was definitely slower than last year but I felt good and felt like I was going at a pretty good pace. I was kind of expecting to see Brett coming back as I left, but he was apparently much faster than me and had already finished. Run is usually one of my better events, at least after a swim and bike compared to others – last year I passed about 30 people and was only passed by 1 person. This time I ended up passing 10 and being passed by 8. Final kick into the corral and finish!


I found Brett and we talked a bit. There was a table with some snacks / goodies but it had some of those pre-packaged cracker snack packs in it, which struck me as quite possibly the worst possible snack option! I mean, come on race organizers, I’m parched from just exercising for the past 1-2 hours and you think CRACKERS are the way to go?!!? There were also some apples and oranges, but what I really wanted was a banana, which I saw a few folks walking around with. Eventually I dug through the bags enough and found one.

Since the after-race party which was so awesome the first year I did this has progressively gotten crappier and crappier, I didn’t hang around and instead just left pretty soon after the race. And then…. the waiting began. Finally, Sunday night, they posted a version of the times up on the website. I was in 376th of 600 participants (555 finishers). Splits were 11:55 for the swim (which includes the time from when you get out of the pool until you enter the “official” transition area, 1:41 for T1, 55:59 for the bike and…. nothing for the run. Apparently they were still “working out some issues” with the run times and that along with the train adjustments would be up on Monday. The foreboding music of doom from last year began to reprise, just a little bit louder….

Naturally Monday came and went, with nothing. Then on I think Tuesday or Wednesday, they posted final race times, with no transition times at all, and a time of 58:24 for my bike, and 26:14 for the run, overall total of 1:36:34. I emailed to complain, and to ask if the transition times were going to be put back in. The response, from James at HFP:

The transition times are actually included in the bike splits. We had some battery issues with one of the timing boxes, causing some of the transition and split times to be incorrect. So, we included everything together to make it all accurate.

Uhhhhhh I’m not sure how you can say under any possible meanings of the word that just lumping that time into the bike time makes it more “accurate”. Since I’m definitely a complainer, I wrote back:

I’m not sure how you can say that lumping those times into the bike make it more “accurate”?!? As you may already be aware, this is now the 2nd year in a row where HFP “issues” have caused mistakes / omissions from the race times at the MUSF race.

I am not an expert or professional racer. I have limited funds to devote to triathlons, and typically do only one race per year. I have done the MUSF triathlon the last 4 years, and I have to say that it has gotten worse every year.

After last year’s debacle, HFP gave me a 50% coupon to apply to this year’s race. But now, after 2 straight years of HFP equipment malfunctions, I think I have to start looking for another race.

Do you have any kind of assurances that you can provide that we’re not going to see more of the same issues again in future races?

It’s unfortunate that there are limited triathlons in the area on Saturdays, and the only other one I know about here in Cincinnati is at Coney Island and ALSO run by HFP. So we’ll see what to do – but in any case, until I hear otherwise, I’m going to just combine the 2 versions of the times and give myself final splits of:

* 11:55 swim
* 1:41 T1
* 55:59 bike
* 0:45 T2
* 26:14 run
* 1:36:34 total

Thanks for reading, and (maybe) we’ll see you here again next year!!!

Nerdy March Madness contest

So those of you who know me well know that I’m a sucker for “nerdy” sports pools and contests. So pro-football-reference has once again come up with a unique type of contest – it’s a twist on the regular March Madness bracket filling out.

All “64″ teams are listed, and each team is assigned a “cost”. You can pick as many teams as you want, as long as the total price stays at 100 or less. The winner is the entry with the most total wins by all teams in the entry.

So if you want to join the contest, go do that first before reading some of my strategy.

Spoiler space….




So I came at this from a few different angles. I looked at the odds to win as published by the gambling community, to see people that had good odds at a relatively low cost. I also got folks Sagarin ratings, with the idea of looking at teams that were either under-seeded or under-costed. I definitely wanted to stay away from me picking who I thought would win, as I have a historical record as “world’s worst bracket filler-outer”

I then thought to see if I could do any sort of arbitraging. I added up the costs for each “pod” of 4 teams (1/8/9, 2/7/10, 3/6/11, 4/5/12/13), assuming that the 14-16 seeds would all lose. The cheapest ones cost 17, so if you got 6 of those, that would be 3 guaranteed wins each, or 18 total, plus any Sweet 16 and later wins for any of those folks (#3 and #4 seeds likely). But I wasn’t sure if 20 or so wins would be enough to win, though I thought probably not.

And plus, it seems a bit wasteful to spend money on teams that you KNOW have to lose. So, I moved on to figuring out expected wins by round by seed. I kind of made up probabilities for each seed to win each game. So for example, I have the #3 seed as a 90% chance to win Round 1, a 65% chance to win round 2 (assuming they make it there), etc. etc. That gives expected wins by seed up to the final 4. So of those 4 games, #1 seeds came up with 2.5 expected wins, which sounds about right. So then I used that number to try and come up with a max team. That is discounting the last 3 games, but hopefully will at least be close.

So the top pick there was Wake Forest, who as a 9 seed has 0.53 expected wins (.48 for beating the #8 seed in Round 1, and then .048 for beating the #1 seed in Round 2 (I guesstimated a 10% chance of the 8-9 winner beating the #31 seed) and then .006 chance of winning in the Elite 8). But they only have a cost of 2, so they have 0.265 wins per cost.

The top 17 teams in wins per cost (Wake Forest, Florida, Ohio State, New Mexico, Pittsburgh, Richmond, Vanderbilt, Gonzaga, UNLV, Cornell, Notre Dame, Kansas State, Villanova, Butler, Kentucky, Louisville, Northern Iowa) have an exact cost of 100, and come out at 19.72 expected wins, with 3 #2 seeds (all but WVU) and Kentucky in my picks, so a decent chance for 1-2 more wins in the Final 4.

But that is assuming that all #1 seeds are identical, as well as better than all #2 seeds, who are in turn better than all #3 seeds, which we all know is not true. So incorporating the team’s actual strengths will also tell me who might be under or over seeded. After searching for a few measures, I found that the folks over at basketballprospectus.com had already figured out odds for each team to win each game. So let’s use their numbers! :-)

I did have to convert their numbers, which give the chance that a given team will reach a given round, into the percentages that a given team will win a particular number of games, but that wasn’t too bad with my trusty friend, Mr. Excel! The top 21 teams from that cost 100 and give me 24.93 expected wins, led by 11 seed Washington, who is given a 23.4% chance to win its first game at a cost of 1.

But that does at least peg a decent strategy as somewhere around 25 wins as a baseline. So I should be looking for 1 win per 4 points of cost at a minimum.

So I like a few low seed / low cost first round upset fodder, listed with seed, Pomeroy chances to win 1st round game, and cost
#14 Montana, 23.4%, 1
#13 Murray St. 40.9%, 2
#12 Utah St. 51.8%, 3
#13 Siena, 25.6%, 2 – they are probably under-represented here as they are playing a Purdue team that is now w/o one of their best players.

I think it’s good (but not really sure) that Utah St. and Siena would play each other in the 2nd round if they both won their first games.

So, if we are shooting for around 25, then all of a sudden the 17 cost 4-team “pods” start to look attractive.

Pitt/Xavier/Minnesota (3/6/11) cost 17, and have 3.47 expected wins (3 guaranteed wins). Wisconsin/Temple (4/5) have 3.59 expected wins for a 15 cost or 3.9 wins for 17 if you throw in #12 Cornell

In the end, here were my picks

Florida St.
Georgia Tech
Murray St.
Ohio St.
San Diego St.
Utah St.
Wake Forest

That’s 100 cost, and 23.94 expected wins. You’ll see that I couldn’t help myself from subjectively screwing myself out of 1 win :-)

In the sons following after their fathers department.

Said to me by my 7 year old son

“Next time when you make me math problems, make them EVEN HARDER!!!”

God is so powerful….

1. He can cut down a house without using a saw
2. He can build a car without any instructions
3. He can draw things with his eyes shut

All actual quotes from my 7 year old son.

#1 agent followup

You might remember I made a post a few months ago about a local real estate agent whose billboard proclaimed her “#1 agent in Cincinnati for 13 years”. It took 8 months but she found me and made a comment.

I was glad to see that she took my comments in the spirit in which they were intended. Click through if you want to read what she had to say.

Dear library

Dear Library,

I will not be voting for any tax levy. I suggest that you come up with a better way to balance your budget. Times are tight for me too but unfortunately, when I asked my employer for more money, they said “No” (though at least I didn’t get laid off!)

But taxes just don’t go away. Let’s say the economy has improved in 5 years when this levy runs out. Is it going to go away? Ooh suerie no. ANOTHER levy will come on and all the signs will say “Vote for the library – it won’t raise your taxes!!!” Once we start giving money, somehow it doesn’t seem to go away.

But having said all that, I do like the library, and as such, if a fundraiser is held, I pledge $50 from the Dan envelope towards the library. That is the approximate property tax value that the levy would generate. I know that may not seem like a lot to some people but it’s a lot for me.

One free luxury

So the folks over at Budgets are Sexy (an interesting budget / personal finance blog) had a post today asking which luxury you would choose, if you could choose one and only one.

The choices were:
* 24/7 Personal Chauffeur – Your own driver (and car) to take you anywhere, anytime, no questions asked. Great for: bar hopping, airport pick ups/drop offs, driving you on weekend getaways.
* 24/7 Personal Chef – Ooooooh this one has HOT written all over it! Covers your breakfasts, lunches, dinners, snacks, you name it. And, since it’s YOUR perk here, you could even have him/her teach you how to cook so you don’t have to necessarily give it up if you enjoy it ;)
* Personal Assistant – Your own go-to person to cover any needs whatsoever. Dry cleaning, errands, packing your lunch, etc. They don’t pay for any of these items requested, BUT their services are on the house. And we’ll assume all these choices going forward are 24/7.
* Personal Masseuse – I know some of you ladies will choose this one. Might I recommend Money Mate Kate? I heard she’s the best around.
* Free Food for Life – Never have to worry about paying for it again! Covers all groceries, dinners @ restaurants, snacks, you name it. (doesn’t cover drinks of any sort)
* Free Drinks & Alcohol for Life – Same as food except this makes you feel a bit funnier ;) Never have to pay for another long island ice tea again! Or milk for that matter…
* Free Hotel Room/Nap Area – The freedom to sleep wherever and whenever your heart desires! At work and need a 20 min power nap? You got it! Out at the bars and too drunk to make it home? No problem! Get your friend who picked the 24/7 Chauffeur to take you there ;)
* Free Clothes! – Everything from Wal-Mart to Fendi, it’s all you baby. Covers everything but shoes (this is a perk, not a fantasy! haha…)

I was torn between free food and the personal assistant, but in the end, I went with the free food. Seems like that would be way more worth it, especially taking into account the money. All those other things you can live without (more or less) but you gotta eat!

So what about you guys? What are you picking? I have a *sneaking* suspicion which one Carolyn will pick :-)