Amazing Race!

So, one of the things my company does is that every year they have a National Employee Health and Fitness week. As the name implies, this is apparently some sort of national thing, though I’ve never seen it done at any other company and everyone that I tell it to thinks it’s just one of those wacky things my company does. I’ve written about this before, back in 2007 and 2008

Anyway, it was the same kinds of things this year. We had a kickball tournament, which we won one game and then lost the next. Then we lost in Ultimate Frisbee. Our team did win in croquet, though I was not there because I had taken the day off to go with my son to the zoo on a field trip.

So to end the day, it was an “Amazing Race” style game, similar to the TV show. I had won this last year, and was looking forward to winning again.

We all lined up and got the first clue, which read “It is opposite day at the field – you will find your next clue at the eastern column”.

Okay, so before I go further, take a second and think about where you would go after reading that clue.

Hurry up.

The clock is ticking.

The other teams are all going.

So anyway, we saw opposite, and eastern, and headed off to the western side of the field. Makes sense right? So we got there and there was a lady standing by a bridge at the far west side of the field. She gave us our task, which was to do 20 jump ropes. We did them and then waited for her to give her our clue. She said “Oh, do you have the orange clue? I can’t give you your clue until you have the orange clue” Apparently this was not the first station – we had somehow missed one. So we ran back across the field. We saw some of the other teams so we kind of ran towards them. As we ran, I realized that the “opposite” of column is row. Perhaps the race organizer lives in Amy-Opposite-World, where the opposite of concentration is 64, the opposite of focus is fackus, the opposite of rude is rosy, and the opposite of just about everything is “glottish”. So the opposite of eastern column is western row, which is the name of one of the roads that border where I work. We got that clue, which led us to the 2nd station, which we also got with no problem. At that 2nd station, we got an orange clue, which I reproduce below.

Amazing Race Orange Clue

The clue said something about a bridge, so now that we had the orange clue, where to go? Back to the first lady, who was looking for the orange clue and was standing near a bridge. So away we went. She made us do our jumping jacks (again), and then we gave her the orange clue, but she told us that was NOT the orange clue. As you have probably figured out by now, that’s the “red” clue. Okay, it does look kind of red, but it’s definitely an orangeish-red, and in the light of the sun, and sunglasses, it’s easy to confuse.

So eventually we found our way to the correct bridge, and then the next clue, and then back to the orange clue lady, where we did our jump ropes (again), and then back to the finish, where we finished about 5th or so (out of 15 teams).

Then as I was sitting on the patio stewing about the annoyingness of the clue confusion, one of the ladies from corporate communication was filming people. She came up to me and asked how I liked the race. I replied “Eh”. She kept the camera on me, perhaps waiting for me to crack up or something. I elaborated “It was all right”. After another pause, she stopped and said “Thanks for the great soundbite” Hahahahaahahahaha. I apologized to her later but in the moment I was just too annoyed.

Health Miles step challenge

So, I’ve been in this Health Miles program at work for almost a year now. Click the link where I explain it more but basically they pay you for being healthy and walking.

So for the month of April the company has been doing a step challenge. Basically whoever takes the most steps wins. Plus, there’s money involved. Top guy gets $100, then $75, then $50, then $25 for places 4-10, and $10 for places 11-20.

Now, I knew that I was not going to win because there are just far too many freaks out there. On April 1st (day 1), I uploaded so that I could see myself in 1st place with about 9,000 steps at about noon. I lasted there about all of 10 minutes before someone else uploaded their steps and wasted me with about 15,000. But then an hour or so later, someone else uploaded and had 25,000 steps by 2:00 on the first day.

I was calling shenanigans, but apparently this guy was seen running on the treadmill for about 90 minutes before work, and then for another hour or so at lunch. So like I said, there’s a lot of FREAKS out there.

As some comparison, it is commonly recommended that 10,000 steps a day is a healthy goal to have. In the 9 months or so that I’ve had this pedometer, I’ve been averaging about 10,500, so that’s nice.

So since this challenge started, I’ve been actively trying to get more steps than that. I’ve been working out extra in the mornings (also triathlon training), and for the month, have an average of just over 14,000 steps. So about a 40% increase.

And yet, THAT’S NOT EVEN HALF OF WHAT SOME PEOPLE ARE DOING!!! It’s worse than I can even figure because as part of the challenge setup, there’s a daily maximum of 30,000 steps. So any steps that you take more than that are not counted towards the challenge. But there are 3 people in the company that have maxed out (30,000+) EVERY DAY! Like I said, there are a lot of freaks out there.

So today is the last day of the challenge, so I was trying to do some calculations as to where I stood. For the first week or two, I was holding on to some illusions of earning $25 by finishing in the top 10, but it has become increasingly clear that I’ll be lucky to hit the top 20.

So this afternoon, I looked at my calculations. I was at about 344K steps. But I also had 61K in the bank (I haven’t uploaded since Friday in a sort of sandbagging maneuver so that others don’t know how many steps I have – the pedometer has an internal memory that keeps track even if you don’t upload). I was also banking on a 15K day today, which would put me at 421K.

So looking at the leaderboard, there were 17 people that already had more than 421K, so I knew they’d be ahead of me. But then I realized something – because of the 30,000 / day maximum, anyone that had uploaded today (Wed) with less than 391K steps could not catch me, since the max they could do on Wed (the last day) was 30K. The leaderboard only tells you total steps and the last day uploaded – nothing about how they’ve done on particular days or what time they uploaded. Similarly, anyone with a last upload date of Tuesday and less than 361 could not catch me, and so on.

There was one lady who was at 413K with a last upload date of today. I figured she had likely uploaded in the morning and was probably going to work out later and pass me. Then there was one at 361K and a Saturday date who also looked likely to pass.

That would put me at 20th, and then there were only 2 others who had a chance (everyone else was eliminated due to the 30,000 daily max logic above). There was one guy at 363K and Monday, and one lady at 331K and Sunday. Both of those folks could theoretically catch me but it would be difficult.

I had worked out on the elliptical this morning. I tweaked my back bowling on Friday and it still kind of hurts. So I didn’t want to run on the treadmill for that reason. I tried a few elliptical machines this morning before finding one I liked. They were all various elliptical / stair stepping type things. The first one still felt like it was impactful. Then the second one only was counting every other step of mine (similar to how it works when I bike), but then the 3rd one hit the sweet spot. 45 minutes at about 150 steps per minute, so about 6500.

But in looking at my chances, I figured I’d better seal the deal and so I went after work too. Even used the same smelly clothes (and they were pretty rank). Did another 40 minutes and currently sit at 26,177 steps for the day. So I’m feeling good – even the 413K / Wed lady will have to do another 21K today to catch me.

I’ll keep you posted!

Workin hard for the money

So I had to stay late at work today because it was a really crazy day and lots of production problems and such at work.

So I get home right about the kids’ bedtime and my 6 y/o son asks “Why did you not get home till so late?”  I of course told him it was because I was working hard.

So then he replies “Oh right.  Because you couldn’t get all your work done”

Sheesh…. :)

Holiday song / carol quiz

This is a quiz that I came up with as something to pass the time while we waited for people to arrive at our recent work gift exchange party.  So I thought I would pass it on to you guys to see how you do.

Below you will find the first lines of 25 holiday songs / carols.  But each line has been compressed with just the first letter of each word.  For example SBRAYL would be “Sleigh bells ring, are you listening?” from the song Winter Wonderland.  Some are more difficult than others – how many can you get?

I will note that most if not all of these answers can be found somewhere on the Internet.  Come up with your answers in the comments and just note how many you could get without relying on Internet help for an accurate comparison with those that choose not to use it.

  1. HTHASGTTNK
  2. CROAOF
  3. IDOAWC
  4. DTTSIAOHOS
  5. RTRNRHAVSN
  6. SNHNAICAIB
  7. ISMKSC
  8. OTFDOCMTLGTM
  9. FTSMWAJHS
  10. IBMBOJHSSOM
  11. JBJBJBR
  12. POYYITFH
  13. AWHHOHSSOTP
  14. AIAMNCFHB
  15. DTHWBOH
  16. TFNTADS
  17. JTTWTLIC
  18. OHNTSABS
  19. IHABCWY
  20. WWYAMCWWYAMC
  21. OCAYFJAT
  22. YBWOYBNC
  23. GGROBAR
  24. IBTLALLC
  25. RATCTATCPH

The winner at our little get-together got 16 right (in about 15 minutes or so) – just as a comparison.  Good luck!

One of "those" work days

Yes, yes, the other day I had one of those work days that Carolyn enjoys so much. You know, where I have to leave the office at noon and go to a park and eat pizza and play games all day. In fact, I believe she even had a little comment about this past one.

Anyway, someone took some of the pictures of the great race and put it on a slideshow with some music and such

Enjoy it here

I would like to point out a few things:

1) I never claimed I could beat Baldino.
2) If you look closely you can see him edging into my lane just as I was (totally) going to pass him
3) In his defense he did trip and almost fall half-way through the race

Bike ride home

So I rode my bike home yesterday. Savvy TPMTHDM readers may have noticed the exercise widget over to the side of the blog finally being updated (for the first time since early May). After just being very exhausted from working non-stop on 2 houses for weeks / months, I gradually just got lazy with the exercising (as has happened before).

But I’m back with a new batch (and a hatchet that I borrowed from scratch – a hatchet – a hatchet!). I have brought out the bike and yesterday was my first bike ride home from work since the move to the new house.

With the new location, I am not so conveniently placed near the Little Miami bike trail, so I had to plan a new route that was entirely on road. After hemming and hawing over various options, trying to balance route shortness with good bike riding / low-traffic roads, I came up with the following route

It grades out at 16.0 miles, though my ride yesterday actually ended up at 16.4 miles on my odometer, probably mostly due to the fact that I made two wrong turns. Actually I made one wrong turn and one wrong not-turn (where I should have turned but didn’t). That compares to 16.78 miles to my old house (world record of 1:05:15).

Started out pretty well. I got a ride in to work and brought my bike (still trying to score a place to shower at work). I was trying to decide the optimal time to leave to best avoid traffic, but various meetings and such got me stuck there till about 5:15 p.m. The first part of the route was familiar – actually the first mile or so is exactly the same as my old route. Upon reading Socialville-Foster road, instead of turning left (and dealing with the huge backup of cars waiting at the light on Columbia), I turned right onto some open roads. Traffic was light and I made my way up on to Irwin Simpson. When I got up to Mason-Montgomery, I slowed due to an impending red light. And what did I see upon looking down at the road? 2 NICKELS!!!. I slammed on the brakes to try and get them, but they looked to be kind of stuck in the asphalt and just then the light turned green. But they will be mine – oh yes, they will be mine.

I pulled an audible shortly after crossing. When I had pre-driven this route the other day, I noticed that SB traffic on Wilkens road backed up at the 4-way stop at Irwin Simpson. So I cut through the Regal Cinema there on to what I guess is called Deerfield Road, so I could continue straight and continue on Irwin Simpson. Make sense?

After staying on Irwin Simpson I made my first wrong turn. I was looking to turn left into a development and loop around the back of Cottell Park at the corner of Irwin Simpson and Snider. But I had it in my mind that there was a street before the one I wanted to turn on so when I saw it, I kept going straight. Then I saw the park and realized I had missed my turn. I ended up cutting through the park multi-purpose trail to miss the stoplight. NB traffic on Snider was pretty heavy but I cut through the stopped cars and waited for an opening and continued SB.

Traffic was pretty heavy on Snider and the road isn’t that wide. I could cut through a neighborhood here for an extra 0.5 miles – I may do that next time. Turned right on to Fields Ertel and then left onto School and then left onto Solzman before turning right on Kemper. Kemper was a very big road but luckily not a whole of traffic. The only problem is that I have to stay right for optimal safety while biking, but after 1/2 mile or so, then cut across 2 lanes of traffic and into the left turn lane to turn left onto Baen Rd. Wasn’t really an issue for me yesterday but might be more challenging with more traffic. I may decide to turn onto (a different) Deerfield Rd instead of Baen next time to avoid having to stop at the intersection of Deerfield and Baen.

Deerfield Rd. was fine but at Cornell I made my 2nd wrong move (this time a wrong not-turn). I was supposed to continue straight, going on to Creek Road to Kenwood but instead I turned right. Cornell had some traffic and I almost missed Kenwood Road. I knew it was coming up soon but the signs were hidden and I had to brake at a red light and then cross in the crosswalk. I continued for a bit on the sidewalk till I could get back on the road, but not before a lady coming out of a shopping center completely did not see me and just pulled out right in front of me. I gave her a friendly wave.

Then came the long stretch on Kenwood Road. One thing I noticed here was the differing in behaviors approaching a red light. I would see a red light ahead and I would think I should slow down to approach the red light (being used to approaching in a car). But then I would realize that wait a minute – if anything I need to speed up! because the light is likely to be green and then red AGAIN by the time I get to it at bike speeds.

Kenwood had some traffic but it wasn’t bad because for the most part it was at least a 3 lane road if not 4 or 5 lanes. So I can ride in the right lane and cars have plenty of room to get around me. From the YMCA to Shawnee Run there were a couple of really good hills though – best one was from Galbraith to Montgomery right by the mall. So you know at mile 14 or so – it’s time for a grueling incline!! I am at least grateful that the final grade towards my house is no longer a steep uphill, but instead a gradual decline.

Final time was 1:11:49. Whaddaya know – it’s a new world record!!!!

Virgin HealthMiles

So last week, my company started this new health initiative called Virgin HealthMiles. It’s apparently run at least somewhat in conjunction with our health insurer. Anyone else ever heard of this?

The basic idea is that you wear this special pedometer that tracks the number of steps that you do in a given day. You get points (they call them “miles”) for doing various things, chief of which is different activities, like getting at least 7000 steps in a day. Once you reach certain levels of miles, they give you money. The more you do, the more you make. The pedometers come with a USB cable and some software that automatically uploads your steps to Virgin’s website.

My company was giving out these pedometers to the first 400 people that signed up (normally they are $24.99 each) so naturally I scored one. You can get up to $150 a year by doing this. There are 5 levels and you get different amounts of cash for reaching each level. Level 1 is where you start out and is worth $0, then $25, $25, $50 and $50 I believe. It looks like the 5th level might be a bit hard to get, though we shall see.

They also have an “upgraded” membership which you can sign up for $6.99/mo. With that membership, you can earn up to $500/year. I think the levels are $0, $25, $125, $175, and $175. So if you can make it to level 3 (which is 12,000 “miles”), the upgraded membership pays for itself. After like a week, I’m at 3910 miles, though they give you lots of bonus miles when you first start out so I don’t think I’ll be able to keep up that pace. Still, Level 3 seems pretty reachable. I’m already almost to Level 2 (6,000 “miles”). You have up to 60 days to convert your membership so I’ll be seeing where I’m at around Day 58 but I expect that I’ll be upgrading at that point.

The other thing is that a few of us here at work that got the pedometers are having a little step-competition. We were trying to figure out what kind of ground rules that we could make to discourage cheating. It turns out that the website lets you set up challenges. These challenges allow you to set up teams as well as handicaps (to allow people at different step levels to compete on even ground). We have set one up but the system doesn’t seem to be working correctly.

I’m not sure if this is open to the general public or not – you’d certainly have to pay the $6.99/mo and the $25 for the pedometer, but even still, if you’re moderately active, it could be worth it. I’ll keep you posted on my progress.

Competitiveness

So I occasionally get labeled as “competitive”. This happens often at work where we have various things going on. I can kind of agree with it, but I’ve never really thought of myself as overly competitive.

This past week though, I realized that there are 2 kinds of competitiveness. I usually think of someone that is competitive as someone that just hates losing. You often see this in pro sports. There are stories about Michael Jordan or so just really HATING losing and when they lose they are just livid.

I’m not really like that. I really don’t mind losing. This is in contrast to my early life when I think I did hate losing much more, and I also had a pretty bad temper. I’m much more mellow now-a-days.

But my philosophy is that if I’m going to play, I might as well win, right!!!

So I do get a little competitive in the sense that I seek out every advantage / loophole I can in an attempt to win. I don’t cheat or actively break the rules but here’s an example. A few years ago, the IT department where I work had an “Amazing Race” around Mason. So in the few days before, I drove around Mason looking for possible clues, including visiting the Chamber of Commerce seeking possible locations that we might be sent to. We ended up finishing 2nd there due to this one guy sinking a crazy half court basketball shot at one of the stations. Of course, the fact that I still remember this maybe means that I do hate losing a little bit at least. I think it’s mostly due to the luckiness of that other team. I don’t really mind losing to a team / person that just played better; but I do get a bit singed at playing well enough to win only to lose due to luck or other factors out of my control.

But anyways… it was once again National Employee Health and Fitness week at work, along with the various competitions that they had. I of course signed up for just about everything.

Monday there was kickball – despite successfully instituting a no bunting rule, our team lost the first game and were eliminated.

Tuesday we had Ultimate Frisbee. We ended up winning that, and then my friends’ volleyball team needed one more player so I played that afterwards. I typically do not like volleyball because people get so particular about the various rules like “in the net” or “carrying” that makes it not very fun for me, the not very good player. But this was a pretty laid back game, and fun. We ended up losing in the finals.

Wednesday we had a relay race. It was pretty lame. 4 legs and only 2 teams showed up. First team finished in 45 seconds and then we finished in 31, winning. Then we went over to the croquet station. While not quite the Extreme Croquet that I prefer, it was still fun. My team won 2 games and the overall championship.

Thursday was an off day.

Friday we had a scaled down version of the Amazing Race, just around the campus at work. My original partner had a “production work issue” (supposedly!) so I had to find a backup partner. The sabotage of the other teams was very much an issue as I got a flat tire on the way to work which delayed me. The first clue had us finding a particular emergency pole (we have 5 or 6 around in the parking lots and out back and such that I guess if you are mugged while walking around the path you can get help?). My new partner just happened to know which one was pole #5 and that was pretty much the ballgame. We ran around to the various stations and ended up winning in about 14 minutes, about 5 minutes ahead of the 2nd place team. In fact, we finished, got our food (free picnic at work also that day!), came back and sat down and ate outside and watched the last few teams arrive!

So we ended up winning 4 events and finishing 2nd in another one. It was a lot of fun, even if some of the events were not organized quite up to “Dan standards” :-D

I will not GIVE you the satisfaction

So a friend of ours was talking to Carolyn the other day. She was telling us a story from a few years ago. Apparently she got upset that she was the only one doing the dishes and that her husband never did them. So one day she decided to go “on strike” (i.e. not wash the dishes). As soon as I heard this part of the story I knew it was a bad idea.

Sure enough, as expected, nobody did the dishes forever, they both got angry at each other and the problem was not solved. This must be a guy thing, because as soon as I heard the story I told Carolyn “Man if you did that to me, I wouldn’t do the dishes because I would not give you the satisfaction” For me that kind of passive-aggressive behavior would make it not only about the dishes but just about the principle.

Recently the cafeteria at work decided to (once again) nickel and dime us. You are now charged 21 cents if you want to use a cup (like for water). Also, if you take a to go container – ooh that’s 25 cents. Errr wait. I mean if you DON’T use a to-go container, you get a 25 cent discount. But… conveniently, the price with discount is exactly the same as the old price. Hmmmm… The other day I forgot my water cup upstairs but I instead opted to just have no beverage with my meal. ARAMARK I WILL NOT GIVE YOU THE SATISFACTION!!!!!!

And now, fast forward to a week or so ago. I get a notice from National City about 2 overdraft charges. This is not the first time this has happened to me. I have money at National City, but in various accounts. And so sometimes the money just is not in the right place at the right time. I have fought these before with pretty good success (just this once). As this dude points out, a bank’s cost to attract new customers can be up to $3500. So they have an incentive to bend over backwards to keep their existing customers.

This time though it’s complete crap. I transferred enough money on March 11th to cover 2 transactions I knew were coming in on the 12th. They cleared, leaving me with a couple hundred bucks in the account. But due to “holds” on the card of $671.80 that triggered 2 over draft notices. Even though my account statement never shows me going negative. And oddly enough none of the future transactions (from the 12th to the 17th) add up to $671.80, no matter what combination you try

Added to that is that I have an alert set up that is supposed to email me any time that my balance goes below $250. Never got an email, despite supposedly having a negative balance.

But I WILL NOT GIVE NATIONAL CITY THE SATISFACTION

Here is my saga:

Attempt 1: Called up the customer service number on my overdraft notice. Spoke to a guy who was pretty rude. Got nowhere.

Attempt 2: Following the SlickDeals mantra – I immediately hung up with him and called the same number and spoke to someone else. She went on and on about those holds, and I countered by going on and on about where does this $671.80 come from – show me the transactions. Finally she offered to refunded me $34 (the cost of one of those overdraft fees) “as a courtesy”. I told her hey that was nice, but I want them both. She wouldn’t do it. I asked to speak to someone else. She said there was nobody else. I kept at it. Finally she said she’d take my name and number and have her manager call me.

Attempt 3: The next day I talked to the manager. I again wanted to know where this $671.80 came from. She said she couldn’t tell me. I said I’d accept the $34 if and only if she could tell me where this money supposedly came from. Again we go on and on. Finally she tells me that I can get that information if I go into my branch. I say fine.

Attempt 4: I go in this afternoon to my local National City branch. I go up to the desk and say “Yes I have 2 things here – first I’d like to deposit this check for $35,000″ and then I have this overdraft charges that they told me you could take care of. I figured if they saw what a high roller I was maybe I’d get better treatment. Of course, they don’t know that I’m not REALLY a high roller (the check was the latest draw on the new house and has to be deposited so I can pay off the sub contractors) but hey :-) . She couldn’t do it and had me wait to talk to some other lady.

Attempt 5: A few minutes later I got called back into the office of said lady. Did the whole thing with flashing her my bling. She again gave me the whole rigmarole about holds and all that. I countered with talking about how much money I have (ha!) and how much business I do with them and how I don’t want to have to go to 5/3 or PNC or wherever. She says there is nothing she can do unless it’s a bank error. I say well to me it IS a bank error. I ask if there is anyone else that can do it. She says her manager will be in tomorrow. I leave it at that. Seriously folks – what is the interest they’d get in even ONE day on $35K? Not to mention that thanks to the wacked out Federal Reserve laws in the US, deposits of $35K mean that National City can make loans of I believe $350K!

Attempt 6: After reading those finance blog posts I linked to above (I had them in my memory but had to search for them), I decided I’d use the tips he had in his post and looked up National City’s number off their website, which, oddly enough, was different than the number that I had called before (from my letter). This time instead of asking about these fees that I got, I straight out said “I see these fees and I’d like them waived”. I thought she was going to do it but in the end gave me the excuse that the only place that could do that was my “home” branch, which is the branch where I opened the account up 10 years ago (down in Clifton). I suspect that is bogus but I will give them a call tomorrow and if that doesn’t work I will keep calling. It just takes one person.

NATIONAL CITY I WILL NOT GIVE YOU THE SATISFACTION. I will seriously close down all my accounts over this $34. Just ask UC who will get ZIPPO of my millions until they apologize for screwing me on health insurance in summer 2000.

UPDATE – See part 2 for the thrilling conclusion

Book of Mormon at work

So a few months ago I gave a Book of Mormon to a guy at work. Actually I gave out two, to different people but anyways…

One of these guys works on my team as a developer / tester / content enterer, and so a few days later, we’re looking at the site up on the projector and what do I see?


I had forgotten about this till today when I was working on the Archives section of our site and saw it again.

Good times…