Friday, June 27, 2008

Chances of Being Disappointed by a Game of Chance: 99/100

I am not much of a gambler so when more than one person suggested that I fritter away my hard earned blog paycheck on a minuscule chance to win millions you could feel the breeze caused by my eye roll blowing 3000 miles away in Vegas. I could not be talked into letting it all ride on black or twenty one or a full house and no one suggested gambling on a heart attack at night after night of buffets (though I could easily be talked into any activity that involves unlimited access to king crab legs) but when the suggestion to review scratch offs was raised (credit to G -- don't bother going to his blog, he never writes anything) I thought "Hey! those are cheap and available within 200 feet of my front door and they come in shiny shiny colors!" And so I begin a series of posts reviewing lottery scratch offs.

I am really not at all tempted by the lottery. I have purchased probably 5 scratch offs in my life and ALL of them have been Christmas gifts (perfect for secret santas, stocking stuffers and saying "I trust you to share half of this with me if you win."), in fact before Tuesday I think I was almost a scratch off virgin (like anal, scratching off someone else's card is God's secret loophole, all of the fun of putting penny to cardboard with none of the risk of a screaming baby). For my first official chance at throwing hard earned money down the drain (the drain being the NY State School system) I went all out and bought a $5 card -- Even though I have heard of the existence of $10 cards I consider spending $5 on a piece of cardboard and a very unlikely dream of millions (actually, in this case, just million) crazily extravagant and expect that individual school children will be sending me personal thank you notes for my kind donation ("Dear Brianna, Thank you for purchasing a lottery card, our school has used the money to buy graph paper for Math class where they will hopefully do a better job of teaching statistics than your teachers did -- Love Bobby Sue"). The $1,000,000 prize would be paid out in $50,000 increments over 20 years which sounds kind of lame but then i realized that this would be plenty of money to allow me to quit my job and travel around Thailand like a queen for as long as I liked (or until the global economy made $50,000 chump change in all countries everywhere... so... 2025).

This below review of my first scratch off pretty much takes all of the fun out of gambling. I'm like a kid with the flu on the merry go round. A golden shower in the pool. A pooper at a party. Enjoy.

  • Scratch Off Theme: Ripping off Casual Video Games From 2002
  • Cost: $5
  • Maximum Prize: $1,000,000
  • Odds of Winning Max Prize: 1 in 3,175,200.00
  • Odds of Winning Minimum Prize:($5, aka even money): 1 in 20
  • Level of Fun: (1-10):2
  • Winnings: $0

This scratch off is a bit confusing since it implies you'll be revealing gems when you scratch off the silver crayon coating but in reality you mostly reveal a bunch of numbers which (far as I can tell) mean absolutely nothing. If the numbers mean nothing why use them at all? Why not just label all of the nongem spots with "you lose!" or a picture of someone having their house foreclosed on? Unsurprisingly the lottery also does a lot of work to obscure the reality that you will almost for sure not be winning any money from this card. For example, the card says I have 12 chances to win -- I assume this is because there are 12 places to scratch off. I supposed that I *technically* have 12 chances because there is an instant win option if I reveal a $ symbol ($25 1/100 odds) but since the other wins are all combos you actually have more than 12 chances to win, not that it matters, the odds are still crap. Of course I'm likely the only nerd to ever even visit the odds page.

I really wanted this card to incorporate a true game element so that winning didn't feel completely dependent on chance. I expect that, like with slot machines, the law dictates that lottery games be completely chance based but I'd like to see some effort at masking this reality. When I worked on slot machines we employed a whole mess of smoke and mirrors to make it feel like the player was influencing the outcome of the game when in reality the math decided their winnings ages ago. I admit that this is much easier to accomplish when you have a visual display, a computer and the promise that all of your customers will be swimming in free booze but I'd still like to see the lottery try a little harder to fool me. If anyone knows of a well designed scratch off send the name my way -- I'm committed to reviewing roughly $35 worth of these so if some are more promising then others I'd rather at least throw my money away on creativity.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

How We Roll In Software Development

While brainstorming team building activities with a coworker the idea of a paper airplane making contest came up which was soon followed by an egg drop and then by this conversation.

we should perhaps consider making people carry around a flour baby
Giselle: o yes!
Brianna: so we can all develop sympathy for our coworkers who made the questionable decision to breed.
Brianna: "This week for fun we'll all make dioramas of scenes from books we recently read"
Brianna: and they'll all be like snipets of code
Brianna: all propped up in a shoe box
Giselle: this red string represents ruby on rails
Giselle: and it's heading into the cotton balls
Giselle: they represent the 'web'

Monday, June 23, 2008

Brianna Vs. Some Huge Rocks

I know that way too many of my recent post have followed to formula of "software developers + athletic activity = explosion of tomfoolery" so before I begin this post in which my coworkers and I go white water rafting I want to say that only 2 of the 5 people who accompanied me on this little adventure have any geek cred -- the other 3 have no knowledge of programming languages, probably don't understand 75% of the xkcd comics and rarely, if ever, bring up how much the love math and/or graphs. Shockingly I like them anyway.

This trip was organized by, Zogsports, the same people that brought you blogs posts on Dodgeball and Kickball. Zog is a nice little organization that managed to turn activities usually associated with intramurals and recess into profitable charity endeavors. They are also obsessed with drinking. Ever single sports game is followed by the ref pleading with the players to hang out at the bar afterwards, they give "best drinking team" awards right after MVP. So I wasn't super surprised to receive the following information in my pretrip email:
There is absolutely no drinking of alcoholic beverages permitted before or during rafting. If you’d like to drink on the return trip home, please bring along your beverage of choice and we can keep them on or under the bus while you’re rafting.
Translation? Look, the losers at the rafting place won't let us turn rapids into a drinking game but we know that most of our customers have such a serious drinking problem that there is no way they'll ever make it 12 hours without ingesting two or three bottles of Everclear so we managed to bribe the bus driver to allow y'all to party it up. Don't forget to bring the flip cup.

While the Hudson and the East rivers offer many treacherous challenges (sewage, bloated bodies, oil slicks, etc) they have yet to develop rapids so our white water rafting took place in Pennsylvania on the Lehigh river. When we arrived after a 2 hours bus ride our leader, a guy last seen playing his tummy like a drum at a local dive bar, was a little crazed about our need for wet suits. "THE WATER WILL BE 60 DEGREES, THAT IS SUPER COLD." he bellowed over and over again as we stood around the dusty parking lot sweating in the 85 degree humidity. All but three or four people resisted the call of a personal rubber sauna. We waiting around for at least 1.5 hours before being shuttled 7 by 7 into red plastic rafts. During the wait we received very minimal instruction on how not to end up as the human equivalent of ground beef -- there was something about how fast the water was going (an analogy to 800 cases of beer flying past us each second) and how if we got caught on a rock we should bounce around like idiots in hopes of knocking ourselves free, they spent the remaining 80 minutes explaining the acceptable ways to splash other boats.

Let me describe how the first 20 minutes of rafting went. "Ok guys, paddle right! I mean left side of the boat paddle! I mean go LEFT! FUCK." But somehow by the first set of rapids we had it together enough to cruise through as if the river were a particularly vigorous massage chair (and with my toes resting in 5 inches of water at the bottom of the boat if I closed my eyes I could almost convince myself that I'd spent $100+ on a very nice pedicure.). One of our new friends that we adopted to fill our boat was suddenly so confident in our abilities that she asked if we could paddle more quickly so that we'd be going faster when we hit the rapids -- God would soon smite her for being so cocksure. As we approached the second rapid set we saw another red boat thrashing against a large rock as its occupants bounced up and down trying to dislodge themselves, it was almost comical until we realized that our feeble urban arms were never going to paddle fast enough (never mind in sync enough) to avoid crashing into the boat, the people and the rock. After a comfortable little rubber on rubber bounce I thought for a moment that everything would be fine, and then I saw the opposite edge of the boat lift over my head. The good news: the water wasn't that cold.

In retrospect we choose the best place on the river for a short swim. The water was deep and mostly free of jagged man hunting rock. I lifted my feet and leaned back in my life jacket and was soon rolling on the river sans boat. Eventually the guide most likely to join a roaming band of skin heads got my friend Jeremy and I to hang from the front of his kayak so he could steer us over to another boat while giving us a lengthy lecture entitled "You Retards Should Not Have Tipped Your Boat Over, I Hope You've Learned Your Lesson." He dropped me off next to a boat filled with fresh faced Midwesterners whose 20 year old son easily plucked me (and, even more impressively, Jeremy) from the river. Our new family were vacationing from Iowa (where, presumably they hadn't had their fill of water ) and was made up of a mom, a dad, a set of 20ish twin boys and an older (25ish) brother. Not more than 10 minutes after being adopted Jeremy and I's bad rafting karma had mom and son #1 tumbling from the boat, arms flailing while Dad yelled instructions along the lines of "don't die!" I'm sure Mom and the older brother were super nice people but as far as Jeremy and I were concerned their departure freed up a couple of nice spaces in the Wayne family that we were happy to fill. Riding in their boat was like a luxury cruise -- twin son #1 stood in the back acting as a rutter that steered us safely away from evil rocks while twin #2 and dad used their farm built muscles to navigate us quickly down the river. The only painful part was my constant fear that I would accidentally curse or exclaim my love for high taxes and abortions and that (like any good Midwestern family) they'd tossed me back into the Lehigh where liberal scum belongs (One less Obama voter to worry about!).

Zog promised that the Rafting organization would provide us with lunch on the river and since I also (correctly) suspected that any food I had on my person would quickly become too soggy to eat I didn't have any way of feeding the fast growing hole in my tummy until we stopped on the shore at 3:30pm -- it had been 6.5 hours and 7.5 miles of paddling/fearing for my life since I'd eaten anything and I was fast considering how tasty riverweed spiced plastic oar might be. I had ordered a PB&J for lunch on the theory that they are the best food ever and also because I knew that this sandwich was meant for the under 10 set which meant there was an 80% chance that it would involve Wonder Bread and Jiffy -- two things I secretly love but would never allow myself to purchase in the store because I am a snobby hippie/foodie. Some might think that a $100+ rafting trip should include a fancier meal but I actually think that this was a smart cost saving measure on the part of the rafting company -- by the time lunch rolled around I was so hungry that a raw pack of ramen noodles would have been greeted with lip smacking so there is no reason to waste money on truly tasty food.

Post lunch we decided to let the Iowans get back to their family vacation so we were once again banished to the retard boat for the remaining 7.5 miles of rafting. It was hell and I quickly found myself thinking that I needed to birth 3 strapping young boys to row me around as soon as possible.

Somewhat unsurprisingly the most well organized portion of the trip was the beer distribution on the bus ride home. On a trip where head counts were estimated, novices were tossed into rock filled rivers and no one could be bothered to bring enough water for rehydration at lunch our leader had devised a system for signaling your need for a beer, designating your beer type of choice and notifying your need to dispose of an empty can all without speaking.

I arrived home exhausted, starving and reeking of river. As I stripped down at the door I told the boyfriend to make me some food and not even think about starting the sex because seriously I JUST PADDLED 13 MILES. Then I passed out on the couch.

Taking my sports participation from The school yard to The X Games was partially inspired by the huge cash influx from this blog. A small chunk of riches remain, look for this being frittered away on gambling in the coming weeks.

Update: Jeremy (the geekiest of all attendees by far) found the rock that God threw down into the river to smite us for the evil sin of pride on Google Maps.

Friday, June 20, 2008

The "a" On The End Keeps Me Classy

As I'm sure most of you have heard Jaimie Lynn Spears has (sort of) named her baby after me. Obviously I felt overwhelmingly honored when I heard this news yesterday afternoon but I also felt a certain amount of shock in Jaimie Lynn's choice to bunk the family tradition that dictates naming her daughter Casey Jaime. Perhaps (like her own parents) she's saving that special name for baby number two though it seems presumptive to assume that Casey will be around for subsequent babies and I'm sad to see her let such a nice gender neutral first name go to waste -- we'd all hate to see a little girl cursed with some less female friendly name like "Rocko Jaimie" or "Benedict Jaime" but I'm sure that mother knows what she's doing, after all how can one doubt any decision made by a 16 year old baby mama from Louisiana especially with an older sister who serves as such a shining example of the perfect mother? Congratz Jaime Lynn and welcome to the world little miss Maddie Briann -- may you also kick family tradition in the face and find some way to keep yourself out of cheetos stained hotpants.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Musings Aboard Continental Flight 632

I am writing this aloft on a plane suspended somewhere between Houston Texas and New York City. It is much later than I had hoped this journey would take place due to an unscheduled 2 hours on the runway listening to unreliable accounts of the awful thunderstorms plaguing the LaGuardia airport and how this may or may not result in my permanent residency in the Lone Star State (good thing I have lots of rodeo experience). My flight was eventually returned to the gate which has to be the saddest thing that can happen to one at an airport save finding out that ye old internet is reporting to your somewhat bemused boyfriend that your plane has arrived in New York City (When did LaGuardia get a BBQ joint?).

I was eventually herded back on the flight and seated 2 rows behind a family of roughly 35 over dressed folks half of whom were under age 7 and all of whom seem to have never so much as seen a plane before. The father figure has repeatedly yelled at the stewardess to bring him some water RIGHT NOW and the children (the hordes and hordes of cackling little goobers) will not stop crying, whining, screeching and generally poking each other into a frenzy.

I, possibly more than most, know how disappointing, frustrating and baffling the airline industry can be but I find the general moaning of those around me substantially harder to endure than the cramped seat, the linger smell of vinegar, the absence of Diet Pepsi and the fact that an additional hour in the Houston airport forced me to break down and eat French fries and a burger both of which will likely be the final layer of fat that forces me out of my svelte size fours and into a muumuu. Worse yet the stewardess has just brought me more food – I applaud Continental Airlines for holding out against the $5 Snack Pack in favor of free damp cheeseburgers and iceberg lettuce but also curse them for bringing more calories to my tray when I have nothing but a DS Crossword that’s kicking my ass and three days of work email to act as ammo against boredom eating.

I somehow managed to resist the temptations of fast food only to realize 15 minutes after pushing my uneaten slop towards the Miss America-like heavily made up stewardess that buried beneath the ketchup packet and wet wipe was a fun sized Hershey bar which I very much would like to have in my mouth. Sure, asking them to dig this morsel from the garbage would be uncivilized but what other place in modern society so heartily supports incivility? Shouldn’t I embrace this opportunity? Isn't a subpar milk chocolate bar and civil disobedience in the form of dumpster diving at 30,000 feet exactly what I’ve earned? I don’t even like milk chocolate.

Friday, June 13, 2008

The Only Thing I'm Good at Kicking is Ass

Ever the glutton for punishment (and more than ever in need of something to write about) on Wednesday I (and my software development compatriots) kicked off sports league number 2: Kickball. I wasn't actually considering blogging about this experience since I already wrote a sports themed post a couple of months ago and unlike topics such as trashy tv and bad dates I didn't see any need to revisit the topic lest people get the wrong impression about the priorities of this site. But then during our first game one of opposing players (a gigantic man with a red bandana tied around his massive skull) started doing a bull imitation at home plate. As he pawed at the ground and held horns over his ears while zerberting the air to make a sort of growling bull-like noise I yelled across the outfield to my friend Jeremy, "GREAT. Now I have to blog this."

Despite my membership over the past few month on two different sports teams I am no Sporty Spice. When Lisa and I joke about being the same person I almost always say, "except you like sports" in a tone of voice usually reserved for inefficiency and the scent of summer in the subway. As a kid I despised sports primarily because I wasn't good at them (also because I was lazy) and in an effort to preserve my fragile sense of superiority I religiously avoided anything that I might not excel at. I was forced through the cruel Physical Education requirement at my high school to join the tennis team which resulting in me getting hit in the eye with a ball at 75miles per hour which I might have been more upsetting if it hadn't gotten me out of at least 2 days of onerous practice. I've since gotten much better at being bad at things. I'm perfectly comfortable listing huge numbers of things that I suck at (like remembering to put on deodorant in the morning so I don't have to sneak it onto my armpits while sitting at my desk) of which "sports" is a nice little category. But I no longer equate poor performance with hatred -- I can have fun and suck AT THE SAME TIME! Kickball was likely in the top three most fun things I did this week (number 1 being "watched R. Kelly's Rap Opera Trapped in the Closet)

Pregame on Wednesday when the subject of positions came up I quickly regressed back to junior high PE and immediately jumped on the oft coveted by 12 year old members of the math team far far far left field. This was a mistake. In junior high one could be relatively assured that no player would exert enough effort to drive a big rubber ball more than 15 feet from home plate but in the uber competitive world of casual kickball for 30 year old real estate traders and software developers the balls were much more likely to come hurling into the outfield at 300 miles per hour. When this happens people will expect you to try to catch the ball or at least run after it while simultaneously suppressing your urges to do a couple of cartwheels and make crowns and jewelry out of clover flower chains. Since I cannot catch or run or even effectively gauge where a ball is apt to land even when I am STARING RIGHT AT IT this position was a lot of hard work.

One of the things I love most about working in Software is that developers and their QA and PM brethren are shockingly socialist. Everyone gets a turn regardless of ability. Everyone is encouraged to try new things. We all wait in line together for bread. All of these values follow us to the field where I was twice offered a position guarding a base despite the fact that I kept calling "runs" "points". When a teammate ran all the way to third base before figuring out that he'd kicked a foul ball we all encouraged him with cheers of "good practice run!" The competition at Kickball was much more serious about winning. As we stood around the field pregame one of my teammates assessed the surrounding teams thusly: "They seem good. They have like wrist guards and shit." Our opening night opponents were not software developers. In addition to their literal bullying (see paragraph 1) they did everything short of organizing an elaborate all dude naked spankfest while simultaneously chugging Keystones to prove that the organization that brought them together was fraternal in origin. They challenged us to a post game round of flip cup. They affectionately and without irony called each other bro. They beat us 14-6.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Covert Ops

I’m now going to reveal a secret about myself that I may regret exposing. When I need something from someone whom I do not know, especially if getting this something may require a lie, and double especially if this someone is a dude I do two things.

  1. I make a self effacing comment usually about how stupid I am.
  2. I speak with a slight southern accent

Neither of these acts is particularly conscious but I suspect that deep down in my manipulative little heart some part of me thinks (rightly) that the most unscary person least likely to pull one over on anyone is a nice young southern girl.

Today in route back to the east coast I had to return a rental car that my cousin Adam had picked up but could not return – a car which I had no claim to but had driven 200 miles ACROSS STATE LINES anyway which likely violates 75 or so laws. Seriously, I am such a bad ass. When I got to the car rental return parking lot at the Reno airport, stopping briefly in the middle of the damn road to twice reread a sign claiming I should drive on the left side of the street and shake my head in confusion, I hopped out and smiled sweetly at the aged Asian gentleman manning the return station. And then I launching into my schpeel. “You confused me there with driving on the left side of the road! My little head nearly exploded!” “Oh no!” he laughed (already caught in my trap). He checked the car (yes I put $50 of gas in the damn thing, and yes I am super fucking glad to live in NY and have next to no knowledge about just how expensive gasoline is.) and as he printed out my receipt glanced down and said, “Hey, this isn’t you…” (apparently he isn’t open to the kind of progressive naming that results in a girl named Adam). “Oh no, That’s my huuuuuuusband, he checked with the company and they said it’d be just fine if I returned the car,” I drawled. “Of course it is! You have a great trip honey!”

CIA ain't got nothing on me y'all.