Thursday, May 24, 2007

Contents Under Pressure

I have a high-stress project at work this week. I wanted to quantify just how stressful it was, so I brought my blood pressure meter into the office. (Yes, I have one.) As it turns out, today wasn't as bad as the last 2 days. I took my reading late in the afternoon.

120 over 78. That's pretty darn good.

I had to talk to somebody about another long-term project I'm working on. He knows that this project drives me insane, so I thought it would be funny to go into his office wearing the blood pressure monitor. After about 2 minutes of chatting, I took my reading again.

142 over 103?!! I am convinced that he is intentionally using this project as a way to kill me.


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Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Race LA

This weekend I did "Race LA", a race around Los Angeles based on the show "The Amazing Race". I'm going to be deliberately vague about where we went in case some of you decide to try it some day.

In the race, we had 19 teams of 2. We were all given a clue consisting of a photograph and maybe a general area; for example, a clue might say "drive to this fountain in Pasadena." Then you would get your next clue. The clues were not major landmarks by any means; you had to rely on asking people on the street and a whole lot of luck to make it to each location. At some of the stops, you had to perform a specific task or solve a puzzle before you could move on.

The mechanics of the game intentionally keep the teams close together. At some of the stops, if you were one of the last 2 teams to arrive you would get a "Fast Lane" card which would allow you to skip a clue and go on to the next location. It may not sound fair, but part of the fun of the game is seeing all the other teams running around a park searching for clues so it's important to keep everybody reasonably close. There was one MAJOR problem with this however; we happened to get one of the Fast Lane cards and we skipped a task where teams had to go kayaking. KAYAKING! How fun would THAT have been?! None of the other tasks were even remotely similar; it was, by far, the signature event of the day. It's what teams were talking about during lunch, it's what teams were still talking about at the end of the race. And we didn't get to do it. There were a half-dozen other tasks which teams cold have skipped to keep everybody in a tight group. There's no reason why we shouldn't have been able to share in the fun. Boo.

I made one MAJOR mistake: We were at point "A" and had to drive to point "B".

I was the navigator, and found both locations in my Thomas Guide. (Thomas Guide is a map book. Each page shows a very small, detailed section of the city so you have to flip across many pages to get to your destination.) During the entire drive, I always knew exactly where we were on the map. Unfortunately, because point B happened to be right at the corner of one of the pages, I thought it connected to other maps east-to-west. I didn't realize it was a north-south connection. We drove within less than 2 miles of where we needed to be, and I took us 10 miles away before realizing my mistake. That's 20 miles round trip, in traffic, in the middle of the race. I love maps; I have map OCD. There is absolutely no excuse for me making a mistake like that. I was kicking myself about it all day after that, and still am.

I think my partner Annie and I made a good team. When I was stressed, she was the calm one. When she was stressed, I (hopefully) was calm. If I learned one thing from these reality shows it's that when both teammates have breakdowns at the same time, that's when everything crumbles.

We were the 9th team to cross the finish line, but many teams (including ours) had time penalties so I'm still not sure what our final placing was. I know we didn't win, that's about it. I also learned that maybe I wouldn't be as good on the real Amazing Race as I once thought. It was stressful enough driving around my home city hoping to win some gift certificates; I can't imagine being in Bangladesh going for a million bucks.


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