Thursday, October 30, 2008

That time I won Lance Armstrong's Ride for the Roses

Several years ago, Lance Armstrong and his buddies would have a friendly bike race in the Austin area with the winner being awarded a dozen roses. They called it the Ride for the Roses. Later, it became a charity race to support those fighting cancer, and since then it has been expanded into the LIVESTRONG Challenge. Back in the late 90's when it was still the Ride for the Roses charity race, I was actually the first to cross the finish line.

One Saturday, my friend Henry and I went on a short 100 mile bike ride. In fact, it was so short it was closer to 30 miles. On one part of the ride, the right lane of the road had been blocked off with pylons and motorcycle cops were spaced along the route. At a stoplight we asked one of the cops why the lane was blocked off. He said that it was part of the route for the Ride for the Roses, and that the cyclists should be riding through soon. We thanked him and continued on our ride.

We came over a hill and saw that the banner for the finish line was a few hundred yards away with a small crowd awaiting the riders. We decided to race to the line and took off. As we got closer, the crowd noticed us and started cheering because they believed we were actual participants in the race.

As I crossed the finish line first, the crowd roared, flashbulbs popped, and I raised my arm triumphantly!

And we just kept on riding.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

I guess you could say we idiot proofed them

I don't drink, not because I think it's evil, but more because I'm pretty sure I wouldn't handle it well. Since I don't, I can't blame anything on alcohol. The stupid things I say and do can mostly be blamed on ... well, stupidity.

Several years ago, I was a software developer at IBM. My department worked on the floor control software for the RS/6000 manufacturing line. One portion of the line was called the pickpack area. In this section the operators would put the loose materials into the box: the mouse, documentation, support disks, etc. However, we got frequent complaints from customers because necessary items had been left out of the box.

So, my department implemented a very nice scanning system in that area. The scanners had small LCD screens on them. The operators would scan in the serial number of machine, and a list of pickpack items that needed to be placed in the box would be displayed. When they scanned in an item before placing it in the box, it would be removed from the list. After it was implemented, the plant manager made an appearance on the floor and even scanned in a few items.

At the end of the year, my department was making a presentation to the plant manager. My part was to present the department's significant accomplishments that year. And one of those was the scanners in the pickpack area.

When I mentioned that accomplishment, the plant manager commented that he was impressed with how well the scanners worked because even he was able to work them.

And without thinking (obviously), I replied, "Oh, I guess you could say we idiot proofed them."

A collective hush fell over the group and a few gasps were heard. I immediately continued with my presentation thinking, "Well, maybe he didn't hear me."

After the department presentation was done, the plant manager thanked us and talked about all he learned from it. He concluded his list with, "And I learned that Mr. Young is obviously independently wealthy or else he wouldn't risk his job like that."

So I guess he did hear me.

But at least he knew who I was. :)