March 30, 2010

No-fooling: A new blog-tagging meme

On April Fool’s Day, it is traditional to spread false stories that you hope will sound true. Last year, however, I decided to do the opposite – I posted some true stories that, at least for a moment, sounded implausible or false. This year I’m going to try to turn the idea into a kind of blog-tagging meme.*

*A blog-tagging meme is, in essence, an internet chain letter without the noxious elements.

Without further ado, the Rules of the No-Fooling Meme are:

Rule 1: Post on your blog 1 or more surprisingly true things about you,* plus their explanations. I’m starting off with 10, but it’s OK to be a lot less wordy than I’m being. ;) I suggest the following format:

*If you want to relax the “about you” part, that’s fine too.

Rule 2: Link back to this post. That explains what you’re doing. :)

Rule 3: Drop a link to your post into the comment thread. That will let people who check here know that you’ve contributed too.

Rule 4: Ping 1 or more other people encouraging them to join in the meme with posts of their own.

Hopefully, the end result of all this will be that we all know each other just a little bit better! And hopefully we’ll preserve some cool stories as well.

To kick it off, here are my entries. (Please pardon any implied boastfulness; a certain combustibility aside, I’ve lived a pretty fortunate life.)

I was physically evicted by hotel security from a DBMS vendor’s product announcement venue. It was the Plaza Hotel in NYC, at Cullinet’s IDMS/R announcement. Phil Cooper, then Cullinet’s marketing VP, blocked my entrance to the ballroom for the main event, and then called hotel security to have me removed from the premises.

A few years later, the same Phil Cooper stood me up for a breakfast meeting in his own house in Wellesley. When one’s around Phil Cooper, weird things just naturally happen.

I got James Marsters (“Spike” on Buffy the Vampire Slayer) to autograph a shirtless picture of himself. Linda was a very serious Buffy fan, and I was no slouch in that regard myself. So we flew out to Santa Barbara to join some acquaintances from a Buffy-centric mailing list. Except first, we went – along with the hostess for the gathering – to see James perform with his rock band Ghost of the Robot in Santa Monica. She had downloaded a photo she wanted to pass out to the other (mostly female) attendees. But neither she nor Linda wanted to actually ask him to autograph it – too fangirlish or something. So I stepped up and made the request in their place. (Technically, asking James to sign anything other than a Ghost of the Robot CD was against the rules – but he was more than gracious when I said that if he signed for me it would be a great help to my relationship. ;) )

I had (inter)national reputations in four different fields before my 24th birthday – two academic, two non-academic. I got my PhD in game theory, independently proving a theorem that was simultaneously (and a few months earlier) proved by Mertens and Neyman. Naturally, the game theory community was quite aware of my work. Then I did a post-doc in public policy for a couple of years. Some of my work – sort of a public-sector version of real options analysis, although unfortunately I wasn’t familiar with that concept – was widely circulated among the US utility regulation community. Then, at age 21, I went to Wall Street, as a stock analyst covering the software industry for a major firm (PaineWebber). That pretty much assured me of being known in both the investment and software businesses, especially as I soon got pretty high in the third-party stock analyst rankings.

Graduating college at age 16 cost me my NCAA eligibility – and I wound up regretting that aspect. On the whole, I’m hardly an athlete. But I did take a few fencing classes, and enjoyed them. So when my grad school offered an intermediate intramural fencing class, I was psyched. But when I went the first day, they explained that they didn’t have the resources to offer the class. Instead, anybody who wanted to could join and hence work out with the Harvard fencing team, whether or not they were good enough to compete. Only they couldn’t do that for me – because my NCAA eligibility had been shot when I graduated from Ohio State.

I double-dated with Larry Ellison, twice. Part of the explanation is that when I lived in Manhattan, I had almost no friends there, but quite a few in the SF Bay area. (Seriously, which kind of work acquaintances would you expect me to have more in common with – tech entrepreneurs or Wall Street professionals?) So if I wanted to introduce a new girlfriend to my friends, we’d fly out west. And if there’s one company at which I had a lot of friends, it was Oracle, which I’d first visited in 1983, when it was still located at 3000 Sand Hill Road and had fewer than 50 employees. I was very engaged with Oracle professionally through most of the 1990s – but we also got together just for fun.

I was the top-rated chess player my age in the United States. This is when I was 13 years old, in 1973. But I wasn’t nearly as good as that factoid suggests. 1973 may have been the weakest year for 13-year-old US chess players in modern times; I made #1 with only a 1650 rating. (To put that number in context, it indicates that this 2300+ rated 13-year-old could have routinely obliterated players who could, in turn, have routinely obliterated me.) More on the story may be found at this link.

I told people at a conference “I just spent the afternoon with Bill Gates’ girlfriend — and boy is my butt sore!” This was in 1985 or so. I was a stock analyst living in NYC. The annual American Electronics Association investment conference in Monterey was a must-attend event. Flight connections, however, were imperfect. So Ann Winblad had the idea that, during my several-hour layover, she’d pick me up at SFO, and we’d go drive around the mini race track that’s still there off of 101. I got pretty sore bouncing around in the little plastic cars, perhaps because I wasn’t a very experienced driver. Indeed …

… I didn’t own (or lease) a car until I was 36 years old. (To readers from California, this one may sound the oddest of all. :) ) I left home at age 16 to go to school in Cambridge, MA, where one doesn’t typically have a car. I left there at age 21 to move to Manhattan. Finally, when I was 36, I left Manhattan for Lexington, MA, at which point I of course got wheels. That Toyota served me well for about a decade, but eventually …

… my first car forced a DBMS vendor to evacuate its whole office building. My Toyota Camry had an engine fire in Intersystems’ building on Memorial Drive, and the building has indoor parking. The story is here. Actually, many other companies had to evacuate the same building.

My kitchen caught on fire, just as I was Twittering with LeVar Burton of Star Trek:TNG and Roots fame. That juxtaposition was a total coincidence. LeVar had just tweeted me his vehement agreement to something I said, when Linda appeared at my office door, having noticed the sound of what turned out to be a fire on the stove. This story has been the subject of several other blog posts

By the way, what I’d said was, after LeVar tweeted his pleasure at for once actually acting again (on stage, no less), that we choose our original professions for a reason – taking them up again, even for a little while, is like going home again. Even today, I rarely feel more right than when I’m doing mathematics.

Comments

8 Responses to “No-fooling: A new blog-tagging meme”

  1. No-fooling: A new blog-tagging meme – by Curt Monash « Peter Thomas – Award-winning Business Intelligence and Cultural Transformation Expert on March 30th, 2010 6:22 pm

    [...] of Curt Monash (@CurtMonash), doyen of software industry analysts. You can read the full article here. This is intended as a April Fools [...]

  2. Peter Thomas on March 30th, 2010 6:23 pm
  3. Ramon Chen on March 30th, 2010 10:57 pm

    Thanks Curt for kicking this off:
    I have posted mine here http://www.ramonchen.com/?p=2829

    -Ramon

  4. Chris Bird on March 31st, 2010 8:48 am

    Rather than posting a blog link, I figured that my experiences could perhaps be condensed here.

    First the “Jail in Saudi” experience. It was 1980. “Death of a Princess” had been shown in England and Saudi Arabia was miffed. My passport was in the Saudi Embassy in London during this. I was awaiting a visa to teach a PL/I programming class there.

    Eventually the visa was issued and I hied me off to Saudi – the 5th. or 6th. visit I had made. This one was different..

    Classes went well, and I had my usual good time. I always like to get into the other cultures, and so while I stayed in Western Hotels, worked in a westernized atmosphere, I spent as much time as I could out and about.

    Time to leave – and I go through emigration, only to be told that, “My papers are not in order”. That’s a bad sign. So off to the clink :-(. It was off course the beginning of a 3 day weekend. I phoned the host company and explained. No, nothing could be done until after the long weekend. So settled down to 3 days of reading.

    Eventually I was released and had to reclaim my luggage. No problem – Swiss Air had unloaded it when I was denied boarding and had thoughtfully placed it in the customs shed. No problem I thought – just go tot the shed and pick it up. It was slightly more involved than that, but not much.

    I managed to get on to the BA flight out – to Vienna.

    Just to compound the event, as we were climbing out and settling in for the trip, the pilot announced, “Those on the right side of the aircraft may notice a fireworks display. Those are not fireworks, Iran and Iraq have just declared war.

    Oh, and the reason I was detained? Simple, my exit visa expired one year earlier (in the Arabic version), but was for the correct date in the English version.

    Oh well.

    And the second one – and one that I am less proud of.

    As a young adult, I was very into sailing. So much so that I would take a trip every weekend. Walk to the train station (3 miles). Catch a train. Change trains, catch another train, catch a bus. All for a journey of about 25 miles. Of course come Sunday evenings I was exhausted and the 3 mile walk home with wet sailing gear was too much. So one night, I called the emergency services number and reported a “suspicious stranger”. Continued walking. Sure enough a police cruiser came by. Looking for suspicious strangers. I fit the bill. Ride home soon forthcoming.

    This was at least 40 years ago – times were different then. Definitely don’t recommend attempting to use the emergency services as a private taxi company. But as a callow youth….

  5. April Fool’s Day highlights | Text Technologies on April 1st, 2010 6:48 am

    [...] alternative to pranks: April No-Fooling Day Categories: Google, Social software and online media  Subscribe to our complete [...]

  6. Netezza nails April Fool’s Day | DBMS2 -- DataBase Management System Services on April 1st, 2010 7:42 am

    [...] April No-Fooling Day [...]

  7. Google funniest joke of the year (that I’ve noticed so far) | Text Technologies on April 1st, 2010 10:57 am

    [...] My alternative to pranks: April No-Fooling Day [...]

  8. The client that was confused about security | DBMS 2 : DataBase Management System Services on April 1st, 2011 3:43 am

    [...] with two lists of excellent pranks. So I went against the grain that year, offering a collection of strange-but-true stories — such as how I came to have heartthrob James Marsters autograph a shirtless picture of [...]

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