Wednesday, May 28, 2008


This letter below was posted in my company's snack room yesterday. You can click on it to see the letter at a larger size.

This letter is awesome, it may be one of the greatest letters ever written. It gives answers any possible question and concern the customer may have. It gives a solution and explains how other possible solutions have not worked. It fits in the price of my cashews in the context of the global economy. It asks profound questions like if India's growing middle class is raising the price of my cashews does a rising tide really lift all boats? and why are Kars Cashews so expensive?

Thank you Matthew Wagner, I really do feel valued.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

My Jeopardy! Audition

As most of you probably know I auditioned for Jeopardy! on Monday. I had a blast and I think I did really well.

On the train to the audition I noticed the subway car I was in had the same number as my ATM code. I took that as a good omen.

The auditions were at three P.M. in the basement of a hotel in midtown Manhattan. We had to fill out an application form and pick up an answer sheet for our written test. I think there were about 19 people, some from as far away as Pennsylvania and Connecticut. It was a very quiet bunch. Just before three the Contestant Co-ordinators came out and started firing us up and took Polaroids of all of us. They did a great job of entertaining us, keeping us excited and teaching us the rules of Jeopardy!. They had been doing contestant auditions all weekend and I have no idea how they kept up their enthusiasm and seeming spontaneity. I could never do that job.

Once we were seated in the conference room we got an introduction to the process including a videotaped welcome from Alex Trebek and a discussion of the rules from the Clue Crew, they gave a way a couple of mugs and then we all had to tell Meg, who I guess you could call the MC, where we were from. She forgot me and one of the other co-ordinators pointed that out and she sat down on the back of my chair put her arm around my shoulder and said, "Can you ever forgive me?". She was freakishly outgoing and did an amazing job. After this part we took the test, which is confidential, but I think I did well on it. I kept track of how many I didn't know I knew and there were only about 15 of the 50 and I think I successfully guessed a good chunk of those.

After that there was a long period while Meg told Jeopardy stories and told us about the buzzer. I think they were grading our tests or going over our applications during this. The next part was playing the game with actual buzzers. They didn't keep score and just wanted to see how we were playing the game. Meg kept telling us to smile, talk loudly, keep the game moving and answer in the form of a question. To my shock I was the first person called. Let me tell you those questions are a lot harder when you're standing up in front of a crowd. But the hardest part was the buzzer. I'd read the buzzer was the key to Jeopardy! and they weren't kidding. I knew the answer to the first few questions but couldn't get in on time even though I was waiting for the signal light like they told me too. I figured out I needed to buzz in during the split-second after the question was over but before the light came on. After that I got a few questions. Then we put our buzzers down. I thought this would be a short question and answer like on the show but it was a full five minutes of questions! That was a lot more terrifying than the quiz. I think I did well, I was very enthusiastic, spoke up and had answers ready for the questions. I got good laughs for my jokes about all the junk mail I make and how women are "not at their best" during labor. The Co-ordinators kept smiling and nodding and encouraging my answers and making me feel at ease. Oddly, the woman next to me was a big INXS band and saw them opening for Adam Ant in 1983. I burst out, "I saw that tour, too!"

What surprised me was how many people wouldn't do what the Co-ordinators asked like pick a category right after they had answered a question or didn't have answers prepared in the interview for the questions they asked everybody like "What do you do for fun?" or "What are you going to do with the money if you win?" even when they were in one of the later groups.

So, I had a great time and I have my fingers crossed I'll make the show. If you have any questions I can answer them in the comments.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Everything I Consume: Seize The Daylight

If you are looking for an irony-free and exhaustive look at the history of Daylight Saving Time, look no further! This was an enjoyable and trivia-filled read, perfect as I get into Jeopardy! audition mode. I think it could have used a little more sense of humor about the subject because some of the inventions, organizations and laws mentioned sound like they come out of a science-fiction or Thomas Pynchon novel: time balls, railroad time, the General Time Convention of 1883, The "Day of Two Noons", the International Meridian Conference, the National Daylight Association of Cincinnati, the More-Daylight Club, Double British Summer Time, the Uniform Time Act and the Uniform Time Act (Two Time Zone Amendment) and on and on.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

An Annoyance

Anyone who knows me (and why are you reading this if you don't?) knows I hate extremely unlikely examples used to discount an argument. I believe I've found a good example from David Prerau's Seize The Daylight. Below is an argument against the adoption of Daylight Saving Time by Britain during World War I.

Lord Balfour of Burleigh proclaimed the Daylight Saving Bill the most absurd measure ever presented to the House of Lords [Editor's Note: That's saying something!]. He highlighted some of it's unique disadvantages. For example, he asked their lordships to consider the night in October when the clock was to be set back an hour…"Supposing some unfortunate lady was confined with twins, and one child was born ten minutes before one o'clock, if the clock was put back the registration of the time of the birth of the two children would be reversed." The elder child would be properly registered as being born at 12:50, but the younger child, born ten minutes later, would be registered as being born at 12:00. Lord Balfour argued, "Such an alteration might conceivably affect the property and titles of the house."…

This could happen. You just need a woman pregnant with twins giving birth on the one day of the year this might happen, at a tiny window of time on that day in Britain and the children are noble. Easy peasy.

On the plus side this will open up a world of ideas for minute mysteries, brain teasers, Harry Stephen Keeler novels and the Golden Age of British Mystery.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Everything I Consume: The White Lioness

I used to belong to a writer's group where everyone loved Henning Mankell. I like the guy but I always have the same reaction to his books. I start them and I'm totally hooked and make a mental note to ask for his next book on, then I start to lose interest, then I want it to end soon and then I enjoy the ending and think it was a decent read. About a year later I pick up another one. That was the reaction I had to this book. It's a little different from the earlier books in the series (I recommend Dogs of Riga if you've never read Mankell) in that it switches between various characters and is more of a thriller than a mystery after the opening murder is explained.

The detective, Kurt Wallander is unusual for a few reasons. He is a detective in the small Swedish city of Ystad. Unlike a lot of modern writers who saddle their detectives with all manner of tragedy and handicaps Kurt is merely divorced, drinks a little too much, weighs a little too much and has a difficult but not impossible relationship with his father and daughter. It's not ideal but I think we can relate.

Wallander also seems to take longer to solve his cases than any other detective I've ever read. His cases take weeks if not months to resolve themselves. This book is about two months in book time from start to finish but I know some of his earlier cases took even longer. I find that endearing for some reason.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Everything I Consume: The Golden Compass

I will admit that I was pretty tired when I saw this movie and dozed off a couple of times but I liked it. It's a great story (I loved the book) but I think the filmakers tried to put too much of the book into the movie and everything seems rushed and a little forced. It probably would have benefitted from being about twenty to thirty minutes longer which is something I never say. I'm sure they'll be a director's cut on DVD sometime soon and I can test out my theory.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Happy Mother's Day, Mom*

There's a company bigwig from Boston office who they stick in an office across from my cube for whenever he's in New York. For the last ten minutes he's been on the phone arguing with his mother because he can't be with her on Mother's Day. He kind of has a point since he saw her the last two weekends and has his own kids (Really, I can hear everything). But they're going back and forth and it's getting kind of heated. She seems very insistent that it's a special day and he needs to be there.

Several years ago when I was taking the bus to Washington to see my future The Wife I really wanted to see her on Mother's Day weekend. So I called my Mom and explained the situation and we had Mother's Day a week early in an empty restaurant. It was was lot of fun and she told me she had a great time. I think she got a kick out of doing Mother's Day early.

Sometimes she gives me a hard time but Mom, you're all right.

*I know the odds are microscopic that my mother will actually read this but I'll tell her, I promise.

Friday, May 9, 2008


We set the record this morning by seeing 17 snails! What a day, eagle eyes from the whole Sonnenschein family (except Owen, the slacker).

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

What's New In Old-Time Radio

I was a bit down last month thinking Humphrey/Camardella Productions and their podcasts of old-time radio had disappeared (thanks for nothing Google) but it looks like they merely re-organized. Instead of one podcast with everything under the sun they've split everything into multiple thematic podcasts. Right now, I'm subscribing to The Jack Benny Show Podcast, Old Time Radio Comedy (which has the superior 40s and 50s Jack Benny Shows instead of the 1930s shows currently on The Jack Benny Show Podcast), Old Time Radio Mystery, X Minus One Podcast and my favorite, I Was a Communist for the FBI. They're all great and if you type Humphrey/Camardella into iTunes you'll find lots of great old broadcasts, all free thanks to our ambiguous copyright laws. If those aren't enough I also like Case Closed and The Old-Time Dragnet Podcast.