Five things you didn't know about me

I tend to keep things down to business on my blog, but after having been tagged three times I decided go with this "Five Things" meme. I'd been planning to write a Hello World thing for my 500th post anyhow. Here goes:

I won the Showcase on The Price Is Right

ABrandNewCarSome friends had extra tickets and invited my brother and me to see The Price Is Right back in 1992. I was one of the last people in line to make it in, and was sitting on a folding chair in the back row (reading a book, truth be told) when they called my name. I didn't know how the show worked at all - I started to run up on stage.

The first step is the Contestant's Row, where you have to be the closest bidder without going over the actual price. I goofed up on the first item by bidding one dollar under the highest bid. Not smart at all. I bid one dollar more than the highest bid on the second item, an armoire (which is sitting in our bedroom right now).

I then had another game where I had to pick a price between two items - an oven and a sofa. The game as called Magic Number, and idea is that the contestant moves a lever up and down on this machine to set the price. I had no clue, but the people we'd come with had said to listen to the audience if we weren't sure. I just moved the lever up and down until people were clapping a lot ($1050), and won the oven and sofa.

Next up was the Showcase Showdown, in which you spin a big wheel and try to get closest to $1.00 without going over. I tied another contestant at $0.65 and had to choose between spinning again or having a "spin-off" in which we both got to spin once. I went with the odds and won the spin-off.

I passed on the first Showcase, which included an expensive designer ball gown and some muscle car. I was glad I did - the next showcase had a Saturn SL2. Saturn was one of the first carmakers to go with fixed prices, and I'd just been looking at Saturns a few months earlier so I knew the price. I still had to guess on the other items (a bar set and a jukebox), but it was a lot easier. I annoyed Bob and the audience by adding all the prices up (out loud, a little too slow for TV, and - most funny - my addition was a little off). But I won The Showcase.

The video of the show is up on YouTube:

I was a submarine officer

JonJeffersonCityI (and my four brothers) went to the Naval Academy in Annapolis. I graduated in 1992 and spend the next 5 years in the submarine service. All officers on an attack submarine (with the exception of the supply officer) are nuclear power trained, so before reporting to the submarine I spent six months at Nuclear Power School in Orlando and another six months qualifying as an Engineering Officer of the Watch on the A1W prototype in Idaho Falls. During this time I learned that there's a huge difference between nuclear science and nuclear engineering. I'm really good at figuring out how things work, but I'm slow (compared to most of the engineers I worked with) at applying them. I was in the top 10% of my class at Annapolis with a B.S. in Physics, but I barely passed Nuclear Power School and Prototype.

Then I spent the next 4 years on the USS Jefferson City, a Los Angeles (688i) class submarine. Junior officers on a submarine rotate through a lot of jobs, so during that time I was in charge of (in turn) the following divisions: Fire Control, Torpedo, Machinery, Reactor Controls, and Communications.

Submarine officers also stand watch, which is in addition to their management duties as a division officer. I stood the following watches:

  • Junior Officer of the Deck - This watch doesn't require qualifications, so it's what you do when you first report to the ship. The main thing I remember about it was spending hours looking out the periscope. It sounds neat, and it is... for the first 5 minutes. After that, it's just murder on your eyes (imagine looking through a microscope for hours).
  • Engineering Officer Of The Watch - In my early twenties, I was supervising seven enlisted nuclear plant operators for six hour shifts. Unlike most nuclear power plants, submarine power plants are constantly changing power and running drills, so it was a very busy job. I can still remember the dread while waiting for the drills to start as an EOOW for the nuclear safety exams the ship had to pass once a year.
  • Officer of the Deck - Driving the boat. While OOD's work for the Captain and follow charts prepared by the Navigator, the OOD is commanding the ship. I was giving orders to (and responsible for) 140 people and a billion dollars worth of machinery (a nuclear reactor, missiles, torpedos, high voltage electronics, high pressure hydraulics, etc.) several hundred feet underwater. Sheesh.

The majority of the time my schedule was 6 hours on, 12 hours off. That 12 hours off wasn't really off, it was often filled up by division officer duties, training, drills, junior officer collateral duties, and occasionally some sleep. There were stretches where I was 6 on 6 off, and for a while I was 12 on 6 off. Sleep is a overrated.

We did two West Pac deployments while I was on board. It was a nice time to be in the Navy, since the cold war was basically over and the US wasn't yet involved in Iraq. We made our own excitement, though:

  • We scraped bottom once, going fast and deep. A few feet deeper (literally) and we could have been in real trouble. The captain lost his job over that one.
  • While anchored off Thailand, we got wrapped up in another US ship's anchor and had to be cut loose by divers
  • Flooding in the fan room!
  • Probably loads of other stuff I've forgotten...
  • (none of the above was my fault. honest!)

I met my wife when our bands toured the U.S together

JonSoulJunkI played in my brother's band, Soul-Junk, from 1994 to 2001. We toured the country a few times, did a European tour, and played at a bunch of festivals (North By Northwest, South By Southwest, CMJ in New York City, etc.). We played at The Knitting Factory in NYC one time. My brother Glen is an incredible musician. He's since started a company that does music for TV commercials; they've done some Superbowl ads.

I first learned HTML to run our band's website.

I met my wife, Rachel, on our first U.S. tour right after I got out of the Navy in 1997. That tour almost killed me. We bought a used RV that appeared to be in much better shape than it actually was. The brakes went out (overheated, it turns out) while we were driving down a steep road, the whole drive shaft dropped out after I'd driven all night from Rochester to Rhode Island, we had tires blow out, etc.

I hardly noticed, though. I was in love with the pretty girl in the band we were touring with. Rachel sang (and still often sings) with The Danielson Famile. We were engaged four months later. Time flies, we're now expecting our third daughter.

Rachel and I are competent musicians, but we were both pretty much along for the ride. I got to meet a lot of bands backstage, like Low, Sonic Youth, and Blonde Redhead. My wife sewed a jacket for the son of one of the guys in The Flaming Lips.

I used to hang out a little with Sufjan Stevens before he blew up into a teen idol. He's a good friend of Rachel's family. He played drums on one of our EP's, and we spent a little while talking about recording digital audio while on a short tour together. He had me remix one of his songs as a pre-release extra for his last album, Illinois.

There's a full length movie out now about The Danielson Famile. It includes some interesting background about the close relationship between The Danielson Famile and Sufjan Stevens.

I played bass and a lot of electronics - keys, effects, drum machines, etc. I got into computer music production and engineered a bunch of our songs on a 166MHz machine with 48MB of RAM; it crashed constantly. I wrote a live drum machine program in VB6 and got to perform with it a few times (including shows at the Knitting Factory NYC and at a museum in Paris). I've kept up with digital audio technology since then, and have been amazed at the progress. I used to have to use a calculator to figure out things like note lengths and delay settings; now tools like Acid and dbGlitch can instantly do things that took me hours of painstaking (but enjoyable) work.

I'm a coffee geek

CIMG0617I've got a ridiculous number of coffee preparation methods at my disposal for a non-barista. Here are the methods I've used in the past few months:

  • Capresso Super-automatic Espresso Machine
  • Starbucks Vacuum Pot
  • Stovetop Moka Pot
  • Coffee Press
  • Aeropress
  • Turkish Ibik

This past year I've gotten into roasting my own coffee beans ghetto style, in an electric popcorn popper. I've been wanting to write a post about coffee but haven't made the time for it.I don't really drink a lot of coffee - maybe a few cups a day. I just want them to be really good cups!

I'm writing a book

I'm writing a book for SitePoint with Phil Haack and Jeff Atwood. It's a cookbook style ASP.NET book for their popular Anthology series, which works well a group of first time book authors with a background in writing for weblogs. I'm really enjoying it and hope to do a lot more writing in the years to come.

Okay, who to tag...

How about Roiy Zysman, Eric Willis, Ben GriswoldKeith Rull, and Scott Galloway.


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