Monday, April 30, 2012

Winners!

I made two promises related to the Cajun Code Fest that I don't think I'll be able to keep. You might remember me saying that if Betty and I won that I would promptly forget that we know any of you. And if you're one of my Facebook friends, you probably saw me say that I'd go streaking if we won.

Well friends, we won! And I've decided that I can't forget any of you. I mean, if you're still reading this after I posted about Manly Satsuma Trees or family portraits made from Play-Doh, then you must either really love me, or you just don't know how to stop receiving the emails that I conned you into signing up for.

I might still go streaking, though. It would be good exercise.

So in case you don't know what Cajun Code Fest is, it was a code-a-thon held in Lafayette with the purpose of coming up with a technical solution to help combat Childhood Obesity. We were provided with data sets that we could choose to use, but weren't told what to do. Our job was to figure out what to do. And wow, we have some incredibly creative people in Louisiana (and around the country) because we saw some truly amazing ideas. We even had a guy attend from Germany and a woman attend from Canada. That's pretty awesome!

To give you a sense of what the Cajun Code Fest was about, I strongly encourage you to read Sean Nolan's blog about it. Sean is the head of the HealthVault team at Microsoft. It was extremely awesome that he showed up, but even cooler to see that he wrote about my team's product. Rock on!

My team made a system to create and manage pick-up games. We decided to focus on the exercise component of being healthy instead of eating right, because we figured that there's already calorie info for every restaurant available out on the web somewhere. We also knew, courtesy of a team member, that 9 out of 10 obese children have two obese parents and 8 out of 10 obese kids have at least 1 obese parent. We figured that the kids weren't the ones buying the food, so why focus on that component?

I'd say more about it, but we're going to be presenting our application in Washington, DC, on June 5th and 6th, so I don't want to give away any more details lest one of our competitors tries to steal our idea.

Betty and I worked with some super-talented people. We were introduced by Ramesh Kolluru, the man (the myth! the legend!) who orchestrated the entire Cajun Code Fest. Ramesh saw that we didn't have a team, so he thought that a handful of software developers, some educators and physicians would make a nice team. He was right!

We kind of just punted when asked for a team name. Nobody offered any ideas, until someone decided on "BE CAMP VB" - which was the letter of all of our first names put into some kind of order. Except that the "E" was really for one of our team members named Jackie. Nobody knew her name because her email address started with "evaluations." It's probably better that way, because then our name would have been "BJ CAMP VB." It just doesn't have the same ring to it. Although it sounds like a fun camp!

The members of my team were as follows, in order of their appearance in our team name, "BE CAMP VB":

B: Betty Tanory. Betty's my wife (which you knew). She's very sweet and nice, until you tick her off. Read about how she single-handedly conquered Wells Fargo's PMI division here. I still get goose bumps thinking about it! She told me that she "was going to be the first B in our team name," and who was I to argue?

E: Jackie Rowe. Jackie works at Southwest Louisiana AHEC in Lafayette. Her email address starts with "Evaluations" and we didn't have her name on the email threads getting our team together, so she became the "E."

C: Chris Burriss, a project manager for InfiniEDGE Software in Prairieville. InfiniEDGE does some cool stuff - because they obviously have talented people! Chris kept us all in line and on target.

A: Adebanjo (Banjo) Oriade, an Assistant Professor of Physics at Bethany College in Kansas. Banjo is quite possibly the coolest Physics Professor you will ever meet!

M: Meredith Warner, from Womans' Surgical Specialty Group in Baton Rouge. Meredith is pretty awesome. She's a surgeon who knew the ins-and-outs of Childhood Obesity from work. She also presented our application to the judges. She made us justify all of our ideas and decisions, which helped form our product. She knocked it out of the park in every aspect of the competition! I wouldn't have wanted to compete against her.

P: Peter Molnar, an Associate Professor of Computer Science at Clark Atlanta University in Atlanta. I never saw Peter without a smile on his face. He was really a pleasure to work with.

V: Vamsee Alla, a physician who works for the Dept. of Veterans Affairs. Vamsee lives in Connecticut and came down for the event. So I now have a connection to send me some good maple syrup every fall. Bonus!

B: Bobby Tanory. I have purple and gold pants that I wear to LSU functions. Fear me!

In the 36 hours of the competition, I think my entire team combined for about 10 hours of sleep. I got 4 hours of sleep after leaving the facility at 3 am, but realized the next day that I was one of the lucky ones: some of my friends / coworkers / arch-enemies (for the duration of the competition) didn't sleep at all.

There were three groups of 6 or 7 teams at the event, and the top 2 teams moved on to the finals. Our team was the top team out of our group. When the winning team was announced, we knew we'd won because the announcer had to pause to consider the winning team's name. "BE CAMP VB" doesn't just roll off the tongue, you know!

Our group will be meeting again in Washington, DC, for the Health Data Initiative Forum III (aka, the Health Datapalooza) in early June. Wish us luck! And once again, if you know anyone else competing the Healthapalooza, please sabotage their computers for me!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Cajun Code Fest

Betty and I are competing in the Cajun Code Fest in Lafayette this weekend. The winner gets $25K, so if we win, we will promptly forget that we know any of you.

Cajun Code Fest is a code-a-thon, which means we have roughly 2 days to come up with a cool technical solution to a given problem. This code-a-thon is attempting to tackle the issue of Childhood Obesity. We've been given access to a large number of data sets that the government has been accruing over the last several years, and now we get to try to come up with some innovative way of showing or using that data. We have info on the price of food, calorie info, locations of fast food restaurants, insurance information, toxicoligy maps... you name it, we've got it. Our main issue is that we have so much data that we don't know where to begin!

Cajun Code Fest's major sponsor is Microsoft, which has an electronic medical record application called HealthVault, which conveniently has several APIs that we can use. And at the event we'll get to hear from Joey Durel (Lafayette City Parish President, and more importantly, previous owner of Durel's Pet Shop in the Acadiana Mall) and Todd Park (US Chief Technology Officer). That's pretty cool.

Oh yeah, and they're having free crawfish. It's the little things in life that make me happy, people.

This event coincides with Festival International, which is a 5 day festival with great food and music in downtown Lafayette. People from all over the world will be in Lafayette this weekend.

Betty and I aren't in this alone. We've teamed up with 6 other people that we've never met before. On board we have an Assistant Professor of Physics whose domain of expertise is nano-magnets, micro-magnets and Computer modeling/simulations; as well as an Associate professor of Computer and Information Science with a PhD in theoretical/computational physics. I know, you're already thinking that we've won, I had the same thought. One of our members is an entrepreneur in the IT field. We've got a physician on board who can tell us what all of this data means, as well as an IT project manager who can keep us all in line and on task. But most importantly, we've got a guy with a cool German accent.

I've been cramming this past week on programming languages and methodologies that I've always wanted to learn but never really had a reason to use before now. I've realized again why I love programming so much - it's very satisfying to make something from scratch. And there's so much to learn! So even if we don't win this event, I still feel like I've already gained a lot out of just competing in it.

If you have any ideas on an application that you'd like to see made to help combat Childhood Obesity, please leave a comment. We've brainstormed a few ideas but don't have anything set yet. But most importantly, if you know of anyone else competing in the Cajun Code Fest, please, please, please... sabotage their computer for me. Just joking! Maybe.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Goal!

Our first weekend of soccer was a great success! The kids were amazing!

Who knew that all you had to do to get kids to crush the other team was to tell them that the other kids were going to steal all their toys unless we beat them 10-0?

In all honesty, I had no idea how the kids would do. We've been practicing lots of fun games that are designed to get the kids as many touches on the ball as possible, but I wasn't sure how they would translate to the real game.

The one drill that we do at practice that seemed to really hit home was when we gave each kid the chance to take the ball down the field and score. During the game, whenever we'd kick the ball off, I'd get down to the kids' level, point at one of them and say, "I want YOU to take the ball all the way down the field and score." Occasionally a player would complain that the other team "wasn't sharing" the ball with them, and I'd say, "That's because the other team is made up of a bunch of egotistical a-holes. NOW GO KILL THEM!" Well, maybe something closer to, "They're not on your team - they're not going to share with you! NOW RIP THEIR HEADS OFF!"

We had two games on Saturday, and I think we won the first game. To be honest, I'm not really sure. Our team scored on a combination of plays whose legality is questionable. In one instance, one of my players dribbled the ball all the way down the field, weaving in and out of traffic like Diego Maradona, only to stop a foot from the goal, bend down and pick the ball up with his hands, then place it gently in front of the goal before kicking it in. In another instance, a player threw the ball into himself and then immediately scored. In yet another goal, the ball actually went behind the goal and then was kicked in from the far side, like a hockey highlight. Those plays were incredible but highly illegal, yet if the ref doesn't blow the whistle then who's to say that they are really fouls?

From where I was standing, Ref, they looked good to me!

The best part of the day was when one of my players, who has been extremely shy at practice, got on the field for a brief moment. He's barely kicked a ball at practice, but in the game he took the ball all the way down the field and down to the goal! He missed the actual shot, but it didn't matter. I was so proud of him!

Annie didn't play the entire first game. She got on the field right before the second half only to burst out into tears before kickoff. She did play in the second game for a little bit and was brilliant, until she decided to make snow angels in the clovers. But in her defense, they were incredible snow / clover angels.

As for me, I'm too old for this. I was so worn out by the end of the first game that I could barely walk. I barely made it through the second game, and I only made it because I got to rest in between games. I was so excited with my team's play that I was running up and down the field, shouting, and I don't think I've run that much in about 20 years. I went home after the second game and slept for three hours!

So I'll say that we're 1-1 even though I'm not sure if we won the first game. Next stop: The U4 Championship!

Friday, April 13, 2012

First Soccer Games

My daughter has her first soccer game on Saturday. Technically, it's her first two games because we have a double-header Saturday. It's also my first games as head coach.

I'm excited! We have a great team! And, I don't mean to brag, but my daughter has the killer instinct. Here's her at soccer practice, massacring flowers.

Picture: Flower Girl

There is one main issue that the kids on our team need to get past if we're going to have any kind of success at all. And by "success" I mean "have all kids on the field actively engaged in the game at the same time, nobody using their hands, and nobody crying, for at least ten seconds." This is a tall order. That one thing is as follows:

Quit being so nice!

Here's the problem, people: we've all taught our kids to be loving little munchkins. We've taught them to not take other people's toys. We've taught them to share. We've taught them to not hit other people.

And now I'm asking them to throw all of that out of the window.

At practice all the kids have a ball. And I don't mean "have a ball" as in "have a party." No, they all have their own soccer ball. It's so that each kid can get as many touches on the ball during practice as possible. Kids my daughter's age don't really understand the concept of passing. They're not going to blast a shot from 20 yards out. They're not going to cross, head the ball or do give-and-go's. They just need to learn how to dribble and defend.

And that works great when everyone has one ball. But take anyone's ball away and then it's utter chaos. If there's only one ball on the field, nobody knows what to do. More importantly, nobody wants to take the ball from the other person, and nobody likes to have the ball taken away from them.

And, believe me, it doesn't matter how many times you yell, "Rip his head off!" at the top of your voice, or practice slide tackling techniques on one of the opposing team's parents. The kids are just too friendly at this age.

There's a great chance that we're going to be obliterated in both games on Saturday. There's also a great chance that none of the kids on my team will know what to do. As head coach, I take full responsibility for that.

I just hope they have fun. And, at the end of the day, if they have fun and are still loving, kind, sharing little munchkins, then maybe that's not so bad after all.

Wish us luck!

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Happy Birthday, Annie!

It seems like just the other day that my daughter Annie was born.

I remember going to work a couple of days after she was born. My mom was at the house, and Betty's mom was there, too, so I knew that both Betty and Annie were in good hands. And let's face it, with so many great people around, what was I to do? I figured I would take off a few weeks after. But leaving that first day to go back to work, I remember standing over Annie sleeping in her crib and just wondering, "What am I doing leaving her? How can I possibly go?!" It was heartbreaking to have to leave her!

She used to have to be rocked to sleep every night, and it was a multi-hours long process some nights. But I loved it! It was the only time I really got to spend with her during the week. I loved cuddling with her in my chair. She used to fit right across my belly!

Some nights I would fall asleep with her in my arms. I have to say... I really loved it!

I never imagined how much fun I would have playing dress-up with her. Even seeing her in her "duck towel" was just the cutest thing ever!

Before Annie was born, I was deathly afraid of holding a baby. I was always afraid of dropping it or hurting it. But after Annie was born, I was a natural! It was so easy! And there was never any danger of dropping her - I would never let anything bad happen to her.

I also quickly became an expert at changing diapers. You had to be quick, or at a minimum be out of the line of fire! Diaper duty became a regular blog topic.

I soon found that I not only had a daughter... but I also had a partner in crime! I learned that babies can't dress themselves so they're at your mercy. Moo-ha-ha!

After a while she developed her own personality. Thankfully she's a lot like her Mommy! She might look like me (and occasionally act like me when she throws a tantrum) but she's smart and usually pretty calm, just like Mommy. Let's hope she also have Mommy's sense of direction.

She even helped me place in a costume contest at work. I dressed up as Austin Powers and Annie was Mini-Me. (Betty was Felicity Shagwell, of course!) Oh, fine, nobody was voting for me... everyone was voting for Annie! Who can blame them?

She is my Princess Baby...

She's my little munchkin...

And just like that, she's all of a sudden FOUR!

Where has all the time gone?!?

Happy 4th birthday to my beautiful baby girl! You will always be my sweet little munchkin!

If you want to see more pictures of Annie, please check out her very own website, Anne of the Day. Her brother Peter has his own site, too, but we'll let today's day be Annie's!

Sunday, April 01, 2012

The Last Tantrum

It's crazy to think it's been this long, but I've been writing the blog for SIX years! Not all of my posts have been worthy of being republished in the New York Times, but I've really enjoyed writing them. It's been great to hone my creative process, and even better to have friends and family to share my thoughts with.

But I'm older now, and I have different interests than I did six years ago. Back when I started this blog I didn't have kids; now I have two. I wasn't taking piano. I basically wasn't doing a lot of the stuff that I'm doing now which requires my attention. There's only so much of me to go around, and so I'm deciding to spend less and less time on the blog, as you've probably noticed.

Everything must come to an end, and so it is with this blog. I have enjoyed every minute writing it, and I hope you've enjoyed reading it. Thank you so much for all of the encouragement and support these last few years. I will keep the blog site up so my old writing can find new readers, but there won't be anything new.

It's a bittersweet day for me. I'm really proud of my writing, and the blog has filled me with a lot of joy. It's helped me to share my life, my thoughts and my family with the world. I will definitely miss it. But it's time to move on.

Thanks again for reading!