Sunday, March 22, 2015

Testing the Quality of a Daughter's Boyfriend via Fried Chicken

I've told this story a few times over the years and I have no idea how I ever learned it.  No one else seems to know the story.

So the boyfriend of a daughter is finally being brought over to meet the parents.  The parents, especially the father, are (over) protective of their daughter.

They prepare fried chicken for dinner (technically it could be any type of chicken, but some reason the story is fried chicken) and the father asks the boyfriend, "What piece would you like?  Breast?"

Of course, the question is sexually suggestive, trying to see what the boy is thinking of at that moment in time. 

If the boyfriend says yes, he fails.  He's clearly thinking dirty thoughts.

If the boyfriend says leg or thigh, it's a fail, but not a complete and utter fail.

If the boyfriend says drumstick, it's sort of a neutral answer (since he didn't say leg instead).

If the boyfriend is smart, he answers wing.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Interviewing 1-on-1 or in Pairs

When I was interviewing for a new job sometime ago, a big style difference I noticed was that some companies interview candidates in pairs while others interview 1-on-1.  Over my lifetime, I think about 1/3rd of companies interview in pairs (or more) while others do 1-on-1 interviews.  As I was thinking about it, I think the pair interviewing is much better.  Here are some of the reasons.

Have More People Meet the Candidate

Its at the interest of both the company and the candidate to meet more people.  If the candidate only interviews with 3-4 people, it may be hard for the interviewee to get a gauge on the company and culture.  If you double that to 6-8 people, they can get a better feeling.  For the company, it may be best to do this to get more opinions on the candidate.  Even if they aren't people the candidate will be working with, it's still good to get more opinions from people around the company.

For example, I know of a group that regularly sends their admin/secretary to interview candidates too.  On atleast one occasion a candidate treated the admin/secretary with disrespect and blew off her questions.  I know of a similar situation when a young engineer was treated disrespectfully when interviewing an older engineer.  These probably weren't candidates you wanted to hire, so having an non-traditional team member interview the candidate ended up being a great idea.

Develop A Consistent Interview Style

There are many different styles in interviewing.  Some like to ask one big design question, while some like to ask tons of tiny quick questions.  Some like to jump in all the time in the discussion, while some like to just let the candidate do most of the talking.  Some like to be more aggressive while interviewing (a griller), while some are more passive (let the questions come).

None of the above is "bad" or "good", it's just different styles.  However, I think most would agree it's not "good" if all the interviewers are that divergent in style.  At the minimum, a candidate might wonder, "What exactly is the culture/style of this place?"  By pairing up the interviewers with other group members, a more consistent style can be developed over time.  This is somewhat related to ...

Help Train Younger Interviewers

Following the above, it's also a good way to train younger team members on good interview techniques or style.

Develop A Consistent Interview Judgement

I once interviewed at a company that did 1-on-1 interviews and one person who interviewed me started <b>that week</b>.  Now, I'm sure the interviewer was a good engineer and a good person.  However, he had certainly not developed a rapport with the manager and team members yet.  How much will you really value this person's opinion after the interview?  If they say, "The candidate is awful!" or "The candidate is awesome!", how much will you believe them?  It might be wise to pair up the interviewer with someone who has been with the company longer.

Give Consistent Information

As a follow up to the above, sometimes an interviewer doesn't know how to answer your questions about a certain topic.  Especially when they are really really new.  In a younger/startup kind of company, perhaps some of this is cannot be avoided.  However, for a larger/more established firm, the company perhaps does not want this to occur.  Interviewing in pairs can avoid some of this.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Mark Whiten's Epic Day

I came upon this video on YouTube at random.  It was a grand day for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1993.

I remember the day pretty well, as I was still living in St. Louis at the time.  Whiten went 4-5 with 4 home runs and 12 RBIs.  The Cardinals won the game 15-2.

At the time of this game, there were a lot of hopes that the Cardinals had absolutely stolen Mark Whiten from the Cleveland Indians and he was going to become a power hitting centerpiece for the Cardinals in the future.  He finished the year with 25 home runs and 99 RBIs, both career highs from his previous of 9 and 43.

Alas, that didn't quite become true, as Whiten hit only 14 home runs the next year (albeit it was the strike shortened 1994 season) and was traded to the Red Sox a year later.  He hit only 60 more home runs in this career after 1993.

It got me thinking.  Is Mark Whiten the most unexpected person in major league history to hit 4 home runs in a game?  He hit only 105 home runs in his career, hitting over 20 home runs in a year only twice, topping out at 25 in 1993.  He never made an All Star team and never showed up on an MVP ballot.

In the modern era, the following players have hit four home runs in a game.

Lou Gehrig, Chuck Klein, Pat Seerey, Gil Hodges, Joe Adcock, Rocky Colavito, Willie Mays, Mike Schmidt, Bob Horner, Mark Whiten, Mike Cameron, Shawn Green, Carlos Delgado, Josh Hamilton

Lou Gehrig, Chuck Klein, Willie Mays, and Mike Schmidt are Hall of Famers and great power hitters from their time.  So lets concentrate on the rest.

Pat Seerey

Seerey never made an All Star team and hit a total of 86 home runs in his career.  He topped 20 home runs only once, topping at 26 home runs in 1946.  Looks like we have a challenger to Whiten.

Gil Hodges

A star player during his era, Hodges hit 370 home runs, made 8 All Star teams, and topped 30 home runs 6 times, 40 home runs 2 times.

Joe Adcock

Adcock was a 1 time All Star who hit 336 career home runs.  He topped 30 home runs only twice, hitting a max of 38 in 1956.

Rocky Colavito

Known more for the well known curse, Colavito hit 374 career home runs and was a six time All Star.  He topped 30 home runs 7 times and 40 home runs 3 times.

Bob Horner

Horner was a one time All Star who hit 218 career home runs, topping 30 home runs three times and 20 home runs seven times.  His retired somewhat early at the age of 30, so his home run total should really be higher.

Mike Cameron

Cameron is an interesting entry on this list, as he was more known as a defensive player.  However, he did make one All Star team and hit 278 career home runs.  He topped 30 home runs only once but hit more than 20 home runs 8 times.

Shawn Green

A two time All Star, Shawn Green hit 328 career home runs, topping 30 home runs four times and 40 home runs three times.

Carlos Delgado

Delgado is a border line Hall of Fame candidate who hit 473 home runs in his career, hitting over 30 home runs 11 times.  He made two All Star teams.

Josh Hamilton

The only active player on this list, he currently has 192 career home runs.  He has topped 30 home runs three times and 40 home runs once.  At the time of this writing he's a five time All Star and 1 time MVP.

Well, it really comes down to Pat Seerey and Mark Whiten.

Pat Seerey probably takes the crown of most unexpected individual to hit 4 home runs in a game.  While Whiten was able to hold down a nice 10 year career in the majors with over 3500 plate appearances, Seerey wasn't quite able to muster that.  He was in the majors for only 7 years and barely topped 2000 plate appearances.  He had a very meager 4.3 career WAR.

Update 6/20/17:

Lets add Scooter Gennett to the list as well after hitting 4 home runs on June 6th this year.  He's still young and has a career ahead of him, so it's hard to grade him at the moment.  But he's definitely in the running with Mark Whiten and Pat Seerey for the most unexpected individual to hit 4 home runs.  Before 2017 he had 35 career home runs scattered over 4 years, maxing out with 14 in 2016.  He had a career .420 slugging percentage before this year as well and never hit double digits in home runs even in the minors.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Dinner @ The Progress in San Francisco, CA

The Progress is a relatively new restaurant from the people from the famed State Bird Provisions.  State Bird Provisions is often cited as the most difficult restaurant to get into in the San Francisco Bay Area.  Unlike restaurants like French Laundry, the price does not make it prohibitively scary to much of the public.  Lines begin forming around 90 minutes before they open and reservations are nearly impossible to get.  In fact, the restaurant even got written up in several tech websites about how Silicon Valley engineers were writing bots to fight for reservations there online.

Anyways, given how impossible it is to goto State Bird Provisions, I thought checking out The Progress was about as good as I could do.  From what I've been told, the food is very similar there and the lines are presently non-existent.

So The Progress is a little interesting, as it's a price fixe menu and everything is shared family style.  The more people in your party, presumably the larger the portions.  So take into account that all servings below are made for two people.  I would assume with larger parties everything would simply be larger.  The time we visited, there were 6 courses for $65 a person.  You can pay more for more courses, but the 6 courses were more than enough to feel stuffed by the end.

1) amuse bouche/appetizer plate.

This wasn't on the menu so I don't remember everything on this plate.  From the left going clockwise, turnips w/ some green sauce, house made cheese, broccoli with some pickled stuff, chips with a pate, beef jerky with peanuts, croquette with some sauce, and pomelo with something on it.  My favorite was the house cheese, followed by the beef jerkey, and the croquette.  Overall, all the little snacks were tasty.

Because things are served family style, the "courses" don't really come out one at a time.  They brought the six dishes out in two "waves".  There were 3 plates brought out and then the other three plates.  So when I say the "first course", it's somewhat random how things came out.

2) raw Japanese snapper with turnips and cream fraiche - with squid ink chips

This first course was probably the best of the night.  It's hard to see in the picture, but basically beneath the mound of turnips was the fish and a sauce.  Just delicious.

3) shaved cauliflower-herbs and pig fries (pork belly and ears) - with chili dressing

We selected this dish almost solely based on curiosity of what "pig fries" were.  It was basically deep friend pork belly and pig ears.  It was maybe my second favorite of the night and my date's top of the night.  The chili dressing with this was great.

4) polpette of rabbit & pork with blood orange & castelvetranos - with potatoes underneath

I didn't know what polpettes were, but they are effectively meatballs.  This dish was fine, but I wasn't particularly a fan of it.  It was both our least favorite of the night.

5) aromatic spiced squab with salted chili paste - with lettuce wrap

When this dish came out, I couldn't help but notice it was cooked a little rare.  I worried if it was going to be like the duck we had a Cotogna that was a tad chewy.  It was not.  It was tender and delicious.

We humorously tried to eat the meat off the leg and wing that was also served, however that proved fruitless as it was mostly skin and without much meat.  So don't bother if you get this.

6) grilled Five Dot Ranch beef with mustard-miso oyster sauce

A solid dish.  The beef was tender and the sauce was tasty.

7) lamb merguez with yellow eye beans, octopus & crispy squid

I didn't know what merguez was but it's basically sausage.  I was a little disappointed by this, as I felt putting something into sausage form takes away from the actual ingredient.  The rest of the dish was great though.  My second least favorite of the night.

At this point in the night my date and I were stuffed.  I think my date and I regretted selecting 4 dishes from the "heavy" section of the price fixe and only 2 dishes from the "light" section.  The last four meat dishes were quite heavy.  If we had to do it again, I think we would have picked one more from the "light" section and maybe selected a dessert instead of another heavy meat dish.  In addition, by selecting a dessert it would have made the meal a little longer and we probably wouldn't have been quite as stuffed by the end.  I'll take this as a lesson learned if I ever end up visiting Gary Danko, La Folie, or Terra or other similar price fixe menus.  Loading up on the heavier dishes, no matter how delicious it looks, is a bad idea.

Overall, a good set of dishes with (from what I've been told) the essence of State Bird Provisions.  If you're too lazy to wait in line like me, check this out of an easier alternative.