Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Will work for food... (Wait, don't I already do that:?)

First of all, I had a very ironic loss lately. Well about a year ago, I lost my grandfather to cancer. After he passed and my lizard Lohan died, I decided I wanted a hamster. I went to the pet shop with Jessica and picked out a teddy bear hamster and I named him Alan after my grandpa. About two weeks ago, I changed Alan's bedding and gave fresh food and water and nothing seemed to be wrong with him. About a week later I picked him up out of the aquarium that I kept him in and petted him and noticed something weird. A gigantic growth had appeared on the side of his head. It was about the size of a silver dollar but much thicker. Almost the size of it's own head. I felt really horrible because little Alan looked like a mutant. I took him to the vet that night that was in the neighborhood and he said it was either an infection or abscess or it could be cancer. The only way they would know for sure was to do a test. The test cost $200. If it was cancer, the operation for such a thing would be another $400. This was something I could not afford. There was no guarantee that it wouldn't come back even if we went though all that. So I got the anti-botics and tried them because if it was only an infection then the anti-biotics would work. They gave me a needlel-ess syringe and I had to give it to him twice a day. The doctor gave him a shot and I left the office. I gave him the meds the next day and you could tell he hated it. I shot the syringe in his mouth and put him down and he was twitching like when you have an awful taste in your mouth and can't get it out and your head twitches. The vet said if it was going to work, it would be within a couple of days. That was Monday. By Friday I didn't see any change. It looked worse and the poor thing was so uncomfortable he was biting at it and pushing it which was stretching his eye socket because it was partially attached to his eye. I wasn't going to let him stay like that and I couldn't afford the treatment, so we had to put him down (a term I hate, but the alternatives seem wrong too). So the hamster I named after my grandfather who died of cancer now had to be put down because of cancer. :( Jessica went with me to the vet and I handed him off to the girl that works there. Apparently I'm pretty good with accepting death. It made me cry and I was sad but Jessica seemed to take it harder than me because she felt bad for him.

Things have been shitty all around though. Me and Jessica have been arguing a lot over stupid shit, mostly because of the stress that we hate our employment situations at the moment. As most of you know, I had a really great interview with a company called Madison Performance Group. The people that interviewed me, which would have been my supervisors, were really nice and personable. The job itself didn't seem very difficult. The environment was very casual and the pay range and benefits were good for me. Everything went perfect. And then the assessment test happened. They use an online assessment to gain an insight into prospective employees. Which is fine, but it's flawed because you can't change anything once you've made an answer. I didn't realize this at one point. There was an audio portion which you had to listen to the audio, take notes and answer the question. The screen had a part that flashed "please answer the question after you hear the audio" and there was a next button. I guess I didn't pay attention and clicked next. Well the audio was supposed to play on that page and then you were supposed to hit next. I did that twice. There was also a multi-tasking portion in which you were supposed to answer fake emails on one side and trivia style questions on the other. The system said "you probably won't finish all the questions. With about half the time left, the emails stopped coming and I finished all the questions. I figured, well damn, I was so fast that I must have aced it. But then I got an pop-up that stated that I need to be answering both sides. I'm like, "wtf?". So I just finished up the questions and emailed the guy that was supposed to review and told him about my mistake and the possible glitch I encountered and was told "don't worry, we got everything fine, we'll be in touch in a few days". After not hearing anything for a week I emailed again and was told "You're the lead candidate for the position but we've got to interview some people and we'll be in touch in a few days". Three weeks later, nothing, so I've chalked it up to a fail. The shitty part it was the only position I applied to or interviewed for that I was excited about. The job listings since then have also be crappy and I have less than a month to find a new one. And if that doesn't happen, depression city. I'll have to wait til January before I have to make a decision of accepting a job I really don't want and go back to school.

In the competitive eating world, I took a trip to Michigan to enter a hot dog eating contest. The prize was a value of $1000 package of 4 Detroit Pistons tickets with parking and dinner. Joel felt confident that he could sell the package for a decent price so we made this our second trip. Getting there was cool. It seemed to go easier than the NC trip. Less stressful, more efficient, even though it took the same amount of travel time. We went to the contest at Hillers, who were doing their first event, and then checked into our hotel which was within walking distance. To supplement the prize, they also were donating $1000 to a charity of your choice. Second and third were just donations to the charity of your choice in the Michigan area. Joel chose MS of Michigan because of his girlfriend and I chose Covenant House of Michigan which is a homeless teen/runaway organization. When we got there, there only seemed to be one threat, this stocky bald dude with peppers tattooed on his arm. In the end we were right, but I was sort of defeated by the intangibles. First of all there was no loud speaker (I'll get to this in a second). Second of all, the countdown was flawed. For non-CE people, the countdown process is USUALLY a loud countdown to start and end. There wasn't a dedicated MC who was there to pump up the crowd. Thirdly, my headphones worked against me for the first time. Basically what happened was that instead of a countdown, the guy kinda just went "go" out of nowhere. Everyone seemed confused, so I awkwardly hit play on my headphones and went to work. I had a decent pace and saw that the pepper tattoo guy was separating, so I couldn't get a good count on how much he was eating, but I seemed to be ahead by a few HDB's. Then, I was trying to time things out based on song length on my headphones but I had to guess because I couldn't look at the ticker on the MP3 player. Suddenly, the crowd of supporters was cheering loud and people stopped eating and I had to ask someone "was that the end". My pattern is that I go fast, struggle toward the middle and then try to get down as much as possible in the last minute. Between the lack of a loud notice of the time that was left and my headphones being on, I missed the "one minute left" announcement. At the end , I lost by half a hot dog. That one minute notice, as well as no 3,2,1 countdown at the end is what worked against me because I would have had either that last half a piece or even an extra dog for the win.

There's a few contests coming up soon that I can try and make a few bucks and victories.
For now, I wait for a new job and hope things work out...

Monday, September 7, 2009

Speed Demon

Along the way of this Competitive Eating journey I've been on, I've made a friend in Joel "The Canon" Podelsky. Since the last year that I've become more involved in CE, Joel and myself have gotten closer as buddies and often hang at contests since we're in the same area. The same could be said for Paul "Porkslap" Arcaria, however his schedule is not as flexible as ours and so we don't see him as often. Unfortunately, Jill has been MIA due to the whole Jo Rose fiasco.
At any rate, Joel and I decided that we would expand our horizons and go to some of the bigger contests that were outside of our local area. We'd take a road trip, stay the night and do some challenges along the way. We decided that a little contest in North Carolina would be worth our while. It was a Hot Dog contest and the prize was $1000. We found a nice room in at the Charlotte Omni, which would be about half an hour from the contest location for Troutman, NC and we figured out the expenses, that either the winner would cover (assuming it would be one of us) or, in the case of a loss, we would split. Everything seemed to run smoothly.
And then Dale Boone called... Dale Boone has a reputation in competitive eating. It's not one that you'd want to have. I had never met the man until May at the Rocco's Pizza Eating Contest so I had always given him the benefit of the doubt. I know, first hand, that sometimes people are misunderstood. He didn't really do anything at the Rocco's contest to warrant the reputation but I also knew we weren't going to be good buddies or anything. He placed 3rd at Rocco's with 17 slices, knocking me down to 4th by 1 slice. While he's known for his negative personal reputation, he's done pretty well in contests and is not to be underestimated. I was glad that I hung within just a slice if a 3rd place finish even though I was in the middle of a bad CE streak.
Well, Dale called as a little intimidation tactic and it worked. He told Joel that this was a WLOCE contest (his "organization") and that we were going into his "territory". Kinda funny mentioning territories seeing as how the contest I mentioned that I met him at was in New York. At any rate, we decided to pull out of the contest and cancelled the hotel room because, if it was indeed a WLOCE contest, it would be a conflict of interest with All Pro Eating (Joel's organization) and would end up with him getting kicked out of the org. or some other type of retribution.
I emailed the sponsor since I had been in contact with him and tried to get a refund on our entry fee. Turns out that this was not a sanctioned contest and the sponsor was pissed. Chris Gibson, who owns the Ole World Market apologized profusely and told us that if we were still interested he would like us to come down. He said that Dale would still be in the contest because his entry fee was already accepted, but was excited that someone from as far away as New York was interested in being in the contest. So me and Joel talked it over and decided that the best revenge would just be to win. We found a cheaper hotel that was closer to the event and booked it for two nights so that I could attempt a challenge for $500 the next day.
On the way over, we were tempted into trying a challenge at the Clinton Station Diner. The challenges are hamburgers of varying size with a different prize associated with each one. We had been mulling over doing a 12 pound burger for the $500 prize with Paul as our partner, so our temptation got the best of us. If we could do a 5 pound burger, it would be free. The first problem is, the Clinton Station Diner is notorious for not accurately weighing the burgers correctly and we did not bring a scale with us. The other problem us that they were out of the bun for the 5 pound burger. We asked to speak to the manager and was able to negotiate to do two of the 3 pound burgers which, in theory, would add up to 6 pounds. I was pretty confident we could knock it out in the 30 minute time period. I was wrong, but just barely. The first problem was defiantly the case. These were not 3 pound burgers, they had to be at least 5 pounds a piece. We trudged on anyway. These things were huge. The buns, are like 2 loaves of bread. This was the toughest part for me. Not only were they hard to eat, but they packed on the slices of cheese, and it was terrible cheese. I got down to half of the bottom of the bun and had to tap out. I wasn't too full to finish, it was just that the taste of the cheese was so hard to take that another bite would have made me hurl. Joel got to the bottom bun too, but couldn't finish because the allergies hit him pretty hard. Otherwise he would have cleaned up for both of us because he wasn't full either. We will be back to conquer the larger burger with Paul, but with a scale next time.
We continued our trip to NC and got to the contest the next day. Seeing as how Boone attempted to sabotage us, I wanted nothing to do with him and did everything I could to hold back and keep my mouth shut. I wasn't going to cause a scene and be unprofessional. It seemed to me like he was intent on doing that. The contest was split into two rounds and he was in the first heat and won, as was expected, with 2 minutes and 36 seconds. Once I saw that time, I knew it was a wrap. At the pigs in a blanket contest, where we were given 4 hot dogs, I killed them in under a minute. So I expected to do about a minute and a half to two minutes and only hoped Dale wouldn't come close to that and he hadn't. I did 2 minutes and 10 seconds and won the contest.
There were some shenanigans and smack talk after the contest, which I won't even get into because of how ridiculous it all was. The important part was that I won the contest as planned. I celebrated later that night with a few beers and the UFC pay per view at a local bar and chatted it up with a few locals.
The next day I attempted the 32 inch pizza challenge at Paventi's Pizza. I tried to figure out what the best topping would be in advance and thought about how much the topping would weigh and taste. I thought that Olives would be the best way to go because I enjoy them and it seemed like it would be the lightest ingredient. Again, this was a challenge fail. The pizza itself was great but after tasting the same thing repetitively for a half an hour, I started feeling sick. Again, I wasn't really full, but my body just wanted to reject anymore of the taste that was just not stopping. After getting half way through, I again tapped out of a challenge. If it was a partner challenge like Clinton, me and Joel would have killed it in record time. I would definitely like to try both again in the future.
Since the first road trip was a success, we are planning our next one. More on that when it happens.