Wheelmobile in New England

So, on Saturday, Jessi and I went to the Solomon Pond Mall to go to the Wheelmobile Wheel of Fortune tryouts. Basically, they would pick random people from the audience to introduce themselves and play a mini-game on stage, and they would eventually invite people that they liked to the actual auditions in Boston a couple months.

The web site for the event said that there was no reason to show up hours in advance. As far as I can tell, this was a complete lie. The picture in the paper doesn’t begin to do the line justice. The games were scheduled to occur at 1:00, 2:30, and 4:00. We arrived in the parking lot at 12:15, and finally found a place to park and got inside at about 12:30. The line at that point went through the twisty back-and-forth area they had set up, and then stretched entirely down one side of the mall, and about a quarter of the way back by the time we got in line. That was the line for the 2:30 event. I think that the line quickly kept on forming all the way back to the other end of the mall, and I have no idea where they put people after that.

About 2:00, some people in Wheel of Fortune T-shirts came by the line, and had puzzles on paper for people to solve for T-shirts. I solved the first one (Star and Role, “TOM CRUISE IN RAINMAN”), which I have no idea how I solved, as I’ve never seen Rainman and wouldn’t know Tom Cruise if he came up and introduced himself. But I won a TV 38 t-shirt, which was nice, although 38 has one of the most boring logos of a TV station imaginable.

The actual hour “show”, was interesting to watch. Despite the host making it clear that the most important thing they’re looking for is enthusiasm and people that would be interesting to watch on TV, some people clearly could not manage to show much excitement, while others were much more interesting. Neither Jessi nor I got called up on stage, but that shouldn’t be surprising as there must have been a thousand people in the room, so the odds were very much against us.

All in all, I’m glad I went, but I don’t think I’d go again. As they say on their website, there are over a million people who request to be on the show each year, and 600 contestant slots. The odds are so overwhelmingly against you, that it’s almost not worth trying.

There is, however, a minuscule chance that they’ll randomly pick one of our names to go to the Boston audition anyway, despite not getting picked to come on stage. We won’t be holding our breath, though.

Random Life Update

  • To adopt Raymond Chen’s terminology, this entry is some macro-tweeting.
  • Jessi and I are heading to the Wheelmobile event in Marlborough tomorrow to have some Wheel of Fortune fun and maybe even have an outside chance of getting invited to a real audition for a taping in Boston.
  • There are 50 judges (including me) scheduled to work at GP Boston.
  • Hannah has improved in her walking skills immensely over the past couple weeks. We now enjoy playing Roll The Ball, which typically turns into Degenerate Catch.
  • I now have peter.cooper@townofcharlton.net set up for official Town-related emails.
  • While I’m not a big fan of “reality” shows, I personally know one of the contestants on the current season of I Survived a Japanese Game Show.
  • We’re planning a trip out to see Jessi’s extended family in upstate New York in July.

Random Life Update

  • Jessi got Lyme Disease from a tick bite, although we found it very early and the antibiotics should remove it and there shouldn’t be any problems for Jessi or for Baby.
  • Last Saturday, Hannah took her first steps without holding on to anything. She’s been slowly walking more and more.
  • This coming Saturday, a bunch of guys from church will be coming over and we’re going to play paintball in our woods. I haven’t played before, and am looking forward to giving it a try. We’ll see how I feel afterward. :)
  • My PDA (a Palm Tungsten E2) has been on the fritz lately, sometimes not coming on, sometimes only coming on when I hit the reset button, and once it went into “flashlight mode” where the screen was all white, the power and reset buttons didn’t do anything, and I just needed to wait for the battery to run out. So, I’ve been looking at PDAs and PDA-like devices that call themselves phones, and mulling over the possibilities.
  • Magic recently announced a bunch of rules changes that go into effect when the next set comes out, and some of the changes are pretty substantial. I understand what they’re trying to do, but it seems like they could have done a better job at making the game more attractive to new players without alienating their existing player base as much. But, Magic is a game all about changes. I’ll be judging the Magic 2010 Prerelease (with the debut of the new rules) at TJ Collectibles on July 11, as well as Grand Prix Boston on August 1–2.

Yes, your “retirement” fund will be all removed by fees

As I’ve mentioned before, instead of the Social Security tax that private-sector workers pay, government workers (at least those working for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and its subdivisions) have an alternative 7.5% mandatory contribution to the “SMART Plan”. This is an actual account, kind of like a 401(k), where one actually has an account balance that slowly grows and one gets at retirement. (Those working full-time for the state have a more complex system, but I’m describing how it works for part-time workers, where it’s just a straight deduction and there are no choices on how it’s invested.)

Jessi was involved in this plan when she was substitute teaching, although we eventually managed to get the money out of it when she stopped working. (Which is a plus of this system over Social Security.)

For being Town Moderator of Charlton, I get a $150 stipend per year for my services. This is treated as me basically being a part-time employee of Charlton, and so my stipend is subject to this 7.5% mandatory contribution to the “retirement” plan.

This 7.5% of $150 works out to $11.25 per year. The administrator of the SMART Plan, Great-West Retirement Services, charges $18.48 per year to administrate the plan. Basically, each contribution will be eaten away by fees that go to Great West, and the balance of the “retirement” fund will always be zero at the end of the year.

My mom, who is on the Planning Board in town and has a slightly larger stipend, says that her balance ends up being about a dollar or two each year.

You’ve just got to love a government mandate that requires a portion of elected officials’ stipends go to administrative fees and that provides no actual useful value whatsoever.

Our previous three Speakers of the Massachusetts House of Representatives

  • Charles Flaherty: Resigned in 1996 after pleading guilty in federal court to tax evasion and admitted to the State Ethics Commission that he received free vacation lodging from lobbyists and business interests.
  • Thomas Finneran: Resigned in 2004 and three years later pled guilty to criminal obstruction of justice charges.
  • Salvatore DiMasi: Resigned in January 2009 due to allegations, and was just indicted on fraud and corruption charges.

Somehow, my level of confidence in our state government is not increasing.