It started out as most good practical jokes do, with something that caught my eye, then became annoying, and then became a photo-op. In this case the person in the midst of it all was Anand Lal Shimpi of Anandtech, and the annoyance in question was a cup of tea.
The date was June 25, 2013 in Cambridge, England, specifically one of the buildings in the ARM headquarters complex. It was the first annual ARM Tech Day and I was sitting at a round table with Anand across from me. He was drinking tea and had gone through several cups over the course of the day. He was also dunking some kind of biscuit in said cup of tea fairly habitually.
Please note that there was nothing wrong with drinking tea, dunking biscuits, or anything else Anand was doing. We were in England and you would stand out more if you were not drinking tea of some kind, the clod that I am was doing just that with Diet Coke, sans biscuits or dunking anything at all. Once I noticed Anand dunking, I then couldn’t un-notice it which is why it became annoying.
After noticing it for the first day of the Tech Day, yes I get the irony of a two-day Tech Day, I spent most of the second thinking that I really should get this on film. As time passed it went from an idea to an imperative, one that I knew I only had one shot at. Once Anand saw the camera pointed at him, no more dunking. I got the camera out, focused it, and waited.
Once he looked away mid-dunk, out came the camera, quick focus, then wait. He turned, noticed a camera pointed at his face, and started to get a look of panic on his face. I say started because the one shot I got happened before the full look of panic set in, pity that.
I got the picture and for some reason that made the annoyance go away, and not just because Anand seemed to get twitchy whenever he contemplated dunking a biscuit from then on. Ironically I didn’t actually look at it for more than a day, but when I did It was clear that I had a winner.
Anand, a cup of tea, a half-dunked biscuit, and a Peter Greenhalgh
So picture in hand, now what? I specifically didn’t show it to Anand because it had too much potential, but I was mostly at a loss from there so I sat on it. As time passed I knew that the right thing to do was to put it on a t-shirt, nothing else seemed appropriate. Since Anand had never seen the picture, the first time he saw the picture really needed to be on a shirt, preferably one I was wearing. There was only one place to do it at as well, the second annual ARM Tech Day, or at least one of the three days that it ran for. More irony there, I did catch it as well.
Just to be nice, I asked Anand if he was OK with the idea without actually telling him what was happening, showing him the picture, or being very coherent. My exact wording in an email was, “Mind a little self-deprecating humor a bit at your expense among the crowd? If so, what’s your shirt size? M or L?” I guess that made him a tad nervous because it led to this Twitter exchange.
Unfortunately things didn’t go exactly to plan, Anand didn’t first see the picture on a t-shirt. All was not lost though as he first saw the picture at breakfast on the first day of the Tech Day this year, April 29, 2014, as planned. Once again I was sitting almost across a round table from the boy wonder and poured myself a Diet Coke from one of the mugs you see below.
The mugs of doom
You could see the recognition dawning across Anand’s face as he first noticed an odd mug, then a picture on it, then the fact that it was his face in the picture, and then, well, the horror hit. Yes it was recursive, Anand’s mug with a mug on a mug, or something like that. Although the audio on the video of the event it really bad, you can hear him giggle and see him covering his mouth as he laughs. To answer your next question, no we aren’t going to post it.
At that point I left the table and went off to get the second half of the joke, the t-shirts. Yes the first ever SemiAccurate t-shirts are a picture of Anand and ARM senior architect Peter Greenhalgh, something that wasn’t planned but once again it worked out nicely in the end. The shirts were handed out to many of the Tech Day attendees and at least two of them seemed happy with the result.
Doubly recursive shirts, but no mugs here
That leaves one question, what to do for next year? Sadly there were no compromising pictures of Anand from this year’s Tech Day(s) so the obvious one is out. More layers of recursion isn’t funny unless it involves the author and Ron Jeremy and that has already been done to death so it is out too. What to do… at least I have a year to think about it.S|A
Note: The shirt says, “SemiAccurate welcomes you to ARM’s second annual tech day. Expect thrills, chills, and surprises for the second year in a row S|A”. The decision to make the shirts was made less than a week before the event, and I had less than an hour to design it. Add in my lack of artistic skills and you have a plausible excuse for the result. That said it didn’t turn out as badly as I feared in the end.
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