Sunday, December 28, 2008

12-28-08: Valkyrie

Last night I went with my buddy Dan to see Valkyrie, a movie starring Tom Cruise about the failed plot to kill Adolf Hitler on July 20, 1944 by German officers led by Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg (played by Cruise).

The film has a great cast, including many great British actors including Bill Nighy, Tom Wilkinson, and Terence Stamp (not to mention a surprisingly good Eddie Izzard). The acting was very good, and I thought the story stuck to reality quite well. I don't quite get the 61% rating on, but I can see where some of the critics have a beef with the film. It's not too short at two hours, but it does feel a bit rushed at times. Still, it keeps moving along, and I'd rather not be bored while watching a movie about a plot to kill Hitler.

The film does a good job at explaining the story. Going into the film, you'd think it gets its name from the name of the plot itself. Instead, Valkyrie is the name of a plan instituted by the Nazi party (designed by Hitler himself) to prevent a coup from taking down the government. The plotters, in this case, used that very plan against Hitler. It was actually quite ingenious, and if it weren't for one big slip-up and one unfortunate last-minute change in plans by the Nazis, I think it would have succeeded.

If you're in to historical dramas, I'd suggest you go see the film. Despite it starring Tom Cruise, it's still quite good. On a scale of 1 to 10, I'd give it a solid 7 (which is still good).

Saturday, December 27, 2008

12-27-08: Soccer Teams I'm Following

For about two years now I've been following soccer pretty closely. I record games to watch later, and will sometimes find myself watching even the most mundane, low-level game on TV. The reason: World Cup 2006. I was hooked, and wanted to see the star players play for their club teams. But I wasn't sure which teams to follow, or how closely.

I decided first off to pick a league to follow as the "primary league". The big club leagues in the world are The Barclay's Premier League (or English Premiership), La Liga in Spain, Serie A in Italy, Ligue 1 in France, and the German Bundesliga. I decided to stick to Europe, though the Brazilian League is quite good, but I can't find it on TV easily. Looking online and on the TV listings, it looked like the English Premiership would be the easiest to follow, though I do also pay some attention to La Liga and Serie A.

The task was then to pick a team to follow. Thanks to a great piece on Page 2 by Bill Simmons, I narrowed my choice down to three teams: Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur, and Everton. Simmons picked Tottenham, but I wanted to give all three teams a fair shake. So, I watched a few matches on Fox Soccer Channel, and made my choice: Tottenham Hotspur. The decision came down to the fact that the captain of the Irish National Team, Robbie Keane, was on Spurs (though before this current season he moved to Liverpool).

Spurs (as they are known) finished fifth that season, which I joined in about halfway through. It was a very good finish for a team outside of the "big four" of Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal, and Chelsea, who all had huge payrolls. Alas, Spurs struggled at the beginning of the 2007-2008 campaign, sacked (fired) their manager Martin Jol (who had carried them to two consecutive fifth place finishes) and hired Juande Ramos. Spurs struggled their way to an 11th place finish last season, but did win the Carling Cup (English and many other European teams play in various tournaments, or cups, during the course of their regular season). Unfortunately for Ramos, Spurs struggled even more at the beginning of this season, at one point being last in the league for a couple weeks in a row. Fortunately, they've begun to climb their way back up the table (standings) and are now currently in 16th. Not good, but they are out of the dreaded "Relegation Zone", in which teams who finish in the bottom three get bumped down to the second tier English Championship league the next season. Hopefully Spurs can manage a top 10 finish this season under new manager Harry Redknapp. Juande Ramos, fired by Spurs, is back in Spain managing Real Madrid, current champions of La Liga. Tough luck, I guess.

Tottenham Hotspur is, however, not the only team I follow. I admire the play of La Liga, and do consider it slightly stronger a league than the English Premiership. For the past six months or so, I've been following FC Barcelona. This is mostly thanks to "Barca TV" on Fox Soccer Channel, which shows a bunch of FC Barcelona matches. I think Lionel Messi happens to be the best player in the world, and the games are quite entertaining.

I'm also loosely following AC Milan, but not as much as the other two. The only reason why AC Milan is because my ex-girlfriend did a project in Milan a couple years ago during college, and when I visited her for Christmas (aren't I a great guy?) she spoke about AC Milan (she'd been to a game) and thought I'd like a team jersey. I said sure, until we walked into the official team store and saw the price. No thanks, I'll just watch on TV.

Unfortunately, I'm moving in less than a week and will no longer get Fox Soccer Channel... BUT... I found a bar in New Haven called Anna Liffey's that supposedly shows all sorsts of broadcasted games on various channels every week. I even joined the Anna Liffey's Soccer Club yesterday to receive weekly updates on games they're showing. What can be better than a pint and a football match? Come on, you Spurs!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

12-24-08: Merry Christmas Eve!

Have a Merry Christmas Eve, America.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

12-23-08: "The Elevated Bikeways of Minneapolis?" and "Khoda"

Two videos: one practical/ futuristic, the other just crazy:

"Elevated Bikeways of Minneapolis? from Streetsblog

Monday, December 22, 2008

Mac vs. PC: Transformers Edition

This is really well done:

12-22-08: Hockey Monday: Top 10 Goals Scored Off Body Parts

You don't see these sorts of goals that often. They're usually pure accidents, which makes for an interesting story for the kids.

And a bonus video:

Sunday, December 21, 2008

12-21-08: FOLLOW-UP: Making My Own DVR: Why It's Not Such a Great Idea

In addition to not having to pay the cable company money every month to rent a DVR, which is now looking like the only real option if I wanted to record broadcast content straight from the cable box (other than the old-fashioned VCR), I wanted a pet project. I wanted to see if I could do it. But then I realized that it's just not worth it, which is a bit frustrating, but it's definitely better to find out sooner than later.

So, I began to think of all the free stuff I could get online. Whether it's,, or the various free sites like, there are plenty of ways to watch TV online. Most of the shows I watch are on those sites anyway, but there were a few shows on the History Channel that I like (Cities of the Underworld and The Universe), but I'm sure I can find those online (or just man up and buy them on iTunes). My major concern, though was being able to record Boston Bruins games. Then I found out, after doing very little research, that there are even ways to watch those games for free, or very cheaply, online. Who knew?!

A related topic is whether or not I want to get XM Radio. I'm moving to a new apartment in a couple weeks and was considering the move to XM. I also plan on signing up for the $9 two-movies-at-a-time Netflix plan.

XM offers "XM Everything," which is over 170 channels of pretty much everything I'd want, including baseball and hockey games, for $12.95 a month. That seems to be a pretty decent deal. I do occassionally listen to online radio, usually Pandora, but for $12.95 a month, it might just be worth switching to XM, especially if I can listen to it at home and at the office. The guy next to me uses XM at the office with great success. I might give it a try, but am not sure yet.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Making My Own DVR: Why It's Not Such a Great Idea

Yesterday I sent an e-mail out to a Google Group I belong to, which consists of various friends of mine from college. I was considering making my own DVR (instead of paying the cable company to rent one). After various "why don't you just find stuff online" responses, which were expected but not helpful, I got a great e-mail from one of the more tech savvy group members.

My question was simply thus:

I don't want to pay the greedy imperialist cable company extra $$ every month for a DVR, so I'm thinking of making my own. I've looked online and it doesn't look too tough, but I wanted to see if [you guys] had any input. Has any one tried this? If so, is it worth the $$ and effort?

Here's the best response I got, which I thought was very worthy of broadcasting out to the rest of the internets:

Its not worth the effort. Here is why:

You can buy a TV tuner for your computer. However, all you will get
are analog channels and unencrypted clear QAM digital channels. This means that the only channels you are going to get are basic analog and local HD channels (ABC, CBS, etc). You won't be able to get any HD channels like food network HD, espn HD, HBO HD or any channel that they have moved to digital. Cable companies are starting to move analog channels to digital. This allows them to add more channels but it also means that they can encrypt them. So it might get to the point where without a cable box, the only channels you can view are local channels.

The other option is to buy a PC that has cable card. Cable card
allows you to rent a card for 3 dollars a month and put it in your pc. It decrypts the channels so you get everything. This also sucks because you can't build a PC with cable card. You can only buy one and they start at around 1000 dollars. You CANT hack it either. Cable card also works with HD tivo, for now. Cable companies are starting to use something called SDV. SDV saves bandwidth over the lines by only sending channels as they are requested, instead of sending them to everyone all the time. This is great, because they can add more HD channels. It also means that cable card can't see those channels.

There is one new thing emerging. Its called the HD DVR by hauppauge.
Basically it uses the analog hole. You rent a normal cable box, and connect the Component and digital output on the back of your cable box to this box. Then it has a IR emitter that causes your box to change channels. This way you can record all channels in HD. However its pretty expensive and the software isn't that good at the moment.

Basically the cable companies suck ass and unfortunately if you want
something that will work and keep working no matter what, the best thing is to just rent a DVR. As they add more and more HD channels, more and more of them will be SDV rendering HD tivos useless.

12-20-08: Dolbycast 8-16-07: "Cinema Sound with Ioan Allen"

Right now I'm listening to a great interview on a podcast I just got into called "Dolbycast," which is put on by two long-time employees of Dolby Labs and covers all topics regarding sound, including home theatre design and various home stereo remedies. Great stuff.

This particular episode, which was released about a year and a half ago, features Ioan Allen, one of the longest serving Dolby employees since its founding in London. He discusses the history of Dolby, and how it first got into cinema sound.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Viking Festival Picture

I just saw this in "The Big Picture" on Amazing:

12-18-08: Technology Thursday: Bionic Eye

I saw something about this on TV a little while ago, but it's pretty amazing to see how quickly the technology is progressing:

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

12-17-08: VACATION

Well, I'm done with work for the year. It feels pretty good overall, but I need to find stuff to do...

I do have an apartment that needs to be filled with furniture and whatnot, so that should keep me busy for the time being. Other than that, I suppose I could do some reading. There's also college football and college hockey. And movies. And TV. And other forms of entertainment. Wow, where will I find the time?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

12-16-08: Fall Semester 2008 = Over

Tonight I finished grad classes for the Fall '08 semester. And, with that, take it away Mr. Alice Cooper (please replace all instances of "summer" with "remainder of 2008 and into part of 2009"):

Monday, December 15, 2008

12-15-08: Hockey Monday; Scott Stevens Hit on Paul Kariya

I'm not sure if I'd go so far as to say I got some personal enjoyment out of this when it happened (I grew up a huge UNH hockey fan and Paul Kariya played for Maine), but I was simply amazed at whenever Scott Stevens worked his violent magic:

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Human League - "Don't You Want Me"

I'm a huge fan of the 80's. My only wish is that I was alive for more of the decade...

12-14-08: "Air Jordan"

Pretty amazing athletic ability on display:

Saturday, December 13, 2008

12-13-08: The Day the Earth Stood Still

Last night I went up to Manchester, CT (about an hour's drive) with my buddy Dan to see The Day the Earth Stood Still on IMAX. I was a bit skeptical going in to the theatre because of the really shaky reviews, but was looking forward to the IMAX experience.

After walking out of the theatre, I could see where the critics were coming from. For a 92 minute film, it did a remarkable job at feeling even shorter than it was. It started off pretty well, with a lot of promise. But the climax was predictable and the build up to it was nearly nonexistent. I don't think it was necessarily an awful movie, but that might just be because I saw it in IMAX and the effects were cooler in that setting. That might be it. Otherwise, I'd have been asking for my $10 back (well, $15 for IMAX).

The male lead is Keanu Reeves, who does a decent job. Jennifer Connelly plays the female lead, and did as well as she could with the script she had. John Cleese makes a very brief appearance, and I would've hoped he could have had a bigger role. But other than those three, none of the other characters were at all compelling. They did little to no development. I guess there was a guy who was friends with Connelly's character, but that never went anywhere and was just left completely in the air.

It was, nonetheless, quite entertaining. I thought the effects were well done. But still, it wasn't anything spectacular. It didn't present anything new to the genre, and didn't really excel at any one thing. Overall, I'm a bit disappointed. I haven't seen the original, but may rent it in the near future to see just how much better it is.

Friday, December 12, 2008

12-12-08: Old Lady Titanic Joke; "Guys Night Out"

A couple goofy things today. One involves a funny encounter with the elderly; the other is just an observation from recent conversations.

I was in the post office about an hour or so ago, waiting in line to get a form to change my address. As the line began to move forward as some one went up to the counter to be helped, an old woman, probably in her mid to late 70's, stops the guy in front of me, and myself, and asks us: "Did you hear about the Titanic?"

The guy in front of me, probably in his late 20's and definitely not the type to relate to old people humor, just stares at her, then replies "No."

Old woman: "Well apparently they found a way to get it up."

I waited for the punchline as the guy in front of me just stared...

Old woman: "Yep, five tons of Viagra."

The guy in front of me didn't get it, or didn't care. The woman just smiled, looked at me laughing, and said "I don't think he gets it." She laughed and walked out. Mind you: she looked like a harmless old lady. One of the funniest things I've seen or heard in quite a while.

The other topic involves the concept of "Guys Night Out."

Tonight I'm heading up to Manchester, CT with my buddy Dan to see The Day the Earth Stood Still on IMAX. Reviews don't look good, but it'll still be neat to see it in IMAX. Dan's girlfriend, a Yale PhD candidate, has a final exam tomorrow morning and can't go. My lady friend is in Manhattan all day today visiting a friend in port with the Coast Guard. So, Dan and I are heading up. Should be fun.

But, for whatever reason, Dan at one point in the conversation said: "Yeah it'd be nice to have a guys night out."

Fast forward three or four hours. After work yesterday I met up with a group of co-workers at a nice place called V Ristorante in Shelton for happy hour. After a couple beers, two of the guys talk about maybe going into Manhattan this weekend... for a Guys Night Out. Mind you: the two guys having this conversation both are involved in very stable and seemingly long-term relationships, but neither are married.

What gives? Is it just me, or does it sound a bit odd when unmarried guys with girlfriends call hanging out with male friends "Guys Night Out"? It's a harmless term, but I am a bit puzzled.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Onion: Every monster movie you've ever seen

President To Face Down Monster Attack, Own Demons In Action-Packed Schedule

12-11-08: Technology Thursday: "While Detroit Slept"

Great column from Tom Friedman. Spooky...


Sent to you by Pat via Google Reader:


via NYT > Thomas L. Friedman by By THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN on 12/9/08

Someone is already developing an alternative to Detroit's business model. I don't know if it will work, but I do know that it can be done and Detroit isn't doing it.


Things you can do from here:


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Monday, December 8, 2008

Video: Thai Yoga Massage: Back Walk

I found this on (great site). This isn't quite how they do it in Thailand. Instead of laying on your side, they have you on your front, and they literally walk on top of your back. Having a 90 pound Thai woman walking on your back is 100 times more painful than it may seem, but it's still pretty damn good.

Thai Yoga Massage: Back Walk -- powered by

12-8-08: Hockey Monday: The Game by Ken Dryden

I have a habit of reading multiple books at once, which leads me to end up taking months and months to finish one book. Sometimes I'll go months without reading a book, then sit down and read the rest of it in a day. I don't know why.

One book that is currently in the cycle, and is nearing completion, is The Game by Ken Dryden. It's a hockey book, first and foremost. But it's not about strategy or talking about the "winning mentality" or anything like that. It's about the purity of the sport: the team and the individual. Dryden wrote the book towards the tale end of his brilliant, but marvelously short, career with the Montreal Canadiens. Dryden is widely considered the greatest goaltender in NHL history, and rightly so: the Habs won the Stanley Cup six times during his eight season career. He won a Stanley Cup the season before winning the Rookie of the Year (he came in for the playoff run as a replacement). Dryden also graduated from Cornell, and retired at the age of 31 to pursue a career in law. Pretty bright guy for some one who willingly stood in the way of 90+ mph shots.

The thing about The Game that makes it special, especially for a hockey player, is how Dryden describes his teammates and how his mind worked before, during, and after a game. He described the paranoid attention paid to routine, and how frantic a professional athlete's mind is. In the book he does a stupendous job at explaining the dedication and wonder the great players, like Guy LaFleur, had for their sport. It's simply an amazing first-person story of the team and the individual. I think I almost don't want to finish it for sake of the story. It's like saying goodbye to a friend. Great, great book.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

12-7-08: John Stewart's Autoerotic Explanation

Jon Stewart is a funny guy. I don't agree with bailing out the auto industry, but this is still a little funny:

Saturday, December 6, 2008

O.J.'s Apology

I don't know what to make of the recent O.J. case, but he seems genuinely sorry.

UPDATE: The Apartment Search Resumes

I saw the apartment in Derby this afternoon, and...


Great place. Plenty of room. Landlords seem to be great guys. Moving in at the beginning of January. I'm so pumped I don't know what to do with myself!

12-6-08: The Apartment Search Resumes

A bit of a SNAFU this week with my new apartment. My would-be roommate gave me a call Thursday morning, in a near panic, to tell me that his landlord was not going to renew his lease for 2009. I was to move in to the place in a couple weeks. Nice spot in Milford not far from downtown and the beach.

To be honest, I'm not all that upset. Sure, it's short notice, but it could have been way worse (I could have moved in and found out last minute). It's not that my would-be roommate is a bad guy; I'm just not all that surprised. He's being really cool about it; I got my first month's rent and deposit back. In cash. Picked it up at his restaurant last night. I felt like a drug dealer. But fortunately Bank of America has a great cash deposit feature in their ATMs. So damn cool to put a bunch of 20's in an ATM and see it just work. What will they think of next? I might also be getting some of the would-be roommate's furniture, which would be cool but I doubt I'll need it. He's moving back home (he's also from the area) and won't be needing it.

So I'm moving quickly to find another place to live for 2009. I'm looking at place in Derby. One bedroom, 950 square feet, decent rent. Better yet: it's not far from where my buddy Dan lives and it's only a 15 minute drive to the lady friend's place. When I mentioned the prospect of me moving to Derby instead of Milford, she was pleased. Not sure why; I'm kind of a jerk! Ha, well probably. I'd been looking at 1BR spots for a while, and have decided that would be my preference over having a roommate.

And best of all: I can get NESN! Milford, for whatever reason, doesn't get NESN despite it being in New Haven County. Derby, also in New Haven County, gets Comcast, which has NESN. Milford has Cablevision, which sucks. Definitely looking forward to being able to watch the Bruins and Sox again.

Things are looking up. Hopefully the place is as good as the Craigslist posting makes it out to be. I'll post an update after seeing it today.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

12-4-08: Technology Thursday: Planet Google

I heard an interesting podcast today featuring a guy named Randall Stross, who wrote an interesting book called Planet Google: One Company's Audacious Plan to Organize Everything We Know. It was on NPR's Fresh Air.

The thing I liked most about the interview was how Stross explained how the Google search algorithm worked. He did it in a pretty easy to understand way (at least easier than when most computer scientists try). Give it a listen:

(Fast forward to 29:28)

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

12-2-08: "Hindsight is 20/20"

I was in the car yesterday and began to wonder aloud about the phrase "hindsight is 20/20".

It's an interesting phrase in that it brings in the idea that it implies that when you look back at something after the fact, it all becomes clear.

But 20/20 is just average vision, so would it be possible for some one to say "hindsight, in this particular case, is 20/15"? Or even better, 20/10?

Let's say you're a very perceptive person, and find out about something that some one else did and said "Gee, that wasn't too bright. I would've done it this way." Let's say you're way above average, perception-wise. Your hindsight wouldn't be 20/20; that's just average. I'm assuming you have a working knowledge of said incident, and aren't necessarily new to it. Otherwise, it wouldn't really be hindsight. You have to have SOME role in it.

And what if it's not quite clear what went wrong. Would hindsight then be 20/30 or worse? Aren't there varying degrees of clarity of which one's hindsight could fall into? Let's say you're talking to your friend Bob about how you and Bob probably shouldn't have done those extra shots the night before. Let's say Bob doesn't see the problem in waking up in the spoon position. Is his hindsight not 20/20 like yours?

AND... does it really have to deal with vision? Can a blind person have 20/20 hindsight? I doubt it. That's probably why you don't see many blind people make dumb decisions in the first place. It's the people with perfect vision who you have to keep a keen eye out for.

Monday, December 1, 2008

12-1-08: Hockey Monday: Sound Tiger Comeback

On Friday night I was able to go out and see the Bridgeport Sound Tigers take on the Hartford Wolf Pack in another edition of the "Battle of Connecticut." The Sound Tigers and Wolf Pack are two American Hockey League teams, both based in the Nutmeg State. There used to be a team in New Haven called The Beast, but they unfortunately folded back in 1999 after only a couple seasons in the AHL. The Sound Tigers came around for the 2001-2002 season (their best season to date, for that matter) and have done pretty well since.

The Sound Tigers have done pretty well this season. Right now they're 15-5, which is good enough for second in the East Division behind the Hershey Bears (who have played two more games than Bridgeport). Friday night's affair was against a mediocre Wolf Pack, so the rivalry didn't have quite the same energy to it. Still, it was a fun game.

Bridgeport came out skating well, getting a few good early chances. But after about five minutes, they slowly started to get pounded. Hartford scored first off a goofy goal, and continued to pound Daniel Danis, the Bridgeport goaltender, with shot after shot. In the end, Danis made 45 saves, allowing just the one goal, and was more than deserving of the game's first star. But for the longest time, Bridgeport couldn't get anything going.

After two periods the shot margin was huge. It didn't look good. But once the third period came around, the Sound Tigers hit their stride. Walter put in a nifty goal over the Wolf Pack goaltender's (Wiikman) shoulder to tie it up at 1-1. A few minutes later, Smith scored on the power play to make it 2-1. Before Smith put it in, Hartfod had committed another penalty, which allowed Sillinger (who is re-habbing from an injury and hopes to rejoin the NHL affiliate New York Islanders soon) to put in a nifty goal to make it 3-1 just 19 seconds later. Hartford was stunned, and began to get sloppy. So sloppy that with under five minutes to go, Haskins broke through on a break-away to score a pretty goal on a penalty kill. That's right: Hartford was on the power play and gave up a break-away goal.

The final score was 4-1, which was a complete shock for any one who saw the barrage of shots the Wolf Pack put on in the first two periods. Quite a game for Danis, who was immense in goal. Good win for the Sound Tigers!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

11-30-08: SNOW; College Football

First snow fall of the season! Not much on the ground, actually. And, it's now hailing lightly. Oh well, it's still (barely) November. Plenty of time for the good stuff to come down later.

I watched most of the USC - Notre Dame game last night. Not much of a game, actually. USC's defense just crushed Notre Dame. It was ugly. I turned it off at the end of the third quarter, and was certainly not surprised to see the final score be 38-3. In fact, I was mostly shocked that Notre Dame actually got in a field goal.

Though last night's game wasn't competitive, it got me thinking about how crazy it is that so many people rely on the BCS. On the car ride home from Framingham yesterday, my dad and I were listening to Sweeny Murti on WFAN field calls from various angry New York sports fans. For about five minutes he spoke with a couple callers about the BCS. Despite being a baseball guy, Murti seemed to have a good working knowledge on how the BCS works and what ideas are out there to improve upon the system.

The problem, as I saw last night in the USC blow-out, is that you really can't judge teams fairly by strength of schedule. Notre Dame, an OK but not great team, was no match for USC at home. It was just unfair. And now, some other team who probably hasn't played USC this year has to suffer because of it. It's just too much for a non-head-to-head system to solve.

The "Plus One" system seems to be the best solution for now. No, it won't be a full-blown playoff, which a lot of people including myself feel would be the best solution, but it's better than the current system. From what I understand is that the "Plus One" solution would involve the bowl games being played, the teams would then be re-ranked, and a national championship would then be played between the top two teams. Frankly, I think that's fine for now. It won't please the purists, but since the bowl games represent a lot of $$$, you'd might as well go with it.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

11-29-08: Star Wars vs. Star Trek

I was in the car a lot again today (to and from Framingham, MA helping my family move furniture from my grandfather's old house), so I think myself and this blog need a good laugh:

Friday, November 28, 2008

11-28-08: The Theory of the Alpha Driver; Automated Highway Driving

I hope every one had a lovely Thanksgiving. I for one had a great time at my aunt and uncle's in Duxbury, MA. My uncle cooks a mean turkey dinner, and the fact that they have a sweet pool table set up in their barn always helps. You see, I am one of eight cousins on my mother's side. The two males are: myself at 23 and my cousin Quinton at 20... months. So there's a bit of an age gap. So, I played a lot of pool yesterday. It was still quite fun. My uncle's brother Bob was visiting from California. I haven't seen him in quite a while, and he's a pretty neat guy.

The only tough part of yesterday was, as to be expected, the travel. Duxbury is normally about a 3-3.5 hour drive. It took us nearly 5 hours yesterday. We hit our first major pocket getting onto I-84 in Hartford, which is pretty normal. We then hit pockets on I-84, then when we got into Massachusetts it was a nightmare. We took all sorts of back roads and ended up taking Route 20 for a bit. The worst part was that Route 3 was pretty much shut down because of an accident, so we had to take Route 3A, which wasn't thrilling but it got us there eventually.

Sitting in the car for all that time allowed me to do more research on what I call the Theory of the Alpha Driver. An "Alpha Driver" is similar to an "Alpha Male" in many respects. Alpha Drivers are overly confident, and see driving as a form of sport. It's not just a race: it's a game of survival.

I drove up with my parents in a rented minivan. My mom wanted to take our older dog (who is 13) and the two little ones (9 months and 6 months). My dad made the drive up.

Now, to defend my dad, I will not directly call him an Alpha Driver. But I will just say that his driving may or may not have given me more data for my research.

Alpha Drivers are different than other drivers (no, I won't call them Beta or Gamma Drivers) in that they see it as their right to tailgate, speed, change lanes, or whatever they feel like, with little to no regard for the other drivers on the road. On top of that, when they do, on occasion, let some one go ahead of them, they seem to expect something in return from that driver, usually in the form of driving just like said Alpha Driver. For example, Andy the Alpha Driver lets Bob the normal driver ahead of him at an on-ramp. Bob merges, but decides to go the average 5-miles-per-hour-over-the-speed-limit speed. Andy the Alpha Driver, upset that someone HE let in front of him drives like that, angrily changes lanes and passes Bob the normal driver, giving him the "look of death" as he passes Bob.

Completely unnecessary, folks. Seeing all this happen yesterday, coupled with the reports that Thanksgiving is still the deadliest travel holiday, really makes me wonder when we'll develop automated driving technology like that seen in Demolition Man and iRobot. Apparently there's been some serious research (I can't find the article right now but I think I posted something about this some time ago) into highways that employ a sort of technology that allows you to put your car in auto-pilot and cruise at outrageously fast speeds, but still quite safely.

There are a couple things about automated driving that I think are significantly safer, and more efficient in general, than most human driving. First, human beings are naturally aggressive. There are a lot of Alpha Drivers out there who see driving as nothing more than "I need to get there as fast as I can." No need for that, as it's flat out dangerous. Automated driving could save lives because it would allow for faster cruise speeds and have no emotional baggage attached. As processing power increases, it will make total sense in the future to employ that technology.

The other aspect that would make automated driving useful is in the fuel efficiency realm. Alpha Drivers tend to accelerate and decelerate far too aggressively, which wastes gas. Again, no need for that. In fact, you really don't save much time by going that fast in the first place. The risk-reward is far too great. And if it saves you money on gas, why not try it?

In general, I only see this sort of technology useful in long-distance driving on major highways. Side street driving, though still riddled with Alpha Drivers, wouldn't really benefit right now from an automated solution. But still, if it saves lives, we should look into it.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

11-27-08: Happy Thanksgiving

I'll be leaving in a little bit for Thanksgiving dinner at my aunt's house in Duxbury, MA. It's about a 3.5 hour drive, which should be a bit longer with traffic. But still, there's something special about celebrating Thanksgiving close to where it was supposedly first held (in Plymouth, which is the next town over from Duxbury AND the town in which I was born).

Happy Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

11-26-08: Alice's Restaurant

Every year, mostly in New England, it is a tradition on and around Thanksgiving to play one of its most popular theme songs: "Alice's Restaurant" by Arlo Guthrie.

The actual name of the song is "Alice's Restaurant Massacree." It's a pretty long song (18.5 minutes, in fact), and it's in the "talking blues" format, meaning that Guthrie talks most of the time alongside a guitar accompaniment. The story itself is pretty funny, and it's actually true, which makes it special.

If you've never heard it, I won't spoil it for you.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

11-25-08: Vacation!

I'm off from work until next Tuesday, which is marvelous. Tomorrow will be spent wrapping up some homework. Thursday is the day of turkey. Friday: nothing planned. Saturday I need to help my parents by driving up in a UHaul truck with my dad to move some furniture from my grandfather's old house in Framingham, MA. Sunday: nothing planned. Monday: nothing planned.

Should be a great mini-vacation.

Monday, November 24, 2008

11-24-08: For the Sake of Taking Action

I'm beginning to wonder, more often than before, how the average American sees the role of its government. It seems like, with the current administration in its final days and the Obama solution on the horizon, more and more people are talking about all the stuff Obama is going to do for America. He's taking a proactive approach, and promising more than ever before.

I just don't get it, and I begin by asking this question: Do you think there will ever be a President-elect who says "We're doing OK. In fact, the problem is probably that we, the Federal Government, are doing a little too much"? I doubt it. People expect action to be taken. And politicians expect to take action. Otherwise they're just sitting around doing nothing. And doing nothing doesn't get you re-elected. It comes down to elected officials getting nervous and just taking action for the sake of taking action.

The problem is that the default answer to most all problems brought up by critics of a particular policy or administration is either "They didn't do enough" or "They didn't do the right things." Rarely do you hear some one say "They did too much." Sure, you do get "They went too far," but that's not quite the same. Often, those critics are saying that whoever was at fault merely went too far in the wrong direction. There's a difference.

I think it's just human nature, though. People want to feel important, and politicians usually have the gene that makes them want to feel more important than most. I'm not saying government should just sit on its hands whenever a problem comes up. I'm just saying that sitting on one's hands should always remain an option.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

11-23-08: Quantum of Solace

I saw Quantum of Solace last night. I wasn't sure what to expect going into the theatre, since reviews have been mixed. I knew it was supposed to be entertaining, but that it didn't feel like a Bond film.

After seeing it, I don't know what people were thinking who said it didn't feel like a Bond film. I guess they were looking for more gadgetry, and thought Daniel Craig had turned the series into a James Bond version of Jason Bourne. But I didn't see that at all. Though the villain in Quantum of Solace was pretty weak, I did like the film. It also feels like we'll be seeing more films with the Quantum involved, which reminds me a lot of SPECTRE from early Bond films. A nice touch, I think.

The thing about the film, at least in comparison to Casino Royale, is that it's pretty much one big action scene. Yes, there is some drama here and there, but the focus is on action. I thought it made the film quite entertaining, which is all you're really looking for in a Bond film. If you really think James Bond needs to be taken more seriously, just go watch Moonraker and you'll agree that action sequences are the way to go for Bond.

I thought Daniel Craig did another fantastic job. He really conveys the darkness behind the character really well, which is very important if they're trying to develop the early story of 007. I wasn't 100% keen on the supporting cast, but they did a decent job. It was nice to see them give a bigger role for Felix and other members of the CIA. The female lead, Olga Kurylenko, did a very nice job; it's nice to see a Bond girl with a sense of independence.

The tough part to buy was the villain. I just didn't think they cast him well. Worst off: they wrote in a physical confrontation with Bond. That just didn't work for that character; he was just too small to pull it off well. I understand, however, that they'd probably want to build up the role of Quantum a bit. Maybe this is just a first step.

Overall, Quantum of Solace was very entertaining, and was a refreshing take on the Bond series. I look forward to the next one.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

11-22-08: The Cyclocross Experience

Today I had the pleasure of dipping into the culture pool of Cyclocross. My buddies Scott and Taylor had a race at Cheshire Park today, and I made the trip up.

For those unaware of the sport (as I am quite new to it as well; I do my best to understand it from descriptions from Scott), think of it as a mix between mountain biking and road racing, only a little closer to mountain biking. The bikes are a mix of the two. The course: interesting. They have obstacles in the way, sand and mud to trek through, and tight, "off camber" turns made to make you fall off your bike. And hills. Glorious, steep hills in the middle of the woods, that force you to decide whether or not to carry your bike or ride it.

Though it was blisteringly cold and windy today, I had a great time. Scotty and Taylor may not have been completely happy with their times, but being able to drink some beers and trek through the woods to see guys haul ass on their bikes was well worth the trip. Fun time.

After the race I took a short trip up to Southington to meet a good friend and Fraternity Brother, Garrett, for a couple beers. We met up at a sports bar called Sliders, which had pretty good wings. I hadn't seen Garrett in a while, and since I was in the area, I figured it would be a good idea to meet up.

Very cold, but fun, day. Time to go sit in a warm movie theatre and watch Quantum of Solace.

Here's a video to enjoy:

Friday, November 21, 2008 Let Detroit Go Bankrupt

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OPINION   | November 19, 2008
Op-Ed Contributor:  Let Detroit Go Bankrupt
A managed bankruptcy may be the only path to the fundamental restructuring the auto industry needs.

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Slumdog Millionaire From visionary director Danny Boyle, and winner of the People's Choice Award at Toronto Int'l Film Festival 2008. Now Playing in select theatres.
Click here to view trailer


Thursday, November 20, 2008

11-20-08: Technology Thursday: Deep Space Internet

I read a fascinating article yesterday about a program NASA is running, with the help of a big shot at Google named Vint Cerf, that would allow for "deep space internet." Basically, they're working on a new protocol, well beyond TCP/IP, that will allow digital communication (or "internet access" to some extent) from millions of miles into space.

The problem with normal data transmission over such vast distances is interference. Space debris, large objects, and various forms of radiation make long range communication quite difficult. Therefore, you'd need to use a new method to overcome this. Enter DTN, or Disruption-Tolerant Networking. Cerf and NASA have been working on the protocol for roughly a decade, and apparently hope to some day use it for deep space communication of digital information.

The idea for DTN reminds me of ad-hoc networking, in that it relies on communicating across nodes. In fact, I think that's where they got the idea. If you daisy-chain a packet of data across several nodes, which are placed relatively close together, you can send it over pretty much any distance. How DTN works is that it prevents packet loss by holding on to data until the coast is clear between two nodes. It takes a very long time to get the message across, but if it's not time-sensitive, then this "interplanetary internet" method is a very feasible route to take.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

11-19-08: Bailing Out Detroit

There's been a lot of talk this week regarding the idea of using part of that $700 billion from the TARP to bail out the Big Three auto makers in Detroit (Chrysler, GM, and Ford). A lot of people are saying it's necessary to do it, but a whole lot more seem to think it's not important.

I fall into a different category: I don't think it should happen out of principle. Bailing out the auto industry is basically saying "We know you're big. We know you've screwed up. But... we forgive you." Letting them go bankrupt is the right thing to do in this case. Why? Because they need to change, and they won't change unless they are forced to. If they had used better business sense (and didn't pay their workers way more than their competitors), they wouldn't be in this mess.

You shouldn't reward a failed system by giving it a second chance by spending tax-payer dollars. A lot of industries have come and gone over the years, and to say the American auto industry needs to drastically change its business model to survive and thrive is no stretch. To say millions of people will lose their jobs overnight is also way too dramatic; bankruptcy would work in stages. It would be a softer landing than many fear.

You have to draw a line somewhere, and this seems to be a good place to start. Sorry, Detroit. First the Tigers, now this?!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

11-18-08: Pedroia named AL MVP

First time since 1995 that a member of the Red Sox is named American League Most Valuable Player. Way to go, little guy.


Sent to you by Pat via Google Reader:


via Boston Red Sox News by Ian Browne on 11/18/08

Just call him Mr. November. Or better yet, refer to Dustin Pedroia as the Most Valuable Player of the American League.


Things you can do from here:


Monday, November 17, 2008

11-17-08: Hockey Monday: Funny Hockey Commercials

You see, even hockey players have a sense of humor.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

11-16-08: I Just Saved a Bunch of Money on My Car Insurance by Switching to...

As my current policy is expiring in early December, and I live in the great insurance-driven state of Connecticut (which is fortunately not price-fixed like our northern neighbors in Massachusetts), I shopped around the last few days for new insurance.

My current provider is Progressive, from whom I bought a policy back in June. I try to go six months at a time with these, just in case. Well, Progressive's new rate wasn't so hot. It had gone down slightly, but I felt like I was getting jobbed a bit. So, I did some searching.

After some online quotes and phone calls, it's come down to Geico. In fact, I just got off the phone with them a few minutes ago to buy the policy. I then called Progressive and canceled the renewal on my current policy. The strange part is, unlike when I canceled my policy with Liberty Mutual back in June, Progressive didn't even try to bargain with me. They asked what my new rate was going to be (well, they asked what I was quoted at; I'd already bought the policy because I strongly doubted they were going to beat it), and just helped me cancel the renewal. They were very polite, so in six months, I'll keep them in mind.

Just for some perspective: I'll be saving 35% on my new policy with Geico versus my renewal rate with Progressive. Thirty-five percent means approximately $250 over the course of the six month policy. That's huge. Man am I glad I called those guys.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

11-15-08: Old Movies Made Anew

Pretty interesting night last night in New Haven. The lady friend and I ate a late dinner at a great Lebanese place called Mamoun's. I highly recommend it. Good food at a great price. The odd thing was that when I went to use the bathroom, I walked in to a small, smoky little room. I thought at first that there was a fire, but it turned out to be burning incense. I guess that's just part of the culture.

After that we grabbed some beers at Black Bear, then took a little stroll around the city before heading to "Insomniac Theatre" at the Criterion Cinemas. It's a weekly thing where they show an older movie at 11:40PM. Last night was Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. It's definitely the kind of movie I wish I could've seen in theatres. Not my favorite of the series by any stretch, but still pretty good. And at $5 a ticket, not a bad price!

About 15 minutes in, right around the time to switch over to the second reel, something quite odd happened. The movie started to play upside down and backwards, in about 3/4 speed. It was actually pretty hilarious. For about five minutes it was just nuts. People looked like they were walking on the ceiling, and the lady friend joked that the dialog "almost sounded like German." Perhaps it's a brainwashing technique by Steven Spielberg... Who knows. Anyway, they had to go through and fix that, which took a little over 20 minutes. But then the film went on (even though it skipped about 15 minutes of the film) and was still pretty fun. It's good to see older movies like that.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

11-13-08: Technology Thursday, Volume 2: Blackberry Storm

This probably seems like a product plug, which it probably is, but I think this device (at $199) might be able to put a dent in the iPhone's market share:

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

11-11-08: Good Lebanese Food

First off: Happy Veterans Day. If you have yet to do so (and shame on you if you haven't), go thank a Veteran. It's the least you can do.

I had Lebanese food for the first time tonight, at least since I can remember. I've had Egyptian and various African foods (and some authentic Turkish food), but never Lebanese. I have a friend who works at a great Lebanese spot called Layla's Falafel in Fairfield. He said it was really good, and I had time to kill before my grad class, so I stopped by.

I ordered something called a "chicken shawarma," which includes (obviously) chicken, lettuce, tomato, and this really great sauce. It was amazing. I think I'm going to include this spot more regularly in my pre-class dining in the future. It's right down the street from Fairfield University, and it's not too expensive (not cheap, but overall it's well worth the money at $6 for a really good sandwich). The sandwich comes in wrap form, and is very similar to a gyro. I think the key is in the sauce and how the chicken is prepared. It's really, really good.

If you have access to good Lebanese food in your area, I highly recommend it. And, if you're in the Fairfield area, try Layla's Falafel. Good stuff.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Turn Signal Frequencies

xkcd is one of my favorite comic strips.

11-10-08: Hockey Monday, Volume 2

There's nothing more exciting than sudden death overtime. It's a time when any one can be a hero. Here's a video of the 10 most clutch overtime performers:

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Cool Astronomy Picture

Pretty neat picture of various galaxies. This is the "low resolution" version. The full resolution (31.2 MB; amazing) version can be found here.

11-9-08: My Regards to Penn State

I work with several Penn State grads, who will not likely be in a good mood today. So, I'd just like to dedicate this short post to them. For those unaware of yesterday's events (and I was shocked when I found out last night), Penn State Football's National Championship hopes ended suddenly with a loss at Iowa. College football is cruel in that a single loss can change everything.

So, especially to Scotty: my sincere condolences to Penn State. Joe Pa deserves better.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

The "Real" First Black President: Richard Pryor?

Richard Pryor: genius.

11-8-08: Quinnipiac Game

I convinced the lady friend to go to last night's Quinnipiac Men's Ice Hockey game up in Hamden against Colgate. I wanted to check out the new TD Banknorth Sports Center, and was quite impressed. It's a two-sport complex, with an ice rink on one side and a basketball arena on the other, with a lobby area in between. I wonder if they'd ever do two games at once... might be an interesting scene with parking and concessions. For one thing: it's a whole lot better than when they played at the Northford Ice Pavilion. A very nice upgrade.

It wasn't a great game, unfortunately. Despite winning in impressive fashion over UConn last weekend, Quinnipiac didn't look so hot against ECAC foe Colgate. It's not like Colgate played all that great, either. I think part of the problem was that, since it was a pretty warm, moist night (especially for November), the ice wasn't in great shape. It looked a little dicey, which makes for a difficult time for passes to connect. Still, some shots were just plain misses.

Colgate won 1-0 on a cheap 5 on 3 power-play goal in the middle of the third period; the kid scored on a rebound with 10 seconds left on the power play. I thought that was a tough break for Quinnipiac, especially since the second penalty was called just a few seconds after the first; a Quinnipiac player was called for slashing right off the face-off. Pretty weak call by the ref. I normally side with the referee because I was one for several years through middle school and high school, but sometimes you just need to let the teams play. The way Quinnipiac played on that 5 on 3, it could have easily meant the game. If they were 5 on 4, I don't think Colgate would have scored, since they had enough trouble with a two-man advantage.

I also thought the Quinnipiac goaltender played extremely well. The one goal was on a rebound on a 5 on 3; you can't do anything about that as a goalie. All you can do is make the saves on even situations, which he did quite well. Tough loss.

The rink was loud. It's all concrete, which just makes for a very loud rink. It wasn't cold, either, which was nice. I got seats right by the glass for $15 each, but, as the lady friend pointed out, we probably could've gotten away with just buying $5 standing-room tickets and sat there. The section next to us had people coming in and out throughout the game, and ushers didn't check tickets. Lesson for next time: buy the cheap tickets.

Overall, fun time. I'd been in a funky mood for a few days (I think a lot of people have with the time change and whatnot), and it was good to get out. This weekend I have to focus on banging out a bunch of homework for one class and to do the mid-term for the other. Wish me luck!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

11-6-08: Technology Thursday, Volume 1

The second weekly theme I'm going to try is what I'll call "Technology Thursday" for now. I know it doesn't have quite the same ring as "Technology Tuesday" would, but I didn't want to have Hockey Monday and Technology Tuesday and then have nothing else the rest of the week. That, and I have grad school on Tuesday nights, so until there's a Thursday conflict, it's Technology Thursday.

Technology Thursday will be a weekly post that might contain a video, an article, or just me ranting about a particular technology. It doesn't have to be anything brand new, and I'll try to give an engineer's perspective on things. That way, you're not just learning something second hand, you're experiencing something through the eyes of a 23 year-old electrical engineer.

For the first installment, I'd just like to set some ground work on the engineering mindset. For non-engineers, engineering is often considered a pretty broad subject in which you use a lot of math and science. I tend to agree, but with a few additions. Engineering is not just math and science, in that we don't just sit around and plug variables into formulas and get results. There are plenty of jobs for that. Engineers are problem solvers.

What I like to think a good engineering education entails is more than just learning the mathematical and scientific principles one needs to know to solve a problem. You also need to learn how to think like an engineer. When something comes up at work, it usually doesn't involve a great deal of math. Oftentimes, it's a puzzle. If you were unfamiliar with some of the finer aspects, you could probably still come up with a solution. Engineering, in the industry, involves a tremendous amount of communication skills and group work. If you just sit in a classroom all the time writing down formulas, you're not getting as much out of your education as you should.

But most engineers take this beyond just work. I was at a bonfire last Friday with a fellow engineer (I happened to be on a date, as well). After things were set ablaze and the embers were floating towards Heaven, she said to me: "I can't help but thinking of thermodynamics when I look at that fire." That is thinking like an engineer. You look at the science behind things, and often you seek out problems. My uncle, a software engineer, and I have had many discussions on various subjects, and find it thrilling to take (mostly technological) problems and engineer up some solutions. It's a lot like a hobby. You can call it being an absolute nerd, but if it's fun to do, who really cares?

Engineers, in general, tend to like to apply logic in all aspects of life. It ultimately depends on what sort of engineer you are, but I believe I fit into that category. I will look at an argument and try to break it down into its logical elements. Lawyers do this all the time, but it's very much an engineering practice, as well.

Well, that's it for now. Look for Volume 2 next week in the brand new Technology Thursday.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

11-5-08: The Day After

Well, that happened. Election Day 2008 is finally behind us. Change is ahead. Change, indeed.

I ended up voting for McCain after all. As Connecticut is not quite a battleground state, it didn't really matter in the end. I wasn't excited about voting for McCain, either. It was just "the lesser of two evils." I hate it when it comes down to that. I was almost jealous of how excited most of the Obama supporters were. However, I wasn't going to jump on that bandwagon just to jump on it. I think there's enough on that wagon as is.

A friend of mine sent me a link to the video below. I think it's pretty interesting, especially some of the points about race. I really wish, of all things, this whole thing didn't break down into a Civil Rights debate. I read Thomas Friedman's column today and was in awe at how he made Obama's victory into such a racial statement. Yes, Barack Obama is the first black President elected to office. That's all well and good, but why is it then so important for people to point this out? Surely all of professional journalism can come up with something more than either: a) the first black President was just elected or b) some one not named Bush will be President for the next four years. Policy discussions, any one?

Anyway, I'm not distraught because Obama won. I saw it coming. I just wish the discussion afterward was a little more centered around the issues at hand and not just about race.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

11-4-08: Trying to Avoid Politics

I'm not exactly thrilled with how things are shaping up with this election. My sincere thanks to Christopher Shays for his time in Congress. You're a good man, Chris. I, for one, will miss you.

To break through this, here's something straight from my buddy Scotty's blog to cheer you up:

Pacman and Ghosts from Scott Frison on Vimeo.