Thursday, December 31, 2009

12-31-09: Night Skiing at Mohawk

I'd never been night skiing before, and, seeing that I need a lot work since I'm very much a novice skier, I headed up to Mohawk Mountain in West Cornwall last night with the lady and our friend Ken. They have a two-for-one deal on night lift tickets, and we have the time off of work.

Overall it was quite successful, and quite fun. I got a little too aggressive at the beginning by starting with the blue square runs "Mohawk" and "Arrow Head." That wore my legs down a little bit because I had trouble getting my mechanics down and got too scared with the steepness, which caused me to "wedge" my legs to slow down. So, after dinner, I did a bunch of runs on the green trail "Pine," which really helped to build up my confidence, while the lady and Ken went on their black diamond runs. After four or five runs down Pine on my own and once with them, we hit Mohawk again.

One thing I found out, thanks in large part to my very patient instructors, was that my arms were throwing off my balance during my turns. So, the lady suggested I hold my poles in front of me, horizontally. This would help me know when my shoulders were flying open. At first I was very weary of this drill, but I tried it out, and skied better than ever. I've begun to connect my turns better, but still find that I do a "hockey stop" when turning left, which slows me down too much. But, I was able to build up more speed, which helped me to turn much more easily.

Next ski trip might be just a couple days away. There's a "CSC Awareness" weekend at Mount Snow; $45 lift tickets. Should be fun.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

12-27-09: How to Get to Avis at LaGuardia

I'm flying back to Connecticut tomorrow, and remembered how harrowing my trip to LaGuardia was on the way down. I've always disliked the drive into the city, and LaGuardia, though not as bad a drive as to JFK, is a real pain in the ass.

I'd also never rented a car on my own before, which was an experience unto itself. My company has a deal with Avis that allowed me to not only receive a discounted rate, but also enabled me to pick the car up at the main office. So, back on the 21st, I asked the lady to drop me off (she works there, my office is actually across town), and I was on my way. Getting the car was relatively painless and quite easy.

But finding out how to get to Avis at LaGuardia was a real chore. I tried mightily to find out where it was online, to no avail. So, I'll put in this post the specific directions, which I hope enable at least one soul to make the trip a little easier:

How to Get to the Avis Location at LaGuardia Airport:

These directions are assuming you are coming from the north (where I came from) and take the Whitestone Bridge (if you take the Triborough I cannot help you, sorry).

After you get off the Whitestone, follow the signs to LaGuardia. Make sure you slow down if you haven't been there before, because the merges can be confusing. In general, if you see a line of traffic, follow it, because chances are they're trying to get to the airport. Follow the taxis!

Once you get near LaGuardia, you'll see a blue sign for Rental Car Returns telling you to get off at 94th Street. Not too long after you'll be told to turn right at 94th Street for Avis (and also Hertz, if I remember correctly). Get in the right lane before the light, and make the right onto 94th Street. This next part is where I screwed up: stay to the left, and make the hairpin turn to the left (you'll probably see a bunch of cabs pulling up to pick up or drop off). There will be another blue sign for Rental Car Returns telling you to make this hairpin turn to the left. Follow that sign. I was an idiot and stayed to the right and had to make the whole long loop again through traffic.

Once you come around the hairpin turn to the left, you'll see a sign telling you to bear right to get to Avis and Hertz. Follow that, and you'll end up on an access road. Stay on that for a couple minutes, and you'll eventually come to a traffic light (you'll see Avis up ahead). Go straight, then make the left at the gas station (or buy gas!) into the Avis lot, and you're there!

Here's a satellite view for you:


View Larger Map


I hope this helps at least one person, because I certainly could have used it.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

12-26-09: Sherlock Holmes

Yesterday I went with members of my family to see Sherlock Holmes, starring Robert Downey, Jr. and Jude Law, and directed by Guy Ritchie.

I've been an avid fan of Sherlock Holmes since childhood, though I will admit I haven't read many (or more than one) of the original short stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. But I have been watching the British television series starring Jeremy Brett. I think the character himself is something to marvel. As much of a genius as Holmes is, he is deeply flawed, even admitting to recreational use of cocaine to stimulate his mind between cases.

The film appeared to be more of an action-movie approach, which always generates serious reservations for any "die hard fans" or pretty much any one familiar with the story or who read the book(s). But it had Robert Downey, Jr. in it, and I loved him in Tropic Thunder and Iron Man, so I gave it a shot.

I was pleased with the outcome. It's not perfect, but I didn't find many flaws in it whatsoever. I'll have to re-examine the story to try to remember some details about certain characters, but overall, I was quite entertained. It is still a mystery, which is refreshing, but has quite a bit of action. Some of the scenes are very cleverly done, and the acting was great. Downey, Jr. was superb, even with the fake British accent, and Jude Law did a great job as Dr. Watson. I'm not sure how well a sequel would go (they left it wide open), but I'd be up for it. Maybe I'll see how Iron Man 2 ends up, first, though.

Friday, December 25, 2009

12-25-09: Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas from (rainy) Southport, North Carolina!

Here's my latest and greatest Christmas-themed playlist.




And here's The Boss singing one of my favorites.


Monday, December 21, 2009

12-21-09: Skiing at Okemo

For the first time since January, I was able to hit the slopes to get back into skiing.

The lady and I spent the weekend up at Okemo in lovely Ludlow, VT. It was quite a time, indeed. I have, as would be expected, never been to Okemo before. In fact, I'd never been to any ski resorts in the entire state of Vermont before. The only skiing I consciously remember doing has been in New Hampshire (when I was four and five years old, if that counts) and in Connecticut in January. This was quite new to me.

We stayed overnight, heading up on Friday evening. That turned out to be a very good decision, as we missed all of the storm. Though it was frigid up in VT (four degrees Fahrenheit on Friday night), we didn't see any snowfall. Our hotel room at the Best Western, just a two or three minute drive to the resort, was quite warm and cozy.

My buddy Tom's family has a condo at Okemo in the Trailside complex. Very, very nice. We hung out there on Friday night and during lunch on Saturday. One of my other buddies, Kevin, and co-worker George and members of his family stayed there overnight. It's in a great location along the Sachem trail; ski on, ski off.

Saturday morning started off with a quick test of my "new" skis (they're used, but new to me). I am still very new to the sport, so I hit the bunny hill. Let me say this: going from skiing on a dull pair of rental skis to tuned, sharpened skis is a steep learning curve. I nearly ate it right away, and immediately thought: "Oh shit, this is going to be a long weekend." Fortunately, I got a little more confident after a couple more runs down the bunny hill, and the lady left me in good hands as she split to meet up with Tom and the others while I went to my 10:00AM group lesson.

The lesson was pretty good. The instructor, Deb, was certified, and definitely knew how to get the best out of even the most novice of skiers. My lesson group, all Beginner Level 3's, was distinctly divided: two high school freshmen girls, and two guys in their early to mid 20's that have played hockey for most of their lives. The other guy, who I believe was named Matt, was a Canadian who played prep hockey at Berkshire Academy and is now a med student at Dartmouth. He was fun to talk to on the lift. The girls were very nice, and did quite well, but I was surprised to be asked what grade I was in. But hey: I'd rather look younger than older.

The lesson began on the bunny hill, with a couple trips up and down using the "magic carpet," which I did not like. I prefer the lift, mostly because whenever they stopped the magic carpet, I nearly fell over. Very annoying. But, after a couple easy runs down that, we moved on to the beginner lift and down the "Open Slope" to work on our turns.

The things I learned quickly, and worked on for the rest of the weekend:

- Relax the upper body
- Keep your hands forward
- Keep the shins in contact with the boot
- Don't hunch forward; stand up straight
- Be patient with the turns

After my two hour lesson, I was feeling good. The lady and my buddies cheered me as I maneuvered around a fallen child (she was OK) at the very bottom of the hill. We took the lift up to Sachem and skied down to Tom's for lunch.

The rest of the day was spent on the Green trails with the lady, who helped me work on my turns. I noticed right away that I had a far easier time turning to the left than I did to the right. It was the same phenomenon I experienced back in January. But, over time, I was able to turn to the right better and better. We went to the top of the mountain, and I had my best spot of skiing on Easy Rider, turning in both directions with relative ease, and minimal "pizza-ing" (wedge turns). We then headed down Mountain Road to finish the day before heading back to Tom's. A very encouraging day. That night we met up with Tom and Kevin at the "Cool Moose Cafe" across from the resort. Tom was upset that Archie's, which had been at that location, had closed, but we still had a good time. I think he was more upset at his injured finger, which we believed to be broken, and are awaiting word on the x-ray results.

On Sunday morning, I awoke to very, very sore and tired legs. In fact, my calves are still killing me. This was mostly due to a lot of "pizzas" I did to slow myself down when I went down steeper inclines. But, nevertheless, I wanted to work on my turns. We did a quick run down the Open Slope, then headed to the top to do Sunburst, then to Coleman Brook to Mountain Road to Village Run. We then arrived at Solitude Lodge, where we took the lift up and then dared to try a Blue Square run: Upper Arrow.

Mind you: this was my third day of skiing as an adult. And I found myself on a Blue Square trail. Let's just say I was scared shitless at certain times. The lady was, for the most part, puzzled and bored, considering the terrain pretty flat. I didn't blame her, and appreciated her sticking with me. While on Upper Arrow, she captured my likeness on video as I made my very, very elongated S turns across the trail, no doubt frustrating the more experienced skiers as they zoomed by me. By the end of that run, my legs were nearly done. They were definitely done later in the day when we did Sachem again, and I ate it a couple times. After a while, I just got tired and lost the fundamentals. But overall, I was much improved. I had survived a Blue Square.

The next trip is Sunday River, Maine, for early January. I definitely plan on doing another lesson, probably more advanced, but still well within the Beginner range. I'm much more used to the skis, and can do a hockey stop (to the left) like it's my goddamn job. But overall, I had a blast, and very much look forward to heading back out there for more tumbles and turns.

Monday, December 14, 2009

12-14-09: Some Good Christmas Songs

I've been working on a play list (using Grooveshark) of my favorite Christmas songs. Here are the first six I could think of. I hope to have the list finalized (and posted here) by Christmas Day.

Enjoy.




Sunday, December 13, 2009

12-13-09: Swoon by Silversun Pickups

I was listening to Swoon by Silversun Pickups yesterday whilst working on my grad school take home exams. Good stuff. Here are three of the better songs on the album:


Saturday, December 12, 2009

12-12-09: "Waterloo Sunset"

This is my favorite song by The Kinks. I'm glad I found this:

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Would Landon Donovan Playing at Everton be a Smart Move or Not?

Should help him get ready for the World Cup, at least.

 
 

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via EPL Talk by The Gaffer on 12/9/09

landon donovan Would Landon Donovan Playing at Everton be a Smart Move or Not?

Everton are in advanced discussions with Landon Donovan to acquire him on loan for a three month deal, according to several sources in the English press.

If the deal goes through, it should be a win-win for both Everton and Donovan. For Everton, the club is desperately in need for new players to help a team that has been savagely disrupted by injuries. Plus the club is very much in need of a creative attacking midfielder who can take over from the still-injured Mikel Arteta and to thread passes through for Everton strikers such as Yakubu, Louis Saha and Jo.

For Donovan, it'll be an excellent opportunity to maintain his fitness, to compete at a much higher level than Major League Soccer where he may be able to improve his game, as well as prove to the world whether he truly is an accomplished footballer. While he's a massive star in the United States, his previous appearances in Europe for Bayern Munich and Bayern Leverkusen have been considered flops.

If the deal does go through, it'll give Donovan an opportunity to not only try to break into the Everton team, but the Toffees will be competing in the Europa League as well as playing several high-profile Premier League matches such as the Merseyside derby on February 6 (televised live on ESPN2) and versus Manchester City on January 16 (televised live on Fox Soccer Channel).

With all said, there are definitely big question marks about whether Donovan can compete at a Premier League level as well as for a team that often plays hoofball. Everton is a tough, physical team and playing for the Toffees would significantly increase the chances of Donovan being injured before a critical World Cup tournament for him. Plus, there are many question marks surrounding the size and physique of the player and whether he would be able to adapt to the English game.

My personal opinion is that I don't think Donovan would be an instant hit in the Premier League. It's going to take him time to adapt to the cold temperatures and to the style of play. He's not going to get as much space or time on the ball as he does in MLS. That said, I believe he'll turn some heads and will make some valuable assists in games. But I don't envision him setting the league on fire. As for Everton, they're a team that wouldn't necessarily be the best fit for Donovan. But given the opportunity, I feel there's a lot more for Donovan to gain than to lose by making the move to Goodison Park.

What do you think? Would Landon Donovan playing at Everton be a smart move or not? Click the comments link below and share your feedback.

Photo credit: Stuart Wainstock.

Related posts:

  1. Poll: Which Premier League Club Will Sign Landon Donovan?
  2. Poll: Landon Donovan Heading To The EPL?
  3. ESPN Makes Smart Move With Andy Gray Hiring


 
 

Things you can do from here:

 
 

Monday, December 7, 2009

CNET News.com: IBM wires trucks, water lines in smarter city bid - CNET News

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Neat stuff.

IBM wires trucks, water lines in smarter city bid - CNET News
URL: http://news.cnet.com/8301-11128_3-10409303-54.html

Chesapeake, Virginia signs on with IBM "smarter city" campaign to improve efficiency by collecting data on buildings, trucks, and utility infrastructure.


CNET: The source for computers and technology http://www.cnet.com

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Christmas Favorites

The lady and I picked up a Christmas tree yesterday (at Jones Family Farms in Shelton for the second year going; good people). While decorating it (at her place), we played various Christmas favorites. Here are a few of my selections:








12-5-09: The World Cup Draw

I took a half day yesterday and, before doing homework, was able to catch the end of the World Cup Draw, live from South Africa on ESPN2.

It turned out to be both good AND very interesting. The U.S. did as well as one could hope (it's a luck of the draw, literally) by drawing England as the only big team in their group (Group C), which also contains Algeria and Slovenia. A very fortunate draw, and with any luck we should make it through the Group Stage along with England. Mark your calendar: Saturday, June 12th @2:30PM: USA vs. England.

And, oddly enough, the "Group of Death" (Group G) features Brazil, Portugal, Ivory Coast, and North Korea. Three big teams and the political pariah North Korea. From a soccer standpoint alone that is a good group to watch. You read it here first: Brazil and Ivory Coast will go through.

Here are the other groups, with my advanced predictions:

Group A:

South Africa
Mexico
Uruguay
France

Winners: Mexico and France.


Group B:

Argentina
Nigeria
South Korea
Greece

Winners: Argentina and Greece


Group D:

Germany
Australia
Serbia
Ghana

Winners: Germany and Ghana


Group E:

Netherlands
Denmark
Japan
Cameroon

Winners: Netherlands and Cameroon


Group F:

Italy
Paraguay
New Zealand
Slovakia

Winners: Italy and Slovakia


Group H:

Spain
Switzerland
Honduras
Chile

Winners: Spain and Honduras

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Steve Winwood

I heard "Gimme Some Lovin'" on the radio on the drive down to North Carolina, and totally forgot Steve Winwood sang it.

Here are two of my favorites from that talented fellow:





Monday, November 30, 2009

11-30-09: Long Long Drive

Yesterday was a long day of driving. It began at 5:00AM for me, waking up before I needed to. My mother and I left the house (in Southport, NC) at about 6:45AM. Our destination: Chatham, NJ. Total driving distance: 762 miles, which was the long way. We sought to avoid the heavy DC traffic (which did turn out to be quite awful), and ended up taking I-64 north of Richmond to I-81 and headed up through West Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania. Including stops, it took us about 13 hours. Not too bad overall, considering we hit a couple spots of traffic near Harrisburg and Allentown. I drove from Southport to Richmond, and my mother drove the second, and longer, leg to New Jersey.

My favorite part of the trip was the drive through the scenic Shenandoah Valley in northwestern Virginia and West Virginia. It was a lovely drive, with some awesome views. The other fun part was the goofy town names. Here were my favorites:

Goochland, Virginia

Kutztown, Pennsylvania

Micro, North Carolina

Krumsville, Pennsylvania (same sign as Kutztown)


The second part of my trip was the relative chip shot from Chatham, NJ to my apartment in Derby, CT. Instead of following my mother's directions to go back up I-287 to the Tappan Zee Bridge, I followed my GPS and took I-95 through the city, driving over the George Washington Bridge. Fortunately, traffic wasn't TOO bad, and I made it back in relatively good time. Long day in a car. Total distance traveled: 861 miles. Total time on the road: 15 hours.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Outfield - "Your Love"

Long drive ahead tomorrow (12+ hours). I plan on having this song stuck in my head:

Thursday, November 26, 2009

11-26-09: Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving! Even though I'm celebrating my first Thanksgiving outside of New England, I will stick to the tradition. Here is Arlo Guthrie's "Alice's Restaurant:"


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Phaneuf vs. Wickenheiser

As a former women's hockey coach, I'm happy to see this sort of behavior. Well done, Hayley Wickenheiser.


11-25-09: UNCW 115, VMI 95

Since I'm down in "basketball country" visiting my parents for Thanksgiving, I figured I'd catch a game. Last night, the University of North Carolina at Wilmington (UNCW) took on the squad from Virginia Military Institute (VMI) in a Division 1 Men's Basketball matchup.

What it turned out to be was the highest scoring game in UNCW history. I think the score after the first half was something like 55-44, UNCW leading. My parents and I all thought "Neither team will reach 100." Not so. With more than three minutes to play, UNCW hit the 100 mark on one of their few successful three point attempts of the night. The final score was 115-95, UNCW winning big. It's not too often you can say "We scored 95 points and lost by 20." Neither team played much in the way of defense. If VMI didn't hit as many three pointers as it did, which was a lot in the end, the game would have been an even bigger rout. Very entertaining stuff.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

11-24-09: Zotero

While reading through the lady's graduate final project, I was pointed (by the author) to a neat new Firefox extension called Zotero. It's a very versatile and powerful tool for referencing websites and PDFs and whatever you need to write a paper, book, article, or even a blog post (I may begin using this soon).

If you ever need a fast and easy way to cite sources (or even take notes for later reference), try it out. Really neat, and completely free.

Monday, November 23, 2009

11-23-09: Spurs 9 - 1 Wigan

One of the biggest wins in Premier League history occurred yesterday at White Hart Lane when Tottenham Hotspur defeated Wigan Athletic 9-1. What a huge win for Spurs!


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Milford Crash Video

The Milford Police Department have released the video of the crash that killed two Orange teens on June 13th. This video is from the Connecticut Post.


Sunday, November 15, 2009

11-15-09: The TV Hunt is... Over!

The hunt for a TV is over. I found what I was looking for today.

The final verdict: the LG L42LH40.

It's 42", 1080p, with a 120Hz refresh rate (which was important to me because I watch a lot of sports). I got it a special UTC-employees sale at Bernie's in Orange for $735. All the other spots I looked had similar (I feel inferior) models for $800 or more. I actually stopped by Bernie's twice today, book-ending trips to Sears and WalMart, who had OK deals but not great. I didn't even see the model I bought at Bernie's the first time I went, so I'm glad I went back.

I do realize Black Friday is coming up, and asked around if the deals would be better. The basic summary was: not quite. So, I acted now. I also realize that internet deals are also quite good, but I did my research, and the shipping is the difference. Most sites charged $100+, which cancels out any great savings. The TV I got at Bernie's, with the $50 extended warranty (12 months; I had to think about it for a bit since I know warranties can be big-time rip-offs) came out to $831.35 with tax. No shipping required (which also means I won't have to take a day off of work to wait for it to be delivered). Quite a deal. I'm satisfied.

I won't actually have the TV (my own choice) until December 2nd. I won't really get too much use out of it 'til then anyway, and I'd rather not have a brand new TV sitting in my apartment for a week while I'm visiting my parents for Thanksgiving.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

The CN Turbo Train

It's nice to see stuff like this and realize your company was behind it.







11-14-09: Strangely Good Night in New Haven

I had a pretty good night in New Haven last night, all things considered.

Myself and a few friends attended the Yale / Cornell Men's Ice Hockey game at "the Yale Whale" (Ingalls Rink). Cornell was ranked third in the country, and Yale is the defending ECAC champions (they beat Cornell 5-0 back in March). It was a great game overall. Unfortunately, my buddy Tom and I miscalculated how much walking was involved beforehand, and arrived well into the first period. I hate being late to hockey games, but did catch a great game-tying goal by Yale with a couple minutes to go in the first stanza.

The night started with me getting rear-ended on I-95 in West Haven on my way to dinner. It was stop and go traffic, and raining. At one point, I went to move forward, hit the brakes to stop, and looked into my rear view to see the car behind me, a small Honda Civic, still moving. I let go of the brake, moved forward a bit to help absorb the blow, and it happened.

My first reaction was "Oh man, I hope there's no damage. I'm in a hurry!" Fortunately, there was barely a hint that the bump even happened; might need a little touch-up paint in the rear bumper one day. The kid in the car behind me couldn't have been older than 18 or 19, and felt terrible. The weird part was, I wasn't even pissed. It was sort of a Zen type feeling. I said "Hey man, not a problem. There's no damage. I don't feel like waiting for the cops and holding up traffic. Just let me write down your insurance information and we'll be on our way." He was so relieved; he probably thought to himself "Geez, didn't I hit HIM?". So I jotted down his information, then we just drove off. My buddy Tom was behind me in traffic, and ended up passing me. We still got to dinner about the same time.

Archie Moore's was packed, so when our friends Jason and Taylor arrived, we decided to walk to JP Dempsey's. That was a little after 6:00PM. Game time was at 7:00PM. We should have just gone straight to the game, but thought we had time. Still, we ate fast (I had the Parisian Pepper Burger, which was great), and hoofed it over to catch most of the game. Our total walk was about 1.6 miles.

I ended up standing behind the Cornell goal (first and third periods), and with five minutes left, had one of the best views in the house of Yale's game-winner. Nice little screened shot from the top of the circle. Good win for Yale. It felt great to see a hotly contested game. I thought there were a few too many penalties called; it didn't help the flow, but otherwise, it was a good, spirited match-up between Ivy League rivals. Cornell is a bigger team, but didn't get enough shots on goal in the end, and paid for it. Yale was persistent, and got the win they deserved.

Afterwards, I felt like a social organizer. I've never received so many text messages in one night! I'm not really into the texting scene too much; I'd rather just call some one. But when you're in the middle of a loud hockey rink, you can't really carry a good phone conversation, even in between whistles (I don't talk or text while the game is going on; that's just good etiquette, kids). The lady was having dinner with her Sorority sisters in the area (which she had a great time doing, which I love to hear), and a few buddies were looking to do something. So we ended up going to Richter's (as I did last week), and it was a lot of fun. It's a good bar.

Despite the rain, the no-damage rear-ending, and all the walking, I had a great time.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Connecticut Post Online: Easton tree takes bough for Christmas in Rockefeller Center

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Easton tree takes bough for Christmas in Rockefeller Center - By John Burgeson
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Thursday, November 12, 2009

11-12-09: The TV Hunt is On (Follow-up)

Late addition to the hunt: the LG 42LF11. $699.99 at Sears.


11-12-09: The TV Hunt is On

The last couple days have seen some extraordinary TV shopping activity, on my end. (That's partly borrowed from a line in The Hunt for Red October, one of my three favorite films).

Yesterday morning I was alerted by my friend Scott to a sale this Sunday at Bernie's (of Orange, CT) for UTC employees. Some of the prices look pretty snazzy. I've also been looking online, and plan on stopping by Walmart in Milford tomorrow. It's looking like I should get what I want for under $800, which would be great.

Here's a quick spreadsheet I've made of some models I've been looking at:



If anything really catches my eye at Bernie's on Sunday, I may buy now. Otherwise, I figure the deals at Walmart and online can only get better after Thanksgiving. Right now my old 18" Magnavox is doing me just fine. No word yet from any one on Craigslist about the old one.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

11-11-09: Automated "Road Trains"

First off, Happy Veterans Day. I, like most Americans, always like to take time out every once in a while to thank all the men and women of the Armed Forces for their service. My ex-girlfriend is a Navy officer, and from what I’ve seen from her experiences, they do an absolutely astounding amount of work and truly dedicate themselves to the cause of protecting the very freedoms most Americans take for granted. Thank you.


I read an article (blog post) today from Technology Review, an online publication from MIT, about automated cars, specifically a system that would feature automated cars networked together in “road trains.” I’ve found myself driving down the highway before thinking “Wouldn’t life be better if we cleared up these highways a bit?” This sort of system absolutely fascinates me.

Ideally, you’d want to have the entire system networked together. You’d need sensors along roadways throughout the system. As the article mentions, this is tremendously expensive. The alternative is to have a professional driver in the front in a marked car. If another driver wished to follow along with them as part of a “road train”, to reduce wind drag and optimize performance and speed, they’d simply fall in behind them, or head to the back of the line, and become part of the network with that professional driver. They could then eat, sleep, read, or whatever, until they need to exit the highway, at which point they’d simply leave the “train”.

I see many engineering problems with this alternative that might make this system either unsafe or under-utilized:

For one, how many professional drivers would you have per highway? How far apart would they need to be spaced? Would this be a function of current traffic conditions? How long can a “train” effectively be?

Second, making this an optional system would mean you would still have a lot of people who don’t use it. That could present quite a hazard. Let’s say that person is unfamiliar with how a “train” works, and either cuts off the lead driver, or someone in the middle of the train? You could solve this by creating one or two designed “auto train” lanes, perhaps. Still, the danger is there.

Third, the notion of allowing drivers in the train to become distracted could be unsafe. You’d really have to be careful how you configure manual overrides and how one would be allowed to safely exit the train. Perhaps they’d need to punch in an exit number or something once they get in the train, and they’d get some sort of advisory when their exit is coming up. If they don’t respond (let’s say they fall asleep, which I’m sure can and would happen in many cases), they stay in the train.


Other considerations:

- What if a car in the train begins to run out of gas? Does the system alert the driver? What if they fell asleep?

- What if you have a network failure? Do you have a built-in failsafe strategy within each car so they perform a given action to prevent a dangerous situation?


I’m very intrigued by the idea, but if you’re going to automate, the first thing to take into account is the human factor.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

11-10-09: Broken Ol' TV

Well, after nearly seven years in the family, the TV has, in all likelihood, finally bitten the dust.

The TV, a Sony KP-51WS500 Projection model, manufactured in December 2002, was purchased by my parents as a family Christmas present just about seven years ago. We bought it from the now defunct Circuit City for, I believe, close to $2000. It's worked very well, and for the last eight months or so, it has been in my apartment.

It's rather gargantuan at 51 inches. My living room isn't really that big. When we moved it in, my dad exclaimed "Christ! You're gonna go fucking blind!" So far, I'm still well sighted. Well, at least it hasn't gotten any worse.

The problem began yesterday morning. I was watching ESPN before leaving for work, and, without any warning, the TV turned off. I then noticed the Standby light on the front had started to blink. This wasn't the first time the TV has done this, which is why I'm 10% sure it might be fixable. I went online last night, after leaving the TV unplugged all day as a part of a "hard reset" strategy which failed to work. Apparently, the number of blinks per cycle emitted by the Standby light signifies a particular fault. Believe it or not, this is not too dissimilar to what I do professionally with helicopter flight controls systems (I'm actually in charge of our Warnings, Cautions, and Advisories). The code my TV was showing, four blinks per cycle, means:

"No vertical Deflection (V STOP), Screen goes to a single horizontal line then the video signal muted. Check IC1509, Q1505"


I then decided, since I'm an electrical engineer who should be able to fix this problem (and unfortunately simply showing my TV my fancy Bachelor of Science degree didn't work), that I would try to order parts and fix it myself.

That's where I ran into some issues.

First, finding a service manual for that model is a bit of a chore. I couldn't find any free ones online. So, in order to find out where the hell IC1509 and Q1505 were, I'd have to shell out cash.

Then I find out, after taking the back panel off, that, even if I did have the parts, diagnosing and fixing the problem would be quite a hassle because of how it's all laid out.

So then I went down the other avenue of seeing how much it would cost to have it repaired. I went on the Sony repair website, which is actually quite good, and found out the nearest "certified" repair facility is in Danbury, which is about 40 minutes away. I did the math quickly in my head, and realized, even if the guy fixes it in one visit, it would cost upwards of $200.

I then decided: screw it, the holidays are nye, I'll wait and buy a new HDTV as a Christmas present to myself. My currently broken TV is not HD, so it would definitely be an upgrade. I even have some HD channels already available through a mix-up when I got my DVR (they gave me an HD DVR, though I pay for a regular one). For the time being I am using my old 18 inch Magnavox tube TV from college, which works well and will easily last me until Christmas.

So far, with one day of online shopping under my belt, I'm considering getting a TV with the following specifications:

  • 1080p resolution (not wasting my money on 720p or 1080i)
  • LCD (unless I find a good deal on a Plasma screen)
  • 120 Hz update rate (I watch a lot of sports and have heard 240 Hz is still a bit pricey)
  • 40-45" screen size (the 51" TV was nice, but far too big for the space)
  • Either a Sony (top choice), LG, or Vizio (good deals at Wal-Mart)
  • Price range: around $1000 (ideally under)

I'm looking forward to this. I'll make follow-up posts on how things go.

FYI: I put the old one up on Craigslist.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

11-8-09: Richter's and The Men Who Stare at Goats

My buddy Dan and I realized that it had been quite a while since we had gone to a bar then watched a crazy movie, so we re-started that tradition by visiting Richter's in New Haven and then seeing The Men Who Stare at Goats, starring George Clooney and Ewan McGregor.

Richter's is a great old tavern/bar on Chapel Street near the Green, about a block away from the Yale campus. Because of its proximity to Yale, you tend to get a lot of Yalies in there during the school year. That's not necessarily a bad thing in general, as they're a lot quieter and classier than what you'll find at a few other bars in New Haven like Black Bear and some of the clubs. The downside of Yalies is that, if you're not a Yalie, they won't talk to you. They're so exclusive that you really shouldn't bother unless you know a friend of a friend from somewhere else.

But the half yards are something else. They come in a glass that's shaped like an elongated hour glass and required a special wooden holder to keep it stable while upright. It's a real chore to drink, but well worth the $9 for the experience. I'd say it's about 36-40 ounces of beer. I ended up ordering one of Radeberger Pilsner. It was quite good.

We then hoofed it a few blocks to Stella Blues to grab one more round (I had a Guinness) before seeing The Men Who Stare at Goats at the Criterion theatre.

Overall, it was an OK movie. The premise is pretty much that an underachieving reporter, played by Ewan McGregor, goes to the Kuwait to get a war story. He runs into George Clooney's character, whose name he recognizes from an interview he did of a guy back home who claimed to be a "psychic warrior" for the U.S. Army in the 80's. McGregor's character ends up following Clooney's character into Iraq to help Clooney achieve some "mission," while learning about the strange Army unit Clooney had belonged to.

In the end, it has its wacky parts, and the story doesn't really work. I thought it was goofy enough to enjoy after a few beers. Good, brainless fun, but not for true movie lovers.




Saturday, November 7, 2009

11-7-09: Good Weekend for UNH and Spurs

Two of my favorite teams in their respective sports, the University of New Hampshire Men's Ice Hockey and Tottenham Hotspur, had very good, not necessarily great, games this weekend.

I had a late hockey game last night (10:15PM in Bridgeport; we won), so I invited the lady over for dinner. I made Apricot Glazed Chicken, which came out great. Leftovers for lunch are in order. We started watching the UNH game on NESN a little late (thanks to DVR). After a very, very poor first period, the Wildcats found themselves down 3-0 to Boston College, a hated Hockey East rival (though in the past the fury has been against BU). Things didn't look much better after two periods, either, with the score 4-1. UNH had absolutely nothing on the penalty kill, allowing BC to score on all four of their power plays.

The third period was stunning. UNH got a power play early on, and at 4:16 into the third stanza, Mike Sislo got the team within two goals. Then a few minutes later, Co-Captain Bobby Butler delivered a great pass to Derry's own Paul Thompson, who scored an even-strength goal to make it 4-3. The rest of the period was pretty wild, and with under a minute to play, Butler tied it up.

The overtime period was also quite exciting. LeBlanc had a great chance to end it, but Muse, BC's goaltender, came up huge. Great game.


This morning I watched Tottenham Hotspur take on Sunderland in a very good Premier League matchup. Spurs were looking to rebound after a tough away loss to rivals Arsenal last Saturday on Halloween. As scary as that match was, today's against Sunderland was almost equally as frightening at times. Yet, Heurelho Gomes, Spurs' goalkeeper, came up absolutely huge on several occasions, most notably on a penalty kick taken by ex-Spurs striker Darren Bent, who was "hell Bent on revenge" after leaving the team at the end of last season after having a great year. Robbie Keane scored on Tottenham's first attack of the game, and Tom Huddlestone scored well into the second half on a booming strike, with back-from-suspension star striker Jermain Defoe gifting him with a nice setup. Sunderland came out without any points despite dominating Spurs for most of the match. Unlucky for them, but the mighty Spurs came out on top by finishing their chances.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

11-4-09: The Sonos S5

When I get a house, I shall get something like this.


Saturday, October 31, 2009

Cartman Sings "Poker Face"

Despite the fact that I've been quite busy lately, I've started to watch South Park again.

Here's a nice little nugget from this week's episode that I enjoyed:


Friday, October 30, 2009

#566; Supernatural Collective Nouns.

Mr. Malki: very well done.

 
 

Sent to you by Pat via Google Reader:

 
 

via Wondermark by David Malki ! on 10/30/09

A wall of text.


 
 

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Thursday, October 29, 2009

Coheed and Cambria - "Feathers"

I haven't heard this song in months. Just figured I'd post this for current and future enjoyment.




David James and Fabio Capello: The Biggest NFL Fans in England

Very interesting to see this sort of dynamic and relationship with the NFL and English soccer. I read an article the other day about Harry Redknapp at Tottenham Hotspur, who is abandoning the reserve league to favor loaning younger players to other teams to help them develop in a competitive environment. That's not quite the same, but it's interesting how the English system is generally slow to change. Good to see this sort of stuff.

 
 

Sent to you by Pat via Google Reader:

 
 

via EPL Talk by Dave Warner on 10/29/09

2659651344 6fe1dc8141 David James and Fabio Capello: The Biggest NFL Fans in England

Those of you living in America probably couldn't stop hearing about last weekend's big National Football League game in London, the third such contest in three years, in which the New England Patriots tonked Malcolm Glazer's hapless Tampa Bay Buccaneers — who have cut costs to the bone this season, and we can all have a guess as to why.

Despite the NFL's talk of how quickly their showpiece sells out Wembley Stadium each year and how the league could add more London games in the future because of that success, the truth is that England doesn't really care all that much. Far more sports fans in that country (and its press) were more concerned with Liverpool's win over Manchester United and the swine flu scare at Stamford Bridge on Sunday than they were about two random NFL teams ripping up the sod in Wembley. As a sporting event, the London Bowl is mostly manufactured hype, an NFL specialty.

Two rather notable figures in English football, however, seem to believe their colleagues have quite a lot to learn from American football.

In his recent column for The Guardian, Portsmouth goalkeeper David James revealed that England manager Fabio Capello sat down last weekend with Mike Holmgren, a former NFL head coach who's been to three Super Bowls with the Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks and won one of them, to discuss coaching ideas and techniques. Capello, James reveals, has borrowed several ideas from the NFL for the England squad — most notably increased film study of training sessions and opponents' tendencies.

James in particular seems to be a big proponent of film study:

I've taken to doing my own video work with a psychologist. Video analysis highlights the gap between perception and reality – your awareness of space and time during a game can be so distorted you are unable to assess accurately every detail on the pitch, a problem that can affect managers as much as players.

James also admitted that his visits to several NFL teams in 2003 made "a huge impression" on him, and that he was stunned by how much emphasis was put on individual aspects of the game. He noted how much time players spent together studying in the film room and how closely Jim Zorn, then a quarterbacks coach for the Seahawks, worked with the team's QBs to improve their skills. He went on to write that he's never seen any English football club do anything similar:

I've never been at a club where we sit down as a formation – a defensive or offensive group – and spend time working out systems. That's just not the culture in England, where we seem to have this idea that sitting in a video room for any amount of time is boring and the wrong thing to do.

James finished his column by stating that if he ever gets into management, he plans on borrowing even more ideas from NFL than Capello has — beginning with a more robust coaching staff:

Imagine if we had kicking coaches, heading coaches, attack coaches, defence coaches. Why not? We have keepers who can't kick the ball properly, and strikers who can't head. Why wouldn't you want to give them additional coaching to improve their all-round game? … Whatever you would spend on these specialist coaches, it would be a drop in the ocean compared to players' wages. Not investing in them seems a false economy.

What I would like to know is this — why haven't most EPL clubs done this already? Or have they? Do the clubs that haven't simply assume that this sort of training only works at the youth level, and that adult footballers no longer need it? Are players tasked with finding their own instruction outside of regular training? Are managers simply holding on to archaic traditions because they fear other coaches would attempt to usurp their authority? Or do they simply think that too many cooks will spoil the broth?

It seems almost abhorrent to suggest that the beautiful game would somehow be less beautiful if clubs paid more attention to details, group tactics and specific skills like heading and free kick accuracy. Perhaps the only question is which club will be first to invest in the heftier coaching staff and enhanced video suites necessary to focus on those details. Arsenal already has the latter at its London Colney facility, which Capello uses with the England team for film study. So perhaps Arsene Wenger is slightly ahead of the curve. On the other hand, Arsenal hasn't won any trophies since 2005, and that's the true measure of success, isn't it?

Chances are little will change at the club level until one club that takes a chance on these ideas wins some real hardware. Perhaps it will be left to Capello and James to prove that the beautiful game might actually have something to learn from the gridiron game after all.

Related posts:

  1. Fabio Capello's England FC
  2. England: Back to Life, Back To Reality With Fabio Capello
  3. Fabio Capello Restores Faith In England National Team


 
 

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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Elephants on parade in Bridgeport

A few times while in Bangkok, I saw an elephant on the street. Now they're doing it in Bridgeport.

10-27-09: The Resurgence of Hank Greenberg

I’m writing this while wearing my father’s old AINetwork shirt, which is the same shirt I was wearing earlier this morning when I read about Hank Greenberg’s new company, C.V. Starr, which made it into today’s paper because it’s stealing a lot of talent from A.I.G.

American International Network, “AINetwork,” was a small and relatively short-lived subsidiary of American International Group that my dad helped run in the 1980’s. My dad actually worked briefly for Hank’s son Jeff, and even met Hank a couple times at company functions. My dad later helped run The New Hampshire Insurance, another AIG subsidiary.

So when I read the story, I immediately e-mailed it to my dad, who responded a few hours later with his take on the situation. My dad was a PR guy primarily, a role he enjoyed for years before becoming sick of the industry as a whole. He quit and eventually became a teacher and coach, which he enjoys thoroughly. But this story brings back memories of his time with AIG. He recognizes a few names on the C.V. Starr website as possible Greenberg recruits from AIG, notably Tom Tizzio and Joe Cassano (despite his spotty track record). He doesn’t have a problem with these guys getting jobs and getting paid big bucks by Greenberg, since it’s not really taxpayer money that will be spent.

But one thing my father, an ex-AIG employee years out of the industry, is puzzled by is how Hank Greenberg, who together with his son were the targets of a failed federal case of price fixing (among other things), is now in the position to help the Federal Government by taking some individuals off the Federal bailout payroll. My dad’s impression of Greenberg was that of a brilliant businessman, but all in all not a very nice man (he fired his own son at one point). My dad and I have different political opinions, but I think at this juncture we both agree: this should be interesting.

Friday, October 16, 2009

10-16-09: Nice Shootout Goal

Well done, young man. Not quite as great as another I've seen, but a young kid pulling this off in one try is very, very impressive. Link to article on Boston.com can be found here. The lady friend sent this to me.



Wednesday, October 14, 2009

TED: Eric Sanderson pictures New York -- before the City

10-14-09: The Two Doors Riddle

I was reminded of a scene from Labyrinth last night while watching an episode of Numb3rs. The scene, from Labyrinth, involved two doors, whereas the scene in Numb3rs involves two criminals. The logic is essentially the same.

Let's go with the Labyrinth scenario, in which the main character Sarah, played by Jennifer Connelly, comes upon two doors. Each door has a guard, and she is told one door leads to the castle, and the other leads to certain doom. She is also told one of the guards always lies, and the other always tells the truth.

She ends up solving the riddle by asking each guard "What would the other guard tell me about this door?" She then reasoned that, given the rules, she'd go through the one that she was told led to certain doom. She was, of course, correct.

I worked out the logic today once again, as this particular riddle has always boggled me a bit. I did get it at one point in time, but every time it comes back up, I have to reason it out again.

Let's look at it from each of the two generally possible scenarios (there are of course four combinations, but the doors can be interchangeable). The guards A and B are assigned to doors A and B, respectively:

1) Door A is the safe door and Door B leads to certain doom. Guard A is the liar and Guard B tells the truth. If you ask Guard A (the liar) what Guard B (the truth teller) would say regarding where Door A led, Guard A would say it led to certain doom (the opposite of the truth). If you ask Guard B what Guard A would say regarding where Door B led, Guard B would say it led to safety (the opposite of the truth).

2) Same door assignments as in 1, except Guard A tells the truth and Guard B is the liar. If you ask Guard A (the truth teller) what Guard B (the liar) would say regarding where Door A led, Guard A would say it led to certain doom (the opposite of the truth). If you ask Guard B what Guard A would say about Door B, Guard B would say it let to safety (the opposite of the truth).

Either way, you get the lie twice. In both cases, the door you are told leads to certain doom is, in fact, the door that leads to safety. Try the other two combinations (Door A leads to certain doom and Door B leads to safety) and you will come to the same scenario.

Simply go with the opposite.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Monday, October 5, 2009

10-5-09: 2009 MLB Dollars Per Win

One of my favorite indicators to point out with Major League Baseball is the "Dollars per Win" ratio. It's simple: which teams get the most bang for the buck?

Here are the results for the 2009 Regular Season (in ascending order):


Team Payroll Wins $ / Win
Florida Marlins $36,834,000 87 $423,379.31
San Diego Padres $43,734,200 75 $583,122.67
Tampa Bay Rays $63,313,034 84 $753,726.60
Minnesota Twins $65,299,266 86 $759,293.79
Texas Rangers $68,178,798 87 $783,664.34
Pittsburgh Pirates $48,693,000 62 $785,370.97
Colorado Rockies $75,201,000 92 $817,402.17
Oakland Athletics $62,310,000 75 $830,800.00
St. Louis Cardinals $77,605,109 91 $852,803.40
San Francisco Giants $82,616,450 88 $938,823.30
Cincinnati Reds $73,558,500 78 $943,057.69
Milwaukee Brewers $80,182,502 80 $1,002,281.28
Washington Nationals $60,328,000 59 $1,022,508.47
Baltimore Orioles $67,101,666 64 $1,048,463.53
Arizona Diamondbacks $73,516,666 70 $1,050,238.09
Los Angeles Dodgers $100,414,592 95 $1,056,995.71
Toronto Blue Jays $80,538,300 75 $1,073,844.00
Kansas City Royals $70,519,333 65 $1,084,912.82
Atlanta Braves $96,726,166 86 $1,124,722.86
Seattle Mariners $98,904,166 85 $1,163,578.42
Los Angeles Angels $113,709,000 97 $1,172,257.73
Philadelphia Phillies $113,004,046 93 $1,215,097.27
Chicago White Sox $96,068,500 79 $1,216,056.96
Cleveland Indians $81,579,166 65 $1,255,064.09
Boston Red Sox $121,745,999 95 $1,281,536.83
Detroit Tigers $115,085,145 86 $1,338,199.36
Houston Astros $102,996,414 74 $1,391,843.43
Chicago Cubs $134,809,000 83 $1,624,204.82
New York Yankees $201,449,189 103 $1,955,817.37
New York Mets $149,373,987 70 $2,133,914.10


It's interesting to me that a team in the top five has the potential to make the playoffs. Let's go Twins!