Wednesday, April 29, 2009

4-29-09: Riot Day

I'm probably the only person you've come across in any fashion that observes Riot Day every year. On April 29, 1992, after the acquittal of the four Los Angeles policemen accused of beating Rodney King, riots broke out within the city as a means of protest. I like the mark the date every year.

It's not exactly a holiday, since it celebrates something pretty gruesome. Instead, it's a day of remembrance, acknowledging a moment of chaos in the hopes of recognizing how lucky we are to live in a civilized society under the rule of law. Yes, the riots started for a reason, and racism had its role in the riots. We cannot deny that either.

But anyway, happy Riot Day! Don't go crazy.

Monday, April 27, 2009

The Band - "I Shall Be Released"

I'm starting to renew my hope for after seeing this pop up in the "Videos" section.

This song is one of my favorite songs, by my favorite group. It was written by Bob Dylan for Richard Manuel of The Band. It's called "I Shall Be Released." Words can't describe how much I cherish this song. Finding this song, on Youtube of all places, has put a fitting cap on a wonderful, wonderful weekend.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

4-26-09: Vicky Cristina Barcelona

I picked a great morning to watch Vicky Cristina Barcelona. The sun is shining brightly, it's warm out, and I'm in a really good mood.

I wanted to see the film in theatres when it came out, and planned on taking the lady friend along. But, you see, I grew up in a small town, and, at the time, was extremely bad at parallel parking. And, New Haven isn't the friendliest of cities for drivers of my ilk, at the time. I couldn't find a space, and we ended up canning the adventure and did something else. I think that was back in October; we ended up watching baseball.

Anyway, I finally got a chance to see the film on DVD. Though it does have that chick flick aura surrounding it, it's still a Woody Allen film at heart, and really shows. I like Woody Allen films. They're refreshingly outrageous, but still well rooted in reality. And Vicky Cristina Barcelona is just a beautiful film. I've always wanted to visit Barcelona, and plan on doing so soon enough. I'd studied Spanish for five years through high school, and wouldn't mind picking it up again. It's an incredible language (when spoken correctly). And I'm a fan of FC Barcelona to boot.

The film's cast is spectacular, but my favorite character is Juan Antonio, played by Javier Bardem, who played one of the best villains I've ever seen on screen in No Country for Old Men. This time around, though, Bardem is able to play a Spanish painter instead of a psychopathic killer. The Spanish actor does wonderfully in the part. The character is open about his flaws, and his past, and it's simply incredible. And, to give credit where it's properly due, I first heard about the film on The Totally Rad Show.

If you have a chance, and happen to be a guy trying to impress a lady, either rent Vicky Cristina Barcelona and watch it with her, or watch it yourself and try to learn from Juan Antonio, a modern day Casanova.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

4-25-09: JSON in Java Presentation (Longer)

A couple weeks ago I posted the preliminary presentation to a project I did (with a partner) for my Java grad class. It's about JavaScript Object Notation, or JSON (commonly pronounced "Jason") for short. Our specific focus was on JSON in Java. Here is the longer presentation that we gave about 10 days ago in class.


Friday, April 24, 2009

4-24-09: Doubt

The first time I heard about Doubt was while watching an episode of The Totally Rad Show during which they reviewed the film. They gave it strikingly high marks, going so far as to call it one of the best films of 2008.

I watched Doubt last night via a DVD rental from Netflix, and I was very, very impressed. Maybe I'm becoming more of a fan of Philip Seymour Hoffman, as well. The acting was tremendous, and the plot was very intriguing. As a Catholic with a father who grew up in the Catholic school system in Boston, the priest scandals have become a sore subject. Doubt seeks to address the topic in a specific way. It's not preachy, it's not graphic, but it is still all the more powerful. I strongly recommend any one, even a devout Catholic, sees this film.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

4-22-09: New Haven Firefighter Case

One of my co-workers pointed this out to me today, and I heard a piece on NPR on the way to class tonight about it.

Apparently, about five years ago, the City of New Haven, Connecticut (I live in a suburb of New Haven) gave out a test to firefighters seeking promotion. After seeing the results, the test was thrown out because it was allegedly racially biased because only whites and one Hispanic candidate passed. New Haven was worried that promoting these candidates and not those who failed the test would create a lawsuit.

Well, it backfired. The firefighters who passed the test and were not promoted ended up filing a lawsuit. It's been shot down by the lower courts, and is now being argued in the Supreme Court. And, to make matters more interesting, the nine members of the court are split on the decision, with only Justice Anthony Kennedy undecided.

My take on this is simple: what was the point of the test? If the point was to create more diversity in the New Haven firefighter corps, then perhaps it's a legitimate reason to throw out the test. But, as the attorney for the white firefighters pointed out, the point was to promote the most capable candidates.

Since New Haven approved the test beforehand, and advertised it as a fair test for those who wished to be promoted can take to advance their career, then it is equally unfair to these candidates who passed the test to not be promoted. And, just because the test results fall remarkably along racial lines does not make the test racially unfair. It is unlikely, but what if the candidates who didn't pass were actually unqualified? Is a fair test to assess an employee's capability only fair if it doesn't favor any ethnicity? I think this is a gross misinterpretation of civil rights legislation.

It will be interesting to see how this case pans out, with a decision expected some time this summer.

Monday, April 20, 2009

4-20-09: Hockey Monday: Big Win in Montreal

Les Canadiens are, more often than not, a very tough opponent for the Bruins, and tonight was simply the latest chapter in that rivalry. Already up 2-0 in the series with two stirring wins at home, Boston was looking to put the series nearly out of reach at the Bell Centre in Montreal tonight as they took on the eighth place Canadiens.

Things started off a little edge for the Bruins as they got used to the tough Montreal crowd. But, even after going down 1-0, the B's fought back hard to go into the second period tied 1-1. The second period was more of the same tough, close battles, with Boston going up 2-1 on a very nice goal by the fourth line. Bitz fought hard in the corner to maintain puck possession, finding an opean Thornton for the go-ahead goal. Despite Montreal tying it up a few minutes later, a late goal by former Canadien Michael Ryder gave Boston the 3-2 advantage going into the third.

The third period proved to be a very close and exciting game. Montreal certainly had its chances on the power play, but couldn't muster anything, falling to the Bruins 4-2 after a late empty netter by Kobasew. A very nice, hard fought win for the B's.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

4-19-09: Packing the T

The lady friend and I were up in Boston yesterday to catch the Red Sox game against the Orioles. We made a stop in Worcester on the way up to visit my Fraternity, who had their annual "Graduate Appreciation Day," which primarily consists of grilling, a little drinking, and softball. With the weather the way it was (sunny and pleasant), it went well. The lady friend and I partook in the softball game, which took place at Beaver Brook Park (or simply "behind State Liquor," which is how the location has been described for years). She and I were on different teams; hers won handily. But, it was fun, and we got some Wachusett Blueberry from nearby State Liquor afterward (you can't buy it in southern Connecticut).

After the quick stopover in Worcester, we headed into Boston. For those unaware of traffic conditions in the city, let me sum it up by saying it is awful. And yesterday featured all three major sports teams playing home games on the same day, two of which were playoff games. The city was pretty packed. Good weekend to be a Boston sports fan. But, driving in was not really a feasible option, so we, like many others, took the T from Riverside. I had bought the tickets to the game (good deal, by the way) through the WPI Alumni office. But the catch was you had to pick them up at the Alumni Reception at Jillian's Boston, which is right across the street from the park. I hesitate to say "catch," though, because it was quite a nice reception. They had pool tables and food, with a cash bar. We had our own room. Nice time, and the lady friend ran into several of her Sorority sisters, which was nice. One of my Fraternity Brothers was there with his wife, too.

The game itself was great. It was a bit cold, but not too bad; game time temperature was 50 degrees. The rain also held off until after the game, which was very nice. The Sox played great, too, especially Youkilis, who went 4 for 5 with a big 3-run home run. Good stuff. Our seats were pretty good: right field box, specifically Section 4, Box 90, Row NN, seats 11 and 12. For $50, not bad seats at all.

After the game, getting back to Riverside was a bit of a chore. The Bruins and Red Sox games, both stirring wins, let out at around the same time. Therefore, the T was being tested. It was absolutely packed. We ended up walking all the way to Copley Square to board the train earlier, which turned out to be a good decision. The poor souls at Kenmore, and more so at Fenway, had to wait for several trains to even get on. We got back to Riverside at around 11:30PM.

The drive home was the toughest part by far. I was very, very tired. But, a quick nap at a rest stop on I-84 helped solve that. Got home a little before 3:00AM. Softball practice this afternoon at 1:00PM helped to wake me up, and I had a very nice day overall.

A good weekend.

Get well, Scotty!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

4-14-09: Interesting Trip Home

I had a bit of an interesting trip home from North Carolina. To start, the flight from Wilmington to Charlotte was delayed by two hours because of a technical glitch in PSA's reservation system (PSA is a partner of US Airways, with whom I booked the flight) which prevented the airplane from taking off. The plane was at the gate the whole time, too. It simply couldn't get the paperwork. But, a couple hours later, we were off. All 12 of us. They even comped us drinks; I had two Heinekens during the 45 minute flight. And I got my homework done while waiting in the terminal.

I then missed my connection in Charlotte, which actually took off from there before my flight from Wilmington took off. No surprise. Fortunately, I was able to squeeze on to a 10:09PM flight back to Hartford. Sat next to a kid who's a freshman at Mitchell College in New London. Poor kid sounds like he really didn't like his experience there thus far.

I arrived at Bradley (BDL) at around Midnight. Hopped on a shuttle to my car, which was nice.

The real stress began when I arrived at my car. No, it hadn't been broken into or anything. But when I went to unlock it with the remote key device, I got no response from the car. Apparently, the battery was running to low that the signal simply didn't reach the car. It didn't even reach while I was IN the car. How I got in was through the key. But, for whatever reason, the car alarm went off. I was able to get in the car, though. But I couldn't start the car; the alarm system had shut that down.

For about 15 minutes I was a bit upset over this ordeal. I called AAA and told them my story. They were great, and said they'd get a guy out there ASAP. My phone's battery almost died, but I was able to turn the car's systems on the charge that, so it wasn't a big deal.

So, I sat there, enraged at my predicament. Then I saw it in the change holder in between the seats: the spare key, with its own remote key device with plenty of battery. I stepped outside of the car, hit "Unlock" and disarmed the alarm. Went in, started the car, and began shouting "I can't fucking believe that just happened! YEEAAAAHHHH!" to myself for about 45 minutes straight. It was glorious. AAA didn't end up being necessary, but I have to thank them for their wonderful service nonetheless. I also picked up a new battery for the remote key device this afternoon.

Monday, April 13, 2009

4-13-09: Hockey Monday: Frozen Four Finale

Saturday night's National Championship game for Division 1 Men's Ice Hockey was quite a sight. Miami of Ohio took on top ranked Boston University in a bid to upset the Terriers, who were slotted to win their first national championship since 1995.

I got a chance to watch about a period of the game; the first and last 10 minutes. After BU scored first, I figured Miami was cooked. It was much to my surprise to come home from dinner with my parents to see Miami up 2-1 with only a few minutes to go. The last minute was absolutely nuts. BU went down 3-1, and had to pull their goaltender. After a frantic fight in the Miami's zone, BU was able to score to make it 2-1. Then, with only seconds left, they tied it up. Very exciting stuff.

The overtime didn't last too long, and I knew going into it that Miami was done. You don't recover from that sort of shocking comeback late. They were spent, and BU was destined to win it. The winning goal may be kinda goofy, but one thing is for sure: it was one of the best championship games I've seen in years.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

4-12-09: Product Over Sum

There's a formula I learned in my undergraduate days in my electrical engineering studies known as the "Product Over Sum" method. It's used to calculate the equivalent resistance of two resistors in parallel.

Last night I was somehow reminded of this formula. I don't know why, but it came up in a random thought. I first remember learning an example of a parallel system back in, I think, middle school with the "two painters" example:

Two painters are hired to paint a house. One can paint the house on his own in 12 hours, whereas the other is twice as fast and can paint the same house on his own in 6 hours. How long would it take them to paint the house if they worked together?

The answer isn't the average, or 9 hours. It's actually 4 hours, which is the product (72) over the sum (18). The two men are painting the house in parallel. I didn't realize it was a parallel system at first; I learned this years later with parallel resistors.

But last night I thought of a different way to look at it, using logic gates. Does this make sense?

If you think about it as a ratio of the rates at which the two painters do their work, you could think of it as: (Worker 1 AND Worker 2) / (Worker 1 OR Worker 2). When you "AND", you are multiplying the two; "OR" means you add them. I never really thought of this way, but does it make sense? You're comparing how fast both of them work together (Worker 1 AND Worker 2) to how fast either of them works (Worker 1 OR Worker 2). It's simply a ratio.

Would a kid understand this better than saying "it's a parallel system"? Maybe. I'm just thinking out loud.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

4-11-09: Congratulations, Boston University

I'm not a huge BU fan, but I just want to go on the record in saying that their win tonight against Miami of Ohio in the Men's Division I Ice Hockey National Championship Game was pretty fun to watch. Congratulations, Boston University.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

4-8-09: In North Carolina

I'm in North Carolina for a little under a week, visiting my parents for Easter. They themselves just moved down here a few weeks ago, so things are still a little out of sorts, but good.

On the plane ride from Charlotte (my layover) last night, I sat next to Aidan Heaney, the head coach of the UNCW Men's Soccer squad. Nice guy. Talked some soccer with him, which I'm sure was surprising for him. But it made the 63 minute flight even shorter. Good flights.

Not sure what the plan is for today, but probably going to head over to see the new house being built across town (my parents are renting for the time being until the new place is finished some time in August). I might even get a little golfing and boating in today. Not bad. Ready for vacation.

Monday, April 6, 2009

4-6-09: JSON Presentation

Here's a presentation I made in my grad class on JavaScript Object Notation last week. This is just a preliminary presentation; took about 10 minutes. The big presentation is in nine days; should go about an hour. Fun stuff.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

4-5-09: Richard Pryor's Black Death Metal

I wonder if life would be different if The Richard Pryor Show had lasted a bit longer. Here's a clip from one of the four episodes aired:

Saturday, April 4, 2009

4-4-09: Synecdoche, New York

I just finished watching one of the most mind-boggling movies I've seen since Brazil. It's called Synecdoche, New York (yes, it's purposefully misspelled). It stars Phillip Seymour Hoffman as Caden Cotard, a very talented theatre director. Without giving too much away, it's about his life, and the creation of an autobiographical play, which turns into a play within a play. It's pretty intense, but beautifully done. If you're into a more cerebral film, this is a good one to look at. Very, very well done.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

4-1-09: A Moderately Successful April Fools

Well, I tried to pull exactly two April Fools jokes today, and was successful at both.

The first was with the lady friend, who is in Florida working her ass off doing some testing. Not realizing that she's probably not in the mood for joking around (or remembered it was April 1st), I sent her an e-mail with the subject " Youkilis out for the season" with the following link:

She apparently freaked out for a minute before realizing what day it was, and was none too thrilled. Success!

The second attempt was to my co-worker Guy. He sent me and my boss an e-mail asking about some error message he was having. It was actually because of a license problem, but I told him "Well, since you and Guy [pronounced 'Gee'; the other Guy is Belgian] are using it at the same time, and your names are spelled the same, it's having issues." Guy bought it for a second, then remembered. But I had him. Success!

Overall it was quite a productive day.