Sunday, September 27, 2009

New Ski Gear!

This year I've decided, with some influence from the lady, to delve into the world of downhill skiing. I'd tried it last year for the first time since childhood, and will be going much more frequently this season.

Since renting can be a pain, and is expensive if you do it frequently, I went out and bought ski gear yesterday. The lady pointed me in all the right directions. We started (and fortunately ended) at Action Sports in Branford, who had a "ski swap" yesterday. I had a price in mind: $500, maximum. Ideally, $400 or less.

The first thing is the most obvious: skis. We started out front where they had the tent with all the stuff people brought in to swap (pretty much they just gave you store credit). A very nice lady from the store helped us out, and told me I'd probably need to go with around a 174cm length for the skis. We found a very good pair of used K2 Omni Hawks for $150, and I was sold right away. We then went inside and saw some real fancy new skis, but they were $400, so I went with the used ones. Glad I did that. They look nice.

Next: boots. We started again out front in the tent, where another guy from the store was fitting people. He sized me up as about 29cm. We looked around and tried on a couple pairs. I ended up getting a pair of 29.5cm Lange boots, which fit pretty well. I think they were around $40, but the receipt I have isn't showing them (maybe I pay for them later?). Good boots. I was then told to leave them for tuning and whatnot and to pick them up November 1st. Good deal.

Then we went back in and had to find a helmet, goggles, and poles. An older guy named Mark, great guy, helped us out. I ended up with a cheap but decent pair of Axis Powder pols for $30. The helmet is a nice flat gray Giro Encore 2 model that I got for $50. Then there were the goggles. The first pair I tried on were decent, but I ended up going with a bigger pair of Smith Fuse Regulators for $90.

All told, I walked out with all the equipment I'll pretty much need (I'll probably need a new pair of pants) for under $400. Good stuff. Now I just need to learn to ski.

9-27-09: Spurs 5 - Burnley 0

Huge win for Spurs yesterday against newly promoted Burnley. I really wish ESPN2 showed this game, especially because it seemed like they'd had Burnley on there twice already (and none for Spurs until the big match on Halloween against Arsenal). Oh well.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Premier League Video Highlights Now On Hulu



Sent to you by Pat via Google Reader:


via EPL Talk by The Gaffer on 9/24/09

Excellent news for US residents who follow the Premier League club: Hulu has added Premier League highlights to its array of online videos and movies it has available on the popular online broadband site.

The availability of goal highlights from the past weekend of matches is made available in conjunction with Fox Soccer Channel.

Each week, Hulu will present:

  • Highlights from all ten games available as separate videos,
  • A weekend round-up,
  • Saves of the week, and
  • Goals of the week.

Each clip is approximately 2-3 minutes except for the weekend round-up which is 4-5 minutes.

In addition to highlights of the Premier League, Hulu and Fox Soccer Channel has made video highlights of UEFA Champions League also available.

Each video is preempted by a commercial.

Thanks to reader timmyg for the tip.

Related posts:

  1. It's Time for the Premier League to Concede Defeat in Video Highlights Fight
  2. Joost to Offer Premier League Highlights Via Internet
  3. The Future of Premier League Goal Highlights on the Internet


Things you can do from here:


9-24-09: Lottery Winners

I was talking to some friends at lunch the other day about lottery winners. One of them had seen a program on TV that profiled recent lottery winners who had squandered their fortunes in a variety of foolish ways.

I was thinking of the difference was between a lottery winner squandering millions of dollars and a self-made millionaire losing their fortune. The difference is, of course, how they go about doing it. What decisions would a self-made person make versus someone who was simply lucky?

I thought maybe there had to be something in how they came across the money. Let’s take a more specific example of the self-made millionaire: Youtube. The guys who sold Youtube to Google were practically instant millionaires. Sure, they had worked hard to develop their product, but until Google signed the checks, they weren’t really all that wealthy (or had virtually any value at all). Suddenly, BAM, millionaires many times over.

So in one corner you have the founders of Youtube (who happened to be Chad Hurley, Steve Chen, and Jawed Karim). In the other corner you have John Q. Public, who suddenly finds himself the lucky winner of a $100 million Powerball jackpot. I’m not sure, but let’s assume the Youtube guys put a lot of time and effort into developing the website, but limited their risk (they didn’t bet everything on the site’s success), and they weren’t sure it was going to be nearly as big a hit as it was. I’d call that a “medium risk, moderately high return” going in. Whereas John Q. Public has a “low risk, very high return” plan.

Once each of the respective parties receive their “winnings,” how do they view the money? Luck? The end result of hard work? Does it actually matter?

I think it might, but I do think, in general, a person who worked for the money won’t spend it nearly as recklessly as a lottery winner. Now, what if the lottery winner had “invested” thousands of dollars over the course of many years into the lottery before winning? Could that play a role in how they spend the money? They’d have to see the purchase of a lottery ticket in a more business manner than the typical lottery player, who might buy one or two tickets a month (or year).

When you take the odds of success into account, the two parties are remarkably similar. How many Youtube stories are out there? Three guys, building a website, come across $1.65 billion from Internet giant Google. If you split it three ways (let’s say they did), that’s $500 million each. Even half that amount is more than any lottery jackpot I’ve heard of. There can only be a relative handful of such “winners” out there. Not quite as rare as the mega jackpot winner, but still quite rare.

I just think it’s an interesting relationship.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

9-23-09: Happy Birthday Bruce Springsteen

For those unaware, today is the 60th birthday of The Boss, a.k.a. Bruce Springsteen, the New Jersey native and musical mastermind of the E Street Band.

I grew up listening to Springsteen because of my father, who saw him in his very early days at the University of Massachusetts around 1972 or 1973. Springsteen was terrible, but over time became a big deal.

I’ve listened to Springsteen, mostly in the summer, since as long as I can remember. Here are some of my favorites:

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Friday, September 18, 2009

9-18-09: Nimbus Cloud Computer

Last night, in my graduate class in digital design, a man named John Crowley came in and gave about a 70 minute presentation on a product he was working on, and will soon begin to sell, called the Nimbus Cloud Computer. The reason why he was invited was mostly because he was a real-world entrepreneur who built a machine using FPGAs that had an Altera processor at their core (which is the same manufacturer as the processors for the FPGAs we use in the course).

The presentation was pretty much half sales pitch, half technical discussion. The Nimbus is a small machine, with no imbedded operating system, with only USB ports. It ran a virtual machine that connected to a Nimbus server. The cost of the box itself is about $50, but each user pays a monthly subscription fee per device. All of the “technical stuff” and troubleshooting is supposed to be handled by Nimbus customer service. I’m not entirely sure how that will work, but it’s an interesting concept.

The product has its obvious good and bad points.

Good: it’s fast, cheap, “green” (doesn’t draw a lot of power), easy to set up, accessible almost anywhere, and very secure.

Bad: video compression is very poor, and you’re limited to only using a few USB devices (pretty much a mouse and a monitor). He went on Youtube and played a video, and it was very, very choppy. It’s something they might be able to fix by porting over an MPEG to the board itself and decoding it there, but right now they’re doing a lot of compression up front, and it lags badly.

But Crowley brought up some interesting points. Since it’s very fast (a lot of routines are done via Verilog in hardware as opposed to software) and secure (no embedded operating system), it could have potential uses in the military and industries where speed and security are important. I don’t know if he mentioned it last night, but my co-worker Joe and I (who are both in the class) thought: why not hospitals?

I did a project for two months during my junior year in college in Bangkok, Thailand. We worked at a state-run hospital (Lerdsin Hospital to be specific) with the Orthopedic Department. The goal was to help build an electronic database to replace their paper system. We got the job done (most of the technical work was done by one of my project partners who was a CS major), but while doing the project, we were constantly asked about other technologies the doctors could use to access patient data, like a PDA or a tablet PC. It felt like stuff of pipe dreams, but, after the fact, we thought it was feasible, so we left it in our report as “possible future developments” in the recommendations section.

Last night I was reminded of that experience when Crowley talked about the mobility and security. With the age of health care reform in full swing, and paper records going the way of the Dodo, I thought it would be far more prudent for the company to sell the Nimbus to hospitals. It would help save cost AND allow doctors to access data cheaply and almost anywhere (the website says you can access a Nimbus via any Android enabled device). I even went so far as to write Crowley an e-mail saying so.

I’m not entirely sure how well ScreenPC, Crowley’s company, will do with the device. A lot of the small consumer ideas they have could easily be done via a Netbook, which costs about $50 to $100 more and has no monthly subscription fee. I do hope they go after hospitals.

Best of luck, ScreenPC.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

9-16-09: Books About Business

I have a habit of starting to read a book, then switching to another book, then another, and another, until eventually I sit down in one or two sittings and finish the rest of one of the books. Right now I have two that are in the more "rapid pace" cycle: Atlas Shrugged and The Smartest Guys in the Room.

I inherited both books from my late grandfather. I actually remember him reading The Smartest Guys in the Room a few years ago when I was visiting him one weekend at his home in Framingham, MA (I went to college in nearby Worcester). The lesson he tried to teach me from the book wasn't "be moral" or "don't defraud people out of millions or billions of dollars." It was: "Patrick, you need to go to Harvard if you want to get an MBA worth anything." He kept on it for some time.

I think he admired Jeff Skilling. My grandfather was a self-made millionaire, working hard and earning a Master's degree taking night classes for years. To make his admiration of Skilling even more peculiar was the fact that my grandfather was a CPA. He never commented on whether Skilling or Kenneth Lay were crooks. He did think they were quite brilliant. I'm about 1/3 of the way through that one.

The other book is the more famous, and epic, novel Atlas Shrugged by the great writer Ayn Rand. It was written in the 1950's, but it's pretty timeless. It's about a lot of things, but mostly industry. It brings in a lot of concepts like what it means to be human, to be charitable (in many different ways), and what it really means to be greedy. I'm about as far into this one as the other book, but I've found the parallel reading effort to be pretty interesting. Both books involve hard workers. Both involve brilliant men and women, competing against each other in major industries. One simply happens to be a work of fiction. The other: we only wish.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

9-13-09: New York: A Documentary Film

I finally watched the last DVD of the epic documentary film New York by Ric Burns. It's quite a monster at 14.5 hours, but it is absolutely worth every dripping second of history and insight for those interested in the city's wonderful history. At various points in my life, I have considered taking a course at a local college in the city's history. I've taken bus tours (one last summer in fact) to learn more about the city. I wrote a term paper in college on The Tammany Society. I walked down the streets during Summer Streets last year just to see the buildings from a new view. I am simply fascinated with the city.

Despite being from the Boston area originally (and firmly maintaining my allegiance to Boston sports), I spent most of my childhood and young adulthood in southern Connecticut, about an hour outside of New York. I've been there countless times, and each time I try to get something new out of it. I always succeed. I think it's just so great to be able to hop on a train (even now I live a few minutes' walk from a train station in Derby, CT that will get me to Grand Central in 90 minutes) and end up anywhere you want to in New York. You don't have to worry about traffic or driving or parking or anything. It's just so nice.

The film starts off in the beginning, back in the Dutch colonial days, and continues through to the end of the 20th century. It came out in 1999, so I think it's eerie to think that, despite all the changes they show in the film, it's changed that much more in 10 years.

There are various public figures that they describe which also fascinate me. Whether it was a member of Tammany Hall, an activist, a mayor like Fiorello LaGuardia, an infamous city planner like Robert Moses (who was hated by many despite his vast contributions to the city), or a group of people, you just can't believe they were all part of a single story. In a single place. It's just amazing. And the way Burns and the great, great contributors tell the story is almost uncanny in its movement and flow. They describe tragedy and glory and poverty and wealth in ways that make you think which actually helped to shape the city's history more.

Do yourself a favor. Watch New York: A Documentary Film (I used Netflix), then go into the city on a weekend. You'll enjoy it. I plan on doing that very thing.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

9-10-09: Kindness vs. Niceness

My buddy broke the unfortunate news to me today that he'd broken up with his girlfriend of a little more than a year. They'd recently moved in together, and things just didn't work out.

I began to think to myself that, for whatever stupid reason, I could "see it coming." But I'm not really sure if that's just me using the break-up as a proof to a theory I formed... after the break-up. One of those hindsight sort of deals. But anyway, that's not what I ended up thinking about.

The now ex-girlfriend was a lot of fun. Her and my buddy hit it off pretty quickly, and things seemed to move pretty fast. Just a couple weeks into their dating, I remember asking him if he still felt like looking for an apartment (I was planning on moving and was looking for a roommate). He told me he was "keeping his options open," which I took as a sign that things certainly were moving quite quickly.

Their move-in was settled months in advance (over four months in fact), which was surprising. But the strange part was, while helping them move, their reasoning and attitudes about living together. My buddy told me it would just make things easier, since they already hung out a lot (practically every night). Not exactly the standard reasoning, but I didn't object. And, to add to this peculiar move-in, the girl told me "I've had a pretty bad history with roommates, so we'll see how this goes." Not exactly a promising outlook going into it.

Then I began to ponder about the girl's personality. I'd seen her in primarily social settings, pretty much exclusively with my buddy, for about 15 months. She's a Yale PhD student, so she's obviously quite bright. My buddy's no slouch, either. And they seemed to really get along together.

Then the thought occurred to me, partly stemmed from various discussions I've had with another of my good friends, who had dated the girl in college (yes, she dated friends, just years apart, who went to the same college), that the girl seemed to put on a nice face, but I don't really know if I ever saw her exhibit kindness. I mean, they bought each other things, and ate in classy restaurants relatively regularly. My buddy has been working pretty long hours for several months now, so he can afford it. I never saw her as a drain or a leach or anything like that. I don't want to say she is, either, despite their relationship ending.

I think it's important, at least in relationships I've had, to be with some one who exhibits kindness as opposed to niceness. There's a subtle, but important, difference between the two. Kindness, to me, is a deeper trait that a person HAS. Niceness is just a temporary state; like "putting on a good face." I like to think of the phrase "you kids play nice, now." Some one can be a kind person who does nice things, yes. They don't cancel each other out. And sure, a kind person can be a jerk at times. But some one who isn't naturally kind (a.k.a. a selfish person) can simply be nice and get away with it in superficial settings. To be fair, I'm not saying my buddy's now ex-girlfriend is not a kind person by any stretch. I just never really saw it. Maybe he did.

The good thing, for them, is that they're staying friends. In fact, they're still living together until he finds a place. I hope to be able to help him through this. I think it's the right thing to do.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day

This looks violently interesting.

9-7-09: Camping in the Catskills

I just got back from a weekend of camping in the Catskills with the lady and four friends. It was a very nice time overall. The weather was extremely splendid, even chilly at times. I should have been a bit better prepared for the cooler weather, having stupidly packed only one long-sleeved shirt. But, I survived in relative comfort.

We stayed at Rip Van Winkle Campgrounds in Saugerties, NY. It was about a 2.5 hour drive from New Haven, and was pretty easy to get to. It's just a few miles away from I-87. When the lady and I started looking at locations (just a few weeks ago), I laughed at the campground for its name alone. But, oddly enough, it turned out to be a very nice spot. The showers were cheap and very clean (a quarter got you 10-12 minutes of hot water), and the rates were pretty good (it'll work out to about $60 a person plus food, probably $100 per person in total). It's right nearby some great hiking spots, including the famous Kaaterskill Falls, which we visited on Saturday. Yesterday, most of the group (myself not included because I don't have a good set of hiking boots) went on a 15 mile hike up some good terrain. It was a pretty active group.

Some lessons learned for the trip (only a few):

- Pack better. Get a good overnight bag, and pack for cooler weather.
- Bring plenty of quarters. This wasn't an issue, fortunately, but we scrambled a bit.
- Don't get too complicated with food. We got a little fancy last night with dinner with the chicken alfredo, which turned out OK but no great (I cooked). Bring plenty of cooking utensils.
- Bacon is a great breakfast, no matter what.

It was a very nice weekend. I think we'll make a return trip there in the years to come.