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.