Thursday, December 30, 2010

12-30-10: Podcast: A Canny Approach, Episode 2

Here's another episode of my experimental podcast - A Canny Approach. Much better sound quality than the first rendition. I used my new Yeti microphone; sounds great. Need to work on pre-production for the next episode, but it came out OK. Have a listen:






Here are links from the episode:


Car Trains:

Wired article

BBC article

Google cars

Discovery article


StatSheet.com:

Main site

New York Times article


Yale hockey:

Yale athletics site

USCHO.com rankings

Monday, December 27, 2010

12-27-10: Tron: Legacy

Last night I went to see Tron: Legacy with the only other member of my family with good taste in tech-based movies: my dear mother. There's only one movie theatre near my parents' house down here in North Carolina, but it's much cheaper than what I'm used to in New Haven.

I made the usual mistake of reading the reviews before going in. Couldn't help it. I knew that the soundtrack was good (Daft Punk composed the score) and that it was in 3D, and that the quality of plot development wasn't quite what people had hoped for.

I don't remember the last time I saw the first film (came out three years before I was born), so I had completely forgotten some of the details regarding the original story line. For instance, I completely forgot the name of the bad guy (Dillinger), so when they revealed his son's character (who doesn't play any further role in the film - why bother bringing him up?), I was at a bit of a loss. I also forgot about how the character of Tron came about, but that wasn't really an issue either.

The film is dazzling in its look and feel. The acting was decent. The soundtrack was, indeed, awesome. Overall, I thought it was quite entertaining, but some of the plot elements just didn't work. The idea of bringing back the Clu character (who was killed off in the first film only to be replaced by Flynn himself) was interesting, but the end was sort of predictable. I still don't understand why they brought up Dillinger's son, played by the capable and uncredited Cillian Murphy. It felt more like The Matrix at times than it probably should have (Flynn is treated, literally, as a god, and Michael Sheen's character is almost a digital British copy of the Merovingian). I also didn't quite get the role of a certain group of "pure" characters (won't spoil that part of the story). I did think Olivia Wilde (13 from House) did a good job.

If you haven't seen the film, I recommend watching the first film beforehand. Some of the plot relies on the viewer knowing a little bit about the back story, but if you just want to see it for the entertainment, it's a good take. I'd give it a 7 out of 10.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Monday, December 20, 2010

12-20-10: The Joys of Tweed (Airport)

This will be my seventh trip from Connecticut to North Carolina to visit my parents. They moved in March of '09 to escape the cold of their native New England. I like to make my occasional escape, as well.

The seven trips have consisted of two by car and five by air. This trip is via the latter. Of the five trips by air, two have originated from Bradley Airport, two from LaGuardia, and this one, via Tweed in New Haven. LGA is the cheapest option (thanks to Spirit Airlines direct to MYR), but is the longest and most troublesome drive. Bradley is a good medium as far as price, but takes over an hour to get to. I'd never considered Tweed until now.

My, what a fool am I. I guess the biggest reason for not trying Tweed earlier was because I didn't live six miles away, which I now do. Sure, any road is easy to drive on at 5:15AM, but it was a breeeeze. Door to door in 18 minutes.

The catch with Tweed is that the only flights from it go to Philadelphia, where I now am. But it's small, really small. We flew a Dash 8 (prop plane) an hour to PHL. My only regret is that I didn't sleep in a little longer (though the flight being delayed an hour was unforeseen). The long term parking is close by, and relatively cheap. The total cost of round-trip airfare is more than it would be from Bradley or LGA, but the total cost, including parking, is only $50 more. That, my friends, is worth it. After all, it probably saved me a couple days of my life in the end. With the cost of healthcare so brutally expensive at the end of life, I feel like I did some one else a favor, too. You are welcome, future taxpayers.

If you live near New Haven, give Tweed (HVN) a try.

If you are associated with Tweed (HVN), I am willing to accept discount air fare as a recommendation fee.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Friday, December 17, 2010

Champions League Round of 16 Draw

The Champions League Round of 16 draw was this morning in Switzerland.

A few good matchups (to be expected with only 16 teams remaining). The big ones are Arsenal vs. Barcelona (both doing very well in domestic play) and Inter Milan vs. Bayern Munich (rematch of the most recent final). Spurs is playing AC Milan, which sucks for me because I like both teams.

Here are my predictions:


AS Roma vs. FC Shakhtar Donetsk: Shakhtar

AC Milan vs. Tottenham Hotspur FC : Spurs (I am biased)

Valencia CF vs. FC Shalke 04: Valencia

FC Internazionale vs. FC Bayern München: Inter (though both are struggling domestically)

Olympique Lyonnais vs. Real Madrid CF: Real Madrid

Arsenal FC vs. FC Barcelona: Barcelona

Olympique Marseille vs. Manchester United FC: United

FC København vs. Chelsea FC: Chelsea

The Valencia – Shalke matchup looks to be the best for competitiveness. Both teams have been good in recent years, though Shalke is currently 10th in the Bundesliga and Valencia is 5th in La Liga. The Inter – Bayern matchup would be much better if both teams weren’t struggling. I think Inter will pull through based on their manager Benitez’s history with the Champions League. Spurs are going against Milan, who is currently top in Serie A. I’m hopeful they’ll make it through, but it won’t be easy.

Round of 16 play begins February 15th. For those unfamiliar with the format, it is two-leg (each team plays home and away) aggregate (total goals scored for both games) with away goals as the first tie-breaker. For example, Arsenal and Barcelona play twice, once in London and once in Barcelona. If the first game is in London and ends 1-1, and the second is in Barcelona and ends 2-2, then Arsenal goes through on away goals (2 to 1).

Monday, December 6, 2010

Road-Train Tests Move Forward

Good to see this move forward.

 
 

Sent to you by Pat via Google Reader:

 
 

via Wired Top Stories on 12/6/10

European motorists need not worry if they see a driver not paying attention to the road while tailgating another car — it's all in the name of science.



 
 

Things you can do from here:

 
 

Saturday, December 4, 2010

12-4-10: A Canny Approach, First Edition

Here's the very first edition of A Canny Approach, a podcast experiment of my own design. Just a quick and dirty podcast I threw together this afternoon using GarageBand.

I tried recording the audio with an old cardioid microphone, but I need to get a pre-amp for it to use it on the Macbook (I know it's cheap - waiting for Christmas to come). I ended up just using the built-in microphone. The sound isn't that great. The music is "King Harvest" by The Band. Plenty of room for improvement (except for the music, of course).








Friday, December 3, 2010

Foodtubes Proposes Underground, Physical Internet

I propose the name of the system be the BacoNet.

 
 

Sent to you by Pat via Google Reader:

 
 

via Slashdot by Soulskill on 12/3/10

geek4 writes "Automatically routed canisters could replace trucks with an Internet of things, says Foodtubes. A group of academics is proposing a system of underground tunnels which could deliver food and other goods in all weathers with massive energy savings. The Foodtubes group wants to put goods in metal capsules two meters long, which are shifted through underground polyethylene tubes at speeds of up to 60 miles per hour, directed by linear induction motors and routed by intelligent software to their destinations. The group, which includes an Oxford physics professor and logistics experts, wants £15 million to build a five-mile test circuit, and believes the scheme could fund itself if used by large supermarkets and local councils, and could expand because it uses an open architecture."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.




 
 

Things you can do from here:

 
 

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

11-16-10: "The Shadow Scholar"

I found an interesting article from The Chronicle of Higher Education this afternoon (through Marginal Revolution) that I couldn't stop reading until finished.

The article (well, essay) was written by a real person with the fake name of Ed Dante. Ed writes student term papers for a living, and makes a pretty decent living out if it at that. The essay goes through his clientele (ESL students, the "hopelessly deficient," and the lazy rich kids) as well as the type of work he does for the students. The sheer breadth was amazing; he's written papers on nearly everything (except math, so he probably hasn't done many engineering papers). He's also written papers of varying importance, ranging from simple homework assignments up to and including graduate theses. All this using primarily Google and Wikipedia.

The essay serves as a stern warning to institutions of higher education. Dante knows how helpless (or lazy or incompetent) his clients are. Some of the quotes he gives from students are scary - the grammar is just awful. But he doesn't mind the money. Why wouldn't he? This year he stands to make $66,000. That's not too shabby. The hours aren't great, but he seems to enjoy writing.

The warning is two-fold:

1) Pay more attention to the students. He finds it difficult to believe that none of his clients (not a one) have complained to him that the professors assigning the work don't believe the work is their own, never mind the fact that none, to his knowledge, have been expelled. He nearly goes as far as calling it gross negligence on the part of the school.

2) Stop putting all emphasis on grades and performance. His ESL and "hopelessly deficient" clients are simply not built to succeed in the modern university system. The fact that they may not know much English, or simply don't get it, works entirely against them. Rather than help, universities punish these students through the mindless examination system. Pass or fail - not their fault if you can't hack it.

I tend to agree with Ed. I won't go so far as to call the system broken, but it does tend to favor those of ill-gotten means, like his rich kid clients. I didn't have the luxury, or the lack of integrity, to hire some one to write my term papers. I was lucky enough to study engineering, which is a discipline where ineptitude can cost lives. With all due respect to the art, I don't know of any fatalities due to improper sentence construction.

I don't think for a second that people like Ed are the problem. They're servicing a market demand - students are coming to them asking for help. So what if the students don't know what they're doing? If you want know who is to blame, just look at the diploma. There are usually two names prominently displayed on each diploma given to graduating students: the school's name (sometimes in Latin - fancy!) and the student. If the school can't stand by the merits of the degree conferred, then they are doing a disservice to the student, even though that student is indeed cheating.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Spurs vs. Blackburn Rovers

Spurs had a good match (finally) yesterday. Bale looked sensational again. Some lapses towards the end, and a couple misses earlier on, but a good win overall.


Saturday, November 13, 2010

11-13-10: "Last Days of the Coliseum" and a Peter Worrell Fight

When I saw the piece in the New Haven Independent about the program, I jumped on the online AT&T DVR site (plug not intended) to record "Last Days of the Coliseum" on Connecticut Public Television.

The New Haven Coliseum was a building built with great promise but poor luck and planning. The idea was good: build an entertainment hub in downtown New Haven by the intersection of I-91 and I-95 for people all over the state to come watch great concerts, sporting events, and various forms of entertainment.

The problems began right from the start. The original plans were too expensive, and shortcuts were necessary to make it work. The location was too small to allow for proper outdoor parking, so they put the parking garage above the arena. Then, there was the corrosion. Salt from the roads was picked up by cars and brought into the parking structure, which over time slowly corroded the metal structure. The building opened in 1970 and by 1980 pieces of concrete were breaking off onto the street below.

I drove by the old Coliseum site last night after dropping the lady off for a wedding rehearsal downtown. I didn't visit New Haven all that often growing up. We moved here in early 1996 and were already a full-on hockey family. I played at the Coliseum several times, which was always a blast. It was a BIG place - cavernous, but it always felt a little run down. The locker rooms we used were actually just dressing rooms. The ice was never great. But it was a fun time. The current site is a parking lot.

Though The Beast (AHL team) were only around for two seasons, my dad took me to a bunch of games. One player we loved to see was Peter Worrell. Worrell was a fighter, through and through. He played one full season for the Beast before being called up to the parent club Florida Panthers. There was a game I distinctly remember attending where Worrell got in a great fight. I don't remember who they played, but it was a great fight. Realizing that the Internet is a wonderful, wonderful place, I did some research to determine what game that was.

I got further than I expected, but am still not 100% sure. I know Worrell played for the Beast in both seasons of the team's existence (1997-1998 and 1998-1999). However, he got in a lot of fights. In the 1997-1998 season, in which he played in 50 games, he accrued 309 penalty minutes. I believe the fight I remember resulted in a game misconduct (as I remember Worrell being ejected and trying to come BACK into the game after undressing in the locker room). Unfortunately, I haven't been able to find official score sheets so far.

I did find a great website called DropYourGloves.com, which tracks and rates hockey fights. All of Worrell's fights are logged on there. The site tracks date, opponent, size advantage, and whether or not he won the fight. Peter Worrell got in 22 fights during the 1997-1998 season (I don't think the game in question was during the 1998-1999 season), 10 of which were at home games.

With that site, I've narrowed down, based on fights Worrell had during home games, the possible dates for the game in question:

10/26/1997 against Georges Laraque

12/7/1997 (three fights)

12/28/1997 against Paul Ferone


The one issue with 12/7/1997 being the game is that it was on a Sunday. We didn't go to many Sunday games. However, further research is required.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

11-9-10: New Haven Promise

The City of New Haven, along with Yale University, is planning on offering local New Haven students free tuition to state universities. Most of the $4.5 million in annual funding for the New Haven Promise program is to come from Yale.

The whole point of the program is to help curb the horrendous drop-out rate in New Haven public schools. Each student will be eligible to receive up to 100% tuition for a state university if they maintain a 3.0 GPA and 90% attendance rate. Once they get in to college, they must maintain at least a 2.5 GPA to continue receiving the funding. The program also implements a sliding scale, allowing students who have attended New Haven public schools since kindergarten to receive the full 100% tuition, and students attending since the 9th grade to receive 65% tuition. Students must have attended New Haven schools since at least the ninth grade to be eligible.

Two things I like about this program are: 1) It has a lot of private funding and 2) It has a lot of caveats to mitigate risk of failure. It’s good for students who work hard and want to succeed

I’m not surprised to see Yale buy into this. As a New Haven resident, I see firsthand the issues Yale has with its community. It’s not uncommon to hear about incidents involving students and the community. This past weekend, a campus party ended with a bit of violence as uninvited “New Haven residents” got in a fight with members of the Yale heavyweight crew team while being escorted out of a private campus party. Earlier in the school year, several students were involved in a police raid on a private party in the night club district. The latter wasn’t a real issue of Yale vs. its neighbors – it was mostly Yale students vs. the New Haven Police. The former, however, is more common and more tricky to deal with.

Yale is practically a fortress to outsiders. I have friends who are students, and they’ve told me about the warnings they’ve received, and continue to receive, from the school regarding student safety. It’s a constant struggle. The surrounding neighborhoods are known for illicit activities. Yale has taken measures in the past to create a buffer for students, such as providing financial incentives for faculty to buy or rent property near campus to raise the local profile a bit. The decision to help fund New Haven Promise seems to follow along those lines – by encouraging local students to focus more on academics, it will help the city as a whole raise its profile and hopefully stem some of the problems that have plagued the schools for years.

Such a program will take several years to produce results. I hope the private funding does pick up. I hope students do take advantage of the program. Hopefully at the very least some get teaching degrees and give back to their community through education.


Well done, Yale.

Friday, November 5, 2010

11-5-10: New Car

Today I purchased a 2010 Subaru Forester Premium. I'm pretty pumped. Got a really good deal on it, too.

It's my first experience buying a car from a non family member. Overall, I think I did OK. I got a good rate (2.99%) on the loan from the dealer and put over half down. I test drove a bunch of cars after doing pretty extensive research online (including Consumer Reports thanks to my mother's subscription). I ended up getting a used 2010 model (6,250 miles, color is "Sage Green"), from Premier Subaru in Branford, CT. Great buying experience from those guys. I'd recommend them to any one looking for a Subaru. I also get $100 if you tell them I sent you. That's "Canny," by the way.


The drive home today was quite exciting.

Here are a couple pictures of the car:



Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Best Of Gareth Bale Versus Inter Milan On Video

Impressive performance from Bale the other night.

 
 

Sent to you by Pat via Google Reader:

 
 

via EPL Talk by The Gaffer on 11/4/10

Tuesday night's performance by Gareth Bale against Inter Milan was one of the most remarkable performances seen on English soil in quite some time.

Bale, the Welsh left winger, completely owned Maicon and beat the Brazilian on so many runs. Thankfully someone has captured all of Bale's wonderful runs and touches from Tuesday night in the above video. This is definitely one of those videos that Maicon and fellow Brazilians may want to not watch. A horror show, of sorts. But for those people who love the beautiful game or want to see how amazing Gareth Bale was, click play and be amazed.

Related posts:

  1. How Good Is Gareth Bale?
  2. Real Madrid's Proposed January Transfer Bid for Gareth Bale Would be a Step in the Wrong Direction
  3. The Fall And Rise Of Gareth Bale


 
 

Things you can do from here:

 
 

Sunday, October 31, 2010

10-31-10: Southern CT College Hockey 2010-2011 Games to Watch

College ice hockey has been a passion of mine since my childhood growing up in Durham, New Hampshire, the home of the University of New Hampshire Wildcats athletic program. When I moved to southern Connecticut in the fifth grade, I was worried I’d never see good college hockey again. Fortunately, there was a plethora of good, Division 1 programs to choose from. Nothing quite as good as UNH hockey because Hockey East does not have any Connecticut-based teams, but still decent hockey.

The four teams nearby were Yale (ECAC), Fairfield (MAAC), Sacred Heart (Atlantic Hockey), and Quinnipiac (ECAC). Fairfield U no longer has a men’s ice hockey program (though, according to something I got from Yale after buying tickets, Fairfield U is co-hosting the NCAA Men’s Ice Hockey East Regional). Yale and Quinnipiac have gotten better over the years. Sacred Heart has mostly survived in a weaker conference, and have the smallest venue of all the area teams.

Since I now live in New Haven, I am hoping to see a few Yale games this season. I went to a few good ones last year, and Yale had a good year. Quinnipiac has a new rink as of a couple seasons ago, but I didn’t see any games there last season.


Here are some of the highlights:


11/5/10: Yale vs. Princeton (I am attending)

11/20/10: Quinnipiac vs. Harvard

12/3/10: Yale vs. RPI

12/8/10: Yale vs. Vermont

1/3/11: Sacred Heart vs. St. Lawrence

2/4/11: Yale vs. Harvard

2/4/11: Quinnipiac vs. RPI

2/26/11: Yale vs. Cornell

Saturday, October 30, 2010

10-30-10: New Housemates Economic Dilemma

I had a discussion yesterday with a friend at work about an interesting dilemma involving two friends of his, two single heterosexual males, who bought a house together. The house they bought had two bedrooms, one of which was the master bedroom with its own bathroom and the other required its inhabitant to use the bathroom downstairs. They agreed to flip a coin to decide who got the master bedroom.

I found the decision interesting, seeing as though the winning party would have a distinct advantage in having the master bedroom, and the other would lose simply based on chance.

Something quite similar occurred when several of my friends rented a large house together a few years ago in Trumbull, CT. The last one in, my friend Michael, was quite cunning, and insisted that he get the master bedroom in order to sweeten the pot, otherwise he’d back out of the rental agreement and the rent would be too high for the remaining housemates to handle. He got the master bedroom.

Unfortunately, the five friends only lived in that house, which was very nice and very large, for one year – the owner decided to jack the rent up after their original lease ended. Three of them moved into an apartment in Hamden, CT, and the other two moved into an apartment in Milford, CT.

The three Hamden-based friends no longer live together, as one of them decided to buy a house in Trumbull with his fiancé. The two remaining roommates decided that they liked their apartment building, and found another, two bedroom apartment on the other side of the complex. Oddly enough, the apartment they found had two bedrooms of dissimilar size and luxuries. One bedroom was significantly larger than the other, and had its own bathroom.

Here’s how they decided who got the larger bedroom: the departing roommate who bought a house acted as an unbiased third party. The two remaining roommates presented arguments to the departing roommate stating reasons why they should get the larger bedroom. After a couple months of deliberation, a decision was made.

This arrangement, with a “neutral” third party making the decision, seemed far more fair than a simple coin flip. But I have another proposal for fixing such a dilemma:

It still involves a neutral third party. They would be offered something simple, like a dinner or something small, from both parties beforehand as a form of a flat fee. However, instead of each party presenting arguments, they would silently submit bids to the neutral third party indicating what percentage more in rent or mortgage payments than the counterparty they would be willing to make in order to live in the master bedroom. The higher amount would be the winning bid. The neutral third party would simply hold the bids for some short period of time and would reveal to the two parties involved at an established time. The winning party would then be bound to that figure.

Even more interesting might be to have the winning party pay the median value between the two bids. Let’s say Party A bids 5% and Party B bids 10%. Party B would then win the bid and would pay 7.5% more in rent or mortgage payments than Party A. That way if one party didn’t really care all that much and bid only 1%, but the other party bid 15%, they wouldn’t be stuck with the entire bill. It would result in higher bids being made, assuming one party is more interested than the other.

I should brush up on my Game Theory.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

10-16-10: Mumford & Sons: "Little Lion Man"

I've heard this song on the radio a few times now, and hit has finally started to grow on me.

It's by a British folk rock band called Mumford & Sons. Not too many British folk rock bands make it very high on the charts in the U.S. these days, so it's refreshing to hear something different. Then again, I did hear it on an alternative radio station.


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

10-13-10: 2010 MLB Dollars per Win

Last year I did a quick numbers-crunching exercise to figure out which MLB teams got the most bang for their buck. Based on each team's announced payroll for 2010, and the final regular season standings (though it would make some sense to count post-season wins), here's how it turned out:


Team Payroll Wins $ per Win




San Diego Padres $37,799,300.00 90 $419,992.22
Pittsburgh Pirates $34,943,000.00 57 $613,035.09
Texas Rangers $55,250,545.00 90 $613,894.94
Oakland Athletics $51,654,900.00 81 $637,714.81
Florida Marlins $55,641,500.00 80 $695,518.75
Toronto Blue Jays $62,689,357.00 85 $737,521.85
Tampa Bay Rays $71,923,471.00 96 $749,202.82
Cincinatti Reds $72,386,544.00 91 $795,456.53
Cleveland Indians $61,203,967.00 69 $887,014.01
Washington Nationals $61,425,000.00 69 $890,217.39
Atlanta Braves $84,423,667.00 91 $927,732.60
Arizona Diamondbacks $60,718,167.00 65 $934,125.65
Colorado Rockies $84,227,000.00 83 $1,014,783.13
Minnesota Twins $97,559,167.00 94 $1,037,863.48
Milwaukee Brewers $81,108,279.00 77 $1,053,354.27
San Francisco Giants $97,828,833.00 92 $1,063,356.88
Kansas City Royals $72,267,710.00 67 $1,078,622.54
St. Louis Cardinals $93,540,753.00 86 $1,087,683.17
Los Angeles Dodgers $94,945,517.00 80 $1,186,818.96
Houston Astros $92,355,500.00 76 $1,215,203.95
Chicago White Sox $108,273,197.00 88 $1,230,377.24
Baltimore Orioles $81,612,500.00 66 $1,236,553.03
Los Angeles Angels $105,013,667.00 80 $1,312,670.84
Philadelphia Phillies $141,927,381.00 97 $1,463,168.88
Detroit Tigers $122,864,929.00 81 $1,516,850.98
Seattle Mariners $98,376,667.00 61 $1,612,732.25
New York Mets $132,701,445.00 79 $1,679,765.13
Boston Red Sox $162,747,333.00 89 $1,828,621.72
Chicago Cubs $146,859,000.00 75 $1,958,120.00
New York Yankees $206,333,389.00 95 $2,171,930.41


It looks like Texas is this year's real winner (fewest dollars spent per win while making the playoffs), though San Diego had a great run before fading out at the end to miss the playoffs by two games. Pittsburgh technically finished second, but also had the fewest wins in MLB. The Cubs and Red Sox spent the most per win without making the playoffs.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

10-9-10: Expanded Replay in MLB Games

It’s ironic for me, as a hockey fan, to argue against expanded use of replay in any sport. The NHL incorporated replays on goals years ago, and it made a world of difference.

But the NHL was smart enough to limit the use of replay to just review of goals. They still rely on officials and linesmen to make calls on penalties, off-sides, icings, and other elements of the game. They realize that the game moves too fast, and nothing beats an official in position to make the call.

It seems that Major League Baseball is hearing more and more calls for the expanded use of replay. They currently only implement review by replay on home run calls. Some journalists are calling for its use during safe and out calls on the base paths.

I recognize that ice hockey and baseball are different in many ways. Baseball, for instance, doesn’t have penalties. They have outs. That’s how the game is measured: 54 outs in a regulation game. 27 per team. Teams are built around not making outs while at bat. Players are paid big money to have high batting averages and slugging percentage. Outs are absolute – not many subjective calls. Either the guy got tagged or he didn’t. Either the ball beat him to the base, or it didn’t.

The problem I have is: who has the best view of the play? It’s quite often the umpire. As video technology improves, it may be possible to find the better angle. But right now it’s very expensive. And you’d have to have it available in all ballparks for every game of the regular season just to be fair (a win is a win). Is it worth the expense right now? I think not.

And what happens to the fans who have grown tired of four hour baseball games? If managers were able to challenge more calls, it would lengthen the game. MLB has been working to shorten games. What incentive would it give to pitchers who are told to hurry up and pitch if they know the game could get delayed for five minutes for a video review of a close play at second base?

Baseball has a lot of appeal for its history. Sure, there may come a day when the technology is readily available, but all of the factors that go into the expansion of replay’s use in game settings must be considered.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

10-3-10: Massive Traffic Jams and the Cost of Life

I was caught in a traffic jam today on I-95 in Orange and the following thought popped in my head, a thought that usually pops in my head during traffic jams: "This had better be an accident and somebody had better be dead." Morbid and cruel, indeed, but it led me to wonder how big the traffic jam would have to be to be worth a human life. That is, how much time would need to be wasted by people in vehicles not involved in the accident itself, people just stuck in the traffic jam, to equal the loss of life.

I made the following assumptions in my simple calculation:

- The average length of a vehicle in the traffic jam is 15 feet
- The average number of occupants in each vehicle is 2 people
- The highway has 3 lanes
- All three lanes of the highway are closed and traffic is at a standstill
- The average length of the traffic jam is 5 miles (it would probably be much longer at its peak)
- The average amount of lost time per person is 1.5 hours


With those assumptions made, let's see the results:

Total people in traffic jam: 10,560
Total time wasted: 15,840 hours, or 1.81 years

Let's then assume that the person responsible for the massive traffic jam did indeed die at the scene and was 35 years old. The amount of time they would have lost, assuming average life expectancy of 78.4 years, is 43.4 years.

That's a difference of over 40 years. So, that traffic jam would not be worth the person losing their life. Of course, this is a very, very simple calculation, that only factors in time wasted. It does not factor in anything else like missed deliveries of goods or a missed birthday party or anything typically considered an economic or social impact. Just time wasted.

So how long would the traffic jam have to be, on average, for our 35 year old bad driver to have not lost their life in vain? Well, it's not so simple. Let's bump up the average time lost per person to 5 hours (since it takes time for people to get moving again once the road clears up, and it'd be a very long line of cars).

The answer: exactly 36 miles.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Diploma

Got this in the mail today.


10-2-10: New Car Shopping

I am now in the market for a new car. Don't get me wrong, I still like my '03 Toyota Matrix that I bought from my mother after graduating college. It's just that I'd like a vehicle with a bit more clearance and all-wheel drive.

I began my search a few weeks ago. The first car I looked at is the Honda Element. My dad has one, his second, and loves it. It's known for it's box-like shape, which doesn't give it the "cute car" award according to the lady. But, it's practical, and there are some decent deals out there. My parents are dog people, which makes the Element quite ideal for trips to various abandoned properties to walk the three basset hounds.

After looking at various other vehicles, including the Honda CRV, I've narrowed my choice down to a Subaru Forester. It's more like a wagon, which I'm used to since my first two cars have been wagons, but with more clearance. That, and it's got all-wheel drive. Consumer Reports gave it a very good rating. I took a look on newenglandsubaru.com after seeing a TV ad for the 2010 Forester - pretty good deals. I also found out via automotive-fleet.com that the 2011 models should be arriving later this month. That means that the price on the 2010 should drop significantly.

So, I'm just playing the waiting game. My goal is to get a new car by the first snowfall.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

9-29-10: People Talking on Cell Phones Whilst Walking

I acknowledge that it is rather odd that a 25 year old engineer would find the sight of an individual walking around talking on the cell phone socially unacceptable. Perhaps it's my upbringing, or the fact that I don't really like walking around talking on a cell phone. It just looks funny to me; you're walking around like every one else, but you're talking to some one possibly thousands of miles away. It's like you're not really there. Just odd. Standing still talking on a cell phone: different story. I chalk that up to history; communication while remaining still or stationary has been around for eons.

Then I got to thinking about something I've thought about before: people with Bluetooth headsets walking around. I saw a guy in Stop & Shop last week doing this. I thought he was talking to me, only to end up having him turn and show me his Bluetooth headset in his ear. Thanks, buddy.

This practice is even stranger to me. You're walking around, seemingly talking to yourself, with no obvious clue to passersby that you aren't talking to them.

However, as this practice becomes more widely accepted by the minute, why not take advantage of this by helping to solve the dilemma of crazy, homeless bums who ramble to themselves endlessly. I've personally met several crazy bums, and I have to say this: they are very interesting people to listen to. They're far from the boring slobs you see all over the place. But, as interesting as they are, people still feel uncomfortable being near them.

So why not give away old, broken Bluetooth headsets to crazy, homeless bums? What benefits could that bring for society? At the very least, it might allow people to see the plight of the homeless in a friendlier, more socially acceptable way. That, or maybe they'll stop talking on their goddamn Bluetooth headsets and confusing the hell out of the rest of us.

Monday, September 27, 2010

9-27-10: Scania Driver Support

The other day I read an interesting piece about Scania Driver Support in the September MATLAB Digest. Scania, a European truck manufacturer, developed a system that helps long-haul truck drivers be more efficient while driving. It measures four parameters (as shown in the video below). Scania used MATLAB to develop the system. Since I used MATLAB at work every day, I thought it was pretty neat.


Saturday, September 25, 2010

9-25-10: The Release of Sarah Shourd

It's difficult for me to take any solid position on Sarah Shourd, the American hiker recently released from Iran after 14 months in prison for allegedly illegally entering Iran with her boyfriend, Shane Bauer, and friend Josh Fattal. After watching Shourd's interview on CNN yesterday morning, I couldn't help but wonder if she felt sorry.

It's not that she was a spy, I never thought she or her friends were anything of the sort. But her story, which she has stuck to since returning, is that she and her friends never entered Iran and had therefore done nothing wrong. She kept saying that, since there is no clear system of markers denoting the Iranian border in the area of Iraq where they were, any crossing into Iran was entirely accidental.

So how does she know whether or not they'd entered Iran or not? By admitting there's no clear border, she's not really disproving Iran's claims that the group illegally crossed the border. Just because there's no "Welcome to Iran" sign doesn't mean they weren't in Iran. There are parts of the United States borders with Canada and Mexico that aren't clearly marked, not to mention various other border regions throughout the world.

I don't think Shourd, Bauer, or Fattal meant to do anything wrong, and Iran certainly didn't win many friends in the West this week with comments from President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad during an address to the United Nations, but Shourd should admit some fault due to poor judgment used by her and her friends. No one from Iran forced them to hike in that region. Sure, 14 months in prison is kind of harsh, and they weren't acting as spies, but they should take some responsibility for their own actions. Their status as victims should be more limited than the media is making it out to be.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Saturday, September 18, 2010

9-18-10: Enron Severance Package - MATLAB Function

I re-wrote the script from the other day to make it a MATLAB function.



function sev_pack = enron_sev(years_served,end_salary);
% Given current salary and number of years served, calculates the severance
% package according to Enron's formula
% Enron's formula is as follows:
% Two weeks pay for every year served + two weeks pay for every $10,000
% of base salary
floor_years_served = floor(years_served);
base_salary_factor = floor(end_salary/10000);
% Assume 52 weeks in a year
two_weeks_pay = end_salary / 26;
sev_pack = two_weeks_pay * (floor_years_served + base_salary_factor);

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Enron Severance Package MATLAB Script

I got a little bored and decided to write a little MATLAB script that would calculate your severance package if you were an Enron employee (before they went bankrupt). Formula is courtesy of The Smartest Guys in the Room by McLean and Elkind.

Enjoy:

clear
clc
% Given current salary and number of years served, calculates the severance
% package according to Enron's formula
disp('What would your severance package be as an Enron employee?')
years_served = input('Enter number of years served: ');
end_salary = input('Enter salary at end of service: ');
% Enron's formula is as follows:
% Two weeks pay for every year served + two weeks pay for every $10,000
% of base salary
floor_years_served = floor(years_served);
base_salary_factor = floor(end_salary/10000);
% Assume 52 weeks in a year
two_weeks_pay = end_salary / 26;
sev_package = two_weeks_pay * (floor_years_served + base_salary_factor);
str = sprintf('Your severance package would be: $%0.2f',sev_package);
disp(str)

9-16-10: Spurs vs. Werder Bremen

Pretty good first match in the Champions League for Spurs. Got up 2-0 pretty quickly, but couldn't hold Bremen. 2-2 final. Still, not bad.


Werder Bremen v Tottenham Hotspur
Uploaded by evolspeltz. - More professional, college and classic sports videos.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

9-7-10: Lovely Long Weekend in the White Mountains

I don’t remember exactly when I last visited the White Mountains. I spent 9 years of my childhood growing up in Durham, NH, which isn’t that close to the White Mountains, but is close enough for the occasional visit. I remember going to Santa’s Village and Storyland. Fond memories of that. I remember the Old Man, the state’s symbol, may it rest in peace. I don’t remember it, but I did ride on the Cog Railway up Mount Washington. All memories of the area are good ones.

I was therefore quite excited to visit it again this past weekend with the lady and several friends. Six of us stayed at Crawford Notch General Store and Campground from Friday to Monday for the long Labor Day Weekend. The plan was to do some hiking. And that we did.

The weather was mostly pristine. It rained on Friday night, but we were safe and dry in our tents. It was rather warm that night, which made for rough sleeping. Saturday and Sunday were beautiful, though. Great hiking weather.

We decided to do two day hikes, one long and one short. The long one, done on Saturday, hit three 4000 footers: Mount Willey, Mount Field, and Mount Tom. The first part of the hike was a rather steep ascent up Mount Willey, the highest of the three peaks. That got rough in parts, with quite a bit of rock scrambling. But, after some turmoil but progress, we reached the top in time to enjoy a scenic lunch in the clouds. The rest of the day was much easier, as we hiked along the ridge to Mount Field. The weather turned a bit once we reached Mount Field, with some wind and light rain, but we had a nice view of the Mount Washington Hotel from the peak. Mount Tom was next, though I cannot say I made it, as one of my friends had bad knees and I joined him down the mountain. The Mount Tom Spur is not a difficult hike, but it was a bit much for my friend, and my leg wasn’t 100% either, so we retreated slightly early down the mountain. The hike began at Willey House, and ended near Saco Lake. We had two cars at each end. Easy swap.

Saturday night, after a good day of hiking, we ate at Moat Mountain Smokehouse and Brewery in North Conway. What a fantastic decision that turned out to be. If you’re ever in the area, be sure to stop by. The reviews, which are great, don’t give it justice. Not only do they brew their own very good beer on site ($4 a pint), but their food is excellent. Since most of the group consisted of men in their 20’s, we got the Family Barbecue. For $15 a person, we ate like kings, dining on ribs (1.5 racks for 5 people… but still a good amount), beef brisket, mashed potatoes, cornbread, chicken, pulled pork, and rice and beans. Oh, and it was all-you-can-eat (except for the ribs). Our waiter was also great. We rolled back into the cars back to the campground.

Sunday’s hike was Arethusa Falls. My leg was quite sore, but I got to enjoy the falls from the top after a bit of scrambling on an unmarked trail. Stunning view. I spent part of the afternoon chopping up some firewood from fallen birch trees. I split a rock in half trying to break one. Had to take a hatched to weaken it up enough to break it in pieces with half of the broken rock. Good fun.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

8-29-10: Red Bulls vs. San Jose Earthquakes

Yesterday I spent the day in New York with my buddy Dan before we went to see the New York Red Bulls take on the San Jose Earthquakes at the new Red Bull Arena. Both of us were very interested in seeing the new stadium, as well as the new signings Thierry Henry and Rafa Marquez.

We took the 10:00AM train from Fairfield, which got us into Grand Central at around 11:15AM. Plenty of time to enjoy the city before taking the PATH from World Trade to Harrison. We wanted to spend as little time in New Jersey as possible, which proved to be a good idea, as there's pretty much nothing near the stadium.

The first thing: lunch. My buddy Jason, who spends a lot of time in downtown getting his MBA at NYU, recommended The Shake Shack in Madison Square Park. Let me tell you, it was good. We got there exactly at Noon, and timed it perfectly. The line was apparently "short" when we got in it, and it only got longer as we sat and ate. I had a Shack Burger, fries, and a chocolate shake. My buddy Dan had pretty much the same thing, only he tried out their vanilla shake. Everything was good. It certainly helped that we went in on a fantastically beautiful day. Sitting there, eating in the park, having a shake, very nice.

We then needed something to fill the remaining 6 hours before we needed to be in Harrison for the game. We decided to take the subway down to Battery Park to hang out there a bit. From there we walked to City Hall, then grabbed a coffee before heading up to Hallo Berlin in midtown for an early dinner of bratwurst and good German beer. After walking over to the Intrepid (didn't go to the museum, just walked nearby) and watching a Carnival cruise ship leave dock, we walked down the greenway on the west side a bit and took the subway near Penn Station to make our way to Harrison.

I was impressed by the PATH system. My parents had a horrendous time a couple years ago using New Jersey Transit, but I think they've gotten their acts together. The train ride was packed, but only took about 20 minutes from World Trade to Harrison. From there it's about a 5-10 minute walk to Red Bull Arena, which is in the middle of a big, empty lot. Very easy to find.

The stadium was BEAUTIFUL. You could have sworn you were in Europe watching a game. They did a great job keeping it cozy. The image on the right is the view from our seats - great, great seats. Second row behind the San Jose goal (for the first half). We got to see the first Red Bulls goal, which was quite exciting. The crowd, which was not quite a sellout, was pretty into it. Thierry Henry scored his first goal for New York, which I'm sure will be a proud moment in his career (heh). Red Bulls ended up winning pretty convincingly 2-0.

The trip back wasn't too bad. There was a bit of a line before getting onto the PATH train, but the train itself wasn't too crowded. We hung around for a few minutes to watch the first few minutes of the Mayor's Cup match between the New York cops and firemen. That wasn't much to see, but they seemed to care. We ended up taking the 11:20PM train back to Fairfield. I got home at around 1:00AM. Very nice day in the city.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Little Feat - "Willin'"

I've had this song stuck in my head for a few days. Incredible. The version from Waiting for Columbus is the best one.

Monday, August 16, 2010

8-16-10: The Dustin Johnson Incident and the Role of Officials

I feel sorry for Dustin Johnson. The guy played his heart out, and came up short in the end. The professional golfer, known more recently for a major meltdown than anything else, was in the hunt yesterday during the final round of the PGA Championship, hitting a great chip on the 18th to force a playoff. He was then informed that he'd committed a rules violation before his second shot on the 18th, grounding his club head before striking the ball. The two stroke penalty cost him the playoff.

I heard a few different takes on the incident. Most people feel sorry for Johnson, as they should, but a few called out the rules official for not notifying Johnson beforehand, as a heads-up. I disagree with that particular viewpoint. I think the rules official did precisely what was expected of him: he notified Johnson of a rules infraction. Now, it wasn't an obvious infraction, as a lot of people didn't even know that the ball was sitting in a sand trap (the course had an over abundance of sand traps to begin with) as it was quite a ways from the fairway. Nevertheless, Johnson fessed up and took the penalty.

Should the rules official have warned Johnson beforehand? Johnson did not think to ask for a ruling on whether the ball was sitting in a hazard, which would have been a fair question, because it simply didn't cross his mind. Many golfers would likely have made the same assumption. But you can't expect the rules official to warn Johnson. Golf isn't known as a sport that requires a lot of rule decisions. It's so rare to see the officials on camera that many viewers forget they are there. And they're far from omnipresent, as most players go through entire rounds without a rules official tagging along. Golf is very different than basketball or baseball or hockey in that it's largely an issue of self-policing. Players are expected to call infractions on themselves or their playing partners. No other game with officials is like that. They're simply rules officials, not referees.

It's unfortunate that Johnson lost out on what might be a career opportunity to win a major championship. But it's his fault for not knowing the rule, or not asking. It's tough.

Monday, August 9, 2010

8-9-10: Planet Fitness Locations in Southern CT

Well, it’s been a while since my last post. I’ve been very busy with moving (from Derby, CT to New Haven, CT) and finishing my Master’s degree in engineering. I haven’t been able to golf, either, which I hope to rectify shortly.

I figured I’d start back off with something slightly more useful than explaining what’s been going on in my life, which is exciting to me but is rather boring blogging material.

I’ve been a member of the Planet Fitness exercise club franchise for about 3.5 years, not including two summers as a student member. I joined at their Trumbull, CT location in March 2007 as a “Black Card” member, giving me access to all Planet Fitness locations throughout the country and a few other perks which I don’t really use. I was going to college in Worcester, MA at the time, and wanted the option of visiting their West Boylston, MA location while up at school, which worked out well. The WPI gym was small, very crowded, and had a limited selection of equipment. I don’t regret the decision for a second.

Since joining, I’ve visited about 10 different Planet Fitness locations. Here’s the list from memory:

Trumbull, CT (home club)

Shelton, CT – Bridgeport Ave (most frequented during my time in Derby)

Shelton, CT – River Road

Fairfield, CT

New Haven, CT

Orange, CT

Milford, CT

West Boylston, MA

Wilmington, NC (near my sister’s school, went there once on vacation)

Marlborough, MA (went there once while visiting family)


More recently I’ve been visiting the Orange and Milford locations, giving me a better idea of which locations have more to offer. So, here’s the rundown of the eight I’ve visited more than once:

Top 3: Trumbull, Orange, and Milford : In no particular order, these are my three favorite. Trumbull is probably the largest, but I’d have to see a floor plan to know for sure. Orange has a lot of machines, but the layout is a bit odd because it’s split up in three distinct areas. Milford is mostly downstairs, and has recently renovated its locker rooms. I’d give Orange a slight edge overall because of its locker room, but it’s a close call between the three. Milford has the best layout.

4. Fairfield: Not particularly large in floor space, but it’s a newer location so the equipment is better.

5. Shelton – Bridgeport Ave: I went to this one regularly during my 18 month stay in Derby. I like the layout, but the machines aren’t in the best shape.

6. New Haven: Disappointed in the size. The layout is OK, and the machines are newer. If I went to this one more often than the Bridgeport Ave location I may have ranked it higher.

7. West Boylston : Probably the smallest of the locations I’ve been to. The only redeeming feature is the layout, and the Smith machines.

8. Shelton – River Road: Barely larger than West Boylston, if by a few square feet. Often crowded, very limited in machine selection, and cramped.

I’d probably rank the Wilmington location 5th and the Marlborough location 4th, but with only one visit to each, it’s hard to say. The Marlborough location is fairly new, and I’d recommend it to any member visiting the area.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

College Library Parodies Old Spice Commercials To Coax Students From Dorm Rooms

Care of my friend JR. Go to the library, kids!

 
 

Sent to you by Pat via Google Reader:

 
 

via The Consumerist by Laura Northrup on 7/16/10

I'm a college librarian by training. One of the challenges in the profession right now is convincing students who have grown up with instantaneous access to information from home that a library has something to offer them. Brigham Young University's Harold B. Lee Library reached out to students by producing a video that shows off library resources and looks awfully.... familiar.


Combine viral marketing, a great script, a book cart, and a sandwich: genius. And props to the commercial's star, comedian and BYU student Stephen Jones.

New Spice | Study like a scholar, scholar [YouTube]
Harold B. Lee Library [Official Site]


 
 

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Thursday, July 22, 2010

7-22-10: Arthur Conan Doyle on Sherlock Holmes

This is a pretty interesting video featuring Sir Arthur Conan Doyle talking about Sherlock Holmes, as well as about his interest in psychic matters.

What's interesting to me is that Doyle mentions an instructor of his, a doctor, whom he used as a base for Holmes' deductive ability. Any one who watches the show House may know that the writers based House's character on Sherlock Holmes. So, in the end, House, a doctor, is based on Sherlock Holmes, a detective based on a doctor.


Thursday, July 15, 2010

7-15-10: Saved Locations in Google Calendar

I use Google Calendar every single day. It helps me plan my life like nothing else. I even add things I just did to my Google Calendar so I can search for them later to remember the last time I went to a certain place or did something (like a haircut). It's something I consider to be an essential tool in planning my life.

The selling point for Google products is interoperability and compatibility. You can share things so easily with different Google products like Documents or Youtube or Gmail. "Plugged in" users can lead very respectable, and organized, lives through Google tools. This very blog is through Google.

One thing I wish Google Calendar had, though, is the ability to add a saved location. I have a lot of events that take place at the same location at pretty regular frequencies. It would be nice if I didn't have to type out the full address every time. It would be much better to have an auto-complete or suggestion capability (e.g. when you begin typing a search into Google it gives you suggestions).

Google Maps already has this feature (in GWT it's called a "Suggest Box"), so why not Google Calendar? Each account has its own set of saved locations already. It's not a make or break thing for me, since I've been using the products for years, but it is well within Google to make this happen.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Watch Every Goal of World Cup 2010 In 10 Minutes: Video

 
 

Sent to you by Pat via Google Reader:

 
 

via EPL Talk by The Gaffer on 7/13/10

If you've got 10 minutes to spare, you can watch this one video which features every single goal scored in the 2010 World Cup in chronological order from Siphiwe Tshabalala for South Africa all the way to Andres Iniesta of Spain.

The music that accompanies the track is an unknown SID tune composed on a Commodore 64 computer. Enjoy.

HT to our UK friends The Spoiler for the vid.

Related posts:

  1. World Cup 2010, Spain-Netherlands Review: World Cup Buzz Podcast
  2. Spain Wins World Cup 2010: In Pictures
  3. 18 Best Goals of World Cup 2010: Video


 
 

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Sunday, July 11, 2010

7-11-10: The Miracle of Craigslist

The lady and I are moving in together in a few weeks' time, so I've been scrambling to get rid of my unwanted items. Before my last move about 19 months ago, I decided to use Craigslist, with some pretty promising results. I therefore decided to try it again.

So far, not bad. I'm currently selling my couch, my old 20" tube TV (about 5 years old), a few posters, and a CD player/changer. Thus far I have had people interested in nearly everything, except for the TV.

The "miracle" sale occurred yesterday, when I sold my bass guitar carrying case. Here is the chronological order of the events that led up to the sale (all times Eastern):

2:17PM: Publish the posting on Craigslist with a brief description and a couple pictures. Price: $15.

4:58PM: Receive e-mail from prospective buyer, asking if I still had the case. E-mail indicates that he is very interested, and is leaving for Orange (neighboring town to Derby, where I currently live) in ~30 minutes. He includes his name and a phone number.

5:05PM: I read the e-mail, and immediately call prospective buyer. He is pleased to hear from me. We talk briefly, and I inform him that I am actually planning on leaving for New Haven around the same time he is leaving for Orange. He tells me he is coming from Hamden, and asks if we wanted to meet somewhere to do the exchange. I completely agree, and we decide on a spot: the park and ride on Route 34 at the junction with Route 15. Time: 5:45PM. I told him it was his for $10, as this was turning out to be very convenient.

5:15PM: I leave for the park and ride, first stopping at the bank and then to a CVS to break a $20 bill, as the buyer said he, too, needed to stop by the ATM.

5:50PM: I arrive at park and ride, and wait for buyer to arrive.

5:55PM: Buyer arrives, immediately finds my car. We briefly chat, and complete the exchange. He is very excited to receive the case, as he is one short and recently purchased a new Fender Standard Bass and is also moving. We shake hands, and depart.


Total time, from posting to completion of sale: 3 hours and 40 minutes. Best of all: I didn't have to go out of my way (neither did he). I hope you enjoy the case, Jared.

Friday, July 2, 2010

How To Grill Pizza

 
 

Sent to you by Pat via Google Reader:

 
 

via The Kitchn by Faith Durand on 7/1/10

We have talked about grilled pizza quite a bit, here at The Kitchn, but I realized that we have never done a front-to-back explanation of how to grill pizza at home. Well, we are remedying that today. Here is a step-by-step tutorial on grilling pizza. Honestly, this method is not hard, once you get the hang of it, and it makes some of the best pizza you'll ever eat!

Read Full Post


 
 

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