Sunday, January 31, 2010

"Don't Worry Baby" and "God Only Knows"

I heard both of these on the radio recently. They're my two favorite Beach Boys songs:

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Laplace Transform Refresher

Before starting my homework, I realized I needed a refresher on Laplace Transforms.

I thought this video did a good job. It goes through the Unit Step and Ramp functions.

Friday, January 29, 2010

1-29-10: Negative Feedback

I just began a course in Feedback and Control Systems. The first problem on the first homework assignment (due next Tuesday) was to come up with an example of a system with negative feedback. He gave us a basic model, which I used to come up with this:

Sunday, January 24, 2010

1-24-10: Skiing at Killington

Long day of skiing and driving yesterday. Myself and the usual skiing crew (of which I am the newest member by a couple years) headed up to Killington up in Rutland, Vermont. It's arguably the best skiing resort in Vermont, and perhaps all of New England. I had never been, and was looking forward to the chance to see what it had to offer.

I have to say, it's now my favorite resort, at least in Vermont. I liked Okemo, but the amount of terrain Killington has puts it on top for me. I also thought the people there were very friendly, and it helped that it wasn't too busy of a day.

The lady and I left New Haven at 5:30AM, picked up our friend Lauren in Hamden, and then headed up the long I-91. After one stop we ended up at Killington at around 9:30AM. Made good time. Lauren has a "Killington Club Card," which enabled us to get lift tickets for $50 (a ~$25 savings). I had been looking at the trail map all week, and was given the advice to try the Great Northern Trail, which starts at the top of Killington Peak and traverses all the way down to Ramshead. I've found that I need a good warm-up run on a green trail before doing anything fancy, and I enjoyed the venture down. It gets pretty flat in some spots, which I didn't mind too much, but after making it down, I was very warm from all the poling.

After a quick drink of water I hit the blues on Ramshead. I started on Swirl, which is not groomed and overall pretty easy for a blue. I wanted to work on my edging, but really didn't do enough of it. I mostly wanted to work on building up speed and getting used to going fast down the hill. I did accomplish that goal, with great success. I was movin'! After Swirl I hit Header, which goes straight down Ramshead. Since we got there a little later, I needed to make my way closer to K-1 Lodge for lunch, so I then went over to Snowdon.

I liked Snowdon. I thought the blues were a little more challenging, but I did pretty well on Bunny Buster and Chute. I was so confident (and probably stupid), that after my second run down Bunny Buster, I tried my first black diamond run. Mouse Trap is a short and sweet introduction to steeper terrain, so if you're at Killington and are looking to try a black diamond, I strongly recommend Mouse Trap. Just a note: stay left. I went right, and hit the bumps. I was, however, able to make it over to the hard packed snow and made my way down. When I got to the bottom I had a feeling of such immense exhilaration that I couldn't help but yell "YEAH!" Great, great feeling. I had survived my first black diamond run.

When I met up with my friends, they were quite surprised. The lady was happy, and asked if I'd want to do it again after lunch. Certainly! But... they'd closed down Bunny Buster for the afternoon to do race training, and there wasn't a good way to head over to Mouse Trap from other trails. So, we hit up Skye Peak until my legs got too tired, and I ended my day at 3:30PM. I was very, very satisfied.

So far, a great ski season. I do need to really work on my edges if I want to do more black diamonds, so the next time out (maybe not for a couple weeks since it's supposed to rain a bit), it's edges time on the blues.

UAF Nanook Hockey Open 2009-2010

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Saturday, January 16, 2010

1-16-10: Avatar (in 3D)

Last night the lady and I, and my buddy Dan, went to see Avatar in 3D. We ended up seeing it at Seymour Cinemas, which is a smaller, older theatre about 10 minutes away that I'd never been to. Not a bad spot, especially since it was a couple bucks cheaper than Milford.

Overall I enjoyed the film, but 90% of my enjoyment centered around the visual effects. It's absolutely stunning, groundbreaking, and breathtaking at times. I definitely enjoyed the 3D elements, especially since they weren't at all gimmicky. I was half expecting to see something like they do down in Disney World with "Honey I Shrunk the Kids" or "The Muppets" show in 3D, with stuff flying out of the screen at your face. Instead, the 3D added the element of depth to the shot, which really added to the film in a way I've never seen before.

On the other hand, the story was nothing spectacular. It's something you've probably seen time and time again (a friend said it felt like Dancing with Wolves meets Return of the Jedi - with the Ewoks, which I tend to agree with). But overall it didn't really hurt the film, though they packed a lot of story into it. You knew generally what was coming, so it gave you time to enjoy the absolutely fantastic visual effects, which were never cheesy. James Cameron definitely put the time in to making the film look great, and I commend him. Can't wait to see what he comes out with next.

In summary, Avatar (in 3D) is visually stunning, but the "green" theme is so prevalent that they even go so far as to recycle story lines. Still, I'd strongly recommend seeing it, in 3D, in theatres.

Friday, January 15, 2010

CNET Apple files patents to manage home energy - CNET News

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It's an Apple world.

Apple files patents to manage home energy - CNET News

Do we need an iTunes for home power management? An Apple patent describes a system that optimizes how power is delivered to electronic devices using home wiring as a conduit.

CNET: The source for computers and technology

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

1-12-10: Fermat's Last Theorem had a nice little piece in honor of Pierre de Fermat, who died on this date in 1665. Fermat is probably most well known for his Last Theorem, which pretty much states that:
No integer combination exists such that x^n + y^n = z^n for n greater than 2.

It took centuries to prove the theorem.

In honor of Fermat, I put together a quick MATLAB script to find the combinations for x^2 + y^2 = z^2, for integers between 1 and 100. Here it is:

n = 100;
for i = 1:n
for j = 1:n
for k = 1:n
if i^2 + j^2 == k^2


Here are the results (with duplicate x’s and y’s removed; e.g. 3^2 + 4^2 = 5^2 == 4^2 + 3^2 = 5^2):

3 4 5
5 12 13
6 8 10
7 24 25
8 15 17
9 12 15
9 40 41
10 24 26
11 60 61
12 16 20
12 35 37
13 84 85
14 48 50
15 20 25
15 36 39
16 30 34
16 63 65
18 24 30
18 80 82
20 21 29
20 48 52
21 20 29
21 28 35
21 72 75
24 32 40
24 45 51
24 70 74
25 60 65
27 36 45
28 45 53
28 96 100
30 40 50
30 72 78
32 60 68
33 44 55
33 56 65
35 84 91
36 48 60
36 77 85
39 52 65
39 80 89
40 42 58
40 75 85
42 56 70
45 60 75
48 55 73
48 64 80
51 68 85
54 72 90
57 76 95
60 63 87
60 80 100
65 72 97

Couldn’t get anything to work for x^3 + y^3 = z^3, of course.

Monday, January 11, 2010

1-11-10: A Weekend at Sunday River

First off: Happy Palindrome Day (01-11-10).

I spent the weekend with the lady and a few friends up at Sunday River in Maine for some skiing and fun. Overall it was quite a great time. We stayed at the Jordan Grand Hotel, which is located way to the "skier's left" of the resort by the Jordan Bowl. Sunday River contains seven peaks, and tons of terrain. Me being a beginner skier, I was concerned that I'd be stuck on only part of the resort. Fortunately, they have green and blue trails all over, and I was very happy.

The drive up was quite a chore, but we got there around midnight on Friday. The roads were dicey at times with the snow, but we made decent time. The six of us stayed in three rooms; myself and the lady stayed in the room with the kitchenette. The logistics were worked out beforehand and things were quite smooth. The room came with lift tickets, breakfast, and lessons for both days. Total cost per person was just over $300 for the weekend. Pretty good deal.

Saturday morning began with the included breakfast, which was very good. We then headed out on the slopes. The great part about staying on the mountain is the ability to ski on and ski off. The Jordan Grand is right off "Lollapalooza", which is a very long green trail on the side of Jordan Bowl. My lesson, however, was way over at the South Ridge Lodge. In order to get there, we had to take the lift up to the top of Jordan Bowl, then traverse over. I had no warm up, so I struggled a bit, especially when I ended up on an un-groomed blue trail. But, I made it over to my lesson with plenty of time to spare.

Both of my lessons were adult group clinics, and were fantastic. Of the three mountains/resorts at which I have taken at least one lesson (Mohawk and Okemo being the other two), Sunday River was far and above the best teaching resort. Their "Perfect Turn" instructors are outstanding. Very friendly, and very knowledgeable. The Saturday morning lesson was taught by a guy from Maine named Frank, who was in his mid to late 50's. I was in a Green level lesson, but consider myself "upper green," so I was put in a group with about five others at about the same skill level.

Frank started the first group of about 10 or 11 people off on "Broadway," which is arguably the easiest trail in the entire resort; it's pretty much the "bunny slope", though they do have a smaller trail. After seeing how we all skied, Frank said "If you want to try some more faster paced skiing, come to this side. If you want to keep it a bit slower, stay on this side." I went over to the faster side, and did not regret it one bit. Frank took this smaller group up on Dream Maker to work on basic turns, then edging. Frank had the knack of explaining how turns worked, and was quite the character. I got a lot out of the lesson, but will remember:

- You can't put too much weight forward (well, sort of, but the point is to keep the weight forward on the skis)

- Keep your hands low and wide and just within your peripheral vision

- When you go to edge, you'll be knocked back a bit. Lean more forward to compensate.

- Stay tall

- Long leg, short leg (during turns)

After meeting up with the others for lunch at the North Peak Lodge, I hit some of the greens on the other peaks to work on my edging. Despite some icy and exposed terrain here and there, there was enough snow to make things comfortable. I ended my day at around 3:30PM to save my legs for a second day.

After some brief rest, and a drink or two, we hit the hot tub. That was quite a surreal experience, as the hot tub and pool (heated, fortunately) are both outdoors. There's nothing quite like sitting in a near-100 degree hot tub in 15 degree weather. My hair froze almost immediately, but my legs felt great. After time in the hot tub, we hit the steam room for a few minutes, then headed back to the rooms to change.

The Sliders Restaurant (located in the Jordan Grand hotel) was disappointing. Our server was nice enough, but she was one of those "I don't need to write down your order" type of people, and... she screwed up. She ended up forgetting the lady's order, and had to come back to ask a couple times about certain orders. Please, please, dear food servers and waiters: write down the order. Get a pen, get a paper, and get it right. I'm not impressed with those who don't write down the order, and neither was Shawn, one of my friends in the group, who manages a restaurant. I had the "Slider's Sliders" burgers, which were OK until the early morning. That's all I'll say about that.

After dinner, we took the shuttle over to the Matterhorn, a local watering hole with a ton of ski stuff on the wall. Jimmy's Down, a cover band, was playing, and they were OK. I had a Guinness and struggled to stay awake. I'd only had about 6 hours of sleep the night before, and was exhausted from the day. We got back just after midnight.

Sunday morning started a bit later, which I was OK with. Despite the digestive trouble (and brief spell of dehydration-stirred shivering), I got more sleep. After another good breakfast, we packed the car and drove over to South Ridge Lodge. I didn't have time to do a warm-up run, so I went in to my lesson cold.

This lesson was a bit wackier, but was still a great one. The instructor John's name tag said he was from Roswell, New Mexico, and he repeatedly told us "I'm from outer space!" A delightfully goofy, bearded fellow in his mid 50's, John took us up on Dream Maker and Escapade (a blue) to work on edging. We did some sideways skiing, hockey stops (he taught me how to stop facing to the right!), and a few other drills to work on balance. At the end he showed us the proper tuck technique (put your hands in front of your face to deflect the air). From Sunday's lesson I need to remember:

- Keep the toe at the top of the boot to help keep your weight forward during turns

- Use your edges to turn to help cut into the hill, which helps in icy conditions

- Face downhill when you start a hockey stop

After the lesson, the group again met at the North Peak Lodge for lunch. Afterward, the lady and I hit some of the easier terrain (she had spent the weekend on black and double black diamond terrain). We ended up going down Dream Maker (green) twice, Escapade (blue) twice, and Lazy River (blue). My legs held up surprisingly well, but did eventually tire. We ended the day just after 3:00PM. I was quite satisfied with the improvements I'd made, and the lady also noticed, which was good. The main things I need to work on are to keep my skis pointed more downhill during turns (my left turns are far more like stops than actual turns) and to work on edging instead of just sliding.

The drive back, though lengthy, was very smooth. I got back to my place at around 11:00PM. A very nice weekend. I'd do it again in a heartbeat.

Monday, January 4, 2010

1-4-10: The 2010 AIG Toilet Bowl

For the last couple of years, a friend and me, in celebration of the 33 bowl games played across college football, pick the two worst teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) to play in the appropriately named Toilet Bowl. This year’s competition is sponsored by AIG. These aren’t necessarily the worst teams in all of college football; just the teams within the FBS.

We go about picking the two teams by first ranking them on our own. For argument’s sake we just do the top five (or bottom five in reality, with #1 being our pick for the worst team). We then come together and weigh our votes to come up with the definitive top two.

The teams which we ranked were as follows (in alphabetical order):

Eastern Michigan

Miami (OH)

New Mexico

New Mexico State

San Jose State

Washington State

Western Kentucky

Despite having only three teams in common, it was a unanimous decision for the top two: Western Kentucky (#1) and Eastern Michigan (#2). We also both had Washington State at #3.

Congratulations! Best (or worst?) of luck, teams.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

1-3-10: A Snowy Trip to Mount Snow

Yesterday I went up with several friends to Mount Snow in Vermont. It was my first time at the mountain.

I have to say, I didn't like it as much as Okemo, but I don't think it was necessarily a bad experience or a bad ski resort. It's just not really great for beginners like myself. There aren't many green trails, and the few I could find were absolutely packed with people. On top of that, I have never skied in "heavy" powder ("heavy" is in quotes in case any skiing purists are reading this and don't consider New England mountains' snow to be as powdery as it is out west), so I struggled mightily in the morning. I was just thrown way out of my element, and it showed. I felt bad that the lady stuck with me, as I know she gets bored following me down the easy trails. I knew I should've done way better, and felt as though I'd regressed a bit.

The afternoon was a different story. Much like my trip to Mohawk a couple days prior (which factored in negatively as well since my legs were surprisingly still tired), I did much better as the day went on. I wouldn't call it "night and day" or anything, but I ended strongly, by myself, going down a couple blue trails. The blue trails were far, far better than the greens, because they were steeper, which allowed me to build up more speed, and had far fewer skiers. In fact, the blue trails I went down at Mount Snow yesterday were the least crowded trails I've seen yet. On top of that, they were wider, and had fewer bumps.

Speaking of bumps, I hit a couple and took a couple nasty spills. One of them was actually kind of fun, because I hit a powdery mount of fluff, and it was like falling into a pillow. The other was a face plant, which wasn't quite as fun. Bumps are something I have to get used to, and the afternoon on my own (no fault at all can be attributed to the lady, as she has been exceedingly patient and helpful thus far) was relatively successful. I just need to get over the fact that, as counter-intuitive as it may seem to a beginner skier, I can't lean back to slow down going down hill.

Mostly, I'm looking forward to several days' rest before the trip to Sunday River this coming weekend. My legs could certainly use it.