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.


% 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);

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.