Sunday, December 11, 2011

12-11-11: Manhattan's "Low Line"

Very interesting project in Manhattan - the "Low Line":

Monday, November 28, 2011

11-28-11: Urban Omnibus

I find systems of systems to be generally fascinating. I was lucky enough today to find Urban Omnibus (a project by the Architectural League of New York) which has a series called "City of Systems" that covers various systems in New York City, from skyscraper HVAC to waste removal to traffic light control. Here are my favorites so far (there are a total of four videos in the series; I didn't find the piece on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge to be all that interesting from a systems point of view).







Saturday, September 10, 2011

9-10-11: Old Geico Commercials

Do you remember all the Geico ads before the Cavemen and Gecko campaigns? Those clever one-offs that started it all off? Well, here are a few good ones.

First, the Bill Plympton series:




And now the one-offs:


"Smaller Bill"




"Laughing Dog"





"Bob Weottababyitsaboy"





"Squirrels"





"Gecko Introduction"


Sunday, September 4, 2011

9-4-11: Week in Vancouver

While almost everyone I know was suffering through Hurricane Irene, I was on a business trip in Vancouver, British Columbia. I was there to run a few engine tests, which went well. To all those who have had a rough week or two: I do feel very guilty that I missed Irene. As I write this, I am sitting on the plane back to Boston.

My two most recent exposures to Vancouver were the wonderful 2010 Winter Olympic Games and the more recent Stanley Cup riots. I had heard nothing but good things, and looked forward to the trip.

After spending time in Vancouver (actually I spent most of the week in nearby Richmond where the airport and the company I was working with are located), I came to realize that the people who rioted could not have been Vancouver residents. It had to have been avid Canucks fans from out of town. There is simply no way that many Vancouverites (yes that is what they are called) could be that upset over anything. They live in a beautiful city surrounded by mountains and just gorgeous scenery all around. Then again, maybe they’re spoiled.

I did some research before the trip to figure out where I’d go sightseeing. When I got there, I scrapped most of my plans and went with the suggestions of Colin, my primary point of contact at the Canadian company I was visiting. Colin, who grew up in Calgary, has been living in the Vancouver area for several years. He recommended I see Granville Island and rent a bike to pedal around Stanley Park.

So, during the weekend, that is what I did. And boy, was it something.

Granville Island is a neat little neighborhood in False Creek that sits under a bridge. It has the usual touristy shops, many of them owned and operated by local crafts artists, Emily Carr University (for artists) and a couple very good microbreweries: Granville Island Brewing Company and the Dockside Brewery. I stopped there for lunch on Saturday after taking the Canada Line Sky Train from Richmond, where I was staying, to Vancouver City Centre for a morning walking around downtown. Though I wasn’t too keen on the touristy knick-knack shops, overall I enjoyed Granville Island and would certainly pay it a visit again if possible.

On Sunday, I rented a bike from Reckless Bikes in Yaletown, near Roundhouse Community Centre, for a ride along the seawall and around Stanley Park. Let me just say this: if you are in Vancouver for a fully day, and it’s nice out (which it was), rent a bike. It’s a very bicycle-friendly city in general, but the seawall is marvelous. I made my way around the whole peninsula, under the Lions Gate Bridge that connects Downtown Vancouver with North Vancouver, and back around. It’s flat, easy, and flat-out awesome. Going at a leisurely pace, and stopping for pictures several times, I was able to make it back to Reckless Bikes in just under two hours. Total rental cost: $20 CAD.

There are certain foods in Vancouver that are great, and some that aren’t. In general, the seafood, especially the sushi, is excellent. Also great is the vast assortment of Asian delicacies, especially in nearby Richmond. Not so great: burgers and pizza. If you like seafood, don’t bother with the burgers in Vancouver. The beef was OK, but the few burgers I had were cooked the same, medium well because I wasn’t asked, and were nothing special. The pizza: mediocre even at the best spots. My favorite sushi spot was a place called Zero One Sushi on West Pender Street near Gastown. It’s small, but the Japanese owners do a great job making very fresh and tasty sushi dishes.

Richmond itself is quite a place. My guide Colin recommended that, before I leave, I should try the fish and chips at Pajo’s in Steveston, a neighborhood in the south of Richmond. I went there the last night, bought the large fish and chips (made with halibut) and sat on a bench to watch the waves. A fitting last meal to a great, great trip. Oh, and I did work while there, too.

I could go on all day about Vancouver, but I won’t. You really must see it for yourself.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

7-26-11: My Month on the T

I decided to take public transportation to work during the month of July. I did so because I was anticipating a work stoppage (and picket line) at the plant I work at. Since the Commuter Rail happens to stop at the plant, I figured it was a good time to buy a monthly pass. Alas, no strike, and yet I was still stuck with the pass.

The trip from my apartment in Medford to the GE plant in Lynn typically takes about an hour each way, though one day a couple weeks ago I did get home in 38 minutes, which is about how long a frustrating afternoon drive typically takes. There are three bus routes I can take, each with their own benefits and drawbacks. One of them (the 101) has a stop about 50 yards from my apartment. Another (the 89) is a 5 minute walk with a Dunkin’ Donuts on the way. The other (the 80) bypasses the subway but involves a shuttle bus at Lechmere. Plenty of options.

The typical ride on the 101 or the 89 takes about 10-15 minutes to get to Sullivan Square, which is followed by a roughly 4 minute subway ride to North Station, where I catch the Commuter Rail (which rumbles agonizingly slowly by Sullivan Square - why must you torment me, MBTA?!). The train ride lasts between 17 and 19 minutes, with only one stop (Chelsea) in between. No part of the trip takes more than 19 minutes.

After about a month of taking the T to work, I can see both the benefits and drawbacks of the public transportation commute. I will not be continuing this routine after this week because it is simply not worth the time and money. Here’s a quick breakdown of the pros and cons:

Pros:

- No driving

- Time to listen to a few podcasts and read the news

- A bit more exercise

- Monthly commuter rail pass (Zone 2; $151) includes unlimited bus and subway

Cons:

- More expensive than driving, overall

- Little to no flexibility in schedule

- Crowds

- Disjointed commute (not enough time to get a lot done)

- Some buses are in disrepair (I have been rained on by leaky AC units on a few buses)


For some people, the T is ideal. If you live and work in the city, and don’t need a car, it’s perfect. For those that have to go through the city and back out, like me, it’s less so.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

6-22-11: The Thrill of Mass Transit for Rural/Suburban Youths

I grew up in two places: a cow town in New Hampshire with a large state university, and an old farming town in Fairfield County, Connecticut populated by “new money” white collar outsiders who work in Manhattan. Both places have their own appeal to different people. I liked both, not necessarily equally, for what they offered. I think many people who grow up in towns like these appreciate what the towns have and residents don’t really look for much change. They like the prospects of the big city, but are comfortable in their bedroom communities. It’s nice.

The only other time when I took mass transit to or from work, before yesterday, was in Bangkok, Thailand for two months while doing a project in college. It was great. It was fast, cheap, and convenient. We lived a short walk from a terminal station, so we always had a seat while we zipped through the city on a 20 minute train ride on the Sky Train to the hospital where we worked. Each train ride cost about 50 cents, if that. I'd do that again in a heartbeat.

Yesterday I took the T (MBTA) home from work. It was certainly convenient, since the commuter rail stops at the GE plant in Lynn, and I was lucky enough to not pay the $4.75 fare since the conductors didn’t bother to check tickets for the 20 minute ride into North Station. I paid $1.70 in total (subway and bus) and got home in just about an hour. Not too bad. It was nowhere as nice as the Sky Train, but it was nowhere near as bad as what I’ve seen out of India and China during rush hour.

I like trains and buses. I think they’re a wonderful escape from the torture of city driving. I’d rather take the bus or subway than drive in Boston 9 trips out of 10. The first time I drove into Queens, to drop my dad off at LaGuardia, I became physically ill on the way home. I’ve done it a few times since; it takes practice.

Mass transit is viewed differently by people based on their background. I think people who grow up in cow towns and bedroom communities probably feel the same way about mass transit that I do, but people who grow up in cities probably don’t appreciate the system for what it is. I don’t knock them for that: it’s part of the 20th century version of the American dream of owning a car and being mobile. The car is a normal good due to its convenience, but in a city it’s a burden.

For a semi-suburban (partly rural, partly suburban) youth, driving around your home town is just how you get around, and driving in a city with its traffic and constant rush is painful and detracts from the experience. You’d rather just take the train and enjoy it, even if it costs a bit more. The city is just an experience at that point.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

6-16-11: The Bruins Victory

The Bruins are a team that represents something different to everyone. They’re the last team in this great era of Boston sports to win it all (oddly enough, the Patriots are the current title “drought” holders in the area), but it wasn’t for lack of talent. They’ve had some good teams over the years since their previous win in 1972 in the hey-day of Orr and Bucyk. My favorite team was the 1992 team featuring Neely, Oates, Moog, and the great Ray Bourque. I wanted desperately for them to win, but they came up short in the conference finals against Pittsburgh.

The strange part about this year’s team is that going into the season, few fans really felt confident that this was “the year.” The Bruins were coming off a heart-breaking conference finals collapse to the Flyers, but it wasn’t all that disappointing considering their sixth place finish in the Eastern Conference.

Things were in flux to start this season. Do you remember who was the starting goaltender for the season opener in Prague? Tuuka Rask. Tim Thomas, the recently crowned Conn Smythe winner, was the back-up. And this wasn’t even “the year” for this team. Two years ago, they finished top in the Eastern Conference. This year they finished third. Few people thought they could beat Washington or Tampa Bay, let alone San Jose or Vancouver later on. Things didn’t start off well, down 2-0 to Montreal, the historical nemesis for the Bruins. At that point, many people felt that if the team made it to the conference finals, it would have been a good year.

Somehow, the Bruins fell into an area where few teams who win it all do: they were neither a complete under-dog or a favorite. They kept winning series with little pressure. Through grit and hustle, they beat teams with more talent and scoring power. Their power play was abysmal for most of the playoffs. They were hot and cold on offense. Tim Thomas was a rock in goal.

What makes this team different than the 2009 or 1992 (or the promising 1990 and 2004 teams)? I think it’s Cam Neely.

Neely (who played for Vancouver to start his career before coming to Boston) was a hard-working fiery player who got results. Injuries plagued his career, but it was his grit that people loved. Neely came to the Bruins in 1986, and had a terrific career until retiring in 1996 with almost no cartilage left in his knees.

Neely never won with the Bruins as a player. In 1990 they ran into the red hot Edmonton Oilers starring Gretzky and Messier. In 1992 he was injured and could not help the team overcome Pittsburgh in the conference finals. Then the Bruins went into a funk while Neely’s ability to play effectively dwindled for several years. Neely retired in 1996 with 694 career points (and 1,241 penalty minutes) and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2005.

In September of 2007, Neely was appointed Vice President of the Bruins, and was promoted to President exactly a year ago today – 364 days from President to Stanley Cup champ. Neely’s grit and hustle trickled down to his team in how it played and, more importantly, how it was built. Neely has repeatedly stated that he believes in the Bruins depth. There are no real stars beyond the giant captain Zdeno Chara, and I think Neely was aiming for that. The team got results from all four lines during the playoffs, and it simply wore down the Canucks towards the end. By the third period of last night’s game, you could see it right in front of you: Vancouver was spent.

What Neely has done as an executive is remarkable. Claude Julien has finally earned the respect he deserves as a coach. The Bruins are champions again. And it’s sunny outside!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

6-14-11: The Quadrennial “No Soccer” Summer

Let me start by saying that I do know about the 2011 Women’s World Cup, and plan on watching a couple games. I suggest you do, as well. This post focuses on men’s international soccer.

But for most of the world, the summer of 2011 is a “no soccer” summer. The four year cycle of men’s international soccer tournaments has one summer with no major tournaments beyond the CONCACAF Gold Cup, which is limited to North America, Central America, and the Caribbean. Though many people follow the action of the biennial Gold Cup, it pales in comparison to the European Championships and the FIFA World Cup as far as quality of play. When you look at the (controversially calculated) FIFA World Rankings, you won’t find many CONCACAF members very high on the list. The U.S. is top in CONCACAF at 22nd in the world, followed by Mexico at 28th and Honduras at 43rd. In contrast, UEFA (the European soccer federation) has 13 teams ranked higher than the U.S.

It’s not to say this is a bad thing; you don’t want to saturate the market or devalue the major tournaments by playing them more frequently. I think it’s good to take a break. Next summer will be the European Championship, which will be hosted by Poland and The Ukraine and will be watched by hundreds of millions of fans. The qualification for that tournament is still ongoing. I don’t know if it will be as good a tournament as the 2008 installment, which was the beginning of Spain’s dominance over world soccer, but it should be fun. I don’t like how it’s being co-hosted by two teams ranked outside of the top 16 in UEFA (Ukraine is 23rd and Poland is 36th), though. With a 16 team tournament, it means that two teams that would have likely qualified over the two host countries won’t make it. To be fair, the 2008 tournament was also co-hosted by two mediocre UEFA members in Switzerland and Austria, and the tournament still went well. Still: wouldn’t you want the 16 best countries in the tournament? It would certainly enhance the quality of play.

Well, at least UEFA is moving in the right direction from 2016 onward. The 2016 tournament will be hosted by France and will have an expanded format of 24 teams. Time will tell if the tournament will be better than in it is with its current format.

The CONCACAF Gold Cup began last week. The U.S. plays again tonight, and will advance to the quarterfinals so long as they don’t lose to Guadaloupe.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

"All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace" - Episode 1

Covers a lot of ground. Very, very intriguing. Hat tip to Marginal Revolution.

6-2-11: New Job

It’s been about two months since I started my new job at GE Aviation after nearly four years at Sikorsky Aircraft, my first employer out of college. It’s been quite the transition thus far.

It hasn't been that difficult in general. The hardest part so far is dealing with the fact that I’m new to the group and have to prove myself all over again. That’s something you don’t really think about until you arrive at a new job. I forgot how long it took at Sikorsky to warm up to the group and build some clout. It’s a totally different ballgame when you start somewhere new. Fortunately, the position at GE Aviation is a promotion of sorts from my last job, so I’m not treated the same as I had been starting out of college. I’ve already been given small bits of responsibility, which is nice, but it’s a process. I need more patience.

This process had reminded me of how my generation is thought of as generally feeling entitled. I think there’s unfortunately some truth to that, but there are also some misconceptions from older workers towards people my age (in their mid 20's). In general, people my age don’t feel as tied to employers as in the past, partly because we grew up in the age of new opportunity and a more global job market. It’s also much easier to apply for a new job today than it was 15 to 20+ years ago when most of the older workers began their careers. I won’t say it’s easier to land the job itself, but the fact that you can apply to a job with only a few mouse clicks provides applicants with a reduced sense of “marriage” to their current employer. That's simply not "how it used to be."

The past few years have been tough for job applicants of all ages, but I would bet that turnover will pick up among employees under the age of 30 in the next few years once the economy picks back up. Companies should take this into account. Keep the younger employees engaged. If an employer takes advantage of the employees' fear of their job security during a recession (Sikorsky did not do this, in fact I applaud them for their treatment of employees throughout the slowdown), they will not forget it when the economy picks back up and other opportunities present themselves. I simply made a choice. It was far from easy, but I left with a good feeling and miss my former group. That's the sign of a good working environment.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

5-14-11: Wedding Songs

Last weekend, a buddy of mine got married. It was a very nice and fun wedding, and went off (from my eyes) without a hitch. I didn't know which song he had chosen for the first dance, but once it came on, I knew the rest of the playlist would be good:




My first thought was "That's something I'd pick for the first dance at my wedding." Not that I'm in the planning stage or anything right now, but I have begun making a list of potential songs for whenever that occasion presents itself.

I don't have a top choice quite yet, but one song that I've liked since I first heard it (on a train to New York in the spring of my junior year of college) is "I Will Follow You into the Dark" by Death Cab for Cutie. It's a nice little song, but it's kinda dark and not good for dancing. Still, it's good:



Another good one is "Wonderful Tonight" by Eric Clapton:

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

4-27-11: The Economics of Absentee Rent and Lazy College Students

I've been living in the Boston area for almost a month now. Things are great. I like the area and my new job, and it's good to be around the lady again.

Unfortunately, the timing of the move wasn't perfect. Right now I'm paying rent for my current apartment and the apartment in New Haven. It's only for a few months, but it definitely sucks to pay $600 a month (each) for an empty place. It's the price to pay for the great opportunity, I suppose.

Our landlords in New Haven were pretty cool about us leaving. Why wouldn't they be? We're still paying rent. They did put the place on the market as soon as we told them back in late February, but haven't had much luck. One of the more interesting tid bits, explained to me by one of the landlords, is that the apartment is a little too far away from the Yale shuttle bus route to attract many Yale students (not to say Yale students would be searching for a new apartment in March anyway).

The point he was really trying to make is that he can't charge as much rent as landlords with similar, if not inferior in quality, apartments located on the Yale shuttle route. Even being one block away from the end of the route can be a problem. The value placed upon convenience and location by Yale students is higher than the value they place on the living standards within their physical domicile. Good for those lucky landlords, bad for my landlord (and therefore me, the absentee tenant).

On the flip side, I now live just far enough away from Tufts University that it's inconvenient for students who wish to live within walking distance of campus. My rent is therefore fairly reasonable for the location. Tufts doesn't have the same sort of shuttle service that Yale has, so I'd imagine the drop off in rent pricing isn't as drastic here in Medford. I have no data to back that up. Just a guess.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Smart Transformers

"If one neighbor plugged an electric car into an AC charger, for example, it could respond by tapping otherwise unneeded DC power from another neighbor's solar panels."

 
 

Sent to you by Pat via Google Reader:

 
 


Controlling the flow of electricity to stabilize the grid

In a lab wired up to simulate a residential neighborhood, Alex Huang is working to revamp aging power grids into something more like the Internet—a network that might direct energy not just from centralized power stations to consumers but from any source to any destination, by whatever route makes the most sense. To that end, Huang, a professor of electrical engineering at North Carolina State University, is reinventing the transformers that currently reduce the voltage of the electricity distributed to neighborhoods so that it's suitable for use in homes and offices.




 
 

Things you can do from here:

 
 

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Can an Algorithm Spot the Next Google?

"By extracting words and phrases from the collected documents, Quid constructs a "technology genome" that describes the primary focus of each of those 35,000 entities. A map of the connections those genomes can be used by investors to find hints about interesting companies or ideas, says Gourley. Most companies cluster around established sectors, but a few will sit in the white spaces between the clusters and can represent the seeds of new technology sectors."

 
 

Sent to you by Pat via Google Reader:

 
 


A startup analyzes tweets, patents, and lots of other data in the hopes of identifying the next big thing.

By definition, "disruptive" technologies are those that take the world by surprise. Now a startup called Quid claims that its software can make good guesses about what the next big thing will be. It does this by analyzing a store of data on existing companies, ideas, and research.




 
 

Things you can do from here:

 
 

Thursday, March 24, 2011

3-24-11: "Neutral Site" MATLAB Script

I'm not a big college basketball fan. I casually follow my sister's school, the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, but since they didn't make the NCAA Tournament (or the NIT or the one below that), I decided to throw $5 into a now broken bracket and watch a select few games during the tournament.

One thing I couldn't help but notice is that one team always seems to have a home court advantage over the other teams. I realize that with 16 teams, some one is going to be closer, so I don't really think there's much the NCAA can do about it within reason. But it got me thinking: how could I write a script that would figure out the best neutral site given a group of teams?

I threw something together in MATLAB (code below) in a couple hours. It's very simple and is absolutely the most inefficient and brute force way to go about solving the problem, but it is scalable. I ran through it a few times with six locations and got it to simulate in about 50 seconds. Not great, but this isn't a really time-critical application.

I assumed all teams are just points on a 1001 x 1001 grid (with the origin at the center), and chugged through all 1,002,001 points on the grid and calculated the distance to each set point (team location). The user enters how many teams and then enters the coordinates for each team (I didn't make it very simple for the user; something to work on). For each test point (all 1,002,001 of them) I have it calculate the Coefficient of Variation for the set of distances between each team. The point with the lowest COV is the selected "neutral site" as it is roughly equally far from each team. The script displays the neutral site's coordinates and COV, and plots all of the points with the neutral site filled in.

%% Neutral Site Calculator

% Determines the ideal "neutral" site among an assortment of points

% The number of sites is user configurable

% The site locations are entered by the user

% The script assumes all sites are located on a set grid of points

% Author: Pat Canny

%%

clear;clc;

disp('Neutral Site Calculator')

disp('Assume a 1000 x 1000 grid')

%% User Inputs

num_sites = input('Enter number of sites: ');

while num_sites <=1

disp('Number of sites must be greater than one')

num_sites = input('Enter number of sites: ');

end

set_point_x_array = zeros(1,num_sites);

for i=1:num_sites

set_point_x_array(i) = input('Enter x coordinate for site : ');

end

set_point_y_array = zeros(1,num_sites);

for i=1:num_sites

set_point_y_array(i) = input('Enter y coordinate for site : ');

end

%%

%% Calculate average distance (vector magnitude) from each test point

test_point_x_array = -500:500;

test_point_y_array = -500:500;

grid_size = length(test_point_x_array)*length(test_point_y_array);

distance_matrix = zeros(length(test_point_x_array),length(test_point_y_array));

d = zeros(1,num_sites); % initialize vector magnitude array

tic;

for j = 1:length(test_point_y_array) % y dimension

for k = 1:length(test_point_x_array) % x dimension

for i = 1:num_sites % calculate vector magnitude to each set point

x = set_point_x_array(i);

y = set_point_y_array(i);

test_x = k-501;

test_y = 501-j;

d(i) = sqrt((test_x - x)^2 + (test_y-y)^2); % vector magnitude

end

distance_cov_sqd = (std(d) / mean(d))^2;

distance_matrix(j,k) = distance_cov_sqd;

end

end

toc

min_distance_cov_sqd = min(distance_matrix(:));

[m,n] = find(distance_matrix == min_distance_cov_sqd);

neutral_site_x = mean(n)-501;

neutral_site_y = 501-mean(m);

%%

%% Display results

str1 = ['The neutral site is located at: (',num2str(neutral_site_x),',',num2str(neutral_site_y),')'];

disp(str1)

str2 = ['The minimum distance COV is: ',num2str(min_distance_cov_sqd)];

disp(str2)

close all

figure(1)

scatter(set_point_x_array, set_point_y_array)

hold on

scatter(neutral_site_x, neutral_site_y,'filled')

grid on

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

3-16-11: Smoking Rates and Social Security

I heard on NPR this morning a report about a study stating that the rate of smoking in America has significantly decreased since the 1960's. The rate of lung cancer death has also gone down. The number of smokers has dropped, but the amount of smoking being done by the average smoker has also been going down. All of these things are good. I, for one, lost a dear relative to lung cancer, and it's great to see more people aren't being taken away from their families too early due to smoking.

I also heard a report yesterday, again on NPR, about social security, and how politicians in Washington, specifically Democrats, keep away from discussing it due to it being a "political third rail." In 2010, for this first time in its 75+ year history, Social Security paid out more than it took in. At its current rate, Social Security will burn through its cash by 2037, about 15 years before I plan on retiring. Many politicians don't see it as a real problem.

For some strange reason, probably because I've been following great economics blogs like Marginal Revolution and Freakonomics for a while now, but I saw these two stories as being related. Wouldn't it be a bad thing for Social Security if people aren't smoking as much nowadays? People would start living longer, dying less often, and therefore would be receiving benefits later in life. People currently receiving Social Security grew up in the smoking generation, and are probably more susceptible to various forms of cancer caused by tobacco products. As the years go on, those receiving benefits will have likely lived a healthier lifestyle than the generation prior. If you can link smoking and tobacco use to cancer, and plan out 20, 30, and 40 years from now, fewer and fewer people will have been exposed to the same diseases. If we do run out of funding, people my age in their mid twenties will have paid the benefits for a generation of less healthy Americans. Hardly a reward for healthy living.

In general, life expectancy increases with each coming generation. Granted, the obesity rate is higher among youths than it was 30 or 40 years ago, so there is a bit of an offset when it comes to overall health. But nevertheless, the average lifespan of an American receiving Social Security benefits will not be shrinking any time soon.

Why not fix Social Security now? Passing it off as unimportant is a true political cop-out. At the very least, couldn't it be discussed?

Saturday, March 12, 2011

St. Lawrence Tops Yale 4-3 in OT

New Haven, Connecticut --- The Yale Men's Ice Hockey team didn't make things easy for themselves last night, losing 4-3 in overtime to St. Lawrence in Game 1 of their best-of-three weekend series in the Quarterfinal round of the ECAC Men's Ice Hockey Championship Tournament. Yale went into the game as the favorite, and, despite surrendering a fluke goal 53 seconds in after goaltender Ryan Rondeau completely mis-played a looping dump-in from St. Lawrence defender Patrick Raley, Yale looked to take the first game from the visiting Saints.

Yale is led by a powerful offensive corps of Hobey Baker hopefuls Denny Kearney and Broc Little, who each had multi-point games last night. Kearney opened Yale's scoring 3:10 into the game to tie it up 1-1 on a power play goal. Yale then began to apply continuous pressure on the undersized St. Lawrence squad, which resulted in two additional power play goals from Yale captain Jimmy Martin. Going into the third period with a 3-1 lead, Yale looked to have complete control of the game.

St. Lawrence had other thoughts. Led by senior captain Aaron Bogosian, the older brother of Atlanta Thrasher defender Zach Bogosian, the Saints played a very physical third period and tied it up at 13:47 with a power play goal from first year forward Greg Carey.

The overtime period was a very even contest overall, which mirrored the game as a whole. Each team had its chances, but it was St. Lawrence's Carey who put it away to win Game 1 for the Saints.

Walking away from Ingalls Rink last night, the student body looked deflated. Yale gave up a 3-1 lead, and missed several chances. St. Lawrence goaltender Matt Weninger had a strong game, giving up three difficult power play goals and making 31 saves. Yale did not look the stronger side during even strength play, and frankly was gifted a power play which resulted in their first goal after a questionable roughing call against St. Lawrence senior forward Sean Flanagan. Yale goaltender Rondeau had an inconsistent game after the first goal, with some obviously shaky rebounds in the third period and imperfect positioning on Bogosian's goal. Despite the size disadvantage, St. Lawrence used 6' 6" Nic Vangog very well going into the offensive zone, sending the first-year forward directly at the Yale net to cause disruption in the defense. A classic and proven method which wore Yale down.

Game 2 of the Quarterfinal series is tonight at 7:00PM at Ingalls Rink. Can Yale fight back to send the series into a deciding game tomorrow night? Let's hope so.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

3-8-11: Making a Career Move

Last week I gave notice to my current employer that I am leaving the company to take a position at another company in the Boston area. The new company is GE Aviation, based in lovely Lynn, Massachusetts. My current employer, Sikorsky Aircraft, is based in Stratford, CT. I spent a bit more than half of my childhood growing up in the Stratford area (in Easton, to be specific), so it’s not easy for me to leave the area. My parents moved to the South two years ago, though, so I’m the only one left. In fact, most of my family lives in Massachusetts, so I’m moving closer to family. My last day at Sikorsky is March 25th.

The job hunting experience was taxing. I spent a considerable amount of my free time searching for positions, not to mention the multitude of phone screens and a few on-site interviews. It is, however, exhilarating. The prospects of a new job, even in the same industry, bring a new sense of purpose. You begin to examine where you are in your career and life, and some decisions are difficult but necessary to make. I like my job at Sikorsky. I like my group. I like my co-workers. The program I work for is moving from the design to the testing phase, so my favorite thing to do, design, is quickly fading out of my current role. Not to say I don’t like testing what I have designed, but it did come into play. My decision was primarily based on wanting to get an MBA, and UTC’s changes to its Employee Scholar Program won’t allow me to get the MBA on the company dime. Other factors included location and salary considerations. Let me just state that I do think UTC is a fine employer.

Applying for jobs is very, very easy in this day and age. There are tons of great sites out there. I ended up sticking primarily with Indeed and LinkedIn. Believe it or not, Craigslist isn’t too bad, either. Monster and CareerBuilder, however, were a bit of a let-down since they don’t attract smaller employers due to their exorbitant fees. Getting a job, though, is tough, since many companies receive many, many applications for each posting.

Here’s some advice to job seekers: AVOID RECRUITERS. I went through a couple recruiters at some points in the months-long search, and regretted it in both cases. If they insist on you filling out an application on their website, don’t do it. They’ll insist that it’s “just part of the application process” and that it “will help them identify employers” but it’s just a ploy for them to get your personal information so they can spam you. I got two phone calls on consecutive days from one recruiter asking why I hadn’t filled out their application yet (I was genuinely busy), but once I took the time to complete the online application (took almost two hours), I heard absolutely nothing from them for months. When I e-mailed the associate, I was told “Things are slow with this employer.” Very frustrating.

That was a direct application through a recruiter. The other instance where recruiters came into play was when I unwisely put my résumé on public display on Monster. BIG mistake. I got a phone call from a head-hunter (I won’t even call them a recruiter in this case) based on the west coast. He said he had some positions in the Seattle area (probably Boeing) and was wondering if I was interested. I said I was interested in the Boston area, to which he replied: “Oh, are there aerospace companies near Boston?” Let’s see: GE, UTC, Boeing, MITRE, Raytheon, MIT Lincoln Labs, BAE, General Dynamics, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Ametek… Not to mention other smaller companies like The MathWorks and Charles River Analytics who service the larger companies. Such blatant ignorance of the job market led me to remove my résumé from public view that day.

I learned a lot from the experience. I got in some great practice doing interviews. I am very good at behavioral interviews. Companies generally ask the same questions (I got this one several times: “Can you think of a time where you had a conflict with a co-worker or project partner? How did you resolve the conflict?”), so it’s good to have canned responses. The toughest interview I had, by far, was with The MathWorks. I applied for an opening as an Application Support Engineer, which I thought I’d be great at since I use their products (MATLAB, Simulink, and Stateflow) in my current position. Boy oh boy, it was a TECHNICAL interview. I got a call from the interviewer and was told “No reference materials allowed.” The questions themselves weren’t hard, but they were geared towards people who were full-time graduate students. I was familiar with all of the concepts, but they wanted me to give abstract definitions. It was awful. Didn’t get that job.

Another thing I learned is that small companies seem to be a lot more fun than big companies. There are more risks involved as far as job security, but I was very excited after interviewing at Charles River Analytics. Unfortunately, the job description and my experience didn’t quite match up. They wanted someone with more experience in Java, which I had studied during my Master’s, but I’ve never used it professionally. The position was in the Cognitive Systems group, but I was more intrigued by the work being done by another group within the company (the Sensor Systems group). I don’t know where my career will take me, but I’d recommend any one looking for something different than the big company environment to look at small companies and startups.

Now it’s down to the logistics of making the move. I’m in contact with about a dozen people from three different companies regarding the move (which is being paid for by GE): Cartus, Electric Insurance, and Castine Moving & Storage. The lady and I found an apartment in Medford through a broker (Apartment Rental Experts; great people). Our current landlords aren’t too happy about us moving four months early, but we get reimbursed for some of the rent, so it’s not a big deal. We’ll see how it goes…

Monday, March 7, 2011

3-7-11: End of the Ski Season

This past weekend marked the end of the ski season for me. I don’t much like spring skiing, so I’m pretty sure I’m packing it in until next winter.

I’m happy that it went out on a high note, for the most part. This weekend was the On Snow Winter Carnival, an annual three-day celebration of winter hosted by the Connecticut Ski Council at a selected Vermont skiing resort. The past two years have been at Mount Snow. Last year’s event was awesome in many regards, but the event this year was still pretty good. I think most of it was due to the weather (this year had one good day, one mediocre day, and one very rainy day; last year had three sunny days). I am sure glad I took Friday off from work to get in a great day in the sun. Saturday was very foggy and misty, and I didn’t even bother skiing with all the rain yesterday.

I made significant progress this season while gaining a considerable amount of confidence. I still have my moments of fear now and then, but I don’t mind the steepness. In fact, I seek it out in moderation. I spent a lot of time working on my mechanics this weekend, and had a few marvelous runs. Mount Snow is great for intermediates (but terrible for beginners). Most of the main face consists of blue cruisers and their grooming is awesome. I was lucky on Friday morning to get first tracks in a few spots. I stopped on “Thanks Walt” over on Sunbrook to appreciate the view and the silence – it was awesome. I really wish the lady could have skied, but she was sidelined due to her injury a few weeks ago at Killington. She was bumming, but still hung out.

One of the things I can appreciate after two good seasons, with 10+ days on the mountain each season, is learning a new skill as an adult. I was three years old when I began learning to ice skate. I honestly don’t remember ever not being able to skate. However, I vividly remember my first time on skis as an adult. I was thrilling and terrifying. When you’re 6’5” tall, 215 pounds, and 24 years old, you don’t want to fall. It hurts. When you’re only five or six, you have nothing to lose! Kids fall all the time. They cry at first, but it doesn’t really hurt all that much. It may take them longer to learn than adults (plenty of people learn to ski as adults and learn faster), but kids have the advantage of having less fear. Most of my friends who ski learned as children or teenagers, and they’re obviously years ahead of me. But I doubt they were where I am now after 23 days on the mountain.

I genuinely enjoy skiing now. For years I avoided it, mostly due to other athletic endeavors. I wasn’t allowed to ski for most of my life due to ice hockey. When I was first approached with the prospect of learning as an adult by the lady, I was very hesitant. I was able to successfully avoid skiing with my ex-girlfriend, but I knew I wasn’t going to get away with it this time. It’s pretty daunting, especially when you’re being exposed to an entirely new culture while learning many new skills. I didn’t want to move too quickly, though. A good friend of mine started snowboarding when he was 23 and ended up going to Jackson Hole in Wyoming in his second season. My other friends say he can handle the tough terrain, but could perhaps use some work on mechanics. There’s a fine line between being brave and being reckless. I like to build up my confidence before hitting the tough terrain.

I achieved my goal for the season of successfully managing a black diamond trail from top to bottom. I did that a few weeks ago at Killington on “Superstar” – and, despite being exhausted at the bottom, was thrilled. Though I’m still not quite there with carved turns, I have significantly reduced my habit of making “hockey-stop-like Z turns” down the hill. My legs have thanked me.


My goals for next season are:

1) Be able to solidly handle a difficult mogul run
2) Be able to manage a relatively difficult glade run
3) Master the carved S turn

Steeper terrain provides me with the requisite energy to make my turns, and forces me, like it or not, to keep my weight more forward. I look forward to the challenge.

See you next season, ski slopes.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

2-27-11: "A Canny Approach" - Episode 2 (Video)

I quickly realized that my podcast is exceedingly boring without visuals, so here is Episode 2 from back in late December, with visuals.



video

Monday, February 14, 2011

2-14-11: Skiing, an update

I haven’t chimed in on my burgeoning skiing career in a while. I was looking at some of last winter’s posts, and figured I’d try to catch up on this year’s progress.

So far this season I have spent 5.5 days on the mountain and have gone night skiing twice: two days each at Sugarbush and Jay Peak, 1.5 days (story to follow) at Killington, and night skiing at Mount Wachusett and Mohawk. I got new boots, the Dalbello Proton 8 model, which have been great. My goal going into this season was to be able to do black diamond trails on a regular basis by the end of the season. So far, so good.

I’ve only taken one lesson so far this year, which I took at Jay Peak a couple weeks ago. It was my first Intermediate lesson, and I got more out of it than most Beginner lessons I took last year. Instead of focusing only on race-style “S” turns, the instructor had me doing quick slide turns on steeper terrain, which have come in quite handy. He also had me work on turning more smoothly by not forcing turns; I’d been throwing my hips over too early and not shifting my weight very smoothly. We worked on throwing my weight down the hill to initiate turns, which was a simple and easy way to practice my turns. I haven’t had a lot of time on my own to work on the fundamentals, but have been able to work on some things here and there.

This weekend we headed up to Killington for two days. Saturday was awesome. We started off at the top by doing Blue Heaven and cutting over to Skye Peak to what I believe was Skyeburst, which was a good warm-up run. I like to have a nice warm-up run on a blue square trail to get the legs going, otherwise my mechanics are terrible for the first hour or two. Once we got to the bottom, we took the Bear Mountain Quad up. I’d never been on Bear Mountain, but I know it has a bunch of black diamond and double black diamond trails. Turns out, they’d flattened out some of the tougher stuff (including Outer Limits, which was very crowded), but I stuck to Bear Claw, the only blue square, for a couple runs. We then met up with our buddy Rob and hit the Skye Peak Express Quad to do a bit steeper terrain.

The steep stuff started with Skyelark, which starts off as a blue square then turns into a black diamond towards the bottom. This is where my recently learned quick turns came in handy. I had a lot of fun going down that one, and was feeling brave enough to try Superstar from top to bottom.

Superstar is the longest, steepest trail I’ve ever been down. The top is steep, and the bottom is just as steep and even longer. After a significant pause, I finally mustered up my limited courage, pointed the skis downhill, and made it to the bottom of the first section in one piece. Feeling good about myself, I followed the lady and Rob down to the bottom. I avoided all the bumps, and made it down in reasonably smooth fashion. The lady was proud of me, and I was exhausted. Legs were burning pretty good when I made it down.

We went back up to the top of Superstar to the top section again before cutting over towards Bear Mountain again. This time: no problem. I had to wait for Ski Patrol to pass by, then nailed the top section. My confidence was quite high at that point. We went over to Bear and did Wildfire, a reasonably steep black diamond run, and stuck around there for a bit before heading back to Snowshed for lunch. After lunch, we headed over to Ramshead with our friend Taylor and did Squeeze Play, a blue square glade run. Trees are my next frontier. I enjoy them, but I’m very much a novice when they show up. Rob gave me a good tip: pick a path, and stick to it. That seemed to help, but I still panicked a lot and kept my weight back too much. By the end I was doing better.

After a significant snowfall, we split up briefly before the end of the day. I did Mouse Trap (my first black diamond run ever from last season) and headed over to Snowshed just before 4:00PM. Great day of skiing.

Sunday was a bit different. The mountain was significantly more crowded (CSC Awareness Day), and the conditions were a bit crunchier; “frozen granular” I was told. Not ideal. I was skiing OK, not great, for the first couple runs. Legs were still tired from the day before; they needed another run or two to get in shape and start responding to my mental commands (“weight forward!”). The lady and I were going to hit Squeeze Play again, and were planning on cutting down via Mouse Trap. All was going well until I saw her tumble over on a bump. When I checked to see what happened, she opened her mouth to show at least one missing tooth. I yelled “Oh shit!” and began to freak out a little bit.

We were able to find the tooth immediately, and she was able to get up and ski down to the K1 lodge. We went in, found First Aid, and ended up having to leave for the emergency room in Rutland. That ended the day quickly. She knocked out one of her front teeth almost to the root by kneeing herself in the face after losing her balance. Lots of blood. She took it extremely well, never crying or whining or anything.

It turns out she broke her upper inner jaw. Right now she has a wire support (similar to braces) to help line her teeth up while the jaw heals. After 4-6 weeks, she'll be able to get a tooth implant put in. It will take several visits and several weeks of soft food, but she'll be just fine. Expensive, and painful, spill. Fun weekend overall, though.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

2-6-11: Michael Lewis - "When Irish Eyes Are Crying"

I finally got around to reading Michael Lewis' piece in Vanity Fair on the Irish Crisis. "When Irish Eyes Are Crying" walks through the cast of characters and moods and trends surrounding the current economic crisis in Ireland. Lewis, of Moneyball fame (though Liar's Poker came first), is an excellent journalist, and I was looking forward to seeing what he'd found during his time investigating the piece.

As usual, Lewis covers a lot of ground while neither boring nor patronizing the reader. The structure of the piece seemed familiar: he starts with a central character (in this case economist Morgan Kelly) and dabbles in with a few side characters who, though not as prominent as the central character, reinforce his point from a different angle. It feels almost like he's writing a play sometimes, but I like the style.

Lewis does well to explain the differences between the Irish, Icelandic, and Greek crises. A lot of people think, due to the timing, that they were all caused by some widespread Eurozone crisis that hit the weakest economies hardest. Lewis explains that the three countries shared similar behaviors leading up to their respective crises, but each had their own style. He paints Ireland as a sort of teenager with money burning a hole in its pocket from a spectacular run of baseless luck. Ireland got caught up in its own hype, and refused to believe it could fail. It was "new money" David trying to distinguish itself in a world of wiser Goliaths.

Ireland suffered, and still suffers, from a case of over-indulgent self-investment. The Irish banks lent out billions of Euros to property developers with the hope that the booming housing market, which even well before the bust showed signs of structural frailty, would keep on going without end. Economists, who should have known better, refused to listen to history, and called for a "soft landing" instead of the inevitable housing crash.

Lewis then goes into the role of the Irish government, which consisted of disbelievers, liars, and drunks. The only political figure for whom he devotes and sort of limited mercy is Brian Lenihan, the finance minister. Lenihan, who had earned the pity of the Irish people through an unfortunate illness (very Irish behavior, as Lewis points out), was, if anything, duped, according to some. He's been made to be the fixer of an irreparable systemic problem, and seems to have the confidence to do the impossible.

As a person of Irish descent, I like what Lewis does with the piece. He doesn't portray the Irish as innocent victims. They got greedy, and invested poorly in a housing market that couldn't house the current population. Sure, there are some innocent victims here and there, but, as Lewis points out, few people have protested. Those who have don't always want the attention. Perhaps it's just that people were still hungering for the pre-boom days, and weren't too distraught when things crashed back down. The economy boomed and fell within a decade - most people in the country vividly remember life beforehand. I strongly doubt any deliberate attempt at sabotage was made - the market itself was just unstable. I just think people might think of it as just a dream - and are still waking up.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Behind The Scenes: Cowboys Stadium's Massive IT Infrastructure

Super Bowl XLV is on Sunday, which is big for the NFL and huge for the host Dallas Cowboys. I read an interesting article today in IT World about the massive IT infrastructure at Cowboys Stadium. Truly ground-breaking and amazing. The first video is pretty much an advertisement for CDW, the chief consultant in the IT development for the stadium. The second video is more amateur-style journalism that goes into more detail about some components of the IT system.





2-3-11: A Canny Approach Podcast, Episode 3

Here's another installment of "A Canny Approach", a podcast I'm fooling around with. This episode covers tech-savvy parking meters, professional roller hockey, and my non-Super-Bowl-related sports picks. Have a listen.






Tuesday, February 1, 2011

2-1-11: IBM Amsterdam Airport Schiphol Case Study Video

This kind of stuff really gets my geeky engineering mind going ga-ga. I love watching videos like this. IBM is one of a handful of companies for which I watch their commercials while fast-forwarding through all the others for a show I have DVRed.


Monday, January 17, 2011

1-17-11: Professional Roller Hockey

On Saturday evening I attended a night of live American Inline Hockey League action at the Z-Rink in Glastonbury, CT. Myself and the lady went with two friends, who knew the owner of the Hartford Fire Ants, who were hosting the Beantown Athletics. I had never seen a professional roller hockey game before.

The game was certainly different than what I’m used to from ice hockey. Besides being played using roller blades (and no ice), roller hockey is 4 on 4, with no off-sides or icing, and no hitting. I could see why: the limited ability for players to stop and turn suddenly would make playing on-side hockey quite dangerous (players would either constantly run into each other or would destroy their knees trying to stop suddenly to stay on-sides). Without those rules in place, the flow felt a bit more like basketball than ice hockey. The other major difference was that, instead of playing three periods, the teams played two 15 minute halves with a short intermission in between. The equipment was very similar.

Since the league is semi-professional and the games are rather short, teams primarily play double-headers or small tournaments. Games are always on weekends (since most guys work full time). The Fire Ants won the first game in a shoot-out, which was entertaining. Boston then came back from 3-1 down in the second game to win 4-3, scoring three quick goals in the second half. Hartford looked good overall, and was happy to get a win out of the night.

I was happy to see a familiar face on the Beantown Athletics in James Wood, with whom I played a couple spring hockey seasons in Milford several years ago (9 and 10 to be exact). We chatted a bit after the game. He was new to the sport, and was still getting used to the different rules and playing style, but seemed to be catching on quickly.

After the game, we ate dinner at the Diamond Pub in Glastonbury along with most of the players. The bar gave a 10% discount to patrons with Fire Ants tickets stubs. Fun time.

I was surprised to learn from Jimmy, the friend of a friend who owns part of the Fire Ants, that the AIHL is quite large. Based in Orlando, Florida, the league consists of 41 teams in eight divisions throughout the country, at the professional level. There was also a second “minor league” tier consisting of roughly the same number of teams. Each team plays the other teams within its division at least twice, and the winners of each division play in the league championship in Orlando in the late spring timeframe (all games played in one weekend). The current champions are the Huntington Beach Elite from the Pacific South division. Some AIHL games are broadcast on ESPN3, with live streaming of games (announced by a member of the minor league affiliate) is available on some team websites, including the Hartford Fire Ants.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

1-12-11: Snow Day

I knew I was going to take at least a half day today, but after waking up to find my driveway completely snowed in (plow guy has still yet to arrive), I decided to take a full vacation day. According to my buddy Scott, only a handful of people were in the office this morning. No surprise there.

New Haven got hit pretty hard. My driveway has about a foot of snow on it. Below is a picture of it taken a couple hours ago. I took a walk down the street to survey the damage. Pretty much a ghost town. One my neighbors had his snow blower out to clear his driveway. A few guys were shoveling the entrance to a convenience store down the street. The mailbox I hoped to use to mail back a movie to Netflix was nearly completely buried in a drift. So, I'm just hanging out watching last night's Bruins game (they beat Ottawa 6-0) and enjoying my day off. Hopefully the plow guy will be here this afternoon so I can get out tomorrow.

Stay safe.