Sunday, December 11, 2011
Monday, November 28, 2011
Saturday, September 10, 2011
First, the Bill Plympton series:
Sunday, September 4, 2011
Sunday, August 7, 2011
Tuesday, July 26, 2011
Wednesday, June 22, 2011
Thursday, June 16, 2011
Tuesday, June 14, 2011
Thursday, June 2, 2011
Saturday, May 14, 2011
Another good one is "Wonderful Tonight" by Eric Clapton:
Wednesday, May 4, 2011
Wednesday, April 27, 2011
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
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
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
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
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: ');
set_point_x_array = zeros(1,num_sites);
set_point_x_array(i) = input('Enter x coordinate for site : ');
set_point_y_array = zeros(1,num_sites);
set_point_y_array(i) = input('Enter y coordinate for site : ');
%% 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)*
distance_matrix = zeros(length(test_point_x_
d = zeros(1,num_sites); % initialize vector magnitude array
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
distance_cov_sqd = (std(d) / mean(d))^2;
distance_matrix(j,k) = distance_cov_sqd;
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),','
str2 = ['The minimum distance COV is: ',num2str(min_distance_cov_
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
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
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.
Tuesday, March 8, 2011
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
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.
Thursday, March 3, 2011
Sunday, February 27, 2011
Monday, February 14, 2011
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
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
Tuesday, February 1, 2011
Monday, January 17, 2011
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
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.
Tuesday, January 4, 2011
Another new year, another New Year’s resolution crowd at the gym. This morning was not quite as bad as years past, but it was nonetheless more crowded than usual. The crowd usually begins to fade back to normal levels around March or so, so it’s just a matter of getting through the next 8-10 weeks. You can often tell the regulars from the “resolutioners.” Regulars tend to float between machines pretty smoothly and recognize what other people around them are doing so that it’s a smoother operation in general (a.k.a. proper gym etiquette). Resolutioners tend to have poorer etiquette simply because they’re dealing with a new personal routine. They also tend to exert more effort and fade more quickly. I am by no means a power user (I go three times a week), but I stick to my routine year-round. I also don’t mind seeing new people at the gym; I don’t say anything or give them a hard time. I just stay out of their way.
The annual influx of this resolution crowd of gym members made me think: what percentage of the resolution crowd had active memberships before the new year? I’d be surprised if it were under 70%. I don’t know many people who get gym memberships for Christmas (though that’s not saying a lot of people do), and I also don’t know how many people make it their resolution to get in shape for [insert reason here]. I think it’s great that people make the effort. I just wish they stuck with it more to make it easier for the regulars. The more you use the gym, the better your etiquette becomes (general rule which does not apply to all regular members), and the more likely it is you’ll develop a healthy routine.
While asking myself the above question, I began to think how one would determine what percentage of the resolution crowd had active memberships before the new year. I switched into SQL mode. Now, I haven’t used SQL since I took a course in Database Concepts for my Master’s degree two years ago, but I came up with the following general scheme that may be useful to a student in a database class:
- An active member is any dues paying member (under contract or month to month), regardless of attendance, for at least 3 months prior to the new year
- An active member is part of the resolution crowd if they increase their monthly attendance by at least 250% from the previous 6 months (second half of the previous calendar year)
o If they were not active members for the full six months prior to the new year, use the average monthly attendance for the time period during which they were active members
You will need two tables. One of them contains members (listed by unique ID) and their starting date of active membership. The other would be much larger and would contain members (listed by unique ID) and time stamps of their attendance. Many gyms have members “scan in” with their membership cards, so it’s safe to assume the data exists to populate the second table. Here are small examples of the two tables:
The queries would be pretty straightforward (though I’ll need to refresh my memory on SQL queries for the exact syntax; may put the queries themselves in a future post). You’d need to select from Table 1 and Table 2 (probably use an inner join; ID would be the key) where the member is both an active member who is part of the resolution crowd (according to the assumptions above).
Nice little SQL project for any student looking for something to do. How might such a project be useful? Perhaps it would help the gym management determine how many members start attending more frequently once the new year rolls around so that they know to staff more personnel or make sure more machines are available (some may be broken; this morning four out of five stationary bikes were in disrepair) or just to be prepared for more volume in general. Maybe even use the information for marketing purposes. Maybe they like having a large resolution crowd. Who knows.