Archive for March, 2009

Agricola at Eriks

Monday, March 30th, 2009

Tonight I played Agricola for the third time. I won this time, instead of coming in second by one point as happened on both of my previous plays. Agricola is a board game in which you are the head of a farming household. It is similar to Puerto Rico in that it is a role taking game in which one aims to have the most points at the end.

Erik bought the game maybe a month ago, but we managed to not play it for two weeks after that. Then we played twice at my place in one weekend. Then I was gone on that ski trip, which I will write about later, and well first day back, we played again. It’s a pretty fun game. And we’re still playing a simplified version. This time we played at Eriks place in Beacon Hill.

A while back I dated a girl who lived at the other end of Beacon Hill. Whenever I go near there, I naturally think about the possibility of running into her. It’s pretty easy to discount the chances. It’s so densely populated, and so, the thought slips out of my mind rather quickly. Of course, since I’m telling this story one can easily assume I saw her tonight. Not 2 minutes out the door of Erik’s place on my way home I ran into her. This on the uber short 3 minute walk from his place to the T. At first I had a strange cockeyed look, thinking, “is that really her.” The rest went well, “Hi, how’s it going.” “Good.” Both of us continuing on with our one friend each in tow.

Then I had to wait for the T and fail at resisting the urge to reanalyze. It’s just still of note because it’s the first time this has happened to me. That is, running into an ex unexpectedly. Also, pretty rare event since I’ve only accumulated one ex-girlfriend in Boston.

Making All the Lights

Monday, March 23rd, 2009

View Larger Map

Tonight, I made every single light on that route without stopping once. I did slow down a few times, but still no small feet. I’ve never made it from one side of Cambridge to the other so quickly.

In less than 16 hours I’m leaving to go Skiing in Utah with Paul. I’m his best man. W00t!

On This Day: March 18th

Wednesday, March 18th, 2009

March 18th is one of those days that I remember for a having a rather unremarkable collection of highly related events that occurred (or were said to have occurred) on it. On this day:

And in 1998 I knew all of this without having to vaguely look up things up on the net to remember why it’s one of those days.

Update: While researching the links for this post, I learned, or relearned, that Danica is in two episodes of How I Met Your Mother as Trudy. The episodes are The Pineapple Incident and Third Wheel. Clearly both of those were worth a re-watch. Apparently she’s also in The West Wing. There’s a vote for that show. I still haven’t decided what show from my list, I should start. Luckily I’ve been to busy for a show recently.

Tennis on Sunday

Tuesday, March 17th, 2009

I played tennis this past Sunday with Mary and roommate Mike and his friend Debbie. We all suck, but it was beautiful out. I borrowed a racket. I made some great shots, but only when I was too busy positioning myself for the shot to worry about the shot itself. When things went slower I couldn’t help but make the ball sail out of bounds.

Oh That Stuff: Operational Amplifiers

Tuesday, March 17th, 2009

Operational AmplifierThese past two weeks at work have been a re-introduction to ECE 320: Electronic Devices and Controls. I have to do something that is very simple conceptually, but continually reminds me why I am not a hardware guy with how complex it actually is.

The problem:
I’ve got a signal that runs from 0 to 18 Volts. I have an analog to digital converter board that can handle voltages from -10 to 10 volts. I need to essentially subtract 10 volts from my input signal. In C:

signal = signal – 10;


In hardware this involves 4 resistors and operational amplifier and expensive 10 volt reference, two regulators and power supplies to handle the power requirements, and more capacitors than you can shake a stick at. Save me now.

Well, I got some help, cause we employ people who actually know how to do this stuff and he came up with some designs for me. But I had to check them out. He told me what they would do, but I had to confirm, build it, and test it. I was very impressed with myself in how much I remembered. I was able to, in the span of half an hour, figure out the whole thing, including all the intermediate steps. It was just like taking a test in college. I can now add another class to the list of classes where I learned something that I have applied directly in work. There are a lot of those by the way. Maybe OSU CSE isn’t as bad as I thought it was in school.

The circuit didn’t work when I tested it. Today we discovered I managed to screw up and pick the one, in stock, op amp available that is not at all what I need. It was a current feedback amplifier, whatever that is. Apparently there are more than one kind; but can’t blame the ECE department for not telling me that. I’m not supposed to have to worry about this stuff.

EC in Boston

Sunday, March 15th, 2009

Climbing a Pedstal at MIT

Wow, am I behind. EC was in Boston a week ago, to volunteer for the Boston FIRST regional and hang out with all her Boston friends. Instead of detailing the whole thing I’m gonna start allowing myself to write in a more short form. In hopes that I can keep the blog more in sync with my life.

  • I had to skip out on EC friday because I had a date. We went to a comedy show, which was funny, would go again, but there won’t be another date :-/
  • Saturday I met up with EC. I got to be a tour guide without a plan; using my geography and local culture knowledge to great effect. I’ve been spending a lot of time boning up on local culture, news, and ‘things to do’ knowledge; it felt good to use it. It validated all the time I’ve been spending. We went to Sunset in Allston and later Miracle of Science for the record.
  • We hung out at MIT for maybe two hours, being cool, failing to provide directions, and snooping around in classrooms. One of the classrooms had some thermodynamics/aeronautical stuff on the board. EC was thrilled.
  • I met two former classmates of hers, they were both cool.
  • All of us went to party in East Cambridge. Tim Hwang was there, I’m the biggest fan of the show he does with Diana. I met them at ROFLCon last year. He remembered my name! He invited me to come to some talks hes organizing! So awesome.
  • At the party there was an RIP 2am card for everyone to sign. Good call, otherwise I’d have forgotten about the time change. Which is bad when your friend is flying out in the morning.
  • After 2 hours of sleep I drove her to the providence airport. We made it in perfect time. It was a great weekend. Then I came back and did some spring cleaning that really needed to be done.

Cleveland 2009: The Rest of It

Wednesday, March 11th, 2009

The rest of my Cleveland trip was just as fun as the first afternoon. Lets call cover it in parts:

We're team 677. In the Center.
There is a lot to be said for being a spectator and not actually a member of the team. Although, most of it involves being able to skip out on most of the opening and awards ceremonies without setting a bad example. Although I later felt a little bad blogging through one I did go to, although; I did finish before Mr. King, Dublin FIRST teacher and mentor extraordinaire won the Woody Flowers award. As far as the rest of the competition results are concerned Dublin and Homeschool both lost in the semifinal round. That is, there was a 75% chance (ignoring skill) that one of OSU FIRST’s three teams would be in the finals and the other 25% happened. CSG came in 48th of 59 teams, but I have confidence they will do better in Torronto. I’ve told EC I’ll go to Atlanta for nationals if they team wins the chance. By told, I mean I said yes when she asked if I would.

Binary Note
Thursday before lunch one of the girls, Lauren, received a note in binary encoded ASCII from a boy on another team. The boy, had overheard how much she liked his teams button, which included something in binary on it; although, I never got a good enough look to figure out what it was beyond what appeared to be a 24 bit number with at least bits 0 and 23 set (meaning its not a team number). This reminded EC of the troubles we had a few years back with some girls who were at the competition primarily to flirt, but that was clearly not the motive here so we helped Lauren decode the message. Unfortunately we did have to call someone to look up what the values for ‘A’ and ‘a’ were. I remembered 65, but I forgot what base that was in, and well as if it was for ‘a’ or ‘A’. It said “Hey What’s up? I’m from team ” which was significantly more benign that we were expecting. Some girls from the boy’s team came and explained/apologized to our team, and Lauren, as far as I can tell refrained from humiliating the poor guy. Hey, at least his note got read; cause, yeah, that’s unlikely to happen even at the segway/geekfest that FIRST competitions are.

Good Answers
The Robot in the Pit
Josh and I visited the pit once on Friday afternoon. This is in stark contrast to our years on the team, when I lived in the pit, and even last year when we helped the girls do some real time debugging. We went down and found about 5 girls preparing to work on the robot, which had just finished it’s last match of the day, if I recall correctly. Josh and I corned a freshman, Ann, and started asking questions. The following is like how the conversation went:

Me: What’d you do on the robot?
Ann: Software, but for the JV robot
Me: Oh, how is the software for that robot different from this one?
Ann: They are the same
Me: How does that work?
Ann: They use the same mechanism and controls. We designed it that way.
Me: How do you deal with constants related to the motors themsevles or other bits that do vary from robot to robot?
Ann Well, we’ve actually got two copies of the software each with the different tweaks, but otherwise they’re the same.

I was impressed. I’m pretty sure that the robot controller doesn’t have a use accessible file system, so the only next best idea I could think of is impractical. So, not only is it a good design for something that is not actually a robot problem, but a meta problem caused by having two robots, but one of the freshmen was able to speak intelligently to the design and implementation.

Team Dinner and Nightlife
At the team dinner I sat near EC and three other freshmen girls from the team. These girls were huge Gilmore Girls fans; much larger than me. This served a good conversation starter, although; they did not like my answers to the standard questions. I think they are pretty good answers, I didn’t like theirs either. I guess its somewhat comforting that I’ve got a different outlook on it than they do. Moving on from that topic, it was a really fun dinner, and talking to the girls all night brought back at lot of the vibe I remember from being on the team. After dinner the mentors went out to a posh bowling ally/ bar on the same block. The previous night we’d bowled a few games there. I came in second until we had to finish the third game before they closed the lanes down in five minutes and things got sloppy. These reminded me of the great team parties we used to have, and complimented the vibe I had from dinner.

The Only Nice Block in Cleveland
My college room mate George, who loathes living in Toledo every day, came to see Josh and I in Cleveland for a three hour reprieve from looking outside and seeing Toledo. He made it just in time for the final match of the competition, which I’m sure made the trip more exciting. Afterwards we skipped out on the awards to grab a bite to eat before heading back to Jersey. We again went back to the one nice block of restaurants on 4th street for dinner. Before we left, I forgot to give EC back her phone charger, which had been left in our hotel room along with her chap stick, which was returned successfully. Over a text conversation during dinner we decided she’d simply have to come to Boston to get it back…