Desierto norte de Chile

Friday, November 20, 2009

The week behind

This past week has been full of activities: on Saturday, Dan came in from Delaware to hang out and go to the Navy-Delaware football game. Later in the night, Greg (one of my freshman sponsees) came over to spend the night. Tuesday, Jose and Joaquin accompanied me to the Weekly Meeting of Campus Crusade, and although they didn't understand much of what was said during the meeting itself (they don't speak/understand much English), I think they had a great time. I told them that they had a greater impact on the students than vice-versa -- I think it's great for the midshipmen to interact cross-culturally, as there's so much we can learn, but they don't get many chances to do so at the academy. After the meeting we found a couple of students who are bilingual, and they extended a warm welcome on behalf of all the students.

Here are a few photos, first of the Navy-Delaware game, then of us at Campus Crusade.

Friday, November 13, 2009

A pretty good little storm

For the past three days, the extratropical remnants of Hurricane Ida have given the Annapolis area quite a bit of rain. I created (in Matlab, not a trivial task!) a plot of hourly, and storm total, precipitation, which when combined with the steady NE winds, equaled quite a storm for us in early November.

Tomorrow my good friend Dan is coming down from Delaware to hang out, and we're going to the Navy-Delaware football game. I hope Navy wins, which will give them a good boost heading to the end of the season (at Hawaii over Thanksgiving, and against Army to finish up in December).

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

How did you spend YOUR day?

Today was the Veterans' Day holiday, and of course it was a holiday at the Naval Academy. So instead of teaching, I decided to be productive and take care of several outstanding issues:

1. Oil change & tire rotation
2. Secure the glass front door and install the glass part (replacing the screen that had been in the frame since Mike helped me put it on back in mid-October)
3. Replace the remaining light switches and faceplates (from original beige to new white) that were held over from the last round of painting finished last month.

So I printed my $10/off coupon, made an online appointment for 7:30 a.m., and headed out to Firestone. While up on the rack, they noticed that the back brakes were out of alignment and suggested that I have my coolant system flushed (I declined, at $89.00, and it's winter), battery connections cleaned (I accepted, at $19.99), and spark plugs replaced (I declined, again at $89.00, because it's part of the Honda-recommended standard maintenance at 100k miles). One hour 30 mins later, I paid the bill (which actually came in less than $100, unlike I was anticipating) and headed over to Home Depot to buy the faceplates, light switches, and one outlet replacement.

Got back around 9:30 and set to work: replace the light switches first, then the outlet, then put on the faceplates. After struggling to get the copper wires out of the holes in the back of the switches (why there needs to be a different tiny hole where you're supposed to jam something really small to get the wire to "release" I'll never know), I managed to get into a rhythm, and by 11:00, everything was replaced and looking good. I proceeded to saw up extra shims (to put inside the exterior door frame, so that it'll secure to the wooden door frame) and finally install the glass door. I'm not installing the spring-loaded "catch" (you know, the part of the door that causes it to close behind you) because those annoy me. If I want the door to close, I can manage it myself, thank you. I guess if you have kids, those come in handy. I always seem to end up on the wrong side, though, usually with my hands full and a scraped ankle or Achilles' tendon (as the stupid glass door springs shut on me before I manage to get in). So no automatic closer for my front door! Sawing up the shims took a little longer than anticipated, and I had to caulk around the door and nail on a piece of rounded trim, but finished up around 2 p.m. I turned around to turn on the hallway light, and realized it wouldn't work, likely owing to something I'd done wrong in installing the light switches.

Turns out (after 30 mins of Google searching, and going back in and uninstalling the "switch" to look at it), I had eagerly installed "interruptors", not 3-way switches, so none of my three-way lights worked any more (neither basement nor hallway). An hour of fighting with my one actual three-way switch (turns out I bought it by accident this am at Home Depot... by "fighting" I mean multiple iterations of trial-and-error to figure out which wire was the "common" wire and which the "traveling" wires), and I got one of them installed and finally working. So back to Home Depot to get a refund on the $8.42 worth of 'interruptors' I mistakenly bought this a.m. and to buy real 3-way switches. Now it's 4:30 and I'm finally finished: all switches and faceplates installed and working! Here's a photo of me trying to get the hall lightswitch working (and another photo of the finished product).

How did you spend YOUR day?

Saturday, November 07, 2009

A quick follow-up example: National Hurricane Center update of Ida

I posted yesterday that I've noticed that this year the National Hurricane Center has seemed to be less focused on sticking to the 0300, 0900, 1500, or 2100 UTC advisory schedule in making significant changes to a tropical cyclone (i.e., upgrading, etc.) A classic example is the upgrade of Ida from depression strength to storm strength, which occurred this morning at 0629 UTC. According to NHC, "recently received ... satellite data indicate that Ida has regained TS strength." If satellite images come in every 30 minutes, I'm not sure what was different at 0615 than at 0545. While the time difference (about 3 hrs equally from the previous and succeeding advisory times... 0629 UTC is about 1/2 way between 0300 and 0900 UTC) in this case probably does justify a special update, this example still shows my point: NHC is making efforts to be more precise and/or timely, but at the expense of providing information during the "regularly-scheduled" advisories.

WTNT61 KNHC 070629
130 AM EST SAT NOV 7 2009




Very interesting unemployment tool: break the numbers down along demographic lines

The NY Times yesterday released a really interesting interactive tool to show how the recession has impacted employment in the US. The tool has 21 options across 4 categories (race, gender, age, and education level), resulting in 240 different unemployment curves for the past 3 years. I've screen-captured three that were of interest to me: unemployment trends for all people (all races, ages, genders, and education attainment levels), trends for white men ages 24-44 with a college degree, and black men ages 15-24 without a high school diploma. The mean 12-month unemployment for all people is 8.6%, but for people "like me" is only 3.9%. The unemployment numbers for the uneducated young black men is a whopping 48.5%, or HALF of the population! The tool shows the strong value of education, as it cuts across other demographic trends and, to me at least, is the best predictor of unemployment: in all categories of races, genders, and ages, those without high school degree had significantly higher unemployment than those with college degrees.

Here's the link, play around with it yourself; it's a really revealing look at the numbers.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Late season hurricane

Hurricane Ida formed (and dissipated) in the past two days over the far southwestern corner of the Caribbean Sea. I was personally surprised to see formation (especially because NHC outlooks really weren't hyping the system too much... perhaps because of its proximity to land?); I just happened to look at NHC on Wednesday while waiting for SO244 to begin, and noticed that they had upgraded the system to TD11 with good prospects for it to strengthen before making landfall 24 hrs later. Evidently the environmental factors were really favorable for strengthening because TD11 quickly was classified TS Ida, and a few hours later Hurricane Ida. See attached image collage of Ida at peak intensity/landfall.

On a related point, I've noticed that NHC no longer feels constrained to let its operational products conform to either a rigid timeline. I mean that this year it seems NHC doesn't classify (or upgrade) a TC, either to start advisories as a depression or to move a TC to a higher intensity level, at the standard advisory times (03, 09, 15, and 21 UTC), instead preferring to wait for the system to clearly be a TC (and thus, at least operationally, missing the TD stage). Furthermore, special advisory products seem to becoming more common as NHC refrains from making big changes in TC intensity while waiting for Aircraft Reconnaissance. Anyway, these are some of my observations of the 2009 Atlantic season.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Navy game and more birthday fun

Yesterday afternoon, Joaquin, Jose, Luis and I attended the Navy-Temple game, taking advantage of the faculty $10 tickets that were specially offered for that game (normal price is $32/ticket). Then, last night after small group, we celebrated Baltazar's birthday. His sister-in-law's family cooked a delicious chicken & rice dish, which as I said below, was similar to a curry flavor (and delicious!). Here are a few pictures.

Fútbol: Real Madrid F.C. vs DC United

Back on August 9, I joined Joaquin, Mefiboset, and Jose to watch Real Madrid play DC United at FedEx Field. We bought the "cheap seat" tickets but got there really early, in enough time to walk down to the field and watch warm-ups for Real Madrid. The two most famous Real Madrid players, Cristiano Ronaldo and "Kaka", both warmed up and played, and my 3 friends were really glad to see them (they are very well known in worldwide soccer... Ronaldo is Portuguese and Kaka is Brazilian). We were able to sit for all of the 1st half on the 2nd row in seats that sold for probably 3x what we paid for ours ... we paid $55 + all the various annoying TicketMaster fees, for a total of $70/ticket. We moved up to the upper-deck for the 2nd half and watched Real Madrid score the last of their 3 goals. The final score was 3-0, Real Madrid over DC United. Here are some pictures. Joaquin is wearing Bimbo, Jose BWIN, Mefiboset Siemens, and I'm in red.

Bucking the trend

I was reading a MSNBC article today about the economy (following Friday's broad 2.5-3% declines in the stock market), and a hyperlinked related article about Halloween and the economy caught my eye. So I started reading and was intrigued to find out that the "industry" (I guess that means all things related to Halloween: candy, costumes, food/parties, etc) is now at $6 billion/year. The author stated:

The under-35 crowd is the key demographic for Halloween, with more than 80 percent of adults 18 to 34 surveyed saying they expect to spend money on costumes, whether for themselves, their children or their pets.

“Spending among young adults without children has increased dramatically over the last five years,” said (National Retail Federation) Vice President Ellen Davis. “Today’s young adults celebrated Halloween vigorously as children. They’re not ready to relinquish that fun.”

Costumes account for the biggest chunk of the spending — about $1.75 billion, according to the NRF, followed closely by candy and decorations. About $250 million is spent on Halloween greeting cards. Consumers, on average, are projected to spend $56.31 (this Halloween 2009).

I definitely bucked the trend: I spent a grand total of $0.00 on Halloween and still had a great weekend. Two Chilean exchange students came over for a bar-b-que on Friday night (which just happened to coincide with 30 Oct festivities), and after going to the Navy-Temple football game on Saturday with Luis, Jose, and Joaquin (which just happened to be on 31 Oct), I went to small group (regularly scheduled each Saturday night) and then joined them in celebrating Baltazar's birthday with a typical Guatemalan dinner after bible study: rice, salad, and boiled chicken with spice similar to a curry.

So today I wonder why I had no interest whatsoever in anything Halloween this year, especailly after enjoying it quite a bit when I was younger, up to and including my days in Chapel Hill, which is one of the growing number of American cities that host blocks-long street parties on the night of Halloween for 10,000s of revelers. A few thoughts are (1) None of my close friends in Annapolis celebrated Halloween, so if I wanted to be with them, it involved not celebrating; (2) Most of the adult Halloween festivities center around debauchery and drunkenness, neither of which gets me very excited. As a side note, I wonder how many people across the country are waking up this morning sad or depressed because their costume "flopped" at the club/party? Is there a culture of performance (and hence performance anxiet)? What if you spent months thinking of and preparing a costume, and didn't get the attention you thought you deserved? (3) I guess playing dress-up doesn't hold the same novelty it held in years past ... again partly because I think a major part of why we dress up is to impress friends/be noticed. Anyway, I'm happy to have "saved" $56.31 this year. Now I'm curious: what was your expenditure, and why do you (or do you not) celebrate Halloween?

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