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The Wife Test is back!
After 15 years, I have republished my wife test, now with upgraded technology and backed by a database.
Posted 03/16/2013 10:00 PM in Geek Stuff, Ramblings, Who knew?
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How to get ready in 5 minutes
There are some darn good tips in this Japanese video on how to get ready in five minutes in the morning. It's not translated, but you should get the gist of it.

Posted 12/08/2009 07:23 PM in Japan, Ramblings, Videos, Who knew?
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Air Traffic Control
A couple months ago my flight to Chicago had a medical emergency and we had to land in Cleveland to drop off a passenger. I decided to listen to Air Traffic Control (ATC) which is a feature offered by United. I found it pretty interesting and not at all like what you see in the movies.

One thing to note is that ATC is made up of several independent divisions. Here is a brief summary of all the divisions that my flight passes through on its way from Hartford to Chicago:
  • Taking off from Hartford we start with the Tower, which provides runway conditions and clearance for take-off.
  • Once the plane leaves the ground, we contact Departures which coordinates which way the plane turns and what bearing and altitudes it should take.
  • Once clear of the airport, we contact Boston Center to coordinate regional traffic, altitudes and flight conditions
  • Leaving the Northeast and passing through North Central, we contact Cleveland Center
  • Leaving North Central and crossing over the Canadian border, we contact Toronto Center
  • Crossing back into the US, we contact Cleveland Center again
  • Approaching the Chicagoland area, we contact Chicago Center
  • Approaching O'hare, we contact Chicago Approach for headings and runway assignment
  • After receiving runway assignments and headings, we contact O'hare Tower for clearance to land
  • Once we've landed, we contact O'Hare Ground for taxi and gate routing.

Below is a transcript of radio chatter from my flight, United 719. This starts soon after we contacted Cleveland Center. It's interesting to hear all the different people talking. For instance some people are friendlier than others and some have thick accents, like Korean 360 which obviously had a Korean pilot. It's also interesting to hear them announce "traffic" when routes intersect or run parallel within 2000 feet of elevation.

Numbers are constantly tossed back and forth and may refer to flights, speeds, headings, altitudes or radio frequencies. Sometimes they say the whole number and sometimes they read out the digits. Jargon is also pretty common, for instance saying puddle to refer to a puddle-jumper, a small propeller driven plane for short regional flights or heavy when referring to jumbo jets or cargo planes. They also use words to call out letters for instance Quebec for Q, Foxtrox for F, etc, particularly on the ground where every taxi-way and runway has a specific letter and number designation (more on that some other day). So it requires a basic understanding of what's going on and a good ear to figure things out sometimes.

One thing you can't see in this transcript is how crazy things get near Chicago where the traffic and congestion mean constant radio chatter. The radio is always on with updates from dozens of flights and you never know what you're going to hear when your crew switches channels. I really feel for the ATC controllers that have to work at O'hare. I actually heard pilots saying "Unbelievable!" to the ground control after having to back-track a route to get to their gate. The controllers have to be on top of things and there's very little breathing room with so much traffic and thousands of lives in their hands. My hat goes off to them.
(UA719) Cleveland Center we're experiencing moderate chop at 3-6.
(CleC) United 6, conditions?
(UA6) light chop last four minutes
(UA719) How is 4-0-0?
(CleC) light chop reported but that was 20 minutes ago
(UA719) Trying 4-0-0
(CleC) United 7-19, Status heading up there?
(UA719) It's been continuous chop all the way, United 7-19
(UA719) 7-19 now picking up light turbulence at 3-8-0
(CleC) Puddle 6-60, how is it where you are?
(660) at 3-6-0 had some chop while we leveled out but it's better now
(CleC) United 7-19, Puddle 6-60 says 3-6-0 is better now
(UA719) Going to 3-6-0 United 7-19
(CleC) United 7-19, Toronto Center says 3-60 should be a pretty nice ride soon
(UA719) Appreciate you checking for us, United 7-19
(CleC) 7-19, contact Toronto center 3492
(UA719) Toronto 3492, United 7-19
(UA719)Toronto Center, this is United 7-19 at 3-6-0 experiencing light chop
(TorC) United 7-19, hello, that should clear up for you in a little bit, it gets better as you head west
(UA719) Thanks
(TorC) United 7-19, traffic at 12 o'clock 1000 feet below
(UA719) Traffic ahead, United 7-19
(TorC) United 7-19 contact Cleveland Center 1-2-6-5-2
(UA719) 1-2-6-5-2 Cleveland, United 7-19
(UA719) Cleveland, United 7-19, 3-6-0 finally smooth
(CleC) 7-19, what was your condition?
(UA719) Well, it was 100 miles back, continuous light chop
(CleC) United 719, maintain 3-4-0
(UA719) 3-4-0, United 7-19
(CleC) United 719, contact Cleveland Center 1-3-3 dot 8-7
(UA719) 1-3-3-8-7, 7-19
(UA719) Cleveland Center, United 7-19 at 3-4-0
(CleC) United 7-19, maintain 3-2-0
(UA719) 3-2-0, 7-19
(UA719) United 719, at 3-2-0
(CleC) 7-19, Roger, no complaints
(CleC) United 7-19, descend at discretion, maintain 2-0-0
(UA719) with discretion, maintain 2-0-0
(CleC) United 7-19, contact Chicago Center at ????
(UA719) ????, United 7-19
(UA719) Chicago Center, United 7-19 descending to 2-0-0
(ChiC) United 7-19, 2-0-0
(ChiC) United 7-1-9, cross fire ??? at 0-0-niner thousand
(UA719) Cross fire at 9000 feet, united 7-19
(ChiC) United 7-1-9, contact Chicago Approach, 1-1-niner-0
(UA719) 1-niner-0 7-19 g'day
(UA719) Approach, United 7-19 at niner thousand
*lots of stuff*
(ChiA) bonzo?, United 7-19
(ChiA) United 7-1-9, descend and maintain 7000
(UA719) 7000, 7-19
Of course we had to turn off all electronics after this so that's all I could get.
Posted 06/25/2009 10:14 PM in Chicago, Geek Stuff, Hartford, Ramblings, Travel, Who knew?
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Dr. Horrible Remote Control
BTW you can get the Dr. Horrible PDA Remote Control that he uses on the van here. It'll look best on a PDA phone but you can see it in any web browser.
Posted 01/28/2009 09:58 PM in Geek Stuff, Who knew?
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White Elephant
I saw the old Christmas episode of The Office when they had the White Elephant/Yankee Swap. With the Joel Nebrida Classic and Gift Exchange coming up, I decided to check out what Wikipedia says about White Elephant Gift Exchanges and found quite a few alternate names for the it:
  • Yankee Swap
  • Barona Gift Exchange
  • Thieving Secret Santa
  • Selfish Santa
  • Nasty Christmas
  • Dirty Santa
  • Scrooge's Christmas
  • Rob Your Neighbor
  • Thieving Elves
  • Pirate Bingo
  • Chinese Gift Exchange
One other interesting thing is how the name white elephant came about.

You can also check out www.yankee-swap.net for the self-proclaimed "Official Rules for Yankee Swap".
Posted 12/10/2008 11:57 PM in Who knew?
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Fermi verses the Jolly Green Giant
Since the Large Hadron Collider (the world's largest particle accelerator) opened just a few weeks ago and I mentioned it in a recent post I figured this would be a good time to recount an amusing story from Hewson's AP Physics (high school) trip to Fermi Lab, the home of what is now the second largest particle accelerator, located an hour away from Chicago in Batavia, IL.

This story is especially pertinent since the LHC had an electrical failure between magnets that caused it to be temporarily shut down. According to Hewson, this is a conversation that took place when they toured the particle accelerator:
Student: What would happen if one of those magnets failed?
Scientist: That would never happen because we have multiple fail safes and redundancies.
Student: I'm just wondering, what would happen if one of them DID fail?
Scientist: Don't worry, that will never happen.
Student: Well, let's just say, hypothetically speaking, what would happen if the Jolly Green Giant came and ripped out one of the magnets?
Scientist: Sir, there's no such thing as Jolly Green Giants.

Posted 09/28/2008 03:55 PM in Chicago, Food, Geek Stuff, Ramblings, Who knew?
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Court Supervision
I got a speeding ticket back in April. It was the first time I've been caught by the Illinois State Police and apparently the rules for dealing with tickets are quite different from city or county cops.

First, you do not have a 14 day payment deadline. In fact, you don't receive a court date automatically, instead they mail your court date within 14 days. The court date is usually within 2-3 months and you have until 4 days before to plead guilty and pay your fines.

Second, the state police do not offer the ability to plead guilty and avoid a conviction by taking a defensive driving course, let alone the on-line version by Northwestern.

Third, the court date assignment process is different. In Chicago, if you continue (postpone) your court date, the chances of the officer appearing in court decreases. You can continue your court date a second time and the chances of the officer appearing on the third date is even smaller, increasing your chances of getting the case thrown out. This is not true for the state. State officers are assigned one day a month to go to court and court dates are automatically assigned based on this date. The result is that officers rarely miss their court dates so cases are rarely dismissed.

Fourth, fines and fees are cheaper with the state. The largest fine you can get without having to go to court is a scant $95. I believe the basic fine in Chicago is $115 and $135 for the higher fine. Of course, the state does break triple digits with their $5 credit card payment fee.

Fifth, the only way to avoid a conviction is to request court supervision. If you get another ticket while under court supervision, your original ticket will be re-instated and entered as a conviction, along with your new ticket. On the plus side, court supervision by the state only lasts 90 days instead of 12 months.

Unfortunately I didn't realize all these differences. If I had requested court supervision in April, my time would already be done. Instead I continued my case and then procrastinated, which means I have to behave for another 90 days until my record is clear again.

Posted 08/12/2008 09:03 PM in Cars, Who knew?
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Happy Father's Day
Today, 8/8/08 is not only the opening day for the Olympics in China, but it's also Father's Day. Here's a nice little factoid.

Father's day in China is celebrated on 8/8 for a very simple reason. The word for 8 in Chinese is ba or pa so Father's Day falls on ba-ba (pa-pa).
Posted 08/09/2008 01:22 AM in Who knew?
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Not to be confused with Gollum from Lord of the Rings, a golem is a mythical creature. I've seen it in the Diablo games and it's even mentioned in Stranger than Fiction. Apparently the original word is used in the Bible as well, though it's translated to something more understandable (Psalm 139:16, usually unformed body or unformed substance). I was wondering what the actual definition of a golem is so I looked it up on Wikipedia.

In Jewish folklore, a golem (...) is an animated being created entirely from inanimate matter... The name appears to derive from the word gelem (גלם), which means "raw material".

Posted 08/02/2008 01:38 AM in Who knew?
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Go Karting
We went Go Karting after work today. We had three heats. My best time on the first heat was 42.107. After that I set a goal to get to the 41's. In the second heat I managed to make it to 41.447. For the third and final heat I hoped to break 40. Alas, my last and final run resulted in a 40.003, a scant 4 thousandths of a second short of my goal. That's as quick as it takes a zebrafinch or European starling to contract and relax their vocal muscles, 100 times faster than it takes for humans to blink an eye.
Posted 07/30/2008 10:42 PM in Ramblings, Who knew?, Work
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Working at home = high electric bill
I received my electric bill for June and was quite shocked by it (that pun was totally not intended, really). The total bill came to a whopping $143. The big kicker is that I haven't even turned on my A/C yet this year.

The usage is probably from working at home because I leave my internet, computers and electronics plugged in all the time. Usually when I travel, even for just a few days, I turn off most of my power strips to conserve electricity. Running all my power tools and lights while working on my counter probably contributed too.

With high temperatures expected to remain above 80 now, I may need to finally turn my A/C on. Having a west-facing unit doesn't help in the hot afternoons. It's times like this that I prefer traveling so I can save money at home and enjoy A/C on someone else's dollar.

A lot of people don't realize how much electricity they use. For example, if you have a 300 watt halogen lamp and you run it for 6 hours a day, that comes to 1.8 kWh. For 30 days that is 54 kWh. At $0.125 per kWh (my current ComEd rate) that is $6.75 a month to run that one lamp. See Saving Electricity for details on calculating electricity costs

Another contributor is electronics that "leak". These are items that go into standby mode instead of shutting off, such as DVD players, TVs, computers, microwaves, pretty much anything with a clock or a remote (to detect when you want to turn it on). Some power blocks like phone chargers or laptop power cables even consume electricity when they're not attached to anything.

I was surprised to find very little information about leaking electricity in a quick search. Some people estimate the average electronics leak to be about 4W each, with an average home totaling 50W ($4.5/mon) but this Canadian found his home was leaking 1.5MWh per year which is a 177 watt leak (costing almost $16/mon).

Here are some conservation tips. Using lots of watts from lights and electronics generates heat, increasing the need to use even more electricity to run a fan or A/C. This can be reduced by using less light (which is why my place is usually dim) and/or more efficient bulbs (e.g. fluorescent). Also, opening the windows and using fans to cool your place at night consumes significantly less electricity than A/C.
Posted 07/19/2008 10:12 PM in Ramblings, Who knew?
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Puzzling Muscle Pain
Sunday after church I hung out with Jina and Ashley and got to play with Chance. The other thing we did was work on a puzzle for several hours. All that stretching and leaning over the table to look at puzzle pieces and reaching across the table actually made my hamstrings slightly sore (a result of my recent couch potato lifestyle).

That got me thinking about jigsaw puzzles and how large they can be. A quick search resulted in this story of a Nevada man working on a 18,240 piece puzzle (for some reason I ignored the first result). This giant puzzle, along with a few others of the same size, can be found at Puzzle Warehouse.

Returning to the search results and picking the first link revealed the current Guiness World Record holder for largest puzzle (just over 14' x 5'). The homepage for the puzzle is suitably available at WorldsLargestPuzzle.com. The site provides links to stores that carry it, pictures and stories from various people who have completed it and even a guide on how to mount such a large item.

I'd like to work on such a puzzle but the price and size are major hurdles. Perhaps I'll try out the slightly smaller 3000 piece version. In the mean time, I decided to walk 20 blocks (round trip) from work in the 90 degree heat to the Chicago Architecture Foundation store to pick up a 750 piece Chicago Skyline panoramic puzzle. That was on Tuesday and I finished it already. :shrug:
Posted 07/18/2008 07:19 PM in Excercise, News, Ramblings, Who knew?
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