Sunday, February 27, 2011

Press Release

Hartford -

Governor Malloy announced at a press conference today that he would be signing CT House bill 7669 - the Emergency Precipitation Control Act of 2011. "The bill was result of an unprecedented bipartisan effort, the highly productive culmination of a great deal of stress over this winter weather," the governor said outside the state house.

According to an anonymous state senator, "This was a plan borne of desperation. The state of Connecticut is running out of money, our infrastructure is failing, and we were running out of time." The historic snowfalls - more than 70 inches at Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks, and over 100 inches in some northwestern regions of the state - are set to bankrupt a number of municipalities by snowplow bills alone. Most towns declined to spend money for cleanup of this morning's 2" snowfall.

The extreme temperature swings also have created an unusually high number of large potholes; we were unable to confirm initial reports that gold has been discovered in several gigantic potholes on state highways in Manchester. The snow has damaged a number of the aging fleet of Metro-North railcars; branch service has been temporarily replaced by buses, and until the new M-8 railcars enter service, the MTA and CDOT are offering a discounted fare for all passengers willing to help push "up that really big hill in Norwalk."

The language of the bill is complex, but it boils down to this: all non-liquid precipitation entering the state of Connecticut is subject to immediate arrest, deportation, or liquidization - without charges filed. Although harsh, state lawmakers agreed that the penalties were fair punishment for non-sentient forms of matter.

Malloy declined to elaborate on enforcement of the bill, but our anonymous senator informed us that both state and local police are "100 percent on board." Additional snowplows and dump trucks are ready to be rented  at the first sign of threatening weather. Rumors of mass state police buying of powerful hair dryers and 500-foot extension cords remained unconfirmed at press time.

All but one state lawmaker voted for the bill. The lone dissenter was Mary Subington, representing Hartville, a tiny hamlet northwest of Thompsonville. "One quarter of our village's visitors are here to see the snow," she said, "and we're not going to lose them just because a few towns need a better snowplow." When pressed during a call to her office, Ms. Subington admitted that the other three visitors were travelers who got lost looking for Hartford.

MLAS progress

The MLAS is slowly but steadily coming along. Nothing worth taking any pictures of, but it's coming along.

 I've done fillets on all the fins; they'll need a second round but I have to keep them light in order to keep the rocket stable. I also used wood filler to fill in the gaps between the nose cone and the half-cone escape motors. The wood filler is a pain to work with, but it'll make the gaps a lot easier to smooth over.

Almost decided to prime the nose cone today, but it wasn't quite 50 out. Soon...

T.F. Green: a vision of Amtrak

Amtrak does not serve the T. F. Green Airport station. They claim there isn't ridership and refused to provide funding, so the MBTA-funded platform is on a non-electrified side track not used by Amtrak.

But, what if the ridership is there? It certainly justifies the stops at BWI in Maryland and Newark Liberty in New Jersey. I imagine that within ten years it'll be enough to justify stopping some Regionals there.

They left plenty of space for an Amtrak platform. There's about 25 feet between the side track and the main 2-track Northeast Corridor, and at least 10 feet between the Corridor and the side of the garage. The Corridor is also about 2 feet higher than the side track.

I pictured a mini-high platform next to the MBTA track (matching the current platform) connected via ramp and steps to a full-high Amtrak platform serving the southbound track, plus a full-high platform on the northbound track.

This view is looking north; the bridge to connect the platforms would either be on the north side of the garage, or further south, on the open-air part of the platforms. I made no bridge here.

The result of three hours in GIMP:

Friday, February 25, 2011

T.F. Green Airport T station: Pictures!

When my folks went to drop my sister off at T.F. Green, they had a few extra minutes - so they were nice enough to walk over to the new commuter rail station to take pictures.

This one is the best; I uploaded it to Wikimedia Commons and it's now the title image for the Wikipedia article. It's looking south along the single platform.

Here's the same view, but from two stories up in the massive parking garage:

Here's a northbound shot of the tracks and platform under the parking garage:

The view north from the end of the platform:

The posted schedule and fares:

The massive quarter-mile aerial walkway (glass sides and moving sidewalks) leading to the airport terminals:

Peruvian Adventure

My sister is on one heck of an adventure - a semester in Peru. She;ll be taking classes - in Spanish, no less - at one of the country's premier universities.

And, like any responsible person going on an adventure within reach of the internet, she shall be blogging about it. It promises to be very, very interesting.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

MLAS: with fins!

A day under fourteen months after I received it, and the MLAS finally has fins.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Reverse Image Search Engine

Apparently TinEye lets you do a reverse image search - you put in a picture, and it tells you where it is on the internet. Haven't used it, can't say much about it, but it looks interesting.

A better photo of the Nike-Apache

For one national scholarship, I had to write an essay about something or someone that meant a lot to me. I chose to write about the Nike-Apache and the Level One certification process.

Here is the picture I had to submit with the essay, in so-big-you-have-to-scroll-down-unless-you're-a-Mac-weenie-with-no-scroll-wheel-O-Rama:

Monday, February 21, 2011

New-Style Subway Train?

Nope, just a bad photographer (me). While taking a shot of an outbound Orange Line train led by car #01203 entering Ruggles, I managed to jiggle the cell phone slightly. The slow-scanning CCD sensor makes vertical wiggle look like a sinusoidal wiggle.

Also note the thumb (mine) at the bottom of the frame. Ansel Adams I ain't.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Pretty Oxidation

A neat picture to fill some space while I work on scholarship essays. This is some weird and cool oxidation on the back of a steel sign. It was probably formed by drips from ice on the railing.

It's located at the very, very southwestern end of the Ruggles commuter rail platform, at exactly 42.33595 N, 71.08998 W.

Saturday, February 19, 2011


Been sick since yesterday. Nothing major, but I'm running a fever and am constantly cold. And tired. And my appetite is all over the map.

Regular posting: resumes when I feel like it.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

"I for one welcome our new robot overlords"

Spoken by the human Jeopardy! champion, Ken Jennings, after getting his fanny kicked by a computer.

IBM's Watson is the first computer to beat humans at what they do best: memorizing random trivia to win game shows.

Err... make that "processing the complex syntax of oddly worded English sentences to derive an answer, a process which combines knowledge across many disciplines and requires understanding of many difficult-to-process parts of communication including puns and pattern recognition of similar names."

Watson beat two of the world's best Jeopardy players at their own game:

I, too, welcome our new overlords.

Awful Roads

This winter has been real bad for a lot of things here in Connecticut. It's decimating snowplow budgets. It's wiping out the Metro-North railcars. And, it's destroying our roads.

I use a minor state road to get to school. Over the three-mile length, there are something like 30 potholes, most of them on the eastbound side. Many are truly pot-holes - ten inches in diameter, and three deep. At one place, there are simultaneous potholes on both tire paths.

And, there's a myriad of other problems all around town. Many roads have cracks where the pavement pushes up due to frost heaves. In front of the high school, there's a large depression (since repaired) and a ten-foot, 2-inch-high crack in the road. In Ledyard Center, at the intersection of Rt. 117 and Colonel Ledyard Highway (not a highway at all; an ordinary two-lane road with speed limits as low as 25 mph), there is a pipe protruding from the pavement.

It's getting better. The large depression near the high school has been filled, and they're working on the potholes. But, to avoid damaging my car, I've still been taking an alternate route. It's 9 miles versus 5, and five minutes longer, but the other state roads in town are better, and I don't fear for my bumper.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


Four government meetings in ten days. Town Center Committee last Monday, Conservation Tuesday, Town Council Wednesday, then Board of Education today. I am thoroughly unimpressed by how slow government works in this small town. Although BOE was at least moderately interesting tonight.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Great Egg Experiment

In my Government classroom, there's something wrong with the heaters. They are always on high, all the time. It's nice, considering that many of the other classrooms are effectively unheated, but it borders on the ridiculous. It's actually painful to the touch.

So, I did what any other self-respecting mad scientist does with something abnormally hot: I tried to cook an egg on it.

I had a mini pan from a tag sale; I scrubbed it with steel wool and thoroughly cleaned it. With permission from my teacher, I brought it in this morning. It took just two minutes to melt a bit of butter in the bottom of the pan.

The egg, however, was not so successful. It had started to cook by the end of the period, but nowhere near finished. The heater wasn't quite hot enough. So, I brought it to the foods room and borrowed a stovetop to finish it, and I had delicious scrambled egg.

I'll bring in a thermometer sometime so I can figure out just how hot that heater really is.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Back from Boston

I had a real good time at Accepted Students Day at Northeastern today. I was very impressed by the university and their co-op program; I will certainly be considering them come April.

On my way back from lunch, I borrowed my mom's camera phone and took a ton of pictures from the MBTA Commuter Rail platform at Ruggles station, just off campus. I will have to wait till tomorrow to get the images from the phone, but some might be good enough to upload to Wikipedia, including one that shows one of the MBTA's two Motive Power locomotives.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Up in Massachusetts

I'm up in Massachusetts tonight and tomorrow for an accepted students day at Northeastern. The I'm back to CT for mandachan's anti-valentine's day party. So, kinda busy. Yeah.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Central Corridor Rail Line Map

...I did make this neat map of the Central Corridor Rail Line, though. Uses imagery from National Atlas for the main map:

I'm not really sane. I'm sorry.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Town Meeting Number One

I have to attend four local government meetings as part of my graduation requirement. I went to my first one today - a meeting of the Town Center Committee. They've been working for five years on a plan to improve the fairgrounds in town, to make it more of a traditional New England town green. They've got a great federal grant lined up, got it past almost all the committees.

Except, they spent the better part on tonight's hour long meeting talking about a bench. Seven responsible adult men, all of whom were in good spirits and friendly, spent forty minutes deciding what bench they wanted to put, because the last one was rejected by the final committee for being too modern. Eventually, they decided on a slightly more traditional bench, black sides instead of silver.

I hesitate to imagine what it would have been like if it was more than seven of them, or if they weren't all polite and laughing. Bureaucracy is a strange machine indeed.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Mysterious Lines on Google Maps

While finding geocoordinates for Wikipedia this afternoon, I ended up looking for a mountain called Soapstone Mountain in northeast Connecticut. While I was at it, I noticed something very incongruous - a completely straight-line road:

There's actually two in that image; a longer one at top, and a shorter one crossing I-84 at bottom. Both are roughly east-west, but are tilted a few tenths of a degree.

But, when I turned to satellite mode, I realized something even stranger: they don't exist. The supposed streets run through empty land and thick forests; no property boundaries indicate the right-of-way even existing.

Then I started looking for more; I found another - a fake spur off MA-146, southeast of Worcester in south-central Massachusetts:

Although they are marked as roads, the mapping algorithm doesn't treat them as such, and it's not possible to use them as part of a route:

They also are intentionally disconnected at their ends:

These don't seem like the sort of things that could be mistakes. I would guess that they are fictitious entries called trap streets, designed to allow Google to detect if someone is illegally copying their maps. However, it would seem like they would use less-obvious trap streets, instead of large straight lines.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Bing copies Google; Google schools Microsoft

Earlier this week, news got out that Microsoft is attempting to make money by stealing from its competitors. In other works, business as usual.

In this case, they were directly copying Google's results via a systematic monitoring of their results. Using Internet Explorer 8, the Bing toolbar, or both, they silently observe Google results pages... and sometimes copy them directly to their own Bing results.

Google first noticed this when Bing stole results for an odd misspelling of a surgical procedure called tarsorrhaphy. When Google noticed an increase of this, they then tested their theory of thievery. They inserted 100 fake results from impossibly unlikely searches - like "hiybbprqag" - into their system, then used brand-new computers running IE 8 to make searches. Sure enough, the same faked results showed up on Bing.

Microsoft, for what it's worth, is not even trying to deny the allegations.

Full story on the Official Google Blog

Why is there a Stonehenge on the Connecticut shore?

In case you needed any more proof that rich people have weird hobbies:

Jonathon Rothberg is normally a pretty respectable guy. He's also crazy rich, thanks to founding a series of successful biotech companies. So, when he bought a telescope, he decided he wanted an observatory. But he didn't just want a shed with a removable roof. No, he wanted a building the size of your average suburban house.

Not surprisingly, the oh-so-proper neighborhood association wasn't too thrilled with the idea of a 35-foot zinc-plated observatory in a colonial-style waterfront neighborhood. Standards, you know.

Most crazy-rich people, at this point, would settle for a smaller observatory, or find another hobby like underwater pogo-jumping across the Atlantic, or maybe model trains. Rothberg, though, had the thought of "what can I sneak past the zoning board?"

"Ooh, I know, 1.4 million pounds of rock!"

So, he hired a sculptor who works with giant rocks for a living, and ordered himself a Stonehenge:

View Larger Map

(aerial view)

The remarkable informative New York Times article reads like it got ripped off the front page of The Onion. But it's real.

Truth, it seems, is often stranger than fiction.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Posting Difficulties

The edit windows for my saved drafts are not opening correctly in Blogger. It is probably just a result of my not-quite-perfect wireless connection. But, it means that I can't share my OH SO FASCINATING posts that I started in the last few days. Which is really too bad. There was thievery and mystery. One had Stonehenge.

Hopefully, Blogger will work tomorrow, and I will be back to my regularly scheduled programming.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011


Turns out, there's a real neat template on Wikipedia: {{GeoGroupTemplate}}. What it does is, it takes all the geocoordinates in an article, and creates an automated map of them all when you click on a link.

A few months ago, I did geocoordinates for all 81 bridges (over and under) on the Merritt Parkway. Here's what the GGT looks like:

View Larger Map

Cool, huh?