2013 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

Click here to see the complete report.

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More US Open Pictures

Here are a couple more pictures from the US Open. Enjoy!ImageImageImageImageImage

This is an interesting picture. Below are the tennis courts in Central Park! That’s probably half of the courts. If I panned to my right I would see far more courts. It’s pretty amazing!

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US Open Trip 2013

I recently went to NYC city to visit friends and attend the US Open.  Here’s my recounting and some tips for the tennis fan going to see some great tennis.

There are many important items to bring for a day of tennis. The weather for the two days I went was sunny and warm so I packed with that in mind:

  1. Sunglasses. These are extremely important. There is no way it can be healthy for your eyes to be outside that long without protection. Screw stylish and get wrap around sunglasses.
  2. Hat. Again, more protection from the sun. I wore my Red Sox cap but that wasn’t good enough. I recommend a hat with a reasonable sized brim–don’t block the view of your tennis loving neighbor.
  3. Sunscreen. Apply multiple times during the day as you will sweat.
  4. Long sleeved synthetic shirt. This is my “go to” piece of apparel under sunny conditions. It provides protection from the sun and allows me to sweat without it being absorbed. It also limits the exposed surface area and looks sporty.
  5. Water bottle. Bring it filled but don’t worry about refilling it.  See the security page for specifics. There are plenty of bathrooms and water fountains. TIP: Even if you don’t have a ticket to a stadium you can get to bathrooms in the stadium and they are usually less crowded than the bathrooms near the field courts.
  6. Cover your legs. Sometimes you won’t have the option where you sit. That shady spot near the top of the field courts (with back support) are all taken. So while your upper body and face are protected you still need to protect the rest of your body. I prefer to not lather sunscreen all over my body (in the year 2030 they’ll declare Zinc a health hazard I’m sure!) so I brought a light windbreaker (just it case it rained) and put it over my legs. If you know it won’t rain then a towel would’ve been better because it doubles as a seat cushion. A useful item, a seat cushion, but I found I survived without it.
  7. A bag with a shoulder strap. You cannot bring a backpack on the grounds of Flushing Meadows so I brought a small bag. However carrying it around all day in my hands proved tiresome. A small bag with a shoulder strap (something like a camera bag might have been nice).

Other random tips:

  • Ground tickets are the best. I’m not a fan of the big stadiums. You get a great view of the action compared to the stadium seats. At approximately $75 per day it’s a bargain and you can stay on the grounds all day and into the night–you don’t have to leave. You still can’t get into any of the stadiums but that’s OK as the tennis is still amazing. Check out the view I had for a great doubles match: WP_20130830_004
  • Look for matches between two unranked players (or a low vs an unranked player) on the ground courts. Yes, it’s not Federer or Nadal but it’s usually great tennis and a great fight.
  • Food is expensive there. A pastrami cost $16 (it was good but not that good) and a roasted veggie sandwich cost $14. A beer ranges between $7.50 (peak organic) to $9.50 (Heineken with Commemorative glass).  I didn’t bring a lunch but I did bring snacks–multiple apples and snack bars made it possible for me to make it the day without a second run to the food court. I don’t mind paying those prices for food I just don’t want to pay that twice in one day.
  • Stay with a friend. I was lucky. Very very lucky. I have a friend (and I hope a new friend) in the city. Staying with friends made it possible for me to risk $150 rather than that plus hotel.  By risk I mean if it rained and play was called for the day I only lost money on the ticket. There’s plenty to do in the city so I won’t be bored.
  • Do not drive to the US Open. Take public transport. I was in up-town so I took the 6 to Grand Central (42nd) and then took the 7 to Queens. This was easy, comfortable and very affordable.
  • Don’t attend more than two days in a row. Ugg. I was burnt out at the end of the second day. Plus, NYC is right there and worthy of a visit. Comedy Clubs! Restaurants! Central Park! Grand Central Station!
  • Use the South Gate. You’ll be dumped from the metro right at the East Gate. Don’t be fooled. Loop around the grounds to the left and enter from the South Gate. The line is shorter. Plus, you’ll know where to go (the park) when you need a break from people. The park is a great place to lie down and relax for 30 minutes and regain your focus. To leave the grounds and for reentry, you’ll need your ticket and get stamped.
  • Get there fairly early. You don’t necessarily need to get there at 10am (when the grounds open) unless you hate lines. I got there at 10am on Thursday and was in the grounds in 10 minutes. When I got there at 10:30 (on a Friday however) it took me 30-35 minutes to get in. The line was constantly moving so it didn’t feel long.

A couple of thoughts on the players I watched:

  • Mikhail Youzhny is a very interesting player. I saw him take on Dolgopolov and while his opponent arguably had a better serve and seemed to have more power on his strokes Youzhny was, I thought smarter. He changed speeds and gave Dolgopolov nothing to work with. He won with his brain not just his obvious talent. The variety of pace he employed during the match was something you don’t see or think about often at my level of play. For me, it is often about making the shot not about negating the opponent’s strength while maximizing your own (of course it should be–see the book “Winning Ugly” by Brad Gilbert). I don’t think Youzhny won ugly at all, it was in fact a brilliant display of tennis. He went on again to beat Tommy Haas, a player ranked 9 spots ahead of him.
  • I immediately liked Youzhny not for the reasons above. But instead because he played doubles as well. These days players rarely play doubles and singles. I think doubles improves your game–especially your volleying. Lendl would have been well served by playing doubles.
  • Simona Halep was easily the best player I saw at the US Open. She played against Vekic and absolutely crushed her. The confidence she displayed on the court could be best described as her saying “here’s my game and just try, try to beat me”. She painted lines. She moved Vekic around with easy and blunted her best attempts at offense. She was fit and focused. She went on to beat Kirilenko (ranked 7 above her) in the next round 6-1, 6-0. Watch out.
  • Tim Smyczek is a wonderful player and worth watching. He was composed and steady in his five setter against Bogomolv. He was beat in the next round in another five setter but showed he has a lot of talent and composure.

Hopefully I’ll get back to NYC before another 12 years passes by. It’s just too much fun!

Battery Management

Batteries are evil to the environment. Batteries must be properly disposed when they reach the end of their chemical life. It is recommended, to extend the life of rechargeable batteries, you drain the battery completely every now and then and recharge them so the chemical process within the battery holds a charge longer and accepts a charge completely the next time they are charged. Then why isn’t there battery management software in your laptop and cell phone? This simple management software would track the last time you completely depleted your battery. If you have not done so at the recommended interval, you would be politely reminded.

While it is profitable to sell you a new battery for your device, that’s crummy for the environment. Better to confirm with the user, then over night the device runs a little program to burn down the battery charge by pegging the CPU at 100% usage and then charge it back up. In the morning when you picked up your laptop, it would be fully charged and ready to go.

Just how many batteries could be extended and kept out of landfills?

Valentine’s Poem

Valentine’s day is here by golly,

spend not, save your money.

By no roses no long stemmed.

Save your words, sheath your pen.

Because love is not bequeathed in one day

but in act and deed every day.

Valentines are for profit wrought

and never come from the heart.

– Craig Smith (c) 1997

gotta give it up

When playing tennis a couple of years ago I met a college basketball player turned tennis player. He was a beautiful athlete. He easily glided across the court and inspired jealous in my amateur athlete heart.  I consider myself an athlete, amateur yes, probably a notch blow that. But I’m not proud to say I had a mancrush on his physical abilities. He was about 6’5″ and moved quickly and easily. His hand eye coordination was remarkable. He’d only picked up tennis two years ago, he said. He played college basketball and gave it up after school because he just got injured too often.

In the past year I’ve broken a rib, twisted an ankle and got a concussion from playing basketball. In that span I took 10 months off from basketball because of the broken rib. Before that I’ve had numerous of issues with my neck (C4-C6 disk degeneration). It’s time to admit to myself that I have to give up basketball. People have called me a bulldog on the court–feisty, obnoxious, determined and occasionally pretty good at it. I’m only 5’8″ and I tend to insert myself into the rough areas under the basketball, or take on the challenge of defending the better players. But no more. I told my mom on the phone the other day “I cannot continue to pay off the court for playing on the court.”

I’ll probably play every now and then, just to remind myself, and will probably get injured again, but I will not be playing with the same frequency. Tennis will probably have to be my first and foremost love because, well, I can continue to play that without major fear of injury. Playing that sport won’t stop me from staying healthy and fit.

name change

Finally I decided to investigate changing the blog name. Although consistent with my history of spelling and grammatical mistakes, I did not intend my blog to be about my visions of bonking people on the head. No, I meant wacky, i.e. silly or goofy. I hope to publish more in the coming months.

Coding without a Compiler

I’m between jobs right now which has given me the time to do some programming for myself. Sadly, my beloved w500 Lenovo laptop (8G RAM and 500M HD) had to be returned to my employer and now I’m reintroducing myself to my neglected MacBook Pro. However I’m programming in C#…without a compiler (yes, humble reader, I could install Mono but I haven’t). I’ve found the experience quite eyeopening. It’s helped me think more about what I’m working on than the syntactic correctness of the implementation. I’ve honed the design down to specific classes and their composition. However, it won’t compile. I’m sure there is a property or member variable I haven’t defined or misspelled. That doesn’t matter. Programming without a compiler has forced me to think more about the design than if it actually works. Once I’m sure the the design is right I can fix the code and even proper execution.

When one dimension of complexity is suspended, it’s easier and liberating to focus on what remains. I highly recommend it.

Compressing a file in Powershell & Waiting for it

Windows doesn’t have a standard command line tool for zipping a file. If you are writing a powershell script for portability you can’t depend on a third party tool.  The energized tech has a post how to compress a file without a 3rd party tool.  It’s very clever. His SEND-ZIP script uses a COM proxy object to the shell.application object  to create an empty compressed folder. Then the script copies the target file into the compressed folder and the shell.application is smart of enough to compress the file and then move it into the folder.   However, the compression and copying is done asynchronously.  This can be problematic if you want to, say, delete the file you put into the archive. You want to make sure the copy succeeded before you delete it. To address that I wrote two additional functions that blocks until a certain number of items are in the archive.

Here’s how I use it:

  "compressing datafile to $zipname"
  send-zip $zipname $datafh
  wait-zipcount $zipname 1

Here’s the code for wait-zipcount:

function wait-zipcount([string] $zipname, [int] $num) {
  $ExplorerShell=NEW-OBJECT -comobject 'Shell.Application'
  $count = count-zipfiles -zipname $zipname -ExplorerShell $ExplorerShell
  "waiting on zip [$count/$num]..."
  while (($count -eq $NULL) -or ($count -lt $num) ) {
    "waiting on zip [$count/$num]..."
    Start-Sleep -milliseconds 100
    $count = count-zipfiles -zipname $zipname -ExplorerShell $ExplorerShell
  }
}

and you'll need count-zipfiles:

function count-zipfiles([string] $zipname, [object] $ExplorerShell=$NULL) {
  if ((test-path $zipname) -eq $NULL) {
    return $NULL
  }
  if ($ExplorerShell -eq $NULL) {
    $ExplorerShell = NEW-OBJECT -comobject 'Shell.Application'
  }
  $zipdirfh = $ExplorerShell.Namespace($zipname)
  $count = $zipdirfh.Items().Count
  return $count
}

Memorable Phrases

I had a couple of good lines this week. Well, at least I think so:

“Baptism by fire does not apply to death inducing scenarios.”

I said this in reference to purchasing bike clips and shoes. I don’t want to practice right away on the road with cars around. I don’t want to kill myself!

“How do I sound incredulous without being rude?”

I said this to a Verizon phone representative while trying to work out a disagreement on part of my phone plan.

Obviously improv training pays off!