Poojan (Wagh) Blog

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A Morning in Fond du Lac

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I woke up on Saturday morning in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. I took some pictures.

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January 19th, 2020 at 11:07 pm

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My first foray into astrophotography—if you can call it that. I took two pictures at two different exposure lengths and then merged them.

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January 11th, 2020 at 5:40 pm

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VOIP Cost Calculations

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So, in August we made a total of 1755 seconds of outgoing calls from our landline.

I currently use voip.ms to make these outgoing calls. Their rate (using premium routing) is 1 cent per minute. (Curiously slightly higher for toll-free calls.) Anyway, I paid a whopping 30.7 cents for all these outgoing calls in August.

Right now, I still have AT&T handling incoming calls. If I were to cancel AT&T, I would save roughly $20 per month.

Instead, I would have to pay for incoming calls as well. As well as 911 (E911) service. Both voip.ms and CallCentric (a service which seems to be mentioned a lot online) provide E911.

With CallCentric, their North America Basic plan includes E911 and 120 minutes of outgoing calls; this costs $1.95 per month. (After 120 minutes, which I probably won’t use, it’s roughly 2 cents a call.) In addition, I can pay $1.95 monthly plus 1.5 cents per minute to receive calls. (I could also  pay $5.95 for unlimited outgoing calls, but given how few calls we take, that does not make much sense.)

With CallCentric, the costs would come out to $1.95/month + $1.95/month + 1.5 cents/minute-incoming. So, $3.80/month + incoming 1.5c/minute.

With voip.ms, as I said before, they charge per-minute on outgoing calls. (This is why I picked them in the first place: no monthly fees, and very cheap usage rates.) For incoming calls, the rate is $0.85/month plus 0.9c/minute. For E911, I pay another $1.50/month. So, I’d pay $2.35/month + 1c/minute-outgoing + 0.9c/minute-incoming. (voip.ms also has a $4.25/month unlimited incoming call plan. However, it isn’t clear to me whether this includes E911.)

So, all of this depends on how many incoming calls I receive on average. (Unfortunately, AT&T does not list this on the bill, since it’s basically free—er, included with my monthly service.) I can’t imagine it amounts to more than a few hours per month. And to be honest, the differential between CallCentric and voip.ms is so low, I don’t know that it matters (roughly a buck or two in the end).

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November 17th, 2017 at 6:00 pm

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Shipping Options while eBaying Electronics

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I’ve been spending some time e-baying electronics lately. (Just trying to get rid of old, unused stuff that never panned out.)

Because, I visit this topic so many times (every time I eBay), I thought I’d put some conclusions for myself on how to ship these.

I really like the priority options from the USPS. There are two options here: flat-rate or regional rate.

First, this chart lists whether it’s better to do regional rate or flat-rate. The important thing to remember is that it’s heavily dependent on the size of the item you are shipping.

If it can fit, the small flat-rate box is preferred. It is $6.65 at the Post Office or $5.95 “commercial base” (which I think means online).

The only issue is that the small envelope is the inside of these boxes are 8 5/8″ x 5 3/8″ x 1 5/8″. This should be big enough for a 3.5″ internal hard disk drive (which measures 5.75″ x 4″ x 1″).

But it’s probably not big enough for anything else (routers, external hard drives, etc.). Instead, for a flat-rate option, you’d have to go with the Medium Flat Rate Box – 1 (top loading). This costs $13.60 at the post office or $12.40 “commercial base”.

Instead, if you have something this big, it probably makes more sense to go with the regional rate box A1. These are 10 1/8″ x 7 1/8″ x 5″. This goes by zones (difference between starting and ending zone). As long as you are within 8 zones, it makes sense to go with these. If you are within one or two zones, it is as cheap as $6.52. (Curiously, this price list is hard to come by on the USPS website. Instead, I’m linking to stamps.com.)

Finally, for 2.5″ SSDs, you can probably get away with a padded envelope (or small flat-rate box). The prices are around the same, but there’s a lot less packaging/padding to add with the envelope.

Written by PoojanWagh

June 25th, 2017 at 4:23 pm

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My plane ride back from San Diego

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I’ve always held that you can’t judge people by appearance. I also lament the dearth of women in engineering (and STEM in general). Here’s a little anecdote:

On a recent flight back from San Diego (for work), I sat next to two young women.

As people boarded, I overheard snippets of banter from the two women about plans for the weekend and possibly a popular musician.

I started a conversation the way I start every conversation on a plane: “How are you today?” And the young lady closer to me smiled and said she’s doing great. I asked if they were going home, and she said they were on business.

I asked what it is that she does. We talked for a while, and I learned that they work for Abbott Labs. They are in a rotation plan that lasts 2 years, and each rotation lasts 6 months. She had done a few rotations, and one of them was in Chicago. They are both currently assigned to a location 45 minutes away from San Diego.

What struck me here is that this is how things used to be at Motorola (well, sort of—a better example is Intel). I was happy to hear of a company that still invests so much into young talent. That it’s a Chicago company was a nice bonus.

I asked what they do for Abbott, and they are both engineers. I asked if this was chemical and they said biomedical. Abbott basically spun off their pharma business as AbbVie and retained medical devices.

As we took off and I looked along the coast, I asked whether they worked north or south of San Diego. The young lady closer to me said north, ’cause 45 minutes south would be Mexico. I smiled at my obvious error.

For most of the flight, I put my headphones on as they talked amongst themselves. They were clearly traveling together, and I didn’t want to be an interloper.

Closer to Chicago, I heard them talk about restaurants. I asked if they wanted a recommendation. The young lady closer to me reminded me that she had lived in Chicago and she knows the area. I took this rebuke to mean that they prefer to converse amongst themselves, and so I went back to reading the WSJ that I grabbed from the hotel. (I tend to be on the chattier end of things and have to watch it—especially with strangers.) I smiled and suggested that maybe she should give me a recommendation, seeing as how I don’t get out much.

Finally, near the end of the flight (when they were both quiet and seemingly bored), I asked where they went to school. They had both gone to Cal-Poly (the good one ’cause there are apparently two). I asked where they want to be when they’ve finished the rotation program. They both wanted to move to the Bay area when their rotations were over. The young lady closer to me reminded me that she was almost done with the rotation program.

They both agreed that Northern California was Better. (I said how Northern California is nice because it is cooler and that’s good for running.) The young lady farther from me talked about how in Northern California, they say “Hella”. Like, “Hella-fun day.” But they don’t say that in Southern California.

At the end of the flight, I told them it was nice to meet them and I hope they have a good time this week in Chicago. I said, “Would that be a hella-good time?” They young lady farther from me laughed and said that I got it. The young lady closer to me smiled and said that I don’t have to say “hella”; she’s from Northern California and she doesn’t.

So, here’s why I’m bothering to write about this particular conversation: I was absolutely delighted that the young lady closer to me acted like almost every other engineer I have met—correcting factual mistakes when dealing with people. Because if you don’t correct people, they will veer off in the wrong direction. And Bad Things will happen.

It made me feel glad that I had evidence for something I’ve long held—that there’s no inherent difference between men and women. And you can’t judge people by the way they look. And you can only know someone by interacting with him/her.

And at some point in the past, these young ladies would have been encouraged to be pharma reps, not engineers. (I do not suggest that being an engineer is necessarily better than being in sales—I do suggest that reducing bias and allowing individuals to choose their own career options is better.)

Well done, Universe.

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November 4th, 2014 at 11:54 pm

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Lowell: Cloud 69

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I’m like dynamite. I need a cheerleader.

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April 23rd, 2014 at 10:42 am

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Nice long run

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I went for my first outdoor run in a long while. I still have some deadlines at work (mid-April), but I got over one hump this week.

And everyone was actually encouraging me to leave at 4, especially after I advertised it all day.

So at 4, I left. I didn’t want to immediately–there’s that usual fear of cold or being out of shape–I went for a run outside. I ran to downtown Dundee and back. All in all, it took an hour.

I listened to The Fault in our Stars, and finished it on my way back.

I then got to work on some computer chores, and did that until the family came home.

I haven’t seen much of the family this week, despite it being Spring Break. It was a nice afternoon and a nice evening.

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March 27th, 2014 at 11:30 pm

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Week(ish) in Review

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Since last time:

Got a friend’s lunch cards automated (8th grade hot lunch) and printed them out for her.
Went to a  memorial service for my wife’s uncle.
Ran outside.
That same day worked from home and increased the bandwidth of a bias loop by about 10x.
Gave some coworkers some info they needed.
Unfortunately, got sick but luckily Monday was a day off.

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February 17th, 2014 at 9:37 pm

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Week (and some change) in review

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Since the last time:

  • Helped my wife at Cub Scout Sunday
  • Got an eye exam (my eyes got a bit worse this past year–I think not running has an influence)
  • Bought new phones for the house
  • Co-Ran Monday pizza hot lunch
  • Got kids to bed and up in the morning for the two nights/days that my wife was at Manager Tools
  • Ordered new checks
  • Set up my friend Scott to ride the lead bike in the Irish Jig Jog (which means I can now run it–and you should too)
  • Went to First Communion meeting for my youngest child
  • Upgraded my cable modem to DOCSIS 3.0 (with 50% faster connection rates & IPv6: before & after)
  • Finished “David and Goliath” (Malcolm Gladwell) and finished “Highway 61 Revisited” (Mark Polizzotti)
  • Started “Beautiful Ruins” by Jess Walter
  • Ran once (indoors for 50 minutes), Friday of the week before

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February 7th, 2014 at 8:41 pm

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Week and a half in review

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Stuff I did or that happened since January 17th. Man I’ve been busy! Read the rest of this entry »

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January 29th, 2014 at 11:08 pm

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