Orthogonal Thought | Random musings from the creator of Cooking For Engineers and Lead Architect of Fanpop




Credit Scores and What Really Affects Them

Posted 23 February, 2012 at 11:51am by Michael Chu
(Filed under: Credit Cards, Life) 1 comment

Over the years, I've heard a lot of different theories about how to increase your credit score. Most of them are grounded in some truth, but are based on incomplete knowledge. For example, a lot of people say that given the choice to buy a car with cash or finance it, you should finance the car to build credit. Although, that is generally true over time (in the short term, the auto loan will actually hurt most credit scores), there are often better ways to increase one's credit score without the initial negative effects and without having to pay real money on interest.

A credit score, such as the FICO score (produced by the Fair Isaac Corporation), is a numerical way for banks and lenders to determine if an individual is a credit risk. The scores generally range from 300 to 850 depending on which company and which method is being used to calculate the score. In theory, an individual with a 300 on this scale would be someone who would definitely default while an individual with a score of 850 would be guaranteed to not default. Since nothing is ever certain, the scores are designed so people will fall between these two extremes.

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Credit Scores and What Really Affects Them

Pilot Hole Sizes for Metal Screws and Wood Screws

Posted 30 January, 2010 at 9:43pm by Michael Chu
(Filed under: Life) 4 comments

While installing shelving in my home, I had to drill pilot holes for #8 and #12 Metal Screws into studs. The problem was, I didn't know how big to drill the holes and when the holes were too small, it was quite difficult to drive the screws into place. I didn't want to make the pilot holes too big because I wanted the shelves to be as sturdy as possible, so I ended up eyeballing the bits (so the shank of the screw would be covered but not the threads) then moving up in size one at a time until I could drive the screws in. Later, I looked up the bit sizes for the screws and decided to post them here for future reference. Hopefully, they will be of help to others as well.
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Pilot Hole Sizes for Metal Screws and Wood Screws

The Macy's That Doesn't Know What Time It's Open

Posted 4 January, 2009 at 6:36pm by Michael Chu
(Filed under: Life, Rant) 1 comment

Friday night, we wet out running some errands and Tina realized that there was something at Macy's she wanted to look for. It was 9:00pm, and we were in the Mountain View Best Buy (looking for Civilization Revolution (PS3) which, by the way, Best Buy no longer carries). Tina's Google Maps on her phone was acting up and couldn't get the telephone number of the Macy's in Sunnyvale and looked a little worried so I asked her what the problem was. She said Google Maps on her Palm Centro wasn't working properly and I poked around on it a little and couldn't get it to find the Macy's closest to us. I was about to pull out my phone and do a search when I asked why she needed the Macy's location when we knew very well where it was. She said she wanted Macy's telephone number and I said, "Duh, why didn't you ask me???" (For the last five years our home phone number has been just one digit off from Macy's so for about 50% of the calls we receive it's actually for Macy's and I try to provide the number to those callers - unfortunately for them, they usually hang up without saying anything.) I told her the number to call (which is actually the number to Macy's at Valley Fair) and we found out they were to close at 9:30.

I said, no problem, we could get to the Macy's in Sunnyvale Town Center with plenty of time to spare. I drive over and we walk up to the door and look at the store hours posted there. Yep, they have special holiday hours and they close at 9:30 instead of the usual 9:00pm. Fifteen minutes would be plenty since Tina knew what she wanted to look at. In we went and got about 10 yards into the store when I realized that the few employees behind the counter and near that entrance were staring at us. My brain kicked in and I rewound the conversations I heard while walking into the store - the employees had been talking about what time it was and something about closing. One of the employees said to us, "We're closed!" I said, "No, it's not yet 9:30."

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The Macy's That Doesn't Know What Time It's Open

How to mess up on eBay…

Posted 9 September, 2008 at 7:14pm by Michael Chu
(Filed under: Life) No comments

So something funny happened today to me and my wife. Tina's been reading a lot about the leather goods from Saddleback Leather and decided to acquire a few pieces to test and write reviews on them. She found that Saddleback Leather lists their products on eBay regularly (as well as selling on their own storefront). I send her this USA Today article on sniping and suggested she use AuctionSniper (which I use when bidding).

This evening when the auction for the briefcase was coming to a close she found that the AuctionSniper website was down and was worried that the snipe wouldn't go through. I said it was probably just the front end and it might still send in the bid. She was concerned because with only 10 minutes to go, the bid was still much lower than her max bid. I suggested that she simply login and bid on eBay (manually snipe) and eBay won't have a problem since it's the same account. I then left to run some errands. A few minutes later I received a phone call from my wife telling me that I won the auction (because she used my AuctionSniper account) BUT she had driven up the price because she had bid the same amount with HER account. So, instead of getting a great deal on the briefcase, we managed to pay our maximum (which is still a nice discount from full price). I guess we should have made sure we were actually using the same account…

Costco and Business Lunches

Posted 24 August, 2008 at 11:24pm by Michael Chu
(Filed under: Life) 5 comments

Last Wednesday, I swung by Costco to return a defective LCD monitor. After buying another monitor (to replace the one returned), I decided to eat lunch there (how can you turn down a Polish sausage with 20 oz. soda for $1.50?). The dining experience was fairly typical of any Costco lunch (except for the fact that this particular Costco's dining/picnic area was inside the building). You collect your food, load it up with the condiments that you like (it's deli mustard, ketchup, a little relish, onions, and just a bit of crushed red pepper for some extra kick), sit on a plastic picnic bench, and eat next to a bunch of random people.

It's hard in these conditions not to overhear conversations or notice badges (most companies in the San Francisco Bay Area have their employees wear badges for security - but this also means that when they are not in their company, you pretty much see each person's name and company). Usually, I'd think nothing of it, but since Tina and I have made our decision to leave the Bay Area in the next couple years, I've been paying a little more attention to some of things that might not happen in other areas of the country. While eating my sausage, I noticed several conversations ranging from an in-depth explanation of potential next generation network security technology that could be picked up by Cisco, the latest hiccup involving some South Korean game animation company and some new Electronic Art's video game, and a harsh critique of both Intel and AMD (which I internally disagreed with). A glance around revealed a mix of people - mothers with three kids, a Hispanic woman telling two Asian kids not to make a mess and eat slower, the older gentleman next to me reading a book he just bought while eating his pizza, and the rest (about 14 or so men) were employees of local high tech companies ranging from those with names that I recognized to ones that I did not. 10 years ago, when I started working in Silicon Valley, this was the scene at Tung Kee Noodle House (an extremely low cost chain of Vietnamese noodle shops that have since split up and broken into various noodle companies). Tung Kee was a place where you could get a bowl of noodle soup for about $3 (a little more now), see other people in the tech industry dining next to you and listen to random conversations about the direction of semiconductors, the hottest stock performers, and even job interviews. Maybe Costco is the new cheap business lunch spot.

What I want to know is what a Costco lunch is like in your city?

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Costco and Business Lunches

Liquid Cascade

Posted 23 July, 2008 at 10:47am by Michael Chu

I've always used the dry powdered dishwashing detergent. It just seemed more economical and easier (since I didn't have to keep making trips to buy more because each box of the powdered stuff holds more loads than a typical bottle of liquid). So, I've never actually tried the liquid dishwashing detergent until now. I got a bottle of Liquid Cascade and I really like it. We run the dishwasher fairly often (especially when I'm preparing something for an article on Cooking For Engineers or just testing recipes) and sometimes when I'm in a hurry and the box if full, it's easy to spill some of the powdered stuff onto the ground (got to make sure your hands are dry before you try to pick up powdered detergent!). But the liquid stuff seems so easy to pour and control quantity - just squeeze until the right amount is in the cup and you're done! The powdered stuff is a bit harder to control the flow of. This seems like a silly reason to switch, but after running a couple dozen loads with liquid, I'm seriously contemplating sticking with the Liquid Cascade for my dishwashing needs from now on. Also, I noticed that I don't seem to need a rinse aid anymore - the Cascade seems to rinse of by itself really well even though we've got hard water.


One CFE reader's view of fatty foods and recreational activities

Posted 21 November, 2007 at 12:11pm by Michael Chu

Occasionally, I get inappropriate comments posted to Cooking For Engineers. This is one I found this morning that isn't really inappropriate, but I didn't feel belonged on the site. I rarely remove posts… usually only spam. Actually, now that I think about it, I'm not going to remove it since I've left far more offensive comments (people cussing about my use of canned cream of mushroom soup, etc.) on the site in the interest of promoting open discourse. Anyway, this was posted to the "oh-so-contentious" Oven Baked Chicken and Rice article.

Subject: fat tastes good!
doesnt matter what we eat, it's all about proportions and in moderation.
we all know 'fat' tastes good! ;)

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One CFE reader's view of fatty foods and recreational activities

Dining out with an infant

Posted 5 October, 2007 at 9:23am by Michael Chu
(Filed under: Fanpop, Life) 2 comments

No, it's not me… but my friend Harold has written an extraordinary article on his recent attempt to eat out with his wife and baby daughter. The article is hilarious, endearing, and also (as I'm told by my friends who have kids) right on the money.

Here are some highlights from the article: Click here to read the rest of
Dining out with an infant

I just discovered something about myself…

Posted 19 August, 2007 at 9:45pm by Michael Chu
(Filed under: Life) 3 comments

I just realized that although I can watch television (more or less) while writing, I can't do it while reading. If I start reading, I completely tune out the TV and have to go back (that goodness for DVRs), but I can follow a plot and everything if I'm just writing. Weird, huh?

Missing Fuel Filters

Posted 9 August, 2007 at 11:16pm by Michael Chu
(Filed under: Life) 2 comments

So, last month I took my Volkswagen Jetta TDI into the dealer for its 40,000 mile service. As recommended by the manufacturer, the fuel filter should be replaced every 20,000 miles. The last week, I noticed a hesitancy during acceleration which meant to me that I had a clogged fuel filter. This was odd because I have the filter changed every 10,000 miles. I called the dealership to double check that they did in fact replace the filter and found out that they removed fuel filter replacement from the list of things they do on during service. My invoice clearly states that they fuel filter was part of the work order, but the adviser kept repeating that policy had changed but the computers hadn't been updated. I think it's pretty stupid to remove a required service, but they do it all the time. Brake service and coolant service used to be part of the service packages, but no longer. I do think they should have done the fuel filter replacement for free (they didn't, they gave me a token 10% off) for two reasons: 1) They put it on the invoice and I agreed to and paid a price with an expected amount of service and 2) having been told that it had been replaced, if I didn't know what it felt like to drive on a clogged fuel filter, I might not have ever found out that they didn't replace it.

I also noticed that they put in some fuel cleanser without asking (not shown on the invoice or work order at all). I found out because it was checked off on a maintenance checklist that I got with the 40K service (first time I ever recieved a checklist). Since I run on biodiesel, this isn't something I want added to my tank.