Sep 28, 2014

Tips on New Jersey - Driving Knowledge Test

Tags: nj driving test sample questions tips new jersey
Amongst 12 oz of beer and 5 oz of wine, which has higher content of alcohol? What is the stopping distance of a vehicle travelling at 50 mph on a dry surface? What is the "two-second rule"? What is the earliest age you can register a new car in New Jersey? These are some of the questions that you may need to correctly answer if you are applying for a driver's license in the state of New Jersey. Taking a computer-based knowledge test is compulsary for all applicants, in addition to a road test if any is suggested by the DMV officer.

Out of 50 questions, you need to answer 40 correctly to pass. While a pass percentage of 80% might sound daunting, proper preparation will surely help you cross the line. Follow these tips, and you are highly likely to clear in your first attempt. 

Tip #1: 
First take a practice test and evaluate where you are. Below link from the official DMV site has 20 sample questions to help you gauge where you stand.

Tip #2: 

Read the official manual. All the questions are sourced either directly or indirectly from the manual. It is not like if you are a pro driver, you can ace the exam. There are several questions (around 15-20) which can be answered only with a knowledge of the book's content. The first 30 pages are like "gold", and will help answer atleast 10 questions. Read from page 1, where it starts with the heading "LAWS GOVERNING DRIVER LICENSES". 

I would logically categorize the questions in 3 types.
  • 10-15 Questions on licenses (eligibility, types, restrictions)
  • 20-30 Questions on driving skills (signals, turns, yielding, lane markings)
  • 10-15 Questions on Fines and Fees (violations, drugs & alcohol, suspension) 
Online PDF:

Tip #3:
Go through the questions in the below pdf file. It has around 150 questions. These are most frequently asked questions, and this file could just be the difference between passing the exam or failing at a very close margin. In my first attempt, I was almost there with correct 39 questions but couldn't get the 40th and failed. The ones I answered wrongly were part of this pdf file, I later found out. So read this as many times as you can and remember it well. 

Important questions, collection link:

Tip #4: 

Once you have read the book (Chapters 1-9) once, or twice, it is time for you to take test practice, as much as you can. Here are some good "free" resources you can use. Practice until you are able to get 95% or more in all the tests. First two are important, and the rest are for additional practice if you have time.
  1. (famous link. contains several free tests)
  2. (questions change every time you open) 
  3. (3 test links in this site)
Tip #5:
Now, let's discuss about the exam. Knowing the fact that you can "skip" a question would do wonders. When you are not sure with any of the questions, "Skip" them. There is an option for it. The outcome of every question is displayed immediately after you select an option. So for every single question you complete, you know how many went correct, how many are left to be answered. The test will end once you answer 11 questions wrongly (FAIL), or once you answer 40 questions correctly. So always SKIP the questions you are unsure of. In my second attempt, I was on the 43rd question when I passed the test. Two of those 43 were skipped. I got only one wrong. 

Other tips - Documents required, DMV timings, 6-points for Non-Immigrants, dependents.

Here are few tips not related to the test. 
  1. Try to go on a weekday if you want to avoid long lines. 
  2. On Tuesdays, they are open till 7:30 PM. Make use of it. 
  3. If you have a driver license from a different state or country, take it with you. You might be considered for a direct basic driver license without taking up a road test.
  4. Ensure you have enough documents to prove that you have 6-points. You dont want to wait in a long line, only to be sent back home without even giving the test.
  5. I am on a non-immigrant visa, I showed my Passport+Visa and I-94 (4 points), SSN (mandatory), Rental lease (address proof), Debit card (1 point), and Health Insurance card (1 point). 
  6. My wife is on a dependent non-immigrant visa, so we obtained a "SSN Denial Letter" from the Social security office, and for 6-points, showed the same set of documents as me. To get SSN Denial letter, you need a valid passport + visa, and proof of address.  
  7. Prepare for long lines. They verify the ID 3 times totally before the test, and again, 3 more times after the test.

Aug 19, 2014

DSLR How To: Beating the 30 second timer with BULB mode

Tags: Canon DSLR shoot beyond 30 seconds shutter speed  
Any DSLR user knows that the maximum shutter speed is limited to 30 seconds. I see many good photographs on that boast a shutter speed of 100+ seconds. I have tried searching for tips on the internet as to how I can enable my camera (Canon T3i) to do it. I wondered if it is only possible by upgrading to a more expensive camera, or investing on a intervalvometer device which allows an user to perform advanced timer exposures (like star trails). The answer, as I discovered later on, is quite simple. You need to use a mode called BULB, which works pretty much like how a filament bulb does. You turn on a switch, which 'exposes' its surrounding, and you turn it off. 

A BULB mode requires a user to press the shutter, and then press the shutter again to turn it back off. The interim period is the total exposure. The below picture is taken like that, where I started the exposure and stopped it after 124 seconds

  • The BULB mode only works in Manual mode, not even in Tv or Av. You need to shift to manual mode, increase the shutter speed to the maximum, beyond 30 seconds, and it will show BULB. 
  • The BULB mode can be used only in low light conditions, unless you employ special gears such as ND Filter.
  • To prevent camera shake, BULB modes must be used along with a tripod, and a remote shutter (or cable release or wireless remote) to trigger the shutter. The picture in the example used both.
Good luck with loooooong exposures. Post any questions you may have, or link to your existing pics.

I am a hobbyist photographer. I publish my work here and here

May 24, 2014

Minute Numbers, Massive Differentiators

How Run Rate in IPL or cricket in general works? If you ever wondered, this post demystifies this complex math in simpler words with example. We know the run rate is the rate at which runs are scored in a game, so how is this thing gets computed exactly? is this minute 0.01 difference in the run-rate is what that qualifies a team to the play-off and ditches the other teams that earned equal points and played cricket  that is equally competitive? Is this fair enough?

If you get a closer look, cricket is a game of crafting all those little beautiful moments. 0.01 mtr is the difference between an LBW and an inside edge. 0.01 mtr is the difference between a beautiful cover drive and a nick to first slip. 0.01 mtr is the difference between a legal wicket and a front-foot no-ball. 0.01 mtr is the difference between a spectacular catch at the boundary line (read pollard magic) and a game-changing six over long-on. When the entire game's outcome relies on such little things, why can't we rely on the same for a qualifier? 

It is a real challenge when three teams draw at 14 points, and you are asked to pick the best. Enter Mr.Mathematics who provides a solution in his typical 'formulae' style. This formulae, with a single number, brings out the team that won most convincingly, among the others. When two teams chase and win a game, the team that won with two overs to spare is definitely better than a team that won on the last ball. Similarly a team that wins by a margin of 40 runs is better than a team that just managed to win a game on the last ball by 4 runs. Run rate is that magical formula which clearly brings out this "convincingness" of a win.
"A team's net run rate is calculated by deducting from the average runs per over scored by that team throughout the season, the average runs per over scored against that team throughout the season", quotes
  • Say two teams played 20 overs each, and If team 1 got 200, and team 2 got 190 during the chase, then the run rate of team 1 is  200/20 - 190/20 = 0.5. Team 2 on the other side, will get the exact opposite. a -0.5
  • In the same scenario, if team 2 chased down 200 in 18 overs, team 2 run rate will be 200/18 - 200/20 = 1.11, and team 1 will get a -1.11.

If team one gets 200 in 18 overs, and gets all out, still it will be counted as 20 overs. This is an exception to the rule when teams get all out. Even if team chasing 200 gets all out for 100 in 10 overs, they will still be counted as 100/20. This is good because if that rule is not applied, team batting first gets 150 in 20 overs (150/20 is 7.5) and team batting second gets all out for 50 in 5 overs, they get 50/5 = 10.0. So applying formula, team 1 for winning will get a -2.5. Every possible rule is well accounted in run rate. All the runs scored and conceded in every game is added together and run rate is arrived at. So this is perfect enough to identify which team has played better cricket. Here is the current IPL Points table, explaining the total runs scored and conceded by all teams.
"For" means run scored, "Against" indicates runs conceded. Data source:

In this table, the top 4 teams will advance to the playoffs. While first 3 teams are already qualified, the 4th spot is the one that is being fought for by 3 teams, RR/MI/SRH. All these teams are likely to tie at 14 points at the end of 14 games, and run rate will decide who will be the 4th. MI has bowled 253.3 overs so far, and conceded 1981 runs. So the overs they will bowl to RR, and the runs RR scores will be added to this equation, and computed along with runs scored by MI. The process happens for both teams. Since this is an average of 14 games, MI really need to win by a large margin to cross RR's run rate.

So here is a assumption chart where in MI is assumed to have set a target of 200, and the run rate of both teams, based on RR's total is mentioned on the left side. See the center column "Win?" which indicates who wins with higher run rate, based on runs scored by both teams. If MI win by 43 runs, they are 0.01 ahead. On the right side is the chase chart for MI, where RR sets a target of 200 and MI needs to get it by 14.4 overs to win with the same 0.01 margin! I am not sure what will happen if target is 160 but this is how it works.

Assumptions: If MI chase, win before 14.4 overs, or if defend, win by 43 or more runs.

We are down to that 0.01 in the end, isn't it magical. That little beautiful thing!

So what factors does run rate does not consider, you may ask! That can be a topic for another blog, or for your to write in the comments section. Things like beating high ranked team or low ranked team, defending a target with tough bowling condition like dew factors are not factored into run rate calculation.

Apr 2, 2014

How to replace line break with comma in text pad

A friend of mine asked me how to search and replace new line characters on TextPad editor. Sometimes we want to form a comma seperated values of all data in a column. It takes time to edit this manually and form the list.

Fortunately, TextPad supports "regular expressions" using which may come handy on several occasions. It is fairly simple as long as you know that "\n" means a new line in the world of computers, and the awareness that TextPad supports Regular Expressions syntax.

Here is an example document with random words:
document with words in multiple lines
And you fire the replace operation by hitting F8.
Find What: type \n
Replace with: type , (or whatever character you need)
Check "Regular Expression" box before you search / replace
And it will be all merged on to the same line. This looks simple while for an user trying to do this on a several hundred line file, would give big sigh of relief after learning this.
Final result after the replace operation

Jan 15, 2014

Tomato Pickle / Thokku - Recipie

Whatever happens in the kitchen remains there always until today, as I decide to pursue that long pending interest of blogging it. I am starting it with a quick-fix dish which comes to rescue you every time there is a press for time in making a side dish for your chappathi or dosa or rice.
Tomato Pickle / Tomato Thokku / Tomato whatever
This is so easy to make and I am gonna post a few pics with description as we see how its made.

Grab as many tomatoes as your cooker can hold, cut them into whatever shape you like, and close the lid. Boil it in hi-flame. Don't add water. 
While the chemical and nuclear reaction happen in the cooker, prepare these and keep ready. You need Garlic, Green chillies, Curry/Chilli powder, turmeric powder. salt and mustard seeds. Start chopping chilles (and garlic if you wish).

Wait for 5-6 whistles as the tomatoes crush over and over.  
While the tomato cooks, fry mustard seeds, followed by chillies and garic in oil until it turns brown. 
So this is how it looked when I opened the cooker lid. It is surprising - the amount of water it contains. It takes effort to stir and let this evaporate, which is the reason why we don't add water and boil the tomatoes raw.

Add the fried garlic + chilli mix to the tomatoes, keep stirring once every 3 mins on medium flame for about 15-20 mins,  as the water evaporate and make way for a thick remanant. 
At the end of it, the stuff looks like this. Once you keep the lid closed for about 4-5 hours, it forms a much finer paste, highly rich in taste, and you can't avoid adding it your meal anymore.
I took this recipie from my mother and sister, it could have several variants, such as the one my aunt suggested - which is adding onion and capsicum to the garlic mix before mixing with the tomatoes.

Jan 12, 2014

Jilla - Movie review

Ten years back, I still remember what happened in the car streets of Madurai temple. Actor Vijay was tapping his legs and taunted at Prakash Raj as he took out on a thrilling challenge in rescuing Thrisha in Gilli. The speed of that movie, and its engaging screenplay is unmatchable till date, compared to any of his other movies. Vijay took one more round of attack in those same streets with the Madurai rowdies for Jilla before actually being one of them in the first half. His effort and challenge in Jilla failed to repeat the Gilli magic. A good amount of  its success, must be attributed to Mohan lal whose strong portrayal of his character lead to what was a good father-son contest.  

Jilla - official movie poster
Been to this ace actor - Vijay's flick today and it turned out to be another fun-filled action movie of his usual kind. The screenplay is The 600k likes of the official facebook page indicates the fan base of this ace actor, and the expectation for this new movie which hit the screens yesterday, scheduled in line with this year's Pongal festival. Releasing it a week before must be a strategic decision, to cash in on the fan crowd in the initial 4 days followed by the long pongal weekend which would attract other viewers. 

Vijay's ability to pin down several hundred rowdies with just a cell phone while also playing temple run on his iPad is worth a laughter. While shooting several good clips is worth an appreciation, not being able to organize them together resulted in a dragged fallacious screenplay effort having meaningless distractions every now and then. The comedy scenes were really good, so is the plot, and is supposed to turn out a very good movie if it was not for the length and lackness of engaging screenplay. A movie should make you glue to your seat with a "what will happen next" feeling throughout the movie. Like what Gilli did. Jilla failed to repeat the magic. 

And yeah, I forget to say that the movie also had a female lead who came here and there but then it was evident that its for just the sake of having one, and dance in the songs. Could have given more emphasis to that role.

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