Thursday, December 30, 2010


 I was inspired to write this post because of my friends. None of them have died because of an alcohol related problem, yet, but they are young.

The Mayo Clinic describes alcoholism as one who depends on alcohol and who loses control over his or her drinking. WebMD describes alcoholism as unhealthy or dangerous drinking habits. The old saying goes, "you're not an alcoholic until you start going to meetings" is a dangerous thing to say.

  • Numerous friends of mine have had their stomachs pumped in an emergency room at a hospital. 
  • Dozens of my friends have thrown up because of drinking alcohol. 
  • One of my friends was unresponsive with a pulse around 30 one of the times he did not go to the hospital after drinking. 
  • A slew of my friends have gotten into legal trouble because of drinking. At least one lost her driver's license for half a year.
  • Other friends of mine have had sex with someone while they were blacked out drunk. 
  • Rumor has it at least one of my friends conceived a baby while black out drunk. 
Where does it end?

WebMD suggests that three drinks for women and four drinks for men is the limit. Here is a suggestion, if you drink twice that much and think you are safe to drive or you feel fine, please think twice. A close relative of mine spend time social working in prisons and she says that apparently most people (at least in our neck of the woods in Wisconsin) are in prison for alcohol related problems.

I'm not saying don't drink alcohol. I'm not even saying don't get legally drunk. I'm saying don't drink and drive. Don't drink so fast that you black out. Don't drink so much that you could actually die. 

I count 15 cans and 9 bottles and at least one underage person, thank you Facebook

Wednesday, December 29, 2010


Before I delve into this interesting genre let me give a brief history of my zombie watching. It started for me with Dawn of the Dead in 2004 followed by watching Shaun of the Dead the day before it came out in my friend's room on our freshman dormitory. Then it was 28 Days Later and 28 Weeks Later. From there I saw some Resident Evil stuff and of course I Am Legend and Zombieland. However, the recent The Walking Dead series took the genre to a new (and longer) level on AMC.

Why are zombie movies so interesting? They are the epitome of people persevering against nearly impossible odds. These movies and stories could be interpreted as a metaphor for surviving and thriving in difficult situations. I also like the science aspect. I Am Legend was very popular at my college campus because we are scientific minded and the idea of a zombie cure was very exciting.

Post-apocalyptic scenarios also interest me because I think I would do well in that type of situation. I have a range of skills that would surely benefit my continued survival. Although, I must admit that part of my attitude must be ego. I have had enough close calls to understand how fragile my life is and how clumsy I can be. Still, living after an apocalypse would surely be an adventure.

Fast forward to 2010 and AMC's The Walking Dead. Of course I watched the episodes as they came out. The series was losing a little of it's appeal until the fifth episode where Dr. Edwin Jenner (Dr. Edward Jenner was the guy that synthesized the first smallpox vaccine, coincidence? I think not) was seen in a CDC underground biohazard level 4 (crazy dangerous stuff) lab. The idea of one man trying for months until the last hours hoping that he might create an antivirus or a cure is romantic. It's noble, it's like 2000 bad light bulbs before one that works, it's like four years of gliders and wind tunnels until one airplane flies 130 feet, it's like starting and failing three car companies until the idea of the Model T comes along.

Unfortunately, AMC (or at least the writers and editorial staff) blew up the CDC and Dr. Jenner. The series is sure to still hold all sorts of character and plot development but what interests me is what happens after the initial zombie take over. I Am Legend and Zombieland both took a look at life in the months and years after the event, but failed to develop a community. I Am Legend left the future wide open with the closing scene and quote about finding a cure. Here is where it gets interesting from my point of view.

Perhaps we are supposed to believe that a group of research biologists and doctors refined and produced the cure. Judging from the percentage of those people in the general public and the theory that most doctors would probably be wiped out during the initial infection because of contact with the infected, wouldn't it be interesting if the people in Bethel that synthesized the cure were a high school biology teach, a retired nurse, and a chemical engineer? I gave blood last week and learned that those small vials they take after giving blood each has enough blood for 14 tests. What if the above group screwed up 10 of the 14 tests because they didn't know what they were doing? What if the cure killed half of the people that it was administered to? What about the people who returned to normal after the cure? Would they remember things? What kind of social and political climate would exist with the survivors? What about electricity and oil? How do they handle the winters in Vermont with, I assume, limited supplies? Once the infected become healthy again where are they all going to live? In three years most things would get destroyed.

Needless to say the zombie genre interest me. Hopefully there will be some movies in the future to satiate my appetite for survivors. Rumor has it there will be a Zombieland 2...

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Thank You, Thank You, and Merry Christmas!

2010 has not at all been the year I expected it to be as I considered my future a year ago. My career has been a little lacking. On the up side I have learned and am still learning many important lessons. Here are a few lessons I am thankful for that I learned in 2010:

  • My family and friends have so graciously housed me without rent for a sum total of seven to nine months depending on how you count summer camp. I have come to understand that the generosity of others always seems to far exceed my expectations. I hope to extend that courtesy to others in the future.
  • There are people who are far far worse off than I. My goals are astronomical, they actually are. When I feel myself failing at those goals because I don't have a job I feel helpless. I worry that I might never "make it" the way I dreamed. That is ridiculous because I have experienced more and done more in ways that many people never will. I have a masters degree in engineering. Done. Millions, if not billions, of people will never get the chance to even attempt that.
  • The United States is rich. We have so much money and power, most of it concentrated with a select group. 
  • Many people in the United States are ignorant of all sorts of information. Information about starvation, poverty, wealth, oil, and the politics in Pakistan are some of the things that Americans are blissfully unaware of. In one way this troubles me because we have the ability to make a difference but so often we do not because we do not know there is a problem. Another way this troubles me is that if Americans with our volumes of information and nearly unlimited access to information do not know, they what about billions of people around the world? Another way this ignorance troubles me is that often problems could be dealt with before they are problems. An ounce of prevention or a pound of cure?
  • Somehow or other I have acquired an amazing group of friends over the years. I'm not sure how that happened but I know some pretty awesome people.

Monday, December 27, 2010

It's Not Rocket Science: Week 38

Applying for jobs it was a weak week on my part. I only applied for a handful again this week. Fortunately, finding a job is not entirely about applying, part of it is about interviews.

Finding a job things were much better this week. I had an interview at a local company. Unfortunately, two of the three people who were supposed to be there had already left for vacation for the remainder or 2010. So I get to have another interview the first week in January. Furthermore, the potential employer said that so far I was the only qualified employee they had found for the position. They are still offering the employment on the Internet and expect to find more people, but as it stands I'm in the lead.

I also confirmed interest in a Ph.D. internship. I was viewing getting a Ph.D. as a failure because it means I was not able to find an engineering job. I have more or less gotten over that in part because the stipend from being a graduate student would be enough for me to live just about anywhere and make more than the minimum payments on my loans.

Running was a delightfully experience this week. It started off Sunday afternoon with a run at the Petit National Ice Center. It is a 400 meter indoor long track speed skating piece of ice. Around the outside of the track is 450 meter two lane rubber track. It is a classic and unique running experience and for the south east Wisconsin runner something that you have to experience at least once. Anyway, it being flat, ice free, and warmer than outside I was able to run nearly two minutes faster per mile than I was out in the Wisconsin December. I did not think I would get 100 miles this week because of how exhausted I was last week and because I gave blood Monday for the first time in about two years. However, I managed to have a good 20 mile run Thursday and with a scant 31 miles remaining and two days to do it I simply went running. 100 or more miles in one week in my running log is a huge mental boost to me for the next few weeks. In a time when so many things in my life do not make me feel good about what I am doing, my running helps greatly.

I made some progress on my airplane design, not terribly much but I thought of a form factor which I think will be critical for stability, cabin size and battery storage.

On a social note my sister was home from college this week so I spent time with her and her friends which was a whole lot of fun. It also provided some humorous moments for me. When I figure out how to blog about them with respectful words so that I don't hurt my new friendships I will.

My sister and I also started painting Irises by Van Gogh. You can check the progress on my sister's Twitter steam.

Christmas was really nice and that warrants a post unto itself tomorrow.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Climbing Mountains

With 50% of the vote Mt. Washington in New Hampshire won as the highest mountain most people were likely to climb. It is a great mountain, one of the best there is, but there are more mountains, and some of them are very interesting.

Receiving 12% of the vote each was Denali, Kilimanjaro, the Eisenhower tunnel outside of Denver, and one person who doesn't plan to leave sea level.

Mountains are cool.

Jeff Gorges on top of Mt. Washington in the winter (I think I took this picture but it might have been Randy)
My first Mt. Washington summit September 2005 at dusk (I'm on the right)

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A Year After Publication

About 13 months ago my sister and I finished writing and editing What Gen Y Wants You to Know. Since then we have had 62 downloads and have given away at least eight books to people that do not really use the Internet or that would have liked a hard copy of our book. We have not sold any paperback copies of What Gen Y Wants You to Know

What have I learned?

Advertising, advertising, advertising, and then some advertising will get things propagated. This is one of the ways that anything sells. Lots of people hear about it and think it's cool. Word of mouth is a really strong way for things to propagate. It works because people trust their friends. I tried to follow Seth Godin's model or Dave's model of give it away free and then offer to sell it. The idea is that people don't actually want the information in the book as much as they want to own a book that has ideas they agree with. However, after the fact I realized that it probably takes six years of successful blogging to get to the point where that works. Or you have to start out famous.

I also learned that traditional publishing is a competitive playground. Millions of people around the world think they are great writers while precious few actually write well. (Yes, yes, I know I probably fall into that category as well, but you don't have to read my stuff and nothing I have written, with the exception of my thesis, is exclusive in any way. It's all free.) As far as understanding the publishing world and what it takes to get a book published by one of the nice big companies read Miss Snark's blog. Aside from all of the segues into her personal life it offers real sincere nuggets of publishing information. 

Some people have a hard time downloading things that take more than one click.

What will I DO differently next time?

That is a curious question because there are different avenues that I would like to take depending on the book that I am writing. I am working on a rope solo climbing book, and have been for two years. This would likely be self published print-on-demand because the market for this book would probably be less than a thousand people. It could be tens of thousands but based on the web traffic I measured in relation to key search terms, we're talking about a few hundred people so self publishing would be it. I would also not offer it free. Why not? I feel that the concepts are important enough that someone should have the whole book and feel that it has value because it costs money. If someone would download it free and print out only two pages he or she could easily get in a dangerous situation without knowing how to get out of it.

I am working on several other books and in fact have 130 pages of my autobiography covering ages 9 to 15 that I typed out on my grandma's typewriter. Traditional publishing is so enticing because the ability to say, "you can get my book in Barnes and Noble" is incredibly exciting! Having a book in a big chain book store means that the man approves of your idea and your writing enough to try and sell it. You may not make any money but you will have gotten a book published and in book stores.

EBooks are the future, hands down. Of course there will be paper books for a long long time to come and people will continue to acquire a few books every year. Yet the writing is on the screen, people sit in front of their computers and read from their screens. It's also kind of fun. Just write a book make a semi-classy PDF and share the link. It cuts out so many middle men, and inevitably people that cut into your profits or people that slow your ideas down. Similarly, news gets Tweeted by The People instead of investigated, written about, edited, printed, and delivered to your door step in the morning. It's fast.

If the book I write next is a little thicker I'm going hardcover. It's just more classy.

Put some graphs, statistics and color pictures in there too. I like looking at the pictures and I think most people do as well. It would also be nice if a book I wrote was slightly longer. It does not have to be a novel but What Gen Y Wants You to Know was a scant 48 pages with large type. Most people read it in like 20-30 minutes. It probably takes that long to read a week of my normal blogging. 

By the way, if you are in Seattle and you see Dave (the photographer) tell him that he should make a coffee table photo book because you would buy it. I've seen some of his pictures and trust me it would be worth your money.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Environmentally Friendly Metal Processing

Metal processing, forming, shaping, heat treating, and other processes that take a chunk of rock and make them into your car frame, lawn chair, nail, bolt, watch, computer frame, refrigerator, and others are not exactly environmentally friendly. This is something I struggle with. When I wrote It's All About Energy in January it was in part my response to the energy demands to create a product.

While my manufacturing experience is limited, what I have seen, and what you can see on YouTube or the History Channel are not exactly energy friendly processing. Watch the forging process in action in Asia. The problem is that things need to be heated up to very hot temperatures. In the case of steels this is 800-1100 Celsius or 1500 to 2000 Fahrenheit.  Keep in mind that heavy things and larger things take more energy to heat up. So the main problem in my mind is heating this stuff up.

Some processes, like carburizing, can be heated electrically in a vacuum and thus save the trouble of heating up lots of air or burning hydrocarbons. Heating processes that take place at one atmosphere (open to the air) are more energy intensive because of the air that has to be heated up. Additionally, heat is often created by burning oil. So there is an exhaust component as well that leaves all sorts of carbon dioxide and other chemicals to be cleaned up.

Induction heating holds a whole lot of promise. It requires a whole bunch of energy, but compared to burning things can be more environmentally friendly. Now energy that we typically use to run our electronics comes from power plants that are burning things. Fortunately, this is not always the case. Wind energy, solar energy, tidal energy, wave energy, hydroelectricity, and hopefully fusion someday present the possibility of nearly zero emission electricity. Since all of those energy releasing systems first need to be produced and manufactured there will always be some emissions that occur in the product lifestyle. The hope being that we can have emissions for all aspects of our life that are less than the Earth's ability to use those emissions through photosynthesis and other processes.

Monday, December 20, 2010

It's Not Rocket Science: Week 37

The defining moment of the week was the phone call with GE when they let me know that I interviewed really well but they were going with someone more experienced. That was a huge downer. As a consequence I only applied for a handful of jobs, in the upper single digits. What did I spend the rest of my time doing?

I started working on designing an airplane. Basically the reason I have stuck with the aerospace industry the last eight years was that I had this one project that I want to do. I am more or less waiting for technology to increase just a little so that it is actually possible. I was interested in aerospace before I conceived of this particular project and I have many other interests both within aerospace and outside of aerospace to keep me happy, but this one idea in particular means more to me than all of those other ideas. With that in mind, a few shelfs full of textbooks and college reports I decided to design an air. So even though no one is paying me to do rocket science, I'm going to do it on my own for free because I am passionate about it.

I had a few job leads and the most interesting to me involves going back to school to get a PhD. I have known for a few year that I would probably get a doctorate some day but I really wanted to get some real world experience before because Dr... intimidates some people and I don't want to scare people away.

I ran every day this week. That is the positive aspect. I ran 72 miles which considering the 100+ mile weeks the last two is a huge departure. Part of it was due to the let down of not getting the GE job. Most of it was due to the high for the week being 24 degrees and it only got up to 20 one two days this week. Additionally we had a huge snow storm Sunday at the start of the week and very little of it melted so more than a week later it is still slippery out. More importantly in the winter I consider the time that I spend running and I spent over 10 hours running which would be 80+ miles in warmer weather. No long, medium long, or workouts of any kind. That was due to the same stuff as above. I did run every day and 72 miles is not a wasted week it is above average for me (on a yearly scale).

My cousin graduated from college with a Bachelors of Music degree. That is super cool. I mean having a degree, and in her case a teaching certificate, does not guarantee a job but once you have it, you have it until you die.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

I'm Designing an Airplane

About three years ago I finally learned everything I need to to fundamentally design a plane. Two of my friends and I wrote a 62 page report where we designed an airplane and we received an A for our dozens of hours of work. I am a little lacking in the manufacturing department, but I hear carbon fiber is very forgiving. The point being, I am going to design a full scale airplane, then I will design a scale model (with features that might have to be different due to the size). Then financially willing, I'll build the scale model and fly it. If all of that goes as planned, I don't know what will happen...


At the core of this idea is something that I have more or less based my education on. I came up with the idea about eight or ten years ago in high school. It's different. No one has done it. They have done many things like it but they have not done it. Furthermore, I am a rocket scientist and materials scientist. My specialty is not getting a job, although I feel I am getting better at that, I create things. New and patentable and innovative things all come flowing out of my head. I can't turn my brain off. Therefore I am going to do some homework

What chance do I have of actually finishing any of this?

It depends on how you define finishing. The paper and computer design work will be done. The model and subsequent full sized airplane require so much experience that I do not have. Any possibility of either one happening will depend on factors like, if I am employed, how much each one will cost, and other projects I have. A full size airplane will likely take years to build and cost hundreds of thousands probably millions and have very little practical value. Although, there is some future in communications...

Friday, December 17, 2010

What is the Difference?

With all of the talk about political corruption in Afghanistan I have to ask, how is that any different than the United States?

Many wealthy people donate large amounts of money to political campaigns. Similarly companies and associations have massive lobbying efforts. The difference seems to me that we have laws that restrict and direct the money that any one person can give directly to any politician. However, there is no rule about Company X giving money to charitable or other organization Y run or managed or sincere to politician Z. It buys time for X with Z.

Time is what becomes really important. There is more money in the world than can be used by any one person, but each person only has so much time in life. Dare I say that when it comes to politics a politician's spouse might be the most influential person for that politician. It would be in large part because of the time spent with each other and the trust between the two. The point being that buying time with the people who make decisions that affect you is in your best interests. We do it one way in the United States and they do it differently in Afghanistan. The result appears the same. Sometimes it takes people in other countries to point out facts about us. A fun article about the not-so-rich top 2% middle class. Now I've just been reading too much about taxes and it's late at night...

(Anyway, I was trying to find an article about what I saw on NBC nightly news a few nights ago that 37% of the tax relief of the 2010 tax stimulus bill was going to the top 3% of earners. Yes other money like unemployment goes to those that aren't earning, but for the actual "tax cuts" it was 37%. I couldn't find it, and since I can't cite it I won't say it. Hopefully some professional news agency more diligent than I will find the info and promote it so that I understand what just happened.)

Thursday, December 16, 2010

What is Rich?

What defines rich?

As a scientifically trained person I think using numbers. I define things by numbers. I answer questions by using numbers. Here is my attempt to answer this question with numbers. Here we go...

Let us start with monetary value. For the sake of my simplicity we will use the United States Dollar. Does being a millionaire mean you are rich? There were 10 million millionaires in the world in 2008. The same article suggests that there were then 103,320 people worth more than $30 million. Does having over 30 million mean you are rich? Yes. If they do not qualify as rich who does? The same goes for the other 9.9 million regular millionaires. A million dollars is not nearly what it used to be. Many people have that much when they set out to retire, yet out of more than 6 billion people in the world only 10 million have that kind of money. When you can buy a Ferrari, a Lambourgini, and an Austin Martin the same day you are rich. 

If a million dollars makes you rich, how much less makes you rich?

Next, we will look at percentages. Starting with the millionaires, 10 million out of 6.7 billion means you would be in the richest .15% of the world's population. That is one rich person and 669 not so rich people. That is an incredibly exclusive club. Surely being rich is not as exclusive as one out of 670 people. What about the richest one percent of the world?

In 2000 the richest 1% owned 40% of the wealth. The same study says that in that year $500,000 was needed to belong to the richest 1% of the world and $61,000 to belong to the richest 10%. If you just want to beat the Jones' and get into the top 50% that requires $2,200 in assets. 


Math is incredibly good at breaking down arguments into yes and no, true or false, and right or wrong. In this case let me define people as either rich or poor. Thumbs up or thumbs down. On or off. 0 or 1. The Haves and the Have Nots. With half of the world population on each side that line, at least in the year 2000 broke at $2,200. 

What about the middle class? Well, it's a great ideal and a huge component of modern societies, but how do you define it? The middle 50% or the middle 80%? That I do know know, but for my argument I am suggesting that a person is either rich or poor.

I need only look around my room to know that I am very rich. (Sure assets minus liabilities mean I have a negative net worth, but my assets are certainly in the thousands of dollars.) It's humbling.

I feel guilty just saying that I am rich. People are starving and I own $800 just in mountaineering boots. What makes me worthy of being rich compared to billions of others? I hope I help.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

24 Hours of Career... uh... Excitement?

Four things happened from Monday afternoon until Tuesday morning that could all in some way impact my career. Considering the drought I've had in this area most of this year that makes it significant.

  1. Engineers Without Borders: I received an email from a friend and former roommate about a project with greenhouses in Argentina. I replied that I knew an engineer who spoke Spanish and had experience with greenhouses. He wanted that person's contact info and I revealed that I was such a person. A slew of emails later, perhaps I can help.
  2. Contract position at a local company: I received an email from a person I had an informal interview with more than a month ago about a temporary contract position that they have coming up. It seems promising.
  3. PhD Internship at another company: I emailed my graduate school advisor a few days ago about career advice and he emailed me back that one of the companies he is working with has an opening to do nearly the same thing I did for my masters, for a PhD. Dr. Janzen sounds pretty cool so I am sold. This seems most promising.
  4. GE Aviation called: They chose to go with someone who had more materials experience. I did "interview really well" yet the person they chose had experience more closely matching the position. This is frustrating because I saw that position as my dream job. Fortunately, it was not as depressing as I thought it would be. I realized that I did all I could at the interview, I sent Thank Yous, I followed up with a few phone calls, and it took them over six weeks to let me know. That means that it took them that long to find some one definitively better than me. Had they called me four days after the interview it would have meant I was out of my league. I was at least competitive. Quite likely I was beaten by someone older than me with more experience.
Quite a lot of relative career action in my life.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Just Do It.

I procrastinate. Monday I started working on a project that I've had in my head for over a year. I've had all this time on my hands but because I did not know where to start, I did not start. That was until I was sitting there after lunch and I decided to start working on it. Yep, it's another product, another invention that inevitably I will try to sell to someone. I am terrible at selling by the way.

I am not alone trying to do my own thing. It is certainly not my first choice, at this point in my life, but it is what it is. I am still trying to get a traditional engineering job. Experience and a salary would be huge for me right now.

The last few days here in Wisconsin have involved frozen sidewalks and roads and below zero wind chills. Not the kind of thing that makes me want to go out and run 13 miles. However, I made the choice years ago that I want to be as good as I can be. So the choice wether I will run or not is a choice that I have already made.

In the words of Yoda, "Do or do not. There is no try."

Monday, December 13, 2010

It's Not Rocket Science: Week 36

Well in the job searching aspect of life I applied for jobs. I am not sure on the exact number but I put in time and probably applied for 22 jobs or so. I sent some personal emails, the networking kind, and as often happens had no response, except for one. I inquired about a volunteer engineering position that I would actually be quite suitable for and that employer responded rather quickly. I mean it wouldn't be a paying job, but it would give me more experience directly related to engineering and it is definitely a social project that would benefit humanity, something engineering does not always do. Needless to say the prospect of doing some good in the world is highly appealing as I sit in my parents basement.

Running I had another good week. The week started with a 22 mile run and I followed that up with a strong 10km fartlek. I ran 300 meters in about a minute then 200 meters in about a minute although my jogging turned out to be a couple of seconds faster than one minute. It is the best speed workout I have had in months. Then I proceeded to feel tired and sore the last half of the week. I squeaked out 100 miles by doing a few strides Saturday after my run.

Other than that I have not been terribly busy or active. The started on my van or something having to do with the starter broke so I did no driving at all this week, no coffee shops running by lake Michigan.

Janzen Gear is dormant. The a nice part of this business venture is that I am only investing money that I have. So when things are going slower than I would like, I am the only one that gets impatient. That being said, I am so excited to get the boards machined! I have the boards cut and waiting.

I have been working on Squidoo recently. It is kind of like Wikipedia meets Amazon. Pages generally inform people, and point them in the direction of something they can buy. Do you know how to take a shower in Bolivia? It's too short to create a blog about and Wikipedia would never permit an article about how to take a shower, but it is perfect for Squidoo.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

I am Awesome!

Sometimes I have to tell myself that to avoid depressing thoughts. Specifically, applying for jobs! Finding a job has to be the worst job there is.

One of the things that I started doing a few months ago was attaching a sample of my work. People can say anything, but can you show what you do? You want to actually know what I can do? Well look at this:

An Abaqus finite element simulation frame taken 10 seconds into the quenching operation during the heat treating process of a transmission ring gear made of Pyrowear 53 showing the percent austenite in the steel.

I have close ups and other examples if necessary.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Making Money on the Internet

Making money using the Internet is a game for me. I have not done incredibly well so far, but I have learned all sorts of things. I did not start out publishing information on the Internet to make money. I started to share information. However, it is a game. There are fewer rules, concerning taxes, business hours, and the like, so that it is unlike any other game. The game never stops day or night it keeps rolling. In one night, while I am sleeping, I could make hundreds of dollars. Of course the Internet is not a get rich quick scheme. On the contrary, it takes a whole lot of work to make any money.

Forget the Internet story you heard about someone shopping garage sales and selling items for fifty times what they were bought for on eBay. Most of the stuff you have isn't worth much of anything, or it is worth less than you paid for it. Few people could make a list an entire page long of things they owned that was worth more than they paid for it and worth over $100.

Things I have learned about making money using the Internet:
  1. The Internet is scalable. For example, pay-per-click advertising pays the owner of the page it was on for every click that it receives. If you can get one person to click on the ads on your website it's just a matter of popularity to get a million people to click on the ads on your site.
  2. There is very little barrier to entry. A 12 year old kid can do better than a 37 year old marketing executive, and that happens all the time. Most of the time it is free to start making money by posting advertising of some sort on your website. However, the low barrier to entry means that millions of others are out there trying to do the same thing that you are and the competition never takes a break either.
  3. First the traffic then the money. Unlike a brick and mortar store most people that stop by your webpages are just looking, trying to become informed. They want to know what is out there and what people are doing. Keeping up with the Jones' takes on a whole different meaning over the Internet. You can look over someone's fence hundreds of times for hours without them knowing. Awesome for the searcher and the consumer, occasionally frustrating for the entrepreneur. 
  4. There is more than advertising and eBay to make money from. I have made no money from advertising. All of the money I have made was from coaching, eBay, and DVD sales. 
  5. The analytics of the Internet are nearly perfect. You can figure out your customers very well without them giving you any information. How they found you, how they left you, and what they looked at are easy to track and very helpful in understanding your audience.
  6. For the most part you do not really lose. You can only lose the money you put in, aside from the time, which I see as an investment for the independent entrepreneur. By playing the game for free, you only lose your time and playing the Internet game is far more fun that just sitting watching television. 
  7. There are no unions, no business hours, few taxes, and few restrictions. You can easily do all of the work in the evening, when you would otherwise do no work. 
  8. Getting started is the hardest part. The Internet is a big place. The Cloud is a dark, damp, and unfamiliar place to most people. Fortunately, it has a reciprocal relationship with its users. Be valuable to the Internet, and it will reward you with visitors. 
  9. Your credibility sticks with you. Unfortunately, information and more significantly opinions last. Things can be cached and retrieved after they are deleted, if you know what you are doing. Everybody makes mistakes, and due to the anonymity of the Internet it is easy for detractors to speak out in ways that people would never say to each other face to face. This can be disheartening. Detractors are always heard more than supporters.
Go. Change the world.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

A Big Reason Most Companies are NOT Non-Profit

The Capital Gains Tax is only 15% where as the tax for the highest incomes is 35%.

You can make a killing of millions by playing the stock market and pay less than half as many taxes as if you made millions through a salary. That is why insurance companies, many healthcare companies, companies with angel investors and venture capitalists, and companies on the stock market are for profit. They want the opportunity to make a lot of money and you can make more money (that is, get taxed less so you take home more money) by owning part of a for profit company that being a founder of a non-profit company.

You don't get to be a billionaire by being on salary. You get there by owning part of a company who's value skyrockets. Warren Buffet, professional investor; Bill Gates, Microsoft founder; Herb Kohler Jr., Kohler Owner; Mark Zuckerburg, Facebook and the list continues. You can get rich working for the man, but your wealth will still be determined by the man.

Monday, December 6, 2010

It's Not Rocket Science: Week 35

Still here and still kickin'! About 14 job applications, a couple of phone calls, and that's about it. Admittedly, not a great week. Some weeks are easier and some are more depressing. Next subject please.

I ran 102 miles with a 7k fartlek and 7k tempo. That counts as a good week. My rolling week Thursday was at 111 miles and that was more than I wanted so I took it easy the last two days. I really like getting into the triple digits for mileage after that it's about doing more quality and less volume. That's what works for me. Mentally I feel good about myself when I see that 1XX in my running log. Physiologically speaking it is far more valuable to run a few miles faster than a lot of miles slower when the goal is racing fast.

The unemployment figures came out this week, unemployment is up from 9.6% to 9.8%. Awesome.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Unemployment Weekends

Being unemployed on the weekend is never fun. For about 60 hours from Friday night until Monday morning no one will call to interview me or better yet grant me a job offer. While the rest of my employed countrymen (and world brethren for the most part) relax I am stuck waiting for Monday, the best day of the week. The day when I look forward to five days of possible phone calls, interview requests, and job offers.

Friday, December 3, 2010

It's Who You Know

In my job search not all "applications" are created equal. An example from earlier this week:

4 weeks ago: My dad discussed my situation with person A. This person provided contact information of person B at an aerospace related company that he used to work with.

2.5 weeks ago: After several unsuccessful calls I left a message, with person B's daughter I found out, and gave up trying to call.

Earlier this week: Person B calls me and we talk for eight minutes. He says he will pass on my information, and a resume I email, to the proper people.

The next day: Person C calls me and we talk for 20 minutes! Everything from Boy Scouts and road biking to engineering research career theory. He suggests that I should have applied earlier because they are in the process of making an offer. I did not say anything, but I did apply a month ago. He also alluded to the fact that others might have received my resume as well. So there may have been someone between person B and C. At the end he says, "probably, no I will" get back to me.

It seems that any skills I might have pale in importance compared to the generosity and connections of other people. While there is substantial merit to the recommendation of a trusted acquaintance, the relationship hinges on the worker meeting expectations. If you hire the wrong stranger, cut your losses. If you hire the wrong friend, you lose more than money. I just get frustrated.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

I Want to Be Part of a Group

I was watching the movie Angels and Demons, which is remarkably similar to the book, and it got me thinking. Specifically, the part where all of the Cardinals go behind closed doors to elect a Pope. How interesting must it be to be in that group? The few people in the world tasked with picking the next Pope.

It must be rewarding to be part of a group that does something beneficial like that. I imagine that most Cardinals work very hard to achieve being a Cardinal. The reward, or I suppose worst part of the job depending on your view, is getting to be one of the few people in the world that pick the human leader of the Catholic Church.

That scene reminded me of several instances from my past. One of those instances was when I desired to be part of a group, yet I did not make the cut.  It took me a long time to mentally get over the fact that I wasn't going to be part of that group. After hours of thinking about it I realized, to the best of my knowledge, that group really wasn't benefiting the community in a way that I thought they had the ability to benefit the community. Instead it created tension and anxiety. The group was very good at recognizing significant contributors, yet when it had all of these significant contributors in the same place nothing seemed to develop for the benefit of others.

I thought about other groups I've been apart of like clubs, teams, social circles, states, cities, and staffs. I asked myself, 'what type of group is it that I really want to be part of?' I realized the answer pretty quickly. I want to be part of a think tank with some of the smartest people in the world that solves the world's problems. After laughing at that ridiculous notion I realized that while I define smart as problem solving ability I have no idea who the smartest people in the world are. I can't name one for certain. Is Bill Gates one of the smartest people in the world? Or is he just an average technology guy with a fair amount of drive that was in the right place at the right time who knew the right people? Is Barack Obama one of the smartest people in the world? Or is he just a really good public speaker that a bunch of people convinced to run for President? Was Albert Einstein one of the smartest people in the world? I think he was. Or is it possible for one of the smartest people in the world to never learn how to drive a car because he was confused by mechanical things?

It's interesting the twists our mind takes. Getting back to the original topic... everyone is a member of society in someway. We are all part of the group. Everyone has a mother and a father and four grandparents, biologically anyway. I wonder as I live in my parents basement, what am I possibly contributing to the world?

Engineers often struggle with the notion that we are in the world to solve technical problems and make people rich. How do I positively address the fact that I helped Sikorsky improve a heat treating process? How does that help anyone?

I want to be part of a group. Margaret Mead said it well, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

What Is It I Do?

The title of my M.S. thesis was Modeling of Heat Treating Processes for Transmission Gears. My M.S. degree is Materials Science and Engineering. There are Process Engineer jobs that are like assembly line process engineering jobs, like an Industrial or Management Engineer would do. There are Material Management jobs that are similar. So even though it says one thing, which uses a word that I like to think my education and experience "own" it is not at all what I am trained to do!

A person recently recommended that I try to find out where some particular steel was made, when I realized that people don't really know what a materials scientist and engineer does. Without reading any description of what a materials science and engineering major supposedly does I am going to describe what I am trained to do, in order of what I feel makes me more marketable.

  1. Create and run complex computer heat treating simulations. I can of course do mechanical stress analysis simulations, in fact my first day using the simulation I did a stress analysis simulation. It took me more than a year to understand heat treating simulations enough to get a decent result.
  2. Understand and plan heat treating. This, like the simulations, is because it was directly related to my thesis. About 1/3 of the cost of most gears I believe is due directly to the heat treating. It is similar for other heat treated parts. 
  3. Understand material failures. You might call some things weaknesses or imperfections but to people like me they are failures. I understand how that happens, even on an atomic level.
  4. On top of all of that I have a degree in Aerospace Engineering, if it flies, goes into space, flows, or involves a turbine I understand it.
  5. I feel that I present well. Both of my most recent interviews have involved myself giving a presentation. I was told this summer by distinguished University of Colorado at Boulder professor that I teach well. 

I know I am not the best in the world at anything, except maybe my Abaqus Bottom-up Mesh Tutorial, but when I hear stories or see people who are clearly not great at what they do it makes me cringe. What is my problem?

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Life In Retirement

The pole that I took was extremely telling. Only about 1/3 to 1/2 as many people voted as usually do despite the usual amount of traffic. The question was, "How long do you plan to live after you retire?"

75% - 20+ years
25% - 10-20 years

Wow! Really? Okay, this says a lot.
  1. Do people hate their job so much that they want to spend 20+ years of their life doing something else? More specifically, doing nothing to speak of?
  2. Consider that living on a "fixed income" really means living on a declining income because inflation will eat away at your yearly income every year. So if you want to maintain a certain high standard of living well into retirement, you need a lot of money to start retirement.
  3. It is quite possible that many people plan to have a retirement job. Something that does not take 40 hours a week. Perhaps managing a used book store or working at a coffee shop part time or tutoring/mentoring/coaching kids. A second career, this seems reasonable to consider during a long term retirement.
  4. As a generation in the United States, generation Y is not nearly as healthy as our ancestors. Our life expectancy is not what our grandparents is. Cancers, inactivity, and pollution are not helping us all live longer. 
  5. Retirement is a relatively new phenomena
I know, statistically, my survey was insignificant because of a sample size of four (I never vote on my own surveys). Regardless, the answers were informative.

Monday, November 29, 2010

It's Not Rocket Science: Week 34

Another week, another seven days which are gone from my life. That being said, it had it's life changing moments. My family and I revisited Sabetha, Kansas, our former hometown. I made several contacts there about possible jobs. They have an incredible 4% unemployment rate there! I would have never, never guessed that I might possibly move back there, but I had a great time when I lived there, and I could very well stand to have a great time again.

Other than those personal job contacts, I applied for the obligatory 17 jobs. The highlights include some of the smaller space companies with government contracts for International Space Station resupply. One of them had the most ridiculous application process. It was basically filling out a form that included everything on my resume. Why can't they just read my resume?

I celebrated Thanksgiving! Atypically, I didn't get enough turkey. The rumor around my house is that we might get a small one and make that this week, because none of us had our fill of turkey. Regardless of the food I spent a little time to think of some of the things I am thankful for. One of the things I am learning through this unemployment is how much life is not necessarily about our job. There are so many things that in my life to be thankful for that I feel ungrateful complaining about not having an engineering job where as millions of people around the world do not have clean water or any idea when they will eat again. If the rest of the world heard the way that Americans talk, I think that they would be astonished at our arrogance, ignorance, and what we take for granted. I realized this listening to one of my generation talking this week.

It was also the first time in seven years that I have been able to celebrate Thanksgiving with my family and that was quite nice. Family is awesome!

I ran 65 miles including a 10k run that I raced to sixth place. I was first in the 20-29 age division, getting beat by a teenager and 43 year old, but no 50+ men or any women! The two races this summer that I ran I was beaten by women, both times former olympian women. I also took two days off from running, one planned and other inconvenienced by my driving shift through Iowa from 1:30 AM to 5:30 AM. I am really good at driving long distances. I knew I would drive through the worst part. It was fine though, turn on Pandora and go. Piece of cake.

No Janzen Gear news or new paintings. I did start a Squidoo Lens about choosing hangboards. I read three free ebooks from Seth Godin on the trip to Sabetha, as well as reading Seth's blog sometimes. The concept of a lens is pretty cool, like Wikipedia, but more subjective and detailed.

Friday, November 26, 2010

North Korea Shells South Korea

Sure that is old news, it happened a few days ago. What is significant is that unlike the 1950s the players have changed teams.

Russia called the North Korean's actions unacceptable!

Russia is not playing with North Korea. This is kind of a big deal. Most of the world seems to be leery of North Korea. There may never be another cold war or world war at least for many decades, but I think an economic war would be far more likely. The rules would be different but Russia and China would surely be big players.

In my mind this is kind of like Sony and Toyota becoming so very popular after the second world war. It is interesting to day the least.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

I am Thankful!

I am thankful for all sort of people, opportunities, and stuff that was directed my way this year. In an effort to say thank you, I made a list in no particular order of 101 people and things I am thankful for this year. Sometimes I do this while I run.

  • my family, immediate and extended
  • my Tahosa friends
  • my "Pakistan" friends (most are from the US, UK and Canada)
  • my WPI friends that lived with me this winter
  • my Sabetha friends that I have seen, talked with, and shopped with this year
  • my WPI roomates
  • my Mezcal menugas
  • my new Ballard (Seattle) friends
  • my WPI grad school classmates
  • my WPI grad school professors
  • the people I have interviewed with
  • my education, all of it
  • the people who have contributed to Janzen Gear with nothing to show for it yet
  • my patents
  • the ability to run
  • the ability to climb
  • the state of Colorado
  • Montbell
  • Patagonia
  • Saucony
  • DMM for making a double axel cam (that was just plain genius)
  • Apple, Inc.
  • Clif Bar
  • GU Energy
  • Toyota (yeah 270k miles!)
  • free camping bivy permits, national forests, and on routes
  • Millsite!
  • 3G coverage
  • coffee
  • lattes
  • chocolate
  • cheese
  • used book stores
  • online banking
  • credit cards (part of my problems but they are very enabling)
  • CNC mills
  • enthusiastic kids
  • my Philmont friends that I have talked to this year
  • the Internet
  • ebooks
  • iMovie
  • DVDs
  • 50s (as in the temperature Fahrenheit)
  • Facebook
  • YouTube
  • oil painting
  • big wall climbing
  • free soloing
  • fear, without it I would be dead
  • ice axes
  • maps
  • burritos
  • four wheel drive vehicles
  • fences along the highway so I don't have to worry about hitting cattle
  • blogging
  • paved roads
  • the generosity of people I know
  • not being persecuted, for anything
  • recommendations from others, they don't have to say anything good about me but they do anyway
  • music
  • FM radio stations
  • carpeting
  • the simple machine the wedge, we've really done a lot of things with it
  • friends of friends, by far the least awkward way to meet people
  • tequila
  • scotch
  • wine
  • bartenders
  • coffee shops
  • link cams
  • unemployment - really. I am appreciating more all of those things that are not money. Leaving out a lot of explanation on how my thought process gets there, I wish I could experience starvation and poverty, so that I could really appreciate even more what I have now.
  • my psychosomatic back pain helped me understand stress and my body more than anything ever has
  • not having a kid, baby, child or anything. I'm looking forward to it, but not in the very near future.
  • bolts on rock climbing routes
  • Doritos Late Night Cheeseburger commercial with Bombs Away by Kyle Andrews (and featuring Belen Chavanne)
  • RedBox
  • girls, women, females, ladies, whatever they prefer to be called, that smile
  • size small (and women's size small Columbia jacket)
  • size extra small Patagonia shirt
  • size medium socks, hahaha
  • finishing my documentary My First Expedition: Broad Peak
  • Seattle
  • belaying from the bumper
  • 5.12
  • Longs Peak (four attempts and no summits this year)
  • Call of Duty
  • Janzen Gear
  • a 1980s orange Miyata Professional with Dura-Ace gears
  • solar panels
  • photosynthesis
  • leaves changing color
  • teachers
  • professors
  • one-on-ones
  • powder days
  • skiing on ice
  • the Extraterrestrial Highway
  • metric
  • tri-cams
  • Google Chat
  • truth
Life is good.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A Visit to my Hometown

About six years ago my family left a small town called Sabetha, Kansas. The circumstances that led to our leaving left me with very negative and bitter feelings about the town. The reality is that only a handful of individuals really caused the negativity, a number I could count on one hand. Furthermore they were people I rarely interacted with. They also acted in what seemed to them their best interests. How can I argue with that?

My anger masked the truth. I had the feeling that the whole town was against me, save a few close friends. This time when I returned, for the first time in more than four years, I had the opportunity to see about 30 people that greatly influenced me. These people helped make me who I am. They took an interest in my life. They contributed dozens and even hundreds of hours individually to just me.

For more than six years I distanced myself from most of the town. It wasn't very hard going to school in Massachusetts, living in Wisconsin and working in New Mexico and Colorado. Returning to some of the places that I spent hundreds of hours with some of the people I spent hundreds of hours with was unforgettable. People continually change and the places that we remember have new and different people, so it will never be the same. That is fine by me. What happened is done and as awesome as it was, it had the painful moments as well. I've said and done so many stupid things. For so many things that I did to you my friends I am sorry. I will not live in the past, at least not until I get Alzheimer's or something.

In the one day that we were in town I made more contacts about possible jobs than a month on my own. I finally had the chance to tell a number of people thank you face to face. For sure, I hope that I contribute and share with others the way this little town, with 4% unemployment, shared and contributed to me.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Everything I can dream of:

Learning about wage discrepancy between the top and the bottom has frustrated me the past month or so. Apparently the average total compensation of a CEO of a Fortune 500 company in 2009 was about 9.2 million dollars. That is so much money! Honestly, what could a person use that much money for each year? If I had that kind of money...

What are would an exhaustive list of the material things that I would spend money on?
  1. Pay off all of my debt, and all of my family's debt. In my immediate family that is round about $300,000. Assuming that some of my cousins will have student loans and I think that most of my family has paid off their houses, let's make it $400,000. For all of the debt in my entire extended family. 
  2. Buy a new car for all of the people in my family that can not readily afford new cars. That is somewhere around a dozen people. At about $27,000 for a nice Prius that is almost $325,000.
  3. Buy a few sweet cars for myself. A Porsche, Ferrari, Ducati, and something that handles really rough trails, probably a Toyota. Total cost about $700,000.
  4. Buy a piece of land with a nice house in the Estes Park, Nederland, Boulder area. For a four to six bedroom 5,000+ square foot house about $2,000,000. 
  5. Expeditions, with no expense spared from my point of view, to Everest, K2, G1, G2, G4, G5, Trango Towers, Antartica, Alaska, Yosemite, Bugaboos, Aconcagua, and the Torres del Paine park. Total cost by my estimation $240,000.
  6. It would be nice to have investments capable of supporting my lifestyle. Perhaps $3,000,000 earning 6% interest and assuming that 4% interest is reinvested to account for inflation that leaves $60,000 the first year for living expenses increasing at 4% per year.
  7. A private jet! For about $1,500,000 a small party jet (Cessna III among others) can be all yours.
In total that comes to just under $8.2 million. Yep, I could have everything I can even imagine wanting and still pay a million dollars in taxes if I had the chance to be an average Fortune 500 CEO for one year. 

What is the point of this post? To point out the ridiculous income differences among the upper echelon of our society and the rest of us. For a one time, after tax, check of $8 million I would never have to work again and have everything I can imagine. Now because of the way salaries and averages work perhaps only 1/4 of Fortune 500 CEOs earn more than $9 million a year. 

The point is, how much of a reward is that extra $10 million bonus or stock that some CEOs earn yearly really worth? What is the difference between $10 and $20 million in compensation? In my view that $10 million difference is 200 well paid employees. What can you possibly send all of that money on? More houses? More cars? More expensive food? Famous works of art? Those are all valid things to spend money on, yet I submit that most of that money gets invested. That is to say that if a CEO was paid seven million a year for ten years after buying several large houses, and other extravagant things, after taxes he could still have $20 million in accounts and investments!

From my perspective, dozens of employees have the ability to contribute more than one manager. That is to wonder what sort of performance difference is noticeable between one employee earning $4 million a year and 21 employees with one earning $3 million a year and the other 20 earning $50,000? To be honest, I do not know. It seems to me that the incentive between three and four million dollars, a 33% raise will ultimately earn less money for the company than twenty employees who are motivated to have a job versus be unemployed. Performance bonuses and pay increases I feel are essential to motivating workers at all levels to be effective and efficient. Also, I have to wonder what the value of any one person is, economically. Is one person who earns $15 million worth the same as 300 people who earn $50,000? I mean, I guess that they really are worth that much because someone is paying them that much, but really? One person worth as much as 300 others? What if CEOs bid on jobs? Would companies hire the lowest qualified bidder?

In a twist from economics to life I will post a quote from Saving Private Ryan:

Lieutenant Dewindt: "... 22 guys dead."
Captain Miller: "All that for a general?"
Lieutenant Dewindt: "One Man."

Monday, November 22, 2010

It's Not Rocket Science: Week 33

As far as unemployment goes, this was a really good week. Not that I had a job offer, but apart from that it was a good week. I applied for about 22 jobs, mostly in the United States. So often I apply for jobs that seem interesting, like the kind of job I would have a great time at, then positions get canceled, or they go with someone more closely qualified. But all things considered the job search was not a highlight of my week.

I ran a whopping 103 miles, which is about where I would like to be every week. People often wonder why I run so much. It is simple really, I feel better after I run. When so many things in my life seem out of my control I can control my running. It is also a motivation with clear cut goals. I want to run specific times over specific distances. That is accomplished by running specific times over other specific distances during training. My career goals are not quite as clear cut because nobody has done either one of them. Furthermore, running is an affordable past time where as engineering is expensive. Another way to rationalize my running is to ask what other people spend their time doing? Which often turns out to be watching television or going to a bar. Both can be fun but are relatively zero sum games. So I run because I can measurably get better and I value development.

I left the new designs for the Janzen Gear hangboard at a local manufacturer and bought 20 feet of Hard Maple. Now I wait for him to call me back so that I can drop off the wood and receive 10 new hangboards.  It's real! I mean the ice axe debacle, as I am calling it, was a lesson in divesting and business. I think I learned a lot from that experience and I think the economics of this new product will show that. I figure that if I can sell 500 a year that would cover all of my expenses. Seeing as how there are more than four million rock climbers in the United States alone I don't think that's an unreasonable goal. Who knows, if I could sell 1000 a year I would quit applying to engineering jobs and buy a new computer. That being said, I haven't sold even one yet.

What else did I do? I thought about my future, specifically my future education. I guess it is not a question of will I become Dr. Isaiah Janzen it is a question of when and doctor of what?

Friday, November 19, 2010

Let's Climb the Nose!

The Nose of El Capitan is probably the most famous rock climb in the world. For many people it is the pinnacle of their climbing career. For good reason, the 33 pitches of granite up the middle of a gentle arete in the middle of a mile wide vertical rock is about as spectacular of a setting as any on earth. The best part is that it is so popular that it has dozens of bolts, beat out cracks, almost no loose rock, and it's warm! I was talking with a friend who was far too amazed with my partial solo ascent of the Nose in August. He was inquiring what it would take to climb the Nose and I told him, not much.

There are a whole range of ways to approach a big technically demanding but strait forward climb like the Nose. Four examples in order from shortest to longest amount of preparation:

  • Hire a guide. It is quite possible that for enough money a guide would spend one day climbing with a complete novice to teach him some basic things and then they would go spend the better part of a week climbing the route. This would be an expensive option, but realistically the whole trip could be done in nine days so that you would only miss one week of work. It would also be an expensive trip, with a price of more that $200 per day, probably closer to $300 per day. Also, you would not do any leading, just jugging and help hauling. If your goal is simply to get up the thing, this is the way to go.
  • Convince an experienced climber into taking you. All of the climbers that I know have non-climber friends. This method would take a little more time, in terms of preparation, and it would likely involve more work during the climb. Most experienced climbers would probably make sure that whoever they were taking with them had good enough belay and multipitch skills. A short introduction would likely involve some time top-roping with the novice to teach the very basics then some time spent multipitch climbing with the novice, likely including jugging up a fixed rope and even hauling. If your goal is to get up the thing with the feeling that you contributed to the climb this is the way to go.
  • Build up the experience to evenly distribute the work load between two or three climbers. This would take months of experience learning to lead climb and deal with the intricacies of placing artificial protection, anchors, and (non-bolted hanging) belay site management. If your goal is to climb the Nose with the sense that you did your fair share of work on the climb this is the way to go.
  • Do something extraordinary like solo the route or do the Nose in a day (NIAD). This would likely take years of practice. I gave my friend the number of about 100 days of climbing experience. That range would give a dedicated climber enough time to confidently approach the Nose with big goals. To do the NIAD it usually requires advanced skills like traditional rock climbing at 5.11, short roping, simul-climbing, previous route experience, and a similarly competent partner.  However, if this was your one goal it is easily definable and thus is strait forward to train for.
Of course there are other routes to get to the Nose. In general, I have learned that on just about every route you can group all of the climbers into one of those four groups. I have been in all of those groups at one point or another and depending on the route that I am climbing I might still fit in any one of those four groups.

After spending two days alone tearing my knuckles to a bloody mess it has left an impression on me. I want to climb it! The whole thing not just the first 500 feet. However, right now I am about 2300 miles away and unemployed so it may be a while before I get back there.

    Wednesday, November 17, 2010

    Applying... For... Jobs... Is... FRUSTRATING!!!!

    I was applying for jobs at a company and the website proceeded to tell me about what a great company it was and how many interesting things they did. I already knew most of what they did, so I was reading the description, like I read every description, hoping that it sounded like a good fit. It did seem like a fit. As much as a fit can be without explicitly saying they wanted X, Y, and Z which would be exactly what I have. After the description the required qualifications section proceeded to describe the different qualifications that were necessary with all sorts of different qualified paths to the same job. Then below that the benefits were described.

    Why is this frustrating?

    1. As much as I would absolutely LOVE to have the job of my dreams doing something interesting and innovative that has never exactly been done before, I'll settle for run of the mill and boring right now.
    2. I have a feeling that I come off as ambitious, and also ambiguous. In the 1950s a handful of pilots wanted to walk on the Moon, but of course they didn't talk about it in public because that was ridiculous! No one would ever walk on the Moon! Do companies want me to say that I desire to sit behind a desk 50 hours a week the rest of my life?
    3. Companies often post multiple job openings with the same title and description, sometimes in multiple locations, often in the same place. I have applied for all such openings from companies in the past, but now I only apply for a few. If someone sees my application with any interest they will get to me. I am guessing that one person often manages the hiring of multiple positions. So why exactly are there four postings for Entry Level Mechanical Engineer with exactly the same descriptions at the same location. 
    4. The entire job application process is absolutely the opposite of applying to colleges. When I applied for colleges I made it into about half of the schools I applied to. Considering my backup school was a private college and my top school accepted something like 1% of applicants I think I did well. I sure ended up where I was supposed to be. For the eight or so schools that I applied to I was accepted into several. I honestly thought that if I applied to a similar number of jobs I would at least get a few interviews. 200+ applications later, no such ratio of interviews or offers to applications. I'm batting like 1% for applications to interviews.
    5. Benefits! You want to tell me about benefits! I have been living without health insurance for the last seven weeks. I have way more debt than I would like. Things like full dental care and a 401(k) while nice to consider, are so far away from my priorities right now it is not worth me reading on their websites. Salary expectations give me a similar reaction. Give me half of what I expected I would make with my education and experience in 2008 and I'll take it.
    6. Control is totally out of my hands. For colleges I had enough offers that I had my choice of where to go. Now, the following sentences are totally self-centered, if you are offended I'm not making you read this. I thought, and still think, that what I have done in a mere 24 years is at least a little impressive. I mean a master's degree, some patents, I saved a big company some money by discovering some things they did not know. In fact a month after I discovered one issue they changed their processing to change that issue. I never received any credit, someone else probably solved it independently of me, but I was there and I did mention it. The point is, I always thought, and I still struggle with this, that companies would want someone like me. I thought I would have a choice in my future, and the time to make a choice. The first offer I receive will be where I go. The advantage of this hard time in my life is that I am really starting to understand those less fortunate than me. For everything and every opportunity that I have been given I am probably in the top 1% of the world for fortunate people. So while I really struggle with not having control of my career, many people in the world never have any option of choice. From my perspective it is hard to understand how many opportunities I have had compared to billions of others around the world. Why me?
    I might work until the day I die just so that I don't have to worry about being unemployed. Ha! In the words of Tommy Williams from the Shawshank Redemption, "Just give me that chance."

    Tuesday, November 16, 2010

    Cost per Hour

    Something that I sometimes consider before spending money is a cost per hour. For example a $30 ticket to a three hour concert means you are paying $10 per hour. I use this to rationalize frivolous expenses. For example, when I am buying an expensive piece of outdoor clothing sometimes I think about the hundreds of hours I will wear it before it wears out. Of course, I have to inevitably spend the time outside wearing that clothing or using that equipment. That's part of the motivation to get out, even if the weather is not the greatest. Another example is a latte. It costs three or four dollars, but I usually have a good time sitting in the coffee shop working or reading for an hour or more.

    The same concept applies to free time and work. How valuable is your time? Or more specifically, what is not worth your time? What can you get someone else to do for less money. Whoever, invented management was pretty smart. Someone figured out that they would make more money if they hired one or two people or even four thousand people to do whatever. This post was originally about recreation, clothing, and just how we spend our money but thinking about how you make your money is important too. Perhaps you can figure out how to be more efficient by delegating or hiring someone to do part of your work.

    The new area of Virtual Assistants is one way that many average people can hire someone to do their monotonous work such as sift through emails, pay bills, build a schedule, and even write emails and letters.  Time is our limiting factor. Money can easily be a limiting factor, but a question worth asking yourself is do you live for your money or does your money exist for you?

    Monday, November 15, 2010

    It's Not Rocket Science: Week 32

    In the job searching world, it was not the greatest week. I applied on the internet to a meager eight positions. I called several companies. I call the company about my interview in Cincinnati and asked when they would be making a decision. The potential employer said, "about a week" so I am anticipating two weeks or so. I have an informational interview at a local company this wednesday. I was not really keen on it but I have several connections so I figured I should go. Then after I set up the meeting I learned that they have to send someone to Puerto Rico for a few weeks and apparently, none of their employees want to go! Furthermore they also seem to have a lot of work as at least one of their non-management employees is working 50+ hours a week consistently. So I am going to inquire about a short term consulting opportunity in Puerto Rico. Who knows?!

    In the make-my-own-work world it was a good week. I sought quotes for producing the hangboard and the price was good. I also made some design changes which Jeff changed for me. This week is looking like I could have 10 hangboards in my possession before the end of the week. Then there is work to be done sending several to people to test and promote and to other people to review. Then figuring out some advertising. Eventually selling them so that I can pay for another 10 to be built.

    I ran 82 miles over nine runs. I had a 3.3 mile tempo at just sub 6 minute mile pace and a short 10 x 10 second hills workout. Not a glamorous week by any means, nothing I haven't done before, but it was the best week I have had since July. One step at a time.

    What else did I do this week? Watched some tv, went out to coffee twice and started reading "A Man on The Moon". We went to the moon! How cool is that! Furthermore, I learned from reading the book, we should have failed, several times. I mean if we would have had a dozen astronauts die in the 60s in space, it would have been totally expected. But apparently, in space when something goes wrong your default instinct if you don't know what to do should be to do nothing. You will simply float around a little longer in most cases. In an airplane on the Earth if you do nothing you will likely fall to the ground rather quickly.

    Saturday, November 13, 2010

    Art Prices are Ridiculous

    According to Wikipedia 11 paintings have been sold for over $100 million in inflation adjusted dollars. Fortunately, all of the artists represented on that short list are dead. As an artist what would you do if a painting of yours sold for more than $100 million? Try to paint nine more or do everything you ever wanted to do?

    I mean I can imagine a painting being worth millions, but hundreds of millions? That being said, the Mona Lisa is so famous that the last time it was appraised in the 1960s it was appraised then at $100 million. It could quite possibly be worth a billion. Now artwork like the Mona Lisa or the Sistine Chapel are so famous and prized that I doubt their sale happening anytime soon.

    Going back to art that gets sold and auctioned... Really? $100 million for a single work of art? Apparently, the actual function and purpose of art has been debated and fought over for years. There has even been an anti-anti-art movement! The point being, is art to be enjoyed by all or owned by a few? Perhaps some of both?

    Art is cool. The price for art on the other hand, is often ridiculous.

    Thursday, November 11, 2010

    A Sonnet

    Patience My Love

    Bear with me as I struggle through pain.
    My plight is simply so much more
    That I never considered the loss in gain
    Of a campaign so arduous before.
    Without anyone who requires my work
    The days fly by with dreams of you.
    I feel as if I am the biggest jerk.
    For lives go past so that we feel blue.
    So much more is still yet hidden inside,
    One day I shall benefit those who care.
    The road is long and the journey untried
    Yet at the end of this toil we shall share
    All there is that is blessed from above.
    At a distance I remain, patience my love.

    I wrote this last Friday and it is really only appropiate for where I am now in my life, an economic state I never thought I would be. I have wanted to write one for years and finally I spent the 40 minutes to do it.  

    Wednesday, November 10, 2010

    Do I Start to Lie?

    I am a terrible lier. Ask anyone. A typical lie will manifest itself about once every two months humorously around my friends which will be followed by myself saying ten seconds later, "I'm sorry. That was a lie..." just incase they did not get the joke and I will explain the truth.

    I was taking a true and false quiz for a position at an aerospace company. I was applying for an engineering job. The position was a statics load engineer. One of the questions was, "Do you have a masters degree in Aeronautical or Aerospace Engineering?" I answered "False" because of course I do not have that degree. I have a masters in Materials Science and Engineering. As I stared at the job title and the question I thought, 'Really? A master's in Aeronautical or Aerospace Engineering would know something about static loads that I don't?'

    This is not nearly the first question that I have answered "wrong". I often answer questions about specific programs that I have used. Many aerospace companies use CATIA, a CAD and FEA software package. I have not used CATIA but I have used SolidWorks, ProEngineer, AutoCAD and Abaqus as well as creating MatLab simulations. How hard would it be for me learn CATIA? I am 99% confident that in less that one business day I could create a beam and bend it in a finite element simulation. Sure that is very simple to an experienced user, but considering I have never touched the software that would be impressive. I have spent so much time learning different CAD programs and a fair amount of time learning FEA that switching to a new system would be measured in hours or days instead of weeks and months and even years for a true beginner.

    So when I am asked how much experience I have with CATIA and I answer "none" I can feel the recruiter passing my application into the junk pile. Interestingly enough CATIA and SIMULIA (the company that produces Abaqus) are owned by the same company. Lest one of my readers think that my education was lacking I would not change a thing. Abaqus supports DANTE which is a very powerful piece of software for heat treating steels and something that CATIA does not do, as far as I know. CATIA can model kinetics, however, I am not sure to what extent it covers. Steel, particularly the Pyrowear 53 I was working with, has fairly complex heat treating kinetics compared to most things.

    Wow, that got detailed.

    Anyway, I'm not going to lie. I can't. Also, it doesn't make sense. Despite the fact that I could probably pass myself off as knowing CATIA (let's be honest, companies don't actually test your technical skills until you start working; they only ask questions about your technical skills) however, truthfully I don't know CATIA.

    Frustrating to say the least. It's like asking if I drive a Ferrari. Well, I've never driven a Ferrari. Does a Porsche count? No. Once again I wonder, do nice guys finish last?

    Actually, finishing last would be fine with me. At this point it would be nice to know that I even get to start the race.

    Tuesday, November 9, 2010

    How to Create Good Humor

    I have been troubled, since high school, that jokes and comedy usually seemed to make fun of someone. It has been a continual struggle for me because I like laughing but I do not like to make fun of people. That's a sure way to alienate friends and ruin relationships. I may have found one solution... miscommunication.

    A man gets a flat tire driving down the road. He stops the car and begins by taking the tire off. A second driver drives up and asks "What are you doing?"

    The first driver responds, "I am taking the tire off."

    The second driver then picks up and rock and breaks the window. He says, "Well, then I will take the stereo."

    Now if that happened in real life it would be a tragedy. But the play on words in the joke is funny. Miscommunication is something we can relate to. The classic "Who's on First?" by Abbot and Costello is a prime example of humorous miscommunication.

    There are many other types of comedy, which may simply be humorous, but can often be harmful. Satire, a genre that is often associated with ridicule, exemplifies the disgrace of some people in the hope that there might be change to conform to the ideals of a different group. While the intentions may be positive the response may be filled with anger and vengeance. A problem which ultimately can be polarizing and leave both parties negatively affected. Humor is very powerful and personally a very fulfilling part of my life. However, it is not perfect.

    Monday, November 8, 2010

    It's Not Rocket Science: Week 31

    I applied for more jobs this week. Probably 14 total. I tried to apply for a few jobs that I had applied for in the past, fortunately companies don't let you apply to the same job twice.  Cold job application of the week: Bill and Malina Gates Foundation IT position that I am not really qualified for.  I had a job lead at a company in Michigan, so I called twice and talked to his secretary. Neither time did I get through to him, but I didn't name drop the person who recommended that I call. I never name dropped because the person who recommended I call I have never met.

    The company in Cincinnati that I interviewed with two weeks ago Friday, that said they would contact me in one to two weeks, didn't contact me. I will give them a call this week.

    In the part-time-independent-job world, which for the time being is Janzen Gear, I had a good week with an awesome prototype of the Janzen Gear hangboard. Please journey over to and check out some of the recent progress.

    Running I had a great week. Nothing particularly special but 74 miles total including a three mile fartlek and an eight by mile at lactate threshold workout with full rests. There comes a point in my training when I start to feel like a runner again. That's around 70 miles a week. It is not simply not the mileage that makes me feel like a runner it's the pace and capability to run a long distance and a feeling of being in shape. However, most of those indications appear for me around 70 or more miles per week.

    Additionally, I have been writing pages and pages lately. I started writing an investing series, which will likely debut after I get a job and have the chance to put the theories I have been reading about into practice. I also wrote my first sonnet Friday night. Ever since reading Shakespeare I have wanted to prove myself against rhyming iambic pentameter. Mission accomplished. I almost finished reading Charles Dickens "Hard Times" this week. It is far better than I expected. The writing is amazing. The story line is part drama part romance. It is, so far, a frightening portrait of class inequality in 19th century England.

    Friday, November 5, 2010

    The Last Laptop You Will Ever Own

    The recent release of the Macbook Air has a many technophiles ogling. Myself included. My current 12 inch Powerbook G4 is six and a half years old. My laptop has survived over six years, and chances are I will resell it and someone else will use it for a few years. This is not terribly surprising considering the most complicated programs I have ever run on my computer are Matlab, a Halo demo, remotely accessing a server, and video encoding. Now there are remote desktop applications, such as iTeleport, for iPhone and iPad so non-phone-based applications can be used. You can use your computer from your phone. There is also a sweeping range of applications for mobile platforms that enable creation of documents, spreadsheets, presentations, gaming, video editing, mathematical computing, reading books, and location (GPS) based services. That is to say, I do not need to have a mobile computer.

    What does the future hold? Smaller, lighter, better battery life, and probably flexible or at least foldable. Imagine something the size of a magazine, just a flexible and heavy, with the capability of your current computer. Or something the size of your phone that folds to the size of a magazine, or even a laptop and is as capable as your computer.

    Some are touting the Macbook Air as a possible computer for light-duty users. That is somewhat of a farce or 90% of computer users can be considered light-duty users. My six year old computer was strong enough to do 95% of what I wanted it to do the last five and a half years as an engineering student. For most of the people that use computers a fast processor, huge amounts of hard drive storage and a whole bunch of gigs of RAM is more than they need. I have 768 megabytes of RAM in my current computer and I have used my computer more than most.

    Now programs do become more unwieldy over time. I have a program called TextEdit on my computer, which makes very basic documents, like 1992 era word processing. It is much smaller and takes less processing power than Microsoft Word, but it doesn't do nearly as much. So over time programs will require more memory and faster processors. That being said for 90% of users the ability to use the Internet, Microsoft Office, listen to music, watch videos, edit photos and video, and play a few games are all they want or need. I feel that buying a top-of-the-line or very capable laptop now that will last the next five years may be the last laptop many people will ever own.