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 www.janzengear.com 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.

    Thursday, November 4, 2010

    Seven Reasons Running is a Great Sport to Follow

    Everywhere I go in the US I am inundated with information about baseball, football, basketball and Nascar. Even golf has it's own channel. Now everything I am about to say is not to demean from other sports. I am quite obviously biased toward running. That being said let me explain why being a fan of running is the best sport to be a fan of.

    1. Accessibility for runners. Kenyans have won 38 of 42 major marathons this fall. One of the poorest countries in the world produces some of the greatest athletes. To excel at the highest levels in this sport you do not need multimillion dollar facilities. It is a true come from behind sport. Sammy Wanjiru and Robert K. Cheruiyot both were very very poor and have since earned impressive pay outs for their very fast running.
    2. Accessibility to runners. While on a run at the Boulder Reservoir I met Jenny Barringer, multiple US record holder. While watching the US Womens Olympic Marathon Trials I met Ryan Hall. I went on a run with Nate Jenkins, World Championship Marathon team member. If you want to meet some of the best in the world, it really is not that hard. Most have email addresses publicly available. 
    3. Easy statistics. There are only a handful of events that people run. For distance runners the 1500m, 1 mile, 3000m, 3000m steeplechase, 5000m, 10,000m, half marathon, and marathon are the main events that are all contested with world championships in track or road running. For example, take the marathon, there is a men's and women's world record, and each country has a national record, and each marathon course has a course record. That's it. Sure there are other distances, and people keep diligent track of intermediate splits during records, but the significance is in the total time.
    4. Significant physiological landmarks get broken and still exist. The four minute mile must be one of the truly great athletic achievements. People actually thought that if a person broke it they might die! Now there is the two hour marathon. We still have four minutes to go to get there which is a huge difference. Whoever breaks two hours first will become a multimillionaire. 
    5. Requires little time, but accepts thousands of hours. If you simply want to follow the world of marathoning you could spend an hour a year reading results and yearly summaries and you would still understand who was doing what for the most part. On the other hand if you want to spend half an hour every day reading blogs and another half hour watching videos you could still focus entirely only on US professional runners.
    6. It is inexpensive. There are no ticket fees to watch marathons in person. Most major marathons are streamed live and free over the internet. Ticket prices to world class track meets will set you back less than $20, at least in this country.
    7. It encourages mass participation. You can enter the lottery and run the New York City Marathon with Haile Gebrselassie, the 2:03:59 marathon world record holder. You can not step onto the field with Bret Favre. For the more competitively inclined you can directly compare yourself to the world record holders. It is hard to compare that game of basketball you played with your friends to Wilt Chamberlain's 100 point game. 
    Running rocks!

    Wednesday, November 3, 2010

    I Clean My Brushes with Gasoline

    Seriously, I do clean my paint brushes with gas. Turpentine is something like eight dollars for a half pint. Gasoline is less than three dollars a gallon and it cleans just about as well. It smells a whole lots worse, but it gets the job done cheaply.

    The last three weeks I've spent a little time painting. I paint in oil, with linseed oil as a medium. I paint on canvas most of the time although I have done cardboard and I do have a flat piece of bark I dried out this summer that I am planning to paint.

    The first one is Longs Peak. It's a view of the east face featuring the Diamond. Admittedly, it's one of my worst paintings ever which is even more unfortunate because it is 24" by 36". Fortunately, it's enough of a likeness that I can tell what it is. Longs Peak is my favorite mountain by the way.

    I painted El Capitan. This was fun. Taking pictures of it from Yosemite Meadow I could not get the whole rock in the camera with my iPhone. It is 3000 feet tall and a mile wide. If it can be called a crag, which it feels like, it must be the tallest crag in the world.

    I have been inspired by Piet Mondrian and De Stijl (The Style) paintings for years and I finally decided that I wanted to do something similar. Well, I changed the style a little to suit myself, and I turned all metaphorical to come up with an idea. It's called Society. I see it as a description of resource consumption in the life of an extinct society when graphed on an exponential time scale.

    I made another metaphorical painting with the title: War. If you could see it up close you would see even more detail. I painted totally monochromatic within it so that up close you see figures that you can not see from far away.

    To finish off my abstract metaphors for now I painted "A Little Gray Area". It was still wet when I took the picture. So often I think that people try to group decisions into ultimatums when a range of options is really available. For example, what to do tonight? Some options may be safe and others may be dangerous, but the many are somewhere in the middle.

    I have one more painting planned. It's not abstract, it's about coffee. It is going to be pretty cool but I haven't finished doing the research yet.

    Tuesday, November 2, 2010

    "Ask not what your country can do for you...

    ...Ask what you can do for your country." Courtesy of John F. Kennedy. Most of my life, until Sunday night on the NBC evening news, I thought that was such an inspiring quote. When I watched the video clip Sunday night, and again Monday, I was not inspired.

    When I learned about JFK in the past was inspiring. He encouraged young people to go join the Peace Corp. He gave NASA a huge boost, that inevitably got us to the moon. He helped the civil rights movement gain momentum. Mr. Kennedy got the ball rolling for a number of significant projects.

    However, when I watched him speak that quote now I had a totally different feeling. It was as if, instead of asking that my country provide a place where an educated young person can acquire a job, I should volunteer my abilities or my life for the sole profit of my government.

    Of course, that's not what he said and not what he meant. However, for the first time I interpreted it that way.  "Ask what you can do for your country." Well, I have always had an interest in aerospace and now I have a greater interest in materials. I have applied for likely over 100 jobs strictly in the aerospace industry. I would prefer to see the United States, my country, continue to be the leader in aerospace technology. From my point of view, that is what I can best do for my country. Does my country want something else from me? What can I do for my country? Please, Uncle Sam, just let me know where you need a hand. I just ask that somehow or other the minimum payments on my tens of thousands of dollars of loans get paid on time.

    It's election day. While I have my own feelings as to what this country needs I fear that no matter which candidates I vote for none of them will actually, or at least willfully, address those issues. I hope that they will, but I fear they shan't.

    So I'm asking: What can I do for my country? For the sake of clarification I would also like to know: Is that question going to answered by someone else or do I have to figure it out myself?

    Monday, November 1, 2010

    It's Not Rocket Science: Week 30

    In the job searching world I have not been called back from the Cincinnati interview yet. So I now have two job opportunities where I could get called any business day and offered a job. Or I could get two calls saying they have found someone better. It is a better position to wait to hear than it is to have nothing to wait for.

    In the mean time this week I applied for another 14 jobs or so. Many of the companies that I continually apply to only have sporadic openings. I branched out again looking for opportunities at start up companies. Those jobs are somewhat harder to find. Most companies are very small, do not advertise much, are usually regional, and are typically looking for experienced people once they acquire venture capital.

    In other news of my life I ran 61 miles this week! It's the first time, except for the Wonderland Trail week, that I have been above 60 mpw since early June. It is a good sign. Especially since my average pace on runs have been getting faster as my mileage is getting higher. I think that means I am recovering from the Wonderland Trail as a typical build up does not involve progressively higher mileages and progressively faster pace at the same time.

    Also, I've been working on a hang board or finger board. It is a way to train for rock climbing using a smallish (8 inches by 24 inches) piece of plastic or wood. Several prototypes have been completed and the first prototype has been tested, quite successfully. Janzen Gear may not be dead.