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?