Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Compliance and Innovation

What are we doing wrong today that we do not even know? In other words, unions formed around 100 years ago to protest the conditions that were killing workers left and right. This is a progressive thing, no one was worried about AIDS fifty years ago. No one worried about atomic bombs until 70 years ago. To this day the idea of biological warfare is still more or less an unconcerning mystery.

At work we have a 30-60 minute long safety meeting every month and a two hour long compliance meeting every year, yet never an innovation meeting. The focus of large meetings (all employees or all salaried employees or all verification and validation employees) is very singular: stay safe. Rules and an organizational structure are put in place so that no time is lost in the production of the equipment we make. An important goal of course.

Perhaps more could be done? It is very easy to be isolated in the work that I do. I interact with the same people every day. I work with the people that do exactly what I do, the people that try to physically test the projects I virtually test, and the people that design the stuff we test. I'm not sure that is enough.
Compliance, Innovation and Risk
I created this little graphic to illustrate kind of how I'm feeling about the conflict of Compliance and Innovation along with the actual risk. I focused mainly on physical risks, like death. The size of the circles somewhat represents my perception of how people live their lives, most in compliance, some innovative, and a handful with significant risk. I suppose it all depends on what risks you are considering, I am sure that Toyota and Microsoft would say that they take significant risks, but I don'y really see the a Prius or a Surface as bodily risks, financial maybe, but I hope that life is not defined by money. What would an example of a game changer be? The Wright brothers 1903 Flyer, the Manhattan Project, the Internet, I suppose the iPhone, although that risk is pretty much just financial as well.

After I mocked this up I didn't really feel great about it. The problem is defining the risk. We are trained to anticipate risk and mitigate against it. The problem is that so many of the risks that we worry about (money, being liked, criminals, loneliness, police, etc) really are not worth worrying about because the result cannot be influenced by our worrying about it. In other words, I'm not going to make more money by checking my bank account. So I think a three dimensional scale would do better to incorporate the different levels of risk, compliance and innovation. Plus, these things are really multifaceted in addition to being multileveled so some sort of 20 point extruded star shape would probably be the result. For example, there is legal compliance, ethical compliance, social compliance and all different levels of those. On one level I did my socially acceptable college stint but on another I have longer hair and vacation in Pakistan. That's not really in the same league as driving the speed limit and using my turn signals. It's a starting point anyway.

One last comment on innovation, I think kids are really innovative. They come up with ridiculous ideas! Brainstorming doesn't work with older people because they just shoot each other's ideas down and many of them don't share their ideas for fear of getting shot down. Kids don't yet have those reservations.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Fishing for Water on Other Planets

I'm getting all excited with the Mars Science Laboratory getting ready to land, and as often happens with excitement in the 21st century, I went on an Internet binge of information consumption. One part of this passing obsession was wondering how similar other planets or moons in our solar system are to Earth. In my curiosity I created a graph on the critical aspect of living extra terrestrially, water.
Temperature and Pressure of Celestial Bodies as Related to Phases of Water (1, 2, 3, 4)

You can see that the range of tolerable conditions for us on Earth is far less than the range of possible conditions. The reason Mars is so interesting is that in a deep enough valley, the pressure is probably high enough to support liquid water, even if the temperature is not. That means a few things, we might just be able to grow plants there. We would probably need heating lamps and irrigation, but the ability to have liquid water is really the key. The ability to have liquid water totally changes the spacesuit requirements. In other words, if the pressure was high enough for liquid water space explorers could wear equipment more like what is done on 8000 meter peaks with an oxygen mask and insulated clothing. In that scenario they actually could take off a glove and touch Mars. Of course everywhere we have been thus far if you took your hand out of the glove you would risk damage (6).

Titan is interesting because it's all the way out at Saturn, and thus very very cold, but the pressure is close to the same as the Earth. All you would have to do it turn on the heater once you get there, just don't lite the atmosphere on fire!

In summary, there are a few different interesting objectives to go take a look at. Who knows? We might just find something or learn something that was worth taking the journey.

1. Phase Diagram. 27 July 2012. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phase_diagram
2. Atmosphere of Venus. 29 July 2012. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atmosphere_of_Venus
3. Atmosphere of Mars. 23 July 2012. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atmosphere_of_Mars
4. Johnson, Gary. Atmospheric Models for Earth, Mars, and Titan. 30 June 2012. http://exrocketman.blogspot.com/2012/06/atmosphere-models-for-earth-mars-and.html
5. Why We Explore Space. http://spaceexp.ihmc.us/home.jsp#a-view:1J205X95J-1KWHJ9F-2167
6. Czarnik, Tamarack. Ebullism at 1 Million Feet. http://www.geoffreylandis.com/ebullism.html

Sunday, July 29, 2012

I Live in Iowa: Week 67

Another week in the books! Life is really interesting the farther you go. What I mean by that is that there are things worth learning or doing (two good verbs...) that take time. With all of the frustrations that I had over the last couple months a lot of questions came up, such as, ‘am I where I am supposed to be?’ I think the answer for that, at least now, is yes. Going forward the answer to the next question you might be thinking is yes, there is more to be done here.
The longer I spend making pretty pictures on the computer the more and more I think of myself as an artist rather than a technician. I suppose that science or rather scientists, are really just people experimenting trying to figure out how the world works. It is easy to get into the routine of going through the motions producing a product similar to the last product but never really trying something different. Well, I tried something different this week. I have been working on a window simulation and there is an ISO standard that we have to meet. The design I tested easily met the criteria, but I started to wonder, what else could be thrown at this thing? Having seen bullet simulations or at least slow motion bullet impacts on Mythbusters, I decided to try it myself. Pretty cool stuff! I won’t give away the results suffice it to say the window I tested can stop some rifle bullets, but not all. I call it art. 
It was quite hot this week here in Dubuque. The temperature was over 100F Wednesday and for the local bicycle ride only three people showed up, one of them being the bicycle shop owner, another the guy going to Colorado in a few weeks with the bicycle shop owner making sure he is in shape, and yours truly. When it comes to bicycling in the heat it’s pretty easy, drink a lot and easy off the pace a little. Since you can carry bottles on the bicycle there is no reason to suffer. I think I totaled 87 mile or so for the week. 
Somehow I managed to run 37 miles this week. I’m not sure where all of that came from. It was a fantastic week of running! I ran all seven days (my streak at the moment is 11 days). The highlights are that I did a few strides and Saturday I got out on Heritage Trail for the first time in over a month for a 10 mile run including a four mile tempo. The tempo was nothing special, only 23:27, which is pretty slow considering it’s net downhill.  Still, you don’t really know what you had until you lose it, and every little setback that I have reinforces how wonderful a day like that is. I mean the temperature was a modest 75F there was no wind, I had my morning coffee and then went and cranked out ten miles in just over 63 minutes. That kind of event, considering what I went through with the despair of my foot injury, is enough that I was a little emotional afterward. There was a relief, a desire to cry a tear or two, that I was able to do it again. Of course, I must add that those emotions were mixed with the desire to start getting back into serious training and setting some personal records. I think it’s going to be half marathon season in the fall, and perhaps back to the track in indoor again. 32:12 and 15:44 are nice, and much better than my PRs were, but they are really not good enough to expect a 2:18.
My Coding Together class is going well. I’m still behind and if it were graded I would be failing, but that’s kind of the point of these free online classes in my view. An opportunity to learn something from a skilled professional in an area that may not be your specialty without the financial pressure of failing in a given timeframe and the opportunity to continue at a slower pace if need be. That’s part of the reason I picked WPI as my college. The No Record (NR) on your transcript if you received below a C providing the opportunity to try something you might normally try. I never NR’d a class but I did get a C in a couple classes that I didn’t need to take but was interested in, like chemical thermodynamics. Plus that class set me well for rocket and aircraft propulsion and phase transformations. 
In the Oooooooo China is cleaning up the medal count especially the golds. I have not watched much yet because we have not really gotten to the events I enjoy the most. 
Of NASA note, the Mars Science Laboratory is set to touch down on Mars in a week. This is really interesting because this thing is huge and loaded with equipment compared to everything that has previously been sent to Mars. When it comes to Mars, this is the most exciting thing to happen to it yet. Let’s hope the 500,000 lines of code landing sequence works without a glitch and they don’t crash the one ton rover into a pile of rubble! This video form NASA, is worth your time (and tax dollars).
I started this blog on a whim on a weeknight in graduate school when my two other roommates were home. I did not spend long at all coming up with the title, yet learning and doing are such great verbs. Especially do. The performing of an action. A change of the state of a situation. I respect do. I respect done. It takes courage to do something, I often do nothing when I should take action. For that that have done something, congratulations!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Ooooooo Ggggg!!!!

The rules for the Oooooooo Ggggg are a bit restrictive and since I don't want to get sued for not being an official sponsor, I'm not going to use the words Llllll, Gggggg, Ooooooo, or the year we are currently in when I talk about any sporting events over the next three weeks that may be occurring in Europe. Can I say Europe? Or that there are any restriction against me mentioning sporting events in Europe? I'm not really sure. Read the rules for yourself!

I just watched the Ooooooo Rrrr Rrrr and it was certainly entertaining! In fact not many road races that I have seen as quite as interesting. There was attack after attack, breakaway after breakaway. Finally in the final five miles RU attacked and AV went with him, a 38 year old by the way. The two of them just hammered. You could tell by their mid 80s rpm cadence and handlebar position that there were giving it everything. Finally around 2k to go they had 11 seconds and it looked like they just might make it, then with about 200-300 m to go AV hit it hard and RU could not keep up. It's cool because AV is a guy that puts himself out there and loses a lot, but he wins every now and then and is really strong. The only caveat I have is that in the 2007 TdF he was kicked out for blood doping and served a suspension. So I really hope he is clean. FYI less than 15 minutes after the race ended Wikipedia is updated.

Some things to look forward to, Athletics (Track and Field) starts August 3rd. Triathlon August 4th, Open Water 10k swim August 9th, Individual Time Trial Cycling August 1st, and my personal favorite the Men's Marathon starting August 12, 11 AM local time, 5 AM CST. I do have a complaint, on the Men's side there are eight days between the 10,000 m and the marathon, enough that you can double, while in today's world no one would probably medal in both (Emil Zatopek tripled), for a small country or really standout athlete it's a great opportunity to represent your country twice. On the Women's side there are only two days. No one would run a hard 10,000m two days before a marathon unless the goal was simply to finish the marathon. Personally I feel that is unfair to the women.

Get excited!!! The Ooooooo Ggggg have started!!!

(Note, I plan on updating the labels associated with my posts after the Ggggg.)

Friday, July 27, 2012

Saying Goodbye

One of my friends here in Dubuque is leaving to go to graduate school in Sweden.  We never hung out much, but I enjoy his company. He is a person I will miss. This got me thinking.

On a day to day or week to week basis nothing seems to change. The same people are in the same places. A person leaving to go back to school, now that's interesting, and certainly something that marks the passage of time. 

It's hard because I had such a great time in graduate school that the thought of leaving work to go to graduate school has quite a bit of temptation. Also, I miss my friends. It's harder to make new friends as you get out of school. People have gotten into a rhythm and there is not much room left. I will admit, I'm as much a part of the problem as I am a victim of the problem.

The hardest part about saying goodbye is that the chances that you will ever be able to have the same kind of fun that you did in the past is low. The world is a huge place and people are all on their own paths. 

It's funny, my blogging probably teaches me more than it teaches everyone else combined. I just wrote that last paragraph, and realized how narrow minded my thinking was. Some of us will spend time together in the future, and that time that we spend together will certainly trump the present situation. Goodbye? For now perhaps...

Thursday, July 26, 2012


I limit myself. As an example, this very week I noticed an opportunity, and in a fraction of a second started to limit my chances of having success. The stream of thoughts through my head started like, 'Too this, too that, too hard, too competitive..."

Within seconds I realized what I was doing. It was humbling. How many times before have I limited myself? What purpose does limiting myself have? I have an answer for that, limiting my failure. There you have it, I do not like to fail.

Solution: fail more so that I am less adversly afraid of it. Example: I am failing my computer programming class right now. It is actually no big deal because it's free and not graded. Plus, I'm learning so much that being on time and on target for the class seems unnecessary. I don't feel that I will (or anyone should) get comfortable with failure, yet it is an advanced step of the learning process. Failure means you are doing something.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

It's What I Make of It

I have not had the best attitude this summer. A result of not being able to run and a few other things. It is childish to harbor any resentment. What total package can anyone else have that I do not already have that is really worth coveting?

Like most things this barrier is taken down slowly. However I realized just recently that the way that I view something is a result of the way I want to view it. In other words, if I want to be upset that someone is healthy and can run while I cannot I will be upset.

This is yet another example about how focusing on others can be mentally destructive. I suppose a better way to phrase it is, comparing the achievements of others to myself. The solution is simple, focus on doing the best that I can and celebrating the success of others. When you really get down to it anyway it is hard to compare apples to apples. There are red and green ones and they range in size and have more or less sweet tastes. I can be rather competitive and I find a great outlet for that desire is to pursue things that no one else is pursuing, like a 200 mile bicycle ride or 93 mile trail run. How do I practically apply that in a world where so many people are doing the same thing? Delineate their actions or results from my actions or results. In other words embrace the similarities in others' work that will allow us to achieve greater things through collaboration yet recognize subtle differences that separate the different bodies of work.

In other words, my life is incredible! At least as long as I want to view it as incredible.

Monday, July 23, 2012

I Live in Iowa: Week 66

I write a weekly series because I feel it keeps me accountable and attempting to make progress every week. Yet I don't always feel like I am making progress. I am, feeling are not fact.

Work was the pretty standard 45 hour work week. The cool part is that I have three projects now that are working with plastics. Easily 90% of what we do is with plate steel and the other 10% is probably with cast steels. So working on a polymer project is always interesting. To have three of them at the same time! Oh boy! In case you were wondering what happened when a 450lb. piece of steel hit a very thick polycarbonate window at 50 mph, it turns out that the window will survive. Although, if that window is only moderately thick instead of very thick, you don't want to be behind it. Now you know.

Exercising went well. A little over 19 mile on the legs at 6:56 pace average and about 75 miles on the bicycle over two ride at nearly an 18mph average. About 1k of swimming and one day of finger tearing rock climbing. Pretty standard stuff.

On my CS193P iOS programming class, I fell behind. It's hard to do a whole bunch of stuff then spend six hours trying to do a class. Fortunately my schedule is a little open this week so I will hopefully get to work on it quite a bit.

For the stock market investing, well, for those that have been following DHT Holdings, I hope you have not sold. You would have lost money. They had 12-to-1 reverse stock split. Which means formerly owning 12 shares means you now own one share. They did that so that the price of each share of stock would be above $1 to meet the minimum standards for listing on the NASDAQ stock exchange. Then throughout the week the stock continued to lose more money. On the original 1000 shares that I bought I have "lost" more than half of the purchase price not counting the last dividend. Keep in mind that you do not actually make or lose the money until you sell the stock. Two things, I am sweating out the days until Tuesday at 8AM EDT when they have their most recent quarterly earning results and conference call which I will certainly be listening to. If the results are good (earnings per share around $0.40 or more) and the projections are positive I would imagine the stock will go up, if they are negative, prepare for another dive. All of that being said, I just don't understand why this stock is priced so low. They have almost as much cash as their market cap. The prices of their ships are greater than the debt used to finance the ships. Plus, it's a great time to have long term debt due to low interest rates. All of the management have been in the shipping industry for 20+ years. Plus, the dividend is just outstanding. Well, we shall see on Tuesday if the losses are turning around this quarter, or if we still have a long way to go. Regardless, I'm not selling. Unless people are shorting the stock they aren't making money by selling. If they are, this doesn't seem like the stock to short.

Ending on a bad and a good note, two more things. I went to see The Dark Night Rises, and fortunately wasn't involved in a shooting. It is just mind boggling to me that a guy went into a theatre and in two minutes killed 12 and wounded 58. That is the largest number of casualties in any civilian mass shooting in US history. Say a prayer. Talk to a stressed out PhD student.

On Saturday I went rock climbing and then we drove another 45 minutes south of the Palisades to Antique Archeology of American Pickers fame in Le Claire, Iowa. It's a strange place. We drove through corn fields and dying towns with weeds between the cracks and boarded up buildings arriving in this little town that all of the sudden has a micro distillery and half a dozen modern restaurants including a beautiful four block long downtown. We ate at this little modern Mexican place, the Blue Iguana, and it was quite good. The town was sufficiently interesting that I would be encouraged to go back. The shop was pretty small and I didn't find the motorcycle accessories for sale that I was looking for (a leather jacket and goggles or a side car). They still do have those huge bobble head things. If you are ever in the neighborhood of Le Claire, it is totally worth an hour of walking around shopping and a meal.
Where do you put your hands during a picture anyway? I still haven't figured it out.

VOTE!!  --->

Sunday, July 22, 2012

You Should Quit

'You should quit. Quit wasting your time pursuing this dead end. You are never going to accomplish anything significant. All that is going to happen is you will end up years later tired, exhausted and jaded with no significant life progress. Do you think you are special? Do you think that all of this floundering around that you are doing is going to accomplish anything? Do you think you can actually change the world? You are naive and ignorant. You need to buckle down and pay your dues. Follow the rules and do as you are told and work hard and then later you can have nice things.'

I am paraphrasing, summarizing, and taking out of context things that people have told me and my friends over the years and bundling them into one paragraph. It really feels sometimes like people are just putting up roadblocks instead of fixing potholes.

This applies to so many things, running competitively, unemployment, starting a company (if you consider Janzen Gear was ever a company). It seems that every step of the way people just want to be dream crushers. I get it. The world is a hard place. You can only get up after falling down so many times. Eventually it is just easier to stay down. What's the point right?

This comes up in my life for a couple of different reasons. First, please vote in the poll on the right! No one ever votes in my polls. I can not track who votes and who doesn't. I see just what you see. Hopefully it isn't a secret that I would like to attempt Mt. Everest. The thing is, as I ask around most people think that climbing without oxygen is suicide. Just another hurdle to clear.

Second, in a few weeks the 2012 cross country season will formally start. I think back about my running and it has been a long journey thus far. It has been hard. I did not really know what it would take to get to the level I want to get to when I started running. At every step of the way my expectations and commitment have been just slightly elevated. That being said, I want to accelerate the commitment among the team members that I work with this coming school year. One of the ideas I have is to tell the athletes I work with they should quit. It might not be the greatest recruiting strategy, but there is something to it. It is my way of saying, I plan on working very hard to achieve difficult things and if you don't plan to put in a significant effort what are you doing here? We will take you and let you stay around, but if you aren't here to be the best you can be what are you doing?

Extrapolating that to everything else in life, if you aren't putting in the effort to be the best you can be, what are you doing?

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Run in the Heat!

Actually, don't run in the heat if you can avoid it. There are enough challenges to simply exercising that doing something while it is hot just adds another danger. I only feel that I had heat stroke or heat exhaustion once. It was while I was in high school working for my uncle. I was tired and I saw a thermometer that said something like 115F and that was it. I left for the day. After an afternoon and evening in a cool basement I recovered and I have been more or less fine in the heat since then. Since it has been hot this summer I will share some advice for staying or getting fit when the temperature reaches the triple digits.

  1. Stay hydrated! I rarely carry a bottle when I run, only runs over about 90 minutes when the temperature is above 80F. Of course, I can only remember two times in the last four years when I ran over an hour when it was over 95F. Both times turned into painful lessons of dehydration and orientation. (For the record I'm thinking of that Saturday from TZ's parents house in Denver in 2008 and a long run last summer on the Heritage Trail.) However, since most of my bicycle rides are about two hours and take place in the afternoon I always drink during bicycle rides. Also, if you have the chance drink an electrolyte drink instead of water while you are exercising in the heat. You could use some salts in addition to the water to keep the sweat processing through your body. 
  2. Exercise in the morning. The coolest part of the day is right around sunrise. Plus, the sun comes up earlier in the summer so you can still exercise in the light. In the winter it can be quite hard to get up at 5AM and go for a run, shower and go to work all before the sun comes up. It is much easier in the summer. 
  3. Take it off! I have been told that wearing a shirt would allow the sweat to evaporate and cool you down more than running without that shirt. Well, I got an A in Heat Transfer (ES 3003) and I can tell you that with one exception that is not true. (Similarly the naked-in-your-sleeping-bag-is-warmer is not true either.) Sweat evaporating directly off of your skin is cooler than wearing a shirt. The one exception is extremely hot temperatures, somewhere around 120F+. In that case you want to protect your skin from the sun because the radiation from the sun and the surrounding sand is so high that your body can not sweat fast enough to maintain exercising. The requirement for the clothing then is light colored (white) and very loose fitting so that you do not build up any heat in the trapped air next to your skin. 
  4. If you must exercise in the heat do two things. First, exercise for a shorter than normal duration of time. Perhaps three quarters or half as long as you would otherwise exercise. Second, exercise at a lower intensity than you would normally, perhaps 80-95% of your normal pace depending on the conditions. The heat will raise your metabolism so you body must work harder to achieve the same feat of a cooler day. 
Hopefully this keeps you safe out there as we delve into the hottest month of the year.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Big Data and The LIBOR Opportunity

Does anyone else think LIBOR is ridiculous because it is prone to being taken advantage of due to human intervention? In the world where Google tracks every click everyone makes while logged in, we can’t track every loan that a major bank makes? Granted there are many more variables involved in a loan such as, credit rating of the party taking out the loan, age of the person(s), length of repayment, fixed or variable rate interest, percent size of downpayment if applicable, and more depending on the loan type. 
The point is, in one day of clicking around on the Internet I generate more data than all of the information needed to detail a new consumer loan. It seems simple to me that software could be produced that could aggregate all of the credit and loan data used by say the 100 largest banks in the world, or at least UN countries, to track both in real time and unambiguously what the rates are out there. Plus, with all of that data better information about regional interest rates would be available. This system, which of course would be implemented by several for-profit companies for lack of an ambitious government, would fall under heavy regulation. 

For example, In the last two months I have a friend that bought a 30 year variable interest rate mortgage at 2.87% for the first five years and another friend that bought a new car with a five year 0% interest loan. It seems simple to me to track that kind of data and make the summary widely available for free. Plus, there is a ton of money in it! Well, just think if you had a critical mass of large banks reporting all their loan transactions, but only you were able to divide it down to the micro scale? The national and international rates could be published and updated in real time free on the Internet, but to know what is happening in Dubuque, Iowa (or Chicago or Manhattan or Dubai or Bombay) would cost you a fee.  In a way it makes interest rates more like the price of oil which is pretty clear.

As for the regulation, unless a government wants to take the lead and run the software, I imagine it would be easy to pass a law post-LIBOR requiring the XX largest banks to comply and give a small number of details of every new loan. That is where the compliance aspect comes in, if there was ever a question about the published rate on say July 19th, 2012, it would be possible to review each and every new loan or line of credit established on July 19th, 2012 that was reported and match that with actual documents. Estimating that every American takes out three loans or lines of credit each year (I hope that is high) that amounts to about 2.5 million new loans per day. Assuming the developed world is about ten times the size of the US and new loans per year per person is the same, that is only 25 million new loans per day. I realize that sounds like a lot, but if you can boil it down to credit rating of the person, location, and terms of the loan (introductory interest rate, years of the loan, etc.) you have only a handful of cells in a row of a spread sheet. Everything is documented. The way I see it, it's a win win for everyone except the traders who made money off of fixing LIBOR and the LIBOR reporters who must have profited off of fixing it.

One last note, not directly related, but regarding accurate documentation. I am a huge fan of documenting everything. I will be the first to admit I do not want to relive the horror of my sins, but I certainly want to settle ambiguities with truth and honesty. I feel that documentation is related to education. The more documentation there is about an incident the more we can be educated about what actually happened. With more education we can come to the best solution. This is true in many things. 

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Adding and Subtracting Decimals

Inspired by the a segment on NPR about machinists. Here is a short lesson on adding and subtracting decimals. First, if you are not great at subtraction, here are a couple example problems to refresh.

First, what is a decimal? It is a way to locate a point between two whole numbers.

In the Figure 1 below A and B are decimals. First, you can see on the bottom that the numbers go from zero to three. We will start with B first. If you take a look closely you will see that right above 0, 1, 2, 3, and in between 0 and 1, 1 and 2, 2 and 3 there is a small mark, called a tick mark. B is right on the tick mark between 2 and 3. Since each number of the decimal is a way of counting from 0 to 9 with 5 being in the middle, B is at 2.5.
Figure 1: A and B are Decimal Numbers
The thing about decimals is that little period matters. For example, 20.6 is much different than 2.06. That's 20.6 inches or 20.6 dollars instead of 2.06 inches or 2.06 dollars. Now let's take a look at A.

Figure 2: Close Up of A
First you can see from the scale that the decimal gets one number higher each time you move from left to right. Instead of counting 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 you could count 0.1, 0.2, 0.3, 0.4, 0.5, 0.6, 0.7, 0.8, 0.9, 1.0. Since A is half way between 0.7 and 0.8 we will call it 0.75.

Now the big question is: how far is it from A to B?

We know that A is at 0.75 and B is at 2.50.

Subtract A from B:

2.50 - 0.75 = ?

This can also be shown vertically so that the decimal goes strait down:

   2.50         Start with the numbers on the right 0 - 5 = ? 
 - 0.75         Here we need to carry the one so make the 2.50 a 2.4 (10).
= ?.??  

 - 0.75        10 - 5 = ?   Answer on the right side: 5
= ?.??        Next we do the middle 4 - 7 = ? We need to carry the one again.

   1.(14)       Make the 2 a 1 and the 4 a 14 so instead of 2.4 you have 1.(14).
 - 0.7           14 - 7 = ?   Answer in the middle just to the right of the decimal: 7
= ?.?5

   1                Finally we do the left side 1 - 0 = ? Answer on the right: 1
 - 0  
= ?.75           In total the answer is: 1.75

What if we wanted to add A and B?

   2.50         Again we start with the right 0 + 5 = ? Answer: 5
+ 0.75         Then in the middle 5 + 7 = ? Here we will need to carry the one.
= ?.??         The answer is 12 so leave the 2 down at the answer 
                    Add one to the right side

   2 (+1)       Here we have 2 + 1 = 3 and take that and add 0
+ 0              3 + 0 = ? Answer: 3
= ?.25         In total the answer is: 3.25

Now for the real life example!
Figure 3: Decimals Used in a Manufacturing Drawing
Now we will look at Figure 3. This is the test question. This is from an actual manufacturing drawing. Machinists look at this kind of drawing all the time. The question is, how long is the slot on the left?

First we need to find the end points of the slot. On the left side we see that the left side is at 5.75 (inches from the right) and the right side is at 4.00 (inches from the right) by following the lines to their dimensions. We need to use subtraction here. Using the big number and subtracting the small number will give us the difference between the start and stop for that slot.

   5.75 in.
 - 4.00 in.
= 1.75 in.

And there you have it, how to add and subtract decimals. When there are units like inches (in.) or millimeters (mm) or some other length given it is good practice to always write down the units beside your calculations. NASA crashed into a planet once because parts of the spacecraft were designed by two different groups that used different units. The wrong units can be an expensive mistake.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Sonnet: Stressed Out!

The vote was four for more sonnets and three against which is net of one. So you all just get one. Enjoy!

Stressed Out!

I am filled, containing nothing left.
My emotion has been taken away.
Feeling, sensitivity pass bereft.
This burden we can not attempt pay.
Normal paths close into our face
“What is the point!” We plead and pray.
This is a challenge I dare never race. 
Yet the task has led me to a fray.
We say, “Where is the end and at what price!?
I have lost track of who and what is dear...
Please help me I request just a slice,
just a little comfort and less to fear.”
Onward time passes and after a pout
with some help I am not stressed out.

I wrote this July 11th this year. It's kind of a culmination of a few things that were happening to me the last few weeks. The tendonitis in my foot, projects that were taking longer for me to complete than I considered appropriate, and some social differences. I was somewhat unresponsive as I felt more overwhelmed. I dealt with the feelings of failures by retreating into my shell. Having come out the other side of this phase, I realize how ridiculous that was. I could have organized my thoughts much faster by discussing them with the appropriate parties. Thus the word pout in there. No one like to admit pouting, but it was the truth.

Since I only plan to post one of these for the foreseeable future permit me to explain why I like writing poetry. It is the ultimate aesthetic expression of written language. I feel they enhance my vocabulary and exercise sentence structure. I like writing sonnets because they are long enough to send a message but short enough that I can typically pop one out in less than an hour and I don't get bored rereading it. Plus, they have an organization. Which Stressed Out! does not follow strictly speaking. I like (and write) the English sonnets because that's what I first learned although I am open to new styles. For those of you that don't know, the line structure is iambic pentameter, which means ten syllables total in five groups of unstressed/stressed syllables. An easy example from above is the word "Please" at the beginning of the 11th line. Think of it as "pl-EASE". Then the rhyming scheme is ababcdcdefefgg, although b and d are the same above, so I would get in trouble for that depending on the English teacher. The final question you might be wondering is how often I do this? Typically every month or two. In the last two and a half years since I started I have only written 18. 

Your mission (should you choose to accept it): Write a poem. You don't have to tell anyone, Haikus totally count, but you aren't allowed to start with "roses are red, violets are blue..."

Monday, July 16, 2012

I Live in Iowa: Week 65

What to say? It was a good week? It was a busy week. That's a good description.

I worked 49 hours. It was all interesting. Every different type of finite element structural simulation you can imagine. A dynamic polymer impact simulation, a static polymer simulation with many parts in contact, and a production stop. I also had the opportunity to go to my first physical build. That means a day on the factory floor touching stuff and seeing work happen! The way we do things we typically have a "mule" where we build one of the new thing. Then we test that and make changes and do a physical build with multiple assemblies. Then we test those and hopefully don't make changes but I don't know, we might makes changes. The point is we test and test again before we sell it.

Education is such a critical aspect of life that I feel the need to integrate it into my life continually. (Thus the title of the blog.) My Coding Together class for iPhone and iPad Apps is really good. When I say that I mean I am struggling!  The professor is good, the Piazza help is good, the Apple support is good, the Internet has even more code resources. I am learning quite a bit and tonight after work I created my first app from scratch. You press a button, it's says "I'm working on it." and loads my website. Pretty cool.

I ran, I haven't put the runs in my log but it was probably in the 12-14 mile range for the week. Not much but improvement. I did have feeling in my foot a few times this week. Perhaps 1/10 on the pain scale. The kind of pain that you don't know if it's actually pain or if your mind is creating a feeling there. I bicycled a little over 100 miles including a 31 and 35 mile ride north of Dubuque at 17.5 mph average speeds. For those of you that don't know, it's hilly. Probably a 400 foot hill every four or five miles. Not huge, but an 8% grade is not a cakewalk.

The Tour de France is progressing. Tacks on the road, breakaways, good television. Saturday I went to the Dubuque Duathlon and cheered on some of my friends Saturday morning. Then Saturday evening I went out for supper with a friend and friend of friends. I will tell you what, not all people are equal as 26 year olds. My new friend B, restored some of my hope in my own generation.

Plus! I added some buttons below! Click on something!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Emotional Involvement

You know what is valuable? Emotional involvement. Ask most coaches wether they would rather have the less talented athlete that is totally motivated to be there or the talented athlete that you need to keep pushing. The motivated, emotionally involved athlete will be the answer. Yet that answer is too simple to give a good understanding of any situation we are likely to encounter.

The reason being, competition is about being the best. Discussing a different example, the product that is produced after hundreds of thousands of hours of engineering must be the best on the market, at least for it's given niche, even if the niche simply involves replacing the former edition of the product. It doesn't matter how much the engineers cared about the product, what matters is the product.

So how do we amalgamate the emotional involvement and the results? They do not enjoy a linear relationship. Millions of people love running, yet Olympians don't always find the pleasant joy in the daily training that amateurs often do.

I don't have an answer. I do feel that the more that you care the more likely you are to do the individual things necessary to achieve the results you desire. It's hard to give your emotions to something. It is easier not to care.

Since I'm feeling in equation mode let me theorize something like:

Results = 40% training + 30% experience + 20% creativity + 10% caring

Which is totally skewed based on things that I do and would vary across different disciplines. Although, it is a starting point. Emotional involvement might not be the determining factor in the results compared to the competition, but it might.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Hard Decisions, Big Risk, Multiple Opportunity Losses

There is something I want to do. I have been working toward it for years. Yet now as the time approaches the realities are sinking in. This is not easy. This is in fact dangerous. I suppose that it must be hard to separate the pretenders from the contenders.

The other side of this is that even if everything goes exceeding well and according to plan there are so many other things that I will miss, or have already missed, in the process. Is it worth it?

Ultimately, it is a selfish endeavor. How can I make the world a better place by doing this selfish thing? This does fit into the larger picture of my career goals, but then again the question can be asked how does that goal help others?

This altruistic urge is such a strange thing. I have this desire to please others and help others, yet I am so driven to do things that are selfish. There are many things that I know. There are a fewer number of things that I understand. Then there are the things I want to know. What is possible? Yet that question comes with risks because the pursuit of the limits in a finite world means that sometimes a line is crossed. No one wants to cross that line. So we hide and wait for someone else to do it.

"You're hiding from yourself. Yes you are, yes you are." - Royksopp, You Don't Have a Clue

Monday, July 9, 2012

I Live in Iowa: Week 64

It's not that weeks pass the same, it's that the differences are not always immediately obvious. For example, I can't say that I was incredibly productive this week at work or finished some magnificent project. Actually I finished one aspect of a big project this week. Unfortunately one aspect means I have more aspects to solve. However, I am having great fun with a project that I handed off. So the way it typically works at work is all of the projects are funneled through my supervisor, a senior engineer. Then he doles out the projects based on what we are working on and have worked on in the past. He rarely gets a chance to do projects of his own. So after I spent a week or two struggling with this one particular project he offered to take a look at it. Two weeks later he is still taking a look at it. This is incredibly rewarding for me, because it shows that when I struggle, it really is a struggle and not some little detail I missed.

Another very very positive thing that happened at work this week was a direct result of something that did not happen at work. I went to a Independence Day potluck and met one of the X-13s at work. That is to say one of the skilled factory workers. The person that has the ability to put all the gages on a machine before we run a physical test and make sure it all works. This is a union position. For worse, the salaried (engineers, etc.) and unsalaried (union) employees don't really interact much. It is a loss for all because even with all of the theoretical knowledge that we have putting it all together in an actual system we don't know what is making it all work. So I met J and we talked at the potluck and he invited me to come see what he does. Then Thursday I did go hang out with him for an hour and a half. It was incredibly productive. It is probably going to be a recurring occurrence. There is a hesitation in such a large company to meet new people and get in their way or come off as the clueless person that I am. Now that I know a guy on the inside though, I can go through the door and ask the embarrassing questions.

In the world of running I ran 7.4 miles. That is great progress. That's almost four times as much as I did last week. I also put some miles on the bicycle, but not a whole lot. The longest ride was 44 miles.

What else? I went tubing Saturday. That deserves it's own blog post.

My iOS Objective-C class is as challenging for me as any class. Of course without the prerequisites I think I'm doing really well actually. The lectures are great! The homework on the other hand, totally bewildering for a third rate programmer. I'm learning so much it is great!

I have two projects in the works. One is the book that I was working on a year and a half ago. I'm working on it again. The other won't be a huge surprise once I announce it, but I am facing some difficulty finding a situation I can agree to.

Hopefully you had a good week. It has been hot out so be sure to stay cool.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

The Designated Driver ...Again

I was the designated driver once again. I don't know why I volunteer for that job. I'm frustrated-blogging right now.

So someone threw up in my van. Not cool. Later I was taking one person home, and that person was locked out. The remaining drunk people were swearing at each other and yelling. Awesome.

I'm kicking myself because I should have known this was coming. I was the designated driver all through high school. I even went to the principle's office once because I drove a girl home. In college, at least undergrad, I was the DD maybe a few times but for the most part people walked everywhere. Throughout all of that I did not drink any alcohol. So there was no "payback". In graduate school the situation changed. I began to drink alcohol. However, the groups that I spent time with were responsible (that is no throwing up or blacking out) and there was always a designated driver. In fact, that's part of the reason I started drinking. It is easy not to drink when it is associated with making mistakes and throwing up. All it takes is going to a few parties sober to know that drunk people are idiots.

This is all frustrating. I said I would drive, I didn't offer my van as a convenient place to puke.

I realize that I am an incredibly forgiving person, that's why I do volunteer to drive. Even after I have been doing DD duties for over a decade.

I suppose the problem is that I don't understand. I drink alcohol and I have been drunk. Yet I have never thrown up because of drinking or blacked out because of drinking. I don't get it. When I have had too many drinks warning bells go off in my head (and perhaps stomach) and I have absolutely no desire to have any more.

Oh well, good excuse to clean my van I suppose.

Friday, July 6, 2012

It Gets Easier the More You Do It

This is true for most things. From waking up early to running. Quite a few things are difficult in the beginning but with practice and some effort the difficulties are reduced. I'm not saying that waking up early or running twenty miles ever gets easy exactly, but certainly easier. This is one of those advantages of getting older called experience. While aspects of experience can be replaced by ingenuity and creativity, such as drinking coffee soon after waking up or drinking a liter of water immediately before going to bed, most things still take time to be come comfortable activities. If it was easy, everyone would do it.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

I Wear Pants

The idea got rolling last fall when after wearing running shorts for hours per day I didn't feel like putting on another pair of shorts. It developed when I read Steve Jobs biography when it mentioned that he had a "uniform". The idea was reinforced by my experiences in Costa Rica, Pakistan, and Dubai where everyone wears pants regards of how hot it is. I'm not saying I have a uniform. Sometimes I do still wear shorts out of the house. However, it feels more professional to wear pants, even when it's hot outside. It's a little more serious. A little more... grown-up?

Monday, July 2, 2012

I Live in Iowa: Week 63

The weeks just keep trucking by. Not much to report this week. At work I worked from seven to four Monday to Friday. I was not making much progress on one project and my supervisor offered to take a look at it. Three days later he was still taking a look at it. It can be rewarding when the fix is not immediately obvious. Other than that big project I am working on a number of smaller projects. Interestingly enough one of my projects is actually a really big deal. Like, every single machine we make type of deal. It's fun. It is work, but I enjoy it and find the challenges interesting.

I spent time learning how to program again. My class is not for beginners, and I didn't consider myself a beginner, but it's taking a lot of my time to do the work correctly. Still, I am learning many things, and if I can just survive to the end of the quarter, I will be far better off than I was before.

I did run this week, twice. One mile Friday morning and one more mile Saturday morning. Neither one was fast but it felt great to run a little pain free. I will be fine. I might not have any July races that are quality, but by August or September I will be fit, and especially by October.

The Olympic Trials for Track and Field have been on. I hope that if you are a fan you have had a chance to watch a few events. The highlights in my view are Ashton Eaton setting the world record in the decathlon, a tie in the women's 100m to be raced head to head Monday night, and this kid Galen Rupp winning the 5000m and 10,000m. There have been a slew of great performances and close races, I'm looking forward to the Olympics in August!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Website Updated!

Hello Friends!

I updated my website. I got rid of some stuff that people weren't really clicking on and simplified everything just a little to make it a little more user friend. It's also a little more mobile device friendly too!

To expand on the changes a little I shall start with the old. The old website was great, but it had a darker tone to it and the opening picture in the header took a long time to load. Since I spend a significant amount of time accessing the Internet from my phone, it was a hassle to wait for it to load. The links near the top were nearly a waste too. No one bought DVDs. The only person that paid me to coach was a person that I started coaching before I put up the coaching webpage.

The color scheme was inspired by a number of thing. Twitter Blue, as I have been calling it (4099FF) even though it isn't Twitter Blue, has a nice feel to it. It is solid enough that it feels clear, bold, clean, bright, cheery, and to be honest, educated, if that can count as something a color can make you feel. Green is the color of life and growing living things. I went with a bright green because it's more exciting than a dark green. When you scroll over any of the links they turn green signifying the life in that link to another place. There is also a little red too. After you have visited a link it will turn red. That way it is easy to keep track of what you have visited and what you have not.

I hope you enjoy it!