Sunday, September 30, 2012

I Live in Iowa: Week 76

This week started like any other. Church Sunday morning, a little under 15 miles on Sunday, work Monday morning, but as life happens it got bored and decided to throw a few twists and turns my way. This week I'll go chronological instead of work, running, coaching, etc.

Monday I worked on a project at work, the load at the moment being relatively light. Ran Monday afternoon, and after my run I get a text "... 6 miles tonight around 7..." which is how a 4 PM and 7 PM double happen. (That is to say I ran an hour at 4 PM then after two hours off I ran an hour and 20 minutes at 7 PM.) After running 17 miles that evening all I could do was eat some biryani and fall asleep.

By the time Wednesday rolled around things were picking up. A morning workout followed by acquiring another project at work equals a nice busy day. Then my afternoon run was rather difficult. We did a workout including a three mile tempo, short hills, and a hard mile. Every week the athletes I work with seem to get faster. I mean that is the point, but their progress seems faster than I would expect. I should also mention Wednesday was the first time that I had to fill up my front right tire with air. I am pretty sure I went to bed around 8:45 PM.

Thursday started at 5 AM with the top three runners in town, M, N and I all running together for the first time. It is exciting because between the three of us we clean up at most of the local races but really do not train together, until now. This is just one small, three people small, example of a group being stronger than the sum of it's parts. Engineering was requested of me on yet another project, so the light schedule that I had was quickly evaporating, which is for the better. Also, Thursday was the second time I had to fill up my front right tire with air.

Friday, after another quick morning run I went to work and the hammer of a significant project dropped, or really it is going to drop tomorrow on my desk. A project I have been working on and off for ten months is getting back to me. On the one hand, I was hoping we were done, but since it looks like we are not, and I care, I am energized to attack the problem again! After work while running with a friend and co-worker I heard a story of despair, resilience, and purpose while on a run. Most stories that we tell take a few minute, this one consumed a half hour, at least. Probably 40 minutes of the 44 minute run. In summary, getting your jaw wired shut is not fun.

Saturday I did something I have not done before, go to yoga class. A shop opened up just around the corner from my apartment and I was recommended to go try it out. It was pretty fun. My hamstrings are so tight! Then I went for a nice 18 mile run on Heritage Trail seeing some of the college kids from one of the other schools in town out there at the same time. It is always nice to recognize and know the others out and about. That left me with 100.5 miles for the week. My first time over 100 miles since May. I spent a good portion of the afternoon simply trying to eat enough to recover from my run. After some of my longer runs my body does not want to eat. I have to force myself to eat. Well, I have to force myself to eat in the one hour post exercise ideal eating window, about two hours later I am often ravenous. My other afternoon activity was buying a new set of tired for my 289,100 mile van. It took several hundred dollars and over two hours. Unfortunately, I do not have pictures of the 1 cm long cracks that were in my old tires, specifically my front right tire. My new tires have such deep tread and are so smooth! I am so blessed. Seriously, the luxuries that I (we) enjoy in this country in this decade are superfluous.

I finished the week off with some pizza and friends. For the first time I tried coconut iced tea at the local coffee shop Monks, wow! It's not often a tea really tastes distinct and good, but coconut tea does.

I hope that your week was a blessing and fulfilling for you. By the way, the leaves around Dubuque are changing colors now and for about the next two weeks, they probably are in your neck of the woods too. I recommend getting out and taking a walk in the woods sometime soon because the leaves changing colors is really a unique and beautiful time of year.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Understanding Stress Concentrations Using Finite Element Analysis

I spent a significant amount of time working with design engineers and occasionally designers. At my company there are probably 5-8 design engineers for every finite element analysis (FEA) engineer. That ratio seems to work out well most of the time. The problem is that design engineers, even structural design engineers, often have trouble visualizing how the stress and strain will “flow” through any given product. This can be a difficult topic because every product, part or assembly is different and is loaded in a different way. If we knew everywhere that something would crack, we would fix it before it cracked.

In my experience it is best to start with simple examples and get more difficult from there. We will start with a simple L shaped corner. In this particular example I started with a 10x10 (mm)  square and deleted a 6x6 section from it. I constrained the five nodes along the lower left vertical edge from all translational motion (but not constrained from any rotation). To each of the five nodes along the horizontal edge on the upper right I applied a 100 (N) force in the X and Y direction (so 141 N to each node at a 45 degree angle). Since I model everything in three dimensional space I applied a thickness of 1 (mm) to the shell (2D) elements. (As a side note Abaqus is unitless so I just put in numbers. The program does not have to have units, it could be meters or inches for distance instead of mm.)
Typical First Design Demonstrating a Square Inside Corner
Running that simulation gives us the pretty pictures below. The main one of the four that we are concerned with is in the lower left corner showing the maximum tensile strain. Tensile strains are often the most damaging and I designed this example to really demonstrate tensile strain.

Clockwise from Upper Left: Displacement; Von Mises Stress; Minimum Principal Strain (Compression); Maximum Principal Strain (Tension)
We quantify this by looking at the strain readings, in this case there is 5000 micro-strain or .005 (mm/mm). That is a huge amount! If this was an actual part, I predict it would break quickly.

One of the main things we try to do is provide a clear path from the load to the constraint. Think of this like standing. It is easier to stand with your legs under you than off to the side. It is easier to hold a weight in your hand at your side than with your arm outstretched. The reason is that the acceleration of gravity exerts a force on the weight that passes directly in line with your shoulder when your arm is down. When your arm is out stretched the force exerted is nowhere close to your shoulder.

A Great Design!

We build a clear path for the stress to flow often by adding a larger radius to an area that is over-stressed. In this example we went from having basically no radius to having a nice 6 (mm) radius. When the same force is applied we get the following images. 
Clockwise from Upper Left: Displacement; Von Mises Stress; Minimum Principal Strain (Compression); Maximum Principal Strain (Tension)
Isn't this great! Looking again at the maximum tensile strain in the lower left we see that there is only about 275 micro-strain! Wow! For an increase of 7.73 sq. (mm) we achieve a strain reduction of 94%! In other words, we increased the total weight of the part from 64 units to 71.73 units a 12% weight increase gave us a 94% strain reduction! 

Now, this is an oversimplification but for every 10% strain reduction the life is approximately double what it was before. That depends enormously on the material and where in the strain life region we are (it's more accurate for long life fatigue estimations in steels). However, using those rough numbers we can estimate that this part will last roughly more than 500 times as long the original design! (Another side note, if I actually used math that simple to build devices I would get fired. We have sophisticated software that helps us make more complex calculations.)

In conclusion, stress "flows" from load to constraint, and more strait the path the lower the stress.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Difference of One Person

In the past few days I have been in several (three) groups where there was a new person in the team. A person that has not been exposed to the last 18 meetings or ten months of work and problems. The dynamics of the group change. There is an energy and excitement, not necessarily from the new person, but from the old people who now have the opportunity to share their art with a new person.

One person makes a difference. That person does not even have to say anything, in fact, not saying anything might be more influential or at least dramatic. The simple presence of a new person causes excitement. Everyone wants to participate with his or her best contributions.

This makes me wonder, how did I change things or how do I change things when I am somewhere? Obviously I have never been part of my groups without being there. I suppose I hope my presence encourages excitement, commitment, comfort and faith.

In other words, thank you for coming! Not to read my blog, I appreciate it, but I get more out of this blog than you probably do. I mean, thank you for being part of the groups you are a part of. 'Thank you for being here' is something we do not say often enough. Your presence is valued. On behalf of your group-mates: thank you.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

I Live in Iowa: Week 75

I am tired. It's 7:37 PM Sunday night and I am exhausted. Yet, I don't try to go to sleep before 8 because it just never seems to work out. Either I wake up really early, or I can't fall asleep anyway.

At work I did something I have never done before. I walked into the office of the guy like four levels above me after hearing yet another piece of unexpected news and asked for motivation. We have been working on this project for a year and a half, and major things are still changing? I was frustrated.

On the positive side I started working on a project dealing with a component I have never work with before. So I am still learning. It is interesting because I feel that I am nearing mastery of the majority of what we do in FEA. On the one hand that is great because I can complete projects quickly and I am getting more exposure to the details and variables that we do not often use. On the other hand, I get bored easily. I doubt that I will ever be the guy that has the same position for five or ten years. I am not sure I am that patient.

On the running side, I had a nice 82 mile week with one race and three workouts. Technically it was an 8k PR so I'll take it. By the way one of those workouts was following M on a fartlek through streets I have never been on otherwise at 5:30 in the morning. I also ran 10 miles with my training partner M and his son S who is young enough to have a jogger stroller. I have never run with one of those before and it was not as hard as I thought it would be. We still averaged 7 minute miles.

On the coaching side, it was a great week! We really had some great performances from most of the team. From seniors running PRs to freshman cutting a minute off of their 8k time in only their second 8k. We are not where we want to be at the end of the season, but we are in a very good place. Most of the team is healthy and everyone is motivated.

On the social side I went out to Park Farm Winery Saturday night and had a great time eating pizza and having some wine with a couple friends. It's one of those things that I just was not expecting to be in this part of the country and it makes  the whole place just a little more exciting.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

27:23: What Happened?

I ran a race last night. I ran an 8k cross country race on a very fast course. Given that my college PR was only 27:34 I thought that considering I had run 8k during a 10k in April in 25:45 and 5 miles in a half marathon last fall in 26:58 I should be able to waltz my way to a 26 flat finish. That did not happen. Given that slowing down dramatically is a relatively common occurrence, not just for me, I thought I would lay out what happened. Not so that I can prevent it from ever happening in the future, but when it counts, in the big races, I will not make the same mistakes. I will explain in graphs.

Time per Two Kilometers in Seconds
This first graph is a graph of my splits. The light blue is the horror story. Now to run 26:00 one must average 6:30 per 2k. That's what I intended to do. However, I'm not in shape to do that. My lactate threshold and anaerobic capacity and aerobic capacity are not at levels for me to do that right now. So Had I run a more conservative race such as the dark blue, I would have ended up with a better time instead of getting passed by 60 or so people over the last 6k.
Approximate Lactic Acid Accumulation per Two Kilometers in Millimoles/Liter
So what happened is that I went out too hard and even five seconds per kilometer is enough to dramatically shift the amount of lactic acid accumulation, especially to a moderately trained individual such as myself. The dark blue is about how it should have gone down, but the light blue is about how it went down. I went out too hard and I did not have the aerobic capacity to handle all of the lactic acid in my legs. Once you get above a certain level somewhere in the range of 4-10mmol/l (I'm making that range up, but it's a pretty good estimate based on Canova, Daniels, Noakes, etc.) your body can not clean out any additional lactic acid so it just accumulates until the running either stops or proceeds very slowly (7 minute miles or slower for me).

I am drawing on the assumption that 4 mmol/l lactic acid in the blood is about half marathon pace for me and the approximate pace that one can maintain and produce lactic acid at the same rate it can be processed. In other words, going over that threshold means that the legs get heavier with every step, even if the pace slows marginally. In other words, if the pace slows from 8 mmol/l to 5 mmol/l you end up with a net of 9 mmol/l because the pace is still more than your body can aerobically clear out.

Plus, my legs felt heavy on the warmup because I have been upping the mileage, I might even get over 80 miles this week for the first time since May. Increasing mileage is the most physically stressful part of a training cycle and it does not make racing any easier.

Lest this be a self-pitty-fest UD did great! Well, 23rd out of 34 for the men isn't exactly great, but it is far better than we did last year and we have nine men under 30 minutes. On the women's side we did even better at 17th out of 32 teams with most our top runners in the 24s and 25s. Our women's team is more experienced than our men's and that helps at the longer distances. Our team had a good night and we are in a great place to build on and really turn some heads over the next few weeks, months and years.

One other event happened, which I must mention because I feel it is important. I was out sprinted by 0.3 seconds in the last 15 meters by one person on our men's team who has never beat me before last night. So now both of our top two men have beaten me. It's important because I think they see my PRs and see me tearing it up in practice every day and think that somehow I am better than they are. Which is totally not true. I am sure that over the next two years both of them, and perhaps more on our team, can develop into D3 national caliber runners, something I still have not done yet despite running the 3476th fastest marathon time in the world in 2011.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Election 2012: Do Social Issues Matter?

There are many different topics that a politician will be asked about, among them social issues. There are also economic issues, environmental issues, and diplomatic issues. I am sure there are other broad topics but everything I can think of fits into those four. For the sake of simplicity, and future fodder, I will suggest that health care, social security, and education fall into the economic issues category and science and technology fall into the environmental category. I say that last part because nearly all of science and technology is about reducing the total energy cost of a process or understanding energy. Also terrorism, which should really be called violent extremism, I would classify with war as a diplomatic issue.

Reviewing the list of social issues on the Wikipedia page, I am struck that the list is even longer than I thought five minutes ago when I started writing this article. The question really is, since it would be about impossible to avoid talking about these things, how do we want the government to deal with it? In other words, do we want there to be rules and laws about abortion, child labor, censorship, and gun ownership?

I ask these questions because they are part of the equation and party platforms. They are also things I feel so strongly about, that I didn't vote in 2008 because the candidate that I thought had the best overall platform, disagreed with me on one social issue that was a deciding factor for me. This year is shaping up to be no better. If the issue wasn't an issue, actually there are two social issues now I disagree with, then my choice would be easier, but since these social issues exist, I can't vote for a person I totally agree with. Sorry for the run-on.

I feel what this discussion is really getting at is the question: what is the role of government? That is a good question. To protect us, such as in a war? Yes, I want my government to do that. To regulate us in such a way that we don't have continuous traffic accidents or shoot-outs by application of a clear set of rules? Yes, I want my government to do that. To tell me what I can and can't own? I'm not sure. I can think of some things that I cannot imagine a positive purpose for that inevitably someone would want to own. To censor our speech? No, but words do matter and words have repercussions so do we then penalize free speech? I don't know.

Social issues are a touchy subject. An hour and a half after starting this, I am nowhere closer to a conclusion. I feel we would be better off if social issues were not issues, but they are in today's world in this country. They do matter. They matter because laws are the fabric of our nation, what we agree to abide by, so a law that we disagree with matters. Social issues are important because they are often very personal and intimate, a first line of political beliefs. The things that are important enough to stand for are often the most personal. As Alexander Hamilton said, "Those who stand for nothing fall for anything."

Next: What Can Government Do for the Economy?

Thursday, September 20, 2012

I Care

It is a simple choice. Caring alone does not produce great results, but caring sure does limit the amount of bad results. Caring is the spur needed to make it through the dip before the finish. Caring means striving for better.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Who is Right?

A situation came up recently and the backstory is something of a mystery to me, but the end result was something like, "he knows I'm right." It gave me pause because I didn't think of the situation in terms of right and wrong or winning and losing.

There is significant dichotomy in my head. I could write pages about it. The topic of being correct is a great example. I can be very competitive with myself. I was at Buffalo Wild Wings Saturday and I ordered wings that were more spicy than I was able to really enjoy. I did it because that is how I am. When a scale is put in front of me I will wonder why I am not at the top of it. This is true for wing sauce scales as well as running race results or standardized tests. In other words, I am constantly trying to win. You probably didn't know that eating wings is a contest, and it's not, but if I had one level of spice last time I want to push myself to the next level. Thus I am always pushing, trying to "win" and get the best out of myself.

However, this attitude does not at all extend to my relationships. I can debate right and wrong, correct and incorrect, when the situation demands it, but my interactions really do not have any sort of competition. I am not trying to win against anyone else because we are all in this together. If my mediocre success inspires you to achieve more than I can even dream than we are all better off. I suppose it can still be thought of as a competition, what can we accomplish? What are our limits?

Who am I to say that you are wrong? What authority does one have to judge another?

The moral of the story is, just wait a second before you honk that horn or start screaming in anger or plotting revenge. That option is just digging oneself in a hole.

Monday, September 17, 2012

I Live in Iowa: Week 74

I don't usually start with a video, but the song is quite good. I heard it on a movie I watched and it's been all the rage for me the last five days. I'm having an awful time finding similar music.

Let me tell you about the week.

Sunday I drove up to a surprise 40th wedding anniversary for my aunt and uncle. It is so great! Forty years is such an accomplishment. Seeing relatives is always nice too.

On the drive back I did stop and ride up two category 3 hills around Blue Mound State Park, WI. I finished 7th/198 on the steeper hill. Not bad for being extremely tired from a four mile race the day before and half marathon six days prior.

Work has it's busy, chicken-with-your-head-cut-off times, and it has the waiting-on-you times. We have been getting into a slower time because we were on schedule, but most others were not and recently the program was pushed back all of the sudden there was no rush. So I've been playing around (it is actually a project I am working on) with signal processing trying to better understand natural frequencies and relative motion of components on a structure due to different frequencies. It's interesting stuff.

Friday and Saturday I spent on a bus driving to and from St. Olaf up in Minnesota going to a cross country meet. The meet went really well! The men were 15th of 21 teams, and last year we probably would have been 20th or 21st. All of our top five ran under 30 minutes. It was the first 8k for all of them. Our women did well too. We had many of the women set personal records including our 4th runner who PR'd by five minutes in the 6k! She ran 299 miles during the summer, and it shows that she did more running this summer than any previous summer in her life. Plus, spending nine hours on the bus I was able to get so much done! I watched three lectures for my iPhone coding class and created my first meaningful working app from scratch. It's a collection of my sonnets. You might never see it, but it was/is a good learning experience for me.

My own running went well too. I scraped out a 71 mile week, my first week over 70 since in almost four months. Then I had one really good workout Saturday. It was 1k at marathon pace followed by 1k at 10k pace. Continue until tired. I did 9k total including a 3:17 and two 3:11 kilometers. That's quite good considering I ran it over the St. Olaf cross country course. It came easier than I was expecting. The plan is to run the Augustana cross country meet Friday night and better my official 8k PR from 2007 of 27:34. I should obliterate it.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

QE3, Housing and Me

I just read the article, Behind the Fed’s New Round of Stimulus: Will It Help Housing. Plus, I have been thinking about buying a house for half a year, maybe longer. I read tweets trying to get people to buy a house. Often I read this stuff I get frustrated. People don’t get it!

For example, in the article by the Dutsche Bank analyst (being an analysis for a major bank indicates 1%er) “The level of mortgage rates isn’t the problem - it’s restrictive credit overlays. For example, we have been doing a rent vs. buy analysis for many years and the relative attractiveness of owning has been at historic highs for several years already.” Wow, where to start...

Rent vs. buy analysis, this makes me skeptical. First of all, I am sure they included the cost of maintenance of your home, which is covered in the rent, but can add up to significant sums of money. However, any 30 year prediction about the US is ridiculous if it assumes a constant growth rate or even an entirely positive varying growth rate, for anything not just housing prices. The 2008 crash showed us that prices can go down, way down. Sure that probably won’t happen in this decade, but what about 20 years from now? Second, Most people don’t have the luxury of selling their house when the market is good. They sell when they have to move for work or some other major life event. In other words, you could lose thousands on a house simply for selling it at an inconvenient time of year or during a couple bad economic quarters. Third, renting happens in cool places. Near downtowns, colleges, urban areas, restaurants, and the like. Buying happens in suburbia. A maze of the same mediocrely built developments far enough away from everything you have to drive to everything. 

Next, restrictive credit overlays, I’m not entirely sure what this means, but I think it means the only people left to buy are people with bad credit. Yours truly. I was 30-60 days late on a loan payment once two years ago, that I didn’t even know about. I have upwards of $32k in student loans, and I funded 2010‘s unemployment on credit cards which I am still paying off. With tens of thousands of dollars in debt, you want me to buy a house and put myself probably over $100k in debt? Why? So that I can pay more every month in interest? I’m not arguing with the author at all on this point, I’m totally agreeing, but I’m pointing out that those people with restrictive credit include fully employed engineers with a couple of degrees in the second quintile of household income. Really, I am a risk? In other words, I can’t get a good job without an education, but I can’t get a good education without significant debt, and you want me to buy a house on top of that? I suppose that I am more upset at the importance our culture places on credit score than on your ability to pay. For example, is it better to have a $200k mortgage and credit score of 825 or no credit score and $200k in the bank?

Another thing mentioned earlier in the article is that every half point that the mortgage rate goes down really just encourages people to refinance. Which keeps the banks busy. So they have no incentive to further lower interest rates. If I could lock in a 30 year mortgage at 2.X% or better, that would be more motivation to buy. Under 2% would be better. But before we get there most of my coworkers will refinance twice. There is also the mortgage tax deduction, but the problem is I oppose most tax loop holes, especially loop holes that reward people for additional consumption. So I would hope that in my lifetime we do away with a mortgage tax deduction.

Historic, that is such a loaded word. How long have we been measuring rent versus buy? 1950? Since the post WWII housing boom? Well, yeah then it’s a no brainer that it’s a great time to buy versus rent. But, and this is a big one, we have a very aging population that built houses for large families, and we don’t have the people to fill the rooms. In other words, the 4-5 bedroom 2-3 bathroom 2-3 car garage that typify most of what is out there is totally inappropriate for a huge portion of the population today. I don’t need four bedrooms! Sure I could rent out rooms, but I could also take that money that I would use on a downpayment and pay down my loans or invest in the stock market. What about all the single mothers with one or two kids? Do they need four bedrooms? If we go back in time we see that houses were smaller, and I feel, hope, that we are headed in that direction. I like large houses, but from an energy standpoint they take way too much. Too much to build, too much to heat and cool and light. For example, 90% of the waking activity that takes place in my parents house happens in a 15x20ft area with the kitchen, table, television, couches, and computers. Most of the activity occupies only 15% of the house. Why do we need an additional living room?

What I are trying to say is, if I had tens of thousands of dollars saved, and little or no debt, yeah I would buy a house and maybe rent out some rooms. However, when I have far more in debt than I do in assets simply because I paid for an education and I went through the year of unemployment, you would be mistaken to think I’m going to willfully triple down on debt with the ease that I bought a carbon fiber road bicycle. 

This all gets me fired up because I’m the guy people are looking for to spur the economy through consumption, but I’m doing what the 1% does and focusing on wealth creation and preservation and not consuming. For example, last I heard Bill Gates bought $560 million of John Deere stock when it was close to $60. Assuming he owns 9 million shares at a quarterly dividend of $0.46 per share he’s making over $16 million on the dividend alone per year. I spend close to 2300 hours there a year and make far less than 1% of what he does due to John Deere. He spends almost no time on John Deere and makes more than 100 times what I do from John Deere.  Between loans, rent, food,  insurance, taxes, and everything else I spend most of my paycheck every month. He on the other hand is taxed at 15% on dividends and since I know he has other investments does probably not need any of his John Deere income to buy groceries at Hy-Vee or pay for gas or FICA. In other words, at the end of the year he is left with roughly 85% of that $16 million but I am left with what, maybe 30-40% of the less than 1% that he made. And you want me to buy a house? Why don’t you get Bill to build a few thousand?

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Election 2012: Am I Better Off Now Than Four Years Ago?

The question we are supposed to ask before voting is: am I better off now than I was four years ago? Yes, absolutely. In the fall of 2008 in graduate school, I was having a great time. So great that I will probably return to grad school full time before the decade is out. However, let us use some numbers to compare now to then. I make three times as much money. I think that’s what most people think of when politicians say: ‘are you better off?’ By an income measure I am far and away better. I make more money than the household median and the household mean in the USA. Now by the United States definition of wealthy I am not. I have a negative net worth and I am not very close to a six figure salary. That being said, I make way more money than I need.

My success comes from an interesting place. Due to the Clean Air Nonroad Diesel - Tier 4 Final Rule I have a job. I am employed because manufacturers have to update their machines for new regulations. Without this regulation, I would not have a job. The rule was also enacted in 2004, and is just now getting implemented. In other words, I am better off now than four years ago because of government regulation enacted by Republicans (the House and Senate and President were Republican in 2004). Who would vote for a politician that says, “I will increase regulation and drive up costs for manufacturers which will create high paying jobs for well educated people. These jobs could be done by people in India and China for lower costs, but a few of them might stay in the United States.” Yet, that’s about what happened in 2004. Republicans enacted regulation that drove up costs for corporations, but provided jobs for engineers. 

The road to here has not been smooth. I earned less than half of the poverty amount in 2010. Read any of my 2010 articles. The attitude was not great.

Aside from strict economics am I better off? Yes. I run faster, I have a paid coaching job, I have learned so much in the last four years. It’s really amazing how much in my life has changed in the last four years. I finished my masters degree, I started and failed a company and a patent, I went to Pakistan, I road tripped the US, I laughed, I cried.

If the implication is that I vote for the incumbent (Obama) based on the amount of economic or other success that I have enjoyed over the last four years, then the choice for me is clear. It would be great to triple my salary again. However, the actual reason for my success has to do with a Republican administration increasing regulation. So you can see that what actually happens and what the party line is often differ. So how can I vote for a group who says one thing when history shows they do something else? Chances are I would benefit from more employment if there was a Tier 5 rule.

Next: Do Social Issues Matter?

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Connections, Relationships and Me

We live in the connection economy, Web 2.0 as some call it, the participation of many people in any particular endeavor. This has always been the case. Things have always been done on the trust of a handshake or the reputation of the producer. It is simply that now trust is far more measurable, because instead of communicating verbally, we do so much more communication in writing. Writing has a permanence that verbal communication does not.

This past weekend I went to my aunt and uncle's 40th wedding anniversary. Forty years. It involved nearly five hours of driving for me Sunday and took up just about the whole day. All for a handful of minutes of talking to my relatives. When I put numbers to the time that I spend on such an activity I wonder, what is the purpose? The answer is, life is about relationships. I live for this stuff. Driving hours alone to see the smile on another person's face, it is hard to put a limit on that value. I would have driven farther.

Of course, I say that, but I don't return phone calls, I don't show up when I am supposed to, I don't work on increasing the depths of my relationships. I feel like a failure for the lack of respect that I give to my relationships. In part it is a fleeing from the constraints imposed by people asking for something from me. I like to be critical and important in a project, but when seven different groups want my presence I have to say no to some of them. It is hard to say no. For example, the aim is at least four blog posts per week. That is quite a few, so instead I will say, "no". I'll update it when I update it. If you don't like that, tough.

I learned when my best friend from high school acquired an eating disorder, that it was about control. Many people want control of something, but control is an illusion. For me, my email inbox or voicemail are both the two things that I "control". By not responding to them I can demonstrate that I have some "control" over something. It is so strange to want to have authority of something so much that I rarely read my personal email?

You should know that in person, when you talk to me, I am 100% there. I have learned the last few years that it is important to mentally be where you physically are. Otherwise, what is the point of physically being somewhere?

Monday, September 10, 2012

I Live in Iowa: Week 73

I had quite a nice week. I spent Sunday up in Sheboygan Falls with my parents and sisters. Monday I won a half marathon in Dubuque then went out to breakfast with S and K two friends from college. S and I lived only a hour apart in Wisconsin during college so we saw each other during school breaks in college. In fact one time we were on the same flight, the same row, opposite window seats with no one in between us! I can't make this stuff up. It was great to see them. I say that life is about relationships but I don't walk the talk often enough. Going out to breakfast with a friend was a mild consolation.

At work I engineered stuff. Problems came up, and I fixed them. That's what engineering is, fixing problems. Although sometimes we create the problems to solve. For example, landing a man on the Moon and returning him to Earth would count as a problem.

Coaching went well. Being around the kids is such a source of motivation for me. On any given day some of them will be above average excited, which gets me excited. It is also fun because I love teaching, passing on information to others (hey, I should blog...), and every day there is something to share with someone. We had a race at Luther that went well. I ran the 4 mile with the Men and ran 22:17.9, or so. I hit the wall really hard. After 17 miles of racing in six days my body decided to rebel and I'm having a plantar flare up. Pain is no fun.

I could go into more detail, but I want to write a couple other articles while I have wifi.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Election 2012: Is it Worth Voting for President of the US this Year?

I live and work in a swing state, Iowa. I am a well employed 26 year old male with significant student loans, a failed business based on a failed patent, some very strong faith based values and a serious awareness of a number of "social", environmental and economic issues.

Welcome to a new miniseries I am starting! Election 2012! I will be writing a series of articles, at least three, perhaps one per week until the election. Needless to say I am frustrated with the current political system. And I know I am not the only one.

I watch the movie Inside Job regularly and just when you think the Republicans ruined us, Obama kept them all in office. I was fortunate enough to see Jon Huntsman on CNN Saturday and he mentioned that young people are frustrated with politics, just minutes after my dad and I had been having the same conversation. This topic is such a can of worms that I fear if I start talking about it, I won't stop until I offend someone with the authority to tell Google to shut me down.

In the interest of full disclosure, let me tell you about my political history. (On a tangent, when I made the choice to blog about my life that meant that I would lay it out there. I figured at some point there would be so much information out there about myself that when a few things came up that people did not like or understand, it would for the most part be masked by all of the other things. I fear my "radical" political views are in the scare-people-away category.) In 2004 the first chance I had to vote, I voted for George W. Bush for a second term, and I voted strait Republican. The reason being, I thought that September 11th, 2001 was a big deal and I thought that Bush handled it well. I am also a fan of commitment and consistency and I figured putting a new person in at that point was probably not the best way to deal with Afghanistan and Iraq. In hindsight with regards to Afghanistan and Iraq, I feel Bush did well, despite the weapons of mass destruction debacle. At the moment, some things are better than they were. In 2008, I did not vote. The reasons? I thought Obama had the best economic plans but morally I have convictions based on my Christian faith he does not hold thus I could not vote for him. In 2010, I voted for Russ Feingold and Tom Barrett both Democrats, but aside from that I voted for about half and half Republican and Democrat. I did extensive research because I was unemployed. I am astonished that Russ Feingold was not reelected. He was all over the board, voting on issues as he saw it, not as he was told to vote. Plus, experience in Congress is a big deal. The more you have the more respect you get. (The more stuff you can get done.)

That brings us to 2012. I am just one vote. I can not completely agree with either candidate. What value do I create for myself by voting for something that I do not agree? Will my vote actually change anything? Will any politician out there actually deal with the fiscal cliff? How do you pay off $16 Trillion? Well, let me tell you how, you raise taxes for the most part on high earners, $100K and up but everybody will have to suffer high taxes. Here is the thing, people earning money aren't suffering as much as those unemployed. Those earning six figures certainly aren't suffering much. Tax consumption more, especially energy like gasoline. You cut government spending, including the military, medicare and medicaid and really deal with death panels because healthcare has a cost. Raise the ages of social security so you can't get anything until you are 70 and that would include renegotiating government pensions. Cut out tax loopholes like the mortgage tax rebate because that helps those with larger houses. Alas, that is one take on a sound economic platform.

I am getting ahead of myself. Next episode: Am I Better Off Now than Four Years Ago?

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Subaru Nailed It

Sometimes advertising stands outs and says, "This could be you." While the implication is that you have to buy something to be like that, we all hopefully know that there is a lot more to something than the particular object that facilitates that. Anyway, Subaru described what I am looking for in a relationship.

I know right? That mutual support in endeavors is what I am looking to provide and receive. Of course there are many other factors that are often more important, such as faith, intellect, emotional support, life philosophy, and commitment. However, in 33 seconds Subaru managed to give a nice little summary of a nice Saturday. Only one person that I know, G in Sacramento, has actually seen me run in a marathon. Over five hours of marathoning and only one person I know has seen me. I know what it is like to do stuff like this alone. I still enjoy it, but it's not the same as having a designated driver at the finish line.

Subaru, nice job.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

I Live in Iowa: Week 72

Distilling my week down to a short summary is not always the greatest way to convey what is happening. I mean, I spend more time talking pensions on one run than I do everything I did in an entire weekly summary. The more of these I write and the higher the number gets the more they seem like the last one. Of course every week is different, but sometimes it's hard to tell.

This week at work I worked on a stop shipment. Basically someone screwed up, and it was up to me to figure out how bad the mistake was. Turns out the mistake was about 3% as good as the original design. Which in this instance was not terrible. Anyway, I worked on this project around 35 hours this week and then gave an eight minute presentation Friday afternoon. Then I gave another half hour presentation to a couple of involved people to further explain things. It is always interesting to quantify the time spent preparing and presenting. In other words, high school physics took a number of people more than a hundred years to come up with, and it's just one class. It was a nice experience to work on such a high profile project this week.

My own running went okay. I ran 55 miles and two workouts, on the same day. A 5k tempo in the morning and 2k and 1k intervals in the afternoon. Nothing really special about my running this week but I did run every day.

Coaching went really really well. We had a couple of good workouts and a race. Our first race of the year. The men ran three miles and the women ran two miles. We went 1, 2, 10 in the men's race and had four in the top 10 in the women's race. Unfortunately there were only three teams and the other two were not the fastest competition. So we still have a significant amount of work to do.

Friday after the meet I went home to Sheboygan Falls to visit my parents. I had not been home since May. Saturday was a nice leisurely day including a hike up a tower, walking around the garden and lots of talking. My sister even came home and there was more walking around and talking. Plus we had ribeye steak cooked by my sister, and it was fantastic!

I am of the opinion that spending time with others does not have to be about constantly doing things, but rather about enjoying another's company. That includes talking, but simply being in the presence of another is enough. In other words, I had a great weekend.

One last thing, I might be running a half marathon in Dubuque Monday morning. I'm not in great shape, and I don't want to pay $45 to run 1:17 and get beat by people. I can go out to Heritage Trail and do that. I will probably run, but there is hesitation in my mind that it's a lot of money for ultimately little reward.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Society Explained

I was complimented recently for my website update two months ago. One of the things was that the artwork had some simplicity. That was the goal. I get way too cluttered in life and it is nice to simplify things to get at the core elements. The question was then, what in the world does that green and black thing mean?

I talked about it briefly two years ago, but I didn't go into detail, so most people probably didn't get it. So I decided I would try again.

First of all, there is a lot of white space, that represents the resources available to the world and the world society or biosphere. That is everyone, you, me, and your dog. Those are all of the non-stake holders in the society. That is me relevant to the recent Wisconsin recall election. I'm not in the state anymore.
Society Explained
It is my thought of how societies operate and exist. Take for example, Rome, Greece, the Anasazi, Easter Island, mining boom, bust towns, and the like. This was actually before I read the book Collapse by Jared Diamond. The rectangle of the black and green represents the resources available to the society. In the imaginary example of an oil mining community this represents the oil available. The green represents how the resource can be consumed sustainably. For example, if it takes 40 years before a stand of trees is ready to be harvested then the logger would be wise to never cut more than 1/40th of his property in a given year. Perhaps 1/45th or 1/50th might even be better to account for possible droughts or infestations.

The black represents unsustainable resource consumption. The logger who decides to cut 1/10th of his land a few years in a row. It is taking more out than is replenished.

The theory is that at some point, which we may not know, a society switches from sustainable resource usage to unsustainable resource usage. Ultimately, the line is a fine line. 2,629,103 barrels of oil might be acceptable while 2,629,104 barrels is too much. I don't think oil is a great example because as I understand it, we only have a limited amount and it is created slowly. So we are well into the black.

The point is that societies fail and resource consumption seems to often be a driving factor. For example, La Paz, Arizona. Grew, extracted gold, and disappeared. I feel the model I theorize for resource use and overuse is applicable to most societies. The question then is where do we stand for all of our resources?