Sunday, August 27, 2006

Help wanted

I stole this from over at Mr. Completely.

I'm more of a design guy, but I love it just the same!

Quote of the unspecified temporal interval

Leisure is the mother of phillosophy

-Thomas Hobbes

This might explain why I've done so little writing lately. It seems there's only so much 'mental energy' availible for daily activities.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The airport guessing game

You may have guessed from the lack of posting, but I've been pretty busy at work lately, and that, of course, means traveling and plenty of it.

I was in Ohio when the most recent round of FAA regulations kicked in regarding liquids and gels. Reportedly things were absolutely nuts at the airport after that so the next morning my co-worker and I arrived early to make sure we had plenty of time to check in and get through security. Having arrived so early, it was almost disappointing when things went smoothly. There was no line at the United counter; so check in was a breeze. Better yet, things were so quiet at the security checkpoint that the security people stood around and chatted with me for a few minutes. There was nobody else to check, so I assume they wanted the company.

Skip ahead two days and I was back on the road again, this time taking United's red-eye flight from O'Hare to Dulles. I arrived early (4AM) and scoped out the security situation. As usual, one line was closed until 5AM while the other was overflowing with people. It was bad enough that I waited from 4:30 to 5 at the closed checkpoint. I was 3rd in line there when they opened and I think I came out about the same as if I had waited in the other line.
Dulles of course was its usual mess of construction, shuttle busses, and lines so I figured I should be plenty early again when I came back later that week. I couldn't have been more wrong. I came back to Dulles, and dropped off the rental car in a nearly deserted return area. The United line had seven (yes I said seven!) people in it. This was at Dulles where I normally have a minimum wait of 20 minutes at the check-in counter! Security was just as deserted.

Maybe I'm starting a good streak and I'm getting through the airports without the congestion and hassles. Maybe this last round of restrictions is actually discouraging travel, making it much easier for us business travelers to get around

Wishful thinking.

2 nights ago I came through O'Hare again and it was worse than usual. The check in counters and security lines were full of people and stretching out beyond the areas where they normally 'corral' everyone. The TSA agents were slowly filling their 55 gallon drums with toothpaste, deodorant and other such suspicious products. The concourses are absolutely packed with people and several flights were having trouble taking off because they were missing crew members.

I wonder what my next flight will be like.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Quote of the unspecified temporal interval

I bawled her out one time for not doing more with the talents she had. She replied that having talent doesn't carry with it the obligation that something has to be done with it. This was startling news to me. I thought people were supposed to grab their talents and run as far and fast as they could.

-Kurt Vonnegut on talent and responsibility
from Conversations with Kurt Vonnegut

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Gearhead dreams

Have you ever wanted to get a really up close and personal look at a formula one race car?

Here's a really nifty way to do it!

Check out the rest of the photos here.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Fish story

Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the water!

WILDWOOD, Florida (AP) -- A man riding a personal watercraft was injured after a 4-foot-long sturgeon jumped out of the water and hit him, wildlife officials said.

Blake Nicholas Fessenden, 23, was heading north on the Suwannee River on Sunday when he was hit and fell off the craft, according to a statement from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Fessenden was knocked unconscious.


Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Knowing your stuff

Today I'm posting an article that I read last week about people who try to do their own home repairs and remodeling. Here's an excerpt (for those who really don't want to read the article)

With low interest rates allowing more young adults to buy property in recent years, many inexperienced homeowners are desperate for advice when the furnace goes out, the roof leaks or when a home project that seemed like a no-brainer goes terribly wrong.

"They know they've got to buy real estate; they know it's a good investment. But that doesn't help you when you swing a hammer and hit a pipe in the wall," says Lou Manfredini, a Chicago hardware store owner who gives do-it-yourself advice on local radio and nationally online and on TV. "Unfortunately, homes don't come with an instruction manual."

Contractors say it's not unusual for them to get frantic calls from young do-it-yourselfers who get in over their heads.

I've thought about this, and I really don't believe the situation is necessarily as bad as the article would have us believe. There are people of every generation who do not know how to do basic tasks. Still, this is an interesting possibility to ponder.

I probably wouldn't pay so much attention to this if it weren't for an experience I had during my senior year of college. After my group had constructed what I thought was a fairly simple test stand, my advisor commented to me that he did not think most of our engineering students could have constructed the test stand on their own.

I was dumbfounded. If it's true that many students weren't prepared to build simple devices themselves it would mean that they were expected to design things they had no idea how to make. This isn't just an example of a scientist and a non scientific question* but a case of people not knowing the basic principles of their work.

To be fair, there were many engineers in my class who were capable of both designing and creating impressive devices, so I don't want to portray the school in a negative light. I just think it's worrysome when it's possible to get a degree without having at least a basic set of skills that should be considered vital to what you do.

If you're an engineer, learn how to make what you design. If you're an accountant learn to manage your own finances and keep your math skills sharp. Journalists, learn to understand news, not just report it. And of course, homeonwners learn to take care of your home!

(Now, I'm stepping down from the soapbox.)

*I believe that a scientist looking at nonscientific problems is just as dumb as the next guy.
Richard Feynman

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Quote of the unspecified temporal interval

The things you run across when reading old engineering texts.

Each general class of fan performs in a typical fashion... For the open propeller (the desk fan) there is little to say; we shall say nothing.

-C Harold Berry Flow and Fan 1954

Summer treat

If you've been feeling the heat this summer, you would probably enjoy a nice cold bowl of homemade ice cream. The problem is, who really wants to spend all that time slaving over a hand cranked ice cream machine. Even the motorized units take quite a while to make a batch of ice-cream. So how can you get ice-cream without all that fuss?

Dry Ice!

Here's a simple way to mix up a batch of ice-cream in a hurry. And if you're really desperate, you can get the dry ice for the recipe by emptying a CO2 fire extinguisher into a pillowcase. (To heck with fire safety eh?)

Friday, August 04, 2006

Friday Funny

I think a little math humor might be in order to finish off this week.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Mixed reality - one last time

I had to post just one more of these sets.

...and people think popup ads are a new thing.

I don't care what any coffee mug really looks like, this is what I see first thing in the morning.

OK, that one was predictable, and here's an oldie to finish things off.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

The culture of repair

In years past there have been repairmen for almost everything here in the states. The handyman was once considered common, or so I am told. For most of my life, things seem to have been a bit different. Most home appliances are cheaper to replace than repair. Cars are one of the few things still worth repairing on a regular basis.

That's in the US. Apparently things are a little different elsewhere.

Jan Chipchase from Nokia seems to have done quite a bit of traveling, which has made it possible to put together a really stunning set of pictures showing the places in the world where repair work is commonplace.

Go check out the entire powerpoint file. It's fascinating to say the least.

Just in case

In case you thought you were having a bad day, here's a little something from the 'I'm glad it's not me' file.