Saturday, November 07, 2009

Engineer(s) Gone Wild?

One Went "Postal" In Orlando...

Anyone but me wonder what the heck was/is going on down in Orlando this week?

First I hear that some guy has run into an office building in downtown and shot the place up, killing one person and wounding five more.

Then I hear that the guy was shooting in the offices of an engineering firm and was an engineer himself.

I know that for various product related reasons that some people might want to kill engineers--like I for a while wanted to maim the guys that designed the 1984 Pontiac Fiero when it spent most of its first six months of my ownership in the Dealer's shop rather than in my Garage.

But still...


I thought that usually if an engineer wanted to kill you, their weapon of choice would be to BORE YOU TO DEATH.

You know--talking about interesting things like fluid flow and heat transfer coefficients, soil bearing capacity, electrical impedance, or the effect of long chain polymer chemistry on the tensil strength of ultra high density polyethylene (UHDPE for short.)

Although I can talk about all of that stuff, I generally don't break it out in casual conversation in a bar or at Thanksgiving dinner...BUT...

If I really wanted to hurt you I would generally assault you through your ears and mind (and possibly your eyes if you had to look at me while I was talking.)

On second thought, I guess that some people could think that engineers routinely kill people when airliners fall out of the sky or bridges collapse or their new white Toyota Prias squashes like a grape when it comes in contact with the front bumper of my old Chevy Suburban at 60 MPH.

Problem is, those events are hardly ever attributed to an actual engineering design flaw...they're usually owner and/or operator induced failures.

For instance, most "uncontrolled contact with terrain events" a.k.a. "air disasters" are initially caused by inexperienced pilots flying into bad weather or running a perfectly good airplane out of gas.

And military and commercial aircraft, while closely scrutinized, usually fail because of the enormous numbers of hours that they're in the air and issues relating to maintenance mistakes or the shear parts fatigue of their demanding daily operations.

And you certainly can't blame the engineers when they are technically unable to build a box with an electric motor and wheels that gets 50 MPG and can also withstand a potential assault by a 6,000 pound Suburban or a 80,000 tractor trailer rig when they try to occupy the same piece of asphalt.

All of these theoretical incidents involve owners and operators assuming what they believe to be an acceptable amount of calculated RISK based on the initial cost of the equipment and the operating and maintenance cost of the systems (plane, train, car, bridge, whatever) after purchase.

Bridges that have lasted 40 years don't fall down because of an engineering design flaw, they generally fail because the local, state, and federal governments take the gas taxes from the bridge users at the gas pump and spend the "highway" money in other areas like child welfare programs or "stimulus packages" rather than inspecting and repairing and possibly REPLACING the bridge before it drops a couple of mini-vans full of children into the Ohio River.

And modern airliners don't fly safely for 10 years and then have a wing or engine tear off while your tray table and seat back are in the upright and locked position. It's not the guy with the calculator and pocket protector's inadequacy.

Things end up breaking off these days as a result of everyone wanting to fly from Atlanta to Detroit for $199 a seat--a price less that the cost of the gasoline I'd burn in my Suburban-and the Airlines having to cut costs to provide that kind of ticket pricing and still stay solvent.

As a result of the flying public wanting cheap air fair, the airlines are forced to cut quality of service, charge fees for everything except using the restroom, and fly older and older planes by doing things like major rebuilds--called "life cycle extension programs."

Then they and their low fair paying passengers end up together in uncharted performance territory in a process of delaying or avoiding the purchase of new zillion dollar airplanes.

And what is the one additional thing that the safety of bridges and airplanes and automobile have in common?

G O V E R N M E N T.

We have the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration), the NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board), and the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) all spending BILLIONS if not TRILLIONS of taxpayer dollars each year writing laws and rules and legislating things like that your car has to automatically lock the doors and turn on the headlights, yet about 44,000 people die each year in auto accidents.

And all of the states have passed seat belt laws, but don't a bunch of people still die while not wearing a seat belt? They drive at the risk of paying a "fine"--actually more practically a tax--for exercising their free choice and thereby assuming a level of risk they are personally accountable for.

...taking a big breath here...

Now back to my original point.

I bet $20 bucks that within the MONTH that some stupid eco friendly sniveling, booger eating, tree hugging liberal progressive politician is going to call for congressional hearings on gun control and trying to bring back the "Brady Bill" and the so called "Assault Weapons Ban."

They just can't help themselves, and with the events of the past week their "never waste an disaster" mentality will drive them over the edge again.

I repeat over and over and over that we don't need new laws limiting LAW ABIDING citizens rights of gun ownership and further, their rights to carry a gun.

IT'S ALREADY AGAINST THE LAW TO WALK UP AND SHOOT SOMEONE, and if more trained and licensed private citizens were allowed to legally carry guns into churches and theaters and on college campuses, most of the events making the news over the past ten or twenty years would have been limited else prevented outright.

Further, it was already ILLEGAL--an outright gun ban was in place-- on of all places the military base in Texas, yet that asshole simply drove on base with not one but two guns and shot a bunch of un-armed soldiers and civilians.

I somehow find it amazing that the military has taken a policy of locking almost every one of their guns and ammo up and relying on the MP's and private security forces to maintain their security functions.

I bet if the guy had walked into a US military base in 1944 or 1952, pulled out a gun and fired a shot, that twenty different people would have drawn their own weapons and blown his miserable head off.

Instead, in 2009 some guy walks into a government mandated "gun free zone" and fires OVER A HUNDRED FREAKING ROUNDS before someone manages to draw a bead on him and drop him (I wish they had killed the bastard so we won't have to spend ten million on a trial.)

I see it like this...most of these crazy spineless morons like the Texas and Florida (and Virginia Tech and Columbine) shooters would never walk into a Saloon in California in 1875 and start shooting if they knew that everyone else in the room had one if not two guns on their person, would they?

If they did they would get what they deserved and the only "due process" remaining when the smoke cleared would be to pick up the pieces and mop the floor.

Anybody agree with me here?



Well, finally, in closing (and in jest,) don't be surprised if, as a result of the Orlando shootings, some kook legislator will try to pass a new law designed to require Engineers to register in a database like "sexual predators." (I think maybe they call it the State PE Licensing Board...Roy)

As a result they'll also probably want to make us stay at least a hundred yards away from libraries and technical bookstores.

And then if someone opens a computer store in my neighborhood, being an engineer I'd likely be forced to sell my house and move at least a mile away.

These same kinds of laws and procedures and mandates are in effect today at government mandate in the name of "protecting women and children", and you see the outcome...children are still disappearing and dieing at an alarming rate.

Government can't control anyone but law abiding citizens, and all I'm saying here Ladies and Gentlemen is that you just watch what happens, and try to think logically and intelligently rather than reacting emotionally.

In my considered Redneck opinion, "There aught to be a law..." isn't always true, and I don't want to give up any more of my Constitutional and God given freedoms to our hysterical, power grabbing government.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Ultimate Home Workshop

I'm Now So Organized...I Can't Find Anything...

Sorry about the light blogging recently, but I have a good excuse...I'm happy to report that the last dust settled in my Basement yesterday afternoon.

OK...maybe the next to last dust.

That would be because like most men's home workshops...they're always a work in progress.

That said, I say that I'm finished with mine for now because:

A. I've run out of money

B. I'm tired of building the shop and I believe that it's time to actually get some WORK done in my "workshop."

In the past four weeks I've taken every single tool I own, and almost every single nut and bolt and nail--or at least the boxes containing same--and dusted them off and cleaned things out and sorted like things in with like things to the point that when everything went back on the shelves and bunkers and bins this morning I find myself wandering around in my own basement like an Alzheimer's patient in a Nuclear Plant (or maybe a shopping mall.)

For your enjoyment, here's a photo looking at the entry wall of the 20'x12' shop area. All of the doors in these pictures are recycled Luan doors I pulled out of the main house when I replaced them with painted 6 panel slabs last year.

The bi fold doors cover a computer workstation with keyboard shelf and room for a file cabinet and my technical books. Of course there's also the obligatory TV and radio...if I could get a recliner in the room Pat and Missy the Turbo Pup would never see me again except at dinner I'm afraid.

Here's a look at the old workbench that was in that spot in the basement when we bought the house. It's build out of giant salvage lumber from the original home owner's farm and weighs about 500# I guess. Like that red door there covering my paint cans and WD-40?

Here's the wall opposite the entry, again showing our old closet doors covering a whole wall of storage shelves that came with the house...

Here's the same wall with the doors open showing where all the tools and supplies I've carefully put away and then forgotten which storage tub they reside in...

And finally, here's the new electronics workbench, made out of the old master bathroom door and covered with a sheet of 3/4" plywood. If you look closely you'll notice that the legs fold up and the whole thing is hinged to the wall (the entire wall is made of old doors except about 6" in one corner) so it can fold down out of the way if I ever decide to build a 16' sail boat or an experimental airplane in my old age...

There's still new 50 Amp 220 Volt and 20 Amp 110 Volt electrical circuits to install for future equipment like a small welding machine and larger capacity air compressor, but in the mean time I'm settling for the rewired and extended 1963 electrical circuits augmented with a new #6 grounding wire/rod circuit in an effort to reduce the chances of frying either myself or the sensitive equipment that will take form on the new bench.

Any way...back to my original point, I need to build something...and to that end I've had UPS dropping off multiple boxes almost every day this week, and I did another trip today to the Home Depot electrical isle for things like wire ties and wire labels and other wiring management stuff.

There's still a wire and tool trip to Radio Shack and Granger and possibly Northern Tool, and in the mean time I'm still waiting on the touch screen PLC (Programmable Logic Controller) to arrive from Indianapolis.

Speaking of Indianapolis, coincidentally Pat and Missy the Turbo Pup and I will be up there next week for a three day training class on the PLC company's unique programming software. It's free if you'll pay your own per diem and we couldn't pass up the opportunity.

That, and we hadn't made a road trip in about a month and I didn't want to violate my personal and now company travel policies--one adventure every thirty days of at LEAST eight hours in round trip duration.

I'm so excited about this chance to advance skills I haven't used since back in the early 1980's, and things have come so far technically since then (i.e. SIMPLER TO UNDERSTAND THAN EGYPTIAN HIEROGLYPHICS) that I hope it's true that almost anyone with programming experience can become a PLC expert in short order.

I guess that it's time to do some paper work and a little news surfing...and why don't you join me in praying for the dead and wounded and their families out at Ft. Hood--yet additional victims of another wild eyed believer in that ever peaceful religion of Islam.

(&%$#@!ing towel heads...)

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Stinky Cheese And Web Page Printing

Things I Keep Forgetting To Admit Or Complain About...

Tonight I'm feeling lazy and distracted as seems to be usual recently, but while eating some leftovers as a snack and printing some vendor data sheets on laser measurement systems (try not to swoon) I remembered a couple of things I've thought about writing about but never can remember when I get the Blogger dashboard open and my fingers on the keyboard.

First of all, anyone but me out there like "stinky cheese??"

(Wipe the foot and genitalia images out of your mind and try to stay with me here...I'm trying to make a point.)

Seriously, today in my household we hardly ever or never buy "American Cheese" slices any more or generic orange blocks of Velveeta "cheese food products" or anything else without the word "Swiss" or "Gouda" or "Sharp" on the label.

Things get stranger and more expensive every day it seems.

Just show me the words:

Cow Feta?

Horse Feta?

Sheep Feta?

Deep Veined Blue Cheese?

Imported Organic Crumbly Goat Cheese?

(and possibly make me have to take out a loan to buy a couple of pounds of the stuff?)


Let's face it...I like my stinky cheese these days, and the older I get the stronger I like it.

Maybe it's because I'm trying to have an excuse for my breath and armpits and butt smelling like they do (OK TMI), or it's just that possibly I'm hoping that the cheese covers the odors I emit after a couple of days wandering around the Turbo Pup compound in the same pair of socks.

Any way, what brought this to mind was that last night we thawed out a couple of medium sized Beef tenderloins--about an inch and a half thick each--and I sliced a big pocket into the inside of each of them and then seared everything on each side in a big skillet on the stove, then finished them to about medium doneness in the oven.

Then I danced around opening their insides up and I stuffed those suckers with a portion of nice strong crumbled blue cheese.

After adding some bacon and sauteed mushrooms on top and some smashed red potatoes containing a quarter pound of butter and more blue cheese on the side, Pat and Missy the Turbo Pup and I dined, and then I collapsed back into the bed on top of the omni-present heating pad to recover from the day's basement shop construction efforts.

Then about 1 AM I awakened and decided to work on some more paperwork and do some more work on the Internet...bringing me to my final bitching moment this morning...


Does anyone but me think that all website designers also own stock in the office paper companies?



I think that they do.

Otherwise, why is it that almost every time you print out a web page you get one or two or three pages, followed by that infuriating LAST page that has nothing but possibly a disclaimer and a header/footer?


I've got near an entire REAM of paper in my recycle/reuse bin with only one or two lines of text on them...all MEANINGLESS AND USELESS to the task at hand when I was printing.

Am I nuts?

Am I petty?

Am I just Paranoid?


In the words of PopEye..."I am what I am and that's all that I am..."

Regards Y'all...

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Waking The Dead

I Should Have Thought Of These Alarm Clocks...

A New Load Of Lumber

And A Sore Back...

Yet another truck showed up in my driveway yesterday afternoon.

It was my fault, because I stopped by and ordered it from a local building supply (not Lowe's or Home Depot) after making the obligatory bi-weekly trip to Staples and Home Depot.

I don't know what I'm thinking sometimes when the 75 pound slabs of 3/4 inch thick plywood show up in my carport.

How do you get a 4 foot by 8 foot sheet of wood into your basement past a kitchen and dining room table, around a corner through a door, down the stairs, around another 90 degree turn into it's future resting place?

My only solution is to cut it up into the slabs and strips in the sizes it will ultimately reside in, then make three or four trips with Pat and Missy the Turbo Pup hanging onto the other end rather than falling down the stairway on my head with the full sized slab of laminated wood on top of me.

In addition to A/B grade plywood, there was also five sheets of 1/4 pegboard intended to line the open spaces in the new wall framework and cover part of the freshly painted concrete wall.

Bad news is my back and right shoulder is giving me fits so I've been relegated to slumping at my desk and hanging out in the bed reclining on the heating pad for part of the past 48 hours.

Add to that organic pain the neurological costs of the spasms sent through my spine when I read the newspaper and watch the TV news and I hope you understand why I'm currently feeling every single minute of my past 50 years in my forehead and butt.

Time to go clean my guns and hone my blades I guess...

Sunday, November 01, 2009

They Changed My Clock

And Winter Came Sneaking Back (and Obscure facts no one but me cares about)...

Spring forward...Fall back.

Today is possibly my least favorite day in every year because I'm forced to give up an hour of late afternoon daylight in return for early morning daylight...something those that know me also know is of little value to me personally most of the time.

Thinking about it, isn't it amazing that we allow the GOVERNMENT to control something as simple as our Clocks and the time displayed thereon?

I know that it sounds like a good idea in some ways, but seriously...

Today even the counting and progression of time has slowly been politicized over the past 140 or so years since Sir Sandford Flemming, a Canadian Railway Planner and Engineer came up with the ideal of dividing the planet into 24 "Meridian" time zones running North/South around the globe.

This National Geographic article gives even more information which I previously didn't know but had seen the results of previously...that being that the individual STATE governments have more control over the time on your VCR (you know, that thing in your living or bedroom continuously flashing 12:00 all the time) than the federal government actually has.

The Feds only control the the actual time zones, not the recognition of daylight savings time.

As I understand it, through the years the boundaries of time zones and recognition of "Daylight Savings Time" have been manipulated for personal and political reasons...generally in the name of money and/or "commerce."

For instance, there are two good examples I personally know about here in the south--one involving a large textile company and the second a Paper Mill which has gone out of business and been torn down.

If you look at this map:

you'd think that the division between the central and eastern time zone runs exactly down the border between Alabama and Georgia---picking up the Chattahoochee River around West Point Georgia and continuing across the Florida Panhandle on the river basin to the Gulf of Mexico.

If that were the case, you'd be WRONG.

I can't find a detailed map but I know from driving up and down I-85 about a million times since the late 1970's that the now defunct company West Point Pepperell Mills was able to get the eastern time zone extended down US 29 (and now Interstate 85) in Eastern Alabama in order to have all of their plants between West Point, Georgia and Lanette, Alabama on the same clock each day.

Makes sense I guess that all of the employees working on both sides of the river were working on the same clock time, but it took an act of congress to pass a law saying what time was on individual citizens clocks on the nightstands and wrist watches.

Then down in Gulf County, Florida things are even more convoluted...based on the whims of the Old Saint Joe Paper called simply "St. Joe" and existing solely as a real estate development and timber company. Today they are either the first or second largest land owner in the entire state of Florida depending on whose statistics you're quoting.

Here's the map showing how the Eastern Time Zone again marches off to the west off the basin of what has become at this point the Apalachicola River (the merger of the Chattahoochee and Flint Rivers into lake Seminole.

(From 12 Mile Circle)

The neat thing was that when I spent a year living in nearby Mexico Beach, Florida on New Years we were able to go east a couple of miles to Beacon Hill, celebrate at midnight, then come back across the time zone line and do it all again an hour later.

Simple things for simple minds I guess, but I take my entertainment where I can find it these days.

Time to go work on a proposal now...y'all try to get your internal clocks adjusted and get some sleep.