This Week's Propulsion

This graph neatly sums up what this week's conundrum has been at work. That is the shaft horsepower vs the altitude at various steady state speeds for a Rolls-Royce R Type 11. The problem with all the equations for thrust and thrust specific fuel consumption is that at the root your turbocharger or your turbojet/turbofan/turboprop all depend on temperature and pressure.
Someone's compiled it all nicely to show the affects at high altitude. Specific thrust depends on both temperature and pressure, and when both of these drop so does your horsepower. Or more importantly, since the main goal of any jet engine or turbocharger (like the turbocharger in your car) is to make use of high air flow for extra power, this can be a problem when at high altitudes that air flow is effectively reduced. As the picture shows, you can make up some of that by increasing your speed and artificially increasing the air flow through your engine, but not by a whole lot.


Too Complicated for Some People

Dear Coworkers,
I know you can not be bothered to make a fresh pot of coffee. You are probably very busy. And even though you took the last cup of coffee, maybe you think it being 9am that nobody else wants any. I understand you're so important you shouldn't have to be the one to make a fresh pot. I mean, this must be somebody else's responsibility, right? Well it's not. Much as we all wish The Company provided us with free coffee they do not. Therefore, it is not the responsibility of the cleaning person or an admin or some woman to make your coffee for you. We all chip in. Kind of like some terrible communist organization. I mean, for now we all contribute to coffee so it can be cheaply available but maybe tomorrow we'll enact Death Panels and decide when we want to kill your grandmother. However, until that time it is every single coffee drinker's responsibility to make a new pot when they take the last cup or see that it is empty.
Maybe I am getting you wrong. Maybe you are not some half-witted, slothful, self-absorbed windbag too busy talking about how busy you are and spending too much time on the phone. Maybe you are overthinking this and have decided to follow this Quality Planning Procedure. If that is the case I am sorry. I thought with no "Quality" or "Program Managers" in this building we would be safe from this kind of lack of initiative. You must be the same person who leaves your half-eaten oatmeal bowls filled with dirty water on the countertop for the rest of us to enjoy. If that is the case there is no hope and I only wish you good luck on your review this year so you can get promoted to somewhere more important where you can find more like your kind.
Sincerely yours,


Job Market Woes

The good news is HR departments are still sending out rejection letters (emails). Because I just got one. The bad news is I applied for an internship with 80% of my degree completed and just shy of five years experience in the field and was rejected because they hired someone whose experience more closely match the position requirements. I'm happy for this person, and maybe they didn't think I was intern-material, which is fine. But it's some helluva job market if people more qualified than me are going after these internships. Nonetheless, I'm pleased to have gotten a letter rather than just not knowing for an eternity. So the company gets a "positiver Punkt" as my German professor would say.


Post-Feminism Reality

I haven't had much to say because it's been one of those weeks. But wanted to link to this report: by the AAUW about Women in Science, Engineering and Technology, "Why So Few?" (Thanks to Historiann for the find). Some of their findings I found more interesting:
  • Women are more likely to succeed in STEM if they are trained to believe in a "Growth Mind-set" ("Intelligence can be developed") vs a "Fixed Mind-set" ("Intelligence is static"). Reminds me of the Malcolm Gladwell assertion that success can be achieved by those who have achieved practice in the field; I think he talks about Masters or Geniuses having 10,000 hours of practice in something to become particularly good at it, but I'd have to dig up the book to remember for certain.
  • Women (or girls rather) exposed to negative stereotypes prior to doing a test (i.e., girls are not good at math) will do more poorly than if they hadn't been told that
  • Women in STEM fields are often viewed as either competent or likeable. But very rarely both. And being liked can sometimes seem to inhibit achieving being perceived as competent.
  • The national percentage of women employed in my soon-to-be profession is 6.7%. My department is running below average at 2.5%. If you are generous and count all women in technical roles out of all technical employees in the department this figure rises to 3.3%.
So most days there's no overt bias crushing me. And obviously I can't read my colleagues minds. But one almost doesn't have to. The Wall Street Journal has this article of a worldwide study on working professionals that states the following:
...that 90% and 85% of men and women, respectively, believe qualified applicants of either gender have the same shot at landing a junior-level position. Yet 81% of men said opportunities to move to middle management are gender neutral, compared with just 52% of women. Similarly, 66% of men said promotions to the executive level are equally attainable by both sexes, versus 30% of women. As for appointments to leadership and governance roles, 69% of men and 31% of women said consideration is granted evenly among the sexes.
The fun part are the comments in response to the article. It's almost as if I can read my colleague's minds.
Is there anyone related to this article who is not a woman? The sponsor, the author and the interviewees are all women. The only competent thought in the whole article is from the sponsor at the end. I love how the entire tone of this article is how it's not the woman's fault.
I think a better interpretation of the results would be that women in general are more rational and better understand the odds. 80% of men think they're capable of succeeding at the executive level, when the odds in reality are closer to 1% are capable of reaching and maintaining that level
People should be promoted based on skill and aggressiveness, which translates into prudent risk taking. Women by nature are more risk adverse than men. For those women who do not fit the norm, there is plenty of opportunity for them to move up. If they don't, its because they are not as hungry for success as their male peers.
Interesting that the studies discuss perceptions of inequality and everyone assumes that means 'biased against women'. It's clearly easier for women to get to college, in fact high school guidance offices are more or less closed to men.
So competency can not come from women in a research article, I am more rational about my lower chances for success which is somehow a good thing, I'm more risk adverse than all the men in the world, and I had an easier time getting into college than my male peers. Yes these are the thoughts floating around in the heads of some of your male colleagues. I bet you didn't know that as a woman or a minority you actually had it easier than them, did you?


Musings on a Driving Lifestyle

Every little kid dreams about driving. Though "my first car..." musings might be limited to those in a middle class lifestyle, driving is certainly a strong part of our culture. And if you live where I live it's a near-necessity. You'd be hard pressed to get and keep a job out here without either your own car or a ride from someone supportive of your employment. The bus does not even stop within two miles of where I work and according to the online trip planner it would take me an hour and forty five minutes to use public transportation to get into work; a 20-30 minute drive.

But I had gotten complacent. I already knew you could count me as one of the people who prefers their commute to any other part of the working day (56% of workers are satisfied with their commute while only 45% are satisfied with their work).

But I had forgotten how much life without a car really sucks. I was driving home today, the joy of final's week, leaving a lot earlier than normal. And I caught the rush of kids walking home from school. I saw the sweaters wrapped around their waists: layering from the cold morning and the cold walk into school. Now sweating in the blistering afternoon heat that already feels like summer. That dry weather where before you can sweat on your face it's burned off. Your backpack straps digging into your shoulders. No escape from the heat. And I realized how lucky I am to have the semi-functional office A/C during the day and then the 60+ mph jaunt home with the shade of my car and the wind providing a necessary break from the outside heat. I remember those days of walking in the heat and I do not miss them.


How to turn a good design into a really bad one

  • Invite the guy with a completely unrelated specialty to make redlines and design change suggestions
  • Get some really senior people in on your project, bonus points if they are micromanagers
  • Get the guy who is retired on the job to head the effort
  • Let the stakeholders on the old product have an opportunity to sabotage your design
  • Spend most of your project budget early on with expensive prototype material and conference travel
  • Let someone with an MBA within 100 ft of your design
  • Double your meetings and conference calls when the ones you're already holding don't seem to be achieving progress
  • When it is in its final stages but behind schedule start assigning a bunch of new people to it without any prep
  • Get your engineers to start keeping more lists and spreadsheets to "track progress"
  • Make sure all these lists, spreadsheets and objectives are emailed out to the now oversized project group two times a day
  • Change out your project lead several times if things aren't going exactly as you planned
  • When the vendor fails to deliver as promised continue to fund them but complain to your team that the vendor running behind is their fault
  • Lower your standards for a successful design every few months
  • Start pulling back your support of the project so if it fails you have some plausible deniability


Today in Asshattery

-Some lowlife manager is lying about women's sex lives where I work. As in telling other people that certain women got their jobs only by sleeping with certain high ranking guys. And that they also slept with a few other guys here. This would be pretty low to "spread" around even if it were true, but alas it is not. What HR would surely dismiss as "shop talk" is actually considered ok, acceptable and true when management leads the behavior.
-I got denied any kind of promotion in a painful way where said person took it personally that I did not enjoy being the lowest paid person in the department and being held to higher standards for advancement than half a dozen people whom I could list by name. Said person chewed me out and implied I'm lucky to have a job right now. Must be all those above average performance reviews I've been getting were just to throw me off.
-You can take away my pride, but you can't take away my LOLz.


Day 2 with Tinkerbell: A Day in the Life

Step One: start with limited documentation from the guy who moved across the country and left terrible notes on his project. Fiddle with his prototype for hours and hours.

Step Two: Consult a senior engineer to make sure your analysis is correct and that your prototype actually works the way you think it does.

Step Three: Complete your drawings and present them with your powerpoint (the new LeafPoint! (TM)) to the stakeholders for their approval.

If successful, you are rewarded for vital project resources.

"Aw golly, for me?"


First Day on the Job

So if you hadn't heard, the new Tinkerbelle resembles her name; she's a tinkerer. I had the opportunity to see the movie recently and enjoyed it as well as thinking it had some good parallels to the real world. So here it is, your first day on the job as an Engineer.

Meet your new coworkers. Not quiet like all the other fairies in the forest.

Good luck finding a smock that fits you.

Ignore the gaping look your coworkers give you whether you are or are not dressing in a feminine way. Or whether you wear a burka.

And meet Fairy Mary. Don't try to get any woman-to-woman bonding time with her, she's so hardened up and ruthless from her years with the boys she doesn't know how to sympathize. The crap she had to deal with in her heyday makes your day look like Candyland. She doesn't even want to identify as a woman because that brings crashing down all the things she's had to endure as a result. Thankfully she loves her job.