I have seen the future, and it is unmanned

There seems to be a fair amount of buzz on unmanned military drones. Many soldiers love them and swear by them. Many US citizens couple them with their dislike of the war and cite the many civilian casualties associated with them. Whatever your opinion, they are mean fighting machines. Capable of long stakeouts, detailed video, and precise strikes. Perhaps that's why the civilian casualties are so alarming. We expect perfection from our robots even as the people giving the order to fire are only human.
Unmanned helicopters have been an interesting technology to watch. Some manufacturers have taken existing helicopters and retrofitted them to be remotely pilotable. Others have done the development from the ground up. Now NAVAIR has issued a request for proposals for cargo carrying unmanned helicopters and the Marines have done the same.
If anyone wondered what was going to happen to all these drones when the Afghanistan war eventually slows down I think we have our answer. We can expect to see them carrying things and doing reconaissance missions. Drones have been able to survey the aftermath of the Haitian earthquake, sweep over the fire-prone areas out west looking for new outbreaks, and even fly over the gulf mapping the spread of the oil spill. Now those same drones might be able to drop much needed supplies to people in remote areas of disaster zones where weather or prep time for mobilization might have prevented a human pilot from flying. It is a hopeful thing I think.


Everyone's in School

My community college class is packed. Apparently all sections are full and my undesirable evening class is still getting ok attendance a month or so into the semester. Summer classes were cut by 50% due to budget restrictions but I think the classes now are the normal load. Just that there are suddenly a lot more students. And not older, unemployed students (though there are a few of those) but young, fresh out of high school students.
The US Secretary of Transportation posted recently on his blog about his experiences at a community college as well as a future White House Summit on community college. From my personal experience, more students are utilizing community college programs, students from all walks of life. I know an aerospace engineer who after graduating started at his local college in the A&P program (airframe and powerplant) usually meant for technicians. You know when engineers are pursuing this they think it's important in this economy. And it could be cutbacks at other colleges have meant more students flowing into community college, some that planned to to save money or some for whom it might have been a second choice.
My university classes appear to be at the same capacity, despite the fact that tuition is measurably higher this year and I think there are a few more students than normal trying to cram in their final year right along with me. One of my professors used the word interdisciplinary about ten times, so I know what message is being pushed down from the top. For engineers who really ought to be thinking about specializing in the future of their careers I'm not sure how this will play out in the class. I wonder though if it isn't part of the overall grant/research effort and for the university to cover their asses on funding they lost from the government. Hard to say whether the ploy will work, or what affect all this will continue to have on the students.


You and the captain make it happen

Pilot Captain John Cox answers reader questions about commercial aviation: including, what happens when both your jet engines lose power? Why burn excess fuel via drag so the plane can be under "max landing weight"?
And what's this, GM going to get in on the US diesel car market? They'll probably bring over one of the diesel cars they're already selling in the European market. Seems like there's going to be a lot more diesel in our future.


Sorry Mario

I try to be a strong, independent person. I aim to be completely self reliant whenever possible. True I depend on others for friendship and love but I do what I can to feed, clothe, provide for myself, lift things, move things, fix things, learn things whenever possible. Sometimes though there is a part of me that just aches for a Fairy Godmother to come down from the fluorescent lighting and just "fix" things or make things better. Make me a new carriage out of a pumpkin. Cast an enchantment on my superiors so they will all adore me and throw money and titles and appreciation for my hard work in my direction. Sell my house for me. Make my next class not impossibly difficult.
My rational brain knows none of this will ever happen. That I will have to be personally responsible for every step along the path, every stair along the climb. But my irrational mind keeps up some latent hope that my Stuart Smalley is just beyond the bend, waiting to give me that pep talk. Because I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and doggone it people like me.


Lay of the land

Work is a game. I'm not one of those people happy to keep plugging along and doing good work, wanting only a solid job and decent assignments. I was born to play the corporate games, or at least it seems second nature once I understood it was all a game. How competent/hardworking you are is so less important than how you are perceived to be.
You and your peers are all being evaluated on a constant basis. You may be on the same team with one another, but in a way you are competing with each other. You're sizing each other up, trying to decide which amongst you you want to work with, who you like or don't like, and your superiors are doing the same. Rarely does an engineer stay at the bottom rung for his/her whole career. Some may be satisfied to do so, but those that are not pushed into the next level of the hierarchy or some specialist position have already been passed by. And there are a few of these people around, having to keep tinkering away with the same things, happy to be an oldtimer but still on the front lines. Overall though, the kinds of people who move into management have excessive ambition and so they do not tolerate those who lack in it.
Each level, young engineers, mid-career engineers, etc is evaluated as management continues to hand out new responsibilities. Actual moving up can be slow since baby boomers and old Xers dominate management and nobody seems ready to retire fast or pass on their level of expertise. Still, new levels can be carved out inbetween old ones and new departments created.
So it's been with totally selfish interest that I keep an eye on my fellow infantrymen. I've seen NiceGuy be given opportunities almost solely on his university and commonalities with The Boss. I've seen CompetentMinority overlooked for new opportunities, supposedly poorly handled a project at some point in the past and now not trusted again by superiors. I wonder how much is true or how much is perception, notably that he is different. There are some midcareer engineers as well, but it's clear I'm not being evaluated against them. They already have fixed opportunities and will either succeed or not succeed based on their movements against each other. So I've scouted NiceGuy as the one I need to be wary of. Ever move he makes I need to be sure I am making a stronger move.
I was recently given an opportunity for a new project. I knew it would be high profile and if I did well would really be a gamechanger for me. However, it was assigned to me in backhanded way. Confused I followed up, assuming that this was because The Powers that Be wanted to evaluate me first, didn't want me asking for more money or anything like that. Wanted to sneak the responsibility to me without letting me know there would be some authority and some opportunity as well. But my game was totally off. Apparently I was the last choice for this. The Powers that Be couldn't agree amongst themselves on who would actually be good at this role, and so last minute it was thrown at me. Nearly everyone else's name had been thrown into the hat first, only they couldn't agree. Still an opportunity, but not what I was expecting.
And The Boss ranted on about NiceGuy and how he can't finish any of his projects or get anything done. What does that mean? When your boss gives you an apparently honest and negative assessment of someone else, what's the angle? I thought I'd feel relieved, to know I was still a step ahead of this guy for now. Or at least confident that I knew what was important to The Boss. But I don't know whether he was being truly honest, or using NiceGuy as an example to what he needed from me. Not showing confidence in my work, but warning me off of someone else's bad example. I imagine it's like when an interviewee speaks negatively about a former employer. The interviewer is probably wondering if he/she is trying to flatter them, but really worrying whether this negative talk is a part of the pattern. Whether they'll be the target next time. Am I being brought up as a negative or even a positive example to others? Either way makes me uneasy.
So my view of the board has changed a little, but I'm no more confident than I was before. I'm only trying to make my pawn a queen: because a queen can move in any direction.


Someone had to write that

Writing a procedure to pressure test a bunch of tubes has got to be the most boring thing ever. Connect tank to adapter. Connect adapter to tube. Turn tank on until gauge reads 40 psi. Turn tank off. Wait five minutes. Write down the number. Subtract number from 40 psi. Write down delta.
You can not put rinse and repeat in a technical document.
I lied. I think reading this might be the most boring thing ever.


Engineering Barbie

An EE/CE PhD (enough acronyms?) helped design the new barbie computer engineer look. I'll admit I'm a little disappointed. What with the laptop, smart phone, trendy t-shirt, square glasses, and leggings she might as well be a blogger or just an avid facebook user/tweeter. Then again "computer engineer" is a pretty broad category. Is she in industry? A PhD? A code monkey? A network engineer? A college professor? Thankfully the PhD they consulted got rid of Barbie's lab coat:
"That's not just typical attire," said Dr. Fitzgerald, who considers T-shirt and jeans to be standard wardrobe for professionals in her field.
Though an early idea from Mattel included the white lab coat, Dr. Fitzgerald and others discouraged it, she said, because it's more representative of scientists who work in wet labs surrounded by chemicals and potential spills.

Again I'm not sure where t-shirt and jeans is "typical" since it's hard to make generalizations about such a broad job title. Clearly a CE is probably not working with fluids all the time, but then again I see many a sparky (I mean EE) wandering around in the required static protection smocks when they're working with electrical equipment. And who wears leggings to work? I guess Barbie does. Maybe if you're a college professor that kind of crap flies, but hopefully Barbie doesn't have an office job.
I really would have rather seen Barbie a bona fide sparky (yeah yeah electrical engineer). Maybe you could take apart her smart phone or maybe she'd have a pink oscilloscope or something. Or better yet, a mechanical engineer. Then Barbie's pink corvette could come with an open-able hood and maybe a small plastic engine with a tiny hand crank so kids can see how a simplified engine works. A girl can dream, right?

Watch your language

Dear dude who just apologized after cursing. I heard you say, "Oh shit" and then saw you look pointedly at me with a belated "Oh sorry."
Guess what. I have heard curse words before. I have strung together wholly unique combinations of words that would make a sailor blush (come to think of it, I don't know any profane sailors, so sorry sailors). I am not a "little lady" that you need watch what you say in front of. If a 3rd grader has heard that kind of language, so have I. You don't need to apologize. We all get upset. Like when you click the wrong window and I see you've been browsing women's underwear. That's an acceptable time to curse if you feel like it. I get it. You curse, your grandmother curses, we all curse. It lets off steam in the working world. So stop looking at me afterwards and apologizing. I am not some frail object that has managed to grow up past the playground, through college and now into your office and gotten by without hearing whatever word you want to exclaim.
Because it really makes me angry. It makes me want to curse. I want to ask you, "What the fuck are you apologizing for, you think I haven't ever fucking heard that word before asshole?" But I know that would squash your ideals of womanhood and feminity. And clearly I have not passed the bar to being "one of the guys" as even in your moments of frustration you can never forget that I am a woman, and never shrink from applying your own perceptions to what and who you think I am. But I'm not worried about that today. We all curse. Your dainty little wife curses, maybe when you're not around so as not to upset your sensibilities. So please stop fucking apologizing.


Words of Wisdom

More from my book, Games Mother Never Taught You. There's just too much good stuff in this book I don't think I'll be able to parse it out in coherent posts. So here's a hodge podge of it thrown together (and a shoe, how 'bout that!)

On education, take advantage of company paid education subsidies: "I saved the company money by education myself, they'll appreciate that." Sure they will if you are a secretary, a library assistant, or a keyhole puncher; indeed, they will demand that you bring rudimentary skills which they can easier restructure than teach from scratch...You didn't forget you're in the army, did you? The lieutenant doesn't further decide what education he needs to become a general; the general determines what supplementary knowledge will benefit future generals...The coach, not the player, dictates the form and duration of the training.

On asking for money. Always ask fora raise when things are in your favor. Move fast when your star is ascendant because the whole situation could change tomorrow. Act: when results come in on a successful business project; when your workload is high and you are producing visibly more than teammates; whenever you are asked to take over for an absent or vacant position and the boss needs you and your output...You can anticipate your boss's countermove which is almost automatic, it's used so often: "Let's see how things go for the rest of the year and we'll talk about it again; I've certainly got you in mind." "In mind" isn't money in your pocket; these delaying tactics and procrastinations are classic bluffs from the mangement player. The expert gamester doesn't fall for hte bluff but suggests that now is much better than later-- who knows what later will bring?

The two of you are batting a badminton birdie back and forth. In other words, a boss's countermove is not a rejection; it's part of the game, to see who outplays whom.

Something I have to keep in mind as I always hear delaying tactics and think it's a rejection. Now I know it's just part of the game, that my boss is trying to quiet me, his new squeaky wheel. But the quiet, patient people will always get the short end of the stick. They will reward only those of us who whine, speak up for ourselves, and stand up for what we deserve.


Take risks

So I tried something new with my hair today. I attempted to "style" it. I have to say I'm walking around feeling like Sonic the Hedgehog. And not in a cool, speedy way. I think it looks more flattering on him than on me.

The more things change

"From the minute I got there, they told me 'You will succeed, you will be a leader,' the Yale slogan-- you could taste it in the air." Two years after graduation she was still hunting fruitlessly for a nonsecretarial job.

No it's not another commentary on this recession's luckless graduates. It's a quote from one of the first women to be admitted to Yale in 1970. It's from the book I've been reading, Games Mother Never Taught You. The author, Betty Lehan Harragan, is using that quote to warn women against accepting the idea that the lack of a degree, a credential, is the only thing barring them from equal success with their male colleagues. Besides a few outdated things lacking mentions of email or calling out corporate switchboards, the nearly 40 year old book is still surprisingly accurate on the pressures of sexism in the workplace. Or more importantly, what women are not, as members of society, taught and therefore how this lack of knowledge prevents them from competing with The Boys at work.

Here's more on how eerily accurate Harragan's suggestions are to current economic realities.

A doctorate has become very nearly minimal to obtain a college teaching post; the BA's and MA's are scholarly rejects or incompletes as far as academic employers are concerned. Business employers have no alterante use for this academic overlow, so neither undergraduate nor postgraduate degrees in liberal arts categories lead to indstury jobs...Competitive companies can't afford to take chances with such noncommercial thinkers, and the proof is strewn over the landscape in the form of unemployed PhD's.

What this boils down to is the reverse of the statement that a college degree is a passport to a well-paying job. For women, a college degree in any of the stereotyped female teaching or teaching preparotry fields is equivalent to no degree. The effort adds up to at least four and probably seven years of wasted time and money so fars upgraded admission into the business world is concerned. Allwomen liberal arts graduates eventually come face to face with the cruel trick that was played on them but, significantly, I have never met one who recalls being told beforehand that her nonspecific college degree will have no marketable value.

Except now it's men and women picking up on this economic reality. I suspect up until recently the well connected middle class white male could still get by on his network alone. But now this is so common the NYTimes doesn't even have to come up with new ideas any more, just publish another whiney diatribe on the woes of wealthy young hipsters turning down $40,000 a year jobs because they thought their BA in Philosophy would get them farther. Of course these articles overlook the countless people for whom this fairlyand middle class lifestyle is a goal not a current reality. But it's intriguing that forty years ago Harragan saw women being fed this myth that all they needed was some education and they could be treated equally and she called it out for what it is. However, she doesn't speak too highly of engineering degrees either warning women can get stuck as specialists rather than move up at work. And here's another bit of advice that could have been written this year;

It is au courant these days to advise women to get undergraduate degrees in special fields where men predominate, such as engineering, chemistry, mathematics, and sciences. The advice is well intentioned and based on a logical principle: that jobs will be awaiting women who have credentials in occupations that were formerly closed but must now legally seek qualified females...Hidden on the underside of the BS advisory coin is a traditional pitfall for unwary women-- the downgrading of once respected professional credentials when women acquire them. I have no wish to see a young crop of women engineers and scientists replacing non-degreed men as drafters or engineering and science technicians rather than full-fledged professionals.

It is interesting that when a woman cooks, it is a hobby. But when a man cooks he is a Chef. Or when a woman sews she is a seamstress, but a man is a tailor. We're very good at separating what a woman might be able to do equally as good as a man as "woman's work" vs a well paying professional occupation. I'm sure some of my colleagues in the sciences have seen this happen to them. Achieve the same educational achievement and there is an effort to push them into technician or support roles. Once women start to achieve any sort of parity in any great number it seems that profession loses some of its societal recognition and certainly its pay and respect. Men who have natural aptitudes in these areas, and being from a generation that like Harragan's was told a degree was a passport to a good job, can now feel conned that they too can't get a decent job or decent pay because teaching or nursing is no longer something we as a society reward. And I've certainly seen my superiors attempt to put me into lower level positions despite having more education and experience than my male colleagues. Their being male automatically qualified them for a profession but my hard work and education readies me only for the non-degreed positions they are leaving behind. Harragan continues to have an uncanny description of how the workplace, and education, still works almost four decades later.


That design is nuts!

First go read this very funny rant on how car companies overdesign their cars, or: no more clever gizmos please. I'm sympathetic as having seen some of the new cars out are clever enough to tell you your instaneous gas mileage, how many miles you can continue driving on your tank, but then they put the cup holder directly behind the shift stick. I guess those of us who still drive a manual aren't taken into account because how am I supposed to feed my coffee habit when I'd be knocking it over with my elbow every time I change gears. Or I could hold it, you know, if it didn't take two hands to drive a stick.

Then watch this clever (or not?) new development for engines, a nutating disk from AFRL. The disk appears to be able to perform both the compression and ignition cycles of a typical engine piston in a single stroke. They talk up the goal of this as being to save weight for UAVs. But whenever they talk about something being application specific for UAVs, it's probably because it lacks in other arenas. Perhaps it's not as hearty, not as powerful, or maybe not as reliable. Neat looking concept though.


Always have a backup plan

For how technologically advanced we have become, we still pay the price when it comes to extracting natural resources from the earth. As seen in the recent gulf oil spill the ways in which we get our energy are still incredibly risky to the individuals involved.

It still surprises me though to hear that something like 4,000 people die every year in China due to mining-related fatalities and something between 20 and 100 every year in the US. I'm encouraged to hear it looks like the miners in Chile have a lot going for them. According to this story there's not only a plan in place to get the Chilean miners out but a Plan B and Plan C.

Plan A is to widen the hole that their food and other essential items are being dropped through. Plan B is a hole to get them out sideways and Plan C would be using a different, supposedly more powerful, drill in a different location.

This is how successful people, companies, and engineers prove themselves. Always have a backup plan for your backup plan. Try the thing you think will work but no matter how sure you are it will work but be ready to explore other solutions. You never know what hardware will fail last minute or what product will be unavailable. You never know what obstacles you may run into or what luck you may have on what you thought was an unlikely solution. In this case good planning will save lives.


Snails for Science

I just love this story from the BBC, grandmother/gardener wins amateur scientist contest by proving that snails have a homing instinct.

Some scientists had felt snails might be too simple for a proper homing instinct. The contest from BBC Radio 4 was for amateurs to develop their own scientific experiment and carry out. Some of the runners up were rather impressive as well. From an American perspective, it's almost disappointing we don't have something this clever. The fact that some possibly obscure program on the BBC invites this level of scientific creativity shows how the UK values science education. I keep hoping something will inspire this kind of scientific interest here. You'd think with the recession, and numerous articles extolling the need for more scientists and engineers, that there would be a public push or such things. But for now at least we have learned a little more about snails, and maybe will learn some more as this experiment inspires further study.


Combatting Inequality Part II

I posted before about strategies the average employee could undertake to help women, minorities, and even the underrepresented male who didn't go to the right school to get a little farther. Today I'll post the more obvious strategies we'd all like to see from people in a position of power.
I'm a lead/supervisor/manager
  • Hire more minorities. Duh, right? If you are in a position to hire people, make sure you get a really broad pool of applicants. If HR won't give it to you, do the recruiting yourself. Ask former colleagues for resumes, specifically request the recruiters target minority schools or minority group events at the local college campuses. If it works anything like where I'm at, if you bring good people in more supervisors than just you will interview these people. Help get them in the door.
  • Examine your biases. A lot of managers go by "gut instinct" to hire people. And there's nothing inherently wrong with that. But when you feel that in a bad way about somebody, make sure you can tie it in to something concrete. Just because someone is a different "color" or "gender" does not mean they won't fit in. Make sure you're not excluding them because they are different from the current staff.
  • Back up good minority candidates. Maybe you aren't in a position to directly hire people. If interviews are happening and there was a good candidate that is a minority, don't be afraid to say something nice about them. Don't assume everyone else will see their good qualities automatically. If they say things like "Well I'm just not sure that person would be a good fit here" make them explain themselves. Make them come up with something concrete rather than resorting to feelings or covering up biases they may not realize they have with words like "company culture".
  • Don't advertise. As soon as somebody thinks you're making an effort to bring in women/minorities they will shut you down faster than you can cover your tracks. They'll assume you're some affirmative action whackaloon, will ignore you, sideline you, and any semblance of authority you had to help good people will be gone.
  • Be a good mentor. No it's not your responsibility to mentor people who are like you, nor is it your obligation. But don't you wish you had had more mentors in your life? If you see a good person that could be successful if they knew how to better navigate the territory step in and try to guide them. They may not always listen to you. They may not want your advice and may think they don't need it, that the world is fair and perfect now. You don't have to tell them they'll have it tougher because they are different from the boss, but you can be there to give them tips on how to act or what to do.
  • Be somebody's sponsor. Sponsorship is more powerful than mentorship. Advocate for this person when they are not there. Give them good assignments. Work to get them promoted if they deserve it. You may not think you have any authority but often if you are at a mid-level position just your word or opinion can go a long way. I'm not suggesting to waste it on every single minority employee that comes along but if you feel there is someone you trust and respect who's not getting a fair shake behind the scenes while the boss is thinking only of his protoge, don't be afraid to throw your mentee's name out there.
  • Don't tolerate sexism/racism. When your subordinates make cracks let them know that will not be tolerated. You may not have the authority to get people fired over things, but don't allow even seemingly innocuous comments to slip by. You have the opportunity to control your team's environment to some extent. Use it to make sure that environment is one that is welcoming to all colors and creeds.
I've probably missed some good stuff. So if anyone's reading this and has some ideas they'd like to add, either on my previous post for things us ordinary citizens can do or things you wish your boss would do, pipe up!


Combatting Inequality

So I was reading MsPhD the other day and thinking about what's not often talked about: methods to improve equality for men, women and minorities. I've written on here often about women in the workplace or feminism or women in science and engineering. Usually pointing out new studies or commenting on articles or providing my own flavored anecdotal evidence. But I thought I'd try a different strategy today, what can be done.
I am peon, have no power or authority, what can I possibly do?
  • Mention your minority colleagues favorably. When someone is discussing a shortage of labor and trying to figure out how to get a project done, don't be afraid to talk positively about somebody who you know does a good job and doesn't always get a fair shake. Attribute positive qualities to them that they have, but are counterinuitive to how their minority is generally perceived, "oh Elizabeth? She's really an excellent leader and has great technical skills in the x-program. Nobody knows that hardware like she does."
  • Make people think. When you hear them bring up TheUsualSuspect for a job (you know, the guy who went to the same college as the boss) ask why he's being suggested and again point out some minority candidate you know isn't being favorably mentioned. You'll probably accomplish nothing, but those positive words will build with whatever good work that person is doing and that can't hurt.
  • Work with your minority colleagues. Your bosses will often try to keep them out of the loop on projects. They may task you with something and suggest you work with TheUsualSuspect. Ask if you can work with so-and-so instead, stating their strengths. Also just keeping people in the loop on things can give them an advantage. If they know what projects are coming up, or more about the political climate, they'll have an easier time navigating the game. And maybe they'll give you information you don't have. Knowledge is power.
  • Don't be afraid to be your stereotype. Of course we all know women like shoes and Asians are good at math. That doesn't mean you can't show an interest in the things that you enjoy, even if it matches up with a stereotype. It's not your responsibility to be a counter example to everything.
  • Talk up your strengths. Most women and minorities are not good self promoters. Don't be afraid to stress the things you are good at, especially if you know those things matter to your boss. By merely saying "yes I have experience in that software, I'm pretty comfortable with it" you'll plant an idea in people's heads that you are good at something. You likely don't have to prove it on the spot. This is The Good Ol' Boys have been doing things for years. Take their cue. Don't be modest. Sell yourself to everybody, your boss, your colleagues, and people you don't even know. If you're an expert in something tell them. This isn't being arrogant if it's something you're very good at and you're not claiming to be perfect in everything.
  • Don't dwell on failures. When bad stuff happens, take responsibility in a quick, non-specific way. Don't say "yeah I let that thing blow up because I didn't know the hardware very well and should have better known what I was doing." Say "I reconigze the mistakes that were made when it blew up and I feel like I've learned from that to not only prevent future incidents but also lessons that will help us develop this project better." TheUsualSuspect doesn't whine and cry every time he screws up. Don't deny, but frame it in a way that takes blame off you and moves quickly to what you and the team will do next time. You'll look like a problem solver with experience rather than a failure.
  • Don't complain. Bosses don't like complainers. Especially don't mention if you think you've been treated fairly based on your gender or minority status or perception. You will become a pariah. But even when TheUsualSuspect complains he is fairly ignored as well. You can still mention problems, but make sure not to frame it in a personal way.
  • Shame your colleagues, tease your boss. If your colleagues say something hateful, stay calm. Ask them what they really meant by something. If you can, ask loudly. People don't like to appear prejudiced in front of others. If they use a racially offensive saying and try to cover that it's just a saying, or they don't mean it that way be patient and ask them why they would say it if they don't mean it that way. Or what kind of impression someone just listening would get. Don't get mean, but feel free to use the public atmosphere to shame them from repeating or to at least think twice about what they said. If it's your boss, don't shame him. Pretend he was making a joke, "I'm sure you didn't mean that, as that's a pretty racist sentiment, let's talk about these budget numbers" or "you know that's not true, what is this, Nazi Germany? I'm sure you're joking so let's get back to this schedule." Don't let him get away with it, but let him know you have his back and will not shame him or report him. If you call him out he'll turn against you, but staying quiet isn't always comfortable for those of us with a conscience.
  • Refer minority candidates. I've heard supervisors complain they never hired a woman because they never saw a resume from a woman. Your referral might mean nothing to get the candidate an interview, or even in the door. But just exposing the interviewers to a more diverse pool can't hurt. Then they can't claim they've never had applicants of x-background before.
  • Be kind to superstars who are underappreciated. In the workplace you often end up helping new hires or new team members. They don't know the ropes and maybe you do, you know who in HR they can call and who in IT will get them the program they need. Minority candidates are often further behind from people who are used to having a network in place. Not every minority candidate is a competent one, but this is where if you see these underappreciated people you have the opportunity to reach out to them.
So that's it for your line workers, you infantry in the front. I'll post again if you're lucky enough to be in a more powerful position.

See how the other half lives

I did something unusual the other day, I went into a salon to get my hair worked on. Usually I treat my stylists like my mechanic. I figure out exactly what I want replaced, go in somewhere that will do it cheap, and leave. This time was a new place. I live in the burbs in an area that maybe 20-30 years ago could have been considered rural. So despite being not far from The Big City, there is a very backwoods kind of feel to certain things around here.
I am used to hanging out with professional men in the more expensive burbs in town, or the occasional career-minded woman. At university are droves of mostly privileged young men and woman. Even at the local community college the working class I see is still very driven and ambitious. It's only the children of privilege who waffle on whether they will major in criminal justice or get an associate's in business. When coworkers ask me if I plan to have children it's easy to say "No, that's not for me." When someone asks me where I work it's a matter of course, everyone I interact with is either ambitious enough to be career and/or education focused or privileged enough that that much is expected of them at some point.
I had to check my privilege at the door of the salon, it was a whole new world for me. Mothers anywhere from 20 years old to 40, with three or four little kids at home and at least one of them a toddler. They discussed the barbie videos and cooed over every infant or small child somebody brought in the door. When my (probably younger than me) stylist asked if I had any kids I just said simply "not yet." I avoided questions about the future, pretending I didn't have it figured out. I learned with two kids at home she was saving up to get married. Whenever her and her spouse to be could afford it. When asked where she said "around here" so probably nowhere ritzy. A family member of another one of the stylists was next to me and talking about their respective kids and families. About a family friend who had four kids at home, whom they criticized for "getting rid of" who knows how many. Only a quick mention of the abortion they were likely against, yet critical of a woman having so many babies she clearly couldn't take care of. They were worried about her going back to jail and the woman wondering whether she could take one of the kids who was close in age and went to the same school as one of her own children. But her husband had warned her they "didn't have room" for another kid at home. Likely could not afford to feed and care for, not so much a lack of space. At one point the soon to be husband of my stylist came in and talked to her briefly before heading back to work. Both of them working on a Saturday, if he was on a break from work he probably wasn't in a very lucrative career as there isn't much out there.
It's not that I'm not used to running into working class people, but working class families not so much. People for whom being a hairstylist or a handyman is probably a good enough way to keep on living. That having child #3 was a joy to be looked forward to more than anything else in their life. They were all connected on Facebook and gossipped about what people had posted on there or what real life friends had cut off contact. I'm not on facebook so I couldn't really relate. There was no mention of the internet culture I am a part of, no mention of videos or news articles. No interest in "a study I read about the other day" or anything beyond the lives of their families. Even work just something that made having a family possible. A satisfied, mostly happy non-ambitious lifestyle.


Bioengineering an artificial kidney

Somewhere upwards of 50,000 people a year die of kidney failure. And they're not always some aging patient waiting in a nursing home. They're your friend, your neighbor, your relative.
Per DailyTech Dr. Shuvo Roy from UCSF is working on developing an artificial kidney that can be implanted in the body. Despite the fact that we all have a spare kidney, most of us a spare functional kidney we don't need, many people who suffer from kidney failure do not get the organs they need. They spend many years undergoing often daily dialysis treatments and when that is no longer effective enough to balance the body's water, minerals and waste patients must resort to hemodialysis as a last resort. More than fifty years ago, patients with renal failure who were unable to get transplants would die. Today there are options, but many patients still die while on dialysis because the treatments are no longer as effective as an actual working organ.
For now, Dr. Roy's artificial kidney is so large as to fill a whole room. He hopes to make it small enough that it can be implanted as well as biocompatible so patients do not suffer the effects of the body's rejection of non-compatible kidneys. Even if he is not successful in all of his endeavors it would still be a huge accomplishment to have what might basically become a portable kidney, even if external. For now dialysis patients must either have expensive equipment in their homes and the process can take from a few hours to 10 hours at a time. Or the patient must take frequent trips to a dialysis center. Only 35% of patients on dialysis survive more than five years, which is the average waiting time for a kidney. Here's to hoping Dr. Roy is successful.


Predicting the future

I agree with plenty of other people that higher education has been incredibly overpriced. It's gone up way faster than inflation, most graduates go into the workplace with way too much debt, and the financial worth of a degree rarely is equal to its cost. But I don't know whether it's clear what will be the outcome. However, that doesn't stop people from making predictions the higher education bubble will burst.
I talked about some guy who calculated the actual cost/benefit before and determined it was better to invest the money in stocks or in starting a business rather than going to college. I thought a lot his assumptions to get there were pretty flawed and I think the same can be said for people trying to compare college to the housing market. If you can't afford your mortgage, you lose your house. If you can't afford your student loans, they don't take your degree away from you. Yes it's very bad and yes you might spend the rest of your natural life making payments on an education loan that never paid off for you. Maybe you got a degree in art history and then ended up being an insurance salesman in a rocky job market. However, they can't take your diploma from you and they can't suck that knowledge you gained back out of your head.
The author of the latest bubble theory, Michael Barone, makes some valid points. He links to this College Dropout Factories from the Washington Monthly about colleges whose costs are skyrocketing but whose graduation rates are plummeting. So people aren't even graduating and are still saddled with extreme debt. This is not dissimilar to the PBS Frontline show College Inc. that covered for-profit institutions who lure in working adults with cheap, subsidized federal loans without necessarily arming them with the skills to succeed and graduate from those pricey "career" programs.
Barone argues whether students shouldn't attend affordable community colleges at home the first two years then transfer to a four year institution. I agree with that and have tried to convince family to at least consider that option. But then I am reminded of this article in the NYTimes about helicopter parents dropping their students off for college. How the "going away" experience is not only a big deal to kids eager to go into the world but to parents who either treasured their first experience of independence or who did not get the same opportunities and want better and more for their children. Even when older generations chime in on the helicopter parent debate they like to cite their own examples of moving away to college and not knowing how to do laundry and learning from their peers or surviving off of ramen for several years at a time. The "college experience" is so crucial to parents who want better for their kids but also adults who criticize how children are overly protected these days. Staying at home is either too easy for kids or too lame of an experience.
I suspect the federal government will eventually have to cut back on the free flow of federally subsidized student loans. Once that happens the landscape of higher education will change. But whether that will mean more private loans, more aid to students who need it, a stagnation of college costs while continuing to cut back on services, or a complete crash is difficult to predict. Any opinions? How did the "college experience" change you and what do you recommend to your family and friends? Is college worth it these days?


That old familiar smell

Those of us in applied sciences sometimes get to be elbow deep in some interesting things. And some of them just reek all over the place. There are certain smells you just can't wash off without going through every product in your shower. It's going to be in your hair, in your skin, the lady at your favorite Mexican food restaurant is going to smell it on you and your spouse is going to raise their eyebrow at you when they give you your welcome home hug.
So what I smell like fuel or fluids? Shouldn't there be pride in these smells? I'm ready to see eau de antifreeze on my drug store shelves.


Not just OPEC

Turns out coffee manufacturers can stockpile coffee to manipulate the price just as easily as oil producing oligarchs. I'm stockpiling coffee too, but it's more of a for the zombie apocalypse along with my water, canned food and ammunition. Neo-cons may be worrying about the government, but who will have the last laugh when the zombies eat them and I have all the coffee, huh?


More on Men/Women and the pay gap...

So the WSJ had some redonkulous article I'm not even going to link to about "young women earn more than men". Of course that wasn't similarly qualified men. Slate kicked some ass with this piece in response, citing how women with the same major, same grades, and same experience earn 5% less than their equally qualified male counterparts. That gap grows over time, and substantially after having children.
Of course the comments are a bunch of men complaining about the disparity in more women getting college degrees. Asking what this means for them, why feminists aren't concerned with the low numbers of men graduating from college. Then they go on to tell women that the pay gap is their fault, that by choosing to take time off for kids or by choosing to not act aggressively and get labelled a bitch they are responsible for the lower wages. I guess when men don't go to college, it's society's fault. But when women stay home to raise kids or don't ask for a raise it's a personal decision. Just wanted to clear that up for ya'll.

What else is biofuel good for?

Seems like everyone is getting in on the energy from algae phenomenon. Which is great, because I know some people with a pool who know how easy that stuff grows and are ready for all you venture capitalists to make them millionaires.
Given how "hot" this whole "green jobs" and sustainability BS is, it's no surprise there's now algae in my "healthy" drinks (enough quotes for you?). Not just any algae, but blue green algae. I guess like yellow dye that differentiates it from any other kinds of ridiculous colors of algae I don't want in my drink. Along with odorless garlic. Which is good, because I want my breath to smell like algae, ok? Not garlic.
Algae is the new biofuel of the future. So much so that bio-orgs like myself (borgs?) can consume it and be trendy in both a health way and a saving the environment way.


Get a job hippie

I often read about people doing things to stand out in this job market. Maybe printing your resume on special paper, maybe standing outside with a sandwich board. If you're in marketing or something like that then having a "personal brand" might be very important to you. I don't usually hear about engineers thinking too much outside the box.
Somebody who interviewed here used a "portfolio". It had photos and brief descriptions of a number of projects they had worked on. It even started with photos of the legos they had build as a kid (and I don't mean lego mindstorms). Then photos of the college engineering organization they supposedly headed and the project they had worked on. After that photos of projects they had done at their full time workplaces. They were about 8-10 years out of school at this point. One person who interviewed them thought it was helpful (and not cheesey) because it painted a picture of what that person had done. I didn't hear from anyone else.
What does everyone else think? Portfolio for an engineer, useful or not? Any other crazy tactics going on now?

Cruze's New Oil Pump: Brilliant or Imbecilic?

Chevrolet has been trying to roll out the Chevy Volt; supposed MPG master of the road. Meanwhile it's sneaking out another contender in the fuel efficienct category: the Chevrolet Cruze. Gets great gas mileage (purported 40 mpg highway), looks cute (sort of like a civic), and so far looks nice and classy on the inside. Seems like Chevy is finally learning from Ford you need to have nice interiors to entice people. But more on that later.
Chevrolet is bragging about their new variable displacement oil pump. Most auto oil pumps use engine rpm to drive them and feed necessary oil to all the moving metal-on-metal parts in your engine. This could potentially mean you'd end up, at times, with the engine driving your oil pump higher than it needs to be for moments when you don't need to feed a lot of oil into your car. The idea with this pump is the oil pressure pushes the housing against a spring that when the oil pressure tries to go to a higher pressure than that of the spring it can't, reduces the displacement, and therefore reduces the oil pressure.
This isn't too much different from a standard oil pump where oil pressure increases with engine rpm. But in this case, load also has an affect thereby reducing oil efficiency even further. And by spending less of the engine power driving the pump, slight increase in mpg. However, to get this tradeoff is greater complexity. True, it's still hydraulically driven, but now requires nine spring-loaded vanes instead of just bypassing the excess oil like your typical oil pump.
Then again, it's not entirely new either. VW and Audi have been running similar designs for a while now, granted not on your "average" car like a Chevy Cruze. So, will it be a smart decision or a stupid one?


Crowdsourcing R&D

The Feds are trying a new tactic in getting solutions to some of their problems: letting the public take a shot at it. On challenge.gov they'll pose problems with cash prizes and see what people can do to come up with the solutions. You can see some of what it will look like by visiting ChallengePost and seeing what private industry has done so far. Or, if you are a federal employee you can take a sneak peek right now.
Some of what's being talked about is First Lady Michelle Obama asking for apps and games to inspire kids to get healthy as part of her Let's (make children feel guilty for being fat again) Move campaign. Okay, being a little snarky. But when you keep cutting back recess and physical education, keep adding more homework, less active kids is what you're going to get. I doubt an iPhone app is going to change that. Though I know Mrs. Obama doesn't have dictatorial control over P.E. schedules in schools so I'll try to be nice.
Anyways, should be interesting to see what problems the government proposes (do you suppose it'll be 85% software requests?) and what solutions people contribute, or what kind of reaction there is from the public, if any. I'm kind of afraid it'll become like so many "internships" I see being offered for software engineers that really just want a code monkey at a cut rate. But it could be kind of neat as well. Anyways, I'm looking forward to the official launch. Any ideas what kinds of problems would be good to pose from the government to the public? Or where the public's strong points lay in providing solutions?


Work is Sport

I'm continuing to read Betty Lehan Harragan's Games Mother Never Taught You. Chapter 2 that I talked about before outlined how the corporate structure has inherited the military structure. That chain of command is everything. Many women often don't get this, going above and beyond for a supervisor several levels above him. Harragan's argument is the workplace is mostly a collection of rules. Men know these rules because they've been raised with them, taught to socialize that way, and it is expected of them. Women might be conned into doing things that don't benefit their career because they don't know the rules.

Chapter 3 is how another largely male dominated activity has a strong effect on the workplace: sports. When Harragan wrote her book, Title IX was a mere five years old. And the girls that played those sports wouldn't filter into the workplace until years later. But I still think a lot of the sports analogies are important. As she discusses, women are taught to play sports differently than men. Here are some of her main points with some commentary from me.
  • "Rules are friends". Ever game has rules, and that's part of the challenge. That's part of what makes a good competition. Also, skirting as close as possible to the edge of these rules is often to the player's advantage.
  • "Players have a position." I thought this was the most crucial. Every player has a position. Your ability to get recognized by the coach is based off your ability to play your position to the best of your abilities. Running around and playing other positions doesn't help your team and so it's not going to help you in the end.
  • "Male camaraderie is fun." Boys are taught from an early age how to socialize with other boys through sports. They are not taught how to socialize with women, and women (even in sports) are taught only to work on a team with other women.
  • "You can't win 'em all." Winning an unbalanced game is no major accomplishment, but you can't lose them all either.
  • "Take defeat in stride." Losses happen. In team sports you lose games you have to move on quickly or it will hurt the team. Failure does not mean you are a failure, it means the team didn't perform well and you then have something to work on and perfect for the next game.
  • "Nobody's perfect." In male team sports it's common to point out each other's weaknesses and mock one another. Thrown in there are compliments but you can't expect you're going to get only compliments. If you screw up your teammates will point it out. But they'll also move on.
  • "Competition is the prize." Everything boys do is set up for competition. They divide into teams and compete against each other. Every skill they work on is a skill they want to test in some future competition. Honing skills without being able to compete with them is pointless.
So it's not that women aren't exposed to sports, and certainly women know work is a competition, but I know I've tried to play as many positions as possible all over the field thinking that will earn me something. Or taken defeat if not personally a little too seriously. So even decades later I think I'm still getting mileage out of this book. I'll probably post again as I stumble upon more parts that interest me.


You won't like me when I'm angry

That's right I'm about to bring out the b-word. You know the one. It's the one male colleagues call me when I'm not being sympathetic enough to their little problems that day. When I say "I'm sorry I'm really busy and have to work on this" or "yeah that's a shame but there's nothing I can say or do that will help." They know the guys will tell them to grow a pair and suck it up. But they expect me to nod my head, tell them they're totally victimized, and be their mommy/sister/grandmother substitute for the day.

I read Evil HR Lady a lot. People write to her about corporate conundrums and she answers them as best she can. I'm not a fan of HR as most people have reduced its effectiveness to nil. However, her advice is usually so in keeping with what I see in the working world it's like it could have sprang out of my head the way Athena sprang out of Zeus's skull (and you thought a c-section was rough). Until today. She writes over on BNET, women who complain about sexism are just pansy whiners and have only themselves to blame. Okay, I'm paraphrasing a little (ok a lot). She's saying, effectively, women are responsible for their own choices and that often women choose family over career and can't complain when they're discriminated against at work. When discussing one conference's failure to get more women speakers EHRL says this:

It’s not that they are discriminating against women. It’s that women are choosing not to enter into the field in the first place, and those that do choose to enter in are so busy they can’t speak at every conference.

EHRL criticizes women who complain about being discriminated against in the workplace, saying most of them made their own choices and are responsible for the outcomes. Well I haven't met any of these women. You know who complains where I work? Old white guys. They like to talk loudly about how hard they have it. How easy it is to be a woman or a minority these days. How everything out there is to help minorities or women. There's women's centers, minority organization, where's their organization for poor, discriminated against middle class christian white men? I mean what with the war on christmas and all, you just really got to feel for these guys. Positions just get handed to women and minorities, we don't even have to work for it.

The real life me is a lot less chatty and honest than I am here. The real life me nods sympathetically and doesn't point out there's still a gender wage gap. That after a mere THREE YEARS of working experience, women engineers make less than male engineers. I can't say that crap out loud. You even hint that you have it a little tough as a minority or a woman at my work they treat like you some monster that's tearing apart life as they know it.
When minorities complain where I work they do it in careful whispers. I've talked about it before. And I dare not say anything. When someone higher up told me to organize and take minutes because "girls are good at that" I couldn't say anything. Because he is a superior. And correcting a superior gets you fired, male or female. When another higher up rejected a candidate for a promotion because "she is pregant and we are about to lose her soon" I could only watch helplessly. She came back to work after the baby, and will never know she wasn't considered due to her pregnancy. I waited over a year to get into a technical role, was told I needed to "be patient" and not get "so uppity" that they had to make sure I was "qualified" first. Only to watch several other men get transferred into the same position shortly after with way less education, and significantly less experience. Perhaps qualified was a euphemism for penis. However, if I ever verbalized a complaint I would be gone faster than you can say "at will state".

I know the choices we make contribute to how we are treated at work. Like when I wear the magnets on my boobs that perpetually attract my boss's eyeballs. Definitely my choice sorry. Or maybe my choice I have boobs at all. Perhaps I should lop them off if I don't want people staring at them. Or when my boss just started rearranging his balls in front of me I made the choice not to say out loud "what the f!#^& are you doing? did you really just grab your balls right in front of me? since when did that become ok office ettiquette?"

As for EHRL thinking it a trivial matter that we worry about women speaking at conferences I ask her to think again. The engineers I work with are very visual people. And when managers make a decision about whether to hire you, promote you, etc they do it almost instantaneously. They have an immediate judgment as to who you are, how good you are, and what you're all about. When they're thinking about whether to hire you or promote you they flash back to "what makes a good engineer" and inevitably start thinking about good engineers they have known. If all those good engineers are white dudes they might think you as a woman or as a minority male are not "qualified." They'll think that white guy they just interviewed "has what it takes" without even realizing it's because he matches up with all their previous experience. They're not actively trying to discriminate, probably don't even realize they're doing it. I don't wring my hands and call it illegal. Sometimes I write about it here, to blow off some steam and try to remind myself I'm not alone in this world.

Then some woman comes along and says "i'm not a feminist" or "i think women are just whining". And I think she's either completely ignorant, or is trying to fit in with the boys club. She knows men don't like "feminists" and pictures them with hairy legs and bad attitudes. Not people who stand up for a woman's right to get paid equally or that no woman deserves to be raped no matter how she's dressed or how she acts. That women should be treated as equal human citizens not second class objects. By that definition many men could probably count themselves as feminists. But a few crazy people have convinced society as a whole that "women's rights" are completely bunk and that a good woman criticizes her own kind for wanting representation.

If the women working in a tech discipline is 20% and the number of women speaking at a conference for that industry is 0% that's discrimination. It doesn't mean miraculously all the women are busy. It means the guys in charge are going by Ye Olde System of who you know and picking guys they worked with, or their friends, etc. Putting a few competent women up is a good way of proving to the naysayers that women are just as competent as men. Because if you keep excluding them from public speaking or from management a certain sector of society will continue to believe women are just not good at those things and not bother to hire or promote the women who do want to work in those industries.I've heard that bullshit before. The "we just can't get enough women" line. It's about as accurate as employers, in this economy, still not hiring because they "aren't getting qualified applicants." EHRL has never worked in a male dominated industry. Sure, maybe she worked for a company that was male dominated, but if she's in HR she never experienced the full barbarity that is being in a technical role amongst the dudes. Industry average for my field is 10%. In my classes there are about 20% females. And yet in my department, there is less than one percent female engineers. I'm sure that's not discrimination. Probably women whining. I'm sure the women in my classes are choosing to go do something else. Like raise their baby daddy's baby instead of working in an industry like mine.

Summer is the season of reading

Well it's finally summer at the Hause von Tech. Besides a packed community college course I have a few weeks off from the usual grind of academic responsibilities. Thanks to a recommendation from a blog friend I purchased a used copy of Games Mother Never Taught You by Betty Lehan Harragan.
It's a little dated, the original coming out in 1977. So some of it is a little old; like there being a ratio of two men for every woman in the workplace. But other than that you'd think it's still the same world as more than three decades ago. I'm just getting into it, but here are some of the highlights I found interesting. From Chapter 2:
Harragan goes on to tell you that the working world has inherited the military structure. That even if you are a female who has been exposed to this structure, you were very rarely a part of the structure. That the kind of behaviors taught to men to become soldiers is universal to men while women are taught to be passive spectators to this.
Nothing clarifies the mysteries of male-female job relationships quite as much as the initial realization that you are in the army now, and have been for all your working life.

Harragan uses this description of military rank to teach you something very important about the corporate world. There is a hierarchy, and every manager, supervisor, boss, etc has their place within it. The chain of command is central to how everything operates. Going above your boss's head is against the rules. And the rules in a military structure hierarchy are essential. Harragan tells you (without telling you per say) not to waste your time pleasing your boss's boss, or some other high ranking official, when it's your boss who has life or death control over your job. She also talks about how roles like secretarial/administrative roles don't even have a place in the hierarchy. And how that's always worked against women whose position that hierarchy is unclear.

Anyways, it's a very interesting book so far and I'm sure I'll be posting again with more tidbits.


Design Fridays: Meet George Jetson's...Coffee Machine

Is that a coffee machine or Skynet's new Terminator model?

Kees Van der Westen has been designing and handbuilding coffee machines since the '80s. Okay it's an espresso machine, not a coffee machine. Or maybe a brand new racing engine. I, for one, welcome our new machine overloads. Especially when they spit out delicious, caffeinated espresso.

Of course, this one is only the newest model. And despite its resemblance to the torture device Darth Vader uses on Princess Leia I still think it has a certain machine charm to it. So I leave you also with one of his earlier designs that looks like something out of the Jetsons. Or more appropriately, something with some 1950s charm, like an old hot rod.


Mars ain't the kind of place to raise your kids

Neither is the US apparently if you want to live in a nation where science and technology is a priority. Private industry, and what could be argued as congressional pork, are soldiering on however. For once, for the benefit of our society. ATK and NASA tested what was formerly the Ares rocket program in Utah on Tuesday.
It's a pretty impressive sight. You know that thrill you get when you are very high up and look over the edge? That's the same thrill my heart feels when I see this rocket. Be still my heart. The Space Shuttle is outdated and won't last us much longer. We still need to get people and things into orbit. The current Obama plan is to trash the Space Shuttle and trash this rocket as well. I guess we'll just use the Russian Soyuz rocket because why the hell bother with space.
Well I'll tell you why the hell bother. Stop by the NASA site, or anywhere really, and you'll find a list of all the things not possible if we hadn't developed them for space travel: scratch resistant lenses, solar power, fire resistant material, breast cancer detection and biopsy enabling chip, human tissue stimulation. More than just the material your bed's made out of, but the technology that powers your laptop, your smartphone, your GPS, and maybe your grandfather's pacemaker. The people who went into science and engineering and developed these consumer devices (as well as industrial applications) may have done so because as little kids they felt inspired by the Apollo program. If there's something we as a nation can be patriotic about I sure think it's this.
Of course, some liberals are angry they voted for Obama and now he's shutting this program down. Some conservatives are upset we're spending money on the stimulus rather than space travel. Some liberals would rather see the budget spent at home and some conservatives think NASA is just more wasteful government excess. NASA's budget is roughly 18 billion or less. That's less than a tenth of a percent of the budget. Americans spend more than three times that on soda every year.
The NY Times had this article on the probably-cancelled rocket program. It gives people another chance to criticize the costs. ATK thinks they can build two rockets a year for $300 million. That's nothing. Every F-35 we buy (or don't buy, because Lockheed is so far behind schedule) costs us $140 million. I like both programs and I think it's important the government continues to fund science and technology; both for defense and science and exploration. Trusting private companies to develop this stuff on their own is like trusting the banking industry to regulate itself. Ain't gonna happen.
So for once I put my hopes into congress to protect space flight and the rockets needed to get us there. We should be staring up at the stars every chance we get: kids and adults alike dreaming of space travel and endless possibilities.

AutoCAD: Back in Mac

Soon you'll be able to run AutoCAD on a Mac and even an iPhone and iPad. This is supposedly so designs can be changed "in the field." I'd like to see a real AutoCAD user modify something on an iPhone. I'm sure that's very effective.
I can tell you exactly how this is going to go down by the tweet I just read when I tried to google for more information: AutoCAD on mac? great now will have to ask my dad to teach me the program. A bunch of 15 year old mac fanbabies have no f-ing clue what this program does and think it's in their best interest to learn it. For what purpose? Who knows. They do know you don't use AutoCAD to make wallpapers, youtube videos, or ipod songs right? That you need to actually design something not just poach lazily off other people's work like some Adobe-lite program? This is not Elements, get back in the kiddie pool. To all you real CAD users out there who for whatever ridiculous reason use a mac; welcome back.


Oh is that all

A University of Michigan researcher, John DeCicco, says we can triple our fuel economy in 25 years. How, you might ask, is such a wondrous thing possible?
He finds that the solution is in our garages if Americans shift gears in terms of priorities.
Reaching such a horizon would entail cultural change in a gearhead world attuned to nuances of power performance. DeCicco identifies emerging trends for what he dubs "efficiency compatible" design strategies, enticing buyers away from brute force and toward smart technologies, intelligent safety features and svelte styling. Amenities like Bluetooth hookups, communication bandwidth and other information technology enhance customer value with minimal demands on power.
Oh is that all. Rather than develop new technologies, we'll just convince the American consumer they need less horsepower. Yeah that'll be easy. I guess DeCicco doesn't know; you can't lead a horse to water.