Posted tagged ‘engineering’

The Engineer and the Mystic

October 11, 2018

finalMy mother was a devout Catholic but she was also a woman with an intense curiosity about the world around her.   As a result, she cast her intellectual net wider than most Catholics.  For example, she became a fan of Jean Dixon, the self-proclaimed psychic and astrologer that many Christians loved to hate.  She passed her open-mindedness on to me, which I believe she came to regret because I eventually gave up Catholicism.   From my Dad, I got my rational side, in part I’m sure from genes but also because he regretted his choice to join the Army instead of going to engineering school.  My rational side won out and I became an electrical engineer.  But from the time I gave up my Mom’s religion, I also became a Searcher.  I often picture myself with my Engineer on one shoulder and my Mystic on the other, both of them whispering in my ear about whatever spiritual concept is intriguing me at the moment.   They rarely agree and for many years, the Engineer called the shots. (more…)

Doctor Doctor

December 4, 2017

EHHSSchool has always come easy to me.  There was a time when I would have seen that as bragging but in my fifties, a friend taught me the notion of being right sized in the universe, that is, knowing what you are good at, bad at and everything in between.  I do. And I’m comfortable with it.  Now, you might think that having school come easy would mean I was as the top of my class all the time.   That wasn’t the case because of some of the things I wasn’t good at were: focusing on grades instead of fun;  working hard in classes that didn’t interest me;  putting aside the personalities of my teachers; and caring about who was valedictorian.  So, while I made the honor societies, it was often by the skin ofTBP my teeth.  In college, I discovered fraternity life, so while I sometimes made the Dean’s list, sometimes I didn’t.  Parenthetically, college transformed me from a somewhat socially awkward high school kid to a fraternity social chairman and president, in the long run a transformation that would serve me well.   But at no point would anyone have termed me a scholar.  OK, Miss Rocco, my Latin teacher (yes, Latin) called me her on-again-off-again-scholar.  Fondly, I think, if with some frustration. (more…)

The Office

April 12, 2016

office tooFor the first 33 years of my career as an engineer, I worked for what I like to call Big Industry … large defense-based corporations like Raytheon, Honeywell and Hughes Aircraft.   That portion of my career took place before the term tele-commute was invented, mainly because the technology of the time did not support working at home.  Consequently, I traveled each morning to an office which provided the assets I needed to do my job … computers so large they filled a room, and secretaries and typing pools and art departments.  Sometimes during my early years, my office was a cubicle, most often shared with another junior engineer.   As the years went by and I was promoted, my offices became nicer, evolving to shared offices instead of cubicles to a private office … occasionally even an office with a window, although it usually overlooked a parking lot.   My furniture got newer and eventually was made of real wood, not slime-green metal.   By the nineties I was content in my private wood-furnitured office and I probably would have been content to continue that way until retirement.  Fate and Big Industry had other plans.   Hughes Aircraft was purchased by Raytheon and decided to close the California facility.   Ironically, the work I was involved in was transferred to Portsmouth, RI, where I began my career many year earlier.  I even knew many of the senior engineers there. (more…)

Smiles, a Day Late

November 10, 2015

presentationI have occasionally told people that if they gave me any topic and two minutes to prepare, I could talk for half an hour on the subject.  That is true partly because I have knowledge of a wide range of topics to draw upon and my years of writing has made me very good at organizing facts.    But my wife, Muri, will tell you that I am also very capable of making things up if I don’t know the facts … and I can be a silver-tongued devil in making you believe what I say.   That’s why I’m good at Balderdash.  Being a writer of fiction and of slightly exaggerated blog post has certainly honed those skills.  I have also been speaking in front of audiences of from 10 to several hundred people for over fifty years, mostly on esoteric technical subjects.  There is no doubt that repeated public speaking has made me able to be more relaxed in front of an audience and able to convert what could be nervousness into excitement. (more…)

Monday Smiles – 11/2/2015

November 2, 2015

A generalist is someone who learns less and less about more and more until he knows absolutely nothing about everything.  A specialist learns less and less about more and more until he knows absolutely everything about nothing – Unknown

ABFI like to think I walk the middle ground between knowing nothing about everything and everything about nothing but in my  vocation, I am definitely a specialist.  Starting out in what was already a specialized field, electrical engineering, almost 20 years of higher education has narrowed my field until it is likely that most people wouldn’t understand my resume.  Adaptive beamforming.  LMS noise cancellation.  Eigenvalue analysis. See?  But almost fifty years experience in those corners of the world make me valuable to others who use such things in their business.   Some years ago, when business with my company was slow, I registered with an expert placement company.  The company maintains a database of resumes across a wide range of fields on line.  Professionals needing the support of specialists they don’t need often enough to employ full time can find the professional support they need by searching the database using online tools.   The work is usually very interesting but it brings a degree of pressure with in that clients expect an expert to provide innovative solutions in a relatively short time.  I’ve supported attorneys in patent cases, evaluated products for potential buyers and applied some of the techniques I’ve learned in military systems to commercial products. (more…)

Monday Smiles – 6/15/2015

June 15, 2015

TECFOCUSAs 2014 was drawing to a close, the only job our company had was coming to an end.  It was awarded under the Small Business Administration’s Small Business Innovative Research program.  These contracts are reserved for small research companies, giving them an opportunity to compete for government contracts that address critical need of the various agencies.   The initial contracts are quite small, with only enough funding to show that a solution to a problem might work.   Based on the work done in this Phase 1, a few companies are awarded Phase 2, which brings enough funding for up to two years.   About one in ten companies go on to Phase 2, and sufficient time has passed that we had pretty much decided we weren’t one of them.  It was OK … my business partner (who is my age) had talked about fully retiring anyway. (more…)

Monday Smiles – 2/9/2015

February 9, 2015

workingToday is a workday so I could easily skip posting.  That’s probably not unusual on a Monday for those of you with Younger Eyes and regular jobs.  Back in my Big Industry days, Monday was often the busiest of my work days, getting back into the unfinished tasks of the previous week and discovering new ones management had lined up for me.  But these days, with my own company and work rarely full time, there aren’t many times my vocation … engineering … interferes with my avocation … writing.   But this week, we have a quarterly report due and more importantly we have a billing milestone tied to that report.  In other words, no report, no money.  So, this will be what we in the blogging world call a quickie.   That meant something very different in my younger, pre-blogging days, I’d add.

Off to Work

November 14, 2014

off to workI wonder how many people actually noticed that I haven’t posted since Monday.  There was a time when I had a regular cadre of readers and regularly read ten or so other blogs and my absence would have been noticed.  But I’ve been a solo writer and only a very occasional reader for quite a while.  It’s interesting.  The views on my blog per day are about the same as they were in my most active days and I have more followers than ever.   Comments?  Virtually zero except a few I receive by email.  But I still love to write, so posts keep popping up when I have the time or the inclination. (more…)

Working … in the Park

March 19, 2014

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhen I retired from Big Industry 15 years ago (yikes!) and started a consulting business with my friend and mentor, Paul, there were several things we both appreciated immediately.  For one, we began doing the kind of interesting work we’d had to fight to do in the big companies we’d worked for, work that had never been profitable enough for their voracious appetites.   Secondly, we both loved the flexibility of working when and where we wanted.   I could go to the movies with Muri in the afternoon, then work in the evening. Or I could get up in the middle of the night and work on an idea I’d had, then take it easy the next day.  And I could work in my office … or my recliner … or at Starbucks … or even at the park.  Perhaps nothing made me feel as satisfactorily self-employed as working at a picnic table by the side of the lake. (more…)

Monday Smiles – 3/17/2014

March 17, 2014

Mondays have a terrible reputation … just Google hate Mondays then click on images and you’ll see.  But chances are, you already know that from personal experience.


And Monday mornings, as the nexus between the freedom of the weekend and the responsibilities of the workplace, are even more hated.  According to the U.K.’s Daily Mail, More than half of us will spend the day complaining, particularly in the morning and One in three people said they hated Monday more than any other day of the week.  Some of the most common reasons include dreading the working week ahead, over-indulging over the weekend or having a mountain of emails to catch up with.  I’ve been lucky, I suppose. (more…)