Passion for books

(Uncle Remus, by Joel Chandler Harris 1921)

 

One of the joys of my life is my passion for books. It was something that kind of happened over time. As digital media became more prevalent, people turned away from the printed word. As a consequence, books were being disposed in great quantities. I’m not talking about your run-of-the-mill paperbacks being tossed aside, but high quality classics 100+ years old. They were the type and quality books that would be the foundation of family libraries, first editions and ‘banned’ books (see above picture) that the politically correct police deemed unworthy to be read in our ever evolving, self-righteous society.

Among the many tomes in my collection, is a 1919 copy of The Merry Adventures of Robinhood by Howard Pyle, a 1st edition (1863) example of Tales of a Wayside Inn by Longfellow, and 5 volume set of Les Miserables (1887) by Victor Hugo.

As time goes by, classic hardbacks are becoming more scarce. It is my hope that these books will one day come back into vogue.

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What is Time?

Q: What is time?

A: Time is movement (distance), divided by intervals (units of measure).

Just a thought… Time is a human construct. Time is only the measurement of distance or expansion, as it pertains to the universe. Is time constant? Maybe, but if time also has to do with expansion, and the expansion of the universe is accelerating, then I would hazard to guess that time is not constant.. at least in that case.

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Evolution of the Universe

 

 

By figuring out how fast the universe is expanding, scientists can calculate when the Big Bang occurred.

The universe was created from a super dense spect of pure energy, the size of a single atom. In a fraction of a second, the size of the universe grew from the size of an atom to the size of a baseball. In another fraction of a second, it grew to the size of the Earth.

When our universe was only 380,000 years old, it was trillions and trillions of miles across. It would take another 200 million years before the first stars were created. One billion years after the Big Bang, the first galaxies formed. Nine billion years after the Big Bang, our solar system comes into being.

Our universe had a beginning, and at some point, it will come to an end.

 

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Our backyard, our Universe

The heavens have fascinated mankind since the dawn of time… well, at least for the last 240,000 years after man evolved enough to climb down from the trees. But I digress. 

This past century has unquestionably added to our knowledge of our solar system and the cosmos. What have we learned? I’ve compiled a few things that I find interesting. 

-Patrick

A forming planet has to reach about 500 miles across in order to have enough gravity to crush itself into a sphere. Four and a half billion years ago, roughly 100 baby planets were circling our Sun. In time, they slammed into one another, resulting in the formation of our current four rocky planets of Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars.

All four of our gaseous planets have rings. Jupiter has thousands of ringlets, many only a few miles wide. Gas planets also have magnetic fields. The auroras at their poles are proof of this. So, how does a gas planet, without an iron core, create a magnetic field?

Scientists have tried to recreate the core of Jupiter in order to study why it has a magnetic field. In the lab, scientists used an array of 192 laser beams focused on a sample of hydrogen gas, to simulate the pressures of Jupiter. As the pressure upon the sample reached over a million times the pressure on Earth, the hydrogen becomes a liquid. But, upon reaching tens of millions the amount of pressure, similar to that of Jupiter’s core… the resulting pressure changes the structure of the hydrogen atoms into a metallic form. Scientists think that this is what is happening within Jupiter’s core. In January of 2017, a scientist at Harvard University successfully created metallic hydrogen. 

The moons of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune are at least 50% water. Nearly 4 billion years ago, asteroids delivered the water we now have on Earth. Seventy-one percent of the Earth’s surface is covered with water. Still, water only makes up 0.05 percent of Earth’s mass. We enjoy just the right amount of water. Less, and we would be a dry planet with the land masses soaking up the water. More water, and the Earth would be a water world. 

The average galaxy may contain 100 billion stars. Until a hundred years ago, scientists believed the universe contained only the Milky Way galaxy. Scientists of the day called it our ‘island universe’. In 1924, Edwin Hubble discovered other galaxies outside our own. In that year, our knowledge of our universe went from just knowing about the Milky Way galaxy, to realizing that there were billions of galaxies out there.

Galaxies are massive. On Earth, we measure distance in miles, kilometers, or leagues. In space, we measure using astronomical units (1), parsecs (2), and light years. A light year is just under 6 trillion miles. Earth is 25,000 light years from the center of our Milky Way galaxy, and our galaxy is over 100,000 light years across. Andromeda, our nearest galactic neighbor, is over 200,000 light years across. Our universe is estimated to be 93 billion light years across.

  1. Astronomical Unit = Approximately 1.5 million kilometers
  2. Parsec = 3.26 light-years (30 trillion km or 19 trillion miles)

The Big Bang occurred about 13.7 billion years ago.

IC-1011 is the biggest galaxy yet found. It is 60 times larger than the Milky Way and extends six-million light years across.

Studying the center of our own galaxy, scientists discovered that the stars revolving around the center, were moving at speeds of several million miles an hour. The only force powerful enough to sling stars around at those speeds had to be a super massive black hole.

Even with super massive black holes at the center of all galaxies, it doesn’t exert enough gravity to keep the galaxies together. So, what keeps galaxies together? Dark matter. Dark matter makes up roughly six times as much matter as regular matter that exists in the universe. We know dark matter exists because of what it does to light emanating throughout the universe. Dark matter bends light in a process called gravitational lensing. It does this by magnifying the brightness of the light but also distorting the image. We cannot see or directly detect dark matter, but we know it exists. Without it, galaxies would fall apart. Dark matter is the glue holding together the whole structure of our universe.

So why is dark matter important? Scientists believe that dark matter slowly created strands of itself across the universe. Dark matter are the building blocks for our universe. Upon these weblike strands, are built the galaxies. Of all matter comprising the universe, dark matter makes up 23%. Regular matter accounts for only 4%.

As you’ve probably noticed, both dark matter and regular matter together, makes up 27% of the universe. What comprises the rest? Dark energy… it makes up roughly 68%.

Using type 1 supernova to measure distances, scientists found that galaxies weren’t slowing down due to gravity after the Big Bang, but rather they were accelerating. How could this be? The answer, dark energy.

Dark matter checked dark energy until about 5 billion years ago. Dark energy started winning the tug of war with dark matter. From that point on, the growth of the universe started speeding up. Dark energy was, in essence, stretching space.

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Nature vs Nurture

On occasion, I’ve been asked “What is I.Q.?” Is it nature, nurture, or some combination of the two? I make no claim knowing the answer to this question. But, I do think it’s both nature and nurture… mixed in with a bit good fortune.

People all have their own personal experiences. I like to think, that maybe having such a spread of years within my own family’s generation, contributed to my knowledge base. My generation, on my mother’s side of the family tree, spans more than 100 years. My eldest cousin was born in 1915, two years before the United States entered the first World War.

Having such a wide span of years, does have a few benefits. For instance, many of my family members were witness to events of historical significance. Some have even participated in, and can give a first-person account of, those events. I didn’t have to run to the library to read war stories, or how rough living through the Great Depression had been. I had a rich source of information… all I had to do was ask a close relative.

So, I can see how nurture can have a great impact on a person’s I.Q. Nature, admittedly, must also be a major player in the I.Q. debate.

 

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OBDEleven

I’ve been an Audi enthusiast for many years. But, as any Audi guy knows, Audis can be problematic at times. That’s very true when it comes to clearing alarm codes on the more recent models. In my search, I’ve found a device that gives the end user the flexibility to clear those pesky alarm codes and even modify how your Audi is set up. That device is OBDEleven.

OBDEleven is awesome! It’s simple to use and is wi-fi based, easily connects to your laptop or smart phone… no cables required! No more going to the dealership to clear the yearly maintenance code or the occasional ‘check engine’ codes, saving you time and money. It gives you the ability to chart what your Audi is doing in real time. Checking misfires, torque, etc., it’s just a few clicks away. And you can store those charts on your smart phone for future playback. You have the option to send all sorts of data to anyone via email as well.

 

Aside from clearing ‘check engine’ codes,  OBDEleven enables the user to modify their Audi to fit their individual personalities. You may want your car to always have the running lights on when the ignition is on… no problem. Maybe you want to adjust the illumination of your inside lights or external lamps? Still, no problem. Utilizing the many options available on the OBDEleven app, you can change these settings and many more with just a few clicks.

 

One really nice feature that I like with this device is that you can check your lighting systems right from your laptop or smart phone. You can walk around your Audi while checking the blinkers, parking lights, etc. No need to have someone sitting inside the car to step on the brake pedal or to switch on the turn signal. It can all be done by clicking through the OBDEleven interface.

The device works on 1991 – 2018 models of Audi and VW. The Pro model unlocks several features that the regular model restricts. Cost is about $75 on Amazon at the time of this publication.

 

Gratuitous pics of my current Audi A4 Quattro…

 

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Machining journals

Question: What is a machining journal?

Answer: A machining journal is a daily log that records the many aspects of your workday in detail.

I’ve used machining journals since the beginning of my career as a machinist. I cannot tell you how many times those journals have come in handy. Sometimes you’re asked, ‘What did you work on three weeks ago on a Tuesday?’ Hell, sometimes I can’t remember what I had for breakfast this morning… and you’re asking me about three weeks ago? Out comes my journal. I can flip back to the day in question and accurately answer the question.

I’ve had bosses that approach me directly and ask about the material heat lot code on a specific material I machined sometime in the past. If they can give me a job number, I can give them the information they’ve requested. That’s important because, without the heat lot code, a job would have to be scrapped out. *Heat lot codes (explanation below) are directly tied to certification codes. They are the way we establish traceability of a part from the original material supplier of the material, through the manufacturing process, and on to the customer. The jobs could be inexpensive or high dollar value. Once I relay the material certification number to my boss, he can then request hard copy ‘certs’ from the vendor of the material… saving the job from being scrapped.

Keeping a machining journal is helpful in other ways as well. I’ve had instances when a supervisor would tell me to proceed with a job that I don’t feel comfortable with running. It could be a tolerance not being called out on a print or maybe there’s a question about the finish. In either case, writing an entry into your journal and requesting that the supervisor sign off on the entry, puts the supervisor in the position to defend his decision on proceeding with the job, should it become an issue at some later point in time.

Times have changed a bit since I began my machinist career. I no longer keep a journal but will document concerns, etc. with emails. Even verbal conversations that center around a decision by a supervisor, an engineer, or programmer, are put into an email format and sent to all parties concerned. That way, should a decision later become a point of contention, the email chain can be then be ressurrected to determine who said what.

 

 

*Traceability, through the use of heat/certification codes, are a requirement of nearly all high value parts supplied to the government, the aerospace industry, or other critical end customers. The reason for this requirement is that when a high value item fails, i.e. plane crash, etc. occurs, and the failure is traced back to a certain part… those high value items can then pulled out of service to be inspected by investigators for flaws.

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Learning to fit in…

Fitting in seems to happen so easily for most people. Me, not so much. As an introvert, I don’t express my emotions with my face. My face tends to look the same if I’m happy or sad. It’s not uncommon for people to ask me if I’m mad. Most just avoid interacting with me because they assume I’m angry. On the plus side, not having to deal with people does have its merits… but, on the down side, it also means missing out on a lot of opportunities… social, as well as in business.

Facial cues are a definite problem area for me. When speaking with someone, I try to analyze their face as a way to gage their reaction to whatever it is I’m saying. In doing so, I’m inclined to stare at them… oftentimes without breaking eye contact. Yeah, I know that makes people feel uncomfortable, as I’ve often been told. It’s not intentional. Add that to my typically expressionless face, I come across as glaring, or staring a hole through the person. It can be intimidating, I agree.

But, what am I to do? I feel completely out-of-place when a try to force myself to smile. It feels awkward, weird, and it probably looks completely disingenuous. Yet, that is what is desired when communicating with others. Smiling is a social cue that you’re receptive to what another is saying, and that you’re taking an interest in their ideas… their thoughts… and their opinions. It is a positive type of feedback that validates others.

When I was a younger man, time and again, I would miss subtle flirtatious gestures and looks from women. My friends would point out later that a lady was hitting on me. Unless they flat out said that they were interested, I just didn’t pick up on it. Being a very straight-forward person, I thought others would be the same. What can I say? Missed opportunities.

I have, over time, tried to more approachable. Maybe knock off some of the ‘rough edges’ people see of my outward appearance. I still carry a ‘resting bitch face’. But I’ve learned to embrace that part of myself with a bit of humor. I recently created a tee shirt with my face showing my many moods. Not surprisingly, it’s all the same face. At least folks get a good laugh when they see me wearing the shirt.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Matching capabilities to oversight

I’ve been in the machining business for many years. During that time, I’ve worn many ‘hats’ in the industry, from being a machinist operator to owning a CNC machine shop. It has been my experience, that many times, shop supervisors have very limited knowledge of machine shop practices and procedures.

This can be detrimental to the productivity of a shop, if that supervisor insists on implementing ideas and/or procedures, that run contrary to common machine shop practices. This is because many common shop practices have been developed over time, and are fundamental to running a shop in a very precise way.

Shop practices can range from how machining processes are accomplished, to how work flows through the area. These practices can also be used to delegate responsibilities to key machinists… responsibilities that may encompass who and when tools are ordered, whose job it is to maintain the machine tools, and the best way to machine a job. For this reason, the most qualified machinist, is usually the shop lead. The shop lead’s primary purpose is to interface with the supervisor.

Because the lead and the supervisor are closely tied to one another, it is imperative that they share a common view and understanding on how the shop set up, staffed, and run. Supervisors don’t typically have much machining knowledge, but the shop lead does. In theory, one compliments the other, to make a functioning whole.

In a perfect world, both the supervisor’s and shop lead’s overall abilities overlap. Where one’s skills may be lacking, the other compensates. The reality is that many times, because the supervisor hasn’t the depth of knowledge the lead possesses, instances arise in which they end up working against each other. This breakdown impacts the working relationships of the personnel on the floor and the productivity of the shop.

So, how do we match supervisors to shop leads? I think the best supervisors are those who have been machinists on the floor, but that’s not the world we live in. As I’ve said before, they should compliment each other. Understanding that, in most cases, the supervisor has very limited machine shop experiences, we should seek out a lead that fulfills the deficits of the supervisor.

Three keys to matching a supervisor to a lead are Scope, Depth, and Knowledge. These are defined below.

Scope: the area of responsibility of the individual

Depth: the amount of influence one has over their work environment

Knowledge: level of mastery in the area of your responsibility

When we assign values to these three areas, for both the supervisor and the lead, we should see an overlap that fills the voids of one with that of the other.

Here’s and example of a typical Supervisor’s radial chart…

A supervisor has a lot of Scope (7.0) but can be restricted by higher up management, thus limiting their Scope below the maximum value of ten. Their Depth (6.0) does have a meaningful impact on how the shop is run. As we can see, their limited Knowledge of the machine shop translates to a two. This level of Knowledge makes it that much more important to select a qualified Lead. The Lead needs to be able to backfill the supervisor’s gap in Knowledge.

Below is an example of that Lead’s radial chart…

Admittedly, the chart seems overly optimistic in contrast to the Supervisor’s. But, keep in mind… the Lead is usually the most seasoned machinist with a vast amount of experience in the industry. While a Supervisor may have a more broad work experience, that may include non-manufacturing jobs, a Lead is more prone to only have very specific work experiences dealing with manufacturing exclusively.

Those two previous charts are best case scenarios. What I’ve found in my personal journey in the trade, looks more like this for a Lead…

The Scope for this hypothetical Lead is a four. The Depth is a miserable two. And the Knowledge is also a two. WHY??? Well, as is often the case, “it’s not what you know, but who you know’. I’ve found many Supervisors want to micro-manage their work environments. In doing so, they place mediocre people into Lead positions. These Leads are easily cowed and lack the Knowledge or Scope to ‘push back’ against a Supervisor who is negating common machine shop practices. The end results are a poorly run shop floor and a general lack of respect for the Supervisor and incompetent Leads. Job apathy becomes the norm amongst the other, more qualified machinists.

 

 

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Finding common ground

In the world of everyday interactions, it’s commonplace to have misunderstandings in communication. Lacking the social and facial cues that could be gleaned from face-to-face dialogue, emails and texts can be misconstrued depending upon the recipient’s frame of mind while reading the correspondence. The written word can easily be taken out of context.

People are complex and each one of us has a unique way of processing written and verbal communications. When we read or listen to written and verbal communications, we tend to process that information through our internal perspective filters. Perspective filters are how we interpret our world according to our views on religion, political ideals, world views, etc. That perspective filter can also be affected by our emotions. Reading a correspondence while we’re in a positive mood does not always have the same meanings if we’re in a negative mood. The content is the same but the context becomes skewed.

How do we limit communication breakdowns?

I believe we can become more effective in our communications if we start from a common ground. We’ll never eliminate all the variables that contribute to poor communications but we can try to minimize them. Using the correct mode of communication is very important. While it isn’t required in most situations, follow up verbal conversations with an email to reiterate what was discussed. This is especially true in business environments.

Written communications

I’ve found in my personal and professional life, that it helps if you keep texts and emails brief. Use clear language and simplify the content. Focus on words that promote unity instead of division. Avoid information overload. Try to read received content in a neutral emotional state. If you’re not quite sure about what is being communicated, ask for clarification. Don’t assume. When sending emails, review what you’ve written for grammatical errors and words that could be taken out of context.

Verbal communications

Let’s face it. Most of us say things without putting much thought into the words we use or how it may be received. This can cause hurt feelings and negative reactions which limit the effectiveness of further communications. People shut down emotionally when they’re offended and it becomes much harder to then communicate.

Verbal communication, done face-to-face, can give your intended audience subtle cues about your intentions when sharing information. The words you use, the tone of your voice, the cadence of your speech, can all be received either negatively or positively. It’s important to understand perceptual and language differences that could cause miscommunication. When speaking, actively ‘listen’ to the verbal and non-verbal cues of your audience. Do not to assume your words are understood by others.

I’ve found that when you initiate a conversation in which you’re seeking to sway the other party, it’s helpful to engage them on friendly ground. How do you achieve this? Ask them about their day. Compliment something about them. Promote an atmosphere of friendship. People are much more receptive when they feel a sense of appreciation or gratitude from another. Adversely, if you are confrontational when speaking to someone, they’re likely to emotionally ‘shut down’ and not be at all receptive to anything you have to say… no matter how correct your points may be. In the attempt to sway someone, you’ve lost before you began.

 

 

 

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