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 person. 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 my ‘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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Mucking about

Quite often, I find myself bored to tears. My everyday life is filled with monotony. Things that hold my interest for any length of time, are hard to come by, so I tend to create things that occupy my time. Those things could be some sort of word game, designed to engage others and study their reactions… using language that can be easily confused, to see if the other person knows or catches the usage. Purposely mispronouncing words while watching the eyes of the one to which I’m speaking… It can be fun, I must admit.

Or, I would take whatever I had in my environment and ‘do the math’. ‘Doing the math’, might involve trigging out distance to objects from my immediate location, or the steps people would take between certain known points within the room and figuring out the length of their strides, and maybe… the quantity of the many shapes around me, the squares, hexagons, etc., that populate my surroundings. Anything, anything to break up my days into bearable segments.

At one small company many years ago, a couple of us would play word games with one of the owners. We’d choose a ‘word of the day’ and use it in our conversations with the select owner. The word chosen could be something purposely mispronounced, or so obscure that to hear it once would be unusual, but to hear it several times in one day, would be highly suspect. It would go something like this…

Example 1

Owner: “What does the production report look like this morning?”

Reply: “Well, we’re ejactly on track to meet our goals and should incur no penalties by coming in ahead of our deadline.” Ejactly being used in place of the word ‘exactly’ and the word ‘penal’ in the word ‘penalties’, stressed heavily.

Example 2

Owner: “How much material do we need to order to produce the job quantity required?”

Reply: “I think we can order 10 feet of material. That will give us enough to do the job and leave a tittynope in case we need it.” A tittynope is a small amount of leftover, in this case material. It’s also a word no one expects to hear several times a day.

It’s the little distractions that make my day more interesting and helps to pass the time. And, in a round-about way, I learn about the people I involve with my word games. How they react, respond, etc., gives me insight into their educational level and attention to details.

 

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The product of our choices

We’re constantly bombarded with ‘poor pitiful me’ stories from the media outlets, to include social media. Sure, bad things do happen to good people, but I really do believe that the primary reasons why those ‘bad things’ happen, are a direct result of decisions we’ve made in our daily lives.

I’ve always been the type of person who is curious as to why things are the way that they are. Why people do the things that they do. The motivations, or lack thereof, for people’s life decisions.

Many choices we make daily have little bearing upon our lives as a whole. But… I do think the underlying reasons behind those daily choices, do set us upon a path that ultimately defines how our lives turn out.

I also believe that economic factors can influence poor choices. People are creatures of habit. We tend take refuge in things that are familiar to us. Often, our decisions reflect our habits. Growing up in poverty can put people into the position where they trade short-term gains for long term stability. It can be difficult to think about your economic future when you’re struggling to live day-to-day.

If you’re in this cyclical situation, what do you do? No one solution works for everyone. Starting with making wiser short term choices is one approach to improving the direction of your life. It could be relatively insignificant things, like being more conscious in how you spend your monies… not buying that cute dress you want, that pack of cigarettes you crave, etc. Instant gratification is so alluring. It’s easy to say to ourselves ‘it’s just a couple of dollars’, or ‘this purchase isn’t going to break me’. True, in both cases, but those small decisions often set us up psychologically, in making larger financial decisions.

Break the decision cycles that keep you tied to a life you’re not happy with. While we may not be able to achieve that perfect life we dream about, we can determine the path that leads in that direction. We are, essentially, the product of our choices.

 

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The pathway ahead…

It was dark. The pathway ahead was faintly visible and the ground felt soft, absorbing my footsteps as I passed over it running. The air was cool and damp from a recent rain. At first, running was easy. A slight breeze was blowing towards me. As I increased my pace, so did the resistance from the breeze. I reached a point in my speed that the breeze subsided… almost as if I had ‘punched’ through the resistance. My running became easier.

This went on for a while, so I decided to increase my speed again. The breeze returned and this time it was stronger. Again, I ‘punched’ through the resistance and it was somewhat less turbulent. I increased my speed… the resistance returned more strongly than before. Increased speed certainly meant more wind resistance. But this was a dream and I was well aware it was a dream. I had the distinct feeling that these breezes were in essence, more like walls. Each wall that I passed was met with more walls and more resistance. As I eclipsed each breeze wall, my strides became longer and the distance between the walls decreased, meaning that I was transcending the breeze walls more rapidly and not enjoying the reduced turbulence before encountering the next wall. I was caught in a constant state of buffeting air. It was interesting and annoying at the same time.

It’s funny when you’re dreaming and you know it’s a dream. Yet, it’s frustrating. Things happen in dreams with which we’re given very detailed feelings we can’t describe, and information we don’t know quite how to fit together. I don’t think this was a very hard dream to analyze. I’m no Sigmund Freud, but this dream felt very much like I was running towards goals and meeting resistance all along the way. The goals achieved were met with more resistance in accomplishing the goals ahead.

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“Above the Dirt”

Yesterday was very trying. Like most mornings, I laid there thinking of reasons to get out of bed. I did get up… my heart just wasn’t ‘in it’. I arrived at work a short time later and started my day. As the hours slowly ticked by, I grew more and more uneasy. I finally reached a point when I couldn’t take it any longer. I filled out a form acknowledging that I was leaving work before my scheduled quitting time, and placed it on my lead’s desk. Truthfully, I wasn’t sure if I’d come back… ever. I drove the short distance home and parked the car. I must’ve sat there a good fifteen minutes, lost in my thoughts. I climbed out of my car and went inside. Closing the front door behind me, I quietly ascended the stairs. Looking in my son’s room, I saw that he was still asleep… so peaceful. I envied him. Now, I don’t have many things my life in which I take pride and joy, but in my son… I have both. He’s the reason I go on. (Summer 2017)

 

Many times, when passing acquaintances, plesantries are exchanged. “Hello!”, “Good morning!”, and “How are you?” It’s how we greet one another and acknowledge our friendships. To me, these are some of the most awkward social interactions of my day. My Southern upbringing dictates that I reply in kind when greeted. Out of respect for those social courtesies, I do respond. Now, I’m not an extrovert by any loose definition of the term… so, responding makes me feel quite uncomfortable. I want to return greetings to those who were kind enough to initiate, but the “How are you?”, troubles me most with an adequate response.

I’m a firm believer in being as transparent and straight forward as possible. I can, at times, be very blunt in my day-to-day interactions. That said, my usual response when asked “How are you?”, is “I’m above the dirt.” Yeah, I know it sounds like a morbid response, and possibly ‘jerkish’, but it really is how I feel. Life is a chore… a chore that I’ve grown tired of participating.

It seems like I’ve spent the better part of my life, analyzing and justifying my existence. Life is pointless. It exists only to perpetuate itself. There is no ‘end game’ and no reward. It’s not unusual for me to contemplate death. That’s something always ruminating in the dark reaches of my mind. My challenge has always been finding a reason to go on. Every day that I’m in the here and now, I’m ‘above the dirt’… and that’s the justification for my response.

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