Non-thinkers…

Have we become a society of non-thinkers? Or, collectively, have we always been shallow in our thinking and reasoning processes? With the advent of social media, has this phenomenon just been more evident?

I dare say, we’ve all seen a sensational, attention grabbing headline online, or in the news. But upon reading the news article, we discover that the story behind the headlines, sometimes has little to do with the original impression the headline had given. The headline was nothing more than a ‘hook’, to get the audience to read the article. The problem in that, is a substantial portion of the general public, won’t bother to read the article. But, they will regurgitate the misleading headline as if it were gospel. Maybe they do this because it somehow fits into their political agendas? Into their limited world views? In other words, it fits into their confirmation bias.

One would think, with the world wide web at our disposal, people would take the time to at least do a Google search and gather additional information about a subject matter. Sadly, that usually isn’t the case. 

 

 

Managing chaos… the role of Human Resources

This is just my opinion, so you should probably take it with a grain of salt.

There’s a reason why some Human Resources (HR) departments are so large and premium salaries are paid to staff them… it’s cheaper than fighting lawsuits. HR is a component of a company’s legal strategy. HR departments are basically used in a manner to help offset the human cost of conducting business by managing fallout when conflicts occur and problems arise. HR departments generally want to be seen as employee advocates.

Human Resources acts similarly to an internal business political engine, used to placate employees. They don’t so much ‘solve’ conflicts or grievances as they water down the underlying causes of conflicts. Their ultimate responsibility is to protect the company, to insulate the company as much as possible from the employees. HR’s second tier of responsibility is to protect management. Lastly, and if it’s practical, comes the common employee. That’s the hierarchy. Now, there are times when this hierarchy isn’t strictly followed… like in cases of sexual harassment between the aforementioned tiers of responsibility. The common employee has an advantage over management. A lot of times, if the company can reasonably ascertain that sexual harassment has been committed, the offending management is fired and the common employee becomes ‘untouchable’ for a period of time… in hopes that the victim party does not seek monetary compensation, and the ugly incident hopefully blows over.

In larger, good paying companies, the attrition rates of employees are low. People tend to stay in their job category/position much longer and become sedentary in their jobs. This creates clusters of employees who develop a long work history with fellow employees. Petty grievances can percolate over years in these clusters. What has inadvertently been created, is a larger organism (clique) that is harder for Human Resources and management to control. These cliques know ‘where the dead bodies are buried’, so to speak. They then become problematic for HR to deal with on an individual level and group dynamics have to be taken into account.

I realize this post sounds like I’m very negative on the role of Human Resources, and that is somewhat a true assertion, but I do think the role of Human Resource departments… when applied appropriately, are an asset to both the company and to the employees. A few ideas that I think would minimize some of the most common conflicts that arise from employees and management are:

  1. Rotate employees out of their departments and switch their work assignments regularly. This should help prevent work cliques from forming. This has the added benefit of cross-training employees, allowing them to develop new skills and becoming more valuable to the company.
  2. Send out periodic employee assessment questionnaires, asking them to grade performance of their supervisors and managers. Typically, ‘performance reviews’ run down the chain-of-command… rarely do they go up the chain. Employees feel they have little input in the workplace. Assessment questionnaires could help change that well earned perception.

 

 

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.

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.

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.

 

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.

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.

 

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…

 

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.

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.