Friday, November 25, 2022

Black Friday

Listen up you capitalist dogs! Your economy needs you! It's no time to be thinking about saving for the future! Real happiness comes from buying people things they don't need and will forget about within minutes! Let's not forget the real people who matter here, the shareholders. I'm not talking you and your pithy 401k nest egg. I'm talking the ultra-rich, the new-age aristocrats largely born into their privilege and taught nothing but "more is better at any cost". How can they buy their yachts, and more importantly maintain their political influence if you don't pony up? In the end their philanthropy, a mere midday shadow of their wealth, will save you. The pensions cut from their companies and their tax breaks have reached a limit, they must have more! They will remember you well as they curse you for not giving them enough. Remember, they are special among people and their spit has the value of gold as it rains on your grave.

That hard fought nest egg you're building will hardly get you to the sunset of your life anyway, why not enjoy it now? The latest tech, a new car, a foot spa, it doesn't matter. The happy memory of this exact moment will get you through your pensioning days and detract from the hunger pangs. Debt is good and highly encouraged. Give until it hurts, but give from Bezo's warehouses or Walton's distribution centers. Musk must make his earnings somehow! Why make anything homespun when the click of a mouse is so much more convenient and satisfying? 

So give, my friends, keep the "economy" rolling. Spend, spend, spend. Every penny from your purse helps secure your spot in the catacombs around which the foundation of our great society is made. To expect any more recognition is a prideful sin. So have a Happy Holidays and remember to fill those stockings!

Sunday, November 20, 2022

A Ramble (about work)

 I've been having a tough time finding a cohesive line of thought for putting in my blog. I tend to like some structure to what I write, at least a minimal amount of pre-planning. However, that's been tough lately. I think a part of it is the new job. It has me in a state of heightened anxiety as I learn my role. For me, this means results in a distracted level of focus. This is perhaps due to part of my brain waiting in anticipation for the next thing to do. There's also a continual mental inventory going on to make sure I'm not missing something. All the while, I'm not sure doing all the things I need to be successful in the new role or if I made the right choice in making such an abrupt career lane change. Ultimately, making the change was the only way I could find out.

All that said, I am enjoying the vast majority of the new job. I'm getting to explore a new technology space that has me opening textbooks to refresh on my knowledge of quantum mechanics. It's interesting that the review material makes more and more sense the third and fourth times over. New material, on the other hand, has my brain feeling rusty. It's like prying open an old box with rusty hinges where you're only able to fit little bits and pieces through at a time. 

There's part of me that wants to blame my getting older for the rust, but I also need to look at the context in which most work of this type was learned in the first place. It was in a classroom or advisory environment. Someone had gone through the effort of taking the material from a text and boiling and rendering it down into a form that could be consumed by me and my fellow classmates. I had classmates to work on problem sets and worry about exams with. I had professors/teachers with office hours who were usually very willing to help as long as I was willing to show up. Still, I probably struggled and still it took seeing things four, five or eleven times to finally grasp some concepts. Even then, some concepts (e.g. set and algebraic topology, perhaps) still remain just out of grasp. 

One thing that helps from a motivation standpoint is the ability to see the application in what I'm working on. Sometimes, I think I may have fared better as an engineering graduate student instead of physics as I find the concept of something being purely "fundamentally interesting" not as satisfying as "here's the problem we're trying to solve". However, I do see this as now being a viable path for education and how concepts that were once just "nice science" can evolve into useful and even critical technologies.

Ultimately, the path taken leveraged fundamental studies to merge with the technology development I did for most of my career. A level of mastery was found that I enjoyed being a part of. At some point though I became curious about both career advancement. Also, more fundamentally, how can I apply what I know from a more conceptual technology development and maturity standpoint to another technology paradigm. 

I chuckle a little as I write this as it sounds like my job change was very deliberate. In reality, this is just the benefit of hindsight. The change was more happenstance than I've just crafted. I was approached and something in my gut told me it was the right thing to do. It was at least worth checking out and throwing an "out there" salary request. I was actually shocked when they accepted my offer, but I took it as a sign that it was time to try something new, and here I am.

Will this be what I ride to retirement? Who knows?! There are a lot of different forces at work and in the private sector nothing is guaranteed. I do miss some of the technical/more research-y work, but I get to work more in terms of strategy and how to get things done. This is a new area of learning for me and may result in having to open another textbook or at least watch some YouTube videos.

I'm also finding in my coaching and even working with technical people that I enjoy coaching/teaching/mentoring. There is something satisfying on a deeper more purposeful level for me in helping people have those "a ha!" moments. I think being a teaching assistant in grad school played a big role in this. Such instances also help me to understand things on a deeper level. Perhaps carving out some time to be an adjunct may also be in the cards. I think the key here is to partake just enough so that I stay passionate and not drained.

I think that's enough rambling for now. I just wanted to get enough in to break the inertia and experience a moment of "flow" :)

Sunday, October 9, 2022

Chilling in Chicago

 I'm relaxing in a Chicago hotel room waiting for both the Minnesota Vikings to start playing and for my daughter to emerge from one of what might be the best nights of her teenage life. The two of us ventured here to witness the spectacle that is Harry Styles. The original plan, still intact, is to attend his concert tonight, October 9th. We have tickets and are all ready to go. 

However, in preparation for our travels I was informed that she'd like to try to find tickets for the Saturday night show as well and that she was willing to pay for them. So we headed down to the arena and found the ticket window line to stand in. Just like hazy memories of an old movie or two that I could never remember, the ticket window curtains closed, SOLD OUT, with about a dozen people to go before us. Maybe 30 tickets out of 30,000 short. 

Defeated and hungry we went to find a little food and see if there was an online resale option that would work. There's a place on the corner from the United Center, Bacci pizza that sells, ironically, large New York style slices that are big enough to share. We sat and ate the split slice of sausage partially defeated, but checking the resell sites again and again for price drops. Bacci's had scant seating with just a narrow counter running along the perimeter walls and looking out into the street. The place was well lit and other Harry fans were dining before entering the madness that would be the show. 

After about 10 minutes of looking through the over priced entries, one popped up. Still expensive, but within budget. We jumped on it and we were in! The tempered disappointment turned to excitement and we were on our way.

After a stop at the "merch" stand outside the venue and a brief meeting with a fellow mega-fan from back home we were on our way into the United Center. The interesting thing about these tickets was their location. They were off the end of one of the stage's long runways, jutting out from two sides running the long direction of the arena floor. These runways met ran to a larger square stage in the middle of the arena where the band would perform. While this describes the lateral position of the seats the vertical is another story; we had to go up, a long ways up. The United Center, on the short ends, has 17 rows of seats in its upper most level. We found ourselves in row 17. It actually gave a neat "top of the world" perspective.  I waxed similar to the Weasley's seats at the Quiddich world cup and enjoyed the uniqueness of the perspective.

It's fortunate we now live in a world of large stadium-apropriate screens to still bring us close to the action that has an interesting juxtaposition with the miniatures doing their thing below. I will say the display timing could have been better synchronized with the artists, the percussion work in particular. The video lagging hits on the drum kit left me rhythmically bothered. This was particularly bothersome as it seemed Harry's camera as well as Mitch's (Harry's longtime guitarist) seemed to be largely in synch. Perhaps my eyes are more forgiving of those latencies so they didn't appear as bad, or maybe that's just as it was?

The sound quality was decent enough for the seats, definitely better than my experience of being in the "nosebleed" seats for Metallica's show at US Bank stadium a few years before. Still some resonances were caught between the speakers and the walls and ceiling a short distance above and behind me. I usually wear ear plugs that eliminate much of the crowd noise as well as level and clear the sound, but I forgot to grab them this time around. Fortunately, I had no problem recognizing all the songs that had been ingrained through numerous listenings in my car with my daughter.

Such sonic recognition makes for a more inclusive experience. I've been to concerts where I didn't know much of the music. In those instances it's hard to fully engage. A Primus/Mastodon show a few years ago is one such occasion. Primus only played a couple of thier hits, favoring a full length version of their then-current "Desaturating Seven" album and I wasn't a Mastodon listener. The latter has since changed but that concert was still tough to engage fully with and experience in a manner similar to how I experience a Metallica show.  

This also gives realization to why people seem to prefer cover bands, even mediocre ones, to new and original. The hook is always there and one can always sing along to something they know. There's also the ability to compare and contrast; our brains become more analytical, working in the comparative landscape in which we have comfort.

Digressing, the other aspect of the concert I found interesting was the length. It was a mere, well timed 90 minutes. This is a far cry from the two-plus hours many of the headlining rock bands I've seen have performed. It prevents getting into some depth in the song catalog and precludes any jamming or cover songs that might give more flavor for a seasoned artist. In general, Harry's set list is predictable with "Golden" on the front end and "Kiwi" rocking out the end of the show. In my hard rocking opinion, there should be at least one more Kiwi-esque song in the set list. The middle of the show saw something close with a "One-Direction" tune before a short break. There's enough edge to the sound that a cover of "It's Electric" or even "Kickstart my Heart" might be a good, high-energy complement.

We are however fortunate to have the show end on time to allow for the long-ish commute back to our hotel. Opting to take the "el" was an interesting experience. We originally sat in a dimly lit car towards the back of the train. There was enough weird action going on in that car that we opted to move. Good thing as the car was shortly rushed by transit security and cleaned out. We ended up finding another group of Harries and rode the rest of the way with them. We would have opted for a Lyft/Uber, but figured rides would have been in short supply. We're a little wiser today, but still taking the train. 

Our seats are a bit better for today's show. My outfit will be the same, they I <3 Harry tee shirt my daughter picked up for me before we left. Now it's time to sit back, relax and enjoy the show, again:-)

Beautiful Colorado

It's been a crazy couple of months with the mix of taking on a new job and coaching football. So far I'm enjoying both. I'm admittedly liking the latter a more than the former but that's what things you have a passion for are supposed to be, right? For the new job, I am missing being more deeply involved in technical work; particularly with the magnetic materials that have made the majority of my career. I also get the "saying goodbye" pangs that involve leaving a community behind.

Still, the new job has some interesting aspects. I get to apply knowledge of microelectronics manufacturing to a new area of technology while honing my project and people managing skills. And there are opportunities to contribute to the technical work, but the level of engagement depends on my bandwidth, of which there is very little.

One enjoyment of the previous gig was the ability to travel for conferences, trade shows, customer visits, etc. Granted some of the locations were not the sexiest (ever been to Crane, Indiana?) but some were (¡Barcelona!). This variety allowed for a some adventure, escape and just getting to experience a different part of the world. These opportunities were allowed by being involved with both the research aspects of the previous job and partaking in the greater community; in my case the IEEE Magnetics Society.

The new job will still have some travel involved, but the cadence will be much different and the variety will likely be less. However, I won't be too quick to turn my nose up on having to venture to Colorado with some regularity. I'm on my first work trip.

Saturday, September 3, 2022

Hard to Write

It has been a while since my last post. The last two months sped by with my job change, a trip to Colorado and a short bout of Covid. Things are finally starting to stabilize just in time for football season and another year of coaching! I've also been finding myself in a more DIY mode of operation; making slow but steady progress on home improvements, car repairs, yard work and the like. Thus, I apologize to my modest, but fanatical readership for being away.

I've finally found a moment and some motivation to write. Maybe it's the start of the English Premier League season creating a quiet morning for coffee and pecking away at a keyboard, or the rainy morning weather, or the sinking into routine; but I am, as some may say, "in the mood". 

The challenge is that of mental oxidation. I feel rusty in both choosing what to write about and being able to ascribe some sense of structure to my prose, leaving me with writing a stream of consciousness. My focus also keeps getting pulled to the various "action items" on my agenda. Today, what's pulling me is football coaching, but it could be any number of things. 

Still, it's important to keep on taking digital ink to virtual paper. I feel better when I write freely. Perhaps it's similar to feeling momentarily better after vomiting? What was pent up and causing discomfort is now out. Thankfully the extremes in writing are less and there's no mess, disgusting taste or cold sweats. Perhaps I don't write hard enough and should have those feelings as a goal?

Hopefully I don't find myself there. Instead I'll just keep on my journaling. 


Thursday, June 2, 2022

Between Worlds II

I'm over 1/4th done with my time in work limbo and thought it would be a good time to check on and tweak the self-imposed "Honey-do" list from last time. Two days ago was more of an "action day" with plenty of time spent in the yard. Yesterday was more of an "out and about" day with a couple of appointments and a "farewell" happy hour to cap off the evening. 

I think the biggest thing so far was getting my garden areas tilled and planted. First was my little flower display at the end of the driveway. Here I put the geraniums from my son's football fundraiser as well as a couple perennials. This year I added some lily to the middle and hope it comes out well and not too crowded.


The next was the vegetable space up closer to the house. I planted a mix of seeds, home starts and store bought starts this year. It's definitely not much to look at yet, so I overlaid the planting map; partially for my own reference.



I'd like to get more onions and such involved, but I'm also hesitant to add another box just yet. Perhaps planting along the inner edges of the boxes? I like putting radish most of the time as it's a quick path to an easy early season win while I wait for the rest of the flora to catch up.

The third section I worked on was a bit of a continual trouble spot I've been trying to develop over the last couple seasons. There is a weird retaining structure off the front of my house that protrudes beyond the house to the side. A few years back I tore out all the overgrown shrubs and set a paver patio. This area is adjacent to that, having a past-its-prime bottle brush plant. Last summer I set a small paved area with left over block and put in some shrubs to hedge. There was still an unutilized area. I decided to put in a couple lilacs after bordering the small paved area with some treated lumber.



This area is right under my bedroom window, so there's hope I'll catch some of the lilac fragrance during the bloom. I also planted some extra lily I had, just for kicks. Perhaps this will evolve into a small pollinator garden?

My fourth garden area (not shown) is in my back yard. Frankly, my back yard is awful for growing most stuff (creeping charlie and ground lily aside). It's very shady and has some good slope. My approach here was to save me and my mower from having to cut grass on the slopes. I'm also trying to create some barriers to limit the creeping charlie expansion. I'm slowly working to replant the slopes with a mix of hostas and other shade-friendly plants. I'm also trying out some natural border technique using the abundance of oversized branches that fall in my back yard (I have some big trees). I have about a dozen hosta plants in the ground now along with some fern and jacobs ladder plants. This is very much a work in progress, but I think it will look good once it's done.

My last garden spot is my little strawberry patch. I still need to get a fence up around it as the rabbits are starting to hover in wait. Other than that, the patch pretty much grows itself aside from some weeding :)

Digressing to my list, I think it's time to turn the focus to some of the trim work for my basement. I have a stain picked out and will start getting some color on the new oak. The good weather will allow this to be done in the garage and hopefully won't take too long. I'll likely also start installing the longer lengths once dry. This may run in parallel with some garage cleaning. I also think I'm going to prioritize a "big fat nap" this afternoon :)