Welcome to my blog! I'm out to break the stereotype of the "typical" engineer. We're not all fans of the slide rule and pocket protector. Read on...

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Your Smart Car Shows How Dumb You Are

Here's a shout out to all of the Smart Car drivers out there.  Right up there with the Pet Rock and the Chia Herb Garden, it begs the question "who would buy one of those?"  Also, conspicuously absent is the "fine German engineering".  Let's examine further:

1) Occupants - 2

2) Luggage - Ha!

3) Crash ratings - can't defy physics, in an accident - you lose, ouch!

4) Performance - 0-60 mph in 12.8 seconds.  Shameful, and certainly not fun to drive.

5) 33/41 MPG - this is where the engineering is really suspect.  This is a 1800 lb car!  This mileage is a crime against Herr Schmidt, my German dynamics teacher.  You can get the same basic mileage with a Focus or a Fiesta and get a whole car...

So, this grand vehicular experiment has proven one thing: there's a sucker, jonesing for the next big (or little) thing, born every day.  Thanks to all the Smart Car drivers out there for providing entertainment for the rest of us.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

"Casual Overtime"

It's summer - the weather has finally turned warm here in Michigan, the kids are out of school, and I find myself mired in the land of "casual overtime".  For those unfamiliar with this term: think unpaid time spent working.  This term crept up during the last (current - when did it stop?) economic downturn, when paid overtime flew out the window.  So, we are all now expected to donate some time to the company cause, which I'm fine with.  As a salaried employee I have no expectation of compensation for every minute I log in the office.  Except it has now reached the point where I am donating an additional 25-30% of time free of charge.

With the economy being so unstable, employers are clearly declining to hire additional employees.  Instead, they are relying on their current staff to continue to shoulder the burden.   Prospects for advancement: nil, prospects for raises: nil, prospects for new hires: nil.  So, when we go on vacation and see the "poor slackers" who chose to live their life renting out surf boards in Hawaii or serving drinks on the snorkeling boat, I guess we have to ask ourselves:  who made the better career choice?!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Don't You Just Love the Olympics?

I am going through serious Olympic withdrawal tonight.  What am I going to do with my evenings?  My Saturdays?  There is something so compelling about watching athletes who, for the most part, have spent the last four years training and preparing for this one moment in time.  Heck, I can't even seem to focus on something for four hours at a time!  My favorite events to watch were short track speed skating and downhill skiing - sports where anything can happen.  I have to say, I can see why Julia Mancuso is tired of Lindsey Vonn - what an attention hog.   Events they could stand to drop: curling and women's hockey.  After all, curling is really a game, not a sport.  I'm still trying to figure out when they should play "the guard" vs. "the peel"... And, the women's hockey was a snoozer for the most part with all of the lopsided scores. 

I'm already looking forward to the next summer games in 2012.  Swimming, gymnastics, and biking - oh my!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Growing Up - What's the Rush?

My kids are at a great age right now.  At 6 and 9, they are pretty self-sufficient - no bottoms to wipe, no clothes to pull on over heads, etc.  They are both readers now as well, and it is fun to take them places and hear their funny observations on the world around them.  One issue we've been dealing with on a more frequent basis is age-appropriate entertainment.  Many of my son's friends are now green-lighted for PG-13 movies and teen-rated video games.  I have to wonder what the rush is to introduce them to increasing levels of violence and mature content.  Can't we let them keep their innocence a little longer, let them use their imaginations for good?

And the girls - from Bratz dolls to revealing clothing for the preschool and early elementary set - and girls that use the word "sexy" and talk about their "boyfriends".  This can't be healthy, and can only lead to early entry into behaviors best reserved for adults. 

I observe a lot of hand-wringing among parents, but not a lot of effort put into curbing the loss of their childrens' innocence.   After all, how bad could Hannah Montana be (as Miley Cyrus does a stripper act onstage at the VMA's)?  Easy to talk the talk, a little harder to walk the walk.

Here are some links from the American Academy of Pediatrics relating to violent video games and sexual media content:

My friend Stacey (Thanks Stace!) also put me onto a great book on parenting called Bringing Up Geeks by MaryBeth Hicks.  Here is a link to her website with further information:


So, my kids will be the ones without TV in their rooms, watching their PG movies until they are MUCH older, and not being dropped off solo at the mall.  They'll thank me later, I hope. 

PS - Thanks Mom and Dad!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Pop-up Timers Explained...

Last year at Thanksgiving I was driving and listening to the Martha Stewart network on Sirius.  The show was focused on turkey preparation.  Before I knew it, the discussion turned to those little red and white pop-up timers.  The host of the show advised the callers to pull it out and throw it away, "because how could it "know" when to pop up?"    Ughhhh - seriously?  Did she think it was a random event?  Caller after caller proceeded to validate her theory.  COME ON PEOPLE!!  I'm thinking that maybe these were the ones hiding in the bathroom during Science Lab.  Not me - I had my goggles on over my rose-colored gigantic glasses.  Pretty!

The pop-up timer actually works because the red plastic stick is surrounded by a spring mechanism and the end is stuck in a metal material (or wax) at the bottom of the timer.  When the temperature at the end reaches the proper temp, the metal melts, the stick is freed, and the spring forces it upward.  So, no mystery here.  Just science...

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Toys Made in the USA - Winter 2010

My friends know I'm on a constant quest to locate great products made in the USA.  I have to share a couple that I've seen recently that are appropriate for our winter weather.  Last year I'll admit to coveting the Zipfy Freestyle mini luge http://www.zipfy.com/.   But, at $50 + shipping I thought I could pass on it since I had pretty much completed my Christmas purchases for the kids.  This Christmas, my son was fortunate to get one delivered courtesy of Mr. S Claus. He might have acquired it with help from the elves at Costco for well less than last year's price.  Can't wait to sail down the hills on that thing if I can pry it away for a minute or twenty...

Also, I picked up a couple of snowball throwers (Sno-baller snowball makers) made in the USA last year on clearance and am happy to report that they make good snowballs and no one has been injured in the process of using them.  They get a big thumbs up.

Is it summer yet?

Monday, January 4, 2010

Geocaching - Great Family Hobby

In the last couple of years, our family has enjoyed taking up Geocaching.  Using our handheld GPS unit and downloading coordinates and clues from the internet, we've tracked down over 250 caches hidden all over the US.  The caches are hidden on public property, and the size of the caches vary from teeny tiny containers the size of a watch battery, to large Rubbermaid containers filled with all sorts of trinkets to trade.  Our kids have gotten into the thrill of the hunt, and love to bring along little toys to trade in.  When the weather is nice, we head to local parks, where the caches are often hidden along trails in the woods.  During the colder months, we try to stick with caches known as "Park and Grabs", where the time outside the car is minimal.  If you are looking for a hobby that gets everyone out of the house, and lets you exercise your brain a little, you definitely should give Geocaching a try. 

For more information, go to http://www.geocaching.com/