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Brain Dump

For some strange and unknown reason, the world did not stop with my lack of posting for the past however-long-it-was (huge blow to my ego there), likewise my life continued on even without posting about it in a blog entry. I figured I should take the time to dump out a quick entry to cover some of what I know has to be on everyone's minds.

First, and most importantly, my daughter was accepted to Johnson and Wales University (N. Miami Campus) in the Food Management (Culinary) program. I can not express enough how proud I am of her, not only for getting into a top university for culinary arts, but for following her dreams of becoming a chef. There have been a few hurdles here and there since she was initially accepted, but she has continued on despite these obstacles. So everyone join me in saying, "Yea Phaide!"

As to the subject of my own higher education, that has been a waiting game and will continue to be such until sometime after Feb 21, 2009. Despite having submitted my application and all required paperwork back in November, I am a distance learner candidate, which puts me into the part-time student pool. Apparently CMU Heinz College has been up to their eyeballs with applications and has been following their admissions policies that go: fulltime early admissions candidates (those who apply before Dec 1), fulltime regular admissions (application deadline of Feb 1) and finally part-time candidates. Therefore, I must wait and be patient for all of the fulltime applications to be processed before I find out if I have been accepted or not.

On the robotics front, I have started my robotics evolution project, but that will be covered in a separate entry. The "You Design It" project is still being worked on, slowly but surely. Currently, there is a small lack of funds to progress too far on either of the robots. Rest assured, they will continue at some point once income goes up; most likely between the "I no longer have to live on oatmeal" and "I can buy that new plasma TV" financial phases. The evolution project is still at a very inexpensive phase (basically left over parts that are floating around) and as such, will keep me active in robotics.

In the mean time, I thought I might share a few of the pictures from the "You Design It" VTOL robot (the hoverbot is not cosmetically ready for a photo-op). Enjoy.

VTOL Wings Half Covered
VTOL Carbon Fiber Wing
VTOL Carbon Fiber Wing

India

My thoughts and prayers go out to the people of India and the friends and family members abroad who were affected by the brutal atrocities that took place this day. Just as I can find no words that would be a strong enough condemnation against those who would commit such acts, I can find no words that might ease the pain and loss you all have suffered. You have my deepest condolences.

Down to Go Up

The housing and lending industries have really screwed things up for the economy. In all actuality, people's greed has screwed things up. The new American dream, as it were. It is not just the businesses and big corporations, it is the average American who took out loans and bought property they can't afford. And it will be the average American who is going to continue to make things worse, at least for a time.

Let me back up a moment and just say I believe the United States is the greatest country in the world. Not so much on paper any more, but in theory. In my heart I know it to be true. I think the American people have the potential to outshine any nation in the world. Granted, our education levels, and even literacy levels are below many developed nations (actually most). The country has become a nation of consumers. We are the world's largest consumer market. It wasn't always that way, and I firmly believe we have it in us to rise up once again to that level where the world will admire and respect the American "know-how".

Currently, there is debate in the US government regarding a proposed $700+ billion bailout to "fix" the problem caused by the greed I mentioned above. The debate is not only taking place in Washington, but among everyday citizens. People discussing, stating their opinions, and even calling and writing their government representatives to voice their opinion about the proposed bailout. It has sparked people's interest in government once again, at least to a small degree, and that is a wonderful thing.

Talking with people myself and following the news stories, it seems that around 2/3 of the population are not in favor of the proposed bailout. Unfortunately, I do not think the majority of that 2/3 understand the probable ramifications of the government "letting the cards fall where they may." And a good chunk of those who do understand, do not fully perceive just how bad things might get. So I am going to present the doom and gloom for a moment, just so you might grasp the severity of the situation, because apparently Washington is afraid to say all this.

In the not too distant past the housing market hit a huge boom. A good part of this was as a result of low federal interest rates, subprime loans, stated income loans and, to a lesser degree, fraud. Basically, the mortgage and banking industry made a bunch of bad loans. Now that in itself would be fine. They made the loans; they take the heat for the loans when they go bad. All well and good, except the loans were sold on the securities market. It is this last part that is going to make things (has made things) really bad for the economy.

Assuming you are not in the mortgage, banking or financial industry, I will give a very simplified run down on how all that works:

John Doe wants to buy a house, but he has crappy credit.

Jane Smith is a mortgage broker who works for Loans-R-Us mortgage broker firm and offers John Doe the chance of a lifetime to own that dream home, either through a subprime loan at a high interest rate, an ARM (adjustable rate mortgage, that starts with low payments and in five years when the interest rate increases "John can refinance using the equity in the home", only that equity never appeared), an interest only loan (again with the promise of equity to refinance later), or, using a loophole in FHA, John can do a stated income loan (read: fraud in many cases).

John Doe takes the loan with Loans-R-Us, and Jane Smith gets a nice big commission check, as does Loans-R-Us, who sells the loan at a discount to Super-Lenders-R-Us.

Super-Lenders-R-Us then takes the loan and sells it (at a discount) to a securities firm, WallStreet-Money-Inc, and makes a nice chunk of change.

WallStreet-Money-Inc then takes that loan from John Doe and bundles it together with 29 other loans and sells off multiple percentages of this bundled package out to the securities firms. In turn, the securities firms sell out pieces of it to consumers and companies.

With me so far? In a nutshell, the loan got sold off. Now, each of these sales has clauses that state that if John Doe does not make good on his payments then the next level has to buy it back. So when John's loan goes bad, WallStreet-Money-Inc goes back to Super-Lenders-R-Us for the money. Super-Lenders-R-Us goes back to Loans-R-Us and demands the money. Pretty fair right? Well, there is a problem here.

Loans-R-Us does not have the money to pay back all the loans that have defaulted. So they file chapter 7 bankruptcy. That leaves Super-Lenders-R-Us holding the bag. All is still good, right? Nope, they got stuck with so many bad loans that could not be dumped back off on the original brokers that they in turn file for bankruptcy. So WallStreet-Money-Inc gets stuck holding the bag.

If you have been following the news, you now know that the WallStreet-Money-Inc companies could not handle the bag they got stuck holding, so they have gone under (or are in the process there of). So who gets stuck with this proverbial hot-potato? The final investors. Consumers and companies that invested in the securities market.

Many companies have a lot of assets tied up in what they were promised to be high return investments. They have no assets, because that is where their money is. In order to continue to be prosperous (and in some cases even make payroll) these companies borrow against the equity from their securities market accounts. Only those accounts are worthless now, so no one will lend them the money (Can you say "A-I-G"?). And they go belly-up.

On top of that, consumers (read: average American citizens) invested their retirement plans in what was promised as a guaranteed high rate of return. So those retirement plans: GONE. Other people got hood-winked by investment companies not disclosing the type of investment properly (*cough* F.T. *cough*), and so unwitting consumers are losing their pants as well. Now, if you are not one of those people (and a good majority of American's are not), you are probably saying no big deal, "My money is not in securities." Or even "I don't have a retirement plan like that; I keep everything in the bank." Right? Well as you guessed, there is more to this story.

If you have money invested in stocks or bonds for retirement here's the question you should ask yourself: Do you know whether the companies you have stocks or bonds with have money in the securities market? Your stock might suddenly become worthless because that safe company, which has been doing so well, invested its liquid capital in securities, and now it is going belly up. And because 90% of people involved in stock trades, investments or retirement accounts could not tell you whether a given company is going to run into this problem, the stock market (and entire financial industry) is screwed.

To be safe you pull all your money out (aka "the run on Wall Street"). Well, now that company, which was good and safe, who never invested in any of the bad markets, just had their stock value plummet. Their credit goes down the drain; they lose capital and can not get the Net Terms they once had in order to make their products. So they go belly-up. And it spirals from there.

On top of that, your home value will continue to drop. Before too long, if it has not happened already, your house will be worth less than you paid for it 10 years ago. And less than you will be able to sell it for 10 years from now. You are stuck in a mortgage that is more than the value of the home.

Unemployment rates will rise as many companies go under. The good solid companies will have to tighten their belts, and do massive lay-offs, further increasing unemployment. Consumer spending will drop because people just lost their retirements and possibly their job. To compensate for that, inflation will rise. Meaning you get less for more. Mom and dad, who have been living on their 401K, are flat broke and are coming to live with you. Your sister (whose Birthday was yesterday and you never called), lost her job and is coming to live with you as well. 19% unemployment rates or more. That means one out of every five adult family members (and their kids) will be coming to live with you. And your money is buying less, but you need to support more people.

It does not end there. The global economy depends on the United States; we are the world's largest consumers. But now we aren't spending. So the global economy starts it spiral. And down, and down, and down it goes. To compensate for this, there will likely be a country or two that decides to go to war, and thus we have World War III. The good news is that war of that level is good for the economy; the bad news is that it is a war and people die (maybe all of us this time).

The scale of this thing has the potential to be huge. If you were not alive during the Great Depression, a historian, or can follow chaos theory, you probably can not comprehend just how bad things could get. It is not a recession. Just because you saw the "DOTCOM Bust" does not mean you understand how horrible things will get. It is similar to the people I hear in my area of Florida saying that a Category 3 hurricane would not be so bad because "we had that no name storm and things were fine." Well that no name storm you "lived through" was like a company laying you off during a booming market, where you can find a job in under a week. The Great Depression was a Category 4 hurricane, and tell it to the Katrina victims that are still recovering years later that it is "no big deal".

This is what the politicians in Washington understand, and why they are thinking about the $700+ billion bailout for the industry. Do you get it now?

That being said, I am still against the bailout. Following the Great Depression, the United States entered a period of unsurpassed innovation and overall greatness. Companies and people had no choice. To survive, people had to suck up a little humility and take what jobs they could. Families moved together, grew closer and became stronger. Companies had to be the best in order to continue on, which meant new ways of thinking, hiring the best people possible, and finally getting off their butts and doing what they had meant to do.

Take Ford Motor Company for example. For years they have wanted to be competitive with Japanese and Korean auto makers. But, with the economy at a decent level, they still had enough car sales to keep Senior Management in a nice lifestyle. Why bother spending the money to make a car that was better than Honda or Toyota at a price that was less? Necessity is the mother of invention, and there has been no necessity. In a depression, there is necessity and Ford (like many companies) will either sink or learn to swim faster than everyone else out there.

Through that necessity, this country could once again be the greatest nation on Earth. And I honestly believe we have the guts, drive and know-how to see it through. Unfortunately, it also means letting the country (and world) hit rock bottom and enter into another Great Depression. Down to go up; seems irrational, but sometimes it takes a little lunacy to make things better.

Returning From Hiatus

It has been nearly four months since I was last able to get an entry into this blog. Most of that has accounted for class work time, which, I am happy to say, I have finished. At least for the time being. Over the next week and a half I have two major items on my plate that will be determining the path my life takes for the following year or three.

The first of these items is the GRE General Exam that is scheduled for September 18, 2008 at 12:00PM EDT. Yes, despite everything else I might wish to accomplish and the time schooling has taken from my free time, it is my hope to go onto graduate school. Perhaps I am a glutton for punishment, but I have always enjoyed learning new things and have consistently strived to increase my understanding of as many different fields as possible. The moment I stop learning it will because I am dead, so I figure I should kill (no pun intended) two birds with one stone: Continue to learn, and hopefully learn from the best and the brightest, while improving my professional and academic value. Thus, Graduate School.

The second item on my list to accomplish in the next few weeks is the completion of a joint patent application with Harold Bright. We had filed a provisional patent approximately one year ago to allow time for proof of concept testing, and now it is time to file for full patent status. Unfortunately, while we are in the patent pending stages it is mums the word on our invention. But I will give a hint in that it involves robotics, and once we have the pseudo-prototype finished I will post a few video clips of the invention in action.

In the meantime, there are a few hundred blog entries that I have been storing up in my head over the past four months, and will be trying to trickle each and every one out through my finger tips as time permits. Eventually I will be back up to my self-set level of three entries per week, but for the next couple weeks I will have to be content with working within my time constraints. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, and I hear no train, only the sounds of my own footsteps as I return from hiatus.

Tutorial Section

I've been working off and on again with the You Design It hoverbot project, well, actually projects. As a result of some private feedback I had received from a few people, I decided to create two separate hovering style robots for the project. The original design I had come up with will be the one used to detail most steps of the tutorial. It is a basic hovercraft, only more sci-fi in design. The second robot tutorial will be released completely separately upon completion (instead of in stages), but if you happen to see images in any tutorials not related to the initial hoverbot, this is where they are from.

Speaking of tutorials, I started one on mold building for plastic/rubber custom pieces. I have also added a link in the title bar (pssst, up there^) leading directly into the tutorials section. As I write up more I will continue to categorize each and add it to its section. I am currently waiting for my member page account for the Society of Robots website. Once I have my account information I will be duplicating any tutorials over there in an effort to help create an as complete as possible repository on all things robotic.

In other unrelated news, I am still working on my final term paper on Six Sigma for my Operations Management course. I have finished reading all my reference sources and pieced together note cards full of information I am hoping to use for the paper. One way or another, I imagine I will be completing the paper within the week. Depending on how happy I am with the finished product, I will likely ask my instructor for permission to post the paper here for all to read and enjoy. Alright, it is Six Sigma, so there will likely not be much to enjoy, but it should still be an interesting read given the oddity that is my mind.

Engineer or Artist

Some years ago a friend had explained an observation of his on a person's wealth and the car they drive. I had heard different points of view from people through out my life on cars and what they say about the people who drive them, ranging from a persons love for a classic car, to the status symbol a car can hold. While all the differing viewpoints people held over what another person drove, or didn't drive, never really concerned me much; what this particular friend shared I found to be both insightful and to hold quite true for most things, not just automobiles.

Persons of middle class, in the realm of economics, will generally drive a mid-priced car because it is what they can afford while providing some measure of reliability. In today's market that would equate to a Honda or Toyota I imagine. People who are new to money, or have had it "given to them", opt for higher end luxury cars or sports cars and the like. It is a status symbol, a means of showing what they have. The truly wealthy, the top 1 or 2%, those who have money and to who it is just a fact of life, tend to drive a mid-priced car; because they understand that a car just needs to be reliable and get them from point A to point B. Of course there are always exceptions to the rules.

In the years since that conversation I have begun seeing many aspects of people with the same underlying principle. What I like to term "Engineer or Artist". I do not use either title in their typical sense, but rather as a level of something, whether it is ability, intelligence, knowledge, strength, or anything else. Mathematics is a good example of these levels. Solve 17 = X^2 + 1. The average person (average in the arena of algebra) might take a few moments and spout out X=4 as the answer, using formulas and specifications remembered from years past. The engineer would write out the complete proof to show how the equation becomes X=4. The artist would answer, just as the average person, that X=4, because the answer has no need to be proven, they just know it is correct beyond any doubt.

When it comes to people as an example of this, I can think of no better measure than the difference between Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla. Edison was an engineer. Everything he did could be reproduced from his writings and drawing because he was very precise in his work. Tesla was an artist, decades later and we are still having a hard time understanding the work he did and the ideas he came up with. Even though we can not understand all that he did, there is no denying his brilliance in the field of electricity and wave forms.

Another example would be to go back to cars. If you asked an average person with no training or skill on the subject to draw you a car, you would likely get exactly what you expected. Perhaps a side view of the typical sedan car shape showing two wheels and a few side windows. Maybe a dog hanging its head out the window if the drawer was feeling overly ambitious. Ask an engineer in the field of auto-design to draw you a car and they will immediately sit at the drafting table with mechanical pencil, ruler, compass and spare sheet of paper for figuring out calculations on. After many hours they will return to you a meticulously crafted image of an automobile to exact scale, meeting whatever design specifications they had in their head, completely aerodynamic in nature, and likely easily reproducible from the ground up. Now ask an automobile artist, that person on the level of the Carroll Shelbys of the world, and on a napkin using a felt tip pen they will sketch out the future of automobiles. And it will take an army of engineers to figure out how to build it without that artist's help, but it will astound the world.

The difference between the three levels can be seen in all aspects of human ability and endeavor, and has a pattern of simple, complex, simple: the average person has only a normal understanding or ability in a given task and sees the easy solution, the engineer has received training or education on the subject and will find you the solution and the reason why, the artist has progressed beyond what training and education could supply either through natural ability or some other means and just knows the solution. For an artist something just clicks. It just is the way it is and they understand it all without having to rationalize it, or do the measurements, or even think about it.

Aside from providing a little insight into how I see things (and an excuse to break away from attempting to write a term paper on Six Sigma), my point is that for all things in life there are those who are average, those who are engineers, and those who are artists. The thing that makes each of us one or the other is deciding where our path lies; for in each person there is a field, a topic, a job, a dream that will just click with us. Something that we can see so clearly that it defies explanation. It is up to each of us to choose whether to ignore a field and stay average, train and be educated in a field to become an engineer, or to instead select the field that has selected us and in turn become an artist.

M.I.A.

I have a total of two courses and two CLEPs remaining for my degree. The CLEPs I really don't take into consideration, only because they are entry level courses that are a byproduct of having changed majors; Precalculus and Intro to Business Law. If it were not for the CLEP exams it would be frustrating to have to take each as a class, so thank the universe (FSM) for small favors. So basically, two courses remaining.

Although I have not checked to be certain, I believe the next graduation for my college takes place in June, which would mean I need all credits into the school sometime in early May. Both of the remaining classes I am taking with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln as part of their independent study program. These are self paced upper level courses, which is a very good thing for me provided I can force myself to work on the class. The bad thing being I need to allot time for credit transfer.

To that end I had given myself a set schedule of four weeks per class, the first of which (Operations Management) I began at the beginning of March and have unfortunately fallen a little behind schedule. One week behind to be exact. Five weeks for a 3 credit hour course would not be bad still, except it throws my entire time table off schedule (remember the graduation above?). So I have been working overtime in an attempt to get back on schedule.

And that has not been going well with the distraction of the You Design It project. Fortunately for me, the cosmos loves me and has ensured that the parts I need to progress further with the hoverbot will be at least another week in arriving. If I push myself just enough I should be able to complete everything on time (and under budget), and that is exactly what I will be doing for approximately the next week. So please excuse the lack of entries as I continue to be Missing In Academia.

Where Do Your Loyalties Lie?

When I first enlisted in the United States Navy I had to take an oath of loyalty; to protect the constitution and obey the orders of the President of the United States and officers appointed above me. It was a short and simple oath, but one I, and would assume most persons, did not fully understand until some time later. You see, in no point of that oath was a name other than my own given, only the offices held by the President and my superior officers. It is an oath to the country as a whole, not one single person or group of persons.

The underlying meaning of that oath is something, once understood, that I took with me into the corporate world upon my return to civilian life. Within each and every company that I have worked for there has always been a level of office politics; some very subtle and others that could only be termed as an outright coup. Through it all, that underlying principle of loyalty has been my guiding light, my moral compass in a world where office politics has engulfed so many people. It is often a difficult practice to hold onto, and a stance that has from time to time even ruined friendships.

The principle of my professional loyalties is simple, protect and do what is best for the company I am employed by, for as long as I am employed by it. In a sole proprietorship it is easy, the owner is the company, in other structures it becomes much more difficult a practice. One has to look beyond the internal politics and see the overall mission of the company and follow what is best for it as a whole, not just one man or woman's vision, but the long term survival and growth of the company, including all the people who work under its umbrella. To protect those people and the mission statement that really is the company.

While the principle is simple, in reality the practice is difficult. No one person within a company possesses all the information necessary to know which actions or inactions are best for the company. What I have found as a best practice, for myself at least, is to use the policies and procedures laid out by the company as a primary guide and to hold all employees under the same level of accountability, from the lowest cubicle worker to the CEO. Given a choice between actions, I will always try to choose the one that provides the greatest good for the whole or at the very least, in some no win situations, inflicts the least amount of harm to said company. It is, far too often, not a very popular stance.

One of the saving graces (for my sanity) given this choice of loyalty is in viewing business as business and personal as personal. Some people get that, others don't. I have had to personally fire people who have remained friends years after the fact, but have been ostracized by fellow employees who were upset when I remained with a company after they left. Such business decisions can be upsetting at times, when others allow it to flow into the personal, but were those who take that stance ever truly my friend? And would I even want them back having seen their metaphorical true colors?

I take heart in having seen that these kinds of people are those who (wrongly) feel the company (life?) owes them something. People who are guided by greed and never able to see past their own self to how their actions affect others. Perhaps, in some instances, I am wrong in that view, but the principle of loyalty that I will continue to hold myself to is not wrong, not for me. And some people will get it, and others won't, but it is where my professional loyalties lie.

A Good Morning Laugh

I have a routine that I run through each and every morning from the time I slide out of bed until I jump in the car and head off to work. Mostly it consists of getting coffee and a cigarette into me (yes, I know I shouldn't smoke) followed by checking in on a few websites I frequent. It is a slow methodical wake up ritual that gets my brain firing on all cylinders right about the time I step into the shower, and something I rarely deviate from, or, rather, have the need to deviate from.

This morning I deviated. Before I had finished my first cup of coffee I found myself wide awake and full of energy as a result of the first website I visit on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. That site is The PC Weenies, and today I found a surprise there. As I first looked at the newly posted comic, before I read any of the word balloons or scrolled down to the entry regarding the comic, I recognized one of the characters in the strip as a good friend of mine, Harold Bright.

Harold and I worked together for about a year and a half, and became friends prior to his moving off to Seattle with his wife Hollie. Not only is he an excellent Network Engineer, but is also warped enough to take on throwing ideas around with me for possible inventions, mostly in robotics. One of which we have been working on for close to two years now, and despite the distance that now separates our creative yet disturbed brains, we have managed to stay in touch and continue to make progress.

Having not seen Harold for many moons, it was quite the shock to recognize him immediately in the strip drawn by Krishna. Even further, seeing the same scene play out in the strip that has likely happened with all IT people, but which Harold despises on a whole new level, was priceless. Thank you Krishna for bringing Harold and his pet peeve to life so well in your comic, and thank you to Hollie for submitting your husband in order to bring us all a good morning laugh.

Sidebar

I've been feeling a bit under the weather the past few days, some sort of viral infection or another took hold of my body and decided to restrict me to maintaining a horizontal position. Fatigue, muscle aches, fever; the general "works" for this kind of thing. My story is Ebola and I am sticking with it.

I had a few entries working around in the back of my mind, but have had to put them on hold while I shake this thing. Not one to give in fully, I decided to add a few website links as a sidebar item that point to places I visit frequently or just plain admire. So here is the run down on what is there now, with likely a few other places soon to come.

Society Of Robots - a repository of all things robotics. Step by step tutorials, articles on everything from batteries to programming techniques, forums for people to toss around ideas, and general overall help and guidance for the robot builder. This is a great site whether you are just getting into robotics or are a long standing member of the community.

The PC Weenies - web comic and blog written by the very talented Krishna Sadasivam. The comic is primarily I.T. based in humor and style, but is at just the right tech level as to be a great read for those not in the I.T. field. I even had the privilege of a guest star appearance in one of his strips which can be seen here. The irony in the comic would of course be my hatred of mobile phones.

Wil Wheaton dot NET - the personal weblog of Wil Wheaton, author of Just A Geek and Dancing Barefoot. Yes, he is also the child actor from Stand by Me and Star Trek: The Next Generation. I really should have the link pointing to WWdN: In Exile, as his primary site has been broken for quite some time, but I have hope for its return in the near future. Wil is a fantastic writer with a style that keeps me coming back for more. A must read.

The One Tool

A friend of mine, Liz, made it a point to note the lack of a particular object in the banner image, as well as the entry regarding said image. To be completely fair, this object really has no place among all the other tools and parts depicted, and I shall explain why.

If you were to ask an auto mechanic to take a few photographs of items that represent their work or what it was that made them passionate about that work, they would likely produce something along the lines of a tool chest, a beefed up 427 engine with dual four barrel carbs, the vintage car owning that engine, perhaps a good ratchet set or even an air ratchet. You would probably not see a hammer. Yet, now that I penned that simple word, the name to that auspicious tool, the hammer, you probably have started to become aware of just how many mechanics love that implement.

It is used for everything, and never far from the reaching grip of a good auto mechanic. A tool that has become a very extension of their being, one they never put much thought into, but one they would be lost without. For myself that tool, that mechanical part of me, is the dremel; and it is that very thing which Liz noticed was missing (or rather assumed was buried under everything else).

Unless you are a dremel owner there is no way for you to fully comprehend my meaning when I say that there is nothing I can not do with a dremel. Beyond the regular cutting of objects, sanding and grout removal lies the pure beauty that this tool encompasses. If required, or even provided the proper opportunity, I am adamantly certain that I could not only build you an entire house using only my dremel, but could perform brain surgery in the newly constructed kitchen to remove the disbelief you would be feeling, followed by a complete teeth cleaning to show off the perma-grin splayed across your face. Drinks would be mixed inside intricately carved glass bowls followed by a fantastic barbecue cookout in the backyard gardens; and all of that, even the fire used to cook the food, would have been mixed by, carved with, spit roasted on and hedge-trimmed by my trusty dremel.

That is what the dremel is, at least to this owner. It is the one tool to rule them all, and had Gandalf possessed such an implement the LOTR movies would have lasted a short 15 minutes with the quick work the dremel would have made of the One Ring of Power.

A Thousand Words

I do believe I have about finished the major design work on the site and settled on a theme that seems to suffice, for the moment at least. I reworked a few minor items, mostly noticeable only to myself, and added a "StumbleUpon" link for the entries. It seems to be what all the cool kids are doing these days. Alright, so perhaps it is mostly us geekiarchs. The remainder of the site shall forever, or at the very least a few days, be a work in progress.

Now, while I seriously doubt I will be able to produce a thousand meaningful words on the subject, I thought I might spin a few about the top banner image. I had a picture taken of a few odds and ends that tend to continuously find there way onto my workbench. Not being content with a mere photograph, I was required, per the code of all who work with technology, to "tweak" the image inside Photoshop to suit my tastes. As I look at the image for ways to best describe what is there, I am struck by just how delightfully the picture has captured my passions.

Going across from the left to the right, we first can see the head of my digital calipers. Unfortunately, the Sherline Lathe would not quite have squeezed into the 944X160 pixel image, but suffice to say the two really go hand and hand for me. I have only been machining for a short while now, 6 odd months, but there really is no replacement for properly manufactured parts, and the curly-qs produced are an added bonus. Of course the Maxim's Maxim had no small part to play in my diving head first (more of a belly flop, truth be told) into micro-machining, but that is a story unto itself.

Moving along we come to a circuit board, complete with all manner of components firmly soldered into place, not to mention a few LEDs. And who doesn't like LEDs? It is not just any circuit board, but rather the controller board for the Sandwich Line Following Robot by David Cook. Properly named "Herbert." The robot, not David. Of course all my robots are named "Herbert," is it really that surprising?

Resting atop the PCB board are a few miscellaneous parts including a micro servo used for, you guessed it, robotics. Directly below is yet another in the series of the robotics madness, a standard universal breadboard, showing off the latest in fall fashions with it's test circuitry all ready to assist in the solar charging of the NIMH battery pack used to power Herbert the gutter bot, with it's MAXIM (no relations) 8212 IC and MOSFET accessorizing the package. Excuse me, I seemed to have geeked out there for a moment. I am sure I have a prescription for that some place.

Now where was I? An Intel Pentium chip WITH MMX technology of course. Leading us into the Information Technologies field and my love for computers. Yes, I am as surprised as you are that I still have one of these processors. No, you can not have it. It was used in the picture mostly because I did not have a spare "modern" processor floating around, and I was afraid the 80X286 processor in my closet would have dated me too badly. I have a sixteen year old daughter to do that.

The last two objects rounding out the image are a soldering iron and a spool of inductive coil (aka copper wire), pretty self explanatory. Not quite the extravagant finish one could hope for in such a list. If only Sherline produced a Mill that would fit in the picture, now that would have been an ending. C'est la vie.

Oh, incase you were wondering (because who wouldn't, right?), the binary code at the top and bottom reads "I Am. When?", and the vertical states "Now" Four words instead of a thousand, but they will do.

Over Constructed

Alright, so the title for this entry really should be "Under Construction," but for me those words splayed across a web page with the obligatory yellow hardhat, and perhaps a flashing orange light, bring on too many painful memories of Internet years gone past. I just can't bring myself to speak of it, the pain haunts me so.

In reality I am working on tweaking the layout and function of this site, not to mention playing with Serendipity, the power behind the pretty screen. Thus far I like what I am seeing with Serendipity as a backend, and am quite content with the choice. Now granted with the PHP applications developed by myself and others who have worked with Proverbs in the past, we probably could have come up with something that would have been exactly what I wanted. The main problem? I have no idea what I wanted for this, and still don't.

I am also horrible at designing nice layouts, as anyone who has used Helpdesk ver 1.2 or the original design of the Proverbs Web Calendar can attest to. Function always comes first in my mind, but I digress from the substance of this entry. I settled on Serendipity for a variety of reasons that will eventually, one can hope, be a blog entry of its own. It seems quite powerful, secure (well as secure as anything on the Internet can be), and versatile. Of course I broke it within 48 hours.

So now that I set it all up, made a post, tweaked it, broke it, attempted to fix it, wiped it clean, reloaded it, tweaked it some more and am finally getting around to my second posting; I guess you could say I have a little bit of time vested into this application. And, by-golly, it is going to work for me and be exactly what I want it to be. Whatever that is.

As such, if you (all of you, any of you, anyone, "Hello, is this thing on?") are reading this, expect a little virtual dust, and perhaps a few flying cobwebs from the part of my brain that contains PHP knowledge, while I go through and over construct this new web site. Did you see how I brought that right back around to the title? Sorry. Anyway, thank you for your patience, whoever you are.

I Am. When?

I had decided a while back to do something with the Proverbs webspace, to put it to some use other than wasted Internet space. Not that Proverbs, LLC is gone, just that the purpose of the company's website, to provide "off the shelf" software via the Internet, is no longer needed. For quite some time the only item available through the Proverbs website has been our Event Calendar and I have been musing over what to do with the space.

I have also been mulling over writing further magazine or Internet articles for publication, if not a book (I know grand designs and all that). Unfortunately, life has always had a way of stealing my time away, as is the case of most everyone I imagine. Or is it that I, we, have refused to free up the time to do these things?

Perhaps, perhaps not. What I do know is that there are many projects which I have been tossing around in my head, some started and stopped, others put to the back of my mind only to resurface at another interval along this road we call life. These projects are important to me, such as my writings, or in some cases ramblings, yet I, we, always seem to find a way to push the majority aside to pursue other aspects of life. Never taking the risks, never tasting the rewards, or the failures.

And this is what IAMWHEN is about. For all the times I have been asked, or have asked myself, "Are you going to do this?" and responded "I Am." For all the times I have, to that very response, found myself asking "When?" Well... Now. So without further rambling, and on behalf of myself and Proverbs, LLC, I present IAMWHEN.COM