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Monday, June 16th, 2008

Ruminations

I’m very, very excited about the business opportunities in the Pacific areas – Hawai’i, Guam, Micronesia, and maybe more.

OK, I haven’t written in a while. The big reason is personal – I keep getting a lot of crap whenever I write anything that reveals what I think about what’s going on in my life. So I just shut up. It was easier that way.

I also felt that, minus the personal ponderings, this blog was just turning into a travelogue. So I haven’t written about my trips to Japan, Guam, and Hawai’i. And also, I’ve just been too overloaded with new responsibilities to have much time to write about anything. It’s an ongoing debate in my mind – keep writing honestly and suffer the consequences, keep writing blandly for no real purpose, or quit writing. I’ve really thought hard about announcing that this blog is going to end.

But here I am, writing again. I guess I just want to write.

I gave up on the corrosionengineer.net website because I just wasn’t putting anything up on the site, but I still keep tabs on what’s going on out there. It’s a small world, so it doesn’t take much to have an impact.

So maybe I can keep this thing alive by mixing in the things I care about – they’re listing in my blog’s subtitle. I can’t rant and rave about the things that are wrong about my employer, because they’ve fixed a lot of them. I’m back to actually liking working for them again – I feel that team spirit, and see opportunities by playing along. Real opportunities – like heading a new, or renewed, Pacific office based out of Hawai’i. I’m not even sure about announcing this, because it’s still unofficial, but I think it’s going to happen.

I would like to have a real impact on young engineers who are mildly interested in the field, and internet-savvy enough to find this site. I can’t emphasize enough how much I love my work. I love the travel, I love the variety, and most of all I love the challenge. I’ve been doing this for eighteen years, but every morning I wake up knowing that I’m going to have to think hard about what I’m doing this day.

So what am I doing? I’m writing about it.

Posted by Greg as Corrosion Control, Posts About Me, Travel at 22:45 PST

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Thursday, May 1st, 2008

In the Path of the Tornado

Tonight was my first serious tornado warning.

The sirens were wailing, the rain was falling, and the lightning regularly lit up the low overhead clouds. I, of course, was outside, looking for the circling cone, or at least the reported baseball-sized hail. What else did I have to do? My new episode of Lost was preempted by the weathermen.

Actually, the weather reports were fascinating. The maps showed the blue-green-red-green-blue surface map overlay, with the red focus heading slowly and inexorably towards me. The cacophony of the sirens emphasized the “tornado warning” spouted by the TV. But the animals were fine, and I knew that statistics were in my favor. The plot of the possible tornado, which included me, reminded me of plots of possible asteroid strikes.

I saw Greensburg, Kansas, just four days after that F5 hit. The devastation was awesomely impressive. But it was narrowly focused. I wasn’t afraid. Risk is purely statistical analysis factored with impact. Hell, if I survived a direct tornado hit, I could lose everything and have a great story. I’ve lost everything before. You survive, and when you shake yourself off afterwards, you haven’t lost as much as you thought.

So I was mostly outside, looking. It was disappointing. Frankly, I prefer a good 6.0 earthquake.

Posted by Greg as Posts About Me at 20:57 PST

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Friday, January 18th, 2008

Classmates Guestbook

I joined Classmates years ago as a way of hooking up with old friends, and the site enticed me to do so by offering free benefits. But lately I’m come to suspect their motives and business practices. They don’t seem to be advertising-supported (of course, how would I know? I use Adblock), so they must rely on paid memberships to derive their revenue. So far, I’ve resisted their attempts to recruit me into a membership. I sometimes got contact information that included an email from visitors that might have known me, and used that to contact them directly (which never seemed to work), but who knows the ambivalence of a casual web-surfer?

Lately, I’ve been getting a lot of notices that someone has signed my guestbook. On most websites, that means someone who wants you to notice that he or she has seen your information and is interested in saying “hi” to you. But on Classmates, you have to pay to see who did this. So I tried to hack the system, and posted a photo (viewable by all) that included my email superimposed on the image. I keep getting the guestbook signing notices, but nobody emails me directly.

Is Classmates using an automated system to post guestbook notices just to get me to sign up for paid membership? Or am I getting guestbook signings from people too oblivious to notice the email or too lazy to contact me directly?

In either case, I’m willing to withhold the US$39 from Classmates to find out. So if you see me there, send me an email. Otherwise, I’m not interested.

Posted by Greg as Networking, Posts About Me at 18:12 PST

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Tuesday, January 15th, 2008

Astronomy Therapy

A couple of nights ago I had an awful lot on my mind, and despite thinking that I really needed to go to bed and get some sleep, I went outside and looked up.

It was a cold, clear night, and viewing by the naked eye was probably as best as it could get (unless you happen to be driving across the middle of nowhere in New Mexico.) Even so, I grabbed a pair of low power binoculars and was rewarded with huge new perspectives.

I’ve been trying hard over the last year to finally learn something about the stars at night. I’ve always been interested in space, but never bothered to learn any astronomy. When I first started playing with Linux I encountered KStars and loved it, then I found Stellarium, which is even better, and I could load a copy on my Windows machine. I started in the summer and learned the basics – the Summer Triangle (Vega, Deneb, Altair), Rasalhague, Polaris, Cassiopeia, The Big Dipper, Arcturus, and Spica. Jupiter was in Scorpio, near Antares, and as the season progressed (or if I stayed up really late), Andromeda crept up. I knew there was a galaxy there but couldn’t find it. When I went to Diego Garcia I got up at 4 o’clock in the morning to go out for a sighting of the Southern Cross. Unfortunately, there was no way I could see Alpha Centauri again that time of year.

But I longed to see Orion again, and to really try to learn about the northern winter stars. So this night was the time to really delve, and I was rewarded.

I saw Orion, with Betelgeuse, Bellatrix, Rigel and Saiph. And I saw the Winter Hexagon, with Rigel, Sirius, Procyon (which I learned to pronounce), Castor and Pollux, Capella and Aldebaran. I watched Regulus in Leo come up, and saw Saturn. Mars was just underneath Alnath. And I pulled those laughable little binoculars out. I couldn’t see Saturn’s rings, but I saw the little fuzzes of the Great Nebulae in Orion and Andromeda. I located my own Zodiac sign – Cancer – and also discovered the cluster Praesepe without knowing to look for it. I finally found out why the Pleiades were so cool (although I don’t know why they’re called the Seven Sisters – I count six, and several possible contenders for the seventh.)

With the help of the binoculars, and my laptop with Stellarium (and Wikipedia to answer questions, and a couple of tequilas to keep me warm) I was able to actually see constellations. I saw Leo and Canis Major. I saw Hydra’s head (I used it to find Cancer), and Gemini, Auriga, Taurus and Perseus. I don’t know why Andromeda is a woman’s shape, but I saw where the stars were. I even lucked out and saw a meteor go across half the sky, and two satellites plod away. I recognized the motion from seeing Skylab before it fell in 1979, just before I left for America. I want to know why Cancer is listed as “small and dim” on Wikipedia when Pisces is even dimmer – what is that, “large and even dimmer”? I want to know why I’m considered to be a Cancer when the Sun was actually in Gemini when I was born. No, wait. I read about the difference between tropical and sidereal zodiacs – it just makes my head hurt, and astrology is all a bunch of BS anyway.

I went to bed when I realized that I had watched Procyon rise and now Arcturus had been up for a while – Spica was about to be visible again. Amazingly, considering the amount of warming I had turned out to have required, the next night I still was able to reel off a bunch of these names that I had learned.

If you want to lose yourself for a while, go outside at night with binoculars and Stellarium and Wikipedia. Take a friend if you want – maybe José or Jim or Johnny.

Posted by Greg as General Science, Posts About Me at 22:02 PST

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Monday, December 17th, 2007

Dwarf????

Some of my old D&D buddies did it, so I tried it too. I can’t say I’m impressed with the result. I’m guessing warrior-types have to have been jocks in high school:

I Am A: Neutral Good Dwarf Sorcerer (6th Level)

Ability Scores:
Strength-15
Dexterity-12
Constitution-14
Intelligence-16
Wisdom-13
Charisma-15

Alignment:
Neutral Good A neutral good character does the best that a good person can do. He is devoted to helping others. He works with kings and magistrates but does not feel beholden to them. Neutral good is the best alignment you can be because it means doing what is good without bias for or against order. However, neutral good can be a dangerous alignment because because it advances mediocrity by limiting the actions of the truly capable.

Race:
Dwarves are known for their skill in warfare, their ability to withstand physical and magical punishment, their hard work, and their capacity for drinking ale. Dwarves are slow to jest and suspicious of strangers, but they are generous to those who earn their trust. They stand just 4 to 4.5 feet tall, but are broad and compactly built, almost as wide as they are tall. Dwarven men value their beards highly.

Class:
Sorcerers are arcane spellcasters who manipulate magic energy with imagination and talent rather than studious discipline. They have no books, no mentors, no theories just raw power that they direct at will. Sorcerers know fewer spells than wizards do and acquire them more slowly, but they can cast individual spells more often and have no need to prepare their incantations ahead of time. Also unlike wizards, sorcerers cannot specialize in a school of magic. Since sorcerers gain their powers without undergoing the years of rigorous study that wizards go through, they have more time to learn fighting skills and are proficient with simple weapons. Charisma is very important for sorcerers; the higher their value in this ability, the higher the spell level they can cast.

Find out What Kind of Dungeons and Dragons Character Would You Be?, courtesy of Easydamus (e-mail)

Detailed Results:

Alignment:
Lawful Good —– XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX (19)
Neutral Good —- XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX (24)
Chaotic Good —- XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX (18)
Lawful Neutral — XXXXXXXXXXXXX (13)
True Neutral —- XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX (18)
Chaotic Neutral – XXXXXXXXXXXX (12)
Lawful Evil —– XXXXXX (6)
Neutral Evil —- XXXXXXXXXXX (11)
Chaotic Evil —- XXXXX (5)

Law & Chaos:
Law —– XXXXX (5)
Neutral – XXXXXXXXXX (10)
Chaos — XXXX (4)

Good & Evil:
Good —- XXXXXXXXXXXXXX (14)
Neutral – XXXXXXXX (8)
Evil —- X (1)

Race:
Human —- XXXXXXXXXXXXX (13)
Dwarf —- XXXXXXXXXXXXXX (14)
Elf —— XXXX (4)
Gnome —- XXXXXXXXXX (10)
Halfling – XXXXXX (6)
Half-Elf – XXXXXX (6)
Half-Orc – XXXXXX (6)

Class:
Barbarian – (-8)
Bard —— (-4)
Cleric —- (-2)
Druid —– (-4)
Fighter — (0)
Monk —— (-19)
Paladin — (-19)
Ranger —- XX (2)
Rogue —– (-2)
Sorcerer — XXXXXXXX (8)
Wizard —- XXXXXX (6)

Posted by Greg as Posts About Me at 19:22 PST

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Sunday, June 17th, 2007

Alamogordo, New Mexico

Just checking in. I’ve missed so many good things to write about, and here I am coughing up the banal.

Current meatspace coordinates: 32.8791, -105.9609
I can’t even remember how to plug in the Google map, or the xhtml code for the degree sign.

I went through a major life event two weeks ago, and I’ve just been stumbling through since then. Thank the gods that there’s work and travel. I got to see an old friend and meet his wife and children, I snagged a trip to Alaska for July (a place I’ve been want to go to since I was a teenager), and I had the eighteenth anniversary of my US citizenship. And that’s just since then – there were a lot of noteworthy events preceding.

It might be cathartic for me to write about my divorce, but it’s just too personal to do so in a public place. There’s only one thing I can be sure of – life will go on.

Posted by Greg as Posts About Me, Travel at 22:02 PST

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Monday, May 21st, 2007

Made It to Las Cruces

It seemed like I just couldn’t get to sleep early – I’ve never really been good at that – but I got up at 0300 and officially pulled out at 0400 CDT, with only three and a half hours of sleep. I got in to Las Cruces, NM at 1910 MDT, just over 16 hours, and the trip was exactly 1500 km (932 miles) – I took a huge shortcut. Instead of following the interstates, I picked up US Highway 54 in Wichita, Kansas and stayed on it all the way to Alamagordo, New Mexico. I shaved an hour off the drive and more than 300 km, and would have done even better if I hadn’t been misinformed that they had reopened the main road through Greensburg.

Driving this way, slowing down to go through each town, is much less mind-numbing. I didn’t get any extra sleep last night, but I’m feeling fine this morning. Usually after long drives I’m like a zombie the following day. Plus, every now and then I pull over when I see a historical marker sign, so I got to see the place where Billy the Kid was killed.

Posted by Greg as Posts About Me, Travel at 05:17 PST

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Saturday, May 19th, 2007

I’m Not Dead

“Well, he will be soon. He’s very ill.”

I’ve been very busy handling a lot of important personal stuff. I did get I little bit of enjoyment recently, though – I went to Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, to attend a graduation. The son of one of my old Army buddies had chosen to follow us and become a combat engineer. In my day, that was MOS 12B, but nowadays it’s 21B. Turns out he had been staying in my old building – Delta Company, 35th Engineer Battalion. I was very proud of him, and looking around, I found myself wishing I could do the whole Army thing all over again, even if it meant starting from scratch at Basic training.

I also got myself a cool Sapper hat to show off my tab.

I’m going to bed early tonight, and am planning on hitting the road around 3 A.M. I aim to make Las Cruces, New Mexico, before it gets too late. It’s about 1800 km (1100+ miles) in one day. I should have left today and made it a two-day drive.

I’m going to be extremely busy for at least the next two weeks, and probably won’t get to blog.

Posted by Greg as Family & Friends, Posts About Me, Travel at 18:37 PST

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Wednesday, May 9th, 2007

Tumult

The last couple of weeks – well, month plus – have been full of stress and challenges on a personal front that I decided that I didn’t want to blog about. As part of it, I felt obliged to go back to San Diego and ended up staying there far longer than I wanted to.

I took care of things there as best I could and left when I had to. I drove the 2700 kilometers (1700 miles) from San Diego to Kansas City in 34 hours.

On the recommendation of a friend, I tried taking a shortcut between Tucumcari, New Mexico and Wichita, Kansas. I left the interstate and took Highway 54, a mostly two lane highway that has a speed limit of 65 mph most of the time, but slows down briefly as you pass through little towns in New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas.

One of the little towns was Greensburg, Kansas – where an F5 tornado had alighted just four days before.

All I can say is: Holy shit.

Posted by Greg as Current Events, Posts About Me at 07:14 PST

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Monday, March 26th, 2007

Blogging, Employers, and Discretion

Today I got my first request from management, passed down through my supervisor, to remove content I had written that included information about my employer.

The request was not condemning, but firm. I was given a rationale as to why I should remove it, and I found myself agreeing with it. I had crossed the line. I flagged the post in question, and at least one other, as private – not available for public viewing – until I can figure out what to do about it. But it really has made me rethink my situation.

When I first started mentioning my employer, I was pretty down on the company. I’d just lost a supervisor whom I had really admired and respected, and it hurt. Yes, I was a little confrontational, and I had looked at the situation as an individual rights issue. Since then, my attitude has made a complete turn around. I’m seen significant improvements, and I’ve become excited about the changes and started to see good things ahead for the company, and real opportunities for me as well. I was even thinking that I need to put up a lot more positive-sounding posts about what was going on.

But it’s an incredibly fine line to write about your employer, even when you think you’re being supportive. I’ve already learned that you can make mistakes, reveal things that should not be revealed, when you write about family; and a good employer is like a family in so many ways. I could inadvertently disclose things that would be valuable intelligence for a competitor, or that could offend a coworker or a customer.

There’s a certain amount of hubris involved in blogging. It’s nice to hit the search engines and see yourself show up high in the results, and if the search terms include your employer’s name, it makes you feel a little more important than you actually are. But business is not about individual aggrandizement – business is about performing a service for compensation that includes a profit, which in turn provides an attractive return on investment for those that finance the operations. Individual fame is only important when it has market value.

I like writing about what I do, and that includes my work. I need to find a new way of including details about my work that will not compromise the company that I work for. I think there’s a way to do it, but I’ll have to consider it carefully. A blog is a double-edged sword in that everything you say becomes accessible to everyone. I think, in fact, that I am going to need to go back through my entire blog and delete all references to my company. I may even need to start a separate blog just to deal with professional issues. I hate the idea of compartmentalizing my life to that extent, but it might be the prudent thing to do. It’s a pity, because the whole point of corrosion engineering is to resist entropy – which is my theme for this blog. But I’ve been thinking about going back and reclassifying everything into new categories, anyway, and I should be able to accomplish all this in one fell swoop.

I guess my mother was right.

Your comments are solicited. Just click on the comments link below. If you really want to be anonymous, just leave an untraceable email, like “nobody@noneofyourdamnbusiness.com”. (Ha! that’s an actual domain! The correct way to make an untraceable email is to use a reserved domain, such as x@example.com or x@invalid.com.) I promise to respect your privacy and not try to trace you through your ip address or anything like that.

I’m going to tag this post with the name of my employer so that it shows up with all the other ones, and least until I get the chance to go back and purge my employer’s name from the entire blog.

Posted by Greg as Corrosion Control, Posts About Me at 21:39 PST

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