Yearly Archives: 2016

How Nerds Learn

By Marc|December 8, 2016|Life|

How many times have you taken your watch in for a new battery or cleaning—maybe some major repair. You end up paying a lot for the service. I presume that it takes a certain skill and years of training to work on timepieces, so why not try my hand at it. I am pretty handy with technical things. Some would say I have a gift. Recently, I decided to take apart my automatic watch to see how it ticks, literally. The technology in these newer watches is fascinating. I will no doubt progress by trial and error. I bought the best watch repair kit in the store so I would be sure to have all the right tools. Not having done this before, I didn’t want to be caught by surprise and have to rush out and buy the correct implement. When I get into a project, I like to run with it until it is done. My goal was simply to understand the mechanisms behind a quality watch. This is how nerds learn.

My brother wanted to watch this event. He was curious to see if I would succeed. I heard through the grapevine that he even placed a bet with friends that I wouldn’t get far. I should consider that rather insulting; after all, I am known for my mechanical mind. I am a computer programming whiz and can solve most any software problem. If you want a custom program, you’ve got it. I wanted to ban my brother from the premises but finally decided to let him in. He sat quietly as all the pieces of my automatic watch were displayed on the kitchen table. I had a lot of room to work. I would let him know when his presence became annoying. Many hours passed from morning into night. I was enjoying the challenge and was not about to stop. My brother ran out for some dinner and left me to my task.

The deluxe watch repair kit lived up to its name. It was easy to dissemble the watch, but I knew it would be harder to put back together. The tiniest parts were begging to be relocated. I considered it to be a kind of puzzle, but I have a great memory and knew where everything would go. I observed what piece lay next to another and how the watch was deemed automatic as there was no winding mechanism or battery. It was a sort of mystery at first that yielded an immediate resolution. I think I had got it even before my brother returned, so we celebrated over take-out Chinese food. He had been skeptical but I had turned his thinking around. He couldn’t tell how the watch work himself, but he took my word for it. He was impressed enough to say that he wanted an automatic watch. Okay, now I know what to give him for his next birthday. It will be a welcome surprise.

The Future is Now!

By Marc|October 5, 2016|Computer Programming|

My company has this mentoring program—it’s a great program where college students meet with programmers and other IT professionals to learn what it is really like to work in the field—but it has an unhelpful name like “the future is now” or something equally as meaningless. I got into it for the same reason I got into blogging. This can be a confusing and competitive field, and it would have been nice for me to have someone who told it to me straight. I try to be that person for others who are thinking of walking the path behind me.

Anyway, so they had this big, day-long retreat for everyone in the mentoring program right after the college kids finished for the school year. It was early May but it has been oddly chilly, and of course the smart people over in Human Resources booked this as an outdoor thing. So we get there and it is drizzling and cold and the kids are looking at us like we are the absolute worst for making them come out there. And I have to wonder why they’re even there, as they’ve already gotten their college credits for the semester. Then I realize that for some of these kids, it isn’t about the credits. They’re actually looking for something. And that’s really cool. I go into the main office and find a lot of sporting equipment that you can borrow and some grilling supplies. Buried in the corner, though, was a kero heater. I could not believe my luck when I saw that it was fueled up and ready to go. Excellent find!

I brought it over to a reasonably enclosed gazebo and set it on the floor in the middle. I checked to make sure that the wick was wet with the kerosene. Then I borrowed a lighter from one of our friendly smokers and touched it to the wick. It went up on the first try. I gotta say, I certainly felt like a genius. I adjusted the heat so that it was warm but not too warm. Worked like a charm. People started flocking to the heater like moths to a flame. Pretty soon just about every one of the students and half my colleagues were sitting around the heater, warm and chatting about the drudgery of school and some of the more ridiculous computer related questions we have gotten. We talked about how every friend of ours who isn’t in the field always calls us with every single one of their computer problems. How easy or difficult it is to do programming on the side. What the app market might look like in a couple of years. All the stuff that mattered to these kids. It was a really great conversation, and everyone was clearly enjoying themselves. That little heater did a mighty job of beating back the cold, dreary day. It felt like chatting around a cozy campfire. Geek camp, I guess. Everyone hung in until it ran out of fuel, and then we started packing up to go home.

I returned the heater to the main office and let them know we used all the fuel, offered to pay for the kerosene we used. The folks manning the desk didn’t mind at all. I told them that we would probably come back and do this again next year. Even if the company doesn’t, I might invite the kids to do it again on my own time. This was a really cool thing.

That’s me all right, lighting the path to the future and keeping it warm.

Outside During the Day

By Marc|September 4, 2016|Life|

I would be surprised if the beach is not tops on everyone’s list of favorite places to spend a nice vacation day. It is only a good choice on a nice sunny day and it can get pretty cold off season. No one wants to sit below dense foggy clouds. Sure, you can always take a walk in the sand and do a little wading in the water if you can bare the cold. You want to warm your bones and give them relief from the past winter’s gloom. You chose your days appropriately like everyone else. No wonder the sand is swamped in the middle of summer or even early fall. Indian summer can be a great time to catch a few rays. If you are subject to a cool day, you can always wrap yourself in a big beach towel after some body surfing. I have been known to visit the beach on windy days as well. They can still be sunny but the wind plays havoc with your beach umbrella. You better get a sturdy one that doesn’t fold up inside out at the least gust. They are impossible to set right. You want an umbrella that can handle any elements like strong breezes. They don’t make special beach umbrellas just for wind; they just make good ones that you can use for any conditions. So don’t get something flimsy and fragile.

If the wind is strong the umbrella begins to teeter totter and you have to constantly grab the handle no matter how well you have secured it in the sand. This is all part of beach preparation 101. You learn after a few breezy encounters. Most of the time it is not a problem, however, and I accept whatever weather exists. If it is a warm day, the umbrella is not much protection; and if it is a cold one, you would rather be somewhere else. A really windy day might merit a tent. It is all how you like to experience your beach adventure. Do you like to be out there in the elements, sporting a waterproof jacket, or do you like to bundle up? Some people avoid the problem altogether by going in the late afternoon or early night. Then you don’t have to tote the umbrella at all. Some people love the cold so they can enjoy a fire pit if it is allowed on the beach. I have no preference. I love the beach and will take whatever conditions it has to offer. Roasting wieners is my idea of a nice summer night.

Meanwhile my beach umbrella, whether for sun or wind, is poised and ready at home in the garage awaiting the next outing. I have yet to have it fail any test the beach may offer. I doesn’t get super windy where I go and there are places near the rocks that are natural shelters on their own. Just get yourself a decent umbrella whether it is for you alone or family and friends. They will appreciate the added comfort afforded them during their beach outing.

High Tech Paint Sprayer

By Marc|March 22, 2016|Life|

My interest in technology goes beyond just computers and coding. For example, I like to figure out how things work, whether it be Teslas induction motor or the code to a great program. I am always trying to improve myself and my programming skills so sometimes even improvements on an idea intrigue me.

For example, I was in the market for a paint sprayer and realized there were several different kinds. There were pneumatic sprayers that worked off of air compressors, electric versions that had their own turbines, high volume low-pressure models that are more environmentally friendly, and airless versions with a pressure pump. So many options! I looked at information for all the different types of sprayers and attempted to narrow the field down a little. I ruled out one whole type right off the bat: I wasnt interested in any sprayer that required an air compressor to run. Although they can be cheaper, I would need to buy a compressor, which would negate most of the savings I might have incurred in getting a sprayer that did not work under its own power. This considerably lessened my options, leaving my only choice to be electric sprayers. From there, the choice seemed to center mostly on HVLP models vs airless paint sprayers. HVLP paint sprayers use compressed air to mix with the paint and atomize it. Airless sprayers use force to do the same thing. Airless sprayers can handle paints with higher viscosity, but HVLP paint sprayers can be easier to maneuver. All of the reviews I read did say that if youre doing things around the house, an airless sprayer would be better because it has the ability to handle more types of paint. The reviews said that the job gets done quickly, too.

That solidified my decision to go with an airless sprayer. I read reviews of specific models and chose one that works on a bag system?instead of having a siphon to suck up the paint, it basically creates a vacuum to force the paint out of the bag, and the bag collapses as you go. I thought this was an excellent feature because no siphon meant one less thing to be cleaned, and it also prevents the paint from drying out?in other words, I can paint a little, take a break (or nap, as it were) and then start back up again. I am also able to spray at any angle because there is no gravity feed or siphon tube. Not that I think it is incredibly useful to have the capability to spray upside-down, but it is really cool to be able to do it. I imagine that if I were painting the underside of a heavy piece of furniture that might be helpful, or if I was painting a ceiling or something. It was really easy to get started, too. You just prime the pump a little and then start spraying. For someone with as little patience as I have, it is great not having to wait a long time for enough pressure to build up before I can start.

All in all, I think the research paid off and I got the product I needed.