Career hop

There are hunters and there are gatherers.  I’m more the latter, my wife the former.  I like to settle down and dig my roots in.  What can I say, I don’t like change.

The same goes with my job choices.  My first job post-college lasted 10+ years.  It basically fell into my lap — a recently graduated upperclassman contacted me during my senior year, asking if I wanted a job.  I said yes, and so did the company.  MTSI was a fantastic experience for me; great people, great training, great experiences.

liteye Then I moved on to Colorado.  And what a wild, dizzying path that has become.  Liteye Systems brought me here, and I am forever grateful.  I found my wife here, and my life is all the richer.

Soon after Sarah and I married, we moved into our first house together in the old part of Colorado Springs.  Liteye is located in Denver.  The distance from point A to point B is about an hour’s worth of travel time.  On good traffic days with perfect weather.  It’s been a long 6 years of commuting. Again, I settled in and stayed perhaps longer than was necessary.

ThermoFisherAnd so, this summer became Project Find-A-New-Job.  Enter Thermo Fisher Scientific smack dab in the middle of Colorado Springs.

I had been wanting to branch out a bit from Liteye.  Having been immersed in the rugged military product development world for quite a while, I wanted to see what else I could do.  Thermo Fisher fit that bill.  It’s in a completely different market: high-end scientific and laboratory products.  It’s a branch of industry that I had no experience in, so I was excited to take part.

It’s also a very large company with a small local branch.  This was something I was looking for specifically too.  My previous couple job experiences ranged in the sub-50 employee size and were both startups.  Though those environments can be very exhilarating and dynamic, they can also be occasionally chaotic.  I was craving a larger company culture, where processes and infrastructure were more fully developed.

And what can I say about a commute of only 15 minutes?  As the snow steadily fell this week, I revealed in the fact that I wasn’t stuck on I-25.  Being a true “local” of the Springs now, I’m eager to settle in here and reinvest all this extra time I have on my hands into my family and friends.

Prometheus vs. Avatar

The planet Pandora has nothing — and I mean nothing — on the little moon SC-223. This place scared the (R-rated expletives) out of me; it was unnerving, frightening, dreadful, in all the ways that Pandora was not.

PrometheusI’m referring to the hostile alien environments from the movies Avatar and Prometheus.  Both have certain distinct built-in audiences. The former requires that one be a fan of action-packed, light-on-originality, effects-heavy, exhilarating sci-fi.  The latter requires that one prefer their sci-fi with a cold, clinical, and nightmarish pessimism.  I happen to be a member of both audiences; I can see the value of each, but I don’t blame you for not appreciating one or the other.  Avatar asks that you just have fun with your 3D goggles and not worry too much about borrowed storylines from a dozen other sources.  Prometheus asks you to witness something you’ve truly never seen before, while borrowing a lot from the horror end of the genre spectrum.

Avatar is of course James Cameron’s brilliant trend-setting 3D film.  It was big, dumb, and fun — the perfect popcorn picture.  Cameron knows how to stage action and make it thrilling.  Curiously, he also did the first Alien sequel, the property started by Ridley Scott.  Scott’s Prometheus is a pseudo-prequel to Alien, so the links here are multi-threaded.

As such, Scott is really dangerous to falling into Lucas’ reinventionism by going back to his previous films and making their history “more cool.”  I’m equally looking forward to Praetorian (a Gladiator pseudo-prequel) and Thelma & Louise & Gretchen.  The possibilities are endless.

And as otherworldly as Prometheus is, it suffers from a lot of plot holes and missteps.  What follows is a series of lulz culled from the interwebs that tell the story better than I could.  Assume heavy spoiler alert from here forward…




Penny Arcade take on Prometheus
Penny Arcade’s hilarious take on Prometheus


Prometheus Infographics
An infographic on the convoluted infection process depicted in Prometheus.
David's character arc in Prometheus
David’s character arc in Prometheus


Finally, a really funny How It Should Have Ended cartoon:

Here’s an interesting response/rebuttal by Prometheus writer Damon Lindelof.

Side Note

When I was a kid, I was completely enthralled with the Alien series.  My earliest memory of its existence was a fellow school classmate named Jake.  Jake brought an Aliens (the Cameron sequel) production book full of illustrations, schematics, photographs to school one day.  It was so fantastic and scary and amazing.  I was mad that I couldn’t see it because it was rated R.

Fast forward a few years later.  Mom and my sister were out of town for some reason so Dad and I were home alone for about a week.  He took me down to the local VHS movie rental store (long before Blockbuster and Netflix) to rent a VCR and some tapes.  I was in heaven!  And he didn’t do much in the way of censoring my choices.  I didn’t go crazy, but I did take advantage.  I remember getting The Final Countdown, a cheesy story about a modern aircraft carrier caught in a storm that threw it back to WWII.  I bet it’s terrible now, but it was awesome then!  And secondly I rented Alien & Aliens.  They were ground-breaking to me.  The stories was utterly incredible — the horror, the coolness, the guns, the spaceships!

Soon after, I got my hands on some comics that were written after the Aliens sequel.  They were really cool too, because they took the story further with Ripley, Newt, et al.  However, a few years after came the release of Alien 3, which completely broke the continuity of those comics.

I recently found reference those comics here.  Ah, the sci-fi memories.

Oma’s cleaning skills

Mom and Dad came to visit this past week. It was a really great time with family and Iris loved the attention. Iris has called my dad “Papa” since she was 8 months or so, and my Mom reserved the name “Oma” (German for grandmother).

While they were here, Oma attacked the kitchen and cleaned both our sink and my lunch cooler. They are both cleaner than I’ve ever seen them!

sparkling lunch box
sparkling lunch box
sparkling sink
sparkling sink

Thanks for making the trip out to see us, Oma & Papa!

Iris, Olympian

Iris took her first gymnastics class today.  Next stop: African Games of 2028.

Check out how much fun this kid is having!

Dyson vaccum fix

Is your Dyson Animal vacuum cleaner sucking, like mine was?  There’s a good chance you can fix it cheaply.

In my case, the vacuum head — in Dyson speak, it’s the “soleplate” — was not seating down fully on the floor.


Dyson soleplate, DC07
the culprit: the soleplate on my DC07

Because the soleplate wasn’t fully flush with the contact surface, the suction was greatly reduced.  Here’s the sad thing: I knew this for some time.  Like years.  And I never got around to doing anything about it.  I was just vacuuming in mediocrity.  Well, I finally did something about it today.

Required Tools:


Required Parts:

rubber band, x1

It’s tricky to describe where to apply the rubber band, so the pictures below will help you visualize.  But in words, the basic problem was that the intake hose (first two photos below) was making the soleplate assembly tilt up, away from the floor.  I didn’t see any abnormal wear signs of the hose, or any other reasons to believe that this was something that happened with age.  It makes me seriously wonder if this was a design flaw (gasp!) — a little hard to believe since Dyson’s legendary design esthetics resemble Apple’s.  Regardless, a simple apparatus to force the assembly back down toward the floor was really all that was needed.


The results?  I kid you not, this thing has never — NEVER — cleaned this good.  I was seriously astonished.  My rugs are finally spotless; with three fur-bound pets in this house, I see a lot of deposited hair, and the rugs were totally clean.  To quantify, a small family living room of about 15′ x 20’ used to equate to about a half full dirt chamber.  Post-rubber-band-fix? The chamber was more full than I’d ever gotten before in that same room.  Amazing!

OS X Mountain Lion

So I finally got around to updating my iMac from Lion to Mountain Lion last night.  Wow, I am pleasantly surprised!

For the past year, this was a regular occurrence: systemic memory rot.

It was ridiculous.  I felt like I was using a Windows machine.  No offense, 95% of the world.  But seriously, it was crazy bad.

And now after the Mountain Lion update, it’s like a new machine.  And all for $20.


Aurora Mass Shootings

There’s an article at The Good Men Project worth reading called “Not a Joke: Why Do Our Boys Keep Up the Mass Shootings?” in light of the mass murder this morning in Colorado.  I left a comment there that I wanted to explore some more here.

This is a risky comment, because it is perhaps too early to theorize.  For starters, I live in Colorado and I’m stunned.  I also love the Batman movies for the same reasons lots of other boys and men love them.  I get a rise out of violence in my entertainment, gun-related or otherwise, and I’m not sure yet what that says about me or my conception of masculinity.

At the risk of being too politically charged, I would like to offer this idea: gun/violence culture.  Not guns and violence themselves; the world has had both for eons.  I’m talking about the culture thereof, which I believe is different.

I work for a military-tech company.  We design products that integrate into soldier systems and weaponry.  One of our employees was touring his kid through the plant recently and the kid’s eyes went wide when he saw one of the assault rifles sitting on an engineer’s desk.  We were conducting testing on a new design, and the kid was ecstatic.  I didn’t know (and can’t remember) the model of the gun; he knew it cold and could tell me how many rounds per second it fired.  I asked the kid how he knew so much about it (you know where this is going): Modern Warfare 7 (or whatever version we have now).

Again, I am not talking about the video games themselves, or the guns themselves.  We have always had these with us.  I’m merely talking about the culture that has arisen around that stuff that I think matters more.  The culture celebrates weaponry and violence to a level never seen before, where the protagonist hero can rampage without any consequence — in fact, he is rewarded for doing so.

Just some scrambled thoughts on an emotionally cloudy Friday morning.

Firebeard, the Phoenix

A few weeks ago, the worst fire in Colorado’s history broke out.  In my town.  It was like Armageddon raining fire down upon us.  A bunch of people lost their homes, a few people died.  It was definitely a scary few days.

After the very professional firefighters and city government folks began to gain control, some levity was in order.  I got on Twitter and joked that I wasn’t going to shave until this end-of-the-world stuff quieted down.  And a local report named Barrett Tryon joined in.  The following is the Tweet stream.

The first official hashtag instance:

My before pic:

Then other people joined in:

My update a week later:

Final update before 100% containment:

Sacred Bluegrass

Is this a mashup made in heaven? I think it was.

Choir concert
Daddy and Iris at the concert

Sarah and Iris and I all went to this concert a few weeks ago titled, “The World Beloved: A Bluegrass Mass” with text by Marisha Chamberlain and music by Carol Barnett.  The Colorado Springs Chorale’s Chamber Singers performed the piece.

The idea is so pure and revelatory: a unique combination of bluegrass rhythms with sacred choral arrangement is just surprising and wonderful.  Here are some thoughts I had on some of the movements.

VI: Credo

This is a simple tune, haunting and mournful.

Row on, we’re crossing River Jordan.  And no one goes alone. I do believe a resting place awaits us… we’ll toss our coats, throw off our hats and take the seat of ease.  It’s not the seat of riches and it’s not the seat of power.

VII: Sanctus

It’s got a nice bluegrass banjo off-beat. The choral arrangement is built on a swaying syncopation.

VIII: Ballad

It’s full of wonderful minors.

IX: Agnus Dei

This is almost a chant. The pitch control of the singers was magnificent.  The resolve at the end of the piece, “dona nobis pacem,” was simply miraculous.

XII: Conclusion

This was solely female voiced.  Curiously — perhaps boldly — the writer chose to use the female gender as well in the text.  For instance:

They say God loved the world so dear
She set aside Her crown
And cloaked Herself in human shape;
They say that She came down,
And dwelt awhile among us here.
She came on down.

It was a fantastic concert.  You owe it to yourself to watch this excellent recording on YouTube (not the C/S Chamber Singers):

Parody Circuits

I ran across this most excellent xkcd comic the other day:

Circuit Diagram
A funny circuit diagram parody

It’s just so funny on so many levels, if you’re a EE.  Let’s just go clockwise around the page, starting at the top left.

  • I love that the battery voltage is a square root.  Just so obscure and mathematically nerdy.
  • Gluing open the switch?  Ha!
  • That PNP transistor has two emitters, look out!  Crashing electrons!
  • I like that the printed value of the resistor isn’t explicit; just the color code is written.  Priceless.
  • Solder blob, yes!  Any engineer worth his salt relies on solder blobs during prototyping. It’s especially funny that this blob is shorting out a bunch of parts.
  • 666 timer.  Why didn’t I think of that one?  The 555 timer has had too much fun for too many years.
  • Magic smoke bottle.  Again, just so funny.
  • Just try to do some nodal analysis on that resistor network!
  • Holy water, tear collectors, and sandals… wow.
  • “Hire someone to open and close switch real fast.”  I laugh out loud each time I read that.
  • Most expensive chip available — I used one of those in my senior design project!
  • Arduino for blog cred.  That’s so trending now.
  • I’m afraid that 50V battery isn’t going to last long.
  • Hot glue.  Man, if I had a nickel for every time I whipped out the hot glue gun…

Insider parodies like these really crack me up.  I’m reminding of the Death Waltz musical score, also comically brilliant in its absurd complexity.  My wife reminded me of some music that her choir performed by ” PDQ Bach”.  Here’s a delightful such performance:

In the professional world, it’s always good to have a sense of humor with regard to your work, whether it be circuit design or classical music.