As you probably know, I don’t “DO” politics.  I stay with STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics).  In other words, subjects I actually know something about.  With that being the case, I do feel the technical community must have definite opinions relative to pronouncements made by our politicians.  Please keep in mind; most politicians have other than technical degrees so they are dependent upon input from individuals in the STEM professions.  That’s really what this post is about—opinions relative to Senator Sander’s Energy Plan. (NOTE: My facts are derived from Senator Sander’s web site and Design News Daily Magazine.  Mr. Charles Murray wrote an article in March detailing several points of Sander’s plan. )

Sanders’ ideas seemingly represent a growing viewpoint with the American population at large. He fared fairly well in the Iowa caucuses and won the New Hampshire primary election although history indicates he will not be the Democratic candidate facing the GOP representative unless Secretary Clinton is indicted by the FBI.  I personally feel this has a snowball’s chance of happening.    Sanders’ popularity provides an opportunity for engineers to weigh in on some of the hard issues facing the country in the energy arena. We want to know:  How do seasoned engineers react to some of his ideas? Let’s look first at a brief statement from “Bernie” relative to his ideas on energy.

“Right now, we have an energy policy that is rigged to boost the profits of big oil companies like Exxon, BP, and Shell at the expense of average Americans. CEO’s are raking in record profits while climate change ravages our planet and our people — all because the wealthiest industry in the history of our planet has bribed politicians into complacency in the face of climate change. Enough is enough. It’s time for a political revolution that takes on the fossil fuel billionaires, accelerates our transition to clean energy, and finally puts people before the profits of polluters.”

                                                                                                — Senator Bernie Sanders

THE GOALS

Bernie’s comprehensive plan to combat climate change and insure our planet is habitable and safe for our kids and grandkids will:

  • Cut U.S. carbon pollution by forty percent (40%) by 2030 and by over eighty percent (80%) by 2050 by 1.) putting a tax on carbon pollution, 2.) repealing fossil fuel subsidies and 3.) Making massive investments in energy efficiency and clean, sustainable energy such as wind and solar power.
  • Create a Clean-Energy Workforce of ten (10) million good-paying jobs by creating a one hundred percent (100%) clean energy system. Transitioning toward a completely nuclear-free clean energy system for electricity, heating, and transportation is not only possible and affordable it will create millions of good jobs, clean up our air and water, and decrease our dependence on foreign oil.
  • Return billions of dollars to consumers impacted by the transformation of our energy system and protect the most vulnerable communities in the country suffering the ravages of climate change. Bernie will tax polluters causing the climate crisis, and return billions of dollars to working families to ensure the fossil fuel companies don’t subject us to unfair rate hikes. Bernie knows that climate change will not affect everyone equally – disenfranchised minority communities and the working poor will be hardest hit. The carbon tax will also protect those most impacted by the transformation of our energy system and protect the most vulnerable communities in the country suffering the ravages of climate change.

THE PLAN:

  1. Acceleration Away from Fossil Fuels. Sanders proposes a carbon tax that he believes would reduce carbon pollution 40% by 2030 and 80% by 2050. He also wants to ban Arctic oil drilling, ban offshore drilling, stop pipeline projects like the Keystone XL, stop exports of liquefied natural gas and crude oil, ban fracking for natural gas, and ban mountaintop removal coal mining.  Ban fossil fuels lobbyists from working in the White House. Massive lobbying and unlimited super PAC donations by the fossil fuel industry gives these profitable companies disproportionate influence on our elected leaders. This practice is business as usual in Washington and it is not acceptable. Heavy-handed lobbying causes climate change skepticism. It has no place in the executive office.
  2. Investment in Clean Sustainable Energy. Sanders proposes investments in development of solar, wind, and geothermal energy plants, as well as cellulosic ethanol, algae-based fuels, and energy storage. As part of his move to cleaner energy sources, he is also calling for a moratorium on nuclear power plant license renewals in the US.
  3. Revolutionizing of Electric Transportation Infrastructure. To begin ridding the country of tailpipe emissions, Sanders wants to build electric vehicle charging stations, as well as high-speed passenger rail and cargo systems. Funds, he says, would also be needed to update and modernize the existing energy grid. Finally, he is calling for extension of automotive fuel economy standards to 65 mpg, instead of the planned 54.5 mpg, by 2025.
  4. Reclaiming of Our Democracy from the Fossil Fuel Lobby. Sanders wants to ban fossil fuel lobbyists from the White House. More importantly, he is proposing a “climate justice plan” that would bring deniers to justice “so we can aggressively tackle climate change.” He has already called for an investigation of Exxon Mobil, his website says.

COMMENTS FROM ENGINEERS:

  • As engineers we should recognize the value of confronting real problems rather than dwelling on demagoguery. Go Bernie.  This comment is somewhat generic but included because there is an incredible quantity of demagoguery in political narrative today.  Most of what we here is without specifics.
  • “Without fuel, we have no material or energy to manufacture anything. Plastics, fertilizer (food), metals, medicine –- all rely on fuel … We are not going to reduce our need for fuel by eighty percent (80%) without massive technology breakthroughs.”  I might add, those breakthroughs are decades away from being cost effective.
  • “I like the idea of renewable energy and I think there are many places in which we are on the right track. A big question is how fast it takes to get there. The faster the transition, the more pain will occur … The slower the transition, the more comfortably we’ll all be able to adapt.”
  • “Imagine if we had rolling power outages throughout the United States on a daily basis because of the shutdown of coal or nuclear power plants.”
  • Another engineer wrote that “the actual numbers of death and cancer risks associated with all the nuclear disasters from Three Mile Island to (Chernobyl) and the Fukushima plant pale in comparison to the result of death and misery of coal and fossil fuel power plants supplying most of our electricity today and for the foreseeable future.”
  • Another commenter said that “for Sanders to rid the US of fossil fuels, he must be one hundred percent (100%) in favor of nuclear energy. No amount of wind, solar, or geothermal will ever replace an ever-growing energy need.”
  • Little or no attention in the forum was paid to the issue of intermittency –- in particular, whether a grid that’s heavy in renewables would be plagued by intermittency problems and, if so, how that might be solved. Intermittent problems where no electrical power will NOT be tolerated by the US population.  I think that’s a given.  We are dependent upon electrical energy.  This certainly includes needed security.

As a parting shot we read: “I am suggesting that folks carefully examine the record of those yelling the loudest, and then decide what to believe,” noted reader William K. “As engineering professionals, we should always be examining the history as well as the current.”

I would offer a sanity check:  WE WILL NEVER COMPLETELY REMOVE OURSELVES FROM THE PRODUCTS PROVIDED BY FOSSIL FUELS.  We must get over it.  As always, I welcome your comments.


OK, I know you are aware of the acronym—STEM, but let’s refresh.

  • S—Science
  • T—Technology
  • E—Engineering
  • M–Mathematics

Now that that’s over with.  The development of the microchip and integrated circuitry gave rise to our digital age.  It seems that the integrated circuit was destined to be invented. Two separate inventors, unaware of each other’s activities, invented almost identical integrated circuits or ICs at nearly the same time.

Jack Kilby, an engineer with a background in ceramic-based silk screen circuit boards and transistor-based hearing aids, started working for Texas Instruments in 1958. Mr. Kilby holds patents on over sixty inventions and is well known as the inventor of the portable calculator (1967). In 1970 he was awarded the National Medal of Science.  A year earlier, research engineer Robert Noyce co-founded the Fairchild Semiconductor Corporation.  Mr. Noyce, with sixteen patents to his name, also founded Intel, the company responsible for the invention of the microprocessor, in 1968.  From 1958 to 1959, both electrical engineers were working on an answer to the same dilemma: how to make more from less.

In 1961 the first commercially available integrated circuits came from the Fairchild Semiconductor Corporation. All computers at that time were made using chips instead of the individual transistors and their accompanying parts. Texas Instruments first used the chips in Air Force computers and the Minuteman Missile in 1962. They later used chips to produce the first electronic portable calculators. The original IC had only one transistor, three resistors and one capacitor and was the size of an adult’s pinkie finger.  Today, an IC smaller than a penny can hold 125 million transistors.

For both men the invention of the integrated circuit stands historically as one of the most important innovations of mankind.  Almost all modern products use chip technology.  The invention of the chip ushered in the digital age and the age of STEM.

Over the past ten years, jobs in the STEM professions have grown three times faster than non-STEM jobs and are projected to grow seventeen percent (17%) through 2018 as compared to nine point eight percent (9.8%) for all other occupations.   This should indicate that there is room for everyone, not just men, not just white men, but women, African-American, Asians, Hispanics, etc and it will take all interested parties to fill the upcoming need for trained professionals. With this being the case, colleges and universalities across the United States have been working to attract more women into STEM professions.

The Girl Scouts of America published a study entitled “Generation STEM” involving a questionnaire asking what girls say about the STEM professions.  They found that teenage girls love STEM, with seventy-four percent (74%) of high school girls across the country being very interested in STEM-related professions.   This definitely runs counter to several negative stereotypes that persist about young ladies and their interest in scientific or mathematic pursuits.  Let’s now look at several facts.  The digital photograph below has several surprising conclusion.

STEM FACTS

Now, I would be remiss if I did not indicate several difficult aspects of women joining the scientific and engineering community.  There are challenges, as follows:

Challenge 1: Shortage of mentors for women in STEM fields.

Women tend to have a harder time finding female mentors in STEM occupations. A more experienced employee can show you the ropes and promote your accomplishments. This is important for anyone in any career. It is especially important for women in STEM, because they are often less likely than their male coworkers to promote themselves. As you can see above, many women fully qualified in their fields of study leave their professions due to pressures from other than ability.

Solution 1: If you can’t find a mentor in your organization, join a professional association.

Many associations like the Association for Women in Science, the Society of Women Engineers, and the Association for Women in Mathematics. All have networking and mentoring opportunities (both online and in person).

Challenge 2: Lack of acceptance from coworkers and supervisors.

If you work in a STEM field, you might work mainly or exclusively with men. You may find it difficult to be accepted as part of the group. There’s legal help if you face sexual harassment or discrimination in hiring and pay. It’s not always easy to know what to do about subtle or unintentional exclusion.  This really surprised me when I read it.  In the engineering teams I have been associated with, all lady members were treated with respect and as absolute equals.  Apparently, this is not always the case.

Solution 2: Work for a company with female-friendly policies and programs.

Many companies understand that it’s profitable to keep their talented female employees happy. They make special efforts to recruit women. They move them into leadership positions and offer flexible work or mentoring programs. Take time to research potential employers. Find out if they understand and want to reduce the challenges for women working in male-dominated occupations.

Challenge 3: Coping with gender differences in the workplace.

Let’s face it: men and women have different interaction styles. This plays itself out at work. If you’re a woman working mostly with men, your daily reality will be different than if you were in a female-dominated workplace.

Solution 3: Educate yourself.

Read up on gender differences in communication. Learn what to expect by talking to women in STEM fields who can share insights. Don’t wait to be asked before offering an opinion. Learn how to handle mistakes, blame, and guilt in a male-dominated workplace. Learn the art of saying no to unreasonable requests.

One problem that affects both men and women is preparedness relative to their high school years.  Our country is just not producing students for the rigors of the STEM professions.  They are simply not prepared to move into fields of study that will ultimately see them graduate with a four year degree and move into technology.   The chart below indicates some of the disturbing problems we have as a nation.

STEM Attraction Gap

  • Computer scientists are in high demand, but only a fraction of U.S. high schools offer advanced training on the subject—and that fraction is shrinking.
  • Of the more than 42,000 public and private high schools in the United States, only 2,100 high schools offered the Advanced Placement test in computer science last year, down 25 percent over the past five years, according to a recent report by Microsoft.
  • In schools where computer science is offered, it often does not count toward graduation. Only nine states—GeorgiaMissouriNew YorkNorth CarolinaOklahomaOregonRhode IslandTexas, and Virginia—allow computer science courses to satisfy core math or science requirements, according to the report.  (This is ridiculous!)
  • With an estimated 120,000 new jobs requiring a bachelor’s degree in computer science expected in the next year alone, and nearly 3.7 million jobs in STEM fields  currently sitting unfilled, computer science is the future.  This is, for the most part, due to students being unprepared right out of high school.  Before students can gain access to these courses, schools need teachers qualified to teach them. And districts with dwindling budgets and restrictive pay structures are competing with the likes of Microsoft, Google, and Facebook for talent.  One of the fundamental things we need to do is rethink the way that we recruit, retain, and compensate teachers to be able to deal with this changing labor market.
  • Over the past ten years, the percentage of ACT-tested students who said they were interested in majoring in engineering has dropped steadily from 7.6 percent to 4.9 percent.
  • Over the past five years, the percentage of ACT-tested students who said they were interested in majoring in computer and information science has dropped steadily from 4.5 percent to 2.9 percent.
  • Fewer than half (41 percent) of ACT-tested 2005 high school graduates achieved or exceeded the ACT College Readiness Benchmark in Math.
  • Only a quarter (26 percent) of ACT-tested 2005 high school graduates achieved or exceeded the ACT College Readiness Benchmark in Science.
  • In the graduating class of 2005, just slightly more than half (56%) of ACT-tested students reported taking the recommended core curriculum for college-bound students: four years of English and three years each of math (algebra and higher), science, and social studies.

What can be done?

  • Align rigorous, relevant academic standards—across the entire K–16 system—that prepare all students for further education and work.
  •  Establish a common understanding among secondary and postsecondary educators and business leaders of what students need to know to be ready for college and workplace success in scientific, technological, engineering, and mathematical fields.
  •  Evaluate and improve the alignment of K–12 curriculum frameworks in English/language arts, mathematics, and science to ensure that the important college and work readiness skills in STEM fields are being introduced, reaffirmed, and mastered at the appropriate times.
  • Raise expectations that all students need strong skills in mathematics, science, and technology and that all students can meet rigorous college and workplace readiness standards.
  • Require all high school students to take at least three years of rigorous, specific college-preparatory course sequences in math and science.
  •  Recruit, train, mentor, motivate, reward, and retain highly qualified mathematics, science, and technology professionals to teach in middle school and beyond.
  • Ensure that every student has the opportunity to learn college readiness skills and has access to key courses in the STEM fields.
  •  Evaluate and improve the quality and intensity of all STEM core and advanced courses in high schools to ensure both greater focus on in-depth content and greater secondary-to-postsecondary curriculum alignment.
  • Sponsor model demonstration programs that develop and evaluate a variety of rigorous science, mathematics, and technology courses and end-of-course assessments for all students.
  •  Provide opportunities for dual enrollment, distance learning, and other enrichment activities that will expand opportunities for students to pursue advanced coursework in STEM areas.
  • Establish and support model programs that identify students with STEM academic potential and interests and expose them to STEM opportunities.
  • Include parents, teachers, and counselors in outreach programs that help them learn about STEM professions so they can encourage students to go into those fields.
  •  Initiate new and expand existing scholarship programs to attract more students into STEM fields.
  • Assess foundational science and math skills in elementary school to identify students who are falling behind while there is still time to intervene and strengthen their skills.
  • Identify and improve middle and high school student readiness for college and work using longitudinal student progress assessments that include science and mathematics components.
  •  Establish and support model programs that utilize end-of-course assessments for STEM courses to ensure rigor and effectiveness.
  •  Incorporate college and workforce readiness measures into federal and statewide school improvement systems.

If a rising tide floats all boats, improvements in high school science and mathematics will attract more ladies into the STEM professions.  Everyone benefits.

As always, I welcome your comments.

COMPUTER EYE-STRAIN

April 16, 2016


This post is to some extent a public service announcement so I hope you will take the message as information and apply the discussion as needed.

We all spend time on our digital devices; cell phones, I-pads, lap top computers, gaming devices, etc.  I am certainly no different than anyone although probably much older than most reading this post.  I have a Motorola smart phone that I use all day.  That device is synced with my computer so I can receive and send messages without being behind the desk.  Great convenience while traveling and visiting clients.  According to eMarkater, we are spending more and more time on our digital equipment.  Let’s take a look.

Digital Time Spent

According to Neilson, we can see the following:

Neilson Pie Chart

There are 2014 figures but do correlate with the chart above as far as usage. Eleven hours per day is a HUGE amount of time spent “viewing”.

More people are also watching TV and films online. A quarter of internet users regularly catch up on programmers online, compared to one in ten in 2007. This rises to thirty-nine percent of 16-24 year olds, up from twenty-one percent in 2007. However, TV is still an important method of consumption for many. When asked which device they would miss the most, almost four in ten adults said they would feel most lost without a television.

“New technologies are opening up a myriad of other possibilities for young people. It’s not just watching content – they’re messaging friends, texting at the same time. Inevitably, as the younger generation gets older and they set up their own home, TV viewing consumption will be affected,” said Toby Syfret, a TV analyst at media research firm Enders Analysis.

Several months ago I noticed a problem when going from my smart phone to my desktop PC and trying to focus when not on digital media.  The time it took to regain focus was minutes and not seconds.  This really bothered me so I contacted my optometrist to see what, if any, damage I might be doing and how that damage could be mitigated.  She indicated the digital age has created an entirely new and different problem called Computer Vision Syndrome or CVS.  Computer vision syndrome is similar to carpal tunnel syndrome and other repetitive stress injuries at work. It occurs when you’re carrying out the same motion over and over again. Just like those other repetitive stress injuries, computer vision syndrome can get worse the longer you continue the activity.

Working at a computer requires that the eyes continuously focus, move back and forth, and align with what you are seeing. You may have to look down at papers and then back up to type, and the eyes have to accommodate to the changing images on the screen in order to create a clear picture for the brain to interpret.

All of these functions require a great deal of effort from eye muscles. Working on a computer is more challenging to your eyes than reading a book or piece of paper, because a computer screen also adds the elements of screen contrast, flicker, and glare. Computer eye problems are more likely to occur if you already have an eye problem — such as nearsightedness or astigmatism — or if you need glasses but don’t wear them or wear the wrong prescription for computer use.

Working at a computer gets even more difficult as you get older. That’s because the lens of your eye becomes less flexible. The ability to focus on near and far objects starts to diminish after about age 40 — a condition called presbyopia.  If you have CVS, you may experience some or all of the following symptoms:

  • Blurred vision.  (This is definitely my issue.)
  • Double vision. (And this.)
  • Dry, red eyes. (It has been recommended to me that the use of eye drops greatly improves these issues.  I use them.)
  • Eye irritation
  • Headaches. (After an hour on my cell phone I definitely have a slight headache.  When going longer on my cell, that headache strengthens.)
  • Neck or back pain.

OK, we are know the issues now what can we do about them?  VisionSource.com recommends the following:

  1. Take a break – Use the 20-20-20 rule: every 20 minutes, take a 20-second break and look at something 20 feet away. (I have tried this and it works.  Don’t really know why it is so effective the results are excellent.)
  2. Blink frequently – Do not forget to blink periodically. Staring at computer screens can dry our eyes and cause redness and irritation.
  3. Consider computer glasses – Computer glasses are prescription eyewear that is specifically designed for computer work. They allow you to focus your eyes on the distance of a computer screen, which is generally farther away than reading material. Computer glasses optimize your eyesight when you’re looking at digital screens and help to reduce glare.
  4. Keep your monitor bright – This reduces the flicker rate of the computer and reduces fatigue. Flickering can lead to eyestrain and headaches. Also, a bright monitor causes your pupil to constrict, which results in a greater range of focus. This reduces the need for your eye to accommodate and enables you to work longer and with more comfort.
  5. Use proper lighting – Use incandescent lighting and avoid high-intensity lamps, which cast shadows and create glare. Place a dim light on either side of your workstation to create equal brightness without dark, shadowed areas.
  6. Check your monitor’s position – The position of your computer monitor can add to your eyestrain. It is important that it be positioned at the proper distance away from your eyes. Optimally, your computer screen should be 15 to 20 degrees below eye level (about 4 or 5 inches) as measured from the center of the screen and 20 to 28 inches from the eyes.
  7. Adjust your screen resolution – Make sure your monitor has a high-resolution display. A higher resolution produces sharper type and crisper images, reducing eye strain.
  8. Minimize glare – Clean your monitor regularly to remove dust and consider installing an anti-glare screen. It also helps to keep shades drawn to prevent glare from outside sources.
  9. Try massage or eye cupping – Massaging the area around the eyes will help relax the muscles and can be very comforting. Rub your hands together to create friction and warmth, then gently cup your palms over your closed eyes and rest them.
  10. Take your vitamins – Getting the proper amount of vitamins and minerals is important for overall eye health. Opt for vitamins that contain antioxidants and ingredients that help improve the health of the eye and reduce eyestrain, such as vitamins A, C and E with a B complex and Zinc.
  11. Schedule a comprehensive eye exam – Almost 71% of people reporting symptoms of CVS wear eyeglasses or contact lenses, so make sure your prescription is correct! The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recommends that all computer users have an eye exam yearly. Lastly, be sure to tell your eye doctor about your workstation setup and the number of hours each day you spend on electronic devices.  At my age, I worry about macular degeneration, glaucoma, retinal disorders, etc. but at any age all adults need an eye exam every year or at least every eighteen months.

I certainly hope this helps and as always, I welcome your comments.

EYE IN THE SKY

April 14, 2016


I usually don’t do movie reviews but this is an exception due to the technology displayed in “Eye in the Sky”.  This movie has been rated as a 4.5 to 5.0 by three movie reviewers and deserves the rating.  It is a marvelous movie and one I can certainly recommend to you.  Let me set the cast.

  • Hellen  Mirren as Colonel  Katherine Powel
  • Alan Rickman Lt. Gen. Frank Benson (This was Mr. Rickman’s last movie before his passing this year.
  • Aaron Paul as Lt. Steve Watts, United States Air Force
  • Barkhad Abdi as Jama Farah, MI6 operative
  • Phoebe Fox as Carrie Gershon—Weapons Officer, United States Air Force
  • Lian Glen—British Foreign Affairs Officer

The film, directed by Gavin Hood based on a screenplay by Guy Hibbert, and details military personnel facing the legal and ethical dilemmas presented by drone warfare against those using terrorist tactics. The overriding issue is the civilian population endangered by the military activity. The movie was filmed in South Africa in late 2014.

Colonel Katherine Powell (Helen Mirren) commands from Northwood Headquarters (Britain) a mission to capture high-level Al-Shabaab extremists meeting in a safehouse in Nairobi, Kenya. A Reaper drone controlled from Nevada by USAF pilot Steve Watts (Aaron Paul) provides aerial surveillance, while undercover Kenyan field agents, including Jama Farah (Barkhad Abdi), use short-range video bugs for ground intelligence. Kenyan ground troops are positioned nearby to execute the arrest, but are called off when Farah discovers the terrorists have explosives, and are preparing two suicide bombers for what is presumed to be an attack on a civilian target.  Time is of the essence and as the movie progresses there seems to be many more political roadblocks than might seem necessary.  If those individuals in the safehouse are allowed to leave, killing them will be out of the question.

Colonel Powell decides that the imminent bombing changes the mission objective from “capture” to “kill” and informs drone pilot Watts to prepare a missile attack on the building.  As protocol would dictate, she solicits the opinion of her legal counsel about doing so. To her frustration, her counsel advises her to seek approval from her superiors. Lieutenant General Frank Benson (Alan Rickman) is supervising the mission from London with members of the UK government as witnesses, and asks for their authorization. Citing conflicting legal and political views—such as contrasting the tactical value of the assassination with the negative publicity of killing civilians and the status of some of the targets as US or UK nationals—they fail to reach a decision and refer the question up to the Foreign Secretary (Iain Glen).  Impaired by a bout of food poisoning on a trade mission to Singapore, he does not offer a definite answer, first attempting to defer to the US Secretary of State (contacted on a cultural exchange in Beijing), then insisting only that due diligence be performed in seeking a way to minimize “collateral damage”.

Meanwhile, the situation at the house has become more difficult to assess.  Alia Mo’Allim (Aisha Takow), a pre-teen girl who lives in the adjacent home, is visibly in grave danger if the building—and the explosives inside—are struck by a missile. Watts and his USAF colleague Carrie Gershon (Phoebe Fox) can see Alia selling bread just outside the targeted building, and seek to delay firing until she moves. Farah attempts to buy all of her bread so she will leave, but in the process, his cover is blown and he is forced to flee. The suicide bombers are finishing their preparations when surveillance video of them is lost, raising the level of urgency.

Seeking a way to get the authorization she needs to execute the strike, Powell orders her risk-assessment officer to find strike parameters that will allow him to quote a lower risk of civilian deaths. He re-evaluates a strike point and places the probability of Alia’s death at forty-five (45) to sixty-five (65) percent; she coerces him to report only the lower figure up the chain of command. The strike is subsequently authorized, and Watts reluctantly fires a missile. The building is leveled, with casualties in and around it. Alia has moved far enough away to survive the strike, but is injured and unconscious. However, one of the terrorist leaders has also survived, requiring Watts to fire a second missile, which strikes the site just as Alia’s parents reach her. They suffer minor injuries and rush Alia to a hospital, where the medical personnel are unable to revive her and she is pronounced dead. This is a tragic ending to a great movie.  Collateral damage ending the life of an innocent little girl.

The script is fascinating but the scenes depicting the capabilities of drone activity is truly engaging.  The field operative is unable to get close enough to determine the identities of everyone in the safehouse and a definite “make” is necessary before firing the Hellfire missile. The story line is more complicated because one terrorist is British and one American.  Both must be identified before action can be taken.  The drone sent to capture video of those inside is a “bug”—a flying bug with a camera.  The drone is directed by a controller no bigger than a smartphone with directional buttons guiding its flight path.  The people are identified but the little girl selling bread is within the “kill zone”.  Delays occur until the proper clearances and permissions are granted.  The Reaper drone is flying at twenty thousand feet and circles the area waiting on permission to engage.  All the time, video is given of the girl selling bread.  Lt. Watts knows an airstrike incorrectly placed will kill the girl and others within a certain radius of the bomb blast.  He repeatedly asks for probabilities of destruction relative to collateral damage.

I suspect the drone activity in the movie is at least somewhat accurate and if this is the case the technology is stunning.  To control a drone over the horn of Africa from Nevada is truly amazing.  To do so in “real time” is even more impressive.  The personal toll on the pilot and the weapons officer is pronounced.  They will never forget the experience and I’m sure PTSD will be a factor in their future.  Killing innocent children is a huge burden but the individual wearing the bomb vest would have killed scores of innocents had he been able to carry out his attack.

I can definitely recommend this movie to you.  It truly demonstrated American capabilities as well as the strain in fighting terrorism in today’s world.

TELLURIDE

April 11, 2016


One of our favorite places on the globe is Telluride, Colorado.   It is a very unique place and the anticipation of another visit brings a BIG smile to everyone’s face.   For spring break this year, my wife, our oldest son, our oldest grandson and I made the trip.  Getting there is a task for the stout hearted due to the remote location but it is definitely worth the time, effort, and money.  As you can see from the map of Colorado below, Telluride is located in the southwest part of the state.  Telluride has an airport but we felt the best plan was to fly into Montrose, then rent a car.  This is due to frequent inclement weather and cloud cover.   The trip from Montrose to Telluride is a little over an hour so, basically one long commute.

Telluride Map

THE TOWN

Telluride is the county seat and the most populous town of San Miguel County in the southwestern portion of Colorado. It is a former silver mining camp located on the San Miguel River in the western part of the beautiful San Juan Mountains. The first gold mining claim was made in the mountains above Telluride in 1875 and early settlement of what is now Telluride followed. The town itself was founded in 1878 as “Columbia”, but due to confusion with a California town of the same name, was renamed Telluride in 1887, for the gold telluride minerals found in other parts of Colorado. These telluride minerals were never located near Telluride, causing the town to be named for a mineral which never was mined there. However, the area’s mines for some years provided zinc, lead, copper, silver, and gold ores.   The Telluride Historic District, which includes a significant portion of the town, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is also one of Colorado’s twenty National Historic Landmarks. The town population was 2,325 in the 2010 United States Census, but during the winter ski season and the summer the population increases substantially due to tourism.

The first ski lift was installed by Telluride Ski Resort founder Joseph T. Zoline and the Telluride Ski Corporation (Telco). Zoline bought the land for the development of the future resort in 1969 and at that time began to profile the slopes. Along with his mountain manager, Telluride native Bill “Sr.” Mahoney, slowly and thoughtfully put together a plan for sustained development of Telluride and the region. As you can see from the JPEG below, the ski slopes are well defined with everything from “green” to double-black diamond.

Ski Slopes--Map

Beyond the ski lifts, Telluride is now widely recognized as an all-season resort. Telluride Ski Resort is definitely the main attraction in the winter.   When summer comes around, Telluride transforms into an outdoor recreation hot spot, with tourists visiting to enjoy mountain bikinghiking, river rafting, sightseeing and more.  My family and I have visited in the winter and the summer and both seasons offer a remarkable and diverse variety of entertainment.  You do not have to be a skier to enjoy Telluride.

What I would like to do now is give you a tour using digital pictures I took during our visit.  Let us start with a great picture of our son and his son.

Nick and Greg--Gondola

Greg is a skier and Nick is the snowboard champion.  They hit the slopes each day from 0900 hours to 1600 hours —did not miss a minute of the great weather.  It snowed just about every day with accumulation one day amounting to approximately six (6) inches.  From the map above, you can see they had their choice of slopes.

Lift 7

Lift seven is across the street from the condominium we rented for the week.  It is a chair lift.  A block away, is the gondola ride to the Mountain Village.  From there, you can take additional lifts to greater altitudes and slopes with increased difficulty.

DOWNTOWN TELLURIDE

As I mentioned earlier, Telluride is one of the most unique towns you can imagine.  No fast food, no bowling alleys, no video or gaming arcades.  There is a theater, and when we were there, the kids and their parents were lined up to see Zoolander.  The JPEG below shows the main street, Colorado Avenue.

Mainstreet

If it were not for running water, indoor plumbing and store lights, you would think Telluride is right out of the late 1800s.  It is a remarkably well-preserved frontier town and the permanent residents want to keep it that way.  It’s really laid back and certainly casual.

Telluride Downtown(5)

The most prominent landmark is the mountain just north of the town.  It certainly marks the location as you can see from the JPEG below.  A huge peak that stays snow-covered nine months of the year.

Telluride--Downtown(2)

 

The buildings are rustic but well-kept.  You can purchase everything from a Band-Aid to a complete set of ski equipment including the lift ticket, but as I mentioned, no McDonalds, no Hardees, no Sonic Drive-In.   The number of SUVs in the town must be fifty to one in comparison to regular automobiles.  The residents are equipped for the ten to twenty inches of snow frequently had during from late December to mid-February.

Telluride Mountains(2)

Telluride--Downtown

TYPICAL CONSTRUCTION

Typical House

Most houses and commercial establishments are frame-type with some brick found, but not that much in the downtown area.  You do find brick and stone in the high mountains around the Mountain Village complex.

We were there over Easter Sunday and attended the First Presbyterian Church of Telluride.  That church is shown below.  The membership is less than one hundred but the service was excellent.  The music was exceptional—really exceptional.  At the beginning of the service, the children are asked to gather around the bell rope.  They ring the bell signaling the beginning of services.  Ten o’clock sharp.

Presbyterian Church

We are now going from church to the Sheridan bar. Quite a leap but both are must-see when you visit Telluride.  The bar was initially designed for mine owners and high-level mine operators in the town.  The bar (and brothel) down the road was for the miners themselves.  Apparently they did not mix during after hours.  The bar is oak and mahogany and is huge.  The JPEG does not do it justice.  (Sorry about the lighting.  It’s very subdued. Hopefully you can get an idea as to the construction of the bar.)

Sherridan Bar--Telluride

Sherridan Bar--Telluride(4)

MOUNTAIN VILLAGE

When you take the gondola ride to the top of the mountain, the very first thing you see is “The Beach”.  This is the gathering point for all lifts going from the Village.   From the JPEGs to follow, you can see Mountain Village is an extremely modern collection of condos, restaurants, retail shops and other commercial establishments.  Not much in common with downtown Telluride with the exception of “tons of fun”.

The Beach

Mountain Village

As you can see, Mountain Village is extremely modern and caters to every personal need of the visitors vacationing in the facility.

Mountain Village(2)

 

One of the “coolest” places we found was the Black Iron Café.  This establishment serves gourmet meals to the hungry crowd seven days a week.  The fire pits are established to drive off the cold after hitting the slopes.

Black Iron Cafe

On the flip side, is the Diggety-Dog Café. It’s a hot dog place that’s over the top.  Greg and Nick met up with a home-town friend Duke Ritchie.  If you can see the menu, you will notice a sandwich called the heart attack.  (Stay away from that one.) Take a look.

Duke,Greg & Nick

RIDGEWAY AND QURAY

One morning we decided upon a field trip to the towns of Ridgeway and Quray.  Both are northeast of Telluride and about an hour’s drive.  Quray is noted for its natural hot springs.  You can tell when you are close; the steam coming off the springs is very discernible, especially when the air temperature is in the low thirties.   Both towns, as we will see below, are right out of the 1800s.

Rocky Mountains

As you can see from the digital photograph above, the scenery on the way is spectacular.  After leaving Main Street, most roads are dirt and gravel.

Ridgeway

True Grit Cafe

We discovered the movie True Grit was filmed in Ridgeway.  From that name came the True Grit Café. Notice they are now serving breakfast every Saturday and Sunday from 0900 hours till 1100 hundred hours.

Firehall

One very unique thing about the fire hall is the sophisticated telecommunications equipment behind the building.

Brewery--Ridgeway

Every town MUST have its own brewery and Ridgeway certainly does.

Quray(3)

As with Telluride, Ridgeway is tucked solidly in the mountains.

Quray(2)

Quray is much like Ridgeway as far as mountains and general topography.  Main Street is paved but most of the side roads are again dirt and gravel.

Quray(4)

Mule Deer

In driving from Ridgeway going back to Telluride, we stopped to say hello to one of the local residents.  We do NOT see many mule deer in downtown Chattanooga.

No Smoking

You have to love this one.  I think they mean it.

VIEW FROM THE DECK

The last night of our visit we were invited to dinner by a longtime resident of Telluride.  The following pictures were taken from their rear deck.  As you can see, the view is breath-taking.

Rocky Mountains(2)

We were told this mountain range is the most photographed range in the world.  It is shown on bottles of Coors Light Beer.

Backyard-Stewart House

Backyard-Stewart House(2)

I hope you enjoyed this post and certainly recommend you put Telluride, Colorado on your bucket list.  It is definitely worth the visit.

CULTURAL INTELLIGENCE

April 7, 2016


I have been fortunate enough to travel extensively across the world as an employee of General Electric and as a consulting engineer.  While at GE, I worked in the International Group, specifically the Latin American Pole.  My specialty was the combustion of gaseous flues and those agency codes that govern the safe use of gas burners, gas transfer manifolds, and the controlling hardware necessary for successful and long-lasting use.  My wife and I also love to travel, and we have made numerous trips to various countries over the years.   With this being the case, I can tell you what you already know—culture can be significantly different from country to country and region to region.  The importance of those differences can be critical in an office and/or team environment.  More than ever today, we see cooperation between team members in different countries, and it is not strange to have team members in cross-functional groups within a company in the United States.

When you are working in an international environment, you need to make a concerted effort to understand the cultural backgrounds, beliefs and attitudes of the people around you.  If you do not, you will struggle to get things done.  We all need to develop “cultural intelligence”.  Cultural intelligence may be defined as follows:  “Cultural Intelligencecultural quotient or CQ, is a term used in business, education, government and academic research. Cultural intelligence can be understood as the capability to relate and work effectively across cultures. Originally, the term cultural intelligence and the abbreviation “CQ” was developed by the research done by Soon Ang and Linn Van Dyne as a researched-based way of measuring and predicting intercultural performance”. There are many reasons to develop cultural intelligence but two of the most important are:

  • To aid working effectively with people who are different from you.  Whether you are working abroad or leading a culturally diverse team, it can mean the difference between success and failure, and the difference between solving problems and creating them.
  • Cultural intelligence is a predictor of strong job performance in a new culture.  Research shows that professionals with a high degree of cultural intelligence are more successful in international assignments.  They certainly can work more effectively with different groups, and they adjust more easily to living and working in the new culture.

I would like to demonstrate now just how diverse various cultures are and can be.  I will then close with suggestions on how to improve and develop cultural intelligence.

  • In China and Japan, gesture “come here,” with all of your fingers pointing down. Beckoning someone with a bent finger is considered impolite.
  • In Vietnam, point with your whole hand, not just one finger.
  • In South Korea, stay quiet on public transportation.  Noisiness is considered very rude. (Can you just imagine the culture shock when a South Korean visits the subways of New York?)
  • In India, you are expected to refuse your host’s first offer of a drink or snack. You will be asked again!
  • In Germany, use utensils, not your fingers, to eat—even with foods like pizza and fries. The one exception is bread. It can be eaten with your fingers.
  • In Afghanistan and throughout the Muslim world, eat your food with your right hand, not your left. The left hand is reserved for bathroom hygiene so using it for eating is considered unclean.
  • In Indonesia, while eating, keep both hands on the table at all times.
  • As a dinner guest in Kenya or Germany, finish everything on your plate or the host will be offended and think you didn’t like the food. NOTE: My wife and I also ran into this while in Italy.  The gentleman who waited on us was greatly offended that we did not “clean our plate”.
  • In China, if you clean your plate, the host will be offended because it is a sign that you didn’t get enough food. Likewise, in Afghanistan and India, leave a little food on your plate when you are full because an empty plate will be filled again!
  • In Pakistan, arrive about fifteen (15) minutes after the scheduled start time of a meal, and up to one hour after the start time of a party.
  • If you are invited to a Danish home, be punctual!
  • In Kazakhstan, you will be served tea, but only half of a cup. A full cup is a sign that the host wants you to leave! Later in the meal, when you have had enough tea (or broth), turn your cup over to show that you are finished.
  • A superstition in Azerbaijan is that spilled salt means you are about to quarrel. Sprinkle sugar on the salt to counter this.
  • In Kuwait, when the host stands, the meal is over.
  • In India, do not wink or whistle in public.
  • In Vietnam, do not touch someone’s head or shoulder. Also do not pass things over someone’s head.
  • In Brazil, avoid purple lipstick as it is associated with funerals. Purple is fine for clothing and accessories, though.
  • In numerous countries like Libya, Slovakia, and Norway, greets a colleague with a handshake. But in Russia, do not shake hands or conduct business over a threshold—step all the way in or out of the doorway.
  • In China, it is bad luck to let your date borrow your umbrella to go home. This is because the word for umbrella in Chinese sounds like the word for “to break apart.” Instead, take the time to walk your date, with your umbrella, to the door—a gesture that goes a long way in many cultures!
  • In Thailand and in Arab countries never point your shoe/foot to another person. The shoe/foot is the unclean part of your body.
  • In Thailand, don’t touch the head of someone older than you, or, in general, don’t touch the head at all.
  • If you are in an African country and have an occasion to talk with a tribal chief, make sure your head is lower than his. It is considered disrespectful to be elevated above him.
  • If you are a male, don’t try to shake hands with an orthodox Muslim (covered) woman.
  • Don’t forget to say “takk for maten” (“Thank you for the meal.”) in Scandinavia. It is a MUST!
  • Never eat while standing in Indonesia
  • Never chew gum in public in Austria, Italy, Germany, or Malaysia.  This is considered disrespectful and calls you out as a “tourist”.
  • Don’t cut your grass on Sunday in Switzerland
  • Don’t bring wine as a gift in France. They consider themselves expert in this area and it would be somewhat rude if you indicated you knew more than they. Just don’t do it.
  • In Germany and the United Kingdom, it is frowned upon to spit in public.
  • Don’t give an even number of roses as a gift for a romantic occasion in Russia.
  • Don’t stretch or yawn in public in Spain. It is considered extremely vulgar.
  • Don’t touch a Mongolian’s head, hat or horse.
  • Cambodians believe you should not take a photo of 3 people.
  • It is considered bad luck for a building to have a 13th floor in the United States or a 4th floor in China.
  • In Nepal, never share food from the same plate; once it’s been touched by one person its considered disgusting to be eaten by someone else, which is the total opposite of Korean dining.

Asian cultures tend to be full of taboos, though many are fading away.  The more interaction western culture has with eastern culture, the more eastern culture relinquishes the “old ways”.  If you are in an eastern culture, it is best to know the following:

NEW YEAR

  • Normally you clean the house before New Year’s Day in the Chinese calendar.  Cleaning after this day is inauspicious as it may sweep away fortunes.  In other words, don’t go calling on your Chinese neighbor the day before New Year’s Day.
  • Certain colors are considered inauspicious. White tends to be associated with mourning and death while red is considered a very auspicious color normally prominent in festivals, weddings and other happy occasions. It’d be sort of taboo to be wearing a white dress to a New Year celebration.
  • In Brazil, the ladies ALL wear white dresses on New Year’s Day.  It is the custom.  (You now see how confusing this can be.)
  • In very traditional areas, which you are more likely to find in the backwaters of Malaysia where traditions from centuries ago live on, you never throw out trash until the 5th day of the year, traditionally called Powu. Throwing out trash discards good fortune. It’s a good exercise in reusing and reducing waste during the New Year which sadly is seldom followed anymore and has begun losing to disposable items at New Year parties.
  • Traditional people also do not talk of death during New Year or say the word 死 si, which means to die, at all, not even in reference to it, during the New Year time period. Though this is well-followed on television and major celebrations, many people outside of S.E.A. don’t pay extreme attention to this rule; with our generation this is a fading taboo.
  • Traditional people also do not go out on the 4th day to meet friends. (I don’t really know how this could work in a commercial environment but nevertheless it must be true.)

EATING

  • Chopsticks are not to be stuck vertically into anything while eating, as this is only done in making an offering for deceased ancestors.  (This is true of Korean and Japanese cultures as well.
  • Chopsticks should also not be crossed and as much as possible not be placed to point at other people on your table, though I think few people realistically bother with the latter today.

GIFTING

  • Do not give pears to anyone. Especially do not give pears to couples and do not split a pear with a friend — eat it all yourself. (The word for pear, 梨, is pronounced identically to the word 離, which means to leave or separate).
  • Do not give clocks to anyone, as clock 鍾 sounds like 終 end.
  • Do not give shoes or slippers especially to older ones.
  • Do not give umbrellas.
  • Do not give green hats (a symbol of prostitution since ancient times).
  • Do not give sharp objects.

OK, now that we have some idea as to how things work for other cultures, let’s take a look at suggestions on how to become more intelligent from an international standpoint.  According to Dr. David Livermore, an expert in cultural intelligence, the process of becoming culturally intelligent consists of four components:

  • DRIVE:  Being motivated to learn about new cultures or settings
  • KNOWLEDGE:  Studying how culture shapes people’s behaviors, values and beliefs.
  • STRATEGY: Being able to factor culture into longer-term planning.
  • ACTION:  Behaving in a culturally sensitively manner, including being able to think on one’s feet in difficult situations.

There are five (5) Keys to Successful Cross-Cultural Communication

  1. Create Proactive Communication: Stay out of the reactive cycle. Focus on positioning yourself, your product, and your company so that it facilitates partnerships and trust. This is an important first step before jumping into the business at hand.
  2. Rapport Secrets: Adapt your marketing material, sales style, and business approach to the cultural preferences of the customer.
  3. Organize Productive Interactions: Work towards collaboration and a ‘win-win’ outcome for all parties. This helps to avoid conflict and cultural sensitivities. It establishes trust, and influences decision-makers.
  4. Strategies for Relationships: Create strategies based on cultural expectations, and incorporate the appropriate level of formality. Understand the business hierarchy, the decision making protocol, and the timing necessary for sales cycles.
  5. Success Leaves Clues: Learn the Dos and Taboos of the country and cultures you sell to and partner with. Notice what works and what doesn’t. Change your approach based on the results, and enjoy the process!

I have discovered there are many opportunities to engage those of other cultures in their country or in ours.  I think it’s fascinating to discover the differences.  Hope you enjoy this one.

CROWDFUNDING

March 20, 2016


If you have an idea you feel will be profitable over the long haul, you will no doubt be very interested in commercializing that idea and turning it into an on-going company or even a not-for-profit company.  At any rate, you will need financing.  Have you tried getting a bank loan for an idea lately?  Ever tried getting an SBA loan?  If so, you know the odds of success are very limited, even for a project or product that is seemingly “bullet-proof”.  You may have credit that is pristine but the odds are still not in your favor.  Money is remarkably tight because banks and other lending institutions have no idea as to where our economy is going or what might be the next “big thing”. Our government, you know the one supposedly on our side, has burdened this country with so many regulations and taxes we are literally stagnating to the point of no real return.   For this reason, banks are remarkably risk-averse at this time in our country’s history.    You better know somebody to get the money and it very well may take forever at that.   This just might be where crowdfunding has a huge advantage.

DEFINITIION:

I think the very best thing we can do is start off with a definition of crowdfunding.  Just what is it?  Then we will discuss how it works:

Crowdfunding is the practice of funding a project or venture by raising monetary contributions from a large number of people, today often performed via internet-mediated registries, but the concept can also be executed through mail-order subscriptions, benefit events, and other methods.

According to a new survey of one thousand people, only twenty-nine percent (29%) of Americans have heard of this funding method, in which individuals donate cash in exchange for a portion of a company’s ownership. The research was conducted by a third party on behalf of equity crowdfunding company NextGen Crowdfunding.com.  This was after the Securities and Exchange Commission voted to approve Title III equity crowdfunding rules on October 30, 2015.  According to Entrepreneur Magazine:

“The Securities and Exchange Commission voted 3-1 to adopt the next generation rules for equity crowdfunding this morning for entrepreneurs and small-business owners. Equity crowdfunding is the exchange of a piece of a company for cash. Before today’s ruling, entrepreneurs could only sell pieces of their companies to accredited investors, or those individuals who meet sufficient levels of assets and income. With the passing of this new set of rules, entrepreneurs can sell pieces of their companies to anyone who has the interest and cash to do so.”

The JOBS Act, signed into law in April of 2012, made equity crowdfunding for unsophisticated investors legal, but it has taken the SEC more than three and a half years to wrangle a set of rules for how equity crowdfunding should be implemented.  This is how our government works.  I wonder how many members of Congress had to be guaranteed campaign money by special interest groups to get this passed?  At any rate, I do think the possibilities are great and can have beneficial significance.

SUCCESS:

OK, what does it take to be successful?  Let’s look.

  1. Solve a real problem.  You must create a product or process that people want to buy. It must be marketable.  You have to have something of a viable nature to sell.
  2. Do your homework. The success of any crowdfunding effort is inextricably linked to the amount of hard work you put into testing and refining your idea long before launching the campaign. You MUST look at any competition you may have.  Determine what sector of our country might purchase your product.  What is the “staying power” of your product?
  3. Bring money to the table-– Crowdfunding shouldn’t be your first source of money.  You, as the inventor, must have skin in the game.  You have to initially contribute.
  4. Get a smart funding goal—You MUST make a distinction between how much money you would love to have and how much money you need.  Develop a one year, three year and five year business plan as well as a first year cash flow spreadsheet.  If you don’t know how to do this—LEARN. Learn before you make your first presentation asking for financing.
  5. Make an effective presentation relative to your idea—People are drawn to a vision, a dream, a hope.  They are looking for eventual success. If you cannot articulate this vision you are SUNK.
  6. It’s not always about the money—Listen to those individuals who have ideas as well as interest in becoming part owners and contributors to your idea(s). Feedback can drive product design.  The product you start out with may evolve into an eventual offering far better than you first envisioned. This is critical.
  7. Make the campaign your passion--Managing an active crowdfunding campaign is an intense process. “It’s not only full-time for one person, it’s full-time for everyone in the company,” says Gyalokay. Sager agrees. “When we ran our campaign, the entire team was 100% focused on crowdfunding,” he recalls. “We sent out multiple surveys to our backers. I personally answered 3,000 emails in the first week.” Although it can be a nearly overwhelming experience, the campaign offers a valuable opportunity to engage with your backers. “We believe that if we can have a dialogue with the market, we can be successful,” says Fish. “We decided to host a separate forum for our backers, to continue the conversation beyond the crowdfunding campaigns.”

THE BEST CROWDFUNDING SITES:

The best crowd-funding Internet sites are:

  • Chuffed.org
  • Fundly
  • Crowdrise
  • Indiegogo
  • GoFundme
  • Kickstarter
  • Buzzbnk
  • JustGiving/Yimby
  • Pozible
  • Startsomegood
  • NextGen Crowdfunding

Here again, do your homework.  Look at all crowdfunding web sites and determine which one or ones, if any, meet your needs.  Each web site lists the fees, if any required and how they manage your request, so study each as you would prior to taking a university final exam. You may save yourself a great deal of heartache later on.    You also may develop other ideas also and if so, factor those into your business plan.

I am constantly amazed at the resourcefulness of the American people.  Crowdfunding would have never come to fruition if lending institutions were willing to look at people with ideas.  It’s always been tough but in today’s economy, it’s doubly tough.  Maybe this method of raising money is good for you.

DO YOUR HOMEWORK.  WATCH OUT FOR SCAMS.  They are out there.

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