I know I’m spoiled.  I like to know that when I get behind the wheel, put the key in the ignition, start my vehicle, pull out of the driveway, etc. I can get to my destination without mechanical issues.  I think we all are basically there.  Now, to do that, you have to maintain your “ride”.  I have a 1999 Toyota Pre-runner with 308,000 plus miles. Every three thousand miles I have it serviced.  Too much you say?  Well, I do have 308K and it’s still humming like a Singer Sewing Machine.

Mr. Charles Murry has been following the automotive industry for over thirty years.  Mr. Murry is also a senior editor for Design News Daily Magazine.  Much of the information below results from his recent post on the TEN MOST UNRELIABLE VEHICLES.  Each year Consumer Reports receives over one-half million consumer surveys on reliability information relative to the vehicles they drive.  The story is not always not a good one.  Let’s take a look at what CU readers consider the must unreliable vehicles and why.

Please keep in mind this is a CU report based upon feedback from vehicle owners.  Please do not shoot the messenger.  As always, I welcome your comments and hope this help your buying research.

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WILL ROGERS

March 28, 2017


It seems as though our country, our great country, is now having difficulties sensible people could solve if they had the resolve to do so.  Republican, Democrat, Liberal, Conservative, Right, Left, Moderate, Independent, we just do not seem to want to come together to resolve our most pressing problems.  We are remarkably fortunate in this country to have a very “deep bench”.  We have people who can do things, do them properly, and do them correct the first time.  You would think with this reality, we could at least come together to discuss our differences.

Some countries simply do not have the capability to accomplish.  Hundreds, maybe thousands, of women travel miles each day just to “fetch” water for their families. Hundreds of children die each day due to malnutrition.  Little girls in some parts of the world still undergo the painful and humiliating process of Female Genital Mutilation.  Honor killings take the lives of hundreds each year.  Individuals seeking only to express freedoms we take for granted.

I think no one expresses our human condition better than Will Rogers. Will Rogers was an American humorist, actor and author best known for his Broadway and film performances, as well as his folksy persona. In 1905, Rogers began performing a lasso act on the vaudeville circuit. His charm and humor, along with his technical ability, made Rogers a star somewhat overnight. Audiences responded with enthusiasm to his off-the-cuff remarks delivered while performing elaborate roping tricks. Rogers parlayed his vaudeville success into a Broadway career. He debuted in New York in 1916, performing in The Wall Street Girl. This led to many more theatrical roles, including headlining appearances in the Ziegfeld Follies. Rogers also brought his act to the burgeoning medium of the moving picture. He appeared in dozens of silent films, often playing a country bumpkin trying to negotiate the modern world.

In addition to acting, Rogers became nationally known as a writer. He penned a column for the Saturday Evening Post that ran in newspapers across the country. His columns dealt with contemporary issues from a perspective of small town morality, emphasizing the integrity of working people. It was a viewpoint that resonated in the rapidly industrializing twentieth century United States. Many of his books, including The Cowboy Philosopher on Prohibition and There’s Not a Bathing Suit in Russia, achieved best-seller status.

Rogers’s fame had eclipsed his country bumpkin persona by 1930. No longer believable as an uneducated outsider, he was able to voice his characteristic wit and wisdom while playing a professional. Legendary director John Ford worked with Rogers on three of these later films—Doctor Bull, Judge Priest and The Steamboat Round the Bend. After filming concluded on the final Ford film, in 1935, Rogers set out on a trip to Alaska. An avid aviation enthusiast, he planned to explore remote stretches by plane as well as on foot.

A digital picture of Will Rogers is given below.  I have chosen this JPEG to give you some indication of his public persona.

One thing that greatly endeared Rogers to a loving audience was, as mentioned earlier, his off-the-cuff remarks.  I would like to indicate several of those now.

  • Everything is funny, as long as it’s happening to somebody else.
  • Good judgment comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgment.
  • If advertisers spent the same amount of money on improving their products as they do on advertising then they wouldn’t have to advertise them.
  • Chaotic action is preferable to orderly inaction.
  • An onion can make people cry but there’s never been a vegetable that can make people laugh.
  • Take the diplomacy out of war and the thing would fall flat in a week.
  • If Stupidity got us into this mess, then why can’t it get us out?
  • Liberty doesn’t work as well in practice as it does in speeches.
  • A remark generally hurts in proportion to its truth.
  • If I studied all my life, I couldn’t think up half the number of funny things passed in one session of congress.
  • This country has come to feel the same when Congress is in session as when the baby gets hold of a hammer.
  • Our constitution protects aliens, drunks and U.S. Senators.
  • People who fly into a rage always make a bad landing
  • If you ever injected truth into politics you have no politics.
  • About all I can say for the United States Senate is that it opens with a prayer and closes with an investigation.
  • What the country needs is dirtier fingernails and cleaner minds.
  • There ought to be one day – just one – when there is open season on senators.
  • The only difference between death and taxes is that death doesn’t get worse every time Congress meets.
  • When the Oakies left Oklahoma, and moved to California, it raised the I.Q. of both states.
  • If you want to be successful, it’s just this simple. Know what you are doing. Love what you are doing. And believe in what you are doing.
  • A fool and his money are soon elected
  • The man with the best job in the country is the vice-president. All he has to do is get up every morning and say, ‘How is the president?’
  • Live in such a way that you would not be ashamed to sell your parrot to the town gossip.

There are many many others but you can see his brand of humor is right on the money especially with today’s political climate.  A little humor never really hurt anyone.


At one time in the world there were only two distinctive branches of engineering, civil and military.

The word engineer was initially used in the context of warfare, dating back to 1325 when engine’er (literally, one who operates an engine) referred to “a constructor of military engines”.  In this context, “engine” referred to a military machine, i. e., a mechanical contraption used in war (for example, a catapult).

As the design of civilian structures such as bridges and buildings developed as a technical discipline, the term civil engineering entered the lexicon as a way to distinguish between those specializing in the construction of such non-military projects and those involved in the older discipline. As the prevalence of civil engineering outstripped engineering in a military context and the number of disciplines expanded, the original military meaning of the word “engineering” is now largely obsolete. In its place, the term “military engineering” has come to be used.

OK, so that’s how we got here.  If you follow my posts you know I primarily concentrate on STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) professions.  Engineering is somewhat uppermost since I am a mechanical engineer.

There are many branches of the engineering profession.  Distinct areas of endeavor that attract individuals and capture their professional lives.  Several of these are as follows:

  • Electrical Engineering
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Civil Engineering
  • Chemical Engineering
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Engineering Physics
  • Nuclear Engineering
  • Petroleum Engineering
  • Materials Engineering

Of course, there are others but the one I wish to concentrate on with this post is the growing branch of engineering—Biomedical Engineering. Biomedical engineering, or bioengineering, is the application of engineering principles to the fields of biology and health care. Bioengineers work with doctors, therapists and researchers to develop systems, equipment and devices in order to solve clinical problems.  As such, the possibilities of a bioengineer’s charge are as follows:

Biomedical engineering has evolved over the years in response to advancements in science and technology.  This is NOT a new classification for engineering involvement.  Engineers have been at this for a while.  Throughout history, humans have made increasingly more effective devices to diagnose and treat diseases and to alleviate, rehabilitate or compensate for disabilities or injuries. One example is the evolution of hearing aids to mitigate hearing loss through sound amplification. The ear trumpet, a large horn-shaped device that was held up to the ear, was the only “viable form” of hearing assistance until the mid-20th century, according to the Hearing Aid Museum. Electrical devices had been developed before then, but were slow to catch on, the museum said on its website.

The works of Alexander Graham Bell and Thomas Edison on sound transmission and amplification in the late 19th and early 20th centuries were applied to make the first tabletop hearing aids. These were followed by the first portable (or “luggable”) devices using vacuum-tube amplifiers powered by large batteries. However, the first wearable hearing aids had to await the development of the transistor by William Shockley and his team at Bell Laboratories. Subsequent development of micro-integrated circuits and advance battery technology has led to miniature hearing aids that fit entirely within the ear canal.

Let’s take a very quick look at several devices designed by biomedical engineering personnel.

MAGNETIC RESONANCE IMAGING:

POSITION EMISSION TOMOGRAPHY OR (PET) SCAN:

NOTE: PET scans represent a different technology relative to MRIs. The scan uses a special dye that has radioactive tracers. These tracers are injected into a vein in your arm. Your organs and tissues then absorb the tracer.

BLOOD CHEMISTRY MONOTORING EQUIPMENT:

ELECTROCARDIOGRAM MONITORING DEVICE (EKG):

INSULIN PUMP:

COLONOSCOPY:

THE PROFESSION:

Biomedical engineers design and develop medical systems, equipment and devices. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), this requires in-depth knowledge of the operational principles of the equipment (electronic, mechanical, biological, etc.) as well as knowledge about the application for which it is to be used. For instance, in order to design an artificial heart, an engineer must have extensive knowledge of electrical engineeringmechanical engineering and fluid dynamics as well as an in-depth understanding of cardiology and physiology. Designing a lab-on-a-chip requires knowledge of electronics, nanotechnology, materials science and biochemistry. In order to design prosthetic replacement limbs, expertise in mechanical engineering and material properties as well as biomechanics and physiology is essential.

The critical skills needed by a biomedical engineer include a well-rounded understanding of several areas of engineering as well as the specific area of application. This could include studying physiology, organic chemistry, biomechanics or computer science. Continuing education and training are also necessary to keep up with technological advances and potential new applications.

SCHOOLS OFFERING BIO-ENGINEERING:

If we take a look at the top schools offering Biomedical engineering, we see the following:

  • MIT
  • Stanford
  • University of California-San Diego
  • Rice University
  • University of California-Berkley
  • University of Pennsylvania
  • University of Michigan—Ann Arbor
  • Georgia Tech
  • Johns Hopkins
  • Duke University

As you can see, these are among the most prestigious schools in the United States.  They have had established engineering programs for decades.  Bio-engineering does not represent a new discipline for them.  There are several others and I would definitely recommend you go online to take a look if you are interested in seeing a complete list of colleges and universities offering a four (4) or five (5) year degree.

SALARY LEVELS:

The median annual wage for biomedical engineers was $86,950 in May 2014. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest ten (10) percent earned less than $52,680, and the highest ten (10) percent earned more than $139,350.  As you might expect, salary levels vary depending upon several factors:

  • Years of experience
  • Location within the United States
  • Size of company
  • Research facility and corporate structure
  • Bonus or profit sharing arrangement of company

EXPECTATIONS FOR EMPLOYMENT:

In their list of top jobs for 2015, CNNMoney classified Biomedical Engineering as the 37th best job in the US, and of the jobs in the top 37, Biomedical Engineering 10-year job growth was the third highest (27%) behind Information Assurance Analyst (37%) and Product Analyst (32%). CNN previously reported Biomedical Engineer as the top job in the US in 2012 with a predicted 10-year growth rate of nearly 62% ‘Biomedical Engineer’ was listed as a high-paying low-stress job according to Time magazine.  There is absolutely no doubt that medical technology will advance as time go on so biomedical engineers will continue to be in demand.

As always, I welcome your comments.

BLACK LIGHT

March 25, 2017


Black Light is the second in a series of books written by Stephen Hunter with Bob Lee Swagger as the main character.  You might have seen the movie “The Shooter” which told the story of Bob Lee and how he was accused of being an assassin and how he exacted revenge on his accusers.   That was the first book in the Bob Lee Swagger series.

I do NEED TO TELL YOU, it is NOT a book for the politically correct.  If you are a snowflake looking for a safe place when offended, you will not be amused.  The language is “R” rated as well as text describing multiple acts of absolute violence.  The discovery of a young black teen-ager who has been raped and strangled to death is detailed and extremely gruesome.  FAIR WARNING.

Former Marine sniper Bob Lee Swagger has finally put his past behind him until he meets Russell Pewtie.  Pewtie wants to write a book about Bob Lee’s father, Earl, who was a state trooper in Arkansas. He died in a shoot-out in Blue Eye, Ark., in 1955.  The link between Pewtie and Bob Lee, ties the first three Hunter novels together. This link is that Lamar Pye, the escaped con who almost killed Pewtie’s father in Dirty White Boys, turns out to be the son of one of the men who killed Earl. Behind that death, lies a forty-year-old conspiracy somehow tied to the brutal murder of a young black teenager mentioned above.  Earl Swagger was investigating that murder on the day he died. The plot is fast-paced, well-constructed and builds to a pulse-pounding night ambush that echoes the finale of Point of Impact but that stands on its own as a classic one-on-one confrontation. Other echoes of the earlier novels sound as well, giving this one the feel of a recapitulation, or a farewell. But then Hunter has set a high standard for himself-and while this novel doesn’t match the escalating craziness of Dirty White Boys or the stone-cold efficiency of Point of Impact, it should seal his reputation as an author who not only can write bestselling thrillers, but write them exceedingly well.

Mr. Hunter, in my opinion, is a MASTER “wordsmith”. He demonstrates the remarkable ability to craft a story that could have multiple endings.  His writing style is very purpose-driven and gives the reader the sense of “I cannot put this down until I read one more chapter”.  In Black Light, the last three chapters leave you with the thought—“I did not see that coming”.  The ending is just that surprising.

I would now like to give you some idea as to reviews posted online from individuals who have read Black Light.  As you can see, readers are as enthusiastic as I about Hunter’s writing.

Mike Fench— Another 5-star book in the Bob Lee Swagger series! This book features Bob Lee looking into the death of his father, Earl, an Arkansas State Trooper shot in an attempted arrest of 2 killers. Kept me riveted from beginning to end WARNING: This book is far from being PC!

Rick– Some negative reviews have called ‘Black Light’ predictable, racist and violent. Yeah, what’s your point? Look, this is a book in Stephen Hunter’s ‘Bob Lee Swagger’ series. Swagger is an ex-Marine sniper in the south. He hunts bad guys. Violent? I should HOPE so!  As he so often does, and does so well, Hunter reprises characters from past novels. It’s like running into old friends (or enemies, as the case may be), but knowing these recurring characters is NOT a prerequisite for enjoying any of the Hunter novels.

Susan— And this one is the best Stephen Hunter yet. This guy can flat tell a story. Some of the plot is not even interesting (I’m just not fascinated by the intricacies of various guns) but even so, his stories are just so compelling.

Michael Burke— Never lets up for a minute you’re in it from beginning to end it hardly gives you time to breath. The writing is spare and still fulsome I enjoyed the pictures it paints of the Arkansas hills in the dust and sweat. And of several very interesting characters who I look forward to reading about in the future.

Christopher Bunn— Best thriller I’ve read in a very long time. Solid characters. Great motivations. Excellent pacing. Good dialogue. Very intriguing plot twists that advance with just enough foreshadowing and hints to keep you hooked, but not enough information to allow easy guessing. Perfect villain. Hunter knows what he’s doing. Refreshing to read a book that maintains all the way to the end, particularly these days. Rare thing.

Each to his own.  The reviews above are samplings of five star ratings that several readers have given this book.  I can certainly agree that Black Light is a book worth reading, if for no other reason, the writing style of Mr. Hunter is amazing.  A truly great author.

As always, I welcome your comments.

 

RISE OF THE MACHINES

March 20, 2017


Movie making today is truly remarkable.  To me, one of the very best parts is animation created by computer graphics.  I’ve attended “B” movies just to see the graphic displays created by talented programmers.  The “Terminator” series, at least the first movie in that series, really captures the creative essence of graphic design technology.  I won’t replay the movie for you but, the “terminator” goes back in time to carry out its prime directive—Kill John Conner.  The terminator, a robotic humanoid, has decision-making capability as well as human-like mobility that allows the plot to unfold.  Artificial intelligence or AI is a fascinating technology many companies are working on today.  Let’s get a proper definition of AI as follows:

“the theory and development of computer systems able to perform tasks that normally require human intelligence, such as visual perception, speech recognition, decision-making, and translation between languages.”

Question:  Are Siri, Cortana, and Alexa eventually going to be more literate than humans? Anyone excited about the recent advancements in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning should also be concerned about human literacy as well. That’s according to Protect Literacy , a global campaign, backed by education company Pearson, aimed at creating awareness and fighting against illiteracy.

Project Literacy, which has been raising awareness for its cause at SXSW 2017, recently released a report, “ 2027: Human vs. Machine Literacy ,” that projects machines powered by AI and voice recognition will surpass the literacy levels of one in seven American adults in the next ten (10) years. “While these systems currently have a much shallower understanding of language than people do, they can already perform tasks similar to simple text search task…exceeding the abilities of millions of people who are nonliterate,” Kate James, Project Literacy spokesperson and Chief Corporate Affairs and Global Marketing Officer at Pearson, wrote in the report. In light of this the organization is calling for “society to commit to upgrading its people at the same rate as upgrading its technology, so that by 2030 no child is born at risk of poor literacy.”  (I would invite you to re-read this statement and shudder in your boots as I did.)

While the past twenty-five (25) years have seen disappointing progress in U.S. literacy, there have been huge gains in linguistic performance by a totally different type of actor – computers. Dramatic advances in natural language processing (Hirschberg and Manning, 2015) have led to the rise of language technologies like search engines and machine translation that “read” text and produce answers or translations that are useful for people. While these systems currently have a much shallower understanding of language than people do, they can already perform tasks similar to the simple text search task above – exceeding the abilities of millions of people who are nonliterate.

According to the National National Centre for Education Statistics machine literacy has already exceeded the literacy abilities of the estimated three percent (3%) of non-literate adults in the US.

Comparing demographic data from the Global Developer Population and Demographic Study 2016 v2 and the 2015 Digest of Education Statistics finds there are more software engineers in the U.S. than school teachers, “We are focusing so much on teaching algorithms and AI to be better at language that we are forgetting that fifty percent (50%)  of adults cannot read a book written at an eighth grade level,” Project Literacy said in a statement.  I retired from General Electric Appliances.   Each engineer was required to write, or at least the first draft, of the Use and Care Manuals for specific cooking products.  We were instructed to 1.) Use plenty of graphic examples and 2.) Write for a fifth-grade audience.  Even with that, we know from experience that many consumers never use and have no intention of reading their Use and Care Manual.  With this being the case, many of the truly cool features are never used.  They may as well buy the most basic product.

Research done by Business Insider reveals that thirty-two (32) million Americans cannot currently read a road sign. Yet at the same time there are ten (10) million self-driving cars predicted to be on the roads by 2020. (One could argue this will further eliminate the need for literacy, but that is debatable.)  If we look at literacy rates for the top ten (10) countries on our planet we see the following:

Citing research from Venture Scanner , Project Literacy found that in 2015 investment in AI technologies, including natural language processing, speech recognition, and image recognition, reached $47.2 billion. Meanwhile, data on US government spending shows that the 2017 U.S. Federal Education Budget for schools (pre-primary through secondary school) is $40.4 billion.  I’m not too sure funding for education always goes to benefit students education. In other words, throwing more money at this problem may not always provide desired results, but there is no doubt, funding for AI will only increase.

“Human literacy levels have stalled since 2000. At any time, this would be a cause for concern, when one in ten people worldwide…still cannot read a road sign, a voting form, or a medicine label,” James wrote in the report. “In popular discussion about advances in artificial intelligence, it is easy

CONCLUSION:  AI will only continue to advance and there will come a time when robotic systems will be programmed with basic decision-making skills.  To me, this is not only fascinating but more than a little scary.


It really does creep up on you—the pain that is.  Minimal at first for a few months but at least livable.  I thought I could exercise and stretch to lessen the discomfort and that did work to a great degree.  That was approximately seven (7) months ago. Reality did set in with the pain being so great that something had to be done.

In the decade of the eighties, I was an avid runner with thoughts of running a marathon or even marathons. My dream was to run the New York City and Boston Marathon first then concentrate on local 10 K events. After one year I would concentrate on the Atlanta marathon—at least that was the plan.  I was clocking about twenty to thirty miles per week with that goal in mind.    All of my running was on pavement with three five miles runs on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and a ten-mile run on Saturday.  It did seem reasonable. I would drive the courses to get exact mileage and vary the routes just to mix it up a little and bring about new scenery.  After several weeks, I noticed pains starting to develop around the twenty-five miles per week distances.  They did go away but always returned towards the latter part of each week.   Medical examinations would later show the beginning of arthritis in my right hip.  I shortened my distances hoping to alleviate the pain and that worked to some extent for a period of time.

Time caught up with me.  The pains were so substantial I could not tie my shoe laces or stoop to pick up an article on the floor.   It was time to pull the trigger.

TOTAL HIP REPLACEMENT:

In a total hip replacement (also called total hip arthroplasty), the damaged bone and cartilage is removed and replaced with prosthetic components.

  • The damaged femoral head is removed and replaced with a metal stem that is placed into the hollow center of the femur. The femoral stem may be either cemented or “press fit” into the bone. One of the first procedures is dislocating the hip so femoral stem may be removed.
  • A metal or ceramic ball is placed on the upper part of the stem. This ball replaces the damaged femoral head that was removed.
  • The damaged cartilage surface of the socket (acetabulum) is removed and replaced with a metal socket. Screws or cement are sometimes used to hold the socket in place.
  • A plastic, ceramic, or metal spacer is inserted between the new ball and the socket to allow for a smooth gliding surface.I chose to have an epidural so recovery would be somewhat quicker and the aftereffects lessened.  I do not regret that choice and would recommend that to anyone undergoing hip replacement.  One day home and I’m following my doctor’s orders to a “T”. Doing everything and then some to make sure I touch all of the bases.  I was very tempted to pull up “U”- TUBE to see how the surgery was accomplished but after hearing it was more carpentry than medicine, I decided I would delay that investigation for a year-or forever.  Some things I just might not need to know.

    Sorry for this post being somewhat short but the meds are wearing off and I need to “reload”.  I promise to do better in the very near future.

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