Friday, March 18, 2011

As if our days weren't too short already....

Do you find that you don't have enough time in the day to get everything done? Working late, not getting enough sleep, and so forth? Well, things just got worse. According to our days just got shorter:
"How the Japan Earthquake Shortened Days on Earth"

"A new analysis of the 8.9-magnitude earthquake in Japan has found that the intense temblor has accelerated Earth's spin, shortening the length of the 24-hour day by 1.8 microseconds, according to geophysicist Richard Gross at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.

"Gross refined his estimates of the Japan quake's impact – which previously suggested a 1.6-microsecond shortening of the day – based on new data on how much the fault that triggered the earthquake slipped to redistribute the planet's mass."

"'By changing the distribution of the Earth's mass, the Japanese earthquake should have caused the Earth to rotate a bit faster, shortening the length of the day by about 1.8 microseconds,' Gross told in an e-mail. More refinements are possible as new information on the earthquake comes to light, he added."

Great. No wonder why I don't have time to post to this blog as frequently as I did before the earthquake. I didn't realize it until now but it turns out that those extra 1.8 microseconds were very important to me! Or maybe there is some other explanation why I seem to have less time lately, like all the travel I've been doing for work.

Incidentally, speaking of days being too short, what about life? With this awkward segue, take a look at this brilliant ad campaign, from the the German job site,, as described in this post on the Little Chief Honeybee blog:
"Life's Too Short for the Wrong Job"

Aren't those ads simply brilliant! Guaranteed to catch your eye, with a very simple and direct message. Here is one of them:

Thursday, March 17, 2011

You might be an engineer if...

Strange topic today, but I couldn't resist talking about it. Men, you might know what I'm talking about. Women, just nod your head as if you know what I'm talking about and try not to laugh too hard at me. Remember what I said a while back? This is MY blog and I'll write what I want to!

Okay, so I took a leak the other day. In fact, I take several leaks every day. Now, as you know, in public bathrooms for men there are urinals. This is the case in the bathrooms we have at work. When you piss into a urinal you notice that there is a certain amount of urine that splashes out of the urinal. I hope this isn't too personal, but as an engineer I like to experiment with ways to minimize the splashing.

So the options are...

1. Aim for the the small pool of water in the bottom of the urinal.

2. Aim for the back center of the urinal, the furthest back point in the urinal.

3. Aim for the side of the urinal while standing on that side, to minimize the incident angle with which the stream hits the porcelain.

It's not 100% clear to me which option is best, and there is probably not an answer that applies to all situations because there are many different styles of urinals. But I tend to think that the third option might be the best. So if any of you ever see me standing in front of a urinal in such a way that I am not centered with the urinal, now you know why. Not that you should be looking, I'm just saying.

Interestingly, I did a search on this subject and found a few links.

"How to Use a Urinal Without Splashing Yourself"

Key quote: "The best way to avoid these splashback situations is to angle the stream so that it follows a curve along the back surface and gently flows down into the bottom. By hitting the urinal wall at an obtuse angle, the urine will flow easier to its intended destination instead of your nice slacks."

From (hey, I only found this via a search, I do NOT read this regularly!):
"Urine trouble: keeping pee where it belongs" by SamDamnit

Key quote: "Someone known only as 'Dr. Rick' posits that there is a urinal sweet spot (an unfortunate term if I have ever heard one). He even goes so far as to narrow it down for us: 'The best place to aim is about 4-6" above the bottom of the urinal. This seems to direct any splashback directly into the pool, cake, holes, whatever, while slowing the urine enough as to prevent splash-up.'"

Basically, aim down but not for the very bottom. The link shows some tricks that people use to get guys to aim for the right spot. Interestingly, the so-called "sweet spot" used to be a lot "sweeter" with full length (built all the way down to the floor) urinals. When you hit it, the stream hit the urinal as much less of a direct angle. But alas, they don't seem to be making those anymore. Furthermore, on many urinals the "sweet spot" is not vertical but it is sloping out from the wall, so that if you aim there you're hitting the porcelain at close to a 90 degree angle--not good.

One more link, from Ars Technica:
"On Modern Urinals..."

One of the comments echoes my thoughts about full length urinals.
"Actually, I disagree: full-size urinals tend to give me less splashback. You can angle the stream straight down the back of the urinal. With the regular urinals you gotta work a bit to get the right angle along the side to avoid splashback."

Maybe someday I'll be able to tell my grandchildren about the glorious days of full-length urinals...

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Who wants to "soak the rich"?

Here is a great article that addresses the question: If most people are not rich, why don't most people support high taxes on the rich?

From Center of the American Experiment:
"Who, exactly, aspires to soak the rich?" by Katherine Kersten

Kersten makes a number of great points in this article. Chief among them are:

We, as a people, recognize the possibility that anyone in this country can become rich and we don't begrudge those who work hard and take risks to get there.

An income tax doesn't really tax "the rich." Political elites are disingenuous in suggesting that it does.

I couldn't believe the number when I read it. Is Mark Dayton, who never worked a day in his life for his millions (remember where Target came from? Recognize one of the names of the company before it became Target?) really proposing to hike the top marginal rate in Minnesota to 10.95%?! That is an amazingly high number for a state income tax rate. No wonder companies and people keep leaving.

Kersten's conclusions is spot on:
"Dayton assures us his new top marginal rate won't touch 94.5 percent of Minnesotans. In fact, he threatens an important -- and uniquely American -- component of their happiness."

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

What makes a great boss, according to Google?

What makes a great boss? Shouldn't companies spend more time trying to figure this stuff out?

Interestingly, when they do they come up with answers that seem to be blindingly obvious if you've given this any thought at all. Consider Google. From the New York Times:
"Google’s Quest to Build a Better Boss" by Adam Bryant

A link to the graphic with "Google's Rules" is here (this link was not prominent in the online article):

Some great--and obvious--tips in there. As I've mentioned before, I've had several great bosses (that I have mentioned on this blog) that did all of this and more. A great boss is a wonderful thing.

I'm not sure what to make of this portion of the article, though:
"Because of that heavy hand, this manager was denied a promotion he wanted, and was told that his style was the reason. But Google gave him one-on-one coaching — the company has coaches on staff, rather than hiring from the outside. Six months later, team members were grudgingly acknowledging in surveys that the manager had improved."

"'And a year later, it’s actually quite a bit better,' Mr. Bock says. 'It’s still not great. He’s nowhere near one of our best managers, but he’s not our worst anymore. And he got promoted.'"

Still not great and he got promoted? Maybe Google isn't as smart as it seems to think...

Quote of the Day: Solzhenitsyn on socialism

"Socialism of any type leads to a total destruction of the human spirit." - Russian dissident and novelist Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (1918-2008)

Monday, March 14, 2011

Fun with Cats!

Saw this on YouTube the other day and loved it. From yaxminfox:
"Cat Laser Bowling"

I have also had my own fun with cats back in the day. Here are a couple games I invented, while playing with a friend's cat:

Cat in the Window
My friend had an entertainment center with glass doors. I would put my hand behind the entertainment center and make scratching noises. Cat would come over to investigate. Then when she was in, I simply closed the doors. Simple as that. Sit back and watch TV (on entertainment center shelf) and watch the cat (in lower glass doors).

Sausage Cat
This game was my favorite. I would place a jacket on the floor, spread out, front side up. Fluff it up a bit so that a cat could crawl into it. Put my hand into one of the arms of the jacket, in reverse direction, from the cuff end. Make scratching noises. Cat investigates by going into the jacket, and then part way into the sleeve of the jacket. When the cat is far enough into the sleeve I would just lift up the whole jacket, with the sleeve containing the cat hanging down. Cat slides all the way into the sleeve, by gravity. And when you're done you have a sausage cat--a stuffed jacket sleeve with your cat's head poking out of the end of the sleeve!

Sounds like fun, right? Go ahead, try it!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Quote of the Day: Steve Jobs, on what's important

I was watching a cool YouTube video the other day and I saw this quote. Really made me think.

".. almost everything – all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure - these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart." - Steve Jobs

Here is one source where I found the quote. From
"Steve Jobs quotes"

Oh yeah, I should probably link to the video, too. Very well done, very touching. You should watch it. So here it is:
"Tick Tock (Emory University 2011)"