Monday May 02, 2005

Signing Off

To all my friends in BSC land - I've decided, after ten great years at Sun to accept a new gig. I'll rehost most of the content of my blog somewhere else (TBD). Sun is an awesome company and I have every confidence that Sun will continue to shine, driving innovation, challenging convention, and providing thought leadership. You can always reach me at: "Dave [at] Brillharts [dot] com"

Wednesday Apr 20, 2005

The Cremation of Sam McGee

This is a poem my dad memorized when we were growing up. I'm not really a "poem" kinda guy, but I think I'll pass this one down to my kids, maybe around a campfire (we love to camp). I got thinking about this because my 9 year old son needs to memorize a poem for school. This is a little long (and a little dark) for a school assignment, but I'm glad it got me to dust this one off. The surprise ending makes it particularly fun for a campfire setting.

Here is the poem, by Robert W. Service. Some background on the author and the motivators for this poem follow. Read it with a haunting kind of tone (sort of like this). Enjoy.

The Cremation of Sam McGee

There are strange things done in the midnight sun,
    By the men who moil for gold;
The Arctic trails have their secret tales
   That would make your blood run cold;
The Northern Lights have seen strange sights,
   But the strangest they ever did see
Was that night on the marge of Lake Lebarge
   I cremated Sam McGee.

Now Sam McGee was from Tennessee, where the cotton blooms and blows.
Why he left his home in the South to roam ‘round the Pole, God only knows.
He was always cold, but the land of gold seemed to hold him like a spell;
Though he’d often say in his homely way that “he’d sooner live in hell.”

On a Christmas Day we were mushing our way over the Dawson trail.
Talk of your cold! through the parka’s fold it stabbed like a driven nail.
If our eyes we’d close, then the lashes froze till sometimes we couldn’t see;
It wasn’t much fun, but the only one to whimper was Sam McGee.

And that very night, as we lay packed tight in our robes beneath the snow,
And the dogs were fed, and the stars o’erhead were dancing heel and toe,
He turned to me, and “Cap,” says he, “I’ll cash in this trip, I guess;
And if I do, I’m asking that you won’t refuse my last request.”

Well, he seemed so low that I couldn’t say no; then he says with a sort of moan:
“It’s the cursed cold, and it’s got right hold till I’m chilled clean through to the bone.
Yet ‘taint being dead--it’s my awful dread of the icy grave that pains;
So I want you to swear that, foul or fair, you’ll cremate my last remains.”

A pal’s last need is a thing to heed, so I swore I would not fail;
And we started on at the streak of dawn; but God! he looked ghastly pale.
He crouched on the sleigh, and he raved all day of his home in Tennessee;
And before nightfall a corpse was all that was left of Sam McGee.

There wasn’t a breath in that land of death, and I hurried, horror-driven,
With a corpse half hid that I couldn’t get rid, because of a promise given;
It was lashed to the sleigh, and it seemed to say: “You may tax your brawn and brains,
But you promised true, and it’s up to you to cremate those last remains.”

Now a promise made is a debt unpaid, and the trail has its own stern code.
In the days to come, though my lips were dumb, in my heart how I cursed that load.
In the long, long night, by the lone firelight, while the huskies, round in a ring,
Howled out their woes to the homeless snows—O God! how I loathed the thing.

And every day that quiet clay seemed to heavy and heavier grow;
And on I went, though the dogs were spent and the grub was getting low;
The trail was bad, and I felt half mad, but I swore I would not give in;
And I’d often sing to the hateful thing, and it hearkened with a grin.

Till I came to the marge of Lake Lebarge, and a derelict there lay;
It was jammed in the ice, but I saw in a trice it was called the “Alice May.”
And I looked at it, and I thought a bit, and I looked at my frozen chum;
Then “Here,” said I, with a sudden cry, “is my cre-ma-tor-eum.”

Some planks I tore from the cabin floor, and I lit the boiler fire;
Some coal I found that was lying around, and I heaped the fuel higher;
The flames just soared, and the furnace roared—such a blaze you seldom see;
And I burrowed a hole in the glowing coal, and I stuffed in Sam McGee.

Then I made a hike, for I didn’t like to hear him sizzle so;
And the heavens scowled, and the huskies howled, and the wind began to blow.
It was icy cold, but the hot sweat rolled down my cheeks, and I don’t know why;
And the greasy smoke in an inky cloak went streaking down the sky.

I do not know how long in the snow I wrestled with grisly fear;
But the stars came out and they danced about ere again I ventured near;
I was sick with dread, but I bravely said: “I’ll just take a peep inside.
I guess he’s cooked, and it’s time I looked;” . . . then the door I opened wide.

And there sat Sam, looking cool and calm, in the heart of the furnace roar;
And he wore a smile you could see a mile, and he said: “Please close that door.
It’s fine in here, but I greatly fear you’ll let in the cold and storm—
Since I left Plumtree, down in Tennessee, it’s the first time I’ve been warm.”

There are strange things done in the midnight sun
   By the men who moil for gold;
The Arctic trails have their secret tales
   That would make your blood run cold;
The Northern Lights have seen strange sights,
   But the strangest they ever did see
Was that night on the marge of Lake Lebarge
   I cremated Sam McGee.

Robert W. Service, a Canadian poet and novelist, was known for his ballads of the Yukon. He was born in Preston, England, on January 16, 1874. He emigrated to Canada at the age of twenty, in 1894, and settled for a short time on Vancouver Island. He was employed by the Canadian Bank of Commerce in Victoria, B.C., and was later transferred to Whitehorse and then to Dawson in the Yukon. In all, he spent eight years in the Yukon and saw and experienced the difficult times of the miners, trappers, and hunters that he has presented to us in verse.

During the Balkan War of 1912-13, Service was a war correspondent to the Toronto Star. He served this paper in the same capacity during World War I, also serving two years as an ambulance driver in the Canadian Army medical corps. He returned to Victoria for a time during World War II, but later lived in retirement on the French Riviera, where he died on September 14, 1958, in Monte Carlo.

Sam McGee was a real person, a customer at the Bank of Commerce where Service worked. The Alice May was a real boat, the Olive May, a derelict on Lake Laberge.

Anyone who has experienced the bitterness of cold weather and what it can do to a man will empathize with Sam McGee’s feelings as expressed by Robert Service in this poem.

Monday Apr 18, 2005

Sun's Performance Evaluation

A recent BSC blog reflected on the reasons why the author likes working at Sun. That got me thinking of my own list of considerations. Think of this as a reverse Performance Evaluation :-) These are some of the categories that are important to me. I haven't revealed my weightings (some are more important than others) nor Sun's "score" - those will be different for everyone and will shift over time. But the concept of evaluating your employer is intriguing. Sun does quite well, by the way.

Role
What I Do (interesting & challenging assignments that make a real difference)
How Often (always on a project - multi-threading when possible)

Basic Comp
Salary (I'd like to be able to work for free, but... a competitive base)
Bonus (extra rewards for personal and corporate contribution & performance)
Benefits (standard stuff, plus things like tuition, cell phone, broadband, car, etc)
Stock Options (and a growing stock valuation :-)
ESPP (guaranteed 15% return, plus valuation growth)
401K (with decent matching)

Scheduled Down Time
Vacation (extended R&R with the family)

Strength of Company
Respected (by customers, prospects, competitors, analysts, neighbors)
Vision (a strategy that is unique, consistent, aligned, communicated, and rational)
Technology (lots of smart people creating interesting and relevant stuff, related to the vision)
Execution (the resolve and ability to realize the vision, in time to be valued by the marketplace)
Solution Oriented (able to solve a client's needs, not just sell a collection of parts)
Process Driven (able to deliver predictable excellence, consistently, every time)
Marketing (capability to stimulate strong market enthusiasm for our vision and solutions)
Management (leads by example and motivation, removes barriers, empowers)
Profitable (a strong indicator of great leadership and decisions)
Growing (a strong indicator that our vision and execution aligns with client needs)

Other Considerations
Training (professional development - continuous capability improvement)
Mentoring (formal one-on-one relationships to stimulate optimal performance and growth)
Colleagues (passionate, fun, smart, supportive, aligned, empowered)
Resources (given access to the tools, techniques, & talent needed to succeed)
Stress (managed: adrenaline-producing, not fear-inducing)
Exposure (opinions/ideas heard at the exec level and in public forums [blogs, conferences, etc])
Personal Growth (a clear and achievable roadmap for promotional opportunities)
Organizational Stability (evolution, not annual revolution (as in washing machine :-)
Job Security (no concern of massive corporate-wide RIFs)

Monday Apr 11, 2005

Destinations Beyond: World Tour

Ghee Teo's blog motivated me to post my own little map of the places I've been. See below.

My world tour started almost 30 years ago in 1977 with a high school band trip to Guatemala. That was an eye-opening experience for a young American! A three week business trip to Malaysia (KL mostly, but I visited the Highlands and the historic coastal town of Malaka) was fascinating. My favorite was the three weeks I spent on a Sun business trip in Sweden. I took the whole family (thanks Sun!) and added a 4th week driving across Norway to the fjords (check out this pic) on the western side of the country in and around Bergen. Wow!! Twenty hours of daylight per day made it even nicer. We also took a ferry over to Denmark and drove the length of the country to Copenhagen, stopping to visit the original LegoLand. My business trip to Frankfurt was also a highlight with side trips down the Rhine and to the historic town of Worms and Heidelberg. Hawaii and Paris weren't bad either, again thanks to Sun! Singapore was a cool little country. Oh, and my recent 10 days in Sydney, Australia was awesome - with a hiking trip in the Blue Mountains on the final weekend.

I've also been to most of the 50 United States. One of my favorite trips was the drive to Portland, OR for a conference speaking event. I took the family and we enjoyed many stops along the way. But hiking part way up Mt. Hood and Mt. Saint Helen, and the Columbia River Gorge offered stunning views. I still need to get to Alaska and Maine.

I was scheduled to travel to China and Korea and India last year, but those trips were canceled at the last minute because of the three hurricanes that hit my hometown. I thought it best not to leave my family to fend for themselves during the impending storms! I hope to visit those and many other countries in the years to come. The world is an amazingly diverse and highly interesting place.


Da Vinci Code: Debunked



Have you read this book? It's a decent read and a run-away best seller. Since Ron Howard and Tom Hanks are making a movie based on Brown's novel (due out next summer) I'm sure the topic will continue to be water-cooler fodder. The story is full of drama, intrigue, violence, betrayal, mystery, etc. Dan is also writing a follow up book based on the secret Masonic society.

Make no mistake - the Da Vinci book is a complete work of fiction. The book makes many outrageous and unsubstantiated claims that directly attack tradition and the historical record. That might be okay for a fictional novel. But Dan says that he actually believes his story. Naturally, the sensationalism is just good marketing. And I'm betting that many of you have read the book and might even think there is something to the claims. Dan starts the novel by claiming journalistic accuracy, and goes on to suggest that (for example):
  • Jesus was not considered to be God until 325AD, when voted in by a narrow margin at Nicaea
  • Eighty Gospels were considered, but only four made it into the New Testament
  • Mary Magdalene was pregnant with Jesus' child when Jesus was crucified
  • etc, etc, etc
Let's look at that first one, which is a very serious claim if taken as more than a just a fabricated story element in a fictional work.

The historic record confirms that a few years before 325AD, an elder named Arius promoted a controversy that suggested that Jesus was inferior to and created by God. Arius was ex-communicated. But he had some followers and it split the church. The Roman Emperor Constantine didn't like to see this split, so he called a Council of 318 church leaders from all over the kingdom to resolve the argument and heal the church. The Arius Controversy was: is Christ "homo-ousious" (one substance with God - deity) or "homoi-ousious" (a similar substance - but inferior to God). Arius tried to rally the troops at Nicaea, but the final vote was 313 to 5. The five were Arius and his few followers. It was a resounding defeat.

As a side note, there are still some major religious groups today that embrace the Arius position, such as Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses.

Besides the overwhelming vote against Aruis, the Council of Nicaea produced one of the most famous creeds that is still in use today by many Christian denominations. The Nicene Creed clearly articulates the position held by the Church since the ministry of Jesus - that He and God are one:

The Nicene Creed

I believe in one God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, Very God of Very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father by whom all things were made.

Who for us men, and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary, and was made man, and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate. He suffered and was buried, and the third day he rose again according to the Scriptures, and ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of the Father. And he shall come again with glory to judge both the quick and the dead, whose kingdom shall have no end.

And I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of Life, who proceedeth from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified, who spoke by the prophets.

And I believe one holy catholic and apostolic Church. I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins. And I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.

Thursday Mar 31, 2005

Japanese Soup & Salad

Don't get me wrong... I love meat! And vegetarians are fun to tease. Of course, they will probably live longer than I... But good eating is one of life's great sensual pleasures. A nice steak and a glass of Merlot with my wife and/or good friends (I travel a lot) can't be beat.

Regardless, I must admit that when I visit a Japanese Steak House restaurant the best part of the meal is the miso soup and the ginger dressed salad... both 100% vegetarian. Hmmm. Could I have more in common with my misguided brethren than I think? :-)

Here are recipes for these two starters. The ingredients are pictured below.

Japanese-style Ginger Salad Dressing [1.5 cups, ~12 servings]

  • 1 cup of olive oil (or sesame oil)
  • 1/4 cup of soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup of rice vinegar
  • 1 lemon, juiced (1/6 cup bottled)
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 tablespoons minced fresh ginger root
  • 3 tablespoons tahini (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons celery, minced (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon-style mustard (1/3rd tablespoon)
  • 2 teaspoons honey (2/3rds tablespoon)
  • ground black pepper to taste

Mince the garlic and ginger into 1/8" (or so) peices. Pour olive oil, soy sauce, rice vinegar, lemon juice into a blender. Add the minced garlic, ginger, and celery. The tahini (ground sesame seeds, aka: sesame butter) adds a nice flavor if desired. Consider sesame oil if adding tahini. Add the dijon mustard, honey (not too much) and pepper. Blend on medium speed for about 8-10 seconds... just enough to blend the mixture into a consistent almost creamy texture - but not long enough to completely puree the minced garlic and ginger. Pour into a glass jar and chill until serving. The flavor is even better the next day. You'll go through it quickly, so consider making a larger batch.

Japanese-style Miso Soup [4 bowls, 4 servings]

  • 2 teaspoons dashi granules
  • <or> 1 cup fresh spinach (or bok choy), washed and chopped
  • 4 cups water
  • 3 tablespoons miso paste (eg: 2 tbsp white + 1 tbsp barley)
  • 1 (8 ounce) package silken/firm tofu, cut into 1/4" cubes
  • 2 green onions (scallion), sliced diagonally into 1/4-1/2 inch pieces

In a medium saucepan, bring the water (and dashi granules if you are using those) to a boil. Ladle out about 1/2 cup of the boiling water, and reserve. Reduce heat to medium, add cubed tofu, cover, and cook for 1 to 2 minutes. If using spinach or bok choy instead of dashi, add it now (optionally add scallion at this point as well) and simmer for 1 to 2 minutes, or until the greens are tender. Remove soup from heat.

Blend miso into reserved hot water. Stir into soup. Ladle into bowls, and garnish with scallion (if you didn't add it already). Serve immediately.

Note: Dashi is a basic stock used in Japanese cooking which is made by boiling dried kelp (seaweed) and dried bonito (fish). Instant dashi granules are sold in conveniently-sized jars or packets and vary in strength. Add more dashi to your soup if you want a stronger stock. You can use yellow, white or red miso paste for this soup. Yellow miso is sweet and creamy, red miso is stronger and saltier.


Friday Mar 25, 2005

Life, Death, and the Future

Datapoint #1
This year, 2005, will mark a pivotal moment in human history - the year that the global crude death rate will start rising for the first time since the dawn of civilization some 10,000 years ago. The crude death rate measures the number of people per 1,000 population who die in a year. That figure has been falling steadily, from about 40 in pre-agricultural societies to around 8.7 today. It will now start to rise because health practices and infant survival has lead to an aging population, thanks to better nutrition, greater access to medical care, improved sanitation, more widespread immunization, better health education, etc. The UN projects the crude death rate will eventually increase to match the crude birth rate at 11.4 in 2075 with a population of 9.22 billion, and then grow beyond the crude birth rate causing a population decrease.

Datapoint #2

As of this morning, there are 295.735M people in the US, about 4.6% of the 6.427B in the World.
Population Clock: http://www.census.gov/main/www/popclock.html

Combining the two, it's amazing to consider that over 150,000 will die today around the world. That is approx how many died in the recent Asian tsunamis (125,598 confirmed dead, 94,574 people still listed as missing). Every day!

Someday, each one of us will die. Hopefully we'll have made a difference in this world. If we're lucky, we might even be remembered  by a few for a couple generations as someone who provided for and loved their family and friends, who cared for and served their communities, who created opportunities for those around them, who lived by strong principles, who did not hesitate to sacrifice their own plans or leisure to help those in need. I was encouraged to hear Jonathan Schwartz, Sun's President and COO, a brilliant and successful business and industry leader, and father, explain that his kids are his #1 passion in life. Here's a 2 minute audio clip of a recent interview.

Still, even the best of us will be utterly forgotten within a short time. Do you know much of anything about your great-great grandfather? His name, what he did, or even where he is buried? Very few of you I suspect. Unless maybe you go home and look it up in a dusty book somewhere.

Terri Schiavo might be one of the ~150,000 that die today. While most deaths are painful at some level, some deaths seem to impact the global consciousness more than others. And maybe alter our thoughts or even our laws to some degree. But, even Terri will be soon forgotten by almost all of us.

There is one death that stands out among all the rest. Today is Good Friday. Probably the most profound and memorable and impactful death in the history of mankind occurred about 2000 years ago. Even our modern calendar is based on this man's life and death. Our currency contains the year since he lived, and a motto attesting to our national devotion. Jesus was nailed on a Roman cross to die slowly and painfully to appease the public will and the will of God, and even the desire of Jesus. Why was this "Good"? Certainly not because he deserved to die. Certainly not because it was a pleasant or dignified death. We call this Good Friday because of the saving effect his life and death has on us and our hope for tomorrow and beyond. Our great-great-great grandkids will be celebrating his death (Good Friday) and resurrection (Easter) this same time of year, and yet will have forgotten we ever existed. If we truly care about our family, and our future generations, we can best serve them by demonstrating our faith in action.

This is a related true story that underscores the importance of setting proper priorities and passions before it is too late...

Pete Maravich is regarded as one of the top five basketball players of all time. After his retirement from basketball, Pete found true happiness in Christ. "He gave his heart to Jesus Christ, and for the next five years, he was on fire for the Lord." Learning of his conversion, Dobson invited him to appear on his radio program in 1988. After the interview, they played a game of pick-up basketball with several others. When the game ended, Dobson turned to Maravich and said, "Pete, you can't give up basketball. This game means too much to you." Maravich explained he had experienced pain in his right shoulder for more than a year, but now it had disappeared. "I feel just great," he said.

Those were his last words. Maravich collapsed on the basketball court, and minutes later, died in Dobson's arms. "Later that day, I sat down with my son Ryan, who was 17 at the time," Dobson said. "I told him that what happened to Pete wasn't an isolated event. This is the human condition. This is all of us. It will happen to me some day. Pete Maravich didn't have an opportunity to speak with his family one last time. But I want to tell you, be there. On resurrection morning, be there. I will be looking for you then. Nothing else matters. Be there."

Two years later, Dobson suffered a heart attack on the same basketball court.

Monday Mar 21, 2005

Right to Life

Mike Duigou got me thinking about the whole "Right to Life" topic. So has CNN. Allow me to post a brief personal commentary on this important subject.

First of all, it seems self-evident to me (and the founders of our nation and our universe) that humans have an inalienable right to life. Webster defines inalienable as "incapable of being alienated, surrendered, or transferred". Here are some foundational texts that support this concept and upon which our national identity and our laws and our ethics are based:

Declaration of Independence
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.

Constitution of the United States of America
Amendment V & XIV: No person shall be ... deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law...

The Hippocratic Oath (has provided moral guidance to physicians for 2500 years)
I will not give a fatal draught (read: deadly drug) to anyone if I am asked, nor will I suggest any such thing. Neither will I give a woman means to procure an abortion.

The Holy Bible (King James Version)
Exodus 20:13   Thou shalt not kill. (read: murder)

Unfortunately we have a national history of legally depriving (alienating) entire groups of people of their basic rights based primarily on prejudice (slavery) or convenience (abortion). We've since corrected our moral failure in one of these areas. Tragically, we seem to be on the verge of adding another disgrace to our national record... permitting the taking of life based on a misguided sense of compassion (involuntary euthanasia). Holland decriminalized euthanasia in 1984 and today one in five assisted suicides is without explicit consent, and this form of death has risen to 3% of all deaths in Holland. It's not inconceviable that America might someday  give doctors the right to terminate the life of deformed children and the eldery without consent.

There are also several reasonable and legitimate ways in which our legal system provides for exemptions to an individual's right to life. For example, a person may choose to waive that right (eg: a living will, voluntary assisted suicide) and have their life terminated by another. Or that right may be withdrawn by a court based on a conviction of a capital crime (eg: death sentence). Or that right may be justly and forcefully preempted thru police action, acts of war, Presidential Order (sanctioned assassination of an enemy of the State), or (self) defense. Finally, a guardian may, under certain circumstances, make the choice to terminate the life of someone under their care (eg: a brain dead child or spouse).

I do believe that long-term medical life-support should be only applied to sustain life when there is a clear expectation of a reasonable recovery of a desired quality of life. Yes, I know those are ambiguous terms, wide open to (mis)interpretation. Naturally there will be cases about which reasonable people with no hidden agenda or conflict of interest might disagree. It is in these cases, where there is no living will (or decision by a devoted/informed guardian) and there does not exist compelling evidence of a persistent state of unconsciousness, that a society must choose life over death. It is simply not our place to play God. While it might be technically possible to sustain the biological "life" of a child with no brain wave activity using an iron lung, a kidney dialysis machine, a catheter, and heart bypass pump, no rational/loving person would desire an extended expression of technology overriding nature in a case like this.

However, the present case of Terri Schiavo stretches our ability to divine an ethically appropriate resolution to a life that is clearly demonstrating some level of cognitive ability. If our society prevails to involuntarily euthanize her, we should at least follow the humane process we use to terminate those on death row... inject her with pain killers followed by quick acting drug to stop her heart. How can we allow an innocent invalid who can't speak or scream in pain to starve to death over a period of one to two weeks! Try going without water for a day or two and see how you feel. That's pure torture and is as sick and barbaric as ripping apart a perfectly viable full-term baby from the womb their mommy. Yes, those are emotional words. For an unimaginable act.

Right to Life can be a complex issue at the boundary conditions and corner cases. However, those are extremely rare. The vast majortiy of cases of slavery, abortion, and euthanasia are easily resolved by simply considering the value of life and the motives of those who desire the termination of life or the alienation of rights.

Sebring & Sun: The Races

My son, my dad, and I went to the 12-hours of Sebring race yesterday! It was a great time... perfect weather and lots to see and do and experience. Oh, and there was a car race as well :-) The Audi R8 has owned this race for years! The above isn't the actual car that won, but the same model. It beat out Corvette CR-6s, the new Aston Martin DBR9s, Porsche 911s, Maserati MC12s, Lola EX257s, Saleen S7Rs, Dodge Vipers, Ferrari 550 Maranellos, and others,  After 6 years, Audi will debut the R10 next year, which should secure the gold for another generation.

If you haven't been to a car race before (I must be one of the few that hadn't), Sebring is the first and longest race in the annual American Le Mans Series. It's a "street race" (unlike Daytona's NASCAR style) on a 3.7 mile loop on an old WWII airfield with flat hairpin corners that require strategic down shifting and braking. The longest straight segment allows cars to approach 200mph! Average lap speed can exceed 120mph. This year 37 cars started (and 18 finished) the 300+ lap race. Each car has a pit crew and several drivers. There are four classes of cars (each capable of different top and cornering speeds) racing together, making it a very different race than, say, the Indy 500.

Like a golf tournament, there are 4 days of racing (Wed-Sat) leading up to Saturday's main event. Many thousands of people lined up on Wednesday to drive their RVs and U-Haul trucks and School Buses and other interesting forms of transport onto the grounds for an extended campout/party. Some built scaffolding along the course on which they placed sofas! It's March after all - Spring Break time. People watching was as entertaining as the race itself! A friend of mine has gone every year since 1959.

There were also many interesting "sponsor" displays, including race cars in various stages of (de)construction, allowing fascinating views of the internals of the cars.

As we watched the cars fly by our viewing area (we set up our canopy and chairs on a grassy knoll between turns 6 and 7), my dad and I discussed the stresses involved in engines that propel these cars ~1300 miles at an average speed of well over 100 mph, much of it accelerating out of a total of over 4000 turns over 12 solid hours. Each piston cycles about 5 million times! We wondered, at red line speed, how fast those pistons move (12 hours is a long time to talk :-). Are those piston heads traveling faster (inside the cylinder) than the car itself? Reflecting on riding my bike at 20mph, I knew my feet (acting like a piston) don't move that fast... so I guessed that car pistons at red line would move slower than a car's top speed.

Well, I had to figure it out. The math is easy. Obviously piston speed is tied to RPM and Stroke Length, and just indirectly related to the car's forward motion (you can spin the engine in neutral at a standstill). At one of the displays I found out that the typical stroke length for these types of engines is 2.5-3.5 inches, and the typical red line is 8,000-10,000 RPM. Note that RPM measures the crankshaft rotation rate, not the camshaft, which is rotating at half that speed, as shown in this animated GIF:

Since speed is distance/time, and since the piston head travels 2\*StrokeLength (up and down) for each cycle, the \*average\* piston speed is:

PSavg = 2\*RPM\*Stroke = 2\*9000RPM\*3in = 54,000 inches/min = 51 mph

Therefore, a car traveling at nearly 200 mph, at the engine's red line, will have pistons traveling at an average of only around 51mph! I was right.

But wait... that piston starts and stops 18,000 times every minute, accelerating to the next stop just 3 inches away (at a huge "G" force). Average speed does not really answer the question. I had to figure out the peak piston speed. Since it literally explodes from a dead stop (it's a combustion engine after all), possibly the peak speed exceeds the speed of the car?

It turns out that the peak speed equation is complex, with sin/cos kinds of rotational acceleration factors. I took the easy way and looked up stats from several types of race car engines using Google. The ratio of peak to average piston speed is consistently very close to 1.6:1.  So at Sebring, the pistons never traveled faster than about 82 mph.

Even a Formula 1 (NASCAR) car, with an engine that can red line at 19,000 RPM, that has a stroke length of about 1.65 inches and a top speed ~240 mph, will have pistons that average: 2\*19000\*1.65 = 60mph, and peak at: 95mph. See footnote below.

So, why did I include "Sun" in the Subject Title? Check out the Rearview Mirrors. We're a sponsor!



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At 19,000 rpm, 316.7 revolutions and 1,583.3 ignitions take place each second in the BMW F1 engine. 9,500 engine speed measurements are made, the pistons cover a distance of 25 metres, and 550 litres of air are drawn in. In the P84, maximum piston acceleration was 10,000g. Peak piston speed was 40 metres per second.

Tuesday Feb 22, 2005

Your Job is Calling...

Vocation is a term based on the Latin "vocare", meaning "to call". One's vocation should therefore be a pursuit to which one is called....  That begs the question as to whom is doing the calling - an interesting thought that I'll leave as an exercise for the reader. Instead, here are some related insights from several well known personalities. As you read this, consider where and how you invest your time and energy. As in business, it is often worth reflecting on our life's values and investments, "outsourcing" or eliminating distractions (and gratuitous busyness), and simplifying around those activities to which we have been called and have gifts.

Johnny Carson once said:
"Never continue in a job you don't enjoy. If you are happy at what you are doing, you'll have inner peace. And if you have that along with physical health, you'll have had more success than you can possibly imagine".

Personally, as an Enterprise Architect for Sun Microsystems, I am blessed with a fantastic job working for a great employer. This has been an unbelievably rewarding ten years! And I'm not talking about financial performance. [However, I'm holding on to my stock!]

We're studying a book called "The Purpose Driven Life". It directly confronts the question: "What on earth am I here for?". Your answer to that illuminates your definition or objective of success. But ask your heroes and you'll find that material accumulation and affluence don't ultimately satisfy... although during the pursuit phase, you think it might. Someone once asked John D. Rockefeller how much money was enough. "One dollar more," he replied. Power and influence, physical beauty, intelligence and wit all can stroke the flames of self-worth and pride, but are but a brief candle. Shakespeare's Macbeth laments:
"Out, out, brief candle! Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more. It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing".

Solomon is considered the wisest person who ever lived. Among many works, he wrote the book of Ecclesiastes. Most of this book contains Solomon’s observations as he devotes himself "to study and to explore by wisdom all that is done under heaven" (Eccl. 1:13). Solomon sums up what he finds: "Meaningless! Meaningless! Everything is meaningless!" (vs. 8). "He took an inventory of the world, and all the best things in it. He cast up the account; and the sum total is vanity." Through human wisdom, Solomon finds no meaning in life, no rhyme nor reason to life.

It seems that to truly be satisfied, we need pursue our "vocation"... that to which we have been called and gifted. It is then that we'll truly enjoy our job and other activities, and find purpose. Clearly relationships are the center of just about any vocation, and many of us have multiple callings (eg: parenting, marriage, work, etc). For now, I'll just try to describe how you might find or validate one particular vocation or calling in your life.

A calling is a term often used by those who are considering entering the ministry. Many church leaders use a simple three-part test to help determine if someone should pursue this line of work. The "test" is actually quite useful for any (even secular) vocational consideration. Here are the questions you can ask yourself about your job or other pursuit:

  1. Do you have a strong internal call (sense of desire and urgency and passion)?
  2. Is there a pattern of others confirming your gifts and abilities to perform this role?
  3. Are opportunities being presented for you to apply your gifts and passion?

How do you measure a subjective "internal call"? You've probably seen the 1981 Academy Award winning film "Chariots of Fire", in which Olympic gold-metal runner Eric Liddell said, “When I run, I feel God’s pleasure.” You should have a sense of fulfillment in what you do. But, others should also confirm this activity. For example, you might \*think\* you are a talented singer (or consultant, or manager, or teacher, or whatever)... but if several others suggest otherwise, you probably should consider their advice and another pursuit.

Think about where you focus your time and energy. Both at work and in leisure. Ask yourself if you feel called and fulfilled, and if others confirm your gifts? As Johnny said, if you are in this place, you are indeed blessed. If not, you owe it to yourself and those around you to get there. That might mean a change in what you do, or in your perspective about what you do.

Here is an interesting story. John Coltrane is regarded by many as the greatest sax player ever. He played with Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, etc. After becoming a Christian in 1957 he prayed that God would grant him the ability to use his music to glorify God and bring joy and happiness to others. He wrote "A Love Supreme", regarded widely as his best. It's a spiritual work about the amazing love of Jesus (which he describes in the album's liner). One night while performing this number, he played the solo part better than he had ever played it. As he walked off stage, some overheard him mutter to himself the Latin phrase: nunc dimittis. That means, essentially: "this is the moment for which I've lived... I've accomplished my life's mission and purpose". Coltrane got this from Luke 2, where Simeon says this phrase after he sees baby Jesus in the Temple.

Don't be satisfied with mediocrity. I believe we all have a purpose, that there are opptys open to all of us at various times, that if we follow our inner call, as confirmed/validated by others, that we'll be able to say along with Liddell and Coltrane and Carson and Solomon, that we are doing what we were born to do. That might mean being a stay-at-home parent, or a traveling consultant, or a missionary, or a sanitation worker, or a weapon's designer, etc. Find your vocation and pursue it with excellence and passion.

Liddell, by the way, found his "nunc dimittis", and his eventual death, serving in the mission field in China, rather than in running. But in both activities, he followed his call and his gifts. Scotland morned his death. But I imagine Eric would tell you he had no regrets.

Caution: mid-life spontaneity is not generally a true "calling" :-) A desire to do something radical might be an indication that your current activities aren't fulfilling your purpose. Just be careful that your desire for change is not a frivolous distraction to the real source of discontent.

Tuesday Feb 08, 2005

Blood Oxygen

This last weekend I was under the weather. Intense sinus pressure, 102.9 temps, and eventually reduced lung capacity. I generally fight off bugs without meds, but this one lasted longer than I liked, so I visited my doc. He listened to my lungs and radioed the nurse to run a Pulse Oximeter on me. She came in the examination room in less than a minute with a little non-invasive finger clip device. Within seconds, I found out my Blood Oxy was 94%.

Maybe it's the engineer in me, but I was fascinated by how this thing worked. I found a nice one-pager on the history and theory of operation (see below). I also found out that normal is 97-99%, and below 90% suggest possible need for ventilator support.... Which is why I was given a short term protocol of Prednisone along with some antibiotics. Just 24 hours later I feel great!

Monday Jan 17, 2005

Amazing Fry & The Tsunami

<>You've seen the bumper sticker: "What Would Jesus Do?". Given the recent diet fads, ever wonder if he enjoyed his carbs? :-)

As an aside, that isn't a bad reflective question to ask yourself if (when) you find yourself in a moral dilemma and need to make a decision. And, most things have moral underpinnings (eg: should you invest some of your disposable wealth in a mid-life Harley-Davidson, or help 1,000 recent Tsunami survivors make it to next Christmas?)

So two nights ago the family was eating a quick meal. The kids love "steak frys". They're an easy side dish... just pour out some frozen sliced potatoes on a cookie sheet and bake them till they're golden and sizzling.

It's unusual that we have the TV on during dinner... but the News was in the background, showing coverage of the almost unfathomable destruction of life and dreams caused by the most powerful earthquake in 40 years. Kinda puts life and death and material pursuits in perspective.

We're trying to explain to our 7 and 9 year olds what happened and how people are helping when my wife looks down to grab another fry (okay, I'll admit, we'll eat some too... blood sugar addicts that we are :-) and this is what she sees!

<>

I do believe God reveals himself, but generally thru more personal and profound and life changing ways than a french fry! My wife wouldn't let me eat it :-). I read that a faint portrait of Mary in an old toasted cheese sandwich just went for $28K on eBay. Hmmm. We've got the fry in a sealable baggie in the fridge. If anyone wants to buy it, make your check payable to the Salvation Army disaster relief fund. You never know....

Wednesday Jan 12, 2005

Personal Ad

A personal ad seen in the Atlanta Journal:

"SINGLE BLACK FEMALE seeks male companionship, ethnicity unimportant.  I'm very good looking and LOVE to play.  I love long walks in the woods, riding in your pickup truck, hunting, camping and fishing trips, cozy winter nights lying by the fire.  Candlelight dinners will have me eating out of your hand.  I'll be at the front door when you get home from work, wearing only what nature gave me.  Call (404) 875-6420 and ask for Daisy.  I'll be waiting..."

Reportedly over 15,000 men found themselves calling the Atlanta Humane Society about an 8-week old black Labrador Retriever puppy...named Daisy.

I can relate (to the dog part, not the mentality of calling a singles ad)! We adopted a puppy in March of 2004, a Black Lab / Border Collie mix, that fits this description perfectly. Midnight welcomes me at the door everyday, often beating my two kids to get the first hug. He's a first-class member of the family.

Here are some other cute observations about dogs....

The reason a dog has so many friends is that he wags his tail instead of his tongue. -Anonymous

There is no psychiatrist in the world like a puppy licking your face. -Ben Williams

A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than he loves himself. -Josh Billings

We give dogs time we can spare, space we can spare and love we can spare. And in return, dogs give us their all.  It's the best deal man has ever made. -M. Acklam

I wonder if other dogs think poodles are members of a weird religious cult. -Rita Rudner

A dog teaches a boy fidelity, perseverance, and to turn around three times before lying down. -Robert Benchley

Dogs need to sniff the ground; it's how they keep abreast of current events. The ground is a giant dog newspaper,  containing all kinds of late-breaking dog news items, which, if they are especially urgent, are often continued in the next yard. -Dave Barry

Anybody who doesn't know what soap tastes like never washed a dog. -Franklin P. Jones

If your dog is fat, you aren't getting enough exercise. -Unknown

My dog is worried about the economy because Alpo is up to $3.00 a can. That's almost $21.00 in dog money. -Joe Weinstein

Ever consider what our dogs must think of us?  I mean, here we come back from a grocery store with the most amazing haul -- chicken, pork, half a cow. They must think we're the greatest hunters on earth! -Anne Tyler

Women and cats will do as they please, and men and dogs should relax and get used to the idea. -Robert A. Heinlein

Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend.  Inside of a dog it's too dark to read. -Groucho Marx

Speak softly and own a big, mean Doberman.  -Dave Miliman

If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous, he will not bite you; that is the principal difference between a dog and a man. -Mark Twain

Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole. -Roger Caras

If you think dogs can't count, try putting three dog biscuits in your pocket and then giving Fido only two of them. -Phil Pastoret

My goal in life is to be as good a person as my dog already thinks I am. -an Ole Hoss

Sunday Jan 09, 2005

X10: Home Automation

When we moved into our new home five years ago, I had grand visions of an automated home. I decided on X10, which is pretty much the standard for home control. X10 works by sending signals over the power lines in your house. Lights, fans, motion detectors and other devices plug into small modules that listen for and/or send X10 commands. Wall switches and dimmers can also be replaced by X10 versions, that allow for manual control or X10 signal control.

I bought ADI's (Applied Digital Inc) "Ocelot" X10 programmable controller, which sends control signals into the power line via a bi-directional TW523 powerline module. Here is the Ocelot manual:  http://appdig.com/manual/Ocelot-2.pdf

Using a GUI PC app, I designed the if/then ladder logic program and uploaded it into the Ocelot - to instruct it to manage about a dozen lights around our house... setting on/off and custom "dim" values based on daily dusk/dawn times. The controller accepted the latitude/longitude coordinates of our home so that it can automatically adjust timing based on variable sunrise/sunset times throughout the year! For example, about 30 minutes before dusk (the actual time varies from about 5pm to 8pm depending on the season: http://www.worldtime.com/dst/usa/orla.txt) the lights mounted in our china cabinet illuminate at 50% brightness, then down to 20% at 10pm, and off at midnight. I don't have to worry about seasonal drift.

Here's another advantage of X10. I installed a 500W halogen security lamp on the 2nd floor roof line, pointed toward the backyard. It's tied into a 110V circuit in the attic. But I needed the on/off switch installed next to the patio's sliding glass door. Thankfully, I didn't need to string a wire thru the walls... The switch simply sends an X10 signal throughout the house, to which the security lamp responds!

Most houses are designed with two different 110 "phases", from which 220V is derived for large appliances. X10 can have problems if the control signal is generated on the "A" phase, and the target device is on the "B" side. However, it is very easy to install a bridge amplifier in the circuit breaker panel. Here is a photo of my X10 bridge and a "whole house" surge protector. I live in the lightening capital of North America (Orlando) and have not had any surge related problems (yet).

It amazes me that I haven't touched the X10 controller in about four years! It just works! Lights go on and off or change brightness like clock work. About 50 months of continuous uptime and service!

I still intend on integrating my Ocelot into my RCS X10 Thermostats. I can include logic (if I want to) that leverages sensor data such as humidity and external temp and time of day to set the A/C set points. I also plan to tie it into my alarm system, so that when we leave the house (and set the alarm) the thermostats will adjust to save energy. Upon return (when we disengage the alarm), the thermostats respond accordingly. Also, if the sliding glass door alarm zone remains open for more than a few minutes, the A/C will be turned off (we have kids). http://www.smarthomeusa.com/ShopByManufacturer/RCS/Item/TX15R-B/

I also have a SpeakEasy module, which I hope to one day program to provide audio feedback based on certain events (eg: garage door left open past dusk, motion detector senses someone approaching the front door, the sliding glass door left open with the A/C on, etc). http://www.homeautomationnet.com/shopping/shopexd.asp?id=241. To be honest, I'm not happy with the audio quality of the SpeakEasy.  I expect I'll come up with a better solution that uses CD-quality MP3 clips.

Here is someone who has more throughly documented his home automation using the Ocelot. Someday, when I finish my automation project, I'll write up something like this. http://toddjreed.home.comcast.net/ToddsHAproject.pdf

Sunday Dec 26, 2004

NextGen MP3 Player

There are several devices that have features that I desire. But they need to converge. I'm betting they will by next Christmas. For example, I'd like a Digital Audio Player that has:

  1. A large capacity flash-based memory. Say a 4GB flash card, to eliminate the spinning disk of an iPod that can more easily break, drains power, increases size, and is more sensitive to temp and shock.
  2. A flash expansion slot for on-demand capacity or selectable libraries of content.
  3. A digital FM player (eg: to tune into otherwise silent TV broadcasts in fitness centers).
  4. A voice recorder that can handle dictation as well as the more challenging meeting mode recordings.
  5. A built-in high-quality MP3 encoder with a stereo "line-in" jack for CD-quality recordings.
  6. [optional] A bluetooth transmitter to wireless \*stereo\* ear buds!!
  7. [optional] An 802.11g wireless connection for fast hassle free upload/download sync to a PC.
  8. [optional] An interface to request and pull content directly from the Internet [eg: itunes.com]

This is closer than you might think... I bought a tiny 512MB SanDisk MP3 player with an FM radio and voice recorder. Perfect for commute time and jogging. But the voice recorder is poor, and it records voice to WAV, not MP3. It also doesn't have a flash expansion slot or a line-in jack. Some other MP3 players have flash expansion slots (eg: Rio). The iRiver MP3 players have great MP3 encoders and line-in jacks that encode up to 320Mbps quality MP3s. Those also have a mic that works well for dictation \*and\* recording general meetings. Boomgear (and others) have started to add Bluetooth to their MP3 players... but the current generation simply routes BT-enabled cellphone audio to your MP3 player's headset... They can't send your music content to a stereo BT headset.

Of course, by then, I'll have added more to my list, and will have to wait until the following Christmas!

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