Category Archives: Little Nuggets of Wisdom

Status Updates Interpreted

We all know about them: the ambiguous, often emo, status updates/tweets.  Most of us have been guilty of them at least one time or another.  Some of us seem to only share tidbits of their lives with the online world in this cryptic fashion.  These types of messages can be vexing for the rest of us: vaguely curious about the details, not sure if we should be concerned.  No longer!  Using unprecedented sample sizes and state-of-the-art algorithms, Absolutely Andrew has cracked the code.  We proudly present to you a list of some of the most common types of cryptic one-liners and their deciphered meanings.

1.  My Husband is Amazing!

You obviously had incredible sex after which he cuddled with you and chatted for more than the typical 10 minutes before falling asleep.  Given the fact that this post is most prevalent around holidays, especially Valentine’s Day, some sort of thoughtful gift/meal likely proceeded the sex, but the heart of the inspiration was the sex/cuddling.  Why else would we be left guessing?

 

2.  My Wife is Amazing!

I’m not thinking we need to explain this one.  Besides, it’s rated NC-17.

 

3.  Please Pray for me today.

Ah yes, the use of social networking as a prayer request tool.  I can respect that.  I would be happy to pray that you get over your constipation smoothly.

 

4.  Something doesn’t feel right.

You had Taco Bell again, and yet again, it has turned on you.

 

5.  Last night was amazing!

You went to a party/event, met a really great guy/girl and hit it off really well.  You’re being vague because the two of you are now fb friends and it is waaaay too soon to appear emotionally attached.  Most likely, he/she has seen your post, read between the lines and is either equally flattered or halfway to Santa Fe by now.

 

6.  Well that didn’t work out like I thought it would…

This one depends on when the poster was born:

Baby Boomer: Boomers, to their credit, do not post cryptic one-liners.  Instead, they try to use the status update field as a sort of blog entry.  Can any of you boomers tell me if there’s a max character limit on that?  I’d be happy to show you how to get on Word Press…

70’s: These people don’t have fb.

80’s: You thought you could get out of chores by offering your spouse bedroom favors.  It failed, and now you have more chores and less bedroom time.

90’s: You attempted to impress the girl/guy you are interested in and failed, most likely by farting as you tried to lift her up to demonstrate your strength or while wrestling him to be flirty.

2000’s: Holy shit, these people are old enough to be on fb?!  I quit…

 

7.  Oh, so this is what it’s like when it works :-)

You just fell head over heals for someone for the first time in your life and she feels the same way.  You want to shout it out, but you feel that would be pompous, so instead you settle for an ambiguous statement that everyone sees right through anyway.

Things You Do When You’re Married (that you didn’t before):

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1.  Discuss whether you will be brushing teeth before or after.

2.  Gym, shower, beer, and Red Box movie is a perfect Friday evening.

3.  Split off from your family at the mall to go into Victoria’s Secret with your wife.

4.  Look at lingerie in VS and be 100% comfortable with it.

5.  Call for a timeout during foreplay to go fart in the other room.  Better safe than sorry, right?

6.  Send a text to your sister-in-law that simply says “Pooping” for absolutely no reason.

7.  Call your wife’s office and become a strange combination of giddy, proud, and aroused when she answers in her professional voice.

8.  Miss home even on a one-nighter with the guys.

9.  Get excited about 500 thread count sheets.

10.  You actually use your wine stoppers.

11.  You realize there really is such a thing as being too tired.

University of Nebraska-Lincoln Bucket List

My little brother, Garin just graduated high school.  I’m particularly pleased with his college plans as he will be doing his undergraduate in Electrical Engineering at my very own Alma Mater, UNL.  Granted, his academic ambitions reach further than mine did—his end goal is biomedical engineering.  As part of his graduation gift, Tara and I compiled a UNL bucket list to keep the kid busy for four years.  Since he’s already received his gift, I’m repurposing the list as a blog post.  Hope you’re OK with that, Garin.

 

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1.  Juggle with the UNL Juggling Club
2.  Go climbing at the Rec
3.  Play racquetball at the Rec
4.  Use the sauna at the Rec
5.  Attend service at the Lutheran Center
6.  Study in the Sculpture Garden
7.  Make-out in the library stacks
8.  Study at the Coffee House
9.  Go to Jazz in June
10.  Get drunk on O St.
11.  Parkour on your way home from O St.
12.  Pee on a coal train
13.  Eat lunch on East Campus
14.  Get Ice Cream from the Creamery
15.  Take a class that has nothing to do with your major
16.  Go on a Campus Rec trip
17.  Road trip to Hell, MI
18.  Spring break in the mountains or at the beach
19.  Take a walk in Pioneer Park
20.  Play an intramural sport
21.  Play Ultimate in the Cook
22.  See an indie film at the Ross
23.  See a play at the Black Box
24.  Yell something at the cross-bearer on P St.
25.  Grab lunch at Bison Whiches
26.  Spend the night at Nebraska Hall
27.  Use the urinals in Arch Hall
28.  Sit on the Berm for a baseball game
29.  Go to a football game (duh)
30.  Get a fishbowl at Duffy’s
31.  Go to a Roller Derby match
32.  Go to a concert at Knickerbockers
33.  Go to Morrill Hall
34.  Go to the Sheldon Art Museum  
35.  Take a Dance Lesson

 

Reader participation time!  What did we miss?

How to Ski Park City

This past weekend, Tara and I skied the Park City Mountain Resort for the first time.  Being people that don’t typically frequent the “tourist resorts”, we found ourselves a little confused with all the interesting marketing the resort uses to cater to the once-a-year beginner-intermediate skier from Omaha.  Terms like “Mountainzones(tm)” and “Signature Run” abound the trail map, which is also cluttered with more symbols than a Six-Flags park map.  I wanted to write this for the skiers/boarders out there that don’t give a shit what an “Adventure Run” is, and are solely concerned in finding the best powder and the least congestion.

 

Mountainzone—much like Tomorrowland of Disney, these are the resort’s way of categorizing different terrain areas.  Admittedly, this is one of the more useful features on the map as a description of each zone is provided.  However, the more experienced skier can get a pretty good idea of terrain features from a map without the information overload.

Signature Run—Their goal here is to take a perfectly good blue/black run and groom it to oblivion, removing all terrain features and challenges so the occasional skier can go home and brag about hitting a black.  I wish I was making this up.

Adventure Alley—This is an effort to bring the joy of tree skiing/riding to those that prefer wide open runs.  It is basically an exceptionally curvy cat track through the woods.

 

Basically, all I’m trying to say is, avoid signature runs and adventure alleys, and you’ll be in good shape.

DIY Screen Printing!!

Tara and I needed white elephant gifts for my work Christmas party, and I thought what better than a couple of home made nerd shirts?

First, create your design.  I used inkscape.

Then, find a work area:

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Next, trace your design onto pantyhose stretched into an embroidery hoop, and paint a viscous glue everywhere you don’t want ink to go.  Make sure it’s real thick.  After the glue dries, you’ve got your own screen!

Mine:

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Tara’s:

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Now put the screen on the shirt where you want it and start dabbing ink on.

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The finished product.  Mine’s a little rough, but Tara’s is about perfect.

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Just rinse the screen out with water afterwards.  You can use it as many times as you want!

How I Got Fired

NOTE: NOT MY CURRENT JOB!!!  I AM STILL HAPPILLY EMPLOYED!!

December 7th marked the anniversary of my termination from a past job.  After much deliberation, I have decided to share the culmination of circumstances that led up to this major event in my life as I learned so much from it.

When Tara and I moved to Utah, I was scared shitless.  In the midst of a crappy economy, I had left a good job and moved to a new state with no leads whatsoever.  Knowing what I know now, I should not have been so concerned.  We had a fair amount of money saved between us, and my previous employer was generous enough to allow me to do a month’s worth of contract work for them writing a product instruction manual.

The Monday following our arrival in Salt Lake, amazingly, I interviewed and got an offer to work for a consultant.  The offer was a slap in the face: the pay, which was hourly was only a fraction of what I had made prior, no benefits, and no vacation.  The job description was lackluster as well, and I being the social guy that I am, I certainly wasn’t all that interested in working in a 2 person company.  Yet I was scared, and taking this job meant money coming in, so I accepted on the grounds that I may only be there temporarily, which my employer said he was fine with.

One thing they don’t particularly make clear in school is that accepting a job offer in the professional world is far more significant than hiring on at Wendy’s.  A professional job search is not unlike shopping for a house.  Time and care should be taken to “shop around” and make a good decision.  Working at place for a year or less is typically frowned upon.  Not fully aware of this, I continued my job search while working my crap job, and made the mistake of actually putting the crap job on my resume.  The hope had been to bolster the document, but in reality it meant that I would spend 25-50% of the time during interviews explaining why I was trying to leave a company that I had only been with for only 2 weeks.

After 2 months, my job search had not made any headway, so I began trying to like the work I was doing at the crap job more and accept that I may be in it for longer than I had hoped.  This proved to be difficult.  To enjoy an adult job, you need to be treated like an adult.  To be treated like an adult, you need to be allowed to work on your own and you need to be granted some responsibility.  I was given neither of these.  My employer (lets call him John), did try hard to give me design projects that I would enjoy, but failed to pass over the reigns.  He was constantly butting in, trying to check on my progress.  If I had written a piece of code that worked, but was not exactly the way he would have written it, he had the nerve to change it right front of my face.  He threw me into projects that he had 75% completed, which meant there was only one way to complete them: his way.  He also failed to understand that no engineer, no matter how talented, can be thrust into a mostly completed project and immediately start churning away.  Especially in software, there is a time period in which the project must be learned.  John would check up on me a mere few hours after dumping a project on me, and appear disappointed when I would report that I was still trying to figure out what the hell was going on in the code.

And so it continued for another month.  My morale couldn’t have been worse.  I spent 50% of my time doing assembly work:  Dremeling the part number off the chip he was using (he didn’t want anyone to steal his design, which was ironic since his design was partially stolen), snapping plastic casing on, and worst of all: potting.  For those not familiar with manufacturing processes, potting is the act of water-proofing electronics by filling the case with a potting compound (liquid) which then cures into a consistency similar to a bouncy ball.  Most larger companies have machines that mix the proper proportions of the compound for you, and then you just dispense the stuff by pulling a trigger on something that looks like a beefed up hot glue gun.  Naturally John didn’t have any of that fancy stuff, so I got to mix the crap in yogurt cups and then suck it into a plastic syringe, hurrying, as the stuff only took 5 min to cure after being mixed.

All of the crappiness reached a boiling point one fateful Friday in early December, 3 months into my employment.  John was away attempting to sell his product at a trade show in Texas, and so I was working by myself.  He would have much liked to have me stay home those days due to his chronic distrust in anything that breathes, but forced himself to allow me to come in on the condition that I email him daily updates of my progress that day.  That Friday, I was working on a PCB that John had built up before he left.  In my troubleshooting, I discovered that solder had bridged over a few of the pins on one of the chips thus shorting them together.  In my efforts to reflow the solder with his shitty shitty equipment, I melted the PCB.  This is the second time that this had happened to me, and it was infuriating.  In an effort to blow off steam, I put everything down and browsed the internet for a little while.  No, this was not the first time I browsed the internet. In fact, John had caught me once before and given me a warning.  But the internet is something you turn to at any professional job when your brain needs a break.  After the break, I turned to the software side of the project, and spent the rest of the day chasing a bug which I did manage to get fixed.  Spending 4+ hours trying to fix a code bug is also commonplace in engineering.

At the end of the day, I sent John my sorry report and went home  frustrated.  John read the email, got pissed off that I had destroyed the PCB, and could not believe that I hadn’t gotten further on the software front.  He therefore came in that Saturday, logged on to my computer, and looked into my browser history in search of an explanation for my lack of productivity.  Naturally, being an adult, I had not deleted my history, and John did discover that I had in fact browsed the web during work.  He made the decision then and there that he must fire me.

I arrived the following Monday at 8 AM, which was unusual, as I had been snowboarding Monday mornings and typically came in around noon and worked late.  Yet, due to lack of snow, I had decided against hitting the slopes that day.  When I got there, I immediately knew John was there because his truck was out front and the light was on.  When I tried the door, I found it locked.  Intrigued, I entered my door code.  Nothing.  A sense of dread coming over me, I frantically tried the code again.  Still nothing.  Humiliated, I knocked on the door.  A solid 3 minutes passed before John sheepishly cracked the door to see me standing there.  “Why don’t you come have a seat?” He told me, and I could already see the box with all my stuff in it, and knew.

He removed from the top of the box a stack of 10 or so pages stapled together.  The top sheet was the letter of termination.  All the other sheets comprised my browser history, which he had printed out.  75% of the list was work related or browsing I had done off the clock, either over lunch or before or after work.  No matter.  His mind was set, and that was that.  He tried to tell me how hard this was for him, that he liked me, and even wanted to call me “son”—this was particularly disturbing.  Worst of all, I am fairly certain that had I showed up at noon instead of 8, I would have found the box and the letter sitting on the doorstep, and never would have seen John again.

As I drove away, I made one of the most difficult phone calls of my life: to Tara to confess that I had been fired.  Being the amazing person that she is, she was understanding.   I started a full time job search immediately, following, what turned out to be, the best advice John ever gave me: “Don’t put this job on your resume”.  2 days later, I received a call from my current employer.  I still don’t know if I hit them in my resume sending frenzy, or they happened to stumble upon me, but after an hour phone interview, they asked me to come in for a face-to-face later that day.  Both interviews went exceptionally well, but I was doubtful as the position they were hiring for was to replace the head hardware engineer who was leaving.  As it turns out, I so impressed them with my knowledge and enthusiasm, and was cheap enough that they decided to create a new position for me.  3 long weeks after the interview, they called me with an offer, which I accepted immediately.

Let it be clear that I’m not trying to claim innocence at all here.  Most of what occurred here is due to mistakes I made.  Getting fired sticks with you, probably forever.  Although the feelings of humiliation and worthlessness have long passed, I will always have the utmost gratitude for being employed, and realize now that termination can happen at any time for any or no reason.

But, this story has a very happy ending.  The number of miracles that materialized in order for this to all happen is absolutely unbelievable.  It is safe to say that, had I not been fired, I would not have the job I have today.  I realize that many people are out there, still waiting for their happy endings, and my month-long unemployment doesn’t even come close.  This most definitely sucks.  A previous coworker once told me something that ended up sticking with me my entire ordeal: “It all works out eventually”.

Adventures with Light Painting

A few months ago, thanks to the National Geographic Photo of the Day RSS feed, my mind was opened up to a whole new realm of photography: Light Painting.  Sure, I was always well aware of the concept—nightime city shots with streaked headlights or the incredible all-night exposure of the starry sky, but I had never realized just how much could be accomplished.  I have been determined ever since to try some of my own.

This past Saturday, while Tara was studying, I dug out my long neglected nerdery, that is, prized electrical components that I’ve pillaged throughout the years, and mimicking a project from Make Magazine, I built a couple light orbs.  The first one is a bunch of red LED’s soldered together and a few pennies and a dead AA battery for weight powered by a 9V battery cased in an Altoids box.  The second is a strip of tiny neon lights that I procured years ago from a dangerous corner of the web for electronics nerds: The Electronic Goldmine.

 

I was too lazy to actually take a quality photo here My 2 Light Painting tools: the Orb, and the Lightsaber

Once the nerdery was complete, I shut myself in the darkened bathroom to try them out.  The results were interesting…

I should have been sitting on the toilet for this Attempt 1 with the orb.  The exposure was a bit long.  Also, I did not expect that I would be that visible.

How would you like to see this in the night?

Freaky…

I am your father...Attempt 1 with the Lightsaber.

 

I then tried a few abstract self portraits… I typically don't care for profiles...

I had a better one of this, but accidently deleted it

 

Tara says it's fine as long as I don't get a cloak. 

And now for something completely different…

Set Phasors to StunThis one I took after a hike.  It was a 15 second exposure, timed such that a car would be headed down the road (the red).  However, a cop pulled up in the final seconds and stopped to yell at some kids to put out their fire (the bright white).  Thus, the end result looks like a friggin’ laser!

Loving Advice…For Married Men! Vol. II

It’s been some time since my first issue of Loving Advice…For Married Men, and for weeks now, I’ve been trying to hash out a second issue.  Problem is, the first one was so damn good (in my opinion, at least) that attempting to top it, or at least match it with a sequel seems incredibly difficult.  It’s like Don McClean’s American Pie.  Or Cyndi Lauper’s Girls Just want to Have Fun.  I’m kidding, of course.  Time After Time was way better.

 

1.  In marriage, especially sans children, you’ll find that there is no need whatsoever to “steal the moment”.  To that end, there’s no hurry up, lets do this—my roommate will be gone all afternoon only to have him walk in unexpectedly because he did not dress warmly enough for that cold May day.  As a result, small blunders, such as reading the newspaper and failing to respond to your wife as she asks you a question is grounds for cancellation of all planned activities for that evening even if she was in the middle of pulling out her lingerie…

2.  When it comes to work around the house, you can gain a position of power by identifying the high-point chores.  Things that she can’t stand to do, like cleaning the bathroom, are ideal.  Sucking it up and happily carrying out such tasks will get you a lot of points to redeem for, really, whatever you want.  It’s like the Chuck E Cheese prize counter after winning the jackpot on that stupid game where the light goes around in a circle and you try to…I digress.  Think about it: She says: “Why isn’t dinner ready?”.  You respond: “I was too busy cleaning the bathroom”.  Congrats, my friend—you just won dinner, dessert, and dessert.

3.  Harassing your wife with a wax-covered Q-tip is NEVER a good idea.

4.  Enter an agreement with your wife that you will buy her flowers from time to time, but it will never be on a flower-oriented holiday such as Valentines Day, Mothers Day, etc.  You can save yourself a butt-load of money and long lines with this simple idea.

5.  Sorry if this sounds more like something you’d read in some cheesy email forward, but I promise it’s legit.  Instead of always commending your wife for the same things, challenge yourself by regularly mentioning new things that you love about her.  She’ll be especially flattered, and besides, nothing beats making her blush just like she did when you were first dating and she said “I’m really hot” after a summer run, and you said “Yeah, you are”.

6.  The next time the two of you are in Wal-Mart, and she heads over to get new razors (or something), loudly announce to her that you’ll be in the family planning section.

7.  If, at the gym, your wife happens to gesture towards the treadmills and say: “Oh my God, that girl’s practically falling out!”, you’ve just been given a very rare gift.  DO NOT BLOW IT!!  Put on you most critical face, observe for no more than 5 seconds (but even that may be pushing it), and say something to let her know that you agree and are equally disgusted.  Don’t even risk a second glance, lest you never receive such a privilege again.

Photography Meets Engineering

Even before I knew what an aperture is or how shutter speed works, I hated the harsh, washed-out look that a built-in-flash gives.  I would opt to turn it off entirely, even in darker settings.  This, of course, resulted in many a blurred photo.  I am currently reading The Digital Photography Book, Vol. I, by Scott Kelby, which an outstanding book packed full of useful tips and tricks including how to get a softer flash.  The key, is to either use a flash diffuser, or angle your external flash upward or to the side such that the flash bounces off a white wall or ceiling before falling all nice, soft, and diffused onto the subject .  I’m too cheap to buy an external flash, so I thought I’d do some experimenting on my own.

I figured I could get the desired effect by simply using a mirror to reflect the built-in flash up to the ceiling.  This worked unbelievably well.

Here’s a picture of Tara with the regular flash.

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And here’s the result of holding her vanity mirror in front of the flash to bounce it up to the ceiling.

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Crazy, huh?

Thus, I set out to construct a fixture that I could put on the camera that would achieve the same effect as above, but without me having to carry a vanity mirror around in my camera bag, and all-the-while accepting that I could just as easily go buy a flash diffuser for my built-in flash for $13 (but not nearly as fun).

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Here’s what I came up with.  I basically just covered one side of a piece of card-stock with metallic tape, and rubber-banded it to the lens.  (And yes, I used a series of mirrors to capture these images of the camera)

It works OK.  I’m definitely not going to go shoot a wedding with the contraption (not that I would shoot any wedding with any amount of equipment).  The angle has to be just perfect, so it’s a lot of trial and error and positioning the contraption just right.

One of the better ones.  Tara was a good sport about me taking tons of pictures of her while she played flash games under the condition that I not post them all to facebook.

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The angle was off on this one, but came out kind of neat anyway.

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One of my favorites.  Partially because of that pose, but mostly because of how the light falls out of the upper right corner of the image.

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So yeah, fun stuff.  Next time I’ll have to try and make some goofy lens filters. 

How to Stay Productive

So perhaps this is a boring topic for a post, but ever since I transitioned from hourly intern who could get away with 75% web browsing and 25% actual work to salaried engineer with actual responsibility and free overtime, I’ve been on a constant quest to maximize my productivity in a day’s work.  That is why I’m writing this post at work.  Kidding, kidding, I’m at home, enjoying a lovely evening of snowboard shopping and dreaming of what to do with the biggest tax return I’ve ever received (I knew there was a reason I got married…).  I think I’ve made some big strides in the one year and two months that I’ve been a full time working stiff, and I intend to share that knowledge. 

 

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1.  Quickly get any personal email, facebooking, and XKCD reading out of your system when you first get in to work.  I like to role in 5-10 min early for this purpose.  I feel like a good nerd comic starts the day off right, and checking email and social networking sites prevent me from entering the vicious curiosity-will power battle throughout the morning (I wonder if I have any notifications?—Don’t check, stay focused—I wonder if I have any new emails?…and so on).

2.  If you’re like me and work from a cube rather than an office with a door that closes, shutting out any distracting noise–such as Adam, across the way, loudly boasting about the looker he saw at the Wells Fargo drive-through last Saturday–get some headphones and find some music that you can listen to without having your concentration compromised (Notorious B.I.G. is probably not a good choice).  I often will go with classical music on days when I’m particularly prone to distraction because I find it creates a wall of sound that is non-distracting and completely blocks out background noise.  The singer/songwriter genre also has been working well for me, especially in the afternoon.

3.  Take a refreshing lunch break.  It can be tempting to sit at your desk during lunch reading FAIL blog and watching youtube, but in my opinion, it is difficult to jump back in after lunch without a break from the tube (or, matrix of liquid crystals, nowadays).  I personally eat my lunch quickly while reading FAIL blog and then go ride my longboard around the empty warehouse for 5 or 10 minutes.  That brief time of soothing, mindless activity allows me to come back to work refreshed and ready to go.  (Hmm, that last sentence or two could be taken out of context)

4.  The half-life of caffeine is 4.9 hours.  This, of course, is where the “2:30 feeling” comes from, although it seems like everyone experiences it, regardless of whether or not they consume caffeine in the morning.  It is the sudden complete and utter loss of motivation accompanied by general grogginess that seems to set in at exactly 2:30 every time.  It can be a major hurtle that must be overcome if the afternoon’s tasks are to be completed.  I like to plan my days such that I’ll be doing the more hands-on tasks around that time.  When this is not possible, I find the music bubble works well also.  It’s amazing how you can put on the ear blinders, enter the zone, and not think about anything but work for hours at a time (until you have to pee, that is).

5.  Determine what types of work you do best at each time of the day.  This is kind of a continuation of (4).  For instance, I’m a morning person.  I come into work in the morning half way through my coffee, and my brain is churning away, anxious for problem solving.  Thus, I like to tackle the more complex tasks first thing in the morning, rather than leaving them for after lunch when I’ll be struggling to stay focused.

6.  Leave work at work.  Sometimes it can be difficult to stop thinking about work after leaving.  I feel that it is very important to force myself not to think about work after work.  The evening should be time for rejuvenation of the technical side of the brain, and is much better spent thinking about snowboarding, guitar, and your wife in that sexy baby doll.

7.  Sex the night before, or even a quickie in the morning before work can really clear the mind, and ease stress.