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The Flight of Gifted Engineers From NASA

dj245 Re:speaking as a senior engineer (160 comments)

Finally, i cant stress this enough: you are an engineer, and the pace should be slow. part of that is in your software. ansys, nastran, and fluent jobs will run for weeks at a time, wiping your ass to make sure your design or part is solid and incapable of immolating a school under normal operational parameters. you can quicken the pace by specifying realistic resources to use before you submit to the simulation cluster, and optimizing your simulations instead of queueing them up, locking your screen, and going off to lunch. monitor your checkpoints for failures in convergence. use the latest software instead of demonizing it. run it multicore, and for god sake stop being retiscent and stubborn about new shit that can help you like simulation timing blocks. and another thing, close the application so your license is returned to the pool and can be used on other projects, most of which yours depends on. now get off my lawn.

It doesn't have to be. I work in energy - coal and natural gas power stations maintenance. When we open up a turbine or a boiler, from breaker open to breaker closed is somewhere between 32 and 45 days generally. The busy season is fall and spring. Typically I have worked on anywhere between 3 and 12 jobs in a season (spring or fall), depending on what my role was and what needed doing. You never know what you will find when you open the machine up either, so things can get exciting.

5 days ago

Was America's Top Rocketeer a Communist Spy? The FBI Thought So

dj245 Re:Where do you get this garbage? (165 comments)

Skylab was in very good condition and NASA wanted to use it in conjunction with the shuttle, which was scheduled to be operational before Skylab fell into the atmosphere. The Shuttle was to be used to re-boost it, but two things happened: [1] solar activity was higher than expected (which affects the upper-most part of the atmosphere and increased the atmospheric drag on Skylab) and [2] the shuttle ended-up being too far behind schedule. NASA, realizing that shuttles would not be ready in time, studied launching an unmanned "tug" to dock with and re-boost Skylab so it would still be there on orbit and operational by the time shuttles were ready, but congress in the late 70's was as stupid as today - Congress did not fund this cheap solution, so we ended-up dumping $100 Billion and ten years of construction time into building ISS to get a similar orbital capability (Skylab had 320 cubic meters pressurized volume, that's more than the US part of the ISS). The shuttle could have then flown additions to Skylab (which had a docking adapter for multiple visiting vehicles). An enhanced Skylab would have had no Russian "entanglements", and had its own lifesupport and navigation capabilities.

Skylab was FAR from "worn out" and the damage from the launch was quite managable. The astronauts who closed it out left it ready for re-manning. When Skylab re-entered the atmosphere it did so under remote control from the ground, with its systems fully functioning until they were destroyed by the reentry. READ THE DAMNED REPORTS, which consist of hundreds of paged of excellent details, before misinforming people.

Skylab was put into orbit in one launch. Using the shuttle to lift further components is silly- all it does is justify the shuttle. The shuttle is a Honda Fit compared to the 18-wheeler Saturn 5. Letting Skylab burn up may have been a "waste" but if you can launch more than 1/3 of the current ISS volume (currently at around 837 pressurized cubic meters) with 1 Saturn 5 rocket, an orbiting space station then becomes essentially disposable. Just launch another one.

about three weeks ago

Will Your Next Car Be Covered In Morphing Dimples?

dj245 Re:11% fuel efficiency improvement (138 comments)

If they can make this work at a reasonable cost the trucking industry is defiantly a place I’d expect to see it. After all fuel efficiency is one of the biggest factors in whether a trucking company makes money or not. I am not sure a dynamic system such as being described in the article makes that much sense for cars and trucks. Making some sort of prefabricated body panels that have some pattern permanent imprinted it in seems like it would be much cheaper and require less long term maintenance.

Dimples are a place for water to collect. Paint nowadays is pretty good, but any break in the paint on a dimpled car would be a big rust problem really quick. It would be a nightmare to repair after an accident. Even if you think the dimples look good, when the water evaporates it will leave water spots and look terrible.

about a month ago

How a Solar Storm Two Years Ago Nearly Caused a Catastrophe On Earth

dj245 Re:FUD filled.... (212 comments)

When I toured the Union Electric hydropower plant in Keokuk, Iowa back in the 1990s when they still let you into places like that (with a camera, no less) the guy showed me a hand-crank the size of a bicycle wheel that was originally designed to dead start the plant when it was self-powered.

Apparently spinning that generated just enough power to get one of the turbines generating electricity and that was enough power to boot strap the entire plant.

I've been in power stations all over the US, Mexico, Canada, and some other countries. There's nothing particularly sensitive or secret about a power generation station. Anybody asking nicely for a tour can generally be accommodated. The biggest worry a plant operator has is theft of copper.

If you are ever out in the middle of Utah, Intermountain Power Plant has the nicest visitor's center I have seen anywhere. They also have one of the most amazing offices I have ever seen. Small consolation for being in the middle of Utah I suppose.

about a month ago

US Senator Blasts Microsoft's H-1B Push As It Lays 18,000 Off Workers

dj245 Re:Silly argument (529 comments)

When you say H-1B salaries you mean the salaries that the person working gets paid with or the money Microsoft pays to some Indian intermediary company that actually pays the person doing the job much less?

Plus how much of the money Microsoft pays that Indian company gets back to the people at Microsoft doing the hiring as kickbacks?

Plus how much does Microsoft pay in an H-1B if they want to lay him off?


You can look up how much an H1b visa holder makes. The system isn't set up to look for a specific person, but with a small amount of intiution and some reasonable assumptions you can usually figure out which of your colleagues has which title in the system. If you find actual cases of fraud, report it. Let your H1B visa colleages know how much they should be making, and encourage them to demand that they be paid that wage. If companies actually had to pay those wages this whole business would stop pretty quick.

about a month ago

US Senator Blasts Microsoft's H-1B Push As It Lays 18,000 Off Workers

dj245 Re:Australia? Canada? Hello? (529 comments)

WWI was a mess because they wanted to use Napoleonic War era infantry tactics at a time where armies had machine guns.

All infantry soldiers back then were treated like disposable crap to feed the machine guns and artillery. It had nothing to do with where they came from.

You can put it more simply and say that defensive technology had outpaced offensive technology. Fixed fortifications had reached their peak and offensive weapons hadn't quite caught up yet. All the new offensive weapons seen for the first time during that war, such as the military aircraft, the invention of tanks, flamethrowers, chemical weapons, etc were driven by this.

about a month ago

US Senator Blasts Microsoft's H-1B Push As It Lays 18,000 Off Workers

dj245 Re:Free market economy (529 comments)

Globalization has built a middle class in China, India, Malaysia, Vietnam and bunch of other places I'm to lazy to think of or list.

These were dangerously ideological or at least polarized places 50 years ago. These days the only places you can find a real communist is N. Korea, a theme park in Poland and the humanities departments of western universities.

I've been to North Korea and it has communist practices which remain, but they have a lot of capitalism too. The elites sort of let the black market do its thing, because they needed the black market to get the cool toys and luxuries they wanted to have. The black market got stronger and stronger and now they are so organized that many of the black market sellers wear the same uniform. The government provides housing and a whole lot of other things, but they provide a salary too. They keep having to crack the door to capitalism more and more because the black market is becoming such a critical part of society there.

On a related note, a lot of the weird things North Korea says can be attributed to poor translation. There is an old joke of foreign languages in subtitles where a foreigner will ramble on and on and on, then the subtitles will pop up with a very simple idea. The Korean language is actually somewhat like that, using an unnecessary amount of words and leaving nothing as "subject to context" or "readily understood". Their spoken language says absolutely everything. A good translator will cut out all the cruft and get to the main point, but being so isolated from the rest of the world, maybe North Korean translators aren't as good as they ought to be.

about a month ago

FTC To Trap Robocallers With Open Source Software

dj245 Re:Go after Comcast etc... (125 comments)

Comcast etc sell their customers phone numbers to illicit third parties. I ended up having to throw together an Asterix system with a simple "no solicitations, press one to continue" message to filter out all the robo-calls I got when I was forced to switch services over to Comcast.

Why stick with Comcast then? Why continue to give them your business if they just stab you behind your back? Their VOIP offerings are hilariously overpriced. Get an OBIHai or Cisco SIP gateway, sign up for any of the dozens of SIP providers, and roll your own. My SIP provider even has voice menus you can set up on their system.

about a month ago

Ask Slashdot: How Many Employees Does Microsoft Really Need?

dj245 Re:The should restructure as an income trust (272 comments)

If they really wanted to do what was right for the stock holders, they should acknowledge that they've got an incredibly lucrative income stream from a gradually dying product line. They should milk the Windows/Office franchise for everything they can, while cutting down development which only at this point enrages customers who have to spend big bucks on migration costs.

Cut everything way back, and send every penny you make straight back to the stock holders (i.e. an Income Trust).

MS Stock would instantly become the hottest income stock on the market. "Hey, we're *not* going to blow every penny we've made for the last 30 years in a futile attempt to stave off the end of our industry. We're just going to make you very, very wealthy!"

MS is sitting on the world's most profitable oil field. There's no shame in acknowledging that it won't last forever - just exploit it as profitably (i.e. cheaply) as possible and give the money to the stock holders.

This sort of argument shows a lack of business common sense. People need operating systems to run on their computers. That operating system needs to be continuously updated with security fixes. It is also nice to get new features every now and then. What Microsoft really needs to do is drop the Major Revision concept and just sell "Windows" or "Office" as a service. The OS gets updated periodically and people pay periodically.

Microsoft has pushed this before and the backlash was/has been huge because they failed to show the advantages were greater than the disadvantages. They need to go to this model though because they seem unable to handle the task of creating a new Major Revision anymore.

about a month ago

Ask Slashdot: How Many Employees Does Microsoft Really Need?

dj245 Re:How many? Hard to say (272 comments)

Granted, this is but one example, but the contrast I see on a daily basis is stunning. Even in my smaller employer I see us getting more inefficiencies and "dead weight" employees. Back when our employee count was in the single digits, it was a whole different ballgame. We were small. We didn't have the resources to carry extra employees. When someone would quit, it was a huge deal because we'd be losing literally like a sixth of our entire workforce.

I think you answered your own question in a sense. When your company was small, the culture was that every employee was very valuable and getting rid of someone just wasn't an option. People were accountable because they didn't want to let the team down. They could see how important they were. It was obvious every time a coworker took a week off for vacation.

When a company gets bigger, it has to shed the notion that every person is absolutely valuable and needed. Equally important is spending effort on making people feel important and cultivating a culture of "I don't want to let down my team". If you don't do something about it, that small-company culture will erode, and it seems like that is exactly what is happening.

about a month ago

US House Passes Permanent Ban On Internet Access Taxes

dj245 Re:This will die in the senate (148 comments)

No, it wasn't meant to be a replacement for savings, and you weren't supposed to get out what you put in. A small portion of the population was supposed to collect it, because most of them didn't live long enough to.

Not entirely true. I think you are including childhood mortality. If you made it to age 20 (working age) in 1935, the year that the Social Security Act was enacted, you could expect to live to be about 66 years old if you were a man, or 68 if you were a woman. This isn't a "small portion of the population", it is, by definition of being the average life expectancy, at least half the population.

Life expectancy has gotten longer but it has been a very gradual process and the taxes have increased over the years. The reason that the program is in trouble is because the taxes have not quite kept up, and politicians have been playing financial games with the savings for decades.

about a month ago

FBI Concerned About Criminals Using Driverless Cars

dj245 Re: Here it comes (435 comments)

Knives and other cutting implements can be abused by criminals, don't include them in my kitchen!

That example isn't even close to being equivalent. We're talking about the possibility that which someone can, with relative ease, wirelessly and anonymously deprive me of the use of my property without leaving much of a trace. You seem to be describing the crime of physical breaking and entering, which I would argue is none of those things.

about a month ago

FBI Concerned About Criminals Using Driverless Cars

dj245 Re: Here it comes (435 comments)

They won't even need a button. I highly doubt an automated car will proceed to pilot itself on a high speed chase, or ignore red and blue lights.

Fbi should go back to consulting their Internet slang dictionary, rather than trying to think.

Don't put a kill switch in my car. Kill switches will be hacked and abused. Devices will be sold and marketed to kill a car, even if they are illegal. Just like the MIRT and all the related devices. Illegal as a $7 bill but assholes still buy them.

about a month ago

US Tech Firms Recruiting High Schoolers (And Younger)

dj245 Re:Did you read the ruling? It's not a ban. (253 comments)

but there's nothing even close to a ban

The Supreme Court of the United States disagrees with you.

No it doesn't:

The Supreme Court ruled that under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, if such tests disparately impact ethnic minority groups, businesses must demonstrate that such tests are "reasonably related" to the job for which the test is required.

You can test people as long as it is "reasonably related" to the job and isn't done in a way that artificially discriminates against a protected class. Difficult, but not a ban.

so then it is indeed close to a ban.

No, it really isn't. I have been learning about this recently as part of MBA classes. All you have to do is look at your current workforce and find some common attributes among your top workers for job X. Maybe your top 5 sales guys all have above-average empathy (just one example, it could be anything). This is your basis for any legal defense later.

You then apply an aptitude test to your hiring process and reject anyone with inferior empathy. You don't need to even consider if this discriminates against a protected class. It is quite possible this DOES discriminate against men since women are usually known to be more empathetic. That doesn't matter though. All that matters is if you can demonstrate that empathy has something to do with a salesperson's success. Since you did your homework up front by looking at success and finding common attributes, anyone who challenges your process is going to lose. It is not close to a ban at all, just a legal provision that tells you what you were supposed to be doing anyway- find a good predictor of good job performance, then (and only then) find a test which tests that predictor.

about a month and a half ago

Study: Global Warming Solvable If Fossil Fuel Subsidies Given To Clean Energy

dj245 Re:You think? (385 comments)

Well we have known this for a long long time. Problem is how do we get the government to stop subsidizing fossil fuel?

I know environmentalists can sometimes see issues in only black and white, but a lot of the fossil fuel "subsidies" are programs to develop clean smockestack technology, carbon capture and storage, etc. Carbon capture and storage is, in my opinion as an industry insider, a larger technical challenge than the Manhattan project. Industry sure as heck isn't going to take on a massive engineering projects by itself. If these things were easy or cheap, they would have been done already. I want to leave a good planet to my kids too, but it can't happen overnight. Little steps. We'll get there.

about a month and a half ago

On 4th of July:

dj245 Re:Different from other revolution celebrations (340 comments)

The US was the first colony to successfully rebel against its former master and achieve independence. Everyone else celebrates the victory of one side after a (horrific and brutal) civil war.

And we celebrate our victory over a historical foreign power by lighting incendiary devices manufactured in a future foreign power.

about a month and a half ago

Senate Budgetmakers Move To End US Participation In ITER

dj245 Re:Scientific research never got anyone anything (225 comments)

Except everything we have now. Still I guess there are brown people that need killing, so something had to give.

We have very cheap energy in the US right now. Investing in even cheaper energy is not worthwhile. Why should we pay? Let those countries who have high energy bills now, pay the bill now. Otherwise the US is just subsidizing other countries.

about a month and a half ago

Alleged 'Bigfoot' DNA Samples Sequenced, Turn Out To Be Horses, Dogs, and Bears

dj245 Re:Americans (198 comments)

Their ideas are wrong, but they're hardly a threat. Most people don't take them seriously, and only 80-95% (depending on the disease) of a population needs to be immunized to achieve herd immunity.

I think you are grossly underestimating the ability of people to be complete morons. This link is a little dated, but in 1999, a poll showed that 18 percent of Americans think the Sun revolves around the Earth. In 2011, seven percent of people said they believe more than half of the federal government's budget goes to public broadcasting. Another four percent thought it was 31 to 50 percent of the budget. Is is easy to get 10-15% of the population to believe in absolute rubbish despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

The MMR vaccine has an effectiveness of only around 95%- meaning 5% of people do the right thing, get vaccinated, but could still get the disease. MMR is given at 12-15 months of age, so roughly 1.5% of the population who will get the vaccine hasn't gotten it yet. Some people (no idea what %) are very poor and never go to doctors, even if the vaccine is free. That 5-20% "margin" of herd immunity starts to look awfully shaky if you consider all the people who already can't or don't get a vaccine.

Finally, the anti-vaxxers tend to live in pockets of people who believe as they do. This means the disease can get a foothold in those neighborhoods, and survive. There is a very real risk that some diseases could thrive long enough to mutate enough so that the vaccine doesn't work anymore.

Even if this doesn't become a "big" problem, the consequences can be very damaging on an individual basis. My daughter is only 6 months old. She hasn't gotten many vaccinations yet because she is just too young. If some clown passes on the measles to her, her death is a very real possibility. Can you justify a death like that as not being "a serious threat"? The stakes too high to ignore these idiots.

about a month and a half ago

Alleged 'Bigfoot' DNA Samples Sequenced, Turn Out To Be Horses, Dogs, and Bears

dj245 Re:Americans (198 comments)

The original study linking vaccination to autism was from the UK. The press has really overstated the anti-vaxer thing in the US. I don't remember the exact statistic, but close to 99% of American children are vaccinated (at least partially). Most of the ones who aren't are clustered in immigrant communities, that's why we see the outbreaks. It poses no threat to the general population.

It poses a threat because these terrible ideas of the anti-vaxers get picked up by legitimate sources sometimes. And there are people who can't tell the difference between legitimate science and junk science. Ideas can spread more virulently and rapidly than real diseases. The antivax ideas are a threat, even if the effects of their actions aren't causing significant problems at this moment.

about a month and a half ago

Investor Tim Draper Announces He Won Silk Road Bitcoin Auction

dj245 Re:No, I won the bitcoin auction! (115 comments)

It seems unwise to claim to the winner. A lot of people who lost money when those bitcoins were seized will be quite upset with this guy. Considering many of the dealt in drugs, weapons and other illegal material I wouldn't like to speculate what they might do to him.

On the other hand, it seems wise to make a statement. Everybody can track those bitcoins anyway. One of the concerns I might have as a buyer of them would be that no exchange would deal with me and I couldn't cash them out. By making a statement which shows he is a "good guy" he might be able to escape the communities anger about the situation and deflect it back on the person who lost them and the government who took them, which is where the blame rightly belongs anyhow.

about a month and a half ago


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