Friday, January 19, 2018

Annual physicals

My annual physical is scheduled for the middle of next week.

I had my blood work done ahead of time so the information will be available for the doctor at the time of my physical.  The numbers are about what you would expect from an overweight guy who is almost sixty.

I was moaning about the timing of the physical.  Can there be a worse time to have your blood work done than after the gluttony of the holiday season?  Cheese logs, generous libations, ham, sweet taters, mashed taters, gravy, breakfasts out with company, desserts...oh the desserts!

The other thing that conspires against favorable "numbers" is that it takes a great deal of discipline to exercise.  For one thing, there is less time for exercise when entertaining.  For another, the weather outside is discouraging.  It is hard to walk outside when the roads are covered in slush or ice. 

Another factor is that dieting makes the temperature seem 15 degrees colder.  We are genetically programed to eat when it is cold.

Mrs ERJ's take on the situation is a little different.  "Deal with it.  December and January are 1/6th of your life.  The numbers are real.  If you don't like the numbers than do something about it."

I don't like the numbers and told Mrs ERJ so.

The last few weeks Mrs ERJ has made a project out of me.  She drags me out walking every other day regardless of the weather.  She feeds me leafy greens.  Fried foods are now forbidden.  I get the impression that she wants to keep me around for a while.

For my part I am doing portion control and gave up my nightly tipple.  I also bought a bathroom scale because our last scale disappeared.

Weighing myself weekly has been disappointing.  According to the scale I had gained weight after the first week.  This morning was the end of the second week and I am a bit below my starting weight.

I started at 213 and this morning's weight was 210.  And for the Canadians who are reading, that is pounds, not kilograms.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Things are different now

"Things are different now" is one of the great lies.  One reason it is such a fantastic lie is because it is partially true.

For example:  Many kids graduating from high school today can casually sit down with a tablet, laptop or other computer and edit video.  To them, it is not an extraordinary thing.

That is inconceivable to bosses and coaches who might be only ten years older than those students.

We are all familiar with how useful video can be when coaching things like swinging a golf club or throwing dwarves.  We are less familiar with the uses of video in industrial applications because it has rarely used.  The reasons for that rarity are rarity of equipment and rarity of editing and analysis talent.

In industry
Consider a robotic welding cell where four robots weld parts.  Each robot is programmed with interference zones.  If an adjacent robot is in "the interference zone" then the robot in question pauses until the adjacent robot moves out of the interference zone.

Using video, the process owner can take footage from several different angles.  The footage can be synchronized by ensuring that some definitive event like the last weld, the club impacting the golf ball or the release of the dwarf occurs at the same time on each screen.  Then, the process owner can determine if the robots really are at risk of impacting.  Sometimes a simple fix that eliminates the need for the interference zone becomes obvious, like a reorientation of one or both robots or to have one of the robots start welding from a different direction or start on a different weld.

Additionally, it becomes clear if it makes sense to program multiple interference zones.  Robot A might make two welds and then make a big move away from Robot B and make three more welds before leaving the interference zone.  It might make sense to program two interference zones in Robot B.  One stops Robot B for Robot A's first two welds but allows it to nibble its way toward Robot A after they are done.  After completing the work that is "safe" when Robot A is welding its last three welds then Robot B can pause, if necessary, until Robot A clears. 

That kind of work is difficult to do in real time but a snap with videos and multiple views.  What has changed is that people who can do the video work are no longer a limiting factor.  Belladonna could do this kind of thing as a Junior in high school.

It is not uncommon to have one process or operator be significantly faster than the others.  It is easy to dismiss the faster operator as being "more athletic" but that is not always accurate.  Their speed is often an accumulation of little things:  How do they hold each part.  Orientation of the part as they approach the assembly or fixture. How they use both hands.

Happy tools
This wrist band frees up one hand that would otherwise be carrying screws and/or eliminates motions (like an up/down on a ladder) to get more fasteners.
Sometimes the greater speed is because the operator is using "happy tools".  Happy tools are named after the toys that came in McDonald Happy Meals.  They are cheap, simple assembly aids.  They can include aprons or specialized tool and part holders.

The observer who is walking by the work-space is likely to miss the use of the happy tool while the person watching video can quantify exactly how much productivity gain can be attributed to the use of that tool.

A surprising number of kids graduating from high school and college can do video editting.  All you have to do is ask them.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Some old songs

My dad used to sing.  Most often it started was when the front tires of the '58 Plymouth station wagon hit a dirt road.  I don't think he realized he was singing.  Just him driving and the kids behaving in the back of the car.

This song captures the type of song and the (almost) a cappella delivery

Can she bake a cherry pie?

She'll be comin' round the mountain...

Put your head on my shoulder

Taking a Knee

For through faith you are all children of God in Christ Jesus.  For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendant, heirs according to the promise.  Gal 3:26-29

Approximately 150 protestors spent part of Martin Luther King, Jr Day outside of the Diocese of Lansing's office.

They were protesting how Lansing Catholic High School handled four football players who took a knee during the National Anthem before the Homecoming game with Ionia.

To recap how the Lansing Catholic's coaches and administration handled it:
  • Mid-week the coach asked if any of the players intended to take a knee during the National Anthem. (ERJ comment:  I applaud the coaching staff for being proactive.)
  • Four players indicated they would.  (ERJ comment:  I applaud the students for being honest.)
  • After conferring with the administration, the coaching staff offered the four players ten minutes with a microphone during the half-time show to make a public statement if they would not take a knee. (I applaud the administration and coaching staff for coming up with a fabulous solution, one that appears to give the students more than they were asking for.)
  • The students accepted the offer. (Good choice.)
  • After discussing it with their families, the players informed the coaches that the deal was off.  That they were going to "take a knee". (This is where the story goes into The Twilight Zone.  Cui Bono?)
  • The four players took a knee during the National Anthem.
  • None of the four players started the game.
  • All of the four players were put back into the game before half-time. (I applaud the coaching staff for finding a proportional response to the transgression.)
Lest this point elude the reader, "Taking a Knee" in football means:  "I declare that I choose to not  participate."  Take a knee after taking the snap?   It means "Play over, I don't want to participate."  Take a knee while fielding a punt?  It means, "Play over, I don't want to continue on to the next logical part of the game."

For whatever difference it makes, I support the process used by the Diocese of Lansing through this circus show.  They negotiated in good faith.

And, as an organization dedicated to getting people to heaven, they are keeping their eye-on-the-prize.  And the prize is not fleeting glory on the athletic field; the prize is the character (conscience) developed on those fields. 

There are some things that are binary.  Are you saved or going to perdition?  Are you a Catholic (or Baptist, or Methodist or Muslim) or not?  Are you a member of this team or are you a free agent.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Demon: Thy name is Chaos

Image from Lee Reich's gardening blog
Remus over at The Woodpile Report #512 informs us that many liberals now claim that "Future Orientation" is racist.  This is not a surprise as "math", "statistics" and "compound interest" are also considered racist.

That presents a quandary:  Math, statistics, and Future Orientation are tools that are absolutely necessary for success.  The obvious conclusion is that success is racist.

I want to prod about and look at some less obvious conclusions.

Future Orientation
Gardening is a great way to become a competent planner.  Gardening forces you to think about time differently.  You have to work backwards.

You start with the goal.  Suppose you want to harvest green beans to serve with sweet corn in mid-August.  The package says that the beans are "pole beans", that they mature in 60 days and that they require warm soil to germinate.

The gardener, working backwards, realizes that "matures in 60 days" is often optimistic and refers to just the very first ripe green bean.  The gardener also realizes that he might get two weeks of picking from his beans.

He is likely to scattergun his solution.  That is, he will plant seeds 60 days, 67 days, 74 days and 81 days before his hoped-for harvest.  That would be June 16, June 9, June 2 and May 26 respectively.  That means that he should be out in the garden in early May with his rototiller.

He also needs poles which must be cut in advance.

"Why not just plant bush beans?" the reader asks.

Again, the gardener is planning ahead.  His youngest kid graduates from high school this year.  And the gardener is getting a bit big around the middle.  He would rather pick beans standing up.  See, he is thinking ahead.

How long do you think the gardener would continue gardening if hooligans vandalized his garden at seemingly random intervals?  What if the production was purloined in the middle of the night? How long?

Not very long.  There is too much emotional investment.

Therein lies one of the root-causes of the planner/non-planner divide.

Cultures that are run by "planners" are intolerant of people who steal and intolerant of people who generate chaos.  The thieves and disruptors are pushed to the margins where they can do less damage.

Cultures that are not run by planners are tolerant of disruptive people.  They even celebrate them...think "rappers".  These cultures often encourage disruption because disruption draws more resources.

Chaos vs coherence 

Consider the simplest of examples:  The freeway.

Freeways move millions of vehicles a day.  In general, they move those vehicles quickly and safely.  The reason they are successful is because "the rules" foster coherence and because "limited access" restricts the injection of chaos to predictable amounts and locations.  Therefore, the chaos seldom rises above levels where "the rules" can dampen it back down.

Even a modest loss of coherence causes things to break down.
The guy who zigs-and-zags?  He is aggravating because he is breaking the rules.  He is chaos.  He makes the system more fragile.

Stages of development
Rule breaking is a developmental stage.

It occurs when the youth is old enough to have some autonomy and has the intellectual powers to ask, "What happens if..."

That developmental state is mercifully short in cultures where chaos is not tolerated and where the costs incurred by the chaos are levied against the perpetrator.

That developmental state becomes the endpoint in cultures where chaos is tolerated or fostered.

Source of graphic
Baltimore schools have had attendance issues for a long time.  Basically, half of the high school students miss one or more days a week.

The study linked above lists the following "reasons".
The reasons are strongly clustered around drug/alcohol abuse and its inevitable consequences (circled) with a few smaller satellites of bullying and peer pressure.

It is not racist to repudiate substance abuse and bullying.  To not repudiate them is to embrace chaos, to invite failure.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Turbo Tax

No down bump in the stock price.
I went to Walmart to pick up a copy of Turbo Tax 2018.

The sales assistant informed me that she had just read an internal email saying that Walmart was not going to carry Turbo Tax in their stores.

Walmart is conspicuous by its absence, although I do see Sam's Club
If this is true then one would expect a downward movement in the stock price of Intuit.  Losing Walmart as a customer has to sting from a sales volume standpoint.  Software is a high fixed cost business.  Selling incremental units adds almost no cost.  Consequently, profit is exquisitely sensitive to volume.


Contributing to the vibrant tapestry that is America.

They would not be here if I did not feed them.  The little, white whiskers are falling snow.

They are giving me the stink-eye.
I think they resent having to visit the low-rent part of town to get their food.