Saturday, December 22, 2007

Engineering Through It

Engineering is a fine discipline.

Albert Einstein was once quoted as saying that “scientists investigate that which already is; engineers create that which has never been.” Most of my life I have fashioned myself a scientist, however I have served in many a role in which solutions needed to be engineered. Indeed, any practitioner or student of any field surely applies to it skills which are inherent to the engineer; as Leonardo da Vinci said: He who loves practice without theory is like the sailor who boards ship without a rudder and compass and never knows where he may cast. Engineering is the practical portion of any sort of theoretical study.

Rewind to my earliest days in the military. I served as a combat engineer when its military occupational designation was still 12B, “twelve-bravo.” The Army taught us in horizontal and vertical construction, mobility and counter-mobility, bridge building and destruction and—in order to facilitate the former—demolitions. All of these were trade skills: As obedient privates in “this man’s Army” we were drilled with the motions, methods, and repetitions which would work their way as sets of skills which would be applied to a team, a squad, a platoon, or a company in the execution of a task that fit into a mission which dictated which drills we would use to get the mission completed. Yeah, this was the monotonous portion of what was otherwise a glamorous career choice for a grunt.

What I would go on to learn, though, was that this particular style of engineering in combat forces many a practitioner to think on his or her feet. Any good combat or technical engineer that had served for long enough in the career field, enlisted or officer, could tell you that there are at least three ways of doing things: The right way, the long way, and the field expedient way. For engineers in the army there is a constant barrage of problems to be matched with a solution. My two years serving as a combat engineer and four years after that supporting engineer units taught me that theory may say one thing, but it is nothing short of human ingenuity that often succeeds in breaching the otherwise arbitrary limits of when said theory meets the contact of the battlefield.

While a battlefield can be a harsh place, so can our daily lives. The realities which we call our own have good guys, bad guys, fires to extinguish, and battles with which to contend. While there are countless books out there that can help us with the theory of dealing with it, the bottom line is looking within ourselves and to our environment to find the tools—mental and otherwise—to aid us in adapting to our world. We must take the theory which we know from our pasts and apply them with an eye towards “how can I better adapt in this moment to make the most of my situation?”

On the flip side of this coin, American psychiatrist M. Scott Peck points out: The truth is that our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled. For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers.

That which ensues are thoughts about comfort zones and expanding them in such a fashion that you’ll be ready for the big moments to happen: Engineer your life for what you want it to be.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Monkey Mondays: See Monkey Teach Economics

See monkey teach Fairtrade.

Article here.

Monkey's game here.

Breaking News: Artificial DNA

I thought that this was good enough to include in these virtual annals.

Although this is a natural extension of the Human Genome Project, something that I figured about a decade-and-a-half ago would happen, it is amazing nonetheless.

A brief couple paragraphs from the full article.

"I see a cell as a chassis and power supply for the artificial systems we are putting together," said Tom Knight of MIT, who likes to compare the state of cell biology today to that of mechanical engineering in 1864. That is when the United States began to adopt standardized thread sizes for nuts and bolts, an advance that allowed the construction of complex devices from simple, interchangeable parts.

If biology is to morph into an engineering discipline, it is going to need similarly standardized parts, Knight said. So he and colleagues have started a collection of hundreds of interchangeable genetic components they call BioBricks, which students and others are already popping into cells like Lego pieces.

Keep in mind: From here on out the progress being made isn't arithmetic in nature, rather it is a geometric progression: In other words, instead of "1, 2, 3, 4..." so on and so forth, it is more akin to "1, 2, 4, 16..."

History in the making, right in front of our eyes!

Sunday, December 16, 2007


I am a firm believer in the notion that we each know, at each point in time, that which we need to know. Yes, this is a point of view in which destiny is a key factor, something more than a random consideration.

I have stayed fairly busy as of late: Secretary and Treasurer on a couple nonprofit boards as well as taking on key managerial roles with each, running and operating in an executive capacity on a nonprofit which is my brainchild, a for-profit company, and other volunteer work in the discipline of IT consulting. This is not to mention my regular “9 to 5” job, as I refer to it. Also of note is that next month I begin college again towards a degree in Finance.

I have had at least a couple people worry about me stretching myself too thin in the last week. One had mentioned that the comment was made to them that perhaps I “am setting myself up for failure.” I have thought long and hard about this, trying to perceive it from an unbiased and logical, rational perspective.

I subsequently came across a quote in a movie:

"When a person prays for patience, do you think that God makes them patient, or gives them the opportunity to be patient? If he prays for courage, does He give him courage or the opportunity to be courageous?"

I applied this singular thought to my own situation. What I decided upon was that right now, right at this time, I am being challenged and simultaneously offered the opportunity to prove myself and to succeed in that which I have been working towards for years.

Sometimes it seems so long, yeah, but his passion is so strong; and something makes him carry on… He'll do what he has to do, to be part of the game. Yeah, he knows what he'll have to go through, till the world knows his name.

Part of what I’ve learned, so far, along this journey; something that’s just been reaffirmed for me, is that you get back that which you give: The more you give to other people, granted that they don’t “screw you over,” the more that you will receive in return. If you give to the absolute, you will receive in kind. If you are apt to take in the absolute, then you can expect the same of others.