Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Circle Problem


I am a guy. One of the things that guys do is solve problems. Not that women aren't capable of doing so, but I believe it is more of a dominant factor in the male mindset. Women tend to be more nurturing, men tend to be more analytical. Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus...yadda, yadda, etc., etc,.

As I have matured over my lifetime these differences have become more acute. One of the things that has driven me nuts about my jobs, both past and present, is the inability of my co-workers to solve problems....on their own. It would appear that most have the engrained reaction to seek help for anything that happens out of the ordinary...... and yes, most of my co-workers are women.

When I was younger, I didn't mind helping others out, but after a while I started to realize something. I was enabling them to fail. Every time I helped them solve a problem (sometimes, the same problem multiple times), I was reinforcing their mindset to seek me out to solve it. No one was requiring them to analytically think through the problem. Ergo...this ended up making me a 'resource' for other people to do their job.

Therefore, my favorite saying these days is, "I am not a resource for you. Figure it out."

There is a reason I am so stingy with my knowledge and abilities. Besides the fact that I am enabling my entire office to think they are entitled to instant support for their problems, it also takes away from my ability to get my 'jobs' done. I say jobs in the plural sense, because I rarely ever work on one project at a time.

That is what computers are for. They allow you to multi-task on a huge level. While I am writing an e-mail, my query engine is pulling data, and my printer driver is printing a large report. Throw into this mix, my coworker 'Erin Entitlement' coming to me because her printer isn't working...and I get a little miffed.

By the time I have un-jammed 'her' printer, I have forgotten about the data pull and my copies sitting on the large volume printer....not to mention my train of through on the e-mail. I have to stop and think about exactly what I was doing, and often times start over on complex equations that I was in the middle of. Most frustrating.

Now mind you, asking for help is perfectly acceptable.....'IF' have tried to solve the problem yourself, or 'IF' what you want to do requires more than one person (I don't expect you to move a piano by yourself.). It is not acceptable if I have showed you how to do it (both in person and in writing) five times already.

An example of this multi-tasking is the graphic for this post. While it may seem like a rather random ray tracing graphic (it was drawn by a computer), it is small triumph for me. It is a problem / puzzle that I have been trying to figure out for weeks.

This is a POV Ray tracer rendering of a spiral. In fact, it is a ray tracing of a circle, extended along it's z-axis. I have been trying to figure out how do to this for sometime on the 'old Macintosh' that sits in my office. It took the Mac about 2 days to render this (newer Core Duo machines can do it in about 5 minutes).

It is just one of the multi-tasking things I do in my office.

For the techie among you, the problem was to get a single strand to spiral along the z-axis. All my previous attempts created multiple strands and it was baffling me, until I hit upon the idea that the 'while' statement was too large. For some reason when the iteration statement (while) exceeds 20, it creates multiple stands of the circle, most likely having to do with the way the sin and cosine functions work in the applications.

So remember, when you come asking me for something in my office, like how come the lights in your office won't turn on, or why the microwave doesn’t work, I am doing more than meets your eye. Like drawing curvy lines in make believe three dimensional space......or...pulling gobs of try and figure it out for yourself before you come knocking.....please!

(and just because I am so tickled about the spiral, here is the actual code snippet that makes it work.....I am sure you will be very impressed)

#while (Counter<20)

{<2.5*cos(Theta), 2.5*sin(Theta), Counter*3.0>
color red 1.0 green 0.2 blue 0.2 // light's color
translate <0,4,0>

{<2.5*cos(Theta), 2.5*sin(Theta), Counter*3.0>
texture {T_Old_Glass} finish{specular 1}
translate <0,4,0>

#declare Theta=Theta+0.25
#declare Counter=Counter+0.25


Sunday, June 13, 2010

Pulling The Plug

Its Over

Goodbye 'Dancing With The Stars', so long 'Celebrity Apprentice', more 'Amazing Race'.

The wife and I have reached our limit. It all started with the never ending stream of attorney advertisements on television. Shishter ambulance chasers that pleaded with everyone and anyone that was injured to sue the pants off of someone (for a meager 33% fee). Their never ending recitation that promoted the 'victim' society and the concept that every poor schmuck was 'entitled' to compensation for something was just too much.

This was compounded by the never ending stream of 'you want this' advertising that was lead by the major auto manufacturers of the world. Their constant harrassing us about how much we wanted a Yugo, Hummer, Mercedes, Toyota, Jaguar just sort of rang untrue after a while. The fact that their quoted price of $19,995.99 for that new Ultima, didn't really factor in the interest rates, insurance, maintenance, and general stress level of sitting for 10 hours a week in stop and go traffic. By my calculations the end cost for the buyer would be about $50,000 and about 5 less years off of their life. Regardless....dam-it, you wanted one! So visit your Nissan dealer, TODAY!

Next came the attorneys once again, this time convincing us that it is a GOOD thing to declare bankruptcy. Hey, everyone else is doing it, why shouldn't you? Tired of all those credit card bills that you racked up for things that the television set told you to buy. Well, guess what? You don't have to pay them after all. Just declare bankruptcy, its quick, its easy....don't delay, file today!!! I even bet the law office will issue you a new credit card when you are bankrupt so you can pay the attorney's fee.

But the final straw has been the fast food commercials of late. After being reminded of exactly where this food comes from and how it is prepared, the fact that multi-national food conglomerates are telling us that we really 'want' that super-sized BBQ rib sandwich or that mega-meat KFC chicken sandwich (sans the bun) were just too much. They are obviously trying to push obesity and diabetes on us all for the sake of their profits. Well, sorry Mr. CEO, we are on to you.

We pulled the plug.

As of today, the wife and I disconnected the cable television in our home. No more talking heads on the local morning news, no more commercials and no more inane reality shows where quasi-celebrities parade around having hissy-fits. No more broadcast or cable television in our home.

From here on out, it is Netflix over the broadband connection, or a selection from our 450+ volume LaserDisc collection not to mention the excellent collection of videos available from the public library for free.

We have officially abandoned the dark side and stepped into the light......and we feel better already.

Friday, June 4, 2010

At Fault isn't who you think

I have been reading and hearing a lot about the British Petroleum (BP) Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Indeed, it is hard to miss it, since it is the 'Crisis de Jour' (crisis of the day), plastered on headlines, talk shows and the Internet.

To say that it is a colossal cluster-fuck would be an understatement. Sucking liquified compressed organic matter from over a mile beneath the ocean just to feed our addiction to the benefits of modern life is always going to be a risky undertaking.

But the problem I am having with this whole scenario is the 'blame game'. The current talk show pun-dents and reporters are all pointing fingers at BP and the Federal Government screaming for action and threatening lynchings and retribution for spoiling the pristine gulf coastline.

Much like the immigration debate that is raging here in Arizona about Senate Bill 1070 (the immigration reform act), everyone is boycotting and protesting the fact that Arizona is attempting to do what the Federal government is mandated to do, but has also failed to the border. Instead of looking to past administrations going back to Nixon and Reagen for their failure to properly fund INS, we are instead yelling at the people that are trying to make a difference. I don't see anyone indicting past administrations for their willful failure to protect the sovereignty of our country.

When it comes to blaming someone for the pollution in the Gulf of Mexico, I would first start by taking a good long look in the mirror. We have known for years that DDT is bad and causes cancer. We took the led out of our gasoline because we found out it was producing too much smog and pollution. We took the fluorocarbons out of spray cans because we found out it was harming the ozone layer of the planet.

Well, ya know what....there is nothing good that comes out of burning fossil fuels people! It makes it easier to turn on the lights and keep your house cool in summer and warm in winter, but it also pollutes the planet in a thousand different ways. So, we keep shelling out the big bucks to Chevron, Exxon/Mobile and BP to keep us swimming in all that sweet crude....and sometimes it leaks out!!!

There wouldn't be any oil lapping at the shores of Louisiana if we didnt' keep demanding gas for our Ford F-150s because it wouldn't be worth BP's time and effort to drill for it. In the end we all have to take responsibility for what we do to the planet.

We can't blame God for causing a volcano to spew toxic clouds into the atmosphere, or cause coastlines to slide into the sea from an earthquake, or blow down a city with a hurricane. Disasters happen, sometime we can't prevent them, and sometimes we accelerate them (thanks BP).

Life would be hard without all the wonderful things that Standard Oil and Dutch Shell have told that we want and need, but it would also be better. Living the 'good life' is never easy. Living the easy life, is often harmful, to ourselves and the planet. If you really want to protest the pollution in the gulf.....Sell your car and start walking to work or turn off your A/C and learn to sweat a bit more in the summer. You won't like it, but you might find yourself a lot wealthier and healthier in the long run.