Thursday, March 20, 2008


Is a killer. I have that pain between my shoulderblades that just won't subside. No matter how many times I crack my back and neck, I cannot achieve total comfort. These symptoms are exaggerated while driving (which I do alot of). On average, about three times a week I get the opportunity to get in a workout. Since the frequency of the workouts is not ideal, I really hit it hard while I'm there. I've given lactic acidosis a whole new meaning. I've developed two "sure fire" ways to achieve release. Contrary to my wife's realm of understanding, one of my first purchases when we moved into our new house was a heavy bag. I chained it around a steel beam in the basement. Don't full yourself.... the bag will win everytime, but WOW do I feel better! If you are real daring (or fat) you may try the following. Get the treadmill rolling for 10 mins at 4 mph. Jump over on the elliptical for 20 (minimum level 7). Now rest 60 seconds and get a drink of water. Perform the first set of the first excersise of whatever body part you are working that day. Immediately after the set get back on the treadmill for 2.5 mins and perform set 2. Repeat. I do 3 excercises per body part (broken down by day - chest, shoulders, back, legs, arms). This way you are acheiving constant motion (takes me back to HS wrestling practice). Maintain intensity and you will get a heck of a workout and over an hour of cario! I've lost over 20 lbs. in 3 months utilizing these techniques. Back to the point. Nothing is a better stress releiver than a good workout. It also clears your mind and gives you a chance to put things into perspective. The only challenge is to get past the first week of these methods. After that the results speak for themselves. Keep me posted on your progress...

Friday, February 29, 2008

Recognizing Opportunity

Thoman Edison once said, "Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work."

Over the course of my career I have on multiple occassions had to have discussions with employees that play on this theme. Each year that a new crop of young and ambitious graduates enters the workforce, it seems I have to have these discussions with more frequency. I've been able to categorize the behaviors into one of the following:

"Cart Before the Horse Syndrome" - Otherwise known as pay me more now and I'll accept more responsibility later. Those of you who share my beliefs probably find this absurd and almost laughable. If it weren't epidemic and completely frustrating, I'd laugh also. Where in the course of time did parents raise their children to believe that hard work is NOT the key to success? It seems that the current message form parents, teachers, and professors is that employees are entitled to be promoted before they earn the required experience and to question the policy and operational decisions of their superiors.

"Reversed Polarity Disorder" - Otherwise known as laziness. Laziness is a mind set and not a physical condition. My favorite stock speech for this condition includes the line, "if you spent half as much energy working as you do trying to avoid work you'd have my job by now". That usually gets their attention. Especially the ones concurrently afflicted with "Cart Before the Horse Syndrome". This condition has no known cure due to lack of motivation to achieve goals.

"The Leapfrog" - Otherwise known as "if I don't like the answer you give me (i.e. raise or promotion) then I'll just go over your head. This dreaded disease is a career killer. This will put you on the fast track to the unemployment line in any organization worth it's salt.

"Distorted Perception of Self" - Ever notice how some people just can't stop talking about how much they mean to the company? These people trip over themselves to point out what they do, which objectively examined is considered their JOB. Beware the employee with this trait because a case of "reversed polarity disorder" is lurking in the shadows.

There are more, but these are the most frequently diagnosed. I have some advice for anyone suffering from any of the above afflictions. Keep your eyes and ears open. Respect those with more experience than you and value the time spent with them as this will accelerate your learning curve. There is nothing wrong with having frank discussions regarding your position in the organization and the "plan" for you, but making demands will stunt your professional development. Above all else..... work hard and at every opportunity try to make your bosses job easier. Why? Because we didn't become bosses by not being able identify the behaviors listed above and WE are the people making the decisions that are for the greater good of the company... not each individual employed by the company.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Exterior Wall Framing: The 2X6 Advantage

An old friend who is in the planning phase of his new home asked me today about the advantages of framing exterior walls with 2X6 studs instead of the conventional 2X4 framing. Chris found the information informative and suggested posting the information that I conveyed to him. Much like anything that is considered an "upgrade" there is added expense. You can assume roughly $1 per square foot of additional wood costs, which include the studs, plates, and window jambs. So what is the advantage? Well, the 2X6 exterior wall framing creates a 5 1/2 inch pocket to install insulation over the traditional 3 1/2 inches. This roughly translates to achieving an R-19 rating over the traditional R-13. If you decide to go with 2X6's there are two things that I highly recommend to maximize the thermal efficiency of your home. First, a minimum 1" rigid insulation board should be applied between the stud wall and the exterior sheathing and you will approach an R-24 rating. Second, upgrade the blown-in attic insulation to an R-38 or higher as heat loss is greatest through insulated attic areas.

If you are interested to know how long it will take to recoup your investment, most experts agree that there is a 1-3 year period before the true cost savings exceed the initial cash layout. Scientists at the Building Research Council at the University of Illinois have published a study that indicates there are two important factors which determine the rate of payback. First you must calculate the number of heating degree days in the region of the country in which you live (this is available through the National Weather Service). If you live in an area with 5,750 degree days or more per year, your payback will be much faster. The second factor is elevation above sea level. For every 1000 feet gained in altitude there is 5% less heat lost to conduction.

Bottom line is that if you are building a home that you intend to stay in for years to come and are interested in maximizing your homes efficiency 2X6 exterior wall framing is worth the added expense. I'd recommend discussing the means and methods of the framing with your builder because as you can see there are ways to maximize your investment with very little added expense.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Gimme the Loot

For all you impatient folk....

Check out the status of your IRS tax refund !!

Clinton Exit Strategy

Goodbye Hillary. Obama's 17-point landslide victory in Wisconsin yesterday is a sure sign that the Hillary express is out of steam. She is drawing a line in the sand with Ohio and Texas. That strategy has proven faulty, ie: Rudy Guiliani and Florida. Definately a sound strategy for defeating momentum, which Obama definately has alot of. His campaign is like a snowball rolling down a hill. Her campaign is like the Titanic after hitting the iceburg - taking on water. Only question remaining is when will she pull the trigger and stop the bloodletting? After Ohio? Maybe Pennsylvania? She wouldn't dare stay in after being embarrased in Texas. Every day she stays in starting now is comparable to opening up the window and tossing stacks of $100 bills into the wind. At last report she kicked in $5 million of her personal fortune to continue her effort. What's the definition of insanity? At least Mitt Romney surveyed the landscape and realized it's more gratifying to maintain his amassed fortune than be President. Is it just me or is Bill Clinton losing his marbles? As good of a liar as he is, he can't even sell me on the fact that this isn't all about him. I heard soundbites on the radio this past weekend where he actually said "A vote for me..." and had to correct himself. For me the jury is still out on who the best candidate (on both sides) is the best choice, but as a pretty good judge of character I can tell you that we as a country are much better off with her not in holding the highest elected office in the land.

President's Day Reflections

This is an extremely good post from one of my favorite finacial blogs over at Money Crashers.

Presidential history is extremely interesting to me. I agree with the premise that we as a nation should quietly reflect on the philosophical and moral direction that we are taking versus the intentions of our founding fathers. Bottom line: dream big, surround yourself with good people, and be generous with time, money, and heart. Advice that endures for all time.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Fundamentals of Engineering

If you've read more than one of my posts you can see that there are some recurring themes. I always have multiple projects that I'm working on at any given time. The most challenging undertaking I've been working on recently is attempting to pass the Fundamentals of Engineering exam (FE or EIT). This is a logical next step in my career, but it is not an easy step. The exam covers all the favorites: calculus, trig, statistics, probability, dynamics, statics, ethics, etc.. Passing of the FE enables the candidate to take the Professional Engineer's exam, which is the pinnacle of professional licensure in the engineering field. Actually, I should be studying right now instead of writing! Oh well, frequent breaks are a necessity to reduce red eye. The exam will be given on a Saturday in April. The exam is 8 hours split into two - 4 hour sessions. The first time I took the exam I failed. I've found out this is not an uncommon outcome. The format of the exam requires not only mental, but physical stamina as well. During my first sitting I was wiped out by the middle of the afternoon session. I've committed to getting into better physical condition for the next time. This theme trancends to other areas of your life other than test taking. Those who can combine mental and physical fitness can achieve greater levels of success in all areas of life. That is the theory I'm currently working with. Stay tuned for the results!