Not for the weak minded.

Birthday Statistics…

May 18th, 2010 Smerfj

So today is my birthday (well, by the time I finish this post, it will be yesterday).

First off, thank you to all who took the time to wish me a happy birthday!

Now, just for grins I thought I would collect the data for who wished me a happy birthday and do some analysis.  Why? Because I’m an engineer, and that’s what I do. To make things fun, and maybe spark a few different responses next year, I have a “prize” thrown in the mix. I’ll say what it was at the end of the post. So here are the fun statistics for the day:

Total numbers:

I received a total of 79 happy birthday wishes today.
71 unique people wished me Happy birthday.
16 of those people wished me happy birthday even though we haven’t had a legitimate conversation in more than a year, or really, ever.


8 people jumped the gun, and wished me a happy birthday before my birthday.
I received 11 wishes before 8am, 18 between 8am and noon, 13 between noon and 5pm, and 29 after 5pm.


I got 9 wishes in person.
10 People talked to me on the phone.
13 People texted me
1 person emailed me
45 people used facebook
1 person twittered
8 people wished me happy birthday using more than one method of communication. 1 of those people used three methods (the rest used 2).


I got 1 cake (homemade, and awesome)
12 people sang to me, 7 of them on the phone.
one person took a shot with me.


Take note, because you get bragging rights for the “grand prize”.
Grand prize, First person to wish me a happy birthday in a personal manner, on my actual birthday (methods that count are in person, phone call, or text to my phone): Brian McWhirter (which is awesome because we’ve been best friends for 12 or so years now, and he still got it).

Runner up, first birthday wish, jumping the gun a whole two days early is Matthew Klobucher.

Most birthday wishes goes to Matthew Wright, who texted, twittered, and wished me a happy birthday in person.

So, from these numbers, what can I gather? Well, I have many caring friends, and I am grateful for you all (even if Facebook had to remind you that it was my birthday). Now I’m going to switch my Facebook birthday to Friday and see how many people get tripped up. This should be fun.

I leave you with this, the ending to the game Portal (so if you have not played the game, and might, don’t click play…) which happens to be catchy, entertaining, involves science and guns, and of course, cake.

No Resolutions For the New Year

January 12th, 2010 Smerfj

At the turn of the year I was thinking about a few things that I could resolve to change. One was to start working out and get into shape. Another one was to finish projects I have started before moving to the next. Another was to blog more. As I went through this mental list, I decided that these were all things that I have tried to do before, and making a New Year’s Resolution was pointless – actually I think it would even hurt the issues.

My reasoning is that all of my resolutions require some kind of lifestyle change to truly accomplish them. If I want to make a lifestyle change, it has to be a forward-looking, positive change. Some people count the days that have passed since they started their change. To me that only ties you to the past. I think if you’re counting those days, you don’t actually believe you’ve made a lifestyle change, you’re just challenging yourself to persevere until you reach a higher count than your previous attempts.

So for every change I make this year, I will not be marking the day on the calendar, or attempting to count the days that have passed. I won’t tell anyone I’ve made the change; I will simply make the change and live it as if I have always lived that way.

I suppose, though I have made no ‘official’ resolutions, my New Year’s Resolution is simply ‘change’.

An Office Icon

August 19th, 2009 Josh

four_drawer_letter_file_cabinetThe filing cabinet. It is an icon of organization. The metaphor used to explain computer storage to old people. The timeless cornerstone of nearly every office. And if you are like me, almost completely useless.

Although not totally, my job has gone paperless. The papers that are required are kept in a secure part of my building anyway. So there my file cabinet sits with the 4 pieces of paper I put in it when I got back from training the first day I was here. It is a waste of a perfectly good piece of space.

Today as I scooted by my classic institutional filing cabinet I thought: “what could make this better?” Well, my friends, prepare to have your mind blown. I am going to give you back your office icon, updated with everything you need to make it useful again. Although since I’m blogging on my lunch break, you’ll just have to do with a word description as I’m not prepared to GIMP this thing out.

So without further adieu:

  • Top drawer:
    • fire-proofed standard size drawer. For the 4 papers you need to protect.
  • Second drawer:
    • Appliance rack/pantry. Hide your personal coffee maker, toaster and dry snack stash from your boss and co-workers.
  • Third and forth drawers:
    • Front half houses a mini-fridge and the two “drawers” open as a single door.
    • Back half houses fridge mechanics and a fireproofed NAS with removable redundant drives. Lets face it, your files are digital, lets bring the filing cabinet up to speed.

That’s it my friends. The future of filing cabinets. Just remember where you heard it first.

Scared of Guns

April 29th, 2009 Josh


IMG_2028.JPGGuns are totally a guy thing. Guys like to throw rocks, make loud noises, play with fire, and try to pretend like we understand machines too complicated for our brains to handle. I know, because I’m a guy.  A firearm is basically the culmination of all primordial things “manly”. These are the reasons that I enjoy shooting.  Unfortunately you can’t overlook the fact that the reason guns were invented in the first place was to kill (hunting or war… I don’t know which came first, but I’m guessing war). I can definitely see how this reason is a good basis for being afraid of guns. With all the shootings that have happened lately, that thought can easily be reinforced.

I can’t count how many people I’ve met throughout my life who are scared of guns.  If you agree that guns scare you, I would like to share my thoughts about guns. You don’t have to agree with me,  but at least think about what I have to say.

fearFirst, I would like you to consider changing your perspective on guns from “I’m scared of guns” to “I don’t like guns”. Now this may not seem like a big difference at first, but people who are scared of guns are generally ignorant of gun operation, use, and safety. The reason is that they are “scared”, and if you are scared of something, you usually don’t want to be in the same vicinity, let alone handle and learn about that something. If you change your thinking to “I don’t like guns” then we can go to the next step and tack on, “but I respect them.” And to respect something you must learn about it.

The leap requires you to get over your “fear” of guns and actually learn about them. At this point, if you are saying “no way will I ever handle a gun” let me set up a very common situation:

Uncle Bob is on vacation for a few weeks and you said you’d house sit for him. You take your kids to uncle Bob’s house to let his dog out.  Your kids are horsing around in the living room, and all of a sudden, they knock into Bob’s favorite recliner. On of your kids says “mommy mommy, look what I found!” and points to a gun that fell out of the chair. 

kidwithgunIf you’re afraid of guns, what would you do? You have two weeks until Bob gets back, and you can’t just leave it sit there on the floor with your kids there. Any good parent would know to tell their kids to not touch it and get back, but would you know how to safely handle it? Do you know how to tell if it’s loaded? Could you unload it to make it safe in case someone else found it again? (Your kids are sure to be curious to where you put it – especially if they are boys.) 

Now that is a pretty extreme case, but there are other cases that are just as likely. Considering that there are 9 guns for every 10 people in the US, your chances of encountering a gun are pretty high. Maybe your husband forgets to put a gun away before running to the store and you have company knock on the door. Or what about having a roommate that owns a gun – could you tell if they were safely handling it? These situations are very controllable and safe, as long as you don’t flip out. Twice in my life I’ve picked up a gun belonging to someone else and found that it was loaded. Since I know how to check that a gun is safe, there wasn’t a problem.

Unexpected situations like these make it prudent for you to learn about guns, even if you don’t like them, or ever want to own one. There are many ways to learn to safely handle a firearm, and chances are that you have a respectable friend who would be willing to teach you for free. Other resources include your local Police/Shariff’s office, and many ranges offer safety classes.

I hope that, after reading this, you are willing to attempt to change your view from “fear” to “respect”. It is a big step, but learning about guns can only help you out.

I help lead a target shooting life group at my church. If you have a few minutes, check out our site:

We generally limit our group to gun owners, but if you want to learn about guns and gun safety, we would definitely be willing to take you along on our next outing.

Suitcase Computer: Finished Again

April 15th, 2009 Josh

The last time I wrote about my suitcase computer (the one I started back in December), it wasn’t quite finished. As I had feared, the single slot-fan was not able to keep up with the heat. I thought about adding another slot-fan, however the first one was noisy and it would have been tough to fit a second one in. So I decided that my plans to leave the top of the case intact for the “clean” look were going to have to be scrapped in order to install 2 tried and true 80mm fans.

These axial fans turned out to be quieter than the radial slot fan, and push about 10x the air through the case. I had thought about just going with one 80mm fan, but decided that I didn’t want to spend another night after that installing yet another fan when the first wasn’t enough. With the addition of the second fan, I also added a second intake vent, and got 2 filter covers to take care of the dust.


At the same time, I decided to install the ¼” audio jacks that would enable the live guitar effects processing that I originally wanted this machine for. I also bought a distribution block so that I could change around the connections internally if needed. There are a total of four ¼” jacks, two mono, and two stereo. The mono are also switched, and tied to the ring on the stereo jack. This gives 2 jacks for input and 2 for output, for two audio signals each. If I have a stereo signal, I can plug it into the stereo jack. If I have a mono signal, I can plug it into the mono jack, and it switches off the ring of the stereo, essentially turning the stereo plug into a mono plug. This means I can either use 1 stereo, or 2 mono cables for both input and output.


On the inside, in order to wire the ¼” jacks to the sound card, I took a six foot 1/8″ stereo extender and cut it in half. I then wired it to the other side of the distribution block, making it essentially an internal hard-wired patch bay. The 1/8″ plug simply plugs into whatever sound card port I want to use. The only thing that I am still missing is a mic input for when I play games online. While writing this, I came up with a great way to remedy that. Next chance I get, I’ll simply wire another 1/8″ plug to the input (which is on line in at the moment) which will send the signal to both the line in and mic in on the sound card. This will enable me to select which one to use in software without having to manually open and swap plugs, or install another jack on the case for just a mic.


With the computer now 99.99% complete (I never know when I’ll want to add something to it) I am quite happy with how it turned out. It is a highly portable, power-packed, multi-purpose computer – exactly what I intended to make when I started. It serves up flawless 1080p HD video to my TV, plays the latest games, processes live music at high quality, and doesn’t sound like I have a hurricane in my living room. If I were to do this again, I would remove the video game requirement. I don’t play video games that often, and it really killed me on several issues. Without that requirement, I could have a super-low power, compact system that would give me all the HD and audio processing I need. Oh well, next time. For now, I’m calling this project a success. For real this time.

Enjoy the entire gallery of pictures from the project HERE.