Everybody has a bucket list. Whether you actually write it down or not, we all have those things we want to accomplish or places we want to visit before we die. Well I have a new concept for you, a list of experiences I’d rather not have before I kick the bucket, and if I somehow fail to avoid every single one of these dreaded items I’m afraid I might actually drop dead prematurely. Let’s go to the list, which is in order of least to most devastating to my will to live if I relent or are subjected to the listed experience. Continue Reading
To continue capitalizing on my most popular post “Life as an Electrical Engineer”, I thought I’d give a bit more insight on what my career entails. And yes, I’m after more page views. I may consider myself the JR Smith of electrical engineers, but I’m still the Ricky Davis of blogging. Here goes nothing!
1. All your friends and family will think you’re an electrician…or some sort of electronics engineer
Every time there’s a power outage, or a TV stops working, or a car’s battery is dead, etc. someone will inevitably say, “Hey, you’re the electrical engineer! Why don’t you fix the (generic thing that runs on electricity)?” Listen folks, just because something runs on electricity, doesn’t mean that I know how to fix it. And also, I’ve never wired a house before. I can tell you what the code says you should be using for the correct wire sizes and how many receptacles should be powered by that one circuit, but I don’t have the tools or expertise to invent a generator when our utility power gets knocked out. I design circuits for pumps and fans all day, okay?
2. You use what you learned in English class far more than what you learned in math and science
Don’t get me wrong, you’ll take more than your fill of math and science courses throughout your education if you want the engineering degree. But day to day, I’m composing/reading emails from clients and fellow consultants, reading and editing specifications, and talking on the phone far more than I’m actually crunching numbers on my calculator. You need strong written and verbal skills in most jobs these days, and engineering is no exception. Honestly, algebra is the highest form of math I’ve ever used on the job, and I don’t think I’ll ever touch calculus. I’ve seen the integrals they use to calculate arc flash incident energies, and I’m thankful for the software that does those for me.
3. Everyone makes fun of Civil engineers
What exactly do they do anyhow? I learned at my first job that mechanicals and electricals like to rag on each other, but they both enjoy ganging up on the civils. I think it’s because so many of our clients were civils who thought they knew stuff about our fields and really didn’t have a clue. Now I work for a company crawling with civils. I better watch my back.
4. …But not as much as the architects
But even the civils get to join in and make fun of the architects. Unfortunately for them, we engineers don’t hold architects in as high regard as George Costanza. After all, aren’t they just art school dropouts with tilted desks and big rulers?
5. You’re the last to know
Perhaps all this teasing is rooted in something deeper than who thinks who had the toughest classes to get through back in college, but rather it’s because there is a pecking order in consulting, and unfortunately for us, electricals are at the low end of the totem pole. It goes as follows:
Architects plan the layout of the building
Civils do site work or whatever it is about the process that they design within the building (these first two may vary in order depending on the project)
Mechanicals size the pumps/fans/other stuff that carry out the process and lay them out in the building
Electricals get whatever space is left to place our panelboards/MCC’s/transformers and then design the circuits that power everything.
As you can see, each step is reliant upon the step before it, so oftentimes we’re stuck twiddling our thumbs waiting on everyone else so we can begin our design. But the architectural firms are often driving these projects as lead consultants and don’t care about details like that, they just want their deadlines met. Also, when you ask them to move a door or window so you can have some wall/floor space to place your panelboard, you can practically hear them rolling their eyes as they let out a sigh and agree to “help you out”.
6. You’ll get to travel, but you won’t be planning your next vacation to the locations
You’re going to have to make some site visits every now and then to either gather information pre design, or to inspect the implementation of your design after it’s been built. If you’re in my field, you’ll find that these plants/facilities aren’t put in glamorous locations, because let’s face it, nobody wants to live next door to the wastewater treatment plant. Even the coolest trips I’ve gone on (Fairbanks and False Pass) were neat experiences, but I wouldn’t go back on my free time.
7. It’s a rollercoaster
Construction is seasonal, at least in the climates I’ve worked in (Alaska and Minnesota), so therefore design work tends to be seasonal as well. There’s usually enough work to get you through lean times, but sometimes firms face big hiring sprees and then layoffs if the work fluctuates too much. It’s the nature of the beast, so you have to find other ways to bring in business for your company if the design jobs aren’t materializing. I personally find power studies/arc flash hazard analysis work and hazardous location studies for some of our clients to fill in the gaps.
8. You’ll begin to notice…everything
My very first day on the job, my boss took me for a walk down the street near our office. He pointed out the cabinet that contained the controller for the traffic lights. He showed me the junction boxes in the sidewalk that contained the power cabling for the street lights. Suddenly, I wanted to know where everything got its power from. I wanted to know how everything was controlled. It was as if my eyes were opened, and I could go on seeing the world in a far more vigilant way. I’ll give you an example: At my first job, I got to design airport runway and taxiway light configurations. Now every time I fly I look out the window to pay attention to the patterns of the taxiway and runway lights, comparing them to what I remembered when I had to learn the FAA’s codes and standards for airport design. It’s pretty cool…in a nerdy, engineering kind of way.
Well, there you have it. I hope you learned something.
A couple of months ago I was approached by a website called EE Web, which is an online community for electrical engineers, to be interviewed by e-mail and have the responses posted on their site. I guess they found me through this blog, and so I happily obliged, and now they have published the interview. If you’re at all interested, here’s the link. I also have permanently added the link to my blogroll in the right margin, so it will always be easy access if you want to find it in the future.
Thanks again for reading,
A lot has happened in my life in the past 6+ months. I guess a lot more than usual, and that’s why this blog suffered. Since last posting on this blog, I’ve…
gone on vacation to Maui,
picked up the sport of ultimate frisbee, climbed the biggest mountain I’ve ever hiked,
tried my hand at Alaskan salmon fishing,
and finally I quit my job, packed up my stuff and headed down the Alaskan highway with my brother to Minnesota, and found a new job back in Minneapolis.
With all of these changes in my life, I decided the blog needed a facelift, too, so I changed themes, and now my header matches the skyline of my current city once again.
It’s funny to me, that while I took those 6 months off from writing on this blog, the blog continued to prosper. This November was my blogs most successful month in its history, and I didn’t write a single post! I don’t know what this means, other than my most popular posts, especially “Life as an Electrical Engineer” continue to rack up the hits long after I wrote them.
Anyhow, the point of this post is just to let all of my most loyal readers know that I’m back and ready to start spewing out my opinions and mostly failed attempts at clever remarks and comedic analogies. I’m going to set myself the goal of writing one post a month from here on out. Will I succeed in this goal? That remains to be seen. I’ve said this once, and I’ll say it again: If any of you out there have any specific blog post ideas or any subjects that you want my commentary on, please don’t hesitate to email me (firstname.lastname@example.org), comment on this post, or hit me up on my Facebook page.
Tired of not having enough money in your wallet? Is your bank account in need of a stimulus package of its own? Are you sick and tired of having to eek your way through life? Then allow Pete Magete Blog to provide you the map for the road to riches! Well not really. I’m no expert in high finance or playing the stock market, but I am pretty well versed at penny-pinching. Here are 9 of my tricks to save a dollar here and there.
1. Don’t drink. Don’t smoke.
This may sound preposterous to a lot of you, and you may have a hard time imagining your life without altering your mind with the use of a substance, but look at all the money to be saved. Nothing is taxed more mercilessly than booze and tobacco, so they’re guaranteed to be expensive. If you buy drinks at a bar or restaurant, the prices are jacked up even more. Then you have study after study shows that heavy drinking and use of tobacco are hazardous to your health over time, which costs a lot of money in health care costs. And finally, alcohol can lead to all kinds of trouble with the law, which always costs a lot of money. This one seems like a no-brainer, but if you really think that you have to drink for certain occasions, just go with the cheap route of “pre-gaming” before going out.
2. Don’t drink coffee.
As a non-coffee drinker, I don’t understand the appeal of coffee at all. I’ve given it at least 3 or 4 honest tries, and each time it disappoints. Since so many tell me it’s “an aquired taste” I guess this advice will be most easily taken by those who haven’t started drinking coffee yet. Don’t start! Why acquire a taste that will only leave you addicted to a substance that requires you to start every day with it, otherwise face a lethargic day? Not to mention just how expensive these joints like Starbucks are. If you think you need coffee, well, you’re kidding yourself. And if you can afford it, more power to you, but if you can’t understand why your checking account is always so dangerously low, and yet you buy a $4 (insert coffee type drink name here) 5 times a week, you should probably consider kicking the habit.
3. Drink water when eating out.
Sticking with this drinks theme thus far, this one is really simple: If you’re paying $10 for a burger and fries at your favorite greasy spoon, why pay another $2.50 for a fountain soda that cost the restaurant 8 cents? Plus they always load these things with ice, so you get even less soda, which brings me to another one of my tricks: asking for no ice. Anyhow, water is always complimentary, so I’ll keep my $2.50 and spend it on adding a second patty to my cheeseburger.
4. Avoid paying for parking if you can help it.
I think George Costanza says it best: “Parking at a garage is like going to a prostitute. Why pay for it if you can apply yourself and then maybe you can get it for free”. George may go a little far with that analogy, but I can’t help but feel dirty and ashamed after paying for parking. Sometimes you really have no choice, but you’d be surprised what you can find if you try hard enough. You just have to leave a little sooner to hunt for a spot, and be prepared for a bit of a walk.
5. Don’t pay for haircuts.
Buy a set of clippers instead. Even the best of quality clippers will pay for themselves within 2 or 3 cuts. This works much better for men, but some girls trust each other if they’re handy with a pair of scissors.
6. Change your own oil, wash your own car
If you have to pay for these services, you’re either lazy, or a woman…or possibly a lazy woman.
7. Bring your own lunch to work/school.
You’d think this one would be pretty obvious, but it amazes me how much money some people throw away by eating out everyday for lunch. Even fast food adds up pretty quick. I take it to the extreme: 2 PB&J’s a day. That’s it. According to my estimates, it only costs me about 85 cents a day. I defy you to come up with a more satisfying lunch for under a dollar.
8. Make going to the movies a special occasion
Let’s face it, Hollywood is basically a crappy movie making machine these days. 95% of what they produce I have zero interest in ever seeing, and of the rest of those movies, I realize that the experience of watching them in the theater isn’t going to add that much. So waiting for a DVD release for me to rent it, or even better yet, waiting for it to show up on cable in a year and a half isn’t that hard to swallow. If I’m really excited for that one or two movies each year, then going to the movies has become more fun, instead of something I take for granted, and that’s a lot of $12 movie tickets I don’t miss paying for.
9. Don’t spend more than you have
This one can help you more than the other 8 combined if you’re not following it. It sounds simple enough, but I’m amazed by how many Americans love the idea of getting something now, and paying for it later, whether that’s with putting too much on their credit card and only making minimum payments, or financing a car that they can barely afford, instead of buying a reasonable ride straight up. There’s a reason why there are so many credit card companies that are willing to give you ridiculous rewards for all the money you spend with them: because they’re getting rich off of you if you don’t pay off your balance each month.
Well, there you have it. Now that you’ve got a couple extra dollars lying around, you can give it to your favorite charity or somebody who needs it more than you.
“Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” – Luke 6:38
This is the third post I’ve written about life as and Electrical Engineer. Click here for the post about life in general as an electrical engineer, and click here for my post on a site visit in Fairbanks.
Thursday and Friday of this past week were the two most rewarding days I’ve experienced as an Electrical Engineer. I got to go on only my third site visit that required air travel, and only the second one to the bush (see my Living in Alaska post to find the definition of this term). They say “a picture is worth 1000 words” so I’m going to let the beautiful pictures I took tell most of the story in this recap (all times listed are approximate).
March 10th, 2011
After packing up everything I needed and stopping off for some delicious McDonald’s breakfast via the drive-thru, I arrive at Ted Stevens International Airport. Since False Pass is located on Unimak Island, just off of the Alaska Peninsula, my colleague and I were going to be flying PenAir. So I check in at the PenAir counter in the terminal, and then I am able to proceed straight to the PenAir gate without the inconvenience of going through security.
I board the turboprop airplane that is about to take me to the village of Cold Bay. Not a lot of leg room for someone of my size, but at least I have a seat adjacent to both the window and the aisle.
We make a short pit-stop in Sand Point to drop some people off and pick others up, and also to put a bit more fuel in the plane. The approach into the Sand Point Airport was absolutely gorgeous as the sun was shining on the coastal bluffs that the airport is set on. I didn’t have my camera handy, so I didn’t get a good shot of it, but trust me, it was beautiful. I did take this picture of the nearby mountains from my seat while we were on the ground.
Touchdown in Cold Bay. We grab our bags, and then await our 2:00 PM scheduled flight to False Pass. I throw down a PB&J that I had packed, and then settle in with a little reading. I also took a quick snapshot of the beautiful scenery.
It’s time to fly to False Pass. The plane was some sort of “Cherokee” we’re told by our pilot. It only seats five of us including the pilot, and the back seat is pretty tight for 3 full grown men to sit in.
We arrive in False Pass. That last 30 minutes of my life will go down as one of the best 30 minute intervals of time in my entire life. Our pilot was clearly very experienced, and he wasn’t content to just “get us there”. He wanted to show off just how beautiful of country we were flying through. The only bummer was that False Pass wasn’t further from Cold Bay so the flight could have been longer.
So after landing, we got a ride over to the job site, which was a fish processing plant. We moved into our room and got settled a little bit, and while doing so, I noticed a sticker on a dresser that had a tsunami warning on it. For some reason, I thought that it wasn’t serious, and so I took a picture of it (more on this later). The mechanical engineer from my company, Ernie, gave me a crash course in the concepts of recycling waste heat from a diesel generator and using it to heat buildings, since that was what we were doing for this project. After his explanation, it was time to get to work.
After a couple hours of working, I had finished what I needed to, since the electrical side of this job was pretty minimal. So I grabbed my Zune, my camera, and decided to explore a little bit. I walked out onto a large pier to take in the beautiful scenery while listening to Christian praise music, and just took in the wonder that is God’s creation. I just had an awesome grin on my face the entire time as I took awesome snapshots with my camera, and even got a couple with myself in the shot with the self-timer function. While I was out enjoying myself and praising the Lord for allowing me to be in such a beautiful place, I got to see an otter swimming around the pier, and also a seal poked his head out of the water a couple of times. I was only able to get a picture of the otter, but just seeing the seal was rewarding enough.
I did bring some other work to do since I knew I would have free time, so I got comfortable on my bed and marked up a drawing from another project. And after about an hour, it was finally time for dinner. It wasn’t very good, but I was really hungry, so I ate a good amount.
After dinner, I decided to lie down and read for a while. Then I listened to music for a while, and finally turned in for the night at around 10 or 11 or so. I actually don’t really know what time it was because I rely on my cell phone for time and it didn’t get service there.
March 11th, 2011
I greatly appreciated the time to sleep in, but unfortunately by the time I wandered into the kitchen, everyone had just finished eating breakfast. I sat down and joined the conversation, and found out that the night before, our village had been on a tsunami warning due to the earthquake off the coast of Japan. It ended up being nothing more than a scare for False Pass, but I just found it funny that we had a warning after I mocked and ridiculed the sticker in my room. After chewing the fat a bit longer, Ernie had a couple more things to do, and I actually needed to have a panelboard opened up by the electrician. I quickly took care of that, and then learned that the plane coming to pick us up would be there in 40 minutes. So I packed up my stuff, and then we made our way to the airport.
The same awesome pilot that brought us to False Pass had returned to bring us back to Cold Bay. False Pass was a much cloudier place than it was a day earlier, so the flight wasn’t quite as awesome, but as we got closer to Cold Bay, it cleared up, and the views were spectacular once again. I got to ride shotgun this time, and we actually got to see about 5 caribou out on the tundra.
After getting to Cold Bay and checking in for our flight back to Anchorage, we went looking for food at the one store in town, the Bearfoot Inn. I grabbed a pastrami and cheese sandwich and a chimichanga which were actually pretty tasty after heated in the microwave, especially after being washed down with chocolate milk. I snapped one more picture of the mountain overlooking Cold Bay, and then it was time to fly home.
We boarded our flight, and were on our way back to Anchorage. I got an exit row seat, which was tight, but I was sitting right next to a very obese man, so that wasn’t so cool. I did some reading, but mainly just chilled while listening to music, and we were home before I knew it. Definitely a great way to end the work week.
I enjoy my job as an Electrical Engineer, but trips like this make me absolutely love it.