It Doesn’t Take Much

Just a couple of hours, far away from technology, and somehow I can come back exhausted but refreshed.

Biking is my drug of choice. Getting physically tired while not damaging muscles, tendons and bones too badly is a great method to “flush the system”.

Not that it’s always pain free. Beyond the usual aches from overdoing it (e.g., trying to go too far or too high), there’s the unexpected obstacle scenario.

2016-06-08 07.57.04This was back in June, when I was attacked by a chain link fence, laid down across the bike path.

Even after the pain and slight expense of repairing the bike, I was back to ‘relaxing’ the next week.

I wonder what other engineers do to relax? I guess as long as their lives are not dominated by being engineers, they can add other ingredients to sweeten the brew, and still come out ahead.


Unfamiliar Sounds

This afternoon an unfamiliar sound wafted through the house. I remembered it from long ago. It was a pleasant sound, a sound I associate with family and elementary school kids, and trying to give them a “well rounded” youth experience.

She plays the piano: some tunes from memory, some reading the music unearthed from the piano bench, some from new material. All of it – even the missteps – sounds beautiful to me!

I wish I had learned to play a musical instrument. Not necessarily the piano, although that’s the most convenient most of the time. I’ve been bugging my good friend, Joe, to give me electric guitar lessons. I tell him “It’s on my bucket list.” Unfortunately (a) Joe lives 3,000 miles away; and (b) I don’t own an electric guitar and can barely read music.

So, it stays on my bucket list, and I have to rely on daughters and sons to make the music around me. Not a bad deal, actually!

“Reducing Story Lines” is the New Euphemism

Story in the New York Times this week: 3 long time characters have been let go from the show, in order to “reduce story lines” and “focus on familiar faces each week.” What show?

Sesame Street! It’s another step in the sunset of an era. First, the show’s distribution rights are purchased by HBO, putting it out of reach of 50% of American households, and onto a network whose other content is, shall we say, beyond the limits parents set for pre-schoolers. (Thankfully, HBO has exclusive rights only for 9 months, after which time the show returns for free to PBS.) Now this downsizing.

Oh, and did I mention that the show has been trimmed from an hour to thirty minutes? “A more manageable time for children to focus,” according to another NY Times article. When did this psychological shift occur, when kids could no longer focus beyond 30 minutes? I thought that Sesame Street’s original premise was that a show based on very short and crisp vignettes would hold kids’ interest and afford an opportunity for education and social adjustment? (Wikipedia’s article confirms this, although it goes on to say that story-line format was added in the 1990s and onward, with “45 minutes needed to tell the story”.) Where does this pre-school audience depart to when the credits roll? Perhaps back to their tablets and smart phones?

I would love to see an in-depth article, telling the history of Sesame Street and its impact on children and pre-school learning, then going on to explain with sociological data how “children have changed”.

My question is this: What is the cause and what is the effect? This is, in engineering terms, the basic way to analyze observed information. Is the culture changing and therefore children are changing and therefore the shows on TV need to change [to hold their audience]? Or is culture changing and therefore TV shows change which in turn causes children’s behavior to change?

Let’s go back to the original premise of the show. Again referring to Wikipedia’s article, the show wanted to focus on African-American children in inner city environments, portraying a familiar and positive image. Whether it’s learning basic English, math and social skills, or observing how choices affect behavior, it seems that those goals are needed more strongly than ever in the culture around us!

And don’t get me started on how “reducing story lines” is a euphemism for down-sizing employee payroll, beginning with the older, more experienced workers. Do children today have fewer people of grandparent age in their lives than was true 45 years ago? I wonder…


Macros are fun. Having the right macro – especially one you’ve struggled to write yourself – is like a Get Out of Jail Free card. When the software you depend on doesn’t do what it claims to do, or what you need it to do, then sometimes a good macro will provide a way of escape.

Microsoft’s Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) is a good example.

Continue reading “Macros”

Two Wheels

Bicycle riding: that taste of freedom!

How well I remember getting my first bicycle! I must have been seven or eight – before we moved when I entered third grade. It was in the summer at 241 Zuber Road, in Rochester, New York. A blue frame, heavy-duty street bike. No speeds, only coaster brakes, but indestructible.

Me? Not so much. A crash which ripped open the big toe on my right foot proved that.

Continue reading “Two Wheels”


One of the most exciting days in my career was when I was awarded my first patent! It was a great confirmation of the thrill I feel at being faced with a problem, wrestling with it for days or weeks, and then coming up with a practical solution — and, in these cases, ones which no one else used before. Enjoy reading!

I’ve been awarded 10 unique U.S. Patents to date. The following list is pasted in from the USPTO Search Engine:

1 9,274,992 Cable with circuitry for communicating performance information
2 9,210,206 Messaging to provide data link integrity
3 8,964,979 Identification and handling of data streams using coded preambles
4 8,930,692 Mechanism for internal processing of content through partial authentication on secondary channel
5 8,793,723 Detection of encryption utilizing error detection for received data
6 8,692,937 Video frame synchronization
7 8,644,334 Messaging to provide data link integrity
8 8,458,343 Signaling for transitions between modes of data transmission
9 7,558,326 Method and apparatus for sending auxiliary data on a TMDS-like link
10 7,555,693 Auxiliary data transmitted within a display’s serialized data stream
11 7,143,328 Auxiliary data transmitted within a display’s serialized data stream
12 7,123,307 Clock jitter limiting scheme in video transmission through multiple stages

9,274,992 is on its way, with a plaque to be mounted alongside the others!