Friday, December 30, 2016

Drafting Update

It's been over two years now that I've gone from drafting in SolidWorks to drafting in AutoCAD. Wow what a transition. I was driving an automatic for three, four years and boom - I had to go back to driving a standard. Now after three years, I'm soon to be using Inventor, so back to automatic I go!


I originally learned CAD drafting in AutoCAD. After all, besides MicroStation, AutoCAD was about the only choice that existed when board drafting became the dinosaur. Back in the days of my rebelling, trying to figure out how to go to college against my parents' wishes, AutoCAD 10 was the thing to learn. The grid was always there, two dimensional, simple commands of line, circle, array - this was my introduction.

Fast forward twenty years, I still had not landed a drafting job although I'd apply for every beginner job out there I didn't have a grasp of the industry, no knowledge of how the career world worked, and no google to search and no "How Stuff Works" to get me up to speed on the lingo. The first of those two decades I was also too immature and excited and I'm sure looked quite the eager happy pup that frightened off more than one potential employer, so those years I spent in customer-oriented jobs: delivery, cook, retail.  Then the second of those decades I was too busy keeping my kids alive to care about pursuing what seemed a pipe dream, so I buried my ambition under duty.

Finally after I convinced myself the kids were independent enough, my thoughts of a career reawakened with a vengeance and I began this pursuit with new tools at my disposal. I drew up a plan of how to get from point A to point B, and tenaciously began chipping away. Nothing really went according to plan, but I still knocked chunks off that block piece by piece.

At the time, I wasn't sure if taking the cell phone repair technician job would really help in my career goals, it was sure a stretch but used my skills in reading blueprints, and I definitely wanted to break free of my typecast secretary rut. Unfortunately I soon found myself back in another secretary job, but because it was a manufacturer, I learned SolidWorks while working there! I learned to use calipers and modeled some parts while I was there.

After three years I was able to get a job as a "real drafter" using SolidWorks. And the rest is history.

Standard, Automatic, Standard, Automatic:

So the hardest part of going back to AutoCAD from SolidWorks was mastering the change from planes to UCS navigation. In the beginning I couldn't find the words to explain the difference to coworkers who had never used anything but AutoCAD. Now I see the best way to translate it is that SolidWorks (and Inventor) planes are UCS rotations.

Models in AutoCAD are still drawn with lines, circles, arcs, arrays, but AutoCAD is gimped in that it doesn't recognize intuitively that you might want to create a feature - a bump, a hole, a ridge - on the surface of a solid body. It's not parametric modeling. It's still 2D drawing, even in 3D modeling mode.

When I first started re-learning AutoCAD, I compared it to programming. It is still very much able to take command line input, and much of the skeleton is visible. Robust and powerful, yes, and some GUI features have been incorporated over the years, but that skeleton being so close the surface is far too often an obstacle to intuitive design.

There is much that has improved in twenty years, of course. We use many side plug-ins, just as SolidWorks has plug-ins so does AutoCAD. I learned about CADWorx Plant, CADWorx P&ID (both for piping design), and touched some other AutoDesk software such as Navisworks and 3DS Max, 123D Design, Meshmixer and played around with other third party tools like Inkscape and Bentley View.

There's a plethora of design software and analyzing for usage could be a full time job for a full team of professionals.I am sometimes staggered at the amount of information that has been dumped into my head over the last two years. I've drawn plans, I've modeled equipment, I've found out tips to share with others, I've traveled to a vendor's facility, I've been on the edge of project planning, and when a concept query was tossed in the air - I caught it and ran with it. I'm now in charge of building scale models, two under my belt and a third in planning.

Now we're looking at getting Inventor, so after using "presspull" and "UCSNext" for all my model building lately, getting away from the inefficient workflows of a CAD system that was built 30+ years ago and going back to parametric modeling is a relief!

I'm excited at the prospect of doing my next model with automated partitions rather than hand sketching my own wall joints based on carpentry practices. It was a nice history study, but definitely not optimum efficiency. And I'm all about logic and efficiency.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Current game: Fallout 4

Video games. They can be a mind numbing time killer or they can present you with multiple choice moral dilemmas. Finally finished the Far Harbor chapter of Fallout 4 (yeah I'm slow at finding time to play). So not to spoil it for others I'll just say Bethesda has kept up their reputation of doing a damn fine job of story telling. I'll be thinking about the choices I made for awhile, even though I made multiple backtracks with saved files as I progressed through choices of life or death, condemnation or forgiveness, hellfire or wary tolerance, in the story.

a side note: I'm splitting off my philosophical/social topics into a new blog. This blog will keep the gamer & maker stuff.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Guild Wars 2 Faolin & Caithe


If you have not yet completed Season 2 of the Living World in Guild Wars 2, I strongly advise you to not read further.

There are details here that if known ahead of time will dampen the impact of the story as you play through. The following discusses portions of the final two chapters, Seeds of Truth and Point of No Return.


Having finished the play-through several weeks ago, this story has been on my mind occasionally. It's the mark of excellent story-telling if you find yourself thinking about a story days and weeks later, right? I wonder at all the possibilities ahead. Then listening to others brings in a fresh perspective and gets the brain wheels turning. While listening to the GuildMag podcasts of January through February where they discussed parts of this same story, some new ideas came to mind.

Season 2 of Guild Wars Living World (these stories are analogous to downloadable content in other RPG games) revealed tragic details about Caithe & Faolin's history. Caithe's naivete coupled with Faolin's evil heart directly lead to the death of all members of a Centaur camp at Faolin & Caithe's hands, plus the murder of Wynne by Caithe (albeit at the behest of Wynne).

The way I saw it, Faolin started the fight with the Centaurs, attacking first. GuildMag's podcaster Kaysee talked about being angry with Caithe for being stupid. I too was angry with Caithe for going along. The player witnesses Caithe being dragged along into these horrible deeds by Faolin, and I found myself wishing that Caithe wasn't so blind and would stand up to Faolin, but I felt helpless and now I wonder if that's not perhaps the sensation the developers are trying to communicate: that Caithe felt helpless and trapped in this path by Faolin and didn't know how to find the inner strength to confront her.

And later in the story when Caithe killed Wynne, that night when I played it I was so mad - why didn't Caithe just kill Faolin??! Ugh. But as hubby pointed out, maybe she didn't do that because there was a risk of failure that Faolin would win the fight and still get the answers about the dragon. And as in my own mind, perhaps she also was in a helpless, powerless place mentally and didn't know what to do to stop this horrible sequence of events she was trapped in.

Caithe must be haunted by these awful memories and guilt and shame. I can't imagine she agrees with Faolin's thinking. It seems we have seen evidence to the contrary in previous stories.

Faolin is a dragon minion through and through! Her thinking is warped, her actions are warped, she functions on jealousy and paranoia and power-hunger. (A really bizarre tangent possibility sprang to mind - the Quaggan might be dragon minions of the deep sea dragon.)

This will be interesting to see how this all plays out in Heart of Thorns. GW2 seems to be exploring a nature-vs-nurture topic here with the Sylvari having all originated from the dragon, yet Ventari found and planted the seed of the pale tree, and although he died before he could meet the creatures, he left behind his guidance on the revered Ventari tablet, so his influence on these dragon spawn has been a positive one. Question: is his nurturing from beyond the grave enough to break the dragon's will?


Food for thought: Everything is iterative.

So much of industry, daily work, science, construction, art, history, relationships, life, every part of human existence all builds on previous information and labor. We learn how things were done in the past and we build on it and improve the methods, make a better tool, create a better paintbrush, identify flaws in the way things used to be done, and we do it better.

That's all work and career and life is all about: looking at the status quo and doing it again, and hopefully doing it a little better.

Don't let a roadblock in college stop you. Career-wise it's more about knowing how to use the tools in your field. If you can get past college and into the job, it only gets easier from there.


A related note for the engineering majors - don't let hard college math stop you. The hard stuff has already been done. Once you get into the field itself, you really won't be doing advanced math anymore (unless you want to fun - yes some people are wired that way!) for day-to-day work.

Conversation on the Engineering Commons podcast (episode 64), paraphrased:

A common question that comes up when discussing engineering is "Do you ever use calculus? (in engineering)"
Engineer #1: No, just have to sum things up and use a rough approximation,
maybe find a slope rise/run, I just plug a number into excel for a curve

Engineer #2: Not really - just have to have a working knowledge; I mostly use
reference catalogs or the sales engineer has the details/info/specs.
The employer/client wants something simple enough so that the vendor could
easily replace something or if I wasn't there someone else
could understand it - they don't want me designing complexity.

Engineer #3: not a daily basis, it comes up now and then, it's
usually all well-known problems that you just change variables on. Only if
you're pushing the boundary on new designs maybe then,
but 90% of the time engineering is redesign of existing items.
Besides getting an integral or derivative of discrete points, in
reality I used no calculus beyond junior level college classes

Engineer #4. Yes but I cheat. Any problem worth solving in industry, or
sufficiently complex or worth finding an analytical solution for,
you learn how the math works so you can go out and use
all the differential equation solvers like SPICE, etc. Do use
calculus on a daily basis but not actively participating in the
solving of calculus problems."

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Don't Be An Ass - Generic Template

Following is a more generic version of my previous "Don't Be An Ass" post. This version is applicable to a broad spectrum of current human events.

Taking a cue from Wil Wheaton's motto "Don't Be A Dick" I've decided my motto is "Don't Be An Ass." I'm just about annoyed with extremism in any form and lack of respect for honorable cultural traditions.

To one who takes offense at cultural traditions of honor and greeting: you ruin your own chances for affecting cultural change when you get over-rabid. Chill out and be more Dahlai Lama. Laugh and enjoy life in spite of; love the time that you are in, here, now. That's how you win.

Focusing on injustice and berating your "enemy" only makes you bitter and friendless - it doesn't change anyone's mind, quite the opposite - you cement the polarization and isolate yourself when you make yourself out to be an enemy instead of a compassionate friend.

Lead by example. Drop the negativity. Drop the criticism of others. Love others right exactly where they are in the journey of life. Pave the way for improvements to come behind you - smooth and even roads make far better advances to human culture than walls of brick and stone. This journey is bigger than you and me. Are there cultural traditions that say you should not be there? Break tradition - do it anyway with joy in your heart and happiness on your face no matter what reaction comes, and so continue to smooth the path for those to follow in your steps.

Live Free. Free to be who you want to be. Go for it. Step into the water and BE. What's stopping you? The person you just screamed at for ___________ (performing a cultural gesture of respect / admiration / affection / honor)? Wow. Just wow. Lay down the brick & mortar - we don't need a Berlin Wall between "sides" - trade it for building cross-cultural bridges to understanding and encouraging human growth. 

While you were standing there spitting obscenities, some of us went around your road block and went on ahead without you. Learn about the meaning behind another culture's gestures - and then accept and reciprocate with grace.

Don't Be An Ass.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Don't Be An Ass

Taking a cue from Wil Wheaton's motto "Don't Be A Dick" I've decided my motto is "Don't Be An Ass." I'm just about annoyed with extreme feminists (and all extremists actually but lately the feminism kick has been plastered around with annoying crap from all sides being bandied about).

As a female who works quite happily in a male-dominated field, thank you very much, I say to extreme feminists: you ruin your own cause when get over-rabid. Chill out and be more Dahlai Lama. Laugh and enjoy life in spite of; love the time that you are in, here, now. That's how you win.

Focusing on injustice and berating your "enemy" only makes you bitter and friendless - it doesn't change anyone's mind, quite the opposite - you cement the polarization when you make yourself out to be an enemy instead of a compassionate teacher.

Lead by example. Drop the negativity. Drop the criticism of others. Love others right exactly where they are in the journey of life. Pave the way for improvements to come behind you - smooth and even roads make far better advances than walls of brick and stone. This journey is bigger than you and me.

Live Free. Free to be who you want to be. Go for it.  What's stopping you?  The guy you just screamed at for holding the door and now he's crying? Wow. Just wow. Lay down the brick & mortar - we don't need a Berlin Wall between "sides" - trade it for paving a pathway to understanding and encouraging human growth.

While you were standing there spitting obscenities, some of us went on ahead without you.

Don't Be An Ass.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014


Existential crisis:

Why have I pursued drafting & engineering all these years? I began to question myself recently and at first I feared that after all these years of yearning, striving, and finally achieving, that I had done it only out of stubbornness to follow my teenage vow of rebellion against my parents.

I was quite alarmed to think that I had perhaps wasted my time in pursuit of a vain goal. But as I continued to think on these things for days, weeks, and months, I rediscovered the origin of allure.

Control, rules, order, precision - these are the qualities that govern technical drawings. And this world of order is astoundingly beautiful to me. Everywhere in my life I have always sought order and logic, and viewed intuition  and feeling with a skeptical eye, not trusting in concepts born of emotion.

Even as a child I sought order and structure. Where there were rules, I was adamant that everyone follow them exactly- even to the point of being loyal only to the rules, not to my friends. If a friend broke a rule, I was the first to correct them or tattle. (I was not a likable child!)

The detail laid out in drafting, instructions that could be followed and relied upon, with no room for deception or hypocrisy or doubt - it was a comforting world that appealed greatly to me as I ran from the terror of superstition.

So here resides Logic and Order. This is why I love drafting and engineering. Rules must be followed. Consequences are immediately apparent. Emotion is superfluous, entirely unneeded.

I can count on a technical drawing to speak to me logically, to communicate instructions in detail. Rules live here that can be followed, and that also can be questioned and subsequently explained. There is reason behind every line, every letter. Extraneous information is eradicated. I can rely on engineering drawings (or corrections are absolutely welcomed when they are flawed).

In retrospect, I do not wonder that I find such great comfort in that.

Images sourced from Flickr, no known copyright restrictions: [First] "image from page 873 of "Appleton's dictionary of machines, mechanics, engine-work, and engineering" (1861)". [Second] "image from page 807 of "Modern mechanism, exhibiting the latest progress in machines, motors, and the transmission of power, being a supplementary volume to Appletons' cyclopaedia of applied mechanics" (1892)"