- From Siemens PLM: An Interview with Rick Stavanja
Early this year I was contacted at Wagstaff by Dora Smith, the Social Media Director for Siemens PLM Software. She was looking to set up a customer interview with an engineer to post on the SPLM blog for National Engineers Week. So I pointed her to Mike Thompson, a young engineer leading our efforts to use Product Template Studio to drive our custom product configurations. Interestingly enough, during those discussions she also asked me if I might be interested in doing an interview sometime myself.
Although an opportunity such as this normally contradicts my otherwise shy and humble nature, I impulsively agreed, and promptly forgot about it.
But a few weeks later she sent some questions.
I appreciate the opportunity. Thanks to Dora and Siemens PLM.
- Movie Review: The A-Team
Summary: Dang good movie. Tons of action for the guys with enough story to keep gals more engaged than the typical shoot-em-up flick. Respects the original TV show too! Murdoch’s character steals the show.
Over the July 4th weekend I went to see The A-Team with my buddy Andy. We headed out for the last screening on Saturday night at the Spokane Valley Mall. There were about a dozen and a half others there for that showing too.
I have to admit, my expectations were a bit guarded going into this one. I was really only looking for a good way to pass a couple hours that night. But the truth is with a film starring Liam Neeson (he was great in Taken), Bradley Cooper, and Jessica Biel, I really didn’t need much convincing. It didn’t hurt to have Joe Carnahan directing either. I’ve liked him ever since seeing Narc and Smokin’ Aces.
From the very beginning the A-Team was wall-to-wall action. Not a big surprise. But what was a surprise to me was how much story they packed into 2 hours. They covered how the team first got together, how they were set up for a crime they didn’t commit, and how they set out to clear their name. It takes good writing to tell that much story in that much time.
There was plenty to attract both teens new to the A-Team, and the fogies like me that watched the series back in the day. Speaking of the old series, I really respect the way they paid homage to it in the film, with references to both the distinctive original A-Team van, and even the original theme song. Nice job.
The biggest surprise to me was from Sharlto Copley as Murdoch. I first saw him last fall as the lead in District 9, but this was the first time I’ve seen him in a comedic role. As such, he was the source of most of the comedy in the film, often stealing entire scenes. Keep your eye out for this guy.
Gauging by the number of smiles I saw when the movie was over, almost everyone else there liked what they saw too.
|The Official Verdict|
Suggestion: More Jessica Biel.
Tip: Look out for the Braveheart reference by Murdoch. Classic…
- Movie Review: Toy Story 3
Summary: Excellent movie for both kids and adults! I can’t recommend it highly enough. But I would suggest saving some cash and seeing the 2D version. 3D adds nearly nothing to the movie at all.
Friday I went to Toy Story 3 with my sister Billie, my nieces Meagan and Jayme, Heaven, and Caleb the 4yr old boy Heaven was babysitting. After work we went to the Spokane Valley Mall and had a nice dinner at Azteca before heading to the 7pm show.
We didn’t get into the theater until the movie was just beginning. It’s a good thing I got tickets early because the theater was so packed that we had to split into two groups of three. But that wasn’t a problem, because we didn’t have any concessions to share and once the movie started, the laughter and entertainment never stopped!
I have to commend both Pixar and John Lasseter for yet another great family film packed with drama, laughs, action, and emotion. It was brilliantly written, with humor and references for both kids and grownups -- at the same time. By that I mean wasn’t any Shrek-style humor where you get those awkward questions from the kids… “What does that mean?”. There were plenty of times when characters were doing something that made the kids laugh, while they were saying something that made the adults laugh.
I certainly expected the same familiar faces as the first two stories, but I was surprised by the number of new characters in this one. Personally, my favorites were Ken and Barbie. They even moved with the stiff-legged walk you’d expect.
On another note, I also want to give extra credit to Blake Clark as the voice of Slinky Dog too. As if it’s not tough enough to take over a role in such a big film, but to take over for the distinctive voice of the late Jim Varney is impressive.
I have to admit that during the movie there were a couple of times I caught myself getting a bit self-conscious about how much I was enjoying a kid movie. But one look around seeing Heaven and Caleb enjoying themselves so much reassured me I wasn’t alone. It certainly didn’t hurt hearing the other adults around me chuckling and sniffling either.
When the movie ended and we finally got back together with Billie and the girls, the first words out of Meagan’s mouth were “That was AWESOME!”
I couldn’t have said it better myself.
|The Official Verdict|
|Jayme (age: 4)
|Meagan (age: 11)
|Heaven (age: 20)
|Caleb (age: 4)
I think it’s safe to predict that I’ll probably be seeing this a few more times over the next few weeks.
Tip: The first time you see subtitles, brace yourself. The best part of the movie has arrived.
- I Had a Weird Urge to Write Tonight...
...but I guess I'm over it now.
- They Don’t Make Greeting Cards Like They Used To
I don't understand why finding an appropriate greeting card has become so difficult over the years.
I used to take pride in diligently searching through endless racks of greeting cards for the perfect message for each and every occasion. Unfortunately, it's increasingly difficult to find that magic card that expressed exactly what I wanted to say. I don't understand it...
Take Mother's Day for example. The past 18 months has been particularly challenging for me, and my mom and my sisters have really stepped up for me. So this year I wanted to find cards to properly expressed what I wanted to say to them. After all, how hard could that be?
Certainly there are Mother's Day cards out there specifically for sisters, but they are few and far between. Likewise, the messages are just a bit too generic and syrupy. I wanted to address each sister specifically.
For instance, take my oldest sister... I admire her tenacity and her single-mindedness for her family. She knows what she wants, and she lets nothing stand in the way of getting there. I used to criticize her for being a control-freak, for bitching too much, or for just being too hard on her kids. I was wrong. The fact is that I admire how she's focused her determination into raising her kids and nourishing her family. As it turns out, she’s given her kids a strong foundation to stand strongly on their own two feet throughout life.
Then there's my baby sister. My little buddy was always the loving, selfless child. Not surprisingly, she has grown into a loving, selfless mom. For her, nothing takes priority over her children. And although she's raising her daughters on her own, she's never complained, or let it deter her from bringing up the happiest and most selfless children you could imagine. They are so full of love and happiness that it affects all those around them.
Then there's the one responsible for both my sisters and I: Our mom.
Although she's experienced her share of ups and downs in life, she's always been there for us. She raised us to be loyal, generous, and to do the best we can. She continues to think of everyone else before thinking of herself. She’s the core of the strength of our family, and I thank her for that. I see her in all of us.
Two distinctly different sisters, and a loving mother. I love each of you, and thank you for being there for all of us.
Happy Mother’s Day.
Am I expecting too much to find cards that can say that?
- Movie Review: August Rush
Yeah, I know. I've been away quite a while. Sorry. I'll explain that more at some point soon, but for now I'm looking to get back in the habit of blogging, and truth is I've been back to the movies again lately. Look for more opinions to follow.
I went to see August Rush with my little sister Billie, and niece Rikki Friday night. I haven't had the chance to get out with my little buddy (Billie) in quite some time, and it was even more special with Rikki along. It was nice of Nonie to offer to watch Beej's girls so she could get out with us.
We went to a 7:00 pm showing that was packed even for a Friday. We had to sit way up front. Bummer, but I was more interested in seeing the film.
Rikki and Billie liked it more than I did. Rikki liked almost everything about it. I was a bit disappointed. There was a happy ending. The performances were great. It made me smile. It brought tears to my eyes. That was the good news.
I thought the story was a bit flawed in its presentation. Too many characters, an inconsistent pace, and more story than time allowed. It all combined to leave me feeling frustrated with the movie overall. I'm not saying it was a bad movie, but it's not good when a movie leaves you with more questions then answers.
Freddie Highmore was really good as August Rush, and Robin Williams was also good in a very surprising role. I was also surprised that Terrence Howard's role got so little time. Looking back, I think most of his screen time was exposed in the trailer for the film.
Don't get me wrong... I don't regret seeing it, and I *do* recommend seeing it, especially to those craving a sentimental movie. But I doubt it'll live long in anyone's memory. Too bad.
- Hello... Life to Rick...
Some of you have been wondering why I've been absent for a while. My apologies. I've been occupied by some issues beyond my control
Near the end of last month I was both distracted and occupied with some urgent health matters that materialized suddenly. Over the past few weeks things have settled down and
- Movie Review: The Holiday
After we'd enjoyed seeing We Are Marshall together, my mom and Rikki invited me to see The Holiday just a couple days later. Being a guy, I gotta admit that my first impulse was 'chick flick', but the chance to hang out with mom and Rikki again was more than enough to get me to go. And frankly, I'm glad I did.
One nice little benefit occurred right after we'd arrived... while walking down the corridor to the theater, Rikki and mom were walking ahead of me talking when it dawned on my that there were three generations of the family enjoying a movie together. Technically it may not be a big deal for some of you, but for me it was. Quality time with family is always good, but better when it's not predicated by traditional family times (birthdays, holidays, etc.).
Almost right from the start, I could see Rikki and my mom were enjoying the film. Lots of commentary between them. I was enjoying it as well, but it was clearly for different reasons.
Although we were all getting into the story, they were enamored with other things. Things like the British scenery, how homes were decorated, etc. I on the other hand noticed things like the appearance of several older, formerly big name movie stars in smaller, or supporting roles.
BTW - While still a spry 89, Eli Wallach was great in an all too rare appearance.
I gotta say, I loved the story of the movie. It kinda caught me off-guard. Kate Winslet's character's problem was a common one; loving someone that didn't return that love. Now I'm not here to confess anything, but let's just say I could relate well to the story. I'm not gonna give away anything about the plot here, but I will say that the movie was both very pleasant, and well-written. My mom and Rikki loved it, and although I didn't rank it quite as highly, I did throughly enjoy myself. Especially compelling to me was a moment when Kate Winslet's character explains to Jack Black why he too loves someone that doesn't return his love. That speech hit a bit too close to home for my tastes.
So really it all comes down to just a few things. A really good movie. A well written story that avoids predictability, yet leaves everyone happy by the end. And, as far a chick flicks go, not too bad for the guys. I really liked it.
The opinions were...
The only reason I didn't rate it was high as my mom and niece, was that I never really forgot I was watching a movie. That's a big thing for me. The story however nearly made up for it. The gals on the other hand loved everything about the film. In fact, it was Rikki's second time seeing it...
- What Happened Behind the Scenes
For those of you that have asked, here's what's different behind the curtain on the new site...
I decided to distract myself with geek work on the personal site back during the first weekend of the NFL (a full three months into my blogging hiatus). I'd been using .Text to power the site since it's launch in summer 2004, but since watching it's evolution to Community Server, I decided now was the perfect time to migrate. Although it was somewhat tedious, I was really pleased with the outcome. Community Server 2.1 is a huge leap ahead in terms of usability (I love the interface for using tags!). Unfortunately, the migration process really only addresses the site content, not its presentation. The skin I used on the old site was simply no longer of use one the new CS-based site.
Since I was having fun so far, I immediately began working on tailoring a site skin to give the site a more unique identity in not only the CS blog community, but the vast world of blogs in general. Unfortunately, the scope of both learning CS 2.1 skiining, and developing a complete new CS skin (for both blogs and photos) in a single weekend, was not really feasible for me at that point. The majority of the look was established, but the blog skin needed further work for comments especially. Likewise the photo grallery skin hadn't even been touched. As much as I'd intended to get back to it quickly, eventually the demands of work and home took me elsewhere.
After Christmas 2006 however, I realized I needed to begin posting again ASAP. It was more important to have the outlet, than to wait until I was 100% satisfied with it's look. The only real additional stuff added since the initial CS work in the fall, was to migrate the webcam and screencam sections. Fairly minor in that they are really independent of CS, and primarily CSS-based. Therefore, making the new site live was a matter of a couple hours. Much less if I'd have left the cams alone.
What you're looking at now is the result of that effort.
I appreciate the complements and questions, but, you'll likely be stuck with the unfinished commenting, and lack of a consistent photo gallery identity until things slow down with work. Sorry.
Oh, and for the couple of others that have asked... No, the skin isn't for sale. Not because I'm ethically against doing work for people, even charging them money. But rather, if I'm going to release work to the public, I'd prefer that it be of the quality I'd expect from ohers. And trust me. It's not.
Unfortunately, that's gonna be a while folks...
- 5 Things You Didn't Know About Me
OK, I guess it's my turn to play. Randall Newton of AECnews chose to tag me from his personal blog for the "5 Things You Didn't Know About Me" meme, so here goes...
- Although I've always lived in the Pacific Northwest and love the four season climate, I'm not a big fan of snow. A few weeks of it around Christmas is more than enough for me. Any more than that is overrated as far as I'm concerned.
- I used to be a volunteer bugler for veteran's funerals.
- When I was about 10 or 11 years old, the local art museum had an exhibit of Frank Lloyd Wright's renderings for the summer. Two or three times a week I made the long round-trip walk from home, just to stand and stare at his work. At that point, my plans to be either a truck driver or cartoonist went out the window in favor of becoming an architect.
- From college on, I wanted nothing to do with computers at all. I hated them. Punch cards convinced me that computers were worthless compared to creative people. Then while working as a mechanical designer in my twenties, they brought in a computer running AutoCAD, and told us we'd need to start time-sharing it because that was going to be our future. At first I simply avoided it. I gave my time to everyone else, and I just kept my trusted manual processes that had always worked so well for me. A few months into it, they told me if I didn’t change, my job would be at risk. I didn't take it well, and I decided I'd prove them wrong. Let's just say that not only didn't my plan work as intended. It actually had the opposite effect. It convinced me that not only was *I* wrong, but that I needed to be less resistant to change in my life -- a fact that has been reconfirmed over and over again. Later when I was teaching AutoCAD, I'd often tell the long version of this story. It was especially valuable with older students with a chip on their shoulder about CAD.
- My first work computer was an HP 150. An XT-class monochrome system with a touch screen. The first computer I bought for home was a 286 10mhz with 2MB of RAM and XVGA graphics. That along with a license for AutoCAD R9 from my local AutoCAD dealer ran me $9,000 in 1989.
Now a quick one for extra cedit...
- Despite the social climate of the late 60s and early 70s, I wore a crew cut until Junior High School. My dad wasn't a fan of long-haired hippies. Despite wearing the right nehru jacket and Beatle boots, the crew cut never let me pull off the look. To this day I still only get two haircuts a year at most. Come to think of it, I'm actually overdue now.
Now, to pass the torch... I'm tagging David Cohn, Robin Capper, and Matt Softich. David is a friend and colleague in the industry, Robin is a someone I respect but haven't been fortunate enough to meet in the industry, and Matt is a long-time friend completely outside the industry.
- Movie Review: We Are Marshall
New Years day was a pleasant change-of-pace for me. I called my mom because over Christmas she'd mentioned how much she wanted to see We Are Marshall, but Bill wasn't feeling up to going. I needed a break from work that day, so I called her that afternoon to see if she still wanted to go. Not only did she want to go, but she wanted to see the early show. Therefore, we only had about 20 minutes to get there. Right as we got to the theatre, my niece Rikki called and expressed interest as well. My sister Debbie and her husband Harold went a few days before and raved about it. We told Rikki to just get in the car and head right over.
A nice bonus indeed.
Rikki lives close by and was there before I'd finished buying concessions. We went in only a few minutes late.
I was attracted to this movie because I remember the coverage of the event as a kid. I was only 10 when it happened, but I remember being struck by the reality that no one is above the dangers of real life. Plane crashes weren't reserved solely for the anonymous masses of real people. Even a college football team was susceptible. Heck that struck me harder than if it had been A-List celebrities that had lost their lives.
If you wanted to go to this movie expecting to see a sports movie, you'll be disappointed. If you wanted to see a well-written story that's not overpowered by the actors, you'll enjoy We Are Marshall. My mom cried. Rikki cried. And surprise... I cried. In fact, I cried a lot. Thank goodness Rikki had the sense to bring along her own supply of tissues.
I judge movies based on how well I get immersed in the story, and how much I can escape into an alternate reality. I'm looking for a 2-hour escape, not just a way to kill time. That's why I still like the big screen. Even DVDs and HDTV don't immerse me as much as the big screen can.
We Are Marshall accomplished that for me. Matthew McConaughey was very good, but Matthew Fox was great as the only surviving assistant coach, overflowing with guilt. David Strathairn was good as the school president. And also of note was Anthony Mackie as Nate Ruffin, one of the few players not on the ill-fated flight.
I asked Rikki and my mom for their opinions for the movie, and evidently I wasn't alone my praise. So, for the record, on a five-star scale, the opinions were...
A great movie, with great company. Now really, what more can you ask for?
BTW - If you're interested in more of the back story that inspired the movie, check out the great site by Huntington, West Virginia's Herald-Dispatch newspaper.
- My New Egg-A-Muffin Machine
The Egg & Muffin Toaster
From Back to Basics
My baby sister got me a great Christmas gift this year. An Egg & Muffin toaster!
I've been a big egg-a-muffin fan ever since McDonald's began offering them years ago (BTW Heaven used to call them egg-a-muffins when she was little). I still use the name. Although I'm not what you'd call a "morning" person, I typically take advantage of any rare morning opportunity I can for an egg-a-muffin.
Once I saw my first Egg & Muffin Toaster commercial, I've been considering buying one. That said however, I've always been a bit skeptical. After all, it's rare to find a device that really works as well as advertised. Right? Is it really as *easy* as they make it look on TV? Until now, my skepticism outweighed my impulsiveness.
Then came Christmas.
I got the toaster when the family exchanged gifts on Christmas Eve at my mom's house. I'd actually been looking at one just a few nights earlier when I was in BestBuy. I was looking forward to trying it out.
I won't go into the details of why it actually took three days for me to try it for the first time. Instead, I'll just document the event.
Thursday morning, I headed down to the kitchen for my new adventure...
Surprisingly enough, I began by unpacking the toaster. And I gotta admit, I was pleasantly surprised at how simple it was mechanically. Not a lot of parts, and just a few simple controls. I spent a minute or two perusing the manual and examining the parts and their names. By then, I was ready to go.
I then got out the necessary ingredients. I started my pulling out some frozen sausage patties and put them into the microwave to defrost for a few minutes. I decided I'd use 2 patties since they were slightly thin, and not a large in diameter as my english muffins.
The Egg & Muffin Toaster, and the ingrediants
I figured by the time they were done, I'd be almost ready to go.
Step 1: in process...
Next I put water in the heating tray. The marking on the provided measuring cup were a bit hard to read, but not a big deal. I then covered the heating tray with the steamer tray.
Step 2: done.
Egg preparation caused a little hesitation however. I realized I didn't have the recommended non-stick cooking spray. Oh well. I guess I'd just have to make due with a manually applied butter coating for the poaching tray. No biggie.
Step 3: done.
Not being a cooking aficionado (like everyone else in the family), I had been wondering how easy it'd be to crack an egg into such a small and shallow egg tray. But, as it turns out, it wasn't difficult at all. Then I just went ahead and broke the yolk and spread it out a bit. I then set the egg-filler poaching try in it's spot on the steamer tray
Step 4: done.
The egg preparation and setup to cook
The next task was the simplest: split an english muffin and load it in the toaster.
Step 5: done.
At this point, I was ready to load the sausage onto its heating tray and load it into position above the egg. I was just 2 min 30 sec into defrosting the sausage patties, but I popped 'em out to check and they were already defrosted enough. So I loaded them onto the warming tray, and put it in place above the poaching tray. At that point I went ahead and put on the clear lid as well.
Step 1: done.
Step 6: done.
Egg & Muffin Toaster
with all ingrediants loaded
All the was left was to set the controls. I Set the toaster control to about the 3/4 setting (I like my muffins on the dark side), and pushed the egg&toast button.
Step 7: done.
At this point it seemed like I was good to go. Being the overly cautious type that I am, I quickly walked through the process again mentally. Following the necessary confirmations, all systems were 'go'.
I pushed down the toaster lever and my Egg & Muffin toaster lit up.
Speaking officially: Just over 3.5 minutes after getting out the ingredients, we were under way.
The clear lid began showing condensed moisture inside almost right away. It continued to steadily accumulate during the cooking process.
Condensed Steam during cooking
I wasn't sure how long it would take, so I migrated to the living room to find something to watch once I sat down to eat. After a bit of channel surfing, I heard the toaster pop up.
Step 8: done.
I went back to the kitchen and took the nicely toasted muffin halves out and put them on my paper plate. I then took off the lid, and lifted out the warming tray holding my 2 warm and juicy sausage patties. I set it on the counter.
I then took out the poaching tray and was pleasantly surprised to find not just a perfectly form poached egg, but also a few drippings from the sausage patties that had been just above the egg. Nice bonus!
The egg came out easily, and I placed it on the muffin. I then picked up the sausage patties and put them in place on top of the egg. Things were coming together quite nicely.
Lastly, I unwrapped a fresh slice of cheese and placed it on top of the sausage. I then finished it off by topping it with the other half of the muffin.
The egg with sausage drippings, and a
partially assembled egg-a-muffin
Egg-a-muffin Assembly complete.
Step 9: done.
I did a surprisingly quick cleanup before filling the requisite glass of milk, and stepping back to the living room to see if it tasted as good as it looked.
The final product
The best part is that now I get Egg-a-muffins exactly the way I want them. Highly toasted, extra sausage and melted cheese. No more egg-a-muffins that have been sitting under a heat lamp for an indefinite period of time. No more soggy muffins. No more poorly assembled sandwiches. And best of all, no more rushing to get your egg-a-muffin before 10:30am.
Actually, that's the best part. Egg-a-muffins are now on the menu for any meal of the day!
Now really, how great is that!?
Since I made my first sandwich, I've done several more. I'm experimenting with alternate breads amd meats; And I expect to also try alternates cheeses, and lots of other combinations as well. This will be fun.
The Egg & Muffin Toaster from Back to Basics. Easy to use. Easy to clean. And it does what it's supposed to do really well.
I love my egg-a-muffin machine!
- Yeah, I'm Finally Back
Yes, That's right. It really is a new entry on my site.
I've been away from my blog for a long time now. Beginning In early June, several things happened that led me to eventually take some severe turns in my life. Things have been hectic, satisfying, difficult, challenging, reassuring, and everything in between.
Now six months later, things are settling in a bit, and I'm looking forward to writing some more.
Check back again soon. Maybe I'll fill in some of the blanks...
- I May Have Found a New Hobby
I took a break from working today. After watching another dramatic Indy 500, I ended up at my computer while I watched a variety of other sporting events this afternoon. Eventually I found myself exploring some old bookmarked web pages I'd been meaning to explore further. If you remember, I was recently inspired to pursue my creative side a bit more. Well, one of those bookmarked pages led me to some interesting digital graphic techniques, which only served to get my juices flowing even stronger. One thing led to another and the next thing I knew, I was working on creating a comic-style piece to commemorate Meagan's birthday.
I spent a bunch of time exploring a variety of techniques before I found a look that I liked and would be fairly repeatable. I don't claim these are up to professional standards by any means, but it's turning out far better than I'd expected. Here's a sample...
(click to enlarge)
I think I could really get in to this kinda stuff... :)
- Meagan Turns Seven
Meagan had her seventh birthday party today. We celebrated with a lunch at Ron's, followed by cake and presents at Nonie's. Although Ryan and Papa couldn't be there, everyone else was. She loves having the family together.
Check out the new photo gallery capturing the excitement.