Well, crud.

For the second time in my career, a RIF fell on me.

As of April 26, I am no longer employed by Anthem. I have some payments coming from them (“supplemental unemployment benefit”, not technically “severance”; the difference is complex and frustrating), and some savings, so I don’t have to panic-jump at the first job I see, so I am settling in for a marathon.

The last time this happened, in 2002, I did get a lump-sump severance, and used it to smooth over the bumps in a couple of years of independent consulting.

That’s less likely, this time. The landscape is different; the demand is much lower for the skills I built that practice on.

So I am taking it a little slower, looking at options, polishing some skills, using the resources, and trusting that the Lord has a plan for me at this time.

Hobbiest

“Hobbiest” makes me quiver every time I see it, like it is more than a simple spelling error, more than a stand-alone, single-word error.

First, it shows an ignorance of the “-ist” suffix, meaning a person who does something, such as “hobbyist”, “pianist”, “artist”.

Second, ignorance of the “-est” suffix, as a superlative, such as “greatest”, “meanest”, or “dumbest.”

Third, pronunciation ignorance.  The short “e” and short “i” are distinct sounds, as in “mist” and “nest.”

Fourth, misapplication of the y-to-i rule that turns “knobby” to “knobbier” and “knobbiest”, “funny” to “funnier” and “funniest.”

And fifth, “hobbyist” is a slightly unsual word; it should stick in your head.  Especially if you are a hobbyist, and you are thinking about, reading about, and writing about (in the blog comment that is boiling my blood) the state of being a hobbyist, or the strengths, weaknesses, and practices of the hobbyist.

Pacific Rockets

Bear with me while I dredge up some old memories.

When I was studying Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at the University of Colorado in Boulder, I used to hang out in two different libraries. First, the main library (Norlin), up on the 3rd floor, in the back, where I found “many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore.”

Second, I spent time in the Engineering library, in the basement of the Engineering building. (I gather from the CU web site that it has moved, now.)

One thing I have always loved about libraries is their used book and magazine sales. You know, stuff that they were going to throw out, but decide to see if they can get some “enthusiast” to pay a few nickels or a couple of bucks for. Quite often, I am one of those enthusiasts. Over the years, I have picked up any number of musty old tomes, as well as stacks of magazines that interested me.

And, now, to the topic at hand. One time, I picked up four issues of a little staple-bound journal called “Pacific Rockets: Journal of the Pacific Rocket Society, Inc.”

I mean, how could I pass those up, at four bits each?

I have the following issues:

  • June 1946 (This may be the first issue.)
  • Summer 1947, Vol 2, No 1
  • Winter, 1948-49, Vol 3, No 3
  • Spring 1949, Vol 3, No 4

Some of the topics in these slim 8-1/2 x 6 inch volumes include spacecraft design, nuclear propulsion systems, range safety protocols, experiments with both plastic and wood as propellant, and an article by Arthur C. Clarke.

This last is apparently the first installment of a transcription of an address that Dr. Clarke delivered to the British Interplanetary Society in 1946.

The whole thing makes me feel like I missed the most exciting decades of the 20th Century by being born too late.

A bit of searching produces a reference to http://www.translunar.org/prs, which page does not inspire confidence, and appears to be untouched in this century. Trans Lunar Research, the organization appearing at http://www.translunar.org/ appears to be nearly as static as its child page.

A little searching on one of the names mentioned in the June 1946 issue led me to Edmund Vail Sawyer and Crescent Engineering, and the next thing I know I am deep in the Smithsonian Institution’s online card catalog.

And that is as far as I am willing to chase this topic right now.

You Have Heard It All Before, and What’s Happening Now

You Have Heard It All Before

Like many of us, I have fiddled with a blog off and on for many moons, now, and this is the latest reboot.

What’s Happening Now

The most interesting thing going on right now is waiting for shipment of my ShapeOko kit from Inventables.  The current expected shipping date is August 9.

What is a ShapeOko?  It’s an open-source, community-supported desktop CNC router.

There are a number of small CNC systems available right now, and even many open-source/community-based systems.  What makes this one special?

I could natter on about the excitement of watching the ShapeOko forum discussions, the friendliness of the community, the ease of modification, the quick technical advice and support from the forum and the primary developer of the machine (Edward R. Ford) … but a lot of that might not be very different from other, similar machines.

Let’s just say that this one seemed to catch my fancy in a way that the others didn’t.

-Tommy