Tag Archives: engineering

To Correct and Preserve

I'm an Engineer

Ahm also illitaret.

Being a member of the Grammar Police is not a pleasant thing at times. It can often be a curse, as it makes reading for pleasure  distracting and, sometimes, painful. I’m finding it also makes it difficult to write for this blog regularly because I’m too freaking anal about mistakes and how I say things. I’m seriously working on not caring . . . well, not NOT caring but not being paralyzed by caring . . . if you get my drift.

When I was working for Rocketdyne I wrote a blog post in response to the reality that many people who had a lot to share with their colleagues didn’t step up to the plate precisely because they were afraid doing so would expose them to ridicule or, at the very least, make them look less competent than they actually were. The fear was somewhat real because Engineers are notoriously lacking in overall English and grammar skills, as evidenced by the numerous t-shirts and coffee mugs available with the slogan you see here. However, my experience is blogging doesn’t require the same kind of attention to detail designing an auto, a microwave, or a rocket engine does. Unless, of course, you hold yourself out as a member of the Grammar Police.

Therein lies the rub. I do hold myself out as such and, in fact, am herein sharing a new business card I created to advertise and promote my services. The first iteration of it brought me a small amount of embarrassment because I used “ghost writing” instead of “ghostwriting”, the latter of which is correct. Careful research seems to show it’s correct to use either “Ghostwriter” or “Ghost Writer“, but “ghostwriting” is the only correct usage.  A friend of mine shared the graphic of my card and one of her friends immediately called me out on it. I thanked him profusely for his unwitting collaboration and immediately changed the spelling, after which another person suggested some design changes that made sense as well, so I once again edited the graphic.

I’m pleased with the results and want it known I do not hold myself out as beyond error or reproach. Most people are painfully aware their own writing generally contains errors they are virtually incapable of spotting because of their proximity to the subject of the text. I am no different, though I am pretty damn meticulous in reviewing nearly everything I write – including chat messages. Yes, I am a wee tad obsessive, but therein lies my strength.

I recently was required to read a novel; one which I will likely soon talk about at some length on these pages. In doing so, I asked the author if it was OK for me to make note of any errors I came across. I received the go-ahead and, although it had been read by quite a few others, I nevertheless came across a couple dozen small (but frequently distracting) mistakes. I even discovered a rather glaring error in continuity, which the author was glad to have me point out.

I am currently working with several authors and on several projects. I am looking for more business. If you or someone you know could use a little help polishing up their novel, blog post (one that requires a modicum of professionalism, that is), or even some simple promotional or marketing text, please consider running it by my discerning eye. I believe I can help more than you might imagine. BTW – Here’s the card I ended up designing and may even print out some day. If you spot an error somewhere, feel free to admonish me. I can take it.

Grammar Police Biz Card

One day the shield will read “To Correct and Preserve”


A Quick Quora Quest

The Coastline of Atlantis

How Long Was The Coast of Atlantis?

I had to test posting this here directly from Quora . . . because it’s there (here) and I could . . . and it worked!

OK, so I’m not a Software Engineer. Heck, I’m not even an Engineer, but I did sleep in a Holiday Inn a few times; plus, I worked with Rocket Scientist, Engineers, and Mechanics for over two decades, so I know a little bit about the animal. I also worked in Project Management, including some software development and IT architecture efforts.

This is a really good – and entertaining – analogy of the problem posed in the question. Make sure you read the comments as well, because there are some add-ons that extend the analogy to include other issues not raised directly by the author of the answer. There are 80 answers to the question, but read the top one; the one that got well over 3500 votes. Read the others as well if you want to. Far be it from me to tell you what to do. While you’re at it, if you haven’t been to or heard of Quora before, you might want to check it out.

Engineering Management: Why are software development task estimations regularly off by a factor of 2-3? 80 answers on Quora

Why are software development task estimations regularly off by a factor of 2-3?

Photo shamelessly stolen from Professor Tomasz Zastawniak


Are We Really Communicating All That Better?

In my over twenty years of experience at the large, very successful aerospace company where I labor, I have spent a great deal of time trying desperately to get the IT people to talk to the Engineering people. I haven’t, for the most part, been all that successful. Back in the day IT was truly an empire unto itself and it was pretty blind when it came to listening to the needs of the Engineering community. Furthermore, many of the systems that were used by various programs were dictated by the customers who were paying for our services and our products, basically NASA, the U.S. Air Force, and DOE.

This resulted in some very interesting problems with respect to systems, tools, and their use and subsequent development. What used to happen was Engineering would get an itch for a certain type of functionality but, since it hadn’t been contemplated in the original contract and since it might be some time before it could be renegotiated in order to get some money for developing the code required, Engineering would take it upon themselves to develop what they needed. You can imagine what happened many times. Though not an Engineer myself, I believe all Engineering students study one or more computer languages . .  . I’m fairly certain most of them  do.  Well, they would just get on the problem themselves, either writing code or – even worse – creating a tool in Excel.

So now we find ourselves in the interesting position of having something like a couple hundred tools, many quite useful, many overlapping in functionality. Many of them are unwieldy and kind of out-of-date, yet we don’t quite know how to get rid of them. This does seem to be changing somewhat as the tools of Enterprise 2.0 are gaining traction, i.e. blogs, wikis, user-generated content in general. Regardless, there are still numerous choices for how to deal with each of these as well. What wiki should we use? What about Open Source? (Anathema, btw, in my company – at least for now).

So the beat goes on. We keep adding tools, if at a slightly slower rate than previously (I think), and we seldom shed any. I suspect, as more and more content gets generated through the use of social media, and the ability to organize and make sense of it improves, we will eventually move away from many of the tools we’ve kind of grown up with. Data, too, will probably migrate toward a common format that can be accessed easily by anyone who wishes to and has authority to do so. It would be nice to see everyone on the same page, rather than pockets of people talking about the same thing in slightly different, and frequently incompatible, formats and locations.


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