Conservative Liberal

FDR would have been a Republican today.

Something I can relate to

As long as we are on the subject of engineering, here is another article from the same professional magazine called It’s a short article, so I will just post it all here:

Why I Became an Engineer

Why did you become an engineer?


–>Some years ago my son was tasked with a high school assignment to build a circuit to re-encode a bank of switches. The teacher expected a simple diode-based design, but I suggested tossing an embedded computer in, so if the problem changed the solution would be trivial.

Also, of course, the thought of tweaking the instructor was appealing. When Graham got the thing working, the flash of excitement in his eye was a tremendous reward. He built the project, he wrote a little code. And it worked.

That’s exactly why I became an engineer.

Engineering is the art of solving problems. "In order to make a machine that does X, I have to figure out how to design some hardware and firmware that does Y." Puzzling out these solutions is both an intellectual challenge and a game. Am I smart enough to do this? What will I have to invent?

Problem solving is its own reward. But it’s not enough, for me at least. I want to make something that works. Not push paper, not write proposals, not document someone else’s creation, though all of those tasks are an inescapable and wearisome part of this profession.

But I want the thrill of seeing the motor turn, the LEDs blink, or a message marqueeing across the display. No doubt that "I made that work" satisfaction is rooted somewhere in the same brain center that rewards gamblers and addicts.

A lot of developers work on large projects that take years of effort. More power to them, but I could never do that. I want to see something work, relatively soon. Invent solutions, see them implemented, and move on to the next project. You can have those big government projects that consume entire careers; the thought of being caught in that mill horrifies me. Thankfully others are more patient and will see these efforts through.

I sort of fell into the embedded space as it didn’t exist in the late 60s when I was in high school. An obsessive interest in electronics morphed into ham radio, but the important thing to me was always building something. First, learn the material, absolutely. But do start with just an infancy of knowledge and build a small project to get feedback, for fun, and to get a visceral learning that does not come from books.

Later I learned about programming (rather, became consumed with it), and when the first microprocessors came out was accidentally and fortuitously positioned with the right skills and interests.

To me, embedded is the best of all engineering fields. One person can design circuits. Write code. Often figure out the science, or at least its application. And then make something that works.

In the olden days some companies didn’t let engineers work on the hardware. Technicians soldered, scoped and instrumented under the direction of an engineer. Screw that – half the fun is working with the hardware!

The irony now is that hardware can be so hard to manipulate – I have a sub-inch-square chip on my desk with 1500 balls on it – that the required special equipment becomes a barrier to that intimate physical manipulation of a circuit that can be so satisfying. If that sounds like some sort of foreplay, well, perhaps there is a connection between those two parts of the brain, too.

What about you? Why did you become an engineer?

I am an engineer. And I love what I do. My Dad was an Electronics Engineer, and I saw first hand how much fun it was, while growing up. So, I followed in his footsteps and became an Electronics Engineer myself. You come up with an idea, you design something, implement it, and then it works! Problem solving is, indeed, its own reward. And then your stuff works! I just can’t describe this feeling. I guess, only a fellow engineer can understand why I get excited over some waveform on the screen of an oscilloscope. So, I have fun all day playing with things and get paid for it! What can be better?

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February 11, 2008 Posted by | Engineering | 7 Comments

H1B visas

This article is not from a political publication, but from an engineering one:

Like tossing a lit cigarette out the window onto a bit of dry California brush, some subjects are consistently inflammatory for engineers. If career issues always spark excited commentary, discussion about H-1B visas are like pouring gasoline on a wildfire.

The ACM and IEEE claim that enrollments in CS and EE curricula are falling precipitously. Yet readers respond that those organizations are fronts for industry; that cries of looming shortages are the tools of fat-cat employers to flood the market with cheap imported labor and drive salaries down. Is that paranoia, or does it show a firm grasp of market dynamics?

Others respond that any idiot can see there’s no shortage. "Just look at all of the unemployed engineers I know!" Unemployed friends and relatives make for powerful personal imagery, but just as a single cold or hot day says nothing meaningful about the global warming shoutfest, local and personal anecdotes are tragic but not statistically-significant. The IEEE says there’s practically full employment, but those who think they’re a shill for industry won’t believe them.

For the record, I personally think that all the H1B visas should be replaced with Green Cards, along with requirements to become American Citizens. But this is an interesting article, so do read it.

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February 11, 2008 Posted by | Engineering | 1 Comment

Someone, who knew Hillary…

…back in 1974, wrote this unflattering article about her:

I have just seen Hillary Clinton and her former Yale law professor both in tears at a campaign rally here in my home state of Connecticut. Her tearful professor said how proud he was that his former student was likely to become our next President.  Hillary responded in tears.

Hillary Clinton crying

My own reaction was of regret that, when I terminated her employment on the Nixon impeachment staff, I had not reported her unethical practices to the appropriate bar associations.

Hillary as I knew her in 1974

At the time of Watergate I had overall supervisory authority over the House Judiciary Committee’s Impeachment Inquiry staff that included Hillary Rodham-who was later to become First Lady in the Clinton White House.


After hiring Hillary, Doar assigned her to confer with me regarding rules of procedure for the impeachment inquiry. At my first meeting with her I told her that Judiciary Committee Chairman Peter Rodino, House Speaker Carl Albert, Majority Leader Tip O’Neill, Parliamentarian Lou Deschler and I had previously all agreed that we should rely only on the then existing House Rules, and not advocate any changes. I also quoted Tip O’Neill’s statement that: "To try to change the rules now would be politically divisive. It would be like trying to change the traditional rules of baseball before a World Series." 

Hillary assured me that she had not drafted, and would not advocate, any such rules changes. However, as documented in my personal diary, I soon learned that she had lied (emphasis mine – Eric-Odessit). She had already drafted changes, and continued to advocate  them. In one written legal memorandum, she advocated denying President Nixon representation by counsel. In so doing she simply ignored the fact that in the committee’s then-most-recent prior impeachment proceeding, the committee had afforded the right to counsel to Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas.

Read it all.  But she is still better than Obama, in case she does become President.

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February 11, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment