Glass blowing in Savannah

This week, we went to a glass blowing workshop in Savannah. We’d been glass blowing a couple of times while we lived in the Dallas area. When our neighbor saw what we made they were interested, so I set it up.

We went to Hostess City Hot Glass, and found it to be an outstanding opportunity to practice working with glass. This was a hands-on, well explained and friendly environment, small but laid out effectively. All the actions taken in making our glass objects were explained and practiced, before you had to perform the tasks required. This gave us confidence, as well as understanding.

It was definitely not like some glass workshops, where you perform just a few tasks in the process and watch the rest. We were involved throughout and they were willing to take their time, give advice and background on what we were doing and why.  Our group made glass ornaments and paperweights — basic but just what we were expecting. All of them turned out great.

You get to choose the colors that will be blended to make your object, then you blend the colors into the molten glass

fire and roll the glass,

shape it and eventually blow it to shape.

Michelle shaping the glass before blowing

All under the direction and in some cases direct involvement of the glass artist. We were a group of 4 and had a great time. I’d definitely recommend this to anyone interested in the art of glass blowing.

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Joggling board

Since I’ve been doing more woodworking lately and there is one piece of furniture that is unique to South Carolina — I thought I’d make one.

It’s a Joggling board. As you can see it rocks from side to side. 

I’d seen them around at some of the historical sites, so I thought I’d made one for our front porch for my wife’s Christmas. Mine (6 feet long) is not as large as an official board, since those are 10-16 feet long. My porch just couldn’t pull a real one off.

It is also not painted the ‘official’ Charleston Green (which is really closer to black than green). I added some large cup holders on the end — after all it is the 21st century.

There are a variety of stories about its origin, such as:

Also from a flexibility perspective, if I put some chocks under it, it could also be used as an outdoor buffet. 

Installing an AT&T Microcell

Ever since I moved, the wireless coverage in my home has been abysmal. It may be the tech shield or just the signal strength down here in South Carolina, but whatever it was I finally couldn’t tolerate it anymore.  As I told my kids growing up, if you are going to complain about it — you might as well do something about it. I was missing more calls than I was getting!

I decided to install an AT&T Microcell. These are essentially a small cellphone tower for my home. I got the old 3G model:

AT&T Microcell from CISCO

Since my cell is usually connected to WiFi when I am at home a 3G connection should be good enough. Also they were not that expensive on Ebay.

Once I got it plugged into power (runs on 12 volts) and connected to the Internet through a  10-base-T cable. It just sat there flashing away, since it needed to be activated. I read through the manual — horror!! That’s the manual for the version I have but the new version manual has a bit better information.

The person who sold it to me didn’t deactivate it (you can deactivate it from the Manage Settings area of the Microcell page), so it took about an hour on the phone with AT&T to get the device started through the activation process. They handled the situations very effectively I thought. Since I’ve done some technical support in my life, I was pretty tollerant.

The Microcell has a built in GPS receiver, so it needs to be close enough to a window… to receive the satellite signal. It will not go through the activation process until it is satisfied it knows where it is — this process can take up to 90 minutes. Yes, it happens every time the device powers up (thought it didn’t seem to take as long the second time). Once the activation completed, AT&T sent me an email, a SMS message and even called me back later in the day.

Well now I have 5 bars throughout my entire house. I am very pleased so far.

Access to the Microcell is limited to cellphones you allow to connect — naturally they also need to be an AT&T number. 

World of Warships: Aircraft Carrier Beta

World of Warships (#WoW) has been around for 3 years now and provides an exciting, multi-player warship simulation environment. I’ve been playing it with my son since it was launched (he lives a few states away). Recently, they’ve been making some significant changes to the way aircraft carriers will work. In the past, they were more of a strategic element to the game, allowing you to send groups of planes out on missions to gather intelligence or attack shipping. Some people liked this model, but most did not based on the number of people who were carrier drivers above level 6 or so.

The new beta is focused on making the player experience more interactive and less of a real-time strategy experience. My opinion is that they definitely have done that. You can no longer send multiple flights out at the same time, but must fly the lead plane, while positioning your ship for effect.

WoW Beta.gifYou have multiple types of planes you can fly (bomber, torpedo, missile) but you only have one flight in the air at a time (at least during the beta). Having said that, it still makes for a fairly exciting experience. In the GIF above, I have a flight of dive bombers that are a attacking a battleship and then a cruiser.

I am sure there will be some people who hate the new version, but once I got used to the concept of no longer being able to think all that strategically about driving the carrier, it’s quite exciting.

Thanksgiving 2018

It’s good every once in a while to think about being thankful for what we have and the possibilities of what we can do. That is at least part of the foundation for our Thanksgiving holiday.

This year has been a heck of a year. We’ve moved to South Carolina and I think I’ve come to grips with being retired. I am surrounded by a great community and learning new things all the time as well as continuing to pursue areas where I’ve had interests. That is the new meaning of the ‘Beyond’ in the title of this blog.

Our children will be here later today or early tomorrow and having them all together hasn’t happened in too long. Hopefully, they will feel the same way after the holiday.

Happy Holidays to everyone (and especially to those who read this).

Gait recognition… this made me laugh and reflect

I came across this article the other day titled: Chinese authorities use gait analysis to identify citizens on CCTVThe topic made me nostalgic, since I’d been part of some brainstorming on a very similar topic over a decade ago with some of the EDS (soon to be HP) Fellows.

We were imagining the possible uses of vibration analysis and signal processing. One of the areas discussed was gait recognition. Other ideas were monitoring patient health or even environment control, those turned into patent applications while I was at HP labs.

Seeing the article made me reflect on the great team I was part of at EDS and then HP, as well as the various truly innovative ideas we came up with and discussed with customers.

An article on the negative side of gamification

Back when I worked in HP labs, one of the areas I focused some attention to was gamification. In a recent article in Fast Company they looked into the dark side of gamifying workAnother interesting article was in the January 2012 issue of Wired titled The Curse of Cow Clicker.

For me, the simple definition of gamification is “Metrics-based behavior modification” or using game mechanics to influence real-world behavior. Some view this as a way to improve the worker experience for business functions, while others view it less positively as “exploitware”. We see it all around us in healthcare, retail and new areas all the time.

You may wonder “Can sitting on a help desk and answering calls from consumers be turned into a competitive game that improves the experience for everyone?” — it turns out it can. Many activities can be tracked, rewarded and tuned to the needs of the day. People respond when you give “points” for things like “resetting passwords”, “resolving install problems”… as long as the points mean something to the individuals doing the tasks.

Human behavior can be manipulated by just pulling on a few of the right strings. This is one way companies can tap into the streams of data and the inherent human intellect in their business to drive value. Businesses just need to listen and invest in understanding what drives those they want to influence and define systems to meet that unspoken need. One key though is to not make it so blatant that those involve feel manipulated.