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Things I learned in 2013

Sharon, one of my friends, jokingly (but with a sinister tone in her voice) calls me the List Maker. And it’s true. Somehow making lists and crossing out items makes me feel a bit more in control of my life where the only theme is constant change. On the first day of my Christmas vacation I made a list of everything that I needed to do around the house… stuff that is time-consuming and requires more than one rainy weekend to do (because we all know good weather weekends are for hiking). One of those items was painting the bathroom. Now I don’t know if you’ve ever attempted to do any painting on your own (or decorating as it’s referred to here) but there’s a lot of prep work that needs to be done such as filling in cracks and masking the woodwork. Doing prep work doesn’t require a lot of brain power so my brain was left to wander about the year that was and the year that was coming.

Learning from the school of life. Image courtesy of Microsoft Clipart. All rights reserved.

2013 was a year of learning for me. Some of the lessons helped me grow as a professional, some as an individual but most of them made me realize that even at my age I’m still work in progress.

My top 5 lessons learned:

Flying is magic which is why it’s safe to keep your electronics on when landing in the States but not so safe when landing in Europe
A couple of years ago I wrote a post about how electronic gadgets were the nemesis of avionics. We have all asked the same question. Why do we need to turn off our gadgets during take-off and landing but it’s ok to keep them on while we are flying? No one has really offered a plausible explanation unless you count the one offered by the poor flight attendant on a video clip titled “why can’t you use phones on planes”. The basic premise of the video is that the flight attendant asks people on the plane to put their stuff away in preparation for take-off. A passenger asks why and that starts a flood of questions by other passengers. The questions continue to poke more holes in the flight attendant’s answers until the she loses it and says that no one knows why and that flying is magic. Well, that explains it! I’ve always liked the magic theory but flying back to the UK in mid-December I learned that –

  • It’s safe to keep your electronic devices on at all times while flying and landing in the US; but
  • It’s not safe to keep your electronic devices on when landing in the UK.

Lesson learned – I’m pretty sure that Europe doesn’t subscribe to the “magic” theory … it’s just that their aviation rules haven’t quite synchronized with their American counterparts yet. But sometimes it takes far too long for rules and regulations to catch up with science.

Simple doesn’t mean dumb
No siree… in fact, sometimes, it’s even more elegant than the most complicated ideas. I’m referring to the Moser lamp which is a mini skylight conceived from a plastic bottle, bleach, water, resin and a lot of sunshine.  The Moser lamp has brought light into many homes for little or no cost. Lesson learned – not all good ideas need to be complicated – sometimes all you need is a bit of engineering know-how which is why when the zombie apocalypse happens, I want to hang out with the engineers 🙂

CFD can prove or disprove urban myths
There are a lot of viral videos making the rounds… some silly and some that make you go hmm. When it started getting cold here a rather interesting video went viral. The video proclaimed that you can heat a room with 4 tea-lights and two ordinary flower pots. Thanks to the ever increasing cost of heating a home in England, who wouldn’t want to know whether that’s true? After all, you can buy a handful of tea-lights for only a couple of pounds and everyone has got flower pots lurking in the shed. Thankfully one of my colleagues, Robin Bornoff, decided to look at this video with an engineer’s eye. And he wrote a series of great blog posts about heating your room for 8 pence a day (or 13 cents depending on the exchange rate). Considering that I live in a drafty old Victorian I was more than curious to see whether it was possible to do this. If you have come across the video too, then you should read Robin’s series by following this link.  Lesson learned – CFD isn’t just for testing super complicated products. It can even be used to check out urban myths!

CFD can help you with your cooking
Yup. Cooking. It’s been a few years since I’ve had to cook a whole turkey but I couldn’t avoid it this year. On Boxing Day (December 26th) a couple of my American friends who are also here without family came over so we could celebrate Christmas together (we couldn’t actually celebrate on Christmas because trains and buses weren’t running). Anyway, it’s a good thing that I had read Travis Mikjaniec’s blog on how to cook the best turkey well before putting the “beast” in the oven. The two major sins of cooking turkey are: not cooking the bird enough which could make you seriously sick or overcooking it which would mean that your guests would politely have to drown their turkey in copious amounts of gravy to make it semi-edible. Lesson learned – Based on Travis’ findings, I made sure to turn the turkey around a couple of times to allow for the uneven air flow in the oven. I ended up with a very tasty dinner (they even had seconds) and I didn’t even have to drive my friends to the emergency room. Unfortunately I still need to work on the “quantity” portion of the puzzle as I still have so much turkey left over that I’ll be eating turkey well into January and perhaps even February.

I’m not as tall as I think I am
I know, hard to believe. On a good day and when my hair behaves I’m just a nudge under 5’6 (when my hair doesn’t behave I clear 5’8 easy ;-)). On this cold December day when I started to paint the bathroom I realized that my 5’6 frame on a regular-sized ladder is just not tall enough to paint the edges where the ceiling meets the walls. I tried a few tricks but short of buying a very tall ladder and risking an injury I’m not well suited to the task. The realization that I’m too short was a bitter pill to swallow because I’ve painted so many rooms in my day. It seems that even though my previous houses had high ceilings, the ceilings in this house are freakishly high. Once reality set in, I continued to paint the areas that I could and decided to leave the rest to the professionals.  Lesson learned –I need to focus on what I do best and rely on others to deliver the rest. This is especially funny because it’s what I do at work every day so why am I not doing it in my personal life? (facepalm).

I learned a lot of other lessons but I think I’ll stop here because there’s a lot more to learn. I have the privilege of working with some very talented folks both inside and outside Mentor and I truly enjoy learning new things from them. So I wish you all a fantastic 2014 – another year to learn more from one another and to practice what we learned in the years past.

Until next time,

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Posted January 3rd, 2014, by

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2 comments on this post | ↓ Add Your Own

Commented on January 8, 2014 at 1:20 am
By Chris Hill

Is the flying thing something to do with encouraging people to stow phones, tablets, laptops etc., during takeoff and landing? Rationale is that if there’s a crash during takeoff/landing and a high speed deceleration then all these objects become unguided missiles and could kill someone who might otherwise have survived. Whereas in the air, if something goes catastrophically wrong, it doesn’t matter whether you’re playing Angry Birds, eating lunch or rehearsing Riverdance, you’re still probably dead.

Commented on January 9, 2014 at 3:42 am
By Nazita Saye

Chris, good point. Landing/take-offs are the two most dangerous parts of flying so what you say makes perfect sense. If memory serves me well laptops still have to be stowed away (and not even in the seat pocket but under the seat) regardless of the geo but you can listen to your iPod or use Wifi on your mobile as long as you’re on flight mode. I guess “smaller” missiles don’t count.

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