Mike Rowe “Don’t follow your Passion, Live it”

There are only a few guys or girls that you see on TV that I really like. Leading that group is Mike Rowe. Why? because he tells us all the common sense things that many of us know. But there is a difference when I say it or Mike does. I suspect a fair number of you have seen this video from Prager University, but let’s watch it again together.


He’s right you know, the world doesn’t really need another gender studies major, but we do need people to keep the lights on and the toilets working, and you know, they get paid pretty damned well, if they’re good at it. I’m a fair example, I think, when I was in school, I had a pair of passions, first to fly Air Force bombers, and secondly to be an engineer. Well, I had hay fever and the Air Force (with good cause, once I understood it) didn’t want me anywhere near the cockpit of a B-52. You’ll understand if you’ve ever flown with a head cold. As for the engineering, well my brother in law was dead on when he said, he can do the work, but he’ll never make it through school. Maybe if I’d had better math teachers, but well, I didn’t.

But you know, I got my journeyman card as a power lineman on my 18th birthday, and by the time I was twenty-five, I was a master electrician. As an aside, it worked out for the best, I would’ve gone crazy stuck in an office when I was in my twenties, even my thirties. And I’ve made a pretty good living all these years, some better and some worse, of course. And I’ve turned into a near engineer as well. I’m one of those guys that can figure out how to do almost anything.

But Mike also did an interview lately that doesn’t have the 300K + views that the video above does. In it, he tells how he got to where he is today. I think it, although a bit longer, is even more powerful. Here it is. See if you don’t agree

And you know, that’s important. Look at everything around you in our civilized world, and think about this, most of what you (and I) take for granted, every day, was beyond the dreams of King George III, or Thomas Jefferson, or even the Pope. We have it because people, mostly without degrees, figured out how to do each and every step to get us here. I’d call that a pretty damned noble calling, especially when at oh dark thirty in the middle of a Nebraska blizzard, I don’t have to use a whale oil lantern to find the outhouse.

But somebody has to keep all this stuff working, and they get paid (usually well) to do it. Do you have what it takes to make it in my world?

Not many do.

Stop Doing Low-Value Work

AAEAAQAAAAAAAAbSAAAAJGE3YjEwMjU0LWRlNDItNGY3Yi05ZDA1LTFjYjg1NDkxMjdiMQThis is from the Harvard Business Review, and it’s very true. I’m a small business guy, which means I’m a generalist, it also means that as much as possible, I lean on technology to take care of all the details, it works surprisingly well. Here’s some from Priscilla Claman’s article.

In the past, time management experts would recommend that you divide up your work into A tasks, B tasks, and C tasks. The concept was to do the A tasks first, then the B tasks, then the C tasks, when you can get to them. If priorities changed, you just changed the order of your As, Bs, and Cs. Doing all aspects of a job seemed possible then, if you just followed some basic time management rules.

That kind of thinking ended during the recession of 2007-2009. Between January 2008 and February 2010, 8.8 million jobs were lost. Although the jobs went away, much of the work didn’t. Teachers ended up with more children in a classroom; customer service representatives ended up with more phone calls; and managers ended up with more people to manage as teams were consolidated. No matter the job, everyone ended up with a lot more work. And although there have been real gains in productivity since then, the days of A, B, and C tasks are over. Overwhelmed is the new normal.

Therefore, it’s actually a matter of professional life or death to get rid of your low-value work – tasks that mean little or nothing to customers or colleagues. Take an active approach. Design a new, do-able job for yourself. Here’s when to do it:

via Stop Doing Low-Value Work

All true, but as usual, designed for corporate life, and for those of us in small business, it looks a bit different. Mostly we don’t do all those reports she speaks of, we’ve never had time, or the manpower, for that. And to be honest, when the management team is 5-10 people, neither have we had the need. One of the things about small business life is that we don’t have the underfoot for lily-gilding overhead, usually we don’t have the taste either.

In many ways, that’s why the regulatory burden falls so heavily on us. We have neither the people nor the taste to do endless forms, that don’t fit our system, and contribute nothing to our operations. From our chair, they are simply a waste of time. None of us, for example, have any desire to get our people hurt, but multi-thousand pages of OSHA regulation will never, in our mind, be as good, as supervisors with a modicum of common sense. Same in almost all areas.

In fact, that is why I’ve never been afraid to compete with the ‘big boys’, I’m so much more maneuverable, that they don’t have a chance. Sadly, that’s not as true anymore, their cronies in the government have saddled us all with so much nonsense paperwork, required by law, that we’re bogging down. True for us, true for the small banks, I think, true for almost all small business.

We’re still having lots of good ideas out here, in the office, and the field, but they’re getting set aside, we can’t find people willing to work 16/7/365 and do it productively.

In fact, we’re not either. The Sad part is, I don’t see anyone on the horizon that is likely to make any difference to this imposed cost, none at all.

Nebraska Repeals Strict Licensing Laws for Hair Braiders

160318_NebraskaHairBraiding_Johnson-1250x650Better late than never, I suppose.

A cosmetology license, required for hair braiding? Really?

Here: from the Daily Signal.

Just two weeks ago, Nebraskans who wanted to make money braiding hair had to undergo 2,100 hours of training to obtain a cosmetology license, which state officials say dedicates little time to natural hair braiding techniques.

But now Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts, a Republican, has signed legislation into law that will lift arduous occupational licensing requirements on the state’s hair braiders. […]

She said the government is often “too intrusive” and enacts restrictions that prevent people from earning an honest living. She hopes her bill, which Ricketts signed into law March 9, will empower female professionals to take risks, which she said will help build self-esteem.

“It’s the pursuing of the American Dream,” Fox said. “I think when you start taking risks and accomplishing things, it kind of makes you, the entrepreneur, set the bar higher and try to accomplish more.”

Yes, yes it does. That’s exactly what it does. The opportunity to accomplish something on your own. If you don’t know this 2100 hours is about 52 weeks at 40 hours per week, what we call full time, by the way, all that for hair braiding.

Furth said Nebraska’s legislature should continue to deregulate work in the state, where there is “no serious, proven risk” to public safety.

“One easy way to deregulate is to accept other states’ licenses: If you’re good enough to be a dentist in Iowa, you’re good enough to be a dentist in Nebraska,” he said. “That’s an easy way for a state to attract more skilled workers without being accused of risking public safety.”

via Nebraska Repeals Strict Licensing Laws for Hair Braiders

That I don’t completely agree with. While she’s right, as far as she goes, but she doesn’t go nearly far enough. As most of you know, I’m an electrician, and yes, I’m a pretty good one. And yes, bad electrical work can kill you, and do it quick, by electrocution, by fire, and by other things. But you know what, Nebraska’s licensing system, isn’t really about safety, maybe it was at one time, but now it functions as simply a medieval guild. It exists to prevent other equally good electricians from competing with the ones that have a license. If memory serves, neither Pennsylvania or Indiana have state licenses, although they likely have some sort of inspection regimen. By the way, here you need a state permit to change an outlet, which costs about $50 additional. Yeah, I know!

I’ve written about this before, here, and here, and this too is relevant. Yes, a lot of that has to do with codes, and inspections and such, but it’s still very relevant to the discussion.

Short form is this, having a bloody piece of paper, and having pushed a broom for four years, and having passed a test I could have passed when I was 14 just does not make you a competent electrician, neither does mandated continuing education, which requires that half of the courses you take each biennial period duplicate over and over again. Electrical theory hasn’t changed much in the last fifty years, but what has changed is the material we work with. I spent most of my time in the last few years with single board computers, programmable logic controllers, variable frequency drives, computer networks and sensors, and other things that didn’t exist in 1980. I did not learn that in bogus seminars for licensing requirements, I learned that mostly in the field, by reading, and by taking real seminars that allowed me to do the job.

The code has changed, it’s purpose now is, as near as I can tell to keep an unattended two year child, or a stupid drug addict safe, and like I said in one of the linked articles, it forces us to refuse to work on really hazardous installations, unless the client can afford the tariff.

Are there solutions? Sure, but we’re not looking for them, because the manufacturers want to sell higher priced material, and the authority having jurisdiction, who by the way, is not your local inspector, have a need to, at all costs, protect their jobs, for which, frankly, I don’t blame them at all.

And yes, all of this has much to do with why I retired or was that got too tired to deal with it.

Safety, and Personal Responsibility

I was taught from childhood on: There is no such thing as a no-fault accident, somebody always had a way to prevent it. Fault is a legal term and means something else, but all accidents are avoidable by taking (or not taking) some action, or list of actions. Let’s start here:

I’m sorry but such a list of blown safety rules, to me, makes this little less than suicide, and him a poor employer, and you know what, once he thought about it, I’ll bet his supervisor wasn’t surprised, although saddened. But that’s fine, he failed as well.

This is the overhead companion to that post the other day about fixing underground cables and is a pretty clear indication of why I like so many of my peers prefer overhead construction. Of, course it has it’s moments as well:

It shouldn’t happen, but it does, and frankly it is why you never see electrical utility crews leaning on our trucks, which we specifically do ground. The advice given here on what to do if this happens to you, is the same that I have been taught all my life.

One thing that causes us out here to lose afarmer every once in a while, is when the get something to close to a power line, note that you don’t have to touch it.

And finally, most American power companies have demonstration rigs like this that are available, and the skilled presenters that go with them. if you haven’t seen one (or even if you have) pay attention, this is the straight scoop from our side of the meter.

And yes, I have killed more than a few generators (and sometimes the tractors they were attached to, when I safed a line. DO IT RIGHT, or be prepared to kill a lineman, or trplace you generator

Find and Repair a 230kV 800Amp Oil-Filled Power Cable Fault

scattergood01Have you ever wondered what guys like I do, when we’re not telling you that you need to do some completely unaffordable thing to keep your house wiring safe? We’re telling the utilities the same thing.

I ran across this the other day, talking about fixing an underground cable from a powerplant in California. It also highlights one of the reasons why a fair number of us are not fond of underground, no matter how much prettier you think it makes the landscape.:)

How do you fix a shorted cable ? Not just any cable. An underground, 3-phase, 230kV, 800 amp per phase, 10 mile long one, carrying power from a power station to a distribution centre. It costs $13,000 per hour in downtime, counting 1989 money, and takes 8 months to fix. That’s almost $75 million. The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power did this fix about 26 years ago on the cable going from the Scattergood Steam Plant in El Segundo to a distribution center near Bundy and S.M. Blvd. [Jamie Zawinski] posted details on his blog in 2002. [Jamie] a.k.a [jwz] may be familiar to many as one of the founders of Netscape and Mozilla.

To begin with, you need Liquid Nitrogen. Lots of it. As in truckloads. The cable is 16 inch diameter co-axial, filled with 100,000 gallons of oil dielectric pressurised to 200 psi. You can’t drain out all the oil for lots of very good reasons – time and cost being on top of the list. That’s where the LN2 comes in. They dig holes on both sides (20-30 feet each way) of the fault, wrap the pipe with giant blankets filled with all kind of tubes and wires, feed LN2through the tubes, and *freeze* the oil. With the frozen oil acting as a plug, the faulty section is cut open, drained, the bad stuff removed, replaced, welded back together, topped off, and the plugs are thawed. To make sure the frozen plugs don’t blow out, the oil pressure is reduced to 80 psi during the repair process. They can’t lower it any further, again due to several compelling reasons. The cable was laid in 1972 and was designed to have a MTBF of 60 years.

Finding out the location of the fault itself was quite a feat. It involved time-domain reflectometry (inconclusive), ultrasound, and radar (didn’t work) and then using an Impulse Generator-Tester (Thumper) which got them pretty close to the defective segment. What pinpointed the problem was a bunch of car batteries and some millivoltmeters. They hooked up car batteries to both ends, tapped the cable at several points and knowing the drops and resistance of the cable, got within a few feet of the fault. Finally, X-Ray equipment was brought in. Sure enough, they could see the cable shorting against the steel wall of the pipe. Cutting open, and closing it all up, required certified welders spending up to 8 hours on each section to avoid damage to the paper insulation. The welders placed their thumbs 3 inches away from the seams they were welding, and stopped when it got warm to touch, allowing it to cool off before starting again.

The failure was attributed to “TMB”, short for Thermal Mechanical Bending. TMB causes the cable to wiggle in place due to load surges. This eventually causes insulation failure due to abrasion against the pipe and separation of the many layers of paper tape. They repaired the short, put aluminum collars in most of the joints to hold the splices in place, and have added a load management scheme to reduce the current peaks. Apparently, the fix wasn’t good enough. According to this Wikipedia article, “the 315 megawatt capacity Scattergood Steam Plant (Unit 3) to West Los Angeles (Receiving Station K) 230 kV line is having to be replaced after only 45 years of operations, due to multiple failures within this rather long single-circuit, oil-filled, “pipe type” cable.”

Find and Repair a 230kV 800Amp Oil-Filled Power Cable Feels Like Mission Impossible | Hackaday.

TDR’s are one of the most useful diagnostic tools ever, they pay for themselves quite quickly but it’s nearly impossible to convince bean counters that think Radio Shack sells useful meters that a $2K plus tool, that doesn’t fix anything, and occasionally isn’t good enough is justified. Heck, I haven’t even quite convinced myself yet. Thumpers work (sometimes) on the principle of “letting all the smoke out”. It’s much easier to find a broken something than a cracked one, after all. For the rest, if you’re interested follow the links.

It’s part of the reason than the electrical trades are often so fascinating to be in.

And there’s this, from his comment stream, showing how sometimes we manage to get authorized to buy a new widget.

View from the Trenches: Open Letter to the SARC

Screen-Shot-2015-05-14-at-9.33.52-AMI’m a senior electrician and operations manager. In both roles, my major function is to lead, and to get people to do their best, as well as to get the job done: on time and on budget. In other words its up to me to get the best my people can do, whether they are white, brown, black, or purple; male, female, or other. I just don’t care.

Are you a competent electrician, able to do all of the duties of the position? That’s my only question. Granted there are parts of the job that require physical strength, there are parts that require a certain type of intelligence. If I need five hundred feet of trench hand dug in wet clay, I’m unlikely to (if I can help it!) send a five foot two, 98 pound electrician (whatever their gender) to do it. To me that’s common sense. But it happens, it also happens that I end up doing it myself, I don’t like it either, but that’s life. The mission is the thing. And my mission is to get the electrical done, come hell or high water.

One of the places I learned that was in Air Force ROTC way back in the age of steam airplanes, and I learned it from men who had driven airplanes from England to places like Schweinfurt, and from islands like Saipan to Tokyo. They understood the costs of the mission very well and accepted it. That mission (unlike mine), projecting through air power the overwhelming force of the United States, cost them the loss of many of their friends. They, and their friends, willingly paid it. They were warriors.

And we are lucky, we still have warriors but, it seems to me that the Air Force has forgotten their mission, and become a touchy-feely, don’t hurt me outfit. If so, it has become a flawed weapon, not to be trusted, and that is the point of this article.

I start with the original poster’s explanation of the author because it is right to do so.

Kayce M. Hagen is a pen name assumed by an active duty enlisted airman. She wrote the following words to capture her thoughts after attending mandatory annual training given by her base’s Sexual Assault Response Coordination (SARC) office. I’m publishing her letter here not just because it captures in visceral form a sentiment I’ve heard repeatedly from airmen who are frustrated by increasingly tone-deaf and overwrought approaches to this issue, but also because I believe her input raises (or renews) two important questions. First, what is the current Sexual Assault Prevention program doing for the Air Force? Second, what is it doing tothe Air Force? Kayce’s input explores these questions in a powerful way. Enjoy and respond. -Q.

★       ★       ★       ★       ★

Dear SARC,

I got up this morning as an Airman in the United States Air Force. I got up and I put on my uniform, I pulled back my hair, I looked in the mirror and an Airman looked back. A strong, confident military professional stared out of my bathroom mirror, and I met her eyes with pride. Then I came to your briefing. I came to your briefing and I listened to you talk to me, at times it seemed directly to me, about sexual assault. You talked about a lot of things, about rivers and bridges, you talked about saving people and victimization. In fact you talked for almost a full ninety minutes, and you disgusted me.

You made me a victim today, and I am nobody’s victim. I am an American Airman in the most powerful Air Force in the world, and you made me into a helpless whore. A sensitive, defenseless woman who has no power to protect herself, who has nothing in common with the men she works with. You made me untouchable, and by doing that you made me a target. You gave me a transparent parasol, called it an umbrella and told me to stand idly by while you placed everything from rape to inappropriate shoulder brushes in a crowded hallway underneath it. You put my face up on your slides; my face, my uniform, my honor, and you made me hold this ridiculous contraption of your own devising and called me empowered. You called me strong. You told me, and everyone else who was listening to you this morning that I had a right to dictate what they said. That I had a right to dictate what they looked at. That I had a right to dictate what they listened to. That somehow, in my shop, I was the only person who mattered. That they can’t listen to the radio because they might play the Beatles, or Sir Mix-A-Lot, and that I might be offended. That if someone plays a Katy Perry song, I might have flashbacks to a night where I made a bad decision. I might be hurt, and I’m fragile right? Of course I am, you made me that way. […]

When you isolate me, you make me a target. When you make me a target, you make me a victim. You don’t make me equal, you make me hated. If I am going to be hated, it will be because of who I am, not because of who you have made me. I am not a victim. I am an American Airman, I am a Warrior, and I have answered my nation’s call.

Help me be what I am, or be quiet and get out of my way.

Read it all: One Airman’s View: Open Letter to the SARC : John Q. Public.

There is nothing to add to that, except to thank God for women, no warriors, like Kayce.

Lead her

Follow her


Get the hell out of her way!

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