February Revisited – Thirty Years On

March 31, 2012 at 2:52 pm (General, Mind & Body) (, , , , , , , , , )

Image Mt. HoodGreetings from the rain-saturated western flanks of the Washington Cascades!  Among the responses to my last post, there was some encouragement to write a sort of “update”, from the perspective of three decades down the road.  Let’s see what the old stream of consciousness has to share…

For one thing, I haven’t had too much time to write poetry in the ensuing years.  Perhaps that’s because my angst level is down.  That’s a good thing.  (grin)  I’ve certainly achieved a number of things since then.  Marriage, divorce, multiple job and career changes, about 8 used cars, and moved to my present home in Vancouver, Washington.

About my home here in Vancouver… among the things I see from my front porch every winter night is my constant friend, Orion.  Many things change, and some remain the same.  I’ve heard it said that the only constant in life is change, and my life is no exception.  I certainly didn’t envision my life as it is at this age, but overall – I’m pretty happy with it.  Sure, there could be improvements.  Most people would say that about heir lives.  Abe Lincoln opined that most people are about as happy as they make their minds up to be.

I guess you could say I’ve made my mind up to be happy.  I’ve got a fine view of the sky, and on a clear day, I can see Mt. Hood from my porch, too.  The neighborhood is fairly quiet and safe, and because I work from home, my commute is utterly stress-free.  I’ve got a wonderful best friend, a small circle of good friends, and a supportive family.  And we’ve got a dog who’s pretty sweet.

Anyone have anything to share about their last three decades, and where they find themselves now?  Especially as it may relate to how you might have pictured it in 1982… for me, it’s certainly different from how I had imagined it.

More soon.

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February – Thirty Years Later

February 29, 2012 at 12:52 am (Entertainment, General) (, , , , , , )

Whew! What a year 2011 was, and 2012 is starting out to be equally busy!

But I’ve decided to post more blog entries this year. The feedback from WordPress was very encouraging. The stats are good, and I am excited about making my blog more of a presence on the net.

I’ll get started with something I haven’t shared online before. This is a poem I wrote almost exactly thirty years ago this month. (I’ve almost run out of February, for Pete’s sake! Good thing I decided to get on the ball here.)

Without further ado, here is my poem, unchanged, as I wrote it when I was 25…


Tall hunter Orion stands
Stiff-legged in the grey night sky.
His sword gleams dully at his side.
I walk
In the cool, clear dusk
Between rows of friendly houses.

Wood smoke.
Smells of simple food being prepared
With care and love
Touch my face
As my footfalls quietly crunch
Rattling gravel.

The city-machine’s growling roar
Is muted
By calm somnolence of Sunday’s lateness.
Where tomorrow, soon, will be
Madly whirling exchanges
Of the business of life
Is now only the dimly neon-lit quietness,
Behind tight-locked dark glass doors
Adorned with colorfully sorry plastic signs
Encouraging me to return when
Light and life glitter within.

And now I go
To my own warmly familiar rooms
To sleep an uneasily lonely sleep.

And, rested once again,
My soul nourished by pastel-tinted dreams,
I rejoin my fellow souls, all loved –
Spirits in a gloriously imperfect material world.

(c) 1982, 2012 David Lockman, all rights reserved

Let me know what you think, below. Garbage or gold – go for it.

More soon. I’ve got some nifty little life-hacks to share, some other thoughts, and a blog post about how stories affect our lives. All in my mental queue. Looking forward to sharing with you all.

Image of Orion from http://xiaofury.blogspot.com/
(c) 2010 Natalie N. Johnson

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Lordhelpus – 2011 in Review

December 31, 2011 at 4:34 pm (General) (, , , , )

The WordPress.com helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for my blog –
Dlock’s Pop Culture Reflux.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 6,400 times in 2011. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 5 trips to carry that many people.

That’s pretty frickin’ cool, considering I only managed to post one blog entry this year… sigh. It’s been a busy year, and I was sick for quite a lot of the first half. Anyhow, if you like, you can check out my complete stats just by clicking the link below. See you in 2012 – w00t!

Click here to see the complete report.

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Printed Circuits – Then and Now – and Again

October 27, 2010 at 8:48 pm (Buy My Stuff, Cool Tech, General) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Hey, netizens!

Yes, I know it’s been forever and a summer day since I posted last. Things are not getting any less busy, so – there’s just not as much time as I would really like to spend on my personal blog. (And a warning – there is heavy duty electro-geekiness ahead, so if you’d as soon skip it, I understand. But if you are of an inquiring (and geeky) mind, by all means, press on…)

That being said, I ran across an article online recently entitled “Recent Developments In Electronics” which reminded me of an article I wrote back in about 1998 and posted on my old personal web site. I had to take the site down about a year ago, mostly because I couldn’t really afford to keep it online. Before I did, I saved everything.

So I got to thinking, hey – I have all this old content on my hard drive… why not update it and share it? Here then, is my article on Printed Circuit Design…

What is a Printed Circuit Board?

Printed circuit boards (PCBs for short) have made our modern miracles possible – cellular phones, computers, headset stereos, pagers, all would be impossible without something like a printed circuit board. Even televisions and radios would be very different without them. Printed circuits allow manufacturers to connect together all the parts that make up, say, a calculator, very quickly and at a low cost.

Back in the old days, before the circuit board, lots of people worked on assembly lines to hand-wire components together, to make things like TV sets and radios. Eventually, someone decided there must be a better way.

A flat piece of reinforced plastic was coated on one side with a thin layer of copper. Holes were drilled in the plastic, and patterns of conductors (circuits) were printed on the copper. Then the whole thing was put into an acid bath. Wherever the patterns were printed, the copper was protected from the acid. Wherever there was no pattern, copper would be etched away by the acid. The result was a pattern of electrically isolated conductors, on a flat “board”, on which parts could be mounted and soldered.

Turned out to be a big time saver. Eventually, machines were designed to do the work of putting the parts on the boards, and soldering them as well. Fewer people were needed, and labor costs went down, reducing the price of the TV set or radio. Soon, parts started getting smaller and smaller, and so did the finished products. Nowadays, a hand-held TV set is no big deal, but in 1955, you would have needed a very big hand.

Before long, the printed circuit board began to evolve. Conductors on both sides, instead of just one side. Then conductors were buried inside the circuit board. Conductors got smaller, and closer together.

Then someone thought, “why drill a lot of holes and shove little wires through, when we can make parts without wires on the ends, and solder them right onto the board?” This is the basis of surface mount technology, which led to the level of miniaturization we have today – cell phones, pocket-sized CD players, and digital watches.

Printed Circuit Board Designing

Not an altogether bad career choice. Beats the heck out of digging ditches. The working conditions are generally good, and will vary depending on the company (pretty much like any office job). A PCB Designer will usually be found working in a clean, comfortable room, (because the computers need to be kept clean and cool), and often with other circuit board designers, or CAD drafters. (Note: a good chair is essential.)

A PCB Designer needs, of course, to know a few things, too. Basic to intermediate electronic knowledge is helpful. It is good to know how to read electronic schematics, and basic computer skills are pretty much a prerequisite. (Wintel / WindowsNT systems predominate in the market, followed by UNIX and Mac platforms). Some drafting education will help, and anything you can do to sharpen your communications skills will be a definite plus. (Determining and meeting the engineer’s needs is what it’s all about!)

A whole slew of disciplines come together to make up a successful PCB designer. Electronic, mechanical, and aesthetic considerations are all taken into account when designing a PC board. Where will the connectors and switches go? How much room do I have in the case? What kinds of tolerances must I work with? How easy will it be to manufacture the PC board, and how can I make it easier? PCB design is mostly rules-driven. You have to design within the rules, or the board just plain won’t work, or worse still, can’t even be manufactured. Very embarrassing. Trust me. Voice of experience.

PCB designers often need to be self-starters, detail-oriented, and willing to work long hours, under deadline pressures. (It is often the designer who gets squeezed between the engineer, who wants a little extra time to make sure it’s right, and marketing, who are anxious to get out there and sell the thing, before the competition beats them to market.)

PCB design can become a somewhat lonely endeavor, thrashing away hour after hour in a darkened room, headphones clamped to the head, connecting the dots. It is important to create a little balance, therefore, because it can be way too easy to focus on the tasks at hand, and ignore personal lives, exercise, and diet.

A lot of stuff to know. And until recently, there were very few places where you could take classes at the college level, to learn the art of PCB design. It used to be a sort of “fraternity”, in which more experienced designers mentored new designers, and taught them how the job was done. That is beginning to change. Because of the rapid growth of the electronics industry, there has been an increased need for qualified designers. There is now an initiative to put into place training and certification programs for PCB designers. Ideally, this will lead to better designers, and better designs.

Salary ranges are anywhere from $18K for a newbie, to $40K and up for a lead designer with lots of experience. Positions can be found in manufacturing companies, and in service bureaus, which provide their design services to client companies. (Note: remember I wrote this in 1998. Your mileage may vary.)

The Future

The future of PCB design can be summed up thusly: faster, denser, more complex, and more competitive. As chip speeds climb, the need for high-frequency performance increases as well. Designers who are capable of designing these high-speed boards will be highly sought after, and will earn nice, fat salaries.

PCBs will be more jam-packed with parts, and some integrated circuit chips (ICs) are already being mounted directly to the board (chip on board), without the need for a case (package) of its own. More features and functions will be packed into new products, meaning new challenges for packing more circuitry into less space.

And in an increasingly global economy, some American and European PCB designers are finding that they are in almost direct competition with their counterparts in Asia, where wages are very much lower. This is especially true in the area of consumer electronics, where the Asian Dragon is eating our lunch. (Note: even in 1998, when I wrote this, the handwriting was on the wall.)

Design automation will also increase productivity, and may eliminate jobs. Software tools such as autoplacement (the automated placement of part outlines, by the design software, rather than being manually placed by the human designer) and autorouting (automated layout of the connecting trace patterns, again by the software, rather than a manual process invloving the designer) engines may displace some designers, but at present, there are still many aspects of PCB design that can only be done by a skilled human designer.

The successful designer will need to stay abreast of new technologies and trends in order to remain successful. Designers who are able to offer the most value to the companies which employ their services, will command the highest wages, and the highest respect.

Well, as you might have noticed, some things have changed since 1998. PCB designing was pretty good to me from the mid-’80s to 2002, but since then, not so much. Most of the PCB design jobs are now in China, Taiwan, and other spots overseas. Tens of thousands of high-tech manufacturing jobs have left the USA, perhaps never to return. Not everything I foresaw for the future has come to pass – at least here in the states.

Personally, I did not stay abreast of the latest technologies. I got sidetracked for a few years doing some very specialized layout work, and that experience didn’t translate well to the marketplace in 2003. And to be frank, I had moved on a bit, too. I had gotten kind of tired of getting laid off every few years. High-tech in the Portland, Oregon area has always been like that.

The pace of change has accelerated over the years, and I have decided to go in a different direction. I am now working from home, doing web design, software sales, and press release promotion. Can’t say I miss the long commutes from East Vancouver to Beaverton, or some of the complete tools I used to work with. Not all of them were big pains in the butt, but – they know who they are. And raspberries to them.

As for me, my evening commute is about 15 feet. Top that.

More again soon. Er, I hope.

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GMC Terrain – Another Ugly Truck

May 24, 2010 at 11:19 pm (Cars & Trucks, General) (, , , , , , , , )

Greetings, fellow citizens and auto enthusiasts! I’m back to abuse GM’s styling department once again. (Yes, the very people who brought us the Pontiac Aztek.) Sorry, but it’s just the sort of hateful, bilious, unhappy little man that I am.

(And sorry about the lapse in posting. It’s been a bear of a month. E-mail me if you really must know more.)

OK! Let’s get on with the sneering, giggling and pointing, shall we? Today’s styling victim – the GMC Terrain.

I do have to give GMC some props – they did make the effort to create a vehicle that gets 32 mpg with its 4 cylinder engine, and they’ve included some nice comfort features. There’s even a rear-facing camera. And I’m sure, a plethora of cupholders. But for Pete’s sake! Why do automotive styling departments seem incapable of designing an SUV that doesn’t look like a smiling chimpanzee?

What is it with auto stylists these days, that makes them think that cars and trucks need to have a face?

Notable examples of this are the recent Acura and Mazda cars, and the new Chevy Camaro. For some reason, they seem to have stupid little grins pasted to their front ends. Why? Do focus groups really say that they like to have cars that smile at them? Or are the people in the focus groups just screwing with the auto makers?

So, what makes the Terrain look so ungainly? What’s the deal with the bulges around the wheel wells? Is that supposed to make the truck look “muscular”? Not even close. It looks like a fat chick stuffed into an undersized pair of sweat pants.

Sad, really. Sad that the guys that designed this wee beast don’t seem to have heard of Harley Earl. That’s a guy who really knew how to design a vehicle that looked great – sleek and well-proportioned. The Terrain suffers from a disproportionate design. The fender bulges are too pronounced, and look like an afterthought. The beltline is in the wrong place. It’s either too high, or not high enough. Wrong place! The front clip is bulky, bumpy, and fails to appeal – well, at least to me. The overall effect is of an upside-down bathtub on wheels.

These are pretty much the same complaints I have with the Jeep Compass. And I stand by my assessment. If need be, nose to nose with the lead designer. I’ll bring my pencil and sketchbook. But I realize it’s an uphill battle, trying to make a good-looking SUV. Better to swing and miss than not to swing at all.

(Gawd, I’m a bitch tonight! Bring on the insults, Terrain owners!)

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Even More Silliness

December 31, 2009 at 3:44 pm (Damn funny, Entertainment, General, Music) (, , , , , , )

Rebus PuzzleReba McEntire


Well, I did say that it was more random silliness.

And as I wrote today on my Facebook page, 2010 is bound to be better than 2009, especially if we all go out into the world, in the days and weeks to come, holding that intention in our minds and in our hearts. Spread a little compassion, a little joy, a little happiness. Here’s a start. Enjoy.

Happy New Year!

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UFOs Over The Kremlin?

December 28, 2009 at 12:28 am (General, Media, Politics, UFO) (, , , , , , , , , )

Boy, oh boy.  For some reason, the 2009 solstice season has really given us some high-profile UFO sightings.  I’m beginning to wish they’d just frickin’ land already, and get it over with…

The Russians seem to be having all the fun these days.  Two separate videos of triangular or pyramidal UFOs, seen over the Kremlin, supposedly on two different dates.  The first video shows what appears to be a large triangular or pyramidal UFO over Moscow’s Red Square.

I need to pay closer attention to the news wires.  This daylight UFO sighting apparently took place on or about December 9th, about the time that  Norway was treated to a massive blue spiral in their sky, which may or may not have been a failed Russian missile test launch.

The next video is a night-time sighting, shot from a moving car.  It’s not very clear, but there does seem to be a triangular shape in the sky above the Kremlin, perhaps on December 18th.  Very cool… My best advice is to click “full-screen” and watch closely.

Some sources are indicating that this second video is just disinformation, but I don’t really understand the reasoning behind that assertion.  Another article on the subject can be found here.

Since the video images are so dark, I decided to grab some screen shots of still frames, and “bump them up” a bit, using Gimp, the open-source alternative to Photoshop.  Here are the results.  Click the images to see larger versions.

Okay. If that isn’t some seriously weird $#!+, then I’m Mary Queen of Scots. I’d be interested in seeing what other people make of this footage, and if anyone has similar results with photo enhancement programs.

(If you want to know what I did in Gimp, to get these results, just e-mail me, or leave a comment below.)

Back soon with more weirdness, or perhaps just something silly. You can never really tell with me, can you?

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Oh, Those UFOs!

December 21, 2009 at 12:57 pm (Cool Tech, General, Media, UFO) (, , , , , )

More UFO news last week.  Yeah, I know.  I should have mentioned it last week, when it was still actually news.  (It’s been busy here at Maison D’Lock – sorry.)  But if some of you have missed it, since the mainstream media have the attention span of a stunned guppy, let’s take a quick look.

First off, parts of Norway were treated to an amazing visual spectacle in the form of a spiraling blue light show in the sky, early on the morning of December 10th.

Looks pretty amazing!  Many news services now seem to think the spiral light formation was the result of a Russian missile test launch, which failed in the upper atmosphere, going out of control.  Check out the video – you can actually see the spiral rotating.

The very next day, news agencies and bloggers began reporting on the discovery of an “alien graveyard” in Rwanda, of all places. Claims of more than 200 bodies, in a 500 year old mass grave, are circulating on the ‘net.

But, given that the source seems to be the World Weekly News – home of Bat Boy, this may be more coprolite than fossil remains.

More soon, kids.  Christmas approaches like a freight train on a downhill, with no brakes.  I need to either get running, or get out of the way.

Peace and a happy season to you all.

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UFOs? What UFOs?

December 7, 2009 at 3:23 am (General, Media, Politics, UFO) (, , , , , , , , , )

Greetings, programs! I read today that our dear brothers across the pond have pulled the plug on their UFO research efforts. Yes, some 40 years after the US government did the same thing (officially, anyway) after publishing the Condon Report, the UK’s Ministry of Defence has decided that “in over 50 years, no UFO report has revealed any evidence of a potential threat to the United Kingdom.”

Well, sure.  Right.  No potential threat at all.  Not if you believe that objects flitting through the sky above your country, at speeds you can’t hope to match, and going wherever they please, are no kind of threat.  What kind of fuzzy thinking is that?  Hello, McFly!

Maybe they should talk to the guys over at the Space Research Institute of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences.  Their deputy director, Lachezar Filipov, seems to think that the aliens are already here, and are among us now.

Or perhaps have a chat with the folks at Chicago’s O’Hare airport, who saw something quite peculiar, just over three years ago.  Workers on the ground and pilots both reported seeing a huge gray disc hover over the terminal for several minutes, in November 2006.  And when it left, it just shot off, straight up, punching a hole through the clouds that took a few minutes to close back up.  Probably swamp gas.

Here’s the reality – there is something going on in the skies, all over the world, and it remains unexplained after more than 60 years of research.  Anyone you talk to will admit that much.   But turning your back on the issue and pretending it’s not a problem, or doesn’t exist, is completely irresponsible.

And that’s what the MOD has done, and so has the American government.  So have many other agencies world wide.  This has led to a widespread belief that the major governments know something that they refuse to share with the public at large.

So, what shall we do about it, Dave? Petition the government to show us what’s in Area 51?  Throw up our hands and shrug?  Move to a cabin in the wilderness?

Maybe just keep an open mind, and remain skeptical.  Don’t trust everything you read.  Even this.  And especially not the mainstream media.  Do the research for yourself.  Read a few books on the subject.  Maybe even watch the skies some night, instead of the frickin’ boob tube.  Grab your friends, family, maybe a few beverages, and go look at the sky.  Yeah, I know.  Better dress warmly if you’re going to do that tonight.  It’s wicked cold here in Vancouver, WA.  But the viewing is great!  The stars are clear and bright.

I just can’t stay out for long.  My eyeballs start to freeze.

P.S. If you want to have a look at the UFO report data collected by the UK’s Ministry of Defence, since 1997, you can find it all here. There’s not a lot of detail, but what there is may convince a few folks that our sky is a busy place.

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More Random Silliness

December 3, 2009 at 2:09 am (Damn funny, General) (, , , )

Anais NinNiacin

Yes, another stupid bit of wordplay. Well, I thought it was funny…

I promise, I’ll post something much more serious, very soon.

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