Episode-1819- Listener Calls for 7-1-16 — 28 Comments

  1. Just leaving a note specifically to thank Alex Shrugged for his effort on the history segment. I appreciate that segment every time I listen to the show!

    (and thanks to you, too, Jack! 🙂 )

  2. Exceptionally good show today.
    Well received in Europe.
    Also my critical thinking on elections has advanced miles in a few minutes.

  3. Thanks Jack for your advice! I’m sure I want to do engineering, and I have an aptitude for math and science, so I feel I have the aptitude needed to be an engineer. I asked about the fields, have such a wide variety of interests, I just wanted to make sure that none of the engineering had a large chance of not being viable in the future that I had missed. I thought they all would adapt well to the automated future, but seeing as you have a much more life experience than me, and are better at foreseeing things that blind side many people, I wanted your thoughts to compare to my research. Also, thanks Alex for the AMAZING history segments! Makes the beginning of the shows much more interesting!

    • 3 of my sons have engineering technical degrees and they are all making good money, no problem staying employed currently.

      One has a master in mechanical engineering with a focus in robotics. He was fortunate through scholarships, jobs, etc to complete his schooling with zero debt and some cash in the bank. He is currently designing machines/tools for a solar panel company, his goal is to eliminate as many employees as possible. What helped him money wise is professors who liked and respected his work and gave him connections/references to others, internships, working on research projects, etc.

      Another has a degree in electrical engineering and a master’s in computer science. After working for an unnamed government organization he was happy to move to private industry and does security for a large internet based company. His job is to hack into his employee’s websites and to tell the company what to change so it is harder to hack into. There is a shortage of people to hire for such positions. Even those with a degree don’t always have the right experience or even skills for this job. His challenge is to hire people to work with him who know enough that it doesn’t take him more time to train them and do the work vs doing work by himself.

      One is very gifted in programming. He was going for his masters but through connections he built by writing free open source code, he was already a recognized expert in his field and had no use for further schooling. His degree helped some in filling in a few gaps here and there, but it is his skills and talents that make him so hireable. Google calls him yearly to see if he has changed his mind and would be willing to work for them. (He refuses to move his family to CA so that is an easy no. ) I don’t think I’ve seen anyone with so many unsolicited job offers a year. But it is his creativity, ability to do things others can’t, connections he has built which make him so popular not the degree itself.

      Another son after 1 semester of engineering knew that it was not for him although he is very good in math and science. He is more of an outdoors people person, and is enjoying a summer internship near Yellowstone as assistant activities director at a resort.

      My youngest daughter will be starting her 2nd year at engineering school as a junior (credits from high school), she is in nano systems engineering, a new field. Nano engineers need to focus on another engineering field. She was thinking mechanical but she realized that in all group projects, she was the programmer, then she helped with wiring and mechanical was her last choice to work on. She changed her focus to electrical.

      In most universities your first year is similar no matter which specific field you pick. Sadly some schools such as UT will not allow you to switch majors and they may not have room for you if you switch, but that is the only school we’ve found to have that issue. Her school does much hands on learning for their first year, encouraged to find problems, ask others about problems, look for solutions. End of 1st year they turn in a design project (small group working together), they have to present their finished project to a group of engineers, investors, etc. This year’s winner made a fogless mirror which also had wifi and a computer of sorts built in so you could check weather, emails, etc in your mirror while you shaved, put on makeup, did hair or whatever.

      I do like how her university encourages students to make something marketable, build a business around it, find grants for research, and/or business investors along with finding problems and solving them.

      After your first year you should know whether you want to be an engineer and what area fits you. Many quit after their first year, they hate it, others love it if they can just get past all the Calculus classes.

      • Conversation I had with the programmer son many years back. He was concerned about the future of programming if things got bad. You can’t eat code.

        Now he loves programming, almost like an addiction, something he has to do. He gets an idea and has to try it out.

        My advice, you love it, it will pay you very well. If you have a home, land, storage, garden and it is all paid for and money in the bank, you will be ahead and have time to figure something else out if you need to. That he was very fortunate to something he loved which paid well.

        Last year he paid $40k in taxes to Uncle Sam even with a wife and 4 kids.

    • Hey Ben,
      I had the same reservations about becoming an engineer, and not knowing which I should be. I have a master’s in Civil Engineering (I’ve been out of school for 3 years now). As far as finding a job, if you can communicate decently and have an engineering degree there will always be work to be found.
      The largest benefit I’ve found from my education is the ability to think through extremely complex problems in all areas of my life. One thing I’ve found is bridging specialties makes you invaluable. For example I’m great with programming and computers, and I also have a MS in civil engineering. There are a ton of civil engineers, and a ton of programmers, however the number of people that can do both is few and far between. Feel free to email me if you have any other questions. I’ve talked many an aspiring engineer through what engineering field they would like best. Please email me with any questions!
      eric ]at[

    • To Ben:
      It sounds like you don’t have a specific engineering focus calling to you, so mechanical or electrical engineering (depending on your inclination) may be good options as they are more ‘general’ and do allow for certain areas of focus you might get interested in later on. Also, generally speaking if you are in your first 2 years of school you can change your intended field of engineering study without too many problems or extra time spent in school (I graduated 11 years ago, but I doubt things have changed TOO much… other than price LOL). My own degree was in aerospace engineering, and while it’s rather specialized and it narrowed my options some, that was because I had specific things in mind as to what I wanted to do. If you’re not sure at this point, picking a broader field of study at first and narrowing it down as you find what you like probably makes the most sense. Also think in terms of if you want to eventually work for yourself or work your career as an employee… some of the more specialized fields (like mine) are not as easy, though not impossible, to break out on your own and be an entrepreneur.
      Also, like some others here I wholeheartedly agree that having some hands-on experience (with machining, cars, planes, electronics, or anything else) is a big plus. A lot of the machinists and people who carry out the engineers’ designs have a lot of useful wisdom and experience to pass on. Being an engineer that understands the machinist’s pain or concerns can go a long way…
      One last thing…. while I don’t regret my field of study, I DO regret working as long as I did (almost 10 years) for government contractors. Even if you happen to work on a worthwhile program (i.e. one that has legitimate value to the country and is NOT a boondoggle or something that promotes our country’s more shady endeavors), the bureaucracy and environment of government work is usually hard for free-thinkers to put up with, and to boot the work is often pretty mediocre in terms of skill development and growth. Just my opinion, but if I had to do it again I’d have moved to the private sector much earlier.
      Hope that helps!

    • Ben, also consider Civil Engineering. It focuses on building construction. You will learn a lot about various materials and methods. It is useful, not only as a professional field to work, but for enough knowledge in building your own home, land excavation, etc. especially if you actually get your hands dirty in the field to get practical experience. I dont see this field going away either. Good luck.

    • Ben, One thing I can recommend is that EVERYONE needs to have some sort of people skills, the simple ability to relate to others. The fact that you reached out to Jack to ask a question shows that your people skills are well above average. Most people are afraid to ask questions for fear of what others might think of them. However, asking questions is the best way to build your people skills. A simple, “hey, Mr. Smith, how did you get where you are today?” Or, “hey jack, what do you think about my college choices?”
      People love to be asked questions especially about themselves and they will like you better for asking it. It’s not ass-kissing either, if you’re truly interested in what they say, of course.
      I’m in financial planning and there are just a TON of highly educated and credentialed folks out there who just can’t communicate well. Yes, they may know a thing or two about investments, estate planning et al, but no one is going to hire them because they have no people skills.
      If you have knowledge in engineering plus some decent people skills, you’re going to go far my man.

      Those two combinations are killer.

    • Pick a school with many engineering programs that will let you switch after your freshman year. Spend time your first semester meeting different professors. Go to extra classes (audit them) you are not getting credit for to learn the fields. Tell the professors you are thinking of switching from (for example) Electrical to Mechanical. After several months talking with some of the smartest people in the field (the professors) and sitting through extra classes (free education) you will be better equipped to make a decision.

      Do internships. Visit sites. Some engineers drive pickup trucks from job site to job site, some sit in cubicles in front of computers, some walk factory floors. Some live in cities, some live near oil fields.

      My son changed his mind twice his first year, and is now a very happy chemical engineer.

      Also – if you are finishing your first year of engineering, pulling C’s or worse, and not sure if this is for you, take a pause and rethink everything. Don’t flunk out your senior year with $100k of debt.

  4. I definitely enjoy the history segment. The only thing that kills me is that I want to hear each of the choices for every day! If Alex publishes it, you could count me in for buying3 copies–one for me, and one for each of my favorite history buffs.

  5. Re: full reserve banking. I think the Austrian answer is that a bank would do both. It would offer “full reserve” savings that were fully redeemable on demand, providing the security and convenience of banking for a fee, and it could also offer ‘accounts” where interest was paid and the money was loaned out at a higher rate, but such investments would not be fully redeemable on demand. There would be a contractual time table for return of the funds (think CDs).

    The Austrian criticism of fractional reserve banking as it’s done today is the fraudulent claim that you can go to the bank and take your money at any time. They can’t actually do that except for a very small portion of their liabilities at any given time.

    Re: The aspiring engineer. I graduated in ’06 with a BS in Mechanical engineering, had a job waiting for me (I actually started full time 3 months prior to graduating) and have never been without work in the 10 years since. If you can do the work, if you’re good at it, it doesn’t matter (very much) which engineering major you choose. Go which way you’re interested or have aptitude for. You’ll be surprised how fluid things get between mechanical and electrical particularly. The theory and mathematical tools you will use are widely applicable to the different fields, and the practical stuff you will largely have to learn on your own anyways unless you go to a school with a lot more emphasis on hands on, practical, experience.

    I’d encourage you to stay as general as possible, mechanical and electrical are best here. I don’t know much about “computer engineering” but I bet a good electrical engineer with relevant experience would be a strong candidate for any job a “computer engineer” would apply for, while the inverse would not be as true. Similarly I’d generally recommend mechanical engineering over aerospace engineering unless you have some good reason to specialize (if you’re going to school in Seattle WA and have connections with Boeing for example, but again, Boeing hires PLENTY of mechanical engineers as well).

    One other piece of advice, DO RELEVANT STUFF outside your course work. As an ME, know your way around a machine shop, buy an Arduino and do projects with it (requires mechanical, electrical, and programming skills all at once). Learn to weld, rebuild an engine, tear apart broken equipment and figure it out, learn about manufacturing processes and the strengths/weaknesses of each until you can look at a part and say “this was made using X, that’s why it has features A and B, and why it doesn’t have features Y and Z” Get your hands on a parametric CAD package and model up parts/machines in it (I haven’t used OnShape, but you can play with it all you want for free)

    For an EE/CE write computer programs to do some trival, or not so trival, tasks. Design and build an Amp, understand computer programming at a much more fundamental level than you’ll get taking an obligatory “computer science for engineers” class. Talk to people who work as EE’s and ask them what you should be doing.

    Over 4 or 5 years I interviewed probably 100 candidates for entry level engineering positions (co-ops, basically extended internships with, in our case, a VERY real chance of a full time position at graduation), 95% of the “resumes” were identical, irrelevant part time jobs in HS and College, a GPA, and virtually identical coursework. ANYONE who sat down with me and said “I built a boat” “I designed this table in CAD and built it” “Here’s a robot I built and programmed” was immediately at the top of my list for followup. It showed motivation, it showed real interest in the field as opposed to “I had to major in something”, and it showed the candidate possessed at least the beginnings of practical abilities, was willing to “get their hands dirty” and hadn’t duped by their professors into thinking all they needed was a good GPA and the world would beat down their door to hire them.

  6. in response to the engineering question.

    I AM NOT AN ENGINEER. couldn’t pass calc 2.

    However i have worked with engineers since i was 19 years old. initially developing the manufacuting process for titanium bone screws… at the height of my employement i was designing/building test fixtures for predator drone actuators and in time flight testing at china lake.

    if you want to have an edge over other engineers. LEARN manual machining, fabrication and basic mechanical assembly.

    the success of my career is based on being able to apply what an engineer wants to the real world (cad models dont always work).

    i hope the caller all the best. nothing against any engineers, i always wanted to be one.
    after 20 yrs in Manufacutring/prototyping/forensic engineering, the most valued engineers (by the company and more importatly by techs) have always been those who could spin a wrench with the grunts.

    • Thanks! This year I took a shop class specifically for that reason, and as a result I learned how to run a milling machine and a lather. I ended up making a small single cylinder compressed air engine as my project for the second half of the year, and I enjoy machining a lot, and if I realize engineering isn’t for me, I am considering learning to be a machinist.

      • Awesome,

        Keep developing skills like that especially if you go ME. You will be 2-3 years ahead of your classmates, easily. Make sure you show project work like that to any potential employer. Be familiar with one or more parametric cad packages. Creo/ProE and Solidworks are the leaders in industry, I’ve run into inventor from time to time as well, but if your familiar with the principles and good practices picking up a new package is much faster. If you can’t get access to one of these look at OnShape, which is cloud-based and free for small scale use.

        Machinist may not be a bad approach either. I know it took my current employer something like 6 months to fill their last opening for a machinist. Probably a smaller market overall than engineers but every small town with any industry at all has a couple machine shops serving, their local market. It’s also something that has a good path to owning your own business, either doing piece work for hire or designing and manufacturing some niche product. Definitely have the skills to do manual stuff and program CNC as well. These skills will serve you well if you go M.E. so don’t hesitate to go ahead continue learning them even if you decide to go for engineering.

    • Couldn’t agree more to the statement that the most valued engineer are those that “turn a wrench with the grunts”. I believe we put way to much emphasis on the piece of paper earned @ university vs ability to perform the job.
      Not all are able to have the degree/title “engineer”, weither that’s due to finances or aptitude, accomplishing the end goal is what matters. There are plenty out there with the degree that cannot follow thru. You sir (amrcancrftsman) are an engineer.

      • Consider skilled trades, the demand is huge, the pay can be good. There are programs available that offer work (chance to see if it’s a fit) while going to school part-time. You would be earning $, learning skills, and graduating with no debt. I cannot understand why more people do not go this route. Whatever you decide~become a whole systems thinker, not a time puncher/limited thinker, and you will succeed.

    • Just a little extra advice for the engineering student:

      Manufacturing is on the decline in this country (in most sectors, I know there are some exceptions, but overall, it’s dieing off). In the short term, that’s putting a lot of electrical engineers back out in the job market. The increased competition makes it less lucrative than it once was for people coming into profession.

      Long-term, it’ll probably work out, there are fewer students taking it on, so as people retire, demand should rebound a bit. You won’t get rich quick, but you could make a decent living.

      Computer Engineers: This one I have direct experience with… It’s absolutely cut-throat. In other industries, the guy with 20 years experience is preferred over a recent graduate. In computer engineering, the recent graduate may have less experience, but more of their experience is contemporary, so it closes that gap. Without that division in experience, you have kids under-bidding every job, and people are lasting on average 5 years in one company before moving on. There is no advancement within a single company as you won’t be there long enough, so your career progression is about filling out your resume with credentials, fancy titles, and well known employers or clients in your work history. It’s a lot of name-dropping, professional networking and marketing yourself. You’re leaping from job to job every few years. Either each new job is a step up, or you settle out working in healthcare or education where you stagnate with incremental fixed raises. It’s an OK living, but a lot of people don’t realize how much of your salary come from marketing instead of technical skill. Without the ability to sell yourself (and the flexibility to move around a lot, or settle in a tech community with hundreds of employers) you will have settle for $60k/yr.

      If I had it to do again, I would have gone with civil engineering. The government has three solutions to cover all problems. “Bomb it”, “Ban it” or “Throw money at it”. When it comes to domestic roads, landfills, water supplies, bridges… They can’t bomb or ban those. It’s stable work, tends to keep you in one city, pays pretty well (not getting rich, but you can easily live comfortable on it).

  7. Again, congrats to the Spirko clan on the newest joy.

    Also want to offer a thanks to Alex Shrugged for his dedication. Love the segment but understand if the run is done.

  8. To Jack and family, congratulations on the new addition!

    To the nurse looking at body armor, consider additional training.
    Check out the forums at Violence against medical staff is not only on the rise, it is a big issue that no one is talking about.

    Full disclosure, I’m a DT4EMS instructor. As a full-time paramedic, this class goes way beyond the “scene safety” lecture in medic school, covering behavior awareness, patient vs attacker decisions, threat response, reporting and much more.

    If you do choose to wear body armor, don’t succumb to peer pressure. Make it a habit and wear it every shift.

  9. My opinion for the ED RN:
    Find another Emergency Department.
    My buddy and I were in a similar position in the early 1990’s. We worked in a shithole on the west side of phoenix. Got so bad our security gaurds got dogs (rhodesian Ridgebacks) and one was stationed in the lobby right across from the triage desk. Our regular gaurds were a couple of truly badass Marines and between them and the dogs, it did slow down some of the gang violence.
    As was I trying on armor, my wife asked the question: “why don’t you just get another job?” After she shot down every excuse, I realized she was right. So I found a job in a better section of town. Now it’s true that I didn’t get my adrenaline fix from pulling a stabbed dirtbag outa the lobby anymore, but then again I didn’t have to pull a stabbed dirtbag outa the lobby anymore.

    • This is the best advice. On your way out, be sure they all know you are leaving do to poor security and safety (in the resignation letter).

  10. Jack and Alex, I love the history segments. I wish you could present all of them each day. That might be an idea for another show series, lol.

    I too would purchase the boom series on this if it was offered. I also like the idea of starting at year 0 and coming ahead and hope Alex is able to stay with this. Again, thank you so much.

  11. Anyone any ideas on making ones own body armour. I figure it cant be to difficult if one could figure out what materials to use. I am interested in protecting my ribs when horsing around my garden, chopping firewood etc.

  12. I love the history segment, and a big thank you flto Jack and Alex for your work.

    I haven’t listened to the episode fully yet, but one idea for the history segment is the Day In History, and talk about historical events that happened on that day.

  13. I don’t think that the benefits of having an engineering degree are related to the specific field of engineering. I don’t think that it really matters. As an engineer, my main task every day is to solve problems. Something needs to be done and it is not an off the shelf product. I need to look at what I have on hand and figure out how the task can be done with those things. You get practice at this on a daily basis. I have a civil engineering degree so I may be more able to deal with earth and water problems if it hits the fan, but a mechanical engineer will, as a problem solver, probably be able to come up with a workable solution as well. If it doesn’t hit the fan, problem solvers are required everywhere and it shouldn’t be a problem if you want/need a career change.

  14. I’d be just fine with the History segment going away. Or, at least Jack’s addition to it going away. Other than that, good show today.

  15. That flipping song you and Greg did was awesome! Not often, do I get a song that puts a chill up my spine but the slow down with your lyric thrown in Jack did just that. you’re quite the lyricist Jack. Amazing.

    Secondly, Alex Shrugged, man, if you were to publish a book on these tidbits as Jack was talking about, I bet you’d have a best seller. I’d buy one for me, and would be giving them out to family for gifts all over the place. I imagine at the very minimum the TSP community would be doing the same.
    Hard to say how many hardcopies you’d sell, even if only 5% of the TSP community bought one, that’s well over 5k in sales, say at $49.99 a pop. And hell I bet most would buy multiples too. So, you could be looking at 15k in sales volume, right out the gate. If I’m not mistaken the biggest authors out there don’t sell more than 40k or so right out the gate. (I may be mistaken here though but it seems I read that somewhere along the line.)

    I’d have copies for my kids to have too.

    Then we look at getting kids out of government schools wouldn’t this be a wonderful text book too for homeschoolers and such?

    I’m telling you, there’s a huge audience. Look at Rush Limbaugh’s “Rush Revere” books flying off the shelves. Those are fiction but teach history at the same time.

    Yours are an actual history lesson with incredible commentary to go along.

    Anyway, great segments you are doing.