Member since April, 2006
- My working life began with literally cleaning up excretia and other animal messes, working in my father's kennels caring for many animals boarding or hospitalized in his Animal Clinic attached to our home in Western Pennsylvania. I also assisted his large animal practice helping tasks on farm calls where he'd vaccinate, neuter, and provide other services to the farmers of three counties in Southwestern Pennsylvania, which lead to some interesting moments, like slipping and falling face down in a gooey pig pen chasing and trying to grab young piglets for treatment and ear tagging. Herding recalcitrant bovines and lassoing a reluctant horse punctuated quite a few of my early days. My father, a child of the depression was the hardest worker I've ever known, and quite a few of those experiences beside him stick in my memory as both fond and pleasant—or others, at least as repulsive as that day above with its 'feces and urine saturated mud' on face and in mouth. Helping turn and deliver an fetus during the occasional breach birth in equine or bovines comes to mind for several reasons, not least being they always seemed to be between midnight and dawn when the emergency call came waking the whole household, nor the 2 am knocks on the door because someone's dog or cat was hit by an automobile.
- We also kept a few livestock of our own, so I had to muck out stalls and feed large animals on schedule and I became an accomplished horseman along the way starting with ponies and later quarter-horses. In between chores, in those safe 1960's days, me and my crew ran wild riding bicycles for tens of miles to visit various attractions, not least of which were several railyards where we met the occasional true hobos of the era. That and a more spoiled only child friend of mine with a really nice Lionel train layout started a lifetime love of Railroading, as the era of mixed Steam Locomotives and Diesel-Electric came into it's final phase. The smoking Iron Horse is only a museum relic these days.
- Later on, as I graduated Junior High, Dad focused mostly on small animal veterinary work, we moved and he had staff tending the kennels in a new office begun some years earlier, and I took a position as a 14 y.o. drug store cashier and the next summer, began also pumping gas after spending a couple of months boarding and helping on a farm with a buddy and fellow wrestler from our neighborhood where we built some amazing muscles and put up a lot of hay bales in hay stacks, mucked more stalls,a and after a time, lent a hand in the twice daily milking regimen controlling a dairy farmers schedule—all under fairly tough, no-nonsense owner-operators. The latter two positions, as well as prior experiences helping maintain the machinery of a combined miniature golf course and Golf driving range owned and operated by our family led me into more and more mechanical taskings, eventually an association with two of the main mechanics and their drag racing muscle cars where we'd change engines and transmissions completely in marathon hurried efforts, sometimes in as little as 2-3 hours in the late night crunch in order to be ready for the next days racing.
- Later I became a youthful mechanic for another garage recommended by the owner of the first as his station was taken by eminent domain for a highway ramp expansion which never happened. His building site is now a strip mall, but his service business lives on now under his son in a garage five miles away, but without gas pumps. By the time I was 20, my new boss wanted me to become a junior partner, for I was his chief mechanic, though too young to be certified as an inspection mechanic under Pennsylvania law until I passed the magic age of 21, and could in that day also vote. I was in college by then and limited to working just weekends for him, with a daily part time position at a garage located far nearer campus.
- So my adult working life began with putting myself through two years of college sometimes working 2-3 part time jobs, mainly as a Mechanic, but also including a stint as a restaurant bus boy, short order cook, then assistant manager. I worked that era also as a radio station DJ, heading up both a Classical Music show and two contemporary music shows, one a busy Saturday night caller request gig. This got me into a fascination with electronics technology, where with my heavy science concentration in High School and as a pre-Med majors track in college with a minor in Economics I found a complimentary interest, eventually earning an FCC license.
- One of my primary majors was in Chemistry and that open the door for me to take a position as a lab chemist assuring various vats of chemicals in an electrical box manufacturers production line were set up properly for electroplating and more importantly the company was not discharging untreated and illegal effluents in the early days of the United States Clean Water Act and the Environmental Protection Agency. Alas that position also taught me a hard lesson about discretion, for it ended suddenly when a chance lunch-wagon comment I'd made to someone who was complaining that perhaps they should see someone in the AFL-CIO about forming a union got back to the plant manager. Woops!
- I bounced back from that by hiring on two days later with a company that specialized in fixing water towers, so spent six weeks earning excellent pay doing work way up high which nearly killed me in one incident, while swaying side to side using a 3,000 psi paint gun repainting the outside of the water tower in question on a bosun's chair. I learned to paint, weld and sandblast during that stint and also learned to correctly (but illegally) drive a semi-tractor with which I hauled our semi-trailer from Cincinnati to South Delaware, because no one else could, when our normal driver had emergency family matters to attend to, and our schedule was set up months before. I'd learned to drive at the age of 11-1/2 on a jeep on the family driving range, so cranky manual transmissions like the unsynchronized tractor transmissions I'd drove on that farm were an old experience, as was double clutching to shift gears. In short, I learned young that you did what you had to do to get any and all jobs done!
- A year later, focusing on bringing up my grade point average and so after limiting my fourth semester jobs to less than 20 hours a week as part-time Janitor and short order cook having assumed I'd still find it easy to find work armored with youthful confidence and its characteristic ignorant assumptions of personal invincibility, I experienced a personal financial disaster/dilemma for in the summer of 1974 the economy had crashed because of the OPEC Oil Embargo of 1973-'74 causing rampant gas station waiting lines, and no one was hiring college kids, not even the one garage where my boss had urged me to become a junior partner, which would have meant dropping out of college—a temptation I wrestled with for some months. He'd hired a replacement and business was down for him too.
- I eventually found a position as a part time toll collector on the Pennsylvania Turnpike which paid minimum wage to summer hires like myself that were no where close to the mechanics wages I'd earned in years before. I was tempted to pursue that amazingly dirty and dangerous water tower work, but wasn't so desperate to want to return there without greater need. Sufficient College tuition savings, not being a realistic goal under the circumstance, I joined the US Navy (A long lifetime love—I'd been nominated and accepted into Annapolis, only to get a medical down check because of eyesight—my first real life traumatic event was getting that letter!), went through boot camp and advanced electronics schools (what else!) and in the summer of 1975 joined the Submarine force where I got more schooling and also earned an associates in electronics by correspondence courses. I became really good at troubleshooting electronics, and worked then on my first computer, a secret 'large suitcase-size kludge-of-a-thing' in those days called NavSat, these days known as a GPS system and found ubiquitously in cellular telephones! I also took a correspondence course from the Newspaper Institute of America, with a design on someday writing. Alas, most of my books remain unfinished, but I did submit a few short stories here and there over the years, mainly in science fiction. I did however learn then how to program software on another far more powerful and modern system while idling away the many hours we spent 'punching holes in the ocean' patrolling for or tracking Soviet submarines and wrote two analysis programs that were adopted in the Atlantic Fleet as standard tools.
- Leaving the Navy where I'd advanced rapidly as possible in the enlisted ranks, I stayed in the Active Reserves for many a year, eventually being recruited into a unit which specialized in educating other reserve units because of my teaching skills, so segued from a technical expert resource pool for the Sub Base in Groton, CT to teaching up others, better maintaining the Navy's readiness state.
- When I'd entered civilian life again, I'd first taken a supervisors position with an IC manufacturer in Philadelphia (a mistake), then a position as a super-tech for another major IC manufacturer as the right hand man for one of their most prolific patent holders and inventors. In retrospect, voluntarily leaving that position three years later, by then working as a junior engineer and attending night school for an full engineering position, was the most regrettable mistake of my life. It took me some years over a decade to appreciate that, but the first company was acquired and eventually downsized, the other R&D focused company continues to shine on Wall Street and in cutting edge electronics designs.
- Subsequently, I spent the next decades working engineering positions, frequently as a test or production engineer needing a computer savvy engineer with skills in analog and digital electronics, also frequently automating manufacturing or designing and implementing computerized manufacturing testing systems, did some of the control designs for the medical laser industries and worked in a lot of military-aerospace companies, most recently on the F-22 stealth fighter.
- These days I'm a self-employed Hardware/Software engineer that built two 'Personal Computers' from scratch before IBM joined the Home Computer design races and their marketing department coined the terms Personal Computer and PC. That bit of experimental electronics and writing in assembler level code you see has paid off far more than many an university level course over my history. Later, I had one 'all software' position held as an employee in a small company for ~2.5 years where, pushing 40 years, I got to help write the more than 2.000,000 lines of Standard C underlying an advanced database 4th generation language called Infinity, while concurrently taking graduate courses in Computer Engineering and Electrical Engineering. Infinity was sold to Data General and thence to Oracle, and disappeared as a product, but the technology lives on in fast data base accesses.
- Since then I've returned to my niche of being an all around engineer able to design and implement software controlled hardware needs-whether the hardware is mainly analog or digital, or a mix of the two. That has been my niche and strength, for their aren't many of us able to feel comfortable in both sides of electrical engineering and know computer architecture as well, with in my case also offer a company the bonus I have a proven body of work writing software for firmware (e.g. embedded systems) and drivers which applications use to interface with hardware.
- I started helping write and clean up the English Wikipedia around the middle of 2004 as an Anonymous (IP) contributor, and gradually became more and more invested in my leisure time assisting that effort, mainly back then in historical articles, another love of mine. Later I spent a period de-geeking technical articles in engineering and various sciences. Sometime in early 2005 I broke down and established a user name and normal account, and between then and now made more than 50,000 quality edits. Typically, they take quite a bit of careful editing, so I've always been ticked off by the casual way some editors use rollbacks totally disrespecting the time and thought and stress I put in making an article communicate clearly, without dismissing previous text where and whenever possible.
- My normal contributions take well over half an hour per edit, and I've been known to take several painstaking days of endless edits and previewing with a longer article fix-up before saving and committing changes into the article—my priority is always to communicate clearly to the less well informed, if you'll allow, dumbing down particularly introductions where the page creators assume a knowledge basis and immediately speak 'Geek'. Hence I write for those 12-16 year old kids and stay at home moms who may, like I did myself in Junior High and High School, be reading anything and everything in 'chain readings' of encyclopedia topics—trying to assimilate the gist and thrust of various bodies of knowledge. (In study periods an lunch free time my youthful geek time frequently found me with stacks of 6 or more encyclopedias, cross reading with a vengeance on topics of interest.) I still read eclectically, though deteriorating eyesight makes reading today far more problematic.
- Here, along with helpers from the Trainz online communities, particularly Yesterdayz Trainz, I hope to put together a series of tutorials that take the edge off the massive learning curve facing a new user of the complicated Trainz operating environments, likely the most complicated software any private computer owner is or will ever possess. At the moment, I'm facing a cart-or-horse first situation—how do I split the difference between the demands of free content imposed by the Wikimedia Commons copyrights policies, while being able to upload the many screenshots the largely pictorial tutorials need to be effective training pages about Trainz. I find it ironic that a Foundation styling itself as an educational institution is so backward as to not realize there is nothing unique and special about an image anyone can more or less duplicate and re-create by running the same software. If Auran/N3V Games is recalcitrant about releasing some copyrights, I may be doomed to having wasted weeks of preparation and the carefully collected images supporting my outlines will be so much trash on my hard drives. //FrankB 19:50, 10 June 2013 (UTC)