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  1. Having spent eighteen years here, I can say that it still seems very strange to me that so many adults born and raised in Fort Collins have valley girl accents. I spent a year in Northern California, and only encountered that accent a couple of times, each one was a native of San Fernando, and none were older than mid 20's. This is the only place I've ever been where 40+ year old adults speak like they're in the movie "Clueless".
  2. Slag, no harm done, glad we're on the same page! Ausfire, were I to go through this again, I wouldn't have delayed seeing the doctor right off. Most of the doctors have commented that tendons don't get as much blood flow as other body parts so healing takes longer. It's my layperson understanding that injuring it again during recovery is what sets up the chronic condition. In my case, it took less and less to injure it again. Daswulf, I definitely have that weakness in one range of motion that you described. Palm down hurts more than palm up. As it progressed, I've lost grip strength and dexterity. When it's really bad, my ring finger stings. I figure it's worth sharing that I wore the elbow brace thing more or less from the beginning of symptoms. At first, it seemed to help a lot. On the long term, I now see that it didn't prevent me from re-injuring myself. With the strap on and "warmed up" the elbow didn't hurt much at all. Once I stopped for the day, it was a whole different story. Cortisone worked much the same way. It concealed the pain to where I thought I was all better. Right around the three month mark, the first shot wore off and it hurt way more than before. My first doctor didn't instruct me to avoid hammering for three months. She said after two weeks, I could ease back into it, which is exactly what I did. I have no proof that waiting three months would have cured my condition. I can say that it never gets better on it's own, and it always gets worse after I push it. It's awfully difficult to go two years without encountering situations where you don't have a choice but to push it.
  3. Slag, I sure didn't mean to imply that I was advocating trial and error in lieu of following a physicians advice. I very literally followed every physicians advice from start to finish, except for the first surgeon who was wanted to book surgery without imaging, or even examining my elbow. I discussed it with my General Practitioner and followed his recommendation to seek a second opinion. I'm not trying to give medical advice at all. I'm simply relating the (layperson) lessons I learned along the way to figuring out what was wrong with my elbow. The direct pay cost for the specialist ultrasound was very literally half of what a local clinic charged me for a cortisone shot. Speaking of that, all the surgeons I've seen were adamant that two shots of cortisone is the limit before they start doing harm.
  4. I've had blacksmith's elbow for two years now and in that time I've learned a few things that might help others. Before I go on, I want to stress that I am not trying to provide medical advice. If you've got a problem, please see a qualified doctor. With all that said, here are a few things that took a a lot of pain, and a very long time to figure out. Blacksmith elbow tendon problems can be diagnosed with an ultrasound, provided you have access to a facility that has an elbow imaging specialist. However, I saw several doctors, physical therapists, and even a surgeon who wanted to operate without any imaging to confirm or diagnose my problem whatsoever. There are three root causes (that I know of) for this condition. Scarification, torn/perforated tendon, and stretched/thinned tendon. When researching treatment options, very little is presented in terms of resolving a particular root cause. It wasn't until I sought a second surgeon's opinion that I learned that some treatments excel for some conditions and don't work as well in others. This may explain why people have such inconsistent results with any given treatment option. It's my completely unqualified opinion that some popular treatment options made my condition worse. At a bare minimum, it wasn't worth the pain and the lost time waiting to see if an inappropriate treatment would improve my situation. One thing that nobody tells you is that each treatment option is a two to three month commitment. You're expected to wait at least two to three months to see if you recover before you can try something else. Nobody wants to "escalate" the treatment until simpler remedies fail. The unsaid thing here, was that imaging could have been done at any point along that line to rule out the time-consuming and painful treatments that definitely wouldn't have worked.
  5. "Forge thick, grind thin" "A moment of forging, equals an hour of filing".
  6. Dharris, I don't think a center punch mark would suffice to keep your punch on the right path. The tip of your punch is pointed, so there's nothing to keep you from clocking the punch at an angle like you did. It can be very difficult to get the tip angles perfectly symmetrical on a punch like yours. Without the holes to reduce resistance, and guide the punch, the shorter bevel will probably rotate the punch. It's hard to be sure looking at your photo, but it seems like you might have some asymmetry in your tip bevels.
  7. George, I liked your geological references quite a bit! I really wasn't sure if my analogy would resonate with people. Your comment about a flood raises a very practical example of what I'm on about. Climbing up out of a disastrous flood might sound like the end of your problems. It's not. Everything on the new mesa was unaffected so you're effectively showing up for a duel with half your stuff, exhausted, starving, dripping wet, and freezing cold. When the 2008 crash hit, there were huge firms chasing tiny jobs because there wasn't anything else. When a company went under, many of the bystanders assumed it was because they couldn't win work. Maybe it was for some, but all the failed firms I had firsthand experience with were put out of business by jobs they'd won. For a couple of them, the fateful job was smaller than what they were doing before the recession. I suspect that the majority of working professionals visualize the "size" of a project in terms of it's contract value. If you're used to doing jobs twice the size of one that goes unpaid, it can seem like a minor problem. In reality, you're only earning some percentage of the contract value in profit. The accumulated profit is the only fund to "pay" for stuff that's not a job cost. To illustrate just how brutal this is, let's imagine a company that's used to doing jobs worth $100,000 apiece. Keeping it simple, let's say they always make 5% profit on everything they do. OK, so times get hard and they take on a job for $50,000 with a shady client who doesn't pay them. To earn $50,000 in profit to pay for that single bad job, they'll have to successfully complete $1,000,000 worth of revenue. That's 10 jobs at the $100,000 level, or 20 jobs at the $50,000 level. Pretty bad right? It get's worse. All of those jobs are now effectively break-even propositions where the "wolves are always at your door". Anything less than flawless performance put's you deeper in the hole. Some of that's outside of your control. During a down economy, there might not even be twenty jobs, timed such that you can plausibly complete them, let alone competitively win the contract(s). Sticking with simple, round numbers, let's say overhead comes to roughly 10% of your contract value. I don't condone calculating overhead as a percentage, but let's proceed to illustrate a point. A $50,000 job will occupy some unit of time. Let's say it's one month. If you didn't land work for one month, you'd be pulling $5,000 out of savings, and be looking at roughly two months worth of break-even work to make up the difference. In this example, this means that biding your time will cost you two to one. That's dollars, days, hours, whatever. Jumping on the first sketchy job that comes along risks a cost of twenty to one. Simply put, winning the wrong job is ten times the risk of not having a job. Individual situations will vary, but the overall trend still applies. This is one of many reasons why competitive work in down markets is so cutthroat.
  8. Well said! People often think of this in terms of a balancing act, which oversimplifies the reality of the working world. For example, it's pretty easy to spot stratification in any given market. What's not so obvious is how structural the differences are between layers. I like to visualize it as mesas and buttes. Mesas are flat topped land masses that are wider than their height. Buttes are flat topped land masses that are narrower than their height. Mesas and Buttes can be the same height, and they can have the same surface area. Cheap public bids that have no barrier to entry would be low mesas. Lots of competition (area), and very little reward (height). Larger public bids would be a higher mesa, because they're harder to complete so the small-fry's couldn't handle the bigger work. There's a structural difference between players on adjacent mesas. If the "too big" company chases the little work, their overhead will make the work unprofitable. If the "too small" company chases the bigger work, they risk penalties for failing to deliver. To strategically transition from one mesa to another, you have to metaphorically descend from your current mesa, cross the dark valley floor, and do whatever it takes to ascend the new mesa. A successful trip is trans-formative to the business. As mentioned earlier, buttes can exist at the same level and size as Mesas. These are the more elusive and elite clientele. They've chosen to avoid buying at the public market so it takes a considerable amount of work to be in the right place at the right time. When things are going well across the entire economy, life on the buttes is always better than life on the mesas. The biggest down side of the butte is that you're relying on a smaller market share. If your "golden geese" quit laying, you're crossing the dark valley knowing that life on a mesa will require different strategies to be successful. Even if you transition to the same "height" of mesa. The "dark valley" in my metaphor is the part of business growth that many people are almost willfully blind to. They figure they'll jump up a level when things are good, and let the new work pay for the structural investments. Conversely, they figure they'll jump down a level when things are bad and hope to break even until things turn around. Both scenarios run up debts that must be paid while the work is getting done. While that's happening, you don't really know if it was a good move or not. It's entirely possible to have done everything right, at just the wrong time, so it all comes to failure.
  9. Jason0012 It can be very difficult to get contract work with industrial firms. "Front line" workers in charge of the operation might get to award contracts, but they rarely have authority to get a given contractor approved to work with the firm. Be warned, that typically won't stop them from wasting your time with a whole bunch of false starts. Purchasing agents can be the same way, but they're often better informed about who to talk to at the main office. I can tell you that many/most office minions won't bother to process any paperwork unless there's a super obvious benefit to doing so. "I might be handy someday", isn't good enough. "I'm a direct competitor to XYZ corporation that you're already working with" might work, depending on how satisfied they are with XYZ's work. Bigger outfits have a few people who are simultaneously smart enough to understand what you're pitching, and empowered to do something about it. In my experience, these people see to it that all sales calls go to voicemail or lesser minions. Cold calling and/or dropping by mostly doesn't work. I know one small firm that "penetrated the bureaucracy" by conducting a long-term quasi-espionage campaign. They call the main number and ask for the shipping dock because nobody screens calls for the shipping dock. Once you get the shipping dock guy, you tell them you were holding for the purchasing agent while pretending to struggle to find their name. Sometimes the shipping dock guy will volunteer a name, or tell you if that department is in a different building. On the next call, maybe you ask for accounts receivable instead of purchasing. Explain that you're a vendor trying to get set up with....I'm sorry, my boss just asked me to check on this before heading out the door, I don't know who to ask for. Protip; if anyone offers to transfer your call, first ask them for the number in case you get disconnected. Take notes, and eventually you'll have a rough map of who does what with the ultimate goal of determining who's in charge of getting new vendors approved for contract work. You'll need to know what they care about so you're prepared to make the most of the opportunity. Big firms often have stringent business insurance requirements for their vendors. Some will do a credit check on you. Go in prepared for a long process. Getting paid works the same way. It's really common for large industrial firms to take 120+ days to pay a small contract. It might be worth your while to size up the client's potential before you sink the time and money into getting approved for contract work. One or two contracts a year might not be worth enough to merit six months of chasing your tail with office drones.
  10. Frosty, I honestly believe that about 80% of the "soft skills" lectures in business school could be replaced with that sentence.
  11. At 18, plan "A" was to become a rockstar because it was everything I enjoyed. Thank goodness for plans B through Z! It's really tough to know what your priorities will be ten, twenty, or thirty years down the line. A lot of jobs don't pay what they should, and a lot of life's necessities are incredibly expensive. My wife and I both have "fallback" careers that played a vital role in keeping food on the table. I think it's really important to stress a distinction that rarely gets made in discussions about career planning. Certified, doesn't mean qualified. Being the person who gets things done is what matters to an employer. Sure, they use credentials as a proxy for job suitability, but what they really want is to hire a person who will solve their problem. The tricky part about this, is that you have to see what the boss cares about, so you can apply yourself to what matters . That assumes you can bypass the H.R. obstacles to actually access the boss. There's usually a huge difference between what matters to your boss and what the coursework stressed for certification. Also, it bears mentioning that most certifying agencies do no quality-control on their graduates. That's not accidental. If these programs were actually accountable for professional incompetence on the part of their graduates, they would probably focus on things that matter in the working world. It's been my experience that accountability tends to improve performance. Before you jump into a trade school or a higher-ed program, look into what the employers are actually after. Things are so bad in the trades right now that most shops will literally pay your way through a trade school that doesn't suck. Good luck.
  12. I could swear I saw a picture of an anvil with a sloped side like that with an explanation that it was designed to have a striker facing the sloped side. It kinda makes sense to me that the sloped side would help to reinforce the corner and deflect errant blows from the striker. The "fifth" leg on the sloped side seems like it would give extra support for heavy blows. I think MC Hammer is right about the age of the holes. I noticed that the edges around the hardie hole are very rounded compared to the round holes. That leads me to suspect that the round holes are much newer than the hammering that put in the sway back. Frosty's comment about rivet sets / punching bolsters makes sense in the context of barrel hoops. Either way, it's pretty clear that this anvil has had some love and some mistreatment. The incised border on that sloped face was nicely done.
  13. Good points all around Frosty. This bit reminded me of an internship I did with a site utilities firm. The owner required that all employees (except the secretary and his wife) spend at least a month literally working in the trenches. Months later I was in the office when the owner was upset about lack of production on a job. He couldn't understand how the superintendent was onsite every day, yet they'd failed to notice that production had fallen behind. What I didn't realize then, but do now, is that the site was fifty acres of blowing dust. They had a single water truck onsite and used it sparingly because the biggest owner complaint was the cost of construction water. One front end loader tended to two trenches, bringing in the pipe bedding gravel as needed. Cycle times were increased because the operator couldn't see far enough ahead to safely pick up speed. The guys in the trench were getting utterly buried in dust with every load so the water truck focused exclusively on the two trenches, not the thirty or so acres of windblown soil leading up to them. From my time in the field, I remember how featureless the sites were. The most obvious way to measure progress was to make a mental note of where each track hoe was at the start of the day, so you could see how far it got by days end. Since the front end loader tended two trenches, you could easily see if one team was working faster than the other. When visibility dropped to 50', none of that is possible. The field staff doesn't concern itself with material quantities. All of that is sorted out for them. They just keep their heads down and run pipe from "here" to "there" . As a result, nobody on the field side knew how to measure their progress in terms of total material. The crews actually installing the pipe spent very little time looking at plans. Nobody had much sense of the distances involved, or how the scale of the drawing affects your perspective. The crew in the trench were probably aware that the pipe bedding tender was running slower than usual, but they were constantly distracted whenever they got hit by the passing water truck. The crews were working hard, which typically equated to making good production so nobody thought there was a problem. With today's knowledge, it's almost funny that the "typical office weenie" objection to fifty acres of blowing dust proves to be the undoing of so much field experience and leadership. If these guy's had any understanding of the "office" side of their livelihood, they might have made better decisions. The cost of construction water paled in comparison to the lost productivity. To say nothing of the significant environmental and health hazards that site was generating.
  14. Frosty, I've met more than a few people who loved to say "slow and steady wins the race" in response to a blown deadline. The tortoise's "secret" is that he says on track. When you're slow, there's no "give" in the order of operations. While reading your examples, one of the things that stands out to me is how people will put incredible amounts of physical work into something that's intellectually lazy. A lot of times it's clearly much more work to painstakingly monitor several "indicators" of hard work, than it is to measure progress on the work. For example, checking that all the windows are clean, and that nobody's standing at the water-cooler for too long could take all day without generating any beneficial leadership to the workers. In contrast, it might take a concerted effort to think through all the necessary criteria to define "success". However, once it's been defined, both workers and management have a clear set of standards to uphold. I think many manager's shy away from this because clear standards leave little room for plausible deny-ability. "Floating" between bureaucratic necessity, and compassionate leadership allows them greater latitude to cultivate an image independent of their performance. Every miserable workplace I've ever had was overseen by "floaters". These people unerringly focus on whatever is "measured" by higher ups, without regard to the underlying intent. One "management" idea that doesn't get much attention is to challenge the corporate response to mistakes. There's a lot of wisdom in learning from mistakes. Very few companies will explain how mistakes were involved in development of a given policy. If companies actually want workers acting in good faith, they should recognize the firms obligation to respond in kind.
  15. The other day I was on a construction site with some colleagues. Everyone we saw was working, however, there are critical tasks that haven't been completed. Every time I tried to steer the focus towards addressing these tasks, I heard all about how busy everyone is. The same sort of thing happens whenever I call a vendor that's perpetually late. They're always too busy to deal with me when there's time to resolve an issue. I've heard people talking about "reactionary" workplaces, I've worked in a few myself. I'm not sure that's what is really going on. The workers on that construction site were all earnestly doing their best. They genuinely thought they knew better, which is why they focused on task Y instead of the scheduled task X. They're way ahead on tasks that don't matter for today, and way behind on tasks that do. My colleagues all have tremendous sympathy for these workers, and make endless excuses on their behalf whenever they're behind schedule. In contrast, we've got an employee who's just slow. Everything he does takes longer than average. He's articulate, personable, reliable, and intelligent. Every client falls in love with him, often to the extent that they directly hire us for repeat work. He's enormously profitable to the company because he's generating his own revenue stream that's willing to pay higher prices and wait longer for his slow-poke approach. This guy drives my colleagues crazy because he never looks "busy". Everyone else is stressed out trying to make their deadlines and stay ahead of the project demands, while this guy's just "coasting" through his working life. It's my lonesome opinion that the slow poke is the most productive employee we have. He requires virtually zero overhead and he's easily earning us double the net profit of our next-best worker. This got me to thinking about productivity from a different perspective. See, we can measure the progress of work with a fair degree of accuracy. The problem as I see it, is that most people don't consider how their work fits into order of operations in the big picture. If you're not hitting big-picture milestones, you're not making production. Sometimes, all the other stuff you've completed isn't really relevant to the powers that be. I see a lot of hard-working people who get fixated on "doing a good job", so they target tasks they feel they can complete without hindrance. Any effort to call their attention to more pressing issues is an affront to their image of craftsmanship. There are some very talented people who simply don't see a deadline as a professional standard. By extension, they are upset when clients fail to appreciate the quality of their work. The slow guy I mentioned above, always makes his deadlines because his priority is defining what matters most to the client. As I write this, it occurs to me that we don't measure the effort put into managing logistics and scheduling as part of "production". The "busy" workers consider all of that to be managements problem. Once you factor for the cost of additional management plus the inevitable overtime pushes to meet deadlines with the "busy" crews, it becomes obvious why the "slow guy" is so profitable.