Routine, or the downfall of the organised

Irony?! Do you type it?!

I appreciate how ironic it is that a man who promised a weekly routine of blog posts should make his comeback to the world of self-righteous, poorly written and biased tripe with an article on the power of routines. Yet, undiscouraged by his own shortcomings, he shall proceed in analysing what makes a good routine, how it can benefit everyone, but also how the wise can fall victim to their own system.

rou·tine
\rü-ˈtēn\
noun
: a regular way of doing things in a particular order
: a boring state or situation in which things are always done the same way
: a series of things (such as movements or jokes) that are repeated as part of a performance

The second definition here states that routine is ‘boring’ and for many of our generation the idea of working 9 to 5, or doing a similar ‘mainstream’ job, is hell on earth (I’ll leave the article about how a hard day’s labour could sort these people out for another day…). However, to me, a routine has been what has given me freedom to pursue what I enjoy. Everyday I follow the same schedule:

Wake
Wash
Dress
Eat
Teeth
Commute
Work
Tea Break
Work
Snack
Work
Lunch
Work
Tea Break
Work
Snack
Work
Gym
Commute
Shower
Cook
Eat
Free Time
Sleep

That day is probably more structured than most University syllabi, but it’s that rigidity that gives me the ability to do what I want (see: Free Time) for as long as possible. That means I can fill the time with anything from more sleep, to reengaging with my adoring readers.

‘So,’ you may well ask, ‘what about the people who just want to maximise their efficiency on the activities during the day?’

This brings me onto one of my most important realisations – gymrats take note – if you want to get huge, you have got to learn to meal prep. This means getting into the habit – note the theme here people – of cooking your meals for the week on a Sunday. This initial time investment will enable you to eat proper meals where normally you’d be forced to make a sub-par sandwich or some other malarky.

Essentially what i’m trying to get at is that using a routine is the solution to all your problems. No free time, make a routine! Can’t eat properly, make a routine! Have you been missold PPI, MAKE A ROUTINE! But there is a downside to all this perfection…

[Now we get to the part of the article where i offer an insightful counter argument to ensure the reader thinks I am a good writer]

The main disadvantage of having a life run by routines is that if this routine is jeopardised (say, by forgetting to defrost your chicken) you run the risk of shooting yourself in the foot. Another problem is that you can become locked into your routine: cheeky pint at lunch? Sorry, I have to eat my chicken and brown rice. Want to watch Top Gear? Sorry, I’m cooking my chicken and brown rice. Fancy helping me get out of this tight dress? Sorry, I’m washing up my chicken and brown rice.

But, what I find the most painful aspect of a life of routine, is that when you aren’t pushed for time, and there’s nothing in your day, it is far too easy to waste a day. Weekends for me are spent doing almost nothing. And whilst it is bliss, and the rest is much needed (and well deserved before you moan), I always leave the weekend feeling that I wasted it by not doing more. In other words, I have almost become addicted to work, sleep deprivation and – wait for this – a routine.

[We are at the pseudo-serious final remarks]

In conclusion, routines can be dangerous but they have changed my life. They have helped me find the time that a younger, less experienced Engineer, might not have; which can then be spent doing nothing or, more importantly, spending time with the girlfriend, mates and family, and what’s more important than making memories with those people?

That’s right, getting massive. So stop reading this and go make your chicken and brown rice…

N.B:

This article has been a refreshing experience to just spew what’s in my head whilst I work. I genuinely do feel guilty about not posting blogs this year, but as you can imagine, life in F1 doesn’t give me much free time. But, depending on some variables, I may make this blog part of my routine… Bonus point for coming full circle?

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What’s Gwarning: An update on the state of the blog

Hello again, last week’s technical post did quite well, so I’ll be doing more that, probably with some of the features of F1 that get talked about on TV without much explanation, I want you guys to be able to wow your friends with some smartarse comments. Like I do…

Anyway, this post is more like an update of what’s been going on, and what’s coming up in the next few weeks, and what that means for the blog. Because I know that this blog is the constant by which you organise your lives.

So, I’ve been working quite hard to get my CAD skills up to scratch ready for the start of my placement in mid-August, and I’ll be away for a week on Tuesday. So basically I’m not going to be posting much in August, but I’ll see if I can at least do a post a week. But the nature of my work, as those who know me will know, is very demanding and so what with the job, gym, eating and sleeping, I might not able to post at all.

After I’ve settled into my new job, I want to start a more rigid schedule for my posts, so maybe do 2 a week (or potentially 3, we’ll see how things go), 1 of which will be a technical article, explaining some aspect of F!, whilst the other might be something about what I’ve been doing/something that’s happened in the news that I’d like to comment on.

So yeah, sorry for the short post, but I’m watching Free Practice and I haven’t really done much this week, besides practise CAD, so unless you want the intricacies of Freeform Modelling, then I’ve not got much to offer. I’ll try and do a post when I’m back from visiting the girlfriend, just to touch base (I’ll probably be nervous about my job, so that could make for some interesting reading). In the meantime, keep safe and watch the race this weekend!

 

Cheers,
Pragmatic Engineer

FRIC-y Friday

Hey Guys, I thought I’d write my first ‘technical’ F1 post about the hot topic of FRIC. If you want to show off to your mates (or your less-than-interested mother like I do), then have a butcher’s at this, hopefully it’ll make sense.

So if you don’t follow the technical changes that happen in F1 (which is arguably more than half of the whole sport, but that’s a different blog…), FRIC is the latest ‘fad’ that has been banned in a misguided effort to ‘cost-cut’ in the sport. To understand why the FIA really made this decision, we must hark back to the days of Senna/Prost, when Williams were the magicians that held the secret to the dark art of Active Suspension… *cue eerie music*

You know what to do with that big fat… Active Suspension?

So in the Early 90s, the cars in F1 were subject to a computer controlled system that essentially stabilised the car through corners, which allowed for more downforce, ergo more speed, ergo more wins. Now, this groundbreaking technology (which has remained prominent in road cars from the Nissan GTR to the latest all-terrain Land Rover settings) was banned by the FIA (Federation Internationale de l’Automobile: the governing body of F1) as it was sensed that it removed driver skill from the finely balanced equation that made the sport what it was. Williams were outraged – rightly so, as the team that had developed the best system, only to have it outlawed – and the sport lost one of its most innovative technologies.

Jump back to today, and the system that has replaced Active Suspension is a analogue version that utilises the fluid mechanics of the suspension dampers to alter ride characteristics on the fly: FRIC (Front to Rear Inter-Connected) Suspension. I’ve drawn some diagrams to help illustrate how it works (please bear with the artistic talent, its the first time I’ve drawn in about 3 months)

So first, we will look at how the car performs under braking (and from this, acceleration). If you imagine driving down the road at 40 mph in a 30 mph zone, and your friend see the speed camera, he will slam the brakes on, and you are thrown forward due to the change in momentum. The car under goes a similar motion, only it tilts, with the load being absorbed by the shock absorbers (or suspension as i’ll refer to it). Now, look at the diagram below:

IMG_20140718_203305

Heave: The effect of braking upon a car’s pitch

We can see that the front suspension will be compressed, whilst the rear will extend. To counter this, the pressure from the top of both the front and rear are inter-connected, so that the pressure from the front is applied to the rear, reducing the effects of braking (or heave). The same applies for the bottom half of the damper.

Now, although the name suggests only front and rear linkage, the roll characteristics are also controlled. Looking at the diagrams below will explain how the process works for horizontal tilt. Note how the cylinders are inversely linked, so as to harden the outer suspension as well as prevent the inner suspension from extending, thus giving a ‘flatter’ cornering position.

IMG_20140718_214309

IMG_20140718_214330 Such a professional drawing… Anybody would think I’m doing a degree in this…

Not only do these modifications give a flatter, quicker corner, but the complex aerodynamic packages on modern F1 cars are very sensitive to any disturbance along the floor of the car. The elimination of the previous unknowns of pitch and yaw under braking, accelerating and cornering, would provide teams with a large advantage over rivals. The banning of this system, however, has done nothing to weaken the superiority of the Mercedes team, and this would lead me to believe that the team has a much more mechanical-heavy package than other teams, and only investigated FRIC as an ‘afterthought’.

So, when you’re sat down on Sunday watching the Grand Prix, be sure to tell your family/friends/significant others about this, and I’ll even let you pretend you knew it yourself; our little secret, eh?

Cheers,
Pragmatic Engineer

PS, share this with your mates, I’d quite like to do more of these kind of articles

No Pain, No Gain?

Hey guys, so I found it hard to think of an article this week and I think it comes down to the fact that the last blog has got such good reception! I can only thank you guys for that, so keep sharing (Twitter’s your best bet if you’re embarrassed about the cool kids realising you read an Engineering blog…)

Anyway, today’s topic was chosen because I’ve just created my ‘Life Excel’ spreadsheet to track my finances, diet, fitness, astrological alignment for next year and if I stick with it, the rest of my life! With any luck, my complex algorithms (did you know you can do Graphs?!) will be able to predict how to create the Philosopher’s Stone. But the thought of being in a gym after work every day, without threat of deadlines after 6pm sounds amazing, but gave me a thought.

So yeah, the allure of the Gym to adolescent guys. Is it healthy? Why do they (we) do it? And is it detrimental to the mental state of young males?

Okay, so when I was 16, I went to a gym for the first time with my mate Joe, who as some of you may know, is a fairly built guy (don’t tell him though). Those 2 hours were like a baptism of pain for me, we did every muscle group (not that I knew what a muscle group was: top/bottom?). But I was hooked, next day I signed up at my local leisure centre, used the fitness suite for a couple of months and thought I made decent ‘noob progress’. Leisure centre got renovated, I got a bit bigger and more serious, lifting the bigger weights on the rack. Final year of school and I was the ‘best of the rest’, I looked better than I ever had, and like the kid I was, thought fresher girls would go crazy over me.

Then I came to Uni. The fresher girls never went crazy over me, and mid-week I joined the gym at uni. The small pond had become the Atlantic, and I was a sardine. But something changed, I never did it to look good anymore. I did it to lift heavy weights. Luckily my mates in halls were keen, and with the company of Elite athletes, my gym life changed, leg day was a thing that I persuaded others to do. I had exams, I lost gains, but met some more mates. These guys were the big deal, with the emphasis on big. I hated every minute I spent in the gym in their shadow, I felt pissed off with myself, I couldn’t keep up with them. But then I realised that’s what I enjoyed. Stopping being skinny was easy, but getting big was hard. And I’d never be big enough, it comes with the territory. The 90kg, 6ft 3 brick shithouse thinks he’s small. But he loves every minute he spends lifting those weights. We were hooked.

This is where I get a bit more scientific, and discuss the issue of Muscle Dysmorphia. For those that can’t be bothered clicking the link, it’s related to the mental disorder whereby the sufferer never thinks they are ‘big enough’. It’s informally called Bigorexia. It’s being brushed aside by many people as a ‘stupid excuse’, but I genuinely think it’s an issue. I don’t think I or my friends actually suffer from it medically, but it’s an interesting concept to explore, and I think many people shouldn’t write it off as hokum, just like anorexia was 10/20 years ago.

Another issue I’d like to relate to is that of perceived gender roles. Sexism/mysogynism/feminism/equality are all very ‘dangerous’ words to brandish about, but with all the discussion in the papers relating to women being objectified in the media, I’d like to offer a counter argument that men are also being objectified and classed into certain ‘types’. Whilst I’m not claiming its okay in either way, nor am I saying one is more serious than the other, I do think that the issue of sexism towards men is one that is overlooked considerably. My point is that boys are taught to be able to do things with their hands, be ‘successful’ and above all, be masculine. I bet if you think of the word masculine, you think of a lumberjack or some such, and think that’s not PC and try and think of a man crying and opening up as being manly? Now you think you’re a real 21st century, gender-equality warrior? I don’t really know where this is going, but I think that these preconceptions are some of the reason that guys go to the gym.

Look at what I used to be, a kid who wanted to get muscly to get girls. Look at what I am now, more of a man, who’s about to go into the big bad world, and he’s looking forward to getting back in the gym fulltime. It’s strange that the world which can be such a painful experience, that we escape it by putting ourselves through pain. It’s a pain we choose to subject ourselves in order to believe that we are in control of our own lives for a few hours a day. The #gainz we make in the gym can be seen by the world as trying to prove that we are men. But I don’t see a built guy as a man cause he’s big, but he’s a man because he can dedicate years of his life to something that is built around pain, and come through on the other side victorious.

Or you know, maybe I just want to look good for that girl at the bar… (Don’t worry Hannah, I don’t)

 

Cheers,
Pragmatic Engineer/Resident Narcissist

Results Day or: How I Learned to Accept ‘Defeat’

Afternoon Readers, today’s post will be devoid of any F1 gossip, going for the more ‘student lifestyle’ approach, but don’t worry, they’ll be no grotesque stories. I hope…

Anyway, as many of you no doubt have seen the past week, there’s been an influx of ‘Look how amazing I am’ tweets and Facebook posts, owing to the recent release of University exam results. Today marks the results day for the University of Bath (the most prestigious and talent-filled in the land, don’t believe the League Tables…) Now before I get into the swing of things, I want to make it clear that I’m not belittling anybody who has done exceedingly well, nor am I patronising those who’ve performed below where they expected to be. I’m simply offering my $0.02 as to the ‘exam culture’. Many of my friends are superior to me academically. Many are superior physically. And almost all of them are superior socially. But the ones that are the real gems, the ones that reach out and show you they aren’t just another statistic, are the ones that aren’t that bothered about exam results.

‘WHOA!’ you say, ‘But Pragmatic Engineer, exams are everything we work for!!’ I’d imagine 95% of students at University believe that this is the one undeniable truth in the world. But alas, like all truths (such as carrots giving night vision and that the girl at the bar thinking about your personality before your pecs) is unfortunately not true. Yes, having that First Class degree will certainly unlock all the doors for you but, at the end of the day, a piece of paper can’t turn the handle and open it (okay, it can if you wrap it round, but seriously? It’s a metaphor…). This is where I bring my personal experiences into the fray, and again, it’s not the be-all and end-all of academic discussion, so don’t think you can never revise again.

Engineering is a different breed to other disciplines. Many of my non-engineering friends would have you believe its more a mutt than the prize Pedigree (Ped-degree? Get it?), but I like to think of them as simply different classes. Now what I find to be the case is that we are brought up to believe that a first-class degree will land you the first-class job, and so on. But an element of placement hunting, more prominent in Engineering roles, that I enjoyed, as a classic under-achiever, was the development and advertisement of your Skills, not just your Grades. The people in my cohort are some of the brightest I know, but the people who look to have the most rewarding placements? The ones who showed their employers that their ‘average grades’ weren’t the only thing they could do.

The point i’m trying to make is this: got that 97% mark this year? Fantastic! (Why are you reading this? You should be drunk already!) You have resits? Fantastic! You have a middle of the road mark? Fantastic!

YOU ARE NOT YOUR GRADES. You are the person that can pick themselves up after having a terrible day in the Maths exam, and almost quadruple your mark at the resit. Resilience is what employers need. It’s a dog eat dog world, and you’re wearing milkbone underpants. But the difference is, you can fight the dogs off when you get to your high-pressure career, those who’ve never had a hard day in their life will have to learn how to pretty sharpish. All-nighters are the backbone of a good engineer, and i’d wager that not a single employee of the top companies in the world could say they’ve never done one.

I don’t really know what to say. I’m only writing this because I have never got any set of results without going through the same process for most of them:

  1. Oh Thank God! No resits!
  2. This isn’t too shabby, can bring the marks up
  3. *text mates* Oh, well they are much better than me anyway
  4. *text other mates* Oh come on!!! HE BEAT ME?!
  5. Sit pissed off browsing facebook
  6. ??????
  7. Realise my current position in life
  8. Thank my lucky stars

I urge you all to remember to do steps 6, 7 and 8. Because you’re just as good as the guy that got 300% in his exams. You’re also just as good as the guy that did no work and got that 1% better than you. Have some self-belief; because at the end of the day, for the 50 years after you graduate, it’s the way you interact with people, approach challenges and conduct yourself that get you the best opportunities in life.

And anyway, you can only call yourself Desmond if you get a 2-2 (Desmond Tutu, get it?) And who wouldn’t want to be called Desmond?

 

Cheers,

Pragmatic Engineer (can you tell I don’t like exams yet? The clue’s in the name)

Why I like Vroom Vroom

This weekend has been a smorgasbord of British sport (try saying that after a few pints down the Norfolk) and with it came some difficult choices to make. In my household it came down to one of four options:

1) Do I go and watch the Tour de France over in the sprawling metropolis of Tintwistle?
2) Do I watch the Wimbledon Men’s final, stuffing my face with strawberries and cream?
3) Do I watch a bit of the old football, whilst having to put up with Adrian Chiles?
4) Do I watch the British GP and enjoy around 90 minutes of incredibly tense racing?

No prizes for guessing which one i chose…

‘Tint’: If you squint, you can almost make out the Workhouse…

Now this is my first ‘proper’ blog entry, so i thought I might as well delve into what you’ll be seeing a lot of: opinions on what’s been happening in F1 recently. But rather than summarise the events like some sort of ‘highlight reel’, I’m going to use it to explain why I love Formula 1 more than anything else (besides the obvious Girlfriend/Family/Friends/Dog).

 


FULL DISCLAIMER:

I am soon to be a Williams F1 Employee, I am a Williams F1 fan, and I am very much expecting Valtteri Bottas to become a World Champion soon. Having said that, all my (most likely biased) opinions in this blog (and all posts on social media too) are my own, not on the behalf of any company/organisation.
I probably didn’t need to do that, but I’ve always wanted to…


 

The main selling point of F1 to those that aren’t enlightened, is the promise of fast, dangerous and excting racing, and nothing came close to the Alonso/Vettel battle this weekend. For more than quarter of the race, the 2 previous World Champions fought wheel to wheel at speeds over 170mph. Whilst doing this, they both had time to watch each other to see if their opponents ventured off the track limits, which would allow for sanctions to be handed out by the track officials. Thankfully, the head honchos decided to just let them race, and whilst they did so, the fans were treated to a spectacle, nearly half an hour of impeccable driving under immense pressure, and with heartrates of over 170bpm throughout. Who said F1 Drivers aren’t athletes?

2 Champions, racing like professionals. Ben Hur anyone?

 

However, the fast paced racing isn’t enough for a lot of people, and the threat of high speed incidents provides both entertainment for those who don’t realise the danger that these drivers are exposed to, as well as gratitude to the engineers that can design cars that not only race at break-neck speed, but protect the drivers from break-neck collisions. The race was unfortunately delayed for nearly an hour whilst repairs were carried out after a dangerous accident on the opening lap that left Kimi Raikkonen leaving the track in a medical car, Felipe Massa having to retire from his 200th GP, and Max Chilton narrowly avoiding a flying wheel, only inches from his helmet. The crash wasn’t only dangerous, but has since raised questions as to whether or not Kimi should be allowed to race, as aspersions have been cast that he doesn’t carry out the proper pre-race checks that others do means he put other drivers at risk by rejoining the track at an unsafe point: Who said F1 doesn’t have drama like football?

Out of control: was Raikkonen too hasty to rejoin the track?

 

For the British fans, there wasn’t much to complain about either, Hamilton made a spectacular comeback from 6th position after a poor’s day qualifying, whereby he gifted pole position to his teammate, but that didn’t stop him coming through the field to garner 1st place. Williams are maintaining their comeback as one of the top teams by securing 2nd place at their home Grand Prix (something i’m very pleased about). And Jenson responded to criticism by finishing a very respectable 4th place, on a track that isn’t Mclaren’s forte. Who said F1 has no national Pride? (note: 8 of the 11 teams have UK-based factories)


So yeah, a lot of people think its boring to drive round for 90 minutes (My girlfriend and dad included…), but I challenge anyone to watch the racing on show at the British Grand Prix and say it isn’t better than England’s World Cup performance… This Engineer thinks we might need a new national sport, what do you think? Comment below!!

Cheers,
Pragmatic Engineer

PS I managed to catch the end of the Tennis as well, bloody cracking!! Although my mum wasn’t happy old Roger didn’t win #MiddleAgedCrush

Abstract, kind of

This is the Abstract to this blog. I don’t know if that’s going to become an adjective for the blog itself, or whether that’s a positive description or not… Maybe that will be the first ‘proper’ article i do or not, who knows!

Anyway, on to the real gritty stuff.

For those that know me: you’ll know I don’t really have a way with words, and for those that don’t: I shouldn’t have written that. I’m a 20 year old (at time of writing) guy (hopefully still) studying Mechanical Engineering at the University of Bath, but I’m about to go on a placement year, so i’m not too much of a ‘student’. I decided now was the time to start a blog because, well, I don’t write enough (I don’t class Lab Reports as writing) and i thought it would be a good endeavour. I don’t know how long this will last, it’s unlikely to be a success, but that’s mainly because not many people care about the ramblings of a 20 year old engineering student.

10348633_10204168604406283_1215368348854316709_o

Something like what I’ll be doing when I go back to Uni (making the car, not the pizza)

The blog will probably switch between brief articles about what I’ve been up to, more philosophic stuff, things i find cool and want to talk about (F1 and other such stuff will probably be a main focus) and more than likely the occassional rant. Might even branch out into some fitness stuff maybe? Although that path has most certainly been well-trodden.

Anyway, for those of you still here, I thank you, and would welcome you to offer feedback, both +ve and -ve.

Cheers,
Pragmatic Engineer