Coming up – A look back on SolidWorks World

We are now about 70 days away from SolidWorks World 2016 in Dallas, TX.

SWW16

I thought that this would be a good time to recap some of my favorite experiences from SolidWorks World.
Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll post updates looking back on past conferences. If all goes well, I should be able to write something about each of the nine conferences that I have been lucky enough to attend. If you have any moments that were special or memorable, please share them in the comments.

Too many irons in the fire . . .

I jumped on to the blog the other day, and noticed that I have not made an update since January of 2013!  This was more than a little bit disheartening, as my plan was to make regular updates.  It is time to try to make that change.

So, what’s been keeping me so busy for nearly two years?

Probably the same things that keep everyone busy – work, family, hobbies, and so on.

Earlier this year I was appointed to handle the SWUGN Representative duties for the Southern Region – http://blogs.solidworks.com/swcommunity/2014/05/catching-up-on-swugn-news.html

This has given me the opportunity to help start new user groups, resurrect old ones, and most of all, getting to visit the different groups in my region!

I plan on making posts about my visits to some of the other User Groups, some of the people that I have met, and all of the great things that I learn in the process.

One of the things that I have noticed is that my blog posts tend to be a little bit on the long side, so I am going to have shorter posts, but do it more often – I’m hoping that this “idea” will help . . .

SolidWorks World – Day 0 – Part 2

Was not able to start the update last nifty (due to having a little too much fun at the opening reception – really, really tired from all the standing and walking.). I started writing the blog entry really early this morning, but wasn’t able to finish before heading out for General Session this morning. Decided to take a few minutes between sessions/during a session to do a quick write up.
So . . . What happened on Day 0?
I passed on the CAD managers boot camp (again), I’m no longer able to attend the AE Workshop, and I didn’t get in on any of the discussion sessions, so Jade and I did some wandering around. We started out by getting registered, scouting out some restaurants, speaker check-in, and exploring some of the area resorts. We came back for the opening reception – I helped run the SWUGN booth while Jade acted as a “tour guide” for some friends that are here for the first time. Met a lot of really great people, and saw a bunch of old friends that we only get to see at World. Went straight from the opening reception to the tweet-up, didn’t get to see everyone that we wanted to, because several of our friends were elsewhere watching the football game. (They can run, but they can’t hide – we’ll find them!)
Long day, lot of fun, lot of friends, the learning starts tomorrow . . .

SolidWorks World 2013 – Day 0 – Part 1

There isn’t a whole lot to say about Sunday yet, because it’s still “what are you doing awake at this hour” o’clock.
SolidWorks World is really beginning to feel a lot like “old home week” or a “friend reunion.”
Jade and I actually arrived yesterday so that we could do some exploring and be here for registration first thing this morning. One of the best things about getting to World on Saturday is getting to see a lot of the “regulars.” This year we were kicking back having dinner outside a restaurant (isn’t Orlando great in January?) and we were able to greet several others on their way to the ESPN sportszone for a casual gathering. (I hadn’t been paying too much attention to twitter yet, so I didn’t know about the gathering until we saw Charles (Culp) headed that direction.) I told him that we would head over when we were done eating. By the time we finished our meal, we had seen Puckett, Herzberg, Sabatka, and many more. When we got to the Sportszone, the line was out the door and it was PACKED. We were told to take life into our own hands and line jump because there were still spots open at the table. Rather than risking an uprising, a decision was made to head back to the hotel for some much needed rest & relaxation. I’m sure that everyone had a lot of fun at ESPN, and I’ll probably regret not going, but after getting up at 3:30am to catch our flight here, I was really tired.

Remembering Wayne Tiffany

It has been quite a while since my last post, and I really wish that this one was full of boring SolidWorks tips and tricks.

This morning I found out that Wayne Tiffany had passed away during the weekend after a fight with cancer. Those of you who are active in the SolidWorks community should already know Wayne, as he made it a point to meet as many people as possible every year at SolidWorks World. Wayne would often hang out in the registration area with Richard Doyle and help welcome attendees to the event (which is why he was usually one of the first people that I would see upon arrival.) Wayne not only loved SolidWorks, but he loved to share ideas, tips, and tricks. His enthusiasm for the SolidWorks Community was completely unparalleled. Wayne played a HUGE role in helping me get the SolidWorks User Group of Nebraska (SwugOne) up and running. It was not unusual for him to travel hundreds of miles to give a presentation for one of the User Groups in his region. His sessions at SolidWorks World were almost always “standing room only” – he was also well known for giving a quick, impromptu presentation in the hallway if you weren’t able to make it to the scheduled session.

Farewell old friend, you will truly be missed.
– Todd

Alive Day

So, what exactly is “Alive Day”?
This is the commemoration of an event could have easily ended your life, but it didn’t.
(My sister-in-law calls it “Beat the Grim Reaper Day” – Hers is February 17th.)
My “Alive Day” is February 28th. On that day last year I was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
I was driving home from work, I had just dropped off the guys in my carpool, and before I left the parking lot I called my wife and left her a message that I should be home in about 15 minutes.
I started driving home, and the last thing that I remember was getting into the turn lane at a major intersection. The next thing I know, I was waking up with several doctors and nurses around me in the intensive care unit, and one of them was telling me that I was involved in an automobile accident. From the accident report I found out that I was in the turn lane waiting for the light to change, when someone turned across traffic, hit an oncoming car, which was then deflected into my car. I saw nothing, and the impact caused my head to hit the door frame, which immediately knocked me out. After I saw what had happened to the car, I was not only surprised to be alive, but to still have the ability to walk. I spent 2 days in ICU, and another 2 days in a regular room in the hospital. I had three broken ribs, a collapsed lung, and the blow to the head that knocked me out left a scar and a damaged optic nerve which caused severe double vision. Most of these healed within a reasonable amount of time, the vision is still on the mend. My vision has improved significantly, however I still have a prism lens in my glasses to help “align” what I am seeing, and I can pretty much count on at least two really good headaches a day.
The most important thing is that I am still ALIVE!
The fact that I am still here is amazing, especially when you consider that they pulled me out of this –

Damage to my car from the Accident

I happen to share “Alive Day” with a good friend of mine named Jeff. His “event” was about 5 years ago when he was serving our country in Iraq. The Humvee that he was traveling in hit a roadside bomb –

Roadside Bomb

Everyone in the Humvee was o.k. and they were actually driving it again within a month or so thanks to the amazing Army mechanics.

It shouldn’t take a life-threatening event to give you the desire to live each day to the fullest.
(That should fall in the capable hands of family and good friends.)

Now, go do something amazing – because you are still ALIVE!

Farewell 2011, Hello 2012

There has been a lot happening this year, this includes a lot of ups and downs. I’m not a big fan of making resolutions, but this year I would definitely like to increase the frequency of posts. The last post was a teaser about an upcoming post about some of the features in the Toolbox – this will still happen, hopefully soon. Until then, have a safe and happy new year!

Toolbox Preview

I’ll be the first to admit that I didn’t exactly care for the Toolbox add-in when I started using it in SolidWorks several years ago. There have been several enhancements over the last couple of years that have really changed my views regarding the Toolbox. Within the next week I plan to illustrate some of my favorite enhancements for this add-in. Stay tuned . . .

Heroes

“Heroes”, “Idols”, and “people that are admired” all seem to be terms that are somewhat synonymous with each other.

The term “hero” seems to be reserved for those that go above and beyond normal expectations. There are a number of people that I believe should get this status almost automatically – parents, those who have served their country, police, fire department, doctors, and so on. I know that the people that pulled me out of my car after my accident, took me to the hospital, and took care of me in the ICU are all considered “heroes” in my book. My wife gets hero status just for dealing with me on a daily basis.

I don’t really use the term “idol” as a description very often – this seems to be used mostly for sports stars, movie stars, and musicians, and while there are many in these groups that I greatly admire, I haven’t ever really put them on a pedestal. Maybe it’s just me, but it seems as though some people find it easy to elevate a celebrity to “idol” status, whereas I might only say “I admire them.”

Of these terms, I would say that I use the phrase “person that I admire” the most. With that said, this is definitely something that I don’t say about a lot of people, it has to be earned. Generally the people that I admire are those that are able to do things that I can’t do, or those that are among the best in their chosen discipline. The last big “catch” is that they also have to be a truly good person.

When I was a kid, I thought Bucky Dent was one of the greatest baseball players ever. I wouldn’t call him an “idol”, but almost 35 years after trading lots of my baseball cards just to get a Bucky Dent card, I’m still a big enough fan that I wanted to name our dog after him. (Short note to you Red Sox fans at SolidWorks and those in the Boston area: I know that uttering his name is like screaming an obscenity to you – I was just a kid, and I pretty much stopped watching baseball when Steinbrenner came in and Bucky was traded.) When I was in junior high and high school, there were a number of musicians that I considered incredible, but I don’t know that I would have considered them “idols” (although Randy Rhoads and Neil Peart were really close.) As for movie stars, John Cusack was not an “idol”, but as a comedic actor he ruled, enough said.

Having always been a geek, I tended to have different “heroes” than my other friends. When people were talking about the band Tesla, I was talking about the engineer Nikola Tesla. When people were talking about the bands that were going to be playing at the US Festival, I was talking about the guy that was responsible for the event – Apple Computer co-founder Steve Wozniak. There is a saying about not meeting your heroes – I’m guessing that this stems from several unfavorable run-ins with various “stars” (movie, sports, or music.) One of the nice things about having a geek as hero is that they are usually excited to meet their fans. I have met a few of my geeky “heroes”, and I have never been let down – in fact I usually walk away with more respect for the person. I consider myself incredibly lucky to have met and laughed with Steve Wozniak.

So, why am I talking about heroes instead of SolidWorks?

Wednesday, October 5th was a day that really shook up my world. On Wednesday, the tech world lost a great visionary with the passing of Steve Jobs.

Truth be told, I have always been a bigger fan of Steve Wozniak, primarily because I can relate more to him, but there is a part of me that always wanted to be a little more like Steve Jobs. Woz is a technical genius, Jobs was a marketing wizard – the perfect pair to start a company that has changed the world around us. I most admired Jobs for his ability to engage people and have them hanging on his every word – to say that he was an incredible presenter/speaker is quite possibly one of the greatest understatements ever.

Woz and Jobs were both my heroes, each one for a different reason.

Steve Jobs was definitely one of a kind, and he will be dearly, dearly missed.

I have been a huge fan since the Apple II, but the introduction of the Macintosh was absolutely awe-inspiring, check it out here – Macintosh Introduction

If, like me, you long to hear “One more thing” just one more time, you might want to give this a try – One More Thing

Some of my favorite quotes of all time belong to Steve Jobs:

“Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water or do you want a chance to change the world?” – Steve Jobs luring a CEO away from Pepsi

“I want to put a ding in the universe.” – Steve Jobs
(I think we can all agree that he did . . .)

Thanks for everything Steve, you’ve always inspired me to . . . Think different

Pixar's Tribute to Steve

Happy Birthday

I have several SolidWorks topics in my little notebook that I have been intending to blog about for some time now. There was a great user group meeting last night that deserves a good write up (not to mention the SWUGN Summit and the last user group meeting – both of which have a significant amount of notes in the aforementioned notebook.)
No, this one is for my oldest son who is celebrating his birthday today. I could go on and on about any of my boys, so I’ll try to avoid that and keep this brief.

To put it as succinctly as possible, I am really, really proud of him.
He took up photography, and has had his pictures published in different papers.
He took up creative writing, and has already had a number of his writings published.
This is one that he wrote after my car accident – http://www.indigorisingmagazine.com/2011/03/poetry-by-connor-blacksher-i-used-your.html
Here are a few others from the Ink, Sweat, & Tears site –
http://ink-sweat-and-tears.blogharbor.com/blog/_archives/2011/4/16/4796740.html
(I could keep with the SolidWorks theme and mention his sense of humor – he cracked me up one day with the following text message “Inventor Sucks” – He was working with it in school, and that was all he needed to say to make my day.)
Last month I was lucky enough to share one of the most memorable experiences of my life with him. My dad has been skydiving for most of my life. I grew up around it, and consider it a “normal” hobby. I had avoided taking it up, because I knew that I would get hooked and it would end up consuming all of my free time and money – o.k. truth be told, I guess that I wasn’t willing to give up any of my other hobbies. I had always wanted to jump, but managed to suppress the urge. Then my brother got married while skydiving – both he and his wife had already been jumping for a number of years prior to the wedding – this rekindled my interest (as well as my wife’s.) I managed to put it off for a few more years, when my oldest son stated that he would like to give it a try – my wife and I both exclaimed “Whenever you are ready, we’ll jump with you!” This was mentioned to my dad, and we immediately started hatching a plan for a “family jump.”
To say that it was amazing is quite possibly the greatest understatement that was ever uttered. For our jump, the veteran jumpers (my dad, my brother, and my brother’s wife) were going to shoot video during the jump with us (my wife, my oldest son, and myself.) Since we don’t have the 1000’s of jumps under our belt that they each have, we were paired up and securely buckled to our tandem partners for the jump. It was everything that I hoped it would be and more, and I was lucky enough to share the experience with family. The associated press picked up the story in the papers and the TV news came out to cover the event as well – apparently it’s not every day that three generations decide to jump out of a perfectly good plane. You can check out the newspaper article here – http://journalstar.com/news/local/article_725113c4-91b0-5e3b-93f4-7b38fa5ce2d6.html
This one’s for you Connor – Have a Great Birthday!

Big smiles at 13,500 feet
Perfect ending to a great jump - that's Grandpa shooting video!