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”, “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 –
Here are a few others from the Ink, Sweat, & Tears site –
(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 –
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!

Happening in August

After a busy couple of months, I have a number of ideas, thoughts, and plans for the month of August. There will be posts about equations, the wrap feature, sketch tricks, toolbox, and basically things that will make your day to day tasks with SolidWorks a little more efficient. Stay tuned, I’m planning on a lot of posts next month . . .

What the ?!?

I know, you’re thinking “what happened?” – here’s the deal . . . The last couple of months were a bit rough.  I spent the first week of March in the Intensive Care Unit after a car crash (I talked about this a few posts back.)  Two weeks after my accident my wife’s mother passed away after a long fight with congestive heart failure.  With everything going on, I wasn’t exactly up for blogging.  I know, there were a few blog posts about a week after my accident – this was when I wasn’t able to go to work (which was driving me CRAZY!)  Truth be told, those blog posts took a very, very long time – the double vision that came with the accident makes it very hard to do anything on a computer.  I was finally able to return to work, and as “cool” as it was that my two screens “magically” turned into four screens, trying to work with the double vision also meant daily headaches.  Attempting to get caught up after missing more work than I have in the last several years combined has been incredibly taxing.  With that said, I just haven’t had it in me to update the blog – tons of ideas have been running through my head, but there just hasn’t been the time (or the energy for that matter.)

My original plan when I started the blog was to recall the events of SolidWorks World 2011, which I still might do (because I still don’t want to believe its over – even though it’s been over for more than 3 months now.)  When I first started posting I would spend a considerable amount of time reading and re-reading before uploading – Now it will be much more relaxed and casual.  In upcoming posts I plan to look at some of the tools in SolidWorks that make day to day life easier – not necessarily the “glamorous” utilities, but some tips, some tricks, and some of the ones that just made me say “now that was slick.”

I think John Lennon said it best when he said “Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans.”

SoidWorks World 2011 – Monday – General Session

Let me start by saying that of all the times that I have been to SolidWorks World, Monday was easily the most memorable. 

This General Session began differently from all of the others that I have attended – I was asked to arrive early, go to a secured entrance that contained a list of “special guests”, and I needed to bring my wife Jade.  Getting to see the General Session area prior to the doors opening was a new & unique experience –

SolidWorks World General Session - Empty

Not knowing what to do, we walked up to a group of SolidWorks employees near the stage. Fortunately, one of them asked if they could help us, when we explained that we were told to be there, they said that there were seating assignments, and they helped us find our seats (“rock star seating” does not even begin to describe our spots) –

Rock Star Seating

(Yes, my wife’s “assigned seat” was right next to Jeff Ray) – For the handful of you that don’t recognize the name, Jeff is the former CEO of SolidWorks.  He was recently promoted to Executive Vice President of Geographic Operations for Dassault Systemes.  He’s a pretty big deal within the SolidWorks Community, but more importantly, he’s a super nice guy – I talked to Jeff and his wife for quite a while at the tweet-up on Sunday night.

There is nothing quite like getting to see the surge of attendees enter the General Session from our vantage point –

Since San Antonio is his hometown, Jeff Ray was the obvious choice to kick off the General Session.  Jeff talked about the rescue of the Chilean miners, as well as a new product for treating jaundice in infants from Design that Matters, and even recognized a small contingent of die hard attendees that have NEVER missed a SolidWorks World.   Jeff also introduced Bertrand Sicot, the newly appointed SolidWorks CEO.  After thanking the SolidWorks development team and discussing the growing number of DraftSight downloads, Bertrand said this –

This clip was taken from the SolidWorks Video of the Day 1 General Session, the complete video can (and should) be viewed here –

While Bertrand was talking about us, this is the image that was on the big screen behind him –

Anniversary Announcement

This image was taken by Ricky Jordan, and was found on the Flickr SolidWorks World 2011 photo collection, which can be found here:

A little bit of trivia about the photos that were shown:  They were all from our actual wedding, which took place on top of the Stratosphere in Las Vegas during Solidworks World 2006.  We exchanged our vows and then we were launched high above the Vegas skyline on the Big Shot.  We even met the Mythbusters (the special guests at World that year) when we returned to the conference after getting married!

I was still in a state of shock about our little “surprise” when they brought out the keynote speakers Gene Krantz and Jim Lovell.  Everyone should remember them for their roles in saving the Apollo 13 mission from imminent disaster.  Gene was at mission control and Jim was in the space capsule.  They had to work together as a team despite the fact that they weren’t even on the same planet at the time!  One of the details that amazed me the most during their presentation was how young they were at the time – most of the people involved in the mission were in their twenties!  I have always been a HUGE fan of the space program – NASA truly epitomizes the idea that if you work hard enough, anything is possible.  This was easily one of the best keynote speeches that I have ever seen period.  If you don’t believe me, use the youtube link above to watch their presentation – In-cred-ible! 

Public Service Announcement – Seatbelt Safety

We interrupt our regularly scheduled “What Happened at SolidWorks World 2011” blog update to bring you the following public service announcement . . . Wear your seatbelts.

It is safe to say that if you have found your way to this site, it is likely that you work with SolidWorks; since there are many CAD options available to you, and you work with SolidWorks, it is likely that you are intelligent; if you are indeed intelligent, you should already be using your seatbelts, if not, let me tell you why I believe in seatbelts.

Maybe it is because I have a tremendous respect for those that design motor vehicles (and the safety systems that they have created to protect us), or it could be that I have just seen too many crash test videos, but I literally feel naked if I don’t wear a seat belt.  A week ago today I was given a not so gentle reminder of the importance of seat belts.  I consider myself to be a very good driver, unfortunately this incident could not be avoided.  I was waiting in the turn lane at a red light when someone turned in front of an oncoming car, the cars grazed each other and one of them deflected into me.  I only know this information thanks to the accident report – I remember getting into the turn lane, the next thing I remember was waking up in the Intensive Care Unit like this:

 It was when I saw the pictures of what was left of my car that I truly realized how lucky I was just to be alive.  From the front of the vehicle you can tell that there is substantial damage to the driver’s side:

From the driver’s side of the vehicle you can see a majority of the damage that was done to the car:

From the passenger’s side of the vehicle you can see that the front axle snapped when the car was pushed into the curb:

From the driver’s seat, you can see why I consider myself lucky to be here.  To name a few of my injuries; I have 3 broken ribs, a partially collapsed lung, a new scar on the back of my head, and a serious case of double vision.  If you look at the tiny amount of space under the steering wheel, it is extremely surprising that I did not have serious leg injuries:

I am still facing a significant recovery time, but I have my wife, my family, and my friends to help me through it –  I don’t even want to think about would have happened if I would not have been wearing my seatbelt. 

Wear your seatbelt – not just for you, but for those who care about you.

SolidWorks World 2011 – Sunday

Sunday was relatively open for us to spend some more time exploring San Antonio – nothing on “the schedule” until the early evening Opening Reception at the Partner Pavilion.  I wasn’t signed up for any of the certification testing, I was not participating in the alpha testing, and for the first time in several years I was not attending the AE Workshops (These are for the Application Engineers that work for SolidWorks resellers.)  My only immediate plan was to hit registration first thing in the morning (word to the wise, get it out of the way as early as possible to avoid waiting in lines.)

As predicted, registration was a breeze, no lines whatsoever.  I picked up all of my “goodies”, and I dig the backpack – quite compact, yet it holds a ton of stuff.  I had a chance to chat with Richard Doyle (User Group Head Honcho) for a little bit.  It is always great to see Richard – I worked with him a lot when I was starting the SolidWorks User Group of Nebraska (SwugONE) – He is definitely one of the people that helps bring the SolidWorks Community closer together and feel more like a big family.  (Richard was also one of the first recipients of my “business card/keychain/bottle openers” – If you got one, you know what I’m talking about, if not, look for me at SolidWorks World 2012 – I’ll have a new variation.)  Wayne Tiffany was also milling about the registration area, always good to see him and catch up on all things SolidWorks.  (Wayne is a User Group leader from KC, and a perennial SolidWorks World presenter.)

After wandering around all day, it was time to go to the Opening Reception.  The Partner Pavilion was jam packed with vendors, attendees, and all kinds of cool products that were designed in SolidWorks.  The opening reception is a great time to mingle, chat up the various vendors, and see all of the new technology.  I left the opening reception a little early to head off to the tweetup.

This year the tweetup was held in conjunction with a User Group leader gathering, so there were a lot of familiar faces.  It was nice to finally meet some of the people behind the tweets.  It might be because I’m watching the Oscars, but I feel the need to name just a handful of them;  Josh Mings (SolidSmack) – Had to chase him down for some of the sweet new SolidSmack stickers, Lou Gallo (SolidWorks Heard) and Jeff Mirisola – was “stuck” between these two at a DriveWorks certification event years ago, always good to see these guys, Ed Gebo – user group leader and all around cool guy, Charles Culp – actually grew up very close to where I now live (it is indeed a small world, but I wouldn’t want to paint it), Anna Wood (SolidMuse) – benchmarking guru and Red Wings fan, Phil Sluder – King of the Tips & Tricks presentations, Scott Baugh – It was very interesting talking to another person that used to work for a reseller and is now back on the user side of the fence,  and Matthew West (SolidWorks) – we have him to thank for putting together the tweetup, he did an awesome job – here’s hoping for many more!

After a crazy long day it was time to catch a few hours of sleep before the first General Session of SWW11.