Category Archives: Personal

Amazon Fresh Bookmarklet

amazonfreshI recently started my trial month of Amazon Fresh and was a bit disappointed in the lack of integration the service has with Amazon.com. Specifically, there doesn’t appear to be a way to add to your Fresh cart from Amazon.com. I understand the need for different carts, but don’t understand why I can’t send to Fresh or transfer between the two. So I’ve created a quick and dirty bookmarklet that will open an Amazon ASIN in Fresh for quick addition to your cart. Just drag the link below to your bookmark bar and click on it any time you’re viewing an item on Amazon.com that you’d like to add to your Fresh cart.

Open in Fresh

Enjoying My Mornings With a Double Edge Razor

After more than a decade of shaving with your typical cartridge-based safety razor, I figured there had to be something better. Getting a close shave with one often means horrible razor burn and ingrown hairs: not a good way to start my day. So after asking my barber for some advice, I was pointed in the direction of the classic straight razor or the double edge razor that was popular in my grandparents’ generation.

Wade & Butcher Medium Size Hollow Ground Merkur Hefty Classic Safety Razor

Continue reading Enjoying My Mornings With a Double Edge Razor

Wikifiy Your Life

For the last 3.5 years, I’ve been doing brain dumps into a personal wiki throughout or at the end of each day and I think you should too. It has proven helpful to me in more ways than I could have foreseen and I can’t imagine getting by without one.

Background

As an engineering student, I had a notebook with me at almost all times that I used to write down assignments, reminders and ideas. That hasn’t changed as I and all of my coworkers still carry one with us everywhere to this day. Taking the time to write something down makes the difference between it being a fleeting thought and a permanent idea or reminder.

While in school I had a lot to write down and often went through a composition notebook in less than the span of a semester. While I would keep the old books, I didn’t bring them with me and often found myself needing to dig through my closet for something I jotted down in an older book. In my Junior year, while contributing to Wikipedia, I wondered if I could create a Wikipedia of my own; a ‘permanent’ place to store my thoughts and ideas. A few days and a 50 dollar purchase later and I had my very own searchable instance of DokuWiki running on a remote host, reachable from anywhere in the world [with internet access]. I reference it on a daily basis.

Why a Wiki?

So why does a wiki instead of a blog?

  1. Brain Dump-able
    Regardless of your background, these days you likely suffer from information overload: things to do, people you’ve met, TV shows you’ve been recommended, books you’d like to read, places to see, and on, and on, and on… A wiki give you an easily modifiable place to put that information.
  2. Searchable
    Most wiki software provides a search box that will, in seconds, search the entire contents of your wiki. A personal wiki is about as close as you will get in your lifetime to having Google for your brain.
  3. Easily Accessible
    Whether you host your own server or pay for hosting, a Wiki can be made available from anywhere on the internet; with the recent popularity of smart phones, this means nearly anywhere you get cell reception!
  4. Sharable
    Most wiki software is built to be public and promote knowledge sharing. I lock mine down but have, on occasion, opened up pages on it to people I worked with. Give them an account and set the permissions and you can work collaboratively without additional costs.
  5. Private
    Note: I didn’t say secure. A wiki is only as secure as the software you use and your own security practices. You should never put private information onto a Wiki unless you know you can lock it down.

How to get started

  1. Host your wiki
    If you don’t already have a host, find a reliable one (I use Justhost) and find a compatible wiki application. If your host supports PHP, I would recommend DokuWiki or MediaWiki among many. Quite often you’ll just need to try several of them before you find the right one. Alternatively, you could use a free wiki host that lose you some control, but are easier on the wallet. Springpad, while not a wiki in the traditional sense, provides a comparable experience for free.
  2. Secure your wiki
    If you set up your own, it’s likely configured to share with everyone by default. If you’re OK with that, then be my guest. Otherwise, take a few moments to disable access by non-users and disable user sign-up.
  3. Define your process
    Your wiki will gather e-dust unless you take the time to build it. If you don’t have immediate access to it throughout the day, write your thoughts down in a notebook and transfer them at the end of the day. If you’re in front of your computer all day, create a ‘scratchpad’ wiki page and use it to write down anything you can. As your ideas become more concrete, create pages dedicated to them.
  4. Stick to it
    It’s easy to miss the benefit of a personal wiki in the initial weeks or days. Stick to it. You’ll eventually encounter the first time it saves your ass and will love it from that point on.

I hope this entry helps at least a couple of people get hold of their information overload. The structure is up to you and with search, it’s almost unimportant, but having a permanent place to write down your thoughts is one of the best things you can do for your sanity. Who knows, it may even help you remember that killer idea that will make you millions.

My Long Haul Through College

I’m an Engineer. I spent eight years of my life trying to become one. Why so long? I would like to say that I consider four of those years to be my High School years but that would be a lie. High School for me was less about my future than it was about being liked and getting good enough grades to avoid being lectured by parents and teachers. I was in advanced classes and did decent, but I would not have considered myself a good student. No, the truth is that I spent eight years in college. Eight years and I earned nothing more than a bachelors degree. I’m now 27 and only a year in, am at the beginning of my career. My situation is not desirable but it is becoming more and more common. With that said, I’m happy with the way things turned out. I chose a career that suits my interests and with effort on my part, can provide me with a comfortable living.

Making a Cheat Sheet
Making a Cheat Sheet

I originally went to college to appease my parents. I wanted to be an engineer but was following their dream more than my own. My dad had once told me that he thought I should become a Mechanical Engineer. He wasn’t pushy about it and I wasn’t brainwashed. I simply believed him because I had no better ideas.

In an effort to “save money,” I worked while attending a local community college to “get my generals out of the way.” My grades dropped consistently while my work hours increased. I maintained a passable GPA but was struggling until I learned about the ability to withdraw from classes. A free exit, it seemed, for when my lack of motivation and focus led to a class grade dropping below a recoverable limit. It got so bad during one semester that I only completed one of the four classes I signed up for; the rest I withdrew from to keep from damaging my mediocre GPA.

Then, after two and a half years of this, I got a notice in the mail. I was being put on academic probation for withdrawing from too many courses. I was told that I would need to pass all of my courses in the next semester or I would be suspended. Even that couldn’t jar me into waking up and focusing. I withdrew from one of the three courses I was taking and was subsequently suspended for a semester. I was being forced to drop school for a semester and was on the verge of losing everything my parents had hoped of me. But that’s when it hit me.

My time off gave me time to think and reflect on who I was and what I was doing with my life. Yes, that sounds corny, but being told indirectly that I was not good enough to attend acommunity college forced me to do some real soul searching. In high school I was the smart kid that did not try hard enough to ace his classes. In college, however, I was an unmotivated, lazy waste of time. If I didn’t try hard enough to finish my courses, the college wasn’t going to hold my hand, they were just going to kick me out. More importantly, however, I realized that the person I had been acting as wasn’t me. I knew I was intelligent and I understood the material I was in class to learn. I had become lazy and passive with regard to pursuit of education. It was something I sought because I felt I had to and not because I wanted to. That all had to change.

I increased my hours to full time for a spring and a summer semester. In the transition between those semesters, my suspension really hit me. It was the first spring since my toddler years that I hadn’t experience that last day of the school year and I didn’t have a degree. I felt like a failure and vowed to prove to myself that this wasn’t me.

Hitting the Books
Hitting the Books

I buckled down and hit the fall semester running. I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to do afterwords, but I needed to get out of that school and into something legitimate. I was still taking classes geared for a mechanical engineering student when one of my classes was visited by a faculty member of the computer and electrical engineering department at Saint Cloud State University (SCSU). He spoke about their Computer Engineering program and sold me within the first couple of minutes. It wasn’t his sales pitch that sold me but his description of the field of study. It fit perfectly with my interests and sounded like something I really wanted to do. I did some research and in late february, had sent off an application to SCSU, along with a few other smaller state schools.

In the two semesters since my suspension, I had finished all of my courses with a 3.8 GPA, raising my cumulative GPA up above a 2.8 (yes, it had been THAT bad). When I began attending SCSU that fall, my confidence was sky-high. I was successful in attaining a bachelors of science in Computer Engineering and am completely happy with the career it has provided me. One would think I would look back on my years at that community college as a waste, but I don’t. Had I gone to a university and compiled debt, it would have been much more costly and might not have afforded me the second chance I had. More importantly though, I grew up and learned a lot about myself in the process. I look back on that time with no regrets. Sure I made some bad decisions, but my life has turned out great because of them. While slacking in community college I:

  • dedicated much of my time to a Family Guy fan site through which I met my current girlfriend of five years. The two of us toured the Family Guy studios on our first “date.”
  • worked as an assistant in an construction management office. I was the resident computer expert outside of the I.T. guy and was asked to develop several tools for the estimating and marketing departments. This experience made me stand out in the pool of intern applicants at the Boeing Company several years later. I interned with them for two years prior to graduation from SCSU and am now working full time with them as an engineer.
  • was forced to become more aware of who I was and who I wanted to be. From that, I was able to confidently choose a major that I wanted for myself.
In the end, my undergraduate college years were many but worked for me. I am an engineer and a proud one. I took responsibility for my laziness and lack of enthusiasm as it related to education and pushed through. In fact, only a year after attaining my degree I am pursuing a masters program at Carnegie Mellon University West in the Silicon Valley of California. I look forward to further embracing my education and learning throughout my career.

And So It Begins…

Hello and welcome to my blog at “PatrickBaumann.com,” a personal blog1 about career and life written from the perspective of an engineer recently out of college. I am a graduate from a moderately-sizedĀ state university in central Minnesota as well as a new resident in the great state of California (budgets be damned, this place is still a joy to live).

Prior to graduating with a degree in Computer Engineering, I interned with and was eventually hired full-time by The Boeing Company in Anaheim, CA. In trying to transition from full-time student to full-time employee and from Midwesterner to Californian I am learning a lot about people, my career, and myself that I thought might be useful and interesting to those who will be or have been in situations similar to mine.

I plan to share what I learn as well as some of my ramblings and rants about all things science / tech. So bookmark or subscribe to my blog and I will do my best to keep you entertained and at the very least, keep from annoying you.


1: Being a nerd, I tend to hit most trends at or near the end of their popularity. Creating a blog is no different.