The hairy Egg of an Idea


Sometimes there comes a point when you hold it in your hand

an egg of an idea fit to fit in the can,

its all a bit rough though, still a bit hairy

so to make it work, you tie it with string and present it carefully…

…it would have been interesting of course,

had the lecture been more terse

reading my phone  quietly while the powerpoint rang loudly

you missed the essential piece of technical slang

never mind the acronyms, the instant NEW.

you pulled too hard on the string

so they’ll be gone by tomorrow, gone by tomorrow…

when the strangled egg turns blue.


Za’atamite Toast – Innovation 17

Something new and quick for the midnight to dawn shift ?

So I generally don’t get into cooking… just ask my wife and kids, but when a concall happens before sparrow’ I have to improvise.  So improvisation is just using ideas that you pick up and trying things out, to see how this and that fits.  Anyway for a non-chef to engineer something so crazy as za’atamite toast, you got to wonder right ?

So here is the very carefully thought out [scratch that] experi-mental recipe…

Take some old french stick left over from the day before. Then , take your sword, and cut it like Zorro, alongways in two, and turn on the sandwich maker.

Get some of that spray on olive oil and then spray both sides of the sandwich maker..

Take care to remove any old crumbs stuck on it and left behind by the kids…

OK so you got the sandwich maker on at last,… wait till the green light comes on…

Then a quick spray of olive oil .. Fresh from the can mind .. Doesn’t matter about the virgin level..

OK then get the french stick you cut in half, and lay it out on the sandwich maker..

Close the lid.. And put pressure on it while the bread toasts.. It will gradually compress the bread while it is cooking.. This approximates flat bread, but still with that nice baguette taste…, and increases the overall heat capacity which will come in useful later..

OK when toasted and before smoke comes out.. Take it out and lay it on a breadboard… side by side.. Mmm.. Don’t eat it yet.

Quick before it cools down… Spray a dash of olive oil on the toast..Then get your jar of oregano… sprinkle that on the still hot toast.. If you did it right, it sticks to the oil and the heat from the compressed toast somehow blends it all nicely..

Then get your handy jar of vegemite and spread vegemite on the toast.  Spread it right on top of the oregano, this way the oregano doesn’t fly off when you try to eat the toast.


Then get some fresh black coffee or green oolong tea to the side..

Take a moment to thank God for innovation and life, before the dawn and the concalls start.

You only have to look at a great design to know…

so many times i get caught up in meetings and committees that hope to design without getting fingers burnt or hands muddy. Its as though pure thought on the right side of the brain can accomplish what God knew that could not. We have two sides of the brain, and in design we need to use both… don’t you think ?

Right, think of the Condor, I saw a few a couple of days back, and having read about them with static pictures in books, encyclopaedias, google etc… you get an idea. Not so bad, lots of nice words, a couple of photos, but there is nothing like seeing one, with its condor brain at work, flying, floating, a marvel in design, able to just work the air currents to its advantage… it’s acceleration and determination of eye so brilliant a design, and yet so close to extinction as well. I wonder what the bird thinks bout it all. But look I say, how much effort would it be to describe the requirements of design of a condor….

We used to have a joke at home… i dont know where i first heard it but it was God rolling out tubes of clay, saying, “These Earth Worms are Easy”.. and that is somewhat relevant to this post. Because intuitively we see a condor and we know its capacity, we see an earthworm and we know without reading its capacity, and we see any animal and we see a great design..

So when we want to innovate and describe somethinig knew and great, think about describing it in animal terms, or in terms that call to mind those great designs around us.

INV 11 – Robot Arm Wrestling – Leaf 2,3

Attrib: Aralani

Leaf 2 – Sally Meets Ferdinand

“Hello, I saw you watching me wrestle with the robot over there, just then” , Ferdinand said.

“Hi, yes, I saw it”, she said looking away for a bit.

“Wasn’t smart enough,… or quick enough”, said Ferdinand

“mmm, … perhaps I will need to to reprogram it.. thoughtfully “, said Sally

“OK,  lets get a drink, Let me get you one, lets talk over the next steps..”, said Ferdinand

“Well, thats kind of you, but, ok meet me here again Monday night, it’s getting late, I got to go.. sorry..  Whats your name ?” asked Sally

“I’m Freddo, ” said Ferdinand

“Thats got to be not for real..”, said Sally

“Nickname, my mum gave me back home in Oz, apparently Dad had something for St Ferdinand, patron saint of engineering etc… so mum just called me Freddo” said Ferdinand.

“Anyway – my name is Sally, Sally Jo, but it’s a bit Southern, so I just say Sally”

“Here’s to robot arm wrestling Sal”, said Freddo, raising his nearly empty glass of beer..

“Monday then”, said Sally.

Leaf 3 – Sally and Ferdinand… in the local pub..

So Ferdinand  found a reasonably nice quiet part of that same bar, on Monday evening.  He only had one more week in that town, but this bar had been a useful place to come in the evenings, while he was around.

Ferdinand had his laptop open and was working on a problem relating to something totally mundane, and just had to be done,,  a discusion topic for one of his internal meetings.., something about the new digital standards in control, not too heavy.

Sally walked in and looked around for a bit, she finally found Ferdinand, the only guy in a busy pub with his laptop open, and a beer of some sort, looked like a shiner, but anyway she walked over to meet him.

“Hello Mr Ferdinand”, “Hi Ms Sally, Thanks for coming” , they greeted each other.

Sally took a seat…

… “so how were you able to beat my robot arm ?” she asked.

“you must’ve been counting on the force being with you,  the logic in your robot arm seemed to be, I will always use a restoring force proportional to the angle the arm is from its correct position.  This was your ARM rule.  Then you had another rule which was your timer rule.  This was, from the time the arm selection is made, and the arm is grasped, the correct arm position is vertical.  Then sometime later the robot would give a warning of 30 seconds, which I think I correctly presumed meant that the correct position or setpoint would be adjusted to 85 degrees or so, which would then cause the ARM controller to move the arm to the winning position.”  said Ferdinand

“It really wasn’t 30 seconds”, said Sally, “it was only 15 seconds, and then it was programmed to shift the setpoint over at 5 degrees per second. Not too fast, not too slow, but just enough time for the punter to realise he was going to lose, and kind of get to laugh about it as it happened. I found that if the robot arm won too quickly, people just woudn’t play again.  This way they would play over and over and lose but then keep coming back, sure they could win eventually.”

Ferdinand, took some beer, and carefully looked through the glass, it was an ordinary glass, but he was thinking about stuff..

“You see, the weakness of the design of proportional control, is that it is ok as a basic regulator, with enough gain and feedback, but too much gain and it goes unstable, and not enough gain, you get too much error.   Since I was strong, and I got it all the way over to 45 degrees, your program simply doubled the gain and therefore doubled the force per degree error.  This actually worked in my favor later on.”, said Ferdinand.

“Yes you are right, It was a way of kind of compensating for the strength of the player holding the arm.” said Sally.

“Yes, you are figuring on a simple change to cope with each new situation the controller is facing. Controllers are generally tuned to the situation, which in most cases is fixed, not changing, but now with this arm, each player is a different situation. You will have to improve on the controller and the strategy perhaps, keeping in mind, as you have, safe operation, and player appeal.” Said Ferdinand.

“You see, by your increasing the gain, I was able to exploit the weakness by means of providing abnormal expected behaviour.  You set this thing up so that it expects to control against a counter force at all times.  Not a problem, since the idea is to wrestle the robot arm.  But by actually pulling the robot arm in the direction of its target prematurely, it allowed me to use its force in addition to my force, and the momentum of the arm, to overcome it and win.”

The jukebox was playing a song Ferdinand had selected some time back in the queue.  It was the Bluesbreakers’  with Eric Clapton, “Have you heard”….. Ferdinand loved the brilliant mix of Hammond Organ, Guitar, but mostly the wonderful saxophone, right at the start of the piece… an honest blowing style full of blues and promise.  He liked the way it sounded like New Orleans, and a kind of slow march start with just like… anyway… he kind of hoped Sally would like it as well.

“… and ok,  I get the idea,..” said sally.  “So you had trouble pushing further  than the first 45 degrees, I mean you were stuck there for a bit.  It is when it stops that I get the robot to increase the gain.” she added.

Ferdinand explained. “Classically, you could have avoided the gain change to reduce the error by including reset control.  It’s a way of integrating the error, adding more force, without changing the gain, which basically compensates for the error, so that 45 degrees would have been reduced back to vertical by means of reset action.  Each time step, take a proportion of the error at that time, and then just add it to the output of the ARM.”  There are a couple of ways to do it. But this means your proportional band does not get too strange by increasing the gain too much and making it too reactive.”

[10 minutes passed…]

“Well thanks Freddo, let me make some adjustments” Sally said.

“OK we will see how you do then” Ferdinand said.  “Listen, I will be leaving at the end of the week, but you can keep in touch by email if you like.” Ferdinand gave his email address, on the back of a beer coaster.

“Thanks, .. Ok Bye” said Sally