Last Post: December 14, 2011:
Thanks for the kind words Neil.
Never stop asking questions. Asking questions is something that I do all the time. If I don?t understand something, I ask someone or look it up. I wanted to be radio engineer, but the company I used to work for trained me as a line transmission/telephone switching engineer. Then they sent me to a radio station with no training. That was not easy, as nobody was willing to share any knowledge with me. I had to ?pick up?RF piece by piece.
Five years ago I was left crippled in an accident. Not only did the doctors give me no hope ( ?You?ll be in a wheelchair in six months and paralyzed within two years? ), none of them could tell me EXACTLY what was wrong with me. I had two choices?stay in bed curled up in a ball ( literally ) for the rest of my life or do something about it. I decided on the latter. I had absolutely no knowledge of the human body whatsoever. But, I was an engineer. I decided that I would forget about hearts, lungs, kidneys etc and focus on the body as a machine. A series of links ( bones ) connected by actuating devices ( muscles ) and controlled by a CPU ( the brain ). I bought a huge number of medical books and built and bought models of the spine and pelvis. From this, I made drawings of all the possible movements that my joints could make, and which muscles controlled them. I went back to the doctors ( some of the supposedly best spinal experts in the world ). They wouldn?t take me seriously as I didn?t have a medical degree. They were spouting all sorts of latin and greek terms such as ?Rectus Femoris?. I then had to go back and study basic latin and learn the names of over six hundred muscles in the human body by heart. Back to the doctors. At this point, I found two things. One?the vast majority of those doctors were spouting those latin terms merely to ?impress the patient?. I found that out when a doctor pointed to my back and mentioned a muscle that is actually in your lower leg. He was not amused when I pointed that out. Two?.the majority and I really mean the majority of doctors have almost no concept of basic mechanics such as torque and turning moments, which are vital for understanding back pain. Six months on, they still would not believe me ( I had self diagnosed a multitude of problems with my spine ). By now the pain had become so bad that I decided to get my right leg amputated. I was only sleeping fifteen minutes at a time, and my quality of life was so bad, I would cry from the pain for hours at a time. I have had all sorts of pain before from broken bones etc, but this was on a whole different level. I knew that the cause of the pain in my leg was not due to the leg itself, but I was at rock bottom and knew I could only hold on for another month or so. My immune system had almost collapsed from lack of sleep. Three weeks away from travelling to get the operation, I came across the former head of robotic engineering at General Electric ( Al Meilus ), by a minor miracle. Over the phone without him even seeing me, and by questioning me, and having me make small movements, he diagnosed me and came up with the same conclusions I had made ( dislocated pelvis, spine twisted in three places, base of spine collapsed etc ). Once I met Al, he explained from an engineering point of view what had happened. No medicine, just pure engineering. It took me five years to undo the massive damage that had been done to my muscles and spine. I?ll be ready to go back to work at the beginning of next year. In order to keep my mind off the pain, I placed books all around the house on tables, chairs, kitchen counters etc. The books cover everything from Wi-Fi to Spanish to A/C repair to spinal surgery. No matter how bad a night I had, I would force myself to get up, wash and shave and start reading. During the first month, I had to crawl along the floor as my legs couldn?t support me. I had the books on the floor. I would read for twenty minutes and then take a break and move to the next ?workstation?. I made sure that my mind was occupied all day long, so that I didn?t have time to think about my situation. I was so angered at the way that the doctors were willing to toss my life away that I started writing a book about what happened to me and how I was able to diagnose myself when the best spinal experts in the world could not do so. It will be a step by step guide to what questions to ask your doctor, what tests you should ask for, the good and bad of chiropractors, therapists etc. Most importantly, it will explain ( after a doctor has made sure that the back pain is not coming from a tumour, kidney problems etc ) what causes the vast majority of back pain in our society in an easy to understand manner, from an engineering point of view. I volunteer on back pain forums and have had the privilege of helping a large number of people ( several of whom were suicidal ) to regain their lives. I have no idea how well or badly it will do. If it ends up in the discount bin at Barnes and Noble, I?ll put all of it up on the Internet for free.
Because of my financial situation, I can?t afford to buy textbooks, as some cost upwards of $150 dollars. I?ve found a few ways around this however. The following method requires patience, but can produce good results for people on a limited budget. Let?s say you?re interested in 802.11. You put the phrase ?802.11? into Google and a bunch of links pop up. Some good, some not so good. Pretty soon, many people get frustrated. If you look at the little black bar at the top of the ?Google page?, you will see something like ?Web, Videos, Images, Maps?etc?. There should be a little label of ?More? at the far right. If you click on that, it should drop down another menu that says something like ?Shopping, Books, Translate etc?.
Try clicking on ?Books?. I?ve put a sample link below ( may or may not come up on your browser ). What you will find are a bunch of books with all sorts of titles. Google has gone through a whole bunch of books and put up a list where the term ?802.11? has appeared. Now, some authors allow Google to show electronic versions of their books. Some are nice PDF type displays and others are literally photocopies. You can often read entire chapters. Every now and then, you will see a blank page or two ( The authors don?t want to simply put up a free copy of their book ). Now this can get frustrating, but with a little patience, you can get around this partly or completely. Just look for another book and look at the index at the back. Very often, you can then go to a chapter that deals with that subject ?e.g MIMO or 802.11n or CCMP or whatever, and ?fill in the gaps?. With patience, you can pretty much read most of what you need to know by doing this. Of course, if you have some money, off you go and buy the book, but this way, you can get a preview of many books before you buy them, or get ?free information?. There is a way that I have found to read the whole book, but I won?t post that, as it?s not fair to the authors.
YouTube has some great videos from various universities and technical institutes around the world. Before I was injured, I had hoped to take an MSc in Wireless Communications followed by one in Spacecraft Control Engineering. There is no way I could afford either just now. However, in anticipation of the day when I?m finally able to do that, I?ve been studying both almost for free. Here?s what I?ve done:
1. Gone online and found institutes which teach the subjects. E-mailed the schools and found out the curriculum with a list of recommended reading and labs required. All this is free.
2. Gone on Google and Amazon ( They sometimes have a ?Look Inside? marker, where you can see a chapter or a few pages ) and looked up the books recommended.
3. Found out student forums for the courses at various schools. The vast majority will let you enter without having to be a student there. Very often you will see ads such as ?Dude?Calculus sucks. I?m changing to Business Admin. I?ve got books X,Y and Z for sale dirt cheap, cos the rent is due?. I immediately contact them and make an offer. So far I haven?t been cheated. I?ve managed to get some textbooks costing $170 dollars and more for ten dollars. I only apply for books where the person is still going to be in school ( not leaving ), as they know that if they tried to cheat, one call to the academic admin office would put paid to that.
4. Gone on websites that sell used textbooks, like Alibris.com. Bought a $140 dollar textbook a few weeks ago for $1.50 ( shipping cost 3.50 ). There are ways to make reasonably sure that the book is not filled with highlights by looking at the report from the bookseller.
5. Found out what the latest version of a textbook is and then gone on line and looked for a used copy of the previous version. I then look up the new book on the publisher?s website and find what has been added/deleted. Then it is a matter of going back on the web to ?fill in the gaps?.
6. Homework assignments can be found on many of the appropriate institution?s websites. You can then go on the student chat forums to discuss any problems you have had etc.
Never stop asking questions. I literally wouldn?t be here today if I didn?t.
[quote]Don't take the "smirking teenager" comment to heart, I am sure it wasn't meant as discouragement.[/quote]
I taught in a school for Military Intelligence troops. The troops knew if they could argue about a test question they missed and prevail, the test question would get thrown out and they might pass.
They would argue for 4 hours over something like this.
"Yo. Dense $%^&er. Have you heard the term Wavelength Modulation before this test question? Can you find a reference to it in any textbook anywhere on earth? NO? because we made up the term for this test question and there is no such thing!"
...didn't work. If they expended as much effort on academics as they did on pedantics, they might have passed based on practical knowledge instead of legalistic argument skills. I didn't want people who passed on a technicality maintaining equipment that monitored Soviet missile launches and orbiting spacecraft.
giving me an intense dislike of nitpicky, argument for the sake of argument people.
That must have been incredibly frustrating, teaching troops and having that reaction from them, especially as the job they were going on to do was so important.
My only experience of that kind of attitude, I am afraid to say, was in me as a moody teenager trying to prove to my dad that I, at 15 or 16 or whatever, knew so much more than he.
By the time I was 21, I was amazed at how much he had learnt in 5 years :>)
I had some trouble with the CWNA test for this very reason even though I am very knowledgable in RF. You can tell the CWNA questions were written by IT non-RF types and it really becomes tricky because you have to basically think things like a non-RF guy. What technically "is" correct is "not" correct to them, or in other words, they should be extra careful in their choices of "wrong" answers.
Yup. what he said. The RF chapters of the book were written by a CBer. drives ya screamin nuts.
One fellow ham to another buddy AD6DL!
Really ad5mb, I did not mean to get this very question removed from the set whatsoever so I could pass the exam. Thanks for the explanation on why you did get me wrong. I worked as a civilian freelance for the Spanish Navy's R&D dept a few years ago (25 actually, so nothing to do with "la Armada Invencible" :) ) so I guess I know what you were through.
Dave, believe it or not, I made (on paper of course) one bionic prostethic hand as the final University project, back on the 80s. By these days, there was just nothing about, so I took a "classical" physiology book -Harrison's- where all the information I needed was in. The thing was that nobody had searched the links between empiric medicine and newtonian physics before, as far as I knew. So I inferred the time-response formula -of course, nonlinear- for the pulse-stimulated skeletal striated muscle. Unfortunately I did not keep any copy :( of it.
Yes, muscles are incredibly complex structures. One of the most amazing things is "muscle memory". When you go to the supermarket, you will see all those old men and women hunched over with a hump in their backs. They shuffle along with their heads down. That is ( in 99.99% of cases ) simply due mainly to contraction of the chest muscles and a few muscles in the neck ( muscles contract from both ends with overuse....anything attached to them such as the skull will be moved if possible to do so ). That particular problem is highly correctable. I have seen hundreds of elderly people become "ramrod straight" within three hours at the clinics I go to. Since their center of gravity has changed, most suffer slight dizziness for two or three minutes until the brain readapts itself to the new position of the skull and eyes ( our eyes play a huge part in our sense of balance, along with our inner ears ).
They are told that within twenty four hours, the muscles will try to put them back into that "wrong" position. That is muscle memory. An incredibly complex mechanism. Usually two or three more sessions will break that memory pattern. Provided the person continues to perform simple tailored stretches, the muscles will remain in their "proper" position.
An incredible, closed-loop feedback system working under non-linear conditions.
The number of neck, back and wrist surgeries among IT personnel has increased exponentially over the last ten years. Spinal surgery training facilities are now one of the fastest growing sectors of the medical industry. Yet, if you ask the surgeon for a detailed overview of why you need the surgery ( the cause, not the symptom, excluding accidents and birth issues etc ), you will receive answers such as "you're getting old.....everybody has to get something replaced at some time or another etc". Imagine trying to give that sort of thing as an answer to a customer whose Wi-Fi network is not functioning properly.
I have spoken to some TV presenters who did a couple of TV pieces about my case a few years ago. The idea is that when the book is published, I shall challenge any doctor/surgeon/specialist in the world to come on national TV and try to dispute anything I write about the true causes of back/neck/wrist pain and how to overcome most without surgery. They will be able to videoconference any of their colleagues and have any book/Internet resources they wish. I shall only bring two models of the pelvis and skeleton and the engineering knowledge that I was forced to learn to get walking again. I also now have a collection ( from my own case and others ) of spinal x-rays and MRIs showing drastic changes before and after the various non-surgical treatments that myself and others have had. That way, there will be no sniping from anonymity in back pain forums etc. We'll all be face to face. I will stand or fall by the engineering principles that I have learned. I shall also be explaining the amount of money ( in a detailed breakdown ) that is made on these surgeries. Again, sadly, some spinal surgeries are required for certain cases. For regular back pain, however, I estimate that over 90% of them are not required, and will be producing data to prove it.
That's amazing, Dave! However, I would gladly switch this conversation to our private messages, since someone may say this is decreasing this specific-wifi forum's SNR... if you know what I mean :).
[quote]I had some trouble with the CWNA test for this very reason even though I am very knowledgable in RF. You can tell the CWNA questions were written by IT non-RF types and it really becomes tricky because you have to basically think things like a non-RF guy. What technically "is" correct is "not" correct to them, or in other words, they should be extra careful in their choices of "wrong" answers. [/quote]
I have found this in almost every certification I have done over the years. Essentially, I find myself knowing more than the question is assuming and if it were some sort of oral (e.g., job interview) question, I could 'explain my working/s'. This is particularly true when dealing with anything related to design.
Having said that, I feel it is very difficult to write good quality multiple choice questions that are sufficiently difficult but appropriate for the level of exam. There has always been the 'Cisco' answer or the 'Microsoft' answer and even I guess, the 'CWNP' answer. I have now just accepted this to be part of the certification process.