Mark's blog

How a New Contractor Model Can Change the Way We Develop New Products

I can now admit it. My company lost $400,000 on two engineering projects that went nowhere. Both were in pursuit of a multi-input, web-enabled controller that was going to be a game changer. The first attempt was entrusted to an engineering veteran in the industry whose actual expertise was woefully short of his advertised expertise. The second effort was in the hands of a very capable firm that viewed me as an ATM. What started off as a $150K project was headed toward $600K.

I finally figured out how a dissolved oxygen sensor works

The title of this blog looks like a self-inflicted wound. It suggests that I am ignorant about how one of the most basic tools in the water quality tool box works.
It’s true.
I have a PhD in physical chemistry. I’ve been in the water business now for 6 years. I am almost finished writing a book on water quality instrumentation that will be published by AWWA. And, until recently, I didn’t know how a dissolved oxygen sensor works.

The Joy of Jargon

Every profession has its fill of technical jargon that few outsiders understand. Since war paint has become so yesterday, these odd assortments of letters have helped bond us together.

What I learned from Radio Shack (RIP)

I am old enough to remember the Radio Shack that was really a radio shack. This was the place where kids in my Dad's generation would go to build or repair ham radios. And though I am quick to admit that I was never an electronics whiz kid I knew a resistor from a capacitor and I knew that you could find just about any electronic component in a Radio Shack. When "Hi-Fi" stereo became a fixture in the sixties the Realist product line of receivers and speakers became a solid middle-of-the road staple in many a living room.

Color, Turbidity and Philosophy

When we humans look at objects we describe them in terms of color. We say that an apple is red or the sky is blue. To us color is an attribute just as surely as its mass or dimensions. But the fact is that color is a pure human construct. Take away the human and it does not exist. What we perceive as color is really just our brains interpretation of the range of wavelengths that the object reflects or (like Christmas tree lights) emits and that our retinas perceive. When a beam of white light strikes a red delicious apple, it absorbs most of the blue and green wavelengths.

Why Colleges have Failed our Kids

My company has had a fruitful relationship with the University of Massachusetts of Lowell since we started operations 5 years ago. As a small company we don't have the luxury of hiring all the engineering talent we need. So we hire a U Mass engineering intern to do bread-and-butter type work and contract out the higher level engineering services as needed. U Mass has outstanding internship and coop programs and their students can "hold their own" against those from my alma mater MIT.

The Biggest Misconception in pH Measurement

The pH probe is the most ubiquitous analytical sensor on earth. Even people who never took a science class in college have heard of pH (though few truly understand what it means). In our industry nearly every person I talk to understands that water is "neutral" at and only at pH 7. Very few understand what a value of 7 means but they know it is smack dab in the middle of the acid-base continuum. It's the pH of pure water and it is a sacred number in the same way that one hour is always 60 minutes. Except that it's not sacred at all.

What Would Marcus Do?

What do women's clothing, Key Lime pie and toys have in common? They are all businesses that Marcus Lemonis turned around. Marcus is the star of the CNBC reality show, The Profit. He takes a major equity stake in failing businesses and turns them around. He may only have 30% ownership but, as he states in every show, he's "100% in charge." I have no doubt that the shows are scripted so that the "reality" fits into a great television plot. But the lessons for any business owner are indispensable. And ALL of the businesses that Marcus fixes face the same problems.

The Green Way and the Gray Way

I love trade journals. I subscribe to about a dozen devoted to water and wastewater. I firmly believe that one can become an expert in the world of water just by spending an hour every day reading them. The most common type of article is the spotlight article, or case study, in which the author presents a problem that a water or wastewater facility faces and the design solution its engineers construct to meet that challenge.

Why It took four weeks to write two paragraphs

I'm really under the gun. I am writing a book on how water quality instrumentation works and it is months overdue. I have a mandate from my editor that I must have a first draft complete by August. Or else.... And yet, I took 4 precious weeks without writing a single sentence and I used that time just so I could write two new paragraphs.

Syndicate content