LETTING OUR CAPES FLY: WHY ENGINEERS ARE AWESOME

This glimpse of the future was crafted by: Michelle Doolan

June 2017: You don’t have to sit a 5-year old down and teach her the physical and psychological benefits of building forts. Chances are she has wrecked your lounge many times before. Written into the defaults of our DNA is the impulse to create  ̶  to bring something that never was into being.

 Take away the plastic weapons of mass destruction from your toy box, and watch your toddler turn his peanut butter sandwich into a gun. Beach sand becomes castles; snow days invite igloos; the world is a wonderful palette that kids just intuitively want to paint on. Essentially, the engineer is hidden inside all of us.

The question for us engineers who still hold the title is, are we still living like one?

Because we may need to be reminded from time to time, the job of an engineer is a great one. By comparison to some of the other professions, engineering is often not seen as the “cool” one. TV shows like LA Law and Boston Legal glamorise legal eagles battling it out in high profile court cases. ER, House and Scrubs bring the world of medicine into our living rooms. Even Grand Designs puts architecture on a pedestal. Isn’t it about time that TV producers got in touch with the profession that is shaping the future world we live in like no other?

As a discipline, it lies at the very fabric of our society, shouldering the systems and spaces that give our world its meaning. Too often the profession is associated with hard hats and tool belts, viewed as difficult and esoteric. But in reality, engineering is a far cry from ‘restrictive’ and ‘routine’. It is alive and multidimensional, unleashing the power of connected societies to unlock the impossible.

Engineering invades every domain and asks the question, ‘how can we make this space into something fantastic?’ To be an engineer is to be nothing less than the shapers and problem solvers of our collective future.

We get to do this

Confucius said, “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” In spite of the many challenges and demands, the job of a passionate engineer should often feel like play. Edges are invitations; and we, of all people, should welcome the thrill of stepping off the ledges of previous paradigms to see what new support systems open up beneath us.

Every day, we get to blend new technologies into the world around us. Big data helps us gain new insight into people’s needs, which in turn fuels new design that facilitates healthy and sustainable workflows and social interactions. All the more, we are called to create new virtual reality visions of the future, which anticipate the ‘what if’s’ and puts the unknowns at ease. We get to reimagine energy as we know it and tinker with a thousand unimaginable ways to address some of the single-most important issues of our day.

If we are going to remain agile and imaginative in our approach to urban co-creation and problem solving, then engineering needs to stay fun and occasionally open to failure. If we subscribe to methodologies that resist change and reward bottom line only, we will dangerously stay too neatly within the lines.

We pen the story

Whether it be a mass transit system, a power system, a water network or a building, engineers are asking the question, ‘how will this infrastructure be relevant in the future?’ We have the privilege to keep reshaping life into systems and spaces that breed more life. Every day we are faced with the opportunity to look at issues through new lenses and improve upon historic archetypes.

Take the example of Elon Musk, whose invention of the Tesla electric car presents itself like a lifeline to the sinking ship we call today’s fossil fuel-dependent automotive industry. His passion to reduce global warming has pushed open major doors in solar energy and cracked the ceiling of our paradigms ̶ even to include outer space. Thanks to Musk’s SpaceX program, some of us are now googling how to grow vegetables on Mars.

Good engineers steward safe boundaries. Great engineers push them wider to the benefit of society. Game changers such as Mark Zuckerberg have altered the stakes of social engagement worldwide through Facebook’s far-reaching and immediate ability to connect people around the world. IDEO is pioneering concepts around people at the centre of design and economies of circular value. And because they have a sobering understanding of the responsibility which goes hand-in-hand with crafting community, they don’t easily back down.

Zuckerberg has used his unique position to pledge 99% of his lifetime Facebook shares (worth about $45 billion) to “advance human potential and promote equality in areas such as health, education, scientific research and energy”. As “impatient optimists working to reduce inequity”, the Gates Foundation has so far given away $35 billion to ‘take on the really tough problems’ of hunger, disease and poverty. At their core, engineers are pioneers who create platforms to propel humanity upward and onward.

We can create it!

Engineering is a constant exercise in diagnosis and treatment. We identify the pain points of society; we prescribe the remedies; and then we even get to deliver the solutions ourselves.

Every day the hand of the engineer provides enormous benefit to communities  ̶  whether that be in the form of a surgeon performing groundbreaking fibre optic treatment, or something as commonplace these days as an overseas Skype call using broadband or fibre network.

Biomedical engineers are developing artificial hearts and giving amputees a new spring in their step. And leaders of science, technology and innovation are carrying the keys to unlocking poverty alleviation and meeting the basic human needs of adequate food, clean drinking water, sanitation, good health provision, shelter and education.

Through tight collaboration with government, business leaders, academic institutions and the public at large, we can lead true change by painting wide-stroke solutions over societal problems. We carry cutting edge solutions and skills that embed the systems and smart technologies carving out our future urban ecosystems. It’s to everyone’s detriment when we fail to step up and lead.

The ERA Foundation encourages engineers “to be proud to leave their mark… to shake off their ‘behind the scenes’ identities and become ambassadors that talk proudly about the full range of work and sectors they are involved in.” This is not a time for false humility; it’s a time to let our capes fly. Engineering is far more than a job. It’s a way of seeing the world and believing we can improve upon it. The degree to which we own our superhero status in the collective story is the degree to which we all win.

Authorship

(Aurecon’s award-winning blog, Just Imagine provides a glimpse into the future for curious readers, exploring ideas that are probable, possible and for the imagination. This post originally appeared on Aurecon’s Just Imagine blog. Get access to the latest blog posts as soon as they are published by subscribing to the blog.) June 2017

 

 

Andreessen Horowitz $80 Million Funding in Onshape is a BIG deal

27 Sep 2015

During a conversation I had with John McEleney, President of Onshape last Monday, he told me why it was a big deal to Onshape.

Onshape was not actively looking for additional investment. Their original investment of some $60 million was sufficient for at least the next year. Rather, Andreessen Horowitz approached them. Of course, McEleney was excited that Onshape was able to more than double its investment, and with the backing of Andreesen Horowitz, raised some $80 million in the round.

What is very attractive is that this investment round comes from the leading high tech investment firm and they get why Onshape is different. You can read about why Andreesen invested in Onsape from Peter Levine’s article entitled “CAD Emerges from the Stone Age to Finally Join the Mobile Era.” Levine is a partner at Andreesen Horowitz. Levine, in the article claims that Onshape truly changes the game in CAD for the first in the last 20 years. Not that the last two decades have not contributed substantially to the field; it’s just that this time has been spent working with the same old, stand alone computer technology. In this new era, systems that embrace document sharing, collaboration, cloud storage, and being mobile-native will rule the roost. Of course this perfectly describes the path taken by Onshape.

What’s surprising to me is that none of Onshape’s competitors seem to have any existing or planned offerings in this arena. It’s not like this is a big surprise either. We have known about Onshapes plans for several years now. I guess, as has been common in the past, it may take several more years, and substantial revenue loss before they wake up to these rapidly approaching changes.

As always, I welcome comments.

Ray Kurland

The future is cloud-y for engineering data management

Feb 2015

Lately I have been deluged with the announcement of or introduction to a series of cloud based data management systems for design engineering that are also focusing on collaboration. I plan this blog to be the first in a series that explores new PDM/PLM (PxM) solutions for product design.

Before I begin, we need to clarify the differences between PDM and PLM. PDM manages design changes during product development while PLM manages engineering and other changes made after the production release of the product for manufacturing and other downstream processes. Using this definition, PDM can be used to store all sorts of information during the design or work-in-process stage. Such information might include, but not be limited to: product specs, preliminary designs, analyses and simulation, product versions, QC specs, engineering BOMs, material types, etc. PLM manages engineering and other changes made after the release of the product from engineering. PLM systems might include PDM data managed during design as well as other data, such as, manufacturing BOMs, manufacturing instructions, NC data, service tracking, cost data, customer level documentation, etc. I think you get the picture.

PTC’s recent announcement of PTC PLM Cloud, a webinar I attended about GrabCAD Workbench and Onshape’s inherent use of a cloud-based solution — all piqued my interest. I began wondering about the differences between them and how one might choose a solution for a mid sized firm. One obvious differentiator is how cloud based PxM software connects to CAD software, be it desktop CAD or cloud based CAD. By the way, if you have not seen Onshape’s Dave Corcoran’s blog about the “The blue screen of death,” then I urge you to read it now. http://www.onshape.com/cad-blog. Corcoran discusses some of the benefits of a cloud based PxM – CAD implementation.

A true cloud based system allows full use of easily extensible computational capability and virtually unlimited storage

A PxM system cloud based system may not be much different from the tired old server based software that has been promoted for years. Adding a web based interface and hierarchical data storage in the cloud, masks an antiquated architecture. The old approach of bolting external data management software into CAD simply does not work well enough. It’s too laborious, takes extra time, and makes little use of design info developed automatically during the design cycle. It’s lack of adoption to date verifies this assumption.

A true cloud based system should be radically different in architecture allowing full use of cloud system flexibility. For instance, one reason I always disliked the previous generation of PDM/PLM was their outdated reliance on text-based interfaces. I would expect modern PxM systems to be graphically oriented offering comprehensible and visual navigation within the product structure. It should offer a tight connection to related CAD systems and automate much of the data management function. Automatic backup and easy restore of historical data are mandatory functions, as are easily distributed design among partners along with IP (intellectual property) protection.

The vendors are all moving quickly to position (or re-position) their PxM systems as cloud based

The plethora of cloud based data management systems for engineering and CAD include the following (plus some I haven’t yet discovered): Autodesk PLM 360, Onshape, GrabCAD Workbench, PTC PLM Cloud, and Kenesto as well as Dropbox and related cloud drive systems. More traditional software is offered by ARAS, Dassault Systemes and Siemens PLM software. What follows is a summary of how some of these vendors are positioning their software.

  • Onshape promotes distributed design. Using cloud based CAD along with a fully integrated cloud PDM system allows a brand new perspective on how modern CAD systems should work. Essentially all costs for compute power and data storage are greatly minimized, easily increased, even ”borrowed” for a short duration.
  • GrabCAD’s Workbench calls itself “The fast, easy way to manage and share CAD files without PDM’s cost and hassle.” The company goes on to state “Workbench allows teams on any CAD system to work smoothly together by syncing local CAD files to cloud projects, tracking versions and locking files to prevent conflicts.” The enterprise version costs $89 per month.
  • PTC recently announced PTC PLM Cloud, stating “this solution leverages the power of PTC Windchill, while simplifying PLM adoption with a flexible, hosted subscription offering, deployable at a pace that matches the needs of SMBs.” I am not exactly sure what this means, but expect to clarify this when I speak with PTC this week.
  • Very soon, Kenesto plans to announce a cloud based system that, Steve Bodnar – VP of Strategy, calls a terrific solution for small shops, enabling them to replace their server based, in-house error prone, file based systems with a much higher function cloud based system that requires minimal change to the way CAD users work, yet improves the reliability of their data management.

Alas, how can an engineering organization differentiate which PxM technology to buy and invest their time and money in? More detail about various implementations and my assessment of them will be forthcoming in future blogs.

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Ray Kurland — I have returned to consulting and analyzing systems for TechniCom, from an early and erstwhile retirement.

References:

Onshape: I have seen it and it is good!

21 Jan 2015

I cannot yet discuss Onshape details, having agreed, as did all others who viewed the product, to an all-encompassing non-disclosure agreement.

But surely, others must have noticed the recent activity from Onshape. After more than two years of secrecy, their executives and others in the company are finally reaching out to the public. Just last week I had three calls from Onshape execs, all wanting to make sure I was aware of their product beta. Within the past two weeks they have started a blog, which now has two posts. See it at www.onshape.com. The first posted just two weeks ago was from Jon Hirschtick, Founder and Chairman of the Board at Onshape. A second blog post from Dave Corcoran, Co-Founder and the Vice President of Research and Development at Onshape reveals some new faces among the development staff along with a remark about the company’s cloud centric approach.

I must admit being somewhat skeptical when I heard the new company was founded. After all, after being around the CAD business for more than 25 years, what could possibly be new? Yet I was still frustrated after these many years with some CAD software systems general fundamentals: the software was hard to use, PDM was a pain in the butt to use, the software was still too costly and often unreliable, all vendors still wanted to lock in their users and multi-CAD usage was rare, new releases became more and more difficult to install because existing data needed to be “migrated”, PDM’s big brother (PLM) promised the moon but seldom delivered without great expense and manpower, the benefits of cloud computing was relegated to special cases because the software was designed for interactive desktop computing.

Does Onshape solve all these BIG problems? I can’t divulge any details yet, but some are being directly addressed. You can get a few clues if you carefully read Dave’s blog; there you will find some hints about where Onshape is heading.

With all this recent activity my guess is that Onshape is getting ready for a public announcement.

More to follow.

World Technology Summit 2013 reveals exciting technology

Last week, on November 14th, I had the privilege of attending the first day of the 2013 World Technology Summit. This conference gathers many of the most innovative people and organizations in the science and technology world to celebrate each other’s accomplishments; to explore what is imminent, possible, and important in and around emerging technologies; and to create the kinds of serendipitous relationships that create the future. www.wtn.net

The day was a fascinating chance to hear from and meet with some very exciting people and listen to their (thankfully short) pitches. Some were from larger well-established firms, while others were at the earliest stages of their products. The venue and the breaks allowed me to casually meet and chat with many of the principals.

I have summarized below some of the notes I took at the presentations and recollections from more casual meetings. The standouts were RelSci (Relationship Science), Hidalgo (Human Performance Monitoring) www.hidalgo.co.uk, Planetary Resources (Asteroid Mining), Interaxon (Brainwave Monitoring), and ViaSat (High speed satellite communications).

Ariel Garten, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, InteraXon Inc.

(Brainwave control for the masses)

In 2007, Ariel co-founded InteraXon, one of the world’s leading companies creating brainwave controlled products and experiences. Her team is merging technology, neuroscience, art and design. Muse, InteraXon’s brain-sensing headband allows consumers to interact with their computing devices using the power of their mind.

I had a chance to try out a demo headset, which contained three sensors that monitored alpha brainwaves. Attached to an Apple MacBook, two readouts were displayed on a screen. One monitoring my focus and the second monitoring my calmness. While the system was a bit balky I seemed to be able to control the readouts. The headsets are going on sale for $249 at www.getyourmuse.com soon. My impression was wow! This seemed an amazing system for bio feedback control, particularly for anxious individuals. http://www.interaxon.ca

Jason Pontin, Editor in Chief and Publisher, MIT Technology Review

(10 trends to watch in the next year)

The editor in chief and the publisher of MIT Technology Review, Pontin directs the editorial, platform development, and general business strategy of the company’s digital and print publications, as well as its events.

Here are what Pontin calls 10 breakthrough technologies (as best as I was able to record them) that will deform the world:

  1. Deep learning
  2. Ultra efficient solar power by changing light beams to improve the efficiency of solar panels, as have been explored using prisms at CalTech.
  3. Data extraction from cheap phones for poor country data gathering leading to better information, for instance, on disasters.
  4. Temporary social media — like Snapchat?  Creating space for making mistakes.
  5. Smart watches: need a less socially intrusive way to interact with the web
  6. Memory implants to reduce mildly cognitive memory problems.
  7. Robotic manufacturing. Today’s robots are too fixed in nature. Need more flexible robots. Automate new areas of manual work. For example – serving up burgers. What might be the impact on society and employment?
  8. Additive manufacturing. At industrial scale using metals, where the output compares in durability to machined objects.
  9. DNA sequencing. This is becoming cheap (hundreds of dollars rather than thousands) using mothers blood with little danger to the fetus. Troubling because may promote abortion. How to make decisions based on statistical outcomes?
  10. 10.Super power grids. Could conceive of DC grids with less power loss transmission.

Eric Brown, Director, Watson Technologies, IBM Research

(Moving from Jeopardy to medical science)

Eric Brown, the Director and Principal Investigator for Watson Technologies at the IBM T. J. Watson Research Center joined IBM in 1995 and has conducted research in information retrieval, document categorization, text analysis, question answering, bio-informatics, and applications of automatic speech recognition. The goal of Watson is to achieve human-level question answering performance and Brown is currently focused on applying Watson to clinical decision support in Healthcare. Efforts to move Watson to the cloud are taking place now. I am not sure about deployment, but it seems that this could go a long way towards improving physicals and emergency care. Sounds very exciting!

Neal Goldman, Chairman/CEO, Relationship Science (RelSci)

(LinkedIn on steroids)

Relationship Science (RelSci), an information services business headquartered in New York City provides a “six degrees” type of business development tool that helps users see connections between – and make connections with—influential people based on their profiles in the system’s database.

RelSci has compiled over two million influential names and their connections, charity work, work and board associates, and education to find pathways between dealmakers, power brokers, and business executives. The company has been called the “ultimate business development tool.

RelSci is relatively new, having rolled out product early this year. How does the company do this? Apparently with a herd of people in New York and India going through all sorts of publically available sources and inputting the data into their database. Designed for companies selling high value items to other businesses, a single sale might pay for the service. No service costs were discussed, but I certainly could have used such a tool in my former account executive jobs at IBM. I would be intrigued as to how the data is filtered for accuracy, since there might be substantial changes over time. It seems an ideal service business. www.relsci.com

Dan Harden, Industrial Designer, President/CEO Whipsaw Inc.

(Designing for users)

Whipsaw Inc., a highly acclaimed design firm in the Silicon Valley. Whipsaw designs products and experiences for major companies around the world including Google, Cisco, GE, Intel, Merck, Nike, Olympus, Samsung and many others. Dan directs the strategic and conceptual direction of most accounts and his focus is in technology design where he strives to make complex products simpler, friendlier, more meaningful, and more beautiful. He recently designed many hit tech products including the Google Chromecast, Dropcam security cameras, Livescribe computer pens, Eton emergency radios, Cisco Telepresence systems, Intel healthcare tablets, and Pano Logic, the first “zero client” computer.

Dan discussed how he always approaches designs from a user’s point of view and concentrates on simplifying the UI. This seems a badly needed approach to much of what design engineer’s face using their overly complex software. http://www.whipsaw.com

Ian Webster, Software Engineer at Planetary Resources

(Asteroid mapping simplified and mining TBD)

Ian Webster is a Software Engineer who founded Asterank, which was acquired by Planetary Resources in early 2013. Asterank pioneered techniques for asteroid discovery, analysis, and visualization of over half a million objects from sources such as NASA/JPL, the Minor Planet Center, and world markets. My impression: Just viewing the data on a laptop was astounding. Spinning the solar system around in real time while viewing the location of these half million objects made me realize the fascinating planarity of the planets, moons, and asteroids. Webster stated that most objects fall within 20 degrees of planarity.

Even more fascinating is the opportunity for asteroid mining. Webster stated that there is one asteroid that contains more platinum than has ever been mined on earth. That alone might seem a worthwhile target. It seems that there are a few obstacles to overcome. Besides the technology, spacecraft, methods and processes, who owns and controls these asteroids? First come, first served? How do you fend off competitors? Who determines the laws? Hmmm, interesting! www.planetaryresources.com

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What’s up with Belmont Technology?

9 Sep 2013: Last week Siemens PLM Software announced that “Belmont Technology, a venture backed software start-up founded by CAD industry veterans, has licensed Siemens’ Parasolid® software and D-Cubed™ software components to be the foundation of a new generation of cloud-based applications for the computer-aided design, manufacturing and engineering (CAD/CAM/CAE) market. The Belmont team, which includes Founder and Chairman, Jon Hirschtick, and CEO John McEleney, will use Parasolid and D-Cubed components to provide the solid modeling and geometric constraint solving capabilities that are fundamental to modern CAD/CAM/CAE applications. Parasolid and D-Cubed components are developed by Siemens’ PLM software business unit.”

So that’s news. We have not heard from Belmont in some time. Note this verbiage: “a new generation of cloud-based applications for the computer-aided design, manufacturing and engineering (CAD/CAM/CAE) market.

As I recall, this mirrors the way SolidWorks started – a long time development followed by a brilliant piece of software, delivered at the right time and making the best use of existing and soon to be future computing technology. The company, in its early stages also was brilliantly managed and established new ways to market along with a close customer-vendor relationship. Today, SolidWorks – the company, for many reasons no longer has the many of these characteristics.

So, I am speculating about the possible new product. Perhaps my 20+ years in the CAD/CAM market allow me some perspective on what might be coming. Also, I think I have a pretty good understanding of what the sticking points are in existing products. So here goes:

  • Cloud based
  • Much easier to use
    • Model building guidance that encompasses user methodology
    • Speech recognition for commands
    • Automatic initiation of model veracity as you build
    • Real time collaboration with other designers
  • Automatic management of major topology changes
  • Fully integrated with PLM from the start
  • Easy upward migration from existing CAD systems and data formats
  • Built-in simulation and analysis software
  • Real time, full time shading and visualization
  • A flexible pricing structure
  • Combines both history and non-history based modeling
  • Easier use of vendor libraries
  • A new collaboration schema among internal and external designers
  • More flexible modeling allowing easier to redesign models
  • Incorporation of requirements at the early stages of design

Even if Belmont incorporated all of these, would it be enough to convince users to move or even migrate to a new system? After all, today’s CAD systems work and pretty much can design anything. Let’s take a quick look at the past.

What convinced new customers to migrate to SolidWorks at its introduction, was its new use of variable driven modeling and history based design. The logic was that if you correctly designed the model, than changing a few variables could change the resulting design, possibly resulting in a massive savings of design engineering. Many users bought into this, including me.

Unknown to us at the time, were the inherent drawbacks to such designs. The primary one being that this only worked for MINOR changes in the variables: one that caused few topology changes. There was no way to account for major topology changes without extensive programming, an undesirable way to manage the problem. Many confusing workarounds were built to significant CAD systems that are in use today.

Another problem was how to “unwind” the history and variables when changes are desired that cannot be handled parametrically. Thus, design re-use became only marginally workable. SpaceClaim solved this by totally eliminating design history, sacrificing much of its power, yet allowing users to manage deigns more easily.

Conclusions

Belmont Technology needs to hit a home run in making mechanical design engineering and re-design engineering better than today’s systems by orders of magnitudes.

Let’s see where we stand today with major mechanical CAD software:

  • Siemens PLM Software with NX, Solid Edge and Teamcenter.
  • Dassault Systemes with CATIA, SolidWorks and Enovia
  • PTC with Creo and Windchill
  • Autodesk with AutoCAD, Inventor and Autodesk PLM 360

Each has strong offerings and are large well funded companies with global sales and marketing, large well-funded development teams, and many customers. Can a newcomer easily overturn them? It has certainly been done in the past and certainly some are more vulnerable than others. All but Autodesk have made only limited accommodations for cloud based computing, while Autodesk has gone “whole hog.” Just today, Autodesk announced monthly pricing for its entire design suite, a big change from past pricing models.

IMHO, all of these vendors MAY be vulnerable to a fundamental change in technology. But it will have to be huge or promise to be huge, while at the same time require a unique difficult to copy technology.

I look forward to hearing more.

What are your thoughts?

Why I’m Grateful for America the Great

I received this from a publicist, but I thought you all might enjoy reading it also. It was written by Todd Patkin. His bio is below.

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America’s “birthday,” July Fourth, is coming up soon. All across the United States, this holiday is a chance to grill out, watch parades, admire fireworks, and hang flags on our front porches. I would venture to say that most of us feel a swell of patriotic pride as we look at all of the red, white, and blue surrounding us. Yes, even though we all have our personal beefs with aspects of American life (just turn on a political talk show if you’re skeptical), I think that overall we know we’re fortunate to live in this great land.

In honor of July Fourth, I have written down seven reasons why I’m grateful to live in the United States of America. My list is by no means exhaustive, but I think it does represent aspects of our country that we often take for granted. This Fourth, in addition to enjoying a holiday with your community, I encourage you to reflect on how living in America has shaped your life specifically.

As an American, I’m grateful for:

• Our security. While attacks from terrorists (both foreign and domestic) have proven that the United States is not completely invulnerable, we do live very secure lives compared to many of our brothers and sisters around the world. Wars are not being fought on our soil, and our neighbors are friendly. Can you imagine what it would be like to not feel safe walking out of your own front door, or to live in a city that has been literally and figuratively torn apart by conflict? Furthermore, our fabulous law enforcement professionals are constantly on duty to make sure that our communities are safe, fair, and just places to live.

• Our standard of living. Compared to so many other people on this planet, Americans live comfortable, secure, and even luxurious lives. Most of us live in our own homes, drive our own cars, have plenty to eat, and enjoy amenities ranging from smartphones to laptops to grocery stores to movie theaters. However, I think our high standard of living can be difficult to fully appreciate unless you have traveled to other parts of the world and seen what “normal” is like in various other countries.

• The American Dream. It’s still alive and well! This is a country where you can do what you want, build a comfortable life, and even rise to impressive heights if you are positive, honest, and work hard. You do not have to be confined to a certain place or profession if you do not want to be.

• Diversity. America continues to be The Great Melting Pot, and I, for one, couldn’t be happier about it. Even in my own community, and especially around the country as a whole, there is so much variety in terms of culture, food, background, beliefs, etc. Every person and family is different, and each lives a unique life. I truly wouldn’t want to live in a place where everyone looked, behaved, and thought similarly. Over the course of my life, I have grown so much as a person because I have been exposed to new viewpoints, traditions, ideas, and experiences thanks to people around me.

• Medical care and education. Again, you may have your complaints about medical care and the education system in the United States, but comparatively, both are very high quality. People come to our country from all around the world specifically to take advantage of them. I am glad that there are professionals ready to safeguard my health around the clock, and that we are guaranteed a top-notch education at least through age 17 or 18—and longer if we choose to pursue a higher-education degree.

• Water. You can drink it whenever you want without worrying about getting sick. You can buy it bottled and by the case in many stores. You can take long, hot showers and baths. You can even immerse yourself in it if you go to a pool, river, or lake. By comparison, many countries around the world have contaminated, non-potable water and/or have to deal with major water shortages.

• The postal service. Talk about something we really take for granted but still rely heavily on even in the digital age. When you think about it, it’s amazing that you can put a letter in your mailbox and be pretty sure it will end up where you want it to go in a short period of time. I want to extend my thanks to all postal service workers who help ensure that this process remains reliable and quick.

So, who can we thank for all of these things (and many more)? Well, the America we know today is here because our ancestors came to this land—often with nothing—and worked hard to build better lives for themselves and their children. From our Founding Fathers to America’s great businessmen and inventors to the millions of individuals who crossed oceans to become citizens, we owe those who came before and paved the way for us to enjoy the comfortable lives we know today.

We should also thank America’s military, past and present. Since before the United States was officially a nation, soldiers have fought and died for our freedom, security, and national interests, and their families have borne the heavy burden of sending loved ones to war.

Lastly, we can all thank the individuals who, in large or small ways, make our own corners of America a great place to live. Teachers, medical professionals, government employees, and many, many more provide essential services without which our lives would be very different.

So, Happy Birthday, America! On July Fourth and every other day, here’s to the U.S.A.!

About the Author:
Todd Patkin, author of Finding Happiness: One Man’s Quest to Beat Depression and Anxiety and—Finally—Let the Sunshine InTwelve Weeks to Finding Happiness: Boot Camp for Building Happier People, and The Sunny Days Secret: A Guide for Finding Happiness(coming 2014), grew up in Needham, Massachusetts. After graduating from Tufts University, he joined the family business and spent the next eighteen years helping to grow it to new heights. After it was purchased by Advance Auto Parts in 2005, he was free to focus on his main passions: philanthropy and giving back to the community, spending time with family and friends, and helping more people learn how to be happy. Todd lives with his wonderful wife, Yadira, their amazing son, Josh, and two great dogs, Tucker and Hunter.

patkin-1230-hires-s

About the Books:
Finding Happiness: One Man’s Quest to Beat Depression and Anxiety and—Finally—Let the Sunshine In (StepWise Press, 2011, ISBN: 978-0-9658261-9-8, $19.95) is available at bookstores nationwide, from major online booksellers, and atwww.findinghappinessthebook.com.

Twelve Weeks to Finding Happiness: Boot Camp for Building Happier People (New Focus Press, 2012, ISBN: 978-0-9885092-0-7, $13.99) is available from Amazon.com.