The Blessing

For everyone at The Colorado School of Mines, class starts today. Despite the fact that I’m not in school, I still like to celebrate this day, taking note of its significance. For me, it’s almost like New Years day, being the start of the school year and all.

I’ve been thinking recently a lot about the desires and challenges of life and where they lie. I have fond memories of playing in my backyard with my brother and my neighbors when I was little. During the summer, I would design tree forts and think, “If only I had the money to build this.” I had a desire to have the means necessary to fund my adventure.

Back then, I got something around a $5 allowance/week. And I could earn some extra money by doing some extra chores. But the $250 in materials needed was freaking huge. I dreamt of ways to come up with money so I could build the ultimate tree fort; I mowed lawns through middle and high school and eventually started fixing computers for friends and family who would also pay me. It never seemed like enough and always got spent in other places, mostly LEGOs. But I desired for the day that I would be a grownup and making lots of money; and then I could do anything!

Of course, there’s a certain innocence in being a child. While I wasn’t making any money, I also didn’t have to worry about other adult things, like figuring out living situations, paying for rent and utilities, working a little bit, and being generally responsible.

I had a desire to go to college, learn about engineering and get a job. Maybe I would build airplanes. I knew it would be a challenge, but I was prepared.

I went off to college and learned a lot. I had to deal with finding food on my own. Mom and Dad were no longer there to cook meals and I was 1000 miles from home. I had to do laundry, get up on my own, plan ahead, and keep my grades up; all without anyone else being there. I had several internships where I traded in some more responsibility for some more pay. But it wasn’t enough. I felt restricted in what I could do as an intern and in the limited confines of a classroom. My desire was to be done with school and to grow up; to go out into the world and make a difference. I wanted to make my mark on society and I was going to do this by challenging myself to be the best damn engineer the world has ever known1.

When I graduated, I took on an entirely new set of responsibilities. I had a job — a real, full-time job — and practically all the responsibilities of being grown up2. I had to deal with insurance in all its wonderful forms, making doctors appointments, scheduling vacation, getting enough sleep, budgeting, etc. I was working on integrating myself into society as a contributing member of what makes this world work. I had the desire to grow up more though, to contribute even more to society. My new challenge was to meet a woman, date her, marry her, and start a perfect nuclear family3.

Several months ago, probably starting during my trip to Haiti, I took pause.

At every point in life, I was measuring my level of happiness not by what I had, but by what I desired. It was never enough to have accomplished what I set out to do, because there was always another bigger desire behind it. And each desire became increasingly complex and time consuming. What was I really chasing?

I wanted to be grown up. I think I saw not being grown up as a limitation on what I could accomplish and a limit on what my opportunities were.

I came across this bit from C.S. Lewis4:

Critics who treat adult as a term of approval, instead of as a merely descriptive term, cannot be adult themselves. To be concerned about being grown up, to admire the grown up because it is grown up, to blush at the suspicion of being childish; these things are the marks of childhood and adolescence. And in childhood and adolescence they are, in moderation, healthy symptoms. Young things ought to want to grow. But to carry on into middle life or even into early manhood this concern about being adult is a mark of really arrested development. When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am fifty I read them openly. When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.

This was one of those “A ha!” moments for me. Before, being an adult meant being grown up. But now, I can start to see the difference between the two. And so I think about what my desires for life really are; what are the things that I truly could not bare to be without?

So far, I’ve come up with three things:

  1. A loving relationship with my creator.
  2. A loving relationship with the people I care about.
  3. Never to be left unchallenged.

The last one, while it is last for a reason, is also important. As Scott Adams has pointed out, “Engineers like to solve problems. If there are no problems handily available, they will create their own problems.”

I love solving things. I love figuring things out. What makes me excited to wake up in the morning is knowing that I have still have so much to figure out. I know I can be a better Christian, a better boyfriend, a better friend, a better engineer, a better coworker, a better person. I know there are so many things left to explore, there are many questions left to ask, and there are many challenges left to solve. I know I won’t be able to accomplish everything, but I that’s not the point. Besides, if I were to accomplish it all, what would I do with myself?

And so I wake up saying, “Today, I will try to be better than I was yesterday.”

Perhaps this is the blessing5 and what makes me so excited: a God who loves me, friends that care about me, and things — such as dating Carly — that challenge me in all the good ways….and vice versa.

Here’s to another successful trip around the sun.

  1. or something like that 

  2. or so I thought 

  3. this is simplified version of a complex challenge, but I think the point still stands 

  4. emphasis mine 

  5. read Hustling God by M. Craig Barnes for background 

Scenes from Colorado

I finally broke down and bought Lightroom 3. It’s awesome and definitely worth getting (even if you have LR2). Anyway, I was in Colorado this last weekend for my college roommates wedding. It was pretty epic. I got to see some great friends from my College Days™ — many of whom I haven’t seen in years1 — and meet some new people as well.

I think my favorite part was when Ben was reciting his vows to Kim, he did them in French. This was awesome because Kim was a French/Technical Writing major and Ben does not speak any French at all. I wasn’t part of the wedding party, but I was asked to take video of the event. So of course I brought my camera along too2:

50.0 mm || 1/1250 || f/2.5 || ISO320 || NIKON D70
Ken Caryl, Colorado, United States

50.0 mm || 1/1000 || f/2.5 || ISO320 || NIKON D70
Ken Caryl, Colorado, United States

50.0 mm || 1/60 || f/3.2 || ISO320 || NIKON D70
Ken Caryl, Colorado, United States

50.0 mm || 1/100 || f/2.2 || ISO400 || NIKON D70
Littleton, Colorado, United States

50.0 mm || 1/100 || f/2.2 || ISO640 || NIKON D70
Littleton, Colorado, United States

50.0 mm || 1/80 || f/2.2 || ISO640 || NIKON D70
Littleton, Colorado, United States

50.0 mm || 1/160 || f/2.2 || ISO640 || NIKON D70
Littleton, Colorado, United States

50.0 mm || 1/80 || f/2.2 || ISO640 || NIKON D70
Littleton, Colorado, United States

50.0 mm || 1/250 || f/2.2 || ISO640 || NIKON D70
Littleton, Colorado, United States

50.0 mm || 1/100 || f/1.8 || ISO400 || NIKON D70
Littleton, Colorado, United States

50.0 mm || 1/1000 || f/2.2 || ISO200 || NIKON D70
Littleton, Colorado, United States

50.0 mm || 1/80 || f/2.0 || ISO200 || NIKON D70
Ken Caryl, Colorado, United States

50.0 mm || 1/125 || f/2.0 || ISO1600 || NIKON D70
, Colorado, United States

50.0 mm || 1/50 || f/2.0 || ISO1600 || NIKON D70
, Colorado, United States

50.0 mm || 1/40 || f/2.0 || ISO1600 || NIKON D70
, Colorado, United States

50.0 mm || 1/60 || f/2.0 || ISO1600 || NIKON D70
, Colorado, United States

50.0 mm || 1/100 || f/2.0 || ISO1600 || NIKON D70
, Colorado, United States

50.0 mm || 1/2000 || f/2.8 || ISO200 || NIKON D70
Boulder, Colorado, United States

50.0 mm || 1/5000 || f/2.8 || ISO200 || NIKON D70
Broomfield, Colorado, United States

Update: Added a photo I forgot to upload. Also, per usual, you can see the rest of the wedding-related photos on Flickr: Sikora Wedding Awesome.

  1. Okay, maybe 15 months 

  2. with only my 50mm lens as an experiment in creative composition 

A Note On Internships

As the school year winds to a close, the summer intern season is getting ready to kick off. Having once been on that side of things as a college student and intern, it’s now a great experience to be on the other side of that fence, being a college graduate and helping to bring the future in. I feel very strongly about internships and about what makes a good intern.

I was talking to a student from the Colorado School of Mines the other day. He called me as part of the Digger Dial, which is a fundraising effort put on from Mines students to Mines Alumni. He’s a sophomore majoring in Geological Engineering. We got to talking about internships and if I thought there were valuable.

“Absolutely,” I told him.

Internships are not only a way to get experience, but to also help set up your career. In 2008, the National Association of Colleges and Employers found that 50 percent of graduating students had held internships, up from 17 percent in 1992.1 With 50% of students holding internships, you really can’t afford not to have such valuable experience.

And I think the earlier you can get an internship, the better of you’ll be. I started as an intern at Boeing after my sophomore year. I ended up interning for three summers (which is kind of unusual) before eventually being hired. But having that experience that early my college career was immensely helpful. It helped me understand what engineering really was (or wasn’t), it helped be understand why I was going to college, and it helped me make better decision while I was in college.

Here are my pointers for being an intern:

  • Apply early in your career. There’s no reason you can’t try and get an internship the summer after your freshman year. As a freshman, I talked with every company I was interested in apply to, even if they were only looking for juniors or higher. If you have what it takes to compete at that level, the company will find a way to get you hired as an intern.
  • Apply early in the year. Don’t wait until April to start apply to internships. They’re probably all gone. Start looking in October or November. January at the latest.
  • Be well rounded. Your education is worth less if you don’t know how to have a balanced life. What do you do for fun? Are you involved in the community? Are you consistent in your level of involvement? Do you take on projects outside of your curriculum and regular education that show your interest in the field? My sophomore year I worked on building up the Mines Internet Radio studio and web site. Amazingly, what I did there transfered quite well to my internship.
  • Have a good resume. There is no template for a perfect resume. Personally, I think my resume is pretty good; although it hasn’t been updated in a while. Here are some pointers: Keep it professional. Lead with your education and then experience. Don’t lie. One page only, please. Spell check. Date check. Fact check. And then spell check again.
  • Be yourself. If you think you’re hot shit, and you’re not hot shit. I will know.
  • Ask questions. We know you don’t know all the answers. We know you have questions. Just ask them! There really are no silly questions. And don’t feel like just because you took Circuits 2, Mechanics of Materials, or Fluid Dynamics that you should how things work. College will teach you some basics, work will teach you how to use those tools. Someone once told, “School is about learning how you learn.” That statement fundamentally changed how I looked at college.
  • Be aggressive. There are plenty of other people who want an internship. Trust me on this. You’re going to need to be a bit aggressive (ladies, I’m looking at you here) if you really want this internship. It’s a fine line to walk, but you’re going to have to walk it.

Finally, make sure you’re getting paid. Yes, some people will take exception to labor laws requiring interns to be paid. But since the law says you get paid, you should get paid. The New York Times recently ran an article in their business section, The Unpaid Intern, Legal or Not, stating that “some experts estimate that one-fourth to one-half are unpaid.”2


“If you’re a for-profit employer or you want to pursue an internship with a for-profit employer, there aren’t going to be many circumstances where you can have an internship and not be paid and still be in compliance with the law,” said Nancy J. Leppink, the acting director of the department’s wage and hour division.

Ms. Leppink said many employers failed to pay even though their internships did not comply with the six federal legal criteria that must be satisfied for internships to be unpaid. Among those criteria are that the internship should be similar to the training given in a vocational school or academic institution, that the intern does not displace regular paid workers and that the employer “derives no immediate advantage” from the intern’s activities – in other words, it’s largely a benevolent contribution to the intern.

  1. Source: 

  2. Source: 

Home Away From HomE-Days

This is my first year away from home for E-Days. I celebrated by joining some fellow Mines Alumni at Ivar’s Salmon House on Thursday evening1 for drinks and dinner. I met some great engineers, we talked about what do, teachers we had, exploits we participated in, and beers we drank.

I was sad to not be part of chaos this year, but also glad that I didn’t have two spend every waking hour for two three straight days covering the events (it takes a toll on the body). I think I’ve successfully immortalized myself by getting my photos published yet again in The Oredigger. This puts me at two articles and probably close to two dozen photos published in three issues since I’ve graduated. Not bad for an alum living 1000 miles away.

This year had some nice coverage from Steven Wooldridge of The Oredigger and James Dimagiba (you should really check out James’ photos, they are quite good), among others.

Fireworks on Field
12.0 mm || 8 sec || f/11.0 || ISO200 || NIKON D70
Golden, Colorado, United States

Fireworks for the 2009 display

  1. The official kick off for E-Days 

Designing The Brunton: 2009-2010

Earlier this year, I was asked if I would like to work on designing the front cover of The Brunton. Despite everything I was trying to get accomplished, I took this task on a way get some creative exercise. Working with the Student Activities Office (the department responsible for publishing The Brunton), I was able to come up with a pretty spiffy design:

Brunton: 2009-2010

I was also able to draw on my extensive collection of photos to pick 12 photos for display on the inside:

Inside Pictures_0001_BackgroundInside Pictures_0004_BackgroundInside Pictures_0007_BackgroundInside Pictures_0008_BackgroundInside Pictures_0009_BackgroundInside Pictures_0011_BackgroundInside Pictures_0012_BackgroundInside Pictures_0013_BackgroundInside Pictures_0014_BackgroundInside Pictures_0015_BackgroundInside Pictures_0016_BackgroundInside Pictures_0017_Background

Left to Right, Top to Bottom: Andrew Ferguson ’08 as an Enginerd, Mines Women’s Rugby, an Engineer participates in Engineering Days activies, Eileen Sullivan ’09 bores a hole in a rock during Engineering Days, Audrey Nelson ’07 enjoys a powder day, Lance Atkins ’09 and Nicole Zambon hiking Mt. Democrat, the Mines Marching Band during Homecoming, Ben Keiser ’07 stands in the Orecart during the march to the state capital, Blue Key member Corinne Johnson ’09 gets doused in whitewash while supervising the M-Climb, new LED lights on the M, Paul Johnson ’08 is Marvin the Miner along with Blaster.

It was a pretty fun project and didn’t take too much time. The Student Activities Office was kind enough to give me a lot of creative control, with only a few requirements. I also got a credit and a short biography on the first page of the The Brunton, which I thought was pretty spiffy:

Front cover and calendar photos taken by Andrew Ferguson, 2009 CSM graduate with a Degree in Engineering, Electrical Specialty. Front cover designed using a USGS topographic map of the Golden Quadrangle (7.5 minute series).

Over the course of his five years at Mines, Andrew amassed a wide variety of photos through his work with The Oredigger and personal projects.

After graduating, Andrew returned to the Seattle area to work in the aerospace industry. You can follow him on his blog and see more of his photos, from Mines and around the world, at

All of the photos used in this year’s Brunton are of Mines students or places related to Mines

Update: I found some of the original designs I was working with. This was after the stage where I picked the initial photo to use on the front:

Version 1

Version 2

Version 3

Version 4

Version 5

Version 5b

What I’m Not Doing Today

For the first time in, well, 17 years or so, I’m not going to school.

Sometimes, it seemed like I’d never get from here:

135.0 mm || 1/640 || f/11.0 || ISO400 || NIKON D70

to here:

18.0 mm || 1/100 || f/3.5 || ISO500 || NIKON D70

It still hasn’t quite set in yet, maybe by lunch time it will.

And if you thought the last five years were awesome? I can’t even begin to image what God has in store for the next five.

Catch Me If You Can

I went to see Catch Me If You Can on Thursday with a friend from school, Kate Reinking, who was in Seattle for part of this week. I have to say, it was a pretty amazing musical.

First things first though; if you are even thinking about seeing it, you need to go right now. Stop reading this blog and get your tickets ASAP because it closes on Sunday…which is in just over 24 hours.

No really…get your tickets now.

The cast is amazing, especially Norbert Leo Butz as Carl Hanratty (see video clip below – RSS/email readers may need to click through to see the video).

Also quite outstanding are Aaron Tveit as Frank Abagnale, Jr. and Kerry Butler as Brenda Strong. This is not to say that everyone else sucks, quite the contrary, it’s a stellar cast that is downright fantastic.

The show is a bit on the meta side, acknowledging the orchestra, the set, and the crowd at various points. I’m not usually a fan of such meta realizations, but it works pretty effectively in this case.

I do have one question though, is FBI Agent Johnny Dollar (played by Brandon Wardell) a nod to freelance insurance investigator Johnny Dollar?

Also, now that I’m back in Seattle, one thing I would like to do more is catch more of local theater scene – Seattle has had some pretty amazing musical come here before they hit Broadway. So if anyone wants to go…let me know. And really, I’d go to Mariner games, and Sounders FC games, and perhaps even Seahawk games. I guess it’s really just the Seattle cultural scene that I’d like to enjoy now that I’m actually here.

Catch Me If You Can logo © 5th Avenue Theater

RIP Derk Slottow

I got a call today from my friend Dave back in the States, “Hey Ferg, it’s Dave…um…give me a call when you get this…um, it’s pretty important. Talk to you later.”

A rather cryptic message. I called Dave back. I asked what’s up. And that’s when he told me that Derk had died in a kayaking accident.


And for some reason, I’m more ratteled than I would have expected. Maybe it’s because I’m off in a far-away land, and feeling somewhat vulnerable myself…especially now. Maybe because I had a relationship with him. We weren’t best of friends or anything, I had a few classes with him and would see him around campus. If I saw him at the Student Center eating lunch, I’d sometimes go over and eat with him.

I mostly knew him through Dave, since he and Dave kayaked (and I didn’t).

For some reason, I saw him more this laster semester. We talked a lot about my Senior Design project. Derk had even offered to let our team use the CSM Kayaking Clubs’ pool time to test our project out. Unfortunately we never go to that phase. I think Derk wanted to see it actually work (me too, for that matter).

We had our fun, and he was a good friend…no matter the amount of crap I gave him – which, for the record, was quite a bit.

So yea, sad day…Derk, I’m glad to have known you. You will be missed by me and lots of other people. Alot.

On Facebook from the album: "The Year Begins Fall 2007" by Rachael Madland. 21 September 2007. © Rachael Madland.
On Facebook from the album: "The Year Begins Fall 2007" by Rachael Madland. 21 September 2007. © Rachael Madland.

See also: Denver Post: Colorado School of Mines student dies in kayaking accident

As an aside:

One of the interesting things about traveling and technology is how it allows one to remain connected, even when separated by vast distances.

Right now, it would take me at least 24 hours to get back to my house in Seattle. However, I can see my parents face within a mater of milliseconds using Skype.

And while it has been nice to escape most of technology, I still find myself keeping a pulse on the world as I travel. I do this through a variety of methods that ensure my signal to noise ratio is very low1 email, Facebook, Twitter, my blog, and even voicemail (using Google Voice).

This incident, despite the overwhelming sadness, just goes to show how pervasive technology is in our life and how it connects people around the world, literally in this case. Technology is amazing and I am grateful that I live in a world where this is possible and in a society where I’ve had the opportunity.

Photo of Derk with pink hat From the Facebook album:
“Rocky Mountian High Continued…” by Lucy Simpson. 10 November 2007. © Lucy Simpson.

  1. of all the information I look at, most of it I care about 

Dear Friends

Dear Friends (and Family) in Colorado,

I’m leaving Colorado tomorrow (Tuesday) morning. Leaving Colorado has been one of the most bitter sweet things I think I’ve ever had to do, even more so than at the end high school when I left Seattle for Colorado. The hardest thing for me has been trying to express how I feel. The deep love I have for all of you. The extreme sadness in the fact that I have to go. The giddy delight that I’m returning to Seattle.

I’m sitting in my grandma’s back yard right now, on one of those rocking benches. It’s pitch black out, save the glow from my screen. The wind rustles though the leaves. The wind chime softly sings. It’s one of those perfect moments of reflection, when everything finally comes into focus.

This past year has been amazing. Being a fifth year senior presented a unique set of challenges, and an equally amazing set of opportunities. Most of my friends graduated a year ago, leaving me and just a handful of others left. At the same time, a spark in my faith set me on a journey. I regularly attended church for the first time since leaving Seattle; not because I had to, but because I wanted to. I found an amazing new set of friends through church (both Merge and The Annex). What’s more, this renewed sense of faith found me challenging my beliefs, which is always a good thing, I think. And when I stumbled, you guys were there.

The biweekly Feed1 was often my cornerstone during the week, grounding me when school, and life, was just to much.

At the beginning of this school year, I very desperately wished for school to just be over. However, I’m glad I wasn’t allowed to sleep through these past nine months, as they have easily been my favorite nine months of the last five years. Part of me wishes I could do the first four years over again.

So thank you. To you. To all of you. Words cannot express the gratitude I have for all of you.

With Much Love,


P.S. My hope is that this is not the end. Colorado always has been2 and will continue to be a second home for me. I will be back. And of course, you always have a bed (at least for a few nights) at my place in Seattle.

  1. a bunch of us would get together at Lance’s house (usually) for dinner, s’mores, and company 

  2. both my parents are born and raised in Colorado, and all my extended relatives live in Colorado