Tip Guru

26 Nov, 2012 By: Cyrena Respini-Irwin

User Profile: A teacher at heart, Len Nemirovsky believes good things come from sharing his knowledge of AutoCAD.

Leonid "Len" Nemirovsky is well known to many CAD users in need of a helping hand. He created a web site to compile and freely share AutoLISP routines. He is also a prolific contributor to Cadalyst, having authored close to 150 AutoCAD tips published on the CAD Tips site, plus dozens of others that are not cataloged. Nemirovsky's mantra is, "Whenever ideas are shared, the result is always greater than the sum of the parts."

Cadalyst: Tell us about yourself.

Nemirovsky: I was born in Harbin, China, and my family moved to Latvia when I was 8 years old. It was a period of stagnation in the Soviet Union at that time; to get going with something new was nearly impossible. There was a shortage of almost everything. But above all, everybody had to pretend that everything was going well.

In 1979, when I was 32, I came to the United States, and have lived here happily ever since. The first couple of years here were very difficult, however, because I spoke very little English, and the lifestyle was totally different from what I was used to in Latvia.

I worked hard and adapted to life in the United States. I got married, bought a house, and — most importantly — I am free here.

You've had a long career in drafting. How did you get started?

I began as a drafter/designer in 1968, and at first it was just to support my studying at Latvian State University. I wanted to be a history teacher and — if lucky — an archaeologist. I graduated in 1972 with degrees in Modern History and Philosophy, and worked as a high school teacher, It was difficult back there to teach Modern History — kids did not believe in the official party line, and I as a teacher did not believe it either. So I decided to remain a technician, working as a drafter/designer in the same company where I started, where I'd gotten involved in hydroelectric and fish protection projects. I have always found engineering work interesting and challenging, from the manual drafting and simple calculations back in the USSR to AutoCAD in the U.S.

I also attended engineering school. Although I took engineering courses for three years, my schooling was interrupted by my move to the United States, and I did not graduate. After my move here, I did not have the time or knowledge of English to go back to school.

I currently work in the Hydro/Fisheries department of Jacobs Engineering near Seattle, where I've been for more than 18 years, as a structural design CAD technician. I use mostly AutoCAD and Civil 3D, plus AccuRender nXt for rendering. Our clients include fish and wildlife agencies and public utility districts. Mostly we design fish facilities to allow wild salmon to travel through the dams on the Columbia River.

Washington's Wanapum Dam is designed to help migrating salmon pass through it safely. Model (left) created by Leonid Nemirovsky; rendering by Illume. Photograph (right) courtesy of Grant County Public Utility District. Click image to enlarge.


One such passage has already been built in the Wanapum Dam in Grant County, Washington, and it was very rewarding to see it helping a lot of fish pass through, with very low fish mortality. It was also very interesting to compare the 3D model with the real thing; the model is pretty close to the real structure, from the concrete to the steel walkways and ladders.

Another view of the Wanapum Dam, a hydroelectric project on the Columbia River. Model (left) created by Leonid Nemirovsky; rendering by Illume. Photograph (right) courtesy of Grant County Public Utility District. Click image to enlarge.

What are the pros and cons of your job?

I like that my work comprises a little bit of everything: structural, civil, electrical, and mechanical engineering. The best part is creating 3D models of everything from dams and spillways to gates, pipelines, and steel constructions. I am doing something I truly love: protecting fish, 3D design, a little bit of programming and AutoCAD customization, and sharing everything I know with my colleagues. I find that very rewarding.

Len's Favorite Tip
"My favorite old tip is ‘Exporting Custom Tool Palettes,'" says Nemirovsky, "a quick tip for exporting customized AutoCAD tool palettes to another workstation. Right-click inside the tool palette and select Customize Palettes. In the left column, highlight the palette you wish to export, right-click, and select Export. The only drawback is you have to do one tool palette at a time."

I think the biggest challenge is the frequency of AutoCAD releases. Every year is way too often; users need more time to learn new features, otherwise the number of missed useful features accumulates, and that becomes a problem. Many clients use older versions of AutoCAD, so we have to work with the newer version and save files as the older version, and some features may be lost in the process.

Tell us about your web site.

I started using AutoCAD in 1985. Around 1990 I began learning AutoLISP, which is a great tool for customizing AutoCAD and making work easier and more efficient. In 1997 I started a small Internet page, "Better Than Nothing AutoLISP," with only one goal in mind: to share (hopefully) useful routines with anyone who needs help. Although lots of people provide that help for a price, I decided that I must do it for free. One small routine made available to everyone can start an avalanche of ideas and more programs. Everybody learns and gains knowledge in the process, and the result can be very surprising.

Due to high demand in 3D work I am not currently able to spend much time programming, and the site has become a bit outdated. I hope to update it and move it to a better location.

What hobbies do you enjoy?

I love Star Trek and other science fiction books and movies, as well as everything about real-life space exploration. I also draw cartoons once in a while.

Cartoon by Leonid Nemirovsky.

Editor's note: Following a battle with cancer, Len Nemirovsky passed away in May 2014 at age 66.


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