The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly

Not much going on today, other than tons of work and still under the sick spell. I did want to point out a very short, but glowing review of the The Coal Men on the Tennessean web site posted yesterday. Just in case you’re too lazy to click:

You won’t find a shortage of skilled roots-rock bands slingin’ chords around on any given night in Nashville, sure, but really, really good ones still stand out.
And The Coal Men — singer Dave Coleman and cohorts Dave Ray and Jason Hitchcock — are really, really good, bashing out a collection of expertly crafted songs that have as much bite as they do twang. Coleman’s got a heck of a baritone and Ray and Hitchcock’s rhythms are spot-on, but their sets are still loose enough to feel lived in.

That’s about typical for the Tennessean’s reviews of the band. They love the local guys, and they really love The Coal Men. Oh yeah, about locals: If you read (in the Tennessean or elsewhere) last week about the 27 year old female school teacher who was busted for multiple counts of rape of a 13 year old boy, then you may have read on to learn that she’s from my home county. It’s always great to see someone from a small town striking it big in the news. I didn’t know the woman back then, although I’m sure I saw her play some basketball and recognized her maiden name: Pamela Rogers.

Lastly, on the subject of famous people, be sure and read Wired’s article on celebrities that come into the Apple Store at The Grove Mall in Los Angeles. Funny stuff.

Twin Turkey Vultures

Twin Turkey Vultures
Originally uploaded bysuper_structure.

A couple of turkey vultures landed outside my office window today during my lunch break. Apparently, they come around every once in a while to prey on the dead geese and ducks around the small lakes in the immediate area. While quite possibly one of the ugliest birds you can imagine, they’re actually quite interesting to watch.

Anyway, I’m trying hard to ignore the symbolism of having a couple of vultures hovering around just outside my window. I have a couple of project deadlines early next week and am struggling to stay on top of things. Fortunately, I’m not alone in the office and on one’s going to leave my carcass out for the birdies. Still, I think I’ll make sure they are no big birds of prey flying around when I leave work today.

Coming Up For Air

My reason for not posting for the last week is that I’ve been very sick. Some sort of respiratory infection. Nothing that would constitute an emergency, though.

I know I haven’t been posting anything for over a week now. Of course, if you’re not a person interested in TiVo, then you probably haven’t been reading my posts for longer than that. Sorry about that. What can I say, I got a new toy and I’ve been playing with it. Actually, the reason for not posting for the last week is that I’ve been very sick. Some sort of respiratory infection. Well, 3 OTC’s, 4 prescriptions, and 2 trips to the doctor’s office later, and I’m beginning to feel a little better. I promise never to make fun of Richmond’s Doc-In-A-Box again. I’m so glad there here and can help me on a Sunday afternoon! Okay, I’m not going to make them into something they’re not. However, I’m not going to bust their chops either. They do good work over there. Not to mention, they keep a lot of people out of the emergency room. We can all be thankful for that.

Well, other than a less-than-rousing State of the Union address, there’s not been too much goings on to write about. I won’t go into here, other than to say that the "ownership society" rhetoric is getting a little old for me. Have we all forgotten Enron & Worldcom? Who the hell wants this to be the future of Social Security? For all the talk of social security being broken and in need of immediate repair, what we really need is to understand that it’s not projected to run out of money until 2042, even by conservative estimates. That’s if it’s left alone right now. There is no emergency and we don’t need to go blowing trillions (yep, that’s a T) by privatizing any of this. Not yet at least. Let the government take some time and use some leverage to get private companies and investment firms to go along without that massive cost. That’s something of an over-simplification, but not unreasonable. I understand some important people won’t make as much money in the short term, but this is Social Security and was never about making anybody money. It was about ensuing we’ll all have some help after retirement… to ensure that Americans could even consider retirement. I’m not Social Security expert, and I’m certainly not investing Guru. However, I can spot a bleeding emergency when I see one, and this folks, isn’t such a thing. Having the common sense not to rush into fixing this program that is currently working reasonably well (I have family members that get their checks) is the same common sense that kept me out of the emergency room for a bad cough.

Is Wired Getting Tired?

I’m loath to admit it, but I’m afraid that this month’s Wired magazine that came sneaking through my mail slot this afternoon is not their best work.

Wired Magazine, Feburary 2005

I’m loath to admit it, but I’m afraid that this month’s Wired magazine that came sneaking through my mail slot this afternoon is not their best work. The cover article is on Firefox, and it’s early beginnings with Blake Ross & Ben Goodger. I enjoyed getting to read about the two of them and the history on my favorite open source software. However, 1.0 came out in the Fall of last year. No one was staying up late to get this story done for print. To point, the article closes with the "where are they now" bit on Ross and Goodger, explaining that Goodger plans to stay at the Mozilla Foundation. Of course, this evening Slashdot reports that Goodger plans to go work for Google, effective two weeks ago.

In another article, the prolific Lawrence Lessig writes how Wilco is the new model for a rock band of the future. You should read his article (and pretty much anything else he writes), but again we’re not talking about any recent happenings here. Wilco broke record company hearts with Yankee Foxtrot Hotel way back in April of 2002. I was a newly-wed back then! And even then, they were about as big as bands get in the alt-country scene. Just ask my brother, Dave. I enjoyed the piece none-the-less, but Jeff Tweedy must be just as oblique in person as he is as a songwriter.

Lastly, one of the little tidbits in Wired I always look forward to, other than their FOUND: Artifacts From the Future closer each month, is the Jargon Watch. This month, they gave me:

Buttnumbathon – A painfully long and boring movie. See: Oliver Stone’s Alexander. (Better yet, don’t.) Also the name of reviewer Harry Knowles’ annual film marathon and birthday bash.

Knowles of Ain’t It Cool News has been throwing these things together for the last six years running! This is not the latest in jargon my friends.

I’m looking forward to next month’s Wired. They’ve got two months now to find some new stuff. Since MacExpo S.F. and CES L.V., maybe they’ll have at least plenty of gadgets to write about.

Fast-Paced First Week

I can hardly believe that five whole days have gone by since I started my new job. I have to say that I’m feeling a great deal more optimistic since my last post, too.

My Office View

Looking out the window at my new office onto the snow from the last two days in Richmond.

I can hardly believe that five whole days have gone by since I started my new job. I think that even after psyching my self up for a month, I wasn’t prepared for the quick pace of work here. I got on a project first thing on Monday morning, and I’ve been busy with it pretty much the entire time since (well, at work anyway). I have to say that I’m feeling a great deal more optimistic since my last post, too. It’s not that I thought I’d made a mistake, it was just that sinking feeling of realizing just how much I was stepping backward, in a career sense.

My boss and I did get to make a site visit downtown Richmond on Tuesday, though. It was about 20º F, in the sun with 15-20 mph winds. I have a whole new level of respect for those construction guys out grouting lintel seats and hanging structural steel. Insane. We’ve had snow the last couple of days here in Richmond, so I doubt they’ve had much of a chance to continue. This photo is looking out my new office window. I took it around lunch on Friday. I realize it’s not a spectacular view, but since I couldn’t see any daylight from the desk at my old job, I feel as though I’ve moved up in the world.

I’ve spent the week learning all about RAM International‘s Structural System design software package. I have to say, I’m pretty impressed thus far. I’ve used a number of software solutions for structural analysis and design, and RAM has lived up to its billing as a one of the best. It is very much geared to the building industry, and therefore can tailor its solutions accordingly. I miss some of the open ended-ness of some of the other packages I’ve used (STAAD, GTSTRUDL) or even the more straight forward frame input of other building design software (RISA 3D). However, you trade all that for the speed and complete-ness that RAM offers. Sure, I can’t custom edit elements to create out-of-plan beams, for example. What I can do, though, is enter in and design an entire two-story school building in a manner of hours. Pretty slick.

The other task this week was learning a little more about building construction. Fortunately, the education system for the structures portion of civil engineering is catered to the building industry. I got to spend the last 3 years learning a good bit about bridge design (albeit, only steel bridges). Now, I get to actually use some of the things I learned in school towards design. Now, if only I could start using LRFD steel design.

Just as an aside, I’m using a new utility for WordPress called FlickIt. It simply adds a quicktag to your editor allowing to easily insert a hyperlinked Flickr image. It’s not perfect, but works does exactly what it claims to and is free (after they got into a little trouble with the company that owns Flickr for charging). Anyway, I mention it because I know a lot of my friends use both WordPress and Flickr and might want an easier way of getting them to play together.

The New Job Begins

I can say whole-heartedly, I have begun all over again.

My first day at Stroud, Pence, & Associates was today. I can say whole-heartedly, I have begun all over again. It’s certainly humbling, but a good experience. I’m with a much smaller outfit now, and everyone comes across as being good natured and supportive (not that they weren’t at URS).

I got an e-mail from a friend today who, upon reading this blog, was worried that things might not be going so well. I hadn’t thought about the tone that previous post might have had until that. So, the story thus far (skip to next paragraph if you’ve heard this one): after some soul-searching, I decided that the time in my life to try the other branch of structural engineering was now. The other branch being building design, as I was formerly working in the design of bridges. I took a job offer with a engineering firm based out of Virginia Beach, VA (see above) in mid-December, and left my job at URS Corporation on the 7th of this month.

That gets us to my first day. I’m very fortunate to be a company with plenty of work. I was added as a structural engineer to a building design first thing this morning (apparently, my boss thought this would be a good learning project). Of course, what most people wouldn’t know that aren’t in the structural business, the pace of building design is a great deal faster than that of bridges (months, as opposed to years). So, I’m feeling a little overwhelmed, but not surprised. I’ve a great deal to learn, but that was the very idea behind taking the job. I’ve also had a month to psyche myself up for the process.

I suppose, I should feel pretty good about the first day. As it turns out, the hardest part was filling out all those tax and benefit forms. The structures part, what little there was of it today, came easy. I’m sure that will change soon enough, but I’m not going to rush it.

My Last Day

There’s some handwriting on the wall, but I can’t quite make it out…

There’s some handwriting on the wall, but I can’t quite make it out…

Many of you know that today was my last day working as a structural engineer for URS Corporation here in Richmond. My co-workers took me out ot a nice lunch at the nearby Mexican restaurant yesterday and pretty much all of my personal belongings have been brought home.

It has been good getting to work with all of the people there and I was able to work on some great projects. However, I came to realize that the kinds of projects I would most likely be seeing there were like the ones I had been doing. That being said, there wasn’t much promise of even more of the same coming. I didn’t expect I would be laid off, but I damn sure wasn’t about see another employee with kids or something get laid off before me, either.

I will admit that there were some times when I thought that the conversations on politics or religion were going to make my head explode. However, when you don’t have much in the way of workload, people tend to get into those kind of conversations. I for one think those are about as appropriate for a place of business as cut-off denim shorts, but that’s just me. All differences aside, I have been fortunate to work with a good group for the last three years.

I hope that all the people there at my old office will check in here often, as I’m sure I’ll have something to say about my new workplace. Also, that way, they can really get to know my opinion on all sorts of things I didn’t really care to discuss at work… such as cut-off denim shorts. Man, I hate those things…

Merry Christmas!

I just wanted to post a short message here wishing all my readers (okay, my Mom & Dad!) a Merry Christmas. Also, Happy Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Festivus and all other biggie-December holidays (hence, the non-specific ‘Happy Holidays’ that has some folks banning stores). Best wishes and Happy New Year.

I’m currently with my wife visiting with all of her family. Then, we’re off to land of dial-ups and non-24-hour supermarkets to visit my family in the mountains. At least we have snow (okay, ice & slush), if not broadband.

And I Thought I Was Having A Bad Day

Harry With Elizabethan Collar and Head Bandage

Here I was feeling sorry for myself that I was out on site until very early this morning. Well around 8:00am Angela called me to tell me Harry was bleeding badly and needed to be taken to the Vet. Turns out he just had a small tear in his ear, so he’s okay. I don’t think he’s too happy, though.

While all the forensic evidence isn’t back from the lab yet, we’re pretty sure it was some doggy rough-housing while Angela was busy with breakfast. Sometimes our newer dog, Maggie, doesn’t seem to realize she’s about 2 1/2 times the size of Harry. Harry also doesn’t keep this fact in mind sometimes while wrestling her. The good news is, Harry gets to take the bandage off on Monday.

This Site’s Not All That’s Under Construction

Well, I’ve just come back in from the cold. Literally. I’ve been out most all night and into the morning at a construction site in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia on a construction monitoring job. Yes, I watch people work on construction. It’s not a bad gig, if you’ve got long thermal underwear and a good book to read by dome-light in your car. Oh yeah, you’ll also want a decent pair of work boots because the stuff that this operation digs up is like walking through the waste site of a modeling clay factory.

Setting up to take level shots at the construciton site

Essentially, a Jack & Bore pipe installation is a method of pushing a pipe through the ground from one opening to the next, all the while, using a auger inside the pipe to bore out the soil it is displacing. It’s a good way to get a pipe under something you can’t disturb, like say a railroad. Wikipedia doesn’t have anything on Jacking and Boring pipe, and I didn’t see anything with much googlarity to even bother with posting on here. Suffice it to say, if you really need to know about this sort of procedure, then you probably already do.

However, this doesn’t really explain why I’m posting about it at the middle of the morning on the weekend. Back to the whole monitoring thing, I’m out with a co-working taking surveying data and writing field reports covering the construction underway. It’s boring enough, but on top of that, the current temperature outside is around 35° F. I’m not really loving my job right now.

That’s too bad, because my co-worker just called my room and it’s off to the job site to take another round of level shots.