Professional Amatuers

Blog­gers seem to be the sto­ry in the news late­ly. This all reminds me of Gomer Pyle shout­ing “Cit-i-zen’s Arrast, Cit-i-zen’s Arrast!”

After the cred­it for bring­ing down Sen. Trent Lott, Dan Rather, Eason Jor­dan, and Jeff Gan­non (aka J.D. Guck­ert), blog­gers seem to be the sto­ry in the news late­ly. By news, I mean the “main­stream media,” although blog­gers seem to be doing an awful lot of back-pat­ting of their own. It’s been said the medi­a’s favorite sub­ject is itself and it seems blog­gers are no dif­fer­ent in that regard. The sto­ry, it seems, is the ques­tion as to weblogs place in the media. Wired had a sto­ry yes­ter­day about the ques­tion of blog­gers hav­ing the same pro­tec­tion as main­stream jour­nal­ists. Polit­i­cal-mind­ed weblogs are argu­ing back and forth about which jour­nal­ists or media icon they brought down has the most polit­i­cal sig­nif­i­cance and who is respon­si­ble for their fall. I might ask here, has any­one read any­thing about a blog mak­ing some­one famous? I guess that’d just be dog-bit­ing-man stuff.

Press Hat

This all reminds me of Gomer Pyle shout­ing “Cit-i-zen’s Arrast, Cit-i-zen’s Arrast!” While I don’t think that too many places have licensed jour­nal­ists (unlike say, doc­tors, phar­ma­cists, engi­neers, or hair-dressers), I think that we all under­stand the idea of being a “mem­ber of the press.” Remem­ber those goofy white cards stick­ing out of the guys’ hats in all the 50’s & 60’s shows that read PRESS? That does­n’t make sense unless we all have some under­stand­ing of the con­cept of what the press is. Like the free­dom of the press in the 1st Amend­ment. This is also why blog­gers go by the very pop­ulist title of “cit­i­zen jour­nal­ists.” It sounds all so folksy and grass-roots does­n’t it? Well, I for one think it’s about as folksy as a case of rabies. When you have no rules or under­stood eth­i­cal guide­lines, it is amaz­ing what you can get done. How­ev­er, those rules and ethics are what make the news news and not sim­ple gos­sip. I’m not naive and I’m ful­ly aware that this does­n’t always hap­pen. I remem­ber Stephen Glass and Jayson Blaire, too. How­ev­er, we had a sort of mar­ket guar­an­tee that the evening news or the morn­ing paper were going to try and get it right (yes, the facts) and not take the insane­ly stu­pid risk of report­ing some­thing that just was­n’t true or that no one was will­ing to go on the record as say­ing. It seems Blog­gers some­time rel­ish in the fact that they don’t have to play by any cer­tain rules, just because of the excep­tions in the Main­stream media that broke said rules. This is just the lat­est devel­op­ment in what I think is a wor­ri­some trend.

Some­where along the way, we got Fox News for con­ser­v­a­tives and I guess CNN is for the rest of us who just don’t think Fox News is worth a damn. Any­way, we got these news chan­nels that sud­den­ly had demo­graph­ic audi­ences they seemed hell bent on pleas­ing to keep. The news was cus­tom tai­lored to what the audi­ence thought the truth ought to be, rather than what it might actu­al­ly be. Now, with blogs, it goes a giant leap beyond. Now, peo­ple are report­ing what they think the news should be. No longer do we just sub­scribe to our own lit­tle news fil­ters, we fil­ter it with our own lens for oth­ers! They dic­tate what the spin is and seem to have lit­tle trou­ble in push­ing it relent­less­ly until the Main­stream Media picks up on it. In this brave new world, your on the record 24-hours-a-day, 7‑days-a-week.

I have a blog. I’m not try­ing to fool you. This is all an exer­cise in van­i­ty, just like every oth­er blog is. Let’s just keep in mind that quit­ting our day jobs to sit around in our paja­mas and spew dig­i­tal bile on those we hate isn’t going to make the world bet­ter for any­one except paja­ma man­u­fac­tur­ers. I’ll let Chuck Olsen & Jon Stew­art have the last word. Thank’s Chuck for post­ing this video. (We all know what a true friend of the Main­stream Media that Jon is.)

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.