Monthly Archives: September 2010


I have been busy grading the first exam for my class. I have 92 students and I spend about 10 minutes a test, so 920 minutes to grade. (15.33 hours!) Needless to say it is taking a long time when grading is coupled with eight hours of work, teaching and family…

On a side note I wish I could go to this!

LRFD Drilled shaft training

Not much blogging in the next few days, I have three days of “training” on LRFD design of drilled shafts and the first concrete exam for my class!

Taking a three day seminar is very difficult for me. Just sitting for eight hours is tough but throw in a canned course (one that has to appeal to a large audience) and it is just down right boring. The information is worthwhile but I think I would get more out of it, if I could just spend a few hours with the instructors asking questions.  (Obviously it makes me think about my own teaching style.)

These types of courses have developed a system which they believe will accelerate learning.


1) Have an overview slide of what you will cover.

2) Explain the concept.

3) have a short exercise to reinforce the concept. (simple calculations)

4) sum up, quiz the audience about what was in the lesson. (Bueller, Bueller… look it up)

Sounds reasonable but I hate it. Imagine a room full of professional engineers, given all the powerpoint slides for the course, and taught like school children. Yes I am a bad audience, but I am a great student. Give me the course textbook and I will know it by tomorrow. I just cannot stand sitting (ha) for eight hours and being frowned at by the instructors because I did not fill in the blanks on one of the exercise handout slides! Anarchy in the U.K.!

So why do I take the class? Not to learn but for the required “professional development hours” mandated by my state to keep my P.E. license….45 PDHs every two years..  1 hour, 1 PDH.

So can you stand PDH engineering classes? I hate them.


Life is fairly complicated right now, with some family members going through some tough times financially.  (I’m helping as best I can.)

I’m tired of office politics, poor management decisions and where I live. Just another Monday! I need something…

Waco Suspension Bridge

I saw this Waco Texas bridge on the internet while surfing around and I thought it was pretty cool.

From wikipedia,

The Waco Suspension Bridge crosses the Brazos River in Waco, Texas. It is a single-span suspension bridge with a main span of 475 feet (145 m). Opened in 1869, it contains nearly 3 million bricks. It is located north of Downtown Waco, connecting Indian Springs Park with M.L.K Jr. Park, which is north of the Brazos. Every year on Independence Day, the bridge serves as a place where thousands of locals gather to watch fireworks.

Book club 2

I have pasted the Happy Pontist’s comment concerning my previous post on a book club below. (great comment and I am sitting in a vet’s office with a lame dog, typing on an iPhone)

I think HP should be given a book deal as soon as possible!

When I started thinking about the bridge design process I typically do not start with an idea about how it will be used. I start with how many lanes, how many spans, skew, materials, etc.

I think an engineer should read some books on Art, architecture, and some on how people interact with the built environment.

But check out HP’s advice below and give him a book deal!

HP wrote

I’ve been thinking about doing a series of posts on “ten great books for bridge engineers” ever since I started the blog, but never quite got around to it. Yes, I do read books other than about bridges (just finished the last in Stieg Larsson’s excellent Millennium trilogy, and before that a book on the science of evolution), but I won’t be featuring them on the blog!

As a typical engineer, I think anything that educates us about art or the human condition is valuable. It equips us to understand that bridges are the result of a complex social negotiation and have an impact on life beyond the functional. It also equips us better to have dialogue with other partners in the bridge design process.

There are a few novels which feature bridge designers in a central role – I’m particularly looking forward to reading Max Eyth’s “The Bridge Builder”, a thinly-disguised novelisation of the Tay Bridge disaster by someone who was himself an engineer and seems to have been well-informed. Mavis Cheek’s “Patrick Parker’s Progress” is also on my list to read, the eponymous Parker being a not especially likeable bridge engineer.

Setting aside books specifically on bridge engineering, I think bridge engineers can always benefit from exposure to other fields of engineering and design e.g. books on engineering history including the likes of Henry Petroski; architecture and design (especially those that go against the grain, like Stewart Brand’s “How Buildings Learn”); advances in structural and geometric design (like Martin Beckthold’s “Innovative Surface Structures”); engineering & architectural biography; etc.

Purely personally, I can’t read books on project management and commercial issues, I’ve been exposed to enough of that through work.

Engineering Book Club

So what books should a (bridge) engineer read?

I am not talking about the technical manuals we deal with everyday but books that would enhance our understanding of what it means to be an engineer coupled with the pure enjoyment of reading an interesting book.

The Happy Pontist has reviewed a number of good bridge books but I have to be honest I have not read any of them. Typically, I read books about my current hobby (painting) and cheap, escapist science fiction. Reading about bridges often feels like homework, since I deal with them every day.

I also have to say reading about interesting bridges is frustrating to me. Imagine standing outside a candy shop and never being allowed to go in, maybe it’s best I just avoid the temptation and the disappointment.

From what I understand only a very small portion of the population reads on a regular basis. So what books would you recommend an engineer read? Should we read books about ethics, history, or how to survive in the workplace? (I did read a book entitled “My way or the highway”….)

Let me know and maybe we can start a book club?


Bored surfing around the inter-tubes, I came across the wiki entry for engineers.

An engineer is a professional practitioner of engineering, concerned with applying scientific knowledge, mathematics and ingenuity to develop solutions for technical problems. Engineers design materials, structures, machines and systems while considering the limitations imposed by practicality, safety and cost.[1][2] The word engineer is derived from the Latin root ingenium, meaning “cleverness”.

I like the idea of cleverness! I think I need a T-shirt!

Painting Progess Sept 4

I painted a quick pear study using a palette knife. I went for style over substance. If you click on the large file you can see how all the paint is blended together. I find it interesting….

ACI coefficients

I made a homework problem where I wanted students to compare suggest moments and shear from the American Concrete Institute (ACI) code against a quick analysis with STAAD. I have never used the ACI coefficients in real life and I wonder who does?
(Looks best at 720p.)