Thursday, April 30, 2015


From Tel Aviv - - great theme, "In the era of the attention economy - we aim to deliver information targeted personally to our residents."

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

A Paragraph to Ponder

From Wired on the future of megacities:

"It turns out that while density equals efficiency, “megacity” does not necessarily equal density. Many megacity dwellers live outside those hyper-efficient city centers, Kennedy explains. Look at New York—if you live in Manhattan or parts of Brooklyn and Queens, you’re probably getting around on the subway. But if you live in Westchester, New Haven, or Newark? You’re probably driving your car—maybe not into the city center, but around it. And there are a lot of you. That’s why New York is almost off the chart in its consumption of transportation fuel, despite all its great rail."

Global Cities in the 21st Century: a Chicago Model?

Global Cities in the 21st Century: a Chicago Model?

No Stagnation In Civil Engineering

Monday, April 27, 2015

Real-Time Leak Detection Coming to The Strip

The Desert Research Institute and SNWA have teamed up on 30-inch water line under Las Vegas Boulevard to test a cellular real-time leak monitoring  (link to additional information).  From the institute's website:

""This proactive management of the community’s water infrastructure allows us real-­‐time monitoring of critical underground pipelines and can alert us to issues before they emerge," said John Entsminger, General Manager for the LVVWD, which contracted with Echologics to install the system on a three-­‐mile stretch of Las Vegas Boulevard. "Implementing technology such as this increases the reliability of our community’s water system by minimizing the potential for emergency repairs.""

CarbonCure Technologies, Inc.

A Different View of California Water

From Grist - California's drought isn't doomsday, but yes, it will change the state:

"The real problem with water in cities is not going to be too little, but too much: Coastal cities are vulnerable to sea-level rises. The Risky Business report estimates that there is a 1-in-20 probability that we will see more than 4 feet of sea-level rise by 2100. In California, that sea-level rise “would put the following specific facilities at risk of inundation”:
  • 140 schools
  • 55 healthcare facilities
  • 3,500 miles of roads and highways
  • 280 miles of railways
  • 330 EPA hazardous waste facilities or sites
  • 28 waste water treatment sites
  • 30 power plants with a capacity of 10,000 MW
  • Oakland and San Francisco international airports"

The Other Crisis in Nepal

The AEC Industry in Global Markets

A paragraph to ponder from the Washington Post:

"“Even for the most successful multinationals, profit margins in international markets are on average lower than margins in the domestic market,” said Robert Salomon, aprofessor of international management at the NYU Stern School of Business. “It’s the liability of foreign markets. By virtue of the fact that you are foreign, you are at a disadvantage.”"

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Last Days In Vietnam Trailer

A Dim View of Potential Engineering Talent

From the New York Times today - Are You Smarter Than An 8th Grader? by Nicholas Kristof. Only seven percentage of American eighth graders were able to solve the following problem.  In contrast, 53% of Singaporean eighth graders answered correctly.

"A piece of wood was 40 centimeters long.  It was cut into three pieces.  The lengths in centimeters are 2x-5, x+7 and x+6.  What is the length of the longest piece?"

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

SMU World Shaper

The Impact of Drones on Civil Engineering


W57 - West 57th Residential Building from BIG on Vimeo.

How Traffic Engineers Could Have Been on HBO's The Wire

From Wonkblog:

"In John Gilderbloom's experience, the notorious streets are invariably the one-way streets. These are the streets lined with foreclosed homes and empty storefronts, the streets that look neglected and feel unsafe, the streets where you might find drug dealers at night.

"Sociologically, the way one-way streets work," he says, "[is that] if there are two or more lanes, a person can just pull over and make a deal, while other traffic can easily pass them by."  It's also easier on a high-speed one-way road to keep an eye out for police or flee from the scene of a crime.

At least, this is the pattern Gilderbloom, director of the Center for Sustainable Urban Neighborhoods at the University of Louisville, has observed in San Francisco, in Los Angeles, in Houston and Washington where streets that once flowed both directions were converted in the 1950s and '60s into fast-moving one-way thoroughfares to help cars speed through town. The places where this happened, Gilderbloom noticed, deteriorated."

Explaining Visually

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Court Rules Against Tiered Water Rates

Link to the story in the LA Times.

Tiered prices

100 Innovative Ideas for (insert) Future

From the David Brooks NYT column today - a profile of Senator Marco Rubio.  A paragraph to ponder:

"Rubio’s inexperience concerns everybody. But at least he was speaker of the Florida House. As Jim Geraghty of National Review has detailed, his record running that body was pretty good. He was a tough but reasonably successful negotiator. On his first day in office, he handed each legislator a book with the cover “100 Innovative Ideas for Florida’s Future.” The pages were blank. He was inviting his members to fill them in — a nice collaborative touch."

Graph of the Week

Screen Shot 2015-04-16 at 4.10.08 PM

Monday, April 20, 2015

Captivology - Never Forget the Powerful Effect of Being Remembered

How many of you can draw the Apple logo correctly?  In a recent survey at UCLA, 98.8% of the sample participates failed to draw the logo correctly (everyone either draws the bite on the wrong side or draws two leaves instead of one).  If customers cannot sketch one of the most powerful logos in human history, how can any of us survive the identity parade?
For better or worse, we live in a professional world where attention is a significant driver between success and failure.  Then and now, attention has always mattered.  What is different today is that attention has become scarcer.  Your clients just can't keep up with a world burdened by an exponential growth in information - we have the same 1,440 minutes as our caveman and cavewoman ancestors - but our day is just filled with far more information and distractions.

I recently completed Ben Parr's Captivology: The Science of Capturing People's Attention.  He breaks the heart of Captivology down into seven captivation triggers that we need to pay attention to. These are as follows:

1.     Automaticity Trigger - Using specific sensory cues like colors, symbols, and sounds to capture attention based on automatic reaction to certain stimuli.  Examples – the subconscious influences of color, sound, touch, and other sensory experiences have on our attention.  Automaticity triggers could be applicable to marketing material.  The Journal of Academy of Marketing Science points out that white, pink, yellow are signs of sincerity; blue and red show competence; black, purple, and pink demonstrate sophistication.

2.     Framing Trigger - Adapting to or changing somebody's view of the world so they pay attention to you.  Examples – all our clients have frames of reference and see problems and solutions through their own experience lens.  They typically process information in a way that uses an existing frame of reference – understanding their context and understanding the ways to influence/change their past experiences is critical for attention capture.

3.     Disruption Trigger - Violating people's expectations to change what they pay attention to.  Example – disruption is about changing the status quo.  In an industry marked by various degrees of client service – the goal of gaining attention is about violating and disrupting expectations.  When something or someone violates expectations, we are forced to pay greater attention to the violation and assign a positive (or negative) connotation to that violation.  Firms like a Southwest Airlines or a Starbucks are fundamentally in the service violation/disruption business.

4.     Reward Trigger - Leveraging people's motivations for intrinsic and extrinsic rewards.  Example – all animals, including our clients, are creatures developed specifically for accomplishing goals and seeking rewards.  The rewards that motivate us differ from person to person, but in the end, it really does come down to one thing – a reward has to solve somebody’s problem.  We typically focus on extrinsic rewards regarding our clients – design the water line on time and under budget.  Our clients are really thinking more in terms of intrinsic rewards – “How does _______ make me successful?”

5.     Reputation Trigger - Using the reputations of experts, authorities, and the crowd to instill trust and captivate audiences.  Example – reputation is the short cut proxy that our clients utilize to measure merit.  They don’t have the time to evaluate the merit of every person, company, or idea they encounter.  Reputation is simply the sum total of our beliefs about a person, company, or idea.  Clients boil your reputation down to single word - genius, narcissist, or important – that get quickly assigned to you.  The most important activity for a young engineer – building your reputation as a ________________.        

6.     Mystery Trigger - Creating mystery, uncertainty, and suspense to keep an audience intrigued until the very end.  Example – our clients have what is called a compulsion for completion.  The compulsion for completion is a nagging obsession with unsolved problems and issues. We all love a good mystery – it activates our curiosity and makes us uncomfortable enough to seek out an answer.  In many respects, your firm is in the mystery solving business.  But before you solve a mystery, you have to have and understand the mystery.

7.     Acknowledgment Trigger - Fostering a deeper connection, because people tend to pay attention to those who provide them with validation and understanding.  Example – we want and need to be recognized, validated, and understood by others.  My cats want attention – but my clients need acknowledgment.  They want me to answer a series of acknowledgement questions: Do you think I’m special, unique, or important?, Do you feel what I feel?, Do you care about me?, and Do you understand me?

Remembering and attention cuts both ways.  We want our clients to remember us, but we also want to remember the smallest details regarding our clients.  In closing, I thought this was good in Lucy Kellaway’s column in the Financial Times:

“The ability to remember people strikes me as a bigger asset than emotional intelligence at work.  Most of us don’t especially want empathy in the office, but everyone wants to be remembered.  The more someone is able to recall chapter and verse of all small talk exchanged at previous meetings, the more you are inclined to like and trust them.  It is not just a skill for politicians: it’s for everyone.”

A Different View of California Water Requirements

Screen Shot 2015-04-15 at 10.54.39 AM

New Term of the Week - Data Bread Lines

From the Wall Street Journal today - Data is Now the New Middle Manager by Christopher Mims.  Refers to ". . . companies were beset by "data bread lines," in which managers had all the data they needed, but their staffers had to get in line to get the information they needed to make decisions."

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Engineering Consulting and Modern Marketing

I am a huge fan of the McKinsey Quarterly - I never miss an issue.  The current issue has an article by Jonathan Gordon and Jesko Perrey (The Dawn of Marketing's New Golden Age) that highlights several of the key opportunities that lie ahead for professional service firms in terms of marketing.

The article highlights five marketing insights for this century.

  1. Science - Big data, modeling, and automated analysis are creating new ways to targeting and measuring your marketing ROI.  Most of the marketing science has focused on consumer goods.  But look for science, statistical analysis, and technology to play a bigger role in relationship and performance management.  Effective marketing leadership will require blending the success of relationship management at the individual level with science rooted in technology and domain knowledge.
  2. Substance - Better science and information will lead to the development of new services. Arming client relationship managers and business development specialists with feedback on client experiences will help directly shape a more client centric experience.  A focus on science and substance will force the setting of new client experience standards based on client-care and consistency.
  3. Story - Engineers have some of the best stories.  Unfortunately we are the worst storytellers. Technology (the Video Revolution and the Era of Small Screens) will bring forward the power and importance of the story.  In the story and Video Revolution world, creativity will be in greater demand than ever.  In many cases, digital interactions with clients will become more frequent.
  4. Speed - Engineering consulting will need to escape a history and comfort level with marketing as a "batch" process.  Velocity is the new dynamic - marketing agility and urgency will be the new management and marketing culture.  Relationship management will need to embrace the speed of the new digital tempo.  The feeling of real-time marketing will dominate.
  5. Simplicity - Complexity is the enemy of speed.  It is also the enemy of story.  Look at the AECOMs of the world.  Too often, expanding geographic footprints, service proliferation, and new arrays of channels and digital specialties have led to complex hierarchies, silos, communication gaps, and redundancies.  But don't allow simplicity to come at the expense of creative output.

EPA/States Will Require Asset Management Plans

This is a sample of what is ahead (from Pennsylvania - link to the document.):

"The Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA) passed in June 2014, require recipients of US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Clean Water State Revolving Loan Fund (CWSRF) financial assistance for wastewater treatment infrastructure improvements to develop and implement a Fiscal Sustainability Plan (FSP). The CWSRF is administered by the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority (PENNVEST).

This requirement will apply to all complete applications submitted to PENNVEST starting with the January PENNVEST Board application cutoff date of November 12, 2014.
FSPs must contain:
  1. An inventory of critical assets that are part of the treatment works,
  2. An evaluation of the condition and performance of inventoried assets,
  3. A certification that the recipient has evaluated and will be implementing water and energy conservation efforts as part of the plan, and
  4. A plan for maintaining, repairing, and, as necessary, replacing the treatment works and a plan for funding such activities.
The FSP covers those assets funded by the CWSRF assistance as part of the project, not the entire wastewater treatment system. Applicants for CWSRF financial assistance can obtain additional ranking points at the time of application if they either have and are implementing, or choose to develop as part of the project, a comprehensive asset management plan for the entire wastewater treatment system.

The purpose of the requirement is to ensure that recipients of CWSRF financial assistance are managing their physical assets in ways that promote long service life, avoid expensive catastrophic failures, and maximize the long-term financial self-sufficiency of the wastewater system."

The Beasley Plan

What Works Cities Initiative

Link to the Bloomberg initiative.  From the Washington Post
"Cities across the country would love to emulate that formula: better service for less money. But at a time when data-driven government effectiveness research is having a moment in Washington – most recently, in a bill introduced last week by Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) – most local governments are just waking up to its possibilities.
Bloomberg Philanthropies, the charitable arm of former New York City mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, is making a big bet that it can accelerate that process. It will announce on Monday that it is spending $42 million to create the What Works Cities Initiative, which is aimed at helping 100 mid-size cities make better use of data and evidence in their policy making.
Cities with between 100,000 and 1 million residents will be eligible to apply for help from the program. The money will fund work from several partners, including Results for America, the new Center for Government Excellence at Johns Hopkins University and Harvard University’s Government Performance Lab, all of which will work with the cities selected to participate.
“There’s very little data on the use of data and evidence in local governments,” said James Anderson, a former Bloomberg mayoral aide who leads the government innovation program for Bloomberg Philanthropies. “Mayors are just hungry for tools and resources that help them use data more effectively. What we’ve found is there’s a gap” between what they’d like to do and what they can do."

The Engineer as Visible Expert

Link to the research report.

Eating Pays

I love going to restaurants and doing back-of-napkin estimates on what their annual revenue is. Alcohol consumption assumptions are a big estimation problem - - I felt I was always low.  It appears I was.

List of the top 100 grossing restaurants in the U.S.  Link to the source.

  • #1: Tao Asian Bistro – Las Vegas $64,600,000
  • #2: Joe's Stone Crab – Miami Beach $35,324,729
  • #3: Old Ebbitt Grill – Washington $26,687,861
  • #4: Smith & Wollensky – New York City $25,470,115
  • #5: Lavo Italian Restaurant – Las Vegas $24,000,000
  • #6: Prime 112 – Miami Beach $23,345,678
  • #7: Tao New York – New York City $22,770,515
  • #8: Gibsons Bar & Steakhouse – Chicago $22,397,732
  • #9: Buddakan – New York City $21,500,000
  • #10: Joe's Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab – Chicago $21,000,000
  • #11: Fulton's Crab House – Lake Buena Vista $20,500,000
  • #12: Joe's Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab – Las Vegas $20,100,000
  • #13: Carnevino – Las Vegas$19,000,000
  • #14: SW Steakhouse – Las Vegas $18,600,000
  • #15: The Hamilton – Washington $17,855,655
  • #16: Sparks Steak House – New York City $17,600,000
  • #17: Prime Steakhouse – Las Vegas $17,300,000
  • #18: Bob Chinn's Crab House – Wheeling $17,208,566
  • #19: '21' – New York City – $17,119,818
  • #20: Mon Ami Gabi – Las Vegas $17,000,000
  • #21: Del Posto – New York City $16,500,001
  • #22: The Slanted Door – San Francisco $16,500,000
  • #23: Balthazar – New York City $16,200,001
  • #24: Grand Central Oyster Bar – New York City $16,150,000
  • #25: St. Elmo Steak House – Indianapolis $16,149,562
  • #26: Guy's American Kitchen & Bar – New York City $16,000,000
  • #27: Top of the World – Las Vegas $15,900,000
  • #28: Wolfgang Puck Grand Café – Lake Buena Vista $15,800,000
  • #29: Quality Meats – New York City $15,782,812
  • #30: Abe & Louie's – Boston $15,600,000
  • #31: Hugo's Frog Bar & Fish House – Chicago $15,485,723
  • #32: Scoma's – San Francisco $15,350,370
  • #33: Chops Lobster Bar – Atlanta $15,000,001
  • #34: Sequoia – Washington $15,000,000
  • #35: SkyCity at the Needle – Seattle $14,900,000
  • #36: Angus Barn – Raleigh $14,850,000
  • #37: Gladstones – Pacific Palisades $14,800,002
  • #38: The Manor – West Orange $14,800,001
  • #39: Spice Market – New York City $14,800,000
  • #40: Junior's (Brooklyn) – New York City $14,500,000
  • #41: The Lobster House – Cape May $14,500,000
  • #42: Gibsons Bar & Steakhouse – Rosemont $14,420,693
  • #43: Blue Fin – New York City $14,400,000
  • #44: The Sea Grill – New York City $14,100,000
  • #45: Coffee Shop – New York City $13,800,000
  • #46: The Four Seasons – New York City $13,800,000
  • #47: Harry Caray's Italian Steakhouse – Chicago $13,800,000
  • #48: The Milleridge Inn – Jericho $13,800,000
  • #49: Virgil's Real Barbecue – New York City $13,600,000
  • #50: Zehnder's of Frankenmuth – Frankenmuth $13,546,914
  • #51: Harris Ranch Inn & Restaurant – Coalinga $13,360,934
  • #52: The Bazaar by José Andrés – Beverly Hills $13,300,001
  • #53: Delmonico Steakhouse – Las Vegas $13,300,000
  • #54: Portland City Grill – Portland $13,297,831
  • #55: Rock Center Café – New York City $13,250,000
  • #56: N9NE Steakhouse – Las Vegas $13,200,000
  • #57: Gibsons Bar & Steakhouse – Oak Brook $13,137,712
  • #58: Shaw's Crab House – Chicago $13,100,000
  • #59: Quartino Ristorante & Wine Bar – Chicago $13,000,495
  • #60: Blue Water Grill – New York City $12,950,000
  • #61: Atlanta Fish Market – Atlanta $12,900,000
  • #62: Mike's "American" – Springfield $12,880,000
  • #63: Boulevard – San Francisco $12,800,000
  • #64: Cafe Fiorello – New York City $12,700,000
  • #65: George's at the Cove – La Jolla $12,600,000
  • #66: Craftsteak – Las Vegas $12,600,000
  • #67: Junior's (Times Square) – New York City $12,500,000
  • #68: Keens Steakhouse – New York City $12,400,000
  • #69: Jean-Georges Steakhouse – Las Vegas $12,100,001
  • #70: Parc – Philadelphia $11,900,000
  • #71: Tower Oaks Lodge – Rockville $11,800,002
  • #72: Daniel – New York City $11,800,001
  • #73: Bryant Park Grill – New York City $11,800,000
  • #74: Mesa Grill – Las Vegas $11,800,000
  • #75: Cliff House – San Francisco $11,700,000
  • #76: Fix – Las Vegas $11,680,000
  • #77: Trattoria Dell'Arte – New York City $11,650,000
  • #78: Bartolotta Ristorante Di Mare – Las Vegas $11,600,001
  • #79: StripSteak – Las Vegas $11,600,000
  • #80: Emeril's Orlando – Orlando $11,300,000
  • #81: Gotham Bar and Grill – New York City $11,200,002
  • #82: Jackson's Mighty Fine Food & Lucky Lounge – Reston $11,200,001
  • #83: Harley-Davidson Café – Las Vegas $11,200,000
  • #84: Frankenmuth Bavarian Inn – Frankenmuth $11,199,229
  • #85: Kowloon – Saugus $11,100,000
  • #86: Daniel's Broiler – Bellevue $11,081,727
  • #87: Eiffel Tower Restaurant – Las Vegas $11,000,000
  • #88: Zeffirino – Las Vegas $10,900,001
  • #89: Aureole – Las Vegas $10,900,000
  • #90: California Grill – Lake Buena Vista $10,800,000
  • #91: Maloney & Porcelli – New York City $10,727,779
  • #92: Buddakan – Philadelphia $10,700,001
  • #93: Redeye Grill – New York City $10,700,000
  • #94: Coastal Flats – Fairfax $10,560,000
  • #95: Greek Islands – Chicago $10,500,000
  • #96: Morimoto – New York City $10,500,000
  • #97: The Continental Mid-town – Philadelphia $10,300,001
  • #98: Willow Creek Farm – Broadlands $10,220,570
  • #99: Salty's on Alki Beach – Seattle $10,200,000
  • #100: Sweetwater Tavern – Falls Church $9,890,000

Peter Drucker's Five Most Important Questions

From a new book on management guru Peter Drucker.  The five are as follows:

  1. What is our mission?
  2. Who is our customer?
  3. What does the customer value?
  4. What are our results?
  5. What is our plan

Engineering as a Vocation

I just finished the new David Brooks book - The Road to Character.  Two excellent chapters on Generals Marshall and Eisenhower - these are must reads.

I found this particularly interesting in the context of engineering as a calling or vocation versus a career.

"No good life is possible unless it is organized around a vocation.  If you try to use your work to serve yourself, you'll find your ambition and expectations will forever run ahead and you'll never be satisfied.  If you try to serve the community, you'll wonder if people appreciate you enough.  But if you serve work that is intrinsically compelling and focus just on being excellent at that, you will wind up serving yourself and the community obliquely.  A vocation is not found by looking within and finding your passion.  It is found by looking without and asking what life is asking of us.  What problem is addressed by an activity your intrinsically enjoy?"


Saturday, April 18, 2015

Mott MacDonald in a Print and Video World

Arlington's Water Utilities Department in Action at Texas Water 2015!!!

The Video Revolution as a STEM Recruitment Tool

Videos of Fluor, an Engineering, Procurement, and Construction Company

Arup on Instagram

Graph of the Week

Embedded image permalink

What Is a Water Bank?

"A water bank is designed to facilitate efficient trades among water users. Across much of Montana, water is over-appropriated, meaning more water is allocated than is physically available in streams or rivers. As such, many areas are closed to new water appropriations, including the Missoula Valley. Any new water use that requires more than a small permit-exempt well is required to mitigate, or offset, its impact on groundwater or nearby surface waters.
Before the Company’s water bank was approved, this often meant having to buy and convert senior irrigation water rights to instream flow, an expensive and difficult option. Now, developers can purchase or lease mitigation water much more simply from the Grass Valley French Ditch Company."

Time versus Technology

Engineering and the Sins of Public Infrastructure

From the Daily News - In NYC, throwing good money after bad by Aaron Rena:

"Money covers a multitude of sins. Gotham’s powerhouse economy spins off oceans of cash. This makes it all too easy for politicians to pretend to fix immediate problems by throwing more money at them.
New York is also so desirable that people are willing to put up with a lot to live and do business here. That includes overcrowded trains and subpar airports, not just high rents and taxes.
But not even this region can make bad decisions forever without reaping the consequences. New Jersey commuters face two years of pain to repair Hurricane Sandy damage to the lone pair of Hudson rail tunnels. The MTA has a huge hole in its capital plan and troubling levels of debt. Declining subway service levels and over-packed trains are a reality today.
Make no mistake, New York needs to spend money on its transit system — especially to keep basic service at a high level. But wasting billions upon billions of dollars on a half-dozen high-profile projects gets us no closer to that crucial goal.
Mayor de Blasio just went to Boston to join other mayors in calling for more federal transportation spending. But how can New York demand Congress do its job if the city and region won’t take care of its own by doing its part to stop this insanity?"

Zombie Engineering - Your TV


Green Acres versus Brown Lawns

Friday, April 17, 2015

The Importance of Needing Both

From the NY Times this week:
“A broad liberal arts education is a key pathway to success in the 21st-century economy,” says Lawrence Katz, a labor economist at Harvard. Katz says that the economic return to pure technical skills has flattened, and the highest return now goes to those who combine soft skills — excellence at communicating and working with people — with technical skills.
“So I think a humanities major who also did a lot of computer science, economics, psychology, or other sciences can be quite valuable and have great career flexibility,” Katz said. “But you need both, in my view, to maximize your potential. And an economics major or computer science major or biology or engineering or physics major who takes serious courses in the humanities and history also will be a much more valuable scientist, financial professional, economist, or entrepreneur.”

Instagram and the Video Revolution - SHoP Architects

Regram from @jdsdevelopmentgroup: Take a spin around #626firstave Coming soon to the East River. Fly-through by #shoparchitects #coppersandwich

Combatting Issues of Combined Sewer Overflows - Black & Veatch

Combatting Issues of Combined Sewer Overflows - Black & Veatch

Storyboarding Asset Management

Zombie Engineering - Utilities and Streets Not Talking

From public comments associated with a DMN story on Dallas potholes and the state of city streets (more than 25 of Dallas' streets are considered to be in "severe deterioration" - - equivalent of driving from Chicago to Portland, then to Dallas.)

I've seen Mockingbird repaved, then torn up again in a few weeks for utility work.  The lack of coordination is obvious to those who drive the streets on a daily basis.

I've seen Mockingbird repaved, then torn up again in a few weeks for utility work.  The lack of coordination is obvious to those who drive the streets on a daily basis.

What Are Street Rental Fees?

From the Dallas Morning News by Elizabeth Findell on April 16, 2015 - Dallas Infrastructure: Money Pits.
"One possible method to expand funding for street repairs would be through bond elections in 2017 and 2023. Council member Rick Callahan, however, noted that it would be a long time before money from a 2017 bond proposal would go toward repair work.
He told of meeting on a recent Sunday night with about 30 people in his Pleasant Grove district. They were so upset about potholes, he said, that “I thought we were going to go into the pot and they were going to light the fire. … They were fist-pounding and saying, ‘We want something done.’”
Other financing options discussed included establishing “street rental” fees for the city’s water and sanitation utilities. Those fees would be passed on to residents through utility bills. A 6 percent sanitation fee could bring in $3.9 million a year and a water fee of 5 to 6 percent could add $5.1 million, the staff said.
Initially, city staff is asking for $7 million for next year to begin upping the street work.
“These are hard decisions to make, but we’ve got to be serious,” Mayor Mike Rawlings said. “That means we’re going to cut something. … You’ve laid out a clear path, and now the ball’s in our court.”"

Zombie Engineering - The World of Dead Ideas That Still Walk Among Us

Zombie Engineering will be a new addition to my blog.  The idea is to cover and collect the world of "unfresh" ideas that still populate the design space.  Feel free to drop me your notes on where you have encountered Zombie Engineering.

Suffolk Construction Drones

Graph of the Week

Engineering and Planning for Recovery

Healthy, Resilient, and Sustainable Communities After Disasters: Strategies, Opportunities, and Planning for Recovery

Hedging Water Risks

The world of hedging and financial risk management is coming to the era of water scarcity.  Check Out Waterfund.

The Chances of Another Chernobyl Before 2050? 50%, Say Safety Specialists | MIT Technology Review

The Chances of Another Chernobyl Before 2050? 50%, Say Safety Specialists | MIT Technology Review

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

The Future of Texas Transportation Policy Development

Engineering for the Permanently Temporary

I love this term - permanently temporary.  It will be interesting to see how engineering embraces the need for "permanently temporary" as a design philosophy in a world of greater resiliency and sustainability concerns.

From Shoreline of the Future: Permanently Temporary:

"As a civilized species humans have never had to deal with the idea that sea level changes or that, left unattended, the “natural” location of the shoreline will move inland. Now, suddenly, our human experience has become irrelevant. From this point forward into the future the location of the shoreline will always be “permanently temporary.” This is a difficult concept to grasp. To deal with this challenge, we’ll have to find new ways to plan, develop, enjoy and make productive use of our immediate shoreline areas in manner that will accommodate and adapt to the fact that the shoreline wants to forever migrate inland."

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Engineering's War on the Liberal Arts

I recently finished In Defense of a Liberal Education by Fareed Zakaria and came to an important conclusion.  As a profession, engineering still produces people more comfortable with narrow knowledge and expertise at the expense of strong basics.  We have given the merits of integrating mathematics, science, and the humanities to produce a more complete engineer much lip service, but we are still producing the most narrow of employees and citizens.

Regardless of what you are designing, I can guarantee you that the design process is as much about psychology and sociology as it is technology.  I would even argue that the more you can integrate a broader general education into the design, the greater the critical thinking and creativity that supports the design process.  This knowledge and exposure to a variety of fields produces synergy and cross-fertilization.  It is especially critical in a world dominated by multi-disciplinary problems in search of multi-disciplinary solutions.

From the book:

"When unveiling a new edition of the iPad, Steve Jobs explained, "It's in Apple's DNA that technology alone is not enough - that it's technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the result that makes our hearts sing."

Innovation is not simply a technical matter but rather one of understanding how people and societies work, what they need and want.  America will not dominate the 21st century by making cheaper computer chips but instead by constantly reimagining how computers and other new technologies interact with humans."

Part of our war and a lack of respect for the humanities and a broader educational base starts with our collective discounting of the skills embedded in knowing how to learn throughout a career and life, critical thinking skills that cross discipline boundaries, and even how to write.  One of the most tech firms in the world is Amazon.  But read what they arfe thinking in terms of communication skills.

From the book:

"No matter how strong your math and science skills are, you still need to know how to learn, think and even write.  Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, insists that his senior executives write memos, often as long as six printed pages, and begins senior-management meetings with a period of quiet time, sometimes as long as 30 minutes, while everyone reads the narratives to themselves and makes notes on them.  In a interview with Fortune's Adam Lashinsky, Bezos said: "Full sentences are harder to write.  They have verbs.  The paragraphs have topic sentences.  There is no way to write a six-page, narratively structured memo and not have clear thinking."

The demand for engineers with top-shelf creative and social skills with only grow exponentially this century.  Any problem that currently needs solving will require skills far beyond the offerings of a narrow STEM or engineering curriculum.

Let's make peace with the humanities and the power of a liberal arts education and think more in terms of what skills will actually be valued and in demand this century.  Engineers need the power embedded in a liberal arts education that cultivates creativity, critical thinking, and innovation.

Engineering and the Law of Unintended Consequences

In many respects, the design process seeks to understand and manage the Law of Unintended Consequences.  I found this interesting from the Financial Times:

"I ask if there are certain hotspots where pickpockets strike. Tourist spots, Freedman tells me, especially places such as Big Ben and the Eiffel Tower, where people’s attention is directed upwards and away from their belongings. He says that many pickpockets also operate near signs warning us to beware of pickpockets. The irony is that when people read the signs, they check their pockets or bag, thus alerting the lurking pickpocket to where their valuables are."