Structure Against the Storm: Notes from Hurricane Harvey

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Hurricane Harvey, the most powerful hurricane to hit the US in a decade 

I’m writing this article while “hunkered down” against Hurricane Harvey, the most powerful hurricane to make landfall in the United States since Hurricane Wilma nearly 12 years ago.  Harvey came ashore two nights ago as a Category 4 hurricane (indicating minimum sustained wind velocity of 130 mph) and continues to punish our area with torrential downpours.  My neighborhood has had 16 inches of rain over the past 24 hours, something that is expected to continue over the next several days.  I also periodically am losing power, and so have to resort to the old-school instruments of pencil, paper, and candle while writing this.

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What can I expect t from a Category 4 hurricane?  According to the National Hurricane Center, “catastrophic damage” will occur:

Well-built framed homes can sustain severe damage with loss of most of the roof structure and/or some exterior walls. Most trees will be snapped or uprooted and power poles downed. Fallen trees and power poles will isolate residential areas. Power outages will last weeks to possibly months. Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks or months. Continue reading

Marching for Science, Marching for Engineering

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Science (foreground) doesn’t fall far from Engineering (background)

I spent last weekend in Washington, DC doing my part to support science as a participant in April 22’s March for Science.  I’ve considered myself a big fan of science, ever since I made my first vinegar and baking powder volcano, so it was appropriate that I go along to show my support.

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According to organizers, the idea behind the march (or actually the marches, as satellite marches were held in more than 600 locations around the world) was to “demonstrate support for science and the fundamental role it plays in serving and improving society through informed policy”.  Other goals were to “hold our leaders in society and science accountable to the highest standards of honesty, integrity and fairness”, and to “work to bring science and the benefits of scientific research to those who need it most”. Continue reading

‘Friended’ by Miss Romania: Hanging with the Social Media A-List

Alexandria Morgan -- the next Kate Upton

Alexandria Morgan –the “Next Kate Upton”, and MY friend on LinkedIn!

Please, readers – can I have your attention down here!  Yes, down here, please.

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I originally started this blog with the intent of chronicling my experiences launching a cloud-based startup in the structural engineering domain.  Lately I’ve met only half of that promise, producing lots of articles about different facets of structural engineering, but very few in the area of internet startups.  (It may be some kind of aversion-bias, based on the fact that the former – structural engineering – is so much easier than successfully pulling off a cloud-based startup.)  Therefore I feel that this article, imparting wisdom that I’ve gained in the startup arena, is long overdue. Continue reading

Happy “Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day”!

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Step aside Mars, the engineering world comes first!

I bet most of you didn’t even know that today, Feb 25, 2016 is “Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day”.  Well that is understandable, as it is stuck right in the middle of a week already packed with more than its share of commemorative days: “Card Reading Day” (is that Tarot or greeting?), “Be Humble Day”, “International Dog Biscuit Appreciation Day”, “National Tortilla Chip Day”, “National Pistachio Day”, and “Polar Bear Day”.

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90 Steps per Minute: Structural Dynamics of Marathon Running

 418559_218559227_Medium500 feet to go – Don’t fall down now!

Many of you who read my earlier blog entry, 26.2: The Engineering of Marathon Racing, are aware that I was training for the Chevron Houston Marathon.  To those who wondered how I fared, I am proud to say that on January 17 I completed my first (and last!) marathon with flying colors.  If anyone is looking for a challenge in life, I cannot recommend a more rewarding experience than taking on your first marathon.

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26.2 miles is a long time to be out on the road, a long time with nothing to do – besides putting one foot in front of the other 42,000 times – but people watch (after all there were 13,500 other equally crazy people huffing and puffing in front of me).  People watching is the easy part, since marathon runners tend to skew toward the physically fit and the attractive, with nearly half of the runners being women.  As I watched lady after lady run past me over the course of several hours, I gradually realized that a marathon could provide a perfect teachable moment for any engineer interested in better understanding structural dynamics.

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Crashing and the Cloud: Lessons Learned!

 

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“We have very good news”, said the tech rep over the phone.

“Great, it’s about time I got some good news regarding a computer,” I thought.  Lately it seemed like the tech gods had been conspiring against me.

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“The good news is that the repair will be completely covered under the manufacturer’s warranty.  Of course due to the extensive problems, we will have to send it back to the factory.  If things go well, we expect the repair to take approximately ten business days.  With 2 days shipping each way, you should expect a call from us in about 14 business days.” Continue reading

26.2: The Engineering of Marathon Running

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With 50,000 runners stepping with 475-lb force
3 times per second, it’ll be time to fix the roads!

Huff…owww…puff…ouch…pant.  Just nine miles to go this morning…that’s just 18,000 steps…

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I am writing this entry from New York City, where the 45th NYC Marathon will take place this Sunday.  On that date, 50,000 hardy souls will run 26.2 miles through the streets of NYC’s 5 boroughs.  For some of these 50,000, a marathon is a regular event (for example, 69 year old Larry Macon set a record by running 239 marathons in 2013).  For others, it will be a first time try – which may end up being the first of many (who knows, maybe there’s a future Larry Macon in the bunch), or it might simply be a onetime only thing, meant to check off one more item on a bucket list. Continue reading