Road Trip! Houston to San Francisco; 2018 to 1908


Westward ho!!  I can’t believe we covered all that ground!

(A word of warning to my regular readers, there’s not a lot of engineering or software content in this issue of my blog.  Even I have to take a vacation some time!)


I spent last week doing a three-generation road trip from Houston to San Francisco – with my mother, my daughter, and me all crammed in a Toyota Prius for over 2400 miles across some of the most interesting terrain that this country – or any other – has to offer. Continue reading

The Goddess of Industry: Steel Week in Baltimore


Boom times at Sparrows Point steel mill

I spent this week at Steel Week, the AISC’s North American Steel Construction Conference (NASCC) in Baltimore, MD.  Every year, this conference is a great opportunity to share the CloudCalc philosophy with steel professionals.  Likewise, the week presents a wonderful chance to explore the highlights of the host city (as you can see from these dispatches I wrote from Nashville and Orlando in previous years).


So arriving in Baltimore, I had to check out the points of interest.  (Actually, once here, I realized that I have a little history with Baltimore.  My first job out of school was with Bechtel in Gaithersburg, MD…and as a young engineer I took my EIT exam — called the “Fundamentals of Engineering” exam these days — in the Baltimore Convention Center, the same building that is hosting the NASCC!)  Inner Harbor, check.  Fort McHenry, check.  Camden Yards, check.  And now Sparrows Point! Continue reading

Marching for Science, Marching for Engineering


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.


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

An Engineer’s Guide to Oktoberfest


Let’s calculate the force required to lift those steins…Fluid dynamics, anyone?

Earlier this month I continued my travels in search of engineering topics by visiting Munich during Oktoberfest.  I went to Munich with my wife and friends, intent on seeing all the sights that would intrigue any engineer: the Deutsches Museum (the world’s largest museum dedicated to engineering, science, and technology), the Glockenspiel in the Rathaus (a wonder of mechanical engineering), and maybe the Allianz Arena – home of Bayern München and one of the prettiest football stadiums anywhere.  I was sure that I would find many topics for a blog article on this trip.

But it seemed like every time I started out to see something on my list, somebody popped a beer stein in my hand, distracting me from my goal.  It’s funny how that works, especially in Munich, especially in October. Continue reading

Mountain of Ice: Structural Stories of the Baltics


Sergei Eisenstein, not just a story telling filmmaker, but also an engineer!

This summer I joined the World Affairs Council of Houston on a tour of the Baltic nations (Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, and Finland) as part of my quest to visit 100 countries (after these four, I now have rung up a total of 92).  Whenever I travel, I make it a point to keep my eye out for interesting structures, and of course this trip was no different.

The first thing I learned about the Baltic nations is that they love the stories and the songs of their folklore.  The tradition of storytelling has survived from the traditions of this region – the Baltic countries were the last pagan nations of Europe — and their national ethos bear strong marks of this.  Story and song are used to maintain history, pass down lore, impart advice, and even win national independence.  So my goal was not only to find buildings that were interesting from a structural point of view, but maybe one or more that tell a national story as well. Continue reading

Greetings from Orlando – Where Engineering Dreams Come True


“What am I going to do, now that I’ve designed the Super Bowl stadium?  I’m going to Disney World!”

“I’m going to Disney World!”  We all know that is the destination of choice for Super Bowl winning quarterbacks, but earlier this month, it also became the destination for many of the 4,000+ structural steel professionals that attended the AISC’s National Association of Steel Construction Conference (NASCC 2016 – The Steel Show) in the Orlando, FL area.


Sure there was plenty to keep structural engineers’ interest at the conference itself, including the hundreds of exhibitors, the array of technical presentations (including CloudCalc’s presentation), and last but not least, the gorgeous structural steel supporting the St. Augustine Dome of the host Gaylord Palms Resort.  But I’m sure that many of the attendees made it their business to get away from the conference and indulge some fantasy at the Magic Kingdom, a few miles to the north. Continue reading

What I did on my Summer Vacation

Travel, Structural Engineering, and Tech Startups!

With school starting this week in many parts of the United States, at this moment millions of students are completing the traditional first homework assignment of the school year: writing an essay entitled “What I did on my Summer Vacation”.  During my childhood, this exercise was always considered to be the best way to transition us kids from the lazing, fun-loving, carefree boys and girls of summer to the laser-focused, hardworking achievers of the other nine months of the year.  What better way was there to get me to slide back into work mode, than thinking about the hours I spent scavenging through the neighbors’ trash, looking for parts to build a go kart (summer before sixth grade)?  Or recapping all the time spent researching, via trial and error, the optimal grass-mud mix for sunbaked bricks, as I tried to build a full-scale replica of a Sumerian ziggurat in my back yard (summer before fifth grade)? Continue reading

Happy Steel Week from Nashville!

This week brings me to Nashville, TN where CloudCalc is exhibiting at the NASCC 2015 (AISC’s annual steel conference).


Three days spent talking steel to the 4500+ engineers, designers, detailers, fabricators, academics, vendors, etc. who have registered to attend sounds like the makings of an engineering overdose.  But where others, less-stalwart, might be tempted to cry “¡No más!”, I actually came to Nashville with the intention of seeking out the engineering heart of the city above and beyond the convention itself.  Or specifically, in honor of Steel Week, my quest was to find Nashville’s most inspiring use of steel. Continue reading

Traveling Engineer: In Search of the Panama Canal

PA-1 Going on the road to bring you better blogs

“A man, a plan, a canal – Panama!”

A man – that’s me, check.  A plan –I worked out the itinerary for my weekend trip, check.  Panama – I landed at Tocumen International Airport as expected, check.

But a canal?  That one I wasn’t quite sure of.  For a while I was wondering if that was possibly a tourist hoax, like the the Jackalope or the Loch Ness Monster… Continue reading