31 July 2007

Same start, different result

A friend of mine from undergrad is getting married in two weeks. I would have invited her to my wedding but, at the time, we had lost track of each other. It wasn't until a freak run-in last year at the Toronto Zoo that we got back in touch.

We were both in the same program and took mostly the same classes in structural engineering; however, even though both our jobs are based out of the GTA, our professional lives have gotten very different since then.

I did a masters and went into structural design. She went into the construction industry. There's a big difference. I sit in a cubicle doing designs and analysis. If I'm lucky, I get to go to Newmarket, or Cobourg. She's the engineer who plans and supervises contruction. Routinely, her job takes her to places like Alberta, Quebec, and Newfoundland; she's currently in the Bay of Fundie overseeing construction of a jetty. She spends little time in the office, is always away from home, and works extremely long days on a regular basis, followed by many days off. I do a daily 8-5 grind.

The thing is, even though we can see the advantages of the other person's job, we both prefer to do what we're doing. As much as I would like to get out of my drab grey cubicle more often, I want to design stuff and would feel stiffled overseeing other people's work. She would like to spend more time at home but likes being out where the action is too much. We both have the same degree, but our work lives have almost nothing in common.

One thing worth noting: when you're actually doing construction, you see the potential carnage vividly and in-person, rather than just having some vague image in the back of your mind with the associated dread. She related a story about driving massive steel piles for the jetty. The piles were brought into position on a barge while a boat-based crane picked up each pile and drove them into the seabed below. For this one particular installation, several piles had been installed successfully when the cable securing the next pile to the crane snapped, sended the pile plummeting back to the deck of the barge. The barge superstructure was damaged, one of the piles sitting on the deck of the barge was destroyed, and, as the dropped pile slid off the barge and sank irretrievably to the murky depths below, it managed to hit and damage the pile that they had just installed. Furtunately no one was hurt, but the cost and delays were significant.

The funny thing: each of the damaged objects fell under a completely separate insurance policy. The dropped pile counted as "lifted material", the barge was "equipment", the destroyed pile on the deck was "cargo", and the damaged installed pile was considered "finished structure". Aren't legal distinctions great?


One more thing: my friend's wedding is going to be open bar. Huzzah!

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26 July 2007

Where the hell have I been?

Well, it seems that I've been neglecting the ol' blog ... two weeks since the last post. Yikes.

Been pretty darn busy at the office recently and very busy in my personal life. Summer is like that. Two weekends ago my wife and I held a large bbq and last weekend we went camping. Fun stuff all around, but a lot of work.

All this means I've been too tired and too busy to write. If something interesting comes up, I'll say something about it, but expect posting to be light for the next little while.

PS. I've been to my pit recently and, despite excavating down another ~3.5m to the next level of soil anchors, the pit looks fine and hasn't collapsed on or otherwise killed/injured anybody yet. Fingers crossed.

PPS. I found Carl Zimmer's book Soul Made Flesh for $10 hardcover at an independent book retailer last weekend. I'm very stoked about that.


13 July 2007

Me as a Simpsons character

This has been making the rounds recently, so I decided to try it out.

My wife says I look more like Milhouse though.

Make your own here.


06 July 2007

Random thoughts about "Cocks"

I play a lot of badminton. So does my wife. In fact, she just got back from a week-long badminton training camp, so you can imagine that we're pretty serious about it. (Note: She's more serious than I am, so she went and I just enjoyed my week of bachelordom, ie. lounging around in my underwear eating frozen pizza and not doing the dishes.)

In badminton, the little doohickey you smack around is typically called the 'bird' or 'birdie'; however, its technical name is the 'shuttlecock'. I've got an extended family member who is an elementary school teacher and was one day teaching her class to play badminton. In order to play, however, she was forcing them to exhibit enough maturity to say the word 'shuttlecock' without giggling too much first. Of course, the trouble component of the word is the 'cock' part, with all its sexual connotations. I appreciate the teacher's sentiment, but, from experience, I don't think this is a problem: In real life, no one ever says 'shuttlecock'. I'm not just talking about recreational players who typically call it a 'birdie' either. Serious competitive players call it at least a 'bird' (minus the 'ie' on the end) or, when they are feeling official, a 'shuttle'. It's exceedingly rare than someone will call it a 'shuttlecock' - it's just too long of a word.

However, all this got me to thinking, if brevity is the goal, then 'shuttlecock' should be abbreviated to just 'cock'. Try it right now and compare it to saying 'bird'. 'Bird' is noticeably more energy-intensive to say. 'Cock' is much easier.

So can you imagine this in practice?

"Your cock is all beat up there. It probably won't work anymore."
"It's fun playing with a brand new cock. It flies straighter."
"You've got to hit the cock harder."
"Keep your eye on the cock."
"Try to put the cock between the two opponents so they can't tell who's supposed to get it."
"If he puts the cock deep, you have to turn around and reach to get it."
"When you're up at the net, keep your racquet up so the cock doesn't hit you in the face."

Afterall, the meaning of the 'cock' part of the word 'shuttlecock' is, in this case, exactly the same as 'bird'; it refers to the fact that the damn thing is made of feathers and looks like a bird. So why the hell shouldn't we use 'cocks'?