Friday, June 30, 2006

Airport Psychology Class

A few years ago, I read of a collegiate study which I'll call "Pretend Prison".

In this study, half of the Psych class was deemed "guards" and the other half "prisioners" - they would act in these roles. All of the students knew each other and hand been in the same class for nearly a semester. The study was scheduled to last a week and was to record the interactions between the two sets of people.

The study had to be stopped after one day.

It seems that those that were given power (the guards) took advantage of their situation and were more-than-anticipated abusive to the prisioners. This was just role-playing, but the role-playing guards were "on it".

This morning, I participated in one of the traveler's tasks that I just can't stand -- I went through the security checkpoint. Each time I go through, I absolutely cannot stand having to take off my shoes. Remember the guy that was going to blow up the plane with something flammable that he had smuggled on the plane in his shoes? Well, I don't blame him for the shoeless security frakus. I blame the knee jerk reaction.

Perhaps those in the know saw this as an opportunity/excuse for checking/x-raying shoes . . . but what is going to happen if someone smuggles something in the bra? Or how about between one's hair and neck (me excluded).

This morning while going through security, a TSA agent said that she was going to check my shoes for explosives -- Fine. After she took them, she realized that she didn't have the sniffer (some other poor slob was being sniffed left and right). So she gave them back to me without doing the test.

One could say that she was just doing a random test and that she was filling her daily quota, but I think that she (and her co-workers) are becoming the Guards and the travelers are becoming the Prisioners.

I am looking forward to the end of the day when this psych-class/collegiate-study is stopped -- and the guards and prisioners return to normal again. Posted by Picasa

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Dante Keillor

"Dante says the hottest place in hell is reserved for those who in time of crisis remain neutral, so I have spoken my piece, and thank you, dear reader." *

This morning I got down to the hotel lobby a little early and noted that this hotel had some old books (and they weren't in Sweedish as in a recent Indy hotel visit, but I digress).

As there were books, comfy arm-chairs, and time, I decided to take a look. I found a book titled Human Nature Politics by Graham Wallas.

I noted that this was the third edition and had a copyright of 1922 or 23. The preface indicated that the first edition was written in 1908.

This book's preface notes that some typos have been corrected and the third edition preface has been added. It goes on to note that the first edition statements were (again) substantiated by the initiation of the Great War -- most notably, the people with the means will do what they like at the potential cost of those without the means.

* From Homegrown Democrat: A Few Plain Thoughts From the Heart of America by Garrison Keillor Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Divided Highway

Last week, the temperature was about 70°, the wind was whipping through the open windows and I was driving north in Michigan on US 31 (a divided highway with very pretty trees and natural-landscaping). This section of highway was the type that improved any car -- as long as it windows can open. In normal circumstances I would've been impressed and slightly elated at how pretty and emotionally-full the drive was.

But . . .

While I was driving, I was listening to a two-part story on NPR. The first part of the story was recorded in 1994. It involved two 13 year old boys who had overcome some obstacles and were placed in positive-habit-forming foster homes. Listening to the innocence and openness and world-is-my-oyster views, one got the feeling that these young kids were initially given a sour deal in life, but the next 15 years looked like they would be full of improvement.

Skip ahead 12 years to 2006. Adult male voices fill the speaker with background noises that do not bring to mind pictures of the pleasant life. The echoing other voices and the clink of the metal impart that this voice is confined. And this boy-now-man has the better story. For whatever reason, life continued to give this person bad blows. Or ultimately he found himself in this predicament. But, his life is still working and (presumably) can still be improved.

The other young boy's voice can no longer be heard. He died this February mostly from his environment.

Where does it happen? How does it happen? Does the marching of time keep time with things going downhill, or are there specific and unique occurrences that provide turns for the worse or turns for the better? Listening to the innocent voices, then skipping 12 years to a man's voice and cell doors. . . Argh.

That stretch of US 31 which should have been a very enjoyable and very pretty drive through tree-lined roads will not be remembered by me as such. It will remind me of, well . . . Crap, life is not only unfair, it can be harsh, unrelenting, and hard to stomach. Posted by Picasa

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Gaining Velocity Back.

It is an ironic rule of flying that just when things are going really poorly and the wings have stopped producing lift (and are getting ready to stall), a person's natural reaction is to pull back on the stick to try to "get away" from the approaching ground.

Unfortunately, this action is the exact opposite of what the pilot needs to do -- pushing forward on the stick allows the plane to start flying again and even though the ground will get closer, the intent is to allow the plane to get enough velocity so that it can again climb away.

Similiarly, when the day and week are amazingly full, when nothing is being completed, and when the ground is approaching, the natural action is to pull all-nighters, stall deadlines, and try to get some distance between a person and the approaching deadline. This may work for a little while, but the ground is still approaching.

The trick is (once again) to push forward on the stick -- to push back from the desk, get the fly-rod, pick up a flat skipping stone, and enjoy the sights and sounds of a little bit of time picking up some speed (and yes even passing you by) so that you can gain enough speed to fly again. Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Awakened by God

Or at least his minion, Mother Nature.

Is there any better way to be awakend by the sound of thunder in the distance? Or (now that I think about it) morning birds, frogs croaking, or basically anything other than the meandering monoto of the singled noted liquid crystal Timex? Posted by Picasa

Monday, June 19, 2006

Paul is 64.

At what point do we realize that we are still learning and doing, but to do more, we actually need to plan it.

Or to put it another way, when does one stop living by the mantra, "it is Friday, what are we doing tonight" and start living the [extreme] "it's 2006, we need to start planning for retirement."?

Or to put it an even different way, when (and how) do we cross the line of being immortal [and "damn straight we can cross the street anywhere we want to] and begin realizing that we are not only immortal, but chagrinned to find out that soccer post-40 might just actually require a discussion with one's doctor.

So, here is the point. . .

Apparently, I am crossing another one of these lines (not sure which one exactly) but here is the deal. The other day I began thinking that teaching kids was a pretty important (if not extremely important) job. As I was thinking this a bit, I thought that for me to teach, I'd have to take a not-so-insignificant pay cut. That didn't seem right.

Helping the construction of roads and bridges is (I think) a pretty good occupation -- it assists others in reaching destinations so that they might be able to do some good in society [really, this is how I view engineering - it is an assistance-type job - not for acquisition of any higher purpose actual goal, but a necessary stepping stone toward one of those higher goals].

So, isn't teaching the same thing? Except that the canvas (or concrete form) is a bit cleaner. Yes, it is. Teaching kids is one of the paramount goals of any society that can't or won't reach the Ultimate Goal within the next generation. It has to be -- otherwise we're moving backward -- and attaining goals moving backward doesn't really work.

So, I have a goal. I have taken the first (albeit tiny) step in getting teacher's pay equivalent to engineer's pay -- from just post-graduate to 30 years.

It is important to me and I am moving forward.

By the way. . .
Some information, yesterday, Paul McCartney was 64. Will you still need me, will you still feed me. . . Posted by Picasa

Monday, June 05, 2006

2 Parallel Bridges, End Dam, and Dollar-Bill Scale

The bridge on the left was supposed to be even with the one on the right -- it wasn't as their concrete was placed at different ambiant temperatures. Posted by Picasa

Saturday, June 03, 2006

The Big Mac Bridge - taken from the southern mid-river pier while I-471 was closed for steel-placement of overhead steel on Fort Washington Way. Posted by Picasa

Thursday, June 01, 2006


The (child's) finger is provided for scale. Posted by Picasa