Thursday, July 15, 2010

All work and no play plus the Haiti Earthquake

All work and no play is wearing me out.  But a big deadline is past and now I have a little breathing room.  I think.  Originally I thought the project would be done on Wednesday but it looks like I'll have at least another week or two of stuff to do.  I'll find out more at a meeting tomorrow.   Work is good, just not 'all work'.

But I'm taking the weekend off and hopefully I can get some weave pole practice in and pay some attention to the dogs.  Because somebody is going a little nutty.

Who needs you?  I have Watering Can.  Watering Can is my new best friend.

Hopefully I can make up for all the lost triathlon and agility training in the next few weeks.  I'm more concerned about the triathlon, the bike course is tougher this year but plays more to my strengths (climbing) when I'm in shape.  But if I'm out of shape and have to deal with all those steep hills on the bike and run-yikes.  It will not be pretty.  In any case it feels good to finally have my life and what's left of the summer back.


This morning I went to a meeting of a structural engineering group I recently joined and the speaker was a forensic engineer who'd gone to Haiti to assist the Army Corps. of Engineers and FEMA with rescue/recovery after the earthquake.  Unfortunately I arrived later than I'd hoped and was just sitting down as the speaker began.  Normally it's not a problem, people can eat during the presentation, but with this particular subject matter, well, it's a little hard to choke down your eggs while you're trying not to bawl your eyes out in front of zillions of fellow engineers.  It was a fascinating presentation though.  The guy had to go in there-before they'd even let the sniffer dogs, he joked-and determine if the structures were safe enough (and could survive aftershocks)  for the rescue/recovery crews to go in and if not figure out how to shore them up if possible.  I can't even imagine the pressure of those decisions.  You don't want to endanger rescue crews and create new victims but you also want to do what you can to rescue survivors.  And there is not a lot of time for thinking about it, you have to make those difficult decisions very quickly and on the spot.  There's no going back to the office to run numbers and consult codes or research journals.  On the one hand it was a bit of a dog and pony show, I would have preferred a more technical discussion about his methodology but to be fair he was condensing a 2 1/2 hour presentation into an hour and it was still very eye opening and moving.  I've long been fascinated with the idea of doing forensic engineering but after looking into it I've sort of gone off the idea and this really put the nail in the coffin of that notion.  I'm far too neurotic to crawl on my stomach in an area so confined I'm scraping my back against a collapsed concrete slab and an aftershock happens and I have to crawl out backwards, still on my stomach, with the whole world shaking around me.  I give huge props to the people who can do that sort of thing but I'll openly admit that I'm not one of them.

 I was hankering to ask him some difficult questions like, 'Did you ever send the rescue crew in and something collapsed and people died?' or 'Did you ever have to leave survivors behind because there simply was no safe way to rescue them?'  But they seemed like insensitive questions and I didn't think it right to ask them in that situation.

One interesting cultural side note that I was unaware of is that voodoo in Haiti is not just a religion, it's also their form of law.  So if you have a dispute with a neighbor over a property line or whatever you go to a voodoo guy and he sorts it out.  I'm thinking maybe the City of Boulder should adopt this idea for petty disputes and code compliance issues and televise it.  Voodoo Court T.V.  And now I'm going to find a dead chicken head in my bed for this sort of blasphemy.  Anyway, it's no wonder there are no building codes being enforced was the point.  And I thought it was merely the corrupt 'government' or lack of government and gripping poverty that was responsible but it turns out the voodoo had a hand in it too.

I'm not sure what the future holds for Haiti from a rebuilding perspective, he didn't talk all that much about it beyond saying that it seemed like people were going to do things better this time around.  Though the bigger problem right now is hauling all the debris away so there even is room to build and that sounds like a monumental project in itself.  He also said there were funds for rebuilding that hadn't been spent yet and they were going to things like orphanages and more immediate needs and not rebuilding efforts.

Lots more interesting stuff but I'll leave it at that for now.  Who says engineers are boring?

1 comment:

  1. Fascinating!
    Both - the lecture and the info on Voodoo.