Just a peek into my work world

Just a few pics from projects and industry events I participated in over the past 2 years. Hope you enjoy.

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Brooklyn

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Some rec time with colleagues at an ice bar

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Inflatable rat outside a non union job in Brooklyn

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Where the estimating and engineering happens

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Support of excavation in Brooklyn

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Trade show in Hershey PA

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Micropile casing in NJ

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Self drilled micropiles in NJ

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Presentation on a project we helped with in Virginia

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Cell tower

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Reinforcing cell tower foundation with a limited access drill rig

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Wall stabilization

Stay Caffeinated.

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A few questions answered

Ok time to have a little fun. Saw this posted in my feed, decided to tackle it. Read on and laugh along. Feedback appreciated.

1. What is your favourite book?

The Crow by James O’Barr. It’s a graphic novel but it unabashedly shows many truths we simply take for granted, and how precious life is.

2. What are your goals? For the year? For your life?

My first goal is to start swimming on a regular basis and strengthen my body. Three spinal surgeries in 4 years is kinda rough. My life goals are to get back to college and earn my degree in civil engineering and my P.E. (Professional Engineer license), and be financially secure so my wife and kids never have to worry.

3. Are you a writer? If so, tell me about your work. 

I like to write and go through phases. I do write technical articles and jobsite reports for my company’s monthly newsletter.

4. If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go?

Always wanted to visit New Zealand.

5. What was the last movie you saw in the theatre and was it worthwhile?

Ill be honest I don’t remember.

6. I’m curious, are there any books that you’ve tried to read and simply couldn’t finish? This is a no judgement zone.

Some “bestselling thriller” I picked up in the airport once. Got about 1/3 of the way through it and ended up leaving it on the plane for some unsuspecting person to pick up and try to read.

7. Are you currently working on a new book/project right now? If it’s secret, you don’t have to tell me about it. If so, however, I hope it’s going well.

Not at the moment. I really want to get back to writing music.

8. If you could live in any of your favourite books, which one would you choose?

The Tom Clancy “Jack Ryan Series” (think Hunt for Red October, Clear and Present Danger, etc..)

9. Are there any book-to-movie adaptations that you think are just incredible? That you absolutely hated?

Lord of the Rings. Peter Jackson did a phenomenal job. The Sum of All Fears was a big disappointment….had very little to do with the book, which I thought was way more exciting.

10. What do you look for in a book that you want to read? What’s the first thing to capture your attention?

The inset plot teaser. Needs human focus without getting lost on miniscule details like Charles Dickens.

11. If you’re an author, what do you do when you first get an idea for a book?

My morning coffee is my inspiration. Sometimes a long drive.

12. How do you feel about different genres? Romance? YA? Sci-Fi? Poetry? Do you have any favorites? Any least-favourites?

Romance never did it for me. Some young adult novels are written really well, others sound like a mishmash of high school gossip with zero direction and a massive “cheese factor”. I definitely enjoy sci-fi, and also historical fiction.

13. If you could meet any writer in the world, dead or alive, who would it be?

Tom Clancy, Timothy Zahn, James O’Barr, and Ernest Hemmingway.

14. Do you prefer Fiction or Non-Fiction?

I like both.

15. Are there any characters that everyone loves that you can’t stand? Or vice versa?

Any character(s) that people take too seriously. Twilight, 50 Shades, etc.

16. What do you like to do besides reading/writing?

Work on cars, spend time with the kids, work on skis and snowboards at the shop, cooking, public speaking / presentations, target shooting, hunting, shooting pool.

17. If you could be remembered for one thing, what would it be?

My love for my family.

18. What is your favourite guilty pleasure book?

Star Wars: Dark Empire

19. Do you have a reading goal set for this year?

Nope. Just to keep reading.

20. Tell me anything about yourself that I haven’t asked. Random fact. Weird human trick. Whatever.

I can roll my stomach like ocean waves.

Stay Caffinated.

NYC for an engineering lecture

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Took the train. $35 round trip including parking. Much better than driving.

I attended an engineering lecture for work yesterday. Since it was my one and only stop in the city, I took the train, which was a very financially prudent thing to do, plus avoid any unpleasant traffic getting to the city AND in Midtown.

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Penn Station / MSG

After getting off the train and realizing I didn’t have the greatest cell charge, I stopped in a kiosk just outside Madison Square Garden and checked out the portable battery packs. The poor guy didn’t even see me coming. He looked up to see all 6’4″ of me and jumped. “Holy shit bro I didn’t even see or hear you! Shit how could I miss you, you’re huge!” We laughed for a bit, talking about ninjas and how I like to sneak up and scare my kids. $30 later I had a decent charger that boosted my charge by 60% so I was good to go. The lecture was being held at STOUT, which has a private room downstairs and ZERO cell reception, haha. So I drank some Brooklyn Lager, had a medium rare strip steak, mash, broccoli and cauliflower with a side of lentil. Everything was delicious. Got to hang with some industry colleagues, make some new work connections, listen to an interesting lecture, and call it a night.

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STOUT NYC Midtown. Great place for a lecture. Sure beats some big empty room in a hotel.

STOUT had a good beer selection but I wasn’t in an experimental mood so I stuck to the lager. After the night was done at 9 PM, I walked back towards Penn Station. First a fight broke out at the Blarney Rock next door; STOUT’s one bouncer walked right over and split the two drunks up and defused the fight, sending one guy on his drunken way. After the sidewalk cleared, I was on my way. The train I planned on taking actually arrived later at my station than if I took the express one that left 30 minutes later, arriving at my destination a full 25 minutes before the earlier train. Funny how those things work. So I waited for the express train. I took to people watching outside, had a few guys ask me for a lighter (I’m a former smoker, so I don’t carry one anymore). Near the cab line about 60 yards away, a very inebriated woman took a full faceplant onto the pavement. Thankfully, 4 or 5 people ran over to help her out and safely get her into a cab. Shame it happened but good to see complete strangers immediately help her out. I had already taken a few steps but adding a 5th or 6th person to the mix wasn’t going to help in any way.

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Goodnight, NYC, it's been a fun 5 hours!

After an uneventful train ride, I hopped into Bessie and drove back home. As always, I love the city (my hometown) but it’s nice to get back to my house in the woods. Stay caffeinated.

Fixing my mom’s pesky PC

I knew it would be a 4 hour job going into this. She called me in a panic from work, saying all these alert windows were popping up and she couldn’t do anything. Sadly, I had warned her months ago that her work PC needed serious attention. I even took the time to write up an estimate for her boss, comparing the money he would spend at GeekSquad or another PC repair shop versus what I could do. Of course I come in at less than half. He then asks if I can guarantee my work. I told him absolutely not, especially not without actually seeing and running the PC first. Even GeekSquad won’t guarantee their work. With computers, anything can go wrong. Fast forward to this week and the panicky phone call. A fee was agreed upon, and I set out to fix this laptop. Upon booting, I get assaulted with Windows errors, spamware and adware running, tying up the quad-core processor like it was running 6 instances of Adobe Photoshop all trying to render at the same time. 3.5 hours, 469 individual malware entries, a few security updates, and reworking Chrome and Internet Explorer, I got the Lenovo running like a top. There were some bastard programs like Conduit and Iminent, plus two trojan viruses really putting the screws to this machine.
Now why would I charge my own mother to fix a laptop?

1. She doesn’t actually own it, it’s company property
2. Her boss thinks guilting her into calling me for tech support during my work hours is OK.
3. I told her I didn’t want her money. I want his.
4. #2 happens all the time.
5. She’s mortified to use his PC for anything she has to do, well, because porn.

I also strongly advised her to back up any important documents on a weekly, if not daily, basis. The laptop is not that old. But considering the strain it’s been under, it is a safe bet the hard drive will crash sooner than it should.

To help them understand what I actually did for 3.5 hours, I logged my every activity in a convenient spreadsheet printed to a PDF file. I realize average PC users take an IT tech for granted, “because they watched Bill from IT fix Sandra’s computer with a few clicks here and there” once. Thank God this laptop was running Windows 7 64 Bit. If it was running Vista I would have thrown it right in the garbage. I’m serious.

A Concealed Carry open letter

I wrote this almost a year ago, and wasn’t sure how or when to send this. After recent events, including the guy who was tackled for legally carrying his firearm in Florida, I feel I need to put this out there.

Please understand. I mean you no harm. Please understand I carry my firearm for self defense. I do not carry it to boast. I do not carry it to stroke my ego. I carry to defend my spouse and my children. I do not carry to shove the 2nd amendment down your throat. I do not carry to be the crazy guy everyone is afraid of. I carry because someone tried to hurt me, rob me, possibly kill me…twice.
Please understand. You will see me shopping, you will see me taking my kids to/from school, and you will see me working at my job. you will see me tending my yard, fixing my car, and coaching sports. You will see me opening the door for those my senior, you will see me thank the cashier, and most of all, you will see me hold my children tight and laugh and play with them. You wont see me pick a fight, you won’t see me decide who is wrong and right, and you won’t see me stalk the neighborhood.
Please understand. I do not leave ammo and guns laying around my home. I teach my family to fear and respect the weapons that we own. I teach my kids that policemen are doing their job, and sometimes its very far to come to our aid. I let them know that daddy will do his best to always be there and not be afraid of what they hear in the news or in school.
Please understand. After carrying for 8 years, drawing my firearm twice, and never firing a single shot at a human being, I will not stop now. i’ve lived this long, and have many years to go. The good Sheriff has signed my card every 5 years, and i have never given him a reason otherwise. Please understand. I don’t think everyone should have a firearm, but i don’t think taking them away will solve anything either. If mine or my family’s lives are in danger, I will draw my weapon. If i absolutely have to, I will pull the trigger. I pray the day never comes.
I do not think that Hollywood can teach you anything regarding guns, and I wish more people would understand. If someone does argue with me on the subject of firearms, I will not shoot, shout, or scream. I will explain the facts that I know, and will answer any question they have. I hope they are satisfied. I have been trained, I have practiced, and I continue to re-educate myself with the latest in firearm safety.
Please understand that I am a responsible gun owner. I am not a monster. I am not a fear monger. I am your neighbor, your volunteer, your fellow parent, and just another man. i
I am educated, I have traveled far and wide, and I know there is so much more to see. Turn off the TV, get off the partisan politic discussions, and just go outside and talk face to face. you will be surprised what you can learn.

With respect,

A responsible LCF card holder, always armed but never threatening.

Someone pissed in my cheerios

So I got pretty worked up today. Up until today, I’ve watched the political polarization of comment feeds and generally have kept to myself.  Occasionally I’ve jumped in; other times I’ve pulled a “I’m just here for the comments” with a tub of popcorn. But here I sit, realizing nearly every comment section of any article devolves into a political version of Spy vs Spy from the MAD Magazine days. Only difference is, this is not really funny anymore. There have been some studies done which illustrate the political divide in this country is at its most extreme in a very long time. That does not mean I have to be OK with it.

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I have a few opinions on why this is happening. For one, everyone has a mouthpiece now. It’s called the internet. Whereas opinions were restricted (and I use that term very loosely) to:

– Letters to the Editor
– Community Activists with a megaphone and a soap box
– News personalities and writers
– Callers on CNN
– Local community gossip

Now, everyone can put their opinion on blast. This is one of the sharpest double edged swords I’ve encountered. We all have a voice, yet I find myself cringing at some of the voices screaming to be heard. It’s really aggrivating that people will openly threaten to kill, beat, rape, and slander each other over an opinion. Granted, we can laugh it off and say “haha, keyboard warrior”, post a meme or some ridiculous picture to accompany it. But I think there’s a serious problem. Take the constantly moving and evolving firearms discussion in this country. People on both sides are perfectly ok saying things like “fuck them, they deserve to die”. Now hold on a second. It’s my understanding that people voicing their desire for more gun control would be seeking a non violent solution to what they consider a problem in America. It is also my understanding that the people who own firearms for self defense are not wanting to be on the offensive. I am going to pick both sides of the argument apart, and at the end, I will tell you my stance on guns in America.

Remember, I will take a brief most extreme view on both sides and argue their points with paraphrased comments I’ve seen on places like Facebook, news feeds, etc. Trust me, what I say here, you will be able to find. I’m not discussing facts. I hate that I even have to write this stupid disclaimer. Onward.

—-The argument for more Gun Control and/or banning of guns

Often the plea is heard for more gun control. But it seems like no one is doing anything about it. All these people populating the streets with more and more instruments of death. Kids are dying in schools and on the streets. What for? So the gun industry can continue to make money hand and foot over the American Publics’ fear of everything? Because every home needs an assault rifle? Or is it a bunch of men so insecure in their masculinity that they need a big bad automatic rifle with the latest military hardware to compensate for their small manhood? Who knows. One thing is for sure, of you take guns off the streets, crime will go down and school shootings won’t happen. Guns are for the police and the military. An average citizen has no need for a gun. What if their child gets a hold of a gun carelessly left out and shoots themselves or a sibling or a parent? Who is to blame then? The politicians need to man up and write laws to prevent these things from happening at any cost. There are many other things a person can do to defend themselves such as call 911, run away from the attacker, fake a medical condition, or find a way to defuse the situation. And if you see someone walking around with a gun, you should call the cops.

—-The argument against more Gun Control or banning of guns

The United States was founded on rejecting oppression and tyranny, giving the people the power to rise up and defend themselves. We are guaranteed the right to protect ourselves with firearms. Illegal guns on the streets does not mean the government now has the right to take away the guns of law abiding citizens. This is a constitutional right guaranteed by the supreme court. More guns lawfully owned means less crime on the streets. So many people depend on hunting to feed their families as well. And the fantasy that AR-15 rifles are these fully automatic death machines is completely false. They are semi-automatic which means you pull the trigger once and one bullet comes out, not thirty. If you don’t like guns, don’t buy one! Instead of blaming the gun for these school shootings or mass murders, blame the person and blame the parents for not getting the shooter the mental health treatment they need.

Now that I’m done with those, here’s my opinion, and people on both sides will probably say I’m pissing in their cheerios for this:

I am a gun owner. I have had my LCF since 2006 (in my state that stands for License to Carry Firearms, renewable every 5 years with the County Sheriff). I also carry concealed every day. I have not shot a single person in my life and I do not plan on it. I teach my children firearm safety. I have taken some courses on firearm safety. I have a bolt action hunting rifle, I am building an AR 15, have a pump action shotgun and a semi-automatic pistol.

I do not support ‘open carry’ demonstrations as I feel it is sending the wrong message. In my state we absolutely have the right to open carry, especially since hunting is a big part of life here, but unless I am out hunting deer (whose meat we all eat) I have no reason to have my rifle strapped to my shoulder. I see no reason to ban ammunition magazines that are portrayed as ‘high capacity’. A 30 round magazine is standard on an AR-15 platform rifle chambered in .223/5.56.

Background checks are a must, and here in my state when you walk into any store, they perform a NICS check on you every time you purchase a gun. The only exception is private transfer of a ‘long gun’ which means rifles and shotguns. You cannot privately purchase a pistol without going through a FFL (federal firearms licensed dealer).

I think firearm safety should be taught to people of all ages, and it should be a mandatory requirement to obtain your carry permit. I see no problem with that.
The mental health treatments available in this country range from wonderful to appalling. More needs to be done, and it starts at home. If you’re ignoring mental illness in your home, you are absolutely making it worse. Denial is almost as bad as the illness itself. And please, stop comparing the United States to other countries. It is an apples to oranges comparison. Our population is many times that of other countries, as well as our geographical area, and our entire judicial system.

I see no issue with a firearms database if done correctly. Before you scream “They”re gonna take our guns away!” just listen to me. From a law enforcement perspective, it would be so much faster if you could trace a serial number in the event a crime is committed. Yes, felons often file off the serial numbers. But they should be traceable. If a federal database is not agreeable, then all the states need to be on the same page. Quite frankly, if a ‘gun grab’ were to happen, this country would have a full blown revolution on its hands.

I am tired of people who want to restrict or ban guns threatening gun owners. You are, in effect, preaching a very violent solution to a non-violent cause. Get over yourselves. I am proud of the way I’ve raised my family and I have shown great restraint in potentially violent situations. In fact, carrying my gun has shown I have more restraint, full well knowing my pistol is my absolute last resort, and I’d rather de-escalate a situation and be able to walk away peacefully. If you want to scream in my face simply because you do not agree with me is a foolish way to get your opinion across. I’m not shoving my beliefs down your throat until you catipulate.

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We as Americans really need to be united again. We are so politically divided. And not just on the issue of guns. I’ve written long enough for this post. Next up will be the education system, marriage, our national debt, and law enforcement. Stay Caffinated.

Today’s DIY adventures

Finally got around to replacing the toilet seat in the downstairs bathroom. Wait, isn’t that easy? You just unscrew the two plastic bolts holding the seat down, right? Not on this toilet. You see, it has those fancy metal hinges. I can thank the previous home owner for that. And fancy metal bolts. Whoever thought non-galvanized metal bolts for a toilet seat was a good idea should get flushed. See, the problem is if a piece of steel is not galvanized (a hot dip process that puts a zinc coating on metal, helping block against corrosion), then exposed to moisture over a long period of time, it rusts (stainless steel being the exception). Eventually, the rust will actually weld the nut and bolt together.

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This is what constant moisture does to nuts and bolts.

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Typical galvanized bolt

This makes it very difficult or impossible without the right tools to take apart. I had visions of trying to cut the bolt off with a cutting wheel all the while trying not to cut the toilet bowl itself. Trust me, WD-40 (penetrating oil) was not going to save me on this one.
First, I was able to break the cover and seat ring off (fortunately the pin that held the whole seat assembly together was plastic). Now I could get a grip on the upper metal post with a wrench. Next, to my delight, I discovered the nuts were actually plastic. The issue was the tabs that you normally use to hand tighten them were severely stripped. So I used a high speed rotary tool with a small bit on it to gently cut away at the plastic nut vertically. I figured once I broke that tension on the nut, I could coerce the nut off. Sure enough, it worked. Took a while, but it ended up working out. Fortunately, the new seat I had bought came with all plastic hardware, which is what should be used on a toilet seat regardless. I didn’t take actual pictures from this job. Though we keep a clean (yet kid induced cluttered) house, I don’t think anyone wants to see a toilet.

My next DIY project will be venting my hot water heater’s relief valve to the outside of the house. This is a must if your hot water heater does not have its relief valve draining anywhere but the floor. There will be pics. Stay caffeinated.