What is Engineering?

Engineering is the application
of science and mathematics.
It’s the medicine you injest
to fight off a cold.
It’s the chemicals you spray
to kill off the mold.
It’s the engine that runs in your car
and the plane that flies you so far.
Engineering is all around,
in your life and forever bound
to you.
It’s the sidewalk on which you jog,
the boat on which you sail,
the room where you rest and slumber,
and the computer where you read your mail.
Engineering is where art and practicality collide.
It’s the stain-glass window you see in a church
that casts multicolored sun rays across the pews.
It’s the colored concrete that looks like red brick
that you walk on as you cross the street.
It’s the school cafeteria
designed to look like a chapel.
It’s the large swimming pool
that looks like Mickey Mouse
and includes two slides and fountain.
Engineering is the creative solution to life’s little problems.
It’s the volume button on the steering wheel
and the microwave that cooks your frozen meal.
It’s the e-reader that saves you space
and the map app that takes you any place.
Engineering is all around,
in your life and forever bound
to you and me and all across society.

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New Year Resolutions

It’s been a while since I’ve made New Year Resolutions, so I thought I would this year. I used to find the idea of these annual resolutions a little silly because I didn’t like the idea of waiting until the new year to set goals for yourself. I still don’t. However, a lot of my goals have taken a long break due to a nasty break up, general discouragement, and the holidays. So, I thought I would use the new year as an excuse to revamp my goals and get back on them. And maybe add a few new ones. Like, go a full year without smoking a cigarette.

Anyway, it seemed like a lot of people would put off making a goal until the New Year, and then they would only stick with it for a few months, give up, and say “maybe next year.” Which is the reason I have not done them in the past. If I wanted to set a goal, I just set it at the time. But there is some romance in the idea of making a new change with a new year. Similar to a new start to a new semester at college (those didn’t last either). It also makes for a good excuse when someone asks about a new habit of yours – everyone understands a New Year Resolution. So, in the spirit of the new year, I will make some resolutions of things I have been wanting to do or goals I had been working on, but have drifted away from. The rest of this post is more for me than you, but feel free to skim through if you need or want ideas for your own or are genuinely interested in my resolutions. Also, please comment and share your own resolutions, if you’ve made any.

1. Get a job in my field of interest.
This is a big one. I’ve had a Civil Engineering job doing general work (sidewalks, drainage, piers/boardwalks, boat launches, and dredging – so much dredging) and I didn’t like it. I learned a lot, but I have a passion for water and wastewater treatment and reclaimed water. So, that’s what I’m looking for. I currently have business cards (for me), a list of companies to look into, and some networking with some of the companies. I think my first step getting back into the job hunt is to organize what companies I have done what with – either applied for a job or the contacts I have gained from Networking with contact info and notes. The next step is to re-check job postings in companies I have already looked at to see if anything new has been added with the new year. Next will be to continue through the list of companies, making network connections and looking at job postings, keeping notes all the while.

2. Blog More (writing and reading blogs)
My brain is constantly running and I enjoy writing a lot, so blogging makes sense, however I just don’t make the effort to sit down and write it out. So, for the new year, my goal will be to post at least twice a week, and read a least two blog entries a day.

3. Go the whole year without smoking
With an allotted 10 slip-ups (because, reality).

4. Publish a Cook Book
I have an idea for a cook book a want to do, and I love cooking, so I want to make one this year. Nothing big – 20 to 30 recipes, but they will be themed. Step one is to see if there are any copyright or patent things with cook books and recipes, since so many books have very similar recipes. Step two is to actually write out the amounts and cooking steps for the ones I know I want to do, and try them out the way I’ve written them to make sure it works. Step three is to come up with new ideas to add and try them out as well. Step four is to look into publishing and all that it entails. Step five is to publish. I think I can do all that in a year. If I set monthly goals.

5. Set Monthly Workout Goals
And follow-through.
January’s goals will be to complete a 30-day plank challenge and be able to touch my toes without bending my knees.

6. Learn Spanish
No, I don’t expect to get fluent. My goal would be to do a Rosetta Stone lesson at least three times a week and find a Spanish learning buddy to learn and practice with.

7. Make and Stick with a Sleep Schedule
This includes a daily wake up time, a bed-time ritual, and a morning ritual.

8. Cut the Caffeine
Limit to one caffeinated beverage a day. I’m looking forward to this one the least.

9. Spend at least 10 min a day in the sun
Considering the fact that our society is built to avoid the outdoors as much as possible (A/C, heaters, indoor activities, vehicles to get us from one building to the other, etc.), some days I just don’t get outside enough. Obviously I’d love to get more than 10 min of sunshine a day, but some days I know that just won’t happen.

10. Keep in better touch with friends and family
I don’t have a lot of close friends, so a voice or video call once a month shouldn’t been too hard to incorporate. And that will be my goal. Parents and sister will be once a week (at least). Close friends and relatives once a month. Slightly less close relatives once every other month. And for every one else, there’s email.

This does seem like a lot at one time, especially because I have other goals such as working on sight reading (for music), make more time for hobbies (including reading/writing), read more educational articles, keep up with the news better, and general health goals, but I think with some planning and organization I can at least do the big 10 and then slowly incorporate the others.

What (if any) resolutions are you making for 2016? What do New Year Resolutions mean to you? Do you make resolutions every year?

The Evils of Pride and Judgment

There’s a reason Pride is one of the 7 deadly sins: it pins us against each other. It leads to judgment, disrespect, possibly hate, and even discrimination. And yet, pride is pushed in our society. “Be proud of who you are,” is a popular slogan, with alterations such as “be proud to be black,” “be proud to be educated,” and “be proud to be an American.” But being proud of who we are often means we look down on others for not being us. For example: If I’m something to be proud of, and you’re nothing like me, then you must not be something to be proud of, which means I judge and ridicule you for not being me. It sounds ridiculous when said that way, but it’s what happens. Even though that’s not what we are consciously thinking, that is the story we are really telling ourselves when we judge others based on their looks or actions. “I can’t believe he’s doing that. I would never do that.” “Why in the world does she think it’s okay to dress like that? I would never dress like that.” “I can’t believe how fat that person let himself get. I would never let myself get that fat.” “Ew, look at how buff her arms are. They’re huge. I would never let my arms get that big.”

We have a hard time understanding why someone would do something or look a certain way when it’s different from what we like or believe. It’s hard to understand why someone would want to go out to a noisy bar instead of curling up at home with a good book. It’s hard to understand why someone would stay at home and read a boring book when they could go out and have fun at a bar. It’s all about perspective. And pride. Since we’re proud of the way we do things, proud of the things we like, and proud of the way we look, we can’t fathom why someone would want to do, think, or look differently. We truly believe that if we don’t like doing something, we can judge others for enjoying it. We truly believe that if we don’t feel comfortable showing off our legs, we can judge others for showing off their legs.

Before I realized why I was doing it, it used to judge and look down on others a lot. Probably about the same amount as the average person, but it felt like all the time. Being fit and physically healthy is important to me, so I looked down on others who are obese. I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I let myself go like some people do (for now, ignoring the fact that some obese people really do have a serious medical condition). I was horrified at those that do let themselves get obese and wonder how they can even stand it. I thought of them as horrible people for letting themselves be that way. I looked down on them because I have PRIDE. In reality, we just have different values. Physical fitness and health isn’t a priority to them like it is to me. It’s a simple matter of lifestyle CHOICE and neither is better than the other. They are simply different.

Another example is that my sister enjoys going out to bars and clubs with her friends even though she doesn’t drink. The reason she doesn’t drink is because she has a drinking problem. She has been through rehab and attends AA meetings daily and is very involved in the AA community. However, she is a very social person and makes friends of all kinds. A lot of people might judge her for going to bars and clubs with her condition. Most people can’t fathom a bar or club being fun without alcohol and they wonder why she surrounds herself with that temptation. Well, from her perspective, alcohol is no longer tempting to her. Yes, sometimes she has bad days and it is tempting, but she doesn’t go to bars on those days; she spends extra time with her AA friends. From her perspective, she has a lot of fun at bars with her friends. Just because you or I don’t understand it, because we’re different people, doesn’t mean we have the right to judge her for it. It’s her life and she enjoys going out and being social. (I should also point out that she is in college, and most people go out to be social at bars and clubs at that age.)

If we are going to be unified (or just happy), we need to stop separating ourselves from one another by judging each other based on  differences. The easiest way to do this is to let go of pride. By letting go of pride, you can more easily accept that it’s okay to have different views and lifestyles than your own. If you’re fit, it’s a lot easier to not hate someone for being fat. If you like to stay at home and read, it’s a lot easier to not isolate yourself from friends or family who prefer to go to bars and clubs. If you like to dress modestly, it’s a lot easier to not judge those who like to dress to show off their skin. By just letting go of pride and accepting the fact that other lifestyles are no worse or better than your own – simply different – then we can let go of hate we didn’t even know we had. We can bond with others more easily and more deeply because we have removed this invisible barrier that we weren’t even aware we had put up.

I used to have a hatred for those very different from me. It used to hate and be disgusted by obese people, girls who wore a lot of makeup and showed off their legs, and anyone who was very promiscuous with many partners. I wouldn’t have even classified myself as a very judgey person (I think most people don’t). I didn’t have any idea why I felt this hate or disgust towards certain people. I finally realized it was because I was proud. I was proud to be [somewhat] thin/fit. I was proud that I didn’t wear makeup. I was proud that I didn’t wear super short shorts or have sex with people I’d just met. I shouldn’t be proud of any of those things. Being proud of those things was leading me to judge and hate others for not being those things.

In order to let go of that silly hate, thus leading me to be a happier person overall, I am letting go of pride. It’s a work in progress. The most important thing to letting go of pride is to not let go of your self-esteem or self-worth. I don’t think I’m any prettier or uglier than girls who wear a lot of make up. I don’t think I’m a better or worse person for watching my weight. I don’t think I’m any smarter or dumber than people who want to spend there night at a bar instead of reading at home. I don’t think I’m any greater or lesser than those with a different skin color or different sex than me. I’m not “proud” to be a woman. I’m not “proud” to be white. I’m not “proud” to be an American. Because as soon as I am proud to be one of these things, I am isolating people that are not one of these things. Don’t get me wrong, I like being a woman, I like being an American, and I like my Irish heritage, but I’m not proud of any of those things. I think that is an important difference to recognize.

What are your thoughts about pride? What aspect about yourself are you proud of? Thinking back, have you realized any time when your pride in that aspect may have isolated someone you’ve seen or been in contact with? Has it ever made it hard to be really close friends with someone or accept someone they way they are?

Solo Sunset on the Beach

I’m staying in a hotel on the beach for a week, and I just took a lovely stroll along the shoreline during sunset because it looked too beautiful not to. I was also alone, being recently single and not having friends in the area. For a brief moment I thought, “it would be nice to have someone to share this moment with.” Lots of people think that. Lots of people don’t go out and do things if they don’t have someone to go with (which, by the way, going out and doing this is how to meet someone to go out and do things with). I’ll be honest and tell you I almost didn’t go for that walk because I was alone – am alone – and I am so glad I ignored that notion and went anyway, because I often have great moments with myself. Sometimes we can be so wrapped up in ourselves that we miss moments with others. We know this. We understand this concept. What many people don’t realize, however, is that sometimes we can be so wrapped up in spending time with others, that we miss moments with ourselves. Moments with ourselves are fantastic and healthy. Specifically, quiet moments with ourselves where we let our minds wonder and/or just appreciate the beauty of a simple sunset. Yes, it would be nice to again have someone special to share life’s simple moments like those with, but the great thing about a sunset is it happens every day, meaning I will have plenty more beautiful moments to share with myself or someone else. Besides, sometimes sharing a moment with someone else can ruin the moment because they won’t be quiet and just enjoy what’s around them, which is exactly what you’re trying to do, but can’t in their talkative presence. So, if you’re alone, don’t let moments pass by just because you’re afraid of experiencing them without someone special. Experience them. Not only can they be a good way to center yourself, they can be a good way to meet others and make friends. I have found that people are a lot more likely to approach and talk to you if you are not already hanging out and talking with someone else.

In addition to a nice walk on the beach at sunset, I also enjoy knitting, going on nature walks, and working jigsaw puzzles with just myself.

What kind of moments to you enjoy spending with yourself? When was the last time you enjoyed something with just you? Did you enjoy it?

The Change

What I wouldn’t give to be with you before
you changed. To enjoy the holidays together before
you changed. To make love with the passion we had before
you changed. To go outside and play like before
you changed. To sit at a bar and read together like before
you changed. Oh the love I felt for you before
you changed. So much so I couldn’t contain it all before
you changed. How was the sun so warm and the colors so bright before
you changed? How now the clouds are darker unlike before
you changed? The holidays are cold and lonely unlike before
you changed. Doubt and darkness has replaced the love that existed before
you changed. And though we hate it, we go our separate ways because, after all,
I’ve changed.

Precious Moments

Having a younger sister sleeping on your shoulder is a lot like having a pet sleeping in your lap. You concentrate very hard on keeping still, even when it gets uncomfortable. Especially when it gets uncomfortable. You feel their every movement and when they start slipping, you adjust into even more uncomfortable positions to prevent them, or her head, from sliding off. All the while, you’re pouring into them all the love you can possibly muster. You’d let these moments last forever if you could because it’s one of the most precious moments you have with them.

“Only the educated are free.” – Epictetus

I live in the USA, which means that everyone is “free.” We can say whatever we want (as long as it’s not “FIRE” in a public place when there is no fire) or write whatever we want and not get in trouble. We have access to bathrooms and showers. Heck, if someone gets stoped in the middle of attempting a crime, they get off easier because “attempted murder” or “attempted rape” or “attempted robbery” isn’t nearly as bad as actually doing it (for some reason). But this isn’t the freedom that is being referenced in that quote.

Financial freedom and freedom of choice are two freedoms that most uneducated people don’t have. How many educated people are in debt? My parents taught me a bit about money, I learned how to do math in school, and I educated myself of finances by reading from experts such as Dave Ramsey. Because of this, I will always have financial freedom. I will never be in debt because I am educated about money and numbers. Lots of people in debt who educate themselves about finances get out of debt and stay financially free.

Freedom of choice, such as who to vote for, is also a freedom the uneducated lack. Why? Because they vote based on party and/or personality, on how charismatic the candidate is, on how good at trashing the competition the candidate is, and on how good at scaring the voters the candidate is. The educated often see right through the trash-talking, the charisma, and the scare tactics and vote on the candidate who shares the same values as the voter does (if they vote at all). I’m against big money in politics, for limiting fossil fuels, and want a president that actually cares about the citizens of this country and not himself, so I’m going to vote for Bernie Sanders (assuming he ends up being an option for president). I am not registered to vote under democrat or republican because the two party system has helped in taking away from the freedom of choice in voting. The uneducated vote based on party, not based on the individual candidate, and it’s mostly the uneducated that vote, mainly because the educated can’t decide between a douchebag and a turd sandwich. To be honest, this year will be the first year I will vote because this is the first year in a while that I think there’s a legitimate candidate, and I’m hopeful that he’ll get the job.

In fact, voting your way on anything is a freedom only the educated have. If you’re not educate on the subject/issue you’re voting for, but you still vote, then you’re not really voting for your choice, you’re voting for whoever’s choice that was able to manipulate you into voting that way.

Choosing to buy a new or used car, choosing to buy something or rent-to-own, choosing whether it’s okay to put fluoride in drinking water, choosing to drive a fuel-efficient car, choosing to adopt instead of having a baby, or making any kind of informed decision on something isn’t a freedom the uneducated have. If you don’t know that buying a new car is a bad investment because of how much the car devalues the minute you drive it off the lot, then you can’t make an informed decision and you’re at the mercy of the manipulation of the salesperson. If you don’t know the dangers of drinking fluoride over time, or even know that the government puts fluoride in most drinking water, then you don’t know to fight it or to say no. If you don’t know the reality of climate change and how driving a more fuel efficient car can really make a difference, then you can’t make an informed decision on whether to invest in one. Most people don’t even consider adoption as an option when deciding to have kids because they’re uneducated on adoption.

My point is, the freedom to really choose, and the freedom to be out of debt, are those that the educated have. That’s why education is so important. Even if you don’t directly use those complex math problems you learned how to do in high school, you do use the problem-solving skills that you developed doing those problems.

What is your interpretation of that quote? Do you agree with it or disagree with it? Why? Please share any thoughts/opinions you have on the subject.

Beach Vacation and the Sea Turtle March

I’m on the last day of a week long family vacation on the gulf coast that includes my parents, sister, two of my cousins and one of my aunts. It’s been such a great week! The house we rented is right on the beach and it’s far from the condos and souvenir shops and all that, and the owners had stocked it with games and puzzles and movies as well as boogie boards, castle building stuff, and lounge chairs for the beach. We did a puzzle one night and some of us played Settlers of Catan another night. I got to celebrate my birthday with my family, even though my birthday had been a week earlier. Every morning my mother and I went walking at 6 in the morning and got to see the sunrise. Most morning my aunt joined us (actually she’s usually the one that instigates it, but she didn’t walk 2 of the days) and one of my cousins joined us one morning. It was great since I usually get up at 5am this time, so I was only sleeping in an hour and not throwing off my sleep schedule too much. The beach itself has been wonderful and we usually go for a morning and an afternoon swim. Sadly, though, there hasn’t been much surf, so we didn’t get to boogie board, but the water has been very clear, so we can see any jellyfish before they sting us (we just saw a few sea nettles). One morning we went zip-lining and that was super fun as well as a great work out (lots of stairs). The water today is very calm and clear and we saw a LOT of comb jellies, which look similar to jellyfish, but don’t have any stingers. My cousins and I kept throwing them at each other and it was fun. We also saw a huge moon jelly (I don’t know the average size of these, but this was probably a foot or so in diameter) and a lot of needle fish and other fish swimming around the seaweed. We saw one small stingray and three of  some other type of ray that we have yet to identify. It was all pretty cool.

Probably the coolest part (aside from just being with family in general), was watching some sea turtle conservation volunteers rescue some baby sea turtles. Apparently, when sea turtles hatch, they all stack on top of each other and flap their fins to move up like an elevator as the ones on bottom push up, which means that often the ones on bottom get stuck. Since the sea turtle population is declining due to sea turtles eating plastic that looks like jellyfish (their main food), these volunteers want to get each baby to the water. So, even though 130 eggs were laid and only 10 babies didn’t make it, this group dug up the 10 babies and got them out to sea. They came a few days after the eggs hatched, so to not interfere with the majority of them getting to sea, and dug up the nest (they’ve had the nest blocked off and been monitoring it since they first saw the mama turtle’s tracks in the sand). They carefully pulled out the babies and put them in a bucket and carefully pulled out all the egg shells, and a few whole eggs that didn’t get fertilized, and laid them out in a grid for counting and then I think they took the whole eggs. The babies were placed in a trench that some of the volunteers had dug so they could crawl to the ocean themselves. It was probably the coolest thing I have ever seen on one of our beach vacations (which are annual).

What is one of the coolest things you’ve seen or experienced while on a vacation? I’d love to read any vacation stories you want to share! Any opinions on sea turtle conservation?

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Not Everything is Flushable

This may seem like a boring topic, but if you care about people’s safety and don’t want any sewer lines in your town to bust, causing a stink and potentially infecting drinking water sources, you’ll read on.

There are two things that are meant to be flushed down the toilet: poop and toilet paper. When you wipe the makeup off your face and flush that wipe down the toilet it doesn’t get broken apart by the rush of the water like toilet paper does. It stays whole and has the potential to clog the pumps that cause the water to flow to the treatment plant. When these clogs happen, an operator has to go in by hand to unclog it. Not only is that totally gross, it’s also very dangerous work. If the pump gets clogged too much for too long, the water can back up too much, causing a sewer line to bust.

These sewer lines are old and the city likely doesn’t have the money to replace them all. They also don’t have the money to try and educate every person about the dangers of flushing wipes, condoms, tiny bottles, and other things down the toilet.

Facial wipes and baby wipes are probably two of the biggest clogging culprits. These things belong in a landfill, not in the sewer system. Same goes for those tiny bottles of shampoo and conditioner you find in hotel rooms. I was once investigating a sewer overflow problem in town and we took a look in a pump station near a hotel. It was filled with tiny, multicolored bottles. This was causing the pump to not be able to run at full capacity and caused some sewer overflow on the streets. Gross right? This can easily happen anywhere. Someone had to carefully go in there and remove the bottles.

One solution that some cities are starting to do is install grinders at the pumping station in order to grind up the wipes, condoms, bottles, and other debris that people flush down the toilet so they don’t clog the pipes or the pumps. It helps, but the most ideal solution would be for people to stop flushing those things down the toilet altogether.

These things, although often screened out, can also affect the quality of the treatment process. Wastewater treatment plants have an initial screen to capture large solids, however the water is flowing in over that screen at a fast rate and often things like hair and mop strings (yes, some people flush mop strings down the toilet, please don’t be one of them) pass through and cause probables in the treatment plant. Problems that a person has to go and fix by hand, which is dangerous.

In conclusion, please do not flush anything other than poop and toilet paper down the toilet. It can cause sewage back up and it’s dangerous to remove.

Do you ever flush facial wipes down the toilet, not realizing their potential harm? Have you ever been educated previously on this sort of thing?