New You

Dear J-

It’s warm this morning, almost balmy. We have plenty of capacity for bikes, too, riding in a Nippon Sharyo gallery car, and the typical light morning traffic on the first southbound train of the day; the longer you spend running the same routines the more you realize how traffic shapes our lives: should we do this … at that time? What if we … instead? I doubt if anyone seriously enjoys the kind of highs and joys of public commuting but it’s all about attitude. When else do you get to ride a train? A bus? When you realize it’s more about choice than cost, well, what would you do instead of it? There’s a certain luxury in using your own vehicle, just like having a large yard means certain responsibilities and requirements.

While doing research for various Wikipedia articles over the past couple of weeks I learned that (1) the San Mateo-Hayward Bridge is the world’s first large-scale application of an orthotropic deck (2) the old bridge still exists, at least partially (3) what a motor court is (4) as much about Chen Wen-chen as was possible (still can’t believe there wasn’t an article before this!) (4) the original design concepts for the 1967 SM-H Bridge included retaining the original span and then a high-level truss, much like the old eastern span of the Bay Bridge (5) the Marine Boss was built expressly for Bridge construction, but was reborn as an awesome pick-up-everything crane, including a Space Shuttle (!), a Concorde and an A320 (US Airways 1549 — that was an A320, right? Another fact! To check!).

As an engineer you’re expected to ask why and how, maybe, there might be some way to make it better. I like to add and examine social history to understand there’s not always an easy solution, or that seemingly simple solutions have long ripples; we’re in a situation where it’s not always so easy to single-handedly decide that something must be done and then have something done about it, and it’s fascinating, for example, to examine the history of the Lungmen Nuclear Power Plant in Taiwan — if it’s completed, it would be the fourth built, but construction has taken better than ten years in the face of overwhelming opposition, whereas the first three all took five years or less under an authoritarian regime. The engineer must be tempered with the politician for actions to happen.



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