Sporadic Blogging

Hey all, things will be patchy here for a few days while I’m traveling.  While you’re here, check out the recent most popular posts or search through the archives.

I’ll be posting and uploading photos to Zooomr as time and energy permits.


Thanks for reading,


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Oil Sands and The Environment

Most people I talk to in Australia have no idea about the Oil Sand reserves in Alberta. In fact, even when I moved to Calgary six years ago, I had not heard of anything but conventional oil industries in Alberta. 

But it is big, really big.

While in Calgary I worked on a couple of environmental, geotechnical and materials projects for Syncrude, one of the big corporations running Oil Sand production out of Fort McMurray. I recently spoke with an engineering firm in Western Canada who is working in the Oil Sands and one of the anecdotes of Fort McMurray that was relayed to me is that the speed of growth is coming as a shock to the planners and local government as well; the recently upgraded sewerage treatment plant was already undersized on the day it opened.  Most upgrades to sewerage infrastructure are calculated with a lifespan of 10 – 20 years, not “only just, but maybe not quite” big enough.

This is the story of the world’s fastest growing industrial area, from an environmental perspective, read on after the jump…

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Roads increase the Risk of HIV

Tanzanian natives - Engineering ConstructionWe all have a lingering feeling that all the development around us actually detracts from our lifestyles and health, and that somehow, if we could all just get back to a simpler life that we might just be healthier. 

I think that is a gross oversimplification of the effects of technology on Western society, but in Africa, some of the things we take for granted are set to destroy nations, similar to the Colonialisation of North America and Australia.

Although the construction of roads in rural areas of Tanzania has boosted economic opportunity, it also could increase HIV transmission, according to a report by the Tanzania Civil Engineering Contractors Association and the African Medical and Research Foundation, IRIN/PlusNews reports.

Source: Road Construction In Tanzania Could Increase HIV Transmission, Study Says

The study bases it’s claim on a couple of issues, first and most obviously linkage of rural areas to cities:

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First Round of Blog Changes

So, here are the first round of blog changes, a new theme, (that’s not quite completed yet), but it provides much clearer reading, navigation and layout of content.

Also, I’ve enabled cocomment, a service which allows you to keep track of conversations you are participating around the internet. You can find the interface for this below the comment box.  This is a brand new feature on Drupal sites with coding hot off the Drupal community presses. If you have trouble leave me a comment or email via our contact form.

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A Tale of Two Presentations

Bad Powerpoint presentations annoy me. Do you get mildly annoyed when you sit though a presentation that could have been a handout?  Do you feel like getting violent when people read off the screen?

Check out this photo from this photo from Presentation Zen of one of those moment in progress.


Lawrence Hargrave Drive PresentationIf anything in this picture looks good, (except for the Mac if you are that way inclined), check out any of the posts at PZ for tips, you need them.

I don’t get to present as much as I’d like, but I sit though lots of patched together presentations.  This morning was an exception, the Newcastle Civil/Structural branch of the Institute of Engineers hosted a breakfast presentation by Peter Stewart who was Senior Project Engineer for the design and construction Alliance Poject of the Lawrence Hargrave Drive reconstruction south of Sydney. There were parts of his presentation that were not the greatest stylewise, but generally the content was clear, the images were useful and the text was kept to a minimum. His manner and content were engaging and pitched well to a predominately technical audience.  I’m sure this was a well practised talk on Innovation in Engineering with some case studies from his career, but it was refreshing to see an Engineer present with style!

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Baffled by Degrees Minutes Seconds?

We’re not all technical people are we?  Sometimes we have to explain things to people who just don’t get it as quickly.  There are three main ways to describe a slope in land and urban development, angle, (degrees), slope (percent) and slope, (1 in ….)

Civil Engineers commonly describe slope in terms of percent grade, which is effectively Rise/Run.  This is pretty easy to understand from a couple of examples.  A slope of 100% or 1:1 is the same as 45 degrees.
Degrees are useful when referring to a bend, say in a pipe, common prefabricated bends come in shapes such as 45, 22.5 and 11.25 degrees.  When attempting to define pipe deflection to match these bends in civil design software, it is useful to know this equation. Sometimes it’s just easier to explain to a client in terms of degrees, its useful to have an idea anyway. Check out the image for a quick reference equation shown on my HipsterPDA.

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Newcastle Art Gallery Revitalisation

Newcastle City is facing an identity crisis. Parts of town are great; cafés, live music, bars, restaurants, the harbour, the beaches.  Other parts are drab and even derelict.  Somewhere in between are two buildings that we regularly frequent, the Newcastle Library and the Art Gallery.  These two public buildings stand side by side at the slow end of Newcastle’s busy café culture on Darby Street, off on a beautiful tree lined side road.  A public park is across the road and the Baptist Tabernacle stands next door. Needless to say, indirect pedestrian traffic is rare, these two buildings are tucked away, a hidden treasure for parents of Newcastle children.

However, this weekend, the Newcastle Herald published an article about the proposed $35 million dollar redevelopment of the Art Gallery Site, aiming to rejuvenate the civic precinct.  The gallery houses an impressive collection of artwork, much of it not visible to the public, stored in earthquake, weather and temperature resistant vaults.  The proposed construction would use the existing gallery as a framework around which a new building would be created, housing reference rooms, restaurants, educational facilities, and most impressively, retail space fronting the ever popular Darby Street face.

All well and good, but what about the rest of Newcastle, will it suffer to pay for this extravagance?

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