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Feedback-from You

August 1, 2006 By: Stephanie vL Henkel, Sensors


E-mail Stephanie vL Henkel

No blog reader has called me a bad name so far, but two of you have written taking exception to a couple of my entries. This is good! Rural New Hampshire life can have an isolating effect. This state is a bit like Brigadoon, except that it surfaces every four years (think presidential primaries) rather than once a century. So today I'd like to bring you one reader's remarks and tomorrow another's, with my observations on what they have in common.

Sensors and the Big Dig

On July 19, I argued that the Sensor Net could have kept a passenger traveling through one of Boston's Big Dig tunnels from being killed by collapsing ceiling panels. How? By alerting those in charge of monitoring the structure that disaster was on its way. Not necessarily so, says a correspondent out in the beautiful Canadian province of British Columbia. He wrote as follows:

In a project where below-grade concrete gets used (apparently with some parties knowing full well the stuff was fit only for bedding backyard fence posts) and the roof panel anchors are not fitted as per spec, a sensor net would be full of out-of-spec sensors, badly wired, and generating spurious data. The sensor net would end up being part of the problem, not a solution to the problem.

If the suppliers are not trustworthy, then on-site testing and supervision have to be rigorous to the extent of being intrusive, pushy, and all-encompassing. This is not new. The Roman engineer Vitruvius was probably inspecting all the materials going into the aqueducts he built 2000 years ago.

—Russell Barton, PolyFuel Ltd.

Back to Me

The Big Dig saga barrels on and on. Count on occasional updates when they are pertinent. One hot item is that Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney has laid down the heavy arm and put himself in complete charge of the BD and its fallout. Those deposed by his actions did not go willingly. But whatever your political affiliation, you'll have to agree that Romney has thus far remained uncompromised. Could be that as a Latter-day Saint (Mormon) in an extremely Roman Catholic state he's under especially close scrutiny. Could be too that he is really frosted by the failure of a $14.6 billion project he inherited. And simply fed up with business as usual. If the current mess can be cleaned up, the smart money says Romney can do it.

I well understand Mr. Barton' dark anticipation of a repeat of substandard materials and equipment's being introduced to the shambles of the Dig. Technology alone can't solve the project's myriad problems, nor should it be expected to. Still, assuming the sleazoids are identified and sent packing, this testament to engineering know-how could rise again and be seen as the marvel it is.

Oh, and another charming tidbit is sure to delight: When the epoxy was discovered not to be holding up the ceiling bolts from which the ceiling panels were suspended, some on-the-job geniuses added duct tape patches to keep those pesky bolts in place. Ye gods!

Bonus Read

The brevity of today's blog leaves space for another reader comment that's too amusing not to share. He wrote in response to the Tale of the Missing Kalashnikovs. I have not received his permission to include his name, but here's the text:

Your article is painfully humorous. Yes, where does all that stuff go? While the government prides itself in locating $600.00 toilet seats it cannot locate billions in equipment. This brings to mind a rare TV interview with one of the wealthiest oil sheiks in Saudi Arabia. He was asked about where the billions of dollars that we send to him each year goes. His response very roughly accounted for all but 1 or 2 billion. He brushed off this discrepancy saying this is only but a small percentage of the whole and, don't you (U.S.) have accounting losses of a few percent a year also? Could you or I get away with this at IRS time?

And I Say

Short answer: I sure doubt it. My husband and I were audited by the IRS some years ago. We'd misunderstood part of the filing instructions. After two days of grilling, it was decided that we owed $12.14 to our caring federal government. I hope our check helped out.

Gentle Readers! You can now send us your comments for direct posting. Keep scrolling down this page and you will find a handy form that will not fail you. Please send word!


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