Thursday, July 31, 2008

Building a small bridge - 1

It's the time of year when sensible people are in their yards, on the golf course, camping in the mountains, enjoying the myriad festivals that cavort through the city every summer. Sensible people apparently don't know diddly about how we make the province run.

As everyone in the north knows, deep down in the best insulated bone of their bodies, there are 4 seasons. Now, before you assume that they are the mundane spring, summer, fall and winter... think again - we call this the "frozen north" with good reason! Yes, here we have before winter, winter, after winter, and construction season. So here I am, staying in another hotel (ok, same hotel that I was in when I wrote the first segments on bridge construction, but who's counting?) writing about my job.

The subject of this destruction project is a quaint little bridge in the middle of a small Alberta town. The bridge is 8.5 m (28 ') long carrying a rather busy provincial highway across a rather small creek. The photos in today's blog were taken in April, when it hadn't warmed enough to either melt all of the ice, nor green the grass.

Here we have the old abutment. Timber piles steel caps holding precast concrete girders. Pretty standard fare on most small bridges built in Alberta from the early 1950s to the early 1980s. A whole whack of these bridges are coming to the end of their lifespan, so the job of inspectors like me is pretty safe for the foreseeable future. Lots of work in the repair / rehabilitation / replacement of these old bridges.

Not the best photo in the world, but it shows nicely what we have to deal with. A two-lane (one-way) highway running through town. As you can see, the RCMP detachment is just around the corner. The other fact of note here is the vast expanse of lush green grass to the south of the road. Ok, so you're going to have to use your bountiful imagination on that one, but trust me, it's green right now.

This greenery is the pride and joy of this little town of about 7,000 residents - the park. Life would have been sooooooooo much easier if the town didn't get their way. Had we been able to detour traffic through the park, this would be a two month job. But no, they didn't want to deface their park, so you the viewer get to watch as a bridge gets built using staged construction.

Staged construction. Let's build a bridge in two parts. First we'll build half of it, then put traffic on the new bridge and build the other half. Yeah, it's like building two bridges for the price of one.

The new structure is going to be 10 m (32.8') long and 19.5 m (64') wide. Two lanes of traffic, shoulders on each side, and a 2.2 m sidewalk beside that. The abutment will consist of cast-in-place concrete bearing on steel piles. The span consists of prestressed concrete girders bearing on the concrete abutment walls, with a cast-in-place composite concrete deck topped with 80 mm (3 1/4") of asphaltic concrete pavement.

Bear with me and I'll show you the process of this little bridge getting put together.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Vive Le Livre

Thanks to Mrs. Spit I have a bandwagon to jump on.

Not sure where she got the list of 100 books, but hey, there you go. :)

Here's how it works:

1) Look at the list and bold those you have read.

2) Italicize those you intend to read. (Or just put comments next to them)

3) Underline (or mark in a different color) the books you LOVE - mine are in Blue.

4) Reprint this list in your blog so we can try and track down these people who’ve read 6 and force books upon them ;-)

1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen

2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien

3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte

4 Harry Potter series - JK Rowling

5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee

6 The Bible

7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte

8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell

9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman

10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens - I think I read it, my university lit courses don't lend to long memories of books

11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott

12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy

13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller

14 Complete Works of Shakespeare

15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier

16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien

17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks

18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger

19 The Time Traveller’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger

20 Middlemarch - George Eliot

21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell

22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald

23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens

24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy - just because

25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams

26 Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh - On my list.

27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky

28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck

29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll

30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame

31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy

32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens

33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis

34 Emma - Jane Austen

35 Persuasion - Jane Austen

36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis

37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini

38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres

39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden

40 Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne

41 Animal Farm - George Orwell

42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown

43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez

44 A Prayer for Owen Meany - John Irving

45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins

46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery

47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy

48 The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood

49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding

50 Atonement - Ian McEwan

51 Life of Pi - Yann Martel

52 Dune - Frank Herbert

53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons

54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen

55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth

56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon

57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens - another lit class bit of fogginess

58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley - more lit class, first year... lots of doom and gloom in that course

59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon

60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez

61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck

62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov

63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt

64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold

65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas

66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac

67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy

68 Bridget Jones’s Diary - Helen Fielding - do I get a bye if I saw the movie with Mrs. Spit?

69 Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie

70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville

71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens

72 Dracula - Bram Stoker

73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett

74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson

75 Ulysses - James Joyce

76 The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath

77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome

78 Germinal - Emile Zola

79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray

80 Possession - AS Byatt

81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens

82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell

83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker

84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro

85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert

86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry

87 Charlotte’s Web - EB White

88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom

89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle - read lots, have an omnibus that goes everywhere with me in case I run out of other things to read

90 The Faraway Tree Collection

91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad

92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery

93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks

94 Watership Down - Richard Adams

95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole

96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute

97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas

98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare

99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl

100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Cheating on a hot day

So, I'm hot, frustrated, tired - and all because of work. Great eh?

So in lieu of something witty and original, I bring you a quote:

"Books in a genre may well remind you of other books in that genre. This is allowed. If it wasn't, H G Wells would have been the only person permitted to write about time machines. Being a fantasy writer is like being allowed to sit around a big bubbling pot, a stew made up of everything that's gone before. You're allowed to take a certain amount of stuff out, and you don't object if it turns out that you're putting stuff in, too. And so the stew bubbles on. There are only two crimes: one is to claim that the pot is yours, and that the other is to claim that there is no pot."
- Terry Pratchett, author of the Discworld novels

And with that, I remind myself that tomorrow is another day and that this, too, shall pass.

n.b. - must have been tired... originally got the novel series wrong (thanks hon)

Monday, July 21, 2008

Monday's Quote

"I believe we are on an irreversible trend toward
more freedom and democracy - but that could change."

- J. Danforth Quayle, former U.S. Vice-President, May 22, 1989

Sunday, July 20, 2008

It's a dog's life...

Sometimes I wonder if this is what my dogs would say if they could talk:


Alas, I think my mastiff has a cuddle-pal in the cat, so maybe not.

Building a bridge - Redux

Well, as I handed over the reins on that other bridge to another member of my team so that I could start a whole different bridge, I think it's time to get back into the swing of things and continue the narrative.

So, to keep my dear readers who enjoy such things amused, I'll be once again bringing you along on the journey as I build a bridge. The bridge in question in much smaller than the previous project I was involved in. Whereas that bridge was 98 m long by 9.5 m wide in two spans, this one tips the scales at 10 m long by 19.5 m wide.

Yes indeed, it is twice as wide as it is long. That's what happens when you have a small creek crossing a highway in the middle of a small town. The bridge not only has two lanes, but there is a wide shoulder beside each lane, and beside each shoulder there is a cast-in-place concrete sidewalk.

To doubly complicate things, not only are we building a new bridge in an urban environment, but we can't detour the highway through the park. Oh yes, the park. Not only are we in a town, but the town has a cute little park all around the creek. Heaven forbid we build a roadway through the park so we could finish the whole job in two months. Nope, instead we get to build one bridge, one half of the bridge that is from bottom to top. Then we put traffic on that side, and do everything all over again on the other half of the bridge. This is known in the business as "staged construction" and it's fun. So is getting a root canal. Personally, I'd rather be renewing my relationship with my dentist than doing this bridge with this contractor. My dentist is a really nice guy - unlike... well, you get the point.

So, watch this space. If you're confused by some of the terms, I suggest working through my previous posts on bridge building. Unlike the previous set of posts - this series should go from start to completion.

If everything goes well, we'll be done by Halloween this year. However, the schedule that they gave me shows us finishing mid-November. Yippie... I love doing concrete in winter... Now's probably a bad time to point out that the "contract completion date" is October 31.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Things that suck

Sucks beyond belief: Losing my son

Sucks a bit: Stubbing my toe on the doorway

Sucks somewhere in between: being someone that I'm not

Let me put it this way. I'm really a nice guy. I don't enjoy conflict with other people. I work to come to agreeable compromises so that everyone comes out of the problem without feeling like they've gotten the short stick. But most of all, it's not in my nature to be a complete ass to people.

Indeed, even those people who hurt me a great deal with how they dealt with (or didn't depending on your perspective) the death of my son Gabriel didn't get an a__hole response from me. I didn't do it, though I might have wanted to do so at some level.

And then there is my job. And in a position where you would think that being diplomatic and being able to compromise would be an asset, I can't do that. I have to tell the contractor that no, you can't do that because it says so in the contract. Or - you can't do that until you do this - because it's in the contract. Or - why didn't you do this yet - you have to by the contract.

I have had that a couple of times today. My foreman on this bridge construction job is a nice guy. Personable and everything. I get along with him well on a personal level. However, when I started pointing out things that he hasn't done yet - he gets all pissy with me. Swearing at me, and at my superiors who are forcing me to be a bit of a jerk with him. I have to say - yes, I completely understand your point of view, but... and hence I am acting in a way that is totally out of character for me. I have to be a jerk and administer the contract the way it's written.

And the backlash really sucks. Being forced into a corner that I don't enjoy also sucks. Yeah, I want to have a different job after days like this.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

The never ending reno...

I have an awesome wife. She is supportive, loving, and lately... loooong suffering. Emphasis on the long (several months) and suffering (hasn't had a dining room or living room for months).

We got rid of our perfectly functional, but no functional enough Ikea Billy shelves several months ago. What was supposed to be a quick project... errm... quick and EASY is what the magazine seemed to promise actually... turned out to be not quick, and not nearly as easy. Of course, part of that stems from the fact that doing renos in this olde house is never easy. There's not a straight wall in the place, and nothing seems to work out as originally envisioned.

So now that I've gotten back into the flow of things and am getting some good headway, a fly has landed in the ointment. Work. Yes, that necessary evil has stuck its head into the house and shaken like a mastiff flinging drool - messing up the works.

So, I get a mandatory break of a couple of days while I go tend to some work concerns. Oh joy. No... really... I love driving to go look at a culvert hours away!

Thank goodness for Sirius radio. It has saved my sanity more times that I care to count. In the past few years since I bought the unit, I've had it many places where the only radio reception is old... really olde country music that is piped out onto the ether for the creaky farmer set. You know... older than the dirt that they're tilling? I've also been places where the only phone service is a satellite phone. All along I've been listening to news, music, comedy with nary a care in the world for such petty things as reception.

So, while my dear love has to put up with the terrorist canines, I'm going to be watching blacktop disappear in the rear-view mirror. When I'm not walking through Lord only knows what kind of culverts that they want me to go look at.

Yeah... I'd rather be putting paid to this reno project than taking time for my job. But, reality bites.

Monday, July 7, 2008


Sometimes I like surprises... such as "Surprise! I brought you a chocolate bar!"

Sometimes I don't like them "Surprise - you're going away for the week!"

Yeah, lucky me - my job sometimes pops up surprises that are more the second type than the first. At least where I'm going, I can stay with friends for part of it. It beats being stuck in a strange hotel somewhere. But it's still not home.

Thank goodness for my Kindle. Now I can read with the best of them! :)

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

A happy day, with tears

Mrs. Spit and I attended a wedding last night. As weddings go, it was... well... different. But it was a wedding befitting the bride, who is not exactly conventional.

I was happy for them both, to have found love later in their lives.

And then they played one of my favorite Christian songs, and I cried. Guys really shouldn't cry at weddings, but there I sat, holding Mrs. Spit's hand, tears falling down my cheeks.

The song is "I can only imagine" by MercyMe. It was written in grief about the death of the songwriter's father. It's about what he can only imagine seeing when he gets to heaven and experiences the love and glory of Christ in person.

As I sit here crying, just thinking about it, I think of my son Gabriel, and how - however much I miss him - he is with Christ now. I can only imagine what that must be like. I live for the day that I will join him, but for now, I just mourn his loss and selfishly wish that I had him here with me instead.