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Designer’s Guide Acknowledgment, death, earthquakes and tsunamis

Timothy Allinson, P.E., Murray Co., Long Beach, Calif. T

hose of you who read this column know that I sometimes write about pressing technical issues, and I sometimes write about whatever is on my

mind. Perhaps that is selfish, but I use this as my per- sonal sounding board. Some of you benefit from my industry discoveries, while others turn the page after realizing that there is no substance worthy of discovery. I don’t blame you: I do the same with the articles I read. But, when I am reading, I never know what will catch my attention, and it is usually the pieces that deviate from the norm that do so. This month’s piece starts with the subject of acknowl- edgment, solely because I received a phone call from a reader who left a message with his name and a statement that he enjoyed my articles. That was it. No return phone number, no sales pitch, no technical questions, just pure, simple, sincere acknowledgment. That is a rare event, and most of us undervalue the weight it carries. There is a phrase we all know, “No good deed goes unpunished.” There is a counterargument, however, less often spoken, that sometimes, good deeds are rewarded.

And how do we retain our motivation

to “protect the planet” when the planet displays its readiness to ruin us? Something tells me that the people

of Japan could care less about global warming right now, and I would agree with them. I have said many times that our carbon footprint pales in comparison with one big volcanic eruption, and that fact remains true.

Some years ago I worked on a hospital project in a joint venture with a friendly industry competitor. Our joint ven- ture partner had a young tenacious project manager (PM) who impressed me to no end with his professionalism. The project culminated in a sticky situation with some medical gas equipment that was not performing up to par. The client became very upset as we all struggled in this situa- tion. Our joint venture PM did a remarkable job, not only of correcting the problems but also of bringing everyone to the table such that the situation was resolved happily, rather than proceeding toward the litigation that seemed its fate.

Page 14/Plumbing Engineer After everything was resolved, I did something that is

far too often neglected. I sent an e-mail to the young PM’s bosses and copied my own bosses (since it was a joint venture), informing them about the remarkable job their PM did in resolving these issues and keeping both of our companies out of legal hot water. It’s a simple act. It does- n’t take much effort. But it is far too often neglected. As a result of that simple effort, I think, I am now for-

tunate enough to be working with this same PM on anoth- er joint venture project, and I couldn’t be happier. Work can be like marriage. We spend more time with our asso- ciates than we do with our spouses. Often we can’t change our relationships once they are established, but we need to do our best to perfect them during their course. When you have the benefit of being coupled with a great partner, it is a joy. On a separate note, back in June 2007, I wrote an arti-

cle about the difficult times I had with my father after my mother’s passing. Since then, Dad relocated here to So Cal and spent several happy years surrounded by his sons, daughters-in-law and grandchildren. Well, as the saying goes, there are only two certainties in life — death and taxes — and the former claimed my dad. Now I am deal- ing with the latter. None of us can choose how we die, but if I could, I

would choose my dad’s fate. As he approached his 90th birthday, his health was declining rapidly. He had conges- tive heart failure and chronic pneumonia, but his spirits remained strong. One morning he was flirting with his caregiver, telling her she should divorce her husband so that they could be together — LOL! Then he had a violent coughing fit that caused a stroke; within hours he didn’t recognize his caregiver. He lost his ability to speak; by evening he was non-responsive, except to certain highly significant stimuli and only then with the subtlest of responses. Dad hung in there for two more days, until my brother

was able to come and spend a few hours with him. We then spent time together as a family. This is hard to do with someone who is 99% non-responsive, but clearly it made a difference to him and was what he was waiting for. Eventually we ducked out to get some food, and Dad chose that moment to leave us. I hear that this is not uncommon; that passing on is something often chosen to be done in private. So, as nearly as I can tell, everything was completed entirely on Dad’s terms. Dad died three hours short of his 90th birthday, but,

since he was born in London, he reached his birthday based on the GMT, so, regardless of what his death cer- tificate says, as far as his family is concerned, he made it to 90. Being an actor, he never really worked a day in his life, because he did what he loved for a living. We should all be so lucky — and so sorely missed. Since I started writing this article, an 8.9 magnitude earthquake and ensuing tsunami has devastated Japan.

Continued on page 16 April 2011

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