Wednesday, June 19, 2013

More Blue on Blue Violence as Detroit Circles the Drain




Government unions and their long term lovers, cities, counties and municipalities run by Democrats, with whom the government unions have been in bed for decades, suddenly discovered they've all got herpes.  And now the bondholders in Detroit are infected!

There's now a big fight between the government unions and the bondholders - who pay for all the big government programs - over who brought the herpes home and who has to pay for the treatment.  Of course, no matter who wins they all lose.  Which is probably good for America in the long run but in the short term it will be painful as we transition from the failed blue social model to a model that works in a knowledge economy.

Professor Mead, who has been tracking the inevitable implosion of the blue social model - at work in California, New York and Illionois and brought to us on a national scale by President Obama - explains the importance of the blue civil war as follows:

If the unions win, it could lead to an implosion in the municipal bond market across the country as lenders realize that money lent to struggling cities may never be paid back. As Walsh notes, this outcome would upend standards that “such bonds are among the safest investments and that for ‘general obligation’ bonds cities could even be compelled to raise taxes, if that’s what it took to make good.” This would be disastrous for other cities, which would find it much harder to borrow money, and would likely need to pay exorbitant interest rates to do so. 
If the unions lose, however, it would deal a major blow to support from their own members. Detroit’s pensioners would begin to wonder why they pay dues to a union that can’t guarantee the pensions or benefits they were promised. A similar dynamic all but destroyed unions in the private sector as striking union members saw their jobs shipped away to China.
Welcome home chickens.  Don't crap in the grain bins!


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Good bye to Texas University... So long to the orange and the white!




The post title must be sung to the tune of Texas A&M's fight song, "The Aggie War Hymn"  which revolves around the Aggie's never ending obsession with their big brother, the University of Texas in Austin.  As a grad of Texas Tech University, the red-haired step child of Texas universities, I always found the Aggie fixation on all things Longhorn wonderfully weird.  

The song leaped into my head as I read the article excerpted and linked below which says good bye to many universities throughout the United States.  The evolution of MOOCs and online adult learning programs regularly rear their heads on this blog.  Collaborative Construction delivers consulting services through a combination of online webinars, recorded webinars and live workshops, and we are keenly interested in how the online education revolution will unfold.

Leaders in industry and higher education need to pay attention to the impact of the web on learning methods.  The article below nails a number of issues and is, I think, spot on with its prediction that many universities in the United States will fail in the coming years.  Is your alma mater ready to compete in the brave new knowledge economy?

The author of the article boldly predicts the failure of half the universities in the United States and then says.

 How do I know this will happen? Because recent history shows us that the internet is a great destroyer of any traditional business that relies on the sale of information. The internet destroyed the livelihoods of traditional stock brokers and bonds salesmen by throwing open to everyone access to the proprietary information they used to sell. The same technology enabled bankers and financiers to develop new products and methods, but, as it turned out, the experience necessary to manage it all did not keep up. Prior to the Wall Street meltdown, it seemed absurd to think that storied financial institutions like Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers could disappear seemingly overnight. Until it happened, almost no one believed such a thing was possible. Well, get ready to see the same thing happen to a university near you, and not for entirely dissimilar reasons.   


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Senator Elbert Guillory Leaves the Government Plantation




State Senator, Elbert Guillory switched parties.  He was a Democrat and he switched his affiliation to the Republican party.  I hope his inspirational speech serves to strengthen the spines of the many Republicans I know who cower in fear of liberals playing the race card or a similar political;y correct card on them.

Government is too big and it tries to do too much.  And as a result much of what it does it does poorly.  The controlling and ever expanding tentacles of government are a feature, not a bug in the system.  Senator Guillory bluntly summarizes his relationship with the government and the Democratic party when he says he's "Leaving the government plantation."  Wow.



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Carbon Nanotubes as Solar Panels?




Researchers at UW-Madison developed a proof of concept solar panel that utilizes carbon nanotubes to collect energy from sunlight and convert it into electricity.  Advances in materials science impact the built industry in a big way.  Keep an eye on these developments.

The proof-of-concept carbon nanotube solar cell can convert nearly 75 percent of the light it absorbs into electricity, says Michael Arnold, an assistant professor of  at UW-Madison and a pioneer in developing carbon nanotube-based materials for solar energy applications. "We've made a really fundamental key step in demonstrating that it will be possible to use these new carbon nanotube materials for solar cells one day," he says.

Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2013-06-future-bright-carbon-nanotube-solar.html#jCp


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Tuesday, June 18, 2013

MIT Prints Artificial Bone with 3D Printer




Nanotechnologies combined with advances in 3D printers threatens to revolutionize material science sooner than we thought.  This blog follows advances in material science - advances in CONCRETE for example are a favorite - while also fixating on advances in 3D printers.  
Built industry stakeholders capable of delivering BIM enabled facilities in an IPD environment appear well positioned to leverage the use of new materials.  

The article excerpted and linked below provides details regarding research at MIT into printing artificial bone.  Very cool stuff.

Now researchers at MIT have developed an approach to print synthetic bone. Using a 3D printer capable of using two synthetic polymers in an optimized geometric pattern researchers produced samples of synthetic materials that have fracture behavior similar to bone.

***

Researchers put different composite designs to the test to see if they could withstand stress and fracture similarly to bone. As predicted, the bonelike material proved to be the most resistant to fracture.

"Most importantly, the experiments confirmed the computational prediction of the bonelike specimen exhibiting the largest fracture resistance," said graduate student Leon Dimas, who is the first author of the paper.
"And we managed to manufacture a composite with a fracture resistance more than 20 times larger than its strongest constituent."
Buehler hopes that eventually entire buildings might be printed with optimized materials that incorporate electrical circuits, plumbing and energy harvesting. 


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Monday, June 17, 2013

Secrets of Roman Concrete Revealed




Anybody that's walked past a crumbling concrete structure and then seen pictures of ancient Roman facilities made of ... wait for it... concrete, wonders why modern concrete fails while Roman concrete keeps going like the energizer bunny.  The article excerpted and linked below provides some answers.

The secret to Roman concrete lies in its unique mineral formulation and production technique. As the researchers explain in a press release outlining their findings, “The Romans made concrete by mixing lime and volcanic rock. For underwater structures, lime and volcanic ash were mixed to form mortar, and this mortar and volcanic tuff were packed into wooden forms. The seawater instantly triggered a hot chemical reaction. The lime was hydrated—incorporating water molecules into its structure—and reacted with the ash to cement the whole mixture together.”


Looking forward to seeing these ancient methods combined with modern solutions.

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Saturday, June 15, 2013

LIDAR Reveals Hidden Village in Cambodia




The story linked below tells an interesting tale regarding innovative use of LIDAR.  Pretty cool.

The expedition used an instrument called Lidar -- light detection and ranging data -- which was strapped to a helicopter that criss-crossed a mountain north of Angkor Wat for seven days, providing data that matched years of ground research by archaeologists. 
It effectively peeled away the jungle canopy using billions of laser pulses, allowing archaeologists to see structures that were in perfect squares, completing a map of the city which years of painstaking ground research had been unable to achieve, the report said. 
It helped reveal the city that reportedly founded the Angkor Empire in 802 AD, uncovering more than two dozen previously unrecorded temples and evidence of ancient canals, dykes and roads using satellite navigation coordinates gathered from the instrument's data.


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Friday, June 7, 2013

Science Deniers Gather in Bonn




For several years, after I grew skeptical of the climate change models and other data being peddled by my green and liberal friends in support of global warming, I was labeled a "science denier", a crude comparison to deniers of the holocaust.  

The mantra from my green and liberal friends, during that time frame, was that the "science is settled" which, of course, is an odd thing to say about a field of study that depends for its very existence on challenging settled belief and digging for empirical evidence of the truth.  Thousands of scientists, many with no specific knowledge of climate change, were surveyed and agreed the peer reviewed studies produced by advocates of global warming proved they were right.  Advocates of global warming - caused by humanity of course - seized upon those surveys to proclaim the depate over, due to "consensus" among scientists.  What a farce.  That's not science.

Further, opposition voices were belittled as the result of funding from "Big Oil" even though "Big Oil" was actively collecting billions of dollars in tax subsidies to pursue "green energy" programs.  Meanwhile, the climate scientists were, themselves, collected billions and billions of dollars in government grants to "prove" global warming was occurring and was a threat.  Those same scientists were also busy peer reviewing their own flawed papers, and cock-blocking scientists with opposing views from publishing their scientific work.

As the computer models failed, repeatedly, to predict reality, global warming advocates moved the goal posts, settling on the Orwellian phrase "Climate Change" in a brilliant bit of re-branding.  But putting lipstick on a pig doesn't mean the pig is not a pig.

Now we have 16 years worth of data from the Met office in the UK demonstrating no rise in global temperatures.  Sophisticated charlatans involved in the movement offer a variety of explanations - the oceans are absorbing the heat, the sun got hotter, etc. - but all concede the temperatures haven't risen in 16 years.  And the coldest spring in 50 years in the UK is empirical evidence of that fact, though my greenie wenie friends tell me that's "weather" not "climate".  Which is convenient since nobody can predict the "Weather" but everyone in the climate change community can, allegedly, predict climate.

Against the foregoing back drop I encourage readers to watch the video below, of participants in the  UN Climate Chance Conference in Bonn, where thousands have gathered to kibitz over the latest climate change science.  Surprisingly, or maybe not, the attendees questioned were unaware that the planets hasn't warmed in 16 years.


Built industry professionals interested in BIM and IPD as tools to increase efficiency and productivity need to distance themselves from the radical green agenda and focus on sources of real value to owners.  Abandoning fossil fuels prematurely - green energy will be viable one day but it needs to be pursued in the context of market forces not as a subsidized market - is going to cost the poorest people on the planet the most.  Let's be responsible and analyze the facts.  Don't be a science denier!

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Thursday, June 6, 2013

OPEC Threatened by Fracking




Regular readers will recall my ongoing predictions - which began over a year ago - that fracking for oil & gas in the US was going to have a profound impact on the Geo-Political Chess Board.  Old blog posts on the Chess Board topic at the link.

Now, the mainstream media is catching up, and the predictions aren't pretty, especially for the nastier members of the OPEC cartel.

And it's an even bigger threat to nations that use oil pricing as a weapon, such as Venezuela and Iran. Both use state oil earnings as cash cows for socialist handouts at the expense of investment, maintenance and upgrades — and their profoundly hostile attitude to markets is premised on their dependence on high oil prices — above $90 a barrel — to maintain their grip on power. 
Venezuelan exports to the U.S. have fallen 11% in the first two months of 2013 compared to 2012, while overall exports have fallen as more resources are diverted to domestic use as the nation's oil facilities fall apart due to non-maintenance. They can expect nothing but chaos ahead as the fracking revolution goes on. 
Not a single one of these oil cartel members, nor any country with a state-owned oil company, faces a bright future as U.S. fracking goes on. 
What all this shows is that the private sector, operating in a free society, sensitive to consumer demand and innovating a solution, is an even more powerful engine for upending a corrupt global monopoly status quo than even U.S. military might. All signs show that fracking is ending the power of these cartel states.

Read the whole thing

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Wednesday, June 5, 2013

A Wicked Primer Published at the BIM Hub




The BIM Hub published an updated version of the Wicked Primer I wrote a few years ago.  The article introduces the concept of "wicked problems", defines them in the context of the built industry and discusses both wicked tools and wicked solutions.  The series covers several additional topics and additional articles will be featured in the BIM Hub in the future.  The article is linked below.
UPDATED LINK

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Collaborative Workshops a Bargain!




I feel a lot better about the prices Collaborative Construction charges for services after seeing what the IRS pays for speakers at its conventions!

The IRS hired 15 speakers to present at the conference in Anaheim, Calif., including $11,430 for positive psychology guru Shawn Achor — referred to as a "happiness expert" by the sources — to lead a 90-minute workshop and $17,000 for artist Erik Wahl to hold a session that used painting as a learning tool, said those familiar with the report.
Of course, my clients expect real value in exchange for real money.  Further, I doubt very much if my message of efficiency and collaborative work processes would resonate with the IRS.

But $11K for a 90 minute session is good money if you can get it.  And still probably cheaper than hiring a former federal employee to lobby the government for special treatment.  Though that scheme does have the benefit of adding value, though in the form of taxpayers dollars, to your bottom line.


P.S.

Anyone that's held off contacting Collaborative Construction because you felt the cost would be too high call today.  We are cheaper than the tools hired by the tools at the IRS to speak at their conferences!

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Monday, June 3, 2013

MOOC Nuke Part II




A few weeks ago I linked to the announcement by Georgia Tech that it would be offering a fully accredited degree in Computer Science as a MOOC.  Today Andy Kessler with the Wall Street Journal followed up with another nice piece.  The article is quoted and linked below.  The knowledge train is leaving the station.  Are you on board?

Something's got to give. Education is going to change, the question is how and when. Think about it: Today's job market—whether you're designing new drugs, fracking for oil, writing mobile apps or marketing Pop Chips—requires graduates who can think strategically in real time, have strong cognitive skills, see patterns, work in groups and know their way around highly visual virtual environments. This is the same generation that grew up playing online games like Call of Duty and World of Warcraft, but who are almost never asked to use their online skills in any classroom. 
MOOCs will inevitably come to K-12 education too. Everyone knows great public school teachers. But we also all know the tenured type who has been mailing it in for years. Parents spend sleepless nights trying to rearrange schedules to get out of Mr. Bleh's fourth-period math class. Online education is about taking the "best in class" teachers and scaling them to thousands or millions of students rather than 25-30 at a time.

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BIM Goes the Dynamite!




The article linked and excerpted below shows the rapid rise of BIM in the built industry, especially among general contractors.  The article focuses on the ease with which project managers can access 2D Drawings on iPads, but the use of an actual BIM is just around the corner.  Are you ready to compete in the new knowledge economy?

The 29-year-old senior project engineer for Balfour Beatty Plc (BBY) ran three-dimensional simulations before construction began, finding hundreds of clashes, or design elements that interfered with each other. When the software indicated water pipes would intersect the ducts, he requested changes so workers didn’t have to rebuild parts of the $29 million project.
Armed with iPads linked to the newest plans, work orders and information requests, specialists such as Denbow are leading a shift to building information modeling, or BIM. New types of jobs are being created, such as modelers, and updated skills are becoming mandatory for designers and contractors. As builders recover from the worst downturn since World War II, such tools are changing processes used in design and construction.
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The Bigs are Bad for Business




My liberal friends lament capitalism, blaming corporate greed for America's problems.  They contend a bigger, better and more benevolent government to be the solution to all that ails us.  Nothing could be further from the truth and the founders knew it.

While the remainder of this blog post focuses on balance in politics balance in integrated agreements is equally important.  If an integrated team - owner, contractor and designer - intend to to plan, design and construct a facility the culture within which the team operates must reflect the underlying principles of those involved.  A balanced legal framework via which the three share power - think of that core team as three Bigs similar to the Bigs discussed below - must also recognize the myriad interest of the other stakeholders not necessarily represented by the core team.  An integrated legal instrument that achieve that delicate balance, and supports a culture of collaboration, cooperation and innovation will lead to success.

The foregoing is the reason the U in (BUILT) stands for, among other things, the US Constitution. That reference reminds participants of the need to balance the interests of the various stakeholders in the legal framework and the project culture.

Now on with the political post.

The Constitution, an amazing culmination of compromises, struck the right balance between the power of the sovereign - the people - and the power of the government, state and federal.  The Constitution replaced the unworkable Articles of Confederation, which hamstrung Washington during the Revolutionary War.  The Articles of Confederation left too much power in the hands of the individual states, weakening the federal government and inhibiting its ability to protect the nation as a whole during war.  Again, the Constitution struck the right balance between the three main sources of power, the people, state government and the federal government.  But we've allowed the Bigs to skew that delicate balance in their favor.  It's time for the sovereign people to take back their power.  And the IRS scandal unfolding on the national stage provides a perfect opportunity to do so.

The Bigs, Big Government, Big Business and Big Labor feed off OUR money.  Big Government takes if from us and filters it through the goose that is government - and you know what comes out of a goose - then spreads the product of the goose among favored constituents to buy votes, whereupon they reload, taking more of OUR money and feeding the goose again.  Big Business and Big Labor, in bed with Big Government, have their hands in the taxpayers' pockets as well.  The key is to starve them all and the way to do that is via a flat tax, collected by LOCAL governments, sent to the state capitols and doled out to the federal government on an as needed basis.  The founders wanted a small constrained government that did less.  The federal government we have does too much and does it all poorly.  Smaller is better and the only way to make the Bigs smaller is to starve them of cash.  The only way to do that is to cut the cash flow to the cesspool that is Washington D.C.

Again, the Bigs are Big Government, Big Business and Big Labor.  These three forces claim to represent "the people", "the shareholders" and the "the workers" respectively.  What a farce.  Michael Barone has a good piece out today in which he conducts an autopsy of the corpse that is Detroit, a great American city killed by the Bigs.  There he says:

Detroit was the prime example of what I have called "Big Unit America," in which the heads of large organizations -- Big Business, Big Labor, Big Government -- made the big decisions, and the hundreds of thousands of people below them, small cogs in a very large machine, carried them out. 
For a time Big Unit America seemed to work splendidly. The Big Three auto companies, with some cooperation from the United Auto Workers and at the behest of Big Government, made Detroit "the arsenal of democracy." Arthur Herman tells the story in his recent book Freedom's Forge. 
The Big Units' prestige continued high for a generation after the war. General Motors's president was Time's Man of the Year in 1955. John Kenneth Galbraith's 1967 book "The New Industrial State" argued that big automakers could manipulate demand through advertising and should share more of their inevitable profits with union members and the government.
You can read the whole thing at THIS LINK.

Big Government - read federal government + state government minions  - has become a tool by which politicians, Big Business and Big Labor re-distribute money collected from the people among themselves.  The Obama administration uses of the IRS, the Justice Department, the EPA and the DOE ( among other agencies) to: 1) punish the administration's political enemies, 2) suppress voters and the press, 3) kill the coal industry and hamstring the oil & gas industry; and 4) to redistribute tax dollars to favored green energy projects, almost all of which have failed.  The states, which long ago surrendered their rights under the 10th Amendment to the federal government, grovel at the federal feed trough and actively reinforce federal policies antithetical to their interests and the interest of their citizens.

Big Business, as demonstrated by the bailouts, has literally become too big to fail.  What a crock.  The bail outs, both under the Bush and Obama administrations involved re-distribution of wealth on a scale that would make Marx blush.  What a travesty.  The big banks, automobile manufactures and others should have been left to their own devices.  Sink or swim, but the taxpayers - we the people, aka the source of sovereign power under our system - should never be required to bailout big business, under any circumstances.  Bankruptcy laws exists for a reason. GM and any failing big banks should have filed for bankruptcy.

Big Labor has become a cancer eating away and our economy.  And that's sad, given the important role unions played in protecting worker's rights earlier in our history.  But unions, especially public sector unions, seduced the politicians and the two now sleep together during every election cycle. screwing the sovereign people - are you sensing a pattern here? - over and over and over again.  Even FDR opposed public sector unions.

To bring things full circle, the lament about capitalism isn't really about capitalism, but about crony capitalism.  Capitalism in its pure form provides a robust and effective mechanism for regulating markets.  Capitalism, and the principles that drive it and make it successful, lead to corruption on a large scale when government becomes the source of capital.  That is what has happened in our system.

I've had clients tell me, "James we are not going to invest in new infrastructure and facilities at this time because we believe we will get a better return on money invested in lobbyists in Washington D.C."  Sadly, that's true.  Washington D.C. has become "The Capitol" in the Hunger Games sense precisely because it controls the flow of capital in the monetary sense.

Again, as mentioned earlier, the only viable solution is to starve the beast.  A flat tax combined that led to the abolish of the IRS would be a great start.


Welcome to the Collaborative Revolution!

James L. Salmon, Esq.
Collaborative Construction
300 Pike Street
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Cell 512-630-4446
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