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Related News Archive: 2008


I recently had to attend at work a workshop on Ethics in the workplace, as mandated by Assembly Bill AB1234. Some of the issues covered seemed to me that they were just common sense, but the attorney giving the workshop said that it’s surprising how many people commit actions that are not ethical, sometimes without knowing it.  Some of these actions could cause one to end up in jail.  In general, the training included some principles for public employees that they should abide by.  Some of these principles include: trustworthiness, respect, fairness, responsibility and avoiding the appearance of impropriety.  Among the core topics issues were laws relating to personal financial gain by public servants, bribery, conflict of interest.  The training was great, and I felt even better since I realized that I abide by all the given guidelines.  I always said, that if something doesn’t look right, then it’s better not to do it.  I receive a lot of invitations for luncheons, from consultants, to discuss work related issues.  I accept only if I pay for my meal.  I do not accept gifts from any consultant.  I have had many opportunities for additional employment, but have always refused, as I felt that this would conflict with my employment and that it could interfere with my committed services to my current employer.  Following the workshop, I wondered what is ASCE’s code of ethics for civil engineers at large, working for a private company or public agency.  Well, ASCE sets the bar high as well and covers similar topics.   More »

Disasters and Engineers

At 11:42 a.m. on July 29, I was in my car waiting for the signal to turn green, when I felt the car shaking.  First I thought it was the train as I was near the railroad tracks, but there was no train, then I saw the signals swinging, so I knew it was an earthquake.  I remember the shaking/rolling that the Northridge earthquake put us through as I lived in Palmdale then, and luckily I was near my family, so I knew instantly that they were all ok.  But, most of us were at work on July 29, and guess what? Most cellular phones did not work after the earthquake.  So, do you know what to do in case of a disaster, natural or man made!? More »

LID by Example

If you’re wondering if I have a typo above, I don’t, it should be Lead by example, but this LID is for Low Impact Development.  I recently applied (on behalf of the city of San Juan Capistrano) with several of South Orange County cities for a grant with the goal of reducing urban runoff.  I could have done a retrofit to a park or a simple other project, but I wanted to do a demonstration project that would help me educate the public at large and developers on what can be done.  As a manager of the environmental division, one of my most important roles is public education.  My first thought was our city hall, a lot of grass, old irrigation system, not a great drainage system, so plenty of opportunities.  More »

Our Fathers

I write this article on Father’s day.  Every Sunday, I wake up, read the Sunday paper and watch my favorite show, “Meet the Press” with Tim Russert.  This week, Tim passed away and my Sunday morning was sad as I watched a recap of his career on his show, on Father’s day.  Tim loved his dad whom he has written a book about, and loved his son, whom he was so proud of.  Growing up, I watched my dad and learned from him, heard what he said and registered it in my brain.  Lucky is the one who has a father to mentor him or her, teach them right from wrong and share the wisdom learned over the years.   More »

PE: Political Engineering

When a civil engineer goes to college and is taught how to design a structure or provide a solution to a deficient situation, he is provided with a set of tools, engineering formulas, design guidelines and thousands of years of collected knowledge.  One thing that is not provided to the young engineer is how to deal with politics and politicians.  The engineer is faced regularly with a factor that sometimes can modify all of what we are taught in college and how we design.  I call it Political Engineering.  I recently had to deal with a bridge that I was assigned to oversee its design and construction.   More »

Earth Day

Each year, the April 22 Earth Day marks the anniversary of the birth of the modern environmental movement in 1970.  When I was a teenager, I remember scuba diving in Lebanon and seeing all the fauna and flora dead, later I found out that it was an area where a sewer outfall discharged.  This made strong impression on me, and possibly why I am so passionate about protecting the environment and educating the general public about the ease of doing the right thing to protect Mother Earth.  In April, in Orange County, many events were held to raise the environmental awareness.  I am so happy to see the environmental tidal wave cover the county and the nation.   More »

Coping With Bad Times

My wife tells me that I remind her of her dad, who lived during the depression, the way I live.  Well, I am fairly frugal, I don’t like waste of any sort, I am not a compulsive spender and don’t like debt.  Growing up during the war in Lebanon, I learned to live on very, very tight budget, where resources are very scarce and you had to make ends meet with whatever is at end.  So, when all what you had were a couple of gallons of gasoline, you learned to combine your chores and eliminate unnecessary trips. And you carpooled, you walked.  When you didn’t have much water, every drop counted, and water conservation was at its best. It was the same with energy conservation.  I grew up with my dad hearing my dad saying to turn off the lights in the room that we just left.  I am listing some of these examples because these days remind me of the bad times during my earlier days; bad economical conditions, water shortages, energy shortages and very high gas prices.  More »

Life and the pursuit of happiness

My dad always told me, whatever you do give it 100% of your effort and do the best job that can be done.  Well, following his advise, throughout my professional and personal life I have strived to be the best that I can be, a good engineer, a good husband and a good father.  This striving takes commitment and sacrifice, sometimes at the expense of family time, personal time and can lead to burnout, so you should be careful.  This month has been exhausting for me.  In addition to my work obligations, my ASCE secretary obligations, my APWA obligations, I had to be out of town for an ASCE leadership academy for 3 days, went to Sacramento for the ASCE legislative day, and went to Kansas City for an APWA meeting.   More »


Have you ever had a meeting, and you had to wait for someone, who showed up late.  What if it happens more than once?  What do you think of that person?  What if you are a developer, and your engineer always shows up late, would you trust that your engineer will complete your project on time, when time is of the essence, and when days in delay will cost a lot of money.  As engineers, let me rephrase, as “professional engineers”, we have to exhibit professional behavior, which includes punctuality More »

So, what’s a Delta Smelt, anyway??

In this day and age, when everything seems to be going wrong, drought, global warming, bridges collapsing, fires-I could keep going, but I won’t-I couldn’t believe my eyes when I read about the delta smelt.  The delta smelt is a small (generally 2-3 inches), steely blue and nearly translucent fish.  Delta smelt live 1-2 years, feed exclusively on plankton, and, amazingly, smell like cucumbers. The species is endemic to the upper San Francisco Bay and the Delta, meaning it is found nowhere else on Earth. Unfortunately, the place it calls home is a place in crisis. And that is cause for concern, even if you don’t happen to be a delta smelt. The Delta–where the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers converge before flowing into the Bay–is the heart of the Bay watershed and the hub for much of the state’s freshwater supply.  Two in three Californians– some 23 million people– depend on the system for at least part of their water.   More »

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