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As 2014 comes to a close, GBA wishes its members, partners, and other industry professionals a joyous holiday season. To help you reflect on the year now ending, we're providing a look at the most accessed NewsLog articles of the year. Our regular publication will resume January 7, 2015. Happy new year!
"Judicial Hellholes" Report: California No. 1
American Tort Reform Foundation
From Jan. 22: The American Tort Reform Foundation (ATRA) has issued its annual Judicial Hellholes report, naming civil courts in California, Louisiana, New York City, West Virginia, Southwestern Illinois' Madison and St. Clair counties, and South Florida among the nation's "most unfair."
Business 101: Preparing for ownership transfer
From March 5: Most companies don't make it past first generation ownership; some make it to the second generation; a few go beyond. One-generation companies are the norm because many owners fail to create value in their companies beyond themselves; i.e., they make a conscious or unconscious decision that their company will die when they die or when they retire, whichever comes first.
DR. ENGLISH: Enclosed please find
From Jan. 8: A member recently contacted the good doctor for guidance about alternatives to trite phrases. Here are the phrases she was concerned about and the alternatives prescribed.
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FROM THE BENCH: California Makes Residential Projects Taboo
From Aug. 6: The Supreme Court of California's decision in Beacon v. Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (211 Cal.App.4th 1301 (2014)) creates astounding new law in the Golden State: Prime design professionals of non-rental residential projects — a condominium, in this case — owe a duty of care to future homeowners, even when the primes do not build the projects themselves or exercise control over those who do. The decision significantly expands liability for primes — and maybe subs, too — significantly expands the number of prospective plaintiffs and will prolong the amount of time and dollars required to dispose of cases.
DR. ENGLISH: An Important New Descriptor for Your Geoprofessional Reports
From Oct. 29: Many geoprofessional reports include recommendations whose efficacy is dependent upon findings in the field. How should you label these recommendations in your report? Should you simply use RECOMMENDATIONS and rely on an "Important Information..." insert sheet? No! Because a user may assume the recommendations are "good to go" as written and, as a professional, you are obligated to warn users they are not. PRELIMINARY RECOMMENDATIONS is also incorrect, because the recommendations are not preliminary. Dr. English suggests that you consider using CONFIRMATION-DEPENDENT RECOMMENDATIONS, to make clear exactly what the recommendations are; i.e., recommendations that can be applied only when conditions inferred to exist are confirmed to exist. You may also want to consider using lead-in paragraph such as the following sample.
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HUMAN-RESOURCES DEPARTMENT: The only interview question that matters
From March 19: Lou Adler knows what he's talking about. CEO of The Adler Group, a consulting firm that helps companies implement performance-based hiring, his latest book is The Essential Guide for Hiring & Getting Hired. So, what's the only interview question worth asking? "It took 10 years of trial and error, but I eventually found it," Lou wrote in this Inc. article. And here it is: "What single project or task would you consider your most significant accomplishment in your career to date?"
EDITORIAL: Haste Makes Waste
From Oct. 15: You've probably heard about Sandra A. "Sandy" Soyles, P.E. A practitioner for 30 years, she's honed her skills to an almost surreal degree: She can do in two hours what lesser geoprofessionals take six hours to do, and her findings and recommendations are always — not "almost always" — on target. You can therefore imagine how stunned Sandy was when her firm's CEO — Hardesty L. "Chipper" Wood, P.E. — summoned her to his office with a solemn "We need to talk." And what did Chipper have to say? "I feel so bad about this, but we've got to let you go. You're just too good."
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YOU'VE JUST GOT TO BE KIDDING: The High Price of Potato Chips
From Aug. 6: Josefina Hernandez developed diabetes about five years after she started working as a Walgreens cashier. Walgreens knew about her condition and allowed her to keep candy in her pocket in case of low blood sugar, keep her insulin in the break room refrigerator, and take additional breaks to test her blood sugar or eat. 18 years after starting her job, in September 2008, Ms. Hernandez suffered a hypoglycemic attack during a restocking assignment and grabbed a $1.39 bag of potato chips to stabilize her condition. She said she went to pay for it at the cosmetics counter, per instructions, but no one was there. She put the remaining potato chips under the counter at her cash register and returned to restocking. Walgreens terminated her a month later. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed suit on her behalf and, six years later, a jury reached its conclusion.
WE GET LETTERS
From June 11: Do you have questions GBA staff may be able to answer? You won't know until you ask, as this member did.
Q: I would appreciate any thoughts you may have on how we should compensate an employee for becoming a PE. My personal view is that there is a real difference in personal liability exposure the day someone becomes a P.E. That doesn't seem to be well understood or appreciated by many, and the added risk is not fully covered by the insurance industry. PEs are held to a much higher standard than non-PEs, and the liability exposes PEs' personal assets and those of their family, outlives the PEs, and there is no guarantee that PEs’ current or past employer will or will be able to shield them from problems that may arise during their career and beyond. In any case, I have long believed that PEs' increased risk should be offset by training, counseling, and an adjustment in salary. I have also wished that the insurance industry would create policies for individual engineers that kick in when their current or former employers’ policies fail to cover them. These policies would travel with the engineers throughout their career as long as they paid the premiums. If these policies existed now, a reasonable salary adjustment for a new PE would be the cost of such insurance. I would appreciate hearing your thoughts.
New battery could bring unsubsidized viability to wind, solar
Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences
From Feb. 19: A team of Harvard scientists and engineers has demonstrated a new type of battery that could fundamentally transform the way electricity is stored on the grid, making power from renewable energy sources such as wind and solar far more economical and reliable. Described in a paper recently published in Nature, the metal-free flow battery relies on the electrochemistry of naturally abundant, inexpensive, small organic (carbon-based) molecules called quinones, which are similar to molecules that store energy in plants and animals.
2014-2015 GBA BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Steven D. Thorne, P.E., D.GE
(Terracon / Somerset, NJ)
Gordon M. Matheson, Ph.D., P.E., P.G.
(Schnabel Engineering, Inc. / Glen Allen, VA)
Joel G. Carson
(Kleinfelder / Omaha, NE)
Charles L. Head, P.E., P.G.
(Sanborn, Head & Associates / Concord, NH)
Kimberly F. Morrison, P.E., R.G.
(Morrison Geotechnical Solutions, Inc. / Denver, CO)
Laura R. Reinbold, P.E.
(TTL, Inc. / Nashville, TN)
Alex Sy, Ph.D., P. Eng.
(Klohn Crippen Berger Ltd. / Vancouver, BC)
Woodward L. Vogt, P.E., D.GE
(Paradigm Consultants, Inc. / Houston, TX)
7701 Las Colinas Ridge, Ste. 800, Irving, TX 75063