200 years ago, no matter where you were on earth, you could look into the night sky and see one of the most beautiful sights one could ever behold - the universe. Trillions of massive burning spheres of gas laid out in front of you. Stars scattered in every direction stretching to infinity. It must have been very relaxing way for our ancestors to end the day. Staring up at the stars and knowing you are a small, insignificant, yet integral part of the universe. I imagine it to be a humbling and centering feeling.
Now days most of us look at our phones and computers before we go to bed. And if we do go outside and glance up we might be lucky to see the big dipper because we live in cities (like Denver) plagued with light pollution.
When I was in my sophomore year of college I was given a golden opportunity of going to Mongolia for a month to study earthquakes with my geophysics professor. Obviously, I couldn't pass up something like that and I went for it. Ended up being one of the top 3 things I’ve ever done in my life. But when I was out there, I was blown away by the pristine view of the stars every night. Although most of the people in the Mongolian countryside lived in huts and milked sheep and horses most of the day, they had something most Americans will never have; a perfect view of the stars.
Living in a busy town like Denver sometimes we can forget about the little things, like looking at the stars. And all those little things add up to being a healthy and well-rounded human. I encourage everyone to get out and try to see the universe; which is why I attached the two links below. Enjoy!
Dark Site Finder is an interesting and interactive map displaying light pollution and darkness worldwide. Be sure to look at Colorado, the border between North and South Korea, and whatever else catches your eye. Plan out your next star gazing event near Denver or discover interesting patterns of civilizations.
This Vimeo video displays the different levels of light pollution and shows just how good the stars can look.
On the quaint corner of South Gregson Street and West Peabody Street in Durham, North Carolina, older brick buildings are surrounded with lush green hedges neighboring the two moderately travelled roadways. The historic style buildings give off a feeling of old industry turned modern outdoor mall. The smell of pizza might be wafting through the air from the local pizzeria, and the soft chatter of students, travelers, and families may be heard. That is, if the chatter can be heard over the monthly screams of sheet metal being sheared off the tops of trucks by a giant I-Beam spanning Gregson Street. This intersection, while being the home of the old-industrial charm, is also home to the locally-infamous 11 Foot 8 bridge.
Nearly 100 years ago, the North Carolina Railroad Company built a train trestle over South Gregson Street, and at the time, 11’ 8” was a perfectly reasonable height to build a bridge over a road; large vehicles, trucks, RVs, and the standards for bridges such as the 11 Foot 8 hadn’t quite been developed yet. Today, however, it is not uncommon for vehicles to be much taller than 11’8”, which posed a problem for the railroad company, who had to keep fixing massive structural damage from tall trucks hitting the low clearance bridge. After many accidents and multiple warning signs, flashing lights, and overhead signs being hung with seemingly no impact whatsoever, the next solution is as entertaining to watch as it is dangerous (and maybe not the best way to handle the situation).
The railroad company installed a large steel beam at a height of 11’8” a few feet before the bridge. When a truck that is over the maximum height goes through the intersection, not heeding the multiple flashing lights and warning signs, the top of the truck gets demolished, in some cases like the top of a tin can being peeled back, and other times crunching the front/top of the truck so badly the only option is to back up through the intersection and shamefully look at the warning signs a second time before taking the provided detour. The bridge is left unharmed, and has saved the company an incredible amount of money on repairs, seeing as the bridge is hit nearly once per month on average. The North Carolina Department of Transportation and the North Carolina Railroad Company have recently worked together to create an early warning system that includes a height-sensor and a traffic light. The sensor will detect if a vehicle is too tall to clear the bridge (and the beam) and will turn a traffic light red as well as display an ‘over-large’ sign that declares the vehicle unfit to pass the bridge. The driver will hopefully be alerted by the sign and light and will then take the detour, and save the bridge as well as the top of the truck. Not all accidents have been stopped, but as the two organizations work together, this intersection becomes more safe to traverse. More information can be found at the 11 Foot 8 website.
If your career is anything close to something you love and are passionate about – you can call your work an art. As a marketing assistant, I spend most of my days creating. Flyers, proposals, conference programs - I always find myself staring at a blank document, eager to create something new.
1. “Remember that feedback never tells you anything about you. It tells you about the people giving the feedback.”
When writing a proposal or preparing a visual document for marketing, you always want to consider your audience. Every audience prefers different visuals and layouts. You have some people who like a lot of white space and clean cut lines. You have some people who like abstract colors and hidden design. The key is knowing who you are working with. When given feedback, note the comments about specific design. I can guarantee you’ll see a pattern.
The engineers often have me help them with comment sheets. After creating plans, they send the plans back for review and the client sends back comments that range from “fix this” to “redo that”. The engineers know how their specific clients like things done. Working with difference cities and counties, the feedback is always aligned with the regulations of the county and once they too are familiar with the regulations, their work is less likely to be commented on. Knowing these things helps the engineers to do their job more effectively.
2. “Ultimately, there is no one who your book (or other creative endeavor) will matter to more than you.”
I can be a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to my work. I like to make sure it looks exactly how I envisioned it. I’ve always liked to think it’s because I want my work to satisfy and be over the expectation of the person I am designing material for, but in all honesty, I want it to look amazing because its mine.
From an engineering standpoint, my colleagues work is what keeps our business a float. The engineering market is a small one and their work is their name. If a bridge is burnt with one company, it could easily have a domino effect in this industry. Our engineers take great pride in their work – if they didn’t, they wouldn’t have work to do.
3. “Great creations come from the combination of two opposite things:
1. practicing your craft daily, or close to daily, and
2. stepping away from your craft and living life.”
Cheers to the weekend. I love marketing. I love it so much; I often spend my free time thinking about how I’m going to design this or draft that. That love has allowed me to practice and work on perfecting my skill. 5 days out of the week, I am doing marketing. But those 2 days that I am not, I’m able to see how much marketing has sculpted my life. I enjoy coloring and visiting museums on the weekend. I admire flyers on my walk through downtown and graffiti on the walls of an alley. When I take the time to step away from my work, I get to admire others work, and it inspires me. It gives me new ideas for new projects. The balance of practicing marketing and stepping away from practicing to admire others marketing, that’s what keeps the creations coming.
A world-wide phenomenon, geocaching is a treasure hunt in which participants use GPS coordinates to find hidden caches. As an engineering firm, geocaching seemed like the perfect organizational activity, pairing technical skills with technology. Through a two-hour race on a hot July afternoon, I learned that there is more to geocaching than a simple map and treasure. Below are the five ways in which I believe geocaching can improve your staff:
1. It encourages team building For our Calibre geocaching event, we split participants into teams of 3 or 4. Doing so encouraged interaction between staff members, regardless of title or position in the firm. We put principals with junior engineers, and we paired people who do not always have the opportunity to work together. This built new relationships and strengthened existing relationships.
Further, the geocaching encouraged people to work together as a team. Our geocaching event utilized both a mapping application and a compass, which required one person to hold the map and one to hold the compass. Other team members were lookouts or scouts. This format encouraged people to practice communication skills and to learn how to work together as a functional unit.
2. It teaches staff to read GPS coordinates Working in the engineering industry, learning how to read GPS coordinates is essential. It helps with mapping skills and planning skills, and it helps our staff understand blue prints, maps, and AutoCAD. Further, through this geocaching exercise, our staff also practiced using their compasses, a skill that comes in handy living in a state like Colorado. Both tools improved critical thinking, site planning, and mathematical skills.
Afraid of getting lost on a mountain hike, or looking to quicken your Google Earth skills, or having trouble “seeing” the grading lines on your AutoCAD drawing? Take a look at geocaching.
3. It hones problem solving skills When our teams initially started out on their geocaching adventure, they were given minimal instruction on utilization of the GPS application and compass. They were also given minimal instruction in terms of what the geocaches looked like. This limited information allowed our staff to practice their problem solving skills, working together to determine the optimal way to use the tools at hand to execute the task at hand.
In addition, some of our team members utilized an Android app, while others utilized an iPhone app, and some of the geocaches were across fields, while others where across bridges. Our staff figured out how to use their applications and the best routes to get to each geocache. They also assigned responsibilities and learned from one geocache to the next, honing their problem solving skills and growing with each cache.
4. It identifies natural leaders for future development While out on the trail, teams naturally fell into roles. There were leaders, there were scouts, there were technical experts, and there were cheerleaders. Dividing the staff into teams allowed our management team to see the natural skill and comfort level of each employee. This is extremely valuable when it comes to recognizing leadership qualities in quiet team members or witnessing how certain staff can motivate other staff members.
Looking to identify the natural leaders or cheerleaders in your firm? Geocaching might be a solid option.
5. It improves cat-like reflexes to respond to wildlife While geocaching, you’re bound to run into wildlife. One of our teams specifically greeted a slow-but-steady bull snake. Say hello to their team mascot, videoed below.
If you’re looking for an activity for your next corporate team-building event, consider geocaching.