It is what it is...

Or is it? I really don't know how to reverse the growth of government. Obviously it is unsustainable and we are witnessing this obviousness everyday. I wrote a friend that I envision an axe hacking away at the tree of government.

But I believe this is an incorrect metaphor. Government, which may have begun as a young sapling has morphed into an out of control, untamed vine suffocating the very trunk that sustains it, i.e., the people. Well I should say 50% of the people. The other 50% are doing the suffocating, probably unintentionally or because they have been taught otherwise.

So as I lament at my dining room table I feel powerless and provoked to look at a map to see where to go next.

Is there a place outside the reach of this vine?


PE Exam...

On Friday April 8th, I took the civil engineering professional licensing exam (structural emphasis in the afternoon). I wanted to write about my experience because as I studied I found few online resources that helped me prepare for the 8 hour exam. At the time of me writing this I have not been notified if I passed or failed. I thought about waiting until I found out the results before posting this because I did not want to be embarrassed if I failed. It will take about eight weeks to be notified of the results. I am not waiting that long. (NOTE: I began this on April 20th and never finished. Yesterday, June 1st, I received a congratulatory notification that I passed.)

I live in Babylon, NY and my test taking facility was at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, NY. It is about an hour drive without traffic. My report time was 7am. Once the doors close no one is allowed in so you must be on time. I wasn’t sure if 7am was the drop dead time so I called Pratt and NEECS (the test administrators) and they could not tell me.

So my a$$ was up at 4:30am to get ready so I could leave by 5:30am. I wasn’t worried about traffic at this hour but I was nervous about parking. I called Pratt to inquire about parking and they said that there was no parking for test takers on campus. We were to fend for ourselves in the adjacent residential neighborhood. I asked a few friends if they knew if the neighborhood was safe. You never know.

I made it to Pratt by 6:30am. No problem. Except the only parking spots said “no parking” on Fridays!!! I drove around and around and around. (Even got stuck behind a sanitation truck at one point!)

At 6:50am my armpits started sweating and thoughts of “this is not meant to be” began to run through my head. 6:52am I found a spot 4 blocks away. I hoofed it with a suitcase and shoulder bag full of reference books that totaled about 75-100lbs. No way I was going to make it by 7am!

Halfway there I ran into another dude who was lugging a suitcase who took the FE exam at Pratt so he knew where he was going. He didn’t seem concerned about the time. He really didn’t seem to be in a conversational mood so kept quiet. As we approached the building there were people standing outside the doors waiting to get in. They didn’t open till about 7:15am so I was “early”. Relief.

When I called Pratt to inquire about parking I also asked about the layout of the test taking facility. The woman said we would be in the gymnasium. They furnished tables and chairs; we each had our own individual desk about 2.5’x2.5’ – completely adequate for me.

Seats were assigned and I was glad to be placed on a corner so I had an aisle in front of me and to the right of me- just a little more breathing room. The guy in front of me to the right did have plumbers crack so I had to deal with that for 8 hours. Probably less distracting than a thong so I was thankful.

The NEECS website said we were allowed to take small snacks and drinks into the exam providing they did not disturb other test takers. However, New York State does not allow food into the exam room. I wondered if we could get up to use the restroom if needed. An email to NEECS verified we were allowed to use restrooms but no food in the building for New York.

There were probably 400 people in the gymnasium. I wasn’t prepared to see that many. Not that it mattered but it did take some time to get in and out of the gymnasium and I did have to wait in line to use the restroom before and after the exam. During the exam we were required to get a pass from our proctor to use the restroom. I decided to not drink any coffee so I did not use the restroom during the exam. To get a caffeine fix I ate chocolate chips. I did get a headache but I figured that would happen and I took a bottle of Aleve.

I took my cell phone into the exam even though it was against the rules. Instead of leaving it in the car, I brought it along just in case my car was towed. The area I parked in was not clearly signed so I needed to be safe. My proctor took possession of the phone for the entire 8 hours. No calls during the lunch break.

I used every second of the 4 hours of the morning exam. I was not able to check over my work. “What I have written, I have written”. It was not easy but passable. I was glad to have my hydraulics textbooks and that I put in some extra time studying transportation and surveying. The morning definitely fried my brain and I was exhausted at lunch. I did not use the restroom because it would have been about a 10-minute process. In the end every minute counted.

Lunch was miserable. I sat outside by myself among other test takers on a concrete step. It was cold, cloudy April day. There was a cafeteria but most people chose to eat outside. I brought peanut butter and honey sandwiches, Clif bars, orange, cucumbers and more chocolate chips. Careful with the protein cause it can sneak up on you.

I really needed to dig down deep for focus and stamina going into the afternoon exam. Remember, I was up at 4:30am. Not used to that. Before the morning exam I read the 25th Psalm (yeah, one of my reference books I took into the exam was a Bible). One of the lines was “my hope is in you all day long”. I wrote that on my desk as a declaration and for inspiration.

As I said, I took the structures exam and found the structures portion in the afternoon to be easier than the comprehensive morning session. I finished every question an hour early so I had plenty of time to check my work. We were allowed to leave early if we finished but I chose to check over my work.

Leaving the exam I cannot say that I was confident that I passed but I did feel very well prepared and impressed with the number of questions I knew how to answer. I really wanted to let myself think that I passed but there was always the possibility of making stupid mistakes or getting tricked by a question. With all the hours I spent preparing and all the money I spent on buying the required code books/reference materials, I would definitely be disappointed to fail.

June 1st I received word from NCEES that I passed. It will take three weeks for NY State to verify and give me my license. I am so thankful and happy to reach this goal. It vindicates the four years at Virginia Tech studying civil engineering, taking out student loans to pay for the degree, working/stressing/obsessing over calculations, projects, plans & details in NC & NYC.


How to Read a Book...

Mortimer J. Adler and Charles Van Doren wrote this book subtitled, "The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading". I don't recall who recommended this book to me but I remember it was quite sometime ago. I picked it up from my local library.

"There have always been literate ignoramuses who have read too widely and not well" pg 12.

"If you ask a living teacher a question, he will probably answer you. If you are puzzled by what he says, you can save yourself the trouble of thinking by asking him what he means yourself. In this respect a book is like nature or the world. When you question it, it answers you only to the extent that you do the work of thinking and analysis yourself." pg 15


Mel Gibson

"Change is always proceeded by a little pain. [Shrugs shoulders with smile.] Some people can change and they don’t have to go through so many painful things. But I think that I’m of a personality [laughs at himself] that I’m a little stubborn, so it’s tough for me." -Mel Gibson

from an interview with Allison Hope Weiner