Friday, July 28, 2006

More on the things I'm working on...

Hi again folks,

It's still hot as #$%@ here and sometimes a struggle to do anything but sit in front of a fan with a Red Stripe. But things are picking up at this point in my service. Before I left for vacation I made a trip to Castleton, St. Mary to help with the Big Spring entombment work. My advisor Jim liked the story about this in my quarterly report, so here's an excerpt -

"A key component of this reconstruction was the necessity of stabilizing a concrete wall attached to a sheer rock face. The community had tried to hand chisel a groove in the rock, but because it was so hard, they had been unable to make significant progress and had given up. Fellow PCV engineer Julie G and I determined the best way to stabilize the wall would be to dowel the rock face using short lengths of rebar and mortar. This effort required renting and carrying a portable hammer drill to the site. In order to minimize rental costs, we needed to complete in one day the transportation of the equipment to the site, the actual drilling into the rock, and the return of the drill to Montego Bay. On May 2, I rented the drill and carried it to Castleton by public transportation. I was delayed because the tax exemption paperwork took longer than expected to go through (“soon come” as they say) and because, despite having called and told Ward’s Power Tools that I was coming for the drill, one of the employees had rented it to someone else by the time I got there. Finally the paperwork came in and they found a replacement drill, which they assured me would work fine, even demonstrating as much by drilling a less than 1/16 inch hole into their tile floor. I was off. Following the 5+ hour trip, I met PCV Elizabeth S in the community shortly after 6. We waded across the Wagwater River and ascended the 56 meters to the site of the entombment. While the generator had been dutifully carried up the hillside to its predetermined resting spot, the 100 meters or so of extension cord to carry current to the worksite had not been put out. We waited an hour or so for that, and I ate a light snack. Drilling commenced just after dark. Fortunately the community people had located some floodlights as I had requested, so we were not totally in the dark. There was already some internal friction as to who would be first to begin drilling the holes. I settled this by taking the drill in hand and starting it myself. Despite the delay in schedule, everything seemed to be going remarkably smoothly... until I started the drill. While the drill motor wound up and spun forcefully, the bit stalled just past the 1/16 inch mark and stopped boring into the rock. It was about that time that I realized the replacement hammer drill had a hex bit rather than the spline fitting required for the bit. Ward’s had allowed me to take along a chisel bit that was with the drill, so for the next few hours, various strapping men from the community took their turns using the hammer drill to chisel out circular holes in the sheer rock face."

The folks at Ward's have been very supportive of our work and allowed us to return the J$6000 (~US$100) bit without any hassle. That saved the project a good chunk of change. These are some pics of this drill I hauled there and what the entombment looked like when I visited again July 7. You can see these and other images in the Big Spring Reconstruction, Castleton album on my webshots account ->

I am still working at the National Water Commission's Quality Assurance (NWC QA) lab for the western region, usually one day a week. My supervisor there Richard Meggo told me that he's leaving to pursue his PhD in Environmental Engineering at the University of Iowa. In fact, his last day is today! Good luck Mr. Meggo!!! The composting facility at the Retirement Landfill is dying a natural death. PCV Pat W has left the responsible agency, and calls to her former counterpart have been mysteriously "disconnected" and not returned. I'm still helping out with the Homework Club at the Peace and Justice Center. This community center in one of MoBay's poorest communities hosts this after-school program for kids involving arts and crafts, skills development, and of course homework help. I found at this center a group of Jamaicans that I can actually play football (soccer) with and keep up. They are aged 10-12. The program is on break now, but we're planning a summer camp Aug 8-17 that I'm really excited about! The search for the master thesis is heading toward some work I've started in conjunction with the Water Resources Authority (WRA). We are planning to develop a tool to help WRA professionals approve or deny the proposed on-site sanitation systems in new developments. We'll then pilot it in St. James and throughout the western regions, assuming I can locate the underground water maps each of the parishes purchased. It'll hard to put up any cool flashy pics of this work (unless you wanna see more poo pics Sparticus!), but if successful it would be used for development proposed throughout the country.

All right, I know I've been overdue, but 'nuff for now. Life for me is good now. I wish you all the same.

Peace and love from Jamaica,


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