Persistent Issues in the Wave Equation for Piling for Both Forward and Inverse Methods

As a slight departure from the usual subjects of this blog, we offer this paper for discussion and consideration:

This article is an overview of the current state of both forward and inverse analysis of wave propagation in piling. It begins with a summary of the typical acceptance procedure for the wave equation as applied to (primarily) driven piles. It then defines and describes what are forward and inverse methods, outlining criteria which are important for success. After this the governing equations are discussed, both undamped and damped (Telegrapher’s) wave equations, and why it is important to consider the latter as the true governing equation for pile dynamics. This is followed by a discussion of explicit and implicit methods and how they are (and might be) applied to the problem at hand. The difference between finite difference and finite element methods is discussed, and how each has been applied in either a one-dimensional or two-dimensional way. Finally the issue of rheology is examined. The central problem with dynamic analysisthe inability to separate static and dynamic resistance by the basic inverse methods availableis discussed in detail.

Download the paper here.  You can leave your comments below.

When the Fence Went Away, So Did the American Dream

I recently noted an article about how the American Dream has downsized.  The decline of our society as “aspirational” is one of the biggest shifts in attitude that has taken place in my lifetime, and is one I have noted on many occasions.  But in the middle of the article, a survey was taken with a striking result:

Signs show that hard times have also prompted Americans to reevaluate what they want out of life. Not, perhaps, at first glance. Participants in focus groups convened by the Pew Economic Mobility Project are asked to draw a picture of the American Dream. Nearly everyone’s sketch is the same—two adults, some kids, and a dog in front of a house with a fence. (Even cat owners end up drawing a dog.) It is the set of Leave It to Beaver, sans canine, unchanged since the 1950s.

Let’s face the first fact: when the cat owners consider a dog as part of ideal life, something is bad wrong.  Right, guys?

Moving on to another point, there is the business about these creatures in front of the house with a fence.  For me, that’s where the real head scratching started.  Maybe I’ve lived in the Old Confederacy too long, but at least since I first came to the land of kudzu I have never lived in a house with a fence in the front, and where I live now (Tennessee) most houses I pass by don’t have one either.

Fences can appear on the front (or fronts, with a corner lot), the sides of the house or the back.  (I’m leaving out large, semi-agricultural size plots: for the true Southerner, that IS the American Dream).  Fences in the front(s) are not the norm in the South.  One generally sees house after house with an open view.  On the back, there is generally a barrier, but that can range from a chain link fence to hedges to whatever.  The sides can go either way; very typically property lines are demarcated only by a change in grass height reflecting the mower settings of the different owners (assuming, of course, that the grass is being mowed…)

For my family, even before we moved to the South, it’s been a hit or miss proposition.  At the right the house in Chicago my great-great grandparents lived and raised their children.  The photo dates from 1904 and, yes, the iron fence is along the front and sides, with another wooden one blocking the back yard.  Although iron fences aren’t uncommon, wooden fences seem to be more “classically” American, and a picture of the house during the Civil War shows both wooden fences and sidewalk.  However, my ancestors did own the, er, iron works.  (Important note: further south, wooden fences may be the American ideal, but they’re a disaster waiting to happen; in the hot climate, they tend to rot more quickly).

My great-grandfather certainly enjoyed the American Dream before it was defined as such, but his Buena Park house (right) dispensed with the fence along the street front, although it was another story with the neighbours.  The house had another feature that’s generally associated with either Southerners or distributionists: the front porch.  But here it was in Chicago.

Skipping a couple of generations, our house in Palm Beach dispensed with the fence (visible at right) in another way: hedges, as shown on the right.  Palm Beach is, IMHO, at the acme of the American Dream, and yet is unAmerican in profound ways, and the hedges all around the property are a typical feature in Palm Beach.  Today they’re generally higher, designed to completely obstruct the view of the house from the street.  Laurence Leamer described Palm Beach as a closed society; the walls of hedges symbolise that.  (The subdivision I live in now actually prohibits hedges or fences at the front of the property, and this, trust me, is no Palm Beach).

There’s one place where a fence is still de rigeur: around a swimming pool.  Although I think that this is a good safety measure, it’s also the result of another powerful force in our society with mixed results: a very aggressive plaintiff’s bar.

I think that the idealisation of the (preferably wooden Pickett) fence is something we came to know and love in the part of the country where the American Dream really took root: the North, and especially the Midwest.  As we’ve dispersed South and West, how that dream looks has changed in reality, but not necessarily in our ideals.

This eccentric treatment of fences and the American Dream isn’t meant to make fun of it.  Irrespective of what you think of nouveaux riches, the erosion of people’s aspirations for a better life–no matter how they define it–is not a pleasant process to see and even less of one to experience.  And things don’t look to get better.  Our governing elites, after The Trip to Europe, have their own dream for us: living in the 50 square metre apartment and becoming straphangers on the tube, to use G.K. Chesterton’s phrase.  Under those circumstance, we’ll not only lose the fence, we’ll lose the yard too.

The Best Way for the Church to Restore the Family–and Itself–is to Be One

Standpoint’s Mary Eberstadt hits the nail on the head:

Specifically, because the churches need vibrant families — including families that reproduce themselves, as secular people tend not to do — they must also understand that strengthening the natural family is the first order of business in bringing people back to God. As has been amply documented by the British political scientist Eric Kaufmann in Shall the Religious Inherit the Earth? and the American author Jonathan Last in What to Expect When No One’s Expecting, believers have many more children than do non-believers. In an increasingly secular and childless age, the churches need to make that job easier.

This is not an abstract call to rhetorical arms, but rather one to grassroots efforts, one parish at a time, dedicated to all manner of things that might make family life easier or more attractive to secular people. More babysitting, support groups, marriage counselling, meal drop-offs, healthcare volunteering, car pools, prayer groups that double as social hours, free tutoring, and other seemingly humdrum but systematic efforts might do more to re-evangelise Western culture than all the pontifical councils in Rome.

Put differently, the welfare state has been an ineffective and hideously expensive substitute for the fractured Western family. If the churches are to succeed, they must compete successfully against it.

There’s a lot of chatter these days about how Christianity needs to “engage the culture”, with a lot of clever drivel on how to do that.  Most of that clever drivel centres around how to repackage ourselves–and in many cases our beliefs–to be more acceptable to the world around us.

Such rhetoric overlooks one key point: our culture is so trashy and dysfunctional it isn’t worth engaging.  What it needs is to be superseded.  This is especially true in the lower reaches of our society, which is–contrary to much conventional wisdom–more unchurched than other strata of society.  The prop for that trashiness–and the breakdown of the family that followed–is in simple terms the dole, in its many manifestations.  It is not only hideously expensive but financially unsustainable, to steal a term from the left.  Sooner or later something is going to have to give.

To do that the issue of the family itself is going to have to be addressed.  Up until now restoration of the family has largely been perceived as either a political issue or wrapped in the obsessive natalism that has enthralled American Evangelicalism, a natalism that is pushing us towards a “waist-down” type of religion that is more apt for Mormonism than for Christianity.

But giving birth is, with due respect to the pro-life community, only the beginning.  What needs to happen afterwards is described above.  Beyond the doing, however, is the being.  We talk about how the family needs to be restored, but the best way for the Christian church to lead the way on this is to first be a family.  We’ve gone on at length about the authority of the church and we’ve made our churches purveyors of social services.  But a family that is simply an authority structure isn’t much of a family, and for all of its inefficiencies and wrongheaded philosophies we’re at a disadvantage with the state simply as a provider.  In the end, if we as the church function as a family, we are an exemplar of what a family should be, and sooner or later our people will get the message and try this at home.

One of the things I’ve always liked about the Church of God is that, for all of its faults, it’s traditionally had the feel of an extended family.  That needs to be cultivated in as many places and as many churches as will accept the seed.  It’s our most powerful weapon in a world that basically doesn’t like us but really has no Plan B to the highest and best of what Our Lord has to offer.

In Facing Terror, Like Business, You're Washed Up When You Start Believing Your Own Lies

That, unfortunately, is where our government is at:

In his State of the Union address to the American people earlier this year, Barack Obama declared that he was “confident” of achieving “our objective of defeating the core of al-Qaeda”.

Although he acknowledged the need to pursue the “remnants” of the terrorist group and its affiliates, the overall message was clear – al-Qaeda was badly degraded, the tides of war were receding and the US was winning this fight that was no longer even officially a war.

The Boston bombings would appear to present a fundamental challenge to that assessment and once again bring the nagging uncertainty of terrorism back on to the American main street. It is too soon to be absolutely sure the attacks were motivated by jihadist ideology, but the Islamic videos on the website of the older of the two Tsarnaev brothers point very firmly in that direction.

One of the may things I did in my years in small business was to deal with salesmen, both being sold to and representing our organisation.  Like anything else, sometimes it was a joy, sometimes it was very frustrating.  But in doing this I came to one conclusion: a salesman is washed up when he starts believing his own lies.  By this I mean that every salesman develops a “pitch” and when this pitch is a) divorced from reality and b) the deliverer actually believes it totally the salesman is finished.  (Women in sales were a rarity in the construction industry, but I’ll bet they haven’t altered this truth).  Put another way, once you start believing your own unrealistic talking points, as Ann Richards used to say, put a fork in you; you’re done.

That, sad to say, is where the Obama Administration finds itself about Islāmic terrorism (or more accurately Islāmic careerism).  And it trods a well-worn path to stupid on this: the Bush Administration declared victory too soon, to the catcalls of the media at the time.  On top of that the Obama Administration, who considers itself and its people to be suave and sophisticated as opposed to the rubes that went before, has fallen into the same American idea that, if you decapitate the leadership, you kill the organisation.

Although examples to the contrary can be found outside of Islam, “the religion” (as an Algerian colleague of mine refers to it) is especially adept at forming small groups with authority and impact, especially with Sunni Islam. Combined with the usual social and political dynamic in the Middle East, and you’ve got the problems we have today. This is a lesson I learned early on, but I suppose our government keeps thinking that the world operates the way it does.

Seven years ago, on the anniversary of 9/11, I wrote the following:

As Americans, we live in a country with two distinct ideas on how to deal with problems such as radical Islamicism.

The first is that we must understand our enemy if we are to engage him, and engaging him means that, if we “understand” him, we will be nice to each other and everything will be better. This is the approach of the left. With most enemies, this leads to defeat, because they interpret your actions (rightfully) as a sign of weakness and will move against you accordingly.

The second is that, if we understand our enemy, we will become sympathetic to him and it will weaken us, so we must always do it “our way” and defeat him. This is the approach of the right. This can lead to victory but it will be costly.

What no one who has a voice in the public arena seems to grasp is that, to defeat an enemy, one must first understand him, so as to exploit his weaknesses while working from our strengths. Doing this will help facilitate the greatest victory at the least cost. It will also avoid making unnecessary enemies in the process.

We’ve tried both.  Neither has gotten the job done.  As long as we believe our own lies, we are washed up.

When the Government Has To Approve Repairs to Your Church

In Palm Beach, where else?

In its unanimous approval of the repair project, the board also gave Smith permission to replace wood transom windows above the front doors with bronze windows in a style that would closely match the door pattern.

Smith plans to replace the church’s announcement sign with a slightly smaller bronze-framed case that would have an arch at its top and a crucifix. The new sign, like the existing one, would still be larger than what current code allows.

The church in question is St. Edward’s Catholic Church, where the Kennedys said their (badly needed) mea culpa’s when they were at their Palm Beach compound. It’s a gorgeous Spanish style church, and when I first stepped in it in 1972 it made an impression.  (And that, mind you, to someone who came from this, just down County Road).  To match the Spanish look, the original Palm Beach Publix, a block over, adopted the same style, which they used in their stores for many years after that.

In 1990 it was designated a town landmark, which means that the town just about has to approve any “improvement” (including repairs) to the place.  The process can be an ordeal, and the town has other ways to make life complicated for houses of worship, as Temple Israel (also on County Road with St. Edward’s) found out last year.

We normally associate government approval of construction or repairs to houses of worship to places like Egypt, where the Mubarak government used that against the Copts.  The Copts have more pressing problems these days under Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood.  But one of the purposes of the blog is not only to tell people “it can happen here” but “it’s already happening here”.  Use of zoning and building codes is a subtle but effective way to wear down (and out) religious groups, one that’s hard to counteract at law.  That’s not what the Town is trying to do here (St. Edward’s is too well entrenched in the Palm Beach scene) but it’s certainly been done for that reason elsewhere.

One item I found gratifying was the following:

“The stone frontispiece is leaking terribly into the church,” Smith said. The head of Smith Architectural Group, he said he’s been a member of the church for 43 years and that the leaking has been a problem for at least that long.

That means that it was leaking when I first visited the place.  I’m glad to see that the Roman Catholic Church, not known for its quick handing of difficulties, is finally tackling this issue, although again it had to get the Town’s permission to do so.

Americans Aren't Capable of the Debate on Same-Sex Civil Marriage the French Are Having

The Witherspoon Institute is hopeful:

The international press was shocked on November 17, 2012, when hundreds of thousands of French citizens took to the streets to fight against a parliamentary bill redefining marriage to include same-sex relationships and legalizing same-sex adoption. Less than a decade ago, France symbolized all that American conservatives despised and all that American liberals praised. Now we should learn from them.

Should, in this case yes.  Will, unlikely.

Our problem is simple but deep-rooted: we are products of a system which is obsessed with enforcing socialisation at the expense of just about everything else.  We do everything to make this happen: drugs, turning a blind eye to bullying, trashing outliers in our group (American members of the LGBT community would never get away with doing what their French counterparts are) and the other things that make being different difficult in this country.  That’s why issues go the way they do: a food fight followed by the collapse of one side.  One major outlier in that respect is abortion; the one thing our elites and their LGBT vanguard worry about is that a fiat decision for same-sex civil marriage by SCOTUS will produce a rerun of the pro-life movement.

Stuff like this makes American political debate (if you can call it that) more and more tiresome and insane than just about anything else.

Some More Thoughts, and a Response, on STEM Education

My last post on STEM education in Florida has gotten an extensive response from Charles Richardson.  This is a topic very much in vogue and deserves further treatment, although some of what I have to say in response to him–and others who don’t find my strong position on the subject to their taste–I’ve covered in posts past.

As the musicians would say, let’s take it from the top:

Why are Americans especially politicians pushing STEM education contra the humanities right now?

While those of us who are involved in STEM education and activity are gratified that the issue is getting the attention it has, every silver lining has a cloud.  In this case, as Richardson implies, our elites are in something of a desperation mode.  They realise that the main competitors in the world–especially China and India–are strong in this regard, and they also realise (took long enough) that no modern society will move forward without technological skills among the populace.  The growth of secularism among our elites also makes them receptive to the arguments of the New Atheists that everything is scientific, although in their ignorance and humanistic religiosity they turn science into religion, especially as it regards evolution.

STEM training seems to provide an answer. And it does for some people–the “right brained” and workers without much access to good training in the humanities for class reasons. But it’s not a magic bullet. If you’re part of that high percentage of the population that’s “left brained,” then STEM is not for you.

I think that’s a sweeping generalisation.  If we look outside of our Anglophone bubble, we see cultures where technically trained people constitute a higher part of post-secondary credentials and are held in higher esteem in society.  The Roman Catholic Church just selected a Pope with a first degree in chemistry; the Chinese elevate technically trained people routinely, etc.  Are these societies and groups less cultured than ours?  Hardly.

Compounding the traditions of the English-speaking world is the fundamentally Luddite nature of our elites.  They are basically flower children or their intellectual descendants; their life view is rooted in a view that rejected science and technology to start with.  That’s why their whole panic re STEM is such a laugh; had they put scientists and engineers at the table to start with, many of the environmental problems they lamented (among others) could have been solved much more easily.  Instead the system was rigged against human activity via the regulatory system and now everyone wonders why our economy won’t get going again.  (that’s not the only reason why we’re in a stall, but that’s a big one).

I’m not saying that no one should concentrate in the humanities, and certainly there will be those that will.  But as I see it the system is too skewed in that direction and needs some balance; re-emphasising STEM will do that if done properly.

But let’s say you do go STEM. Ok, great, you get a rigorous education, you participate in the great project of science, and you graduate with skills in demand. But let’s not forget that your salary doesn’t grow much over your career unless you do above average patent work or you develop the sort leadership and people skills to make the jump into management. Yes, your skills are more readily transferable across borders, so you can tap into foreign labor markets. But they can also tap into you.

Outsourcing is a topic that is constantly in front of those of us who ply STEM.  How much impact that really has depends upon the field.  And, yes, anyone needs to develop their people skills.  But that goes back to the issue of pre-college education and experience.  The biggest threat to the development of people skills is the breakdown of our families, followed by the contraction of civic life in the U.S., traditionally one of the country’s strong suits.  Trying to make up for these at the university level is a very tall order, to say the least.

I also think that STEM people get a bum rap for being universal nerds.  I don’t find that to be the case, especially with the growth of the number of women in the field, to say nothing of the cultural diversity that has taken place with the abandonment of STEM by Caucasians.

Let’s say you’re lucky enough to go to a fancy private college where most students have money and brains. Then you can pursue the humanities or social sciences in a way impossible at the secondary school level and move into serious leadership in media, government, law, consulting, or finance.

That speaks to the recent flap over the “Princeton marriages” business.  The core question is this: is the key benefit of an Ivy League education–irrespective of major–the education you get or the people you connect with on the way up?  And, yes, this inequality is sad, I’ve lamented it for years.

Let’s move from the individual level to a broader, more societal one. The financial crisis and the deeper trends it exposed were caused to a high degree by things like the poor design of the euro, the foreign demand for American debt caused by investment failures in exporters in Asia, regulatory capture in America. All of these problems are non-STEM problems, so for society to treat them by turning away from non-STEM education strikes me as self-defeating. If you want to strengthen the American middle class ceding the humanities and their attendant cultural power back to elites is not the way to go long-term.

As I discussed earlier, “regulatory capture” could have been ameliorated in many instances with basic science.  Our basic problem, beyond the family and civic life issues discussed earlier, is that Americans, steeped in the post-modern ability to hold contradictory opinions at the same time, no longer really know how to think.  STEM education, done correctly (and not larded with the politically correct rubbish we’ve come to expect) will help to fix that.  Our elites for their part are shooting for a system where only the holding of the right credentials opens the doors to power, and you can have that in a technical system (France) or a non-technical one (UK, US).

Look at the Soviets. They had great STEM training but little real humanism despite a rich cultural legacy. It’s no coincidence that they were also anti-democratic and had no middle class.

Readers of this blog know that the Soviet Union is a favourite topic on this blog.  They did have a great deal of STEM training, and I continue to be the beneficiary of that.  They had no middle class because their Marxist-Leninist economic system couldn’t generate the wealth to sustain one as we know it.

And anti-democratic?  Do you really think we have a functioning system of representative government now?

Do We Really Need GenEd to Make Thinking People?

That’s part of the underlying assumption behind the pushback against Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s latest STEM initiative:

A crusade by humanities professors against Florida governor Rick Scott may be, contrary to their intentions, another sign of the suicide of American education. Scott has proposed lowering tuition rates for students majoring in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) subjects in order to bolster Florida’s economy. A petition begun by University of Florida professors labels this effort a “threat to the humanities” that would sacrifice education’s nobler purposes for mere job training.

My response to the Gator professors: rubbish!

  • STEM majors force people to think logically.  With post-modern deconstructionism, the humanities often don’t.
  • American academia is a poor transmitter of cultural norms and values.  It more often than not presents a one-sided, left-wing, history and tradition hating, and dissent stifling view of the world.  The recent fiasco at FAU (another tale from the land where the animals are tame and the people run wild) re the “Jesus stomping” incident only illustrates that point, and may have been in the back of Scott’s mind when he proposed his initiative.  Liberals always attack their conservative (and especially their Christian) opponents for trying to impose dogma, but you can’t claim to help people think when you’re that dogmatic yourself.
  • Graduates in the humanities frequently struggle to eat after they graduate, let alone pay their student loans off.
  • STEM departments are consistently barraged with complaints about how much per student they cost.  The students gripe about how much work it is.  They’re also endlessly fending off assaults on their curricula by creeping expansion of GenEd.  Scott’s initiative looks to be trying to address these problems.

It’s not an either/or situation: university students, in general, would be better off in a STEM major and obtaining their culture and values somewhere else.  That’s the way it works in a great deal of the world, and there’s no reason it shouldn’t be that way here.

When a Little Darwinian Knowledge is a Dangerous Thing

Every now and then an article on a supposedly “obscure” subject leaps at you.  One of those was “Children Who Disappeared in Britain” by Deborah Cohen of Northwestern University.  It chronicles the history of the Normansfield Training Institution near London, from its opening to its ignominious end in 1997.  It’s significant because it follows the changes in attitudes towards mentally challenged people both by Normansfield’s management and society in general.

It’s start was a bright one:

Normansfield opened in 1868, the brainchild of Dr. John Langdon Down and his wife Mary, ardent liberals and devout evangelicals. John Langdon Down identified the condition he called “Mongolian idiocy,” today known as Down syndrome. His promise — “to open out fresh realms of happiness for a class who have the strongest claims on our sympathy” — soon brought trainloads of worried parents to Normansfield’s iron gates…Pupils who came to Normansfield unable to say more than a few words had learned to multiply 17 by 24, sing hymns, and decline Latin nouns. Imposing from the outside, light and airy in its interior, Normansfield called to mind a well-funded private school, not a hospital. According to one reporter, Normansfield was a place where “idiots had been found to have a future.”

Unfortunately things went downhill for the patients, and that slide started with Down’s own son:

John Langdon Down’s son, Reginald, who succeeded to the directorship of Normansfield upon his father’s death at age 67 in 1896, emblemized this new view. A prominent member of Britain’s Eugenics Society, Reginald became one of Britain’s leading advocates for the sterilization of the mentally unfit. More than simply a man of his time, he was also a more pessimistic and aloof personality than his genial parents. The devotion to Christianity and liberalism that motivated the elder Langdon Downs was replaced in Reginald by a commitment to the medical profession and a passion for Oriental porcelain, pottery and furniture.

Reginald’s pessimism about Normansfield’s patients was increasingly widely shared. The majority of witnesses who testified before the 1907 Parliamentary Committee on the Care and Control of the Feeble-Minded agreed not just that theproblem of mental deficiency was passed down through the generations but that it was on the rise. The 1913 Mental Deficiency Act gave the authorities unprecedented powers to detain and segregate the weak in intellect; they, alone among all segments of the community, could be deprived of individual liberties that — it was argued — had never rightfully been theirs to enjoy.

First: this is a good argument against the creeping “hereditary aristocracy” practice that’s become fashionable in Evangelical circles.  The movement that trumpets that “God has no grandchildren” should think twice before reflexively handing the leadership based on family.

But returning to the main point, what changed other than generations at Normansfield? What changed was the diffusion of Darwininan ideas of natural selection in society, and with them the eugenics movement.  With that hope for improvement among Normansfield’s patients faded and the simple removal of mentally challenged people into dreary institutions where they could be hidden and prevented from reproducing became the norm.

Since that time we’ve experienced many changes.  The eugenics movement was discredited by its efficient implementation in Nazi Germany, although we’ve seen a back-door revival of this through selective abortions and now genetic engineering.  In the 1960’s and 1970’s the sorry state of such institutions led to the usual response of the time: throw the baby out with the bath water, in this case by emptying the institutions. The result is that our prisons are full of those who would have been more appropriately institutionalised in an earlier era, and non-professional caregivers struggle with their charges.

Today, of course, evolution is presented as a scientific religion, with whatever extrapolations its followers want to take out of it as part of the package.  But implementation of such a creed has had ugly consequences in the past, and there’s no reason to believe that they won’t happen again.

The Core Issue Isn't Gun Control, But Government Distrust

That’s Scott Rasmussen’s idea, and he asks a lot of nosey questions:

If people trusted the government, there would be no reason to be concerned about background checks, but only one-in-five voters believe the government currently has the consent of the governed.

Half the nation views the federal government as a threat to individual liberties rather than a protector of those rights. Sixty-five percent (65%) recognize that the purpose of Second Amendment gun control rights is protection against tyranny, and 44% believe it’s likely the government will try to confiscate all privately owned guns over the next generation.

This helps explain why the legislation is struggling in Congress. People like the idea of background checks but don’t think they’ll make much difference. They’re also suspicious about the motives of those in government.

In the end, those who would like to see stronger federal restrictions on gun ownership should start by supporting reforms that will enable the government to re-earn the trust of the American people.

I don’t ask nosey questions for a living like Scott Rasmussen, but that was my point in my New Year’s piece on gun control:

What we really need first is a government we can trust, and as long as the Boomers are in charge, that isn’t going to happen.