Posts by: admin

RELAX

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A good part of a work-life balance is taking time off.  A day, or some days.  It’s important to a person’s health and well-being, and much more.  Taking time off allows you to recharge and refresh.  And forget about work, if you do it right. […]

TAKING THE BULL BY THE HORNS

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According to the Cambridge Dictionary, “taking the bull by the horns” means to deal with a difficult situation in a very direct way, as in, “I took the bull by the horns and confronted him about his mistreatment of the workers”.  Many years ago, I[…]

MAKE UP OUR MIND

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Making good decisions is a very important aspect of engineering.  Get as much information as you need in order to make an informed decision and then commit to it.  Sometimes people provide you with additional information after you decide.  It’s okay to change your mind[…]

DEEP WORK: A BOOK REPORT

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This isn’t really a book report.  I asked the author of the book by the same name to join me on my podcast but his people said he was too busy.  Fine.  I’ll go it alone.  Deep work is sometimes referred to as “flow”.  As-in[…]

BELIEVE IN YOURSELF

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Believe in yourself:  you are your greatest asset. Don’t confuse this with “fake it until you make it”.  Most of the time I think that’s terrible advice.  Turrible turrible.  You’re capable of far more than you can imagine.  Maybe it can’t all happen today, but[…]

Proctors, Proctors Everywhere!

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Ralph Roscoe Proctor was an army engineer in the US during the 1st world war. Proctor’s interest in geotechnical engineering began during his undergraduate studies at the University of California, Berkeley. In the early 1930s, he finally created a solution for determining the “maximum” density[…]

AI IN TAILINGS MANAGEMENT?

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The reason computers were developed in the first place was because people thought if you could make enough calculations, you could predict the weather accurately.  But like they said in Jurassic Park, if a butterfly farts in Seattle, it rains in Central Park instead of[…]

RISKY BUSINESS

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RISKY BUSINESS My last blog was about the game of Risk.  This one is about risk assessments.  In the past year or so I’ve been involved in a few risk assessments.  I really enjoy playing a role in risk assessments.  Other than the pre-workshop reading,[…]

THE GAME OF RISK

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When I was in high school my friends and I often played the board game Risk.  We were such hooligans.  Risk is a board game where you try to take control of the world.  A roll of the dice means a lot in the game[…]

KAZAKHSTAN

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As I’m writing this, I’m in Kazakhstan.  This is my second time here.  I was here late last year too.  I’ve been here for two different clients, and to two very different areas.  I have very limited Russian language skills, but a little is better[…]

QUICKSAND

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Quicksand.  According to my childhood memories, quicksand was going to be a major problem in my life.  Tarzan wouldn’t lie to me. I recently watched a movie called 65.  It stars Adam Driver (or three wood?).  It’s about a space traveler who crash-landed on planet[…]

WHO IS AN AMBASSADOR?

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I’ve traveled to, and worked in, quite a few countries.  Traveling is part of what makes us “us”.  One thing is for certain.  When you travel, whether you ask for it or not, you are an ambassador for your country.  People will judge you, and[…]

THE SPIGOTTED TSF CLOSURE OPTION

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This may be my shortest blog article ever.  When your TSF is in its final years of operation, you can start adding ingredients into your tailings stream to help accomplish closure.  For example, if your closure plan calls for a clayey cover, you could add[…]

THE ENGINEER OF RECORD

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THE ENGINEER OF RECORD The GISTM says the following about the EOR: “The qualified engineering firm responsible for confirming that the tailings facility is designed, constructed, and decommissioned with appropriate concern for integrity of the facility, and that it aligns with and meets applicable regulations,[…]

SNAP BACK TO REALITY

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Reality.  There are several reality TV shows that I’ve watched.  Call them guilty pleasures.  There is a show where rednecks hunt for and harvest ginseng.  Most of their harvests are illegally made on land that isn’t theirs.  Then there is the one where rednecks are[…]

DE RE METALLICA

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De re Metallica is a book, originally written in Latin, detailing the state of the art of mining, refining, and smelting metals.  It was published in 1556.  The book is filled with numerous delightful woodcuts, illustrating the state of the art of the time. The[…]

THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS

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It’s in the constitution.  It’s right up there with life and liberty. I tried to read an article about this at Harvard Health, but I would have had to pay… and that didn’t make me happy.  Some may view happiness mainly as pleasurable engagement with[…]

BECOMING

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Becoming what? Becoming a successful and good engineer. Becoming a good person. Okay, what gives? In my present line of work, I love to see an engineering job that is good.  That is my target for the engineers and their work that I review.  Sure,[…]

MATTERING

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This is a weird blog, but do you want your contribution to your chosen profession to matter?  If you’re just starting out, you don’t have to worry too much about this question.  You’ll have time, but you will need to lay out the groundwork over[…]

ODE TO A LIFE WELL-LIVED

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Was he born into a life of privilege?   It matters very little.  His story would be the same. And stories he does have, if only he could share more. During a time of war, he signed up to defend our nation. When he returned,[…]

SPEAK NOW OR FOREVER HOLD YOUR PEACE

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Oh, the joys/horrors of public speaking!  Love it or hate it, it really should be part of your professional life.  Even people who are/seem to be very accomplished at public presentations have had a mixed past with being in the public.  There is no shame[…]

THE MOHR YOU KNOW

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Mohr’s circle is a two-dimensional graphical representation of the transformation law for the Cauchy stress tensor. That’s why I never understood what it was when I was getting my undergraduate degree.  For any real geotechnical engineers, you don’t need to read this article.  See you[…]

FOS=1.5, FROM WHENCE YOU CAME?

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For earth dams, the most common requirement for static, long-term, steady-state slope stability is the 1.5 factor of safety.  Who says?  Where did that come from?  Let’s explore this a little. Wikipedia says that according to Elishakoff the notion of factor of safety in engineering[…]

TRAVEL ADVICE AND MORE

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First of all, all engineers should travel for work for site reconnaissances, site investigations, construction, and so on.  I’ve traveled a fair bit throughout my career.  Early in my career, my travels were swayed more heavily toward site investigation work.  Now my travels are more[…]

OUTLIERS

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Some things are outliers.  There is a really good book by Malcolm Gladwell with the same title.  Some outliers need special attention.  I once worked on a project that involved stiff fissured clay.  By the time I came into the project, all of the lab[…]

WHAT MAKES A COMPANY GREAT? (PART 3)

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Do you know why managers yell and demand results? Besides the fact that they are huge a-holes? Most likely it’s because they don’t know how to do the task.  Otherwise, they would probably mentor you.  Actually, I’ve been in the awkward position of leading a[…]

WHAT MAKES A COMPANY GREAT? (PART 1)

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Is this a trick question?  No.  The answer is simple, but the reality isn’t.  I know there are all the good things like compensation, time off, insurance, work-life balance policies, remote work, doughnuts on Friday and pizza at lunch meetings.  Yeah, yeah, yeah.  Anyone can[…]

JUDGMENT IN ENGINEERING: A BOOK REPORT (PART 2)

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This is part 2 of my assessment of “Design Paradigms:  Case Histories of Error and Judgment in Engineering”.  It was written by Henry Petroski who teaches at Duke University.  Paraphrasing from Petroski, “The first and most indispensable engineering design tool is judgment.  Engineering judgment get[…]

EUREKA MOMENTS

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We’ve all had them.  Whether you call them eureka moments, epiphanies or whatever, we’ve all had them.  My son had a professor who called it toilet philosophy.  When you don’t have to do any research; you just have to think about a given topic.  Einstein[…]

FINDING YOUR PASSION

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Passion.  It is what you get out of bed for on a Monday morning.  I know, it’s not always there.  But if you want to live your life in full-stream-ahead mode, you need to be passionate about whatever you’re doing.  No, you don’t have to[…]

DEVELOPMENT OF GEOTECHNICAL PRACTICES FOR TAILINGS FACILITIES OVER THE YEARS (PART 2): THE FAILURE MODES AND EFFECTS ANALYSIS

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Let’s discuss risk further.  Risk is defined as the product of the probability of an event occurring and consequences resulting from the event. Risk analyzes are a systematic process of identifying and assessing these possible results and their associated probabilities.  Because risk analysis for tailings[…]

TWO MOOSE AT DAYBREAK

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The day’s first light dimly began to brighten the early morning sky. Low clouds on the horizon to the east would slow the sun’s early light. There was a chill in the air; you could already make out the mist over the lake. Dawn would[…]

TAILS, TAILING OR TAILINGS?

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Tails, tailing or tailings? A rose by any other name would smell as sweet. In one of the proceedings of Tailings and Mine Waste, Prof. John Nelson presented a somewhat tongue-in-cheek paper titled, ¨Tails, Tailing or Tailings¨.  In that paper from the 1990s, Prof. Nelson[…]

LIFE GOES BY PRETTY QUICKLY

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As the philosopher Ferris Bueller famously said, “Life moves pretty fast.  If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it”.  You water and fertilize your lawn; you mow it.  Rinse lather and repeat.  It snows and you shovel it. […]

HAVE YOU READ ANY GOOD BOOKS LATELY?

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Hey, have you read any good books lately?  I mean a book on management, performance, business, organization, self-improvement and the likes.  Instructional books.  Educational books.  Have you read books like this, maybe dog-eared a few pages, maybe writing some comments or notes in the margins,[…]

WHAT IS YOUR WHY

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It’s not a statement.  It’s a question. You wake up, have a cup of coffee, you go for a run, shower, dress and got to work. Lather, rinse and repeat. Why?  Why do you keep repeating the cycle? Do you need the money?  Is it[…]

TRAVELS TO ELKO

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I’m on a trip to Elko, Nevada.  Over the years, I’ve spent a lot of time in Elko.  People who just travel through, or maybe just spend a night there, only see some seedy motels and a cheesy casino or two.  That is their impression,[…]

WHAT IS A MINING ENGINEER?

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My first degree in college was a B.S. in Mining Engineering.  What the heck is a mining engineer, you ask?  A mining engineer is involved with the engineering aspects related to the extraction of minerals from the earth, either underneath or on the ground.  A[…]

WHAT IS A CIVIL ENGINEER?

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Sometimes, when I want to keep it simple, I tell people that I’m a civil engineer.  In truth, I don’t feel like one.  I don’t have a degree in civil engineering, and I’ve never taken a class that is specific to civil engineers.  But I[…]

LESSONS MY DAD TAUGHT ME

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I’ve learned a lot from my dad. Like, there is great value in a day of hard work.  Break a sweat.  Even if you’ve done your best, sometimes you have to do it over anyway.  Using what you learned from the first trial should make[…]

HAVING THE TIME OF MY LIFE

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As I’ve said previously, for the first time in my life, I now have actual work/life balance.  I’m finding that 3rd party reviews, external technical advisory and involvement in Independent Review Boards is very rewarding.  Speaking of which, I am in between some of my[…]

THE CIVILIZED ENGINEER

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One of the most interesting books I’ve ever read is called The Civilized Engineer, by Samuel C. Florman.  I thought it was fascinating.  It was written over three decades ago, but to me, it’s just as applicable today as it was when it was first[…]

THE THRILL OF ROCKHOUNDING

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Rocks and soils are the main components of our Earth’s crust, and they are the foundation on which we build our civilization.  And some of the rocks are beautiful.  My grandma taught me to be a rockhound when I was really young.  Her neighbor was[…]

BEING INDEPENDENT

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I have a friend who told me that I should go independent.  That was in the late 1990s.  He thought that I could make a comfortable living as an independent CPT engineer.  Attending the site investigations and also doing the data interpretation.  That was before[…]

WHY MINING MATTERS

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“If it can’t be grown, it has to be mined”.  Or recycled.  True.  But back to the point.  Even things that are grown require mining.  That’s where fertilizer comes from.  Yes, you can fertilize with manure, but there aren’t that many plant nutrients in manure. […]

COVID-19

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We are all very tired of it.  COVID-19 has been a very real part of our lives for a year now, no matter what your politics are, which I won’t go into.  A year has passed since the WHO declared COVID-19 to be a pandemic,[…]

THE JOY OF PODCASTING

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My first podcast on Behind the Scenes with Bryan took place on July 7th, 2019.  I now have over fifty episodes.  Some have been listened to hundreds of times, while some have a few dozen listens.  There is an outfit in Australia who occasionally promotes[…]

THE INTERNET OF THINGS

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According to Wikipedia, the Internet of things (IoT) describes the network of physical objects that are embedded with sensors, software, and other technologies for the purpose of connecting and exchanging data with other devices and systems over the Internet.  It also seems like the most[…]

WHAT IS A FRICTION ANGLE?

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A lot of times geotechnical engineers speak of a friction angle as if it is simply a strength parameter.  But is has a physical meaning.  Can you remember the analogy of a sliding block on an inclined plane?  You begin with the block in the[…]

TERMINATION & DETERMINATION

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This brief (poorly captured) video really inspired me.  [oddly you can only find the video on my LinkedIn post, at https://www.linkedin.com/posts/bryan-ulrich-08634b13_termination-determination-i-was-inspired-activity-6747225223629828096-Qs-w] This NFL player (De’Vante Bausby) was let go 13 times by various teams.  Along his way, with all of these dismissals mounting, I could[…]

SAFETY SHARE: YOUR EYES

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A few days ago, I had my fifth eye operation.  All went well.  The first surgery was to repair a detached retina which was caused by a really good collision when I was 13 years old, playing ice hockey.  The recovery from that was a[…]

SME BOOK TESTIMONIAL

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I was recently asked to write a testimonial for an upcoming book being published by SME.  The book is titled, “Mine Tailings Perspectives for a Changing World”.  We need more books like this.  The following is a draft of that testimonial.  On Thursday October 19th,[…]

ZOOM ZOOM ZOOM

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Be it Zoom, Webex, Go To Meeting, Teams or whatever, a remote platform smells as… sweet?  This certainly seems to be the new normal, and necessity being the mother of invention (or creation), I believe we are going to be doing these remote meetings more[…]

CENTRAL THICKENED DISCHARGE FOR TSF CLOSURE

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In November my former coworker, Andy Rudy, and I will be presenting at the 23rd International Conference on Paste, Thickened and Filtered Tailings, a Virtual Conference.  You can find out about this conference at https://paste2020.com/?idioma=ingles.  Pre-recorded presentations will be available from Monday, November 7 at[…]

The Value of LinkedIn

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When I first started using LinkedIn, I had no idea what it was really for, except for “professional networking”, whatever that is.  That was many years ago.  How long ago, I have no idea.  It isn’t the professional’s version of Facebook, that is for sure. […]

(HU)MAN VERSUS MOTHER NATURE

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Every time I try to out-guess mother nature, she makes a fool out of me.  For example, I once had a client in Nevada who needed foundation recommendations for a lightly loaded structure that he wanted to have built.  He described the site to me[…]

MEMOIRS

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I just recently finished reading Steven Tyler’s autobiography.  It’s titled, “Does the Noise in My Head Bother You?: A Rock ‘n’ Roll Memoir”.  It was pretty good, especially if you like Aerosmith.  A really good friend of mine has talked me into writing my memoir. […]

VIRTUAL/REMOTE ENGINEERING

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A couple of weeks ago I began to have some knee pain.  It started after a very nice 7 mile run from my cabin to one of the local lakes and back.  I tried the traditional treatments of rest, elevation, ice and aspirin.   After a[…]

SAFETY SHARE

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All good meetings should start with a safety share.  This one is therefor way overdue.  When I was in high school, I was a gymnast.  I specialized in the rings.  You know, the one with the “iron cross”?  That’s always a crowd favorite.  At one[…]

Race

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The death of George Floyd was tragic on many levels.  It was not because this was the most gruesome death ever of a black man that the conversation, movement and protests started.  It was because it was the straw that broke the camel’s back.  Because[…]

FISHING

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There is one thing that has really been good to me during this pandemic.  Fishing.  And, well, having time to catch up on a lot of content too.  There is a lot of really good content being produced now. Back to fishing.  As I’ve written[…]

OUR LIVES, INTERRUPTED

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My financial advisor always tells me that there will be another 2008-type disruption to the stock market.  I could wish that he was wrong, but we just had another one.  By the way, from what I understand, the markets should rebound more quickly this time[…]

THE OBSERVATIONAL METHOD

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THE OBSERVATIONAL METHOD We’ve all heard the expression, “the observational method”, but I think that many practitioners are confused/ill-informed of the actual application of the method.  I’ve heard it being used far out of context.  Let me try to clear up some of the confusion.[…]

CONSTRUCTION OVERSITE AND THE VALUE OF OBSERVATION

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I’ve written before about construction work and quality assurance/quality control.  When we do material testing for construction (whether it is earthwork, rock, aggregate, concrete, geosynthetics or whatever), we usually “sample” a small portion of material that is involved in the overall work.  For example, when[…]

INTEGRITY

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Integrity.  What is it?  Merriam Webster defines it as a “firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values”.  Interesting.  It isn’t just about doing what you say you will do.  You must adhere to an especially moral value.  If someone has a[…]

NETWORKING

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NETWORKING Networking is pretty important for professionals, especially early in their careers.  What is networking?  It can and should mean many things.  There are conferences and tradeshows where you can meet or be introduced to others in your industry.  You don’t have to be a[…]

TAILINGS RAP

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Many years ago, when I worked at the US Bureau of Mines, I wrote a rap song about that job. That song is called The Bolt Boys. It was recorded by a co-worker and friend by the name of Clay Stuckey. That song can be[…]

THE SUNNYSIDE MINE

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Early in my career, I was provided with the opportunity to complete almost every aspect related to designing a raise to a tailings facility.  This particular tailings facility was located just to the east of the beautiful town of Silverton, Colorado.  I’ve mentioned Silverton previously,[…]

FIFTY SHADES OF SOCIAL DISTANCING

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It’s Day #7 of Working from Home/Social Distancing, and my wife has already reported me to HR three times. A co-worker asked me yesterday if I was going to be working in the office.  I told him “No, I’m avoiding the office like the…plague”.  I[…]

LAWSUITS AND OTHER WASTES OF TIME

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The following is a work of fiction. A while back, I helped defend a previous employer against a very frustrating lawsuit. This particular case pertained to an alleged construction defect. The owner claimed that the engineer and contractor had used reactive aggregate in the concrete,[…]

FINDING YOUR PASSION

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Passion. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines passion as an intense, driving, or overmastering feeling or conviction. The Urban Dictionary says that “Passion is when you put more energy into something than is required to do it. It is more than just enthusiasm or excitement, passion is[…]

WHY BLOG?

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Quite a few people have commented to me about my blog, saying that they really enjoyed this article or that one. It always feels good when people recognize (or at least acknowledge) my work. It makes me feel like the effort matters. A dear friend[…]

A TAILINGS FACILITY IS FOREVER

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I know. The expression is supposed to be, “A Diamond is Forever”. Thank you De Beers, but that really isn’t true. Not to knock too much of the luster off of the very famous slogan, but take the example of industrial diamonds that are used[…]

THE BIG “C”

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A very dear friend of mine is suffering from a type of blood-borne cancer that is very similar to leukemia. In her particular case, she needs a blood donor so they can harvest a certain type of stem cells (peripheral blood stem cells) that will[…]

HOLIDAY TIME IS FAMILY TIME

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The holidays are for family time. Sharing a laugh, sharing love, sharing a meal, and sharing gifts. And having the gift of each other’s company. This Christmas was a little different, as we traveled to Portland, Oregon to visit my daughter, Stephanie. Stephanie has lived[…]