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Re: Mistreatment of Seismology Issues - Part 2

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At 08:38 AM 11/13/98 EST, Yank wrote:
>Below are my closing observations with regard to "Mistreatment of Seismology
>On 98-11-25  Rick Ranous wrote:       [not copied] 
>On 98-10-27 Charles O. Greenlaw, SE, Sacramento, CA wrote:  [not copied]
>[Yank:] MY COMMENTS:  These two statements [by Ranous and Greenlaw] were
the >only messages posted on SEAInt
>server with regard to seismic code issue suggesting the development of a new
>way of defining the measure of seismic design forces in terms of Richter (or
>non-Richter) scale magnitude of an earthquake so that structural engineers,
>seismologists and general public, by using the same language, can understand
>each other. (The owners of structures are also general public).

        C.G.: Thanks for the appreciative endorsement, but I should clarify
that it was your posting, not my reply, that suggested relating seismic
design forces to an earthquake magnitude scale the public is aware of. I do
not see any prospect of such a relationship. Neither do I see any ill effect
caused by lack of one.
        I did concede that many buildings badly damaged in the Northridge
Earthquake "were not, in their as-built condition, strong enough to
withstand what they were subjected to." 
        What, if anything, to do as a result of that dismaying discovery is
the question for which many little increments of answer have been advanced.
I contended that much of this answering amounts to another round of code
pothole patching and speed bump erection that is both inefficient and
dangerous to the engineer practitioner stuck with using it.  I wished in due
course for a seismic code "road" rebuilt from the subgrade up, that is
smooth, safe, and direct.   

>There were no
>further suggestions, recommendations or shared thoughts posted on the subject
>matter. Thus the topic of great importance (life or death) to 32 million
>Californians has vanished in the thin air - probably until another imminent
>and inevitable killer-quake wakes us up. 
>Since the down-to-earth proposals (quoted above) made by two respected members
>of Structural Engineers Association of California were met by total silence
>indicating oblivious and far-reaching disregard for the issue on part of the
>remaining members of the Association...

        C.G.: There are other reasonable interpretations for this "total
silence" besides what you say it indicates. It might merely mean accepting
agreement, or the two postings might have been noted as interesting without
any particular judgment being formed. Many readers might not have given the
topic as much thought, and not have had an opinion they thought of enough
value to inflict on everyone. (That's true of me on most topics.) I would
not regard these people prejudicially. 
        Getting a big subject to catch fire on initial start-up is like with
a big log in a campfire: one match only works if there is lots of small
stuff that it can set fire to first, and there needs to be several other
logs to concentrate the heat enough to keep any one of them burning. Here,
the thing cooled off to much to continue, probably due to size and position. 
        There is an old saw about never arguing with a drunk. The same is
true about arguing with a zealot. Now, there aren't any zealots on this
list, let alone drunks, but there ARE those with great tenacity of purpose
for the altruistic causes they believe in. Perhaps we have seen a general
hesitation to fall into discussions that look like components of a reform
movement.  Not everyone who rode in a Corvair joined up with Ralph Nader. 

>the excerpt from a speech by a noted
>American scientist at commencement exercises at the University of Pennsylvania
>delivered over 30 years ago seems to be appropriate at this point in time to
>be shared with structural engineers of California:
> "There exist in many parts of the world various species of a sub-family of
>ants, the Dolichoderinae, whose individuals characteristically run in trails,
>in well established paths, maintaining the same highways throughout many
>generations.... [etc.]

        C.G.: Yes, this is an apt parable for far too much of what SEAOC
sponsors and or controls. My favorite work on the naturally occurring
decline of organizations as they "mature" (ie, get hidebound) is John W.
Gardner's 1963 still-in-print classic, Self-Renewal. Gardner was a cabinet
secretary in the 1965-68 LBJ administration and went on to found Common
Cause, and is a perceptive author on a number of social science topics. 
        Typically with organizational age, can-do initiative and innovation
yields to protection of vested status quo, dissenters are spurned instead of
heard and considered, management moves from dispersed, pluralistic small
groups of roughshod enthusiasts to a central secretariat where polish,
gentility, and one-voice doctrinal control reigns. How elegantly things look
becomes more important than what actually gets done that the outfit was
initially formed to do, and that individual members still want to do. Then
those individuals wander off, disillusioned and unfulfilled.
        Gardner explained these tendencies clearly, and noted that awareness
of them is a prerequisite to their reversal, and to the organizational
self-renewal the book addresses. I have spoken of this often at Central
section Directors meetings, and as a SEAOC Director at the time establishing
an executive secretary's office was under final discussions, but the SEAOC
rigidification continues without apparent awareness of the detrimental
effects and remedies Gardner set out. Now comes another SEAOC Bylaws
rewrite, to implement another round of little-revealed but heavily coerced
centralization of control. Gardner has noted that, "the last act of a dying
organization is to get out a new and enlarged edition of the rule book". 

Charles O. Greenlaw, SE   Sacramento CA