Subject: Re: Charles Greenlaw's Comments on FEMA 310 vs. FEMA 178 (Is FEMA 310Prestandard ...
From: Charles Greenlaw <cgreenlaw(--nospam--at)speedlink.com>
Date: Thu, 16 Mar 2000 09:29:29 -0800
>> I only received the cover letter indicating what was attached - no
>> attachment. Please resend this to me.
As writer of the subject Comments on FEMA, maybe I can help. My comments are
in the SEAint website archives for Mar 9, 2000, 10:59 am. The website is
given in the end box to all these e-mail messages. Archived messages may be
looked up by date, by author, and by thread subject.
(Sometimes it is hard to read the retrieved message because the window is
narrow, there is no compensating tighter word wrap on line length, and a
font size adjustment to get line length to fit can be borderline illegible.
I would like to learn how to widen the retrieved message part of the website
window to ease this problem.)
I attended the FEMA 273 seminar in January and was delighted with all the
fresh approaches that have been given form and commentary. As a prototype,
even with loose ends, it is enabling. But were all its unperfected content
to become abruptly mandatory, FEMA 273 would be a menace to me instead of an
At the end of my recent FEMA comments I alluded to Emerson's writings on
consistency and conformity as being relevant to new code adoptions. My
posting on Emerson dates from Dec 2, 1997, and is also in the archives. It
comments on misuse of code and its supposed mandates that try to confine a
practitioner to one single approach to a design situation, deter
professional judgment and flexibility, and cause lawsuit troubles. Here it
>Indeed it was Emerson, in his 1841 essay "Self-Reliance", and he used a
very significant qualifier to the word "consistency" that makes this often
misquoted aphorism even more relevant to engineers: "foolish".
> "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by
little statesmen and philosophers and divines."
>Consistency was identified by Emerson as a "terror that scares us from
self-trust"; "a reverence for our past act or word". Refusal to be open to a
doubting look at old practices would be a foolish consistency, as would be
refusal to look for what's good or necessary in old ways that aren't totally
perfect... like conventional framing.
>Another hobgoblin that Emerson identified and which increasingly bedevils
engineering practice is "conformity":
> "...you will always find those who think they know what is your
duty better than you know it.
> "For non-conformity the world whips you with its displeasure."
>Expert testimony furnished in support of negligence charges tends to focus
on the accused person's non-conformity to what the "expert" self-righteously
declares to be "standard practice", rather than rise above foolish
consistency and actually examine what would be a reasonable range of
self-reliant professional due care under the laws and circumstances that
>Emerson gives powerful arguments for enlightened individuality in his old
essay, and much of the inhibiting, confining, controlling and punishing
mentality he rails against is stubbornly well-entrenched in the structural
engineering and professional licensing worlds.
>Charles O. Greenlaw, SE Sacramento, CA