Archive for the ‘General’ Category

Civil Engineers in Military

Civil Engineering is one of the oldest engineering disciplines. It got its name to distinguish itself from military engineering. By looking at the names, we may think that military engineering involves with military and civil engineering is related to non military civilian work. But many civil engineers are part of military and worked in war zones and military bases with various capacities throughout the years.

United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACoE) is a military organization where many civil engineers serve. USACoE involve both in military construction and civilian public work projects that are strategically vital. Most of the Major dams, locks and hydro-electric facilities in the country are managed by the USACoE. It also involves in water navigation systems, flood control and levees, coastal preservation, and environment protection. It is interesting to note that USACoE was established in June 1775, a year before the declaration of independence. General George Washington felt the need for such organization for the country to be formed.

Civil Engineer Corps (CEC) is an engineering section of US Navy that got engineers, architects and Seabees. CEC’s existence can be traced back to 1827 though it was not officially established at that time. Seabees are the construction battalions of US navy. The name Seabees came from the initials of construction battalion (CB). Seabees were established during the Second World War time to support the US military in all continents. They build roads, bridges, air stripes, hospitals, and warehouses etc for military and civilians.

The Air Force Civil Engineer Support Agency (AFCESA) and Air Force Center for Engineering and the Environment (AFCEE) are part of US Air Force. AFCESA supports all major commands to ensure that Air Force civil engineers are organized, trained, and equipped so they can deploy rapidly and efficiently during a time of crisis. AFCEE provides a full range of technical and professional services to the Air Force community in areas related to environmental restoration, pollution prevention, environmental planning, design and construction management, and comprehensive planning and design.

The above are a few civil engineering organizations and their roles in the military. In general, engineers play a major role in the military from research, design, modeling and simulation to maintenance of military vessels, equipment and armory.


Choose My Plate, Power Plate, and Food Subsidies

An interesting article appeared on the blog section. It got some information about the healthy eating, food subsidies, and the contradictions in government policies about the healthy foods.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) replaced the decades old Food Pyramid with Choose My Plate. The new guidelines are more attractive and easy to understand to anyone. It could be considered as a reminder during the meal times. Choose My Plate is a visual cue that identifies the five basic food groups from which consumers can choose healthy foods to build a healthy plate. The basic groups are vegetables, fruits, grains, protein, and diary. The recommendations are based on the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

Earlier this year, Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) came out with a new idea called Power Plate to encourage healthy eating. This plan identifies four different food groups: grains, vegetables, fruits, and legumes. PCRM claims that these four food groups provide the good nutrition we need. There is no need for animal-derived products in the diet, and we are better off without them. This is literally a vegan plate.

PCIM disputes some of the recommendations of USDA. The protein portion of the USDA’s MyPlate is unnecessary, because beans, whole grains, and vegetables are loaded with it. And MyPlate reserves a special place for dairy products, which are packed with fat and cholesterol and may increase the risk of health problems ranging from asthma to some types of cancer. There are many more healthful sources of calcium.

The picture on the left shows the percentage of government subsidies to the agriculture industry by food group. The USDA’s My Plate recommends to cut meat and dairy products, but most of the subsidies go into that group. Fruits and vegetables get less than 1% of the subsidies while they are supposed to fill half of the plate. It is worth reading the article appeared on the PCIM website.

DNA Type Diet

A couple of days back I saw a news item in our local news channel 4. It was a very brief segment, but invoked me to search more about it. It is about DNA type diet. I was fascinated by the information available on the web about the DNA type diet. A few months ago, I got to know about blood type diet . I decided to follow blood type diet mainly because I was already adopting most part of blood type diet. After few months, I realized that it works well for me. The most important different between blood type diet and other prescribed diets is that blood type diet focuses on the healthy living while other prescribed food menus focus on weight loss.

Interleukin Genetics, Inc and Stanford University did a research on the effect of different diet type. The researchers requested participants to provide DNA samples by simple cheek swap. Individuals on a diet identified as appropriate to their genotype by the Weight Management Genetic Test lost an average of over 2.5 times more weight than individuals on diets that were not appropriate. We should take note that this experiment was conducted on overweight/obese woman. I did not see any mass scale research on this topic with a variety of participants.

The initial cost to know about the DNA type diet including the testing is about $170. I have no plans to experiment with this concept. You can find more information on the Interleukin Genetics website.

Coffee and Me

I grew up drinking tea. Sri Lanka is well-known for its premium tea also known as Ceylon tea. Ceylon is the old name of Sri Lanka. I didn’t get much chance to drink coffee during my child hood. When I was a high school student, I used to get up early in the morning and studied for the final exams. During that time I drank coffee in the early mornings. My mother makes coffee on the previous night and keeps it in a flask. Again, it was not really a coffee. I would say it was a coffee flavored milk.

After I came to US, I started drinking coffee. During the student life, I didn’t get much chance to go to Starbucks or other coffee houses (Can we write about coffee without mentioning Starbucks?). Once I started working full-time I got a lot of opportunities to get out drink coffee in many joints. I think this is how I developed a passion to coffee. Nowadays I drink 5 cups of coffee every day. (I am trying to cut it back to 4 cups). In the past 7-8 years, I bought several different kinds of coffee makers and several brands of coffee beans.  At home, I grind coffee beans before making each cup of coffee. Recently I started making coffee using an old style percolator. For some reason, this coffee is tastier than the previous ones made using the regular coffee makers.

A few weeks back I watched the history of Starbucks on the CNBC biographies. I was amazed by the efforts made by Starbucks to make their coffee distinctive from others. It starts from the plantations, continue thru roasting, and then each batch of beans is tasted by professionals to make sure that the customer gets the premium coffee. Starbucks is even picky on the water they use to make coffee. Wow!!! I am pretty sure all the coffee brands have their own scrutiny to make their product best. I visited the first Starbucks coffee shop in Pikes Place Market in Seattle.

The picture on the right is Grand café, one of the first coffee houses opened in England in 1600s. It still serves coffee. There is an interesting history behind coffee. Before the seventeen’s century, alcohol was people’s day time drink. Coffee replaced the alcohol. No wonder why there are a lot of new inventions in the past 400 years.


As many of us do, I also lost many things, relationships, and people in my life. It is often painful losing something. But this time, I feel good, happy, and healthy after became a loser and probably the only time I felt the same in my life after losing something. Yes!!! I lost about 25 pounds of flesh from my body in the past three months. I was thinking about losing weight for last few years, but never initiated any efforts. As I do every year, this year’s resolution is to lose about 30 pounds. I had some other resolutions where I miserably failed and am not going to discuss here – I keep them for future posts. A month passed. I didn’t do anything. Then I went for the annual physical. The doctor told me, there is no way I can let my weight increase as it is now and I should start putting effort to lose weight. It is mainly because of the cholesterol level. I know I have a family history of high cholesterol.

In my case, I gained about 30 pounds within the first two years after coming to the US. Then my body weight was pretty stable though there were fluctuations. I was gaining, on average, about 1 pound per year for the past 8 years.

Finally decided to start a weight lose program designed by me with the help of state offered live well be well prevention plan guidelines. I put up a list of food and snacks to be avoided and the activities that need to be initiated and increased. After I started this tremendous effort, I recorded my activities and weight measures. Then I converted the activities into calories burned based on generally available conversions. I recorded this effort for two purposes. First is to find any trend and the second is to find a settling point.


For me, this is a great achievement. I progressed much better than I expected. During the last two weeks I have slowed down a bit to prepare for moving. I am hoping to restart my activities again next week and will continue my efforts until I become 160 pounds evolved gorilla.