Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

The Lucifer Effect

I read the book The Lucifer Effect as part of my Business Ethics class. It is an interesting book with a lot of information on the real life evil acts and laboratory experiments on the factors that leads human towards evil acts. Also, I learned a great deal of information about the Abu Ghraib prison abuses. The author, Dr. Philip Zimbardo was an expert witness in the military court trial of that case. In a nutshell, Author believes that the situational power is a major factor in evil acts.

Some of the points in the book provoked my thoughts.  Firstly, our criminal justice system over-relies on the common sense views about what things cause people to commit crimes. They are usually only motivational and personality determinants. It is time for the legal system to take account of behavioral science about the power of social context in influencing behavior, criminal actions, and moral slips.

Secondly, a vocal minority of any situation is successful when they have four qualities: consistent in their position, appeared confidence, avoided rigid and dogmatic personalities, and finally the most important, in my opinion, skilled in social influence. Also decisions of a group as a whole are more thoughtful and creative when there is a minority dissent. Say hell no to unanimous decisions.

Thirdly, Most peoples’ lives are controlled by their over use of one time frame; past, present, or future and under reliance on the other time frames. We should use the time frames in a flexible balanced fashion depending on the situation. When there is a work to be done, future oriented discipline is needed. When we need to connect with the family and friends, the past should be called upon. When we want to enjoy our life and seek new adventures, present orientation best enables us to do so. In my case, I am more of a present oriented person and I don’t want to bother too much about the future.

Finally, most of us, who have never been to a federal or county prison, limit our basic freedoms by self-imposed prisons such as neurotic disorders, low self-esteem, shyness, prejudice, shame, and excessive fear of terrorism.

I just stop here to keep this post in a reasonable size . The Lucifer Effect is a fascinating book that explores the human nature in different environments at different levels of influence of societal power.


Going with the flow

Many of us do many things because we believe that it should be done or this is the right way based on the past or we are instructed to do it by parents, teachers, uncles, aunts, and society . This attitude is not limited to the career choice but expands to other aspects of life such as marriage, investments, place of living, and political views. Every one simply forgets that they are somewhat unique compare to the rest of the world. They don’t put any effort in searching or identifying the uniqueness. Personally, I would blame the lack of enthusiasm to find that uniqueness not the system.

When I was a high school student, my only goal was to get into the engineering college which is very competitive in Sri Lanka. I achieved it. I don’t remember having any dreams or thoughts about my life when I become 30 or 40 or 50. Years gone. Now, at, 37, I still don’t have any dreams or thoughts on the extended future. I think, I am just going with the flow all these years. In some aspects, I miserably failed, while I was successful in some other aspects. If I know my uniqueness, I think, I would have avoided some of the downfalls.

Let’s see some of the people who did not go with the flow. Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg dropped from Harvard University to start their own companies. How many college students will even try to go on that path? James Goodnight, an established college professor, moved on and founded SAS Institute. The list goes on. The only similarity among them is that they all were obsessed with what they wanted to do and refused to go with the flow.

Life Is Too Short to Go with the Flow, by the comedian Ricky Gervais is an interesting read.

Freedom from Press – 2

The article below is written by Dr. Reed Gibby. He was my supervisor at NDOT for more than a year. He is now retired and writes interesting articles.

Freedom From the Press #2

Freedom from the Press -1

The article below is written by Dr. Reed Gibby. He was my supervisor at NDOT for more than a year. He is now retired and writes interesting articles.

Freedom From the Press #1

Motivation: Never Be Afraid To Say What You Feel

Civil Engineers

Civil engineering is the oldest engineering profession after military engineering. The profession got its name to distinguish non-military engineering from military engineering. The earliest practices of civil engineering can be traced back to more than 5000 years ago when people started to live in shelters. Over the years the engineering field expanded into Electrical, Electronics, Computer, Mechanical, Biomedical, Production, Materials, Chemical, and Petroleum etc. to better cater the growing population needs.

Civil engineers mainly deal with design, construction and maintenance of man-made and natural built environments. There are several major subdivisions in civil engineering namely, transportation, structural, Environmental, and geotechnical. These subdivisions have several specialized sub sections like surveying, earthquake, water resources, coastal, construction, urban, and traffic engineering. In the past few decades, the government and the people became more conscious about the environment. Many schools today offer an environmental engineering degree that focus on the environment. University of Nevada Reno started to offer environmental engineering degree less than ten years ago.

The first civil engineering institution, Institution of Civil Engineers was founded in London In 1818. The American Society of Civil Engineers was found in 1852 which is largest body that represents civil engineers in the United States. The first college to teach Civil Engineering in the United States was Norwich University. The first degree in Civil Engineering in the United States was awarded by Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 1835. The first such degree to a woman was granted by Cornell University to Nora Stanton Blatch in 1905.

I am a civil engineer. I specialized in transportation side of civil engineering. There are 278,400 Civil Engineers in the country. About a quarter of them work for government as I am. Bureau of Labor Statistics believes that civil engineer jobs will increase faster than the average for all occupations through 2018. The world’s wealthiest person Carlos Slim is a civil engineer by education.


I first heard about Toastmasters club about 10 years ago. I was a graduate student at the University of Nevada, Reno during that time. One of my friends, Veronica, told me about it. There was one club that convenes at the JTSU, then student union building, on Tuesdays at noon. I wanted to join the club, but I didn’t make time for it. Years passed away. Many things happened in my personal and professional life. I have completely forgotten about Toastmasters.

Last year, I attended the Leadership Academy of the Nevada Department of Transportation. During the discussion sessions, Ron Siegel, one of the managers,  at NDOT shared his experiences about the struggle he had in communicating with others. He finally joined a Toastmasters club and that helped him up-bring him to the front of the table. After hearing him, my good old memories started to flourish again and I started look for a club to join. I couldn’t find a club that meets at my convenience for a few months. It was a challenge for me as my work place is more than 40 miles from my home and I spend 13 hours a day for work and commute. Finally I found a club that meets at my convenient.  I found later on that two of my colleagues are already members of that club.

I joined the Toastmasters club about two month ago and already attended several meetings. As time passes I become more and more enthusiastic  about involving in the club. All the Toastmasters are just ordinary people. There is no professor to teach. There is no exam that grades our performance. Nobody watch our attendance. All the available members in a meeting share the activities. It is a learning experience by participating in the club engagements. It is not just speaking, we have to assume roles thus we are developing our leadership skills too. The Toastmasters International provides basic guidelines to go forward with the activities. A mentor was assigned to me to help me start engaging in the club activities. Again, she is my colleague at NDOT and she is there to help me. All we need is just a couple of hours a week to prepare for the meetings. It is a well  worth investment to improve our communication and leadership skills and to become a better person.