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The Panama Canal Expansion's local connection: Cornell grad Jorge de la Guardia, '74

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Editor's Note: This article is reprinted directly from the January/February online edition the Cornell Alumni Magazine. Written by Franklin Crawford, tinytowntimes.com administrator. Some links may work, but most likely, not. Questions? Comments? Visit us at the tinytowntimes.com Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/pages/TinyTownTimescom/124172300968731 ...

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Worth a Closer Look

Panama Canal Expansion Project


Jorge de la Guardia, MEng '74, helps lead the $5.3 billion Panama Canal expansion

Imagine a floating barge 160 feet wide and longer than four football fields. Fill it with some 10,000 shipping containers—each about the size of a double-wide trailer—and send it across the Pacific, then squeeze it through the Isthmus of Panama by way of a three-chambered, mile-long lock system that raises the ungainly beast from sea level up eighty-five feet to a manmade freshwater lake. There it churns past similar vessels, fishing boats, and cruise ships filled with gawking tourists. As the barge approaches the Atlantic, the sequence is reversed, and the Panama Canal Authority rings up another hefty toll.


Panama Canal
Big dig: Jorge de la Guardia, MEng '74, has spent much of his career at the Panama Canal.


If all goes according to plan, by June 2015 the passage of these enormous "post-Panamax" ships will be business as usual on the expanded Panama Canal—an engineering project as enormous in scope as the original "Big Ditch" that opened in 1914. Seventy-three-year-old Jorge de la Guardia, MEng '74, is executive manager for the $3.3 billion Locks Project Management Division, the centerpiece of the $5.3 billion overhaul. De la Guardia shepherded the project from design to planning and construction—a task he could never have imagined as a young man growing up in Panama. "To us as children," he says, "the canal was just a given."

As a youth, de la Guardia dreamed of teaching at the University of Panama, where he later earned an undergrad degree in civil engineering; a World Bank scholarship then brought him to Cornell. But the canal, not the lecture hall, would consume much of his professional career.

De la Guardia described his vocation in a campus talk last November, six years into working on the world's biggest infrastructure job. He touched on the political and economic challenges of the locks project, then nine months behind schedule. "Overall, delays are to be expected on a project of this size," he told an audience of more than 100 in the Plant Science Building. He pointed out that the international contracting firm building the locks was losing $300,000 a day and had a "$54 million problem."


Jorge de la Guardia, MEng '74


Blame it on bad cement. The new locks are made of steel-reinforced concrete that must resist moisture for up to 100 years; it took contractors six gritty months to get the recipe right. Other setbacks, including major storms in 2010, pushed the completion date from October 2014 to June 2015. All the while, maritime trade—and the ships that handle it—keeps growing.

It was the explosive rise in trade between Asia and the Americas that led to the construction of post-Panamax ships—those capable of ferrying upwards of 50 percent more cargo than the vessels, known as Panamax, that fit the current canal.  "China is the main driver of the expansion—especially container traffic from the East Coast of China to the East Coast of the U.S.," says de le Guardia. "The canal will be able to handle some of the biggest ships now being built, with the exception of oil tankers, which do not use it." The Canal Authority earns some $4.5 billion per year, a substantial chunk of the nation's GNP—and, thanks in part to a boom in exports of liquefied natural gas from the U.S. to Asia, revenues are expected to increase sharply.

Comparisons to other manmade wonders help put de la Guardia's project into perspective: the new locks are more than a mile long and wide enough to accommodate the Sears Tower; they use enough structural steel for thirteen Eiffel Towers; crews have pumped enough concrete to build the Great Pyramids at Giza. But as grandiose as the project is, the central task is simply widening, dredging, and hauling away earth. (The original canal removed enough material to fill a fourteen-foot-wide tunnel through the globe.) Digging through sloppy tropical terrain is still a tough job for machines that aren't a whole lot different—just bigger—than they were a century ago. Mother Nature still holds the upper hand. Landslides have slowed recent widening and dredging operations, especially on the Pacific side.

The real engineering novelty of the expansion, says de le Guardia, is its use of water-saving basins built alongside the new locks. The canal's current locks lose about 50 million gallons to the sea each time a boat transits, he notes. With 14,000 vessels moving through each year, that's a lot of water under the bridge. With the new system, 60 percent of the water used on each transit will be reclaimed, for a 7 percent overall reduction compared to the current system. That water comes from Gatun Lake, the source of drinking water for Panama City as well as the reservoir for the locks. Keeping it potable while maintaining optimum lake levels for shipping is a chief concern for de la Guardia's team. The canal expansion will raise the level and create wider channels at the Atlantic and Pacific entrances. A redundant system of sixteen rolling gates—eight on each side—is designed to prevent the ultimate nightmare: a ship crashing through the locks and draining Gatun Lake.

Once the job is done, says de la Guardia, "I think it will be time to retire."

— Franklin Crawford

Last Updated on Wednesday, 05 March 2014 18:11

"Copy Boy, Give me Reprint Services" -- Stolen Moment from Tompkins Weekly

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Reprinted with persimmons from Tompkins Weekly:

By Franklin Crawford, damned fool

I took a Real Age test a few weeks ago. Perhaps you’ve seen these things. You answer a bunch of questions about your health, habits, family history and so on, and a quackadoodle algorithm calculates your “real age.”

Its costs nothing and, unlike exploring your own credit rating, it doesn’t harm your borrowing power. Dr. Oz is big on the Real Age test and it’s easy to see why: He keeps winning. Or losing, which is winning on the Real Age Test. I learned that Dr. Oz is 53, but his “Real Age” is something like 45.

By the way ­– you know his name really is Oz? He’s Turkish. That’s how he gets away with it.

But what happened to Deepak Choprah? The guy gets no press any more. And what a great name! Remember the joke about him marrying Oprah?

Those were simpler times, the ‘90s, and we laughed and laughed.

Now there’s Dr. Oz. He’s no C. Everett Koop, let me tell you. Koop was a man’s man, if a man’s man looks like a Civil War tugboat captain. Koop didn’t prat about in powder blue scrubs with a stethoscope around his neck. He wore a uniform, dammit, and by gum, he knew how to keep his epaulets from flying off under heavy fire. Koop was appointed Surgeon General by President Reagan, in 1981. Dr. Oz was only 21 back then, which put his Real Age at 12, so I don’t know how he got served in bars.

Koop lived right up until Feb. 25, 2013. He was 96, but his Real Age is impossible to calculate now.

Who remembers the Surgeon General who came after Koop? No one. No one but friends and family of Dr. Antonia C. Novello, the first lady S.G.

Up until Koop, all Surgeon Generals were white men. Novello was the first woman; Dr. Jocelyn Elders was the first Black American woman;

Dr. David Satcher was the first Black American man …

Then there was Dr. Andrew Weill and we all got spontaneously healed. Things like that could happen during the Clinton Administration.

Would you believe it? You can believe almost anything if you want to. Just browse the news rack at your local impulse aisle.

Come to mention it, I have a question: How do you tally up your items on a 10 Item or Fewer aisle? Because, see, if I get four cans of cat food, that’s not four items, that’s one item. The cashier doesn’t care. They are airport security. No one gets kicked out for overload. But scofflaws exist. Oh yes. I’m not talking about people who sneak maybe three extra items onto the line. I’m talking about able-bodied people with carts full of various items, items that can’t be lumped under one unit price.

Let’s pause right there since I mentioned the able-bodied: I received a somewhat hostile note from an anonymous reader about my nuisance wildlife column of Feb. 3. This gentle reader somehow believes I was making light of people born with cleft palates. I’m sorry she thinks that. I’m sorry someone was hurt by their own misconception. Humor that pokes fun at people with infirmities is deplorable, okay? I don’t do it.

Moving right along I must vent my spleen about something else. I don’t drive much. But on a Friday night last month I was running late for an event and, do Lord forgive me, I drove my car. Polar Vortex II had the world in its icy grip. En route, I stopped to get some soda. I will admit something I don’t feel good about: I parked outside the store and left the car running. I was in and out of the place pronto. As I returned to my vehicle, a man in full cycling regalia approached me. He said something I didn’t understand and I asked that he repeat himself.

Says he: “It’s not good for the planet to leave your car running like that.”

You know what? He was right. But on the friendly fields of strife, you’ve got to pick your moments, mister. Because I answer my Real Age tests truthfully, and I do suffer moments of anger.

I am not proud of my exchange with this well intentioned fool. Had I only adapted to the moment, I might have framed a thoughtful response. Because the man was hassling me about my carbon footprint. I should have asked him if he had any children. I don’t have any children. I rarely drive. But do you know that having just one child is like leaving a car running for most of the day, in terms of their impact on the planet, viz, those little carbon footprints? Look it up. There’s an online carbon footprint calculator just like there’s a way to find out your Real Age.

Cars are awful things. But guess what? Having just one child is like owning four SUVs in sheer terms of carbon dumping.

Oh, heckfire. I should have thanked the stranger and let it go. But I did not. My response to him is unprintable and I regret it.

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Events like that age a body considerably. I know because I took the Real Age Test again right after that incident. I was 55 years old then, according to my birth certificate. By the end of the test, I was a whiny two-year old with a spotty beard. Still. That’s a 53-year spread. Beat that, Dr. Oz! And pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.

- Chad Coles, who oversees reprinting operations here


A memory of Roger Hilsman, soldier, statesman, scholar

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Tiny Town, USA – I see that Roger Hilsman died. A friend passed along his obituary, published in the Ithaca Journal today, March 4. I'd recently seen an image of him posted on his daughter's Facebook page. Today I learn he is gone a good week already.

I met Roger Hilsman in 1987 when he and wife, Eleanor, allowed me to stay in their capacious apartment on 114th and Riverside, while I looked for work. I was seeing their daughter, Sarah, who I met in Tiny Town when she worked at a coffee shop called Heart's Content, now an "artisan" bong shop.

Roger Hilsman was a tough guy and a true American hero. His Wiki entry is an eye-opener. But I remember Roger for something he said to me at dinner in Old Lyme, CT., where he had some property and a couple nice cottages. His darling wife Eleanor and I were talking about how to measure water when cooking rice. She said she went by the first crinkle in her digit, placing a finger into the pot and measuring from the level of the rice setting in the water. "That's a good Rule of Thumb," I quipped rather lamely–but I will say, rather quickly!

Roger was taking stock of me and I don't think the first impressions he was getting were very good. But Mrs. Hilsman laughed. She liked word play. Then it got reeeal quiet. Roger stabbed at his veggies with a fork and said, in that stentorian voice of his, without looking up: "I had an uncle who once told me that puns are the stench from a rotting brain." He didn't look up at me. He was concentrating on his food. He didn't need to look up: Roger hit his target. I was smarter back then and kept my mouth shut.

It was a helluva way to meet someone's dad, and I was already plenty intimidated by his military career, his political credentials, his academic credentials and his daughter. I graduated college late, held no job and was, basically, a bum.

Still, I had an inward fondness for cranky authority figures, especially veterans, and I didn't let his comment stop me from saying any number of inane things in his presence that weekend. I grudgingly won his favor, as I recall, by getting a tree stump out his driveway that he'd been having trouble with. I dug it out and chained it and Roger hauled it up with a tractor. I was a man, after all.

Here's his Wiki entry: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roger_Hilsman ... Curiously, he died on Feb. 23, the same date that my brother was killed in Vietnam. More curiously: It was at Mr. Hilsman's Old Lyme retreat where I first learned about Lyme disease, identified by a doctor in that area whom he knew. I didn't think much on that because I was going to live in New York City and I didn't walk in the woods back then.

Things change.

Three years ago, I contracted Lyme disease and it really took me out of my game. On fretful, superstitious days, I wonder if it was somehow karmic.

– Franklin Crawford, stinking up the place for longer than expected

Last Updated on Tuesday, 04 March 2014 21:31

Who is floating the administrative bloat in higher education?

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Demo Memo

Is "administrative bloat" a reason for the rising cost of college?

The number of full-time faculty per administrator declined at every type of school between 1990 and 2012, according  to an analysis of labor force trends at institutions of higher education.

At public four-year schools, the number of full-time faculty per administrator fell from 1.9 in 1990 to 1.1 in 2012. At public community colleges the ratio fell from 2.2 to 1.5. At private four-year colleges the figure fell from 1.3 to 0.8.

The bloat is real and it could be a factor in rising costs. Administrative positions are growing as a share of total institutional employment, while full-time faculty is shrinking as a share of employment at most types of schools. The analysis defines administrative positions as those that provide student, academic, or professional support such as vice presidents, provosts, financial analysts, human resources staff, computer administrators, lawyers, health care workers, and so on.

In an attempt to cut costs over the years, institutions of higher education have replaced full-time faculty with part-time instructors. Most college teachers today are part-timers. But much of the savings from faculty cuts have been spent on administrators, the report concludes.

Source: American Institutes for Research, Delta Cost Project, Labor Intensive or Labor Expensive?

From Demo Memo by Cheryl Russell  http://demomemo.blogspot.com/

Russell is a demographer and the editorial director of New Strategist Publications. She is the former editor-in-chief of American Demographics magazine (then located in Ithaca) and The Boomer Report. She is the author of Bet You Didn't Know and other books on demographic trends. She holds a master's degree in sociology/demography from Cornell University.

Last Updated on Monday, 03 March 2014 23:16

A copy of the Common Council Resolution of Feb. 19, 2014: Why? Because it wasn't made public

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Tiny Town, uSA – On Feb. 19, 2014, without public foreknowledge, the Common Council voted 8-1 to approve an addition $3.8 million toward Phase 3 of the the Ithaca Commons Reconstruction project. The resolution was introduced on the floor the evening of Feb. 19 and the public learned about it after the fact. The council can introduce any number of things at the last minute in a public meeting. But officials, certainly the Mayor, certainly key players with the Board of Public Works and various subcommittees, knew that the city was going to pony-up more money for the Commons project. This item ought to have been included in the public agenda. It is the opinion of the editorial staff at tinytowntimes.com., such as it is these days (me, Chad, some times Belinda Cho, C. Pembroke Handy when he's healthy, which is hardly ever any more, and others), that when the city decides to add another chunk of taxpayer's money to the rolls, the public should know what the heck is going on before not after. That's all. Even if Ithaca were flush, which it most certainly is not, it is only ethical to give public notice. That this passed with only one council person expressing concern about the lack of public notice makes us wonder if there isn't a bit of GroupThink going on inside City Hall these days. Reminder: This is not about personalities. There is no substantive media coverage of city hall in real-time and we live in an age of email reportage. People who speak out in public meetings more than once or twice, tend to get marginalized.

With that, the Amendment to Capital Project 724, still strangely absent from the City of Ithaca's website, unless we're completely mistaken. And if we are, here it is anyway:

Amendment to Capital Project 724 -- Ithaca Commons Repair and Upgrade Project

- Resolution

WHEREAS, in 2007, the Common Council authorized, as a part of the 2008 capital budget, $250,000 to begin preliminary design on repairs and upgrades to the Ithaca Commons, and Capital project 724, Ithaca Commons Design and Construction, was established, and

WHEREAS, in June of 2009, the City hired Sasaki Associates, a Boston based planning, design, and architectural firm, to design upgrades and repairs for the Commons, and

WHEREAS, after extensive analysis it was determined that due to the necessary repairs to the surfaces and the underground utilities the entire Commons would need to be reconstructed, and

WHEREAS, in October of 2010, the Common Council authorized, as part of the 2011 capital budget an amendment to capital project 724, to add an additional $800,000 to complete the full design and preparation of construction drawings for the full redesign of the Commons, and

WHEREAS, in March of 2012, the Common Council passed a resolution authorizing staff to apply for a federal grant to fund the reconstruction of the Commons and  confirmed its intent to commit the City to matching funds of $3,500,000 towards this project, and

WHEREAS, in July of 2012, the City was notified that the US Federal Transit Administration(FTA) was awarding the City a $4,500,000 grant towards the reconstruction of the Ithaca Commons, in addition Tomkins County has indicated that the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) will contribute an additional $562,500 for a total of $5,062,500, and

WHEREAS, on July 9, 2012 the Downtown Ithaca Alliance (DIA) passed a resolution pledging to increase their BID assessment in order to contribute an additional $500,000 to be used for the reconstruction of the Commons, and

WHEREAS, in November of 2012, Common Council authorized, as part of the 2013 capital budget,  an amendment to capital project 724 to cover the upfront costs of the reconstruction, including the $3,500,000 that the Common Council had pledged to commit to this project and the $5,000,000 in funds to be reimbursed by the FTA and the NYSDOT at the completion of the project, and the $500,000 in funds pledged by the DIA, and

WHEREAS, in November of 2012, Common Council also authorized, as part of the 2013 Water Fund capital project 524 in the amount of $573,000 and capital project 625 in the amount of $860,000 from the City Sewer Fund as a part of this project, and

WHEREAS, in July of 2012, the City submitted a Consolidated Funding Application to the New York State Southern Tier Regional Council for additional funding assistance for the reconstruction of the Commons, and in December was notified that the they would be receiving $1,800,000, in reimbursable funds to be used towards the reconstruction of the Commons, and

WHEREAS, on February 6, 2014, the City received one bid on the general construction contract for the Commons with a cost that was significantly higher than the budget estimates that were prepared by the City’ s design firm, and

WHEREAS, if the City chooses to execute most of the contract deducts, which include, the removal  of the fountain, the two gateway structures, a reduction in the amount of structural soil, a substitution of concrete pavers in place of granite pavers, the removal of movable planters, the substitution of the semi-movable chairs with movable chairs, and the removal of the play structure, the cost will still exceed the budget by nearly $2,000,000, and

WHEREAS, in order to award the general construction contract, the City must elect to execute all of the bid deducts and must also amend capital project 724, by adding an additional $3,800,000, to include the upfront cost of the CFA funds, and the $2,000,000, in additional expenses, and

WHEREAS, once the City awards a contract for the general construction there may be an opportunity to negotiate some additional savings  for the project in order to recoup the additional expenses or to reincorporate some of the removed elements, and

WHEREAS, in order to complete construction in 2014, the contractor must be given notice to proceed by March 7, 2014, and therefore now be it

RESOLVED, that the Common Council approves an addition to Capital Project 724 in an amount not to exceed $3,800,000, for a total authorization of $13,850,000, and be it

RESOLVED, that funds necessary for said project amendment shall be derived from the issuance of Serial Bonds with a later State Aid reimbursement of $1,800,000 from Consolidated Funding to New York State Southern Tier Regional Council, and be it

RESOLVED, that the Common Council instructs the Mayor and City staff to pursue all available funding options in order to reduce the City's share of the Commons Reconstruction Project, and be it further resolved,

RESOLVED, that the Common Council instructs the Mayor and appropriate staff to negotiate further cost savings with the selected contractor in order to lower the City's financial share of the Commons Reconstruction Project.

Last Updated on Friday, 28 February 2014 10:46

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