Watch the Construction of the new Cooper River Bridge


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The Bridge Blog
A dialog about our new bridge and these web pages

Overview. As a pointy-headed university professor, my weekend project of bridge photography and building these web pages generated many questions and introduced me to just-in-time learning. I enjoy chasing my curiosity and want to identify ways to encourage younger learners to also enjoy curiosity chasing and learning.

Learning usually requires repetition while forgetting occurs when I infrequently use information. Many young learners do not understand the importance of repetition. Weekly visits to the bridge provided the repetition necessary to detect changes in the bridge and consequently generated many questions and opportunities for learning. Over the course of the bridge project, I had access to few experts for answering questions. Rather than a liability, this became an asset and pushed me to improve my search skills with Google. Soon, I found that answers to questions encountered during my weekly photo shoots were often only a Google-search away - (see Restoring the Joy in Learning). Consequently Google + Internet became dependable extensions of my memory.

The bridge story is a work in progress and is evolving from a simple collections of photographs to an experiment with Internet-centric just-in-time learning. Insights I gain from you will find their way into the learning centers of MUSC. Palmetto Bridge Constructors, a joint venture between Tidewater Skanska and Flatiron Constructors, as well as High Steel Structures, Freyssinet, the SCDOT and the Federal Highway Commission Office of Bridge Technology guided much of my learning. I also learn from many of you and from Google-linked resources. More important is the e-mail encouragement I receive from many of you.

Wed, 22 Jun 2005

June 22, 2005: About these web pages

On June 12, 2005, Gene Stead, 97 years of age, quietly died. Gene was Chairman of Medicine at Duke from 1947 - 1967 and was my first boss. But he was more than a chairman. He paid great attention to individuals, whether faculty, students or patients, and worked at enabling them to reach beyond their grasp. He understood that problems could rarely be solved by technology alone and demonstrated over and over again that success often rides on resolving personal and cultural issues.

Several years ago, my son, Josh, and I visited Gene for the weekend. Gene was frustrated by the difficulties in maintaining communication with younger people. We talked about the Internet, about Google, about what to learn and how to avoid the forgetting curve. We shared our frustration that many younger people have lost their curiosity and wrote a short paper about restoring the joy in learning and about learning and forgetting. I built his web site as a tool for exploring Internet-centric learning and addressing issues of curiosity and forgetting. These pages about the building of the new Cooper River Bridge (Ravenel bridge) reflect a continuation of our explorations in learning, sharing and igniting curiosity among young learners.

posted at: 08:25 | path: | permanent link to this entry

Fri, 17 Jun 2005

June 17, 2005: Exploring Graphical Navigation

I am often frustrated with the difficulty of finding stuff on these web pages. I think there must be a better way. Jack, my son, suggested some sort of graphical navigation. The idea is that you can click on a region of an image and bring up more detailed photos.

I have built a rough draft test page to develop this idea. There are about 2500 images and finding what even I want, well, its simply out of control. Perhaps a graphical interface with the photos is the way to do. Google does this with Google Maps using Ajax (asynchronous javascript and xml), a new web technology. This is not Ajax - just plain ordinary javascript - but a start. I need your input, your ideas, your code, your whatever.

posted at: 13:21 | path: | permanent link to this entry

Mon, 13 Jun 2005

June 13, 2005 Humorous stories

From time to time, I receive some humorous stories of past experiences with the Grace bridge. This seems like the best place to share them. To the right you see (right to left) the Grace, Pearman and Ravenel bridges. Note the steep incline associated with the older bridges. (Click the image for a larger format.)

J. LaVerne Ard, former mayor of Pamplico, SC and VP of Marsh Lumber Company - circa 1950 story (as told by Bette Cox, Florence, SC):

"As a high school teenager, he drove a flatbed truck during the summer. One trip to Charleston was for a load of fertilizer. Trying to come back across the bridge with the flatbed fully loaded, a traffic light caught him, and when it turned green, the truck simply wouldn't climb the grade. He sent his little brother to the back of the truck to lay sacks of fertilizer against the back wheels to keep from rolling back into the traffic behind him. Then, along came a policeman.

The helpful policeman stopped all traffic, had him back up about two blocks and rev the motor to get a running start, and cheered him on as the truck chugged up the hill and on across the bridge."

Terry Edmonds, Apex NC

"When I was 15, in 1963, and had just gotten my learners permit to drive, my father, sister and I drove from Wilmington, NC to Tampa, FL for Christmas. I was driving on Hwy. 17 when we got to Mt. Pleasant. The old 2 lane bridge into Charleston came as a very un"Pleasant" surprise. Dad just looked at me and said that I was driving. Two way traffic on that old bridge was terrifying. I must have left clear indentations on the steering wheel with both hands. Never will forget it. And, I have told my kids the story so often that all of them have reported back to me when they made their first trip across 'the bridge'. "

posted at: 10:00 | path: | permanent link to this entry

Thu, 09 Jun 2005

June 9 2005: Opening Dates Announced

Patiently waiting is not one of my virtues but I have learned that waiting impatiently takes just as long. Here is the best information I have, following an announcement from SCDOT today (June 9, 2005):
July 9 Saturday afternoon Bridge Open for pedestrian strolling
July 10 Sunday afternoon Bridge Open for pedestrian strolling
July 11 Monday evening Fundraising event
July 14 Thursday evening Fireworks then stay-cable lighting
July 16 Saturday 9am Bridge Dedication and formal opening
Other event times are a bit uncertain, but I shall post them as soon as I find out

posted at: 10:00 | path: | permanent link to this entry

Wed, 08 Jun 2005

June 8 2005: A short web lesson:
Managing a small web site is a challenge, a learning opportunity and an opportunity to explore my Google-Internet memory amplifier. In addition to the bridge web pages, I follow the lives of a few spiders in our garden and built web pages which reveal a bit of their lives (see Natasha or mating banana spiders). Every morning I review the web access logs to see what is happening.

This morning I saw that Google-directed hits to our banana spider pages are increasing and almost equal to the Google-directed hits to our new Cooper River Bridge web pages.

What is the software base that enables me to manage these web pages? I use the open source distribution of GNU-Linux from RedHat for my web server environment which includes Apache as the web serving software. For development, I use the GNU-Linux distribution from the RedHat sponsored Fedora project which also includes Apache. Finally, I use Google to answer technical questions that arise when I am building these web pages.

Apache writes an entry into either an access log or an error log each time a web page is accessed. Monitoring the logs helps track web site access patterns and identify errors that creep into these web pages. To analyze the logs, I use AWstats. This tracks where web page requests originate and more important, summarizes the search expressions used to access web pages. From these data, I can directly see what is interesting and what is never touched. This provides guidance for experimenting with different ideas and determining how to better meet the needs of readers.

Here is the table from the summary of web activity since Sunday June 5.

key phrases Frequency Percent
banana spider 160 4.5 %
cooper river bridge 128 3.6 %
new cooper river bridge 52 1.4 %
ravenel bridge 51 1.4 %
butterflys 47 1.3 %
banana spiders 41 1.1 %
forgetting 31 0.8 %
french wildlife 24 0.6 %
matrix calculus 22 0.6 %
charleston bridge 18 0.5 %
arthur ravenel bridge 15 0.4 %
nernst-planck equation 13 0.3 %
nephila clavipes 13 0.3 %

Note: I never know when I'll learn something new - and making this blog entry provided an unexpected surprise. When I first wrote the above, I had forgotten the HTML tags for a table header - so I used Google and the search words: how to make html table . The first entry: sorttable: Make all your tables sortable did not answer my question but revealed a way to enable browser-based sorting of columns within a table. Since this looked like a fun idea, I followed their recipe and suddenly the colums in the above table became sortable. The total time required for this experiment - 10 minutes. Curious about other tricks available from this site, I backed up a level and found a collection of interesting scripts for enabling other browser-based presentation features. This is a typical example of the positive impact associated with chasing curiosity within our Internet connected world.

posted at: 10:00 | path: | permanent link to this entry

Thu, 02 Jun 2005

June 2, 2005: The simple elegance of symmetry - without words

The real thing

A digital sketch

posted at: 10:00 | path: | permanent link to this entry

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