Friday, December 19, 2008

The Interchange as Art?

It's been busy around here- deadlines butting up against the Autodesk "Week of Rest", the post AU catch up frenzy, my design class coming to an end, oh yeah, and that whole Christmas thing.

We'll get back into some hard core Civil 3D tech once I drink a few egg nogs next week.

In the meantime, if you needed some artwork for your Holiday Greetings this year, one of these just might fit the bill.

These drawings came from looking at an aerial of spaghetti junction immediately after I hit my head on the sink while standing on the toilet to hang a clock.

Dana Probert Week 6 Assn 1-more ideas

Here is the one that I wound up turning in.

Dana Probert Week 6 Assn 1

Friday, December 12, 2008

Friday Whetstone 12-12-2008

I don't think I am the only geek in the CAD universe who celebrates the new year on the day I return from Las Vegas. Everything we work on comes to its apex during AU. There hasn't been a year yet that I don't sit in McCarran and scribble down my "AU Resolutions". The first year it was "Submit a Proposal", then the next "Learn how to write a paper that doesn't suck" and of course "Wear more comfortable shoes".

In all seriousness, we have 361 days from one Autodesk University to the next. How are you going to take advantage of each day? Those days are going to go by whether you like it or not, and before you know it, we'll be right back here again.

If you spent one lunch hour per week watching an AU Class (crank it up to 2X speed to get through it in 45mins), you'd be able to experience 52 classes. If each one of them gave you one little idea, think of how far ahead you'll be. If you download the AU Online podcasts and listen to them while you drive to work, you can dig in even more. I know I will spend a lot of time watching and listening because the AU crush always leaves too little time for me to see as much class as I would like.

On that note, what do you do on your drive to work? Replace one commute time rock out session per week with a ULI podcast, a TED talk, or maybe an interesting audio book or language program. That's another 52 hours of ideas, insights and skill.

What if you spent an hour or two on a Sunday afternoon once a month flipping through Urban Land, Landscape Architecture, New Civil Engineer, CE News, ENR or another industry magazine to keep up with what is going on in the industry and feed your brain some new ideas?

In addition to learning more about graphic design, presentation skills, visualization and of course civil 3d civil 3d and civil 3d, I need to find my former physical self. I read an article this year about an Estee Lauder executive and mother of four who said Take Care of Yourself First: “You’re going to need energy for this juggle.” She was right and running around like a maniac in the month before AU and while in Vegas let me know that I need more endurance to keep up. Like learning Civil 3D or preparing for a presentation, physical fitness is an exercise in consistency over the long haul.

Here is some stuff I have on my list for this week:

1. Presentation Zen Webcast. You've heard me talk about Garr Reynolds before. While I didn't get a chance to implement all of his ideas, Presentation Zen helped me immensely this year, and I can't wait to learn more to become even more comfortable with my talks.

2. This month's Urban Land Magazine

3. Tons of Classes on AU Online. I'm beginning to bookmark my MUST WATCH AND READ list here.

4. An article called Water In Balance from this month's CE News. Salvatore Napolitano from Metcalf & Eddy /AECOM shows some ideas for using Civil 3D for floodplain modeling.

5. ENR's Continuing Education Center features tons of online readings and quizzes that you can use for continuing education credits and general learning fun. I'm checking out Pedestrian Friendly: Planting Trees and Celebrating Stormwater in Urban Areas and some of the other topics under sustainability and site infrastructure design.


Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Miss the AEC Keynote? Check it out!

Check out the Autodesk University 2008 AEC Keynote Session at the new AU Online.

If you don't have an AU Online login, access the AEC Keynote here.

The Civil portion begins around minute 62 or so. It is a twelve minute talk about BIM for Civil Road and Highway projects.

Adam Strafaci speaks about the process, and I show live demonstrations. We also work in video from mobile LiDAR, RDV Systems Rapid Road Safety Analyzer and a really spectacular visualization done with Civil 3D and 3DS Max using the tools from 3AM’s Dynamite VSP.

The Civil 3D portions are shown in Civil 3D 2009 to focus on thought leadership for using the current product.

This presentation was designed to appeal to a variety of technical and non-technical audiences. We wanted them to say “I didn’t realize that Civil 3D could be used for that type of project!”

I urge you to watch the entire presentation. There are great pieces on using Inventor as a key part of AEC projects, also some great Navisworks information, and an integrated segment on Sustainable Design using many products in our portfolio.

If you are looking for some more information about Civil 3D for transportation projects check out Civil 3D for Aviation and Airports customer success story, Civil 3D for Port and Harbor Projects, and much more at the Civil 3D Transportation Success Story page.

Don't Forget to Fill Out Your AU Feedback

I don't think its too late. If had your badge scanned when you came into a class, you should have gotten an email about filling out class surveys.

I cannot stress how important this feedback is. As a speaker, I know that I have taken the comments and ratings to heart and used them to help me improve. I credit this for my steady improvement over the past three years.

The results are also used my the selections staff to decide which speakers come back, which speakers could potentially wind up on certain tracks and how to improve the AU experience in general.

My classes both have are at about 60% reporting. That means there still close to 40 people out there who need to fill theirs out.

Don't leave me hangin'- tell me what you really think so that all of AU can improve!

If for some reason you can't get in to fill out the survey, or you wanted to tell me more than 200 characters can handle- email me anytime. Dana.Probert (at)

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Behind the Curtain on the Mainstage at AU

I am sitting, literally, behind the black curtain in the GIANT room where Carl Bass's mainstage keynote was delivered, and where I (and a cast of many) will be delivering the AEC Keynote tomorrow at 8AM.

It's really incredible back here. I'm rerendering some videos for the 10000th time because I am a movie noob, and while I wait I am just amazed at the logistics involved in this event. Its a long way from one girl and one projector and a loud voice. That is for sure.

So far, Autodesk University has been fun. I have more to to than ever (and I mean EVER) but some how I've been able to relax, visit with some folks and make time to sit in a class or two and learn something.

I think maybe AU is like children. Before you have kids, you think you are busy, which is like AU as an attendee- so much to see, so much to do, so many things to learn.

Then you have the first child and things seem really nuts and you have no idea how you will manage, but you do. It isn't pretty, but you get there. That's your first year as a speaker.

Then, you have another kid and you realize there really is no reason to freak out- that things will somehow get done and everyone will be taken care of, so why not enjoy the ride? It isn't worth stressing over.

Really, three or five or six couldn't be that much harder, right?

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Getting Ready for AU 2008: A Preparation Guide of Sorts

My first AU I went as a regular attendee and it was busy but fun. I showed up with one suitcase and left with two. We just saw as much as we could, then left happy.

Then I got the brilliant idea to become a speaker. Every since, AU has been even more amazing, but amazing in a "wow, that was a lot of work" kind of way. I didn't even know the half of it! This year, I am so excited to be participating in a workshop, two classes, two keynotes, and a lunch as part of my official duties, and lending a hand everywhere else once those are done.

I haven't changed my packing list much for this year, except I did go out and buy some sensible shoes. Knowing me, I'll wind up wearing cute shoes again the first night and wind up needing a rental scooter the rest of the week. You walk SO MUCH I CANNOT EVEN EXPRESS IT.

Reflections of AU 2006- What I learned, what to bring, etc.

AU 2007 Packing List

If you'd like a bit of a running commentary on what I'm up to at AU, you are welcome to follow me on twitter. My twitter account is not public, but I do approve just about everyone who requests to follow me. Unless you seem like an overt spammer, or if you are scary. But considering some of the other characters I let follow me... I am sure you couldn't be that scary.

I'd love to say hello and catch up with as many people as possible. Here are some of the things I'm involved in, or that I hope to attend. Note that I say hope. AU is NUTS, the Venetian is big, and sometimes a girl gets dragged into "just one more dry run".

To give you an idea- this is what my outlook calendar looks like, and I'm only getting started putting things on. (Yes, it's blurry on purpose people. That's so you get a feeling for the tears I shed when I realize that I cannot possibly do everything and see everyone I want to at AU! Such is life.) :


Tentative things are shown in italics below. Black means- if I'm not there, it doesn't happen. Or at least my part doesn't.


8AM-5PM Civil 3D Implementation Bootcamp (organizer, proctor)

6:30PM-7:30PM Speaker Social (speaker, socializer)

7:30PM-9:30PM BIM Mixer (mixer, socializer, maker of bad slides)


10:30AM General Session "Carl's Keynote" (reveler, show geek, maker of several still images showing off civil engineering)

Noon- 1PM AEC Subscription Customer Lunch (presenter of subscription goodies like new subassemblies and HEC RAS extension)

4PM-5:30PM Blogger Social (blogger, socializer)

5PM-7PM Closed Invitation Event (heckler, drinker of cold Amstel)

(I'll likely miss the beer bust due to rehearsals)


8AM-9:30AM AEC Keynote (Transportation Speaker. I don't care if you come in your pajamas, just don't miss it!)

5:00PM - 6:30PM CV 218-1L Get Your Head Out of the Point Cloud (Instructor)


10AM-11:30AM CV 218-1L Get Your Head out the Point Cloud (Instructor)

Done with the hard work! AU Party, as many classes as I can see, swag patrol!

Giving Thanks for a Great Year

Good grief! AU is next week. I guess time flies when you spend twelve months writing two books, teaching web classes, starting a new job and sharing an office with this guy:


Thanksgiving is a great time to reflect. It's been a wonderful, hilarious year filled with new adventures, but it was also a year filled with late nights, working weekends and much juggling.

This year I am thankful for my family and our good health, my wonderful coworkers, Venti Peppermint Mochas, the popcorn counter at Target, twitter, Facebook, Digsby and (too many) long talks with my good friends Ben and Jerry when everyone else is finally asleep.

This coming year, I need to be thankful for more long walks and vegetables! Prospector is finally well settled into his intensive NASA preparation and Linux developer magnet preschool, Panorama writes me long letters from her internship at CERN, and my new job has proven to be more fun than I ever could have imagined.

So here's to another great year in the constant effort to find balance, love and laughter.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Friday Whetstone 11-21-08

One of the things that we talked about in the 7 Habits class is the idea of paradigm. More than just a buzzword, paradigm is the way we see things. It's our own reality. In order to truly understand people and situations, we often need to change our perspective and see things from a different angle.

Of course the best way to do this is to expose yourself to lots of new people and situations. Take trips, do an exchange, ask questions, really listen when people are talking to you, try something new...

In addition to real life experiences, I have found it useful to listen to books on tape and other audio programs. I spend some time driving, walking, at the gym, and on planes and I was searching primarily for entertainment. Every once in a while you read or listen to something that really changes your perspective because it expose you to someone else's reality. Sometimes we need to hear that our problems aren't really that bad compared to what they could be, sometimes we need a kick in the pants to get us moving towards a reality that is better than our own.

Here are a few favorites:

1. A Thousand Splendid Suns and the Kite Runner.

I have an audible subscription. Last year, I had an Erica Jong novel on my iPod. As I was listening, I kept thinking- "Yeah, wow. I am glad I'm not a single career woman in my thirties in 1960's America. They had it hard."

For some reason, I didn't have part II of the Jong novel, so I switched to A Thousand Splendid Suns. Let's just say I never made it back to Jong. It just seemed incredibly superficial after listening to the story of two women in modern day Afghanistan. It was gripping, touching, at times hard to listen to, but worth every minute. The Kite Runner had a similar effect.

2. Family Matters and A Fine Balance

Living in Canada helped me understand what cold really meant, and I will never complain about winter again. Reading Rohinton Mistry books helped me understand what it means to live in a place (Modern and Recent Past India) where opportunities and freedoms and even dignities are limited.

3. Most Episodes of This American Life

Specifically, an episode from last week called "Who Do you Think You Are?" that featured three stories that really gave me insight into some perspectives that I could never experience myself- growing up during the depression, growing up as a black male in the 1960's and growing up as a perfectly family, only to have it taken away (but finding out that made the family much more wonderful.) Subscribe to the podcast, it is very good.

4. The Fountainhead

While there is the typical Rand Objectivism message, what really changed my perspective was the way Howard Roark approached architecture. He believed that the form of the building should be in tune with its function and structural needs. For example, he disliked facades and decoration because they served no real purpose on the building. He would rather work as a laborer in a quarry than compromise his architectural ideals.

While I realize Rand was probably going for a bigger metaphor here, I took it pretty literally and tend to enjoy simple and functional designs in furniture, buildings, bridges, and of course all nature of engineering projects. I also try to examine my work life against his occasionally. I'm not sure I'd give it all up to work at a quarry, but now and again you have to smack yourself around and get back "on mission".

There are tons more, but this should keep you going until next week!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Mommy What Did You Bring Me?

Dominick picked up something for Panorama at the Green Building Expo in Boston yesterday.

Every kids needs to... Learn About Cement!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Civil 3D Styles in Action

If you've ever had a hard time convincing the CAD manager at your company that you can make Civil 3D styles look like your local standard, here are some ideas.

This is also great for those of you out showing the product to potential users, or when speaking at user groups. If you make a few sets of styles, then use a named view (or just the same zoom when taking your captures) then switch between styles, you can make a slide show where the images overlay nicely and it seems like the styles are changing right before your eyes.

This could be a good idea for recording styles for a company standards manual, or for the Civil 3D setup consultants out there you could take a capture of each style you create to build a portfolio for potential clients.

The above slideshow is a little small and doesn't come through in the feed- so check out the direct link:

As I was typing this, I came up with a fun idea. I've created two flickr photo groups.

The first one is Civil 3D Styles. Show off captures of your best label hacks and funkiest code sets. It will be a great way to get "mindshare" on what everyone is doing out there and seeing what is possible without having to give away our "secrets" about how we created the style itself.

The second group is called Civil 3D Gallery. This one is for screen captures of your models, your finished drawings, your everyday work. If you use Civil 3D, you have something to contribute. I want to see what everyone is doing out there- from the meat-and-potatoes work to your slickest renderings.

Register to be a Useability Tester for Civil 3D

I encourage everyone to become involved in Autodesk's MyFeedback ( program, but sometimes you wish you could do more, or get involved a little bit earlier in the process.

I am in Manchester this week, and I learned that we need useability testers. The research is used for the current and future releases.

Useability testing goes on all year in many ways, including remote work. So even if you can't be at AU, fill out the form below to get your information into our list.

If you use Civil 3D and have always wished you could try a tool while you had the ear of someone who could listen to you as you worked with it- and use that to improve the product- here is your chance!

Want to help improve the Autodesk AEC products you use every day and get an early opportunity to try out future releases?

This is your chance to participate in user research sessions at AU (or in the future) that will give us a deeper understanding of how you use our products and what we can do to improve them.

We conduct user research throughout the year, so we’re interested in hearing from you even if you can’t participate at AU. To learn more, you can either:

Visit us Online:

Visit us in person:-AEC Usability Center (Zeno room 4601 in the AEC Campus on the 4th floor) for AutoCAD Architecture, AutoCAD MEP, Civil 3D, Revit Architecture, Revit MEP, and Revit Structure-

Exhibit Collaborative Project Management Usability Booth (#354) for Autodesk Buzzsaw and Autodesk Constructware.

Thanks for your support.

We look forward to seeing you there!

Monday, November 17, 2008

New Book! AOTC Interchange Design for Civil 3D

Check out the new courseware to help you with advanced corridor modeling techniques featuring a cloverleaf interchange.

AutoCAD Civil 3D 2009: Interchange Design (Solution Series) AOTC

Buy the book here:

Autodesk Official Training Courseware Book Interchange Design with Civil 3D 2009

Check out a sample chapter here:

Sample chapter from AOTC Interchange Design for Civil 3D 2009

More reason to do better

Reading my design book here at the airport and noticing a pattern. Often the examples of poor or boring design are civil projects! Uniform subdivisions and expansive parking are particularly picked on.

More reason to do better

I don't want to let some fancy art folks push us around and demand cubist parking lots, but there is something to be said for that "oh, this feels nice" feeling we all get when going somewhere special like a main street in a cute small town or an urban park that just seems comfortable and relaxing.

There are tons of good examples out there and I will be sure to point some out.

In the meantime check out for some inspiration.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

More Fun with Surface Analysis

There really isn't much point to this post except that I spend some time last week trying to find cool ways to make exhibits to convey messages about how steep something is, or how much earth had to be moved.

A different visual wound up being chosen for the project, but I spent some time working through a few things, and I thought you might get some ideas that you could use in your work.

Each of these images tells a story- what story are you trying to tell? How can you best show that?

Keep in mind that a lot of the time your audience (such as clients, zoning hearings, public workshops, management) care less about what is a meaningful exhibit from an engineering perspective, and care more about understanding the site. Try to  put yourself in their shoes. Good practice audiences include: your mom, or even better your grandmom or your six year old. You need to find people who aren't totally immersed in our world to give you feedback.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Dana the Art Student

I have a tendency to jump into rabbit holes. I see something interesting, check it out, and suddenly I'm in another world exploring something completely new. The journey changes, and grows, and something that seemed trivial changes the direction of everything.

It started about three months ago when I watched Garr Reynolds's Authors@GoogleTalk. Joseph had embedded it into the AU Speaker Blog as inspiration for us to make our presentations great.

This 70 minute talk made a ton of sense to me. I had my eyes opened to some ideas about how to make my own presentations and classes better, and I wanted to know more. So, I subscribed to Garr's blog, then I bought his book: Presentation Zen: Simple Ideas on Presentation Design and Delivery (Voices That Matter). Then I bought another book he recommended called Slide:ology:The Art and Science of Creating Great Presentations.

It was when I was reading Slide:ology that I had to step back and say, whoa. I really need to learn more about art and design and visual communication.

My new job requires an intense amount of graphics creation- both static images and recorded "movies". The technical marketing team is in charge of the brochures, product centers, the "heroic imagery" that appears on the product boxes, and tons of other marketing material that are image intensive. Some of these images are photography, others are screen captures. I am often responsible for creating these captures. I feel a bit helpless when setting them up sometimes because I need to:

1) find data that tells a good story

2) stylize it in a way that enhances that story

3) capture it from the appropriate angle

Consider an image of a surface. It could convey a totally different message if you used a black background and grey contours and captured it from above than if you used a cream background, triangles and a realistic visual style. Should it be hilly or flat? Should it be big or small? Is there a river? A mountain? A road?

Then, once I choose it, how do I place it? Where do we use it? Now of course we have creative consultants to help with the actual composition, but I'd like to not be helpless, and there is a lot we do on our own.

I also have been doing lots of animations, demonstrations, creating storyboards for demonstrations, composing images that other people will use in their presentations and tons of rendering. I just felt I was missing some pieces. I need to get better at defining the scope, understanding the audience, understanding the message that needs to be told, working through alternatives, and finally choosing the stinkin' thing. All without winding up in an endless loop of analysis-paralysis.

Once I started exploring the possibilities of taking some design classes (perhaps I was inspired by Pam from the Office) it occurred to me that I never had any "creative" type classes in my engineering education and that kind of annoyed me.

At least when and where I went to school, we didn't learn how to sketch or brainstorm, we didn't have constructive critique of our work, we weren't encouraged to do much conceptual design, sketching or iterations. And I think that this contributes to my feeling that rejected work is wasted.

Au contraire. It's just the first part of the process.

I think this is something that engineering needs more of- especially if we are going to fundamentally change the way that we create neighborhoods, that we improve cities, that we build those big airports in the middle of the ocean and those giant dams that change the landscape of the world forever.

So I'm taking some art classes from the Art Institute's Online Program. The first is called Fundamentals of Design and I just finished my first week's readings in the textbook called Design Basics.

It might as well have been a hallway of curious doors. I know it will help me absorb the ideas and put them into a context which my engineering brain can handle if I blog about it from time to time. And probably tie it into civil engineering and Civil 3D.

Ok, yeah, if I blog about it like every single day.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Friday Whetstone 11-14-2008

I've spent the past few days in Waltham (Mass) and Manchester (NH) learning new things and discovering things I had forgotten. In Waltham, I was able to spend a day learning about Autodesk Green Building Studio and Ecotect which gave me tons of ideas of how to do better site layout and conceptual design when combining those tools with Civil 3D. We'll talk more about that for sure.

Then, Thursday and Friday I am taking the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People workshop. When I was about 22, I saw the episode of the Simpsons where Bart gets put on Focusin. One of the jokes in the show was Bart reading 7 Habits. So the next day I picked up the book and read it.

It seems like a really ridiculous reason to want to read a book, but I am grateful that I did. The first time I read it, it changed the way I saw the world. Over the past 10 years, I've revisited the material when I felt I was going off course. Every time I think about it, every time I truly get involved in the principles that guide my decision making, I learn more about myself and feel energized to keep going, to keep searching and to keep improving.

While I am already familiar with the material, taking the workshop really forces you to face your life, your decisions, your relationships. It's absolutely not a "time management" class. It's a life mission class.

I have some things to finish tonight before I hit the sack, and I am a bit emotionally drained from thinking hard about life today, so I only have one item to share. I always thought I got a lot of email, but since joining Autodesk, I've been completely overwhelmed by my inbox.

I remember the IT person at Stantec came to my desk one day 10 years ago and said he thought he had screwed up my account because he couldn't see anything in my inbox. And I said.... "Of course there is nothing in my inbox, it's all filed away. Doesn't everyone do that?" Apparently not.

The habit of clearing out my inbox at lunch and at the end of the day got a little weaker over the years, but I still did it at least once every two days. Since August, I'm afraid that I have been living in my inbox and just reacting to things as they come in. I HATE IT.

So while I fine tune my Outlook Rules, and come up with a decent system, I am watching as many videos like this one as I can.

Inbox Zero from Google Tech Talks

I love the Manchester, NH office

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Analyze Solar Intensity and Shadows in Ecotect

Learning Ecotect today. This is one of the samples. What would an analysis like this tell us? How about- where to put shading, what kind of glass to use, where to plant trees, put landscaping... what to use each space for in the buildings. It's making my mind race. Learn more at I will be talking more about this soon.


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

In Roundabout Ways...

Last week, I hit the Circle in Georgetown, DE to watch the Return Day parade. It was wet and crowded, but really fun. My pictures are terrible, so go look at these pictures taken by Mike Mahaffie.

The best part about standing in the rain for an hour waiting to get through security? Finally freedom to wander the Circle when it is closed to traffic, of course! Our county has a few of these small circles that act as a town feature and traffic calming device.


It also reminded me about some lesser known tutorials in the Civil 3D 2009 help file.

Go under Help>Tutorials. Notice on the "welcome" screen it gives you a chance to get the tutorials in pdf- so you can print out a segment to read on the bus ride home.

Dig in under AutoCAD Civil 3D Tutorials > Advanced Corridor Design Tutorials and see Intersection and Roundabout Design lessons.


Do the lessons, then amaze your friends! Learn how to model roundabouts in Civil 3D. The principles should apply to interchanges, traffic circles and more.


And if you need help navigating the roundabout you just designed, watch this video.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Do you use named views? Why the heck not?

My work lately involves creating drawings that need to move quickly from one "look" to another. This usually involves turning on/off layers at the very least, but I also need to be able to switch perspectives, apply visual styles and change background colors.

I thought of it today while queuing up some drawings for screen captures. If you ever need to show progression- they work great because it remembers the EXACT dimensions of your view so that you never have to worry that they won't overlay properly. I used the same named view to progress through applying different styles in the Google Presentation below.

I've also used them for some "time progression" captures where you add more elements to show construction over time. Kind of an oversimplified version of 4D Scheduling in NavisWorks.

Using saved views gives me the power to show off the product (or a project) with minimal button pressing- but it is also a great CAD management tool.

At a minimum, its a way to remember the layer state AND the zoom. You can use it to remember how you want to see something in model space, then set that view currrent in paperspace. You can use it while you work so you don't have to constantly zoom and pan around. As you get more skilled, you can drag and drop them from sheet set manager into layouts, and much more. (Brush up on your sheet sets with classes at AU Online and the Sheet Set Manager Best Practices White Paper series)


I find it nearly impossible to use Named Views without the View toolbar, so add that to your workspace. Once you get used to using Named Views, you'll want it handy. I rely on it heavily.





Friday, November 07, 2008

It's Your Patriotic Duty... to Buy Some Stuff

I was so psyched to see Anthony's blog come back to life, and I was intrigued by his post today about Section 179 and the special 50% depreciation allowance.

I also found something about it here: 2008 Economic Stimulus Act Provides Tax Benefits to Businesses and here: President Bush: Stimulus package will help in 'very trying time'.

And of course, there is a youtube video for everything these days, eh?

If you are considering making the change from Land Desktop to Civil 3D, give your reseller a call and they can help you take advantage of this opportunity.

There are so many ways to regroup and seek new opportunity. Let's find them together.

Friday Whetstone 11-7-2008

So I'm trying to become a better person- you know taking time to "sharpen the saw" and all that rot. This means putting aside the rat race for a few minutes a week and learning something new that will help the rest of my week go more easily.

  • Today's webcast is Rolling Deployment Series: Parcels with Jerry Bartells. Sign up, grab some friends and watch. If you are on the east coast, make it a habit to brown-bag lunch together. If you are elsewhere, just let it run in the background while you work. I find that if I don't watch them live, I tend not to watch them at all. Make the commitment. Even if it is something you know, you will definitely pick up new things and new angles.
  • The TED talks are wonderful for helping me get ideas for my own public speaking and presentations as well as being nearly as entertaining as the SNL clips on youtube. You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes for watching on planes and at the gym, or you can stream from the website: Talks vary from about 5 minutes to much longer, so even if you only need some inspiration while you drink that first morning Mountain Dew, you will find the right video.
Here is a good one to start with- short (3 mins), sweet and coined a new word in my vocab- "Work-a-frolic". Richard St. John: Secrets of success in 8 words, 3 minutes

  • This morning, I was faced with about 300 unsorted inbox messages from the past few days, and I felt my skin start to prickle in that horrible panic attack way. So I am taking a few minutes over my coffee break to work through Get Out of Your Inbox with Outlook 2007. I found a whole host of free Microsoft Office lessons and they only take a few minutes to work through. I've already learned a few things that will help me- and its given me ideas of what I can study up on to get even more skills to tame the inbox tiger.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Thoughts on the Buddy Pass

You know, I was thinking. There were always people in the office that really would get a lot out of AU. Like when I was a reseller- the sales folks really could benefit from sitting in on a few classes to get a feel for the tech, and to see the exhibits. It was great brain food. There just never seemed to be the budget for it.

Or your friends right now that might be looking for work or looking to change careers. They probably wouldn't mind sharing your hotel room for the chance to learn something new- perhaps about AutoCAD, Map or maybe even some 3DS Max. Not to mention the thousands and thousands of exhibitors, instructors, support staff and attendees who just might have a job for them. Or a lead for a job for them.

What about the project managers? The owner? The non-engineering types in your office? Landscape architects, urban planners. Folks that might not have considered coming- until now when they can get in for (maybe) free or for $595.

USE YOUR BRAIN- think of ways to take advantage of this opportunity. We need more people to be sharper, have more skills, have more brainstorms, more big ideas. Autodesk University is a great way to get that excitement going.

Don't forget about the AU Buddy Pass

Set your alarm for 9:00AM PST (that's NOON over here on the east coast)

The AU 2008 Buddy Pass Offer from Autodesk

The Buddy Pass offer begins at 9:00 a.m. (PT) on November 5.

The first 100 people to register and fully pay for a regular* AU 2008 pass can invite a “buddy” to register for free.

When the 100 free Buddy Passes are gone, people who register and fully pay for a regular AU 2008 pass can invite a buddy to register for only US$595.

In addition, anyone who registered and fully paid for a regular AU 2008 pass before November 5 at 9:00 a.m. (PT) can also invite a “buddy.”

Please Note:

  • Only one (1) Buddy Pass per fully paid regular AU 2008 pass.
  • If the regular pass is canceled, the Buddy Pass holder must pay US$2,345 for a full, regular AU 2008 pass.
  • The AU 2008 Buddy Pass offer is for a limited time only. Autodesk may end this offer at any time without notice.

* Regular = four-day, all-inclusive

What’s Included In the Buddy Pass—and What Isn’t

  • Buddy Passes provide full access to all AU 2008 classes and functions.
  • Buddy Passes do not include hotel.
  • Buddy Passes do not include pre-registration for classes and labs—the Buddy Pass holder may attend classes and labs only if there is room available.

Who’s Eligible—and Who Isn’t

  • Those who register and fully pay for a regular four-day, all-inclusive AU 2008 pass qualify for the Buddy Pass offer starting on November 5 at 9:00 a.m. (PT).
  • Those who do not qualify for this offer include AU Speakers, AU Exhibitors, and Autodesk employees.

How to Take Advantage of the AU 2008 Buddy Pass Offer If…

You Are NOT Currently Registered for AU 2008

Register online on, or after, November 5, starting at 9:00 a.m. (PT).

A site notice will tell you if:

  • A free Buddy Pass is still available—or
  • A US$595 Buddy Pass is still available—or
  • The Buddy Pass offer is no longer available

If a Buddy Pass is available, and you complete the registration process, during confirmation a promotion code will be generated. Give that code to your buddy to use when registering. Depending on which Buddy Pass offer is available to you, your buddy can register for free or US$595. If the Buddy Pass offer is no longer available, no code will be generated, and no Buddy Pass will be offered.

Note: Online registration ends November 14.

You ARE Currently Registered for AU 2008

Contact the Autodesk University Registration Team—see contact information, below—on, or after, November 5 starting at 9:00 a.m. (PT), and request a Buddy Pass promotion code.

A member of the AU Registration Team will tell you if:

  • A free Buddy Pass is still available—or
  • A US$595 Buddy Pass is still available—or
  • The Buddy Pass offer is no longer available

If you hold a regular, fully paid four-day, all-inclusive AU 2008 pass, and a Buddy Pass is available, you will be given a promotion code. Give that code to your buddy to use when registering, and, depending on which Buddy Pass offer is available to you, your buddy can register for free or US$595.

To call or email the Autodesk University Registration Team:

1-888-371-1722 (toll-free in the United States)
1-415-446-7717 (outside the United States)

Criteria Based Design for Alignments

I'm just up late because apparently Prospector really wanted to watch the Obama speech. He's back to sleep, but I am now quite awake.

So, in the spirit of tomorrow's Criteria-Based Design Webcast, I'd like to give you a super short introduction to the concept of criteria-based design for alignments. I figured that you might have a bit of the same blank look on your face that I did when I first heard the term. Then I quietly sidled up to Mr. Funk and asked him to explain it to me. He did, and now I know. I can shield you from such humiliation with a few key points.

When you create an alignment in Civil 3D 2009, you get the option to select criteria based design. You also get an option to check a box for design checks. We'll talk about design checks later.


There are several design criteria files installed with Civil 3D 2009 that are based on AASHTO standards for a variety of design speeds and road configurations.

If you work in another country, check your country kit. I looked through a few of the country kits and found that many of them had criteria files for the appropriate regulating agencies.

When you start to draw your alignment, a little warning glyph will appear when you have violated the criteria established for that design speed.


Panorama also lets you know that something needs attention:


I'll save design checks for another post, but in a nutshell, you can build simple expressions to check your work- for example- warn me if I draw a tangent less than 100 ft long. I'll be watching the webcast myself and see if I can't pick up a few skills and ideas.

There is also Criteria-based design for profiles.

Register for Wednesday's webcast here and download the transportation white papers here.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Go Vote and Get Oyster Fritters!

Don't forget to vote!

The World is Our Oyster

Our local election has a tight race. Since everyone around here is related somehow, I am actually related to one of the candidates. OK. I'm not really related, but he's the architectural designer who designed and built my house for his own family. In fact, as I type this I am sitting in the room he built to be his home office/studio. He sold the house to another prominent local figure- the pastor of one of the biggest churches in our county. I bought the house from Pastor Danny's family. So I have to wonder if this house has some magical pixie dust that launches Higglytown Heroes.

Usually the conversation goes something like this:

"Oh, you live on XX Road?"

"Yes, I do!"

"Which house are you? Let's see, there is the one on the corner, then the one with the nice flowers, then Pastor Danny's old house that has never been the same since it changed hands with the two mean dogs and the overgrown garden, then the nice log home, then the new estates."

"Yeah. Um, the log house. That's us."

Monday, November 03, 2008

Webcast this Wednesday: Criteria Based Design

We all know about the Friday Webcasts with Lucy, Jerry and the gang, but there is a lesser known series sometimes on Wednesdays called the Government Road Design Solutions webcasts. These webcasts focus on the needs of Civil 3D users who design DOT projects, local road projects, road rehabilitation projects and more. If you do any kind of road design, you will find these webcasts very useful.

Many of the upcoming and recorded webcasts in this series are inspired by the Road Design and Road Rehabilitation White Papers.

Take a minute and register for everything listed there so that you don't have to remember later. There is some good stuff coming up.

Also check out some of the recorded webcasts listed there:

Saving Time During the Early Phases of Road Design

Saving Time and Reducing Errors with Machine Control Systems

Best Practices for Utilizing Aerial Photogrammetry

Streamlining the Roadway Milling and Overlay Process

AutoCAD Civil 3D Survey Solutions

Roadway Design Using AutoCAD Civil 3D

Time Saving Tips in the Transportation Design Workflow

And I was extremely impressed with the robust list of Civil 3D transportation tutorials in the sidebar:

Generate 3-D Planimetrics From .dgn
Surface and Catchment Area Development
Corridor Enhancement

Linking Corridor and Feature Lines

Feature Line Enhancement
Global Origin File Centering
Integration of Corridors, Feature Lines, and Grading
Multi-Coordinate Systems and Data Rectification
Survey Functions of Civil 3D
Integration of GIS Data with Civil 3D Survey Functionality

Visualize Your Surface Analysis

11-3-2008 2-45-28 PM This is a trick that I discovered by accident when I was preparing for my Civil 3D for Hydrology class two years ago. (Find recorded version and paper from 2007 at AU Online.) I ran into a use for it again today and wanted to jot something down quickly before I forgot. And once again, if I already blogged this somewhere, or if someone else has, forgive me.

For reference, here are two posts I wrote about doing surface analysis:

I wanted to see a slope or elevation analysis in 3D as solid colors.

In the surface style, change the Display Type to 3D Faces.

11-3-2008 2-39-07 PM

Make sure that the analysis type is visible in MODEL view (Civil 3D 2009) or whatever the 3D view was called in 2008. (3D? My memory is short.)

11-3-2008 2-39-39 PM

Run your analysis, then switch to an isometric view.

11-3-2008 2-44-55 PM

Make the realistic visual style current.

11-3-2008 2-45-49 PM

If you don't like the shadowy grey triangles, edit the visual style to turn them off.

11-3-2008 2-42-48 PM  11-3-2008 2-45-28 PM

The Creative Kick to the Solar Plexus

I had one of those weeks last week that we all know is just part of our job, part of the process, part of life. It was one of those weeks that they don't tell you about in engineering school, so the first time it happens you are completely godsmacked. And each time it happens thereafter- it still is like a kick to the solar plexus.

You spend weeks preparing something. You throw heart and soul into it, you run into road blocks that you overcome in creative ways. The final push is tough, but good tough. Like a morning run in the fall sunshine or paddling a canoe through rapids. Then- the event happens. It's a public hearing, a client meeting, or an agency review.

When you get the the meeting, you find that your design is rejected. Perhaps it's because you really weren't listening to what they wanted, and you need to regroup. Or you were talking to the wrong person and the actual decision maker looked at you standing there, sweating in the projector lamplight- exposed and vulnerable- and laughed (or worse). Perhaps its because the law just changed, or new councilmen were just elected. Perhaps something happened beyond your control- a fight amongst heirs, the discovery of dinosaur bones on the site or the collapse of the housing market in that area.

Whatever the reason, you leave the meeting with a feeling of waste. That the time and energy spent creating this particular set of plans would have been better spent with your kids, or cleaning the gutters or listening to the generic jazzy tunes piped into the hazy beige aura of Starbucks.

But that is not the case.

These false starts make us better. They keep us creative, they keep us sharp. The lessons learned in putting things together make us better for next time. We can sharpen our strategies and tell the same story again in a different context. In some ways, this is how I treat blogging. It gives me a chance to get my thoughts together in a rough, but still somewhat formal way, so that in the future I have an arsenal of ideas that can be refined to meet a new need.

A great example in my life is the river class I taught at AU 2006. While many who attended seemed to think it was decent, the reviews were a mixed bag and in my head it didn't go nearly as well as I had hoped. But slowly and surely over the past few years that story has been refined. My techniques have improved- both technically and with documentation. I wrote more blog posts, did more experiments, even a webcast (Alternative Uses for Corridor Models: Channels, Streams, and Ponds). Some firms took the idea and ran with it creating their own success stories surrounding river restorations. And now, here I sit, still referring to those original ideas as I shape the environmental story for Civil 3D.

I remember wishing with all of my heart as I crept out of the classroom that I had never submitted that class. It was frustrating to put together, I had never taught before- why did I have to pick something so hard to put together? I'd never written anything longer than a blog post- and I still cringe when I look through my paper.

But the truth is that if I had never gone through that process for something "real", I never would have been able to build on it.

So whenever I am faced with the situation where I am standing outside a board room door holding a milk crate full of visual aids and wearing a suit that I pressed at 4AM while rehearsing to my timed powerpoint and someone sticks their head out and says "You know what? We really don't need to see your stuff, we're headed a different direction", I can resist the urge to beat them over the head with a TIS.

If you need some more reminders of why you are here, check out some of the videos at ://

Saturday, November 01, 2008

A Civil Engineer's Trip to Paris

I had a few free hours to wander around the city on foot when I went to the Autodesk offices for a two day session with some of the European Technical Specialists.

Unfortunately, the sewer museum was closed. I know. BUMMER. I wrote down the museum hours so that next time I am sure not to miss out.

There was about a fifteen minute walk to the Autodesk Office from my hotel. The hotel was on the north side of the River Seine (the Rive Droit) and the Autodesk offices is on the south side (the Rive Gauche).

View Larger Map

I took a few pictures.


I showed my mother this picture and she commented on the lovely river and the bateau moche.


I shook my head and pointed out the LaFarge concrete plant. In case you were worried, I also got a few shots of the concrete trucks.


My hotel was adjacent to Parc de Bercy. One end of the Parc has a rather large wall, and through that wall there are what seem to be culverts.


This is the view from the other side of that wall. I walked closer and noticed that there are some kind of gates tucked in under this bridge- almost as if the road could be sealed off. Since this is right along the river, I had to wonder if this was part of some elaborate flood control scheme.


I asked Willy Luce if he knew about it, and he said it was possible but didn't know for sure. I spend some time googling the subject and didn't find much to clear things up. My French is limited, but improving, however I still struggle coming up with Google Search terms that make contextual sense for French civil engineering. Mostly they wind up sounding something like "tasty river overspill prophylactic" or some such.

The park was very nice and had a different feel from most city parks I've explored in the past. It was very geometrical- lots of squares and symmetry. It also maintained some neat historical features.

I liked little quirks like this tree. It seemed that the landscape architect wanted a path through here to keep the geometry the way s/he wanted it, but there was a lovely old sycamore in the way. The solution?


The whole Bercy Village neighborhood had cobble stone streets with the original cart tracks still intact.



A few other neat things that I noticed everywhere on my walks:

Moped Vending Machines. Pay, ride, return to another vending location. Very neat.



Bike paths that weren't quite in the street, but not really sidewalk either.



And stoplights that showed opposing traffic that they were red.



One day I walked all the way to the Quatier Latin but forgot my camera. There were so many wacky catch basin covers that I couldn't take photos of! I just trying googling for some possible photographs (translation: the lid of aggregate conveyance waste tubes), and I stumbled upon this devine site: While this page doesn't have shots of the artistic fillagreed draincovers that I saw, it does have a whole page that talks about manhole covers in the Roman Empire and more!

There are quite a few Civil 3D users in France and there are more and more coming every day. I was truly impressed by some of the projects that Willy was showing me, and I am looking forward to future trips to Paris to learn more about how I can help make them successful.

I hope that next year I can plan to attend Infrastructures et Territoire 2008 next year (I didn't know about it soon enough to make travel arrangements for this year.)

Pour mes amis francophone: J'essaie d'attendre "Les lundis de L'Aménagement du territoire" Des "webcasts" avec Willy Luce et ses collègues à 16h (Paris) ou 10AM EST.  Aussi- nous avons commencer un groupe de discussion: 

Autodesk Groupes en Francais

Thursday, October 30, 2008

What is the difference between AutoCAD Civil 3D and AutoCAD Civil?

A few months ago, Autodesk came out with AutoCAD Civil.

So now you have a choice.

AutoCAD Civil 3D 2009


AutoCAD Civil 2009

A lot of folks have been asking questions about which one is right choice for their office and their work.

My team recently put together an interactive tool to help you figure out what the difference and what is the right tool for you. Please go take a peek and let me know what you think so that I can incorporate your feedback into similar tools in the future:

Click here to Visit the Civil 3D 2009 vs Civil 2009 Interactive Site

You'll need to really sit down with your reseller and your team and figure out what is the best mix for your firm. You can have all Civil 3D, or all Civil, or a mix of the two. Many firms will find that a mix of the two are a good choice.

Another resource you will find helpful is the Autodesk Civil Engineering Solution Questions and Answers paper. It spells out a lot of the nitty gritty details about licensing, what features are included in Civil vs. Civil 3D and the scoop on Land Desktop. Be sure to check out the comparison matrix on page 2 (shown below):



Change Your Daylight Subassembly without Messing Up the Target Mapping

I heard some chatter about this trick a few months ago on some of the discussion groups, but I haven't had a chance to try it until now. Someone else may have blogged about it in the meantime, but I'm a bit fried today and my search turned up nothing. These are usually the moments when someone tells me that I blogged about it a year ago. That would be funny.


You put some daylighting on a subassembly. Then you realize, shoot, you'd like to use a different type. Today I had DaylightGeneral, but later decided that DaylightMaxWidth would be better.

1. Simply select the subassembly in your drawing.

2. Then right-click on the subassembly on your tool palette.

3. Select Apply Tool Properties to Subassembly.


4. You will see the subassembly switch. Your surface targets should remain intact- at least they did for me. I can't promise that it will stick in every situation.

A few potential pitfalls: It will literally apply the properties including left/right. You will have to go into the properties to flip it over if it comes in wrong.  Also, it won't change the name of your subassembly. So if you've left the default DaylightGeneral(4999) or whatever name, you'll be confused. So name your subassemblies something meaningful, ok?

This trick should also work for other types off assemblies. Let me know what you run into.

**I figured out where I first saw this discussed. Check out this thread on The Swamp. Also, check out some of Michael's video tutorials here.

Using the HEC-RAS Extension for Civil 3D 2009- a Video

I'm in the midst of some intense preparations for Autodesk University- I'm lucky enough to be helping out with some of the things that will likely be shown on the AEC Mainstage- so I only have a few minutes for lunch today- so this will be short.

I recorded a short video to help people see how to use the new HEC-RAS Extension for Civil 3D 2009 that is available for subscription customers. I uploaded it quickly to Vimeo as a test. There is no sound. Watch the video (full screen seems decent) and tell me if this is a good way to share quick "how-to" videos in the future.

In a few days, I'll post a more robust explaination of the tool and show you some more about it.

How to Export from Civil 3D and Import into HEC RAS from Dana Probert on Vimeo.

What is a Chicane?

I was putting together some demonstration videos a few weeks ago, and had the idea to mix in some concepts from Context Sensitive Design and Traffic Calming.


I'll post some of my videos in a few days, but in the meantime I found this very neat animation that explains what a chicane is with PLAYDOUGH, which after Civil 3D is my favorite medium.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Take a Buddy for Free (or Cheap!) to AU 2008

I got an interesting message in my inbox just now- Autodesk is offering the first 100 AU Registrants on Novemeber 5 (starting at 9AM PT) to register a friend for FREE!

Also, anyone who has already registered, or misses out on the 100 free passes can invite a friend to register for $595.

You'll have to read more to find out the details- it looks like it doesn't include hotel. Here is the link that tells you how to take advantage of this offer:

Even without hotel, that's a great deal. You can pair up with a coworker or friend from the discussion group and split the bill to share the savings. Some of those Las Vegas hotel rooms are HUGE, and you might be able to get away with sharing a room with three people if you were really looking to save cash (or four if you bring a sleeping bag and lots of deodorant.)

If you need some help convincing yourself that Autodesk University is important, check out today's AU Beat podcast here:

and check out the "Why Autodesk University" page here:

See you there!

Monday, October 27, 2008

She's Alive. Really.

I'm working on a project that will include launching a new blog inside the Autodesk umbrella.

But it might take awhile.

In the meantime, I see all of these young whippersnappers coming up with new blogs, and my brain is about to explode. I haven't had an outlet for my idea volcanoes in awhile.

So I've decided to bring Civil 3D Rocks back to life.

I've left you with two unanswered questions:

1) Did my computer ever come back to life?

2) Did I wind up touring the Paris sewers?

Fear not, faithful readers. Both mysteries will be solved in the next few days. As well as some honest to goodness techie posts.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Pedestrian Bridge

I'm in Paris this week taking a class with some of our European Technical Specialists. I'm hoping to learn about how Civil 3D has been successful here, and about civil engineering in Europe.

I had a few hours to wander this morning while I waited for my hotel room, and I found some neat bridges, catch basins, stone curb... oh yeah and some churches and stuff.

Cross your fingers- maybe tomorrow I will get to tour the sewer museum!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Follow Me... all the way to AU

I'm still trying to figure out what is happening with me on the blogging front (the ol' moleskin is begging for mercy), but until then, two tidbits...

Against my better judgment, I've become a twitterer, or is it tweeter? Who knows.

Also, my Lab at Autodesk University (CV304-2L Get Your Head Out of the Point Cloud: Using AutoCAD® Civil 3D® for Large Surface Data Sets) is full- BUT there is talk of possibly adding another session- so keep your eyes out for it! I am so excited- it will be very fun.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Contacting me Via Email

To those of you who may have reason to contact me via email, please note that my eng-eff account is no longer in use.

Please use civil3diva at gmail.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Every Little Girl's Dream

image In a few weeks, I will be starting at Autodesk as a Technical Marketing Manager for Civil 3D. I will work as part of Dominick Gallegos's team.

The decision to leave EE has been incredibly difficult. I have never worked with a group that I believe in more strongly. There is no doubt in my mind that CivilAccess will continue to change the way people learn Civil 3D, and I would be proud to continue to be a part of it.

From the beginning, my mission has been to change the way that we design. We must do better, we must design with more thought and build better projects. Autodesk influences the world of design every day with Civil 3D, and I am honored to have been chosen to help deliver that message.

I am not sure what the future holds for Civil 3D Rocks. I am hoping I can find a way to help it live on, and perhaps become more substantial. Or maybe it does have to disappear. I'll know more in a few weeks. Either way, you certainly haven't hear the last of me.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Civil 3D Rocks Turns Three Years Old

Yesterday marked the three year anniversary of my first post here on Civil 3D Rocks.
I will write a lovely recap a little later, I have something miserable to finish this afternoon, but I wanted to mark the occasion before I forgot.
At a glance:
256 Published Posts
119,110 Page Loads**
58,489 Unique Visitors**
Highest Recorded Traffic Day: 482
Average Traffic: 170
Weekday Average Traffic: 350
**I didn't install StatCounter until 8/20/2006, a full year after the blog started, and only a few weeks before I began working on I estimate these numbers to be several thousand too low.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Grab Your Canoe! Prospecting for Panoramic Views

I think all Geek Parents do things like this.... right?


Lewis and Clark



Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Civil 3D Grading EECast

Take a break from watching my remaining ebay auctions (Three AutoCAD 2008 Books,Three Civil 3D 2007 Books: Ward, Zimmerman and AOTC) and register for tomorrow's EECast.

Eric Chappell is one of my favorite Autodesk University speakers, and I was so excited when he joined the EE team. He has worked out and documented more grading workflow procedures than anyone I know. I'm excited to see what he has to say tomorrow!

Learn more about Eric here: Eric Chappell Joins Engineered Efficiency, Inc.

JULY 9, 2008
GET SMART: Intelligent Grading with Civil 3D


Hosted by: Eric Chappell


A 60 minute lunchtime webinar hosted by Engineered Efficiency and

A big reason that folks still struggle with grading in Civil 3D is that they are trying to do it the same way they did 10 years ago. In this session, we'll look at smart ways to approach grading designs that will make them easier for you to understand and easier to modify when changes arise.

The session will be held from 12 Noon to 1 PM (EDT) and will be recorded for future viewing.

There is no cost for this session, but preregistration is required. Register here: