Re: "Electronic media for dummies” (May 2011, page 7)

You hit the nail right on the head: The Internet's supposed to aid, not dominate, our work.

Unlike IT folks, we don't have 40 or more hours a week to think up ways to make technology more complex. By the time you learn how to use an application, it's obsolete.

Security experts caution us to choose passwords as follows:

  • Complex combination of numerals, uppercase, lowercase, etc.
  • No recognizable names or numbers
  • Different for each account
  • Never write it down (or type it) anywhere
  • Change it regularly.

Let's see ... have I forgotten anything? Give me a break!

— John Vago, mechanical engineer, Philadelphia Water Department Design Branch

Re: “No more feast or famine” (August 2011, page 7)

You're correct: Water is improperly positioned and unequally distributed.

The Rocky Mountain trough was considered several times to deliver Canadian water to the Southwest, but cost/benefit calculations didn't quite work out.

Moving water from the Mississippi River basin to the high plains of Texas (Lubbock) was studied in detail in the early 1970s. Conclusion: The project couldn't afford energy costs at 1972 rates, say nothing of repaying the construction costs.

It's difficult to believe the numbers have changed enough to move the project ahead today. Plus, moving Mississippi water to the Colorado River basin involves an even greater distance and a greater elevation change.

What we really need to do is figure out better ways of living with what we have when we have it, be it high or low.

— James Fish, former executive director of the Great Lakes Commission (Ann Arbor), Clinton, Mich.

Re: “Low-cost asset-mapping application” (September 2011, page 16)

This article doesn't present conclusions or indicate a contact to get the software. Could you provide those items?

— Jon Whitmer, PE, stormwater manager, City of Kennesaw, Ga.

Editor's note: GIS software developer Azavea released the project code as open-source software under the name OpenTreeMap; access it at

Re: “Enlightening technology” (November 2011, page 19)

LEDs will become the norm as prices shrink with mass production, but they have to be safe.

One concern I have for the vehicle lighting industry is the blazing intensity of light-emitting diode, or LED, headlights for oncoming drivers. They can be overpowering, and that in itself could cause accidents.

What's being done to address this situation?

— Bill Neufeld, PhD, councillor, City of Parksville, British Columbia

Our Fleet Management columnist Paul Abelson responds:

Glaring headlights are indeed a safety hazard, but I'm not sure the blame lies with LEDs. In fact, they may represent the solution.

Several years ago, high-intensity discharge (HID) headlamps made their way from Europe to the United States on several luxury cars. They are usually in projector assemblies, with lenses focusing the light where it should be. In Europe, there's usually an adjuster mechanism that can lower the aim of the HIDs when, for example, a heavy load in the trunk raises the front end.

In the United States, we have heavier vehicles, so the problem isn't as great. Also, we have different laws concerning lighting, and mechanisms to adjust headlight aim from inside the cab aren't allowed.

These statements deal with HIDs, not LEDs. Because LEDs are still developing, multiple diodes are still needed. As manufactured by Truck-Lite, Audi, and others with LED headlamps, each diode is focused on a discrete portion of the roadway or the area ahead of the vehicle. With appropriate overlap, the net effect is a brighter, more even light distribution with less energy consumption. If an oncoming driver does notice undue brightness, it will be less bright because it will be from only one or two diodes — not the entire light source as with HIDs.