Graphics Are Misleading In Stimulus Story

I would like to point out that the circular graphics used on pages 26-29 in the cover story “As Federal Dollars Pour Out, A Second Stimulus Plan Grows” are inappropriately used. These charts compare obligated funds to ARRA Total Allocations by using the ration of the diameters, not the ration of the areas. As such, they visually mislead the viewer into believing more funds remain to be spent. The chart on page 29 is the most egregious example. Values below the chart indicate that $2.1 billion of the total $5.5 billion in this category have been obligated, but the size of the circles used indicate that only $780 million has been obligated.

ENR should be more careful.

Patrick J. Healy
Boylston, Mass.

Culture Clash in Burbank

The final paragraph of your military construction story “Building Abroad Has Corps of Engineers Working Hard To Adapt” mentions German training programs as well as construction techniques. In my 40-odd years of jobs all over the United States and from Saigon to Kinshasa, I met more than one German craftsman and one very good superintendant. He was in responsible charge of installing an escalator at a Macy’s department store in Burbank, Calif.

One of the things that puzzled him was how a general superintendant or project manager qualified for those positions. It was 1982, and I told him they were usually journeyman carpenters who got promotions up through the ranks. The German superintendent asked if American supers had university degrees in some form of engineering or if they had attended a technical institution. I had to tell him, “Not necessarily.” When he asked if they had a membership in a guild, I told him no. Then he told me that in Germany, to even be considered for a superintendant job, you had to serve two apprenticeships, not at the same time. He gave me the example of a carpenter and an electrician.

He told me that when and if a journeyman named, for example, Schmitt was promoted to foreman, he then would be addressed as Foreman Schmitt. It was a formality, but he expected to be so addressed by his crew—and he would be. He also would be addressed this way by his friends and neighbors. So it did not surprise me to read later in the issue of ENR that culture clash is alive and well in Europe and in other overseas regions.

Bob Nielsen
Los Angeles