A great book for the long winter months.

This time of year, everyone is figuring out the last of their business tax avoidance while getting ready for the holidays. Whether it is family, religious reflection or football, it is a great time of year. I enjoy all three.

I like to leave the readers with a gift as my thanks for taking the time each month to read this great magazine. All of us who write for Plumbing & Mechanical enjoy sitting down and banging out the information to share with you. If you weren't reading, we wouldn't be writing.

The gift that I came up with is a recommendation for one of the finest books you could read in plumbing: "Engineered Plumbing Design II." This book is published by the American Society of Plumbing Engineers and is available on its Web site, www.aspe.org.

The first thing you may do is freak at the title of the book. It has the word "engineer" in the title. Many assume that this book is written by engineers for engineers. Half of that is correct, the book is written by engineers and is based on a book originally written by the late Dr. Al Steele. It has been updated by Cal Laws, P.E., past president of ASPE; and ASPE technical directors Jill Dirksen; Frank Teebagy, P.E.; and Harold Olson, P.E.

Yes, I contributed a few words, but I swear, only a few words. (And no, I don't get a royalty; this was done for the good of the industry.)

So, was the book written for engineers? Yes, but it also was written for anyone in the plumbing industry. The one thing about Al Steele is that he wrote in plain and simple words so anyone could understand. Al was that kind of guy.

I first met Al 27 years ago after I moved to the Chicago area. What struck me was that Al made the time to see me and speak with me. That was the start of a long friendship until he passed away. Any time we got together, we just talked plumbing.

While Al had a Ph.D., you never would have known it. He didn't put on airs, he didn't need to prove who was right and who was wrong. Al listened to everybody. He knew that if you were in this industry, you had something to contribute.

When Al first wrote this book it was to introduce young people to the world of plumbing engineering. He wanted everyone in the plumbing profession to understand the who, what, why and how of plumbing engineering. Hence, the book has a number of equations. But they are equations you can use. You don't have to know calculus to solve any of the equations.

More importantly, Al liked to explain why things work, or don't work. We are always bound by the requirements in the plumbing code. One of the famous questions regarding any plumbing code is, "Why does the code require that?" Imagine having all of the answers. And by the way, you may not like it when you find out one of the answers is, "Politics or stupidity."

One of my favorite parts of the book is on hydraulic shock, or water hammer. Countless plumbing contractors waste pipe by installing air chambers at every fixture connection. After you read the chapter on water hammer, I don't think you will ever install an air chamber again in your life. Al doesn't call you stupid for installing them, you just realize yourself that you were stupid for installing them. Al tells you what causes water hammer, how you can calculate the shock wave, and what can be done to prevent it. No, an air chamber is not one of the methods recognized in the engineering world for preventing water hammer.

Don't let the price of this newly updated book scare you; the book is still worth it. But let me tell you a little secret: If you are a member of PHCC-NA, MCAA, PCA, IAPMO, ICC or ASSE, you are entitled to the listed member price instead of the higher nonmember price. This is a courtesy that ASPE extends to the other professional plumbing organizations. You should be a member of at least one of these organizations.

(If you don't have access to the Web, you can call ASPE at 773/693-2773. Tell them I said you are entitled to the member price for the book.)

Then, when you are relaxing in front of the fireplace waiting for the next football game to start, you have some great reading in plumbing. I guarantee you will love this book. If you are like me, you will keep it close at hand on the bookshelf. I am always reaching for this book.

A Gift Of Health

Another holiday gift I would like to offer comes from my cousin Tim. Tim knew that I write this monthly column and he asked that his final message be delivered to all that would listen. You see, within the past year, my cousin Tim, who is a number of years younger than myself, passed away. He died a very slow, painful death due to cancer. Tim's message was, "If you smoke, please quit. If you don't smoke, please don't start."

I bring you this message because I was alarmed at the statistics that I have read. Smoking in the general population is way down. Less than 17 percent of the American public smokes. I wish the number were lower. However, when you look at the percentage of plumbing contractors who smoke, that number is significantly higher.

I don't know why it is, but the trades have very high rates of smokers. The numbers are totally out of line with the general public. I have noticed it myself as I travel around and run into many of you. When I was younger, I never saw the consequences of smoking. Mind you, I never smoked. Now, I have witnessed two close friends die of lung cancer, while another two friends are currently fighting very valiantly to stay alive, surgery after surgery, procedure after procedure.

If you are an owner, start thinking of incentive programs to get your guys to quit. They'll thank you in the long run.

As 2004 comes to an end, I would like to wish all of you a Happy Chanukah, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.