Saturday, May 31, 2014

D Day Visitor

Travel route was to Houston to connect with Lufthansa. Then to Frankfurt and then to Paris. I'm not sure if its the Lufthansa or the 100 business class passengers in the A380 but the service seems have become less than I remember. Even so. the trip was smooth. The only aggravation was the security inspection at Frankfurt when making the connection there. It was the closest thing I've had to a strip search with my clothes on. All manual - no scanners.

While waiting for baggage in Paris, I noticed an elderly gentleman. I asked him if he was over for the 70th anniversary. He brightened up and told me the capsule version of  his WW II service. He was a medic in the 2nd Division and landed on Omaha on the third day. He was in the Battle for St. Lo. He went on to Brest. He was on the northern flank during the Battle of the Bulge. He crossed the Rhine and went into Czechoslovakia. I wish I had more time to talk as he seemed eager to tell his story. June 6th is almost here and these guys are almost all gone. God bless them.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Belated Memorial Day Thoughts

On my bookcase there is picture of a young soldier. It was probably his basic training graduation picture. The last in a string of 4 children, he was probably a happy surprise for his parents. The baby of the family. At the time of the photo he was still a teenager. He was sent to England and trained in the operation of a secret weapon - the double drive tank - as a member of Company B, 743rd Tank Battalion. June 6, 1944 found him in the vanguard of the assault on Omaha Beach attached to the 29th Division. He landed on the beach due to the quick thinking of their LST driver who realized the sea was too rough for the flimsy canvas hull of the DD Shermans. He may have gone on the next day to Pont du Hoc to relieve the Rangers there. This was followed by a period of rest and refit and a transfer to the 30th Division. He died on July 9 in a field in Normandy along with most of his company in an ambush by the SS Panzer Division "Das Reich".

That was my Uncle Philip. As a child I would see this picture on my grandmothers table but nobody ever talked about him. There are no other pictures of him. His is buried in Zachary Taylor National Cemetery in Louisville, KY.

To STEM, or not to STEM

I called AT&T in order to get an international calling card because rates from hotel phones are so outrageous. I had an enjoyable conversation with their representative. I told her I was going to Paris and she then told me that she always wanted to go there, that she was a fine arts major and wanted see the impressionists.

After I hung up I had the thought that she went to college to get a fine arts degree and she was now working as a phone representative in a boiler room. She only gets to see art in books. I went to college and got an engineering degree. I'm being paid to visit the same cities she wants to go to and see the original work of art.

If you have a high school student who is making a career decision, this scenario might help them make up their mind about STEM.

Monday, May 26, 2014

School of Passive Aggressive Project Managment

NFO seems to think that the French will drive me crazy. I've dealt with the French on other projects and have no illusions. I was more surprised by the actions of my own "team".

There has been discussion of this assignment for about 1 month. The only delay was a question about French taxes but my going was confirmed. Last Monday there was a meeting that I thought was going to be a briefing on the project and my role. That part of the meeting took about 10 minutes. There was no discussion of project overview and no documents like organization chart, schedule or process flow diagrams given out. Instead, I was handed off to an assistant and she was told to get me an access badge and a lap top. I know her and she doesn't take bull from anyone. She was quick to inform them that they would need 3 weeks to get me a lap top. Unfortunately, I was leaving next week. So much for their ability to plan ahead.

I had heard that there was going to be a design review that week and that the French were coming to town. I naturally suggested that I attend as well. "Well, you can come and if there's room, you can sit in." I was told. WTF, over? You want me to be your prime contact in their office and you don't want me in this meeting? I went anyway and stayed as long as I could stand it as they all violated the meeting rule not to analyze the problem but to capture it on an action item list for the future.

I don't know whether to be concerned or amused by their attitude. This project has had a reputation for being poorly managed and that is part of the reason I'm going over there - new management wants some eyes on the ground. I am the troubleshooter that will either keep things on track or I am the goat that will take the blame to protect their careers.

I enjoy the challenge. I know what I need to do and I can get the information I want from the French contractor. It just would have been nice to have my own guys take enough interest to supply me with what I needed.

When Pogy Boats Attack

The pogy is a fish whose real name is menhaden. The menhaden fishery is a major industry. They are caught by purse seining - a net is put out that encircles the school of fish and then is closed, tapping them within. The fish is mainly used for fish oil and fish meal and is not a table food fish. Pogy boats abound in the Gulf of Mexico.and most oil and gas people see them as a nuisance, especially the helicopter pilots. A boat usually has a spotter plane to help them find a school of pogys. These guys fly around watching the water instead of where they are going. Helicopter pilots hate them because they are unpredictable and we all keep a eye out when a pogy boat is below.

The pictures below show the result of a collision between a pogy boat and an offshore production platform. The boat was running at night and their watch system was less than adequate. Some pogy boats were WW II surplus sub chasers and had reinforced hulls for ramming.

He was lucky because if had hit the platform to the port he would have hit the wellhead and production platform and there would have been a big bang. If had hit the other platform, he would have hit the quarters and probably killed all the men living there. Somehow, he was able to get his props back in the water and he backed out from under the deck and proceeded on his merry way - probably because of that reinforced hull.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Political Correctness Kills

We need to make signs with this on it. The PC world is complaining about Mark Cuban's comments but he is absolutely correct. Appearances and first impressions mean something. If you want to be perceived as a gang banger then dress and act like one. Just don't complain when people shun you.

Several years ago, several of us were walking back to the office after a group lunch. Ahead of us was a group of tough black youths hanging out in front of a barber shop. Joe, the only black guy in our group, told us to cross the street. "What's that matter? Aren't those your people?", we jokingly asked  him. "They are not MY people." was his response.

There is nothing wrong with crossing the street to avoid a perceived threat. At the worst, the individual may get his feelings hurt, but if you are wrong about him, you could get killed. In engineering terms, we call that a low probability, high consequence event. The down side is so bad that you take the precaution anyway.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

The Brier Patch

The boss comes in the other day and tells me that they have something they want me to do.  Seems that our client needs an engineer to go sit in a vendor's office and represent the client, handle technical queries and that sort of thing. The assignment will probably last for the rest of the year. It's nothing I haven't done before......except this time the vendor's office is in Paris. I was quick to say, "Don't throw me into that brier patch!"

So, I've been getting ready to head over the pond for a period of time. Future posts will be coming to you from Paree. It's funny but I have found a lack of sympathy from folks that I tell about my misfortune!

Friday, May 16, 2014

Book Review - Field of Prey

It's been a long wait but John Sandford has done it again with a fast paced story featuring Lucas Davenport. This time he's chasing a serial killer who has been operating for years. The hunt is triggered when a body dump is discovered by teenagers looking for a place to park. The search for the killer stagnates until he kills a cop and then Lucas gets busy in earnest. The pace of the story slowly builds as small clues start to come together and Lucas is distracted by other ongoing investigations, but once you reach the half way point things take off and you should be prepared to stay up all night.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Guns, Guns, Guns

This is from a site called "Ghosts of History" that imposes historical photgraphs on present day images. Very interesting stuff.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

This Day in History

On this day in 1954 the French surrendered at Dien Bien Phu. Their defeat lead the way to the partition of Vietnam into North and South. It is interesting to note that 2 Americans, James McGovern and Wallace Buford, were killed in the action. They were flying for the CIA in support of the French when their C-119 was hit and crash landed in Laos.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Aircraft Control

If you are piloting a plane over on the west coast and you get a female controller with a Louisiana accent and attitude, it's probably my niece who is starting at Los Angeles Air Route Traffic Control Center.

Monday, May 5, 2014

History Buff Buddy

My wife was going to a baby shower a few Saturdays ago and I was looking for something to do during her absence. Why don't you take grandson P to the WW II Museum, she suggested. He'd love to go and nobody else will take him. So, third grandson P and I had a day of history. We started with the USS Tang experience, a full size interactive exhibit about the final mission of the "USS Tang". We then spent an hour or so at the Freedom Pavilion looking at the static displays. They have a B-17, "My Gal Sal", that was recovered from the Greenland ice cap and restored. We then went to the 4D movie "Beyond All Boundaries". As luck would have it, we got the last two spots on the tour of PT 305. They only allow 12 people in to the workshop at noon when the volunteers are at lunch. After that it was time for lunch followed by a visit to the European and Pacific exhibits. All in all, we had a full day of it.

Does that look like kid who was having a good time?

Necessity, or Red Neck Ingenuity

My nephew in Texas had a problem. The carburetor on his lawnmower was shot and he needed to mow his lawn. The picture below is his solution. Go ahead and laugh but with the price of gas these days, he may be on the right track.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Head Count

Saudi Arabia beheaded only one (1) murderer last month. Their year to date total is only 10.