Friday, February 15, 2013


"I couldn't wait for success, so I went ahead without it.” 

–Jonathan Winters

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Have Yourself a Quality Valentine's Day

Quality assurance/systems humor from Mr. Pareto Head over at AQS's Quality Progress Magazine.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

SoS Hillary Goes Into Dry Dock

The battleship SoS (Secretary of State) Hillary moved out of active service and into dry dock this week.  Will she get the barnacles scrapped off her hull and a new coat of paint to be followed by a re-launching in the next few years? Time will tell as only the Admiralty and her hairdresser know for sure.

But one thing about her retiring from her post caught my attention. It wasn’t so much the fact that most of the news media lauded her accomplishments as the SoS, all that went according to the script, it was how the media used her previous week’s feisty outbursts at the Senate hearings on last September 11th attacks on the U.S. embassy in Bengahazi, Libya. Ms. Clinton’s outbursts and push-backs were used as evidence of her determined character, her resolve, her iron will. Especially her retort to Senator Ron Johnson:

“With all due respect, the fact is we had four dead Americans,” she said, raising her voice. “Was it because of a protest or was it because of guys out for a walk one night decided to go kill some Americans? What difference at this point does it make?”

Hmm, what difference does the root cause of an action or event matter? I think in the real world of action-reaction, cause-and-effect, it matters quite a bit. Sticking with the marine theme:

When that puny tugboat called the Titanic struck a North Atlantic iceberg and sank in 1912, did the world shrug its collective shoulders and sigh,”Oh bother -  iceberg, German submarine, faulty cardboard hull material - what difference does it make? It’s on the bottom of the ocean now. Let’s just move on.”

And remember that pesky Gulf of Mexico oil spill of a few years back?  "Who really cares if it was BP’s fault or that of Transocean, Haliburton or the U.S. Minerals Management Service? The root cause makes no difference in how we go forward and try to prevent future disasters, does it?"

Fagetaboutit seems a strange philosophy for running the country’s international affairs. But not to 60 Minutes and the others, apparently.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

P-51 Mustang: Innovation Personified ca 1943

The term "innovation" gets kicked around a lot these days - maybe rightly so. But during WWII there was tremendous innovation occurring on both sides of the conflict, especially with respect to the development of combat aircraft. The jet engine was coming along and would change air warfare, and civilian air travel after that.  But plugging the gap for the Allied forces who needed a high-performance, reliable, long-range fighter plane that could outmatch what Germany and Japan had to offer was the P-51 Mustang designed and built by North American Aviation ("P" stood for "pursuit," later we renamed such planes "F" for "fighter" - a designation still used today). One of the firm's other accomplishments included the B-24 Mitchell medium bomber used on the Doolittle Raid of the Japanese homeland.

On a fast track, North American's prototype of the P-51was rolled out just 102 days after signing the contract with the Pentagon. Entering the European theatre in 1943, the fighter had an immediate effect on the air war and ended up with a kill ratio of 8:1.

The Mustang incorporated a number of innovations that made it a superior aircraft for its time.

·       A thicker wing in its center portion. This improved lift and reduced drag and therefore increased speed.

·       The thicker wing allowed more room for fuel, extending the fighter’s range.

·       A variable pitch prop provided increased fuel efficiency and therefore increased range.

·       The new bubble canopy provided pilots with enhanced visual surveillance decreasing the changes they could be surprised from behind.

·       Finally, the mating of the British Merlin Rolls-Royce V-12 engine greatly improved performance and reliability over the original Allison engine, giving the Mustang a combat edge.

The Aircraft Owner website has one of the best short videos out there portraying the Mustang in flight (showing five of the aircraft that are still flying today).

These two photos hail from a Nashua, NH warbird show in 2004.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Obama is Technology; Republicans are Banking

The public relations firm of Edelman has published their 2013 consumers’ Trust survey and for the third year in a row it turns out we love Technology with a capital “T.”  Somehow we find ways to overlook Google’s prying/spying ways, Microsoft’s bumbling software releases, or all those pricey gadgety things that keep breaking and/or going out of date in 3 months. After all, they are celebrities. We’re in Love and that is blind – as they say.

What sectors don’t we love? Banking and financial services of course. Oh those Snidely Whiplash banking folks! What’s to love??

After yesterday’s inauguration speeches I can’t help feeling that Democrats are Technology and Republicans are Banking. In 2013 maybe that rings true. I don’t know.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Bicycle Path

Who knew that a number of early automobile manufacturers were first bicycle manufacturers – Opel, Peugeot, Humber, Morris, Rover, Rambler, Willy’s and others? They pioneered advances in steel-tube framing, ball bearings, chain drives, differential gearing, and the pneumatic tire. They also developed techniques and equipment for volume production that became essential for the volume production of motor vehicles.

“Apart from its impact on road improvement in the United States, no preceding technological innovation – not even the internal combustion engine – was as important to the development of the automobile as the bicycle.”

“The greatest contribution of the bicycle, however, was that it created an enormous demand for individualized, long-distance transportation that could only be satisfied by the mass adoption of motor vehicles.”

James J. Flink, Professor of Comparative Culture at UC Irvine, writing in his book the Automobile Age, back in the Dark Ages of 1988.

Wow, hear that urban enviros? The grandfathers of your spiffy high-end bicycles spurred the growth of the automobile and the three-car American garage. You might need to be careful what you wish for when the Laws of Unintended Consequences are loose in the world.

Sunday, January 13, 2013