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Monday, October 10, 2011

Management Decisions

I'm watching When Weather Changed History on the Weather Channel (I know. duh.) And there are two things that strike me about the program. First is that the problem with the O-rings, which we all knew about within months of the tragedy, was really a weather problem. I;m not a genius. But I do know something about black rubber O-rings. Being made of black rubber, they will fail the same way that the rubber gaskets or washers in a kitchen faucet will fail. They can dry out with disuse. Or they shrink and warp in the cold. Run the faucet for a while and the rubber will soften and reseal itself but not before leaking water all over the counter. Run water through there in a house that is almost cold enough to freeze water but not quite and you get failure. I've done it in dad's house. And it took me a while to figure out it was an issue with the climate and not with the hardware. I'm not a rocket scientist. But I kinda figure the rocket scientists should know about it. More over the managers should have known about it.

But who would have thought that could really have been an issue? It's a small kind of thing. But isn't it the small things that really always trip us up? The Spanish Armada was sunk in the English Channel because the pursuing Spanairds forgot how shallow the water and how low there ships sat in the water. We forget the basics when we keep our eyes so rivetted on the Big Picture. Can you blame anybody? I don't know. It was either arrogance or complacency. But then again, how many times have I not bothered to say something at work because the little things just don't matter to anyone but me? The subtle changes in the way a room smells or the sounds of the machines in the mech room next to me all give me pause for concern. Its never pleasant to smell antifreeze. And the scent usually means there is about two weeks till the heat pump goes out. But what can you do with that kind of heads up? There are a million reasons to smell the antifreeze and the odds that it would be a heat pump failure EVERY time are slim. So management politely nods and I go on doing my job.

And then the pump fails. It's just the way that humans do things. We don't really sweat the small stuff. Sure weather could be a factor in the shuttle disaster. But mostly the problem is that we always hope for the best and we take chances. We have to. None of us are really psychic. And none of us knows exactly how things are going to work.

And that is the second thing that struck me as interesting in the presentation. We push the envelope thinking that we will always succeed because we have always succeeded. And then there was Columbia. It makes me wonder if anyone ever thought "That only happens to the Russians. It doesn't happen to us." so the envelope gets pushed, statistics get ignored. We keep doing the things that make us human. And eventually the odds run out.

After a conversation that I had at work I am beginning to think that people who believe in karma and astrology might make more sense than those who do not. And that only for the fact that superstition creates wariness and wariness makes a more cautious person... yes, it also makes paranoia and paranoid people have been known to walk around with aluminum foil helmets to protect them from alien brain scans... but caution at least reminds us that anything can and will happen. Even the unthinkable.

And now my early am rambling comes to a conclusion for this broadcast day.
CUE: Anthem and waving flag

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