Thursday, January 20, 2011
It's been one of those weeks. Visiting with some of Mrs. Van Horn's relatives, I glanced down at my glass of tea at lunch and found a curious piece of "ice" on the rim. Yep. It was a piece of glass, so I sent back the tea. I called the waiter back as soon as I saw him again. "I'm going to have to be 'that guy' and ask for another one," I said as I pointed to the chipped rim of the glass he'd just brought by as a replacement. This chip was smaller, and easier to miss, but new.
I'm low on blogging time -- and time for everything else -- this week due to unexpected car and computer repairs. The wife is temporarily working north of town and her Dad has been kind enough to let us borrow one of his cars for the duration. As we came home from the aforementioned visit, I noticed a loss of power steering and high engine temperatures about a mile before our exit. The day before yesterday, after checking the new belts under the hood -- and the pulley that replaced the one that had seized and broken off -- I started the engine and noticed a light peeking out at me from behind the steering wheel. Good thing: I'd forgotten to check the coolant level. And yes: The people whose job it was to fix a car that had overheated had forgotten to check the coolant, replace what had been lost, and check for leaks.
Last week, the CPU fan on my desktop finally finished failing. I'd been running with an open side panel so I could easily check on an intermittent, but plainly abnormal noise I'd get sometimes out of the blue -- but which would mysteriously disappear whenever I'd take the tower to another room and run it, even for several hours in one case. The new heat sink/fan assembly arrived yesterday and, after following the base assembly instructions, I noticed that some protective tape was hard to remove and had ragged edges. Step One was to assemble the base around the heat transfer surface, according to processor socket type. Step Two was to remove the tape from the portion that was to form the heat transfer contact with the CPU. Upon taking the base apart, I found small pieces of leftover tape next to where my CPU would have been. (Either the instructions are bad or the manufacturer is using the wrong size tape.) I've heard the cooling job that CPU fans do compared to removing the amount of heat in an incandescent bulb from an area about the size of a fingernail. Good thing I don't have any tape down there!
All of these things remind me of a saying that my first direct boss on a submarine, the Engineer, used to say. "You get what you inspect." He said it all the time, even around the enlisted men. At the time, I thought he was rude for doing so. But now, I realize that he was just doing his job, which was to back up the enlisted men and his junior officers. Anyone can make mistakes, including people who have earned trust. No one's word for something, however trivial, can serve as a substitute for consulting the facts of reality and rooting out contradictions, which aren't always so obvious as the ones I discuss here. And sometimes, one person in a room full of people will be the one man between triumph and disaster.
I wish I were still in contact with the Eng. I'd like to thank him for demanding that I bring my full attention and critical faculties to bear back then: Him and that electrician's mate who, frustrated with a young JO's habit of asking nicely for people to do things, blurted out, "Give me an order!"