Category Archives: Story

Damnatio ad bestias

In the late first century, Roman Emperor Titus had a slew of problems to compound his first year… Vesuvius erupted, plague, fires in Rome. He decided to distract everyone with a celebration to commemorate the completion of his newest resort, the Flavian Amphitheater.

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Bigger is better…until it isn’t

Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering Co.(대우조선해양) of South Korea is the fourth largest shipbuilding company in the world – two others of the top three are also South Korean, in case you were wondering. Daewoo is the manufacturer of the TI line of supertankers – the largest currently in service in the world.TI_Europe

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Call Her Madame…

 

In late 2015, Fernande Grudet, also known as Madame Claude, died at the quite respectable age of 92.

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Job Security

cvn_69_uss_dwight_d_eisenhower_100114-N-6854D-001Back in the late 1980s, I was a nuclear reactor operator on board the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN-69). We were in the Newport News Shipbuilding yards for a complex overhaul and one Saturday morning, I was sitting Control Point Watch deep in the bowels of the Ike’s #2 reactor spaces.

Whenever the reactor compartment is open (a very rare occurrence), someone has to guard against unauthorized entrance, make sure that the folks working inside don’t spend too long in there, and most importantly…that everyone who went in came out (sort of like coal miner check tags). When no one is actually working in the compartment, it’s probably the dullest watch anyone can be assigned. Worse than watching soccer… or paint dry.

So, there I was…not falling asleep…studying reactor theory because that’s what I did when we were shut down (no, really!). Down the long ladder (civilians call them stairs) comes a shipyard employee – “moseying” is the appropriate term. He pulled out and unfolded a piece of paper, read it for a moment, looked around, spied a spot on the bulkhead, patted his pockets and gave me a dumb look. Up the ladder he goes, and comes back about ten minutes later with a tape measure in hand. Reading his paper again, he measured out a spot from the frame and deck, patted his pockets again and headed back up the ladder. Five minutes this time and he’s back measuring again with his paper and tape in one hand, formerly missing marker in his teeth, and a metal “hanger” in his other hand.

Satisfied that he has it right, spot marked with an “X” on the wall, he trundled up the ladder. He was gone for about half hour this time before coming back down with welding torches in hand and their long hoses dragging behind him to the deck above. Just then, a loud horn blast rang through the shipyard and I saw the fastest movement all morning as he scurried up the ladder.

Lunch time.

An hour later (I’m still sitting there at the Control Point), down comes the guy, thudding slowly, taking about a full “one Mississippi” for each step. Paper pulled from pocket, scan for the “X”, hold up the hanger on the “X”, reach for the torches… Pat, pat pat… Up the ladder again.

Maybe 20 minutes later, I see him plodding down the ladder, welding striker in hand.

Measure, measure, brush, strike, adjust, place, weld, weld, brush, brush, and he’s done. Slow climb with hoses in tow and I’m alone again…marveling that I just witnessed a man take three and a half hours to make two three-inch welds!

The lesson here is that whether dragging out an overhaul while waiting for the next ship contract, Apple’s alleged planned obsolescence of their phones, or Fox”News” personalities yelling out “Benghazi!” every time it’s a slow “news” day and Apate and the other Pseudologoi muses fail them, there are plenty of ways to ensure job security.