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Those Unfortunate Men In The Land Of The Free

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-           What is the capital of the state of Alabama?

-           I don't remember,- said Albert, "but I am sure that the geographical atlas   has this info."

-           Where is the Mason- Dixon line?

-           I don't remember,- said Albert, "but I am sure that the book on the US history     has this info."

And so on and so on. Einstein sincerely did not understand   why a person would remember such things;   his point of view was that a person should know where to   find such information if needed.   I   echo him; it is unlikely that   medieval knights could memorize what was the Holy Grail but   they sure as Hell knew where to go to find it. That is the way a true man thinks- he   tries to   maintain   the path and the goal, not the means and reference points.

So if someone comes   to me and tells me that he/she knows FLUENT I would simply ask this person to explain to me   if he/she could solve the problem without it. That brings us to the Golden Gate   bridge.

In a terrific book   The Gate by John Van-der-Zee   the author   tells   us a story about   professor Charles   Alton Ellis who   practically designed the bridge   in 1927 using pencils and slide- ruler.   Of course, he   verified his calculations   through communication with another outstanding engineer Moiseyev. All-in-all though there is a remarkable statement in that book, "It is unlikely   that such   achievement    (one person designing   such a    bridge-MS) could be   accomplished   in our times."

But why? Now we have computers, we have   software, we have manuals and books, we have   professors and graduate students; we have all the   power you can imagine   and still, it is unlikely   that one person could   design a bridge? What's the secret?

The secret is   in   the way a person is    valued.   When professor Ellis was commissioned to design a bridge he was   considered   a sole expert   hired for a job.   Nobody doubted   him and nobody   broke the work into pieces. It was a   risk, of course, but   that risk was based   on   an interesting perception:

-           It is better to   lose in the company of the smart than to gain in the company of the stupid.

-            

Ellis was fully responsible and fully accountable. Chief   Engineer   Joseph Straus, fired Ellis   after the design was complete because he considered that Ellis   was too obsessed with details and   that jeopardized the schedule. But Straus never   doubted Ellis's skill and never tried to divide the work between a group of people. He respected the craft. Now the people are treated as a commodity.

Golden Gate bridge was a unique construction -- it demanded unique people. So was the Manhattan Project, so was the   Lunar   endeavor, so was the SR-71, so were and are the requirements of any technical challenge. And not only technical.

-           We have serious problems to solve and we   need serious people to solve them.

That was said   by   Michael Douglas in the movie American President. Serious people, how do you define them?     Historically   there seem to be only one primary criterion- the deeply rooted dignity   based on self -- reliance. According to this criterion our beloved USA should be filled with   serious people, the inhabitants of the "home of the brave'.

So where did Mark Twain get his   scathing   perception?

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The writer is 57 years old, semi- retired engineer, PhD, PE, CEM. I write fiction on a regular basis and I am also 10 years on OEN.


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We are all in it.... by Mark Sashine on Sunday, Jun 3, 2012 at 9:02:45 AM
 Sir,  At some point I think I have even... by Ad Du on Monday, Jun 4, 2012 at 12:12:11 PM
But, this is not 'just about Americans'. It is a ... by Paul Repstock on Sunday, Jun 3, 2012 at 11:24:31 AM