Geek It Happened to Me

I wonder if the same engineer was involved

Back in early 2002, I went down to the San Francisco Bay Area to hang out with friends and to help my housemate Paul present Peekabooty at CodeCon. I arrived a day early and hung out with my friend Jillzilla in Mountain View that night, where we met some engineers who were wondering why my accordion didn’t make any sound. I made a note of our conversation in my blog entry for February 23, 2002:

A group of drunk partygoers — an even mix of men and women — see the accordion and ask the question that most ninety-nine out of one hundred people ask: “Do you know how to play that thing?” I prove that I can by breaking into a couple of popular tunes.

After a couple of tunes, I stop to talk to the group. One of the women is pressing on the keys repeatedly and getting frustrated.

Her: It’s not making any sound!

Me: Of course not.

Her (annoyed, as if I’m playing some kind of joke on her): Why not?

Me: Because I’m not squeezing the bellows right now.

Her: What?

Me: The accordion is just a big harmonica with buttons and an air bag. Sound doesn’t come our of a harmonica by itself; you have to blow air into it to make noise. Same here, except you squeeze the bellows to move air over the reeds.

Her (impressed by my extremely basic science): Wow.

One of the guys: Dude, you’re not from around here, are you? What brings you down here?

Me: I’m visiting my friend Jill [I point to Jill] and am attending a conference in San Francisco tomorrow.

Guy: We’re all from around here. Most of us work at Lockheed.

Her: I’m a mechanical engineer there.

Me (thinking): I am never ever boarding a Lockheed plane again.

I was reminded of this story because earlier this week, I’d heard about how a satellite at the Lockheed Martin plant where those engineers worked got ruined due to sheer incompetence:

As the NOAA-N Prime spacecraft was being repositioned from vertical to horizontal on the “turn over cart” at approximately 7:15 PDT today, it slipped off the fixture, causing severe damage. (See attached photo). The 18′ long spacecraft was about 3′ off the ground when it fell.

The mishap was caused because 24 bolts were missing from a fixture in the “turn over cart”. Two errors occurred. First, technicians from another satellite program that uses the same type of “turn over cart” removed the 24 bolts from the NOAA cart on September 4 without proper documentation. Second, the NOAA team working today failed to follow the procedure to verify the configuration of the NOAA “turn over cart” since they had used it a few days earlier.

(The emphasis is mine, by the way.)

In case you’re dying for a visual, here’s a large photo of the satellite after it tipped over.

I can see the instant message chatter going on at Lockheed right now:


I really do wonder if the same engineer was involved…

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