Something something chickens hatching…

Long, long ago someone told me something about chickens hatching and getting the count wrong. While out and about surveying the fine interstate system here in my home state this morning, I had plenty of opportunity to run a few basic calculations – mostly involving the cost of fuel, my own average miles per gallon, and my best guess about what next year’s pay tables might look like.

If for some reason yet to be determined my daily commute were to more than double in distance the corresponding increase in salary I might expect due to this unforeseen circumstance wouldn’t quite cover the additional cost of fuel expended in traveling to and from. It certainly wouldn’t cover the cost of acquiring and maintaining a secondary, more fuel efficient commuter car. Even if it did, I’d then have to dig into my pocket to hire a dog walker due to the presumed two hour increase in the duration of the commute.

Now these chickens I’m looking at aren’t even eggs yet, but my natural tendency with life is to play all sorts of interesting “what if” scenarios out in my head. Barring a change in one of the inputs, I don’t see a clear path to balance the equation. That bit is troublesome to say the least. Of course it’s all speculation and conjecture at the moment so we’ll just proceed on assuming there will be eggs or chickens available at some point in the future. That fact too remains to be seen.

Deeply unsatisfying…

I’m not a conspiracy theorist by any stretch of the imagination. As a rule, I favor a liberal application of Occam’s Razor to most points of confusion. Given the current wall to wall coverage of Flight 370, it feels a bit like world needs to take a breath and let the razor do its thing.

So far I’ve heard or read every conceivable explanation from terrorism to extra terrestrials. Bird strikes, hijacking, space-time disturbance, you name it and the crackpots are out in force making their respective cases – even when those cases are long on supposition and very, very short on actual facts.

From what I’ve been able to gather, the facts in evidence are fairly stark: Forty minutes after takeoff, at an altitude of 35,000 feet, and traveling at a speed of 471 knots, Flight 370 lost communication with the ground. Monitored by military radar, the flight changed heading and descended until radar contact was also lost somewhere over the Straits of Malacca. There were no distress calls and no automatic alarms triggered. As I write this, those meager bits appear to be the sum total of what is “known,” or at least the facts as they are being reported.

I know we’ve all been hard wired to look for boogiemen under every bed, but if I may be so bold, it feels a bit like the simplest explanation available is being thoroughly ignored… and that explanation is that sometimes complex systems just fail. When they do, especially when traveling at a high rate of speed and at altitude, those failures tend to be catastrophic. A cascading systems failure of multiple components on that airframe feels unlikely, but not more so than any of the other plausible alternatives the media has jumped on.

As for the issue of being “lost without a trace,” well, a Boeing 777 is a pretty big jet, but in comparison to the size of something like the ocean, it’s the kind of thing that makes seeking out needles in haystacks seem like amateur hour. Flight 370 will turn up somewhere… Eventually. When it does, we’ll get some of our answers. Even then, I suspect they’ll be deeply unsatisfying.

A matter of trust…

After more years than I care to think about in service, there comes a point when the operational assumption should be that you know more or less what you’re doing. Sure, that’s probably not true for some people, but I’m fairly sure that I’ve earned enough stripes to be at least considered competent in most situations. Sure, I’m not going to be the most dynamic presenter or dazzle them with the brilliance of my PowerPoint slides, but I’ll get the meat of the matter across in a clear and concise way that our glorious leaders should at least find informative and useful.

I’m absolutely not asking for carte blanche to do whatever I feel like doing, but I think a reasonable basis to proceed would be to start with the premise that I know how to build slides using a template, I have a better than average grip on the subject matter, and won’t, as a rule, say things to the most senior of senior leaders that would reflect badly on me, you, or the 4 layers of management between me and the guy at the end of the table. As I’ve said before, my goal is to do whatever is going to cause me the least grief in the long run. I believe strongly in the importance of self preservation. In this case, that would involve making a solid enough presentation that the number of questions at the end will be held to a minimum. I know I’m still pretty new in this office, but at some point you’re going to have to trust that I’m not going to walk in and call the Old Man an asshat and piss my pants.

If nothing else, let us consider that I’m going to be the lowest graded guy in the room by a country mile. The chances of the mighty and powerful jumping up and down on my head for a minor mistake are between slim and none. If the worst happens and I completely lose the bubble, you can always blame it on me as the new guy, so really, no matter how it goes, the bases are all covered.

Editorial Note: This part of a continuing series of posts previously available on a now defunct website. They are appearing on http://www.jeffreytharp.com for the first time. This post has been time stamped to correspond to its original publication date.