(Pedro’s Hot Re-runs:
My column from July 8, 2011)
It was my senior year at UC Berkeley, 1965. Many of us were enrolled in the Dragon Class of all dragon Mechanical Engineering classes, ME 131 A & B. I think it was called Mechanical Systems or something like that, part of Thermal Systems Division…it should have been called Hell on Wheels with No Returning – you had to pass 131-A before starting 131-B, and if you did NOT complete both satisfactorily, you were drummed out of the core, off the blanket so to speak, picnics and your life as you knew it was over, and your future in engineering was pretty much a warped T-square. It was such a dragon class, you had to form 4-person teams: Dave Franklin, Clark Blaisdell, Bob Weitzmann, and I formed one team.
We were escorted into this technical cavern by our TA (Teaching Assistant), an upperclassman, graduate student, as sharp and methodical as a stainless steel ice pick, who had already passed this dragon class and sadistically enjoyed dragging other unsuspecting undergraduate students through it, facedown in the mud. He spoke like a drill sergeant, fast as microwaved lightning and unless you wrote at the speed of light, you were gonna be lost attempting to take notes before the bell even sounded to start. As the door closed behind us, he began: “Gentlemen, this is the DooFramus 12,000, typical of your contemporary thermal systems supporting US Naval carriers and nuclear submersibles currently on the planet and capable of turning out 4.8 Gigawatts if not Gigahertz of horsepower @ 9.7 microseconds. Your job will be to thermally run it up to speed, chart and record it, run all its thermal parameters, evaluate its enthalpy, entropy, fuel and thermal efficiencies, fuel mixtures, exhaust ratios and in years to come, calculate its pull on the moon, its worth as scrap iron and the acres and tons of its carbon footprint. In decades to come, all Walmart Stores will house one of these babies in their basements to power their drone and robotic employees.Your full report with data, notes, full calculations and comments will be due in one week, you know where at the Tool Crib at 8 o’clock sharp. Every minute of lateness will cost you one full drop in grade point. Gentlemen, start your engines.”
With that he left the room, and we all looked at each other in horror. “$#@$%#!” was our first unanimous comment. Why couldn’t they have given us this stinking class in our Freshman year so we could have bailed out earlier? Couldn’t I still design handbags, dust mops, Hallmark Greeting cards, or something else?
The DooFramus-12,000 was housed in a warehouse in a Berkeley campus basement, as big as a football field and underground so as NOT to cause a stir downtown. We lit it up, evaluated it, and spent our nights for the next week at Dave or Clark’s homes doing our stinking report. Bob and I were married students as Dave was, but we lived too far from campus to make it an efficient commute for the 4 of us, so we learned to eat waffles at Dave’s Married with Children Student Housing in Albany, and at Clark’s apartment just off campus where he and 3-4 other males lived in somewhat of an organized zoo habitat. We evaluated together a year’s worth of similar dragons and machines, graduated, and learned that Engineering is NOT always what it first appears to be. We each joined various corporate spheres and learned further about maelstroms in general and how to make or avoid making other hay-making machines.
Cheaper than an American flag,
I am buoyant in the Pacific breeze,
despite a stinking, sinking economy
fueled by the useless greed of others
in financial quarters.
My home is now a toxic mortgage
and retirement is a dream that burst
with the last layoff.
Hot air rising to the east
causes a void and in flows the fresh,
cooler air rumbling up the valleys
and alleyways and over the coastal hills.
Now they’re talking about reducing
my Medicare in the future so as to trim
somebody’s tax load and maintain
oil and corporate subsidies and make up for
squandered trillions in useless wars. Maybe they
should just trim the Pentagon back to a Rectangle
or Triangle and demote a few eagles and generals
back to homing pigeons and black crows,
wandering in the streets looking for seeds.
Convert drones and bombers back to books
and infrastructure and real jobs in the USA.
End offshore tax loopholes.
Sounds like a plan to me.
Hot air rising is usually just that,
hot air rising, then it falls precipitously
back to where we are today.
Thanks a bundle, Guys!
When I vote next time, I will cut off
your air supply. Count on it.
Peter Bray lives works and writes
in Benicia and has written this column
happily if not with slight snarkisms