|Issue 47||November 1999||Volume 4 - Number 12|
Welcome to the CANDOER News. Suggestions as to what you would like to see in the CANDOER are welcome. Letters to the editor, articles consisting of general information, feature articles, G-rated jokes, or poems, written/submitted by retirees or OC/IM employees, past or present, will be published, unedited. Material may be submitted on a 3.5" floppy disk (disk will be returned) using WordPerfect Version 6.1 or earlier (if it contains graphics), on a plain sheet of paper (if it has no graphics) or via e-mail. The deadline for submitting material is no later than the 25th of each month. Material received after that date will be published in the next issue of the CANDOER, space allowing. Please, restrict articles/submissions to two single spaced, typed pages. No hand written submissions, please.
The snail-mail address for submissions or letters to the editor is:
Robert J. Catlin, Sr.
Publisher/Editor CANDOER News
2670 Dakota Street
Bryans Road, MD 20616-3062
The following was received via e-mail from Jim Prosser:
Jim Steeves' article on a flight ends with a good suggestion that others send in their experiences flying. (See the October issue of the CANDOER News - Volume 4 - Number 11, White Knuckle Flying). I've got a number of them and will put them on paper one of these days and send them along. I would encourage other CANDOERs to do likewise. There have to be a ton of funny, exciting, scary stores to relate.
The following letter was received from Peter Gregorio:
Vic Maffei forwarded me your ALCAN 00123. I printed off several pages of information from the CANDOER.org site, which I found very interesting. Even more interesting were all the members.
Since retiring from State in September 1987, I took advantage of an offer from Ray Russell to come back to work for him as a contractor on the probably-now-defunct ECP project. This lasted several years. After that I had a couple of away-from-the-Government short-term jobs before coming back to work for Floyd Wilson on the SA-1 project for almost three years (as a CSC employee). When Floyd was transferred off the SA-1 project, after completion of the low-rise part of the project, I thought it would be a good time (1997) to retire for good ... which I did.
Since then, we have been actively and enthusiastically spending our children's inheritance. We have no immediate plans to relocate, since my oldest son (Tom) and his family live and work in Norristown, PA, and Gert's people are from Allentown. Bob (the middle son), worked in San Francisco for a while, but is currently back at home ... at least for the time being ... and is employed by QWEST. Dan, who like Tom and Bob, worked at State during the summer, is currently a district manager for Kay Jewelers in the Columbus, Ohio, region where he and his family live. We have four grandchildren (two each from each of the married sons).
I currently am working on a project that will probably take years to complete. Before I entered government service, I earned my living (such that it was) at photography, and over the decades have accumulated thousands of slides which are slowly but steadily deteriorating. I am digitizing all of these slides and archiving them to CD's. I have completed about 25% of this phase. After that, I have to do the same thing to all my color and B&W negatives, ranging in size from sub-miniature 16mm to 4X5. To accomplish this, I use a battery of three networked Macintosh computers (the only PC I have is an old Tandy 486 which is never used). My goal is to eventually do away with my darkroom and all the equipment. I also still collect stamps (member of the American Philatelic Society and the London-based Egypt Study Group). Another long-term project is transferring music from my old LP's to CD's. The bottom line is that I have more things to do these days than I ever did!
I enjoy reading the material on the CANDOER site and certainly give you high marks for taking on the project. I look forward to future issues. Needless to say, if there is anything I can do to assist you, please let me know.
The following e-mail was received from Thomas J. Murphy on October 1 and is being repeated here as a Letter to the Editor, with his permission:
Greetings from the northeast! We recently signed up for cable-modem service, saving $5 per month over the ISP and separate telephone line charges, and gaining enormous speed in the process --- something on the order of 125 Kbps! The other day it seemed to be struggling to download pages and I was made aware of a site, http://www.computingcentral.com/topics/bandwidth/speedtest500.asp which runs a test and tells you what your current speed is. I think other CANDOERs might be interested in this URL, so pass it along.
Last week I had an angioplasty, including emplacement of a stent to keep it open. During the procedure, I mentioned to the doctor that I had recently read where Boston Scientific, a manufacturer of stents, had to recall a bunch of them owing to defects or whatever. He said mine was a BS product and would I like him to remove it? I laughingly said no thanks and he responded that they got this batch at a good price. A good laugh was had by all. Incidentally, the stent is a fine metal screen. During the first few weeks after implantation they recommend no MRIs - which would tend to cook you from the inside out! That sounds a bit screwy but I'll pass in any case.
EDITOR'S NOTE: I sent a get well card to Tom in the name of the CANDOERs.
The following e-mail message was received from Babe Martin.
Received your information on Will and Doris. Think this part of the country is under attack with this virus. Patti had walking pneumonia a couple of weeks ago and I had severe bronchitis following that. Ain't that weird. We are both doing fine now but I still have a cough and sinus problems.
I had a great weekend. Went to Albuquerque for the balloon festival and stayed with my son. Met Ron & Linda (Steenhoek) and his brother Dick and his wife. Ran into Glen Powell at the festival but didn't see any of the other guys. Had to leave on Sunday so didn't get to do lunch with them. Ron and party went to Gallup on Sunday where I picked them up and took them to St. Mike's and gave them a tour of the complex. They loved it. I saw some things and places I had not seen before. We had dinner with them later and they are now on their way to Las Vegas where his brother Dick lives. They will be there a month and will be headed back to Virginia after that.
I pulled up the CANDOER News on the Web so I'm all set there. All I need now is time to come up here and read it. I am currently doing inventory of all the sports equipment dedicated to PE and recess. Cleaned out a bunch of closets where the stuff was being stored and have put it in our new shed which is dedicated for all sports equipment. I start working on basketball this week. We should have four teams; two girls, two boys. Well take care and keep in touch. Say hi to Nancy and the gang.
EDITOR'S NOTE: I sent a get well card to both Babe and Patti in the name of the CANDOERs.
The following letter to the editor was received from Vic and Harriet Maffei:
Hi One and All,
Well, we did it! We made it by van all the way to the Pacific! Took the northern tier of the U.S. across and dipped into Canada from Niagara to Michigan, and then again once in Washington State to Vancouver, BC and back to Washington State by ferries through Vancouver Island (Victoria-Port Angeles). We're still in awe at the beauty of our USA (and Canada). Should have done this long ago; already have thoughts of doing other tiers soon. Don't know if it's unique with us but 30+ years overseas have made us foreigners of our own country and will make an effort to correct that situation.
Trip was physically hard on some of us and errors in planning will be corrected in future trips. Am sorry at not having being able to catch up with any of you along the way but was outvoted (1 out of 4) in that pursuit: time per stop and return date requirement for one of us was the factor preventing visits with friends and relatives along the way. Enjoyed very much the ride down the Pacific Coast through Washington State, Oregon and Northern California (not to mention the oysters and other seafood).
We'll be doing the usual fall season requirements around here (leaves, leaves, leaves, nothing but leaves ... !). Grandson, family and pets all fared pretty well during our absence. We're glad to be back and we wish you all great health and happiness.
Expect to stay home through the Holidays and maybe go out for work from 1/00.
We had a good turnout for the October luncheon at TGIFridays. In attendance were the following regulars: Bob Campopiano, Jim Casey, Bob Catlin, Al Debnar, Paul Del Giudice, Charlie Ditmeyer, Tom Forbes, Ken French, Al Giovetti, Mel Maples, Nate Reynolds, and Val Taylor.
In addition, we had three first time attendees: A new member who just joined us this past month, Pete Gregorio, and from the Department, members Russ LeClair and Sid Reeves. Welcome guys. I hope you can find time out of your busy schedules to attend many, many more luncheons. You are always welcome.
The following was received from Jim Prosser.
Written by a young Army officer's wife ... and well done!
My husband called it Platoon Morale Day in a very serious tone. My friends and I, in secret, called it "The Joe Party" and giggled about it like school girls, because we are never serious about anything for very long. "Joe" is a nickname for soldiers.
But tomorrow my friends won't be with me and I won't be laughing anymore. Tomorrow, barring last minute call-outs, alerts, or conflicts of schedule, men and women from my husband's platoon will gather in my living room. I will shuffle around my kitchen amidst the smell of pizza and brownies and try desperately to look busy. And I will try to shut out the sounds coming from my living room, but I know I won't be able to. You see, they are gathering to watch the movie "Saving Private Ryan" and the giggling I did with my friends was only masking something I'm dreading: having to watch that movie again.
I will never forget the night I sat in the darkened theater as that movie unfolded before my eyes for the first time. With tears streaking down my cheeks, I was shown quite graphically what my husband, an infantry officer, did for a living. And I realized that there were men out there I had to thank for the ease in which I have lived my life.
I have never wanted for food or shelter or warmth. I don't know what it's like to lose my home simply because someone didn't like where I came from. I have the right to voice my opinion on whatever causes touch my heart. The only devastation that I have ever seen due to war has been on TV. And the last time a member of my family was touched by battle was when my great-great-grandfather died in the Civil War.
There are people out there who have risked their lives and died so that I can lead a sheltered life. I know I probably wouldn't be here today had it not been for those men and women who are no less than heroes in my eyes. To me, a hero is anyone who is willing to sign away years of their life to a cause they believe in. Not all of us possess such fortitude. I have been told that I have courage because I speak out for the few things in my life that are important to me, but I cannot begin to fathom the bravery it would take to go off to war, knowing you might not come home.
The gallantry those men and women, as well as the ones gathered in my living room tomorrow, possess is beyond anything I can comprehend. Patriotism is in my heart. I cry when I hear taps played. I can't get through All-American Week without goose bumps. I get chills when I see a line of C-130s dot the sky, and one of my favorite songs is the 82nd Airborne Chorus's version of "God Bless the USA." So how does someone like me say thank you? Sometimes the words "thank you" are spoken too late. People are taken from our lives before we get around to telling them how we feel.
In a speech to Congress in 1790, George Washington said, "To be prepared for war is one of the most effectual means of preserving peace." I don't like to think about war because I'm an idealist who hopes that the days of armed conflict will become obsolete during my lifetime. I don't wish for the men and women in my living room to go off to fight a war, but I know that they are prepared to do so.
The men and women who will be in my home tomorrow don't know how I feel because it's hard for me to articulate my feelings into spoken words. I don't even think my own husband knows how I truly feel. But I could try. I could tell them I appreciate the sacrifices they've made. I wonder if they know how much I look up to each and every one of them, and that I am truly honored to be in their presence, and in the presence of anyone who has ever served our country. I could just start by saying thank you before it's too late.
So tomorrow, should "Joe Party" occur as scheduled, I'll try to watch the movie, maybe, even though I will no doubt see half of it through tears. When it's over I will gather the courage that comes from being in the company of heroes, in my eyes, and I will start by saying thank you to them.
To those of you who will not be with me tomorrow, please, before the day is through, find someone who has served our country, past or present, and tell them thank you, from the bottom of your heart, for the job they did for us. They deserve that at the very least.
On September 22, I received an e-mail message from Frank Pressley. By the time you read this, he will have been in the Washington area for several doctor appointments On October 5th he underwent reconstructive jaw surgery at Georgetown Hospital. He is still in the Washington area recovering.
On September 23, I received an e-mail message from Jim Prosser furnishing an e-mail address for Pete Lacock. Pete has retired in Madison, Wisconsin. I have sent Pete information about the CANDOERs. His e-mail address appears on the last page of this and future issues.
On September 26, I received an e-mail from Ron Whiddon requesting information about the CANDOER and indicating he wished to have his name listed. I sent Ron my normal canned e-mail message.
On September 27, I received a letter from Bryon Hallman with a CANDOER Personal Data Form. Bryon and Mary Lou's bio may be found in the Pen and Ink section and on the Web site.
On September 27, I received an e-mail from Barbara Gregory, informing me that she was joining the other Snow Birds and headed for her Florida home in Eustis, FL., on or about October 15. Go Barbara Go!
Bryon Hallman furnished an address for a new member, Ron Oslowski. I sent Ron my normal canned letter with information about the group. Ron's address may be found in the Pen and Ink section of this issue.
On September 30, I received and e-mail message from Ed and Joan Wilson. In the September issue I gave an incorrect e-mail address for them. I have made this correction on the Web site and on this last page of this issue.
On October 1, I received a check from Ron Whiddon for membership in the CANDOERs. Ron's personal data may be found in the Pen and Ink section and on the Web page. His e-mail address will be listed on the last page of this and future issues and on the Web.
On October 2, I received an e-mail message from Bob Bell. In one of my senior moments, several months ago, I deleted his e-mail address from the last page. Bob has been added back to the last page and has also been added to the Web site. My apologies to Bob.
On October 2, Bill Harrison notified me that he has a new e-mail address. His new e-mail address may be found on the last page of this and future issues, and on the Web site.
On October 4, I received a long letter from Gene Caruso. Gene reports he is doing well, playing golf often, and asks me to pass on his greetings to all.
On October 4, Tom Paolozzi furnished a new e-mail address for Ray Russell. This address may be found in the Pen and Ink section of this issue, on the last page of this and future issues, and on the Web site.
On October 5, In an e-mail message, Rob Robinson furnished the name and e-mail address of a recent retiree, Dennis Nelson. I sent Dennis my normal canned e-mail message about the CANDOERs.
On October 6, I received a long letter from Ron Oslowski furnishing his personal data. Ron said he was presently living in Orangevale, California, but was in the process of settling his affairs and would soon be moving. You may find Ron's bio in the Pen and Ink section, as well as on the Web site.
Ron requested I send information about the CANDOERs to Tom Mukai and Cliff Brzozowski. I sent my normal canned snail-mail infogram to Tom and sent an e-mail message to Jim Norton and asked that he pass the Newsletter to Cliff. You will find Tom and Cliff's address in the Pen and Ink section.
On October 7, Mike McCaffrey sent me his new e-mail address. It may be found in the Pen and Ink section, on the last page of this and future issue, and on the Web site.
On October 7, Ray Russell furnished his address for his winter home in Warrenton and his summer home in Waverly, Ohio. This information may be found in the Pen and Ink section and on the Web site.
On October 9, I received an e-mail from Will Naeher letting me know he was back from the REFCOM Luncheon in Las Vegas. While at the REFCOM, Doris became ill, with pneumonia. They returned home, to Fairfax, and Will got sick and was diagnosis with severe bronchitis. Will says that slowly, but surely, they are both recovering, with a lot of rest and medicine. I sent both a get well card from the CANDOERs.
On October 9, I received a letter from Dick Stockman. Dick is working in the WAE Rover program and just returned from five and a half months in Ankara, Turkey. He says all is well.
On October 11, I received an e-mail from Phil Tinney, informing me of a change of address and an additional e-mail address. This new information may be found in the Pen and Ink section, on the last page of this issue, and on the Web site.
On October 11, Val Taylor furnished a new e-mail address. This address may be found in the Pen and Ink section, on this last page of this issue, and on the Web site.
On October 12, I received an e-mail request, via the Web site, for membership from Sam and Betty Carden. Their Bio information may be found in the Pen and Ink section, their e-mail address on the last page of this and every issue, and both on the Web site.
On October 13, Buzz McManus furnish an e-mail for Joe Talbot, who is now assigned to the Sinai Field Mission. Joe's e-mail address may be found in the Pen and Ink section, on the last page of this issue and on the Web site.
On October 15, I received an e-mail message from Ken Loff furnishing his new e-mail address. Ken has a private and a business e-mail address. Both addresses may be found in the Pen and Ink section and on the Web site, but only the private e-mail address may be found on the last page of this and future issues.
On October 16, I received an e-mail message from Joe Talbot furnishing his new snail-mail and e-mail addresses. This information may be found in the appropriate places in this issue and on the Web site.
My first trip behind the Iron Curtain was memorable. It was back in 1962, during the coolest part of the cold war.
Frank Tucker and I were working the evening shift at the Embassy in Bonn. My car was packed with two 5-gallon jerry cans full of gas and our clothes so we were ready to head out to West Berlin right after work at midnight. We were going to visit Frank's friend, Maurice Brooks, who at the time was assigned to the communications section at US Mission. Minutes after our shift change we were on our way.
Around one thirty we had reached the area east of Dortmund. Rain fell lightly as we rode through mile after mile of heavy fog. My beetle was capable of 60 mph on level ground, a bit faster going off a cliff. We entered a tunnel and when we approached the other end it looked like a solid wall of concrete. Both Frank and I yelled, I stomped on the brakes and slowed to a crawl. We knew there couldn't be a wall there but it sure looked like one. Thank God there was no Mercedes or BMW flying up behind us. We crept forward through the "wall" and emerged, with relief, into more fog and rain.
A few hours later Frank was driving as we got near to Helmstedt, which is where the autobahn entered East Germany. For those who don't know, Berlin lay 110 miles from the border that separated east and west Germany. We checked our briefing paperwork given to us at the Embassy, a single sheet of paper provided to everyone driving to Berlin in those days. Actually, the instructions only informed us to stop at the U.S. Military checkpoint to get the real, detailed instructions before going into East Germany. Part of the drill was to "clock in", i.e., let the military know we were going in and that if we didn't get to the other checkpoint in a reasonable length of time, someone would go looking for us. Seemed like a logical plan but it didn't take into account the fog. Our eyes were weary from being up all night and staring into the fog watching for traffic and road signs. Thus, when we recognized East German military uniforms it became apparent that we had passed the U.S. Military checkpoint without seeing it or them seeing us. The West German checkpoint was normally an excellent fall-back; they would have sent us back one step to the U.S. Military guys but we hadn't seen them either.
We knew we were allowed to hand the West German's any paperwork they might ask to see but that we were not to give the East Germans anything other than a document which we should have received from our military checkpoint. This was because the U.S. Government did not recognize East German control of East Germany; that was officially Soviet territory under terms of the Tripartite Agreement. However, since we hadn't stopped at our military checkpoint we didn't have that document!
The East German trooper wanted to see some papers but since we knew we were not to give them our passports and didn't have anything else, he waved us to a parking area and instructed us to follow another trooper, armed with a machine gun, into a building. Inside that building we saw pictures of Marx and Lenin and knew we had a problem.
The East German conferred for a few minutes with a Russian then he came to us and demanded our passports. Well, we were told that under no circumstances were we to allow the East German's to even have our passports, much less put a stamp into them but this guy was Russian. We wondered what would happen if we got the passports back with East German stamps in them; we wondered if we were going to be allowed to leave. We imagined a lot of awful things actually. A really big Russian female officer leaned against a doorway some distance across the room; quietly watching us. We must have been quite a sight.
Half an hour later another Russian motioned for us to follow him outside. We walked about a hundred yards to a small building and were instructed to go inside. It was a wooden hut with room enough for about five people, though we were alone. Half of this hut was for victims we supposed and the other half for the bad guys. There was a small counter below a closed window. It was awfully cold. As inside the main building, Marx and Lenin stared down at us from pictures on the walls.
After a very long time the window was slid open and someone tossed out the passports and said something along with a wave of the hand. We grabbed the passports and went out the door. An officer led us to my car and we were instructed to proceed.
I drove while Frank had his nose to the windshield, looking for directions. There were several places where we could turn off the autobahn. Once we took a wrong turn but were able to get back. As the light of day began to creep over the eastern horizon we saw a sign that told us were just a few miles from West Berlin. It was time for a decision. Having bypassed the U.S. Military authorities at checkpoint Alpha, would it be wise or stupid to check with them at Bravo? We were pretty confident, at that point, that we were going to make it but if we let anyone know what had happened we felt we might be in trouble with our own side. We decided to hell with it; go through without stopping at Checkpoint Bravo. I don't remember what we did in regards to the Russians and East Germans.
We got to a telephone and phoned Maurice to get directions to his apartment. There we told him what had happened but he refused to believe us. He said it would be impossible to get past the U.S. military checkpoint; that they stopped all traffic going in. We remembered being told that we really wouldn't have to look for them; they'd see us. But the fog was just too thick and the plan didn't work.
We had a good time for a few days in Berlin but, as departure time approached, we again considered whether to check with our people going out. For all we knew they might want to see documentation showing when we had come in, which, of course, we didn't have. Maurice started to take us seriously around that point. His advice was to check in with the U.S. troops on the assumption that they wouldn't have any idea of when we came in or care. That really boosted my confidence in getting help from our people if we might need it. At that point in my young life I hadn't really learned what military b.s. and bureaucracy was all about. So we took his advice and got back to West Germany with no problem. Needless to say we told no one back at the Embassy about the incident. And, we discovered while in Berlin that there were no stamps in our passports. In retrospect I think the Russians didn't know what to do in this unexpected situation so they punted. They probably considered how much paperwork there would be if they took action against us and we were obviously young and stupid thus of little propaganda value to them.
Some months later, our Ambassador, while exercising his right to travel in East Berlin in his chauffeur driven limousine, absent mindedly handed his passport to the East Germans at checkpoint Charlie and got it stamped! It was explained as having been an oversight which did not signify in any way form or manner U.S. recognition of the illegal East German regime.
Part One - Port-au-Prince and San Jose
President Kennedy inherited the Cuban Missile Crisis when he was elected and assumed office in 1961.
The seeds of the approaching crisis began when I was communicator, along with Steve Nielsen, at the Embassy in Port-au-Prince, between May 1960 and June 1962.
Haiti was strategically located in the Windward Passage opposite Cuba and the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Here, U.S. Naval personnel and Marines were stationed ever since the Spanish-American War, before the turn of the century. Each year, the U.S. Government paid a yearly base rental fee. The base was essential to guard the Windward Passage; and approaches to the Panama Canal, a vital U.S. security interest.
Back in 1958 and 1959, Fidel Castro had won his guerrilla war against U.S.-backed dictator Batista. Soon, in 1959, there was a new Communist country, only 90 miles from Miami. Castro turned to the Soviet Union for economic and military assistance. He then looked to Latin America to spread his revolution.
Meanwhile, in 1961 tensions increased between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. over the Berlin Wall.
In August 1960, I was sent TDY from Haiti to San Jose, Costa Rica, to provide communications support at the upcoming Conference of the OAS. Bill Callihan joined me from DC/T; and additional communicators from Central American posts included: Bill Mason, Mexico City, along with Terry Figure and Rachel Feet. At the post, Lucille Mansion and Sol Parisi were staff communicators.
Bill Callihan quickly organized the regulars and TDY personnel. I worked midnights with Bill. We remained long into the morning until the Secretary's summary was delivered and processed.
We stayed in a nearby hotel.
Soon Secretary Herter's staff arrived. We were very busy for the next twenty or more days. At first, we had technical problems; and resorted to the ATO for assistance with the Urgent, Immediate and Priority traffic. The Routine traffic came via TRT, a United Fruit carrier in Central America. There was a Telex terminal in the Embassy Code Room.
Assistant Secretary for ARA, Roy Ruebottom, along with Charles Bohlen, were there with staff and advisors. Castro's bearded veterans were all over town carrying weapons.
The Conference was concerned by activities of Trujillo, the dictator in the Dominican Republic, as well as Castro. Finally, it was decided to boot both nations out of the OAS! This began the confrontation; between the U.S. and Fidel Castro, who still remains in power today.
I returned to Haiti, where the U.S. was having its own problems with Dictator Duvalier. Ambassador Drew was asked to leave. Ambassador Newbegin replaced him and once his honeymoon was over, he departed. The third Ambassador was Ray Thurston, a veteran of SHAPE and the U.S. NATO Commanding Officer. I always thought this was not a good assignment for an European veteran.
Castro did not bother Haiti but placed a representative there who previously had been a butcher for many years, with a shop near the Palace.
Trujillo gave additional problems until he was assassinated. This brought the USS Boxer, and Marines off Haiti's shores.
Meanwhile AID projects were closed.
The Embassy received its traffic in coded messages between RCA and All-American Cables. Of these, RCA was the most up-to-date but service was normal business hours. Several times they did hold the circuit to Long Island open.
All-American Cables offered a circuit to Fisherman's Rock near GITMO and then up to Washington via Miami. Its equipment needed upgrading even then. The phone service was virtually useless. Frequent storms knocked out the lines. We used Motorola sets to provide contact with the Embassy. Niacts were received, then the Duty Clerk was called to the Embassy; followed by the Duty Officer. I was glad to leave for Paris in June 1962.
In Washington on consultation, I discussed the Haiti problems with the late Jerry Jacaruso. Not much could be done until we got a controlled lease line from Washington (RCA) to the Embassy Code Room.
The Embassy was also responsible for AID, USIA, and the Naval Training Mission traffic. The group counts rose with Papa Doc's whims. Since the U.S. needed Haiti's vote in the U.N., the old country doctor got away with almost murder!
The British African colony of Northern Rhodesia was granted independence October 26, 1964. The new country of Zambia came into being and simultaneously a member of the British Commonwealth. Lusaka was the capital.
As happened all too frequently with the new countries established in Africa, some years later the infrastructure quickly deteriorated, due to lack of funds, attention, and knowledge of how to maintain it.
By 1980, the city telephone system of Lusaka and associated underground cabling network inherited from the British colonial administration was so bad, the national government realized a crisis of communications was upon them and something had to be done quickly. Tenders were let out internationally for the replacement of the central telephone exchange and all city cabling.
A Danish firm won the contract. They expeditiously did their work within two years from the start until completion. Cut over went reasonably well and all worked fine.
Then after about three years in 1983, the telephone cables of Lusaka began to fail with regularity, especially in the rainy season. The central office switching equipment remained operative and in perfect condition, but calling anywhere became almost impossible due to the massive shorting of underground cable pairs when it rained.
Apparently the Danish engineers initially surveying the project did not do their homework carefully. They installed the same type of underground telephone cabling just as they would in Denmark and Scandinavia. It was insulated for salt water conditions. Little did they realize that the subterranean vermin of Lusaka loved to eat the insulation of Danish underwater telephone cables!
The eventual result was that the Danish company had to return and replace all underground cables installed three years previously with ones of insulation impervious to hungry rodents.
Since I retired a few years ago, many people have asked how I spend my time. Do I travel? Do I garden? Do I have hobbies?
"No," I tell them. "I putter."
Most men understand and continue the conversation. Women, on the other hand, shake their heads sadly and walk away.
You see, puttering is a guy thing. It's what we do. It's why we like hardware stores, old trucks, little kids' toys and any kind of gadget.
Women don't understand this. I have never know of a woman to putter. Puttering requires that, even though a guy is busy, he accomplishes nothing. A woman may think she is puttering, but she is not because when she is finished, something will have been achieved.
It's not her fault. She can't help it. I am convinced that puttering is a sex-linked trait. With all the genetic research going on, it is just a matter of time before scientists discover the putter gene as part of the Y chromosome.
Some men are better at puttering than others. I think it has to do with the intensity of the putter gene. My father, for example, was a late bloomer and didn't really get into puttering until he retired. Even then, he just wasn't good at it.
Evidently, I inherited a very strong gene from the men on my mother's side of the family. I started puttering at age 6 or 7 and have been at it ever since. I have puttering nearly perfected and now qualify as Master putterer. The biggest reason I chose to make a career of teaching high school science is because of the puttering instinct. You know - all that lab equipment! A science lab is a putterer's paradise!
Puttering can take on many forms - from rearranging the lures in a tackle box to something more high tech, like cyber-puttering, which involved a computer. (You will note that the word "computer" almost has "putter" built into it. Coincidence? I think not!)
As I mentioned, the important thing in puttering is that nothing significant is accomplished. Oh, the putterer may be satisfied, but overall, nothing will be changed.
Therefore, puttering and tinkering should not be confused. Tinkering results in something actually being achieved. It may be negative or positive, but an achievement nevertheless. Usually one putters bare-handed. At the very least, a screwdriver is required for tinkering. Tinkering is basically fixing something that isn't broken.
Tinkering and tampering are not synonyms. But they should be.
While puttering is an instinctive trait, tinkering is an acquired skill. You have to learn to tinker. However, you must putter first. I have never known a tinkerer who was not first and foremost a putterer. But great putterers do not great tinkerers make. I offer myself as an example.
While I can putter with the best of them. I cannot tinker worth a tinker's damn (pun intended).
For instance, I putter with the furnace occasionally, wiping dust from here and there, maybe oiling something, and so on. Once, and only once, I tried tinkering with the air control on the burner. For a few seconds, I created my own version of an Atlas booster rocket. The only accomplishment was that I emptied the house of all personnel in record time. No lasting damage was done. I did, however, require a change of underwear.
Puttering is harmless. Tinkering can be dangerous!
There have been many great putterers and tinkerers in history. Thoms Edison and Alexander Graham Bell immediately come to mind.
"But they actually did something," you say.
True. They produced some of the greatest inventions in the world. But just think of the puttering and tinkering that must have preceded those inventions. It brings a lump to my throat and a tear to my eye just thinking about it.
If a woman had typed this essay, she would have completed the job in something less than 15 minutes.
It has taken me 45 minutes. See there are all these little buttons and levers on my typewriter. I putter with them even though I've puttered with them countless times before.
A guy just can't ignore stuff like that!
The following recipe was received from Billie Horacek.
'Be Mine' Cherry Cake
4 cups of miniature marshmallows
1 18.25 oz. package yellow cake mix (I used chocolate)
1 21 oz. can of cherry pie filling
Spray a 13 by 9 by 2 inch baking pan with vegetable spray. Put marshmallows evenly in the bottom of the pan. Prepare cake mix according to package directions.
Pour batter over marshmallows. Spoon cherry pie filling evenly over cake batter. Bake at 350 degrees F for 30 to 35 minutes or until cake tests done.
NOTE: The marshmallows melt and rise to the top. Makes a tasty glaze on the cake. Icing is not necessary.
Serves: 9-12 people
The following received from Bill Weatherford.
Everyone brings one piece of the plane along when they come to the airport. They all go out on the runway and put the plane together piece by piece, arguing non-stop about what kind of plane they are supposed to be building.
Everybody pushes the airplane until it glides, then they jump on and let the plane coast until it hits the ground again. Then they push again, jump on again, and so on ...
All the stewards, captains, baggage handlers, and ticket agents look and act exactly the same. Every time you ask questions about details, you are gently but firmly told that you don't need to know, don't want to know, and everything will be done for you without your ever having to know, so just shut up.
The terminal is pretty and colorful, with friendly stewards, easy baggage check and boarding, and a smooth take-off. After about 10 minutes in the air, the plane explodes with no warning whatsoever.
Windows NT Air
Just like Windows Air, but costs more, uses much bigger planes, and takes out all the other aircraft within a 40-mile radius when it explodes.
Disgruntled employees of all the other OS airlines decide to start their own airline. They build the planes, ticket counters, and pave the runways themselves. They charge a small fee to cover the cost of printing the ticket, but you can also download and print the ticket yourself. When you board the plane, you are given a seat, four bolts, a wrench and a copy of the manual, seat-HOWTO.html. Once settled, the fully adjustable seat is very comfortable, the plane leaves and arrives on time without a single problem, the in-flight meal is wonderful. You try to tell customers of the other airlines about the great trip, but all they can say is, "You had to do what with the seat?"