Revisiting – When Storytelling rescued me from Death by Powerpoint …

I’d long  backed up my original Posterous blog to Blogger, and then Posterous died … so I’m slowly revisiting my old stories  and saving them over on WordPress. I did try to migrate them from both Posterous and Blogger to WordPress in one go – but the tech just didn’t behave for me. Oh well, maybe just move them one at a time, do a bit of reflection too, with reminders of those old lessons learned – and experiences shared. This post is from one of my favourites – one of those experiences where you wish the floor could just swallow you up … but somehow you get through …

I confess to being one of those hated by Ralph Souleon – using lots of powerpoint slides in conference presentations – comes with the territory in an engineering field. Content. Content. Content.

Several years ago I was asked to email in my presentation for an engineering conference – so I pdf’d it to get the size down for emailing. It was interesting that the conference was  to be held at Sydney’s Royal Randwick Racecourse.  I‘m actually related to the Barden  Horse Racing family, who were around Randwick from the early 20th Century years. But I’m not much into horses after a Shetland pony tried to bite me when I was a child. So usually you don’t see me get too close to horses …

I'm not much into horses - this is as close as I usually get to a horse..

I’m not much into horses – this is as close as I usually get to a horse.. my daughter in the Sunshine Coast hinterland…

But the Conference was held at the time when the Equine Influenza epidemic had shut down horse racing in Sydney – only a lone horse seen out on the track. And that was how I felt at the podium, when my pdf’d powerpoint developed compatibility issues with the venue’s hardware.

Innumerable black rectangles where my witty & informative text box captions were supposed to be. Slides and slides of them. At least the photo’s & images looked good. The session moderator couldn’t help. Gulp.

Time for a deep breath and “wing it”.

At least the subject was a field which I was confident and passionate about. I had to use the images as my prompts as I told their stories.

In fact the moderator commented later that because the text boxes were missing – my audience had to engage with me more. He kindly observed that it had enhanced my presentation overall. I hoped he was right.

The conference was one where participants rated all the speakers – not often done – but in fact a good idea. As a speaker you can appreciate the bouquets and learn from the other comments.

So I was relieved to find that some had rated me as best presentation – which was humbling as there were some very good presentations at the conference.

So I try to make my Forensic Engineering Failure Analysis conference presentations more visual – but content can’t be avoided altogether in an engineering presentation. And never leave home without a memory stick backup – even if the presentation has been already emailed. 

And it all came together for me a year or two later, when David Snowden observed at ACTKM 08 that voluminous stats, facts & numbers don’t convince – but stories do.

Revisiting – Cloud Computing – Head in the Sand on Governance

I originally wrote this post over at Posterous and copied it to Blogger as a back-up, just in case. Well Posterous died in 2013, and at least I had a copy in Blogger – now I am revisiting as I back posts up in WordPress. And coincidentally I also attended a seminar recently where Cloud Computing was presented – and it was a case of “the same old .. same old”  … security, file recovery, backups, control, what happens if the The Cloud goes down  … not to mention when links morph into “Zombie Links” according to Thomas MacEntee of Geneabloggers. … so it’s time to run Linkvalet over some of my sites like Thomas MacEntee recommended .. and make that real soon !

From 2008 … As the Hype on Cloud started to ramp up in the social media universe …

It started as a trickle, but like a dripping tap, the flow kept up … for the last few weeks Cloud Computing keeps dropping into my email inbox. Probably something to do with Microsoft’s Blue Sky Horizon, then recently announced, venture into the field, with Windows Azure.

Like the dripping tap, I tried to ignore it as just more IT geek jargon. Finally curious enough, I clicked on one of the email hyperlinks … a new unintelligible taxonomy aka jargon emerged. It meant turning to Wikipedia, to get a plain English understanding of “Cloud Computing“….and a bit more at “How Stuff Works“. Funny how many Orgs frown on using Wikipedia, just like my old uni professor frowned on the Plain English style metallurgy textbook, used at the TAFE across the road, despite its friendlier “Gunning Fog” readibility ranking. In the end I found Robin Hastings‘ (Missouri River Regional Library) slideshare presentation & the Cloud Computing Glossary the most non-geek friendly.

Pic …. Although sometimes seen as threatening … The Cloud doesn’t have to be 

Realisation dawned .. I’d been a fledgling Cloud Computing user for a few years without realising … as I paid my EBay bills using PayPal, used Amazon Books payment system, Google maps, Blogger, Google Reader for RSS feeds (now it’s gone too, so I use Feedly !), LinkedIn, Yahoo Groups, Web based email, etc etc. Many say Cloud Computing is the next disruptive computing technology, just like the IBM Mainframe, Apple 2 computer and internet – Web 1.0/Web 2.0.

And why did I go to Google Reader back then for RSS feeds ? Probably because my Org didn’t seem to provide Readers for RSS feeds, or it was too hard to find out how, or its use was discouraged. Many other employees looked at me blankly when I asked about RSS feed? So it was easier just to go outside the system. If I found anything worthwhile, then I’d just archive it, email it around internally or capture really useful bits onto a Sharepoint Wiki Page.

Another stage for the Microsoft vs Sun Microsystems paradigm debacle, with Microsoft’s catch up commercialisation plans in offering a fee per use. “Cloud Computing” seems headed to SME’s, so they don’t have to outlay the capital for huge IT systems. Some commentators liken it to electricity and water utilities access and usage charging – where you don’t need your own generator, windmill or well. Consumers expect reliable and safe supply at rates that are not exorbitant. But what about governance ? After all it was a utility, Enron, that led to the Sarbanes Oxley legislation in the USA.

It was dawning that, like the rest of Web 2.0 applications, rather than head in the sand, avoiding Cloud Computing issues, those with governance roles, need to be asking questions of those with their heads in the clouds, looking to blue sky horizon possibilities. Those questions need to be fully answered, and not treated dismissively.

Starting with … Will Cloud Computing storage providers guarantee access to your information & records for as long as statutory regulations require, regardless of whether done in house or outsourced … sometimes decades ? A good question and one being posed on How Stuff Works – Cloud Computing Security Concerns page. Very pertinent in an era of increased regulatory constraints, following the financial global meltdown. But then Key IT decision makers fret about the cost of software licensing and what they may perceive to be excessive and unnecessary data storage, … forgetting the ramifications of not having data storage. Systems, which businesses need in order to operate, ie QMS, EMS, OHSMS, CRMS, FMS, have requirements to keep records for a very long time. Breach those and it could be a very costly threat to your business’s longevity. Some commentators seem to be recognising this concern.

What about production history systems – no matter if managed in-house or via “Cloud Computing” applications ? If your product identity codes are re-used in a “wrap around” situation, it might be tempting to cut costs and not archive the records of each wrap around sequence separately. But how do you know if the data is for item “Awxyz” produced in 2006 or for item “Awxyz” from 2009. 3rd Party quality auditors certifying your Quality Management Systems, and Factory Production Control Systems, could take a dim view of your cost cutting – not good, especially if you plan to export into the EU in Europe.

There’s the challenge – in line with James Robertson’s view of two uses for a wiki – to ensure governance, “command and control” rules where they’re needed – as well as to encourage collaborative environments with enabling support, hints and tips, to capture lessons learned, preventing key knowledge loss (refer egov.vic) . I decided to ask the “significant other”, one of the aforementioned IT geeks, about his exposure to Cloud Computing & governance issues, a pause, then he explained how it was being adopted by some organizations, as a Virtual Private Cloud to enable collaboration with external users, and yet maintain security. Gartnerpredicts a future in Private Clouds/Virtual Private Clouds approaches for large organizations.

If IT departments were worried about managing security concerns with Web 2.0’s Microsoft Sharepoint, they must be agonising over Governance and the full ramifications of Cloud Computing applications, eg Chieftech.blogspot. And again, despite all the proclamations, it will be a behavioural issue. Perhaps, looking at it from Web 2.0 experiences, if companies & quality management professionals have their heads in the sand, then the horses will bolt.

2014 Postscript – Tips from Thomas MacEntee

– check your terms of service – check if your files will be wiped if you don’t use them for 30 or 90 days – have an exit strategy if your provider drops out of the game …

Serendipity – Storytelling of Wine and War – Le Maitre de Maison de Sa Cave a Sa Table

It was @Reemski who triggered it – not the Wine and War – that finally got me underway to start listing my family’s library collections on LibraryThing.

And inevitably revealed, the books that I always meant to read, continually bobbing up and down in the overladen bookcases around our home.

Thus in the early weeks of 2010, and 70 years after the Axis invasion of France, I finally began to read “Wine & War” (E-Reader excerpt) an alternate view of WWII through the eyes of winelovers, Don & Petie Kladstrup. As described by The Wine Doctor, their book is a series of stories of survival under Occupation as told by many of the wine making families of France. It is these stories that predominate over the often awful military details described elsewhere. And also because of these unusual circumstances one man was able to gather the stories of wine and food of regional France.

The story starts in Berchtesgaden in the Bavarian Alps and just across the river from Salzburg, where I had first heard of its Eagles Nest during a trip to Austria in late 1981. We had peered up at it – barely visible so high was it – as our Guide told us of its history as Hitler’s fortress. Really …  just an interesting aside from our skiing holiday in the area near St Johann’s am Pillersee in the Austrian Alps. WWII seemed so long ago to us back then, in our twenties, and yet in1981 these events at Berchtesgaden had occurred less than 40 years earlier.

The Kladstrups tell of the vast quantities of French Champagne and wine plundered & railed to Berchtesgaden, despite the efforts of many French to secret as much as possible away behind fake walls in their cellars.

In the opening page the Kladstrups describe the uncovering of half a million bottles of Chateau Lafite Rothschild, Chateau Mouton Rothschild & many other vintages recovered from Berchtesgaden in 1944 by SergeantBernard de Nonancourt & others in the French Army. And there were many, many other items stashed there – thus in reading “Wine & War”, I began to appreciate Berchtesgaden’s significance.

In fact it was the stories in “Wine & War”, that made understanding life under the Occupation a closer reality. In movies we often see occcupied Paris, but less of the countryside, such as the Great Wine Regions of France. In “Wine & War” the family stories tell of yet another war after so many … of taking the longer term view …  of preserving the family’s wine heritage & economy to be ready in the years after the  conflict ended. And also to comprehend the creation of a “borderless” Europe –  what would be later called the European Union – to avoid such wars in the future.

Memorable  stories for me were those of members of French wine families in POW camps – such as Gaston Huet of the Loire who organized the great wine tasting party on January 24 1943, the feast day of St Vincent – patron saint French winemakers – but in the end had to be spread over several days to accommodate 4000 prisoners.The plan was for 700 bottles of wine to “be obtained to enable each prisoner just one glass of wine. The organising committee was composed of representatives from each of France’s wine regions “- an indication of the geographic spread of the POW population. Many of the prisoners did not come from wine backgrounds, and so Huet generously shared his knowledge of wine regions, wines & their characteristics, so that the rare experience could fully savoured.

Huet recalled years later “I don’t know what we would have done without that party. It gave us something to hold on to. It gave us a reason to get up in the morning to get through each day. Talking about wine and sharing it  made all of us feel closer to home, and more alive.”

In fact it was years later when the Kladstrups went to interview Gaston Huet about his opposition to the French Government bringing the TGV railroad through the vineyards, that the whole story of wine in France during the war began to unfold.

Equally evocative – Roger Ribaud also in a POW camp – ‘Christmas 1940 “On this Noel of 1940, I have begun to write a little book in an effort to dispel some of the sadness that we are living with and share some of the hopes we cling to in our captivity, of returning to our homes and loved ones and the values we hold most dear” … Ribaud began to make a list of French wines, every wine he could think of: some he had tasted, others he hoped to taste. He sorted them by region : Burgundy, Bordeaux, Champagne, Alsace, the Loire. He classified them according to their finesse, body and bouquet. ‘

It would become a book entitled Le Maitre de Maison de Sa Cave a Sa Table – The Head of the Household from His Cellar to His Table  – this is a memoir of great food and wine and how they can brought into perfect harmony” – google it and you will still find reference to this great work -with copies sometimes still available.

Writing on whatever scraps of paper he could scavenge made “long cold lonely days seem shorter“… and Ribaud “asked other POW’s about their favourite wine and food combinations , what grapes grow best in their regions  and how they prepared certain foods  … over time he compiled a huge core of information and knowledge, not only about the famous wines but about small country ones barely known outside their villages…… 

“After the war, his book was published to great acclaim and hailed as one of the first books that paid serious attention to regional wines and food …. Roger Ribaud sent a copy to each of his fellow prisoners of war ‘I hope this will ease the pain of imprisonment and yet be a souvenir of our friendship and the years we shared together’.

Roger Ribaud stressed that one did not have to be an expert to know about these things, that most of this could be learned by reading, tasting and talking to others …”


True knowledge sharing ! And in the most unexpected situations …

Butter Chicken – Promoting Quality and Social Capital – an Oz-Indian Cross Cultural perspective – via an ASQ Influential Voice

Roped in … helping in the cooking of a Indian Butter Chicken Curry fundraiser. And so I had an interesting lesson in promoting Quality & Social Capital in my Teen’s High School Kitchen in Wollongong, a regional city 50 miles south of Sydney. An old post from Posterous … when as an ASQ Global Influential Voice for Quality, I’d shared my unexpected lesson in Quality during my day of Volunteering.

Experimenting with International Cuisines is one of my hobbies – see more at Kerrie’s Kitchen Magnets.

I had agreed to help out with the fundraising drive, of Butter Chicken, Beef Korma, Basmati Rice & Dahl, for our local Illawarra Disability Trust. I’ve long been a fan of Indian Food & own several books on Indian & Asian Food (Charmaine SolomonMadhur Jaffreyetc). Recently I’d seen “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel for the Elderly & Beautiful “ movie (due for release in the USA in May 2012 ?), which reminded me of travelling in India in the mid 1980’s & my love of Indian food.

And so I found myself helping with production of approximately 200 packs of Butter Chicken Curry, but not realising that I, as Metallurgist & Quality Manager, was about to receive a down to earth & practical lesson in promoting Quality by two very experienced Indian women cooks, one hailing from India itself, and the other, an Indian, originally from Kenya.

Coordinated by these two Indian women, another school Mum (aka Mom) & her friend, I noticed a number of quality aspects in the Curry fundraising activity :

  • a time-tested & true recipe was being followed – having been used successfully on previous curry drives for several decades
  • various marketing approaches were used – word of mouth, order forms at school & emails – with several reminders issued
  • customer focus – several time slots were offered for collecting the curries
  • outsourcing management – trusted suppliers were used to source the curry powder, chicken & other ingredients
  • resources management – ingredient quantities were checked & re-checked with the two experts conferring throughout the activity to calibrate that all was in control
  • OTJ on the job learning was employed with help & guidance gently provided throughout – and we had soon figured out each others’ accents to avoid any confusion
  • technology, online cloud ordering system & an excel spreadsheet, along with old fashioned hard copy order forms, were used to manage the 100’s of orders
  • differing quality of kitchen tools impacted operational efficiencies – having the right slotted spoon, or not etc
  • OHS – Safety was crucial when the huge stockpot of Butter Chicken was transported from Cooktop to Benches
  • Spec checks – final weights of the finished Butter Chicken packs were checked to make sure they were in “spec”
  • Labelling & Identification of all curry packs to ensure there was no mix-up between the Butter Chicken & Beef Korma – although visually they were quite different in colour.
  • Food Safety – all ingredients were supplied fresh, stainless steel benches in the school kitchen, no cross contamination of utensils for raw chicken & Coriander (aka Cilantro), not to mention all finished Curry packs were transferred to the fridge as soon as possible to reduce bacterial problems
  • Pride in the product appearance with guidance on final presentation – ie cleaning drips on the edges of the curry packs & Coriander (aka Cilantro) leaf garnishes to meet the high standards of our Indian mentors
  • Great cooperation from those working in the School Kitchen providing normal school day canteen/cafeteria services – ie no friction when we “occupied some of their usual territory”
  • Volunteer management – a nice touch with the school’s Marketing Director & Senior School Captains popping in & thanking the volunteers for their efforts to support the Illawarra Disability Trust fundraiser
  • Lots of Stories of how the individual curry packs would be shared across families & friends – viz one of mine was “gifted” to the partner of a workmate recovering in hospital from neural surgery – she spends almost every waking hour supporting him at the rehab hospital  & so had very few home cooked meals in the last three months

The outcome – an unexpected and practical lesson in promoting both Quality & Social Capital created by tired, but happy, volunteers supplying highly regarded & safe products to hundreds of eager customers – which raised money for a much needed local charity program.

Family History and Standards – a Necessary Evil – ASQ Blogger Kerrie Christian

There’s big business in tracing Family History or doing Genealogy – and there are a number of commercial players who dominate the market supplying software to family history enthusiasts. And of course there are conferences held across America and in Australia, UK etc etc. Truly big business.

Often these family enthusiasts  may have compiled huge volumes of information covering thousands of family members. And it is not so easy to move from one software to another – effectively creating walled gardens. However that position seems to be up for a challenge as there are moves afoot to set up standards for Family History Software.

My Great Great Uncle George Hicks– a Boer War  and WWI  hero  – shown  here with his wife Lou.

Recently ASQ’s Paul Borawski asked the ASQ Influential Bloggers to explore finding Quality Tools in Unusual Places as their theme for blogging. Family History is one of those seemingly unusual places. But on reflection is it so surprising? Well it’s all based on records and of course records management is a key “must” in the quality world. Although sometimes the quality of records can be challenging – as you’d expect really with 100’s of years of them from the handwritten-paper era.

Three generations of my family shown here circa 1950 – in our home town Thirroul, 50 miles south of Sydney

Nearly six months ago I inherited the family history archives following the passing of my mother. There photographs and other items dating back to the 1880’s, along with so many other items. My husband had been collaborating with my mother using the Brothers Keeper software over the last 15 years so I wasn’t starting from a zero base. In a previous post I wrote of using social media tools for quality, so it wasn’t a great stretch to extrapolate this approach to our family history. I set up a few WordPress sites to share the information and photographs with my wider family. Some all it Genealogy 2.0 – Wikis, Google +, Blogs, Twitter, Facebook applications etc etc. The TV series Who Do You Think You Are ? tapped into push for people to uncover their roots.

In particular I used Google Reader and RSS feeds to monitor trends and ideas in Family History internationally. And so the questions emerged of which software package to use going forward – to stick with what we had to use one of the newer on-line packages ?

Some of the gurus had carefully analysed some of the four big guns of the Genealogy Software world, FindMyPast,, FamilySearch and MyHeritage. There are also Mundia, WikiTree, Rootsweb, WorldVitalRecords,, Mocavo, Legacy and more.  And the old off-line standby Brothers Keeper – so there’s the question of On-Line vs Local Software. Some of the gurus pointed that their data didn’t always map across properly on moving to another software platform. Hmmm. And with the evolution of mobile web technology on Smartphones and Tablets there are Apps emerging for Genealogy on the Go !

A small family get together in February 2013 where I shared some of our families stories of the last 175 years – using information form Brothers Keeper Family Tree software and our WordPress Family History sites.

Out of that has emerged the Family History Information Standards Organisation, FHISO, formed in 2012. They acknowledge that GEDCOM (GEnealogical Data COMmunications) has been the “Industry Standard” over the last decade. seem to be drawing on ISO, NISO,  ANSI and the European Union for inspiration in the creation of a standard for Family History data systems.

Quoting their web site …

“The Family History Information Standards Organisation ( was created to develop international standards based on the principles of diversity and due process. Standards developed by the organization will better meet the different and competitive needs of all service providers, program developers and users–globally.
Genealogists and technologists will work side by side to define needs and develop solutions. This will provide for a standard that more closely matches universal community requirements.
 Users will enjoy greater functionality and be in the best position to exchange information with other users and between programs. They will be able to connect with information services of their choosing.
 Developers will be able to adopt a single standard with the confidence that their product meets expressed community requirements.
 Service providers benefit because more programs and customers will be able to conveniently access their services.”

They are aiming for a system which is :

  • Open
  • Multi-stakeholder
  • International
  • Self-governing
  • Balanced
Clearly this is an emergent area for a quality focused approach !

Project Management – Learning via Web2.0 in a GFC World

In the 2009 GFC era where external training & conferences are just off the agenda, many of us have to find other ways to learn.

Blogs and their self promoting headline act, Twitter, provide an alternative approach to staying up to date. Even YouTube is getting quite a mention with its burgeoning E-Learning video’s – although the quality is not always Oscar level!


Good Project Management related powerpoints can be found on Slideshare : I really like Craig W Brown’s 11 Week Program  – 123456,7891011. Also see KerrieAnne’s UOW KM & KS in PM lecture slides.

There are a number of PM blogs out there eg PMThink! Leading Virtually, (this blog also lists heaps of others), Herding CatsEffective Software Development,   Journyx Project ManagementFear No Project Project Management Tips. You can subscribe to blogs via RSS feeds and then read in a news reader in Outlook or also applications like GoogleReader.

Project Management Tips is a really good PM related blog. It has a huge number of tips that are actually quite on the mark so far as project management goes. I find entering the PM Tips blog site, a little like the kid in the Chocolate Shop to be honest. So many good things – which to choose ?

One approach is to follow Project Management Tips on Twitter – where the blog’s headlines are “tweeted” by @PMTips, with links back to its PM related blog posts. Other PM Tweeters include @gsanchezs@pmskills@thepmtweet@GanttGuru@ProjectSmart &@meolesen. You can follow Tweeters with good content via RSS feeds and then read in a news reader in Outlook, or also applications like GoogleReader. Makes it a lot easier to get through them quicker.

Project Management Tips also focus on Communication & Learning in Projects and so there is a big focus on Knowledge Management tools.

Some of my favourite posts (admittedly a long list) from this blog include ..

Women and Thirroul

In 2009 I wrote …

A friend , Joe Davis, once commented to me, that lots of interesting people have lived in Thirroul. DH Lawrence stayed here, Brett Whitely painted and died here. Mostly it has been males that have received recognition. But Thirroul has had its interesting women – some I’ve known, some I’ve read about or listened to their stories told by my mother.

My family have lived here for generations, so it was not unexpected that I wanted to know more about the stories of women and Thirroul.  Mostly they passed through quietly and yet still, the village nurtured and inspired them.  And so this page is a personal workspace as I explore the lives of these interesting women – who lived here,  visited or associated with the Thirroul village. The list will grow and the spaces fill. I started this off in Posterous, then moved over to Blogger, and now am trying out WordPress.

Molly Callcott and the "Girls from Hardies at Thirroul"

Molly Callcott and the “Girls from Hardies at Thirroul”

There are so many Women that I want to write about – it will take years as you can see in the list below. Read some of the stories so far … at Linga Longa website.

Arts,  Literature & Performers

  • Grace Cossington Smith
  • Frieda Lawrence (Baroness Frieda Von Richtoffen)
  • Judy Bourke
  • Margaret Fagan
  • Chloe Roweth
  • Susan McCreery
  • Jacqueline Coyle-Taylor
  • Mary Ijall
  • Amanda Baker
  • Margaret Coen
  • Joanne Handley

Business & Politics

  • Mary Reuben Hargreave – Deputy Lord Mayor Wollongong City Council, publican
  • Old Mrs Kelly
  • Helen Gray (Kuiper) – Councillor Wollondilly Council
  • Kerrie Adams (Christian) – Councillor Wollongong City Council, manager
  • Alice Cartan – Deputy Lord Mayor Wollongong
  • Sally Bowen – union, political & community activist
  • Carol Medcalf – union, political & community activist, local government executive
  • Sue Chapman – public and private sector executive
  • Anita Comelli
  • Ruth Ross

Community Leaders

  • Lyn Jones
  • Lenore Gray
  • Wendy Momsen
  • Rosemary Kettley
  • Ann Ellacott
  • Liz Elliott
  • Sue Plumb
  • Joan Adams
  • Mrs Joy


  • Pat Bowyer

Mostly Forgotten

  • Beatrice Southwell and Lucy Callcott
  • Mary Hicks
  • Betty Gibson

Science & Technology

  • Mary Phyllis Nicol
  • Florence Violet McKenzie


Did we throw out that Fogbank stuff – no probs – we will make some more – oops.

I came across this story in Slashdot  the other day …  


I was incredulous and had always assumed  that military types save lots of records … in the last year we had been issued with my father’s World War II Australian Army service records. And thinking back to TV shows like Cold Case and documentaries on the 1919 Influenza Pandemic tends to lull you into a belief that the USA has enormous records repositories with nothing thrown away.

The story was released to Slashdot by Hugh Pickens on March 9 2009 and within a day was  relayed across over 500 web pages globally presumably via RSS feeds and blog following.  The situation is astonishing – and indicates the cost of not maintaining good archives … it was hard to believe – but then more conventional news sites were also running the story, including Fox News on March 9 2009 . Within 3 days the 500 web pages had to grown to over 1500 covering the story. In fact initially the story seemed to be just a beat-up & re-run of a  New Scientist story covered a year earlier in its March 8 2008 issue and the UK’s Guardian also on March 6 2008. However those aspects did not seem to feature in the US Congressional Defense FY 2009 Expenditure Hearings transcripts.

Hugh Pickens  wrote “The US and the UK are trying to refurbish the aging W76 warheads that tip Trident missiles to prolong their life and ensure they are safe and reliable but plans have been put on hold because US scientists have forgotten how to manufacture a mysterious but very hazardous component of the warhead codenamed Fogbank.

 ‘NASA had lost knowledge of how to manufacture the material because it had kept few records of the process when the material was made in the 1980s, and almost all staff with expertise on production had retired or left the agency,’ says the report by a US congressional committee.

Fogbank is thought by some weapons experts to be a foam used between the fission and fusion stages of the thermonuclear bomb on the Trident Missile and US officials say that manufacturing Fogbank requires a solvent cleaning agent which is ‘extremely flammable’ and ‘explosive,’ and that the process involves dealing with ‘toxic materials’ hazardous to workers. ‘

This is like James Bond destroying his instructions as soon as he has read them,’ says John Ainslie, the co-ordinator of the Scottish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, adding that ‘perhaps the plans for making Fogbank were so secret that no copies were kept.’ Thomas D’Agostino, administrator or the US National Nuclear Security Administration, told a congressional committee that the administration was spending ‘a lot of money’ trying to make ‘Fogbank’ at Y-12, but ‘we’re not out of the woods yet.'”

And it might have all seemed like  a conspiracy story by the Anti-Nuclear Fraternity … however in fact it is all officially reported in a March 2009 US GAO (Government Accountability Office) Report  viz

“At the beginning of the W76 life extension program in 2000, NNSA identified key technical challenges that would potentially cause schedule delays or cost overruns. One of the highest risks was manufacturing Fogbank because it is difficult to manufacture. In addition, NNSA had lost knowledge of how to manufacture the material because it had kept few records of the process when the material was made in the 1980s and almost all staff with expertise on production had retired or left the agency. Finally, NNSA had to build a new facility at the Y-12 plant because the facilities that produced Fogbank ceased operation in the 1990s and had since been dismantled, except for a pilot plant used to produce small quantities of Fogbank for test purposes.

 To address these concerns, NASA developed a risk management strategy for Fogbank with three key components:

(1) building a new Fogbank production facility early enough to allow time to re-learn the manufacturing process and resolve any problems before starting full production;

(2) using the existing pilot plant to test the Fogbank manufacturing process while the new facility was under construction; and

(3) developing an alternate material that was easier to produce than Fogbank.

However, NASA failed to effectively implement these three key components. As a result, it had little time to address unexpected technical challenges and no guaranteed source of funding to support risk mitigation activities.”

 Ultimately a new facility was built at the Y-12 National Security Complex near Oak Ridge, Tennessee, to begin production of Fogbank once again, but was delayed by poor planning, cost overruns and a failed effort to find an alternative to Fogbank, and so the project overran by a crucial year costing at least an extra $US69 million  according to the GAO report.

Interestingly, some sort of solution must have been found as one refurbished W76 has just gone back into the stockpile, according National Nuclear Security Administration’s February 23 2009 media release.

It is interesting that there is little widespread coverage of the story at all in the international mainstream media and that the story has been largely passed on by bloggers and sites likeSlashdot. And there seems to have been no coverage from the Australian mainstream media here, at all… only by Australian bloggers. Is it a surprise that more are turning to their favourite blogs/RSS feeds-Readers and web sites to locate the news  they wish to read ?

In fact the March 2009  GAO report of the whole saga provides a good case study for students of Project Management 101 & Knowledge Management 101, on the pitfalls of managing large projects. Plus why  lessons learned need to be not only captured, but deployed and implemented.

The Hicks Family in Austinmer

By the 1860′s James Hicks had moved his family to Austinmer acquiring some of the property of the bankrupt Westmacott . The property extended from Moore St Austinmer over to the Headlands Hotel area, which was then known as Hicks Point.

Looking down over Austinmer Village

Looking down over Austinmer Village

James Hicks was actively involved in the establishment of Austinmer Public School.

You’ll find more information at the Hicks Family website . …

Planning Cape York Loop – Stage 1

An interesting negotiation – working out what was actually the route inside inside David’s head – drawing a concept map on our The Green Machine’s TravelBlog site and then re-jigging, more rejigging. He wanted to go up the Pacific Highway to Cairns then onto Cape York then south and across the Savannah Way as far as Katherine. But with a couple of bail-out points if we got home-sick or weather did a repeat of the amazing wet of 2011-12..

No he didn’t want to go down to Alice Springs or Uluru but rather wanted to head east from Tennant Creek Three Ways over to Mt Isa and down to Roma. From there it seemed obvious that we continue south to Goondiwindi, Boggabilla, Moree and Inverell and then down to Gulgong, Mudgee and home via the Blue Mountains.

Read more at The Green Machine website.