And now for something completely different . . . .

On the odd chance that you’re wondering why someone would want to create a site like this, I thought I would tell you a bit of my own story.

I am a British engineer, living and working near Bristol, England.

However, if you bump into me in the street and have the misfortune to strike up a conversation, you’ll quickly detect something amiss in my accent. That’s because I’m also Canadian, and have spent most of my life in the Canadian provinces of Québec and Ontario. I actually grew up speaking both English and French, depending on who I was playing with. I was very proud of being able to speak two languages, and it’s a source of shame to me that my French has deteriorated over the years. Although that’s probably unavoidable, given that I have generally found myself surrounded by uniligual anglophones.

One of my earliest memories was of a visit from my grandparents. They would drive down from just outside Montréal to my home in Québec City. To give my parents some time off, they would take us kids to the local airport. It wasn’t a busy place at all, but Air Canada did fly some Vickers Viscounts and Vanguards through there. I would be absolutely transfixed by these amazing machines. The noise made by the props seemed musical.And all the movements on the ground, passengers getting on and off, taxiing to and from the runway, the take-off . . . . . wow.

In my teens, my folks decided it was time to go back and visit the olde country. Dad was a rocket scientist (literally) and had a conference in the Malvern hills. Mom and us kids followed him a week later. I looked forward to that trip for months ahead of time. I got to fly on two, count ’em, two B747s. Engine roar, in-flight food (it wasn’t too bad back then), and the, um, rather attractive stewardesses made it all just fantastic. (What can I say, I was a hormonal teenage boy.)

So come university time, you would have thought my choice would be obvious. Yep. Um, nope. I had always been rather confused about which excited me more: Air-planes or air-ports.

I decided it was air-ports, so I sought out civil engineering.

Wrongo. A month into 1st year at University of Toronto, I’d realized my mistake. Unfortunately, the way the engineering curriculum was then structured, a switch to aerospace engineering was impossible. Mechanical engineering? OK.

Even then I was confused. Or perhaps distracted is a better description. I have always been an insatiably curious mind sponge. As a youngster, I was often found with half the volumes of the encyclopedia spread out open on the living room floor. I find a lot of value in facts and events that most people find unconnected and irrelevant. Even today, if you’re playing Trivial Pursuit, I’m a pretty good member to have on your team. I seem to know the answers to an awful of lot of the questions. Although, as my wife likes to point out, Can-you-remember-all-the-items-on-the-shopping-list-I-gave-you isn’t usually one of them.

I would go on to do a master’s degree in non-newtonian (read: goopy, slimy) fluid mechanics. Eh? Why? Aircraft don’t usually fly through goopy and slimy fluids. I know. But the application was to enhanced oil recovery, and I was then (still am, really) fascinated with the oil industry.

Fast-forward a few years. Still in Canada. I’m now a working man. Three years with a wind engineering consulting firm. Great starting job, but after 2 years I’m already starting to get bored. It’s time to move on, says The Voice. No way, too scary. What would I do? But I’m still really bored, and my performance on the job is dipping. In the recession of the early 1990’s, I get laid off, and quite rightly. I was not pulling my weight. Lesson #1: When you hear The Voice talking, act.

Seven months out of work. I finally find a job with an environmental startup. Hazardous waste destruction technology. Excuse me? I know. Not a good match. But money was tight, and I lacked the courage of my own convictions. I would stick it out there for 5 years, all the while dreaming of flying machines. Holding my firstborn in the maternity ward, I thought, If I’m going to do something crazy, I’d better get cracking. After several failed attempts in several places, I finally get accepted to study a year at Cranfield University in Jolly Olde England. Lesson #2: When you don’t have the courage of your own convictions, act as if you do.

Sitting in the back of the British Airways B747, having just kissed goodbye my firstborn and wife (then heavily pregnant with #2), ranks as one of the most terrifying experiences of my life. (They would rejoin me after #2 arrived.)

But it paid off.

A year later, I was near broke, but finally working in a line of work that I intuitively understood. British Aerospace, which gradually morphed into Airbus. Wings, landing gear, fuel systems. A320’s & A321’s. Boredom would occasionally set in. Then someone or something would come along to liven things up, and boredom would be replaced by burnout.

A380 wing. The Job from Heaven and the Job from Hell. Meetings, bloody meetings. Fifty trips to Toulouse, a dozen or so to Bremen. Several thousand emails, a few shouting matches. But lots learned. Sometimes about how to do, more often about how not to do.

Around 2005, I start to think: There has to be a better way.

Fast forward again. 2008. Interest rates spike. So does my mortgage. I’ve already sent my dearly beloved out to work. The new equation is now:

problem.Solution = money.MakeMore;

So I give this equation to the management, and say: If you don’t help me solve this equation, I will solve it without you.

management.ActionTaken = 0;

So I hand in my resignation. Suddenly,

management.ActionTaken = 1 !!!!!!!!

However,

extraMoney.Available = 0;

So I leave anyway, and go freelancing around the world. (Well, Dorset, to be precise.)

Three months later, I’m back where I left, freelance this time. And amazingly, I find:

extraMoney.Available = Lots, actually;

There has to be a way to prove (for everybody, not just me) that:

fun.Have AND freeTime.HaveMore AND money.MakeMore AND play.WithAirplanes = 1;

This website is my initial experiment in helping other people (as well as myself) solve that equation. There are too many OR’s in the world. Not enough AND’s.

Ya hear me?

Leave a Reply