Once More Unto the Breach

Okay, perhaps a bit more dramatic than the comparison with combat and battle than was invoked in Shakespeare’s Henry V.

How about this:

Second verse//Same as the first

I missed out on two weeks of lab time way back at the end of Gen-A, six terms ago, when my wife had Covid. Way back before vaccines were available for it. I had to remain away from the campus to prevent spread and missed out on some critically important lab time because of it.

Fast-forward to now, and I finally have all of my lab time and projects complete and even have time caught up on the Airframe time that I needed to tend do.

So, great news, I’m all caught up.

But sometimes it’s two steps forward and one step back.

We’ve had four people out with a positive Covid tests in our rather small group of 14 — no idea about the 1st year students (about 30) or the other half of the 2nd year (about another 15). The three that were out are, to my understanding, planning on being back tomorrow.

But the administration has shut down our campus for a week.

So, we’ll be back next Thursday. We’ll have the shared frustration of all trying to get bare minimums on time needed to finish this last four weeks of the program.

No, wait… minus a week.

Last three… three weeks of the program.

Felix the Flying Frog

The first time I'd read this was perhaps in the early 1990s. No idea where I'd read it. Many years and a few careers later, it's still meaningful:


Once upon a time, there was a man named Clarence who had a pet frog named Felix. Clarence lived a very modest life based on what he earned working at Wal-Mart but he never gave up his dream of being rich. One day, hit by sudden inspiration, he exclaimed, “Felix, we’re going to be rich! You will learn to fly!”

Felix was terrified at the prospect. “I can’t fly, Clarence! I’m a frog, not a bird!” Clarence, disappointed at the initial response, told Felix: “Your attitude isn’t helping matters. I think you can benefit from some training.”

So off Felix went to a three-day course where he learned about the history of aviation, the basics of aeronautical engineering (e.g., lift, thrust, drag, etc), gliders, parasailing and the lives of famous fliers. (For obvious reasons, the instructor did not mention Icarus.) After the training and on the first day of the “flying lessons,” Clarence could barely control his excitement (and Felix could barely control his bladder). Clarence pointed out that their apartment building had 7 floors, and each day Felix would jump out of a window, starting with the first floor and working his way up to the top floor.

After each jump, Clarence and Felix would analyze how well he flew, isolate the most effective flying techniques, and implement the improved process for the next flight. By the time they reached the top floor, Felix would surely be able to fly.

Felix pleaded for his life, but his pleas fell on deaf ears. “He just doesn’t understand how important this is,” thought Clarence. “He can’t see the big picture.”

So, with that, Clarence opened the window and threw Felix out. He landed with a thud.

The next day, poised for his second flying lesson, Felix again begged not to be thrown out of the window. Clarence opened his pocket guide to “Managing More Effectively,” and showed Felix the part about how one must always expect resistance when introducing new, innovative programs. With that, he threw Felix out the window again. THUD!

On the third day (on the third floor), Felix tried a different ploy: stalling. He asked for a delay in the “project” until better weather would make flying conditions more favorable. But Clarence was ready for him: He produced a timeline and pointed to the third milestone and asked, “You don’t want to mess up the schedule, do you?”

From his performance appraisal feedback, Felix knew that not jumping today meant he would have to jump TWICE tomorrow. So he just muttered, “OK, let’s go.” And out the window he went.

Now this is not to say that Felix wasn’t trying his best. On the fifth day he flapped his legs madly in a vain attempt at flying. On the sixth day, he tried “visualization.” He tied a small red cape around his neck and tried to think “Superman” thoughts. It didn’t help.

By the seventh day, Felix, accepting his fate, no longer begged for mercy. He simply looked at Clarence and said, “You know you’re killing me, don’t you?”

Clarence pointed out that Felix’s performance so far had been less than exemplary; failing to meet any of the milestones he had set for him. With that, Felix said quietly, “Shut up and open the window.” He leaped out, taking careful aim at the large jagged rock by the corner of the building.

And Felix went to that great lily pad in the sky.

Clarence was devastated. His project failed to meet a single objective he set out to accomplish. Felix not only failed to fly, he hadn’t even learned to steer his fall; instead, he dropped like a sack of cement. Nor had Felix heeded Clarence’s advice to “Fall smarter, not harder.”

The only thing left for Clarence to do was to conduct an after-action-review and try to determine where things had gone wrong. After reviewing the records and giving the data much thought, Clarence smiled knowingly and said, “Next time, I’m getting a smarter frog!”

Some Questions:

  • How did Clarence’s expectations get so out of line with Felix’ capabilities and how might better alignment have been achieved?
  • Why did Clarence reach so quickly for training as a solution?
  • What role did the power differential between Clarence and Felix play in shaping the course of events?
  • Why was Felix so compliant, even in the face of his own destruction?
  • What blinded Clarence to the role he played in the failure of his attempt to make Felix fly?
  • What talent did Felix possess that might actually have made Clarence and he rich and why didn’t Clarence see that?

Tool Truck Vendors, Part II

I had posted previously about the second consideration for tool truck vendors — Mac Tools in this case. I need a set of 12-point, universal, SAE sockets for a Powerplant course I’ll be starting next term.

I had noticed that Mac Tools had updated their inventory* and indicated that they were taking orders for those sockets. So I ordered them.

I received an instant (automated) order confirmation.

Then nothing.

Days passed. The days turned into weeks. Heard nothing. No tracking number. No charge to my card. Nothing.

So I contacted Mac Tools and ensured that it was canceled so I could resume my search.

Then I returned to Genius Tools and noted that its site, too (at the time), definitely indicated it was in stock. Click. Purchase. Confirm. Multiple automatic emails (order confirmation and such). Charge to my card.

And it arrived in a few days.


*Mac Tools, when acknowledging the request to cancel the order, said, “SMU72TRA is still on back order…” Wait. What? You said it was out of stock, so I postponed. Then you said it was in stock. So I ordered. Now it’s out of stock? Hmmm… something fishy in their application of web technologies.

Safety Third?

Ideas first

Tools second

Safety third

I’ve started learning [Ideas first] about oxyacetylene welding [Tools second] and the moment I walked into the welding lab, this caught my eye…

Let’s just put this gas-can right here.

Flames. Acetylene gas. Oxygen. And a plastic gasoline can at the oxy-acetylene welding station.

Safety third.

I can’t help but wonder if this is an education tool to see who sees it and reacts to it.

Tool-Truck Vendors…

I had previously admonished the use of Tool-Truck vendors.

I had remarked:

As a student or just starting out, do not buy the ‘best’ tool that can be had nor anything from some mobile tool [truck] purveyor.

Instead, buy the cheapest thing you can find that meets the actual needs you have right now. Not needs you think you’re going to have in the future. Learn to use it appropriately. Care for it. When it breaks or wears out, if repair isn’t plausible, then look for the best tool that in your learned and gained experience will meet your specific needs.

2020-09-02 – AMT Tools List

Fast forward a bit and I had posted another portion of the tools list that was rather expensive, and then another bit that would eventually be required for the Powerplant program. Some stuff was easy to come by. But a few other things, not so much.

Those pesky 1/4″ drive, universal/flex 12-point SAE sockets. [Insert satto voce annoyance mumbling here]

I’d have thought that there would be many plausible inexpensive options. Sure, the list specified “Genius Tools” and a specific product number. One could go over to the site and read all about it, but also see that it said “Out of stock” and to call some specific telephone number.

Okay, so let’s see where else we can find something comparable in the $35 – $50 range. Sure, metric sets were available.

Yet virtually nothing in US-aviation is metric. SAE only.

Oh, look — here’s a 3/8″ drive set of 12-point universal SAE sockets. Might be helpful. Maybe. But they’ll be taller and may not fit into tight space.

The list does specify 1/4″ drive… and as time progressed, it seems that they were extraordinarily rare. And over the months that I had waited and tried repeatedly, I wasn’t getting any response from Genius Tools.

I said I wouldn’t do it… but, let’s go look at Snap-On… hmm… $296. And Mac Tools? $310.

That’s more expensive than the $40 that Genius Tools had promoted the product at. About $263 more! But it’s becoming increasingly evident that it was extraordinarily unlikely — bordering on myth.

What’s Your Value?

Then there’s the question of how much one’s time is worth. How much has it cost in the perhaps 40 hours that I’d expended to save that $263?

It seems I’ve already spent about $263 of my time in tracking down something cheaper. Do the math and it works out to $6.58 per hour.

So, here are the options:

Mac Tools

7-pc. 1/4″ drive SAE Universal Socket Set – 12-PT – 1/4, 5/16, 11/32, 3/8, 7/16, 1/2, 9/16: $295.99

Snap On

6 pc 1/4″ Drive 12-Point SAE Flank Drive® Shallow Universal Socket Set – 1/4, 5/16, 3/8, 7/16, 1/2, 9/16: $309

Looks that the Mac Tools offering is less expensive and includes a 11/32″ socket as well, so, ready to drop coin on it… son of a


Awaiting a response from Mac Tools, or I’ll ring them when I’m done with chores.

Update: I looked over the Genius Tools page this morning while hammering out this post. On their product page, they now include a promising Add to Cart button. Quite a step up from the previously-used “Out of stock, call this number” note. So, I eagerly click it and…


I see what you did there. No doubt you were getting inundated with calls looking to purchase it, but instead you’ve removed the contact number to request it.