Tuesday, October 6, 2009

What Changed?

Back in the mid-80’s I went down to Engineroom Lower Level (ERLL) on the U.S.S. Woodrow Wilson to relieve the watch. I got a turnover from the previous ERLL watchstander who gave me an update on the current status. Among other things, he told me that he had just switched the lube oil purifier to the #2 TG lube oil sump.

A submarine has two steam driven turbine generators (TG’s) which generate all of the electricity for the entire ship. Each generator has its own lube oil system to flush & cool its bearings. Because it isn’t possible to do an oil change of these oil systems like we do on our cars, the ship also has an oil purifying system that takes oil from a sump, cleans it, and then pumps it back. The lube oil purifier, or “LOP”, gets switched around during the day to different oil sumps so that all of the oil systems are under a continuous cleaning cycle.

It’s not hard to switch the LOP. Each oil sump has an inlet and outlet valve; all you have to do is shut those two valves on the sump you’re done with and open them on the sump that you want to purify. Pretty easy. And this is what the prior watchstander had told me he had just done.

About 5 minutes after he left, I’m standing there drinking my coffee and trying to fully wake up when suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, I see lube oil shooting out of the vent line for the #2 TG sump and spraying all over the place, which is certainly not what it was supposed to be doing.

When a casualty happens on a ship, one of the first things that we were taught to do is to ask “What changed?” In other words, it everything was fine a few minutes or hours before, did anything happen recently that might have caused the problem you are seeing now?

In this case, the ship was not doing any maneuvers or speed changes. No evolutions or drills were in progress. We were simply cruising along submerged in the North Atlantic at a leisurely 1/3 bell with all of the regular hums and vibrations that our engineroom normally had. And yet, for some reason, there’s oil shooting out of the vent on this sump, which, again, was definitely not normal.

Knowing that the last watchstander had just changed the valve lineup on the oil system that was now exhibiting this problem, I ran to check that the valves were in the proper alignment.

They were not.

In the state I found it, he had left the system so that the LOP was pulling oil from #1 TG sump, purifying it, and then dumping it into the #2 TG sump. I took corrective action and fixed the problem.

And then spent the rest of my 6 hour watch fuming mad as I cleaned up a whole bunch of spilled oil.

It’s a simple concept; not even close to rocket science. If there wasn’t a problem before and now there is, did something change that might have created the problem?

Granted, sometimes things just break or go wrong for no specific reason at all. But what I’ve found is that, more often than not, when things go wrong it’s usually because something changed. This applies to relationships, employment, the economy, our healthcare system; pretty much anything.

Over the past two years I’ve written some very pointed & critical posts about vaccines, modern drugs, artificial sweeteners, high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), and other “modern marvels”.

Do I know that any of these things are dangerous? Do I have any proof at all? Absolutely not. I don’t know for sure that there is anything wrong with any of them.

But I do know that most of those things came into being in just the past few decades. Today, we are dealing with an explosion of diabetes, obesity, and autism in our kids. Just this morning, I read about a new study which states that 1 in 100 children are now diagnosed as autistic. 1 out of every 100! Why?

In our small community here, 2 kids have already died this year from cancer, and a third is fighting for his life. Why?

In all my years growing up in public school, I can’t remember a single kid who had autism or that died from cancer. I remember a couple of kids with Down’s Syndrome, a couple who were diabetic (from birth), and a couple who were morbidly obese.

Nothing like what we are seeing today. It didn’t use to be this way; why is it like this now?

I find myself asking that same question that I did 20 years ago – What changed? – and I see that the number of vaccines we are pumping into our kids has more than doubled since I was young. I see HFCS in everything we eat. I see people bypassing sugar for chemically created sweeteners. I see people rushing their kids into the hospital emergency room for antibiotics every time they get a sniffle or a slight temperature.

We didn’t do or have any of these things when I was growing up. Is it possible that there may be a link? Should we not at least take a hard, unbiased, objective look?

My kids are not autistic, diabetic, or obese. They are healthy, fit, and suffer no allergies. Is this simply due to “good genes”, or could it possibly be because we avoid vaccines, HFCS, aspartame, and emergency rooms in general whenever we can?

What about our school systems? Our kids used to get a decent education – what has changed that would allow my kids who are homeschooled to outperform kids being taught by dedicated, educated experts in their field? I’ll readily admit that I don’t know more than the teachers do; so how is it even possible that I can do a better job than them? But I can. Why?

What has changed during the last 20 or 30 years in our school system? Is the problem simply cultural; a sign of the times? Or did we in fact do something – or several things – that fundamentally altered the system to create what we have today?

I’m not a betting man, but if I was, I’d put my money on the latter.

I don’t know all of the answers. I’m not even sure that I know all of the questions. But I’m not blind either, and while I may not be the brightest bulb in the lamp store, I’ll at least give myself credit for having a persistent – and possibly annoying – flicker.

In closing, what unsettles me even more than the fact that nobody seems to be investigating the question of “what has changed”, is another question which, if we ever get around to answering the first one, would seem to be the obvious follow-up:

Why was it changed?

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