Life at Two Miles an Hour
Opening Comments by Dick Lynch
Every so often in one's job there are times where nothing much is happening, and you've got a few minutes or even hours to contemplate the True Meaning of Life or somesuch, while you're waiting for the phone to ring, the boss to come calling, or indeed, inspiration to strike.
My position as R&D Projects Engineer in energy research for the Tennessee Valley Authority had moments like that, and more often than you might think. Somebody, Werner von Braun maybe, once said, "Research is what I'm doing when I don't know what I'm doing." And that's right. In any research program, energy R&D especially, progress often comes in fits and spurts. Either you're up to your elbows in things to attend to, or you're trying to find something useful to do that'll justify your continued employment.
It was during one of those lulls a while back, in the engineering equivalent of Free Association, that I came up with one of those useless statistics that are still fun to contemplate. Consider -- in the time I've been alive, I've been fortunate enough to be able to do some traveling. Although I've still never been to Europe or Australia, I have visited many parts of the States, and seen many interesting sights. Those miles add up. And when I combined them with a reasonable estimate of distances I've covered in everyday driving and walking, I was surprised to find out that I've been the equivalent of the distance to the moon and back a couple of times. But I've also been on the face of the earth for a while, now. And when I divided the number of miles I estimated I've traveled by the number of hours I've been alive, I found that I've been living my entire life at an average speed of about two miles an hour.
And now, I expect I'll be very slightly increasing that average in the next month or so. Nothing lasts forever, especially employment; there's a new chairman at TVA, and he's instituted draconian cost cutting measures throughout the agency to avoid rate increases otherwise required by runaway costs incurred by the nuclear power program. And so, to eliminate some $300 million from next year's budget, about 7,500 jobs were sacrificed. The R&D division where I work was hardest hit of all (in times like this, research invariably takes the brunt of reductions in force); 80 percent of the division was cut, and my position was one of them.
So what does this mean for Nicki and me, and for Mimosa? It's too early yet to say where we'll wind up, but it's fairly certain that we'll be leaving Chattanooga. I fu1ly expect to continue working in fossil energy research, so this temporary setback could be a career advancement opportunity in disguise. Certainly, Nicki's career chances cannot be hurt by a move from here (read her article in this issue). As for Mimosa, the next issue might not be until early next year. We'll send a CoA announcement to everybody in our address database, and other fanzines will undoubtedly carry the CoA as well. Please, do not hold back your Letter of Comment on this issue because of our possible move; the Post Office will forward our mail (you might want to include the phrase "Address Correction Requested" on fanzines sent to us, though).
Meanwhile, there are lots of things to do in the next few weeks, as you might suspect; completing this fanzine is just one of them. Life continues, even at two miles an hour, and you've got to keep moving or it'll pass you by. This looks like an opportune place as any to end this essay, so we'll see you again next year, with (I hope) better news to tell...