Thursday, September 6, 2012


“The decisions of today must be based on the facts of tomorrow.”
  (Daniel Burrus)

I am thinking many times if inter-generational communication exists, or if each generations has to repeat the errors of the past ones, adding new errors that became possible only in the new circumstances. Considering myself pragmatist and realist
I will not try to answer, however I want to convey an important message to you. I call your kind attention and understanding to it

I want to explain you the Principle of the Chief Engineer that has many applications, helps us to distinguish the possible from the impossible and it is crucial for Problem Solving.

The Chief Engineer was a real person, with his own history (complicated), character (nasty), life (hedonistic) and death (terrible- cancer).
I have met him at my very first working place, Savinesti Chemical Works, this story can be dated April 1960. He was a remarkable figure, former officer in the Royal Guard- therefore
scared and humble with the communist activists, but very authoritative and really toxic-boss like with us, the young engineers. However I was his favorite, he called me sometimes “Doctor Gluck” he even respected me, due to a strange reason: when he first shouted at me, I shouted back much louder and he was simply amazed by my stentorian skills. He also has lost duels in cursing- his simplistic military vocabulary was very weak compared to my tetra-linguistic repertoire learned from
the lower class people of Timisoara. It was for me like a Black Belt Dan fighting with a middle rank kyu.

I was then working for the start up of a greater pilot plant for the
synthesis of acrylonytrile from acetylene and hydrogen cyanide-
(later I described this in “Death boils at 27 C”)

For the celebration of May 1st it was planned to start the production- but this was not possible for simple reasons.
We have strived to make the plant neat and clean but even this was not perfect.
The Chief Engineer has inspected the plant, found a lot of things out of order – and the following dialogue take place:

He- (shouting): Have you started the plant?

I - (10 dB higher): How the fuck should I start the damned plant- when it is not connected to power and to water, the staff is not complete and is not instructed, the main reactor is not here, we have no raw material…(CENSORED)!

Then something unique and miraculous has happened- he looked straight in my eyes and said calmly and slowly:

“Peter, listen to me and bury this for ever, deeply in your balding skull! With electricity, water, people, reactors and raw materials any fool can start a plant! But you are an Engineer and therefore you MUST start it even without all these, beyond any obstacles and in any circumstances!”

I allow that for a second I thought:”What an idiot!” but immediately I had a revelation, a satori:”Yes, he is right, my life’s mission is to solve any problem, by hook or by crook, in any circumstances, up to the end!”

My professional career and my life followed and I have applied always, stubbornly, in all the cases, the Chief Engineer’s Principle. Sometimes I have succeeded sometimes not…and this was it.


This is a real story including the details. My friends who have lived in the communist society and have heard activists saying
that the directives of the Party prevail even over the Laws of Nature, will believe it. My Greek friends will admit that in the Balkan area everything is possible including the impossible.
All my other friends here living in countries where even the corporations are not completely immune to some forms of democracy will - in the best case – consider this as a clumsy metaphor. But they forget the saying: “Nothing is impossible for the person who doesn’t have to do it.”


  1. Great story Peter.
    Not a "clumsy metaphor" at all.
    A person seems to shine the brightest when faced with the impossible.

    1. Dear Gary,

      Thank you! For old researchers- if they want to remain professionals, it is a basic duty to choose impossible and infinite tasks.
      This is a natural continuation of the ideas presented in my
      classic "Message from the right side of the Medawar zone"
      And of the idea that triggered the blog Ego Out. See please the introductory writing.

  2. A. Clarke challenged politicians as "medium minds" as far as politics, according to O. Bismark, is the "the art of possible". Clarke said that real intelligent people are those seeking the impossible.

    Peter is a real intelligent man challenging scientists and engineers not to act as politicians. He is still seeking for the impossible!

    Thank you Peter

    1. Dear Ysnnis,

      I thank you very much for your nice words, however the story has a fatal flaw- it has really happened. We have to understand the subtle difference between REAL and TRUE- which in case, this determines what people actually can learn from this earth-shattering experience. To have luck, as in my case is not a merit

  3. All times are happening at once, right now.

    The digital environment allows us to access the wisdom, and mistakes, of the past, and even into the future, as our globe turns on 24 hour cycles.

    We have an unparalleled opportunity to solve our problems. We have only to not ignore it.

    I will remember these words of yours as long as I live too, Peter.

    1. You are right, dear Ruby when you speak about "an unparalleled opportunity to solve our problems" it is an other issue how well we are using this opportunity.
      You know that I consider a basic duty of old researcher to accomplish impossible and infinite tasks. One of such is for me WEB-SEARCH. I started to learn it in 1995 when visiting the Los Alamos National Laboratory's excellent library- my gratitude to the nice librarians working there!
      I am still on the learning curve, anyway I am proud to report that I won a few web search contests for subjects in
      which I am very ignorant and I also have used websearch in
      problem solving.
      My opinion is that the opportunities generated by the internet are used by both the Good and Evil, however Evil is more creative. See my Septoes...

  4. Design is pretty simple and a good user friendly interface.
    used tektronix equipment

  5. Replies
    1. dear Sam,

      this time I do not nderstand or you are speaking about Olivia.
      I have once sent her to a a plsmonunnery, she has humor.