Monday, May 29, 2006

A Job to Do

Memorial Day (Observed) - May 29, 2006

I'm going to take a quick break and just say a 'Thank you to our veterans.

I continue to be impressed with members of The Greatest Generation. Whenever I talk to them at airshows or special events, they are always humble about the role they played in WWII. In particular, they avoid being pretentious about their achievements and are modest about them. What a contrast from the younger generations. The WWII vets defeat Germany and Japan and, after one well-earned homecoming party nicknamed the Baby Boom, go quietly about their regular jobs. The younger generations watch their favorite professional sports team win a championship on TV and then spend the next year spouting trash talk.

But there's something that just sums up the WWII generation so well. It's a phrase I've heard several of them say, almost as if they'd collectively rehearsed that this would be their response to questions about their hardships.
"We had a job to do."

When visiting the USS Hornet museum in San Francisco, the veteran leading our tour spoke of the working conditions in the bowels of the aircraft carrier. Temperatures in the engine rooms could reach above 100 Fahrenheit but still the young sailors maintained their posts. "We had a job to do," was all he said in response to our amazement.

At another function I chatted with bomber crews. The bombers, despite their size and defensive armaments, where easy pickings for enemy fighters. Many were lost. Still the crews manned their stations and kept flying. "We had a job to do."


Here at The Burning Ends, my inspiration comes largely from spending time in the often inoptimal working conditions of most corporate American IT shops. I named the blog after the concept of harsh overtime but none of what modern workers deal with compares to the challenges met by our veterans. Those guys on the aircraft carriers worked 12-hour shifts every day, and here I am whining about having to pull a 50-hour week.

I am justified too, because my complaints aren't directed at the the concept of overtime itself, which I often give anyway when I'm happily engrossed in a project. They're directed at inadequate or unethical leadership. And that's something worth bitching about. On that note, what a satisfying verdict the Enron trial gave us a few days ago. Now several of the rotten leaders of the 1990's boom are formally criminals. This latest news reminds that humanity isn't a lost cause, no matter how hard we try to prove otherwise. Perhaps we have not wasted the efforts of our veterans.

Each generation has plenty of problems, usually more than it can solve. But as long as humans keep pushing out a few solutions too, then we have a chance to stay in that perpetual uphill battle.

Tonight, I'll raise a glass to the veterans, and to a job well done.

No comments: