My dad is an economist, and he says the cyclical economy is a good thing. I suppose that it theoretically weeds out inefficient companies, but to my mind it plays havoc with the lives of most people, and it’s just as likely to weed out a creative and forward-thinking company that might have been able to hold on in a steadier environment.

Being a company in the size range of 1-3, the ups and downs are exaggerated. I suppose I have gotten used to it over the last 27 years in the business of independent testing and consulting. At the same time, as I age, staying up until 2:00 a.m. a couple of times a week on a regular basis is just out of the question. In March, I seriously contemplated “getting a real job.” But like all the times this happened in the past, the economy turned around and now I am buried with work. Who knows how long it will last? To keep up, I asked a colleague to come in and help out. He had worked at my lab for a while a few years back. When things are really busy, even if someone else takes three or four times as long as I would to get it done, I don’t have much choice. Pay scale is commensurate.

So far, so good. But it’s spring, and my seedlings need to go outside in my garden. Aging joints can’t keep up with all the work in a big garden. Also, I had to miss my Thursday morning writing group two weeks in a row due to workload and did not want to miss it again. So I went to my writing group, came home, had lunch, met with some people who were thinking about helping with the garden and was late getting to the second-shift Aliya Analytical job. I called my colleague and told him he could prepare for my arrival by cleaning the rack of metallurgical mounts that had been polished through to 1 micron diamond – the last step – and gotten contaminated. I knew that the rack needed to get repolished at 3 microns and then get a final polish on a new cloth on 1 micron. So far, so good.

When I got to the lab, I found that he had removed two of the four large (2 x 3 inch) metallurgical mounts from their carrier plate to “clean them well, like we did the last time.”


The last time we were manually polishing for other reasons. So there was no rack.

“Well,” he said, “I realized there might be a risk that it would be difficult to realign the mounts in the rack.”

Four hours later, we were back to that 3 micron second-to-last polish step, which was where we were before he decided to do a “super cleaning.”

Here’s the bottom line that I realized: There was no risk involved. THIS WAS A CERTAINTY. There is no way to realign metallurgical mounts that have polished to their “natural plane” in company with whatever else is in the rack, in whatever particular orientation it was placed at the beginning of the grind-and-polish operation.

As I encourage myself to CELEBRATE UNCERTAINTY instead of worrying about the economy, to celebrate uncertainty instead of worrying about my health, to celebrate uncertainty instead of worrying about the end of Western Civilization, I now realize that there are some things that are essentially certain. It takes only a fraction of the time to destroy than it takes to create.

If you have an old-style semiautomatic metallographic polisher with fixed spaces for the mounts once they are installed in the carrier plate, it’s not risky to remove them for ANY REASON. There’s simply no risk involved. It’s a certainty (as much as there is such a thing) that you will have to start over. This will take much longer since you are not even starting out with all of the mounts on a single flat plane.


“But look,” he told me, after an hour, “three of them are looking great!”


“Sure,” I replied, “three points make a plane. Unfortunately the area of the fourth mount that is not polishing up is a critical area for my analysis.”


The delayed gardener training delayed my arrival at the lab, led to a much bigger delay in polishing the mounts, led me to start on the report that was due the next day at 7 pm. I finally finished it, after figuring out that my software absolutely can’t handle six high-resolution images on a single page, at 2 am.


Of course, I take responsibility for my actions. Only by thinking through to the “root cause” and taking personal responsibility for my decisions, can I improve my own decision-making ability. It’s all my fault for trying to cram too many activities into a single day.


Celebrate uncertainty, and realize that some things are certain. But they are usually not the things we wish were so.