>> Wednesday, October 7, 2009
I read an interesting article on ageism on the NYT today and it struck a chord with me. On the one hand, it does because I have a good friend who has had a hard time finding a job after a lifetime of gainful employment, a fascinating mind, excellent reasoning ability and a truly exceptional photographic talent. But, he's at the awkward age (50's) where with his experience and know-how he vastly overqualified and is perceived as too expensive.
It also strikes a chord because I happen to work in an environment rather heavily populated with highly experienced folks and retirees. The chief engineer for the Texas supercollider (that was never completed) used to work just down the hall from me, for instance. In my company, experience and know-how are treasured and valued.
What I don't understand is why that isn't treasured elsewhere. When I first started working at NASA (for Lockheed Engineering and Science Company), I knew half a dozen people who had been working there since the Apollo days, mostly technicians (or ex-technicians) who had learned a whole slew of hard lessons the hard way. I loved to listen to them talk, to the stories they had, to the mistakes and successes. I knew, for whatever reason, that this was experience I would never have the chance to learn myself or, if I did, I could use it to my advantage.
They were seasoned and knew their worth. I never had to explain to any of them why the smaller the wire the greater the resistance (as I sadly had to do with a fresh out ELECTRICAL engineer). They were there for the duration. They knew the processes. They knew what worked and could help steer younger engineers who didn't have that kind of knowledge down the right path.
I rarely see those old Apollo days engineers any more except in my office and, once in a while, in a meeting where they're usually the lone voice reminding us that analysis alone can't take the place of testing or that dissimilar studies should be taken with a grain of salt.
What a freakin' shame more of us "younger folks" (and I use the term loosely) aren't listening, aren't soaking up as much of their experience as we can get while we still have a chance. Too soon, they'll be gone and we'll be forging along a path with none of the pioneers who took us there the first time - or any of what they learned along the way.
What a pity.
On a related note, two of the people I've learned so much from have things they want to sell. Given that a few people who come here are interested in photography (good photography, not the kind I do) and old memorabilia, I thought I'd plug 'em here.
The first are some calendars the wildly talented Roy is selling on lulu. If you have a hard-to-buy for friend who appreciates photography on your Christmas list, this might be just what you're looking for.
The other are some fan magazines from the old heyday of Hollywood sold by my superlative SF friend, Eleanor. Eleanor used to costumes, is an authority on most things old Hollywood, has written a wonderful book on Nelson Eddy (who I adore) and Jeanette MacDonald and has easily the best website on them. If you're interested in the fan magazines, she's selling them on eBay.