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In a recent issue of Meat & Poultry magazine, editors quoted from Feathers, the publication of the California Poultry Industry Federation, telling the following story........

The US Federal Aviation Administration has a unique device for testing the strength of airplane cockpit windshields. The device is a gun that launches a dead chicken at the windshield at approximately the speed the plane flies. The theory is that if the windshield doesn't crack from the carcass impact, it will survive a real collision with a bird during flight.

It seems a British company was very interested in this and wanted to test a windshield on a brand new, high speed train they were developing. They borrowed the FAA's chicken launcher, loaded the chicken and fired. The ballistic chicken shattered the windshield, broke the driver's chair and embedded itself in the back wall of the cab. The British were stunned and asked the FAA to recheck the test to see if everything was done correctly.

The FAA reviewed the test thoroughly and had one recommendation:
First, thaw the chicken........


From the pages of "Open Systems Today" - October 13, 1994 ..........

"The International Standards Organization (ISO) and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) designated October 14 as World Standards Day to recognize those volunteers who have worked hard to define international standards.......The United States celebrated World Standards Day on October 11; Finland celebrated on October 13; and Italy celebrated on October 18."

No further comment about the global state of "standardization" is necessary!!!


- A Leap Year is determined if the 4-digit year can be divided by 4, unless...

- The year can be divided by 100, then it is not a Leap Year, unless...

- The year can be divided by 400, then is is a Leap Year, unless...

- The year can be divided by 4000, then it is not a Leap Year, unless...

- The year is 200 or 600 years after a year that is divisible by 900, then it is a Leap Year.

Extract from a memo issued by the Ohio Dept. of Admin. Services


The intent of international "standards" is to facilitate consistency and common interpretation so it's amusing that documents written using American English have to be "translated" into British English when they're adopted over there. We need a standard language. Mark Twain believed many problems would be overcome by eliminating the redundancy in the construction of the English language. After all, do we really need 26 letters in the alphabet? In doing so, his resultant language sadly typifies the way many people view and understand "standards" today!!

A Plan for the Improvement of English Spelling
by Mark Twain

  • In Year 1, that useless letter c would be dropped to be replaced either by k or s, and likewise x would no longer be part of the alphabet. The only kase in which c would be retained would be the ch formation, which will be dealt with later.
  • Year 2 might reform w spelling, so that which and one would take the same konsonant, while Year 3 might abolish y replasing it with i and Iear 4 might fiks the g/j anomali wonse and for all. Jenerally then, the improvement would kontinue iear bai iear with Iear 5 doing awai with the useless double konsonants and Iear 6-12 or so modifaiing vowlz and the rimeining voist and unvoist konsonants.
  • Bai Iear 15 or sou, it wud fainali bi posibl tu meik ius ov thi ridandant letez c, y and x -- bai now jast a memori in the maindz ov ould doderez -- tu riplais ch, sh and th rispektivli.
  • Fainali, xen aafte sam 20 iers ov orxogrefkl riform, wi wud hev a lojikl, kohimt speling in ius xrewawt xe Ingliy-spiking werld.

Extract from The Standardization Newsletter, February 1996.


The US standard railroad gauge (distance between the rails) is 4 ft, 8 1/2 in. (1.44 m).

That's an exceedingly odd number. Why was that gauge used?

Because that's the way they built them in England, and the US railroads were built by English expatriates.

Why did the English build them like that?

Because the first rail lines were built by the same people who built the pre-railroad tramways, and that's the gauge they used.

Why did "they" use that gauge then?

Because the people who built the tramways used the same jigs and tools as "they" used for building wagons, which used that wheel spacing.

Okay! Why did the wagons use that wheel spacing?

Well, if they tried to use any other spacing the wagons would break on some of the old, long distance roads, because that's the spacing of the ruts.

So, who built these old rutted roads?

The first long distance roads in Europe were built by Imperial Rome for the benefit of their legions. The roads have been used ever since.

And the ruts?

The initial ruts, which everyone else had to match for fear of breaking their wagons, were first made by Roman war chariots. Since the chariots were made by or for Imperial Rome they were all alike in the matter of wheel spacing (ruts again).

Thus, we have the answer to the original question.

The United States standard railroad gauge of 4 ft, 8 1/2 in. derives from the original military specification (MilSpec) for an Imperial Roman army war chariot which was that wide because that was the approximate width of a pair of horses' asses. MilSpecs (and bureaucracies) live forever!

So, the next time someone expects you to meet an "impossible" specification, you can rightly question which horse's ass it originated from!

Supplemental Twist: When you see a Space Shuttle sitting on its launch pad, there are two big booster rockets attached to the sides of the main fuel tank. These are solid rocket boosters, or SRBs.

The SRBs are made by the Thiokol Company at their factory in Utah. The engineers who designed the SRBs would have preferred to make them a bit fatter, but the SRBs had to be shipped via a train from the factory to the launch site in Florida.

The railroad line from the factory happens to run through a tunnel in the mountains and the SRBs had to fit through that tunnel which is slightly wider than the railroad track.

So, a major Space Shuttle design feature of what is arguably the world's most advanced transportation system, was determined over two thousand years ago by the width of two horses' asses!



Quality is about defects, defectives, non-conformance, error, inconsistency, delay, unreturned phone messages, broken or unfulfilled business promises, frustration, headaches, problems at work, repair, re-doing jobs late or wrong deliveries, quick fixes, being under pressure, administrative hassle, poor attitude, low morale, poor motivation, lack of trust in products and services, wasted time, unutilized human talent, unbalanced inventories and friction between employees, managers, customers and suppliers. Lost sales, dwindling profits, increasing prices, lay-offs, plant closures and bankruptcy soon follow. This, in turn, is reflected in the performance in the country; high inflation, high interest rates, swelling government deficit, growing unemployment, increasing taxes and a plummeting economy.

Quality Control then becomes; defect control, error control, frustration control and the control of all the negative and disheartening problems just mentioned.

Quality Assurance is that some or all of the problems just described are not allowed to occur in any community or organization so that human suffering, hassles, or loss of pride in workmanship can be avoided.


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