Thursday, April 19, 2018
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Changing the Guard
Walter Salm, Editor

If my new job title (above) surprises you, it's about time. It's about time for a changing of the guard at U.S. Tech, and quite frankly I am a bit surprised that I have lasted this long. I have not actually stepped down as the title might suggest, but instead have curtailed some of my involvement with the publication and taking on a new role. At the age of 82, I'm getting a little bit tired, slowing down, and my job function is changing. I will be missing APEX this year for a number of reasons, not the least of which is a potential problem getting around the much larger venue of the Las Vegas Convention Center, even with a rented electric scooter. The last time I missed APEX was when I had open-heart surgery in 2013.

Another problem: my wife and associate editor has been very ill for some time now. Several months ago, she found that she was no longer able to help me on U.S. Tech, which only added to my workload. Now, due to a fall and a broken hip followed by some serious pneumonia and other complications, she has been hospitalized since September 16, and is relearning how to walk and swallow at an excellent nursing/rehabilitation facility here in Chico. I have to squeeze in a daily visit to the nursing home, regardless of my work deadlines. She will be coming home soon, possibly soon, so I need to be here. In addition to my editorial duties, I will become a caregiver.

The bright light in all of this gloom is Michael Skinner, who has joined the staff as an assistant editor, and has plowed through a ton of editorial work with a level of energy that leaves me gasping and envious. He is a good writer and a hard worker, and we are grooming him to eventually replace me. He's a very quick study and walked the most recent SMTAI Show with me (he walked, I rode my rented electric scooter), soaking up the technology like a sponge, and I had several mentoring sessions with him during the show. I have become the "Professor" going over his files and "grading his papers" making needed changes and adding pithy commentary at the end of each article. Jacob has started calling me "The Coach" and I guess the title fits. Given my level of ongoing involvement, the title of "Editor Emeritus" is a little bit premature, but represents a state of mind that accepts the fact that I will actually be retiring soon. Even after that happens, I will continue to keep an eye on things, probably writing for the Op Ed page for each issue for as long as my fingers can type and/or until I run out of things to write about — something that I seriously doubt will ever happen.

I will continue to look for and report on new and evolving technologies on our front page. An example of this is the new push for controlled fusion as an energy source. Remember the cold-fusion nonsense of 26 years ago? Everybody was jumping on the bandwagon, including U.S. Tech, and I eagerly reported on this wonderful new source of "free" or at least "very inexpensive" energy. We had some red faces when we discovered that the whole thing was a monumental screw-up in reading lab results; some cried "hoax" and either way, we had been taken in. The Fleishmann-Pons room-temperature "cold" fusion process was presented very logically by two scientists who had excellent credentials. I'm not sure if they deliberately misled the public or if they had misinterpreted their test results. In any event, the announcement of their findings, too good to be true, set off a wave of cold fusion hysteria in the media. I think they really did believe that they had something, and the world was only too happy to go bonkers over this miraculous new technology that turned out to be non-existent. And we were part of the stampede.

Today's take on fusion as a power source is much more realistic, recognizing the need for massive pressure and ultra-high temperatures, in effect creating a miniature sun in the reactor. It's a very costly proposition, but there are many venture capitalists willing to throw lots of money at it. The alternative is to allow polluters and those who deny the reality of global warming to ultimately ruin our Planet Earth. There's big money backing the nay-sayers, but fusion is attracting even bigger bucks, and ultimately, this is where the payoff will be, if there's still a Planet Earth left to save.  

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