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Celebrate Chicago Style

The Best Steak I've Ever had was Served on a Paper Plate in a Staging Area Near a Job Site. The cole slaw and baked potato were equally as good, even

The Best Steak I've Ever had was Served on a Paper Plate in a Staging Area Near a Job Site. The cole slaw and baked potato were equally as good, even though the potato had become too cool to melt butter. We were celebrating the energizing of a 115-kV underground line feeding the city of Helen in North Georgia. To place the cable, we had to horizontally bore under an American Indian burial ground that spanned a valley a half-mile wide. Talk about a tough project. The Helen project (or project from hell) had it all: a 20-degree slope and 6-inch cobbles, as well as a blue-ribbon trout stream and a state highway to cross. But the difficulties we overcame made the celebration all the sweeter.

Too often, though, we forget to celebrate. We get cheap. Or we have some uncaring department head who wants to prove just how tough he or she is. And that's too bad, because we need to put one project behind us before we give our all to the next. Celebrating should be part and parcel of who we are and what we do.

I just got back from ComEd's seventh-annual Engineer's Day. This event was quite a celebration, and oh we learned so much. I guess there were maybe 150 of us in attendance. Senior Vice President of T&D Terry Donnelly gave us an overview on the engineering challenges ComEd faces while relating how engineering touches just about every aspect of the business. The immediate IEEE PES past president, John McDonald with GE, followed with an insightful overview on the smart grid. Then we attended technical sessions that enabled us to catch up on technical topics including underground cable injection and the latest in wind-farm innovations. Lunch was so fun. I sat with ComEd's Vice President Quality Services Carl Segneri and buddies Chris Stefanski and Tom Callsen, also of ComEd. Over the course of an hour, we managed to solve most of the world's problems.

For me, though, the highlight of Engineer's Day was the exhibit hall where teams had set up poster sessions on a variety of projects. I met engineers doing some really cool projects. Tom Kuksuk of ComEd demonstrated how his team sniffed out the cause of momentary outages on a 34.5-kV line feeding O'Hare International Airport. We will be running an article on the project, so I won't spoil the surprise by telling you what they discovered; I will divulge that it required surveillance to expose the culprit. Then Bill Fluhler and Stefanski walked me through ComEd's condition-assessment program, which I would put against any utility program in the country. The celebration then kicked into high gear with teams competing in engineering jeopardy followed by an awards ceremony, a reception and a raffle.

Oh, I meant to mention that the podium had been turned over to Tommy Mayne. That might have been a mistake as my friend Tommy can spin a yarn or two and, in the process, run over his allotted time. But he is such fun. If you run into Tommy, ask him to tell you a Boudreaux joke.

Anyway, Tommy was giving us an update on the IEEE PES T&D Conference and Exposition coming to Chicago April 21-24 this year. Now, if there is one man who knows how to celebrate, it's Tommy. It's in his genes. For any of you who went to the 2003 IEEE PES T&D show in New Orleans, that event had it all — bands, Cajun food on the River Walkway, fireworks.

This year, show co-chairs Mayne and Segneri are working to bring us the biggest T&D event ever. With 12,000 to 13,000 people expected to participate, this will be one big celebration. Segneri is expecting 270 volunteers, so expect to run into plenty of eager assistance when you get to the show, whether you are navigating the convention center or taking in a technical tour.


Check out Segneri's welcome letter on page 27 of this issue. We've provided plenty of information you can use to justify your trip. You shouldn't have a hard time with the predicted 650 to 700 exhibitors, 5 super sessions, 23 panel sessions and 16 poster sessions. Not to mention the tutorials, education sessions and technical tours.

For you managers out there, I suggest sending your engineers in platoons. Reward them with a celebratory trip to Chicago for a job well done. Hey, celebrating is not a bad word. And you will get more than your money back. In an earlier life, when I sent engineers to technical events, I asked only one thing: “If you want to attend another event, come back with a contact, an idea or a product that will justify your trip.” I never had anyone who could not meet this modest condition.

I can't wait for the Monday evening kickoff reception to be held at the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry, where we will celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Chicago World's Fair. But, however we celebrate, we need to fill our toolboxes with the latest in technology innovations, industry contacts and business strategies to fuel our next initiatives. That will give us yet another reason to celebrate when IEEE heads back to New Orleans in 2010.

See you in Chicago!

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