Bill Graf is a unique individual (and so is everyone else on the planet, although that fact is not generally acknowledged by everyone). He has a wide area of experience in many varied fields of endeavor. Activities are mostly non-standard in nature and are included here in no particular order.
As a kid he was first disappointed by the Brooklyn Dodgers abandoning him and Brooklyn, for the sunny shores on the left side of the country. Consequently his interest in stick and ball sports, to this day is quite limited. Substituting an interest in the construction of physical things, especially items electromechanical in nature, early nerdism is clearly evident.
In school, the physical sciences, and drivers Ed.(the only subject to receive 100% grades both in class and field work) were areas of early achievement. Boredom with mundane topics like home work and spelling resulted in mediocre grades in other subjects like language studies, history, social studies, etc. All in all not a poor student just a disinterested one. Not motivated to memorize "useless" information when he clearly understood that the material was easily reference if needed. To this day he rejects most forms of formal instruction, instead when motivated by a need to know, will delve into a topic as deeply as necessary, obtaining the knowledge or information required for a specific task. If the desire to understand something exists he will not rest until he has obtained the knowledge, skills, or information necessary accomplish a particular goal.
Mastery of the physical sciences was a hands on proposition. Early projects turned the family yard, basement, and garage into the likeness of a science lab come junkyard. The early projects, produced prior to reaching the teenage years, included many strange wheeled constructs. At first motive power was derived from the willing assistance of friends and playmates. After awhile self propulsion was obtained. Drawing on a wealth of materials available at hand (dad was always doing something automotive). A 1947 Hudson 6 volt starter motor was pressed into service. The first "vehicle" to move under its own power was a based on a short section of wooden extension ladder, wheels liberated from a pram, and the a fore mentioned Hudson starter. Connecting this with an assortment half dead car batteries, required the practical application of series parallel electrical circuits. Burned wires, welded switches, and first movement in reverse.
Getting the power to the ground (making the wheels turn) fired an interest into the physics of motion and the principles of mechanical advantage, belts pulleys, washing machine transmissions, and other things were the early text books. It also consumed the entire summer of 1958. An allied winter project (he couldn't get the cars in an out of the basement) was an electric bicycle. This was in 1960 at the age of 13. That venerable starter motor was grafted into the pedal hub area of an old Columbia bike frame and original chain sprockets were utilized. Two 12 volt batteries were mounted in side saddle carrier baskets. The plan was for 6, 12, and 24 volts to control speed. Winter ran into spring as new construction techniques, including brazing and welding had to be acquired. First trials were disappointing until proper gear drive ratios were determined (lots of trail and error here). Finally discovering that the small sprocket had to be on the motor and the big one on the rear wheel. It worked! With two charged batteries a run of 15 to 20 blocks was possible between recharging. Of course the recharge took all night, but speeds of 45 MPH were possible in short bursts.
The search for increased speed and more reliable power finally focused on an ad in the back of Mechanics Illustrated. "Real gas engine" Government Surplus $12.95. It said, what it left out was that there was no flywheel, ignition system, carburetor, or cooling system. Undaunted, with a whole summer of adventure ahead, our budding race car constructor plowed into the trial and error system of product development. Much toying with ignition contact points, many hours spent filing a flat spot on the crankshaft, learning to operate a lathe (had to have a flywheel after all) followed. All manor of things electrical were adopted accepted or rejected in turn. Eventually it ran. A one cylinder olive drab colored aluminum engine. A refugee from some discontinued military contract.
A newer section of wood ladder was selected for the prototype. Remember in 1960 go-karts weren't even invented yet! Wagon wheels were chosen over carriage wheels, for their superior dynamics and stability. Late August saw the first operating trials. The goal being "all the way around the block". In the haste for completion, prior to schools reopening, some systems were only minimally enabled. Those being brakes, clutch, throttle, steering, etc.
The drive was direct, starting required a cement block under the rear. Two assistants lifted the eventually running "Hot Rod" off the block, with a wheel already spinning (only one rear wheel was powered), then while lowering gave it a mighty shove in the intended direction of travel. Thus launched two foot steering was required, which left one hand to hold the fishing line "throttle"attached to the modified lawn mower carburetor. the other hand of course operated the brake lever (connected to the other rear wheel). With later refinements it would occasionally start by pushing. After only a few dozen attempts the entire bock was finally circumnavigated navigated in one shot. Another wonderful summer.
The following summers were always consumed with "projects". There was the conversion of a 1951 Hudson Hornet to a pick-up. Of course it never made it back into service as a vehicle, but, the principles of unibody construction in motor vehicles was thoroughly comprehended. When the roof was finally cut away sitting on the rear bumper provided sufficient chassis deflection to pop the rear doors open. These lessons were aptly applied much later on when constructing stock cars and dragsters for customers. No one was ever injured within a roll cage constructed by WRB Associates. And as for that Hudson starter (produced by Autolite), it looked a whole lot like the Lucas starter it replaced in the Alexis Formula Ford raced in the 70's.
Bill started racing by selling his two year old 1969 Camaro Z28. The proceeds were converted to a Formula V, which again started as chalk marks on the garage floor, a copy of SCCA's rule book, and a drivers suit. Later cars included that Formula Ford, a Formula B car, and finally a Chevron Formula Atlantic car with fuel cells and a full monocoque chassis were purchased. These were "rolling chassis" to which the racing engines that he built were added.
In the interim there were many unique street cars they included a '57 Olds convertible. After boot camp at Paris island, and a trip home for Christmas of 1965, that car was driven down to Memphis (in under 18 hrs). That 1180 mile trip predated the "Cannonball Run" that Brock Yeates created years later. The entire state of Kentucky was transversed without lifting the right foot. Returning home to New York that spring, to a first marriage and the start of night school at NYIT, took a few days longer. Crossing the just opened Varranzano Narrows Bridge was the only exciting part of the trip.
His Dad William R. Graf worked for a major New York City contractor for the thirty odd years, before his passing, in August of 1989. During WW II he had run the piping shop at Bethlehem Steel's Brooklyn Ship Yard. In the early 1950's he sold Dodge trucks across the street from Ebberts Field. Never too busy to observe the early mechanical folly of his son. His subtle comments and leading suggestions provided the mechanical enlightenment inherited by both of his sons. His professional position evolved what we today call "Commissioning". He and his team were responsible for making all the interrelated trades coordinate there portions of the work so that all the office building, school, hospital, or housing project systems could eventually be started up and made to work as intended.
Control circuits, wiring diagrams, pneumatic temperature control diagrams, flow diagrams, pump curves, fan curves, steam tables, boiler tests, manufacturers performance data, punch lists, specifications, design drawings and contract documents were the stuff of normal daily fare. "Mistakes always get corrected here", "If it ain't broke' don't fix it", " Why don't you try it like this",were some of the things you heard if, you were close to him. Exposure to this environment during his grade school and high school holidays, Saturdays and some summer vacation days provided his son Bill with a hands on knowledge impossible to duplicate. Bill says of this, "I got to see the construction industry backwards, I learned all the mistakes and how to correct them first". At times during his own career Bill has in dismay seen other P.E.'s unable to even recognize the equipment they specify when encountering it in the field.
It took many years of field work before he chose in 1982 to trade in the channel lock's and screw driver in the hip pocket for a more powerful tool, a word processor. That was the result of answering another ad, this time in the Sunday Times " Mechanical / Electrical Engineer wanted must have good writing skills." The rest as they say is history. Bill likes to think he can fix anything expect a broken heart or a rainy day. But, more and more lately he finds the sun shining just when he needs it.
Computers came late for Bill, he tells it this way.
"Computers were difficult - I resisted and resisted. Back in 1983 my third wife and I planned to go visit the in-laws in Medellin. My brother-in-law was studying computer science at the university. But, there were 500 students and only one computer. So, we decided to bring him one. (rich Americanos). Went to a computer store looking for a Commodore or something. Found an Atari with 128K memory. Took a few weeks to finally see [READY] on the screen. By that time, it was too late for me! Hooked!
Rationalized to myself that the brother-in-law would have no source of support for an Atari. Bought him a used Apple II in a box (in parts) cheap! There were no disk drives or printer or cables or operating system or instructions. A challenge! My employer at the time had a word processing dept. with 6 young ladies with matching IBM PC's, XT's remember them! The leader was so advanced she had to have a 286! The engineering dept. had a Lisa and an Apple II., and software. After assembling the machine, with a pirateted copy of Visa Calc and some early word processor, it finally wound up in South America. Thing about it was, I became fascinated by the clever little devils (computers). I have always been more of a hardware hacker than programmer. Learned a little assembly language. Saw why Intel and Motorola people always conflict, "their mnemonics are reversed." Some Basic and Forth as well. Java which interests me, seems a lot like a visual extension of Forth. You can define any number of things as something then use it as you want, sorta. Never got into "C" afraid to wear out my semi-colon; I guess."
When asked about cross platform applications he stated.
"Yeah, I've been crossing platforms for years. Back in the days, when I worked at Merritt & Harris, I used an Atari Mega at home. This was back in 1985, most PC's had maybe 512 or 640 K. I had 4 Meg on board and could emulate both Mac and IBM platforms using software only emulators and a cartridge thing holding a set of Mac roms. The office at first used horrible crash and bang word processors called Viadeck machines; they took up the space of a phone booth, had 256K and an a 6 or 8" floppy. In 1984 we went to IBM XT's with 512K running a menu driven program called Multi-Mate (what a clunky program that was) under Dos 2.14. HD's with 20 Meg were considered vast! File sizes of more than 64K were not possible. I remember converting all of them (about 10 machines) to Dos 3.2 so 3.5" disk drives could be supported. That made my life easier. At least I didn't have to change disk formats too when I brought work home. We take all this point and click, drag and drop, stuff for granted today. Graphics weren't even used much then and conversion was unheard of. GUI was what happened when you made out in the back of the Dodge."
Asked by an interviewer on the internet about his interests, he explained.
"My interests are always changing, I am always interested in motor racing - used to drive formula cars. My musical affinity follows the flow of: Pink Floyd, Bob Dillon, Queen, Arrow Smith, Niel Young, David Bowie, Tom Waits, Randy Newman, Billy Joel, etc. Anything new or different and scientific or philosophic and nature catches my interest.
I'm am engineer by training and a wizard by choice. Written communication is now my tool of choice, spell checkers are are gift from god. I look at real properties for banks,investment trusts, reality advisers and such for a living. I've done other things too! I hold a patent on a cooling process which is about to get developed.
I came here by accident, or providence, in disgust (to the Membrane Web Site Ed.) tired of waiting for new clients to find my web site, I'm now out here in Cyber Space looking around for some. Some search engine returned Doc's resume, and here became a very interesting place! My own Web Pages are used to promote my consulting business, however, I am realizing how much of web advertising is just shouting our in own ears.
The web seems an electronic replacement for the natural connection we lost in eden. But, we really don't know what to do with it yet! I don't think commerce, in the end, will prove to be the web's major contribution to society.
I have something, an Article that I wrote, I guess you would call it a paper, however it just a bunch magnetically aligned electrons, no paper at all. It is titled "No Absolutes " I needed to write something in html in order to learn it. The funny part is, what I saw beyond the Multimedia, when I read what I wrote. I would like to share that.
A little background is appropriate here! Although, my profession, for the most part, involves writing. It wasn't always so. Back in school writing was something I strongly resisted. I can't spell well, especially common words like dose oops does , my penmanship looks like a chicken took a trip across the page after playing in an ink well. And, I might be slightly dyslexic. I still type letters reversed sometimes. Could never copy blackboard notes before they were erased. "Screw those notes". Fortunately, or possibly as a defense, my recall is excellent. Today I use a tape recorder and a camera.
Have always been an avid reader. Around about the conclusion of my first marriage, had three so far - unattached now. I received a "Sorcerer's Gift" from one Carlos Castanada. In the midst of great turmoil in my life, a major crash at Lime Rock, a first divorce, a business partnership break-up, etc. I mysteriously started to write. Had a typist then who could read my chicken scratches. Published articles in the Daily News Sunday Supplement, and other things. Over the next few years, traded in Channelocks and screwdriver for much more powerful tools. I found out that the word processor is mightier than the socket wrench. Especially with spell checkers and no erasing!!!
After a few more "mid-Life" crises, I realized the potential of images, courtesy of Mr. Carl Jung. Fred Nitcheze added a few things to ponder, as did Machiavelli, and Goethe. All these other guys: Jean Paul Sartre, Soren Kierkegaard, Karl Jaspers, Martin Heidegger, Albert Camus, and Maurice Merleau-Ponty, et Al. have seen parts of it. But , Popeye sums it up the best for me, "I yam wot I yam, and dats all what I yam"."
Asked about his own web site Bill's comments about the Forms section gives a look into the way he typically approaches the resolution to a new "opportunity".
He said, "That @#%%@ guest book form is the reason I've started to mess around with Java Script. Tried to find a conditional If..then...else statement in HTML, to keep returning to a form page unless it got filled out. Couldn't find anything. Looked into CGI's too it's there some where, but I have no access to a server's Perl interpreter. So, am now trying to learn Java Script. Am in overload at the moment "up to here in alligators", and the swamp ain't empty yet".
If you visit Bill's web site Construction Consulting Services or read his On-line Resume you will see that use of Java Script is already apparent. Bill's personal philosophy is strongly centered on the idea that you learn it by doing it. "You've got to keep doing it and doing it until you get it correct". Another homily he likes, borrowed from Roger Penske, is "Effort equals Results".