We thought that you might like a slight diversion from our usual column directly related to concrete. So here is a little background information about our favorite sports.

Arnold Palmer, the internationally renowned professional golfer, is from Latrobe, Pa. Bill first met “Arnie” some years ago. An attorney in Latrobe needed a concrete technologist and analyst—immediately—in order to supervise taking concrete cores from a structure under construction that was nearly razed because of concrete problems. Bill was aware that the attorney knew Arnold Palmer, so he let him know that he was “immediately” available if the attorney would introduce him to Arnold Palmer. Bill indeed did meet and talk to Arnie.

Bill is an ardent golfer—and his wife, Nancy, is even more so. Bernie used to have a weekly Saturday morning 18-hole golf round with Bill and Nancy. Because the Himes played strictly by the rules, Bernie's score was always astronomical. Thus, recognizing that golf was not his game, he decided to go back to his first love, sailing. When Bill spoke of golf's “great loss” of Bernie to sailing, Arnie couldn't imagine why anyone would switch from the great challenge of golf to sailing.

Eventually Bernie sailed a 30-foot sloop off the shores of Lake Michigan. The sloop was later trailered to Ossining, N.Y., and berthed immediately south of Sing Sing Prison. Those were magnificent sailing days up and down the wide and narrowing Hudson River, through the gorges at Bear Mountain, and slightly farther north to the West Point Military Academy. But those days came to an end when Bernie moved to Latrobe to set up his new petrographic laboratory. Although his love of sailing remained, the geography of the Latrobe area was not fit for a 30-foot sloop with a 4400-pound lead keel. So, several months later, the boat was sold and replaced by a several-pound golf bag and entourage of woods, irons, and a multicolored umbrella, all provided by Bernie's wife, Barbara.

Now you know why Arnie prefers golfing to sailing—because there is no place to sail in Latrobe. Just think back a moment: If it weren't for a lack of water, Arnie's career might have been captaining the America's Cup team.

But Arnie did not automatically become great in his sport. It took a lot of adjustments and constant fine-tuning before and even during competition. So too does concrete need that constant fine-tuning. Cements and cementitious materials constantly change, chemically and physically, and on short-time bases. Moisture contents and aggregate gradation can vary daily, and concrete properties can vary depending on the temperature of the concrete-making materials and the ambient temperature. Just as Arnie would return to the putting green for some fine-tuning during competition, so does concrete need fine-tuning to accommodate large or subtle changes of its components and adjustments to accommodate ambient conditions.

Become the Arnie of your concrete arena; recognize the changing background of concrete. Keep tight control of your concrete and adjust as needed!

Finally, we haven't forgotten the lawyer's call mentioned earlier. Bill investigated the structure and earmarked certain areas for coring, the cores were subsequently received and analyzed, and the cause of the low strength was identified: too much water relative to the amount of portland cement. It was a simple case of a very high water-cement ratio that greatly exceeded the concrete design requirement. Our client lost, but truth—and golf—prevailed.

Bernard Erlin is president of The Erlin Company (TEC), Latrobe, Pa., and has been involved with all aspects of concrete for over 47 years.

William Hime is a principal with Wiss, janney, Elstner Associates and began working as a chemist at PCA 53 years ago.