Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Washington: it could have been worse.

My condolences to the families of the seven people who have lost their lives in the metro crash, and my sympathies to the injured and their families. I have been reading the reports of what happened and know from the major Tube accidents in London at King's Cross and Moorgate that it can have far reaching consequences on all those involved.

Now the NTSB have to work out why it happened and one thing that I have noticed in various reports is the mention of the state in which a lot of the infrastructure of the system is in, it seems to vary from "clean and reliable" to "crumbling" and "in a state of dis-repair". I suspect that - as in most cases - this point of view is coloured by which part of the system the persons making these comments actually use.

My biggest worry is not that this happened by why it happened. Not knowing how the metro system in DC is run, I can only speculate that the problem behind this accident could be one of lack of investment and I'm hoping that we are not looking at yet another case of "Damn the customers, we need to keep the share-holders happy".

Maybe some of the financial people of the world should realise they are not exempt from life and that one day they may very well have to face the same change in life that the families of those seven people are now having to come to terms with themselves.

A plea to all the governments of the world: make sure that your health and safety laws make it prohibitively expensive so that it is always cheaper for companies and their directors to carry out safety work, rather than take the hit with the fines and law suits.

Monday, 22 June 2009

Some good news for once.

At long last the British educational system is actually investing some money in respect of specialist support for dyslexic children(BBC News 22/06/09). Ed Balls, the Children's Secretary has announced 10m(GBP) to help train teachers in coping with dyslexic children and how to spot the signs. One of the biggest dyslexia charities in the UK, Dyslexia Action, has welcomed it.

Classic Dyslexia - word blindness as it used to be called - is only one manifestation of the condition: being married to one and having both son's suffer from it, I can vouch for this. It is evident throughout my wife's family, stemming from my father-in-law who, along with my sister-in-law are "classic" sufferers.

My wife and eldest son suffer from a curious form in that they cannot tell which way round any writing they are viewing is actually written or printed: my eldest son has also been described as having "eccentric spelling".

The condition is no barrier thanks to the dedication of carers, enlightened teachers and parents and I suspect a lot of people wouldn't realise just how many house-hold names are sufferers. Look here for just a sample.

My youngest son has what has been described by one specialist as "dyslexia in extremis". It manifested itself at the age of two, when most children are starting to communicate: he didn't. One of the unusual symptoms was that he seemed to find it strange that the group of sounds that made up words never changed, the concept was totally alien to him. Slowly but surely, with the expert tuition and help from our local primary school, he is coming to terms with it.

One point that rarely seems to get mentioned in any article, conversation or discussion on the condition is that of the frustration that comes with it. Not just for the parents and carers of the sufferer but of the sufferer themselves. My son has been tested for ADHD more than once because of his extreme frustration at not being understood, and I can understand why being the subject of his rage more than once.

It is nice to know that in these cases, the best medicine is not some form of oral medication but just being there to hug and cuddle this poor, confused, frustrated child until his anger and rage passes.

And to answer those of you out there who would pose the question, would you have it any different?.... yes and no I would love for him not to have to suffer this extreme version of the condition, but would he be the same loving, forthright, outgoing person that it has made him into?

Most importantly, he is my son, and I love him dearly.

Saturday, 13 June 2009

Oh No! Not again!

I think the Universe has actually been replaced!
In Douglas Adam's masterpiece the Cirius Cybernetics Corporation purely made robots and automation.... Have they branched out into the food industry????

Seen on the back of a 230g bag of Maltesers:

"Share" and "Enjoy"

Monday, 8 June 2009

Design over Function

There have been, what can only be called, "glitches" in the statistics relating to road traffic accidents here in the UK and in Europe for some time now. There seems to be a tenuous connection to weather conditions but not in the way most people would expect. These mainly occur when the conditions are bright and dry and most frequently at roundabouts (insert American term here!), especially where the "priority" and first joining junctions are at 90° or sharper angles to each other. What seems to happen is that two vehicles " T-bone" with the vehicle entering from the priority junction invariably being the size of your average family and rarely anything larger than an MPV.

I think I've come up with a possible reason why it happens. It may very well be the placement of the indicators on the front of the vehicle. Some manufacturers currently have models where they are well back down the side of the vehicle.

Let's face it, I am paranoid so I immediately assume the other driver is not concentrating as they approach. So if I don't see a near-side indicator, I brake and give way. OK, this behavior normally leads to me pissing off those behind me as the other car has then turned into the road I've been joining from, but the number of times a car has joined and I have seen the rear indicators actually on is at least equal to those where they aren't.

There can only be two conclusions: one, the front lamp is broken: two, the design of the lighting cluster means that the indicator isn't visible unless the angle between the two vehicles is less than a certain amount.

Number one does happen, but you can tell this from the rate of the flash: practically all the electronics to operate them are designed to run at a far faster rate if a lamp blows or falls out(!).

Conclusions. There is no substitute for concentrating on what you are doing, especially if you are behind the wheel. But the automotive designers need to examine where the line between style and safely comes and do a little re-designing.

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

I spoke too soon......

Actually it's not the boss this time... it's the trolls from the Finance Department. It seems that for the third year running someone has forgotten to budget for a set of software licences that the customer is paying us to renew...

Now I wonder whose office got re-decorated this year with that money!

Or is it a case of.... "Due to budgetary restraints, the light at the end of the tunnel has had to be turned off."
[deep sigh, wanders off to the coffee machine for a refill.]

Relax! It's a new week!

It's been a few weeks since I posted: the wonderful Dual D's of diabetes and depression kept me off the web for a week, and then a week of enforced leave with no internet connection for another.

Enforced? - Yes. My GP said that if I didn't take some time off I'd end up a gibbering wreck huddled in a corner somewhere.

Last week was "half-term" week in the UK so I took advantage of this and took the family out to Norfolk to see my Father: the boys thoroughly enjoy visiting him. As usual there were the odd one-or-two jobs that needed assistance, this time clearing my father's attic out so that some new insulation could be put in. It was hot and dirty work, but it's incredible how a week of doing something completely different like this can be so relaxing, even if it's even a mundane task.

So re-vitalised I return to work. Even aggravation from our own pointy-haired boss doesn't get through to me to start with. Now, that has to be some kind of success!