Re: Feeling old yet?
And Fokker Friendships
85 posts • joined 15 Jul 2009
And Fokker Friendships
I'm afraid that I have had several bad experiences with so-called "Gas Engineers" in the past, both during the Gas Safe era and previously under the CORGI system. As a practicing Engineer myself, I would never trust a technician who is licensed under either CORGI or GSR to do a proper job.
In one case, a relative had their gas fire serviced under a British Gas scheme, and afterwards noticed a smell emanating from the fireplace. On taking the front cover off the fire, I discovered that the main gas supply pipe was only finger tight, the fitter had not checked his work after reassembling the fire. A quick pinch up with the right sized spanner rectified the problem.
In another case, a neighbour had a new gas fire fitted by a GORGI registered fitter, and some years later, whilst undergoing a yearly service by a GSR registered fitter (not the same one), it was discovered that the fire had not been fitted correctly, and was spilling Carbon Monoxide into the living room. This second fitter disconnected the fire and slapped a red sticker on it, to say that it had been condemned. After several attempts to get yet another fitter to go and rectify the situation, the fire is still out of service, as no-one will touch an appliance that has been condemned by a different fitter, and the fitter who condemned it won't touch it because he didn't install it in the first place. So my neighbour has been without a living room fire for the last 13 years.
And gas fitters aren't the only ones who can be incompetent. I once had electric storage heaters installed by a registered electrician, but when the electricity company inspector came to inspect the installation, he refused to pass it because it did not have its own Earth Leakage Trip in addition the the existing one for the rest of the house. The installer came and added the ELT, but that was again condemned by the inspector because the installer had insisted on bypassing the ELT with a solid earth, thus rendering both ELTs inoperative. A three week long argument (in Slow Motion) ensued between these two bodies until I took the law into my own hands and removed the offending earth wire. Next time the inspector came, he was satisfied, and passed the system.
I have worked in several different departments of a large electrical engineering company, and unless you know your stuff, you don't last long in that sort of environment.
They are NOT Engineers. An Engineer is someone who has spent four to eight years studying to at least BSc level in an engineering discipline, and that does not include gas fitters, electricians, and car mechanics. In many foreign countries, including Canada and Germany (where I have worked) it is ILLEGAL to call onesself an Engineer unless one holds the correct qualifications. I'm afraid that a City and Guilds in Gas Fitting does not cut the mustard. It makes my blood boil when I see adverts stating that "One of our Engineers will be with you within three hours". No they won't, a gas fitter or other technician will come and fix your broken down boiler, an electrician will come and replace your blown socket, or a mechanic will come and fix your car engine, but not one of them will be qualified to be called an Engineer. It's about time the Institute of Mechanical Engineers and other regulatory bodies put a stop to this abuse of their qualification, and banned the use of the word Engineer except by those who are real Engineers. It is a pity that I can only add one icon, I would have liked to add a string of them right across the page.
Iain C. Purvis MSc. GMIMechEng.
When I was working for a large electrical manufacturing company in the Midlands, I was once a member of a team that was developing a Motor Control Centre for all-electric ships. We were a loose mix of electrical and mechanical engineers, and I was detailed (amongst other functions) to keep an eye on the budget. I could write and sign for requisitions up to £1000, my immediate boss up to £5000, and the Project Leader up to £10,000. One day it became necessary to order a very large, very special, electric motor to act as a surrogate load for the equipment during testing (think 8 feet diameter by 10 feet long, weighing several tons). We approached various other companies, including our fellow engineers in a different division of our own company, and the cheapest quote we received was for a quarter of a million pounds, but no-one was willing to take responsibility for spending that much money, so, as I was the most junior and therefore the least irreplaceable, I wrote and signed the Purchase Order myself. Project Leader was summoned to Head Office and asked to explain why I, a mere Development Engineer, had been allowed to sign the PO. Project Leader points out that, unless we have this motor, all development on the equipment will stop, and the Navy's shiny new Destroyer will be just a floating hotel. We got the motor tout suite.
Back in the mid eighties, when I first had a Spectrum, I 'borrowed' an old Star DMP from the development lab at work, as it was just sitting on a shelf gathering dust. It was rather noisy, but sounded quite pleasant, and I had it on unofficial loan for a long time. About eleven months down the line I was approached by the Lab Supervisor and quietly advised to return it as they were expecting to be audited quite soon. During the audit, it was declared to be surplus to requirements, and ceremoniously binned, despite the fact that it was in perfect working order. I had to buy a nasty thermal printer as that was all I could afford at that time.
And Coventry (please!)
I fell foul of a Feiertag whilst on holiday in Austria some years ago. I had very carefully planned an itinerary that took in two steam hauled railways and a long distance tram ride out of Innsbruck, but failed to realise that the Thursday on which I set out happened to be some religious holiday, and there was only a Sunday service on the local and regional railways (the Intercity was still on schedule). Upshot was that the first local train did not appear, so I missed the first regional and the first Intercity, and the whole thing came unravelled from there on. I only managed to catch the lower half of the Zillertal steam excursion back to the main line, and then had to start my return journey in order to get back in time for the last local train, or I'd have had to wait until the following morning to get back to the hotel.
Similar thing happened to me when I was running the Technical Publications Department of a large electrical manufacturing company in the Midlands. We had several Xerox desktop publishing workstations networked on Thick Ethernet, and one of them developed a sticky hard drive, which wouldn't spin up when switched on. I swapped it for the HDD out of my workstation, so I had the task of giving it a slight rotational wiggle every morning, and the other user didn't have the problem any more. I also wrote a small Terminate and Stay Resident (TSR) program to install on all of the drives to automatically park the heads after a few seconds of non use, as the HDDs were not self parking in those days. As the whole department was made redundant in 1992, I have no idea what happened to all that equipment.
My wife used to work in the Collections and Credits Department of a large midland electrical manufacturing company, whose SOP was to pay bills at the end of the month in descending order of size. When the money ran out for that particular month, those small companies who hadn't been paid were pushed on to the next month's list, where, of course, they ended up at the bottom of the pile, so were pushed again next month, and so on, and so on. Another part of the department, which dealt with incoming payments from customers, would sometimes issue threatening letters to those customers which hadn't paid their bills, culminating in court summonses. Three times during the five years my wife worked in that department, they took small companies to court, only to have the court rule in the debtor's favour on the grounds that $BigCo owed them more than the bill in question, and they had withheld payment pending settlement of their own claim. In each case, costs were also awarded. Manglement simply couldn't get it into their heads that they were the cause of their own grief.
I applied for a job as Chief Engineer in charge of the power station and vehicle fleet in Fiji, back when it was governed by a British Governor. I didn't get the job, but I was very thankful I failed when, a few months later, there was a military coup which ousted the Governor and took over running the country.
When I was a kid of about six or seven, I was given a new Space Watch for Christmas. This was basically a normal analogue watch with two numbered discs in place of the hands, and a stainless steel case with two small holes to view the numbers as they progressed past, in order to tell the time. When I put it on my wrist, it immediately stopped. Put it on the mantlepiece, and it would start working again. On my wrist - stops dead, on the mantlepiece, desk, bedside table, anywhere - starts working again. Sent it back to watch shop, no fault found. Several trips later, they gave up and sent me a normal wristwatch, which proceeded to exhibit the same phenomenon. Other members of my family could wear it successfully, but not me. Gave it to my sister, and was given a pocket watch, which worked OK as long as I kept it in my shirt pocket. I was the only kid at school who wore a pocket watch and chain, much to the amusement of the teachers. Problem went away as I grew older, but never did find the cause.
While I was working in a large chemical factory in northern Germany, installing some new cell line shorting switches, I witnessed a potentially dangerous, but extremely amusing incident. My Boss and I had finished the installation of the twelve switches along the side of the Castner-Kellner chlorine producing cell, and the local operatives had lowered the tank lid into position and clamped it down with several tens of large plastic G-cramps. I was intrigued as to why they were using plastic cramps and not metal ones, I presumed that it was for electrical insulation reasons, but it was soon to become obvious why. I was in the control room observing as the switches we had installed were opened by remote control to divert the electrical current through the brine in the cell to begin producing Chlorine gas by electrolysis, and my Boss was outside on the production floor watching the operatives as they moved around on top of the tank making fine adjustments to the depth of the electrodes into the brine solution to equalise the local voltage drops. Suddenly, an alarm went off in the control room, and the Controller made an urgent sounding announcement (in German) over the Tannoy on the production floor. Every one of the operatives on top of the tank dropped their adjustment keys and turned towards the door into the refuge room. At that moment there was an enormous WHOOSH, and the tank lid, about 100 feet by 30 feet, lifted two feet into the air, firing the plastic G-cramps out sideways, and propelling the operatives vertically into the air, where they all commenced "Running on the Spot" in mid air, before landing in full panic mode back on the tank lid and scarpering towards and through the refuge room door, slamming it behind the last man in. A large brown cloud of Chlorine gas rolled across the production floor after them, engulfing my Boss and the Production Supervisor, who were not fast enough to reach the Control Room door before it did. The extraction system kicked in and soon cleared the gas out into the atmosphere outside the factory, and Boss and Prod Sup staggered into the Control Room and sat down to regain their breath. Although this was an extremely dangerous situation, resulting eventually in the untimely death of my Boss some weeks later, it was obviously well planned for by the Production Staff of the factory, and was, at the time, excruciatingly funny to see several blokes all swivel as if magentically attracted, start running in mid air, and, on landing, all make it to and through a narrow doorway into the refuge.
Whilst on the Isle of Skye, I took my disabled wife to visit a seal watching hide overlooking the estuary. The road from the car park was barred by a gate with a combination padlock, and Blue badge holders were invited to phone an Edinburgh number to get the combination to allow them to open the gate and drive about half a mile nearer to the hide. I looked at my mobile phone - no signal. No land line anywhere in sight, so I looked at the four digit rotary barrel lock. Applied a bit of tension and twiddled the barrels until each went slack, and opened the gate. I don't know how the RSPB expected anyone to contact them from a signal deadspot, unless one was expected to return to civilisation to get the combination, but by then, the moment would probably have passed.
...and there is a river in Dorset called the Piddle (or Trent). It runs through Piddle Trenthide, Puddletown, and Tolpuddle (among others).
Back in the early seventies, when I was working for a very large electrical engineering company in the Midlands, we were all beavering away making Arnold's Millions for him, when the whole site went dark. A construction company was improving the main road out from town out towards the motorway and a very big digger had cut right through the main incomer to our site. In the resulting explosion, the bucket and outer half of the arm had melted, and the molten metal had cooled and fused into a solid lump in the resultant hole. It took most of the week to reinstate the high voltage supply to the factory, but the offices were given an emergency supply by means of a couple of diesel generators in the car park. ( Icon because that's what it looked like from our office).
When I was Deputy IT Manager for a Technical Publications company near Birmingham (UK), the IT Manager and I instigated a procedure whereby every incoming and outgoing floppy disc was run through a virus checker (I forget which one) on a sandbox machine that was not connected to our office network before being allowed to be used on site. This procedure was supposed to be used across all eight sites, no exceptions. One afternoon, as I was checking the outgoing discs for that day's production, I suddenly received an alarm that one of the discs was infected. I rang the IT Manager, who was at a different site that day, and he basically said to stop anyone using floppies until he got to our office. I disconnected the Thin Ethernet cables at the back of my computer, thereby freezing the entire network, and stood up on my desk to make the announcement. I then had to go round every computer, armed with the Silver Bullet disc to check them for infection, and also run everyone's discs through the sandbox computer. It turned out that only one computer was infected, the user was from another of our offices (Coventry), and had thought that, as he was still inside our organisation, he did not need to have his floppies checked (oo-er missus). I then phoned Coventry office to inform them that they were the source of the infection, and the IT manager went there next day to help their Deputy sort it out. I then reconnected the Thin Ethernet at my computer to bring the network up again. Earned my salary that day.
On holiday in Buxton, we were intending to visit one of the museums (musea?). As I was short of the readies, I told wife and kids to go to the museum, and I'd meet them there after I'd "robbed the bank". Went into Barclay's and withdrew a few notes, and on leaving, was passed by several very red-faced puffing coppers going in the opposite direction. I realised later that someone must have heard me say "rob the bank", and called the police. Strolled nonchalantly away hoping I'd not feel the heavy hand on the shoulder.
Kennedy was shot - accidentally - by one of his security guards, who was riding in the Cadillac following Kennedy's Lincoln. He shouldn't have been there, but as the rostered security detail went out on the piss the previous night, and were unfit for duty, Kelly was press-ganged into riding shotgun. Oswald's first shot was deflected by a street sign and hit the kerbstone, sending up a shower of stone fragments, some of which hit Kennedy in the face. Kennedy said "I'm hit", at which point Governor Connoley turned in his seat to see what was going on. The second shot entered through Kennedy's neck and exited through his voice box, then hit Connoley in the shoulder, passing through and eventually lodging in the back of the front passenger seat. When he heard the first of Oswald's shots, Kelly stood up to see what was going on, grabbing the .22 repeater as he did so. When Oswald's second shot rang out, he swung round and the gun went off, shooting across the top of the windscreen of the Caddy and entering the back of Kennedy's head, disintegrating inside his skull and blowing his right temple off, complete with about a third of his brain. Oswald was using 9mm Full Metal jacket ammo, which would not have caused the quarter inch hole in the back of Kennedy's skull, that was made by the .22 Dum-Dum ammo used in the Security department's weapon.
I had a car battery explode - on my first date with the lady who eventually became my wife. Took her to Santa Pod Dragway, and on the return trip the battery started smoking, so I stopped the car and opened the bonnet, to see jets of smoke squirting out from where the plastic had melted around the terminal posts. Quickly disconnected and removed the battery, but luckily a passing fellow drag racing enthusiast stopped to help. Used his battery to start the car and raised the idle speed so that the alternator kept it alive on the drive back. Had to drop GF outside her parents' house and scoot back home as I couldn't stop the engine or it would have needed another battery to start it again.
I recently bought a very second-hand wheel balancer, but there was no power brick supplied with it. On investigation (RTFM), it became apparent that it would accept either 10 volts AC or 12 volts DC, but as the input went first to a bridge rectifier, the DC polarity was immaterial. A wonderful piece of kit, and a well designed power input system.
Didn't you fit a silencer, then?
Shadow Systems said "Like if you make a request to know whom owns the vehicle with plate $XYZ123 & the department of motor vehicles sends you not only the owner's name, but address as well." Not any more, here in the UK. I asked for owner information for an historic vehicle I was restoring back in 1990 and was given chapter and verse, names, addresses, dates of acquisition, MOTs, etc. etc. This January I asked for the same information regarding another vehicle, but was met with a firm refusal, all they are willing to supply me with is the anonymised dates of change of ownership.
AK Stiles said " The council will know this from the council tax record for the property (single occupant pays less than multiple people occupying, zero occupants pays less again I believe)". Again, not true. Single occupancy attracts a 25% discount on Council tax, but a vacant property is only exempt from CT for a limited time (two years I think). My next door neighbours fell foul of this when their mother died, they left the house empty for a while, intending to do it up and sell it, but after two years they were presented with a bill for double Council tax. The council explained that this was to dissuade owners from leaving property empty and thus reduce the number of families looking for property.
I joined NTL when they first put a cable down my street back in about 1997 or so. I mainly did so because BT refused to take me back after I had transferred both telephony and dial-up internet access to Screaming.net, who then sold the business to another POS organisation, who promptly dropped the telephony part and left me with a dead phone line. Fast forward several years, and NTL became Virgin, all well and good, I had all the connectivity I needed to run my business and personal life. Then I was forced to give up my home, and decided to move to the Wild West (well, Wales, actually), and Virgin's tentacles don't reach that far, and they refused to utilise LLU from the BT box just half a mile away. I am now back with BT, but V said that I would lose my NTLworld email addresses after 3 months, as I had chosen to leave them. I argued that no, I hadn't chosen to leave them, I had asked them to continue my service, but they had refused, stating that I was outside their service area. We eventually reached an agreement, I can still receive incoming emails through my NTLworld addresses using POP3, but I can't send through SMTP, and I can't access the email service online to make any changes. How long this will continue remains to be seen, but in the meantime I am migrating everything to my own .co.uk domain name and using hosting for both website and email provided by a relative's ISP service.
My grandfather was an ostler in an artillery battery in northern France during the early part of WW1, in charge of a team of six or eight horses hitched to a limber used to drag the guns to and from their firing positions and keep them supplied with shells during barrages. He was invalided out and, after recuperating, joined the RFC as a "Labourer", ie, ground crew. On the 1st April 1918 he was automatically transferred to the new RAF with the rank of Private, 2nd Class. He was demobbed in 1919 and returned to his previous occupation as a tea roundsman with Lyons' Tea Houses, delivering tea and other supplies around east London from a horse drawn van, later replaced with a motorised van. He often used to reminisce about his active service on the Front during 1914 - 1915, but never told us anything about his time in the RAF, we only found out about that when we found his medals after he passed away. They were the War Medal and the Victory Medal, inscribed "Charles Purvis, 238950 Pte 2nd class, RAF".
A long time ago, when we used to use Dictaphones to dictate our documents and then send them to the typing pool for typing up and posting, one of the engineers was dictating a specification for an electric train controller. The controller was used to regulate the amount of electrical current through the traction motors by switching in or out different amounts of resistance, a technique known as "Notching Up". What he said was "The controller must pass 1000 amps on the first notch", but what the typist heard and subsequently wrote was "The controller must pass 1000 Amps on the first of March".
One would have thought that if you make a will leaving everything to a family member, that this would include such details. Of course, if you die intestate, then these questions and problems will arise, and someone will have to go through the courts to obtain probate. Moral of this story, make a will and keep it up to date before you get into a condition where you cannot do so.
Not IT related, but when I was working as a development engineer for a very large electrical manufacturer in the Midlands, we had a rush job to refurbish two cabinets of circuit breakers for BR Southern Region. The final assembly was being done in a bay we called "The Elephant House" because of its high lift capability, by our two Elephant Trainers, Sid and Sam. Because of a delay in procuring some vital parts, the build was not completed until late on Friday afternoon, and Dispatch and Transport were waiting impatiently outside with the Commer TS3 (sounded lovely, ever heard one on full song?) low loader. Eventually, Sid and Sam completed buckling up the cabinets, which were about four feet square and eight feet high, and lifted them with the overhead crane onto the low loader. Without waiting for any strapping down, the driver (who was anxious to get home) drove off down the yard to D&T. Everything was fine until he started to back it into their loading bay, which involved negotiating a slight ramp up from ground level to the building floor level. As he was approaching at a 45° angle to the threshold, one side of the semitrailer rose and tipped both cabinets off the other side, where they crashed to the ground, destroying all of the circuit breakers inside and distorting the cabinet frames. They were eventually lifted back onto the low loader and returned to the Elephant House, but, needless to say, they weren't delivered that week (or the next, either).
On a similar note, when I was an apprentice at the Trade School, I was one of only two apprentices that had been checked out on the fork lift and worksaver, so we had to do any heavy lifting and transporting around the school. One day we were tasked with lifting a large (about 500lbs) machine vice onto the worktable of a shaping machine. We completed this task but, as it was tea break, left bolting it down until we had returned the worksaver to its charging station and had our tea break. As we walked back into the machine shop there was an almighty crash. The apprentice who was working on that shaper was rather keen to get on, and had returned early from the canteen. He had placed his workpiece in the vice and knocked it up (ie set it level and tightened the vice), adjusted the tool height for the first cut, and as we walked in through the door, he pulled the lever and the tool hit the workpiece, sending it and the vice off the end of the table. Luckily the operating lever was at the side of the machine, otherwise it would probably have killed him. As it was, it made a very large hole right through the concrete floor, which took several days to get Site Services to repair. We were hauled over the coals for not bolting it down before we left it, but he shouldn't have been in the building on his own either, so we were just given a slap on the wrist each and told to be more careful next time. The lad was moved to a less dangerous machine, but left soon afterwards as he was not really suited to an engineering apprenticeship.
When I was working for a very large electrical engineering company, building motor control gear for a well known maritime organisation, I also caused mayhem with part of my anatomy. One of the units was in Test, and the testers were doing a heat run, running the equipment at full chat whilst the observers from the customer looked on. I had gone into Test to take some photographs for the Instruction Manual that I was preparing (I was in technical Manuals Department at the time) and I had to scrunch myself up into one corner of the roped-off area in order to get all of the cabinets in shot. Suddenly everything went dark, and the high pitched whine of the invertors wound down the scale to inaudibility. Cue furious shouts from the Test Engineers, I had inadvertently backed onto one of the emergency shutdown buttons that were located at various points around the department, and that had shut off all power to the Test area and surrounding parts of the building. A complete morning's heat run ruined, and the customer's observers were distinctly unimpressed. The heat run had to be rescheduled for the next morning as it had to start from cold. Needless to say, I was NOT allowed into Test whist a heat run was being performed on that or any further equipments.
When I was in the forces during the Cold war, we had three different siren warning scenarios:
Wailing up and down - imminent danger of air attack - as per WW2
Continuous note - All Clear - as per WW2
Intermittent siren at constant pitch - imminent danger of approaching nuclear fallout
This was achieved by turning the siren's handle at constant speed and alternately opening and closing the shutters on the front of the siren.
Thankfully, we never had to actually send out these warnings during the whole 25 years I was in the ROC.
Unfortunately we were "stood down" in 1991 as there was no longer perceived to be any further threat of nuclear war, but maybe with Mr T and Mr K in charge of their respective countries, we should be "stood up" again?
When I worked for a large electrical engineering company, we were installing some contactors at a research installation in Hampshire. The foreman told us to "be very careful because there [was] a reactor on the other end of that cable". To us, as electrical engineers, a reactor was simply a large coil of copper wire with either an iron or an air core, which induces a lag in the phase rotation. No, this reactor was a Nuclear Reactor! One false electrical impulse and it would have been Goodbye Basingstoke.
Similarly, the expression "The Devil to pay and only half a bucket of tar" refers to not having enough resources to finish the job in hand. A mixture of hemp and tar was used to seal (pay) the joints between the timbers, and the longest joint on the deck was called the Devil.
When I was courting, I was using my mother's 100E, but it just didn't cut the mustard as a passion wagon. I put feelers about at the college I was studying at, and soon found an old Austin Princess 3 Litre for the princely sum of £20 from one of the lecturers. After we were married and the Princess failed its MOT, we went to buy a new(ish) Vauxhall. My wife said she liked our old number plate, a second series (ie 3 numbers followed by 3 letters), so we transferred it onto the Vauxhall. It is now on its ninth car, my Classic Range Rover. This goes to show that you don't have to have large amounts of spare cash to own a desirable number plate, just be at the right place at the right time. As it happens, way back in the late Seventies, when the Third Series (3 letters, 3 numbers, and a Year Suffix) was approaching its end, the DVLA ran a competition to design a new system, which would consist of seven digits as previously and allow for more combinations. In the end they opted to simply reverse the Third Series (Year Prefix, 3 numbers, 3 letters), which took them up to the end of the century. I entered that competition and suggested a system which is almost identical with the current system, only the Registration Office letters have been changed from my suggestion. So, if as another commentard has stated, the system is ridiculous, I'm afraid that I'm at least partly to blame. (and no, I wasn't credited with the suggestion, nor did I receive any form of prize).
This was also done by the students at University College, London, about the same time. Engineering department students rigged a sheerlegs on the roof of the Engineering Building during the day, when it was not unusual for students to be up there, and one night they pushed the Austin Seven (about 1928 vintage, I think) up to the blank end wall of the building, hooked the hoist onto its front axle, and winched it up onto the roof. It was then manhandled across the roofs of that and other buildings until it was left perched crossways above the main entrance portico. College authorities had to employ the army and a huge crane to lift it down as they never found out who put it up there.
Many years later, at a College of Engineering in the Midlands where I was studying, one of our classmates woke up one morning to find his beloved Beetle perched on four (empty) beer barrels outside the Principal's Office.
"or the old prank about sending the apprentice to the stores for a 'Long Stand'..."
...or the packet of sparks for the grinding machine.
Back in the early 90s I was employed as a Technical Author and Editor at a small publishing company in a suburb of Birmingham (UK). After I had been there a couple of years, I became friends with the IT Manager (let's call him George) as I was interested in home computing and networking. One day he mentioned that he was having problems extending the office network, so I spent some time at home researching the problem, and came up with a solution, of which I duly appraised him. He thought that this would have to be done over the weekend, as it entailed a complete rewire of the offices' IT cabling, and would I like to come in on Sunday (for double pay!) to help him carry it out. We ripped out the thin Ethernet cables and reconfigured them to take a shorter route, and split the network into two halves with a bridge between them. Come Monday, no-one noticed the difference as everything was working perfectly. About a year later, we (the company) bought our main rivals and merged the two businesses. George was now the IT Manager for all eight offices, and each office had a Deputy IT Manager with George on a roving basis in charge of all eight. He offered me the position of Deputy IT Manager at the original office, which was now Head Office. As part of the re-organisation, we had a new Office Manager assigned from one of the other offices. Everything went along smoothly for a couple of months, and I was then summoned to the new Office Manager's cubicle, where he proceeded to berate me on the fact that my Technical Writing output was down, I hadn't done any editing, and that I was spending too much time "interfering with other Authors' computers", and if I didn't buckle down and improve my productivity he would have to "let me go". I asked him if he had actually read my job description, which he admitted (eventually) that he hadn't. I left the cubicle and printed off a copy, which I returned to him and left him to read it. About ten minutes later, my phone rang, and a very apologetic Office Manager said that he had phoned George, who had scorched his ears for him, and would I accept his apologies, together with a 20% pay rise. We are still good friends, even though I was head-hunted away from there many years ago.
I was a VM customer since the ntl: days (ie, before VM even existed). I have recently been forced to move house, but I chose to move to a small village near the welsh border. VM refused to extend my connection, they apparently don't include Wales as part of the civilised world, and they refuse to use Local Loop Unbundling (LLU) to install their kit in a BT box, despite the fact it is only 3 miles from their nearest hub. I was extremely pissed off that they tried to charge me £30 "disconnection fee", I had a big argument with their Regional Manager and pointed out that it was they that disconnected me, not the other way round, as I was still asking for their service to continue. I am now with BT, but their service is nowhere near as good as I had with VM.
After all, they are *PLAYING* a *GAME*. If I want to play a game of most sorts (and they definitely do not include football), I have to pay to use the facilities provided for me. If I want to use the local climbing wall in our leisure centre, I have to pay £6.50 for an hour's session. If they want to chase a ball around the pitch, let them pay for their entertainment.
This exact phenomenon happened to me as well. We were on our way to the Black Forest in Germany in 1999, and had planned our route to pass along the Autoroute north of Metz at the correct time. The french authorities decreed that all traffic on the Autoroutes should stop some ten minutes before totality, so we were in an Aire, but it was ten tenths overcast and pouring with rain. We thought that we were going to miss the show, when a small hole appeared in the cloud cover, and we were treated to a magnificent view of the String of Pearls and the Diamond Ring, before the clouds healed up again and the rain resumed. Nearly everybody in that Aire were cheering and taking flash photographs (why flash against the sun?), and ten minutes later the Autoroute was opened again and we continued on our way.
I was at school with a lad called Warren Peace. What were his parents thinking?
I went to school with a chap named Warren Peace. What were his parents thinking of???
Whilst I was away at Uni, my mother passed my huge collection of Meccano (Put together over many years from my pocket money) and my collection of Dinky and Corgi cars and lorries, to my cousins. The next time I visited my uncle on his farm in Devon, the farmyard was littered with Meccano pieces, mostly rusty and crushed by the passing of the tractor and other implements. Broke my heart. On the other hand, I now regret getting rid of several collectable cars that were, at the time, beyond economic repair but now would be priceless. Such as a 1959 Chevrolet "Gull-Wing" station wagon, a 1961 Van Den Plas Princess 3 litre, a 1947 Austin 10 (the same age as myself), two 1960ish Goggomobils, and a 1961 BMW Isetta bubble car. 20-20 hindsight is no substitute for a glimpse into the future.
Last time I saw a total eclipse was in August 1999. We were on our way on holiday to Switzerland by car and planned our route to be just south of Metz in France at the critical time. Of course, it was raining heavily, with 10/10ths cloud cover, but as the French authorities imposed a standstill on the Autoroutes for the duration, we were in an Aire (a sort of glorified layby, but not a service stop). We couldn't see a thing until, magically, the clouds parted and we had a glorious view of the Solar Corona. A huge cheer went up from all the assembled multitude, a thousand cameras flashed (why?), and then the clouds closed up again and darkness once again ruled. We didn't get to see Bailey's Beads or the Diamond Ring effects, but it was a truly magnificent spectacle.
Some years ago our TV reception slowly deteriorated to the point we started losing channels. I suspected the aerial downlead was damaged, so joined a new length of co-ax to it and pulled it through. The old cable was chewed almost through at one point, where it ran through the roof space. Later that night I heard scrabbling noises in the ceiling, opened the bedroom window and shone a torch up under the eaves. The back half of a large rat was protruding, he was obviously enjoying a feast of the new co-ax. Next morning I fitted a balloon grating over the top of the rainwater downpipe to prevent him climbing up again, problem solved.
When I was in Junior School in the mid fifties, one of the boys brought a .303 shell in to show off to his mates. It was discovered that it was a perfect fit in the support wire holes in the concrete fenceposts around the playing field, so it was inserted, and hit with a nail and a rock. Enormous bang, cloud of dust, and the bullet hit the next fencepost in line, causing a large crater in the side. Not as large as the crater in the post that had held the shell, though. The hole on the cap side still fitted the cartridge case, but was about three inches diameter on the other side, with the reinforcing bars bulged outwards into the air, and the brass of the case laminated against the tapered sides of the crater. Damage was still there many years later when I revisited the school before I went up to university. There was a lot of live ammo kicking around during that period, another schoolboy (not from my school though) put a cartridge in the vice and used a hacksaw to try to remove the detonator end, the shell went off and the bullet entered his left forearm, travelled along through the muscle, and exited from his elbow. He recovered, but his left arm was always weak after that. Kids today don't know what fun we had.
Justice is not for the little person, I too have battled with a large financial organisation for the last four years, and eventually I have had to sell my home of 35 years and move into rented accommodation in order to pay the legal fees. At the final hearing last October, the judge didn't even read my defence deposition, he asked one question about when the mortgage had expired, and in spite of it having been mis-sold on two counts, awarded the building society a possession order. Unless you have unlimited funds or the backing or a large organisation, you are doomed to lose to those who have more money and resources than you.
I wrote a small TSR (Terminate and Stay Resident) program in X86 machine code to automatically park the heads on all of our hard disks, as they didn't auto-park but stopped where-ever they had last read. One of our workstations had a sticky drive too, so I swapped it for the one from my workstation so I had the problem, and every Monday morning I just opened the back of the machine and swivelled the HD back and forth (it wasn't screwed in) until I heard the disk spin up. Lasted several years like that until we upgraded.
I once had a user who complained that he couldn't log in to his new system as the password he was typing was being replaced by "Blobs". He would then delete them and try again, with the same result. Took me a long time to convice him that the Blobs were there to disguise his password so no-one else could look over his shoulder while he typed, and that pressing the Enter key would let him in.
"Short term, no-one has produced methodologically sound evidence of any serious harm*" Bollocks!
My father smoked all his life, and died horribly, painfully, and slowly from Emphysemia, his lungs turned to a black goo, and he was on oxygen for the last three miserable years of his life.
If you want to see a good reason to give up, go visit someone like my Dad in the last stages of his suffering.
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