The Great Stink !

Where is a Victorian engineer when you need one ?

The Great Stink was an event in central London on March 29th 2019 during which the hot weather exacerbated the smell of untreated politicians and verbal effluent that was present on the banks of the River Thames. The problem had been mounting for nearly 3 years, with an ageing and inadequate Parliamentary system that emptied directly onto the population of the United Kingdom.

Boeing has its Ford Pinto moment ?

When two virtually new commercial aircraft fall out of the sky in similar circumstances within a short time of each other resulting in the death of all passengers and crew an alarm bell rang and in my head. To put it in context I was employed in the motor for nearly 40 years, prior to that I’d worked for a short time in the aviation industry trying to emulate my father who’d spent a lifetime there. I remembered reading things he brought home about air accident investigations, he’d taken me to a vast hanger in Farnborough I think, where remains of crashed aircraft were painstaking reconstructed to try to establish what went wrong. This was in the days before fly by wire and blackbox technology. I was fascinated then and have been ever since. My life in the car industry had a similar edge, how we were under pain of death to never ever use the term “safety critical” on any document and if we ever found one to flag it up so it could be amended into a new and pristine version with the offending versions destroyed. I learned about the Ford Pinto which the makers happily put into production and on sale knowing that in the event of a rear collision the fuel tank would most likely rupture causing an inferno that would probably incinerate the occupants of the car. We learned about looking for things in design or functionality that might, just almost infinitesimally might cause injury or worse to an occupant of one of our vehicles for reasons not due to external circumstances. We looked at everything and then looked again. To knowingly make and sell a car that might have a fault that could in certain circumstance cause someone a problem was to be avoided at all cost. So we come to Boeing 737 MAX problems, it seems to me that this aircraft started out with an issue which Boeing knew about when they put it on the market, of course it’s just conjecture and I couldn’t prove it, but that software upgrade which still isn’t out there, the optional extra safely system warning light that tells you that one of two things are not functioning correctly that can be retrofitted, the issue with Lion Air flight which seemed to point to an addendum to the flight manual which might have not got into the hands of flight crew, the second plane falling out of the sky in almost identical circumstances and the gradual dawning by operators and national aviation authorities that something wasn’t right. Perhaps Boeing really thought this plane was safe to fly, or believed that it was probably safe based on use and testing by highly experienced crew who flew it by the book. The Ford Pinto was perfect as long as it didn’t get hit in the rear, Ford sold it as safe, they actually covered up or attempted to cover up the known safety issue. The parallels are there between Ford and Boeing, the aircraft was the biggest seller in years, the Pinto likewise, the order books outweighed the issues of safety, the risk was accepted and probably without a heavy heart in the name of profit. As I’ve said before I can’t prove anything, but I think there’s a whole bunch of lawyers who will be looking forward to the forthcoming litigation. Will Boeing be put out of business? no but hopefully their will be an element of relearning by all the large corporations, government organisations and public institutions that where safely is concerned there is no way of avoiding an issue in the interests of profit or sheer laziness.

The plot thickens and Facebook is abandoned

The road trip routes and lodging options are starting to become reality, 1st night after an almost night flight, car rental, nights 2 and 3 in up state NY heading towards Montréal in a least urgent fashion. , an experiment with Air BnB here and there, and the absence of Facebook will make it an interesting journey. On the no more Facebook thing it’s been coming for a while. Last year Twitter was abandoned, the cold turkey lasted about a week, but of course I had the Methadone substitute of Facebook to get me through. Some time at the end of 2018 I heard of Facebook free February, that’s like dry January really. Anyhow, I gave dry January a try and it wasn’t so bad so it wasn’t too hard to kick Facebook, I’ve got alcohol to keep me happy again after all ….

It’s been a whole day and a bit without any of the Facebook stuff and I’m already feeling smug , it’s like a huge weight that I’ve been carrying has been lifted, I don’t have to let people know what’s going on , I don’t have to like stuff that I’m not really that interested in, I don’t have to spend time thinking of clever or cheery responses or page through loads of drivel that other people have posted who I don’t actually know. I feel liberated and free, most of all I don’t have to think about what I’m missing. People I know, family and so on have my phone number, they can call or message me, I can do that back, I can send them photos of my lunch, they can send me images of their kids, work, travel, vacations and we can resume real relationships instead of using a platform that does nothing for us except consume our time.

Road trip planning also becomes easier because I’ve got more time to smell the coffee. Oh , I kinda gave up coffee last month and am sleeping so well 🤭

A picture every 3 hours 2015

The great 2015 expedition from west Coast USA up to British Columbia in Canada  featured some new tricks this time. Firstly a picture from wherever we are every day every 3 hours starting at 09:00am local time and ending whenever the last 3 hour block is at an appropriate stop point. Then I plan to put in some video sections of places to show what its like in the best (and worst) places that crop up along the route. I have feeling that the first nights stop over may well be the worst, but it’s only 1 night and Stockton CA being close to I5 may well have some redeeming features.Its just over a month till departure 60% of the route is planned, the rest will be subject to chance and serendipity which is always how it ends up despite starting with different ideas. The roads less travelled are often the most rewarding, the vehicle may find itself on things that are not actually roads at all!

Ooops !

Going West to go due North

As May approaches we look forward to the next road trip. This time we used air miles with our favourite airline to get flights to San Fransisco where we pick up the truck and head up I5 to British Columbia Canada. Why not fly direct you may ask?, Well we like California, we like Oregon even more, and Washington was snowbound mostly when we tried before so it makes sense to visit old friends and much loved landscapes on the way. Once in Canada its going to be a completely new experience, They have plastic see thru money!! , The Canadian dollar is approximately 2 to £1, and iPhone 6 is £183 pounds cheaper than in the UK and based on research it’s a beautiful place. Its a trip thats more than a holiday this time, if it feels right and everything joins up we may just like it enough to stay.


Squamish BC
Squamish BC

So the itinerary looks something like this Victoria BC, Tofino, a tour of the rest of Vancouver Island, then a ferry to the mainland, a good look at Squamish on the Sea to Sky Highway up to Whistler then a round trip down to Vancouver and its surroundings before a leisurely trip back to SFO via Portland, Cannon Beach, Pacific City, Shasta, and Sacramento calling in wherever we know anyone who has the time to say hello. Now if you have any tips or advice I’d be really pleased to hear them.

2015 A short trip to Spain in the Spring and an Oregon Fall

To go by train anywhere these days is quite out of the ordinary for me, but despite quite wanting to do the road-trip we’ve decided to do a bit of both, so it looks like the Eurostar to Paris from London, a quick change of trains then down to Madrid where we pick up a car for a few days scooting around the parts that not many people (tourists) reach. Then back to work for a while before a trip to Oregon to see how it looks in the autumn time. Visiting old haunts at a different time of year often gives a completely different perspective on what you know.

Why Democracy doesn’t really work.

There’s been a slew of odd ballot results recently, we all know where they are and how things turned out. Many if not all went against the popular expectation, some were rigged, some were affected by apathy and some just managed to mobilise a few more of one side or another than expected because someone felt lazy or comfortable with the picture in their head. The thing is you can’t trust polls, I’ve never ever been polled about anything political and neither has anyone I’ve known in the 50+ years I have been aware of what politics is all about. So let’s take the UK Brexit thing, there’s apparently 46 million people of voting age in the UK, just over 17 million voted to leave the EU which means that around 29 million either opted to remain or didn’t care either way so abstained. Similarly in the US, Donald Trumps victory was largely because people didn’t go and vote when they could have. Australia has compulsory voting , but does it produce better electoral results? My guess is that it probably doesn’t because people are compelled they take the least worst option, that’s not always the best potential option though. Is there a better way? I don’t yet have an answer, but it would be interesting to know what your take on it is.

UK Parliamentarians in scramble to save their miserable skins!

Finally the day has dawned on the majority of the elected members of parliament in the UK that they are not fit for purpose, that they have sought political office without having a clue as to what really matters. Being popular, having a role in society, a member of an exclusive club and kidding themselves and their cronies that they are doing what they do for the good of the people of Britain. And now having been found out (although really we knew all along) that they haven’t a clue these political idiots on all sides find themselves at risk of becoming unemployed. Surely the population of the UK will wake up and see that career politicians are not the way forward, not one of them on this showing would hold down a job in a proper company organisation, they would have been warned, disciplined and then fired for incompetence, failure to carry out simple instructions and wilfully ignoring management guidelines. Shameful display, time to do away with them and their anachronistic party political backgrounds.

Apple AirPods 2

I don’t normally do reviews of things but I’m going to make an exception as I’ve just got my hands (ears?) on a pair of the Apple AirPods 2 wireless earbud things. I’ve never really been a fan of portable earphones even though I’ve tried the wired versions and the ones from Bose etc which promise so much but ultimately sound a bit odd compared to what I think it should sound like. My job involves me in listening to music and performances from some of the best in the business so when anything is amplified I don’t want to hear the sound gear unless it’s meant to be there.I want to hear the instruments and the artist. So back to these earphones, I tried the ones you get with your phone, the ones with wires, I got tangled, they got caught on my clothes, they flopped about and they didn’t sound great. In quiet parts I could hear my heartbeat sometimes. So I tried full size on ear headphones, I use a pair with my home studio so an adapter would work, but when I went outside I felt detached from my surroundings and that’s not a good thing in busy central London. The idea of music on the move that allows me to be in the real environment as well was hard to achieve. But I tried a pair of the first generation AirPods a couple of weeks ago and found that I actually felt ok wearing them. This morning the new ones arrived and I’ve been for a walk. I could hear what was going on in the street, birdsong in the park, footsteps on the gravel and music from my playlist without having any restrictions. Furthermore the sound I was hearing was remarkably good, not what I expected from such diminutive little lightweight things. Some say they don’t have enough bass, but then my studio monitors don’t have that either and I like how the music is pretty much as the recording is supposed to be. It might not be true hi-fi, but I’d rather hear the music than the equipment it’s played through and these get close to it.