A Human Menagerie · The Secret Of Systems

Ships That Go Bump In The Night.

The small hours are boring when you’ve done it for ten years. Source: Navy Live

It is the middle of the night and all is quiet. Routine on a naval ship is the normality; the routine in the small hours of the night is even more crucial, because that’s the time when people are at their least aware. It’s nature: humans are better asleep in the depths of the night. Standing around in the dark is simply not as interesting as standing around during the daytime. Even at sea, there are things to see in the daylight, like a seagull. At least there is something; when it’s dark, it’s just one fug of nothingness. The blackness becomes boring for the rating standing lookout on the bridge of the USS Porter.

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Beyond Newton · The Secret Of Systems

Painting By Numbers: The German RAL Colour System.

A Look At Standardization.

There is no connection between the nature of the colour and the number it was given.
We all know what colour this is: do you know what RAL number it is? 😉

Germany is well known for its ability to organize; its bureaucracy is legendary. There are downsides to this, though, and it is the German mind applied to colour that I wish to examine in this post. Standardization in German industry led it to be more effective at producing things, and one of the things needed to produce something is the need to paint it. It is the “Imperial [read centralized] Commission for Consistency and Quality Assurance”; the Reichs-Ausschuß für Lieferbedingungen und Gütesicherung.

One Example Of Standardization.

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The Secret Of Systems

Information In The Information Age.

So, is this a poem or an image… or what, precisely?
This is all a computer gets, and the algorithm has to do the rest.

We live in a world that is knee deep in information. Just walking to the supermarket in our village would add a few details to the log of my mobile phone’s activity.

Well, it would if I carried it about. Information of this kind can never be perfect, and that is on account of the nature of the computer itself. A computer can’t do anything without being told to do it – this can come from another machine, but that machine will have had to be programmed. There’s a problem with programming that I’ll address at another date; suffice it to say that the programmers act out of their comfort zones. What they see is all they can see. This post will take a look at a different angle of what people want that satisfies their comfort zone. That is to say, what people want to see, where the reality is a whole lot simpler.

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Mind The Gap! · The Secret Of Systems

Folding Bikes and Bent Rules.

The Secret Of Systems, Part 12

I wheel my folding bicycle onto a Dutch train. This is strictly against the regulations, but it is tolerated as it makes boarding much faster.

So here is my folding bicycle, on the local train that will take me home. Bicycles that fold up travel free on the Dutch railways, if you have an ordinary bicycle, you have to buy a day ticket that costs €7. Now, according to the rule book, a bicycle has to be folded before you enter the train. As you can see, my bike is still unfolded – and will only be ‘broken’ in the middle for the swift journey home.

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Mind The Gap! · The Secret Of Systems

Live Wires

The Secret Of Systems, Part 11.

The consequences of my error have been far worse than I could have expected. It’s not as if these guys mean to be nasty, they are only doing their job in the way any bureaucrat will. The problem is that they’re doing the job their boss tells them to do and give it no further thought.
This is in my box room, today at 10:51 am.
These are live wires with 220v. The Americans are sensible and only have 110v. That’s not enough to kill.
220v can.
And the Dutch simply don’t care. It doesn’t look much, does it?

(Caution: adult content).

I made a mistake: I let a Dutch tradesman in my home.

Actually, it’s considerably worse than that. The consequences of my error have been far worse than I could have expected. It’s not as if these guys mean to be nasty, they are only doing their job in the way any bureaucrat will. The problem is that they’re doing the job their boss tells them to do and give it no further thought. That means when something unusual happens, they are caught unawares.

Because they removed an electrical socket from my bathroom and then forgot all about it. After all, they’re working in the bathroom, aren’t they?

So there it is: 220v just waiting to catch the pipework.

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A Human Menagerie · The Secret Of Systems

When The System Bites Back.

The worst thing about working behind a desk is that you have to read the paperwork that is in front of you. You can’t switch off in the way you can if you’re fitting wheel-nuts on a production line. Physical work is a tonic in itself, repetitive physical work doesn’t need the brain to be active.
At ten in the morning, the office is humming nicely.
With the waft of coffee in the air.

It’s a Monday morning here in Holland and the week has begun. The newspapers have been spread across the desk, now at half past ten, the second – third? – mug of coffee is being drunk. The interesting headlines are a tranquillizer to the yawning desert that stretches ahead, ended with the joy of meeting the river on Friday evening.

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Creativity · The Secret Of Systems

Confessions Of A Lapsed Adwords Jockey.

I admit it, I was a marketer. A few years back, I met a young man on a train and out of politeness asked him what he did for a living. What surprised me about this smart young man’s response was that he cowered back into his seat in shame! The effect I had on him could not have been more forceful had I threatened him with a large club with nasty looking spikes poking out of it.

It took thirty seconds for the penny to drop. Pennies don’t take long to drop when you understand what drives fear.

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