Tag Archives: red dwarf

Godly Positioning System… (Deus Ex GPS)

I blame Robert Llewellyn for this blog.

He asked a question on Google+ as to what someone who hadn’t even considered God would be called. After all, there are terms for non-believers, terms for those that aren’t sure and there are terms for those who believe…. but what if you simply haven’t thought about it at all?

Don’t worry… this isn’t about to get all religious and heavy!

I reckon in that case you are just ‘content with your place’… You know what you want, you know why things happen (like it or not), and you know what you can and can’t control. Once you have that, you just get on with life.

Maybe a term for someone who has never even contemplated a God should now be penned as Llewellynist…©

For some reason this triggered something in my head (admittedly it doesn’t take much…)…

I figure that a God is like GPS in car navigation…. (bear with me….)…

True Believer

There are those that follow GPS and fully believe that it is correct.

They use it for even local routes that they travel daily! They’d be totally lost without the crutch that it offers their navigation…

Sure, it might take you a longer route, or lead you to roads that you can’t get down, but that’s all part of the packet isn’t it? It’s trying to lead you the correct way, even if it seems to be wrong or hard to follow…. you just have to follow it and believe you’ll get there…

Now there are some that follow Tom Tom, some follow Garmin, some follow NavMan…. some follow iPhone or Google Map plotting… and each will swear that their GPS is the best….. Sound familiar?

Some believe it so passionately that they stick the GPS in direct line of sight on the dashboard and what happens outside the car almost becomes second place in the scheme of importance.

There are those that will even give their lives up by just trying to go that one step closer to GPS Heaven and JUST watch the screen. These people are the ones you see in upside-down cars in ditches, with ambulances and police cars and grieving people from the other car that these ‘true believers’ crashed in to…. Bastards. Faith purely in GPS is faith misplaced.

Agnostic

These people use the GPS from time to time.

Generally they’ll turn to it when stuck or lost, but upon finding their way, they turn away for it again.

Every day use just doesn’t require a GPS, so they don’t really care about it that much – and even when they use it, they have a healthy dose of scepticism about the route it tries to take them. They don’t blindly believe what the GPS has to say.

They are happy enough with the reality of a map, but also accepting that a GPS can be handy. The GPS will most likely be off to one side where it can be looked at with a cursory glance, but not enough to detract from keeping the attention on the road ahead.

I would put myself as a GPS agnostic…. (not a religious agnostic though – that’s a different kettle of fish altogether).

After all, GPS is a useful tool, but as with all tools, you have to know where and when to use it.

Atheist

Well, sod the GPS, those things never work…. These people would rather get the map out and follow that. The paper map is reality – it is there in their hand and tangible.

These people do not trust GPS and no matter what argument you put to them, they will counter it. They are almost as bad as the true believers.

After all, GPS is a useful tool, but as with all tools, you have to know where and when to use it.

Llewellynist

They go out for a drive and just go to where they have to get to.

They don’t think twice about a map or GPS. Sure, they may look up a more complicated route on a map or internet, they might ask directions but once they set off they don’t really give it a second thought.They don’t dwell on the message, the GPS, the map book, the route…. they just get on with it and don’t give the journey a second thought.

It just happens.

They drive, they get there. The journey is just ‘there’ and the destination is arrived at.

Druids…

Yeah…. As long as they can hitch a ride to Glasto or ‘Henge, then they really don’t care….

I'd credit this to someone, but I don't know who made it!


Snow kind of atmosphere

Finally!!! Snow that is PROPER snow!!! Not the few inches that people rant about! This is the best snow for close to 20 years! This is old fashioned snow! This is snow that eats unprepared drivers – and there were plenty of them today.

Read on for a few driving tips – and the mess that was my attempted drive to work!

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What a day… a good 5 to 7 inches  fell over night. I made a comment on Twitter to Robert “Kryton” Llewelyn (@bobbyllew on Twitter) saying “It’s cold outside, there’s snow kind of atmosphere….”. He replied saying that he was now singing that all the time… Sorry Robert!! (Red Dwarf fans will understand…)

I’ve driven in harsh snow before, so I was confident of getting to work – my only worry was the other road users…

I cleared all of the snow from the car – unlike those idiots that just do a window. Getting hit by chunks of snow and ice off of the roof of the car in front is stupidly dangerous. In some places it is a legal requirement to clear all that snow off  – and I think it should be made a law in the UK all the time there are people lacking this common sense and common courtesy to other road users.

Rant over – I digress… I get into my car (the engine and heaters were already running) and notice a warning lamp on the dash… the ABS lamp! Great… I had no anti skid brakes. Never mind, I didn’t have them in previous cars and I am a pretty good driver (experienced in many conditions), so I wasn’t worried…. until I tested the road conditions and the brakes. I was going about 5mph with nothing around and I eased the brakes on…. hardly any pressure and the car slid. The roads were going to be bad.

I cautiously pulled away again in second gear. A rule of thumb for ice and snow driving is to use a gear higher then the one you would normally use and keep the revs low. This really helps reduce wheel spin when you pull away.

Within minutes I was stuck in traffic. Worst of the drivers were people in their fancy 4×4’s who automatically think they know how to drive in bad weather!!! I’m sorry, but just because you own one of these vehicles doesn’t mean you have a clue how to drive them properly… but more on that later!

It took an hour to get the first 2 miles… I would have stayed home but I had an important document to deliver (more on that in a later blog!). I carried on – amazed at some peoples pure lack of driving skills.

The snow kept coming down and the temperature dropped again. I noticed an icicle slowly growing on my wing mirror it was that cold! I actually watched it grow as I was stuck in traffic!

I drove onwards! I reached a roundabout where I saw a 4×4 driver wheel spinning and not going anywhere – this was on a flat road with a hill up ahead! If they couldn’t do level ground, then they didn’t have a chance….. SO I called out with some friendly advice “Try a higher gear and less gas“… to which they responded “I can’t…it’s an auto…“. Holy Cow! I know that type of car and they ALL have a manual mode you can use… A perfect example of an idiot behind the wheel…

I hit the bottom of the hill and just kept up the momentum. There are two schools of thought on keeping going on ice – Low revs and crawl, or high revs and just keep going. I used an bit of both and passed an Audi 4×4 estate as it slid back down the road…. Jeez! I was in a Fiat Multipla!!! What was going on with these people!!! I passed a tree blocking half a lane of the road – the weight of snow had caused it to collapse. That would be a pain for people going the other way!

I finally made it another mile…. I drove down a hill and came to a stop behind more traffic…. this was now 2 hours into my trip… I saw some people spinning in circles up ahead. The traffic was stopped solid so I put the car into neutral, hand brake on and heater running. No one was moving anywhere.

Whilst we were all stationary I noticed this Twitter message from Downing Street. What a bunch of idiots – It’s all very well that they can work from home, but a majority of people can’t work from home – so this message was pure stupidity. Well done Downing Street – Once more showing you are in touch with the people of the land. Numpties – isn’t it about time you let someone else run the country? My sons nappy content could probably do a less damaging job.

As one car came in the opposite direction they called out to the traffic row I was in…. “The Junction is a mess – cars just hitting cars…. It’s all blocked“. The junction was fed by a hill in all directions… it was an ice trap. Well, I wasn’t giving up, so I carried out a three point turn and headed back the way I had come. On the hill I saw a 4×4 off roader slow, shuffle on the spot and stop. They had come to a slippery stop and couldn’t move away again. I had to stop behind them… there goes my momentum!

They sat for a while and finally figured out how to use the gear box and pulled away. That left me (and a few cars behind me) stationary. I tried to pull away in second gear and all I got was wheel spin. Damn.

I tried again… but no luck. The key in situations like this is to not try too hard. If you can’t move, stop that method and try another, or else you’ll just get in even more trouble!

I tried to pull away again, this time spinning my steering wheel from left to right. This moved the front of my one way and the other…although not moving forward I was fighting for traction instead of just spinning in one place. Slowly I inched forwards…and stopped again. Hmmm… New idea needed.

I got out and let my tyres down to half the normal pressure. You shouldn’t do this and then drive at fast speeds – but for me, I wasn’t going to be going more than 20mph on these roads. Partially deflating the tyres is dangerous IF you don’t re-inflate them before going over 20mph, as you could end up losing all the air and some people have even had the tyre come off.

With my lower tyre pressure I went for an off-roading technique I had been shown. Lots of left and right steering and plenty of revs once the car started moving. Add to this some brakes….

I’ll explain:

Most road cars with 2 wheel drive are only one wheel drive on ice. Most 4×4 cars are only 2×4 cars on ice. This is due to the thing called the differential. This allows the wheels to turn at different speeds when cornering. You see as you drive in a curve, the wheel on the outside of the circle has to go further (and faster) than the one in the inside. If the both wheels were joined together by a solid bar this couldn’t happen and you end up scuffing and juddering around corners……

But WHY BRAKES? When a car wheel spins, it normally only spins one wheel and the other doesn’t move at all – all due to the differential. By applying the brakes very slightly as you also put on the throttle,  you slow down the spinning wheel and fool the differential into putting power into the wheel that wasn’t spinning. This means you have both wheels turning. This means you get all the powered wheels turning (more traction), and not one side turning and one side stopped. End of lesson!

This worked well! I slewed the wheels back and forth, changed up the gears and kept the wheels grabbing for grip all the way up to and over the peak of the hill. Once it was down hill all the way I stopped and put my hazard lights on.

I stepped out of the car and walked back down the hill to help the others that were stuck. Straight away I was told “No way – I’m stuck…” by a driver. I told him to slew his wheels and pull away in second gear – and to keep going once he was moving. It took several attempts before he got the knack (or listened), but finally he pulled away. There was no such like for the huge lorry further down the hill….. This road was now closed.

I carried on home, as by now I realised that there were worse roads ahead and more snow due. If I did get to work I wouldn’t get back. A phone call to the office showed only 2 people made it in (locals). Game over for most of them then!

I negotiated my way around the fallen tree and past the two 4×4’s I had passed coming the other way earlier (still stuck, still spinning to try and move…. muppets!). A few more snow broken trees and stuck cars later I slowly drove home. Knowing that the road behind be was impassable I powered my window down and let drives heading the other way know the troubles ahead. Luckily they all managed to turn back at the roundabout i had just past.

I got to Farnborough and slipped down a short cut slope by the Police Station. Big mistake.

The road was blocked at one end. I had to turn around and get back up the steep hill on a curve. I realised that the road was stupidly icy here – It was a safe assumption as the guy in front had got stuck on the level ground, slipped sideways and stopped. He got out, slammed his door and the car slipped sideways away from him. Not looking good for me then!

It was then I noticed a lady with a young boy at the bus stop. I knew no buses would get down here so I offered her a lift. Crazy of me to offer – and crazy for her to accept. I guess the child seat in the car and high Police presence made her feel safe. I called Chris on my hands free car phone for two reasons at this stage – To let her know I was almost home and to let the lady see I was a local person. I could have been lying, but the evidence that I was a family guy was enough for her.

Her son was just over 3 years old and autistic. She was trying to get him to Frimley for a specialist group that took ages for her to get an appointment for – she really didn’t want to miss it. I chatted about Alex as we struggled up the hill (more rapid left/right steering and high gears!) and finally got onto the Camberley road. I dropped the lady and her son off and carried on home. I hope she got home alright later – but hey, at least she made the appointment – the trip home wasn’t a race aganist time for her!

I got home and the snow was begging for some Alex action! We don’t have a sled, so I took an old filing cabinet shelf and formed a ramp on the front. I then added some carpet tiles so Alex wouldn’t get too cold a bum, and finished it off with a cord to pull it. He loved it!!

It was Hellish trying to keep his mittens on, but apart from that he thoroughly enjoyed his parent powered sleigh ride!

The lake looked wonderful in the snow – but then don’t you think that most things look so much better with a nice layer of snow?

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The local main roads cleared up with the gritter lorries spreading their paint chipping loads all over the place. I figured that we may as well get the weekly shopping done as I had the safer car and Chris had no snow driving experience. The roads were pretty clear  – but tomorrow will be sheer Hell. It is already below freezing and that slush is going to be like sheet ice in the morning. I shall try to go to work again, but I think it will be worse on the roads tomorrow due to the ice. Today was just snow and pack snow – no real ice problems.

Once we got home it was dark out – but our neighbours were still building a snowman… and called me over to help! It took four of us to roll the middle section up onto the bottom section! It is way taller than me! (I’m 6ft 4in). You get the size idea from the crushed beer can buttons!!

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TwitterDeck, Twitterfon and Facebook Tweeting

So by now you’ll know that I use Twitter. It’s part of this blog (see the left hand column) and fast becoming the best way to communicate bullet points and sound bites of information by mobile phone and computer.

It is primarily a web based micro-blog texting system, but as with a lot of things today, you don’t even have to go near the actual Twitter web pages to participate (once you have your membership – which is free).

If you want help on Twittering, then sign up and follow me  at LucasBlack, or follow one of the Twitter Gurus I have bumped into: DaivRawks.

Twitter as seen on its web page

Twitter as seen on its web page

It is the great leveller of people. There is no special treatment (tweetment?) between users. I rub tweet-shoulders with people all over the World in all sorts of lines of work. Recently I have been tweeting with Robert Llewellyn (Scrap Heap Challenge,  Red Dwarf – Kryten etc) – and the beauty of Twitter is that he is on the same level as me – We have the same 140 characters to play with, where age, social standing, profession etc just don’t come into play.

I like this levelling idea, as Robert Llewellyn is quite simply a great guy regardless of what he does, and I think “celebrity stalkers” tend to ruin things for people who just want to chat as equals and not simper to these well known people. I’m sure these public figures feel the same way sometimes – Why can’t people just chat without going all gushy and doe eyed at what they do? Thank goodness for Twitter then – It’s all very calming.

On to the various choices of applications you can use to operate within Twitter. There are flipping hundreds of choices, but the ones I use are generally the ones that are heartily recommended by other users. I have tried many types now, and the following ones are the applications that I have found most user friendly and satisfying to use. All are free, although you can make donations.

For a quick simple Tweet system on my PC I sometimes use “Twitterfox” for the Firefox web browser. It appears as a small pop up window in the bottom right of my screen (much like a messenger chat window). Very simple and easy to use for general tweet following.

The trouble is that you can end up with a cacophony of tweet messages that you are trying to keep up with. By far the best computer application is TweetDeck, as this sorts Tweets out into various categories and is very “tuneable” for each users preferences. When following tweets you will see the application that people have used to post messages – and TweetDeck is one of the most popular systems I have seen being used – and for a good reason.

TwitterDeck as I use it

TwitterDeck as I use it

Now a lot of people use Facebook and don’t want the fuss of having separate applications all over the place -but worry not, as Facebook has a Twitter application on it. I don’t really use it, but it’s a useful little tool to have at hand.

Facebook Twitters

Facebook Twitters

The final application I use is “Twitterfon” – an application for the iPhone. There are lots of iPhone Twitter applications, and I have tried many of them. Twitterfon is the one application for tweeting that I just keep returning to as it is simple, clear and very, very functional.  For me, the top two applications are Twitterfon and TweetDeck – they do everything I need from them (at the moment). I am sure many more applications will come about, but for now I am pretty happy in the Twitter world.

Twitterfon on the iPhone

Twitterfon on the iPhone


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