I was recently staggered to find that my local NHS hospital has only paper records and files. I had expected some blood to be taken as part of a pre-op procedure. I had a blood test at my GP’s surgery the previous week, so I suggested that the nurse could merely look at my results on line. No it appears we are still in the 1970s around here. In fact my hospital records are all paper. The sophisticated test machines used every day that produce their results as files then have the files printed out to form the paper file.
It amazes me that medical staff of all ilks use the most complex machines daily, yet are terrified of any type of computer. Several attempts by various governments have failed after making someone very rich, mainly because medical staff like those in other professions are unable to see their jobs and the information and resources they use as systems. The mistake of asking the senior management what they want the system to do is often made, this usually bears no relation to what is needed to run the bussines, indeed the more senior, the more remote from actual systems.

Now in F1 having agreed a modified qualifying format we hear that it cannot be implemented until after the first race, because the software has yet to be written. This is the reverse of my hospital situation. Here we already have all necessary data but lack a person to look at the screen and say “Car xyz is the slowest, black flag him”. All circuits must have a full set of car number boards in case they need to black flag a car during the race. Maybe two people are needed! In times past it was possible to write lap charts and do timing with a three stopwatch board, but now apparently officials can only read screens. Pathetic!

In any case it seems a stupid idea, certain to create confusion within and protest from drivers. The result will be the same except for the now much higher likelihood of blocking and later relegation. Expect a long queue at the FIA office.

Oh dear, for next year more downforce, more weight, the opposite of what is needed and the drivers want. Mechanical grip and suspension that moves is what is needed, less turbulence off the back of cars. Maybe the lower back wing will help but yo will soon need an HGV licence to manoeuvre past one another if the cars get any wider. So I and and guess most, assume much less overtaking in 2017. Let hope I am wrong.

I seem to be regularly annoyed by the modern trend for dumbing everything down. It is perhaps part of a master plan to reduce the masses to total dependence on those with “Knowledge”

It seems to happen in all sorts of ways, we have kids who cannot add up or multiply and who cannot tell if they have the right change without looking at a till slip. Even then it is doubtful if some can add up the coins in their hand. Educational standards have fallen through the floor, half the under 30s cannot spell or construct a sentence. At the other end of the scale university has now been rendered almost worthless, a degree is no help in obtaining a job, but merely a millstone of debt for most of a lifetime.

Even the BBC is leaving words out of text in it’s web pages.

We now receive business letters utilising apostrophes ” we’ll send you full details later” “you’ll find details below.” Then signed “yours sincerely” !!!
I was taught all businesses or companies are addressed as Dear Sirs and then FAO:  Mr,  Mrs or Miss B Whatever and of course a business letter must end yours faithfully, not sincerely. However here is the first minefield. We now have Ms and would you believe Mx !  Men are now supposed to have some sort sixth sense as to what form of title by which any woman wants to be addressed, it appears to be completely arbitrary.

I have here to confess that I am with Sheldon Cooper when upon starting his new version of Windows, it said it was friendlier and easier to use, he said “I don’t like that” or words to that effect. Businesses do not want to be your friend, they just want your money, MS Windows may want to be your friend, but really its about making Bill and co even richer. I use Linux instead.

Businesses trying to be friendly by using your name twice in every paragraph, (horrible echoes of the Dale Carnegie course) We do not want you to be our friend, we do want a better price, much better service and the impression that you know what you are doing.

Grammar and basic letter writing is not taught any more it seems, it also appears that the job of writing and printing labels in supermarkets is automatically given to the least literate or a non-English speaking employee. The internal training program has obviously been diverted full time into aisle blocking techniques using various pieces of mobile equipment. The cage for recycling cardboard is a favourite since is sticks out further than most other on site equipment, however the combined stepladder and table can be used to good effect, preferably alongside an existing pinch point where a free-standing display of goods is placed to narrow the aisle. The new weapon is the double stack of trays/bins which have been filled for home/internet shoppers. Not only is there a constant flow of “full for empty” trays passing from the internet shoppers with 8 stack trolleys that park nearby, but usually it forms a staff meeting place for the full trolley stack remover, two or three internet shoppers and any passing supervisor or friend of any of the above. Thus not only is the aisle blocked with trolleys but also with people.

Everything is reduced in size, value for money, simplified or buried in unnecessary packaging.

Take cat food for instance, suppose I offered you the opportunity to pay twice the price for the same thing? We always buy tinned cat food, a shrink wrapped 6 tin pack costs 10.4p/100g in Asda but the same food in envelopes called “pouches” costs 20.8p/100g. Ok its convenient but its 100% more! Tins have been disappearing from the supermarket shelves, the choice is narrowing, soon we will be obliged to pay twice as much.

This is a tin of Butchers cat food that I complained about:

East Lindsey-20150813-00043

I worked out by weighing, that it was 45% jelly and 55% meat and other.

The reply I got told me there was nothing wrong with it and that sometimes the jelly went around the outside of the meat. They did send a £5 voucher which I later used, but they totally missed the point, I am thinking now that ignorance in doing a job is so taken for granted that they can say any old thing and be thought to have replied satisfactorily.

Toothpaste has been made thinner, it pours out of the tube now. Tatar sauce so thin it runs off the fish. (possibly also the fault of tv chefs inventing “jus” and “foam” instead of proper sauce.) (one wonders what is cheaper than water, to add to dilute the product) This reducing of value may also be the result of Asda, Tesco etc trying to match Aldi and Lidl in price. The result is normally that the supplier and the logistics get squeezed.

How we have any dairy farmers left in the country is a mystery, they have been forced into loss making deals, similarly pig farmers, British produce will soon be a reserve of the moneyed classes, while the bulk is imported from countries with no EU laws or standards. Every year we have periods of cheap beef and pork as our dairy herds are sent for slaughter, and pig farmers are forced out of business.

I am particularly annoyed at the demise of common sense and the rise of so called political correctness. Being polite is now a minefield, one cannot say hello to any female without trepidation that they will take offence at the form of address. Nor open a door or give up a seat on a bus or train, things I was taught I must do as a child, without risking being harangued as being as patronising. Yet if one ignores such courtesies there is an equal risk of being cast as rude or ill brought up.

So I suppose for us ancient relics, it is best just to stay home and die quietly.

Oh yes I forgot to mention that of course, it is all Tony Blair’s doing!

Heavy Steering 1968

Heavy steering brings back memories of the Philips RGT Division TC department television test van. Back in 1968 or around that era the tv test van was occasionally available for unofficial use in moving household goods around as well as the division’s equipment and product for test.

It was an ancient, well worn vehicle, a Bedford TK probably. It had a squarish plywood Luton type body and a permanent list to port as it housed a mechanical inverter. (Also a 30 foot hydraulic telescopic mast for tv antennas) It was practically impossible to turn the steering wheel unless the thing was moving. Petrol engined, it had a manual choke which had to be set exactly right at all times when the engine was at less than full operating temperature, otherwise it would stall and refuse to re-start.

In particular it was difficult to handle when started from a cold night standing outside and just stopped at every opportunity. The box was crash, or if there had once been any rudimentary syncro it had long ago been worn away, so it was a bugger to change gear on normally, one had to double de-clutch all the time.  But the real test came if after leaving my flat in Frindsbury Extra, I drove down the hill the A228, approaching Strood,  near the bottom was a cross roads with traffic lights. There came a point as one tried to slow, when it was necessary to  change down, but on a cold morning having started the engine only two minutes before, as soon as it went into neutral in the change down, the engine stopped and it then refused to go into any gear whatsoever. Meanwhile the traffic lights approached and I forgot to mention, without the engine running there were no brakes, well unless one stood on them, which I, as a 7 stone weakling, had to do, literally up out of the seat and stand on the pedal hanging on to the top shelf just under the roof. (Fortunately many years before seat belts were thought of)   After finally coming to a halt in the middle of the junction one then had to negotiate an acceptable setting of the choke to try and re-start the engine. Luckily as it was around 6 am there was no other traffic to hit (by comparison to today at 6 am, no traffic at all)

That must be what Berne has been doing lately, but it is dangerous because in the UK it only needs two opinions, one a doctor, to get him sectioned.

Some seasoned F1 people must have shuddered to see Bernie and Max together again on tv recently. Of course it may just have been to remind Jean Todt what he was supposed to be doing for F1.

Ranting about a return to V8s for 2016 is so ridiculous and impractical that one wonders what the real purpose of it was. That there was a purpose is inevitable with Bernie.

Things are probably more screwed up now in F1 than they have been for many years, all facilitated by the F1 Strategy group.

Well it looks as if Pirelli have no option but to make 2014 tyres hard.

While a test was allowed after the season finished, only four teams turned up and the best they could offer was 2013 cars. Whether they were specially weighted with the down-force backed off we don’t know, the weights and downforce to 2014 regs could be simulated, but the massive increase in torque could not. So to play safe in uncharted waters Pirelli must make “concrete” tyres. That they are still here and not suing the behind off the FIA and certain teams is remarkable. They performed a miracle last year after Silverstone, it must have cost them a fortune. Will their patience stretch as far in 2014?

We (I) expect there to be huge issues with tyres overheating, wheels spinning under the the increased forces, which ought ideally to have been transmitted to much larger diameter and width wheels. A desperate seeking of Red Bulls apparent KERS traction control, which they deny exists but clearly gave Vettle a huge traction advantage over the field. Thinking back to what I said in August, I now realise that I was probably wrong to say that large wheels/tyres would weigh more, since presumably they would be low profile type. A change of springing would be needed to substitute for the relatively large percentage of suspension movement provided by the current high profile tyres.

Then there is the heating issue, or rather the cooling issue, not only do we have turbos enclosed within the engine cover but cables now transferring huge amounts of power. The regs limit the max Voltages to be used, so that means much higher current flow, thus I²R losses will be greater this year, these are mostly heat, turning each ERS cable into a heating element. Superconductivity would be ideal here but so far is not available without supercooling. Though at some time I expect to see a breakthrough in the use of Graphene in this field as well as it’s use in battery technology.

Another area which must be of huge interest to F1 is the new Pseudo Adiabatic Process engine developed by Research development firm, Revolutionary Technologies United, the engines will obviously be different but the adiabatic goal would be immensely helpful to F1. Not only would it remove some of the cooling problems but it makes the engine a lot more efficient, thus in turn saving fuel, thus in turn again lowering the necessary fuel load per race and allowing ballast to be placed where it is effective. I read about this in Racecar Engineering magazine, here is a link to the article. http://www.racecar-engineering.com/autosport-international/new-engines-to-play-it-cool/ .

At the time of writing (29Aug13) Pirelli are in an awkward position, they have recognised that the new turbo engines for 2014 will/could have a hugely increased torque output and quite sensibly told the teams that this will need a bigger contact patch with the track in order to utilise same.

Tyres of both greater width and diameter would be ideal and Pirelli have told the teams this, but of course if you have a bigger tyre your drive shaft is higher, your suspension is either anchored at different points or of a different geometry and the teams have already committed to the design of many parts of next year’s car.

Had there been the logical discussions about this at the time the rules were last being manipulated, this could have been taken into consideration and included in the 2014 designs. But Pirelli were being persecuted at the time, for attempting to test a compound for 2014. Teams were up in arms about the apparent illegal test.  The rules as then written did not allow any relevant testing to be done, indeed a 2014 car or one of equivalent torque and mass, balance  and suspension characteristics would be needed to make any meaningful tests, thus the tyre supplier was supposed to use a combination of guesswork, extrapolation, interpolation, and psychic foresight to produce tyres suitable for a completely different car of increased torque with new downforce levels etc in other words “the impossible”

There has been the undercurrent of Todt’s leaning towards Michelin, whom he favours over Pirelli. Of course for Michelin, being French is a major advantage while Todt remains in office. But, Michelin too have said that they would insist on 17inch or thereabouts rims along with everlasting tread compound.

Apparently Pirelli have contracts for 2014 with all the teams except Force India and also with Bernie, though why he is involved must surely be merely a matter of bandwagon jumping, ie he wants a slice of everything. In fact the rules say that the FIA has selected a tyre provider. The 2014 regs only refer to 2011/12/13 and then “A single tyre manufacturer will be chosen by the FIA for subsequent seasons following an invitation for tenders to supply tyres to all the cars entered in Championship Events for the duration of such subsequent seasons.  Thus making it quite clear that it is the FIA and not Bernie who is in charge of tyre supply. But then the FIA have not asked for tenders and have allowed Bernie to go ahead. So what does that mean?

The only people likely to be happy about all this are the lawyers, who will get even richer. Meanwhile we shall either have the wrong tyres on the wrong rims or no tyres at all.

Only when the wheel size has changed will it be possible to have the appropriate tyres for the new engines. BUT the larger tyres are about a foot greater in circumference and weigh more, so the unsprung weight increases, the gear ratios must change as must the diff and the suspension.

So next year is going to be a mess! Traction control could be an interim answer but it is banned! It will take another year to get it sorted and that is only if Todt deigns to break his enigmatic silence get off his behind and sort it out. Meanwhile the sponsors are evaporating as is Bernie.

I was reading TJ13’s blog the other day, there is a question over the new Caterham exhaust which has a gas guide vane in exit channel after the exhaust pipe itself ends. However in order to test the legality of this it will require careful measurement to establish whether it lies inside or outside the invisible cone which must be clear of bodywork from the very end of the pipe up to the rear wheel centreline. The easiest way to measure this (in this case) is to use a template/gauge. The ID of the exhaust pipe is probably the maximum allowed, so a template having a straight section of say 74.5mm width and 100mm length should fit into the pipe, then the cone can be added on the same axis. If I were doing the job I would probably use a flat template in 2 or 3 pieces. A straight-edge can be laid on the cone part in order to establish interference at greater distance.

However what this actually brought to mind was my early days at Pioneer, when on only my second day I was told I would be at a meeting with Alfa Romeo at Ambrosetti to discuss the installation of our (Pioneer) head units (radios/cassette combination units though Pioneer always called them “Stereos”) in all Alfa Cars imported to the UK. They would be installed at the import centre of Ambrosetti at Richborough opposite and just a few yards up the road from the power station, which had huge cooling towers. (demolished last year I think) Also about half a mile south of Pegwell Bay where the Hovercraft used to roam and was, maybe still is, home to a colourful Viking ship. Also not far from Sandwich. (nor from The Huntsman pub, Whisky and lemonade for Gordon, Perrier for Murdo and a pint for me, yes it was that long ago, when one could still have a drink at lunchtime, in fact it was quite normal if with customers)

I should set the background to this as follows:
This was a time when car radio was an optional extra when you bought a new car, but some manufacturers were starting to include a car radio/stereo in the car spec as standard or as a standard option. Around 80% of head units sold were as part of the car sale or within one month of car purchase.

Car radio/stereo was the highest value accessory the car dealer sold, and was a major profit source when margins on cars were very tight, indeed most only made any money on the car if it was a large or top end one, apart from that it was what was called “dealer support” than kept many going. So having it already fitted in fact robbed many dealers of a good income, BMW dealers in particular.

The regulations governing what could be fitted in a car differed according to whether it was OEM or aftermarket. This came down to whether it was part of the car spec (requiring Type Approval) or not. (Aftermarket came under “construction and use” regs, very rarely tested, though in theory any car on the road can be stopped and checked) In this case it meant that our head units, which were known for their flashy chrome knobs and levers, suddenly had to pass homologation including the internal protrusion regulations, something very far from the mind of their designer in Japan.

I cannot claim to remember the detail of the internal protrusion regulations but in general they specified that things in the car which could be contacted by either a “kneeform” or a 100mm dia ball must not be sharp. ie It must have minimum contactable radius. If contactable by the headform and having a protrusion of over 3m (I think) then in addition it had to be of a minimum cross-section and remain of said cross-section on application of a load.
The dashboard, where in each car the head unit was to be mounted, fell in the “headform” contactable area and was thus to be assessed using a “headform” To my knowledge at that time the DOT who carried out the tests did not possess a headform, in fact there were only two in the country, both owned by major motor manufacturers.

With more than a nod to the general panic of Italian organisation that I came to have an affection for in later years, the cars had to be homologated by a date only 4 working days away. These dates are usually dreamed up by sales or promotional people who neither know nor care about the amount of work necessary to get things done. Fortunately there used to be a brotherhood of sufferance amongst technical/practical people in the industry, thus under the auspices of this it was made possible that I arrived in the car park of the DOT at Bristol one grey Monday morning with a cardboard cutout of a headform.
[A head form was a 165MM dia ball. pierced by a 50mm dia displaceable cylinder having its axis at right angles to a tangent of its nominated front face. this provided a calibrated measurable displacement when applied to the item to be assessed. In normal tests the headform would be anchored to the frame representing a skeleton and fixed to the car at the hips or “H”points. ]

I also had my tools and the head units, but the problem was that the Pioneer units in those days were intended for aftermarket only and designed to be as flashy and gauche as possible resulting in a nightmare of chrome and sharp edges. So I did the only thing possible and installed the head units recessed a good 10mm further back than normal so that the headform did not touch them at all, however one applied it.
Thus the “We claim compliance….” got stamped “approved” by a bemused DOT engineer who commented that the compliance was very much to the letter rather than the spirit of the regulations.

Thus as it is in F1, it is all in how you write the regs that decides how easy it is to circumvent them. Though in later years, as head units became fitted as OEM, the knobs and buttons all got flatter and wider and designed to shear off under impact. (At least for those who were OEM oriented, Pioneer lagged behind for a long time)

I tried to check the old internal protrusion regs as I wrote this but all I could find was a modern document that has been “EUised” it is here in case anyone is feeling obsessive, I have not checked how much it differs from what we used 30 odd years ago. http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=CELEX:31974L0060:EN:HTML

I am happy to note that Ambrosetti is still there on the same site, (though with different owners) still in the same business of PDI and rectification, but part of a much larger group. http://www.ambrosetti.co.uk/services.php
I wonder if they could still do the job they did back all those years ago on all the old Alfas, PDI, Rectification, special paint, badges etc. Underseal with grillaguard or whatever the nasty black gunge was called (the guys had a less than complimentary name for it) fitting head units, loudspeakers, grilles and antennas all from scratch, wiring it all up, there was no radio prep in those days. (yes we drilled metal then too and we had cars still in wax!)

Looking back now they did a huge job very well, though at the time 30 years ago there was no other option.
I used to go down to Ambrosetti once a month and do a quality check on the installations in the car park of several hundred cars, (hence the reason I have a high vis jacket that still sits in my car.) the guys all worked in pairs and left their initials on the job cards in each car. I used to produce a results table identifying Type, chassis nr, each part of the job (which would be annotated with any fault) and the team initials, then pin it on the workshop notice board. There was some ribbing of each other but all taken in good heart. Cars with faults had to be rectified by the guys that made the error. (I think they were paid per car then so it cost them to make mistakes) Very rarely did anyone need re-training or bitch about being found at fault. One thing I found was that in most of the import centres where we had units being fitted, with either a colleague or myself having done the initial training, the guys doing the job always found better or faster ways of doing it. (and maintaining quality) There is always a huge amount of ingenuity, knowledge and talent on the shop floor which goes largely unrecognised and unrewarded. I learned a lot of respect for the guys doing those jobs, they were there often because that’s all the work there was around, but they made the most of it. Though initially, I may have shown them what to do, there is no way I could have done it myself, all day, all week, all month. So if any guys who worked at Ambrosetti Richborough, fitting Pioneer stereos into Alfas 30 years ago should read this, I salute you.

I think I have sussed Merc’s new cunning plan. it is quite simple really:
Merc will employ everybody in F1, thus leaving nobody to work in other teams.
This may sound expensive but with the Bernie money for winning, it should easily cover the extra cost.

I was not in a good mood to start with but, reading last weeks Moneyweek over breakfast today I found in “Tabloid Money” the small article about the squirrel rescued by seven firemen and three fire engines. Apparently the episode cost £6000!

Ridiculous, how can it possibly cost £6000?  Let me see a cost breakdown please.

I am willing to bet that at least 50 % of the cost is due to Blair’s thousands of spurious laws that micro manage all aspects of our life.  One can only hope that we exit the EU and dump all laws that were imposed by Blair in the name of eliminating common sense. Firemen not allowed to slide down poles any more because after hundreds of years it is suddenly dangerous. Firemen’s beds taken away  and replaced by armchairs which they are not allowed to use until they have been specially trained. They did not want the armchairs and needed their sleep on standby which they no longer get. Thus they are uncomfortable stressed and tired. Well done!

Still that’s what Blair did to most of the country, left us uncomfortable, stressed and tired, oh, and poorer, after selling our country to Belgium to rule over, the only bit of his plan to go wrong is that he did not get to be President, to lord it over us himself, but he has made up for it by getting sickeningly rich. He was sent to the middle east as a european peacemaker, that went well !!  It revealed his true capabilities to the world. Was it just perversity that made him change religion to the one most hated in the middle east before he went there?

But who is it that quotes these gigantic, out of all proportion figures for all incidents involving public services? Is it perhaps the same sort of people who commission government projects or buy defence technology. The people who seem totally ignorant of what the purpose is and keep adding to the spec. That’s why we have Typhoons, fighters with no guns in them (whereas the Tornado did) but  they must also be Bombers with no bomb bays. GR and air defence too,

I speculated upon what sort of animal these people would have designed when asked for a sheep to grow wool. They would then ask that the same animal gave cows milk, and provided beef and bacon. (An Alpaca is probably the best compromise)

Look at the Bowman radio for our troops, it doesn’t work in anything but flat open terrain if both transmitter and receiver stand up and can see each other. It weighs ten times what the US equivalent does and theirs works, man to man, man to aircraft, man to tank/artillery , man to command post or FOB. Ours doesn’t,  but it cost about ten times what it should and took ten times longer that it should have to reach operational service. I would have all those involved in it tried for treason and shot, well maybe just shot!

One of the hazards of a democracy I suppose that only totally ignorant politicians and their staff are allowed to handle projects. Expertise is bought willy nilly and assessed by the same incompetents in charge, very very slowly, with as many expense account dinners as possible. Making a decision is put off for as long as possible in order to postpone the fateful day their incompetence is exposed.  The principles of “Yes Minister” are very much alive and costing us about 75% of every government  project.



Diesel Particulate filters, are the means by which the modern generation of diesels achieve very low levels of soot emissions. You will find them on a now rapidly increasing overall percentage of cars on the road as new highly efficient diesels replace a lot of petrol engines. They have become respectable, middle managers, even department heads now drive diesels, but very few are aware of the consequences.

Firstly the DPF does not work until it has reached operating temperature, this takes on most affected cars, a good 20 minutes of steady high speed (for a diesel) constant driving, eg. on a motorway. The DPF collects the particles on wet surfaces, but every so often regenerates by burning/blowing out the accumulated muck in a black cloud, very nice, very clean!

If one does not regularly do journeys of 20 miles fast cruise then the thing does not get hot enough to work and instead it clogs up, an error is then shown on the car’s monitoring system. Apparently at this stage you are stuffed, the DPF cannot be cleaned by any normal method** and it needs replacing, and your car’s computer re-setting. Around £1500-£1800 per car or more for some makes.

**There are some places offering a cleaning service using  ultrasound equipment but theses are few and far between and not cheap. One also has to consider the terms of the car’s guarantee.

It is true that one can have the DPF removed from the exhaust system and the car’s software hacked so as not to look for the sensor/sender, but this would of course invalidate the car warranty. (and probably increase the insurance, it is definitely a modification which if undeclared could mean an excuse not to pay a claim.) Though currently apparently, this is legal in the UK, it is rumoured that the MOT law will be soon changed to say that anything which changes the exhaust emission output from the factory spec is not allowed.

So folks that is why, in spite of  the approx two to three times advantage in mpg I have just bought a petrol engined car.  (Update: very disappointing petrol mpg so far)  I do a very low annual mileage nowadays, so do many of the people who have unwittingly bought a DPF cost time  bomb.

I only know about this because my nephew runs a garage and now spends around 30% of his time replacing DPFs.

If you are buying a new diesel car or one built in the last few years be sure to ask if it has a DPF and ask what mileage you need to do to keep it working correctly.

This will be the same sort of scandal as car owners finding they have no spare wheel, just a can of temporary re-inflation gunge, little use if one has a blowout. Spare wheels are an option now!

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