Monday, 28 May 2012

Normal service is being restored

If you had expected to hear from me, or had expected me to be doing something for you, this note is for you. It is a lessons learned note on some recent developments.
A year ago my parents were a resilient system contributing to the family and community. Now they are gone. My sister devoted the last year to their care - a year well-spent. I helped as best I could, with regular trips to Prescot. Work matters took a back seat. In addition, a good deal of work has been done on the house, with all the chaos that tradesmen bring with them.
There was a bit of a low point on my birthday, the last Sunday in April. My main task was to drive to Prescot for my mother's burial. As I started to pack up, my computer died. I decided to put off analyzing that till I came  back, and went to set off. The car wouldn't start. After my return late Monday night, I contacted someone to help with the computer; Tuesday and Wednesday were high-stress diagnostic days. In the middle of Wednesday night, we called an ambulance to take Wilma to A&E (trapped sciatic nerve), where we seemed to have arrived in the Social Engineering Dept. rather than anywhere with clinical capability. Somewhere beyond fatigue at that point.
 A good deal of the time since then has been devoted to getting my computer fixed, and data and applications in good order. No data loss, and things weren't too untidy given the events of the past year, but still time consuming. Wilma has responded to Bowen Therapy but is still on a slow and painful road to recovery (me, I'm just continuing with the sleep deprivation - not helped by the long Scottish summer days).
This note starts with simple technical lessons learned, and only briefly touches on more personal matters (more anon).

Co-creation with tradesmen

There are some tradesmen who can see the customer/home-owner situation, and some that can't. The difference is striking. The lack of awareness of someone who come in to ply his trade with no regard to interfacing with other trades, the impact of his activity on his customers and their neighbours is remarkable. Maybe they need to take their wives with them.

Resilience of home office computer networks

I minimize my use of the cloud; 'the user as the product' is not a model I subscribe to more than I have to (though Blogger does a good job for me here). Bits of the cloud that helped provide resilience were google calendar and Opera Link (for bookmarks). Plusnet webmail worked; I normally leave mail on the server because 3 mobile and Plusnet don't talk to each other so far as email is concerned. Wuala, skydrive, and greater use of Amazon 'cloud' storage all need investigating sometime.
Applications I use that help with resilience are Chaos Intellect (email) that allows sync'ing, including a fully functioning email on a USB memory stick, and Powerdesk, where sync'ing, multi-pane file viewers and a size management utility help with recovery.
It is wrong to waste a good incident; improvements made include changing the laptop set up from a basic awayday arrangement to a more fully functioning set of applications and resources.
As regards my main desktop PC, the main lesson is that spending money on a high-quality well-specc'ed machine was a mistake. RAID 1 on a PC makes dealing with other failures much harder; RAID is for NAS. So, policy now is to buy basic "cheap as chips" machines (Zoostorm from eBuyer or somesuch), and have all the fancy bits external to the box. As regards the laptop, the Crucial SSD upgrade looks appealing. The TeraStation is still graunching away but the newer La Cie RAID boxes are tempting. A DLink print server enables me to print with a dead computer.

Dependable road transport

I bought the Subaru because they are supposed to be bomb-proof. Reviewers consider their interior to be a bit old-fashioned, which appealed to me on the grounds that there would be less non-engine electronics to go wrong. These assumptions proved wrong, and were compounded by 'smart' charging (which means driving with your lights on to save energy, or somesuch). Two call-outs and two dockings later, I think my car will start. For the five years I had my Toyota, I knew my car would start. A big difference. The Subaru had real rust after three years (I mean Vauxhall Viva type rust, not a stone chip). Fixed now, but astonishingly, no analysis of the manufacturing defect. At a loss on the way ahead just now. Still too cross.

The Dutch saying "trust arrives on foot and departs on a horse" applies to all sources of technology.


Over the past year, we have had more to do with the NHS than is healthy. Individual staff range from the excellent (raging against the system) to the truly atrocious. There was a high point where the GP said "yes, we are a pretty good team" - a doctor admitting to being part of a team - wonderful!
The system dynamics (I use the term in its technical sense) are awful.
The financial uncertainty of care for the elderly in England is horrendous. The cash flow implications for care homes and nursing homes are massive, and doubtless add a big chunk to the bill.
The key issue seems to be managerialism, which has taken the NHS to the 'bureaucracy' stage of the Adizes life cycle. Hopefully this will be expanded into something less cryptic soon.

Family matters

With death, parents change from being someone you are connected to, and part of a mesh of relationships. You start to see them in a more isolated fashion, as they were themselves, gain new insights into them, your own similarities and differences, and a whole review of your own 'deep story' grinds away . Views of yourself that have been dormant for decades surface. The social obligations of the offspring to the deceased are considerable - particularly when the deceased was a significant figure in work or the local community.
I may try to plot their loss of resilience as a system.
Buddy networks, are, or course, what work. Robin, a friend from Sussex University days trod this road some years back and offered useful words of immense comfort (not for the first time). Ron Donaldson has had a similar time to myself, which helped with the 'no man is an island' perspective. His post on his own Cynefin was helpful. I came to realize that the Scouser/Wollyback border is where I have my sense of belonging, but have much less reason to visit now. Coylton is extremely friendly, but I have still to grow deep roots here. Maybe Everton would like to move North. The world of my childhood in North Wales is now a lost world alas.
In their demise, my parents helped to restore wider family links. It would be a tragedy if we let these lapse again. There is some cycle of creative destruction going on here that I don't understand yet.