Right now, I’m at my parents’, helping to babysit my nephew and niece while their parents (my sister and brother-in-law) are at work. It’s raining, which has put paid to doing my laundry today. But that’s not what this post is about.
On Wednesday, I received a phone call, telling me I’d won a prize. A holiday voucher. Nice, I thought. I was told to go to a certain address at half past five yesterday to pick it up. The address was near Eastgate Shopping Centre. I was a bit suspicious, but decided to go anyway. Due to time constraints, I left work slightly earlier than usual and drove on the freeway to get there in time. I made it, where a friendly gate guard directed me to where I needed to go.
There were several people standing around the room and my suspicions rose. We were told to sign in. I went in and saw the room was set up to give a multimedia presentation and I became even more suspicious. Then I saw the name on the folders.
Vacation Hub International
The alarm bells were sounding loudly at that point, so I went outside, phoned my parents and asked them what they knew about VHI.
My mother’s exact words? “Don’t touch it with a bargepole.”
Yes, it’s one of those tricks. The attendees would be subjected to a high pressure sales pitch. The “prize” is dependent on the mark (sorry, winner) taking out a contract with the organisation. Even funnier, my parents had something similar happen to them and weren’t fooled either. I got into my car and left immediately. Later, when I googled “complaints about vacation hub international” loads of hits were returned.
A lot of companies selling time-share or holiday club schemes use these tactics. You have to wonder how valid the concept of something is if the companies selling it have to resort to such dishonest measures to get customers.
A few weeks ago, along with the monthly bill for rates, taxes, water etc. I and everyone else in the complex where I live received a letter.
The occupants of one of the units had flushed sanitary pads and nappies down the toilet, despite the general warning that this is not a good idea. The inevitable happened with a blocked sewer pipe and raw sewage flowing into a unit garden. A plumber and cleanup crew had to he hired. Given the hourly rates of plumbers, this wasn’t cheap. The trustees intend recovering the costs from the delinquent unit. The pipe that was blocked only serviced a few units so it will probably be very easy to locate the offenders.
If you’re an autism parent, you’ve probably heard the “Refrigerator Mother” theory. This is the execrable belief that autism is caused by a cold, uncaring mother. Sadly, the hypothesis persists despite its flaws. Current research is investigating the genetics of autism, and ironically the refrigerator mother may be supporting evidence for a genetic basis to autism.
The theory originated with Leo Kanner, and was championed by Bruno Bettelheim (amongst others). Kanner reported that his patients’ parents were themselves analytical and unemotional, and showed a “genuine lack of warmth”. In a later paper, “Problems of nosology and psychodynamics of early infantile autism”, he mentioned “parental coldness, obsessiveness, and a mechanical type of attention to material needs only…. They were left neatly in refrigerators which did not defrost. Their withdrawal seems to be an act of turning away from such a situation to seek comfort in solitude.”
And this was where he made his big error.
Although Kanner insisted that autism was innate, he failed to ask the obvious question: were the parents themselves autistic? The descriptions above are strong pointers to autism. Had he done this, the genetic basis of autism may have become the primary field of investigation very early on. Unfortunately he didn’t, and his remarks were distorted into the vile hypothesis that caused so much needless guilt. Kanner later complained that his comments were taken out of context. It is probably true that they were, but his failure to follow up such an obvious lead is surprising.
The huge irony is that the “refrigerator mother” theory is correct, but not in the way that its supporters thought. The parents were themselves autistic, and passed their genes on to their children.
There has been a rotavirus outbreak in Durban. So far, over 1000 children have been infected and 2 have died.
He voted to put the vaccine he co-created on the schedule, and;
He received a Congressional Reprimand for doing so.
There are several different vaccinations against rotavirus. Rotarix is the one used in South Africa. Another one, RotaTeq, was co-created by a man regarded by many antivaxxers as the antichrist: Paul Offit. Offit was motivated to work on RotaTeq after seeing a rotavirus-infected child die. Its development took 25 years. He was also a member of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), the committee which decides on which vaccines to add to the schedule, amongst other things.
Two of the biggest lies antivaxxers tell about Offit are that:
I will deal with the second lie first. A Congressional Reprimand is a punishment inflicted by the US Congress on misbehaving Congressmen. Offit is not, and has never been, a Congressman. An individual who is not a Congressman can not possibly receive a Congressional Reprimand. What actually happened is that Dan Burton, a Congressman and known antivaccinationist, said some nasty things about Offit. This was then distorted into a “Congressional Reprimand” by mendacious antivaxxers.
Voted for RotaShield, a competing vaccine to RotaTeq, to be added to the schedule;
Recused himself when the decision to withdraw RotaShield was put to the vote, and;
Recused himself when the decision to add RotaTeq to the schedule was put to the vote.
As for the first lie, RotaShield, a competing vaccine, was put forward for consideration to be added to the vaccine schedule. Offit voted to add it to the schedule. However, Wyeth withdrew it after monitoring showed a possible an increased risk of intussuception and it was withdrawn from the schedule. When RotaTeq was put forward for consideration, Offit recused himself to avoid the conflict of interest. This is all a matter of public record.
So, to summarise, Paul Offit:
Despite this, I still see antivaxxers repeat the lie that he put his own vaccine on the schedule and that he faced a Congressional Reprimand for it.
It has been estimated that rotavirus causes 453 000 deaths and 2 million hospitalisations annually. The worldwide use of rotavirus vaccines would prevent 45% of those (approximately 228 000 deaths a year). For creating a vaccine that has saved thousands, Offit is a hero.
I realise I’ve been neglecting my blog. Apologies, dear readers. In my defence, I’ve been very busy.
A few weeks ago, the washing machine that came with my flat decided to die. I came home to find my power tripped and the washing machine only partway through its cycle. So I had to buy a new one.
Two weeks of searching later, I’d settled on my choice: an LG from Makro. That’s when I was told that there was a special on at Makro for that week only. It was the washing machine I’d chosen, but with the price dropped by several hundred Rand. Sweet.
After the machine had been delivered, it was time to hook it up. And that’s when I discovered just how badly laid out my kitchen was.
The inlet pipe for my washing machine is squeezed into a nook next to the cupboards under my sinks. To hook up my new machine to the electric socket and the inlet and outlet pipes was a mission, but I did it. And then, to turn on the tap and wash the first load in my brand new washer.
Or maybe not.
As soon as I turned on the tap, I heard a sound that nobody in that position wants to hear: namely, the sound of spraying water. I immediately turned the tap off and checked. Water was spraying from the inlet pipe all over the place. And that’s when the fun (for a loose definition of ‘fun’) started.
Firstly, I had to work the washing machine out from its tight little nook. Note: I have a tiny kitchen so moving the machine made things very awkward. Then I had to disconnect everything. Finally, I had to climb into the cramped space to look at the pipe. It was rusted and bad-fitting. My parents suggested using plumber’s tape or vaseline to fix the seal and let me borrow a monkey wrench.
Round 2. I put vaseline on the thread and put the pipe back. To test things, I then ran a rinse cycle on my empty machine. No leaks, so I decided it was safe to run a full load.
It wasn’t. The leak came back.
My parents, who must be candidates for the position of most patient individuals on the planet, let me once again borrow their monkey wrench and some plumber’s tape. Moving the washing machine out once again, I went Back into the cramped nook, determined once and for all to stop that wretched leak. Wrap, wrap, wrap with the tape, then tighten, tighten, tighten with the monkey wrench. I turned on the water. No leak sounds. So I loaded up the machine with my laundry, put in the soap and fabric softener, and switched it on.
Success! No leaks, and I have clean laundry.
Another good thing happened. I was a tester for a new product offered by our client: a short term loan offered through ATMs. To test the product, we were given actual bank cards with accounts and used them to take out loans. Yesterday was the go live and the project looks to be a success.
Testing on ATMs raises distinctive problems for the Test Team. You can’t just hook up a program to take screen grabs on an ATM. Well, you could, but that poses a whole bunch of risks. What we did was when we got an ATM slip, we scanned it in and logged it as part of our test results. We also had access to look at records stored in the back end.
My next project will be a rollout of Windows 7. I like Windows 7. In fact, I’m writing this on my laptop’s Windows 7 partition.
It’s been good lately.
On Wednesday, I attended the SIGiST (Special Interest Group in Software Testing) at The Campus in 57 Sloane Street, Bryanston. The topic was ISTQB Qualification and it was presented by Corne Krige and Mike Snyman. At the start of the presentation we were told that there was an error and that whoever found the error would get a free exam for any of the Advanced Level Certificates. This prize is worth R2500.
The presentation first explained the ISTQB (International Software Testing Qualifications Board) and its origins. It was set up by the software testing boards of eight countries in Belgium, although Belgium was not one of the original eight. The idea was to get standardised syllabi and certifications for testing across countries.
The ISTQB has various working groups which report to the Executive Committee. The Executive Committee meets three times a year and in turn reports to the Board Members. The Board Members comprise the national Software Testing Qualifications Boards of various countries. Worldwide, over 280,000 people have ISTQB Qualifications. The South African Testing Qualifications Board (SASTQB) is Board Member 40. Its website is here and it is a non-profit organisation.
There are three levels of qualification: Foundation (CTFL); Advanced (CTAL); and Expert (CTEL). The Foundation is the first-level certificate. There are three advanced certificates: Advanced Test Analyst; Advanced Test Manager and Advanced Technical Test Analyst. Anyone wishing to take an Advanced Certificate must first have the Foundation Certificate. Anyone wishing to get an Expert level Certificate must hold at least one Advanced Certificate but it is not necessary to hold all three. Every few years the syllabus is revised and changed. The sunset date for the current Advanced syllabus is the 15th July 2013. After that, training providers must switch to teaching the new syllabus.
In 2012 the International Testing Conference TEST-IT was held in South Africa. It was the first time TEST-IT had been held in Africa. TEST-IT 2014 will also be held in South Africa in October 2014.
A higher than normal percentage of ISTQB Exams written in South Africa are for the Advanced Certificates. As a national board, SASTQB has the fourth most Advanced Certifications of all Member Boards of the ISTQB. Almost 18% of SATQB exams written in South Africa are for Advanced Certificates.
After the presentation we were asked if anyone spotted the error. I spotted two, but neither turned out to be the error. One was grammatical and one was a percentage calculation (83% + 18% > 100%). So, nice try but no exam? Well, because I was the only one who accepted the challenge, I got the prize.
Next day, I was browsing the news when I saw this article. The German ERP software company SAP is hiring autistic people as developers and testers. SAP has engaged the services of Danish recruitment firm Specialisterne to find autistics to work as developers and testers. The article also mentions a German testing firm Auticon, whose entire staff comprises autistics.
Score another one for autistics.
Posted in Autism Awareness, Life, Software, Work
Tagged Auticon, CSSA, ISTQB, SAP, SASTQB, SIGiST, Software Testing, Specialisterne
My cold has mostly gone, so I went and had a flu shot. I’m based in Randburg, so I had to use the pharmacy in Cresta shopping Centre. Discovery, my medical aid, pays for it. My copay was less than R3.
I don’t much like our health minister Aaron Motsoaledi. He’s been trying to introduce National Health Insurance, despite the fact that South Africa can’t afford it. But he’s now done something with which I agree. From next year, the HPV vaccine will be made available to schoolgirls. Unfortunately, this news provoked the anti-vaxx pillocks, who brought their usual lies to the discussion.
In 2009, vaccines against rotavirus (rotarix) and pneumonia (prevenar) were added to the schedule. The results of this are now showing. Hospitalisations for these two diseases are down 40%. Notch up another victory for vaccines.