Autism Speaks is losing revenue

According to a news report, the organisation “Autism Speaks” suffered a big drop in revenue in 2016.

This follows on the heels of several resignations of high-ranking staffers, as well as the death of Suzanne Wright. I feel indifferent. For years, “Autism Speaks” used the tagline “It’s time to listen” while simultaneously ignoring and silencing autistic voices who were unhappy with the path the organisation took. Perhaps now, things can improve.

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Oh, the joys of dealing with government bureaucracy

Yes that’s sarcasm. I am sick and tired of the inefficiency and incompetence of government offices.
Earlier this year, I got a letter in my postbox from the SABC Licencing Department.
For the previous owner.
Who moved nine years ago.
This isn’t the first time they have done this. Or even the second. In 2009, they had lawyers send letters of demand to the previous owner until I wrote back and notified them that he had left. They stopped sending letters until 2010, when they started sending more. Infuriated, I wrote an indignant letter back repeating that the previous owner had left and to kindly stop sending letters of demand to him at my address. They complied. Until a few months ago, that is.
What is most annoying is that I have a TV Licence, so it would be very simple for them to do a database lookup and find that there is a licence listed to me at my home address.
I’m trying to get my municipal statement sent to me by email but I’m hitting problems. So I get it by snail mail. And I mean the “snail” part. The bill for July arrived in my postbox on the 14th August. The latest I’m supposed to settle my account is the 7th of the month. I used an old bill to pay, but when the new bill arrived, I realised the fee had increased, so I’ve underpaid. I now have to hope that penalties won’t be applied.
Thank you so freaking much South African Postal (lack of) Service.
My old Identity Document was destroyed, so last week I applied for a new one. It took several hours to get my details.
One major change is that they take a picture at the Home Affairs office. When my number was called to go to one of the photo booths, I went there only to discover that the photographer had gone on break.
“So why did you call my ticket?” I wanted to ask.
Eventually my photo was taken by the other photographer. All in all, the process took around two hours.
I also needed to renew my Driver’s Licence, so on Tuesday I went down to Edenvale Licencing. There was already a queue, and signs warning that there were problems with the system, so I knew it would take some time.
How long did it take for me to get to the desk to take the vision test? Two hours? Three?
Try seven. And yes, I’m being serious. I got there shortly before 9 o’clock, and left just before four o’clock.
Today I went back to Home Affairs to collect my ID Card. Learning from my experience on Tuesday, I arrived shortly before eight and joined the queue. It still took more than an hour and a half before I left with my new ID.
If the relevant people could do their jobs properly and sort things out, I would greatly appreciate it.

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Thoughts on electrically powered vehicles

Volvo has announced it plans to switch over to hybrid and electrically powered vehicles by 2019. The United Kingdom declared its intention to ban internal combustion vehicles by 2040 at the latest. Last year the German Bundesrat (Federal Council) passed a resolution calling for a ban on internal combustion engine vehicles by 2030. I first thought that these were silly ideas, but then my memory dredged up something I read almost 30 years ago.
In the late 1980’s I was reading a book I got from the Library about power sources. One of the things mentioned was that we had only 60-70 years before the supply of oil ran out. The oil companies stepped up exploration and internal combustion engines have been getting steadily more efficient since the 1970’s, but there are far more of them today than 30 years ago.
A few years back, I saw the film “Fuel” by Josh Tickell. In it, Tickell said that it takes more energy to extract and process a barrel of crude oil than you would get out of it. What this says is that the remaining deposits of oil are of lower quality. It’s a warning sign that the current fields we have will soon be spent.
There are alternatives to crude oil. One is to produce oil from coal. Various methods to do this exist. The Bergius Process was invented by Friedrich Bergius in 1913 and is the oldest such process. Nonetheless, all coal to oil methodologies are expensive and only economically viable in times of high oil prices.
A second alternative to crude oil is biofuels. Concerns about food crops have led to the investigation of making biofuels from grasses like switchgrass. These can be grown on soil that is not rich enough to sustain crops, so don’t threaten food security. Other sources of biofuel include expired food, microorganisms, sewage, and plant material like wood chips. Yet it seems unlikely (but still possible) that these will produce enough fuel to supplant crude oil.
The bottom line is the world’s reserves of oil will be finished within a few decades at most and we don’t yet have adequate replacements for oil. Changing over to electric powered vehicles before that happens would be a wise thing to do.

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Autistics testing software

It appears that autistics are disproportionately good at software testing.
The Israeli military uses autistics as intelligence analysts and software testers. Ultra Testing, a software testing firm based in New York, is actively hiring autistics as testers. SAP has a program going to hire autistics as developers and testers.
I presented on autistics and software testing to the SIGiST. At the time, I was the only person I knew on the spectrum involved in testing software.
On a more interesting note, I am involved in a pilot project to introduce Selenium WebDriver to my new employer. If all goes well, I’ll report back here.

Posted in Autism Awareness, Life, Work | Tagged , , , , ,

Corruption Fatigue

It’s just too much now. Over the past few years, story after story about corruption and state capture has broken, and nothing has been done to fix matters. I’ve even blogged about it a few times. And that was before the latest revelations.
Several weeks ago, a trove of hundreds of thousands of emails from Gupta owned businesses were leaked to investigative journalists. What they reveal is that the extent of state capture and looting is far worse than even the most pessimistic individuals suspected.
From Dairy Farms at the provincial level to contracts at State Owned Enterprises to Cabinet Ministers’ appointments, the Guptas have captured the state completely and extracted huge amounts of money for their own benefit. The revelations are shocking and enraging. Large sums of money have been spirited abroad, confirming that when South African banks closed all accounts linked to companies confirmed as being owned by the Guptas over suspected breaches of the financial Intelligence Centres Act (FICA), they were correct.
One of the most shocking items was the Optimum takeover. The Optimum coalmine, owned by Glencore, had its contracts with Eskom placed on “review”, threatening its sustainability. Eventually, Glencore folded and sold the mine to a Gupta owned firm. All of a sudden, the issues with Optimum miraculously resolved. In addition, Eskom advanced large sums of money to the company, helping speed the sale.
If even half of what has been revealed in the emails is true, Glencore could probably sue Eskom for millions.
And in the midst of it, the ANC heads towards another conference. Discussion documents have been circulated and are available for download on the ANC’s website. Disappointingly, the documents show that the ANC either doesn’t care about the severity of state capture, doesn’t “get it”, doesn’t have the courage to confront and fix the problem or some combination of the above.
When will it end?

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Adventures in new car buying

I have a new car.
Last month, I was driving to attend a SIGiST Meeting when I was in an accident. I can’t go into any more detail as the matter is not yet finalised.
Weirdly, I’d left work earlier than usual, went shopping, and missed a turn. If any one of those three things had been different, I’d never have had the accident.
The damage was very minor and my Polo was still driveable, but it was eight years old and had over 105,000km on the Odometer, so my insurer decided to scrap it and pay me out. It had been an absolute lemon, so I consented.
So began the process to purchase a new vehicle. It needed to be a sedan (I drive around with a laptop occasionally), fuel efficient and reliable (unlike my Polo which cost me dearly in repairs). In the end, I settled for a Toyota Etios.
I had to retain my Polo until the Etios could be delivered. I also had to dip into my savings to put down a deposit.
Eventually, the car was delivered and the financing organised. After that, an acquaintance and I drove down to the designated scrapyard and dropped off the Polo. My insurer paid me out a few days later. Yesterday, my numberplates and license disc were issued and mounted.
A few months ago, I got broadband at my flat, so I’m able to get permission to work from home. This was a great help. Without this, sorting out a new car would have taken even longer. As it was, it still took me over a month.
The Etios differs from the Polo in several respects. The engine is larger, so I have to be gentler on the accelerator. More than once, I’ve used the same pressure as I used on the Polo, only to look at the speedo and have to decelerate as I was going too fast. It also has a lot less space to put things than the Polo.
I suppose that once I get used to it, I’ll find it fun to drive.

Posted in Life

Thoughts on James Bond

Roger Moore, famous for playing Simon Templar in The Saint and James Bond from 1973 to 1985, passed away from cancer last week. I was a James Bond fan years ago. I’m not one any more.
The character of James Bond was created by Ian Fleming and named after an ornithologist. The first book was Casino Royale, published in 1953. Fleming died in 1964 and the novel The Man with the Golden Gun and the short story compendium Octopussy and the Living Daylights were published posthumously.
In 1962, Dr No became the first official Bond film (there had been others). The actor chosen to play Bond was a relative unknown named Sean Connery. Connery played Bond for five films in a row. After You only live twice another unknown actor, Australian George Lazenby, was chosen for the role. He made only one appearance as Bond in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Connery came back for Diamonds are Forever. He would also play Bond in the mediocre 1980’s remake of Thunderball, Never say Never Again.
In 1973 Live and Let Die, the first film with Roger Moore as Bond, was released. The Producers had considered him earlier, but he was under contract to play Simon Templar and was thus unavailable. Moore played Bond seven times, ending in 1985 with A View to a Kill. He was 58 at the time, the oldest actor to play Bond.
Timothy Dalton was the next Bond. Sadly, he was very ill-served by the scripts and played Bond only twice in The Living Daylights (1987) and Licence to Kill (1989). After the latter, the series took a hiatus.
In 1995, Pierce Brosnan appeared as Bond in Goldeneye. As with Moore, the producers had wanted him earlier but he was under contract to play Remington Steele and couldn’t appear as Bond. Brosnan played Bond in four films and lent his likeness and voice to Bond videogames. Daniel Craig was the last Bond and also played him in four films and several videogames.
I used to think James Bond was awesome. He had genius combat skills, brilliant gadgets, and great success with women. Now I view him very differently.
There have been numerous criticisms of the character of James Bond. Sean Connery in particular despised the way Bond treated women. This is unsurprising. In the films Goldfinger and Thunderball Bond sexually assaults (if not rapes) two women.
In both the books and the films, Bond is a murderous psychopath. He is also sloppy, reckless and indiscreet, and in reality a terrible secret agent. Some people calculated the amount of alcohol Bond is depicted as drinking in the novels, and concluded that Bond is an alcoholic. That is one of the last things a spy should be.
Licence to Kill is a particularly bad film. At the start, Bond and Felix Leiter (a CIA member and Bond’s friend) capture a druglord named Sanchez. Sanchez escapes and has Leiter fed to a shark (a scene that originally appeared in the book Live and Let Die) and his wife raped and murdered. Furious and determined to take revenge, Bond disobeys orders and pursues Sanchez.
Q gets some weaponry to Bond. Bond finds Sanchez and sets an explosive charge to blow out a huge window so he can shoot him. He blows out the window, but just as he is about to fire, he is attacked by two Hong Kong Narcotics Bureau officers, who have been observing Sanchez and are enraged that Bond almost ruined things. An MI6 agent comes to take Bond back to England. Then Sanchez’s men rescue him and kill the officers, believing them to be the would be assassins. Once inside Sanchez’s inner circle, Bond proceeds to bring him down.
The film is a revenge fantasy, and not a particularly good one at that. Bond’s interfering makes everything worse. M orders Bond off the mission because he knows Bond can’t be objective. Bond’s attempt to murder Sanchez winds up costing several agents their lives. Finally, it is unlikely that Bond captured/killed everybody. If Bond had stayed away, Sanchez would have been recaptured and his entire operation shut down. Instead, any survivors will regroup and start where Sanchez left off.
The last Bond film I saw was “Die another Day”. Even if the series reboots, I don’t think I will buy a ticket.

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