I am never buying from Volkswagen again

(Note: this only applies to VW South Africa. Other countries may be better.)
I have had it with Volkswagens.
I have owned two cars in my life and both were Volkswagens. When I buy my third car, it will not be from that manufacturer.
My parents between them have owned five Volkswagens: two Passats; a 1988 Jetta CLi, a Citi Golf and a Golf 3. When it was time to purchase my first car, I went for a 1.4L Citi Chico. After it was written off in a crash, I bought my current vehicle, a 1.4i Polo Classic.
The Chico was as robust as a tank. The only major expense it incurred was at the 90,000km service when the clutch assembly needed to be replaced. That service in 2009 cost me just under R9,000.
Now let’s compare that to the Polo.
30,000km service: The dashboard mounted cupholder had to be replaced.
Before 50,000km: The hooter gave out and had to be replaced.
60,000km service: The workshop found a bunch of things wrong with my car. Total cost to fix was R14,745.53. No, that’s not a typo. I have the bill in front of me now.
90,000km service: On Monday, I took my Polo in for its 90,000km service. Bill was R12,462.08. I also have that receipt in front of me.
I accept that as cars get older, massive and expensive overhauls are inevitable. However, a car needing two services before 100,000km that each cost in excess of R10,000 is totally UNacceptable. I would also like to mention at this point that my mother’s experiences with her Golf 3 led her to abandon the Volkswagen brand. She now drives a Honda.
It seems to me that Volkswagen South Africa’s standards have slipped badly, and that they are sitting on their laurels and trading on past glory. They have permanently lost me as a customer, and if anybody asks my advice about buying a new car, I will tell them all about my experiences and advise them to avoid Volkswagen.

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South Africa is heading towards the edge of a cliff

Around two years ago, I expressed my concern for the future of South Africa. The events of the last few months have left me even more worried. South Africa is in crisis and I don’t know how much longer it can survive.
This has been a long time coming. Bad and dishonest decisions taken over the past 21 years combined with haughty arrogance and a failure to plan have led us to a point where the fiscus has been drained and the economy weakened, and the decision-takers lack both the will and the ability to rectify matters.
The bad decisions that have brought us to this started very early. Soon after democracy, the artisanal training programmes were shut down. Every country needs artisans, and we have had to hire people with the necessary skills from overseas as the loss of the programmes meant a loss of vital skills. Also, Outcomes Based Education was introduced over strong warnings from educators who correctly warned that South Africa did not meet the preconditions to successfully implement it.
Another example of mishandling things was the manner in which affirmative action was initially done – it was treated as a numbers game. Instead of a period of handover, training, upskilling and skills transfer, white civil servants were offered retrenchment packages and replaced by previously disadvantaged individuals who didn’t receive the training and support they needed to succeed in their jobs. In many cases, smart civil servants took retrenchments, then became consultants and were hired back at lucrative salaries to train their replacements. It was a textbook failure to plan. The institutional knowledge (so vital to any organisation’s success) of South Africa’s Civil Service was eroded and took years to recover.
Even before 1994 the world economy was a modern one. By this, I mean one where skills and brains are paramount. The removal of a vital training programme and the introduction of OBE (now thankfully removed) damaged South Africa’s skillset.
One of the most damaging strategies in South Africa is Cadre Deployment: the action of making political appointments to non-political posts. In far too many cases, the appointee lacks the skills and qualifications to do his or her job. Furthermore, because the appointment is a political one, decisions are taken for political reasons, not business or practical ones. The consequences have been devastating. State-Owned Enterprises from ESKOM to SAA and the SABC have had to be bailed out by the taxpayer to the tune of millions, and are still unable to fulfill their mandates. Hospitals and health care departments have been under-resourced, with patients dying.
There has also been a massive failure to plan ahead and prepare for future needs. In 1998, the government was told that ESKOM needed to build new power stations to meet future needs. The government failed to let ESKOM expand, and failed to do anything else like bring in private power producers to meet future needs. In 2006, we had our first round of load shedding. This year, we had another round, although thankfully not as severe.
Instead of facing up and acknowledging that there are problems, the preferred manner of dealing with issues is to pretend they don’t exist and hope they go away, and to attack those who try to point them out. In the late 1990’s the city of Johannesburg faced a billing crisis. Ratepayers were being incorrectly billed, double billed, overcharged and charged for properties they didn’t own. The municipality first denied for months that there was a problem, then cast all sorts of aspersions on the complainers, then finally admitted that yes, there was a problem, and yes, it would be fixed. That is not the only example, just the most memorable.
A haughty arrogance and refusal to admit to gaffes is also prevalent. The aforementioned introduction of OBE against valid concerns is one such instance. More recently, new visa rules for travelling to South Africa (including biometric readings) were introduced. The tourism industry warned Home Affairs Minister Mmalusi Gigaba that South Africa didn’t have the scanners set up in missions and embassies across the world, and that the regulations were impracticable. Gigaba ignored the protests, and when the inevitable drop in tourist numbers occurred, blamed the tourism industry for failing to properly market South Africa overseas instead of owning up to his blunder. The new regulations are being reviewed, but South Africa has lost millions from tourists who went elsewhere instead of coming here. The damage has been done.
A big problem is our government’s attitude towards business. The unions played a big role in the fight against apartheid, and there is an open hostility towards business. The Council for Concilliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) is loaded with commissioners who frequently rule against businesses regardless of the merits of the case. Many large companies have had CCMA ruling overturned by the Labour Court, but smaller businesses often lack the money to appeal. Founding a business is also a nightmare, with red tape and legislation making it very difficult to register a company. Because businesses are the cornerstne of the economy, the result is a loss of job opportunities and taxes.
Most damaging of all is the massive corruption and the complete and utter failure to deal with it. Starting with the 1998 Arms Deal, billions have been lost. Our own president had a fortune spent on his private residence at Nkandla, and refuses to repay any of it, despite the Public Protector ruling that he should pay back a fair portion of the money spent. A secretive deal with Russia to build nuclear reactors was signed. The secrecy has aroused suspicions that there will be massive bribes and kickbacks paid.
The reality is, because the president is corrupt, everyone else now has no incentive to be honest.
All of the above has now led South Africa to a crisis point. The signs are clear. South Africa’s economy is growing at a slower rate than most other economies, even developing ones. While other countries are slowly recovering from the global downturn, our economy isn’t even outperforming inflation. As a result, South African Investment companies are looking outside of South Africa for opportunities. South Africa’s membership of AGOA is also at risk.
Last month, workers at the Post Office received 70% of their salaries because the Post Office was out of money. After a threatened strike, the workers got the remaining 30%. Students protesting university fee increases managed to get no increase for next year, but the universities will need funding from government to cover their shortfall. It is money South Africa does not have, as Minister of Finance Nhlanhla Nene revealed in his mid term budget speech.
South Africa is about to run out of money. This has been a long time coming, but come it has.

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Autistics’ Speaking Day: On my voice and identity

Normally, when Autistics’ Speaking Day occurs, I stay up until midnight, and post as soon as possible. Not today, though.
I’m going to write about identity and autism. Mostly in regards to myself, but I guess it can be extrapolated outward.
I’ve been blogging for the last five and a half years, and commenting on others’ blogs for almost six. During that time, people have tried to deny me my voice. They have told me that I am not autistic enough. That I can’t possibly understand or advocate for people who are more autistic than I am. The most egregious example of this was four years ago. MJ, a parent to three girls with autism, bluntly said:

So, no, when you advocate, you do not advocate on behalf of what my children need. What you do is minimize and marginalize them – especially when you compare their disability to something like women’s rights.

It was a blatant and mendacious attempt at laying a guilt trip on me, and it backfired. In the thread, Kassiane Sibley had called MJ out for trying to get autistic adults to shut up, and she had been absolutely correct. MJ wanted to silence me. He didn’t succeed.
I recently read a blogpost by another autistic blogger who hit the nail on the head with regards to the fallacy used by those who want high-functioning autistics to stay out of the discussion. The blogger claimed that the would be exclusionists were invoking the “no true Scotsman” fallacy. The exclusionists were trying to redefine the meaning of autism to exclude high-functioning individuals from the discussion. MJ was trying to do that to me, but that is not the only time it’s been used against me. Several other times internet commenters have said something along the lines of “you’re not disabled enough”. I only wish I’d recognised the tactic sooner.
There is a trend to use “person-first language” when speaking about disability. For example “person with retinitis pigmentosa”. I’ve seen recommendations to say “person with autism”, but that’s not my viewpoint.
As I see it, I’m not “someone with autism”, I’m autistic. It’s a part of me. It’s part of who I am.
I don’t doubt for a second that I would have had an easier life had I been born not autistic. But if I was given the option of a treatment that would turn me neurotypical, I’d refuse it.
If I wasn’t autistic, I wouldn’t be me.
The fact that so often, people have tried to deny me my voice and identity has made me more determined than ever to keep them.

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On upgrading to Windows 10

So I got fed up with my laptop’s nagging, and upgraded to Windows 10. Here’s a brief tutorial on what to expect and do.

Before updating

Back up everything just in case it goes to hell. Mine didn’t, but I’ve heard others have been less fortunate. Also, run Disk Cleanup.

Download Time

The upgrade is almost 3GB in size, so unless you have very fast internet, it’s going to take a little time. Mine took around two hours.


This took around three hours, all in all. Not surprising, given its size. Also, my laptop warned me that it would restart several times. My recommendation is that you do it on a Saturday morning. You can finish a task like say putting on the laundry and periodically check up on the update, then do some more housework and so forth.
I was extremely happy. My files and all the applications I’d installed were transferred over to Windows 10. It was smooth as silk.

After Updating

Run Disk Cleanup again, including of system files. Here, you need to be extra aware. One of the options is to remove previous versions of Windows.
Unless you are certain you do not want to return to your old version of Windows, whether it is Vista, 7, 8 or 8.1, do not select this option.

First impressions

Windows 10 has a very stylish look. Edge is a nice browser. The “Start” Menu with its standard option and its “Life at a glance” is very cleverly thought out.

And now the bad

There are several problems. In Windows Vista through to 8.1, when ALT-TABbing through open files and applications, the last option was “Desktop”. This option has been removed in Windows 10. My personal opinion is that removing this option is retrogressive, and I want it back.
Scrolling with the keyboard is also problematic. I can’t always use a mouse as my machine is a laptop. I would scroll down using the arrow keys, but after a few seconds, they stopped working. I would have to click on the page to get them to work again. This quickly gets annoying. Why can’t Microsoft just accept that some people either can’t use a mouse, or prefer using the keyboard.
Another big issue is drivers. After my upgrade, my laptop’s internal speaker worked fine.
One day, I wanted to listen to something in private, so I plugged my earphones in. All of a sudden, the Speaker Icon deactivated and gave the message “No audio output device detected”. My brother in law (who works in IT support) advised me to update my drivers. That restored speaker functionality.
My brother in law also told me that a lot of organisations that upgraded to Windows 10 are having real problems. The thing is, printers that are properly maintained last for years and years, and a lot of very old printers are still in use. But because they’re so old, the manufacturers aren’t prepared to write Windows 10 drivers for them so they won’t work with Windows 10 machines. Perhaps someone will hack together drivers.


Windows 10 was worth it for me. All in all, I’m sticking with it.

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Follow up

This will be a follow up to two of my earlier posts.
The woman whose skeleton was found was named Iola Glenda Cynthia Ditcham. I’ve found out a few things about her. Enough to put together a rough timeline.
In 1991, Iola and Brian Ditcham, a childless couple, buy the house.
In the first decade of the new millennium, Brian dies of cancer and Iola suffers a bad fall in her driveway. She survives, but suffers permanent sequelae from the event. Her brother Frank starts periodically checking up on her.
Frank dies. Nobody is checking up on Iola.
Some time in circa 2013, Iola dies in her bedroom. With no-one making sure of her welfare, her death goes unnoticed.
Thursday August 20th 2015: Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Police Officers responding to a complaint enter the Ditcham property. They find Iola’s skeleton and summon the SAPS. A man in his 60’s is found squatting on the property and is ordered to leave.
Antivaxxers in California set up a petition to get SB277 revoked. As is typical with fanatics, they completely underestimated their support. They had 90 days to collect at least 365,880 valid signatures. Had they done so, officials would have sampled the signatures to determine validity. If this had revealed no chicanery, SB277 would have been halted until November 2016 and gone before voters to decide.
They didn’t even get past the first gate. Ony about 200,000 signatures were returned. Amusingly, Tim Donnelly, the former Californian assemblyman behind the referendum, has claimed sabotage.

I will try to find out what else I can about Iola Ditcham.

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Vaccines and autism, a wedding, predictions and a group to be banned

Some news stories caught my eye.
Firstly, yet another study came to the conclusion that vaccines, and in particular thimerosal, do not cause autism. It was the follow up to a study which saw macaques given various vaccine schedules to see if they developed symptoms consistent with autism. The study is “Administration of thimerosal-containing vaccines to infant rhesus macaques does not result in autism-like behavior or neuropathology”.
Amusingly, two of the funders of the study were Safeminds and the National Autism Association, both firm proponents of the vaccine autism causation hypothesis. They probably funded it because they believed it would provide evidence in support of the hypothesis. I know schadenfreude is improper, but that’s what I’m feeling now.
On a more heartwarming note, Anita Lesko and Abraham Talmage Nielsen, both autistic, got married and hosted an “All-autism” wedding. Every member of the wedding party was on the spectrum – the two flower girls and two ring bearers, the harp player, the officiant, D.J., groomsmen, usher, and the person who baked the wedding cake.
I previously said that Thora Birch should quit acting. All I did is prove I would make a useless fortune teller. She’s been cast in “Colony”.
One last thing: If you are on Facebook, please report this group. Their name is “Families against autistic shooters”, they believe that autistics are school shooters, and that’s all I need to say.

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Vaccines do not cause autism. This should not be up for discussion.

Although I didn’t watch the most recent Republican Primary debate, I read of it afterwards. “Depressing” doesn’t even start to cover it.
Donald Trump has shown just how clueless he is on autism. He raised the false claim about an “autism epidemic”, then repeated the “vaccines cause autism” lie. This despite the fact that Wakefield’s lies were discredited over five and a half years ago. It is mindblowing, and not in a good way, that this ignorant, arrogant pinhead is in the running.
Bad though Trump’s inaccuracies were, one sort of expects that from him. What was even sadder was the response from Dr Ben Carson, another of the candidates, who was asked for his comments on Trump’s remarks.
Carson is a paediatric surgeon, and as such will be well aware of the dangers an unvaccinated child poses to one who has received a transplant or is immunosuppressed from cancer treatment. He could have pointed out that Wakefield’s “study” was retracted and hasn’t been independently replicated, and that the latest research reveals that “too many too soon” is also dead wrong. He should have stomped on Trump’s bad argument hard. Instead, he gave a toothless, wishy-washy response that could be twisted to mean support. Fortunately, Bernie Sanders came to the party.
Five and a half years after “The Lancet” retracted Wakefield’s research, the “vaccines cause autism” lie should not be up for discussion. That it is, and that it isn’t crushed the moment it appears, is disappointing.

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