Thursday, August 28, 2008

Eish! More Statistics

This time of year in Johannesburg is just absolutely fantastic, cool crisp mornings and warm days. Last Sunday Jason and I did our first ride from my house out to Northern Farm for a long time which I thoroughly enjoyed in spite of some of the sights on the way.

We were barrelling along next to the river and just about to go under the N1 when we were forced to a skidding halt by a large green metal fence which has mysteriously appeared across our path. There was no way around it so we had to backtrack and try going down the other side which proved a little trickier than expected. Basically we had to walk along a 6" concrete strip with a 5m drop on the one side and very steep embankment on which we wheeled our bicycles on the other. To make it a little more difficult, there were pillars supporting the road overhead to get around as well. As we approached the other side we could see people milling around but it was only when we got quite close that we could see the wreckage of a car which had obviously come off the highway. What a mess, but it was only when we got really close that we realised that there was a dead body lying close to the vehicle. Worst of all, we had to jump/run down these giant steps and walk right past the body which was staring sightlessly into the sky.
We speculated that since the dead person was definitely not dressed in a manner one would expect the owner of the now totalled car to dress; that he was was a car thief who had either lost control or taken an off-ramp which wasn't and fell the 15m or so from the bridge. I was surprised at how little I felt looking at the body, I would have expected that the experience would have been more emotionally traumatizing but it wasn't.
We received a bit of a scolding from the site foreman about how dangerous it was for us to pick our way through his construction site to which we politely asked that he provide an alternative route for us to use. We also asked that someone at least put a blanket over the body. Back on the track and pounding the hills was great fun but it is quite amazing at how the paths have changed since we last rode this way.
We met Kathy and Kelly at the coffee house at Northern Farm after our ride and while Kathy and I chatted and drank coffee, Jason took Kelly for a ride which Kelly seemed to really enjoy which bodes well for the future.
Jason and I rode back to his place, our legs starting to get a little sore so it was great to be fetched by Caron rather than having to ride all the way home.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

It's just the flick of a switch

Sometimes people do something that is just so mindbogglingly stupid that it has to be reduced to print. Yesterday some electricians were installing the cables to link our new generator to our distribution board and one of them was standing (strange but true) on our existing generator and knocked the mains isolator to off; accidentally I am assuming. This wouldn't have been a problem because the generator he was standing on promptly started to take up the load. What really took the cake was that he actually turned the generator off at the control panel, probably because it was making a helluva racket. The first I knew about it was when my internet connection died, I walked into the server room and saw whole racks with no "das blinkin lights". Apoplectic with anger I stormed down to find out what had happened and I just couldn't believe it when I pieced the story together. The moral of this story is that something one considers to be blindingly obvious, isn't obvious at all to other people. Condescending as it may seem, there really are times when the obvious absolutely has to be stated; even at the risk of appearing patronising.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Becoming a statistic

I arrived home from work on friday to find my front gate next to the opening it is meant to close; not good! Walking into the house I found my mother and father-in-law sitting in the lounge, a bit shell shocked that some miscreants have invaded our privacy and made off with our possessions.

Piecing together the modus-operandi it was obvious that a crow bar is a very useful implement if you are a thief. A crow bar can be used to break open pretty much anything short of a bank grade safe and this is what they used to break the rack on the front gate enabling them to open the gate. Any physical security measure that is actually workable vs a crow bar; something has to break and it isn't going to be the crow bar. The crow bar also made short work of the sliding door and they must have been in the house no more than five minutes but in that five minutes they made off with both Caron's and my PC as well as my brand new LCD TV. Very inconvenient because the took my entire photo collection, including the backups on CD leaving me with only one remaining copy which I desperately hope is ok.

Roland law of escalating security: Accept that you are going to get ripped off every now and then, insure accordingly and without making it easy for the opportunist miscreants, don't make it difficult for the real criminals. You are entering an arms race where the opposition isn't bound by the same morals that you are so don't enter the race.
By way of examples;
Car hijacking used to be unknown but then everyone put alarms and immobilisers into their cars making it all but impossible to steal an unoccupied car. The bandits escalated to stealing the car while you are inside; personally, I would rather not be inside the car.
Once upon a time, criminals would steal or copy a credit card so VISA and Mastercard put PIN's on the card to prevent this. What do criminals do? well they kidnap (worst case scenario but it has happened) you and your card and force you at gunpoint to divulge the PIN. Personally, I would rather they just took the card and left me alone.

The moral of the story is that if you make it difficult enough for criminals, they aren't going to stop stealing because it is difficult, they're just going to change modus operandi and because their reluctance to the use of physical violence is less than most peoples, it is most of the people that lose more than just their possessions.

Don't get me wrong, I don't condone in any way criminal behaviour but in the bigger scheme of things, possesions are just money and if you value them more than you value your and your families well being you really should start examining your priorities as a human being.

One of the things we purposefully did was to make one of the entrances to the house easy to break into so thieves can get in and out with whatever they are taking as quickly as possible. While making physical entry easy, we do have an alarm so that they know that they have only 5 minutes before big guys with big guns arrive to take them on. This is a conscious effort not to prevent theft but to limit it in a similar manner to a credit card. Yes, it can get copied and used fraudulently but at the end of the day, there is only so much the criminals can get away with.

Surprising, even now after a few days, I am unable to actually get cross about the missing possessions. Sure it is annoying and it is going to cost a bit to replace everything but nobody was harmed and it isn't anything worse than an expensive inconvenience.