Disabled Strongman at Arnold Classic

Bionic Man

Bionic Man

This year will the first time the Strongman Corporation will have approved / sponsored a disabled strongman at the Arnold Classic on March 9th and its looking interesting. After the global success of the London 2012 Para-Olympics and the recent explosion of strongman its about time disabled strongman became a thing.

I met the “bionic man” at an event last year, a body builder with missing lower limbs, and he were looking good. Well developed legs, and generally looking damn good, he didn’t mention any major issues with the prosthetics.

I remember having a conversation with someone in the gym about the actual mechanics of weight lifting with missing limbs. Lots of the events require both hands, but many able-bodied people use hooks. Another question were how much weight can you apply to a prosthetic leg, and how much force can you apply to a prosthetic arm. 

However I thought about the ParaOlympics, and the crazy force applied to the sprinting blades, a 80kg athlete running is applying 300kg+ of force to a blade. On bench pressing, many athletes without lower limbs used strapping to the benches, those without hands used hooks and so on.

The event will contain both seated and standing events, including Arm over Arm Sled Pull, Dumbbell Press Medley, Crucifix Hold, and the Atlas Stones. A good mixture there, but kind of excluding those with upper limb issues, but I can’t be sure since Chris Ruden is competing and he’s he’s minus an arm.

I don’t know how to word lots of these things, so apologies if I’ve used the wrong terms or anything else. 

I’m looking forward this.

 

My Driving Test

L Plate

L Plate

I finally succeeded at passing my driving test, I say finally but given my first driving lesson ever were less than a month before hand, I guess it weren’t that long. It just felt like longer due to the pressure and rushing to fit it all in before my shoulder surgery, work issues, business and other stuff. I’ve included more about my theory test and driving test results later along with some commentary. 

First things, my Driving Instructor were John Swain (FB link) or 07968956860. He does both slow and steady as well as high intensity driving courses. Basically this is lessons from 1 hour to 5 hours (with breaks), between the hours of 6am-8pm. He can be flexible beyond that too, but best to talk to him about your specific needs.

I did a mixture of lessons, I went with 3-4 hours for my first few lessons, then between 1.5-3 hours, using the longer lessons to work on my sticking points. I believe it were a total of 11 lessons, spread over about 3 weeks, with lessons from 7am to 8pm fitting around my work timetable.

What I will say is intensive teaching seems a little overwhelming at first as you literally dive right in. Lots of things, for example moving off safely, at first I were thinking, where are my peddles, check mirrors, look over shoulder for blind spot, damn it man you forgot to indicate, indicate on, check mirrors, look in blind spot, press clutch down, find my gear stick, move into first gear, its been too long, check my mirrors, and blind spot again, slowly raise clutch, don’t stall, find the bite point, don’t stall mofo, check my mirrors again, steer out the spot, last glance to right, ease on the gas, mirror check, off the clutch fully, and pull away. 

Once you’re more in to it, you don’t think so much about the actions, or sequentially its more check mirrors while getting into gear and finding bite point, blind spot check, move out, speed up and away. The intensive courses made this process harder at first but the extended driving lesson time meant you could keep trying and trying and get it nailed.

My Driving Test Pass Score

My Driving Analysis Form

My Driving Analysis Form

My test started out potentially really badly, firstly the number plate I were asked to read had a bolt and cap in one of the letters, which made it near impossible to determine M or N and possibly even a W. Angela (my test examiner) struggled a little too, but I chose M and upon inspection at about 5m we both agreed M.

For reference in this instance its the examiners discretion if they accept M/N/W and your option to ask to read the car next to it or another plate, if you wish. 

The nitty gritty, I got 3 minor faults. One of them were as simple as poor positioning of my left foot and the heel got caught on the floor mat so I fluffed some consecutive gear changes. The other 2 minors were for mirror/signal category. I’m not 100% sure where they were, but I’m sure 1 of them were signalling (indicator) before a mirror check. I’m working on this, when I’ve been checking my mirrors on approach to a turn, I have sometimes forgotten to double check or rather include a dedicated mirror check.

I made an absolute point of NOT looking at what my DVSA Examiner were writing or marking, I didn’t want it to distract me. This is why I’m not 100% what the minors were for, other than the gear one.

I asked Angela for an extra critical assessment at the end to which she jokingly offered to add some extra minors if I liked. To be crystal clear I’m 100% sure I earned those 3 minors and they were genuine. I included mention of this joke as often I hear examiners are very stuffy, but they are only human. In her more critical assessment she said her only suggestion were work on mirrors and observation in general, everyone always need more observation. In general my driving were fine.

John also parroted her observation comment saying more experienced drivers often don’t do blind spot checks, so hammer the checks home as a newly qualified driver and build the habit.  

Excellent Lesson 

Poynton Round About Hazards

Round About Hazards

On my test day, a really helpful thing happened, confusing at first but helpful. Right by the test centre in Bredbury is a BP petrol station, which has a HGV/LGV fuel pump (I’d never seen one, or noticed before). We needed air in one of the tired and a screen wash refill to make sure all tip-top for the test. A large truck was in the right lane, indicating left, so I’m thinking slow down, give it space, its going to turn left at the lights. Suddenly its hazard lights come on, it did some weird positioning and manoeuvres, so I come to a near stop, then it became clear it were heading into the petrol station.

It were an excellent thing to happen, and taught me when you’re going to perform unexpected manoeuvres bang the hazards on and hopefully the cars behind will give you extra room. The first day I were driving, a transit van pulled up towards the end of a one way road, and banged the hazards on, so I hung back an sure enough the driver performed a tricky reverse park into a obscured drive way. His hazard lights meant I allowed space and all good. 

The pic on right is a place I sometimes park to stop at the pharmacy and its a nightmare, the green dot is a tree, the blue dot a statue and the red line is my route of travel. Invariably people expect you to enter the round about, so when you indicate left into the concealed entrance between the tree and statue you’re risking a rear end bump. I have seen many actual bumps and near misses in this very spot. When I approach now, I bang my hazard lights on about 2-4 car lengths before the status and the car behind me almost without exception drops back and I can safely make that turn.

Just for completeness as I have said before, I passed my theory with 49/50 on questions and 67/75 on hazard perception, which is a very good score, since I had never had a driving lesson before. 

Generation Gap

Huge Round About Portwood

Huge Round About Portwood

My early days driving has highlighted many things, many of these things are linked to potentially overly confident drivers, or perhaps drivers who were trained the old ways. My mum for example said she had never seen a round about with more than 2 lanes before. She as a younger person had never even seen or been on a motorway as a passenger.

The biggest round about she encountered for years of driving were 2 lanes, and she never came across one with lane guidance which negated the need to indicate in the first decade (see left). Lots of other things she had to figure out as she came across them. There is a growing argument for drivers to take refresher tests or a second driving test to see if you’re still safe, I can see why. I can however see that actual driving is about the road not the book, so I’m not sure it would help massively. 

I get the feeling many of the things which confuse me as a new driver, are because I’ve been taught the 2016 way, and my mother were taught the 1990s way, my older sister the 1980s way, and so on.

Its not so much people are driving wrong, they are just driving to a different era and we all have to find a working middle ground, and get by. 

Woodpecker Tree Surgeons Branding

Woodpecker Tree Surgeons

Woodpecker Tree Surgeons

I were sat in the local gym, chugging away at endurance cycling which is about all I can do while awaiting surgery. I generally dream about being anywhere else but sat on the damn bike. I often feel I should be looking for colorectal proctologist in preparation for the day I’ll need help to remove the horrible seat from my backside.

On this occasion I happened to look out the window and spot a big yellow van stopped at the traffic lights. Initially it were the bright yellow and red flash of the Woodpecker which caught my eye. When I read the name “Woodpecker Tree Surgeons“, I thought that’s cool a wood carving bird aka a woodpecker for a tree surgeon comaony. As I looked closer I noticed the chainsaw beak and which made me smile. I took a quick photo through the window, and caught part of a treadmill too. 

I should point out, I Have NO Connection to this company at all, I mere saw it and thought that’s the kinda branding which sticks and be a good blog post.

I had a quick google of other companies who use “Woodpecker” in their name, and the majority of them use a generic woodpecker image of some description or a silhouette style image. The custom image here perfectly describes what they do and matches their company name, making it so much more memorable. 

Its a shame they didn’t have a website on the side of the van, it would be far easier to remember rather than just a few phone numbers. 

Just FYI, Their website is exactly what they are called… WoodpeckerTreeSurgeons.co.uk.

I’d say this company has NAILED the branding, matching name, funky graphics and very memorable. 

Driving Examiner Sues Learner Driver for Whiplash

Crash Test Collision

Crash Test Collision

Ben Williams, 24, from Sutton Coldfield has failed his driving test when DVSA Examiner Keith Priestly accused him of “braking too quickly” and causing whiplash. Luckily on this occasion Mr Williams Driving instructor Elaine Rose were in the rear of the car and she is reported to have argued that Ben executed the emergency stop manoeuvre perfectly. 

Ben who is an Engineer said “It was a nightmare. Its nerve-racking enough doing a driving test – let alone the examiner trying to sue you afterwards. He asked me to perform the emergency stop, so I did, and then he started groaning that I braked too hard and fast… but I felt fine and so did my instructor”.

His test were cancelled due to the examiner not being fit to continue the test, which gave Mr Williams a free retest. A few weeks later Mr Williams revived a letter from solicitors saying they were lodging a claim for damages to Mr Priestly for whiplash. On a side note, this is what happens if your test is cancelled due to bad weather, heavy traffic or anything else which isn’t the candidates fault.

Not So Emergency Stop

Sorry pedestrian peoples, your dog, your 3 year old child and your granny need all the kings men to put them back together, I decided to plough you down because, well I didn’t want to brake too fast in case I got whiplash.  My examiner said that’s fine but you’re all dead so all good, doesn’t matter. 

The emergency stop is essentially the ONLY manoeuvre you accrue faults and fail for checking your mirrors and being too slow, the key is EMERGENCY, not when its safe, convenient and legal, it means RIGHT NOW!

Lets do the maths, 30 mph, you’re travelling at about 15 meters per second and thinking time 10 meters. The very idea is that you cut the time in half and save lives. My instructor John told me off for worrying about lurching him forward and other stuff, STOP!

The Final Outcome

A few weeks later Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) wrote to Mr Williams saying Mr Priestly has been disciplined and the case has been dropped. A DVSA spokesperson has said “Mr Priestly no longer works for the DVSA. We can’t comment further”. 

Apple Too Big For Its Boots

I saw this story on Vox, and as a non-Apple using person aka Not-A-FanBoi, I don’t pay too much attention beyond slaying “Power User” Mac’s with my PC and listening to their excuses. Namely that Apple Pro’s are not being updated, and boohoo Apple essentially cripple the machine so its barely upgradable and hobble the software so you can’t use other vendors hardware.

Apple Fanboi Anatomy

Apple Fanboi Anatomy

I always highlight Hackintosh too, which is essentially a Frankenstein Mac, Mac Software running on non-mac hardware. I mean lets face it, there is no mac-hardware its just IBM PC hardware which mac runs on anyway.  

In my eyes all these arguments are akin to moaning you don’t like McDonalds but still eating there 3 times a day, 7 days a week and still moaning about it.

Walking Money Talks Loudest

When it emerged a few years ago that a bunch of Restaurant Chains were taking various amounts of staff tips or indulging in bogus deals, I didn’t like that practice, so what did I do ? I sure as heck, didn’t start going 5 days a week to tell them I didn’t like it, while still paying them.

I sent an email to corporate HQ of the companies I previous frequented, with details of my last few visits. I continued to explain I would NEVER attend their venue, would actively discourage everyone I knew from attending their venue and would continue to do so until their policy changed. Effectively I kicked them in the proverbial, they either fix the issues or lose my money and money I have influence over. 

The article in Vox, highlights what I pointed out a month or two ago, that apple seem obsessed with making things thinner, lighter and more minimalist rather than capable of doing the job. 

Pro Spec for Power Users

I’m a power user, my laptop (I use the term laptop lightly), weighs in at about 5kg, its has 2x SSD, 1x m.2 SSD, 2 Graphics Cards, an i7 Extreme Processor, a 330w Power Brick and it is a brick, 32gb of ram, and sounds like a Harrier Jump Jet when it gets going. I don’t really care about how heavy it is, how bulky it is, or how it looks. 

What I care about is, from pressing the power button, to having Photoshop loaded, takes about 30 seconds and I’m ready to rock. I care about being able to plug a 32″ Output TV to my left, and a second 27″ monitor to my right while using Premier Pro to edit video. I care about it effectively rendering video in real time, about it cranking out Crysis on maximum settings with hi-res resource pack at 60fps+. Most of all I care about the fact that I can pull out the processor and upgrade it, I can pull out both the GPU’s and upgrade them, I can change out the m.2 and the SSDs, hell I can even move from Intel to Killer on the Wifi/BT or upgrade the ram. I can and have overclocked the processor/graphics and ram.

iPhone 4 vs Samsung Galaxy S2

iPhone 4 vs Samsung Galaxy S2

The machine is a Pro Powerhouse, can you do any of that on you’re outdated Mac Pro, hell could you do even half of that on your brand new Mac Pro ? 

While some of Apples things are cool, but planned obsolescence and control freak nature is such a downer and stops me ever buying them.

I firmly believe while you, yes you fan bois accept inferior, sub-standard, crippled  and outdated tech and proceed to hail them as the messiah, you will always be stuck with more Tosh than Mac.

The meme on the right, is one of many which compares contemporary phones with iPhones and the story is nearly always the same. The iPhone has an array of red doesn’t have, and the competing phone has green straight through. 

I owned the very first iPhone, you couldn’t even MMS, no bluetooth, if you faced the screen inwards towards your leg in your pocket, it would stop working until it cooled down, there were no apps, no flash for the camera, it were shite. I took it back to Carphone Warehouse who exchanged the phone over the screen not working before I figured out it were because I face the screen inwards for protection.

There is an article on Gizmodo which compares the original iPhone 1 (2007) to the iPhone 6S+ (2015) and its shocking devastating how little has actually changed, not to mention how feeble the specs are 1gb of Ram, Dual Core Processors, its almost embarrassing. 

Driving Test Changes for 2017

L Plate

L Plate

I posted about the consultation on changes to the driving test previously but the results from that little experiment are starting to filter down. Whilst some of the things I agree with, some of them I have major issues with.

As a learner driver now, my experience is very limited, too small to be statistically relevant. I will of course update this with a new post at a later point and reference this one once I have more input.

Change Is In The Air

There are a few major changes, some are good and some appear to be minor tweaks, and one is questionable at best.

  1. An increase to the ‘independent driving’ part of the test from 10 to 20 minutes.
  2. Asking the candidates to follow directions given from a SatNav during the ‘independent driving’ part of the test.
  3. Replace the ‘reverse around a corner’ and ‘turn in the road’ manoeuvres with more real-life scenarios such as driving into and reversing out of a parking bay. Parking on the right side of the road.
  4. Ask one of the two vehicle safety questions (known as the ‘show me, tell me’ questions) while the candidate is driving, such as asking them to use the rear heated screen or use screen wash and wipers to clear the window.

The replacing the manoeuvres is a little eek, we already have the “Bay Park” which is reverse parking into a bay, on top of this they are planning on adding forward parking as well. I’m not sure this counts as real-life scenarios, but I guess its a start.

The using SatNav is a definite plus, and honestly its about time this were in there, so I guess on balance its ok. 

What’s New

Motorway Speed Light Lines

Motorway Speed Light Lines

One of the things suggested by Transport Minister Andrew Jones is actually really very good. He wants learner drivers to be able to take driving lessons on motorways before passing their driving test. Just when you think its getting good, it turns out these lessons will be voluntary. It would also be up to the driving instructor to determine when they learner driver is competent and safe to have motorway lessons. 

Currently the only way to get motorway lessons is pay for them after you have passed your test or as some new drivers do by completing the also voluntary Pass Plus or similar scheme.

Its complete madness yet again by not making them mandatory. Sooner or later you MUST use the motorway so you should be trained to use them.

High speed driving is a very different animal, during my first 4 driving lessons I never went over 31mph, and 51mph were the fastest speed I went in the 8/9 professional lessons I have had.  I went up to the next major town to me in a relatives car, and theres a NSL Dual Carriageway. Steering at 70-72mph is VERY different than lower speeds. If you’ve never gone 50+, the odds of you turning too aggressively are so high, and flipping the vehicle becomes a reality if not cracking something.

Making It More Modern

I mentioned changing the manoeuvres earlier to add forward bay parking and parking on the right side of the road. This is all well and good but its hardly scratching the surface of what’s needed. If you drove like you are trained to, and what you MUST emulate to actually pass, you would be Schrodingers Handgrenade on the road. By that I mean at any given moment someone tests your status, and its BOOM time.

The only way you get away with it while learning is because of the L Plates, and the exceptions others make for you. Excluding White Van Man who either wants to claim whiplash off you, or is too high on paint fumes to realise how much danger they are causing. If ever there were an advert for dash cams it should just be a picture of a white van in your rear view mirror.

Round About Lane Discipline

Round Abouts No Left

Round Abouts No Left

Today while I were out, one of the techniques I was taught and expected to use went wrong, horribly wrong. The round about technique is essentially if you are going left or straight ahead, you approach just left of the curb or in the curb lane. You then have to follow the curb around to the left and steer with the curb around to the exit and off. 

This works amazingly well on multi-lane round abouts, but as soon as you have a single lane, which is wide enough for 2 or more vehicles such as this one. In this google maps image, you can see a few cars have parked at the bottom.

I drew in the white line to show its wide enough, there are no lines though. What are you supposed to do, is in blue. While I followed the blue line, another car came up and followed the red line. The brown splat is where the others Christmas tree air freshener became ineffective against the load in his pants.

There is an argument the other guy shouldn’t over-take on a round about, but there also an argument that sticking to the curb is nuts in such circumstances. A more defensive road position would have solved this potential collision. I can see the point of instilling lane discipline on round abouts, but single lane round abouts need some work. There are slightly different rules for mini roundabouts, laned roundabouts, and normal roundabouts, so why not for single lane vs multiple lane ? 

Co-incidentally, the red line would be what is called “Straight lining The Round About”, it would fail your driving test, should a police officer be really kinky and enjoy the punishment of writing reports it can be an endorsable offence. While talking about this, Straightlining a mini round, as in driving over the hub, is a 3 point offence. Rule 188 prohibits it, but doesn’t expressly prohibit using a mini round about as a U-Turn location. 

3 Point Turn vs Turn In The Road

Austin Powers 3 Point Turn

Austin Powers 3 Point Turn

The 3 Point Turn has been renamed Turn In The Road some years ago, which is probably good, since its not always possible to do a 3 point. However as I understand it, you can still earn minor faults for doing more than 3 points. There are actually about 5 different ways to fail during a turn in the road manoeuvre. 

If its a 3 point turn, then call it that. The name Turn In The Road implies that as long as your observation, control and technique are on the ball then 3 or 6 should still be acceptable. There also needs to be a point where you are performing a 10 point turn, and holding 200 cars up, that you simply accept if the curbs low enough, its safe to do you, you have to mount the curb as its safer to do that.

I ended up on a new build housing estate where they hadn’t quite finished the road, the madness they hadn’t even lowered the curbs for drive ways, it were double parked and a nightmare. I hadn’t been prepared for that kind of turn, trying to use standard techniques I would have hit another car, mounted the huge 9″ curbs, or something worse.

 Reversing In General

While reversing, you’re expected to look out your rear window for about half of your time going in reverse. I can’t see much of anything out of my rear window, so I had to literally take my eyes of the road, and look into space. I may as well have been checking my phone and texting for all it helped. 

This needs to be updated, the technique for vehicles without a rear window needs to be taught and then the option given. I could see more by using my left, right, interior and checking my side (front and rear/blind spot) than I could in the rear, the rear window check made me feel like I were taking my eyes off the road.

The vehicles I have learned in have both had rear cameras, so the odd glance at that revealed a better rear view than any rear window glance ever could. While they are adding technology like SatNav usage, they should also include the usage of Parking Sensors and Rear View Camera’s. You should absolutely learn how park and reverse without using technology but you should also be taught how to use it too. 

I could go on way more, but hopefully this update is just the start and other updates are coming, more useful ones. 

 

Highway Image by Tookapic, Map Image by Google and Austin Powers image by New Line Cinema / Warner Bros.

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