Tag Archives: logic

When your Maybach gets old and can’t remember where it put it’s keys

19 Feb

I have a good friend called Alan who is a highly respected local gardener.  Most of his regular clients assumed that he came with the house when they originally bought it. Alan began bothering their worms from the moment that they first moved in and they would not dream of ever losing his services.

They always make sure that their cars are positioned such that Alan has room to park his ageing Peugeot exactly where he usually parks it and they always leave the keys to the garage where he expects them to be left. All bulbs and new plants are respectfully left on the coal bunker for Alan to judge if and where they are worthy of planting.

Decisions regarding the well-being of the wisteria over the south wall or the casting vote on how to encourage all the bees back from wherever it is they’ve buzzed off to are earnestly sought from Alan. His solemn opinion is then passed on to visiting close friends but never to the neighbours or the daughter-in-law.

Last Friday evening, Alan and I were at the bar in the local pub. We were debating whether sun-bed tanning causes people to show up more easily on CCTV cameras at night or whether instead the artificially-tanned were simply losing their ability to have street fights during daylight. Our failure to establish the exact truth moved us onward instead to a discussion on logic and reasoning.

I suggested to Alan that the reason he is so highly respected by his clients is actually only because he always turns up on time every week and he never ever buys any new tools. He agreed, pointing out that I likewise gain most of my customers by coming across as too stupid to be dishonest and too gullible to be a threat to them.

Which reminded Alan of a dilemma he is now facing with an elderly and valued customer. This reclusive and wealthy gentleman has turned his back on the outside world and now only engages in conversation with Alan and the housekeeper. Alan has been watching the situation develop and things recently came to a head in the walled garden.

The great old house is kept company on one side by a magnificent Victorian kitchen garden with high red brick walls that make a square around a quarter acre of vegetables, protecting them from a world that might have stolen them fifty years ago before the first supermarkets. There is an ornate wrought iron gate with fluted bars set in to a small arch leading out of  the wall to the lawns at the front. The wall that is next to the house mostly collapsed years ago and lies in the brambles where it fell, having taken the chicken coop with it when it went.

On Alan’s last visit, he arrived to find a small, neat pile of bricks had been stacked on the lawn beside the wrought iron gate. Entering in to the kitchen garden, Alan saw the old gentleman stepping softly in his ox-blood brogues between the Swiss Chard, stooped like a hunter, following an invisible prey. As Alan watched, a plump wood pigeon launched up from the ground ahead of its attacker, flapping  away to the trees. The old gentleman swore at it and, seeing Alan, hailed him and strode over with a reddened and animated face.

“Good! Now you’re here, we can make a start! Excellent!”

Alan asked what the old gentleman had in mind. He was rewarded with a look of bemused impatience.

“Didn’t you see the bricks I left you?” the old man pointed. “I want this old iron gate taken out and the arch in the wall bricked up. Plenty of bricks left over to do the job!”

Alan thought it wise to double check the instructions. he pointed out that it was a beautiful gateway and it was in itself a special feature of the garden. The old gentleman was ahead of Alan, waiting for him to finish before enthusiastically explaining what Alan had so clearly failed to see for himself.

“I’ve watched that bloody wood pigeon for months! He’s got fat on my seeds all year and I won’t have any more of it!”

Alan frowned and remained puzzled. This exasperated the old gentleman.

“For heaven’s sake, Alan! The gate! I’ve watched him! He gets inside here between the bars of that damned  gate…!”

Even Joan the landlady thought that was a brilliant story and asked us if we wanted some doubles with a pound off. It seemed like the right decision at the time and it reminded me of an equally knotty problem that my second cousin is trying to solve at the moment.

He designs car door locks mechanisms for some high-end car manufacturers. The brief is quite exciting, especially given the implications for their owners when these future cars will have been owned by them for a few years.

The idea is that the faster the car is driven, the tighter the locks will pull all the doors to the body frame. This will allow much greater rigidity and far advanced body-shell safety dynamics when the vehicle is at speed or else cornering hard.

The development team have had to add about forty extra wires to the car’s main loom. The locking circuits need to communicate with the car’s ECU and so extra chips and programming modules need to be deep-wired into many other programmed circuits to allow over-ride, emergency and unlocking and dead-locking systems to function as well.

I asked him how it was going. He said they’ve got it all to work perfectly, but to steer clear of buying a five year old one that’s done a few miles. Naturally, I asked him why. He replied that the only way they can get the system to work is by programming it so that if one of the fifty-odd extra locking system components fails, the car either automatically unlocks itself for safety, or, if it is switched off, it deadlocks itself down for security. The key will be programmed to prohibit the driver from starting  the vehicle.

Smart thinking.

© 2012 Loop Withers Roadwax.com

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