Emergency Electrical Repairs

Saturday afternoon I got a call from my friend and business partner Nicole. She had no water! The well that supplies her house also supplied water to the house next door. Well the house next door no longer has power so she no longer has water.

Her landlord was busy and did not have an electrician on call for emergencies. So she called me knowing that I have an electrician’s license.

I studied the system for a bit and figured out that we could run a temporary extension cord to the well house and get water.

Today I went back and ran a new service from the landlords workshop to the well house. This involved digging a trench and adding a new breaker to his breaker box.

After a few hours work, we had a permanent solution to the lack of power situation. Nicole now has water again and a much more reliable power source for her well pump.

Finding the right Video codecs

h264, mp4s and AVIs oh my!

My son Will is doing a video for his media class.  He borrowed our friend Jenny’s camera.  This all seemed simple enough.  Just download the files and edit them right?  Not so fast there!

None of our computers had the right codecs to even play the files.  And his editor program would not even recognise them as videos.  It seems that they are stored in something called h264 or MP4 format.

I hit sourceforge for a converter program.  I quickly found and downloaded a MP4 to AVI converter. The program error ed every time I clicked on a file.  I dug through the advanced trouble shooting to find it only worked with h263 files whatever those are!

There was a procedure to convert h264 files but it was too complicated for us to follow and we were missing some of the software.

As we grew more frustrated and the deadline was fast approaching we tried a different approach.  We used the camera software to upload the videos to You tube.  Then I used a capture program to convert from You tube to AVI.

This worked pretty well but was very slow.  Especially having to wait for Youtube to process the file.  Eventually Will got all his files uploaded and converted.  He then loaded them on his thumb drive and brought them home.

Then he discovered that his home computer, the newest and fastest one we have, would not play the AVI files!  He still needed a codec.  After some googling and a lot of reading on the Miscrosft site I found wmplugins.com.  This site had the instructions for finding the right codec and had the codec in an easy to download and install package.  Thank you WMPlugins!

The story does not end there however, because today eh got to class and his files still would not play on the school computers.  And he does not have rights to install a new codec.  Hopefully his teacher will help him sort it all out.

Filling out Tax Forms

I have finally taken time today to sit down and fill out my tax forms.   I like using the Tax Cut software form H&R block.  It seems more intuitive to me than Turbo Tax.  Plus I have all my old data in Tax cut so it is easier to import last years tax data than if I switched to Turbo Tax.

I have 1099 forms from Google and and couple of other clients to put in as income and a ton of business expenses to off set them.  Looks like I will be getting a small refund.

Now I have to see if it is better to include my son’s interest income on my tax form or make a separate one for him.  I love having tax software to run multiple scenarios.  I am always amused at people who stress over whether they should take the standard deductions or itemize.  I just run both ways and see which one gets me the best return.  No stress; just trial and error.

Free Safety Slogans?

Stupid ways to improve Workplace Safety.

I noticed that the most common search term associated with workplace safety is “free safety slogans.” Is this how most people are trying to improve work place safety? Probably.

When I worked in industry as a safety director, I was often told I needed to reduce injury rates and then not given any budget to work with. I was still able to reduce our TCIR from 24 to 3 over a three year period.

I still get irritated when I see companies trying to improve workplace safety by reacting to accidents and injuries. It really annoys me when I see employees blamed for getting hurt. Yes employees do stupid things sometimes, but they often have very good reasons for doing them.

When I first took over as Safety Director, I got a lot of experience in taking people to the hospital. We had about two injuries a month that required medical attention. Consequently, I spent a lot of time in the waiting rooms with injured employees.

I found that they were always angry about something. They were either angry at a spouse, a friend, a relative or the company. But the injured employee was always angry about something. They never meant or expected to get hurt; they were always just trying to do their job the best they knew how. And they were then angry or guilty that they got hurt. And they knew that they would get more guilt added by their supervisor when they got back to work.

In her book You Can Heal Your Life, Louise Hay says that 95% of the time injuries are the result of anger or guilt. When an injury occurs it is the sub conscience’s way of getting attention to a feeling that is really not of benefit to the body.

To truly improve workplace safety, we don’t need to be looking for a new free safety slogan; we need to be looking at the root cause of accidents and injuries. We need to look at the state of repair of our equipment, the policies and procedures that are in place and the emotional state of our workers.

Many injuries are caused by employees being aggravated that the machines are not working properly. This aggravation may come from a design flow or simply wear in the machine. Often there is a disconnect between maintenance and production on what constitutes a well running machine. The maintenance worker may assume the machine is fine if it performs most of its basic functions. However, if the machine is not operating at its full potential, then the production worker may become aggravated at not being able to make its production goals.

Policies and procedures are critical in reducing work place injuries. As one free safety slogan says; “It is not enough to know safety, you must practice it.” If your policies are not being followed, then they are not worth the paper they are printed on. Policies and procedures are too often used to punish people rather than to promote correct employee behavior.

Work instructions and procedures must be written to instruct employees in the safest and most effective way to produce the highest quality product. If any of these elements are missing the procedure is ineffective. If employees are not following the procedures, they you must find out why and correct the issue or the procedure. See my article on why written procedures are important for more information on this subject.

The most important single factor in reducing accidents and improving workplace safety is creating a positive emotional environment for employees to work. Happy workers will produce more products at higher quality levels and they will not get hurt as often.

There are many factors that influence the emotional well being of employees. Having to deal with stupid free safety slogans is probably one of them. Every time they look at a sign with a safety slogan and them look back at the job they are asked to do they either see that you care about their safety or you care about looking good on a spread sheet.

So instead of looking for new safety slogans, let’s start looking at how we can reduce the aggravation level of our employees. How can we make their work environment more conductive to making good product? How can we better educate them in the right ways to do a job? How can we better reward them for good behavior instead of providing hidden rewards for taking short cuts?

When we start to focus our workplace safety energy and resource to creating a better work place environment, we will be able to stop focusing on accident prevention and injury response. Lets all work together to find ways to improve the emotional environment of the workplace and stop looking for stupid free safety slogans.

Have a safe and productive day! How’s that for a free safety slogan?

link: Occupational Health & Safety

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Opera 9.6

Choosing a new browser.

On my home computer, every time I ran Facebook, the computer would stop talking to the modem.  After much diagnosis of the Ethernet connection and the modem, I finally discovered that the trouble was with Internet Explorer.  More and more IE has been causing my computer to hang.  The only cure is a reboot and then it is always a race to get things done before it needs to reboot again.

Lots of people recommended Fire Fox.  I gave it a try but many web sites I use just don’t look right in Fire Fox.  And some just refuse to work at all.

On my home computer Google Chrome was not an option since I am running Windows 2000.  Normally W2k is much more stable than XP but not with whatever the latest update to IE was.

My Internet connection at home is via satellite.  During most times of the day it is pretty slow.  Better than dial up but not really the broadband they claim it is.  I still consider it a low bandwidth connection.  So I did a search for low bandwidth browsers.  That is when I discovered Opera.

Opera loads web pages at least twice as fast as IE on my Hughes net service.  It has taken me a day to get used to the differences but I am really liking Opera so far.

My old W2k version of IE did not offer tabbed browsing but Opera does.  And the tabs work like I expect them to – not like the IE tabs that still sometimes opens up another memory hole instead of a new tab.

I love the way the pages load also.  I can actually start reading an article before all the junk loads.  With IE, it would often display a blank page until all the ads loaded.  It was really annoying to wait several minutes for  page to load only to realize it was not of interest.

I tested Google Chrome on my computer at work.  It has XP.  I like Chrome much better than IE.  Chrome seems just a little zippier on some web pages.  Especially Googles’ pages that I use a lot like gmail and adsense.   I assume Google has optimized these pages for their own browser.

I found a couple of sites that don’t seem to load right with Chrome.  My godaddy email program is one.  I had to use IE to send mail.  I could read mail fine but not send.

I am now using Oprea 9.6 on both computers.  I really like the crisp feel and quick loading of pages.  I just finished setting up the spell checker.  I liked IE spell better but I am sure I will get used to this one.  I have also discovered that the Spell checker will not work inside this wordpress window so I have to use the wordpress spell checker that I don’t like at all.

So for now, the winner is Opera.  But I will keep looking for other options.