(Photo Boston Globe)

That cowbell is there to warn truckers and anyone else with a vehicle too high to fit under Boston’s notoriously low underpasses that they are headed for tribulation and heartache. I grew up just about exactly 100 miles north west of that cowbell and I recognize a certain indigenous style in its inelegant but effective use. That style is the partly result of climate. The cold doesn’t just make you rosy cheeked, it makes you not suffer fools gladly. William J. Geary, the man who put those cowbells there back in ‘eighties when they were getting a stuck truck every two weeks is a true New Englander. He recognized damn fools and was determined to stop them. Hitting the rubber flap didn’t do it, so he added the cowbell. It worked too. Here is Commissioner Geary’s story from the Boston Globe.

“I do remember Procurement sending back a memo to me saying, ‘Commissioner, are you sure you’re really looking for cowbells?’ ” Geary said. “And I said, ‘Yes, I’m sure.’ ”

The bells went up in 1985 or 1986, Geary said. Together with the rubber flaps, they virtually eliminated truck crashes, he said.

“The system worked, but it’s not going to work if the system isn’t maintained,” Geary said.

These days, a truck hits a bridge on Storrow or Memorial drives about every three weeks.. Trucks crashing into the Storrow Tunnel have damaged beams and accelerated calls for its repair or replacement, which could cost as much as $130 million.

Yankeewombat is reminded of the Queensland and Northern Territory Air Service and its approach to maintenance:

Qantas is the second oldest airline in the world and has the best safety record by far. You may recall, in the movie Rainman, Dustin Hoffman insisting to Tom Cruise he would only fly Qantas.

Now, we come to computer maintenance. I noticed my computer chirping at me. More like a sick chicken that a cow. I didn’t take much notice until I looked in the ‘hardware health’ section of the BIOS utility. The thing was trying tell me that the CPU temperature was too damn hot. 80 degrees Celsius. The reason was pretty obvious. Dust. I had actually tried to vacuum the dust off the CPU heatsink but the suction was too weak. Clearly something stronger was needed. Time for the inelegant but effective. I went and got the air compressor from the workshop. That did it. The temperature fell to 40 degrees Celsius. Next time I’ll hold the vacuum cleaner near the business end of the air stream to suck up the resulting cloud of dust. Cough. Cough. Splutter. Splutter.

It is human to neglect maintenance and the object lesson of Qantas is that we really have to pay attention to avoid catastrophic failure. You’d think all airlines would pay enough attention, but they don’t, and as a result one airline stands out. For ordinary computer maintenance making sure that the dust isn’t causing the CPU to overheat is something we are not told about very often. Oh, its out there on the web, like here. And you don’t need an industrial strength air compressor – a can of compressed air will do.

Sometimes even when we follow the procedures catastrophic failures occur.bridgecollapsea.jpg

(35W bridge collapse Minneapolis 2007 – Wikipedia)

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