Escaping From A Submerged Vehicle Gets Easier

Of all things, here’s an innovation to the seat belt. 

In the movies, we’ve all seen cars plunging into the water and submerging with people trapped inside. 

Wired Magazine (11 December 2012) reported on a new escape belt that helps people get out of the vehicles and to safety. 

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administation, almost 400 people die a year from car accidents that result in accidental drowning. 

Now Dutch company, Fijen TMLS has developed a seat-belt that releases when water goes in the interior and dissolves a salt pill in the latch. 

The mechanism costs as little as $40 and according to the company’s website can “be assembled on all seatbelt releasers in just a few simple steps.”

From the pictures of the assembly instructions, I am not sure it is quite so easy. 

Also, it is unclear how long the device is good for, since on one hand, their website states that the “Escape Belt lasts 6 months” and on other hand that “the cartridge will need to replaced after 2 years.”

In any case, I think the idea is a good one as long as the belt remains secure when not submerged and will not release accidentally with any simple spill or splash. 😉

In The Blink Of An Eye

Accident

Yes, this is what it looks like.

I saw this motorcycle driver dead on the street, and the cycle beside him/her.

Apparently the truck in front ran him over.

Everyone is waiting around for the ambulance to come and take him away.

There is a lot of gesturing and people are being kept away.

The street is closed down in both directions.

I couldn’t help thinking about someone just going out for a ride on their motorcycle and simply not coming back–that’s it, time is up, game is over!

And then I thought about the driver of truck–either going home knowing that he’s just killed someone or perhaps going to jail for vehicular homicide–who knows.

I sort of imagined the soul of the motocycle driver hovering over his shrouded body and watching and waiting like everyone else.

Life truly hangs by a thread–and there is a Jewish saying about something can happen in just the blink of an eye.

Very sobering, humbling, and definitely a moment for pause and reflection as we think what are we doing with our lives and how do we make every moment count.

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

The Dumbest Parent, No Really

So we took our daughter out to shoot some arrows.

She was really good, shooting off one after another and hitting the bullseye way down field.

Of course, when I gave it a try, I couldn’t even hit the side of a barn.
Next to us, at the range, where two girls and their mother.

The girls were jumping around with their bows, grabbing the arrows, and popping off shots at a target set at a distance appropriate for their age.

What comes next is the dumbest and most irresponsible parent I’ve seen for some time.

The mother yells out to the girls–“Hey, I’d like to take a picture of you guys!”

Then she goes over to them and pulls them off the range and faces them at each other about a foot apart–with their bows and arrows pointed at each other!

The girls not understanding the danger they are in and playing around as kids do–pull the strings on the bows back to pose for the shot–literally, and with the mother egging them on.

I am feeling like I am watching a horrible accident about to unfold in front of my eyes.

I say politely, but with obvious fear and concern, “Stop!–the girls are pointing the arrows at each other–that’s dangerous!”

But the mother, puts her finger up as if to hush me, and says emphatically that she just wants to take a picture and “it’s so cute.”

I am watching what appears to be the younger of the girls–the one on the right–start dancing around with the bow and arrow, pulling back and pointing right at the other girl–who in turn mimics her and does the same back.

At this point my wife joins me, and we are not sure how to stop this or whether its time to take cover, while the mother continues to ignore any semblance of safety and refuses to pull back from her cherished photo op of the children.

This mother was not just dumb, but completely irresponsible–for the safety of her kids and everyone else around on the court.

When the “photo shoot” was over–and the kids let the strings go and ran back to the range, we sighed a sigh of relief that nothing worse had happened.

A number of days later, I found myself doing some strategic planning and using the Force Field Analysis tool.

In the Force Field Analysis, we try to identify and examine the driving and limiting forces for and against change, and more importantly the actions we can take for influencing each force.

Usually, we view the forces for change as something positive, and the limiting forces as a hinderance, blocking our goal achievement. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that while change can be positive when undertaken for the right reasons, there are times when restraint is necessary as well.

For example, in applying this to the situation at the archery range–the parent is hell-bent on taking the photo no matter the forces for restraint to prevent a serious accident happening to her kids or to others around them. In this case, some parental restraint would have been appropriate. From an influencing perspective, probably some much better supervision at the range would have been in order.

To me, it was interesting to think about it in this context and contemplate how to tip the forces for change or restraint to where they need to be depending on the situation–whether it is a good goal and a good time to pursue it, or not.

Also, it is worth noting how challenging it can be to influence driving and restraining forces, especially when dealing with ignorance, foolhardiness, or people who may just refuse to listen to reason.

As leaders, the Force Field Analysis can be a useful framework not just for planning, but for trying to understand our environment and how best we can shape the events around us–no matter how quickly or dangerously they may unfold.

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Realizing Bubble Boy

Bubble_boy

Cool innovation out of Sweden, as an alternative to regular bike helmets, there is now the Hovding.

An “invisible” nylon air bag helmet that is worn stylishly around the neck and inflates only when the it detects a pending accident.

The wearable device has a rechargeable accelerometer and gyroscope for sensing accidents, and it can inflate with helium in just a tenth of a second.

It also has a “black box” that records that last 10 seconds of the accident, so that investigators can analyze what happened.

The helmet shell for around the neck comes in a variety of styles and colors, and it costs between $450 and $600 dollars, but  is not usable after a single inflatable event.

While many people don’t want to wear crash helmets because they are either unattractive or uncomfortable, this new inflatable helmet provides style and comfort, and most importantly head protection.

The developers see other potential uses for skiing, horseback riding, epileptics, and the elderly.

I wonder about future applications for even more extreme sports and activities like motocycle riding, sky diving, and even race-car driving–people could do the things they enjoy, more naturally, without the clunky helmet, but still have the protection they need.

Also, I believe that the inflatable helmet has potential to be expanded into a more complete body guard package–like an invisible protective shield ready and waiting to be deployed all around a person in case of an accident, attack, or other disaster scenario.

Like the idea of Bubble Boy, who lives in a sterilized dome to protect him because of a compromised immune system, people of all types may one day be able to have a protective bubble that keeps them out of harm’s way.

Technology, such as the smartphone, is moving from mobile to wearable, and high-tech helmets too have the potential for a big lift–stay tuned for yours. 😉

(Source Photo: herewith attribution to Geoffery Kehrig)

Mind Readers and The Psychology of Excess

Animal_house

Seeing a number of senior officials in the last year “ousted,” I find it sort of scary the risks and travails that executive leadership can entail.

There are so many good, hardworking people at GSA making progress for the Government in terms of property management, contract management, fleet management, and more, that it was a huge shock to many today, when GSA leadership including the Administrator, were ousted for what White House Chief of Staff called “excessive spending, questionable dealings with contractors, and disregard for taxpayer dollars.”

This at a time when the nation is struggling to reduce the national deficit now at $15.6 trillion and avoid another debt ratings cut from the three credit report agencies that would potentially drive interest up and cause even more damage to the nation’s economy.

Of course, the GSA is not the only example, just last year, we had the unfortunate “muffin mini-scandal” as reported by Bloomberg BusinessWeek (29 September 2011), where the Government was alleged to have paid $16.80 apiece for muffins.

What causes this psychology of excess where taxpayers end up footing the bill for extravagant items and events?

1) Hubris–Are there people who feel they are so high and mighty, they just have all the trimmings of office coming to them and theirs?

2) Neglect–Do some executives rise too far and fast, and maybe things get out of control?

3) Misguided–Is it possible that some may actually really think that hiring a mind reader on the taxpayer dime is a good idea?

4) Accident–At times, oversights, mistakes, and accidents happen, and while we may prefer they didn’t, they are a learning opportunities.

5) All of the above–Perhaps it is some combination of all the prior four?

It reminds me of something my father taught me that “G-d does not let any flower grow into the sky.

This means that no matter how good we are or how far we go in our careers and in life, we remain mortal and infirm, and subject to human imperfections.

That’s why it’s never a good idea to tout your own infallibility.  Just Last Thursday, the GSA Administrator, as reported by Government Executive Magazine, told a conference “Why us? Because we’re the expert shoppers. We’re the folks you want on your team when budgets are tight, you’re making purchases, and there’s no room for error…”

Obviously, I assume there was no intent to brag, but we all say things like this at one time or another, and it’s good to reflect and stop ourselves from going too far.

This is not about the GSA or any other agency or organization in particular, but rather a lesson in humility for all of us.

This unfortunate incident should not obscure the good work, done every day, at all levels, by every Federal agency.

(Source Photo: here)

Helping The Disabled Get Their Groove Back

I love this evolving technology using bionics to help the paralyzed stand and walk again.This technology for exoskeleton suits with motors, sensors, and external power supplies was first developed for the military to run farther, lift more, and so on.However, the application has been expanded to those who have had strokes, accidents, or otherwise have lost use of their limbs and movement.

Additionally, there is potential for industrial workers to use these robotic suits to do their work with less effort and more impact by augmenting their movement with hydraulic and battery power.

What Exso Bionics seems to have really gotten right is that the suit looks almost perfectly sculpted for a human body, appears to go on the person with relative ease, and helps the person move in a balanced and controlled fashion.

While these suits are still pricey and according to Fast Company (April 2002) cost approximately $130,000, Exso is looking get the rates down to between $50,000 and $75,000 retail.

Further, the article notes that other companies are building competing devices, such as Argo Medical of Israel that offers the ability to climb stairs and that activates by gesture without a therapist pressing buttons.  Similarly Rex of New Zealand offers a device that is controlled by a simple joystick.

I think the future for these bionic suits for the military and industrial use will be truly transformative in terms of providing superhuman speed, strength, and stamina to advance our capabilities and increase our productivity.

Moreover, the use of these exoskeletons by people who are elderly, frail, or sick is compelling and provides hope for people to live with greater mobility, self-reliance, and human dignity.

The Elevator and The Bigger Picture

 Some of you may have watched the HBO series called Six Feet Under that ran from about 2000-2005 about a family that owned a funeral home, and every episode opened with a freakish death scene.

In fact, the father who was the funeral director dies an untimely death himself and bequeaths the funeral home to his two sons.

The series, which ran for 63 episodes, evoked a recognition that life is most precious, too short, and can end in both horrible and unpredictable ways.

This week, I was reminded of this in all too many ways:

First, Brett Stephens wrote a beautiful piece in the Wall Street Journal yesterday about the graceful death of his father from a horrible brain tumor. Brett describes in vivid terms the operations, loss of sight, debilitating bouts of chemo and radiation, agonizing shingles, loss of memory, mobility, sight, ability to eat, and more. Brett writes: “cancer is a heist culminating in murder.”

Then today, all over the news were reports of of a horrible accident in New York, where a woman was killed in an elevator accident when it shot up while she was still only about half way on and she was crushed between the elevator and the shaft in a 25 story office building on Madison Avenue.

Third, I learned from a colleague about a wonderful gentlemen, who served his country in the armed forces and was an athlete in incredible shape, when one day in the gym, he suffered a massive heart, which deprived of oxygen for too long, and he was left horribly crippled for life.

Unfortunately, similar to Six feet Under, in real life, there are countless of stories of life’s fortunes and misfortunes, death and the aftermath (adapted from the show’s synopsis–I really liked how this was said). Yet, in the end, we are left with the completely heart wrenching feeling of how it is to be without and sorely miss the people we love so dearly.

In the Talmud, I remember learning this saying that to the Angel of Death it does not whether his intended is here or there–when a person’s time is up, death shows up and no matter how peaceful or painful, it is never convenient and always deeply traumatic in so many ways.

For one the elevator opens and closes normally and brings a person to their destination floor, and to another the door may close on them, never at all, or the elevator may shift right beneath their feet.

We can never really be prepared emotionally or otherwise for the devastation brought by accident, illness, and death–and while it is hard to be optimistic sometimes, we can try to maintain faith that The Almighty is guiding the events of our lives, and that he knows what he is doing, even if we cannot always understand the bigger picture.

May G-d have mercy.

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Chris McKenna)