Archive for April, 2010

Of no connection to anything

Posted in Alas the Mystery Remains Holmes, Almost Beyond Words with tags , , , on April 29, 2010 by awickerman

I do believe a new record for inexplicably tasteless and morally wrong adverts  has been set, from India a new challenger has emerged to plump new depths just to sell you anything.

It is in foreign so bonus points if you can guess what it’s all about, answer after the jump.

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Another Day In The Life of a Tunnel Engineer

Posted in Irregular Features, Tunnels with tags , , , , , , , on April 27, 2010 by awickerman

Today was varied and, as someone recently mentioned they liked the earlier Day in the life post I thought I’d do another.

The morning began with the vexed question ‘How do you stop a 20 tonne mobile crane smashing into a different fixed gantry crane?’ The simple answer to this conundrum is ‘Build a bigger fixed crane so you don’t need the mobile one’, those of you who thought that are henceforth banned from ever working with a certain large water company for being too logical. The correct answer is, of course, crash barriers, or more technically anti-terrorist rated crash bollards, which gives me another excuse for this outstanding link. (And if anyone knows what the name of that song playing at the start is, please put it in the comments as it is really bugging me.)

So after a morning of crash bollards and anti-terrorism standards I spent the afternoon sorting out the Network Rail tunnel inspections for the rail link to a well known London airport. This would have been a fairly standard job were it not for the recent change that now requires a ‘surface walkover’ of the route. While I’m sure this is OK for most rail tunnels in the UK (most rail tunnels being very old and so built in the days when the firm would just buy the entire hill in case something went wrong and they had to resort to an open cut) this is something of a bugger for tunnels in urban areas. In my case this meant working out who one had to talk to in order to wander around a gravel pit, several private farms, the A4 Bath Road, a major hotel complex, the M4, several Terminals and the runways.

This is in fact even harder than you would think as the first questions asked are normally “Why now after all these years? Is something wrong?”, a conversation that never goes well as people refuse to accept things are in fact OK. Given the history of the site you can hardly blame them, but still.

So there you are, a day in the life of a tunnel engineer that only peripherally involved tunnels, a sadly not uncommon occurrence.

And to the visitor who came here searching for “eurythmics sex crime” I have to ask; How many pages of results did you go through to get here? And why? I’m not expecting an answer, I just feel the question should be asked.

Tenuous Link of the Day

Posted in Tenuous Link of the Day, Your cut-out-and-keep Guide with tags , , , , on April 19, 2010 by awickerman

Slightly belatedly I discover this cunning ruse to separate me from my hard earned money, Brent council about to piss more money up the wall for no damned good reason. This is not say TB is not a serious problem nor to deny that Brent is the UK capital for that disease, however I would be exceptionally surprised if it had anything to do with housing. Hell it’s not as if the housing in Brent is particularly bad, even in London there boroughs with a worse housing stock and that’s without even mentioning Glasgow. If there was a link between housing and TB surely those places would have even higher levels?

If were going to throw around wild theories based on statistical co-incidence how about the interesting statistic that Brent has the UK’s highest percentage of people born outside the country. The theory would then be that these immigrants, coming mainly from countries too poor to afford a vaccination campaign, bring the disease with them.

Now I’ve no idea if that’s correct but surely it’s at least as likely as the ideas of a bunch of US architects, indeed a bunch of US architects who are too shifty even for Wikipedia.

More important than all that this fails the Daily Mash test; if the conclusion is “Anyway, the point is we need more money” then the report can almost certainly be safely ignored.

Left wing think tank in bad idea non-shocker

Posted in Almost Beyond Words, Rantings with tags , , , , , , on April 14, 2010 by awickerman

Latest stupid idea that probably failed to set the world alight; voucherising the entire trunk road network. Not privatisation, but instead just giving every citizen in the country an equal share of the nation’s A-road and Motorways and imposing compulsory satellite tracking on every vehicle in the country.

Leaving aside my natural dislike of satellite tracking, you just know it will be abused to ‘help fight terrorism’ or some such bullshit, and my deep seated hatred of road pricing this is a quite ludicrously bad idea. Here is a short list of my problems in question form;

  • How are 61 million individual share holders supposed to agree on anything?
  • On which note, what happens when the South East works out they can out-vote the rest of the nation and vote to spend all the money on the M-25.  Or closing down the entire Welsh road network to save a few quid? (Not saying that’s a bad thing, but it’s probably not what the authors intended)
  • Isn’t it really very unfair on the babies born the day after the cut off point that they don’t own their own chunk of the road network?
  • How do you define ‘citizen’ anyway?

I could go on but frankly it’s an exceptionally stupid idea and will only end in more surveillance, less liberty and more tax. All in all exactly what you’d expect from a think tank headed up by an ex-Fabian Labour peer with a history of supporting biometric ID cards and the EDS-NHS IT fiasco.

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Politicians are Idiots #481 – US Edition

Posted in Almost Beyond Words, Mining, Your cut-out-and-keep Guide with tags , , , , , , on April 13, 2010 by awickerman

A return to my mining roots for this story, while most of the platitudes uttered are fairly standard post-disaster boilerplate one thing didn’t stand out;

“We cannot bring back the men we lost. What we can do, in their memory, is thoroughly investigate this tragedy and demand accountability,” Obama said.

“… we must take whatever steps are necessary to ensure that all our miners are as safe as possible so that a disaster like this doesn’t happen again.”

First off there is an alarming presumption that there is someone to hold accountable, underground mining is fundamentally dangerous and shit does happen down there. Now while there certainly are accidents where management is to blame for skimping, the vast preponderance are either an individual making a mistake, the natural danger of underground or normally a bit of both. Like this one for instance. So if the report comes back and says ‘One of the miners skipped on a time consuming procedure and caused the accident’ should we hold one of the victim’s ‘accountable’? Somehow not what I think the President intended, but hey it’s a good sound bite and isn’t that what actually counts?

The second part was just as bad, the one thing I can utterly guarantee is that disasters like this will happen again so long as their are underground mines. Coal mines are by their very nature stuffed full of explosive materials like methane and coal dust and have no shortage of ignition sources, hell the last big disaster, the Sago Mine explosion, was caused by lightning strikes at surface setting off methane in the closed (and flooded) portion of the mine. As the old saying goes the only safe mine is a closed mine. Though on this one this could be what Obama meant, I doubt he’s much in favour of dirty but functional coal mines. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’d prefer them to all be closed and replaced with trendy (if useless) windmills.

Final thought for the day, a cheering insight into the attitude of miners. The US Mine Safety chaps have coined the marvellous term  “Fatalgram” for their ‘Why someone died’ updates they issue to the industry.  There is something reassuringly irreverent about that.

Vote Labour for a Bucket of Sunshine

Posted in Irregular Features, Rantings with tags , , , , on April 12, 2010 by awickerman

On seeing the front cover of Labour’s manifesto my first thought was “That looks like a family watching a nuclear bomb go off.” And once you have that idea in your head all you can see is a family enjoying the spectacle of a bucket of instant sunshine before being vaporised,  see for yourself;The Front Cover to a pack of lies

However it gets better, while looking for a version of the picture to link to I found this marvellous post which, while noting the same fact, brings your attention to the resemblance of the stylised family figures to 1940s/50s Stalinist propaganda. I would put a conclusion here but frankly that link already has the best summary;

Somehow, by trying to be forward-looking and optimistic, Labour has managed to come up with something which appears to carry echoes of both totalitarianism and nuclear holocaust.

What Am I Missing?

Posted in Alas the Mystery Remains Holmes, Rantings with tags , , , on April 1, 2010 by awickerman

I receive endless rubbish from various bodies telling me about the latest new step that will help women in engineering. Leaving aside the issue I don’t want more people in engineering of either gender (the current skill shortage is wonderful for wages) most of them are fortunately utter tosh, but some of them don’t just take the biscuit but the whole factory. Suggestions like this one for a new designed for ladies safety shoe.

Now traditional safety shoes may well be uncomfortable for women but I really did scratch my head over these two points;

This reinforces the perception that ‘women don’t belong in construction’ and does little to boost confidence or create a professional appearance

Compared with earlier in the article

And these boots have an added extra – they’re purple!

So a purple shoe is more professional and will fit in better than a possibly badly fitting one. What’s next? A new type of specially reinforced hi-vis pink nail polish?  Seriously what world are these people living on? I mean does this look professional? It’s like every cheap stereotype about women being obsessed with shoes and looking pretty compressed into one item of footwear.

And the important part? The entire range is steel-toe cap only, i.e. no steel mid-sole reinforcement and definitely not serious site or rail-spec. So they’re of no use to someone working on an active site or the railways but perfect for someone who just watches other people work and only tours the finished parts. The kind of people in fact that site workers think ‘don’t belong in construction’…..

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