Archive for May, 2010

Stedfastly Refusing to Learn – Russian Edition

Posted in Almost Beyond Words, Your cut-out-and-keep Guide with tags , , , , , , on May 31, 2010 by awickerman

In engineering certain problems are only obvious after they’ve happen, put brutally someone has to make the mistake before anyone knows there is a problem. This is unfortunate but a fact of life. However after the new problem emerges, is publicised and even turns up in secondary school lessons as the classic example there is no excuse whatsoever for making the same mistake again.

Today’s example of this steadfast refusal to pay attention is; The Volgograd Bridge. If the scene of a wildly oscillating bridge looks familiar, that’s probably because it looks a lot like the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, which happened in 1940. And it’s not even like Tacoma was a one off freak, half a dozen or so bridges had excess movement and those were just the reported ones, countless others fell over but weren’t caught on camera so aren’t famous.

Now admittedly it’s one of the longer bridges in Russia, but by international standards it’s nothing special, indeed there are even bridges in Russia that are almost twice as long. There really is therefore no excuse for making such a bugger up unless there is something fundamentally wrong with your design and engineering culture. Mind you that’s probably a given as it took 13 years to build it, even in bad conditions that was at worst a five year job, indeed as the second bridge (for the other carriageway) isn’t open yet it is technically took “13 years and counting” to build.

I have saved the best till last, after this embarrassing mistake what has the reaction been? They closed it for a few days to check it out, but have now re-opened it with a clean bill of health and without modification, save for one change; a monitoring system to close the bridge if it gets windy! If that isn’t a vote of confidence I don’t know what is. This will end in tears, mark my words.


A New Low In Inexplicable Connections

Posted in Almost Beyond Words, Rantings, Your cut-out-and-keep Guide with tags , , , , , on May 25, 2010 by awickerman

I realise it is De rigueur to try and link your product to the World Cup, no self respecting marketeer would be able to show their face if they hadn’t tried to link crips, TVs or even washing powder to football. But surely this is a new low;

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A looming problem

Posted in Even Stevie Wonder Saw That Coming, Irregular Features with tags , , , on May 24, 2010 by awickerman

I think the ConDems will soon encounter their first real problem over these spending cuts. Not over the cuts themselves (though I doubt that will go smoothly) but over the language. After all if £6 billion is “Draconian” and sends “Shockwaves” through government how will they describe the remaining £150 billion of cuts? “Real very draconian” just sounds silly.

I fear they have wasted a great deal of their literary firepower too early, what language do they have left for larger cuts? A foolish error, probably due to inexperience. Look at the civil service, they’ve limited themselves to talking of ‘axes’ and the like, that still leaves open a vast array of escalation such as ‘savage axing’ and of course ‘blood soaked chainsawing’.

Normal engineering coverage will resume soon, as will the Wicker Man with a bit of luck

A promising start

Posted in Alas the Mystery Remains Holmes, Irregular Features with tags , , , on May 23, 2010 by awickerman

Further to the post below, I think I detect the hand of the new Construction Minister in this welcome bit of news. Rather than pointlessly increasing the cost of new houses for the purpose of ‘green washing’ and good PR the new ConDems have instead gone for useless weasel words on ‘ever improving targets.’

Given the constant green and low-carbon rubbish being spouted, not least from the various shadow housing ministers and indeed both party leaders, I’m chalking this up as a success for Minister Prisk and others who’ve actually had a real job. On that basis I’d imagine the conversation went along the lines of ‘You can have lots of houses or green houses, but you cannot have both’, certainly such an argument would have the advantage of being true.

Of course it could be for entirely different reasons, but a man can hope can’t he?

A Comparison

Posted in And thus the Mystery was solved Watson!, Irregular Features, Your cut-out-and-keep Guide with tags , , , , , , on May 23, 2010 by awickerman

The new Construction Minister has been announced, a fact I realise is probably of negative interest to most readers, but hey it’s a risk you take reading this blog. First off it should be noted Construction is never actually considered importance enough to get a full time minister, it’s normally combined with a few other areas and then given to a second string Minister of State (or worse an Under Secretary which I believe ranks below ‘tea boy’ in terms of importance)

However let us now compare the current chap and his predecessors and see what we can learn;

Looking over the last few years construction has rejoiced under;

  • Baroness Vadera – Investment Banker who saw ‘Green shots of recovery’ in January 2009. So not even a good banker.
  • Stephen Timms – ex-phone consultant for Logica who is probably most famous for thinking IP address stood for “intellectual property address” despite being Minister for Digital Britain). That or recently being stabbed by a nutter in a Burkha. One or the other anyway.
  • Most recently, Ian Lucas – a personal injury lawyer who has done a lot to work on producing documents on de-carboning construction. Sod all to stop the collapse in orders or haemorrhaging jobs, but maybe I’m being uncharitable. Perhaps he worked out the paperwork wasn’t helping so realised only by decimating UK construction can he cut carbon. No jobs = No carbon.

If these seem unimpressive idiots who know nothing about their brief don’t worry, with nine ministers in less than eight years they don’t have any time to do much serious damage. That also means they can’t do any good either, but that was only ever a theoretical possibility.

So who is the new chap? Well it’s Mark Prisk. He’s been shadowing the job for years, he’s a qualified survey and has actually has worked on construction sites and even ran his own surveying consultancy. Therefore there is massive pressure on his shoulders, should he fail the case for ‘Employing ministers who have had real jobs and who know about their subject’ will take a hefty blow.

Good luck Mr Prisk, a great deal rests on you not being an idiot.

A Night in the Life of a Tunnel Engineer

Posted in Irregular Features, Rantings, Tunnels, Your cut-out-and-keep Guide with tags , , , , , , on May 19, 2010 by awickerman

Last nights work or, as it could also be called; Why everything on the railways costs an utter fortune. The one fact you need to know before reading is this, whenever you work on the railway you need to be accompanied by a COSS, the man responsible for making sure you don’t die.

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Shock! Horror! Absence of Surprise!

Posted in And thus the Mystery was solved Watson!, Even Stevie Wonder Saw That Coming with tags , , , on May 17, 2010 by awickerman

Compare and contrast two big US investment funds;

Pax World Balanced (PAXWX)  – The fund follows a Sustainable Investing approach, combining rigorous financial analysis with equally rigorous Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) analysis in order to identify investments.

Vice Fund (VICEX) – Normally invests at least 80% of net assets in equity securities of companies that derive a significant portion of their revenues from alcohol, tobacco, gaming and defense/aerospace.

And who do you think did best over the last 8 or so years? Re-assuring to see the Devil does indeed pay the best wages.

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