Archive for November, 2010

Yet another guest publication

Posted in Alas the Mystery Remains Holmes, Almost Beyond Words, Posts that are far longer than I first intended, Rantings, Tenuous Link of the Day with tags , , , , , , , on November 29, 2010 by awickerman

It’s Monday morning. The tubes are striking, the weather is awful and I’m not in the best of moods so clearly now is the best time to receive an offer to buy this pile of turd, Parking Review. Just listen to some of the gripping topics discussed;

  • The Traffic Management Act 2004
  • Parking appeals and adjudication
  • Cashless parking
  • Car park refurbishment

Surprisingly it gets worse, your subscription to Parking Review will also contain the unmissable Enforcers Magazine, the premier magazine for traffic wardens, parking attendants and those dealing with the “civil enforcement” of parking. If there was ever a set of envelopes that deserved to be stuffed full of ricin then the postal shot for this magazine is it.

Being vaguely topical am I worried about being dragged to court when someone misunderstands the joke above? No, for three good reasons;

  1. Almost no-one reads this blog. At all.
  2. If the police start trying to prosecute everyone who makes jokes about traffic wardens then the entire UK population will end up being dragged through the courts and finally
  3. Ricin is an utterly useless terrorist weapon and, barring Georgi Markov, damned if I can find anyone who’s died from it.  Even by the lax standards of ‘credible threat’ Ricin just isn’t threatening.

On which note we have much to thank the Bulgarian secret police for, had their mad Italo-Bulgar-Danish assassin not killed Markov in such an elaborate manner with the poisoned umbrella many would-be terrorists would have been unaware of Ricin and might have used something actually dangerous.  Good work fellas.


Great WiFi names of our times

Posted in Irregular Features, Tenuous Link of the Day with tags , , , on November 24, 2010 by awickerman

Due to a thrilling move at work I’ve been messing around with WiFi at the office. While searching for the company network I found this wonder:


Someone not very keen on sharing their internet connection clearly.

Ignorance and Risk

Posted in Almost Beyond Words, And thus the Mystery was solved Watson!, Engineering, Tenuous Link of the Day, Tunnels with tags , , , , , , , , on November 23, 2010 by awickerman

This was going to be a point and laugh post about an article on El Reg, the thrust of which was ‘A little knowledge is a dangerous thing’ as the author has got his Heathrow Terminals mixed up and has confused two jobs that occurred almost a decade apart, thus making him look like an idiot. OK making him look like an idiot to tunnel engineers but getting away with it for the other 99.9% of the readership. But still the Heathrow collapse had bugger all to do with Terminal 5, primarily because it occurred just outside Terminal 3 in 1994 well over 10 years before Terminal 5 had even started construction. But then he is a Project Manager and so I suppose I shouldn’t expect him to do ‘facts’

I was then pondering a discussion on TfL’s approach to risk based on the interesting quotes in the article from the TfL head of risk management as he was responsible for risk on the Heathrow job. Alas it doesn’t say which Heathrow job, if it was T5 he did a fairly good job on the engineering side (the baggage system which failed was all M&E and they’ve always been useless bastar….) but if he was on the original Heathrow Express in 1994 that makes it very interesting, particularly given what the Heathrow Express collapse did to London Underground’s approach to risk (I really must write the Jubilee Line Extension post one day). Without knowing which I’d be guessing, and if I’m going to do that I might as well guess about something interesting and just make up some exciting stuff.

So as I have to do something, and it should involve risk, I’ll merely note that the biggest punishment on Balfour Beatty wasn’t the fine (£1.3 million, even in the 1990s, wasn’t that much to a big civil engineering contractor) or the damaged reputation with clients it was insurance. Post the collapse (and post the JLE insurance fiasco) Balfour’s couldn’t get insurance for a tunnel job for love nor money for almost a decade. While they did finish out existing contracts they didn’t start a new job in tunnelling till the middle of this decade. You may say that’s a harsh price to pay, but if you were to take a look at the roof and walls of Heathrow Terminal 4 station you may change your mind.

Professions that have never seen Star Wars #1

Posted in Alas the Mystery Remains Holmes, Engineering, Rantings, Tenuous Link of the Day with tags , , , , , , , , on November 22, 2010 by awickerman

The latest exciting skyscraper/big building in London to return from recession induced delay is Walbrook Square, four moderately tall buildings with large green houses on top and some grass. However if you really squint (and have only second hand descriptions of the films to go on) you might conclude it looks like Darth Vaders helmet;


No it really isn't Darth Vader's Helmet. Trust me on this.


Given that the critics of the scheme were mainly architects, and they’re the ones who came up with the Darth Vader’s helmet tag, we can reasonably conclude that almost no-one in that profession has actually seen the films. They probably weren’t pretentiously art house enough for them, in my experience architects generally prefer 5hr long films in subtitled French about the existential bleakness of a cold baguette.

Anyway the nickname stuck, despite being almost entirely incorrect, due to the lure of the headlines. Whenever the project was going well there was a ‘Force is strong‘ type headline, whenever it was delayed it was a ‘Powers are weak’ based one. Thankfully it’s now going ahead so they might shut up, however I fear there may be ‘Now I am the master’ type headlines when the rents are announced and it shoots to the top of the ‘price per m²’ rankings. It’s just a cross I will have to bear I suppose.

Extra bonus fact; the basement of the development will contain a restored temple to Mithra, the ancient Persian/Roman god who is basically Jesus a completely different deity from Jesus. Except for a few coincidences like the same birthday. And the whole virgin birth thing. And an identical death, 3 day wait and resurrection. And the baptism and other similar ceremonies. And they did both have 12 disciples. But apart from those a few hundred other trifling similarities they are completely different, and if you say otherwise the Pope will be very upset.

A strange publication

Posted in Engineering, Irregular Features, Your cut-out-and-keep Guide with tags , on November 21, 2010 by awickerman

A slightly unusual specialist publication this week. Despite being mostly a collection of industrial news it comes across as being almost ghoulish and slightly unsettling. I am, of course, referring to that pre-eminent US publication Plant Closing News.

A typical issue will cover the 50 or so industrial plants that have announced a closure in the last two weeks (it’s a bi-monthly publication), break them down my sector and location and then give  brief detail on the plant and who to contact about getting the decommissioning, asset stripping, auctioning and demotion contracts. Or as they put it;

Plant Closing News is a valuable resource for rebuilders, used equipment dealers, dismantlers, demolishers, remediation contractors, equipment riggers, craters, and equipment transport firms looking for current business opportunities, particularly those arising from the closing or relocating of North American industrial manufacturing plants.

The slightly ghoulish part is the ‘Bankruptcy’ section which lists plants that have gone bankrupt and so are potential candidates for closure (and so potential clients for demolishers, dismantlers, etc)

Worse than that though are the brief descriptions, some of which are quite poignant, for example;

Niagara Milk Cooperative, a fixture on Buffalo Avenue in Niagara Falls, NY for almost 60 years, will be closed down in May leaving more than 50 workers without jobs

Underneath which is the name and contact details for the plant manager so you can call him him and try and get the contract to demolish his factory or crate up the machinery and ship it to Brazil. Nice.

Oil leak news

Posted in And thus the Mystery was solved Watson!, Engineering with tags , , , , , on November 18, 2010 by awickerman

The unspeakably evil foreigners from American oil firm Chevron have slightly polluted the North Sea and almost killed billions of people through shear evil… is how this post would have started if I wished to lower myself to the level of an American politician or journalist.

As it is there’s been a slight cockup at a Chevron rig in the North Sea and everyone had to be evacuated. There was a leak but the prevention system worked so it wasn’t that big and everyone made it off, as I type serious bearded types are poking at the rig to work out what happened and will report in due time. If something is found and if it’s gross negligence I might expect a moderate fine and a few unpleasantly detailed inspections of Chevron’s other rigs, however I would be surprised if the head of the HSE launches a blanket attack on all American oil firms or the PM and all main political parties demand vast piles of cash from Chevron to piss up the wall as they see fit.

On a slightly more serious note I am reluctantly forced to tip my hat to the HSE’s North Sea division. Like most people I’ve experienced awful and counter-productive health and safety and questioned the paternity of those responsible for the entire concept, however the contrast between the North Sea and the situation in the Gulf of Mexico reminds me of what happens if you go too far the other way. I still wont forgive them for shit like this though.

Basic Errors in Recruitment #8

Posted in And thus the Mystery was solved Watson!, Engineering, Even Stevie Wonder Saw That Coming with tags , , on November 15, 2010 by awickerman

This afternoon was enlivened by a call from a slave trader today offering the usual riches, the usual chat where he implied if only I moved I could have a harem peeling grapes for me. After a quick phone call he sent a follow up email which promptly got eaten by the spam filter, I only found it by accident while giggling at the ‘Enliven your amorous torpedo!’ spams.

If even a specific follow up email gets tagged as spam I fear I may not be dealing with the world’s most reliable recruiter. I’m braced for being told there will be an upfront ‘handling fee’ or some such shite. Still it passes the time at work and that’s the main thing.

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