Archive for the Irregular Features Category

Graphic Magnificence

Posted in Almost Beyond Words, Irregular Features, Tenuous Link of the Day with tags , , , , on September 4, 2015 by awickerman

In my ongoing effort to intermittently and irregularly present to you the cream of badly thought through ideas I present this triumph of graphical data representation.

Many would say a graph of Time against Time is a waste of Time. They're probably right

I am delighted this exists. I may well be alone in this delight

Yes it is a graph of time against time. Majestic is the word I hope you are looking for.

Not Trusting Belgians

Posted in Alas the Mystery Remains Holmes, Irregular Features with tags , , , , , on May 23, 2014 by awickerman

The new NATO HQ, which is probably going to be late and over-budget, has reached the fit-out stage where the various nations put in the various computers, desks and doors to make the building actually usable. Most nations have decided to trust the Belgians to fit out their national areas for them, that way they can get a bulk discount from the main contractor and save a few quid.

Britain has decided not to trust the Belgians and the British section will be fitted out separately, along with “Three other NATO nations”. Obviously one of those was the US, but while I can find many, many documents confirming that four NATO countries have opted not to trust Belgians I cannot find out who the other two are.

If I had to guess I would say France and Germany, but that is just a guess. In fairness I cannot think of any plausible reason why I would ever need to know, but nevertheless I would like to. Alas I suspect I never will.

Female Engineers and Lying at Interview

Posted in Alas the Mystery Remains Holmes, Engineering, Irregular Features, Posts that are far longer than I first intended, Tenuous Link of the Day with tags , , , , on April 1, 2014 by awickerman

Lured in by the bewitching headline that 1 in 10 of the population had named a Brunel when asked to name a famous female living engineer or scientist. One can only assume they felt the same confusion I did as frankly it’s a struggle; I could name plenty of female engineers, I just don’t think anyone has heard of them so I wouldn’t call them famous.

Resolving to solve this mystery I tracked down the organisation behind this poll, hoping to find the actual source data. Alas the depressingly 1990s name ScienceGrrl has decided not to release that information, perhaps because they too are struggling with a famous living female engineer but don’t want to admit it.

Now to the point of this post, this article by one of their directors. It begins by her complaining about how she had to lie about pretending to be interested in Lego to get her first engineering job, she then glosses over the part about how she didn’t last long in the real world and ran off to the fluffy world of non-profit development work and research before ending on what she would like to have said at interview, a bundle of content-free buzzword heavy fluff about impacting on disadvantaged communities and working respectfully. She even talked about shifting goalposts, frankly I was left feeling slightly ill. Perhaps this explains why I drew two completely contradictory conclusions;

1. It was a good thing she did lie at interview, because if she had spouted that bilge at me I’d have never hired her. Engineering is about many things, but buzzwords, fluff and waffling like an architect are never helpful.

2. It was a terrible mistake she did lie at interview, had she said the “truth” hopefully the interviewer would have stopped it there and kindly explained she was in the wrong industry. I like to imagine they would have gone on to suggest she stop wasting everyone’s time and just go work in a fluffy job, much like the ones she has now. Alas her poor first employer was woefully misled into thinking she was a proper engineer who liked Lego and not a naive, idealistic buzzword spouter (her words not mine, well the first two anyway)

On the subject of the actual problem, the lack of women in engineering and science, I really can’t help. I would read their doubtless thrilling report on the subject, but frankly it starts with ‘Gender Lenses’ and just goes down hill from there. It does appear to be a long list of ‘Anyway, the point is we need more money’, as these reports always are, mixed in with baffling contradictions about how girl’s “STEM needs” are the same, but also different. However maybe I’m just not using my Gender Lenses correctly and it will all make sense if I squint a bit and knock down the diversity stereotypes.  Or not.

Interesting Definitions

Posted in And thus the Mystery was solved Watson!, Irregular Features, Tenuous Link of the Day, Tunnels with tags , , , , on September 25, 2012 by awickerman

I’m clicking through one of the tunnelling comic and see the decidedly vague headline European countries agree on railway tunnel construction. Slightly curious I head to the article and discover it is in fact about a tunnel between Turkey and Georgia, neither of which really fit in my mental definition of Europe. Of course they are both in Eurovision, but everybody is in Eurovision, I mean Morocco was once in Eurovison.

Luckily this isn’t just me, the geography-defying ambition of Eurocrats aside everyone else agrees both nations are, in fact, in Asia. Well the UN statistical bods do and frankly that’s good enough for me.

Of Trees and Railways

Posted in Engineering, Irregular Features, The Railways, Your cut-out-and-keep Guide with tags , , on May 21, 2012 by awickerman

With the cutting edge up-to-the-minute reportage that this blog is justly famous for I now give you a report from January; the gripping London Assembly report into railway embankments.

The shocking conclusions are;

1. People don’t like it when the trees and greenery between them and train lines is removed.
2. Enviromental groups don’t like it when trees and greenery are removed at all. (Except Japanese knotweed which they want removed faster.)

However all this is somewhat irrelevant as;
3. Network Rail isn’t run by tree hating tyrants who destroy greenery for fun and all the work is in fact necessary.

If this wasn’t obvious to you without that report well done, you are well qualified to be a London Assembly member. The report is full of such utter tosh as recommending Network Rail join the London Bio-Diversity Partnership, as;

While responding to the need for safety, the value of biodiversity and wildlife should always be taken into consideration.

Regular readers (hello to both of you) will know I don’t often have a good word for NR but in this case they are bang on the money. What is the point of considering biodiversity in relation to vital engineering works? If the tree needs to come down to keep the embankment safe, it will and all the consultation and partnerships in the world wont change that. That is in fact one of the curses of the modern age, the fake consultation – pretending to take account of public opinion while in fact intending to plough on regardless. NR should be congratulated for not pretending and anyone looking for savings in the TfL/LU budget should start by sacking everyone involved in such pointless partnerships.

To be fair I can see the point of the recommendation on  better informing people, a bespoke letter and a working phone number would probably keep the locals happier than the current form letter and main switchboard approach. Just remember though, all this extra consultation and caring for trees is why railworks in Britain are 40% more expensive than in the rest of Europe. France just cuts down any tree anywhere near a railway line on general principle and without telling anyone, though interestingly anyone who isn’t a state monopoly industry needs a permit (une demande d’autorisation de coupe ou d’abbatage d’arbres) to cut down their own trees or indeed to plant a tree in your own garden.

So on that note I remind you that bad as things are, it could be worse. You could be in France, applying for a government permit to do your own gardening.

Why I Rarely Post

Posted in Engineering, Irregular Features, Posts that are far longer than I first intended, Tenuous Link of the Day with tags , , , on March 22, 2012 by awickerman

Saw this job advert – a trainee asbestos surveyor – and was somewhat surprised at how little it pays (15-17k) for someone with an engineering degree working in Kent/London. Especially given the many, many opportunities for engineers on such low profile jobs as Crossrail and High Speed 2. And the fact that if you do really well, get trained up and get a few years of fibrey death experience you might get up to 25k (or might get barely more than a trainee).

Sadly I ended up poking around the Office of National Statistics trying to find out what a typical engineering degree actually pays, which I soon realised was far, far too much research for a blog read by up to several people. Of course I could just rely on one of those self-selecting salary surveys. Equally I could use tarot cards or astrology, which I suspect would be about as accurate. While I’m sure the answer is somewhere, I’m equally sure I can think of better things to do with my time. Hence why I rarely post; I like to try and check the facts are correct, even if the wild accusations aren’t, but I no longer think it’s really worth the time.

Agent Orange

Posted in Almost Beyond Words, Irregular Features, Tenuous Link of the Day with tags , , , on October 9, 2011 by awickerman

While out and about in town I came across a van bearing the legend Agent Orange Environmental. There are so many things that are inappropriately amusing when reading the website, however I particularly recommend the ‘Garden cleaning’ section for the line;

This allows us to tackle anything from light overgrowth right up to the thickest of jungles.

Yes, I suppose it would.

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