Perhaps They Just Chose… Poorly

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on August 29, 2013 by awickerman

Article in which various ‘top graduates’ complain about a lack of work and complain about a Tory MP for saying things they disagree with.

Whatever the merits of their case the author of the article didn’t exactly pick the strongest examples to prove their point. The three complaining graduates have ‘Classical Studies’, ‘Modern History’ and ‘Music’ degrees. All wonderful subjects no doubt, but maybe they are struggling to find a job as what they’ve learnt isn’t particularly relevant to the jobs they are applying for.

But then ‘Students who pick fluffy degrees struggle to find real jobs’ probably isn’t as good a story is it?

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Great Units of Our Time

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on July 31, 2013 by awickerman

While I realise I may have just led a sheltered life I have never before come across a unit of measurement that combines two units from entirely different systems into one contradictory whole, until today. For today I came across the acre millimetre, which quite obviously is the volume required to fill a one acre area up to a depth of one millimetre.

There was, of course, the acre inch or the hectare millimetre available, but luckily the author spurned these options and instead chose to take the gloriously unconventional path. Truly it enlivened an otherwise deadly dull report, though admittedly at the cost of making me question every other number in the document.

This marvellous unit was topped when, while looking for similarly odd unit combinations, I can across a petition against the Jispa Dam quoting the dam’s capacity as 0.6 million hectare feet of water, which is a truly outstanding unit which will mean nothing to people who think in either system. Only those conversant in both will have a feel for it, and they are probably the people who’d most prefer it if the two weren’t mixed. Truly a triumph of number wrangling.

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.

Undoing their own bad work

Posted in Almost Beyond Words, Engineering, Posts that are far longer than I first intended, Rantings with tags , , , , on September 9, 2012 by awickerman

Hidden amongst the government’s planning changes was a small section on how this would help making digging holes in the ground cheaper;

Internet providers have also been told that they will “face less cost and bureaucracy in laying cables in streets”

Leaving aside whether or not such simplification will ever happen (hint: it never has before) one of the main sources of cost and bureaucracy for new street works is a new government scheme launched in London this very July. Under the scheme people digging up roads can be charged up to £2,500 a day in ‘lane rental’ to dig up the road, indeed even if you ignore that ‘up to’ number the DfT’s own Q&A section on the subject freely boasts that this scheme will increase the cost of streetworks;

Q36: How would it help?

A well-designed charging system would also include exemptions or discounts from the daily charge when works are completed at less busy times. So by spending a bit more say on overtime to get the job done at evenings or weekends – utilities and others carrying out works could avoid having to pay the charges.

So it’s pretty clear this scheme was quite explicitly designed to make work happen at more expensive times and, as with all such schemes, will almost certainly involve lots of paperwork proving why each job is allowed to avoid the charge.

Thus barely three months after increasing the costs and bureaucracy of installing cables in the road, the government is pledging to reduce those costs “once officials have found a way to simplify current permit schemes.”

Maybe they should of thought of that before introducing further complications into a system that the previous government had already made stupidly over-complicated and expensive. But then that would be joined up government by competent people, so no chance of that then.

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.

Offshore Wind – Still Tricky

Posted in Engineering, Even Stevie Wonder Saw That Coming with tags , , , on January 20, 2012 by awickerman

Round about a year ago I noted the Offshore Wind Accelerator scheme trying to overcome the problems of deep water offshore wind being tricky and noted that in addition to the problems they were trying to solve there would be;

the dozens of other problems they haven’t even thought of yet, because as I said at the top; Offshore Wind – Tricky.

Well one of those other problems has just popped up – scour. The turbine foundations are surrounded by large armour stone blocks and these are sinking, up to 1.5m in some cases, as the sea washes away the sea bed beneath the stones. As the report says;

Lead author Anders Nielsen says the sinking stones are a real problem as they can, ‘reduce the stability of the monopole and change for instance the natural frequency of the dynamic response of an offshore wind turbine in an unfavourable manner.’

To be fair I’m sure it will be solved, in the short term just dropping more stones down every few months will do it, but I’d be very surprised if the solution doesn’t end up being making each turbine more expensive to install, which is probably the last thing an already very expensive form of power needs. Still when was renewable energy ever about providing the consumer with cheap and reliable electricity?

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