Archive for Balls Out Bravery

National Stereotypes #431

Posted in And thus the Mystery was solved Watson!, Tenuous Link of the Day, Your cut-out-and-keep Guide with tags , , , , , , on October 5, 2010 by awickerman

Today’s proof that national stereotypes are not without their grain of truth comes from the Orient. And Holland. Our story begins with a new bridge between Hong Kong and the Chinese mainland…

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Great Questions of Our Time #342

Posted in Alas the Mystery Remains Holmes, Tenuous Link of the Day with tags , , , on July 3, 2010 by awickerman

This sentence either makes no sense or is posing a great philosophical question.

The Highways Agency has agreed to erect two fences and to plant some hawthorns to protect the naturists’ modesty and peace and quiet.

Assuming it is deliberate it does pose the question; If you are a nudist do you in fact have any modesty?

Scotland’s Bid for World Domination

Posted in Almost Beyond Words, Tenuous Link of the Day with tags , , , , on June 18, 2010 by awickerman

Never let it be said Scotland lacks ambition, even now they plan to take over the world through the medium of deep fried chocolate.

The best dessert he’d discovered, he said, was a Snickers Bar dunked in pancake batter and, this being Indiana, deep-fried.

So says Mitch Daniels, Governor of Indiana and Presidential hopeful for 2012. If a man infected with the Scottish fetish for deep frying everything gets in power there is no hope for the world’s cuisine or arteries. Or indeed the world itself for that matter.

Jesus H Christ

Posted in Almost Beyond Words, Tenuous Link of the Day with tags , , , , , , , , on June 16, 2010 by awickerman

Are slightly lower CO2 emissions more important than people’s lives? Personally I’d say no, but the Highways Agency thinks differently with their cunning scheme for “Midnight Switch-Off for Motorway Lighting”.

As the name suggests this scheme will see the lights turned off at night as part of their Sustainable Development Action Plan. Had this been a cost initiative that would be bad but, perhaps, understandable. After all putting a value on a human life to assess a safety scheme has a long (if unpublicised) history on the railways,  though I would note the very crucial point it’s used for staff safety not passenger safety. However this is different, this is a sacrifice (probably literally at some point) to the great false gods of sustainable development and global warming.

I’ll leave you with these two utterly contradictory statements from the HA website;

In doing this, safety remains our highest priority.

Which is then proved to be a total lie in the next sentences;

With the extremely low traffic flows at this time of night, the value of having lighting on the motorway is judged to be outweighed by the environmental impact and cost of providing the lighting.  Almost all the safety benefits from motorway lighting occur outside the midnight to 5am period.

Because safety is their highest priority, right up until anything else intervenes.

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 Day In The Life of a Tunnel Engineer #4

Posted in Irregular Features, Tunnels with tags , , , , , , , on May 7, 2010 by awickerman

Today was an unusual one as it involved grappling with the question ‘Does that tunnel need closing?’

Technically I’ve done this many times before, every tunnel inspection ends with someone ticking the box marked ‘Tunnel is safe’ on their big compliance sheet, however as you may have guessed from that description of the it’s normally as much for form’s sake as anything else. Certainly it’s very rare to actually find anything of note, all the old Victorian tunnels that were built badly have long since fallen down (leaving only the good ones) and the newer stuff just doesn’t go wrong as there is so little to go wrong.

This time however we received a nice report saying a tunnel had moved a worrying large amount, hasn’t actually stopped moving and is right on the edge of the trigger level marked “COLLAPSE”. The question therefore was should the client close the tunnel or should they throw a load of realtime monitoring at it to try and work out exactly what is going on. We did in the end recommend the latter, if the client had in fact closed this tunnel I suspect it would have made the national news. In fact given the site and it’s history it may even have made it further afield, though who can fathom the world of the news editor’s priority list?

As always with these bits of news I feel I probably can’t go into detail as the company involved would not be impressed, which is something of a shame as it’s the kind of story I just know would make a nice splash in the tabloids and thus get me my few minutes of blogging fame. Ah well.

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