Archive for News

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.


Perhaps specialisation is important

Posted in And thus the Mystery was solved Watson!, Engineering, Even Stevie Wonder Saw That Coming, Tenuous Link of the Day with tags , , , , , on October 8, 2013 by awickerman

Property developer set up their own construction company after becoming “increasingly dissatisfied with the service of external construction companies”.

Construction company has a few good years, buys itself wins an award as construction company of the year in 2011.

Company goes into administration on 7th October “after serious flaws were unearthed in the pricing of a number of the contracts”. They also admit “”[We have] encountered considerable difficulties in progressing and completing current projects.”

It’s almost as if pricing construction works and then delivering them is not as easy as it appeared. Maybe they should have stuck to what they were good at rather than branching out into something they clearly weren’t as good at as they originally thought.

Either way as they couldn’t offload the job for Southampton Cricket Club onto a different contractor fast enough they have left their current clients in the lurch, and no doubt ‘increasingly dissatisfied with external construction companies’. If you don’t find that amusing you have a heart of stone.

The Railways: An Apology

Posted in Engineering, Rantings, Tunnels with tags , , , , , on December 9, 2010 by awickerman

I may have at times implied that the railways were particularly incompetent at arranging things. This I now accept was unfair.
Don’t get me wrong they’re still awful, just not uniquely so. I know this as I’m sat at heathrow airport trying to do an inspection and out of a 3 man team only I’m here. And I’m late. One bloke will be 1hr late at least, the other is trying to.sort the permits that were confirmed last week bit never turned up.
I just want to work for someone competent, is that really so much to ask?

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 question of language

Posted in Alas the Mystery Remains Holmes, Engineering, Irregular Features with tags , , , , , on November 14, 2010 by awickerman

Last week we were working on a large tunnelling job which required some street works. It was (and still is) a bugger of a job and we’ve gone through countless iterations; we’re on Option 19 of the alignment, each of which had several sub-options. As a result it is hardly surprising that when a particularly difficult problem, on a tricky street, was resolved one of the team felt moved to say;

“At last, they’ve come up with the final solution for Jews Row.”

Now admittedly it could be worse, a lot of the other sites just get reduced to the just the first word, but the question does remain; can you ever use the phrase “Final solution” in any context without getting someone looking at you in a slightly odd way?

Toixic sludge problems? Just ask for Nicole.

Posted in Tenuous Link of the Day, Your cut-out-and-keep Guide with tags , , , on October 10, 2010 by awickerman

As Hungary and all points east continue to vanish under a vast tide of red sludge what they need is a hero to save the day. Sadly what they have is the daft girl from the Renault advert; NICOLE!

Or to give it it’s proper title the Network for Industrially Contaminated Land in Europe. As the established experts at looking at former Communist countries full of industrial wastelands these chaps are undoubtedly good at turning up and looking at stuff, for instance they have many fine photos of unpleasant bits of Poland;


A charming part of contaminated Poland.

Sadly while there are plenty of ‘before’ shots there are no ‘after’, indeed I’m not even convinced there is an ‘after’ of that part of Poland to take a photo of. I fear NICOLE just likes looking at the ruins of Eastern Europe, taking photos and then telling the locals it’s all their own fault for being Communistical for so long. Damned if I can see what else they do.


In actually doing something news the finest bearded experts from across Europe have been gathered to fly out to Hungary and tell them it’s serious. This vital work is being co-ordinated by the EU Civil Protection Mechanism which appears to be a bit less impressive than it’s name would suggest. As far as can be determined flying out bearded experts is about as grand as it gets and you have to wonder; is it necessary? Are we really saying those experts wouldn’t turn up without a dozen bureaucrats filling forms in triplicate and pumping out press releases?  I know these chaps and they love nothing more than sticking their nose into a disaster, especially as outside experts; all the fun of speculation and research with none of the liability.

Frankly if I were the Hungarian government I might ignore both them and Nicole  put my faith in Papa instead.

The Continuing Adventures of the Dube

Posted in Almost Beyond Words, Irregular Features, Tenuous Link of the Day with tags , , , , , on October 4, 2010 by awickerman

Despite sounding like the world’s worst Sherlock Holmes adventure the Dube lives. Yes for those who had forgotten (or never cared or deliberately repressed the memory..) the Dube is Dion Dublin’s effort to revolutionise percussion with an instrument he has invented. And here it is;

It's a large cube that allegedly makes drum noises. Allegedly

Words almost fail me.

So it’s a large cardboard looking box that you hit to make noise. Is this actually an invention or did he just steal it off his kids? Or indeed someone else’s children?

That said when last discussed around these parts I foolishly dismissed it as probably not genuine, I clearly under-estimated just how much time an ex-footballer type has to waste on this sort of thing. Let that be a lesson to one and all; never trust musically inclined ex-footballers with cardboard boxes.

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