Archive for Political Solutions

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.

A self contained mystery

Posted in And thus the Mystery was solved Watson!, Engineering, Posts that are far longer than I first intended, Rantings, The Railways, Your cut-out-and-keep Guide with tags , , , , , on October 11, 2011 by awickerman

Rick Haythornthwaite, the chairman of Network Rail, has decided not to seek re-election (i.e. as a well known Labour placeman he probably correctly thinks a Conservative-Liberal government wont ‘elect’ him). As he was leaving he decided to share this wisdom with the public;

“We know that many of the public view the leadership of the industry with confusion, suspicion or disdain. They don’t trust us and therefore are resistant to changes we want to make.”

But why? Why on earth would the public distrust a leadership that includes men like Rick? I mean yes he was picked solely due to being close to New Labour, his last real private sector job went badly, his previous government job was on cutting Health and Safety rules (he didn’t)  and he had absolutely zero experience of the railways, but is that any reason not to trust his wise leadership? Or men like chief executive David Higgins, a man who was Chief Executive of the ODA and was in charge while the final bill for London 2012 skyrocketed and then took his zero rail experience (but his vast knowledge of spiralling budgets) to Network Rail.  And the disdain surely can’t be because of the huge sums they earn for incompetence, so how on earth can we explain Ricks’s problem? Luckily Rick gives us the answer in the same article;

“I believe we have the chance to leverage a newfound appetite for change among the public, born of crisis, to galvanise a shift from a fragmented to a connected Britain.”

Breaking that down ‘leverage an appetite’ means pushing through expensive schemes that would normally be rejected as a waste of time and money, ‘born of a crisis’ means doing expensive schemes quickly so no-one has a chance to stop them, ‘galvanise a shift’ means push through expensive schemes in the face of entirely accurate opposition and ‘connected Britain’ means High Speed 2 and dozens of other very expensive schemes. To those who are spotting a common theme – well done.

In summary anyone who speaks such utter tripe will be untrusted and disdained and damned if I know why he’s surprised at that.

Ohh and “resistant to changes we want to make” is not only referring to High Speed 2, it’s also code for ‘we want bring back the massive bonuses that we got regardless of how bad things went’, something most people are quite rightly resistant of.

Great Headlines of our Times

Posted in Rantings, Tenuous Link of the Day with tags , , , on August 11, 2010 by awickerman

Thames Valley Police pledge to solve more crimes

Without wishing to be too facetious surely that’s the main job of the Police, in all honesty I can’t think of much else that they do and none of that is more important than catching criminals.  As such these two paragraphs indicate how wrong I am;

Thames Valley Police received a “poor” rating for solving crimes in its annual assessment from inspectors this year.

The Police Report Card by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary gave the force an overall rating of “fair”.

Having looked at said Report Card it appears that actually solving crime is only one factor along side such vitals as “Satisfaction with service delivery”, “Comparative satisfaction of BME community” and “Meeting the Pledge Standards”. So despite Thames Valley being poor at solving crime they do well enough on the rest of the ‘vital’ areas to drag it up to a fair overall.

My conclusion? If the police are struggling to meet budget cuts can I suggest the report card gets scrapped straight away along with sacking everyone involved in producing them, checking them or thinking about them.

The US Oil Spill

Posted in Almost Beyond Words, Rantings, Your cut-out-and-keep Guide with tags , , , , , , , on June 8, 2010 by awickerman

I’ve avoided this one as there didn’t seem a lot to say, everyone seemed to be trying to stop it and it probably would be better to wait for the investigation and all the facts to come out. Admittedly that hasn’t stopped politicians mouthing off about blame and so on, but honestly what did you expect? (Actually based on Piper Alpha I had some hopes. That was the disaster were a US firm in the North Sea badly, badly fucked up and killed 70 odd people and didn’t get criticised and threatened with death till after the investigation proved they were guilty as hell. But then American politicians do have an addiction to double standards and hypocrisy)

Anyway I’m commenting on the subject as I’ve recently found out quite how far the US government is going in it’s efforts to make things worse. First off the much hyped ‘Presidential panel’ gathering the finest experts in every field except oil production, therefore denying it of any possible relevant knowledge or experience. Now you may argue you want off-the wall ideas and fresh thinking, it’s a bad argument but you could make it, in which case why censor the panel? Now professor Katz does appear to be thoroughly unpleasant (complete with a Brass Eye-esque belief in good/bad AIDS) but someone must have thought he was an expert worth consulting, yet he was instantly dropped once it emerged he was a arse. So either this is a genuine utter disaster where you need everyone OR you can drop him as it’s not that bad, in which case tone down the rhetoric and threats.  Is consistency so much to ask?

The second point is if anything much worse as it damn near had a practical impact. To disperse oil you need a dispersant and in general they are not especially nice chemicals, hence why they all need EPA approval. The BP choice Corexit has been on the EPA list for over 20 years and was used on the Exxon Valdez spill and dozens since so is a well understood and tested choice, hence it was stockpiled in vast quantities on the Gulf Mexico in preparation for any problems. So what happened a few days into this spill? A few previously anonymous politicians and green groups (well I’d never heard of them) started whining about it and eventually got the EPA to threaten a ban. Ignoring the annoyance that anyone took them seriously you do have to ask why now? Are the US government actually trying to make things worse or do they genuinely think Louisiana will look nicer with a nice skim of oil on it? (On which note I also found out that 80%+ of state revenues in that state come from the oil industry, I therefore sincerely hope the fisherman who turn on the news get their wish and the industry is banned. I think mass unemployment and even larger taxd bills would be a just punishment for their ill-informed whining.)

So there you go, a tad more proof of Regan’s old saw

The ten most dangerous words in the English language are “Hi, I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.”

The problem with planning

Posted in And thus the Mystery was solved Watson!, Your cut-out-and-keep Guide with tags , , , , on June 7, 2010 by awickerman

In essence it’s this. Peruse to page 6 where you will see the chairman of a small-medium sized house builder reveal the firm spends more on planning and planning fees than it does on bricks.

If this is a bad thing depends on whether you think this country needs more housing or not, which itself depends on whether or nor you own one. I will merely note that most of Parliament appears to own dozens of houses (brought with our money) and so has most to lose if housing supply increases and causes a drop in house prices.

A Comparison

Posted in And thus the Mystery was solved Watson!, Irregular Features, Your cut-out-and-keep Guide with tags , , , , , , on May 23, 2010 by awickerman

The new Construction Minister has been announced, a fact I realise is probably of negative interest to most readers, but hey it’s a risk you take reading this blog. First off it should be noted Construction is never actually considered importance enough to get a full time minister, it’s normally combined with a few other areas and then given to a second string Minister of State (or worse an Under Secretary which I believe ranks below ‘tea boy’ in terms of importance)

However let us now compare the current chap and his predecessors and see what we can learn;

Looking over the last few years construction has rejoiced under;

  • Baroness Vadera – Investment Banker who saw ‘Green shots of recovery’ in January 2009. So not even a good banker.
  • Stephen Timms – ex-phone consultant for Logica who is probably most famous for thinking IP address stood for “intellectual property address” despite being Minister for Digital Britain). That or recently being stabbed by a nutter in a Burkha. One or the other anyway.
  • Most recently, Ian Lucas – a personal injury lawyer who has done a lot to work on producing documents on de-carboning construction. Sod all to stop the collapse in orders or haemorrhaging jobs, but maybe I’m being uncharitable. Perhaps he worked out the paperwork wasn’t helping so realised only by decimating UK construction can he cut carbon. No jobs = No carbon.

If these seem unimpressive idiots who know nothing about their brief don’t worry, with nine ministers in less than eight years they don’t have any time to do much serious damage. That also means they can’t do any good either, but that was only ever a theoretical possibility.

So who is the new chap? Well it’s Mark Prisk. He’s been shadowing the job for years, he’s a qualified survey and has actually has worked on construction sites and even ran his own surveying consultancy. Therefore there is massive pressure on his shoulders, should he fail the case for ‘Employing ministers who have had real jobs and who know about their subject’ will take a hefty blow.

Good luck Mr Prisk, a great deal rests on you not being an idiot.

Bringing Balance to the Blame

Posted in Alas the Mystery Remains Holmes, Irregular Features, Rantings, Your cut-out-and-keep Guide with tags , , , , , on May 16, 2010 by awickerman

Having regularly lambasted the RMT in general and Bob Crow in particular I probably should balance that out by pointing out that the Network Rail management are an inept bunch of idiots who I wouldn’t trust to open a can of baked beans that was already open, let alone run a railway. As proof I present the NR policy on bridge strikes.

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