Monday, March 30, 2009

Melbourne Formula 1 Grand Prix is DOOMED!

As you know I have a theory.

I am alarmed and shocked to find this on the news website:

Off-track Lara Bingle catches the eye

UNDER stiff competition, Lara Bingle stole the show track-side at the Formula One preliminaries yesterday.
Bingle was resplendent in a little white dress by Chanel and her favourite Louis Vuitton shoes, which were last seen at the Allan Border Medal in February.
As she arrived at Albert Park everyone looked, including Shane Warne.
"Sort it out Lara, seriously," he joked. Gallery: Bloody hell, it's Lara Bingle
Bingle, along with MTV presenter Ruby Rose and Warne, is a Vodafone ambassador at the Grand Prix.
She met drivers Lewis Hamilton and Heikki Kovalainen before the first round of qualifying.
"I don't know much about racing, but it was great to meet them," she said.
Hamilton and Kovalainen seemed fascinated with Rose's tattoo.
"He (Hamilton) said he wanted to get a tattoo and I said, 'You should get a little racing car'," she said.
The presenter, who is fast becoming a star on the Aussie entertainment fixture, left the MTV Music awards at 3.30am the day before.
Bingle missed meeting Sir Richard Branson, who made a typical grand entrance to the F1 scene, with his Virgin girls in tow.

You get that! She met Hamilton BEFORE qualifying. Where did Hamilton Qualify?

Where did Hamilton qualify? 15th out of 20. More evidence!

Killer Dams???

Alan Howe has written an opinion piece suggesting that Hydro-electricity more deadly than any other form of power generation. Ok please.. stop it. Stop laughing now. OK, can we go on please?

In shorter form a water bomb is more deadly than a nuclear bomb.

Let us disect this 'article' from the start. The headline:

Nuclear only safe option

got that? ok let us get to the main bit.

IT sounds simple enough, and very green.
You dam a valley, wait until it fills with water then send that through a turbine generating electricity before piping it to the taps of the towns below.
Majestic dams set in pristine, forested water catchments become tourist attractions in their own right and their names are bywords in feats of engineering: Hoover, Aswan, Boulder, Three Gorges, Hume.

Hume? Honestly Alan get with the Engineering History of Oz. Yes Hume is an important dam in Australia but nowhere near the historical significance of Goulburn Weir near Nagambie which used to be on the 10 shilling note produced in the 1880's.

But I digress.

But they are the deadliest form of power generation known to man.
Hydroelectricity kills thousands each year and claims many more lives than other forms of energy generation - natural gas, LPG, oil and even coal, the mining of which can be perilous.
Dams regularly fail, sometimes catastrophically.
Just three days ago a dam burst in Jakarta killing 77, with 100 people missing.
China's Banqiao Dam was built to withstand a 1-in-1000-year flood.
But in August 1975 Typhoon Nina collided with a monstrous cold front, dumping inches of rain by the hour and, as weather records were broken and reset over a few days, its sluice gates couldn't cope.
When the dam wall broke, a 10km long wave almost 10m high crashed down at 50km/h wiping towns off the map.
Another 61 dams downstream failed as a result. Jet fighters bombed some to release pressure on the system. More than 26,000 locals drowned and another 145,000 are reported to have died in subsequent epidemics and famine, violating even Chinese conventions of disaster.
In 1963 a landslide at the Vajont Dam north of Venice sent a 250m wave over the wall that not only killed 2000, but its 50 million cubic metre splashdown displaced air with such force it ripped the clothes and skin off nearby villagers killing them, too.
Last year's devastating earthquakes in China's Sichuan province killed another 80,000 and left serious cracks in the huge Zipingpu Dam and there are fears it could fail, endangering the lives of the 630,000 inhabitants of Duijiangyan City below.

OK... So out of the thousands of dams constructed since the Romans kicked about you claim those deaths... Right.

Now, controversially, it has been put by experts that the dam itself caused the earthquake.
A scientist at Columbia University, Leonardo Seeber, in a presentation to the American Geophysical Union, suggests that the dam has been built too close to a known geological fault line and that the weight of water in the four-year-old reservoir - 320 million tons - triggered the quake.
Seeber is part of a growing body of experts who have grave doubts about the construction of so many dams in areas of regular significant seismic activity.

This is not new news. It is a common Engineering fact that by loading up a fault in the earth's surface a failure in the fault can occur resulting in an earthquake. The tremors that created the rock fall in the Beaconsfield Mine disaster and subsequent rescue have been partly attributed to the mine itself. So now we have 1. when dams fail people die and 2. dams on geological faults can create earthquakes that could make the dam fail. Keeping up so far? Good let us move on:

But China has a voracious appetite for energy that was, until a year ago, growing at almost 10 per cent a year.
The Chinese use power to make the things - fridges, airconditioners, plasma TVs - that we buy and plug in to the wall.

Your point being? The only relevance this bit has to anything I can find is that somehow Victorian's buying a plasma contributed to deaths in China.

Already Victoria can't generate the power it needs, hence the frustrating blackouts over summer. Things will worsen.
The planned desalination plant at Wonthaggi may well pour out 150 billion litres of water a year - but it will be a huge drain on the state's power grid, and that's before we pump it all the way to Melbourne.
Of course, had we built another dam, we might have had the water - and perhaps more power to boot.

Andrew Bolt will love that last bit. He so wants a dam on the Mitchell River. But hey if you read my blog you know that already.

That aside Alan should really look at how often blackouts have occured in Victoria. Honestly Alan do you know how often?

But let's not get too cocky about the safety of our water storages.
I wouldn't live below them.
Work has been done recently to "improve" the ability of Eildon and Dartmouth dams to withstand extreme weather events and comply with international flood and earthquake standards.
Handy, that, because Melbourne University earth scientist Professor Mark Sandiford said last week it is only a matter of time before a major quake hits our state.

What? Alan haven't you warned the good people of Albury-Wodonga that their lives are in imminent danger? Maybe you should go up there with a billboard and stand out the front of the SS&A club with a sandwich board over your head stating "The End is Nigh"?

So now we have:
1. when dams fail people die;
2. dams on geological faults can create earthquakes that could make the dam fail; and
3. aparently we are going to be subject to an earthquake that will cause a dam to fail.
Alan has nearly lost me with his thought train. Australia is one of the most stable geological areas in the world. Most of the earthquakes that effect us are very deep in the ground resulting in less surface movement and potential damage. Also they are well below the magnitude of those experienced elsewhere in the world. Last deaths directly resulting from an earthquake were in Newcastle (again another mining area).
So Alan, I am scared. Do tell me how do I sleep at night when the fridge is going without fearing for the lives of anyone near a dam?

The fact is that the only safe alternative for the clean generation of power - here and anywhere else - is nuclear.
The one serious black mark on its safety record has been Chernobyl.
The Chernobyl nuclear reactor was run by drunks under a system of Stalinist indifference to safety, and the result is in obvious contrast to Three Mile Island accident seven years earlier that exposed some problems with instruments and training that were soon addressed.
No one was killed or injured and the containment building did its job.

Oh phew. I thought you may have mentioned something as deadly as dams like solar (how many people die from skin cancer?) or wind (asthma anyone?).

You dam a valley, wait until it fills with water then send that through a turbine generating electricity before piping it to the taps of the towns below.
Generating nuclear is much safer than it was back then - partially as a result of those two incidents - and we are developing systems to store the waste that in any case in quite small.
One of those driving the issue of our need to adopt nuclear generated power, for both its efficiency, cost and to save the environment, is the Liberal Member for Tangney, Dr Dennis Jensen.
"Nuclear power is safe," said the former CSIRO research scientist.
"An interesting poll a couple of months ago indicated that more Australians were positively disposed than negatively disposed to using nuclear power," he said.
He points to the hundreds of nuclear power station operating around the world, some
using ancient technology, working efficiently and safely, even in Japan, a country that knows a little more than most about nuclear energy.

Oh great. So we have:
1. when dams fail people die;
2. dams on geological faults can create earthquakes that could make the dam fail;
3. aparently we are going to be subject to an earthquake that will cause a dam to fail; and
4. Russians are drunks.
Does Alan provide evidence of the poll taken? nope as it was probably taken at the Australian Nuclear Power Party annual meeting. I say, this politician points to the hundreds of nuclear power plants operating around the world should look at the thousands of dams operating around the world. Also I look forward to the updated list of deaths from dams as a result of drownings.

Friday, March 27, 2009

The Big Prix

Yes love it or hate it the Grand Prix is back in Melbourne. Is it on it's last legs? who knows.

If you are interested below is a nice representation of the track:

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

WTF 19 - What a Headline

Name shame causes Cock shrinkage but Wang is on the rise

Valentine Low March 25, 2009
Article from: Times Online

THEY are some of the oldest British surnames, passed down from generation to generation for hundreds of years. But over the past century or so, they have gone into a catastrophic decline.

Is it migration? Death? Disease? Some socio-demographic calamity that has befallen these families? Perhaps not. A list of the names reveals that their fall in popularity may have a more prosaic cause.

Cock, Daft, Death, Smellie, not to mention Gotobed, Shufflebottom and Jelly: they are all surnames that would have caused their owners considerable embarrassment over the years. A new analysis of British surnames reveals how names with rude overtones have seen the sharpest decline over the past 120 years as their owners have changed them to something more innocuous.

A comparison of the 2008 population - using data from a variety of sources - with the first census in 1881 shows that the number of Cocks has shrunk by 75 per cent, while the number of people called Balls or Daft has fallen by more than 50 per cent.

David Hey, author of Family Names and Family History, said that ridiculous names were often more harmless than they appeared. "`Bottom' names were from farms at the bottom of a valley. In the Middle Ages `daft' meant meek. It was a perfectly acceptable name."

The analysis, which was conducted by Professor Richard Webber, visiting professor of geography at King's College London, with Experian, the information services company, and Geowise, a provider of geographical analysis software, also reveals fascinating details about patterns of migration.

The fastest-growing surname in Britain is Zhang, which has grown from 123 in 1996 to 5804 in 2008. It is followed by four other Chinese names - Wang, Yang, Huang and Lin; only after that do a couple of African names get a look in, Moyo and Dube.

Some things have not changed, however. In 1881 the most popular surnames were, in order, Smith, Jones, Williams, Brown, Taylor, Davies, Wilson, Evans and Thomas; those top nine names are still in the exactly the same order of popularity today.

Where people live has also remained remarkably constant - for hundreds of years. People whose names end in -thorpe, -ing or -by are more likely to have descended from invaders such as the Vikings, Danes or Angles, according to Professor Webber, and are still to be found concentrated on the east coast of Britain.

Go newscorp go!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Last Square Mile of Terra Firma Gabbled in the Mail

I drove past a week or so ago and noticed that the Preston Bowls Club is up for Sale. Sad fact of life regarding a changing demographic. The bowls club has also suffered from being too well located on a busy intersection between Murray Road and what is St Georges Road.

The Age did a very nice story on it which included some great pics.

Low kitty bowls Preston's kitty off the lawn
Kate Lahey
March 23, 2009

NEXT month, Preston Bowls Club will celebrate 100 years of existence. Then it
will sell its historic greens.
With only 60 members left, almost all aged between 70 and 100, and one about to turn 103, the club on Murray Road has been forced to close.
It is not just the bills and the lack of money, it is everything the ageing members need to do. Cleaning, maintenance, preparing food, running a bar — the weight of these tasks has become too heavy.
Preston ladies secretary, Pat Hamilton, has been a member for 30 years, her husband Alan has been a member for 40 years. Ms Hamilton's mother was once a member.
Ms Hamilton attributes the fate of the club to two things: women in the workforce
and a multicultural neighbourhood less interested in bowls.
About six years ago, Preston began to consider its future and started lending the clubrooms to a local Chinese social group, in the hope some might become members. None did.
It brought in school children for a few seasons, and before that, poker machines, which lasted a few years but cost more than they made.
"The only thing we never tried is barefoot bowling, but we're not really geared up for
that because, as I say, our members are ageing and it takes a lot of time and effort," Ms Hamilton said.
"It's a very sad day, really, but we see that there's nothing you can do. You've just got to think, well it's progress, though it's not progress for us, it's the way the world is now."
Peter Hanlon, executive officer of the Royal Victorian Bowls Association, said mergers and closures were not common around Melbourne, though some were occurring.
Many of the state's 531 clubs were vibrant and successful, whether memberships were in the scores or hundreds, he said.
"It seems to me that where clubs have become quite elderly within themselves and haven't taken that step of opening their doors to barefoot bowls or social bowls, that in some cases they end up missing the boat," Mr Hanlon said.
The challenge is to convert social players to memberships, and find enough willing to commit to a season of pennant.
To help with this, the RVBA is piloting shorter programs, of six to eight weeks, and not necessarily on a Saturday.
Mr Hanlon compares pennant to test cricket.
"That continues to be successful but there's another market out there that love the one-day or the 20-20, so we need to market an abridged or briefer version of the game."
Preston will merge with Reservoir, taking the proceeds of the sale along.
The first Preston club opened on High Street in 1909 and moved to its existing site in 1925. This season, the club's top women's team and a combined men's team both won their sections in the state pennant competition.
"That was quite a bit of a boost to us, to think we were still capable of doing that," Ms Hamilton said.

The bowling club site is being sold by tender as a development opportunity


Thursday, March 19, 2009

Don't Let the Truth Get in the Way of Good Story

There has been a lot of media coverage about one topic in particular over the last week. I am not going to give it more coverage here as it is probably obvious I am mentioning the photos that are allegedly of Pauline Hanson as a teenager.

Let me get some things straight:
  1. I am not a fan of Ms Hanson and her politics. In fact some of her views repulse me; and
  2. Publishing photos of a public person supposedly taken about 30 years ago without consent on a national platform is wrong.

That said I have found the media reaction to the photos interesting. Of most interest has been how the newspapers who bought the pictures in the first place have reacted.

  • First it was her.
  • Then it wasn't.
  • Then it could be even though she said it was not her.
  • Then the expert says it isn't.
  • Then the ex husband says it isn't

Now most other media outlets coverd it for two days basically showing the pictures and then when it became quite obvious it was not Ms Hanson they dropped it. But not the news group. Oh no. They paid good money ($15,000 apparently) so they want to milk the story for all it's worth.

So even after everyone is quite certain the pictures are not of Pauline the news corp crew keep going. I wonder if they had this planned all along? Like on ACA. Each day roll out another element to the story to make it drag out over a full week?

If that is the case then they have been deliberately misleading and Hanson has all the rights in the world to sue them.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Herald Sun vs Connex

First of all read the following article (note that the emphasis is mine):

Ash blamed for slippery tracks

Ashley Gardiner
March 18, 2009 12:00am

HEAT, leaves, vandalism and hungry passengers have all been blamed for causing havoc with Melbourne trains - now the latest culprit is soot.

Trains overshot stations six times in four weeks, including four times the day after Black Saturday.

The Herald Sun believes investigators are considering whether dirty and greasy tracks played a role.

Soot is one of several possible causes being investigated, sources said.

Extreme weather conditions could have been responsible for the incidents, five of which involved Siemens trains.

Brake failure has been eliminated as a cause of the overshoots and the trains have returned to service.

Siemens vice-president Paul Bennett told the Herald Sun that investigations by Siemens, Connex and the Department of Transport had ruled out a brake malfunction.

"If we at any time considered them to be unsafe, we would immediately . . . recommend the trains be withdrawn from service," Mr Bennett said.

"If the overshooting was caused by one single element, such as brake failure, we would expect authorities to act in accordance with safety regulations and remove the trains from service."

He said many factors could influence overshooting . . . "including track adhesion, human machine interface, train speed and weather".

Mr Bennett said Siemens maintained all 36 of its trains operating in Melbourne.

Three of the overshooting incidents occurred at Ormond station on the Frankston line, and the state of the track there is being investigated.

Overshoots also occurred at Murrumbeena, Noble Park and Yarraman stations on the Dandenong line.

Did I miss something there?

Where exactly did anyone other than the Herald Sun say that Ash was a possible source for the overshooting?

Black Saturday was a very windy day and it is more than likely that a considerable amount of debris such as leaves, dust and other litter could end up on the tracks. Last time I checked there were no bushfires in the Murrumbeena area.

The HUN reporting is designed to skew the readers opinion of Connex to make it sound like they are using any old excuse they can find. When in fact that is exactly not what they have done. Who are the HUN's sources as described? transport experts? rail designers? rail operators? some bloke down the corridor?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Further Evidence for Public Transport Funding

It is quite clear that the number of people using Public Transport in Melbourne has increased a lot over the last few years. First there was the increase in the price of petrol that made teh use of PT more economical. Now as the GFC hits home and people are trying to save more cash there could be a second wave:

Hard times just the ticket for public transport

Clay Lucas
March 17, 2009
THE deteriorating economy is adding to Melbourne's public transport woes, with commuters boarding trains, trams and buses to save money.

A survey of 600 people by public transport marketing and information agency Metlink has found that 75 per cent of Melburnians are trying to save money because of worries over the economy. As a result, a third are looking to use public transport more to cut their budgets.

"Melburnians are tightening their budgets and many more are looking at public transport," said Bernie Carolan, chief executive of Metlink, which is funded by Connex, Yarra Trams and the bus industry.

Cutting costs was a key reason behind the boom in public transport use, he said. In 2008, passenger numbers on overcrowded trains, trams and buses grew by 11 per cent to 480 million trips — 48 million more than the year before.

The survey, taken last month, also found that 92 per cent wanted the Government to spend more on public transport.

Twenty per cent of Melburnians had reduced car use in the last six months. This was also reflected in VicRoads' recent Traffic Monitor report. It showed zero growth in road travel in metropolitan Melbourne from the previous year.

The State Government has proposed billions for public transport, but many of the large projects are still years away.

But it has committed billions to new road projects, including the $1.4 billion upgrade of the West Gate-Monash Freeway, which is already under way.

No suburban lines have been built since 1930, but the urban area has more than doubled.

Monash University transport expert Professor Graham Currie found last month that the Government's transport plan has, in its first four years, pledged $8.4 billion to expand roads and freight routes and $6.8 billion on regenerating public transport infrastructure.

Nothing earth shattering there. The one issue I have with the report is that there is no consideration to industry in what is being spent on road infrastructure. The upgrade of the Monash-Westgate corridor also allows for the ease of transport of freight throughout Melbourne, helping industry, not just commuters.

Of course it takes time to plan and to get projects up and running. No one can just click their fingers and get a major project started. It would be reckless to do so. Having said that, there are a number of projects that are well through the planning phase and can be 'pushed' to get hard works started earlier.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Bolt at it Again

So previously I reported how Andrew forgot to mention he stuffed up when he incorrectly commented on how the Australian Federal Government was increasing the number of skilled immigrants when the looming GFC was going to put pressure on jobs.

Today the shifting argument goes to:

The Rudd Government tactily - and belatedly - admits it made a mistake last year:
Immigration Minister Chris Evans will reveal the Government is to cut its permanent skilled migration program this financial year by 14 per cent to protect Australian jobs… The Government will reduce the planned record intake of 133,500 workers in 2008-09 to 115,000.
And joy of joy the lunatics see it as an opportunity to vent:
Nark Latham replied to barmy Mon 16 Mar 09 (01:04pm)
Gee Barmy,if they stopped all muslims where would the Sydney gangs get their replacement soldiers from? Anyway they are only cutting back on skilled migrant numbers,no-hopers and welfare bludgers will still be welcomed in unabated numbers.Don’t forget there’s a Federal Election due about November next year and Labor needs all the new voters it can get.
Honestly Bolt needs a new moderator to kick these idiots asses. The racism aside what I always find interesting with Andrew is how he creates a story out of effectively nothing. Through self linking in loops he creates bulk to a story to show how long he has been on about it and how correct he can be. Well that's what he thinks anyway.

Knackers Rating - Rugby League

It was a first for me and I had to do it. Yes I finally relented and witnessed a game of League. First round of the 2009 season - Melbourne Storm vs St George Ilawarra. To annoy anyone who constantly follow League the knackers rating has been replaced with the Hopoate Stink Finger rating. The modified Hopoate rating is:

no (knackers) fingers - shockingly bad.
one (knacker) fingers - as bad as Hopoate because he used the same one over and over!
two (knackers) fingers - normal and average as a Prostate Exam
three (knackers) fingers - above and beyond the normal
four (knackers) fingers - incredible. Ii hope he used lube
five (knackers) fingers - a fist of fury!

Some points to note to start with:
  1. Don't call it Rugby. It is League;
  2. Don't compare it with AFL on risk of being punched up by an angry Maori and islander woman; and
  3. It is different.
And the differences are what made the game interesting. Some positives about the game:

  • Intensity of the contest. Unlike Aussie Rules in League one stuff up can mean the difference. This was especially true at the end of the normal time when the scores were level.
  • The body contact. Big units running full tilt into other big units. Crunch.
  • Passion. The Melbourne Storm have a good loyal following. I would say at least half the crowd were wearing Storm gear showing they are more than the casual observer.

The atmosphere created from a crowd of under 15,000 is reasonable as well with the added bits of fireworks, cheerleaders and mascots on 4 wheel quadbikes. Now I know a bit about the sport but not everything. And I did enjoy the contest so will give it a 4 Stink Finger Rating.

But, before you all chant that I am converted (note that this blog is partially named after an Aussie Rules player) there are the negatives:

  • League is an acquired taste. The nuances and technical rulings can be a bit confusing to the new viewer. Two referees will only create more confusion in this area;
  • Services at Olympic Park. How can it take over 30 minutes to get a beer? I am still amazed that even in the size of crowd and the number of venues that sold beers that it takes so long to get a drink. I went with 5 minutes to go before half time and did not get back until 10 mins into the second half and that was when the line was short!!!
Because of the negatives, especially the second, I have to take out two Hopoate Stink Fingers Giving the game a 2 Hopoate stink finger rating. Well short of a fist full.

Friday, March 13, 2009

WTF 18 - So Many Choices!!

Choices, choices.. The wonders of Newscorp. How can one keep up with such serious news reporting?

We had the horse who did not want to go the 'knackery':

Horse bites off Indonesian man's testicle, spits it out

then there is the girls having fun:

Nude teen girls in court over drunken skinny-dip

or the guy who had finally had enough:

Man places ad offering wife free to a good home

or the guy who couldnt get enough:

Sex-toy thief pleads guilty to breaking into adult shop,21985,25180963-662,00.html

or the woman who got waaay too much:

Power tool sex toy wounds woman,22606,25175522-5006301,00.html

and proof any publicity is good publicity:

Porn scandal for 'world's best job' finalist

WTF 17 - Straight From The Horse's Mouth

Horse bites off man's testicle

March 12, 2009 - 2:18PM
JAKARTA - An Indonesian villager had to be rushed to
hospital after a horse bit off one of his testicles during a freak

The 35-year-old man was unloading sand from a horse-drawn cart at a
construction site in Sulawesi earlier this week when the attack occurred,
Indonesia's state-run news agency Antara reported.

A witness said the animal suddenly lunged at the man, sinking its teeth into his crotch. Shocked bystanders loaded the man into a car to take him to hospital, before one noticed a piece of flesh on the pavement.

"Luckily the horse did not chew up or swallow his testicle, but spit it onto the pavement," the bystander was quoted as saying.

"So I picked it up and brought it to the doctor at the hospital where the victim was being treated."

It was not know whether doctors attempted to sew it back on.

The 70-year-old owner of the horse, Budi, said the animal was trained but sometimes turned wild, and had bitten in the past.

should the horse be taken to the knackery.. get it.. boom tish.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Tim Blair will be Crying

Hands up who thought this would not happen??? c'mon honestly.

Sarah Palin's daugther Bristol ends engagement to Levi Johnston

SARAH Palin's teenage daughter, Bristol, has broken off her engagement to Levi
Johnston two months after the birth of their child.
The 18-year-old daughter of the Alaskan Governor told the Associated Press she was "devastated" by the split. "Unfortunately, my family has seen many people say and do many things to 'cash in' on the Palin name," she said in a statement. "Sometimes that greed clouds good judgment and the truth." Mr Johnston, 19, told AP the pair had mutually decided to end their relationship.

Bristol Palin's pregnancy was announced last summer days after her mother was named John McCain's running mate on the Republican presidential ticket. Bristol gave birth to a boy named Tripp on December 27.

Read more about Bristol and Levi's split at Fox News.

Interesting that they are relying on FoxNews for a balanced (cough) report on the matter.

Global Warming Protest

Reports said hundreds attended

Why Architects Shit Me

Who remembers the show "Hey Dad"? you know the one with Nudge and the annoying little fat kid and the dumb ass secretary Betty. Well the Dad in question on the show was an 'Arch-e-teck'.

As a Civil Engineer I have dealt with a few in my time. Some good, some great, some with no idea. I was suprised to see the following column written about civil engineers:

A lonely tree cries out for a drink in a city ruled by uncivil engineers

Elizabeth Farrelly
March 5, 2009
Evidence that engineers are vastly over-represented among the ranks of international terrorists will come as no surprise to architects, who are accustomed to picking up what few pieces are left after engineers have done their worst. Now, however, it seems there may be a yet more sinister engineering plot against the civilised world.

Somewhere near the start of Glebe Point Road there is a tree, perhaps a poplar. It is in many ways a microcosm; it could be any street tree in any city in Australia. But this particular street makes an especially poignant example, since the council has
just finished a long, slow refurb of same, at considerable expense and no small

And engineers? What has the tree to do with them? Well, this. Post-modernism may have come and almost gone but the road engineer still rules where matters traffic are concerned. The people who brought us cloverleaf interchanges and 10-lane flyovers have not gone away. They may be retiring but they have not retired. Far from it.

In contemporary street design, everything that matters - which is to say the trafficable space, the carriageway - is designed by engineers. And everything that doesn't matter - which is to say the public, pedestrian space - is designed by, well, designers. Pansies.

The engineers' bit, the carriageway, is determined by all sorts of self-important, clearly set out and quantified standards, Australian Standards no less, that govern structure, hardness, dimension, grade, camber and porosity, to name a few. The public bit, on the other hand, is largely subject to wishy washy discretionary forces; aesthetics, politics, whim and fashion.

And there's the rub. For the tree, which stands at an odd, slightly wistful angle and those leaves are tired-looking even at this harvest festival moment in the calendar, has a problem. February is often our wettest month but for the tree it has been a long time between drinks. Around its base is about half a square metre of that porous faux dogfood with which they apron trees these days, reducing root-compression while admitting rain. But the area of the dogfood is only around a tenth that of the root-ball, so that not much falls there and most of what does, runs off into the gutter instead of soaking in.

Said gutter, directly adjacent this small tree patch, is a smart new square-jawed pre-cast concrete job that proudly declares its intention and capacity to conduct stormwater to the bay. Hence the poplar's wistfulness. Its roots may twist within centimetres of this rushing, gurgling stream, happy as a newborn, but access has it none. It must spend every shower and every rainstorm being tantalised, teased, then deprived.

The result is a tree in torture. It fails to thrive, drops its leaves, looks miserable. More significantly, the shade decrement means that all those hot black surfaces - asphalt on the carriageway, black terrazzo pavers on the footpaths, - bake beneath unmediated solar radiation.

In cases like Sydney Uni, Cleveland Street and much of Chippendale, where shady, spreading, deciduous exotics have been assiduously replaced by politically correct, low-water, shade-stingy natives, you don't even have to torture the trees to get this heat-island effect.

So the local microclimate thus gets hotter, and hotter, and hotter - some 6-10 degrees hotter, estimates sustainability coach Michael Mobbs. This drives shoppers into their cars and air-conditioned malls and spins the planet further down its climate change vortex.

So here's the question. Is it possible for local government engineers to design a leaky gutter? Or for designers to plant trees below road level?

Demonstrably yes to the second. Green Square, for example, where the median strips are designed as reeded stormwater swales. It can be done, yes, but seldom is. Take the dying palms along Moore Park Road; the median strip is raised to ankle height, doubling as a traffic barrier, so the trees are cactus.

But engineers and leaky drains? Is that even conceivable? Everything natural leaks, just like everything edible rots. But tell an engineer that a good drain is a leaky drain and he'll burst a blood vessel.

Engineers, at least of the local government variety, are dinosaurs in modernist bog, where only the quantifiable exists and problems must be shorn, oversimplified, and solved in isolation. This is not that kind of problem.

Every year nearly 2000 megalitres of stormwater washes our street filth (the non-human variety) into Blackwattle Bay, already one of the most toxic patches of sea bottom. The City Council, understandably concerned, runs a Blackwattle Bay Stormwater Abatement program. It gets special state funding to do really useful things like give away 22,000 consciousness-raising postcards and install fish-design stormwater grates to remind would-be butt-chuckers of their marine obligations.

They even run street-cleaning programs especially to cleanse the runoff. But to reduce the runoff itself? A leaky drain along every street and park would amount to a civilising jihad; feeding trees, cooling streets, greening parks, reducing climate change, softening the urban experience and keeping the muck on land, where it belongs. Way too simple.

Ms Farrelly should get out more often. The use of 'leaky pipes' has been around for a fair while in the form of Water Sensitive Urban Desgin (WSUD). The idea of allowing stormwater to drain onto tree planters has been in use in urban areas for a long time as well. For example in the Docklands precinct and in areas of Richmond it has been used quite succesfully to reduce the amount of wate rrequired to keep trees alive as well as intercepting pollutants from the roadway to make water downstream cleaner.

As for her suggestion regarind a leaky pipe everywhere. I think Elizabeth has been sniffing her textas a bit too much. Without getting into too much detail on soil mechanics the reason why moisture needs to be controlled under road pavements is so that pot holes do not form. In fact uncontrolled moisture is a big no no in pavement design.

Architects like pretty textas and sketches. People sometimes ask me "are Civil Engineers like Architects?", my reply is often along the lines of "Architects sketch a design, Engineers figure out to build it".

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

WTF 16 - This is not meant to be a theme

Man dies in Viagra-fuelled orgy

March 05, 2009 01:30pm
A 28-year-old man has died after swallowing an entire bottle of Viagra to keep him going for a 12-hour orgy with two women.

The women had bet mechanic Sergey Tuganov $6,000 that he wouldn’t be able to satisfy them both non-stop for the half-day sex marathon.

But minutes after winning the wager, the randy 28-year-old dropped dead with a heart attack, revealed Moscow police.

One of the women, named only as Alina, said: “We called emergency services but it was too late, there was nothing they could do.”

Maybe Mr Tuganov should have stuck with doing what his surname sounds like....

In the subsequent comments section:

I wonder whether they'll be able to close the coffin!!!!Posted by: Smithy of
Brisbane 9:21pm March 09, 2009

about sums it up really.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

WTF 15 - Swords Drawn?

March 05, 2009 12:25pm
A TOURIST who refused to take his clothes off at a swinger sex party has been blamed for "a mini-riot" at a north Queensland nudist colony.

Police were called amid threats of violence and lewd behaviour and ordered the Brisbane man and his wife from the adults-only "anything goes" sex party, the Courier Mail reports.

The White Cockatoo resort at Mossman, near Port Douglas, is promoting swingers and sex parties in a month of hedonism for March in a bid to boost sagging tourism figures.

Once billed as the nation's top group-sex hotspot for swingers, the resort made international headlines last year when plans to lift a self-imposed swinger ban were reported.

Owner Tony Fox said the "mini-riot" erupted when four naked female guests protested when confronted by the fully-clothed man.

"They felt uncomfortable with him eyeing them off and I asked him to show some respect and take his clothes off," said the nudist colony manager.

"He then threatened to bash me, there was some argy-bargy and I ordered him off the premises and police were called.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

WTF 14 - Finger Licking Wrong!

Police called to naked KFC workers who fell for prank call

STAFF at a KFC were hoaxed by a cruel prank caller who got them to spray themselves with a fire extinguisher, strip naked and go outside.

Two of the staff members had to be treated in hospital for the effects of the chemicals from the fire extinguisher.

Cook Mary McCarthy said store manager, Sonia Gilbert, of the KFC in Manchester, New Hampshire, US, received a phone from a man saying he was from the corporate office.

He told Ms Gilbert to test the fire suppression system.

She complied and Ms McCarthy said that resulted in the release of a chemical powder in the sandwich area where she and a third employee, Fay Owens, were working.

The caller then told the women to strip and go outside, because they had been contaminated.

Police then turned up at the restaurant.

Sergeant Todd Boucher said officers went to the restaurant in response to a call about a naked woman standing in a doorway.

He said the prank caller had told the employees to go outside and strip and urinate on one another, which is when they became suspicious.

The KFC workers were sent to a local hospital. District Fire Chief Michael Gamache said because the chemical powder is a respiratory irritant, employees needed to be checked and the restaurant needed to be cleaned and cleared to reopen by the City Health Department.

Sound Relief

Wow - well after trying about 3 gazillion times to call Ticketek and to get tickets online I succesfully got some! Looks like the concert will be a sell out. This is good news for bushfire and flood victims. It should be a great day.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Knackers Rating - Slumdog Millionaire

Who would have thought that you could create an award winning movie using Who Wants to be a Millionaire?

Well they have. Those expecting a normal Bollywood movie will be dissapointed in this sometimes funny, sometimes gritty tale of Jamal Malik, a boy from the slums of Mumbai who has the chance of a lifetime, "a chance to escape", by getting onto the game show.

I do not want to ruin the storyline of the movie but the use of flashbacks relating to questions asked is superbly done to create a narrative. The use of the police officer to assist this process makes for a richer story. He is the one who asks the questions of Jamal that we as the viewers would like to know.

Of course it is a story of the battler form the wrong side of the tracks trying to change his life and there are some flaws in the story but the key to the movie is that in the end the viewer does not care if he wins the money, as Jamal himself does not.

So if you are wanting to watch something a little different then I highly recommend this movie. My only gripe is that although there are sections with subtitles there are a couple of key things mentioned (whispered) that are difficult to understand.

So onto the knackers rating:

no knackers - shockingly bad
one knacker - as bad as hitler because he only had on ball
two knackers - normal and average
three knackers - above and beyond the normal
four knackers - incredible
five knackers - as rare as five testicles

Slumdog Millionare gets 4 out 5 knackers.. An incredible moview well worth the awards in my opinion.