Tag Archives: structural engineer

Vehicle Face

20120917 Little Vehicle Face 150x150 Vehicle FaceJennie sent me an email saying that one of her friends had seen her mention my website (and me, Vic) on Facebook.  Jen writes:

“Vic. This was spotted by a friend: Gary, who is not one of your Facebook friends but obviously hears me talking about you and iseefaces, as out of the blue he sent me this photo.

Make of it what you will.”

I think it’s great! It’s a little vehicle of some description – maybe a forklift truck or something you might find on a construction site.  The man would know; he’s a Structural Engineer.  Thanks very much Jen.  You are now our unofficial London correspondent!

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An idiot abroad

20111105 Karl Pilkington Hat Face 150x150 An idiot abroad

This image was sent in by Sam, whose cat now has a blog too (follow me on Twitter for a link).  It is a screenshot from the TV programme An Idiot Abroad and shows the side of Karl Pilkington’s hat

Needless to say the hat has a face.  I call it a capelofascia.  Sam sent this to me just before he was about to go on holiday to Japan, commenting that it was “…particularly apposite since I am popularly regarded as something of an idiot and will be abroad tomorrow”.  His own self-deprecating words; I can’t comment.

Speaking of idiots abroad, Dutch Engineer Vincent Tabak was found guilty of murdering Joanna Yeates recently.  Oh how judgemental of me to call him an idiot!  I’ve waited for a while for the dust to settle on this story – a good measure is usually when tabloid newspapers (such as the Bristol Evening Post) stop smearing the person with allegations of paedophilia and his supposed fascination with asphyxiation porn.  Yes, the guy killed someone and he sounds like the kind of guy I wouldn’t want to be friends with, but it’s not up to the public or the press to administer punishment.  That is up to the courts and the criminal justice system and they have done their job.  Leave him and Jo Yeates’ family and friends alone now please.

Trial by jury

We have a justice system where the media is allowed to continue reporting on a trial, giving daily updates on what was said in court and then we expect 12 members of the public to make a fair judgment.  Not being judgemental, but most people are easily swayed and don’t know how to think objectively for themselves.  I wouldn’t trust 12 members of the public chosen at random to decide my fate; I wouldn’t even trust myself to decide on someone else’s.  I am a structural engineer by training and am used to critical analysis, but I am definitely not trained to weigh up evidence.  Moreover I am not trained to do so objectively without letting my judgment be clouded by emotions.

I think a panel of judges should decide.  In the past people’s main argument against this was that the highest court in the country was the House of Lords and, taking the Hutton Inquiry as an example, it is evident that if justice is mixed with politics – the law making mixed with its application – you get white washes and judgments in favour of those in power.  Having an appeal decided by someone who is possibly motivated by politics is never a good thing, but now that we have a Supreme Court I’d like to think this argument is no longer valid.

Death penalty

In other articles I read immediately following the Tabak verdict, it was said that Yeates’ parents wished the death penalty had been an option.  I can’t begin to understand what it must feel like to lose a daughter and nor can I begin to understand what it must feel like to lose a son.  Catch my drift?  I think the death penalty doesn’t punish the right person: one moment they’re here, the next they’re not and couldn’t give the faintest of fucks, for they are dead and can’t feel anything.  The only people unduly punished by it are the murderer’s family and friends.  They are generally not the ones that need punishing and have usually gone through enough already, dealing with the shock that their friend or son/daughter is a murderer.  I find the whole idea of the death absurd and perverse.

Have a look at the link to a video on my Twitter feed and official Facebook Page.  It shows an American guy receiving a death sentence and the emotional storm that ensues.  Does it make you happy?

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Freedom of choice?

20110330 Smiling windows 150x150 Freedom of choice?

The question of free will is one that has been done to death by others and more eloquently than I ever could, but most articles I have read often delve into abstract philosophy.  I do like abstract thinking, but as a practical man I tend to think of the issue in terms of physics and tangible concepts.

Newtonian physics is governed by laws.  Every action has an equal and opposite reaction: cause and effect.  This is the nature of a deterministic universe and my job as a Structural Engineer is based entirely on this premise.

Every decision you make is based on a series of sensory inputs resulting in hundreds upon thousands of electro-chemical processes inside the brain, presumably operating on Newtonian principles.  Assuming this is the case, every heartbeat, every breath, every blink and every decision is the result of cause and effect on a microscopic level.  If every state of every atom in your brain and all sensory inputs were known, it would theoretically be possible to determine the outcome in very much the same way as weather systems are modelled by crunching stupendous quantities of numbers with supercomputers.  Furthermore, if all the states (position, energy, etc) of all the atoms in the entire universe were known, we could calculate what would happen in the future.  The present, it seems, was inevitable – the future written into the fabric of the universe.

This is a rather unsatisfying and unsettling premise and no-one likes the notion of having free will taken away from them, except possibly masochists…  So if you do make conscious choices, does that mean there is an external influence?  Is this evidence for the existence of the soul?  Not exactly – it depends on what you mean by that in any case, but I think it is merely a corollary of the fact there is much to physics and the mechanics of the brain that we don’t understand.  Maybe the answer lies in quantum mechanics.  Then again, maybe not.  To be fair, I know le Jacques merde absolutement about the subject.

Freedom to choose?

Free will or not, there is another issue of freedom of choice versus the freedom to choose.  What good is the freedom to choose when there is no choice presented to you?  Does that still constitute free will?  Henry Ford famously said you can have any colour car as long as it is black.  The only choice you are left with is to buy or not to buy, but that wasn’t the question.  The question was, “Would you like black, black or black?”  In other words, we might have the ability to make a choice but what if our environment doesn’t give us that choice?  On analysis, the most basic parameters of (human) life are not chosen.  As I stated briefly in a previous article, there are many things you don’t have any control over whatsoever.  You don’t choose your gender, your sexuality, your parents or your country of birth.  You don’t even choose to be born in the first place. (Not that we are aware of, anyway.)

Not being born severely hampers your future academic achievements and job prospects, to say the least!  When I was 21 I would often meet up with a close friend of mine and towards the end of our fourth year at university we would regularly talk about our post-university plans, jobs and, invariably, “woman trouble”.  One time we came out of the Odeon cinema in Broadmead, Bristol and made our way home and came across a lady in her early 40s.  She suddenly fell to the ground, against the wall of the Bristol Eye Hospital in the city centre in a flood of tears. “I’ve been raped,” she cried.  My friend and I talked to her, comforted her and called the police.  After a lot of commotion it transpired that she had fabricated the story.  In reality she had come out of the Bristol Royal Infirmary around the corner, having been diagnosed with breast cancer moments earlier and was understandably upset about it.

Making sense of events

Despite describing myself as being down-to-earth, I like to believe some things happen for a reason.  I know it’s not logical, but human emotions aren’t logical and it’s a way of making sense of events in my mind, I suppose.  In the above example the paths of my friend and me crossed with that of this lady, perhaps to put our problems into perspective.  Looking back, it certainly did and it made a lasting impression.  We have come a long way in the last [mumbles] years – let’s call it splodgety years: an unspecified number.  (By the way, this has inspired a new feature coming soon – watch this space!)  Sometimes things don’t happen as you would like and may in some cases ultimately lead to better things.  Sometimes things aren’t meant to be – perhaps the time isn’t right just yet, for reasons unknown.  Sometimes it pays to wait.  Incidentally, I received a new disc from Toshiba but they sent me the wrong one again…

I know perfectly well that it is a case of retrospectively rationalising events that have made an impression, or things that are hard to deal with at the time.  Whichever way you look at it, you can only do so much and despite what many a motivational speaker will tell you, the future is not entirely in our hands.  In the words of Baz Luhrman and Mary Schmich before him, “Your choices are half chance and so are everybody else’s”.  Mathematically speaking this is not strictly true but it illustrates the point poetically, if nothing else.  But don’t let that be an excuse to stop trying or to walk away from something.

The muzzle of life

The picture was taken on The Grove near Bristol’s historic city centre and shows a face looking reasonably happy.  It is smiling, but on closer inspection its smile is actually a muzzle.  It can bark but it can’t bite.  It can try its damnedest to achieve what it wants in life but life’s muzzle (a metaphor for external factors beyond ones control) cannot be removed.  Try (try, try again) and if you fail, take solace in the fact that you did the best you could.

“If you succeed in doing this, tell me how…” – Baz Luhrman/Mary Schmich

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Hyperbole?

20101030 Abstract Building Catenary 225x300 Hyperbole?I was walking through Castle Park in Bristol City Centre the other day and looked at the Finzels Reach development, which they seem to have been building forever. As a Structural Engineer I do take an interest in buildings, particularly in their unfinished state and took a moment to look at the temporary works keeping up the existing facade. I spotted the adjacent building and noticed a smiling face formed by two windows making eyes, with a cable forming a smiling mouth. I do like a hyperbolic cosine… Geek? No, chic!

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