Subcontract Bridge

Readers may remember my post about the footbridge in Miami which collapsed onto a road full of cars during installation. A Twitter follower sends me an update, and the first thing I notice is this:

The plans for Florida International University’s pedestrian bridge included an innovative design approach by FIGG Bridge Engineers.

So the bridge was designed by FIGG; the original news reports said the engineering was carried out by Munilla Construction Management (MCM). This link provides some clarity:

FIGG Bridge Engineers, Inc. is the designer of the bridge, working for MCM.

Ah. In my original post I said:

A lot of companies have subcontracted out the actual work – designing, building, manufacturing, operating, maintaining – and instead busy themselves with “managing” the whole process. This involves lots of well-educated people in nice clothes sitting in glass-fronted office buildings sharing spreadsheets, reports, and PowerPoint presentations by email and holding lengthy meetings during which they convince one another of how essential they are.

In such an environment, it is inevitable that the quality of work suffers, errors go unnoticed, and – occasionally – catastrophes occur. Now I don’t know if that was the case at the Munilla Construction company, but somehow they’ve gone from an outfit who could deliver a project with their eyes closed to one that has just dropped a simple footbridge on eight lanes of highway. If I were investigating, I’d want to know who did the actual design and where it was done. I’d be willing to bet a hundred quid the calculations and finite element modelling were done outside the US to save money, or subcontracted to another company, and supervision – which involves expensive Americans – was at nowhere near the levels it should have been.

So I got the subcontracting part right. Were the calculations done outside the US? Well, FIGG is a US-based group but that doesn’t mean they don’t have a design office in Mexico employing number-crunching engineers on the cheap. But given the lead design engineer is called Denney Pate, I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt here. Back to the article:

Bolton Perez & Associates, the project’s construction engineering and inspection contractor

It is possible that the project’s prime contractor, MCM, and its post-tensioning subcontractor, in attempting to fix the problems, made an error that caused the bridge’s single truss to crack and give way.

So here are two more subcontracted bodies. Now it’s not unusual to bring in specialist inspectors and technical services, but it does add to the complexity of who’s in charge and where responsibility lies meaning the project management needs to be spot-on.

An official with FIU asked a representative with Bolton Perez their opinion of FIGG’s presentation analysis. Bolton, Perez said they could not comment at the moment, but would “expedite” a response in 2-3 days, according to the notes.

It’s telling that there is no mention of MCM in this exchange. What were they doing, then? Getting ready for Pride month? This is also illuminating:

Rice, the Georgia forensic engineer, remains most perplexed over the designer’s use of a single truss. “That just blew me away,” he says. “To have a single truss like that is violating one of the first tenants of structural engineering—provide redundancy. If you’re going to make a truss bridge, you have at least two trusses,” he argues.

Okay, so this is what FIGG say on their website:

Bridges designed by FIGG are purposeful works of art, functional sculptures within the landscape, that are created through a careful analysis of the site, contextual and environmental sensitivity, and a regional approach that encompasses a community’s particular needs, as well as the realities of funding and maintenance.

By capturing the powers of imagination, function, and technology, we build bridges that improve the nation’s infrastructure, while enhancing the appearance of communities across America and the quality of life for the people who live in them.

So they look nice but collapse during installation in a manner detrimental to the quality of life for those passing beneath them at the time.

There are two points to make here. Firstly, MCM seem to have been adding little value; the fact their name doesn’t even come up in descriptions of the engineers’ discussions speaks volumes. This supports my original theory that they were an outfit which is good at winning projects via connections and box-ticking, but cannot actually execute any meaningful work nor adequately supervise those that do. This is modern business in a nutshell.

Secondly, the whole thing points to colossal organisational failure in the face of serious technical problems. There are a lot of people involved without clear roles and responsibilities with everyone talking, sharing opinions, and a*se-covering but nobody in charge and accountable (I suspect the investigation into the Boeing 737 MAX will reveal similar patterns). This represents a regression in terms of organisational and technical capabilities.

Now granted I am speculating but the incontrovertible facts are cracks were detected in the truss structure before the installation attempt and the engineers knew about them, but they went ahead with the installation anyway without bothering to close the road to traffic. It then collapsed and killed people. If this isn’t massive organisational failure then I don’t know what is.

Share

Pervaids

This story speaks volumes about what is wrong with modern Britain:

A charity supporting transgender children and young people has issued an apology after thousands of emails were made public online.

Mermaids UK said it was “deeply sorry” for what it called a “historical data breach” after it was first reported by the Sunday Times.

The paper claims the correspondence included “intimate details”, names and addresses, but the charity denies this.

Mermaids said it had taken immediate action and reported the breach.

We have a political lobby group masquerading as a charity which is granted access to young children in order to “support” them should they believe they are of the wrong sex and wish to transition. But that’s all fine, apparently: what’s not is they’ve mishandled people’s data. This is like prosecuting Al Capone for tax evasion while being quite happy with the murders and bootlegging.

If Britain was a serious country those who founded this “charity” would have been run out of town on a rail the very first time they brought the topic up. But it seems degeneracy is nowadays to be celebrated, and adults with an unhealthy obsession with sex and sexuality given access to children regardless of parents’ wishes. I mean:

Transgender and gender variant children and young people need support and understanding, and freedom to explore their gender identity whatever the outcome.

This is taking place 9 years after a supposedly conservative party took the reins of the nation. Everyone is focused on Brexit, but it’s quite obvious the country has far deeper problems than membership of the EU.

Share

The men on the slap ’em omnibus

Sometime last week a couple of foreign women on a London night bus encountered a group of young men who somehow worked out they were lesbians and demanded they kiss for their entertainment. When they refused, the youths beat them up. At least, that’s the story we were told. A few days later the youths were arrested, five of them between 15 and 18. We haven’t been given any names or descriptions, perhaps because they’re minors but probably because it might give people the wrong idea about London’s vibrancy. Naturally, progressives took to social media to denounce the attack and declare this is why corporations need to subject its employees and customers to a month of LGBT propaganda.

The story didn’t sit right with me from the beginning. As always, there is a lack of details. How did the encounter start? What was said? Where was the CCTV? What did the driver see? Were there other passengers? Then yesterday I read this:

Melania Geymonat, 28, and her American partner Chris, 29, said they were punched and robbed following an evening in West Hampstead, north west London, in the early hours of May 30.

Ms Geymonat, a doctor from Uruguay and a Ryanair flight attendant, said that the incident was primarily ‘an attack towards women, and then after homosexual women’, revealing that she was told to ‘get the hell out of the country’ by her friends after the incident.

In an interview with Channel 4 News she said the attackers firstly saw them as ‘sexual objects’ who were ‘there to entertain them’. Her partner Chris said that a gang of young men saw they were a couple – as they were holding hands – and demanded they kiss before attacking the pair.

When asked if she still feels safe in public, Chris said: ‘If anything I’m more confident in myself because I know I will stand up for myself.’

Chris also said the reason their attack had caught so much attention was that the picture was ‘very striking’, depicting ‘two white women who were tidily packaged into sympathetic victims’.

When the interviewer brought up that Boris Johnson seemed to be the most likely person to be the next Prime Minister, and referenced comments he had made in 2001 comparing homosexual marriage to ‘bestiality’, Chris said that the Tory frontrunner was not ‘fit to lead anything, much less the United Kingdom’.

A clip from the interview can be seen here; the photos in the Daily Mail show one of the women wearing some sort of anti-fascist t-shirt.

So here’s what I think happened. These two women are political activists, steeped in third-wave feminism and high on the fumes of the extremely dangerous narrative that women can go head-to-head with men and come out on top. They were on this bus when they encountered a bunch of feral thugs of the sort who plague British cities but remain untouchable thanks to the efforts of the same lefty do-gooders who encourage open displays of homosexual affection. These gangs roam the streets and public transport actively seeking trouble and an excuse for violence, and don’t target gay women any more than straight men. Every man who’s grown up in the UK has at least one story of a confrontation with a group of young men itching for a fight, and they learn to avoid these situations like the plague. I went to university in Manchester and students there soon learned when to cross the street, not make eye-contact, get off the bus, or stand near the driver. What you never, ever do is engage with these thugs.

I expect these women, being foreign, didn’t sense the danger. Maybe they believed Sadiq Khan’s tweets about London being a welcoming utopia where diversity is celebrated by all? So when these thugs first noticed them instead of getting up and leaving or moving closer to other passengers, they engaged, perhaps with some sassy feminist boilerplate while thinking feral British youths have some sort of code about smacking women around. Big mistake.

Of course, the blame lies wholly with the thugs and those who defend them, and it is disgraceful that two women should have to move seats or leave a bus because of violence and intimidation. Frankly, these people should be drowned in the Thames. However, some common sense would not have gone amiss. Unfortunately, modern feminism says women should not act sensibly and take basic precautions because bad men ought not to exist. And the fact they’ve been rather silent on exactly who attacked them, and followed it up with a stupid interview where they’ve leveraged their ordeal to make lame political points, shows they’ve not learned their lesson and likely never will. I’m reminded somewhat of this story:

A left-wing German politician who was raped by three migrant men in January in the city of Mannheim has admitted that she lied about their nationalities and falsely claimed they had spoken German because she was afraid of encouraging racism.

Having believed they can legislate their way to utopia, progressives are unable to navigate the world they’ve built for themselves.

Share

Wild Bill Pillock

A Tweet from the chief Brexit coordinator in the European Parliament Guy Verhofstadt:


A day or so earlier, French president Emmanuel Macron said Britain’s refusal to pay the £39bn negotiated by Theresa May would amount to a sovereign debt default.  Naturally, this has been held aloft by Remainers in the UK who for some reason want it paid even in the absence of a deal.

They’re wrong. One of the crucial elements of any negotiation is understanding who all the players are, particularly those who are not sat around the table. For instance, if you’re negotiating a large corporate takeover you don’t want to forget about the competition commission, who is not represented in the negotiations but who very much gets a say on the final outcome. Another golden rule is you must understand who is able to negotiate what. When Pirelli attempted a takeover of Continental in the early 1990s, they didn’t fully appreciate than even if they owned more than 50% of the stock, they wouldn’t have full control of the company thanks to German law stipulating employees must be represented on the board.

The £39bn “divorce bill” was agreed between Theresa May’s negotiating team and that of Michael Barnier, who leads the EU’s negotiation efforts. However, this is not a stand-alone agreement and instead is incorporated into the draft withdrawal bill which Theresa May failed to get ratified by parliament. No serious negotiator would believe the £39bn has been finalised while knowing full well the withdrawal agreement needs to be ratified by parliament. All they’ve done is negotiate a rough figure to move things forward and agreed some more stuff before May’s gone back to “ask her people”. This is the consensus approach to negotiation whereby you make sure everyone is on board with everything before celebrating an agreement. As the European Union itself has made clear “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed”. I suspect the EU mouthpieces are trying to be clever here, hoping they can get Remainers to scupper Brexit altogether, but the more they cling to this approach the more amateur they look.

Nobody negotiating a future deal with Britain will take this divorce bill as a serious agreement which they’ve reneged on, and nor will it be viewed by ratings agencies as a debt default. Britain might owe the EU a sum of money, but it does not follow that they are legally obliged to pay this £39bn in the absence of any deal ratified by parliament. People are not stupid, and they will understand this was never a proper deal, more of an agreement drawn up between one negotiator and another that was never endorsed by the people who mattered. This is also why Trump’s scrapping of the Iranian deal and his withdrawal from the Paris Agreement didn’t matter. Despite all the howls that America was proving itself untrustworthy, people looking to do serious business with the US knew these two deals were unilaterally signed by Obama and never put before Congress. In other words, they were not proper, binding agreements at all.

The lesson here is if you wish to make a deal that sticks, make sure you secure the agreement of everyone that matters. Signing deals with emissaries with no lasting authority is something any half-decent negotiator knows to avoid. The EU might be simply trying it on here, but in doing so they’re making themselves look like rank amateurs. I’m starting to get the impression they are.

Share

HR Case II Answers

Following on from my previous post, the recommended course of action is:

1. Remind the employee that he must refrain from all involvement in politics in countries where he has no civil rights and the company is operating.

2. Reiterate that respect for human rights, including freedom of expression, is a fundamental company commitment.

3. Draw the employee’s attention to the fact that he may be perceived from outside as a company spokesman.

Ultimately, the company has signed up to international labour codes which respect freedom of expression. This is why they can’t just rush in and sack someone who has published something which the middle management don’t like or find inconvenient, e.g. a blog post which doesn’t mention the company name. As I said, it’s a large multinational with a reputation to protect and plenty of people wanting to see it come to grief in a courtroom. If you were some two-bit outfit nobody’s ever heard of then you’ve probably got more room to manoeuvre, but giant corporations have to watch their step.

In my earlier post, I quoted this part of the company code of conduct:

By virtue of international Human Rights standards (notably the Universal Declaration of Human Rights), every individual has the right to freedom of opinion and expression. The right to freedom of opinion guarantees that no one should be harassed due to their opinions. All individuals also have the right to freedom of expression, which includes the freedom to seek, receive and disseminate any kind of information, provided that the privacy and reputation of third parties and the company are respected.

This is important, as it means it’s not a question of management deciding on some vague measure that an employee has brought the company into disrepute and therefore must be disciplined. Instead, the employee can claim he acted within the company code of conduct and it’s up to the employer to demonstrate that he did so in a way so egregious that his rights are forgone in this instance. That’s not something I’d want to convince a tribunal of in the case of an employee’s Twitter comment which incited a mob to bombard the HR department with demands he be sacked.

This is really the basis of Israel Folau’s lawsuit against his former employers. If the code of conduct specifically allows people to practice their religion, how can he then be fired for effectively doing just that? I expect over the course of the next few years we’ll see a series of court cases which determine the degree to which corporations can sanction employees for expressing opinions in a private capacity which the management find inconvenient. Note that this wasn’t really a problem until Twitter came along and allowed SJW mobs to form. My guess is we’ll see a few silly rulings by progressive judges before higher courts containing more sensible judges point to commitments to human rights and freedom of expression in corporations’ documents and tell them they’d better start living up to them. The James Damore lawsuit will be worth watching.

Share

HR Case II

As another exercise for those interested in HR matters, here’s a hypothetical case I have found in the guidelines of a major international company:

One of our expatriate employees has no civil rights in the host country where we are working, and has a column in a local newspaper. He is officially supporting the incumbent, and virulently criticising opposition candidates. The column is under his real name.

Anyone want to take a guess at the recommended course of action?

Share

Galactic Cluster

I have five three-hour exams this week folks, so I’m afraid blogging will be non-existent or of poor quality. In keeping with that, via a follower on Twitter I’ve discovered an academic paper in the Journal of High Energy Physics entitled:

Do black holes create polyamory?

I confess I haven’t read it, and it’s not because I’m busy with exams. But it has made me wonder if I’ve not already covered a large chunk of my dissertation in this blog:

Is polyamory the answer to carrier bags and plastic waste?

A tenured professorship beckons.

Share

After School Detention

Back in August 2017 I wrote a post about a teacher in my old school who’d been jailed for sexually abusing boys when he was at previous schools. I didn’t link to the original news story or name the guy because I didn’t want my old school associated with him on the basis of my blog post. However, I can now say his name is Jonathan O’Brien and the story of his conviction is here. I am able to do so because of this new report:

A former teacher from Bosham has been jailed after being found guilty of indecent assault on a teenager.

Jonathan O’Brien, 61, was sentenced at Guildford Crown Court on Friday (24 May) having pleaded guilty to two counts of indecent assault in the 90’s when he worked at a West Sussex college.

PC Yvonne Daddow said: “This offending came to light when the victim contacted us for the first time in 2017. Having courageously come forward he supported our investigation and was ready to give evidence in court if necessary.

“It became clear that O’Brien had used an allegedly mutual interest in computers to in effect gradually ‘groom’ the boy into sexual activity, in O’Brien’s study at the school and his home in Oxfordshire. The boy kept the distressing experiences to himself for more than 20 years until an chance family discussion to some media coverage on the general subject of sexual offending triggered him into coming forward.”

I learned about this because my school sent a letter out to its former pupils informing us. This happened while I was at the school, and I have a good idea who the boy was. I have an even better idea of which other boys he may have been eyeing up for similar treatment, which earned him a reputation of a wrong ‘un among the pupils and at least one or two of the staff. I’m glad the boy in question came forward, and it’s a shame we were all a couple of years too young to have sorted O’Brien out ourselves. I hope the boy – now a man – feels a bit better now.

Share

Anger Stirrer Spitter

Is everyone equal before the law in modern Britain? Judge for yourselves:

A man who spat on the front door of a mosque twice in the space of a week has been sentenced.

Police said Graham Marshall, of Birkin Avenue, Hyson Green, Nottingham, was caught on CCTV spitting at the Jamia Islamia Mosque on 16 and 22 December.

The 70-year-old was found guilty of two counts of racially-aggravated criminal damage following a trial.

Marshall was given a one-year community order and fined £200 at Nottingham Magistrates’ Court.

I actually don’t think the sentence or fine is harsh: spitting on the door of a mosque is a pretty disgusting, anti-social, and unnecessary thing to do. I just wonder whether the police would be as interested if anyone spat on the door of a church, synagogue, or ordinary front door.

Insp Riz Khan, from Nottinghamshire Police, said: “Marshall showed a complete disregard for the faith and belief of others in these highly offensive incidents.

Inspector Riz Khan seems to think showing a disregard for the faith and belief of others is a punishable offence. Like it is in Pakistan.

“The force takes any incidents of this nature incredibly seriously and they will not be tolerated.”

Burglaries, on the other hand, probably will but I suspect that too depends on who’s been burgled.

Share

Pride Hailing App

In April last year I wrote a post about Uber hiring Bo Young Lee, an Asian lady who started her professional life as an Accenture consultant and thereafter spent 15 years working in diversity-related positions, in the new role of Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer. I suspect she’s had a strong hand in this:

As an asexual, Vietnamese-American, Heather is a force to be reckoned with on and off the road. When she’s not driving, Heather spends her time pursuing an acting career with the interest in bringing stories of powerful women to light.

I think this Twitter user puts it best:

There’s a whole page of this stuff, with each employee carefully placed in their little sexual identity box in front of the corresponding flag (it seems this heads-up and subsequent post came just in the nick of time).

Simply by sharing her story with us, Heather is already inspiring others. “I think I’ve always identified as asexual. Even when I was little. Because my crushes on people are usually aesthetic attraction, attraction to people’s personality, kindness or intelligence. But never sexual,” Heather said.

Uber’s Diversity & Inclusion department have handpicked Heather for special mention because she’s discovered this thing called friendship.

Whether about her race or sexuality, Heather makes an effort to change the way we communicate. “I think we could alter the language we use in our conversations with others. Ask people questions in a way that doesn’t imply something.” With her family and friends by her side, Heather’s unique view is empowering so many others.

Her view about as unique as a portrait of the Kims in a North Korean army base.

From an early age, Dom knew she was different from her friends. And in some ways, that may have made coming out a little easier, because many of her friends and family had already been suspecting.

But does she refrain from cancelling your trip when you’ve been waiting 40 minutes and the app says she’s now just 2 minutes away?

“I’m what people think a lesbian would look like. But I can see how that diminishes and erases half of a community,” Dom explained.

“Explained” is a little generous here, I feel.

As opposed to the pink shades of the lesbian flag, Dom more closely identifies with the rainbow flag. “What I like about the flag, is that it’s not unique to one identity. It reminds us that everybody has been in a similar situation in the past, and knowing that sort of ties us together in a community,” she elaborated.

This sounds awfully conservative. Are we sure she’s not a Trump supporter?

Now living with her fiancée in San Francisco, Dom defines success as being comfortable with who you are and living your personal truth. “You can’t measure yourself or your success against anyone else. If you can do that, the people who love you will be there.”

In the days of traditional cabs you ran the risk of a driver who’d rant about blacks taking over and would take you from Tower Hill to Soho via Thurso. Nowadays, thanks to technology, you get an Uber driver who shares their high-school intersectional philosophy with you.

With support from the Uber community, Lana found the courage to come out a second time as transgender. “It always felt disingenuous to wave around the rainbow flag because it’s largely been controlled by the gay man. The trans flag was at first a rejection of that. I like seeing the trans flag with all of the other flags. It shows we’re evolving,” Lana explains.

They’re really taking this flag stuff seriously, aren’t they? How long before factional rivalries spill over and “capture the flag” games start?

Though challenging at times, Lana’s journey has made her the activist she is today and she now stands with immense Pride. As one of the first people to openly transition at Uber, Lana pioneered the updated community guidelines for transgender employees and allies.

So Bo Young Lee delegated the writing of HR guidelines governing workplace behaviour to a trans-activist employee? What could go wrong?

Originally from Jamaica, Francois is currently a model and Uber driver-partner in New York City. “A lot of LGBTQIA+ people drive for Uber in New York City because it’s so hard to find employment where you’re actually accepted for who you are,” Francois explained.

I suspect the “who you are” in this context is more about your skills, experience, and immigration status than your sexual preferences, but it’s a neat conflation.

Identifying as genderqueer, Francois has felt misunderstood in the past. “People don’t get that being Genderqueer isn’t about me being able to wear a skirt and a dress. I have to think about all the different nuances of myself; my masculinity and my femininity. It’s not about cross-dressing, it’s about expressing who I am,” Francois said.

Does anyone else detect the strong whiff of narcissism which is common to all these profiles?

Francois feels that the genderqueer community is often misunderstood, and he encourages people to stop being shy and start asking questions.

Here’s mine: don’t you think it’s a little sad that your entire identity is wrapped up in your sexual preferences to the exclusion of everything else?

With the freedom to explore, Jacob now identifies as polysexual. “I’m attracted to a deep personal bond, I want to get to know who someone is as a person before I’m with them,” he explains.

As opposed to the rest of society which presumably gets married following a one-night stand.

Today, Trevor feels more empowered to identify as non-binary. “Some days I present as male, some days I present as more female.” For Trevor, discovering the non-binary flag was liberating. It meant representation, validation, and a place within the LGBTQIA+ community.

Does it now? In unrelated news:

On an operating basis, Uber losses widened to over $1 billion in Q1, up from a loss of $478 million in 2018.

It underscored the central challenge the company faces: Like other big tech companies going public this year, Uber has no immediate path to making money in a fiercely competitive sector.

Uber’s stock sank immediately after it debuted on the New York Stock Exchange on May 10, at the low end of its initial public offering range.

Now I’ve almost finished my MBA I think I can see the root cause of Uber’s financial difficulties: there is no polyamorous employee featured in their Pride page, and no polyamory flag. From now on I’m using Lyft, bigots!

Share