Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Something right

A few days ago, I took the guttering down, had been giving trouble, overflowing, leaking and such. As I was taking it down, the reason for these problems were readily apparent. I can summarise them as, the guttering had been installed by a total waster. What he'd done, is he'd left the guttering unsupported by omitting to screw the junctions into the valance. This wouldn't have caused too much trouble immediately after installation but as debris accumulated, it caused the gutter to sag at the junctions and become flooded. What a twat you might say and to be sure, I regard whoever it was as prick of the first order but as I got further into remedying his indolence, I began to gain insight into his motive.

You see he couldn't screw the junctions in because you need to install them on the end of length of guttering first, which is okay if you place the guttering at a reasonably offset from the roof tiles but he'd placed the guttering too high up, which gave him no room to get a screwdriver in. He could still screw the brackets onto the valance because you can put those up first and there's no gutter to get in the way of the screwdriver. I decided to take the brackets down and reposition them to a proper location and what do I find when I do that?  Only that the brackets had originally been installed in such a position and then later moved to their current location. How do I know this, because I can see a screw hole in the valance, very close to the location I'm about to reposition the bracket screw.

So why did this idiot do this, you might ask? Well the reason for that became apparent when I tried to install the first length of guttering and found an overflow pipe protruding from the valance. The guy who'd installed the overflow pipe had placed it too high up so that it interfered with guttering. Now everything becomes clear, the gutter installer had merrily set about his task, fixing all the brackets, only to find that when he tried to put up the gutter, the overflow pipe was in his way. What a day he must've had, shimmying up and down that ladder, repositioning the brackets, then when he gets to installing the guttering,  he can't get his screwdriver into position to properly affix the junctions, so he just leaves them dangling.

Of course I find myself faced with same problem but as I'm fed up with living with a leaky gutter, I opt for a different solution.  Instead of moving the gutter up into a location it can't be properly installed, I place the first length of guttering, which is quite short, at an angle so that it avoids the overflow pipe but meets up with junction at the lower level. Yes it is a bodge but one that is necessitated because it's about to rain. The thunder has been rolling for a while and as I place the last piece of guttering in position, i can feel the first drops of rain on my face.

So what does this little episode illustrate? Well it's the law of unintended consequences. Do you see how the first lapse in diligence set in motion a chain of events that led to ineffectual compromises and poor decisions that culminated in a leaky gutter? Such a problem that could raise issues with dampness and water logged foundations and all because one idiot placed an overflow pipe in the wrong location.

Happily for me, this particular problem is now fixed albeit temporarily, while I arrange to relocate the overflow pipe. The rainfall gave me an opportunity to test if my solution of angling the guttering would remain watertight and it seems to work fine. I can't help reflecting on how this kind of thing manifests in circumstances with more profound consequences. The two incidents that spring to mind are the flawed solid rocket boosters, that were responsible for the challenger disaster and the recent scandal over VW's diesel exhaust emissions. Have you noticed something interesting about the diesel exhaust scandal, it's gone kinda cold as a news topic. Compare the lack of attention being focused on VW with, the persistent outrage focused on BP, subsequent to the Deepwater Horizon incident, doesn't there seem to be a certain inconsistency there. I think there is and I've a got a reasonably firm suspicion why that should be, for the moment, I'll just hint that a broader agenda may be at work.

One thing that mitigates VW's effrontery, is that regulatory regime with relevance to diesel emissions, was formulated with little or no consideration for the reality of current technological boundaries. A figure was just pulled out of the air by bureaucrats and then imposed on the industry. Which isn't such a rare occurrence, the case of the Curtiss SB2C Helldiver is a good example of the kind of fiasco that can follow from such a circumstance. What happens when you give engineers or for that matter any other people, impossible tasks, is they either tell you it's impossible and say no thank you, or they use licence to interpret the parameters of that task.

That's something we see a lot of here, one good example is what happened at the Met Office after the 87 storm. Despite what you might read in Wikipedia, where a degree of equivocation is evidence of an attempt to rewrite history, the 87 storm was a full hurricane force event. Not only was it not forecast but the Met Office forecaster broadcasting on the BBC that night, stated in a rather unfortunate aside, that there would be no hurricane that night. '...well, if you're watching, don't worry, there isn't!' was his response to a concerned inquiry about the rumour of a hurricane being on the way. Subsequent to this debacle, the Met Office was subject to erm--some quite intense criticism. They were ordered to shape up or take early retirement by their overlords in Whitehall. As a consequence they were put under pressure to improve the accuracy of their forecasts. The means by which they chose to approach this task is quite interesting, it's an example of that, using licence to interpret parameters.

What they did, was instead of telling people what the weather was going to be like, they hedged their bets by stating the chances of particular weather occurring, things like: there's a fifty percent chance of rain. Well there's pretty much a fifty percent chance of rain on any day the year but at the end of that year, if it rained on only half the days you forecast that it might rain, hey presto, your forecasts are statistically 100% accurate. See what I mean by reinterpreting parameters? The reason for this kind of practice, is that the people working at the top at institutions like the Met Office, shouldn't be in those jobs, they occupy their positions through grace, favour and internecine manoeuvring. They're completely useless, honestly, you wouldn't give 'em a job fitting a gutter, they're that clueless.

So is there a moral here, some point to made about due diligence and competence?  Yeah I suppose there is, in that it's a good idea if due diligence and competence exist, unfortunately I reside in a culture where it's quite rare.

Something right? That's just a reference to me managing to fix the gutter before it started to rain. Usually in such circumstance, I'll find it rains for six solid weeks before I can get the job done.


  1. You must have been gutt(er)ed when you found out it hadn't been done right. (Cringe.)

    1. Yeah, I was pretty much, I just couldn't get my head round it at first. Then as I uncovered the evidence, I felt a bit like Holmes, piecewise discovering the motive for the crime.