Archive for bco

Lightning Strikes

Posted in Lucerne Village, Sacred Geometry with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 29, 2012 by javedbabar

The previous Building Control Officer had approved many big projects. Looking through the files, Shama saw a 500 metre suspension bridge, a moated castle in the forest, and a medium sized Chinese palace.

Whether any of these had ever been built was hard to say. Admin was not his predecessor’s strong suit. There were partially legible application forms and “APPROVED” stamps, but very few maps, plans, budgets or schedules.

A file named “SKYSCRAPER” caught his eye. It was, fittingly, near the top of the very tall stack of applications on his desk. There were also further documents in the file. Not too many but enough to make his eyes pop.

They detailed a thousand metre high skyscraper in the shape of a lightning bolt, to be built over ten years, with a budget of $1 billion. He checked the file’s status. It said “APPROVED” Was this a joke? Did somebody really intend to build it in the valley?

The map indicated that the site was in the Upper Valley, around the bend at Camel Mountain. If it was being built, that’s why he hadn’t seen it – it wasn’t yet visible, but it certainly would be when topped out.

Shama jumped into his truck and drove to the Upper Valley. He thought,  you can’t have a structure like that here! It will overwhelm everything in the valley!

But then he thought, would it really? Maybe the sculpture would form a relationship with natural features, the mountains, forests and rivers, and the sky, which produced the lightning providing its inspiration. Didn’t such firebolts connect heaven and earth?

As he rounded Camel Mountain, the structure came into view. It was almost complete! But it wasn’t a thousand metres high – nowhere near. Arcadian firs nearby were almost its equal.

They must have changed plans. Shama didn’t know if he was relieved or disappointed.

The construction site was filled with activity. Crews were working at full speed. Shama asked for the foreman. A carpenter pointed to the top of the lightning bolt. “You can go up,” he said. “He isn’t coming down this morning.”

“It’s been a strange project,” said the foreman. “It started off as the world’s tallest building. I’m amazed that the plans were even approved. Rumour has it that the client is the same person who approved it – Lucerne’s old Building Control Officer. It has nothing to do with the village though; it is an entirely private project.

“Have you ever met him?” asked Shama.

“I can’t say that I have. But I’ll tell you this. If he can afford to build this structure, then he’s done pretty well for himself. You’ve chosen a good profession, my friend. I get the impression there are many benefits to the job.”

He winked and continued, “But you can’t take it with you, he knows that. I’ve heard he’s sick; really sick. This is going to be his memorial, but he’s only got one year left, not ten like he’d thought. That’s why it’s going to be one hundred metres high, and not a thousand, and the budget’s been cut to one hundred million. But if we get it done in time, we all get to share what’s left.”

He made a move to go, saying, “Nice to meet you, but I must get back to work now. This is one project that is definitely coming in on time and on budget. We’ve never had a nine hundred million dollar incentive before.”

Meaty Plants

Posted in Classic Sci-Fi, Lucerne Village, Organic Farming with tags , , , , , , , , , , on September 27, 2012 by javedbabar

As Lucerne’s Building Control Officer, Shama’s remit was residential, commercial and industrial building. He was not responsible for agricultural building. Bona fide farmers could build whatever they wanted to provided it served a purpose.

He did however have a watching brief. So when he wasn’t busy he would drive around, looking, to keep his new empire in check. This was his second week in the job, and he wanted to stay on top of things.

At first he thought it was a trick of the light. Bright fragments shone around the valley at dawn, illuminating bluffs and gleaming across forests. The sun was catching something large – what was it?  The source seemed to be away from the road – where was it?

More driving around indicated that it was likely the Old Percy Farm. He’d heard that the old fella had passed it on to his son, who had returned from Africa to live here. He’d also heard that the son was sci-fi author Balthazar O. Percy, one of whose books Shama had read in his teens. He recalled it being very strange, barely comprehensible stuff.

There was a gate and buzzer, newly installed. He was about to press the button when the gate opened itself. Was it an automatic gate? Then he saw the discreet camera built into the gate post. Somebody had let him in.

Shama followed the driveway, winding around a slough, and through a patch of forest. Why people built their homes so far from the road, he had no idea. What a waste of time and energy every time you went to town. Anyway, that was their choice, to hide.

A shaven-headed man stood on the road ahead of him, clapping. He increased his speed of clapping as Shama approached, and then moved and stood to the side.

Shama pulled up beside him. “Hello, I’m Shama, the new BCO. I’m familiarizing myself with the area. I hope you don’t mid me paying you a visit.”

The man was wearing grey overalls, and seemed like a prisoner or factory worker. “Not at all. Welcome to the ranch. I am the owner, Balthazar O. Percy. Would you like to look around?”

Shama spotted a vast greenhouse on the edge of a far field. At first glance he’d say the greenhouse covered an acre. It could be even more than that.

“Ah! I see the greenhouse has caught your eye. Let’s start with that. This is my personal project. I’ve wanted to do it for years. Now that Dad has passed the farm over to me, I am…”

Shama saw something moving inside. It didn’t seem like a person.

“… trying some new ideas. This valley has plenty of nutrients which could provide the ideal human diet, if only humans could absorb them. Animal production is very wasteful, they eat more then they produce. Plants are somewhat fickle, one flood or frost and they’re gone. I’m developing a new green food source, meaty plants.”

Shama could swear that one of the plants was looking at him.

“If the valley floods, they’ll swim. If it’s frosty, they’ll huddle. If there’s a fire, they’ll escape. They are independent and will ultimately create their own ecosystems. When nuclear war comes – we all know it is inevitable – they may even outlive us, and begin a new evolution stream, but right now they are fragile and need protection. That’s what the green house is for.”

Shama thought, I wonder how soon before we’ll need protection from them?

Under Investigation

Posted in Alternative Energy, Classic Sci-Fi, Lucerne Village with tags , , , , , , , , , , on September 26, 2012 by javedbabar

On Shama’s third day as Lucerne’s Building Control Officer, he found a file marked “UNDER INVESTIGATION” in the stack of papers on his desk. Let’s see what’s going on here, he said to himself. He pushed aside the executive toys left by his predecessor, and opened the file fully across his desk.

It contained a hand drawn map and the record of an anonymous telephone call, reporting someone building without permission. There were a few sheets of illegible notes; people had terrible handwriting these days, and the day was dawning when they’d forget how to hold a pen altogether. The application forms on his desk bore testament that this day was fast approaching; he couldn’t read any of them without guessing half the words.

He located the place on a large scale map of the Lucerne Valley. It was in the Upper Valley, 25 kilometres out of town, where cell phone reception was non existant. When he reached the location he found the “hidden driveway” shown on the map, two tire tracks in the bush. There was an old brown truck at the end of the driveway, but no sign of any construction activity.

Shama saw two lengths of rebar stuck in the ground, with ropes tied around them bearing tension. What were they tied to? he wondered, and looked for a large item they may be securing. The ropes went through some forest, over a small bank, and into the River Lilly. What was going on?

Maybe it was a hunter keeping game cool or chilling beers for after. He’d also heard of people “icing” champagne in the Lilly’s glacial waters. Was it someone living off-grid, storing dairy products?

Shama heard strange sounds coming from the river: regular thumping and gurgling. Was it a trapped log being battered by the flow, creating air burps?

It sounded mechanical though, somewhat like a diesel generator.

He saw a cable rise and float on the water, followed by a slimy brown mass – was it a bear, fishing? He prepared to run, but then saw that it wasn’t was a beast. It was a very hairy human head. The hair seemed to wrap right around it, like a small inflated skin.

“Hello!” shouted the head. “I’m just coming. Wait there!” He swam over and hauled himself out. “You’re the BCO? What happened to the other guy? He was snooping around here. He wouldn’t believe me when I said I wasn’t building anything on land.”

“Well, are you?” asked Shama, bemused.

“No way! You think I want to get in trouble with the Building Control Officer?”

“Well, what are you doing then?”

A smile burst in the hairball. “Want to see? Good! The last guy didn’t, and that’s why we didn’t get anywhere. Here, put on this diving suit.” Shama did so. “Now, hold onto these ropes and come down. Don’t let go, the currents strong.”

After twenty metres, they reached three joined containers on the riverbed. They went through an airlock and emerged in a warm dry room. “What is this?” said Shama.

“The answer to global warming for millions of people around the world. This is a prototype. It runs on water power, uses aqueous gas exchange, and has arctic insulation.”

Shama thought that he’d better change the file name from “UNDER INVESTIGATION” to “UNDER WATER”.

Old Tree House

Posted in Lucerne Village, Sacred Geometry with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on September 25, 2012 by javedbabar

It was Shama’s second day as Lucerne’s Building Control Officer, a job he was unqualified for professionally, but which had been offered to him for double his usual salary, which he had accepted. He began looking through the files on his desk.

“A tree house?” he said to himself. “Do you need permission for that?”

He asked the receptionist. “Yes,” she said. “Anything over one hundred square feet needs permission, whether below, upon, or above ground. That’s what the last person occupying your position told me. There are exemptions, but very few.”

“What happened to him? The last person. I can’t find any record of his name.”

She looked away. “It was a bad situation. We’re not supposed to talk about it.” He continued to look at her, and she said, “I’ll tell you later.”

The Old Tree House file was stamped “REJECTED”. There was no further explanation inside. Shama decided to investigate the matter.

He drove to the location, a farm fifteen kilometres up the valley. It was always a joy travelling up the Lucerne Valley Road, driving from the white mountain towards the dark one, passing shining forests and sparkling rivers, and glittering lakes with leaping rainbow fishes. It seemed like gems of many sizes had been scattered along his path, or maybe the whole valley was one vast gem, reflecting and refracting light across everything within it.

There was something strange about the farm. There were fences, gates and barns as expected, containing cattle, horses and pigs. There were flowering bushes and huge red trees. What was strange then? He realized that there were no tractors or trucks, no wires or machinery of any kind. This place was not mechanized. It was a Luddite farm.

An old lady emerged from the farmhouse. “Come in,” she said. “I heard you coming up the road. Have some tea and banana bread.”

Her lounge was presided over by a wind-up grandfather clock. There were candles burning, despite it being morning. She noticed him looking. “They’re to purify the air,” she said, “And to welcome the sun.”

She poured the tea and said, “You must be the new BCO. You look better than the other fellow, I’ll say, but you’re probably a rascal too. What business is it of yours? I’m fed up with these floods. I’ve seen all the big ones – ’38, ’64, ’84, 2004. And believe me, there’s another one coming – this year or early next. Don’t you see the pattern in the years? Ah, never mind, you educated folk never do.”

Shama liked this old woman and said, “Yes, I am the new BCO. I’ve come to reconsider the situation.”

“What do you mean?” She was suspicious. “Reconsider what?”

“The tree house. With all these floods, it makes sense to live above ground. But I have to ensure the use of proper methods and materials. I see you are a Luddite. How will you build it without power?”

“Without power? Like everything else! We’ll use ropes and levers and pulleys; we’ve got horses and cattle too.”

“Won’t your livestock drown in the flood?”

“Of course they won’t. We’ll haul them up too.”

He said, “But what if the tree died, or gave way?”

She gave him a patronizing smile, and pointed to the huge red trees everywhere. “These are Arcadian Firs. They’ve been here for over a thousand years. How long has your village hall been there?” Shama didn’t know. “I’ll tell you how long – twenty eight years. The last one was flooded and rotted out. I’ll take my chances with the trees. They will last much longer than any of your buildings.”

When he returned to the office, Shama changed the status of the Old Tree House file to “APPROVED”.

Future Church

Posted in Classic Sci-Fi, Lucerne Village, Sacred Geometry with tags , , , , , , , , , , on September 24, 2012 by javedbabar

Shama had performed casual labour over the years, but was not a trained builder, never mind a member of the International Code Council. He was totally unqualified for the job of Building Control Officer. The situation in Lucerne was dire though; they needed a BCO immediately, and he was offered the job without him asking.

The previous BCO had disappeared, and so had his diary. Shama had no idea of his schedule. The best thing was to just sit and wait. At ten past ten a call came through on the main switchboard. “Good morning!” said a cheery male voice. “I’ve been trying to get hold of a BCO for a month now, but without success. I hear you’ve taken the position. How’s your day looking?”

Shama said, “Erm, I have some windows available.” He had heard project managers use this term on site. Windows. It seemed appropriate for construction projects.

“That’s great! You guys are usually so busy that we wait for weeks. There must be a dip in the building trade. My name’s Simon. What time shall I come over?”

Shama didn’t want him to come over. There was a huge stack of papers, a wall of manuals, a pile of lego bricks, and a playground of executive toys in his office. They gave the impression that he sat around amusing himself and rarely bothered with work. It would be better to meet the applicant at his place. It would provide a better idea of the project too. Shama said, “I’ll come to you at two.”

“You’re coming here? Really? Uh-oh! What have I done? You guys never come here otherwise…”

“That’s not the case,” said Shama, fiddling with lego bricks on his desk. He built a red squat structure. He also set chrome balls swinging to knock it down. “It makes more sense for me to see what you’re doing there. I will understand the big picture. Drawings and forms are only indications. I’d rather see what is going on.”

“That’s a healthy attitude you’ve got there, son.”

Shama wondered how the man knew his age. He must have a young voice. The man gave him the address and told him to “keep his eyes peeled” for the driveway, which was “your usual two tire tracks in the bush”.

Shama drove twenty kilometres out of town in the BCO’s truck – a silver Nissan Frontier. It was too clean and shiny for a work truck. Did the previous guy ever do any work? Shama found the driveway and drove right in.

In the centre of a cleared half-acre was a strange metal structure. It was like a small space ship that had landed there, with a blast radius around it. Had the guy burnt out the clearing? Maybe the structure had been dropped in by helicopter.

An alien appeared. It turned out to be Simon, wearing green overalls and goggles. He said, “It was already here when I bought the land. I want to extend it. It reminds me of a small chapel and I want to build a three-storey tower next to it, so it looks like a futuristic church – you know one of those English medieval ones, but in metal.”

This was unconventional, thought Shama, but imagine the sweeping views from the tower, and echoing river sounds in the chapel. Most seekers find solace alone. This would be a great spot. You could aspire to the heavens, then be baptized in the river, and walk within the Garden of Eden. Imagine how much professional people would pay to rent this. A thousand a week? It could kick-start spiritual tourism in the area.

He said to Simon, “Okay, go ahead.”

Stack of Applications

Posted in Lucerne Village with tags , , , , , , , , , , on September 23, 2012 by javedbabar

Professional people were leaving Lucerne because there weren’t adequate facilities for their children. The schools were reasonable and parents also played their part in educating their children. They ensured they practised speaking, reading and writing at home, and also taught them manners.

They were busy people, tired from work, but knew that the prime duty for raising children rested on their shoulders, not on those of teachers, who could shape, but not make, healthy, happy beings. However the lack of a swimming pool or hockey rink was the killer. The wound continued to seep.

Every situation has a cutting edge through. Fewer professional people meant more jobs for unprofessional people. There was for example no Building Control Officer in Lucerne. Nobody knew what had happened to him. There was plenty of construction occurring in the valley – new facilities to attract new professional people – but no one to manage it.

Shama had been at a loose end since moving here from the city. He’d come to the village to enquire about a manual job, but had instead been offered the role of Building Control Officer, for twice the salary he’d expected.

He’d said to the interviewer, “I don’t have any qualifications. Sure I’ve worked on constructions sites, performing traffic duty and casual labour, but I’m not any sort of official.”

“You seem like a smart guy,” said the interviewer. “Give it a week. I’m sure you’ll figure it out.”

Shama went to his new office on Monday. There was a huge pile of building forms and assorted documents balanced on his desk. Some were typed, some handwritten in pen, some completed with coloured markers, and some scrawled in pencil.

Who completes forms in marker? Were children submitting applications? What about pencil – had these adults not graduated from graphite to ink? At his own school, he had done so when eleven. The crazy, barely legible writing made the papers a modern tower of Babel. How would he get through them?

The bookshelves covering one wall were filled with building code manuals. There were at least a hundred, covering all aspects of national, provincial, and municipal building codes, supplemented by bylaws and case studies. These massed ranks of grey, green and brown books looked like the Wailing Wall of Jerusalem, which he’d visited as a child.

There was a pile of lego bricks on the corner table. They were mainly yellow, blue and red, with some transparent ones, built into a series of half-finished structures. Is that how building departments evaluated projects? Out of toy blocks to check?

The desk held many executive toys, no doubt there to illustrate engineering principles.

Shama chatted to the receptionist. She asked what he’d been doing before this. He began to lie, but then corrected himself. “I’ve been performing casual labour – unloading trucks and carrying lumber, and mudding and taping drywall. I’ve done some brick building too, and nailing on siding. Plus plenty of painting and decorating…” He was about to say he was totally unqualified for the job, but the receptionist interrupted.

“Thank God they’ve got a proper person at last. Someone who works with his hands and knows what he’s doing, not another person with a Building Services degree who knows only how to push pencils. We may finally have a service that works.”