Build, the Galactic Hero

Engineers will go without food and hygiene for days to solve a problem.  (Other times just because they forgot.)  And when they succeed in solving the problem they will experience an ego rush that is better than sex - and I'm including the kind of sex where other people are involved.


by Malcolm Walker

Source: Architecture New Zealand month unknown

Bale Building

Makara farmer Chris Moore saws apart a straw bale for putting in the wall of his house.  Mr Moore and his wife Ruth Paul are building the region's first straw house.  The couple have begun putting the straw into the walls of their new home, which they expect to be built in a month.

Ms Paul said the walls of the house on the 28.3 hectare (70 acre) sheep and cattle farm would be made of straw, and lined inside and outside with plaster to prevent damp getting into the straw.

They had decided to use straw because they generated their own electricity using solar panels, hydro, wind power and battery power, and straw was very energy efficient.  "It will make the house cooler in summer and warmer in winter."

Gaining Wellington City Council permission had been a drawn-out process because there were no straw house regulations, she said.

Source: The Dominion Monday 26 March 2001 photo credit Haana Howard

Drawing on Straws

Builders have long recognised the usefulness of straw bales, according to the Sourcebook for Green and Sustainable Building.  Many straw structures built by homesteaders in Nebraska more than a century ago are still in use, the Internet publication says.  The idea may have migrated from New England, where straw ice houses appeared in the mid-1850s, says The Last Straw, an Internet journal about straw-bale construction.

The technique has become so popular among those looking for a low-cost alternative for heavily insulated walls that straw building codes have been adopted in some states, including California and New Mexico.  A variety of structures, from airplane hangars to schools and churches, are straw-constructed, the Sourcebook says.


Mature Images Legoland Builder's Inside Joke

by Conor Dougherty

Hidden in a miniature Washington, DC, at Legoland California, among thousands of characters living frozen lives, a businessman moons a presidential motorcade.  Nearby, in a Lego replica of New York City, a man does his laundry in the nude.  And at a New England harbour, beneath an overturned rowboat, two pairs of legs tangle suggestively.  Such adult-themed vignettes, played out in tiny plastic bricks, are a secret diversion at the Carlsbad theme park, where "master builders" make a sport of putting risqué scenes into G-rated landscapes.  "It's definitely on the sly," said Bill Vollbrecht, a former master builder who recently left his job at Legoland.

Legoland has many attractions, including roller coasters and water rides, but most of the creative license takes place inside Miniland.  There, some 20 million Lego bricks have been fashioned into tiny replicas of US cities and such landmarks as the Golden Gate Bridge.  Miniland is about as true to life as toy blocks can get.  The characters listen to concerts, play beach volleyball and ride carousels.  A perpetual Mardi Gras parade rolls through New Orleans' French Quarter.  It's easy to get lost in the action, and easier still to miss the intricate details.  For example, visitors have to kneel and peer into the subterranean bathrooms of Grand Central Station to get the side view of the Lego men's restroom, where two Lego men are using the facilities.

Despite the claims of the builders, Legoland officials said nothing is built into Miniland without their knowledge.  The park is meant to have some adult humour, they said, but nothing that could be deemed inappropriate.  "It's not snuck into Miniland; it's part of Miniland," said Pat DeMaria, supervisor of Legoland's model shop.  Pointing to the pairs of legs under the rowboat, DeMaria said there is nothing suggestive about them.  "It's all how you want to interpret it," he said. "If you can see it and you read that into it, then it's for parents."

A number of current builders contacted for this story declined to be interviewed, citing fear of retribution from the park's management.  But current and former employees confirmed that the builders have been known to clandestinely add their own touches.  In Legoland, like everywhere else, a job is a job.  In the model shop adjacent to Miniland, park builders sit for hours designing models and snapping together the tiny bricks.  Lego bins stretch to the ceiling, and graph paper is laid across drawing boards to aid in the design process.  On one builder's desk sit two Lego models built for decoration; one man is on the toilet and another, blue-faced, is vomiting.

Vollbrecht, who left Legoland last month to pursue a career as a freelance model builder, said he slyly added the mooning man during a maintenance project last year.  He said anybody is bound to get bored after hours and hours spent tediously fastening bricks.  "If my job is to build 50 mini-people for a city, it gets boring fast," he said.  "So if I can vent some steam by making a guy moon the president, it makes the job more enjoyable."

A recent tour of the park showed that the more risqué creations tend to be hidden away.  Because they are so small, and because guard ropes keep visitors from viewing every angle the Legoland builders see, they are difficult to spot.  The man mooning the president, stuck among a pack of nondescript Lego men in ties, isn't likely to be noticed by someone who isn't looking for him.  The same goes for the arguably amorous couple under the rowboat.  The drunken guy in Washington, DC, who is passed out on a table and surrounded by bottles is a little easier to see.

Some of the more scandalous structures seem to be the stuff of urban legend.  Take, for instance, the topless woman in the New Orleans exhibit.  According to one story, the woman was sneaked into the park by a mischievous employee, then removed by the powers that be.  Another version has her tucked away in a Lego building, hidden by shutters.  Public-relations officials for the Carlsbad theme park say the woman, who supposedly was last seen on a balcony begging for Mardi Gras beads, was never there in the first place.  Then again, she could just be hard to find.  "If you're making something that you think management would have a problem with, you don't tell your supervisor about it," said Vollbrecht, who added that he has heard about the topless woman but has never seen her.

Of course, creative people taking license without their employer's knowledge is nothing new.  In 1994, the Walt Disney Company suffered a major embarrassment when it was discovered that there were a few X-rated images in the animated film Who Framed Roger Rabbit, including some detailed frames of the Jessica Rabbit character.  A report in Daily Variety likened the clip to Sharon Stone's memorable interrogation scene in Basic Instinct.  "In any big, faceless setting, the individual always wants to do something like that," said Arnold Scheibel, a professor at the UCLA School of Medicine who studies neurobiology.  "We all want to make sure that, somehow, we leave our mark."

The secrets of Legoland are mostly inside jokes among company employees, Vollbrecht said, but he added that some builders feel disgruntled.  Master builders make between $13 and $15 an hour, or about $27,000 to $31,000 a year.  After spending years perfecting their skills at building elaborate Lego structures, many builders have found themselves in an environment that allows them to be creative, but not that creative.  "Maybe on a subconscious level it's a way of getting back at them," Vollbrecht said.  "There is a very boring side to it.  You have to wear uniforms.  You have to walk around the park all morning fixing things."

Officials from Legoland said the park has never had any complaints, but according to Vollbrecht, at least one structure was altered after guests took notice.  One, a Lego man getting a massage at a sports club, was - well, just a little too realistic.  Winos in New York City who were toting malt-liquor bottles were removed before going public.  But Vollbrecht said that even if park management removed a few of the questionable sculptures, others would take their place.  "As long as you have creative people working for the company, there is always going to be that need to blow off steam."

Source: 14 March 2004

Two Builder Jokes

A builder, a clergyman and a politician stood outside heaven, waiting for admission. "I'm sorry, gentlemen," Saint Peter said, "but the pearly gates are broken."  The builder took a look at the gates, then offered to repair them for $10.  "Why $10?" Saint Peter asked.

"Five dollars for my labour, $5 for the material," the builder explained.

"What about you?" Saint Peter asked the clergyman. "Can you fix them?"

"Yes, for $30 - that includes $10 for the orphans' fund, $10 for the church's building fund, and $10 for the poor box."

"And you, can you fix them?" Saint Peter asked the politician.

"Of course," the politician replied.  "But I'll need $110."

"A hundred ten dollars?  Why so much??"

"Fifty dollars is for me, $50 is for you, and $10 is so I can hire the builder."

One day a builder got home a little early, and found his wife in bed with another man.  Purple with rage, he hauled the man down the stairs and into the garage and secured his penis in a vise.  Utterly terrified, the man screamed, "Stop, stop!  You're not going to cut it off, are you?  ARE YOU?"

"Nope," replied the builder, "You are.  I'm going to set the garage on fire..."

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