Awesome and ill-starred bodges: "Crazy logistics"

The latest installment of Dark Roasted Blend's "Crazy Logistics" series highlight some sterling examples of awesome bodgeing, kludgeing and ill-starred jerry-rigging.

My favorite story about this comes from a friend who worked at the CBC when its studios were on Jarvis Street in Toronto. Every night, there'd be a pair of power-outages across the whole studio, one at midnight, and another at 3AM. Each one only lasted a few seconds. The studios were torn up, rewired, checked a million ways. But the problem persisted. Finally, the mystery was solved when a can of beans exploded in one of the big transformer cabinets. It turned out that the long-serving night watchman would bring the beans for dinner every night, and open the transformer door at midnight when he arrived (which triggered the emergency cutoff) and put the tin on the transformer to heat up. At 3AM, he opened the door again and removed his nicely warmed beans for supper. Until one night when he forgot and -- BOOM!

Crazy Logistics: People Trying to Do Things (Funny Pics) (via Neatorama)


  1. Cory, I’ve heard that power outage story in different forms for years; your friend was repeating an urban myth customized for the CBC. (Although it’s possible it really happened. That’s the trouble with urban myths.)

    One of the forms I’ve heard it most commonly is that a computer center (back in the days of spinning tape and giant computer rooms) kept having unexplained failures in the middle of the night. They finally camped out and discovered the cleaning lady would unplug the computer (as if a mainframe system had a single 110-volt plug) to plug her vacuum cleaner in.

    1. The version that I heard it was that it was an US Air Force base. The system outage was eventually traced to an airman unplugging something to run a 220 volt floor waxer.  To make the problem sound more technical it was written up as a “buffer problem”.

    2. This was an important gimmick in the 1968 Peter Ustinov computer crime caper movie Hot Millions (though as I recall it was an electric kettle, not a vacuum cleaner).  I don’t know whether the story originated in the movie and then passed into folklore or the other way around.

  2. Things happen. I know a guy who had some cookies disappear from his university office. This was in about 1980. So he rigged up a VCR and video camera to record the scene when the light switch was turned on. The video evidence showed the cleaning lady stealing a cookie from the cookie jar. So the next night, he rigged the VCR to play back the captured scene on a little video monitor when the light switch was turned on. Th cookie thefts stopped after that.

  3. Jury rigging – is a temporary or make-shift repair.
    Gerrymandering – is an attempt to obtain a political advantage be reapportionment and redistricting.
    “Jerry rigging” is … nothing at all. :) 

    Cheers Cory!

    1. While “jury rigging” may be more correct, both are widely used, and the term “jerry rigging” (which is probably a portmanteau of jerry-built and jury-rigged) has been around since at least 1959. In the South, I hear jerry-rigged more often than I hear jury-rigged.

      1.  I’m not convinced. A quick search of The NYT has usage going back to 1947. An argument could be made that, Jerry being the slang for German in WWII, could lead to the appropriation of jury rig. Another instance of German to Jerry to specific terminology is jerrycan, the rectangular gas cans invented by the Germans and commonly seen in the military during and after WWII.

        1. Another very plausible origin. But you are “convinced” that the word is in use, though? That’s really all I was going for.

        2.  “Jury rig” is a nautical term dating back several centuries. It refers to temporary improvised repairs, but doesn’t imply shoddy work. There were (and are) standard techniques for dealing with common problems such as dismasting.

          I have always heard that “jerry-built” originated in Britain post-WW2, and referred to buildings thrown up to replace those destroyed in the war. It always implied shoddy and/or fraudulent work. That would make the 1947 date for first usage plausible.

    2. Here in these United States, “jury-rigging” is the crime of bribing or threatening members of a jury to obtain a desired judgement, “gerrymandering” is readjusting political boundaries to influence elections, and ever since WWII “jerry-rigging” is the fine art of fixing things in the field using available materials.  There are several related terms, at least one of which probably cannot pass the BB comment filter.

      Now “bodging” or “bodge” on the other hand, mean nothing at all in the USA.  They are Britticisms.

      1. The word ‘bodge’ has a longer history than American English, so maybe shouldn’t be written off so glibly?

    3. No, no, it is jerry-rigging! 

      Most importantly, in Soviet Russia, Jerry rigs YOU. 

      Actually, Tomasz – they both seem to be correct and seem to be independently coined terms that are interchangeable – I learned it as jerry-rigging. 

      My Russian (1st gen.) grandmother claimed the term to be a borrowed Russian term, I kid you not. Of course, she also claimed Russians invented the light-bulb, indoor plumbing, and bipedal locomotion, much like the guy in the pic.  

      1. Forgot to add…I used to experience righteous, almost visceral (at least virtual) nerd rage, (and yet, condescending pleasure) at the very sight or sound of ‘jury-rigged’. So convinced I was right, I never bothered to do a simple Google. 

        The comments in this thread have caused me to repent and accept the legitimacy of Jury-Rigged. Much in the same way I came to accept that the Animated Series is also part of Cannon.

  4. the photo of the lady on the micio scooter – headline :: “Yeeeeeee!” 
    was taken in surbiton (in surrey in england) she is known to EVERYONE that lives here a “scooter gran”. a google search of ‘scooter gran surbiton’ will revieal more epic photos and videos of this local micro celebrity.  :D

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