The Story of Walkie Scorchie

A few months ago I found out about this story, which once again proves that real life is much stranger than fiction:


The building at 20 Fenchurch Street in London has a unique shape. It is wider at the top than at the bottom, making it look as if it is bursting up and out of the skyline. Because of this, it has been nicknamed the “Walkie Talkie” building.

It has, however, earned a few more unfortunate nicknames, due to the fact that for about two hours a day, the concave surface of the building focuses sunlight onto the ground below, creating spot temperatures of up to 240 F. This is hot enough to fry eggs, crack pavement, and melt the hood ornament on one man’s Jaguar. Residents, with their trademark British humor, have taken to calling the building “Walkie Scorchie” or the Fryscraper.

The mistake can be traced back to the developers running out of money to complete construction during the Great Recession in 2009. The original design included horizontal louvers to cut glare, but these were removed to save money and construction time.

Instead, developers have had to install a permanent sunshade after the fact. Architect Rafael Viñoly admitted that “we made a lot of mistakes” in the construction of the building, and complained that this wouldn’t have been a problem if not for climate change. Apparently when he first arrived in London, the city didn’t have as many sunny days, and the Fryscraper effect was a non-issue.

Interestingly enough, this is a recurring problem for Viñoly. He also designed the Vdara Hotel in Las Vegas, which has a similar design and creates a hot zone on the pool deck that the management have termed a “solar convergence” but the staff prefer to call the Death Ray – appropriate, since it has singed hair and melted through plastic cups. Gordon Absher, spokesman for the resort company, stated, “A new building’s first season of operation always uncovers glitches”. Temporary solutions such as larger, thicker umbrellas and more foliage will not suffice because the hot spot shifts throughout the day and the year. Absher complained, “This is quite literally an astronomical challenge. We are dealing with a moving target.”


Any stories you know from real life that would never have come up in fiction? A death ray from a building is certainly up there!


– H


Skills: Elocution (BONUS!)

I just arrived back from a wonderful trip to Spain where I spent the week showing off my new-found bilinguality (and eating a lot of cheese). Since I’ve had rhetoric and elocution on the brain lately, I was curious to find if similar elocution exercises exist for other languages. Google searches for “elocution exercises Spanish” didn’t turn up many results, but I did find a long list of Spanish tongue twisters, which are almost as good. They’re called trabalenguas, and here’s a nice long list:


The trouble I’m having with Spanish lately is pronouncing the “rr” properly: it’s very hard for me to roll the letters and still be able to form a word around it. The secret to this, as with any other skill, is practice: saying these tongue twisters a few times a week will help.

Know any fun tongue twisters, in English or any other language? Let me know!


– H

Skills: Elocution

I’m taking a Rhetoric class to improve my public speaking skills, despite – or more because of – the fact that I really do not like public speaking. Call it exposure therapy: the more speeches I make, in front of a group where I’m not afraid to fail, whose judgment I trust, the easier it will get and the better I will do. After my first speech I started crying, and now I don’t even get adrenalized! This is progress.

One of the first activities we worked on in the class was elocution. These are exercises to stretch and work out the muscles in your tongue and face by saying difficult phrases repeatedly and very accurately. No pronouncing “milk” like “melk”, or saying “runnin'”! The issue is that when you are just starting the exercises, it’s very hard to hear the mistakes you’re making. It helps to have someone else around to point out all the errors (and yes, there will be a lot of them…).

Here is a list of the exercises I’ve used. Several people have noticed a difference in the way I speak since starting this practice, so it clearly has an effect. Plus, many of them are just fun to say!

A – Around the rugged rocks the ragged rascal ran.

B – Big black bug bit a big black bear and the big black bear bled black blood.

C – Can I cook a proper cup of coffee in a copper coffee pot?

D – Don’t doubt the doorbell, but differ with the doorknob.

E – Eight gray geese in a green field grazing.

F – Fine white vinegar with veal.

The free thugs set three thugs free.

G – Grab the groundhog from the glazed grass.

Grey geese in a green field grazing.

H – High roller, low roller, lower roller.

How can a clam cram in a clean cream can?

I – Inexplicably mimicking him hiccupping.

I wish to wash my Irish wristwatch

J – Jingle jungle jangle joker.

K – Knit kilts for nasty cold nights.

L – Little lucky luke likes lakes, lucky little luke likes licking lakes

M – Monkeys make monopoly monotonous.

N – The Next nest will not necessarily be next to nothing.

O – Octopi occupy a porcupine’s mind.

Only royal oily royal oil boils

P – Peter Prangle, the prickly pear picker, picked three perfectly prickly pears.

A proper copper coffee pot.

Q – Queen Catherine wakes the cat, and the cat quietly cries.

R – Rubber Baby Buggy Bumpers!

Roberta ran rings around the Roman ruins.

S – Some shun sunshine. Do you shun sunshine?

Six stick shifts stuck shut.

T – Three thick thistle sticks.

The thirty-three thieves thought that they thrilled the throne throughout Thursday.

U – Unique New York, Unique New York, Unique New York.

V – Venti, Grande, Tall – Very Grand Words for Large, Medium, Small.

W – Will’s wetsuit is round and wet and rough and wide and ready to go on a watery ride.

Wayne went to Wales to watch walruses.

X – Xylophones exist or so existentialists insist.

Y – Yoda met a Yeti on the Plains of Serengeti.

Z – Zoologists illogically love to read astrology.


– H