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Podcast / Well There's Your Problem

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So, three smartasses walk into an engineering failure...

Train good. Car bad.

The sinking of the MS Estonia. The Bhopal chemical disaster. Three Mile Island. The Tacoma Narrows Bridge collapse. The history of mankind is filled with its own history of faulty construction, engineering or planning that ends up costing human lives and requiring updates (or outright creation) of safety codes due to bad design, cost-cutting or failsafes going horribly wrong.

Well There's Your Problem is an engineering/politics/dark comedy podcast that covers the background, events and fallout of engineering disasters throughout the ages, in particular what faults directly led to the disaster. Originally a side-project of structural engineer Justin "Roz" Roczniak on his YouTube channel donoteat01 (which uses Cities: Skylines to showcase urban planning), the podcast features Justin, his former roommate and systems analyst Liam Andersonnote , pessimistic futurist Alice Caldwell-Kelly (educated in law and coal engineering, from the Trash Future podcast) and the 'Activate Windows' alert on Justin's PC (and sometimes Guest) as they pick apart, contextualize and make a lot of risque jokes about historical failures of engineering from a leftist perspective.


New episodes are released — roughly — weekly on the show's YouTube channel, with monthly episodes exclusive to Patreon backers.

This show provides examples of:

  • 13 Is Unlucky: Discussed Trope as it pertains to engineers, with Justin noting that some constructions intentionally avoid using the number '13' for floor numbers, terminal numbers, etc. The show's thirteenth episode was labelled 'episode 12A', and the hosts have continued to make references to an episode 13 (covering the Tacoma Running Gag) that doesn't exist.
  • America Won World War II: Frequently invoked by Liam, usually towards Alice or any non-American guest.
  • Author Appeal: The hosts are self-professed fans of trains and nuclear power.
  • Author Tract: Half the point of the show, being a fusion of engineering history and leftist historical and material analysis (cushioned in a lot of jokes). The show doesn't so much 'turn political' as 'occasionally forgetting to be when going into engineering detail'.
  • Berserk Button:
    • TERFs for Liam, by his own admission.
    • Liam also states in episode 19 that he has no respect for fish and despises everything about their existence.
    • Liam (again) is really quite vitriolic towards the Dutch as a nation, at least in part because they lost to Spain in the World Cup, a game he had placed money on.
  • Black Comedy: The parts of the show that isn't Vulgar Humor leans in this direction.
  • Bread, Eggs, Breaded Eggs: Episode 101 contained a discussion on the history of the abacus, with episode guest Abigail asking what things abacuses were commonly used to count large numbers of.
    Liam: Grain!
    Alice: Taxes!
    Justin: Taxes.
    Alice: Taxes on grain!
  • Brick Joke: Episode 34 features an altered final slide, implying that the unidentifed Gladio operative responsible for the Bologna train station bombing was also responsible for the Tacoma Narrows Bridge disaster.
  • Catchphrase: Roz has a few. Notably, "It's not supposed to be like that" when introducing the episode, or "This is true" in response to some insightful incite from his cohosts.
    • Roz: "I was about to say..." when agreeing with someone else's crazy idea.
    • Alice: "Dudes rock." when pointing out needless bravado as the main reason why a decision was made.
  • Capitalism Is Bad: The show tends to be harshly critical of both free-market and state capitalism, perhaps unsurprisingly coming from self-described socialists of the 'weird left'.
  • Clone Degeneration:
    • In episode 31, Alice notices that the logo for The God Damn News seems to be getting blurrier with every episode. Justin confirms that he has been in fact copying it from the previous episode since the introduction of the segment and would probably decay until it reaches a single pixel of resolution.
    • Quality loss due to repeated photocopying is often used as proof that a document added to the slides is official.
  • Conspiracy Theorist: Played for Laughs. The hosts occasionally blame the engineering failure of the week on conspiracy theories and cryptids, like Mothman. They have also claimed that the podcast is a CIA front.
  • Cool, but Inefficient: Frequently discussed. The hosts dislike this trope, and will usually advocate Boring, but Practical solutions whenever it's brought up that 'technological advances' or 'future engineering' will allow for solutions that ignore basic realities of cost or scale.
  • Cultural Posturing: A frequent part of the show is Justin, Liam, and Alice good-naturedly sniping at each other over their respective cultures.
  • Cutting Corners: The show's main Berserk Button, and all too frequently the cause of the disaster of the week.
  • Deadpan Snarker: All three hosts do this whenever they're not outright explaining things.
  • Disaster Dominoes: Removal of safety systems (often to save money or time on maintenance) are a common feature of the run-up to the disasters in question, to the point where during the Bhopal episode Alice explicitly compared the isolation of one to pulling a block out of a Jenga stack.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: Episode 21 crashes to a halt for a solid minute while everyone drools over how nice the GG-1 locomotive looks.
  • Doom It Yourself: Tends to be the target of bonus episodes.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: The first episode has no Liam, no pronoun checks, it doesn't even have a name - it's called "Untitled Engineering Disaster Podcast-like content".
  • Expospeak Gag: Used by Justin repeatedly, when he starts out using engineering terms and then simplifies the language several degrees using silly but descriptive words that are much easier to grasp by laymen.
  • Extra-Long Episode:
    • The show started out usually sticking to a 60-90-minute length at worst, but starting with Bhopal (which was split into two 90-minute halves) extra long episodes passing 120 minutes have become increasingly common. The longest regular episode so far (on the Titanic) runs for a grand total of 335 minutes across two parts, with Alice joking the episode is karma for the Gulf State episode below.
    • Episode 54 (on Gulf State Vanity Projects) ran so long that Alice tried to forcibly end it by doing a closing speech. Justin soldiered on anyway (to what is thankfully the last slide).
    • Absolutely subverted by Episode 62, which only ran 6 minutes and 31 seconds.
    • Their most recent episode (at time of writing), episode 98, is 3 hours 11 minutes, part 1 of 3 on the Penn Central Railroad. They promised/threatened 10 hours of material.
  • Failsafe Failure: The engineering disasters are occasionally caused by this. The episode on the Boeing 737 Max mentioned that one reason for the model's crashing tendencies is because of an anti-stall system that would occasionally pull the plane's nose down even when the plane wasn't stalling. Worse, it was an undocumented feature, meaning that the pilots weren't aware that trying to pull the plane up would only cause the system to compensate more in return.
  • Heh Heh, You Said "X": In the episode on the Hyatt Regency walkway collapse, they encounter a diagram where the force on a nut is labeled "P", resulting in the caption "P on nut". Cue much laughter from the hosts.
  • How We Got Here: A common way for episodes to start is with a slide showing the disaster's aftermath, with Justin helpfully pointing out what is obviously wrong in the picture and usually adding "It's not supposed to be that way."
  • Hulk Speak: The hosts tend to deliver the 'lesson' of the episode in hulk language, as "X bad. Y good."
  • I Need a Freaking Drink:
    • At multiple points throughout Episode 54, Liam audibly uncorks a bottle of bourbon as the vanity projects being discussed get more and more ridiculous.
    • During Episode 60 Liam repeatedly declares that he's being driven to drink by various examples of corruption involving the Cuomo family.
  • Insistent Terminology: Episode 68 on the Nedelin Catastrophe led to the crew using 'gift-giving' as an euphemism for nuclear warfare and insisting that ICBMs exist to deliver gifts to one's friends and reciprocate gifts given to you as fast as possible. In other episodes this gradually extended to any kind of violence, including a way to avoid actionable threats. Nobody's fighting, they're having a nice time with their friends! We don't have any issues with Nazis, in fact we *hope they have a nice time*.
  • Jewish Complaining: Liam (who is Jewish) usually leans into the kvetching whenever a God Damn News segment involves Jews in any way, very much playing into the stereotype for laughs.
  • Laughing Mad: Justin pulls off a truly terrifying one lasting nearly a full minute upon being informed, in the middle of the 9/11 episode, that Ruth Bader Ginsburg had died mere months before the 2020 election and paved the way for a far-right majority on the US Supreme Court.
  • Layman's Terms: Tend to come up a lot, with technobabble being generally frowned upon.
  • Left It In: A frequent source of jokes, with broadcasting breaks and asides being left in despite one of the hosts saying it will be excised or removed.
  • Lighter and Softer: The bonus episodes fall into this as Doom It Yourself projects tend not to hurt many people beyond the builder's pride. There's also the episode on the Atmospheric Railway, which Alice described as a 'palette cleanser' after realizing its Awesome, but Impractical nature meant it never left the pilot project stage and thus never had a chance to hurt anyone, beyond a hypothetical horde of rats that got sucked into its pipes and one terrified railway engineer who unexpectedly set a new land speed record when the system was turned on while the "engine" was disconnected from the rest of the train.
  • Master of None: Their opinion of the V-22 Osprey—it combines the dangers of both planes and helicopters while also bringing some exciting (read: fatal) new ones to the table, having the benefits of neither, and being ridiculously expensive in the bargain.
  • "No. Just... No" Reaction: During the episode on the Byford Dolphin accident, this was Alice's response when Justin began describing the effects of Explosive Decompression on the divers.
  • No OSHA Compliance:
    • Justin tends to bring up U.S. building and safety codes as Cultural Posturing whenever the incident of the week happens outside the U.S., and points out how the construction in question would be illegal under current U.S. law.
    • Averted at the Lake Peigneur salt mine where the emergency evacuation of all salt miners before the lakebed collapse prevented any human casualties. "Sometimes safety procedures just work."
    • This trope is the theme of all the emailed stories of horrifying work conditions provided by the viewers as part of the Safety Third segment.
  • Once an Episode: Roz trying for Socratic questioning ("What is...?") only for it to go nowhere fast. Usually right after the news segment has been dealt with.
  • Phrase Catcher: "Yay, Liam!" for Liam. Originally began life as Liam's introduction during the pronoun check until the other hosts and the fans began using it.
  • Reckless Gun Usage: The Safety Third segment from Episode 95 features a pair of these stories, to the great amusement of the crew (especially Alice, who had gone to Cadet school).
  • Ripped from the Headlines: The God Damn News segment, introduced in episode 22.
  • Running Gag/Once per Episode:
    • The 'Activate Windows' alert visible on Justin's slides. He has a license, he just can't find out where to enter his code.
    • The sentence 'shake hands with danger' is always accompanied by the guitar riff from the Caterpillar safety video of the same name.
    • Every episode begins with a pronoun check of the three hosts and any eventual guests. note 
    • Every On the Next segment at the end promises that the show's next episode will cover the Tacoma Narrows Bridge collapse. Which it never does. This turned out to be the topic of the 2021 live show.
    • Justin's terrible, terrible MS Paint drawings whenever the hosts can't find a suitable diagram.
    • Liam leading the hosts in booing when an unpopular person or group is mentioned.
    • Liam attempting to turn the show into a sports podcast.
      • Liam calling out Twitter users by name when he disagrees with their sports takes.
    • The podcast hosts alienating or insulting the nation the disaster of the week is set in, and usually mentioning that they're going to get cancelled by said nation.
    • Anyone from the area of the Low Countries is assumed to be constantly wearing Zwarte Piet-style blackface.
    • Almost any time someone avoids a deadly disaster by missing or leaving before the event prompts a comparison to the Final Destination films.
    • Referring to anything having to do with radioactivity as "Spicy Rocks".
    • Liam asking "Have YOU been to the Moon?" when the hosts start to trash-talk something American-made.
    • Alice responding "just make it stronger/more rigid" when a structure that is made to bend slightly under load is brought up. Justin's explanations that this would make the structure more dangerous never persuade her.
    • Alice quantifying project budgets and compensation settlements in terms of how many Xboxes that money could buy.
    • References to 'rat/horse viscera' (from the episode 17, "The Atmospheric Railway"[1]), 'jellied dog' (from the "Safety Third" segment of Episode 37, "Costa Concordia"[2], which was on the cleanup of an old biochemical lab), or 'soup-like homogenate' (ditto, regarding an advertisement used to illustrate the sort of toxic waste the storyteller had found on-site).
    • Alice controls the sound drops. Aside from the music for "The God Damn News" and "Safety Third" segments, she occasionally throws in the Soviet National Anthem, and "The East Is Red".
    • When covering aeronautical disasters, the pilots are assumed to spend all their flight time getting wasted on martinis and sexually harassing their flight crews.
  • Sarcasm Failure: It takes a lot to get the showrunners to stop snarking, but the MS Estonia and Grenfell Tower Fire episodes got to that point during the end segment, as well as throughout the Bhopal two-part episode.
  • Southern-Fried Genius: Justin, who tends to lean into his accent and a lot of Layman's Terms to explain engineering terms.
  • Suspiciously Specific Denial: The showrunners definitively do thorough research and don't just copy the episode texts wholesale from Wikipedia. (For one, Wikipedia articles on engineering aren't padded out with seven hours of dick jokes.)
  • Tempting Fate: The Atmospheric Railway episode was a Lighter and Softer episode that Alice referred to as a "palette cleanser", unless the next slide showed that the railway killed 500 people. Luckily Fate didn't come to collect on this one because the answer is none; although the rats don't make out so well.
  • This Is Gonna Suck:
    • Every time Justin tries to pronounce a European name you can hear Liam and Alice groan a little.
    • The hosts react this way whenever the construction history of the weekly topic mentions "a new material stronger than steel."
    • In later episodes, Liam and Alice start reacting with trepidation whenever Justin says a specific date, as it signals that the disaster under discussion is about to occur. Even more so if he mentions time as well (the hosts later would joke that the specificity of the date and time mentioned dictates the severity of the disaster).
    • Relatedly, Alice hates when death tolls are given as estimations, since that inevitably indicates that the disaster was violent enough to result in scattered human remains instead of distinct bodies.
  • Uncertain Audience: invoked In the Santiago Calatrava episode, the hosts are both amused and baffled by the selection of luxury retail stores inside the Oculus PATH station, feeling that most people aren't able to casually shop at places like Hugo Boss while they're waiting for their train, and people who can probably won't do it at a transit hub mall.
  • You Do NOT Want to Know: The Byford Dolphin incident was so gruesome (due to the Explosive Decompression) that Justin repeatedly entreats both his cohosts and listeners not to look it up.

Our next episode is about the Boston Molasses disaster...