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Interesting Times

To say that this week was interesting would be an understatement. I had started the week worrying about overpaying for some Perspex for the windows of my shed. I had replaced two panes a few years ago. Between then and now, the price had more than doubled. I wonder what …

IChemE SMG AGM 2020

I have just sent the following email to the scottish members of IChemE. For any of you who are reading this and are also members, please do sign up. It would be good to have a some feedback.


The Scottish Members Group will be holding our Annual General Meeting (AGM …

A Complex Operation

I am not sure if it was telling my mum that the car was doing well and had no issues, or if it was that we had visited a bike shop earlier in the week, but my car decided it had had enough. The battery died. The car was working …

Past Interest

I was sorting through old paperwork today including lots of bank statements from my school and university days. Two things jumped out at me:

  • The overall balances were much smaller than they are today (no surprise there).
  • I received more interested then than I do now.

Changed times.

Learning Again from Scratch

I am currently trying to work on a mini project that uses JavaScript. I have used JavaScript many times before but I never took the time to properly learn the language. A university course covered the basics, but it focused on chemical engineering problems. The course did not look at …

Keep Pushing It

At the start of the year my ability to do push-ups was pretty pathetic. I had been enjoying doing a weekly circuits session at the company gym for over a year. I had noticed a improvement in most of the exercises. But not push-ups. I was happy to do any …

Inbox Zero

For the first time in a long time, I have managed to achieve Inbox Zero. Both my work and personal email accounts have empty inboxes.

To be clear: Inbox Zero is not simply archiving or deleting every email from your inbox. It would be easy to move all emails into …

Plex Alert

On Saturday afternoon, as I was enjoying the sun in the back garden, I received an unexpected notification on my phone:

New Device MY-EMAIL just used a new device to access MY-PLEX-SERVER (TiVo)

I do not have a TiVo. Considering I was relaxing in the garden, I was surprised that …

Alarming Sounds

I am building a small web app and wanted to include some alarms. I spent too long looking online for examples, yet couldn't find any that I liked.

I really wanted to use vanilla JavaScript AudioContex without any library. I also wanted to generate the audio alerts without an external …

Doing it My Way

Last year, I started a small side project. I spent a few hours looking at various JavaScript Frameworks before deciding which looked best to use. I then spend a couple of days worth of work building a proof of concept of my program.

The framework certainly helped at first, however …

Changing my Style

So far, I have generally followed the Guardian and Observer style guide when it comes to numbers. That is, write out in full any number less than 10.

There are four lights

I recently found the GOV.UK style guide which advises writing the numeric for any number other than …

Shift the Filter

I have previously written about filters when talking about signals in control engineering. To avoid reacting to a noisy signal, you take the average over a period of time, to allow the noise to cancel itself out. The resulting trend is smoother and represents the real trend.

I noticed another …

Test it Tuesday is not Enough

Fire and rescue services promote the slogan 'Test it Tuesday' as a way to remind people that they should test their smoke alarms every week1. While most alarms state on them, and in the documentation, that they should be tested every week, most people don't. As a result of …

Showing Your Support

In an upset to my normal lockdown routine, I ended up going shopping tonight rather than earlier in the week. As a result, I was halfway around the shop when it was time for the weekly 'Clap for the NHS workers'. While there were a fair number of people clapping …

33.333333333

Today I am 33⅓ or 100/3.

My birthday is in the darkest part of December when people are rather busy with some other annual event. As a result, I haven't had a party to celebrate in many years now.

This year, I realised that I turn 33 ⅓, and …

More or Just More Aware

Are there more people out walking and running or are we just more aware of those that are out?

I can't tell. I went for a cycle with one of the kids earlier and it certainly seemed busier than normal, but it is part of my normal commute. When traveling …

IChemE Scottish Members Group - What now?

The email below was sent to the members of the IChemE Scottish Members Group


Hi Everyone,

As you may be aware, the Scottish Members Group have cancelled two events and we have no future events currently scheduled. To rectify this, the committee are now trying to make some plans in …

Two Different Experiences

As we are nearing the end of our first week of lockdown, I notice that people will be having one of two very different experiences. Many people will be finding themselves with much more time on their hands. Perhaps they are unable to work or even if they can still …

A Different Type of Haircut

Last night I shaved off my winter beard. It has certainly been a noticeable difference, feeling the cool air on my skin as I walk about.

This morning, when I joined the kids at breakfast time, the older one asked 'Daddy, have you had a haircut?'. I tried to explain …

COVID-19 vs Disastrous Dinners

We1 have a couple of IChemE events planned for later this month, or rather had. Today we have postponed our Troubleshooting Distillation and Absorption Column Internals event that was scheduled to be held in Glasgow on the 19th. Many businesses are cancelling all but essential meetings and the presenter …

Getting Warmer

I had an interesting interaction with my son this morning. He offered me a pretend cup of tea, I took it, made a comment about how hot it was and put it aside to let it cool down. He then took the cup, blew on it and told me he …

Reflections of a Pause

I decided to stop posting daily and use the extra time to work on other things in the evening. I wanted to see the effect of changing how I use my limited resources of time and focus.

The first night was very successful. At the time when I would normally …

Pressing Pause

Towards the tail end of last year I spent a number of days considering how I spend my time and asking if I am truly getting value for it. For example, I don't spend time watching the news or any other TV shows. I do go to a gym class …

Synchronising Wants and Commitments

There are times when I want to do all sorts of extra activities, write about this, program something to do that or fix some other thing. Sometimes these activities are based on the computer others are physical tasks around the house or garden.

Unfortunately of late, I have found that …

Not so Different

On Tuesday night I bemoaned that I was unable to borrow my wifes brompton fold up bike because it has been out of service for several months. One nut had fallen off and we had never gotten round to getting it fixed. For some reason I had gotten it into …

Cooking with Science

Last night, the IChemE Scottish Members Group hosted a Cooking with Science workshop. Our presenter, Kostas, has hosted this kind of workshop at a few of the local science festivals.

The event was hosted in one of the classrooms at the University of Edinburgh; I believe that the last time …

Life Without Two Wheels

I am attending an event at n Edinburgh tonight, a fair distance from the city centre. In the past when going to this venue, I would take a train, with my wife's Brompton, then cycle the rest of the way out.

Unfortunately my wife's Brompton is out of service just …

Vampire Overalls

I was asked to join some others on a site visit today to look at an upcoming job. As a control engineer, it is very rare that I have to ware overalls and do site visits, most of my time is at my desk, in the control room or in …

Over Consumption

In the past I have commented that I have limited a lot of my general consumption. I have mostly stopped using social media and after a week when our TV broke, I noticed that I didn't miss anything and have not watched much since then [ref] With the exception of …

What I Don’t Know.txt

One of the problems with trying to improve is that you don’t know what you don’t know. I don’t have any solution to this problem (if you do have a solution, please let me know). But there are sometimes clues, occasions when you realise that there is …

You don't live once

You have probably heard the quip

You only live once

It is usually used as an excuse to justify doing something that is unwise.

On a podcast today, I heard a brilliant response:

No. You only die once. You live every day.

Stuck in Traffic

Recently, with the Queensferry Bridge being closed there has been a lot of people getting stuck in their vehicles longer than normal. Even people who would normally go nowhere near the bridge are getting feeling disruption because all the bridge traffic is now clogging up their normal route. Then there …

Sugar Toxicity

I looked up the physical properties of sugar to answer a question, and while I was reading, I noticed the LD50 value.

LD50 or Lethal Dose 50 is the dosage required to deliver a 50% chance of death. Obviously we have limited data on this for most substances, it is …

Missing Training

I attended a training session today on compressors, turbines and how they are controlled. It was specifically looking at the advanced control schemes used to avoid surge, while maintaining smooth operation and maximising the operating range of the machines.

While the specifics of the algorithms used were interesting, it was …

Stuck in my Head

I have had a couple of occasions over the last few days when I have been left to my own thoughts, able to think freely without distraction for a prolonged period of time. During these occasions, I thought of lots it things that I want to write down, long flowing …

Just get on with it!

I have just caught myself trying to come up with excuses for not doing a job, looking for alternative "better" tasks to do instead. The thing is that the task wasn't that hard or unpleasant. I spent longer looking for a alternative than if I had just done the task …

Getting the Better of the Weather

Despite the forecast of Storm Ciara, we decided to risk it and go on an expedition today. This was not us being cleaver, only cheap. Denise had a spare train ticket that was about to expire. So we ventured into the city to make the most of the day.

While …

How Do You Know If You Understand Something?

The best way to find out if you really understand something is to explain it to someone else. I haven't found any other test that is as rigorous and certain to uncover the truth.

I was reminded of this today. I knew that I wasn't completely up to speed with …

Scottish IChemE Events and Survey

Below is an email sent to the members of the IChemE Scottish members group


Hi Everyone,

We have been busy organising the first few events of the year, but we haven’t really gotten around to publicising them. The events are now live on the Scottish Members Group events page …

Putting £26 million in Context

As part of the COP 26 push, the prime minister also highlighted the £2bn that the government has agreed to spend on meeting the net zero target, including up to £1bn to encourage the take-up of electric vehicles, £222m for research into nuclear fusion, and £26m for carbon capture technology …

Not so SMART Goals

Smart goals are defined as:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Realistic
  • Timed

Smart goals are often described as the "correct" way to set goals and if you don't set yourself smart goals, you won't achieve good results.

I don't particularly like smart goals.

My first issue is with the acronym. Specific and …

A Difficult Task

I was faced with a difficult task today. The task wasn't physically or technically difficult to carry out. I just had to go down stairs and help tidy up.

What made it difficult was that my youngest child had fallen asleep in my arms. It was very tempting just to …

Closing Time

Tonight we went out for a family dinner. We picked a local pub/restaurant that had a soft play room at the back.

For the first hour the kids had lots of fun running back and forward, up and down the play equipment. Then disaster struck, at 6pm, the staff …

Focusing on the Controllable

One of the main components of the Stoic philosophy is the dichotomy of control. The vast majority of things that happen are not under our control. We may be able to, at best, influence things. The things that are under our control are very limited and essentially boil down to …

No Longer Married to a Foreigner

Today, at a quiet private ceremony, my wife became british. I am now the only one in our family who is not a dual citizen. The ceremony was relatively short, included a bit of local history, pledging allegiance to the queen and country and finished up with everyone standing and …

No More No-Replies

I am getting more and more fed up with companies using no-reply email addresses. It is almost as if it is a trendy thing to do that all big businesses do. If you don't send emails via a no-reply email address, you are clearly just an amature outfit.

It is …

Typical Weather

I feel like I want to complain. Last weekend we were away for our winter trip. I remember going skiing during these trips when I was younger. But we haven't had anywhere near enough snow in recent years. This year, after the holiday, on my first day back at work …

Taxed Again

Earlier this month, I completed the (online) paperwork for the UK tax. All things considered, it was actually a pretty easy system. The online forms from HMRC did actually help you and did do most of the calculations for you.

Today we tackled the US tax paperwork. By the end …

The Power of the Railways

I spent the last weekend up at Nethybridge in the Highlands. While I have been there many times, I learnt something new this time.

Apparently 1 the village was originally called Abernethy, but when the railway station was built, this would have caused confusion with the other Abernethy near Perth …

Some Hae Meat

Some hae meat and canna eat,
And some wad eat that want it,
But we hae meat and we can eat,
Sae let the Lord be Thankit!

The Selkirk Grace, Robert Burns

The above prayer is often recited before a burns supper. I expect that vegetarians (and vegans) would be …