Latest posts

Stillness and Calm

It is easy to forget what Stillness and Calm can feel like. Particularly a sustained period of stillness when life revolves around two noisy kids.

I had the opportunity to sit in complete stillness and calm for an hour today. No phone to distract me. Just sitting and having to …

Deadbands

Continuing after last week's discussion about process noise, I will now cover another tool used to help mitigate noise.

Deadbands are useful when the the result is a digital signal, it is either on or off. Most control loops are analogue and have a range of outputs, usually a control …

Making the Most of My Time: Maintaining My Home Server

Following Sunday's post, I am continuing to review the activities I spent my time on and consider whether these activities add true value.

Today's post will look at how much time I spent maintaining a personal web server.

What do I maintain?

My personal web server acts as a private …

Making the Most of My Time: Following News

Following Sunday's post, I have decided to review the activities I spent my time on and consider whether these activities add true value.

Today's post will look an my news consumption habits.

Why do we follow the news?

The reasons most people give for watching or reading the news is …

Silly Graphs

And this elections prize for most deceptive graph that I have seen goes to the conservatives.

To be fair, I have mostly been ignoring this election as far as possible, but the flyer put through our door managed to surprise me at its creativity.

Election leaflet showing change in vote share at the last election.
Misleading leaflet
Election leaflet showing change in vote share at the last election.
Misleading leaflet
Close

It …

Believing Signs

A local road on my route to work has been closed for over a week now. At the bottom of the hill, there are signs on the main road stating "ROAD ON LEFT CLOSED". There is a barrier crossing half the road saying "ROAD AHEAD CLOSED. LOCAL ACCESS ONLY".

Luckily …

Making the Most of My Time: Cycling to Work

After yesterday's post, I have decided to review the activities I spent my time on and consider whether these activities add true value.

The first activity I want to consider is my cycle commute.

How much does it cost?

Time wise, it takes about 15 minutes to cycle to work …

Deciding What Not To Do

There are lots of personal projects I want to work on. There are lots of skills I want to learn. And this is a great time to be around. There are so many opportunities to learn so many different skills for free. The barrier to entry for many projects has …

Filters

Graph showing a noisy signal that bounces around a lot
Noisy Signal
Graph showing a noisy signal that bounces around a lot
Noisy Signal
Close

Previously I have talked about noise in the measurements that are used to control the process. These variations can cause the system to react unnecessarily and introduce disturbances to the process.

While we should always try to avoid noise by selecting suitable instruments and installing …

Changing the Plan

As eluded to yesterday, I had planned to get back to commuting by bike. On the days that the kids are in nursery, this means cycling across town to pick them up before heading home.

Yesterday was going to be the first time I did this after the accident. Unfortunately …

The Plan

Plan - cycle to work
Then cycle the kids back home
But.. not in that storm

True Wealth

A while back I read an article that talked about wealth. The author had initially thought that wealth was the ability to walk into a shop and see all the things that you can afford. Years later they decided that true wealth was the ability to walk into the shop …

Giving Tuesday

I have just been made aware of "Giving Tuesday", coinciding after Black Friday and Cyber Monday. It is a day to donate to a good cause instead.

By sheer coincidence, I did my annual charity allocation early this morning. I have a CAF1 account and make regular payments into …

Low Salt Salted Caramel

It has to be said, salted caramel is horrible. It is not as if I am afraid to try a new thing, I have tried it multiple times.

It tastes horrible. Every time.

It is the same with salted chocolate as well. I just don’t like the taste of …

Simultaneous Books

For the last couple of weeks, I have been "reading" two nonfiction books. One in ebook format and the other as an audiobook. The books have been about similar topics and written in a similar style. As a result, the two have mashed together in my head. I can't remember …

Noise

What is noise? Depends on what subject you are talking about. If you are talking about what your ears sense, then it is a bunch of pressure waves that move through the air. But in the case of this post, I am actually talking about noise in a process control …

Buying Time

As yesterday was Thanksgiving in America, and my family are American, I thought I would treat them to a roast.

Before heading out to the shops, I looked up a couple of recipes and added any ingredients that we were missing to the shopping list using an Amazon Alexa. One …

Being Thankful for My Mistake

Mayby the mistake I discussed yesterday was not such a bad one. If I had booked the correct tickets, I would have been stuck in London when this happened:

West Coast Mainline passengers 'stranded for seven hours'

Hundreds of passengers on the West Coast Mainline have been stranded for hours …

Reviewing My Mistakes

Back in August, I made a mistake. Part of me wants to forget all about it. Ignore it, pretend that it didn't happen.

But I have been fairly vocal that we should be learning from our mistakes and ideally, learning from other people's mistakes. If course that only works if …

Travel Nerves

For the last three hours, I have progressively been getting more and more nervous. I am about to leave on a short trip, setting off late in the evening.

Rather than rushing around during the day when kids are about to undo anything I had just done, I decided to …

Third One's a Charm

Tonight I hosted my third IChemE Members group committee meeting as chair. I had mentioned previously that I used to be able to chair quick meetings that didn't overrun. The Scottish Members Group meetings are notorious for overrunning, so I knew it would be a challenge. In the first two …

Smartphones = Cigarettes

When I was listening to a random old podcast interview with Cal Newport, he mentioned that a knowledge worker using a smartphone is similar to an endurance athlete smoking a cigarette.

Smartphones and the apps on them are designed to catch your attention. They end up distracting you from getting …

Output Characterisation

When a control valve opens, the flow through it increases. But the increase in flow is not necessarily linear, the rate of change in flow may be different depending on how far open the valve already is.

If the flow through a valve was linear, every time the valve opens …

Forrest School

My eldest son has been attending "forest school" for the last three weeks. This has been an outing organised by his nursery where some of the kids are taken to a local wood and they get to play, explore, built a den, help make a fire and roast marshmallows.

This …

Good Work Can Last

I received an unexpected compliment at work today. About five years ago, I had to write a document detailing a complex procedure. Previously, whenever this procedure was carried out, a bespoke procedure was written every time. I put some extra effort into making it generic enough to be able to …

Disastrous Dinners: Kegworth

Last night we held our final disastrous dinner of the year. This month's topic was the Kegworth air disaster when a passenger aircraft crashed into the M1 motorway just outside East Midlands airport.

Not long after takeoff, one of the engine fan blades failed, causing lots of vibrations. The pilots …

Jargon Overload

Today I attended a short introductory course on functional safety. The course mostly covered what we are expected to do to meet the the guidance for building and maintaining safety systems.

Personally, I think one of the main barriers to carrying out these tasks safely is the huge quantity of …

Frosted Windscreens

Aug, frosty mornings. The beautiful crisp air and sparkling ground. The sight of your breath as it condenses in front of you and of course the thick layer of frost and ice left on the car windscreen.

Of course it is frustrating to go outside and find your car all …

Relaxed Reading

I ended up alone the n the house for about an hour this morning. Rather than rushing around in an attempt to get some housework done, u took the time to relax and read.

I had a long list of articles that I had wanted to get around to reading …

PV Tracking

When a control loop is placed in manual, the output is fixed. It doesn't change any more, it stays where it was or where the operator sets it. As a result, the process can change significantly, the measurement or PV (Process Value) can go much higher or lower than where …

Recreational Rebuild

I spent my day off work attempting to rebuild a web server. As usual with these things, my initial estimate for duration was significantly off. Lots of silly problems and unexpected errors to get past.

In the end, I got to a stage where Ihad to decide if I was …

Eleven!!!!!

We got an amazon dot.

Sure enough, Alexa could not understand either of us when we said elevel no matter how we pronounced it.

Another Cycling Advantage

I am still not back on my bike yet, but there is one extra thing that is encouraging me to do so this week:

When cycling, I don't have to bother de-icing the car!

Not in Trouble

I couple of weeks ago, u arrived at work to overhear one of the managers on the phone saying:

...I have talked to (my manager) about Alistair Marshall...

Of course, the first thing I think is "uh oh, what have I done to upset him?". I then thought of another …

Armistice

After yesterday's post, though more about the different services to commemorate the end of the first world war. I knew that the day was called Armistice Day, yet it had never occurred to me to ask what armistice actually meant.

It means the end of fighting. Not necessarily lasting peace …

Remember What?

On Remembrance Sunday, what are we actually remembering? Are we remembering the horrors of war? The huge destruction of lives and families? The horrors that those that survived had to live with.

Or have we started to remember something else? Have we started to instead remember a romanticised version of …

Electrical Engineering for Chemical Engineers

A fellow chemical engineer told me that there are only two things about electricity that a chemical engineer needs to know:

  • You can't see it.
  • It can kill you.

Anything else is a problem for an electrical engineer.

While I do enjoy learning about other disciplines, I generally agree with …

Working with a Toddler

I had to stay home and look after my youngest kid who was not able to go to nursery today. I suspected that I would not get much work done, probably just an hour during nap time.

I got much more than that. For some reason, I was left to …

Reading the Manual

I spent a lot of time yesterday trying to fix a graphic. Most of the day felt like a waste as I tried different settings and menus, but I didn't manage to fix the problem. Then, just as I was about to leave, I found a set of pdf manuals …

A Nice Pain

For the last couple of weeks, I have experienced mild pain when walking about as a result of the accident. Today I also experienced mild pain, though it was different.

Yesterday was the first time I made it back to a circuits class in the gym and today's pain was …

Finally Attended the Fireworks

For the last three years, we have attempted to make it along to the local fireworks display in calendar park. For one reason or another, we kept having to cancel. But this year everything worked great. The weather was mild and dry. The kids were excited to watch.

Asking For It

I sent an email today that I could come to regret. I am in the process of modifying lots of graphics as part of a project. I thought that it would be a good opportunity to correct any errors in the graphics while I was at it.

The problem is …

Saving Money

On Friday I sorted my car insurance out for the next year. Rather than pay the renewal, I shopped around and ended up saving about £50.

Tonight my wife filled out the form that would let her become a British citizen. The application fee is over £1200.

It will take …

Alarm Floods

Alarms are the control system's was of shouting at the operator. If saying "STOP WHAT YOU ARE DOING AND LOOK AT THIS". The problem is that it takes time for the operator to stop what they were doing, look at the alarm. Then look at what else is going on …

Happy birthday IKEA Edinburgh

I had the day off work and the kids were in nursery, so we took the opportunity to go to Ikea mid-week sans-kids. I was somewhat surprised when I got out of the car:

Sign announcing IKEA Edinburgh’s 20th Birthday
Happy birthday
Sign announcing IKEA Edinburgh’s 20th Birthday
Happy birthday
Close

Apparently the IKEA just outside Edinburgh opened 20 years ago. Of …

More Phantom Work

After yesterday's frustration, I went back to the project again this morning. This time I actually made progress. At least until lunchtime.

Unfortunately something went wrong with the remote connection and I was kicked off during lunch. This means that I could not commit my changes. At some point tonight …

Phantom Work

Last week I spent a whole day updating a graphic to make it compatible with a planned upgrade. Unfortunately I forgot to save the file in the correct location. At midnight a script synchronised all the documents and overwrote my work.

I only found out late this morning when I …

Unhelpful Statistics

The headline of a BBC news article I spotted at lunchtime read: Homicide numbers in Scotland show slight rise

The sub heading read:

A total of 61 people were killed across the country last year - up 2% on the previous 12 months.

Why on earth would you bother putting a …

Do Over the Last Week

As we were getting ready to leave for work, Denise commented that it is almost like the authorities have declared "Ok, you lot messed up last time you had to get used to going to work in the dark. Try it again".

I certainly wish we could properly do over …

A Little Less Stupid

In a podcast that I have just listed to, someone said:

Take every opportunity to be a little less stupid.

I love the phrase. It is a brilliant motto. Be mindful each day to find out what you don't know, and do something about it. Keep searching for more things …