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Working While Cycling

I attempted to get on with some deep work today, trying to get my head around some concepts and work out what the best way to approach a certain problem is. I don't manage to get very far. Despite several attempts to focus on the problem, my brain wasn ...

When You Don't Want to Listen to the Proclaimers

I normally enjoy listening to the Proclaimers, but there was a point when they were played recently and I really wish that they weren't on.

Everyone else was enjoying the song, but I was driving. All I wanted to do was tap my foot to the music, but that ...

Alarms

Alarms are a common feature of all control systems. They are a way of letting the control system shout "HEY, STOP WHAT YOU ARE DOING AND LOOK AT THIS" to the operator.

They are set off when a reading such as s temperature or a level, goes beyond the range ...

Fixed it in the End

The theme of this week can be summed up with a couple of XKCD comics: Repairs and Success.

Each day was a different project. Each day I started with full enthusiasm to fix or improve something. Each day I regretted it by mid morning. Luckily I did manage to get ...

What is a channel?

Question from the one of the kids:

What is a channel?

We were discussing putting on cbeebies radio.

Mum (to me) Could you line up BBC sounds

Kid But I want to listen to cbeebies radio

Mum it's ok, cbeebies radio is a channel on BBC sounds

Kid what ...

Speed Golf

Some of my colleagues were discussing how to make golf more interesting. After all, as Mark Twain probably didn't say:

Golf is a Good Walk Spoiled

The improvement came in the form of speeding it up. How fast can you get around the course. Hit the ball and chase ...

New Code Project

I have just started a new coding project and I am in one of the worst phases. Before starting, I was full of ideas and enthusiasm. I could envision the finished product. I could imagine all the extra bells and whistles that could get added.

And then I started to ...

Time Travel Touring

This evening, I was at a meeting in Edinburgh, around the are I spent a lot of time as a student. As I passed a shop, I instantly remembered walking to it the night after I moved into my flat in second year. I remembered the heavy rain that didn ...

Running With The Kenyans

I have just finished reading Running With The Kenyans by Adharanand Finn. The book is an account of an amateur runner's experience of spending six months living in Kenya in the town that many world class endurance runners live and train. The book examines what factors contribute to the ...

Override Control

I do not think that we covered override control loops while at university, the first time I came across them was in the sugar factory. Yet they are used a lot and are incredibly useful. I don't understand why they aren't covered in introductory control classes.

Override control ...

October's Disastrous Dinner

The next Disastrous Dinner will be held in Glasgow in two weeks time! It is a bit last minute this month, but signups are available on the IChemE website

The topic will be the Bakkan fields oil disaster 2008, by Christopher Laughlan. The talk will focus on the actions of ...

Library Audiobooks

I have been listening to audiobooks from the library using an app on my phone. It is great. There are lots of books available for free. Unlike reading a book (either ebook or paper), I don’t get tired and need a rest.

The downside is that I can find ...

Background Noise

The job I spent most of today required a fair amount of focus. It wasn't a particularly difficult task, but took quite a while and was pretty repetitive.

I had lots of errors on lots of files, and I just had to work my way through each one fixing ...

Happy with my Position

Last night I attended a "networking mixer" by the Edinburgh University ChemEng Society. A selection of alumni were invited along to give some short talks about the companies they work for, what their career has been like and advise for those that are looking to get a placement or graduate ...

Is it Worth the Time

There is a great XKCD comic, is it worth the time, that displays the maximum amount of time you can spend on a project before the payback is more than 5 years, depending on how often you do it, and how much time you save each time you do it ...

All I Want for Christmas

We have now been asked by two seperate people what our youngest son wants for his birthday (later this month) and more widely, what everyone in the family wants for Christmas. In previous years, I have always had a fairly extensive ‘I want’ list. A list of things that I ...

The Cascade Loop

Most control loops try to keep whatever is measured at a value set by the operator (SetPoint, SP). Sometimes the operator lets something else decide the setpoint. This is called cascade.

In most cases this means two control loops work together. The output of the first decides the setpoint of ...

Getting Drunk in Reverse

I am currently reading Running With The Kenyans by Adharanand Finn. I won't say much just now, I intend to write a longer writeup once I have finished. But for now I want to capture a quote from the book that I think is brilliantly accurate:

Running is like ...

What is a Mermaid?

One of our bedtime stories involves a mermaid. This prompted the question "what is a mermaid?"

We thought that the answer is easy: half person, half fish. But then our son told us that he thought that we were wrong. He thought that they were half person and half whale ...

Alfa Laval Talk

Today I hosted a presentation by Alfa Laval at Grangemouth covering a couple of their compact heat exchangers. What follows are my rough notes from the talk.

I went into the presentation with a little bit of experience of alfa laval exchangers, several were used in the sugar factories that ...

TV Tokens

Kids love watching TV. My eldest son could quite happily watch TV all day everyday. And he is not happy with us when we turn it off.

We know that too much screen time is bad for them and we have tried to minimise the amount of time that the ...

Mornings Like This

It is on mornings like this that I appreciate getting to cycle and enjoy the view.

View over the forth valley at sunrise
Good Morning
View over the forth valley at sunrise
Good Morning
Close

One Way to Get Off Facebook

My wife's phone has been on its last legs for a while now. When the fairphone 3 was announced, we decided to purchase one. It still hasn't arrived and yet the old phone has completely died now, the screen has completely shattered. It will be a particularly frustrating ...

The PID Loop

In last week's edition of Simple Saturdays, I talked about control loops. This week I will talk about the PID loop. Unlike many explanations of the PID loop, I will keep it simple. I will avoid showing the equation that a controller uses. The truth is that as a ...

Which Plug?

I had my laptop plugged into a bank of 4 sockets in a meeting room. But which socket was I plugged into? I don't want to unplug the projector by accident. Following the cables is harder because they were threaded down the back of the desks, keeping things nice ...

Hazops Are Not a Panacea

Last night's disastrous dinner involved a plant that had been operating only a short while before the disaster struck. The process involved fermentation and so the equipment had to get steamed out to sterilise the process. After the sterilisation step of the broth receiver was completed, the broth from ...

Phone to Check

Tonight's disastrous dinner nearly was a disaster in its own right. I phoned up the venue at lunchtime to confirm the final numbers. There was a bit of confusion when I talked about the event. They kept referring to "the show" while I was talking about "the talk".

It ...

Lights On

This morning I was cycling about an hour earlier than normal because I was attending a gym class. This was the first journey this winter that required my bike lights.

When I first looked out I was disheartened. I didn't want to go out in the dark. I didn ...

Faster by Foot

The distance between the kids nursery and our house is 5 km. This is the same distance as a parkrun.

Tonight, I realized that the time it takes me to cycle home was almost exactly 50% longer than when I ran the same distance at the weekend.

Admittedly I am ...

Review: One Hour Investor

This post is a review of One Hour Investor by Vishal Reddy and published by TCK Publishing.

Disclosure: I was sent an electronic review copy of the book.

I was initially put off by the way the book was being markted. "Become an investment genius in just one hour!" - I ...

What is a Control Loop?

The way we manage to get our factories to make the things we want them to is by getting liquids to flow various pipes at the right speeds, by making sure they are at the correct temperature. We need to ensure tanks don’t overflow and the pressure inside is ...

Wanted: Venue in Glasgow

I need a new venue to host a Disastrous Dinner in Glasgow.

We held a talk last March in the Griffin, but we must have gotten lucky last time. The room is used for pre-theater dining so we can’t get the venue till after 8pm (at which time the ...

5 Year Steps

10 years ago I joined the workforce as the world was still processing the financial crisis. There were many predictions back then about how much things were going to change. But in truth, it had been virtually business as usual.

5 years ago Scotland voted to remain part of the ...

Initially Useful

My parents have been away on holiday and while they were out, a parcel was delivered for my dad. I had been warned that this might happen and was asked to collect it from the delivery office. I agreed, that would be no problem. Until I had the delivery note ...

The Curse of the Intermittent Fault

At the end of last year, I made a temporary change on the control system. A temperature transmitter, which is used to control the temperature of gas leaving a cooler, kept seeing sudden drops in temperature. The control system would see these drops and would respond quickly to them and ...

Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells

Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells

Both boys seem to enjoy singing Jingle bells just now, despite the time of year...

Jingle all the way

They were singing it constantly while they sat in the bike trailer as I cycled home this evening...

Oh what fun it is to ride on a ...

33 Seconds Can Make a Big Difference

I completed my second parkrun yesterday and it felt like a completely different event.

The first time, I felt like I was always beside others. Either I was on someone's shoulder or someone else was right behind me. The furthest we spread out was no more than 5 meters ...

What is Partial Pressure?

In the first of my simple Saturday posts, I will cover the term partial pressure. This term is critical to much of chemical engineering and I was very familiar with it during my time at university. But once I graduated and worked in a sugar factory, I didn't use ...

Staying in a Professional Lane

When looking back at my career so far, one thing has jumped out at me: I am rubbish at staying in a professional lane. I haven’t picked one professional niche and stuck with it.

I started out working in operations at a food factory. I spent a small amount ...

Halfway There

All my employer pensions make the assumption that I will retire at 65. I have realised that if I were to retire at 65, I have just passed the halfway point between my birth and my retirement date.

It is kind of scary when I think about how much the ...

Comparing Yourself To Others

Continuing on from yesterday’s post, I have been thinking more about how we compare ourselves with others. While I was a student (both at highschool and at university) I was regularly referred to as a “fitness freak”. I liked to run and did so regularly.

The thing is, if ...

Are You Digitally Skilled?

When listening to a recent podcast, the guest being interviewed mentioned that he got to a stage in his career and noticed that he had stopped developing his skillset. He made an effort to start learning again, and in particular developing his "digital skillset". He now considers himself digitally competent ...

Staring into the Crystal Ball

Tonight I met up with our treasurer to put together a budget for the next year. This should include a rough plan for all the events in 2020. Considering I thought we were doing well when I managed to organise an event more than two months in advance, the idea ...

New Ratesetter Returns

Ratesetter1 have recently come out with three new products, replacing their "rolling market" product. The new products will take effect from the 3rd of October.

The rolling market product has been renamed "Access" and effectively remains unchanged, though it looks like they are trying to stabilise the returns at ...

Simple Saturdays: Introduction

I dislike the amount of jargon we tend to use in our daily work lives. We use acronyms like CCR (central control room) rather than just saying "control room". We refer to equipment tags like P101 rather than simply describing the equipment like "feed pump". It is not as if ...

An Uncomfortable Encounter

On my way home tonight I was involved in a road rage incident. Annoyingly I don't have video of the first part of the encounter, I had forgotten to turn the recorder on until after the first horn blasts.

Some driver decided that he needed to be ahead of ...

Uncertainties

Spreadsheets are awesome at letting you play with numbers. Put all sorts of values in and get back a number that is supposed to tell you the answer.

I recently had a play with a sheet that made a projection. Lots of different values were required. Lots of different equations ...

Hosting Quick Meetings

Early in my career, I had a duty to occasionally host a daily meeting. I was always worried that I would make a mess of it, that the meeting would drag on, that we wouldn't get round to covering all the necessary items. It turned out that it wasn ...

The Dreaded Task

I have recently signed up to a website for an organisation's alumni. After proving my identity and successfully logging in, I am faced with one of life's dreaded tasks:

Filling out my profile, including a short bio.

Does anyone actually enjoy or at least not hate filling these ...

Looking on the Bright Side

Today, rather than cycling 10 minutes down the hill to the refinery, I drove 45 minutes to another site to attend a trial at a suppliers factory.

When I arrived, I was informed that the test had been cancelled. Everyone else on the team was informed, I just got missed ...