Latest posts

I Really Meant It!

I had to take my son to see the out of hours GP at the weekend. After arriving spot on time, the receptionist confirmed our appointment and asked us to take a seat.

After half an hour, he got up from his desk, came over to the waiting area and ...

New? Really?

Our family has been dairy free for a few years now. One of the alternatives we have found and liked is Go-On by alpro. This was a thick, high protein yogurt replacement that didn’t taste sour. Most supermarkets sold a small desert style version if it with some fruit ...

Contribution and Effect

Most folk are aware of the concept of cause and effect. Something happens that then leads to something else happening. I throw a ball across the room (cause), something gets broken when it is hit by the ball (effect). While there are many cases that a simple cause and effect ...

Where Did The Week Go?

This week seems to have flown by. To be fair, I did take Monday off to recover from nightshift, and the spent the rest of the week trying to recover from a cold/stomach bug. As a result, I have been very tired and not very productive with my down ...

Stop This Madness

When the UK voted to leave the EU I was sad but I didn't fight it. I believe that the people's voice should not be ignored. So I didn't sign any petitions at the time. I didn't support any of the legal challenges. I accepted that ...

Reading Gymnastics

I am currently reading a book and I suspect that my politics completely disagree with that of the author's. The author makes many remarks that I feel are pretty and unnecessary, but bluntly criticise some group of people.

I am fairly sure that there are some useful things that ...

Teaching Others

One thing I noticed during the regen was that I always ended up in a better mood after I had a teaching session. Anytime someone asked me about the process, I couldn't help myself and would launch into a lecture about it. I really do enjoy the opportunity to ...

Out of the Loop

I am currently feeling very out of the loop. This is partly because I have spent the last 2 weeks on nightshift, which completely disrupted my normal routines and interactions. But the other reason is that my feed reader broke, the tool I use to keep tabs on updates from ...

Done

That is me done. The regen is over. We reintroduced feed at 03:10 this morning and I am now off of nightshift.

I am extremely tired just now, partially because I have just worked for 12 hours a day, for 12 out of the last 13 days. The other ...

The End is in Sight

Last night we were running through the next phases of the regen and it suddenly hit me. There is not much left. Should be finished at some point over the weekend and I might not need to go in on Sunday night.

I think that might be the reason that ...

Regen Weather

The regen is progressing well but I noticed something weird last night as I walked into the unit. The ground was dry.

Up to that point there had been lots of large puddles around the unit, and the bits between the puddles were also kept wet with regular rain showers ...

Thoughts on The Blue Zones

I have just finished reading 'The Blue Zones' by Dan Buettner. The concept behind the blue zones is that there are certain areas around the world where people live much longer than normal. These areas have significantly higher numbers of people living into their 90s or over 100. Not only ...

Night Off

Last night was my rest 'day' during the event. Some folk don't like just taking one day off and feel that they need to take two in a row off to properly recover. I find that if I am on night shift, one is sufficient. There is no point ...

Not Quite All Day Breakfasts

I remember this happening last year as well. I wake up about 2 or 3 o’clock in the afternoon after a night shift. Most days I have cereal for breakfast but at some point I have a craving for a full cooked breakfast, so decide to treat myself and ...

It Doesn't Get Old

During last night's shift, we were talking about the construction of the building we were in and one of the operators asked if I remembered them building it.

I knew it was a long time before I started working there but asked when it was built and was told ...

Cooking Alone

Today, my wife was at work and the kids at nursery while I slept1. I woke up with just over an hour before I needed to collect the kids, so spend that time cooking dinner for the family while I had the house to myself.

It has been great ...

What a Rush

Ahh, I remember this feeling.

Each regen, I alway have a moment when I remember how previous regens have felt. I felt the feeling for most of last night's shift and the first couple of hours of this shift. It is not continuous throughout the event, but there are ...

Financial 'Advice'

Back in November my company offered everyone a half day pensions workshop to explain how pensions worked. It covered what limits you might hit in terms of various allowances and other tax implications. At the end of the session, we were invited to fill in some forms for one free ...

One Shift Down

Slow progress but we did make progress. My brain felt like it was working through molasses. Very slow to do anything.

On the plus side: I got a good days sleep.

Hopefully tonight will be slicker.

After Midnight

It looks like the shutdown will be delayed slightly due to a vulnerability on a different unit. I went into work tonight to monitor a short trial, however the trial was cancelled.

I wasn't too bothered, I had intended to stay up tonight in an attempt to get my ...

Last Day Before The Regen

Today was the last day before I am working nightshifts on the shutdown. This will involve long hours and sleeping at antisocial times. So today was a last chance to enjoy family life.

I was gifted a long lie in in preparation for swinging onto nightshifts. When I did get ...

Bike Testing

Today I spent the morning looking at various bikes to replace my aging cyclo-cross bike.

When I bought it, there wasn't much of a market in that area. I had actually wanted a fairly standard road bike, but the bike shop owner convinced me to go with the cyclo-cross ...

Paperwork is Pointless...

Paperwork is pointless if you don't do the rest of the work.

This is a general rule that applies in most cases, but what got my thinking about it today was in relation to safety paperwork such as risk assessments and method statements. Earlier this week, a company was ...

Making Contingencies

We are currently making contingency plans for the shutdown next week. Not the work related ones, but family related contingencies. Who picks up the kids from nursery, when do we pass them over to the other parent? What happens if all the trains are cancelled?!?

This is the first shutdown ...

Turning it Off and On Again

Yesterday we fixed a problem with one of our optimisers by, as you can probably tell from the title, turning (a bit of) it off and on again.

In this case it wasn't as simple as flicking the switch on the wall. It was one module on a remote ...

Bike Truly Bust

My bike is truly bust this time. After the chain broke previously, I tried replacing it but it still didn’t work, the chain just kept jumping. There was also more work required and the bike shop I took it to have recommended that to get a new bike will ...

Get Ready for a Regen

This time next week, I will be on night shift and probably feeling pretty tired. The unit I used to look after when I worked in operations will be having a short shutdown to regenerate the catalyst and I have been invited back outside to assist.

I am not complaining ...

Kid's Yoga

Aftery yesterday's fun, we decided to have a more relaxed day today. The morning involved tidying and resting as much as possible with two small kids running around. In the hope of getting more tidying and resting done, we put on some kid's yoga on the TV for ...

Dynamically Terrified

We decided to go on a family outing to Dynamic Earth today. I was expecting the kids to be frightened at times but it didn't quite work out as I expected.

The youngest was completely fine with the whole thing and happy to run about and poke the model ...

Merrimack Valley Gas Explosions Part 5

So it turns out there is a bit more I want to say about the Merrimack Valley Gas Explosions.

In yesterday’s post, I was rather critical of the immediate recommendations that were produced by the investigators. They seemed to be very focused on the human error side of things ...

Merrimack Valley Gas Explosions Part 4

In my final post on the Merrimack Valley Explosions1 , I want to cover the recommendations that were issued in the Safety Recommendation Report. The report makes five urgent recommendations, one to the state of Massachusetts and four to NiSource, Inc., the parent company of the operating company in charge ...

Merrimack Valley Gas Explosions Part 3

In today's post about the Merrimack Valley Explosions, I want to discuss the mitigating factors and layers of protection, or rather apparent lack of then in this case. Again I will clearly state, I don't have all the facts and am not in anyway involved. I only have ...

Merrimack Valley Gas Explosions Part 2

I mentioned in yesterday's post about a series of gas explosions that occured while I was visiting family in the USA last year. In this post I will cover how this event that 'looked like armageddon' according to a fire chief.

As with most utilities, the gas network consists ...

Merrimack Valley Gas Explosions Part 1

While I was in America last year, I saw news reports of an accident in Massachusetts where a local residential gas network was overpressured. This lead to lots of explosions and fires over three different towns. The local emergency services received over a hundred 911 emergency calls within a short ...

I Miss My G1

I have previously mentioned that my phone seems to be on its last legs and went on strike last month. Well it has gone on strike again. My main reason for not simply replacing it is that I don't like the phones on the market.

What I want is ...

Unexpected Meetup

We decided last minute to take a trip to IKEA this morning to collect a few items. When wandering around the store some strange woman crouched down to give my youngest son a cuddle.

Then I noticed that it was my mum.

Completely unplanned but it was nice to meet ...

I Took a Rest Day

I took a rest day
For recovery not play
That was yesterday

What about today
Returning without delay
For a slow Friday

Post (Speaking) Event Analysis

Last night was the second disastrous dinner and the first one I presented. When I first came up with the concept for the dinners, I was fully expecting to have to provide all the talks, at least for the first year. I felt that producing 11 talks wasn’t too ...

Disastrous Dinners: King's Cross Fire

The following is an aproximate transcript of my talk that I delivered this evening.

The main reference for the talk was the official report by Desmond Fennel OBE QC


Good evening and welcome to the second Disastrous Dinners. My name is Alistair Marshall and I am the organiser of this ...

A Meta Work Day

Today was one of those days that I didn't actually do much 'real' work.

By 'real' work I mean building, fixing or improving things. No today was a meta work day. A day spend talking or writing about other work.

This isn't necessarily a bad thing. It involved ...

Stuffed with Fluff

I remember1 a scene in Winnie-the-Pooh when Pooh Bear needs to think of something. He sits on his thinking log and wills himself to think. Think, think, think. But no answers come.

That is how I feel this evening. The more I will myself to think about the problem ...

I Reverted to Student Life for the Weekend

Considering that the next disastrous dinners is on Wednesday, and that I am presenting it, I thought that I had better start to prepare my talk this weekend. I had a rough idea of what I wanted to cover and say, but i also was aware that my knowledge on ...

Another HackerX Invitation

I wrote back in August about receiving a hackerX invitation and how I pointed out to them that I wasn't a full stack developer, but a chemical engineer.

Well I have received another invitation to one of their events.

Q: What if my employer is there?

A: Don't ...

Simple Technology

Yesterday Ken Perlin wrote about whiteboards on his blog and asks what makes the whiteboard "such a perfect vehicle for collaboration". I think a significant part of it is the lack of complex technology.

When you go to use a whiteboard, there is usually some problem you are trying to ...

Caring Too Much

Back in 2013, I was the lead operations engineer for a shutdown event. It was not a full unit turnaround, however it did involve replacing the unit's reactors, which had been in operation since the unit was first built nearly 50 years ago, with new ones. On top of ...

Advice to a 2nd Year Chem Eng Student

A friend asked me to give some advice to a second year chemical engineering student they had met at a networking event. What follows is a slightly edited version of the email I sent them.


Hi (name removed),

Your email address was passed on to me by (name removed) who ...

Finding My Limit

Last night I donated blood. This was the first time in over a year.

This morning I did my usual circuits session in the gym. Just after the halfway point, I started to get a little dizzy. Then my vision started to go.

I can confidently say that I found ...

Fixing an Unintended Consequence

Today I implemented a fix that will hopefully avoid a repeat of an incident that happend last week. It is the sort of problem that I enjoy to work on. Why isn't this doing what we would expect? And more importantly how do I get it to do what ...

An Unexpected Benefit of Computer Games

Today I discovered an unexpected practical benefit from playing computer games as a child.

In many platform games, you had to get to a location that was being guarded by a bad guy. In some games it was not possible to kill or remove the bad guy, therefore the only ...

Thanks to The Practical Stoic Podcast

I would like to thank Simon Drew, for producing The Practical Stoic Podcast. Simon has been producing three episodes a week and has over 200 episodes now. He makes a very clear and patient presentation of many aspects of modern stoicism including lots of advice.

If you are curious about ...