Pun of the day
Posted Jan 12, 2007
In response to the management bull-doo-doo phrase "push the envelope", I saw someone write "You shouldn't push envelopes. They should be left stationery."
Posted Jan 5, 2007
So, this morning, after a night of little and interrupted sleep, I was cut up by a van on the way to work. I leaned on my horn, and was vexed further when 50 yards up the road he filtered into the right hand lane - so he needn't have bothered practically forcing me into the verge.
I was going straight on. Naturally, as I drew level with him in the traffic light queue, I looked him in the eye and made the universal gesture for wrist exercise. I was still making said gesture when I hit the car in front.
Now, I relate this story for a number of reasons.
First, since absolutely no damage was done to my car or the car in front, it basically doesn't matter.
Second, it's quite funny. I'll bet that van driver has told everyone he met today and had a good chuckle. I hope you do too.
Third, it's out of character for me to behave like that on the road. Normally my mantra is "just let it go". Any other day, as I drew level with the van, I'd not have looked at him, and simply shook my head as if to say quietly to myself "some people!". I find it's a much more effective way of expressing disapproval, because they've nowhere to go from that. As it was, since my response to his bad driving was belligerence, he felt justified in giving me the wrist action gesture back, and no doubt amused that I then had a bump. I can only plead near exhaustion from sleep loss.
Finally, I would plead that anyone reading this follows my normal mantra - if someone cuts you up or otherwise offends you on the road... let it go. It doesn't matter. If you must, comfort yourself with the knowledge that if they carry on that way, they'll be dead soon.
My cousin, jumping a motorcycle over 25 cars.
Posted Oct 23, 2006
My cousin Richard's friends call him "Chin", because he has a big chin. (They're an imaginative bunch. Then again, they could have called him "Dick", but they don't...)
Anyway, he once jumped a motorcycle over a line of 25 cars, and I videoed it and put it on YouTube.
Kids: don't try this at home. Do it in pub car park, like we did.
Doing proper chemical engineering
Posted Oct 18, 2006
Today was a good day at work. Finally the subcontractors, who've been dragging their feet since the shutdown ended, have got the plant in a position where we can begin water trials.
This is the bit where the chemical plant you've designed is supposedly finished and ready to use, but you don't put product in it yet, you run the thing with just water in case it spews out all over the floor (which it unaccountably does EVERY TIME no matter how many times you check).
This is the best bit of a chemical engineer's job, I think. The bit where you get to actually play with the toys you've designed before you have to give them back to the company for them to make money with. It's a wonderful, stimulating time of creative problem solving, time management, thinking on your feet and a succession of little triumphs when the things you imagined on a piece of paper months before stand before you, steel and plastic and computer chips and pumps and instruments and agitators, all working.
Today I also did some *proper* engineering. One of the tasks of the day was to recirculate water round six closed loops, filling some vessel on the way. At one point the pump stopped. Four years of university education and over a dozen years of experience as a chartered chemical engineer came to the fore as I resolved the problem by... twatting it with a spanner. Which worked!
I love my job.
A public service to science education
Posted Oct 14, 2006
Today, not for the first time, I performed, for no charge, a public service to science education.
I was in Waterstone's bookshop in Manchester, browsing, as I often do, the "Popular Science" section. While there, I noticed a book titled "Darwin's Black Box", by Michael Behe, a book which details Mr. Behe's difficulties with the theory of evolution, and specifically his concept of "irreducible complexity". "Irreducible complexity" may be summarised as "I don't understand how this could have evolved, therefore it didn't evolve". Mr. Behe's unstated but clear corollary to "it didn't evolve" is, of course, that the god of his choice "created" it, whatever it may be. This book has recently been republished in a "tenth anniversary edition", an edition which rather disingenuously fails to mention Mr. Behe's comprehensive drubbing at the hands of the judge in the Dover Pennsylvania "intelligent design" court case: http://pharyngula.org/index/weblog/comments/thank_you_michael_behe/
Obviously the presence of such a book in a section about *science* was an error on the part of the bookshop staff, so, to save them some time and embarrassment, I personally, out of the goodness of my heart, relocated the book to where it belongs - the "Mind Body and Spirit" section of the shop, amongst the books about astrology, crystal healing, speaking to the dead, bending spoons and other superstitious irrational garbage.
I urge anyone who cares about the integrity and continuity of science education to check their local bookshop, and if you find this booked shelved incorrectly among books on science, please do as I did and return it to the "woo woo" section where it belongs.
I would like to make it clear I in no way support or condone anyone who shoplifts this book and uses the pages as toilet tissue.