It's been a while since I last posted – I don't know what happened to my verve, but I quite genuinely have several posts and sketches of posts lined up, as well as finishing of a few posts related to the City of Yeardley that I haven't forgotten about. I don't know exactly why I lost The Spark, but it might be related to my recent social life – I've been out, away, and back in several places, meeting several cool people and doing some worthwhile things to enhance my career (and some of which have already made some pretty good changes). So, I have decided to do a further installment of Unconnected Miscellany.
Installments 1 and 2.
After a few years of not really paying attention to the IChemE (that's the Institute of Chemical Engineers to those outside the industry) I decided to get my membership in order and start properly moving towards becoming a chartered engineer. The route for me is slightly more convoluted because my degree is not a Masters, but a Batchelors, and in most cases it appears that I will have to do more work and prove my experience further than some of my colleagues who stayed on the extra year at Uni. Ah well. I do now get to put the letters AMIChemE after my degree, so that's a positive.
Oh man, the weather has been fabulous recently, hasn't it? I love it when it's warm enough in the mornings to be able to renege wearing a jacket and it feels so good. Also, despite my worry, the walking has yet to get boring and has, in fact, become a vital part of my waking up procedure. When driving a hire car to work I feel less awake. This has not affected my recent change in plans to procure a car of some description. Connie and I are working up to finding one that fits our purposes – mostly something big, future proofed, and also cheap to buy. Something second hand, estate and large. I will let you all know how it ends up going.
The New Born
Recently, Connie's sister (and my sister-in-law to be) Randi and her husband Morgan have had the arrival of their newly born son, Cohen Jacob, last week. This was a fabulous thing. It is strange actually – this is the first time I have been an Uncle since day one, and it is exciting and sad at the same time that I won't be able to see him until later this year, most likely at Christmas. The best thing is that Connie is able to go and see him anyway, which is more important, so I will be patiently waiting. After turning my other nephew, Kaleb, onto Sonic the Hedgehog like any good Uncle should, I can't wait to foist my love of Sonic onto another innocent.
Finally, I got back up a hill after 3 years of absence. It was a good walk, marred by mildly inclement weather, and my groin giving out after our first lunch break on the side of the hill. It was good overall as my fitness is better than it has been in years (crunches and push ups before bedtime are working, let me tell you) and the actual walking and stamina part was the best I've had since my early heady days as a younger, less beer-friendly Scout. In fact, it has reawaken my love of walking and I need to do more, which has also infected my decision to get a car above. I will post again about my fitness, but let's just say this: I'm under a 32'' waist now I think. My 34'' trousers are alarmingly large. And, as Connie attests to, I appear to have developed "pectorals" where once there were none.
Thursday, March 22, 2012
Sunday, March 04, 2012
I have touched upon this before in other posts (numerous and verbose) but it’s something I’ve not pinned down and struggled against when writing, and it has been one that I’ve considered tackling before. I am unsure of it being simply an Aberdeen based affliction, because I am certain Londoners, Glaswegians and others probably do the exact same (hell, even we, the British, do it about our own country). I am talking about disdain about where you live.
I like where I live. Aberdeen’s a pretty great place, all being said. It’s got good transport links, fabulous old architecture; good selection of shops, a small bubbling cultural scene, friendly people, good food and drink, and above all it has a sense of character. It did take me a long time to realise it due to reluctance, but once I did and showed it to others the city’s charms became harder and harder to ignore.
Of course, there are a few problems with the city, and it’d be ludicrous to say that all the complaints that are levied towards it are shunned. Most of the complaints, however, revolved around what Aberdeen isn’t, not what it is – unfair comparisons to larger, more powerful cities are like straw man arguments. Without basis, or valid comparison, they hold no water.
A recent conversation overheard in my office stated that “who the hell would want to stay in a Hotel in Aberdeen at the weekend?” to which the rest of the gentleman’s audience nodded and agreed. I disagree entirely. My fiancée’s mother visited here and she loved it. My mum and dad have made a few trips and enjoy the city. There is a veritable mass of hotels – if no one stayed in them, how else could they survive? The statement was obvious exaggeration for effect, but it was something I found quite annoying. How dare he suggest that Aberdeen’s not worthy of a visit?
I am not the only one who feels this way – recently, Lonely Planet published their guide to the top 10 hidden gems in the world, and the Granite City featured in the top 5 – of course, the piece was fluff, a piece churnalism spread across all of the tabloid press... but the intent was there – Aberdeen’s not as bad a place as you might guess, and it’s nowhere near as bad as you might expect based on some people’s opinions, normally the ones that are voiced loudest.
The same old advice comes back – if you don’t like it, leave. Why are you here? For work? Then just shut up and get on with it. If you really hated somewhere you’d never live there. And, at the end of the day, Aberdeen’s the third city of Scotland, and one that we can be fairly proud of.
The next time I hear someone maligning the city I might just taken them up on an argument.
Thursday, March 01, 2012
This is my blogs 502nd post. Pretty excellent.
I watched a documentary recently that was difficult. It wasn't a graphic, violent documentary, nor was it scary, but it was disquieting. A subtle thriller that excretes shock and thrilling disasters with mildly scary ramifications. The documentary was Gasland, and it focuses on the US boom in Hydraulic Fracturing, or Fracking, in the goal to obtain as much Natural Gas as possible. There are two reasons for its impact – the first being an obviously dreadful series of events – basically, fracking is the explosion and cracking of layers of rock to free up the gas underneath, and then collect it. There is a lot of gas stuck in the ground in the US and for that reason it's been very commercially successful. The problem lies in the in the fracking procedure; you're forcing down a concoction of drilling fluids that aren't normally there and essentially mixing it with whatever is down there, ie water. Also, by freeing the gas you are freeing it into the water too.The result is people who can set fire to the water coming out of their taps.
The other reason was that it highlighted something to me that I'd probably only really started thinking about recently, and something that I am beginning to worry about. This worry is an ethical conundrum. The question is thus:
How can I work for an industry that is contributing pollution and emissions?
I believe in global warming. I do not believe in it as a man made phenomenon – we haven't even left the last ice age, so things are always going to warm up. Indeed, this is the only time in this planets 4.3 billion year history that it's been cold enough for there to be two ice caps on both poles. I do think we are contributing to the speed of the change, sure, but the earth's been a lot warmer and a lot colder. However, it's not just CO2 emissions that are the problem.
The problem's worse when I consider that we don't do enough to offset the effect we have on the environment – recently, I have noticed places and moments within my own job that have directly impacted on the emissions of a plant or platform, and not always in positive ways. I see wasteful uses of resource, and even worse conscious design choices that actually create worse conditions for release of gases and liquids that shouldn't be released. For example, I found out recently that a separation caisson, where, in a pipe lined up vertically, oil and water mix and separate naturally, that is actually just an open ended pipe dumping directly to the sea surface – no separation and oil being "spilled" into the ocean.
Admittedly this is in an area of the world that allows this; the UK sector wouldn't have it. Of course, this isn't an excuse (I wasn't part of that design) but it's endemic in these developing parts of the industry.
It's also the problem that our consumption hasn't caught up with our ability to keep the use clean – we burn a lot of the oil that is refined in our cars, but the other things – plastics – are much worse long term. The best property of a plastic is also the worst – it's longevity. We may have started to focus efforts on the plastic bag problem recently with biodegradable bags, bags for life, and even charging people for them, but in fact that's the tip of the iceberg – water, that is free to drink across the UK from taps, is packaged in plastic bottles that will be around for hundreds of years. It's that which is the worst case of waste, as seen in the beaches and rivers around the UK and the Great Pacific Garbage Patch on the microscopic scale.
I like to think I do my bit – I don't drive, walking or using public transport almost always. I recycle paper and cardboard, and will be trying to recycle more. I don't use plastic bags, I detest having to buy a bottle of juice for my lunch on those rare occasions, and I have vowed to never fly internally in the UK if that is my final destination ever again. These things are small compared to the footprint of the job and career that I have carved for myself, and I worry not only what to think on a day to day basis, but also what my children will think of me – I worked for the industry that built the world that they'll have to figure out how to fix? I don't know if I can handle that.
The more and more I think about, the more and more I feel that I will have to change career, focus, role or outlook. I know that I can do more and be better in this job, and force better decisions for the environment, but at the moment… it feels ethically ambiguous.