The Anonymous Widower

Piney Point: Emergency Crews Try To Plug Florida Toxic Wastewater Leak

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article on the BBC.

This is the introductory paragraph.

Emergency crews in Florida have been working to prevent a “catastrophic” flood after a leak was found in a large reservoir of toxic wastewater.

This Google Map shows the location.

Note.

  1. At the top of the map is an area called Tampa Bay Estuarine Ecosystem Rock Ponds.
  2. The reservoir appears to be in the South East corner of the map.
  3. There appear to be several chemical works to the West of the highway.

This second Google Map shows the reservoir at a larger scale.

Note.

  1. The picture in the BBC article was taken from the North West.
  2. The problem reservoir is right and above of centre.
  3. To its right is Lake Price, which appears to be the sort of lake to sail a boat and perhaps do a bit of fishing and swimming.
  4. Moore Lake to the South appears similar to Lake Price.

It looks to me that it is not the place to have an environmental incident.

This article in The Times says this.

Engineers are furiously pumping the phosphate-rich water into the sea to avoid an uncontrolled spill at Piney Point, whose failure could unleash a 20ft-high wall of toxic effluent.

Pumping it into the sea? Surely not?

I suspect there could have been a mixture of sloppy management and loose regulation, with minimal enforcement and I’ll be interested to see what recommendations are put forward by the inevitable investigation.

In my varied past, I was once indirectly involved, in the toxic waste that comes out of chemical plants. At the time, I was working for ICI in Runcorn and my main job was building designing and building instruments for the various chemical plants in and around Runcorn.

As they had hired me because of my programming skills, they asked me if I could do a few small jobs on their Ferranti Argus 500, which could be plugged in to both their Varian NMR machine and their AEI mass spectrometer.

With the former, to get better accuracy in analysis of chemicals, I would take successive scans of a sample and aggregate them together. The accuracy of the results would be proportion to the square root of the number of scans.

The second to my mind was more difficult and much more interesting.

This explanation of mass spectroscopy is from Wikipedia.

Mass spectrometry (MS) is an analytical technique that is used to measure the mass-to-charge ratio of ions. The results are typically presented as a mass spectrum, a plot of intensity as a function of the mass-to-charge ratio. Mass spectrometry is used in many different fields and is applied to pure samples as well as complex mixtures.

ICI at Runcorn had a lot of complex mixtures and the aim of my project, was to take a mass spectrum and automatically decide what chemicals were present in the mixture.

The mass spectra were presented as a long graph on a roll of thermal paper. I noticed that operators would pick out distinctive patterns on the graph, which they told me were distinctive patterns of chlorine ions.

Chlorine has an unusual atomic weight of 35.5 because it is a mixture of two stable isotypes Chlorine-35 and Chlorine-37, which produced these distinctive patterns on the spectra.

I was able to identify these patterns to determine the number of chlorine atoms in a compound. By giving the algorithm a clue in stating how many carbon, oxygen and hydrogen atoms could be involved, it was able to successfully identify what was in a complex mixture.

All this was programmed on computer with just 64K words of memory and a half-megabyte hard disc.

ICI must have been pleased, as I got a bonus.

One of the jobs the software was used for was to identify what chemicals were present in the lagoons alongside the River Weaver, which are shown today in this Google Map.

Note.

  1. The chemical works, which were part of ICI in the 1960s, to the North of the Weaver Navigation Canal.
  2. The two former lagoons between the canal and the River Weaver, which seem to have been cleaned out and partially restored.
  3. Was that a third large lagoon to the South of the River Weaver?
  4. There also appears to be a fourth smaller triangular lagoon between the canal and the river.

There certainly seems to have been a better clear-up in Runcorn, than in Florida.

I moved on from Runcorn soon after, I’d finished that software and have no idea how or if it developed and was used.

But the techniques I used stayed in my brain and were used at least four times in the future.

  • In the design of a Space Allocation Program for ICI Plastics Division.
  • In the design of two Project Management systems for Time Sharing Ltd.

And of course, they were also used in designing the scheduler in Artemis for Metier.

I

 

April 5, 2021 Posted by | Computing, Design, World | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why I Will Never Use DPD

I keep getting messages from DPD say they have missed me. I’ve had about six.

I know they are scams as the sending e-mail is xxxx.xxxx@hotmail.it. I have the real address.

So I thought I should report this idiot, to DPD, as perhaps it might help find the scammer, so he can be arrested.

But there is no information on their web site, let alone a place to report them.

I don’t deal with companies who don’t look after their customers.

I reported the message to report@phishing.gov.uk.

March 18, 2021 Posted by | Computing | , , | 5 Comments

Never Remove A Feature In A Computer Program

One of my golden rules in updating computing programs, is never to remove a feature however obscure it is. The reason is obvious, in that if the feature exists someone will find an extremely useful way to use it.

Here are two changes in other software systems that are annoying me at present.

The Windows 10 Photo Viewer

I use an SD card to capture images in my camera..

On my old laptop with Windows 7, if I was looking at a folder of images, I could scroll past the last image to the first and vice-versa, which was a very useful feature, when looking for an obscure image.

Windows 10 doesn’t have this feature and it is very annoying.

Zopa’s New System

I invest some of my savings in Zopa and use it as a high-interest one month-access deposit account in a concept that I call hybrid banking, which I wrote about in The Concept Of Hybrid Banking.

The old system used to give two figures about your money, that was yet to be invested.

  • The money sitting there waiting in the queue for new borrowers.
  • The allocated money waiting for the borrower to be checked and sign up.

The first figure was invaluable, as by watching it, it enabled me to see how constipated the system was. There’s not much point, of putting more money in Zopa, if it will just sit there. It could be more productive in crowdfunding an outstanding idea.

But in the new system, they have added these two figures together.

It’s not catastrophic, but it’s a nuisance.

Conclusion

Never disobey, the title of this post!

February 16, 2021 Posted by | Computing, Finance | , | 9 Comments

Inappropriate Language

My bank sends a six character code of three letters and three numbers to my phone, so that I can login.

Today, the three letters were KKK.

How inappropriate is that?

I have complained!

February 5, 2021 Posted by | Computing, Design, Finance | , | 3 Comments

Oxford Vaccine Could Substantially Cut Spread

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article on the BBC.

This is the first two paragraphs.

The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine could lead to a “substantial” fall in the spread of the virus, say scientists.

The impact of Covid vaccines on transmission has been a crucial unknown that will dramatically shape the future of the pandemic.

The article also says you get this after one dose.

This study – on 17,000 people in the UK, South Africa and Brazil – showed protection remained at 76% during the three months after the first dose.

This rose to 82% after people were given the second dose.

It will be interesting to see, what figures drop out of the data, when millions have been vaccinated twice in the UK.

Conclusion

It looks like very good news to me!

February 2, 2021 Posted by | Computing, Health | , , , , | Leave a comment

A London Mongrel Gets Ready For Christmas

I constantly, refer to myself as a London Mongrel, as my father did.

This extract from a previous post, explains why I do.

On the other hand, I’m a London Mongrel of German Jewish and French Huguenot roots, with quarters of stubborn Devonian and solid Northants yeoman stock thrown in. A large proportion of my ancestors are also real East Enders and of course my father was a genuine Cockney.

The older I get, the more I think, the Devonian genes of my Dalston-born maternal grandmother are asserting themselves.

I was going to my son’s house for Christmas Dinner, but we felt last night, that it was best to call it off, as although, what we had planned would have been within the rules, it would be better not to take any chances.

Yesterday, there was an article in The Times about how Michelin-starred chefs were doing Christmas meals in a box for home warming through!

So last night, I bought one for sixty-one pounds from Roasted by Jack and Scott.

I’ve already got the beer in, as this picture shows.

But then it’s all gluten-free, low-alcohol beer from Adnams, that tastes just like the halves from the same brewery, that my father used to buy for me sixty years ago.

My father didn’t want me to be the alcoholic his father was, so he introduced me to beer in social settings at an early age and now at seventy-three, I can honestly say, that, there are few times in my past, where I’ve got really drunk. So thank you, Dad!

But then my father was unconventional and didn’t follow the rules.

A year or so ago, I was reminded of a story about my father by someone I was at school with at Minchenden.

My father had ordered a new Vanden Plas Princess 1100 from a garage near the school. So one morning over breakfast, he asked the seventeen-year-old me, if I wouldn’t mind picking up the car after school and bring it home.

So after school, I picked up the car and took it home.

I can’t remember, if I gave any of my school-mates a lift. But I may have done!

Football

The one problem, I have is not being able to watch Premier League football on television, except on Match of the Day.

The Premier League have sold the Christmas rights to Amazon, which is a company, I don’t do business with!

Anyway, as the pictures come by broadband, I doubt I’d be able to watch it, as my broadband is crap.

BT told my MP, it’s because I’m too close to the exchange!

Conclusion

I’ll be OK. But then like my father, my sons and my granddaughter, we all seem happy in our own company.

I am also lucky in being coeliac on a gluten-free diet!

The more I research my health, the more I’m convinced that my genes have given me a strong immune system and that is protecting me from the covids.

But then, self-isolating by habit is not a bad trait in these terrible times.

 

December 20, 2020 Posted by | Computing, Food, Sport | , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Why I’ll Delay Having The Coronavirus Vaccine

The vaccines are coming for the covids, but I won’t be having a jab, if one is offered to me, in the first round. I may not be offered one, as I am only 73 and in good health.

But there are many out there, who need the vaccine more than I do, who will be given lower priority than myself.

So I’ll wait!

I am also a diagnosed coeliac on a gluten-free diet and my statistical researches and news reports, show that communities and groups with high levels of undiagnosed coeliacs have suffered badly from the covids.

These communities and groups include.

  • Anybody born before 1960, as there was no test for coeliac disease in children before then.
  • Ashkenazi Jews. My coeliac genes come from an ancestor in this group.
  • Irish
  • Caribbean. West Africans have a tendency to coeliac disease and what better way to bring it out, than starve them on slave ships and feed them on only bread and water.

I have also found a research paper, that shows, that India could now experience a coeliac disease epidemic, caused by modern strains of wheat.  See Coeliac Disease: Can We Avert The Impending Epidemic In India?

Coeliacs on a gluten-free diet, are an interesting group, in that according to peer-reviewed research by Joe West of Nottingham University, they are 25 % less likely to suffer from cancer.

How can one disease protect you from another?

My coeliac disease was indicated by low-levels of B12, as gluten was damaging my gut and stopping it absorbing vital vitamins. By removing the gluten from my diet, my B12 levels returned to normal.

So it’s the diet that protects my health.

If you think, you are coeliac, don’t be put off by horror stores of multiple endoscopies and the difficulty of sticking to a gluten-free diet. I may have been one of the first individuals tested, by the current genetic method, which is now used by most GPs. A blood sample is sent off for a test and that is generally all that is done in most cases. I heard in 48 hours.

So why is it beneficial in the case of cancer?

It can only be, that with all those vitamins, coeliacs on a gluten-free diet have a very healthy immune system.

So does, this immune system, help protect coeliacs from the covids?

Until proven otherwise, my statistical research, thinks it does!

So I believe, that I can afford to wait.

Has Good Project Management Helped The UK Get The Vaccine Early?

Professor Van-Tam, this morning on BBC Breakfast, praised the planning of the drug companies and the various health bodies in charge of certification of the vaccines.

As someone, who was at the heart of the Project Management Revolution in the 1970s and 1980s, this cheers me.

Looking back, my biggest contribution to project management, was to prove that you didn’t need to use a large mainframe computer and software would work on a small desk-sized machine and ultimately on a personal computer, thus bringing project management to everyone.

December 3, 2020 Posted by | Computing, Food, Health | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Good Omens For Mr. Biden

This extract is from today’s diary in The Times.

The election of Joe Biden, despite the twitterhoea tantrums of the toddler in the Oval Office, continues a correlation noted four years ago by the writer Brydon Coverdale between American presidents and the sequence of Mr Men books. Donald Trump is the 45th president and the 45th Mr Man is Mr Rude, an easy fit. No 44 was Mr Cool (Barack Obama) and No 43 Mr Cheerful (George W Bush). Going back further, the all-action Teddy Roosevelt has the same number as Mr Strong and Ronald Reagan shares his with Mr Brave. Grover Cleveland, the only president to return to office after being voted out, has Mr Bounce. Now at No 46 comes Mr Good — and the correlation may continue. Coverdale writes: “I wonder if the 47th being Mr Nobody means the next president won’t be a Mr.”

I like the correlation and also the new word; twitterhoea.

It will be interesting to return to this post for the US Presidential Election in 2024.

November 10, 2020 Posted by | Computing, World | , , , , , | 3 Comments

£100m Station Revamp Could Double Local Train Services

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article on the Northern Echo.

This is the opening paragraph.

Officials behind plans for a £100m-plus transformation of Darlington’s Bank Top Station have confirmed it will remain the only one on the East Coast Mainline without a platform specifically for the London to Scotland service.

Darlington station has made various appearances in my life, all of which have been pleasurable ones.

I went several times to ICI’s Wilton site on Teesside in the 1970s, when the route to London was worked by the iconic Class 55 locomotives or Deltics.

I wrote about one memorable trip home from Darlington in The Thunder of Three-Thousand Three-Hundred Horses.

Over the years, I also seem to have had several clients for my computing skills in the area, including the use of my data analysis software; Daisy at Cummins Engines in the town.

And lately, it’s been for football at Middlesbrough to see Ipswich play, where I’ve changed trains. Sometimes, Town even won.

The improvements planned for the station are two-fold.

Improvement Of Local Services

This paragraph from Wikipedia, sums up the local train services on the Tees Valley Line between Saltburn and Bishop Auckland via Darlington, Middlesbrough and Redcar.

Northern run their Tees Valley line trains twice hourly to Middlesbrough, Redcar and Saltburn (hourly on Sundays), whilst the Bishop Auckland branch has a service every hour (including Sundays). The company also operates two Sundays-only direct trains to/from Stockton and Hartlepool.

If ever a route needed improvement it is this one.

This paragraph from the Northern Echo article, outlines the plans for Darlington station.

The meeting was also told the overhaul, which will see new platforms, a new station building, parking and an interchange for passengers, alongside other improvements, would also double capacity on Tees Valley and Bishop Auckland lines, meaning four trains an hour on the former and two trains an hour on the latter.

I also believe that the route is a shoe-in for zero-carbon services; hydrogen or battery electric.

Hydrogen Trains On Teesside

In Fuelling The Change On Teesside Rails, I discuss using hydrogen powered trains for the lines in the area and they could certainly provide services on more than just the Tees Valley Line.

The hydrogen powered trains would probably be this Alstom Breeze.

They would appear to be in pole position to change the image of Teesside’s trains.

Battery Electric Trains On Teesside

But I suspect. that an Anglo-Japanese partnership, based in the North-East could have other ideas.

  • Hitachi have a train factory at Newton Aycliffe on the Tees Valley Line.
  • Hyperdrive Innovation design and produce battery packs for transport and mobile applications in Sunderland.

The two companies have launched the Regional Battery Train, which is described in this Hitachi infographic.

Note than 90 kilometres is 56 miles, so the train has a very useful range.

Hitachi have talked about fitting batteries to their express trains to serve places like Middlesbrough, Redcar and Sunderland with zero-carbon electric services.

But their technology can also be fitted to their Class 385 trains and I’m sure that Scotland will order some battery-equipped Class 385 trains to expand their vigorous electric train network.

Both Scotland and Teesside will need to charge their battery trains.

Example distances on Teesside include.

  • Darlington and Saltburn – 28 miles
  • Darlington and Whitby – 47 miles
  • Darlington and Bishop Auckland – 12 miles

The last route would be possible on a full battery, but the first two would need a quick battery top-up before return.

So there will need to be strategically-placed battery chargers around the North-East of England. These could include.

  • Hexham
  • Nunthorpe
  • Redcar or Saltburn – This would also be used by TransPennine Express’s Class 802 trains, if they were to be fitted with batteries.
  • Whitby

If Grand Central did the right thing and ran battery electric between London and Sunderland, there would probably be a need for a battery charger at Sunderland.

It appears that Adrian Shooter of Vivarail has just announced a One-Size-Fits-All Fast Charge system, that has been given interim approval by Network Rail.

I discuss this charger in Vivarail’s Plans For Zero-Emission Trains, which is based on a video on the Modern Railways web site.

There is more about Vivarail’s plans in the November 2020 Print Edition of the magazine, where this is said on page 69.

‘Network Rail has granted interim approval for the fast charge system and wants it to be the UK’s standard battery charging system’ says Mr. Shooter. ‘We believe it could have worldwide implications.’

I believe that Hitachi and Hyperdrive Innovation, with a little bit of help from friends in Seaham, can build a battery-electric train network in the North-East.

The Choice Between Hydrogen And Battery Electric

Consider.

  • The hydrogen trains would need a refuelling system.
  • The battery electric trains would need a charging structure, which could also be used by other battery electric services to and from the North-East.
  • No new electrification or other infrastructure would be needed.
  • If a depot is needed for the battery electric trains, they could probably use the site at Lackenby, that has been identified as a base for the hydrogen trains.

Which train would I choose?

I think the decision will come down to politics, money and to a certain extent design, capacity and fuel.

  • The Japanese have just signed a post-Brexit trade deal and France or rather the EU hasn’t.
  • The best leasing deal might count for a lot.
  • Vivarail have stated that batteries for a battery electric train, could be leased on a per mile basis.
  • The Hitachi train will be a new one and the Alstom train will be a conversion of a thirty year old British Rail train.
  • The Hitachi train may well have a higher passenger capacity, as there is no need for the large hydrogen tank.
  • Some people will worry about sharing the train with a large hydrogen tank.
  • The green credentials of both trains is not a deal-breaker, but will provoke discussion.

I feel that as this is a passenger train, that I’m leaning towards a battery electric train built on the route.

An Avoiding Line Through Darlington

The Northern Echo also says this about track changes at the station.

A meeting of Darlington Borough Council’s communities and local services scrutiny committee was told a bus lane-style route off the mainline at the station would enable operators to run more high-speed services.

Councillors heard that the proposed track changes would enable very fast approaches to Darlington and allow other trains to pass as East Coast Mainline passengers boarded.

Some councillors seem to be unhappy about some trains passing through the station without stopping.

Are their fears justified?

This Google Map shows Darlington station.

Note.

  1. The station has two long platforms and two South-facing bay platforms.
  2. There is plenty of space.
  3. There already appear to be a pair of electrified avoiding lines on the Eastern side of the station.

Wikipedia also says this about how Darlington station will be changed by High Speed Two.

The new high speed rail project in the UK, High Speed 2, is planned to run through Darlington once Phase 2b is complete and will run on the existing East Coast Main Line from York and Newcastle. Darlington Station will have two new platforms built for the HS2 trains on the Main Line, as the station is built just off the ECML to allow for freight services to pass through.

This would appear to suggest that the two current avoiding lines will be turned into high speed platforms.

Current High Speed Services At Darlington

The current high speed services at Darlington are as follows.

  • LNER – two trains per hour (tph) – London Kings Cross and Edinburgh
  • Cross Country – one tph – Plymouth and Edinburgh or Glasgow
  • Cross Country – one tph – Southampton and Newcastle
  • TransPennine Express – one tph – Liverpool and Edinburgh
  • TransPennine Express – one tph – Manchester Airport and Newcastle

Northbound, this gives eight tph to Newcastle and four tph to Edinburgh

East Coast Trains

East Coast Trains‘s services are not planned to stop at Darlington.

High Speed Two Trains

Darlington is planned to be served by these High Speed Two trains.

  • 1 tph – Birmingham Curzon Street and Newcastle via East Midlands Hub, York and Durham
  • 1 tph – London Euston and Newcastle via Old Oak Common and York.

Both will be 200 metre High Speed Two Classic-Compatible trains

Northbound, this gives ten tph to Newcastle and four tph to Edinburgh.

As the Eastern Leg of High Speed Two has some spare capacity, I suspect there could be other services through Darlington.

Improvements To The East Coast Main Line

If you look at the East Coast Main Line between Doncaster and Newcastle, the route is a mixture of two and four-track railway.

  • Between Doncaster and York, there are two tracks
  • Between York and Northallerton, there are four tracks
  • Between Northallerton and Darlington, there are two tracks
  • North of Darlington, the route is mainly two tracks.

I have flown my virtual helicopter along much of the route and I can say this about it.

  • Much of the route is through agricultural land, and where absolutely necessary extra tracks could possibly be added.
  • The track is more-or-less straight for large sections of the route.
  • Routes through some towns and cities, are tightly hemmed in by houses.

I also believe that the following developments will happen to the whole of the East Coast Main Line before High Speed Two opens.

  • Full ERTMS in-cab digital signalling will be used on all trains on the route.
  • The trains will be driven automatically, with the driver watching everything. Just like a pilot in an airliner!
  • All the Hitachi Class 80x trains used by operators on the route, will be able to operate at up to 140 mph, once this signalling and some other improvements have been completed.
  • All level crossings will have been removed.
  • High Speed Two is being built using slab track, as I stated in HS2 Slab Track Contract Awarded. I suspect some sections of the East Coast Main Line, that are used by High Speed Two services, will be upgraded with slab track to increase performance and reduce lifetime costs.

Much of the East Coast Main Line could become a 140 mph high speed line, as against High Speed Two, which will be a 225 mph high speed line.

This will mean that all high speed trains will approach Darlington and most other stations on the route, at 140 mph.

Trains will take around a minute to decelerate from or accelerate to 140 mph and if the station stop took a minute, the trains will be up to speed again in just three minutes. In this time, the train would have travelled two-and-a-half miles.

Conclusion

I think that this will happen.

  • The Tees Valley Line trains will be greatly improved by this project.
  • Trains will generally run at up to 140 mph on the East Coast Main Line, under full digital control, like a slower High Speed Two.
  • There will be two high speed platforms to the East of the current station, where most if not all of the High Speed Two, LNER and other fast services will stop.
  • There could be up to 15 tph on the high speed lines.

With full step-free access between the high speed and the local platforms in the current station, this will be a great improvement.

October 25, 2020 Posted by | Computing, Hydrogen, Sport, Transport | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Interview: Hitachi’s Nick Hughes On Driving Innovation In Rail Propulsion

The title of this post is the same as that of this article on The Engineer.

As with the article I discuss in Hydrogen On The Line, it is another well-written and informative article from The Engineer, where those at the sharp end of innovative rail technologies give their views.

This is the introductory paragraph.

As part of a series of articles exploring the propulsion technologies that will shape the future of key transport sectors The Engineer spoke to Hitachi Rail’s Nick Hughes about the innovations that will propel the rail sector into a low carbon future.

The Engineer asked these questions.

  1. What propulsion innovations will help power the rail sector towards net zero?
  2. Can you outline some of your organisation’s own key activities in this area?
  3. What are the key obstacles and challenges to developments in this area?
  4. What is your vision for the long-term future of propulsion in your sector?

I find the answer to the last question most interesting.

Rail is going to become increasingly digitised and integrated into other sectors involved in smart cities, mobility-as-a-service and flexible green grid. Therefore, Hitachi Rail won’t be able to stay at the forefront of innovation by its self. This is why we are focused on building partnerships with other like-minded, innovative, clean tech companies like Hyperdrive Innovation, Perpetuum and Hitachi group companies such as Hitachi ABB.

Hyperdrive Innovation is going to apply its knowledge and expertise from the automotive sector, to develop a market leading battery for Hitachi trains. Perpetuum predictive analytics improve reliability and availability of existing trains. Meanwhile, Hitachi ABB’s experience of the power sector allows our battery train solution to incorporate charging, storage and grid management. These partnerships creates an entry point into the rail market for our partners, potentially leading to future growth and jobs.

However, it is important to recognise that the established technologies of today – battery trains, discontinuous electrification and high-speed trains – are the technologies will help achieve the 2050 net zero emission target.

I would very much agree with all that is said.

 

 

October 16, 2020 Posted by | Computing, Energy, Transport | , , | 1 Comment