Random Ramblings

#144 : U – Upstream Processing

A day’s break did no good for me. Sunday just whizzed by and I’m running a temperature since Saturday. I’m back at work today and there seems to be no improvement on the temperature part. Does that matter? Absolutely not. Well, I can’t hit the bed just after dinner can I? So writing seemed to be a good option.

Upstream processing is a rather interesting topic. It’s interesting to note that there is a technique called upstream processing in the field of bio-sciences. Since I have no connection whatsoever with biology as a subject (I’ve always hated studying that boring subject), this upstream processing is related to Petroleum. Petroleum has fast become our life. Can you imagine a life without petrol and subsequently vehicles and stuff. Of course, we do have electricity, but coal is not going be around forever.

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The oil and gas sector is broadly divided into Upstream, Midstream and Downstream Processing. The upstream processing mainly consists of search and exploration of underwater crude oil and natural gas fields, drilling exploratory wells, and subsequently drilling and operating the wells that recover and bring the crude oil and/or raw natural gas to the surface. Then there is fracking which can also be broadly classified as Upstream processing. Fracking is the process of injecting liquid at high pressure into subterranean rocks, boreholes, etc. so as to force open existing fissures and extract oil or gas.

In simple terms, you drill the earth to bring out oil, gas and process it into a whole range of products which help you get through the day. I’m sure there is alarm bells ringing on your head if this process is safe. Of course one, how long can you drill? How many places can you drill away? There would come a point where there would no more oil to drill away, but that day is far. Far enough for us.

It is interesting to note that this industry records the largest number of Mergers and Acquisitions. As expected, a lot of money flows in and out of this industry. Drilling in the middle of the sea after all, can be very expensive.

How is upstream processing connected to me? I work for a company that does automation for upstream processing plants.

Random Ramblings

#143 : T – Thriller

My favorite genre. Racy plot, blasting bombs, espionage and what not related to a thriller – totally my thing. In fact, I devoured thrillers so much so that my mum decided to put her foot down for the fear of me becoming a psychopath. I never even turned my head to the romance section until I was 22. Thriller all the way. However, there came a time I got naturally bored of thrillers. It was the same old formula – get something stolen or drop a bomb or kill an important person and get it all solved. That’s when I realized I needed to diversify. I started reading proper prose and romance too. Moreover, I realized I had to pick writers diversely when it came to thriller. I had stuck predominantly to American and British writers with the exception of Stieg Larsson. This post is not about the thriller I liked, but observations from the books I’ve read. I literally had to scramble for examples! I can’t seem to pick!

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Here are my observations about a thriller and a mystery.

  1. The timing sense. That’s the major difference. In a mystery, the plot almost always begins with the crime being committed or the crime is down within a few chapters. In a pure thriller, the crime is probably done towards the end or there are a series of small crimes eventually leading to big ones.
  2. In the mystery, the protagonist tries to solve the case at hand – be it a murder or a theft. In a thriller, the protagonist prevents the crime from happening. The most popular example would be Dan Brown’s Angels and Demons where in there is a theft but there is a larger consequence at hand. So the protagonist works towards solving it and prevent the catastrophe.
  3. In a thriller, the pacing needs to be fast. The best example would be any of Jeffery Deaver’s books. My personal favorite would be The Bone collector. That plot is all bam bam bam boom boom boom. The stark opposition would be Agatha Christie’s books in general. My personal favorite would be the sparkling cyanide featuring colonel Race. The story unfolds thread by thread. One has to savor it piece by piece.

That’s the major difference I have noted! Recommendation for a good thriller welcome! 

Random Ramblings

#142 : S – Safety Systems

Never ever have I had the slightest inkling that I would write about my mundane day to day work. I work with a company that does automation and safety systems for industries. Given that my line of work is not as popular as the IT field, I’m at loss for words when people keep asking me as to what I do for a living. I’ve tried and failed miserably at trying to make people understand what I do to earn my bread. Well, giving it another shot!

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In a very crude sense this what I do – We have factories which manufacture stuff ranging from Petrol to Paper to what not. That’s like a lot of complicated of machinery which needs to be operated with utmost care and attention. Thus, having high human involvement to operate such things would result in a unsafe condition. That’s where we come in. We design and put in place a technology which would enable the person operating it to do so from a distance and without much error. This technology that we put in place is loosely termed as control systems. Then there are scenario when the factory in question has the probability of facing an accident. Haven’t we all heard of blasts and stuff. My work is to develop a system which would mitigate such risks. We put in place a Safety Instrumented System (SIS) in place where in a combination of hardware and software is responsible for ensuring that the factory doesn’t go up in flames or things don’t burst.

What do you do when there is a fire? You pour water or sand or extinguish it. What do you do when a pipe is leaking and looks like it’s about to burst, you turn off the supply tap to the pipe. That’s exactly what is done even in a factory. Just that, the system is much sophisticated with instruments to sense fire or smoke or gas leak. The water pouring or shutting off mechanism is automated to ensure there is no room for error. That’s where my work comes into play. That automation part of the above sentence. We program taps ( Valves, pumps etc etc) to turn off or to open off under certain conditions so as to ensure mitigation of risk. We program hooters and flashers to alert people in case of an emergency like a gas leak or a smoke outburst or a fire. How do we do that?

That’s exactly where the conversation stops. I can’t explain in layman terms and one can’t possibly understand what I am talking unless they know the subject. Lost in translation perhaps!

PS. If you are my colleague or if you have worked with an automation company, please forgive me. I just trivialised all our hard work. It had to be done *rolls eyes*

Random Ramblings

#141 : R – Rowling, Joanne

One topic/post I didn’t want to write. For someone who has never shied away from proclaiming my wonder and love for this particular writer, this feeling of not wanting to write seems a bit new. There was a time when I had plenty of fellow “Potter heads” to discuss things theories, but then we all grew up. That innocence, that feeling of mutual inclusion faded away. Elitism started to creep in. Thus I started to distance myself from that crowd. I didn’t belong. I didn’t want to belong. Not to a crowd which taunts others for not having read Harry Potter or for not getting that yet another Potter reference they used. As a matter of fact, I thought it was just me who was feeling this, turns out not. During a random conversation with a writer of friend of mine, he casually mentioned that I wasn’t a Potter-head. I was perplexed. To him, being a Potter -head means dropping a Harry Potter reference and not coming out of that world. Is that what JK Rowling taught us in first place? I ask that question to myself today.

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By penning down Harry’s character, JKR taught us how to be level headed and not discriminate. Harry is just another average boy with average skills born under extraordinary circumstances. She taught us, it is okay to be average as long as one knows the true meaning of loyalty, friendship and unconditional love. By penning down the character of Hermione, she taught us that being studious is okay. You may be mocked for it, but it shouldn’t deter you from doing what you do the best. By penning down Ron’s character, she taught us being goofy is okay, what matters most is the sense of loyalty and integrity. Luna Lovegood – The perfect example of an outcast. Yet she goes on being just herself and doesn’t put up and act to belong. Rubeus Hagrid – That man is innocence personified. He is the perfect example of why one ought to have a big heart.

I know I’m kicking up a hornet’s nest. If you feel angry upon reading the first paragraph, I’m sorry, I’m not responsible for it. I’m not generalising, this is just a first hand account of what I’ve experienced.

Dear Rowling, I sincerely apologise on behalf of people who have failed you in the name of being pure fans! You taught us better.

Random Ramblings

#140 : Q – Questions

One word we hate hearing for the fear of unleashing the unknown – The word Question. Having questions is a fool proof technique to ensure progression of plot. Here is a summary of what I picked up from the MIT eDX course ware.

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  1. Every book needs a big question. This is often the reason to entice a reader to pick up the book and keep it going. If it’s a mystery, it’s either who committed the murder or who is the thief. If it’s romance, will the protagonist find true love. If it is a fantasy, will the protagonist set to achieve what he wanted to. The big question is the driving force of any book. To leave the question unanswered is a choice, but to not have a question at all in place is a near blunder.
  2. The smaller questions for the sub plots. This is to complement and increase the momentum of the story. These questions, however, shouldn’t deviate from the bigger question. One example I could associate with was from the book, “The A.B.C. Murders” by Agatha Christie. There was a killer on loose, no doubt, but why was he murdering people alphabetically. The killer leaves letters to Hercule Poirot (the detective). For someone who is meticulous, the killer misspells his Poirot’s name in one letter. Why does he do so?
  3. Unanswered questions – The cliffhanger! I don’t think I need to elaborate on this one. “Why did Kattapa kill Baahubali?” – The best ever example of ensuring  that people return to the story to find the answer. As a matter of fact, this particular type of plot of the most difficult one to execute perfectly. You have to drop hints to ensure that the reader doesn’t stop reading, yet you shouldn’t give away the answer. Doesn’t that need a lot planning? It is easier to change track and forget the big question in first place – As a rookie, that’s what I dread the most!

Read! Comment! Share!

PS. Don’t ask me questions. As Kamal from Panchathanthiram says, asking question is very easy, try answering them!

Random Ramblings

#139 : P – Pressure Transmitters

One of my favourite topics from the whole list. Two years of my engineering course was spent studying all sorts of instruments including these interesting devices called pressure transmitters.

As the name implies, these instruments are used to measure the pressure of gasses or liquids. In a crude sense, a pressure transmitter encases a sensor for pressure measurement and a transmitter to transmit the values. There are over 50 types of pressure transmitters. In fact, in certain level measurement applications, pressure is the actual measured parameter.

Why do we need to measure pressure in first place? Think of the most common application. You have a pump filling a tank. Without any measurement in place you need to probably keep looking at the tank to know if it’s full. Now imagine the tank is a bit far off from the pump and there is a pipeline running. Imagine having to run around and check if the tank is full or if the motor is pumping. This can be solved by putting a level transmitter on the tank and a pressure transmitter at the outlet of the pump. These devices, when interfaced with computers (in a real crude sense) lets you know if all things are going fine. One step further, one can use this to operate the pump!

Here is a picture of one part of a pressure transmitter.

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That blue head that you see houses the circuitry needed to measure and transmit the values. The steel base below actually measures the pressure.

This is just a very crude primer of what a pressure transmitter is. I wanted to make sure that this write up was in complete layman terms so that people can get a vague sense of Instrumentation – The study of instruments (primarily used in factories). Going in depth, would simply result in boredom if you can’t really appreciate it!

PS. Pritika, if you are reading this. Husband fellow of mine wanted me to write about you for “P”. I would have probably written pages and pages worth essay. You my friend, you are worth it totally 😀

Random Ramblings

#138 : O – Outlines

Plot outlines – My favourite task to do. The one task I excel at! I love planning things in general and I prefer to be organised. Every time I sit down to write a story, I normally thrown in few words in the name of an outline. However, at one point, I felt I should probably let creativity flow instead of planning and restricting things. That’s when I stumbled about script writing. Writing a novel and writing a script are two very different things. However, I’ve come to learn that writing a script can improve your sense of setting and character formation. I tried my hand at a script writing course from edX only to leave it midway due to lack of time.

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Here are the two important things I picked up,

  1. There are three  major areas which could be thought out before writing so as to get a clear picture. Starting Incident,Crisis and Resolution. That’s a very broad way of grouping a series of incidents. Is it necessary to maintain this structure? Absolutely not. Creative freedom gives you the warrant skipping of any part!
  2. Scene outline. This is helpful if you are in a rut or are suffering from a serious case of writers block. This is activity might be boring, but it does the trick to come out of that rut.

Here is a surprising example from my favourite writer. Prior to the usage of Excel sheets, thing were done on a paper and pen. Here is a JK Rowling’s plot sheet which she shared on social media. One can learn a thing or two from that!

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How do you plan your story? Do drop by your comments. This can really help aspiring writers like me!