Journal Entry, 14 Oct 2013: Last night stayed in with a pizza – never went to Blayds, never got upset over Chris, never had 3 pints of Kronenbourg and didn’t stagger back home via McDonalds. Got up really early. Plugged in printer & scanned the Electoral Register.
Then I was brushing my teeth and had a coughing fit which jolted my lower back and I’ve spent the entire day in pain.
At work made a mess of loading the cloth roller-towel so Danny had to cut it free. Bah!
15 Oct 2013: Today at work WWE caught me watching as she spent half-an-hour messing around with her driving licence. ‘Yes?’ she said in her most imperious manner.
Boss has been asking why Perkin-Elmer charge 200 pounds an hour, and we want to send our machine to their workshop for servicing.
Meanwhile, John at work asked if I ever went to gay bars. Me: ‘Yes, all the time.’ He stared, so I asked if he was surprised.
17 Oct 2013: At work, made up a small batch of black stainer for the coatings shop to use, but I had left a few tiny flecks of black on the stirrer. Later on, the WWE flounced into the office and said angrily ‘Have you finished using the stirrer?’
Yes, said I, why? She complained that ‘There is black pigment all over it!’
Ah, said I, I was waiting for that complaint. She always starts the day with a complaint about something.
We have been having problems with intercoat adhesion using epoxy systems on the works. I made some dual-coated panels, using the actual works batch of material which had failed the amine-bloom test. I tried to insert a knife-blade between the layers but it was completely stuck. Hurrah!
[Note: the epoxy coatings are made by stirring the pigments into a keg of resin, at a low P:B ratio. No mechanical grinding is used, no wetting agents to promote pigment dispersion, so silicone flow agents, and an overall low P:B. The corresponding products from rival companies tend to have much higher SG values than ours, but we can’t have dense material since a 20-litre keg will breach manual handling regulations. So the systems are guaranteed not to work properly. And if we use hydrophobic fumed silica, we incorporate that by gentle stirring instead of ball-mill grinding. And if we use any polymer microfibres, these are also dispersed by gentle stirring instead of the almighty thrashing they so badly need]
30 Nov 2013: At work we had a leaving do for one of the guys from the factory floor. He had been with the firm for 26 years, but the presentation lasted two minutes.
9 May 2014: Today at work the repair engineer called in to fix the DSC machine; he said that he had originally installed this item ten years ago and we have not had it serviced once since then.
And I’ve been asked to make some epoxy coating with manganese violet pigment and hydrophobic silica; while wandering round the storage shed I spotted a couple of pallets which between them held 33 tins of the violet paint and 58 tins of hardener – just the stuff I was trying to make. Each tin weighed about 10 kg, so might have been worth £65 to a customer. And it was all just sitting there, gathering dust and growing older and older and older….
…so anyway, Trevor walked into the boardroom a few minutes after we had started the meeting. He was always late, and usually spent the whole time gazing scornfully at the ceiling or creating elaborate angular doodles on the eight-year-old desk blotter he always took along.
‘Nice of you to join us’ remarked Simon. Trevor smiled weakly at the Sales Manager before slumping into his seat.
The discussion went on and on – a few production issues, cancelled orders, feedback from our trade stand at an exhibition, alternative raw materials suppliers – until we came to the Panufnik Disaster.
‘Right, have we made any progress?’ asked the Managing Director. ‘Of course, we all know that it’s the customers fault; idiots who try to save money by not applying the stuff properly. We always have this problem with them.
Panufnik Components was a producer of specialist marine equipment, and we had supplied them with four batches of heavy-duty protective coating material. One batch of this stuff had started to crumble away after six months in service, and a huge desalination plant had to be shut down for repairs to be carried out.
‘Well; any ideas?’ The sales manager looked round the room at the assembled team leaders. Trevor, without opening his eyes, raised a finger. A few seconds later he stood up and rapidly pulled two small conical flasks from the pockets of his lab coat.
‘Tell me, would you prefer some peanuts’ – and he placed one flask gently on the table – ‘or would you like some ecstasy’ – and here he slammed the other flask, half-full of gleaming white sweets, onto the polished wood – ‘instead?’
The MD was about to start yelling at him to get out, but Trevor began striding round the room towards a flip-chart, addressing the carpet in a bold, harsh monotone: ‘Now most people think that drugs are harmful and indeed they are exceedingly dangerous and will produce systemic organ imbalance leading to malfunction and death – but rumour has it that peanut allergies are responsible for more deaths in the UK each year than MDMA.’
The sales manager sighed, keen as always to contradict anything that Trevor said. ‘Yeah, but only because they’re consumed in vastly different amounts. Or didn’t you do statistics at school?’
‘Anyway’ (ignoring the interruption) ‘imagine that these nuts’ (winking as he shook a few of them into his hand) ‘are particles of pigment.’
We all stared, wondering what he was going to do next.
‘And imagine that the delightful savoury dust’ (and here he popped a nut into his mouth and began to chew) ‘represents the film of air and water which is tightly bonded’ – here he gave a slight wink and the merest hint of a gasp after the word ‘tight’ – ‘to the surface of each seven-micron granule.’
While talking, he had drawn an irregular shaped blob around whose edges there were snakes and marshmallows and eyes. ‘Now, if you incorporate the pigments by gently stirring them, this layer of damp air will remain at the surface; which is no problem, until two of the particles bump into each other, at which point they will decide to stick together. And if this process happens often enough, the overall number of pigment particles will be reduced by ten, or fifteen, or twenty-five percent.’
‘So what?’ asked the MD. ‘If all the material is still present, then it will give the same level of protection!’
‘But’ continued Trevor, ‘If the number of particles is significantly reduced, then the barrier properties would be compromised. And the colour strength would start to change on storage. And the viscosity would begin to drift’ – at which point, we all began to feel uncomfortable, since these were exactly the performance problems of which the client had complained.
‘But if you incorporate the right amount of wetting agent during the grind stage’ (and here, the purchasing manager snorted, since he was utterly convinced that additives were expensive and unnecessary and gave no improvement) ‘it becomes possible to incorporate higher levels of pigment while keeping the viscosity low’ (at which point the sales manager rolled his eyes in torment, since his entire career was devoted to adding solvent to things in order to make them cheaper, and a lower-viscosity system would not allow him to do this) ‘so we can apply the material more easily.’
None of us had noticed the patches of double-sided tape dotted around the flip-chart, but now Trevor pulled a cheap plastic doll from his pocket and began to roughly dismantle her, sticking the beige-coloured limbs and head around the edge of the blob-shaped blob.
‘Behold, for these are your lovely seductive tendrils of Solsperse’ he began, ‘and they will enable the pigment grains to remain distant from each other and firmly bonded to the resin matrix, giving you’re the level of performance that is so impressive in other firms.’