Monthly Archives: August 2009

Fire at the Nuclear Plant

Just a quick link today to an article from the New York Times about fire danger, prevention, and detection at American nuclear power plants: Nuclear Regulators Urge High-Tech Fire Detection for Plants.

One of the current low-tech fire detection and prevention “mechanisms” currently in place is a small cadre of plant employees who walk around sniffing for the scent of smoke and then manually turn off pumps if the plant’s control systems are disabled by fire. The NRC — and the plant’s operators — would like to replace them with dedicated, computerized detectors as part of a “risk-informed” fire prevention policy. Fire danger at nuclear power plants is a real risk, and the article briefly recounts the 1975 fire at a TVA nuclear power plant in Alabama. That fire started when a worker, using a candle to test a conduit for an air leak, inadvertently set some insulation on fire, almost causing a meltdown.

I read about this accident in a library book way back in sixth grade. At the time I was fascinated with anything nuclear: nuclear power, nuclear weapons, nuclear physics, etc. The book recounted various accidents and near-misses at US and European plants, including the aforementioned Browns Ferry fire. (This was just a few months before the Chernobyl disaster, making the others looks minuscule.)

What I remember most about the book weren’t the disasters themselves; instead it was all of the countermeasures and design changes that each near-disaster brought about: using a feather instead of a flame, employing lower flammability materials, installing automated systems to halt the chain reaction, etc. These are lessons that I apply today as a software engineer: find the source of a problem, implement countermeasures, focus on risks.

I guess it should have been clear to me at that young age that I was going to be an engineer one day. In sixth grade I thought I was going to be a physicist, a desire which eventually gave way in college to the study of mathematics when I discovered I didn’t like lab nearly as much as I had expected. That introduced me to technical computing software and (eventually) the job I have now . . . which I should probably get back to doing.

Posted in General, Life Lessons | Leave a comment

Diabetes Application – A Sample Report

A couple weeks ago, I presented a teaser of my diabetes application. I’ve been working on it a lot lately, creating GUIs to enter most of the data on my insulin pump and blood glucose meter. But mostly I’ve been creating charts and reports. (Putting data in is much less interesting than analyzing it, in an effort to improve my “control.”)

Here’s one of the reports. It has a bit of everything, including the kitchen sink. The one I’m taking with me to my endocrinologist tomorrow is much more focused. Visualizing all of the data associated with diabetes is kind of tricky, so I’m working on that. More features to come. . . .

(Please, don’t judge me based on my readings. :^) Right now I’m using food to cover my insulin, which is the opposite of how it should work — it seems I never really got switched from the NPH mindset. Getting past that is one of the main reasons why I’m doing in this project.)

I’m committed to releasing everything under some kind of open source license. Everything, that is, except the data and anything that would involve a diagnosis or recommend a particular kind of treatment. I don’t want to be on the hook for FDA approval and all that involves.

Posted in Data-betes, Diabetes, Historical Record, Life Lessons, MATLAB, Software Engineering | Leave a comment

What I’m Doing Now

Blood glucose readings plot

More details to follow . . . eventually.

Posted in Data-betes, Diabetes, Life Lessons, Software Engineering | 2 Comments