April 2009 Archives
ICIS reporter Shelley Kerr was lucky enough to attend the recent "Newstone Winter Event" hosted by the brokerage at the ski resort of Engelberg in Switzerland ....
"Attendees were treated to a boozy buffet lunch before being escorted in horse drawn carriages to the slopes where they were to sample air boarding to the sound of the alpine horn (she writes).
For those not in the know, air boarding involves flinging yourself headfirst down a ski slope on a miniature air bed at high speed...needless to say much fun was had by all!
Newstone's team scooped up the awards, with Joelle Kastler winning the slalom crown. Meanwhile, Jeffrey Kellerman sustained the award for most injuries after taking down a slalom pole and later hitting his head on the restaurant's ceiling when the group retired for some après-ski.
After some pre and post dinner entertainment those that still had the stamina danced until the small hours...Good food, good wine, good entertainment and great company...what more could you ask for?"
• You have a favorite pump manufacturer.
• You can quote scenes from any Monty Python movie.
• You can size distillation columns in your head but need a pencil and paper to figure the tip on a $45 restaurant bill... and think that spending $45 for dinner is exorbitant.
• You see a good design and still have to change it.
• You can remember seven computer passwords but not your anniversary.
• You know who invented Jell-O.
• The microphone or projector at a meeting doesn't work and you rush up to the front to fix it.
• You've actually used every single function on your graphing calculator.
• You stare at an orange juice container because it says concentrate.
• You can name six Star Trek episodes.
- The Outdoors is Evil (It's official - We've got the lowdown on the biggest scientific discovery of the year.)
- Real Life (I've not turned my computer off in 16 years and my right hand has evolved into a claw.)
- The Church of Tim Berners-Lee
- Free Inside: Extra strength painkillers for your back and wrist
My friend Paul Hodges was here in the office on Friday and showed me a shocking slide from a presentation which a well-known chemicals consultancy had given at an industry briefing in June 2008, showing peak oil continuing for years to come and hence high chemical plant operating rates and high profitability. As we all now know, it was as wrong as wrong could be. And if it wasn't so tragic, it would be laughable.
I thought again of this when I came across this joke in Daniel Finkelstein's column in Saturday's Times. It's a statistician joke, but it serves just as well as a forecasting joke ...
Two statisticians are out hunting, taking aim at a deer. The first statistician shoots: it's a good shot, but he misses by 5ft to the left. Cursing his luck he fires again, missing this time by 5ft to the right. Suddenly the second statistician starts jumping up and down, shouting, "We hit it! We hit it!"
Click here for a link to "A Checklist for Survival", an ICIS training webinar with Paul Hodges on Thursday 14 May at 14:00 GMT on: "Who saw this recession coming and how will chemical companies survive it?"
Top 10 Chemical Songs
1 Anything by "The Chemical Brothers" or "My Chemical Romance"
2 Careless Whisper - George Michael (price reporting)
3 Rumours - Fleetwood Mac (more price reporting)
4 Killing me Softly - The Fugees (chemicals - just joking guys!)
5 It's Now or Never - Elvis Presley (last chance for a price hike)
6 The Carnival is Over - The Seekers (recession)
7 Stuck inside of Mobile (with the Memphis Blues again) - Bob Dylan (this one for Tobias with his phenol plant in Mobile)
8 N E C A (to the tune of YMCA - Village People)
9 Can we fix it? - Bob the Builder
10 Fake Plastic Trees - Radiohead
And more suggestions in readers' comments:
Polyethylene - Radiohead
Polythene Pam - Beatles
Plastic Fantastic Lover - Jefferson Airplane
Toxic - Britney Spears (MTBE)
I Can't Drive 55 - Sammy Hagar (ethanol)
Wipeout - The Ventures (US economy)
Thanks for the Memories - Fall Out Boy (cheap crude)
All Mixed Up - 311 (the US presidential run)
Push It - Salt 'N Pepa (green chemical industry)
There's a good article in this week's New Scientist on "Can Oil from Tar Sands be Cleaned Up?" The answer it seems is yes.
"Canadian tar sands contain an estimated 170 billion barrels of recoverable oil, second only to Saudi Arabia's reserves, (and they) ... dig up the tarry bitumen in gigantic open pit mines, then separate and refine it. The process destroys habitat and creates vast lakes of toxic residues. The Canadian government estimates that oil from tar sands takes three to five times as much energy to produce as conventional oil."
However ... "Nascent technologies may further reduce the greenhouse gas cost of tar sands extraction ... transform the bitumen into lighter oil underground, before it is pumped to the surface ... and many of the toxic sulphur and nitrogen compounds remain underground, which removes the surface pollution."
The next EPL (European Petrochemical Luncheon) is scheduled for 25 June 2009 at the Westin Palace Hotel in Madrid.
The cocktail party will be sponsored by Tricon Energy.
Registration will close on 19 June. The guest speaker will be the American comedian, Ruby Wax.
The following EPLs are planned for:
3 September 2009 - EPL Lunch in Brussels
10 December 2009 - EPL Dinner in Brussels
"Dominos Pizza has been at the centre of a social media storm since the staff at a Dominos drive thru in the US posted videos of themselves on YouTube that showed them doing disgusting things to the pizzas they were making."
- how to stand up and sit down in quick succesision
- how to shout and swear in front of children
- how to be highly partisan but still make small talk with the enemy
- and how to wave a flag without poking someone's eye out.
- any meat from any stand, even Deathburgers, smells DELICIOUS
- any song is invested with great emotion and poignancy if sung in the open-air by enough people (so long as they don't fluff the words.)
If you thought that the whitening pigment titanium dioxide (TiO2) was just for paint, coatings and plastics, you might want to think again.
Take an 'extra close' look at the ingredients the next time you're gnawing away on your chewing gum. Most contain the E number 'E171', or food grade TiO2. Because the mineral titanium is biologically inert, it is neither harmful or beneficial to us, making it ideal for whitening gum, medication coatings and other foods.
To get a brighter, whiter smile you're best to opt for a toothpaste with plenty of whitening TiO2. The pigment has also increasingly found its way into new, high tech dental bleaching kits as a photo catalyst. Using more TiO2 decreases the amount of hydrogen peroxide necessary in whitening kits to achieve the same effect, eliminating many side effects, such as tooth and gum sensitivity.
Helping us win in the battle against the bulge, you'll also find TiO2 in skimmed milk. Studies have shown that on top of adding opacity and colour, the palatability of skimmed milk is also improved when TiO2 is added.
Because you're worth it, more and more cosmetic companies are now using TiO2 for 'mineral based' make-up, a fast growing sector of the cosmetics industry as more consumers opt for natural ingredients over those with chemical bases. This same mineral base also finds its way into tattoo pigments.
Want a glowing tan? The latest sunscreen technology contains TiO2 nano-particles, making it ideal for reflecting the suns harmful UV rays, while avoiding that annoying, streaky application that takes too long to sink in.
Let it snow... Film and television companies can use TiO2 as a substitute for fake snow when filming scenes that require a winter setting.
And finally, TiO2 can be used in pet food to as an additive to improve colour and texture (probably more for the owners feeding their beloved animals rather than the pets themselves). However, while dogs are seemingly unfussy, studies have shown that discerning cats prefer the taste of their meal when it has a hint of TiO2 - bon appetite!
Paul Brunner, doyen of the European aromatics chemical trading community, has today announced his retirement from Trammochem after 22 years with the company.
In an email to his friends in the industry he remembered his start in the industry with Cargill as a grain trader, and his first EPCA and NPRA conferences 30 years ago, and reflected that, "It was a business which required analysis and decisiveness, yet where people's personalities and characters mattered."
He retires on 15 April 2009 from the Trammochem European base in Altendorf, Switzerland at the age of 60.
Brunner and his wife will be looking forward to spending their retirement in family pursuits and on the golf and tennis courts.
Click here for ICIS news article
How can I resist a press release out today from Bayer entitled "Long-lasting bathtime enjoyment," which my training buddy Peter T has just forwarded to me?
"Hotel bathtubs need to be considerably more robust than their domestic equivalents. Constant use by a succession of hotel guests subjects them to particularly high stresses, including the use of heavy-duty detergents. The materials used to make these bathtubs therefore need to be suitably resistant and at the same time offer good sound-absorbing properties."
Episodic memory, which is involved in recalling events, also declines rapidly, while the brain's processing speed slows down and working memory is able to store less information.
That all sounds rather depressing, but there is an upside. The abilities that decline in adulthood rely on "fluid intelligence" - the underlying processing speed of your brain. But so-called "crystallised intelligence", which is roughly equivalent to wisdom, heads in the other direction. So even as your fluid intelligence sags, along with your face and your bottom, your crystallised intelligence keeps growing along with your waistline. The two appear to cancel each other out, at least until we reach our 60s and 70s."
My colleague Stephen Burns, managing editor of ICIS Houston, has compiled a short video of some of the conference activity in the ICIS suite and beyond, on the sidelines of the 2009 NPRA conference in San Antonio.
My fellow ICIS blogger Doris has a great posting on the new washable men's business suit made from Teijin's Eco-A-Wear fabric, on her Green Chemicals blog:
"The fabric is composed of 54% recycled polyester, 42% wool and 4% stretched spandex. Teijin's recycled polyester by the way is made from used polyethylene terephtalate (PET) bottles. According to them it took 25 2-litre bottles to make one suit ....
And since it's washable, Teijin emphasized that there is no need to dryclean them which is a big plus in saving money and reducing the use of perchloroethylene."
There's more persecution from LinkedIn on Tuesday morning at NPRA when Andy and I both get LinkedIn requests from a former Russian employee who has sent us an "invitation to connect." At first sight, says Andy, the email with its smiling photo looks like it's for Russian mail-order brides.
I'm already being pursued via LinkedIn by another former contact to provide an online testimonial, and every few days by LinkedIn's "TripIt" to tell everyone on LinkedIn about my travel plans. I feel aggrieved because I didn't want to join in the first place, but it was the only way to write a testimonial for Paul Streeter.
Click here for more wingeing about LinkedIn.
Mikhail Gorbachev's speech to the NPRA Luncheon on Tuesday, in the Ballroom of the main conference hotel, the new Grand Hyatt, was attended by around 600 delegates.
I wasn't there myself but I was leaving for the airport just as everyone was piling in to the hotel for the 11 am start to the lunch event. It was the busiest I had seen the lobby all conference.
I crossed the road with my friend Kevin, who said that he saw Mr Gorbachev in the hotel that morning, and went up and shook his hand and gave him a business card.
"You never know when he might want to buy some benzene," said Kevin hopefully.
Press delegates to the conference were allowed in to sit at the back of the room after the lunch had been served and cameras were strictly forbidden.
Delegates commented that the speech was vague on specifics and not helped by Gorbachev speaking over the translator.
I was sorry to miss it. Two of the recent NPRA Luncheon speakers - Gen Colin Powell and John Major - were really excellent.
Click here to see Stephen Burns' full article on Gorbachev's speech on ICIS news.