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31/12/2010 - Mark Ramsay & Ionactive in 2010

Well it has been an ‘interesting' year 2010 - it has not been all good or all bad. The year has certainly had some personal triumphs and disasters, for Ionactive it has certainly been a quieter year (that has its own good and not so good points).

Mark Ramsay

Mark Ramsay of Ionactive Consulting (Radiation Protection Adviser)

On the personal front February 2010 was not a good month - this is where we had a house break in and most things of any value, including my car, were taken. It was a rather traumatic time which has not totally been erased from the memory. Suffice to say that security around the house has improved significantly, it is just a pity that it takes such an event before taking those little extra actions (like alarming the house each and every time you go out).

Flying (PPL)

Still on a personal note I started to learn to fly in July 2010 - this is a big achievement for me (just getting in the air), since I have always been apprehensive when on a commercial airliner. I am limited by both time and funds - therefore I think the learning process will certainly be a long term project rather than ‘get my wings\' as quickly as possible. I have no particular desire for taking flying any further than a hobby, but I do have some significant goals to achieve on the way to gaining a Private Pilots License (PPL). These goals include:

  • Obtaining class 2 medical clearance - achieved Dec 2010, renewable every 2 years
  • Air law (sometime in January 2011 if I have time)
  • First Solo - perhaps sometime before the end of March 2011?
  • Solo Cross Country - Maybe sometime during the summer of 2011?
  • Seven exams (including law) - by then end of 2011 I hope
  • Skills test and PPL - maybe by end of 2011, but more likely 2012

Being realistic I cannot be more certain of the timing than that expressed above, and this might be rather optimistic anyway. The factors are always going to be time (lack of) and cost. The cost factor is interesting - it is not cheap for sure, but having saved for this and avoided other expensive hobbies / smoking etc etc I still think the expensive is worth it for the personal goals set out.

I am flying at the West London Aero Club based at White Waltham airfield (about 15 minutes from home by car). One of the regular PA-28 aircraft is shown below (G-BZDA).

The PA-28 I am learning in

My weight

My weight is something I must do something about during 2011. Whilst weight did not lead to a failed medical I was warned in no uncertain terms to get rid of 2-3 stones, wonder if the weight loss will be easier to achieve than the flying?

Cooking (curry and more)

Cooking (see posts below) remains an interesting hobby - the challenge now is to cook up more healthy options that combine my love of Asian food with a decreasing waist size!

Music (prog rock and more)

Jethro Tull Progressive Rock

Music - well, many of you know I love progressive rock music, but to be fair I love all music really. I really only get a chance to listen to anything when in the car so I am trying to get most of the CD collection onto an iPod - the goal is to try and listen to each and every album I have at least once during 2011.

Ionactive Consulting Limited

Ionactive Consulting Limited - Radiation Protection Adviser (RPA)

So we come to Ionactive. You might wonder why I have put myself first and the company second in this final post of 2010. We are one and the same and I think it is important that clients who use the company know who they are dealing with. It is true that certifications, technical competence, suitably and the like are important when selecting your Radiation Protection Adviser (RPA). However, I also think knowing the person you are dealing with is equally important. Indeed, this is why Ionactive has done well and expanded over the last few years - a personal service from someone you know, rather than a statistic on a client database where any number of potential RPA's might be despatched when you need one. So on this website blog you see the good and perhaps not so good side of Mark Ramsay (RPA) - but you know who you are getting!

The R and N in CBRN (Radiation safety training for emergency services)

We started early 2010 by delivering two ‘R & N in CBRN' radiation protection courses, one in Scotland for all three blue lights (fire, police and ambulance service), and one in Wales for the Fire and Police service. Both courses were a success with good feedback. We have now done most of the UK and are thinking more about refresher courses going forwards from 2011. The 2011 refresher courses will be split three ways: revision of radiation protection, the ‘R&N' threat analysis, and practice exercises. If you are interested in this check out our ‘R & N in CBRN' training pages.

Despite the two courses noted above, emergency service training during 2010 was quieter then during the period 2007-2009. It remains to be seen how things pan out for 2011, clearly the cuts in public sector funding have potential to affect training budgets for the foreseeable future.

Ionactive Radiation Protection Supervisor (RPS) Training courses

Our own Radiation Protection Supervisor (RPS) training courses have run well throughout 2010 - here the uptake in 2010 was greater than 2009. We have trained over 150 delegates from all around the world - most of them from the UK, but a welcome fraction from the Ukraine, Qatar, Bahrain, Mexico, India and so on. The modest but important international recognition of the good value and service provided by Ionactive training courses is very welcome.

Ionactive in Bahrain (RPS training)

In fact, one of our delegates from Bahrain has invited Ionactive out to the Gulf during January 2011 to deliver two ‘3 day' radiation safety courses on site. These bespoke courses are based around the needs of the oil industry and in addition to basic radiation protection will cover NORM (Naturally Occurring Radioactive Materials), Industrial Radiography, and Multi-Phase Flow Meters (Cs-137). We very much look forward to delivering these courses!

Ionactive in the UK (RPS training at our UK training venue)

Generally our unique methodology of training delegates from all areas of ionising radiation use continues to work well. During 2011 we have had delegates from the following sectors: oil and gas industry, security, medicine, quality assurance, training providers, heavy industry, industrial radiography, NORM and so on. Training all delegates together continues to pay dividends and we still believe this is the best way to produce ‘a well rounded RPS who understands the bigger picture\'. It allows the delegate to have a better understanding of radiation risk, putting their own uses of ionising radiation in context with the other delegates. This has been particularly dramatic where we have supported delegates from the Ukraine who have been working on the Chernobyl New Safe Confinement project - everyone wants to talk to them during the breaks and evening course meal!

The only slight let down was our training venue during October 2010 - the otherwise excellent venue (which we have used exclusively for the last three years) fell below their usual standards and quite a few delegates complained (e.g. food, rooms, lighting etc). This was quite upsetting since we have never had a single complaint before. However, we are pleased to say that the venue sorted out the issues and the November 2010 RPS course revealed that highest standards were once again being displayed (i.e. 100% positive review from all the delegates). Any company or product will have setbacks, at Ionactive we just ensure that when they occur we deal with them - it is part of our philosophy (see About Ionactive Consulting).

So we look forward to radiation protection training during 2011, be it bespoke courses in the UK or beyond, or our monthly Radiation Protection Supervisor courses.

Ionactive Radiation Protection related resource (multi-media etc)

In expanding our training resources and in general offering radiation protection resource to the masses, we have worked again this year with Dr Chris Robbins from Grallator Limited. Two significant pieces of resource were produced during the year, one looking at the design features of a medical linear accelerator bunker, the other looking at the design and safety features of an open top industrial radiography bay. We look forward to working with Chris again during 2011.

Ionactive Radiation Protection Adviser (RPA) services

In terms of general RPA work and client base, 2010 has been as diverse as usual. We have worked for almost every sector that uses ionising radiation - examples have included:

  • Nuclear research reactor
  • Industrial irradiators
  • NORM (this might surprise you, see below in a moment)
  • Security industry (including back scatter technology)
  • Food industry (x-ray quality assurance)
  • Museums
  • Industrial process (canning, flow measurement, thickness measurement)
  • Research and teaching

NORM (a special and important mention)

One for specific mention is NORM. This is mostly associated with the oil and gas industry, and a little less so with other processes (e.g. ceramic production, steel making etc). We visited a site during the summer that essentially produced a dye - the site looked like an oil refinery. For confidentiality purposes we will not divulge specifics - but it is important for radiation protection and the industry community to understand the types of liabilities that these sort of sites face. This is particularly true if certain sites are less than willing to admit / accept that they may have a problem. My own personal view is that this might even extend to the regulators (e.g. HSE / Environment Agency) who might see these sites as something that should have been on the radar (but were not).

Any site that uses, for example, feedstock such as Zircon sand in an industrial scale process will have a potential NORM problem. This will include the ceramic industry, the dye industry (e.g. white pigment) and so on. The feedstock is not really the problem; it is the industrial processes over time that produces TENORM (Technically enhanced NORM). Do not let anyone try to suggest that these create trivial radiation safety risks, or issues that are ‘below regulatory concern'.

We have personally seen and monitored areas during 2010 that would raise the eyebrow (and make their monitors scream) of a seasoned nuclear industry worker - that is no exaggeration. Try 20 to > 1000 micro Sv/h along extended lengths of pipe work and measureable levels of movable alpha emitting contamination containing Po-210 (polonium 210) out in the environment. Add in a mix of few warning signs, little awareness (or acceptance) that problems exist, little regulator involvement (presumably because they know little about it) - and you have a heady mix!! (I should add that I am talking in an ‘organisational sense\' - there were certain specific individuals I met who were very conscientious, recognised problems existed, and were personally trying to do their bit to make things right).

Suffice to say - if you are in that type of industry then talk to Ionactive now. We have form and were involved in two NORM decommissioning projects in London during 2008 (happy to say these were under the full eyes of the regulators who praised our work - credit goes to those who were responsible for the site and who recognised they had a problem and got it sorted out). Enough of that rant - but I think this type of work will become more common in future years as these sites close and the land becomes available for redevelopment (i.e. as the economy improves).

Happy New Year 2011

Well I guess that is all for now. I am going to try really hard and update this more often.

All the best to everyone and have a great 2011.

Mark Ramsay

30/12/2010 - Lamb Madras (Takeaway Style) Part 4

So we now reach part 4 of this blog!

Lamb Madras

We are ready to make the takeaway style Lamb Madras. You will probably have 3-4 portions of gravy and pre-cooked meat (lamb) so you have a chance to experiment a little - and if you like what you create you can do it the next night too!

I freeze the gravy and the lamb and it seems to taste even better after the freezing process. Anyway, on to the cooking. For one generous portion of lamb madras you will need to do the following. Put a little oil in a pan and heat (I use olive oil). Then add the following in the order given:

Small pinch of salt
One half tea spoon of Garlic / Ginger paste (a good reason to create for part 2 and then freeze some)
1 tbs tomato puree
½ teaspoon of Methi leaves (dried fenugreek leaves) - go easy on these...
1 tbs of mixed powder (see Part 1)
1 tbs of chilli powder
1 teaspoon on lemon juice

Fry all this up for a minute or so and then add the pre-cooked lamb. At this stage I prefer to then add some chopped green Thai chillies, but you can leave this out if you want something a little milder. Then add between 1/3 to ¼ of the gravy created in part 2 of this blog. Let this boil for 3-4 minutes and then serve !!

Madras 01

Madras 02

madras 03

Madras 04

During this final cooking process I prefer to partake in a Corba larger!.

Cobra Larger

We must not forget the chap that encouraged my to try this - please see the following YouTube video. There are a few subtle differences - try whatever is best for you!

Enjoy and let me know how you get on.

30/12/2010 - Lamb Madras (Takeaway Style) Part 3

The pre-cooked meat

(You will also need to see parts 1 and 2 below)

Like the gravy in part 2, the pre-cooked meat is all designed to ensure that a takeaway dish can be made quickly. However, far from appearing to be a ‘cheat', this is an excellent way of flavouring and tenderising the meat. It also means you can then freeze portions of the meat for use another day.

As you will see below, I do not fry the meat at all, but I do fry the spices and onions before the meat is added. In fact the meat is really simmered slowly in liquid and this imparts a fabulous flavour and makes the lamb ‘melt in the mouth'. You could do the same with beef (cook longer) or chicken (cook less).

Firstly, put the following into the pan in the order shown - use a small amount of olive oil to fry altogether for about 5 minutes.

2 small onions finely chopped
1 tbs of the garlic / chilli paste (also used in part 2 of this blog series)
Pinch of salt
4 bay leaf (I used dried)
4 cardamom pods
3cm piece of cinnamon stick
1tbs of the Powder Mix (prepared in part 2 of this blog series)

Then add about one pint of water and bring to the boil - boil for 5 minutes or so. Finally, add the meat - I just used about 1 kg of cubed lamb. Then turn the heat down and similar for about 50 minutes - check how tender the lamb is, if it needs more time then cook it for longer. At the end of the cooking drain the lamb getting rid of everything other than the meat itself. There you have pre-cooked lamb! Here are a few pics of the process:

Meat 01

Meat 02

Meat 03

Meat 04

Meat 05

Here is our chap again showing how it is done - he is making pre-cooked chicken but you will see the basic recipe is the same.

Now look out for part 4 of this blog series - we are now ready to make the lamb madras. The great thing is you now have enough gravy and meat for 3-4 meals. Other than defrosting the actual curry can now be made in 10-15 minutes!

30/12/2010 - Lamb Madras (Takeaway Style) Part 2

The Base Gravy

(You will also need to see part 1 below)

OK, now for the Base Gravy. Like it or not, this is the method which ensures that your takeaway can provide you with a curry in the obligatory 15-20 minutes if you call in without phoning first. All the curry types are based on this aromatic gravy. I was surprised how close this gravy tastes (and smells) to the takeaway version.

One key thing here I find is that you do not need to be too fussy over exactly what proportions are used. Just experiment and see what works best for you. You need a large pan - put a splash of oil at the bottom (I use olive oil). Then add the following in the order presented - chopped up where required, use a medium heat.

6 large onions
1 green pepper
4 large green chilli (take seeds out)
Handful of fresh coriander
Salt (I used a tea spoon)
2 tbs of Garlic / Ginger paste (made mine by using a mini food mixer)
Tin of tomatoes
Two large carrots
2 tbs of powder mix (see part one of the blog).

Once all have been added and you have heated for a few minutes, add about 1 pint of water and cover and simmer for about 1 hour. After the hour leave to cool down and then use an electric mixer to blend down to the ‘typical' takeaway curry gravy. You will be amazed at the aroma and taste (even without all the extra bits to be added later it still has the familiar taste you are after).

Gravy 01

Gravy 02

Gravy 03

The finished product is in the picture below - you can add more water if required.

Gravy 04

That is it. See how our friend describes this process in his video below. You will note I have used more tomato and possibly more carrot which makes mine look more red. As I have said before, try it and see what you prefer.

In part 3 we look at preparing the pre-cooked lamb.

30/12/2010 - Lamb Madras (Takeaway Style) Part 1

Ok for the festive season I thought I would put a few words together regarding restaurant style curry - something I have been experimenting with for some time. Anyone that reads the Ionactive blog will know that apart from radiation protection (the day job), my interests are music (progressive rock) and Asian food (subject of this blog).

I have always liked spicy food and elements of Chinese, Thai, and ‘Indian' (in all its flavours) appeals greatly. For this blog I am investigating the Takeaway Restaurant style Lamb Madras. First off I concede that the average takeaway does not produce ‘authentic' cooking in the sense of what might be found in the average native home kitchen. Indeed, I have lots of cookery books that proclaim to allow you to cook authentic Indian meals. However, that is all well and good - but I enjoy the best takeaway food around in a local Indian Restaurant called Mitas. It can be found in the town of Twyford and their food is excellent. I now have my own signature dish the ‘Ramsay Special' on the menu as detailed below.

The Ramsay Special on the Menu at Mitas

The Ramsay Special

Whilst they are not giving away any specific secrets, Mitas has provided plenty of tips. There is a wealth of online resource too and this is where I have picked up most of the subject matter for this article. I must therefore be clear that this is not all my own doing and most of the credit for this recipe and cooking technique goes to the online YouTube chap called ‘ dipuraja1 '. You will see for each bit of this recipe I have embedded his complete video on the stage I am discussing. All I have really done in this blog is to take the video and perhaps explain in slightly slower / clearer (?) detail what is going on. Furthermore, I have refined the recipes slightly to my own taste - with some additional revision being applied after talking to my local restaurant Mitas.

So, on to the cooking. There are four stages to this, but once you have done the first three stages you potentially have a number of meals almost complete.

The stages are:

1) The powder mix
2) The gravy
3) The pre-cooked meat (in this case Lamb)
4) The Lamb Madras

The great thing about this is that you can use the first three to make, for example, lamb Rogan Josh - just by adjusting the final cooking process (part 4). Furthermore, if you pre-cook other meat (or fish) then you are ready to make lots of different meals.

So we start with Part 1 - the powder mix.

The Powder Mix

For this we need the following - all should be in powered form and needs no pre-cooking / heating. You simply mix the proportions in an air-tight container - that is it.

2 tbs Curry Powder (any medium curry powder will do)
1 tbs Cumin Powder
2 tbs Coriander Powder
2 tbs Paprika Powder
3 tbs Turmeric Powder
1 tbs Garam Masala

Powder Mix

The Powder mix ready to go

Here is the video prepared by dipuraja1 . Not many changes but I have toned down the cumin.

I think this chap is great - check out all his stuff as well as this blog.

That is it - part 2 later (where we make the gravy).


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This is the company blog of Ionactive Consulting Limited, a Radiation Protection Adviser consultancy. Visit here often to read our views on radiation protection and related matters. You can contact our director and RPA directly at

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