27 August, 2007

Links To Articles Of Interest Aug 07

To CFL or not to CFL?:
First, a link to a guide to CFL light bulbs - please note that there are a number of things that can be described a bit more.

CFL lights are Compact Fluorescent Lamps and they combine the humble fluoro tube (a bit coiled in on itself and mangled, but the same, basically) with an electronic circuit which replaces the big metal ballast in a traditional fluoro light fitting. Ballasts, being a winding of wire, had some resistance and lost some energy due to heat, and were prone to buzzing when the core laminations began to separate. The electronics still wastes some energy as heat but is generally less wasteful and not noisy.

CCFL lights are Cold Cathode Fluorescent Lamps and they include a tiny inverter so that they can operate off 12V. Think of those older 12V powered fluoro light fittings that were so popular as car trouble lights in the late 70's and early 80's - this is them, married to a CFL style lamp.

On the drawback side, the article I reference above mentions that you might save $80 a year on an average household power bill by using CFL light bulbs, and that CFLs cost more to initially purchase, and that may both be true - but there is a far more compelling reason to buy CFL - you are saving pollution which would have been generated by the power station to supply the extra power. That alone make it imperative to switch to CFL or CCFL style lighting.

On the bonus side, using CFLs means you can light up some of the more dimly lit areas of your home and still generate less pollution. Also, CFL light globes are now a LOT cheaper than you think. Shop around, I'll give you an idea or two to start you off:

In Woolworths, a CFL bulb costs around the $5.00 mark, occasionally you may find two to a pack for that price, but in general, Woolworths is a grocery store not an electrical/hardware store. Going to Bunnings I can pay $9.00 for a blister pack of four of the same wattage CFL, and if you go to a discount store you can pick up two packs for $3.00 sometimes.

As the article also states, CFL are a fluorescent tube based light and include some mercury. Better to recycle these and return the mercury to the manufacturing process than let it seep through the water table from the landfill to your water...

BONUS POINTS: If you realise that by buying a solar panel and a gel battery and running CCFL light bulbs outside, you can have a garden lighting system that is as well lit as a fluorescent lighted garden, for no further outlay, no further energy costs, and no further pollution. I've been using this system with a small 300mm X 300mm 4W solar panel and a cheap $20 gel battery for a year, and it lasts well into the wee hours of the morning, I have a little timer on it so it turns on around 8PM and off again at 2AM and it has never let us down. And it has cost $0.00 in electricity or pollution since then.

Buy Fresh, Buy Local:
My second find of the month involves buying local and buying fresh. Don't think "oh, that's a simple concept, why is he bothering?" and dismiss it. This is at one swoop the best thing you can do for your quality of life, and if you don't do it you pretty much deserve what you get.

It's so simple - ask at your corner store, your grocer, your butcher, your supermarket - "Is there a local produce section please?" and if there is, buy whatever you can from there over the shiny offerings from the "national warehouses ensuring that you get the freshest produce ever."

Anything you can do to break the large supermarket chains' holds on produce markets, will result in a better quality of life for you and your family. If your local "SuperHugeMarket" isn't selling those tomatoes that they've had in the chiller room for the last eight months so they can name their own price for tomatoes this season, they will stop doing it. Their price of tomatoes will go up, but your local markets will have reasonably priced - and more importantly, fresh and healthy - tomatoes.

If you can do this, and avoid the trap of preservative-laden or "convenient" produce, you're taking a step towards a healthier life. If you purchase a copy of my Body Friendly Zen Cookbook, you'll be making another.

21 August, 2007

The Colour of Cancer-Free

Found a "fresh minted" article here that will help with the diet in the Body Friendly Zen Cookbook, but it needs a bit of clarification I think. Before you go rushing out and buying everything in sight based on colour... hehehe...

First, this article, as in so many others, barely mentions the words "fresh" nor "natural." Not as in "the kind my supermarket would have you believe but in fact we've stored this stuff for up to a year already and bombarded it with chemicals to keep it looking bright and fresh" but the kind of fresh you get from taking a vegetable that has ripened in the ground, been harvested no more than a few days ago, and brought all nice and cool and crisp to the market where you've taken it home and cooked it within a day sort of fresh and natural.

Because, if the fruit or vegetable has been treated to make it keep longer, it's now contaminated with chemicals that are NOT in the human species' diet plan. If it's been stored for any length of time, the active ingredients have lost their potency and you may as well eat coloured starch. And most importantly, if it's out of season, then for most fruits and vegetables we've lost the other great natural healing force, the Pulse. In the Body Friendly Zen Cookbook I mention the Pulse for a range of ingredients and how it's actually a large part of the effectiveness of the diet.

Also note that not all things that are brightly coloured are automatically good for one. The beautiful red colour of Amanitae mushrooms hides a potent toxin that kills flies on contact and can kill a human almost as easily.

Also, bear in mind that the things that give a food the colour and the tart taste are the ingredients we want? Of grapes, it's the skins and seeds (especially the seeds) which give the antioxidant effect, and that is why red wine (which is brewed with the skins and seeds in the vat) is effective while white wine (which is brewed from white grape juice only, no skins or seeds) is not. The old saw that the "goodness is in the skin" of a vegetable is for a large part the truth.

Can I put it any plainer? Old wives' tales had to originate from something. Our ancestors didn't all know how to read and write, but they knew how to pass on observations. The family down the road, that peeled the skins off their vegetables and ate mostly potatoes and very few others, their kids sickened every year. It's as valid an observation as any made by a scientist in their laboratory today, and the way we passed that knowledge on was by repeating it until it stuck and became an old wives' tale...

So if you have any old lore like that, it needs to be preserved. If you leave it in comments here, I will try and collect it inot a coherent and searchable web page every so often. Meanwhile, have a great day, and don't forget to eat your greens, and your reds, and your purples.

20 August, 2007

Green is the new stupid

No apologies to using a hackneyed paraphrase. This is a hackneyed subject, no matter what. When I first saw the original article appear, my first reaction was "what a pack of eedjits!"

I haven't changed my mind, either. Let's assume, for this scenario, that black backgrounds really do save energy. (They don't on some monitors, by the way.) So how long do you typically spend on the serach engine results page? An hour a day in total? That's under 5% of the day. Assuming that your monitor uses 20% less power on that black screen, that's a saving of 5% of 20% of total power use, or 1% power saving. I could save that by hitting keys slower when working, so that my body doesn't produce as much heat load for the air conditioner to have to move...

Then too, the penetration of LCD monitors means that the backlight stays on at the same level, and switching pixels to black could actually increase power consumption. Also, on some older tube type monitors, clamping the EHT power supply down rather than switching it off can sometimes be used to produce black. Again, those monitors actually use more power when displaying black.

And of course, while the penetration of LCDs is estimated at 75% in the Google blog article, most of those are in a work environment, many home computer users still have tube type monitors. So the work related monitors are at best not going to experience a practical difference displaying black, and besides, most workplaces pretty much discourage keeping a search engine with a black background open instead of a crisp white document, so these will typically spend much less than an hour a day with that page on top, anyway.

And the homes users, they may use a search engine, but only to find new crisp white pages to read and crisp white games to play.

Best way you can save energy with your monitor is to turn it off when not using it.

03 August, 2007

1918. Hmmm 2018 is not far away.

It killed more people than several world wars, then vanished. The one year outbreak in 1918 - 1919 killed what was initially thought to be 40 million (!!!) to 50 million people but a more recent revision of these numbers says that figure is approximately double what was initially thought. Spanish Flu could very well have been the closest the human race came to a mass extinction event in recorded history. Let me put this into perspective for you. It is now believed that between 80,000,000 and 100,000,000 people lost their lives to that microscopic killer. That's between four and five times the population of Australia...

The Spanish Flu (or "La Grippe" or "Swine Flu" as it was also variously known) was one variant in the dance between predators and prey, and we weren't the predators in that round... That variant is still latent within the structure of today's viruses and can emerge again, and of course there are any number of other variants which could become even more efficient infectors. It produced extreme symptoms that masked their activity and caused the virus to be misdiagnosed by the much lesser medical knowledge of the time, puzzling doctors. One of the killers was the bacterial pneumonic and bronchial illnesses that resulted from the way the virus acted.

And I'm mentioning that because I believe that I've just survived the great great grandchild of that virus. As you may know, here in Western Australia we have had four young lives cut short by the virus and the bacterial infections it engendered, and in Queensland now, another child has lost the fight. And no-one has checked on how many of the older and more infirm have passed on from pneumonic infections this flu season, and how many of those were attributable to this new virus strain. I'm not even a little sure of any of this, because I am not an epidemiologist, but I think it should be investigated by one.

All I have to go on is the fact that I have never had a flu lay me low for over three weeks, almost four weeks in fact. And five children have been killed by a flu. And an unknown number of seniors. It may not be the global pandemic this year that Spanish Flu was back at the start of last century. But it's early days, and certainly the last 20 years have marked an ever increasing virulence...

One last thought: If anyone is a medical person out there, can the blood of person who has fended off a virus be used to produce an antibody that can be grown and used to inoculate those most at risk? Because if so I need to get me to a laboratory.

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