29 December, 2008

Autopublishing Rocks

I just pre-wrote a post on here and left it to autopublish on its due date.  Kind of a weird feeling - I could be run over by a bus in the interim and that article and others will still publish....

What a great dead-man switch!  "You can't - if you kill me that post will publish and reveal your part in the scheme to hijack that shipment of nuclear weapons!  You need me to delete it before that happens!"

And a good way to creep out your relatives after you die...  Arrange your posts to autopublish at key dates, and hope that someone keeps your blog in their feed reader... %)

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24 December, 2008

Toyota Goes "Me Too!" with their planned EV.

*sigh*.  Yet another electric vehicle.  It seems a bit airheaded of me, I know.  I'm sposed to be shouting all things green from the rooftops, after all this is the green side blog... But... This is Toyota, I like Toyota...  And all they've come up with so far is the decidedly non-green Prius and now this little EV which looks like the minimum amount of design work and effort to get from gas to green.  Gone from "Toyota" to Toyawnta" in one easy step...

Two things that really really REALLY shit me are all the car manufacturers seeming to have agreed on a standard formula already and all building broadly the same EV with a different badge; And all of them, when asked about it, fishing a date out of the same hat: "Oh, when?  Errr, 2010.  Yeah, that sounds good.  Say we said 2010 when you write us up, okay?"

As I said in another article, with any kind of luck this is the tipping point over a slippery slope for the Big Iron auto manufacturers, and while I deplore a waste of billions of dollars as much as the next person, the bailout might just be a cheap price to pay for getting rid of that particular "car"tel...  Because, you do understand that despite the huge suck at the public tit, they will inevitably go "bus"t due to public reaction, as the green message sinks in.

The idea is that just as in evolution, organisms grow until they exceed the capacity of their niche to support them.  That's when you step in and star supplemental feeding, which is what the bailout is.  And then economics takes over and you realise the species is better off extinct...

Meanwhile, small manufacturers will fill the niche, and one hopes they'll do a better job at innovating and coming up with new technology.  And before 2010, thank you very much!  I'm still sure that any number of companies out there could come up with a series of hub motors/batteries/solar conversion kits to turn front-wheel drive petrol engined small cars into fuel/electric dual drives, which could spin out their useable lives by another five years and reduce their petrol consumption by half.

And don't forget all those crazed inventors spruiking and promoting their water to hydroxy gas to water mileage boosters.  Because, these technologies aren't new - my father knew people who converted their cars to use hydroxy gas, steam injection, and even charcoal fired wood-gas to run on.  No kidding - I've seen old faded b&w pix of a car with basically a sealed, wood-heated, wood-containing boiler, and the gas that it boiled out of the wood was used to run the engine...

See, we're overly used to convenience.  That particular guy back in the early 1900's had to plan his trips carefully - fill the chamber with wood, start the fire going, watch the pressure gauge and when the time was ripe, belt off to the nearest village, where (with luck) he had time to cool the chamber, remove the charred remnants, add new wood, and re-stoke for the return trip.  You don't just go impulse shopping when you have a setup like that...

But I digress.  The point was to say that this technology works.  Despite being "invented" every year by someone new, it's the same ideas going around.  The reason they fail is that it's far more convenient to just turn a key and drive away.  No-one except the dedicated person wants to have to fiddle with an electrolyser or fill a steam water vessel before each trip.  The reason the car manufacturers aren't all baying and snapping to develop these ideas isn't because they don't work but because what they already have works and is all market-ready, no additional development costs.

Look at the light bulb - for almost 200 years, we wasted 80% of the electricity that was used in lighting.  almost 100 years ago we had fluorescent tubes, 30 to 40 years ago we had the technology to make CFL bulbs.  But the light bulb manufacturers were using factory plant that had been used for decades (many many deacdes!) and didn't want to go to the bother of upgrading their plant.  Why should they?  It's only been in the last few years that any of them grudgingly made a CFL among their stock lines, and it took force majeure in the form of government regulations before they all started making them.

And in the interim, smaller specialty manufacturers made a fortune selling CFLs and now the major light bulb manufacturers have competition. That's exactly the situation the car industry is heading into now.  Good luck to them all...

There will be other ways to differentiate your EV from others.  A mass commodity market approach would work so much better than the big bucks car showrooms.  After all, people are buying these to be green yes - but the real reason is that they want a cheap form of transport, not some chrome behemoth sold from an expensive car showroom where the cost of that premises and the sales staff must be re"coupe"d.

Also - sharing taxis could be another small thing that adds up - Laurent is apparently working on a few new wrinkles for his cab sharing site, so go there, try it out, and support his effort.

So - the standard formula is Lithium ion style batteries, crap electric drives, and a cont"roller" made in China sold with a different badge on it, and I reckon by 2010, all the big manufacturers will have one at least on the market.  If Toyota want to do something for their image, they would be better off finding a new niche rather than jumping up and down yelling "me too!  me too!"

PS: I realised afterwards that I had all these inadvertent puns so I put quotes round them and slightly changed the font colour.  No reason, it just amused me when I proofed the article and I love stupid puns...

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23 December, 2008

Baby Green Steps

Are you prepared?  Do I sound like one of those survivalists who rose to attention last century, who had stashes of food, weapons, ammunition, clean water, and fallout shelters?  Because, that kind of attitude has always been around, and always it's treated with a mixture of amusement and respect.  Farming and animal husbandry started out of a survivalist attitude - only then they didn't call it "survivalist," they just called it "surviving..."

Similarly, the people most like survivalists today are the sensible treehuggers - not the ones that chain themselves to trees or want to flood the world with pet food animals - rather, the ones who, like us, are quietly going about their day and making each day a little less impacting, a little more self-sufficient.  I don't mind what type of action you take, as long as you're aware of the problems and pitfalls and are doing something positive.  That's what being "Zen" means, on this website and on the zencookbook.com website.

I notice that JH Kunstler predicted a recession, for a variety of reasons, and also that he has suggestions for the following decades.  Now, since his predictions are all proving to be quite uncannily accurate, I will tend to believe a lot of what James says.  Now compare that to this article about what President Obama should do.

There's quite a gulf between the two...  Yet each has valid points as well as weak links.  With the instability in oil prices, I would not be surprised if fossil fuel vehicles see a very sharp decline.  Despite handing auto manufacturer CEO's gloriously bountiful golden handshakes (which is what the bail-outs amount to) those will see a slippery slope from which there will be no coming back.  Similarly, any work invested into that most oxymoronic of oxymorons, "clean coal," will see nothing but billions sunk into a technology which will amount to almost zero benefit to the world.

And as far as keeping things local, I can think of a few things I'd prefer not to localise - health and medicine, for one.  I just can't see how dying in Town A, when the right medications and treatments are available in Town Z a thousand kilometers away, well I can't see how that would be of benefit...

Also - these are big-ticket items, which I can't deal with all by myself.  I'm happy to provide the support for voicing these plans, and spreading what information I have - but I realise that this is something "WE" all will do together.  I'm confident that en masse we will all speak up, and the changes will happen.

Meanwhile, I'm doing the personal, "survivalist" things that I know make a difference at "MY" level - I have a worm farm and hoping to make that a much larger setup so that I can collect scraps and distribute worms and worm fertiliser around my neighbours, in return for maybe some of their produce.  I'm making kitchen planters/seedling raisers and sharing how to make them on this blog, and I use the solar power of the bus to try and offset energy use here - I run the refrigerator out there for keeping longer-term foods, am using the 12V freezer as my deep freezer, and will shortly run out 12V CCFL lights so that I can reduce my energy footprint even more. I tend to run my laptop from a 12V powerpack off the solar batteries, again to reduce the energy footprint.

And I'm experimenting with compact high yield gardens without fertiliser runoff, and as I develop these I'll be posting them to this blog. For example, my in-ground herb patch is already watered by recycled grey water from the washing machine.  My washing machine itself is a recycled item which I saved from becoming landfill, and also a quite efficient little machine.

Because I can see how fragile our hold on "civilisation" really is becoming, and to me that means that there need to be islands of civilisation of a more environmental kind.  Since you're reading this, I presume you must feel very much the same way.  Oh - don't get me wrong, either - I believe technology will definitely pay off for us in environmentally friendly ways if we just keep funding it - also advances on medical technology which will allow us to better survive, and better adapt, and generally live better lives.

I just believe that since I can't develop a safe fusion reactor given my faculties and resources, I can at least take steps to make sure that while I'm waiting for the next big breakthrough, I'll ruin as little of the Eart as possible, to give them more time to think...

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22 December, 2008

Planters Sprout Crop

Update to the kitchen planter article from last week - the soil stayed damp through one of the hottest days, and then the rest of the week, and the seeds have sprouted.
sorry for the blurries, I'm a lousy cam op

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17 December, 2008

Share Taxis In Your City! Save Money!

Here's a service that the concept works for me, and which I'll have to try. http://www.cabeasy.com/ lets you enter a planned cab journey, and someone else can chip in along the way.  Given so many web enabled phones, all it needs is an SMS reminder as well as the email alert, and you could have Twitter-like social sharing of cabs and cab fares.

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14 December, 2008

The UPC Never Lies.

Handy to know in these times of very troublingly contaminated Chinese goods and foods, are the barcodes, the UPC codes, on packaging.

The resellers and retailers who would rather see you buy the cheaper Chinese products will obviously try and obfuscate the country of origin as much as possible, given all the recent bad (and deservedly so) publicity Chinese product has been getting.  But the UPC codes (those barcodes generally printed as part of the packaging) have to be true and correct.

So by knowing which barcodes to avoid, you can save yourself and your family from lead or melamine or other contaminant poisoning.  And it's not as difficult as you'd think.  Look at the first three digits of the UPC barcode, this is the three digit country number.  The ones to watch out for: 690 to 695 are all  made in China.  471 is made in Taiwan.
A UPC Code
Here are a few more - you can safely forget these again, as long as you remember 690 - 695 and 471.

00  ~ 13 USA & CANADA
30  ~ 37 FRANCE
40  ~ 44 GERMANY
49  ~ JAPAN
50  ~ UK
57  ~ Denmark
64  ~ Finland
76  ~ Switzerland and Liechtenstein
741 ~ Taiwan
628  ~ Saudi-Arabia
629  ~ United Arab Emirates
690 - 695 ~ China
740  ~ 745 - Central America
All  480 Codes are made in the  Philippines.

Here's an article on barcodes, and here's a bigger list of countries if you like that kind of thing/

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13 December, 2008

Kitchen Herb Planter For Peanuts

Want to make a few planters for herbs in the kitchen but the garden or hardware store is just too far away? More importantly, do you want to re-use and re-purpose old stuff you'd only be sending to the tip or to the recycle center anyway?
I used some 2.2litre soft drink bottles I had and was feeling guilty about.  I cut it just under the halfway mark and again just above, because these bottles have a stiffener ridge cast into them which gets in the way.
I make a small puncture in the bottle base bit, about 1 - 2 cm down from the cut edge, just to prevent air locks when filling.  Generally a "crease" forms when you jam the two parts into one another and lets air in, but the puncture is just in case that doesn't happen.  (You don't want the bottom airtight because the reservoir won't fill up properly if the seal is too good.)
So then you stuff some kind of porous wadding (I used a fibre wool I salvaged from some old air conditioning ducting but old teeshirt or towel or dishcloth would probably do) through the neck of the top part of the bottle and press in some potting mix fairly tight.  As you can see from the last pic above, that crease did form when jamming the two bottle halves inside one another.
And that's it, really.  Add enough water (about three or four standard cups) to drain through and fill the reservoir, plant your seeds or seedlings, and keep the watering up.  Some liquid fertiliser applied every week or two will help - but not much as it will collect in the reservoir.  And keep it where it will get light, by a window, and don't let it dry out.

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Save A Fortune On Solar Panels!

If it's true that there's a glut of solar panels on the market, then perhaps put off your plans to become energy self-sufficient until late next year?  While the advantages of solar electric and hot water can't be overstated, and the effect of tens of thousands of households switching to nett surplus of energy will undoubtedly alleviate the need for more power stations, the effect on the economy of your pocket of waiting for the cheaper cells may just be worth it.

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12 December, 2008

Enough To Make You Sick? Hell Yeah!

I don't think I've harped on enough yet, about additives and how they DO NOT belong in our food.  Here - I've picked a colouring agent and three preserving/processing agents out of the list which is in the appendix of The Body Friendly Zen Cookbook:

"-Known to provoke asthma attacks (though the US FDA** do not recognise this) and urticaria (nettle rash) in children (the US FDA** estimates 1:10 000); also linked to thyroid tumours, chromosomal damage, urticaria (hives) and hyperactivity; ... used to colour drinks, sweets, jams, cereals, snack foods, canned fish, packaged soups; banned in Norway and Austria

-derived from coal tar; all sulphur drugs are toxic and restricted in use (in USA, FDA** prohibits their use on raw fruits and vegetables), produced by combustion of sulphur or gypsum; known to provoke asthma attacks and difficult to metabolise for those with impaired kidney function, also destroys vitamin B1; typical products are beer, soft drinks, dried fruit, juices, cordials, wine, vinegar, potato products

-used to prevent rancidity in oily substances; derived from nutgalls; may cause gastric or skin irritation, gallates are not permitted in foods for infants and small children because of their known tendency to cause the blood disorder, methaemoglobinemia; used in oils, margarine, lard and salad dressings, sometimes used in packaging

-petroleum based; the HACSG* recommends to avoid it. May cause nausea, vomiting, delirium. A dose of 5g is considered fatal. Typical products are fats, oils, margarine"

With such lovely descriptions, (I've highlighted the most worrisome in red,) you're probably thinking I was very selective and looked hard to find those four.  Truth is, I was very selective, but didn't have to look far - I'd estimate that between one third and one half of all the additives used in our food are known to be toxic, are banned, and cause serious ill effects in people.  And no-one has ANY idea what they do in combination...  

So I suggest that you buy my book, or find a table of additives and known issues, load it on your mobile phone or PDA, and take it shopping next time you feel like getting a rude shock...

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10 December, 2008

Superstore Shells, Post Recession Uses For

Just an idea, of course.  But the question of what the USA calls the "big boxes " (being the shells of huge buildings that the megamarts and others leave behind) is beginning to plague us here too, with large shed-like shells left over when the businesses close or go belly-up being re-used willy-nilly or left empty.

So why shouldn't such buildings be re-purposed green?  By that I mean - they all have decent loading ramp facilities, since they would have had high stock turnover when they were economical.  That means you have one bonus already.

A further bonus is, as pointed out, the parking facilities.  I know it's not green to drive your car everywhere, but for some things you do need transport over and beyond what a bicycle or public bus can offer...

So here are my top uses for old big box buildings:

A recycling center.  You have places for people to drop off whitegoods and electronics, and you accept more incoming from local neighbourhood collection vehicles.  Run these yourself, small electric scooters and vehicles with trailers for larger whitegoods, and just bring local recyclables to your facility.  Once there are a few centres, put a call centre in one and divide up the area into localities, assigned by software.  That way when someone phones in and asks to have their old 51" TV removed, the software informs the relevant recycle centre which can then send out a scooter with a trailer to pick up the TV.

It's an ideal use for these big boxes, provides local employment, and if done right poses no health risks whatsoever.  For some items, a particular centre might hold a specialist section, and recycle those for all centres.  And for anything that will produce noxious byproducts, the centres act as a short term store-and-forward facility for larger facilities located away from the population centres.

Remember when I said we need to change how we sell electric cars?  Well, here's an ideal thing.  Put aside a few square meters for a showroom, or use a whole big box to sell EVs.  Once again, it's a re-use that makes environmentally better use of the places than just knocking them down and rebuilding would.  Selling electric vehicles as a commodity would be the way to go.

Yes, this will lose large car showrooms and sales organisations their status as the suppliers of cars - but let's face it this is a Good Thing, it's time that particular enclave was busted wide open.  Agile companies will convert their car lots into EV lots, or sell them and buy a big box building or two and stop selling fossil fuel cars.

Local nursery outlets.  Loads and loads of green-friendly plants.  Plants that thrive under local conditions and provide one of the essentials such as cover, foods, herbs, shade, and are reasonably decorative.  If these kinds of places are ubiquitous and sell cheap enough, think of the difference it will make to a city to reduce it's water use for gardens and at the same time increase the number of plants improving the air and converting much local waste locally.

Solar and renewable green energy stores.  Stock and supply everything a person needs to reduce their energy needs, generate their own energy, save their greywater, recycle their scraps as compost for plants.

Clothing and household item swap/trade/sell markets would benefit from such large venues, too. These could be a spot set aside for this, no matter what else the store holds, and would serve to make these places a community landmark and center.

When there's no possible use such as above, the places could still be converted by internally partitioning them, into small apartments.  I've seen several big boxes converted in this way, because the shell is already in place, the individual apartments inside were able to be built cheaply and quickly, and generally a two-storey layout is possible.  Stock such apartments with items from the swap/trade/sell markets and they can become crisis housing, add as many recycling and re-use options and they can also serve as examples of what can be done with green living.

I can think of dozens of things such places could be re-used for, and as with all the ideas above, there needs to be a bonus in the form of rates relief from local government, perhaps an incentive from federal government to assist in converting such stores, and for green items, a government rebate to enable such things to be sold cheaper than non-green alternatives.

It's the start of a new paradigm in what shops and facilities are needed, and makes ecologically friendly use of those big box stores, and it will become VERY relevant as time goes by.

And then as the push to be green loses relevance in a decade or so and is replaced by all green, it will be time to bring those big boxes down and recycle them into something else, perhaps apartments as above, or public facilities, or just tear them up, recycle the materials and plant the ground with a community parkland.

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Green Car Is Green... And White.

Fiat is out with a concept EV, which means some car manufacturers are getting the message.
It's a good trend to see.  The Phylla EV seems to be settled right into the standard groove of Lithium batteries and individual electric motors, small and fairly nippy for getting around the city.  Top marks for topping up the batteries with solar power, now let's see if we can't get them into Australia, where one of our top resources, ahead of iron ore and LNG is, in my opinion, the many long sunny days we have, making sunlight our number one renewable energy resource.

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09 December, 2008

I've Solved The Recession.

Well, this falls somewhere on the environment scale, because it's going to carry through to everything we have and do... Aside from the rather biased article title, it's got some sense to it.  And some nonsense.

"Are people reassured by a cheque with a large "DON'T PANIC!" sign attached?" is roughly one of the take-homes out of the article.  Want an answer?  From me, being one of the pensioners the article refers to and the bonus applies to, the answer is a resounding "shit no, I'm gonna panic!"

Some of us lived through tough times as kids.  Our family was never affluent, we had enough, we never went hungry or poorly clothed, but we sure didn't exactly wallow in it.  We remember either living through, or hearing about our parents living through, depression.  And now we're being told we can spend our way out of a recession.  Hell yeah.

The article says it's thought that most of the handout will be saved rather than spent.  Again, speaking from the point of view of a pensioner, I can answer that too:  "hell yeah I will put some of this aside!"

You know why? Because after living on the starvation borderline shit scrap of income they call a pension, it feels good to have some spare cash around for the bills that used to cripple me financially.  It's good to know that there's a safety net.  Even if it will only last a short while, at least it is there...

And here's another reason I won't spend it immediately - it's because the people who will be "bailed out" by me spending my bonus won't be myself, or the kid working down at Woolies pulling down an even more shit income than I am.   No - it'll be companies like Woolies who reap the benefit.  Giving us this bonus ends up much the same as if K-Rudd had just given my $1400 to some rich arsewipe on the board of Coles or Telstra or any other of the dishonest bastards that run the money machines.

Australia will slip-slide its way to a recession not because we lack confidence that our leaders can rein in the economy, but because we've had proven to us time after time by the previous government that they will stick money - preferably our money - up the arses of every large corporation they can find, and there is no justice for working Australians, and certainly there was no justice nor pity for pensioners.

For K-Rudd to reel in this one, a better approach, much as I find myself loath to agree with it, is to provide tax cuts for wage earners, and enforce some economic leashes on large corporations such as banks, which cry poor year after year, nibble away our income one one hundredth of a percentage point at at time - and then come up with a several billion dollar profit at the end of each year...  Those billions had to come from somewhere Mr Rudd, and I respectfully suggest that I paid hundreds of thousands towards those billions in my working lifetime, and I'm even now still being ripped off for part of my meager pension by those same banks.

I say, Mr Rudd, that if you reined in the "magicians" of the stock market who make money trading money they don't have and instead use my money as collateral, that would be better for the economy than shoving more of my tax dollars into their ventures as a "bailout."

I contend that if you show the balls that John Howard lacked throughout his slimy career, and told the petrol companies they can either accede to a Government-directed pricing structure or else take their business elsewhere, that a lot more Australians than just pensioners would benefit.

If you, Mr Rudd, told the farmers "doing it tough" all over Australia to either adapt or else move on, perhaps we'd be exporting crops that are more suited to our environment as it currently is, and shoveling less money into a dead horse dying of thirst.

I say that if we put more effort and funds towards clean energy and research into clean energy and renewable/sustainable living and technology, we would have something to export, something that will do the real job of saving the economy and the world.  Stick "clean coal" where it belongs, i.e. someplace deep and dark where the sun don't shine, and let's give our Australian inventors and researchers and entrepreneurs some incentive to stay here and make money for our country instead of draining off overseas.

We still throw out millions of tons of recycleable rubbish every year, or send it offshore for processing.  How about an industry in cleanly recovering and recycling some of that?  We have the brilliant minds working on recovery processes, we have the sunlight to provide the energy, and we have all those farmers out of jobs that would be better off working at something that earns money such as recovering material from recyclables.

There may be less of those stuffed shirts working at being CEOs and other assorted freeloaders, but they can get a job selling our new technology overseas, pitching for research grants, and doing whatever it is that these tossers did before, only now for a good cause instead of an evil one...

Those farmers that want to remain in primary production might want to consider farming kangaroos.  The old excuse that it's too expensive just doesn't wash anymore - nothing can be more expensive than $23/kg lamb in a land that prided itself on the fact that it got to the top on the sheep's back.  Or maybe they can find a more natural crop plant - we do have some food plants that it might be worth checking out - the Aborigines didn't live on sunshine and geckos before we came here, after all.

Stop thinking along traditional lines!  Times are anything BUT traditional, move with them!

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26 November, 2008

Nup. Nothing New And Exciting Here, Either.

Seeming to become a stagnation node in our development, this last few months.  I've seen a few discussions of shit - well, composting toilets in fact - and some solar energy devices that were not that much of an advance on existing technology.  And one bright light - and Israeli system using silica gel (that stuff you see included in electronics packaging in the little pouch labeled "dessicant silica gel - do not eat") and recycling as much as possible of the energy, to extract water out of air.

But as I said over on the TEdADYNE Systems blog, something's got to come up in the next few weeks, and I'll be there to ferret it out.  Stay tuned...

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12 November, 2008

Target Energy 2020

South Australia is on target to generate 20% of its energy needs from renewable energy with this wind farm.  Call me a hardliner but I don't think 20% as required by K-Rudd is enough.  SA should now try going for 25%, and then 40%, 50% - I think the terms of the requirement are not the way I'd phrase them.  I'd have said that I wanted 50% of energy to come from clean or renewable energy sources, and then grudgingly accept 30% or 35% (knowing all along that this is all I could have hoped for - so in actual fact, Ive reached my target...)

Also, while we're at it.  Let's make distributed systems a much bigger feature.  This makes sense from a lot of points of view.  You want to use a lot of wind power?  Fine.  Spread it around, if the turbines in the hills aren't producing due to low wind, the turbines along the southern coast will probably be spinning.  All out of wind?  And clouds have occluded the solar collectors?  Luckily you've got localised nuclear energy plant to keep each location going.

"Whoa!" you're saying.  "WFT is that?  You want to save the Earth and yet you're recommending nuclear energy?"  Well as a matter of fact, yes I am.  And there you go again, having read the article, you say "But - TWENTY-FIVE MILLION DOLLARS...  Ummm... ?"

Actually, that's about $30mAUD, but don't forget that this is among the first attempts to make local nuclear power plant.  There will be more, the price wil come down.  Then also, don't forget that you're generating (by this stage) at least 30% of your energy from renewables, so one Hyperion will suffice for 20,000 houses, bringing the price per household to $1500.  They are cleaner than traditional nuclear power plant, and have a pretty respectable useful life.  Spread that cost out per household over 20 years, and you can see that the cost is under $20 per household per month.  You'll surely get at least that much in metered useage.  These (and other non fossil fuel based power plant) will pay for themselves quite early.

Also keep in mind that appliances and equipment is slowly coming around to realising that energy efficiency sells.  And that energy consumption will most likely become the subject of legislation, so energy use per household will drop significantly.  Population will increase, yes; but useage per person will reduce as more and more of our gadgets go for legitimate green standards.

In the budgets of most States, there has got to be room over the next ten years for several hundred of these, leading to several tens of gigawatts of energy at around $3bnAUD.  That is easy to absorb into the costs, especially when you figure in the cost benefit of shutting down fossil fuelled plant, not having to build any new ones, and the thus reduced cost of fixing the environment.  (That latter is not counted in many cost/benefit analyses - the cost doesn't stop at cleaning coal plant, for example - there's still an environmental cost, and any government that's looking at this realistically will see that the cost of repairing environmental damage over the next twenty years or more will add up to many times more than the original plant or any savings made by installing it.)

Distributing our energy generation is also sensible from a defensive point of view.  After all, that's the reason bunkers have their own power sources that don't depend on grid power.  In a similar way, if an enemy is good enough to take out a few power stations, that's going to inconvenience the grid, but if they have to carpet-bomb the equivalent of three Asian countries to bring our grid to a standstill, the cost/benefit of attacking power infrastructure goes way pear-shaped.

Also, distributing things like nuclear local generating plant means much the same thing.  One nuclear power plant is easy to disable.  A hundred, many in unknown location, well that begins to be a much more difficult proposition...

Lastly, the waste.  As the (admittedly press release optimistic) article says, there's not a lot of waste, and it's "environmentally friendly" whatever they mean by that.  But don't forget that in 20 - 30 years' time, if we do things right, right now, we'll have time to focus research on how to dispose of those Hyperions and similar units, at minimum impact to the environment.  Or the human race will have become extinct despite our best efforts, in which case it won't be a problem to us.

But the time to set realistic - and stringent - requirements on clean/renewable energy and energy-efficient appliances is definitely here, and now is the time to set those standards, not "next year" or "nearer to the end of our term in office" or whatever else.  And this is NOT the time to say things like "but China isn't doing it, and poor us we'll be sooo disadvantaged by it, economic ruin, oh woe!"  To the companies (and the people who work at those companies) I suggest considering that they're gonna have to deal with it, so deal.  I'd rather take a cut in pay and increase my productivity for the next ten years than die in a heatwave in eleven years' time...

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11 November, 2008

Why E-Waste Needs To Be Managed

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If It Smells Like A Load Of It...

He started on a similar note, had a long run in office based on it, and finally, he's ending his time in office on it.

Bush, George Walker: (Nov 2000 - Nov 2008) - consistently, he was full of it...

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10 November, 2008

In Support Of Duncan Riley's Open Letter To K-Rudd

This sucks.  A lot of people think so, for various reasons.  Why is the car industry getting so much money?  I recall not too far back when an embarrassed Toyota exec was basically arm-twisted into accepting millions of dollars.  The exec was all "But we are making a lovely profit already thank you and have already got plans well in hand to build hybrids.  I SAID, we are alright thank you! Hey! Quite trying to shove this into my g-string!  Securityyyy!"  And that is only a few months ago...

Are you or are you not, Mr Rudd, for some change on global warming?  If you are, why are you propping up all car manufacturers, when all they will do is build the same cars?  Only slightly worse, because they'll have lost interest in manufacturing amidst the party they'll have with the money?  Why?  Well, because you're just shoving this money at them willy-nilly with no requirements other than "have fun guys!"

You know Kevin, as a pensioner, I should feel like you're a bit of a mongrel.  And while I'd been a Labor supporter for all my life, I now do think you're a mongrel.  Since when were cars more important than your Australian people?  What have you been thinking?  Don't reckon you might lose it all in this recession?  And then you might be relying on a freaking poverty pittance to live on like you're condemning the rest of us to?  I hope you get bitten by this, K-Rudd, and bigtime.

Meanwhile, unless there are some tangible positive results for me and others in my situation, you've not only lost my vote and those of my friends, you've attracted a vocal and determined campaigner - against you.  In less than a year you've completely erased my lifetime of Labor voting.  Nice going!

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09 November, 2008

Clear As Mud Cleansing

So the greenest of green ways to wash is brown, clay brown.  Why am I not impressed?  Why does this sound like the hygienic equivalent of anorexic veganism?  And why, particularly, does it strike me as not all that green, either?

We're human, and for millenia we didn't bathe.  We also died of a lot of hygiene-related illnesses, of course. Personal hygiene was one of the things that we discovered would reduce our mortality rates, and is thus a Good Thing.  But the fact that you need to keep in mind is that we should wash to keep clean, not to fulfill some kind of personalised ideal of - well, I actually have no idea what would drive this kind of behaviour.

For a start, it's "pick-axed out of the earth" in someplace in Morocco.  Sorry, but generally when I hear pick-axes and far-away places, it's generally a sign of exploitation.  It also tells me that it's a finite resource, and once it's gone, it's gone.  And you're taking it from one country to another.  Haven't we learned a lesson here yet?  Taking a finite resource from one place and spreading it around a lot of other places - something like uranium and fossil fuels, isn't it?

Let me break that down to tonnages - a person will use about 1.5Kg of this clay per year.  That's one and a half tonnes for every 1,000 people who use clay.  There are almost 400,000,000 people in the USA, 22,000,000 in Australia.  How many years before that clay is silting up water tables and sewage systems all over the world, and is all gone from Morocco?  See, it's an elitist, one-time thing, this.  Pure wank factor.  You could surely find clay closer to home, if you wanted to be environmentally friendly?

Never mind.  At least you've got your golden clay now, and can mix it up, a week's supply at a time, for use on your body.  Where, I might add, it will NOT do any great job of killing germs, and not even so good a job of cleaning.  Little word in your ear, Rassoul Clay Hawkers:  Clay is what I use soap for, to wash it from my skin after a hard day pick-axing it out of the ground in a secret location in Morocco...

It doesn't stop there though.  This is the personal hygiene gift that keeps on giving!  Because, it contains silicates.  Every soil on Earth does.  And 90% of bathrooms now have plastic bathtubs and shower recess floors.  And plastic gets scratched by silicates, after which it holds a thin film of clay, and grows nasty bugs.  Even enameled tubs and tile floors get scratched up and porous.  So you'll want to be pouring some disinfectant in there regularly.  Or vinegar.  Either way, something that had to be manufactured in greater quantity so you could make up for a shortcoming of clay as a cleanser.

Having messed up your surfaces, it also messes up your skin, because as the Treehugger reporter said, you end up with brown towels.  How do you think that brown got to the towels, ectoplasmic transfer?  Or maybe on your (not so clean) skin?  So you're still dirty, your bathtub or shower floor is dirty, and your towels are dirty.  Thank God that an extra half a cup of laundry detergent and an extra long wash cycle will get most of the clay out of your towels before it fatigues the threads and the towel wears out twice, three times as fast...

See - this is one of those "green" things that's just crap.  Soap - real soap - is made from a fat and a caustic substance.  Both break down in the environment just fine.  Where it gets messy is when you use detergents and surfactants and foaming agents...  I can find, with very little trouble, soaps made from olive oil and some alkali, and if hard water is a problem and they won't foam properly, I have lemons.  (The juice softens the water on my skin and that in turn allows the soap to foam better.)

Also, I have any quantity of glycerine left over from biodiesel, if I'm making it myself, or I can generally get it from a neighbour who's into biodiesel.  That too makes a reasonable liquid soap that also breaks down nicely in the environment.  And both can be made with local and renewable ingredients instead of raping Moroccan deserts.

Sometimes, just using a bit of commonsense will save you a lot.  And maybe save you from smearing yourself with mud just to feel greenwashed.

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Trick Your Body Into Burning Fat With Drugs.

Unfortunately for you, you junkie you, they don't mean party drugs... hehehehe..  Trick your body into burning fat - if that's not the most abuseable thing I don't know what is.  For a starter, there are always people who "are more special than the standard dose" and who will deliberately overmedicate. They say the drug is closely related to resveratrol, which is a component of red wine.

Have you ever heard the term "wino?"  There's a reason for it.  They are generally very thin, probably because of a very similar effect that resveratrol has, and are malnourished.  Not because they don't eat - they generally do - but because of that effect.  I know, I lived with a person like that for over a decade.

So - there's bound to be a toll on your body for over-using SRT1720.

Now to an interesting question.  This is just me, always finding potential bad uses for things.  Because people will.

Suppose I was secretly overdosing you on SRT1720, in your coffee, your meals, your sweets, your snacks?  You'd be eating normally but losing weight and condition rapidly.  Murder by weight loss drug.  And don't say it will never happen, there have been cases of people dying under very similar circumstances from ethyl glycol poisoning (brake fluid) administered by their spouses, never suspecting a thing.

... and  now you have help to clean up afterwards ...  Oh and don't try drinking brake fluid - it's definitely bad for you and you may not be able to stop...

All jokes aside - more information has come to hand, and it seems SRT1720 is actually considered safe - for mice. Insofar as the researchers say that there is no further effect of a dose exceeding 500mg - again, this is in mice.  There's hope that the drug will aid Type 2 diabetes sufferers, and the ageing, as well.  So perhaps we'll see this on shelves soon.

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06 November, 2008

Lumped Solar Articles And A Mark Pesce Post

ROUNDUP - do these things together ring any bells?



http://blog.futurestreetconsulting.com/?p=76 make sure you watch the third video...

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What We Need Is Kei-oot Kars

Just an observation.  I've been looking at the small economy and hybrid and electric car market staggering off the ground, albeit at a fraction of the speed it needs in order to thrash its larger gas guzzling siblings.  And then I see - this - and I realise something.  Japan's once again whupping our asses and handing them to us.  At the thing that will sell these cars faster than burger meals with a happy toy.  I'm talking cuteness.

Cars have to be solid colours? I remember my father bemoaning when cars strated coming out in "kitchen colours" as he called pastels and mixed colours.  It was a step to integrating cars into our lives - and it worked, in aces and spades and straights.

My friends were all disgusted when soccer mum cars started sporting racing stripes, and horrified when vehicles started sporting "designer mud splashes" painted right on them.  Those cars may have looked like 20th century Barbiemobiles but they sold in huge quantity.

Now look at the kei car in the picture.  It's a very cute shape, the lighting has been set up to give it a soft pink glow, and it has a logo on the door.  All it needs is a Hello Kitty face and flower on the doors, and  I don't care if it has a range of 80km, a top speed of 80kph, and runs on pickled bee farts - I'd fall for the cute toy factor, and a toy price to match.

So come on car manufacturers - you want to penetrate the market with environment-friendly small cars, take a leaf out of the book of the Masters Of Cute and start inking deals with Sanrio and Mattel, The Wiggles, Nickelodeon, and all the other sources of cute and appealing, get their design input, and their icons on the panels.

The problem with marketing EVs and ZEVs and PZEVs (Electric Vehicles and Zero Emission Vehicles and Practically Zero Emission Vehicles) is that you can't compete with the evil large vehicles on the basis of being "impressive performers" or "power and speed to match the imposing looks" - that's like cartoons advertising themselves, like encyclopedias, as "a source of knowledge and learning your family will treasure for generations."

Advertise the cars with cute ads - the Honda Jazz series is a good start - a light-hearted touch, make sure their cute factor outweighs the fact that they will only cost a few cents to recharge, and emphasise the fun factor.  These aren't terrain-conquering, fire-breathing, slide-drifting, competition impressing vehicles, these are a simple and cheap and fun way to get to work, to get the shopping , and to drop the kids to school and appointments.

Also - no showrooms.  You're making these cars as a cheap and plentiful source of transport - right?  Warehouse them, put a dozen models in different paint jobs in supermarket plazas with sign-up booths and home delivery the same day, build on-street dispensers for pick-up right there and then or for delivery to your door same day.  The key is that you get the cars looking like a true commodity that way.

The two biggest reasons the 'smart' car hasn't flooded the market?  They sell them at Mercedes dealerships (where I certainly don't even think to look for a cheap fun small car) and they've priced them wayy too high.  And it still takes as long as a normal vehicle to register and get on-road.  That's wayyyyyy too much to go through for a vehicle that's supposed to be trouble and hassle free.

And - governments wanting to score HUGE environmental points?  Register small (P)(Z)EVs as scooters, i.e. at a very very low price.  Make pre-registered license plates available to the manufacturers, to be attached to pre-sale vehicles and to become activated instantly on sale of the vehicle.  It's included in the price of the vehicle, and if the end user wants a personalised plate they can still do so at a later stage - the important thing is that they have a vehicle right there and then, it was cheap, and it was fun to buy it.

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04 November, 2008

WMML: Circular Competiton In Cycle Design

Let's say the design of the bicycle is outmoded, outdated, hopelessly retro, and hasn't seen a serious visual design makeover in several centuries.  Which is true, the bicycle is about as stagnant as the filament light bulb was a few short years ago.

Now let's assume that you're holding a competition to get people's ideas for the best redesign of the good ole bike as a commuter vehicle.  (Found at Treehugger)  What would you offer as the grand prize?

Why oh why?  By entering the competition I'm basically admitting that I think contemporary bikes are crap, I'm showing that I have an interest in a new design in commuter bikes.  So why would I want an old regulation design bike?  Oh come on!

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03 November, 2008

WTF is it with GMO?

What's with that?  You say "organic" and everyone kisses your feet and throws dollar bill confetti at you.  You say "natural" and people are learning that the word doesn't mean what they think, but they still smile at you and generally buy your beans.

But just say GMO and watch everyone light the torches and get the pitchforks.  Even nice sensible folks like those at Treehugger, who should be a bit more responsible with what they %promote.  They even say it in their article - it's the extraction process that causes all the toxicity.  Please please please people, there's a difference between a Frankensoyabean and a GMO soyabean designed to produce more using less resources.  There's less difference between a "natural" soyabean and a GMO soyabean, because the "natural" soyabean has had its genes selectively bred out to the point where it grows more beans from less soil, whereas the GMO bean has had essentially the same thing done to it but with a pipette and microscope.

The "Frankenbean" on the other hand is the kind of thing Treehugger and alert individuals should be on the lookout for - anything that's being bred to be no longer a soyabean, and is instead a combination of soaybean and fish protein and red grape resveratrol, for example.  (No - I'm not saying such a thing exists - but there have been such hybrid chimerae.)

The other thing to watch out for - as always, and as belabored to the point of dead equine in The Body Friendly Zen Cookbook - is the processing.  Processing is the stage where the chemicals are added and subtracted, where good wholesome whole food becomes the toxic stuff that's causing illnesses and deaths.

I could keep going about where to draw a line between "organic" and "GMO" and "artificial" but there are entire ethics committees out there trying to work those boundaries out.  As usual, it's not up to them, it's up to you, yourself.  Are you prepared to eat lecithin from a soyabean that, instead of having been bred for decades to a particular form, has had those changes made overnight? Are you still prepared to eat that lecithin after the lecithin has been extracted with an alcohol?  What about hexane?

Short extract from Wikipedia:
"common constituents of gasoline and glues used for shoes, leather products, and roofing. Additionally, it is used in solvents to extract oils for cooking and as a cleansing agent for shoe, furniture and textile manufacturing. "

and also this
"The neuropathic toxicity of n-hexane in humans is well known; cases of polyneuropathy have typically occurred in humans chronically exposed to levels of n-hexane ranging from 400 to 600 ppm, with occasional exposures up to 2,500 ppm. The unusual toxicity of n-hexane (compared with other alkanes) has resulted in the chemical industry switching away from n-hexane in favour of n-heptane where possible."

Now - after reading the Treehugger article, I felt scared for my life.  But after reading the above, I'm more equipped to deal with that fear and make a rational decision.  My decision is that I care less about which beans produce the lecithin and more about how it's extracted and what it gets added to it during the process.

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29 October, 2008

From Containers to Greentainers

With shipping containers finding themselves in the spotlight so much as sustainable/ecologically friendly housing, and now also as data centers, things must perforce change..  For a start, law of supply and demand:  The more containers are taken out of circulation for housing and data centers, the more in demand they are going to get and the more they will cost.

The more that people start shipping their computing power and their houses around, the more expensive freighting is going to get, as these "greentainers" start multiplying.  In their advantage is that you can ship modules from a small number of facilities to the end location probably for much cheaper than you could build them in situ, and due to the sheer variety of ideas, there is a whole wealth of structures that can be built.

But there are also downsides.  Building in a container doesn't give the ideal shape for energy efficiency and conservation.  The steel walls may delay energy gains and losses, but they don't isolate them.  Container home or datacenter modules are heavy.  And the modules are still made from steel dug up from the ground, smelted, purified, and then formed into material for making the containers, and then manufactured into containers.

So I predict that new strong materials made from recycled plastics and other sustainable sources will soon become the major component of the new lines of greentainers.  When you can have all the strength (and then some) that original steel containers had, at one tenth to one quarter of the weight, you achieve significant fuel savings in transport, you gain strength and rigidity that traditional steel containers do not have, the walls can have thermal properties tailored for the relevant use, and a whole new kind of container will spring up, many of them only sharing the twist-lock spacing and size with the old steel behemoths of yesterday.

If you take on board some of my ideas, don't forget to throw me a bone so I can afford to buy a container or two to experiment with!

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50% More Efficient Fuel Cells

Never ever to discount existing technology.  Well, fuel cells are existing technology, even if not (yet) old technology.  Fuel cells take a carbon/hydrogen fuel (think carbohydrate, think hydrocarbon) and separate out the electrons.  Generally this process leaves water vapour as the waste product, and that makes fuel cells a desirable technology, because eventually, they will convert all the dead dinosaurs to water and energy and we'll be rid of that fossil fuel in a clean way.

Now this process will make fuel cells more efficient and that means you'll start seeing them in some new applications, possibly even extracting the energy from your fuel to power your car.  Also of course remember that ways have been developed that turn CO2 into fuel sources probably eminently suitable for use in fuel cells, and you see that with a minimum of fuss, we are going to slide into a new era of clean power.  Just keep your fingers crossed that we don't also slide into any of a dozen other pitfalls along the way, but at least one disaster may be averted if we make these changes happen quickly enough.

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28 October, 2008

Example Of Skewed Research?

This is research done without knowledge.  If you read The Body Friendly Zen Cookbook, you'd know.  You DON'T - ever - take this particular supplement pemanently.  There are clear guidelines in the book, and they need to be followed, as to when and for how long to take Selenium/E supplements.  This research was done, as usual, by specialists in a narrow field, who can't see the alternative to taking something forever and ever, until something bursts.

It's one of the things The Body Friendly Zen Cookbook is most against - the wholesale consumption of all these supplements and so forth.  And straight medicine just won't take notice.  To every thing, turn, turn, turn, there is a season, turn, turn, turn... 

Please please - if you have prostate problems and you're wanting to use the BFZC diet - don't do it without reading the book first.  If you genuinely can't afford it email me and I'll send you a copy.  It's just that important to get the timings and amounts right.  The whole point of knowing the interactions between different foods and vitamins is to prevent you further poisoning your system with things, and leads to being able to take less of each component and get more benefit.

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Sometimes, you just want to cry, don't you?  Here are people like us, urging people to stand up and shoulder their own responsibilityand then see this sort of thing at News Of The Weird...

"Government in Action
Things Government Does When It's Not Bailing Out the Economy: The municipal transit company in Austin, Texas, unveiled a rider-education campaign in August, giving step-by-step instructions in how to stand up on buses without falling over. When the bus is accelerating, "lean forward and put your weight on your front foot." (The introductory frame on the poster features a harried rider exclaiming, "Help! I'll never figure it out!") [American-Statesman, 8-18-08]"

... I don't think we're going to make it, are we?  

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27 October, 2008

Purple Tomatoes, Black Tomatoes.

Purple tomatoes help prevent cancer.  Okay if you'd read The Body Friendly Zen Cookbook you'd already have guessed that, the purple colour (or any strong colour, especially greens, reds, and purples) indicate a useable level of antioxidants.

In fact, "kumato" tomatoes are also very good in this regard.  They appear to have been bred for a black colour and lower sugar content, a slightly milder flavour, and were I believe developed directly for supermarkets.  But by now you can expect to find purple to black tomatoes with lower sweetness on shelves everywhere.  Go for them.

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24 October, 2008

Vegetables, Meat? Or Both?

It's been a while since I wrote a diet-related post.  (Which is amusing considering this is the support blog for The Body Friendly Zen Cookbook which is a diet book...)  I think the last food-related post may have been about approaching your nutrition in a balanced manner.  This article is going to raise controversy, the subject always does, but here goes.  Here's a way NOT to be balanced...

There's a cutesy ad on TV about a probiotic capsule that puts gut bacteria back, you may have seen it, the balancing board with nasty food-caused bugs on one side and dutiful cute blue acidofiluses on the other side, then suddenly, a whole army of cute blue washes the bad bugs away leaving these squeaking voiced blue things.  "Restore the balance!" booms the voice-over.  And it's total bullshyte, because there's no longer any balance, it's a one-sided bluewash.  That is not balance, that is just a different kind of bacterial overgrowth.  To work optimally, your stomach needs some of those other bacteria in there.  The secret is true balance.

Similarly, our diets need a true balance.  Remember we are the product of hundreds of thousands of years of evolution, we don't have a mechanism for dealing with plant cellulose for a good reason:  our ancestors discovered that the occasional addition of meat to the diet was very good for survival, and we evolved to fit a specific dietary profile which now includes fruit, vegetables, nuts, grains, fungii, seafoods - and meat.  Remove any of those from your diet and you're tying one hand of your immune system behind it's back...

The article I linked to, the author does exhibit balance, she mentions that they do still take meat.  This is a good thing, because it shows that the sense of balance is still there.  She also mentions using an organic butcher, and that shows excellent survival skills.  As I've mentioned in preceding articles, supermarket meat is horribly abused.  It's kept for too long, often injected with water to increase volume and weight, sprayed with irritants to retain its red colour, and a whole host of ills befall it.

Where I live, there's a butcher within half a mile of my place.  I bought meat there quite a bit, then one day I asked the owner of the shop where the animals had come from.  "Oh," quipped the guy, "it comes from the abbatoirs."  I never finished buying that order, and I now travel about two miles to get my meat from a larger scale butcher - but who knows to within a few square miles, where his various carcasses came from.  And you know what?  I feel heaps better because of it.

Once again, it's about taking personal responsibility.  My meat didn't magically appear, shrink-wrapped, on some styrofoam tray, it came from an animal.  An animal that died because I eat meat.  I'd rather the meat was treated properly and was therefore good for me, than that it gets adulterated along the way and wastes the sacrifice.  I eat it for the same sorts of reasons my forebears did, and in the same way - I balance the steak and ground round with liver, heart, and kidneys, because I also know that my ancestors did that and evolved to need the nutrients from every part of the animal.  And I eat meat because I know it's all right to do, as long as it's done in a balanced and sustainable way.  My responsibility is to make sure I don't take more than my share of the world's resources, so that limits my meat intake to a few meals a week.

I also don't eat one meat exclusively, that too would be wrong.  It's supposed to be a balance.  Do you think we would waste so much agricultural land on sheep and cattle, impose so much suffering on chickens, if people just did what nature intended and widened their choices of meats?  Here in Australia we have kangaroos, they are a source of a meat which is low to zero of cholesterol and fat, and sustainable - kangaroos are abundant.  The aboriginals might have had a kangaroo for the tribe every few weeks, and a goanna (monitor like lizard) or three in the same timespan, plus whatever snakes and small birds they managed to bring down.  Do you see the thing though?  B-A-L-A-N-C-E.  Don't just keep depleting the kangaroo population.  Or the lizard population.  Spread your impact out, minimise it in any particular area.

If there were no McDonalds, no Hungry Jacks (Burger King to our USA friends) and no fast food chicken places trying to unbalance your footprint, we'd need only half the cattle farms, half the chicken farms.  Or feed twice, thrice as many people on the same acreage.

Again, it boils down to shouldering your share of the responsibility.  Don't eat beef every day, or chicken every day.  Accept that your healthy feeding needs animals to die - and make sure they didn't die in vain, nor to feed a greedy person.

You know, when I say it like that, I almost believe that we could win back this global warming and environment decimation.  Then I look up and see the signs for Chicken Treat and McDonalds 900 metres away from my back fence, and things don't look so rosy...

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Australian EV Owners Get A Charge

Sometimes, it's spooky.  I must go around with my head up my sandpit or something.  Not enough charge in the ole vigilance battery.  Because I could swear it was only a few days ago I mentioned that the biggest problem with Electric Vehicles (EVs) was that there aren't enough places to recharge them.  And now, here's this article at Gizmodo ...  (Mind you - even Gizmodo's sibling Treehugger missed this so I don't feel too bad...)

Now here's a thought for the eastern states of Australia - there's another half to the country, it's called Western Australia.  Recharge points over here in Perth (and for that matter, cities in SA, NT, and TAS) would be very welcome too.  Also, for the planned billion dollars, some planning to make some of those charge points based on solar energy would have been a bit more relevant and worthy of a full article...

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23 October, 2008

Zen Directory for Western Australia - Green(ish) Suppliers

In case anyone missed it, here's a link to a whole directory of zencological suppliers.

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Cheaper For WA Olive, Grape Growers?

Here's a thought for several groups of people here in WA, and of course, for those same groups all over the world.  GET THYSELF TO A GREENERY!  I can tie equipment manufacturers, olive growers, and a variety of other farmers together in a beautiful green symbiosis that will result in economically sustainable greening.

First, remember that some manufacturers already have "it," the core of greenness.   In the case of olive farming, there is am inferior product called "pomace" oil, which is really not very good for use in food, but still sold as such.  It's sort of okay for soaps and cosmetics, though.  

Now let's look at technology like this "dieso-robo-spenser" that's called Bio Bot for some reason.  It's not a biological bot.  It's not even a bot for biology.  It's a bot that uses a chemical process to purify vegetable oil into cleaned diesel fuel.

We have quite a few "zencology" firms here in WA, they produce or manufacture all manner of things for the seriously eco conscious sustainable greenhouse gas emission and carbon footprint lowering business or grower.  One business which actually manufactures a small plant to manufacture biodiesel appears not to have bothered to even advertise in that directory, luckily I emailed them ages ago and got not much from them actually, but I did retain their URL, which is http://www.bioworks.com.au/index.shtml .  

Now olive growers are not the only people who produce a byproduct feedstock suitable right away for milling and pressing to fuel oil.  Our lovely grape and wine industries produce anothe byproduct feedstock which is largely going to waste, grapeseed.  Yes, I know, it is being pressed into grapeseed oil (which is HUGELY beneficial in The Body Friendly Zen Cookbook diet as an oily vitamin E - go read the book to find out why that's important) and sometimes even getting used as stock feed. 

But after pressing out the food grade grapeseed oil, this too can be pressed for a lower grade oil, and the cake left over can still be used as stock feed.   

So if our WA Bioworks type manufacturing businesses could be bothered to do something else besides manufacture diesel making plant and then wait for people to find out about them, they might find a huge market for a diesel-robo at each winery, olive farm, and many others - because if you could make your own, much cleaner, much cheaper, and local diesel fuel oil, why wouldn't you?  Assume you have enough biomass (about 10 to 1 from solid to oil, and about 3 to 2 for oil to diesel) to produce the fuel your farm equipment uses for the season, you've probably saved yourself the cost of a few thousand litres of diesel per season, so for a medium farm maybe $5000AUD for the year.  So it recoups costs in no time, Bioworks are happy because they've made plenty of sales, and the environment says thank you.

Oh and the byproducts - the spent feedcake of seeds and so forth, and the glycerine from diesel manufacture - they can all be re-used somewhere.  Glycerine is in demand for soap production and cosmetics, and can also be broken down again by composting methods to become fertiliser, while spent feedcake can become compost or feed for herbivorous animals, be they yours or the neighbour's.  You may even be able to trade feedstock for a nice bit of yearling lamb each season. 

And THAT'S how to close the cycles!

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22 October, 2008

The. Biggest. News. Ever. CO2 Into Fuel!

If the claims made in this article are to be believed, then Carbon Sciences have just become my favourite company of the millenium.  They claim to have discovered a biomimetic process to catalyse CO2 into methane or propane or ethane, which can be used directly or combined into useable fuels again.

It seems to be a "just add water" kind of reaction, (underscoring water's importance as the universal solvent/reagent on Earth,) and as far as I can see, produces no other byproducts.  Quick, what's the catch?

Reading their site, one phrase that crops up is "...Carbon Sciences is developing a proprietary process that requires significantly less energy than other approaches that have been tried." which implies that there is still going to be an energy cost to the conversion.  Also, they do specifically mention splitting water into H and OH, a process which inevitably requires energy.

On the plus side, as long as supplying that energy requirement produces less carbon emissions than the original amount of CO2 being converted, we're ahead - the amount of CO2 will eventually diminish.

Also, providing much of the needed energy from some source like sunlight would be even better.  Since a catalyst is involved, that means that the reaction needs little in the way of resources once the initial "working capital" of catalyst is acquired, and water is thankfully still plentiful enough.

One further thought, and this is a wild stab in the dark - but if the process could use partially treated sewage water, and the process returned a certain quantity of recombined H2O at the end, then that would be even better.  (If you split water into H and OH, that effectively leaves all other material behind.  Recombining it into H2O again therefore produces totally pure potable water.)

Last observation:  Using propane gas for running vehicles results in cleaner operation than using liquid fuels, and most car engines can be converted.  So there's a further saving: the fuel produced by this reaction is cleaner to use.

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21 October, 2008

Olive Oil Is Always Environmentally Friendly!

An olive farm is going green all the way, and plans to have all its carbon  emissions either cut out altogether or offset by planting more trees.  They mention solar energy for three days' worth of running, using electric carts bikes and tractors to tend their trees, biofuel for where electric won't do.  I know that oil presses use a fair bit of power, and solar isn't always reliable in Europe, so they have plans to expand the solar capacity to 10 days.

My question's pretty simple - what biofuel are they using?  Because, no-one I know buys pomace oil, the cheap nasty stuff that's pressed about last thing of all when the extra virgin and virgin grades have been pressed.  That would be a self-sustaining farm if ever there was one...

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20 October, 2008

Plugging In, The Dilemma

I know I push electric vehicles (EVs) to what many would consider an unreasonable extent.  But think of it this way - even an EV needs some way to get the "E" into it.  And generally, that means a fossil fuel powered electricity generating station someplace that will now spew the pollution out so that the EV can be charged...

It reminds us that one of the main problems that EV drivers face is the lack of "petrol stations" - which means most would prefer to opt for a hybrid.  But hybrids are the worst of both worlds, not the best.  Far better to lobby and lobby for electric outlets, honestly.  Because, one day those electric outlets won't be supplied from a n oil or coal fired power station, they will be powered by a large grid of wind, solar, wave, and tide power stations, and a few more that have yet to be invented.

But there's one thing EV owners can do right now, which would help.  Put a roof rack on their little EV and install solar panels.  The drag is not going to be significant for EVs at the relatively slow commute speeds, and the range extension may just be all the average commuter needs to avoid the dreaded recharge at work.  Remember, those solar panels will keep topping off the battery all day while you're at work.  And you can leave your EV in the cheaper open parking lots instead of paying for an expensive covered spot.

And for covered car park operators, one thing they can do straight away is to put solar panels on the roof and offer solar charging while you park.

But the important thing is not to go the hybrid route - go direct to the responsible, least polluting, and (importantly) cheap to run option.

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Mini E - For The Modern 007, Sadly By BMW Not Q

Jump to the article for Gizmodo's gallery of pictures of the Mini E, another useful electric vehicle (EV) finding its way into the mainstream.

Pity they are only making a limited edition run of them, but kudos anyway for getting out there and doing something instead of just grimly churning out more pooeyspewers.

The Mini E is to have around 330km range, 95mph top speed thus handily beating the Joule EV I wrote about a week ago but not everything is about speed - let's face it, high pressure hurry-hurry-haste-haste lifestyle is one reason a sizeable percentage of us spend several hours every day crawling along in almost gridlocked traffic...

On the one downside, they are designing a special Li-ion battery pack for the vehicle, and that is the only thing I can complain about.  What a waste of resources for a limited run of only 500 vehicles, after all.  Also, bear in mind that there are dozens, perhaps by now thousands, of research establishments working on bigger better greener batteries, why not use an off the shelf component for this limited run?

Okay - that aside, here's one more thing for getting best range out of any EV in a high volume traffic situation.

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19 October, 2008

OPEC Does A "Monopoly Squeeze" Of Their Customers

Here is another reason why we soon need to be off fossil fuels.  From this kind of action, people are slowly going to wake up to the nature of the game: The price never goes down.

Luckily, this is happening at a time when electric vehicles are becoming more and more desirable and accessible and affordable, so oil can go up for all the clever people will care.  With the world putting in acres of wind power, megawatts of solar power, and efforts are made to avoid dirty fossil fuel for relatively clean biofuels, Big Oil will slowly fade into insignificance.  The current rounds of jockeying production to starve the market and drive prices up and up and up will eventually finish, when the OPEC nations realise that for some reason they aren't selling at any price...

My most sincere advice to you all is - write to your favourite car dealership and ask where all the electric vehicles are.  Not hybrids, not super-efficient diesels - the pure electrics.  Act.  Act again, and again.  Send letters to every car dealer in your town and city.  Send a letter to a member of parliament or senator, ask them where the new electric vehicles are.  Ask the hard questions, and if enough people do it, it will happen.

Try this, too - make the car manufacturers responsible for cleaning up some of the mess.  This is not really a punitive measure (read my article) it is a chance for car manufacturers to earn more money from their existing models.  It's a chance to reduce the huge environmental cost of replacing one's car every few years, and to hold on to the same car - but pay less for running it, and produce less pollution.  If you like that idea - put that in your letters, too.

The important thing is to never take the pressure off government and big business, never take no for an answer.  Alone, we don't make that much difference.  But together, ah together...  It becomes an upswell, a wave, a tsunami.  And whether it be government or business, they can't go against that.

It's not even important for everyone to follow my lead and my articles - as long as you are now thinking more about saving money and saving your environment and saving the world, I've already done my bit, and the upswell continues...

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17 October, 2008

Solar Powered Buggy FTW

Kudos to Kudo!  It's kind of like a golf buggy with a solar array on the roof.  Actually, it's exactly like a golf buggy with a solar array on the roof...

It looks cute, it seems to be useful, I wouldn't drive one on the road even with a seat belt - unless it was a special bridle path for electrics - but I always think that the people who make any vehicle solar powered or at least solar assisted, are doing a Good Thing and I will give them link love and a mention.

But then I've now seen a wide range of electric vehicles, and the majority of them are marked by one thing - amateurism.  Who the hell will drive an open-sided vehicle on the open road, alongside other vehicles also busy splashing up all the water in the puddles right onto your lap?

Who wants to drive a 25mph in an un-airconditioned vehicle on a day that's over 100F?  Yes - 50kmh on a 40C day.  With a range of about 80km despite having all those panels.  Want to drive an EV like the Dreamcar 123?  As I say in my article a few weeks ago, I look at the thing and see a very efficient device for using solar power to cook my head while not being able to get over a parking lot speed hump.

Who the hell thinks of these things?  Or rather, starts thinking and then stops halfway through?  You're always going to have the problem that a closed EV looks like a top-heavy breadbox drawing done by a three year old on sedatives, until you start applying industrial design from the get-go.  When you get this brilliant idea for putting four wheels, a few electric motors, a few batteries, and some solar panels together, the hill trolley you made as a 10yo kid is NOT a good starting point... There's a reason why car firms spend billions on the design of a car as much as they work on the technology.

So - I LOVE that someone is finally thinking along the right lines, but I wish they hadn't just coasted to a stop after the bit about "solar panels, batteries, and electric motors, oh wow!"....

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