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...

UPDATE:
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://gizmodo.com/5076530/solar-panel-quantum-leap-near+perfect-light-absorption-possible

http://www.treehugger.com/files/2008/11/solarwash-automated-solar-array-cleaning-system.php

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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