28 June, 2010

Thought Of The Day #1,923,287

Just a very sudden thought has occurred to me: People who use sites like Gumtree and Freecycle are all organ donors - right?

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20 March, 2010

Big Boats Give Way To Smaller. So There.

I don't think I can support a government which applies laws asymmetrically.  They chivvied and harassed the Sea Shepherd people when they were bothering the Japanese fleet, now they need to show the same kind of testicular fortitude and recover the cost of one high tech yacht from the Whaling Wall.

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17 March, 2010





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23 February, 2010

Bloom Boxes - Great, or Blooming Disasters?

I said I'd been in IT, Systems Admin, and security long enough to be permanently affected.  And I stand by that. Who else, on reading a piece of seemingly excellent news like this, would then immediately (well, okay, it took me about six minutes to see the Dark Side...) have reservations?

On the surface, you'd have to agree that this is a positively brilliant bit of news.  A large scale fuel cell electric generator cheap enough to power homes, scaleable enough to power data centers and office blocks.  Not only that but it's clean.  It takes in oxygen and fuel, and cleanly turns that into electricity.  If this gizmo is the biz fer shiz, then humanity is saved, hurrah! The Earth is saved, hurrah! And Global Warming is no more, hurrah, hurrah, hurrah! (Launch into a rousing chorus of "ding dong the witch is dead!")

So why am I not convinced? What bloody Dark Side?  Ah sweet innocent and gullible customer, let me count the ways:
  • It's a Business that's producing this.  Businesses have traditionally not given a pink and purple spotted flying jump at the moon for the Earth, or the People of Earth, but in fact only care about The Money Of The People Of Earth.
  • Being that the Bloom Box is being produced by a Business, there is going to be a Price To Pay.
  • Aside from the glib "black dye" and "green dye" explanations, no explanation what making those chemicals costs in environmental terms.
  • No word on how long the "black dye" and "green dye" last before needing replacing.
  • No word on what happens to the oxygen that goes in one side - gone forever? Turned into water vapour? 
  • No word on what the "fuel" will consist of.  Is it easy to produce?  Costly in environmental terms?
  • No word on how much "fuel" it will consume.  Lots?  Sips?
  • No word on where the "fuel" will come from?  Is it by chance a "secret sauce" of Bloom and therefore they can name their price for it? 
It's always in the glaring omissions, isn't it?  These boxes are no good at all if they can't be produced en masse by a multitude of manufacturers, in a multitude of sizes, and burn the least environmentally damaging renewable and commonly available fuel.  

But that's just my natural skepticism talking, what do I know about the Real World?

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    18 February, 2010

    We Could Always Eat Johnson, Sir!

    I must be having a fractious day. All sorts of things are irking me today. Such as this article which ends with this paragraph:
    "Intelligence Only Seen in Great Apes and Humans
    In terms of numerical skills, elephants outperform primates and human children. When researchers tested elephants' ability to differentiate two quantities of objects placed in buckets, they performed very well: Equally as good determining between five and six objects as between one and two.
    Professor Dick Byrne of St Andrew's University said elephants have "proved to have abilities which have only been found elsewhere in the great apes and humans. We're a bit limited by how little we know about elephants, but the off glimmers we get seem to be rather remarkable.""
    Now excuse me my nitpicking but this is precisely what other biologists have said about cetaceans like whales or dolphins, and about octopuses, and about a whole range of other animals. Isn't it time they just lumped all these species into a classification of "highly intelligent" and be done with it?  It's indicative of our elitism and self-obsession, that even our scientists can't just come out and say it like it is.

    This also calls into question the human reaction to intelligence and basic rights.  When the world was still a very new place to us, other races were considered unintelligent and only worth enslaving.  Then most of the world got it, and all races are now afforded the basic rights of intelligent beings anywhere.  (Of course, the majority of people still don't bother to learn a language other than their own, and we still have extremely racist views on the whole.  But this is a damn sight better than the "kill 'em or chain 'em" attitude we had only a few generations ago...)

    So as a whole, we accept that others' viewpoints are as valid as our own, we accept that other races have as much right to live as we do.  But practically, we don't share our wealth with the people who need it more than we do, we don't decrease our prodigious consumption of resources so that others might live better, and we're generally still very hypocritical of others' rights.

    And now we know that all these other species are as intelligent as us but in different ways, I wonder how long before we extend basic rights to them?  And no I'm not kidding here - there was the chimp in Austria for whom the people were seeking "person" status, and I believe a few others have also made that legal journey.

    But of course, elephants are so much nicer if we keep them in zoos to look at, and whales (apparently, ask the japanese,) are delicious, and octopuses make good bait, and monkeys and apes make us laugh cos they're so cute like "little people."  Oh bugger - it's all too hard, let someone else deal with these rights issues another time.  And I'm not kidding here, either.  Sadly, we'll probably go on mistreating all these others because we don't understand what they're saying...

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    Who Cries Over Closed Coal Plants?

    Mark Wilson, I think you're a fuckwit.  What's so depressing about one of the most polluting power sources known to man being shut down?  I also looked for any sign of irony in your termination phrase where you're encouraging people to buy a new piece of technology rather than live a bit frugally and responsibly - but I suspect my first analysis of you was right....

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    07 February, 2010

    Quick roundup of the week

    So I've given my favourite businesses a big nod in another article, what's left to talk about?  At 2AM Sunday morning we actually had a rain shower that had me outside taking washing down and re-hanging it under cover - and stopped as soon as I'd done that... But if it actually registers on the gauge, then it'll be the end to one of the driest starts to summer pretty much in recorded history.  Anyone that wants to be a climate change denier needs to tell that shit to my plants...

    We've had a "bring out yer dead" kerbside rubbish collection, or as I prefer to call them, "materiel relocation events."  I can't help myself, I generally have a dozen projects on the go here at the cottage and they are generally waiting on only one or two items to finish them.  And of course then I find something else as I go checking stuff out so then I have another project started...

    I also took the opportunity to throw out what I consider rubbish - the remnants of a small petrol scooter I have every useable part off, (and most already in use,) a washing machine ditto, a lawn mower ditto.  Trish observed that when I throw out rubbish, it really IS rubbish.  I have to concur.  I don't see how throwing out material that was harvested or dug out of the Earth and then manufactured at great energy costs, is a good thing in any way shape or form.  If you can squeeze one more use out of it, that's better than buying something new to fulfill that one use.  

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    03 February, 2010

    Perth Goes More Local

    Nice to see slow and local food values appearing.  Well done Perth peoples!

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    29 January, 2010

    A site that deserves more attention

    Gumtree.com.au is an Australian version of craigslist, and best of all it's entirely free.  I just thought I'd mention this because it seems many people don't know about it.

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    28 January, 2010

    Site Added

    I've added a lowly Drupal out of the box site at home at http://faroc.dnsalias.com/drupal/ which I'll be putting some farming and gardening info on, and which one day may hope to migrate to a flashy server somewhere.  For now I ask you to be kind because I have a very expensive mobile broadband connection and can't afford too many hits.

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    25 January, 2010


    I can't exactly black out my site for a week but I can direct you to http://www.internetblackout.com.au/ to reflect on what a repressive government could do...

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    21 January, 2010

    The Dental Ninja!

    If you're ever in Mandurah and you have a toothache, please let me introduce a great dental practice.  Seriously, I blogged recently about how one well known practice couldn't give me any straight answers, asked me to jump through a series of hoops and basically called me a fuckwit when I asked why I was authorising CenterLink to supply details on me electronically and yet the practice wanted me to go to CenterLink and bring them a Letter which would say the same thing.  Oh and when I asked for a ballpark figure, they procrastinated and prevaricated and couldn't actually tell me anything.

    I walked into Platinum Smile Dental Practice and asked the same questions, got given the same release for CenterLink form, and they were taken back with no further questions, and my appointment was booked.  When I asked what it would cost me, the receptionist gave me the standard gap I'd have to pay on my pension, and the average I might have to go to if it was something other than a plain vanilla extraction.

    I rang DB back and told the receptionist I'd spoken to that I wanted to cancel the appointment there.  She asked why and I told her it was because she'd been very stupid and evasive.  She started to try and talk me into keeping the appointment and at one stage I ventured that she was still being stupid.  She kept going for another three minutes, and finally I cut her off and asked her to cancel the appointment already.  "Oh - and you've just proven how stupid you are" I finished with, "you could have saved ten minutes of your time and effort by doing what me, the customer, asked you, the employee, to do - way back at the beginning there..."

    Days before my appointment, Platinum Smile phoned me and advised me they'd had a cancellation and was I interested, which of course I was, so next day I was sitting in that scary chair, Dr Eugene Khoo looked in my mouth and said he could pull the tooth right now, complete with abscess and unpredictable results, or I could take a course of antibiotics and rebook.  I think that was a very polite and considerate thing to do, it gave me the option of "right now!" if I couldn't stand it or a gentler procedure in a week.  I'm a wussie, I chose the latter.

    So Wednesday I arrived for my appointment, every other dentist I've ever had doing an extraction has taken between five and ten minutes of hard work on my tooth and jaw, I've lost count of how many of the handful of extractions I've had have actually splintered the jawbone.  I sat down, Dr Khoo took a look at the tooth and then said something about time for the local, at which I quailed again, because my first experience with local was when I was nine and had to go to the dentist alone (parents on the farm , I had to take time off school to do this) wasn't great either.

    The nurse held my head steady standing to my left and behind me, the good doctor injected anesthetic, and the nurse squeaked and stepped back.  Doddering old fart had pushed the needle right out through my cheek and sprayed his load all over her pinafore...   That's set the scene for most of my dental encounters, in fact.  Incompetence arrogance and a kind of stupidity that I'm sure had to have been a Uni course....

    Back to the present:  Dr Khoo started the injections and I started to cringe - but... hang on!  Where was the heaps and heaps of sharp pains, the needle scraping along the jawbone?  In fact, only one or two of the dozen or so sites experienced discomfort, and not much at that.  While he explained the post op stuff I'd have to do, bits of my face started vanishing off the tactile radar.  He got up, pricked a few spots and I felt - nothing.

    Then he picked up an Evil Gizmo and clamped it on the tooth, and reefed it around a few times, only once I felt a dull thing and wanted to raise my left hand but it stopped before it got anywhere near the Pain scale.  Then my mild mannered dentist picked up a huge gizmo and clamped it onto the tooth, gave it a wiggle to see how hard it would be to pull.  I braced myself, this was going to hurt! and heard the sound of my tooth being dropped in the tray...

    Ladies and Gentlemen, I have met a true Dental Ninja!  Even if you're in Perth, I reckon it would be worth driving down here to see Dr Khoo!

    Oh and post-op?  Anesthetic wore off hours later, and I took a panadol and an ibuprofen just to be sure,  but it's really only throbbing mildly, because he worked so quickly (I estimate under 90 seconds all up) that there wasn't a long drawn out trauma to the jawbone.  I think by tomorrow I'll be pain free altogether, and give me three days I'll be eating steaks again...

    Platinum Smile Dental Centre
    U3/55 Murdoch dve
    (08) 9534 7946

    Yes that's definitely a recommendation!

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    20 January, 2010

    Checks And Balances, Boom And Bust

    Sometimes, nature's checks and balances appear to be magical, leading some people to pluck up truisms about "God works in mysterious ways."  The most obvious checks and balances are those that are cyclical but not related to weather cycles.  Animal populations rise until they are in proportions that the environment can no longer sustain, and then those populations crash hard.  At some time in the future, if the species was hardy enough, rinse and repeat.

    Our forebears may not always have known what caused the cycles, but they did know enough to look for patterns.  "Grass has failed along the south slope, we won't have many mountain goats to hunt in two years." That they managed to observe such things and correlate them shouldn't come as a surprise, because that's how we survived, by being attuned to these kinds of cycles.  I'd go as far as to say that our brains are hard-wired for correlating data, because it does this at its most efficiently when we meditate or sleep.

    So when a friend of mine twenty years ago pointed out a seemingly amazing fact, I let it percolate in my subconscious for a while.  The amazing fact is that, as a political/population unit, humans are able to predict wars with a seemingly great deal of accuracy.  From 12 - 18 years before a major war onwards, the balance between males and females is disturbed, and as if on some cosmic signal, more males are born in order to be at the peak of their fighting prowess for the war.

    It's not really so, as my reflections led me to see.  A more acid composition of human body chemistry leads to selection in the woman's vagina and uterus, disabling more female sperm and thereby allowing more male sperm to succeed, across an average population.  So it's really just a simple body chemistry change.  But what triggers this change?

    It turns out that stress and unrest and physical stress from lower food supplies can cause a marked change in our body chemistry towards the acid end of the scale.  So this "check and balance" is something that can be explained quite well.

    In a region, the population of humans grows slowly until it's filled the niches and is beginning to exceed the supportable population.  There is increased bickering and fighting over ever more scarce resources, and some strength is needed in order to prevail.  Therefore, the genes of parents whose response to such stress is the bearing of more male children will survive more readily to the next generation.  Those that don't, get killed in the time between the birth of their girls and the end of the Big Fight.

    Because, of course, when you have a few hundred extra testosterone-laden young men in the area, there is going to be violence and barbarism and if you're lucky, they'll remember that they're your son and not kill you out of hand along with everyone else.  The fact is that when this occurs in a larger region, then war results.  War kills and clears out a lot of the excess population, so instead of the population crashing in an uncontrolled way due to natural famines or whatever, it's a more controlled cull.  

    And you don't even have to know about how this works - all you have to do is to be able to make more boy children than girl children in times of stress, and then be able to hang in there for about 15 years...

    So now here's another application of that checks and balances system that seems obvious to me.  On the one hand we have Global Warming, building up inexorably year after year, each year taking away another previously arable strip of land here, a water body there, reducing the capacity of the land to support us all.  It's a situation that would stress the calmest of bodies, and in fact for a while now, male births have begun to outnumber female births all over the globe.  

    For a bit more proof that one of those descents has begun, look no further than your TV news - senseless violence, disregard for others' lives, a rising population of young men with no outlet for their combined testosterone storm.  We're somewhat more civilised now than we were a few hundred years ago, and war has become a business proposition with risk analyses and plans that take into accoutn factors such as Mutually Assured Destruction.  

    So our young men, instead of dying in a melee that is designed to ensure the survival of the strongest and fastest, are still out there, only not quite so young any more.  The psychological changes have already been triggered but have no outlet, and there are regions of the world under survival stress right now that would have no hesitation in unleashing their young men in order to ensure their own branch survival - if only they could get to us.  

    Also, please note that with the restraint we began exercising in the last millennium with regard to war, we've shifted much of the survival value away from lightning-quick, brawny, but not very intelligent humans to a human much more inclined to use brain power to solve their problem.  And one of the things that this brainpower has given us is nuclear weapons.  Now we sit on this cleft stick, where we have the means to end a large proportion of the world's races and populations - but at the expense of losing a great many of "our own..."

    The population/resources imbalance gets worse with every year that passes, with every increase in world population, with every 0.5 degree C rise in average temperature every few years.  Oh and did we mention that a use of nuclear weapons would cause a definite nuclear winter?

    So let me get this straight: We're at the mercy of global warming, caused because too many people are exploiting too many of the resources of the planet, and we have a device here which could reduce large numbers of the population in a very short time - and as a "bonus," it could reduce global temperatures within a week?  Only - it's indiscriminate and will kill anyone and everyone?  And that's keeping our fingers off the big red button?

    And now, a lot of those countries that have been itching to send their young men into our country but were unable to afford to do so, they have the same kinds of devices, which they can send into our country?  But we're all holding off because of the M.A.D. scenario and the fact that we're civilised humans?  We're civilised, oh yes.  We'd never lob a handful of nukes out at other nations' major population centres because that way we'd be the ones with the largest population and the highest chance of our race surviving the 5 to 15 years of nuclear winter, oh no...

    I need only remind you that in the last few weeks, Haiti has descended into anarchy because there was a natural disaster and now the people there are willing to do anything to get their hands on food and water and medical help.  And leading statesmen have voiced the opinion that "if there's no food aside from what's in those shops, then it's not looting."  In other words, a relatively minor (on the global scale) disaster is considered justification enough to do whatever it takes in order to ensure your survival.

    Really - what could possibly go wrong in the scenario?

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    19 January, 2010

    "Send In The Architects" Just Doesn't Have The Same Ring To It

    Fark!  Some nights the irritations just keep building up.  Fark u Treehugger for your publishing this, and far queue Lisa Rochon.

    Cos, like, ummm - aren't real architects one of the reasons we have these totally energy inefficient heat islands we call cities in the first place? As far as I'm concerned - send in the clowns. They couldn't do a worse job than the real architects have done...

    BTW anyone that has spotted that I may possibly think that "green architects" are a bunch of total self-obsessed tossers, well observed! I do try and hide it so much...

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    The Not So Green Slab

    What I like about this product: almost nothing.  Sorry.
    • Cement, paper, and fly ash are not "low environmental impact" materials, no matter how you try and spin it.  They cost dearly to produce, and re-using them to make another thing that will enter the consumption chain and one day finish up as a not easily recyclable piece of landfill is not "low environmental impact" either.
    • Due to the above, you can't claim you're "making it from nothing."  Don't people get it yet?  TANSTAAFL - There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch, you can't "make something from nothing" and there is no such things as "low environmental impact" unless you're talking about time travelling back to prevent yourself from being born, and even that would have some pretty hefty repercussions on the world I'd imagine.
    • Shipping these slabs all over the country is not "low environmental impact" and you can't can't can't absolutely can't claim that it is, once you start working out the real environmental costs of that transportation.  You can't even franchise the procedure to more local centres because the material you use is highly specific to your location and it took you 18 months to learn how to deal with that combination of materials.
    • You had to "develop a process" to make this stuff so hard and smooth, and there would be several chemicals (at the very least, a sealer) involved here as well, and that means some NOT "low environmental impact" factory making those chemicals.
    • And lastly - what research have you done to ensure that the product you're shipping doesn't have really bad effects on the human body after a few years of exposure to food prepared on that slab?
    Sad that so many things that seem green on first glance end up being just more greenwash.  People just don't think things through.

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    18 January, 2010

    Opticulture Is Much Better.

    Happy Happy Joy Joy.  Compare and contrast with the previous post... Discuss.  This time, an observation or three on the aforementioned Ian Hamilton's permaculture farm.  Because, admirable as it looks, there are a few principles I can't agree with.

    I mentioned the sheepdog.  SheepdogS, sorry.  As I've said, a dog is a large price to pay for a few sheep.  Permaculture says that you should A) get the sheep used to routine, feed them something in a permanently fixed spot.  No need for a sheepdog then, the smarter sheep will lead the slower ones to that spot every time, and you've saved yourself and the environment the cost of feeding and vetcare for two dogs.

    And B), have your farm designed with sheep herding in mind for those times when you need to, so that one or two people can do the job instead. Have brakes and hedges to guide them.  Use the natural contours.  Observe (first principle remember?) the sheep and see if you can't devise a third way to corral them.  Some very good work being done in another endeavour altogether has a huge hint:

    The project in question uses RFID tags on sheep and lambs, and a gate which funnels sheep as they flock in every evening to go to the watering trough, at which time the RFID reader reads which lambs are near which ewes and thus the farmer knows which lambs came from which ewes.  But did you observe the important part of that?  "they flock in every evening to go to the watering trough..."  Design in fixed water supplies for the sheep and you know where they'll be every evening.  Fence those supplies with only one or two exits and you don't have to herd sheep at all.

    Then there are those cattle.  Big, expensive to feed in terms of land use, and unless you're feeding them high value feeds and breeding the hell out of them, ultimately useless outside of a glass and a half of milk... They're just an excuse to have a cattle dog and cattle yards and pens.

    Chickens.  Used for tractoring the fields?  Not really, on Ian's farm.  Just kind of free range and - useless because of that.  Eggs and the odd roasting chicken aren't what having chickens is all about.

    Better animals and uses of existing animals:  Get rid of the sheep.  Alpacas have better wool, and thrive on much less feed.  They also deter foxes with extreme prejudice.  Keep one cow and a calf, if you must, for milk.  Although, a herd of goats eats less, provides a better quality milk, and is easy to train - goats will come in of their own accord to be milked.  Put your chickens in restricting enclosures, such as a portable run for tractoring garden and vegetable beds.  Provide them a portable coop to go rost in and lay eggs in, put it wherever you've confined the chooks.

    If you need something other than goat and chicken, get a few rabbits.  They're up to 12 times more efficient at converting feed into meat protein than cows are.  You get more kilos of meat per ton of hay and green feed than you would with cattle.

    The ducks.  Part of permaculture is water use overloading.  (A programming term, it refers to using something more than once, for more than one purpose, loading" more functions onto something.)  The water that comes down for free from the sky, you need to use that.  And the water that you've collected in that way, and then used to wash, that needs to be collected again and used again.

    Shallow tanks or ponds are ideal for reclaiming this grey water, and the ducks are a part of that recycling system.  Their wastes feed algae and plants in the water, which in turn filter out your detergent and other residues.  The algae can also feed fresh water lobsters.

    The partly cleaned water can then be moved to a settling pond for use in irrigation.  I didn't actually see any water recovery facilities, and of course each one should have also had a redundant alternative.  Other riparian birds such as geese and other waterfowl would help balance the system out more.  Fish are good as indicators of water health, and add a lot of nutrient to it before using it for irrigation.

    So.  There are dozens of things not touched on, in that farm. For instance - where does the dogfood come from?  Seeds for replanting?  How much fuel is spent in cutting and neatly baling up hay every season?  (I noticed a lot of bales around, is why I'm wondering about that.)  do the cattle need supplementary feeds?  I imagine they do, and if you're not growing it on site then it too has to be brought in.  Is Ian growing the wheat for the chickens on site or bringing that in?

    I didn't see a compost pile in that first video - is there one, or preferably a series of them?  Is animal waste being controlled or left wherever it lies?  (The reason is that if you bring all the waste together in one spot, you're more likely to attract dung beetles - and they cure your fly problems which uncontrolled crap always breed.)

    Here, too, alpacas prove themselves better than sheep, because they neatly deposit the entire herds' worth of manure in one area they decide is going to become their toilet area, making it easy to control.  Restricting chickens also restricts their manure, and similarly a well designed area around the water treatment ponds will keep the ducks crapping in one place rather than all over the place.

    And of course all that manure is a great starting point for compost heaps, especially if you have all the waste hay from the cattle as well, and the green wastes from growing and harvesting, and preparing produce in the processing kitchen.

    That's why I love permaculture - everything has a value.  Your job is to find that value, see how nature deals with extracting that value out of that thing, and then designing systems that duplicate nature.

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    "PermaPessimism" Is Pretty Sad

    Desperate, despairing, desolate.  Really negative words to start a post with, but what do you do when someone has such opinions?  You lead your article off with them, is what.  I like the idea of permaculture.  I like the idea of low to no use of chemicals and fuels, I like not taking off the land or putting into the land anything but what is there already.  I don't like the idea of a permaculture farmer saying that it's all too little, too late, and doomed.  Jaysus H Kringle, man!  Get ahold of yourself!  ANYTHING is better at this point or at any other point for that matter!

    Let me lay this out for you.  There IS a huge change in climate coming.  It WILL affect a lot of food supplies and lives.  And those people who have a garden ARE going to be better off.  It's that simple.  Furthermore, those that are gardening without the use of chemicals (i.e. the permaculturers) will be better off again because they won't be at the mercy of fertiliser and pesticide supply & demand.

    So I'm not just disappointed by Ian's gloom and doom outlook.  I'm totally disappointed.

    I'm not permaculturing my vege patches because I think it'll magically reverse global warming if enough people all follow me and do the same.  I'm doing it because I know that it will reduce one person's carbon footprint by a little, it'll make me more aware of the issues involved, it may help slow down the coming disaster, and it will give me a food source that isn't dependent on some supermarket chain and all the trucks and ships that they need to bring me my crisp Romaine lettuce that was grown in the US somewhere and shipped here.

    Factory farms (the farms that grow hundreds of acres of one particular crop only, for sale to one particular supermarket or food distribution chain) are an example of why permaculture is better:  They grow one crop (for argument's sake let's stick with Romaine lettuce) and that's it.  If the six month season is bad for Cos lettuces, then an entire crop might get ploughed back into the ground due to being not quite perfect enough for the market.

    The typical factory farm has fields levelled by laser, plants their Cos lettuce seeds with a large machine that chomps through rather a lot of fuel, and then waters it with "side dressings" of fertilisers and growth stimulants, sprays the crop with pesticides targeting the most common Romaine robbing bugs, and ships lettuce from one or two geographical locations to the distribution center from where you'd be surprised where those footloose lettuces end up, sometimes half the world away...

    If there's a climate shift or bad few years, that's pretty much it for the Cos lettuce supply around the world.

    Permaculture, with its requirement to have redundant solutions for every system, would firstly have other crops in rotation/complement so if their lettuces fail, they are still growing other produce.  Furthermore, because it's a lot of small gardens and farms spread over a wide area, there's a chance that the Romaine at your neighbour's place grew up nice and green so you won't miss out.  Because the crops are planted and grown using minimal mechanical interference, there's not so much pollution associated with it.  Because there is no need to add fertilisers or pesticides, less pollution there, too.

    I noticed with amusement that Ian has a sheep dog.  Which I'm willing to bet isn't fed on the chickens and sheep that he grows, so that dog food has to come from offsite.  And there's really no justification for a dog on a permaculture farm, almost everything (including animal management) should be designed to be low impact, and have redundant systems as well.

    Also, there's the problem (illustrated by this charming story here) of prior land use.  I noticed that there was a lot of flat ground, which is indicative of the land having been a broadacres farm in a past life.  Just as the White House grounds are polluted by lead sludge used as a fertiliser in the past, broadacres land is likely to be contaminated by pesticides and herbicides and fertilisers, and compacted, to boot.

    Not having a go at Ian, just pointing out that he's making a difference in the land, improving it from its previous state, and EVERY improvement is cumulative, EVERY person who takes up such an activity makes a few pounds' worth of carbon of difference.  I think he should realise that no one person is going to turn the tide, and no one effort (be it recycling, permaculture, slow food, frugality, or whatever) is going to make a huge impact.  However, every person growing beans and corn in their back yard is also doing one other very important thing - they are acknowledging that a problem exists, and that will permeate every other facet of their lives...

    17 January, 2010

    Shitburger, Anyone? It's The Business!

    How often have I said that Big Food are Big Bastards?  And how often have I said "Keep the bastards honest?" (First attributed to Don Chipp of the Australian Democrats.)  Expecting a change of heart from me?  Toughies.  Cos here's two more stories that should make you want to hurl...

    Big Beef are the first to cop a bollicking.  Look, I don't mean to harp on about this point but these bastards work on shaving or earning a few extra cents per ton.  To you and me, that's negligible and before we'd do something that has a good chance of harming people in order to earn two more coppers per truckload, we'd probably have an attack of conscience.

    Not so these bastards.  Instead of being thankful that they could pick up the animal shit and shreds of rotten meat off the abbatoir floor and sell it to pet food companies, they see that if they just tiddle it up a bit more they can sell it to the next bastard as mince for their chain store hamburgers. Worse still, school canteens buy it.  WTF people, WTF?

    And then after selling you a burger made out of floor dirt and animal shit and ammonia, those burger chain bastards offer you a soft drink from their postmix machine...

    All a result of people NOT being on the ball, NOT being smart, and NOT keeping the bastards honest...  I'll take this a little bit further for you.  The nicely "corn-dusted bun" that the shitburger came on?  Wonder if that's some kind of supercorn that's grown for - oh, umm...  about 2c a ton cheaper because it's genetically modified?  So what if it causes organ failures?  That just makes money for the Health market, right?

    Oh and it turns out to make money for another Big Food Bastard.  Because they have the Factory Farm Farmer Bastard by the Bastard Balls...

    Look - I'm not out there scouring the news websites for this shit.  It's out there.  Over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over.  People get ill from it and die because of it, people spend short lives in miserable medical hells, all because the bastards have overrun the food market.

    Come on - do something about it.  Plant a garden, stop paying money to be made ill, and make sure that the Big Food companies get the message loud and clear...

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    Poverty vs Unreal Expectations

    I'm about to turn everyone in this article on their collective ear. Are we really so desperate to justify our improvidence and lavish lifestyle that we have to rephrase every issue?

    The problem is NOT too much poverty - it's NOT ENOUGH poverty...  Impoverished people are living to the standard which this Earth allows.  The people who see poverty as the #1 issue are those that by their own definition aren't impoverished.  And rather than give up anything, they're going to drag the "poor" people up to their level of providence.

    Can you see what's wrong with this picture?  "The world has one hundred rocks available per 100 people, I have fifty of them, the other 99 of you poor people are sharing fifty rocks between you.  It's high time we got all of you fifty rocks each!"

    There are limited resources on this planet.  We're on what a Galactic Federation would call a "poor" planet, where there are only finite resources.  We only have two choices if we're to be egalitarian and end up with everyone the same.  Either we lower the baseline for "normal" wealth, or we lower the number of people sharing the limited resources.  Since those same people above have as much trouble with the concept of being active mass murderers as they do with the idea of giving up any of their comfort in order to equalise wealth, it's up to "natural forces" to do the equalising.

    And guess what?  Nature's doing it.  As we alter the balance of what resources are available to other species, we're seeing extinctions on a grand scale.  As we change the properties of our world by polluting and heating, we're seeing more and more extreme weather, warming, and geological events.  The planet is rebalancing itself the only way it can - with natural systems.

    To be fair to the greedy percentage - greed and hoarding of resources is a survival trait because it ensures that YOUR genetic material survives.  Lions defend their turf, the land that sustains them, as do the antelope and wild pigs they live on.  The plant life that feeds those vegetarians hoards resources by protecting itself against other plant species by any means possible.

    It seems that the world is going to be in a state soon, where only the wealthiest people will be able to afford to insulate themselves enough to remain alive.  Anyone who gives this a moment's thought as I just did, will see that this is true.  If you grab as much wealth (which equates to the Earth's resources) as you can, there's a chance you'll be able to hoard enough water, build an insular and protected habitat, and thus survive the coming climate disaster that's looming.  That's why people are all stridently demanding that someone "does something about poverty" - mostly to assuage their guilt at knowing they're preparing themselves to survive where all those "poor" peoples are going to perish.

    <paranoia mode:="on">
    Given that we can see that hoarding and greed is a natural trait of everything on the planet, and given that this greed has destabilised the Earth, we should maybe look at the Global Economic Meltdown that has just occurred in a slightly different light...

    Just saying...
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    10 January, 2010

    Power To The ACF

    A few days ago I ran across a representative of the Australian Conservation Foundation at Pinjarra Junction shops, and because I'm on a pension I couldn't make the commitment to donate $20 a month to them.  But I can, and am, giving them a plug here on the blog.  At the moment they're running a petition for K-Rudd to do more about climate change.  I can't agree more.  Consequently, I picked up one of their petition cards and will post it in after filling it out.

    If you see an ACF volunteer at your local shopping center, give them the donation I couldn't.  Sign one of the petition cards.  I think the message is actually a lot less strong than I'd put it myself...  I've gone to take a look at their Projects section and think they're all worthwhile.  But there are a few things I'd like to see someone tackle:

    Like the stupid thing that is still happening, with "clean" coal.  THERE IS NO SUCH THING!  Only expensive coal and more expensive coal.  The mess is the same, whether we burn fossil fuels like petrol, fossil fuels like coal, or any other hydrocarbon fuel.  I'd rather see nuclear power plants, especially when there's a choice as clean as thorium nuclear power plants out there.  The sad truth though, is that we're in exponential times, not only for technology but also in our consumption of energy, and no amount of building power plants, be they nucelar, thorium, "clean" coal, coal, or powered by burning rabbits, (and you thought I was kidding,  right?) will be able to supply our growing need for energy.  

    Our need to have cheaper and more efficient solar panels means more energy in designing building and testing prototypes, then in manufacturing, installation, and so forth.  Unless someone works out a very efficient way to store a few megawatts in a few gallons of water and sand, we're also going to exhaust the supplies of raw materials for batteries.  

    The only way to reach this target is to reduce our energy use, reduce our water use, reduce our land use.  Only once all three of those things are done, does the idea of "clean" anything begin to approach making sense.  And India (in particular) and China (not singling you out China - honest!%) are still in the process of building up their energy use, they are nowhere near ready to start reducing it yet.  

    If anyone has any ideas for ways that first third and developing countries can all come to one common level of energy use, and then reduce that uniformly, go to the ACF site and others like it,. and spread the word.  because, despite all the great ideas about "managing" our energy needs by an Emissions Trading Scheme or whatever else, or by building "clean" coal power stations, or wind farms or solar farms - are not going to make a difference, taking the pollution we currently make across a few hundred power stations, and spread it across a few thousand power stations instead.  The same amount (or even more) of crap will still be let loose on our poor old earth...

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    03 January, 2010

    Back To The Past Of The Internet

    I'm suddenly stuck in the last century.  I once used dial-up at blinding speeds like 14.4K, and I remember when 28.8k arrived, I was amazed watching downloads suck down so fast.  Then 56K arrived and it was all a bit "so what?" until ADSL technology ushered in broadband, and suddenly it was 5M speeds.

    Which was all fine.  Because where I lived, in a capital city, in a well populated suburb, no amount of coaxing could get more than 250k out of the crap landline that Telstra provided and still hasn't bothered to upgrade, five years later...

    But oh yeah - I moved, didn't I? Just south of the city, again a reasonably populated area, but no ADSL2 or ADSL2+ out here - all ADSL basic out here...  Once again, I fought and argued with the ISP and with Telstra but despite being rated for 2M speeds, about 120K was the best I ever got out of the line.

    So I bit the bullet and got a USB, mobile broadband modem.  I pay about $75 per month on a prepaid basis, that gives me about 4Gb of download for the month, at an average speed of 200K, and is about as expensive as my landline broadband was at $50/mth plus $24.50/mth line rental for 5Gb of download at 120K.  Stupid ridiculous isn't it?  Anything Telstra touches turns to soft slippery overpriced poo, it seems.

    And that was fine, except that I'm on a pension.  Sometimes, when you buy christmas presents and christmas goodies and so forth, the money isn't there for the mobile broadband, and you've cancelled your landline cos you use the mobile phone so much more anyway...

    So my mobile broadband cut out almost a week ago and I can't renew it until next week.  And then I remembered...  A few weeks ago, I got a prize for recharging online - 500Mb of mobile data.  Hmmm.  Bluetooth. Check.  Mobile was getting m.facebook.com, albeit slowly. Check.  Computer has all the bluetooth drivers installed. Check.  Houston, we have a go.

    The only problem is that my mobile phone doesn't have a 3G engine in sight, it's an old and basic Nokia 2360, so it's GPRS all the way.  Yep, after going all the way from 1200baud modems to 10M fibre links, I now officially have 1900baud connection speeds.....

    And watching pages load patchily with images chopped off halfway through rendering, taking 2 - 5 minutes to do so, not loading scripts and all the usual accouterments of slow modem speeds, I have to conclude that I must have been a lot tougher and less prone to impatience back then...

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