June 24, 2006

World map of renewable energy distribution

Want to know what the world will look like post oil and coal? This groovy little flash program shows how far some countries are on their way to renewable energy independance, and also shows the distribution of regions rich in renewable 'natural assets'. Brazil grows 40% of its motor car fuel as sugarcane ethanol. In Iceland, 93% of homes are powered by geothermal electricity. :::[Popular Science]

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June 23, 2006

The solar roof tile: a cool way to harvest the sun.

Demonstrating how renewable energy not only is cool, but looks cool too are these solar and heating tiles from SolarCentury. They sit flush on the roof to give a computer chip like look making the home look intelligent and leaving the occupants feeling smart. :::[moringorbit.com]

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June 18, 2006

Drink beer to fight prostate cancer.

Xanthohumol. It's an ingredient in beer that thwarts prostate cancer, however you have to quaff 17 pints for a medically effective dose.

That's good news for the 1 in 11 men who are currently expected to develop prostate cancer during their lifetime in Australia. A not low incidence, but now your doctor can offer you some hope; get an at-risk of prostate cancer diagnosis and head straight down the pub for some preventative therapy. No more do you have to sit around at home worrying about contracting prostate cancer, summon up some dutch courage, get out there and fight the good fight? The more immersed in the treatment regimen you become the treatment you will realise you made the right choice.

An overlooked part of any cure is support, and there is nothing like being surrounded by your mates, shouting you through your convalescence, to know that you will pull though. A happy side effect is that you will be too drunk to worry about cirrhosis of the liver, but if you want to play it safe you can supplement the last few glasses of amber medicine with pizza. There is a flavenoid in the tomato paste that also protects againt prostate cancer, or order double. :::[Study by Fred Stevens of Oregon State University's College of Pharmacy]

For those who suspect their livers may already be in an advanced state of disrepair, scientists believe it is feasible to make pills containing concentrated doses of xanthohumol. Or even better, to bump up the concentration of the flavenoid in hops:

Scientists in Germany have already brewed up a beer containing 10 times as much xanthohumol as found with traditional recipes, according to Stevens.

"It tastes good," Stevens said of the beer, a microbrew with sales limited to within Germany. "It has a bit of a fresh taste."

So, cheers, here's to your very good health. And mine.

Learn more: :::[Wikipedia/hops plant]

Medicinal use

The medically active ingredients in Hops are humulene and lupulene.

Dried female buds have a high methylbutenol content, which has a mild sedative effect on the central nervous system; it is used in the treatment for insomnia, stress and anxiety. If one has trouble getting sleep, hop tea before going to bed may help, though a quantity of beer has similar results.

Hops' antibacterial qualities also stimulate gastric juice production.

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June 17, 2006

Recycle your own sewage and slash water use

A Sydney scientist has developed a revolutionary sewage recycling technology for homes and apartments that are a spin-off from nuclear research at Lucas Heights to develop antibiotics and environmental repair technology. Dr Tony Taylor, a microbiologist for the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) has developed technolgy that uses bacteria and fungi to convert sewage into water fit for gardens, flushing toilets and cleaning. :::[SMH]

A home would need a unit, costing about $2000, fitted with 40 to 50 gills - membranes, or panels - each about one metre by 1.5 metres. Sewage flowing down the middle of each gill would seep through, feeding bacteria and fungi growing on the outside.

The bacteria and fungi would eat the waste, using oxygen from the air to remove nutrients and toxins. So, it was also "a stomach and a lung". "We are aiming at reducing water consumption at the house by 40 to 60 per cent. You would still have sewage leaving the house, but it would first go around two or three times."

While existing sewage treatment plants already use bacteria, the new technology was significantly more efficient, and a fifth the cost.

Conventional treatment systems also use oxygen, creating bubbles in the sewage. "But bubbles are very expensive to make," Dr Taylor said. "They use a lot of electricity, producing lots of carbon dioxide from fossil fuels."
The running costs of the 'nano-particulate membrane bio-reactor' are about $A1.30 per kilolitre, the current cost of Sydney town-water.

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June 10, 2006

Sydney hits water conservation glass bottom.

Does Sydney have water conservation fatigue?: :::[SMH]
MOST Sydneysiders have made efforts to reduce their water consumption but few households believe they can do much more to save water, and many are not prepared to make changes that affect their lifestyle.

A major study of Sydney residents' behaviours, attitudes and intentions regarding water use raises questions about where the next great savings in household water use can be made if the current water shortage continues.
The good news is that 87 per cent of Sydneysiders have acted to save water:
- behaviours targeted by water restrictions had changed most dramatically
  • car washing
  • garden watering
- Sydneysiders made changes that required little effort
  • shorter showers
  • turning off taps while brushing teeth
- 97 per cent do not flush toilets less frequently, recycle water for gardens or ensure dishwashers were filled before use

- water restrictions had directly affected only a minority of Sydneysiders because many people did not have a garden or own a car, or did not use water on them to any great extent

- publicity about the water shortage had touched most residents
  • only 13 per cent of people said they had taken no action to reduce their water usage
  • mostly by reducing car washing and garden watering or taking shorter showers
  • high-rise flat dwellers were less likely to change their water-use patterns
60 per cent did not want water prices to be increased to encourage lower water use

Study by Professor Bill Randolph of the City Futures Research Centre at the Uni. of NSW
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The green h2o-me.

I know what it is like to have hit that glass bottom in water conservation. You do what you can. Our apartment is an old 80 year old three story house on the middle level with original plumbing, so taps either leak a little or have to be turned off really tightly. This is a plus for the bathroom hot taps so the little one can't turn it on himself and risk scalding. He's the only one who bathes, in 8 inches of water, so about a quarter full. I estimate about 50 litres (13.2 gallons).

I used to recycle his used bathwater by gravity-fed siphoning it well into the garden via a long hose otherwise left hanging through the bathroom window bars. I was pretty chuffed with this but in the middle of planning improvements at the garden end to the concept we became aware of being struck by the scourge of Sydney, rising damp. A forced shower renovation over-turned that project, and now the little one has taken to farewelling his 50 litres on its way to Sydney Harbour. He had been delighted with the previous arrangement ever since he first understood how the garden being watered and feels that Nemo and his dad already have all the water they needs.

We installed a water efficient shower head that can set the plumbing system off screaming like an alarm when the pressure is up to far. My wife doesn't use it's efficiency settings but can finish her shower inside a commercial break most mornings, and in a flash when she is running late. I like a 15 minute one but now do it hopping around under the heated trickle most mornings to distribute the warmth evenly between shoulder-blades and upper and lower back. It's winter and I am showering to warm up. I get reminded of the makeshift winter bush camping showers of my youth, and other camping trips. I need my 15 minutes, I won't relinquish them. At a flow of say, three litres (0.8 gallons) per minute my 15 minutes uses 45 litres (11.8 gallons) a day for my ritual shower. I would not be surprised if my wife's water consumption here was 20 litres or less.

I am sure I am the only one who flushes the toilet less when it's reasonable, only slightly depressing the button to dilute to suit although, because I do the toilet training, I am inculcating my boy to be conscientious. Learn 'em when they are young.

In accordance with bucket-not-hose council water restrictions, bath water will also be recycled to wash the car, infrequently as is the case, usually it goes to the carwash bloke in Randwick who keeps recycling his water, and I'll scrub the wheels myself on return. Needing to improve the bucket system, I started saving our empty 1 liter PVC plastic water bottles to collect the used bath water whenever the car started looking dirty. I've done it on occasion but nothing has 'stuck' yet. The sticking point is storage space for the bottles. The missus wants them out of sight and no suitable (handy) storage space has been scoped for the DA.

The dishwasher is for storage. She considers using automatic dishwashers to wash dishes as lazy and overruled my defense that the dishwasher has eco-cycle and a low energy rating. I'm the greenie, I'm dubbed dishwasher! I reckon, what, 10 to 20 litres a day?

The washing machine water consumption I could not even begin to guess at. Not my job although I get roped in to hang the clothing out to dry. My wife thinks it's ridiculous that people with options still use drying machines in our climate. Here we can both agree.

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June 4, 2006

Kiwi classics

"Nobody in Rugby should be called a genius. A genius is a guy like Norman Einstein."
Jono Gibbs - Chiefs
This is just one of the quotable quotes to come out of this last rugby Super 14 season from across the dutch, er, I mean ditch :::[Not PC] Ok one or two more and I'll hand you over to Not PC:
"I'm going to graduate on time, no matter how long it takes."
Rodney So'ialo - Hurricanes - on University

"I owe a lot to my parents, especially my mother and father."
Tana Umaga

"I never comment on referees and I'm not going to break the habit of a lifetime for that prat."
Ewan McKenzie

Murray Deaker: "Have you ever thought of writing your autobiography?"
Tana Umaga: "On what?"
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June 2, 2006

Snowy Hydro sale scuttled by disgruntled backbenchers

This next post is dedicated to the memory of Clem Grothaus of Gippsland Victoria, who died a few years ago after a long life raising a family arriving in WW2 from the ruins of a defeated Germany to work on the massive Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Scheme. He and 100,000 other people like him from over thirty countries in 1949 who worked on constructing Australia's largest engineering formed the nucleus of Australia's contemporary multicultural society.

I am sure his surviving family, daughter Eva, Michael his son and Pauline his wife are pleased to know that all Australians will continue to be shareholders in his shared legacy. May we always.

Snowy schemers too clever by half.

The final twist in the Snowy Mountains saga has left the body twitching and turning in the wind.
When John Howard pulled out of the deal decision to support a sharemarket float of the hydro-electric scheme due to backbencher pressure, taking the Federal Governments 13 per cent share of the scheme with him, the 'done deal', the fiat that the Iemma Government had presented us with, collapsed like a house of card. The NSW Government immediately announced they were pulling their 58 per cent, and the Victorian Government soon after pulled their 29 per cent share. :::[SMH]

A) It is ours to begin with, thanks to people like Clem. B) How can Australia's competing interests for something as fundamental as water be sorted out by the sharemarket? I believe in a free market but what sort of blind faith in unbridled capitalism is this that potentially allows an overseas entity to make the decision about when our farmers get the water and when the hydro-electric scheme does based on strict profitability? Thank goodness the people powered by commonsense triumphed over one-eyed ideology.

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Snowy Hydro sale: Engineer steals Iemma's wind.

Yesterday I made mention of a letter signed by 56 prominent Australians objecting to the sale of Snowy. In today's SMH is the story of how the campaigner Doug Nicholas became fired up when NSW Premier Morris Iemma denied in Parliament his intention to sell. I guess he didn't trust Premier Morris.

That was last year. By yesterday he could unfurl his 56 Aussie a-lister autographs before the House of Representatives and the Senate, taking some of the wind out of Iemma's defense of the sale to the National Press Club of the same day. He has also done so in a manner that allows each of the signatories to claim a conscientious motivation: :::[SMH]

"I didn't win a single person [over] by telling them a single [other] person on the list," Mr Nicholas said.
But that is not stopping Morris Iemma who says we need the sale to fund health infrastructure. I am pleased the Premier recognises the past neglect to hospitals, but thought funding hospitals and schools is what I already pay my tax for.

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June 1, 2006

Colorado family tackles global warming from home

I write a blog called The Green House, Will Toor of Boulder County, Colerado and his family live in one. :::[USA Today]

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Drought turns Aussie knight historical searching for solutions.

You have to give it to Ian Kiernan. The man is a one man crusade, having started the unbelievably successful Clean up Australia Day 16 years ago he is not about to rest on his knighthood. He is now turning his attention to the formidable problem of solving Sydney's water problem, which he attacks in typically pragmatic style: :::[SMH]
Mr Kiernan said Sydney had to abandon its reliance on big engineering fixes to solve its water shortage and instead focus on innovative schemes that made the most of the water the city already had.

"We are capturing water that would otherwise be wasted as it flows to the ocean outfalls," he said. "We just have to keep turning over rocks and finding new opportunities to save water."
There is not one solution, but hundreds, and some of these have been worked out before:

SYDNEY could soon be tapping into a world of sandstone tunnels, disused industrial tanks and long-forgotten water courses, in an ambitious effort to take pressure off the city's dwindling water supplies.

The NSW Government yesterday provided $430,000 for the first stage of a Clean Up Australia project to restore the historic Busby's Bore as a source of recycled water for Hyde Park and Cook and Phillip Park.

The bore, hewn out of sandstone by convict labourers in the 1830s to pipe water to Sydney, runs 3.6 kilometres from Centennial Park to Hyde Park. The city eventually outgrew the bore, but water still runs through it.

In the more ambitious and costly second stage of the project, an underground lake formed in the dead end of a 1920s derelict train tunnel near the State Library could be used to capture and store run-off, stormwater and seepage to irrigate the Royal Botanic Gardens and the Domain.

The initial relief this puts on reducing demand to Sydney's water supply amounts to 110,000 litres a day, or 40 Olympic sized pools a year. There plenty of other opportunities to investigate as well. Well done Ian Kiernan.

It is also worth noting that Clean Up Australia has been extending it's horizons to Clean Up the World for 13 years now, with 'Clean Up' days organised in 100 countries and mobilising 35 million volunteers annually so far. The idea proved so viral in Australia I was sure it will easily pass borders, the extent of the success is breathtaking. It is one of the largest community-based environmental campaigns in the world, so if it comes to your town, be sure to roll up your sleeves and join in for a day.

More from their website. :::[Clean Up Australia website]


Fifty six prominent Australians sign a letter objecting to the Snowy Mountains Hydro Ltd sale, amongst them my favourite actor, Cate Blanchette. It is just madness that a government can sell us what we already own. :::[Who signed?]

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