Thursday 28 April 2011

Short term memory loss.

Or why do women get pregnant a second time?
Or why do yachtsmen do it over and over again?

By virtue of Arch’medes law.
O’er oceans our great vessels float
A life of adventure, to whit.
To see new lands strange and remote.

But what do you do at that shore,
Where sun, salt and weather promote
Such rust, where anchor chains sit
At the pointier end of the boat!?

You squeeze through its miniscule door
To scrape, sand and curse and emote.
(In) tiny adit with eyes full of grit,
You exclaim: ‘You’re a silly old goat!’

But later, you feel her sails draw
And thoughts turn to harbours remote.
While safe in the cockpit you sit,
And pour a good wine while you gloat.

Ocean cruising: 'Performing boat maintenance in exotic locations'.
Cruising sailor: 'Perennial optimist, congenital idiot'.

Wednesday 27 April 2011

Run your car on water!

We all learn something new every day.

Yesterday I learned that I am getting too old to cramp myself into the chain locker where rust lurks for a whole day without suffering the consequences. But but but…

While checking on stuff I found in your comments on recent 'electric car' posts, I came across two exciting facts that made me forget the twinges.

The first is that Israel’s battery exchange stations charge their batteries on site. Of course! Why didn’t I think of that? Why? Because I was brought up with drilling rigs, the Exxon Valdez, oil refineries and road tankers, not to mention toxic in-ground fuel tanks, all potential disasters and all have been. Damn! In a place like Israel where clouds almost never darken the sky, solar arrays anywhere will do the job and the recharging electrons travel along wires that already exist!

Solar panels don’t catch fire and destroy oceans, don’t sink, spew muck into the skies or crash like petrol tankers. They just sit there, pumping out power. And the added bonus, like in the Super Station concept, battery exchange repositories can be charged when the sun is shining. OK, that’s all fixed so what was the second one?

Did you know that in LA, there are gas (petrol) stations offering Hydrogen? California, that uses 20% of fuel burned in the USA, has embarked on a project to build a ‘Hydrogen Highway’ from BC to LA. That is great news for anyone who buys a Hydrogen/fuel-cell electric car. The advantages of fuel cell cars are range, far greater than a regular car. Emissions are pure H2O and they need little more battery power than the average flashlight. You can even buy a H fuel RR or a Beamer! Too expensive yet for me, but that will change.

Batteries are heavy, chew up rare metals, are expensive, representing about half the cost of the cheapest electric car available, use a lot of energy to manufacture, do not produce full power for more than a few years and can be difficult to dispose of. However, I still had a problem with how to get Hydrogen to distribution points. There is a case for pipelines to power houses and factories. And pipelines do offer the advantage of acting as a windkessel. (don't be lazy, look it up). Pipelines might still get the nod, but Hydrogen powered houses are a long way off if ever. Much easier to go all electric if we can solve the base load power problem.

But I was wrong. LA Hydrogen outlets generate their Hydrogen on site using Hydrolyzers.
Again, no oil wells, no coal mines, no tankers, refineries, or road tankers. Hydrogen generation can happen ‘while the sun is shining’. But they do have Hydrogen storage tanks on site, so we will still be warned against smoking while filling. Remember the Hindenburg!

PS. Just around the technological corner is a super thin wafer home roof array/Hydrolyzer that fills your car at home. Here in OZ, research is advanced that will allow us to paint our roofs with solar collector paint. No twinges today, just excitement and hope.

By the way, if you have a few spare minutes, Google Hydrolyzers and read the scams.
Did you know, by buying a book for $39 (cheaper on e-bay) you can get DIY plans to make your own Hydrolyzer from stuff you can scavenge from the dump? Then you can run your car on water!

Well, most don’t claim that. What they do claim is a significant saving (25% and up) saving in fuel consumption by converting water to a mix of H and O as you drive which supplements your gasoline or diesel.

Of course to believe that, one must discard one’s science that states ‘energy cannot be created or destroyed’. Such a shame. It would have been really nifty to run my car on water!

Car pics courtesy

Tuesday 26 April 2011

Magical Magpie 63.

Magical tube for a mind to cope
With multiple images, colour and hope
For laughter and joy,
Child with a toy,
A cunningly fashioned kaleidoscope!

Colour and action from Tess at Magpie Tales.

Sunday 24 April 2011

Clichés and Climate Change.

Don’t you just love talk about paradigm shifts?
I put that in the same basket as ‘moving forward’, ‘game changer’ and ‘breaking the nexus’.
OK, so here is a game changing paradigm shift moving forward that breaks the nexus tying cars to fossil fuels.

We all lurve our cars and have painted ourselves into a corner by our dependence. So how can we get out of that one? First, what is stopping us from dumping the petrol/diesel engine and taking to public transport? There are a thousand answers, but here is mine.

Public transport based on rail, light rail and buses does not work for enough of us. If you need to carry stuff, rail is of limited value, even if you live within a short walk of a train station. Light rail ditto. But even more difficult is the in-betweens, where distance increases the further out you live.

Infill is done with buses. But only the desperate catch buses for reasons of comfort (weather), time, ignorance of timetables, distance from gate to bus stop, perceptions of danger etc, and buses are impossible if one carries more than a lunch box and an umbrella.

So we get into the car and put up with traffic as we commute, shop or play and blame the government. Problem is; there is no money for double and then triple-decker roads in economies that are already in deficit big time. Catch 22!

But wait! Try this idea.
Cheap electric cars free ‘Super Train Stations’ and renewable base load power.
Do not panic. Read on and all will be explained.

Electric cars need a huge investment in infrastructure before they can replace gas (petrol/diesel) cars. Right now, Israel is the only state that has decided to install a nation-wide all-electric car ‘refuelling’ network. Good for them. But how does that apply in the US, Canada, South America, Africa, Russia, China, India and Australia for example, where we move stuff and people vast distances with huge gaps between population centres? It doesn’t.
Rail works fairly well over long distances and high speed rail promises non-polluting inter-city express services for people and freight. But it is commuter traffic that is causing the headaches.

If we can overcome the infrastructure problems, electric cars offer huge advantages. They are non-polluting, quiet and very cheap to run. They would also be cheap to make with only one moving part in a motor that needs as little attention as your refrigerator.

If only we were not trying to force them to fill the gas car slot! So unless someone is prepared to fund nation-wide infrastructure to support it, the gap is too wide. Then there are batteries. They are heavy and expensive.

While ever manufacturers insist we need to match the performance of a standard car/truck/ship/plane, we are stuck with high cost batteries. Actually, to fully match gas cars, such batteries do not yet, and may never exist. So to break the nexus requires that paradigm shift and this two-part game changer.

1. We start with a basic electric commuter car with choice of battery pack starting as low as 50Km (30 miles) should cost between US $5,000 and $10,000
2. A ‘Super Station’ rail network that uses existing infrastructure and costs government zilch to build.

What is, and why a Super Station?
Step one:
On any (surface) rail network in a city, pick the most outlying dormitory suburb and declare the space above, below and beside the train station vacant and available free to any developer who will build a Super Station then invite expressions of interest in building a complex that consists of:

Parking to accommodate commuter electric cars within a 7Km (4 mile) radius.
1. Parking is ‘free’ to owners of all-electric vehicles (and bicycles).
2. Electric cars plug in to the grid. Commuter cars are recognised by the complex’s computer that also registers expected exit time so batteries are charged to a satisfactory level before departure. But it is the hours in between that provide a unique opportunity.

When the system is mature, in between the time of arrival and departure, millions of cars across the city (and nation) remain plugged into the grid with millions of (privately owned) batteries providing storage for renewable electricity generators, solving their base load power problem. Power can be drawn out and pumped in as required. At home, cars are reconnected, so the only time their batteries are not available to the grid is while they are at neither home nor parking station. Neat? It gets better.

Moving forward;
1. Such complexes are offered to developers at planned locations , nominally about 12 km (7miles) apart, cutting the number of train stations needed to about a quarter or a fifth of those now existing, so with less stops, all trains become “express”.
2. Roll out. Development is started furthest out to most quickly reduce car-miles. The rate of roll out is controlled to provide continuity for building contractor, time for uptake of electric commuter cars, infrastructure adjustments etc.
3. Each Super Station is a discrete entity. It is immediately usable by electric vehicles from its feeder area (and further afield) and is not dependant on any wider support network.

So what’s in it for investors?
There is detail on station design, retail mix, uptake patterns that would fill pages, but suffice to say they make their money from retail shop rent and fees charged for access to their electricity storage capacity.

Two dreams are realised.
• Generators solve their base load power problem and
• Developers get a captive clientele. And what clientele is more captive than commuters coming off trains within their building, with their cars an elevator away and the next stop home!?

The cost of running an electric car to and from the station for a week is about 50c, and if the kids are dropped off at school and the car is used for sundry trips to sport, music lessons or the local adult shop, you might be up for $1 a week. And if it is used to drop people off at the station so the car is available for other family members, make that $2 a week!

Let’s have some fun with this!
We all say we need to fix climate change but we feel powerless to do anything effective. Maybe this won’t work, but it might prompt some better ideas. So, if you want the full article, e-mail me and I will send the whole 6 pages. Then you can tell me why you think it won’t work and together we can hone it up and start pestering politicians. We need that paradigm shift moving forward and maybe we can create the game changer that breaks the nexus!

Friday 22 April 2011

Cut and paste.

The most exciting news for this month for the Global Greens is the electoral success of the German Green Party.

At the end of March elections were held in the German State of Baden-Württemberg. This is one of the richest areas of Germany and has traditionally returned a Christian Democrat government. But in this election the Greens managed to double their share of the vote to 24.1% and finish in second place. They are now in a position to form a coalition with the Social Democrats and to be the leading partner in the Coalition. This should result in Greens Leader Winfried Kretschmann becoming the Green Party's first regional "minister president" (State Premier).

We don't know of any other cases in the world where Greens have lead a State government. Reports suggest that two issues led to the Green's meteoric rise: dissatisfaction over a major project to redevelop Stuttgart's main railway station, and fear of the State's reliance on nuclear power following the Fukushima nuclear plant disaster.

source: Australian Greens Newsletter April 2011.

Wednesday 20 April 2011

230 million tonne coal loader for Barrier Reef

Open Cut Coal.

Caesarean section
of Ancient Earth.
Torn from its womb,
the monster within.

Tiny fingers
flick switches.
Machines reshape us
as flabby minds watch.

Equal and opposite…
Isaac’s third law.
Climate change backlash
The extinction Tsunami.

Save the children!
Save the children!
Not yet, not yet.
We can’t afford it right now.

"Coal is Nature's Hazardous Waste Dump". From the 1990 play '20-20 Vision'.
Pics courtesy and National Geographic.

Tuesday 19 April 2011

Willow Pattern Platter Patter 62.

Say that a few times quickly, then re-light the candle and read on.

Sodium Free.

‘Twas the diet with which I find fault,
That started the kitchen revolt.
One bite, and he muttered;
‘This toast isn’t buttered
And who eats their eggs without salt!?’

For more stories of Willow Pattern plates and tasteless breakfasts, see Magpie Tales. For decent egg recipes, see Tess's blog.

Wednesday 13 April 2011

RR Greens.

Last weekend I attended the inaugural meeting of the Rural and Regional Greens at Beachmere, SE Queensland. The reason such a body was formed was to educate the public about the dangers of coal seam gas but specifically to warn of the consequences of accessing coal seams by drilling through Australia’s priceless underground water resource, the Great Artesian Basin.

Water in the Basin starts its journey in rainy Papua New Guinea and travels thousands of kilometres south through permeable rock to underlie 22% of the continent, or 1,700.000 Sq Km. It is estimated to hold 65,000 cubic kilometres of fresh water and is crucial to the viability of dryland farming in Central Australia. That natural wonder is under immediate and dire threat. click here for ‘Potential depletion due to coal seam gas’. Here is revealed that leaks have happened and 48,000 such gas wells are planned for the agriculturally rich and irreplacable Darling Downs alone. This is a big deal.

Coal seam gas extraction contaminates ground water and causes its confining strata to be breached. Are we risking permanent destruction in exchange for thirty years of gas extraction? We are, apparently!

Coal seam gas- Water contamination.

We know it is not ‘if’ but ‘when’,
So we asked the gas miners again.
They answered; “Of course,
It de-stroys the source.
But we will be long gone by then!”


Tuesday 12 April 2011

Magpie negative 7: selfish, difficult.

What an ass!
(In American English)

After dinner of consummate class,
Intimacy rebuffed, alas.
She wasn’t here for
What I was, so therefore;
I'm left with ‘a nice piece of glass’!

More stories and poems at Magpie Tales.

Think globally, act locally (read previous post, please).

Friday 8 April 2011

Pearls in a vinegar bottle!

This little guy is only 1cm long (a little under ½ an inch) but he is a vital link in the chain that feeds billions of people. He is eaten by fish that eat other fish and we eat them. Pretty important stuff.

Sea Butterfly.

Tallest cathedrals
rest on a grain of sand.

Sharing the load
across its billions.

Mightiest oceans
rest on a butterfly

Giving its body
to succour humanity.

Scientists (who study these things) are screaming in the wilderness that unless we stop carbon dioxide emissions forthwith this tiny Sea Butterfly and thousands of like species will go the way of the dodo.

How? Like the story of the string of pearls in the vinegar bottle, their little calcium carbonate exoskeletons are melting, as oceans take up 80% of increased atmospheric carbon dioxide and become too acidic for them. For an explanation of the process, click here.

Our children will face that consequence (along with sea level rise, more violent weather extremes etc etc) and here in Australia we will lose the Great Barrier Reef, our most popular tourist attraction.

Now we come to the politics. Following the dumping of ‘Malcolm in the middle’ Turnbull “I will not lead a party that refuses to act on climate change’ as leader of the Conservatives in favour of Tony Abbott “Climate change is bunkum”, the long negotiations between Rudd’s government and the opposition to hammer out an Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), was itself dumped.

So Gillard, Rudd, Swan et al discussed their options. There was a range of views, stretching from ‘dump it’ to ‘forge ahead regardless’. As Rudd said last week; ‘Some folk in the Caucus wanted to throw the ETS out forever’.

Following that mischievous little snippet of the obvious, the hunt was on to name those who wanted to dump it! We have lead stories and aggressive questioning by radio’s most ignorant shock jocks and even the ABC’s prestigious 7.30 Report presenter Chris Ullman wasted precious time trying to bully the Prime Minister into naming names!

Meanwhile back in the vinegar bottle, the whole maritime food chain is in meltdown, Australia’s greatest tourist attraction is a generation away from demise, and there I was again, watching our PM being prevented from explaining the importance of tackling climate change by another egotistical nincompoop. I wanted to cry!

Wednesday 6 April 2011

Left Overs

In Sydney last weekend, thousands gathered in support of action to stop human induced climate change and made it clear that if a tax would help, they were for it. A short distance away, an opposing rally was told by the leader of the Opposition that a carbon tax was futile and unnecessary. The narrowness of the 'debate' was illustrated by one banner wielder's worry about her old Mom.

That banner reminded me of an octagenarian complaining in 1966, when Australia adopted decimal currency. Quote: "I just don't understand it. Why can't they put the damned thing off until all the old people die!"

The old irresponsible breed
Who march to Conservative creed;
Are arrogant fools,
Who ignorance rules,
And live in delusion and greed!

Greed: Economic growth now is more important than ocean, air and human survival.
Delusion: Abbott's answer to climate change; "We can plant trees."

The math is as follows (very roughly).
To absorb the CO2 for one car-year needs a hectare of trees. We multiply that by ten milion cars. In the next twenty years that is 200 million hectares, or 2 million square kilometres.
Coal fired powe stations produce 36% of carbon emissions. For each 20 years, if they continue as now, we need to plant out (say) 4 million square kiometres. By the time we add in cow flatulence and landfill dump emissions and a few miscellaneous, we are up to around 8 million square kilometres already.

But hang on, the total area of Ausralia is less than 8 million square kilometres.
We will just have to live somewhere else!

Limerick first published by Poetry 24.

Tuesday 5 April 2011

'...they know not what they do.'

Children of the Crescent and the Cross.

Watching religious fanatics
is like watching children
throwing a tantrum.

But these children have guns.
So, we take the guns away
or we leave.

Maybe it is best to leave.
There will be no tantrum
while nobody watches.

1. “Religious arguments are never settled until one side kills the other.”
2. (Re the Obama effigy) "Barak has a lousy taste in ties."

Pic courtesy The Guardian.

Magpie 60. In Numerology, 6+0=6 (teacher).

Science 6.0

Raindrop Fairy came, you know,
With little mounds of H2O.
Surface tension,
(Dare I mention),
Stops them going with the flow!

Brought to you by the letter M and Tess Kincaid at Magpie Tales.

Monday 4 April 2011

Bear baiting and bible bashing.

Why is Terry Jones not behind bars? OK, so we agree that a demented mob killing UN workers and their guards in Afghanistan is so heinous a crime it overshadows that perpetrated by deluded egotist Terry Jones.

However, we can only deal with our own and hope their struggling justice system deals appropriately with theirs. It is all so tragic and unproductive but...

The more enduring tragedy is that moderate voices are lost in the hysteria. Surely it is realised that enduring change comes from within and Terry Jones, almost single handed, has gagged reformers within Afghanisan. Now, their mindless and excessive reaction is in danger of silencing moderates in the US too and so the insanity continues, polarising opinion and sucking us in.

Here, Terry Jones would have been arrested before he burnt a Koran. Incitement to violence has been a crime since 2005. Here is the opening statement of its introduction.

"Crimes Act Amendment (Incitement to Violence) Bill 2005. This Bill will criminalise threats of and incitements to racially or religiously motivated violence. Policy rationale. In order to maintain harmony in a multicultural and multi-religious society, Parliament must send a strong signal that threatening or inciting racial and religious violence is unacceptable. At the same time, law enforcement authorities should have the tools to target the purveyors of hateful, violent messages before, not simply after these messages are turned to action." (accentuation mine).

Note: The first person to come to attention under this act was a Muslim clerics. Mark Chipperfield's report (Sydney 27 Oct 2006) is instructive: 'Australia's most prominent Muslim cleric was threatened with deportation yesterday after he was reported to have said that women who "sway suggestively" and do not cover up can provoke sexual assault by men. In a sermon marking the end of Ramadan, Sheikh Taj el-Din Al Hilali told worshippers in Sydney that women who display their bodies were like "uncovered meat".'

What he still says behind closed doors in anybody's guess, but his public rantings have been curtailed by Incitement to Violence laws.

Here is an earlier post on the subject you might like.