Gloucester Cathedral lighting trials…

A great lighting trial at Gloucester Cathedral last night. Testing new LED lighting for St. Mary’s Gate and the South Porch, which is the Cathedral’s main entrance.

Some nice textures in the stone as the light grazes it.

Out

Advertisements

‘Hits’ and ‘followers’ landmark…

Just over 4 years ago (May 2009) I started this blog. Today the blog passed a bit of a landmark – 100,000 views. At the same time, the number of followers is just below 100.

IMG_4657 IMG_4658 IMG_4656

Thanks to everyone who has liked, commented on, followed and viewed the blog during those 4 years. I’ve appreciated the feedback and still feel the process of blogging is exciting and worthwhile. It’s been the gateway to the world of blogging and all the awesome blogs I regularly check from people all around the world. It’s a great way to record part of my life in pictures and words.

out

Torch FLUX backpack…

I must have looked through 500 different backpacks to find a replacement for my trusty Northface one which i’ve had for 13 years. No sooner had I found the perfect one, I found out that it wasn’t even available yet – the factory was shut for Chinese New year and the light system was being re-designed! It will be available to pre-orders only (!!) soon but not in time for my trip to the States.

Anyway, this is one very cool backpack. Not only does it light up but appears to be extremely tough. The red panel on the front is driven by USB rechargeable batteries, with fibre-optic cables and LED lights.

torch backpack

Image from: sofreakingcool.com

Torch-FLUX-Backpack-0

Image from: coolmaterial.com

The light can be set to different on modes, including flashing and will be ideal for the dark and wet British winter on the bike. It’s fully waterproof and has enough capacity for a range of uses.

out

400 ppm…

Another climate change milestone has been reached. The Mauna Loa observatory on Hawaii has been taking readings since 1958. Since I stood within 500m of this observatory when I was roughly 8 years old, I feel i’ve had a slightly altered perception of this planet.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2013/apr/29/carbon-dioxide-concentration-record-levels

Here’s the pdf: Global carbon dioxide 400ppm

400_large

So, 280 – 400 ppm of CO2 in roughly 200 years. Wow.

The human conditions of enterprise, endeavour and creativity have not served the planet well in some ways – those things have led to the development of ever more damaging practices and technologies. The creation of free markets and capitalism has been the driving force behind this process and has pushed and pushed the principle of the cheapest process or product being the approach which is followed – in many ways to the detriment of the planet (or should I say the living creatures which inhabit the planet).

Time to use those same human characteristics to reverse what has happened over the past 200 years.

One way to draw back from the trap of ever-increasing impact is to make a conscious effort to alter your lifestyle choices. In our house, we periodically re-examine what we’re doing in our lives and if we can make any changes for the better.

The most recent example has been to sell our dishwasher and get our old microwave oven recycled. Those are both fairly high-power usage bits of kit and that move will hopefully lead to a reduction in power use, meaning less CO2 released and less money wasted.

I’m loving the process involved, especially the challenge of living a more simple life.

out

iphone v Galaxy S…

Interesting graphic which plots the rise of the Galaxy S phone…

Galaxy S graphic

Spource: http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2013/mar/10/samsung-galaxy-s4-iphone#

out

Does the world need nuclear power to solve the climate crisis…?

This is certainly one of the most convincing anti-nuclear power arguments i’ve read. Oliver Tickell takes on the main issues with the energy industry as a whole and points out some highly significant issues with nuclear energy in particular.

San Onofre nuclear power station, California

San Onofre nuclear power station, California

Photo courtesy of http://endthelie.com/2012/03/18/nrc-dispatches-augmented-inspection-team-after-california-nuclear-facility-fails-test/#axzz2FRsW5G5h.

The first issue is the inability of nuclear as an energy source to meet existing and future demands from a growing population, with growing energy demands. This is where the theory of the massive efficiencies of nuclear comes hard up against the realities.

Secondly, the chances of serious accidents increases dramatically, in parallel with a dramatic increase of nuclear power stations – a total of 11,000 reactors would be needed. The article cites an historic incidence of serious accidents every 3,000 years of reactor operation, based on Windscale, Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima. The article suggests a rate of 4 serious events per year. Even taking into account a reduced factor of accidents due to far greater safety baselines for modern technology, even a figure 4 times less would still mean 1 serious nuclear accident every year – this level of impact is just not acceptable.

Oliver Tickell talks about the effect that George Monbiot had (and is having) on the debate surrounding nuclear power, but Monbiot’s arguments are based more on cold theory rather than hot realities. On the other hand, renewable energy is clean, with costs rapidly spiralling downwards. Each part of the planet can contribute their own type of energy to the whole which can ultimately divert us away from serious climate change.

out

Correcting the world’s wrongs…

Very interesting article on a few levels from the Guardian.

This article points to a number of the central themes of the climate change and renewable technology agenda. Ideas such as industrialised countries fighting against the prevailing world trend and actually lowering carbon emissions, the take up of renewable energy technologies within a framework of investment and remuneration (FIT), and the ever-present threat of dependence on the dirtiest fossil fuel energy sources, even in the face of vast renewables potential in all areas of the world.

Last, but certainly not least, is the reference to the main reason why Germany (and Germans) have embraced the concept of sustainability to the extent they have.

But despite the problems, Germany remains committed to its green agenda, driven, some say, by the need to correct the world’s wrongs – a sentiment that goes back to the second world war and the postwar generation who challenged their parents afterwards for just standing by.

“That has led to a very strong environmental and anti-nuclear movement,” says Green party MP Hermann Ott. “It ultimately led to the foundation of the Green party and made us very strong. If something goes wrong, you have to speak up and do something otherwise your children will ask you in 20 to 30 years, ‘Why didn’t you do anything?'”

Why didn’t you do anything? A powerful question and one which millions of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people are already asking the industrialised western countries and one which many millions more will be asking countries such as India and China in the decades to come. One of this generations (and many to come) biggest problems, set against past tragedies. An example of what not to do can be very powerful.

out

The end of my digital SLR road…!

Ok, this is going to sound more than slightly odd coming from someone who is fairly into photography, but my very recent sale on Ebay of my Canon EOS 400D really felt like a relief.

Not really sure why but it’s almost like owning the SLR was a bit of a pressure to take pictures in a certain way or with a certain approach. The physical characteristics of the camera (heavy, bulky etc) meant it was also harder to just take anywhere and carry in a pocket. Getting quick pictures of fleeting moments was nearly impossible, given most of the time I would carry it in a bag.

It’s competitor and eventual replacement is the Canon S100, one of the more advanced PowerShot types, which actually integrates the same technology from the 400D into the very compact body of the smaller type. The digital image stabilisation works well and the image quality is virtually indistinguishable from the SLR – various technical reviews rated it as a 20% drop in quality but the 10MP level of the S100 is more than I need for where I am right now.

I also LOVE the range of image sizes, from wide angle to portrait and this function has started to alter the way I approach photography and I now frame certain types of scenes according to what works best as an image ratio. Before this starts turning into a total advert, the other thing is the HD video function (or other quality settings). Easy videos of the kids are now the norm, rather than carrying the video camera as well. After using a wide range of cameras over the years, this is by far the best i’ve come across.

So, I took the step originally to jump into the more ‘professional’ approach to photography by buying the SLR but circumstances and lifestyle have combined to drive me away from this approach. Maybe in the coming years this will change but seeing how technology is changing so rapidly, my hunch is that the PowerShot compact approach is here to stay : )

out

Getting rid of fossil fuels…

Gallery

This gallery contains 3 photos.

As news of weather stations reading beyond the 400 parts per million of Carbon Dioxide comes in, I ask when and how will we be able to leave fossil fuels behind and therefore be able to avoid runaway global climate … Continue reading

7 Minutes of Terror: Curiosity Rover’s Mars landing…

Carrying on the very random theme of this blog, i’ve had this post in the ‘drafts’ section for about 3 months and just haven’t got around to finishing and posting it.

There were two major events this summer which could be said to have fundamentally influenced our planet (which made the most impact on me). The first was the London Olympics, watched by billions of people across the globe, and the landing of the Curiosity Rover. 1 hour after the men’s 100m final, this was happening.

If you have a spare 5 minutes you need to watch this.My favourite part is the sky crane section where the Rover is slowly lowered to the surface, while the lander is hovering above it.

A very inspiring video and an incredible achievement for humans – all with a 14 minute time delay to Earth, 300,000,000 miles from Earth! I’m not sure there has ever been a more technically extraordinary human achievement.

out

Green juicing…

Being at home more with the kids has defo got me more into the whole food / cookery / baking groove. There is a certain amount of pressure to feed the boys good food and to come up with new and exciting things for everyone to try – doesn’t always work but i’m certainly trying more things out.

One of these i’ve recently started doing (after following my fab wife’s example) is to get the juicer out and start making green juices with the boys helping out.

We have a L’Equip Omni Juicer 6 in 1 brand juicer which does pretty much anything and the benefits are mostly about getting the maximum amount of nutrients out of the vegetables and fruit while not having to eat masses of fruit or veg. Anything goes with this, but we tend to use cucumber (don’t peel them as the nutrients are mostly in the skin), apples, oranges and some kind of leafy green veg, such as rainbow chard or spinach, then with some added apple or orange juice for added sweetness. The flavours balance out and it’s an awesome drink to go with a snack or meal, or some people just have a large juice on its own.

The ingredients

What i’ve found really useful about this is the benefit of using leftovers and things which are just past using to eat, or if there is too much of something – such as a big crop from the allotment.

The tiny amount of ‘waste’

Here’s the juice I made today with Jac (my youngest boy), actually mostly gone from the glass! : )

The green juice – nearly all gone!

The other thing is ways of using the leftover pulp, which is mostly the fiber from the fruit and veg. Seems a shame to waste this part as fiber is so important to general health.

Here’s a good site for some ideas, but i’ll probably try adding some it it to a stew.

Left over pulp (to be reborn in something else soon)!

A final idea is about storing the juice. This can be done by putting it into a sealed jar, with as little air space at the top as possible. Should keep for 24 hours but it’s best to drink fresh.

Happy juicing!

out

New bike tyres for winter…

The Giant Rapid road tyres which my bike came with are great in the wet but i’m not confident with them in the cold and wet British winter!

So, in preparation for the colder months, a different set of tyres is needed. Not the most simple task ever considering huge range of tyres out there. The Schwalbe website alone had over 30 types of hybrid tyres! After a few weeks of deliberating, the two contenders are as follows.

Schwalbe Marathon Plus – recommended by various websites and a couple of people at work. Lots of great reviews on Amazon and seems to be a very tough tyre.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/product-reviews/B000JDUMFG/ref=dp_top_cm_cr_acr_txt?ie=UTF8&showViewpoints=1

Specialized Crossroads Armadillo – again this brand keeps coming up on the best tyres sites. Good brand but no personal recommendations as yet.

http://www.google.co.uk/products/catalog?hl=en&sugexp=les%3B&tok=IqzLqgHH9h5qVDLGoQLmaw&cp=17&gs_id=1u&xhr=t&q=armadillo+bike+tyres&safe=off&bav=on.2,or.r_gc.r_pw.r_cp.r_qf.&biw=1366&bih=649&um=1&ie=UTF-8&tbm=shop&cid=1545213563333053924&sa=X&ei=L2ZbUKz3Loqx0AWV1oC4Cw&sqi=2&ved=0CDsQ8wIwAw

out

The Severn Estuary tidal power project awakens…?

An exciting past-project gets a flicker of life from the latest PM. The Severn Estuary tidal power project is now back on the agenda which is good news for renewable energy production.

The first thing to look at are the costs involved. The barrage would cost at least £30Billion and generate 6.5 GW of energy per year, equal to maybe 4 gas-fired power stations.

According to the article, it would have a lifetime over 120 years, compared with 30-40 years for a conventional gas, coal or nuclear power station, or 20 years for a wind turbine.

6.5GW per year for 120 years = 780GW over lifetime of barrage. This compared to a 2GW gas power station operating for 30 years (costing £2 Billion) = 60GW over lifetime of power station. How do you compare the two? We need to find out the total £ per GW produced (total cost / total GW), as follows.

Barrage = £30B / 780GW = £0.038B (£38 Million)

Conventional = £2B / 60GW = £0.033B (£33.3 Million)

So the conventional power station energy costs less than the barrage energy to produce, but there are many other factors to consider. Added to this are the potential cost over-runs which are likely, unknowns with project, environmental damage to existing fauna in the estuary.

But, positives include huge job creation, a massive and on-going renewable source of energy (how much non-renewable power generation could this project replace?),  environmental protection from rising sea levels, privately funded not paid for by public money and finally the potential new road link between Cardiff and Weston-super-Mare.

Just based on the cost of the energy produced, this doesn’t make economic sense, but this is the same argument used against renewables – the overall ‘cost’ of using fossil fuel-based sources of energy is more when all factors are taken into account. So, based on all the potential advantages of the barrage project, I would have to consider it in principle at least something to look into in more detail. The potential for 30,000 jobs and 6.5GW per year of renewable energy is really exciting.

Also, given how long these projects take to plan, build and operate, this would be a realistic source of jobs for both my boys, if they decide to become engineers one day : )

out

Recording from mixer to Garageband 11…

If you own an Intel-based iMac and want to record vinyl records via a mixer into Garage Band, here’s how to do it

  • 1. Open GB’s prefs, select the Audio MIDI tab, and choose “Built-In Input” from the Input pop up menu.
  • 2. Create a New Basic track by clicking the ‘plus’ symbol in the bottom left corner and hit record
  • 3. There is no 3!

The other strange thing which we’ve just realised could have been affecting the iMac during all the problems we’ve had recently is the connection of the cables from the digital mixer into the audio port at the back of the iMac. I had just plugged the cable in to record some mixes from the decks and that’s when the old problems started again – video and audio not working, web pages not loading, the beach ball of doom coming up most of the time, programs freezing etc.

As soon as the cable was taken out, it all started working again. I have no idea how that cable connection can have such a significant impact on the functioning of the computer (particularly internet functions), but hopefully that’s it sorted.

Happy days again : )

out

Another Mit Romney special…

Another awesome policy decision from the Republican Presidential hopeful…

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/aug/02/mitt-romney-end-us-wind-subsidies

‘Romney’s campaign confirmed this week he wants to end long-standing tax credits for wind farm projects when the incentives come up for review later this year.

The pledge means the popular production tax credits (PTCs) – which have helped drive a surge in new wind energy investment in the US, making it the second largest wind energy market in the world after China – would be allowed to expire at the end of this year if the Republicans secure the White House in November.’

The reason? To create a level playing field between all the different types of power generators. But…

‘However, green groups, renewable energy industry insiders, and Democrats were all quick to point out that Romney’s desire for a level playing field on energy policy does not extend to oil and gas, where he has pledged to retain up to $40bn of subsidies and tax breaks that President Obama wants to see phased out.’

I really hope the American voters see this for what it is. The denial of climate-change science and the support for the big energy industries which are bank-rolling the Mitt Romney campaign should not determine global energy policy.

Maybe we should add up how much funding in tax breaks, incentives, subsidies etc the oil, coal and gas industries have benefitted from over the last 50 years and apply that level to the new, renewable industries, such as wind, solar and tidal/hydro?

out