Japan’s nuclear dream over…? Ummm, not really!

I posted something on the issue of Japan becoming a nuclear-power free country about a week ago and what impact this would have on the country, particularly coming up to the heavy power usage summer period.

I suggested that Japan would become a very important case study for other countries considering going away from nuclear power.

Well, it seems that this isn’t now going to happen and that at least two nuclear power reactors will be brought on-line very soon, to deal with a reported 15% power deficit in the western area!

I have to say i’m a bit surprised, given what has very recently happened to the country. In some ways it’s a good thing and will lead to far less CO2 being emitted from alternative power sources, including oil and gas. It’s also actually a bit predictable, given Japan’s renewable power system is not yet able to support the country’s power needs. A very tempting situation to be in for the Government – having a fleet of 50+ reactors just standing by, ready to supply vast quantities of power.

A bit more time needed for the renewable power sector.



Sharing the benefits of wind power…

‘Most Britons like wind power, but the minority who don’t exert a painful electoral grip on the Conservative party. The only solution is to ensure those who live with the turbines also profit from them.’

This is such a simple and obvious solution. Bring communities into the deal and spread the benefits.

Another eye-opening set of figures from Germany (again, leading the way)…

‘In Germany, 20% of all electricity comes from renewable energy and over 65% of the turbines and solar panels are owned by individuals, farmers and communities. Bringing power to the people, at the expense of unpopular utility companies, has delivered overwhelming public acceptance.’


‘In the UK, less than 10% of renewable energy is owned locally. Over 90% is owned by the big energy firms, seen as untrusted giants dumping turbines into the countryside and taking the proceeds out.’


Green in the desert…!

Some amazing images of huge wheat fields, from helicopter and space! Not exactly surprising the ‘growing wheat in the desert’ project is coming to a sharp halt. Saudi Arabia is now also a NET importer of wheat, soon to be joined by large parts of India.



3 years of blogging…

I just realised that I started this blog in May 2009, which is 3 years (and 6 days) since it all kicked off and I jumped head-first into the digital international community!

At the time, we were moving our bathroom upstairs, I was getting ready for my first solo photography exhibition and I had just become vegetarian! The main subjects are still there in the blog – family, DIY and art/photography, but more have been added, including gardening/allotment, sustainability and music/mixing.

Since that first post, 1200 posts have been added and my blog has had 50,000 views. A big thanks to everyone who has taken the time to have a look at it and for all the comments and ‘likes’.


The nuclear debate: Monbiot v Simon…


Probably the most interesting 5,000 words i’ve read for many years. If you are into energy production, the environment or sustainability, this small exchange between George Monbiot and Theo Simon will really bring the issue of nuclear power into focus.


The article in full: Theo Simon response to George Monbiot

The two issues which really do need to be investigated are the ‘need’ for new nuclear power (can renewables fill that gap and quickly enough to prevent runaway climate change?) and the issue of what happens to the nuclear waste?

As things stand, i’m in favour of a new generation of nuclear waste-processing power stations, not power stations which will create the next waste legacy for generations to come. I’m also very interested in exactly how renewables will fill the gap, but fear that coal and gas will inevitably fill the gap instead, as is happening already in Germany and Japan.


Full-scale floating wind turbine…

An awesome article about the first ‘floating’ off-shore wind turbine.

This makes so much sense and will mean hitherto unviable areas can be opened up. Seeing how the trend for on-shore turbines is for fewer and fewer to be granted planning permission, the obvious solution is to focus everything on the much larger off-shore turbines, where the wind is stronger and there are obviously no residents to object. There are larger concerns though, including providing new power infrastructures to transport the energy to the areas of demand.


Little red car…

Last weekend we drove over to Coldicot (SE Wales) tp pickup our new (well, 18 months old) little red Citroen C1. Citroen C1 brochure.

We had the boys in the back of the car club car which we had booked for the evening and once we’d picked up the car, Claire drove that back and I drove the other one. Very foggy drive over the Severn Bridge but we all got back fine.

The C1 drives really well and is really easy to park – as the previous owner said to Claire ‘it parks like a dream!’.

The fuel efficiency was the clincher, over Chevy Spark which we had previously test driven. The C1 has a 63 mpg average, while the Spark only has 55 mpg. The Spark is the safest car in its class but we checked the stats for the C1 and found it is only 1 point lower overall, and actually safer in some aspects. The Spark does has 3 proper rear seats, complete with seat belts and this was swaying us, but overall it would have been more money and the miles per gallon issue just wouldn’t go away. The C1 is basically the most sustainable car we can afford and looks great.

The simple mpg cost calculation which we did to work out what the actual cost savings would be was…

Both have 35L tanks. Each would cost £1.31 per litre in petrol. The C1 giving a total of 7.7 gallons X 63 (mpg) = 485 miles out of 1 tank. The Spark would give 7.7 gallons X 55 (mpg) = 423 miles. The difference per tank of petrol = 62 miles.

If we assume we might fill the car up once a month, over the course of a year, this would mean we can get an extra 744 miles from the C1. The cost of this is would be £70.33 (@ £1.31 per litre). Over 5 years this would be £351.

So, overall it’s a good small city car and just right for us right now. For camping trips we’re going to get some roof bars and a roof box to fit the light but bulky items in. Bring on the Spring and Summer!


Connecting digital mixer to imac…

I’ve been doing some intensive cables research to work out what the best way is to connect my digital mixer with the iMac, for recording vinyl records and DJ mixes.


I’ve asked various people and the result are the above cables. These connect the mixer to the iMac via the headphone jack and I already have Garage Band on the Mac which can record and edit mixes.

Another tip is to record in.wav format not mp3 but convert to mp3 if uploading to web or want a smaller file size. Use Garage Band for Mac which is good for multi-track recording but a bit more memory needed than other programs.

Audacity is also highly rated to record on Mac http://audacity.sourceforge.net/about/features, as is Audio Recorder from www.versiontracker.com


Chevy Spark test drive…

We’re taking the next step on our journey towards car ownership by test driving a Chevy Spark! This is a big step for us and we’ve been car-less for 11 months, since our old Nissan Sunny packed up. During that time we’ve been members of the local car club in Gloucester, operated by Commonwheels. This has been good but has meant less flexibility for journeys out of Gloucester and a limit on the number of times we can book it, due to costs. Overall it has been very useful being in the car club and the system works well but does mean that for £100 a month in costs, we could only take the car out maybe 4 times for a few hours at a time, or a few 24 hour bookings.

So, to get us to those hard to reach places for amazing spring and summer adventures, we’ve decided to go for car ownership again. One of our top priorities is fuel efficiency, which means less pollution and less costs to operate the car. Other factors include 3 rear seat belts and headrests, roof bars for a roof box (for the camping gear), safety features, and low running costs, which means a small car with low insurance and tax band. It also means a newish car which means very low servicing costs and reliability.

The result of our research is the Chevy Spark. 55 mpg, lots of safety features and low running costs. A great looking car and so far the test drive has been very good. Driving away from the garage this morning through snowy and very cold conditions (temperature down to -14 degrees C), the car felt safe and stable and the climate control kicked in quickly. Very responsive and good to drive.

To keep costs down, we’re looking mainly at the 2011 or 2010 model, but we’ll see what we can get within our set budget of £100 per month for the financing of the car and £100 for all other costs. Ideally we’d want to get this figure down as much as possible but we’ll be weighing up all the options over the next couple of months. Really looking forward to the freedom this will give our family but we’ll be keeping in mind all our good habits and not just driving everywhere!


Wacom Inkling – digital sketch recorder…

A very clever bit of kit from Wacom, which appears to convert hand drawings directly into digital vector and raster files. First time i’ve seen this and has lots of potential.




Matt’s blog gets the social media treatment…!

The power of social media…

As an experiment, Claire ‘pinned’ 4 of my recent blog images, including a few of my own photos and one of the melting crayon ones which I in turn had copied from the original website. The above image is the result of that single action.

Going from an average of around 100 hits per day with no personal social media platforms (such as facebook, pinterest, linkedin, blogger, twitter etc), the single day jumped to 672! At first it was quite cool, but then it just got ridiculous.

The other interesting thing about it was that all of the hits were very insubstantial, or shallow, without meaning. They were just hits, without any response, feedback, comment, ‘likes’ etc. There was no follow up at all. The far fewer number of previous hits had produced much more feedback. I love scanning through Pinterest for creative ideas, just like Flickr, but I suppose the gaining of this level of hits (with such an increase) has slightly put me off, in a strange way.

This does also show the power of incredible photos, to inspire and push people to action. The crayon image was re-pinned 223 times, with the total number of hits to my blog, via Pinterest, being 394, with 345 being specifically for the crayon image. It’s a very unique image and something very cool and visually stimulating. This is defo on my list for the next cold and wet day!


Lumix LX5 test run…

A good video of Charlie Waite testing out the new Lumix LX5 in Istanbul…


There are too many amazing features in this camera to go through, but with digital SLR quality photos in a compact, with HD video included, this is my ideal ‘take everywhere’ camera.

I should balance this post with a mention of the Canon S95, which I have just seen in a review video being compared with the LX5. Both have very similar features but the S95 is more compact and sleek.

Great reviews on the Amazon site and this camera is now around £220, which is £100 LESS than the LX5, with a smaller profile. This camera was £399 a couple of months ago (now £230), but has priced dropped due to the S100 being released (12 MP instead of 10 MP). I already own a Canon 400D SLR which produces very good results, but is a bit bulky for carrying around all the time. The S95 could be the solution.


Incineration considerations…


This gallery contains 2 photos.

The Gloucester incinerator (AKA: energy from waste facility). Well, my heart says ‘no’ but my head says ‘maybe’. It’s useful sometimes to analyse each part of the argument, rather than focussing on any single area. I’m reading the Complete Works … Continue reading