Thursday, February 28, 2008

Full of hot air

I've been watching some of the Democratic (Presidential hopeful) debates and I wonder about the comments made, regarding "getting serious about bio fuels". Think that bio fuels are the answer to peak oil? Perhaps one day, we'll be using corn or soybeans to fuel the world's need to go zoom.... Recently it was proven that a passenger jet airliner can run on bio fuel and certainly the family car can... but what will it take and what are the consequences?
At first glance palm oil looks like a quick growing crop. Almost 25% of Borneo's rain forest has been cut to develop this crop source.... to the dismay of the endangered orangutan. The problem is, a single tonne of refined palm oil generates 33 tonnes of carbon emissions. (ten times more than petroleum) How about soy? The biggest soy producer is in South America...200,000 square miles, (once rain forest), in southern Brazil, northern Argentina, parts of Paraguay and Bolivia have been dedicated for the task. This area is known locally as "the Republic of Soy".
In reality, it would take twice the total existing farmland on earth just to supply 10% of the worlds current fuel needs using soy! Rapeseed, canola, or corn.... not much better. Dedicating farmland to fuel crops, (now producing food), may not be a wise decision based on the world's population growth rate... perhaps 10 billion in 40 years (or less).
So, back the the drawing board.... could it be that the answer is so simple that it's right under our nose... or maybe in it? Maybe it's our own polluted air that can run our cars. Are air powered cars right around the corner?
You can bet, not if Exxon or BP have their way!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

A Collection Of Totally Random Stuff

Some totally random stuff that I've been meaning to post.... starting with Demetri Martin. A very funny young man.

Denman Island Trivia

I came across this archived newspaper clipping of a ship that wrecked near our house in 1903. The article ran in the New York Times.

Boo Radley (our cat) mastered the art of bird capture a few weeks ago. Picture a scene as Sylvester catches Tweedy Bird, only to be smacked on the back of the head until said bird has been spit out. This is pretty much what happened and indeed the bird did fly away. A few days later, birds of another feather flocked to our back yard and even climbed the stairs, where the now "belled" kitten decided: maybe wild turkeys could have a free pass.

That American Presidential Primary is something to behold, isn't it? After campaigning for two years and spending tens of millions of dollars, it comes down to a popularity contest. While watching American Idol I was thinking, why not just phone in a vote for your favorite candidate. Chances are, that long before November rolls around and a new American President is elected, we'll have a new Canadian government, (perhaps by June). (We like surprises.)
I've been labelled (at times) as anti-American on this blog, I deny it and I do post the comments that are clean and worthy of a response. What I see on TV, are Americans that are exited about change and candidates that give them a real choice and above all, hope. "Fear is easier to instill than love and hope" Richard Nixon. Good luck with that down there. (can I still come visit?)

We went to see Alex Cuba at the hall on Friday night. This two time Juno winner kept the house rockin' with those infectious Latin rhythms. check out his music video...

Straw Bale House Update: The weekend's sunny weather was perfect for cleaning up the building site. As with most of my projects, the cleaning up is the hard part. The last of the beams have been milled and delivered, including the two cedar lunkers that will adorn the front entry. Now, all we need is some staining weather. A hydro transformer has miraculously appeared on the lot! This is incentive to get my act together and apply for a temporary power permit.

Our "ferry hill" is a construction zone. As the road to the ferry is only two lanes wide and ferry traffic must line up on the road, it has not allowed for easy access to the ferry if dropping off foot passengers. Traditionally this has lead to a form of ferry hill frogger where one must drive on the wrong side of the road before or between oncoming traffic. Islanders have become very adept at it over the years, but perhaps the ferry corporation has realised there could be a liability factor. Soon there will be a third lane to remedy the situation. Soon we will have a second ferry to help out until we get our regular ferry back. The "Klitsa" (an unfortunate name for a ship says Kari), shall arrive mid March.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Where's the straw?

So, a trip to the city has delayed the blog... I must say, I don't miss the city. I dislike the smells and the traffic and the bombardment of the senses. I did indulge in shopping at one of my fav stores: Princess Auto. A great store for tools, saw-blades etc... not too much to do with princesses or autos, so can't explain the name. We returned home to foggy weather and temperatures cooler than predicted. At times it was nice and sunny at the site, but much cooler and foggy just below.

The weekend before we left, we lucked into one sunny day and took advantage of it. I wanted to explore a trail I hadn't been on before. It was a beautiful mossy trail, (that I expected to lead to Grandma's house). No bad wolves were spotted, but we did keep an eye out for our resident cougar that was seen in the trail area recently.

StrawBale House Update: Hmm... where's the straw? I know readers wonder about a bale house with no bales.... There are two basic methods of building with straw. A weight bearing or "Nebraska" style house uses the straw bales as the house structure and roof support. The other method is to build a skeletal balloon frame or a post & beam frame and "infill" with straw bales. The second method is preferable in rainy climates where a sunny building period can't be depended upon. I'm building a modified post & beam home that will have a roof on it to protect the baling process from the elements. As soon as the roof is on, I can pour the finished slab. The dry interior then becomes storage for the bales.
The round dormer trusses were cut out last week, thanks to another generous islander with a warm shop and band-saw. The pieces were assembled and then raised into place.
The odd sunny day has allowed for some beam staining. I'm not sure what's in the stain that attracts the flies, but even near freezing, the little kamikazes can't resist dive bombing the wet stain.

Carbon Tax? Our provincial Government has announced a new carbon tax. This means it's time to pay the piper. The offset is a reduction in income tax in all categories. It'll be interesting to see what the reaction will be..... and even more interesting to see what will be done with the (I suspect increased) revenue flow. Each BC'er will also get $100 this summer to start our green initiatives. This seems a little hokey to me and smells like an election ploy. The biggest polluters like concrete manufacturing are off the hook for now. I do think this is a positive move, although shallowly thought out. A much more effective way to entice consumers to buy green products is to eliminate tax on them entirely... (as is what's currently done with bicycles)

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Just keeping it clean

Straw Bale House Update: This week, work began on the dormer. The 26 foot LVL (laminated veneer lumber) beams that will support the dormer roof were (painfully) hoisted into place. (I'm still suffering a little from that) The window wall was framed and the side walls which are built on top of the beams have been started. Once complete, the rounded trusses which will make up the roof framework will be built. As you can see in the pictures we had another dump of snow. While the east side of the island had no snow, the west side (5 km away) recieved about 5 inches (on site). The rarely used road to the house, which is a full kilometer from the first intersection and 2 kilometers from our nearest neighbour was plowed the next day. (maybe it's who you know, if you know what I mean).

Thanks to Keith Walker for the new Denman weather spot on the sidebar. Keith records weather information for Denman Island. I can't help thinking that if he lived on the east side of the island, no snowfall would have been reported last week.

More on Masonry heaters. When researching for the straw blog last week , I came across this article on Masonry heaters:
Mark Twain, travelling through Europe in the late 1800's, discovered the virtues of masonry heat. Here's a little of what he wrote about it.
"To the ininstructed stranger it promises nothing. It has a little bit of a door...which seems foolishly out of proportion to the rest of the edifice. Small-sized fuel is used, and marvelously little of that. The process of firing is quick and simple. At half past seven on a cold morning the servant brings a small basketfull of slender pine sticks and puts half of these in, lights them with a match, and closes the door. They burn out in ten or twelve minutes. He then puts in the rest and closes the door...the work is done.All day long and into the night all parts of the room will be delightfully warm and's surface is not hot; you can put your hand on it anywhere and not get burnt.Consider these things. One firing is enough for the day; the cost is next to nothing; the heat produced is the same all day, instead of too hot and too cold by turns...America could adopt this stove, but does America do it? No, she sticks to her own fearful and wonderful inventions in the stove line. The American wood stove, of whatever breed, is a terror! It requires more attention than a baby. It has to be fed every little while, it has to be watched all the time; and for all the reward you are roasted half your time and frozen the other half... and when your wood bill comes in you think you have been supporting a volcano.It is certainly strange that useful customs and devises do not spread from country to country with more facility and promptness than they do."

I washed my phone last week. It didn't recover. So, the search began for a replacement. I'm tired of telus and their "plans" and "contracts". I wanted to try the prepaid card thing, as I don't use my phone a whole lot. After extensive research, I switched to 7-eleven. No joke.... they have a great card plan (where the cards don't expire for a year) in denominations of $25 and up. Promo right now is $50 or 100 bucks for the phone including air time.... with no contract obligations. You walk out of the store and make a call... no passwords, no personal information given or hoops to jump through. If you loose your phone or run it through the washing machine like I did... you're out fifity or (100) bucks max. Too good to be true... air time twenty cents + long distance at thirty. I bought the $100 deal.... VGA camera, with video, bluetooth + FM radio. Upload and download wirelessly through bluetooth from your computer.... so no charges for ringtones, wallpaper etc. I must have been living under a rock, not to know before this.