June Pieces Of My Mind #1

Poppies along our fence
  • My wife receives her second university degree today. In addition to her 15 years in journalism, she is now also a trained psychologist. Go YuSie!!!
  • I assume 45's lawyers cleared the covfefe tweet?
  • Small but very satisfying discovery. In 1902 a Medieval coin is found at Skällvik Castle. The finder makes a detailed drawing of the coin and sends coin & drawing to the authorities, who promptly lose track of the coin. Gone. In 1954 a list is drawn up of twelve Medieval coins found at nearby Stegeborg Castle. In 1983 the list is published -- and suddenly there are thirteen coins on it. And the additional coin has a completely unexpected date, for Stegeborg, which was ruinous at the time. And the coin looks identical to the one that went missing in 1902...
  • Chinese prime minister offers voice of reason on climate, unlike POTUS. Yay, Republicans. Go you. /-:
  • Jrette comes home from first pop gig without parents. Describes ace female guitarist+bassist.
  • Whew, a final close call. The Johan & Jakob Söderberg Foundation comes through and saves my bacon for the last seven months that I plan to subsist on grants. Ample time to finish my castles book. Ask for me a year from now, and you shall most likely find me a contract archaeology man.
  • 18th anniversary with YuSie! And tea, and sunshine!
  • The HPV vaccine is already putting a big dent in the cancer statistics! And remember: here's something young men can do to improve the health of future grandmothers. And to keep their penises wart-free.
  • In Jrette's opinion, I'm pretty frenetic.
  • Almost bought Turkish bulgur. Then I remembered Erdogan and his rural power base. "Too bad, politically deluded durum wheat farmers", said I, and bought wheat from Västergötland instead.
  • I like novellas, 120-150 pp. Very few multihundredpage novels are worth the time.
  • Cousin E beat me big at Patchwork again. Seems that with the summer approaching, the threat of having to sleep in the yard is no longer very effective.
  • I think it's pretty neat that the designer of a game is often not a particularly strong player of that game. Inventing something with emergent properties that others discover.
  • The Wow Signal: it was a comet that hadn't been discovered at the time.
  • "Squamous" means "scaly".
  • "Rugose" means "has a folded/wrinkled surface" and is cognate with "corrugated".
  • "Gibbous" describes the moon when it's between half and full, and descends from the Latin word for hump.
  • Sorry to see the Tories get ahead of Labour in the UK elections. Right now it's 47 to 40%. Some consolation though that UKIP has been wiped out entirely.
  • Someone plz explain how the UK election result represents any diminished Tory ability to get stuff through Parliament! *confused*
  • Haha, now I get it. Brits are super confused to have what us Swedes call "a normal coalition government".
  • Before coming into a song, a bass player will often do this little slide along a string, "bwoing", to announce her presence. What's that called?
  • Here's a piece of good news. During the past three summers' fieldwork at Medieval castles, we dry-screened the dirt through 4 mm mesh. We also collected soil samples, a selection of which palaeobotanist Jennie Andersson has checked for carbonised plant remains. Jennie also found lots of tiny bones in the soil samples. Now osteologist Lena Nilsson has analysed the bones that Jennie found. And good news, as I said: no new animal species. If we had wet-screened the dirt through sub-4-mm mesh, we would certainly have found a greater number of bone fragments. But it would have been enormously costly in terms of money and labour. And it seems likely that we would not have identified additional animal species.
  • I found my hair! It's currently on my chest, below my navel and in an amazing profusion on the small of my back. Really been wondering where it had gone to.
  • Listening attentively to the Stones' "Gimme Shelter" for the first time. What a strange & interesting production! It's so dense and distant, kind of indistinct with no air in it. Like you're underwater. Or nodding off on heroin, I imagine.

More like this

Please give Mrs Rundkvist my congratulations on her achievement. I won't mention which one. All of them, really.

It's an important difference for people who get skin cancers to understand - squamous cell carcinomas can, given time, metastasise through the lymphatic system and result in carcinomas in the lungs, liver and other internal organs that are difficult to live without - consequently it is important to have them cut out, with enough margin of healthy tissue to ensure all of the cancer cells have been removed. And they can grow in unexpected places, not necessarily places which have had the most sun exposure - I had to have quite a large one cut out of the back of my knee a few years ago, very close to the lymph node. Whereas basal cell carcinomas carry very low metastatic risk - disfiguring, but much less likely to prove deadly. A few weeks ago I needed to get an actinic keratosis cut out of my top lip that would have ended up as a basal cell carcinoma if not removed - no big deal, I'm not a movie star.

If you grew up being subjected to really excessive amounts of solar radiation like I did, you get to know all about this stuff. Or die prematurely if you don't.

I was friends for a long time with an old Croatian man who grew beautiful opium poppies in his flower garden. He said a little bit of the sap was great for quieting crying babies and getting them to go to sleep. I can imagine. He is now deceased, so I can safely tell that story without getting him into trouble with the authorities. What impressed me was that my own father identified them on sight as opium poppies and asked the old Croat about them, and I don't know how my Dad could tell the difference. I couldn't, not then - I can now, and yours are not.

By John Massey (not verified) on 10 Jun 2017 #permalink

Thank you for kind words to Y!

In rural Zhejiang I saw little garden patches of opium. People cook pig trotters with it.

Regarding the UK elections, I will remind you that they use a first-past-the-post system, so it is unusual for them to have coalition governments (even though this is the second one in the last decade). In this particular case, Ms. May called the election in the expectation that the Tories would mop the floor with Labour. Several leftish minor parties decided not to contest certain swing constituencies to give the Labour candidate a better chance of winning, and it seems to have worked in some cases.

As for Dolt 45's tweets, I can't be sure about any particular one, but in general I think his lawyers don't approve of his tweeting. From a legal standpoint, he often makes his position less tenable with his tweets. For instance, his repeated insistence via Twitter that the immigration executive order is a Muslim ban undermines the arguments his lawyers are making in court defending the EO against challenges. While the President has broad authority when it comes to regulating immigration, he cannot legally enforce a policy which is intended to discriminate on the basis of religion. That is why the courts have thus far blocked the EO.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 11 Jun 2017 #permalink

When communicating with american friends I have to resort to comic book/cartoon caracters when describing how I perceive 45.
He is not competent enough to be Montgomery Burns or even the corrupt mayor of Springfield.
He is sleazy like Peter Griffin

By Birger Johansson (not verified) on 11 Jun 2017 #permalink

....but even that dumb bastard has some vestigal conscience.
45 is MORE two-dimensional than a cartoon caracter.

By Birger Johansson (not verified) on 11 Jun 2017 #permalink

Go, JJS foundation.
In France, Macron' s party is doing well.
DUP is an extension of long- dead Ian Paisly. Not even ordinary tories lite them.

By Birger Johansson (not verified) on 11 Jun 2017 #permalink

Sweden is reeling after the latest bad news; 76 cows have escaped a farm near Vindeln.

Seeing that a new Blade Runner is in the works, I wonder; would glitches in the language circuits (covfefe) be a simpler detection tool than the Vought-Kampff test?

By Birger Johansson (not verified) on 11 Jun 2017 #permalink

Birger@5: In the DC Comics Superman universe, when Lex Luthor became President, he sold LexCorp. Which means that Dolt 45 is literally less ethical than a comic book villain.

And yes, I have my doubts as to whether he would pass a Turing test. Smarter people than he have been known to flub it, e.g., Marco Rubio in one of the presidential primary debates. OK, Rubio isn't that smart, but compared to the guy who won the nomination....

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 11 Jun 2017 #permalink

Miscellaneous: "Algorithm eliminates blurred images caused by shaky footage" https://techxplore.com/news/2017-06-algorithm-blurred-images-shaky-foot…
-So, when docmenting the general condition of a site, even the most ham-fisted photographer can get a detailed image?
-- -- -- -- --
Re. the crisis in Qatar:
"The embargo brings its own risks for Saudi Arabia. As Qatar’s foreign minister, Sheik Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani, has toured foreign capitals, the tiny emirate has garnered increasing international sympathy despite Trump and his senior officials striking a wildly different tone about the crisis.

More serious still, say some observers, is that far from distancing Qatar from Iran and Turkey, the blockade could push the emirate ever closer to them."

45 and the feudal chump ruling Saudi share a talent for total fiasco.

By Birger Johansson (not verified) on 12 Jun 2017 #permalink

"Regarding the UK elections, I will remind you that they use a first-past-the-post system"

Right; they don't understand democracy.

By Phillip Helbig (not verified) on 12 Jun 2017 #permalink

In France there is also a first-past-the-post system in the sense that the candidate with the absolute majority gets elected and other votes don't count, but at least there is a runoff if no-one has an absolute majority. In the UK there isn't even a runoff.

By Phillip Helbig (not verified) on 12 Jun 2017 #permalink

I have to agree with Le Pen though in her criticism of the electoral system. PR is better because more democratic. Yes, it would mean more seats for the Front National, but it is a greater evil to have a less democratic system. “Never let your sense of morals prevent you from doing what is right” in the words of Salvor Hardin.

I am really annoyed when rules are used, or, worse, changed, to prevent some party from being represented. Even worse is when the reason for keeping or changing the rule allegedly has nothing to do with disadvantaging a particular party.

By Phillip Helbig (not verified) on 12 Jun 2017 #permalink

Svante Pääbo should get crackng on this immediately. And start cloning!
"Naracoorte, where a half-million years of biodiversity and climate history are trapped in caves" https://phys.org/news/2017-06-naracoorte-half-million-years-biodiversit…
-- -- -- --
-People born 1889 were really keen to destroy the world!
“Inventor hero was a one-man environmental disaster” https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg23431290-800-inventor-hero-was-a…
-- -- -- --
Miscellaneous: Increasingly disturbed May trying to forge alliance with squirrels
Watch The Handmaid's Tale and get back to us, DUP tells PM

By Birger Johansson (not verified) on 12 Jun 2017 #permalink

45 and the feudal chump ruling Saudi share a talent for total fiasco.

One of the points of contention is that in Syria, Saudi Arabia backs the Peoples' Front of Judea^H^H^H^H^H Syria while Qatar backs the Judean^H^H^H^H^H^H Syrian Peoples' Front. I'm simplifying here, but only slightly.

Dolt 45 doesn't seem to realize that there is a major American air base in Qatar. The difference between him and Milo Minderbinder is that the latter was aware that he had made a deal to bomb his own air base. But then Milo is a competent dealmaker, unlike this "POTUS".

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 12 Jun 2017 #permalink

re: Birger Johansson's first item

We visited the Naracoote caves a few years back. They're near Coonawara which is great wine country with all the limestone soil. We spent a whole day at the caves taking all of the guided tours. We were there on an off season weekday, so we had the place to ourselves. They have a lot of stuff on display in the caves, and some of the fossils - giant skulls, femurs - were pretty amazing.

Their bat cave was also pretty amazing. There's a huge colony there. You can't actually get into the cave, but they have bat-cams so you can watch everyday life in bat-town. The big entrance to the Blanche Cave in the article was a popular spot in the Victorian era for folks to plant garden and house plants. The Victorians loved to improve things, just as we often remove things in search of "authenticity". So, in addition to some neat limestone formations, you can learn a bit about historical tastes in house and garden plants.

All that and some great wines. It's a less traveled part of Australia, a bit south of the main wheat belt. I'll bet you didn't even know that Australia had a wheat belt. It's worth a detour from the main road from Adelaide to Melbourne.

Australia has more than one wheat belt.

Naracoorte is kind of famous because they are (kind of) accessible to the public, but Australia has numerous sites where megafaunal remains have been found, where public access is not welcomed/encouraged, out of concern for preservation.

If you scroll down to the map in this article, you can see some of them marked. http://www.abc.net.au/news/science/2017-06-14/giant-brush-turkeys-roame…

So far as I know, the exact location of the Thylacoleo Caves (so named for self-evident reasons) in WA has never been made public, to prevent people from getting in there, messing things up and taking away remains. Besides, access is hazardous, involving being lowered through a small hole in the roof on ropes, and then a long trip to the floor.

But in the next comment I will post a link that talks about another cave system in WA not marked on that map, that has yielded a lot of information about the behaviour of Thylacoleo carnifex, which is like the scary superstar of Australian Pleistocene megafauna.

By John Massey (not verified) on 14 Jun 2017 #permalink

It's this one, Witchcliffe, down very close to where I was born, in the far south-west corner of Australia.

The information it has yielded on T. carnifex behaviour is obvious in the article, so I won't belabour it with my own explanation. Some of the theories expounded by 'scientists' that were doing the rounds when I was a kid were hilarious, like the one that said that T. carnifex's teeth demonstrated that it was not a predator, and that it probably lived on wild melons. Yeah, right. You don't need a bite more powerful than an African lion to eat melons, nor do you need an array of razor sharp carnassial teeth.

I used to stand looking at the T. carnifex skeleton mounted in the WA Museum when I was, like, 10 years old and think "If that thing ate melons, I'm a Dutchman."


By John Massey (not verified) on 14 Jun 2017 #permalink

Multispectral imaging reveals ancient Hebrew inscription undetected for over 50 years https://phys.org/news/2017-06-multispectral-imaging-reveals-ancient-heb…

Also; “If you strike me down I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine”, claims Jeremy Corbyn.

“The Queen's speech will be delayed while Democratic Unionists and Tories debate whether cats help witches cast spells against Christians.”

By Birger Johansson (not verified) on 15 Jun 2017 #permalink

Shooting: Trevor Noah and Stephen Colbert urge Americans to ‘unite under the banner of human’ after baseball rampage http://www.rawstory.com/2017/06/trevor-noah-and-stephen-colbert-urge-am…

I did not see this one coming:
“GOP lawmaker: Trump ‘partially to blame for demons’ making Americans act ‘weird and different’ http://www.rawstory.com/2017/06/gop-lawmaker-trump-partially-to-blame-f…
Trump is connected with the devil! -My first question is “Does he look like Peter Stormare or Max von Sydow?*” (Both have played the character. When people think of the devil, they apparently think of some Swedish guy...)

By Birger Johansson (not verified) on 15 Jun 2017 #permalink

The people who most need to hear that message from Mr. Noah and Mr. Colbert are the least likely to hear it.

Assassination and attempted assassination are not valid political tools in a functioning democratic state. That said, there is a certain amount of "sow the wind, reap the whirlwind" here. Many Republicans like to repeat the Thomas Jefferson quote about needing to water the tree of liberty of liberty with the blood of tyrants. They forget that if you are part of the government, people might conclude, reasonably or otherwise, that you are one of the tyrants in question.

What we know of the shooter is typical of people who do this sort of thing. History of domestic violence, life spiraling out of control (a recent business failure in this guy's case), and all too easy access to military grade rifles. Any society will have outliers who match the first two criteria, but the last is specifically a problem in the US.

As for Birger's last question, I would envision the devil as resembling Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin. Mr. Putin is, as Mick Jagger put it, a man of wealth and taste. Unlike Mr. Trump.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 15 Jun 2017 #permalink

The British journalists who want to talk about their election in terms of one winner and one loser, not half a dozen parties (and many individuals and factions) strengthening or weakening their position and several hundred individual races make me sad.

The story about the coins sounds a bit like what happened with Persepolis: Ernst Hertzfeld was not happy that by the end of 1933 the Persian government did not want a German heading the excavation any more, so lots of things were either never published or written up by his American collaborators. One of those things which was not properly published is a site with a coin hoard on the plain.

BTW, Sting and Wayne Shorter received the Polar Music Prize today. I am illiterate when it comes to names of artists, but the event was as artist-rich as a Norwegian Nobel ceremony.

By Birger Johansson (not verified) on 15 Jun 2017 #permalink

Combine harvesters are so called because they perform the three 'combined' actions of reaping, threshing and winnowing. They shoot out the 'chaff' after the grain is winnowed out by the harvester, and that gets ploughed back into the soil when the next seeding season comes around. That's fine, it helps to improve the soil, but ordinarily that chaff contains a whole load of weed seeds, which get ploughed in and germinate along with the next crop and inhibit growth of the crop, unless they are got rid of.

Australia has a pretty proud record in this field - the first commercially successful combine harvester was invented in Australia in 1885. But then, they had the motivation - huge areas of Australia are used for grain production.

This old guy has come up with a way of destroying the weed seeds while they are still in the harvester so that 95% of them will not be able to germinate, so no need for (increasingly ineffective) chemical herbicides. He deserves a Nobel Prize. Predictably, he won't get one, but he deserves one.

By John Massey (not verified) on 17 Jun 2017 #permalink

(Sorry - afterthought) - And this will become a process of favourable diminishing returns - the fewer weed seeds that survive and germinate, the fewer the weeds that will be picked up by the harvester the next time around, so the germinating weeds should become progressively fewer with each growing season. It's brilliant.

By John Massey (not verified) on 17 Jun 2017 #permalink

The Nobel Prize mandarins have always looked down on engineering and other not quite "pure" sciences. The creator of modern meteorology was not awarded any prize despite the immense benefits from it.
The one time they were prepared to compromise was after Sputnik, when they wanted to give the Soviet space chief engineer the prize, but Chrustjev chose to keep Korolev's name secret.
-- -- --
Sting: Nils Landgren performs If you love somebody at the Polar Music Prize 2017 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JfpLEE1U3e4
-- -- --
Wayne Shorter receives the Polar Music Prize 2017 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c5mMgD4mI-o with Esperanza Spaulding

By Birger Johansson (not verified) on 17 Jun 2017 #permalink

Somewhat ironic, given that Alfred Nobel was himself an engineer and applied scientist.

Meanwhile, what Eric has been saying about coal is shaping up to be true. All the more concerning that giant Indian company Adani is about to open the world's largest coal mine in Australia, under the guise of bringing electricity to India's poor, when it is clearly predictable that India's coal fired power plants will fairly soon all be redundant:

45 can try all he likes to boost coal, but he can't change the future.

By John Massey (not verified) on 17 Jun 2017 #permalink

BTW, I saw the 2007 film "There Will Be Blood" starring the ever-reliable Daniel Day-Lewis (who received an Academy Award for his performance) available on Netflix. I had recently seen the film touted as one of the best 25 films so far of the 21st Century, so I watched it.

Yeah, worth it, although it would probably mean more to an American. Day-Lewis' performance alone makes it worth watching.

Whether it deserves to be regarded as one of the greatest films of the current era - I think that's maybe a bit overdone. It's good, no question, and powerful. Great? A bit questionable. Eminently believable, though, so in that respect it deserves a lot of credit.

By John Massey (not verified) on 18 Jun 2017 #permalink

A current issue of "Science" has the details of how powerplants can be made 25-30 % more efficient by switching from steam to supercritical carbon dioxide as medium to power turbines in powerplants (this is BTW not the carbon dioxide created by combustion in the plant, the supercritical fluid is separate).
So even coal powerplants will need less of the stuff (until batteries get cheaper, coal power is needed for when sun and windpower is down).

By Birger Johansson (not verified) on 18 Jun 2017 #permalink

Already there, Birger - Tesla and many other companies are already marketing commercially viable batteries that can be installed in people's homes, or in banks installed by power companies, to complement solar and/or wind power.

I read a report in Bloomberg Business News recently that said the Indian Government is having to reconsider the planned construction of new coal burning power stations because they will be completely obsolete within 10 to 15 years.

In any case, reserves of natural gas are very large, and LNG is a much cleaner fossil fuel than coal. Eric has made the point at least a couple of times on this Blog that coal is no longer commercially viable. From everything I have seen recently, he is right.

So why then is the Indian company Adani forging ahead with plans to open a massive new coal mine in Australia that will require an investment of A$1.5 billion? And they want the Australian Government to lend them the $15 billion to do it.

Something doesn't add up. I think I smell a rat - a rat called Adani. And either a stupid or complicit Australian Government.

By John Massey (not verified) on 19 Jun 2017 #permalink

John@32: Grifters gotta grift.

As for the Australian Government, it might be that they think the plan will bring jobs to a critical constituency or two (I don't even know what part of Australia they are looking at, let alone the political proclivities of the people who live there), or that they think they want to be able to brag about how many jobs they have created (the Republicans in the US are playing this game).
I expect that, even if the coal mine opens, the Government will be disappointed in what happens. I don't know whether coal mining companies in Australia strip mine, as many American coal mining companies do, or even resort to mountaintop removal, as is often done in the parts of West Virginia and Kentucky where coal is mined. Either way, a coal mine doesn't employ as many miners as it once would have for a given production level.

It might be better for the locals if this project never gets off the ground. Any employment would be temporary at best, and leave an ugly hole in the ground.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 19 Jun 2017 #permalink

But still no sign of Prester John !

IIUC you wouldn't expect to find him in Ethiopia. He was supposed to be the leader of a group of early Christians who had migrated to the Indian subcontinent. Christian Crusaders in the Jerusalem area heard rumors of somebody from the east conquering a bunch of cities not as far to the east, and assumed it was Prester John coming to their aid. They were quite mistaken: the conquerors in question were actually the Mongols under Genghis Khan. I am not aware of any lasting evidence of Christian settlements in India or Pakistan until the Portuguese arrived in the late 15th century.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 19 Jun 2017 #permalink

Right now, Skellefteå has a nerd festival, Nordsken.
Board games, cosplay, LAN, the works.
And a big statue of Jabba the Hut.

By Birger Johansson (not verified) on 19 Jun 2017 #permalink

Birger@34 - Well spotted! I am fascinated by anything to do with the Shang Dynasty, and particularly the female military leader Fu Hao; she started out as just one of the king's many concubines, but managed to elevate her own standing to the point that she was permitted to (1) lead the Shang army and conduct military campaigns, and (2) preside over human sacrifices. The Shang Dynasty is one of those cautionary tales in archaeo - it was widely regarded as mythical, until archaeological evidence proved conclusively that it was very real, and had left detailed written records, on oracle bones and bronze vessels.

Eric@33 - Yeah, strip mining. And yes, the Prime Minister and Adani were both claiming that the mine would create 10,000 new jobs, until closer scrutiny revealed it would actually only be 1,500. The latest employment figures for Australia are very good, so 1,500 temporary jobs are no incentive to the voters at all.

All of the locals are dead against it and trying to prevent it, including the local Aboriginal people, who are now the last line of defence against it. In fact, the large majority of the whole Australian population seems to be against it, but the Government is not listening. We desperately need our good mates the Abos to help us get out of this one. In exchange, they can have all the land rights they want, as far as I am concerned.

My theory is that the Government of the day knows that Australia has huge untapped reserves of dirty coal, and is very keen to sell as much of it as possible as quickly as possible to get some money from it to help with its huge budget deficit, before coal becomes completely obsolete and worthless.

As for Adani, I can only guess at what their motivation is. But in my experience, power companies often like big write-downs on capital outlay for taxation-avoidance purposes, or so they can justify big increases in the price of electricity. IOW, they seem to me to be playing for a big financial loss on this, which makes no sense to a rational, honest person. But no one is saying they are rational or honest.

By John Massey (not verified) on 19 Jun 2017 #permalink

From the daily financial newsletter that I get every morning:

"For example, battery storage technology is getting to the stage where electricity generation will be the next industry to face ‘disruption’. As the Financial Review reports today, Lyon Group, a private company, has made or announced nearly $2 billion worth of renewable energy and battery storage investments in Australia recently.

The paper quoted partner David Green as saying

‘"These things are happening despite governments, not because of them…the private demand for renewable energy can't be denied."

‘He said the weight of private capital coming to renewable energy had shifted the momentum in the sector, despite the political uncertainty over energy and climate policy in Canberra.’

It’s a good point. Political dysfunction in Canberra is not a new story. It’s been going on now for a decade or so. But the market is getting on with it. Advances will occur with or without government policy support."

People need to get this message loud and clear - they need to stop waiting for governments to address climate change and energy supply, and just go ahead by themselves and do it. And now the technology is available (maybe not in Sweden, which does not get enough solar radiation, but certainly in Australia and India), people can do exactly that, and are doing it.

If I was building a house in Australia now, I know exactly how I would design and build it - the whole roof would comprise Tesla's solar cell roof tiles, I would install a Tesla Powerwall battery in the house, and I would have a fully electric car parked in the garage, being charged up from my home battery. And then I would kiss the power and oil companies goodbye forever.

I would also install a wind turbine in the back yard if I could, but the local council would not permit me to do that.

With power costing me zero, after the initial capital investment, I would design the walls and ceiling to be fully insulated, and the windows all double-glazed, and I would install central reverse-cycle heating and cooling. To make that as efficient as possible, I would make the house as small as possible, the individual rooms as small as possible, and avoid large open 'living areas' - in other words, the opposite of the houses that everyone in Australia is building now.

It doesn't matter if the house looks like a little rectangular box from the outside - you don't sit looking at the outside of your house. What matters is what it is like inside, and how comfortable it is to live in. If you can't efficiently and affordably heat and cool your house in Australia, for large parts of the year, the house is going to be either uncomfortably hot or uncomfortably cold. But if energy is costing you zero to consume, and if the house is designed to be energy-efficient, that won't be a problem.

Plus think of all the money I would save on gas to run the car, which is a very major expense item in all Australian cities, which are all hopeless vast urban sprawls with pathetic, unusable public transport.

Forget governments and politicians - they are just useless obstacles that get in the way and try to prevent you from doing the stuff you need to do in order to do the right thing.

If we wait for governments to take decisive, effective action on climate change, the world will go to hell while we are waiting.

By John Massey (not verified) on 20 Jun 2017 #permalink

"Australia has a pretty proud record in this field – the first commercially successful combine harvester was invented in Australia in 1885."

Pun intended?

By Phillip Helbig (not verified) on 20 Jun 2017 #permalink

The shaded area underneath the solar panels might become a refugium for plants that normally live on the forest floor. And the vegetation cover would in turn protect birds and small land animals from predation.
-Set aside a small amount of electricity to desalinate deep groundwater (desalination is also getting new technologies, malkng it more efficient) and the solar "farm" might became a small wildlife sanctum.
-- -- -- -- --
Make your monsters unique: Lizzie Borden vs. Lovecraftian horrors
Books: Boneshaker
Maplecroft: The Borden Dispatches
Lovecraft Country

By Birger Johansson (not verified) on 20 Jun 2017 #permalink

NB I have no beef with jews or christians per se, but a fact is a fact.
500 years ago, Swedish nationalists spread the claim that Sweden had been the site of Eden to boost the national prestige, and I have no sympathy for *that* bogus claim either.

By Birger Johansson (not verified) on 20 Jun 2017 #permalink

To make that as efficient as possible, I would make the house as small as possible, the individual rooms as small as possible, and avoid large open ‘living areas’ – in other words, the opposite of the houses that everyone in Australia is building now.

There was a fashion in the US for big houses with large open living areas, too, although I think the bursting of the real estate bubble has significantly reduced the demand for such houses. My own house is not that small--about 180 m^2 of finished living space, which doesn't include the basement[1]--but my bid was successful in part because a potential rival bidder decided it wasn't big enough. The houses that were being built in the 90s and 00s frequently had 300 m^2 or more of gross living area, but many such houses were so inefficiently laid out that actual usable living space wasn't any more than what I have. And of course these McMansions or starter castles, as they are often called, tend to have ludicrously high HVAC bills. Not to mention maintenance costs: needlessly complicated roof lines, water leaks due to poor quality construction, needing special tools to change the light bulbs in cathedral ceilings, etc.

[1]Yes, that's more than I really need, but the tradeoff I made is living within walking distance of work, a rarity in the US. I have been driving the same car for more than 20 years now, because I don't need to drive it that much--for me the greenest car option is to keep the car I have.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 20 Jun 2017 #permalink

An important reason that a single air-based heat pump works to heat our 1974 house (114 sqm) is that it's a single floor and mostly open plan.

Phillip@42 - No, no pun intended. In Australia, a farm 'field' is almost always called a 'paddock'. This is different from usage of the word paddock in England and America. No idea why, but Wikipedia tells me that this word usage in Australia dates back to at least 1807.

If you talked to an Australian farmer about his 'fields' he would probably look at you strangely while he tried to figure out what you were talking about.

By John Massey (not verified) on 20 Jun 2017 #permalink

If you simply can't help yourself and absolutely have to watch a zombie movie, then you should watch the 2016 British film "The Girl With All the Gifts". The young girl who plays the part of the eponymous Girl has some gruesomely humorous deadpan quips, all subtly understated - listen carefully or you could miss them. There is one joke I absolutely love, and I would dearly like to tell it, but it would plot-spoil completely.

I'm not sure why the Brits can make a good film for 4 million quid, but the Yanks need to spend squillions to churn out rubbish. At no time during this film do you get the sense that you are watching a low budget production. Critical reviews have generally been favourable, which I think is about right.

By John Massey (not verified) on 20 Jun 2017 #permalink

The book is also very good. Birger turned me onto Mike Carey, originally by means of his urban fantasy series about the flute-playing exorcist Felix Castor. The understated humour that you mention, John, is one of the reasons that I like Carey so much.


There's an independent sequel to Girl/Gifts, The Boy On The Bridge, about which I hear good things.

Martin, your house is not that much bigger than the flat where we live in Hong Kong - perfectly adequate for three adults, all of whom spend a lot of time outside of the home (normal HK lifestyle). Cooling it adequately in summer is not difficult or unaffordable, using individually mounted air-conditioners in separate rooms. Heating in winter is a problem - no central heating.

When we went back to Australia to live in July 2009, the house I bought was a monstrosity - 270 sqm, not counting the two car lock-up garage, but it was just average for modern Australian houses. It had 4 ridiculously oversized bedrooms and 2 bathrooms, which could all be closed off, but also a 'formal' living room (which we used to house my daughter's piano - she was the only one who ever used the room, when she was playing the piano), a 'family' room (where my wife and daughter spent their time huddled over a large gas heater in winter), dining area, large kitchen, 'games' room (which I used as my home gym and to watch Australian football on TV to keep my disabled nephew entertained whenever he came to visit), an open alcove which I screened off with a portable Chinese screen to use as a study, and a laundry - and all of that grossly under-utilised 'living space' was open plan and interconnected, so keeping it adequately heated or cooled was simply impossible. We had central evaporative air conditioning, which functioned perfectly well when the outside maximum shade temperature was around 33 to 35 Celsius (in which case we didn't need the air conditioning anyway), but was totally unable to cope when the maximum temperature climbed to 42 Celsius, which it did regularly in summer for days on end - so on those days we just languished in almost unbearable heat.

The house was clearly excessive for the three of us, ridiculously so, but I bought it because the owners were in a hurry to sell it (they needed the money very quickly to help pay for an even bigger house they had built in the next street - in the meantime, they were paying off two large mortgages at once, which was rapidly sending them bankrupt), so I squeezed them unmercifully and got it for a bargain price. When I sold it again, when we left at the end of 2010, I was able to sell it for a profit, despite the real estate market having dropped in the interim. Even I have to get lucky occasionally.

People might classify such a house as 'luxurious', but living in it was a nightmare and anything but luxurious, most of the vast open and interconnected 'living space' was unusable and impossible to make comfortable, and I would never buy a house like that again.

But the thing is, that is what house buyers in Australia are looking for. If you built a much smaller, more practical and more comfortable house, and then tried to sell it, no one would want it.

By John Massey (not verified) on 21 Jun 2017 #permalink

The only problem we've had with our house's size and layout is that two of three bedrooms are near the kitchen and meal area, which is not great when someone is trying to have a nap or when teenagers want to eat in the middle of the night.

On the other hand, I do the vacuuming, so I certainly don't wan't more floor space.

Yeah, that was the other thing - try keeping 270 sqm of floor clean, let alone dusting all of the furniture you need to fill it, plus all of the other housework. While my wife was constantly struggling womanfully with that, I was outside struggling manfully (I mean, I really did work very hard at it) but largely in vain to make a visible and useful difference to the large garden - that's when I wasn't spending 4-6 hours every day driving my daughter to and from university because it was totally impractical for her to try to commute by public transport.

The 'Australian dream'. No thanks - town planning (or total lack of) madness.

By John Massey (not verified) on 21 Jun 2017 #permalink

Phillip@42 – No, no pun intended. In Australia, a farm ‘field’ is almost always called a ‘paddock’. This is different from usage of the word paddock in England and America. No idea why, but Wikipedia tells me that this word usage in Australia dates back to at least 1807.

If you talked to an Australian farmer about his ‘fields’ he would probably look at you strangely while he tried to figure out what you were talking about.

Interesting. Note that Magnetic Fields by Jean-Michel Jarre is a pun in French, but not in English (chapms/chants---same pronunciation)

By Phillip Helbig (not verified) on 21 Jun 2017 #permalink

The ‘Australian dream’. No thanks – town planning (or total lack of) madness.

American suburbia have many of the same issues. To the extent that things are planned in many places, they are planned by developers who don't expect to actually live in the neighborhoods they are building. You often (even in my town, but luckily not my specific neighborhood) see subdivisions that have only a single access road, or in a minor variant, two access points off the same main road. Which means you must use said main road to go anywhere outside your neighborhood. If your goal is to maximize traffic congestion, this is one of the ways it's done. Contrast with well-designed cities where you have a network that can distribute the load, so that if an accident or fallen tree limb blocks the main road there is a nearby alternate route you can use.

There is at least one example in the US of houses with adjacent back gardens where the drive between the two is 11 km. That is an extreme case, but the saying, "You can't get there from here," is becoming true of much of the suburban US, not just rural New England where the saying originated.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 21 Jun 2017 #permalink