Posts tagged analysis

A Very Excellent Article

Well, you all have heard me sound off about getting away from Big Spending and returning to a simpler lifestyle, but here’s someone who’s written it all down in way better form than I could hope to articulate.  Read this article if you need any inspiration for getting off grid.  In fact, read this article whatever your motivations, we’re in for an interesting ride in today’s economy, and this explains both how we got here and how we can change the future.

Here’s the link: Money and the Crisis of Civilization.  Bravo!

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BOOK REVIEW: Fresh! Seeds of the Past and Food for Tomorrow

Fresh! Seeds from the Past and Food for Tomorrow

It’s been a big week of reading, trying to stay ahead of the library due dates.  This was a great book, a bit different from any I’ve read before in the general gardening arena.  Brian Patterson takes a scientific look at human history’s tenuous relationship with the foods we eat and illustrates how cultivation of seeds created the culinary landscape we take for granted today.  Part science, part history, and very interesting, he goes beyond the superficial facts and examines cultivation on a chemical level. How did we learn that potatoes, though poisonous when green, can be eaten when cooked?  Or that by fermenting grape juice and adding it to flour, we can enjoy light, fluffy leavened bread, but only if that grape juice doesn’t turn to vinegar first?  When viewed through the lens of science, even the most mundane of foods take on a magical quality.

It’s not a super long book (160 pages) but it’s surprisingly full of facts to be so easy to read.  I especially enjoyed the sections on the global spread of foods from one culture to the next and the final section which contains his look toward to future of plants and humans.  For those considering gardening as a nutritional endeavor, I can’t recommend this enough. Though not expressly a gardening book, you’ll find plenty of solid tips on how to get the most from your plants in terms of flavor and nutrition.  And who doesn’t want either of those?  You’ll also get a clearer understanding of the miracles that led to the availability of foods in your favorite seed catalog, and it may inspire you to try a few new exotic varieties.

There’s also plenty here for those interested in botany or cultural anthropology. After all, seeing what detailed culinary data we can glean from Egyptian society based upon their meticulous burial practices, one can draw some interesting conclusions about how we might preserve our own history for future generations.  For the general reader, and especially for those interested in going off-grid, knowing more about locally grown foods and their health properties can only be helpful in today’s 1500 mile to plate global food culture. And it might make you befriend a local farmer or two for their floral insights.  Strawberries never tasted so sweet as when you know that the farmer used sustainable scientifically sound growing practices to deliver them to your kitchen.

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Techie Dream: A Solar Powered PC

Read the article on building a solar-powered PC here

A solar powered PC?  It sounds too good to be true!  Well, I had to know more, so I went to Tom’s Hardware and checked out the article above.  It’s very professionally written and researched, and the grand experiment seems to be a huge success.  Of course, at $5,000 for the solar panels needed to power this PC and specially selected hardware that reduced average wattage, it’s hardly your average box, or the everyperson’s pricetag.  But every great idea gets its start somewhere, and I’m rooting for this one to go all the way. 

Solar Powered PC

Based in Germany, the experimenters started by deciding what the capabilities of their dream system would be, and then clearly defined a goal as to its power availability.  They wanted a full-featured PC that could run 24/7 off-grid, in case you want to do a little midnight computing.  Any techies out there know this is a must, not a luxury, when chasing the elusive vapors of creativity.  This first step underscores an important point in any undertaking: defining the goal in concrete terms and deciding what you can and cannot live without will go a LONG way to determining the eventual likelihood of successful completion.  May you plan your exercises with the same careful attention to detail. 

The article then outlines the steps taken to achieve the stated goals.  First, they acquire the necessary equipment and consider the practicalities of their chosen configuration.  Then they set about building the PC so it will require a minimum of operating wattage, and then move on to the solar array that will power it.  Last, but certainly most important, comes the testing phase, when they see whether they have been able to construct a suitable prototype to fit the brief. 

It’s certainly not a beginner’s or even intermediate project, but it’s an excellent read, and I recommend you visit the site to read the whole (pretty long) article.  Happy Earth Day, everyone~ take a moment today to do something special for yourself and the world around you.

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My Carbon Footprint

My Carbon Footprint

It would be hard to properly figure out how to reduce my carbon footprint without even knowing what it is. So, here’s my result, at least according to one website. On Day One of my carbon “diet”, I’d classify myself as plump, but not obese. Obviously, car travel is the main culprit. It’s hard to tell much about a lifestyle from a number on a page, so let me provide a little background:

I don’t use any electricity at home. None whatsoever, except occasional batteries for a mini-TV if there’s something I don’t want to miss (and if you watch any network TV, you’ll know there isn’t much in that category these days!). Now, I do use a battery-operated PDA while at home, which I charge every few days at an internet cafe. And I also bring my laptop everywhere, often spending 6-8 hours a day plugged in somewhere or other. So when calculating my ACTUAL footprint, I’d probably have to include that secondary electricity consumption.

As for travel, I have a car, which I drive only when necessary in the city. Probably once every few days, maybe twenty miles a week. Everywhere else, my two feet do the job. However, as you can see, car travel is the single largest carbon expense listed. That’s because several times a year, I take road trips for work. On average, I calculated the distance as 1000 miles each way (2000 R/T). Given that I can’t just stop taking these trips, I figure that the fuel spent by road is still less than it would cost me to be taking an airplane and renting a car on the other end. One goal is to find a diesel car that can be converted to veggie, or eventually upgrade to a hybrid to lessen this carbon debt.

As for the rest of life, well, I shop at the thrift store and try never to buy household or personal items retail. And when I’m done with things, I try to pass them on to someone else who can use ’em. That’s my main form of recycling. I USED to recycle almost all of my waste, but my living situation right now (no kitchen) means that I eat out a lot. So waste is obviously created. Especially when eating fast food, which is a nasty habit I’ve acquired lately being always on the run. Yuck. To lessen this, I hope to construct a solar food dryer to dry fruits and carry them with me throughout the day. More tasty and earth-friendly! Also a solar oven to cook beans, veggies, and breads, which are the most yummy foods anyway, IMHO. With the money saved by doing that, I could probably afford to buy more organic and local products, too.

So there you have it. My carbon-consuming soul laid bare for the picking. How does it line up with yours? Let the diet begin!

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