Design and recycling

Posted: 24/08/2014 by Toby in Informative, Uncategorized
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fridge-magnetI really enjoyed reading this article, because in it there’s some discussion about the wide range of products, each with their own design, completely non-standard, and in my mind sometimes unnecessarily diverse. Because of this variety, it is very difficult to viably recover the materials from them, and a lot of effort is needed. I don’t think the author advocates stifling industry, but I do think that there is a point to be made about designing willy-nilly and for no reason.

Here is a quote to whet your appetite:

One of these facilities recycled fridges and freezers, and I was struck by the variety of models being processed. Every single appliance was different. This meant that every time a disassembler tried to get the valuable compressor out from the back of a fridge before it was crushed, a new set of challenges arose, with different sizes and types of screws, fittings and frames all blocking the way. It made me think that if fridge designers were to work alongside disassemblers, they would see with their own eyes the problems inherent in their designs. Perhaps we would have better fridges and better designers as a result.

Another example, and this is less about recycling, and more about just a pet peeve of mine, how many different types of button batteries are there? Why is this? Obviously people don’t make buying decisions based on the battery that is buried deep within the guts of a throw-away product, but I still think that it’s unnecessary for companies to just dream up a new button battery when there are so many already commercially available.

Back to recycling – I’m hugely in favour of going the next step and getting designers to really think about the way their products will be pulled apart. This, to me, is akin to when auto makers were designing engine blocks, and once upon a time, no thought was given to the lowly oil filter and where it was positioned. Now in most modern cars they are reasonably accessible, thanks to one or two thought leaders figuring out how much mechanics and consumers would appreciate having the filter in easy reach. I have read of some excellent examples of design changes that adapt for easy dis-assembly, but I don’t have them at my fingertips just now. The best I can think of is the disassembly of a PC. I read about one that just had a few screws and then basically came apart by un-clipping most of the components.

More of that, please.

Trashing our Planet

Posted: 20/08/2014 by Toby in Informative
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I just sent this article around to my family, it’s another cry in the wilderness, and a well written one at that.

Something else I’ve been wanting to be publicly horrified about, comes from a conversation I had about global warming and pollution. It was at church, with a church member – granted someone who had just demonstrated that he liked a good dust up – it made me wonder how many other Christians (or more specifically, believers in Christs’ Second Coming) essentially feel the same way. 

What he said was, “It doesn’t matter the earth will be transformed at the end anyway.” Referring to the teaching that Christ will come and reign on the earth for 1,000 years, after which He, us, and it will go to (or be part of) the Celestial Kingdom. Closely related to this concept is the teaching that plants and animals are given to Man (people) for his use, and that God will always provide what we need. Essentially, there will be magical redemption before the human race catastrophically ruins the planet and makes it unfit for habitation.

Mentally, emotionally, and even spiritually (but not physically, thankfully), I convulsed at having this said out loud. 10 years ago I might have even nodded my head in ignorant agreement.

This kind of short sighted thinking ensures that at some point, maybe in our lifetimes, and maybe in our children’s lifetimes, the harsh reality of our consumerist, throw away society will catch up, and cause catastrophic contractions of the economy. What will the top 0.01 percent of society in their gilded yachts do then? What NEW and IMPROVED toys will they peddle then?

And what is the solution, what kind of U-turn is needed?

For one, a culture that does not throw away, and does not buy more than it needs – one that spends time instead of money.

For two, a governmental policy that requires and enforces responsible production and responsible waste processing, regardless of the impact to economic growth. Here is the more difficult thing, because governments, and the people who vote for them, don’t want to be the first ones to cripple themselves. I do understand that it is competitive between countries in many ways, but governments would do better looking after their own people, and trading within their means.

As an example of what I mean: The US securing oil overseas (like in the Middle East) means that its manufacturing, transportation, and other oil-dependent economic gears continue to move. To withdraw and write off that oil as unobtainable would mean consumption of internal reserves, and the stifling of manufacture, transport, energy and all sorts of things. This step alone would reduce the standard of living for millions. It’s not a good idea, but it is better than the alternative: war, fracking, deep sea drilling, and ongoing wastefulness until there is nothing left to frack, drill, or fight about, and those millions see their standard of living evaporate anyway. In the less undesirable scenario, 1/4 of the budget which was spent on the military is spent on sustainable infrastructure. Money spent on stabilising other economies is spent on stabilising the economy at home.

I don’t really know what that looks and feels like, to be honest. No one does, any more than they know when the 2nd Coming of Christ will be. For most, it’s too scary to even contemplate.

But let’s contemplate it for a second. This is just a thought experiment, but let’s say the entire economy was only the teeny fraction that produces food. No more consulting, no more banking, no more insurance. The rest of us could basically do whatever we wanted, hopefully something productive, albeit at a much much lower standard of living. We might regress to the dark ages before toilets, light bulbs, and smart phones but I’ll bet you those people had happiness too.

Libertarianism

Posted: 13/08/2014 by Toby in Informative
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For a short while, I thought that Libertarians sounded pretty good, but then again, I’m not political so I didn’t chase down the idea of Libertarianism very much. However, after reading this, I have decided I’m not much of a Libertarian at all.

Libertarianism is different – it is a philosophy based on the individual (not the state) owning him or herself.  The central tenet is that each of us has a fundamental right to liberty – the right to do whatever we want with the things we own, provided we respect other people’s right to do the same (acknowledgement to Michael Sandel “Justice”).  This implies the concept of a minimalist state which interferes as little as possible with the individual.

There is no reason to believe that the state knows better than the individual what he or she wants or needs yet governments progressively (pun intended) encroach on our ability to achieve personal ambitions.  It would be hard to argue that a completely libertarian society was workable or fair, but the concept is sound and governments need to make a strong case to remove freedom form the individual.

From: http://blogs.theaustralian.news.com.au/mumble/index.php/theaustralian/comments/the_australian_way/ see comment by ‘Proud Libertarian’ in the comments section.

I think after my studies into the environment and waste management I’m turning into a bit of a socialist. People generally don’t know what’s good for the human race, or for the planet, and must be forced to act responsibly, particularly when personal ambitions clash with responsible behaviour.

Dutch Disease

Posted: 08/07/2014 by Toby in Informative
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I found this while reading an article which argues in favour of alternative energy for Australia.

Part of the article is talking about Australia’s coal export to Japan, and how vulnerable Australia is to Japanese preferences. An interesting and compelling part of it was the argument that by not having diverse sources of economic growth/income, when the bottom falls out (preferences change) then there is nothing to cushion the shock.

I like this point a lot because I feel that it is extremely short sighted for production and manufacture (and resources) to be sent overseas when in reality a country can and should support local industry, even if it means the cost of goods is higher and the economy is slower. The sustainability of this approach is much more justifiable.

Here’s the relevant section with some editing:

[T]he great majority of coal exports (and other types of commodity exports) from Australia are directed at East Asia [and] the resources sector accounts for more than half of Australian total exports. Moreover, Australia exports more coal to Japan than the rest of the world put together; thus leading to the issue of the Japanese monopsony (where a large buyer controls the market).

Furthermore, these countries’ (most notably Japan’s) energy preferences can also have huge effects on Australia’s terms of trade and trade volumes. For example, if East Asian nations were to apply strict environmental rules in the near future, or even in the presence of market-based policies such as cap-and trade systems, there could be major shocks to Australian commodity exports that would translate into domestic job and investment losses. Australia might face what is commonly known as the “Dutch Disease.”

The Dutch Disease has its origins in Dutch exports of natural gas and, in this case, [is] described as “the negative symbiosis between the mining and other tradable sectors that mutes both the rate and efficiency of economic growth.”

This is an argument for alternative investments in other sectors other than mining. The Dutch Disease will cause a nation’s currency to appreciate, because of an increased demand for the natural resource, and, therefore, make other exports (manufactures in this case) less competitive. This, again, provides an argument for investing heavily in other sectors such as renewable energy technologies. In this sense, expansion of one part of the economy draws resources from the rest creating serious imbalances and inflation. This phenomenon provides important insight for the mining sector and most notably the coal sector.

Article here: http://www.geni.org/globalenergy/research/economic-argument-for-adopting-a-zero-emissions-energy-policy-in-australia/The-Economic-Argument-for-Adopting-a-Zero-Emissions-Energy-Policy-in-Australia.pdf

Gigi’s Concert

Posted: 07/07/2014 by Sharole in Events, Gigi, News, Pictures
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Gigi did her first larger concert this weekend at the Conservatorium of Music in the City with the Sydney Children’s Choir. Quite swarve and the first in my family to ever perform there. Granddad and I were her cheer squad, since Toby had to get TJ to his last swim lesson for this term. Toby was glad to see the improvement in TJ’s swimming so it was good for him to go there for a change, to see TJ.

We had to drop Gigi off at 8.20am and then go back to watch the performance at 11am. It was cold, being Winter, I guess that makes sense. Dad and I meandered about in the city it was nice to be there nice and early when it’s lovely and quiet, and enjoy the serenity of it. We enjoyed looking at the architecture and shop designs. At one stage it was nice to sit down and just appreciate the country we live in and how lucky we are.

We warmed up with a mid morning hot chocolate and then the shops started to open and I decided to check out Gap since their was a sale on which doesn’t happen often! I found a shirt for Toby that I liked which hardly ever happens, I even had to ask them to take the last one off the mannequin for me. Then before I knew it I lost it from under my arm, we searched high and low and realizing that we would be late if we didn’t hightail it to the concert, I was determined we’d come back after and see if we could find it, not without asking the staff to look and call my if they found it. No such luck from the staff.

We made it to the concert just in time and enjoyed seeing Gigi strut her stuff. We were given strict instructions as to their clothes and what was acceptable and what wasn’t. One of those rules were no white socks. Well there was one girl who had white socks on, she stuck out like a sore thumb, I wonder if that was the parent or child’s fault? It turns out there are only 3 red-heads in the younger choirs, so it’s quite easy to see Gigi.

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Her face lit up when she finally saw us in the crowd, one of those proud moments. She did a fantastic job and we really enjoyed seeing kids enjoy one of the pleasures of life, being able to sing. Some of the kids faces were so animated, it made me smile from the inside out. I might even admit to a tear or two.

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After we collected Gigi, and headed back to the Gap store and I thought well I’ll check the pile of shirts where I couldn’t find it previously (hence having to get it off the mannequin and bam there it was sitting right on top. I was so happy and went and purchased it. We went and grabbed some lunch then went to head home.

Gigi caught sight of the St Mary’s Cathedral and wanted to go in and check it out, she was fascinated at how big it was and wondered if that was the biggest church in Australia, so we went in, she asked questions like why is there water in bowls about and why are people lighting candles and how do they make those lovely pictures in the windows. She thought it was a beautiful building and huge! I love that she appreciates such things and asks such good questions.

We then headed home for some family time, we all went as a family, bowling. William won a free bowling ticket for being man of the match in his Soccer game last week and being the only one to get a goal for his team. So he wanted Granddad to come with us. We had a nice time and just quietly I won, closely followed by Rocky, Granddad and Toby. William wasn’t too happy about that as he won last time when just he and his siblings played. I said well we are all taking turns at winning ok, he said ok!

Citizenship for Toby

Posted: 11/06/2014 by Toby in Events, Family, News, Pictures
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Hey everyone, I’m no longer the odd man out in our family. I’m still an odd man sometimes of course.. I’m the last one to become a dual citizen of the US and Australia! For those who don’t know, a bit of history.

Sharole joined me in the US and we got married, and after much paperwork, she was a permanent resident. We had 3 kids while we were there, and for each kid, as soon as he or she popped out, we went down to the Aussie Embassy in DC to get them naturalised and get their passports (so easy compared to the US process btw). Then, barely in time, before we emigrated to Australia, We figured just save ourselves hassle next time and get Sharole made into a citizen. So that was all of them as dual citizens except for me. Then when we had Rocky here in Oz, we likewise went to the US embassy and made him a naturalised American.

In order to become an Australian, I had to wait 4 years before I could apply. We sometimes hear stories of people getting their citizenship faster than that, but we sure didn’t know how that happened, or what loopholes they were able to use, so we just went the usual route.

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Everyone at my work were quite happy for me, I would imagine it’s a pretty rare thing for a non-Aussie to be working for a Council. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have gotten this job if I couldn’t at least say I was approved to be a citizen (just had to wait for the ceremony).

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Here’s a bit of trivia for you: the status of Australian Citizen is only 66 years old. That’s right up until 1948 Australians were classified as British subjects, and held UK passports. I did a bit of research and it turns out Canada was a similar story. The status of Canadian citizen was only in effect since 1947, so the year prior. I won’t say it, but some might think Aussies were copying the Canadians.

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Soccer

Posted: 05/06/2014 by Sharole in News, Pictures, TJ
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This year, we decided to get the kids (TJ, Gigi, William) into soccer and honestly it wasn’t that easy to find. I expected to do a search for Soccer clubs near Ermington and no such luck, thankfully I talked to a few people and found what I was after. There is a Ermington Soccer Club. So we signed the kids up, we weren’t too sure about Gigi and turns out she can’t with Choir being at the same time on Saturdays, but she does do practise with TJ’s team on Tuesdays nights for exercise, to learn the skills, and helps her friends are playing also.

A week or two ago I had to take TJ for a whole day’s worth of Soccer games at the local park with all 4 kids, it was a long day and Rocky got pretty tired and grumpy about it. We soldiered on and made it through. They call them Gala Day’s. Well at the end of the day they get medals.

This is TJ’s first Medal, he was rather proud about it. So we’ve got it hanging up in the dining room. Below is a shot of the team receiving their medals.

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Can you spot TJ? He’s the one with the King Kong shirt on.