Away days

We’re spending the weekend “moving in” here, so I’m not actually here, I’m here:

It would be nice to have some better weather than when this picture was taken, although as you can see, the kids enjoy the place even when the weather isn’t all that it could be.

And, as I mentioned here, there is no internet and no cellphone signal where we’re going, so I will be mercifully quiet. Enjoy the silence.

Christchurch Earthquake – Google Person Finder

After the devastating Christchurch earthquake in the early hours of this morning (SA time), Google have launched a Google Person Finder to help track those missing or to let people know that they’re ok.

Thanks to those of you on twitter who have sent me a link to this app, knowing that my parents are in NZ at the moment. Fortunately, they are a few hundred kms away from Christchurch (although they’re due there next week).
Although I haven’t been able to make contact with them, that’s more likely to be because they’re out exploring the wilderness rather than anything earthquake related.
UPDATE: As I suspected – they’re fine – although they were to be staying just 300m from the cathedral in Christchurch when they get there next week. I suspect their plans may have to change.

Alternatives to Ubertwitter for BlackBerry users

Get an Android phone.

Er… that’s about it.

Next project

Since I’m not in the mood (nor will I ever be) to go and watch some overrated Irish pensioners prancing around on a oversized stage and making shedloads of money from the brainwashed masses in front of them, I’m happily ensconced at home, post braai and I’m planning my next project. It is to be beer related.

But no ordinary beer. Homemade real ginger beer. Not the local carbonated equivalent, Stoney, which doesn’t actually contain any ginger at all.
No, I will be attempting to raise a SCOBY. That is, a Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast and then feeding said organism with sugar, water and the all-important not-so-secret ingredient, ginger, creating a Ginger Beer Plant.

Ginger beer plant (GBP) is not what is usually considered a plant, but a composite organism consisting of a fungus, the yeast Saccharomyces florentinus (formerly Saccharomyces pyriformis) and the bacterium Lactobacillus hilgardii (formerly Brevibacterium vermiforme), which form a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast (SCOBY). It forms a gelatinous substance that allows it to be easily transferred from one fermenting substrate to the next, much like kefir grains, kombucha, and tibicos.
The GBP was first described by Harry Marshall Ward in 1892, from samples he received in 1887. Original ginger beer is made by leaving water, sugar, ginger, and GBP to ferment. GBP may be obtained from several commercial sources or from yeast banks. Much of the “ginger beer plant” obtainable from commercial sources is not the true GBP as described here, but instead is yeast alone. This is not legally false advertising because there is no regulation defining GBP.

I’m planning on importing the necessary (and genuine) ingredients from this place, but in the meantime, I’m going to warm up with a solely yeast based version, as described here, which I will be bottling in swingtop Grolsch bottles.

I will let you know how I get along.

When Green is the new cool

Of course, being environmentally friendly is ever so trendy these day, isn’t it?
Tell a Greenie that you don’t recycle and they look at you in the same way that a normal person might if you were something they’d accidentally trodden in at the local park.
Mention that you like to eat meat and you might as well have said that you stab kittens with kebab skewers in your leisure time.
Which, of course, is nonsense: kittens are rubbish for kebabs – no meat at all.

Then there’s the whole oil thing.  The hypocrisy of your typical lentil-muncher lecturing you about BP and the Gulf of Mexico then popping off to meditation class in their dirty 2CV or VW Beetle, whale-song pouring out of the stereo, filthy diesel fumes pouring out of the back.

And don’t even get me started on the bloody dolphins.

To me, environmentalism is very much like religion: I’m happy for you to think what you want as long as you don’t try to force your views on me or my kids. Sure, we can debate your choice of lifestyle if you wish, but at the end of it, that’s exactly what it is: your choice of lifestyle – not mine.

Of course I do appreciate the sense in caring for our environment. Just not to the point where I have to ruin what short time I have on this earth so that some Patagonian sea snail can continue to exist. There’s a reason that humans are top of the food chain, alright?
I do recycle, I do watch my consumption of electricity and water, I don’t eat kitten kebabs, but I do these things because there’s a logic reason behind it (provides money for a local charity, keeps my bills down, not very filling), not because it’s trendy.

But now, trendiness and environmentalism have come together in the right sort of way with this waste-to-energy station due to built in Denmark.

Yes, this particular waste to energy plant has 1,500m of ski slopes going down it and it also blows smoke rings.
And no ordinary smoke rings, either:

At night the smoke rings will be lit up by heat-tracking lasers able to project a pie-chart onto the smoke that displays a quota of fossil-fuel CO2.
The designers explain: “The rather abstract pollution aspect will be somewhat more graspable and understandable, something you can see and relate to. The smoke rings are spectacular and highly aesthetical, but linked to a controversial theme at the same time.”

There’s a serious point here. These sort of ideas could help to define a whole new sort of cool when it comes to looking after the environment. Rather than solely being the haunt of unwashed hippies, it brings the cutting edge of modern design to the green agenda; it will appeal to a whole new group of individuals, which can only be good news for mother earth and those sea snails.

And it blows smoke rings.