Friday, 9 January 2009

Friday 09/01/09

The water pipes finally unfroze at about 2pm yesterday afternoon.

Some of my fan base – well, Mike G to be precise –expressed concern over the use of a Calor gas fire in the caravan. Fear not Mike; it’s a built-in gas fire with a flue, not a stand-alone kiddie-killer on castors. It’s basically no different from a normal gas fire in a house, except it runs from our Calor bottles outside. Until we installed the wood burner it was our standard form of heating for the last 18 months.

Mike went on to lament the amount of condensation produced by those mobile gas heaters. Any combustion produces water vapour in vast quantities – so much so that it’s a bloody wonder fire brigades don’t fight fire with fire, if you get my meaning (and puts a new slant on the expression). The beauty of wood burners is that you shut the door and any water vapour goes straight up the flue. What you’re actually heating is the cast iron, which then produces radiant heat without the water.

Talking of flues, Hay has been off work since Wednesday with a very bad cold. Given she’s been off work she’s had to keep the wood burner fully fired, resulting in a substantial depletion of our wood stocks. Supplies can just about be eked out for another day or two and hence we have agreed to share an order of half a load of logs with Caravan. A load is apparently the standard measure for logs, but I’m buggered if I know exactly how much a load is. You could equally say half a furlong or three trills of logs and I still wouldn’t know how much we were getting till it arrived. What it will mean is a lot of chopping to get the logs down to a size we can push into the wood burner’s door, which is only about 4” x 3”.

Hay spotted an ad on TV last night for one of those devices that makes logs out of old newspaper. She’s decided to get one and give it a try, but I’m not exactly looking forward to making Papier-mâché bricks – all the paper has to be ripped up first and soaked in water. Given the entire neighbourhood puts their recycling bins outside of the Folly (Caravan’s place) for collection by the bin men, we should be able to avail ourselves of a plentiful supply of free paper and cardboard.

Back to the matter of heat and power generation and living off-grid. Ecobogman left me a message on the ChatBox gizmo about something called CHP technology – or Combined Heat and Power. It seems to be an interesting concept and the best combination would seem to be a wood fired biomass heating system and an LPG fired CHP system for both heating and power. The biomass system could be fed by coppiced birch and willow grown in the field and hence be virtually free to run, while the CHP system would provide emergency backup to power outages and possibly cheaper electricity than from the grid, depending on the price of LPG and the amortisation of the capital cost. Further enhancements would come from solar panels and a geothermal exchange system for free domestic hot water.

It’s certainly worth further investigation, but it’s damnably difficult to find prices without some bugger wanting to harangue you for half a day. The main drawback I can envisage is the need for another building the same size as Badger’s End to house all the equipment. I just wish there was a system that ran on the almost inexhaustible supply of The Watchtower magazines that the Johova’s Witnesses keep popping in our litter box (no, that wasn’t a typo). Aha – the first guest publication for the log maker!

Heard about the UFO flying into a wind turbine? I’m a bit sceptical myself. I simply can’t imagine a vastly superior extra-terrestrial intelligence flying across several billion light-years of space only to end up having an RTA with a bloody wind farm in Lincolnshire. Perhaps it was a faulty satnav that led it the wrong way up a one-way wormhole. If it was a UFO (and perversely, until identified it must remain a UFO by definition) it could have been driven by Ronaldo.

From March all Internet Service Providers will, by law, have to keep information about every e-mail sent or received in the UK for a year. A bit of a Liberty if you ask me. The Home Office maintains it’s necessary for anti-terror inquiries, but all terrorists have to do to avoid detection is to start sending letters in the post, which makes the legislation slightly laughable. Apparently only the details of the sender, recipient and header need to be kept and not the e-mail content – which in effect makes it the same as a mobile phone call record. However, you don’t get that much spam with mobile phones.

On January the 1st a new law came into effect in Nigeria forcing motorcyclists to wear crash helmets. Since then, police have arrested scores of motorcyclists with dried fruit shells, paint pots or pieces of rubber tyre tied to their heads, as they attempt to circumvent the new law.

I’ve always been amazed at the mish-mash of laws in the US concerning motorcycle helmet laws. In some states wearing a helmet is mandatory, in others it’s not, in yet more it’s a compromise. Here’s a summary. I can’t for the life of me understand why anyone would not want to wear one.

As a kid of 16 I kept a Lambretta 125 in the woods behind my school in Anglesey to use at weekends. Bloody thing was a death-trap. I bought it from another boy for £30 and rode it all the way back home to Southport on my last day of school. The Easy Rider film had caught everyone’s imagination and I tarted up the scooter and my helmet in Capt. America colours. My parents managed to persuade me to swap it for a rather beautiful Lambretta SX 225 in Arctic White and English Electric Blue purchased from another friend whose dad owned the local scooter emporium where we all hung out on a Saturday morning. It had a souped up engine, lots of mirrors and the standard bubble windscreen. Fastest scooter in Southport. I eventually parted company with it on a bend, obliquely resulting in me meeting the 1st ex wife.

I’m rambling – time to call it a week. I’ve still not had any offers from anyone to be a guest blogger.

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