Green Drinks is BACK!

4 Jun

Green Drinks SBN cropped

Green Drinks is joining with the Sustainable Business Network for a get-together at The Carlton.

Thursday 11 June, from 5:30pm 
The Carlton, upstairs in the Ledger Room
Corner of Bealey Ave and Papanui Rd
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A great chance to reconnect with the faces of Green Drinks past. Look forward to seeing you all!

Speakers:
Rachel Teen – Sustainable Business Network
Maria Wake – SIFT
Glenda Martin – Volunteering Canterbury

It’s been a long time between drinks!

You can expect the usual diverse array of chilled out environmental professionals, happy green business people and bopping earth activists. Come along and enjoy the friendly informal atmosphere.

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Microsoft Surface as audio source

17 Mar

Really loving the quality of audio from my Microsoft Surface Pro 3. Best I have heard from a PC’s headphone socket by a long shot. Been enjoying the casual headphone listening. Tonight its plugged in to my vintage A&R Cambridge A60 and ProAc Tablette speakers while I work. Was sounding pretty good at my home workstation, until I stepped back to get a more normal stereo perspective and found myself blown away by the sheer quality coming from the speakers. Smooth, spacious, precise and luscious.

Listening to the nicely produced atmospheric Different Pulses LP by the gifted singer Asaf Avidan on Spotify at 320k compression.

Will make some time in the next couple of months to properly compare with my Sony Walkman NW-ZX1, which has been my portable audio champ to date. The Surface is obviously not pocketable like the Walkman, but an interesting comparison nonetheless. My impression so far is that the extra power available in a larger format device is assisting the Surface in presenting music with an ease that will escape pocket-based devices.

Telemark NTN binding injury

17 Aug

I discovered on Wednesday that Rottefella’s careful qualification of the releasability of their NTN telemark bindings is well-justified. 14920051226_7e5c2e7ba2_o I was skiing the resort of Coronet Peak, New Zealand, when a tentative approach to a short but ugly-looking steep off-piste slope led to a twisting fall. My ski stopped, my body kept going. In one of those slow motion moments, as the tissue began to tear, I kept expecting the binding to release, but it never did. The result was a debilitating ankle sprain, but no broken bones. My first serious ski injury in 30 years of skiing. The photo was taken two days after the accident when swelling was maximum and black patches had appeared; presumably the accumulation of previous days’ internal bleeding.

UPDATE, Oct 2014: Turns out I fractured my fibula, quite seriously. Diagnosed after five weeks, which included a couple of attempts to ski and other ill-advised activity, the recovery has been prolonged. Have today concluded that I will not be able to head away on a ski tour planned for 10 weeks after injury.

UPDATE, July 2015: Fracture led to cancellation of New Year ski trip to Japan. Finally got right for a ski tour week in British Columbia in April 2015. Only last month, 10 months after the injury, was I able to get my trail running out to 2 hour sessions. Even now, niggles and pain persist. I’m only saying this to emphasise how disruptive an injury can be to those who haven’t been through it. Best avoided!

Binding: Rottefella NTN Freedom. Recommended release setting for my weight and boot size: 3 Actual setting: 2.5 Boot: Scarpa TX Comp. Rottefella’s binding manual makes it clear that the binding is not DIN certified, due to the variation in spring tension that occurs with raising and lowering the heel (unlike the static heel position in a standard alpine binding). It is relevant to note that my injured ankle was on the inside of the telemark turn when the accident occurred, i.e. the heel was raised and the springs were at maximum tension, therefore less likely to release. The manual also states that release setting should be reduced by 1 for skiers over 50. I am 51 and made the choice to reduce by just 0.5, due to my proximity to the 50 year mark, not to mention ego and perception of fitness compared with my peers. Less relevant, the manual states that settings should be reduced by 1 for powder snow. The accident occurred off-piste on a patch of heavy shallow powder snow. “Heavy” means high moisture-content typical low-altitude New Zealand powder that would barely qualify as powder in the US, Japan or Europe. The fact that my ski seems to have struck major resistance, possibly even vegetation or rock, means that I do not consider the powder snow setting to be relevant in this situation. This was just Day 4 of my 2014 ski season; only Day 2 on new skis, and I knew I wasn’t skiing with good form. It wasn’t coming together for me. I was at high risk of making an error. My conclusions are:

  1. Reduce my Rottefella NTN Freedom binding release setting to at least 2;
  2. Don’t expect any telemark binding to release when you need it to.

Although I mainly ski advanced off-piste terrain, my technical ability is limited and I frequently find myself surrendering to trepidation with hasty and clumsy turns. The limitations of my technique are probably a more important factor than the requirement to keep skis attached in steep and exposed situations. Therefore a reduction in release setting is wise. Ironically, my injury forced the cancellation of a scheduled telemark lesson. The main reason for my preference for a release mechanism in telemark bindings is the concern about the consequences of being caught in an avalanche. For that reason alone, I will continue to choose telemark bindings with some form of safety release. The Rottefella Freedom has a nice telemark flex action, effectively transfers power from boot to ski, is convenient to enter and exit, has ski brakes and has a limited release function. Overall, I am satisfied with this binding.

Housing affordability

12 Jun

Chuckling at this cynical but very apt line from Tony Alexander of the BNZ in his Weekly Overview today:

Sorry young folk, but much as you may feel the future belongs to you and your smartphone tapping ways, for now the wealth and the power belongs to us – the Baby Boomers. And you my dears form part of our retirement packages. So don’t expect any of the radical suggestions which I have thrown into this section of the Weekly Overview every now and then for solving the housing affordability crisis to actually gain traction.

Tony Alexander has previously listed many ways in which housing affordability could be addressed; many radical and most of which I understand he does not personally support. The problem could be addressed, but we seem to be frozen in the headlights of competing interests.

Check out http://www.tonyalexander.co.nz

Cost of wood pellets vs firewood as fuel

6 Apr

For those who were wondering…

According to US publication Mother Earth News, the heat output of 1 ton of wood pellets (907kg) = approximately 1 cord of wood.

Note, this is the US regulation definition of a cord, which is efficiently stacked, not loosely tossed as in NZ. Fortunately, to help us out here, under Maine law, stacked and loose cords are defined as 128 cu ft vs 195 cu ft respectively. This amounts to a ratio of pretty much 1:1.5. Therefore a standard Christchurch-purchased cord of firewood (tossed, not stacked) equates to approximately 600kg of pellets.

At $0.58 per kilo, you are paying $348 to buy pellets in Christchurch equivalent in heat output to a tossed US cord of wood.

As of today, a cord (3 cubic metres) of a mix of dried pine and oregon in Christchurch is $285. Converted to a US cord of 3.6 cubic meters, you get a cost of $342.

Assuming the above assumption on heat output equivalence is based on a pine & oregon firewood mix, $348 of pellets = $342 of firewood.

On this basis, heat from a pellet stove is equivalent in cost to heat from a firewood stove. This ignores the minor electrical cost of running the fan in a pellet stove.

 

Sources of assumptions that went into this calculation:

  1. Relative heat output http://www.motherearthnews.com/renewable-energy/wood-pellet-stoves-zb0z1211zsor.aspx#axzz2y5Vryxsu
  2. Stacked vs loose cords defined in Maine http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cord_(unit)
  3. Cost of pellets in Christchurch http://eenergy.co.nz/cart#.U0EElfmSx8E
  4. Cost of firewood in Christchurch http://www.cityfirewood.co.nz/index.php?route=product/product&product_id=422

 

 

Transfiguration of Vincent

17 Feb

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It’s eleven years old; when it’s twenty-one years old I will still be listening and sailing into the ether with this record.

First shared with me as an MP3 album, I have been hypnotised from the moment it entered my life. M Ward’s “Transfiguration of Vincent” is an album that transcends time and fashion to transport me every time. Eager to experience it in full gloriousness, I was disappointed to discover that the vinyl pressing was only available second-hand at US$80 a piece. But recently I discovered it available (via GEMM.com) at a US record store for a realistic price.

Alone in the world as an M Ward acolyte, my communion became communal when three Christchurch friends were, a couple of years ago, equally blown by the MP3 beamed off my Sony Walkman into their DLNA system. We consummated the union at Bodega, Wellington in 2013. M. Ward did not disappoint; as masterful in his live performance as he was on record.

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This evening the stylus hit the groove. Fresh off the boat, 12 inches of black goodness  spun into my life. As always, going from 320kb MP3 to full frequency spectrum analogue was a revelation. The subtlety of every little change in tempo and pitch bend added to the rich gestalt of a complete, masterful performance.

Do a search and you will see some nice writing about this LP. M Ward apparently made this record to mark the passing of his friend Vincent O’Brien. Eulogies come no more heartfelt and virtuoso than this.

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Beware of “Fair Buy” electronics mail order

9 Jul

Fair Buy is an Auckland-based firm that sells cheap phones on parallel import. One would expect, given this scenario, that their service would be less than exemplary. Unfortunately their service is very much worse than you might expect.

Before I go into detail, I will just highlight that my shockingly poor experience is not unique. I have a friend who also bought a phone off Fair Buy, got the same runaround and had his phone returned with a serious new fault. At that point he gave up and accepted that he was stuck with a faulty phone. Sadly I only found out it was Fair Buy after I had run into my problems with them.

I also see that there are numerous poor reviews on PriceSpy that mirror the experience I detail below. A Google search led me to on-line forums where it is noted that Fair Buy offers incentives to buyers to post glowing reviews on PriceSpy, in a successful attempt to out-number the poor reviews.

The problem: My new phone did not charge properly.

To cut a long story short, here’s how it went from there:

  1. Fair Buy wasted a week trying to burn me off by responding to my emails with stupid troubleshooting suggestions, one by one in individual emails (e.g. “Try finding another battery.” Not only is that their job, the battery is not user-replaceable on this phone).
  2. Only my threat of legal action caused them to request that I send them the phone.
  3. Their warranty policy on fault assessment, 72 hours. I heard nothing until I followed up with an email 7 days later.
  4. On Day 8 they told me the phone had to be sent to China and repair would take up to 3 weeks.
  5. SIX weeks later, having heard nothing, I again threatened legal action.
  6. EIGHT weeks after discovering the fault, I received the phone back with the fault repaired. BUT…
  7. The phone arrived without the packaging, charger or accessories. These items finally arrived a few days after I complained (again).
  8. They had managed to scratch the finish on the back of the phone in the process of shipping and repairing.

At that point I gave up and accepted that no further effort could be justified and settled for a scratched phone.