Saturday 29 March 2008

Earth Hour 2008: turning my lights off

Since I last updated this blog I've been to NZ and back. Did I take lots of pictures of the wonderful Indian summer weather, my many gorgeous and intelligent friends (hi guys) and their lovely new babies, or my beloved and missed family? Nup. Too busy enjoying myself.

So what did I bring out my camera for? This unassuming little bottle.

I was thirsty when I got to LAX (no fault of Air NZ, they were quite happy to keep pouring any one of a hundred expensive liquids into me for the duration of the flight). So I bought a bottle of water, attracted by the pretty flower on it and the name, FIJI, which reminded me that there are beaches and sunshine in the world. Then I forgot to drink it.

Serendipity struck: on the next flight I read an article in the New Yorker about the owner of the company which bottles the water, and read the fine print on the back. It's not just named after Fiji, it's from there.

Fijian water, flown from Fiji to LAX, bought there and flown to Dallas and then to Little Rock and then driven to Pine Bluff. Water. It's free, it's heavy, and I just bought some and flew it hundreds of miles. No wonder I'm such a carbon-criminal. *Smacks self on wrist*. I'm keeping the full bottle as a reminder to myself.

I've done the maths and I'm now at 8,011 kg of CO2. That's how many trees? Even Google doesn't pretend to know! Searching on "a tree absorbs tons of carbon per year" gives answers like:

A healthy tree stores about 13 pounds of carbon annually

[] ......

This is an average of 12.5 kg per tree per year

[] ......

a mature tree only absorbs 7.5 kg of CO2 per year, while a young and actively growing tree can absorb 13 kg+ of CO2

[] .....

each tree will absorb 1 ton of CO2

[] .........

A single mature tree can absorb up to 50 pounds of carbon dioxide per year

[] ..........

roughly one metric ton of carbon per acre per year

[] .....

in the lower Mississippi River Valley, on a per planted tree basis, each tree absorbs an average of approximately 1.33 tons of carbon dioxide

[] .............

How is it measured? I need to see some peer reviewed scientific research. But I'm sleepy now, because it's late, which is because every detailed scientific page I read leads to ten random minutes browsing wikipedia/slashdot/xkcd/arts&lettersdaily/other people's blogs/etc....

So I'm going to turn out the lights and go to bed.

Oh, speaking of turning out the lights: turn them out at 8pm Saturday to participate in Earth Hour. If you missed it, turn them out NOW! After the mandatory ten minute random browse , of course.

Tuesday 18 March 2008

Home on Good Friday!

Yes, that's right! We've rejigged the project plan a bit, and it now makes more sense for me to come home this week rather than the first week of April, so I leave here on Wednesday afternoon and arrive in lovely lovely Auckland early on Good Friday morning. Yay! I get to see all of my lovely lovely friends and my lovely lovely family and eat good food and sleep in my own bed!

See you all soon!

(PS: No offense, Pine Bluff).

Thursday 13 March 2008

Three weeks and counting

Three weeks from this moment I'll be arriving at the airport to come
home. I'm counting the hours...

Sent from my iPhone as a test of blogging via email.

Tuesday 11 March 2008

Something to think about

Heard on the BBC: The average life contains less than a thousand months.

And I'm spending six of them in small town Arkansas.

Sunday 9 March 2008

Snow Pics

So the first car said to the second car, "I guess we're not going anywhere today".

Snow coats every twig.

My footsteps... the footpath had been trodden down into ice, so I walked on the grass (which was under 3 inches of snow)...

... and collected it in the turnups on my jeans.

It's nearly 9am and the sun is melting the snow so fast it's falling off the trees like rain.

A short video of a tree steaming. (3MB; I need to work out how to compress video).

It's -5 degrees out but it's crisp and dry and doesn't feel cold until you get wet. Now I'm going to watch one of my neighbours manoeuvre his 4WD out of the carpark....

Saturday 8 March 2008

Testing video posting, with a song I love on YouTube.... These guys are called The Cat Empire, they're Australian, and they deserve more fame than they have. Let's see if this works.

Well. That was easy.

Even more snow! And this time it stuck around!

As I write there is snow falling softly outside. It's formed little hats on the lamp posts and duvets on the parked cars, and lined the top of every twig with white. One of my neighbours is frolicking with his dog in the three or four inches of fresh powder snow on the ground. It's so PRETTY!

Pretty damn hard to drive in. It took 40 minutes to get home from t'mill; it usually takes 10.

Pics as soon as my camera battery recharges.

Wednesday 5 March 2008

Snow at last!

After that lovely summery hot weekend, it snowed today! See this news article for proof. We only got a few flurries here but I got to drive through it to work, which was very pretty. No pics, sorry.

Apparently it might do it again on Friday - yay for winter's last gasp. Punxsutawney Phil was right.

Spot sponsorship on CNN

Just watching CNN Morning. They brought up a flu map showing every state except Florida had widespread flu outbreaks (yes, including Hawaii and California). Then the sponsorship for that spot played their ad: Florida Orange Juice ("stay healthy, drink orange juice"). And now I trust the map, and by extension CNN, a little less.

Monday 3 March 2008

Golf on the first warm weekend of spring

At Pine Bluff Country Club, with Deb and Gabb. We didn't quite play all 18 holes because it got dark, but it was a lovely lovely day. This is me sinking about a dozen balls in a row into the water hazard, which Gabb renamed Lake Carolyn. (yeah, there are two of me in the photo - Gabb did something nifty with Photoshop).

This is the second hole, with me and Debbie in the left foreground. What you can't see is the many squirrels bouncing around all over the greens. I'm sure they stole at least one of my a-bit-off-the-fairway balls...

Rented clubs: woods made of actual wood! I've never seen that before. They felt quite similar to my cheap half-set in NZ though. And of course I could blame all my duff shots on having old clubs ...

Hey Carolyn, have you forgotten about the environment?

Yeah, pretty much. It's amazing how easy it is to forget it, here. But at latest count I've produced 3652 kg of carbon dioxide. (that includes daily living, flying NZ to USA, flying Little Rock to Houston return, and all the driving I'm doing here).

Extrapolating out, that's over 21,000 kg of CO2 for the year. That's more than most people, according to this calculator here:

Haven't done anything to offset it yet. I did buy a bunch of CFLs for my rented apartment in Pine Bluff, but I won't be able to judge the impact of that until I get a power bill.

According to Wikipedia (which of course is always absolutely correct), a tree in the tropics absorbs about 22kg of CO2 per year, and a tree in the temperate zones about a third as much. So after some Excel wizardry, my impact so far this year could be offset if I planted 1162 trees in New Zealand. That's quite a few trees. I might have to buy some land.

Weekend in Houston

Flew down to Houston last weekend to see Pete (and Ben and Adrienne and their two boys - they're all working for Macquarie there).

Random points:

* the TSA staff at Little Rock airport are friendly and chatty. The staff at Houston airport, not so much. In both places it takes an hour to get through security.

* Houston is a damn nice place. Good restaurants with deliciously fresh sushi and NZ wines (as well as many good American wines of course), suburbs with footpaths and flowering trees and friendly neighbours. I really wasn't expecting that; my mental image was of cowboy boots and oil-men. This is Pete, under a cherry tree in a park.

* the Johnson Space Centre is like a super-Motat. (That's a good thing). Highlight of the visit: touching an actual Moon rock! Whee!

* shooting a Glock 9mm at the Top Gun Range. It's VERY LOUD. And it kicks up rather than back. I feel like a real American now. (I'm not a very good shot).

* sculpture in concrete: someone gave the Texas highway engineers a lot of money a few decades ago and they paved most of the state. When they ran out of ground they went up into the sky, layer upon layer upon layer....

iHave an iPhone

And yes, I like it as much as I thought I would. Favourite features:

* inbuilt speakers for use as a speakerphone or a tiny tiny stereo for playing podcasts of In Our Time as I fall asleep at night.

* just beautiful user interaction and graphics. I don't think any other gadget makes me say "oh, cool!" quite so often.

* using Safari to Google for tourist locations in Houston and then find them on the map, while actually en route to said locations. (note for the safety-worried: I wasn't driving)

* "visual voicemail" - it's just a list of my voicemail messages that lets me listen to them in the order I want, but that's actually very useful.

* unlike my Treo, the call quality is not at all bad.

Things I wish it could do that it can't, yet:

* recognise addresses on web pages and turn them into links to open Maps.

* stay un-smudged for more than five seconds. I guess that's the price we pay for a multitouch interface.

* really know where it is, on Maps. It's usually out by about half a mile. (Mind you, that's often close enough to be useful).

Best bit: I managed to get a prepay account from AT&T, and avoided having to sign up to their 2-year contract. When I come home for good, I'll be free of AT&T entirely - yay!