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28 July, 2008

Snow!

It's snowing!

Big white flakes of wonderful snow are drifting down out of the sky. It is something I haven't seen for twelve years, not since I lived in Switzerland.

Snow isn't completely unknown in Australia - they even have skiing here on the high ground around Canberra - but it's quite rare in Queensland. In fact, it's only because I live at 1,000 metres in the most southerly part of this enormous state that there is any chance of it at all. Even then, snow is a moderately rare phenomenon and can't be relied on most years.

Yet here it is, drifting down among the gum trees, settling on the backs of disgruntled lorikeets and cockatoos, falling on my little cactus garden. It's a miracle. No, a blessing. A kindness. Yet another way to experience the beauty of this amazing place in which I live.

I suppose I ought to stop gushing and get back to work but Oh Lord! it was wonderful.

19 July, 2008

Can You Drown In Yoghurt?

You could knock me over with a keyboard! I made it to two hundred blog postings! And you, my probably first-time visitor, are looking at number two hundred. So, as I always do in my 200th blog posting, I'll take the opportunity to reflect on blogging and the nature of life in the tag clouds.

I started this, you may recall, because I wanted my voice to be out there with the tens of millions of others who take part in this pandemonium we call the blogsphere. I'd read a lot of stuff and wise old heads at the time said give it a couple of years – about 200 posts – to gather a reasonable-sized readership. Well, here I am and where are you?

Actually, I'm not complaining. I get about 5 unique visits a day to Waving Not Drowning. That's 150 unique visitors per month, mostly from Australia and the USA but also the UK, Canada and India, as well as places I didn't expect, like Greece, Poland, Moldova, Romania and the Philippines. As far as I can tell, about a third of my visitors each month are regulars and two thirds are drop-ins. It's not roaring success by any means but it's a great feeling to think there are people all over the world who click by to read what I have to say about life. It's an even better feeling to know that there are some who keep coming back for more. (Thank you, all of you – especially those of you who have been interested enough to leave comments.)

It's also a source of guilt. In the past six months I've been letting the blogging slip. I post once or twice a week now (not quite the two or three times of my first year) but there have been weeks on end recently when I didn't post at all. All I can say is I had a lot of stuff to do and a big change of lifestyle to get used to but I'm getting back into the swing of it and I hope to do better in the coming months. When I was posting at a rate of 15 to 20 posts a month, I was getting 50 to 100 visitors every day. This was quite exciting but it's hard work finding something different and worth saying every other day. I don't really see the point in just blathering. If I haven't got something interesting to write about, I'd rather keep my fingers to myself.

In the course of my 200 postings on Waving Not Drowning, other blogs of mine have come and gone. I've had music blogs and writing blogs and user interface design blogs but I've hardly used them and have shut them all down except the UI design one (which I haven't posted to in ages.) I have, however, just started up a new blog about writing (which you might care to go and look at) and it seems to be more successful than the others. (More successful than this one, too, according to Google and Technorati – both of which rate it as twice as popular and 'authoritative', even though it gets only two thirds the traffic – go figure.)

In all I'm getting 350 visits per month for my three blogs (about 11 per day). It may seem unambitious of me, in a world where popular blogs get thousands of visits per day, but I'm very happy with what I've got. Fewer might make me wonder what the point of it all was but many more and I would start feeling pressured. I can easily imagine 11 people stopping by the house each day for a chat. I'd be hiding behind the sofa if there were a thousand queueing up the drive. I'm also pretty pleased with the standard of the comments I get. I've had a few excellent arguments over the years.

So here's to the next 200 posts, to the many great bloggers who have inspired me to join in, and to all my readers, without whom I would be talking to myself (you don't think I'd shut up, do you?)

Oh yes, and the title of this post. One of the many interesting stats I get from Google Analytics to help me interpret traffic to my blogs, is a list of the Google queries that have led people to come here. And, yes, one of them was, 'Can you drown in yoghurt?' I certainly hope my blog helped with that.

15 July, 2008

The Saddest Olympic Games Yet

Don't you think it's sad that the Chinese feel they have to take dog off the menu in Beijing during the Olympics? I mean, for heaven's sake, this is your country, people. If squeamish American tourists don't like what you eat, tell them to stay at home and eat Macdonalds.

Sadder by far, however, is the fact that so many people will be going to China to watch a bunch of people throwing things and jumping things and running round and round. It will inject plenty of money into the Chinese economy of course (maybe the organisers will celebrate afterwards with a nice dog dinner) but of all the things to spend your money, time and energies on, trailing out to Beijing to watch sports seems like just about the most futile I can imagine. (All the people trailing out to Sydney for World Youth Day has it beat but WYD is so exceptionally stupid it isn't a fair comparison.)

Even sadder than all this, however, is the fact that, while the Chinese want to avoid offending Westerners by keeping dogs off our dinner plates, they don't seem to feel the need to release political prisoners, to stop torturing people, to leave Tibet alone, or to allow free and fair elections - even for the two weeks while we're in town. They obviously understand that such things don't offend us anywhere near as much as fried pets.

05 July, 2008

Peaking into the Future

If you want to know why petrol costs so much these days, you need look no further than the phenomenon of 'Peak Oil'. This refers to the point in time when we are extracting the maximum amount of oil per day from the world's reserves. And that point in time appears to be with us. In 2005 we reached a rate of extraction of 74 million barrels a day and we have stayed there ever since. Oil fields are running dry and new discoveries are not keeping pace. Soon, the rate of extraction will start to fall. In anticipation of how valuable that will make oil, the price has begun to rise. It will go on rising as the oil runs out and demand stays more-or-less level. (Demand is already well above the extraction rate at 88 million barrels a day - the difference being met by liquified natural gas - until we hit 'peak gas' too. It has been increasing exponentially until now but rising prices are likely to counteract that trend.)

Since agriculture depends heavily on oil and gas to fuel equipment and to produce fertilizers, we are almost certainly approaching 'peak wheat' - the point where we just can't afford (or even find) the energy to grow more food. It is no coincidence that there is a world food shortage happening just after we hit 'peak oil'. The price of oil is part of the cause but the frantic (and half-arsed) attempts by the US government and others to reduce oil imports by turning farmland all over the world from food production to the production of biofuels is the rest.

And there is little anybody can do about it. Your vote counts for nothing when every candidate on offer supports stupid, ill-conceived, industry-pandering plans that amount to 'business as usual'. Your personal efforts to reduce your oil consuption will come to nothing if you must commute to work because of the way cities are laid out (everything in the middle and all the affordable housing way, way out on the fringes) and you can't switch to public transport because there isn't any, and using a hybrid car is actually no more fuel efficient on average than using a deisel car. Your personal efforts to reduce energy consumption in your home might be worthwhile, if you don't mind spending a lot of money on it, but this only helps the oil crisis if your local power station is oil-fired.

In the end, it is down to our politicians to force industry to make the changes we desperately need. And they are either too stupid (such changes would require them actually understanding the science and economics involved) too greedy (most politicians are in the pay of big business one way or another and they all want those chairmanships and consultancies when their political career is over) or too selfish (they would rather hang on to power than do anything good or worthwhile that might make them unpopular) to do what must be done.

Perhaps what has really happened is that we have reached 'peak intelligence' - the point at which the society we have made has become too complicated and difficult for our limited little brains to manage. It certainly looks that way.

The Gray Wave Jukebox


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