Friday, January 29, 2010

Blown it

Not the Daily Mail.

The BBC.

Driver fined 'for blowing his nose'

I am sorry, the world has indeed gone mad.

But more seriously, we now have laws of either such vagueness or framed deliberately to be catch-alls that basically one can be busted for anything, anytime.... because someone feels like it. Remember, the AG seems to have flipped between illegal to legal in a heartbeat ... on going to war.

And we now have retroactive laws being flung about with more heft on matters of money than on terrorism.

The law... is an ass. And many, too many, involved in it, are a**holes. Which means one, fatal, inevitable result: we will cease to respect them, and hence the law.

And it will not matter if, as I suspect, this idiocy is quietly dropped and all involved slink away to grumble before trying it on again. The damage has been done. All for £60 (rising with each challenge on validity, a totally disproportionate piece of official extortion that does not apply in the other direction).

Hope they think it worth it. I'm sure, for some reason, like what seems our entire civil self-service, there will have been bonusses involved.

Hot Air. Cool Reception.

It's amazing. Until today I had thought the Government Warm Front scheme was a great thing, and have advocated it on many occasions.

But until I watched the BBC Breakfast News today I was totally unaware that they had been deemed 'unfit for purpose' a heck of a long time ago, as result of many complaints (still ongoing) and it seems that zippy has really been done since.

Why, of why, when on the rare occasion the market rate talents put together a half way decent initiative, the hordes of penpushers that swarm in behind promptly gobble up most of the money on admin. yet still produce an entity that is 'unacceptable'.

I am sorry. This is why I crank eyebrows at much that is bandied in the loose name of 'climate change', especially when it seems to involve siphoning off vast amounts MORE money from folk to redistribute, when patently this shambles have no idea, not competence... and no accountability.

Yet, until today, even with my perhaps deeper interest in such topics than many, thanks to a culture of spin over substance, and comms over delivery, I was unaware of its failings.

I still think it worthy, and necessary, but only if done well, and honestly, and in a timely manner.

It is to be hoped this farce is not repeated with the boiler scrappage scheme, where already what is great theory is showing signs of abuse (not got to the delivery from authority side yet) such that those likely not best positioned to challenge claims are being advised to 'check around'.


Just saw the latest GOAT minister being interviewed on this. Explains, if not excuses, much.

The mendacious or the mediocre really are the new breed.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Talk about pushing several buttons at once

The ever alert Dave of Solarventi has spotted playrethink and kindly opined it may appeal to me.

Proactivity. Reuse. Fun.Invention, Entertainment. Sharing.

What... is not to like?

Monday, January 25, 2010

COMPETITION - 'Here's One I RE:made Earlier'


Crossing everything, after almost a month of the 'wrong kind of snow' (ie: several feet deep either here or there, or on both) we hope at long last to soon be seeing the bench arrive in Ross On Wye.

As the last of the snow melts away, this Friday (30th Jan, 2010), there will be a lunchtime photocall for the press as BRP hands over the donated prize bench to local dignitaries/council representative.



And then, as can so always be the way, it gets a little less better.

STOP PRESS is apt, as that is what I had to do in a mad-panic yesterday morning. Sadly our co-hero (the bench) was stuck in a snowdrift in Yorkshire, so we had to call off the photocall. And that was a lot of phoning around, as many folk were due to attend from far and wide as the story was one the media seemed to like the sound of.

Won't say it was not a big disappointment.

However, the good news is that all (bar one... apparently the big producer in Brum didn't think it a 'hot' enough story so they were not coming anyway, so muhr) I contacted were really great about it, very understanding and, best of all, keen to be invited back next year for what is still a great, heart warming story.

Just not one to op of the year, but now one to kick of 2010 in high spirits.

One door closes...:)


It just gets better.

The council(s) (there are actually some details to iron out between town and county) are more than happy to accept the kind donation by these inspirational youngsters.

Better yet, the sponsors are so inspired that they are going to bring the bench down for a handover photocall in the town centre this Monday.... weather cooperating. They were going to come today but are snowed in! But they are confident they can get here in good time if they leave at crack of dawn for lunchtime.

The mayor, judges and other representatives (of council, kids, etc) will be there to receive it, and with luck it will be covered by local and possibly even regional media.

It is, after all, a very festive feelgood story of giving for this time of year.

It has certainly made my Christmas.



Well, the weekend has at last seen the final winner presented.

However, there was a development.

I was contacted by the person who submitted the winning entry.

But, it's more of a 'they'.

Some students from a local (to Ross-on-Wye, who found out about the competition via all the PR I engaged in subsequently to drive awareness - even as an international media has a very high sign-up locally due to my efforts) school have got in touch to say it was actually a joint effort.

I had a few exchanges, and we've agreed that as the prize cannot be split, and in any case it's not really something they could use or want to have, they are happy to donate it to a good cause.

As it's all a bit unusual they want to remain anonymous but would like it to be a gift from the kids to the community to show they do care about the future and are not all hanging about at street corners doing nothing (actually not quite what they said, but I think this sums it up best).

The organisers and sponsors are all cool on the notion.

I have now contacted the town council to see if this is possible, and the signs are positive and wheels are in motion.

I think it is the best solution and reflects well all round, being a lovely way to round up the competition, and the year, at this festive time of giving.

As to the runner-up prizes, the organisers have now been provided with the addresses of these winners, and will be arranging delivery with the sponsors asap.

********* Previously********

This just in: Blog post from prize sponsor

Wow, is the internet quick or what?

We have already been contacted by all our runner up winners. Lovely ladies, too.

No word yet from our grand prize winner. Hope they are 'on line' over the next few days to learn the good news. One 'quirk' of our system is that it is difficult, if not impossible to actually trace folk, even from our admin system. All we have is usernames and they are kept in a separate log to actual names and emails. And if someone changes their e-mail... that's it:(

Latest In:

It took a while, but at long last the judges were convened recently to review the entries.

At least that gave me an opportunity to make some of the entries up to help 'visualise', especially for those where no pictures were provided.

I had to excuse myself as a judge, and was not present during the judging.

There were two who kindly offered their services.

Dennis Humble of EnviroAbility, both man and organisation highly awarded in the country in the field of just about re:verything

Neil Carroll is a renowned creative force locally, nationally and indeed internationally, having been chosen as the main visual artist to represent Wales at The Festival Interceltique

They were asked to consider the entries as follows:

Marks out of 10 for creativity (is this an inspired reuse of plastic?)

Marks out of 10 for consumer appeal (will the public go... yeah... I'd do that!)

Marks out of 10 for eco-impact (will it move stop some plastic hitting the bin and/or landfill)

Fortunately, there were no 'ties'. As no kids' entries were submitted we added another adult to the list.

Runners up (in no order) were:

Houseofstrauss - slug collar -

swirlyarts - earrings -

bveacoker - bathroom rubbish bin -

And the grand prize winner was:

junkktween1 - cup stack -

The judges were impressed with the standard of entries, especially appreciating how difficult it is to 'see' what can be done with 'junk' that most people see only as good for the bin... and landfill.

All were simple, but still effective. And, in a one case, very stylish.

The grand prize winner was chosen for its high marks across all the criteria. Said the judges: 'This is an idea we can see many people take advantage of, and benefiting from, especially where space is tight, for instance in flats, caravans or boats'. will be contacting the winners directly to get addresses to send the prizes to, but also via here and the newsletter, as all we have is usernames and a data protected internal messaging system!

Hope no one has changed their emails in the interim.


28/09 - LAST WEEK!!!!!!!!!!!!

Had to arrive eventually. And it is time to reward the patience, and ideas of those who did enter.

11/08 - Final, that's it, there will be no more, no, I'm serious.... extension

Due to a confluence of circumstances, ranging from shutting down for summer break for a few weeks, to the fact that the UK has evidently been on holiday since June anyway, I am extending the deadline one last time to include September. Back to work, back to school, back in the shed. Plus a final month to really plug it all over the shop. There have been some goodies, but I know there are more! Get thinking... and applying.

24/07 - New Judges Please -

In addition, whilst staying on as organiser/Chairman of the judging committee, I am standing down as a judge. This is because, thanks to some promotions in our local media and via the newsletter, I may be familiar with the User Names some of the possible entrants inspired to take part, from such as the Forum, etc.


Due to ever popular demand (and the fact that, while there are a couple of nifty ideas in now, we really are still hoping to inspire a few more to justify those great prizes, especially as some great ones are still coming in. Plus, having promoted it, some media are only now mentioning it), with the agreement of the organisers and sponsors, the competition entry deadline has now been extended again to the end of Aug. This will also allow uploaders to use the new, easier upload features we have now active.


Superceding the PDF (which I'll leave here as an option for those so formatically disposed), I am happy to post here the URL to the online insert page turner. I am actually getting quite impressed with these. I am sure there are server farm 'leccy/heat consequences, but I presume there to be eco advantages too.


After a brief flurry sign-ups now quieter. May need to make it clearer that you don't need to submit an idea to sign up to the site and roam [Ed - Done - hope it's not too late!]

Here's a URL to the insert PDF. Link to online page-turner coming. Check out the smoothie on p12!

Previous Post (05/05 6.10am)

And today is the day.

Here's what it is all about.

Here's how we launched it with the latest newsletter.

BBC News doing a piece on social networking. By using it I don't have a good sense of my identity. Apparently:(

That's a pity, as I'm off now to add updates to FaceBook, twitter, etc. Which will add a lot more value I'd have thought.

Off soon to the newsagents to buy my first copy of the paper with the insert in.

[In a deep voice] 'Previously, on'
(pondering reversing updates newest at the top this way in future):

Sorry this is blank for now.

Next week all will be revealed.

Watch this space... seriously:)

Thursday, January 21, 2010

AWARD - Sustain Magazine Awards

Some things are worth getting out of bed for.

Last Thursday, I succumbed to man flu.

By Friday I was a death's door. The merest few moments in front of the PC was enough to have me dashing for the Lemsip and the Sky History channel.

Which was why a cheery call that day to invite me to submit for the Sustain Magazine Awards was just what the doctor hadn't ordered.

But hey, they had heard nice things and had been steered my way, and were happy to give me a last ditch, 11th hr chance if I was up for it.

What's not to love? I honestly have little recollection what I entered for, much less what I wrote ( a lot... the forms were extensive!) in my addled state, but I have just been told and RE:tie are now shortlisted, under the 'Waste' category' at least.

Which is nice. Sustain is a major player in the green world, so this is already a decent endorsement and the gateway to some major networking. And the folk there seem tops. Especially Adam, who has been coordinating the event.

And at least all this gives me an excuse to break out the tux, which is always well complemented by the Vac:Sac as one rubs the shoulder carrying it with those of the worthy and worth meeting who grace such events.

Who knows, we may even score a gong. Better yet, hook up with some complementary folk.

Maybe see you there?

I will also be attending Ecobuild, which is the same day and next door.

Nice reuse of a journey, at least:)

Saturday, January 16, 2010

You can take the man out of engineering but, maybe, there's still some engineering left in the man

The disaster in Haiti is now days old.

Yet, as I watch SKY news, I am sensing truly woeful disaster contingency planning.

A ton of stuff heading that way, and chaos and gridlock when it gets there.

And, as with the Boxing Day tsunami, I dread to think what the vast monetary aid might get applied to once things 'settle'.

I just heard a spokesperson from a disaster charity saying their first aircraft, from the UK, had just arrived... 'with bottled water'.

As the most basic need, untainted water supplies are obviously a priority.

I was just surprised the logistical systems globally were not optimised to store and deliver this commodity without having to carry water further than necessary, time and weight-wise.

As a serious, but equally potentially daft (I accept - but no such thing...), suggestion for future aid efforts, might it be an idea in areas prone to disasters to build with aid well sited earthquake-proof reservoir (sprung leg low level - no need for 'head' - tanks with flexible connectors?) buffers to water supplies around regions, than can be tapped in the event of emergencies?

I'd have thought just 2/3 of these, even if located to the periphery of distribution centres such as airports, would equate, and a lot more cheaply and quickly (in future), to one plane load.

Addendum -

Indy - practical, and human issues to the mix - Water delivery disruptions imperil quake survivors

Make it and mend it

Friday, January 15, 2010

Spring 2010 - a new, better, beginning to the decade?

I write that fully aware of the initial, and unfolding tragedy that is Haiti.

But sadly, as she can delight, nature can be fickle, and brutal. Such events have happened before, and will happen again. Probably with even worse consequences, as more and more are crammed together near the points she chooses to unleash her powers.

'We' all will do what we can, with luck with speed and coherence, and an eye to the future, too. Another story, another time. This is, selfishly, closer to home.

My optimism is founded on no more than a few exchanges online lately, when I have been feeling for a while that the net is at best spinning (in many cases, too often, literally) on is axis 'talking', and at worst a very potent force for negativity.

Using the predominately vanity (I fear I do not have the desire, or skills to make it 'professional' enough to earn revenue - my main aim is to archive thought more than gain numbers) medium of twitter, I have taken to adding to the conceit by positing philosophical musings. One such was this:

'I disagree with you'. So long as sincerely held, and politely put, should be the start of a worthwhile conversation; not the end of it.

It was inspired by a conversation I was engaged upon, which may be followed here:

Guardian - Everybody's talking about: the snow, nuclear fears and birds in the big freeze

As may be gathered it has been, to date (and will with luck remain unsullied as such), a pleasant experience, I hope all round, if possibly actually worthwhile (to posters and readers alike) as well. I almost didn't engage as the pages of the Guardian can be...'challenging'... to those who follow no particular tribal path, but I am glad I did.

It is a rare pleasure to find an influencer such as this journalist, who I fear is sadly all too rare, especially when it comes to reaching out and being tolerant of contrary views. For its relative size the Guardian is a powerful force in the world of 'Green', and knowing such attitudes can exist there make me value it as a source, and often (but not always) objective one, all the more.

One related conversation, coincidentally that transpired today, has highlighted how so many things can get 'politicised' so easily beyond facts that should really have no bearing on one's voting inclinations, class, race or anything else.

Think Politics - Turning Away From Right and Left

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

GOOD PACK, BAD PACK - IT's gone mad

Wife home. Kids pretty much now in residence.

Hence everyone clamouring to get on various sources of IT to do their own thing.

Fortunately, various bits 'n bobs had been purchased.

Unfortunately, they pretty much all reduced me to spitting bullets on waste and/or in wrap rage.

Last first. I guess it's mainly a 'one size suits all' matter of economics, but that cable really didn't need that size of blister (much less a blister at all, save to protect the ends - another story).

But Microsoft... hang your heads in shame!

One CDR... and it took all that!!!!!!

Worse, it took me about 10 minutes to open the sodding thing!

I really can see no excuse. Evidently another one size fits all with space for a booklet (doubtless in 26 languages), but if you send a CDR, send it in a CDR box. Sheesh.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Driving Mrs. Martin - Nippy helpful advice

You may not of noticed, but winter has returned.

So I just thought it was worth sharing some very useful, proactive tips and tricks that my dear wife has tracked down, following her short but expensive introduction to the joys of snow driving and black ice on an untreated road this time last year.

Especially as all that is in this cold 'snap' (how long does it last before a new temporal definition applies... a cold 'drawn out agonising echo'?) happening is apparently 'unprecedented' (that means it hasn't happened before), and there's a chance that while the helpful notion of 'not travelling unless you have to' may tick a box in some high-paid circles, especially those now putting grit on ration, to keep the economy running most still have to get from A to B to do X & Y to earn a crust.

So fresh from her PC via my PC to yours (noting all, so far, are from our national broadcaster doing what they should be doing, informing factually rather than opining or evangelising, and doing it well)...

Fab advice here from peeps around the world who are used to snow and icy conditions.
Your tips for coping in a colder UK climate

Top tips for driving safely in the snow and icy weather

How to drive in snow and icy weather

Feel free to add any that help. Possibly more useful than some gracing our screens and pages with a bunch of excuses and 'It wasn't our faults' who perhaps deserve a tad more challenge in future when asking for a wadge of wonga to prevent things long term that they seem a tad shy on even basic contingency plans to prepare for now.

Addendum (with luck addenda)

Lifehacker - Top 10 Winter Survival Tools and Tactics

BBC - Brown issues cold weather gas and salt supply pledge - Phew!


BBC - Pothole and frozen pipe worries as 'big freeze' thaws

Friday, January 08, 2010



Brand Republic - A new definition for the light year

Which - Nov 2007

Guardian - Low-carbon Christmas lights
Guardian - Do eco bulbs emit too much mercury?

BBC - Low-energy bulb disposal warning

Treehugger - Luxim Plasma Light Bulb Kicks Some Serious LED Butt

Indy - Energy saving light bulbs can emit enough UV radiation to damage skin - Oh... strike a light;(

Gaurdian - Ultraviolet radiation warning on unshaded eco lightbulbs - It's Friday, the news is slow (well, apart from the world going down the pan). Then, a press release lands...

Guardian - Cheap new LED eco-lights promise price breakthrough

Telegraph Letters - Light bulbs: a dim outlook - worth bearing in mind

Telegraph - Low energy lightbulbs mailed to British families that cannot use them - Not exactly a ringing endorsement of the box-ticking system, really. Maybe we should set up 'bulb swaps' where people could exchange a bayonet for a screw fitting, and vice versa.

prNewswire - Life-cycle Assessment Proves How Environmentally Friendly LED Lamps Are - two wind-up lanterns for camping... tick. £15 for one LED branded GU10 vs. £1.50 for a 2-pack old style, energy gobbler, when I rarely use them..... dilemma!

Time - BRIEF HISTORY The Lightbulb -

Treehugger - Environmental Reporter from UK Sunday Times on CFLs: RUN! - Well, you are getting a variety of 'sides' between this piece and the one to which it refers. But I rather suspect a tad more heat than light is generated.

BBC - NEW - More than you ever wanted to know about dimmer switches and energy efficient light bulbs

Grants -

Suppliers (there are/will be more - I'll add 'em as I find 'em and/or get told. Do search and compare longevity vs. prices!)

ebulbshop -
Greenled - time for me to swap those GU10 spots in our ceiling!
greenstock -
Lightbulbs direct -
Yourwelcome -

Recycling -

Shut it and save

The other day I heard a BBC West Midlands 'report' that a town in my 'hood, Herefordshire, was launching a 'ban the bag' campaign.

So far, so, um, what words can I think of? Behind the curve? Bandwagon jumping? Potentially misguided? No longer news?

It had all the usual components. A Yummie earth mother and her moppet who walk from their Georgian townhouse in this market town with their one bag to buy their organic tofu. A jovial local butcher who thought it was great because as soon as he had worked through the evil plastic jobbies he was getting the non-evil, biodegradable... plastic jobbies. And the gushing local news bouffant who was tasked to make this a big deal.

Thing is, as my recent attempted effort at understanding the issues showed, there is certainly nothing wrong with reduction in any form, so long as it is in the right way for the right reasons. But I'm afraid this still seems to fail on waaaay too many counts, not that it matters to those in government, commerce and media who see virtue in distracting away from the real failings at system level.

So I have decided to pose a question that has struck me before, but more so after this, as I walked around a very similar Herefordshire market town: Why are all the shop doors open?

Which, in turn, I think could lead to a campaign, whose slogan I would suggest could/would be 'Shut it and save!'. That's save money (retailers, which can be passed on to clientele in energy costs saved)... plus planet.

Of course I know why the doors are open. They represent a barrier to entry, and hence sales. This was confirmed by the poor check out girl at the local organic shop, who approved (along with management) of my rejecting the proffered bag, but who was more onside with my notions on the open door policy (not shared with us by management, apparently).

Now, unlike carrier bags, I don't see jobs being lost, but of course there is the real chance of reduced sales, which will not make my idea popular with the local chamber. Unless of course it is made mandatory for all, as is proposed with plastic carriers. Then the comparative 'hassle' of opening a door is equal amongst all options and hence removed. With a ton of hot air being spared the eventing to the open sky.

And that seems to me to have a pretty clear enviROI.

Before I charge aherad thoughlessly... any comments, suggestions?

This isn't a ban. It's just a sensible alternative course of action with an enviROI+ result.


I have now found a piece on this topic: Hay aims to bag plastic problem

First up, I wasn't aware that Hay was in Wales. My bad.

I will also need to try and figure what exactly the enviROI is on 'specially ordered Hay cotton bags and cornstarch Biobags'.

While this - Support has also been forthcoming through a £1,000 grant from the Sustainable Development Fund and the introduction by the council of extra plastic bag recycling points - at first seems positive, I still wonder if this is a) the best use of money and b) how the recycling point will address mixed medium recyclables.

More information on this scheme is available at

Couldn't resist. I had to write in:

While reduction in any form has to be applauded, I have often wondered if plastic bags represent the greatest threat to our planet’s future, and indeed that some alternatives mooted have been sufficiently challenged to represent any better enviROI. So I'm just hoping recyclables are to be appropriately separated to avoid cross-contamination, and the compostables provided in a form that can either be processed at home or directed to a facility that can deal with them.

Anyhoo, now the cat is out of the bag (or the bag is no longer a cat...egory), and the banwagon is up to steam, as we are on planetary saving roll may I suggest the next target for consideration.

In our fair market towns I cannot not help but notice the number of shops and stores with gaping entrances pumping hot air out into the atmosphere.

Without seeking to put too many honest folk out of business or even inconvenience the understandable (indeed essential) consumerist advocacy of some retailers, and the simple preferences of the rest of us who patronise their establishments, might I suggest they be encouraged to keep doors closed when the temperature inside is greater than that outside?

I'd go for 'Shut it and save', which can of course can apply to money (in energy cost to both retailer and, if passed on, their customers) as well as the planet.

I'd also hazard that this could be quite easily done, might actually help and not require a ton more stuff that may or may not actually work to have a positive impact.

Green can be and often is great. But it also still needs thinking about carefully.


Two years hence and the banner has been taken up as I, to my shame, could and should have done (so many eco-ideas; so little time. Like JunkkYard vs. FreeCycle, maybe another I should have pursued over others): Close the Door