Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Photos of the cold weather

Yesterday it was -6 C ( 21 F) and the canal was just about completely solid.
This morning it was -10 C ( 14 F ) and completely solid. So much so that people have been able to skate on it.

It's much the same for all the lakes around this area. No snow as yet, but a very heavy frost.

All the bike paths are kept clear of ice, though.
Icicles on our windows have grown to about 40 cm long.

This hasn't stopped people going out, of course. In fact, it's given them new things to go out for:

Friday, 19 December 2008

Flemish Liberation Army Against Freedom



Another excellent firework safety campaign this year. This is just one of the videos. The website for "FLAAF" can be found here:

http://flaaf.be/

The whole lot of the videos can be seen here:
http://nl.youtube.com/user/laaf21

The Dutch go completely bananas with fireworks at New Year. There were more fireworks being let off here than I've ever seen in my entire life before now. I couldn't see the road from our house for smoke. Perhaps unsurprisingly, there are quite a few injuries resulting from this, and more so when people import extra powerful and sometimes illegal fireworks.

The campaign this year is "Flemish" because one of the biggest problems at the moment is that you can legally buy more powerful fireworks in Belgium than in the Netherlands. Some of them are shoddily made with much shorter fuses than they should have.

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

2000 year old computer

A chap in London has recreated a 2000 year old Greek "computer".

It's not exactly a general purpose machine. However it is very neat.

Friday, 12 December 2008

The second biggest potato in the world

In a story which sounds just like something out of Father Ted, the Isle of Man has for a few years had the world record for the world's largest potato at 3.5 kg. However, a Lebanese farmer has now grown a 11.3 kg potato.

The owner of the 3.5 kg potato says there is still a lot of local interest in the potato and that "we're still a world champion - we'll call it the second biggest potato in the world.

My question is... How far would you travel to catch a glimpse of the world's second largest potato ?

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Frozen canal

These two photos were taken on this morning's dog walk along the canal which on the western edge of Assen.

The sun is out today which makes it feel a lot warmer than yesterday. However it's actually only 1 degree above freezing, so there is still ice for the birds to stand on next to the house boats.
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Sunday, 7 December 2008

Four roofs

Four identical houses in a row. Ours is the house on the left, where least of the ice has been melted by our heating, therefore showing that the insulation I've installed in the roof is working well (or perhaps that we've got our thermostat set lower).

We haven't really done much in the way of loft insulation yet, it's a start and we will add more.

I covered our cavity wall insulation a few months back.

Saturday, 6 December 2008

Beer

Yesterday was Pakjesavond, the time when Dutch people give and receive presents.

Sinterklaas brought me two bottles of "Old Speckled Hen". The first British beer I've had in over a year.

Brown coloured beer, served warm. Wonderful. Now don't get me wrong, I do like Dutch beer too. However, I still like this better - especially after waiting so long for it.

Things that don't fit...

There are a number of things I've quite wanted to put on the other blog but which have nothing to do with cycling. That's what this blog is for.

I'll start with this piece of paper which came through the door a few days ago.

This is the Afvalkalender or Waste Calendar for our area.

It tells us when to put out each of our three wheelie bins, the black bin for general waste, green bin for compostable waste and the blue bin for paper and cardboard. The green and black bins are collected every other week and the blue bin once a month.

There are a lot of initiatives here about waste disposal, and I've written them all up on a webpage.

Monday, 18 August 2008

Saving Energy - insulation and measuring electricity usage

Time for a change from the cycling topics. Our energy bills here seem to have been somewhat higher than before we moved. This was especially true in winter, so we had cavity wall insulation installed in our house today.

It was extremely effective in two of our previous homes and we're hoping for the same savings on the heating bills here.

Cavity wall insulation typically pays for itself in about 3-5 years. Perhaps even quicker if the price of fuel increases. While loft and floor insulation are DIYable, cavity wall insulation isn't.

We've also started measuring the electricity consumption of some of our appliances. To do this we bought the "power calculator" pictured on the right. This purchase was prompted by a recent visitor who commented that our firewall PC would cost more to run for a year than a cheap off the shelf replacement would cost to buy.

Our firewall is actually quite frugal. It's built around a half length ISA embedded 486SLC card on a passive backplane in an old 286 case with 60W power supply. It runs freesco, a tiny linux distribution, and consumes only around 20W. This adds up to about 8 cents of electricity per day for the 16 hours or so that it's usually switched on - around €29 per year. We could buy a replacement box for €20, so our guest is right. The consumption of the plugin appliance style firewall ought to be no more than half this amount, so it would pay for itself in about 18 months which is worthwhile.

I then went on to other things. It turns out that the firewall is a relatively small user of energy. The PC on which I'm typing this (a 1GHz Athlon based machine dating from 2001 - someone else's cast off but fast enough for us because we use Linux) gets through 100W on its own, and the 17" monitor another 55W. It amounts to about 35 cents per day or over €120 of electricity a year. That's nearly a sixth of our entire year's electricity bill !

As a result, I'm also looking into ways of reducing this monster's consumption. A laptop might consume less, but the cost of them makes it unlikely that they'd pay for themselves ever. The same seems to be true for ITX and other smaller form factor PCs.

Replacing the CRT monitor with an LCD of a similar size would probably not help a lot as while it would reduce consumption by 15-20 W when it's on (they typically seem to be quoted as consuming 40W), it would add 5W or so of consumption when it's off. Our current monitor has a proper off switch so consumes nothing when its off. What I have done is to make sure the auto-power off feature of the computer is enabled. If we leave it on and walk away, the monitor goes into low power mode after 10 minutes and the computer goes into standby after an hour.

Read further posts about energy conservation on my other blog.

Update
This being a post from 2008, some parts of it are outdated. We no longer run the same firewall nor any CRT monitors. The argument which I made then still makes sense, but the availability of extremely inexpensive second hand LCD monitors made the CRTs no longer make sense even on the basis that I wrote about above. What's more, I now also have a switch installed to completely disconnect the computer from the electricity network when its not in use. That made a drastic improvement.