Tuesday, November 11, 2008


Today I placed my second order from Veganpet, this time for 2 bags.

Previously, or several weeks ago, I found veganpet.com.au on the googles. Soon enough I ordered some to try it.

Slightly longish and somewhat embarrassing story (see note1) cut short, I am now satisfied that my two dogs devour the stuff. They love it!

The trick was to get them hungry enough to try a new food. Halting their meat supply for about a day, proved to be about enough. It probably also helps that the pair of them are somewhat competitive for food, as well as attention.

That makes for a few dozen more chickens and a cow spared per year. Otherwise without some kind of a vegetarian diet solution for the pets, I would have had to continue living with a gaping hole in my vegan ethics because of the dogs.

Incidentally, it may be worthwhile pointing out that dogs are omnivorous. Notwithstanding everything being debatable, dogs will eat almost anything that people eat. Feeding to dogs a constant supply of supermarket pet food like what the cute TV adverts would inspire you believe is about on par as satisfying a human child's dietary needs via McDonalds, both very doable and commonly done but not necessarily a good idea. [Yes, I'm aware that Veganpet is also a food somewhat like the supermarket stuff, but a discussion of the merits of the former compared to the latter is beyond the scope of this blog entry, and I am not up to the argument.]

note1: I can confirm that the ingredients seem to be of a quality that is for human consumptions - which is also a good litmus test that this is pretty good stuff.

Monday, October 27, 2008

DIY Jackeroo solar PV system via kmart

I have been stalking this solar panel for several months, and up to now every time that it was advertised in Kmart junk mail it sold out before I got there.

Specifications and my observations:
  • $100
  • panel folds up into a briefcase form factor
  • includes car cigarette lighter plug socket adapters, battery clamps, and regulator with 3 LED indicators for charging, high voltage and low voltage
  • battery not included
  • included spec sheet sez: Peak output power 13W / 17.5V
  • charges a 12V battery, like a car battery, with which you can do as you may
Results in full sun:
  • regulator load output: 14.6V with no battery attached
  • regulator load output: 14.5V with battery attached
  • regulator battery current: .2A to .3A it varies counter intuitively to the higher number when panel is partly occluded by shadow
  • as above but with half the panel occluded: .38A
  • regulator load output: 14.0V with battery attached and half the panel occluded.
  • voltage from panel with no load: 21.9V
  • voltage from panel with no load: 21.3V with half the panel occluded

Now the challenge is to cobble a lifestyle solution to make use of the 12 volt battery power for the following devices:
  • AA batteries and charging them (for camera and shaver)
  • eeepc laptop, using 9.6V (also todo: try AA x 6 in series as an external pack)
  • LED desk light (IKEA JANSJÖ) using 2.5V to 3.5V
  • ADSL router, using 12V
What remains to be seen is how much usable power will be harnessed on an average day, especially in terms of powering the above devices and any shortfall or surplus.

[Revision 20081029 : A peek inside the regulator module]

[Revision 20081115 : Regardless of one's view of power couplings and what ought to be, the trick is plain and simple: an inverter. Today I purchased an $79 300W 12VDC to 240VAC inverter at DSE, and I no longer care about regulators and car adapter, or whatifs. Sure, life is full of disappointments and compromises, including some inefficiency and compromised portability, but the electrons come from the sky so fckit. Mission accomplished.]

(the pictured battery was eventually retired after being found to behave defectively with seemingly very poor charge retention - it was replaced with a generic car battery which was also lying around in the garage)

[Revision 20081201 : Yesterday I had put my common sense aside for 24 hours and tried a pseudo hobo lifestyle, in my back yard and veranda. Tactics included: harvesting gray water to pour onto the yard by unscrewing the u bend from the outdoor sink and putting a bucket under to be emptied manually when; using only the electricity that my panel generates to run my laptop and LED light; using only USB 3g internet, so no ADSL, to live within my available electricity budget and kinda off grid; did not bathe for the third day in a row, as weekends do not really matter; used up my food with a few remaining garden greens; slept under a mosquito net. Result: enough! I need to double my solar panels to only barely have enough electricity to operate my laptop continuously and in full sun, because as it is only gives me maybe 3 to 4 hours of operation per day, though a full recharge cycle was not tried because of temperamental cloudy weather the day before. Ideally I would need a lot more generating capacity than my existing apx 10W. And then there were inefficiencies introduced by the inverter to go from 12V to 240V and a power supply back down again rather than feed directly into my laptop; waste does not help when it is so tight. And a 30 degree day of heat does not help either. This experiment is finished. The single solar panel is just not enough to stay in cyberspace, which is normally a modest expectation nowadays. The bottom line is that I need more power. For now I am committed to waiting for the price and performance improvements of another technology cycle before thinking about getting more hardware of any kind until (well maybe a 12V AA battery charger or a 32GB USB stick if I get tempted {by 5 months later both of these items were fulfilled}). In the mean time I will continue to use up each day's battery charge for such things as the LED night light, charging other batteries or whatever until discharge is reached - am partially solar powered. {Also it was later found the the output from the panel changes between summer and winder cycles, and this experiment dates to about spring.}

-note2self- jrm7262 foresaw what I was going to think today (telepathic and precognisant) and got the results of what I was going to find out the hard way, that is, powering the eeepc with non proprietary batteries but instead with standard AA batteries will fail. If I can project into the past then thanks.]

[Revision 20081201 :: Purchased a second panel, doubling my generating capacity to a spec total of 26W. Also the second panel seems to yield about 10 per cent more. I expect that I will be able to get more operation from my laptop, router and lights, though still compromising using all of the above some of the time or some of the above all of the time.]

[Revision 20090119 :: Purchased a third panel. I am still short on capacity, but also have budget constraints; this costs money.]

[Revision 20090401 :: Purchased 3 more panels, to a total of 6.]

[Revision 20090414 :: Lately the sky has been cloudy often which is also very unhelpful. Also I am awaiting delivery of a car charger for my eeepc and a 5W 12V LED which should allow me to eliminate the inverter from normal operation (the inverter drains at .25A, equivalent to the Jansjo)]

[Revision 20090702 :: winter months, current readings per panel .5 + .4 + .4 + .4 + .27 + .27 = 2.24A . It looks like 2 panels degraded.]

[Revision 20100508 :: current layout facing the sun, 12V CREE LED and an old LED, and a netbook 12V power adapter (all 12V, definitely no inverter) -- This project, this working prototype, at this rate will never be fit for recommendation. However compromised this configuration is (the chosen parts, and how they are setup) I have no intention of scrapping it, because it works for me, the resources had been spent, and there is nothing on the Want list to take it's place.]

[Revision 20100511 9:30am :: autumn months, current readings per panel .37 + .22 + .22 + .33 + .28 + .33 (sum 1.75A) measured total current 1.56. And then I washed them with a hose and broom and measured total current 1.72  (I don't remember the last time did any maintenance). I regret not taking any measurements during the last summer, but it is a bit of a hassle with undoing the cables and plugs. ]

[Revision 20110207 :: got a deep cycle battery, 75Ah, I got it on sale for $127 at Adelong. The earlier car battery's charge capacity had been destroyed by deep cycling.]

  • making my own electricity since 20081027; my system consists of 6x 13W solar panels (via kmart, second generation I believe), deep cycle 12V battery, 12V 5W MR16 ww 56deg LED light or drop in replacement (via ebay), 12V netbook PSU (via ebay); but i cheat at also take mains when it suits me  [20110531 this experiment is on suspended to do with domicile change]

[Revision 20120217 :: uninstall -- This system no longer first with my lifestyle.]
[Revision 20120309 :: free via friends with things, http://friendswiththings.com.au/452/solars]
[Revision 20120420 :: via comment from Eric]
Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "Jackeroo solar generator via kmart":
Hi Bob
Nearly 2 years have passed and I thought to say g'day. I Now have 4 of these myself and have done some camping to photograph etc while living in the tent. I discovered that It would work my radio small laptop power 2 fluro lights and charge my phone and camera batteries no problem.
For a total of 54 watts I believe that I did well. I appreciate your blogs as it gave me an idea of what I would need - the only difference was that I hooked it all to a 5 in 1 power box which included an inverter but only 18AH of battery. no problem as I charged all AA batts and laptop through the days. On good days I would get 3.5 amps.
I wish to live off grid at home for 3 months and so have decided to buy 2x 100 watt panels and a larger batt for the excercise need more powa:) so I will sell these panels at 1/2 price to help with funding or look for others like the ones I have. Kmart no longer sell this type.
Thanks again for being my mentor :)

Hello Eric,

Thank you for taking the time to write kind words. 

Just like you, I too had gained a good amount of practical experience from this solar technology and off grid lifestyle adventure. I don't know about you, but during the high point I did actually think that this was going to go on indefinitely -- so I did not consider having to move home where it would not be practical to have these panels and system.

I wish you the best of luck in doing what you believe in, and to not get disheartened by short setbacks. We learn from what each other, as well as all the new things that we run into as technology improves.


Saturday, September 20, 2008

Stephen Donaldson - The Last Chronicles

With my bag of non essential groceries and nothing to do I was waiting for my bus, simple. It soon became apparent that it would be a one hour wait. I decided to pop into Borders to pick up a book or whatnot, which I never normally do. Mister Impulsive, I know.

The thing is: I don't read. Or somewhat more precisely, the last time that I purchased a book to read for fun was some time during a previous decade, before the internets as we know them were invented. I suppose that I always suspected that I would have a restart with books, and hence today was deterministically inevitable, a convergence of sorts.

BTW, I did read the other volumues of the Chronicles up to this one, as well as the Gap series. Also, I used to see myself as a bit of a big fan, though today not so much.


[Revision 2008-09-27 14:58:12 : I already read this book or part of it, but must have not impressed. I do not recall the story at all but there are unmistakable bits so far (up to page 30) that are familiar beyond de ja vu. I suspect that the supposed last time I had it I chose to not continue it - must have been picky.]

[Revision 20090508 : finished reading it, finally. The ending is nuts.]

Parramatta Farmers Market

At the risk of damning it all to hell I will say nothing negative about the Parramatta Farmers Market, to which I finally managed to get. Suffice to say that I kept walking.

I must make more future effort of getting to the Sydney Farmers Market.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

local council election

> friend

> friend, from before but suddenly posted to blogger

[Today was one long tired day, though this photo does not show the full impact that was to be had later. My electoral official duties are officially over. ugh.]

Thursday, September 11, 2008


I could not resist any longer, despite no substantial need for yet another light in the house, and anticipated buyer's remorse to do with ewaste, I got my first LED desk lamp which will also serve as my main room light - JANSJÖ, aka Ikea Jansjo LED light. This also puts me one step onward away from mercury enriched compact floros and even further away from the unmentionable incandescents. I think this is progress.

Also made my first pilgrimage to The Promised Land that is IKEA via public transport.

I would guess that the lamp uses a Luxeon Rebel LED, but not sure at this point without ripping it apart for examination or more web research.

[Revision 20081011: Just an arbitrary revision; thought I would add a pic of the LED in real life because why not, also I am a fan]

[Revision 20081106 : For any pundits out there, here is a photo of the power supply with specifications inscribed - model ELP03PA1-A constant current DC600mA 2.6V to 3.5V]

Friday, August 29, 2008

Sydney Farmers Market

The Sydney Farmers Market is held every Friday between 10AM and 2:30PM at Cook Phillip Square in front of Saint Mary's Cathedral. www.hawkesburyharvest.com.au

Having had missed the inaugural episode, I did make it to there eventually. Also, managed to fill up my bag with some nice spreads (jam, chutney, honey), baked goods and produce. Good yield.

BTW, it's true what they say about Farmers Markets -- link

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Lucy Speaks

It is commonly accepted that a pig has the intelligence of a 3 year old child.

A few weeks ago I signed up for membership to Animals Australia, an animal rights advocacy group.

I am also happy to have contributed twicely (so far) to the Lucy Speaks radio campaign.

Although I personally do not listen to the radio, I do believe that the adverts are a worthwhile endeavor.

Animals Australia seems like the nearest thing that we have to PETA, which I am also a fan of.

I would encourage any like minded person to support these ads. Money equals air-time, and air-time wins hearts and minds.

If you are thinking about it then acting now is the best time to do something about it.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Fridolf - cradle to grave

I remember, it was all w00t when I got this chair about 18 months ago, knowing full well that my consumer choice was to a significant part based on what I think is low impact carbon neutral lifecycle or something approximating that. Today the time had come that this item had outlived it's usefulness - it's time had past.

Chopped it up for firewood. It was a clean burn with minimal smoke, somewhat to my surprise. The canvas seat and back were good fire starters, not needing any accelerant to be poored over it to get it going. The hot coals baked a sweet potato.


Ikea Fridolf chair

[revision 20080711 being the following...]

Anonymous Anonymous said...
"It was a clean burn with minimal smoke, somewhat to my surprise." I don't get the hypocisy of having a go at the egg scammers when you burn this in order to make some idiot piece of on-line wit. It looked like it had no "finish" or coating on it? Think again, mate. How low impact is purchasing an imported by ship from far away object that last only 18 months. Fair dinkum, mate, yer ain't an idiot just a half wit. Re. eggs read Choice.
6:53 PM

Blogger Bob said...
Your accusation sounds broad and I am not a mind reader but I will try. Firstly, I am not proud of burning anything, but this was an event that did occur so why not play with documenting it. On "only 18 months", hoarding accumulations is not my thing, but I do think that I am reasonably practical. Leaving it out on the nature strip for a passer by who might want did occur to me, but could have had fallout if the timing was guessed wrongly. I do tend to a pile of compost, but this item was not compostable like inedible produce parts that can safely and easily integrate into the garden; it is wood, and hence takes too long to break down in the ground on the timescale of me being at my current domicile. Then there was the idea of begging people to take it, or placing it in the garbage, but also no. So then there was burning, which seemed compatible with the location and the material. The burning of contemporary plant material is valid in a closed eco system and happens regularly with or without people; I did not burn a rubber tire, Aussie or "imported by ship". And on "hypocrisy", if I am making the correct connection, I would ave a go at cruelty any day, and never gladly. I will accept your criticism as not entirely well thought out, though I am somewhat glad for your participation. At the risk of waffling farther maybe unhelpfully, I would suggest examining what seems to be your moral hubris re waste, where you are abstracted to someone who simply makes funding available for the movement of materials in pellet form, and see what materials, sources, and systemic activities you approve of or frown upon. Also a link to your own nest of interestingnesses to help render a picture of what drives you would go further than "anonymous said...", unless you identify yourself as anonymous in the internet meme sense.
9:04 PM

11:18 PM

Still thinking about that criticism re burning of an imported chair after only 18 months that I wrote a response to. It does hit a weak point on me that I was discounting but knew it was there all along. Never mind the setting in which the decision was to purchase was made, like the need at the time for the place or the forward planning for the specific item; it seemed sound and had clocked up an almost commercial number of hours in it's somewhat short life, which is to say that I got amazingly good value out of it I think.

On not importing and keeping local, how local? Same city, same suburb, same house, 1 step radius from a fixed location? Where to draw the arbitrary line that can withstand a local vs global argument. DIY only? To use only re-purposed consumer packaging that is already in one's possession, and one is to avoid consumer packaging altogether? Found stuff? Is every person to be an economic bubble where material does not pass? Taking it to an extreme local, and if scaled to apply to everybody then this undermines all economic activity and does not bolster a credible position, nor is it validated by enduring real life cases; not helpful. Even a charming dumpster diving lifestyle depends on economic input into items stumbled upon.

Nevertheless for some reason I, like supposedly many others, am in favor of locally made stuff though not too exact on how local or why or why not: city foods, country goods, global information and technology, and making arbitrary exceptions case by case as long as I am satisfied.

Hmm... Experiencing internal grumblings.

How much of garbage as I know it is stuff that was fine until just before it was designated as garbage? It's not really garbage at all but rather excess consumer products. Never mind any truism that all products are destined to be garbage outside of only a relatively short blip of time when they are cherished to some extent by someone.

Suddenly I deemed a portion of my already relatively minimalist lifestyle excessive. Going forward I should aim for zero privately purchased furniture. And all discards are to be put to the curb for passes to pick at - his is not new. However, it is not to apply to commercial items that one uses for work as that would have an absurdly detrimental effect on a typical viable livelihood - banks, shops, government, hotels looking like out of mad max and staffed by hobos. But for self's personal use, reuse, repurpose, and DYI! This being for household objects for people without children; in my unrelated opinion, bringing up children requires a conventional model so as to not defect them by unproven and potentially fraught lifestyles.

How will you know of you don't try? Alternative lifestyles are a plenty. This one borrows heavily from the past (current location) and present (other locations) hence tests promisingly when or where supply of was or is restricted. Just cropping out another part of my consumerism legacy value.

All else remains the same, though I expect it to be impacted in odd yet to be seen ways.

Until the next regression towards dematerialization, I think this is progress.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

push mower

Purchased a push mower, via Bunnings for $79.

The anticipated benefits were to be the simplicity of it all, no characteristic loud noise and foul smell, no need for fuel, and lots of happy eco points.

Assembled it. Mowed with it.

The result is a somewhat disappointing experience. During the inaugural mow the blades kept jamming on thick patches of lush grass. By the time I finished doing the small back yard, front yard, and nature strip by the road was feeling pretty sweaty and slightly mucho, which were unintended consequences.

On reflection maybe I should have gotten a mains powered electric mower - there is a lesson here. Maybe it was so much work and frustration because the lawn was too neglected and thick for a maiden attempt with such a sensitive device. Maybe if done with good frequency then it would be easier with better results.

Also after completing some assembly I postponed the tightening of screws on the handle bars assembly, and the nuts had come off at some point during use without the result becoming known until too late. Now there is a spare parts issue to sort out.

[Revision 20080821 : no regrets, this was a good choice]

[Revision 20081223 : Regrets. Lack of maintenance? Grass too out of hand? I don't know. I tried sharpening the blades but they keep jamming with grass. I give up. It seems to take more energy or a different kind of movement then what this device applies. I do not accept mowing as a high maintenance issue. At this point I think that I will either purchase some 2 stroke fuel for the stored conventional mower or try an electric unit - not sure yet. The push mower, the lump of mostly steel, is going in the garbage. Lesson learned.]

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Green Fire by Ian Cohen conversion to ebook via scan OCR PDF

Green Fire by Ian CohenA few weeks ago Ian and I started talking about the idea of digitizing his book. After describing the feasibility of the project and making it available free of charge as a PDF, he agreed that it was a good idea and gave the go-ahead.

The project followed these steps:
  • take a copy of the book and guillotine off the spine
  • scan: feed the book into an office multi function scanner via ADF, set for double sided scanning, 300dpi, TIF, b/w optimized for text, A5; the machine processed them in under 1 hour in several batches
  • pages with photos were individually scanned as color JPG; this was slightly more fiddly then the above
  • photoshop photo pages; crop, optimize contrast, clean up, save as greyscale or color
  • OCR: I used Tesseract from Google; once I got the process down pat I made a custom shell script which contained a tesseract command for each page/TIF, times the number of files to be processed; this took maybe half hour on my slow PC
  • assemble the text files and photos into a document; this process took about one morning, not counting fiddling
  • edit: make the new text presentable, insert an automated table of contents with the use of headings, correct OCR errors, change indents and quotes for consistency; this took about 2 weeks part time
  • save as pdf; I used OpenOffice Writer for the above step, which also allows the pdf conversion to dial up or down the photo compression and turn a native 20Mb file into 3.5Mb

Incidentally, this project started after I started reading my autographed copy of the book.

Green Fire is a first hand account into activism and the Australian green movement which now spans decades. The chapter about The Politics of Poo was especially humorous. I am a total noob to all of it for reasons outside of the scope of this blog entry, but the book is probably a must read for any Australians interested in protest actions.

Download the book via iancohennsw.blogspot.com

Monday, March 31, 2008

Pro Tibet protest 2008

Today's protests have been timed to coincide with the handover of the Olympic torch to Chinese representatives. - ABC News

Earlier today, went to a pro Tibet protest at Martin Place, Sydney. A small but symbolic crowd gathered. The featured speaker was Dalai Lama's representative in Australia, Tenzing Atisha.

To zoom, click on a photo to open it via picasa, click on the magnify glass icon at the upper right of the photo, then you can pan around a photo.

TODO: Make a handsome tshirt with a print of this Tibet flag impression. Then take a photo of self and friends in front of the Chinese Consulate while wearing it and upload it.

(flag mod of artwork via http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Flag_of_Tibet.svg )

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Can-O-Worms compost bin

I got an almost new compost bin thanks to a friend. Installed in on the balcony. At this point I did not put any worms into it because there is not enough stuff inside, but maybe later. Composting food scraps is hand-in-glove compatible with my other current practice that is a raw food vegan diet. Since most of my garbage is organic, like apple cores and banana peels, the worms are gonna love it.

Now, I will produce almost no garbage. The bulk of my garbage will be paper junk mail which already goes into the recycling bin for resource reclamation, although what happens after it gets collected by the council pickup truck is invisible to me so I can only hope that it is the right thing, sorry I digress. This Can O Worms is gonna be Awesome!

  • www.google.com.au/search?q=can+o+worms- The Can-O-Worms is an odourless, user friendly system that allows anyone to participate in recycling. Whether you live in an apartment or have a backyard
  • Note2self: still need to find a way to make my own electricity and a sweater, and my life will be complete.
  • tips from prospect.sa.gov.au

[Revision 20080404: Full! It is time to empty the bottom tray.]