The following posts have no fixed theme or style, but I hope you enjoy reading them!

Sunday, 25 November 2007

Advice #16

Don't blame your daughter

Some clutter

I hear a song and write the lyrics down as I listen so I can read them all at once. But I end up having scraps of paper all over my room with lines from songs that I like, and they cause clutter. And although my room is always full of clutter, it would be better if it wasn't there. So here are a couple, and I'll throw away my scraps of paper.

"Misery comes and lovers go
I lose myself and sometimes I don't know
She says I've always told you so
But I'll stay with you forever
Angel of Sadness"
Angel of Sadness - A Camp

"I'm sorry
Two words I always think
After you're gone
When I realize I was acting all wrong"
So Sorry - Feist

I only wrote down the first one today, the other one I discovered a few months ago, but it's very true to life. Luckily people are usually very forgiving when I 'act all wrong'

Wednesday, 21 November 2007

Carbon footprint

I'm not going to ask you to calculate your carbon footprint. I have not done it for myself, because I can't find an accurate way of doing it, and I don't entirely trust these "take 2 minutes to ask 5 questions and we'll tell you" websites.

However, I was interested that the front of Walkers crisps now has a little logo telling me that 75g Carbon dioxide was emitted for my pack of crisps. This time, before I thought about the accuracy of the figure - which is coming later - I thought to myself, I have NO idea how much that is - let's think about that for a second.

We can work it out scientifically. Do you remember GCSE science? Let's try a quick calculation (it won't hurt, promise). If you remember, we work in moles. A mole is just a number of atoms that is convenient. Carbon dioxide is CO2, so in each mole of CO2 there is one mole of C and 2 moles of O. A mole of C weighs 12 grams and a a mole of O weighs 16 grams, so we have 44 grams for a mole of CO2. My 75g of CO2 is just over one and a half moles. That's about 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 (10^24) atoms, occupying about 35 litres. OK, so atoms are so small that I can't tell if that's a number that I should worry about, but 35 litres of CO2! Just for a pack of crisps?! That seems like loads! I can only assume that all goods we buy are like that, so we must generate roomfulls each day. To me it seems ridiculous that we can produce so much, how can that possibly work out if everyone is doing that?

How accurate is this figure of 75g then? Maybe it has already been taken into account, maybe not, but apart from producing the crisp and the packet, there is the transport from the factory to the shops, the possibility of people driving to the shops to buy the crisps and the cost of disposal of the rubbish. Cost of disposal includes bin lorries, rubbish sorting and decomposition of the material used in the packaging which may or may not itself produce carbon dioxide(?). Looking in even more detail at the bin lorries, they must deal with producing all of their goods like the lorries themselves and the fluorescent uniforms (although if people wear them each day maybe they buy fewer clothes?), they have to maintain the lorries, buy petrol, the employees have to get to work, they have to send out notices when bin days are changed, and also hand out bins, which must themselves be produced. Where do you stop? How can you say that my bag of crisps has a 75g carbon footprint? Does responsibility for the bag and it's footprint pass to the waste disposal people at some point? The whole calculation is much too large for anyone to find a meaningful figure in my opinion.

According to Gordon Brown yesterday, the UK produces 654 million tonnes of carbon dioxide per year. That's a lot more litres. In fact, it's over 300,000,000,000,000 litres. If you sat in the middle of a ball with that much volume, you would have to go about a marathon distance to get to the edge (43km, 27 miles). Bear in mind that carbon dioxide is naturally found in concentrations of one part in 4000 and you see that the amount of carbon dioxide we are producing will have a major effect on the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

No wonder something's going on.

Saturday, 10 November 2007

Advice #15

Throw out your leperskin coat, it's immoral and your friends will disown you when they find out you have one

Tuesday, 6 November 2007

Bonfire Night

I have been in university for several years now and yet this year was the first year I went to the main city firework display on bonfire night. I love bonfire night and it was a bit strange that I had not been before. When I left the house though, I realised that I didn't want to be a student on bonfire night. For me, bonfire night has always been and will always be a family occasion. Bonfires are something that I have come to associate with my Dad. It was a regular occurrence to come home after school to find the house locked and Dad at the bottom of the garden adding freshly trimmed branches to a smouldering fire. Having got over my frustration at being locked out, I would put on some wellies and help put wood on the fire, enjoying the smell of the smoke and the warmth of the fire. My hands and arms stung from scratches off the wood, my eyes stung from the smoke and my toes ached from the cold. Stand too close and you'd get smoke and ash all over you, stand to far away and you'd freeze. I hate the connotations with the dark green coloured area of any local supermarket when I say this, but it was a wonderfully organic experience.

I remember bonfire nights clearly too. One year we had it in our own garden with some kids who my Dad was tutor to at school. The fireworks were cheap and probably a bit damp, so they didn't work too well, but it just made it more exciting when a roman candle actually worked for a while!
A different time we went to a quaker's house, where there was a massive bonfire. We were enjoying some food, chatting, staring at the fire. As I stood there, my side nearest the fire prickled with the heat, while the other was numb with cold.
One time a family who we knew with kids called Kim and Becky hosted a bonfire night celebration. I remember the paths round the garden being lit with candles, bobbing for apples, going inside for a paper plate with some buffet food, and of course the huge bonfire and fireworks.
One year we went to a bonfire at the school where my Dad taught, and tried to make out the faces of the school children who I knew, even though they were up to ten years older than me, in the flickering light.
Probably the earliest bonfire night I remember was the year we went to a house with a boy called Sholto. I don't remember much, but the whole family came and shared the experience of watching the powerful flames in the middle, flowing at a hundred miles an hour round the charred logs, roaring and shining pure heat at us. It was magical.

There were other bonfire nights through the years of course, but every time, bonfire night has been a family occasion for me. It's amazing how you can bond with anyone young or old, just by watching a fire in fascination, as it dances and billows.

Today there were lots of families at the celebrations as well as others. I would prefer to be in a family there than in a student group in their little bubble where everything happens at breakneck speed over a phone or internet connection, or in a bunch of schoolkids dashing round the fairground. No, for me, time stands still next to a bonfire. Part of me longs to be alone, part of me wants to share the moment quietly with someone who I feel completely at ease with, maybe my sister or my uncle. For once I was glad to be in universityland on my own, I wasn't looking through the crowd for people I knew, I was just floating backwards and forwards through time, leaning over the railings towards the bonfire.