Monthly archives: April 2015

Indoor Farms- a vegetable patch in a cupboard

These indoor farms look cool. They’re not hydroponics, which the builder thinks is too complex for general adoption, but use a “smart soil” to regulate water use and nutrient release.

I don’t think they’d work in the world I’m building for my current story, but I could imagine them in some of the better off parts of the world I created for Sounds of Soldiers.

Source: This Indoor Farm Can Bring Fresh Produce to Food Deserts | WIRED

Chosen Ones and Source

Chosen-cvr-200Chosen Ones / Source is available through Amazon and Smashwords.

Two short tales putting a spin on some common stories.

Chosen Ones

What happens to teenaged heroes once they’ve fulfilled the prophecies and saved the world? Well, the lost prince of Atlantis is going to speed dating events in Manhattan, and having a surprising meeting.


The stories all suggest that the US military would get the cool alien space tech, and we’d have to trust them to do the right thing with it. More likely, the recipients would be random ordinary folk- like a guy out shopping and the woman he’s trying to chat up.

Pity the poor, picked on Kippers

I didn’t watch the opposition leaders’ debate on Thursday, but I’m guessing that it didn’t go so well for head Kipper Nigel Farage. I can tell this by the number of UKIPies whining about the “Left-leaning” bias of the studio audience. Here, for instance, is Salford UKIP’s moan. They complain that

Of the 200-strong audience, about 58 were Conservative or Ukip supporters while about 102 backed left-leaning parties – Labour, the Lib Dems, SNP, Plaid Cymru or the SNP. The rest – 40 – described themselves as undecided.

The Daily UKIP (Express) put it that 2/3rds of the audience supported left (ish, in the case of Labour) political parties because, scandalously, they had been recruited to be as close as possible to the political make up of the country as a whole. It seems no-one has told Nigel that he isn’t the most popular person in the country, the second coming of Clarkson, from whose fundament the sun will never set. Despite the horrendous bunch we’ve suffered for the last five years, the country is mostly to the left of Nige.

And if the anger against reality wasn’t enough, the numbers don’t even support the complaints anyway. This was the opposition leaders’ debate. 4/5ths of those leaders were from left(ish) leaning parties yet, only 2/3rds of the audience was to the left. Farage’s constituency (the purple gang are just Tories with higher blood pressure, after all) was over represented, as far as the parties in the room went.

If UKIP can’t handle the fact that a lot of people disagree with their Dear Leader, then perhaps they’re better off not getting any power.

(Full disclosure- I’m standing for Salford council as a Green in the Langworthy ward. You should vote for me. If you’re not in Langworthy, you should vote for your own Green candidate as a proxy way of voting for me. :-P)

Making Alcohol Fuel With a Solar Still

So I was writing a scene earlier today, based upon the idea of a solar powered still producing ethanol for fuel. By the power of teh internet, I have found that it is possible, and that people have already built there own- Making Alcohol Fuel With a Solar Still – Renewable Energy – MOTHER EARTH NEWS.

Vote for Policies

Unlike the polls that the papers and TV news always report on, Vote for Policies is an assessment of what policies the people of Britain would vote for. It’s possible I’m biased- because Green policies are much more popular than the polls would have you believe*- but I think the site’s results should be part of the wider media coverage of the election. Rather than seeing what today’s message failure has done to Ed or Dave’s popularity, how about seeing what people think of their policies.

Take the test, it could be enlightening. Also, it has now been brought up to date with all the released manifestos.

*As I write this, the Green Party is third, after Labour and the Lib Dems. Add the Scottish Greens to their rating and they edge, just, into second place.

I hope the security services aren’t recording my YouTube history

So, I’m working on the next book to be published under the Garth Owen pen name. The working title is Pickers and the high concept pitch is “Mad Max goes green.” Having broken it down into chapters and major scenes, then looked at my current writing pace, it’s not going to be ready by the middle of next month to tie in to the release of Fury Road.

A slightly longer synopsis- Pickers* wander through the (mostly) abandoned badlands after a climate change driven collapse, finding old equipment and technology that they can rescue, repurpose or recycle, selling it on to settlements. The story is about a family of pickers- father, two daughters and the husband of one of the daughters- who have been chasing a particularly precious treasure trove, and the journey they take once they find directions to its location. The treasure isn’t oil, or even water, and the action takes place in Spain and France, rather than unspecified desert.

I’m setting it up such that guns and ammunition aren’t yet vanishingly rare, but other, older weapon technologies are more likely to be used first. So I’ve been watching quite a few YouTube videos about bows and catapults. Which is how I found my new hero Joerg Sprave.

Joerg’s a jolly bald fellow with a crazy imagination, lots of skills, and one of the scariest laughs ever**. He builds things like pump action pencil launchers.

Or, at the other end of the spectrum, a machete launching “crossbow”.

It was an aside in one of his Slingshot Channel videos that inspired me to arm a secondary character with a catapult that she uses to launch darts fashioned from nails. I’m not sure how many of his other creations I could realistically use in the story, but you never know.

I’ve also been researching stuff such as thermite and napalm, but those probably aren’t things I should mention on an open channel.

*I admit it, the title’s inspired by the TV show American Pickers.

** It’s not the laugh itself that’s scary. The laugh is rather jovial, and occasionally gleeful. It’s just the way that he lets it out just after demonstrating another piece of destructive hardware.

An architectural wander under the arches

I used to pass the little cluster of Mayfield units regularly when I lived in East Manchester, but never got around to photographing them. I took these pictures a couple of weeks ago, but only just remembered them. Some of the units were behind temporary fencing, and a licencing application zip tied to one of them suggests they’re going to be used for one of the events in this year’s Manchester International Festival.

An architectural wander around Langworthy 1

I went for a wander around the local area this afternoon to chat with some Green Party supporters. On the way, I found some interesting little corners of the ward.

Chaseley Road

Chaseley Road has this rather impressive gate at one end, which is a neat way to control traffic flow. I didn’t see if there was a matching one at the other end of the street, because I wandered down a little path towards some green space.

Salford Observatory

Where I found this. It’s the Salford Astronomical Societies Observatory. Not quite as cool as the observatory on top of the UMIST main building, but still quite a neat find.

Buile Hill Park greenhouse skeleton

Down the hill some more, I came to Buile Hill Park. When I worked in Irlams O’ The Heights, I’d cycle past the park on my commute, but never bothered going in. There was Buile Hill Hall itself, which I’ll have to go back and get photos of one day, and this impressive skeleton of a wood framed greenhouse.

Buile Hill Park greenhouse skeleton

Buile Hill Park greenhouse skeleton

It’s part of the Buile Hill Park Training and Garden Centre, and I think I can get closer shots if I visit some day when the centre is open, so that’s another reason to head back soonish.

I Will Eat Your Soul

Not from today’s wander, but I found this little bit of art adjustment in Chimney Pot Park on a similar jaunt on Friday.

I, for one, welcome our new ant overlords

I couldn’t read this without thinking of the Simpsons episode where Homer goes to space.

Eight colonies of common ants were flown up to the ISS by Nasa in 2014 in order that researchers might study the effects of microgravity on their behaviour and movements. A study published this week in Frontiers of Ecology and Evolution details the results of these experiments.

The researchers say that despite struggling, the ants demonstrated an “impressive ability” to walk on surfaces aboard the ISS. More remarkable, however, was their ability to regain contact with the surface when they started to tumble about in the air. “Sometimes an ant attached itself to another ant to climb back down to the surface. Once back at the surface an ant appeared to hold on to it by flattening its body toward the surface,” the study reads.

via Ants in space prove adept at battling microgravity (Wired UK).