About ContentRambler

Part time blogger, employee, mum, enjoying rambles around the country of content, social networks, and blogging. Marketing tourist.

Energy issues: reduce, replace, get stuck?

“The human body burns energy at a rate of about 100 watt.” Just recently I read an article in which this was stated. I already knew it – at least, I had read it before – but I’d forgotten. The author also pointed out that a modest car (I forgot which model, but definitely no SUV, pick-up truck or anything like it) uses energy at a rate of 50.000 watt. That’s 500 times as much.

Ever since then I’ve had this, well, mantra stuck inside my head buzzing by every now and then:

“A car burns energy at the rate of 500 humans.”

  • 100 watt, that used to be as little as one 60-watt light bulb plus one smaller 40-watt light bulb. You couldn’t even light your house with that energy. One human, one room with the lights on. Heating not included. Unless you count the heat generated by those inefficient ‘light’ or rather ‘heat’ bulbs.
  • 50.000 watt, that means the energy of 500 humans to propel your miserable behind to your job and back. I commute by train so I’d need to calculate a bit to find out how many human energy units my commute costs. Still, it paints a really odd picture, those 500 tiny humans (TH) powering the commute of one person.

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Weeds and seeds

So I got this allotment. The permaculture way I suppose would be to haul in a ton of material and cover the soil completely with layer upon layer to suppress weeds until they die through a lack of sunlight.
Without that amount of composting material, however, I soon found all kinds of stuff emerging from the soil.

Something old, something new – seeds and plants

One thing I’m really happy about is my herbs. And a couple of plants I didn’t plan for. My predecessor on this allotment let everything go to seed and afterward everything on site was dug into the soil. So I got some free onions which I transplanted for their second year in the soil. And quite a few coriander plants spread all over the site.

Then there are a couple of plants (yes, weeds) I don’t mind – if there are a few of them. However a few isn’t what I got. Every bit of root of the stinging nettles on the site sprouted. So far I think I’ve pulled up 4 bucketloads of stinging nettles and grasses…hang on… 5… but it’s down from a bucket a day a bucket per week. Just about. And that’s just stinging nettles and grasses.

And then there’s a plant I once looked up and it appears to be called Lady’s thumb, of which the leaves are apparently edible. Unfortunately I was raised knowing a limited number of vegetables which were readily available at the supermarket and not too much hassle to prepare for dinner (that’s my guess). So trying out new stuff is something I’m very cautious about and there’s veggies in the shops I haven’t even got round to tasting, let alone stuff that grows spontaneously all over the place. Since this Lady’s thumb isn’t my biggest worry, I leave the plants to dry on top of the soil. Horsetail doesn’t seem to be on the list of edibles… more’s the pity.

I did get some plants to grow – finally! I’ve got chamomile, thyme, dill growing happily underneath a couple of young apple trees. And seleriac. I grew a couple of lychee plants from their – well – beanlike seeds. Two of them have survived the transplant into the allotment so far.

And I’ve got leek flowers to look forward to, from leftover leek stems I planted last year. I had hoped to add a picture here, but I’m still waiting for them to flower. Which is why I’ve added a couple of photos of my (mainly) tulips under the hedge – I dug some more into the spaces underneath the hedge this year, which turned out great since the new tulips produced their blooms around the time the ‘veteran’ tulips had gone over. The anemone was a nice surprise.

   

Respect for weeds… oh yes indeed

All things considered, I greatly respect weeds for their resilience and speed of growth the moment any rain falls. It would be easier to like them if their numbers were fewer though… after I planted a few young plants and watered them daily for a week because we had virtually no rainfall, guess what I got? In less than half a square metre there were dozens, no, well over a hundred little weed seedlings popping up. In just that small patch. And I’m not even sure these are edible.
Apart from that, it’s strawberry season over here! And I got a couple of wonderfully sweet raspberries too, from a bush that delivers fruit from june (to my surprise) well into november. I wonder if there are several raspberry shrubs hiding in the same patch?
Plants are amazing.

Plum jam paradise to plumburst

plum tree

Our little plum tree, after the first plums had been picked.

Summer is such a great time to be outdoors and watch the plums ripen.

Which is exactly what I did for about two months – apart from trying to get my allotment strawberries out from between loads of weeds (well, grass actually. But not the nice stay-in-one-place grass you get in lawns. The other, ambitious, conquer-the world kind. My mistake).

And one day a plum was lying on the terrace. Ripe as anything. Plum harvest time!

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Value for time – what content is worth your while?

In any shop it’s always been like this: you’d be looking for value for money. And nowadays big online and offline stores are trying to give you (the impression you’re getting) just that.

But what about the content we consume? We don’t pay for that as a rule – or do we?

Apart from the whole “you’re paying with information so advertisers can zoom in on your unspoken needs” on the basis that your (online) actions speak louder than your words.

(If it comes to that, I need to do more online because frankly, the image of my age group plus gender I get through the advertisements vying for my attention is depressing. Apparently, as a 40+ female, I’m supposed to hanker after skin peelings (no thanks!), to be overweight (not even close), and like knitted clothes (well – okay. But I blame at least one, white, romantic bordering on cute knitted spring vest that’s been hanging in my closet for 6 years now on early pregnancy hormones).)

Value for your time?

The biggest sum we pay is the time we spend. It’s a combination of click-through (time to open a page on any website) plus actual ‘dwell time’ on the page. Mark Schaefer mentioned just this week on his blog that:

  1. people still find time for long reads (long form articles)
  2. that these long texts actually get shared more often than short ones
  3. that people are more likely to view content shared by their friends.

From my own experience (that is one person, I know) I agree that long texts are more shareable.

If you’re to click on a link and wait for a page to open, you expect that whatever you find is going to be worth your while, right? So if, after viewing any kind of content, you wonder if you should share it, what exactly are your criteria? I would expect content to be any of the following:

  • funny
  • beautiful
  • cute
  • interesting

If that content ticks several boxes at once that gets us into the Owww, Wow, what? or Awesome! mode (severely funny may also do it, but that might also sound like Ewww – yuk!).

This is probably why sunsets and kittens and people doing silly things are right up there with the must-have long reads (whether that’s neurology, climate, poetry, or fiction. Personally, I’m just about to finish re-reading a very long text on paper, which is in fact a book by Terry Pratchett).

Delivering on a promise

More time spent, the more you expect some kind of reward for the trouble you’re taking. After all, you could be spending your time on something much more fun or useful (rewarding) than reading this stuff, right? That’s what I try to tell others whenever I feel their content just doesn’t deliver. And it can be such a small thing. Sometimes there are just two or three lines missing that would wrap the whole thing up nicely instead of leaving the reader hanging (in suspense, possibly. Or, perhaps, in some measure of anger). You don’t want anyone to end up feeling cheated. So you share stuff that is worthwhile in some way. Because if you waste your friends’ time, that doesn’t help your online street cred one bit.

So… do you keep your friends amused? Informed? Or awestruck by the beauty of nature? It truly doesn’t matter. Relevance (like for example beauty) is in the eye of the beholder.

More from me to be expected in between gardening in my garden, in my sub-rented bit of an allotment, and the nearby park and our windowsill greenhouse. The offline green stuff keeps growing!

The magic of big numbers and small changes

Winter is a perfect time for reading up on all sorts of things. Which in turn is the perfect excuse for curling up on the sofa and not moving an inch for the next three hours. It’s the perfect pastime:

A Cat's Day Off, by A. Davey (who has, incidentally, some other great pictures on Flickr)

A Cat’s Day Off, by A. Davey (Click to view this and more of his pictures on Flickr)

Just a couple of days ago, I ran into a curious thing about numbers. In this case, numbers that reflect the growth of the global human population.

Knowledge… and the thing about population numbers

Far back in time, numbers are partly (or even mostly) based on educated guesses. It’s estimated that about 2000 years ago, the total population on earth of homo sapiens (or at least the species that is assumed, by individuals of that same species, to be able to think), is estimated to have been somewhere around 300 million. Rome hit the 1 million mark around that time.

The table contains a set of years for which the population was calculated and/or estimated (like I said, the further back you go, the more guesswork this involves). It also contains the number of births per 1000 individuals. The fourth column contains the number of births between two consecutive benchmarks.

As intriguing as the table (which I found in Gurteen’s Knowledge Newsletter) was, I thought it was lacking something. So I added two more columns, figuring:

  1. If you have the years and the population size (more or less), you can calculate how many years there are between every two consecutive benchmarks.
  2. Once you have that, you could even use the number of births between benchmarks and the number of years between benchmarks to come up with…

The number of births per year. And when you see those numbers, you realize two sets of numbers are developing in opposite directions.

Population_Growth

Population growth. Black text from David Gurteen’s Knowledge Newsletter; red columns added by me. Click to enlarge.

More or less

  • The number of births per 1000 humans per year has gone down in no uncertain way. Actually, I’m guessing it’s even more extreme than it looks, because death rates among young children were very high for a very long time (and among mothers).
  • Meanwhile, the absolute number of births per year has gone up as steadily. There are now enough representatives of the human species that not all need to have children at all to sustain the species as a whole – at this rate, only half of all humans will need to reproduce on a moderate scale to keep the population growing.

So… what are the odds of 7 billion human beings having no impact on their environment? (Nope, I’m not adding examples.) On the other hand: if 1 million people decide to rip their lawns out and putting in plants that provide shade and cool spots in the garden instead of trying to keep all those lawns green (and the air conditioning roaring) in another sweltering summer,* that will have an impact, too.

* Not summer around here. We tend to get wet no matter the season. I looked it up last autumn and my hunch was right: we’re in the perfect region to get seriously soaked (as confirmed by 10 year average rainfall stats). I’m not going to risk growing grapes 🙂

 

Home town picture

Switching from one team to another has taken up loads of my time… getting involved in all sorts of other activities, even more. I do apologize to my blog and to you, for staying away this long. Sorry.

Before even more time goes by, I really wanted to share a photo from last September.

The “Koppelpoort” of Amersfoort is a gate with a ‘watergate’ for boats and a land gate for carts. There are loads of pictures of it online. The reason I decided to add this one is I was in the new library, just on the other side of the railway tracks, and I liked the angle.

The Koppelpoort as seen from the new library in Amersfoort.

The Koppelpoort as seen from the new library in Amersfoort.

It was quite a bright sunny day in September so taking this picture with my phone through the window was a bit tricky. There’s a bit of reflection in the top left. Personally I don’t mind the wires – the library is a nice place for spotting trains while staying warm and dry. For really ‘lazy’ train spotting you can even get a cappuccino plus something off the not-healthy-but-delicious!-menu.

The trees on the right are half barren now. One thing I would have loved to put on video was the yellow ‘rain’ of leaves dropping two weeks ago as I was on my way to the train station…

The trees you see behind the Koppelpoort are on a piece of land that’s for sale for over a million Euros. You get a large building and a decent-sized yard in the middle of the historic town. Right next to an old church.

At some point I will take a picture standing somewhere near the Koppelpoort pointing my phone or camera at the library. I missed a perfect opportunity on my way home a couple of weeks ago – almost perfect, anyway, because where could I stop, park my bike, take out my phone and get that shot without someone bumping into me?

However, a winter’s day may yet hand me another great opportunity. With a dark blue sky behind the library and the lamps gently lighting up the interior behind the large windows.

Knowledge in whose brains?

Just recently I ran into a text stating (yet again) that knowledge can only be found inside (human) brains.
While experts in the field of artificial intelligence are working hard in hopes of disproving that statement, I have trouble accepting it at all.

Brains contain more than ‘just’ knowledge. Or not?

Which part of the stuff we store in our brains constitutes knowledge? Our senses receive loads of data to store in our brains. A lot of these data are frankly ‘noise’, things we see but which our brain more or less successfully tunes out for being irrelevant. It’s like a huge spam filter in our heads. By the way, this filter may help to explain things like:

  •  Why do some people in cities seem indifferent or oblivious to most of what’s going on around them?
  •  Why do people who visit a busy city for the first time look dazed and move (too) slowly? Hmm. How do you decide what is noise that can be safely tuned out?
  •  Why do people not notice friends in the street? If you get a lot of remarks from your friends “didn’t you see me across the street, I waved and yelled” then you’re probably better than average at tuning out other people as though they’re so many trees. Or you were checking your phone of course.

Absorbing information and turning it into knowledge?

At school, this natural spam filter means any new information needs to prove its relevance before it’s admitted to your permanent storage.

  • For new languages, it means that if you need to learn a list of new words, checking them twice just before a test may mean you pass the test. A week or so later most of us will have forgotten those words. A tip on Quora was to repeat learning them every day for a week. The seventh time round (well, more or less) something happens. Your brain decides – apparently on the basis of that repetition – that this information is part of your daily routine so it must be stored efficiently. When next your temporary storage space is emptied, the information is still somewhere else in your brain.
  • For quite a few subjects, it means that you need to find out where and how the new information fits in with things you are familiar with already. That may mean you need to repeat the 200 or so words you learned previously just to allow your brain to make new connections between them and arranging them neatly.

So you end up with a ‘body of knowledge’. Or do you?

At this point, all you’ve done is storing information. Which is an important skill. But also a rather basic one. Under the right circumstances, even ducklings will store vital information after a couple of repetitions. Allow me to explain.

A duck’s life

We live near a small lake (or a big pond) with quite a lot of ducks. Nearly every early summer, a blue heron will go from eating fish to eating every fuzzy duckling that swims unwittingly into his reach and even stalking duck mothers with their little ones.

A few years ago, two ducklings survived out of a nest of ten. Their mother had forsaken them when there were about four ducklings left. By that time we’d already saved one of them by scaring the heron into dropping the duckling he’d just grabbed.

Having your siblings snatched out of the water just two (human) feet away from you will, at some point, even impress a fuzzy little duckling. The two ducklings that lived long enough to outgrow the danger of turning into a heron’s lunch were very wary of anything that came too near or hovered over them! They’d swim out of reach then turn and eye any passer-by keenly (in case you’d brought anything edible).

Out of those two, one turned into a young duck mum who managed to keep at least four of her ducklings alive the first year. Whenever she spotted anything suspicious she’d send her little ones deep into the reed beds to hide.

So ducks can store information in their brains…
Or is this knowledge?
And how can you tell the difference?

(We didn’t actually tag the duckling in order to recognize her later on. She just developed a rather annoying way of quacking. A loud, non-stop, monotonous series which doesn’t indicate whether the merciful end to the racket is getting near yet. Her mum would have taught her differently I suppose.)

Knowledge transfer among ducks?

A lack of words and the skill to talk about things that are not actually present probably means this vital knowledge doesn’t get passed down to the next generation unless there is indeed a heron lying in wait every year. Plus, it’s quite possible that as the years go by without personal danger to our now more experienced duck mother, the importance of being careful may fade. Does the novelty of having 10 ducklings wear off after a couple of years?

The transfer of (seemingly irrelevant) knowledge is tricky even if you’re not human.
So a final word of advice to my duckling readership:

Don’t go near the heron.

What’s a heron? Oh, here we go…