Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Cultural appropriation

It's a funny term, cultural appropriation.

To start with, the word "appropriation" implies that something has been taken from its original owner, thus depriving them of its use.   The use of force or other coercion is implied and it's therefore generally considered to be an undesirable thing to do.

The term "cultural appropriation", however, is used in the context of observing a different culture, and incorporating those aspects that you like into your own.  No force, or theft is involved, and the act is voluntary.  The donor culture loses nothing except whatever exclusivity it might have had to the idea.  The word "appropriation" is inaccurate.

There are countless examples of course, but the one that springs to mind is the near-universal adoption of the Arabic numerals 1,2,3... that replaced the Roman ones.  The Arabic system is more concise and lends itself much better to arithmetic and maths; where would we be without it?

Yet there are some people who argue, for example, that one is obliged to immerse oneself in the history of the Chinese nation before having the right to pop out for a Chinese take-away.  Or that white people shouldn't wear dreadlocks.  Lunacy.  Sorry, kids, you have to learn the history of the Middle East before you can learn to write numbers and do maths.

Anyway, here's a bit of cultural appropriation that tickled my fancy.  Rillettes are a traditional food associated with Le Mans, and made, I believe, by prolonged boiling of meat.  Thai style?  Actually I enjoyed them, but they're not what I would describe as Thai.




Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Work in progress

There's an area of garden I'm working on at the moment.  I've been putting it off, to be honest, since it represents a lot of work.  On the other hand, it's important, because it's one of the first parts of the garden that gîte guests see when they arrive.  And I haven't done anything with it in the ten years we've been here, so since we have a bit of time with no clients, it was time to set about it.

The first thing to do is to clear it of weeds.  I sprayed it all on a calm day, and left it for a week or so.  I estimate the area to be about 120 square metres, so I figure that if I clear 4 square metres per day, I can do the whole area in a month - longer if I take into account rainy days, or days when I have other appointments to keep.

After a few days, it's starting to look like I'm working on it.   I'm building a wall around it with the stones that I uncover.


Right now, the space is about half-done.  It's inevitable when working on an area like this, that one disturbs the occasional wild animal (and that's a reason I don't like to do it with great mechanical engines).  This female green lizard came to warm up in the sun beside my wheelbarrow, and I rescued a hiberbating slow-worm too.

I have surrounded with shreddings, the smoke tree I planted ages ago, and put some stones around an inspection cover for some underground conduits, to keep the dirt off.

I reckon I can order some good quality topsoil now, and spread it over the cleared area.   I ordered 12 cubic metres.


Friday, 29 April 2016

Cool tech

There has been some interesting new tech floating around the web recently, h/t to James, and Facebook.

There's much research going into lithium technology for batteries at the moment, largely because their power/weight ratio makes them just about suitable for cars.  Although much is made of the low electricity cost per mile, the biggest part of the running cost is down to the battery's high price and limited life.   These guys think they can double the capacity and at the same time reduce the cost of lithium batteries by means of an improved cathode.

The most I have seen my car tell me that it can do on a tankful of diesel is 900 Km, about 550 miles.  After that amount of driving I need a break, so if an electric car has to recharge for an hour or so (perhaps less), this is not a big setback to the journey.  Electric cars are just about coming up to offering 250 mile range on a charge, so doubling the mileage makes the cars competitive with fossil fuel power.

The life of lithium batteries is currently limited by the number of charge/discharge cycles they can go through before they collapse.  This research has turned up an unlikely helper: plexiglass.  The test battery remained useful after 15 times the typical number of cycles that would kill an ordinary one.  It uses gold, though so it would probably be quite expensive, but on the other hand, you're amortising the cost over at least ten times as long, possibly even longer.  And maybe something cheaper can be substitued for the gold.

Extending the life of batteries over time (as well as charge cycles) is an ongoing project.  Personally I like the idea of electric cars where the life of the battery can be measured in decades of normal use.  And compared to internal combustion engines, electric cars are mechanically simple.  So how about a standard or modular body shell (carbon fibre?) with a series of interchangeable replacement motors and batteries for different styles of use, as your needs change through life.

And finally, how about this for a nice application of lithium tech:  a new electric bike for you without having to buy a new electric bike.  You can move it from bike to bike, too, put it on your town bike to go shopping, your road racer for when you're too tired to race.




Thursday, 28 April 2016

Beetle



This chap was scurrying around one of my plants the other day, enjoying what was then warm weather.

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Portes ouvertes

We get our laundry for the gîte done by Blanchisserie du Maine based in Laval.  We've had our differences in the past, but we have what appears to be a working arrangement now.  We deliver our dirty laundry to a garage in the village where they collect it, and bring it back cleaned, ironed and neatly folded, a few days later.

They had an open evening (fr: "portes ouvertes") recently, to celebrate the opening of a new building housing a big new industrial washing machine, plus supporting equipment.   It was quite a fancy affair; various local dignitories were there, giving speeches, there was champagne, wine, and canapés, and a small band started playing after the formalities.

Some interesting figures were given out: the business has enjoyed double-digit growth every year since 2000 when the current owners took it over.   (They didn't say if this was revenue, profits or volume of work).  They now use less than half the electricity per Kg of washing that they did in 2000, and less than 20% of the water.

It appeared that all the staff were there, and were called out by name for the final photo shoot.  They wore different colour T-shirts depending on which department they worked in.  I got the impressioin of a good business, and of an event where they were making an effort to give people a nice time in celebrating their success.




Saturday, 23 April 2016

Safety first!

There we are, sitting in a café not far from the beach at Damjan, near Vannes, and there's a shop opposite selling touristy holiday beach gear, including this inflatable whale.  I was struck by the fact that the top of the tail, and much of the right-hand side, were plastered with warning notices. Manufacturers have to cover themselves these days, and I categorise the cost of this under the general heading of "stupid tax".   (Like the extra button press I have to make every time I use the GPS, to release the maker from claims by people who drive to the wrong town)

I especially like the first warning notice here:  The English version reads "No protection against drowning".  This is not true, of course, and you'd think that they'd at least try to get the wording right.  I await a court case where someone drowns despite the presence of this floating whale nearby because they read the warning.



Friday, 22 April 2016

The château, Rochefort-en-Terre

As you would expect, the château is right at the top of the hill and offers commanding views over the surrounding countryside.  The building itself was closed on the day we visited, but it's still worth going, to see the outsides and the views from the hilltop.  (And the Niais museum is just next door)

The wrought iron gate in the picture looks like it guards the entrance to the garden, but it it set in a short length of wall that you can walk around.





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