Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Git and Unfuddle for python project - using .ignore

This is a reminder to me in case I forget how I got this working.

Main development environment is local laptop
Master reponsitory on
Live environment on remote server

There are a few files, like, that I don't want to be synced and as these files were already in the repository I'd created, git kept trying to sync them.

To resolve:
Assuming already have everything setup - remote server setup with clone from unfuddle.

Create .gitignore file as part of repository:

Remove from git without deleting on both local and remote environments.

In Local environment:
git rm --cached
git commit -a -m "remove"
git push unfuddle master
In remote live environment
git rm --cached
git commit -a -m "remove"
git push

That should do it. Now commits can be exchanged without being updated.

Jerky Mouse on Virtual PC on Dell Laptop

I'm recording the solution to this problem in case it helps someone else with this problem.


Install VPC 2007 on Dell laptop (with no mouse) running Windows XP and every time I'd open the VPC guest OS, the mouse would be so slow to respond, sometimes seconds, that it was unusuable. Installed Virtual PC additions, fiddled with the memory settings and all the other solutions I found online, no difference at all. Then found the suggestion to put something in a USB port and in desperation put in a USB stick. It worked! Well that only took 5 hours to solve.

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Future of the Irish Sport Horse

Since the glory days of the 1960s and 70s, the number of Irish horses competing in Show Jumping at the top level have dwindled. While our Irish riders still compete at the top level, few of them ride Irish horses because there just are so few able to compete at this level. Horse Sport Ireland have put together a task force to consider what can be done to regain our ranking and their recommendations include education for breeders, better information and communication on breeding, improvements in the production of young horses and changes to the way mares and stallions are classified. All good stuff, but it got me thinking about the sport horse industry as whole and this is an extract from a submission on the subject:

1. We are currently very successful in the breeding of event horses. Any plan to improve show jumpers must ensure we do not lose that ranking.

2. Are we trying to breed IRISH show jumpers or EUROPEAN show jumpers bred in Ireland? I suspect that most of the potential breeding stock in Ireland already have a substantial amount of continental warmblood and that they would be taken to top class continental stallions. There is nothing wrong with that if you aim is to produce a top class show jumper. However, if producing Irish Show Jumpers was a business, we would be asking what is the USP (unique selling point) of the IRISH horse otherwise why will people travel to Ireland to buy a horse that differs little from those produced on the continent?

Maybe the advertising for an elite sales in Ireland in 10 years reads " Looking for a hose that is easy to train, will get you out of trouble and stay sound for years? Come to the Elite Irish Show Jumper sales... "

I am aware this is a challenge for which there is no easy answer but maybe this is a starting point. What gets measured gets done, goes the old saying, so identify what makes Irish horses unique and give these measures prominence in the stud book. Also ensure that these qualities are included in the branding of irish horses.

3. Consider the aim to produce top class show jumpers as part of the overall strategy of building a thriving sport horse industry in Ireland - that includes eventers and leisure horses. What is the traditional Irish Horse suited for? Clearly eventing, at which we continue to be successful, and the leisure and amateur sport horse where the good nature, intelligence and agility of the irish horse are highly prized. It would therefore make commercial sense to focus on the markets for which we already have a good product. That is not to say that I would not like to see Irish Show Jumpers represented again, but suggest that to achieve this we should focus on quality rather than quantity. Properly support a smaller number of specialist breeders with the interest and competance to breed and produce show jumpers, rather than hoping the farmer and small breeder are going to create a large enough pool from which a few good horses will emerge.

By developing all three strands - show jumpers, eventers and leisure horses, with a focus on breeding straightforward horses that are trainable, intelligent and sound, we build a solid foundation for all forms of sport horse and avoid a situation where horses bred for a specialist purpose that cannot fulfill their potential are not suitable for anything else.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Install Gas/Oil or use Night Rate for underfloor heating?My cold damp house is

My stone and earth, cold, damp house is heated by two wood (and occasionally a bit of coal) fired stoves. The wood has so far come from felling 40 year old Sitka spruce on the property and I have some willow and other copice trees growing. But unless I keep both fires going full pace all day, most of the house sticks at 5 degrees C through the winter. Miserable. I have underfloor heating installed, but rarely have enough hot water for it to make a difference and the cost of running the 12KW of immersions in the water tank is high.

Having been purist about using only wood for the first 7 winters, I gave in and started putting the odd bucket of coal in the stove and I have to say it makes a HUGE difference. Even one bucket of coal a day gives enough extra heat for the UFH to kick in a bit and at least one room is positively warm for most of the day. Having looked at the cost of installing more biomass solutions - a ceramic stove or gasification boiler, both costing over €10k, and the extra work and wood required, I've also had to consider gas or oil at an installation cost of only 2-3k.

But what I have been holding out for is real time pricing. The electricity companies buy from a pool supplied by the generators. When it's windy that price is low because wind companies can sell at whatever price they can get, their costs are the same if they sell or don't. If it's a still cold afternoon in winter, the price can be very high as extra gas fired power stations are fired up. So the electricity companies buy at variable prices and sell to us at fixed prices. I want to buy my electricity at a fixed premium above the pool price, so when it's windy I get cheap electricity and can turn on my UFH at a couple of cents and hour and when it's not, I put an extra few logs on the fire. You can read more about Real Time Pricing at Jerry Sweeney's blog at, it's coming but we need smart metering etc.........

So in the meantime, should I bow to pressure to get a programmable fossil fuel solution to my heat problem, get some heated fingerless gloves or use night rate electricity? I've experimented with turning on the immersions during the night - the UFH kicks in automatically when the water reaches a certain temperature. By using 60kw a night at a cost of €5.22, I can rise the temperature of the whole house from 5 to 10 degrees and the rooms with the stoves in maintain a toasty 12 degrees overnight. A huge difference in the quality of life of the inmates.

Here is the cost calculation:

Price of Night Rate Electric kw


Price of Gas per kw


Units per night


Cost per night electric


Cost per night gas


Gas saving/night


Installation of Gas boiler/tank


Worst case - 200 nights/year


Payback period years


Ignoring maintenance costs for the gas/oil boiler and assuming the ratio between electricity price and gas/oil price remains unchanged, 4.7 years before I'm saving by putting in another solution! And my bet is that electricity will become, relatively, cheaper as we increase the proportion of wind. And Once the real time pricing kicks in, I could be heating the house for €1 a night on renewables and helping to balance the load on the grid. Then I would be smug and snug!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

New Scenarios for Ireland 2025

Scenario Based Planning

Scenario planning is a technique for exploring the future by creating several plausible but challenging alternative futures rather than making a single prediction. It has been used by commercial companies since the 1970s when Shell was the only oil company prepared for the oil shocks of that decade as a result of its use.

Why use Scenario Planning?

A prediction is (almost) never right. The unexpected always happens and the assumptions, conscious and unconscious, that apply today may not apply tomorrow. For example, at the end of the last century, London could see no solution to the ever increasing amounts of horse manure on the roads, then along came the motor car. This highlights the difficulty with using forecasts: they carry forward current trends, problems and constraints and do not allow for the unexpected.

Scenarios are versatile. Scenarios can be used not only to prepare plans for the future, but to check existing plans for robustness. Will a plan work in more than one scenario or will fail if any of the underlying assumptions change? If we can develop flexible plans that will work with multiple scenarios, then, when the unexpected does happen, there is a better chance that the plan can be adapted to the new circumstances.

It is difficult to get consensus for a prediction. You can either agree or disagree with other people's predictions - and the tendency is to disagree. Scenario planning is about building plausible futures, a much less contentious task because we only need to agree that a scenario is possible to be able to use it. We don't even have to agree that it is likely.

Good scenarios challenge one's thinking and stimulate discussion. The human species has spent most of its history telling stories rather than looking at graphs and spreadsheets. As a result, the implications of a rich story about the future can be more easily understood and used. It is surprising how much information a scenario can convey in a few words. For example, the following classified advertisement can tell us a lot about what the future might be like under a particular scenario:

For Sale: 4x4 with axle suitable for conversion to wind turbine.

This can be interpreted as: Increases in the price of transport fuel have meant that vehicles with high fuel consumption are no longer in demand and it is becoming difficult to sell these vehicles. However, with increasing prices of home electricity, there is a boom in DIY windmills. A component of these windmills is the back axle of a car.

The original Energy Scenarios Ireland, originally described in 2006/7 have been updated, though in a many ways they have not fundamentally changed.

Business As Usual has become Celtic Kitten - our focus is to get back to 'normal' but without a property boom to support the economy and a mountain of debt to support, it's a bit of a disappointment.

Enlightened Transition has become Celtic Phoenix - rather than emulate the ambitions of others, Ireland plays to the talents we have. A well educated work force, adaptable and creative, a small country with plentiful renewables - just what is needed to build and trial new products and services. Ireland markets itself as a big hothouse for new and growing young businesses.

Enforced Localisation has become Celtic Hedgehog - Back to the land and a life of frugal comfort. It takes decades for Ireland to re-emerge.

Fair Shares becomes Celtic Fox - In honor of Colin Campbell who used the Celtic Fox in his presentations. Ireland applies it's abilities to make the best of difficult times to adapt to a high cost economy. Times are tough but we are now well placed to build a stronger economy.

Further installments to follow, with particular focus on Celtic Phoenix.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Himalayan village has the right idea?

When the retreat of a glacier left this village without water each year, they decide to move their village and build again nearer the river. Their new homes will have solar power and they plan to put in microhydro in the river.

Take Skibbereen, a town of about 2500 people on the Ilen river that floods regularly. If you compared the cost of endless repairs and capital costs of fighting the river against moving the town, how long would the payback period be? Financial and emotional. 10 years, 20 years, 100 years? This is a question that many low lying towns will be asking themselves over the next decades.

What could New Skibbereen be like? Warm, dry, cheap to run with renewables built in, cars separated from people, a square, trees, under cover market area, covered shopping area, A comfortable place for tourists to visit with trips, by boat, around Old Skibbereen!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Google Wave - After a day playing with the API

Have very mixed feelings about Wave after a day of heavy use. It has helped clarify in my ming what I want and don't want from an online comms tool. Here is the summary of strengths and weaknesses developed during a wave conversation with Bart.

Blip: What is your impression of wave - strengths and weaknesses?


- It's an 'Excel spreadsheet' of the messaging - giving you the power to do things your way
- open API
- realtime
- great if you want to carry on a number of chats at the same time
- can bring in clever gadgets/custom gadgets in a way that is not possible with googledocs etc. eg. voting, map.
- can develop custom gadgets and have the interface provided by wave - I could see this as being used for particular tasks/conversations rather than being open all the time.
- can be used for document sharing and commenting it (altho probably not much different from editing these documents on googledocs or )
- will give a new set of standards/language for doing this kind of thing - shares many ideas with tinycomms, making tinycomms an easier sell I think
- saves time on 'reinventing the wheel' by many contributors as everyone sees what other are thinking and writing about - avoids repeating the same tasks/ideas by all
- Wave as a wiki?


- Too much freedom - leading to mess quickly if not very very careful
- Right now feels like an island - no email like clients - you have to have your browser opened on the Wave page and keep lurking there
- inconfigurable interface (for now)
- Yet another thing to monitor and distract me - don't plan on leaving it open!
- not really suited for multi-user editing / brainstorming - but how is it better than etherpad or the dreaded googledocs. Just a smaller screen with people able to create new threads all over the place.
- Making any sense out of an advanced conversation may be a challenge (many contributors editing and changing things in-line over time) - the playback feature tries to make that easier, but still it is far from perfect.
- lack of built in support for voice/video - voice provided by gadget verillio (sp?) - yes but that's third party, not built in, no guarantees on its stability or usability
- if other people are editing at the same time as you but not within the same few lines, I can't see what they have changed. Snap! / it's not easy to keep track on cursor position of participants in a large document.
- too many ways to chat - yet none of them seem to be natural or streamlined.

Overall I'm left feeling this is another tool to help me multitask even more manically, whereas what I want is a tool that will help me focus on one thing at a time! So don't expect me to monitor wave and respond to your posts, I plan to use it for particular tasks, which will depend on the 3rd party gadgets developed. But this is after one day of use.....

Friday, November 27, 2009

Mars Bar Brownies


4oz butter
165g demerara sugar
- cream butter and sugar then mix in the ingredients below --

1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 tbsp maple syrup
2 tbsp green and blacks cocoa
150g cream flour (not the bread stuff)
2 chopped mars bar

Bake at 200g for 20-25 mins, better to undercook than overcook, want it cooked on top and gooey in the middle so if you are testing with a toothpick, don't wait until it comes out clean!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Roast banana pudding


Peal and split bananas lengthways and put in a dish that is not much bigger than the bananas.
Add honey and lemon juice (for 2 bananas about 1 tbsp and 1/2 lemon)

Cook in 180C oven for only 8-10 mins. Just enough to heat but I like the bananas still with a bit of firmness. You might like them more gooey.

Lovely just as they are, but you could also add cream and/or ice cream.

Beef Casserole - plain but good

Score 9/10

Fry pieces of T bone steak cut into large chunks. When brown, add:
- carrots
- celery
- onion
Cook for about 2 mins then add:
- red wine
- stock

Put in a low (180) oven for 2 hours

If eating straight from the oven and you want to NOT burn your tongue, add some frozen peas.
If it's a bit watery still, add some cous cous.

New task - My recipe book

Have now been collecting recipes since 2001. I live in fear now of loosing the little notebook with all these recipes, so I'm going to start (slowly) to put the best ones in the blog.

I should add that in the interest of ensuring that no two meals are identical, I don't include amounts in most recipes! Ah sure it'll be grand.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Just discovered...

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

How much is €60bn?

If we are trying to solve our economic problems and we have €60b to spend, what could we buy?

Three of these: $21 BILLION ORBITING SOLAR ARRAY WILL BEAM ELECTRICITY TO EARTH -, which would add 50% to our generating capacity

All the top racehorse stallions in the world - really corner the market!

A load of overvalued properties


A lot of oil futures - just sit back and relax and watch the money come it!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Thoughts on NAMA

When the main reason we are being given for NAMA is that it is the only game in town you know this is not a good idea. I did a bit of googling and chatting to various people who know more than me about these things, and reached these conclusions:

The reason for considering NAMA is to:
- Maintain Liquidity
- Restore Confidence
- Create an environment for recovery

Any solution must consider:

1. When given a choice we must choose to reduce risk rather than increase potential return - the government/taxpayers are not speculators
2. No plan can be justified on the basis of previous economic cycles - we are in uncharted waters with this global economic downturn and the impact of peak oil and spending on climate change not yet being felt.
3. The current banking model is not the only solution to maintain liquidity - banks can be bought out, new banks setup by entrepreneurs, new methods of lending and saving peer to peer etc.
4. No solution should have the objective of punishing or protecting individuals or companies.
5. Speculators have money but little time (they want a quick buck now), the government of a country has time but no money - any solution should play to our strengths.
6. Ireland has a finite amount of money it can borrow and spend over the next years - the opportunity cost of any solution must be compared against investing in projects which will support our economy in the future - energy, broadband, transport, food etc.

- What happens if, post NAMA, the banks are still unable to provide liquidity? Is there a Plan B? "There is still unexploded ordinance on the financial landscape..." FT

- Banks have already received an injection of cash but are still not lending. Is this a cashflow problem or a reserves problem? If it is a reserves problem, then they can do without cash!
- What would the impact on the economy be if our banks were bought by foreign banks or investors?
- Why do WE have to do the valuation? Take the bad assets on the basis that we will pay the banks the market price when they are liquidated - at some time in the future - and leave the banks to do the valuation for the purposes of their balance sheets?
- Why would nationalising the banks be worse than NAMA? We already own 25% of AIB and BOI at a cost of €7bn, why not buy the rest?

But I think the right questions to ask is, image we have €30-60bn to invest in the future. What are the best investments to relieving short term hardship and creating an environment for long term prosperity?

Liquidity - Buy a foreign bank or start one or support entrepreneurs who want to. Support local trading currencies. Support peer2peer lending.
Energy - building windmills is not enough to protect us from future oil shocks, we need the infrastructure to balance supply and demand of energy.
Transport - our infrastructure is predicated on the use of roads and the assumption that transport of people and goods is cheap.
Food - Ireland should be well placed to feed it's citizens in the event of disruption in trade or climate change disrupting harvests and supply surplus into the UK.
Broadband - without ubiquitous, affordable high speed broadband many options for change are restricted and new ideas are slower to develop.

I am not generally in favour of asking the country to vote, but in this case it's our money (or money we are borrowing and will have to pay back) so I think we should be asked. We will be voting anyway, whether the government is forced to call an election or whether we use the Lisbon vote, we will have our say.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Setting up Hardy Heron with Apache2 and multiple Domains

Finally cracked setting up multiple domains on my shiny new Ubuntu server. In case it helps anyone else out of a hold, here are my tips for easy domain management.

1. Use GoDaddy and their total DNS option (google for instructions) This means you don't have to worry about a name server. Just setup your domains and subdomains with an A record that points to your IP address. If your domain is currently pointing to a nameserver other than GoDaddy's change the nameserver option to Forwarding - wait a few mins, then you use Total DNS.

2. in /etc/apache2/site-available, create one file for each domain, I just used the domain name for the filename, eg. This should contain something like:

ServerAlias www.
DocumentRoot /home/django/mydomain

...and all the other usual stuff ...

3. in /etc/apache2/sites-enabled create a dynamic link to the file you just created in sites-available. Ordering is import so add a sequence number to the beginning of the name. Ensure sub-domains come before main domain entry.


ln -s /etc/apache2/sites-available/
ln -s /etc/apache2/sites-available/

4. And this is what I had missed. Ensure there is a default file in your sites-available that includes this line:

NameVirtualHost *:80

That's all I have in mine. And have a dynamic link in sites-enabled so that DEFAULT IS RUN FIRST.

eg, ln -s /etc/apache2/sites-available/default 000-default

5. restart apache eg. /etc/init.d/apache2 restart

6. Cross fingers and enter domain in the browser.

If you are doing this all at once, it takes a while for the changes to propogate through from godaddy, so be patient.

Dead Cat Bounce

I'm not filled with optimism by the 'green shoots' spotted here and there. I think this is the dead cat bounce phase, or put even better in the Editorial of the FT this weekend "... unexploded ordinance still litters the financial landscape".

Have a nice day...

Travelled up to Dublin on the new intercity trains last week. The toilets have these huge curved doors that you open and close with a button. There is another large button to press once you are inside to lock it and when you do the door says "Thank you"!? Whatever next. Reminded of the doors and drinks machines in Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy... "Have a nice day!"


Got out of the blogging habit with the long (wet) summer days so going to try and get going again with a number of small blogets. Items of note in the last months?

Christophe and Jérôme, two french wwoofers, have just left after a month that has transformed the farm. Everything is strimmed, the fencing is not only repaired but has handles to open on every field and a bank of switches from which I can turn each field on and off. (You probably have no idea how great this is!).

Great multicultural BBQ Polish, Irish, French, German, Brits and Americans. Great pics here:

Managed to make haylage after 7 weeks trying but never a gap of 3 dry days. Started raining as we were baling so not sure how good it's going to be.

Had a great Jumpstart with Fish Publishing and came up with a raft of new ideas on how to get more entries to their competitions.
Recession much in evidence, but life and showjumping go on...

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Can you teach old dogs new tricks?

I am trying to learn a new programming language, Python, the new 'it' language. I taught myself PHP 10 years ago and it's interesting comparing the two experiences. 10 years ago I bought a couple of books on PHP and immersed myself in the language. I had many, many frustrating days trying to do seemingly obvious things with no success. But after six months I was pretty competant and after 18 months I was pretty good. For the last nine months, I have been working on and off with Python and I'd still class myself as a beginner. So what's the difference? Is it just that I'm 10 years older and finding it harder to learn new tricks?

Firstly there's the attention thing. Sometimes I can't remember if I brushed my teeth or not, but when I was a child with only a few hundred brushes behind me I was still a novice, and paid close attention to my brushing. Now with many thousands of brushes behind me I pay little attention, the brain focused on what to do today or tomorrow or what I should have done. So it's hardly surprising, given my lack of attention, that sometimes I can't find the memory of brushing my teeth. So while I've been learning Python for nine months, very little of that time was actually spent concentrating on learning. I have far more distractions than I did 10 years ago, far more different areas of work, and far more horses! So I don't put my attention into learning I put my attention into solving the immediate problems at hand as quickly as I can.

And this is the second point. Youth is for learning, and once we grow up, we are expected to get on with it. Until I moved back to Ireland, I attended evening classes took up new interest and was always learning new skills and new subjects. But there are fewer opportunities here, and seemingly less time every year, so I don't expect to have the time to learn, I just fix. So rather than sitting down and trying to learn Python, I've created websites in Python and fixed problems as they arise. I didn't even buy a book until a month ago! With Google, fixing rather than learning is so easy. You type in the kind of problem you're trying to solve,"python difference between two dates", for example and up comes the solution. You didn't have to work it out you just copy and paste and move onto the next problem. So in a months time you find myself again googling "difference between to dates".

So I don't think that is a problem in teaching old dogs new tricks, as long as the old dogs recognize that they're going to have to pay attention and commit their energy to learning, a skill which may be a bit rusty. I need to bring a different mind to the table, sit down with a different intention and probably uses a different part of my brain. I need to stop being so pragmatic and remember the joy of mastering a new skill and finding a whole new view on the world.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Feelings vs. Thinking and Tidy Towns

Listening to a discussion at the Transition Towns get together for Cork groups at Cork Institute of Technology last week reminded me of a field trip at Shumacher College back in September 2001. The discussion was something like, we are working with the Tidy Towns committees to try and get them to understand the benefits of not spraying the road sides. "They could poison us" said the road side food gatherers.

As part of a course in Business and Sustainability run at Schumacher College (and if you ever get the chance to go there it is a wonderful experience) we did a field trip with a deep ecologist. We agreed the green fields of grass were deserts of monoculture, admired the cattle in the ancient water meadow (as I scoffed some very tasty blackberries. Nobody else would eat them and I wondered if I had missed a part of the lecture where we were told to leave the fruit to the birds.) After a bit of experiencing the wonder of trees we came to a field which had clearly not been touched for some years, with a wide mix of plants up to four feet high. Our tutor asked us how this field made us feel. The class expressed their appreciation of the wide mix of ecology, the animal and plant systems dependent on each other. At last I could hold my tongue no longer, "It makes me feel awful" I said. It's uncared for, unloved. It makes me want to get in there with a mower and tidy it up!". The tutor could not understand me. "But don't you see how the mix of plants and insects and animals create an ecosystem?". I couldn't explain to him that I was simply answering his question. How the field made me feel had little relation to what I thought about the field. While I like to think I have strong sustainability leanings and try to run my small farm as organically as possible, some fundamental part of me believes farmers have a responsibility to tend their fields, keep the grass grazed, the ground fertilised and hedges trimmed. No amount of logic is likely to change that feeling.

I think it will be a long, long time before you could convince a Tidy Towns committee or the judges (or me) that the verges should be left to run wild. No amount of explaining the benefits of sustainability are likely to have much impact on our own feelings about what cared for or tidy looks like. It says something about our culture that we assume that if we can simply explain logically our thinking, that this will change someone else's feelings about something. Do other cultures suffer under the same beliefs?

Tidy Towns at Work:

Monday, June 8, 2009

Dolores in Foal!

Dolores (broken pelvis horse) scanned in foal today to French Buffet (TB) standing at Kylemore Stud in Co. Galway (b. miles away). 10 months to go but with a bit of luck there should be a foal next april! So excited.

<-- The mother

The father

Monday, May 18, 2009

Survival of the Fittest?

This blog post was inspired by Trevor Sargent's speech in Clonakilty today at the talk on the Climate Neutral Network. His mention of the phrase "Survival of the Fittest" reminded me of when I had been picked up for attributing this to Darwin. The phrase does not appear in On the Origin of Species and his theory has much more to do with survival of the Fitting.

It seems to me our western competitive, dog eat dog world (do dog's eat dog's?) is, in part, justified by this famous phrase. It's the natural way of things, survival of the fittest and yet I think that has only ever been true in the minds of those who wrote the history books, the victors who passed down stories of chief's slaying other chief's to become the mightiest chief in the world. Everyone else was busy surviving by fitting into their environment or trying to change their environment to fit their needs.

I am encouraged by the change in language I hear from many of those taking a positive attitude to the future. From Obama's "We can do it" to the haven of positivity which is our local Open Coffee group in Cork. I hope the war metaphors of "combat ting climate change", "a war on poverty", "fighting drugs" will give way to a more fitting language of cooperation and alliances. The kind of culture that is emerging from the Internet worlds of open source development and from the gaming world where hierarchies are leveled and mutual benefits are sought.

(Having googled Survival of the Fittest before publishing this I find that Darwin did in fact add the phrase in his 5th edition, but that it was intended as a metaphore not to be take literally! - see Wikipedia entry for why it is incomplete and misleading).

Friday, May 8, 2009

New Foal at Kippagh

After four sleepless nights, Emy Lou finally put us out of our misery and produced a big, strong, bay filly foal.  Grabbed a few pics before catching up on some sleep!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Another Victim of the Recession - Fred the ex-racehorse

I'm another victim of the recession having lost my job as a racehorse. I tried to get a job as a flapper but I guess they thought I was too old so it looked like the scrap heap for me. But luckily I got on a re-skilling course and I'm retraining to be a show jumper. I got lame soon after I started the course and was a bit worried that was going to be the end of it, but after a break I'm back practicing hard. Here I am doing a jumping exercise, made a mistake the first time but got it cracked now! Next stop Dublin!

Installing Pinax 0.7 on CentOS

So Easy!

Here is the complete list of commands I used to install in a pinax directory of /home

easy_install virtualenv
easy_install pip
cd /home
mkdir pinax
cd pinax
curl -o
python pinax-env
cd pinax-env
source bin/activate
pip install --requirement src/pinax/requirements/external_apps.txt
cd /home/pinax/pinax-env/src/pinax/pinax/projects
pinax-admin clone_project basic_project myproject
cd myproject

amend to point to required database - I'm using mysql
setup mysql database
python syndb
python runserver


Saturday, April 11, 2009

Difference between men and women is in the knot

I havn't read Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus and am sceptical of many of the differences attributed to the different sexes. But I do believe there are fundamental differences in male thinking and female thinking and I pondered yet another difference as I stomped back to the house from inspecting the resulting mess of wire and fence posts caused by SuperCub running through the electric fence.

Take knots. Men tie knots so they won't ever come undone. The rope is knotted and double knotted and then the ends of knotted just in case, and it rarely comes undone, ever. Women
have to undo this knot sometime, so let's make sure I can undo it, and yes sometimes it comes undone before it should.

When putting up electric fence, Men make sure the fence is strong and tight, wrapping the wire around the insulator so each section of wire if effectively tied to the fence post. Women think, something is going to go through this fence sooner or later, so lets put it so there is minimum work to repair it. This morning's fence was put up by a man and with four broken fence posts that need replacing it's going to take a while. If the wire had not been wrapped around the insulator, it would have pulled past the post and taken five minutes to put back up. Serves me right for not doing the fencing myself I suppose.

An on the subject of differences, what is the difference beween a male car and a female
car? Female cars are a bit unreliable, they sometimes fail to start and tend to have a few niggling complaints, but if you really need them to get you somewhere, they get you there, even if they are running on one cylinder when you arrive. Male cars are much more reliable, start on the first turn of the key every time, until that time when you really needed them to start...

Female vehicles I have had:
2 x Ford Transit
BMW 3.0s
Mitsubishi Shogun

Male vehicles:
Ford Cortina
Nissan Micra
Jaguar XJS V12
Jaguar Sovereign v12

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Yahoo BOSS - no joy yet

Am trying to get Yahoo BOSS search running in Django. It all looked so easy based on this site: but I still can't get it working. So I'm adding a link to the site to see if that helps.


Monday, March 9, 2009

The Barefoot vs. Shod experiment in West Cork

Every interest group has it's battle lines, and there is one between the barefoot proponents and those who believe horses need shoes.  I won't go into the arguments but just report the results of my trying to get my horses barefoot.

The biggest challenge here in West Cork is the endless rain and mud, winter and summer.  This makes the hooves soft and encourages thrush and infection in the frogs and heels.  It's all very well to show the wonderful hooves of horses in the mid-west of America, but you guys wouldn't believe the mud we have here!

I've been through the process of taking shoes off horses that are used to them, twice. The first month or so they get more and more sore and you really wonder if it is fair to put them through so much discomfort.  I would advise riding them in boots from day one, there is no advantage to them getting sore heels and soles.  Then they slowly start to harden up but it takes a good six months to get to the point of being able to ride them in a sand arena and occasionally on the road without shoes.  But I could never get their hooves hard enough and putting eight lots of boots on to exercise two on the road and going back to look for them when they fall off is just no fun.

I've tried all kinds of supplements and potions for the feet and found none made any noticeable difference.  The horse were in good condition anyway, shiny coats and out 24/7/365.

Re the boots.  Marquis are goodish but they do fall off, even just trotting on the road.  Easyboot Bares are better, but still fall off on the road occasionally breaking the gaiters, and they are black so not easy to find!

There are two major downsides to barefoot for me - chasing after the boots when they fall of and the need for studs when jumping competitively outdoors.  So I have reached a compromise.  When the horses reach serious competition level aged 5 or 6, the shoes go on in April, with stud holes.  And come off again in October for the winter.  This works well for me, and keeps the cost down (at €60 a set of shoes).  I have had no problems with jumping the younger horses all summer without shoes, no swelling or lameness or splitting of feet or all the other dire consequences of riding without shoes that I have been threatened with.  

But if a horse has had shoes for a number of years, don't underestimate the effort and discomfort you will cause the horse in getting him sound barefoot.  Get some good boots before you start.

Fred the ex-racehorse

Fred is a remarkably well mannered horse.  He wouldn't dream of lagging behind when you lead him.  If you ask him to pick up a foot, he snaps it up and holds it there for you.  A joy after my lazy lot, who oblige you, generally, but at their own speed!  But today, Fred showed the flip side of that anxious obedience.  His feet are very sore after some weeks without shoes and when the farrier started hammering on some shoes, Fred's fear of reprimand was overridden by his desire to get rid of the farrier.  With no warning at all, the farrier was thrown out the door. And this was the pattern for the rest of the feet.  He would stand for as long as he could and then bang!  He leapt forward or kicked back.  Racehorses are generally treated with a lack of patience and understanding by a wide variety of people so their expectation is that people are unpredictable and often violent and the best policy is to appease them, if possible.  Until anger and fear builds up to a point where the brain flips to fight or flight.  

My nags and I have a escalation ritual.  I ask quietly and politely, I ask more loudly, I shout and then start hitting with more show than effect and this is usually as far as it goes.  The nags start with a look, a snap of the teeth, a raised leg, a nip if pushed and on only one occasion have I annoyed one enough to kick at me (got me by mistake I think).  

It will be interesting to see if Fred can learn our escalation rituals.

After Fred, the farrier moved onto the two thoroughbred yearlings. It was time for them to re-learn that not only can we influence their behaviour, but they can influence ours.  Both these two had been handled when small and would lead and pick their feet up.  But in the last six months they have become a bit wild.  Their reaction to having their feet picked up was, "no thanks, I'm off".
 After patience and quiet has little effect a battle then ensues where the aim if to get them to a position where they discover that standing still makes the people relax.  It's difficult to ensure they are learning the right lessons, and all to easy to teach them that rearing and kicking earns them freedom.  But it's great when you see the light go on and they start to react to you as you react to them.  I think many horses have no influencing skills when it comes to people.   All they know is how to avoid trouble, how to run or how to fight.  If only horses had money, they could go on management training exercises.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Slides/Notes from Energy Scenarios presentation at Dreamstake Meetup

The presentation

And the Scenarios Summary Sheet

Any questions, do email me at

London Open Coffee and the future of social networks

Had lots of stimulating conversations at London Open Coffee today (yes I know you are supposed to gather essential info and move on but I relish meeting so many interesting people and am not going to waste the opportunity, so there).

First, checkout the amazing light sculptures at from Ivan Markovic, who is an Adobe expert and an Acrobat guru.

Touched on the future of employment and work with Livia and Azita from Eat Your Cake who do job-sharing for professionals. Given the current outlook, are few jobs going to be shared by more people or will the unemployment figures rise?

I look forward to meeting Wendy Deaner to talk more about network marketing and where that might be going.

BobbyHathiramani is developing some pools (betting) software and is looking for the best business model.

Michael O'Shea has a website that does cool presents for small people, and we agreed it would be great to be paid just for being interesting!

Andrew Gerrard has a great new business card, minimalist - how to contact him and how he likes his coffee... We also had a far ranging conversation about the future of social networking. We agreed that similar to your local community network (that not everyone has these days) it requires investment of time and energy to get the rewards and having experience of both an online network and a strong local community network (thank you all those neighbours who turned out, many more than once, in the middle of the night to get injured horse back on it's feet last year), I wonder if we generally have only a finite amount of time/energy to invest in our networks and tend to make a choice between on or the other? Myself, I would say if I'm at home in Ireland, I focus on my "real" network, but if I'm in London, where I don't know my neighbours even, I focus on my online network. Is this a generational thing, or a character thing?

We also considered whether the last 50 years of an increasingly peripatetic lifestyle for many in the developed world, is a natural evolution or an exception. Traditionally the younge leave the nest and many return when it is time to marry and settle down. But these days people are expected to move with their work, or their next step up the property ladder. Are we living in perpetual youth? Is there a natural need to belong to a community and because we don't expect to stay anywhere long, is this what is driving the desire to invest in online communities? If we had the opportunity to become more rooted in our local communities, because we could work locally or from home, would online social networks become less important as we invested in our local community or would they continue in parallel? Lots of questions to ponder!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Posters with Messages

Came across this site with The Posters of Scorsone/Drueding

More like this:

and this:

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Beyond the Recession - Dragon's Den 2020

Dreamstake is a network for supporting entrepreneurs who want to take their ideas to market by providing networking with similar people plus access to funding, marketing, legal advice etc. It is still in it's infancy but the team are rushed off their feet as people decide to take their future into their own hands and go into business for themselves.

I'll be speaking at Dreamstake's inaugural meeting on Thursday talking about using scenario planning to identify risks and opportunities in uncertain times. The fun bit will be asking everyone to come up with ideas for Dragon's Den that would be appropriate for different scenarios in 2020. What will be hot?

All are welcome, just sign up to Dreamstake here

February 19, 2009 from 6pm to 10pm – Downstairs at Shish (Old Street) This will be an informal meet up for members of the DreamStake network. Phoebe Bright will facilitate some brainstorming about 'Beyond the Recession - steps to our new economy'. It will be a chance...

Monday, February 16, 2009

Cork Airport at Sunset

Saturday, February 14, 2009

An alternative to pouring money into banks

I think it is a top priority to help people stay in their homes and like many people, I feel most uncomfortable with our taxes being poured into a seeming black hole.

Here is my idea for helping the banks indirectly and helping people directly - please shoot it down!

A family can't meet their mortgage payments. The Government redeems half the mortgage and gives the family 2 years payment holiday and then expects them to pay 3% interest per year. BUT, the loan belongs to the site not to the people. If the house is sold, the loan goes with it with the obligation to pay, what becomes in effect a property tax. However, the loan can be repaid in part or whole at any time without penalty. Why won't everyone do this? Because there is a public register of properties with loan amounts and payments made, no names attached, but it would not be hard to work out who. This could also be done where the landlord cannot meet the payment.

This has the benefit that the money is not going direct to the banks.
People are given every support to stay in their homes
The country has a SECURE revenue stream for the future

What do you think?

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Avoid the peak to reduce carbon emissions

Jerry Sweeney's website, Synergy Module, shows the current pricing for electricity on the Irish Grid. The graph above shows the graph for the 3rd Feb 2009. Remarkably consistant apart from the huge spike around 6pm. This is when peaking plant is turned on to provide the extra capacity required, and this peaking plant is not as efficient as generators for base load and so is both more expensive and emits more carbon per kilowatt. So if you want to reduce your carbon emissions, try to avoid using electricity at peak times. Run that washing machine at 4 in the morning, eat later! Once we get smart meters, we will have the option for smart machines to decide when it is cheapest for them to run. Until then we have to make the decisions for them.

Earning your place in the world

It's tough being a small younge horse in a group of big older ones. You are at the bottom of the pecking order, at the end of the queue for a place at the haylage bale, and there is not much you can do about it. You will be kept in your place by baring of teeth, bites and threats. Ivor is reminding little Poppy above, who is the boss round here.

So what do you do if you want a place at the haylage bale? You can try puffing yourself up and going for the next in the hierarchy with teeth and hooves. If you are fierce enough you may succeed. You can wait in the corner until the rest have tired of eating and go a snatch a bit while they snooze.

I have watched my younge horses as they grow, deal with this situation in different ways. Little Piper tried the teetch approach and did quite well at it, until one morning I found him with a swollen head. A good kick in the face had put him back in his place. Supercub, the biggest horses on the farm, decided he was a victim early on, and despite putting on his best "I'm only small, don't hurt me" face to every horse in the place, he was unmercifully bullied.

Little Poppy has another approach. When scolded for trying to push in for a bite of the bale, she doesn't run back to the corner, but moves back just enough to avoid the teeth, waits for a bit, then tries quietly and respectfully to have another go. She is careful not to antagonise the other horses, does not take offence when they snap at her, but at the same time wants to make it clear she is not going away. This strategy of quiet persistance seems to be successful. After two weeks away I see she has earned the respect of her elders, and while she still is last in line for the bale, they do not try to bully her anymore.

Mad Dog, Ivor, Katy and Poppy.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Whaling songs

We judge what is normal against our childhood experiences aparently, so I expect other people to know the music that my parents played during my childhood. But of course not many people know the whaling songs of the 19th century (why did they have that record!), the lyrics of all Gilbert and Sullivan or think the Beethoven's Archduke Trio one of the most famous piece of classical music.

My childhood music experience was shaped by a single record collection. In these days of easily available music, music collections are no longer constrained and I don't suppose children spend much time listening to their parents music anyway.

A sad loss, those whaling songs are great for getting the energy going at the end of the afternoon...

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Positive Conversations

In the worlds of a childhood song, it's time to "GET OURSELVES UP...



Having been ground down by the endless pessimism about the place, I took Christmas (and most of January) off and concentrated on learning Django - the hottest new framework for website development. But meeting up with my colleagues at Cork Environmental Forum got me back in the saddle and ready to focus on having positive conversations about our future.

That does not mean ignoring the mess we are in and just saying positive things in the hope that the bad stuff will go away. (See Gerard O'Neill's excellent blog and thanks for this twitter link

Positive conversations seek to understand where we are, without lingering too long on why, where we want to get to and how we are going to get there. We fear most what we don't understand and can't control and has little to do with logic. Terrorists from foreign countries and cultures are more frightening than the home brand. Being flown in a big jet which clearly shouldn't be able to fly, is more scary than flying yourself in a small one!

I'm going to get a chance to put the positive conversations idea into action at the first meeting of the Dreamstake network in London on Feb 18th 2009 where I will be facilitating a workshop and discussion around the risks and opportunities in the future. All are welcome!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Case for Wind as a safe Investment

I am not alone in believing the current safest investment would be in wind energy. The wind will keep blowing and people will keep needing electricity, although the amount will depend on the overall state of the economy amongst other things.

And, in Ireland, wind energy will always have a market because of the way the Irish market works. Since all generators must sell their electricity into a pool from which suppliers buy the electricity to sell to their customers. Wind energy will always be a price taker because it is always better to sell, regardless of how low the price. For a gas powered station, the cost of the gas gives a bottom to the price at which it is worth selling. (The calculation is actually more complex because of the cost of shutting down and restarting plant.) So your wind power will be sold ahead of other non-renewables.

Ireland desperately needs wind energy. We import nearly 90% of our energy and will be vulnerable to chaotic price changes in oil, which sets the price for gas, until we change that. There are many new renewable technologies coming on stream that may be appropriate for Ireland, but none that have over 20 years of experience of use. So wind it is in the short term, and we have plenty of wind. Ireland has set the target of 40% of electricity production from wind by 2020. If this target is to be reached that would mean building one 1MW wind turbine every day! See article in Greenmonk for the numbers.

So how might you wrap this product to make a good investment? I suggest a government backed bond with tax free returns for the first 10 years. In return no returns would be paid until the end of year 2 to allow time for construction and connection to the grid (see comment later as this is currently 5+ years). The product would be managed by a bank or financial services company who would operate the scheme on a 1% commission basis. This should not be problematical as there would be low management costs unlike other financial products.

Returns will depend on electricity prices, which in turn are a function of demand and oil price, both of which are currently uncertain. SEI projected returns before tax of 5.5% here.

So what are the risks? The main risk is that the grid will not be updated quickly enough to take an increase in wind, that demand response will not be implemented quickly ensuring that wind farms are not curtailed (turned off) when supply exceeds demand, and that longer term, high bandwidth interconnectors to europe are not built to ensure best price of electricity generated. This is why government support for this investment product to ensure that infrastructure was implemented in a timely fashion.

More about wind energy and the need for demand response here:

Buy different

There is an assumption that the solution to both peak oil and climate change would be to buy less and I think this needs to be challenged. And I'm not saying I wouldn't welcome a much less frenetic consumerism!

Without doubt, a rapid reduction in Carbon (so much easier than saying greenhouse gas emissions but we must remember it includes a number of other gases) would lead to a reorganisation of the economy. When this is something the powers that be want, it is a 'good thing'. Like moving away from manufacturing to a service economy, which will increase the number of jobs in high value businesses and create growth in new areas. But when it is forced upon them it is a 'bad thing' because it will mean loss of jobs and closing businesses and unemployment. Change always causes pain for some and gain for others whether the long term result is good or bad overall.

But if we all suddenly reduced our carbon usage by not travelling, not buying stuff, not heating our homes and not using electricity the economy would suffer badly, jobs would be lost, businesses close and because we were busy not spending, there would be little to replace them.

So we need to find a way to continue spending AND reducing carbon usage by choosing more carefullly how we spend our money. Do we fly to Rome for the weekend or buy a painting? Do we buy an apple from China or a local apple? Do we buy a plasma TV or a subscription to a movie channel?

Low(er) carbon spending usually involves not buying things but experiences or services.
Instead of buying a lawn mower, pay someone to mow the lawn for you (hopefully travelling around by electric vehicle)
Think quality before quantity
Eat at local resteraunts that use local foods
Get stuff repaired

Types of Blog Posts

For me, there are three kinds of blog posts:
- spur of the minute mini posts. I think of something to post and happen to be online at the time...
- longer posts. Anything to avoid what I am really supposed to be doing...
- serious posts. Having written a draft I don't want to post it yet as I think it worthy of more attention. Never gets posted.

I'm going to have a clear out of all those posts that never got finished and delete or post!

Japan Car - The Science Museum

n c
Made one of my periodic trips to the Science Museum in London to worship the Steam Engines and see what had changed.

I think the Steam Engines - all shapes and sizes and some working - are Awesome. In every sense of the word. And never tire of looking at them, especially the early ones, where you can see a brand new idea evolving. It must have been so exciting to design and build them. And then to care for them. Some went on working for well over 100 years and got affectionate names like 'Old Bess'. We rarely get a chance to develop any kind of relationship, other than frustration, with our modern machines. They are just not around long enough.

The Japan Car exhibition includes examples of their mini-cars. A particular spec that limits the dimensions of the car and engine size to 600cc. They have a wide range of cars, including two seat drop head and a var/pickup. Also the iReal. If the segway is an advanced scooter, think of this as an advanced armchair. If we are all zipping around in these things, that take us from inside our homes, to the shops, around the shops and back again, how long will we have to spend in the gym to keep our bodies ticking over? I can see a later version having gym equipment built in to save you that hassle, and maybe even providing some charge for the battery. I really look forward to having one of these when I can no longer stride down the road, and hopefully there will be an off-road version for checking the horses in the field, I will be on equal terms with the more able bodied. But I still like the simplicity of walking. No need to check the battery is charged, just up and go!

Airships rise again

Airships sound good in theory - cheap, load carrying, flexible routing (no airport required) - but various companies have failed over the years to get beyond the small blimps used advertising and carrying TV cameras.

Here is another go and the best of luck to them.

This article makes two errors:

Dangers of hydrogen - the same stuff we are planning to put in our cars. There is a comprehensive summary of the various theories of what cause the Hindenberg crash in Wikipedia but what is rarely reported is that
Despite the violent fire, most of the crew and passengers survived. Of the 36 passengers and 61 crew, 13 passengers and 22 crew died. Also killed was one member of the ground crew, Navy Linesman Allen Hagaman. The two dogs on board the ship also died. Most deaths were not caused directly by the fire but were from jumping from the burning ship. Those passengers who rode the ship on its descent to the ground survived. Some deaths of crew members occurred because they wanted to save people on board the ship. In comparison, almost twice as many perished when the helium-filled USS Akron crashed.[12]

Friday, January 16, 2009

Energy Payback Period

Suppose a developer looked at this row of poor constructed and poorly maintained buildings and had an idea.

I'm going to make this offer to all the property owners. I will knock this whole block and rebuild using a highly efficient pre-fab system so you can be back in your homes/shops in 2 months. I will put solar panels on the roof and a gas fired CHP plant for the whole block.

You get, at no cost other than some inconvenience, a new building that has low running costs.
I will rebuild back to a higher level and will get the additional space to rent or sell. I will also maintain and run the CHP plant and supply you with heat and electricity and take the profits from that.

So assuming you could work your way through peoples reluctance for change and the planning laws, and assuming this was a profitable deal for the developer. How long would the payback be in terms of energy and how long would it be in terms of carbon emissions (this would be sooner because the proportion of renewables would be increased)?

A lot would depend on constructions methods and how inefficient the buildings currently are. There are many options when you are building new buildings, to reduce fossil-fuel use and energy use overall. Retrofit is much much harder. Maybe we starting again in many cases. Develop a whole new 21st century style that retains some of the characteristics of earlier times, but is not trying to mimic any period of the past.

Anyone any thoughts?