Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Cheaper Electricity, Oil, Gas with Collective Switching A Job for the Credit Unions?


The Big Switch - a painting by Shameus O'Conman

Cheaper Electricity, Oil, 
Gas and Coal
with Collective Switching

I loved the black comedy "In Bruges", so when the town was mentioned on BBC News, my ears pricked up. People in Bruges are saving massive amounts on their energy bills, in some cases multiples of their bills. How are they doing this?

The citizens of Bruges have clubbed together in their thousands and collectively made deals with the cheapest providers, and then they, en masse, switched to those energy providers. The saving in some cases meant cutting bills by more than half.

Credit Unions

I see a role here for the Credit Unions. Credit Unions were founded to help the small guy, and in Ireland at least, they have been a most valuable asset to the lower earners, myself included.

If all of the Credit Unions collectively were to initiate schemes for the mass negotiation and purchase of Oil, Gas, Electricity, Coal etc. they could, in one fell swoop, lessen, if not eliminate, the disgraceful 40% Fuel Poverty figure in Ireland.

Time for Collective Action?

I would really like to hear of any such moves afoot, or of any opinions on this matter. It is time for the little guy to take back some control. If consumers acted collectively and cooperatively in their millions, the face of commerce could be changed for the better. Collective action, the "power of we" the recent Blog Action Day brought that subject into slightly better focus. I was motivated to put my spoke in for that event:


Monday, October 22, 2012

A General Review of Multi-Fuel Stoves Part3


A Review of 
Multi-Fuel Stove Features 
Part 3

Some General Design Features
What to Avoid

Take a good look at the stove in the above photo of a double door stove. It has several design features that I would avoid at all costs. Why would I avoid this type of design?  There are two main reasons, actually there are more than two reasons, but for clarity in this post, I will stick to just the two.

1. Double doors: There is no practical need for two doors in the average size of stove. The only excuse for having double doors is in a very large stove perhaps upwards of 12Kw. Two doors are simply a style element, and one which generally causes problems. A single door will give the same access without the complications.

Two doors means a more complex closure with nearly half as much again of seal needed and therefore more places for air to leak in, and a lot more complicated when replacing the seals.

Air leaking into a stove spells trouble and causes problems. It can create hot spots of burn - like a little blow lamp - think of blowing to start a fire. A thin stream of air will cause fuel where it strikes to burn brighter. Air leaking in any crack in the seal between the two doors will create a hot spot of burn and this can lead to damage of the grate or retainer.

Air leaks also means that it is more difficult to control the general burn rate of the fire, this leads to inefficiency or overheating.

The seal between the two doors is right slap in the middle of the fire - the hottest place - it is going to be difficult to maintain a good seal at the best of times - but the roasting heat on the doors is going to cause some expansion of the metal and some warping.

Many double door stoves have only one latching point, in that case, it is next to impossible for there to be a good air seal.

Double doors generally means double air controls - more difficult to control the burn rate - quite simply put - a pain in the ass!!

In the slightly better design of double door stoves above, there is a top and bottom latching system. There still exists in this stove the second major design problem.

2. Sliding air controls: It is next to impossible to get any sort of fine adjustment of the air supply with sliding air controls. The rotary type of air control, if they are of reasonable quality, can give you an almost infinite degree of control of the air supply to the point of cut off. You will never get this with sliding controls.

Additionally, sliding air controls are usually spring loaded and slide areas can become clogged or corroded this leads to the tendency to stick making them very annoying to adjust.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Recession Statistics in Ireland


Food Poverty 
in Ireland

The Irish Department of Social Protection recently commissioned a study on “Food Poverty”. This study has, for the first time, established clear and simple criteria whereby to measure this growing problem in Ireland.

The measurement uses "deprivation markers" to define food poverty:

1. Households that cannot afford a meal with meat, or vegetarian equivalent, every second day.
2. Households that cannot afford a weekly roast dinner.
3. Household that have missed a meal over a two-week period, due to a lack of money.
4. Inability to have family or friends for a meal or drink once a month

10% of people questioned for a CSO (Central Statistics Office) Survey in 2010 on Income and Living Conditions, experienced at least two of these conditions. Food poverty in Ireland will now be measured every year from here forward.

The study only looked at food poverty from 2004 to 2010. Figures have not yet been produced for 2011 and 2012.

Somehow, and it is just my wild guess that, the figure, like the Fuel Poverty figure, will have increased. And just to depress you some more, here is my collection of variously published indicators that clearly show the trend in Ireland:

The Imbalance Indicators (updated) :

(increased 42% in 5 years 2005 to 2010)
DOMESTIC VIOLENCE up from 2010 to 2011 by 15%
(11,000 women and children sought refuge in 2011 according to SAFE organisation).
UNEMPLOYMENT has increased by 352%
( from 4.2% in 2007 to 14.8% by October 2012)
UNEMPLOYMENT among 15 to 24y group nationally stands at 39%
UNEMPLOYMENT in the 15 to 25y group in some areas is at 74%
HOUSE BUILDING homes built 8,488 has dropped over 90% since 2006 at 93,000, and is 20% down in one year.
BUSINESS INSOLVENCIES Up 13.30% from 2010.
(1,684 companies failed in 2012 alone)
FUEL POVERTY, (the decision to Eat or Heat) estimated to affect 40% of citizens
FOOD POVERTY in 2010 was estimated to be at 10%
FOOD PRICES have risen by an average of 12% in the last two years.
HOMELESSNESS up by as much as 45% in Dublin.
(from 70 in 2010 to a current estimate of as much as 101)
RETAIL SALES are down by 5.50%
SUICIDES are up in 2011 from 2010 by 7%
TRUST in the Irish Government in a recent survey fell to a mere 20%
POLITICIANS are the 2nd least trusted profession in Ireland.
(Only 14% of Irish people trust politicians - I wonder why?  How about 26 TDs, members of the Irish Parliament, each claimed €5,000 expenses for August - when there are no sittings of the House)
DISPOSABLE INCOME SURVEY: 1.60 million Irish have €50 or less left each month after paying for essentials. In other words, roughly 36% of the Irish population have disposable income of €600 or less per year.
DISPOSABLE INCOME in lower income groups effectively down by nearly 19%

By contrast the imbalance in incomes:
INCOME FOR TOP IRISH EARNERS is up on average by over 4%
DUBLIN CITY MANAGER salary €190,000
COUNTY MANAGERS salary €153,260

Compare salaries:


Ireland is a seriously imbalanced society, fiscally, socially, politically, morally, ethically, and psychologically. Traditional religious and spiritual values have all but vanished, and there is a major lack of ethical balance and moral leadership.

Harping-on while Ireland Burns - - A Painting by ShameUs O'ConMan

We, Ireland a country beggared and in hock to the IMF, pay our county managers twice the salary of the Spanish Prime Minister, even as the population at large suffers some shocking imbalances and deprivations. Rome, like an apple, rotted from the core because of it's moral degeneration. From the perspective of many Irish citizens, there are many parallels to be found between the fall of Rome and present day Ireland.


Thursday, October 18, 2012

Calco Smokeless Coal Mix


Smokeless Coal Mixture

On the left is a Lignite or brown coal nugget, On the right a piece of Petro-coke

I have had a good many people enquiring about Calco for two essential reasons, (1) because it is such an efficient, reasonably priced, low ash, high heat output fuel, and (2) because some people are worried about it possibly causing damage to stoves.

Calco mix has esentially two main components, as shown in the above photograph, it is a mixture of petro-coke and lignite nuggets. I estimate the mix to be very roughly 3/4 petro-coke to 1/4 lignite nuggets. It is one of the most efficient smokeless coals available, and if it is used correctly, it represents superb value for money.

I have been using Calco mix for two years, and I have seen no perceivable damage in that time. There is a caveat though, Calco is very capable of doing damage if used incorrectly.

Foolish Users Wreck Stoves!

If you were to fill a stove with Calco and just let it rip, it will redden the stove - and will undoubtedly damage or burn the metal of the stove. This is because petro-coke is a coke - coke is used in smelters to melt iron, cokes are capable of achieving very high temperatures.  However, control the air intake, and thereby the temperature achieved, and you will not have problems.

The purpose of the lignite in the mix is to give an amount of ash, up to 19% in some lignite, and a percentage of a fuel with much lower temperature burning characteristics. This modifies the overall burning rate and the ash helps protect the grates and baffles of a stove.

Some stove manufacturers will not guarantee their appliances if Calco is being used, and they are probably justified, because many people have not got a clue about how to properly control the burn in a solid fuel stove.

Calco Great Value BUT use it correctly

I have just checked prices for this winter with our local dealer in County Kerry, Econ Fuels, Monavalley, Tralee tel: 066-4011099. Calco Petrocoke mix is €1 dearer this winter at €15.99 per 40Kg bag, or 3 bags for €45. They also have Lignite Nuggets at €14.99 per 40Kg bag or 3 bags for €43 if you prefer to play safe with your stove. The guys at Econ Fuels say the price increase is due to increased transport costs, which in turn are due to massive price increases and Ireland's extra taxation on motor fuels.

ADDENDUM (I am also posting this addendum as a new post 04 December 2015)

It has come to my attention from several regular users of Calco Mix that there has been high level of stones and pieces of concrete etc. found in Calco. One lady told me that an exploding stone had broken the glass of her stove.

I my self have found a collection of extraneous bits and pieces in my Calco-Mix of late. Some are harmless bits of wood etc. others are less benign. Either the agents or those making the mix are quite careless, or could it ever be possible that this EXTRA material is being added intentionally for some reason unknown??

Above is a photo I have just taken showing a collection of rocks and concrete I found in my Calco. The lignite briquette and the 1 Euro coin and there just to show scale. The two brownish stones are that colour because they came out of the fire. Luckily I had discovered the rest before placing them in the fire. That collection represents the use of perhaps 2 to 3 bags of Calco - that is a fair bit of extraneous matter. Apart from devaluing the Calco, there is always the dangers presented by an exploding stone in the fire.

I will reserve final judgement but suffice it to say I have lost some of my enthusiasm for Calco-Mix.


Friday, October 12, 2012

The Power of We - Blog Action Day Post


The Power of We

Preamble - Ramble?

Blog Action Day has struck me as being somewhat soft-focused - essentially too aspirational and diffuse. That is why I gave it a miss for a couple of years. The subject this year took my fancy, as it is something about which I hold very strong opinions and beliefs. That is why I have decided to give it a twirl again this year.

So - I guess that I am supposed to write something on the 2012 Blog Action Day theme – “The Power of We”  Right then - I will have a go at it, and in the interest of the "conservation of energy", I will borrow a few bits here and there from some of my previous posts which touched on concepts and principles aligned with the general idea OK?

Start from Here!

The title of the book and movie “The Power of One” flashed into my mind when I was confronted by the Blog Action Day request e-mail asking me to produce something that could fit under the title “The Power of We”. While I fully accept that whereas we need the trail blazers, the leaders of thought, the example givers, I know that without collective, co-operative, unified, and sustainable action - nothing much will ever be attained.

We could learn a lot from bees and ants. Like ants humans possess little power when acting alone as individuals. Not until our individual powers are aligned and synchronised with others do we, the collective human race, become really effective.

The simplest illustration of co-operative reciprocal action is that of two woodsmen cutting a large log with a two handed saw. The task would be very difficult if not impossible for one but with co-operation and reciprocity it can be readily achieved.

Define Reciprocity? 

Reciprocity is: mutual or cooperative interchange. One historical and proverbial example says; one hand washes the other.

The Principle of Reciprocation

In 1768 James Watt (1736 – 1819) Scottish inventor, applied for a Patent for his more efficient reciprocating engine. It was a huge improvement on existing designs, and defined the principles of reciprocity in engineering science.

The technical application of the principles of reciprocating action was one of the major factors that gave birth to the industrial revolution and indeed to nearly all of modern technology.

Watt's Engine Drawings

Today, nearly every piece of machinery and electronic equipment uses the scientific principles of co-operation and reciprocity. Cars, computers, jet planes, satellites, etc. simply would not function if these principles were not active. Physicists have come to understand that the same principles apply from the sub-atomic to the astrophysical levels of the universe.

However, unfortunately human beings, while understanding well the essential principles of co-operation and reciprocity when applied to technology and physics, have failed, almost completely, to appreciate the benefits of these principles if applied to human dynamics.

The Principle of Unified Action

“The well-being of mankind, its peace and security, are unattainable unless and until its unity is firmly established.” A man called Bahá’u’lláh wrote this truism one hundred and fifty years ago. Its essential truth is easily understood and accepted by most scientists, especially physicists and mathematicians. However, when it comes to the science of human affairs as applied to everyday life situations such as government, finance and banking, commerce and business, even education, the principle of unity is conveniently forgotten and utterly discarded.

The day to day function of our technological world is fully governed by and depends on reciprocal balance, co-operation of elements, and unity function. It is just a shame to observe that, in the current structures that govern human functional principles, the reciprocity, the co-operation, and the unity are replaced, for the most part, with the pole opposite principles

Current Functional Principles Governing Society

The generally unstated but actual operating principles that govern most of Politics, Business, Finance, Banking, Legal Process, even Education are:

(1) Competitiveness, 
(2) Adversarialism, 
(3) Cronyism, 
(4) Exclusivity,
(5) Win at any cost, and 
(6) Dishonesty.

Take the principle of competitiveness, you might say that it is needed in business and sport. 

However, consider what it does in our education system? It acts as a filter – like grading stones in a quarry – once the stones are graded there is no going back. The useless stones are discarded as junk – right? And that doesn't lead to a multi-tiered society?

The saying; "there can be only one winner" should put you on alert immediately. The recent world-wide financial collapse has been a major winning for some and misery for most.

Adversarialism (them and us, and we are going to win) ; a most obvious quantity in our legal system and in our governing bodies. 

Here is one definition of our political system: Party Politics, one good on-line definition expresses it thus, “political acts and principles directed toward the interests of one political party or its members without reference to the common good”

And who would argue that our legal and court systems serve the people truly, honestly, efficiently, and produce equity and justice in the true sense? And you don't think the person or corporation that can afford the best legal team won't win even when they are clearly at fault?

We all Want "The Power of We" - BUT

We truly do in our hearts - want the Power of We, but as yet this truly amazing faculty of the human species has eluded the general grasp of the people. 

We want to trust - but who can we trust? 

We want to co-operate - but will we be reciprocated in our efforts.

We all - well most of us - want to give, be generous - but we want to hold on to it too!

We all want unity - but will some take advantage of that aspiration? 

We all want equality - but will some demand to be more equal than other?

We Can Achieve it

We can achieve a united world where all the forces are directed to the common good. It would be a world with few if any arms and armies!  It would be a world with few litigation lawyers - they would not be needed! It would be a world with few tax inspectors - people would want to pay into the common good in the secure knowledge that much of the tax money was not being squandered.

If we could make as much progress with the science of human affairs as we have with technology, we could see a very different world emerge in a few short years.

What Will it Take?

Too big a subject to go into in any sort of depth here. I will list just a very few points that I believe are vital elements of the changes needed in order to achieve, anything other than diffuse aspirations, a realisation of the Power of We within the human race.

(1) The global first step has already been achieved; an instant, world-wide inter-communication system by means of which cultures can mix, new ideas can be discussed, and progress in human consciousness can be achieved.

(2) A fundamental shift in human perceptions is needed. We are so embedded in our faulty, limited, and outdated social, ethical, moral, and political systems, that we cannot, for the most part, see much beyond them. Indeed, rather than a forward movement, there is a large and dangerous retrograde fundamentalist trend sweeping the world which is narrowing human vision.

(3) The development and spread of education, to the mass of humanity, with principles that include; (a) equality of sexes, religions, ethnics groups, etc. (b) The ethical distribution of the world's resources. (c) The universal right to education.

(4) That I, and you, and you, and everyone else, attain to the point where we see service to the common good as more important than, and taking precedence above, service to our selves, our families, or our country.

Basically, we need to (a) run a virus and mal-ware checker, (b) install a new operating system, (c) re-write many of the current files and systems, and (d) re-boot the machine.


Monday, October 08, 2012

Wood Burning in Stoves


A Vorex of some kind?

No - not a Black-Hole - it is the inside of the flue pipe of a stove that has been burning unseasoned wood.

Do NOT buy unseasoned wood

As you can clearly see in the above photo, about two thirds of the flue-pipe is blocked with this creosote encrustation. If much more of the pipe was to become blocked, there would be a very real danger of CARBON MONOXIDE being released into the house.

Carbon-monoxide is a KILLER.

Here is another example of a creosote clogged flue pipe. The above example is getting very close to the point where carbon monoxide production would become a real possibility. If you burn a lot of wood - please check your flue pipes regularly.

Another real danger with Creosote

There is another danger involving a creosote build-up in a flue. Creosote is flammable, if the build-up in the flue-pipe ignited, it would go off like a rocket. It could pose a very real danger to the house.

A metal pipe will actually redden and you would have a roaring noise like a rocket. It will cause expensive damage, and may well set your house on fire.

Yet another but lesser problem is the difficult and dirty job of cleaning out the flue pipe, and if you use a lot of unseasoned wood, that should be done at least twice in a season. That hard work alone makes it worthwhile to avoid using unseasoned wood.

If you burn kiln-dried or fully seasoned wood, there is a greatly reduced amount of creosote released. With wood briquettes with their very low moisture levels, creosote is hardly a problem at all.

Please be warned - do not buy those wood blocks in plastic bags unless you 100% trust the person who is selling them. Most of that stuff is green wood, not properly seasoned, and I would bet a weeks wages, if I were a betting man, the chances of that stuff being kiln dried is about 100 to 1 against!!


Thursday, October 04, 2012

Immoral Interest Rates EuroNews Advert


What is USURY ?

“Usury is the practice of making loans
 with excessive or abusive interest rates.” Wikipedia.

Condemned throughout history by so many religious and moral codes as being the cause of evil, usury is alive today, breeding like bacteria in the Petri dish of our slick modern society, and feeding on the culture medium of unethical practices.

In Marcus Porcius Cato's narrative “De Re Rustica” the question is asked, 

"What is to be said of making profit by usury?"  His reply,

"What is to be said of making profit by murder?"

I am personally aware of several suicides that have resulted as a direct outcome of people feeling totally trapped by financial circumstances. Money lenders charging immoral levels of interest could be said to contribute to peoples misfortunes and even in some cases to their deaths.

So what has brought on this rant – you might ask? I was watching a news item on Euronews about how Greece is leading Europe in having set up an instant alert and rescue system to deal with missing children. Well done Greece I'm impressed. 

The news item was followed by the usual advert break. I was horrified and sickened by one of the adverts which was selling loans at the mind-numbing interest rate of no less than 49.90% APR.

I, at first, did not believe my eyes, and had to check a second time to make sure I was not hallucinating.

In my innocence, or if you like, ignorance,  I had simply thought that this sort of money lending was outlawed by civilized countries. 

In many desperate cases, lenders with their 50% interest rates might as well put heavy chains around a victims neck and toss them into the sea. I am truly outraged. No credit to EuroNews either for carrying this sort of advert.


Monday, October 01, 2012

Review of Multi-Fuel Stoves some Pointers 2


From Readers

It has been pointed out to me that my last post perhaps compared two samples of Cast Iron which had quite different life experiences. One from the outside of a stove, and the other sample evident had seen some action.

So I have taken a close up of a casting from the inside of my three year old stove - see the top photo with the position marked. This piece of iron is at the front of the stove and directly above the fire, so it has seen plenty of action and received a lot of heat. I obviously had to clean the soot and debris from the position to make the texture of the iron properly visible.

As you can clearly see from the above close up of the inside casting of the stove, the quality and texture of the cast is, apart from discolouration, of the same nature and texture as that of the outside.

My Blacksmith Anvil has very good quality cast iron, take a good close look at the texture and remember it when looking at stoves. The quality is testified to by the obvious smooth texture of the casting, but much more importantly, by the fact that there has been no signs of wear or burn on the fire exposed parts, or any other part of the stove for that matter, in three years to date.