defining “flood”

When the floods struck Queensland and Victoria at the end of 2010 and the beginning of 2011; many people, though devastated by the floods, thought that their insurance would help them to set things right again.
However, many people discovered, to their horror, that sometimes they were paying for insurance with no flood cover, or even that when they had double checked that ‘flood’ was included in their policies, the insurance company didn’t cover them for the type of flood that impacted so many homes across Australia.

According to lawyers and consumer advocates, water flowing from rivers, creeks, dams, lakes or reservoirs may not be covered in some insurers’ definition of a flood, leaving some insurance policy holders unknowingly unprotected to flood damage.
(from Brisbane Times)

In January 2011, I suggested on a 774 Melbourne Facebook comment that the government should legislate a standard definition of flood.
[ The proof ]
text:

How about having a legally mandated definition of “Flood” for the insurance companies to use, so no-one can weasel out of paying out when people have faithfully been paying premiums?
Friday, 21 January 2011 at 09:13

So I was quite impressed to see ABC news say in November:

The Federal Government has announced plans for a major shake-up of disaster insurance, including the introduction of a standard definition of flood.

It’s nice to see your ideas picked up and used. ;)

Of course, this is no excuse for not reading your insurance policy, but they can be quite thick texts to wade through, and the insurance companies shouldn’t be using confusing language to avoid paying out on claims.

November 15, 2011 | Leave a Comment |

beat the heat

With another 40+ degree day (Celsius) on it’s way after a 3 day run of blistering hot days in Melbourne, I thought I’d share ways we kept cool and even enjoyed the summer. There are three ways you can keep cool- your environment, your outside, and your inside.

It is important to keep your house cool. We don’t have any kind of air-conditioning or evaporative cooling, but even so these steps are important to keep the sun OUT so you can stay cool. While a breeze might sound like a good idea, it isn’t when it is hot air from the outside. Close the doors and windows during the heat of the day. Block out the light, close the curtains and blinds. We even hung some old curtains from the gutter outside the west facing windows, because we don’t have exterior blinds. Of course, once the sun is gone, open everything up and let the breeze through! Inside the house, we set up a mini evaporative cooler, with a wet towel hanging behind a fan. (Not draped over the fan.) We only used this when we were there, as fans don’t cool a room, but only the people in the room.

Now, on days as hot as this, you have to resign yourself to the sluggishness, rushing around is just going to make you hot. Lightweight clothing is a must- nothing more than a tshirt and shorts. An old tshirt dunked in water (that you’ve been religiously saving from the first sprinkles of your shower), wrung out and worn is effective relief from the heat- just sit on a towel. Boredom is also a factor- some people say to turn off computers and the like to prevent heat output, but it’s a trade off I’ll take. Put the laptop on a lap rest though.

Your insides are important to look after in the battle to keep cool- make sure you keep on drinking water. Water might be boring after a while, so have some cordial on hand to make drinking more appealing. Ice is always a plus on a hot summer’s day. What about eating? Well, the oven has already been banned for it’s heat producing capacities, so something cold from the fridge is the way to go, maybe leftovers or a nice salad. Ice cream, of course, helps to cool you down as well. Enjoy it!

After a hot hot day, often comes a hot hot night. While it is cooler and bearable while you are awake, the heat seems to sneak up on you when you go to bed. My favourite way to combat this is to sleep in a hammock, as the air is able to move all around you and take away the heat. A pillow that has been in the freezer on a hot night is a wonderful thing. Have a blanket of some sort on hand- it can get quite cool, which is what you want when it doesn’t dip below 30.

Of course, another resort is to escape somewhere cool- a nice air conditioned shopping centre, friend’s house or swimming pool. What tips have you got for staying cool?

February 5, 2009 | 1 Comment |

what to do in a fire

Looking at the terrible wildfires burning their way through California, I wonder if the lessons learnt in Australia are being shared with our friends overseas.

The inspiration for this post came after watching news footage of a fire fighter telling a person to get out, to leave, to quit fighting the fire and defending their house.

There are ads here in Australia, telling us to make our fire plan, which is to either stay and defend, or evacuate. And if you’re going to evacuate, to evacuate early. There is information on what you need to defend your home, and what you need to do to evacuate. The crucial part of this information is that most civilian deaths in fire come when they leave too late, and are overtaken by the fire.

Surely this information needs to be spread where ever there is risk of bushfire? The lives saved would definitely make the cost worth it.

October 24, 2007 | 1 Comment |

you have to signal to the bus

I was riding on the bus this morning, as usual, to get to uni, when I had an opportunity to reminisce and have a quiet chuckle to myself.

The bus was running a bit late, and the bus driver was a little grumpy. We were steaming (well, whatever the exhaust for ethanol is) up the road, when he slammed on the brakes, as we slid to a stop just past one of the bus stops.
“You have to signal to the bus!” He says to the confused would-be passengers who have jogged up to the door.

Now this is sensible- there are multiple buses that use the stops, and to be more efficient, you should flag down the bus that you want, so any others don’t have to stop. But realistically, when you are at a bus stop, you expect the bus (your bus) to stop.

Why do I chuckle? In Bolivia, there are no bus stops. If you want to get somewhere, you stand beside the road (any place) and flag down what you want- be it taxi, bus, trufi or otherwise. In Bolivia, you do this by facing the on coming traffic, sticking your arm out over the road, with your hand in pointing mode. (Yes, using the “wrong” arm as you change countries and consequently the side of the road driven on feels weird.) Make eye contact with the driver. And when you want to get off? Just say so, and the bus/taxi/trufi will stop.

When I usually catch a bus, I catch it at either end of a major route- Blackburn to Monash. However, when using a smaller bus stop, I am still in the habit of flagging down the bus. Funny how some things stick with you.

September 12, 2007 | 2 Comments |

emo google

Save power! Save the world! … or maybe not.

An email got sent around the wholefoods list, notifying us of blackle, a black google. The idea behind it is that by using black instead of white, power can be saved.

The problem is that it only works for CRT monitors (basically the default pixel colour for a CRT is black). On an LCD monitor, which is backlit, white is the default pixel colour. the basic idea for LCDs is that the pixels turn to block the light- fully blocking the light and using the most power is black.

So blackle uses MORE power on LCD monitors than regular Google. The claimed power saving works only on CRT monitors.

However, if you really dig the colour scheme, blackle might be for you.

July 25, 2007 | 11 Comments |

electricity fuels my lifestyle

How dependent are you on electricity? Last night I found out how much my lifestyle depends on electricity, as a large storm bore down on Victoria. Lots of rain (60mm at last check) and gusts of damaging wind forecast, it was no surprise to find the power out. We noticed at about 4 o’clock, as my Grandma saw that her clock was dead. A quick test of the light switch showed that in fact, the power was out. Now, we were both reading by natural light at this time, and this didn’t bother us. As the sun dipped (not that we could see it for the clouds) it became darker and darker and harder to see. We rang the energy company power-out hot line, and heard the recorded voice list lots and lots of areas, ours included, and the expected times that the power would be restored. 10:30pm! So we got the candles out of the top of the cupboard.

A candle lit dinner!
The first part of our routine: dinner. Oven cooking is out, as we have an electric oven. Our stove stop is gas (even without that I have a camp stove) so we’re ok. So we’ll get that plastic tub of spaghetti leftovers and… oh yeah. Can’t microwave it. Power’s out. No problem, we’ll just put it in a saucepan, man! It’s frozen and won’t come out of the container. Put it in hot water. (Good thing we have gas heated water!) The frozen chunk of meat and spaghetti is out now, let’s cook it. But only the bottom of the chunk is touching the pan and melting! So we’ll break it up. *thunk thunk thunk thunk thunk…* after concentrated effort and team work (I’ll hold it down with the wooden spoon, you hold the pot and attack it with a knife) we have a smooth mix that is heating up nicely. Our cooking space is lit by a candle.

A candlelit dinner! It’s meat and spaghetti slop on bread (sorry, no toast, power’s out) but it tastes ok. Good thing everything was cooked to begin with.

Entertainment that doesn’t come in a box
So, what now? There is no TV or radio to catch the news. In fact, there won’t be any quiz shows, reality shows or any other kind of TV show! (Power’s out, remember?) Let’s play rummikub! Rummikub, (Grandma beat me every time! She’s a crafty one,) various attempts at me teaching Grandma card games and trying to get the dog to go outside and do his business (don’t blame him for not wanting to go outside in that weather!) And stories filled up our evening till 8 o’clock. There was nothing else to do but go to bed!

No TV, No internet, no lights (other than candles and battery torches), no car (stuck in the garage behind a button open roller door) (technically there is a way to open it by hand, but we couldn’t be bothered), no microwave, no toaster, no radio, no central heating, no light in the fridge (off fridge! good thing it’s winter), no electric blankets, no external CD drive, no electricity!

How we cheated
It wasn’t a totally energy free evening though, we still had running hot and cold water (city water, not relient on a pump and well system), the phone, both fixed and mobile (one because of the phone lines and one because of a battery), we still had gas, and the computer I’m writing this on now is on battery power.

Overall though, it was shocking to realize how dependent we are on power, especially for a long period of time in the evening when it is dark.

June 28, 2007 | 2 Comments |

random vegetable goodness

I’m a member of the Wholefoods vegetable co-op at Monash. For 15 Aussie dollars, this is the box of vegetables that is supposed to last two people a week, but actually lasts us a bit more than that.


[ vegetables in a box ]
[ contents of the box spread out ]


This time, we’ve got: a butternut pumpkin, four brown onions, four medium-large potatoes, four bananas, two large carrots, two oranges, two head of broccoli, a knob of ginger, four zucchini, two apples and eleven chestnuts.

It’s good because we get the staples, plus some variety. I now know, for instance, that you will never find all the remnants of an exploded chestnut. And that the flavour is ‘mmm. perhaps not my favourite.’ At 15$ for organic produce, it’s a pretty cool deal.

May 2, 2007 | 1 Comment |

GM mosquitoes

I read this article on the BBC about a scientific trial of genetically modified (GM) mosquitoes.

The general idea is that they are malaria resistant, and compete with and eradicate the malaria mosquitoes. They haven’t been released yet, as they are still being trialled in laboratories.

Malaria is a big issue in the developing world. In Africa, it is a big killer. In the western world, malaria is not an issue, because it was generally eradicated with widespread use of DDT, a powerful pesticide. However, powerful pesticides like this one are banned because of the environmental damage caused. (See ‘Silent Spring’.)

I found myself wondering about the ethics of releasing genetically modified animals into the wild- there are concerns about GM food, which can be semi controlled and restricted to one farm. (This is simplifying, of course there are concerns about pollination contamination.) Would there be protests against the release of GM mosquitoes? Is it ethical?

But, in parts of Africa, a child dies from malaria every 3 seconds. Is it ethical to withhold a solution to the loss of life? We (in the western world) don’t have to live with malaria- sometimes this is because of natural factors (isolation, altitude) but it could be a result of environmental devastation, which happened a long time ago. Even though mosquitoes are annoying and carry disease, they are still a part of the food chain.

I suppose it is a case of two evils- or is it? Are GM mosquitoes a bad thing? If they are, then is it something we are willing to overlook? DDT is banned (for good reason), so it cannot be used any more to eradicate mosquitoes. This means we have to find an alternative way of dealing with the problem. GM mosquitoes mean there is still a food source for predators (such as birds and frogs) while eliminating the issue of malaria, while bringing up issues of genetic modification.

If I had to decide, I would “vote” in favour of the GM mosquito program, but I’m still thinking about it. What do you think?

March 20, 2007 | 6 Comments |

organic store wars

Hey, another youtube video. I quite like this one- geekiness and environmentally friendly rolled into one.

edited to add- thanks to Curious for this one!

March 4, 2007 | 1 Comment |

powering Australia

As the ordinary people lug buckets in a water shortage, we begin to think about other resources. The debate about Global Warming has brought up the topic of energy, and electricity generation.

Australia generates most of its power from coal. Coal fired electricity accounts for about 80% of Australia’s power consumption. (source) It also exports a lot of coal for power generation in other countries. (Uranium is also exported as fuel for nuclear reactors.)

Both the often-used strip mining and the gasses released (both polluting and green house) are reasons that the Coal industry is targeted by environmentalists. ( see also: this)

The whole reason for this blog post is to criticise an argument of John Howard (PM) I heard on TV- the above is simply background. (I’m afraid I don’t have the reference- yes, this is dodgy blog reporting.) He derided Labour’s commitment to greener energies, saying that he is committed to keeping the coal miners in their jobs. However, he then said that he was willing to look at Nuclear power, unlike the Opposition. (my paraphrase)
Surely, we have got to stop depending on a fuel that is so bad for the planet we live on. This is going to mean, unfortunately, the end of an industry. People are going to lose their jobs. This will happen whether we switch to green energy (such as solar power) or nuclear energy.

Nuclear power generation is not without it’s problems, and the complete antagonism from greens groups is just one of them. The debate, the research into safety and viability will take years. We need to take action now- let’s develop viable, clean, renewable energy generation instead.

February 8, 2007 | Leave a Comment |
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