Just a comment about learning second languages. It is a myth that children learn languages faster than adults.
That's a very dated paper, Bart. My wife has studied child language acquisition, and more recent research shows a significantly increased language learning ability which disappears by age 11 (I would offer some links, but alas, she has just driven off until next week!). Furthermore, if a child starts school with a significantly underdeveloped first-language ability, the best thing you can do is teach them a second language, as that triggers a "second-chance" process that puts all the missing blocks of first language ability in place.
So there are very strong incentives to get up a story as fast as possible (ie with minimal subbing and checking) and then update it continuously. Once readers know a story will likely develop over the day they’ll keep refreshing.
The problem being (on Stuff, at least) that the way they update is to bung a new short story at the top of the article and make no effort to integrate it. I was reading articles on MH17 which gave the same background facts four times - obviously because they had "updated" the story three times without reviewing what was already in the story.
Paywalls imply a significant vendor-lock-in. I'm in Taranaki, so the Herald misses a lot of relavant news for me, but there are times it way outperforms stuff on breaking stories. But I'm not going to pay for both. (And I'm certainly not prepared to pay for stuff based on the abysmal quality of their android app story selection).
The biggest problem is that, more than a decade after it was mooted, we still don't have a workable micropayments system ($0.08 to read this article), and I suspect that the main reason for that is that micropayments would show up how excessive the banking system's transaction fees on non-micro payments are.
I can't give any direct comparisions since we are several km from the grid. Our hot water is wetback off the kitchen range supplemnented by a doesn't quite work well enough (water pressure too low?) gas califont. From older phhotos the house used to have solar h/w - presumably it was removed when it broke down (I know the cylinder has been replaced since then).
So while it would be nice not to have to run the fire in summer, our savings would be hard to calculate (what is the cost of our labour in harvesting and storing firewood) - and we spend so much time "in the cloud" during winter that annual solar energy gain is greatly reduced.
So: General thoughts:
In general, heating water and storing it isn't very efficient. However, the only fuel source fast enough to run a zero-storage system is gas - which would have been a great resource for several hundred years if we hadn't burned most of it to make underpriced electricity in the 80's and 90's. Neither solar nor electricity is fast enough for on-demand hot water.
The biggest cost component of solar hot water is the plumbing. This varies in complexity depending on water pressures and cylinder type. An ideal system uses thermal siphon, but some need pumping.
Solar may well not meet needs year round, so what is the winter backup going to be?
Last time I spoke to someone a chinese-made vaccuum tube unit cost $1200+GST landed. You could get about three decent sized PV panels for that price. So if your existing cylinder could be fitted with a 12-24V DC element, (I don't even know if there is such a thing as a cylinder with dual element options) PV direct to water could have lower capital costs (a controller triggered by a thermostat should be around $200, cable can be expensive if you can't keep distances short).
Excess PV can power other things, too, whereas SHW can only heat water.
Using PV in a grid-tied or battery storage system to power a 240V AC heater element would increase the size of inverter required ($$$) - which is why, in conventional off-grid energy design, water heating is the first thing you throw out of the electric equation.
In our system, going back to Solar Hot water might be something as simple as branching the cold water feed to our HWC before it gets to the house and running it through 40m of alkathene pipe attached to a black concrete wall. If that raises the temperature of the mountain stream water by even 10 degrees, it's a significant fuel saving.
remind me how we embed video again? Just the URL format doesn't seem to work. (Should it be in the mini-help below?)
otoh we need plastics, and they’ll have to be from oil or coal.
We have the technology - all it needs is for oil to get a bit more expensive to make the bioplastic investment attractive:
http://opensourceecology.org/wiki/Polyethylene_from_Ethanol - and also their wiki category on Bioplastics.
Before I gave away my film SLR, I had a 1970's Toshiba 70-220 lens that was true macro - It could focus at 12mm and zoom at 50mm from the lens - which made lighting a real challenge, as I couldn't afford a ring flash, especially not for a lens with such a big diameter front ring.
I had picked it up cheap, probably because nobody could be bothered with such a heavy lens (it had its own tripod mount) in the age of compact zooms - it was probably $2000+ when new.
Question: Have there been any (recent) polls on attitudes to the TPPA? For me it's the biggest political issue going at the moment, but no party seems willing to make it a campaign plank. (The Greens told me some time back that it's there in their policy but they limit campaign focus to three policy areas).
IMO Maori MPs of every political colour should be vocal opponents given the huge sovereignty issues it raises, but I've heard very little.
Labour seems divided and unwilling to get off the fence, although their union base is clearly anti. - do they have info that opposing might cost them votes?
Yes FG, I mean lifestyle. It seems to be relatively hard to get young people who grew up on farms to commit to a rural life, and much harder to get the city-bred interested. I think it's a mixture of lack of techno-luxuries and social circle / entertainment. And yes, I meant perception, not my own view. To me, our off-grid TV-less coal-range lifestyle is great, although Telecom's mobile data caps do suck, and they've just announced a tripling of over-cap data cost, something that seems totally unjustifiable.
To Ian, my comments on Chinese Dao farmers are based on a friend and teacher who has spent months living with them to study their understanding of the flow of water through the land.
There is a big difference between one or two animals working a padi a few times a season and a whole herd spending several weeks on a paddock.
I've been told that the "war" between farmers and nomadic herders was a major reason behind the building of the Great Wall - If the cattle invaded and were ousted it still took generations to get the land back to full productivity.