Monthly Archives: August 2011

Harmstock update

Update on the festival, courtesy of @ThoroldArms:

Momentum picking up and beer flowing well at #Harmstock sun is shining! #realale

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Filed under England, Lincolnshire, Out of Austria

Nuclear: George versus Jonathon with Germany in the middle

I’ve been getting a bit behind when it comes to the nuclear energy debate started by George Monbiot in his 27th May blog. So I put a little time aside this evening to read both Jonathon Porritt’s answer’s to George’s four original questions and the subsequent reply made by George’s to Jonathon’s article.

If you haven’t read either then sit down in a comfy seat, with a nice drink and two computers (unless you like your screen full of windows). The second PC is to allow you with more ease to go and look at the various sources each quotes in defence of their own positions and/or attacks regarding the others alleged lack of vigorous research or alleged willingness to accept their ‘preferred’ industries data.

Oh and if you aren’t already familiar with developments in Germany you will be after this, as the decisions by Angela Merkel’s government this summer on nuclear energy and the wider development of renewable in Germany form a significant battle ground for our two combatants.

Four things that struck me when reading these pieces were:

1) George’s complaint “I regret the highly personal and vicious tone of his (Jonathan’s) response. This is now the third time in recent months that I have asked Jonathon to tone down his vitriolic personal remarks. I struggle to understand why they are necessary or how they help us to resolve the dilemmas in which we are all enmeshed.” Personally I think he’s got a point. If Jonathan is right he doesn’t need to cloud the debate by seeking to distract attention away from the arguments or being dismissive.

2) So long as you accept climate change is real (and man-made in respect of the current situation) then this debate is about how we deal with this as quickly and effectively as possible, which therefore means dealing with the energy gap. George is for new nuclear plants as part of a mixed strategy. Jonathan is for renewables only and no (new) nuclear power plants. The questions I as a reader need to decide is how much are either of them (and others) cherry picking figures to justify their (preselected selected or not?) cost effective solutions.

3) A lot of the debate between the two is a rational assessment of practicalities and choices. Some is simply green ideological debate (which is fair enough). The rest is the ‘politics’ of who you can and can’t trust and how much can be risked, win or lose. The danger with the latter is that we’re back to politic and ideology (which again is fine) but you should either argue openly for your agenda or support consistent and rational arguments for protecting the environment.

4) Personally, I’ve enjoyed reading and being challenged by George’s arguments. I’ve never liked nuclear power but I’m being challenged to defend my point of view or change it. I’ve long favoured (effective) renewable energy alternatives and would do so even if climate change was suddenly resolved tomorrow. In short I would expect to find myself fully behind Jonathan’s arguments but I’m left wondering is that it?

So here are the links:

The moral case for nuclear power

Why George Monbiot is completely wrong on nuclear power

Interestingly Jonathan did a blog this week Germany gets it wrong on nuclear which is also worth having a look at once you
finished the other pieces.

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Filed under Climate Change, Energy, Green

Are you in the Lincoln (UK) area this weekend?

In or within reach of the Lincoln area this weekend and wondering what to do? If you enjoy good beer and live music then I’d recommend heading for the village of Harmston and the Harmstock festival:

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Filed under England, Lincolnshire, Out of Austria

Ten random facts – Vienna

  1. 1,698,822 was the total population of Vienna in 2010.
  2. 41.1 years was the average age of Vienna’s inhabitants in 2010.
  3. 35.4 per cent is the share of Vienna’s total surface area made up by protected zones (national park, nature conservation areas) in 2009.
  4.  6,126,916 square metres of vineyards were cultivated in Vienna in 2010.
  5.  1,159,030 metres was the total length of Vienna’s cycle path and cycle lane system in 2009.
  6.  3,684,665 square metres was the total surface of Vienna’s 1,322 sports grounds and sports facilities in 2009.
  7.  225,749 pupils and students attended one of the 691 schools in Vienna in the 2008/09 school year.
  8.  171 cinema screens were available in Vienna in 2008.
  9.  17,154 children were born in Vienna in 2010.
  10.  150 metres is the height of Vienna’s highest residential building (Neue Donau tower).

Source: City of Vienna Statistical Yearbook 2010

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Filed under The odd thought or observation, Vienna Life

Putting kids to work

Well I’m about to spend my second day in a row at the Rathaus, Vienna’s gothic style City Hall. The reason being the free children’s play event in which they get to spend their time ‘working’ in a variety of jobs from banking and tax collecting through to park maintenance and construction, with roles such as postal worker, waiter or librarian to be undertaken along the way.

This is so popular with H and her friends that they were on the go doing different jobs from 10am when the event opened through to closing time at 5pm.

Whilst down at City Hall we took a lunch break and strolled into the platz in front of the building where, at this time of year you, can sit and have lunch from temporary restaurants providing food from all quarters of the world.

The Rathausplatz is also hosts a summer open air film festival  which I never seem to have time to go and enjoy.


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Filed under Activities for kids, Festivals, Vienna Life, Wine, Beer & Food

Three way split in 2nd opinion poll

A second August national opinion poll seems to confirm the three split between the ‘main’ parties and shows again the Greens on 13%.

At the State level this Lower Austria opinion poll shows that the ÖVP remains, overwhelmingly, the most dominant force in the state whilst amongst the other parties there has been a rise in the FPÖ and decline in the SPÖ share of the vote.

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Filed under Austrian Politics, Politics

Hiking into history

In this post I moan about having to go to the beach and more interestingly describe a hike to the Tiscali   archaeological site.

It’s well known amongst my friends that I have a strong, shall we call it, ‘dislike’ of sun, sea and beaches. Unfortunately for me the other members of my family are big fans of such places and so the compromise on our recent trip to Sardinia was to base ourselves at an agritourism, I Mandorli, near the coastal town of San Maria Navarrese and more importantly on the edge of the mountains.

This location gave us the chance to spend some time driving and walking through the Sardinian mountain country, villages, and visit a few archaeological sites, thus reducing the time available for me to moan about sand, heat and boredom – I really, really don’t understand why people find laying on sand and burning in the sun so enjoyable but then luckily we are not all the same.

So trapped in my idea of hell the only escape was, as I say, to make the most of the opportunity to drive up into the hills and mountains. On one such trip I was able to combine two of my interests – hiking and archaeological. R and I also discovered that our daughters long held dislike of any form of walking does not in fact include climbing over rocky paths and undertaking steep narrow routes so long as climbing over rocks is a big part of the experience.

The destination for our hiking trip was the hidden village of Tiscali, an interesting and rather curious historical ruin. As we stood looking at the information board, at the start of our journey, we were approached by two hikers who, taking one look at 8 year old H (who would wish me to point out she is almost 9), suggested that the route would be to challenging – steep climb, rocks and over two hours walking in the heat were all described. After a short family conference it was agreed that we would try the path and could always turn round and return to our starting point where a shallow, gently flowing, river offered an inviting alternative afternoons entertainment.

Initially we walked for a short way along a dirt track which had the river to our right and the mountains to our left. It was at the moment when the comment was made that ‘if the path was like this for much of the way, but steeper, there would be no real problems’ that our route suddenly turned and we found ourselves on a stony path which rapidly ascended the mountainside. With shouts of ‘cool’ H discovered her enthusiasm for hiking which grew stronger as the route increasingly included climbing over rocks. For about 20 minutes we scrambled our way along and up this rocky route with the path taking us towards a gap between our mountain and the one we had walked past at the beginning of the hike.

Once we reached the gap the path levelled off and we took a few minutes breather and consumed a small quantity of what was to become our very precious water. We continued our walk along the now undulating path and comments were exchanged regarding the benefits of walking under the shelter of the trees. Much as I enjoy hiking, I have to admit that I am currently (again) in a truly unfit condition and so was feeling the 33C heat and sun more than I should have. However, this in no way detracted from the pleasure of the walk.

Quite soon we were on a downward slope on a rocky but well established path which was comfortable to travel along. This then turned into a flatter path with a far less noticeable incline and we found ourselves in a much denser part of the woods. At this stage, based upon definite misunderstandings, I thought we were now going to continue walking through the valley and emerge from the woods onto the site of Tiscali. I was therefore not surprise when the woodland started to thin and we found ourselves in an area with hills all round except to the fore where the valley continued to descend and appeared to turn off to the left. At a junction on the path we encountered a sign which told us about the 5 Euro entry fee and that Tiscali was only another twenty minutes away. After another much needed water break (our supply was now down to one third) we started the walk up the gentle slope indicated by the sign.

Very quickly we realised that the gentle slope was in fact becoming somewhat steeper again and was about to turn up along the side of the mountain. So once again H was shouting with glee as we climbed another rocky path which narrowed at regard intervals into a ledge. Up until this stage the few fellow walks we had encountered had all been wearing hiking boots or other appropriate footwear plus carrying rucksacks etc. Now as we climbed and traverse this steep and rocky path we encountered a family with young children all in sandal looking as though they had just left the beach. We then passed a couple who again appeared to be attired for a stroll along the promenade. Now all these people seemed to be fine and as far as I know all happily returned to their cars safely. Anyone taking on this or any other hike could get into difficulty and have to be rescued. But why, oh why, do people think its ok to wander into mountains etc inappropriately dressed and in so doing add to the work of emergency services?

The path finally brought us to the entrance to a crater at the top of the mountains. We descended the few steps cut into the rock with the aid of a rope. The bell attached to the rope alerted the guardian of the site to the arrival of new visitors. The chap who took our entry fee and provided us with information sheets (in both English and German) was also helpful in explaining a little about the geography of the site and what is known/assumed/not known. In chatting with him we discovered that he was one of a group of people who looked after and protected the site. Like us he had walked up to the site and would stay for a few nights until relieved by another colleague.

Seeing the evidence of habitation within this natural bowl (even if no one is sure how long people actually lived here and why) added something to what had been an enjoyable hike in its own right. The first group of structures we saw were said to been house for those who had lived here. On the other side of the crater we viewed the structures believed to have housed the livestock. It must have been an interesting experience to have live, even for a short time, in this natural bowl but as the sites custodian and the literature both said you did wonder about how people and animals could maintain an existing in a place with no spring and limited options for growing food.

When the time came to head back we scrambled down the first part of the mountain and then after another water and photo break half way down found ourselves back on the valley floor sitting next to the Tiscali sign again. On our descent we fulfilled what is clearly the traditional role of all those coming down the mountain, that is to confirm to those going up that yes it’s not  too far now but you will have a bit of a climb, especially over the last section.

With the sun still beating down and the heat remaining in the mid 30’s we took sips of our now very limited supplies of water and re-entered to denser woods that marked the next stage of our journey. As the gentle upward path turned steeper the breaks became more frequent and the last of our water was consumed. This walk really wasn’t overly demanding and as I have already admitted I’m currently seriously unfit. However, it does involve some scrambling over rocks and in the heat you really need to take a large supply of water between you.

As we started down the mountainside I could see the river and our destination seemed tantalisingly close. Alas I’m not a crow and so had to take the rather longer meandering route. The pace of our descent was slowed a little by the need to watch ones footing as the path was often made up of loose stones and larger jagged rocks.

Once off the mountain I stepped up the pace, leaving H & R to wander along as they were busy in some discussion. When they eventually caught up with me I was sitting by the river with my feet being gently soothed by the flow of the water. R joined me in the foot soaking, whilst H rolled up her trousers and went paddling in the shallower part of the river.

If you do find yourself in Sardinia and like both hiking and archaeological then I would recommend this trip. However, be warned, if you are coming down the main road the turn-off is not signed (but clearly signed coming up) and it is further to drive to the end of the side road than some guidebooks suggest.

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Filed under History, Italian History, Out of Austria, Sardinia