Meet Mike, the Semi-Nomadic Engineer

I love working remotely, whether for work, blogging or preparing a talk, nothing beats sitting at a coffee shop sipping a freshly made coffee. With wireless technology I can do pretty much everything I would in the office or at home while I’m out and about. I can make or receive calls on my mobile or on Skype, I can check my emails, I can design subdivisions in 12D, I can project manage jobs, review drawings, prepare presentations and talks and manage the workflow of my team.

Engineering wirelessly cafe computer design laptop manageGenerally I find that my clarity of thought is improved in a neutral space such as a coffee shop, away from the office where everyone else’s work is competing for your attention. Being at my desk forces me to deal with (or at least acknowledge), other peoples issues as they bring them to me, whether urgent or not. This breaks concentration and workflow significantly, I’ve turned off all incoming mail notifications on my office computer for that very reason, if it were time critical they would have called me.

Some would say that a coffee shop is no better, there are noises, staff and people talking, and you can’t just get up and leave your stuff to go to the toilet or for a walk. But consistently, I’ve noticed increased productivity on certain tasks outside of the office.

I’m not alone in this, there are a growing army of Bedouin workers, freed from the need for a cubical space to call their own. In fact I recently stumbled across a great new blog aimed at helping people make this transition or improve their experience, through products, techniques and tips….

Global Warming Podcast

For a great podcast mp3 on global warming from a scientific perspective (rather than an environmental scaremongers!), Australian author, Dr Barry Pittock of the CSIRO spoke on the ABC this morning. A transcript is available to read as well.

Seventy to eighty percent reductions of present greenhouse gas emissions are needed by 2100 to avoid potentially disastrous climate change. Moreover, if the poorer countries, which are not responsible for most emissions to date, are to be allowed to develop, the richer nations will need to shoulder more of the burden in the near future.

This requires a major technological revolution to move society from a carbon-intensive, fossil fuel based technology to a low carbon technology. This is a huge challenge, but one that can be met by setting suitable targets and incentives, combined with foresight, innovation and entrepreneurship. The cost of renewable energy has been falling fast over the last few decades and is increasingly competitive with fossil fuel energy, especially when the cost of pollution is taken into account.

This is the way of the future. Those individuals, companies and countries that seize the challenge and turn it into an opportunity will be in on the ground floor. Those who do not will lose out in the long run. The choice is ours.

Brisbane Blows Out Budget For Raintanks

I often wonder when councils are going to get it, we need more water, and we want to have some control over the sourcing of it.

Gardeners rush for rebate | The Courier-Mail:

THE Brisbane City Council water rebate budget is set to blow out by $10 million as residents rush to install rainwater tanks. The surge in tank sales is being blamed on tough level 3 water restrictions banning residents from using hoses to water gardens.

Prime Minister Announces Urban Stormwater Harvesting

Under a new plan unveiled by the Australian Prime Minister, John Howard, stormwater will be harvested in urban areas around Wyong, on the Central Coast of NSW, treated and re-introduced into the water cycle to maintain natural flows and water levels in the Porters Creek wetland area. This project comes at a cost of $16M, and involves a mix of local and federal government fund. From the Prime Minister’s Website:

Harvesting Stormwater to protect the Porters Creek Wetland – 23 August 2006:

I am pleased to announce that the Porters Creek Wetland Stormwater Harvesting project on the Central Coast of New South Wales is the eighth New South Wales project to receive funding from the Australian Government?s Water Smart Australia Programme. Wyong’s population is expected to increase by 40 000 by 2025. Australian Government funding of $2.6 million toward a $16 million investment will help protect a significant wetland area in NSW from stormwater that will flow from urban development in the catchment.

Recycling… the subdivision way

Kerb-side recycling collection is a reality in many parts of Australia and other countries, and is being suggested or introduced in many areas that have depot drop-off sites or no separate collection at all. Often at depots, people expect to be paid to bring in their recyclables, or at least some of them, and with kerb-side collection, people expect to be offered the service for free or a very small nominal sum as there is a perception that someone is making money off the recyclable materials being well… recycled into new products.

And fair enough, if council is willing to collect all that material, do some rudimentary sorting of it, then finds a market to sell it to, well they should be entitled to make money off it right?

Well it seems that the problem is two fold, people are not recycling enough of what they are disposing, (some reports suggest it is less than 50%), and secondly, the markets are not taking up the recycled material as content in their products.


Kerb side recycling has gone a long way to exposing people to the ease of recycling their waste, but even with the dispose and forget about it simplicity from the householders perspective, there is a definite lack of awareness as to what products the local council area actually does accept and in what state. Regular waste reporting back to the community might help, informing them of percentage improvements in waste disposal practises, even rewarding sections of the community for the greatest change in habits over a given time frame. Rewards could include reduction in council rates, (which won’t necessarily work for rental properties) or vouchers for free products or services. Current collection practises would probably need to modified slightly to achieve this, however, most landfill areas where this could work would have a weigh bridge facility capable of recording the distribution of waste over the time frame.

Walking around on the grass

What do you get when university students aren’t even allowed to walk or sit on the grass on campus? I imagine it would be something like this…

Inhabitat Blog Archive GRASS WHEEL:

A group of students from Dalhousie School of Architecture decided to remedy this problem with a street-ready grass-lined wheel. The wheel is of simple construction – just plywood, mesh, fishing line, and sod, but it’s loaded with meaning. On one hand, it’s a playful protest to the lack of public green space in Halifax. On the other hand, using sod for their material offers a deeper critique on urban greenery. (Photo by Andre Forget – Click on the image to see more of his work).


Universities have long been a source of activism, but this