Friday, 6 October 2006

Newsletter Issue 121, October 2006

Sam Young Newsletter

Issue 121, October 2006
Hi guys,
If you have seen our Kiwi apples slagvertised in Europe dripping with oil, check out the Food Miles Debate below.
Where does all that climate change information come from? Check out Earth Two to find out. 
Don't forget, if you want to be taken off my mailing list, click here to send me a reply e-mail and I will remove your name.

Food Miles Debate

The Northern Hemisphere concept of "food miles'" argues that buyers should choose food that has travelled the shortest distance to get to their table to reduce their environmental consumption costs. The question of how far their food has travelled now has a growing influence on many European consumers' purchasing decisions. "Buy Local" is a growing rallying cry in Europe, supported by environmentalists, farmers and consumer groups.
European ad campaigns have already knocked Kiwi products over food miles. New Zealand apples have been shown dripping oil, and Anchor butter has been shown comparing a rusty container ship slogging 11,000 miles with a story-book illustration of an English farm. This approach has serious implications for New Zealand, as in 2003, 10% of our workforce were employed in food and beverage; 70,000 in manufacturing and 125,000 in farming.
But how real is the "food miles" debate? Is this an environmental cause, or have inefficient European farmers developed this as a marketing ploy to protect themselves?
The strongest advocates for food miles are - surprise, surprise - British farmers. The Farmer's Weekly magazine runs "The Food Miles Campaign", promoting the cause into schools, to celebrities and to the media. Their campaign website is thick with rhetoric, thin with facts, stating "Food miles harm the environment. Transporting food large distances uses a lot of fuel, whether it travels by lorry or plane. That means more carbon dioxide emissions and more global warming" and "More food miles means more transport cost. Aviation fuel and lorry diesel aren't cheap, so the further food travels the more cost it incurs. Who pays those costs in the end? Consumers, of course."
Reducing emissions is a great idea, but British farmers don't mention their own inefficient farming practices, which are often so inefficient it is more sustainable to produce goods outside the UK and import them. The total resource and environmental cost of production and transport can be significantly less than the cost of local production; for example, the UK gas heated glasshouses used to grow tomatoes in comparison to imported, naturally grown Spanish tomatoes.
In 2003, Which? magazine in the UK (Britain's equivalent of Consumer), ran an article on food miles which concluded that while there can be good reasons to buy some local foods, it also found there was greater resource wasteage and a higher environmental cost to grow crops unsuited to the UK climate in a bid to avoid imports.
Professor Caroline Saunders, and colleagues Andrew Barber and Greg Taylor for the agribusiness and economics research unit of Lincoln University, claim that New Zealand is much more efficient in total energy used to produce, store and transport food items, mostly by ship, notwithstanding its substantial distance from EU markets. Their report states that the Food Miles "debate which only includes the distance food travels is spurious as it does not consider total energy use especially in production." When all the energy inputs are calculated, this country is four times as efficient as European countries in producing lamb and more than twice as efficient in dairy. New Zealand apples are also more energy-efficiently produced, as are onions, when the necessity for out-of-season storage of the local crop is included.
There are several reasons why. The climate here is good. Farming is a major industry and benefits from efficiencies of scale. We have some of the best agricultural scientists in the world leading constant efforts to improve production. And most of our production is transported by ships, which are a very energy-efficient way to move food round compared with trucks, rail or airfreight.
However, if we look at ourselves, purchasing in New Zealand, how do we know whether the food we buy is energy efficient? How do we find out if, when NZ tomatoes are out of season, fresh imports from Queensland are more energy-efficient than NZ glasshouse tomatoes? Or canned? Tropical and semi-tropical fruits and vegetables from other countries may have a lower environmental impact than growing them here - depending on how they're transported.
The distance food has travelled is not, on its own, a good measure of resource efficiency or total environmental impact. But until we have some real baseline to compare things to when we purchase, we have no real way of knowing what is efficient. Except our own Kiwi-grown produce, of course!

Earth Two

In 2002, the Earth Simulator, the then fastest super computer in the world, became operational just outside Tokyo. Now sliding down to only 10th place on the Top 500 computers on the planet, the Earth Simulator still does very valuable work, mirroring the Earth using holistic simulations of global climate, in both the atmosphere and the oceans, down to a precision of 10km.
The Earth Simulator uses information from satellites and other observation points to track rainfall, sea temperatures and movements in the Earth’s crust. This helps scientists predict natural disasters, such as hurricanes and earthquakes, as well as global changes in climate, including, for example, global warming.
Tetsuya Sato, director of the Earth Simulator Centre, relates “The predictions we can make are more and more scientifically sound. The Earth Simulator has changed the concept of simulation. It has made it possible to deal with the whole [global] system at once because of its memory and speed [capacities].” Previously it was possible to simulate only parts of the system, and this did not provide enough information to predict how the whole global system would evolve. “Now human beings can make predictions of the future evolution of the whole system — the whole globe,” he says. “That makes the Earth Simulator a useful tool for humankind.”
Composed of 62 super-computers, The Earth Simulator has 35.86 Tflops (tera floating point operations per second) of capability with a peak performance of 40 Tflops. The main memory is huge at 10TB and it has 2.5PB (petabytes) of storage. I have very little idea of what all that means, but it certainly sounds very impressive!
The Earth Simulator will continue to grow, with Sato’s goal being to combine two simulators — a microscopic computer and a macroscopic one — that can exchange information and so come up with even more accurate predictions.

Selecting Chunks of Text in Word

Have you noticed how the text selection genie in Word tries to predict what text it thinks you want to select? And how often it is wrong?
As you are selecting text, and start selecting text in the middle of a word and stop in the middle of another word, Word will guess that you also wish to include the beginning few letters of the first word and the end few letters of the last word, even though you haven't actually selected them. While mostly useful, there are times when you need something else.
And, of course, there is something else, known as the "text selection function". To bypass Word's automatic word selection feature and select text to the nearest character:
  1. Key Ctrl & Shift
  2. Then select your text
To select a large amount of text between the two points across a number of pages:
  1. Position the cursor to your selection beginning
  2. Scroll down to your selection end
  3. Hold down the Shift key & click the selection end
  4. If you accidentally select too much text, just Shift again and click the correct end
The Ctrl key in Word has lots of lovely add-ons. Simply holding down the Ctrl key and clicking on a word will highlight the entire sentence that the word is in. Hold down the Ctrl key and make any number of additional text selections, even if they are not adjacent to your original selection.
To select columns of characters, just hold down the Alt key and start dragging open a selection rectangle until you have covered the number of columns and lines you wish to select.
Thanks to Woody's Office Watch For Mere Mortals for these tips. View others at

TLAs for SMEs

Here are this newsletter's TLA for you:
  • eSATA, External Serial Advanced Technology Attachment. The official name that American National Standards Institute group X3T10 uses for what the computer industry calls Integrated Drive Electronics (IDE). However, SATA is based on serial signaling technology, unlike IDE hard drives (which use parallel signaling). It's been around for internal drives for a while but now eSATA is the hot new way to connect external drives, competing directly against USB and Firewire

Please feel free to email me with any TLAs that you want to get the bottom (meaning!) of.

Tips, Short+Hot Keys
In this newsletter, we look at a special tip in Word using Shift F5.
Have you ever forgotten where you were up to when editing a large Word doc?
You needn't waste time re-reading the document to find where you had got to. Word can tell you instead, using an invisible function.
  • Open the doc
  • Key Shift & F5
This will move the cursor to the position it was in when the document was last saved and closed. It is a good practice to make a habit of.

Hot Linx
You can download a free Presentation Planning Guide from Effective Speaking's website at
For a spot of retro 80s video viewing, slope off to and click on your favourites. If you are on a dial-up connection tho, it is probably not going to cut it
Share ideas with others - share the 'how to' of what tech-tinkering advances you make with the planet at
If you would like to know how wealthy you are in comparison with the rest of the world, go and have a look at

                                Catch you again soon!! E-mail your suggestions to me here

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