House before and after: The land

In a previous house blog post, I mentioned doing a serious of "before and after" posts about how the new house compares to the old one - after all, we already have a house so there must be something different about the new one worth talking about!  Here is the first - not focusing on any room this time, but the land and house as a whole.

One of the major complaints about our current house is that it is too small!  That isn't strictly correct - square metre wise, it isn't that bad, but it is laid out in such an inefficient way.

In theory, our current house has four bedrooms, two and a half bathrooms, three living areas, a study, a workshop and three separate outdoor entertaining areas (two decks and a paved area).  It doesn't exactly read like a bad real estate agent spiel at all - I have high hopes that when we sell it, the house will be very appealing to someone else with different usage patterns or requirements to us!
 
In practice, half of the rooms are full of stuff (in boxes or crates if we are lucky - in a pile if not) due to a lack of built-in storage, and the rooms that aren't are .. lets say, very cosy.

The main kitchen/living area is on the upper floor and doesn't have direct walk-out access to the backyard - unless you go out the front door and down the driveway.  In addition, the garage is around the back of the house, which means we have a driveway separating one of the other living areas - the downstairs lounge - from the yard area.  Neither of these are particularly helpful when you have kids - of course, it wasn't the kind of thing that was on our minds when we were 23!

A picture is worth a thousand words .. so here are a couple of diagrams.  The first is our current house on the left, and new house on the right, at the same scale, and both aligned so that up is north.  The outline of the old house is based on the Google Maps satellite view, and the outline of the new house is based on a diagram provided by our architect.



The new block is about 20% larger than the old one, and the new house also has a much bigger footprint.   I didn't think the block difference was particularly obvious from this map.  Note one thing which isn't apparent from this picture is that the old house has the same floor area on both levels, whereas in the new house the ground floor is only about 60% the area of the first floor.

The 'garden' area on this diagram pretty much means 'the rest' - some bits are lawn, but many areas are concreted pathways, rock gardens, retaining walls, or otherwise areas which are impractical for use as 'backyard' due to shape and slope.  Note that this applies equally to the new house as well - it can't be helped on a sloped block - but at least we are taking it into consideration this time and making an effort to minimise it!

The second diagram shows both floors of the old house, and then matches up the corresponding room locationss on the first floor new house.  Note that these images are also the same scale - it looks totally wrong, especially compared to the previous diagram, but I have triple-checked and put it down to the fact that the old house outline on the first diagram included the eaves.



As you can see almost all of the old house will "fit" on the first floor of the new house, with a room to spare (eventually for the third child)!  This is great as it means we (including the kids) generally won't be running up and down the stairs constantly - pretty much only when we leave the house.

The unmarked areas on the old house ground floor include the garage, laundry, and storage/workshop/office area.  I won't worry about these ones in this post, but they will get their own post eventually when I do the room-by-room comparisons!

Am I a greenie?

People seem to like to categorise other people.. everyone fits into neat little boxes. You can be a bogan, a hippie, a geek, a jock.

The hippie/greenie category is an interesting one. Do I fall into this category or not?

Let's see..

* I support the Bell Bay Pulp Mill
* I use cloth nappies
* I want my next car to be electric
* I would support a wind farm built near me
* I think most of the anti-logging protests are unwarranted
* I think the government should subsidise most of the cost of a basic PV solar setup and rainwater collection tanks for all households
* Had I been of voting age at the time I would have supported the Franklin Dam
* I don't really eat much meat
* I support the Ralph's Bay canal development
* I support the R&D by the state government into tidal, wave and geothermal power generation
* I would support a nuclear power plant in my suburb
* I support the proposed Hobart Northern Suburbs Railway
* I support the demolition of 10 Murray Street
* I am building what people would call a "large" house

As you can see they vary from one extreme to the other! I could elaborate on each of these.. and maybe I will in a future blog post. But I think the general theme that is different the green movement of 20 years ago has changed. Back then it was all about NOT doing certain things because it was bad for the environment. Now, it is all about building things in a sustainable manner. These days it is possible to generate electricity without burning coal. It is possible to have a baby without putting two tonnes of disposable nappies into landfill. It is possible to built a zero emission transport system.

We don't have to choose between development and sustainability any more - we can have both!

Run!

It's probably no secret if you have been noticing my updates on Facebook, but for anyone who has known me since school (or shortly after), well, I hope you are sitting down - yes, I run!

So what has inspired me to do this? Wii, iPhone and Facebook. (There, is that the Chuq you are more familiar with?)

It started when I got Emma a Nintendo Wii (with WiiFit) for Christmas. That was an amusing story in itself, she asked for one and I was adamant it was too expensive. I'm pretty sure she thought it was a lost cause up until Christmas Day! We both started clocking up an hour each a day of running, slalom skiing, juggling, karate, boxing and flapping your arms madly like a bird. In any case it was enough for us to work up a sweat. It also lets you do a body test which measures your weight and BMI, and along with a balance test, your "Wii Fit age" - basically, what sort of state your body is in. I wasn't thrilled when it told me I was 41 on the first day, but I wasn't surprised either!

In January, my super fit sister-in-law Laura asked if I wanted to go running with her and Ben around Risdon Brook Dam. I thought, why not, lets see how the Wii Jogging compares to the real thing. I quickly installed Runkeeper on my iPhone - after seeing it used by friends on Facebook - and set off. As you can see from the map, after 3km I was buggered.

A couple of weeks later the boss of my department at work was asking around for volunteers - he had signed up for the Hobart Run The Bridge, a 10km fun run, but had to pull out and needed a substitute.  I knew a few others who were running/walking the event so I thought, why not? ("Why not" seems to be a common theme here!) I would only be walking it anyway.



The big day came and my plan was to alternate running 2km then walking 2km. I started off with a 500m walk (simply because it was too packed to travel any more than that) to warm up, then started on the run. In the end I walked from 3km to 4km (up Rosny Hill) and 7km to 7.5km (past the Cenotaph) but I shocked myself and ran pretty much all the rest! (Runkeeper map here)

Well, that was it - I had the running bug.  By having details of my runs (times, distances, speeds, calories burned) published to Facebook, it gave me a bit of accountability as I knew that everyone would know how much I was (or wasn't) doing. It keeps track of the totals for each week and month so I can set myself targets (either distance or speed).

Emma has started tracking her walks (which are a lot easier to do when you have two children in a pram) and so far she has clocked up over 150km!

I've set a few personal bests, which is why I had put off writing this post - I keep hitting new milestones!  The most recent has been averaging over 10km/h for 6km.  5-7 km seems to be my "sweet spot" at the moment.  This is just as well, since my upcoming schedule includes the Mothers Day Classic (8km on May 9) and City to Casino (7km on May 16).  I'm lucky to have a fantastic employer who pays not only for sports tops but for registration for events such as these.

Needless to say we don't get on the Wii much any more - usually only just for a quick weigh-in.  It doesn't seem to be hurting - between us we have lost 18kg and burned 19000 calories in a bit over 3 months!  I'm almost tempted to get some Withings WifiScales ... but that would be a bit geeky wouldn't it?

The Hare-Clark system in action

The Hare-Clark voting system as used in Tasmania's multi-member electorates, is one of the fairest political systems in the world. In the recent Tasmanian election, five members are elected from each of the five electorates, which make a total of twenty-five members in the House of Assembly.

One of the benefits of this system is that the end result is very similar to the will of the voting public.

Take a look at Australia's federal lower house, the House of Representatives. This system uses single member electorates. Each of the 150 seats nationally elects a single member using preferential voting. But look at the last federal election - over 16% of voters chose a member outside of the major parties (ie. Greens, Democrats, Family First, another smaller party or another independent) as their first preference - but in the final makeup of the house, only 2% of the seats are represented by a non-major party.

In the recent Tasmanian election we see how the system *should* work. The first preference votes received were split between Labor 37%, Liberal 39% the Greens 21% and other parties 3%. The final distribution of seats is Labor 10 (40%), Liberal 10 (40%) and the Greens 5 (20%). A much more accurate representation of the choice of the people.

However, people need to know how to work the system to their advantage! As you can see above, the result was very close - particular in Denison where the fifth seat was between Liberal Elise Archer and independent Andrew Wilkie. The graph below, originally from Antony Green's Election Blog (an excellent resource) demonstrates it well. (Note this particular graph was originally from this post.)

Along the bottom of the graph, you see each candidate as they (or in the case of those who secured a quota, as their excess votes) are eliminated. When one of the coloured lines goes to the bottom of the graph, it means they were the last candidate for that party. The dark grey line near the bottom shows "exhausted" votes. Voters were only required to enter numbers 1 to 5 - anything above that was optional. When one of the ballot papers "runs out of numbers" so to speak, it becomes an "exhausted" ballot.



Notice the rather small difference between the final Liberal candidate (Archer) and the independent (Wilkie) at the end of the count.

Now, notice by how much the grey bar rose when the last Labor candidate (Bacon's excess) and the last Green candidate (Burnett) were eliminated! It seems these were people who voted 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 for either Labor or the Greens, and no-one else. These votes are often wasted (as it is very unlikely that one electorate will elect five members from the one party) as the votes often "flow" onto other parties.

Without making predictions as to who would vote for who, I'd say it would be likely that most Labor voters would put any other party above the Liberals, and most Greens would put Wilkie before any other party. The second point in particular can be demonstrated by the large gain Wilkie received when Burnett was eliminated.

If only a small fraction of the the 1-2-3-4-5 Labor or Green voters had've put #6 as Wilkie, we would be looking at a parliament with 10 Labor, 9 Liberal, 5 Green and 1 Independent - which clearly would have a massive effect on who makes the next government!

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