Category Archives: environment

Happy holiday everyone

I wish you all a very happy festive season! I’m not taking time off over the Christmas period this year, so I’m looking forward to fun in the office as well as at home.

In lieu of a Christmas tree, here’s a picture I took while walking through the Ozzie bush this morning.

Happy holiday everyone

Happy holiday everyone

A closer look at the “Christmas baubles”:

Happy holiday everyone

Happy holiday everyone

Even closer:

Happy holiday everyone

Happy holiday everyone

It had rained over night. The fierce Ozzie sun was just reaching this bush but had not yet burned off the raindrops. I love the way that every drop reflects the surrounding plants.

Whether you’re travelling far and wide, staying at home or working through, I hope you have a refreshing year end and an exciting start to 2010!

My trees and this blog are one year old

In August last year, I planted two trees at about the same time as I started this blog. Now the trees and this blog are just over a year old. A good opportunity for some stats :)

ffeathers

WordPress says that ffeathers has:

  • 62 posts
  • 184 comments
  • 184 tags (hmm, interesting but meaningless coincidence)
  • 17,216 total views
  • 7,584 blocked spam comments (thank you Akismet)

The most popular post is The agile technical writer with 1,247 views.

Today, someone found ffeathers by Googling for:

“your mouse has moved” error

I hope you found what you were looking for :)

Prickly Paperbark

Yesterday, another person came here searching for:

paperbark tree information on growth

So in your honour, here’s some idea of what a Paperbark tree does in a year.

The Prickly Paperbark was a tube, about 40cm high, when I planted it in August last year. Now it’s nearly 2 metres high and quite robust. (It needs to be robust, to survive the onslaught of weeds, floods, cold and heat that our garden inflicts upon it.)

Prickly Paperbark a year ago, at 40cm

Prickly Paperbark a year ago, at 40cm

Prickly Paperbark now, at 198cm

Prickly Paperbark now, at 198cm

It has a very pretty trunk and bark already. The diameter of the trunk is almost 3cm at its thickest part.

Prickly Paperbark close-up

Prickly Paperbark close-up

Old Man Banksia

The Banksia has not grown much since I last measured it in April this year. It’s approximately one metre tall, and battling an ever-changing environment. Since I planted it, a couple of tree ferns have muscled in on the territory.

Old Man Banksia last year, at 17cm

Old Man Banksia last year, at 17cm

Old Man Banksia now, at approx 1 metre

Old Man Banksia now, at approx 1 metre

Still, it is putting up a gallant fight. Its trunk is almost 2cm in diameter and it always has a lot of new growth, although much of it goes sideways in an attempt to find the sun.

Old Man Banksia close-up

Old Man Banksia close-up

As well as my two favourites, we planted around 20 native trees and shrubs last year. Spring has sprung, and we’ll be shopping for more soon. Death to all agapanthus ;)

Getting to the root of the problem

Today I did my second stint with Conservation Volunteers Australia (CVA), pulling up noxious weeds and planting native plants in the Australian bush.

Atlassian, the company I work for, allows us five days a year of special leave, to work for a non-profit cause of our choice. We can do all five days in a block, or a day at a time, or even half a day at a time. The cause I feel passionately about is the environment and biodiversity. So I’ve decided to do a day’s work with the CVA every now and then.

And hard work it is too. The main aim is to pull out the non-native intruders and help the natural bush to re-establish itself.

The CVA team meets the volunteers in Sydney, and drives them and the equipment out to the day’s location. There we meet up with someone from the local council, and the day’s work is planned.

Getting to the root of the problem

Getting to the root of the problem

Today we were in Sydney’s Northen Beaches, clearing a section of the bank along Manly Creek. Here are two of the biggest invaders we encountered:

Getting to the root of the problem

Getting to the root of the problem

Above: Arrowhead Vine, also known as Turkey Rhubarb — Acetosa sagittata.

Getting to the root of the problem

Getting to the root of the problem

Above: They did tell me the name of this one, but I’ve forgotten. That’s ironic, because this is the plant I spent most of the day with :) It has a long stem which travels along the ground, winding under the grass and other plants, and sticking up a cluster of leaves every now and then. It’s quite a satisfying plant to uproot.

It’s a great feeling, getting to the root of a problem ;)

The last time I volunteered with CVA was ten months ago, in October last year. I wrote a blog about it then too. Today, it was a pleasant surprise to meet up with a couple of the same people! There were 14 of us today.

Getting to the root of the problem

Getting to the root of the problem

A weird flashback happened when we spread a large sheet of heavy black plastic over the freshly-weeded earth, to stop the weeds growing back. Through my mind flashed the thought, “Where I come from, that sheet would be someone’s roof by tomorrow morning.” (I’m from Cape Town in South Africa. Nothing as useful as that sheet of plastic would remain unclaimed for very long.)

Getting to the root of the problem

Getting to the root of the problem

What did I enjoy about today?

  • Learning more about what’s a weed and what’s not.
  • Winter sunshine.
  • Birds — galahs, rainbow lorikeets, eastern rosellas and kookaburras.
  • Not a wiki or a document in sight ;)
  • Fourteen people of different shapes, sizes and persuasions.
  • Doing something that really matters. In the big scheme of things, as my mother would say.

It’s really a great aspect of working at Atlassian, that they give us the opportunity to use part of our working hours to do something like this. We spend so much of our lives at work, it’s hard sometimes to find a balance with family life and responsibilities. It’s even harder to find the time for something like this. Thanks guys!

Do wikis save trees?

Do wikis save trees, and do we even want to save trees? Global warming, carbon-trading, green politics — where do wikis fit in, and are they even relevant?

I’ve worked in an office environment for quite a few years. Recently, I’ve started using a wiki to write, review, update and read documents and to share ideas. My desk is definitely more paper-free than ever before, largely due to the use of the wiki.

So my gut-feeling is to say, ‘Hey, wikis save trees!’ Being a tree-hugger and a wiki-hugger both, this feels like a good place to be.

But take a look at this article by Chris Anderson, which seems to prove that my good place is an illusion. Printed documents have a lower carbon footprint than online documents! So even if wikis save trees (which is debatable in itself) perhaps we don’t want to save trees. The paper industry puts them back in the ground, whereas a wiki doesn’t.

Chris Anderson’s article has a very long, heated and interesting comment trail. After reading it, I’d like to take a slightly different tack. He is concentrating on articles which are written once, and then read by many people. Websites are viewer-intensive.

How is a wiki different to a web page?

Many wikis are used for short-term collaboration rather than, or as well as, longer-term information storage. You might put an idea up on a wiki. A number of people would then review it, add their comments, and update the page. At the end of the process, an idea has been formed and is out there in the noosphere. People probably won’t go back to the wiki often to look at that particular idea. You could say the wiki is scribble-intensive.
The key thing is: In the review and refinement process, if we use a wiki then we aren’t passing around and scribbling on pieces of paper. We aren’t even exchanging long and confusing email chains which eventually force you to print them out just to keep track of who said what in reply to whom. Nor are we using Word documents, where the change-tracking is just as confusing :mrgreen: Nor even any backs of envelopes or matchboxes.

Instead, the wiki page distills and merges all updates so that it shows the latest aggregation at any one time. And if you need to, you can go back and examine the change history to see who did what.

We’re online anyway. Given that the bad effects of the technology exist whether you use a wiki or some other form of website or computer technology, perhaps wikis are a step in the right direction.

What do you think?

Does anyone have any figures which go to prove this question either way? Maybe someone in the publishing industry has some experience of using a wiki for pre-publication drafting and review. Or perhaps there are some other industry-specific stories out there. Do you have anecdotal evidence, or even some documented statistics?

Ozzie tree shedding its bark

Here’s a tree in our garden. In early summer (that’s December on this side of the world, when I took this picture) the tree chucks all its bark on the ground. The new ‘skin’ underneath is a lovely mixture of salmon pinks, oranges and greys.

The story goes that early visitors to Australia were amazed by trees like this, because they shed their bark in summer rather than their leaves in winter.

Do wikis save trees?

Sydney Red Gum (Angophora costata) aka smooth-barked apple.

Pretty words

Some words are captivating. Here are a few I’ve come across lately. They’re all related to linguistics. Maybe that’s why they appeal to me. Or maybe it’s just the way they sound. I’d be interested to know if you think these words are cute, and whether it’s because you’re a linguaphile too?

Bahuvrihi — a compound word like ‘lowlife’ or ‘sabertooth’, where the meaning of the word is not a type defined by one of its parts. A ‘sabertooth’ is a type of tiger, not a type of tooth. A ‘lowlife’ is a type of person, not a type of life. This property is significant, because it affects how we use the word in a sentence. For example, when talking about more than one of these things, we automatically use the regular plural rather than the irregular. So we say ‘I went back in time and saw a lot of sabertooths’ — not ‘saberteeth’. And we say ‘lowlifes’, not ‘lowlives’. Compare ‘workman’ (not a bahuvrihi, because a workman is a type of man) with ‘walkman’ (a bahuvrihi). We talk about many ‘workmen’. Can we say, ‘how many walkmen do you have’?

Dvandva – a compound word made of two equally-weighted nouns, like ‘girlfriend’ and ‘singer-songwriter’. These words have a similarly intriguing effect on our internal language generator, but let’s not go there ;)

Synechdoche – that’s when you use part of something to refer to its whole. ‘I got me a new set of wheels’ means I bought a car, not just the wheels. When you ‘count heads’, you are counting the number of people, not just their heads.

And my favourite: hapax legomenon — a word or term which is used only once in a particular body of text.

This weekend I’ve been writing some Christmas cards, and struggling as usual to find the right words. Maybe I’ll drop in the odd hapax legomenon to spice things up ;)

Thank you to Kate for lending me Words and Rules, the book in which I found these words. And to Steven Pinker for writing it.

Some tree news:

Here’s a tree recovering from a fire in the Manly Dam reserve:

Tree regrowth after fire

And here’s a grass tree (Xanthorrhoea) which survived the fire altogether:

grass tree survives fire

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