Gavin Shoebridge – an electric vehicle nut, a keen environmentalist

                Electric Car Conversion Blog By Gavin Shoebridge

October 10th, 2014 at 9:39 am

The new Tesla Model S “D”

Holy moly, have you seen how quick the Tesla Model S “D” (dual motor, four-wheel-drive) is from 0-100 km/h?

That’s one fast machine.

It does 0-100km/h in 3.2 seconds. That’s the quickest time of any four-door car ever made, ever. Not only that, as you can see in the video, the car can also self-drive in standard driving situations.

Here’s the full video with sound:

I wanted one before but now I really want one! It makes it really difficult for people like me who try desperately not to be “fanboys” of any particular company or product, because when you make the best product of its kind in the world… Well, it’s kinda hard to be unimpressed.

This is the future and it’s here already.

The future is here. Time to let go of the past.

Way to go, Tesla!

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October 1st, 2014 at 8:28 am

Making a fancy box for my tobacco pipe

I wanted to create a storage box befitting of my tobacco pipe’s grandeur.

Wood? Absolutely.
Velvet lining? But of course.
On a budget? Well, let’s give it a go.

I started with an empty box which we had in the cellar for a wine bottle, playing a game of “Pipe Tetris” until I could get everything to fit in neatly.

Next comes the wood cutting stuff. I had loads of this thin board at my disposal and it was easy to cut up, even with my terrible handyman skills.


The jar section on the right hand side of the box will be raised slightly for aesthetics. This is where my jar of tobacco and my jar of guilt-free tobacco alternative (a American blend of smokable herbs) will go.


Next comes the creative part: marking out the sections for all the assorted pipe paraphernalia.


Cutting many strips of board. It was time consuming but not very hard.


Gluing in the strips with lots and lots of glue. I used what glue I had lying around which happened to be black engine sealant. It’s very strong but still slightly flexible which is handy.


That engine sealant gets absolutely everywhere however…

While the glue was drying I decided to solder in a switch to activate a discreet LED light system. The switch and wiring would be hidden under fabric to ensure it won’t look like an ill-fitting combination of gaudy technology and snazzy style.

Let there be light! You can just see the switch which is hidden near the middle of the tray, encased in a puddle of engine sealant.

With everything dry, it’s time to work on the foam-padded lid. I bought a cheap slice of foam from the hardware store and coated it with velvet. This time I used clear silicone sealant. I figured using black glue on red velvet would be a disaster…

Using whatever I could find lying around, I kept the pressure on while the glue dried.

Many, many clamps make for light work.

I wanted to add a real hands-on touch to labeling the jars, so I got out the old typewriter. It’s now on a fuzzy border between hipster and retro cool but it’s the detail that matters.

Typewritten labels, lovingly punched out on an old manual keyboard just seem a little bit nicer than something spat out the back of a laser printer.

Wow! It’s dry and it looks great!

Best of all, everything fits perfectly. I have my pipe & it’s associated finery on the top shelf and the tobacco & herbal alternative on the right hand side. In the lower compartment sits extra pipe cleaners, a spare lighter, and a couple of cheap Chinese pipes for when friends want to try a pipe too (my Italian-made Lorenzo Spitfire on is for me only!).

And we’re done!

I’ve gotta say it turned out much better than expected, and very cheaply too. The box was free, the fabric was leftover from my fancy dress party earlier in the year (which I won by the way), and the little LED lights, switch, and wiring I already had. In fact I only had to pay for the foam inside the lid, the clear silicone glue for the fabric, and a 9-volt battery for the lights. Altogether that works out to less than €5!

After a weekend of cutting, gluing, and velvet-lining, I sat down in the back yard and enjoyed a pipe.

Like a cigar, pipes are not things to be rushed: you set aside time for lighting a pipe, relaxing to enjoy the nutty and chocolaty flavours of quality, aged Virginia or Burley tobaccos as they captivate your taste buds.

With a pipe, the flavours and  intensities are completely under your control. This means, unlike a cigar, your tongue doesn’t need to be overwhelmed by heavy, dank cigar plumes. Instead, a pipe is to be sampled slowly.
You don’t inhale pipe smoke and you certainly don’t puff intensely. In fact it’s perfectly fine for your pipe to extinguish itself. Pipe etiquette allows for putting it down, leaving a while and relighting it when and if you’re ready.

I believe that a pipe is an experience for special occasions. And if, like me, you don’t smoke cigarettes, then the enjoyment of smoking one pipe will easily last you for many, many days.

Oh, and those LED lights? I think in this case the old world and the new age have blended superbly. The lights are gentle and spread evenly; perfect for those after-hours pipes.

:)

Health & Safety disclaimer: Smoking a pipe is not good for you. Even though you don’t inhale the smoke (you taste it, like with a cigar) it’s still not good for you. Even if you only smoke it on special occasions (a couple of times a month) it’s still not good for you. Even though occasional pipe smoking is comparatively “low risk” it’s still not good for you. There. Now you know!

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September 10th, 2014 at 10:36 am

Why don’t I have an electric car yet?

A rear-engined Skoda 100 in front of Bratislava Castle, Slovakia

I intended to convert one of these: a rear-engined Škoda 100 (pictured in front of Bratislava Castle, Slovakia)

When I moved to Slovakia with my Slovak wife in 2011 I had great ambitions to convert another car to electric power. I’d even mentally chosen the car I wished to convert to run on locally-produced (although mostly nuclear-powered) electrons: the classic Škoda 100 (pronounced shkoda).

Sadly my electric car plans were quickly unplugged when I started looking at the official rules for modifying cars in the Slovak Republic. The laws are outdated and reminiscent of the days of Communism, where cars were seen as a luxury for the few, unlike today. This means that modifying cars in any way is still very much frowned upon and heavily restricted.

All this became evident when I contacted the Ministry of Transport, seeking the official rules. After a few redirections from no-doubt confused staff, I eventually ended up dealing with a person who knew his stuff. For those who have trouble sleeping, here are the rules pertaining to modifying a vehicle’s power source (click to enlarge):

Slovak rules applying to modifying the motive power source (including converting to battery power)

The Slovak rules for modifying a vehicle’s motive power source (including converting to battery power).

This is where my dream started to fall apart, quickly. In a nutshell the conversion would be treated as a rebuild of the car. “Hey, no problem”, you might think? Well, think again. Any vehicle rebuild (or electric vehicle conversion) would need to be pre-approved by a government official. To save explaining it, here are a summary of what the sub-sections say in the above document. It all falls apart at point (4):

(4:) a, b, and c say that the applicant would need to apply beforehand to a government department to start such a conversion and that any such modification in Slovakia would need to be fully documented in detail. Point c reiterates this, asking for pre-determined cabling plans, full wiring diagrams, technical descriptions, parts lists, calculated weight distribution plans, and authorisation from individual part manufacturers that all parts are approved and suitable for the use I intend them for.

Now, anyone who’s ever done a conversion knows that parts are often sourced second-hand, from forklifts, electronic stores, or even fabricated from home-made parts. This rules out getting permission for “improper use” right away.

Additionally, things always change in the middle of a conversion, so this would cause all manner of problems with the somewhat black & white thinking of the Slovak Department of Transport. I could imagine having to reapply from scratch if the plans changed during the conversion, even if I was able to obtain endoresment from all the manufacturers of the parts I wish to use.

Sadly it gets even worse. Point d is the real deal-breaker: súhlasné stanovisko výrobcu alebo zástupcu výrobcu vozidla k prestavbe podľa § 17. This means before I could even begin the conversion, I would need permission from the original manufacturer of the vehicle to convert it.

Sadly cat, they are.

Sadly cat, they are.

This is where all conversions stop. I know of one company here in Slovakia which already tried to convert a vehicle for promotional purposes. They tried following the rules but when it came to this part of the law their dreams fell apart, like mine. They formally applied to the well-known vehicle manufacturer of the vehicle they were converting and they asked for permission to convert it to electric… The vehicle manufacturer said no.

If you were a vehicle manufacturer you’d probably say no too. Who wants some weirdo in a foreign country showing the world that electric cars (something that vehicle company still isn’t interested in) could work well and be cheap? No way; no manufacturer wants to be potentially shown up by a dude in a garage.

It gets worse however.

Even if the planets aligned and I paid someone to draw up diagrams, schematics, and plans, and even if the Transport Department approved it, and even if the car manufacturer said “Sure! Convert that car!”, I would still need the permission of the orgány protipožiarnej ochrany (fire protection authorities), bezpečnosti práce (Health & Safety), regionálne úrady verejného zdravotníctva (Regional Public Health Authorities), and “other bodies”.

Sheesh. Then, to make it even harder, if somehow I got everything organised, approved, and permitted, part (6) says that vehicle conversions have a maximum of 12 months to be completed, ready for inspection. This means you need to get that conversion done quickly. Anyone who’s ever converted a car casually on Sundays will tell you how long it can take. Bad news if you’re busy, delayed, or financially strained at any time during the conversion. You could find yourself running out of time and having to reapply all over again!

If you’re anything like me, you’re probably thinking, “What if you did a conversion in a more car-friendly country, registered it there, then imported it back to Slovakia?”. Well, yes, in theory that could work, but I don’t have enough money to rent a garage in Austria or Poland, and I certainly don’t have enough time and money to fly/drive internationally to work on a €200 car. I just can’t afford that on my wages.

I’ve also been asked, “Why not just do a conversion and not tell anyone it’s electric?”. Well, because I don’t want a criminal record. That would be really really illegal, and if anyone crashes into me (quite likely the way some Slovaks drive) then I would be at fault. Additionally, I wouldn’t be able to pass the two-yearly vehicle inspections either, when they realise my car doesn’t match the paperwork. Driving an illegally converted car would just be a recipe for big problems, court appearances, and massive fines. Honestly, it’s just not worth it.

OK, let's all just take a moment to breathe...

OK, let’s all just take a moment to breathe…

Right now you’re probably pretty frustrated. I know I certainly was. I tried suggesting the Slovak government adopt the New Zealand rules for electric vehicle conversions, as they’re very thorough and strongly focused on safety. I sent a copy and offered to have them professionally translated too, but the official was not interested in changing anything. Sadly this is a common attitude within Slovak governmental organisations. While I love Slovakia (it’s an awesome place!) I do not love the mindset of Slovak officials. They still think like the Iron Curtain is up.

You need to understand that in Slovakia you don’t simply write to your government and arrange to meet with someone to discuss an issue, like you would in New Zealand. It doesn’t work like that here. Governmental stuff in Slovakia are very official, very bureaucratic, very slow, and very inflexible. So you can forget about me launching a campaign to change the laws. It just won’t work. In frustration I even tried writing (unsuccessfully) to the European Union to ask about forcing Slovakia to update its electric vehicle laws. In the end I had to give up; something I hate doing.

The problem remains however: I still really really want an electric car.

Factory-built electric cars like the Nissan LEAF are still really expensive.

Factory-built electric cars like the Nissan LEAF are still really expensive.

So I’ve decided to save up for a factory-built one instead.

These are obviously perfectly legal in Slovakia, but as you know, they’re still very expensive. You can expect to find a good Nissan LEAF with low mileage for around €16,000 ($20,600 USD) over in western Europe which sounds good if you live in Spain or the Netherlands. In Slovakia however the average wage is around €850 ($1100 USD) per month. This explains why there are (at the last count) less than 50 electric cars in the entire Slovak Republic; a country with over five million people living in it.

I’m desperate to get an electric car however, so I started saving in early 2014 with a goal to save €10,000 ($12,900 USD) by mid 2017 and I have my eye on something like a Mitusbishi iMiEV / Peugeot iOn / Citroën C-Zero (they’re all the same vehicle, made by Mitsubishi) as you can pick those up for much less.

See the difference in price? They're going to fall too, while my savings grow.

See the difference in price? They’re going to fall too, while my savings grow.

While I admit they’re a “quirky” looking car, they’d be very sensible in a city like Bratislava which often has very narrow streets. Not only that, they have air conditioning (utterly essential in summer) and a good heater for winter (utterly essential in winter). They also have a four-star Euro-NCAP safety rating (utterly essential considering how “enthusiastic” Slovak drivers are!) and they’re much more affordable than the Nissan LEAF as you can see! Although they’re all over €10,000 at the moment, by the time 2017 comes around they should be much cheaper.

So that’s where we are right now.

I have a long road ahead of me, and saving is difficult on Slovak wages, but I’m determined to get myself driving on electrons as soon as possible. We’re also preparing to build a house here in Bratislava which will have solar panels on the roof to recharge the car! Important when you consider gas here currently costs €1.48 per litre ($7.43 USD per gallon)!

It’s going to be slow-going, saving whenever I can, but I’m going to make it happen. Before you know it I’ll be driving an electric car from Germany, Spain, or maybe France back to Slovakia.

So folks, watch this space and please wish me luck. :)

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June 24th, 2014 at 12:49 pm

Costume challenge: Milan Rastislav Stefanik

For the 2014 Masked Ball here in the suburb where I live (in Bratislava, Slovakia) we have an annual costume competition. I’ve been a few of these and they’re always great fun. This time however, I decided to put in some real effort in try to win!

The man: Milan Rastislav Stefanik

I chose to be the man in the above image: Milan Rastislav Stefanik. He’s an iconic figure here in Slovakia, and you can read up about him here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milan_Rastislav_%C5%A0tef%C3%A1nik

After (unsuccessfully) looking at costume shops, I realised I would have to make the costume from scratch. So I got online and started shopping.

Hat

My first purchase: a rather Communist-looking hat.

This was the first purchase: a hat which I could modify to look like a French General’s cap. I could have bought an original or a replica of the real thing, but that would have cost €500!

Milan Rastislav Stefanik

Time to create his iconic hat

When the hat arrived, I chopped off the top and used cardboard to create a new top, 10cm high.

Hat2

Applying the Liberace-like fabric…

I bought some shiny velvety fabric from a fabric shop and went to work, wrapping the cardboard peak. Not as easy as it sounds. I used dabs of superglue to hold it in place.

Ribbon

Next comes the ribbon. The hat was quite a big job.

I then bought some ornate ribbon, as similar as I could find to the original hat of Milan Rastislav Stefanik. Again, I used dabs of glue to hold it all in place. The back wasn’t perfect, but that oval prism shape is really quite hard to work with. The fabric naturally wants to ripple.

Jacket

I bought one of these for around €25

Next step: buy a cheap military-esque jacket! It took a couple of months to arrive, which gave me time to buy some cheap medals from ebay.

Belts

I bought a couple of cheap faux-leather belts too.

I also needed to buy some fake leather belts from ebay. I bought two: one to go around the waist, and another to go through the epaulet on the shoulder.

Jackboots

Fake jackboots on the way.

Next come the jackboots! I searched for days to find cheap jackboots – I even looked at renting some – but they were all very expensive. I couldn’t justify spending €150 on a pair of boots I’d only wear once, so I bought some shiny black vinyl and made “fake jackboots”.

Jackboots

I wish I paid more attention at Home Economics class at school.

With the help of Babka’s sewing skills, we created snug-fitting vinyl leggings which would go over the pants and stop just on top of the shoes. From a distance (or at night) the effect was superb! In the meantime I tried (twice) to dye the jacket powder blue, using dyes designed for all fabric types but I had no luck, so I left it as being brown.

Name tag

A disturbingly extreme-close-up of my medals, jacket, hat, and belts.

It’s starting to look good! I painted the medals with my wife’s nail polish, glued the belts together, and even ordered a name tag. That way no one could say, “Who are you dressed as?”. I made little fabric medal holders, and I even bought a tennis medal, just for a laugh.

Then, after months of preparation, the night arrived…

Milan Rastislav Stefanik

Milan Rastislav Stefanik lives again!

Not too bad for €70 and 9 months of effort, huh! :)
My father in law even knows someone here in the village that has a sword, so I tied that to my waist, shined up my fake jackboots, put on my gloves, and prepared to make an entrance at the masked ball as a New Zealander dressed as Milan Rastislav Stefanik!

And you know what? I won first place!

Now I have to decide what to be for the next Masked Ball… Any suggestions?

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May 18th, 2014 at 3:06 am

War Thunder – the World War II multi-player for PS4

War Thunder: fun, fast, and free!

War Thunder: fun, fast, and free!

So I’ve gone and downloaded my second game for the new Playstation 4. It’s a multi-player game called War Thunder, and it’s set during the Second World War.

I’ve only been playing for a couple of hours, but so far I like it – no small feat considering I don’t typically enjoy multi-player games as they’re all go-go-go-die-respawn-chaos-go-die-respawn etc., which gets very boring very quickly. In this case however you can take on planes over richly detailed paddocks and farmland while attacking and destroying other planes and ground-based military vehicles. I believe you can also play the part of a tank or mobile ground artillieary at some point, too.

It seems that just as the world is starting to get sick of modern military games – with unreleastically accurate sniper rifles – played in endless, generic middle-eastern locations, something like this comes along.

The gameplay is great, the graphics superb, and you’re playing against real people on their computers or PS4s. At this stage however I’m still getting my head around the controls which are quite cumbersome. For those who are looking for the controls on the PS4 controller for War Thunder, look no further:

War Thunder PS4 dualshock controls for playstation controller

War Thunder PS4 dualshock controls for PlayStation controller

The best part of this game? It’s completely free. Yes, I mean it. Really, honestly free. I think even Churchill once said something along the lines of, “Never in the history of man, has so little been paid for so much”, or close to it… My only complaints would be that there’s no option of single player when you want to settle into a long bombing mission, and the missions are far too short to really get into. Designers, if you’re reading this, make the matches longer. Give me 40 minutes if I want.

If you have a PS4 and you’re not in the mood to spend megabucks on games that leave you unimpressed (like my experience with Infamous: Second Son) then War Thunder is worth downloading. My username in the game is NZ_CatFood by the way. If you’re shot down by me, then you’ll know who to complain to (just kidding, I’m a terrible shot).

Go get it!

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May 3rd, 2014 at 1:24 pm

Infamous: Second Son on Playstation 4

Infamous Second Son box
I recently treated myself to a PS4 (Playstation 4) after about 15 years since having a gaming console. I used to have the original Playstation sometime around 1997 and I thought now’s the time to get back into it.
So, I went to the store and laid down a whopping €399 for a shiny new PS4. I got home, battled with the fact the Playstation Network doesn’t work in Slovakia  (that’s another story) and I purchased my first game called Infamous: Second Son.
€69 and two weeks of playing later, the game is complete and I’ve formed an opinion on it.

Infamous Second Son graphics

First of all, it’s important that I explain that I’m in awe of how  far gaming has come in terms of graphics since I was a kid. We often take it for granted, but for example, look at the image above for a comparison in gaming advancements over the last 30 years. Kings Quest I (1984) was revolutionary for its time in terms of animated graphics, but today, graphics like those in Infamous: Second Son aren’t only impressive; they’re expected!

To me, quality graphics are very important but they can’t make up for a shortfall in gameplay, and in the case of Infamous: Second Son that turned out to be a minor bugbear.

Let me simplify by listing the good and the not-so-good of this game in my opinion:

Good: The graphics are amazing. There have been moments where I’ve stopped playing just to explore the visual beauty of the raindrops disturbing the reflections of neon signs in the puddles. It’s breathtaking. I really mean it. Who’d have thought in just 30 years of gaming we would go from notchy graphics like those in Kings Quest 1 to Infamous: Second Son‘s dazzling 1920×1080 resolution which roars along at 30fps. The graphics are incredible. They’re 100% pure amazing. Really, go and watch some videos on the internet of gameplay and marvel at the fluid, smooth, rich visual candy on offer.

Good: The ambient sounds and sound effects are literally spine-tingling. During the weapon called a “Karma bomb”, the rich surround sound was so intense the hair on the back of my neck stood up. This happened time and time again, so they’re doing something right in the sound department! The stereo effect is excellent too. If you have headphones on, you can tell exactly where the sound is around you. This means you’ll know if someone’s firing/landing/talking near you.

Good: The vibrations in the controller add an extra dimension to the game. Getting a fright in the game is made all the more real when your hands are made to tremble by the game itself!

Good: You’ve got Options! There are two ways to play this game: good karma mode, and evil karma mode. Throughout the game you’ll encounter a series of choices where you can choose to double-cross people or befriend them, protect them, or turn them over to the Department of Unified Protection. It’s a pretty cool idea, and means (if you’re patient enough) you can start the game again and play it a slightly different way once you’ve completed it. Personally, I tried to be as good as possible, not hurting civilians and doing the right thing when given the choice. Maybe in the future I’ll go back and re-do the game as a baddie some day!

And now the part you’re really waiting for: the stuff I didn’t think was so great.

Bad: The game was over too quickly, and for €69 I think should have got more than 2 weeks of occasional playing out of it. On one rainy Saturday I managed to chew through about 30% of the game.

Bad: There’s next-to-no interaction with objects in the game. Perhaps I’ve been spoiled by the amount of interaction in (now old) games like Grand Theft Auto IV and Medal of Honor, but I’m used to enjoying basic things such as opening car doors, breaking glass, and swimming. In Infamous: Second Son however, you’re little more than a spectator running through Seattle. Considering how rich the graphics were, I expected so much more interaction. You can’t drive any cars, you can’t converse with strangers, and you can’t buy things from shops or vendors.

Bad: The boss levels are ridiculous. For those who don’t know, boss levels are levels in the game whereby you must defeat a “boss”, being someone or something that is big and bad and very difficult to conquer. They typically have incredible armour & firepower and present a real challenge. In this game the boss levels were tedious things to endure. Each annoying boss level had me trapped in a tight area, dying time and time again. It would be much more enjoyable if we could utilise the entire city to battle it out. In my opinion boss levels should be a sidenote to the game, not a key part. They were popular with games in the 1990′s to make up for a lack of graphical/story content and I feel they’re just not necessary in quality games today as they offer so little.
One good – or should that be bad – example is the Heaven’s Hellfire level. It was flatly ludicrous; jumping above lava to defeat a fantasy mega-demon Satan-like creature who was protected by evil angels fluttering above him. I mean puh-lease. One moment we’re battling it out on the gritty streets of Seattle against the Department of Unified Protection (D.U.P.) armed with machine guns – and the next moment we’re enduring the wet dream of a pimply-faced Dungeons & Dragons fanboy. I love science fiction but I get nothing out of fantasy so I saw this level as boring and unnecessary. I can’t stress enough how much of a chore these boss levels are. The player really gets nothing out of them. These pointless boss levels are the only thing stopping me from going back and replaying the game.

Bad: The characters are generally dull and predictable. Delsin Rowe is the main protagonist in the game but if he wasn’t my character I’d probably classify him as an utter douchebag. Most of the time he’s too cool for school, never scared, and on rare occasions he tries (unsuccessfully) to be witty. The other key characters are equally one-dimensional. This also goes for Abigail “Fetch” Walker. Fetch is what can only be described as a one-dimensional nobody understands me “edgy” tough girl. Her character is non-relatable and generally unlikable. In fact a used teabag has more personality than what her character can offer.
Aunt(?) Betty is the next character I found generally irksome to be around. She was just too nice and it didn’t fit the situation. An easy example is when she’s lying in bed with concrete shards sticking out of her leg, facing imminent death. A normal person would be both horrified and terrified. Not Betty. This one-dimensional, naïve old bat was as saccharin as ever. Bleurgh. I’ve seen more believable characters in Monty Python – and at least they were funny.
Reggie Rowe is the main character’s brother, and despite being almost equally douchey in trying to uphold his tough-guy image for the sake of giving the game some ‘edge’, I feel that Reggie had the most opportunities for character development out of all the secondary characters. If they’d allowed his character a bit more time & dynamism, allowed him to display a bit more genuine humour and fear together, then he could have evolved into a dynamic, colourful member of the cast and a welcome reprieve from Delsin Douchebag Rowe. But no. That would give the game some personality, so they killed him off instead to ensure the doucheyness remains high. What a shame.

Bad: Finishing the game is strangely unsatisfying. Picture it: you’ve beaten the D.U.P. and the city is yours. You’re adored on the street by passers-by and it’s time to… do nothing, because the game’s over. All you can do now is play some tedious chore levels activated via the internet (called the Paper Trail extension) where you run around collecting clues and chasing a woman than jumps around buildings while making origami in her spare time. I got so bored I stopped halfway through. It felt more like homework than playtime. It’s a shame because the entire city is there, waiting to be utilised. What the developers could have done instead was organised a new range of battles or a change of tact. For example, Delsin could have joined the police force or D.U.P. and now reverse roles, or the military could perform a full-scale invasion, or, well, anything! The entire city is there waiting to be used but nothing’s happening. Give us some big wide-area missions. Less dragons, angels, warlocks, and magic spells and more action!

So, that’s my summary of Infamous: Second Son. Of course you’re welcome to disagree with any (or all) of the points I raised, but as a paying customer my opinion is just as worthy as anyone else’s.
5 out of 10 rating Infamous Second Son
My rating for Infamous: Second Son is five out of ten potatoes.

That’s not a low rating, but it’s not a high rating either. 5/10 is average. There are pros and there are cons, and even though I really want to love this game, I can only like this game because of the areas which are lacking.

That being said, I recommend you buy a copy and try it for yourself; if for nothing else than to experience the epic graphics.

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March 31st, 2014 at 12:27 pm

How climate change will affect your life.

The future: coming to a town near you.

Climate change is here, it’s getting worse, and human activity is to blame.

This is the consensus of the majority of the scientific community, who now believe that fact as strongly as they believe cigarettes increase your risk of lung cancer and heart disease. You simply can’t argue with those statistics, unless you have an agenda or are willfully ignorant.

There’s just no argument anymore. What you can argue about, however, is how intensely climate change will affect you.

A few days ago the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its fourth major assessment on climate change, and as you might expect, the news ain’t good. The short story is that things are already getting bad, and we’re not doing enough to reverse it, slow it down, or even adapt to it. This means bad things are going to happen.

At this point I should point out the obvious to anyone who’s been following climate change for the last few years: we will not change our ways. If you think we will all get together at the next UN meeting and all agree to instantly reverse climate change then you are mistaken. I don’t want to offend you, but it’s true. We are heading one way and we will not change the direction. We’re in for a rough ride.
If you’re old then in a way you’re lucky: you’ve enjoyed the best half of the 20th century which was an amazing time to be alive! Technology, social progress, art, and prosperity. You saw it all. You were born at the right time and you should be thankful for it.
If you’re young however, things are going to get pretty crappy for you and your family within your lifetime.

Just take a moment to accept that pretty crappy fact. Take all the time you need.

Does this mean humanity will die out? No, of course not; we’re incredibly adaptable beings.  However with this adaption will come a change in how we live our lives, with our collective quality of life changing for the worse. At some point, some groups of people, living in some parts of the world are going to starve, fight, and die because of the effects of climate change. This is reality.

I’m sure you’ve already read the headlines how people in low-lying islands are already being relocated due to rising sea levels, and how impoverished people in Africa are starving more than ever, and how some cities are now experiencing lack of water as their reservoirs dry out with no solutions available.

Yes it’s tragic, it’s bad, it’s horrible – but it’s human nature to be more concerned about your immediate surroundings, which means those growing numbers of people dying of hunger & thirst seem like they’re another world away.

What you’re probably more concerned about is what’s going to happen to people like you, living in major cities in the USA, Europe, Australasia etc. What’s in store for folks like us within the next 30 years?

1: Rising food prices. This is the first thing you can expect to see in developed cities, and it will be well out of line with inflation. Meat will soon become a luxury good in your city, as is happening many countries. Simple grains and breads will also rise in price to the point where a large portion of your income will need to go straight to buying essential food items. This is because despite our ballooning global population, global wheat yields are expected to drop by 2% every decade. More people + less food = incredible demand. Think your weekly grocery shopping trip is expensive now? Prepare to pay a lot more month by month, year by year for the same things.

2: Some of your favourite foods will no longer be available. We’re already seeing this with avocados. At this stage you can still buy them, but their prices are skyrocketing. Soon, they will become so expensive that your local supermarket will not stock them, because no one will pay $12 for one. It will happen with other exotic fruits and vegetables too, such as what is happening to pineapples due to an increase in heatwaves, droughts, and severe storms. At this stage it’s only shortages on some items, not complete elimination so fork out more and enjoy these luxuries while you can. One day it such shortages will apply to some things you buy regularly today.

3: Unemployment, and lots of it. Yes, I know we’re still battling with record numbers of unemployed so this isn’t welcome news, but that’s just where we’re heading, so accept it. But why would we have an increase in unemployment in our cities? Simple: destructive storms, severe droughts, reduced agricultural yields, and the decreased availability of water will force hundreds of millions of people to relocate to find work. That includes your town. Yes, right where you are sitting. There will be less industry because of less money, which means less jobs, but a more desperate workforce (willing to work for less than you). Accept it because it’s already happening in first world countries like the USA.

4: Taxes will increase rapidly. This will be to assist the swelling number of individuals who will require government assistance for food. The tax increases will also be in order to assist the increasing millions of unemployed, and it will be used to treat the millions of those becoming sick from poor nutrition and/or living in a reduced level of hygiene caused by a reduced cashflow. Therefore if you do have a job in 25 years from now, expect to pay a heck of a lot more in tax. This is unavoidable and it just means a poorer standard of living for people like you and me. High taxes mean people have less disposable income, which results in less consumption, which means businesses make less, which results in people losing their jobs. This adds to point number 3, above which makes points 3 & 4 a self-perpetuating loop.

5: Water shortages are coming for many cities; including yours. Some cities are already desperate for water, and things are getting the opposite of “much better”. With unpredictable seasons and longer drier spells forecast, there will be less water available. Water fees in your town will increase dramatically to cover the costs of new dams and reservoirs and to discourage water wastage. This means more costs for you.

6: Major increases in crime. In a city full of hungry, thirsty, unemployed people, crime will flourish. That’s not rocket science. Not everyone will be desperate enough to break into your home, but the percentage will noticeably increase. Expect more muggings, murders, and burglaries for cash & valuables. Desperate people do desperate things in desperate times, and this is apparent in many countries already. It’s going to get much worse, so you’re best to accept it now and plan ahead.

Sadly, climate change means that for many people, life in your town or city will probably never be as good as it is now

Now, take a deep breath and relax for a moment, while I try and bring some balance into this gloomy perspective.

Firstly, none of this will happen suddenly. You’re not going to wake up tomorrow with people shooting each other over a bag of flour or a container of water. As bad as things may get, I’m not convinced it will ever get to that level in our first world towns and cities.

Secondly, there are ways to plan ahead for climate change. You can think of it like an insurance payment for a happier life in the future. Let’s run through some solutions to some of the unpleasant & upcoming issues I mentioned above.

1: Beat rising food prices by growing your own food. It’s really the only way to help with your weekly food bill. This is something becoming more and more popular in cities where fresh fruits and vegetables are getting more and more expensive. Unfortunately if you want to make a real difference to your food bill, you’d better relocate to a house with an actual back yard. An apartment balcony just isn’t going to make a real difference in the future. This is something to worry about in the future of course, but with cities about to start swelling due to overpopulation coupled with climate refugees, city house prices are going to hyper-inflate within the next decade or two. Get in now – or should I say, get out now.

2: Shortages of luxury foods can only be mitigated by growing your own once again. As meat will soon become a luxury, it’s worth raising your own poultry or (if you have the room) rabbits, pigs, or sheep for meat. You’ll soon find the demand is still there, and you could fetch top dollar if you butcher and sell it yourself.

3: There are few ways to prepare for unemployment. If you’re with a partner then both of you should be prepared to live off his/her salary alone. Can you do that now? If not, why not? Find ways to trim your expenses. “But he/she doesn’t earn enough!” you say? Welcome to the problems of 2030. Learn to survive and thrive on a pittance. It could very likely be your only choice one day.

4: Taxes are a part of life; and really high taxes are a part of climate change. You can’t avoid them, so it’s best you know now, huh?

5: Water shortages are something you can plan for. Get a massive water collection system installed, and collect the rainwater off your roof. There are simple systems you can attach to your home’s downpipe. Have it fill a container the size of a car, and then filter the water before drinking it. When your local municipality announces water rationing for the 5th day in a row, you’ll be fine.

6: Install a fence around your home, and protect your vegetable patch. If you were starving would you steal all the apples off my tree? Of course you would, and I would steal yours if I was desperate enough. Put up a fence to deter thefts and to hide your vegetable plot from prying eyes. Stealing fruit from someone’s house might sound pretty comical today, but by 2030 I’m confident you won’t be laughing – especially when it happens to you for the 8th time.

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Now at this point I can imagine you’re probably shaking your head at the absurdity of this blog post. You might even be saying, “This Gavin guy is a nutbar! Things will never be that bad! He needs rubber wallpaper!”, and to be honest I wish you were right. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could just keep on living the way we’re living forever? If only climate change wasn’t real, if only food production wasn’t falling, if only we weren’t on track for 9,600,000,000 hungry humans by 2050. Ah, if only.

The reality however is most probably going to be exactly as I have outlined above. The only thing we don’t know exactly is when.

For the time being things are still good for most of us. Yes unemployment is still exceptionally high, but compared to the future, things are pretty darn sweet. So with that in mind, live your life to its fullest, enjoy being able to buy luxuries, and most importantly plan for the future!

Here are some final ruthless tips you probably don’t want to hear:
- Don’t have kids unless you can afford to support them into adulthood due to unemployment.
– Move to a place with usable land and prepare to use every square inch for growing food.
– Pay off your mortgage within the next 15 years.
– Save at least 10% of your income now. I mean it. Open a savings account TODAY.
– Take the 2 month challenge: live on half your income for 2 months (put the other half in your savings).

Share, praise, or even criticise this blog post – I don’t care – as long as you take at least some of these ideas onboard to benefit your future. You only have one future, so take control of it.

Now get out there and have a great day!

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