Monthly Archives: January 2015

The Quidnon

Dmitry Orlov’s Quidnon project is worth following; it is an attempt to design a good ocean going houseboat, that doesn’t follow convention, and is more concerned about function than form.  Non traditional ballast, engine, dual keels and rudders, junk rigging – all good ideas.

The devil is in the details, however – building stuff for use at sea isn’t for the faint of heart.  Salt water does a job on *everything*; this is why naval architecture is its own field!

We look forward to seeing what happens.


Worlds apart

I feel like I’m going to be getting my AARP card, and saying things like “Get off my lawn!” soon.

I recently got involved in a project that wanted to use “DIY and sustainability” to solve some real-world problems of some local non-profits.   Since I’m in the maker community, I figured I’d drop by, and see what they were up to.    I was a bit wary of the whole setup, but told myself to “keep an open mind.”

One of the potential problems to solve was in local organic farming and getting locally grown food to people who need it (involving a lot of urban youth to do the work), and to help the organization that runs the program get funding.   The person who helped run the program gave us the big overview.  The program has been running for 20+ years, so they’ve got their system figured out, but they were looking for help in expanding, streamlining, learning from their current alumni, etc.  You know, basic, real world problems.

Yet, when the discussion on options started, it seemed as if we were in an alternate world.  A few of the participants, a bit younger than me, really struck me as out of touch with both DIY and sustainability, in that they wanted to solve some of these problems with GAMES.  Most notably, mobile app games.    Yeah, Jane McGonigal and the TED talk, and all that.  It was crazy.  At one point, I had to start writing things that were being said:

  • “foster”
  • “lessons about justice”
  • “sustainable mobile platform”
  • “develop a network”
  • “link the connections”
  • “mapping”
  • “that’s beautiful”
  • “that’s awesome”
  • “it is easy to make mobile games”

A few folks were really stuck on games.  Even if it was easy to make games – is that what the problem needs?  It was as if people had just come out of some “How to speak like a hip TED presenter” seminar, and were angling to speak with as many buzzwords as possible.  It was mindblowing.

If I stick with this, the cold water of reality is going to have to be doused on the flames of insanity.

Who to follow?

Who to follow, in the blogosphere (while the power is still on), regarding the downward spiral we are in?

My take is to follow a few different viewpoints, and to take the best from each.  The real trick is to avoid “drinking your own Kool-Aid,” and getting too defensive about criticism.    My short list (in no particular order):

Dmitry Orlov – Based in Boston, he writes from the perspective of someone who has seen economic collapse (in the former Soviet Union) and has a keen eye for politics, as well as Peak Oil realities.

John Michael Greer – A prolific writer, he writes a wildly popular blog that puts for the concept of a stair-step, catabolic collapse.   Criticize at your own risk; he has a sharp mind and a wide knowledge base!

James Howard Kunstler – Master of ceremonies for collapsniks.   Excellent writing.   Has a great podcast as well.

Guy McPherson – He’s in charge of his blog Nature Bats Last, and has probably the darkest view of things.  A bit out there for some, but he’s got a lot of peer-reviewed sources to back him up.   John Michael Greer and Guy don’t see eye to eye, for sure, but they both bring something to the table.

Richard Heinberg – He’s written a few classics on the Peak Oil topic, and he’s someone the mainstream probably knows best.

FerFal – someone who lived through the economic collapse in Argentina; he gives a good idea of how things can go in a ‘civilized’ country.

Ugo Bardi – a counterpoint to John Michael Greer (see below)

Scott Johnson – a counterpoint to Guy McPherson (see below)

Just recently, I found:

Gail Tverberg – an actuary who has been writing for a long time on resource issues.

For basic reality checks (people who give realistic numbers), I suggest:

Without Hot Air – a good overview of renewables; what works, and what doesn’t.

Do The Math – another person with a physics background who quite literally ‘does the math’ on outrageous claims.

One interesting side note to all of this – if you ever meet someone who has a strong opinion on this topic (or any other, for that matter), ask them who their best opponent is, or someone they would like to debate.  This can lend a good balance to your reading.   For example, John Michael Greer suggested Ugo Bardi as his counterpart, so he’s on the reading list.  Guy McPherson has Scott Johnson as a counterpart, so he’s on the reading list as well.  Alas, there are a bit of prickly comments from both sides.

We should all want the truth; getting there is difficult.   My own bottom line is that things are going to get really difficult in our world, regardless of timeline, and that anybody trying to discuss things in a somewhat rational manner is welcome.  Yes, there are some big and rough “blog grenades” tossed every so often, but for me, the discussion is more welcome, warts and all.