Monthly Archives: November 2016

Quidnot

floating_houses

From www.nytimes.com/2016/11/28/arts/design/offshoring-the-future-of-housing.html

Dmitry Orlov is building the Quidnon; a very well thought out “houseboat that sails.”   Not fancy-schmancy, not architecturally sleek, but something that is designed to work.

Someone is trying to do something similar, but not quite the same – houses that float.   While we think this is interesting, you still have to wonder if this is really a useful thing.   Houses that float can be useful, for a while, but will they still suffer from some of the same problems that houses near the water have?   Cost of materials; being tied to shore; inability to move under their own power – the host of problems here seems long.

These houses, while ‘pretty’, don’t seem to be built for climates that get a lot of snow (look at all those windows and flat roof construction).   They seem to have a freeboard of about a few inches, rather than being designed for any real sea changes.

Questions:

  • Anyone see how these could be cheaper than regular houses?
  • Would you live in one of these?
  • Are there other alternatives to the Quidnon you have seen?

Learning to live without

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commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:J32_sailboat_Lady_Cait_0697.jpg

There have been a few essays written here that have discussed the processes and small elements that make up what we will need to do, in adapting to the future world we are going to experience.   Some of them arSans car,  The legal process and the slide down, On preparing,and Tiny steps, first steps.

This past weekend, in order to help out a friend, learn something about boats, and do some hard work (good for the soul and all that), and in the spirit of learning to live without, I signed up for a small boat delivery project.

Now, the distances involved were not major; three or four days at sea, with various stops along the way.  In a small boat (under 32′), and one that isn’t in perfect shape, you learn a great deal about learning to live without, learning what is important, and how to make do when things are not all according to plan.   In the above examples, all land based, some small creature comfort or change was made, and we learned to live with that change.  Boats, however, bring that change up a few notches.

On a boat, there are serious limits to what you can bring, and to what you can do when something goes wrong.  If you lose a tool overboard, it is gone (unless it is on a lanyard, or it floats).   You can only bring a certain number of spare parts, and you always have to be mindful of the resources you are using; water, food, toilet paper (!), paper towels, fuel for stoves, heating, and propulsion.  Dry, clean clothes are at a premium.  If you forget something, you can’t just go out and pick something up at the corner store.  Cell phone coverage can be spotty; electricity and lighting can be limited.

The other element that takes things up a notch is the danger/safety element.   One of the things about this trip is that it probably wouldn’t have happened if my presence wasn’t there.  Being at sea can be outright dangerous, even in good weather, perhaps even moreso than hiking, driving or other terrestrial pursuits.  In undertaking such a trip in the middle of November, you can subject yourself to some pretty harsh conditions.    When underway at night, it can be even more dangerous.   At some point during our journey, under an overcast sky and at night, the only thing we could see were our navigation lights, and the boat itself.   If one of us was to go overboard, it would have meant a very cold crewman, and a struggle to get them back in the boat, and warmed up to avoid hypothermia.

This isn’t to say we weren’t safe; “one hand for you, one for the boat”; “always wear your life jacket”; “move in slow motion” – these are the dictums you need to live by.   We had charts, backup navigation elements, radio, GPS; all of which can mean the difference between a small change in course and disaster.

Being aboard a boat, even for a few days, brings up the reality of how much wealth we have (hot showers, clean clothes, lots of water, safety from the elements, access to resources) here in our cozy world.  There are other activities like rock climbing, scuba diving, parachuting, flying a small plane or glider which have some danger elements, but boating for long periods, out of range of short by more than a few nautical miles, truly focuses your mind.   You can’t screw around.  You learn to live without a daily shower, flushing toilets, a wide variety of hot meals and food, entertainment and information on tap.

 Questions:

  • What other activities have you done that have focused your mind, and made you learn to live without?  Being financially poor; living in a remote location; what else?
  • Do you actively pursue situations where you are forced to do without?  Fast?   Go ‘minimalist camping’?
  • Does doing these things really help?  It is one thing to go camping, boating, reduce expenses voluntarily; it is another to do those things full time, when no backup is available.   Someone once called this “Disney danger”; danger that looks like something really dangerous, but isn’t, because there are so many failsafes and backups to keep you from getting hurt.

 

And now for something completely different

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en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Monty_python_foot.png

Well, JMG and Michael Moore called it – President-Elect (soon to be) President Trump.   Because of those prescient and well reasoned predictions, my take on the election has been to tell folks everywhere, “This isn’t going to be easy to hear, but there’s a very good chance he will win; and if not, it will be very close.”  As it turned out, it was even harder to bear for some in their ivory towers.

Oh well.  The recriminations, blame, and finger-pointing will go on for a while, of course.  If there’s one word that describes this event, it is probably that ancient word hubris; that dangerous overconfidence that leads to a downfall of epic proportions.  Again, again, and again, humans seemingly refuse to learn.

For sure, we are going to have a different world.   Mr. Trump’s worldview(s) have been varied and tough to pin down, and a shakeup in the foundations of our society and foreign policy is surely upon us.   Heck, even California wants to secede.   It is particularly sad, however, how some of the folks on the left have responded.  When Obama won eight years ago, there were complaints to be sure, but not the kind of protests we’ve got today.    When the folks who leaned left cheered when Obama used executive orders, didn’t they see that one day, this would set a precedent for a right leaning executive?

For those of you who think that we’ll never see a female US president, here’s an interesting thought experiment.  My ancillary view to this election has been that impeachment was always just around the corner for whoever won this poisoned chalice of the presidency.   With impeachment, a new vice-president will have to be chosen, and wouldn’t it be ironic if the VP slot was filled by a moderate female Republican?   Impeachment might even follow the new president.   It isn’t impossible for both the president and vice-president to resign – Spiro Agnew was forced from the Vice Presidency of Richard Nixon, and Gerald Ford replaced him.  A bit later, Nixon resigned, voilà – we had President Ford.

It’s been a wild ride this year, nothing should be ruled out, for sure.

Questions:

  • Who else saw this coming?
  • What other outrageous predictions do you see coming true?
  • Is it possible that Trump might end up like Reagan?   Or like Nixon?
  • What will be the biggest change we will see under a Trump presidency?
  • Are you still having trouble grappling with this reality?

 

 

 

This is it!

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Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder in “The Producers” (Embassy Pictures, 1968)

In possibly one of the funniest movies of all time, The Producers, (the original one, in 1968), there’s a key scene just before the opening of ‘Springtime For Hitler.’  By the way, if you’ve seen the new version, great; but the old version has an edge to it that seems timeless; a copy is probably available at your local library.   Gene Wilder (playing Leo Blum), in a burst of unbridled optimism, shouts out, “This is it!”, thinking that in the next few hours, the worst play ever, with the worst director, and worst actor, will fail spectacularly.   The end result will be “wine, women, and song,” with he and Max Bialystock in Rio.

The reason this scene resonates so well with me, and with the current strange election season is that in about 24 hours, we’ll know if we’ve got Mr. or Madame President.   Surely, there will be people on both camps, who are gleefully rubbing their hands (internally or externally shouting “This is it!”) thinking a) they are going to win, and all will be well, (and!)/or b) their opponent will win, and they’ll take the blame for the coming bill that will come due.

If Ms. Clinton wins, we may get more of the same, and as many from the right hand side of this blog roll have mentioned, that won’t be the kind of thinking that we’ll need.  In fact, it will be the kind of thinking that will accelerate our demise.  Likewise, if Mr. Trump wins, we’ll have a different kind of thinking, which will also accelerate our demise.   Like the old joke about capitalism and socialism – “What is the difference between capitalism and socialism?  Capitalism is the exploitation of man by man.  Socialism is the reverse.”

The real wildcard, of course, is that something will actually get done when the new president takes office (echoes of “Hope and Change”), but let’s not hold out breath. Tempers are frayed, families and friends are fighting;  we’ll all be glad when this is over.  And at the end of the day, we’ll have a leader who will most likely be up to their eyeballs in scandal.

Questions:

  • “Après moi le déluge,” so it has been said by Louis XV of France, before the French Revolution.   What will be a equivalent phrase uttered by our next president, when things really start to implode?
  • Will we have a Ceausescu moment in the US in the next four years?
  • We’ve all been waiting for the implosion of things.  Will we get Ugo Bardi’s Seneca Cliff, or John Michael Greer’s fractal decline?   Will the choice of president/outcome of the election influence this, or not?

 

 

 

Backup plan

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en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vice_President_of_the_United_States#/media/File:US_Vice_President_Seal.svg

No matter who you look at, both presidential candidates have a lot of baggage, and a lot of traits that infuriate the supporters of the other, as well as those who are just disgusted with the entire process of Election 2016 to date.

My mini-thesis on this whole debacle is that it is the vice-presidential candidates who are going to play an important part in our collective futures.  Both candidates have a lot of negatives, and some of those negatives involve some serious ‘impeachable offenses.’

The folks who designed the US system of government did well to provide us with a backup plan, in case something went wrong with the president du jour.  

Stay tuned.

Questions:

  • How likely do you think this scenario is?   A search on ‘Clinton’ and ‘Nixon’ turns up a lot of hits.   Even Trump has a few folks looking at some of his dealings, and thinking they might be criminal as well.
  • Do you feel strongly about any of the VP candidates?   They may seem a bit underwhelming, but perhaps that’s a good thing.