Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Humpty-Dumpty’s Fateful Choice

According to the English nursery rhyme, “Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall, Humpty Dumpty had a great fall. All the king's horses and all the king's men couldn't put Humpty together again.” It is often presented as a riddle, and children are prompted to guess that Humpty was an egg. This is, of course, the wrong answer: the right answer, as all up-to-date children should know, is that Dumpty is the US dollar.

But back to the nursery rhyme: why would all of king’s men attempt to put together a broken egg, and why would horses be sent in to help? In fact, Dumpty was not an egg but a large cannon that accidentally fell from a castle wall during the English Civil War of 1642-49 and smashed into pieces. Another nursery rhyme, “Ring a ring o’ roses,” is about the Great Plague of 1665. Nursery rhymes aren’t about childish things; they are about serious things, like civil wars, pandemics… and currency collapses.

One of the most impactful events of the early 21st century is its undoing as the world’s main reserve currency. Since many people will immediately demand to know when exactly this will happen, let me rush to supply them with the correct answer: this will happen early in the 21st century. As to how exactly it will happen—well, that’s the interesting part.

Friday, October 12, 2018

A HOUSEboat vs. a houseBOAT

The most important design aspect of a tiny house is the success of its interior layout. The tight quarters may look quaint on paper but in reality turn out to be claustrophobic. The need to stoop and to contort yourself to fit into the small spaces may lead to bumps on the head and cramps. Lack of storage may seem inspirational for those aspiring to minimize their earthly possessions, but inevitably results in clutter. Lack of private spaces may inspire greater intimacy short-term but lead to strained relations in the longer term. And so on.

The set of such problem to solve is even greater when designing a houseboat because of the need to compensate for the almost constant rocking motion in all but the most sheltered marinas and anchorages. Berths (beds) have to be oriented with the head pointing aft: cribs rock side to side and while having your feet bounce up and down is tolerable, having your head do the same generally isn’t. There can’t be any sharp corners, especially where your head or your knees and elbows might end up, and there have to be handholds within easy reach. Shelves and tables have to be fitted with fids to prevent items from rolling off. Dealing with the inevitable condensation is far more important on a boat due to its proximity to water. (Many sailboats will drip cold water on your head as you try to sleep.)

These problems are easily solved by paying a few million dollars for a megayacht, but our goal is to make living aboard an affordable, comfortable, competitive alternative to paying rent. Not only does this tiny house have to float, but it has to be mobile and move both under engine and under sail. The constraints that this imposes on its design are quite formidable. Consequently, only now, after several years of design effort, is it approaching the point where there are no conceptual problems that remain to be solved and construction planning can begin.


Tuesday, October 09, 2018

Dmitry Orlov Gives an Interview

I was recently contacted by Sam Mitchell, who has a Youtube channel called Collapse Chronicles and has been interviewing the usual suspects including Jim Kunstler. And since I generally don’t mind going wherever Jim goes, I agreed to give him an interview. You can hear the audio version here and suffer through the bad sound quality, or you can just read my enhanced distillation of it below. The interview was cut short because the VOIP connection failed.

Sam: Have your views become somewhat darker since you published The Five Stages of Collapse a few years ago?

Friday, October 05, 2018

Coppered Bottom is a No-Brainer

The last post attracted some attention from various places around the net. One in particular—the forum Sailing Anarchy—attracted over 400 visitors. I followed the link and tried participating in the discussion.

The sailing anarchists just couldn’t wrap their heads around the concept of a houseboat as a lifehack that lets one avoid getting wiped out by exorbitant real estate prices and rents. Well, I’ve said this many times before, but I’ll say it again, briefly: in the US, housing is a racket, on par with other rackets, such as health care, higher education, national defense and quite a few others. The very lightly regulated recreational vessel space offers a wonderful opportunity to escape the landlubber debt trap.


Thursday, October 04, 2018

The Reichstag is Ready to Burn Again

Exactly three years ago I ran an article sent to me by Alex S. from Germany, reproduced in its entirety below along with several translations. It has turned out to be remarkably prescient; in the intervening three years, events in Germany have unfolded entirely in accordance with his predictions. Germany's political system is coming apart. In response, Merkel and those who stand behind her appear to be reactivating the script followed by the National Socialists after the event of February 23, 1933: a fire at the Reichstag was used as an excuse for a political clampdown on the opposition. Similarly, immediately after the demonstrations in Chemnitz the German press rushed to label the demonstrators as fascists and extremists.

Tuesday, October 02, 2018

Interview on Global Research

Cold War 2.0: The Russian Peace “Threat” and America’s Addiction to War

Global Research: We’re joined by Dmitry Orlov. He is a Russian-American writer, blogger, and geopolitical analyst. His work has centered around the political, economic, and ecological and political decline and collapse in the United States, and he’s also the author of numerous articles. His books include Reinventing Collapse: The Soviet Experience and American Prospects and Shrinking The Technosphere: Getting A Grip On The Technologies That Limit Our Autonomy Self-Sufficiency, And Freedom. He joins us here from Moscow. Thanks so much for coming back to the show Dmitry.

Dmitry Orlov: Good to be with you Michael.

GR: Now I think the first thing I wanted to bring up is some of the recent news. There was the… Recently the shooting down of a Russian Il-20 reconnaissance plane by Syrian forces, but it was, the Russian military has argued that this is actually a result of Israeli actions, just, sort of, I guess you say shadowing that plane, and it was in response to that incident that a number of S-300 missile systems were moved into Syria.

I know that there’s beeen commentary by…The Saker, for one, said that this is a de facto no-fly zone over Syria. Now we know that things have not been going so well up to now for US imperial aims in the country. I’m wondering what, how significant this latest event is in the overall context of what we’ve been seeing?

Thursday, September 27, 2018

In Praise of Irresponsibility, Part II

Our task is to define the praiseworthy aspects of irresponsibility, and to do so we have to first define irresponsibility itself. And here we immediately come upon several possibilities. There is irresponsibility of commission, which is to be irresponsible by committing irresponsible acts. There is also the irresponsibility of omission, which is to be irresponsible by failing to act in a responsible manner. And let us not neglect to mention willful irresponsibility, which is to refuse to accept or acknowledge one’s responsibilities. Finally, there is meta-irresponsibility, which is to consider the question of responsibility in an irresponsible manner, as in “Your discussion of responsibility has grown tiresome, feh!”

But such a compendium of irresponsibility appears to shed little light on the question of what is praiseworthy about any of it. Let us therefore backtrack a bit. First, we will define responsibility. Then we will expose its numerous deplorable, detestable, reprehensible aspects. And then, finally, through the simple trick of negation, we will get at irresponsibility and its laudable, praiseworthy aspects. Let’s get cracking!


Monday, September 24, 2018

When Money Stinks

Bill Mayer
The phrase “pecunia non olet” (money doesn’t stink) is said to have been coined (no pun intended) by the Roman emperor Vespasian who ruled from 69 to 79 AD. It is generally taken to mean that the value of money remains the same regardless of how it was obtained. (Well, tell that to the money-laundering squad!) Vespasian had a point: Roman money was mostly in the form of silver coins which derived their value from their silver content rather than anything else.

But even then Roman money was already starting to stink a little bit: in 64 AD emperor Nero debased the denarii by 25% by mixing in copper. This process ran its course in the 3rd century AD, by which time a typical denarius was over 50% copper. And then emperor Caracalla introduced a two-denarii coin that weighed 1.5 times as much—an additional 25% debasement. No doubt the Roman legionnaires who were charged with protecting Rome’s frontiers from the ever more numerous barbarians, and who were paid in this increasingly worthless money, thought that it did indeed stink, and acted accordingly, as did the barbarians.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

In Praise of Irresponsibility, Part I

There is no shortage of official voices exhorting us to act responsibly. Strenuous attempts are being made to make us feel responsible for the government officials we supposedly elect (by responding to a multiple-choice question which we don’t get to ask). Financial irresponsibility—in taking on too much personal debt—is vilified (while government debt shoots for the stars with no thought to repayment). Responsible parenting is held up as a great virtue forcing us to adhere to inflated safety standards that bring up generation after generation of mollycoddled nincompoops. The authorities threaten us into reporting various minor infractions by our neighbors—spying on behalf of the government, that is—ignoring the fact that legislative bloat has made it so that each person commits an average of three felonies a day. Even insurance companies get in on this moralizing game, conditioning us to think that acting responsibly will lower the insurance premiums on our mandatory insurance—but please don’t tell anyone that if your risk is low enough you are better off insuring yourself using your own savings instead of squandering them on insurance company profits. In short, to be responsible is to not think too much, because upon examination “responsibility” reduces to “do as we say and don’t ask questions.”

What is remarkable about all of these appeals to responsibility is that by and large they are being made by people who themselves range from the blithely short-sighted to outright paragons of irresponsibility, all of them far more interested in bolstering their own power and authority than in pursuing any notion of the common good. What if a case can be made that these attempts at public moralizing are strictly manipulative attempts to steer us into a cul de sac where we can be easily slaughtered or fleeced? And if so, what would constitute a properly responsible response to such hypocritical, cynical, egotistical manipulation?


Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Quidnon 2.0

This boat design project started out by setting out some very ambitious requirements:

• A houseboat that makes a comfortable tiny house big enough for a family
• A competent, seaworthy sailboat, with masts that can be put up and taken down by a single-hander with the boat in the water
• A motor boat with an outboard motor for an engine that can be installed and removed easily, positioned in an engine well to prevent cavitation, collision damage and other problems with transom-mounted outboards
• Never needs a haulout: copper-surfaced bottom resists marine growth; settles upright and can be dried out and scrubbed at low tide
• Can be beached and relaunched by rolling over logs using anchor winch
• Can be assembled quickly from a kit on a beach or a riverbank by moderately skilled people
• Uses materials that are readily available almost everywhere: plywood, softwood lumber, bolts and screws, fiberglass and epoxy, galvanized mild steel, polypropylene three-strand rope
• Designed for all climates and seasons, from frigid to torrid
• Can be constructed and maintained at minimal expense

Over the past four years since I launched this project several people have made significant contributions to it: modeling, prototyping, contributing ideas and criticisms, helping spread word of it. Taking our sweet time with it has been very helpful in preventing us from building the wrong boat.

But what would be the right boat?