Tuesday, December 26, 2017

The Sails Revisited

Based on the positive test results from the 1:12 scale model, the design of Quidnon nouveau-retro Chinese Junk sails is almost fully baked. But there are a couple more bothersome problems to solve. Junk sails are attached to the mast using parrels, which are short lines or straps running along the battens and around the mast. This generally works rather well, but produces a couple of unintended effects:

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Thursday, December 21, 2017

Poverty Minus the Meaningless Numbers

Poverty is a major problem around the world, but it is not evenly distributed. Some countries, such as China and Russia, have in recent decades succeeded in raising many of their citizens out of poverty. For example, the real incomes of a majority of Russians have doubled more than once since the beginning of the century, while in China the explosive growth of cities and of manufacturing has improved the fortunes of many millions of former peasants. The result, readily observable, is enviable political stability and widespread optimism and confidence (if not satisfaction) with the overall direction.

In the meantime, in the formerly wealthy but now virtually bankrupt countries of the West, and in the United States especially, homelessness has been steadily increasing, the number of people on public assistance has been setting new records, the opioid epidemic is claiming more victims every day and major cities, such as Chicago and Baltimore, have turned into shooting galleries to such an extent that Chicago’s Mayor Rahm Emanuel has recently asked the UN to send in peacekeepers to stop what he has called “a genocide.” The result, again readily observable, is political instability and widespread dissatisfaction with the overall direction, as evidenced by such phenomena as Trump, Brexit, the electoral failure of major political parties in France, Germany, Austria and elsewhere, separatist rumblings in Spain and Italy and the manifest fecklessness of both elected national officials and the unlected EU ones in Brussels.

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Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Quidnon: Hull Shape Revisited

Click to enlarge
The second post on the Quidnon blog blog, which I started almost exactly four years ago, was titled “Hull Shape” and featured the sketch shown on the left. A lot of work went into it. Concerns such as minimizing cost, maximizing ease of construction, maximizing interior living space and many others were addressed. A key feature of the design was the ability to combine the structure of the keelboard trunks with the water ballast tanks. Their position and size were based on many constraints, but the result was that water ballast alone turned out to be insufficient. Although it was more than enough to ensure stability under sail, more ballast would have to be added further aft in order for the boat to sit on its lines.

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Thursday, December 14, 2017

Deplorable Consistency

Looking over the commentary over the past week, since Donald Trump made his announcement recognizing all of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, one gets the sense of just how bewildered everyone is. Most analysts have been trying to see some deep meaning in this move, but their results have been poor, and I would suggest that they abandon their tea leaf reading and goat entrails gazing and instead focus on what is obvious. And what is obvious to me is that Trump’s decision is consistent with a set of traits which are not even specifically his but are generally American, and which are being ever more starkly expressed as the US enters the terminal phase of its degeneracy and decay.

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Tuesday, December 12, 2017

The XIII Commandments of Communities that Abide

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Over the past two Thursdays I have run two articles (1, 2) that looked back on and more or less wrapped my efforts at trying to inspire sustainable community-building efforts in the North American context, at least of the land-based variety. I am still hopeful about the possibilities of self-sufficient homesteads, and I am continuing to work on providing a different sort of context—for building mobile, floating communities—based on Quidnon—"A Houseboat that Sails". There will be more on it soon. But to wrap up the theme that I launched over three years ago with the book shown on the left, here is a rather important excerpt from it.

The following list of... um... commandments has been put together by looking at lots of different communities that abide. It is not dependent on what exact kind of community it is: whether it’s patriarchal or apportions equal rights and responsibilities to both women and men, whether it’s religious or atheist, whether it’s settled, migratory or nomadic, whether it consists of farmers or carnival performers, law-abiding people or outlaws, the highly educated or the illiterate, whether it’s rigidly traditionalist or polyamorous, vegan or omnivorous...

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Community: The Final Chapter

If you filter out from the common, mainstream uses of the word “community” all of the obviously non-community-related ones, such as “international community” (a lame euphemism) or “community relations” (a synonym for “public relations”) or “community center” (a synonym for “neighborhood center”) pretty much all that remains is “retirement community.” There are well over two thousand of them just in the US, with close to a million residents.

In comparison, “intentional communities,” including ecovillages, monasteries, communes, survivalist retreats, kibbutzim, ashrams and so on are rather boutique, being mainly aspirational and ideological rather than practical in nature. But added together they present more or less the entire landscape of “communities” within the developed world. And all of them are degenerate cases.

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Tuesday, December 05, 2017


There is a lot of attention currently being paid to cryptocurrencies. On the one hand there are those who claim that their rise in value is actually a symptom that conventional, fiat currencies are crashing. This begs the question as to why precious metals aren’t skyrocketing, and the usual answer is that their prices are being manipulated using the futures market that keeps “paper” gold cheap while “physical” gold is growing scarce; at some point these manipulations will stop working and gold will shoot up to $10,000 an ounce. (Sounds good to me!) This also begs the question as to why, if fiat currencies are crashing, there isn’t much inflation at all. Even in countries that have been plagued with high inflation for decades, such as Russia, this is no longer a problem; there, inflation is now under 3%. There isn’t much inflation in the US either, provided you exclude from it all of the local extortion rackets: real estate, health care and education. (Armed robbery usually isn’t part of the basket of products and services used to compute inflation.) Hyperinflation is not hard to find (in Venezuela) but this is not commonly seen as a worldwide, systemic problem.

On the other hand there are those who think that cryptocurrencies are another type of tulip mania or South Sea bubble: just another irrationally exuberant event that will end with a resounding crash. The standard retorts are “Bah, humbug!” and “This time, it’s different!” A more thoughtful retort is that Bitcoin (and other cryptos) are works of genius, based on the innovation of the blockchain (a sort of distributed ledger where every anonymous participant gets to verify every transaction) and the “proof of work” principle by which Bitcoin is “mined” using computers. In essence, instead of putting their trust in governments (which print money) and central banks (which really print money), Bitcoin users put their trust in algorithms, which are open source and defended through lack of public acceptance of any modification that might compromise them.