(no subject)

This is from Kim Stanley Robinson's Sixty Days and Counting

The Bank guy was going on about differential costs, "and that's why it's going to be oil for the next twenty, thirty, maybe even fifty years," he concluded. "None of the alternatives are competitive."

Charlie's pencil tip snapped. "Competitive for what?" he demanded.

He had not spoken until that point, and now the edge in his voice stopped the discussion. Everyone was staring at him. He stared back at the World Bank guys.

"Damage from carbon dioxide emission costs about $35 a ton, but in your model no one pays it. The carbon that British Petroleum burns per year, by sale and operation, runs up a damage bill of fifty billion dollars. BP reported a profit of twenty billion, so actually it't thirty billion in the red, every year. Shell reported a profit of twenty-three billion, but if you added the damage cost it would be eight billion in the red. These companies should be bankrupt. You support their exteriorizing of costs, so your accounting is bullshit. You're helping to bring on the biggest catastrophe in human history. If the oil companies burn the five hundred gigatons of carbon that you are describing as inevitable because of your financial shell games, then two-thirds of the species on the planet wil be endangered, including humans. But you keep talking about fiscal discipline and competitive edges in profit differentials. It's the stupidest head-in-the-sand response possible."

The World Bank guys flinched at this. "Well," one of them said, "we don't see it that way."

Charlie said, "That's the trouble. You see it the way the banking industry sees it, and they make money by manipulating money irrespective of effects in the real world. You've spent a trillion dollars of American taxpayers' money over the lifetime of the Bank, and there's nothing to show for it. You go into poor countries and force them to sell their assets to foreign investors and to switch from subsistence agriculture to cash crops, then when the prices of those crops collapse you call this nicely competitive on the world market. The local populations starve and you then insist on austerity measures even though your actions have shattered their economy. You order them to cut into their social services so they can pay off their debts to you and to your financial community investors, and you devalue their real assets and then buy them on the cheap and sell them elsewhere for more. The assets of that country have been strip-mined and now belong to international finance. That's your idea of development. You were intended to be the Marshall Plan, and instead you've been the United Fruit Company."

A Beautiful Image

Came across this image a while ago in some random context.

There are a lot of things that I really like about it. It's an industrial setting, which is a positive for me. It's also an unusual space, a place that most people don't normally see, so that's also a positive. It has a worn and weathered quality that I also appreciate.

The framing of it is reminiscent of Richard Diebenkorn (whose birthday was today, I learned earlier). It also has a flatness that makes it more graphic than representational.

Even the color of it is surprisingly nice, and I'm not first and foremost a color person, but I don't think this would work as well in black and white. Desaturated it in GIMP and it doesn't work nearly as well.

(no subject)

Reading the rest of Kim Stanley Robinson's 40-50-60 trilogy right now. It's slow going, especially since I read "Forty Signs of Rain" a while ago; these aren't quite page-turners, so it took some persistence to get back into it. But I'm halfway through "Sixty Days and Counting" now, so I think I'll finish it all.

This following bit is from "Fifty Degrees Below," (pp 21-46) and is an interesting, though idealized, rant. But there's nothing wrong with ideals and aspirations. Robinson has written similar pieces elsewhere that make similar suggestions. So, while this is from a work of fiction, the ideas behind it are still worth sharing and worth thinking about.

"Contract with Our Children"

1. protection of the biosphere:
Sustainable uses; clean technologies; carbon balance; climate homeostasis.

2. protection of human welfare:
Universal housing, clothing, shelter, clean water, health care, education, reproductive rights. 

3. full employment:
Current economy defines 5.4% unemployment as optimum for desired “wage-pressure balance,” treating labor (people) as a commodity and using a supply/demand pricing model. Five percent in U.S.A. = approx. fifteen million people. At the same time there is important work not being done.

If government-insured full employment reduced “wage-pressure,” forcing a rise in minimum wages from the private sector, this would help pull millions out of poverty, decrease their government dependence and social service costs, and inject and cycle their larger incomes back into the economy. 

4. Individual ownership of the majority of the surplus value of one’s labor.
People create by their work an economic value beyond what it costs to pay them and provide their means of production. This averages $66,000 per year for American workers, a surplus now legally belonging to owners/stockholders.

American workers therefore receive between a fifth and a third of the actual value of their work. The rest goes to owners.

A minimum share of 51% of the surplus value of one’s work should be returned to one, this value to be measured by objective and transparent accounting as defined by law. 

3. and 4. combined would tend to promote the greatest good for the greatest number, by distributing the wealth more equitably among those who have created it.

5. Reduction of military spending:
Match U.S. military expenditures to the average of other nations; this would halve the military budget, freeing over two hundred billion dollars a year.

More generally, all national militaries should be integrated in an international agreement upholding nonviolent conflict resolution. (Using black helicopters of course.)

Disproportionate size of US military and arms industry a waste of resources. Doubling since September 11, 2001 resembles panic response or attempt at global hegemony. Results undermine goals outlined in the foundational axioms. 

6. Population stabilization:
Human population stabilized at some level to be determined by carrying capacity studies and foundational axioms. Best results here so far have resulted from increase in women’s rights and education, also a goal in itself, thus a powerful positive feedback loop with chance for results within a single generation.

Context/ultimate goal: Permaculture

A scientifically informed government should lead the way in the invention of a culture which is sustainable perpetually. This is the only normative bequest to the generations to come. It is not adaptive to heavily damage the biosphere when our own offspring and all the generations to follow will need it, like we do, in order to survive. If reproductive success is defined as life’s goal, as it is in evolutionary theory, then stealing from descendants is maladaptive.

Protection of the environment, therefore, along with restoration of landscapes and biodiversity, should become one of the principle goals of the economy. Government must lead the way in investigating potential climate-altering strategies to mitigate current problems and eventually establish a balance that can be maintained in perpetuity.


Imagine doing a Tom Kundig-style 'gizmo' for an operable building component (like the crank to open the window from the Chicken Point Cabin - see below), but instead of just having an exposed mechanism, add to that using the oddly shaped and improbable gears from "Quilty1987" from BoingBoing. That could be quite something.

links & references:


I read almost exactly half of "Surface Detail," Iain M. Banks' latest Culture novel while I was traveling to take care of my brother's affairs. And it was, in part, almost eerily appropriate:

"There had always been specialist sub-divisions within the organisational behemoth that was Contact. Special Circumstances was only the most obvious and, uniquely, it had been formally separate almost since its inception; largely because it sometimes did the sort of things the people who were proud to be part of Contact would have been horrified to have been remotely associated with.

"As time had passed though, especially over the last half-thousand years or so, Contact itself had seen fit to introduce various re -organisations and rationalisations which had resulted in the creation of three other specialist divisions, of which the Quietudinal Service was one.

"The Quietudinal Service – Quietus, as it was usually called – dealt with the dead....

"Relatively small in terms of ships and personnel, Quietus could nevertheless call on whole catalogued suites of dead but preserved experts and expert systems – not all of which were even pan-human in origin – to help them deal with such matters, bringing them back from their fun-filled retirement or out of suspended animation, where they had left instructions that they were ready to be revived if they could be of use when circumstances required.

"Slanged as “Probate” by some of those in SC, Quietus had links with Special Circumstances, but regarded itself as a more specialised service than its much older and larger sibling utility. Most of the humans within Quietus regarded any links with SC as deplorable in essence and only very occasionally necessary, if ever. Some just plain looked down on Special Circumstances. Theirs, they felt, was a higher, more refined calling and their demeanour, behaviour, appearance and even dress reflected this.

"Quietus ships added the letters OAQS – for On Active Quietudinal Service – to their names while they were so employed, and usually took on a monochrome outer guise, either pure shining white in appearance or glossily black. They even moved quietly, adjusting the configuration of their engine fields to produce the minimum amount of disturbance both on the sub-universal energy grid and the 3D skein of real space. Normal Culture ships either went for maximum efficiency or the always popular let’s-see-whatwe-can-squeeze-out-of-these-babies approach. "

My Country Song

My Brother's Dead and My Dog Is Dying

After Archifest, the month has rapidly accelerated downhill. My brother died suddenly and unexpectedly. I'm still trying to deal with that. If you're a friend whose contact with me is just through LJ, contact me privately if you need more information.

The dog was sick a few weeks ago, and then while I was away, his symptoms returned. Ultrasound with the vet revealed that he has numerous tumors inside him. He's 11 years old, or so (we adopted him from a rescue group when he was around 5, but we don't know precisely). That's about the same age our previous corgi was (also a rescue dog) when he died, right before Halloween 7 years ago. Corgis can live longer than that, but 11-12 is not unexpected for a corgi lifespan. (I've seen ranges given of 10-15, 11-14, and 12-13; seems like they're narrowing in on it.)

We're not sure how long he has, but it's probably going to be sooner rather than later.

So that's why I'm not saying much else.

I'll be back in a while.

Lamps of Parts

Over the years, I've built a couple of lamps using EMT (metal conduit), electrical boxes, plain ceramic socket, and assorted fittings and pieces. The first one I built when I was out in LA, and was a tall-ish (maybe 4' tall) reading light kind of fixture. (I'm not sure whatever happened to it, but I don't think it came back from the West Coast.) The most recent one (out in the garage these days, I think) was a shorter (maybe 15" tall) desk lamp that I've had around for years.

So it was surprising to see these "junkbot lamps" on BoingBoing a few days ago. These are a whole lot more character-oriented than my pieces, and these look like they've been painted, instead of embracing the random beauty of galvanized metal. Still, there's a strong connection in terms of the palette of shapes and pieces.

Recently, I've been thinking about going back and making a few more of these pieces of my own. I'm pretty much over the use of incandescent bulbs anymore, but bare-bulb CFL isn't very nice, either. I'd like to figure out how to be able to set these up as LED fixtures, though I don't want to rely on current screw-base LED lights (which are mostly awful, and likewise unsuited for exposed applications. Maybe with a Plumen bulb?

Plumens are supposed to be available in the US sometime soon. They are shipping the first ones in Europe and the UK this fall, and they are "coming soon" for the rest of the world.

Without a socket, it could be interesting to try some things with LED engines, and build a more directional lamp, rather than a general illuminator. I just need to get some pieces and experiment a bit.