Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Surviving Winter Aboard

Life aboard can be perfectly pleasant when it’s warm outside, but when the weather turns cold a number of unpleasant factors conspire to make most sailboats, power boats and houseboats uncomfortable. This article attacks the problem from three directions. First is an explanation of all the factors that make overwintering aboard a typical commercially built recreational boat rather unpleasant. Next, I describe how those intrepid souls who do overwinter aboard in northern climates cope with these factors. Last, I describe how all of these factors are carefully avoided in the design of QUIDNON, “a houseboat that sails.”


Interview on Ecotopia

Our guest was Dmitry Orlov, author of Shrinking the Technosphere: Getting a Grip on Technologies that Limit Our Autonomy, Self-Sufficiency, and Freedom, published by New Society. He writes about the "technosphere," the world of technology that claims to make our lives simpler and more efficient, from microwaves to cell phones, from radios to satellite TV. He says that the technosophere (which he contrasts to the more natural "bisophere") has a mind of its own that seeks to homogenize Homo sapiens with an amoral focus on growth, control, "progress," and obedience and conformity. His solutions principally involve downsizing and simplifying, stepping outside oneself to break the control of technology in our lives.

Listen to the interview.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

A Tiny House that Floats—and Sails!

Tiny houses are great, but there are a few problems. One is zoning: it’s hard to find places where you are allowed to put one, especially if it’s anywhere near the bigger cities where the good jobs are. Another is flooding: more and more places are subject to flooding everywhere. Yet another is various local regulations that restrict what and how you can build.


Is Obama a Russian Agent?

Sometimes a case looks weak because there is no “smoking gun”—no obvious, direct evidence of conspiracy, malfeasance or evil intent—but once you tally up all the evidence it forms a coherent and damning picture. And so it is with the Obama administration vis à vis Russia: by feigning hostile intent it did everything possible to further Russia’s agenda. And although it is always possible to claim that all of Obama’s failures stem from mere incompetence, at some point this claim begins to ring hollow; how can he possibly be so utterly competent… at being incompetent? Perhaps he just used incompetence as a veil to cover his true intent, which was always to bolster Russia while rendering the US maximally irrelevant in world affairs. Let’s examine Obama’s major foreign policy initiatives from this angle.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Brain Parasite Gonna Eatcha!

I’ve been experiencing some difficulties with commenting on the current political situation in the US, because it’s been a little too funny, whereas this is a very serious blog. But I have decided that I must try my best. Now, these are serious matters, so as you read this, please refrain from any and all levity and mirth.

You may have heard by now that the Russians stole the US presidential election; if it wasn’t for them, Hillary Clinton would have been president-elect, but because of their meddling we are now stuck with Donald Trump and his 1001 oligarchs running the federal government for the next four years.

There are two ways to approach this question. One is to take the accusation of Russian hacking of the US elections at face value, and we will certainly do that. But first let’s try another way, because it’s quicker. Let’s consider the accusation itself as a symptom of some unrelated disorder. This is often the best way forward. Suppose a person walks into a doctor’s office, and says, “Doctor, I believe I have schizophrenium poisoning.” Should the doctor summon the hazmat team, or check for schizophrenia first?

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Room for a Pony

When I first setting out to buy my current boat (forced to do so because my family got larger and no longer fit aboard) I discussed the various offerings available in the commercially-built sailboat world with my friend Capt. Ray Jason. He asked me what I was looking for in a sailboat, and among other things I listed “a sauna, and room for a pony.” (I didn’t mention that I also want to be able to ride a bicycle around the deck, or hang a hammock on deck while the boat was under way, but I do.) And then the pony became a running joke between us. When I complained that, for instance, it was hard to plot a reasonable, traffic-free coastwise course that would allow me to sleep because there were always radar contacts bleeping away at me, Ray would helpfully suggest that I ask the pony to keep watch while I sleep. And so on.

But now I am happy to report that we have finally succeeded in designing a sailboat with “a sauna, and room for a pony”—and much else besides. Nor is it a huge boat: it’s half a foot shorter than my current one. Nor did I have to sacrifice much to achieve this effect: various tests, in software simulation and using a physical scale model, have shown that it will be just as fast and just as stable as my current boat. It will also be reasonably cheap to build and to maintain.

To achieve these results I followed a certain recipe.


Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Hello, Russia!

Over the past week, Google's Blogger has been reporting an excessive number of visits to this blog coming from Russia. This data is not corroborated by other web traffic monitoring sources, including Revolver Maps or Google's own Google Analytics. Looking at the structure of the “Russian” traffic, it looks very much like random noise. What could this possibly be? “Evidence of Russian hacking,” anyone? Well, here it is, finally! Let's not forget, Google founder Sergei Brin is a Russian... And here we were thinking that “Russian hacking” is as real as “Iraqi WMDs”! Shame on us!

Today's page hits by country:

"It's, you know, for the kids!"

That's a line from the movie “The Hudsucker Proxy,” and it's a good one, because in a very obvious sense it is all for the kids. And I mean, all of it—all that's left after we adults get done trashing the planet and finally kick the bucket. Yes, a few people will insist that having children, given the state of the planet, is unconscionable (“What sort of world would we be bringing them into?”) but the rest of us will faithfully follow our genetic programming and procreate regardless of the condition the universe happens to be in.

This is not an opinion; it is a prediction—made decades ago, and still right on target.

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Women On The Verge Of Societal Breakdown

Carolyn and Dmitry discuss Piero San Giorgio's book Women On The Verge Of Societal Breakdown published by Club Orlov Press. Dmitry states that the book illustrates the crucial role which women need to play, as traditional keepers of home and hearth, to keep the family together and doing well during treacherous, turbulent times. But the book also recognizes the great difficulties women will face as the societies they depend on decay and fall apart, and the precariousness of the major gains women have made over the past century, which Piero rightly calls the Century of Women. While recent social progress has made women independent and men somewhat superfluous, these trends tend to quickly reverse as society begins to regress. Piero calls on men to start acting like men once again, and to once again become strong, reliable defenders of women and of their families.

Piero San Giorgio

The Final Sheeting Arrangement

One of the problems with Junk rigs is that they tend to twist: the upper panels end up sheeted in less tight than the lower ones. Since the direction of the wind is generally the same at every height (while its strength varies) what this means is that only part of the sail is able to perform at optimum efficiency; either the lower panels are pinching or the upper panels are luffing, or both.

Continue reading...

Monday, December 05, 2016

Shrinking the Technosphere—Numbered, Autographed Copies

[Update Dec. 5: Thank you to all of you who have already placed your orders. If you haven‘t yet, I will accept orders for another week exactly, then place the order with the publisher. I will stop accepting orders on December 12.]

My new book has finally been released and, as I have done with my previous books, I would like to give my faithful readers the opportunity to order numbered, autographed copies directly from me. The marina where we are docked for the winter has kindly agreed to store the boxes of books while I sign, package and ship them all out. Please use the order form below to order your copy.


Please note: To make this operation doable, I have to impose certain limits: the mailing address has to be within the US, the books can only be ordered through PayPal (no PayPal account is needed, but you do need a credit/debit card), and I won't be able to accept returns or issue refunds. Also, I won't be able to manually edit shipping addresses: the books will be sent to the address that you provide through PayPal.

Friday, December 02, 2016

It sails!

I finally found time to finish building the 1:12 model and outfitting it with sails and radio controls. Yesterday I sailed it around the marina, and I liked the results. It is fast and nimble on all points of sail, doesn’t leave a wake, and is very stiff. The shape of the bow provides for clean entry and little resistance. I didn’t notice any strange tendencies at all. Here is a video of QUIDNON sailing upwind in what for a 3-foot boat amounts to too much wind and quite a bit of chop, overcanvassed, with minimal heeling and good balance, and short-tacking successfully.

Continue reading...