Monthly Archives: August 2008

hobbit home update

A while back I shared a few hobbit-style homes people had built, but my favorite so far has to be the Low-Impact Woodland Home that Simon Dale and his family built in Wales:

Being your own (have a go) architect is a lot of fun and allows you to create and enjoy something which is part of yourself and the land rather than, at worst, a mass produced box designed for maximum profit and convenience of the construction industry.

Main tools used: chainsaw, hammer and 1 inch chisel, little else really. Oh and by the way I am not a builder or carpenter, my experience is only having a go at one similar house 2yrs before and a bit of mucking around inbetween. This kind of building is accessible to anyone. My main relevant skills were being able bodied, having self belief and perseverence and a mate or two to give a lift now and again.

Whether you agree with his motives and philosophy or not, it’s a fascinating story. The beautiful photos are† worth a look for their own sake, and there’s even a gallery of similar homes. New Hobbiton, anyone?

Let’s play piggyback with the American Family Association

I am stealing this idea from Fark. The AFA is incensed that Hallmark is making same-sex marriage cards and is boycotting the company. In addition, they have a very nice website where you can write to those durned lib’rals at Hallmark and give them what fer! As was suggested on Fark, it’s also a convenient way to send Hallmark letters of support. So pass it on, because I would be very happy if they got more support letters through the hatey website than hatey letters.

in which i join you in the 21st century

[from my GeekDad post]

I have a confession to make. Compared to most GeekDads, I’m kind of a Luddite. I don’t have a video game console, or a TV to plug it into. I play games with cards and boards, not on the computer. My pets are biological, not robotic. Heck, I don’t even have a microwave. It’s not that I’m opposed to technology, of course, it just tends to get in the way of my life and family.

So I felt odd having a “2001″ technology moment this month.

2001 videophone

You know the scene, that videophone call Heywood Floyd makes to his daughter back on Earth. It never made sense to me: he steps off a frickin’ spaceplane onto a frickin’ space station on his way to the frickin’ Moon, and the first thing he does is hop into a phone booth to have a chat with a nearly-incoherent five-year-old who doesn’t care about what he’s doing as long as he brings back a present. (“Way to move the plot along,” I always thought, followed by, “What’s a bush baby?”)

And now I get it, because I’ve done the same thing. Well, substitute a city bus for the spaceplane and my kitchen for the orbiting Hilton, but the rest is spot on. See, the Geeklet and Mrs. Geek are visiting friends for the entire month of August, and due to a bit of bad planning I won’t be joining them until the very end of their trip. I call every day, but to the Geeklet phones are just instruments for saying “Hello” and “Goodbye” to disembodied voices with familiar names. After a few days, he refused to talk to me at all. So I reluctantly did what any GeekDad probably would have started with: I set up a video chat.

Continue reading “In Which I Join You In the 21st Century”

the myth of the fiscal conservative

John pointed out an article in the New York Times magazine that looks in-depth at Obama’s economic plan and why it’s so difficult to classify as liberal or conservative.† The whole article is a great read, but this one passage caught my attention:

The second criticism is that Obamaís tax increases would send an already-weak economy into a tailspin. The problem with this argument is that itís been made before, fairly recently, and it proved to be spectacularly wrong. When Bill Clinton raised taxes on upper-income families in 1993, his supply-side critics insisted that he would ruin the economy. As we now know, Clinton presided over the longest economic expansion on record, the fastest income growth most workers had experienced in a generation and the disappearance of the federal-budget deficit. His successor, Bush, then did exactly what the supply-siders wanted, cutting upper-income tax rates, and the results were much worse. Economic growth wasnít quite as strong or nearly as widespread, and the deficit returned. At the very least, Clintonís increases did no discernible economic damage. Rubin, citing academic work on tax rates, made the case to me that rates under an Obama administration would not be nearly high enough to stifle innovation.

It probably isn’t the first time that admission was made, but it’s the clearest summary I’ve seen to date. In short, Clinton’s policies benefitted the entire economy, while Bush’s policies helped the wealthy at the expense of the economy as a whole.

Electric Buzz

Debby on Alice -- Barefoot\'s proof of concept electric ATV

Yep, that’s me looking all farmer-like last winter sitting on Barefoot’s electric ATV prototype named “Alice.” My crew and I have had the luck of being able to test this Barefoot Motors prototype; which basically means driving it all over our vineyards and trying to break it. And we did — except all it needed was a quick cable reconnect and a replacement 12V battery and we were up and zipping around again.

You can see Alice in action on this Mythbusters clip: Barefoot ATV on Mythbusters!

I don’t know if you’re familiar with regular gas ATVs, but if you’ve spent anytime in that saddle, then you know how loud and stinky they are. Oh yeah, still fun, but loud and stinky — and HOT. Hot right where your legs are supposed to go since you are basically sitting on a combustion engine and gas tank with four wheels. Not something that is enjoyable to ride for the hours we put in on them while working on the farm vineyard. Plus all that exhaust and noise are not so good for the environment. So, when I first heard about what Barefoot Motors was trying to do, I was pretty excited.

Recently, Barefoot had a release party at our winery (read more here: Electric ATV Easy on Environment and Budget) — and I got to test drive their new prototype named “Betty.” Where Alice was a gutted and retro-fitted Polaris, Betty is a complete redesign from the ground up (by the well known electric vehicle designer Ely Schless, no less!) — the only thing she had in common with Alice was a Polaris skin. I took her for a spin (sorry no pictures, but I can show you the bugs that got caught in my teeth) around our ranch and, like the Bionic Woman, she is better, faster, stronger. And so quiet the rabbits didn’t even know I was coming.

Barefoot is still working on options such as cruise control as well as better torque control, but we’ve got our deposit down and are looking forward to getting our hands on our own vehicle once they build it for us. In the meantime, we are very happy beta-testers.