Category Archives: World

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?

our own government admits that Iran isn’t developing nuclear weapons

This just in from some crazy left-wing blogger making up stories:

In a stunning reversal of Bush administration conventional wisdom, a new assessment by U.S. intelligence agencies concludes Iran shelved it’s nuclear weapons program over four years ago.

“We judge with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program,” reads a declassified version of the National Intelligence Estimate key findings.

Oh, wait. It was ABC News, talking about a National Intelligence Estimate prepared by our very own intelligence agencies. Oh. Um…

But hey, Iran is still producing quantities of highly enriched uranium, right? And that can’t possibly be used for any other purpose, right? And just because they say they’re not producing nukes, and they actually aren’t producing nukes, that’s no reason to conclude that they won’t produce nukes, right?


82nd Airborne Division, Anthropologists Brigade

No, it’s not an Eddie Izzard routine. It’s the U.S. Army assigning social scientists to combat units in Afghanistan, and it’s awesome:

[Tracy] is a member of the first Human Terrain Team, an experimental Pentagon program that assigns anthropologists and other social scientists to American combat units in Afghanistan and Iraq. Her team’s ability to understand subtle points of tribal relations — in one case spotting a land dispute that allowed the Taliban to bully parts of a major tribe — has won the praise of officers who say they are seeing concrete results.

Col. Martin Schweitzer, commander of the 82nd Airborne Division unit working with the anthropologists here, said that the unit’s combat operations had been reduced by 60 percent since the scientists arrived in February, and that the soldiers were now able to focus more on improving security, health care and education for the population.

That’s more like it! Actually talking to (and listening to) people in the countries we “liberate”, who woulda thunk it? Let’s just hope it doesn’t become so successful they have to institute a draft for anyone with an anthro degree…

TGV gets even faster (and maybe comes to California)

Oh, can we please order about a dozen of these?

A French high-speed train, with a souped-up engine and wheels, breaks the world speed record near Grigny, eastern France, Tuesday, April 3, 2007, reaching 574.8 kph (357.2 mph). The black and chrome train with three double-decker cars, named the V150, bettered the previous record of 515.3 (320.2 mph), set in 1990 by the French fast train. However, it fell short of the ultimate record set by Japan’s non-conventional magnetically levitated train, which sped to 581 kph (361 mph) in 2003.

More at the Houston Chronicle.  To save you the math, 350 mph gets one from San Diego to San Francisco in an hour and a half, an order of magnitude faster than Amtrak currently manages.   And that’s not just wishful thinking, either:

Hours before the run, Transport Minister Dominique Perben received a delegation from California, which is studying prospects for a high-speed line from Sacramento to San Diego, via San Francisco and Los Angeles.

There’s still a long way to go, but perhaps by the time Ben wants to explore California on his own, he’ll be able to go by (really fast) train.