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Comment Indeed, something you check when you buy a house (Score 1) 375

Indeed. When you buy a house in the UK that's pre-1940s and in an urban area you check to see if there's historical bomb damage: often places got patched up quickly with available materials and 70 years later the substandard fixes can be decaying, cracks opening etc.

I often wonder if this is one of the reasons people in the USA seem so much more enthusiastic about going to war than Europeans - we can still see the evidence around us in the architecture and people are still alive who have frightening memories of how it affected them at home. Next time you're in London check the front of the Victoria and Albert museum, you can still see the shrapnel damage to the stone work.

19th century housing here is just standard for lots of people.It's waht you rent when you're a student. I prefer it to modern places: the latter are mainly wood built and thrown up quickly. I know the place I bought (late C19th, typical urban red bricker starter home) has been through two wars and hasn't moved in 130 years so it's likely to outlive me :-)

Comment yup our mates thought our 8 mile commute was crazy (Score 1) 375

Ha ha, well said both.

When I was a junior postdoc I was renting a house built in 1729 with bits from the previous build still showing, early 1500s sections of wall and doorways. And our friends thought we were insane coming in to college 8 miles each day. Me and my mates thought it beat living in the modern Victorian rubbish (houses built in 1880s) which were closer.

Comment Don't even start the geeks on Guy Fawkes (Score 1) 375

And don't even start the geeks on Guy Fawkes, him of the anonymous mask that they all wear made in Chinese state run factories, a Catholic royalist who was up for replacing one king who claimed his divine right with another just of a different religious flavour. Nothing in there about helping the poor/women's votes/ anarchism/open source data formats.

Submission + - Why are Japanese men refusing to leave their rooms?

fantomas writes: The BBC reports on the Japanese phenomenon of Hikikomori: young people, mainly men, who are holed up in rooms in their parents' houses, refusing to go out and engage with society. Why is this happening? and is it a global phenomenon or something purely due to Japanese culture? (we're all familiar with the standing slashdot joke of the geek in their mom's basement for example)

Comment Great until you fall out with the king (Score 4, Insightful) 297

Benevolent dictatorships are fine as long as you agree with the king/laird/CEO/ whatever.

Fall out with him and you'll lose your house, your job, and all those related to you might suffer. Rich people running islands is not a great long term plan. Ask the population of Eigg in Scotland, for example. All good until your nice rich person gets bored with his toy and neglects local services that people need, or sells it to a Bad Rich Person, etc.

I would have though US citizens, of all the places in the world, would have a historical perspective on what happens when uncaring kings run your country, and what the poor but honest citizens should do to resolve the lack of decision making power.

Very curious. Of course Ellison might be a lovely chap and improve the situation - it sounds like people do need improved services... but one man owning an island and having no accountability on his decision making power over people's homes and jobs, this makes me nervous... it's not like the people living here can change employers or move down the road if they are unhappy, it's an island. I'd be interested to hear his thoughts about the democratic processes, how the local people have the option to veto his decisions if they disagree, and so forth.

If he's really in it for the long term, wouldn't it make more sense to go for independence from the USA and ask the people to elect him as their President?

Comment Housebuilding is already open source: chokepoints. (Score 4, Insightful) 96

The website notes the project is in its early stages. So it's either in "ideas debating" mode or "vapourware" if you want to be less generous.

House building is already open source: all the information is out there in your local public library / on the internet. Nothing is closed to you in the way that you can't look inside some proprietary software to understand what's going on. If you have the time, you can read up on everything from applying for the legal permissions to put up a house, designing a building, and all the way through to finding out how to dig trenches, run electric cables and paint walls. Nothing is closed from you (certainly in the majority of countries in the world).

There are choke points: the expense of hiring architects, specialised builders, legal advisors. None of these are closed to you. What you are doing is saving the years it takes to learn these trades and paying somebody else to do these tasks because its quicker, so more efficient for you in energy terms. There is a small but consistently strong movement in many countries of people who already build their own homes, where they have made the choice to give up their jobs as computer programmers/nurses/rangers/whatever and spend several hundred hours digging trenches, laying brickwork, drawing architectural diagrams etc. It's already open source.

I think what these people might be doing is trying to shortcut the architectural expert choke point and break architects' hold on construction. But at the end of the day if you want a self build house, you're still going to have to go up a ladder and move heavy things around a lot and deal with construction elements that need careful attention, like mains electricity, water piping and gas.

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As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain, and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality. -- Albert Einstein