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User Journal

Journal Journal: Ya know, some days I kinda miss consulting.

I've just been puttering around and posting in this thred and it brings back the good, the bad, and the ugly of those long ago years of my life as a "suit".

The truth? For a few years there, with electronic publishing one of the hottest fields in all of business and me as a well-paid, respected, twenty-something hotshot who had gotten in early and was suited to the work, it was a hell of a ride.

Would I want to be a part of what consulting has become? No. And I am well aware that if I had "succeeded" then to a greater degree I would have been enmeshed in the Andersen Consulting-type bullshit that even then lurked none too far from our metastable, well-paid playground.

But it really was an amazing rush.

I miss working on things that only later hit the papers. I miss being young and in the right place in the right time, knowing that what I was playing a non-trivial role in a pioneering community of people remaking what our society was.

Anyway, I don't want to make this any more of a maudlin rant than it is already.

I just wanted to say that, yeah, I do miss it. in a hundred ways, it truly was grand.


The Internet

Journal Journal: Now that's two hours of my life that I'll never get back.

I just wasted at least two hours of my life being one of the loons trying to make some sense among the spittle-spewing idiots dominating the thread from the just finished /. poll on the Fourth of July.

Why did I do that? I know better. Why did I sit here, hour upon hour, participating in the most monumental troll-feeding event I've seen in at least a year?

Damned if I know. I mean, yeah, the various Brit comments included quite a few funny ones. And it was nice to see so much time put into writing about history, even if most of what was written was terminally muddle-headed.

But I would have been better off watching episodes from the first season of Babylon 5. On Youtube. On a 486. That's unplugged.

All of which comes down to the eternal question: why participate in most online discussion at all? To which my only answer is that I still haven't gotten my real world life back up to speed. Well, it's sure not helping to sit here bitching about it. So, while it's been nice to have had an opportunity to clarify my thoughts and interact with my fellow /.ers and even drive at least a modicum of traffic to my new blog, I think that I'm done posting here for a while. I think that I'm going to put a stickie note on my monitor that says something like:Thinking of Posting? Don't! A Day of Work on Product To Be Published Will Change More Minds Than a Month of Writing for the Internet.

In fact, now that I think of it, I may just print it out oversized, frame it and put it on my wall.



Hardware Hacking

Journal Journal: Why don't we earth berm more? 2

In the theme of the Buckminster Fuller thred now on the front page, I've been wondering for years, why don't we earth berm far more structures than we do? Why did we ever stop? I read a lot of military history and I'm always reading about some campaign or other where soldiers were freezing in tents for months at a time and I always wonder, why the frak didn't they just pile dirt up on the sides? At least for two feet or so? They had the time, they were reliably beset by a wide range of animal pests, and when they weren't freezing, they were dying of heat.

I just don't understand it. It would be, well, dirt cheap to do, requires no special equipment or skills, and as long as the berming stops a bit below the level of the windows, in no way reduces the openness or light levels of the rooms.

I'm hoping that in the next year or two I'll be doing that classic American thing and buying a home. For various reasons I'll probably be buying a typical stick-built piece of crap, probably one built some time between 1930 and 1980, and unless I find some serious reason not to do so by then, I'll bloody well be putting supplementary cob walls over all of my exposed walls as quickly as I have the time to do so. Only ones I won't definitely cover with cob will be the ones enclosed by a greenhouse.

What possible reason, beyond "that's weird" is there not to do this? I've spoken to some few contractors and suchlike and none of them have yet given me any reason I care about not to do it. And, yeah, I'm a strange guy, but I'm not that strange. So if this is so obvious to me, surely somebody out there is doing it already.



And if not, can somebody out there please explain to me, why do we leave our walls bare?

Humans. A difficult species.



Journal Journal: Camels. What America needs is camels.

I've been doing a lot of thinking and researching on transit issues recently and I agree with the folks who are saying that, yes, we know that we need stuff like light rail and biofuels but most of those are massively capital intensive. What are we supposed to do now?

Well, there are a lot of valid responses to that but I think that, if it were up to me, one thing that we would be doing is creating a Liberty Ship-style program to optimize and standardize procedures for making what are known as "camels". These are converted bus bodies or scratch-built beasties that can be hooked up to the back of a diesel truck to make instant mass transit vehicles. They made tons of these (badly, from what I can see) in Cuba starting in 1990 when the Soviet Union fell and they needed mass transit pronto.

Now, again, I agree that the ones the Cubans built were loud, crowded, and too damn long for most streets. Typical Marxist command economy design. But the fundamental idea, done well with developed world technology, looks like a mighty good option to me. They're cheap and fast to make. They're easy as the dickens to deploy, and as better options come online, the trucks can go right back to the uses they had in the first place. Even most of the parts could be stripped and reused, one way or another.

I've looked at plenty of pictures and some diagrams of camels and afaict, they're pretty much a box on wheels with a standard connector to the truck and seats and windows to make them practical as passenger vehicles. Now, as I wrote on my blog a while back, old schoolbuses (working) go for a couple thousand bucks out there, so we could get plenty of seats, windows, doors, etc. cheap. Yes, the prices would go up some, but even if they did, I just can't see us having a legitimate reason to complain about putting U.S. workers back to work to make bus seats. Not exactly a capital-intensive business for a company to go into.

Do I understand issues with ADA compliance and such? Yes, actually, I do. And the cost of keeping such a vehicle going long-term if it's not built with the kind of massively expensive materials and techniques that streetcars and buses usually use and that make them so expensive.

But that's the beauty part. There is no long term for these. These just need to get out on the roads and last for a few years. If they start to fall apart after then, if the shocks aren't heavy-duty enough, the seats starting to sag, and so on, who cares? It's all just a temporary measure. And it will cost a hell of a lot less than trying to implement more sophisticated mass-transit systems soon enough to deal with some of the circumstances we may be facing soon.

And, as all of us who have managed projects with lots of users know, it's damn near impossible to do a good job for a reasonable budget for anything mission critical that can't get deployed until your work is done. It's much cheaper to build out anything if there is some existing service that keeps the users (pretty much) taken care of in the meantime.

Anyway, that's it. Let me know what you think.


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