Saturday, September 30, 2006

Barn raising (and timber frames).

I did wood work as a subject at high school. Dad was something of a carpenter. And I'd love to build a small house or building at some stage, however what little work I have done is coffee tables, chests, and the like.

But the timber frame, or at least handbuilt house does appeal to me, and I think at a couple of levels.
Firstly, most us get a sense of satisfaction from creating something with our own hands, and the better the job you turn out, the more satisfaction there is.
Secondly, it can be a co-operative exercise, and in this sense, I think our modern societies have lost something that smaller rural comminities, and pioneering folk, in the US, Canada, Australia and elsewhere used to have. That being a sense of co-operative communuty spirit, help and support for each other.

No project reflects that spirit more than an old style 'Barn raising'.

Have a look here, and here for some images.

If you've worked with wood, you'll love these joints;

Perhaps I'll get to build something substantial, even if it has to wait 'til retirement. But I surely do wish our societies could regain some of that co-operative spirit evident in such projects. We'd all be better off for having some of it.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Free speech, useful, as well as desirable.

You may see by looking at my header that I'm a pro free speech kind of guy. But free speech is useful, in terms of the positive outcomes that follow, rather than just being desirable as a pillar of the basic freedoms, as this article points out. ( 'Free speech is truth's best hope'; James Allan - 'The Australian' 26 Sept 2006).

"...As the great US Supreme Court judge O.W. Holmes more or less put it: "We don't really know what the true position is. Whatever it is, though, it has a better chance of emerging in the marketplace of competing ideas where everything is open to criticism, even offensive criticism..."
"...Are they (societies which value free speech) more likely to achieve scientific advances, medical breakthroughs, containment of epidemics, higher levels of wealth, more responsive political leaders: in short, societies that are attractive to would-be immigrants around the world? It seems to me that the answer to all these is an obvious and resounding "yes"...".
James Allen puts the case for Free Speech on the table very well. It has been under incremental attack via the vehicle of political correctness for decades, and under full blown attack for some years (examples, Salman Rushdie, the Mohammed cartoons, the reaction to the Popes comments, etc etc).

I do take heart when I see the basic foundations of Liberal Democracy - the fruits of The Enlightenment - defended so articulately. There is yet hope for our civilization.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Chivalry isn't dead after all....

Sometimes, just sometimes, you see something which gives you a little boost in faith in the human race.

Found this story at Old War Dogs blog.

"...In 1987, Soviet pilots of the 378 ShAP (Assault Aviation Regiment), based at Bagram and flying the Sukhoi Su-25 Frogfoot, built a memorial to five of their comrades who had fallen in battle. After the Soviets departed,
the monument was destroyed. Most recently the remains of the monument was to be cleared for airfield construction, until some American Airmen decided it should be preserved..."

Follow the story here (from the American perspective); and here for the Russian one.

Soldiers who honorably serve their country deserve respect (and we Aussies see examples in the Gallipoli memorial, erected by Ataturk, and the Long Tan memorial, near Nui Dat).

Maybe the concept of chivalry isn't dead after all.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Careful Phil!

Visit Cox & Forkum for more great cartoon comment.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Are we running out of oil?

Peak oil. It is a subject which divides those who address the issue, often along ideological lines. Greens vs Prometheans, left vs right. Are we at peak oil? (The point at which demand for oil exceeds supply).

The question once again lodged in the forward areas of my brain as I read of this oilfield find. In deep water in the Gulf of Mexico, Jack Field could represent a 50% increase in US reserves. That on top of a recent Mexican Pemex discovery of 10 billion barrels.

Oil must be a finite resource, but things sure don't seem as bad as the doomsayers predict. (Shades of the 'Limits to Growth' panic of the 1970s. ("...The Club of Rome wrote that only 550 billion barrels of oil remained and that they would run out by 1990...").

So, colour me sceptical. We see 2 new oilfields in the Gulf of Mexico announced (if not recently discovered). There is the Timor gap fields north of Australia. And all that is before we go to alternatives for petrol (gasoline to some), diesel, and avtur - options like Canada's Athhabasca oilsands, Venezuelan heavy oil, then shale oil, and synthesised oil via the Fischer-Tropsch process that was used by the Germans in WW2, and the South Africans even now (by their Sasol plants).

There will be much nashing-of-teeth by enviromentalists over the greenhouse gas emissions to refine, then use these latter options - but are they blameless on the issue of climate change? The only current practical alternatives to fossil fuels are nuclear power, and hydroelectric power. Both of which the green lobby fights hard against. France reportedly generates 75% of it's electricity by fission nuclear power. Had not the environmentalists - the 'green' lobby, effectively vetod nuclear and hydro power as alternatives, much of the greenhouse gas problem could have been ameliorated. So they stand accused of exacerbating the greenhouse gas/climate change issue, not of fixing the problem.

So, no, I don't see us running out of fuels in the near future.