Showing posts from January, 2012

book report: Unbroken by Hillenbrand (2010)

I read Unbroken in two days. I will summarize the story, mention the author's effect on the story, and then discuss the effect on me the reader.
If I didn't have family responsibilities I would have finished it on Saturday, but this book was hard to put down. I really did not know what to expect. I knew it was a book about American soldiers in the Pacific Theater of World War 2 but that's all. I didn't realize it was primarily a biography of Louis Zamperini who went from a sickly child to being a troublemaker, to being a record setting miler who competed in the Berlin Olympics where he stole a Nazi flag, to being a bombadier on B-24's, to a cast away living on a raft with 3 guys for 45 days until he was captured by the Japanese and tortured and degraded by them for the next year to the point of death until the Japanese surrendered. But his life continued on an amazing journey after the war. He suffered from PTSD and became a horrible alcoholic who endangered his wi…

another cheaper house idea

Here is my latest crazy idea. Well, it's an enhanced earlier idea.I think thick walls are helpful no matter what. I think two different layers are important as well for airsealing as well as insulation and thermal mass. I'm also into quick and cheaper. So here's my latest big idea, Hesco wall (R-house) filled with dirt with strawbales on the outside tied into the welded wire of the Hesco walls. The bales would not be load bearing, just insulating. They would be covered with plaster to protect them from the elements. If critters somehow got into them, the occupant, such as myself, wouldn't hear a thing through the 18" of fill in the Hesco wall. I'm also thinking of putting the window frames between the layers.
Unlike the EarthCo Megablock idea I wrote about last fall, the R-house does not require any particular mix of soil to stick together, in fact it can be filled wit Image via Wikipediah sand, just like armies have been doing successfully in Iraq and Afghanista…

book report: Keep Your Head Up, A. Bradley, ed. (2011)

When Crossway was offering books to bloggers for review, I was eager and tentative at the same time to take on this book, Keep Your Head Up: America's New Black Christian Leaders, Social Consciousness, and the Cosby Conversation, edited by Anthony B. Bradley, (2011). Would a middle class white reader such as myself have anything to gain from this conversation? It turns out, I do, partly because we are all believers in Christ, the writers and me, the reader. I highly recommend this to any believer, of any skin color, but I also can recommend this to those who don't share the faith of the contributors, because the church is essential to the discussion of African-American culture.
Each author uses the controversial book by Cosby and Poussaint Come on People: On the Path from Victims to Victors (2007) as their foil. Regardless of the validity of Cosby and Poussaint's statistics, which were questioned by another black intellectual, Michael Eric Dyson, the authors see these issue…

Building arched roof without concrete or steel

First of all, credit goes to Owen Geiger for finding this and putting it on his blog. Timbrel vaults, aka Catalan vaults, seem like magic to me, method and history here. But they work really well in massive European cathedrals (and have lasted for 100s of years) as well as amazing Image by Skunkworks Photographic via FlickrAmerican urban buildings, like the NYC Gustavinos, built by Rafael Guastavino Moreno. Somehow thin tiles are layered into a vault and form gorgeous roofs that don't fall down. Great explanation and documentation here.

From Low-tech magazine, Cohesive construction also proved to be very durable. During the restoration of Ellis Island in the 1980s, only 17 of almost 29,000 tiles had to be replaced. And of course, several churches are living proof of the achievements of timbrel vaulting in the Middle Ages. Wow. Image via WikipediaHere is a link to a well-documented build in Ethiopia where the affordable materials at hand are dirt and rocks. Building the SUDUIt's a…

book report: Terror by Night by Terry Caffey (2009)

I picked up Terror by Night by Terry Caffey in the Kindle store when it was available for free. It was set aside until I had an interlude between big books. This autobiography is hard to put down. Terry tells his story with all it's rawness. Although he is a Christian man, he admits to his suicidal tendencies after surviving the murders of his family and attempted murder on him as well. But there is something more amazing about this story. Terry learned forgiveness and tried it. He forgave the killers of his wife and sons. He forgave his daughter who was an accomplice if not the mastermind of the crime. As he sought God in the Bible in the months after the crime he started to ask himself, what would Jesus do in this situation? He concluded that Jesus would not ask for the death penalty. He also knew that Jesus had forgiven him of so many sins. He also knew that Jesus gave him all the room and time he needed to come to faith and repentance. Terry wanted to treat these murderers the…

Theodicy solved in Cameron's movie Avatar (2009)

Last night I revisited Avatar, which I did not review favorably, with my teen aged son and sole control of the DVD remote so I could skip the alien intercourse scene. I still agree with all my earlier criticisms of the movie, however, I thought Cameron makes a case for the solution to the problem of evil made by philosophers such as Alvin Platinga.
The deity, Eywa, of the Na'vi planet, Pandora, is presumed to not take sides in the battle over the planet's resources and people and critters by the Na'vi, as explained by a native Na'vi (Neytiri) to the human avatar (Jake Sully) when he's praying at the tree which represents her seeking help in defeating the invading humans. So he rallies all the Na'vi tribes, formulates a last stand battle plan, and leads the Na'vi people into a massacre. But suddenly all the critters join in on the fight and turn the battle against the humans. Obviously, Eywa stepped in, and could have at any time, and really didn't need …

more trash to buildings

Eichelberger Architects - Innovative Materials
Instead of buliding with hay bales, how about building with 6'x6'x3' bales of waste paper and waste plastic? I love this thinking, and I love thick walls covered with plaster. It might be the simplest way toward a nearly passive house. Doug Eichelberger is doing it to make barns, with trash, a baler, chicken wire, a forklift and plaster. I also like his gabion barn.
This video is from the link Trash Barn #3

update at Green Building Elements.

a proposal to remove the word "marriage" from our legal discussions

I'm a conservative, born-again Christian.
I do believe the Bible forbids homosexual expression, and I've written many times about that contention, but I don't think those prohibitions can be legislated in a multi-cultural society such as America's.
I do think marriage, in the Bible is only between one man and one woman, in agreement with Jesus, see Mark 10:5-9. I have presented many explanations on this blog why gay marriage is not a Biblical option.
I think marriage, from it's earliest description is a concept from the Bible, see Genesis 2:22-25. I'm not aware of any earlier data, but am welcome to any if found. I believe marriage is fundamentally a religious word that no longer makes sense in our more religiously diverse culture.
I live in the United States of America that believes in a separation of church and state, but that should not mean a dismissal of the population's religious concerns. Those of us who are religiously conservative object to calling…

book report: Over Fields of Fire by Egorova (2010)

I enjoy autobiographies, and the story of the Russian communist ground attack pilot, Anna Alexandrovna Timofeeva-Egorova, who helped repel the Germans from the USSR is better than any work of fiction I've read recently. Over Fields of Fire reads like an oral history, organized chronologically, but roughly transcribed. The amanuensis, if there was one, preferred ellipsis to periods at the end of paragraphs, as if Egorova stopped abruptly. It was annoying but did not take away form her story of determination, luck, hardship, betrayal by her country then redemption. After reading Davies' book, No Simple Victory, and his criticism of Soviet tactics, I had thought of the Red Army in only one dimension, soulless communists. But Egorova did not need a political officer to force her to fly and defend her motherland. She sought work in Moscow before the war to help build a modern subway as an enthusiastic Komsomol member. When she wasn't working underground or sleeping she was lear…

Jesus's resurrection and the Law of the Pressurized Conspirator

I re-read an old book, among many, over the Christmas break,Cover via AmazonGod in the Pits by Mark A. Ritchie. I highly recommend it. The section I want to transcribe here is the same argument I made a year ago, to start off 2011 at the UmBlog. No one dies for a their own lie. Nor do ten guys from many strata of society choose death under torture in many different societies maintaining they witnessed that Jesus rose from the dead. Ritchie writes from the commodities trading pit where fellow workers were busted for inside trading, among other things. First he gives credit to Chuck Colson's experience and observations.
Watergate conspirator Charles Colson was the first to notice this principle of the pressurized conspirator. In his book Loving God, colson observed that even with all the power of the presidential office to be preserved, his small band of loyal followers of the president could not contain the Watergate coverup for more than three weeks. As the enemies of the White Hou…