Archive: On Creating a Proto-Constitutional Monarchy

Archive: Originally posted on 09/01/2010 at mac.com

 

I have an affection for the idea of monarchy.  I don’t think it’s been implemented well historically, and only recently is the concept coming to match what I believe it should be (specifically in Norway, Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands and hopefully, Bhutan).  But I like the idea.

I am a democrat and a Democrat, but that’s not inconsistent with being a constitutional monarchist.  I believe the role of monarchy is not ceremonial and those nations that reduce their monarch to a hand-waving piece of tabloid fodder are wasting an incredible resource.

Monarchy is about long-range planning and continuity of government.  Prime ministers, presidents, and other elected officials are about operations — it’s the difference between a CEO  and a COO.  The monarch is the vision, the PM/Pres is the action.

I’ve always lived under the American system, and I think that lets me see its flaws.  As a nation, we’re focused on a four year cycle, so focused in fact that Presidential election campaigns are now running for almost two years and cost hundreds of millions of dollars, if not billions.  And for what?  A maximum of eight years, with another lump of money to be spent in the middle.   And guess what we get for that?  An operations manager because that’s how the job is set up.  It’s very hard for any President to implement a century long vision.  Look at EPA — it’s 30 some years old, and it has never been allowed to live to its mandate and each President has tinkered with (and sometimes damaged) it.

The advantage of monarchy is that long-term, long-range, big picture perspective.  Of course, it requires some serious thought — the potential heirs to the throne require extraordinary intelligence, emotional stability; extensive, quality education; security and freedom to fail.  No wonder royal families have to be rich — providing that kind of background takes money or the pure luck of a Bill Clinton (and he kinda slipped on the emotional stability thing, but then again, who doesn’t? He wasn’t Henry VIII by any means!)

None of the above Monarchies are absolute; all are constitutional (except Bhutan, which is working on it) and all have a Privy Council or cabinet to advise and distribute the long range planning.  The monarch and council are an intrinsic check on the power balances.  Imagine what would have happened after 9/11 if we Americans had possessed body separate from the election process who had served for half a century and seen a little bit of everything in that time.  (The Supreme Court could do this, but it’s so rigged and so handicapped by not being able to prevent bad law from going into effect they’re kinda useless now.)  Imagine having that body in the weeks afterwards saying, “yes, we’re scared.  Yes, we’re angry.  But no, we’re not going to lash out.  We have to do this right because our long-term survival, not just the election cycle, depends on it.”  Lacking that voice of reason has cost us close to a trillion bucks and almost 4,000 lives, our faith in government, untold legs, brains and arms, 150,000 Iraqi lives, and most of the world’s good will.

The key power a constitutional monarch has (and this is especially true in England) is a set of brakes.  If the British Parliament decided to do something utterly insane (like, after the Underground bombing, they had decided to expel anyone of middle eastern descent who wasn’t yet a citizen — and it could have happened) Lilibet had an ace up her sleeve.  Just one, and it will probably cost her the crown and end British monarchy when she uses it, but she can use it if Parliament is trying to do something destructively stupid.  She can disband Parliament and call for a new one.  It’ll be her last act as Queen, most likely, or damn near, but she can, and doing so might save her country.

Of course to use that power or even just possess it, requires great brilliance, education, patience, wisdom, courage, insight, dedication and world knowledge.  It requires giving up your private life from the day of your birth until you die.  The monarch never has the basic freedom to duck out to the bar for a martini or take a walk in the park on a Sunday afternoon.  The power the Monarchy possesses also enslaves.  But it’s a service I would be happy to pay for in the US.  I can’t.  There is no mechanism in the Constitution to provide that sort of check.  And that’s too bad.

So that’s why I feel a lot of affection for the concept of monarchy.  It’s not perfect and it has detriments (though the above countries have done a good job cleaning up their gene pool) but when a nation balances the strengths of monarchy and democracy together, and those opposite strengths balance out the opposite weaknesses… is it surprising that some of the best places on earth are in constitutional monarchies where the monarch takes an interest?

But no country gets such a government by wishing for it.  It almost always takes experience, hard lessons, and usually some blood.  The Scandinavians managed to learn from the neighbors and Bhutan is doing pretty well so far, too.  The Netherlands is soaked in historical blood, as is England.

So when I started building Galantier, I consciously built it to move from the fragment of a proto-republic to althang republic to feudal monarchy to Rebellion, which is the transition point from feudalism to proto-constitutional monarchy.  And that transition is gonna hurt.

Archive: Galantier: The Background

Archive: Originally posted on 09/01/2010 at mac.com

Nine years ago, I was thinking about the fall of the Roman Empire.  (Yes, I do this.)  Rome didn’t fall so much as contract and stop interfering in the world, but it still served as a center of communication, cultural movement and authority.

I got to thinking, “What if Rome completely ceased to be?”  It was possible — a massive eruption at Vesuvius could have wiped half of Italy off the map.  That it hasn’t happened yet is geologic luck — right now, it isn’t a huge threat, but it once was.  Had some of the eruptions before 79 CE happened later (they were nastier), Rome… well, maybe not.

Rome had lots of little outposts all over Europe and Western Asia, most numbering a few hundred Romans and a couple thousand locals under Roman guidance.  So I got to thinking, what would have happened to those little outposts?  Could they have survived and kept the culture alive, if evolving?

And so, the seed of Galantier was born.

Archive: Clever Countries

Archive: Originally posted 09/01/2010 at mac.com

 

Small countries throughout history have really had two choices — be clever or become a province of some bigger country. In world history, that’s meant everything from marrying off the daughters to every conceivable ally to “Hi, I’m NEUTRAL!” to “You know this drug/spice/dried leaf I just got you hooked on? If you conquer my country, you won’t get more of it…”

They’re all clever strategies. (Ethical… well, that’s for another day.)

Big countries needn’t (but really should be) clever. They’ll endure without much help because the momentum and mass just keeps rolling. But small countries have to work harder. This may explain the Netherlands’ 17th and 18th century dominance of European trade; and England’s late 18th and 19th century.

It’s kind of like being the kid in school who gets picked upon — the kid can get violent in return, get cheeky and survive through wit (when the bullies are laughing, they can’t hit…), or become so abject a target that there’s no point bullying.

I just realized how very sad it is that the world really can be equated to a 4th grade classroom…

Archive: The EUSCA

Archive: Originally published 08/31/2010 on mac.com

Certain folken (um, Libertarians, I’m lookin’ at you) often claim they never signed a social contract. But they agree to software licenses all the time, and for all they know, they’ve just signed away their children, their total net worth and their lifetime income.

 

So… we need an End User Social Contract Agreement.

 

EUSCA (End User Social Contract Agreement)

To be posted on every faucet connected to a municipal water supply, at every entrance to a publicly maintained road, on every electrical outlet*, on every telephone – cellular or hard-line**, on all food products bought and sold within the territorial boundaries of the United States, and on all consumer goods bought or sold within the territorial boundaries of the United States:

These terms of service apply to the exchange of goods, services and rights of all persons be they a natural born citizen, a naturalized citizen, a legal resident, visitor or undocumented person within the territorial boundaries of the United States. These terms of service are subject to change through the exercise of the rights of suffrage, lobbying or other means of alterations of policy as deemed legal by the various judicial and legislative bodies of the United States of America, including but not limited to city councils, county boards of supervisors, state legislatures, the US Congress and the United States Supreme Court.

1. Your Relationship with the Social Contract

Your use of this [water/road/electricity/telephone/food/consumer good] (referred to collectively as Services in this document and excluding any services provided to you by society under a separate agreement) is subject to the terms of a legal agreement between you and the rest of society. “Society” means every other living, breathing human being with whom you share the planet, and specifically means those who interact with you either in person, in place or via telecommunications networks, or who, due to the collective nature of our atmosphere, mineral resources and water supply, must interact with the same air, minerals or water you have touched, used, or otherwise consumed. This document explains how this agreement is made up, and sets out some, but not all, of the terms of that agreement.

1.2 Unless otherwise agreed in writing with all members of Society, your agreement to the social contract is implied by the use of the Services as outlined above and will always include, at minimum, the terms and conditions set out in this document. These are referred to below as the Universal Terms.

1.3 Your agreement with Society also includes the terms set forth in the US Constitution, the US Bill of Rights and other laws made by duly elected representative bodies in your local municipality, county, state or country, as long as you continue to reside within the boundaries of the United States or claim US citizenship while outside the territorial boundaries. This agreement with Society can be revoked only by removing yourself from the society entirely, either by death, the most common means, or by immigrating to a location where Society is not present, or where Society has ceased to function as an entity capable of enforcing this contract. For a list of such places, please reference the US Department of State’s International Travel Advisory listings and choose a locale from the list of current Travel Warning sites.

1.4 The Universal Terms, together with any additional terms, form a binding agreement between you and Society in regards to your use of the Services.

2. Accepting the Terms

2.1 In order to use the Services, you must first agree to the terms. You may not use the Services if you do not accept the Terms.

2.2 You can accept the Terms by:

A) Opening the faucet to allow water to flow

B) driving, biking, walking, rollerskating, skateboarding or otherwise making use of the publicly maintained road either by means of powered or human locomotion, or by sitting, standing or lying upon it

C) by connecting any device to the power outlet

D) by making use of the telephonic network for any reason and with any device

E) by consuming the attached food

F) by using the attached consumer good

G) by signing and dating a copy of this Social Contract when the option was made available to you.

2.3 By using any of the Services, you understand and agree that Society will treat your use of the Services as acceptance of the Terms from that point onwards.

 

*Per Rural Electrification Project, 1935 – 1972

** Rural Telephony Act

Archive: The Verdant Country Landscape That Must DIE DIE DIE!

Archive: Originally published 08/31/2010 on mac.com

 

We live in a 10 year old basic, in-fill tract. It’s a mixed neighborhood in a mixed town and from the outside, our house is just a simple one story ranch. It’s a modular house, and we are not only okay with that, we specifically bought a modular because they’re more efficient, have minimal interior load-bearing walls, use greener construction methods, and when we bought, we could have spent half a million bux for an equivalent green house, or the less than $100K that we did. (Green building, in 2001, was still entirely custom. Now, it’s everywhere.) We live in Boulder County, CO, which is one of the more expensive counties in the state; getting a house for under $200K in 2001 was an accomplishment, and despite the collapse of the market, most houses of this size start at about $250K. So we got a bargain, and for the most part, we’re pleased with it.

However… most modular buyers get to design their house. We did not because we bought it at something of a fire-sale, since the original buyers (who chose its color schemes and layout and did some decorating) had to back out. It’s not huge — 1500 square feet, three bedrooms plus a den, two baths. It has a mostly open plan, there’s a minimum of hallway, not much wasted space, and it gets good light, despite facing north. It has vaulted ceilings, so lots of vertical space in the middle, though the cathedral ceilings can be challenging.

When we moved in, we entered a lush and verdant country landscape — and I mean that literally. The first not-quite-owner picked emerald green carpet, green and gold frothy drapery and accents, and mossy green countertops with honey-oak face frame cabinets. We lived with it and around it, but five years ago, my husband’s allergies finally got to the point that we needed to bid adieu to soft surfaces (or part with the fur babies, and that was NOT an option). The carpet went away, the balloon valances and curtains went to the thrift store, the mini blinds (dust catchers of the worst sort) got recycled, cherry laminate went down, and the walls started getting coats of paint in colors we liked. Now, the living room and dining room are a cool grey with a touch of lavender, the den is a strong Chinese red, our furniture runs to black, grey, cherry with accents of plum and silver. We have a very modern aesthetic — abstract art with geeky touches (Mr. Me collects dragons, I have a penchant for Xray, electron microscope and MRI photography) but not a lot of geek kitsch. (No Dr Who or Star Wars action figures in the display case…) We’re far more bare bulb than crystal chandelier. Window coverings are now the trimmest, most stripped down roller blinds… but our kitchen… well, for now, it sticks out like a sore thumb.

In fact, the kitchen was driving me so crazy that our choices were really down to renovate or move. Mr Me hates moving and I don’t mean is unenthusiastic. I mean HATES it. Like to the point that when I made an off-hand comment shortly before we closed that if we hated the house/neighborhood we could sell it, he took that as “this will not be the house from which the undertakers remove me”, and didn’t unpack for five years. (He’s still not entirely unpacked.) (I’m a military brat, so to me, moving happens every 12-24 months, and it’s no big deal.) However, this house makes enormous financial sense (our mortgage is 20% of local median; we could not get a condo for what we pay for this one) and we’re nearly done paying for it. Since I won’t subject Mr Me to moving, a renovation was the only option, though his enthusiasm for reno was only slightly higher than for boxes and Uhaul. (Remember, dust allergy.) Okay… I suppose I could have gone completely mental and developed a taste for canvas coats with extra long sleeves, but that’s kinda not an option, either.

We have an open plan — the front door opens into the living room which opens into the dining room (11 o’clock from the front door) and den (1 o’clock from the front door). The kitchen is to the upper left, the master bedroom and bath to the lower left. A short hall leads to the small bedrooms (offices for each of us – we have no children and if any appear, there will be either a star in the east or the seventh seal will be opening) and the guest bath. That end of the house — I’m not worried about. It works. My office got a reno last summer to support my ever expanding library , and Mr Me has his own space (the less said about it, the better). I’d like to re-paper and paint the bathroom sometime this fall, but that’s minor.

The one place the house wasn’t well designed is the kitchen. Apparently, the architect lives on take-out — zie has never made a box of mac n cheese, because this kitchen doesn’t work. It’s a modified L galley, with a peninsula dividing the kitchen from the dining room, and glass-fronted cabinets wrapped around an otherwise unused wall. There’s a lot of unused space in the cabinets because, being face-frame, they really can’t support drawers, and especially in the pantry and the peninsula, things just aren’t accessible (30 inch deep cabinets make NO sense, especially when the doors are 12 inches wide). On the far end is a breakfast nook/utility space/laundry room that is too small for a proper breakfast space (a banquette is out of the question because we have four windows around the edges, and any banquette would block them) so is used mostly for storage, recycling, laundry.

I fell in love with the idea of IKEA cabinetry (and the 32 mm system) long before I ever saw it. I’ve lived with European cabinetry before, and to me, it just makes more sense — cleaner lines, more useful space, ease of assembly and replacement if necessary. Denver/Boulder is a wonderful place to live — progressive with sense, with some of the most beautiful landscapes in the world basically at our doorstep, and a thriving tech-academic-geek community — but we’re just getting our IKEA next year. Thus, any IKEA-ing requires long-distance ordering or long drives, thus necessitating excellent planning.

In April and May, I renovated my grandmother’s kitchen (in Indiana, see: Indiana Farm Kitchen Project), and came home with the itch to fix mine. After almost ten years, I finally knew what I wanted.

One priority is to spend locally as much as possible, (I’d rather not give Utah or Arizona my sales tax dollars when Colorado needs them just as badly) keep whatever is truly functional and use recycled and recovered when possible. Another design philosophy is that form follows function and aesthetics will come from functionality. Further, we are 5’2″ and 6’4″ — thus, I need to design for this disparity when possible and take advantage of our 12 foot ceilings while still keeping space for a step ladder. Finally, both Mr Me and I are left-handed, so we get the option of designing for our convenience instead of being forced to live with right handed design. (Seriously, this is an issue — lefties end up getting hurt quite often because we’re trying to muddle through a world designed for righties. Dremels are particularly dangerous.)

So after ten years of living with our country kitsch kitchen, I’m done. I’ve tried to kludge functionality into it by adding under cabinet lighting and pullout baskets and using wall space to hang utensils, but it’s a kludge and feels temporary. The lighting is awful (the one place the designer didn’t go over the top country kitsch is the pair of cheap overhead fluorescent lights), the storage is worse — few drawers, deep cupboards, narrow openings. He/she also installed a plastic 1/4-3/4 sink which stains if you look at it wrong and has to be resealed with silicone caulk every year because plastic doesn’t accept plumber’s putty. And ya know, tea and our alpine spring water stain caulk really nicely.

Things I specifically hate: I have zero love for the crown molding with a thread of brass running through it — for one, I don’t like crown molding because it’s usually just fussy (and catches dust), and the brass… it’s useless. The laundry sink was a good idea, but terrible execution — it’s going away. (I use it when we’re painting, so two weeks a year at most.) I despise the color scheme, the faux tile backsplash, and the delicate laminate countertops. We have limited useful storage and the countertops catch clutter.

Resale value is not terribly high on our priority list — I have made my peace with the notion that I will probably die in this house, and my nieces (our heirs) can fire-sale or live here as they please. (Given that my six year old niece is a baby Gothling-Steampunk Princess, she’d probably be delighted here.) Thus, I’m going modern-industrial with this, to fit with the rest of the house. However, long-term functionality is high, because we’re going to die in this house and Mr Me is not going to let me take on another project this size for a good five years.

As in Indiana, I am doing most of the work myself. Mr Me and I have an agreement — he has a low frustration threshold for this sort of DIY , while I have a better eye for it, more patience and tolerance, and just… better skills because I’ve been doing most of this for all of our marriage and for years before. He’ll be available for heavy lifting, but other than that, I’m pretty much sending him off to World of Warcraft. I keep his honey-do list very limited because we both know his limits. (Seriously, this is a marriage saver, though of course there are times when both of our egos get in the way.)

I probably should have started this blog when I started the project (hey, I took photos better this time!) but I was a week behind schedule and wanted to get caught up. (More on that in future posts.)

Archive: The Boulder Industrial (half) Kitchen Manifesto & Materials

Archive: Originally posted 08/31/2010 at mac.com

DSCN0555

So, yes, I’m a moron when it comes to DIY. Having done my grandmother’s kitchen, it was time to do my own.

Mission Statement for this Project:

Replace about half of the existing cabinetry and countertops for better functionality. Rehabilitate the rest of the cabinetry for updated look and durability. Replace backsplash, sink, faucet. Remove useless laundry sink. Make better use of vertical space. Increase storage. Improve functionality. Improve lighting. Stay under $3000 budget. Reuse and recycle materials. Use most ecologically responsible methods while building for sustainability and long-term use. Change kitchen from right-handed orientation to left-handed orientation.

List of Materials, Fixtures, Appliances, etc.

Physical structure: 2001 modular house. Stock cabinets built at construction from luan, pine, MDF and oak frames. PEX inbound plumbing; natural gas.

Countertops: Lagan butcherblock and existing with Giani granite treatment

Frames: existing and Akurum; Akurum legs, Perfekt toe kicks in gloss grey

Doors: existing and Applad Black (now discontinued)

Paint: Benjamin Moore Twilight Zone (black, 2127-10) Fusion (grey, AF-675), Pomegranate (red, AF-295) mixed in semi-gloss Eco-Spec base.

Door/Drawer hardware: Bygel rails (on drawer fronts larger than 24 inches), Attest (on drawer fronts between 12 and 18 inches) Kosing (on vertical doors). Attest and Kosing backed by steel fender washers to visually tie in with Bygel rails.

Appliances: existing. Whirlpool range, fridge, dishwasher, disposal; LG microwave.

Lighting: Ottava pendant (above sink) Dioder LEDs (under cabinets) Hampton Bay ceiling fan and track system (from Home Despot.)

Sink: reuse stainless from Habitat for Humanity shop

Faucet: ebay.

Flooring: existing

Window treatments: Isdan roller blinds, frosted glass paint, metallic tape

Trim: Aluminum angle and aluminum sheet

Backsplash: recycled glass mosaic tile, recycled glass (from a local glass shop), recycled matte white and grey 4.125 inch ceramic tile.

Archive: Manifesto

Originally published 8/10/2010 on mac.com

 

I’m a girl, a geek, a technophile and a DIYer. I am a feminist, a liberal, and a greenie. I truly believe that I can do anything if I set my mind to it, and I want to help prove that women need not rely on any specialized power to accomplish their goals. Anybody can build something, especially if she starts small and learns as she goes. If I can inspire one person to take a crowbar to something she hates and replace it with something she loves, my work here is done.