July 25th, 2003


solar air-conditioning system


Solar cooling: cheap to build, free to run
By: Staff Reports, Tri-Valley Dispatch April 22, 2003
Tony Marmont's offices in the 200-year-old crew yard at Whittle Hill Farm near Leicester, England, are cooled by a solar air-conditioning system that has no moving parts.
"They are cheap to make," he said, "and cost nothing to run."

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The Florida Solar Cracker House


Welcome! This document describes an "autonomous" home that my husband, Randy Cullom, and I (Who am I?) are building near Interlachen, Florida. By autonomous, we mean that it will not be connected to the utility grid, will not consume any fossil fuels, will have no public or well water connections and will not be connected to a public sewer or septic tank. Why are we doing this? Primarily, we hope to demonstrate that humans can live in a comfortable and pleasing home while attempting to minimize their negative impact on the earth. The design and, now, the building of the home has been an exciting challenge that has been in progress for several years. We hope that you will enjoy reading about our adventure, and will come back often as we continue to update and complete the story.

Why you should unschool -- an interview with John Holt

John Holt's book, How Children Fail, was an important influence in my thinking about the proper role of eduction. Below is 1980 interview he did for Mother Earth News.


John Holt:
Teach Your Own Children . . . At Home

This article was originally printed in the July/August 1980 edition of THE MOTHER EARTH NEWS, pp. 11-16, as their "Plowboy Interview." This reprint is edited only slightly, by adding some comments about changes in the homeschooling situation in the past 20 years. [Comments by the editor in 2000 AD will be in square brackets like these. The ellipses--the three periods like this: ". . ." are in the original manuscript, and do NOT represent something that was omitted by the present editor. Italics, spelling, and capitalization are also completely as in the original. (Unless I made some typographical errors that I didn't catch!)] If you are interested in reading more by or about John Holt, see the book list of what is available at the Monroe County (Indiana) Public Library, or go to the Growing Without Schooling website.

A little over ten years ago, the movement which aimed to make America's schools relevant, enjoyable, and truly useful for their students was at its peak. John Holt was one of the leaders of that drive to make educational institutions more child--rather than teacher--centered. In fact, his books How Children Fail and How Children Learn practically sparked off the education reform movement all by themselves!

But that was ten years ago. Today, the attempt to establish "alternative", "open", or "free" schooling is all but dead. And, to tell the truth, most people have pretty much forgotten about that movement's emissary, John Holt.

MOTHER, however, is still very much aware of Mr. Holt . . . for two reasons. For one thing, the irrepressible New Englander won't let us forget him! John's a dedicated reader of this magazine, and he frequently writes us with suggestions, praise, and criticism.

More important, though, the one-time schoolteacher has not abandoned his efforts to help children learn and grow. Instead, John has taken a new approach . . . one that he sees as being the only logical response to the appallingly poor quality of public education and its innate resistance to change.

Namely, John Holt now devotes his energies to assisting people who want to help their youngsters learn at home . . . after pulling the children out of school altogether!

Why did a man who was at one time a conservative, traditional schoolteacher come to advocate keeping one's children out of school? How can parents successfully remove their youngsters from public school in the first place? And why does Mr. Holt think that readers of THE MOTHER EARTH NEWS should be especially interested in his ideas?

To get the answers to these and other questions, MOTHER sent staffer (and former schoolteacher) Pat Stone up to talk with John Holt in his tightly cluttered office in Boston, Massachusetts . . . where, in his scant spare time, John puts one of his central educational beliefs--that a learner should be responsible for her or his own learning--into practice by teaching himself to play the cello. The following edited transcript of their conversation deals with an admittedly radical approach to learning. Many readers will, no doubt, discover that they strongly disagree with Mr. Holt's thoughts. On the other hand, a few will probably be relieved to find that somebody out there feels as they do and is trying to help. No matter what your own response is, however, we're betting that John's words will set you to thinking about the state of education--and of children--in American today.

PLOWBOY: John, you've been a schoolteacher in three states . . . you've lead a nationwide effort for educational reform . . . and you're now at the center of a home-schooling network that almost resembles an underground railroad for children. Since you've put forth so much effort in ventures related to learning, I have to assume that you were trained as a professional educator.

HOLT: Absolutely not. I never formally studied education. I didn't even take any courses in psychology. To tell the truth, I didn't study any of the things that I'm now supposed to know something about.

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Can This Man Save the World?



Can This Man Save the World?
Dorothy Pomerantz, 08.11.03

Richard Sandor believes the rights to almost anything, from pollution levels to the protection of endangered species, can be traded for profit--and for society's benefit. He is about to put his big idea to a test.
When Richard Sandor talked about trading financial futures in the 1970s, his colleagues at the Chicago Board of Trade scratched their heads. Futures trading already existed for tangible goods like corn and cattle. Why trade an interest rate change--something you can't see or touch?

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Snapster -- son of napster


I, Cringely | The Pulpit

JULY 24, 2003

Son of Napster
One Possible Future for a Music Business That Must Inevitably Change

By Robert X. Cringely

When I mentioned in last week's column that I would this week be writing about a legal way to do a successful music downloading business -- a business that would threaten the Recording Industry Association of America and its hegemony -- dozens of readers wrote to me trying to predict what I would write. Some readers came at the problem from a purely technical perspective, ignoring the fact that the real issues here aren't technical but legal. Some readers took a legal approach, but they tended to ignore the business model. Some were looking solely for the business model. Interestingly, nobody even came close to my idea, which makes me either a total loon or a diabolical genius. Truth be told, I'm probably more of a diabolical loon.

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Running Thoughts #2: checking out babe, airvolume, decibels, P2P gold trading network

* As I was running, I came up behind a slender, dark haired woman walking along the trail. She was wearing form fitting black lycra pants, and the form so fitted was quite pleasing to the eye. As I was the only one on the trail, and she couldn't see me, I was not bashful in checking her out. As I passed, I noted that she was a lovely Indian woman. Suddenly, she yelled, "What time is it?" Thinking she was asking me, I said "6:48". I then realized she was yelling to what must have been her boyfriend/husband up the hill from her on the trail. He must have noticed me staring at his beau, and as I passed, he had something of half-smile on his face: "Dude, you were totally checking my wife out."

* Airvolume rights. Zoning regulations are often used to preserve scenic views. However, why should those who want a scenic view be able to impose their preference on those who wish to build a tall building? Instead, sell rights in the volumes of air above the property. If you want to prevent someone from building within a particular volume of air, then you have to buy the airvolume rights of the area you wish to leave pristine.

* Tradable noise rights - decibels. In order to be allowed to make a noise beyond your property line, you have to buy n decibels from neighber. You may then make noise up to n decibels within that neighbors property.

* P2P Gold Trading Network. e-gold and goldmoney don't seem very robust. If the U.S. government decided to close down either operation, they could easily do so. Could you create a P2P version of e-gold? Every person in the network would own a little bit of physical gold. Each person would designate their 'friends' and the amount they would be agree to be liable for, if a friend welched on a deal. Suppose Joel wanted to sell his new book "Intellectual Property? I Mean, C'mon!" Suppose I wanted to buy this book, and tell him I will give him a certificate worth 1 gram of gold. Joel's P2P client would send out a query to his friends saying "Should I trust crasch's certificate?". If they come back with "Yes!", I send him an electronic certificate, which if presented to me, I will agree to redeem for 1 gram of gold. Joel sends me the book. He can either then redeem the gold certificate, at which point I would physically mail him 1 gram of gold, or he could spend it on something else on the gold network. If I welched, and didn't send him the gold upon receipt, he could then attempt to redeem it from mutual friends. My friends would then lower the amount they would agree to be liable for me in the future.

Running thoughts #3: Libertarian women

* Why are there so few libertarian women? Hypothesis: women have evolved to be much more risk averse than men. If a village of 100 men and 100 women loses 99 of the men, the women can theoretically still have almost the same number of children as in the village with a 100 men. (Plus one happy, if exhausted, guy). A village that loses 99 of it's women however, will be wiped out. Men, to put it bluntly, are expendable. In much of human evolutionary history, polygamy was common, with the strong man of the tribe getting most of the mating opportunities. Lower status men didn't have much of chance anyway, so being open to taking high risks didn't have much evolutionary downside. And occasionally, taking risks, doing something different, would pay off. "They all laughed at my flint rocks, well...."

Women, on the other hand, can generally find a mate (albeit maybe not the one they would prefer), no matter their status. Therefore, there was little evolutionary pay off for taking risks, or going "outside the herd".

* Why are there fewer physically attractive libertarians than one would expect by sampling from the general population?

Hypothesis: According to a paper in Science I read some time ago, a disproportionate number of professional and Olympic athletes are born early in the year. The authors hypothesized that although athletic ability is distributed equally in children born throught the year, children born early tend to be the oldest kids in class. This gives them a significant competitive advantage when competing in sports as children, as 6 months can make abig difference in strength, height, and speed. As a result, they're rewarded by physical competition, and tend to continue, whereas children born later in the year must be much more persistent and talented.

Similarly, physically attractive people are rewarded by being social -- dating, cheerleading, hanging out with friends. They don't have time to read a lot, nor do they have much incentive for pursuing activities their friends regard as "weird".

Unattractive children are not particularly rewarded for being social. Potential dates reject them, and if they're sufficiently unpopular, no one wants to be associated with them. For nascent libertarians, since there was little pay off in the mating game in high school, they lost themselves in books. Eventually, they came across Rand, or maybe Rothbard, or Friedman. Resources that would've otherwise gone into making themselves more attractive (grooming skills, sense of humor, nice clothing, weight maintenance, athleticism) went into activities that didn't depend on appearance.

* Why do so many libertarian women come from crappy childhoods (divorce, psychological/sexual/physical abuse)?

Hypothesis #1: Libertarian women read to escape from crappy childhood experiences. Reading, in turn, led to Rand. Hypothesis #2: crappy childhood led them to question traditional social mores (marriage, family) which in turn led to questioning political and economic mores. Hypothesis #3: wanted to escape crappy environment, so started working at a young age. Vowed never to be in dependent position again, and are skeptical of institutions that encourage dependence.