This page features every post I write, and is dedicated to Andrew Ho.
A year ago I was finishing my second Steve Ramsey build. Or first, if you count the workbench as a “bonus” … I had fun doing the miter cuts and setting up a jig for square angles, sanding, gluing, assembling, screwing … the finishing and sanding and finishing and sanding and finishing was a drag, especially because it was cold out and I had to do the smelly stuff indoors and even put a little space heater in the garage just to keep the gooey stuff warm enough.
At the end of the day, I had a nice table. It has been sitting out in my yard all year, and the tabletop is still smooth as silk.
But as I finished that project, a mob attacked the US Capitol and tried to kill Congress, and we let it happen. We barely managed to keep our Democracy that day. I stayed up late to watch Congress certify the damn vote count. And a few weeks later I listened to Amanda Gorman’s poetry.
I look forward to rekindling my enthusiasm for woodworking. That’s been deferred a bit as I slowly erect a bike shed / fun fort in the back yard to store the bicycles so I can once again putter around the garage workshop.
We bought our home in Northern California in 2012, which was great timing because that was about the last time after the mortgage crisis that we could reasonably afford a home, at a mere $605,000. At that time, the home had a floor/wall furnace from 1949 that had a hole that made it a carbon monoxide risk. We upgraded to central heating shortly after. Guys came out and ran ducts all over the attic and hooked them all up to an efficient gas furnace with an air filter. Topped it all off with a shiny Nest thermostat. It gets chilly out here on winter nights, and it used to be only a few days in the summer that anyone needed air conditioning, at which point you go to the office during the week or to the mall on the weekend.
In 2016 I added an air conditioner to the system. The local contractors seemed not quite comfortable with heat pumps, and the furnace was new, and we only run the air conditioner, well, now maybe a total of a few weeks each summer. A major construction project across the street involved asbestos mitigation, and we were having a baby, so the ability to shut the windows on bad days had some appeal. (I later gifted our old box unit AC to another expectant couple who had concerns with construction dust.)
Most of the time, we enjoy having windows open, day and night. Most of the time, our climate is blessedly mild—most of the time. The past few years have had a lot more smoke from all the fires in California. 2020 had an apocalyptic vibe when the plague was joined by a daytime sky turned orange. Shut the windows, run the AC, praise the air filter in the HVAC. For the Pandemic, I also set the air to circulate 15 minutes every hour during off-peak energy hours. (We’re on a Time-of-Use plan.) The idea is that if we had COVID-19 in our air, we would filter some of it out and help improve our odds.
This year has been less awful. The winds have been mostly blowing the fire smoke from the hellscape experienced elsewhere in the West, away from the Bay Area. As a result, AQI has stayed mostly under 200. But as I had gotten back in the habit of checking purpleair.com to figure out if the windows need shut, I got curious to better understand the air quality inside our house, so I ponied up $200 for an indoor monitor. It has a bright LED that changes color based on what it measures, and the boys think that’s a pretty great night light.
My first revelation was that indoor AQI was spiking overnight, starting around midnight. Since I first installed it near the dishwasher, I figured that was the culprit. After a week of A/B testing, I had ruled out the dishwasher and figured out when the wife goes to bed, she likes to run a humidifier, and the water droplets in the air can look like pollution to a laser. Mystery solved!
The other thing I noticed while keeping an eye on purpleair.com to see if it was time to shut the windows is that our indoor AQI would tend to have a lower (better) score than outdoor sensors nearby. That’s good news. Zooming in, I could see a jaggy pattern where the AQI would drop when the furnace fan circulated our air through the MERV 16 filter in the attic, then it would spike back up. The upshot is that we could have open windows most of the time and cleaner air inside the house, but how to run the fan on an efficient schedule?
Well, it is tied to a thermostat … I could implement an “AQI-o-stat” with a Python script that scrapes the AQI reading and tells the Nest to run the fan. The script took about 3 hours to write. 10 minutes to scrape purpleair.com, 2.5 hours to figure out Google/Nest’s authentication API, and 20 minutes to figure out how to set the Nest fan. The authentication part took only 2.5 hours because Wouter Nieworth posted a bunch of helpful screenshots on his blog.
I implemented the “AQI-o-stat” on the afternoon of Sep 3, at which point CatHouse A now keeps AQI around 60 or below, while the neighboring Zinnias outdoor sensor reads in the low hundreds.
There was some tweaking, but I now have a Python script running out of cron that checks the indoor AQI, and if it is above 50, it triggers the timer on the fan. I started polling at 15-minute intervals but found 5-minute intervals made for a steadier outcome. The result is that we can leave the windows open, and the indoor air quality hovers around 60. One less thing to worry about. (There are plenty of things to worry about.) I have been thinking that, in the “New Normal” (which really means there is no “normal” because the climate systems have been thrown into turbulence) that having an air sensor as an input to your smart thermostat will probably just become a standard feature.
So, “hello” from the near future, I guess.
A few months back, everyone was talking about what it was like a year ago to enter the Pandemic. I never was much for that kind of nostalgia. I’ll say the Shelter in Place order came in on a Saturday and the boys cried because it meant their birthday party on Sunday was completely canceled after all. That’s metaphor enough to last me a few years.
I remember that early on, someone asked how long: 6-8 weeks? I suggested that we were looking at 12-18 months because that’s the fastest we could conceivably develop, test, approve, manufacture, and distribute vaccines. I didn’t want to be a bummer so I didn’t bring up my pessimism much. Everyone figured a couple of months.
When things opened up in June, I got us a plane trip to Chicago. We had a big party planned the year before that couldn’t happen, and the youngest had never been, and the older kid I really owed a fireworks show. I had worried about the logistics and whether everyone would have a good time but the trip was so immensely enjoyable.
“We need to have our fun now, before the next wave,” had been my thinking. Of course, I was thinking of the vaccine-resistant strain that has yet to evolve, not the wave that is currently hitting the vaccine-resistant population.
During the Pandemic, my employer figured out that our staff are really productive working from home, and the lease was up on the office so we took the opportunity to downsize. The new location is right next to the train, and on days when family obligations allow, I really love taking the train to the office. I think this is a pretty ideal commute: walk fast to the station, sit down, read a book, walk sorta fast to the office. Some light exercise for the body and relaxation for the mind built right into the schedule.
Lately, I’ve been coming into the office any chance I can get. As I explain, I really like working from home, and I have a good setup, but it also reminds me of the Pandemic, which I am happy to forget. Yesterday came the Public Health Order that we now wear masks in the office. I am here today and tomorrow. There is definitely a feeling of setback.
We had the technology and the money to free our country of the Pandemic this year. What we lacked was a cultural consensus that rolling up sleeves and getting a shot was worth everyone doing. I think this is just a warm-up for how our century will go. The planet is on fire again this year. Portland fried like it was Death Valley. We have, so far, been lucky in the Bay Area. No orange skies, no smoke … I haven’t run the air conditioner in weeks. Just the ongoing drought. This year, the Salmon fry will all be cooked in their natal streams.
We never took action to prevent the Climate Catastrophe beforehand. Even now, we have tools like electric cars and induction stoves and any number of ways we can reduce our Carbon emissions and … we make excuses. The new budget stimulus adds some money for public transportation, but the big money is in building more roads. In a few years, maybe, they say, there will be a few more electric cars you can buy. (And don’t bring up bike lanes.) The power grid is getting cleaner, at least.
I had a cheeseburger for lunch.
I caught the opening of the impeachment trial today. The video from the House Impeachment managers was harrowing and damning. As a friend said last night, the US Capitol is sacred ground. Then Trump’s lawyers got up and rambled aimlessly. Bargain bin guys who came in unprepared to defend a guy who incited a mob to try and kill Congress. I wanted to feel that the case was so one-sided and the defense such a sham that the Senate would see through it and convict him and set a precedent that the United States will not tolerate anyone trying to take the government by force but I know better.
President Trump doesn’t need any defense better than a farce because we all know exactly what will happen. A majority of the Senate, all the Democrats, and some Republicans will vote in favor of Democracy. But not enough. Republicans are loyal to their party. Their Fascist will run again. He’s got a lot more charisma than Ted Cruz.
When the Insurrection happened on January 6, I was impressed that Congress picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and got back into session. I watched until they certified the vote. Every time the objections to the count were withdrawn for lack of Senate support, I cheered, and for the few hours that objections were required to be heard, I rode it out. Congress certified the vote towards 3 am in Washington, and I counted it fortunate that I only had to stay up towards midnight in California. I explained that as a SysAdmin, when the system crashes and people get upset, I feel like I need to keep an eye on the systems as they get back to normal.
I feel optimistic that Joe Biden could well turn out to be a great President. He’s got a lot of experience, a lot of rapport, and the challenges are substantial. I also feel dread that our flirtation with autocracy is only going to get worse.
Here’s a bit from an interview I enjoyed with Eileen Crist from the December 2020 issue of The Sun magazine, which you can read online. I appreciate that folks have done the math to figure out what a good population would be and how we could very reasonably get there. This would be an effort across generations, and who knows what will really happen anyway? We can all chip into a vision that we ourselves will never see.
Tonino: You said earlier that there are approximately 7.8 billion humans on the planet. What would be an ideal number of humans?
Crist: Many analysts are thinking of a provisional goal of around 2 billion. This figure is for a human population enjoying roughly a European standard of living, sustained by organic food production, and eating far less fish, meat, and animal products than the average Western consumer.
Of course, there is no “optimal” population number in an absolute sense, because a lot depends on the level of consumption people gravitate toward, their dietary choices, and unknown variables having to do with technological developments. But 2 billion is more optimal than where we are now and where we are headed. Two billion is what the global population was about a hundred years ago. It is a big-enough number to enable a connected global civilization to continue, with achievements in the sciences, humanities, technology, and so on. In other words, 2 billion can sustain a lively “conversation of humanity.” But it’s a low-enough number to enable the substantial protection of nature that we are discussing.
According to Cornell agronomist [the late] David Pimentel and his colleagues, 2 billion people is the estimated number that can be sustained on organic, diversified, mostly regional agriculture, with farm animals living on the land and people eating a mostly plant-based diet. This way of eating would not only be wholesome for people but good for the planet and for all other animals as well.
You might say: “Fine, 2 billion sounds good, but how do we get there?” We get there by fast-tracking two important human rights: One, full gender equity and schooling for all girls, through at least secondary education. And, two, affordable and accessible family-planning services for all. If we could bring the global fertility rate — voluntarily: I do not support coercion of any kind — to an average of one child per woman, the human population would start to approach 2 billion within four generations.
Tonino: The ecophilosopher Arne Næss said that he was pessimistic about the twenty-first century but optimistic about the twenty-second. How do you think about the future?
Crist: What Næss meant, I think, is that in the twenty-first century there will be a reckoning with how we’ve lived, what we’ve done to the planet and ourselves, and that reckoning will set in motion an awakening: a different way to go about things, a different relationship between Earth and humanity. It’s quite possible that things will play out that way — get bad, then better. In some respects it’s an optimistic prophecy. But obviously there’s no guarantee that the future will follow this trajectory. We don’t even know where we are with respect to climate change. If runaway heating happens — or a nuclear war or some other unimaginable disruption — this trajectory that Næss outlines will be impossible.
Inspired by a Steve Ramsey video about making a wooden duck pull-toy, I knocked out a wooden duck push-toy. I had a really tough scrap of 2×8 laying around, and the jigsaw had trouble cutting a fine shape out. A lot of sanding ensued, and the wood kept absorbing the yellow latex craft paint I had on hand. I think that would have been fine but I got a can of yellow spray paint and now this duck can be seen from space.
The duck looked easy enough. Sketch out a shape, trace it onto wood, jigsaw …
The wood was thicker than my jigsaw and skills could handle. Much sanding ensued.
The wooden duck’s thirst for acrylic hobby paint could never be slaked, though I think this would have been good enough.
How long should the push dowel be?
The spray paint provides a nice base for clamping the wheels by the axle as they dry.
A bench dog holds the duck by the push dowel as a space heater helps the sealant out in Sunnyvale’s winter weather.
Sinking a hole in the handle for the push dowel. Fortunately, the client is not too picky about precision.
When all was said and done, it was the boys who really brought this project home!
The wheels are just large dowels, and the axle is straight enough to allow a slight wobble. As this was being built for my younger son I gave him the option of push toy or pull toy. He opted for a push toy, and I made the push stick about the right size for him.
Here in 2020, I share an office with my second-grade son. This morning they were talking about Hannukah and making paper dreidels. He got frustrated making his paper dreidel. After lunch, I tried my hand at making a scrap wood dreidel. I used the miter saw to cut a 1×1 stick of wood, then mitered one end into a top. A 1×1 is too small to clamp in a miter saw, and I wasn’t going to stick my hand that close, so I used a “push stick” to hold the piece in place as I mitered it out.
“Oh dreidel, dreidel, dreidel, I miter sawed you out today!”
Of course, imperfections can be fixed with the miracle of sanding. “I made it out of clay,” I kept thinking as I sanded it down.
“Oh dreidel, dreidel, dreidel, I sanded you this way!”
I popped the top into a bench vise and carefully drilled out a hole. A drop of glue and a dowel rod and the boy had a dreidel. I set him up to paint the letters on. He was a little underwhelmed with the quality of his first time painting Hebrew letters on a small wooden object, but I assured him the point of making a dreidel wasn’t to be perfect but to have a simple toy with which to play.
“When it was dry and ready, with the dreidel he did play!”
Through the afternoon, he practiced his top spinning technique.
It took a few days, a few hours each day, but I completed “day 2” of my first Steve Ramsey build: the Basic Mobile Workbench.
We keep the kids away from the power tools.
The first thing anyone notices is that my workbench is unusually tall. I built it to the same height I set my standing desk and so far, I like it. (I am unusually tall.) Instead of the hassle of wrestling a sheet of plywood and the intimidation of breaking up a sheet of plywood with a circular saw, I nibbled through a pile of wood that has been accumulating in my garage and spent some zen time cutting with a nice hand saw. (As Leah Bolden says: “you can do this!”) The bottom shelf was this old board that changes color and had a line drawn in a decent spot. I resized it with a handsaw and cut out the corners with a jigsaw.
For the longest cut, I set up a simple jig.
I built the interior shelving with scrap wood. I had a lot of 1×12 laying around. For the shelves, I glued two 1×12 boards together. I don’t have a clamp wide enough for the job so I improvised with some bungee. Some of my 1x12s had a 1×2 lip tacked along the side, from a project I abandoned years ago. I thought I might preserve the lip for the shelving, but my first attempt to saw through the assembled pieces met with a nail. Good thing I was rocking the hand saw, I guess.
Some problems can be fixed with a Home Depot run, and sometimes you just have to improvise. The join here isn’t going to hold much weight, so this should work fine.
With the wider shelves, for one I used the remainder of the wood that I had used for the bottom plate, and for the other, I managed to retain the lip on some 1×12, and at the end discovered that the shelf slides out then angles and wedges in a nice spot to hold plans!
Part of the challenge is that my driveway and the garage are not flat or level. When doing the shelves I took to checking how “level” the bottom board was, then lined up the shelf supports based on that concept of level. Since they are drilled into end-grain, I took an old board that Tommy broke for taekwondo and used that to add a cross-grain buffer for the casters. I have no idea if this is wise or not. Since my floor is, shall we say, rugged, the basic casters from Steve’s plans feel rinky dink. Perhaps in the future, I’ll upgrade them.
This little buffer place on the bottom of the leg may or may not ensure stability for the caster.
Next project: clean the garage out a little more so I can get started on Steve’s actual six-project course!
It has been two trips to Home Depot. I picked up an impact driver combo set and a 2×4 on my first trip. For the second trip, I realized that I needed yet another 2×4 and that quarantine has become a growing possibility, so I grabbed the lumber for the next two projects, in addition to some star-bit hex screws.
Saturday afternoon was blessed with some pretty nice weather, so I set up shop in the driveway again. But before I tell you that story, I’ll tell a brief story. A few years back, this dad had younger children and even less free time and decided he’d be best off ordering a workbench kit online. The box showed up in pieces, and the Amazon merchant was sufficiently inept about making it right that Amazon gave me a full refund, and I was left with half a workbench kit. The various bits were nice enough that they’ve been sitting in the garage for a few years. This is a long way of saying I had a nice top for the workbench, and I have adapted Steve’s plans to fit that top. And free up a little room in the garage, which is one of the big objectives here.
Last time around, I had cut the cross pieces to 18 10/16″ to fit the workbench top. Between that and cutting longer legs to suit my preferred working height, I had used up all the 2x4s, so I needed another piece for the stretcher beams. Then I realized the cross pieces sit within the stretchers, and I had to trim each cross piece by 3″. Oh, and that I’d need another 2×4 because there are also stretchers at the bottom. All that’s to say that mistakes were made and material wasted. Price of education, I guess.
I chopped several 2x4s. I noticed that not all the cuts were perfectly square, thanks in part, I believe, to an imperfect fence. Close enough for now. I also noticed that the boards are … not perfect. So, I spent a little more energy checking the cross pieces and flipping them to whatever orientation fit the fence most flush. Education.
Then I got to screwing the legs together. Last time I had to drill two holes before sinking the screw. This time, with the impact driver and a set of star-bit deck screws, the drills went into the wood like a knife through warm butter. The deck screws have their own nuance. At first, I have to try and hold them straight as they get started in the wood. After a bit, they tend to sink right in a way, and at the end, the impact drill makes its impact drill noise, and I can get the head just under the wood. Ahhh, flush!
And no more wrestling with a chuck key.
The first corner of the leg assembly is easy enough: make the pieces square, hold them firm, and drive the screws straight. As you get toward the fourth corner, the job gets trickier: lining pieces up square and flush and holding them in the right place gets trickier. On one corner, whenever the screw made it through, it would shove the piece over a bit. Steve makes it look easy, but this mere mortal got to busting out the clamps to help get pieces squared and held still.
You can see this corner put up a fight, until I got a clamp involved.
When assembling the frame, I needed to really push the legs apart to host the last stretcher. A neighbor came by and suggested using a shim to give the clamp something to grip. Finally, the frame was together, and the top just popped right on top, easy, and sufficiently snug.
The stretcher wanted to move in the direction of the blue arrow. The clamps, with the help of a shim, held things right.
I can see all the imperfections. On the one hand, imperfections are kind of a bummer. On the other hand, anyone who creates something tends to have the best awareness of their own imperfections. Fair enough. But more than that: I’m learning. Nobody starts perfectly. The workbench is good enough.
Solid enough but damn these gaps!
The other thing that raises a brow is just how high I’ve built the workbench. I had held my forearms out at 90 degrees and measured the height from there. 46″ is high, and that’s where I set my standing desk when standing. I don’t like bending over. Two open questions are: is a comfortable standing desk height also a comfortable workbench height, and is this narrow workbench going to be stable at this height? The neighbor and I discussed how best one might trim 2″ off the legs beneath the bottom brace. Time will tell.
The workbench will replace the white table on the left. It needs to store some of the more useful stuff there. This will free up enough room to hang another bicycle.
When screwing in the cross pieces, Steve explained why his design has five at the bottom and three at the top. For one, the bottom has to hold the shelves’ weight, but for another, more cross pieces at the bottom lower the center of gravity.
For Day Two, Ramsey’s plans call for cutting up a plywood sheet with a circular saw to build shelving and a workbench top. I already have a workbench top and a cache of dimensional lumber, so I will take my own approach to the bottom shelving. One thing to think over is what do I want to store in the workbench—heavier stuff at the bottom. The workbench kit I had came with some nice, felted drawer bottoms, but half the drawer pieces are missing. I’ll probably just do open shelving and throw in a good number of 1×2″ shims to allow for adjusting the shelf heights.
I enjoy building things. I learned a few things in my uncle’s basement and Boy Scout activities, but my high school didn’t offer shop class. In college, I discovered computer programming, which allowed me to build computer programs quickly, with a fairly low cost-of-entry. Information Technology is also a lucrative career choice.
A few years back, my IT career, aided by the mortgage crisis, helped me achieve the impossible: we bought a house in Silicon Valley! Our one-car garage is just about perfect for anything but parking. I enjoyed puttering on small weekend projects, but soon we had first one kid and then two, and with that, no more free time for extended puttering.
My ambition has still been to have a little workshop where I could build some things. I found a local woodshop that offered classes. I got to build a spice rack. Then their rent went up, and the workshop closed. The classes moved to a local community college, whose administrative procedures leave much to be desired.
Besides, what I really wanted was to get set up at home. For the years of early parenthood, I lacked the time and energy, and often, the budget. The bootstrap from a messy garage to a functional workshop is daunting. After the kids are in bed, sit back in the rocking chair, and flip around YouTube videos.
YouTube served me up some woodworking videos. There’s a lot of dudes out there making things with resin. Whatever. Then Steve Ramsey came along, explaining all the bits and pieces of basic woodworking. Along the way, he gently hawks his online courses. You know, if his regular YouTube videos are so informative and engaging, maybe the $150, what you might expect to pay for a weekend workshop or two at the local shop, might be worth a shot.
With my COVID haircut, flannel shirt, and eyeglasses fit over safety glasses, I am ready to rock the shop!
I am now about 2/3 of the way through the first day of building what Ramsey calls the BMW: Basic Mobile Workbench. The online course is nicely laid out, including diagrams, materials, how-to videos, and cross-references to skills. On my first day, I made a trip to Home Depot for supplies, but the actual work got hijacked by a busted kitchen faucet. Priorities! I spent time poring through the miter saw manual. Anything that can chop fingers off is worthy of a solid understanding.
A week later, today, I made another trip to Home Depot. Having reviewed the materials again during the week, I figured I could use clamps, squares, and, most critically, an extension cord. I carefully unpacked and assembled the miter saw, made myself comfortable with its operation, and got to work trimming 2x4s.
Bootstrapping a workbench: miter saw on a folding table in the driveway.
To build the legs, Steve glues two 2x4s together, then clamps them steady and secures them with screws. Things got frustrating when I tried to screw the 2x4s together. The screw wouldn’t go all the way in. Okay, I can drill a pilot hole. The drill bit got wedged in the wood. I worked it out with my vise grips.
The humble vise grip is an indispensable tool!
Google led me to a link that explained that one needs to tighten all the holes with the chuck to really secure the bit. That helped. Another video had a guy explain that in addition to a pilot hole, you want to drill a slightly larger hole through the top piece of wood. Experience proved this out. So, to drill a leg would require multiple bit changes. I was tempted to run to Home Depot for nicer tools, but it was getting dark. Fortunately, I had enough clamps that, after I struggled through the first leg, I could do the next three legs in a batch. I only had to swap bits three times for the batch instead of for each leg.
Ramsey touches on most of this information in his course material. He shows how he uses some fancy star-bit screws and links to a video that explains how to screw things and what a wonderful thing an impact driver is. I thought maybe his materials could be more explicit: “you should really consider an impact driver, and these cool star bit screws.” However, I appreciate that all the information isn’t served to me on a silver platter. An important part of building things is overcoming challenges along the way. And in an age where many basic problems are quickly solved by asking a smartphone, working through an efficient process to get the legs drilled “the hard way” was very rewarding.
What one lacks in fancy tools, one can make up for with a degree of cleverness.
The Silver Platter was a concern I had with learning basics at a professional woodshop. “Here kid, take this fancy wood we got you and run it through the planar like so before we get to the nice Saw Stop table saw. We’ll make sure you folks get to use the drill press, too!” That is a nice way to put your toe in the water and taste the possibilities, but I am not going to have all of these things in my little garage, so … Steve’s course has the first few projects relying on the miter saw. At the end of the day, the online course puts more responsibility on me as a student. It is more daunting than an off-site shop class, but it teaches me more of what I really need and want to know.
Since I am a Tall Dude, I made my legs longer than in Steve’s plans. I started with 44″, but after squaring off the leg ends, I had to settle for 43 1/2″. This means I need to pick up one more 2×4 to finish off the frame. While I am at the store, that might be a good time to pick up an impact driver, possibly even some fancy star screws.
The garage is a mess, but the BMW project is stacked nicely for the next work session.
As I said, it was getting dark, and my better half had dinner cooking. I couldn’t finish the “Day One” process of screwing the frame of the workbench together, and it will probably be another week before I can pick this up again. I stashed everything neatly away, and I am looking forward to finishing off my first project … before the year is done, for sure!
In my career as a Boy Scout, I could have died at least twice, that I know of.
One time in the Boundary Waters, I got a tent that required stakes and guys, but we were effectively camping on ROCKS with a little bit of moss. So, I rolled a few boulders into the right spot to anchor the lines.
This was during the summer AFTER the worst of mosquito season.
I took a canoe out to paddle for fun one afternoon in this little lake but started to get sucked toward a waterfall. Luckily, there was someone nearby to toss a rope and haul me to shore.
Another time in Michigan, I stepped out of a canoe near a landing, and turned out it was deep water that was sucking me DOWN except for my life vest was secure and buoyant. Scoutmaster was near to haul me out of the water.
Honeymooning in Hawaii, I waded out on a beach to ride the waves to shore in shallow water, as I had often enjoyed in Lake Michigan. The surf picked me up, rolled me, and slammed me hard, skull into the sand. Coulda cracked my neck. I took it as a hint from the local deities that this continental tourist should stay onshore, as is my place in the world.
Thoughts during this morning’s commute.
The first thought was we should disband the standing Army. We don’t need one. A Navy, airpower, some Marines and special forces? Sure. We have a National Guard to respond to domestic emergencies. We probably want to maintain and modernize equipment in case we need a war. States can form militias if they like. We can find a lot of Americans who are fond of guns on short notice. If you want to carry a firearm, you get government training, and you’re eligible for the draft.
â€œStanding armies are dangerous to liberty.â€ –Alexander Hamilton
You can’t do it all at once. Closing bases and shutting off defense contractors retards economic activity. Twenty years. Spread money around impacted communities.
But what should the government be doing?
Defense wise, we need to focus on Information Security, and, for the main part, climate change and emergency preparedness. The enemy will not land on our shores and defeat us with missiles. They’ll hack our elections and take our power grid hostage. Between the threat of information warfare and climate change, we need resilient logistics. If all the computers crash tomorrow, can we get food between communities? Where does our military-industrial complex go? Logistics.
Rural communities ought to be able to assemble and maintain their own damn tractors and combine harvesters. Right now John Deere tells farmers they can’t fix their own equipment. The government could sponsor Open Source farm equipment and software. Every county ought to be able to assemble, maintain, and carry out most repairs on its farm equipment. Every region ought to have the capacity to build tractors and vehicles, end-to-end.
The US Army is not going to save the world from the threats it faces in this century. American leadership in finding ways to restore the atmosphere to health, while modeling how we can build resilient local communities is what needs to happen.
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