Rufus Laggren

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since Feb 23, 2012
Chicago/San Francisco
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Recent posts by Rufus Laggren


I know of no ditch digging miracles. Others may, but I have yet to see a tech gizmo transform dirt work.

And most every endeavor in all of life involves real and unavoidable trade offs. The splitter you have trades slow speed for less required skill and strength, compared with a skilled ax-man, or less capacity, noise and stink, compared with an engine driven splitter.  Although that may feel like  a  non-issue for you in your present circumstance (and that's great), in other circumstances it can become critical. There's No Such Thing As A Free Lunch, as one of the hallowed iconic characters from the '70s famously opined. No getting something for nothing.

I worked many jobs laying pipe in trenches. I only ever saw the hole done two ways - muscle and heavy machinery. But muscle can move mountains and it can go almost anywhere. It takes time but it's much, much faster than you would expect, given good dirt workers.  It's a real skill. And the money goes (more or less) straight to a human being as opposed to an energy company. Machines need space and large jobs to look good.

Human beings often turn out to be the best tool. But dealing with a human is some different from turning a key and pressing a pedal. Still, the results can be amazing. Worth checking to see how skilled muscle pencils out against a machine. In many situations, it wins, hands down. Muscle can also come with a brain attached and that brain can save you money or even save your ass. If you find the right workers, and I confess, that can be a matter of purest luck.

4 days ago
There's still a whole world unknown (at least on the thread, so far) above the ceiling and in the 2nd floor wall. Joists, nailers, beams, brickwork above...

The usual way to install the "skyhook" involves building a second wall  (sorta) about 18-24" away from the original wall to support the whole works during surgery. But that method may well not work with the double brick wall.

Depending on what you plan on changing, it really seems like you may want to go to the trouble to talk with a mason (or three) on site. After, that is, you have demo'd enough to fully reveal both sides up to the 2nd floor. And probably revealing the brick walls of the 2nd story would be a good idea, as well. Around here exterior brick walls really need repointling every 20-30 years or so; interior walls, I can't say, but might be worth checking at this time when you have the construction site in motion sorta speak. But the mason could let you know if they think that needed. If you're doing much work, it also might be possible to rebuild that arch more elegantly (higher curve), open up the ceilings and walls to show the work and generally make it all totally wonderful looking.  <G>

4 days ago
Hi Dan

The Q's I listed are basic to any type decision about that wall. I  don't t think you can move forward properly w/out answering them all, although most would likely be fairly obvious. As you probably know, any appreciable weight the arch carries will be transferred to lateral forces - ie. the arch will try to spread left and right and it's integrity depends on the existing wall being able to accommodate (resist) those lateral forces completely and with a margin of safety. Because of it's "low rise", that lateral force will be much larger than for an arch with higher rise. That is assuming the vertical loads down each side of the opening are fully and safely accommodated.

It's been there for a while (!) so depending on your list of changes to that structure (a list which you're _certain_ you won't add to in the future), then if those changes don't change _any_ of the structural elements of that wall, the opening should remain as good as it ever was. You'll notice there are a few variables in the above sentence, but not beyond your ability to verify in situ, I think. If the wall extends up two stories as one single structure, incompressible, then the part above the opening, if it's tight and in good shape, will carry a lot of it's own weight and bridge the opening simply because it will refuse to deform in the way necessary for it to fall into the opening. If the wall is "broken" at the ceiling, or if the structure above the opening is not rigid incompressible brick, then the arch may end up carrying most of what's above it - because in that case what's above it will tend to "scrunch", deform, down into the opening with it's own weight if nothing holds it up.

From your point of view, identifying the "structural elements" of the 1st floor wall, the concepts and practices, may be the biggest question.  . Whether you feel comfortable and/or have time to go that course yourself, depends... <g>  If you identify the structural elements and verify them, your decision is pretty much made, viz the arch. Whether any wall above will bridge the opening safely  just by itself, based on the (2nd floor) wall's own integral rigidity, is a judgement call which isn't as easily cut and paste. That, if it becomes an important question, looks to be something that that almost certainly needs an experienced eye and mind, on site in person.

5 days ago
Bruce, you, probably inadvertently and more or less innocently, spoke a phrase "self sufficiency" as something to strive for. That I think is really, really misleading. At the very best. But you mention "trade and barter", so I can see that you don't mean "self sufficient" to be a silo. And you mention a community in the nineties which seemed admirable to you, so you seem to believe in community. But the words we use repeatedly gather power and that "self sufficiency" phrase pushes buttons with me. So please forgive a small rant here.

To me "self sufficiency" is just a will'o' the wisp. A red herring.  We humans live and create an ecosystem derived from our lives.  Self sufficiency is as close to impossible for us as anything can ever be. Being part of an ecosystem is a huge part of being human. Size and degree matter, but the "self sufficiency" ideal seems mostly a distraction. Do you think that "It takes a village..." concept was wrong? I don't.

That means it's important to speak clearly regarding what is at the core, what matters and is a good goal. And not use words that can mislead, lead astray. "Self sufficiency" doesn't look to have good ramificatioins. It detracts, distracts and misleads from what really matters. In my opinion. It champions personal nationalism as a virtue, fosters  us/them (even "me/them") and, most importantly, doesn't work for shit or even pencil out. And yet it appears over and over at the _center_ of talk and language about permiculture. That looks like a real problem because people glom onto and use popular phrases and then build on them. "Self sufficiency" does not look like a good strong rock-for-all-seasons to build your life on.

"Local", "responsible", "carry your load", "contributing", "community", "sustainable" "walk lightly", "waste not".... Fair, courteous, considerate, thoughtful, persistent,..  Well, I'll cease there because I wouldn't want anybody to think I"m a boy scout.

Those words and concepts and more like them seem _much_ healthier and challenging and sustaining than "self sufficient".

One of our members reported in as a hard core prepper dude and he described how he came around to thinking that "self sufficiency" was a quick road to disappointment and maybe disaster, if not oblivion. I'll try to find the thread and add the link here. Last I read, he's still a hard core prepper dude, but he's angling and arranging to foster a community rather than one silo. Seriously, and he didn't seem noob or wet behind the ears - not the first rodeo.

Words matter because _somebody_ will for sure take them at face value and use them. It could be for anything at all and the words will still carry their own values that will imbue the effort and be used by others to push it farther. Way better if the words we use actually hue to values that are good for us - and not values that will most like dead end.


Yup. Downright embarrassing.

I think it's hard to see real want, even when we "see it" in passing, for many of us who have never come close to  real widespread want or need. We are so rarely able to see it, observing from our own private perspective. We don't know how to think about and how to deal with the inner conflicts and questions it raises. That picture, to me doesn't show poverty so much as helplessness and _want_, created thoughtlessly by the rest of us. Most, I think, equate pictures like that with lack of money, and often that's part of it. But that picture shows something that no amount of money, relatively speaking, would fix. It points to something deeper.

I'm afraid I cannot say I'm better than the rest. But I think I see a wake up call to take a look at our emphatically individualistic habits and the attitudes that bring them about.  With luck, and lots of encouragement, I hope our leaders will belly up and talk community, cooperation and such stuff.  At least for a while. We at permies are lucky to benefit from a guy who has, in some ways, been pushing in that direction for many years.

Thanks for posting that.

What is above the first floor wall shown in the pics, above the arch and along the length of that wall? Does the brick wall in the pics continue up to house a second story? Does the wall in the pics continue up (how high?) as one piece of masonry or is there something at ceiling height (eg wooden plate? beam?) which effectively turns any second story wall into a separate structure that happens to rest on the wall in the pics - but is not integral to it?

What is the dark mark extending straight up from the post in the middle of the arch?

Is the wall in the pics fully intact and undisturbed to the left and to the right? IOW, does the wall remain at full design strength, does it retain it's full original length to left and right to resist the lateral (sideways) force generated by the arch which pushes strongly to the left and right as it supports the weight above?

What is _below_ that wall, along it's full length? _And_ directly under the existing doorway? Is there solid support the full length of the wall or is there a crawl or cellar with openings below that wall?

It is good to investigate and determine what your structure really is, as you're doing now. Then there is the question of what you want to do with that space and what more you may want to build out above it. IOW, how much more weight might you want to add above that arch. Those Q's relate when it comes to what you want to do with that arch: Open it out wider, brick it closed, rebuild the arch with more, well arch, leave it open or install different door(s)...

Just as a WildAssGuess, assuming pretty support and original integrity, the arch will probably hold, but _might_ (maybe - not necessarily because when ever one does surgery there is risk) benefit from a little taller curve. However, I hazily recall that it can be pretty important to use the right kind of mortar when repairing old bricks, structural or not. And _that_ I cannot say anything about. Gotta find a mason who understands, and is willing to adjust to, old structures.

My thoughts are based not on masonry knowledge, but on general structural principles and many years researching different building types. My area of expertise, such as it is, derives from maintaining, remodeling, rebuilding two 100 year old wood frame houses and years as a plumber in San Francisco scratching heads with worried GC's trying to decide whether that beam in the million $  mansion in Pacific Heights can support one more deep cut - after 3 or 4 previous owners each chopped it up to move the toilet to their own chosen location!

6 days ago
I'm sure he's good with the place you have given him. You'll meet him there a lot.

6 days ago
_Found_ a hardtail?

Those woods really grow some interesting stuff! <g>

Solar charging setups are widely available now. Not dime a dozen, but there is a variety of different types and features. The solar charging function is easily a self contained module - it's "output" is a charged battery. Do you want to enter that market?

The temperature controlled function is also a self contained module. These may be less common. The most basic output would be an on/off switch. The maybe "temperature on" and "temperature off" which activate and output switch (relay). Various additional controls might be timers, overshoot settings, battery level sensors to control turn-on, stop. And many others. But simple is usually better, both for cheap and for easy user comprehension. A remote sensor might be the first upgrade option or it might be part of the basic package.

Your value added would be mostly in 1) sourcing reliable components and 2) easy-to-use, safe, long lived packaging. The package s/b water resistant at least, wide temperature range (ie. strength doesn't disappear at 15F.) multiple mounting options, excellent, robust electrical connectors. The best item will survive dropping onto hard wood from 10+ feet up and being swung at the end of it's attached electrical wires...

I'm sure a temperature control module could find many applications, the fan control being one of them. There could be many options, temp range, multiple sensors, sensor interaction programming, multiple outputs, and if you really get going, output programming using timers or PWM for various output. But that fancy stuff may actually not be a good idea. It could put you into a completely different market. Remember the VCR or microwave syndrome - clock blinking 12:00 forever. Most people don't RTFM and don't benefit if they do.

Ergo, your value added 3) would be keeping it brain dead simple and teaching your customers how they can use a temperature controlled switch for something useful to them. Just as wild ass guess, important additional options might include low/high temp, or shutdown, alarms (more output switches).

So we're back to your first Q. <GG>  I'm afraid your main issue with any business is market savvy and salesmanship. The tech is simple, relatively - the wetware is what drowns you. That's why dirt simple, rock solid might be your best go. Also consider the "user interface". Can the new customer take it out of the box, take one look, instantly see how to do what they want, do it and go to dinner, come back and find they did it right?

1 week ago
Actually, I take it back. The "library"  might need half dozen or so different sizes to accommodate the usual different screen resolutions?

Anyway, I just wanted to add that bulb looks real neat! <g>