Archive for low tech

Tiny Houses

Posted in Conceptual Art, Sacred Geometry with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 12, 2012 by javedbabar

There was a huge earthquake in India and lakhs – hundreds of thousands – were homeless. Reading the report upset Sami. People were begging for clean water, food and shelter, and with the monsoon approaching they were likely to be washed out.

One of Guru Baba’s projects was disaster relief. Though Sami was now working as the 3D Unit’s manager rather than Guru Baba’s assistant, he was still on the books as a volunteer. He received a call at lunchtime.

“Hello Sami. My name is Raja. We haven’t met, but Guru Baba asked me to call you. I am his new assistant. He said you could help us with disaster relief.”

Sami put down his NFC sandwich. Whoever thought of putting fried chicken between bread was a genius. Northern Fried Chicken was so good, and to think that his previous girlfriend had wanted him to share her vegan raw food diet. No way, chook!

“Yes, of course. What can I do for you?”

“I am not sure really. Guru Baba wondered how your trials were going with large-format 3D printers. He said you were looking at modular construction systems.”

Ah! Thought Sami. He’s on the ball, still. Always thinking ahead and beyond. “I haven’t made much progress yet. There’s been a rush of prototyping projects this summer for fall production and Christmas sale. I may have time next week to continue trials.”

Sami knew people were in trouble. He wasn’t saying he couldn’t do anything, he was saying he couldn’t do anything right now. “Are you suggesting we make stuff here and ship it over? That would be really expensive, and take a month or more.”

“Hang on, let me ask him. I’ll call you back.”

He called again in five minutes. “Guru Baba says he doesn’t want production, he only wants prototyping. He wants you to provide low-tech blueprints for the printer and perform experiments on efficient material usage. Find the cheapest materials and stretch them. Can you please look into that?”

Sami said, “Okay, I’ll take a look. I’ll report back soon.”

The large format 3D printer appeared complex, but beyond the CPU, it was simple mechanically. It was just a machine layering materials and leaving gaps, paralleling the way that nature built landscapes, creating them with volcanoes and floods and fine-tuning with wind and rivers.

Sami wondered if nature, or the 3D printer, could rebuild lives.

Jamz poked his head in at four pm. He was unofficial leader of the rag pickers working the trash after school. “Hello Sami, I just thought I’d say hi!”

Sami wasn’t in the mood for chat. “Sorry Jamz, I have an urgent task now. No time to talk.”

“Can I help you with it?”

“I don’t think so. It’s for disaster relief in India. I need to think it through.”

“That’s the problem with adults. They want to think about things rather than do them immediately. Why don’t you tell me what you need and I’ll help you.”

Sami was surprised by his manner but said okay. He explained the task.

Jamz said, “It’s simple really. Make flexible blueprints so people can use whatever materials are available – metal, plastic or wood – for the structure. Leave the CPU to the kids. They’re savvy with technology and have smaller hands. They’ll do a much better job than adults. They can be actors, rather than burdens, in regenerating their own lives.”

They spent the evening making architectural models of simple structures. It was a practical, open ended way to explore ideas. They studied volumes and appearances, and toyed with components, calculations, and dynamic reflections.

“Let’s follow the way of the bee,” said Jamz. He devised a honeycombed wall structure allowing one cubic metre of cement to create a room with an internal volume of thirty cubic metres, enough for a family to survive. They modelled a room which could be shown by NGOs to government agencies for fundraising, obtaining permits, even sales.

Cement is just crushed rock and lime. It could provide the interface between virtual and real worlds, those of disasters on the news and providing comfort for the afflicted.

With 3D printers, it was simply a case of pushing a button and sending plans, which could be translated into action.

Old Tree House

Posted in Lucerne Village, Sacred Geometry with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on September 25, 2012 by javedbabar

It was Shama’s second day as Lucerne’s Building Control Officer, a job he was unqualified for professionally, but which had been offered to him for double his usual salary, which he had accepted. He began looking through the files on his desk.

“A tree house?” he said to himself. “Do you need permission for that?”

He asked the receptionist. “Yes,” she said. “Anything over one hundred square feet needs permission, whether below, upon, or above ground. That’s what the last person occupying your position told me. There are exemptions, but very few.”

“What happened to him? The last person. I can’t find any record of his name.”

She looked away. “It was a bad situation. We’re not supposed to talk about it.” He continued to look at her, and she said, “I’ll tell you later.”

The Old Tree House file was stamped “REJECTED”. There was no further explanation inside. Shama decided to investigate the matter.

He drove to the location, a farm fifteen kilometres up the valley. It was always a joy travelling up the Lucerne Valley Road, driving from the white mountain towards the dark one, passing shining forests and sparkling rivers, and glittering lakes with leaping rainbow fishes. It seemed like gems of many sizes had been scattered along his path, or maybe the whole valley was one vast gem, reflecting and refracting light across everything within it.

There was something strange about the farm. There were fences, gates and barns as expected, containing cattle, horses and pigs. There were flowering bushes and huge red trees. What was strange then? He realized that there were no tractors or trucks, no wires or machinery of any kind. This place was not mechanized. It was a Luddite farm.

An old lady emerged from the farmhouse. “Come in,” she said. “I heard you coming up the road. Have some tea and banana bread.”

Her lounge was presided over by a wind-up grandfather clock. There were candles burning, despite it being morning. She noticed him looking. “They’re to purify the air,” she said, “And to welcome the sun.”

She poured the tea and said, “You must be the new BCO. You look better than the other fellow, I’ll say, but you’re probably a rascal too. What business is it of yours? I’m fed up with these floods. I’ve seen all the big ones – ’38, ’64, ’84, 2004. And believe me, there’s another one coming – this year or early next. Don’t you see the pattern in the years? Ah, never mind, you educated folk never do.”

Shama liked this old woman and said, “Yes, I am the new BCO. I’ve come to reconsider the situation.”

“What do you mean?” She was suspicious. “Reconsider what?”

“The tree house. With all these floods, it makes sense to live above ground. But I have to ensure the use of proper methods and materials. I see you are a Luddite. How will you build it without power?”

“Without power? Like everything else! We’ll use ropes and levers and pulleys; we’ve got horses and cattle too.”

“Won’t your livestock drown in the flood?”

“Of course they won’t. We’ll haul them up too.”

He said, “But what if the tree died, or gave way?”

She gave him a patronizing smile, and pointed to the huge red trees everywhere. “These are Arcadian Firs. They’ve been here for over a thousand years. How long has your village hall been there?” Shama didn’t know. “I’ll tell you how long – twenty eight years. The last one was flooded and rotted out. I’ll take my chances with the trees. They will last much longer than any of your buildings.”

When he returned to the office, Shama changed the status of the Old Tree House file to “APPROVED”.

Dark Horse

Posted in Lucerne Village, Mystical Experience, Unknown, World Myths with tags , , , , , , , on August 2, 2012 by javedbabar

The bush is getting rougher. It snags my clothes and grazes skin. That’s the problem with second growth forest, none of the majesty but double the trouble. I go higher up the hillside but it gets no better. If anything, the tangles are tighter and thorns sharper. It may be better to slip down the hillside a little more. The crowd is off my tail now. It feels safer.

How or why I was on the white mountain, I don’t know, but I was clearly not welcome in the village; the followers of the hate-preacher chased me out. The only thing that feels right, that compels me, is to head towards the dark mountain at the far end of the valley. I feel it holds answers.

I see fields at the edge of the forest. They are easy to reach and deserted, not abandoned though for they are well tended, with only hints of erosion, overgrazing and chemical damage. Much better than ravaged lands I’ve seen in other places.

A small group of humans is working far away, near out buildings and old machinery. Newer, shiny stuff lies abandoned elsewhere. Such things are impossible to fix yourself, and there is no one around to fix them for you these days. After the shock appearance of living machines, and the brief war leading to their destruction, nobody dares to work with electronics. People stick to greasy motors whose chains and wheels you can see and understand. Not atoms and electrons. Nothing you need to imagine.

The nearest field is filled with dairy cows. Black and brown and white fat beasts. I feel suddenly hungry and would love to take a big bite out of one’s rump. Imagine its bloody juices dripping. But that is sure to attract attention, and maybe I should wait till I find beef cattle; it somehow doesn’t feel right, biting a milk cow. I manage to fix ones gaze. I walk right up to it and pull its udders, and drink hot squirts of creamy fluid. It froths in my throat.

The next field holds horses. They come towards me, maybe hoping for apples. I apologize to them for coming empty handed. I say I will come again with a barrel full of apples. I fix a dark horse’s gaze, stand beside him, and then jump onto his back.

He feels unsettled but the link is established. He recognizes me as his friend and master and will allow me to ride him now.

I canter along the edge of the forest, maybe in view of the humans, but they can’t catch me from five hundred metres. I guess they can try to shoot me, but would they risk hitting the horse?

The horse rears up once, but settles into pace again. It heads towards the dark mountain whose power once formed this valley by eruption and flow. Now I flow towards it.