Monday, 1 January 2018

Toomas Karmo: Resolutions for the 2018 New Year

Quality assessment:

On the 5-point scale current in Estonia, and surely in nearby nations, and familiar to observers of the academic arrangements of the late, unlamented, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (applying the easy and lax standards Kmo deploys in his grubby imaginary "Aleksandr Stepanovitsh Popovi nimeline sangarliku raadio instituut" (the "Alexandr Stepanovitch Popov Institute of Heroic Radio") and his  grubby imaginary "Nikolai Ivanovitsh Lobatshevski nimeline sotsalitsliku matemaatika instituut" (the "Nicolai Ivanovich Lobachevsky Institute of Socialist Mathematics") - where, on the lax and easy grading philosophy of the twin Institutes, 1/5 is "epic fail", 2/5 is "failure not so disastrous as to be epic", 3/5 is "mediocre pass", 4/5 is "good", and 5/5 is "excellent"): 3/5. Justification: Kmo developed many of the necessary points to reasonable length, while being more sketchy than he might have been when outlining the Tiny House concept.
Revision history:
All times in these blog "revision histories" are stated in UTC (Universal Coordinated Time/ Temps Universel Coordoné,  a precisification of the old GMT, or "Greenwich Mean Time"), in the ISO-prescribed YYYYMMDDThhmmZ timestamping format. UTC currently leads Toronto civil time by 5 hours and currently lags Tallinn civil time by 2 hours. 
  • 20180103T0151Z/version 2.0.0: Kmo, running a bit late, finished converting his point-form outline into coherent full-sentences prose. He reserved the right to make tiny, nonsubstantive, purely cosmetic, tweaks over the coming 48 hours, as here-undocumented versions 2.0.1, 2.0.2, ... . 
  • 20180102T0306Z/version 1.0.0: Kmo had time to upload a fine-grained outline. He hoped to finish converting the outline into coherent full-sentences prose by 20180102T2000Z, in a series of incremental uploads.

[CAUTION: A bug in the blogger server-side software has in some past months shown a propensity to insert inappropriate whitespace at some points in some of my posted essays. If a screen seems to end in empty space, keep scrolling down. The end of the posting is not reached until the usual blogger "Posted by Toomas (Tom) Karmo at" appears. - The blogger software has also shown a propensity, at any rate when coupled with my erstwhile, out-of-date, Web-authoring uploading browser, to generate HTML that gets formatted in different ways on different downloading browsers. Some downloading browsers have sometimes perhaps not correctly read in the entirety of the "Cascading Style Sheets" (CSS) which on all ordinary Web servers control the browser placement of margins, sidebars, and the like. If you suspect CSS problems in your particular browser, be patient: it is probable that while some content has been shoved into some odd place (for instance, down to the bottom of your browser, where it ought to appear in the right-hand margin), all the server content has been pushed down into your browser in some place or other. - Finally, there may be blogger vagaries, outside my control, in font sizing or interlinear spacing or right-margin justification. - Anyone inclined to help with trouble-shooting, or to offer other kinds of technical advice, is welcome to write me via]

It is helpful not only to make New Year's resolutions but to blog about them openly. Resolutions that at some point get written down are more likely to be kept  than resolutions that never get written down. Of those resolutions that at some point do get written down, those are most likely to be kept which get written in open public view, rather than being confided to some private journal. 


I have three resolutions. I write them out here, and therefore publicly, in ascending order of importance. 


Firstly (least importantly): I resolve to continue blogging to the extent that time may allow, in my present spirit of public service. This means carrying on with the long multi-part philosophical analysis of perception, action, and "subjectivity" (including its current mildly tedious diversion into computability theory and the mathematical concept of randomness), much though I dislike writing philosophy. 

This also means carrying on - as in fact I do this week - with occasional postings for the benefit of government, police, and lawyers, regarding Ontario's troubling David Dunlap Observatory and Park heritage-conservation file. 

Further, this means at some point in 2018 launching something related to my current work on tensors - perhaps a slowly growing PDF-formatted blogspot guide for people working on Michael Spivak, under some such title as "A Peasant's Companion to the Spivak Calculus on Manifolds Textbook, Comprising (Banal) Worked Examples, (Modest) Notational Proposals in the Spirit of Logician Alonzo Church, and Other (Simple) Aids, Consolations, Encouragements, and Diversions - with a Concentration on Those Traditional Occasions of Weariness, Vexation, Despondency, and Alarm Which Are the Tensor Formalism; the Unification of the Stokes, Green, and Gauss Theorems; and Differential Forms (with Differential Forms Eventually, It Is Hoped, Herein Exposed as the 'Natural Objects of Integration')".

And it may occasionally prove useful to blog on other mathematics or physics subjects too - as in fact I do this week as low-grade astrophysics, by putting up some remarks on the visually brightest stars.


Secondly (this is a New Year's resolution of intermediate importance) I resolve to continue my efforts at abandoning consumerism, by incrementally and progressively favouring a permaculturist lifestyle. 

It will be appropriate, should the heavens grant the health and strength needed for my envisaged late-2018 move to Tartu County, Estonia, to start setting up an "Earthship" (in Estonian, "Maalaev"). Here is my first, tentative, so-to-speak naval vision: 

  • The Earthship is called, with reference to one of my heroes, the Earthship Johan Pitka. [The Estonian, British, and British Columbian career of Sir Johan Pitka is conveniently studied from a pair of Web resources: (1) (a 2011 article by John M. MacFarlane, headed "Rear-Admiral Sir Johan Pitka - An Unlikely British Columbian Who Founded the Estonian Navy"), coupled with (2)]
  • The Earthship J.P. is moored either in the cheap, remote suburbs of Tartu or - to drive costs down still further - in rural Tartu County, some small or moderate distance outside the Tartu city limits. 
  • The Earthship J.P. is a Tiny House, in the broad sense of More specifically, the J.P. is built in the spirit of the "Innermost House" discussed here at blogspot in a posting of 2017-10-16 or 2017-10-17 headed "Open Letter to the Innermost House Foundation". There is just one storey, in some such material as cob or log-ends-in-mortar ("cordwood masonry"), or even log-ends-in-cob. As as concession to the cold climate of my ancestral Tartu County - it seems to me to approximate Sudbury, rather than my current Canadian municipality, Richmond Hill - the Earthship has not a mere open fireplace, as Innermost House does, but an open (thermally efficient, Rumford) fireplace alongside a traditional closed clay-or-masonry stove. This double masonry assemblage sits in the so-to-speak stern. Flanking it are two guest chairs, such as wicker lawn chairs. In the bow is a maths-and-physics writing desk, of plywood and wooden boxes and bevelled-glass slab already in my possession [and consequently needing only to be shipped by land, sea, and land to Tartu County].  Flanking that desk, at the extreme forward end of so-to-speak starboard, is a computer desk, for my present hand-assembled Debian GNU/Linux workstation [presently sporting a mere 2 GB of (DDR3) RAM, but otherwise rather solid, in an imposing Cosmos-brand full-tower case]. Also flanking the writing desk, at the extreme forward end of port, is an additional desk, useful in various scenarios - one of these being a condition of overflow, in which some attempt-at-a-proof causes the bow to overflow in paper, with Theorem Alpha requiring the exploration of Lemma Beta, and Beta in turn requiring some probing with worked examples, so as to illustrate Point Gamma. - Sleeping is on mats from fancy "memory foam" [already in my possession, and readily shippable by land, sea, and land to Tartu County]. These mats are stowed in the daytime in some large chest [not yet in my possession]. - Flooring is of brick, with a slight slope to facilitate washing-down with mop and bucket. As defences against cold, I put onto such potentially chilly flooring three items [already in my possession, and easily shipped]: a cheap fake-Persian carpet in imitation (Belgian factory) silk; a common hearthrug; and a thing of personal pride and joy, a carpet worked by my late Mum in quasi-folk-Esto motifs, from coloured yarns. - Some books are housed on floor-to-ceiling stackerbox shelving [cf this blog, posting of 2017-03-27 or 2017-03-28, headed "Stackerboxes and the Management of Chattels"] near the dual-fire masonry heating system. Others, along with my tools, my modest lab gear, and a workbench, go to a shed physically separate from the tiny house, but nevertheless to be considered an "Earthship" module. - Also physically separate from the tiny house, and some modest distance removed from it, is a composting, in other words a waterless, privy. - As time and money allow, there eventually comes to be a small saun [our Estonian equivalent of the Finnish sauna], likewise separate from the Tiny House. 

The Earthship, as I am here envisioning it, has also some arrangement or other for honing a skill I should try to acquire in rudimentary form even before leaving Canada, namely the baking of black rye bread through a traditional Estonian fermentation process. Perhaps it would be enough to construct an outdoor cob-clay oven, under a sheltering roof. There would additionally have to be a pantry alcove somewhere within the Tiny House, incorporating a sink with running cold water (through piping to elevated tank?), and with a microwave oven. The alcove would be a pleasant place for cutting up vegetables for a Dutch oven (not yet in my possession) placed onto the hot coals of the Rumford fireplace. 

The sheltering roof for the conceivable outdoor cob bake-oven could also provide shelter for laundry operations, and for personal showering until a saun becomes available. - I rather gather from my late Mum's domestic practices in rural Nova Scotia, and from a pertinent conversation with a meteorologically informed Slovak astrophysicist visiting the David Dunlap Observatory,  that wet fabrics eventually dry outdoors even at subzero temperatures. Washing itself need not by any means be done with an "automatic washing machine". At first I would have to imitate the unhappy example of the young Thoreau at Walden, cheating by taking washing into town - in my case, the properly built-up stretches of Tartu - for the tender ministrations of my town-based family. (This, too, might have to become a temporary resource for pleasantly hot showers or baths.) Additionally, the chances are good that a university town such as Tartu will have coin-operated "Laundromats", in the American manner. Later, it might prove possible to install a cranking arrangement whereby a rather hefty electric motor drives a wooden paddle up and down, or else back and forth, in a wooden or plastic barrel. Ideally, such a motor would be selected with care, and some money would be spent on the services of a mechanic who could devise appropriately simple power trains. One would like to be able to couple the hypothetical motor on Washing Morning to the paddles, and on Milling Morning to some small milling machine, adequate for converting the occasional cupful of rye grains into a little flour.

There would also have to be a cold-water tank. Perhaps separate from this should be a cistern, and also something like a root cellar. Perhaps it would suffice to make the cistern subterranean, and to make it serve the root-cellar function by lowering into it small (watertight) containers of the necessary beets, potatoes, carrots, and cabbage segments. Unless winters become epochally severe, one might hope that such a subterranean cistern would not freeze to an operationally impossible depth. Perhaps in February, when Tartu County is liable to be at its worst, it would prove necessary to let the cistern freeze hard, and to bring all eatables indoors until the spring thaw.

In the longer term, some efforts would have to be made, as financial circumstances might permit, to install solar panels and to harvest rainwater. It would, in other words, be appropriate in the longer term to try reducing the Earthship's potentially worrying dependence on municipal services.

One shudders at the total cost of all this. And yet rent costs money too, perhaps even in Tartu! The own-versus-rent conundrum will have to be revisited, once I can make a preliminary personal inspection of Tartu conditions (as I am now hoping, in 2018 June, on a rapid one-month preliminary reconnaissance tour). If worst comes to worst, I suppose I could try continuing within Tartu city limits what I am doing now in Richmond Hill, namely living selected elements of the permaculturist ideal as a mere renter.

In the next few days, I suppose I shall have to consider spending money on something potentially mission-critical, namely a subscription to the glossy British magazine Permaculture. So far, I only know this most admirable of glossy publications from sporadic newsstand purchases, and from a few cursory visits to its Web site And then again, it might prove feasible just to read the magazine in some public library, at any rate while I am still in Canada. - So hard does it prove to make concrete decisions, even in the mind-clarifying, bracing, context of New Year's Day resolutions.


Thirdly (this is the most important New Year's resolution, although I treat it briefly), I resolve to strive, and even to pray for, fidelity to the ideal of spiritual focus laid out by a contemporary Spanish-speaking Dominican in his hermit Rule. It is the kind of focus sometimes called, by pastoral theologians in their specialized terminology, "recollection". 

Various Web sources make the Rule available, thereby hinting at a certain quietly attained popularity. Within the site of my Florence-based Godfriend, Sister Julia Holloway (in my own mind, "Dame Julia"), for example, one could visit

Even within my own present blogspot, one could visit my posting of 2016-04-18 or 2016-04-19, headed "Padre Fray Alberto E. Justo, O.P.: Regla para Eremitas - Rule for Hermits". 

Recollection, in its pastoral-theology sense, is remarkable for its on-off, in other words for its uncompromisingly binary, quality. At one moment, one is unhappily immersed in Unreality - not at peace, but instead worrying about such things as imagined fresh David Dunlap Observatory law suits, or the Town Council, or the Russians. At the next moment, the foolishness of these various worldly lines of thought is apparent. It is like the difference between a landscape seen merely in some cinema and the same landscape visited on foot. There is no halfway house, no compromise - either you are immersed in Unreality, sitting in a Cineplex Odeon, or you are immersed in the real thing, with wind in your face and birds singing.  

Padre Justo has some sentences which seem to me to capture the just-mentioned  dichotomy.  I will quote from the English translation on Sister Julia's Web page, retaining the emphases of the translation she uses: 

Grasp the opportunity to spurn this world and follow the Lord. Don't doubt for an instant. Don't stay gazing at the road stretching behind you nor, rapt in fantasy, call up ghosts of a future that is not and, surely, never will be.

Let go. Venture forth along the paths to Eternity lying before you now. They are not only long but are also, in this very moment, wide open before you. 

Happy 2018, everybody! 

[This is the end of the current blog posting.]

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