Man Builds Hobbit Hole

I saw this story on The Blaze. All I have to say is when can I have one.

This is not some set left over from The Lord of the Rings. This hobbit house is an honest-to-goodness man-sized home. Not only does it fit a family of four, but it cost just over $4,650 to build.

The Daily Mail reports that Simon Dale built the home without any prior home building or carpentry experience on a plot of land that was provided for free in exchange for watching over the owner’s other property. Nestled in a Welsh hillside, much of the home is made from scraps and scavenged material and wood:

“Being your own have-a-go architect is a lot of fun and allows you to create and enjoy something which is part of yourself and the land rather than, at worst, a mass-produced box designed for maximum profit and the convenience of the construction industry.

“Building from natural materials does away with producers’ profits and the cocktail of carcinogenic poisons that fill most modern buildings.”

[…]

As well as being made from sustainable material the Hobbit house, as it is dubbed by locals, has lime plaster on its walls instead of cement, a compost toilet, a fridge cooled by air from beneath the foundations and solar panels for power.

Mr. Dale said: ‘This sort of  life is about living in harmony with both the natural world and ourselves, doing things simply and using appropriate levels of technology.’

The builder seems to be a bit of an enviromentalist nut, and I think I would want an actual architect to build it, but I can see there would be definite advantages in having an underground house, as far as insulation goes, not to mention the coolness factor in having a house like Bag End.

Ancient Rome: The Rise and Fall of an Empire

It has been said that he who does not study history is condemned to repeat it. With this in mind then, the history of the rise and fall of the Roman Empire must be especially instructive for the great powers of our own era.  While it is not true that history repeats itself and cultures very widely over the centuries, yet the same virtues and vices cause the rise and fall of empires.

Simon Baker presents us with the story of just such an empire rising and falling in his book Ancient Rome: The Rise and Fall of an Empire. This book, a companion to a series of documentaries on BBC, chronicles the rise and eventual fall of the Roman Empire. Simon Baker does not present a continuous narrative of all the centuries that Rome ruled the world. Rather, he focuses on about six key events or turning points of Roman history. He manages to present enough of the background history so that the reader who is not acquainted with ancient history is not at all lost.

I am not sure if it was the author’s intent but if there is one lesson that I learned from reading Ancient Rome, it would be the importance of leadership. When the Roman Republic had good leadership, with Senators willing to make sacrifices for the common good, the Republic flourished and rose to rule the known world. When the Senators became corrupt and self-serving, the institutions of the Republic no longer worked. Then Julius and Augustus Caesar transformed the Republic into the one-man autocracy we call the Empire.

The Empire worked well enough under good emperors such as Augustus and Hadrian. Under bad or incompetent emperors such as Nero, the system did not work so well. The lack of any firm rules for succession caused the Empire to nearly fall apart in the third century but, fortunately, the Emperor Diocletian was able to pull the Empire back together and Constantine gave it a reboot with a new capital, Constantinople and a new religion, Christianity.

The Western half fell to the Germans in the fifth century, but contrary to the speculations of many historians over the centuries, there was nothing inevitable about that fall. The Goths were not trying to overthrow the Roman Empire. They were fleeing the depredations of the Huns and seeking a safe place to live. Wise leadership by the Romans would have enabled the Goths to become assimilated as Romans. However, there were no wise rulers in Rome and so the end came.