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unsurprising surprises

"You will be surprised to learn ..." Willow says with complete seriousness. And i am, and i am surprised when he speaks like this. And i should not be, one of the few rules around Willow is we don't talk down to him and we don't lie to him. He asks an embarrassing question we give a straight answer, even if it does not frame us in an ideal way.

He speaks like and adult, because all his short life we have been speaking to him like he was one. Or more precisely, like we wanted his comprehension to be very high, so we did no assume he did not know complex words and he is completely comfortable (it seems to me) asking what a word he has not learned means.

He is doing so well on this trip. Rarely complaining, doing all kinds of things which are stretch for him - like all this traveling and being without his dear friends. And he is rolling with it. He makes it all an adventure, even when it is not what he wants. i need to get him to teach me this.

Crisis as Opportunity

The NY Times reports that last months record jobless figures are far worse than the official numbers. This because lots of people have simply given up looking and they are not recorded. i wonder about these people. i wonder what percentage of them - perhaps only a few percent would consider a radical possibility.

Let say we organized citizen based volunteer public works construction projects. Where groups of people who are unemployed and want to work take risks on projects which are decided consensually by the group and the influenced community and then fix, repair, renovate, upgrade what ever a space.

People would be housed and feed by folx who were benefiting from the project, or in other dorm or donated circumstances. There would be no guarenteed wage and there would be efforts made to raise funds for the workers from various sources, including the positively influenced local area and governments and philanthropic organizations.

So lets take some steriods and make this an anarchist wet dream. Let's say we are looking at an economic down turn, combined with peak oil and climate change concerns that starts to shift our use of heavy equipment and high tech manufacturing. Let's take the missing grid problem in the mid west and say you want to solve it a different way. Instead of takign a centralized power, with emminant domain and realtively low labor and high hardware solutions. You take decentralized power, community level negotiations about where these tricky lines should go and how they should be laid (underground in some cases) and then use labor intensive installation solutions to save on hardware. Instead of huge high tech/hig energy pillars, you do more erector set construction, lighter, more labor intensive and likely larger foot print.

Beginning of the end?

We won yesterday in South Africa. The "we" in this case is the anti-nuclear movement (those close to me are often asking "Which 'we' are you talking about Paxus?"). The Financial Times reports:

In a big setback for the world’s renascent nuclear industry, South Africa’s publicly owned utility, Eskom, on Friday cancelled plans to build a new multi-billion dollar plant.

The FT goes on to point out that this means there are no active tenders for new reactors in any of the worlds promising markets and that SA was planning on eight more reactors after these two which were canceled. What they don't point out is that this is especially vexing for the nuclear industry because, unlike almost all of the rest of the world the South Africa economy is still growing and forecasted to grow and that South Africa was leading the charge for pebble bed reactors design which were supposed to be "smaller, cheaper and safer".

The state utility is instead investing in conventional sources to meet the forecasted growing energy demand, while still holding open the option of new reactors in the future. So we have won the battle, but the war is not over.

Pelican Brief

A very strange bird is the pelican,
Its beak can hold more than its belly can.
—Ogden Nash

Dateline: Buena Vista, Baja California Sur

I flew into Los Cabos yesterday (don’t bother to pack pistachios for your next foray south of the border; Mexican immigration won’t let you bring them in) and got settled for two days of work with Lumbini Gardens, a forming community near the sport fishing village of Buena Vista, about an hour north of Los Cabos (and two hours south of La Paz), just up the southern tip of the Baja Peninsula, on the Sea of Cortez.

As I’m not on stage until Friday & Saturday, I’ve been enjoying a morning of coffee and casual conversation with group members, and otherwise toughing it out in the 80-degree weather with a gentle onshore breeze.

Walking the beach for three hours (something I rarely get to do on the farm in Missouri), I came across a raft of brown pelicans, hanging out and occasionally snacking on Nature’s own sushi: raw fish seasoned delicately with sea water (a clever tamari substitute) and some bits of inter-tidal nori. It looked like they were having fun and enjoying the same nice day I was.

Memphis Democrat Column Week of 12/1/08

Tony here with the news from Dancing Rabbit. First, the weather -- Snow! We got our first snow of the season these past few days. Only and inch or two but enough to get the kids out sledding, building snow people, and having snowball fights. And for our solar powered village it means solar panel cleaning season has arrived. After most snowfalls the panels need to be brushed off if you want to start making power. Its not uncommon though to wake up and find out that some kind soul has already cleaned yours off -- its good to have friendly neighbors.

Last week's big event was of course Thanksgiving. We had over 40 people stuffed into our common house for the meal, an intimate size compared to some of our community potlucks this year, but still a tight fit when outdoor seating is not an option. There was an abundance of food of course, much of it locally grown including apple and peach pies, homemade bread, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and turkey from Sandhill.

It has also become DR Thanksgiving tradition to serve the annual Toflump - a tofu based dish with stuffing that was originally called tofurkey but it looked a lot more like a lump than a turkey and thus tofu-lump produced Toflump (often abbreviated further to just 'flump'). It may not sound like much, but even the omnivores were going after the orange-juice braised Toflump. Yumm.

Not only was the Thanksgiving meal amazing but a fun time was had by the many who joined forces to cook the meal. It was a veritable party in the Common House kitchen as folks prepared their dishes. And of course the festivities continued on Friday as we gathered for the big leftover party at lunch!

The other civilized

As we walk down the street holding hands, and i can feel the hint of rotten food on her fingers.

"Your mother would be horrified if she knew you were dumpster diving." As would mine.

Barcelona is not used to people looking for treasure in trash. Especially people who dont look like they are starving or destitute. But their we are, over educated, nicely dressed, presumably affluent white people digging thru other peoples garbage.

Barcelona is the other kind of civilized, the southern european version to bookend what Am*dam does.

It starts with an assault on time. Siesta is not just an abstract worker entitlement, it is a defining aspect of life here. Walk down the most fashionable or most crowded streets of this town at 1 PM and almost everything is closed. In December this is not because the heat of the day is unbearable - it is pleasant, in fact. It is because living is more important than working, a notion so radical it can't be embraced by most of the industrial world.

The other thing about siesta, is that it changes peoples expectations around time in general. 5 PM is not a significant closing time here. Lots of stuff, including banks and city services stay open later than that.

Caroline took Ethan and i to the big open air market this morning, we bought some forks and a blanket for the charming flat she has invited us into. It was crowded, cluttered and relaxed. There did not appear to be haggling going on, prices mostly seemed quite low, there were vendors hawking all types of things, but it was a different pace than the street markets of Am*dam. Caroline and i were constantly walking around people on the street.

missing twin oaks

i've been in charlottesville for the past several days, with brian. we're going back to twin oaks tomorrow to pack up the rest of our stuff and then we're moving away FOREVER!!! (probably)... i will miss twin oaks, but i'm also excited to be moving back into the "real" world. its like returning from narnia or something. and now everything is clean and separated and wrapped in plastic, and no one is having random naked conversations with me in the hallways. WEIRD.

next stop: NORTH CAROLINA! (why am i moving FURTHER south??). our plan is to live either in asheville or somewhere close to chapel hill. i'm going back to being a full-time artist. YEE HAW!! here's a picture of my husband being hot, and a picture of part of the mural i painted in his room at twin oaks... which is probably being painted over as we speak! or, added to by owen. hopefully he'll add things like flying mongeese and robots...

The Wisdom of Babies and Dogs

This past week I've been spending a lot of time hanging out with both my seven-month-old granddaughter, Taivyn, and my three-year-old granddog, Zeus—often at the same time. Both are happy to have my undivided attention, and sometimes they even get it.

As someone who's lived in community for 34 years and has been working with groups professionally for 21, I'm often wading through the jungle of convoluted interpersonal dynamics, looking for clear paths. It's refreshing to be reminded by Taivyn that life doesn't have to be so complicated. She can be crying her heart out one minute, asleep the next, and then all-forgiving when she wakes up, unencumbered by any grudges about how I wouldn't let her poke her inquisitive fingers into the electric outlets right before her nap.

Adults are rarely that straight forward with one another—either in terms of being emotionally artless (with babies, what you see is what you get) or willing to start each new interaction with a ready smile and a clean slate. Unfortunately, we adults tend to keep score. Worse, we rarely use the same point system or even announce the standings. It's messy.

Trial by Football

I'm in Las Vegas for six days, hanging out with my son Ceilee and his family and friends. The four days of the Thanksgiving weekend will be about as different from my homesteading life in rural northeast Missouri as it can get.

While we try to emphasize self-sufficiency and sustainability at Sandhill Farm, I think the main thing that sustains Vegas is an overweaning passion for the consumptive life. I guess you could say that Sandhill and Vegas both succeed pretty well at promoting a lifestyle based on core values—they're just very different values.

And yet, my son and his wife Tosca are happy here. He has a job as an account manager for Cricket, a national phone company. He likes technology and he likes management. While I'm neutral about technology, I certainly depend on it (I can't even imagine my current life without a laptop) and I'm fond of management also. Where I work the nonprofit side of the street, Ceilee's riding the coporate elevator.

The thing I keep foremost in mind when visiting Ceilee is that I'm visiting my son and his family, with whom I am highly desirous of an ongoing and affectionate relationship. While he's developed some values that are rather different than mine, I am determined to not recapitulate the tense relationship I had with my father when, as a young adult, I veered sharply to the left of the conservative values he attempted to instill in me growing up (in the Republican suburbs of Chicago).

I love my son, and I accept that he has every right to make up his own mind about the lifestyle and politics that suit him best. These were the same rights I tried so desperately to get my father to recognize should be mine 40 years ago, and the principle is no less valid today, even though I'm now the dad.

pax gets arrested for environmental activism, resulting in BEST ARREST PICTURE EVER (of pax, anyway)

about the fearless cult leader of twin oaks (or, the polyamorous superstar of twin oaks):
"Under arrest, Paxus Calta raised two fingers from his shackled hand to flash a peace sign. Fellow environmental activists cheered as police escorted him to the van that would take him to jail. He had intended to get arrested, as he had before in 12 countries on three continents."
washington post:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/11/26/AR2008112600185.html
NY times:
http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/us/AP-Climate-Radicals.html?_r=2

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