Drop Facebook and Imagine Something Beautiful, a photo by mikey and wendy on Flickr.
lllustration by Rachel Soloman, excerpted from The Good Life Lab
Intrigued by stories of gathering community I signed on to Facebook. Later when I learned about the site's real goals and my role as a data provider for corporations that Facebook sells my information to, I stayed. Like Doug I saw FB as a tool to promote the book I'd just written.
I met Doug in NYC in 2001. I was Creative Director for a pop-culture marketing company, he had a new book out. We lunched on Avenue B and discussed him becoming my client. I was realizing that my job was inconsistent with my values. I knew I was about to quit so I never tried to close the deal. It was during the frenetic dot com days when the firm recruited me having noticed my work. I produced a variety of events in the city like a Free Mumia benefit, a think tank exploring art and commodifcation of culture, and I did community development that sometimes gave young artists a start. Once part of the firm my creativity was aimed at promoting MP3 players, DJs, trendy magazines, and occasionally a great author like Doug. My job shifted from developing culture to commodifying it. I saw that my life was off course and I quit.
Given that everything I've done since then has been focused on the goal of decommodifying culture, self publishing my book would have been consistent with my intentions. But a first time author I figured a publisher gave me a chance at reaching the mainstream where I might have an affect. With book stores disappearing I chose one with expertise in non-book retail, Storey gets into feed stores and trendy clothing stores like Anthropologie. Meeting art director Alethea Morrison presented the exciting possibility that my book could be art. Then came reasons to print in China, these having to do with details like the book's stitched bind. Each small compromise had a reason. Little by little I moved nearer to being commodified. I thought about how writing a book turns me into a product. When it comes out in June in the pages I ask readers to contemplate the idea that we are the problem and the solution. It is a time of paradox. Mikey and I run a PV solar system that generates clean power. We use the power it creates to run manufactured tools that caused destruction to resources to produce. They aid us in transforming waste into domestic goods that allow us to consume less resource intensive new goods. Problem solution. I'm partly bound by the world I inherited. My interest is in what is being born now, tomorrow's options. The commons and open source are examples of the good thinking of some in our generation. I like facebook, but I wonder why I must be betrayed by it. It's like learning to take poison. Our common sense knows better. What exists tomorrow comes from what is imagined today. We can imagine something beautiful and then build the way to get there.
In the past decade my life has gone full circle. When my book comes out in June I will go on tour. I'll burn jet fuel to get from here to there and eat out instead of making food from my garden. I'll consume in ways I haven't in a long time because it'll be easier to do so while traveling. The day that I signed a contract I detached from my garden and a of projects that I meant to start: a workshop, humanure set up, evaporation pond for hot mineral spring water. I've been clawing my way back to the lifestyle that I wrote about ever since. Now I know that a book is never done. There is editing, art, marketing, distribution, and selling. I get a day even a few to inch back then I'm pulled back into the tornado of business. Too often my gaze is a dead stare into a bright computer screen. A pain in my neck reminds me that this use of my body is not natural. I notice a gap between my life and the life of this world. For a while nature did not seem out there. Under a vast desert sky building a homestead it was a source of wisdom and it was in here. Facebook can't be that. It'll always be out there. I'm not complaining as much as you might think. This is all meaningful to me, a wish fulfilled. A gift, a blessing. I like stating the compromises as I am making them. I've decided that it is OK to make them for the gain of something that matters to me. Being separated from what I learned to love helped me remember the preciousness of what I discovered since leaving the commodified world. Value has been restored.
One day after the book has had its day in the world I hope to follow Doug's lead and quit Facebook. It will be a good day. Meanwhile Mikey and I have been transformed into cute silk screen images that are about to be squeegee'd onto used clothes gathered at Swap-O-Rama-Rama's around the world. People who attend will have prevented those clothes from hitting landfills, they'll reclaim their creativity from industry too, even though many will have driven petroleum burning vehicles to get there. Maybe some of what is learned will shape what is to come. Is it time to revolt against trend as a measure of conformity and trigger to waste still good materials? Is it time for makers to take back the world and refuse to let their creations be diminished by something as cheap and common as money? I sure hope so!
In trying to stick to a model of get rid of something for every thing you acquire, we're hoping to pass on our existing speakers, a nice set of JBLs acquired at a garage sale but less portable and flexible than the SuperTooth.
I'm happy to report that I've found yet another obsession to dominate my attention. Yes, it is the dutch oven and am I impressed with what it can do. I love the toss in some chopped up ingredients and come back in a hour style of cooking. I've only used our indoor stove/oven and outdoor solar oven. No fire pit yet. Here is what we made this week with it.
kimchi jigae (stew)
As we drove to the sale we wondered who in the fancy development was breaking the rules and having a garage sale? Most developments like this have rules against them. The garage sale was at the home of the front man for the development and a main investor. He was walking away, and heading back to Colorado. At the garage sale the usual scavengers plucked high end goods for cheap and headed home to sell them on ebay, a handoff of wealth.
As we drove home with our bounty we observed that the trailer parks in town were full as usual. This was noticeable having just come from the semi vacant and half finished development. We talked about how we'd soon use the development's trafficless fresh paved roads to rollerblade and skateboard. Back in town people were walking up and down Main St. and Broadway. The homes in town are comparably cheap and yet it was full of community. The development felt lonely.
This got me wondering about wealthy today. The forms are changing. We go to a lot of garage sales and we can tell when a home is getting foreclosed. For one thing they always have a new car that we reason is because the owners are too cash poor to buy a used one. Like the house, it was purchased on debt. Time runs out on these trades, just like it seems to be doing for these developments.
In town we have something in common with many of our neighbors. We bought an old mess of a lot and fixed it up on money we already had using our own labor and we built out of waste instead of new materials. We skirted debt and in the exchange we gained experiences and knowledge. We won't be running back from where we came with our tail between our legs.
Aero Press + Burr Grinder + Vacuum Sealer + 175F makes a really nice cup of coffee.
If you live in Seattle, Vancouver, Portland, Los Angeles or San Francisco, or places nearby, we may be seeing you soon. The question today is, where shall we meet?
If you have a favorite indie book store; hacker space, fab lab or tech shop; community garden; yoga studio; crafting or art space write to me and tell me about it so that I can make it a stop on the book tour now being planned. I will launch The Good Life Lab at the San Mateo Maker Faire May 18th & 19th, then I'm off to Seattle, Vancouver, Portland, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. In September I'll hit New York City and then evaluate what to do next. Mikey will be joining me on a few legs of this tour.
My book presentation is in the style of a lively conversation with storytelling mixed with contemplative techniques meant to help us all dive down deep for the meaning behind what we do and can do. The themes are a match with the facets of my book: gift economy, the role of the maker of things, living the waste stream, the cost of a job, time, skill sharing, wild crafting, our relationship to nature, home manufacturing, imagination, cottage industry, abundance, and value.
Send a note telling us where you'd like to see us! See you soon.
- 2 types of leeks
- broccoli raab
- 3 types of tomatoes
- 1 watermelon
First I heard it. Then I followed the sound. Yes it was an annual visit from the woodpecker! The sky has been a near traffic jam the past couple of weeks. Flocks have practically buzzed us flying over head. Every morning on our walk along the Rio Grande we see blue heron's and some kind of white crane tip toeing in the shallow water. Osprey are abundant overhead. There are what Mikey calls kootz sunning themselves and red winged black birds are making lovely patterns in the sky above the marsh at dusk. These are just the one's that I can name and I am hardly a bird watcher. I positive love living on a migration path! If our visiting feathered friends are accurate predictors, spring is near.
I made a pile of what I'd collected to make yard art out of but never did. The question is, is it junk? Hell no! I commit right now to getting these remainders from 2012's dumpsters put to use in the 2013 garden: hub caps, metal drop tops that have been shot at, an old metal table top, and batches of salt cedar.
Last night SCAC hosted their annual party, it was a blast! Thanks SCAC!
Limor Fried of Adafruit Fireside Hangout with Obama 2/14 4:50 EST, a photo by mikey and wendy on Flickr.
Wendy and I will be watching Limor of Adafruit tomorrow (2/14 - 4:50pm EST) for her Fireside Hangout with Obama. You can RSVP and send in your questions using the links below.
I was really happy to see just how well bok choy works in Kimchi. It is easy for us to grow bok choy in our climate year round, but we have struggled to grow cabbage.
Our cat Scardy trotted into the kitchen this morning sporting a new cape. It is a plastic bag from the grocery store which he somehow managed to climb into. He looked pretty cool in it.
When you have crazy projects your brain sometimes will not shutoff. We were both up at 4am trying sleep only to realize we had run out. Wendy ground up some fresh valerian root and combined it with hops and kava kava . She uses the cap-m-quik to fill the gel caps.
Next Generation Manufactoring - Obama State of the Union, a photo by mikey and wendy on Flickr.
Nice to see modern fabrication tools get a nod and potential support for 15 more high tech fab labs during last nights State of the Union. Start at 15 minutes in.
Thoughts pt's post How Makers, Hackers, and Entrepreneurs Can Save USPS, a photo by mikey and wendy on Flickr.
Wendy and I depend on the post office for e-businesses. We ship daily and are happy with USPS's performance. There are barriers to entry that the post office could repair with only minor changes. Here are my gripes. What would you like to see?
Treat volume customers as special. It is time for the post office to consider the usual silver/gold/platinum type program for volume customers. Right now they have no incentive programs for customers that spend tens of thousands dollars a year. Consider airlines and frequent flyer mile programs, or credit card companies that give a percentage back. Even UPS and FedEx have business accounts and deals.
I find it ridiculous that the international tracking is unaffordable. First-Class International and Priority Mail have minimal beyond the US. International mail is so high priced that few makers would use the service. Makers need protection too, this comes through tracking and keeps international customers from demanding refunds on packages that are soon to arrive.
I'd like to see penalties for using the Post Office in person since it demands salaries and the costs to operate buildings. Today there is a small fee for going to the post office. The fee could be based on the length a transaction takes. Eg. Filling out a international first-class mail slip for a package to Prague costs employee time. Let the uninformed customer pay for the time they need while being pointed towards information about printing labels on-line.
USPS should have an all platform system. They run on a terrible Windows only application. Currently the USPS website does not offer all the USPS services. A shipper can not choose Parcel Select for first-class international packages on the USPS site. A mac user I have to keep a account with stamps.com to print Parcel Select and First-Class International postage.
Outlaw junkmail. Nobody wants it, it has a cost on the environment and companies have plenty of other ways to broadcast to customers, enough already.
It is easy geeks who ship daily to envision a thriving USPS. When individual households are spending thousands of dollars a year on domestic and international postage how can mail volumes continue to shrink? It might just be that micro businesses manufacturing and reselling goods though venues like Ebay can produce the volume the Post Office needs to thrive.
First Reader Review - The Good Life Lab Sneaks Out, a photo by mikey and wendy on Flickr.
I was excited to meet the first reader of my book! Today David was kind enough to chat with me on Skype and share his impressions. He told me he picked it up because he liked the cover and unusual bind. The book renewed a desire he had to increase his homesteading activities, reduce his cost of living, become more adept at cooking and do more hands on activities, continue to avoid a full time gig, and seek out more of what makes him happy. He's also thinking about papercrete. An artist, David has a workshop he is using for a variety of things including to reforming glass. I think he's well on his way!
- yugoslavian red butterhead lettuce
- salad bowl blend lettuce leaf
- red velvet lettuce
- leaf blonde lettuce
- endive tres fine maraichere
- broccoli rape (2 types)
- red dragon carrots
- red russian kale
- gila celery
- burpee's golden beets
- priztaker leeks
- giant musselbuch leeks
Another delicious meal that we learned from The 4-hour Chef. Last night we made and ate coconut sesame chicken with asparagus, garlic aioli and our own carb addition of baked potatoes. It was just the kind of comfort food you want to enjoy on a cool winter night.
For a short while Mikey was sure he'd give up sleep. "A waste of time!" he'd say while exploring a bizarre variety of alternative methods like sleeping here and there a few times a day, in two hour fits. He reminded me that the best ideas a person will ever have come before they reach their mid 40's. He was not going to waste a minute! When I told him I found sleep luxurious, luscious and wonderful, he balked. I treasure my dreamy states, the neither neither feeling of waking. I try to stretch it for half an hour. The sleep fetish came from Ray Kurzweil. Mikey gave up on it after a few weeks and right about the same time I passed on something I read, that our bodies clean our blood while we sleep. One might get blood poisoning by giving it up.
We both went fetish bonkers by following a paleo experiment where we gave up soap. It was kinda nice to get off all those products and chemicals. Our bodies loved it, we learned that water is more than we thought it to be. It is cleansing and purifying. I couldnt get over the oiled dread lock paddle that kept trying to form out of my hair and gave it up.
This week Mikey is all about coffee. A very technical cup of coffee made by managing temperature, grind, and process to the detail. The Aero press we use for tincture making finally gets its day with the bean! He picked up the method in Tim Ferris's new book the 4 Hour Chef. I give some TF credit, by speaking Mikey's language (tech speak and a flair for fetish) Mikey's been cooking up a storm. On the flip side a cup of coffee takes much longer to make and since its so labor and time intensive I get only a half a cup. Mikey tried to hide this fact on me by switching me to a smaller mug. I grew suspicious. It is true, the coffee tastes better when steeped at the right temp, the bean ground with a bur grinder. Lets see if the process sticks over time. That's always the ultimate tell of ideas worth keeping.
"Thanks for putting together this truly brilliant kit. Da PIMP has been more successful than I'd expected, and we've been scouting for new challenges for it to take on. To date we've brought back from the dead lead acid batteries from cars, a boat, a caravan, an alarm system, and even one that had been sitting in the weather for several years; it's recovered power tool, rechargeable lamp and camp batteries and, probably my greatest surprise, a 1500mA LiPo registering 0V from a non-working solar USB/phone charger. We're looking at "dead" batteries in a new way now."
Giant tweezers designed for feeding insects to reptiles will change your life in the kitchen. These also came out of The 4-Hour Chef and have changed the way I serve kimchi, flip tempeh and in general pick stuff out of small containers.
Outlaw Again - Legal Herb Banned by Web Merchandisers, a photo by mikey and wendy on Flickr.
Since I was little girl many times I found myself standing outside the law. Not that I have a special homing device that takes me there. Often it is the only sane place to stand.
A recent event reminded me that even when I'm inside the law, the law can push me me out of its margins. In our Holy Scrap store we sell a plant extract called Mormon Tea. We wild harvest it and make an alcohol extract. It is legal. The same plant genus produces an Asian variety that is not legal. In spite of the fact that the variety that we sell is legit, Google, Ebay and Etsy have banned our product because the family name is the same.
Folks who use this medicine for asthma, weight loss, and as a stimulant can not find it or us. Parents who have successful taken their kids off of Ritalin by replacing it with this far safer plant extract, search but can not find it.
I've been reading the 4-Hour Chef this week by Timothy Ferriss. The book has convinced us to purchase a number of new widgets from dish towels to a garlic press. The garlic press is back ordered until March due to the popularity of his book (#42 on Amazon). I particularly like the coffee grind produced by the Hario MSS-1B mini-mill. It's a hand crank burr grinder which makes perfectly uniform coffee grounds. We combine with the aeropress which we already had been using for tinctures to make a damn good cup of coffee.
Sesame and Wendy both need a few days to recover. Sesame sliced her paw up while playing at the park the other day. Wendy has a funny walk and hip pain which might have been caused from bowling. They both need a few days to get better so they can walk without pain.