Friday, December 26, 2008

Casa Chats

I love this poster from the second world war, i want to put it up next to anti-freeze commercial which used to say "never pick up a stranger".

It is high tea at the Casa tonight, the conversation is about memetics and local complimentry currencies, wikis on sharing, distributed systems (as contrasted to decentralized), gift economies, rooftop remedies. Dante, Marc, Amylin, Slawek, Angie, Robin, Kadri - amazing talk, wonderful people.

I also found out a disturbing thing about Blogspot/blogger.  If you save an unpublished blog entry, people using google reader can read parts of it sometimes, even tho you have not released it to the public.  It is easy to imagine someone using an unpublished blog post as a place to vent only to find that they are telling people using google reader things they had no intention of telling them.  Bad bug google kids.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Winning Ugly

Lucifer tells me that the financial crisis in Russia is getting so bad, that nuclear insiders are now thinking that none of the 10 proposed domestic reactor projects are likely to be built.  This is not info from people who want stop them, this is from people who are paid by the nuclear establishment and wants to see them.

Radio Bulgaria is announcing the oft stopped Belene nuclear power plant will go into contstruction in the second half of 2009.  They say these 2 reactors will cost $4 billion total turn key and will be finished by 2013 and 2014 and that the Russian banks are going to finance it.  Lies, all lies.  They cant do it that fast (where is the pressure vessel coming from ?), they cant do it that cheap (US reactor cost estimates are running nearly twice this - the new contract for Vogtle signed in April of this year is for $14 billion, plus $3 billion in transmission upgrades) and they can't get the money from the Russians.

The big question is will Mr Obama offer huge uneconomic bailouts for utilities wishing to build reactors.  When Google, Al Gore, Oil Magnet T. Boone Pickens and the Rocky Mountain Institute all have plans for climate change friendly restructuring of the US electricity sector, which avoid new nuclear.  

Sunday, December 14, 2008

omelet competition

The lush hills above Barcelona
are dry for months at a time.
Everything which thrives scrounges water.
Including these gardens.
Here sinks and showers catch gray water
which is separated in barrels
and irrigates these lands.

It grows not just the communities food
but that of the neighbors who share this liberated plot
rescued from half a centuries disuse.

[The city fenced up this former leper hospital
and forgot about it
while space crunched neighbors
watched weeds spread
knowing more was possible]

for 7 years now these gardens have flourished
defying the local authorities
yet with the budding support of the local people
who not only grow their food here
but come to meetings and pot lucks and parties

it has been a long road
getting these local gardeners
to trust these industrious squatters
stereotypes die slowly
but persistence pays

today we saw
the omelet competition
that was every local activists
dream come true

wizened grandmas beside tattooed anarchists
working class families beside young community dwellers
laughing and sharing stories
comparing and cheering lovingly made omelets
being the neighborhood - the barrio
in its thriving and lively form

this is the best of what we might be

this is Can Masdeu

Saturday, December 6, 2008

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.

You could even not have the entire route planned form the beginning and figure it out from both ends as you worked to connect the grid.

It's late. I'll abandon this wildness and see if i think there is anything worth pursing tomorrow - oh one last thing, miners - unemployed coal miners used to build this new infrastructure - just 1% of them.

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.

Certainly, the credit crunch played into this decision, but i also credit Greenpeace which just two weeks ago sent out it's report on the risk of nuclear investments to every member of the SA parliament. There is so much wrong with nuclear, simply reporting the truth is often enuf to kill these projects, even with the highest paid sales force in the world lying and bribing (as they did in Argentina, South Korea and the Philippines) their way to success.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

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.

The legal system punishes poverty crimes (black riding, squatting, vagrancy) less than most western countries and instead of the city drifting into lawlessness - it operates as a second level of social welfare net which reduces the number of beggars on the street and redistributes wealth.

It is not paradise, but they have chosen a different set of problems.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Dumpsters and Willow

When i was almost 7 my father first took me fishing. We went out on the nearby pond and caught catfish. I thought they were disgusting, slimy and alien. My father tried to explain that this is where we got food from. I knew better, we get food from the store.

I was half expecting to get the same response from Willow, now almost 7, when i took him dumpster diving for the first time yesterday. Grabbing stuff out of dumpsters is dirty work - smashed fruits and vegetables, trash mixed with treasure. All a bit gross and hardly enticing.

And as is often the case, my son surprised me. Happy to hold bags while we rescued stuff from the Ten Katestraat dumpsters. More than willing to run under vendor tables to grab a pepper or orange, inspect it and then leave it behind if it was too damaged or take pride in the find if it was salvagable. It was another kind of game for him. We skipped back to Casa together, laden with produce.

That's how i spent my thanksgiving, the most hopeful one i have had in years.

It's not too late

Dave Pollard writes a thoughtful blog. One of his most recent entries was rightly criticizing the government about it's inaction around climate change. And there is much to be critical of, including Obama's most recent speech on the topic, which is way too little given what the official science is telling us these days.

But this leads Dave to toy with the potentially self crippling conclusion, that we are "too late" and the game is over. Below is an extended version of the comment i wrote on his blog.

It is not too late. We are just too lazy.

I live in an eco-village in the US. We consumes 30% of the gasoline, per person of our mainstream counterparts. We use 10% of the home heating fuel and cooking gas and produces 10% of the trash of average US americans. And the lifestyle is in most ways indistinguishable from the American middle class, in terms of access to resources. And the really funny/tragic thing, is we are not even trying at it very hard. We dont prioritize sustainability over everything in our budgeting process, we often take cheap fixes instead of green ones.

What we do do well is sharing. We share 17 cars for 100 people, something virtually unheard of in the US, centralized shopping is a service which only the very rich have available to them and i enjoy everyday when i am at home. Growing most of our own food takes about 3% of our total labor (a bit higher than the national average) but most folx in the mainstream wont spend that amount of time on it.

Certainly Bush, Clinton and Gore can take heat for not doing anything at a national level to solve the climate crisis. But Twin Oaks came into being without government assistance and there is nothing which stops the model from replicating itself all over the country (there are about 8 communities in this model now, since our founding over 40 years ago).

Nothing except that old critique from kindergarten "Does not play well with others". The reason we cant share is that we cant talk to our neighbors. The reason we cant share is that we actually believe we need for all our stuff to sit idle almost all the time, because we have a tremendous fear that if we were to lend it out, even to close friends it might get broken or lost. We have (indirectly granted) decided that it is more important for our stuff not to be disturbed than for our planet to be habitable for our kids.

Almost everyday for the last week most of my food has been coming from the dumpsters at the market near Casa Robino. We go and rescue stuff and increasingly talk with vendors who give us the stuff they cant sell before it goes in the trash. We are building relationships and saving that energy (in the form of food). And part of what is surprising to me, is that there is no one else doing this. No poor people, no environmentalists, no life style anarchists.

It is not that there are no solutions our there, we are just pretending that the government is where they will all come from, so we dont have to organize them ourselves.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

15 minutes of fame

Andy Warhol advises that we have our 15 minutes of superstardom. Perhaps i have spent mine getting into both the NY Times and Wash Post today. Or perhaps this old dog has some other tricks pending. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Casa Classic

There are about 10 people hosting at Casa Robino now so we have this slightly complicated situation involving the mailbox and two different sets of keys. i had no keys when i came back for wrestling with Willow and waited for 20 minutes before Marc and Topher and Nitai showed up. They had one set of keys, but had lost the other.

So we could get into the building, but not into the Casa - physically. Virtually however, Marc was able to 1) take our pictures 2) use he Casa Wifi and 3) Post the picutre and the pathetic caption that we were locked out on the cover of the Casa Robino website.

moments later we were rescued.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Short list plus 1

i dont actually know how to be a revolutionary. what i know as a radical and organizer is you try things, you get things done, hopefully you make right choices.

i've been looking at my disorganization. Angies has worked with me on this with a persistance and cleverness sufficient to inspire a sonnet. I have "ttd - things to do" list scattered around my virtual world (google docs, igoogle homepage, my Twin oaks "indiv" folder, etc). Most get looked at for a while and then ignored until they are uselessly out of date.

So i thought i would try someting new. Just the three things which i am procrastinating on and are timely. Today that was writing X min Y foundation, cleaning up the EcoDefense application request to Wallace Global Fund and getting the address to a STI testing clinic.

So i liked this idea of choosing the a prioritized few items. But when Angie and i talked about this before, it came up that this would not feed the need to dream part of my identity (which seems to have a large presence here in Am*dam). So short list plus 1 - work on one big idea.

So Robin has been half jokingly pushing Sharism as a new religion. Religions scare me. And religions are extremely powerful memetic engines. So as i was wandering slightly lost in the city today, i saw a church. So i decided to check it out - quite uncharacteristically.

[There is a 70s French language film called Cousin, cousine and the only scene i remember is a guy waiting outside a church for a funeral to end. He did not like what happened in churches, so he did not go inside. Over the last few years i have been embracing this philosophy. I did not go into the church for Kat's ceremony (and she would have supported this i know) same for Thea and Roberts wedding. I vote absentee to avoid going in to the church. A little idiosyncrasy.]

So i get to the large Amsterdam WesternMarket church. It is locked up. i ring the buzzer for secretary. She tells me that the church is closed for the winter, only visible on sunday. But there is more in her explaination, something in her voice. She is telling me, it would not be right to heat this big church during the winter, it would be wasteful. God is down with climate change.

i am glad i went to church today.

Sunday, November 23, 2008


Amylin is the digital nomad i was dreaming about before i met her. Lively, talented, daring - she embodies a lifestyle that many find fascinating and scary.

One of her fans sent her a digital camera. She hitched across China so she could make a cheap flight to London from Hong Kong. She traveled by herself in Morocco.

Finding blogs too narcissistic, her blog only answers question. People tell her what she is doing is not possible, she ignores them and does it anyway.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

An idea a day

I used to work for the Standard Oil company that was pumping the North Slope of Alaska that was 50% controlled by British Petroleum. And at one point we had some of the BP senior managers breeze thru and i spent a lunch talking to a guy who was paid a lot o money to work in strategic planning. "Our job is to come up with one good idea a day|. At first i was really enchanted by this idea.

When i lived in Brno i actually tried to do it for a time. I got a small journal and really worked at coming up with something new and useful each day. But it was quickly exhausting. Not so much because i could not come up with the ideas, but because the ideas once hatched would call for attention and ultimately there was too much to do.

I have this feeling here in Am*dam. Like i am overwhelmed by the possibilities. And i have happily given up trying to focus. And am just bathing in the impossible number of options. My current favs are:

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


For the two years before i left Europe i gave semen to Micha and Wieneke to help them have a baby. Now that baby is 10 and plays a pretty mean game of chess.

Wieneke asked both of us if we had any feeling about our biological connection when we were near each other. We both said no.

And in retrospect, i am very happy to have crossed 3 countries every month for nearly two years. Wieneke and Micha and Fabian are fabulous together. And i am lucky to be the outlaw uncle.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Next Big Thing

i am watching Rosie on googles new vchat facility. and i see how the technology will affect relationships. seeing the notes from our love letter writing workshop we did together on her wall, watching her laugh and engaging in higher bandwidth will make it impossible for me to hold her emotionally away as i have been doing since ran away from her.

i watch vchats viral influence as little green and orange gchat dots change into little green and orange vchat cameras. And i theorize how this will take on the phone companies, pull traffic towards google, cripple skype and feed into the digital nomad thing i have been thinking about recently.

Update: So i turns out i am likely wrong about this. I was gchating with Dave Pollard, Tree's new romantic interest. And he said that they have video chatting capacity at hsi office, but they dont use it for conferences, instead putting up still pictures and using the bandwidth for data and other presentations.

And i guess my enthusiasm comes in large part from being able to see these beuatiful and animated women i chat with, Abigail, Angie, Patty, Rosie. If i were look at some grumpy old guy in a business suit, i would probably focus on the powerpoint presentation as well.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Gorleben Blues and Greens

There are 15000 protesters at Gorleben tonight and 17000 cops. It is one of the largest and longest running anti-nuclear protest in years. Three activists at the French border connected themselves with concrete under the tracks and managed to block the radwaste transport for over 12 hours. Even at cheap rates that is a $4 million action in police overtime.

The German salt domes designated as perminent waste storage are flooded and contaminating the ground water. Just like the rad-waste storage at Hanford, Washington was supposed to prevent the contamination from reaching the Columbia River for a thousand years - it got there in three.

My big hope is that Obama is smart enough to see thru empty promises of the nuclear industry and both kill the funding for new reactors and not let nukes into the acceptable mechanisms for climate protection at the Copenhagen convention at the end of 2009, which follows up the Kyoto protocol.

That is my audacious hope.

For the English language ticker on the myriad Gorleben actions click here
For a very nice photo gallary of picutres from the action click here

[my blog spell checker seems stuck on German, so give me a while to get this cleaned up]

Friday, November 7, 2008

Honorarium of Socks

The following is a speach i gave tonight at the international panel discussion at the Gorleben anti-nuclear waste transport action. It was given with alternating translation into German.

If anyone tells they know how to stop the Castor transports they are lieing. I have worked on anti-nuclear campaigns in North America, Eastern and Western Europe for over 20 years and every time we win we are surprised. We never would have guessed that the tactics and strategies we used would succeed, but somehow sometimes they do.

And there are things we do know, things my German friends and Russian comrades can teach my fellow Americans. And to name the most important, it is persistence.

I was here in Gorleben on this blockade in 1997 with over 10,000 protesters. The police were very hard on us, using water cannons, pain compliance and tear gas. Now more than 10 years later, thousands of people will again return to continue this fight. These actions have shaped the debate on nuclear power in Germany. And they remind this country and the world that there is no solution to the problem of nuclear waste.

I have three pieces of advice for you. The first is find someone who inspires you and ask them why they do this work. There are many powerful and compelling reasons to come here and participate. For me it is the unfairness of nuclear power - that this generation enjoys the benefits of this dirty electricity and thousands of future generations have to suffer for it.

My second advice is build strong positive memories of this action. If you like to play cat and mouse games with the police, be sure to do it here. If you are a social person than stay up late and party with these amazing people. If you love nature take time to enjoy the beautiful local scenery. what is important is that you build memories so strong that when your friend asks you next year "Are you going back to Gorleben?" you will find yourself saying "yes".

And my third piece of advice is be daring. This could be as radical as chaining yourself to the tracks or as simple as helping make a group meal if you never cook. You can help out at the first aid tent when the police casualties come rolling in, if this is not the kind of thing you would normally do. Streach yourself here. Be creative. For there is a chance that we will look back on your act of daring wth surprise, fr it was one of the actions which ended this nuclear madness.


At the end of our presentation, our host Kerstin gave all the speakers hand knit socks, very practical gift for tomorrow nights long wait for the Castor transport.

i returned home to Kerstins place with Lucifer and the Russian anti-nuclear mafia. Galina and Rashid were listening to Iraqi language recordings which were designed for the US military fighting there. They consisted of such gems as "We are liberators, we are not occupiers" and "Give up, resistance is futile" With a million children dead between US sanctions and war on that country, i only hope i am never lucky enough to be liberated by the US.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Digital Nomads: A How To Guide

There is a new lifestyle, which is right around the corner, facilitated by the collapsed borders within Europe and the advent of hand held internet technology and the rapid development of three separate types of websites typified by, and Here is how it works.

You dont have any money and you are in Zagreb. You go to hitchwiki and it tells you the best place to get out of the city. But this is not all, short funds, but long time and internet access at the library, you read all about the routes to Am*dam, the hassles of the Ruhrgebiet (the megacity around Bonn/Cologne) and how to best avoid the Swiss police.

You have always believed in starting early, to show the first drivers you are serious about getting where you are going. Quickly, you are on the road. Your first driver is carpenter from Munich, who used to hitch when he was younger. You maintain the casual conversation and when he gets on his cell phone call from his girlfriend, you retreat to your own internet enabled cell phone. You look for the best exits near his planned end stop in Freiburg Germany. You remember when hitching was much harder, more guesses more walking. It is still quite daring, but you have the kind of confidence that Ford Prefect had reading the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy.

There is a small village of wagons about 3 miles from the most southern exit. They offer themselves as an overnight place for hitchers and there are several good reports from people who have passed thru. You walk from the exit to Star Village and are just in time to go dumpster diving for dinner.

Dumpster diving in Europe is often different than in the US. While they are not all open, the dumpsters which are dont suffer from the various discouragements used in the US, broken glass or motor oil sprayed on the food to keep pesky dumpster divers out. You borrow a bike and ride with Ellen of Star Village down to the local market which is just closing. She already has a relationship with several of the vendors and they have put food aside for her/ Food which was destined for the trash. Ellen has entered a lot about the Freiburg farmers market on trashwiki.
There personalities, their willingness to deal with strangers, the layout of the market and location of the best dumpsters and the best times to be there.

Back at Star Village various contributions make up the eclectic dinner. Carefully prepared food, some from the garden, some rescued the farmers market, a few things purchased. There is a young woman, Sabrina, who is also interested in hitching to the Netherlands. While she is not willing to get up at the crack of dawn, you're convinced you will do better hitching with her. And it is safer as well.

You get up early anyway the next morning. Help with some gardening, fix a couple of bike flat tires as your contribution to Star Villages all volunteer economy. You write your own entry in Hitchwiki encouraging those who come after you to Star Village to bring chocolate for Ellen (for an example of an excellent annotated hitchwiki map of good spots). And about your experience in the farmers market in trashwiki.

Sabrina gets up at almost 11 AM and you take the bus to the hitchwiki recommended hitching spot. The weather is threatening, but her smile brightens the day and my mood. A driver stops and after his admonishments of how women should not hitchhike, we settle into the drive to boarder town of Aachen. Sabrina gets a ride into the train station where she will pay for the last part of her travel. But i dont have the option, my wallet remains empty. The hospitality website shows several entries for Aachen, but there are no phone numbers and the local ambassador does not seem to be answering their phone. It's getting dark.

Hitching is largely useless at night. You could ask people at gas stations, a common practice in Germany, but you are shy, preferring exit ramps and willing drivers. The night is not threatening rain and the cars are not stopping, so you roll up in your sleeping bag under a big tree (tents are too bulky). Exhausted from walking between gas stations and exit ramps, from maintaining conversations in your limited English, the sadness about losing Sabrina's fair company too soon - the high speed traffic noise nearby does not slow your sleep.

The Dutch are not as friendly with hikers as the Germans. One driver explained that it is because all the student aged persons have rail passes and that there is limited number of hitchhikers and they are less trusted for being indigent.

Finally you arrive at your host home, a former squat called Zhaba, long since legalized on quite favorable terms. Natural candidates for radical hosting adventures. . The accommodations are not palacial, but they are friendly and reasonably clean. Happily they are experienced with guests and give you a set of keys as soon as you show up. You were guided there by Casa Radio which you found in BeWelcome.Org. Casa Radio is a combination placement service and city ore, which is directing you in. Casa Radio is actually a collection of hosting locations that you were in communication with before you left Croatia. They promised you a place tho they were not sure where it would be in Am*dam, as your plans solidified you texted Casa Radio and they confirmed your final location. Unable to afford the beautiful mass transit, you walk the last mile and half from the A2 exit to Zhaba. You're tired, but the places is comfortable, despite your space being quite small.

One of the most important services offered was low skill temp work for foreigners. They keep a listing of urban gardening, light construction and demolition work, dog walking, cleaning and cooking jobs. The website uses a reputation system, which almost all users put quite some energy into maintaining good online reputations. It was through offering better services like Casa Radios landing assistance and work opportunities for folx new in town that lead to it stealing most of the members to CouchSurfing.Com

In the morning there is muesli and left over fruit salad from the night before. A group of Zhaba kids will fix a leak in the roof after breakfast. You get to talking to Tatiana, who is writing a flog. Flogs were originally stories written by traveling bloggers would write about other peoples stories, written with the intention of selling ads (with Google Ad sense or similar services) and bringing in lots of readers. They were called flogs because they are in a blog format and they were peddled off to readers (flogged). It is a bit like soap opera writing, except that the characters are real and the stories twisted.

But Tatiana's flog has morphed also. It is her story of her adventures, designed to keep the readers excited by her unfolding story. But more than excited, Tatiana keeps a set of about 30 avid "premium readers" engadged in a personal e-mail dialog about her life.

"They are mostly parents and werents (people who wanted to be parents but were not). Some are having with Tatiana, who will occasionally drop reference to her correspondence with her advising aunt in her flog, her "aunt" is really the collective wisdom of her premium readers. Possibly unlike their actual children, premium readers find Tanya (Tatiana's digital identity) at least willing to listen and respond to their suggestions. Though Tanya offers little in the way of real concessions to her advisers, for her reckless lifestyle is part of what makes her so attractive.
Tanya is popular with tens of thousands of unique hits each day, but the premium readers are keeping Tatiana feed and entertained - tho she still hitchhikes and runs a foul of the authorities with some regularity. Tatiana is 19 and was born outside of Kiev.

This article can be found under and is being turned into a collective story at

algorithms to match brain topographies

Patty asked me to diverge from Am*dam tales. So this an unremarkable entry i penned in the train to Heerlen to see Willow and Hawina.

I've taken up Sudoku recently. i rarely indulge myself in such time burning pleasures, but what i discovered i liked about it is that the nature of the solutions is well suited to my chaotic approach to problem solving. I bounce around trying different sorts of solutions and tease out partial fixes from different parts of the puzzle. When Hawina and i were working on them together it was interesting to see how quickly our two distinct approaches together would reveal an answer.

Equally, part of what attracts me to Sudoku is the elegance of the of the puzzle form. It tends to hold together well, when you decode a piece (at least in the tough ones) they remain tough. And like many a good mystery, it does not unravel abruptly at the end.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Festive Halloween

Zombies took over the stock market in Am*dam today. Bloodied undead brain-eating specters traversed the distance between the Vrankrick squat bar and the Am*dam Stock Exchange via a couple ATM machines (the side picture, taken by Robin is at an ATM).

Often yelling "Where is my money?" these anti-capitalist activists crawled, clamored and crumbled thru street markets and various banks until the were met by 3 police in front of the Stock Exchange. Local passers by were quite good natured as a whole and some high contrast spectacle occurred (See Kassia's blog for the best photo).

The Stock Exchanged closed itself and the police closed the road, accomplishing the protesters objectives for control of the space, without them having to risk arrest to achieve these goals.
Yet again the power of costume dress.

You can see more and bigger photos of this protest at Indymedia

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Time Compression

"Why dont you know how to cook?" Robin chastised me a couple of days ago. I've actually been feeling unusually guilty about it. Almost all my intimates make something of a deal out of cooking. Hawina, Patty, Caroline, Tree, Angie and Sky are all quite good cooks and care about it, in most cases as a community building tool. But by dinner, my guilt was gone.

Dumpster diving Video Will Be Here

We invaded Emily's Straat. The open air street market today early enuf to successfully dumpster (having missed it twice this week for being late). There was lots of produce to pick from and the vendors responded well when Lena asked in her high dumpster style of long pointy leather boots, frilly blue short skirt and bright Polish smile.

The lovely Lena and i argued about how much we were taking. Even tho it is not illegal, i still believe in a hit and run strategy, which is why i was so happy there were so many of us. But Lena was convinced we would use an eggplant each. So we captured ample tomatoes, mangoes, plums, papayas, cucumbers, kiwis, green beans, peppers, oranges, lemons and lots of avocados.
We were quite discriminating, because there was so much to choose from we could be picky.

Karden (a soft spoken, but clearly clever young German activist) spoke directly to vendors and collected many of our treasures. Karden went to the market most afternoon for years where he used to live in Germany and he developed relationships with the vendors, who stopped throwing their waste away and just put it aside and gave it to him directly, which he was appreciavite of and they in turn felt generous. Creating this type of ongoing relationship with street vendors and elevating the status of trash is perfect for TrashWiki. Karden will likely come with me to Gorleben next week.

It was a huge dinner, which when you added the two bottles of wine and large bar of chocolate cost 1.50 Euro/person. And the reason that i feel fine about not cooking, was that i facilitated getting the big group out there, encouraging scouting which increased our haul and coordinated the massive prep cooking effort. But what really got me was when i tried to find someone to be the chief cook from our 11 person group, there was not really any candidates. Robin arrived back from work and i pressed him into cooking, him reminding me he had cooked for the last 3 days as well. Then he cooked the eggplant (which i think we ate one of), but i basically got the rest of the dishes started and prepared, with lots of help. It is not cooking, but it is organizing which creates meals from self identified non-cooks. That is close enuf for me.

We had a helicopter land right in front of the Casa today, when we were all going to the afternoon market. We saw it land in the playground across the street. a lone local policeman cleared the playground as they were landing. A guy in a bright orange suit jumped out with what i assume was a medical bag and was nearly instantly picked up by a cop on a motorcycle and was whisked off. The time compression was amazing - if all the connections were that fast, you could conceivably have a doctor by your side within 20 minutes almost anywhere in the city. Nitia the photographers image will replace this one, when he sends it to me.

As the helicopter took off, we were just under it and the wind blew through our hats and hair. And within 60s of the take off, dozens of kids were back on the playground, running around and jumping. The Dutch are not just time compressing, they are space compressing.

Surreally, moments after the helicopter took off we walked by two kids about Willows age who had a quite realistic remote controlled helicopter toy, which took off right before us. Nitia got pictures. After a perfect and controlled take off and rise to perhaps 3 meaters, they drove it into the side of a nearby building and it crashed to the ground.

i dont know who this woman is, except that she identifies as from the Dennis Collective. She sent me a couple of nice pictures and said she was reading my blog. Kassia thinks it is not Israel, because there is too much graffiti. I think it might be Greece. Mark and Nitai - who flew in from Jerusalem today to the Casa, both think it might be Israel, tho the front right Temple is unusual. Nitai, who lived in Jerusalem for 15 years, thinks it might be Nazareth.

Earlier in the day, when i asked Nitai how the war affected him personally he said it heightened his awareness - and while he would not wish it on anyone, it does make him more serious about how he lives. "But at the end of the day, it is all about my last name, Peace." He is Nitai Shalom - from Israel, Poland, the US and Iraq. An ambassador for peace.

This is one of Nitai's Photos

Quite Handy

In 1991, Wam Kat convinced me that e-mail was the future, he was right and i've never gone back (tho i still write some love letters on paper).

One of my favorite tools is It creates short web addresses for these tremendous strings you sometimes get. When there is a webpage that is hard to get to TinyURL can help rescue you and they just made this utility more handy, by giving you the option to propose your own name for it. These are the ones i have created so far:
- this blog - my Twin Oaks vanity website - The polyamory primer - "With Open Hands"
- Super meme construction kit - thoughts on self replicating ideas and cultural constructs - Amory Lovin's latest short article slamming nuclear power. - Pictures of the amazing "Dancing Forest" near Kaliningrad. Lucifer says they dont know why these trees do this.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

What you can do with 700 people

Sky and Kassia just watch some pretty intense stuff go down in Copenhagen around the states attempt to shut down the long standing large community of Christiania.

But the back story is classic. As i understand it when the negotiations between the city and the community break down, the state comes in and reclaims part of the property. These actions were in response to the police destroying a house. Over 700 people showed up and the result is they repulsed the police. But building was largely destroyed.

Of course the other thing you can do, if you have some skilled fraction of those 700 people. Is you can come back the next day and rebuild the building. Which the Christianians are doing.

Christiania is much mroe famous for its cargo/multi passenger bike designs than it is for protests.

Radical Hospitality

"How can the house have a bike?" Kaudry asks me as we walk home from the gezellig squat cafe at the Partick Fredrick Straat. I am wheeling one of the Casa Robino collective bicycles as we walk thru the well lit and rainy streets of Am*dam. She has just hitchhiked in from Estonia. 5 rides, 48 hours, one difficult driver who would not let her out, nearly no sleep. But her question does not come from exhaustion.

I explain that Robin has a hospitality mission, which she already knows, because he is putting her up and they have never met before. That part of that mission is to provide durable resources to the guests of the house. He does not think of these as his bikes, he thinks of them as our bikes - more precisely, the houses bikes. Sky repaired them all three before he and Kassia went to Copenhagen, their care and upkeep relies on the generosity and handiness of the endless cycle of guests who come thru the Casa.

It seems a somewhat foreign notion to her. i mention that it is like communism, recognizing that it is a weighty word from a person from Estonia. I tell her i was in Estonia, in 1991, when they kidnapped Gorbachev and her country declared independence. I spare her the longer version of our exciting escape with our Lithuanian bus drivers switching seats while driving to make sure we did not have to stop. Of Russian helicopters circling the Riga radio station and us hearing the animated Latvian news announcer reporting on the invasion getting cut off in mid-sentence and replaced with classical music as the tyrants stormed the station. Nor did i speak of us passing Russian tanks which closed off the very roads we were on moments after we passed. We rushing towards the west, to escape the unknown fate of the dissolving Soviet Union. She was perhaps 3 then, it is ancient history.

Earlier, back in the squat cafe i am talking with the charming German anarchist Kristian. He is completing his PhD in security architecture. He tells stories of how military police who are beating protesters in Geneva were shortly before using the same tactics in Kosovo. He points out that when we use civil liberties arguments to try to stop this type of repression we are disabling our ability to access a more revolutionary and rightious position, that the very idea of military police being turned on their own population is wrong. Rather than they screwed up by being too oppressive in this particular case.

He is telling me about the "New Anita" which is the cafe/bar which he helped remodel 3 years ago. Which somehow has managed for 2 decades to operate right off a main street in Am*dam without a liquor license, by negotiating with the authorities. These days are ending here, but they are well established now. A German woman sings a haunting song, in English - simple in lyrics, rich in expression. She is behind the circular bar, which Kristian and friends designed cleverly to double function as a stage for performers.

Kristian tells me that the New Anita is filled with artists types. "As opposed to activists?" i ask. And we agree that we wish they were the same group, yet somehow they are mostly not. And i flash on the brilliance of Casa Robino again. Where the activists and non-activists share the same crowded little space. Where the ideas of people dedicated to making the world a better place, come up over Cruesli with people who are just looking for a place to stay for free for a few night.

Kaudry will learn about communism here. Not the kind that ruthlessly oppressed her country for decades, but instead the kind that great memeticist Marx envisioned. [Robin rightly objects, it is not communism, but anarchism - no state and no private property.]

And long after she was long in bed, and Robin and Anu and i had finished our wild rambling conversation - so common after midnight here. And Kasper had sent back instructions from Syria on how to start my first wiki. i very appropriately, got the first few pages of up and running.

It has all the feel of the beginning of a revolution.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Eight Lanes and High Class Problems

The traffic pattern in this city is quite clever. Very often on middle sized center city streets there are 8 lanes of traffic, four in each direction. Most of my Yankee comrades are doing a double take here, because i have failed to identify these lanes: 2 sidewalk pedestrian, 2 dedicated bike lanes, 2 for cars and trucks and faster motorbikes and 2 for trams, active emergency vehicles and taxis which are carrying fares.

The effect is liberating. You can almost always cross the street, because generally these lanes are separated and there is not consistant traffic in any given lane. Bicyclists dont need to wear helmets and can go at a bike appropriate speed safely, worrying only about passing other bikes. The cars most often dont need to pay much attention to either the trams or the cyclists. The tram lanes are generally clear, tho the trams run as frequently as every 6 minutes during peak hours and adding taxis to these lanes gives the taxis a tremendous time advantage in traversing the city and make them faster than the trams or other cars and are operated by professional drivers.

There is also some level of color coding, the bike lanes are typically crimson in color. Thanks to Sky for the above picture. which shows better than anything on Google images the 4 distinct types of lanes in each direction.

Of course my darker green friends will not be happy about special privileges for affluent taxi riders. But for me what is key is the structure is already in place for peak oil driven petrol price spike. And the local gasoline prise is already $6.30/gallon here (something like $4/gal higher than the US?) And if gas doubles here, then the traffic/ridership on 6 of the 8 lanes will get a bit heavier and we will have fewer personal cars. Very civilized. In most US cities, doubling gas prices will have largely inelastic effect on personal car use, in part because there is little capacity of these streets to convert to other traffic modes - what you will get is pissed off car drivers.

The problem with Am*dam is that there are too many possibilities. i recently produced a document called Plan 9 (email me or enter a comment if you want a copy) which outlines 10 different projects i am excited about (Honest Seduction snuck in there as the 10th after the document was named.) And i sent this to some friends asking their help in paring it down with me. Already some great responses have come in, including an offer funding. But the problem is that there are still ideas not in Plan 9 that i am considering - like the urban farmers and sky dry (look for the 5 minutes of Bambi entry) which were being wonderfully thrown around at the Casa last night.

As the CEO of Federal Express said to the Cornell investment committee (when he and i both sat on the Board of Trustees, back in 1979) when we were looking at holding bonds which were yielding nearly 20% or selling them at a significant premium: "That is a high class problem."

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Todays dangerous idea

Mike and i are going back and forth about nuclear power and its desirability. I appreciate Mike because unlike a some pro-nuclear folx (and a fair few anti-nuclear folx as well) he is civil is his approach (and we are not talking engineering here).

So here is our challenge. To take the nuclear debate off these personal blog pages and put it up for the public to see. There are some features for this system that make sense:

1) Supports people loging in and making public postings
2) for there to be multiple topics determined by moderators (cost, climate effect, safety, pollution, waste, etc)- in conjunction with the group
3) For it to be possible to pull down posts which are abusing
4) For there to be user profiles - or links to them, no anonymous postings

So a possible would do it as a wiki - where people could go in and edit and enhance arguments that support their position. The problem is that the wiki format is not well suited to issues that are argumentative. At least i thin it is not. You dont want someone to simply pull off or deface the arguments they dont like. But perhaps it is a all registered wiki with somewhat harsh rules for posting - destintly different from Wikipedia in this sense where experimentation and crashing around is encourage.

There are other web formats that we have been using for project support which might be appropriate. I'll check with me group mind expert and lover Tree about groups and tools that are out there. I know she has worked with these groups that specialize in contentious issues. Time for nuclear advocates and opponents to work together to present our best arguments and let the people decide (or the leaders, if we have to do it that way).

i will brush this up in a bit. But it is beautiful today in Am*dam and that is too rare to sit inside on a computer. Come on Mike and the other pro-nuclear folx reading this blog (who i am sure if we do this right, some of them i will call my friends) let's make this happen!

Enuf to make bus drivers laugh

"Do you speak Dutch?"
It is a completely reasonable question.

I've lived here of and on for almost 2 years now, i even took a Dutch language class when i first got here and learned some of the basics. But i am terrible with languages. i blame laziness.

And of course the Netherlands is perhaps the easiest country in the world to not speak the official language. English is taught in the schools from an early age. Most young people are in to English language pop music. Anka who is staying here at Casa Robino is from Romania, she learned English watching the 5 minutes of Bambi cartoons she was permitted each day, before "the changes" took place there. And then like many in the former eastern block MTV became her tutor.

So every day i use my minimal Dutch and almost everytime the person i am talking with takes pity on me and switches to English. I do have long record of keeping mass transit operators and ticket collecters amused.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Poltical Paradoxes

I am the Am*dam chair of Anarchist for Obama. I have to go down to the generous WISE offices and get my ballot and fax it in. Virginia is polling between 3 and 8% for Obama as i write this, but i read a pretty horrifying article in the New Yorker magazine about racists simply refusing to vote for Obama and refusing to participate in polls - who knows how many there are in Virginia, but more than a few.

"Anarchists voting ? But i thought you guys were anti-government?" Sure are. And i hold no illusions about Obama giving up the industrial capitalist/"Free Trade" policies which are accelerating the degradation of the planet and creating wage slaves both at home and abroad. And the political realities are that McCain is much worse, and Palin down right scary. McCain started his campaign repeatedly talking about "Other Wars" - i think 2 is quite enuf, actually about 2 too many.

In 1988 my dearest comrade M and i argued for hours about the presidential election, with him ultimately convincing me that voting was the wrong thing to do. In 1992, M showed up at my Am*dam flat and informed me that "You voted for a winner." After i disavowed voting for Clinton he informed me that he had snuck into my polling place, claimed to be me and voted for me.

I protested "You were the one who convinced me that voting was the wrong thing to do, 4 years ago." He shot back "Things are getting really bad, we needed to do something." The irony lost on neither of us.

It was former US Gen Sec Boutros Boutros-Ghali who famously said "Only stupid peope dont change their minds." Not that anarchists are often inspired by the head of the world government.

PS my North Anna co-defendants appeal went well, their fines were seriously reduced.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Viva la Casa

Sometimes you just luck out. Casa Robino has the same magical "why isnt the whole world working this way?" feel to it i experienced when i visited the brilliant Barcelona squat Can Masdeu. Robin is working a straight job and sharing the wealth in the form of hospitality. Picture couch surfing, but on steroids.

When i showed up Kassia and Sky had just finished making a dinner which was composed almost completely of things which were gathered at the end of the farmers market. This is a step more civilized than dumpster diving. Produce vendors simply give the people who show up at the end of the market, things that are perfectly good, which they can no longer sell for cosmetic reasons. Vendors directed Sky and Kassia to where their left over food was and they made a wonderful and slightly eclectic meal. Which was videoed by Lily for her Free Food short movie.

The dinner was lusciously international: Lily from Vanuatu/Australia, Anu* from Finland, Anka* from Romania via art schools in Milan and Bremen, Aisha from the Netherlands via the Amma the hugging saint out of India, Kassia who is a yank, but her dad is Iranian, Mindy and Robin* are Dutch balanced by Sky and i holding down the fort for YankeeLand.

* indicates photo above

The conversation was animated, multifarious and fun - from hitch wiki (which i loved at first sight and promptly wrote and entry on hitching on sailboats), to internet facilitated sharing systems, to anarchists with straight jobs ("job" is a swear at Casa Robino, often being spelled out instead of said). To starting an Ashram in Am*dam. To voluntary adventures thru To the nature of tough punks defending squats. To clown armys. To the bike crowded streets of Am*dam and the lack of Critical Mass actions here. And entire event laced with the sense of possibility which comes from someone being unusually generous. The conversations went late with switching participants - the last finishing well after 3 AM.

Robin pulled Casa Robino from because he was looking for something less transient, people who were looking to stay and create temporary community for weeks rather than days. Robin hosted a conference of internet hospitality sites and now works thru the site.

And they just invited me to be part of their secret Facebook group - dont even bother looking.

Monday, October 6, 2008

God Play

One of the biggest advantages of being an international activist is you get to meet some honest-to-goddess heroes. I call him Lucifer. He looks like a punk version of Rasputin: chain smoking, scraggly hair, a disarming sideways glance. He is one of these rare people who was doing direct action politics in the Soviet Union before it collapsed, locking himself to the top of smokestacks when one could easily be disappeared by the government for this type of work. He navigated that mine field only to find the current democratic illusion in Russia makes Putin's repression more effective than Khrushchev's could ever be.

Unsurprisingly, he calls me goddess. Even with all my immodesty it does not quite sit comfortably, but i take it in the spirit it is jokingly offered. When i landed in the Netherlands i was quick to reconnect with him. He is one of the only highly active international anti-nuclear activists in Russia - if you want to work in the dark empire you need to go thru Lucifer.

He is working on stopping the shipment of uranium tailings to Russia from France, Germany, and the Netherlands. There is an EU and an international agreement on not exporting toxic wastes. The Russians and their western partners get around this by claiming the tailings are a resource - an input into uranium fuel fabrication. It is clear that with over 500K tons of tailings untouched, Russia does not need more.

The interesting thing is that we may well be on the way to winning this fight. Rosatom has said they will stop after 2009, and amazingly attributed this decision in part to public protest. The German giant power utilities RWE and EOn have said they will drop out of the German consortium, which still has other major utilities in it. This is the result of Lucifer and some German allies fine work.

The effect of this is significant. Thru a chemistry i must admit i don't yet fully understand, raw tailings must be treated to be moved IF they are not considered a resource in their untreated form. Pull Russia out and this incredible quantity of Dutch, German, and French waste needs to be handled and processed, skyrocketing the costs. Another break on the nuclear relapse.

Recently, curiously, both Lucifer and Honza are attributing to me something i did not quite say in the 90s. "Besides hard work, the only things you need to stop a reactor is to be brilliant and to be lucky."

But i will take credit for it. As was pointed out repeatedly this year at Burning Man, the truth is not what is ultimately important, but rather it is the compelling story that we seek.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Gidy in Am*dam

It is like a huge clock with a mechanism made of canals and trams and hobbit like bridges. I am thrilled to be back - in part because the city itself is the best of contemporary civilization - successfully multicultural, low crime, great mass transit, decriminalization of victimless crimes (like soft drugs, gambling and prostitution) and quite clean. And in part because some of my favorite people in the world live here.

Honza tells a story of his neighborhood association picnic, where some city representative asked what they would like changed and how they were willing to help. They said they would like to have a front garden on their flat, like some of their neighbors had. Within two weeks the municipal work crew with some local volunteers came and pulled the concrete out from in front of their house and delivered planting soil. Honza and Hanka said they would plant and support a garden and they have. Where else does this happen?

Honza also talked about the European Football (soccor) championships. When ever the Dutch team played, the city brought out these large display screens and set them up in some public squares. No big surprise here, the sport is very popular. But what is a surprise is that the city also brings these huge screens out when ever the Moroccan or Turkish national teams are playing, because these groups are a significant part of the local culture.

Strange Religions

Xavier and Irene (Hawina's niece who lived at Twin Oaks for some month a couple years back) have been gracious hosts to the crashing Star family - which is constantly reconfiguring, but currently is Sky, Willow, Hawina and myself. We are staying in their small apartment in Heerlen, about half an hour walk from the German border on the southern edge of the Netherlands.

It costs 29 Euros to take the train from Heerlen to Am*dam (about $45). And we have had good news recently about our recent choice to become community supported activists. People have been inspired by our various projects and are being generous in supporting us. Despite Wall St crashing, activist stocks seem to be rising (some might argue because of it). So 29 Euros would seem accessible, especially since we want to support the efficient, comfortable, comprehensive Dutch mass transit system.

But it misses the point - the point which is about radical sharing. And about story telling. And about dropping social barriers. And about taking useful risks. And about modeling behaviors for a more sustainable future.

i am talking about hitchhiking.

The Dutch weather is perfect today - it is cloudy and threatening. So even if i am not now wet, i could be in moments. You get to be a hero for picking up someone at the edge of a storm. Many people wave, some indicate that they are only going a short distance or that their vehicles are filled with family or junk. One woman gives me a thumbs down, but she is the exception.

After perhaps 45 minutes (i am without cell phone these days, so my clock is gone), a car stops on the wide breakdown lane entering the highway to the north. He is going to Eindoven and on to Tilburg - this is far enough along my way to give up my good spot, for what might be a poor one further on.

He is totally charming. Speaks good English. He is an art lecturer, who amazingly makes his money from the entry fees to his lectures. He rents out auditorium space, self promotes and makes enough to live relatively comfortably. I can't conceive of someone doing this in the US, unless they had a huge name - and then thy would not do their own promotion.

We talk about Jackson Pollack who i have never understood (my lover Caroline, now in art school in Barcelona, has offered to explain him, but i wanted to do this face to face). And Andy Warhol (who he respects the intellect of, but is not impressed with his art). I ask him about Rembrant and the Night Watch and why it is so important. He talks about artists as revolutionaries, as challenging our perceptions of the world. In Pollacks case, he talks about revolutionizing the tools artists use- throwing out the brush and the eisal. I tell him stories, talk about the commune and of course memetics. He is enchanted, very glad he took the risk of picking up a hitchhiker.

We part in Tilburg. We never shared names - often it is part of the culture of hitching - to be vulernable and nearly intimate with someone and never know this label on their identity.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Op Ed piece for the Richmod Times Dispatch

I was surprised and amused to read the RTD's linking of my reasoning for protesting nuclear power with a source above law: Al Gore (Opinion from Sept 28th, "Power Play"). I was surprised because the RTD rarely covers anti-nuclear protests. I was amused because Gore has flip flopped on nuclear power- in 1992 he dismissed nuclear power as an obsolete technology, yet after he was elected vice president he was the key decision maker in lending of money to the Czech Republic to complete a Russian designed reactor. I worked against that reactor in the Czech Republic for 6 years. When asked why the US was funding this nuclear power plant, said, "If we don't do it, the French or the Germans will." [Angie edited out - I have to wonder if he would say the same thing if they wanted to build concentration camps.] Now Gore does not want reactors built because of his nuclear weapons proliferation fears.

My principal critique of nuclear power is one of fairness. The current generation receives the energy benefit from nuclear power and many future generations have to pay the significant costs. The decommissioning funds set aside for reactors won't cover the costs of cleaning up the messes these devices create. One small reactor in France has cost over $750 million dollars to decommission, over 20 times higher than original estimates and the work is still not complete after 20 years. The British are looking at a 73 billion Pound Sterling decommissioning tab for their reactors, more than they cost to build.

Every "low level" radioactive waste dump operating in the US is leaking, and there is no place to store the "high level" radioactive waste. If the Yucca Mountain facility in Nevada is ever licensed, which I doubt, it is only designed to hold 70,000 metric tons of "high level" waste. By the time the proposed third reactor at North Anna is completed, in 2012 if all goes according to plan, Yucca will be full. Nuclear advocates promise that they can reorganize Yucca fit in more waste. Nuclear boosters originally promised nuclear power would be "too cheap to meter". The respected British conservative newsweekly The Economist said in 2008 that nuclear power was "too costly to matter." Nuclear supporters will say almost anything to get a new reactor built, their jobs depend on it.

The appeal of my 15-day sentence is not an effort to avoid jail time, but to bring the issues of nuclear power into public debate. I have been working against nuclear power in Virginia for a decade. I have gone to every Dominion shareholders meeting for the last 4 years (I own one share) and challenged the president and the board chair on this proposed reactor, met with Virginia's secretary of Natural Resources Preston Bryant on North Anna, spoken at almost every NRC and county supervisors meeting on this reactor over the last 5 years. Still, it was not until I was arrested that the RTD decided to cover any of my anti-nuclear efforts, despite consistent press releases.

I am prepared to go to jail for my actions, and it is quite likely I will. I would like to think that Martin Luther King, who you invoked in your editorial, would approve. I know my 6-year-old son, Willow, does. He and I both want to live in a toxin free greater Richmond area, and his future is the biggest reason why I do this work. I hope the RTD will print my letters from the Louisa County jail.

Paxus Calta is a Louisa County resident and serves on the Steering Committee for the Peoples Alliance for Safe Energy (PACE) and is the Chair of the Board of the Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS) an umbrella group for 300 grassroots organizations in the US.

Below is the Richmond Time Dispatch Opinion piece which sparked this response

Paxus Calta and the other activists who staged a protest against Dominion's plans for a third nuclear reactor at the North Anna power plant may be taking their cue from a higher authority than the law: Al Gore.

Speaking at the recent Global Initiative on climate, Gore proclaimed, "I believe we have reached the stage where it is time for civil disobedience to prevent the construction of new coal plants that do not have carbon capture and sequestration."

Sure, Gore was talking about coal, not nukes. But the outer reaches of the environmental movement are not noted for piercing clarity in ontological thought.

Perhaps that is why the activists are appealing their convictions on the grounds that they are not guilty by reason of necessity. But the essence of civil disobedience consists in accepting an unjust punishment in order to highlight the iniquity of a circumstance. King's "Letter From Birmingham Jail" would have lacked some of its resonant power if it had been his "Letter From Room 106 in the Birmingham Howard Johnson's, Where I Await Injunctive Relief From My Arrest for Non-Violent Protest Against Racial Segregation." By filing an appeal, the anti-Dominion protesters undermine the appeal of their cause.

Saturday, August 9, 2008


"Your old enough to remember President Reagan, arent you?" i asked Leiutenant Porter.
"He was my favorite president."
"Great. When Reagan was negotiating with the Soviets he often used the phrase 'Trust but verify' - do you remember this?"
"I do." replied the commander of Louisa's Special Operations Unit, who had been assigned to watch the protestors at the Climate Convergence
"So that is the policy we are going to use with you. You say you are going to pull back the police cars as a show of good faith and we believe you. And we are going to watch these two intersections and see if you stay pulled out."
"I am fine with that." responded Lt. Porter

I've delt with a lot of police over the years. Turns out my local police are the best i've ever worked with. No unnecessary violence, minimal power trips, no threats.

Sadly for Lt Porter, the graveyard shift supervisor did not get the memo and my first call this morning is that there was a sheriffs car stopping people at the interesections which were agreed to be clear. Porter is apologenic. Major Lowe (Porter's boss) is furious. He looks bad for not being in control of his force. When i first talked with Major Lowe, just before the convergence, he said he wanted Louisa to be live Mayberry (the ficticious sleepy village in the old Andy Griffeth show where there was no crime).

So the safest stretch to avoid police in Louisa county for the next couple of days, is right in front of the climate convergence on Yanceyville road. Strange how things work sometimes.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Breaking daddy out of jail

“You’ve done this twice before, I have problems also with Dominion’s nuclear stuff, but why do you have to break the rules?” the magistrate from Orange County was angry, referring to my two prior US trespassing offenses at the Exelon Headquarters outside of Chicago and Vermont Yankee reactor complex.

“This is not the only thing I do to try to stop this reactor. I am a Dominion stock holder, I go to every shareholders meeting and talk with senior management about the problems with this proposal. I write letters to the editor, I lobby the county supervisors, I work with organizations which lobby in Washington…”

“Good, so why do you have to break the rules?” He interrupts exasperated.

“Because these things are not effective enough. It is like Martin Luther King fighting for civil rights.”

“I don’t want to talk about that.” He dismissed

“You asked me why, I’m telling you.”

6 hours, $1000 bail and two different county jail cells later I was released. Along with 5 other climate heroes, including my dear friends Spot - who i played Magic with for hours until they confiscated our cards.

Angie and Caroline had ended up taking care of Willow for far longer than expected. Most of the activists involved in taking over Dominions “Information Center” at North Anna had estimated we would be released by the early evening. We were quite wrong.

Willow refused to stay home. Angie had warned him that it would likely be quite late before I was released and that he would be more comfortable if he stayed home. He was having none of it, he was going to be there when I got released. Caroline reported that he was incredibly well behaved on the long ride out to the Orange County jail only asking once when they were going to get there and mostly just reading to himself on Angie’s $5 reading lamp.

He finally fell asleep about half an hour before my 2 AM release. On the way home I positioned him so he was laying in my lap while he slept. I got into this work, because it is the right thing to do. But looking down at his sleeping face and tangled blond curls as we drove home exhausted, I know now that I stay in it for him. My determined 6 year old, who is going to wait for daddy to get busted out of jail if it takes all night.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Roanoke College

"How many people think climate change is a serious problem?" i ask the class of Roanoke College students. Perhaps 2/3rds of the students lazily raise their hands.

"So what are we going to do about climate change? If it is a serious problem how are we going to stop it?" i challenge and start taking down their answers on the board.

"Wind power", "Solar", "Conservation", "Nuclear power", "Saving energy", "Geothermal power", "Tidal energy", "Increased efficiency" - They shouted out with increasing enthusiasm.

"So this is great. Basically we are talking two general types of solutions. Clean power generation and saving energy or using it more efficiently. I do a bunch of work on energy - best guesses are these two approaches will net perhaps 20% reductions each. So we are talking carbon levels by 40%. Except the UN commission on climate change says we have to reduce emissions by 80% by 2050. So where it is going to come from? is humanity doomed ?"

An uncomfortable silence fills the room.

"Well there is a very powerful technique which could save us. It is a concept we learned in kindergarden. It's called ..." pause for dramatic effect. "Sharing".

Strange look in students eyes, "what is he talking about?"

And i launch into my rap about sharing system at Twin Oaks. How we share cars and thus consumer over 80% less fuel than our mainstream counter parts. Now some kids are waking up. The professor is clealry in love with us.

And my heart as a propagandist sings.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Burning Down the House

[This is a slightly updated version of a msg i wrote to the Twin Oaks ex-members e-list about the varnish spraying building which burned down on anniversary night. The building is called Oz, part of the Over the Rainbow theme for the naming of our industrial park on campus, which is called Emerald City. No one was hurt in the blaze.]

Dearest Clan:

i am glad Oz burned. It is absolutely a hassle that we lost stretcher inventory, the capacity to spray varnish chair frames and our drying station for oiled stretchers. This will be headachy to fix/replace.

And this is the kind of thing the community can rally behind. The building itself was insured and the initial meeting with the insurance representatives look favorable and we will cover the cost of reconstruction.

The building lost 3 of its four exterior walls. The two current theories about how the fire started are 1) That it was a lightning strike before a large and fairly fierce storm we had with near by lightning. 2) That lindseed oil rags were improperly disposed of and combusted (this is Woodys theory). The second theory has been discredited by the area manager Roy, who said there were almost no rags there at the time of the fire.

The local fire folk were fast. But the building was a tinderbox, filled with saw dust, lindseed oil and wood frames. We were certainly lucky. Arthen has already agreed to run the clean up crew. He is, in my never humble opinion, a hero looking for a mission, this may well be it. Trout has already gotten a temporary varnish spray station [which was the

It points out that we have an insufficient fire warning system. Smoke was spotted by ex-member Darwin as he was going past on Old Mountain Road, but Shakti would have discovered it moments later for she heard a blast from the area and was already investigating. Apparently we have a fire alert system, which had been disabled, because malfunctions were causing it to call all the phones on campus reporting fires that were not there.

Besides the possible insurance, it is good for the community to rally around a problem that has no member responsible for it. The equipment in the building was quite old, and the ventilation could certainly be better.

Rob Jones rough ballparked a new building of with a 40' X 40' footprint made out of cinder blocks, with the proper venting system in place and the rest of the industrial utilities (including compressed air and 220 voltage) would run on the order of $20K. With a compressed construction time Hale and White could do it in a month. Rob and i talked about using Oakers on cinderblock - he was unimpressed with the idea and thought it would slow things down unacceptably. But we may try harder to cut this corner - or potentially someone internal will spet forward and honcho the reconstruction/replacement job and then we wont use H&W at all and save a bunch of money - i dont actually recommend this path - but no one ever accused me of being financially conservative.

The managers at EC were already talking at the party tonight about expanding the number of people who work at EC in the short term to increase production to replace lost inventory of spreaders and chair frames. This will have the added benefit of training more members in an area where more help is needed. And now there is a sense of urgency to get us to do something.

I have also proposed we radically increase the cost of our hanging chairs from $169 to $250. [Hawina's more modest price increase to $199 was accepted by business management.] These are beautiful pieces, we put a lot of work into them and we have always sold them at a poor hourly rate. Why make them is the are low revenue? Chairs are for fairs. Having hand made, fine furniture like hanging chairs gets us into many fairs, it is more genuinely crafts than anything on a hammock.

The additional cost would more than cover the cost of having these frames vanished at another store. Sabine (who is on the hx biz general management team) and Trout (who manages Oz) seemed unimpressed with this idea.

And i think we are going to rally around this one. We are going to clear the on site relatively quickly, because it is a job well sited to having larger swarms of workers at. We need to pop out a design for a new building (Keenan is rumored to be on it already).

Not slowed down by the bad news, the party after anniversary was one of the best ever. Two different DJs independently decided to play Talking Heads "Burning Down the House"

Paxus in Tupelo
41st Anniversary