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.