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  If you save an unpublished blog entry, people using google reader can read parts of it sometimes, even tho you have not released it to the public.  It is easy to imagine someone using an unpublished blog post as a place to vent only to find that they are telling people using google reader things they had no intention of telling them.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.