Monday, March 22, 2010

Proust's Parlor Game

The Proust Questionnaire has its origins in a parlor game popularized (though not devised) by Marcel Proust, the French essayist and novelist, who believed that, in answering these questions, an individual reveals his or her true nature. Here is the basic Proust Questionnaire.

1.What is your idea of perfect happiness?
2.What is your greatest fear?
3.What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
4.What is the trait you most deplore in others?
5.Which living person do you most admire?
6.What is your greatest extravagance?
7.What is your current state of mind?
8.What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
9.On what occasion do you lie?
10.What do you most dislike about your appearance?
11.Which living person do you most despise?
12.What is the quality you most like in a man?
13.What is the quality you most like in a woman?
14.Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
15.What or who is the greatest love of your life?
16.When and where were you happiest?
17.Which talent would you most like to have?
18.If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
19.What do you consider your greatest achievement?
20.If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be?
21.Where would you most like to live?
22.What is your most treasured possession?
23.What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
24.What is your favorite occupation?
25.What is your most marked characteristic?
26.What do you most value in your friends?
27.Who are your favorite writers?
28.Who is your hero of fiction?
29.Which historical figure do you most identify with?
30.Who are your heroes in real life?
31.What are your favorite names?
32.What is it that you most dislike?
33.What is your greatest regret?
34.How would you like to die?
35.What is your motto? "

Friday, February 26, 2010

Google is Dead

"Google is dead, long live google."

I am starting a new blog, it is at

There are lots of reasons why, one of them being it is good to maintain a diverse internet eco-system and not have all ones stuff under the google banner (blogspot/blogger is a google brand).

Come check me out over at my new house, which promises to be a proper superset of this blog from now on. Not exactly sure what (or if) i will use this one for.

Oh the theme of the new blog is that your passport to complaining, is your willingness to do something about it.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Fear and Arrogance

"I think you are trying to gangster in on my community" My stern faced comrade from East Wind was not joking with me. I have been called many things, but not this before.

There are many legitimate concerns. We said we were going to bring 6 people, and 10 arrived - impacting food and social space. We brought the architects into the music room (which is an important social center) in the middle of the day to look topological map on the wall, and people felt run over and intruded on. Some of the personalities that we brought on the trip are a bit tricky and some East Winders bristled at them. We were late in posting the description of the project and the proposed lease. We had not figured out a way to compensate kitchen for our additional meals. And of course the one which was toughest to hear "And you ran over Acorn with this project last year."

Toughest for me to hear, because the stumbled relationship with Acorn was the one thing i was most determined to fix at East Wind. It is why we brought Sara out to live here well before the event to give the community clear signals about what was happening.

And what several people would tell me about my East Wind critic was that they would never trust me because of my arrogance. So i went to the community meeting fearful, this was only one of a number of people who have concerns and there was a small chance that the project would get derailed and a much larger chance that East Wind would be far less generous and careful in ways that decreased the chance of the events success.

Sara and i agreed in advance that i would say as little as i could possibly. It is critical that the community see us as peers, and that some of the prejudices be removed by showing the power balance as it is, rather than what people suspect it might be. I helped create this problem because of my initial funding of the project.

Sara was brilliant. Reflected concerns, was earnest in her willingness to work with everyone, was funny and accessible, was clever in pointing out synergies.

But far more important, the overwhelming response to the project was positive still, even after this suite of small mistakes. No personal attacks on my running over the local culture, no one really even said "we need to reconsider this project". Many powerful voices in the community spoke in favor of the project. Zeke who had been our principal contact, Kara Jo the finance manager, Quinn who has been helping us with the neighbors and community relations (and presented the project proposal he importantly fixed for us), Matthew and Yellow Sun spoke of VIS help forestry, Kris was excited to build the artificial limbs. It was clear East Winders want this to happen.

We are off the ground. There are a million things to do still, but we are flying.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Facebook Greens and Blues

"i love facebook" Feonix is delighted. The cute guy from the previous nights party has accepted her friend request and they are flirting on line and over SMS. "Before facebook i would have had to ask for his number which would have seemed a bit pushy or asked one of his other friends there, where would have felt a little weird. With Facebook i can just go to a mutual friend and find him and ask and he i quite likely to say yes."

My whirlwind visits in Death City, Baltimore and Philadelphia wasw winding up and i needed to get back home. I am often terrible at these types of logistics, leaving them to the last minute. This time i was proud to call the cab company over an hour before i needed to be at the Philly 30th street train station. Only to find that because of the snow, cabs were taking as long as two hours to arrive. i run into the streets of Philly and immediately get turned around and lost and i spring down a dozen blocks to hail a cab who fortunately was an Indy 500 refugee who got me to the station in record time. In Death City i walk to the Greyhound station w/ ticket confirmation number in hand. Only to find out that all the evening buses have been cancelled.

So i go back to Union stations, only to find the next train south is not til the late morning - it is basically 2 AM i have no place to stay and the usual suspects (Beth, Rez and Heather) are all asleep now. So i pull out the new netbook Zappa and fire up Facebook on the AT&T free wifi at the station.

Facebook reveals after some searching that ex-visitor Sarah is in Death City, online and willing to have me sleep on her couch. Turns out she was playing scrabble with a friend in a different time zone. i hail a cab (subways are down and the night buses are rare) and in 15 minutes i am climbing into a couch with a sleeping bag she provided. Far nicer than the sleeping in the station. Sarah is friendly and happy to see me, we have not been in touch for a year.

Winter is the time for dramas in the community. We dont have live television and fairly predictably when we are cooped up inside cold for several month stuff starts to come up. This winter a depressed member admitted that they had considered to hurting themselves when they were in the pit of their depression. The also wrote a bunch of stuff on facebook which was not flattering of their mental state.

We had a sharing circle this evening to talk about members feelings, not to make decisions, just to get hurt, fear, surprise, compassion, confusion out in a public space. Hawina called it and facilitated it. It went really well. At this particular one, the focus person was not present, they will get to hear a (likely less charged) version on Friday. I think the sharing circle went well.

In response to members being worried about his depressed facebook comments, this member decided to delete their facebook account. This will cause it's own problems, one person is already saying "it is deleting evidence." but most Oaks feel like it is theirs to keep or delete as they like.

To paraphrase the man behind me in line at the Indian Consulate (who said this of India).

"You will love facebook, or you will hate it or you will both love it and hate it - no one is ambivalent about facebook."

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Jail to home Culture Shock

Out of Jail

Upon returning to Twin Oaks Cameron asked me

"How was jail?"

i quipped "i'd rather be in jail than in a bad community meeting." Which is actually true, but a bit beside the point.

The food was horrible (as in - skip meals for variety), my blanket was too small, the TV was on more than half of the day (even after "lights out" which i found weird), the poor mattress gave me a sore back, the cell was uncomfortably cold, the only natural light in the huge cell came from a handful of long thin windows too high off the floor to look thru, there were 60 guys in my cell, there was basically no privacy, i could not leave the single room cell block for 45 hours, my ride to get home was hours late, the police stopped me when i tried to hitch from the jail, there were a number of felons in K block with serious charges against them. And the overall experience was great.

i got lucky. For what ever reason they decided to place me in the trusterdy cell block (which is block K at the Central Virgina Regional Jail). This means most of the people in the cell are working in the jail - laundry, cooking, cleaning the building. Most do this to reduce their time. If you are sentenced to a year on a misdemeanor charge, you only serve 6 months. If you work while you are there you can cut it in half again. Most cell bock K inmates have a vested interest in not screwing up their shrinking jail time with petty disagreements with the likes of me. This made the initial experience fairly comfortable. I intentionally arrived exhausted and had not trouble falling asleep shortly after arriving at the cell block.

I see jail as an unintentional community where the cottage industry is killing time. I got wiped out in chess, had a number of good conversations with inmates (including a very spooky one where an inmate guessed i was from Twin Oaks right after guessing i was from Louisa), i had no trouble sleeping a lot (noise does not bother me much), and i dont fear going back for a longer time if that is what is needed at some point for some pending campaign.

For me, going to jail is emotionally similar to hitchhiking. Before i go i am worried about it, present to my fear of all the bad things that might happen. Then i do it and remember why i went, the kinds of connections you dont find elsewhere, what it means to trust people you dont know who could be slightly dangerous. And in the end i find myself feeling better about humanity than before i went.

i also think in ways that i dont normally about my life and choices in jail. I wrote 17 love letters. And i was unusually well rested.

"So are you going to do it again?" Jeff is the first guy in K block who shares his name with me. I assure him i am not retiring from non-violent civil disobedience

"You do it for your beliefs?" He wants it to be true and his appreciation is why i need to be in this large institutional room every so often. We speak briefly between Jerry Springer vignettes.

Jail is an almanac of sad stories. Jeff was doing 12 months for failure to pay child support. His son is 25 years old and he had not heard from the child support people in 10 years. He was actually negotiating w/ his son to give him a car loan. Jeff went to church w/ his new girl friend, his ex-wife got upset, called child support and relatively quickly and quite unexpectedly he found himself in jail. There are 200 dead beat dads in this facility, which is around 1/3 of the total population. But Jeff says the law will likely change in Virginia to garnish wages instead of put people in prison seems wise and late. [Another half the jail population is combined drunk driving and drug possession (mostly marijuana) - hardly hardened criminals]

There are lots of small gifts and favors in this cell block community. I was offered shower sandals three times in the first three hours in jail by different people, i finally accepted a pair and started wearing them, just to stop the offers. Every time i was asleep at the start of a meal (breakfast at 4:30 AM) someone would wake me and not wait to be thanked. No food is wasted, so even when i skipped a meal i got a tray of food and gave it to other prisoners - there was little trading and lots of gifting.

I got out fairly quickly and regretted not stealing the gray stripped jail jump suit, which mysteriously had 8 snaps down the front, but only 4 clasps to connect them to inside. Some strange jail house style or budgets cuts or something. The jump suit would have been a great costume for me "get out of jail" party. i borrowed a tight fitting yellow one from Christian instead and it had a completely different effect.

The jail is quite hard to find. Pele had three sets of directions and could not find it and almost everything was closed so their were few people to ask. In all fairness, Trina and i got lost dropping me at the jail and Caroline and Keyvah had a hard time finding it when i first landed there. No sign, no street number, it is basically hidden. So i decided to hitchhike and as soon as i stuck out my thumb a cop pulled in behind me. And he said the best thing a cop has ever said to me as his first words.

"Your not in trouble." i wish every cop would start this way. I am hitching directly across the street from the jail so he has to check to make sure that there are no warrants out for me as a possible escapee. But once we establish this, he is happy to give me a ride a few miles down the road towards Twin Oaks, from where Sparkle is being dispatched to rescue me. My driver cop worked the longest 29 months of his life in my jail, he was happy to have moved on, tho his wife still runs the medical program at the jail.

Thru a classic cell phone game Sparkle and i coordinated our approach to each other and after 3 miles of walking. we meet and i got swooped up, i might have saved him 20 minutes of driving and i got some exercise (pacing the cell made me feel like a caged rat) and re-established that hitching is fading in amerika.

i returned home and Trout and others had organized a "get out of jail" party for me and it was amazing. We talked about A grade parties, parties which changed peoples lives. This was at least an A- and Trout claims higher. Winter came out as Autumn in drag and the pictures will show off this metamorphosis. There were certainly sparky romantic moments as well in the upstairs Tupelo North Wing LR augmented by Trouts perfectly designed room for an additional 12 to 15 partiers on his bed, couch and soft floor.

We established that A+ parties are ones that are remembered, oft named (like the fuzzy tunnels party) and mark changes in the local culture or world view (like the make out party in the cuddle loft where several guys kissed other guys for the first time in their lives).

We played a modified version of ImaginIFF my new favorite game, especially good for finding intimate insights. Michael was a subliminal msg, both Firefly and Moss were time bombs, i was a nuke. i can't do it justice here, it is quite funny.

We danced, we flirted, we rubbed feet, we were serenaded, we laughed. Trout got a whole bunch of my types of things to consume - girly drinks, mixed fruit juices, chips and salsa and fruit salad. Sparkle and Biddy were stunning in drag. And Autumn was tantalizingly hot.

So i swung from a morning of boredom and jail to an evening of memorable celebrations. And i would trade none of it.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Off to jail for two days

After much waiting, I've finally been sentenced for my trespassing charges in connection with the 2008 Southeast Climate Convergence. Twenty people demonstrated at the information center for Dominion Power's North Anna nuclear facility and six of us were arrested for peacefully refusing to leave the property. Most everyone else got off with fines and community service, but being identified as the ring leader, the Virginia Commonwealth Attorney was hoping the jury would give me months in jail--even though the original sentence I was appealing was just two weeks.

But the jury was not interested in draconian punishments and seemed sympathetic. Instead of months, I got five days in jail and I'll serve two. It's a complicated math--you only serve half your sentence for misdemeanors and I'd already served a day when I was arrested. So it all starts today and I'll be free again on Saturday.

Lot's of people have asked how they can support me while I'm in jail--offers of demonstrating against my incarceration and informing the public of it being not uncommon. But, if you really want to support me, help push along the projects that are really important to me.
  • Go to read what we're up to and make comments, start discussions.
  • Go to and vote three times for Villages in the Sky by tomorrow--Friday the 15th
  • Check out the article published about my sentencing at and post comments
  • Or just leave a comment here
It turns out the revolution is an elaborate dialogue. Don't mourn, organize.